31 May 2014

It's Never Easy

I've become an admin at the Stellarparthenon BBS, and there are some problems, so I am hip deep in figuring out what exactly is wrong.

Later dudes.

30 May 2014

It's Bank Failure Friday!!!!

And here they are, ordered, and numbered for the year so far.
  1. Slavie Federal Savings Bank, Bel Air, MD

Full FDIC list

And here are the credit union closings.  I've redone the whole list, because I screwed up at some point this year, and missed some credit union closings, counted assisted mergers, which I shouldn't have, and accidntaly counted a bank twice:
  1. Bagumbayan Credit Union, Chicago, ​IL, ​1/21/2014
  2. St. Francis Campus Credit Union, ​Little Falls, ​MN, ​2/14/2014
  3. Parsons Pittsburg Credit Union, ​Parsons, ​KS, ​3/21/2014
  4. Mayfair Federal Credit Union, ​Warminster, ​PA, ​3/31/2014
  5. Health One Credit Union, ​Detroit, ​MI, ​5/16/2014
  6. Life Line Credit Union, ​Richmond, ​VA, ​5/23/2014

Full NCUA list

So, here is the graph pr0n with last few years numbers for comparison (FDIC only):

What P.Z. Meyers Said

He wrote a post complaining about business as usual at the Democratic Party titled, "Democrats: You suck.

His experience is that, following making a small donation to a Democratic candidate for office, he has been bludgeoned into something approaching PTSD from their repeated fund raising requests:
………

……… At least I think that’s what they’re doing; I now look at the incoming source, and if it’s the Democrats, I don’t bother to pick up. And here I am, entirely sympathetic to that party (if dissatisfied with their conservatism), and I have a conditioned aversion now.

I’ve had enough. I can learn. And the moral I have learned is to never donate to the Democratic party.

Who’s the idiot behind this campaign? Is it actually working for them?
Do Republicans do the same thing to their donors, or do they just scam them with things like gold coins and quack cures?

America's Finest News Source Nails It ……… Again

‘No Way To Prevent This,’ Says Only Nation Where This Regularly Happens

………

At press time, residents of the only economically advanced nation in the world where roughly two mass shootings have occurred every month for the past five years were referring to themselves and their situation as “helpless.”
Seriously, what the f%$# is wrong with us?

29 May 2014

The Koch Suckers Win in Ohio

They just got a bill passed in Ohio ending their renewable power initiative:
As renewable energy production has surged in recent years, opponents of government policies that have helped spur its growth have pushed to roll back those incentives and mandates in state after state.

On Wednesday, they claimed their first victory, when Ohio lawmakers voted to freeze the phasing-in of power that utilities must buy from renewable energy sources.

The bill, which passed the Ohio House of Representatives, 54 to 38, was expected to be signed into law by Gov. John R. Kasich, who helped negotiate its final draft.

It stands in marked contrast to the broad consensus behind the original law in 2008, when it was approved with virtually no opposition, and comes after considerable disagreement among lawmakers, energy executives and public interest groups.

………

Eli Miller, Americans for Prosperity’s Ohio state director, backed by the billionaire industrialists David H. and Charles G. Koch, called the proposed law “a prudent step” to re-examine standards that could be a “potential impediment to job creation and job growth here in the Buckeye State.”
Seriously, the Kochs are a cancer on American society in general, and American politics in particular.

Linkage


Have a medley of Lewis Black:

28 May 2014

Maybe the Taxi Business Needs to be Changed, but Until Uber is Out of the Picture, It Won't Happen

There are a whole host of issues of regulation, liability, etc., but the Objectivist Randroids at Uber are the sort of people who should be kept out of the business, because they are corrupt to the core:
It’s been pretty widely publicized here in San Francisco that Uber has just moved into fancy new office space at 1455 Market.

………

In any case, what has attracted slightly less publicity is the fact — mentioned only in passing by Re/Code — that on the same day, Uber opened a second office, on Vermont Street in Potrero. According to Uber’s blog
We’ve heard a lot from our Uber SF partners about wanting easier ways to reach our team including parking and streamlined access to the office. With a new dedicated driver center in Potrero Hill, we are aiming to better connect with our partners and help make getting started with Uber, attending office hours and safety education processes more seamless.
Euphemistically called a “driver center,” one Uber driver told us the second office is actually more of a decoy: allowing the company to fulfill its promise to be more accessible to drivers without, you know, actually having them make Uber’s real office look untidy.
So the way of dealing with issues with drivers, things like insurance, liability, and complaints, is to hide from them.

The way to deal with customers is price gouging, and explicitly violating the law.

The founder of Uber is big into Ayn Rand, a woman who wrote that the philosophy of a serial killer who strangled and dismembered a little girl, was an inspiration to her.

If a company founder demonstrates compete contempt for the very concept of business ethics, and the company is in a consumer centered business, regulatory easements are simply not justified.

This is Prize


I don't hear a single here
An indy band needed to raise money for their tour, and the payments received from Spotify weren't cutting it.

They came up with a remarkably innovative way to monetize the streaming service:
Last month, indie band Vulfpeck wanted to go on tour. Like most indie bands, though, they didn't have the money. With streaming dominating the industry and music streaming giant Spotify paying a grand $0.007 per stream (Vulfpeck sights it at $0.005), it didn't look like they'd be making money anytime soon. Spotify had been promising they'll start paying more — just as soon as they grow their Premium user base from 6 million to 40 million. In short: never.

So scrappy soul band Vulfpeck came up with a plan of their own.

They uploaded 10 tracks of silence to Spotify under the name Sleepify. Then, they put out this video, urging fans to stream the album on repeat while they slept. The band pledged to use the royalty revenue they racked up to fund a tour, where all shows would have free admission. And it worked.
Short version, the netted over $20K before Spotify sent a C&D for violating their TOS,* but they have the folding green to tour.

I will note that while musicians compare about the rates for streaming, they typically compare it to selling an album, which a user can listen to many times, to a single streamed song listened to once.

Of course, bands have been f%$#ed by the middlemen since ……… forever ……… And the real question is how a model that disintermediates between them and the fans.

*E-I-E-I-O

This is an Interesting Theory of Why the Obama Administration F%$#ed Homeowners

I was thinking that Obama (About Geithner, I know) was captured by the banksters.

Well, Bob Kuttner thinks that is an artifact of Obama trying to distance himself from his skin color:
I've been very critical of Obama and I think his administration's handling of mortgage relief was a disgrace, but I will offer a more charitable interpretation of why the administration turned its back on the victims of the mortgage bust. Race is still such a divisive issue that America's first black president did not dare to look as if he was extending special help to blacks.
I disagree with the thesis.

I think that Obama is not so much Black as he is Crimson (Harvard) as are the banksters, and nothing binds like those old school ties.

I Had an Epic Day at Work Today

I generally embargo anything that happens at work, on the theory that it's my employer's business, and with a few exceptions, blogging about is just not a good idea.

However, what happened today breaks this embargo:
John at work came in limping today.

He had a Brown Recluse bite on his leg, and he said that the doctor had prescribed steroid and Sulfa drugs (probably Dapsone).

I told him that he should drink lots of water, because Sulfa drugs tend to accumulate in the kidneys.

Then as I was walking away, I turned and said:

Wait for it...

Wait for it...

Wait for it...

Wait for it...

Wait for it...

Wait for it...

Wait for it...

Wait for it...

