30 June 2015

Headline of the Day

7 Things That Prove D.C. Politics Is a Lot Like High School

It's close, but I would argue that DC is a lot closer to junior high school.

The requisite maturity for it to be Senior high school just is not there.

This is a Big F%$#ing Deal

Exempt workers are those who are paid by salary, rather than time, and are not paid anything for overtime.

Basically, they have to have "management" duties, and they have to be paid more than, $23,660.00 a year.

That number has been unchanged since 2004, until today:
Barack Obama has launched a push for salaried workers earning nearly US$1,000 a week to receive overtime pay, with the president declaring that too many Americans are working long hours for less than they deserve.

The long-awaited overtime rule from the US labor department would more than double the threshold at which employers can avoid paying overtime, from $455 a week to $970 a week by 2016. That would mean salaried employees earning less than $50,440 a year would be assured overtime if they worked more than 40 hours per week, up from the current $23,660 a year.

“We’ve got to keep making sure hard work is rewarded,” Obama wrote in an article for the Huffington Post. “That’s how America should do business. In this country a hard day’s work deserves a fair day’s pay.”

To keep up with future inflation and wage growth the proposal would peg the salary threshold at the 40th percentile of income, individuals familiar with the plan said. They requested anonymity in return for discussing the proposal ahead of the official announcement. The president has been scheduled to promote the proposal during a visit on Thursday to La Crosse, Wisconsin.

Obama’s proposal aims to narrow a loophole that the president has long said some employers exploit to avoid paying overtime.

Employees who make above the salary threshold can be denied overtime if they are deemed managers. Some work gruelling schedules at fast food chains and retail stores, but with no overtime eligibility their pay may be lower per hour than many workers they supervise.

………

Under the current threshold only about 8% of salaried workers are eligible for 150% of their pay rate when they work overtime. The EPI estimates that doubling the salary level would make up to 40% of salaried workers eligible.
It should be noted that the requirement for a pay level in order to be exempt was established under the Ford Administration, when it was set at 1.57 times the median wage ($250 a week) which, if updated for today, turns out to be about $51K/year.

It's not as revolutionary as the US Chamber of Commerce says that it is. It's just basically undoing the damage done by not adjusting this number for inflation.

Also note that Obama chose not to increase the percent of time spent on management duties for exempt status.

It's a good news for at least 5 million workers who are currently paid slave wages, and are ordered to put in free overtime.

Dumbass

Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal thought that an open forum on Twitter would be a good thing.

This has been done before, and has failed before, but Jindal did not get the memo:
Someone on Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal’s campaign staff had the brilliant idea of opening up a discussion between the Republican hopeful and Twitter. The result was a terrible idea, poorly executed.
The first, and possibly most important, set of questions for the candidate:







Yes — he most certainly was. ………
It goes on from there, and the questions become less "meta" and far more aggressively hostile.

Republicans have been trolling politics since the 1960s, and somehow, they do not understand that there are trolls on the internet.

Not only is Bobby Jindal too stupid to be President, he is too stupid to be allowed around sharp object.

I wonder who is employed by him to cut his meat for him, and I wonder what the f^%$# this benighted soul is going to put on his resume. 

My guess is "Nutrition Consultant."

Why to Legalize Marijuana, Again

Last week, there was a huge bust of pot growers in Northern California.

It turns out that the primary motivation for the bust was not the growing of Marijuana, but the illegal taking of water required to grow Cannabis:
There were helicopters, SWAT teams, and nearly 100,000 marijuana plants yanked out of the ground, but last week's massive raid in Northern California's rugged Emerald Triangle was not your father's pot bust. Carried out by county law enforcement with no help from the DEA, it targeted private landowners—and not just because they were growing pot, police say, but because they were illegally sucking some 500,000 gallons of water a day from a section of the nearby Eel river that is now stagnant and moss-ridden.
When pot is legal, it will no longer be grown in environmentally disastrous ways in national park land, because the growers won't find it economically viable to do this.

29 June 2015

Your Feel Good Story of the Day (With Cats)

Someone has found a way to "re-task" feral cats in animal shelters that would otherwise have to be euthanized have been fixed, and deployed to areas for rodent patrol:
Like the characters played by the actor who inspired his name, Pacino was no scaredy cat. The brown tabby had prowled the streets of Los Angeles, a drifter scraping for his next meal.

After the cat was turned in at an L.A. County animal services shelter, there was little hope that Pacino would be adopted. He was too distrustful, too fierce, too mean.

Then Melya Kaplan came along, looking for a cat with grit, street smarts and attitude.

The 10-pound, 6-ounce cat would become the nighttime warden at the Original L.A. Flower Market, making sure rodents and other vermin didn't get out of hand. He's part of a group of tough cats recruited by an animal rights nonprofit to find homes in places that could use their hard-scrabble qualities. Along with another cat named DeNiro, Pacino would prowl the Italian side of the flower market. Of course.

"Mother Nature doesn't make mistakes," said Kaplan, executive director of Voice for the Animals. "We probably just haven't found a purpose for it yet."
As part of the Working Cats program, street cats like Pacino are rescued from animal shelters and sent to locations ranging from police stations, like the LAPD's Wilshire and Foothill divisions, to private homes, businesses and schools. Over the years, the program has placed about 500 cats in nearly 50 locations.

Kaplan, a frequent customer of the market, developed the program in 1999 when Carl Jones, a market employee, told her about the rats in the workplace. Exterminators would spray the warehouse with poison, but the vermin remained. Every so often, a customer would spot a pair of beady eyes hidden in the row of flowers.

………

About 15 years ago, Kaplan made a proposition to Yamabe. She would deliver three cats to the flower market to get rid of the rats. And if they could not take care of the rodents, she would take them back.

The market currently has 15 cats, and Jones and Yamabe said they do not see any rats.

Kaplan attributes the program's success to the simple fact that adding a predator to an environment will scare away its prey. Once rodents smell a cat on the prowl, they go somewhere else, she said.

"It's not anything new. People used to have barn cats or church cats to keep out rodents," Kaplan said. "We just brought [it] to the city, and it seems to be really working."

Yamabe remembered one gray cat that died after several years of service patrolling the second-floor parking lot. Within days, the rats returned and Yamabe needed to call for another cat.

………

For a cat like Pacino, living in a warehouse almost certainly adds years to his life. Living on the streets is tough on any sentient being, including a cat. Kaplan said cats that might have lived fewer than five years on the streets can live more than 14 years in a home, business or police station. They're given meals and the buildings give them protection from bad weather, dogs and cars.

………

Kaplan said that in time, some of her more veteran cats got used to being around people and became house cats. That, in turn, created space for other cats to be rescued by the program.

"We're saving cats and helping people. And it's always great when the two grow closer together and we can place another cat," she said. "It's what I call a win-win-win."
I'm asking my reader(s) to help me here, and come up with a drawing, or a photoshop, of a cat wearing a beat cop or night watchman uniform.

The internet needs this.

Tweet of the Day


Yes, I know that Kim Kardassian is on my list of They Who Must Not Be Named, but I must also add Kanye West.

But the guy who printed up this flag? He is never going on that list.

H/t the William Volk.

Regulatory Sanity on the "Sharing Economy"

Uber has been operating illegally in France for some time, and following protests from cab drivers, French authorities took Uber executives into custody:
On Monday, French authorities took two Uber executives into custody for questioning as part of an investigation into UberPop, the startup’s lower cost alternative.

Local media have named the men as Thibaut Simphal, the CEO for France, and Pierre-Dimitri Gore-Coty, the CEO for Western Europe. Under French law, both men can be held for up to 48 hours without being charged.

"Our general managers for France and Western Europe today attended a hearing with the French police," Gareth Mead, an Uber spokesman, told Ars in a statement. "We are always happy to answer questions the authorities have about our service—and look forward to resolving these issues. Those discussions are ongoing. In the meantime, we’re continuing to ensure the safety of our riders and drivers in France given last week's disturbances."

