28 February 2014

Catch Phrases XV

Pirkei Avot 4:6:
 Do not make the Torah into a crown with which to aggrandize yourself, and don't use it as a spade with which to dig into them.

*Full disclosure, my great grandfather, Harry Goldman, and her grandfather, Sam Goldman were brothers.

The Joys of Mass Transit

I'm taking the bus and Metro to work today.

I'm doing out to see how it goes.

If this works for me, our will  save some money, along with some wear and tear in my psyche.

There its a guy in the Metro car with me, and I cannot tell if he is having a conversation via a bluetooth equipped cell phone, our if he is mentally ill.

The joys of modem technology, neh?

[on edit]
No loss of signal underground, and the conversation continues, so, to paraphrase Cheap Trick, it's those men inside his brain.


Posted via mobile.

27 February 2014

Why the NSA is a Bigger Danger to Our Way of Life than is Al-Qaeda

We already have a part of our state security apparatus with a history of blackmail for their own benefit, specifically Hoover's FBI, and now we discover that the NSA has collaborated with their British counterparts to intercept webcam pictures from millions of people:
Britain's surveillance agency GCHQ, with aid from the US National Security Agency, intercepted and stored the webcam images of millions of internet users not suspected of wrongdoing, secret documents reveal.

GCHQ files dating between 2008 and 2010 explicitly state that a surveillance program codenamed Optic Nerve collected still images of Yahoo webcam chats in bulk and saved them to agency databases, regardless of whether individual users were an intelligence target or not.

In one six-month period in 2008 alone, the agency collected webcam imagery – including substantial quantities of sexually explicit communications – from more than 1.8 million Yahoo user accounts globally.

Yahoo reacted furiously to the webcam interception when approached by the Guardian. The company denied any prior knowledge of the program, accusing the agencies of "a whole new level of violation of our users' privacy".
If you don't think this sort of stuff cannot be used against you, what happens if they decide that they to shut you up, and your little is stupid enough to sext their boy friend.

Something like 10% of the millions of documents are images of body parts that could get an FCC sanction.

And you wonder why former counter-terrorism Czar Richard Clarke is worrying that NSA actions might presage the establishment of a police state:
Revelations about NSA monitoring activities over the last year show the potential for a police state mechanism, according to the former U.S. cybersecurity czar, but there is still time to avoid the dire consequences.

At the 2014 Cloud Security Alliance Summit, unofficial RSA Conference opener Richard Clarke, chairman of Washington, D.C.-based Good Harbor Consulting LLC, spoke to a packed audience. The former cybersecurity advisor to President Barack Obama discussed his involvement in the December 2013 report reviewing the data collection and monitoring capabilities at the National Security Agency, Central Intelligence Agency and the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

Clarke said that the reaction to leaks by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden has perhaps been overblown, because he described the employees at the three-letter agencies as "incredibly intelligent people" who are focused on combating terrorism and punishing violations of human rights. As part of the review process, Clarke and his group were given what he called carte blanche security clearances to review all of the agencies' intelligence-gathering capabilities.

Those employees are not currently listening to random phone calls and reading email, Clarke said, but that doesn't mean U.S. citizens should ignore the agencies' growing capabilities.

"In terms of collecting intelligence, they are very good. Far better than you could imagine," Clarke said. "But they have created, with the growth of technologies, the potential for a police state."

Clarke said such concerns are hardly new, pointing to the government committee headed by Sen. Frank Church in the 1970s. Church warned at the time that the technologies at intelligence agencies were developing at such an alarming rate that, if they were all turned on, the U.S. would never be able to turn them off, effectively creating a permanent police state in which the entire popular would be under constant surveillance.

Though such warnings seem dire, Clarke noted that the seemingly endless scope of current government surveillance activities stemmed largely from a lack of strict guidance from policy makers. He said a major aspect of the report to the White House was simply prompting the questions that were previously unasked: What are our intelligence agencies collecting? What should they be collecting? If we should be collecting data, how do we safeguard it? If we're collecting data, how do we stay consistent with U.S. traditions of privacy and government oversight?
This is also why security expert Bruce Schneier is suggesting that the National Security Agency be broken up:
The NSA has become too big and too powerful. What was supposed to be a single agency with a dual mission -- protecting the security of U.S. communications and eavesdropping on the communications of our enemies -- has become unbalanced in the post-Cold War, all-terrorism-all-the-time era.

Putting the U.S. Cyber Command, the military's cyberwar wing, in the same location and under the same commander, expanded the NSA's power. The result is an agency that prioritizes intelligence gathering over security, and that's increasingly putting us all at risk. It's time we thought about breaking up the National Security Agency.

Broadly speaking, three types of NSA surveillance programs were exposed by the documents released by Edward Snowden. And while the media tends to lump them together, understanding their differences is critical to understanding how to divide up the NSA's missions.
The organization is out of control, and its actions do not properly serve our security needs, and it increasingly sees its mission as simply expanding its reach and power.

The Supreme Court is to Take Up Software Patents

I messed this in December, when the Supreme Court agreed to rule on the validity of software patents:
Renewing its recent fascination with the kinds of inventions that can be patented, the Supreme Court on Friday agreed to clarify when an analytical method implemented by a computer or by a link on the Internet is eligible for monopoly protection. This was the only new case granted. The Court will be reviewing a widely splintered decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit, in the case of Alice Corporation Pty. Ltd. v. CLS Bank International (docket 13-298). The en banc Federal Circuit found the method at issue ineligible for a patent, but a majority could not agree on a standard for making such decisions.

The case will provide a new test of the Patent Act’s most basic provision — Section 101, which broadly outlines what kinds of inventions are patentable. One of the long-standing exceptions to the types of inventions mentioned in that section is that an abstract idea can never be patented. That issue arises frequently these days, especially with rapidly developing technology in computer software. The Justices have dealt with that issue several times in recent years.

Alice International, an Australian company that is half-owned by the National Australia Bank Ltd., obtained patent protection on a method invented by its founder, Ian Shepherd, for exchanging financial instruments, with the aim of assuring that, when two parties have agreed to an exchange of currency or other financial goods, they actually deliver on the deal. Because such agreements are often delayed at least a few days in implementation, there is a risk that one side won’t live up to the agreement. The invented program works out a settlement arrangement to determine which side is obliged to deliver. It generates instructions to the institutions involved to carry out their agreement.
Hopefully, this means that the Supreme Court is willing to overrule the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit, aka "The Patent Court", which has ignored Supreme Court precedent for years:
This spring, the Supreme Court will weigh in on the patentability of software for the first time in a generation. In the 1970s, the high court placed strict rules on software-related patents. But since then, a lower court has effectively overruled the Supreme Court's precedents, allowing hundreds of thousands of legally dubious software patents to be approved.

The arguments in the software patent debate have barely changed since the 1970s, but the players in the debate have changed radically. In 1972, IBM was a leading software patent opponent. Today, Big Blue has become one of the concept's biggest supporters. In 1991, Bill Gates warned that patents could bring the software industry to a "standstill." Today, Microsoft is fighting to protect the tens of thousands of software patents in its portfolio.

………

During the 1970s, patent law was shaped by a Supreme Court that was skeptical of patents on software. Even its 1981 decision [which allowed for a computer controlled method of curing rubber involving a computer to constantly monitor temperature] emphasized that there were limits on software-related patents. In 1982, Congress made a seemingly innocuous change to the structure of the court system that had a profound impact on the legal status of software patents.

Most areas of the law are handled by generalist judges organized into a dozen geographically based appellate courts. But Congress, concerned that patent law had become too complex for generalist judges, created a new court called the Federal Circuit Appeals Court. The Federal Circuit was given jurisdiction over all patent appeals. And perhaps because its judges spend so much time rubbing elbows with patent attorneys, the new court would prove to have a strong pro-patent bias.

An important turning point came in a 1994 ruling involving a computer graphics technique called anti-aliasing. ………
Anti-aliasing was a technique which had been known for decades, but the patent court ignored precedent, and allowed the patent, and opened up the floodgates, which later extended to business models and financial constructs.