You know where this is going, don't you...

Wait for it...

Wait for it...

Wait for it...

Wait for it...

I'm an Engineer, not a Doctor, Dammit!!!!!!

I haz a happy!

27 May 2014

Tweet of the Day



I think that I pulled something laughing.

H/t JR at the Stellar Parthenon BBS.

I'm Not Sure What I Can Say About the Santa Barbara Shootings

But I do agree with the response of Richard Martinez, the the father of one of the victims, Chris­topher Michaels-Martinez, makes a powerful and heartfelt statement
He’s asking members of Congress to stop calling him to offer condolences but nothing more for the death of his only child, Chris­topher Michaels-Martinez, who was killed in the rampage Friday in Santa Barbara, Calif.

“I don’t care about your sympathy. I don’t give a s--- that you feel sorry for me,” Richard Martinez said during an extensive interview, his face flushed as tears rolled down. “Get to work and do something. I’ll tell the president the same thing if he calls me. Getting a call from a politician doesn’t impress me.”

Saying that “we are all to blame” for the death of his 20-year-old son, Martinez urged the public to join him in demanding “immediate action” from members of Congress and President Obama to curb gun violence by passing stricter gun-
control laws.

“Today, I’m going to ask every person I can find to send a postcard to every politician they can think of with three words on it: ‘Not one more,’ ” he said Tuesday. “People are looking for something to do. I’m asking people to stand up for something. Enough is enough.”
Of course the small number of people who possess a lethal juxtaposition of small penisises and revenge fantasies have immediately jumped on the grieving father, because they are deeply evil ratf%$#s.

Rahter unsurprisingly, Joe the Plumber led the hit parade:
I am sorry you lost your child. I myself have a son and daughter and the one thing I never want to go through, is what you are going through now. But:

As harsh as this sounds – your dead kids don’t trump my Constitutional rights.
I am not particularly surprised that this is not the worst thing said so far, but the worst thing said so far actually stunned me:
F%$# him. He is a piece of shit. His tragedy sucks, but he blamed me for it and wants to take away my rights. The guy is trying to take away my rights to protect my family. F%$# him every day of the week and twice on Sunday.
(%$# mine)

This is Todd Kincannon, who is perhaps the perfect demonstration about how the people who have been drawn to the NRA's increasing insanity are a priori (in a Kantian sense) unsuited to possess anything more dangerous than a plastic spoon,

I know that there are responsible firearm owners out there, but the folks that the NRA speaks to are not in that group.

I would add that it appears that the shooter was closely tied into the pick-up artist/mens rights community, which is a group of people who make furries seem sane.

26 May 2014

Lean In, My Ass!

Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook's COO, is due to speak at Harvard.

Harvard is also landlord at Hilton DoubleTree Suites, where management is engaged in an aggressive anti-union drive.

The union asked Sandberg to host a "Lean In", she turned them down:
With Facebook executive Sheryl Sandberg coming to town next week, a group of housekeepers, nightclub servers, and other employees of a Boston hotel are trying to turn her now-famous campaign for empowering women in their favor as they move toward forming a union.

Unite Here Local 26, which is organizing workers at the Hilton DoubleTree Suites hotel near the Charles River, said it wanted to enlist Sandberg’s help after facing resistance from Hilton and receiving no encouragement from Harvard University, which owns the property where the hotel is located.

So, the union decided, why not appeal to the author of the bestseller “Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead”?

Organizers asked Sandberg to meet with the hotel’s female workers. They started an online petition calling for her to become involved in their cause. And they created leaflets depicting the book’s cover, with faces of housekeepers replacing Sandberg’s, and a message that reads, “Sheryl Sandberg, will you lean in with the women of Harvard’s hotel?”

The Facebook chief operating officer, who is scheduled to deliver a Class Day address at Harvard Wednesday, has sent word she does not have time to host a “Lean In circle” with the hotel employees. Undeterred, the workers are planning to hand out the leaflets during Sandberg’s speech in Harvard Yard.
(Emphasis Mine)

Note that a "Lean In Circle" would probably take less time than the inevitable parties and meetups that are a part of her speaking gig.

I guess that "leaning in" means being born to well to do parents, going to Harvard, becoming an acolyte of Lawrence Summers, etc.

When a commitment to "equality" is juxtaposed with an indifference to labor organizing rights, there is no commitment to equality, which is why, "Sandberg has been criticized for creating a movement aimed at financially well-off women."

Memorial Day Cookout Blogging

We came back from the SCA event yesterday, an we were concerned about whether the chicken we brought there, but did not cook, was good.

We (actually Sharon) looked at it and adjudged it not lethal, but as a precaution, I marinated it, because the high acidity will kill anything lurking there.

So, last night, I made a marinade of balsamic vinegar, olive oil, soy sauce, mustard, cayenne pepper, some unsweetened cocoa, brown sugar, molasses, garlic, ginger, and some other herbs and spices I can not recall as I write this.

I let it all marinade over night, and then I put the chicken in the bullet smoker (the one pictured is much higher end than what I use) and used the marinade in the water pan to add some flavor.

Once the chicken was done, I took the contents of the water pan, now marinade and drippings, and reduced it to sauce consistency.

I then put the sauce on the chicken, and caramelized it under the broiler.

It got fairly good reviews from the family.

25 May 2014

Just Returned from an SCA Event Near Richmond

Natalie, our daughter, received an award the Hippocampus (Sea Horses, not the region of the brain associated with memory), an award given to children for service.

It was well deserved, but out was too much driving to get down there.

I think that I need ass transplant.


Posted via mobile.

24 May 2014

Our Dysfunctional Pentagon

Winslow Wheeler at War is Boring makes an interesting point about the sequestration games that the Department of Defense is engaging in: Iit is systematically cutting cheaper and more effective programs in favor of expensive systems:
There has been a short-sighted eagerness in some news articles and commentaries to disparage two actions by the House Armed Services Committee in the Fiscal Year 2015 National Defense Authorization Act.

The HASC seeks to retain in the military force structure the Air Force’s A-10 Warthog close support aircraft and the Navy’s nuclear-powered aircraft carrier USS George Washington. The Air Force and the Navy want to retire these systems prematurely, thereby seeming to save money.

But the longer-term game being played is to smooth the way for far more expensive, truly unaffordable, replacements the Air Force and Navy have cued up. And in the case of the A-10, the older, cheaper alternative is the inestimably more effective one.
Like, I said, it's not about defending our nation, it's about our Generals getting lucrative post retirement consulting gigs.

That old Iron Triangle.

23 May 2014

It's Bank Failure Friday!!!!

Another bank failure, the first time we have had two in a week in a while.
  1. Columbia Savings Bank, Cincinatti, OH

Full FDIC list


So, here is the graph pr0n with last few years numbers for comparison (FDIC only):


22 May 2014

Michael Kinsley Comes Out in Favor of Staliism

In a New York Times review of Glenn Greenwald's latest book, Kinsley declares that it must be the government, and not the journalist, who determines when a sensitive information can be published:
The trouble is this: Greenwald says that Snowden told him to "use your journalistic judgment to only publish those documents that the public should see and that can be revealed without harm to any innocent people." Once again, this testimony proves the opposite of what Greenwald and Snowden seem to think. Snowden may be willing to trust Greenwald to make this judgment correctly — but are you? And even if you do trust Greenwald's judgment, which on the evidence might be unwise, how can we be sure the next leaker will be so scrupulous?