………

The primary regulatory issue in France is that UberPop’s drivers operate under a VTC license (véhicules de tourisme avec chauffeur, or tourism vehicles with a driver). Created in 2009, this license was designed for pre-booked travel, not on-the-street hails. UberPop’s drivers are like their UberX counterparts in the United States: normal people with regular cars who do not have an expensive French taxi license. As such, traditional taxi drivers in France have been upset that Uber seems to be flouting the law. Uber maintains that it is a technology company and not a traditional taxi company, and therefore the company believes it's not bound by taxi law.
It's nice to find authorities who doesn't ignore the law, "Because ……… Internet."

Uber has been operating an illegal taxi service, and been abusing its drivers, and the public, with its business model, and it's good that someone is acting on this, albeit with some prodding by protesters.

28 June 2015

I am Amused

In the latest Fox News Poll, Donald Trump is the 2nd most popular candidates in the Republican primaries:
There’s been a lineup change in the race for the GOP nomination, as businessman Donald Trump moves up after declaring his candidacy. He’s now second in the order after former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, who also got an uptick in support after his formal announcement.

For Democrats, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is still -- by far -- the team leader, according to a new Fox News national poll on the 2016 presidential election.

Bush tops the list of GOP contenders with 15 percent support among Republican primary voters. That’s up from 12 percent last month and his best showing yet. Support for Trump more than doubled since his announcement and that catapults him into the top tier at 11 percent. He’s followed by retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson at 10 percent. No one else receives double-digit backing.

Bush officially kicked off his campaign June 15 and Trump launched June 16. It’s common for candidates to see a bump in their numbers in the days following their formal announcement and the media coverage that comes with that.

The bad news for Trump is that only 29 percent of GOP primary voters consider him a serious candidate. More than twice that many -- 64 percent -- think he’s a side show. Among all registered voters, nearly 8 in 10 say Trump is a side show (77 percent).
This appears to mean that the "2nd worst Donald on Earth,"*Fox News, much to the chagrin of the voters, is trying to limit its debates to the "top 10" candidates, which has the effect of eliminating those at positions 11 and below from having a meaningful chance in Iowa or New Hampshire, and hence the primaries.

And it appears that the biggest joke in Presidential politics will get one of those seats at the table.

It so sucks to be a Republican right now.

Heh.

*Larry Wilmore called Donald Rumsfeld, "The Only Donald Worse than Trump," and I wholeheartedly agree.

Why Does this Remind Me of Stalinist Architecture?


Positively Hideous
It seems to me that whenever a reactionary government remains in power too long, it seems that they develop an edifice complex:
A plan to erect a 10-storey statue in a national park on one of Canada’s most scenic shorelines has prompted outrage and sparked a growing political row as the country heads towards a general election this fall.

The statue of Mother Canada – a cloaked female figure with her arms outstretched towards the Atlantic Ocean – is intended to honour the country’s soldiers who died overseas.

But growing anger over the plan has made it a new focus of opposition to the increasingly unpopular government of Conservative prime minister Stephen Harper.

The proposed monument is an awkwardly remodelled, vastly upscaled version of an earlier statue, known as Canada Bereft, which adorns the memorial to the country’s first world war dead near Vimy, France.

The design has been widely lambasted both for its design and its proposed location in Cape Breton Highlands national park. In an editorial this week, the Globe and Mail newspaper described it as “offensively tasteless” and a “hubristically arrogant act of arrogant unoriginality”.

“The bigger-is-better approach to art is best left to Stalinist tyrants, theme park entrepreneurs and insecure municipalities hoping to waylay bored drive-by tourists,” the paper wrote.
Stephen Harper has gagged government scientistsused the Canadian Revenue Agency to target charities who protest his agenda, and gutted the census, among other things, and now we have this.

My condolences to my friends in Canada, because this cannot be good, particularly if the Conservatives are not turfed out in the 2015 elections.

One of Life's Most Perplexing Questions, Answered

Have you ever wondered why cats wiggle their butts before pouncing?

Me too.

It turns out that it is more straightforward than I imagined. Basically, it's how they brace themselves for the pounce:
Cats are lovely creatures that never fail to amaze us. They are full of quirks and often have a lot of spontaneous antics that keep everyone in the house amused. Cats have a cute little tush that they are proud to show off. They often like to wiggle and shake their hind quarters when they are about to pounce. It is cute and adorable, but why do they do that?

Let’s look at cats’ wild cousins, the big cats. Wild cats such as tigers, lions, leopards tend to grind the ground with their hind quarters before they pounce. It is a way for them to get into position and brace themselves before they attack. Domestic cats share a similar feature – instead of grinding the ground with their hind legs, they wiggle their behind vigorously to attain balance and leverage.
It's like runners pushing back against the starting block.

27 June 2015

And So the Dissolution of the EU Begins

Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras will be calling for a referendum on the Troika's proposal:
In a dramatic move that will put Europe on tenterhooks, the Greek prime minister Alexis Tsipras told his fellow citizens last night he would call a referendum on the bailout accord that international creditors have proposed to keep the debt-stricken country afloat.

Following an emergency meeting of his cabinet, Tsipras said his leftist-led government had decided a package of austerity measures proposed by the country’s creditors – made in a last-ditch effort to avert default – would be put to popular vote. The referendum will take place on Sunday 5 July.

“After five months of hard negotiations our partners, unfortunately, ended up making a proposal that was an ultimatum towards Greek democracy and the Greek people,” he said in a national address, “an ultimatum at odds with the founding principles and values of Europe, the values of our common European construction.”

The leader, who only hours earlier had rejected the proposed reforms after several days of high-stakes talks in Brussels, said Greeks now faced a “historic responsibility” to respond to the ultimatum.

He said the reforms were “blackmail for the acceptance on our part of severe and humiliating austerity without end and without the prospect of ever prospering socially and economically”.
This is actually the intention.

This is politically motivated sadism.

The Germans want it because the want to demonstrate their power and virtue, and because of memories of  a period of hyperinflation that was caused by the triumphalism of the victors in the First World War.

The French want to be sure that they are not on the losing side of this alone.

The other northern tier EU countries have been relegated to spectator status.

What would seem to be Greece's natural allies, Ireland, Spain, Portugal, and Italy, are desperate for Greece to fail, because if Syriza succeeds, it bolsters the anti-austerity parties in their countries, which threatens their political elites' hold on power.

So I expect that Greece will be crushed under what is largely a German boot, and that various neo-facist parties, particularly New Dawn in Greece, will gain power as the center delivers misery, and the left is systematically excluded from meaningful governance.

Tell me that this does not look like 1932.

(on edit)

I read something similar to this, but had neglected to bookmark it.

I have now found who it was who explained the politics of this, it was Paul Krugman:
As a political matter, the big losers from this process have been the parties of the center-left, whose acquiescence in harsh austerity — and hence abandonment of whatever they supposedly stood for — does them far more damage than similar policies do to the center-right.As a political matter, the big losers from this process have been the parties of the center-left, whose acquiescence in harsh austerity — and hence abandonment of whatever they supposedly stood for — does them far more damage than similar policies do to the center-right.

Hero of the Day


And the accursed flag comes down
Brittany ‘Bree’ Newsome:
A woman scaled the flagpole in front of the South Carolina Statehouse Saturday morning and temporarily removed the Confederate flag that flew there. The woman was arrested by State Capitol police along with a man who had entered the grounds with her, the Associated Press reported. The flag was replaced and raised a short time later.

The woman, who was not identified by authorities, was named on social media as Brittany “Bree” Newsome, an activist from North Carolina. Her actions inspired the hashtag #KeepItDown, which was one of the top trending topics on Twitter in the U.S. Saturday. Later in the day, the hashtag #FreeBree was also trending in the U.S.

According to BreeNewsome.com, a site linked to a Twitter account belonging to a user with the name Bree Newsome and mentioned by numerous users in conjunction with the #KeepItDown hashtag, Newsome is an activist and graduate of New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts.
 Here is hoping that this happens regularly until it comes down forever.

26 June 2015

Clarence Thomas Is a Miserable Excuse for a Human Being

First, in Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs v. The Inclusive Communities Project, he suggested that racist impact of government policy might be a good thing, because ……… the NBA:
In a less headline grabbing decision today, the Supreme Court ruled that those affected by discriminatory housing decisions can sue even if they can’t prove the discrimination was intentional.

