23 May 2022

I Don’t Want to Live on This Planet Any More



I weep for the children.

On a more serious note, worries about monkeypox, a member of the same genus as smallpox, has been an object of concern for years.

As to the Brownstone Institute, they are literally an organization opposed to public health measures of all forms, because, Ayn Rand, I guess.

I used to laugh at these folks, but seeing as how they are directly responsible for the deaths of hundreds of thousands of Americans, and millions of people world wide, I don't think that laughter is the appropriate response.

We're just lucky that the current outbreak, which includes community transmission, is of the West African clade, with a mortality of around 3% untreated, as opposed to the Congo Basin clade, which has a mortality rate above 10%.

Maybe You Should Have Reported This When It Mattered

So, some anonymous New York Times chose a the hed, "How Jack Welch’s Reign at G.E. Gave Us Elon Musk’s Twitter Feed," for an article which spends much of its time detailing just how complete and how poisonous the fraud during Welch's tenure at General Electric.

The headline buries the revelation that Jack Welch fraudulently massaged GE's finances to hit the numbers for nearly two decades.

This was clear when Jack Welch was defrauding shareholders while he was still running GE. 

GE beat its numbers every quarter for nearly 20 years.  It was a preternaturally smooth curve, much like what we saw from Bernie Madoff.

In so doing, he shut down much of GE's manufacturing and moved into finance, and now GE has collapsed, and was broken into separate component parts.

Finance reporters had to be willfully blind not to notice this in real time:

When Jack Welch died on March 1, 2020, tributes poured in for the longtime chief executive of General Electric, whom many revered as the greatest chief executive of all time.

David Zaslav, the C.E.O. of Warner Bros. Discovery and a Welch disciple, remembered him as an almost godlike figure. “Jack set the path. He saw the whole world. He was above the whole world,” Mr. Zaslav said. “What he created at G.E. became the way companies now operate.”

People are still trying to emulate him, and his proteges are still running companies into the ground.

………

Yet a closer examination of the Welch legacy reveals that he was not simply the “Manager of the Century,” as Fortune magazine crowned him upon his retirement.

Rather, he exerted a powerful and lasting influence on American business, informing how workers are treated, how shareholders are rewarded and how C.E.O.s comport themselves in an increasingly divisive age. When Donald J. Trump is elected president, when Jeff Bezos argues about inflation with the White House, when Elon Musk negotiates his $44 billion deal to buy Twitter by using the poop emoji — this is the world that Jack Welch helped create.

This is literally the one of two references to Elon Musk losing what is left of his sanity on Twitter, and comparing it to Welch's post retirement antics, but some editor decided that this afterthought needed to be the hed, because  ……… ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

For the past several years, I have written the Corner Office column for The Times, speaking with hundreds of executives about their careers and approaches to leadership. And time after time, Mr. Welch’s name kept coming up. Some wanted to model themselves after him, while others sought to define themselves in opposition to all he stood for. Either way, it was clear that Mr. Welch still looms over the corporate world, living rent-free in the minds of C.E.O.s around the globe.

 And this is why there should have been a reckoning when Welch was still alive, or, better yet, while he was still running GE into the ground.

………

Almost immediately after Mr. Welch retired in September 2001 with a $417 million severance package, G.E. went into a tailspin from which it would never recover.

His pupils, though, went on to run dozens of other major companies, including Home Depot, Albertson’s, Chrysler and Boeing. Most of them failed.

(emphasis mine)

Ouch, that's gonna leave a mark. 

More importantly, Jack Welch left a legacy of control fraud that has metastasized throughout the American economy:  Hit the numbers by any means, fair or foul, get stock options, and cash out.

………

G.E., too, is still reckoning with Mr. Welch’s legacy. For two decades after he retired, a succession of C.E.O.s tried and failed to return the company to its former glory. Then last year, G.E. management admitted defeat and made an announcement — the company would be broken up for good.

This is what it means when someone says that they, "Want to run the government like a business."

If you hear this, run away.

………

G.E. was worth $14 billion when Mr. Welch became C.E.O., just months after Ronald Reagan took office. Not long before Mr. Welch retired, just days before Sept. 11, 2001, the company was worth $600 billion, the most valuable company on Earth.

But the ways in which Mr. Welch created so much shareholder value often did more harm than good.

He was a compulsive dealmaker, fueling G.E.’s growth with a relentless series of mergers and acquisitions that took G.E. far from its industrial roots and set in motion a wave of corporate consolidation that would reduce competition in industries as diverse as airlines and media.