I think that it is likely that SCOTUS will issue significant restrictions, because, ever since the Blackberry case, pretty the only time that they take up a case like this, it is to slap down the maniacs in the Patent Court.

They need to come down on this bullsh%$ hard, because the jokers in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit are arrogant clueless extremists.

This is a Fabulous F%$# You to the Homophobes

The mayors of Boston and New York are boycotting their respective St. Patrick's Day Parades because of the organizer's homophobic policies:
Boston Mayor Martin Walsh is threatening to boycott the St. Patrick’s Day parade unless organizers allow a group of gay military veterans to march, joining New York’s mayor in protesting parade policies on gay groups.

Walsh, the son of Irish immigrants, said Thursday he’s been trying to broker a deal with the city’s parade organizers to allow a gay veterans group sponsored by MassEquality to march in this year’s parade. He said allowing gay groups to participate is long overdue.

“It’s 2014 — it’s far beyond the time where we should be even having this discussion because they’re veterans who fought for this country just like any other veteran,” Walsh said.

“I made a commitment during the campaign ... that I would fight for equality and that’s what this is all about.”

But parade planners appeared unwilling to budge.

Lead parade organizer Philip Wuschke Jr. said gay people are not prohibited from marching with other groups. But he said organizers do not want the parade to turn into a demonstration for a particular group.

“The theme of the parade is St. Patrick’s Day. It is not a sexually oriented parade,” he said. “All we want to do is have a happy parade. The parade is a day of celebration, not demonstration.”

In New York, Mayor Bill de Blasio said he will skip the nation’s largest St. Patrick’s Day parade in Manhattan because participants are not allowed to carry signs or banners identifying themselves as gay.

“I will be participating in a number of other events to honor the Irish heritage of this city,” de Blasio said during a press conference earlier this month. “But I simply disagree with the organizers of that parade.”
Let the bigots stew in their own hate alone.

26 February 2014

Somewhere Out There, J. Edgar Hoover is Laughing

Last night, Rachel Maddow had an update on the suspicious shooting of unarmed Ibragim Todashev in his own apartment while questioning him about his relationship with alleged Boston bombers Tamerlan and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev.

The FBI is still sitting on their report.

They are still forbidding the coroner from releasing his report.

They have detained, deported, or otherwise excluded everyone who knew Todashev, as Maddow details below.

The FBI is clearly engaged in an aggressive coverup, and the only thing that I can think of that they would feel necessary to cover up was that the Tsarnaev brothers were a part of a botched anti-terrorism sting that went very, very bad.

I guess that I am wearing my tinfoil hat today.

Fabulous!!!!!

Just saw on Maddow that Jan Brewer vetoed the "Arizona Encourages Religious Descrimination" bill.

Kewl.

25 February 2014

A Correction:

While still feel that the the government transition in the Ukraine will likely lead to an upsurge in anti-semitism.

The Ukraine has a long and inglorious tradition of virulent Jew hatred, and periods of social unrest lead to an upsurge in bigotry of all kinds.

That being said, Mark Ames, former editor in chief of the eXile, a former Moscow based English language tabloid, knows a LOT more about the former Soviet Union than I do.

One of the things that he knew was that Rabbi Moshe Reuven Azman, whom I quoted as advising that Jews leave Kiev, is a Chabad rabbi, and Chabad is really tight with the Kremlin.

So, I have to question the reliability of Reb Azman's pronouncements.

Ames' thesis is basically that the sh%$ is f%$#ed up and sh%$, and that teasing out alliances and philosophies is simply not a productivity, or as he sums up, "Everything you know about Ukraine is wrong":
………

Everyone looking for a proxy side to support or oppose in the Ukraine political dynamic will be disappointed. Ukraine politics go by their own rules. Today’s neoliberal ultranationalist could be tomorrow’s Kremlin ally, and visa-versa. Just look at what happened to the Orange Revolution—nothing. To wit:

a) One Orange Revolution leader, Yulia Tymoshenko, wound up turning against her partner Viktor Yushchenko and allying with Yanukovych to strip Yushchenko of presidential powers; later, Tymoshenko allied with the Kremlin against Yushchenko; now she’s free from jail and the presumptive leader of the anti-Yanukovych forces.

b) The other Orange leader—the pro-EU, anti-Kremlin Viktor Yushchenko—wound up allying with pro-Kremlin Yanukovych to jail Yulia Tymoshenko.

c) John McCain has been the big driving force for regime change against Yanukovych, but McCain’s 2008 campaign chief’s lobby firm, Davis Manafort, managed Yanukovych’s political campaigns and his lobbying efforts in the US.

d) Anthony Podesta, brother of President Obama’s senior advisor John Podesta, is another Yanukovych lobbyist; John Podesta was the chief of Obama’s 2008 transition team.
4. Yanukovych was not fighting neoliberalism, the World Bank, or oligarchy — nor was he merely a tool of the Kremlin.

There’s another false meme going around that because the World Bank and IMF are moving in to “reform” Ukraine’s economy — for the umpteenth time — that somehow this means that this was a fight between pro-neoliberal and anti-neoliberal forces. It wasn’t.

Yanukovych enthusiastically cooperated with the IMF and pledged to adhere to their demands. Six months after Yanukovych was elected president, the headline read “International Monetary Fund approves $15 billion loan to Ukraine”. ………

………

The point is this: Ukraine is not Venezuela. This is not a profoundly political or class fight, as it is in Venezuela. Yanukovych represents one faction of oligarchs; the opposition, unwittingly or otherwise, ultimately fronts for other factions. Many of those oligarchs have close business ties with Russia, but assets and bank accounts—and mansions—in Europe. Both forces are happy to work with the neoliberal global institutions.

In Ukraine, there is no populist left politics, even though the country’s deepest problem is inequality and oligarchy. Memories of the Soviet Union play a big role in turning people off to populist-left politics there, for understandable reasons.
So Mark Ames thesis is that the political culture of the Ukraine is largely one of corrupt politicians and oligarchs grasping for advantage.

This does not mean that Jews in the Ukraine are not likely to see harassment, because (as Ames notes) the ultra-nationalist parties were at the lead of the most recent protests, and because the history of that part of the world.

I Wish that This Was True

In response to Georgia's issuing a vanity plate featuring the Klu Klux Klan Confederate Battle Flag, John Perr comes up with a parody that is pure genius.

The only thing that could make this better would be if this were true:
The state of Georgia this week began offering a new version of its vehicle license plate featuring the Confederate battle flag. Sponsored by the Georgia division of the Sons of Confederate Veterans (to whom a portion of the purchase price and annual registration fees will go), the revised design has many people inside the state and out howling mad.

In response to the outcry, Georgia SCV commander Jack Bridwell asked, "What's the big deal?" Echoing Bridwell's explanation that "the design is just people trying to show who they are and trying to be proud of their heritage," Sons of Confederate Veterans spokesman Ray McBerry invited other groups to do the same:
"We believe that all people ought to be able to celebrate their history and their heritage, and that includes Southerners. We did anticipate that there could be some folks who would not like that, but we encourage them to go and make application for their own specialty plates."
Now, a little known organization is taking him up on the offer. The group, calling itself The American People, is sponsoring a license plate to mark the 150th anniversary of Union General William Tecumseh Sherman's March to the Sea.

After capturing the South's vital manufacturing center and rail hub at Atlanta, Sherman's troops marched southeast to Savannah leaving a swath of ruin in their wake. Between November 15th and December 21st, 1864, Sherman more than accomplished his objective to "create havoc and destruction of all resources that would be beneficial to the enemy." Sherman's brilliant campaign (or what the Sons of Confederate Veterans brand "atrocities and war crimes") hastened the end of the Confederacy and with it the enslavement of four million Americans.
Read the rest, it's brilliant, and if you know anyone in Georgia, have them petition for a vanity plate.

This is f%$3ing brilliant!

