24 May 2018

These Guys Could F%$# Up a 2 Car Funeral

And Donald Trump's summit with Kim Jong-un has been canceled:
President Trump on Thursday pulled out of a highly anticipated summit meeting with Kim Jong-un, accusing the North Koreans of bad faith and lamenting that “this missed opportunity is a truly sad moment in history.”

The president made his announcement in a remarkably personal, at times mournful-sounding letter to Mr. Kim, North Korea’s leader, in which he cited the North’s “tremendous anger and open hostility” in recent public statements as the specific reason for canceling the meeting.

Mr. Trump said later that the meeting, which had been scheduled for June 12 in Singapore, could still happen, and North Korea issued a strikingly conciliatory response, saying it hoped Mr. Trump would reconsider.

But Mr. Trump also renewed talk of military action against the North and vowed to keep pressing economic sanctions, guaranteeing that for now, at least, his unlikely courtship of Mr. Kim will give way to a more familiar cycle of threats and tension.
So, now we are back to nuclear chicken.  This is a YUGE screw up.

Headline of the Day

Iran’s Khamenei Likens U.S. to Cat in ‘Tom and Jerry’
Bloomberg
So Iran's supreme religious leader knows enough about US culture to make a Tom and Jerry reference, specifically that, "The U.S. has tried various political, economic, military and propaganda undertakings to hit the Islamic Republic, but all these plots failed. Like the famous cat in Tom and Jerry they will lose again."

I cannot imagine a Saudi cleric even knowing who the hell Tom and Jerry are.

Gawd Help Me, I am Praising New York Jets Management


Post and Daily News on Same Side
I am not a Jets fan, and as such, it probably makes me more likely to praise the management of that football franchise, but still, this is not something that I would have anticipated doing.

The short version of this is that the owner is saying that he's going to cover the fines for anyoneone on his team kneeling during the anthem:
The Jets are not standing with the NFL in regard to standing for the national anthem.

After the league announced a rule change Wednesday — saying players must either stand for the anthem or stay in the locker room while it is being played — Jets Chairman and CEO Christopher Johnson said the team would support players who might choose to kneel anyway, and not issue any team fines.

“I plan to sit in the very near term with Coach (Todd) Bowles and our players to discuss today’s decision regarding the National Anthem,” Johnson said in a statement.

“As I have in the past, I will support our players wherever we land as a team. Our focus is not on imposing any Club rules, fines, or restrictions. Instead we will continue to work closely with our players to constructively advance social justice issues that are important to us. I remain extremely proud of how we demonstrated unity last season as well as our players’ commitment to strengthening our communities.”

Under the new league rule, if a player does go on the field and protest during the anthem, the team would be fined by the league. The new policy also enables each club to have its own rules if a player is on the field and does “not stand and show respect for the flag and the Anthem.”And, Johnson told Newsday, the team will absorb any league-imposed fines.

“I do not like imposing any club-specific rules,” he said. “If somebody (on the Jets) takes a knee, that fine will be borne by the organization, by me, not the players.
Good for them.

They are doing the right thing, and they are doing the smart thing.

They might want to consider extending this whole, "Doing the right thing and doing the smart thing," bit to the game of Football, where their performance over the past two seasons has been lackluster.


23 May 2018

Read This

The editors are at Rolling Stone are sadists, so they assigned Matt Taibbi to do a review of the new HBO hagiography of Senator John Sidney McCain III's life, and he is brilliant and savage:
I hope my editors boil in oil in the afterlife for asking me to review John McCain: For Whom the Bell Tolls, the new HBO doc that premieres Memorial Day and stars David Brooks, Henry Kissinger, George W. Bush and a succession of other wax-museum escapees who line up to evade and prevaricate about things McCain-related and not.

The review copy might as well have been titled, Go Ahead, Say Something Bad About a Terminal Cancer Patient. I felt like a monster 20 seconds in.
It is a beautiful take-down, with quotes like this:
So McCain brought in Sarah Palin, who was a hell of a change, all right, with the IQ of a cheese-wheel – she made Dan Quayle sound like Spinoza. McCain's campaign was cooked from that moment, because as the months passed, he couldn't conceal his growing contempt for his own decision, leading to a fracture within the party that has persisted to this day.
This review is a thing of beauty, and you need to read the whole thing.

Tweet of the Day

This is in response to the NFL announcing that they are banning players kneeling during the Star Spangled Banner.

What a group of cowards.

A New Definition of Hell

Did you know that there was a high school in Pennsylvania that is punishing students for not smiling?

No, this is not The Onion. This is hell on earth:
Northern Lebanon School District students in Pennsylvania must smile while walking the hallways at the institution or they will be punished, according to a report.

Students who do not smile in the hallways between periods will be instructed to, and if they refuse, they will be sent to the guidance counselor’s office to talk through their problems, reported Lebanon Daily News. Meanwhile, parents claim that reports of bullying in the district are mostly ignored by administrators.

Teachers at the institution, who have not been named, told the news agency that Benjamin Wenger, the assistant high school principal, has been strictly enforcing the rule, though it has not yet been put into writing within the district.
It appears that the difference between kindergartners and assistant high school principals is that the latter do not have meaningful adult supervision.

And if you think that my, "Adult Supervision," comment is over the top, I would note that Mr. Wenger's boss, High School Principal Jennifer Hassler, and a colleague, Middle School Principal Brad Reist, have taken to playing catch with sex toys for their own personal amusement.  (More horrifying details at the link)

This is unbelievably f%$#ed up.

I Love This

It appears that the denizens of Silicon Valley are experiencing some butt hurt because a popular pastor in the area has described their world as an, "Elitist den of hate."

Truth hurts, don't it?

These are people who make their money from regulatory arbitrage and government subsidies (patent, copyright, not having to pay sales tax, etc), collude to hold down worker wages, bust unions, etc.

No sympathy from me:
A Silicon Valley pastor has resigned from his church after calling the city of Palo Alto an “elitist sh%$t den of hate” and criticizing the hypocrisy of “social justice” activism in the region.