He closed factories and fired employees by the tens of thousands, unleashing a series of mass layoffs that destabilized the American working class. He devised systems like “stack ranking,” which mandated that the bottom 10 percent of workers be fired each year, and took root at other companies. And he embraced offshoring and outsourcing, sending labor overseas and turning to other companies to provide back-office functions like accounting and printing.

It was enough to earn him the nickname he hated but could never shake: “Neutron Jack,” a reference to the neutron bomb, which purportedly kills people while leaving buildings intact.

But more than the downsizing or the dealmaking, it was Mr. Welch’s obsession with finance that allowed him to steadily inflate G.E.’s valuation in the public markets.

G.E. was an industrial company when he took over — making most of its money selling appliances, light bulbs, power turbines and jet engines. By the time he retired, the company derived much of its profit from GE Capital, which was essentially a giant unregulated bank. Mr. Welch called it “the blob” — it was an amorphous, ever-changing collection of financial assets, capable of delivering whatever adjustments were most advantageous to the parent company in a moment’s notice.

The term for this is fraud.

………

Mr. Welch denied that GE Capital was employed as a tool to keep the company’s stock price rising. “We managed businesses — not earnings,” he once said. But his own deputies told a different story, acknowledging that the finance division was used to keep the stock price ticking up.

“There was very little transparency,” said Beth Comstock, a longtime G.E. marketing executive. “G.E. had a financial army that was able to close the quarter the way we’d said we would.”

Mr. Welch was never called to account for this questionable financial engineering while he was C.E.O. But in 2009, G.E. announced that it had settled sweeping accounting fraud charges with the Securities and Exchange Commission that pointed to decades of impropriety.

"Impropriety," my ass.  This was fraud.

………

This wasn’t a one-off anomaly, as the S.E.C. made clear. Distorting earnings was a well established practice inside the company. In its complaint, the S.E.C. took pains to note that G.E. met or beat analyst expectations every quarter from 1995 through 2004.

………

The roaring success Mr. Welch found at G.E. inspired countless imitators, as an entire generation of managers sought to emulate his techniques, his growth strategies and his values. And in G.E., Mr. Welch had the perfect apparatus to disseminate his ideology.

For the better part of a century, G.E. was the most influential company in the country when it came to organizational design and executive development.

Bernie Madoff levels of consistency, as is described in the article they cheated in order to, "Beat analysts’ estimates for nearly 80 quarters in a row.

And what were the consequences of this?  More fraud and incompetence at other companies:

………

For a time in the early 2000s, five of the top 30 companies in the Dow Jones industrial average were run by men who had worked for Mr. Welch. “That’s why they got hired,” said William Conaty, G.E.’s longtime chief of human resources. “Because they had the playbook. They had the G.E. tool kit. And boards back then thought that was the answer.”

………

The Welch protégés who struck out on their own rarely fared well. At Home Depot, Albertson’s, Conseco, Stanley Works and many other companies, the same story seemed to repeat itself ad infinitum.

A G.E. executive was named C.E.O. of another company. News of the appointment sent the stock of that company soaring. The incoming leaders were lavished with riches when they took their new jobs, signing multimillion-dollar contracts that ensured them a gilded retirement, no matter how well they performed. A period of job cuts usually ensued, and profits sometimes rose for a few quarters, or even a few years. But inevitably, morale cratered, the business wobbled, the stock price sank and the Welch disciple was sent packing.

………

More than any company besides G.E., it was Boeing that was most directly shaped by Mr. Welch.

Over the past 25 years, a succession of men who worked for Mr. Welch refashioned the airplane maker’s culture to resemble G.E.’s, transforming a company that once made a priority of aeronautical engineering into one that thrived on financial engineering.

As I have noted before Boeing can't make aircraft any more

The same could be said for much of American industry, which is one reason while transnational supply chains breaking down has had such a devastating effect on the economy.

Heck of a legacy.  

"Neutron" Jack is to decent corporate governance as Mary Mallon is to the catering industry.

22 May 2022

This Explains A Lot

I have had a hard time understanding British politics, but this makes things much clearer.

Fact: Prince Charles claims to be a descendant of Vlad the Impaler.

It's enough to make someone a (small r) republican.

Least Surprising News of the Day

The latest CPAC (Conservative Political Action Conference) conference was held in Hungary, and it hosted Hungarian talk show host Zsolt Bayer as a speaker.

Bayer is a racist and anti-Semitic Magyar nationalist.

