23 June 2017

A New Definition of Chutzpah………

The Orange County Sheriff is now defending endemic lying by her staff in sworn testimony by saying that deputees did not know that they were required to tell the truth.

I guess that whole oath, where they swear to, "Tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth," just wasn't clear enough:
The Orange County (CA) District Attorney's office remains in the news. It's not often an entire prosecutors' office gets booted off a high-profile murder case, but that's what happens when misconduct occurs on a massive scale. An open-and-shut murder case with eight victims is now the DA's perpetual nightmare. Judge Thomas Goethals kicked the agency to the curb after uncovering repeated discovery violations committed by prosecutors.

But the problems go back further than this case. The office has hidden the existence of a law enforcement database from defense lawyers (and judges) for a quarter century -- a database holding all sorts of information about jailhouse snitches that may have made the difference in a number of cases.

………

Those in charge of the sheriff's snitch program have been asked to testify in response to perjury allegations. They have chosen not to, with each sheriff's office witness called pleading the Fifth. This chain of events has led to the most jaw-dropping law enforcement statement I have ever read, and that includes arguments made in support of setting toddlers on fire with carelessly-tossed flashbang grenades.

Sheriff Sandra Hutchens claims the veteran officers were unaware they were required to testify honestly during prior court appearances for the death penalty case marred by astonishing degrees of government cheating.
Officers, especially veteran ones, are aware they are required to testify honestly. This is why they're sworn in before testimony. There's a promise made at that point. Not testifying honestly is called "perjury," as the officers are surely aware. High school students taking civics classes are aware of this. No one's really unclear on the whole "tell the truth in court" thing.
The whole of Orange County law enforcement apparatus needs to be disbanded and taken over by outside agencies.

Damn!

While we are on the subject of immoral companies, Mylan Pharmaceuticals board was reelected, and the vote limiting executive compensation is almost certain to be ignored:
Mylan shareholders today did not unseat the drug maker’s board of directors, despite calls for an ouster over the EpiPen pricing scandals and remarkably large executive salaries.

In a vote during an annual meeting in Amsterdam, shareholders approved all incumbent nominees, including Chief Executive Heather Bresch, President Rajiv Malik, and Chairman Robert Coury, who earned a nearly $100 million salary last year amid intense backlash over EpiPen price hikes. The majority of shareholders did, however, reject such executive compensation plans—in a nonbinding vote.

………

However, analysts say the vote is unlikely to have any effect. Speaking to Bloomberg Markets, Ronny Gal, an analyst with Sanford C. Bernstein & Co., said: “There’s no way for this to be enforced.” He noted that, when shareholders have pushed back on salaries in the past, “Mylan’s position was that they need to educate shareholders more on the drivers of why they compensate management the way they do. I would be surprised if they pursue a different path here.” 
It should be noted that binding shareholder votes on compensation are illegal under US law.

This is something that needs to be changed, because control fraud is a staple of the MBA class of managers these days.

It needs to stop.

Your Uber Dead Pool

Uber's week from hell is over, and it starts with Uber's psychopath in chief Travis Kalanick has been forced out by investors following revelations that he was trafficking in stolen medical records of a rape victim in order to discredit her claims:
Travis Kalanick stepped down Tuesday as chief executive of Uber, the ride-hailing service that he helped found in 2009 and built into a transportation colossus, after a shareholder revolt made it untenable for him to stay on at the company.

Mr. Kalanick’s exit came under pressure after hours of drama involving Uber’s investors, according to two people with knowledge of the situation, who asked to remain anonymous because the details were confidential.

Earlier on Tuesday, five of Uber’s major investors demanded that the chief executive resign immediately. The investors included one of Uber’s biggest shareholders, the venture capital firm Benchmark, which has one of its partners, Bill Gurley, on Uber’s board. The investors made their demand for Mr. Kalanick to step down in a letter delivered to the chief executive while he was in Chicago, said the people with knowledge of the situation.

In the letter, titled “Moving Uber Forward” and obtained by The New York Times, the investors wrote to Mr. Kalanick that he must immediately leave and that the company needed a change in leadership. Mr. Kalanick, 40, consulted with at least one Uber board member, and after long discussions with some of the investors, he agreed to step down. He will remain on Uber’s board of directors.

………

The move caps months of questions over the leadership of Uber, which has become a prime example of Silicon Valley start-up culture gone awry. The company has been exposed this year as having a workplace culture that included sexual harassment and discrimination, and it has pushed the envelope in dealing with law enforcement and even partners. That tone was set by Mr. Kalanick, who has aggressively turned the company into the world’s dominant ride-hailing service and upended the transportation industry around the globe.

………

In the letter, in addition to Mr. Kalanick’s immediate resignation, the five shareholders asked for improved oversight of the company’s board by filling two of three empty board seats with “truly independent directors.” They also demanded that Mr. Kalanick support a board-led search committee for a new chief executive and that Uber immediately hire an experienced chief financial officer
That last bit about, "Truly independent directors," seems to me to be a critique of Uber board member Arianna Huffington, who has been a steadfast defender of Kalanick.

Meanwhile, as soon as Travis is out the door, Uber adds tipping to the app, a policy whose only justification was that it would make it harder to claim that its drivers are not its employees.

BTW, in addition to the above, a recent court filing states that Kalanick knew that the recent head of its autonomous driving division had stolen documents and data from his previous employer:
Uber's recently fired CEO, Travis Kalanick, knew that his top self-driving car engineer had Google files in his possession in March 2016, according to newly filed court documents.

The admission was made by Uber lawyers as part of a response to Waymo discovery demands. Uber lawyers served the response on June 8, and it was revealed in a public court motion (PDF) filed by Waymo lawyers late yesterday.

According to Uber, former self-driving car chief Anthony Levandowski told Kalanick that "he had identified five discs in his possession containing Google information." Kalanick told Levandowski not to bring any Google information into Uber. Levandowski later told Uber he destroyed the discs, and Uber never got the discs, according to Uber lawyers.

Waymo sued Uber in February, claiming that the company had trade secrets brought in by Levandowski, an engineer who once worked at Google but quit abruptly in January 2016. Levandowski went on to found his own self-driving car startup, which was purchased by Uber for $680 million. Google has accused Levandowski, who is not a defendant in the case, of downloading more than 14,000 files that contained Google trade secrets and taking them with him. Levandowski has not denied those allegations and has declined to answer most questions, instead asserting his Fifth Amendment rights.
It's no wonder that the Harvard Business Review is calling for Uber to be shut down:
………

But I suggest that the problem at Uber goes beyond a culture created by toxic leadership. The company’s cultural dysfunction, it seems to me, stems from the very nature of the company’s competitive advantage: Uber’s business model is predicated on lawbreaking. And having grown through intentional illegality, Uber can’t easily pivot toward following the rules.

Uber’s Fundamental Illegality

Uber brought some important improvements to the taxi business, which are at this point well known. But by the company’s launch, in 2010, most urban taxi fleets used modern dispatch with GPS, plus custom hardware and software. In those respects, Uber was much like what incumbents had and where they were headed.

Nor was Uber alone in realizing that expensive taxi medallions were unnecessary for prebooked trips — a tactic already used by other entrepreneurs in many cities. Uber was wise to use smartphone apps (not telephone calls) to let passengers request vehicles, and it found major cost savings in equipping drivers with standard phones (not specialized hardware). But others did this, too. Ultimately, most of Uber’s technical advances were ideas that competitors would have devised in short order.