Civil rights groups were handed an unexpected victory when in a 5-4 decision, the Supreme Court endorsed the consideration of disparate impact to establish racial discrimination in housing cases under the 1968 Fair Housing Act.

The otherwise pro-business Justice Kennedy wrote the majority opinion but one of the other noteworthy opinions came from conservative Justice Thomas’ dissent, in which he wrote, “the fact that a practice has a disparate impact is not conclusive evidence that a practice is discriminatory.”

A well enough point, but it was the example he used to illustrate this point that proved most curious.

“Over 70 percent of National Basketball Association (NBA) players have been black,” Thomas pointed out, arguing that “racial imbalances do not always disfavor minorities.”

“If, for instance, white basketball players cannot bring disparate-impact suits— then we as a Court have constructed a scheme that parcels out legal privileges to individuals on the basis of skin color,” he continued.

Thomas went on to cite examples of minorities who “have owned or directed more than half of whole industries in particular nations” including “Jews in Poland” and “the Chinese in Malaysia” to argue that not all disproportional representation is bad.
Seriously?

Bigotry is OK because of the percentage of blacks in the NBA? Or the because of the relative prosperity of the Chinese in Malaysia?*

And then, in his dissent in Obergefell v. Hodges, the gay marriage case, he suggests that slavery did not cause any loss of dignity in its subjects:
Clarence Thomas slammed the majority that ruled in favor of marriage equality, saying the five U.S. Supreme Court justices had engaged in misguided efforts to advance dignity for same-sex couples.

Thomas – who wrote his own opinion, along with the court’s three other dissenters – argued that the Constitution contained no “dignity” clause.

………

“Slaves did not lose their dignity (any more than they lost their humanity) because the government allowed them to be enslaved,” Thomas said. “Those held in internment camps did not lose their dignity because the government confined them. And those denied governmental benefits certainly do not lose their dignity because the government denies them those benefits. The government cannot bestow dignity, and it cannot take it away.”
This is pure crap, and I say it as someone who is required to thank God on a yearly basis because of, "What he did for me when I went forth from Egypt," on Passover.

Not only is this a failure as a human being, it is a miserable failure as a legal dissent.

Yale Law School needs to apologize to the nation.

*Which was largely a result of the British Empire using ethnically divisive policies in order to maintain control.

Yesterday, the Supreme Court Issued Another Important Opinion

Specifically, in Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs v. The Inclusive Communities Project the Supreme Court allowed disparate impact to continue to be considered in fair housing lawsuits:
Civil rights groups are breathing a little easier today, after the Court’s ruling in an important housing discrimination case. The question before the Court was whether claims brought under the Fair Housing Act, which prohibits housing discrimination “because of” race, can be based on an allegation that a law or practice has a “disparate impact” – that is, it has a discriminatory effect, even if it wasn’t motivated by an intent to discriminate. The distinction matters because it’s rare for a lawmaker, landlord, or developer to admit that a law or practice is intended to be discriminatory; civil rights groups believe that disparate-impact claims are an important tool to ferret out more subtle examples of housing discrimination.
I expected the court to go the other way, which would have made pursuing issues in housing discrimination nearly impossible.

As an aside, I believe that this also would also make it easier to pursue disparate impact challenges under section 2 of the Voting Rights Act, which, after the Supreme Court gutted section 5 a few years back, is the most effective portion of the law.

Worst ……… Abstinence ……… Advocate ……… Ever

Bristol Palin, who I must congratulate both on her upcoming out-of-wedlock bundle of joy, and her addition to the most distinguished order of They Who Must Not Be Named.

I'm kind of surprised that I had not already added her to the list, but absent some sort of political activity, such as endorsements, running for office (PLEASE GOD NO!!), or their attempting to assassinate someone, she will not be mentioned here again.

If He Doesn't Get Impeached, Paul LePage Should Be Horsewhipped in the Public Square

In the Maine State House, Speaker Speaker Mark Eves has been a consistent thorn in the side in the side of Governor, and Teabagger Supremo, Paul LePage.

Because of this, LePage threatened to pull funding a the school that had recently hired him:
The board of Good Will-Hinckley School withdrew its job offer to House Speaker Mark Eves just days before he was to become the school’s new president, making the decision after Gov. Paul LePage apparently threatened to withhold state funding for the school.

The school said Wednesday that the board of directors had “voted to seek a new direction for the institution’s leadership” in order to avoid “political controversy.” But Eves’ attorney said the state legislator had been “terminated … without cause” and hinted at legal action against the governor.

Eves, meanwhile, released a statement accusing LePage of “blackmailing” the school for at-risk youths by threatening to cut $500,000 in state funding. He said that could potentially cause the loss of another $2 million in private funding for the school, which has an annual budget of $4.5 million.

“The governor knows that these financial losses would put the school out of business, but he has refused to back down,” said Eves, D-North Berwick. “This is an abuse of power that jeopardizes Maine children. The governor’s actions represent the worst kind of vendetta politics Maine has ever seen. If it goes unchecked, no legislator will feel safe in voting his conscience for fear that the governor will go after the legislator’s family and livelihood.”

Good Will-Hinckley, in Fairfield, announced June 9 that it had hired Eves as the school’s new president despite a last-minute intercession by LePage. On Wednesday, board Chairman Jack Moore announced the decision to withdraw the offer to Eves, who was scheduled to begin work next Wednesday.

“The basis for this decision is grounded in the institution’s desire not to be involved in political controversy that will divert attention away from our core mission of serving children and has the potential to jeopardize the future of our school,” Moore said in a prepared statement. “Good Will-Hinckley has a very dedicated staff. The board’s first priority is to act in the best interest of students and educators alike and the board’s actions reflect its unwavering commitment to them.”
Eves is seriously considering suing LePage, and it appears that "Hizzoner" made his threats in writing.

The Maine Attorney General is also, "Very troubled," by the Governor's behavior, though she has issued no further comment.

My first question was, "Where is the impeachment investigation?"

Well, here it is:
Six lawmakers said Thursday they will attempt to launch impeachment proceedings against Republican Gov. Paul LePage for his alleged role in pushing Democratic House Speaker Mark Eves out of a new job at Good Will-Hinckley School.

Independent Reps. Jeffrey Evangelos of Friendship and Ben Chipman of Portland and Democratic Reps. Pinny Beebe-Center of Rockland, Lydia Blume of York, Roberta Beavers of South Berwick and Charlotte Warren of Hallowell said Thursday they are exploring disciplinary action against LePage, including impeachment.

“I’m asking my fellow legislators to study abuse of authority, conduct unbecoming and possible misuse of public assets,” said Evangelos, who is leading the effort. “I believe that Gov. LePage has violated his authority by intimidating a private entity with the end objective of violating speaker Eves’ civil rights, his ability to seek outside employment and provide for his family.”

The House of Representatives has “sole power of impeachment” according to Article 4 of the Maine Constitution. The Senate has the “sole authority to try all impeachments.” Impeachment requires a two-thirds vote of the Senate.
Unfortunately, the leadership in the House are going all wobbly on this:
Democratic leaders on Friday said they are reviewing all options to deal with what they describe as a disturbing pattern of behavior by Republican Gov. Paul LePage. At the same time, they have asked their colleagues to not act rashly and to stay focused on legislative work – especially an override of an expected LePage budget veto that will require a bipartisan, two-thirds vote.

House majority leader Rep. Jeff McCabe, D-Skowhegan, and assistant leader Rep. Sara Gideon, D-Freeport, said that “nothing is off the table,” when it comes to possible actions against LePage, but they urged restraint among activists and rank-and-file lawmakers.

The two spoke a day after House Speaker Mark Eves, D-North Berwick, said that LePage threatened to yank state funding from the Good Will-Hinckley school unless it broke its contract to hire Eves as its next president. The story has dominated discussion at the state Capitol, where attention had been focused on getting a state budget passed, with members of both parties expressing concern that LePage overstepped his executive power by using funding for the school as a weapon against a political foe.

………

The Eves controversy has prompted a call for impeachment – unprecedented in Maine gubernatorial history – among some liberal lawmakers and activists. On Friday, McCabe and Gideon didn’t rule out such a proceeding, but focused more on the possibility of an investigation, by either state or federal authorities.

