18 April 2014

Economics Says that You Should Throw Money at the Problem

It appears that the shale/fracking boom had created a wee labor shortage:
How high is demand for welders to work in the shale boom on the U.S. Gulf Coast?

So high that “you can take every citizen in the region of Lake Charles between the ages of 5 and 85 and teach them all how to weld and you’re not going to have enough welders,” said Peter Huntsman, chief executive officer of chemical maker Huntsman Corp.

So high that San Jacinto College in Pasadena, Texas, offers a four-hour welding class in the middle of the night.

So high that local employers say they’re worried there won’t be adequate supply of workers of all kinds. Just for construction, Gulf Coast oil, gas and chemical companies will have to find 36,000 new qualified workers by 2016, according to Industrial Info Resources Inc. in Sugar Land, Texas. Regional estimates call for even more new hires once those projects are built.

The processing and refining industries need so many workers to build new facilities in Texas and Louisiana because of the unprecedented rise over the last three years in U.S. oil and gas production, much of it due to shale. Labor shortages, causing delays in construction, threaten to slow the boom and push back the date when the country can meet its own energy needs, estimated by BP Plc to be in 2035.
So, in the next two years, you need 36,000 welders.

It's pretty simple if you want to frack your world:
  • Pay to train your welders.
  • Pay your welders more.
  • Treat your employees better than the other guy.
This sh%$ ain't rocket science.

The problem is that the "processing and refining industries" want workers who are well trained on someone else's dollar that are cheap, and readily disposable.

What they want fails economics 101.

Why Does this Psychopath Still Have a License to Practice Psychology?

James Mitchell, who designed the CIA's torture program, and who tortured people himself, has a sad over the prospect of the Senate Intelligence Committee Report describing how f%$#evil and twisted he is:
Mitchell insists the torture techniques he developed had produced results, and is dismissive of critics of the CIA program. Photograph: US Department of Defense/AP

The psychologist regarded as the architect of the CIA's “enhanced interrogation” program has broken a seven-year silence to defend the use of torture techniques against al-Qaida terror suspects in the wake of the 9/11 attacks.

In an uncompromising and wide-ranging interview with the Guardian, his first public remarks since he was linked to the program in 2007, James Mitchell was dismissive of a Senate intelligence committee report on CIA torture in which he features, and which is currently at the heart of an intense row between legislators and the agency.

The committee’s report found that the interrogation techniques devised by Mitchell, a retired air force psychologist, were far more brutal than disclosed at the time, and did not yield useful intelligence. These included waterboarding, stress positions, sleep deprivation for days at a time, confinement in a box and being slammed into walls.

But Mitchell, who was reported to have personally waterboarded accused 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, remains unrepentant. “The people on the ground did the best they could with the way they understood the law at the time,” he said. “You can't ask someone to put their life on the line and think and make a decision without the benefit of hindsight and then eviscerate them in the press 10 years later.”
It's nice to know that your alibi would apply to Nazi war criminals as well.

BTW, he continues to claim that torture worked, but as whistleblower Steve Keinman observes:
Steven Kleinman, an air force colonel who participated in interrogations in Iraq and who is credited with blowing the whistle on abuses taking place there, told the Guardian he did not understand how Mitchell could still believe torture methods that generated false confessions could also produce “reliable, accurate and timely intelligence”.

“Why would anybody think that a model that would produce those outcomes would also be effective in producing the opposite?” Kleinman said.
Charlie Pierce correctly derided him as, "another monster":
Let us be quite clear. Nobody in the torture chambers -- and certainly not Mitchell -- was being asked to "put his life on the line." If you have someone fastened to a plank, and you're pouring water into his mouth to make him believe he's drowning, he is in no position to threaten your life. James Mitchell was not in any kind of danger, unless whatever vestigial conscience he had came to life and ate him alive, which I sincerely doubt. There is no excuse for what we did. September 11 is no excuse. It wasn't a matter of the "people on the ground" not understanding the law. It was a matter of them not caring what the law was because they had a thin legal excuse ginned up for them by pet lawyers in the employ of sociopaths. Mitchell should be facing a tribunal for war crimes, not whining about an unflattering Senate committee report.
He should be sharing a cell with John Yoo, who said that it was OK to crush the testicles of a child to get their parent to talk.

The problem with, "Looking forward, not backward," as Obama is wont to say is that these people continue to poison our national culture.

Of course, looking backward, and charging the malefactors of the Bush administration would set a precedent that might lead to Obama charged for the excesses of his murder by drone program, but I really don't care if any of them, from either administration, do some well-deserved time in a deep dark hole.