The question is who decides. It seems clear, at least to me, that the private companies that own newspapers, and their employees, should not have the final say over the release of government secrets, and a free pass to make them public with no legal consequences. In a democracy (which, pace Greenwald, we still are), that decision must ultimately be made by the government. No doubt the government will usually be overprotective of its secrets, and so the process of decision-making — whatever it turns out to be — should openly tilt in favor of publication with minimal delay. But ultimately you can't square this circle. Someone gets to decide, and that someone cannot be Glenn Greenwald.
This is not a problem, this is a free press, and one of the consequences of this is that stuff that the government does not want to be pubic knowledge will be public knowledge.

Shorter Michael Kinsley, "Journalism, Schmournalism, we need better stenographers."


H/t Gawker.

We've Always Been at War with Eastasia

If there is anything more Orwellian than the Pentagon refusing to reveal who we are at war with.

Note that this was in a hearing about extending the Authorization of Use of Military Force (AUMF) where the Pentagon refused to say with whom we are fighting.

So they are asking for an authorization to make war while refusing say who they are making war with, and why we are making war with them.

This is a miasma of the most profoundly disturbing visions of both Orwell, and Kafka.

Linkage


What if The Matrix ran on Windows XP:


Deep Thought



H/t Neo at the Stellar Parthenon BBS.

21 May 2014

Why Yes, the NSA is a Tool of the Oligarchy, Why do You Ask?

Glenn Greenwald, Laura Poitras, and Ryan Devereaux take another dive in lake Snowden, and discover that the NSA intercepts every single mobile phone call made in the Bahamas:
The National Security Agency is secretly intercepting, recording, and archiving the audio of virtually every cell phone conversation on the island nation of the Bahamas.

According to documents provided by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden, the surveillance is part of a top-secret system – code-named SOMALGET – that was implemented without the knowledge or consent of the Bahamian government. Instead, the agency appears to have used access legally obtained in cooperation with the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration to open a backdoor to the country’s cellular telephone network, enabling it to covertly record and store the “full-take audio” of every mobile call made to, from and within the Bahamas – and to replay those calls for up to a month.

SOMALGET is part of a broader NSA program called MYSTIC, which The Intercept has learned is being used to secretly monitor the telecommunications systems of the Bahamas and several other countries, including Mexico, the Philippines, and Kenya. But while MYSTIC scrapes mobile networks for so-called “metadata” – information that reveals the time, source, and destination of calls – SOMALGET is a cutting-edge tool that enables the NSA to vacuum up and store the actual content of every conversation in an entire country.

………

In addition, the program is a serious – and perhaps illegal – abuse of the access to international phone networks that other countries willingly grant the United States for legitimate law-enforcement surveillance. If the NSA is using the Drug Enforcement Administration’s relationship to the Bahamas as a cover for secretly recording the entire country’s mobile phone calls, it could imperil the longstanding tradition of international law enforcement cooperation that the United States enjoys with its allies.

“It’s surprising, the short-sightedness of the government,” says Michael German, a fellow at New York University’s Brennan Center for Justice who spent 16 years as an FBI agent conducting undercover investigations. “That they couldn’t see how exploiting a lawful mechanism to such a degree that you might lose that justifiable access – that’s where the intelligence community is acting in a way that harms its long-term interests, and clearly the long-term national security interests of the United States.”
Once again, we see why intelligence agencies, particularly those in SIGINT, can never do decide woh to target, because they will take it all, damn the consequences.

When you let them run their own agendas, they are a clear and present danger to our national security interests.

One critique though, they buried the f%$#ing lede:
But the NSA documents don’t reflect a concerted focus on the money launderers and powerful financial institutions – including numerous Western banks – that underpin the black market for narcotics in the Bahamas. Instead, an internal NSA presentation from 2013 recounts with pride how analysts used SOMALGET to locate an individual who “arranged Mexico-to-United States marijuana shipments” through the U.S. Postal Service.
They captured every cell phone call in a jurisdiction known for money laundering by tax evaders, organized criminals, arms dealers, and other illegal activity, and they are only going after people who are mailing pot to people who are mailing baggies of pot back home.

Think about it for a moment.

Spend billions on these capabilities, and then choose not to go after transnational criminals and tax dodgers .

Your tax dollars at work.

What Sherrod Brown Says

As opposed to buying into the Republican meme that has us throwing momma from the train, the distinguished gentleman from Ohio is suggesting that Democrats should be running on increases in the social safety net:
Word has it that Democrats are set to take a shellacking in the 2014 elections, in part because midterm electorates tend to be older and whiter. So what if Dems campaigned on expanding Social Security, rather than allowing themselves to get drawn into another debate over how much to cut the program?

There’s a hook for this looming: The coming battle over disability insurance, which is a part of Social Security.

Dem Senator Sherrod Brown, a member of the Finance Committee, tells me that GOP Senators have requested hearings into Social Security Disability Insurance this summer. Dems expect Republicans to attack the program as wasteful and fraudulent, in part because conservative media have already done so, and in part because at least one GOP proposal in recent days took aim at the program.

Brown says Dems should seize this occasion to get behind a proposal that would lift or change the payroll tax cap, meaning higher earners would pay more, while adopting a new measure for inflation that would increase benefits for all seniors. Instead of getting drawn into debates about “Chained CPI” and other entitlement cuts, Brown says, Dems should make the case that stagnating wages and declining pensions and savings demand an expansion of social insurance.
Good politics, and good politics.

Needless to say, the "Very Serious People," in the Democratic Party will hate this idea, because, they are afraid that it might piss off the rich donors who pay their salaries.

It's the Iron Law of Institutions, "The people who control institutions care first and foremost about their power within the institution rather than the power of the institution itself." (Emphasis original)

WE Just Got Fracked

A new analysis of what was previously considered the largest shale oil formation in the United States has just shrunk by 96%:
Federal energy authorities have slashed by 96% the estimated amount of recoverable oil buried in California's vast Monterey Shale deposits, deflating its potential as a national "black gold mine" of petroleum.

Just 600 million barrels of oil can be extracted with existing technology, far below the 13.7 billion barrels once thought recoverable from the jumbled layers of subterranean rock spread across much of Central California, the U.S. Energy Information Administration said.

The new estimate, expected to be released publicly next month, is a blow to the nation's oil future and to projections that an oil boom would bring as many as 2.8 million new jobs to California and boost tax revenue by $24.6 billion annually.

The Monterey Shale formation contains about two-thirds of the nation's shale oil reserves. It had been seen as an enormous bonanza, reducing the nation's need for foreign oil imports through the use of the latest in extraction techniques, including acid treatments, horizontal drilling and fracking.

The energy agency said the earlier estimate of recoverable oil, issued in 2011 by an independent firm under contract with the government, broadly assumed that deposits in the Monterey Shale formation were as easily recoverable as those found in shale formations elsewhere.
We are not going to frack our way into energy independence.

The problems that California is not like Texas, Pennsylvania, North Dakota, etc.  It is highly seismically active, and  this action has chopped the shale layer into isolated little pieces.

20 May 2014

You have Problem with Corporate Communist Capitalism®©™, Comrade?

North Carolina continues its trip off the deep end.

The Republicans who have control of the state are decided to make it a felony to reveal what fracking oil companies are pumping into people's drinking water:
As hydraulic fracturing ramps up around the country, so do concerns about its health impacts. These concerns have led 20 states to require the disclosure of industrial chemicals used in the fracking process.