Gregory Stevens confirmed on Monday that he had stepped down from the First Baptist church of Palo Alto, an LGBT-inclusive congregation, after his personal tweets calling out the contradictions of wealthy liberals in northern California surfaced at a recent council hearing.

In emails to the Guardian, the 28-year-old minister detailed his “exasperation” with Palo Alto, a city in the heart of the technology industry, surrounded by severe income inequality and poverty.

“I believe Palo Alto is a ghetto of wealth, power, and elitist liberalism by proxy, meaning that many community members claim to want to fight for social justice issues, but that desire doesn’t translate into action,” Stevens wrote, lamenting that it was impossible for low-income people to live in the city. “The insane wealth inequality and the ignorance toward actual social justice is absolutely terrifying.” He later added: “The tech industry is motivated by endless profit, elite status, rampant greed, and the myth that their technologies are somehow always improving the world.”

………

The underlying messages to Stevens’ tweets, however, touched on continuing tension in Silicon Valley, where some of the world’s wealthiest companies and entrepreneurs have pledged to better the world through innovations, yet working-class families and poor residents struggle to afford the most basic necessities. The region has one of the worst homelessness crises in the country and a huge shortage of affordable housing, forcing tens of thousands of low-income workers to commute more than 50 miles to work.

………

He argued that the church’s rich neighbors could afford to “feed and house” all the homeless people in Palo Alto and surrounding cities, but instead focused on passing laws that further criminalized this population, encouraging police to harass those sleeping outside or in cars. The city had also made it hard for the church to provide meals for the homeless by requiring costly permits, he said.

………

But Palo Alto, he said, “wanted nothing to do with actual justice and was more interested in guarding their enclave of power and wealth”, adding: “If the wealth inequalities are not addressed, any talk about climate change, homelessness, and migrant rights is in vain.”
I agree with him completely, and I would apply it more generally to the hyper-wealthy throughout the west, particularly the US.

The world has become an increasingly brutal and hypocritical place.

22 May 2018

Primary Night

Not sure what it all means, the results were more mixed than last timea few weeks ago.

Stacey Abrams is the Democratic nominee for governor in Georgia, which makes her not only the first black major party nominee for governor in the Peach State, but it also makes her the first black woman major party nominee for governor in the US.

Laura Moser lost the Congressional primary runoff in Texas to Lizzie Pannill Fletcher, the DCCC's choice for TX-7.  Fletcher is also a partner in a union-busting law firm, so I am bumming, particularly as it was not even close.

On the other hand, Lupe Valdez, former Dallas County Sheriff, won the Gubernatorial nod from the Democratic Party with an unabashedly populist pitch.

It does seem that there is a general trend this season that favors political newcomers.

My quick take is that these are mixed results, but I am neither a glass half full nor a glass half empty guy, I am an engineer, so I say that your glass is to f%$#ing big.

Speaking of Bureaucrats Lying to Legislators,

The ational Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) has been lying to legislators to encourage them to dump billions into new warheads:
There are many reasons to keep certain parts of the U.S. nuclear weapons complex a secret. But fraud, waste, and abuse run rampant when the mystique and awe of nuclear bombs gets in the way of effective oversight. And it is the taxpayer who ends up suffering.

The secrets to creating a nuclear explosion and the materials to do so are kept by the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA), a semi-autonomous agency within the Department of Energy, and it has a $1.2 trillion plan to build new nuclear warheads and facilities over the next 30 years.

But new documents obtained by the Project On Government Oversight (POGO) discussing the life expectancy of nuclear weapons components show that the uranium cores may have a longer life span than originally thought. This may undermine some justifications for an expansive—and expensive—nuclear modernization plan.

Although much of the documents are redacted, likely to keep safe the most sensitive details of the U.S. nuclear enterprise, the remaining details seem to suggest that initial life-span estimates were too conservative. These initial estimates were partially used as justification for plans to build an expensive new facility and revising plans based on these findings could result in billions of savings for taxpayers.
But there’s no getting around the fact that twice now the NNSA has either obscured facts that would suggest a more limited capacity is all that’s required or has pursued an expensive plan without knowing all the facts beforehand.
In light of NNSA’s rhetoric about the aging nuclear arsenal and the desperate need for more money to modernize, POGO endeavored to determine exactly what upgrades were truly needed to support a credible nuclear deterrent. In 2013, we released a report that called for a study into the lifetime of uranium secondaries in order to determine what capacity would be required of a proposed new facility. A study would make clear how many of these secondaries would need to be manufactured in the new building. POGO’s report on the proposed Uranium Processing Facility (UPF) highlighted how the public was being kept in the dark about this number, an important justification for continued and increased funding. At the time, a number of Energy Department sources told POGO several hundred warheads had already gone through the life extension process and would not need remanufactured secondaries.
Once again I will 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."

Rule 1 of FBI Legislative Proposals is Don't Trust the FBI

Rule 2 is see rule number 1:
The FBI has repeatedly provided grossly inflated statistics to Congress and the public about the extent of problems posed by encrypted cellphones, claiming investigators were locked out of nearly 7,800 devices connected to crimes last year when the correct number was much smaller, probably between 1,000 and 2,000, The Washington Post has learned.

Over a period of seven months, FBI Director Christopher A. Wray cited the inflated figure as the most compelling evidence for the need to address what the FBI calls “Going Dark” — the spread of encrypted software that can block investigators’ access to digital data even with a court order.

The FBI first became aware of the miscount about a month ago and still does not have an accurate count of how many encrypted phones they received as part of criminal investigations last year, officials said. Last week, one internal estimate put the correct number of locked phones at 1,200, though officials expect that number to change as they launch a new audit, which could take weeks to complete, according to people familiar with the work.

“The FBI’s initial assessment is that programming errors resulted in significant over-counting of mobile devices reported,’’ the FBI said in a statement Tuesday. The bureau said the problem stemmed from the use of three distinct databases that led to repeated counting of phones. Tests of the methodology conducted in April 2016 failed to detect the flaw, according to people familiar with the work.

………

Since then, Wray has repeated the claim about 7,800 locked phones, including in a March speech. Those remarks were echoed earlier this month by Attorney General Jeff Sessions.

