28 May 2016

Why Billionaires are a Plague on the World

Well, we now know that Hulk Hoagan's lawsuit against Gawker was bankrolled by PayPal founder and billionaire Peter Thiel.

It appears that he was incensed about Gawker outing him almost 9 years ago in what was actually a rather adulatory article. He had been out in all but press release at the time.

It turns out that this incensed him because he literally made his fortune off of gay bashing when at Stanford University:

On the Gawker site, the most popular—I don’t say best--defense appears to be that “outing” Thiel was beyond the pale—so the suit accomplishes belated justice (that’s dubious in itself). Setting aside whether an outing actually happened or what prevailing ethical/journalistic standards are, I think Thiel’s time at Stanford (overlapping mine) bears renewed scrutiny.

Keeping it brief: Thiel essentially got his public start by founding the Stanford Review. That publication quickly, if not at its inception, was devoted mainly to “anti-PC” arguments, defending in particular fellow reviewer Keith Rabois, another future PayPal zillionare who, as a Stanford Law student was involved in "screaming 'Faggot! Hope you die of AIDS!' and 'Can't wait until you die, faggot,' in the direction of the resident fellow cottage of lecturer Dennis Matthies.”

According to a Stanford news release at the time: "first-year law student Keith Rabois ... sent a letter to the Stanford Daily confirming the allegations."

"Admittedly, the comments made were not very articulate, not very intellectual nor profound," Rabois wrote, according to the news release. "The intention was for the speech to be outrageous enough to provoke a thought of 'Wow, if he can say that, I guess I can say a little more than I thought.' "

Both Thiel and Rabois were/are gay.

This wasn’t just a youthful indiscretion. ... Thiel rode the incident to a book deal and publication in the Wall Street Journal. I assume his conservative bona fides, rooted here, played a serious role in his public profile and early business network? They also weren’t straightforwardly voicing some political/religious position: they were rather rancidly scapegoating other gay men as part of some closeted psychodynamic.
So his declaration of outrage is fueled by rank hypocrisy.

Will Bunch has the most succinct description of what is going on here, "Thiel's Gawker gambit lifts the veil on how the American kleptocracy hopes to control the American media in the 21st Century -- by buying and controlling some key news sites...and using their endlessly deep pockets to destroy journalists who are non-compliant."

I would also direct you to essays from Feliz Salmon and Bob Lefsetz.

I would also note that Theil is a reactionary nut-job, (scroll down toward the bottom) who opposes women's suffrage, supports the establishment of floating cities exempt from law, and funded James O'Keefe's successful jihad against ACORN.

There is nothing inherently wrong with being a rich nut-job.  Our history is filled with this.

But when that rich nut-job begins to think of themselves as a God, whether the Randian √úbermensch in the case of Thiel or the brothers Koch, or an actual denizen of Olympus in the case Gaius Julius Caesar Augustus Germanicus (Caligula), it's the rest of us who bear the cost of their delusional excess.

They are Full of Crap

The Maryland Transit Authority (MTA) is now refusing to release footage from Mondawmin at the start of the Freddie Gray riots because they claim that it would increase the risk of terrorism.

I have not seen such a transparent load of bullsh%$ since Hillary Clinton started making excuses for not releasing her speeches at Goldman Sachs:
The Maryland Transit Administration has once again denied a Public Information Act request by The Baltimore Sun for surveillance footage from the Mondawmin Metro station on the day last April that riots broke out in Baltimore, saying that releasing the video would "facilitate the planning of a terrorist attack."

On April 27, 2015, large numbers of police officers staged in the area around the Metro station and adjacent mall based on intelligence they said they had received that large numbers of students planned to gather in the area en masse to protest the police-custody death of Freddie Gray.

Many in the city, including teachers at nearby Frederick Douglass High School, have blamed the police for provoking students and stranding others by canceling bus service at the transportation hub just as they were getting out of school.

The Sun has sought the footage from the MTA station for nearly a year in order to glean more information about how the clashes that began there, grew, and ultimately turned into rioting, looting and arson in the city that night.

In denying the Sun's first PIA request last year, the MTA said that the office of Baltimore State's Attorney Marilyn Mosby had asked it not to release the footage because it was still being used in criminal investigations.


The Sun sent the MTA another PIA request for the footage last month, noting that there is a statute of limitations of one year for misdemeanor charges, and that it had been a year since the incident in question — limiting the number of pending investigations there could be.