North Carolina isn't on that list of states yet—and it may be hurtling in the opposite direction.

On Thursday, three Republican state senators introduced a bill that would slap a felony charge on individuals who disclosed confidential information about fracking chemicals. The bill, whose sponsors include a member of Republican party leadership, establishes procedures for fire chiefs and health care providers to obtain chemical information during emergencies. But as the trade publication Energywire noted Friday, individuals who leak information outside of emergency settings could be penalized with fines and several months in prison.

"The felony provision is far stricter than most states' provisions in terms of the penalty for violating trade secrets," says Hannah Wiseman, a Florida State University assistant law professor who studies fracking regulations.

The bill also allows companies that own the chemical information to require emergency responders to sign a confidentiality agreement. And it's not clear what the penalty would be for a health care worker or fire chief who spoke about their experiences with chemical accidents to colleagues.
Seriously.

The Repubicans are beginning to give authoritarian corporatism a bad name.

This is a Good Day for Schadenfreude

Dinesh D’Souza has just pled guilty to using straw donors in violation of campaign finance laws:
Conservative author and filmmaker Dinesh D’Souza entered a guilty plea Tuesday to a charge that he used straw donors to make $20,000 in illegal contributions to Republican Senate candidate Wendy Long in 2012, officials said.

The unexpected guilty plea came on the same day the trial for the strident critic of President Barack Obama was set to open in U.S. District Court in Manhattan.

The single felony count D’Souza admitted guilt on carries a maximum prison sentence of two years, but the plea agreement D’Souza’s lawyers reached with the government says sentencing guidelines applicable to the case call for a sentence of 10 to 16 months.

Judges are not required to sentence defendants in accordance with the guidelines, but usually do. Both sides reserved their rights to argue for a sentence outside that range and D’Souza’s lawyer Benjamin Brafman indicated he plans to ask Judge Richard Berman not to send D’Souza to prison.

The plea deal calls for dismissal of a second charge D’Souza faced if he went to trial: causing Long to file a false report with the Federal Election Commission. That carried a potential sentence of up to five years behind bars.
Atrios has noted that he is feeling far less schadenfreude about this than he expected, despite his being, "One of America's Worst Humans."

Me not so much.

This is the guy that has never grew up beyond tacky College Republican guerrilla theater that had classmate Timothy Geithner asking him, "how it felt to be such a dick."  (And that is ignoring his rather idiosyncratic marital life)

This really could not happen to a more contemptible human being.

Because Our Government Has Been Completely Captured by the Banksters

James Kwak asks, "Why Is Credit Suisse Still Allowed to Do Business in the United States?"

Thia has been another episode of simple answers to simple questions.

On a slightly less glib level, Kwak wonders why, if the financial markets are all better, and the banks insist that they are not to big to fail, why we cannot see fit to suspend the banking license of a foreign bank that has spent decades defrauding the American government.
The fundamental point is that if Credit Suisse really is solvent, then there are no losses that have to be absorbed by someone else (other financial institutions or taxpayers). If its assets really are worth more than its liabilities, then it must be possible to close down the bank without harming anyone else (except shareholders), given enough time. The whole point of capital regulation is to make sure that this can always be done. People would lose their jobs, but the whole premise of the financial sector is that it is providing useful services, which means that those jobs would be recreated elsewhere in the industry (except for the jobs based on tax fraud, which should go away for good).
Our finance system is not just corrupt, it is criminogenic.

We gotta figure out a way to shut this all down in an orderly manner, and replace it with something, you know, sane.

Bummer of a Birth Mark, Bob

In a completely that unsurprising move, District Judge James Spencer has ruleddisgraced former Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell's trial should proceed:
Virginia’s former governor Robert McDonnell, once a rising star in the Republican Party, failed to persuade a U.S. judge to throw out federal corruption charges against him and his wife, Maureen.

U.S. District Judge James Spencer in Richmond, Virginia, ruled today that U.S. prosecutors sufficiently supported their charges in the McDonnells’ indictment and that the case against them, scheduled for trial in July, should move ahead. Spencer also rejected the couple’s request that their cases be separated.

The McDonnells are accused of accepting vacations, loans, private plane rides and other benefits in exchange for using the governor’s office to benefit businessman Jonnie Williams, who at the time headed Star Scientific Inc. (STSI) and was trying to promote the dietary supplements made by the Glen Allen, Virginia-based company.
I half expect that the jury to, "Find the defendants incredibly guilty," to quote Mel Brooks.

There is Justice in the World

Asa Hutchinson, one of the 'Phant ratf%$#s who have pushed voter ID laws to suppress the poor and minority vote, was turned away from the polls because he did not have a voter ID:
Asa Hutchinson, who won the Republican nomination in the race for Arkansas governor Tuesday, forgot his ID when he went to the polls, despite backing the state’s new voter ID law, according to the Associated Press.

Christian Olson, a spokesman for the Republican candidate, told the AP that Hutchinson believed the situation was a “little bit of an inconvenience” and that a staffer retrieved his ID so he could cast a ballot. Olson said the former congressman still believes voters should be required to show an ID.

Hutchinson’s campaign has not responded to msnbc’s requests for comment. This post will be updated when it does.

Tuesday was the first time the state’s voter ID law affected an election, and Arkansas voters were required to show identification at the polls, according to the AP. Last month, a judge struck down the voter ID law, finding it unconstitutional. But the judge said that the law would be enforced during the state’s primary.
I can imaging what was going through his head at that moment, "You cannot stop me from voting, I am white!"

Fabulous!!!!

Not only did a federal judge overturn Pennsylvania's gay marriage ban, but he cited Antonin Scalia in his opinion:
Upon striking down Pennsylvania's gay marriage ban Tuesday, a federal judge cited Justice Antonin Scalia's "cogen[t]" argument that the Supreme Court had essentially paved the way for nationwide marriage equality last year.
Here's the relevant passage from George W. Bush-appointed Judge John E. Jones III in his 39-page opinion:
As Justice Scalia cogently remarked in his dissent, “if [Windsor] is meant to be an equal-protection opinion, it is a confusing one.” Windsor, 133 S. Ct. at 2706 (Scalia, J., dissenting). Although Windsor did not identify the appropriate level of scrutiny, its discussion is manifestly not representative of deferential review. See id. (Scalia, J., dissenting) (observing that “the Court certainly does not apply anything that resembles [the rational-basis] framework” (emphasis omitted)). The Court did not evaluate hypothetical justifications for the law but rather focused on the harm resulting from DOMA, which is inharmonious with deferential review.
It was a reference to Scalia's scathing dissent against the Court's 5-4 opinion that struck down a portion of the Defense of Marriage Act which prohibited federal recognition of same-sex marriages. The Reagan-appointed justice warned that the majority decision -- despite officially staying neutral on whether gay marriage was a Constitutional right -- relied upon reasoning that would lead to that conclusion.
I will note that referencing a minority opinion does not seem to me to be a common thing, (Note however, that I an engineer, not a lawyer, dammit*) but this is the 2nd or 3rd time that a judge has cited Scalia in making a decision invalidating a gay marriage ban.

I'm beginning to think that the Federal Judiciary is conspiring to offer a very well deserved f%$# you to Fat Tony Scalia.

*I love it when I get to go all Dr. McCoy!!!

Huh I Did Not Know This

May is International Masturbation Month.

