24 April 2017


Simon's Cat on Boxes

*In any discussion of Charles Murray, it should be noted that he Burned a Cross on a hill next to the local police station. He claims not to know the significance ……… In 1960 ……… With both the civil rights movement and Klan terrorism in full swing. Bullsh%$. He's a man who has made a career out of being a professional racist.

23 April 2017

It's Le Pen and Macron

I didn't expect Jean-Luc Mélenchon to make it too the runoff, but I am still bummed that it's going to be Emmanuel Macron and Marine Le Pen in the runoff:
In France’s most consequential election in recent history, voters on Sunday chose Emmanuel Macron and Marine Le Pen to go to a runoff to determine the next president, official returns showed. One is a political novice, the other a far-right firebrand — both outsiders, but with starkly different visions for the country.

The result was a full-throated rebuke of France’s traditional mainstream parties, setting the country on an uncertain path in an election that could also decide the future of the European Union.

It is the first time in the nearly 59-year history of France’s Fifth Republic that both of the final candidates are from outside the traditional left-right party structure. Together, they drew less than half the total votes cast in a highly fractured election.

Even before the official tallies were announced, the political establishment was rallying behind Mr. Macron, warning of the dangers of a victory by Ms. Le Pen’s far-right National Front, though few analysts give her much of a chance of winning the May 7 runoff.
I am surprised that the scandal plagued Fillon got as many votes as he did.

Some things to note: 
If I were a Frenchman, I would walk into the ballot box, and urinate in it during the runoff.

As an aside, I think that the French system with its imperial Presidency is showing itself to be somewhat problematic.

Perhaps moving back to a parliamentary system with a relatively high election threshold (10+ percent) or a first past the post constituency system would better serve the citizens of L'hexagone.

The New York Times Weighs in on Comey

The article is long, but a read reveals something very basic: That James Comey was a rather clueless narcissist who ignored standard procedures because he wanted to ingratiate himself to Republicans:
The day before he upended the 2016 election, James B. Comey, the director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, summoned agents and lawyers to his conference room. They had been debating all day, and it was time for a decision.

Mr. Comey’s plan was to tell Congress that the F.B.I. had received new evidence and was reopening its investigation into Hillary Clinton, the presidential front-runner. The move would violate the policies of an agency that does not reveal its investigations or do anything that may influence an election. But Mr. Comey had declared the case closed, and he believed he was obligated to tell Congress that had changed.


What he did not say was that the F.B.I. was also investigating the campaign of Donald J. Trump. Just weeks before, Mr. Comey had declined to answer a question from Congress about whether there was such an investigation. Only in March, long after the election, did Mr. Comey confirm that there was one.


An examination by The New York Times, based on interviews with more than 30 current and former law enforcement, congressional and other government officials, found that while partisanship was not a factor in Mr. Comey’s approach to the two investigations, he handled them in starkly different ways. In the case of Mrs. Clinton, he rewrote the script, partly based on the F.B.I.’s expectation that she would win and fearing the bureau would be accused of helping her. In the case of Mr. Trump, he conducted the investigation by the book, with the F.B.I.’s traditional secrecy. Many of the officials discussed the investigations on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to reporters.

Mr. Comey made those decisions with the supreme self-confidence of a former prosecutor who, in a distinguished career, has cultivated a reputation for what supporters see as fierce independence, and detractors view as media-savvy arrogance.


Mr. Comey’s defenders regard this as one of the untold stories of the Clinton investigation, one they say helps explain his decision-making. But former Justice Department officials say the F.B.I. never uncovered evidence tying Ms. Lynch to the document’s author, and are convinced that Mr. Comey wanted an excuse to put himself in the spotlight.


Mr. Comey’s criticism — his description of her carelessness — was the most controversial part of the speech. Agents and prosecutors have been reprimanded for injecting their legal conclusions with personal opinions. But those close to Mr. Comey say he has no regrets.

By scolding Mrs. Clinton, Mr. Comey was speaking not only to voters but to his own agents. While they agreed that Mrs. Clinton should not face charges, many viewed her conduct as inexcusable. Mr. Comey’s remarks made clear that the F.B.I. did not approve.

Former agents and others close to Mr. Comey acknowledge that his reproach was also intended to insulate the F.B.I. from Republican criticism that it was too lenient toward a Democrat.

At the Justice Department, frustrated prosecutors said Mr. Comey should have consulted with them first. Mrs. Clinton’s supporters said that Mr. Comey’s condemnations seemed to make an oblique case for charging her, undermining the effect of his decision.

“He came up with a Rube Goldberg-type solution that caused him more problems than if he had just played it straight,” said Brian Fallon, the Clinton campaign press secretary and a former Justice Department spokesman.
It is really a pretty sad picture, and it reveals how a political operative can manipulate him fairly easily.

This is profoundly disturbing, though if Democrats take a similar tack against him with Trump as the Republicans did with Clinton my outrage would be muted, but it's not gonna happen with the red scare bullsh%$ being passed around. 

They really have to target the ongoing corruption and lawlessness in the Trump administration, particularly with regard to the AG Jeff Sessions.

This is the sort of thing that will jam up Comey, and force him to investigate and hold uncomfortable press conferences.

Another Staple of Neoliberal Economics Falls

Correlation does not imply causation, but lack of correlation does imply lack of causation.

As such the /complete lack of causation between minimum wage levels and employment puts a stake through the heart of the trope that minimum wages kill jobs:
Since the passage of the Fair Labor Standards Act in 1938, business interests and conservative politicians have warned that raising the minimum wage would be ruinous. Even modest increases, they’ve asserted, will cause the U.S. economy to hemorrhage jobs, shutter businesses, reduce labor hours, and disproportionately cast young people, so-called low-skilled workers, and workers of color to the bread lines. As recently as this year, the same claims have been repeated, nearly verbatim.

Raise wages, lose jobs, the refrain seems to go.

If the claims of minimum-wage opponents are akin to saying “the sky is falling,” this report is an effort to check whether the sky did indeed fall. In this report, we examine the historical data relating to the 22 increases in the federal minimum wage between 1938 and 2009 to determine whether or not these claims—that if you raise wages, you will lose jobs—can be substantiated. We examine employment trends before and after minimum-wage increases, looking both at the overall labor market and at key indicator sectors that are most affected by minimum-wage increases. Rather than an academic study that seeks to measure causal effects using techniques such as regression analysis, this report assesses opponents’ claims about raising the minimum wage on their own terms by examining simple indicators and job trends.