Uber’s biggest advantage over incumbents was in using ordinary vehicles with no special licensing or other formalities. With regular noncommercial cars, Uber and its drivers avoided commercial insurance, commercial registration, commercial plates, special driver’s licenses, background checks, rigorous commercial vehicle inspections, and countless other expenses. With these savings, Uber seized a huge cost advantage over taxis and traditional car services. Uber’s lower costs brought lower prices to consumers, with resulting popularity and growth. But this use of noncommercial cars was unlawful from the start. In most jurisdictions, longstanding rules required all the protections described above, and no exception allowed what Uber envisioned. (To be fair, Uber didn’t start it — Lyft did. More on that later on.)

………

Rotten to the Core

Uber faced an important challenge in implementing this strategy: It isn’t easy to get people to commit crimes. Indeed, employees at every turn faced personal and professional risks in defying the law; two European executives were indicted and arrested for operating without required permits. But Uber succeeded in making lawbreaking normal and routine by celebrating its subversion of the laws relating to taxi services. Look at the company’s stated values — “super-pumped,” “always be hustlin’,” and “bold.” Respect for the law barely merits a footnote.

Uber’s lawyers were complicit in building a culture of illegality. At normal companies, managers look to their attorneys to advise them on how to keep their business within the law. Not at Uber, whose legal team, led by Chief Legal Officer Salle Yoo, formerly its general counsel, approved its Greyball software (which concealed the company’s practices from government investigators) and even reportedly participated in the hiring of a private investigator to interview friends and colleagues of litigation adversaries.

Having built a corporate culture that celebrates breaking the law, it is surely no accident that Uber then faced scandal after scandal. How is an Uber manager to know which laws should be followed and which ignored?

A Race to the Bottom

The 16th-century financier Sir Thomas Gresham famously observed that bad money drives out good. The same, I’d suggest, is true about illegal business models. If we allow an illegal business model to flourish in one sector, soon businesses in that sector and others will see that the shrewd strategy is to ignore the law, seek forgiveness rather than permission, and hope for the best.

………

But because Uber’s problem is rooted in its business model, changing the leadership will not fix it. Unless the model itself is targeted and punished, law breaking will continue. The best way to do this is to punish Uber (and others using similar methods) for transgressions committed, strictly enforcing prevailing laws, and doing so with little forgiveness. Since its founding, Uber has offered literally billions of rides in thousands of jurisdictions, and fines and penalties could easily reach hundreds of dollars for each of these rides.

In most jurisdictions, the statute of limitations has not run out, so nothing prevents bringing claims on those prior violations. As a result, the company’s total exposure far exceeds its cash on hand and even its book value. If a few cities pursued these claims with moderate success, the resulting judgments could bankrupt Uber and show a generation of entrepreneurs that their innovations must follow the law.

Uber fans might argue that shutting down the company would be throwing the baby out with the bathwater — with passengers and drivers losing out alongside Uber’s shareholders. But there’s strong evidence to the contrary.

Take the case of Napster. Napster was highly innovative, bringing every song to a listener’s fingertips, eliminating stock-outs and trips to a physical record store. Yet Napster’s overall approach was grounded in illegality, and the company’s valuable innovations couldn’t undo the fundamental intellectual property theft. Under pressure from artists and recording companies, Napster was eventually forced to close.

But Napster’s demise did not doom musicians and listeners to return to life before its existence. Instead, we got iTunes, Pandora, and Spotify — businesses that retained what was great and lawful about Napster while operating within the confines of copyright law.
On top of all of this, it appears that Lyft has spent years for the rocks at Uber to be turned over revealing the putrescence underneath, and has hit the ground running:


There was nothing inevitable about discomfort with Uber’s scandals driving a rush to Lyft. But Lyft, consciously or not, had correctly identified Uber’s weakness years ago. Uber was unfriendly, so Lyft would be friendly. Uber’s logo was sleek and silver and black, and so Lyft’s would be a bright pink mustache. Uber’s vision of driverless cars sounded like Skynet. Lyft painted a picture of a world with wider sidewalks and more parks.

Some of this was embedded in the company’s origins. Lyft originally distinguished itself by trying to make ride hailing a social experience. You sat in the front seat and fist-bumped the driver. Payment was made through “donations.” This was, in part, Lyft’s way of sidestepping the taxi regulations that Uber simply bulldozed past. And, to be honest, it was annoying — today, Lyft offers much the same frictionless, professionalized ride-hailing experience Uber does. But it seeded an idea of Lyft as a gentle, human company, and Lyft continued to build on that brand.

To Uber, Lyft’s business model was maddening. It took an Uber to pound through the regulations, to take the risks, to build the future. Then Lyft rolled behind with its dumb mustaches and friendly PR operation and did much of what Uber did without incurring the reputational cost.

But the wisdom of that strategy is apparent now. The risk with Uber wasn’t that it would fail at ride hailing. It was that it would lose the public’s trust. For a competitor to benefit from that stumble, it would have to be able to give anxious riders what they wanted: a ride-hailing company that really did seem nice enough, an Uber alternative you could actually trust.
I'm not sure that Lyft consciously positioned itself as an alternative to the deep inhumanity of Ubers Randian vision, but that is where it stands now, and it is in most of same markets, and right now, at least on the basis of the ads I see, Uber is begging for drivers, and Lyft is not.  (I've seen at least 20 Uber ads, and non from Lyft) for drivers over the past week.)

It sucks to be Uber right now, not because Uber has had a bad week, or because the future of the enterprise is in serious doubt, but because Uber is simply evil, much like the SS in that hysterically funny Mitchell and Webb sketch.

It sucks to be Uber right now because being Uber simply sucks.

This is Beyond Contempt

You know that someone is doing something very wrong when Facebook is the hero of the story.

In this case, Facebook refused a warrant from Minnesota cops against Philando Castile's girlfriend after they shot him to death in what is clearly an attempt to dig up dirt on the young woman: (There was no similar review of Jeronimo Yanez who shot Castile)
Everything anyone has ever said about staying safe while interacting with the police is wrong. That citizens are told to comport themselves in complete obeisance just to avoid being beaten or shot by officers is itself bizarre -- an insane inversion of the term "public servant." But Philando Castile, who was shot five times and killed by (now former) Officer Jeronimo Yanez, played by all the rules (which look suspiciously like the same instructions given to stay "safe" during an armed robbery). It didn't matter.

Castile didn't have a criminal record -- or at least nothing on it that mattered. Otherwise, he wouldn't have been allowed to own a weapon, much less obtain a permit to conceal the gun. Castile told Yanez -- as the permit requires -- he had a concealed weapon. He tried to respond to the officer's demand for his ID, reaching into his pocket. For both of these compliant efforts, he was killed.

Castile's shooting might have gone unnoticed -- washed into the jet stream of "officer-involved killings" that happen over 1,000 time a year. But his girlfriend, Diamond Reynolds, immediately live-streamed the aftermath via Facebook. Her boyfriend bled out while responding officers tried to figure out what to do, beyond call for more backup to handle a dead black man sitting in his own vehicle. Only after Yanez fired seven bullets into the cab of the vehicle did officers finally remove his girlfriend's four year old daughter.

To "win" at killing citizens, you must start the spin immediately. Yanez spun his own, speaking to a lawyer less than two hours after killing Castile. Local law enforcement did the same thing. Documents obtained by Tony Webster show Special Agent Bill O'Donnell issued a warrant to Facebook for "all information retained" by the company on Diamond Reynolds, Castile's girlfriend. This was to include all email sent or received by that account, as well as "chat logs," which presumably means the content of private messages. The warrant also demands any communications that may have been deleted by Reynolds, as well as metadata on photos or videos uploaded to Facebook. It came accompanied with an indefinite gag order.