I Don't Think that I've Ever Seen Jon Stewart Angrier

John Stewart and Larry Wilmore tear into professional bigot Fox News Legal analyst Andrew Napolitano for rolling out standard grossly KKK/Sons of the Confederacy lies.

Notice that they are both smiling.

They are f5$#ing outraged, and the smiles never leave their faces, and Wilmore draws blood when he compares Napolitano's differing attitudes on the Civil War and the Revolutionary war, "You know, there’s something not right when you feel the only black thing worth fighting for is tea," but he drives a much deserved stake through the anti-tax libertarianism espoused by Napolitano, and Fox, when he says, "You think it’s immoral for the government to reach into your pocket, rip your money away from its warm home and claim it as its own property, money that used to enjoy unfettered freedom is now conscripted to do whatever its new owner tells it to. Now, I know this is going to be a leap, but you know that sadness and rage you feel about your money? Well, that’s the way some of us feel about people."

It's frightening that such a contemptible human being as Napolitano was once a judge.

Just watch.


The War on Drugs Goes from Dishonesty to Parody in Annapolis

The Annapolis police chief testified about the 37 people who died of marijuana overdoses on the first day of legalization in Colorado.

There is a small problem with this testimony, it never happened.  In fact the source of the story was the satirical website the Daily Current:

Testifying against bills proposed in Maryland to legalize and decriminalize marijuana, Annapolis Police Chief Michael Pristoop cited a hoax story that claimed 37 people died the first day marijuana was legalized in Colorado.

"The first day of legalization, that's when Colorado experienced 37 deaths that day from overdose on marijuana," Pristoop said in testimony at Tuesday's Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee hearing. "I remember the first day it was decriminalized there were 37 deaths."

But Sen. Jamie Raskin, D-Montgomery, who has proposed a bill that would legalize, regulate and tax the drug, immediately fact-checked Pristoop.

"Unless you have some other source for this, I'm afraid I've got to spoil the party here," Raskin said. "Your assertion that 37 people died of a marijuana overdose in Colorado was a hoax on the DailyCurrant and the Comedy Central website."
Our drug penal/enforcement industry is a waste of resources, and people like Michael Pristoop should find honest productive work.

24 February 2014

And Ukraine Returns to Form………

I am not surprised that a prominent Ukrainian rabbi has called for Jews to flee Kiev.

He is that there have been credible threats against the Jewish community:
Ukrainian Rabbi Moshe Reuven Azman, called on Kiev's Jews to leave the city and even the country if possible, fearing that the city's Jews will be victimized in the chaos, Israeli daily Maariv reported Friday.

"I told my congregation to leave the city center or the city all together and if possible the country too," Rabbi Azman told Maariv. "I don't want to tempt fate," he added, "but there are constant warnings concerning intentions to attack Jewish institutions."

According to the paper's report Azman closed the Jewish community's schools but still holds three daily prayers. He said the Israeli embassy told members of the Jewish community to avoid leaving their homes.
It's a fact that a significant number of of the protesters had ties to right wing nationalists, most notably the Svoboda party.

What's more the history of the Ukraine, and Kiev in particular has been extremely antisemitic Even By the Standards of the Russian Empire and the Republics of the Former Soviet Union.

Seriously, the 200,000 or so Jews living in the Ukraine need to make arrangements for a quick exit.

I expect to see synagogues to burn.

No, This is Not the Onion

Jack Burkman, a long time right wing lobbyist is writing legislation to ban gays from the NFL:
“Imagine your son being forced to shower with a gay man,” Burkman said in a statement. “That’s a horrifying prospect for every mom in the country. What in the world has this nation come to?”

Of course, your son is already showering with gay men in gym class, at the health club, in the US military, in the NFL, and in the US Congress. The only difference is that in some of those places, your son is simply not aware of who the gay guy is. The NFL being more welcoming to gays won’t change the simple fact that just because you don’t know who’s gay, doesn’t mean the gay men aren’t already there.

Normally, I would say that kicker to this story is that his brother James is gay and out, and thinks that Jack is an asshole:
But this is not the kicker to this story.

The kicker to the story was that he was on the DC Madame's phone list.

So, Jack was a ……… John. (He denies it ……… Yeah ……… Sure)

Goodbye Moe Green

Harold Ramis, 1944-2014.

A comedic genius who preferred to be on the other side of the camera.

23 February 2014

Best Comment Ever on the Comcast/Time Warner Cable Merger, With Taiwanese News Video

Telco Maven, and fellow medieval recreation afficianado, Harold Feld, gives us the best comment ever on the merger:
OH MY GOD!! YOU COMCAST PEOPLE HAVE NO LIMITS! YOU’RE LIKE SOME GIANT, COAX-TENTACLED CTHULHU-BEAST THAT KEEPS PROMISING TO DEVOUR US ALL BETWEEN 8 A.M. AND NOON BUT DOESN’T ACTUALLY GET AROUND TO DEVOURING US UNTIL AFTER 3 P.M. BECAUSE YOU GOT ‘STUCK IN TRAFFIC’ AND A PREVIOUS DEVOURING RAN LONGER THAN EXPECTED . . . .
Not only that, he raises one of the famous (infamous?) Taiwanese CGI news animations.

Mr. Feld, you are a f%$#ing genius.

Former Bush Aide Matt Dowd Goes There

He compares the anti-gay right to Islamic Terrorists.

Of interest is his invocation of the history of religious justifications supporting slavery:
"This is one of those problems when people use religion as a way to sort of enforce discriminatory practices," he continued. "People used religion back in the 1860s when they defended slavery. They used religion to defend slavery."

"We've used religion to go to war. People have criticized Islam because they use religion to fight people and kill people. This is the problem with that [bill]."
That first bit seems to me to be a subtle slam at the Southern Baptists, whose genesis was a schism with the American Baptists over the morality of slavery. (The Southern Baptists were on the wrong side of the argument.)

I'm not quite sure what, if anything, was his intent in saying this, but I agree with Max Blumenthal's analysis, which is that Dowd is primarily an opportunist, so I think that there is some sort of an angle on this.

Why Do I See the NSA Behind This Sh%$?

The Internet Engineering Task Force has proposed a way to speed up encrypted connections that works by removing the encryption for part of the journey. Rather unsurprisingly it looks like a way allow the NSA, FBI, etc. to crawl up your ass into your encrypted data:
A draft put forward at the Internet Engineering Task Force has drawn the ire of prominent privacy activist Lauren Weinstein as “one of the most alarming Internet proposals” he's ever seen.

The document that's upset Weinstein is this one, out of the HTTPBis Working Group and posted as an Internet Draft on 14 February 2014.

Entitled Explicit Trusted Proxy in HTTP/2.0, the standard proposes a mechanism by which an upstream provider – say an ISP – could get permission to snoop on decrypt user traffic for the purposes of caching.

Using proxies to cache traffic in the service provider network is unremarkable and uncontroversial: it's been normal practice for a long time. The end user benefit is better performance; the service provider benefit is a reduction in traffic over their upstream transit network links.

From that point of view, encryption is a pain in the neck: the service provider can't see into the encrypted traffic, which reduces the effectiveness of its caching strategy.

The Internet Draft has this to say:
“To distinguish between an HTTP2 connection meant to transport "https" URIs resources and an HTTP2 connection meant to transport "http" URIs resource, the draft proposes to 'register a new value in the Application Layer Protocol negotiation (ALPN) Protocol IDs registry specific to signal the usage of HTTP2 to transport "http" URIs resources: h2clr.'”
In essence, to try and protect their ability to cache, the authors of the standard propose that providers seek their customers' permission to decrypt their traffic (solely for the purposes of offering a better customer experience, naturally).

For some reason, Weinstein finds this proposal outrageous: “The proposal expects Internet users to provide 'informed consent' that they 'trust' intermediate sites (e.g. Verizon, AT&T, etc.) to decode their encrypted data, process it in some manner for 'presumably' innocent purposes, re-encrypt it, then pass the re-encrypted data along to its original destination,” he writes.
Considering that AT&T proposed this, and that AT&T's record vis a vis illegal surveillance is pretty horrific, I do not see this as a positive proposal.