“Last year, the FBI was unable to access investigation-related content on more than 7,700 devices — even though they had the legal authority to do so. Each of those devices was tied to a threat to the American people,” Sessions said.

Officials now admit none of those statements are true.

The FBI’s admission is likely to fuel further criticism from lawmakers, privacy advocates and tech companies, and hinder the bureau’s public efforts to address encryption issues.
If you believe that this was an unintentional error, I have a bridge in Brooklyn to sell to you.

If law enforcement gets their way in shaping criminal justice, you get a police state, because it makes their job easier.

This is why I get paranoid about legislative initiatives from law enforcement.

It's Time for Metaphor Mania

There is a sinkhole on the White House north lawn.

There is some sort of metaphor here, but it's just out of my reach:
For all the concern over leaks at the White House, a more pressing problem might be the sinkhole on the North Lawn that appears to be growing by the day.

The pit in the ground, which was first reported by White House correspondents on site this week, appears to have opened just outside the press briefing room and deputy White House press secretary Hogan Gidley’s office.

Steve Herman, a reporter with Voice of America, tweeted that he first spotted the sinkhole last week. It has since grown, and another sinkhole has opened next to it.
It appears that Twitter machine is going crazy over this.

Another Magical Space Drive Bites the Dust

The "EM Drive" is alleged to provide reactionless thrust.

Someone finally set up a sensitive and repeatable test protocol, and they measured thrust.

A small fly in the ointment though, the thrust occurred without regard of how the motor was facing.

It appears that the thrust came from the current flowing to the motor, with the magnetic field of the earth acting as a stator, and no thrust came from the motor itself, but the current was pushing against the magnetic field of the earth:
It was bound to happen eventually. A group of researchers that may actually be competent and well-funded is investigating alternative thrust concepts. This includes our favorite, the WTF-thruster EM-drive, as well as something called a Mach-Effect thruster. The results, presented at Space Propulsion 2018, are pretty much as expected: a big fat meh.

The key motivation behind all of this is that rocket technology largely sucks for getting people around the Solar System. And it sucks even worse as soon as you consider the problem of interstellar travel. The result is that good people spend a lot of time eliminating even the most far-fetched ideas. The EM-drive is a case in point. It's basically a truncated hollow copper cone that you feed electromagnetic radiation into. The radiation bounces around in the cone. And, by some physics-defying magic, unicorns materialize to push you through space.

………

The key problem seemed to be that the main proponents of crazy space thrusters may actually be pretty bad at doing experiments. All in all, I would have moved on, but others are more thorough than I am.

Let the adults have a go

A group of German scientists has now gotten a reasonable amount of money under the rubric of testing all the things. Basically, because the various space agencies have whispered that no idea is too silly to ignore, we need an effective way to quickly test all the stupid space stuff on the Internet. The Germans are currently building something that is designed to do all that testing. It is an awesome bit of equipment.

First, everything is done in vacuum. And, not just the poor vacuum that you might get by attaching a Hoover to a leaky box—they can get down to a respectable billionth of atmospheric pressure. This is not world-class vacuum, but it is certainly overkill for testing the various WTF-thrusters.

Inside the vacuum, the researchers use a torsion balance attached to a calibrated spring to measure thrust. They’ve got the whole thing automated, so they can level the balance, change the tension of the spring, run calibrations on the torsion bar (they have two methods of calibration), and do tests without ever opening the box. They can even rotate the thruster during the test. Being automated, they can repeat the same measurement under the same conditions multiple times and take the average. The current system is sensitive to around 10nN (nano-Newtons) of force.

………

Testing all the things

Instead of getting ahold of someone else’s EM drive, or Mach-effect device, the researchers created their own, along with the driving electronics. Let’s start with the EM drive.

The researchers used precision machining and polishing to obtain a microwave cavity that was much better than those previously published. If anything was going to work, this would be the one. The researchers built up a very nice driving circuit that was capable of supplying 50W of power to the cavity. However, the amplifier mountings still needed to be worked on. So, to keep thermal management problems under control, they limited themselves to a couple of Watts in the current tests.

The researchers also inserted an enormous attenuator. This meant that they could, without physically changing the setup, switch on all the electronics and have the amplifiers working at full noise, and all the power would either go to the EM drive or be absorbed in the attenuator. That gives them much more freedom to determine if the thrust was coming from the drive or not.

………

WTF-thruster is a magnetic WTF-thruster

And the winner is… Physics, without much doubt. Even with a power of just a couple of Watts, the EM-drive generates thrust in the expected direction (e.g., the torsion bar twists in the right direction). If you reverse the direction of the thruster, the balance swings back the other way: the thrust is reversed. Unfortunately, the EM drive also generates the thrust when the thruster is directed so that it cannot produce a torque on the balance (e.g., the null test also produces thrust). And likewise, that “thrust” reverses when you reverse the direction of the thruster.

The best part is that the results are the same when the attenuator is put into the circuit. In this case, there is basically no radiation in the microwave cavity, yet the WTF-thruster thrusts on.

So, where does the force come from? The Earth’s magnetic field, most likely. The cables that carry the current to the microwave amplifier run along the arm of the torsion bar. Although the cable is shielded, it is not perfect (because the researchers did not have enough mu metal). The current in the cable experiences a force due to the Earth’s magnetic field that is precisely perpendicular to the torsion bar. And, depending on the orientation of the thruster, the direction of the current will reverse and the force will reverse. The researchers made some calculations, based on the location of the experiment and the amplifier current, and got a torque that agreed quite well with the measured torque.

This is, of course, not the final word. But it is an excellent cautionary tale. The thrust that the researchers measured with just a couple of Watts of power was the same as that measured previously with 50W of power. And that was all due to a shielding problem. When the amplifiers are properly mounted and the shielding is in place, it will be even more difficult to detect the thrust, because the effects of noise will grow as well. I expect a flood of null results in the next year.
They also did similarly precise tests on something called, "Mach Effect Thrusters," with similarly dismal results.

Score one for physics.

There may be some ways to cheat the laws of physics, thought Lt. Commander Montgomery Scott has always been dubious of such things, as have I.

If you think that you have a breakthrough in basic physics on the macro level,* check your experimental design and methodology.