Come to think of it, this is remarkably consistent branding:

A notorious Hungarian racist who has called Jews “stinking excrement”, referred to Roma as “animals” and used racial epithets to describe Black people, was a featured speaker at a major gathering of US Republicans in Budapest.

Zsolt Bayer took the stage at the second day of the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) Hungary, a convention that also featured speeches from Donald Trump, Fox News host Tucker Carlson, and Trump’s former White House chief of staff, Mark Meadows.

The last featured speaker of the conference was Jack Posobiec, a far-right US blogger who has used antisemitic symbols and promoted the fabricated “Pizzagate” conspiracy theory smearing prominent Democrats as pedophiles.

Bayer, a television talkshow host in Hungary, has been widely denounced for his racism. During the 2020 Black Lives Matter protests, he wrote on his blog: “Is this the future? Kissing the dirty boots of fucking [racist epithet] and smiling at them? Being happy about this? Because otherwise they’ll kill you or beat you up?”

In 2011, he used the phrase “stinking excrement” to refer generically to Jews in England, and in 2013 wrote: “a significant part of the Roma are unfit for coexistence. They are not fit to live among people. These Roma are animals and they behave like animals.”

This is my shocked face: 

Hoocoodanode that racist Republicans would bring in racist speakers at their racist Konklave?

Finally, a Story with a Happy Ending

Remember, Christian Cooper?

He was a bird watcher who confronted a woman for allowing her dog to run unleashed in an area of Central Park where it was forbidden, and the woman Amy Cooper (no relation) called the cops and told them that a black man was threatening her.

Video of the, "Central Park Karen," as she became known, went viral, and she lost her job and was charged with making a false police report.

Well Christian Cooper has now been hired by the National Geographic channel:

Christian Cooper, the bird-watching Black man who was the target of false accusations during an encounter in New York City's Central Park in 2020, has a new TV show airing on National Geographic.

The channel announced this week that Cooper, a lifelong bird-watcher, will host a series called Extraordinary Birder. In the series, Cooper will take viewers into the "wild, wonderful and unpredictable world of birds," according to National Geographic.

"Whether braving stormy seas in Alaska for puffins, trekking into rainforests in Puerto Rico for parrots, or scaling a bridge in Manhattan for a peregrine falcon, he does whatever it takes to learn about these extraordinary feathered creatures and show us the remarkable world in the sky above," the network said in a statement.

The channel has yet to announce a premiere date for the show.

In an interview with The New York Times, Cooper said his love for bird-watching began at age 10, and he told the newspaper he "was all in" when National Geographic approached him about the possibility of a TV show nearly a year and a half ago.

"I love spreading the gospel of birding," he said in the Times interview.

The good guy won this time.

21 May 2022

Drip, Drip, Drip

I've always viewed Elon Musk as an abusive fraud.

  • PayPal was an exercise in regulatory arbitrage, not innovation in either finance of technology
  • Tesla does a very bad job of making cars.  (Injury rates and fit and finish are the worst in the industry)
  • His tunnel mass transit proposals don't work.
  • He has engaged in blatant and illegal stock manipulation. 
  • Extensive self dealing in his financial transactions.  (The Tesla bailout of SolarCity)

Also, his behavior both as a boss and as a human being have been abusive, whether it be his tolerance of racism at Tesla, his extensive use of NDAs to silence his critics, etc.

Now, we have reports that Elon Musk sexually assaulted a stewardess on his private jet.

Color me unsurprised, though, given Musk's reputation for savage retribution, I am surprised that this came out:

SpaceX, the aerospace firm founded by Elon Musk, the world's wealthiest man, paid a flight attendant $250,000 to settle a sexual misconduct claim against Musk in 2018, Insider has learned.

The attendant worked as a member of the cabin crew on a contract basis for SpaceX's corporate jet fleet. She accused Musk of exposing his erect penis to her, rubbing her leg without consent, and offering to buy her a horse in exchange for an erotic massage, according to interviews and documents obtained by Insider.

The incident, which took place in 2016, is alleged in a declaration signed by a friend of the attendant and prepared in support of her claim. The details in this story are drawn from the declaration as well as other documents, including email correspondence and other records shared with Insider by the friend.

The next paragraph strongly indicates that this was not an isolated incident, and that Musk had exploited his company to facilitate his sexual predation:

According to the declaration, the attendant confided to the friend that after taking the flight attendant job, she was encouraged to get licensed as a masseuse so that she could give Musk massages. It was during one such massage in a private cabin on Musk's Gulfstream G650ER, she told the friend, that Musk propositioned her.