When the MTA responded last week, it made no mention of pending investigations in the state's attorney's office. It said instead that the footage could not be released because of Homeland Security concerns.


The MTA responded Friday, explaining that The Sun would have to ask the federal Transportation Security Administration for written permission to review any of the footage from the cameras, because they were funded through Homeland Security grants.

But if The Sun were to get that permission, it said, the MTA still would deny the footage based on its belief that the footage "would reveal the facility's safety and support systems, surveillance techniques, and security systems and technologies," as well as "jeopardize the security of the facility; facilitate the planning of a terrorist attack; and endanger the life or physical safety of the public."
Please, take them to court.  Because their arument is 6 pounds of sh%$ in a 5 pound bag.

The only question is whether the MTA is protecting itself, or if the Baltimore PD strong armed into the coverup.

27 May 2016

Gets a Friday Music Post

It doesn't get any cooler than playing Hendrix on a gayageum:
Korean artist Luna Lee takes modern songs and gives them a chill twist by playing them on a modified gayageum, an ancient Korean string instrument. On her fundraising page, Lee explains that she modernized the gayageum herself to play contemporary tunes.

We also recommend Luna's versions of "Back in Black," "Stairway to Heaven" and "Creep."
This is awesome.

Another Myth Busted

It turns out that rich people do not relocate when a state raises taxes:
When it comes to taxes, millionaires have short fuses. Ratchet up their rates and they'll blow you off and move to a low-tax, or no-tax, state.

Or so goes one argument against taxing the rich: States that levy a “millionaires tax” risk chasing those millionaires away to Florida, Texas, and other places with no income tax. Hedge fund manager David Tepper's recent decision to move from New Jersey to Florida, possibly creating a billionaire-size hole in Jersey’s budget, raised alarms. Golf great Phil Mickelson, shortly after his infamous Dean Foods stock trade, complained about his high tax rate in California and threatened to move to Florida.

Now, a study based on 13 years of tax data finds that most millionaires don’t move cross-country just to avoid a tax bill. It turns out that the rich, while perhaps different from us, aren’t all that mobile. When they do move, it’s often for reasons that have nothing to do with taxes. For one thing, they appear to like the beach.

The study, published in the June issue of the American Sociological Review, suggests that states—and countries—may have some leeway to raise taxes on the wealthy without scaring away their tax base. It has obvious political implications, possibly serving as ammunition for those who favor taxing the rich. It could help advance the arguments of presidential candidates Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders, for example, who have both proposed higher taxes on upper-income Americans.
And if they did leave, good riddance.

If they leave, they lose political influence where they formerly lived, and the less influence that the self-obsessed pampered assholes have, the better.

Trump Wimps Out

Now he's not going to debate Bernie Sanders:
Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) had a bemused response on Friday to Donald Trump’s decision to back out of a suggested debate between the two.

“Well, Mr. Trump, what are you afraid of?” the Democratic candidate said.

Sanders said reporters were the first to inform him that Trump pulled out of the prospective debate, shortly after a tech firm offered to put up the $10 million donation the presumptive Republican presidential nominee had named as a condition.

“Mr. Trump comes across as a big tough guy,” Sanders said. “If you’re so tough, let’s sit down and have that debate.”
He's a punk and a wimp, and Sanders called him out as such.


26 May 2016

This is a Very Smart Move

Donald Trump was on Jimmy Kimmel, and in response a question from the late night host, Trump said that he would be willing to debate Bernie Sanders, and Sanders promptly picked up the gauntlet:
On ABC's "Jimmy Kimmel Live!" Trump was asked if he would consider holding a debate with Sanders. Trump agreed to the idea.

"If he paid a sum toward charity I would love to do that," said the business mogul, noting that a Sanders vs. Trump debate "would have such high ratings."

In a campaign stop in North Dakota, Trump said Sanderrs would need to raise $10 million for charity in order for the debate to happen.

Sanders quickly responded with a tweet reading, "Game On. I look forward to debating Donald Trump in California before the June 7th primary."
I don't expect Trump to follow through, but there is no way that this is a losing proposition for Sanders.

If Trump backs out, he looks weak.

If Sanders does poorly in the debate, Clinton is not harmed, and her campaign gets a preview of Trump's debate performance.

Sanders gets another chance to sell his movement and his campaign.

If Bernie trounces Trump, he gives a big boost to his chances in California.

There are no downsides for Sanders, and only one downside for Clinton, here, and all likely outcomes are bad for the "Short Fingered Vulgarian."