You've probably f%$#ed something up.

*Note that one does get seemingly "magical" results from some quantum mechanical effects, but these actually reflect the theory, they are just weird, they don't actually violate the laws of physics they follow it.

21 May 2018

There's a Special Place in Hell for Women Who Don't Help Each Other

And Hillary Clinton just endorsed Andrew Cuomo over Cynthic Nixon in the New York gubernatorial primary.

The quote in the headline, of course, was made by Madeline Allbright, and frequently invoked against Bernie Sanders supporters in 2016.

The juxtaposition is striking.

You Remember the Story of the Boy Who Cried Wolf?

After about a year and a half of a noun, a verb, and Vladimir Putin, we now have some pretty good evidence that Donald Trump and his relatives have been selling foreign policy.

We're talking an explicit quid pro quo, but you'll hear very little about this because it all fades into the miasma that is Trump's ethical lapses.

In the process of pursuing Vladimir Putin as if he were Ernst Stavro Blofeld, people have ignored the fact that Trump is deeply and profoundly corrupt, and always has been:
Today marks the 16-month anniversary of Donald Trump becoming the 45th president of the United States, and nowhere has our unlikeliest commander-in-chief placed a greater stamp on America’s place in the world than his dramatic — and sometimes arbitrary and capricious, or so it seems — shifts in foreign policy. None of these seismic changes seemed more baffling than last spring’s abrupt sellout of the Persian Gulf state of Qatar — a longtime ally where the U.S. Air Force Central Command and its 10,000 American troops are now based.

………

Trump stunned his own foreign policy team — including then-Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Defense Secretary James Mattis — when he tweeted that Qatar is a sponsor of terrorism and seemingly endorsed an economic and political blockage of the tiny, oil-rich nation organized and led by two powerful neighbors, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, or UAE.

………

How to make sense of a 180-degree shift in policy that seemed so counter to U.S. interests in the region? A few months later, people who suspect the worst about Trump and his minions learned a possible motive that was almost too cynical to comprehend. Not long before Team Trump switched gears on Qatar, key officials from the emirate had met with Charles Kushner — father of Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser, Jared, who’s in charge of Trump’s Middle East portfolio — to discuss a massive Qatar-funded bailout of 666 Fifth Ave., the debt-laden Manhattan skyscraper that was threatening to sink the Kushner family real estate empire. But the Qataris rejected the deal — just weeks before the policy about-face. Whatever actually happened, the appearance was simply awful. 
No, the reality is simply awful.
It also seems not to have been the full story. This weekend, the New York Times published a stunning report about a plan floated by a longtime emissary for the Saudis and the UAE in early August 2016, when Trump had just grabbed the GOP nomination but faced an uphill campaign against Hillary Clinton. Donald Trump Jr., aide Stephen Miller and Erik Prince, founder of the notorious mercenary outfit once know as Blackwater, listened intently as the emissary offered Team Trump millions of dollars in assistance, including a covert social-media campaign, to help Trump win that would be run by a former Israeli spy who specializes in psychological warfare, or psywar.

“The emissary, George Nader, told Donald Trump Jr. that the princes who led Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates were eager to help his father win election as president,” the Times reported. Some key elements — exactly who was behind the plan, and what parts, if any, were carried out — remain murky.
I should mention here that Nader is a convicted felon, having served multiple sentences for child porn and sexual child abuse.  (As Anna Russel would say, "I'm not making this up, you know.")

And the corruption is pretty explicit:
As long as Trump and Jared Kushner continue to hold onto their business holdings while leading U.S. foreign policy, this cloud will remain. Did Trump voice support last week for ending American sanctions on the Chinese telecom company ZTE Corp. because it would benefit their U.S. subcontractors, or because a Chinese fund is investing $500 million in an Indonesia theme park that should dramatically boost the value of a related Trump Organization development? Then there’s the matter of Qatar, because in recent months it has become clear that the Gulf state is again in the Trump administration’s good graces, and the strategic alliance has been renewed as if last spring’s blowup never happened. Is that because it’s a more sensible policy — or is it because a firm called Brookfield Asset Management that is backed heavily by Qatari funds is near a deal to bail out Kushner’s 666 Fifth Ave? Is it any wonder that so many longtime key allies of the United States wonder if they can trust Trump’s America?
I note that Trump was thoroughly corrupt, and deeply mobbed up last year, but, instead of looking at the stuff that blatantly obvious, we have discussions of pee tapes.

Pity about That Legacy, Paul Ryan


Bummer of Birthmark, Paul
House Speaker Paul Ryan is leaving, and on the way out, he wanted a legacy.

Seeing as how the soon to be former Congressman, AKA the zombie eyed granny starver, IS the zombie eyed granny starver, he sees his legacy as finding some new and inventive way to inflict cruelty on the helpless.

So, in contravention of more than 50 years of bipartisan consensus, Paul Ryan decided to gut food stamps (SNAP) in the latest farm bill, and so he had to pass the bill without Democratic votes, and the right wing nut-jobs of the Freedom Caucus refused to back the bill, because they wanted to vote on persecuting brown people first:
A sweeping farm bill failed in the House on Friday in a blow to GOP leaders who were unable to placate conservative lawmakers demanding commitments on immigration.

The House leadership put the bill on the floor gambling it would pass despite unanimous Democratic opposition. They negotiated with members of the conservative House Freedom Caucus up to the last minutes.

But their gamble failed. The vote was 213 to 198, with 30 Republicans joining 183 Democrats in defeating the bill.

The outcome exposed what is becoming an all-out war within the House GOP over immigration, a divisive fight the Republicans did not want to have heading into midterm elections in November that will decide control of Congress.

The bill’s collapse also highlight the splits within the GOP conference that have bedeviled House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.) and will be certain to dog the top lieutenants in line to replace him, Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) and Majority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.).

With moderate Republicans maneuvering to force a vote on legislation offering citizenship to some younger immigrants who arrived in the country as children, conservatives revolted. The farm bill became a bargaining chip as they lobbied leadership for a vote on a hard-line immigration bill.