Not a joke.

In honor of this, I have typed this post with one hand.

19 May 2014

Quote of the Day

If your reporting is right, tell them to f#*k off

Ben Bradley to Kara Swisher in response to push-back from the subject of one of her reports
This is the essence of good reporting.

I Guess that Steve Jobs is Really Dead

Apple and Google have agreed to drop the patent suits that they have filed against each other:
Two giants of the mobile phone industry, Apple and Google, have agreed to drop all current patent infringement lawsuits between them, they said Friday.

“Apple and Google have also agreed to work together in some areas of patent reform,” the companies said in a joint statement. They have not agreed to cross-license each other’s patents, however.

Apple filed a lawsuit with the U.S. International Trade Commission in 2010 against Motorola Mobility, which was subsequently acquired by Google. Google has since agreed to sell the smartphone business to Lenovo, but the deal has not yet closed.

Many of the lawsuits Apple has filed against other smartphone makers, including Samsung, involve Google’s Android operating system. This deal announced Friday does not affect the Apple-Samsung lawsuit, however.
It's a limited state step, but it is one that Steve Jobs would have taken.

Reasonable and measured was simply not a part of his DNA.

Seriously?!?!?!?

The Department of Justice has filed charges against members of the Chinese military for spying on American computers.

Really, not The Onion.

Didn't Edward Snowden reveal that the NSA does industrial espionage?

Why yes, he did.

Seriously, the next time I get a parking ticket, I'm going to use American Exceptionalism as a defense.

Fabulous!!!!!

Gay Marriage is legal in Oregon:
Today Judge Michael McShane struck down Oregon’s discriminatory state constitutional amendment that denies committed gay couples the freedom to marry, ruling that it violates the U.S. Constitution. The ruling is the 17th consecutive victory in state and federal court for the freedom to marry since the U.S. Supreme Court's ruling in Windsor v. United States in June 2013. The ruling is the 13th win in federal court for marriage since June.

The order is effective immediately - meaning that today, same-sex couples across the state will be able to marry!

18 May 2014

Because the IRS Cannot Make Campaign Donations, I Guess

A few years back, there was an experiment with allowing private contractors to go after people who owed taxes.

It was a failure, with abusive behavior, indifferent record keeping, higher costs, and lower performance, but the private debt collectors can make campaign donations, so the Senate is looking to bring back this clusterf%$#:
The Internal Revenue Service would be required to turn over millions of unpaid tax bills to private debt collectors under a measure before the Senate, reviving a program that has previously led to complaints of harassment and has not saved taxpayers money.

The provision was tucked into a larger bill, aimed at renewing an array of expired tax breaks, at the request of Sen. Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.), whose state is home to two of the four private collection agencies that stand to benefit from the proposal.

It requires all “inactive tax receivables” to be assigned to private debt collectors if the IRS cannot locate the person who owes the money or if IRS agents are unable to make contact within a year.

Some taxpayers would be spared the barrage of notices and phone calls, including innocent spouses, military members deployed to combat zones and people “identified as being deceased.”

But bereaved relatives could find themselves under siege for unpaid estate taxes under the proposal. So could people who incur a tax debt under the new Affordable Care Act — either because they owe a penalty for not buying health insurance or because the government was too generous in estimating the size of their health-care tax subsidy.

As the measure arrived on the Senate floor this week, Nina E. Olson, the nation’s taxpayer advocate, wrote a long letter to lawmakers, urging them to withdraw the proposal.

“Outsourcing the collection of federal tax debts is a bad idea,” she wrote. “It disproportionately impacts low-income and other vulnerable taxpayers, and despite two attempts [in the past] at making it work, the program has lost money both times, undermining the sole rationale for its existence.”

Moreover, “if debt collectors come to be seen as the public face” of President Obama’s health-care program, Olson wrote, “I am concerned that could make the IRS’s job” of administering the new health-insurance program “more difficult.”
But it's back, like a bad penny.

Do you know why it is back? Because Schumer wants some local firms to to make money off the taxpayers, "$1.2 billion would be paid to the private debt collectors, potentially showering fresh cash on two companies based in Upstate New York: ConServe, of Fairport, and Pioneer Credit Recovery, of Arcade."

To quote Declan Patrick Macmanus, "I used to be disgusted, now I try to be amused."

17 May 2014

We are F%$#ed

The Western Antarctic ice sheet is collapsing, and there is little that we can do to stop it:
The collapse of the Western Antarctica ice sheet is already under way and is unstoppable, two separate teams of scientists said on Monday.

The glaciers' retreat is being driven by climate change and is already causing sea-level rise at a much faster rate than scientists had anticipated.

The loss of the entire western Antarctica ice sheet could eventually cause up to 4 metres (13ft) of sea-level rise, devastating low-lying and coastal areas around the world. But the researchers said that even though such a rise could not be stopped, it is still several centuries off, and potentially up to 1,000 years away.

The two studies, by Nasa and the University of Washington, looked at the ice sheets of western Antarctica over different periods of time.

The Nasa researchers focused on melting over the last 20 years, while the scientists at the University of Washington used computer modelling to look into the future of the western Antarctic ice sheet.

But both studies came to broadly similar conclusions – that the thinning and melting of the Antarctic ice sheet has begun and cannot be halted, even with drastic action to cut the greenhouse gas emissions that cause climate change.

They also suggest that recent accumulation of ice in Antarctica was temporary.

“A large sector of the western Antarctic ice sheet has gone into a state of irreversible retreat. It has passed the point of no return,” Eric Rignot, a glaciologist at Nasa and the University of California, Irvine, told a conference call. “This retreat will have major consequences for sea level rise worldwide.”
It's important to remember what is going on with arctic ice, where the decline has exceeded every reputable prediction, so I would start figure that, along with changes in the Greenland ice fields, we could be looking at 1 meter per decade increase in sea level.

Profiles in Cowardice


Because just screams Democratic Judicial Nominee
Obama's nominee for the district judge in the 11th circuit, (specifically, the noreth Georgia bench) Michael Boggs, has encountered a lot of resistance from Senate Democrats for his antediluvian attitudes on basically everything.

The latest revelation is that he vowed to oppose gays in the Boy Scouts:

New revelations could create more trouble for President Barack Obama's embattled judicial nominee Michael Boggs.

Boggs, currently a state appeals court judge, apparently ran a staunchly anti-gay campaign for the Georgia state House in 2000. In a flyer from his campaign, obtained by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Boggs vowed: "I oppose same sex marriages, I oppose homosexual Boy Scout leaders, and I support voluntary prayer in schools."

He billed himself as "a conservative Democrat with conservative values" who's running on "Christian values," and suggested he'd have more power and influence as a Democrat given that Democrats were in control of the majority.
His voting record on LGBT rights, abortion, the Confederate flag, etc. is all far right, but somehow or other, Obama saw fit to nominate him for a lifetime position on the court.

Un-Dirtyword-Believable

16 May 2014

OK, Now We Have a Smoking Gun

Bill Stepien, Chris Christie's former campaign manager has now officially stated that the Governor knew what were going on as it happened:
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) told the press that no one on his senior staff had prior knowledge of the plan to close access lanes to the George Washington Bridge in September. But a lawyer representing Christie's former campaign manager Bill Stepien now says that was wrong.

The claim was included in a letter sent in early April -- and made public Wednesday -- by attorney Kevin Marino. The letter was sent to Randy Mastro, the high-priced defense attorney who led the governor's internal review of the scandal.