Jon Stewart is Weeping for Joy

Toronto's world-renowned on crack-smoking mayor is standing for reelection:
Toronto Mayor Rob Ford officially launched his re-election campaign before a crowd of supporters Thursday night — sticking closely to the issues he has stressed over his last four years as mayor.

In a 30-minute speech before some 2,000 supporters, Ford pledged to fight special interests, to cut red tape and to keep taxes low if returned to office on Oct. 27.

"I’m running on my record and my record is second to none," Ford told the crowd at the Toronto Congress Centre, the same venue where he celebrated his election victory back in 2010.
"Record second to none," huh?

I would have to agree with that characterization, but I really do not see this as a positive.

What is Japanese for "Assholes Who Should Have Been Drowned at Birth"?*

I'm just wondering because some members of the Japanese Diet, upset by the ruling of the ICJ banning the Antarctic whale hunt, have done up a whale buffet as a F%$# you to the civilized world:
Japan may have called off its annual Antarctic whale hunt in deference to a ruling from the U.N.’s International Court of Justice, but the country’s whaling industry has yet to give up the fight.

As a show of defiance, hundreds Japanese officials, politicians and other pro-whaling allies gathered Tuesday for a buffet featuring, what else, whale. According to the Associated Press, the group feasted on “Cutlets, sashimi, steak and other dishes made of whale meat” and shouted a one-word toast: ”Whale!”

Meanwhile, Al Jazeera reports, a Japanese parliamentary committee unanimously passed a resolution calling on the government to fully investigate its options, saying that the court’s decision was “truly regrettable” but “does not necessarily prevent Japan’s whaling, which is a unique tradition and culture.” Among Japanese consumers, the AP notes, whale meat has been declining in popularity.
Japan literally had decades of whale meat in freezers, and these guys are throwing a tantrum.


*Google Translate gives, "出生時に溺れるれている必要がありますろくでなし," and translating that back to English gives, "Bastard that must have been drowned at birth," so it's probably pretty close.


What Happened to Canada? (N+1) A good description of how a country of decent people is being converted to a, "rogue, reckless petrostate," by the, "formidable disciplinary forces of late capitalism."
Jack Halprin: As a Google Attorney, I Need the Homes of 7 Teachers, and Here's Why (SF Weekly) Satirist gets in the head of a Google Lawyer who bought an apartment in San Francisco, and evicted everyone, including at least 2 teachers, just because.
In U.S., right wing extremists more deadly than jihadists (CNN)  Since 2001, 50% more deaths from right wing white supremacist extremists than from Islamist extremists
Court Says That Tweeting Someone Is 'F**king Crazy' Is Not Libelous (Crooks and Liars) What a relief that this f%$#ing crazy lawsuit was tossed out.

Jurassic Park as it should have been:

17 April 2014

No Anthropogenic Climate Change, My Ass!

Well, now I know why we had snow on Tuesday, the mid-Atlantic and Northeast US ended up an island of cool in an ocean of global warming:
NASA’s map of March temperatures around the globe is covered in orange and red, indicative of temperatures well above the norm and symptomatic of a planet running a fever for over 29 years. Yet various shades of blue light up eastern North America shivering under a cold regime which seized control in January.

The wave after wave of bitter cold that has walloped the eastern half of the U.S. since the start of 2014 has truly been an anomaly set against the temperature pattern around the rest of the world. Incredibly, the eastern U.S. is the only region of the world that has been colder than normal each of the first three months this calendar year.


So the tens of millions of winter weary residents of the eastern U.S. shouldn’t let the frigid weather in their backyard cloud their view of the relatively warm planet.

While March produced areas of exceptional cold in the Great Lakes and Northeast – it was the third warmest March on record for the globe, 2 degrees (F) warmer than (the 1950-1981) average according to NASA.
Our climate is f%$#ed up and sh%$, and it is getting worse fast.

Would You Like a Loss of Civil Rights with Your Breakfast Cereal?

General Mills is looking to make binding arbitration mandatory for people who take their lives into their hands when they eat their food:
Might downloading a 50-cent coupon for Cheerios cost you legal rights?

General Mills, the maker of cereals like Cheerios and Chex as well as brands like Bisquick and Betty Crocker, has quietly added language to its website to alert consumers that they give up their right to sue the company if they download coupons, “join” it in online communities like Facebook, enter a company-sponsored sweepstakes or contest or interact with it in a variety of other ways.

Instead, anyone who has received anything that could be construed as a benefit and who then has a dispute with the company over its products will have to use informal negotiation via email or go through arbitration to seek relief, according to the new terms posted on its site.