………


The Washington Post
Democracy Dies in Darkness

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In blow to GOP, House fails to pass massive farm bill in face of conservative Republican showdown
by Erica Werner and Mike DeBonis May 18 Email the author

House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.) on Wednesday expresses support for the House Agriculture Committee’s work on the farm bill. (J. Scott Applewhite/AP)

A sweeping farm bill failed in the House on Friday in a blow to GOP leaders who were unable to placate conservative lawmakers demanding commitments on immigration.

The House leadership put the bill on the floor gambling it would pass despite unanimous Democratic opposition. They negotiated with members of the conservative House Freedom Caucus up to the last minutes.

But their gamble failed. The vote was 213 to 198, with 30 Republicans joining 183 Democrats in defeating the bill.

The outcome exposed what is becoming an all-out war within the House GOP over immigration, a divisive fight the Republicans did not want to have heading into midterm elections in November that will decide control of Congress.

The bill’s collapse also highlight the splits within the GOP conference that have bedeviled House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.) and will be certain to dog the top lieutenants in line to replace him, Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) and Majority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.).

With moderate Republicans maneuvering to force a vote on legislation offering citizenship to some younger immigrants who arrived in the country as children, conservatives revolted. The farm bill became a bargaining chip as they lobbied leadership for a vote on a hard-line immigration bill.

Leaders tried to come up with a compromise, but 11th-hour negotiations, offers and counteroffers failed. McCarthy and Scalise will face a share of the blame for the failure, and their fortunes in the race to replace Ryan next year could suffer accordingly.

The farm bill itself became practically a sideshow, despite its importance to agriculture and the significant changes it would institute to food stamp programs.

………

The farm bill itself broke open partisan House divisions as Democrats abandoned negotiations with Republicans over the food stamp changes, which would require adults to spend 20 hours per week working or participating in a state-run training program as a condition to receive benefits. Democrats argue that a million or more people would end up losing benefits, because most states do not have the capacity to set up the training programs required.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) described the legislation as “cruel” and argued that with the proposed changes to food stamps, “Republicans are taking food out of the mouths of families struggling to make ends meet.”
This outcome was eminently predictable, and it could not happen to a more deserving guy.

Good Proposal

One of the features land reform historically has been expropriation, and these days, that frequently is made very difficult by modern trade deals, and extra-territorial court decisions, where you see people seizing assets once they are out of countries.
There is another way, rigorously enforced property taxes at a significant , with a reasonable homestead exemption, something on the order of 20 hectares for agricultural use, and 2 hectares for other uses:
………Most of the land, and all the best land, is owned or controlled by absentee natives or by outside organizations—foreign corporations, banks or governments. Local government is corrupt, incompetent, and obligated to outsiders if not actually controlled by them. There’s a two-fold net effect. On the one hand, there’s a continuing drain of working capital and labor to the outside, as rents, interest, profits flow out and young adults emigrate. On the other hand, the extraction process cripples the economy, by cutting off working capital and killing labor incentives. The local government, cannot or will not provide adequate services, due to corruption and lack of tax money. Metaphorically, these colonies are being bled dry.

Suppose a reform government were to come to power in these places and suppose it could stave off foreign threats. How could it stop the bleeding?

………

The same strategy can work for modern colonies. A reform government can heavily tax the value of real estate, possibly with exemptions for small resident property owners. Better yet, and much easier to implement, tax only the land component of real estate. Such a tax would force absentee owners to send euros or dollars back to the colonies. The government could then begin to provide services and repair infrastructure. But why tax real estate? Why not tax income or imports? Because absentees and foreign based corporations can easily avoid income taxes by funny accounting. Taxes on most imports are regressive and a drain on the economy. The real money is in real estate.

All but the most primitive governments keep some sort of registry of property, crude and out of date in Greece, Haiti, and Puerto Rico. A reform government can easily create new cadastral maps—that’s what George Washington did as he surveyed Native American land. In the age of GPS it’s even easier. The government can then place the existing claims on the map. The recorded “owner” may be a shell corporation based in the Bahamas, but no matter. Just tax it. Where claims overlap, they can be taxed twice—forcing owners to resolve the boundaries. The government can claim any blank spots—forcing hidden informal owners to declare themselves or lose the property.
If you juxtapose this with a stated goal of land reform through eminent domain, where the owners are paid a fair market value for their properties, you can create a simple assessment of the property:
Another strategy for getting initial property values is to ask owners to declare the values themselves, with the government having the right to purchase the properties at the declared value. The government right to purchase, if enforced, takes away owners’ incentive to understate the value.
As an aside here, if you require this declaration for a reduced tax rate, say 20% if the owner does not make a declaration versus 2% if they do, and you require the land to be tied to an actual person for a homestead exemption, which means that obscure ownership arrangements become economically unsustainable.

The downside, of course, is the urge of politicians to cut tax deals with large corporations for the immediate political benefit, even though any sane analysis shows that this ends up costing more than it generates in revenue.  (Amazon's grotesque competition for its second headquarters is simply the most egregious example ……… so far.)

Linkage


How police treat open carry activists depending on the color of their skin:

20 May 2018

Good Point

The good folks at FAIR note, and disapprove of the fact that when white people engage in racist behavior, the press does their level best to maintain their anonymity:
The presumption of innocence is supposed to protect those accused of a crime, in law and in the press. In corporate media, that rule also seems to apply to white people who report people of color to the police for doing innocuous things. As FAIR found, their identities are far more closely protected than those of people falsely targeted for “suspicious” behavior.

In the past few weeks, major news media have been flooded with coverage of incidents of alleged racial profiling and implicit bias—from golfers reported to police for playing “too slowly,” to picnickers fingered for using the wrong type of grill at a park. This coverage was prompted by viral videos and other social media posts released by the accused or by concerned bystanders, in real time or soon after these events occurred. The characters in these stories had one thing in common: The callers and officers involved were white; the alleged offenders, black or brown.

In a survey of coverage of four recent racial profiling cases, FAIR examined articles or segments in the New York Times, Washington Post and USA Today; on NPR, CNN, Fox, and the CBS, NBC and ABC evening news; as well as in major papers in the region where the incidents occurred.