Why would law enforcement want (much less need) information from the victim's girlfriend's Facebook account? It appears officers were looking to justify the killing after the fact. The following sworn statement was contained in the affidavit:

………

The only upside -- and it's incredibly small given the surrounding circumstances -- is Facebook refused to hand over the information on the grounds that the indefinite gag order was unconstitutional. Faced with this pushback, Minnesota police withdrew the warrant. But in the end, Yanez was acquitted and Philando Castile is still dead -- a man who did nothing more than try to comply with an officer's orders.
Seriously, law enforcement in the United States is deeply and profoundly broken.

22 June 2017

Quote of the Day

While Richard Florida’s recommendation that the Democratic Party should target the “service class” makes perfect sense, it presupposes that the Democrats have exercising political power as their main objective. In fact, their real overarching goal is maximizing political patronage opportunities.
Yves Smith
It does explains an awful lot about Democratic Party dysfunction.

Yeah, It's a Sh%$ Show. Anyone Surprised?

After developing the bill in secret, Senate Republicans has revealed their proposal for Trump Care, and it ain't pretty:
The health-care proposal unveiled by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell on Thursday came under immediate attack from conservative and centrist Republican senators as well as industry officials, casting the bill’s viability into doubt even as GOP leaders plan to bring it to a final vote next week.

The 142-page bill, which McConnell (R-Ky.) released after weeks of drafting it in secrecy, drew swift criticism from hard-right senators who argued it does not go far enough in undoing Barack Obama’s signature health-care law, the Affordable Care Act. It also prompted an outcry from centrist senators and medical organizations worried that it takes on the law, known as Obamacare, too aggressively and would lead to millions losing their health care or receiving fewer benefits.

These critics effectively delivered their opening bids in what is expected to be a contentious week of negotiations. McConnell is trying to pass the bill before the July 4 recess, with Republican leaders seeking to quickly learn whether they will be able to fulfill years of promises to roll back the law or whether it’s time to turn to other items on their legislative agenda, such as overhauling the tax code.
The plan here is to get a vote on the bill before anyone has a chance to read it.

The reports that I have read is that the McConnell's version is worse than the house version, (it basically destroys Medicaid, for example) but a bit more back loaded, so as to push the outrage past the next election.

This isn't surprising:  The political calculus here makes it essential to repeal Obamacare and cut taxes for the rich, but actually keeping people from dying is irrelevant.

Good Point

In discussing Brexit, Ian Welsh notes that it presents a conundrum for Labour, "You Can’t Stay in the EU or Single Market And Be For Labour’s Manifesto."

The EU is structured in an aggressively Neoliberal framework, and as such, is incompatible social democracy, which is why support of the EU by the left is fundamentally self destructive.

Money quote:
The EU is a barrier against horrible things the Tories want to do, but it is a roadblock against basic social-democratic policies that Corbyn wants.
One need only look at what has happened to Greece, where an entire country was sacrificed on the alter of neoliberalism to know this.

The EU can work, and the EU can progress, but it needs a healthy dose of fairness and democracy to do so, and the current structure, which cares more about  Deutsche Bank than it does about people, and sees democratic concerns regarding the EU expansion as something to be subverted.

It's a truly toxic mix.

A Coda to the Ossoff Loss

When people talk about how Jon Ossoff outperformed the previous candidate in GA-6, though (as I have previously noted, he did poorly to relative to Hillary Clinton in that election), they noted that he picked up about 20 points on the prior Democratic candidate for Congress.

The interesting thing here is that even though Jon Ossoff ran a generally empty campaign, he actually existed, while the candidate in November, one Rodney Stooksbury, may actually not exist:

As far as I know, Rodney Stooksbury is an actual living human being. I have even spoken with someone who has spoken with someone who swears he exists.

Certain people, however, are convinced that Rodney Stooksbury does not exist. This is because, even though Rodney Stooksbury was the 2016 Democratic congressional candidate in Georgia’s 6th District, nobody could ever actually seem to find a photograph of the guy. Or a campaign website. Or any campaign material. Or anyone who has actually met Rodney Stooksbury. News outlets tried to track down Stooksbury, to no avail. According to one investigation, “when reporters went to his town house in Sandy Springs, no one answered the door. When they inquired with the neighbors, no one had heard of him. He apparently had run no campaign, and had raised no money.” Stooksbury, if not a literal ghost, might as well have been one. In November, shortly before leaving to become Donald Trump’s Secretary of Health and Human Services, Republican incumbent Tom Price was re-elected with approximately 62% of the vote. Rodney Stooksbury, whoever he was, came second. He received 38% of the vote.

This week, the special election to replace Price was held. Republican Karen Handel defeated Democrat Jon Ossoff, 52 to 48, in the most expensive House race in the history of the United States. Over $56 million was spent in total, enough to prevent nearly 17,000 children from dying of malaria. Because Ossoff had positioned himself as a centrist, running mainly on a platform of reducing government spending, a lot of heated debate is now occurring among Democrats. What does this mean for the party? Should it heed the Berniecrats and appeal to the progressive base? If throwing money at a race won’t win it, what will? Might having actual principles and policies do the trick?
Mr. Stooksbury, if indeed that is his name, literally spent no money at all in the election.

Zero ……… Zip ……… Nada.

He was never seen in public ……… No campaigning at all.

Think about the status of party infrastructure after a few years of that.

We really need to go back to the 50 state strategy, if just because the national DNC is so f%$#ing incompetent.

Linkage


Here is a decent primer on net neutrality:

21 June 2017

The NRA is Racist at its Core


Trevor Noah Noticed the Hypocrisy
The NRA can be relied upon to defend the most outrageous justifications for gun owners.

It famously had a nationwide advertising campaign describing federal agents as, "Jack Booted Thugs," which led former President George H. W. Bush to resign his life time membership.

There is nothing that can stay the NRA's absolutist rhetoric, the above case was a full throated endorses of the Branch Davidians in Wako, unless it involves a black person:
Amid the national fury over the death of Philando Castile at a traffic stop in July — a shooting made more horrific by his girlfriend’s Facebook Live broadcast of his final moments — some condemned the National Rifle Association’s near silence on the matter.

The organization had been quick to defend other gun owners who made national news. Castile had a valid permit for his firearm, reportedly told the officer about the gun to avoid a confrontation, and was fatally shot anyway after being told to hand over his license.

So some NRA members were furious when the organization released a tepid statement more than a day after the shooting that merely called it “troublesome” and promised that “the NRA will have more to say once all the facts are known.”

………

On Tuesday, video of the traffic stop was made public, showing Castile calmly telling the officer about his firearms — followed within seconds by the officer shooting him and cursing in what sounds like a panic.

So outrage is boiling again.

And still the NRA has nothing to say.

This is not a surprise.  The whole modern gun control debate has been steeped in racism.

The use of open carry by the Black Panthers in California led to the adoption of restrictive gun laws in California, signed into law by Ronald Reagan, and this led to the 1968 Gun Control Act, and then the NRA went insane, because they wanted guns to protect themselves from black people.

The silence of the NRA is not a bug, it's a feature.

A Steaming Pile of Sh%$ Beats Nothing


Best Tweet on This
As I had predicted,Ossoff lost in the GA-6 special election.