In language added on Tuesday after The New York Times contacted it about the changes, General Mills seemed to go even further, suggesting that buying its products would bind consumers to those terms.

“We’ve updated our privacy policy,” the company wrote in a thin, gray bar across the top of its home page. “Please note we also have new legal terms which require all disputes related to the purchase or use of any General Mills product or service to be resolved through binding arbitration.”


The change in legal terms, which occurred shortly after a judge refused to dismiss a case brought against the company by consumers in California, made General Mills one of the first, if not the first, major food companies to seek to impose what legal experts call “forced arbitration” on consumers.

“Although this is the first case I’ve seen of a food company moving in this direction, others will follow — why wouldn’t you?” said Julia Duncan, director of federal programs and an arbitration expert at the American Association for Justice, a trade group representing plaintiff trial lawyers. “It’s essentially trying to protect the company from all accountability, even when it lies, or say, an employee deliberately adds broken glass to a product.”
You have problem with Corporate Capitalist ™®©, comrade?*

We really need to pass Al Franken's Arbitration Fairness Act, and put an end to this bullsh%$.

*H/t CZ at the Stellar Parthenon BBS for this quote.

Yes, this is the Very Epitome of Terrorizing the Populace

Peter Schaapveld, a forensic psychologist, has surveyed people Yemenis who live in areas target by drones, and has determined that 92% of the populace is suffering from PTSD:
The people of Yemen can hear destruction before it arrives. In cities, towns and villages across this country, which hangs off the southern end of the Arabian Peninsula, the air buzzes with the sound of American drones flying overhead. The sound is a constant and terrible reminder: a robot plane, acting on secret intelligence, may calculate that the man across from you at the coffee shop, or the acquaintance with whom you've shared a passing word on the street, is an Al Qaeda operative. This intelligence may be accurate or it may not, but it doesn't matter. If you are in the wrong place at the wrong time, the chaotic buzzing above sharpens into the death-herald of an incoming missile.

Such quite literal existential uncertainty is coming at a deep psychological cost for the Yemeni people. For Americans, this military campaign is an abstraction. The drone strikes don't require U.S. troops on the ground, and thus are easy to keep out of sight and out of mind. Over half of Yemen's 24.8 million citizens – militants and civilians alike – are impacted every day. A war is happening, and one of the unforeseen casualties is the Yemeni mind.

Symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder, trauma and anxiety are becoming rampant in the different corners of the country where drones are active. "Drones hover over an area for hours, sometimes days and weeks," said Rooj Alwazir, a Yemeni-American anti-drone activist and cofounder of Support Yemen, a media collective raising awareness about issues afflicting the country. Yemenis widely describe suffering from constant sleeplessness, anxiety, short-tempers, an inability to concentrate and, unsurprisingly, paranoia.

Alwazir recalled a Yemeni villager telling her that the drones "are looking inside our homes and even at our women.'" She says that, "this feeling of infringement of privacy, combined with civilian casualties and constant fear and anxiety has a profound long time psychological effect on those living under drones."

Last year, London-based forensic psychologist Peter Schaapveld presented research he'd conducted on the psychological impact of drone strikes in Yemen to a British parliamentary sub-committee. He reported that 92 percent of the population sample he examined was found to be suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder – with children being the demographic most significantly affected. Women, he found, claimed to be miscarrying from their fear of drones. "This is a population that by any figure is hugely suffering," Schaapveld said. The fear of drones, he added, "is traumatizing an entire generation."

Throughout Yemen, it seems, the endless blue heaven above has become a bad omen.
So, do you think that these folks will learn to hate the United States, and revisit violence with violence?

We are damaging a whole generation, and these damaged people will become tomorrow's warriors determined to get vengeance.

Haterz Stop Hatin When It's Them and Theirs

The lawyer who defended the H8 amendment (Prop 8) in California, has "evolved" now that his daughter has come out:
The lawyer who argued before the Supreme Court in favour of upholding California's ban on gay marriage learned while he was handling the case that one of his children is gay and now is helping her plan her wedding with another woman.

Attorney Charles Cooper says his view of same-sex marriage is evolving after having argued in court that gay unions could undermine marriages between a man and a woman.

The revelation is an unexpected footnote in the years-long debate over Proposition 8, the California measure struck down by the Supreme Court last year. It is also offers a glimpse, through the eyes of one family, of the country's rapidly shifting opinions of gay marriage, with most public polls now showing majorities in favour of allowing the unions.