The results were clear: these basic economic indicators show no correlation between federal minimum-wage increases and lower employment levels, even in the industries that are most impacted by higher minimum wages. To the contrary, in the substantial majority of instances (68 percent) overall employment increased after a federal minimum-wage increase. In the most substantially affected industries, the rates were even higher: in the leisure and hospitality sector employment rose 82 percent of the time following a federal wage increase, and in the retail sector it was 73 percent of the time. Moreover, the small minority of instances in which employment—either overall or in the indicator sectors—declined following a federal minimum-wage increase all occurred during periods of recession or near recession. That pattern strongly suggests that the few instances of such declines in employment are better explained by the overall national business cycle than by the minimum wage.

These employment trends after federal minimum-wage increases are not surprising, as they are in line with the findings of the substantial majority of modern minimum-wage research. As Goldman Sachs analysts recently noted, citing a state-of-the-art 2010 study by University of California economists that examined job-growth patterns across every border in the U.S. where one county had a higher wage than a neighboring county, “the economic literature has typically found no effect on employment” from recent U.S. minimum-wage increases. This report’s findings mirror decades of more sophisticated academic research, providing simple confirmation that opponents’ perennial predictions of job losses when minimum-wage increases are proposed are rooted in ideology, not evidence.
Of course, this runs counter to the two rules of neoliberalism:
  1. Because markets.
  2. Go die!
But neoliberalism has never lived up to its promise of a rising tide lifting all boats.

It's widespread adoption have correlated to reduced growth and falling wages, though, of course, we know that correlation does not imply causation.

H/t The Big Picture.

22 April 2017

An Old Home Remedy that Worked for Me

They are such cute merciless killing machines
With a feral cat in our house, the infamous RP the Cat, our decidedly non-feral cats, Meatball/Mousetrap and Destructo have suffered from fleas.

This has particularly been hard on Destructo, as he is a long hair.

I have tried the normal treatments, Frontline® and Advantage®, but they have been of limited effectiveness, I think that the fleas have developed resistance, and they are rather pricey, and Destructo must have the back of his head shaved (he hates this) for this to work, because otherwise it never makes contact with his skin.

I had heard that brewers yeast ameliorates flea infestations, so twice a week, we take a can of wet cat food, mix in two heaping teaspoons of brewers yeast.

The cats love the wet food, and it works like a dream.

Destructo is now almost completely free of flea sores, and their fur is thicker and more luxurious.

It's easy, cheap, and it involves no cat induced blood loss.

21 April 2017

Gotta Check This out When It Hits the Library

I am of course referring to the scathing tell all Shattered: Inside Hillary Clinton's Doomed Campaign.

I've read the reviews, Matt Taibbi has my favorite review, and what stands out is how everyone involved with campaign knew that Hillary Clinton had no reason to tun for president beyond her sense of personal entitlement:
"All of the jockeying might have been all right, but for a root problem that confounded everyone on the campaign and outside it," they wrote. "Hillary had been running for president for almost a decade and still didn't really have a rationale."
As Taibbi notes:
Shattered is sourced almost entirely to figures inside the Clinton campaign who were and are deeply loyal to Clinton. Yet those sources tell of a campaign that spent nearly two years paralyzed by simple existential questions: Why are we running? What do we stand for?


The real protagonist of this book is a Washington political establishment that has lost the ability to explain itself or its motives to people outside the Beltway.

In fact, it shines through in the book that the voters' need to understand why this or that person is running for office is viewed in Washington as little more than an annoying problem.
This should make for a fascinating read.

It also appears to prove that old adage, "You can't beat something with nothing."

It's Bank Failure Friday!!!

I missed a credit union last week, and there was one this week as well:

The credit union closings:
  1. Shreveport Federal Credit Union ​Shreveport,Shreveport, ​LA
  2. Community United Federal Credit Union, Waycross, ​GA
Here is the Full NCUA list.

Once again, we are looking at a year where credit union failures out pace commercial bank failures.

I'm not sure why, but it is odd.

Clearly Got His Law Degree Out of a Cracker Jack Box

Acting New York State Supreme Court Justice John Galasso, who never read the Constitution through completely: He stopped before the first amendment.

A note of reassurance here: The New York Supreme court is just what they call the trial court there, a rather different application of the term than the common usage.

Live in Obedient Fear, Citizen!

It looks like Jeff Sessions will be seeking to press charges against Julian Assange, in a move that many are calling a direct assault on the practice of journalism:
In an unprecedented and dangerous move that threatens the press freedom rights of all journalists, the US Justice Department has indicated it is preparing to charge WikiLeaks with a crime and may attempt to arrest its founder Julian Assange. The charges may stem from the publication of US State Department cables in 2010 and their more recent of disclosure of CIA hacking tools.

Whether you like or dislike WikiLeaks – especially if you dislike them – it’s important to understand just how dangerous this potential prosecution is to the future of journalism in the United States. Newspapers publish classified information all the time, and any prosecution of WikiLeaks puts journalists of all stripes at risk of a similar fate. Even WikiLeaks’ harshest critics need to denounce this potential move as a grave threat to the first amendment.

People may not realize it, but not a week goes by without classified information on the front pages of the New York Times, Washington Post or Wall Street Journal. Without the right to publish secret information, as New York Times reporter Max Frankel put it more than 40 years ago in the landmark Pentagon Papers case: “There could be no adequate diplomatic, military and political reporting of the kind our people take for granted, either abroad or in Washington and there could be no mature system of communication between the government and the people.”
This is a profoundly chilling prospect.  As Marcy "Emptywheel" Wheeler notes, "Jeff Sessions’ DOJ could pick and choose which publishers’ speech gets curtailed."

This is a natural outgrowth of Barack Obama's jihad against leakers, and it was a foreseeable development, but because he saw himself as a good person, he thought that everything was Ok.

Worst Constitutional law professor ever.


GWAR Covers Kansas' Carry On My Wayward Don. A Hardcore-Metal cover is different, but in a good way:

Song starts at about 1:25

Apologies to Karen Williams.