Well played.

This is F%$#ed Up and Sh%$

The Federal Election Commission is so dysfunctional that it cannot even decide that an employer coercing its employees to make political contributions is wrong:
Last week, the Federal Election Commission deadlocked over whether to investigate allegations that coal baron Robert Murray coerced employees at his company, Murray Energy Corporation, into making campaign contributions. It’s a move that watchdogs warn will give the green light to workplace political coercion, which experts say is on the rise.

The case stems from a complaint filed by Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) alleging that Murray Energy coerced its salaried employees to contribute to the company’s PAC. Sources within the company had alleged that their year-end bonuses depended on their levels of political giving.

FEC staff had advised the commission that there was a strong case for enforcement, based on evidence that included internal company documents reportedly showing that the company told managers, “We have been insulted by every salaried employee who does not support our efforts.” Staff members recommended that the commissioners find that Murray and his company’s PAC had violated federal election law by "coercing Murray Energy employees to make contributions to federal candidates and participate in fundraising activities supporting federal candidates."

When the commission finally voted on whether to take action last week, the FEC split along party lines, with the three Democratic commissioners voting in favor of investigation, and the three Republican commissioners voting against action. FEC rules bar the agency from taking action unless a majority of commissioners agree. It’s just the latest in a long list of FEC disputes that have ended in stalemates and inaction—involving everything from complaints over super PAC coordination with campaigns to nonprofits’ political activity, straw donations to LLCs, and end-runs around contribution limits.
Seriously?  An employer threatening loss of pay and perhaps loss of a job you don't contribute to their candidates is OK?


We are completely f%$#ed.

That's Gotta Be Driving the Turks Crazy

Green Berets assisting the Kurds in Syria are wearing Kurdish militia insignia on their uniforms:
Photos have emerged of American special operations troops in Syria wearing uniform insignia affiliated with a Kurdish rebel group known as the YPG, whose connection to Turkish terrorists could could fuel tension between the U.S. and a key ally in the Islamic State fight.

The images were taken in a village about 40 miles north of the Islamic State group’s self-declared capital of Raqqa, which is the target of a newly announced offensive being led by a disparate group of Kurdish and Arab fighters, and backed by American military advisers and air support. They highlight the complicated network of alliances the U.S. is trying to forge in Syria, and the ethnic and sectarian tensions that could tear apart this fragile coalition.

Speaking Thursday, a top Pentagon official said it's fairly common for Green Berets and other operators to wear allies' patches.
This has got to be putting some kinks in Erdogan's mustache.

Live in Obedient Fear, Citizen

It looks like the FBI managed to sneak language into the intelligence authorization bill allowing the FBI to demand email and logs from an ISP without a warrant:
A provision snuck into the still-secret text of the Senate’s annual intelligence authorization would give the FBI the ability to demand individuals’ email data and possibly web-surfing history from their service providers without a warrant and in complete secrecy.

If passed, the change would expand the reach of the FBI’s already highly controversial national security letters. The FBI is currently allowed to get certain types of information with NSLs — most commonly, information about the name, address, and call data associated with a phone number or details about a bank account.

Since a 2008 Justice Department legal opinion, the FBI has not been allowed to use NSLs to demand “electronic communication transactional records,” such as email subject lines and other metadata, or URLs visited.

The spy bill passed the Senate Intelligence Committee on Tuesday, with the provision in it. The lone no vote came from Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., who wrote in a statement that one of the bill’s provisions “would allow any FBI field office to demand email records without a court order, a major expansion of federal surveillance powers.”

Wyden did not disclose exactly what the provision would allow, but his spokesperson suggested it might go beyond email records to things like web-surfing histories and other information about online behavior. “Senator Wyden is concerned it could be read that way,” Keith Chu said.
I know what you're thinking:  That the FBI would never abuse its power to go after people they disagreed with politically and abuse their powers.

That's why their headquarters is named after J. Edgar Hoover, because they would never function as a private army for a rogue director.

Well, Here is a Hearty F%$# You to Larry Ellison

Oracle just lost its lawsuit against Google.

It was attempting to claim that its Applications Programming Interface (API) was a copyrightable element, which would have had the effect of allowing Oracle, and other makers of software platforms, to charge programmers for writing compatible programs:
A jury ruled in favor of Google on Thursday in a long legal dispute with Oracle over software used to power most of the world’s smartphones.

