24 March 2017

Now It's an Off Broadway Play

Remember passing mentioned I made that someone reenacted the Trump Clinton debates, and found that Hillary did ever worse when gender roles were reversed?

Well, it's going to play the Jerry Orbach Theater in Manhattan:
After watching the second televised debate between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton in October 2016—a battle between the first female candidate nominated by a major party and an opponent who’d just been caught on tape bragging about sexually assaulting women—Maria Guadalupe, an associate professor of economics and political science at INSEAD, had an idea. Millions had tuned in to watch a man face off against a woman for the first set of co-ed presidential debates in American history. But how would their perceptions change, she wondered, if the genders of the candidates were switched? She pictured an actress playing Trump, replicating his words, gestures, body language, and tone verbatim, while an actor took on Clinton’s role in the same way. What would the experiment reveal about male and female communication styles, and the differing standards by which we unconsciously judge them?

Guadalupe reached out to Joe Salvatore, a Steinhardt clinical associate professor of educational theatre who specializes in ethnodrama—a method of adapting interviews, field notes, journal entries, and other print and media artifacts into a script to be performed as a play. Together, they developed Her Opponent, a production featuring actors performing excerpts from each of the three debates exactly as they happened—but with the genders switched. Salvatore cast fellow educational theatre faculty Rachel Whorton to play “Brenda King,” a female version of Trump, and Daryl Embry to play “Jonathan Gordon,” a male version of Hillary Clinton, and coached them as they learned the candidates’ words and gestures. A third actor, Andy Wagner, would play the moderator in all three debates, with the performances livestreamed. Andrew Freiband, a professor in the Department of Film/Animation/Video at the Rhode Island School of Design, provided the video design. (Watch footage from a Her Opponent rehearsal below.)

The two sold-out performances of Her Opponent took place on the night of Saturday, January 28, just a week after President Trump’s inauguration and the ensuing Women’s March on Washington. “The atmosphere among the standing-room-only crowd, which appeared mostly drawn from academic circles, was convivial, but also a little anxious,” Alexis Soloski, a New York Times reporter who attended the first performance, observed. “Most of the people there had watched the debates assuming that Ms. Clinton couldn’t lose. This time they watched trying to figure out how Mr. Trump could have won.”


And this was just the first phase of the project: Her Opponent has been adapted as an off-Broadway play opening at the Jerry Orbach Theater, and its creators envision adapting a recording of the experiment as a classroom teaching tool to explore the complex ways our personal biases influence how we receive messages. The gender-swapping technique, Salvatore suggests, could also be used to explore the communication styles of different political figures in other charged confrontations.
This has gone from an interesting factoid to something profoundly weird.

Freudian Slip

Pauly Ryan says that he wants to destroy American healthcare:


Tweet of the Day

I have no urge to see the movie, but the fail by the Talibaptist right is amusing.

I Want What He Is Smoking

In a discussion of the Republican attempts to repeal Obamacare, Cornell Professor Robert Frank drops this incredibly panglossian turd:
If the repeal effort stalls, attention will shift to what comes next. In an earlier column, I suggested that Mr. Trump has the political leverage, which President Obama did not, to jettison the traditional Republican approach in favor of a form of the single-payer health care that most other countries use. According to Physicians for a National Health Program, an advocacy group, “Single-payer national health insurance, also known as ‘Medicare for all,’ is a system in which a single public or quasi-public agency organizes health care financing, but the delivery of care remains largely in private hands.” Christopher Ruddy, a friend and adviser of the president, recently urged him to consider this option.
This is not going to happen.

I would like for this to happen, if just to see how both the Clinton and Obama wings of the Democratic party twist themselves into knots to oppose this, but it's NOT going to happen.

I know, yadda yadda yadda, Nixon going to China, but it ain't going to happen, particularly when he would have to get it through the Senate, where his own Vice President would oppose this as its presiding officer, and the filibuster still exists.

Na ga na happen.

23 March 2017

The Supreme Court Just Upended Bankruptcy Abuse by Wall Street

The Supreme Court just overturned decades of Wall Street chicanery that was used to f%$# employees and other ordinary folks:

Czyzewski v. Jevic Holding Corp. is the latest battleground in a 150-year struggle over whether senior creditors whose liens exhaust a bankruptcy estate, and junior creditors or equity holders with control over the bankruptcy proceeding, can combine to use bankruptcy processes to implement a division of value that skips over otherwise out-of-the-money intervening creditors over their objection. In the landmark case of Northern Pacific Railway Company v. Boyd, the court created the “absolute priority rule” to prevent just that eventuality in federal equity receiverships over 100 years ago, before any federal statutory reorganization procedure existed. Ever since and all along, bankruptcy practitioners struggling to make deals and solve practical problems have creatively fought, evaded, and sought to limit the scope of that prohibition. The most fashionable current step in this never-ending bankruptcy dance has been the “structured dismissal.” The court’s opinion in Jevic puts the brakes on this device by making clear that priority deviations implemented through non-consensual structured dismissals are not permitted.

The bankruptcy code provides three ways to end a Chapter 11 case: confirmation of a plan, conversion to a Chapter 7 liquidation, or dismissal. The code contemplates that dismissal will return the parties to their prebankruptcy positions, except to the extent the bankruptcy court orders otherwise. In a structured dismissal, however, the bankruptcy court’s dismissal order alters the rights and liabilities of the parties in ways that differ from the three options outlined in the code. Unlike a Chapter 11 plan, a structured dismissal does not require disclosure, voting by affected constituents and bankruptcy-court findings that the plan meets substantive and procedural legal standards, including compliance with the code’s priority rules. Unlike conversion to Chapter 7, a structured dismissal does not lead to a statutorily regulated liquidation consistent with established bankruptcy priorities. And unlike a straight dismissal, a structured dismissal does not simply return the parties to their prebankruptcy positions.

Jevic is a trucking company that filed under Chapter 11. During the bankruptcy proceeding, fraudulent-transfer claims against Jevic’s senior secured lenders were resolved by a $3.7-million settlement subject to a structured dismissal in which certain priority claims, based on employment-law violations under the Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act, of truck drivers who worked for Jevic were skipped over. Had there been a settlement but no dismissal, and had the settlement proceeds been distributed under a plan or in a Chapter 7 liquidation, the workers’ priority claims would have entitled them to $1.7 million. Had there been no settlement but rather a straight dismissal or conversion, the fraudulent-transfer claims against the senior creditors would have revested in the workers or become an asset of the Chapter 7 bankruptcy estate, respectively. In the structured dismissal approved by the bankruptcy court over the workers’ objection, however, the workers received no proceeds, even as junior creditors received a distribution out of the settlement funds, and the fraudulent-transfer claims were extinguished.

The courts below approved this structured dismissal on the basis that no good alternative existed. No Chapter 11 plan could be confirmed given the estate’s inability to satisfy outstanding administrative and priority claims (i.e., the estate was “administratively insolvent”), and, in a Chapter 7 liquidation, no one other than the senior secured creditors would receive anything, because the fraudulent-transfer action would have to be abandoned for lack of resources to prosecute. In short, the lower courts concluded, the workers were no worse off in the structured dismissal, and other constituents were all measurably better off.