These stories, while similar in content (often using the same quotes or incorporating Associated Press reports), didn’t lack for details. Those accused, police, witnesses, and corporate and institutional leaders were interviewed. Multimedia elements were included, such as smartphone, regular, and police body cam videos, audio from 9/11 calls, police reports and screen captures of social media posts.

But almost across the board, while the accused’s names and personal details have been made public, the accusers remain unnamed. Though equally newsworthy, they were allowed to retain their anonymity.
It took a while for the racist Starbucks manager, or the racist Yale grad student, or the woman who called the police on black people barbecuing in the park, to be revealed, and the information was crowd sourced, and on Twitter, before the major news organizations deigned to publish this information.

For other news stories, the identity of the malefactor would be in the first two paragraphs of the story, but there seems to an editorial omerta as regards wypipo behaving badly.

19 May 2018

It Was Inevitable………

The Trump administration is going balls to the wall to defund Planned Parenthood and reduce access to birth control services by reviving the Reagan gag rule:
The Trump administration is proposing to bar clinics that provide abortion services or referrals from receiving federal family-planning funds, a far-reaching move that would deprive Planned Parenthood and other women’s health centers of millions of dollars a year.

The proposal would require a “bright line” of physical and financial separation between clinics that receive $260 million annually in federal funding and any organization that provides abortions or referrals to abortion clinics.

The move delivers on a long-held objective of abortion opponents, who are staunch supporters of President Trump. In a statement Friday, White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said that it “would ensure that taxpayers do not indirectly fund abortions” and that Trump “is pleased to support” it.

The president plans to unveil the proposal Tuesday in a speech before the Susan B. Anthony List, a political action committee that opposes abortion, according to two administration officials.
The Republicans look at the Margaret Atwater's book The Handmaiden's Tale, and they think, "I gotta get me some of that."

Tweet of the Day


Cynthia Nixon is campaigning at a subway platform.

This is the same subway that Andrew Cuomo has been under-funding for years.

This is what they are handing out to would be subway passengers who are wondering why their train is late ……… Again.

Nixon is a long shot, but it does look like she will be putting the kibosh on his Presidential aspirations.

H/t naked capitalism

Why, "F%$# the Cable Companies," Is Such a Good Campaign Slogan

While people remain exclusively fixated on the telecom industry's attacks on net neutrality, the reality is companies like Comcast, Charter, AT&T and Verizon are busy trying to eliminate nearly all federal and state oversight of their businesses. And while deregulation has its uses in healthy markets as part of an effort to protect innovation, you may have noticed that the telecom market isn't particularly healthy. As such, the end result of eliminating most meaningful regulatory oversight without organic market pressure in place is only likely to make existing problems worse.

This battle is getting particularly heated on the state level. After the Trump administration dismantled net neutrality and consumer privacy protections, states began flexing their muscle and attempting to pass their own privacy and net neutrality rules. ISP lobbyists, in turn, tried to head those efforts off at the pass by lobbying the FCC to include (legally untested) language in its net neutrality repeal "pre-empting" states from being able to protect broadband consumers in the wake of federal apathy.

And in the wake of the net neutrality repeal, companies like Charter (Spectrum) are trying to claim that states have no legal authority to hold them accountable for failed promises, slow speeds, or much of anything else.

For example, Charter is already trying to use the FCC net neutrality language to wiggle out of a lawsuit accusing it of failing to deliver advertised speeds. And the New York Public Service Commission also recently stated it found that Charter has been effectively lying to regulators about meeting conditions affixed to its $89 billion acquisition of Time Warner Cable and Bright House Networks. As part of the deal, Charter was supposed to deploy broadband to a set number of additional homes and businesses, but regulators found (pdf) several instances where Charter actively misled regulators.

Last week Charter replied to these allegations by again claiming that states have no authority over them. As part of that effort the company is already citing the FCC's preemption language buried in its net neutrality repeal:
Seriously.  If Democrats are running for office, and not mentioning this sh%$, they, and their high priced consultants, are engaging in political and electoral malpractice.

18 May 2018

Is This Even News Any More?

Another lethal school shooting, this one in Texas near Houston, with 10 dead so far:
A male student used a shotgun and a .38 revolver in a shooting spree at a high school in southeast Texas on Friday morning, leaving at least 10 dead — the majority believed to be students — and 10 others wounded, the authorities said.

In what has become a national rite, the authorities arrived en masse at a campus, this time at Santa Fe High School, 35 miles from Houston, as students fled in tears. The suspect, whom the authorities identified as Dimitrios Pagourtzis, 17, appears to have obtained the weapons from his father who legally owned them, Gov. Greg Abbott of Texas said at a news conference.
The shooter is wypipo, so there is no talk of terrorism, despite the fact that he posted Nazi sh%$ online.

You know how it is: Wypipo are never terrorists.

About the only thing different about this time is that some MAGA loser showed up packing heat and waving a flag:
Trump supporter earned the rebuke of a fellow Second Amendment fan when he brought his open-carry pistol and an American flag to the scene of a school shooting in Santa Fe, Texas that resulted in the reported deaths of multiple students.

When asked what his first thought was upon hearing about the active shooter at Santa Fe High School, the unnamed Trump supporter said he first thought he needed to “get to the school,” and then the phrase “make America great again.”

He told a reporter from Houston’s KHOU that he was there “offering support,” and that a “god bless y’all will go a long way right now.”

As he walked away, the camera panned to the man’s hip to show that he had a pistol holstered on his belt — a fact that enraged another resident interviewed by the news station.
I'm not making this up, you know. (Anna Russell abides)

I guess that this is the point where I offer thoughts and prayers, right?

We Need a Death Penalty for Corporations

Case in point, Wells Fargo:
Some employees in a Wells Fargo unit that handles business banking improperly altered information on documents related to corporate customers, according to people familiar with the matter.

The behavior again raises questions about Wells Fargo’s risk-management practices and controls. The bank has been sanctioned in recent months by federal regulators for problems in these areas and as a result can’t grow its balance sheet.

The employees in Wells Fargo’s so-called wholesale unit, which is separate from its retail bank, added or altered information without customers’ knowledge, according to the people familiar with the matter. The information added varied from social security numbers to addresses to dates of birth for people associated with business-banking clients, the people said.