20 April 2017

Speaking of Corruption

Andrew Cuomo wrote a very poorly selling memoir. His publisher paid him $245 for a gook that had a suggested retail price of $29.99:
Gov. Andrew Cuomo's low-selling 2014 memoir netted him another $218,100 last year, pushing his total book payments to $783,000 over the past four years, according to his tax returns.

Cuomo's 2016 tax records, which his office made available for review Tuesday, showed the latest round of payments from HarperCollins, the major publisher that gave him a lucrative book deal in 2013.

The governor's memoir — "All Things Possible: Setbacks and Success in Politics in Life" — did not perform well: Just 3,200 copies sold since its release, including just 100 copies over the past two years, according to NPD Books, which tracks book sales nationwide.

It was a money-loser for HarperCollins, which ultimately paid Cuomo about $245 per book sold. It retailed at $29.99.
His Presidential aspirations are the subject of frequent speculation, which would be a f%$#ing disaster.

He needs not to be the Democrats 2020 nominee.

Heck:  He needs not to be the Governor New York State.

He needs to be fired ……… Out of a cannon ……… Into the sun.

20,000 Cases to be Reversed in Massachusetts

Annie Dookhan, a chemist at Massachusetts' Hinton State Laboratory Institute, routinely falsified information for years, which means that something like 20,000 cases are likely to be dismissed:
More than 20,000 drug cases tied to a disgraced former state chemist appear headed for dismissal, lawyers for the American Civil Liberties Union and public defenders said Tuesday as they combed through legal filings from local prosecutors in Massachusetts.

“We’re all overjoyed today at having what is, we think, the largest dismissal of criminal cases as a result of one case in the history of the United States of America,” said Carl Williams, a lawyer with the A.C.L.U. of Massachusetts, which has pressed for the dismissal of tainted cases.

It was the latest development in the yearslong story of Annie Dookhan, a chemist whose co-workers called her Superwoman because she worked so fast. But she was found to have mishandled drug samples, forged signatures and returned positive results on drugs she never bothered to test, and in 2013, she pleaded guilty to 27 counts, including obstruction of justice, perjury and tampering with evidence.

By then, the damage was done. Prosecutors and defenders around the state had already begun the imposing task of figuring out which convictions had been tainted by the failings. Early estimates rose above 40,000. Hundreds of people were released from prison.

In January, the state’s highest court ordered district attorneys to produce the lists of people they believe they could reprosecute, were a new trial permitted, and those whose cases they will dismiss. Those decisions were due on Tuesday.

On Tuesday afternoon, lawyers combed through spreadsheets inside an ornate courthouse here, and counted 21,587 likely dismissals. They had estimated that prosecutors would not vacate the convictions of 500 to 700 people.
Of course, people like racist Attorney General Jeff Session think that this is some sort of technicality that demoralizes law enforcement.

This is corruption, and the people around her knew that something was wrong, but because it favored prosecutors, law enforcement never paid attention.

This is why we need things like the exclusionary rule and meaningful and independent investigations of law enforcement misconduct.

Just When I Think That Reality Has Jaded Me………

I am once more horrified in the latest Republican adventure in blatant corruption:
Congressional Republicans are baldly enticing donors with the promise of meetings with senior legislative staff, effectively placing access to congressional employees up for sale to professional influence peddlers and other well-heeled interests.

Documents obtained by The Intercept and the Center for Media and Democracy show that the National Republican Senatorial Committee and the National Republican Congressional Committee are both telling donors that in exchange for campaign contributions, they will receive invitations to special events to meet with congressional staff including chiefs of staff, leadership staffers, and committee staffers.

While selling donors access to senators and representatives and their campaign staff is nothing new, the open effort to sell access to their legislative staff — the taxpayer-funded government employees who work behind the scenes to write legislation, handle investigations, and organize committee hearings — appears to be in violation of ethics rules that prohibit campaigns from using House and Senate resources in any way.

Congressional ethics rules flatly forbid Capitol Hill employees from engaging in fundraising activities as part of their official duties. Any explicit fundraising work must be done strictly as a volunteer, and there must be a clear firewall separating government work from campaign work.


But a document obtained by The Intercept and the Center for Media and Democracy from the NRSC, the Senate GOP campaign arm, lists the benefits of “D.C. Personal Giving Memberships,” which costs as little as $1,500 a year. Among them: “Invitation to attend events with Republican Chiefs of Staff, Leadership Staff, and Committee Staff.”


It’s not the first time a major Capitol Hill funding outfit has raised campaign cash using congressional employees. In 2013, the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee advertised a “Women on the Hill Dinner” with chiefs of staff to Democratic senators. The event was asked for a suggested donation of $1,000.

But the new Republican effort is more structured, making the exchange of money for meetings with a variety of congressional staffers an official element of the party’s fundraising apparatus, with regular events and tiered levels of access.
This makes Newt Gingrich's peccadilloes seem almost quaint.

Colbert on O'Reilly's Firing

As I have noted many times, Colbert is on my list of, "People I Do Not Want to Piss Off." for a very good reason.

19 April 2017

Why Do I Even Bother?

Yesterday, I wrote a lengthy post explaining the profoundly dysfunctional Presidential campaign in France.

Today, I came across John Oliver's summary of the campaign on his show, and I am feeling profoundly inadequate.

It covers the issue and entertains at the same time, though I think that there could be a little less focus on the laughs and more on the humor.

The only thing that I object to is his characterization of Le Pen's position on the wearing of religious regalia in public.

It's not outrageous by the standards of France:  French republics have been thoroughly and militantly secular since Charles de Gaulle was a teen,* to the degree that religious wedding ceremonies are not recognized by the state, and couples have to be married in a civil ceremony to have their union recognized.

The policy is called Laïcité, and while Le Pen's absolutism regarding this policy is a minority position, it is well within the bounds of what is considered mainstream French political thought.

Still, I feel really inadequate right now.

*Specifically, since the passage of the 1905 French law on the Separation of the Churches and the State, though secularism was a significant portion of French political discourse since at least the French revolution.