“Based on some of the comments that the governor has had recently, as well as his actions with Speaker Eves and impeding Speaker Eves from obtaining a job, I think there’s a lot of research that’s going to go on,” McCabe said. “There’s also some pending legal matters. So there’s nothing that’s off the table, but there’s a lot of research that needs to be done.”
Too many weasel words from the leadership.

This sort of sh%$ has former Texas Governor Rick Perry under indictment in Texas.  Do the people of Maine really want to be on the wrong side of abuse of power and Texas?

In that case, Perry had the fig leaf of a  DUI arrest for the DA, but here, the Governor is claiming that his threats are only as a result of the political stances of an opponent.

I hope not.

The GOP isn’t in trouble because of their racist base, they’re in trouble because they’re assholes

The GOP Isn't in Trouble Because of Their Racist Base, They're in Trouble Because They're Assholes

Troof!

Fabulous Fabugasm!






One Map Shows Every State in the US Where You Can Have a Same-Sex Marriage
The Supreme Court has declared gay marriage bans unconstitutional:
Putting itself back in the forefront of the gay rights revolution, the Supreme Court ruled by the narrowest margin on Friday that same-sex couples across the nation have an equal right to marry. The five-to-four decision was based firmly on the Constitution, and thus could be undone only by a formal amendment to the basic document, or a change of mind by a future Supreme Court. Neither is predictable.

Explicitly refusing to hold off deciding the issue to see how other parts of society may deal with the rising demand for gay acceptance and legitimacy, the Court declared that two clauses in the Fourteenth Amendment mean that a “fundamental right to marry” can no longer be denied because the partners are of the same sex. It did not create a new right, but opened a long-existing one to those partners.

The ruling was the most important victory in a cultural revolution that began almost exactly forty-six years ago, when patrons of a gay bar — the Stonewall Inn in New York City’s Greenwich Village — fought back against a police raid. The events that began on the night of June 28, 1969, are widely known as the beginning of “gay pride” and an unapologetic campaign for equality.

The decision in Obergefell v. Hodges expressly overruled the Court’s only prior ruling directly on same-sex marriage — a one-line decision in the 1972 case of Baker v. Nelson, declaring that a claim to such marriage did not raise “a substantial question” for the Court to resolve.
As The Onion puts it, "Scalia, Thomas, Roberts, Alito Suddenly Realize They Will Be Villains In Oscar-Winning Movie One Day".

I think that you also need to read the last paragraph of the decision, which is really quite beautiful:
No union is more profound than marriage, for it embodies the highest ideals of love, fidelity, devotion, sacrifice, and family. In forming a marital union, two people become something greater than once they were. As some of the petitioners in these cases demonstrate, marriage embodies a love that may endure even past death. It would misunderstand these men and women to say they disrespect the idea of marriage. Their plea is that they do respect it, respect it so deeply that they seek to find its fulfillment for themselves. Their hope is not to be condemned to live in loneliness, excluded from one of civilization’s oldest institutions. They ask for equal dignity in the eyes of the law. The Constitution grants them that right.
Fabulous!

To my Facebook readers: click through for the slide show.

In the next few years, the right wing will have to find someone else to hate, I guess.

25 June 2015

Power Out at Chez Saroff

Damn.



Posted via mobile.

Tweet of the Day


Indeed.

I Wish that I Were This Good a Jew

Baci Weiler, a woman in New York City with a buzz cut and wearing baggy trowsers and t-shirt, was was approached by a Chabad Lubovich representative and lent her Tefillin* so that she could pray.

In Orthodox Judaism, Tefillin are only to be worn by men, so Ms. Weiler posted the picture of this (Since deleted) to Facebook:
This happened last friday at a chabad table. Apparently, buzzed hair + baggy t-shirt + charedi lack of any concept of fluidity in gender expression = egalitarianism. Tefillin with a bracha [blessing], administered by a chabadnik! bimheira beyameinu [Hebrew for "it should come speedily in our time].
It should not have been a big deal, and no one but her FB friends should have seen it, but at this point, through the vagaries of the Internet, it ends up getting some mainstream coverage. (The Jerusalem Post picked it up.)

Well. Baci Weler was horrified at the idea that the Chabadnik who offered her Tefillin was being subjected to mocking, and she offered the most sincere and spiritual that I have ever read:
Two days ago, I posted a couple of photos of myself...

Two days ago, I posted a couple of photos of myself putting on tefillin at a Chabad stand in Union Square. Watching these photos spread, I’ve had time to reflect on their implications. These thoughts are still not fully formed, but I hope both my critics and supporters read them carefully and charitably.

The encounter itself was brief, shocking, and personally significant. I did not plan or initiate this interaction. I was approached and misgendered. Being seen as a man, despite being a woman, was paradoxically validating: for just a minute, I was no longer an Other - the mechitza that has frustrated me for years dissolved. As he carefully wrapped the tefillin shel yad around my arm, I felt connected - to him, to God, to tradition, to the Jewish people. It was a powerful moment, but also painful and wrong - because it was under false pretenses. Though his mistaken assumptions - products of the harmfully rigid gender roles with which he grew up - instigated the encounter, I let it continue without correcting him. Though I didn’t force him to do something wrong, I allowed him to do something he presumably would have been uncomfortable doing given complete knowledge of the situation. Despite our ideological differences, I owed him this basic level of respect as a fellow Jew and as a human. For that I am sorry.

Beyond this, my post was interpreted as personally mocking him, and for that I am also sorry. This was not my intention. The post is a separate entity from the encounter itself, and its goal was dual: on one level, I was knowingly making a sharp, ironic political statement - a criticism of a religious ideology with which I fundamentally disagree. It transcended the human interaction and presented us as caricatures of our respective religious identities. I am not retracting this criticism, but I don't want to be lauded for encouraging that kind of dehumanization. On another level, and more importantly, the photo - also separate from the encounter itself - is powerful because it depicts an instance of accidental pluralism and of shared joy in the mitzvah of hanachat tefillin. It is a serendipitous glimpse of the world I wish I lived in: a world where both he, a bearded chabadnik guy, and I, a buzz-cut egalitarian girl, could be “frum”, regardless of gender or labels, equally bound by mitzvot. I'll end as I did before: Bimheira Beyameinu.
I don't think that I would ever achieve this level of Kavanah.

Ms. Weiler might want to consider the Rabbinate as a career.

H/T Failed Messiah.

*Boxes that contain scripture, and are placed on the non-dominant arm and head in order to conduct certain prayers.
The spiritual focus and awareness required for prayer to "take".

24 June 2015

F%$# Me, I Agree with that Bigot Jeff Sessions*

Yesterday, the Senate voted for cloture on Fast Track authority (TPA), and today, they voted to pass the measure, which will require the House and Senate to vote on any trade agreements within 60 days, and prohibit any amendments or meaningful discussion, which would include including the noxious Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP):
Barack Obama was given the authority he has long sought to expedite negotiations for a massive trade deal with countries on the Pacific rim, propelling the US toward a landmark agreement that, both proponents and critics agree, will reshape the global economy.

The Republican-controlled Senate finally passed legislation on Wednesday that gives the president the power to “fast-track” negotiations with the 11 other countries party to the Trans-Pacific Partnership.

The vote, which passed 60-38, was a significant victory for multinational corporations which have been lobbying hard for a trade agreement expected to lower tariffs and create new regulations for sectors as diverse as agriculture, banking and the pharmaceutical industry.
Let's note that the tariffs among the largest economies in the deal are already around 1%.

What this is really about is aiding rent seeking industries, primarily pharma and finance, by creating new "rights" and forestalling meaningful regulation, because 7 figure lobbying salaries following retirement from politics don't grow on trees.

It is the very apotheosis of rent seeking, and I oppose this bill.

BTW, here is a list of Vichy Democrats who voted for cloture, They should not be supported in ay primary, nor should they be supported in a general election.