The letter demanded corrections to a report produced by Mastro and his team, which cleared Christie of any role in the scandal. Among Marino's demands: that Mastro retract the portion of the report claiming that Stepien had falsely assured Christie that he had no "prior knowledge of the [GWB] lane realignment."

"[T]he Report itself acknowledges -- albeit obliquely -- that Mr. Stepien advised Governor Christie on December 12, 2013, that he (Mr. Stepien) did have prior knowledge of the lane realignment," Marino wrote, later adding: "When the Governor asked Mr. Stepien directly whether he had prior knowledge of the lane closures, Mr. Stepien truthfully told the Governor that [former Port Authority of New York and New Jersey executive] David Wildstein had come to him with the idea, to which Mr. Stepien responded that Mr. Wildstein would have to run the idea by normal channels in Trenton (i.e. the Governor's Office)."
So I guess that it is going to be a Jeb Bush/Hillary Clinton race in 2016. **shudder**

But Remember, By Law this Vote is Non-Binding

Following an abysmal performance, Chipotle shareholders voted against pay raises for senior executives:
Investors in Chipotle Mexican Grill voted overwhelmingly on Thursday against the company’s executive compensation plans, sending a strong rebuke to a company that had awarded more than $300 million to its co-chief executives in recent years.

More than 75 percent of investors voted against Chipotle’s say-on-pay measure, which asked investors to ratify a compensation plan that would continue such payments to Steve Ells, Chipotle’s founder, and his co-chief, Montgomery F. Moran, over the next few years. That was the highest vote against any say-on-pay measure among the country’s largest 3,000 companies this year.

Though the vote is nonbinding, Chipotle said it was taking investor sentiment into consideration.

“We take this very seriously,” a Chipotle spokesman, Chris Arnold, said in a statement. “It has always been, and continues to be, a top priority that our compensation programs are driving the creation of shareholder value. We thank our investors for the feedback we have received on this issue and will continue to engage with our investors as we review our compensation programs that build value for all of our investors.”

Shareholder discomfort with Chipotle’s multimillion-dollar executive compensation plans has grown. At last year’s meeting, 27 percent of shareholders voted against the say-on-pay measure. But in recent months, smaller investors, including the CtW Investment Group, have lobbied big institutional investors to join them in trying to rein in Chipotle’s executive pay.
Note however, this is a non-binding vote.

Binding shareholder votes on executive pay are forbidden by US law.

H/t Crooks and Liars.

Letting Bygones Be Bygones

It's Bank Failure Friday!!!!

And here they are, ordered, and numbered for the year so far.
  1. AztecAmerica Bank, Berwyn, IL

Full FDIC list

Things are definitely slowing down.

So, here is the graph pr0n with last few years numbers for comparison (FDIC only):

Your Ukraine Update

We now have some on the ground media reports that make it very likely that US security consultants (mercenaries) are on the ground in the Ukraine:
The leaks may have more truth in them than I had assumed. Paris Match, a well regarded weekly French magazine, investigated the recent incidents in Krasnoarmeysk in east Ukraine where some para-military gang disrupted the vote on more autonomy for the region by killing two supporters of the federalists. It finds photographic evidence that the gang was led by functionary from the fascists paramilitary Right Sektor:
These images show Andrey Denisenko, one of the Pravy Sektor chiefs, among a group of mysterious gunmen that attacked a voting station Sunday in the small town of Krasnoarmeysk, some 60 kilometres from the separatist « capital », Donetsk. After occupying the local town hall for several hours, the militiamen shot down point blank one local civilian, and killed two other unarmed protesters.
These Pravy Sektor thugs were hired for the "special battalion Denjpr" of the newly created "National Guard" and are paid by oligarch Ihor Kolomoyskyi.

But there is an even bigger scoop in this story.

Jerome Sessini, an experienced war photographer for Magnum who has worked in Iraq, Afghanistan and other places, was in Krasnoarmeysk and made some very interesting observations:
Several witness also said they heard some of the gunmen speaking with strong western Ukraine accents. They also noticed that some of the gunmen appeared to come from the Caucasus area, possibly mercenaries from Chechnya. Other gunmen never spoke a word and seemed foreign to the region. French war photographer Jerome Sessini spent about an hour face to face with the gunmen before they opened fire. « I found that their general attitude and their very precise techniques gave off the impression that they were American mercenaries, or people trained by American mercenaries » said Sessini. « I can’t guarantee this for sure, but I’d give it a 95 per cent, » added the photographer, who frequently interacted with various U.S. security contractors during his years covering the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.
A long time ago, when I took part in martial arts competitions, I could tell which dojo my opponents had learned at just by watching their warming up rituals. Someone who's longtime profession is to observe, identify and document people at war should surely be able to categorize special forces he interacted with along the "schooling" and attitude those have.
Also you have to read this essay by Michael Hudson on the underlying motivations for US and EU adventurism in the Ukraine, where asserts the program of destabilization and austerity (austerity being the EU/IMF deal that Yanukovich rejected):
Finance in today’s world has become war by non-military means. Its object is the same as that of military conquest: appropriation of land and basic infrastructure, and the rents that can be extracted as tribute. In today’s world this is taken mainly in the form of debt service and privatization. That is how neoliberalism works, subduing economies by indebting their governments and using unpayably high debts as a lever to pry away the public domain at distress prices. It is what today’s New Cold War is all about. Backed by the IMF and European Central Bank (ECB) as knee-breakers in what has become in effect a financial extension of NATO, the aim is for U.S. and allied investors to appropriate the plums that kleptocrats have taken from the public domain of Russia, Ukraine and other post-Soviet economies in these countries, as well as whatever assets remain.
He then a suggestion of how to fix this:
The cure for a rent-seeking oligarchy is to tax away rent seeking and de-privatize public monopolies. What Ukraine’s kleptocrats have taken (and what foreign investors seek to extract) can be recovered by promoting classical progressive policies taxing land and natural resources, regulating monopolies and providing public infrastructure investment, including a public option for banking and other basic services. That is what drove the U.S. and Western European industrial takeoffs, after all.
When reading Hudson's essay, I realized something:  the role of international finance as a hostile colonizing is not just limited to the former Soviet Union, or 3rd nations.

When we look at Wall Street, and the City of London, they aren't just business interests who are f%$#ing up our economy.   They are an occupying colonial power all over the world, which while far less mellifluous than Matt Taibbi's term, "Vampire Squid," is a better description.

One only needs to look at things like Timken's Wall Street driven spin off of its steel business (which will eliminate a core competency in its bearing business) to see how the policies of deindustrialization and looting are being applied here.

Wall Street is not just a corrupt and corrupting part of our economy, it is an invading colonial force.

15 May 2014

I Think that the FCC Just Kicked the Can Down the Road

After FCC Chairman, and former telco lobbyist, unleashed a bit of a sh%$ storm when he basically proposed ending net neutrality and relying on the kindness of the FCC in the future.

So the FCC punted today:
Federal regulators appear to share one view about so-called net neutrality: It is a good thing.

But defining net neutrality? That is where things get messy.

On Thursday, the Federal Communications Commission voted 3-2 to open for public debate new rules meant to guarantee an open Internet. Before the plan becomes final, though, the chairman of the commission, Tom Wheeler, will need to convince his colleagues and an array of powerful lobbying groups that the plan follows the principle of net neutrality, the idea that all content running through the Internet’s pipes is treated equally.