Justice Stephen Breyer wrote for the six-member majority (Chief Justice John Roberts and Justices Anthony Kennedy, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan, as well as Breyer himself). Jevic had raised a threshold objection, asserting that the truck drivers did not have standing to bring their claims. Breyer made short work of this argument, noting that it depended on two dubious propositions: that no bankruptcy settlement that included the workers was feasible, and that absent settlement the fraudulent transfer claims could not be prosecuted. The fact that the settling defendant asserted that it would not agree to a settlement that included workers who were separately suing it on WARN Act claims could well have been a bluff; in any event, the court noted, the settling defendant’s independent WARN Act liability had been subsequently resolved, removing that obstacle. Similarly, the bankruptcy court’s prediction that fraudulent-transfer claims with an apparent settlement value of $3.7 million were otherwise worthless was speculative. In short, the workers had standing to object to the structured settlement because a successful objection might result in value for them.


Jevic places into serious doubt the continued viability of the already controversial practice of “gifting” — that is, implementing priority deviations out of collateral proceeds through Chapter 11 plans without intervening class consent, or, in Chapter 7 liquidations, by characterizing the distribution as a ”gift” of the secured creditor’s collateral rather than a distribution of estate assets. Although the court’s opinion never refers to the practice of “gifting,” or to the lower court cases adopting or limiting gifting theories, Jevic’s reasoning, especially the primacy it places on the code’s distributional provisions, is in serious tension with that practice. On the other hand, the court’s embrace of the opinion of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit in In re Iridium Operating LLC, which approved an interim priority-deviating settlement on a gifting theory, may give gifting proponents heart.

More importantly, however, the court went out of its way to draw a sharp line between interim orders entered by the bankruptcy court in connection with its administration of an ongoing bankruptcy case and the structured dismissal at issue in Jevic. The common Chapter 11 practices of first-day wage orders, critical-vendor orders, roll-ups and interim settlements were all expressly distinguished from the objectionable structured dismissal in Jevic, which, the court expressly noted, involved a final distribution inconsistent with the code’s priority scheme as part of the case’s final disposition. The court’s implicit ratification of these established practices to the extent they serve other reorganization objectives undoubtedly will be embraced by the bankruptcy community.


Jevic places into serious doubt the continued viability of the already controversial practice of “gifting” — that is, implementing priority deviations out of collateral proceeds through Chapter 11 plans without intervening class consent, or, in Chapter 7 liquidations, by characterizing the distribution as a ”gift” of the secured creditor’s collateral rather than a distribution of estate assets. Although the court’s opinion never refers to the practice of “gifting,” or to the lower court cases adopting or limiting gifting theories, Jevic’s reasoning, especially the primacy it places on the code’s distributional provisions, is in serious tension with that practice. On the other hand, the court’s embrace of the opinion of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit in In re Iridium Operating LLC, which approved an interim priority-deviating settlement on a gifting theory, may give gifting proponents heart.

More importantly, however, the court went out of its way to draw a sharp line between interim orders entered by the bankruptcy court in connection with its administration of an ongoing bankruptcy case and the structured dismissal at issue in Jevic. The common Chapter 11 practices of first-day wage orders, critical-vendor orders, roll-ups and interim settlements were all expressly distinguished from the objectionable structured dismissal in Jevic, which, the court expressly noted, involved a final distribution inconsistent with the code’s priority scheme as part of the case’s final disposition. The court’s implicit ratification of these established practices to the extent they serve other reorganization objectives undoubtedly will be embraced by the bankruptcy community.
The plain English translation of this is as follows:
  • Private equity (PE) firm drives a company that it bought into the ditch.
  • While gleefully taking the company to financial ruin, the PE firm charges many fees, generating profits for themselves, and shafts creditors, share holders, and employees.
    • This is called Fraudulent Conveyance, and it is technically illegal.
  • PE firm closes down without warning, violating the WARN Act, which typically requires 60 days notice.
    • The employees then have a claim in the bankruptcy proceedings, which is senior to most of the unsecured debt in the company.
  • Four things can happen when the company files for Chapter 11 (reorg):
    • A successful Chapter 11 filing.
      • Under Chapter 11, the priority of debt needs to be generally followed, and debtors have the right to object, and have those objections evaluated, and WARN Act claims remain open.
    • An unsuccessful Chapter 11 filing, followed by Chapter 7 (liquidation)
      • Under chapter 7 the priority of debts must be strictly followed, and WARN Act claims remain open.
    • A  straight dismissal, where everything is returned to where it was before the filing.
    • A structured dismissal, in which the court determines that there is a best best deal possible, where SOME of the creditors cut a deal, and people like employees screwed out of wages have no say.
The final option is a favorite of PE firms after they have looted a company into oblivion.

SCOTUS basically ruled the priority of debtors needs to be maintained, AND that the court's ruling that its decision was the only one that could be beneficial to the greatest possible number of creditors, was complete crap.

Here's hoping that the PE parasites see further reversals in the not too distant future.

Face Plant

He's trying to look chill, but he's just a bitch
Paul Ryan has had to postpone the vote on Trumpcare because he is unable to secure the votes for the measure:
“The closer,” it turns out, needs extra innings.

After a frenetic 48 hours of Oval Office lobbying sessions, closed-door talks in the Cabinet room and shuttle diplomacy on both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue, President Donald Trump and Speaker Paul Ryan pulled the plug Thursday on a scheduled vote on their health care legislation after falling short of the support needed for passage.

Conservative House hardliners would not budge on their demanded concessions. Moderate Republicans grew skittish of the new proposed changes. And, as the morning turned to afternoon without an accord on final legislative language, Republicans fretted about the optics of jamming the far-reaching bill through in the middle of the night.
Pauly, you had one job, and all it required was the ability to count to 218, and you couldn't manage that.

This is what happen when you let the Teabaggers go off their meds and run for office.

I'll Believe It When I See It

Chuck Schumer is claiming that Democrats will filibuster the Gorsuch nomination.

I do not believe that Schumer has the competence to manage this, and I don't think that the Democrats will hold together.

Too many in the Democratic caucus will want to, "Keep their powder dry," to filibuster an even worse Supreme Court nominee.

Rinse, lather, repeat:
Senate hearings on Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch ended Thursday on a confrontational note, with the body’s top Democrat vowing a filibuster that could complicate Gorsuch’s expected confirmation and ultimately upend the traditional approach to approving justices.

Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) said he will vote no on President Trump’s nominee and asked other Democrats to join him in blocking an up-or-down vote on Gorsuch.

Under Senate rules, it requires 60 votes to overcome such an obstacle. Republicans eager to confirm Gorsuch before their Easter recess — and before the court concludes hearing the current term of cases next month — have only 52 senators.

Republicans have vowed Gorsuch will be confirmed even if it means overhauling the way justices have long been approved. Traditionally, senators can force the Senate to muster a supermajority just to bring up the nomination of a Supreme Court justice. If that is reached, the confirmation requires a simple majority.

In a speech on the Senate floor, Schumer said: “If this nominee cannot earn 60 votes — a bar met by each of President Obama’s nominees and George Bush’s last two nominees — the answer isn’t to change the rules. It’s to change the nominee.”
I don't believe him.

They will threaten this for a couple of weeks, raise money off of that posturing, and then fold up like overcooked broccoli.

I will not vote for any Senator who votes for cloture on Gorsuch, ever, for any office, ever.

I will support their opponents in any primary.