………

The behavior took place in 2017 and early 2018 as Wells Fargo was trying to meet a deadline to comply with a regulatory consent order related to the bank’s anti-money-laundering controls, the people said. The employees were also working to get documents in order prior to new requirements from another regulator for disclosures related to proof of beneficial ownership of businesses, the people added.

Wells Fargo became aware of the behavior in recent months from employees, the people said. After investigating, the bank discovered the behavior wasn’t an isolated incident, the people added. The bank is still investigating the matter, one of these people said.

………

The altering of information within the business-banking division of Wells Fargo, which serves small firms with annual sales ranging from $5 million to $20 million, comes as the bank is continuing to grapple with the fallout from the sales-practices scandal that erupted in September 2016. That involved bank employees fabricating information to open as many as 3.5 million accounts without customers’ knowledge or authorization.
The phrase, "Rotten to the core," applies here.

If there is a company who is as unequivocally merited its erasure from the universe, it is Wells Fargo.

To paraphrase Pat Boone, Wells Fargo should, "Be displayed publicly and have all of his fingers and toes broken, and then publicly executed," as a warning to other miscreants.

So, Is Your Money on "Suicide" or "Natural Causes"?


When juxtaposed with their preventing his communication with the outside world, I'm beginning to see the actuarial possibilities as kind of bleak:
The president of Ecuador, Lenin Moreno, has ordered the withdrawal of additional security assigned to the Ecuadorian embassy in London, where WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange has remained for almost six years.

………

Over more than five years, Ecuador put at least $5m (£3.7m) into a secret intelligence budget that protected him while he had visits from Nigel Farage, members of European nationalist groups and individuals linked to the Kremlin.

Rafael Correa, the then Ecuadorian president who approved of the operation, later defended the security measures as “routine and modest”.

However, his successor, Moreno, appears to differ in his view. His government said in a statement: “The president of the republic, Lenin Moreno, has ordered that any additional security at the Ecuadorian embassy in London be withdrawn immediately.

………

Moreno has previously described Assange’s situation as “a stone in his shoe”.
I inclined to believe that, "A stone in his shoe," translated from the Ecuadorean dialect of Spanish to, "Will no one rid me of this turbulent priest?"

This will not end well.

17 May 2018

F%$# Them

I am, of course, referring to Amazon and Starbucks, which are manifesting petulant butt-hurt over a tax bill which results directly from their impact on Seattle:

Amazon has threatened to move jobs out of its hometown of Seattle after the city council introduced a new tax to try to address the homelessness crisis.

The world’s second-biggest company has warned that the “hostile” tax, which will charge firms $275 per worker a year to fund homelessness outreach services and affordable housing, “forces us to question our growth here”.

Amazon, which is Seattle’s biggest private sector employer with more than 40,000 staff in the city, had halted construction work on a 17-storey office tower in protest against the tax.

Pressure from Amazon and other big employers, including Starbucks and Expedia, had forced councillors to reduce the tax from an initial proposal of $500 per worker. The tax will only effect companies making revenue of more than $20m-a-year.

The tax is expected to raise between $45m and $49m a year, of which about $10m would come from Amazon.

………

“We are disappointed by today’s city Council decision to introduce a tax on jobs,” said Drew Herdener, an Amazon vice-president. We remain very apprehensive about the future created by the council’s hostile approach and rhetoric toward larger businesses, which forces us to question our growth here.”

………

Campaigners said the company should be forced to take financial responsibility for Seattle’s cost of living, which has forced many families on to the streets. There are almost 12,000 homeless people in Seattle region, equating to the third-highest rate per capita in the US. Last year 169 homeless people died in Seattle. The city declared a state of emergency because of homelessness in late 2015.

………

Politicians from 50 other US cities wrote an open letter to Seattle council in a show solidarity with the councillors attempt to tackle Amazon’s impact on the city.

“By threatening Seattle over this tax, Amazon is sending a message to all of our cities: we play by our own rules,” the letter said.

Starbucks had also fought against the tax, with its public affairs chief, John Kelly, accusing the city of continuing to “spend without reforming and fail without accountability, while ignoring the plight of hundreds of children sleeping outside”.
These guys have been driving the cost of living up in Seattle, and aggressively fighting any sort of taxes to address this issue, and somehow or other, it's everyone else's fault.

F%$# them, and f%$# all the capitalist ubermenschen who have their hands out for public subsidies.

6 Democrats Who Should Never Get Your Votes Ever Again

They are Senators Joe Manchin (WV), Joe Donnelly (IN), Bill Nelson (FL), Heidi Heitkamp (ND), Jeanne Shaheen (NH), and Mark Warner (VA).

Simply put, they just voted to appoint admitted torturer Gina Haspel as head of the CIA, and this is a direct endorsement of torture, and they know it.

This is not about politics.  This is about right and wrong, and they have morally disqualified themselves from any position of authority.

This is an affront to basic human decency:
What's a little harsh interrogation between friends? President Donald Trump's pick Gina Haspel was today voted in by the Senate as the new head of the CIA, despite playing a key part in post-9/11 torture programs under President George W. Bush.

Her role in destroying the CIA's damning torture tapes in earlier years makes her the perfect spy boss for Trump, the President for whom force, secrecy, and lies are solutions to every problem.
Let me reiterate:  Trump does not matter here.  This isn't about Donald Trump, or the Republican Party, or the Easter Bunny.

This is about torture, and this is about rewarding torturers, which these 6 Senators just did.

Note that this was not an empty gesture.  Their votes were crucial to her approval:
Lawmakers approved Haspel’s nomination 54 to 45, with six Democrats voting yes and two Republicans voting no, after the agency launched an unprecedented public relations campaign to bolster Haspel’s chances. She appears to have been helped, too, by some last-minute arm-twisting by former CIA directors John Brennan and Leon Panetta, who contacted at least five of the six Democrats to endorse her bid to join President Trump’s Cabinet, according to people with knowledge of the interactions.
Do the math.  If they had all voted against the torturer, it would have been 48 to 51, if just 5 of them had voted against the torturer, Haspel would still had been rejected by 1 vote.