In the long run, and in the medium run as well, this would be a good thing, one need only remember how the 1994 electoral debacle, which was driven by NAFTA.
  1. Bennet (D-CO)
  2. Cantwell (D-WA)
  3. Carper (D-DE)
  4. Coons (D-DE)
  5. Feinstein (D-CA)
  6. Heitkamp (D-ND)
  7. Kaine (D-VA)
  8. McCaskill (D-MO)
  9. Murray (D-WA)
  10. Nelson (D-FL)
  11. Shaheen (D-NH)
  12. Warner (D-VA)
  13. Wyden (D-OR)
I would also note that those Democrats who voted for cloture who are up for reelection in 2016, Patty Murray, Michael Bennet, and Ron Wyden are dead men walking anyway, because they have given their opponents such a heavy club..

My Senator, Ben Cardin, would probably have voted for cloture if they needed another vote, but I'll leave him for a later discussion.

As to my agreeing with Jeff Sessions on this (God Help Me), when he says, "President Obama, and allies in Congress, have won this fast-track vote. But, in exchange, they may find that they are losing something far greater: the trust of the American people, I have to honestly agree. (His full statement after break)

This is a bad deal, and a bad thing, and much like in 1994, the Republicans are going to spot weld this on the Democratic Party, which will probably lead to their keeping the Senate.

*Before his Senate career, he was a US attorney, and then he was nominated by Reagan to the Federal Judgeship, but he was rejected by the Senate because of credible allegations of bigotry.

The Problem with the EU in a Few Sentences

I strongly suggests that you read Katharina Pistor's essay on how the EU is betraying its ultimate goal, a unified and peaceful Europe, in their dealings with Greece in her OP/ED, The Problem With a Small Europe:
News headlines notwithstanding, the fundamental challenge facing Europe today extends far beyond Greece. The real question is what kind of European Union Greece’s creditors want: a “small” one, comprising only the countries that are prepared to live by their exacting standards, or a “big” one that heeds the Treaty of Rome’s call for “ever-closer union.”

………

European integration was built on the ideal of a united Europe working together to uphold peace, generate prosperity, and advance democracy. At first, cooperation centered on the creation of a common market, with European technocrats, led by the European Commission’s then-president, Jacques Delors, pushing for a common currency, despite deep structural differences. The assumption was that political integration would follow.

That did not happen. Indeed, the approach was tantamount to putting the cart before the horse – with serious consequences, exemplified in the eurozone’s enduring crisis. Yet the technocrats are back, now advocating a fiscal union to support the monetary union, with political union nowhere in sight.

Perhaps European leaders still believe that the needed political integration will eventually occur. But, even in the unlikely event that it does, a political union that emerges from desperation to save the common currency will be very different from one built purposefully, as the Treaty of Rome envisioned, based on shared values and goals. And, in the meantime, a fiscal union without a political union is an anti-democratic nightmare.

………

In this context, it is perhaps understandable that the creditor countries are increasingly promoting a “small” EU that includes only those that are willing and able to meet their high standards. But, while this might make for a stronger euro – and even a stronger EU – it would carry a huge cost, as it would effectively force members to abandon their democratic ideals. Meanwhile, the excluded countries would be forced to engage in competitive currency devaluations and other beggar-thy-neighbor policies. The dream of shared prosperity in Europe would be dead.

This outcome is not inevitable. A common currency is a means to an end, not an end in itself. If European monetary union is not leading toward the desired end, it – not the goal of ever-closer union – should be altered. And, in fact, most Europeans favor a different means, based on greater flexibility for domestic preferences and a bottom-up approach toward further integration. In such an environment, Greece might not only survive, but thrive.
I would note that the founders of the Euro currency said that their goal was to create a uniform standard of living across Europe.

It appears that they may get their goal, but it will be lowering living standards of more prosperous nations, not raising up their less fortunate neighbor.

Not surprising when one understands that Robert Mundell, the "father of the Euro", is also considered by many to be the "Father of Reaganomics."

Impoverishing ordinary people is a feature for people like Mundell, not a bug.

More Cable Company F%$#ery

Major internet providers, including AT&T, Time Warner and Verizon, are slowing data from popular websites to thousands of US businesses and residential customers in dozens of cities across the country, according to a study released on Monday.
The study, conducted by internet activists BattlefortheNet, looked at the results from 300,000 internet users and found significant degradations on the networks of the five largest internet service providers (ISPs), representing 75% of all wireline households across the US.

The findings come weeks after the Federal Communications Commission introduced new rules meant to protect “net neutrality” – the principle that all data is equal online – and keep ISPs from holding traffic speeds for ransom.

Tim Karr of Free Press, one of the groups that makes up BattlefortheNet, said the finding show ISPs are not providing content to users at the speeds they’re paying for.

“For too long, internet access providers and their lobbyists have characterized net neutrality protections as a solution in search of a problem,” said Karr. “Data compiled using the Internet Health Test show us otherwise – that there is widespread and systemic abuse across the network. The irony is that this trove of evidence is becoming public just as many in Congress are trying to strip away the open internet protections that would prevent such bad behavior.”
Once again, call your congresscritter, and ask them not to support cable company f%$#ery.

23 June 2015

In the Realm of the Blatantly Obvious………

A study of bankers had determined that when bankers are given unrealistically tough performance standards, they cheat:
Bankers are more likely to behave unethically when under pressure to reach tough performance targets, according to a survey of British financial-services employees.

Managers in banking, insurance and wealth management were more anxious and inclined to misbehave when “negative consequences or punishment for poor performance were highlighted,” PricewaterhouseCoopers and the London Business School said in a report on Monday.

“When it made them feel anxious, they tended to say money was one of their key motivators,” Duncan Wardley, a behavioral science specialist at PwC, said in the statement. “They also tended to take more risks and make unethical choices.”
I am so no surprised.

Of course, this could lead to techniques that might enhance banker honesty, but I see that as unlikely.

My Bad! Bernie Sanders is not Going to be Ratf%$#ed in New York

Last week, I noted that Bernie Sanders' independent status would prevent him from being on the primary ballot in New York.

I was wrong. It turns out out that his independent status will not prevent his being on the ballot, though there is always the possibility that they will find a different way to ratf%$# his campaign:
Several New York politics blogs and publications have recently said that Bernie Sanders is in danger of being kept off the New York presidential primary ballot because he is not a Democrat and the Democratic Party has the power to keep non-members off its prseidential primary ballot. Here is the article in Power Line; here is the article in Gothamist. Here is the CapitalNew York story.

The articles are incorrect. The Wilson-Pakula law does not pertain to presidential primaries. The Wilson-Pakula law, sec. 6-120, does keep non-members off the primary ballots of parties (unless party committees approve letting them on), but it only relates to offices for which nominations are made. No state’s presidential primary nominates a major party’s presidential candidate. Only the party’s national conventions do that. The candidates in New York Democratic presidential primaries are individuals running for Delegate to the national convention.
My bad.  I was wrong.

Looters Gotta Loot

And, since the days of GHW Bush's father Prescott laundering Nazi money, the Bush family has been at the top of the looting pyramid:
Jeb Bush had just completed his successful campaign for re-election and now confronted a second term as governor of Florida. Seeking to shape his immediate agenda, he solicited advice from one of his most trusted advisors: David Rancourt, his former deputy chief of staff, who had since become a corporate lobbyist at one of the most powerful firms in the state, the Southern Strategy Group.

“If you were governor, what would you be focusing on for the next two or three years,” Bush wrote Rancourt in an email dated Aug. 13, 2003. “What initiatives do you think we should pursue? How do you think we should do it?”

Two days after sending that note, Bush effectively delivered on one of Southern Strategy Group’s key aims: He signed legislation limiting the dollar value of damages that hospitals and insurance companies could be forced to pay to resolve instances of medical malpractice. The Florida Supreme Court would eventually overturn the bill, arguing that it effectively punished victims of mistreatment in hospitals. But at least for the moment, the governor’s signature handed a victory to Rancourt’s firm, which represented a major association of hospitals. It added to the cachet of the Southern Strategy Group, whose leadership was drawn heavily from the ranks of former Bush staff members and trusted associates.
………

According to IBTimes’ review of email correspondence between Jeb Bush, his top aides and Southern Strategy Group lobbyists, the firm frequently engineered meetings with the governor for its clients. A lobbyist at the firm helped write two of his major speeches. In some instances, Bush sought the direct input of Southern Strategy lobbyists as he crafted his legislative agenda, and he gave them private glimpses of public policy as they represented the corporate interests that had a financial stake in his decisions.
The Bush family has a long history of enriching themselves, and themselves through their political clout.  (Look at the deal that with the Texas Rangers Baseball Team that made George W. Bush's fortune)


Corruption and self dealing?  It's a family tradition.