Call your Senator, and tell them the same.

Quote of the Day

But the rest were the most fantastic collection of creeps since the "Thriller" video. Many were blunderers and conspiracists whose sole qualification for office appeared to be their open hostility to the missions of the agencies they were tapped to run.
Matt Taibbi on Donald Trump's nominations for cabinet and sub-cabinet level staff.

This is Profoundly Odd

The Westminster attacker has been identified as as Khalid Masood, age 52.

I am rather surprised at this age.

This is well beyond the age that you typically find people going violent jihadi.

I'm wondering if this was more of a generic sort of spree killing (and yes, I know how awful that concept sounds) than an act of terrorism:
A 52-year-old ex-convict from Birmingham was named on Thursday as the man who carried out the terrorist attack on Westminster in which he and four other people died, while eight others were arrested as police hunted for evidence of a wider conspiracy.

Khalid Masood, a man who had used a string of aliases, was described by police as a criminal with a 20-year record of offending, who had once been investigated for extremism but was assessed as posing a low risk.

Theresa May told MPs Masood had been previously known to MI5: “Some years ago, he was once investigated in relation to concerns about violent extremism. He was a peripheral figure. The case is historic – he was not part of the current intelligence picture.”

Amber Rudd, the home secretary, later added that Masood had spent time in jail, but not for terrorist offences, while the Metropolitan police said “Masood” was in all likelihood not his birth name.
While he did have a rather extensive rap sheet, it appears that his prior criminal activity ended over a decade ago:
Police revealed that Masood, born in Kent on Christmas Day 1964, had a string of criminal convictions. In a statement, the Met said: “He was known to police and has a range of previous convictions for assaults, including GBH, possession of offensive weapons and public order offences.

“His first conviction was in November 1983 for criminal damage and his last conviction was in December 2003 for possession of a knife.”
Daesh did claim that he did it for them, but did not include his name in their press release, which implies that there was no direct connection.

All in all, it's rather odd.

22 March 2017

Our IP System in One Profoundly Dysfunctional Nutshell

It turns out that American farmers are being forced to use software from Ukrainian hackers to repair their own tractors:
To avoid the draconian locks that John Deere puts on the tractors they buy, farmers throughout America's heartland have started hacking their equipment with firmware that's cracked in Eastern Europe and traded on invite-only, paid online forums.

Tractor hacking is growing increasingly popular because John Deere and other manufacturers have made it impossible to perform "unauthorized" repair on farm equipment, which farmers see as an attack on their sovereignty and quite possibly an existential threat to their livelihood if their tractor breaks at an inopportune time.

"When crunch time comes and we break down, chances are we don't have time to wait for a dealership employee to show up and fix it," Danny Kluthe, a hog farmer in Nebraska, told his state legislature earlier this month. "Most all the new equipment [requires] a download [to fix]."

The nightmare scenario, and a fear I heard expressed over and over again in talking with farmers, is that John Deere could remotely shut down a tractor and there wouldn't be anything a farmer could do about it.

A license agreement John Deere required farmers to sign in October forbids nearly all repair and modification to farming equipment, and prevents farmers from suing for "crop loss, lost profits, loss of goodwill, loss of use of equipment … arising from the performance or non-performance of any aspect of the software." The agreement applies to anyone who turns the key or otherwise uses a John Deere tractor with embedded software. It means that only John Deere dealerships and "authorized" repair shops can work on newer tractors.

"If a farmer bought the tractor, he should be able to do whatever he wants with it," Kevin Kenney, a farmer and right-to-repair advocate in Nebraska, told me. "You want to replace a transmission and you take it to an independent mechanic—he can put in the new transmission but the tractor can't drive out of the shop. Deere charges $230, plus $130 an hour for a technician to drive out and plug a connector into their USB port to authorize the part."

"What you've got is technicians running around here with cracked Ukrainian John Deere software that they bought off the black market," he added.
The affection we have in our society for rent seeking through things like the DMCA (Digital Millennium Copyright Act), and it serves no one but parasites.

In fact, it creates a society based on this parasitism, which crowds out productive activities, and leads to inequality,

We have created a society of Martin Shkrelis, and this is not a good way to be.

No, That Was Margaret Thatcher, It's a Common Mistake

OK, the headline on the BBC was, "Major shake-up suggests dinosaurs may have 'UK origin'," but I still think that it was Margaret Thatcher:
The first dinosaurs may have originated in the Northern Hemisphere, possibly in an area that is now Britain.

This is one of the conclusions of the first detailed re-evaluation of the relationships between dinosaurs for 130 years.

It shows that the current theory of how dinosaurs evolved and where they came from may well be wrong.

This major shake-up of dinosaur theory is published in this weeks's edition of the journal Nature.

The reassessment shows that the meat eating beasts, such as Tyrannosaurus rex and Velociraptor, have been wrongly classified in the dinosaur family tree.

One of the implications is that dinosaurs first emerged 15 million years earlier than previously believed.

And the fossil evidence suggests that this origin may have occurred further north than current thinking suggests - possibly in an area that is now the UK, according to the new study's lead author, Matthew Baron of Cambridge University.
Well, that was my first thought when I read the headline.

What the Hell?

It appears that there was a terrorist attack in London outside of Parliament:
Five people have died, including a police officer, and at least 20 people have been injured in a major terror attack outside the Houses of Parliament, the Metropolitan police have confirmed.

Mark Rowley, the head of counter-terrorism at the Met, said a police officer had died after being stabbed by a lone attacker attempting to enter the House of Commons. The suspect was shot and killed.

Moments earlier, at about 2.40pm, the attacker drove a vehicle at speed into pedestrians on Westminster Bridge, near parliament, killing two people.

Rowley said at least 20 people, including three officers, were hurt in the attack on the bridge. A diplomatic source told Reuters three French students were among the injured.

“This is a day we’ve planned for but hoped would never happen. Sadly it’s now a reality,” Rowley said. “The attack started when a car was driven over Westminster Bridge hitting and injuring a number of members of the public, also including three police officers on their way back from a commendation ceremony.

“The car then crashed near to parliament and at least one man armed with a knife continued the attack and tried to enter parliament.
I'm not really sure what to think at this point, except for one thing: If it had been the United States, as opposed to London, it would have been a gun, not a knife, and the death toll would likely have been in the double digits.

What?  The wrong time to argue for gun control? Too soon?

It's always too soon to talk about gun control, it seems.

Quote of the Day

“The New Rules Hurting Retirement Security” [Democracy Journal]. “Fewer than one third of Americans aged 65 to 74 have any savings in a retirement account and the accounts that exist are inadequate to provide a secure retirement—the median balance is just $49,000. The situation for younger workers is even more dire.” So, in the face of this crisis, liberals have a complicated “nudge theory” Rube Goldberg device, which sucks, and conservatives have a simple machine (in this case, the screw). The unasked question: Why should people have to “save for retirement” at all?
—Lamberth Strether at Naked Capitalism
Except for calling the screw a simple machine, I think of it as a helical wedge, and think that the ancient Greeks were in error giving it status as a separate element, I agree completely.

Private retirement accounts are primarily about lining Wall Street's pockets, which is why the Clinton/Obama wing of the Democratic Party has been Jonesing to privatize Social Security for decades.