A Well Deserved Beat Down

Katie Halper looks at Susan Bordo's paean to Hillary Clinton, The Destruction of Hillary Clinton, and her related OP/ED in the Guardian, and observes that she gets the facts wrong, contradicts herself, and removes any agency from women who disagree with her:
……… Your piece sets out to blame millennial feminists and show us what we did wrong in supporting Sanders, but it winds up illuminating your own failings, sadly not uncommon among certain Clinton supporters, especially those who chose to blame everyone and everything but Clinton for her loss:
  • An over-identification with Clinton and her biography that eclipses appreciation of young women’s lives and hardships and the political differences
  • Basing an argument solely on personal impressions, vague remembrances, mental and emotional associations
  • A condescending tone with occasional unconvincing gestures of respect and understanding for your younger sisters
  • Misleading statements, omissions, falsehoods or indisputable error, here related to Clinton’s statements on superpredators and warranting an immediate editorial correction
This is just a brief excerpt of what is a point by point "Fisking" of what is a self-absorbed, incoherent, and deeply dishonest screed.

It is well worth the read.

Risking a Schadenfreude Overdose Here

I just heard that, after millions of dollars of sexual harrassment settlements over the past 2 decades, Fox News has finally fired Bill O'Reilly:
Bill O’Reilly’s reign as the top-rated host in cable news came to an abrupt and embarrassing end on Wednesday as Fox News forced him out after the disclosure of a series of sexual harassment allegations against him and an internal investigation that turned up even more.

Mr. O’Reilly and his employers came under intense pressure after an article by The New York Times on April 1 revealed how Fox News and its parent company, 21st Century Fox, had repeatedly stood by him even as he and the company reached settlements with five women who had complained about sexual harassment or other inappropriate behavior by him. The agreements totaled about $13 million.

Since then, more than 50 advertisers had abandoned his show, and women’s rights groups had called for him to be fired. Inside the company, women expressed outrage and questioned whether top executives were serious about maintaining a culture based on “trust and respect,” as they had promised last summer when another sexual harassment scandal led to the ouster of Roger E. Ailes as chairman of Fox News.
There are a number of reports that a contributing factor in "Billo's"  firing was the fact he was a complete asshole to those around him, and so when he his behavior finally caught up with him, he had no support within the network.

I'm wondering when he will replace Sean Spicer as press secretary in the Trump administration.

74 Years Ago Today

The Warsaw Ghetto Uprising started 74 years ago today.

Let us remember Mordechaj Anielewicz (Z"L), Paweł Frenkiel (Z"L), and the rest of the fighters (Z"L), who managed to hold out almost as long as the the whole country of Poland did in 1939.

I Hate F%$#ing Plants

Note the syntax here.

The "F%$#" is an adjective that modifies "plants", not an adverb that modifies "hate".

When I come out in the morning, the windshield of my car has a thin layer of dust on it.

When I clean it off with the wipers, it turns out to be a yellow powder.

It's a thin layer of pollen, i.e. plant sperm, and it is making my life a living hell right now.

Thankfully Fexofenadine HCl (generic Allegra®) takes a bit of the edge off.

Thank You DC!

By that, I mean DC at the Stellar Parthenon BBS.

I was engaging in self pity over my general lack of writing skills, and he posted this:

You Will be seeing this again on my blog.

It's a Runoff in GA-6 is Close

It looks like he fell 1-2% short of an absolute majority:
Democrat Jon Ossoff is headed for a runoff in June against a Republican contender after failing Tuesday to score an upset victory to represent a suburban Atlanta district in Congress.

CNN called the race just after midnight.

The 30-year-old investigative filmmaker aimed for an outright win in the 6th District race, but a furious Republican counterattack joined by President Donald Trump appears to have kept him under 50 percent.
I would give him no more than a 1 in 4 chance of winning the runoff.

18 April 2017

Political Panic in France

Fasten Your Seat Belts
The French Presidential elections were predicted to be pretty ordinary.

François Holland, being about as popular as proverbial turd in the punch bowl, decided not to stand for reelection, and did so fairly late in the process, which left the "Socialists" in a lurch, and so it was expected that the right wing Gaullists would field a candidate which would face a runoff against the racist-nativist National Front, (FN) which has made it to the runoff election with alarming regularity in French Presidential elections in the past few decades.

Unfortunately for the Gaullists, they nominated François Fillon, who in addition to being fairly far right by the standards of French politics turns out to have made a habit of employing his wife and children in no show jobs, for which he is under formal criminal investigation.

As a result,  Emmanuel Macron, a former Economic Minister under the Socialist government, who was instrumental in implementing the anti-worker Neoliberal reforms for Holland, effectively sealing the current President's political fate, and is running under what is best described as a self-founded vanity party,  En Marche !, (with the space before the "!") became the favorite for contesting the runoff against Marine Le Pen of the FN.

So far, it's pretty normal:  You've swapped one stooge of the banksters for another, and they are virtually assured of beating Le Pen in the runoff.

Then something funny happened:  A former Socialist who left the party because he felt that they had sold out their principles, Jean-Luc Mélenchon made a charge in the polls, and HE is closely associated with the movement known as the "Left Front" in Europe.

As you can see from the polling numbers, we now have all 4 of the candidates within the margin of error, and Mélenchon appears to significant momentum.

The prospect of having a Euroskeptic racist facing a Euroskeptic leftist facing each other in the Presidential runoff is freaking out the establishment throughout the EU:
A specter is haunting Europe — the specter of Jean-Luc Mélenchon.

In the latest plot twist in France’s highly contentious presidential election, Mélenchon — an outspoken 65-year-old leftist who often appears on the campaign trail via hologram and who has pitched his proposal to nationalize France’s biggest banks and renegotiate its relationship with the European Union via free Internet games and YouTube videos — is now soaring in the polls. With less than two weeks before the election, his meteoric and unexpected rise is already sending jitters through financial markets and shock waves through an increasingly anxious electorate.

For months, analysts have likened the upcoming French election to “Europe’s Stalingrad,” a crucial turning point that will determine the future of a country and a continent. But while commentators worldwide have focused on the steady rise of the far-right, fiercely anti-immigrant National Front of Marine Le Pen, few have paid any attention to the leftist fringe of Jean-Luc Mélenchon, who has vaulted into the picture in the past week and who shares with Le Pen the desire to drastically alter France’s relationship with the E.U., the 28-state bloc it once designed.

Mélenchon is running as the candidate of the Unbowed France political movement, in an alliance with the French Communist Party. The latest polls show him narrowly trailing Emmanuel Macron, long seen as the favorite, and Le Pen, expected to qualify for the final round of the two-round vote but to lose to Macron in the end. In the final days of a truly unprecedented campaign, Mélenchon’s unexpected surge is a reminder that radical change is in the air and that its extremist apostles — on the right or the left — may soon hold power.