Cooper learned that his stepdaughter Ashley was gay as the Proposition 8 case wound its way through appellate court, according to a forthcoming book about the lengthy legal battle. And with the Supreme Court ruling now behind him, Cooper cast his personal opinion on gay marriage as an evolving process.

"My views evolve on issues of this kind the same way as other people's do, and how I view this down the road may not be the way I view it now, or how I viewed it ten years ago," Cooper said in journalist Jo Becker's book "Forcing the Spring: Inside the Fight for Marriage Equality."
Seriously, how many times has this happened?

They hate, and they want to make sure that the rest of society hates too, and then they discover that a loved one is gay, and they "reevaluate" their position on civil rights.

Seriously, why are conservatives solipsistic assholes?

I think that I just answered my own question.

H/t Joe.My.God.

Why We Have a College Funding Crisis

The University of Maine is suffering the budgetary equivalent of the death of a thousand cuts, and they gave their vice chancellor for administration and finance a $40,000.00 raise:
While confronting a $36 million budget shortfall, the University of Maine System gave its top financial administrator a $40,000 raise between last fall and this spring, according to reports of employee salaries that the system publishes twice a year.

The salary for Rebecca Wyke, UMS vice chancellor for administration and finance, was listed at $205,000 annually as of April 8, 2014. That’s up from $165,000 listed in the report published Nov. 5, 2013.

“Is it a lot of money? Yes,” said University of Maine System Chancellor James Page, when asked Tuesday about the raise amid widespread budget cutting efforts at the seven UMS campuses and system office. “And we’re looking at reducing our financial management structure on an ongoing basis. But you do need to have the right people in place to get the job done.”

Page said Wyke was a finalist for a position at a higher education institution out of state that would have paid her more. He brought the question of her raise to the board of trustees in January, and they ratified the decision in an executive session. There was no mention of the raise in the open session.

“We determined that her leaving at this time would have significant adverse impact on the projects that we now have underway,” he said.

Wyke declined to be interviewed for this story.

The median salary of a vice chancellor at universities that award doctorate degrees in the United States is $326,863, according to the College and University Professional Association for Human Resources. The median salary for a vice chancellor at any institution, including those that only have two-year programs, is $186,750.


The raise comes at a financially stressful time for the system. In November, Wyke told the board of trustees that the universities would need to cut $36 million, or about 6.6 percent of the system’s budget, in order to pass a balanced budget in fiscal year 2015.

Page told the state Legislature in March that up to 165 full-time jobs would have to be cut as a result of the budget shortfall.
The bureaucratic overhead at higher education has exploded over the past 50 years, and the upcoming crisis in student loans continues barreling down on us.

There is a genuine problem with looting in education, and it is at the administrative level where the problem exists, and not at the instructor level.

There are way too many people who have little interest in education beyond finding a way to loot education for their own personal benefit.  (I'm talking to you, Michelle "Sell the Public Schools to Wall Street" Rhee)


Best April Fools joke ever:

H/t Neo at the Stellar Parthenon BBS.

16 April 2014

New York City Racial Profiling Police Unit Shuttered

Yes, Bill de Blasio being the Mayor of New York City makes a difference:
The New York Police Department has abandoned a secretive program that dispatched plainclothes detectives into Muslim neighborhoods to eavesdrop on conversations and built detailed files on where people ate, prayed and shopped, the department said.

The decision by the nation’s largest police force to shutter the controversial surveillance program represents the first sign that William J. Bratton, the department’s new commissioner, is backing away from some of the post-9/11 intelligence-gathering practices of his predecessor. The Police Department’s tactics, which are the subject of two federal lawsuits, drew criticism from civil rights groups and a senior official with the Federal Bureau of Investigation who said they harmed national security by sowing mistrust for law enforcement in Muslim communities.

To many Muslims, the squad, known as the Demographics Unit, was a sign that the police viewed their every action with suspicion. The police mapped communities inside and outside the city, logging where customers in traditional Islamic clothes ate meals and documenting their lunch-counter conversations.
The program was evil and un-American, and played right into the hands of people who might actually be intending to do harm to the United States, because it alienated people from our law enforcement.

So Not Surprised

Getting away from the mindless contrarianism* that Nate Silver's rebooted Fivethirtyeight dot com, Ben Casselman actually does some meaningful statistics, and discovers that the end of extended unemployment benefits has not led to more people finding jobs:
The cutoff of federal unemployment benefits doesn’t seem to be helping the long-term unemployed get back to work.

More than a million Americans saw their unemployment benefits expire at the start of the year, after Congress failed to renew the Emergency Unemployment Compensation program. The program, which Congress created in 2008, had provided federally funded payments to unemployed workers when their state-funded benefits ran out, usually after 26 weeks.
The Senate recently voted to restore the benefits, but the House shows little sign of following suit.