Not only did he lose, but it wasn't particularly close:
President Trump’s hopes of steadying his presidency and his agenda on Capitol Hill were given a lift Tuesday when a Republican won a special congressional election in the Atlanta suburbs.

Republican Karen Handel defeated Democrat Jon Ossoff in Georgia’s 6th Congressional District, retaining a seat that has been in GOP hands since 1979 after a grueling, four-month campaign that earned the distinction of being the most expensive House race in history.

Handel won by almost 11,000 votes and by more than four percentage points, and Ossoff failed to reach the 48 percent mark that he topped in the initial round of voting in April.

Handel’s win will bring fresh attention to a beleaguered Democratic Party that has suffered a string of defeats in special elections this year despite an angry and engaged base of voters who dislike Trump.
So, after over $50 million was spent in the district, Ossoff lost by about 3 times as badly as Hillary Clinton did to Trump in this district in November.

Just so you remember, Ossoff, unlike the other candidates in special elections, was opposed to single payer, and ambivalent on taxing the rich, and made his campaign about nothing.

BTW, the numbers in the above article are not the final ones. As Lambert Strether noted, "Ossoff loses GA-06, by 52.7 – 47.3 = 5.4% (Trump won the district by 1.5%). Not a good look."

It should be noted that in all the other special elections, where candidates endorsed progressive positions and were ignored by the party establishment, significantly outperformed Hillary's results in November.

How many times does the vacuous and empty 3rd Way have to fail before the Democrats take their soul out of hock to big money donors?

My guess is that this number is so big that if we were to use scientific notion, we would put the error term in the exponent as astronomers do.

The mainstream Democratic Party seems determined to pursue Rmoney voters, which is, like the bite of a dog into a stone, a stupidity.

After all, if they didn't vote Obama in 2012, they aren't voting for a Democrat ever.

Trolling Becomes Reality

A week ago, I wrote admiringly of Jeremy Corbyn's proposal to house people displaced by the fire at the Grenfell in empty luxury flats in the area.

Though I did not describe it as such, I felt that this proposal was a world class, and well deserved, troll, but that this would never happen.

I was wrong. The troll has become reality:
Sixty-eight flats in a luxury apartment complex where prices start at £1.6m are being made available to families displaced by the Grenfell Tower fire.

Families who escaped the tower blaze will be able to take up permanent occupation in July and August in the apartments in the Kensington Row scheme about 1.5 miles south of Grenfell, where last Wednesday’s blaze left 79 people dead and missing and presumed dead.

The homes are within the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea but in the more affluent south end of the borough. They have been purchased by the Corporation of London and will become part of its social housing stock.
Grenfell Tower fire: death toll raised to 79 as minute's silence held
Read more

The most luxurious four-bedroom apartments are currently on sale in the development for £8.5m but the homes being released to Grenfell residents are part of the affordable quota being built and feature a more “straightforward” internal specification, but have the same build quality.

The complex includes a 24-hour concierge, swimming pool, sauna and spa and private cinema.

It is not yet clear if the Grenfell residents will have access to the facilities, which are normally not included for those in affordable housing.

“We’ve got to start by finding each of them a home,” said Tony Pidgley, chairman of the Berkeley Group, which built the homes. “Somewhere safe and supportive, close to their friends and the places they know, so they can start to rebuild their lives. We will work night and day to get these homes ready.”

The move follows calls by Jeremy Corbyn for luxury homes in the borough to be requisitioned.

Last week he said: “Kensington is a tale of two cities. The south part of Kensington is incredibly wealthy, it’s the wealthiest part of the whole country. The ward where this fire took place is, I think, the poorest ward in the whole country and properties must be found – requisitioned if necessary – to make sure those residents do get rehoused locally.”
My theory is that Coebyn's proposal scared the hell out of the real estate community,  for whom empty buildings purchased by mobsters, despots, and other money launderers that is their bread and butter.

Had even one of these empty flats been requisitioned, the damage to the very high end London real estate market would have lasted for decades.

As Atrios Would Say, "Time for a Blogger Ethics Panel."*

The Wall Street Journal has just fired its chief foreign affairs correspondent because he was negotiating a business partnership with an arms merchant that he was also covering:
The Wall Street Journal on Wednesday fired its highly regarded chief foreign affairs correspondent after evidence emerged of his involvement in prospective commercial deals — including one involving arms sales to foreign governments — with an international businessman who was one of his key sources.

The reporter, Jay Solomon, was offered a 10 percent stake in a fledgling company, Denx LLC, by Farhad Azima, an Iranian-born aviation magnate who has ferried weapons for the CIA. It was not clear whether Solomon ever received money or formally accepted a stake in the company.

"We are dismayed by the actions and poor judgment of Jay Solomon," Wall Street Journal spokesman Steve Severinghaus wrote in a statement to The Associated Press. "While our own investigation continues, we have concluded that Mr. Solomon violated his ethical obligations as a reporter, as well as our standards."

Azima was the subject of an AP investigative article published Tuesday. During the course of its investigation, the AP obtained emails and text messages between Azima and Solomon, as well as an operating agreement for Denx dated March 2015, which listed an apparent stake for Solomon.

………

Read some of the source documents here: https://www.documentcloud.org/documents/3871143-Jay-Solomon-Documents.html
This doesn't just happen with people covering arms dealers. 

The very rich use their wealth to shape the news and bribe and or intimidate journalists routinely

*Atrios was early to the blogging phenomena, and noted how many in the MSM dismissed blogs because there were no editors, and thus no journalistic ethics. Whenever a mainstream reporter is shown to be corrupt, he ironically made this comment.

20 June 2017

Oh No He Didn't!

John Oliver was covering the coal industry, and its rather silly PR efforts on his show, and a famously litigious coal company CEO sent a cease and desist to prevent the show from mocking him. Much hilarity ensues:T
This past weekend on John Oliver's Last Week Tonight, he took on the issue of "coal" and some politicians' obsession with coal jobs as the only true "American" jobs. The whole segment is interesting, but obviously not the kind of thing we'd normally write up. What we do frequently write about, however, is censorious threats, often from wealthy execs, designed to try to silence people from commenting on issues regarding those doing the threatening. And, it appears that's exactly what happened with coal exec Bob Murray, the CEO of Murray Energy, when he found out that John Oliver was doing a segment that included some bits about Murray.

I recommend watching the whole thing, but the parts about Murray include a brief bit around 4:45 in the video and then a much longer section starting around 12:30 in the video, where Oliver notes:
I'm going to need to be careful here, because when we contacted Murray Energy for this piece, they sent us a letter instructing us to "cease and desist from any effort to defame, harass, or otherwise injure Mr. Murray or Murray Energy" and telling us that "failure to do so will result in immediate litigation..."
This is like waving a red flag in front of a bull, and John Oliver decides to put the spurs to Mr. Murray.

He goes full talking squirrel (just watch the video) on Robert Murray's flabby white ass:



Righteous!

19 June 2017

Amazon Looked at How Loathed Comcast Is, and Thought, "Here, Hold My Beer."


No Mr. Bond, I Expect You to Die
Amazon just took out a patent to block you from comparison shopping on your smart phone while you are in their store:
As grocery shoppers work to digest Amazon’s massive acquisition of Whole Foods for $13.7 billion, the digital storefront recently scored a victory that aims to reinforce the company’s growing investments in brick-and-mortar retail.

Amazon was awarded a patent May 30 that could help it choke off a common issue faced by many physical stores: Customers’ use of smartphones to compare prices even as they walk around a shop. The phenomenon, often known as mobile “window shopping,” has contributed to a worrisome decline for traditional retailers.