I Knew That It Was Bad………

But I did not realize that Trumpcare was actually worse than a complete repeal of Obamacare:
The Congressional Budget Office recently said that around 24 million fewer Americans would have health insurance in 2026 under the Republican repeal plan than if the current law stayed in place.

That loss was bigger than most experts anticipated, and led to a round of predictable laments from congressional Democrats — and less predictable ones from Republican senators, including Bill Cassidy of Louisiana and John Thune of South Dakota, who told reporters that the bill needed to be “more helpful” to low-income people who wanted insurance.

But one piece of context has gone little noticed: The Republican bill would actually result in more people being uninsured than if Obamacare were simply repealed. Getting rid of the major coverage provisions and regulations of Obamacare would cost 23 million Americans their health insurance, according to another recent C.B.O. report. In other words, one million more Americans would have health insurance with a clean repeal than with the Republican replacement plan, according to C.B.O. estimates.
I knew that it was bad legislation, but I did not know that it was literally worse than nothing.

This is a level of active stupidity that literally buggers the mind.

"Literally worse than nothing," kind of sounds what a mandated truth in advertising law would label Republican think tanks.

21 March 2017

ICE Needs to Be Burnt to the Ground and Rebuilt from Scratch

Recent incidents related to Trump's Muslim ban indicated that that there was some rot, but this shows that there is nothing but rot.

This is the sort of abuse of law enforcement power that would give J. Edgar Hoover a hard on:
Federal agents privately alerted two magistrate judges in late January that they would be targeting the Austin area for a major operation and that the sting was retribution for a new policy by Travis County Sheriff Sally Hernandez that dramatically limited her cooperation with them, according to one of the judges.

The revelation — made Monday in open court by U.S. Magistrate Judge Andrew Austin — conflicts with what Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials told local leaders after the sweep, when ICE characterized the operation as routine and said the Austin area was not being targeted. It also provides evidence after weeks of speculation that Hernandez’s policy triggered ICE’s ire.

“We had a briefing … that we could expect a big operation, agents coming in from out of town, that it was going to be a specific operation, and at least it was related to us in that meeting that it was the result of the sheriff’s new policy that this was going to happen,” Austin said.

“My understanding, what was told to us, is that one of the reasons that happened was because the meetings that had occurred between the (ICE) field office director and the sheriff didn’t go very well,” he said.
In case you wondering, these folks are clearly feeling empowered by the Trump administration, and are revealing themselves to be people who should be kept far, far, FAR, away from anything resembling law enforcement.

Live in obedient fear, citizen.

It's Cheap, It Works Better, Let's Kill It

I just discovered that the Veterans Administration has a medical records system that it been running and evolving since the late 1970s.

It runs better than commercial systems, largely because doctors have been brought into the system early, and because it has an open architecture it can be easily adapted to the specific needs of specific departments and locations.

It's also much cheaper than the commercial alternatives.

Of course, this means that it must be replaced by an over priced under performing system from a politically connected contractor:
Four decades ago, in 1977, a conspiracy began bubbling up from the basements of the vast network of hospitals belonging to the Veterans Administration. Across the country, software geeks and doctors were puzzling out how they could make medical care better with these new devices called personal computers. Working sometimes at night or in their spare time, they started to cobble together a system that helped doctors organize their prescriptions, their CAT scans and patient notes, and to share their experiences electronically to help improve care for veterans.

Within a few years, this band of altruistic docs and nerds—they called themselves “The Hardhats,” and sometimes “the conspiracy”—had built something totally new, a system that would transform medicine. Today, the medical-data revolution is taken for granted, and electronic health records are a multibillion-dollar industry. Back then, the whole idea was a novelty, even a threat. The VA pioneers were years ahead of their time. Their project was innovative, entrepreneurial and public-spirited—all those things the government wasn’t supposed to be.

Of course, the government tried to kill it.

Though the system has survived for decades, even topping the lists of the most effective and popular medical records systems, it’s now on the verge of being eliminated: The secretary of what is now the Department of Veterans Affairs has already said he wants the agency to switch over to a commercial system. An official decision is scheduled for July 1. Throwing it out and starting over will cost $16 billion, according to one estimate.

What happened? The story of the VA’s unique computer system—how the government actually managed to build a pioneering and effective medical data network, and then managed to neglect it to the point of irreparability—is emblematic of how politics can lead to the bungling of a vital, complex technology. As recently as last August, a Medscape survey of 15,000 physicians found that the VA system, called VistA, ranked as the most usable and useful medical records system, above hundreds of other commercial versions marketed by hotshot tech companies with powerful Washington lobbyists. Back in 2009, some of the architects of the Affordable Care Act saw VistA as a model for the transformation of American medical records and even floated giving it away to every doctor in America.


The Hardhats’ key insight—and the reason VistA still has such dedicated fans today—was that the system would work well only if they brought doctors into the loop as they built their new tools. In fact, it would be best if doctors actually helped build them. Pre-specified computer design might work for an airplane or a ship, but a hospital had hundreds of thousands of variable processes. You needed a “co-evolutionary loop between those using the system and the system you provide them,” says one of the early converts, mathematician Tom Munnecke, a polymathic entrepreneur and philanthropist who joined the VA hospital in Loma Linda, California, in 1978.


Munnecke, a leading Hardhat, remembers it as an exhilarating time. He used a PDP11/34 computer with 32 kilobytes of memory, and stored his programs, development work and his hospital’s database on a 5-megabyte disk the size of a personal pizza. One day, Munnecke and a colleague, George Timson, sat in a restaurant and sketched out a circular diagram on a paper place mat, a design for what initially would be called the Decentralized Hospital Computer Program, and later VistA. MUMPs computer language was at the center of the diagram, surrounded by a kernel of programs used by everyone at the VA, with applications floating around the fringes like electrons in an atom. MUMPS was a ludicrously simple coding language that could run with limited memory and great speed on a low-powered computer. The architecture of VistA was open, modular and decentralized. All around the edges, the apps flourished through the cooperation of computer scientists and doctors.


This is bitter fruit for many VistA fans. Some still say the system could be fixed for $200 million a year—the cost of a medium-sized hospital system’s EHR installation. “I don't know if there even is an EHR out there with data comparable to the longitudinal data that VistA has about veterans, and we certainly do not want to throw that data out if a new EHR were to be used,” says Nancy Anthracite, a Hardhat and an infectious-disease physician.
Eventually, this system will be shut down, and replaced by a more expensive inferior commercial system, because that is how the government rolls these days.

It's been heading in this direction for a while, but the institutionalization of dumbing down government agencies so as to require expensive contractors really got its start in Dick Cheney's programs when he was Secretary of Defense, and it became an existential need in response to the Clinton administration's "Reinventing Government" initiative.

It all comes down to normalizing corruption.

It's Official" The "Resistance" Is the Effort to Protect Incompetent Democrats

It turns out that the usual bunch of incompetent looters in the national Democratic Party are running the resistance:
The Democratic Party’s top officials will meet with some of their wealthiest donors in Washington, D.C., this week to plot the Trump resistance, according to documents obtained by The Daily Beast.

The chairs of the Democratic National Committee and the party’s House and Senate campaign arms will huddle with activists, operatives, and deep-pocketed Democratic financiers at a biannual conference hosted by the Democracy Alliance, a leading left-wing donor collaborative at Washington’s ritzy Mandarin Oriental hotel.