Some have reacted with panic: Investors have begun frantically selling off French bonds, while the head of France’s largest trade union has decried what he described as Mélenchon's “rather totalitarian vision.”


Perhaps more than any of the other candidates, it is Mélenchon who best represents 2017’s potential rupture with history, or at least the status quo. Central to his platform is the promise to abolish France’s Fifth Republic, the system of government established by Charles de Gaulle in 1958.

What Mélenchon detests in this style of government is its monarchical presidency — designed for de Gaulle himself — which can dissolve parliament at will and is subject to few checks and balances. Mélenchon has pledged to found what he calls the “Sixth Republic,” a vision that would “take us out of this presidential regime, notably with proportionality in all elections.”

It is an idea that resonates widely — even among those who do not necessarily support Mélenchon’s other more radical proposals, including taking France out of NATO and imposing a 100 percent tax on all income earned over 400,000 euros ($425,000).
Just how freaked out is the establishment?

They are so freaked out that the nominal front runner, Emmanuel Macron, has been forced to tell the truth about the EU and the Germans.

He is explicitly saying that Berlin is gaming the system as a predatory exporter:
Centrist French presidential candidate Emmanuel Macron called for a “rebalancing” of Germany’s trade surplus in an interview with French and German media published Monday.

Even as he touted strong relationships with the German political leaders, Macron used the interview with Ouest-France newspaper and Germany’s Funke newspapers to call out German trade policy for hurting the Continent’s economy.

“Germany benefits from the imbalances within the eurozone and achieves very high trade surpluses,” he said. “Those aren’t a good thing either for Germany or for the economy of the eurozone. There should be a rebalancing.”

Macron, an independent, is facing fresh pressure from anti-EU candidates in the final week before the presidential election’s first-round vote. He has been running neck-and-neck with nationalist Marine Le Pen, ahead of three other candidates. However, recent polls suggest a surge for Jean-Luc Mélenchon, who rails against Europe from the left.
This is true, of course, but it is also as close to heresy as you can get from the any EU supporter.

The conventional wisdom, of course, is to inflict austerity on the ordinary folk, and then wait for the confidence fairy to make growth magically appear, all while capital and finance f%$# the bottom 90% of society.

If it ends up a race between Le Pen and Mélenchon, I fully expect the powers that be to pull for Le Pen, because for them, racism is preferable to economic justice.

This is a Now Lose Situation

A special election in Georgia's 6th Congressional district is a no lose for the Democrats.

It's clear that John Ossof, the only serious Democratic candidate, is going to get the most votes, there are 11 votes in the so called "Jungle"primary, in which the top two vote getters to on to the runoff.

The only question is whether he breaks 50%, which would obviate the need for a runoff.

If he breaks 50%, then he is elected, and the seat has a Democrat for the first time since Gingrich was elected in 1978.

If he does not break 50%, then it is almost certain that he would lose the runoff, and the Obama/Clinton establishment playbook, recruit a Neoliberal carpetbagger, shower them with money ($8.3 million more than the rest of the other candidates combined) would get a black eye.*

Remember that the Democratic National Committee could not be bothered to fund a real liberal James Thompson to the tune of one direct mailing in Kansas, because it's more important to them that Bernie and his supporters lose than that Democrats win. (It was a 7% loss in a district that Trump carried by 40%.)

Once again, it's the Iron Rule of Institutions in action. 

I am so glad that I am not in GA-6:  I would have to choose between voting to make Republicans panicked, or slapping down the Democratic establishment, because it's clear that in 2018, when it matters, Ossoff will lose.

Polls close at 7pm, and I'll post an update around midnight.

*Which, of course, they would blame on Bernie Sanders.

More of This

Well, it looks like one Trump administration disaster, Education Secretary Betsy Devos, is actually producing a positive response in the Democratic party, with pro education privatization Democrats being linked to the Amway Heiress:
It’s rare that Democrats are cast as puppets of the Trump administration. But on the issue of education, many Democrats who have long supported school choice are newly on the defensive within their party, forced to distance themselves from President Donald Trump and his education secretary, Betsy DeVos.

The unusual dynamic started soon after Trump’s inauguration, when a teachers union in Los Angeles sent voters mail depicting two charter-school-friendly school board contenders, both Democrats, as “the candidates who will implement the Trump/DeVos education agenda in LA.”

The message was repeated in New York, where the Alliance for Quality Education, an advocacy group partially funded by teachers unions, likened Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s education policies to Trump’s. The group urged online audiences to “stop Cuomo from doing Betsy DeVos’s dirty work.” In New Jersey, Sen. Cory Booker opposed DeVos’ appointment but came in for criticism for working with DeVos on school choice initiatives when he was mayor of Newark.


But with Trump and DeVos ascendant, defenders of traditional public education policies have a foil in Washington to bludgeon their reform opponents.

“DeVos and Trump have been explicit about a message of privatizing education and defunding public education in a way that I think reflects us saying, ‘We need to push back on that. We need to protect and strengthen education,’” said Tony Thurmond, a California state assemblyman running against Tuck for the open schools chief post next year. “I’m being really intentional about speaking out against those things.”

While education in recent years has rarely risen to the top of voters’ minds in statewide elections, the effort to yoke reform Democrats to DeVos could prove effective, especially in heavily Democratic states.
I would note that until this January, the most powerful advocate of school privatization and the attack on teachers was one Barack Obama, and his Education Secretaries, Arne Duncan, and John King, Jr.

Now that a Republican is in control of the federal burocracy, and endorsing marginally worse policies, Democrats are suddenly against it.

Support for labor unions, and the dignity of workers should be a core Democratic Party value.

It wasn't under Barack Obama, (he abandoned card check) it wasn't under Bill Clinton, (NAFTA, etc.) and it certainly would not have been under Hillary Clinton.

We need better Democrats.

17 April 2017

Quote of the Day

The politics of compensation is always subject to a problem that economists call “time inconsistency.” Before a new policy – say, a trade agreement – is adopted, beneficiaries have an incentive to promise compensation. Once the policy is in place, they have little interest in following through, either because reversal is costly all around or because the underlying balance of power shifts toward them.
Dani Rodrik
It is a point that I have made many times: Promises to help people hurt by free trade deals are never fulfilled, because along with a loss of jobs and money, there is a loss of political power, and political losers almost never get the spoils.