But Amazon now has the technology to prevent that type of behavior when customers enter any of its physical stores and log onto the WiFi networks there. Titled “Physical Store Online Shopping Control,” Amazon’s patent describes a system that can identify a customer’s Internet traffic and sense when the smartphone user is trying to access a competitor’s website. (Amazon chief executive Jeffrey P. Bezos is also the owner of The Washington Post.)

When that happens, Amazon may take one of several actions. It may block access to the competitor’s site, preventing customers from viewing comparable products from rivals. It might redirect the customer to Amazon’s own site or to other, Amazon-approved sites. It might notify an Amazon salesperson to approach the customer. Or it might send the customer’s smartphone a text message, coupon or other information designed to lure the person back into Amazon’s orbit.
This is the sort of sh%$ that makes Richard Bruce Cheney look like Pope Francis in comparison.

Good Point………

Chris Dillow makes a very good point, that the fire at the Grenfill highlights an important point, that politics is actually a life and death, and not a chummy sporting event where civility is prized above all else.
While I disagree that with Mr. Dillow's hope that this tragedy will lead to a change in politics is viewed by our politicians and pundits, he is right about the reality of politics.

This sh%$ is real:
There’s one aspect of the Grenfell catastrophe that is perhaps under-appreciated – that it should finally kill off what is perhaps the dominant conception of politics in the media.

I’m thinking here of the idea that politics is an Oxford Union-style game. There’s jockeying for position, gossip and backbiting in which (over)-confidence, fluency and a particular conception of “credibility” are prized above all, but the game is mostly among jolly good chaps. And it’s a low-stakes one. The worst crime is to conduct a “car crash” interview, and the losers retire to spend more time with their trust funds and sinecures.

We see this idea of politics in the matey undertow between presenters such as John Pienaar and Andrew Neil and their narrow roster of guests; the idea that politics is something that only happens in Westminster; the ostracism and patronizing of those whose class, gender or ethnicity excludes them from the game, such as John Prescott, Angela Rayner and Diane Abbott; and the popularity of Boris Johnson, the epitome of Oxford Union politics. One reason why John McDonnell is so hated is that he sees that politics is not just a debating game.

This idea of politics is, though, a lie. The truth is that politics has always been a matter of life and death – especially (though not only) for the worst off.

For me, one of the most memorable political exchanges of the 1980s was when a heckler shouted to Neil Kinnock that Thatcher had “showed guts”, to which Kinnock replied: "It's a pity others had to leave theirs on the ground at Goose Green to prove it." That retort caused outrage because it reminded the political class of the nasty fact that political decisions, rightly or wrongly, have lethal consequences.

………

Herein lies my hope. Grenfell might – just might - be a turning point. It shows that politics can no longer be seen as a debating game from which the poor are excluded. It must instead become a serious matter which has life and death consequences, in which the interests and voices of the worst off are finally given full value, and in which there's no place for childish games.
I hopes that this horrific event will lead the political class, will take politics more seriously as a result.

I despair of this ever happening.

This is a Feature, Not a Bug

Over at Bloomberg, we have a bit of history which describes how US Chipmakers dealt with the toxicity of their manufacturing processes by moving overseas, where they could harm brown people and no one would care:
Results in epidemiology often are equivocal, and money can cloud science (see: tobacco companies vs. cancer researchers). Clear-cut cases are rare. Yet just such a case showed up one day in 1984 in the office of Harris Pastides, a recently appointed associate professor of epidemiology at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst.

………

SIA, representing International Business Machines Corp., Intel Corp., and about a dozen other top technology companies, established a task force, and its experts flew to Windsor Locks, Conn., to meet Pastides at a hotel near Bradley International Airport. It was Super Bowl Sunday, January 1987. “That was a day I remember being at a tribunal,” Pastides says. The atmosphere “bordered on hostility. I remember being shellshocked.” Soon after the meeting the panel formally concluded that the study contained “significant deficiencies,” according to internal SIA records. Nevertheless, facing public pressure, SIA’s member companies agreed to fund more research.

………

Pastides felt vindicated. More than that, he considered the entire episode one of the greatest successes in public-health history, as do others. Despite industry skepticism, three scientific studies led to changes that helped generations of women. “That’s almost a fairy tale in public health,” Pastides says.

Two decades later, the ending to the story looks like a different kind of tale. As semiconductor production shifted to less expensive countries, the industry’s promised fixes do not appear to have made the same journey, at least not in full. Confidential data reviewed by Bloomberg Businessweek show that thousands of women and their unborn children continued to face potential exposure to the same toxins until at least 2015. Some are probably still being exposed today. Separate evidence shows the same reproductive-health effects also persisted across the decades.

The risks are exacerbated by secrecy—the industry may be using toxins that still haven’t been disclosed. This is the price paid by generations of women making the devices at the heart of the global economy.

………

Yet in virtually every study published since the 1990s, Kim read one form or other of the same phrase: The global semiconductor industry had phased out EGEs in the mid-1990s, signaling the end of reproductive-health concerns. The statements made sense. Not only had IBM and other companies publicly announced that the use of EGEs had been discontinued, but the chemicals also had become classified as Category 1 reproductive toxins under international standards, and European regulators had placed them on a list of the most highly toxic chemicals known to science, designating them Substances of Very High Concern.

Still, something nagged at Kim. In focus groups, young South Korean women working in chip plants told Kim’s colleagues it was not uncommon to go months, or even a year, without menstruating. (Some saw these potentially ominous changes to their reproductive systems as blessings, not warnings. It was just easier not to have periods.) As in the U.S., women dominated production jobs in South Korea’s microelectronics industry, which employs more than 120,000 of them, mostly of childbearing age; they’re often recruited right out of high school. Kim and a colleague decided they needed to conduct a new reproductive-health study. They faced a challenge, however, that Pastides and the other U.S. researchers hadn’t, at least on the front end: a lack of industry cooperation.

In 2013 they persuaded a member of South Korea’s parliament to pry loose national health-insurance data. They got five years of physician-reimbursement records through 2012 for women of childbearing age working at plants owned by the country’s three largest microelectronics companies: Samsung, SK Hynix, and LG. Samsung and SK Hynix accounted for the vast majority of women in the study, as the two have long been among the world’s largest chipmakers. The data covered an average of 38,000 women per year. From that number, the researchers looked at the records of those who had gone to doctors for miscarriages.

The results were both undeniable and shocking to Kim, just as they had been for Pastides almost three decades earlier. She found significantly elevated miscarriage rates and a rate for those in their 30s almost as high as in the U.S. factories. And the findings were conservative, because many women don’t go to the doctor for miscarriages, and because production workers couldn’t be separated in the study from those who worked in offices. “This was not the result I had expected,” Kim says.
As an aside here, this is another argument for single payer in some form, it creates a demographic database that is both available and universal that can be used to find problems like these.

………

After the outcry in the U.S. in the 1990s, chemical companies said they’d changed the formulations for the photoresists and other products they supplied to chipmakers, including those in Asia. But testing data obtained by Bloomberg Businessweek show that changes weren’t made quickly or, in some cases, completely.

………

Kim, the epidemiologist, says the secrecy of these settlements is a reason there was so little discussion for so long of the risks in chipmaking. “It was not published in academic papers,” she says. “Just some hidden settlements between the companies and some victims.”