They will discuss strategy for immediate opposition to President Donald Trump’s policies, begin laying the groundwork for Democratic campaigns in next year’s midterm elections, strategize future efforts for congressional redistricting, and promote an agenda focused on the state level, where Democrats still retain some power and hope to build a model for national progressive victories. And perhaps most importantly, map out how to fully fund their opposition to all things Trump.
These are the the same ratf%$#s who continue to ignore the party base, corrupted the party to force the worst possible candidate down our throats, and then ran the worst Presidential campaign since the founding of the Republic.

You guys want to run "The Resistance"  ……… Seriously?

You do not have my support, and your wealthy contributors need to understand the problem of throwing good money after bad.

I'd sooner have a surgeon with end stage Parkinson's perform a vasectomy on me ……… With a spoon, than be a part of a political movement that you morons run.

Quote of the Day

If those are largely rhetorical questions, they do identify the core contradiction that frames human rights law: that human rights is used to guarantee that corporate profiteering continues without interruption.
Stefanie Khoury & David Whyte On how there has been a concerted attempt to grant a right to profit to corporations under human rights law while largely indemnifying them from human rights abuses that they conduct.
Corporations are not people, and there should be no right to profit. 

Profit is not property, at best it is a possibility of accumulating property at some point in the future.


Remember that video that went viral with the kid barging in on an interview?

Here is the best of the parodies:

20 March 2017

Tweet of the Day

H/t Naked Capitalism.

Yes. I know, it's an old tweet. I was cleaning up drafts, and felt the need to share this.

So Not a Surprise

It appears that while teaching law school courses, Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch made much over how women "abused" their employers over maternity benefits:
A former law student of Judge Neil Gorsuch, President Trump's nominee for the U.S. Supreme Court, alleges that in a course she took from Gorsuch at the University of Colorado Law School last year, the judge told his class that employers, specifically law firms, should ask women seeking jobs about their plans for having children and implied that women manipulate companies starting in the interview stage to extract maternity benefits.

The concerns were shared in a letter, posted Sunday evening by the National Employment Lawyers Association and the National Women's Law Center, written by Jennifer Sisk, a 2016 graduate of the University of Colorado Law School. It was sent on Friday to the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, and Ranking Member Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif.


On April 19, 2016, Sisk wrote, Judge Gorsuch used a hypothetical from the prepared material for the class, in which a female law student applies for jobs at law firms because the student has a large debt to pay off. The student also intends to have a family with her husband.

"He interrupted our class discussion to ask students how many of us knew women who used their companies for maternity benefits, who used their companies to — in order to have a baby and then leave right away," Sisk said.

She recalled that few students raised their hands and Gorsuch became animated. "He said, 'Come on, guys. All of your hands should be up. Many women do this,'" Sisk said.

Sisk offered overall praise of Gorsuch as a teacher and legal mind, outside of this incident.
Apart from that Mrs. Lincoln, how was the play?

This whole Handmaidens Tale thing is a feature, not a bug of conservative jurists.

Democrats will roll over on his nomination anyway.

Best Lede of the Day

Jacobin, is an excellent place to find reasoned and concise writing from an unabashedly socialist* perspective.

I find this article a bit Panglossian, I believe that the reports of the death of Neoliberalism have been greatly exaggerated, it does raise some interesting issues.

What's more the lede for the article is a hoot:
PBS NewsHour is generally pretty staid stuff — like Ambien but less habit-forming.
They owe me a screen wipe.

*A firmly democratic socialist perspective. No Trotskyites here.

I Was Waiting for this Tech to Hit Commercial Use

We have finally seen a the first non-US commercial satellite with all electric propulsion delivered to a customer:
Eutelsat’s new 172B satellite marks a new step in the operator’s push toward widespread use of electric propulsion. Company executives believe all conditions are gradually being met to make such power both a reliable and economical option. There is more than one launcher available for this size spacecraft, a trade-off has been found between efficiency and transfer time to orbit, and an Ariane 6 feature will further reduce time to market.

Mainly thanks to electric propulsion, the weight of 172B has been limited to 3.5 metric tons (7,700 lb.) instead of 6 tons for a more conventional satellite. For that weight class, the lower position under Ariane 5’s fairing had long been the only option for launch, Eutelsat’s chief technology officer Yohann Leroy, notes. Other options that were technically feasible were not economical. Satellite operators are leery about relying on a single launcher, Leroy emphasizes, and that reluctance had stalled the advent of electric propulsion. “SpaceX’s Falcon 9 changed the game,” he says.

As a second launcher became available for the new weight class in commercial communications geostationary satellites, Eutelsat forged ahead, and in 2015 a Falcon 9 launched Eutelsat 115 West B, the operator’s first satellite using electric power for both station-keeping and orbit-raising.

The Eutelsat 115 West B was built by Boeing. But the France-based operator no longer has to depend on the U.S. industry. Thales Alenia Space and Airbus now also offer all-electric platforms, thus increasing the number of supplier options.

In 2014, Eutelsat ordered 172B from Airbus. The satellite uses Airbus’s upgraded Eurostar 3000 EOR (electric-orbit-raising) platform. “It is the first fully electric satellite not developed in the U.S.; it is a first for us and the European industry,” says Nicolas Chamussy, head of space systems at Airbus Defense and Space. Airbus was hoping to source the thrusters from Safran, in an attempt to have an entirely European spacecraft. Autonomy in space technology is a goal shared by the European Commission and the Continent’s industry.


Energy use onboard 172B is optimized thanks to two robot arms—two thrusters can be found at the end of each arm. Thrust can thus be precisely vectored. The axis of the thrust always goes through the satellite’s center of gravity, Arnaud de Rosnay, Airbus Defense and Space’s director for communications satellites, explains. Moreover, the arms help remove heat from the electronics hardware inside the spacecraft.
Assuming that VASIMR technology can reach a commercially acceptable state, it could provide relatively high thrust at lower efficiencies for orbital transfer, and lower thrust, and higher efficiency for station keeping, which would allow for both the advantages of Ion and Hall effect thrusters.

In either case, this promises to reduce the cost of satellites, because, much like ground round, you pay for launches by the pound.

19 March 2017

The Iron Rule of Organizations* Made Manifest

By a wide margin, the most popular politician on America's national scene right now is Bernie Sanders, and the Democratic Party establishment appears to think that its first priority is taking him, and his supporters, down:
If you look at the numbers, Bernie Sanders is the most popular politician in America – and it’s not even close. Yet bizarrely, the Democratic party – out of power across the country and increasingly irrelevant – still refuses to embrace him and his message. It’s increasingly clear they do so at their own peril.

A new Fox News poll out this week shows Sanders has a +28 net favorability rating among the US population, dwarfing all other elected politicians on both ends of the political spectrum. And he’s even more popular among the vaunted “independents”, where he is at a mind boggling +41.


One would think with numbers like that, Democratic politicians would be falling all over themselves to be associated with Sanders, especially considering the party as a whole is more unpopular than the Republicans and even Donald Trump right now. Yet instead of embracing his message, the establishment wing of the party continues to resist him at almost every turn, and they seem insistent that they don’t have to change their ways to gain back the support of huge swaths of the country.

Politico ran a story just this week featuring Democratic officials fretting over the fact that Sanders supporters may upend their efforts to retake governorships in southern states by insisting those candidates adopt Sanders’ populist policies – seemingly oblivious to the fact that Sanders plays well in some of those states too.