Google's New Motto: "Be Evil"

The search company is now hiring private goons to harass homeless on public streets near their new offices in Los Angeles: (link temporarily public)
How does Google, one of the most cash-rich and innovative companies in the world, propose to deal with the issue of homelessness in America? What's its 21st century, New Economy solution to disrupt and solve this difficult socio-economic problem once and for all?

In Los Angeles, the company's fix is brilliantly simple: Hire private security to harass and push the homeless out of sight, and then make sure that the smelly bastards and their tents and carts never come back.

I have seen this solution in action myself. I live just around the corner from Google’s new campus in Venice, LA — two big properties located right off the beach, smack in the middle of Venice's tiny Skid Row. Los Angeles is in the grips of a homeless population explosion, with an increase of 12 percent just in the last year. And this small two-square-block area used to be one of the last places where homeless people were somewhat tolerated around these parts.

But not any more — not after Google decided to claim sidewalks for itself and cranked up aggressive security patrols in order to drive away the local homeless population.

"Me and my girlfriend got maced by doing nothing,” a man named "Cory" [not his real name] tells me. He has steely blue eyes and shaggy hair, and looks more like an aging surfer than someone who sleeps rough on the streets. He recounts a recent experience he claims to have had with a Google security guard while sitting on a public sidewalk near the company's campus.

“He wanted us to leave. I had water in both hands so I couldn’t attack. And we’re like, 'what the f%$#, man?' And he was just like, pshhhhh,” he continues, reenacting the hissing sound of the mace spray can and explaining that they were given no time to leave or react in any way. "My girlfriend didn’t want to be there. Actually she was terrified of them. Every time Google security came, she said ‘we gotta go, we gotta go.’ We’re not allowed to be on public sidewalks, even though we’re the public.”

I'm talking to him on a sidewalk in the shade of a small tree on 3rd Avenue, which runs between a self-storage business and the backside of Google’s newest property, a giant warehouse that’s currently being remodeled into an expansive new Google office space.

………

"We running a business here. Can't have homeless people out here like that. We got geeks. They're scaring folks.”

That's what I was told — firsthand, no hearsay — by a Google security guard who was patrolling the perimeter. It was a chilly Los Angeles evening in mid-February, and the security guard wore a fleece and baseball cap emblazoned with the cheery Google logo. A Google employee badge dangled at his belt.

The reason he was speaking so freely is that I hadn't mentioned I was a member of the press — largely because, that evening at least, I wasn't. I was just another Venice area local, on my way home from the gym, who had stopped to chat to the guard. I certainly hadn't expected him to so candidly explain how Google employees — and especially Google executives — were freaked out by the homeless people outside its walls. So freaked out that he was hired on as part of a beefed up security presence aimed at clearing the public street that bisects Google’s two properties of any homeless presence.

………

Google's no homeless on the sidewalk policy may make sense for the company. The catch is that the sidewalks don't belong to Google: they're public property, and a federal court had mandated that Los Angeles allow people to sleep there between the hours of 9 pm and 6 am, as long as they leave a little room for foot traffic and don’t block any doors or driveways. This restriction is part of a settlement that has been in place since 2007, and neither police nor a corporate giant like Google has the legal right to determine who can or cannot sleep on any given chunk of sidewalk in LA.

………

“From the point of view of low-income, African-American, and Latino residents of Venice — what does Google mean to us? Pretty much all bad news,” said Bill Przylucki, who heads People Organized for Westside Renewal (POWER), a community organization in West Los Angeles. “They are gonna displace other type of businesses that do pay taxes — they are gonna get tax breaks. That means less money for the local park, the library, the public services that we rely on. They are not gonna provide jobs to our folks. Our folks are not the people they are gonna be hiring. They are gonna drive up rents, put more pressure on our folks, and put more pressure on landlords to displace our members through evictions and demolitions.”

Przylucki says POWER approached Google to see if the company would use its influence and sheer star power to push for low-income housing in Venice and Los Angeles, and to fight against the criminalization of poverty in their neighborhood. But their attempts at cooperation went nowhere.

“They have a shitload of power," says Przylucki. “But they didn’t show any interest whatsoever in working with that side of the community. And that silence is deafening in terms of their position.”

Google was more than just silent: Community organizations discovered that Google was almost impossible to reach or talk to in any meaningful way on a local level. The company was so centralized and opaque — and so deaf to local requests — that activists say they've had more success in getting giant banks and subprime lenders like Countrywide Financial to address community concerns than they've had in talking to Google.
This last bit is not surprising, actually.

Google has, as a matter of policy, has made it impossible to reach an actual human being in all of its other endeavors, so being unresponsive to community groups is not a surprise.

The last two paragraphs say it all:
Google's founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin like to talk about how they want to leverage their company's resources and immense talent pool to change the world for the better. The company wants to bring Internet connections to the poorest communities around the world and funds efforts to combat human trafficking and gender inequality.

But when confronted at its doorstep with a real societal challenge like homelessness — an issue that truly requires innovation, investment, public service, and political maneuvering — the company simply reverts to the cheapest and meanest solution on the books: hire thugs to push the problem out of sight and force other people deal with it.

The Military Industrial Complex Is Spending Our Military into Oblivion

At the rate that this is going, we will be The Blaster: Flush With Cash, Running on Empty
One of the never ending claims made by proponents of the military technical revolution is that emerging complex weapons technologies create more combat power per unit of labor — that we are substituting capital for labor and technology-intensive capital goods are the key America’s competitive advantage, given America’s high cost labor. This claim is bullshit pumped out by a sound-byte addicted Military - Industrial - Congressional Complex.
For readers who think my rhetoric excessive, consider please the following series of graphics. That the revolution in military affairs (RMA) continues with increasing intensity despite such evidence to the contrary, and without substantive critical debate, says a lot about the dominant values in Versailles on the Potomac.
If the claim made by the RMA evangelicals were true, then a percentage reduction in the size of combat forces would be accompanied by a greater percentage savings in defense budgets. But as this table shows, huge reductions in force size (ranging from 56% to 69%) from the spending peak of the Vietnam War (1968) to the spending peak of the so-called Global War on Terror or GWOT (2010) have been accompanied by a 34% increase in the defense budget, after removing the effects of inflation (using DoD deflators which are biased to reduce the size of this disconnect).



Yet, as the next figure shows, compared to Vietnam, the GWOT is a tiny war, when compared in terms of troops deployed or operational tempos (e.g., total attack sorties).


………

The bottom line should be clear to even the most casual observer: The claim that the ongoing military-technical revolution reduces costs by substituting capital for labor is fact-free claptrap. Moreover the hype about this military-technical revolution, which has became ever more hysterical since the mid-to-late 1980s, has been accompanied by a dramatic worsening of the mismatch been promises and reality.

Perhaps the apotheosis of the cost and labor saving dimensions of the military-technical revolution has been the evangelical rhetoric surrounding the use of “labour saving” unmanned airplanes — drones — in the GWOT. I urge readers in denial about my bottom line to carefully study How America Broke Its Drone Force by David Axe in the Daily Beast (attached below for your reading convenience). Axe describes how the high cost of labor-intensive drone operations has broken the back of the drone force to such a point that it had to cut back operating tempos in the face of the increasing intensity of the offensive campaign waged by ISIS.

Bear in mind, the pathetic misery in the drone force described by Axe coincides with Era IV of the boom bust cycle in the preceding chart of Defense Spending.
In 1985 or so, some wag noted that with current trends, that the entire budget of the US Air Force, including personnel, would cover the purchase of just one aircraft by 2050.

At the rate we are going, we won't have a military, just shiny hardware with no one to operate it.