On the Other Hand, Something Good is Happening in New York Too

Rather unsurprisingly, it does not come from the Governor, it comes from the New York City Taxi and Limousine Commission, which is going to require that Uber allow tipping:
New Yorkers have for years been able to tip a taxi driver by adding a few dollars to their bill before swiping a credit card. But they cannot add a tip when they use the popular ride-hailing app Uber.

Now officials in New York City are moving to require Uber to provide a tipping option in the app.

The city’s Taxi and Limousine Commission announced a proposal on Monday requiring car services that accept only credit cards to allow passengers to tip the driver using their card.

“This rule proposal will be an important first step to improve earning potential in the for-hire vehicle industry, but it is just one piece of a more comprehensive effort to improve the economic well-being of drivers,” Meera Joshi, the city’s taxi commissioner, said in a statement.

The decision was prompted by a petition from the Independent Drivers Guild, a group representing Uber drivers in New York. The petition, which collected more than 11,000 signatures, argued that drivers were losing thousands of dollars without an easy tipping option. Passengers can tip an Uber driver using cash, but many do not carry cash or know whether they should feel obligated to provide a tip.

The lack of a tipping option in Uber’s app has been a sore point for drivers. If new rules are approved in New York, it would be a major change in how Uber runs its business in its largest United States market. Other cities could demand to have the same choice.
Uber has fought tipping tooth and nail, and I think that there are a number of reasons:
  • Tipping makes the drivers seem more like employees, and Uber is all about extracting revenue while leaving the liabilities on the customers and drivers.
  • It servers to disintermediate Uber, because passengers can simply provide a tip as a way to rate drivers, and drivers can consider tips when they rate passengers, which removes a level of control from Travis Cordell Kalanick and his Evil Minions.
  • It is against the law for Uber to take a cut.
  • It provides an alternative to Uber's policy of price gouging surge pricing.
  • It's just dickish, and wherever possible, Uber chooses the dickish move.
In any case, I am amused.

Conservadem Policies in a Nutshell

Andrew Cuomo unveiled a "free" tuition program recently, and rather unsurprisingly, on closer examination, it turns out to be mindlessly punitive and difficult to use:

The Fine Print
Interestingly, coverage of Cuomo’s plan was by no means uncritical, suggesting that he may not get the tailwind for 2020 that he expects. (For early negative reactions, see here and here.) From my perspective, Cuomo’s plan has one critical flaw:
Cuomo’s “Tuition-Free College” Plan is not a universal benefit
That is, Excelsior is not a left program providing universal concrete material benefits to everyone, especially the working class. So it’s not a program from the left. Rather, it’s a typical liberal program, directed only at the “deserving,” hedged about with complexity, and targeting the (so-called) middle class, and not the working class. More specifically, Cuomo’s plan:
  1. Is means-tested
  2. Does not cover fees
  3. Covers full-time students only
  4. Has a residency requirement
  5. Has clawbacks
  6. Has a “crapshoot” clause
Let’s consider each of these points in turn.
Let's go through these one at a time:
  1. Means testing creates a situation where popular support is limited, and allows for a the program to be killed by gradually tightening the clause.   Additionally, as Lamberth Strether notes, "Third, means-testing and gatekeeping generally are in essence a jobs guarantee for the professional class, and one can’t help but think that’s a key consideration for the Democrat establishment, since that’s their base."
  2. Fees, not just room and board, and constitute as much as ⅔ of the cost of school, and as shown by a number of state schools, most notably my alma mater UMass, it drives schools to move costs from tuition and fees.  Additionally, this program applies to the last dollar, so a dollar in something like Pell grants must be applied to tuition, and not to fees or living expenses, or text books. (If you get a $1000 grant or scholarship, the amount that you get under the New York program is cut by $1000).
  3. The full time requirement means that it's impossible for poor students to take advantage of the the program, since they need to pay something north of 20 grand in fees.
  4. While handling tens of thousands of dollars in fees, you have to earn 15 credits a semester or pay the grant back, which makes it impossible to work your way through school.
  5. The residency requirement is not one that people normally think of, which requires that you be a state resident to benefit (thought it does that too), but rather that if you live or work outside of the state for Five Years After Graduation you have to pay back the grant.
  6. The crapshoot function says that the program shall be terminated if  the lotto under performs in any given year year, and schools are allowed to arbitrarily redefine the conditions to qualify.
This is a classic Blue Dog/DLC/New Dem program:  It adds complexity, it does not provide the benefits promised, it contains an unneeded bureaucracy, adds a dose of humiliation, and sets up conditions that convince people who want the benefit that government does not work.

If it were any more half assed, you would think that it came from Bill Clinton's White House.

The primary purpose of this grant is to boost Andrew Cuomo's prospects for a 2020 Presidential run.

Headline of the Day

Andrew Sullivan Is Still Racist After All These Years
—Nathan Robinson in Current Affairs
The former editor of The New Republic, who devoted an issue to promoting Charles Murray's racist screed The Bell Curve, an act that was breath takingly racist even in comparison to the disgraceful history of that magazine under the ownership of bigot Marty Peretz.


Monty Python revealed the 2016 Republican Party platform in 1974:

16 April 2017

Pass the Popcorn

A week after President Donald Trump began to publicly distance himself from White House Chief Strategist Steve Bannon, alt-right ringleader Mike Cernovich threatened to release a “motherlode” of stories that could “destroy marriages” if Bannon is formally let go from the administration.

Cernovich made the claims that he’d release a series of “scoops” if Bannon is officially pushed out of the White House on an eleven-minute, self-recorded Periscope Thursday night.

What would be uncovered?
“If they get rid of Bannon, you know what’s gonna happen? The motherlode. If Bannon is removed, there are gonna be divorces, because I know about the mistresses, the sugar babies, the drugs, the pill popping, the orgies. I know everything,” said Cernovich.

“If they go after Bannon, the mother of all stories is gonna drop, and we’re just gonna destroy marriages, relationships—it’s gonna get personal.”
I so hope that there is an actual dossier, and that it sees the light of day.
I am so looking forward to a blowup.