Sanders’ effect on Trump voters can be seen in a gripping town hall this week that MSNBC’s Chris Hayes hosted with him in West Virginia – often referred to as “Trump country” – where the crowd ended up giving him a rousing ovation after he talked about healthcare being a right of all people and that we are the only industrialized nation in the world who doesn’t provide healthcare as a right to all its people.

One would think with numbers like that, Democratic politicians would be falling all over themselves to be associated with Sanders, especially considering the party as a whole is more unpopular than the Republicans and even Donald Trump right now. Yet instead of embracing his message, the establishment wing of the party continues to resist him at almost every turn, and they seem insistent that they don’t have to change their ways to gain back the support of huge swaths of the country.
These are people who have made their careers sucking up to Wall Street and other corporate interest.

If the Democratic Party moves back toward actually protecting ordinary people from the "Malefactors of Great Wealth," they will lose power, and likely their phony baloney jobs.

*That power WITHIN an organization will be pursued at the even at the expense of the power OF that organization.

Ironically, I am quoting a Republican, Theodore Roosevelt.

Single Payer Now

We have now discovered that our healthcare system has even corrupted the world renowned Mayo Clinic:
Mayo Clinic, one of the country's top hospitals, is in the midst of controversy after its CEO said that the elite medical facility would prioritize the care of patients with private health insurance over those with Medicare and Medicaid.

The prioritization by the Rochester, MN-headquartered medical practice was recently revealed by the Minneapolis Star Tribune. And it has quickly drawn out some sharp critics—as well as sympathizers.

In a statement to the Minnesota Post Bulletin, Dr. Gerard Anderson, the director of the Johns Hopkins Center for Hospital Finance and Management, compared the prioritization to policies seen in developing countries. "This is what happens in many low-income countries. The health system is organized to give the most affluent preference in receiving health care,” he wrote.

Likewise, Minnesota Department of Human Services Commissioner Emily Piper, expressed surprise and concern by the statements of Mayo’s CEO, Dr. John Noseworthy. "Fundamentally, it's our expectation at DHS that Mayo Clinic will serve our enrollees in public programs on an equal standing with any other Minnesotan that walks in their door," she said. "We have a lot of questions for Mayo Clinic about how and if and through what process this directive from Dr. Noseworthy is being implemented across their health system."


Mayo can use its standing as a prestigious institution to negotiate higher prices with commercial insurance companies, but it can’t do the same with the government. As such, those with private insurance can bring more money to the hospital than patients with the same treatments on government programs. Under the ACA, the number of people covered by Medicare and Medicaid has expanded. However, the law also decreased the number of uninsured, which can be costly to hospitals.

In his speech, Noseworthy said that Mayo had reached a “tipping point” with a recent 3.7 percent surge in Medicaid patients. “If we don’t grow the commercially insured patients, we won’t have income at the end of the year to pay our staff, pay the pensions, and so on,” he said. “So we’re looking for a really mild or modest change of a couple percentage points to shift that balance.”

Nevertheless, the nonprofit still generated substantial profits in 2016: $475 million.
Seriously:  We need to burn down the existing healthcare system.

This is Not a Surprise

Concealed within the 123 pages of legislative verbiage and dense boilerplate of the House Republican bill repealing the Affordable Care Act are not a few hard-to-find nuggets. Here’s one crying out for exposure: The bill encourages health insurance companies to pay their top executives more.

It does so by removing the ACA’s limit on corporate tax deductions for executive pay. The cost to the American taxpayer of eliminating this provision: well in excess of $70 million a year. In the reckoning of the Institute for Policy Studies, a think tank that analyzed the limitation in 2014, that would have been enough that year to buy dental insurance under the ACA for 262,000 Americans, or pay the silver plan deductibles for 28,000.

As part of an effort to rein in soaring executive pay, the ACA decreed that health insurance companies could deduct from their taxes only $500,000 of the pay of each top executive. That’s a tighter restriction than the limit imposed on other corporations, which is $1 million per executive. The ACA closed a loophole for insurance companies enjoyed by other corporations, which could deduct the cost of stock options and other “performance-based” pay; for insurance companies, the deduction cap is $500,000 per executive, period.

The idea was to signal that the ACA, which cemented health insurance companies into the center of American healthcare, wasn’t a pure giveaway to the industry.

“Consumers across America should know that when they pay their hard-earned dollars to cover the soaring cost of premiums, they are not just chipping in to pay for the CEOs’ next new yacht,” said then-Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa).


The House Republican bill repeals the compensation limit as of the end of this year. The GOP hasn’t exactly trumpeted this provision; it’s six lines on page 67 of the measure, labeled “Remuneration from Certain Insurers” and referring only to the obscure IRS code section imposing the limit. Repeal of the provision apparently means that the insurers will be able to deduct $1 million in cash per executive, plus the cost of “performance-based” stock awards and options, like other corporations.
This is just how Republicans roll.

Take money from poor people so that rich folk can afford that 3rd yacht.

They really should have been drowned at birth, all of them.

Adding to Your Vocabulary

I was in kitchen, and the radio show Wait Wait ……… Don't Tell Me was on, and they were talking about the Canadian sex toy manufacturer who has been sued for collecting data from their internet enabled vibrator.

I casually commented to Charlie, who was drinking a Coke at the time, "They caught them coming and going."

Charlie was caught mid drink, started to laugh, and proceeded to spew Coke from his nose, thankfully he made it to the trash can before he started to completely lose it.

This raises the obvious question, what is the term for spewing a drink from your nose caused by laughter?

According to the Urban Dictionary, there are two words, snork, and schnarf.

I should note that it was not my intention to get Charlie to schnarf his drink, but I might have chuckled.

I am a bad, bad man.

18 March 2017

And the Taxpayer Will End Up Paying for This

It looks like Wall Street is looking to capitalize on the collapse of the American Mall for its next speculative cash cow:
Wall Street speculators are zeroing in on the next U.S. credit crisis: the mall.

It’s no secret many mall complexes have been struggling for years as Americans do more of their shopping online. But now, they’re catching the eye of hedge-fund types who think some may soon buckle under their debts, much the way many homeowners did nearly a decade ago.

Like the run-up to the housing debacle, a small but growing group of firms are positioning to profit from a collapse that could spur a wave of defaults. Their target: securities backed not by subprime mortgages, but by loans taken out by beleaguered mall and shopping center operators. With bad news piling up for anchor chains like Macy’s and J.C. Penney, bearish bets against commercial mortgage-backed securities are growing.

In recent weeks, firms such as Alder Hill Management -- an outfit started by protégés of hedge-fund billionaire David Tepper -- have ramped up wagers against the bonds, which have held up far better than the shares of beaten-down retailers. By one measure, short positions on two of the riskiest slices of CMBS surged to $5.3 billion last month -- a 50 percent jump from a year ago.
If history is any guide, they will make out like raped apes, and the rest of us will be left holding the bag.

I don't know how exactly they will f%$# the rest of us, but history shows that their profits are financed by our money.

Headline of the Day

Nicola Sturgeon Announces Plans to Rebuild Hadrian's Wall, and England Is Going to Pay for It

It's from News Hump, a parody site, but it is a wonderful mocking of the Brexit, the Scottish independence movement, and Donald Trump.