While the rules are meant to prevent Internet providers from knowingly slowing data, they would allow content providers to pay for a guaranteed fast lane of service. Some opponents of the plan, those considered net neutrality purists, argue that allowing some content to be sent along a fast lane would essentially discriminate against other content.

………

The proposal also requests public comments on whether and by how much the commission should tighten regulation of Internet service providers. For example, the commission asks whether it should reclassify high-speed Internet service as a utilitylike application, subject to stricter regulatory controls than now apply, and if it should ban certain practices that might impede consumers from getting equal access to all legal online content through their chosen Internet service provider.
So basically, they proposed a tiered internet with protections that depend on whether or not you get a Bush appointed judge, in which case, you are f%$#ed, and also proposed returning ISPs to the status of telecommunications services, (Title II) which would regulate them as utilities.

I think that the intention here is to hope that the controversy will die down over the next few months months, and then they can go with the telcos and cable companies with less public push-back.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation takes a rather similar view of these developments:
There’s good news: the nationwide outcry against the Federal Communications Commission’s troublesome proposal for new Open Internet rules is clearly having an impact. At a public meeting this morning, commissioners were factoring in questions that—according to previous accounts—weren’t on the table only days ago. The bad news: the FCC still is considering a set of rules that will allow Internet providers to discriminate how we access websites with only vague and uncertain limits, endangering network neutrality and threatening the vibrant growth of the Internet.

We’re still waiting for the full proposal. But according to FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler’s statements at the open meeting, the FCC didn't take pay-to-play "fast lanes" off the table. Paid “fast lane” access fees threaten the engine of innovation that has allowed hackers, startup companies, and kids in their college dorm rooms to make the Internet that we know and love today. We want the Internet to continue to thrive as a platform for innovation and expression; vague rules that bless "pay to play," with ill-defined limits, are not compatible with our vision of an open Internet.
The good folks at the EFF also provide a tool, Dear FCC, to help people make their feelings known during the public comment period.

It turns out that there is one unambiguously good thing in the proposal, the FCC has proposed assigning 3 television channels to unlicensed public use:
While FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler’s fast-lane/slow-lane net neutrality proposal was taking a beating on all sides (even Wheeler took a few whacks at it), Internet companies sneaked through a huge victory when the agency agreed to set aside up to three channels of TV airwaves for unlicensed use.

That doesn’t sound like a big deal, but it’s something that Google, Microsoft and other tech companies have spent years advocating. In the past, Republican lawmakers have mostly shut down those efforts, saying that billion-dollar tech companies don’t need a freebie.

This time it mostly slid under the radar as Republicans were distracted by net neutrality and upset about proposed bidding restrictions on AT&T and Verizon in the upcoming TV airwaves auction.

Most airwaves can only be used by companies or parties that hold exclusive licenses; unlicensed airwaves can be used by anyone. Wi-Fi networks run on unlicensed airwaves, and tech companies have been trying for years to get more set aside for more powerful Wi-Fi networks.

Internet companies recently got a huge chunk of airwaves set aside for unlicensed use. But they also coveted a channel or two of TV airwaves, which are among the most valuable since signals on those frequencies can go through buildings and travel relatively long distances.

With its move Thursday, the FCC basically created a half-mile public beach in the middle of multimillion-dollar mansions. ………
This is akin to the various white space proposals that have been fought tooth and nail by the wireless firms.

If this survives, it will be an unalloyed good, but unless the pressure is kept up on the FCC about reinstating Title II, we are going to continue to have a overpriced and under-performing broadband services in the United States.

Deep Thought

It is becoming WAY too difficult to distinguish between the mentally ill homeless guys talking to themselves and someone having a conversation on their Bluetooth ear piece.

Posted via mobile.

14 May 2014

Saw Blondie on The Daily Show Tonight

They did a new song, and one of their standards, Dreaming,

The performance was good, and Debbie Harry's voice is still good, though she's lost a bit on the high end of her range.

I will note, I just Wikied her, and realized that she is 68, and she is still smoking hot, and still maintains the New Wave attitude that she, and Blondie pioneered.


Queue the Inflation Trolls

The Producer Price Index rose by 0.6% in April:
U.S. producer prices recorded their largest increase in 1-1/2 years in April as food prices surged, in a potential sign inflation pressures may be creeping up.

The Labor Department said on Wednesday its producer price index rose 0.6 percent, the biggest gain since September 2012. That built on a March increase that was nearly as large.

The department revamped it PPI series at the start of the year to include services and construction. Since then, it has been surprisingly volatile, largely because of big swings in prices received for trade services.

Still, economists, who had expected only a 0.2 percent gain, saw the latest rise as an indication that price pressure may be building. Officials at the Federal Reserve have long worried that inflation was running too low.
I will note that the trend for this year is still less than 6%, which is where I would set the target, and it appears that their statistical set is kind of hinky, but expect the inflation gnomes to come out and run around with their hair on fire.

Seriously? Chattanooga has the Best Internet in the Nation?

Actually, yes.

You see,  Chattanooga has a municiplally owned fiber optic network:
For thousands of years, Native Americans used the river banks here to cross a gap in the Appalachian Mountains, and trains sped through during the Civil War to connect the eastern and western parts of the Confederacy. In the 21st century, it is the Internet that passes through Chattanooga, and at lightning speed.

“Gig City,” as Chattanooga is sometimes called, has what city officials and analysts say was the first and fastest — and now one of the least expensive — high-speed Internet services in the United States. For less than $70 a month, consumers enjoy an ultrahigh-speed fiber-optic connection that transfers data at one gigabit per second. That is 50 times the average speed for homes in the rest of the country, and just as rapid as service in Hong Kong, which has the fastest Internet in the world.

………

Since the fiber-optic network switched on four years ago, the signs of growth in Chattanooga are unmistakable. ………

………

EPB, the city-owned utility formerly named Electric Power Board of Chattanooga, said that only about 3,640 residences, or 7.5 percent of its Internet-service subscribers, are signed up for the Gigabit service offered over the fiber-optic network. Roughly 55 businesses also subscribe. The rest of EPB’s customers subscribe to a (relatively) slower service offered on the network of 100 megabits per second, which is still faster than many other places in the country.
Gee.  The private sector, largely unregulated, cable and phone companies deliver what is among the slowest and most expensive internet service in the developed world, and publicly owned providers outperform them.

Maybe it's because the for-profit companies see preserving, and leveraging, their near monopoly status as more ……… well ……… profitable than improving the quality and price service.

Hoocoodanode?

Shorter New York Times, "We Pay Bros More than Ho's"

It was announced today that the New York Times fired Jill Abramson as executive editor.