So, they asked her to get certified as a masseuse on her own dime.  Everyone involved in the operation of his $70 million jet has to be aware of this, or they would not have asked his victim to get massage lessons.

………

The flight attendant told her friend that the billionaire SpaceX and Tesla founder asked her to come to his room during a flight in late 2016 "for a full body massage," the declaration says. When she arrived, the attendant found that Musk "was completely naked except for a sheet covering the lower half of his body." During the massage, the declaration says, Musk "exposed his genitals" and then "touched her and offered to buy her a horse if she would 'do more,' referring to the performance of sex acts." 

Really classy, Elon.

SpaceX places a special emphasis on massages, going so far as to employ in-house massage therapists as a perk for executives. According to the friend, the flight attendant was encouraged by her superiors to purchase her own professional massage training for her sessions with Musk.

"They encouraged her to get licensed as a masseuse, but on her own time, on her own dime," the friend said. "They implied that she would get to fly more often if she were to do this because she'd be able to give Elon proper massages. I thought that was kind of strange because — you weren't hired to be a masseuse. You were hired to be a flight attendant. And if Elon likes massages, then he should be paying for you to go to masseuse school. But she was just so happy and eager to have the job and be able to travel."

In 2018, after becoming convinced that her refusal to accept Musk's proposal had diminished her opportunities at SpaceX, the attendant hired a California employment lawyer and sent a complaint to the company's human resources department detailing the episode. Around that time, the attorney's firm contacted the friend and asked her to prepare the declaration corroborating the claims.

The attendant's complaint was resolved quickly after a session with a mediator that Musk personally attended. The matter never reached a court of law or an arbitration proceeding. In November 2018, Musk, SpaceX and the flight attendant entered into a severance agreement granting the attendant a $250,000 payment in exchange for a promise not to sue over the claims.

The agreement also included restrictive non-disclosure and non-disparagement clauses that bar the attendant from ever discussing the severance payment or disclosing any information of any kind about Musk and his businesses, including SpaceX and Tesla.

You know, for someone who says that they favor free speech, Musk seems to love NDAs to prevent people from talking about him.

Given numerous other reports about his personal behavior, including a truly essay about his bizarre behavior from his first wife, I am inclined to believe that this is true.

Normally, I Do Not Approve of Pranks Involving Firearms

But I am impressed at both the sense of humor and the mad shooting skilz of whoever did this in Kingsland, Arkansas:


The alleged shooter looks exactly as I imagined, and the local constabulary has arrested Timothy Sled and charged with multiple crimes, which is fight and proper.

What he did was vandalism of public property, and the repairs will cost a rather significant amount of money for a town of only 514 residents.

Still, it is funny as hell:

Deputies have released the identity of the man who they said shot the Kingsland, Arkansas, water tower, springing a leak and bringing a national spotlight onto the birthplace of Johnny Cash.

According to the Cleveland County Sheriff’s Office, Timothy Sled of Kingsland is facing two felony charges tied to the vandalism, which caused a leak in the tower in a spot where a silhouette of the music legend was, making it look as though the Man in Black was relieving himself.

Deputies said Sled, 38, could face up to $20,000 in fines and 16 years in prison for the incident.

Repair work to patch the leak started Wednesday, Mayor Luke Neal said. The spray had been costing Kingsland $200 a day in losses, and repairs were expected to cost more than $5,000, great expenses for a small town of only 514 residents.

16 years and $20,000.00, huh?  That's a lot to do for the lulz, "I shot a man in Kingsland, just to watch him pee."

Forget it Jake, It's Miami

As much as man New York Mayor Eric Adams (Whose life's mission appears to be to make Bill deBlasio look better) is big into crypto, Miami mayor Francis Suarez is an even bigger supporter of the dubious financial instrument, and Miami just got burned as a consequence:

On Feb. 2, the city of Miami cashed out its cryptocurrency MiamiCoin for the first time, depositing $5.25 million into city coffers. Miami mayor Francis Suarez hailed it as a “historic moment” and predicted the cryptocurrency could one day even replace municipal taxes as the government’s primary source of funding.

Currency is not an investment scheme, nor a source of revenue, it is a system of measuring value to allow for relatively smooth goods and services.

If you think that somehow there will be limitless profits from any form of currency, whether specie, paper money, or the Ponzi schemes like Bit Coin, you are ignoring basic realities of economics and finance.