This is Not a Surprise

In rather unsurprising news, leaked autopsy results reveals that Freddie Gray's death was caused by a "high energy blow" during his ride in a paddy wagon:
Freddie Gray suffered a single "high-energy injury" to his neck and spine — most likely caused when the police van in which he was riding suddenly decelerated, according to a copy of the autopsy report obtained by The Baltimore Sun.

The state medical examiner's office concluded that Gray's death could not be ruled an accident, and was instead a homicide, because officers failed to follow safety procedures "through acts of omission."

Though Gray was loaded into the van on his belly, the medical examiner surmised that he may have gotten to his feet and was thrown into the wall during an abrupt change in direction. He was not belted in, but his wrists and ankles were shackled, putting him "at risk for an unsupported fall during acceleration or deceleration of the van."

The medical examiner compared Gray's injury to those seen in shallow-water diving incidents.
In related news, the Prosecutors have moved to have the evidence sealed, or to have all the evidence posted online:
Baltimore State's Attorney Marilyn J. Mosby wants a judge to block defense attorneys from selectively releasing evidence in the Freddie Gray case — or facilitate an agreement between the two sides to post all of the evidence online in one fell swoop.

In an unusual Circuit Court filing this week, Mosby's office requested a protective order barring defense attorneys for the six Baltimore police officers charged in Gray's arrest and death from releasing any of the evidence due to them June 26 through court discovery, including Gray's autopsy.

Absent that order, however, prosecutors said in the filing they would rather accept a deal to post all of the evidence online than "remain silent" — as is required of them by law — while defense attorneys leak evidence that suits their needs, which Mosby's office said they are inclined to do.

"Indeed, if the Defendants were to consent and the court would so order, the State would have no objection to posting the entire autopsy report on the internet, along with all of the discovery in the case," the prosecutors wrote. "Defendants, however, want to have it both ways. They want the freedom to publicize selected aspects of the discovery, while requiring the State to follow the law that prevents comments in order to ensure a fair trial."

It was unclear whether the suggestion in the court filing was a rhetorical device or if the defense attorneys would consider the offer. Both the state's attorney's office and defense attorneys for the accused officers declined to comment on the motion Tuesday.
The motion to seal the evidence is not surprising, but the motion to release all the evidence is highly unusual:
Baltimore State's Attorney Marilyn J. Mosby wants a judge to block defense attorneys from selectively releasing evidence in the Freddie Gray case — or facilitate an agreement between the two sides to post all of the evidence online in one fell swoop.

In an unusual Circuit Court filing this week, Mosby's office requested a protective order barring defense attorneys for the six Baltimore police officers charged in Gray's arrest and death from releasing any of the evidence due to them June 26 through court discovery, including Gray's autopsy.

Absent that order, however, prosecutors said in the filing they would rather accept a deal to post all of the evidence online than "remain silent" — as is required of them by law — while defense attorneys leak evidence that suits their needs, which Mosby's office said they are inclined to do.

"Indeed, if the Defendants were to consent and the court would so order, the State would have no objection to posting the entire autopsy report on the internet, along with all of the discovery in the case," the prosecutors wrote. "Defendants, however, want to have it both ways. They want the freedom to publicize selected aspects of the discovery, while requiring the State to follow the law that prevents comments in order to ensure a fair trial."

It was unclear whether the suggestion in the court filing was a rhetorical device or if the defense attorneys would consider the offer. Both the state's attorney's office and defense attorneys for the accused officers declined to comment on the motion Tuesday.
My guess here is that they the 2nd proposal is about appearing to be reasonable, even if the alternate proposal is unreasonable on a lot of levels.

My guess is that the prosecutors are (rightly) concerned that the defense will taint the jury pool, and they want to prevent this, because if the trial gets moved to the Eastern Shore or Fredrick, or Hagerstown, she will be forced to deal with a jury that is hostile to the the residents of Baltimore City (i.e. black people), and deeply dubious of any accusations of law enforcement misconduct.

It would be a nightmare scenario for the prosecution.

22 June 2015

Today's must read

Charleston and Amalek.

It's an essay by my brother, Bear who Swims, on Dylann Root and the ethics of whether or not he can/should be forgiven by his victims.

At his bail hearing, some of the relatives of the victims, driven by their faith, stated that they had forgiven him.

My brother suggests, convincingly IMHO, that Torah forbids such forgiveness:
I cannot criticize this on their part, and would not deny them the right to do this.

This forgiveness by the survivors may be very helpful to them, in an existential way. It can help them to choose to continue on with their lives as real people, and not as victims and exemplars.

For them, as they bear the direct consequences of the act, this is a supportable moral choice. I will say that to me rage would also be a supportable moral choice. Whatever helps them.

………

But it is arrogant for the rest of us to speak about forgiveness.  Who are we to forgive, who have not ourselves been injured.

I am not, here speaking about the terrorist*.  He is an irrelevant detail.  Forgive him, if it makes you feel good.

Consider instead, Amalek.

In Torah, Amalek is a nation related to the Israelites, but an implacable enemy -- see D'varim (Deuteronomy) 25:17-19**.  In later rabbinic writing, the term is used to describe all implacable evil.

The greatest of the crimes was
he met thee by the way, and smote the hindmost of thee, all that were enfeebled in thy rear, when thou wast faint and weary
This passage is one of those sections of the Tanakh (Hebrew Bible) that makes 'modern Jews', itchy, as it goes on to say:
thou shalt blot out the remembrance of Amalek from under heaven; thou shalt not forget
as it doesn't seem speak about how we would like the world to work.

However, I will suggest that this message of non-forgiveness is applicable and to the world today.
I would embrace and extend this, and apply this to people who seek to subjugate and destroy other people using scriptural justifications.

Think that Christofascists and gay marriage, ISIS and basically everyone else,  the domestic terrorists who murder abortion doctors, or the Hindu nationalists in India.  (I would note that the death toll from Hindu nationalism dwarfs that of the other three)

Not only should there be no forgiveness for people like this, but there should be no attempt to accommodate their sensibilities.

Their views are a perversion of what it means to being a civilized human being.

In any case, go read his full essay.

Can We Please Not Talk Silver Linings Here?

Gov. Nikki R. Haley called on Monday for South Carolina to do what just a week ago seemed politically impossible — remove the Confederate battle flag from its perch in front of the State House building here. She argued that a symbol long revered by many Southerners was for some, after the church massacre in Charleston, a “deeply offensive symbol of a brutally offensive past.”

“The events of this week call upon us to look at this in a different way,” said Ms. Haley, an Indian-American, who is the first member of an ethnic minority to serve as governor of the state as well as the first woman.

She spoke at an afternoon news conference, surrounded by Democratic and Republican lawmakers including both of the state’s United States senators, Lindsey Graham and Tim Scott, an African-American. “Today we are here in a moment of unity in our state, without ill will, to say it’s time to move the flag from the capitol grounds,” she said.

It was a dramatic turnabout for Ms. Haley, a second-term Republican governor who over her five years in the job has displayed little interest in addressing the intensely divisive issue of the flag. But her new position demonstrated the powerful shock that last Wednesday’s killings at Emanuel A.M.E. Church have delivered to the political status quo, mobilizing leaders at the highest levels.
For Haley, and her ilk, this is not a moral decision, it is merely one of political expedience.

Businesses have never been particularly fond of the flag, and the controversy that it engenders, but politicians who pander to racism (largely the Republican party these days) have been afraid about a backlash from a fanatical minority come election day.

The terrorist attack on the Emanuel A.M.E. Church has changed this political calculus, for a while at least.

I hope that the legislature moves quickly.

I Never Thought That I Would Her to My List of, "People I Do Not Want to Piss Off."

But Taylor Swift has earned her entry into the most noble order of the "People I Do Not Want to Piss Off".

Taylor: 1 — Apple: 0:

Tech oligarchs aren’t supposed to say sorry. And no, Apple hasn’t formally apologized to the music community for demanding that it works for Apple for free, Apple still comes out of it with plenty of credit.

Ten days ago, the contracts for Apple’s new Spotify-ish streaming service leaked out, and they contained an unprecedented request. Apple said artists and rights owners would not be paid for music streamed during the service's first three months. During that time, the service will be offered for free to people, and then rise to something like ten bucks a month.