Oracle contended that Google used copyrighted material in 11,000 of its 13 million lines of software code in Android, its mobile phone operating system. Oracle asked for $9 billion from Google. Google said it made fair use of that code and owed nothing.

The victory for Google cheered other software developers, who operate much the way Google did when it comes to so-called open-source software. Unlike traditional software created by corporations and tightly held, open-source products are released, often with some restrictions, for anyone to use and modify.


The particular areas of copyright protection in Java involved the so-called declaring code in Application Programming Interfaces, or A.P.I.s., which have become the common way that networked programs on the Internet share data.

Declaring code establishes standards and meanings by which future lines of software, the actual effects the software seeks to create, will operate. This distinction compelled the 10 jurors — eight women and two men — to hear extensive testimony by engineers and economists about the nature of code, and the copyrightable implications of this type of creativity.
The idea that APIs are copyrightable is insane.

It makes independent development of software impossible.

25 May 2016

Too True

Over at The Nation, James Carden exhibits a shocking grasp of the obvious, and notes that Neocons are freaking out over Donald Trump because he represents a reduction in their influence, status, and paychecks, not because they are deeply concerned about the future of the nation:
The past year has been a difficult one for the leaders of the neocon right. First, their campaign to torpedo President Obama’s nuclear deal with Iran came to naught. Then their preferred candidate for the Republican nomination, freshman Florida Senator Marco Rubio, ran a lazy and uninspiring campaign and was easily routed by Donald Trump. And now, with Trump about to be crowned king of the Republican castle in Cleveland, the neocons are experiencing something of an existential meltdown over the prospect of a future Trump administration.

Last week, a Politico piece surveyed the broken hearts among the neocon elite, in which they were described as being marooned on “The Lonely Island of Never Trump.” Just how lonely is that island, however, is open to question. If Politico is to be believed, nearly the entire GOP foreign-policy establishment is ready to bolt and join Team Hillary.


Kagan, Cohen and Boot quite rightly denounce Trump’s promise to ban Muslim immigrants. Yet their newfound concern for the well-being of Muslims is striking, given that they were among the most vocal supporters of the Bush administration’s “Global War on Terror” and the Iraq debacle which, according to the Nobel Prize–winning organization International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War, has “directly or indirectly, killed around 1 million people in Iraq, 220,000 in Afghanistan and 80,000 in Pakistan, i.e. a total of around 1.3 million.”


Indeed. Are we really supposed to rue the possibility that the armchair warriors who’ve done the yeoman’s work of constructing an intellectual framework for endless foreign interventions and an overweening surveillance state might be excluded from the next administration?

It is hard to escape the conclusion that it isn’t Trump’s policies that are really bothering the neocons. Rather, it is the possibility that, come January 20, 2017, they could be frozen out of the corridors of power for the next four years. But what must really sting is this: Republican voters, given a choice between a neocon revival or Donald J. Trump went resoundingly for the latter. Deep down, I suspect, they know that they have no one to blame for Trump but themselves.
These guys have a hell of a racket:  They are wrong about everything, and the profiteers who benefit from this evil incompetence get them gigs at think tanks, and pay to publish their books.

As Upton Sinclair once observed, "It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends on his not understanding it."

Time to Stop Covering for Our Friends in Riyadh

At a Congressional hearing, former 9/11 commissioners refused to contradict an implication that the House of Saud knew of the attacks before they occurred:
A former member of the 9/11 Commission on Tuesday left open the possibility that the Saudi royal family knew about the 9/11 terror plot before it happened.

Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, R-Calif., asked members of the panel at a House Foreign Relations subcommittee hearing to raise their hands in response to this question:

“How many of you there believe that the royal family of Saudi Arabia did not know and was unaware that there was a terrorist plot being implemented that would result in a historic terrorist attack in the United States, in the lead-up to 9/11?”

Two of the four panelists raised their hands, but Tim Roemer, 9/11 Commission member and a former congressman from Indiana, did not. Neither did Simon Henderson, director of the Gulf and Energy Policy Program at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy.


Those 28 pages remain classified despite calls for their release from several former members of the 9/11 Commission — a bipartisan blue-ribbon panel that from 2002 to 2004 investigated the 9/11 attacks and the intelligence failures that allowed them to succeed.

Sen. Bob Graham, co-chairman of the congressional inquiry into the attacks, has suggested that the pages contain “substantial” evidence of Saudi involvement — both by the government and private citizens. “I think it is implausible to believe that 19 people, most of whom didn’t speak English, most of whom had never been in the United States before, many of whom didn’t have a high school education — could’ve carried out such a complicated task without some support from within the United States,” Graham said on 60 Minutes last month.