………

Over the last nine months, however, MiamiCoin has lost nearly all of its value, falling about 95% from its September peak to just $0.0032 as of May 13. Its rapid descent has burned investors on the way down, muting the dreams of Miami’s city leaders, and possibly raising red flags for regulators now investigating cryptocurrency transactions.

………

MiamiCoin is the first in what CityCoins, a Delaware-based company with a mailing address in a Los Angeles strip mall, has promised will be a series of US city-branded cryptocurrencies. New York City mayor Eric Adams tweeted his approval of NYCCoin on Nov. 8, shortly after his election, welcoming CityCoins to “the global home of Web3” (Web3 is a crypto-optimist idea of a decentralized internet built on blockchains and cryptocurrencies). But Adams hasn’t spoken of NYCCoin since taking office on Jan. 1 of this year, and the coin has fallen 68% since then. Meanwhile, Philadelphia’s government has explored the CityCoins idea, but announced in April it would not proceed.


Miami has forged ahead, though. In October 2021, it signed a “gift agreement” with CityCoins, allowing Miami to receive proceeds from the coin. The city does not own or manage the cryptocurrency, however. (Suarez has caveated in public statements that the city is only a legal beneficiary.)

At the outset, the arrangement benefited both Suarez and CityCoins. CityCoins has needed the backing of big-city mayors as it promotes more cryptocurrencies. And Suarez, a rising Republican star with national electoral ambitions, has made it clear he believes MiamiCoin can burnish his own image as a pro-tech politician.

………

So far, MiamiCoin remains a purely speculative asset. Neither the city itself nor private merchants appear to accept the cryptocurrency in exchange for goods or services. CityCoins was able to point to one potential city project (proposed but not yet implemented) involving a city contractor that would use the cryptocurrency to reward residents for reporting incorrectly parked rideshare scooters to the city’s 311 phone service.

Instead, MiamiCoin has primarily served as a volatile asset that makes money for the city government based on its value among investors who mine and trade it on the crypto market.

………

In Florida, that reality may be sinking in. This February, as MiamiCoin’s price tanked to less than half of one cent, Suarez conceded to the Miami Herald that the project might fail. “Innovation doesn’t always work,” he told the newspaper. But Suarez still appears to believe in the power of cryptocurrencies to transform local government, touting “the impact this technology will have on democracy,” while speaking at a Miami tech conference on April 19. 
Seriously, this sort of sh%$ is so transparently fraudulent that it buggers the mind.

Either Mayor Suarez is to stupid to be allowed to cut his own meat, or he has personal interests tied to the crypto-currency.

In either case, investigators should be so close to him that they share underwear.

20 May 2022

Pshaw

The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) has found that Amazon illegally threatened its employees over the prospect of unionization.

Gee, I never saw THAT one coming:

U.S. labor board prosecutors plan to accuse Amazon.com Inc. of threatening staff that if they unionized it could propose paying them minimum wage and of punishing an employee for seeking a paid Juneteenth holiday.

Unless the company settles, the National Labor Relations Board will issue a complaint, agency spokesperson Kayla Blado said Thursday. An Amazon spokesperson didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

………

The NLRB’s Brooklyn-based regional director has determined that, prior to that election, the company held mandatory “captive audience” meetings at the warehouse in which it threatened that if workers chose the union to represent them, Amazon could use minimum wage pay as the starting point for negotiations. The company also said they might take years to get an actual union contract, or never get one, and that while those contract talks were going on, Amazon couldn’t make improvements to their working conditions, according to Blado.

The labor board official also found merit in the union’s claim that when an employee used Amazon’s “Voice of the Associate” board at the warehouse to advocate for a paid Juneteenth holiday, the company retaliated by barring that worker from posting there again.

Until regulators take this lawbreaking seriously, and actually arrest executives behind this behavior, this illegal behavior will continue.

They behave as if they have impunity because they for all intents and purposes HAVE impunity.

Arrest them, finger print them, book them.

Tweet of the Day


I love the hashtag #Elongate.

19 May 2022

Out of the Mouths of Idiots


Dumbass

In this case, Shrub, aka George W. Bush attempted to condemn Russia's invasion of the Ukraine, and accidentally referred to Iraq instead.

This is a pretty spectacular self-own, even by George W. Bush, a master of the malaprop.

Just before the gaffe, Bush talked about how elections are fraudulent in Russia, which makes me think, "Brooks Brothers Riot," Florida, 2000.