Some economists had argued that the program was doing more harm than good by discouraging recipients from looking for work or taking jobs. They said that because the job market was improving, the time had come to cut off benefits. That would prod the unemployed to get back to work, perhaps leading them to accept offers that seem less than ideal.
So far, however, the evidence doesn’t seem to support that theory. Rather than finding jobs, the long-term unemployed continue to be out of luck.

We now have three months’ worth of job market data since the benefits program expired. The chart below shows job-finding rates for the long-term and short-term unemployed. Notice three things: First, the short-term unemployed have a much better chance of finding a job than the long-term unemployed and always have. Second, the short-term unemployed are seeing a steady improvement in their prospects, but the long-term jobless are not. And third, there’s been no major shift since the benefits program expired at the end of last year. (The chart shows the data as a 12-month rolling average, which could obscure a sudden shift. The un-smoothed data, however, doesn’t show a jump either.)
What a surprise.

The right wing economists, and those who listen to them, people who have been wrong about everything since at least 1929 are wrong again.

* AKA Michael Kinsley disease.

15 April 2014

This is Complete and Total Contempt for the Law and Civil Rights

Not only was the FBI spying on the defense counsel at the kangaroo courts military tribunals at Guantánamo, they actually flipped a member of the defense team with access to all their documents into an informant:
The US government’s troubled military trials of terrorism suspects were dealt another blow on Monday when proceedings were halted after an allegation surfaced that the Federal Bureau of Investigation turned a member of a 9/11 defendant’s defense team into a secret informant.

Judge James Pohl, the army colonel overseeing the controversial military commission at Guantánamo, gaveled a hearing out of session after barely 30 minutes on Monday morning, following the revelation of a motion filed by the defense stipulating that the FBI approached an unidentified member of the team during the course of an investigation into how a manifesto by accused 9/11 architect Khalid Shaikh Mohammed found its way to the media.

Defense attorneys argued the government plunged them into a potential conflict of interest, as they would need to potentially defend themselves against a leak investigation, risking their ability to put their clients’ legal needs ahead of their own.

They implored Pohl to investigate, and if necessary, assign their clients with new independent counsel to advise the defendants about the existence and implications of conflict of interest. That could be a lengthy process – potentially the next delay for a proceeding that has yet to get out of the pretrial stage nearly two years after the latest incarnation of the 9/11 military trials began.

“We have an impossible situation in terms of representing our client … on any issue,” said James Harrington, a civilian attorney for Mohammed’s co-defendant Ramzi bin al-Shibh in the case, which carries the death penalty.


On 6 April two FBI agents approached the defense security officer assigned to bin al-Shibh’s defense team with a document that “in essence, seeks to enlist defense personnel” in an inquiry into the manifesto leak, said Walter Ruiz, an attorney for co-defendant Mustafa Ahmed al-Hasawi.

Harrington said the unnamed security officer, a contractor for the firm SRA International, had signed the document, which was written to indicate the start of an “ongoing” relationship with the bureau.

A defense security officer is a non-lawyer assigned by the commission’s convening authority to advise the defense team on the handling of classified information, among other issues. The officer would have had “unlimited access to our files,” Harrington said, although not to those of the other legal teams.
The presiding officer has adjourned hearings to determine who else might have been turned into a government agent. Of note is that even though the prosecution denies knowledge of any FBI investigation, "Joanna Baltes, an absent member of the prosecution team who recently became chief of staff to FBI deputy director Mark Giuliano, played a role in the FBI involvement." (emphasis mine)

Yea, sure, no collusion between the FBI and the Prosecutors at Guantánamo.  None at all. (Not)

On every single level, the military commissions have been a failure.

It was created to generate guaranteed convictions, and in so doing it eschewed the hundreds of years of developments that created the modern Unified Code of Military Justice, and the nearly 800 years of development of legal process that began with the Magna Carta.

These proceedings are an embarrassment to the nation which diminishes our stature throughout the world while serving as a highly effective recruiting tool for extremists,

Whiskey Tango Foxtrot?!?!? Snow, in Baltimore on April 15?!?!?!?

<Samuel L. Jackson>I'm sick of this motherf%$#ing snow on my motherf%$#ing street!</Samuel L. Jackson>
Click on any picture for a popup slide show, and the video is really pretty crappy, sorry
No such thing as anthropogenic climate change my flabby pale ass!

It is Autumn in Sidney, and it is snowing here.

Seriously, what the f%$3 is wrong the the f%$#ing weather?