15 April 2017


I've always wondered about this:

14 April 2017

Cold War: The Sequal

We now have credible reports that Russia is relaunching production of its Tu-160 Strategic Bomber:
The serial production of the upgraded Tupolev Tu-160M2 (NATO reporting name: Blackjack) strategic bomber will begin in 2020, a source in Russia’s defense and industrial sector told TASS.

There are plans to produce two or three Tu-160M2 planes annually, the source added.

“Work to manufacture the plane has begun. Under the contract signed between the United Aircraft Corporation and the Defense Ministry, the Tu-160M2 plane is expected to perform the first flight in 2018,” the source said.

“The Gorbunov Aircraft Plant in Kazan [an affiliate of the Tupolev Company] is expected to launch the serial production of the plane in 2020. It will produce two or three strategic bombers for the Aerospace Force annually,” the source added.

According to the source, it will be an absolutely new plane.

“The upgraded Tu-160M2 plane will retain only the airframe of the baseline model, which meets all modern standards. The plane’s equipment, including its avionics, electronics, cockpit, communications and control systems and a number of weapons, will be replaced. This will considerably improve the plane’s operational capabilities, in particular, the thrust of the NK-32 engines and the unrefueled range,” the source added.
What a waste, and our response will be more waste.

To quote Ike,  "Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies, in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed."

Stating the Obvious

In the Guardian, Jamie Peck, a columnists for the online publication Death and Taxes, observes that the Democratic party establishment finds it more important for real Democrats to lose than for the Democratic Party to win:
Since losing the presidency to a Cheeto-hued reality TV host, the Democratic party’s leadership has made it clear that it would rather keep losing than entertain even the slightest whiff of New Deal style social democracy.

The Bernie Sanders wing might bring grassroots energy and – if the polls are to be believed – popular ideas, but their redistributive policies pose too much of a threat to the party’s big donors to ever be allowed on the agenda.

Even a symbolic victory cedes too much to those youthful, unwashed hordes who believe healthcare and education are human rights and not extravagant luxuries, as we saw when the Democratic establishment recruited Tom Perez to defeat the electorate-backed progressive Keith Ellison for DNC chair.

The Democrats demonstrated this once more this week when, in a special election triggered by Trump’s tapping of Mike Pompeo for CIA director, a Berniecrat named James Thompson came painfully close to winning a Kansas Congressional seat that had been red for over two decades, and his party didn’t even try to help him.


After beating an establishment Democrat in the primary, Thompson promised to take on Trump and the Republicans, as well as the state’s unpopular Republican governor Sam Brownback and Kansas-headquartered oligarchs the Koch brothers.


Given our current political climate, you’d think the Democrats would have jumped at the chance to take back a Congressional seat and demonstrate opposition to Trump, but you’d be wrong. While Thompson managed to raise $292,000 without his party’s help, 95% of which came from individuals, neither the DNC, DCCC, nor even the Kansas Democratic Party would help him grow that total in any substantial way. His campaign requested $20,000 from the state Democratic Party and was denied.

They later relented and gave him $3,000. (According to the FEC, the Party had about $145,000 on hand.) The national Democratic Party gave him nothing until the day before the election, when it graced him with some live calls and robo-calls. He lost by seven percentage points.


In defending their decision, party mouthpieces have taken the absurd line that giving Thompson money would have actually hurt his chances of winning, because then everyone would have known he’s a Democrat, and Kansans hate Democrats. (Let’s take a moment to appreciate these are the same people who keep saying the party doesn’t need a new direction.)


One person the party does not think will be hurt by their help is Jon Ossoff, who is running in a similarly red, but much wealthier, district in Georgia. To date, the DNC has raised some $8.3m for him and has committed to sending nine field staffers to organize on-the-ground efforts.

Although he is young, he’s an acolyte of the Democratic establishment, having worked for Representatives John Lewis and Hank Johnson, and he endorsed Hillary Clinton in the primary. He went to Georgetown followed by the London School of Economics and speaks fluent French. He has the support of several Hollywood celebrities.

Democrats think Ossoff is just the guy to bring his affluent suburban district back into the fold. (Clearly, losing a national election was not enough to reverse course on that most doomed of 2016 strategies: trading blue collar whites for wealthy, suburban ones.)


By refusing to fund the campaigns of anyone but centrist, establishment shills, the Democratic Party aims to make the Berniecrats’ lack of political viability a self-fulfilling prophecy: starve their campaigns of resources so they can’t win, then point to said losses as examples of why they can’t win.
It's very simple.  Refer to the Iron Rule of Institutions:
The people who control institutions care first and foremost about their power within the institution rather than the power of the institution itself. Thus, they would rather the institution "fail" while they remain in power within the institution than for the institution to "succeed" if that requires them to lose power within the institution.
These guys need to be taken down.  They are a cancer on the body politic.

This is an Interesting Way to Deal with Anti-Vaxxers

No amount of objective discussion or scientific data may ever be enough to convince some people that vaccines are indeed safe and effective at wiping out a slew of hellish and deadly diseases. But what does seem to work at convincing people to vaccinate their children? Bureaucratic hassle.

By adding an extra, in-person step to the process of obtaining a vaccination waiver (which allowed a child to forego the necessary vaccinations), Michigan quickly and significantly boosted its vaccination rate, as Kaiser Health News reports.

In the 2013-2014 school year, the state had the fourth highest rate in the country of children entering kindergarten with a vaccine waiver. But just one year after the extended waiver application process went into effect in 2015, the number of waivers issued dropped by 35 percent statewide. Vaccination rates rose accordingly.


“The idea was to make the process more burdensome,” Michigan State University health policy specialist Mark Largent, who has written extensively about vaccines, told KHN. “Research has shown that if you make it more inconvenient to apply for a waiver, fewer people get them.”


State legislators added the inconvenience factor after outbreaks of whooping cough and measles hit Michigan children. At the time, parents who didn’t want to vaccinate their kids could easily apply for a waiver over the Internet, by mailing in a form, or even via phone call in some places. But in a quiet, unfussy ruling in December of 2014, the state’s Joint Committee on Administrative Rules changed the waiver application process to require that parents consult in person with a county health educator before a waiver would be granted. 
It used to be easy for politicians to pander to anti-vaxxers, but since outbreaks in California and other states, the general public has become aware that they are a menace, and politicians have been less accomodating.

This is a very good thing.

Tweet of the Day

I know that the original tweet is about a year old, but it is brilliant.