I'm not sure if this is an astonishing lack of self-awareness, or if this is an astonishing, at least by the standards of the Bush Crime Family, level of actual self awareness.

I am not going to try to get into his head.  That would leave me gibbering Tekeli-Li:

It was the “decision of one man to launch a wholly unjustified and brutal invasion of Iraq,” former president George W. Bush said Wednesday before quickly correcting himself, saying he meant to describe Russian President Vladimir Putin’s war on Ukraine.

“Iraq, too, anyway,” he added under his breath to laughter from the audience during a speech at his presidential center in Dallas.

But while the joke landed with some, many were quick to pounce on his verbal slip after nearly two decades of sharp criticism that Bush was unjustified in directing the United States’ 2003 invasion of Iraq, with some lobbing accusations that the 43rd president is a war criminal — the same label some have given Putin after his invasion of Ukraine this year, which has been widely criticized by the international community as illegal and inhumane.

You're calling this a joke? Seriously?  Who the f%$# is your editor, Muhammad "Baghdad Bob" Saeed al-Sahhaf?

The audience laughed because either they were uncomfortable, or because they are sociopaths.

“I’m not laughing, and I am guessing nor are the families of the thousands of American troops and the hundreds of thousands of Iraqis who died in that war,” said Mehdi Hasan, a liberal commentator and cable news host, on “MSNBC Prime” on Wednesday night.

“How many Americans were sent to die by him for a lie? Disgusting,” tweeted conservative media personality Tim Young.

If there is any justice in the world, George W. Bush will be in the dock in the Hague, but that's never going to happen.

It's Thursday

So last week's initial unemployment claims numbers were released today.  203K, up 1,000. 

That's basically no change.

Also, continuing claims fell to a 52 year low.

On the other hand, 80% of small business owners are convinced that a recession is imminent.

Assuming that the rate increases from the Federal Reserve continue apace, I think that there is a pretty good chance that we will see a major down turn in real estate, along with attendant knock on effects.

My prediction?

¯\_(ツ)_/¯

18 May 2022

Normally, I Don't Quote a Corrupt Right Wing Asshole Who Took Bribes from Jack Abramhoff………

But Doug Bandow, who was all too briefly let go by the Cato Institute when it was discovering that he was publishing propoaganda for Jack Abramoff is righ when he says, that for all of the bleating from the US foreign policy Blob about a rules based order, the US has not the slightest interest in following the rules when it is inconvenient:

Perhaps the most persistent foreign policy mantra in Washington, voiced by Republicans and Democrats alike, is the importance of American “leadership.” Without US “leadership” the rest of the world is lost. But with Washington’s taking the lead, the rest of the world, friends and foes alike, will follow, doing whatever Americans demand.

Thus, if bad things occur, US policymakers assume the problem is lack of “leadership.” After Donald Trump was elected Republicans blamed everything on Barack Obama’s failure to lead. President Joe Biden and fellow Democrats blamed Trump’s poor relations with allied states the latter was supposed to lead. Now Republicans are blaming Biden for today’s tsunami of international problems. In their view he is, yes, failing to lead.

Washington does have a problem with leadership, but it is because the Blob, as the foreign establishment is known, doesn’t understand leadership. US policymakers believe leadership requires domination, ordering the rest of the world to behave properly. When they speak of failed leadership, they mean others are not following America’s instructions. They believe anyone failing to do so should be forced to comply—with diplomatic pressure, economic sanctions, and, if necessary, military action.

The latest example is far from events currently dominating international headlines. The Solomon Islands recently signed a treaty with the People’s Republic of China. The agreement has not been released, but reportedly allows China to deploy police and military forces to protect both the government and Chinese nationals, as well as dock ships. The Solomons are most noted for the island of Guadalcanal, which served as one of the most important Pacific battlegrounds in World War II. Since then it mattered so little to the US that the latter closed its embassy three decades ago.

Now, however, hysteria has gripped Washington as well as America’s ally Australia, which is about 1,200 miles from the Solomons. Both are demanding that Honiara drop the treaty and have even muttered darkly about the possibility of military action. Alas, US hypocrisy is on flagrant display, Washington having filled the Asia-Pacific with treaties, allies, partners, bases, garrisons, troops, and ships. At the same time, China’s military power, though growing, remains much more restricted in range; the Chinese navy is not ready to launch, with or without the Solomons, an invasion of DownUnder.