Best Resignation Letter Ever

Matt Taibbi writes a goodbye letter to Rolling Stone that should make his former bosses proud:
Today is my last day at Rolling Stone. As of this week, I’m leaving to work for First Look Media, the new organization that’s already home to reporters like Glenn Greenwald, Jeremy Scahill and Laura Poitras.

I’ll have plenty of time to talk about the new job elsewhere. But in this space, I just want to talk about Rolling Stone, and express my thanks. Today is a very bittersweet day for me. As excited as I am about the new opportunity, I’m sad to be leaving this company.

More than 15 years ago, Rolling Stone sent a reporter, Brian Preston, to do a story on the eXile, the biweekly English-language newspaper I was editing in Moscow at the time with Mark Ames. We abused the polite Canadian Preston terribly – I think we thought we were being hospitable – and he promptly went home and wrote a story about us that was painful, funny and somewhat embarrassingly accurate. Looking back at that story now, in fact, I’m surprised that Rolling Stone managing editor Will Dana gave me a call years later, after I’d returned to the States.

I remember when Will called, because it was such an important moment in my life. I was on the American side of Niagara Falls, walking with friends, when my cell phone rang. Night had just fallen and when Will invited me to write a few things in advance of the 2004 presidential election, I nearly walked into the river just above the Falls.

At the time, I was having a hard time re-acclimating to life in America and was a mess personally. I was broke and having anxiety attacks. I specifically remember buying three cans of corned beef hash with the last dollars of available credit on my last credit card somewhere during that period. Anyway I botched several early assignments for the magazine, but Will was patient and eventually brought me on to write on a regular basis.

It was my first real job and it changed my life. Had Rolling Stone not given me a chance that year, God knows where I’d be – one of the ideas I was considering most seriously at the time was going to Ukraine to enroll in medical school, of all things.

………

No journalist has ever been luckier than me. Thank you, Rolling Stone.
Read the whole thing.

It's funny and gracious, and everyone at Rolling Stone should be proud of what he said.

22 February 2014

The Shock Doctrine Being Applied Again in Venezuela

And the major powers in Latin America are aware of this and stop it:
When is it considered legitimate to try and overthrow a democratically-elected government? In Washington, the answer has always been simple: when the US government says it is. Not surprisingly, that's not the way Latin American governments generally see it.

On Sunday, the Mercosur governments (Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay, Paraguay, and Venezuela) released a statement on the past week's demonstrations in Venezuela. They described "the recent violent acts" in Venezuela as "attempts to destabilize the democratic order". They made it abundantly clear where they stood.

The governments stated:
their firm commitment to the full observance of democratic institutions and, in this context, [they] reject the criminal actions of violent groups that want to spread intolerance and hatred in the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela as a political tool.
We may recall that when much larger demonstrations rocked Brazil last year, there were no statements from Mercosur or neighboring governments. That's not because they didn't love President Dilma Rousseff; it's because these demonstrations did not seek to topple Brazil's democratically-elected government.
The US has declared the Chavezista government to be our "Hitler of the week":
An anonymous State Department spokesman was even clearer last week, when he responded to the protests by expressing concern about the government's "weakening of democratic institutions in Venezuela", and said that there was an obligation for "government institutions [to] respond effectively to the legitimate economic and social needs of its citizens". He was joining the opposition's efforts to de-legitimize the government, a vital part of any "regime change" strategy.

Of course we all know who the US government supports in Venezuela. They don't really try to hide it: there's $5m in the 2014 US federal budget for funding opposition activities inside Venezuela, and this is almost certainly the tip of the iceberg – adding to the hundreds of millions of dollars of overt support over the past 15 years.
You can go to C&L for a more explicit critique of US foreign policy and our media's lapdog reporting:
Would it help your perspective if I reminded you Venezuela has the largest oil reserves in the world, that Hugo Chavez nationalized the oil industry even more industries and that powerful interests have never stopped trying to take them back?

There's an alternate version, one in which the usual suspects (World Bank, IMF) manipulate the currency, drive hyperinflation, cause food shortages and subsequent unrest. Add the former ruling class, once made wealthy by oil industry corruption, whose now-grown children still harbor resentment and anger over what their families lost (much like the members of the Cuban ruling class who fled after Castro) and are leading the opposition.
Netfa Freeman is even less circumspect.

And then you have the attempt to make the thoroughly corrupt Leopoldo Lopez a into a poster boy for a potential revolution.  Despite his role in the 2002 attempted coup, where it appears that he was knowingly involved in the sniping incident that was used as a justification:
Lopez played a key role instigating opposition demonstrators into taking an illegal march route towards the presidential palace, where snipers fired on protesters as part of the opposition’s plan to justify the coup.
See also here for Max Blumenthal's take on Lopez.

Chavez was to a large degree a product of US Government meddling, but it appears that Obama and Kerry see the solution to any problems therein is more US government meddling.

This is not only wrong, but stupid.

Linkage



Nitrogen, a Koosh Ball, and Too Much Free Time

21 February 2014

Tweet of the Day



Sing it Brother!

Our Religious Rights Makes the Saudi's Look Like Feminists

Two Evangelical Christian Schools have been revealed to have covered up rapes and sexual abuse on campus, and all evidence indicates that they did so because adminstrators thought that they deserved to be raped.

First, we have Bob Jones University:
For decades, students at Bob Jones University who sought counseling for sexual abuse were told not to report it because turning in an abuser from a fundamentalist Christian community would damage Jesus Christ. Administrators called victims liars and sinners.

All of this happened until recently inside the confines of this insular university, according to former students and staff members who said they had high hopes that the Bob Jones brand of counseling would be exposed and reformed after the university hired a Christian consulting group in 2012 to investigate its handling of sexual assaults, many of which occurred long before the students arrived at the university.

Last week, Bob Jones dealt a blow to those hopes, acknowledging that with the investigation more than a year old and nearing completion, the university had fired the consulting group, Godly Response to Abuse in the Christian Environment, or Grace, without warning or explanation. The dismissal has drawn intense criticism from some people with ties to Bob Jones, and prompted some victims and their allies — including many who were interviewed by Grace investigators — to tell their stories publicly for the first time, attracting more attention than ever to the university’s methods.

On Friday, Stephen Jones, president of the university and great-grandson of its founder, addressed students and employees, saying, “We grew concerned that in the process, Grace had begun going beyond the originally outlined intentions,” but he would not elaborate. He said the university had not told Grace what its concerns were and wanted to discuss them with the consultant but could do so only face to face and felt compelled to fire the firm first.
Translation: They fired Grace (founded by Billy Graham's grandson) because they found problems.

And we also see it at the newer, and somewhat more prestigious, Patrick Henry College a school that had a huge number of interns at the White House during the GW Bush administration.

Here, the allegations are more specific, and far more damning. They appear to have a policy of deliberately ascribing blame to the women in all cases, looking to blame them for their mode of dress, physical proximity, etc.
Claire was not the first female student to leave PHC disillusioned with the administration she had trusted to protect her. Other female students who say they reported sexual assault or harassment to the administration also left feeling that school officials blamed them instead of holding the accused male students accountable. The administration, they say, seemed much more concerned with protecting Patrick Henry’s pristine public image.

“Basically, my issue was swept under the rug, and the assaulter received little else but a reprimand,” says a young woman who attended Patrick Henry between 2004 and 2008. The student fell asleep at an off-campus party where there had been drinking and was awoken by a male PHC student assaulting her. She says she reported the incident to Patrick Henry. “The administration encouraged me to not go to the police and said that, because alcohol was involved and I was violating the rules there, they hinted that I could be expelled if I brought light to the incident,” the student says. “The focus was the alcohol. I drank. I sinned. I deserved to be assaulted in the middle of the night.”
There is more at the link if you can stomach it.

I would note that the problem of administrations wanting to cover up sexual assaults for reputational reasons is not unique to religious schools, but the philosophy that places all the "blame" for "sex" (rape ain't sex, it is violence) on the women is.