Typically, streaming pays almost nothing today – fractions of a penny. The segment numbers tens of millions of paying subscribers, and hasn’t achieved scale. But this, from Apple, was genuinely nothing: a big, fat zero. The story flew onto the business pages. Only bottom-feeding pirate websites used artists' work without paying them, and it looked like Apple was diving into the cesspit of file-sharers.

………

Within hours of the world’s biggest pop star weighing in on the side of the indies, Apple caved in. Taylor Swift livened up Sunday with a devastating open letter to Apple, explaining her music wouldn’t be on Apple Music.

By the evening, Apple’s content chief Eddy Cue was tweeting, and phoning reporters, to tell say the no-royalties period was scrapped. Artist will believe it when they see the new contracts arrive: the trial-period royalty may be lower than the regular royalty. But that’s still an epic turnaround – and Apple emerges looking better than anyone expected last week.

Apple clearly wants Apple Music to succeed – and many artists and rights owners want it to succeed, too. This is surprising on the face of it, given that Apple pays barely more than streaming services. (Again, we’ll wait for the first royalty statements before seeing whether this is true.)

 Well played, Ms. Swift.

21 June 2015

I Want this T-Shirt!


This is too awesome for words.

It Appears That Sociological Ethnography Is Not, and Can Never Be, Science………

Alice Goffman released what many consider to be a seminal work of sociological ethnography.

It has now been revealed that many of the details of this study are false.

This is actually not an issue of a violation of professional ethics. In fact ethics in this field requires the obfuscation of data:
Late last month, a Northwestern University law professor published an article calling into question the veracity of a widely lauded book by Alice Goffman, one of sociology’s brightest young stars. The book, On the Run: Fugitive Life in an American City, is an ethnographic study of a black neighborhood in Philadelphia where, according to Goffman’s research, residents live in a mini–police state, constantly in fear of being arrested and sent to jail or prison, often for minor offenses. Goffman conducted her fieldwork, first as an undergraduate at the University of Pennsylvania and later as a graduate student at Princeton University, by embedding herself with a group of men from the neighborhood—they are all given pseudonyms in the book—and carefully tracking their lives over the course of about six years. The result is an extraordinarily detailed portrait of a community—nicknamed “6th Street” by Goffman and never identified by its actual location—in which the criminal justice system dominates people’s lives and systematically cuts them off from opportunity.

On the Run received nearly universal acclaim upon its publication. But according to Steven Lubet, the Northwestern law professor, the book is seriously flawed. Lubet points to two anecdotes that he believes could not have happened as described and a third that seems to implicate Goffman in a felony. The article in which Lubet laid out his concerns touched off a debate both within the academic community and outside of it, one that spilled from sociology message boards onto the pages of the New York Times and caused some observers to wonder whether they were witnessing the opening scenes of an all-too-familiar story of intellectual deception, exposure, and professional disgrace.

Lubet’s article, originally published in the New Rambler Review and adapted by the New Republic, may have touched off the public backlash against Goffman, but he was not the first critic to attack her credibility. A few weeks earlier, many in the world of sociology had become transfixed by a strange unsigned document that had been sent to scores of influential scholars in the field, along with Goffman’s department chairwoman at the University of Wisconsin–Madison. In the document, which quickly made its way online, an unnamed critic made the case against On the Run over the course of more than 30,000 words and 45 numbered “problems,” highlighting what appeared to be inconsistencies in the book’s chronology and casting doubt on the integrity of the research behind it. The document appeared to be the work of an obsessive with an agenda—its tone was at times angry and bitter, and its reasoning could be muddled and hard to follow—but some of the author’s observations seemed damning, or at least in need of explanation. Goffman felt compelled to write a line-by-line rebuttal and submit it to her department.

I spoke to Goffman on the phone on June 5, not long after the University of Wisconsin–Madison released a brief statement saying that it had found the accusations of academic misconduct that had been leveled against Goffman in the anonymous letter to be “without merit.” With that statement in mind, I asked Goffman about what I considered the most problematic points in the letter and asked her to respond to them. From there we talked more generally about her book and how it compares to other works of nonfiction aimed at exposing the strife and degradation suffered by underprivileged populations.


Ethnography can look like an uncomfortable hybrid of impressionistic data gathering, soft-focus journalism, and even a dash of creative writing.

I came away from the conversation with a sense that there are indeed factual inaccuracies throughout On the Run. However, they are not the product of the kind of fraud we’re used to seeing in publishing scandals, and it would be unfair to say they place Goffman in the company of fabulists like Stephen Glass or data-cookers like Michael LaCour. That’s because the majority of what I’m calling “inaccuracies” were introduced into On the Run because the conventions of sociological ethnography required them. In keeping with the methodological protocols of her chosen discipline, which typically demands that researchers grant their subjects total anonymity, Goffman changed details and scrambled facts in order to prevent readers from deducing the identities of the people she was writing about. In the process, she made her book all but impossible to fact-check.

The imperative to anonymize subjects is, in most cases, specifically mandated by the institutional review boards that approve social science research in American academia. And while it does seem possible to me that Goffman embellished some aspects of her narrative in order to tell a more compelling story, it was the steps she took to protect her sources—many of whom commit serious crimes in the book—that have made On the Run all but defenseless against skeptics like Lubet and the author of the anonymous letter. In other words, there is a good bit more than just the credibility of On the Run at stake here. At the heart of this controversy are the fundamental limitations of ethnography as a mode of inquiry. As practiced by many scholars, what is supposed to be a scientific undertaking aimed at systematically revealing truths about the world looks more like an uncomfortable hybrid of impressionistic data gathering, soft-focus journalism, and even a dash of creative writing.

Though it may be Goffman in the hot seat right now, any number of her colleagues could find themselves in a similar position, for the simple reason that producing research that is detached from reality to the point of being unverifiable is a central tenet of their discipline. As a result, some of the most vital and nationally relevant findings that come out of their field, including research on topics of urgent importance, like the conditions of inner city life, are vulnerable to questions about how much truth—and what kind of truth—they actually contain.

………

Elijah Anderson, Goffman’s undergraduate adviser

To that question, Goffman doesn’t have a good answer. As Lubet points out, she so disguised the people and locations that appear in On the Run as to make her accounts effectively unverifiable: She changed the name of every person in her book and altered what she refers to in the preface as people’s “identifying characteristics.” According to Goffman, that meant changing the names of the places her characters inhabit and visit, changing people’s ages and jobs, adjusting the number of people who were present at certain events, moving some of those events around in time. What’s more, Goffman revealed in an interview with the Philadelphia Inquirer that she shredded all of her notebooks and disposed of the hard drive that contained all of her files out of fear that she could be subpoenaed and thereby forced to incriminate her subjects.

………

The third discrepancy was of a different type, however. Goffman said that Chuck was indeed alive at the time of the court hearing. But the field note in which he is described giving his brother a ride was not written down in 2009—Goffman just labeled it that way in the book as part of the anonymization process. When it came to court hearings, she explained, she felt it was especially important to scramble dates because public records can be used with relative ease to identify cases and thus people. In this instance, Goffman said, her failure was in neglecting to make sure that the timeline as presented in the book was internally consistent.

It’s this last example that is most illuminating: unlike the other two, which seem to be innocent, if careless, mistakes, it illustrates the lengths to which Goffman went to change facts in order to protect her subjects. More to the point, that’s exactly what she was supposed to do, according to the rules of ethnography.

………

To find out, I called several sociologists and anthropologists who had either done ethnographic research of their own or had thought about the methodology from an outside perspective. Ethnography, they explained, is a way of doing research on groups of people that typically involves an extended immersion in their world. If you’re an ethnographer, they said, standard operating procedure requires you to take whatever steps you need to in order to conceal the identities of everyone in your sample population. Unless you formally agree to fulfill this obligation, I was told, your research proposal will likely be blocked by the institutional review board at your university.

“Your honor —your word—is the only thing you have to make your stuff believable.”
If all there is to verify your studies is your word, it's not science.  Period, full stop.

If sociological ethnography requires its adherents to produce studies that are by definition irreproducible results, then it is not a science. It is an exercise in historical fiction.

Science requires reproducibility, no saving throw.