Graham and his Republican co-chair, former Sen. Porter Goss, have joined 9/11 victims’ family members, activists, and congressional leadership to call for the release of the 28 pages. The chapter was initially classified by the George W. Bush White House, fearful of upsetting a U.S. ally. Despite twice promising to release the pages, President Obama has withheld them.
We really need to stop coddling the Saudis.  It's bad policy, and with a Presidential election coming up, it is piss poor politics.

This Has Fail Written All Over It

Some whiz kid (as in urine for brains) at Google has decided that they can simply profile you well enough to do know who you are:
Google will begin testing an alternative to passwords next month, in a move that could do away with complicated logins for good.

The new feature, introduced to developers at the company’s I/O conference, is called the Trust API, and will initially be tested with “several very large financial institutions” in June, according to Google’s Daniel Kaufman.

Kaufman is the head of Google’s Advanced Technology and Projects group, where the Trust API was first created under the codename Project Abacus. Introduced last year, Abacus aims to kill passwords not through one super-secure replacement, but by mixing together multiple weaker indicators into one solid piece of evidence that you are who you say you are.

Among the pieces of evidence that Google suggests the Trust API could use are some obvious biometric indicators, such as your face shape and voice pattern, as well as some less obvious ones: how you move, how you type and how you swipe on the screen. With the service continually running in the background of the phone, it can keep track of whether those indicators match how it knows you use your phone.

Individually, it would be ludicrous to use any of those methods to secure web services. Even facial recognition, now built in to many Android phones, is significantly less secure than a fingerprint scanner, according to Google’s own metrics. But combining them can, the company suggests, result in something more than 10 times as secure as a fingerprint.
This is a verification system that would fail when, for example, you have a migraine coming on, or when you have fallen and broken your wrist, or when you are shaken up following a car crash, then you cannot unlock your phone.

I understand why Google likes this,  "With the service continually running in the background of the phone," it means that they can invade your privacy, and sell your data to identity thieves even more efficiently.

For the rest of us, it does not make a whole lot of sense.

3 "Democrats" Who Think That Your Financial Advisor Should Be Allowed to Cheat You

The Senate voted to prohibit regulators from requiring financial advisors to work in their own client's best interest:
The Senate voted Tuesday to strike down a controversial Obama administration rule for financial advisers, setting up a showdown with the White House.

Senators voted 56-41 to overturn the Labor Department’s fiduciary rule, which requires financial advisers to act in the best interest of retirement savers.

The Senate's vote paves the way for a battle with the White House, which has pledged that President Obama will veto the legislation once it reaches his desk.

"The final rule reflects extensive feedback from industry, advocates, and Members of Congress, and has been streamlined to reduce the compliance burden and ensure continued access to advice, while maintaining an enforceable best-interest standard that protects consumers," the Office of Management and Budget said in a statement.


Americans for Financial Reform, an advocacy group, defended the regulation.

The rule "simply says that financial professionals who claim to offer honest, unbiased advice on retirement savings should actually have to do that," the group said.

"The motive for this resolution is not a genuine concern about the wellbeing of retirement savers. Instead, some Wall Street salespeople and their firms are worried about losing out on the billions of dollars in excess profits they have been making by recommending investment products that serve their own interests."
If you look at the vote you will find 3 "Democratic" senators who voted to allow grandma to be cheated out of her retirement, former Congressional "Blue Dog" Joe Donnelly (D-IN), Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND), and Jon Tester (D-MT).

They need to be primaried, big time.

They are all up for reelection in 2018

Chemical Coat Hangers

In Texas, women are going to Mexico to buy chemicals to induce n abortion, because it is next to impossible to get a safe abortion in Texas:
Susanna was young, single, broke and pregnant in southern Texas where, thanks to the state's strict laws, her chances of getting a surgical abortion at a clinic were slim to none.

So she did what an estimated 100,000 women or more in Texas have done - had a self-induced abortion.

With the help of a friend, some online instructions and quick dash across the Mexican border for some pills, she addressed the issue of unwanted pregnancy in a state where women are finding abortion services too expensive and too far away.

Restrictive laws took hold in Texas in 2013, forcing so many clinic closings that fewer than 20 remain to serve 5.4 million women of reproductive age.
The Texas legislature sees The Handmaiden's Tale as a blueprint for the file.