Note that the administrator at Patrick Henry was a (self-hating) woman.

They hate women and their fear their power, and so the blame the women for violence done to them.

It Appears that This Guy Got His Law Degree from Bob Jones University

In a world of right wing hack judges issuing morally indefensible options, Federal District Judge William Martini has set a contemptible new standard:
The first legal challenge to the New York police department’s blanket surveillance of Muslims in the wake of the 9/11 terrorist attacks has been dismissed by a federal judge in New Jersey in a ruling that lawyers acting for the plaintiffs have described as preposterous and dangerous.

Judge William Martini, sitting in the US district court for the district of New Jersey, threw out a lawsuit brought by eight Muslim individuals and local businesses who alleged their constitutional rights were violated when the NYPD’s mass surveillance was based on religious affiliation alone. The legal action was the first of its type flowing from the secret NYPD project to map and monitor Muslim communities across the east coast that was exposed by a Pulitzer prize-winning series of articles in 2011 by the Associated Press.

In his judgment, released on Thursday, Martini dismisses the complaint made by the plaintiffs that they had been targeted for police monitoring solely because of their religion. He writes: “The more likely explanation for the surveillance was a desire to locate budding terrorist conspiracies. The most obvious reason for so concluding is that surveillance of the Muslim community began just after the attacks of September 11, 2001. The police could not have monitored New Jersey for Muslim terrorist activities without monitoring the Muslim community itself.”

………

The Martini decision absolves the NYPD of having caused distress or damage to Muslims caught by its mass surveillance on the unusual grounds that were it not for the Associated Press disclosure of the secret programme, those targeted by the monitoring would have been unaware that it was happening.

“The Associated Press covertly obtained the materials and published them without authorization. Thus the injury, if any existed, is not fairly traceable to the City,” Martini writes.

Later in the judgment, he adds: “Nowhere in the complaint do plaintiffs allege that they suffered harm prior to the unauthorized release of the documents by the Associated Press. This confirms that plaintiffs’ alleged injuries flow from the Associated Press’s unauthorized disclosure of the documents. The harms are not ‘fairly traceable’ to any act of surveillance.”
So, it's OK to profile Muslims, and possibly entrap them, so long as you do not about it?

This judge seems to think that it makes sense to send spies into girls schools.

This is f%$#ing insane, and I hope that this Bush appointee's ruling is overruled before the ink is dry.

20 February 2014

It's Bank Failure Friday!!!! (on Thursday)

I missed a credit union failure last week, I was busy battling the elements to get to my Eugenia's Bat Mitzvah.

While I was battling the elements, the NCUA was closing the St. Francis Campus Credit Union of Little Falls, Minnesota (Full NCUA list), the 3rd closing of the year.

Given that there were 24 failures of banks, and 13 credit unions closed in 2013, it appears that we are slightly ahead of last year's trend.

I am Feeling so Much Schadenfraude Right Now

Its beginning to look like George Zimmerman is starting to learn that there are people out there who aren't NRA gun nuts with small penises with racial murder fantasies:
Zimmerman taped an interview last Tuesday with Univision and Fusion, and then took his girlfriend, her kid and his brother to the beach. While they were catching some rays, people noticed him, started harassing him, and then someone shouted out George had a $10,000 bounty on his head.

We’re told it freaked him out and they all retreated to the hotel, but the crowd followed them.

Security swept their room to make sure no one tampered with their stuff and then stood guard throughout the day and night. We’re told Zimmerman did his CNN interview early the next morning and then beat it … literally fleeing Miami.
I am not feeling any sympathy, or empathy, for that racist murderer right now.

What I Really Hate About United Airlines


On Hold for Hours
If you read of my recent travel problems, I should note that they were all weather related, and everyone at United was polite, and efficient, energetic, and quite competent.

I really mean that.

But, because of the inevitable consequences of the snowtastrophe, it meant that I spent hours on hold.

And United has licensed George Gershwin's Rhapsody in Blue as its theme, and so it is their on hold music.

So I heard it for hours ……… and hours ……… and hours  ……… AND HOURS ………

It's a musical masterpiece, and I can no longer listen to it.

UAL, drop Rhapsody in Blue as your hold music, please.

It's Jobless Thursday!

Jobless claims fell slightly, while the 4-week moving average rose slightly.

More significant might be the small improvement in the Index of Leading Economic Indicators.

Given the recent weather though, I'm not sure how reliable any of this data is though.

Liberals Win One vs. Barack Obama

The “Grand Bargain” Is Officially Off the Table by Ed Kilgore | Political Animal | The Washington Monthly:
The White House budget to be released early next month will propose $56 billion in new spending on domestic and defense priorities and drop a proposal that was included in last year's budget as a way to attract Republican support -- a plan that would have included less generous payouts of Social Security benefits.

The budget would aim to reduce the emphasis on austerity that has been the preoccupation of American politics for the past four years and also highlights top Democratic priorities in a year when Democrats hope to save their majority in the Senate.

A White House official said President Obama decided to release a budget that fully represents his "vision," rather than to continue to pursue a fiscal agreement, because Republicans have refused to engage in good-faith negotiations over the nation's top priorities. Obama is planning to pay for fresh spending by closing tax breaks that disproportionately benefit the wealthy.
Make no mistake though, Obama and His Evil Minions REALLY wanted to do this:
………One of the White House’s most poorly kept secrets is that many of Obama’s economic advisers support Chained CPI on the merits………
Because hurting the poors is a good thing, because ……… I can haz bipartisanship!

When the f%$# is the Democratic party going to nominate a Democrat for President?

Google Realizes That it Has Created a Monster

They are now giving glassholes instructions on how not to to be complete jerks:
Google, in perhaps a tacit realization that it has spawned a small army of particularly insufferable cyborgs, has issued an etiquette manual for the first generation of Google Glass users (or “Glass Explorers” as they’re called).

With a list of unsolicited “Do’s” and “Dont’s” posted on Google’s Glass website, the tech giant highlights a number of central concerns around the subjectivities its wearable computing system is creating. High among them, the fear that “Glassholes” start living their lives as nonstop surveillance robots.

One “Do” and a corresponding “Don’t” advise “explorers” to not use Glass to record others in their vicinity without permission:
………

Dont: Be creepy or rude (aka, a “Glasshole”). Respect others and if they have questions about Glass don’t get snappy. Be polite and explain what Glass does and remember, a quick demo can go a long way. In places where cell phone cameras aren’t allowed, the same rules will apply to Glass. If you’re asked to turn your phone off, turn Glass off as well. Breaking the rules or being rude will not get businesses excited about Glass and will ruin it for other Explorers.
It appears that Google is beginning to realize that its early adopters have all the social skills of a toaster, (perhaps less than said kitchen appliance if one considers the toaster from Red Dwarf), and this does not make them good ambassadors for the technology.

19 February 2014

What, You Mean that the Union has Seats on the VW Board of Directors?!?!?!?

The head of the union at Volkswagon is saying that the the labor environment in the South means that VW should conduct future expansion elsewhere.

Seeing as how labor unions effectively control a majority of the seats on the board, this looks to revealing Senator Bob Corker, who claimed that VW told him that not having a union was key to expansion, to be a lying sack of sh%$:
Volkswagen's top labor representative threatened on Wednesday to try to block further investments by the German carmaker in the southern United States if its workers there are not unionized.

Workers at VW's factory in Chattanooga, Tennessee, last Friday voted against representation by the United Auto Workers union (UAW), rejecting efforts by VW representatives to set up a German-style works council at the plant.

German workers enjoy considerable influence over company decisions under the legally enshrined "co-determination" principle which is anathema to many politicians in the U.S. who see organized labor as a threat to profits and job growth.

Chattanooga is VW's only factory in the U.S. and one of the company's few in the world without a works council.

"I can imagine fairly well that another VW factory in the United States, provided that one more should still be set up there, does not necessarily have to be assigned to the south again," said Bernd Osterloh, head of VW's works council.