………

It doesn’t matter what policy toward Russia “should” be. Despite its best efforts, Washington cannot dictate policy to the world. And the more America fulminates, the more other nations resist. Even US defense dependents, most notably the Gulf kingdoms, and vulnerable neighbors, many throughout Latin America, are going their own way. So is India, which Washington hopes to turn into a quasi-ally against Beijing.

………

However, there also is substantial resentment of US and allied hypocrisy and sanctimony. No developing state could miss the fact that while Washington constantly talks about a “rules-based order,” it violates the system whenever it chooses. Most spectacularly, the Iraq war was illegal, brutal, unjustified aggression against another state. Even long-time allies France and Germany were among America’s critics.

Yeah, the freakout over the Solomon Islands does seem a bit hypocritical.

Last Night Was Primary Night

While I was busy squinting, there were some primaries.

First, John Fetterman won every single county in the state, demolishing the establishment's great white hope, Connor Lamb, who was endorsed by almost every member of the Democratic Party establishment (There is no Democratic Party establishment) nationally and state wide.

I think that this throw away line in an otherwise stupid NY Times article explains why, "I look at him as another Joe Manchin."

I would also note that voters can, if given enough time, distinguish between a genuinely authentic candidate (Fetterman) and a grasping self serving careerist (Lamb).

I do wish that Kenyatta had come in second instead of Lamb, though.

The Republican side is too close to call, and will almost certainly be heading to a recount between two guys whose only virtue is that they are rich. (Dr. Oz ahead by 0.2% at this moment)

In the PA Republican Governor's race, they nominated a human bowling jacket, one Douglas Mastriano, much to the chagrin of the Republican Party establishment.

Mastriano went up to the door, but not into the Capitol on January 6, and was heavily involved in the stolen election lies.

Madison Cawthorn was defeated. What a shame. I wanted to hear more about the cocaine fueled orgies.

In Kentucky, Democrats nominated a sacrificial lamb to go up against Brogressive Man-Crush Senator Aqua Buddha.

Charles Booker is a decent man, and should have been the one to take on McConnell last time, rather than the hot mess that was Amy McGrath, but as a black man in Kentucky, the odds are stacked against him, and given that but Rand Paul has the Republican Party, the McConnell machine, and Paul's dad's libertarian fans behind him in a state full of Republicans, I don't see much of a chance here.

In Oregon, what looks like one of the worst Blue Dogs in the Congress is going down.

Kurt Schraeder is currently down by  22 points, over 9,000 votes, to progressive Jamie McLeod-Skinner , but because of a printer error in Clackamas County, about 41000 of the about 85,000 votes have not yet been counted.

Given that Shraeder would need to pull about 62% of the remaining votes to overcome this deficit, I do think that the Amalie Materna is warming up and reviewing her music in the wings.

17 May 2022

Light Posting Tonight

I am having some medical issues.

Nothing major, I just went to the eye doctor today, and I've been sitting in my car with my eyes shut and my sunglasses on, because my eyes have been dilated.

I'm pretty useless with a screen and keyboard right now.

As an aside, I am favorably impressed at the speech recognition capabilities of Android phones.

It seems to be less prone to typographical errors than my fingers are.


16 May 2022

Headline of the Day

The Cryptocurrency Crash Is Replaying 2008 as Absurdly as Possible
—David Gerard at Foreign Policy Magazine

With the collapse of Terra's "Stablecoin", there are unpleasant echoes of the financial implosion of 2008-2009.

The Sanctions Mousketeers in the Blob Could Be Replaced with Bobble Head Dolls with No Ill Effect

The Russian Ruble is now up more than any other currency in the world for 2022

This was most assuredly not what sanctions were supposed to accomplish:

Capital controls imposed by Russia have turned the ruble into the world’s best performing currency this year, though not many people can pocket a profit on the rally.

The ruble resumed its advance against the dollar on Wednesday as the Moscow Exchange reopened after two days of public holiday. It’s now up more than 11% against the US dollar since the start of the year, surpassing the real’s 9% advance to become the top gainer among 31 major currencies tracked by Bloomberg. The offshore rate is up even more, about 12%.

………

Still, the irony of the ruble performing so well while at war is remarkable, especially as other countries that imposed capital controls in the recent past have not achieved the same results. Turkey and Argentina tried similar measures when they faced a horde of sellers in the past few years with disastrous consequences for the lira and the peso, which reached fresh all-time lows and never recovered.

There is nothing ironic about this.  Unlike the Turks and the Argentines, who encountered unexpected speculative attacks on their currencies, the Russians have spent years gaming the effects of severe Western sanctions, and came up with ways of countering these actions.