Even today, the chipmakers themselves sometimes don’t know what they’re bringing into their facilities and exposing their workers to. That’s what SK Hynix discovered in 2015 after hiring a team of university scientists to assess the toxic risks in two of its plants.

Some of their results were made public in Korean, but many of the findings remain confidential. An extract of the research reviewed by Bloomberg Businessweek shows scientists found that the plants used about 430 different chemical products each. These included more than 130 deemed to be dangerous enough that employees exposed to them must undergo special health checks; those chemicals are called CMR agents—shorthand for carcinogens, mutagens, and reproductive toxins. In addition to benzene and EGEs, they’ve historically included arsenic, hydrofluoric acid, and trichloroethylene.
The ability to directly or indirectly poison unsuspecting employees is one of the goals of globalization.  It's all about labor and regulatory arbitrage, which is why promises of labor, safety, and environmental protections that we hear about whenever they want to push through a trade deal are empty.

Allowing the 1% to f%$# the rest of us is the goal of modern trade deals, so it's no surprise that this is their actual effect.

18 June 2017

Neat Tech

The good folks at the Air Force Research Laboratory have been working on a radar that uses liquid metal to allow for on the fly reconfiguration:
The US Air Force Research Lab (AFRL) is building antennas using liquid metal to enable changes to the size, shape, and functionality of the electrical wiring.

Currently, the research effort is using gallium, which is known for its use in radars (gallium arsenide and gallium nitride types) and sensors.

"What we are doing here is using the gallium as a metal itself," Christopher Tabor, materials research scientist, AFRL, told Jane's at the US Department of Defense (DoD) Lab Day, held on 18 May at the Pentagon in Washington, DC.

"Gallium by itself melts at about 87° Fahrenheit [30.5° Celsius]. If you blend in materials like Indium it becomes a eutectic alloy that will melt at much lower temperatures," Tabor said. "So this is a conductive fluid below room temperature."

Pre-designed channels inside structural composites are filled with liquid metal to produce an embedded, physically reconfigurable antenna, according to AFRL.
We are all familiar with liquid metals, as the liquid metal in "Mercury" thermometers is now the alloy Galinstan, an alloy of Gallium, Indium, and Tin, and is a liquid from around between -19° and 1300°C.

The theory here is that you could have a series of channels and valves (or perhaps fluidic controls) that would allow a radar to change its shape dynamically, which would eliminate the need for actuators found in more conventional radars.

I call this neat stuff.

The Germans are Getting Nervous

The Germans don't want a Brexit, but if it happens, they want to be sure that it is painful for the British, and they also want to be sure that it won't upset the existing political consensus.

I think that the disaster for Theresa May, particularly in context of the German dogma for austerity, has shaken the German establishment, which is why Wolfgang Schäuble is now talking about how all will be forgiven if Britain decides to forgo leaving the EU:
German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble said that the U.K. would be welcomed back to the European Union if the British decided they no longer wanted to quit the bloc.

French President Emmanuel Macron also said the “door is open” for a return, but warned that it would be much harder to achieve once negotiations have started.

In his first public comments on the matter since the U.K. election, Schaeuble said that “it’s up to the British government to take their own decisions” on Brexit. He said he had discussed the surprise election outcome with Chancellor of the Exchequer Philip Hammond the day after the vote, and concluded that “we have to leave them some days” to decide on the way forward.

Asked if the government might reverse its decision to quit the EU, he said it “would not be helpful” to speculate whether that will happen or not. “The British government has said we will stay with the Brexit,” Schaeuble said in the interview during Bloomberg’s G-20 Germany Day. “We take the decision as a matter of respect. But if they wanted to change their decision, of course, they would find open doors.”
I think that they are afraid that if Brexit happens, and Labour ends up in charge, it won't be a complete clusterf%$#, and could lead to other countries to pulling back from the EU.

Yeah, This is Reassuring

The founder of chat app Telegram has publicly claimed that feds pressured the company to weaken its encryption or install a backdoor.

"During our team's 1-week visit to the US last year we had two attempts to bribe our devs by US agencies + pressure on me from the FBI," Pavel Durov said on Twitter. "It would be naive to think you can run an independent/secure cryptoapp based in the US," he added.

Durov's comments follow earlier unsubstantiated claims that arch-rival Signal was compromised.

"The encryption of Signal (=WhatsApp, FB) was funded by the US Government. I predict a backdoor will be found there within 5 years from now," Durov claimed.
 Live in obedient fear, citizen.

They Would Have to Put Half a Dozen Children on a Spit and Toast Them at the Flame That Comes out of Their Mouth?

Over at the New York Times, Gretchen Morgenson observes that the CEO of United Airlines was fired for paying bribes to politicians, and was allowed to keep his performance bonuses, and asks, "How Badly Must a C.E.O. Behave Before His Pay Is Clawed Back?"

You see, Jeffery Smisek got to keep his bonuses and his generous golden parachute:
United Airlines’ contempt for customers was on full display in April, when it dragged a passenger from an overbooked plane, bloodying him in the process.

Since then, shares of United Continental Holdings, the airline’s parent, have rebounded smartly, so perhaps investors consider the incident an anomaly.

But those who do may want to check out a lawsuit unfolding in Delaware Chancery Court, one that involves the former chief executive of United and a prime figure in the Bridgegate scandal that has dogged Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey. The facts of the case reflect a similar disdain for United’s shareholders by the corporate board members who are supposed to serve them.

At the heart of the lawsuit is the refusal by United’s directors to retrieve any of the $28.6 million received by Jeffery A. Smisek, United’s former chief executive, when he was defenestrated in 2015 amid a federal corruption investigation.

………

These tawdry events have disturbed at least one of United’s institutional shareholders: the City of Tamarac, Fla., Firefighters Pension Trust Fund. In a litigation demand, it requested that the company’s board claw back the severance pay given to the executives who took part in the bribery scandal. By doing so, United’s board would correct its breach of fiduciary duty and prevent “the unjust enrichment” of company executives.

Seems fair enough. But United’s board has refused. Its justification for not recouping the pay is, well, pretty rich.

In a letter to the pension fund, a lawyer for United explained that it would harm the company to give the board “unfettered discretion to recoup compensation” in cases involving wrongdoing. “Where such discretion is out of step with industry norms,” the letter said, it would “make it difficult for United to recruit and retain top talent, particularly at the senior management level.”
Murder parent? Check.

Ask for mercy as an orphan? Check.

We really need to start throwing executives in jail for this sh%$.

Badass of the Day

Patty Lupone: (Warning, F-Bomb dropped)



Needless to say, she has been added to the order of People I Do Not Want to Piss Off.

Testing Facebook OG: Title Tag on Blogger



this is a test, please ignore.

17 June 2017

0 for 6 This Session

For the 6th time, the Supreme Court has reversed a decision from the Federal Circuit (Patent Court):
Yesterday the Supreme Court vacated in part and reversed in part the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit’s decision in the consolidated patent cases Sandoz v. Amgen and Amgen v. Sandoz, completing the specialized circuit’s dismal 0-for-6 record in patent cases at the court this year.

The case involved another skirmish in the long-running battle between research pharmaceutical companies, which tend to seek more intellectual property and regulatory protections for their innovations, and generic pharmaceutical companies, which typically seek to curb intellectual property and regulatory protections.

………

Sandoz emerged as the clear victor in the case, winning the right to bring “biosimilar” versions of complex biologic drugs to market sooner and also gaining a small but potentially important procedural right for future litigations.