"If co-determination isn't guaranteed in the first place, we as workers will hardly be able to vote in favor" of potentially building another plant in the U.S. south, Osterloh, who is also on VW's supervisory board, said.

The 20-member panel - evenly split between labor and management - has to approve any decision on closing plants or building new ones.
Here's a thought: If you want to locate a plant in a 3rd world country, actually set it up in a real 3rd world country, as opposed to the 3rd world country wannabees in the south.

And the Banksters Scuttle Back into the Shadows as Their Latest Bubble Begins to Deflate

This sounds a lot like the collapse of a pump and dump:
Rents collected on the collateral for the first U.S. rental-home securities declined by 7.6 percent from October to January, according to Morningstar Inc.

Payments declined as expiring leases and early tenant departures left residences backing the bonds of Blackstone (BX) Group LP’s Invitation Homes vacant, Becky Cao and Brian Alan, analysts at Morningstar’s credit-ratings unit, said in a report. While 8.3 percent of the properties were vacant or occupied by delinquent renters in January, renewals on 78.5 percent of leases that expired the prior month exceeded the analysts’ expected rate of 66.7 percent.

The deal’s performance is being watched as Wall Street bankers and institutional property investors seek to follow Blackstone’s $479.1 million transaction in November with additional offerings. Initial lease expirations for the 3,207 homes are scheduled to peak from January through March, Morningstar said. To woo investors and rating firms in the new market, the transaction started with all of the units leased, unlike bonds backed by apartment-building loans.
They are claiming that this is going to improve, but these protestations of improving prospects sound awfully hollow.

Understand that this is in some way even scarier than what they did with the alphabet soups like MBS and CDS, because these psychopaths are now responsible for fixing things like broken heaters, plugged drains, etc.

There are already anecdotal reports that the banksters are horrible landlords (big surprise), and one wonders what is going to happen when tenants start suing them or organizing rent strikes.

First Look Media Racks Up Another Jewel for Its Crown

This time, it's Matt Taibbi, who is perhaps the only financial journalist in America who has not gone native with the financial services industry:
Matt Taibbi, who made a name as a fierce critic of Wall Street at Rolling Stone magazine, has joined First Look Media, the latest big-name journalist to leave an established brand to enter the thriving and well-financed world of news start-ups.

Mr. Taibbi will start his own publication focusing on financial and political corruption, he said in an interview on Wednesday. First Look is financed by the eBay founder Pierre Omidyar, who is worth $8.5 billion, according to Forbes. Mr. Omidyar has pledged $250 million to the project.

“It’s obvious that we’re entering a new phase in the history of journalism,” Mr. Taibbi said. “This is clearly the future, and this was an opportunity for me to be part of helping to found something and create something that might carry us into the next generation.”

………

First Look began its first publication, The Intercept, with the national security reporters Glenn Greenwald, Laura Poitras and Jeremy Scahill. In recent weeks, the group has hired Lynn Oberlander, formerly of The New Yorker, as its general counsel, and the author and journalist Peter Maass, among others.
Taibbi, of course nailed Goldman Sachs, and enraged vampire squid aficionados everywhere, when he described them as, "a great vampire squid wrapped around the face of humanity, relentlessly jamming its blood funnel into anything that smells like money."

Also, we have seen Dan Froomkin and Jay Rosen.

This is beginning to look like an impressive team, if someone *cough* Jim Romenesko *cough* could update us on whether they are getting some utility infielders to go along with the stars, I would be more sanguine about its prospects.

I Am a Whore, Not a Slut, Act Accordingly

After I wrote a post about the abuse of the IP process and price gouging for a potential HIV prophylaxis treatment, I got an email from a PR person with a link to a promotional graphic for the product, and a request that I post it.

No offer of payment.

Not even an offer of swag.

I realize that my readership numbers probably don't rate a T-shirt, but I wasn't even offered a f%$#ing key fob.

Seriously, if you are not going to read my article, and know that I condemned what your employers are doing, at least have the decency of offering some form of remuneration.

It's a matter of pride.

To quote fellow engineer Montgomery Scott, "This was a matter of pride."

Tofu Fingers

Whenever I do tofu stir-fry, a common dish at Chez Saroff, I find it hard to get a proper crust on the it.

The extremely high water content of bean curd makes it tough to brown, at least not without one of those huge stove burners that you find in Chinese restaurants.

I have come up with a solution:  Instead of cubing the tofu, I cut it into fish-stick sized pieces, which meant that they could be laid flat against a screaming hot skillet.

The greater surface area allows for proper browning.

18 February 2014

As the Punchline Says, "A Good Start"*

In the last 8 months, there have been 12 suspicious deaths, including one suicide by nail-gun to the head & chest with 7 or 8 shots.

There is also a missing financial reporter with the WSJ.

To quote Richard Dreyfuss, "This was no boat accident."

Some of the deaths were clearly suicides, and the intern who died of exhaustion induced seizures is merely deplorable, not suspicious, but some of them, particularly Richard Talley, the nail-gun guy, make you wonder if some of the banksters, or perhaps some of their sketchy clients *cough* Russian Mafia *cough* might be tying up some loose ends.

* This is a reference to the old joke that goes:
               Q: What do you call 5000 dead lawyers at the bottom of the ocean?
               A: A good start!"

Well, This Sucks!

How the F%$# did the UAW manage to lose a union election when Volkswagen was their biggest supporter?
Volkswagen workers in Chattanooga, Tenn., have rejected the United Auto Workers, shooting down the union’s hopes of securing a foothold at a foreign-owned auto plant in the South.

The vote was 712 to 626, said the UAW, which blamed the loss on “politicians and outside special interest groups.”

The vote, announced late Friday night after three days of balloting, is a devastating loss for the UAW, whose membership has plummeted from a high of 1.5 million in 1979 to around 400,000 today. Outgoing UAW President Bob King had staked his legacy on organizing a Southern auto plant for the first time.

But the decision is a triumph for Tennessee Republicans like Sen. Bob Corker, who lured Volkswagen to Chattanooga as mayor in the early 2000s. Corker and other Republicans warned workers that the UAW’s presence would irreparably harm the plant, and in recent days he claimed — with little evidence — that Volkswagen would choose not to expand the plant if workers unionized.
How the hell did they pull this off?

This was like shooting fish in a barrel.  VW wanted the union so that they could establish a "works council".

The UAW had advantages in organizing the Volkswagen plant it probably won’t find elsewhere. For starters, Volkswagen — under pressure from the powerful German steelworkers’ union, IG Metall, which holds seats on the company’s board — decided not to resist unionization. The union’s presence would have also allowed the company to set up a German-style “works council,” in which representatives of both workers and middle management offer advice to executives on how to best run the plant.

“I don’t think this is a bellwether for future success for the UAW,” said Donald Schroeder, a management-side labor lawyer at Mintz Levin, before the results were announced. “The UAW almost has had a free run at unionizing.”The UAW had advantages in organizing the Volkswagen plant it probably won’t find elsewhere. For starters, Volkswagen — under pressure from the powerful German steelworkers’ union, IG Metall, which holds seats on the company’s board — decided not to resist unionization. The union’s presence would have also allowed the company to set up a German-style “works council,” in which representatives of both workers and middle management offer advice to executives on how to best run the plant.

“I don’t think this is a bellwether for future success for the UAW,” said Donald Schroeder, a management-side labor lawyer at Mintz Levin, before the results were announced. “The UAW almost has had a free run at unionizing.”
This is an unmitigated disaster for the American worker.

17 February 2014

The Inevitable Vacation Selfie

Taken at George W. Bush airport.
No merch with the logo at the store, it's just an ordinary airport news stand.

Posted via mobile.

Well Now, Isn't That Special!

On the flight down to Houston, I got to be in the colicky baby row!

I am truly blessed.


Posted via mobile.

We are Boarding the Plane to Houston Now

The first of 2 legs to Baltimore.

I am expecting a delay from Godzilla at this point.


Posted via mobile.