Their bankers are better trained than their soldiers.

Gee, Ya Think?

It appears that Joe Biden is realizing that there will be no great bipartisan renaissance in Congress.

He had a front seat at the 8 years of absolute obstruction of Barack Obama, and he thought that he could bring back bipartisanship because ……… I dunno ……… Biden is not black, I guess?

He had a front seat at the Clinton impeachment as well, and he still thought that he could play nice with the barbarians at the gate.

To quote not-Tallyrand, this is worse than a crime, it is a mistake:

The fever didn’t break. And for the Biden White House, efforts at bipartisanship have finally taken a backseat.

To the frustration of many Democrats and some of his closest advisers, President Joe Biden has steadfastly spent more than a year in office insisting on trying to work across the aisle with Republicans.

It’s produced some notable legislative successes. But it’s also been colored by a fair dose of in-your-face GOP obstructionism. Now, more than a year later, Biden no longer believes that most Republicans will eventually drop their fealty to Donald Trump and show a willingness to engage. He himself admitted he was wrong.

“I never expected the ultra-MAGA Republicans who seem to control the Republican Party now to have been able to control the Republican Party,” the president said last week. “I never anticipated that happening.”

To many Democrats, the admission was long overdue. Even some in Biden’s orbit had been urging a far more aggressive response, according to four White House officials and Democrats close to the White House.

What took him so long?

Thoughts on the Terrorist Attack in Buffalo

There has been yet another mass shooting, this one in Buffalo, driven by the racist. "Replacement Theory."

The shooter targeted a Tops supermarket in Buffalo's largely black East Side, and target blacks after posting a racist screed suggesting that minorities were taking over America.

He has previously been investigated by police for threatened to shoot up a his high school.

The obvious problem here is that firearms are far to readily available in America, but that is not the main thrust of this post.

I would like to talk about the use, and misuse, of "Replacement Theory" in America.

The basic idea behind "Replacement Theory" (The last time that I will use that noxious term, I promise) is that the that there is a conspiracy underpinning the demographic transition in the United States, driven by the "Elites", frequently involving the scheming of the "Elites", which frequently involves the Eternal Jew as a malefactor.

Elise Stefanik, the number 3 Republican in Congress, actually pushed this noxious lie from the floor of the House. (But is still lauded as a "Moderate".  Go figure.)

This demographic transition is actually true, and it has been going on, and has been going on since well before the founding of the Republic, as has been the bleeting of bigots about "invasions" or the like.

The glory of America is that eventually many, though by no means all, of the people who come to America eventually become white people.  For example, the Irish, Italians, Poles, Russians, Greeks in 1890 were not white people then, but are white people now.

Of course, some people are not allowed to make this transition, African Americans and Indigenous Americas being  the most prominent cases.

The claims that there is a conspiracy is false, and using this as an excuse for generating hate is reprehensible.

Unfortunately, moderate Democrats, most notably Ruy Teixeira, who co-wrote The Emerging Democratic Majority in 2002, have been aggressively selling that immigration driven demographic transition as a path to power for the Democratic Party, and the Democratic Party establishment (There is no Democratic Party establishment) has bought into this as an alternative to actually doing things to help ordinary people.  (You can read an interview with Teixeira where he suggests that Democrats were too soft on crime, to soft on immigration, to strident on abortion, etc.  You can read the interview here.)

This pops up not infrequently in various "centrist" (Corporatist) Democratic Party discourse, where it serves an excuse to do nothing.

It is also used as a sliver of truth by those who encourage people like that genocidal maniac in Upstate New York.

15 May 2022

This May Not Be What It Seems

Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has expressed opposition to Finland and Sweden joining NATO.

My reaction to this was that this was part of Erdoğan's pissing contest with the US over the Turkish purchase of the Russian S-400 surface to air missile system, which resulted in the cancellation of sales of F35s to Ankara.

It may be more than that.  Sweden has exchanged consular officials with the "Kurdistan Region" in northern Iraq, and as such, they are much closer to a formal recognition of Kurdish independence than any other nation in Europe.

A central tenet of Turkish foreign policy since the founding of modern Turkey, has been the vociferous opposition to Kurdish self-determination and autonomy all Kurds, whether in Turkey, or in neighboring regions.

This may not be an easily resolved issue. 

My guess is that the US response will be to pressure Swedish officials to distance themselves from the government of Iraqi Kurdistan, because screwing the Kurds has been US policy for more than 40 years.