Well done.

It's Bank Failure Friday!!! (On Saturday)

We just had the 2nd credit union failure of the year, Florida Conference AME Church Federal Credit Union of Tallahassee, FL.

Bank closings looks to be progressing about the same rate as last year, so no "Trump effect" so far.

Here is the Full NCUA list.

17 March 2017

The Oxford Comma, Bitches, It Just Works

There is a dispute in linguistic circles as to whether or not you should the Oxford comma, which is the comma used by some before the,"And," of the last item of a list.

If you use the Oxford comma, you write, "I love my parents, Lady Gaga, and Humpty Dumpty" and if you eschew this convention, “I love my parents, Lady Gaga and Humpty Dumpty."

To my mind, the latter form strongly states that your parents are Lady Gaga and Humpty Dumpty, so I am, and likely always will be, a strong supporter of the Oxford (aka serial) comma.

Well, it appears that a judge in Maine agrees with me, ruling that an employer is liable for overtime pay for their truckers because of a missing comma:
Never let it be said that punctuation doesn’t matter.

In Maine, the much-disputed Oxford comma has helped a group of dairy drivers in a dispute with a company about overtime pay.

The Oxford comma is used before the words “and” or “or” in a list of three or more things. Also known as the serial comma, its aficionados say it clarifies sentences in which things are listed.


In a judgment that will delight Oxford comma enthusiasts everywhere, a US court of appeals sided with delivery drivers for Oakhurst Dairy because the lack of a comma made part of Maine’s overtime laws too ambiguous.

The state’s law says the following activities do not count for overtime pay:
The canning, processing, preserving, freezing, drying, marketing, storing, packing for shipment or distribution of:

(1) Agricultural produce;
(2) Meat and fish products; and
(3) Perishable foods.
The drivers argued, due to a lack of a comma between “packing for shipment” and “or distribution”, the law refers to the single activity of “packing”, not to “packing” and “distribution” as two separate activities. As the drivers distribute – but do not pack – the goods, this would make them eligible for overtime pay.

Previously, a district court had ruled in the dairy company’s favour, who argued that the legislation “unambiguously” identified the two as separate activities exempt from overtime pay. But the appeals judge sided with the drivers.

Circuit judge David J. Barron wrote:
We conclude that the exemption’s scope is actually not so clear in this regard. And because, under Maine law, ambiguities in the state’s wage and hour laws must be construed liberally in order to accomplish their remedial purpose, we adopt the drivers’ narrower reading of the exemption.
The AP REALLY needs to rewrite its style guide on this matter.

I'm sure that Merle Haggard's wives would agree.

You Have to Read This

It's an essay about economists by an economist titled, The Wrongest Profession, and the can of whup ass that it's author, CEPR economist Dean Baker, unleashes on the dismal science is a thing of beauty:

Over the past two decades, the economics profession has compiled an impressive track record of getting almost all the big calls wrong. In the mid-1990s, all the great minds in the field agreed that the unemployment rate could not fall much below 6 percent without triggering spiraling inflation. It turns out that the unemployment rate could fall to 4 percent as a year-round average in 2000, with no visible uptick in the inflation rate.

As the stock bubble that drove the late 1990s boom was already collapsing, leading lights in Washington were debating whether we risked paying off the national debt too quickly. The recession following the collapse of the stock bubble took care of this problem, as the gigantic projected surpluses quickly turned to deficits. The labor market pain from the collapse of this bubble was both unpredicted and largely overlooked, even in retrospect. While the recession officially ended in November 2001, we didn’t start creating jobs again until the fall of 2003. And we didn’t get back the jobs we lost in the downturn until January 2005. At the time, it was the longest period without net job creation since the Great Depression.

When the labor market did finally begin to recover, it was on the back of the housing bubble. Even though the evidence of a bubble in the housing sector was plainly visible, as were the junk loans that fueled it, folks like me who warned of an impending housing collapse were laughed at for not appreciating the wonders of modern finance. After the bubble burst and the financial crisis shook the banking system to its foundations, the great minds of the profession were near unanimous in predicting a robust recovery. Stimulus was at best an accelerant for the impatient, most mainstream economists agreed—not an essential ingredient of a lasting recovery.

While the banks got all manner of subsidies in the form of loans and guarantees at below-market interest rates, all in the name of avoiding a second Great Depression, underwater homeowners were treated no better than the workers waiting for a labor market recovery. The Obama administration felt it was important for homeowners, unlike the bankers, to suffer the consequences of their actions. In fact, white-collar criminals got a holiday in honor of the financial crisis; on the watch of the Obama Justice Department, only a piddling number of bankers would face prosecution for criminal actions connected with the bubble.
I think that the last graph is a bit to kind to Obama, but it's well worth the read.

Fact of the Day

Adjusted for inflation, American spending to reconstruct Afghanistan now exceeds the total expended to rebuild all of Western Europe under the Marshall Plan.
—Andrew Bacevich, writing in the New York Times
Step one when you are in a hole: Stop digging.


The Simpsons have some Nostra Dumbass moments:

16 March 2017

The Good News, Wilders Loses. The Bad News, the Germans and Belgians are Still Your Neighbors

Geert Wilders and his right wing racist Party for Freedom massively under-performed pre election polls:
The Dutch political establishment appeared Wednesday to fend off a challenge from anti-Muslim firebrand Geert Wilders, according to initial vote counts, a victory in a closely watched national election that heartened centrist leaders across Europe who are fearful of populist upsets in their own nations.

The result was embraced by other leaders inside and outside the Netherlands as a major blow to anti-immigrant populism, breaking a streak of disruption that started with the Brexit vote and continued with the election of Donald Trump, a skeptic of European integration. Instead, as the Netherlands’ famed tulip season gets underway, Prime Minister Mark Rutte will remain in office as he tries to form a coalition.

The vote in the prosperous trading nation was seen as a bellwether for France and Germany, which head to the polls in the coming months and have also been shaken by fierce anti-immigrant sentiment.

Wilders nose-dived in recent weeks after topping opinion polls for most of the past 18 months, as Dutch voters appeared to turn away from an election message that described some Moroccans as “scum” and called for banning the Koran and shuttering mosques.

Wednesday is “an evening where the Netherlands, after ­Brexit, after the American elections, said no to the wrong kind of populism,” Rutte told a cheering crowd in The Hague. He said he had already spoken to other European leaders to accept their congratulations.
Note that Wilders STILL picked up a seat or two, and there is another story to this election:
With 84 percent of the voting districts reporting results early Thursday, Rutte’s center-right People’s Party for Freedom and Democracy remained the largest party, but it was on track to lose nearly a quarter of its seats in parliament, forcing the prime minister to form a new, broader coalition across the political spectrum. His coalition partner, the center-left Labor Party, was wiped out as a political force, a punishing blow in response to cooperation with a longtime rival that had a sharply different approach to the core issues of working citizens.
(emphasis mine)

This is something that happens time and time again:  The "Center Left" gets wiped out, and to my mind, there is a simple reason for this:  as the consensus has moved rightward with the general adoption of the so called "Washington Consensus," the Center-Left has followed this consensus, and under those conditions, it can simply not deliver.