F@#&. F@#&ity, F@#&, F@#&, F@#&!!!

Now out is weather in Chicago that has our flight canceled!

Shoot me now!!!


Posted via mobile.

14 February 2014

GAAAAHHHH!!!!!

We are all in Seattle.

We are all in the apartment we rented.

Now all we need is our f%$#ing luggage!!!!

13 February 2014

United's Web Was Down, and I Was on Hold for 2 F%$#ing Hours, So ………


This Sh%$ is all F%$#ed Up!
So I drove to the airport to see what could be arranged at the ticket counter.

There are no seats avilable, so we will be playing the wait list tango at BWI starting very early in the morning.

Keep your fingers crossed for me.

Thank you Mr. Anthropogenic Climate Change.

With a bit of luck, we will make it by Friday some time.

I keep expecting Chevy Chase to appear, because it does seem like one of his Vacation movies.

F%$# Me Rae Bradbury


Some context for the title
Flight is cancelled, and I have f%$#ing been on f%$#ing hold for 2 f%$#ing hours.

I'm thinking that it would be faster to drive to BWI (We just got our road plowed*), and a round trip should be less time than I have spent on hold.

*Additionally, I am feeling the need to get a bit plowed myself.

Weather Permitting, My Ass!

Not only our flight, but our trip to the airport this evening are in doubt.

I still expect to make out in time to see Eugenia chant the Haftorah on Saturday, but we might not even be able to leave the house until tomorrow morning.


Posted via mobile.

12 February 2014

Packing

Taking the red eye to Seattle tomorrow for my niece's bat Mitzvah.

Assuming that the weather permits, which is a substantial assumption.


Posted via mobile.

11 February 2014

It's a Busy Night for People I Do Not Want to Piss Off


John Oliver, who I added to the list when he subbed for John Stewart, just unloaded a can of whup ass on the Silicon Valley techholes at the "Crunchies" award:
You already have all the money in the world. Why do you need awards after that? It is absolutely ridiculous. You're no longer the underdogs, it's very important that you realize that. You're not the scrappy people that people get behind. It used to be that people who worked in the tech industry were emotional shut-ins who you could root for. Now those days are gone. You're pissing off an entire city.
He also goes off on Uber, Larry Ellison, the Kristalnacht 1%er, and Uber ……… and Uber.

It's worth the watch.

Pass the F%$#ing Popcorn

There are now rumors that former Congressman and current MSNBC journalistic impersonater Joe Scarborough is considering a run for President:
This is only slightly less embarrassing than engaging with a rumor about Donald Trump, how do they say, “mulling a presidential bid,” so let’s start with an apology: I’m sorry. Now that that’s out of the way, let’s get down to the lowly business of the day. Joe Scarborough, co-host of MSNBC’s wake-up chat show “Morning Joe,” is “mulling a presidential bid,” according to a couple of anonymous people and Mark McKinnon, who spoke to Tucker Carlson’s Daily Caller website. What a world.
Even without the inevitability of some Republican Karl Rove wannabee making an issue of Lori Klausutis, his candidacy would make the Freddie Dalton Thompson clown look like the Obama campaign.

BTW, that rumbling you feel is not an earthquake.  It is the writing staff of The Daily Show frantically high fiving each other. 

People I Do Not Want to Piss Off


Oh Snap! He got a "Oh, Hell No!" from Samuel L. Jackson
So Entertainment reporter Sam Rubin confused Samuel L. Jackson and Lawrence Fishburne, and Mr. Jackson was not amused.

As I have seen his performance as Jules in Pulp Fiction a number of times, I'm kind of surprised that I had not already put him on the list.

Reconstruction Was Ended Way Too Soon


And now the s%$4 has hi5t the fan coal ash has hit the drinking water ………
Maddow is all over how NC Governor Pat McCrory's Department of Environment and Natural Resources Department of Environment and Natural Resources is aggressively protecting lawbreaking polluters like Duke Energy, by aggressively preventing private actions against the firm, as opposed to actually enforcing the law:
North Carolina regulators’ penchant for seemingly protecting Gov. Pat McCrory’s (R) former employers from repeated lawsuits over their environmental practices was only stopped following a devastatingly toxic spill, MSNBC host Rachel Maddow reported on Monday.

On two prior occasions, Maddow said, officials at the state Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) invoked a provision in the federal Clean Water Act allowing them to step in as plaintiffs against Duke Energy when Duke was being sued by environmental activists over the toxic coal ash ponds at its facilities. The state reached settlements worth a collective $99,000 for those incidents.

But Monday night, she explained, a third such settlement was delayed in the wake of a pond spill that produced up to 82,000 tons of coal ash and 27 million gallons of contaminated water — the third-biggest spill of its’ kind in U.S. history.

And despite not making any statement about the Feb. 3 disaster until four days after it happened, McCrory — who worked with the company for 28 years — used the first two DENR settlements to boast that his administration took “legal action” against Duke Energy.

“Right,” Maddow said skeptically. “By stepping in and blocking other peoples’ lawsuits against the company, and then settling with the company for nearly no money, and, importantly, [requiring] no promise from Duke Energy that they would fix what they were doing wrong.”
Talk about a cheap date.  Even the Department of Justice requests a lie from the offenders to refrain from future wrongdoing.

10 February 2014

Obamacare Is a Subterfuge

When one looks at Obama, and the neoliberal free market mousketeers who surround him, one has to to wonder just how much Obama, who actually taught at the University of Chicago, is in thrall to Chicago School economic theory.

While I do think part of the motivation for putting forward what became the PPACA was an attempt to "fix" the thoroughly dysfunctional healthcare delivery system in the United States, I also think that there has been an unspoken agenda, which is to sever the relationship between employers and their employees insurance.

If you talk to most economists, and all of the conservative "freshwater" economists, they will vehemently maintain that employer provided healthcare is economically unjustified, and so should be abolished.

When you look at the implementation of healthcare reform, it seems that one constant is that the employer mandate has been repeatedly delayed and weakened.

And today, they did it again:
For the second time in a year, the Obama administration is giving certain employers extra time before they must offer health insurance to almost all their full-time workers.

Under new rules announced Monday by Treasury Department officials, employers with 50 to 99 workers will be given until 2016 — two years longer than originally envisioned under the Affordable Care Act — before they risk a federal penalty for not complying.

Companies with 100 workers or more are getting a different kind of one-year grace period. Instead of being required in 2015 to offer coverage to 95 percent of full-time workers, these bigger employers can avoid a fine by offering insurance to 70 percent of them next year.

How the administration would define employer requirements has been one of the biggest remaining questions about the way the 2010 health-care law will work in practice — and has sparked considerable lobbying. By providing the dual phase-ins for employers of different sizes, administration officials have sought to lighten the burden on the small share of affected employers that have not offered insurance in the past.

As word of the delays spread Monday, many across the ideological spectrum viewed them as an effort by the White House to defuse another health-care controversy before the fall midterm elections. The new postponements won over part, but not all, of the business community. And they caught consumer advocates, usually reliable White House allies, by surprise, particularly because administration officials had already announced in July that the employer requirements would be postponed from this year until 2015.

Congressional Republicans seized on the announcement as the latest justification for scrapping the health-care law. In particular, they renewed their opposition to the law’s requirement that most Americans have insurance, saying it is unfair to delay rules for businesses and not for individuals.
Of course it's unfair.

That's a feature not a bug.

It is my belief that the goal of these actions is to create a space which will allow the minimization, and eventual elimination, of employer provided healthcare, because ……… freedumb and free markets.

This also explains why Obama has been so eager to cut a "grand bargan" with the 'phants, and why he is so enthusiastic about trade deals like the TPP where freedumb and free markets trump democracy, labor rights, and environmental protections.

I did Not Expect this From the New York Times

The Times when writing about the debate about raising the minimum wage, calls out a so called "think tank" as being a subsidiary of the hospitality industry:
Just four blocks from the White House is the headquarters of the Employment Policies Institute, a widely quoted economic research center whose academic reports have repeatedly warned that increasing the minimum wage could be harmful, increasing poverty and unemployment.