It appears that this was largely because she complained when she discovered that her pay was significantly less than her predecessor, as well as one of her (male) subordinates:
As with any such upheaval, there’s a history behind it. Several weeks ago, I’m told, Abramson discovered that her pay and her pension benefits as both executive editor and, before that, as managing editor were considerably less than the pay and pension benefits of Bill Keller, the male editor whom she replaced in both jobs. “She confronted the top brass,” one close associate said, and this may have fed into the management’s narrative that she was “pushy,” a characterization that, for many, has an inescapably gendered aspect. Sulzberger is known to believe that the Times, as a financially beleaguered newspaper, needed to retreat on some of its generous pay and pension benefits; Abramson, who spent much of her career at the Wall Street Journal, had been at the Times for far fewer years than Keller, which accounted for some of the pension disparity. Eileen Murphy, a spokeswoman for the Times, said that Jill Abramson’s total compensation as executive editor “was directly comparable to Bill Keller’s”—though it was not actually the same. I was also told by another friend of Abramson’s that the pay gap with Keller was only closed after she complained. But, to women at an institution that was once sued by its female employees for discriminatory practices, the question brings up ugly memories. Whether Abramson was right or wrong, both sides were left unhappy. A third associate told me, “She found out that a former deputy managing editor”—a man—“made more money than she did” while she was managing editor. “She had a lawyer make polite inquiries about the pay and pension disparities, which set them off.”
Of course, Abramson was good for business, and the paper is "financially beleagered" Sulzberger decided to build a palatial new headquarters for the paper, and use very short term debt to finance this, which required a refinance at junk bond rates from Mexican crony capitalist Carlos Slim, and a sale-leaseback of $¾ million square feet in their headquarters.

Arthur Sulzberger, Jr. is letting his sense of entitlement show.

This is Good, But I Expect SCOTUS to Overturn it on Corporate "Free Speech" Grounds

The NLRB is considering a ruling that would require that businesses allow their email systems being used for union organizing:
The NLRB has issued a “Notice and Invitation to File Briefs” [PDF] in the Purple Communications, Inc. case which could overturn the precedent concerning organizing activities on company email systems set by the board’s ruling in the Register-Guard case during the Bush Administration.

Using the Register-Guard decision as precedent, companies can currently enforce policies which prohibit company email from being used for anything but business purposes. But the current NLRB appears interested in reversing that decision partially due to the increased importance of email in organizing since the Bush era. Another goal is to align the ruling with other recent rulings that helped streamline the union election process.
This is a good idea, but it is a pro worker idea, so I expect a 5-4 decision from the Supreme Court overruling this on 1st Amendment grounds.

After all, if the DC, and the 4th Circuit, Courts of Appeals has already found that a requirement that employers post a notice of labor rights was a violation of the 1st Amendment, and the increasingly radical right wing of SCOTUS has become fairly explicitly partisan, and sabotaging labor organizing rights is good for the Republican Party.

13 May 2014

The World Just Got a Bit Less Disturbing, and a Lot Duller


He first gained notice in the US with this cover for Emerson, Lake & Palmer's Album Brain Salad Surgery
H.R. Giger, the artist best know for designing the Alien for the eponymous film, is dead at age 74.

His work was profoundly disturbing, and brilliant.

The Washington Post has Done the Impossible

In rewriting an OP/Ed contributed by Ramesh Ponnuru, some as yet unamed editor has actually lowered the quality of the indicted right wing pundit's writing.

Speaking to the universal desire of the right wing to excise the memory of Abraham Lincoln from our recent memory, he wrote in the Post that we should go back to calling it Washington's Birthday.  (I am old enough to remember when both Washington's and Lincoln's birthdays were both holidays, and not spot welded together), and some nameless editor at the paper changed his words in a fairly significant way:
“Getting rid of President’s Day would not be difficult. All we would have to do is start calling the third Monday of February by its proper name under federal law: Washington’s Birthday. That’s the practice state governments and advertisers ought to follow.” The version the Post ended up running struck the third sentence and replaced the second with ”All we would have to do is designate the third Monday of February to mark George Washington’s Birthday.”
As an aside, I had a fair number of discussions about the writing business with science fiction author and editor Ben Bova, and noted that when he was editor-in-chief at Omni,* he had to fire a number of editors who refused to stop rewriting stuff. (He makes a distinction with minor copy edits, and the editor asking for changes from the authors)

Whoever made this change should be fired.  Period.  Full Stop.

*I am not sure if this was an issue during his stint at Analog Science Fiction, but I got the impression that it was less of an issue, probably because the editors were less likely to be frustrated writer English majors.

Heads they Win, Tails you Lose

Our executive class, Walmart edition:
Sometimes the effects of our social and income inequality are easy to see, but hard to measure.

But not in this case: despite falling revenues, and despite only reluctantly paying minimum wage to its workers, Walmart increased the pay for its top executives. The people who do the labor get little. The people who make the decisions that can cause falling revenues get more (and more and…) Could it be any clearer what is going on?

This is what Thomas Piketty’s theories look like in practice.

………

A key question for detectives trying to figure out who may have committed a crime is to ask cui bono, “Who benefits?” Who stands to profit from a murder, from a crime? That’s often your perp.

In Walmart’s case, it is not its stockholders who profited. Indeed, this has not been a money year for Walmart shareholders. Despite an overall good twelve months for the stock market in general, Walmart stock bumbled due to lower sales growth.

No joy for Walmart’s customers, or its own employees. Walmart cited cuts in federal food stamps as one reason for its weak sales increase. Since they are paid only minimum wage (and Walmart fights vigorously against any increases) and only are given 39 hours a week or less so as not to qualify for full-time benefits, a fair number of Walmart’s own workers receive food stamps.

Good news though for Walmart’s top executives. The company employed some accounting tricks to “adjust” on paper actual revenues to make them appear higher than in reality. On the strength of that “adjusted” performance, William Simon, CEO of Walmart’s United States unit, received total compensation of $13 million last year. Of that, $1.5 million was a “performance bonus,” paid out actually for declining revenues. In fact, six of Walmart’s top executives received a total of $8.42 million in cash incentive payments for 2014 even as revenues fell and the company closed stores. The former employees of those stores, needless to say, did not receive any performance pay bonuses as they fell deeper into poverty.
They don't get it.

They won't get it if they are riding in an oxcart to Madame la Guillotine.

It's Only Metadata, Right?

As David Cole observes, "We Kill People Based on Metadata:
Supporters of the National Security Agency inevitably defend its sweeping collection of phone and Internet records on the ground that it is only collecting so-called “metadata”—who you call, when you call, how long you talk. Since this does not include the actual content of the communications, the threat to privacy is said to be negligible. That argument is profoundly misleading.

Of course knowing the content of a call can be crucial to establishing a particular threat. But metadata alone can provide an extremely detailed picture of a person’s most intimate associations and interests, and it’s actually much easier as a technological matter to search huge amounts of metadata than to listen to millions of phone calls. As NSA General Counsel Stewart Baker has said, “metadata absolutely tells you everything about somebody’s life. If you have enough metadata, you don’t really need content.” When I quoted Baker at a recent debate at Johns Hopkins University, my opponent, General Michael Hayden, former director of the NSA and the CIA, called Baker’s comment “absolutely correct,” and raised him one, asserting, “We kill people based on metadata.”

It is precisely this power to collect our metadata that has prompted one of Congress’s most bipartisan initiatives in recent years. On May 7, the House Judiciary Committee voted 32-0 to adopt an amended form of the USA Freedom Act, a bill to rein in NSA spying on Americans, initially proposed by Democratic Senator Patrick Leahy and Republican Congressman James Sensenbrenner. On May 8, the House Intelligence Committee, which has until now opposed any real reform of the NSA, also unanimously approved the same bill. And the Obama administration has welcomed the development.

(Emphasis Mine)

The "signature strikes" that the CIA and Pentagon use are based entirely on metadata.

The next time that you hear of a wedding party being blown-up by a drone, realize that the same thing could happen to you on the basis of your cell phone location data.