This is as true ... as taxes is. And nothing's truer than them.

Facebook Post of the Day

Mitchell Robinson

April 11 at 11:33pm · Okemos, MI ·

The best argument yet for public schools...

Donald Trump, Kew-Forest School and New York Military Academy, private

Betsy DeVos, Holland Christian Schools, religious

Sean Spicer, Portsmouth Abbey School, private

Steven Mnuchin, Riverdale Country School, private

Mick Mulvaney, Charlotte Catholic High School, religious

Wilbur Ross, Xavier Prep High School, private

Alex Acosta, Gulliver Schools, private

Jared Kushner, Frisch School, religious

Ivanka Trump, Chapin School, private
H/t Diane Ravitch.

13 April 2017

OK, this is a Big F%$#ing Deal

Recently revealed tape recordings indicate that the Bank of England actually ordered some of the illegal manipulation of the LIBOR rates:
A secret recording that implicates the Bank of England in Libor rigging has been uncovered by BBC Panorama.

The 2008 recording adds to evidence the central bank repeatedly pressured commercial banks during the financial crisis to push their Libor rates down.

Libor is the rate at which banks lend to each other, setting a benchmark for mortgages and loans for ordinary customers.


The recording calls into question evidence given in 2012 to the Treasury select committee by former Barclays boss Bob Diamond and Paul Tucker, the man who went on to become the deputy governor of the Bank of England.


In the recording, a senior Barclays manager, Mark Dearlove, instructs Libor submitter Peter Johnson, to lower his Libor rates.

He tells him: "The bottom line is you're going to absolutely hate this... but we've had some very serious pressure from the UK government and the Bank of England about pushing our Libors lower."

Mr Johnson objects, saying that this would mean breaking the rules for setting Libor, which required him to put in rates based only on the cost of borrowing cash.

Mr Johnson says: "So I'll push them below a realistic level of where I think I can get money?"

His boss Mr Dearlove replies: "The fact of the matter is we've got the Bank of England, all sorts of people involved in the whole thing... I am as reluctant as you are... these guys have just turned around and said just do it."


Banks have been fined more than £6bn for allowing submitters to be influenced by requests from traders or bosses to take into account the bank's commercial interests, such as trading positions.
Central bank independence, and central bank secrecy have led to corruption, as evidenced by the this incident, as well as the resignation of the resignation of Richmond Federal Reserve President Jeffrey Lacker for leaking insider information to Medley Advisors,  a so-called "Expert Network".  (An expert network is basically a cut out to supply inside information to speculators, most notoriously by Steve Cohen).

It is the inevitable result of how this organizations are structured:  When you combine extreme power with a complete lack of accountability, corruption follows.

Pull All of His Security Detail, and Let Market Forces Rule

Scott Pruit, environment hating wingnut and current head of the Environmental Protection Agency, is requesting a round the clock security detail in his next budget.

It appears that in addition to being a corrupt stooge of the energy industry, he's also an abject coward:
The administrator of the US Environmental Protection Agency, historically, has had some measure of government-funded personal security detail. Agents routinely picked Gina McCarthy from the airport, for example, or accompanied her on site visits during her time as EPA administrator from July 2013 to Jan 2017. But Scott Pruitt, the new EPA chief, wishes to be guarded 24/7.


The Times calls it a first for an EPA chief, and notes that the 10 additional agents would more than double the agency’s current security staff, which has hovered between six and eight agents in recent years. Similarly, security detail for education secretary Betsy DeVos has reached unprecedented levels: Typically, the secretary of education is guarded by about six agents from within the Department of Education. Since her contentious confirmation, DeVos has been under the protection of the US Marshals Service, costing $8 million over eight months.

What security menace is Pruitt guarding against? According to Myron Ebell, who led Trump’s EPA transition team but is no longer employed by the administration, Pruitt is at risk from his own employees—and “the left.”
Seriously, the wingnuts spend their days soiling their pants in abject terror.

Tweet of the Day

Another bloke who owes me a screen wipe.

This is Brilliant

Over at Pando, they have a positively brilliant take-down of Rachel Whetstone's exit from Uber.

The short form is that the senior vice-president of communications and public policy for Uber is a rat, and knows when a ship is sinking, and this is brilliantly brutal:
Okey dokey.

As regular Pando readers will know, the idea that Whetstone would leave Uber to avoid drama is so far beyond laughable that it has travelled the entire circumference of the globe and returned back to laughable again. Rachel Whetstone started out in Westminster -- where she and her husband Steve “I support Donald Trump” Hilton helped reinvent the UK’s “nasty” conservative party as the friendly, lovable, electable party that regained power and brought the world… Brexit.

Having left London, for a variety of dramatic reasons, she then headed to Google where she is most famous for picking a very public and highly dramatic fight with (her old pal) Rupert Murdoch. Finally she ended up at Uber where she immediately began bringing even more drama to the already dramatic company, starting with the infamous dinner at which Emil Michael pledged to spend a million dramatic dollars dramatically smearing Pando’s own Sarah Lacy.

Simply put, Rachel Whetstone hates drama like David Mamet hates drama, like Shakespeare hates drama, like Ru Paul performing Tom Stoppard at Devin Nunes High School For Thirteen-Year-Old Girls hates drama.

No, Rachel Whetstone didn’t leave Uber because she hates drama.

For Rachel Whetstone to leave Uber there can only be one reason: Uber is totally, irreversibly f%$#ed. So irreversibly f%$#ed that anyone left behind when the other shoe drops will be so irreparably damaged by association that THE PERSON WHO MADE THE TORIES ELECTABLE AGAIN doesn’t want the karma.
(%$# mine)

Paul Bradley Carr owes me a screen wipe.


Cats and leashes, not an optimal juxtaposition:

12 April 2017

Quote of the Day

And so, contrary to Hayek’s expectations, financial globalisation has proved that it is market fundamentalism, and not the regulatory state that is leading the world into an era of authoritarianism and totalitarianism – in the US, Eastern Europe, India and China.
Ann Pettifor
This is not surprising the relentless concentration of power by monopolists has always had this effect. 

As an aside, Hayek in fact loved authoritarianism and totalitarianism, as shown by his full-throated support of the brutal Pinochet regime in Chile, and his only slightly more muted defense of the Apartheid regime in South Africa.