But something fundamental goes unsaid in the institute’s reports: The nonprofit group is run by a public relations firm that also represents the restaurant industry, as part of a tightly coordinated effort to defeat the minimum wage increase that the White House and Democrats in Congress have pushed for.

“The vast majority of economic research shows there are serious consequences,” Michael Saltsman, the institute’s research director, said in an interview, before he declined to list the restaurant chains that were among its contributors.

The campaign illustrates how groups — conservative and liberal — are again working in opaque ways to shape hot-button political debates, like the one surrounding minimum wage, through organizations with benign-sounding names that can mask the intentions of their deep-pocketed patrons.
Those are the first 4 paragraphs.

Seriously, the New York Times led with the fact that that a lot of the think tanks are little more than whores for their donors.

And then they name the lead pimp:
………

The Employment Policies Institute, founded two decades ago, is led by the advertising and public relations executive Richard B. Berman, who has made millions of dollars in Washington by taking up the causes of corporate America. He has repeatedly created official-sounding nonprofit groups like the Center for Consumer Freedom that have challenged limits like the ban on indoor smoking and the push to restrict calorie counts in fast foods.

………

The sign at the entrance is for Berman and Company, as the Employment Policies Institute has no employees of its own. Mr. Berman’s for-profit advertising firm, instead, “bills” the nonprofit institute for the services his employees provide to the institute. This arrangement effectively means that the nonprofit is a moneymaking venture for Mr. Berman, whose advertising firm was paid $1.1 million by the institute in 2012, according to its tax returns, or 44 percent of its total budget, with most of the rest of the money used to buy advertisements.

Disclosure reports filed by individual foundations show that its donors in recent years have included the Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation, a longtime supporter of conservative causes. Mr. Berman and Mr. Saltsman would not identify other donors, but did say they included the restaurant industry. But its tax return shows that the $2.4 million in listed donations received in 2012 came from only 11 contributors, who wrote checks for as much as $500,000 apiece.
I am not sure why the New York Times has decided to stop channeling Claude Rains, but it is a refreshing change for the "paper of record".

Normally this sort of "business as usual" is studiously ignored by the Washington press corps(e).

If You Did Not Already Think that the TPP Sucked

The gushing endorsement of the international trade deal by corrupt subprime lendor, union buster, and enthusiastic Obama supporter Commerce Sec. Penny Pritzker should remove all doubt:
The North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and other U.S. trade relationships are outdated and need an "upgrade", U.S. Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker said on Tuesday during a trade visit to Mexico.

Attitudes toward labor and the environment as well as e-commerce and new technology have shifted trade concerns since NAFTA was signed, so the U.S. government is focusing on the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), which would establish a free-trade bloc stretching from Vietnam to Chile, she said.

"NAFTA was a groundbreaking agreement 20 years ago and it has served all of the North American countries well," Pritzker said of the 1994 treaty between the U.S., Mexico and Canada. "But now it's time to be looking at how can we upgrade our trade relationships."
In the article, she is described as a, "a businesswoman and heiress to the Hyatt Hotel fortune who has been a prolific fundraiser for U.S. President Barack Obama," but that is a weak description of their relationship.

She has bankrolled his career from the very start. She was his first patron, and arguably his biggest supporter among the top tenth of the 1%.

She has also been virulently anti-labor in her business and public actions, and she and her family paid themselves big bucks as they drove Superior Bank into the ground.

Between, her, Rahm Emanuel, and Arne Duncan, and the full throated support of all of them from Barack Obama, it is no wonder that I've concluded that the President is a corporate tool.

H/t Crooks & Liars.

09 February 2014

Just a Reminder: Big Ag is Evil, Not Just Monsanto, and it is US Policy to Subsidize them Through International Agreements

You really need to read this account of a systematic program of harassment and libel against Tyrone Hayes for his research showing that Syngenta's herbicide atrazine was dangerous:
In 2001, seven years after joining the biology faculty of the University of California, Berkeley, Tyrone Hayes stopped talking about his research with people he didn’t trust. He instructed the students in his lab, where he was raising three thousand frogs, to hang up the phone if they heard a click, a signal that a third party might be on the line. Other scientists seemed to remember events differently, he noticed, so he started carrying an audio recorder to meetings. “The secret to a happy, successful life of paranoia,” he liked to say, “is to keep careful track of your persecutors.”

Three years earlier, Syngenta, one of the largest agribusinesses in the world, had asked Hayes to conduct experiments on the herbicide atrazine, which is applied to more than half the corn in the United States. Hayes was thirty-one, and he had already published twenty papers on the endocrinology of amphibians. David Wake, a professor in Hayes’s department, said that Hayes “may have had the greatest potential of anyone in the field.” But, when Hayes discovered that atrazine might impede the sexual development of frogs, his dealings with Syngenta became strained, and, in November, 2000, he ended his relationship with the company.

………

[Former student Roger] Liu and several other former students said that they had remained skeptical of Hayes’s accusations until last summer, when an article appeared in Environmental Health News (in partnership with 100Reporters)* that drew on Syngenta’s internal records. Hundreds of Syngenta’s memos, notes, and e-mails have been unsealed following the settlement, in 2012, of two class-action suits brought by twenty-three Midwestern cities and towns that accused Syngenta of “concealing atrazine’s true dangerous nature” and contaminating their drinking water. Stephen Tillery, the lawyer who argued the cases, said, “Tyrone’s work gave us the scientific basis for the lawsuit.”

Hayes has devoted the past fifteen years to studying atrazine, and during that time scientists around the world have expanded on his findings, suggesting that the herbicide is associated with birth defects in humans as well as in animals. The company documents show that, while Hayes was studying atrazine, Syngenta was studying him, as he had long suspected. Syngenta’s public-relations team had drafted a list of four goals. The first was “discredit Hayes.” In a spiral-bound notebook, Syngenta’s communications manager, Sherry Ford, who referred to Hayes by his initials, wrote that the company could “prevent citing of TH data by revealing him as noncredible.” He was a frequent topic of conversation at company meetings. Syngenta looked for ways to “exploit Hayes’ faults/problems.” “If TH involved in scandal, enviros will drop him,” Ford wrote. She observed that Hayes “grew up in world (S.C.) that wouldn’t accept him,” “needs adulation,” “doesn’t sleep,” was “scarred for life.” She wrote, “What’s motivating Hayes?—basic question.”

………

In January, 2001, Syngenta employees and members of the EcoRisk panel travelled to Berkeley to discuss Hayes’s new findings. Syngenta asked to meet with him privately, but Hayes insisted on the presence of his students, a few colleagues, and his wife. He had previously had an amiable relationship with the panel—he had enjoyed taking long runs with the scientist who supervised it—and he began the meeting, in a large room at Berkeley’s Museum of Vertebrate Zoology, as if he were hosting an academic conference. He wore a new suit and brought in catered meals.

After lunch, Syngenta introduced a guest speaker, a statistical consultant, who listed numerous errors in Hayes’s report and concluded that the results were not statistically significant. Hayes’s wife, Katherine Kim, said that the consultant seemed to be trying to “make Tyrone look as foolish as possible.” Wake, the biology professor, said that the men on the EcoRisk panel looked increasingly uncomfortable. “They were experienced enough to know that the issues the statistical consultant was raising were routine and ridiculous,” he said. “A couple of glitches were presented as if they were the end of the world. I’ve been a scientist in academic settings for forty years, and I’ve never experienced anything like that. They were after Tyrone.”

………

Michelle Boone, a professor of aquatic ecology at Miami University, who served on the E.P.A.’s scientific advisory panel, said, “We all follow the Tyrone Hayes drama, and some people will say, ‘He should just do the science.’ But the science doesn’t speak for itself. Industry has unlimited resources and bully power. Tyrone is the only one calling them out on what they’re doing.………
The Supreme Court has said that corporations are people in the Citizens United case.

Why isn't Syngenta being criminally prosecuted for stalking?

H/t The Washington Monthly.