This is worse in Europe, because the EU, and even more so the Euro, are not just conservative institutions, but reactionary institutions, which favor capital over labor and finance over all, and the mainstream "left" in Europe is so wedded to the EU that they are effectively political conservatives.

To paraphrase Harry S Truman, people will chose a real conservative over a fake one every day of the week.

My hope is that that the far left prevails rather than the far right, but betting on the left getting its sh%$ together is a sucker bet. and history shows that the center right and center left will hitch their wagon to fascists before they partner with the real left..

Tweet of the Day

H/t naked capitalism

I Honest Cannot Tell If This Is Serious or Satire

Someone has proposed an Exchange Traded Fund (ETF) of corporate welfare recipients:
It stands to reason that tax-shy companies outperform, so why not create an ETF for them?

We’ve had funds for sin stocks (the Vice mutual fund which invests in tobacco, booze and gambling) and those for biblical values (The Inspire Global Hope Large Cap ETF recently launched).

Now PassiveBeat presents a new twist on the vice/not vice idea: the Corporate Welfare ETF. This putative fund is chock full of megacaps that pay no tax and have outperformed the S&P 500. What’s not to like?

We’ve taken our cue from a report released earlier this month by the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy (Itep) highlighting companies that have benefited from what may charitably be termed corporate welfare – tax loopholes, subsidies and so on.
Is this a joke, or is this an investment strategy.  I really cannot tell.

The Whole Russia Hysteria Muishugas in a Nut Shell

Today, when Rand Paul objected to a bill providing support for Montenegro's accession into NATO, the warmongering Senator from the great state of Arizona, John Sydney McCain III, said that Paul was working for Vladimir Putin:
The long-simmering war between Sens. John McCain and Rand Paul boiled over on Wednesday when the Arizona lawmaker directly accused his colleague of working for Russian President Vladimir Putin.

While speaking from the Senate floor in support of a bill advancing Montenegro’s bid to join the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), McCain noted objection from his Kentucky colleague, saying that if you oppose the measure, “You are achieving the objectives of Vladimir Putin... trying to dismember this small country which has already been the subject an attempted coup.”

McCain continued: “If they object, they are now carrying out the desires and ambitions of Vladimir Putin and I do not say that lightly.”

Several moments later, after the 80-year-old senator asked for unanimous consent to move the bill forward, Paul took the mic to raise his objection before dramatically exiting the room.

In response, McCain began railing against Paul, his voice trembling with anger: “I note the senator from Kentucky leaving the floor without justification or any rationale for the action he has just taken. That is really remarkable, that a senator blocking a treaty that is supported by the overwhelming number—perhaps 98, at least, of his colleagues—would come to the floor and object and walk away.”

He then directly connected Paul to the Russian government: “The only conclusion you can draw when he walks away is he has no justification for his objection to having a small nation be part of NATO that is under assault from the Russians.

“So I repeat again, the senator from Kentucky is now working for Vladimir Putin.”
Rather unsurprisingly, the Mitch McConnell chose not to cite Senate Rule XIX, which says in part, "No Senator in debate shall, directly or indirectly, by any form of words impute to another Senator or to other Senators any conduct or motive unworthy or unbecoming a Senator," because it's OK if you are a Republican to accuse your colleague of being a Russian mole, but it's somehow wrong to quote Coretta Scott King from the Senate record in a debate if you are a Democrat.

Snark of the Day

May to send Article 50 letter strapped to a bulldog in a Spitfire
The Daily Mash
They owe me a screen wipe.

This Must Have Been What It Was Like to Watch Mort Sahl Implode in the 1960s

Stephen Colbert Opens Up a Can of Whup Ass on Rachel Maddow
I haven't watched Rachel Maddow since she gleefully revealed the straw poll of super delegates just before the California primary.

It wasn't the revelation per se, all of NBC clearly had orders to push the story, it was the glee with which she was telling California voters that that didn't matter.

Lately though, she has been going tinfoil hat in a way reminiscent of Mort Sahl's decidedly unfunny fixation on the Kennedy assassination and the Warren Commission report, which wrecked the career of what had been the most promising comedian of the late 1950s.

It's been Russophobic baiting that would be worthy of the late, and unlamented, Roy Cohn.

Now she's completely jumped the shark in revealing Donald Trump's 2005 1040 form, both pages, no details, and it reveals that he paid about 25% of his income in taxes.

It's been described as a, "Cynical, self-defeating spectacle," and the reporter who obtained the document, David Cay Johnston, said that he could not be sure that Trump hadn't leaked the tax returns himself.

Think about it:  After over a year of allegations that he was basically broke, and that he paid no taxes, we discover, at least in 2005, he earned over $150 million, proving that he's really rich, not fake rich, and that he actually paid a tax rate that makes him look honest.

It really is pathetic, as Stephen Colbert's devastating parody of her clearly shows.

My theory is that Hillary supporters know that the f%$#ed up, but are unable to admit their guilt, and it's driving them cray-cray, but I'm an engineer, not a psychiatrist, dammit!*

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

15 March 2017

Quote of the Day

The issue isn't that one small rate hike will destroy the economy, it's that rate hikes like this are the Fed's way of signalling that they will never let wages go up again.
Duncan "Atrios" Black on the Federal Reserve's 250 basis point (¼%) rate hike.
He is absolutely correct.

It is the official policy of the Fed, and much of the US government, to suppress wages of working people.

Either inflation or deficit concerns are the excuse.

This Is a Bright Line That Has Been Crossed

You can argue about whether or not the special forces inserted into Syria have a combat role or not.

Personally, I think that the whole "they are just training forces" dodge is a canard.

That being said, when you move in artillery units with their guns, you are involved in the ground war, period, full stop:
The Pentagon has deployed several hundred Marines to northern Syria, the Washington Post and CNN reported this week. Their mission: firing long-range artillery to help recapture Raqqa, ISIS’s self-proclaimed capital city.

The Marines are equipped with M777 howitzers, which can fire GPS-guided explosives up to 25 miles.

That’s a big change from the “train, advise, and assist” role U.S. forces have been playing so far — although as with many previous troop deployments to Iraq and Syria, it was not debated, let alone authorized, by Congress.

But the White House press secretary brushed off a question about the move, saying that sending “several hundred advisers” did not amount to “hostile action.”

Right-wing radio host John Fredericks asked Sean Spicer on Thursday whether Trump was committed to seeking congressional authorization for new deployments.

“I think there’s a big difference between an authorization of war than [sic] sending a few hundred advisers,” Spicer replied. “And I think most in Congress would probably agree with that as well. I think that’s a big difference between a hostile action and going in to address some certain concerns, whether it’s certain countries in the Middle East or elsewhere.”

Spicer referred the question to the Department of Defense. But when reached by The Intercept, a Pentagon spokesperson disputed Spicer’s characterization.

“This is fire support,” said Maj. Adrian Rankine-Galloway, a public affairs officer for the Marine Corps, explaining that the new deployment would fire long-range artillery in an assault on Raqqa. “They will be providing partner support for the Syrian Democratic Forces.”
This is unequivocally a combat role.  This is boots on the ground.

This if f%$#ing artillery, aka the "King of the Battlefield."

We are in for a world of hurt here.


This video details how the Democrats are devoid of any guiding principles, because it has been, "hollowed out by corporate money." (Warning, frequent use of the s-word and the f-word)

Ht JR at the Stellar Parthenon BBS for the video.