………

The first specific legal issue in the case was whether, when Sandoz filed an FDA application to market a biosimilar to Amgen’s biologic drug, Amgen was entitled to obtain Sandoz’s application. On this question, the court provided only a partial answer. It held that Amgen could not get a federal injunction to force Sandoz to turn over the application.

The Federal Circuit had also reached that conclusion, but the Supreme Court did not agree with the lower court’s reasoning. Although the Federal Circuit held that federal injunctive relief was foreclosed by Section 271(e) in the Patent Act (35 U.S.C. § 271(e)), the Supreme Court relied exclusively on 42 U.S.C. § 262(l)(9)(C), which is the provision in the Biologics Act that authorizes research pharmaceutical companies such as Amgen to sue for declaratory injunctions if generic companies such as Sandoz do not turn over their biosimilar applications.


………

The second issue decided by the court was whether Sandoz provided Amgen the proper notice of its intent to market a biosimilar. The Biologics Act requires companies seeking to market biosimilars to provide notice to the first biologics company “not later than 180 days before the date of the first commercial marketing of the [biosimilar] product licensed [by the FDA].”

Sandoz sent Amgen notice while its biosimilar application was still pending before the FDA, and the Federal Circuit held that Sandoz had provided the notice too early. The court of appeals believed that the notice would have “to follow [FDA] licensure, at which time the product, its therapeutic uses, and its manufacturing processes are fixed.”

That holding of the Federal Circuit was the financial crux of the case. A delay of 180 days (approximately half a year) can mean hundreds of millions of dollars in additional revenue for a drug company that retains exclusivity over the original biologic. The Federal Circuit’s ruling meant that any company seeking to market a biosimilar would have to stay out of the market for the entire time of the FDA’s licensing process plus another 180 days after the FDA issued the license.

The Supreme Court reversed the Federal Circuit on this issue and held that “the applicant may provide notice either before or after receiving FDA approval.” To the justices, that result followed from the language of the statute, which imposes only a “single timing requirement” (180 days before commercial marketing of the biosimilar) not “two timing requirements” (after FDA licensure and 180 days before commercial marketing).
To simplify this, once again the Patent Court went with a position that favored the IP holder that had no justification in the statute (they do a lot of that), and then SCOTUS slapped them down.

It's getting to be a regular thing, because the United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit is completely out of control.  Case in point, this court has literally allowed for the patenting of a rainy day.

This court really needs to be shut down, and its judges transferred to Dancing with the Stars or somesuch.

Payback is a Bitch, Corporate Edition

No, I am not referring to Uber, but rather the moral reprobates who comprise Mylan NV board of directors.

You remember Mylan, don't you? They are the ones who jacked up the price of the EpiPen and defrauded Medicaid.

Now their board is facing a shareholder challenge:
An influential advisory firm, the Institutional Shareholder Services (ISS), has urged Mylan’s already mutinous shareholders to vote against the company's incumbent board of directors following the damaging EpiPen scandal and exorbitant executive salaries, Reuters and Bloomberg report.

The ostensible price gouging and greed of the incumbent board led to “significant destruction in shareholder value” and “long-term reputational damage,” ISS wrote in an e-mailed report. In an unusually aggressive move, it urged shareholders to try to oust ten Mylan director nominees, including Chief Executive Heather Bresch, President Rajiv Malik, and Chairman Robert Coury, as well as the compensation committee members.

“All incumbent directors should be considered accountable for material failures of risk oversight over a number of years, when warning signs were available to the company but no actions appear to have been taken,” the firm concluded.

In addition, ISS called executive compensation decisions “egregious,” urging shareholders to reject the company’s compensation packages. Those included paying Coury more than $160 million in compensation and payments last year.

The recommendations from ISS echo that of a campaign from a group of shareholders, who urged their fellow investors to vote against the board, which the group said “reached new lows in corporate stewardship in 2016.” It also follows a government report that Mylan overcharged taxpayers up to $1.27 billion over 10 years by misclassifying EpiPens under the Medicaid Drug Rebate Program. Mylan had previously agreed to settle the matter with the federal government for just $465 million.
Unfortunately, it requires a ⅔ super-majority to remove a member of the board, but the fact that there is a challenge, and that a well respected firm has called them irresponsible in no uncertain terms, means that the writing is on the wall.

If this gets enough ink in their official headquarter nation of the Netherlands, (particularly if the outrageous executive compensation levels) then they might see some regulatory actions on that end.

I Don't Expect This to Last

In response to the shooting of a Republican Congressman at a baseball practice in Arlington, Virginia, Ted Nugent is now saying that people should be more civil in discussing politics, and he said that this would apply to him.

I expect the aging rocker to break his promise before Labor Day:
Singer Ted Nugent claims that he has seen the light and will stop using toxic rhetoric to attack Democrats.

In a Thursday interview with 77WABC Radio, Nugent swore that he has “reevaluated” his language and would refrain from saying “anything that can be interpreted as condoning or referencing violence.”

“At the tender age of 69, my wife has convinced me I just can’t use those harsh terms,” he admitted. “I cannot and will not and I encourage even my friends/enemies on the left, in the Democrat and liberal world, that we have got to be civil to each other.”

Nugent is well known for attacking Democrats, particularly former Secretary Hillary Clinton, former President Barack Obama and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT). He once referred to the former president as “a piece of sh*t” and “sub-human mongrel” and urged him to “suck on my machine gun.” He then went on to encourage Clinton to “ride one of these into the sunset, you worthless b*tch.”
Anyone want to set up an office pool on when Nugent goes all assassination again?

Linkage

This cure for IT department bullsh%$ both works, and shows the inanity of many IT department policies:

16 June 2017

World Class Trolling

In response to a Trump lawyer suggesting that former FBI Director James Comey should be prosecuted for leaking his notes about the Trump meeting, Vladimir Putin has offered him political asylum in Russia.

This is is truly inspired trolling:
Russian President Vladimir Putin on Thursday offered to give political asylum to former FBI Director James Comey, poking at tensions between Comey and President Trump.

“If Comey will be under the threat of political persecution, we are ready to accept him here,” Putin said at a press conference, according to Russian state media outlet TASS.

Comey testified last week that Trump pressured him to "let go" of the FBI investigation into former national security adviser Michael Flynn before Trump fired him. Comey acknowledged leaking his personal memos about his conversations with Trump to the media, which the White House has seized on to attack the former FBI head's credibility.

Putin compared Comey's decision to leak details of conversations with Trump to the actions of Edward Snowden, the National Security Agency leaker who was granted asylum by Russia.
It appears that KGB training includes a 300 level course in training, because is the best trolling I have seen since Jeremy Corbyn suggested that the displaced Grenfell fire victims be lodged in empty houses bought as investments by rich people in the neighborhood.

Daym!  This has been a good week for trolling.

Gripen E Makes Maiden Flight

The upgraded Gripen, which is basically a completely new aircraft, jas just made its first flight:
Swedish aerospace and defense company Saab has completed the first flight of its prototype E-model Gripen fighter jet.

The prototype, coded 39-8, took to the air at 10:32 a.m. local time June 15 from the company’s development facility at Linkoping, flying for 40 min. and reaching an altitude of 13,000 ft. before touching down safely.

Video and imagery of the aircraft departing and inflight showed a relatively short takeoff run in dry power and revealed that the company retracted the landing gear inflight, a relatively rare occurrence in first flights. Two twin-seat JAS-39D Gripens acted as chase aircraft.
The aircraft took 10 years to develop, which by the standard of modern fighter development is a very short time, and while pricier than its it is still far cheaper to operate than its competitors.

Total employment on the program is less than that of just the program office for the F-35, and total development cost for the program was less than that of the most recent software release for the JSF. (link)

There is no reasonable justification for the protracted and expensive developments that have become the standard in western fighter programs.

Here is a PR video from Saab:

Where I Endorse a Company That I Try to Avoid

It's an auto body shop, and so it's not a place where you want to go unless you have to.

Who wants to be rear-ended by some inattentive bloke in a Ford, but if you do I highly recommend Iggy's Auto Body.

He is competent, timely, and above all, honest.

(on edit)

Contact information:
Iggy's Auto Body
2929 Industrial Park Dr., # N
Finksburg, Maryland 21048

Phone    (410) 526-2900

Quote of the Day

Self-regulation stands in relation to regulation the way self-importance stands in relation to importance.
Willem Buiter
Unfortunately, the original article where this appeared has been lost to link rot.

Tories Are Lucky That the Grenfell Fire Did Not Happen Two Weeks Ago

By now, you have doubtless heard of the Grenfell Tower fire in London, where perhaps as many as 100 people in a public housing tower died in a ferocious blaze.

The facts at this point are that the residents had been complaining about potential fire hazards for years, and the fire was likely made much worse by the addition of cosmetic cladding that was both flammable (so flammable that it has been banned in the US) and functioned as a chimney for the flames.

The indications are that the cladding was added because the building was located in the very tony Kensington borough, and they wanted to improve the views.

Theresa May should be thanking her lucky stars that this didn't happen before the election, because her housing/fire safety minister specifically argued against better fire regulations, and when May initially went to the scene of the fire, she refused to meet with the former residents of the apartments.

By comparison, Jeremy Corbyn visited with the former residents, and promised that they would be told what happened.

Heck, even the singer Adele went to talk to the fire victims.

If this had happened a week before the elections, Jeremy Corbyn would now be the Prime Minister.

BTW, Corbyn has already made a proposal to help the people displaced by the fires, he wants to put them in the empty flats in the area that are owned by rich people who use London real estate to launder their money:
Empty flats in North Kensington should be "requisitioned if necessary" for people left homeless by the Grenfell Tower fire, Jeremy Corbyn says.

The Labour leader has also said he is "very angry" that so many lives were lost in a deadly tower block fire.

………

And he told MPs on Thursday: "The south part of Kensington is incredibly wealthy, it's the wealthiest part of the country.

"The ward where this fire took place is, I think the poorest ward in the whole country.

"And properties must be found, requisitioned if necessary, in order to make sure those residents do get re-housed locally.

"It cannot be acceptable that in London you have luxury buildings and luxury flats kept as land banking for the future while the homeless and the poor look for somewhere to live."
It a good solution, and it is precisely the sort of action that makes Tory heads explode, which makes it even more delicious.

15 June 2017

Tweet of the Day


Suddenly, when it's white Republicans who get shot, people start to wonder about guns.

Wells Fargo Again

In addition to creating phony accounts for customers, it appears that Wells Fargo modified mortgages of people who had filed for bankruptcy, which is illegal in at least two levels:
Even as Wells Fargo was reeling from a major scandal in its consumer bank last year, officials in the company’s mortgage business were putting through unauthorized changes to home loans held by customers in bankruptcy, a new class action and other lawsuits contend.

The changes, which surprised the customers, typically lowered their monthly loan payments, which would seem to benefit borrowers, particularly those in bankruptcy. But deep in the details was this fact: Wells Fargo’s changes would extend the terms of borrowers’ loans by decades, meaning they would have monthly payments for far longer and would ultimately owe the bank much more.

Any change to a payment plan for a person in bankruptcy is subject to approval by the court and the other parties involved. But Wells Fargo put through big changes to the home loans without such approval, according to the lawsuits.

The changes are part of a trial loan modification process from Wells Fargo. But they put borrowers in bankruptcy at risk of defaulting on the commitments they have made to the courts, and could make them vulnerable to foreclosure in the future.
Seriously, what does a bankster need to do to get arrested in the USA?

Here's Hoping that Someone Rolls on the Governor

There have now been manslaughter charges filed against senior officials in Michigan over the poisoning of Flint.

Given that the water change appears to have largely been driven by Governor Snyder attempting to benefit political supporters from the fracking industry, so if this gets followed to the top, Snyder may find himself in the dock:
Michigan’s health department director and four other officials involved with Flint’s lead-contaminated water were charged Wednesday with involuntary manslaughter, the most serious charges to date in the criminal investigation.

Nick Lyon was accused of misconduct in office and involuntary manslaughter, becoming the highest-ranking member of Gov. Rick Snyder’s administration to be targeted in the criminal probe. The manslaughter charges carries a penalty of up to 15 years in prison and a $7,500 fine, while the misconduct charge carries a prison sentence of up to five years and a $10,000 fine.

Lyon, former Flint Emergency Manager Darnell Earley, former Michigan Department of Environmental Quality Drinking Water Chief Liane Shekter-Smith, state Water Supervisor Stephen Busch and former Flint Water Department Manager Howard Croft are accused of failing to alert the public about an outbreak of Legionnaires’ disease in the Flint area. Earley, Shekter-Smith, Busch and Croft already have been charged with less-serious crimes.
I am so hoping that Snyder ends up in the dock.

Pass the Popcorn………

I have always said that the whole Russian conspiracy thing is bullsh%$, with the actual crime, at best, being a violation of campaign finance laws.

That being said, the cliche, "It ain't the crime, it's the coverup," does apply.

It turns out that attempting to instruct an investigation of a crime is still obstruction of justice, even if the underlying crime turns out not to have happened.

It appears that Bob Mueller is investigating Trump for obstruction of justice:
The special counsel overseeing the investigation into Russia’s role in the 2016 election is interviewing senior intelligence officials as part of a widening probe that now includes an examination of whether President Trump attempted to obstruct justice, officials said.

The move by special counsel Robert S. Mueller III to investigate Trump’s conduct marks a major turning point in the nearly year-old FBI investigation, which until recently focused on Russian meddling during the presidential campaign and on whether there was any coordination between the Trump campaign and the Kremlin. Investigators have also been looking for any evidence of possible financial crimes among Trump associates, officials said.

Trump had received private assurances from then-FBI Director James B. Comey starting in January that he was not personally under investigation. Officials say that changed shortly after Comey’s firing.
Normally, this would alarm me, but when this news is coupled with the fact that Mike Pence is lawyering up over the same investigation, which implies that even if the Vice President expects to be the target of investigation as well:
Vice President Pence has hired outside legal counsel to help with both congressional committee inquiries and the special counsel investigation into possible collusion between President Trump’s campaign and Russia.

The vice president’s office said Thursday that Pence has retained Richard Cullen, a Richmond-based lawyer and chairman of McGuireWoods who previously served as a U.S. attorney in the Eastern District of Virginia.

Pence’s decision comes less than a month after Trump hired his own private attorney, Marc E. Kasowitz, to help navigate the investigations related to the Russia probe, and a day after The Washington Post reported that special counsel Robert S. Mueller III is widening his investigation to examine whether the president attempted to obstruct justice.

“I can confirm that the Vice President has retained Richard Cullen of McGuireWoods to assist him in responding to inquiries by the special counsel,” said Jarrod Agen, a Pence spokesman, in an emailed statement. “The Vice President is focused entirely on his duties and promoting the President’s agenda and looks forward to a swift conclusion of this matter.”
I am amused.