There is a special place in hell for these cowards.

16 May 2018

And the House Will Never Allow a Vote, and Trump Will Veto It

Still, the fact that Democrats managed to peel off a few votes and overturn the repeal of net neutrality is good policy and good politics:


The US Senate today voted to reverse the Federal Communications Commission's repeal of net neutrality rules, with all members of the Democratic caucus and three Republicans voting in favor of net neutrality.

The Senate approved a Congressional Review Act (CRA) resolution that would simply undo the FCC's December 2017 vote to deregulate the broadband industry. If the CRA is approved by the House and signed by President Trump, Internet service providers would have to continue following rules that prohibit blocking, throttling, and paid prioritization.

FCC Chairman Ajit Pai has scheduled his repeal to take effect on June 11. If Congress doesn't act, the net neutrality rules and the FCC's classification of ISPs as common carriers would be eliminated on that date.

Democrats face much longer odds in the House, where Republicans hold a 236-193 majority. Republicans have a slim majority in the Senate, but Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine), Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.), and Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) broke ranks in order to support net neutrality and common carrier regulation of broadband providers.

The vote was 52-47.
The optimist in me celebrates this.

They cynic in me wonders how many Democrats in the Senate would have voted yes if there was any possibility of it actually being passed.

There Were Primaries Last Night

I'm going to lead with irony.

For your consideration, West Virginia Republican State Senator Robert Karnes, an implacable foe of unions, who said that the teachers' strike in his state, "I can’t say that it will have zero effect, but I don’t think it’ll have any significant effect because, more often than not, they probably weren’t voting on the Republican side of the aisle anyways."

He was turfed out yesterday:
Labor activists, it turns out, know how to get involved on the Republican side of the aisle, too. Karnes was facing a primary challenge from fellow Republican Delegate Bill Hamilton, who beat him, with all the votes counted, 5,787 to 3,749. It was a blowout.
Oh Snap.

It was generally not a good night for former Republicans running as Democrats, anti-abortion politicians:


Tuesday’s primaries featured the crucial state of Pennsylvania plus a smattering of contests in the not-so-crucial states of Nebraska, Idaho, and Oregon.



………

But it’s clear the party is moving in a leftward direction, with even the most mainstream new Democratic candidates on the scene embracing views that would have been extremely daring five or 10 years ago. They are also simply riding positive momentum from the national political environment and — in the specific state of Pennsylvania, though not nationally — from some newly favorable district boundaries.

………

A real sign of the shifting winds of American politics came from the victory of a pair of first-time candidates backed by the Democratic Socialists of America who knocked off two incumbent state legislators from a well-established Pittsburgh political family.
Both Dom and Paul Costa, the incumbent losers, were on the conservative side of modern Democratic Party politics but also seemingly well-entrenched.
Instead, they lost — to Sara Innamorato, a 32-year-old nonprofit manager and former Apple retail store worker, and Summer Lee, a 2015 graduate of the Howard University School of Law. Their wins are ideological victories for the left but also reflect basic demographic dynamics. Women, and especially younger women and women with college degrees, are the core of the anti-Trump political mobilization, and candidates who can mirror and channel that specific demographic are well-positioned to win Democratic primaries this cycle.

………


By contrast to the Innamorato and Lee wins, Bernie Sanders endorsed Rich Lazer in the PA-5 primary, and Sanders and his Our Revolution organization invested heavily in Gregory Edwards’s campaign in PA-7.

Edwards ended up losing to a former Allentown solicitor named Susan Wild who ran with the support of Emily’s List, which works to get pro–abortion rights Democratic women elected to office. (The third candidate, longtime Northampton County District Attorney John Morganelli — an anti-abortion, anti-immigrant Trump supporter — would have been a very awkward fit for the House Democratic caucus.) And Lazer came up short against Mary Gay Scanlon.

………

It’s rare to see an incumbent lieutenant governor attract vigorous primary challenges, but Mike Stack managed to land himself in an unusual sweet spot. Scandals related to his spending and treatment of state employees weren’t bad enough to drive him from office in disgrace but did cost him the confidence of the state party (Gov. Wolf hasn’t endorsed him for reelection) and drew a number of challengers into the race.

The winner is John Fetterman, the heavily tattooed mayor of the small town of Braddock outside Pittsburgh. He was also challenged by Nina Ahmad, a physician and former deputy mayor of Philadelphia. The two challengers were both avatars of competing visions of the future of the Democratic Party, with Fetterman emblematic of a back-to-the-future drive to connect with the white working class and Ahmad representing a vision of a diverse party firmly grounded in the classes of professionals and social service providers.

Fetterman ran for Senate in 2016 as a kind of Berniecrat (though without really garnering support from Sanders himself) and surprised observers by pulling 20 percent of the vote against two much better-known opponents. This won himself a reputation as a charismatic figure and potential rising star.

………

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee does not endorse primary candidates, per se, but it does maintain a roster of Red to Blue program members who are considered the party’s best prospects for flipping seats. It sometimes adds people to Red to Blue before nominations have been settled.

………

But Brad Ashford, who served one term in the US House of Representatives from the Omaha-based second district, has not had it so lucky. Ashford, a moderate who used to be a Republican state legislator and who ran for Omaha mayor as a nonpartisan independent, fits the DCCC recruiting model perfectly.

Local progressives rallied instead behind Kara Eastman, a more conventional liberal who runs a nonprofit called the Omaha Healthy Kids Alliance. In national politics, she secured support from Justice Democrats and the Progressive Change Campaign Committee.

Despite running a platform of single-payer health care and a $15-per-hour minimum wage, Eastman didn’t snag an Our Revolution endorsement (likely because she backed Clinton in 2016) but also didn’t secure support from Emily’s List or NARAL. They overlooked Ashford’s past as an anti-abortion state legislator in favor of his solidly pro-abortion rights record during his two years in the House.

The race was incredibly close (and hadn’t yet been called at press time [It's been called, Eastman won by about 1%]), a fact that doesn’t bode well for the DCCC’s top choices.
I've heard reports that the so-called professionals at the DNC and te DCCC are concerned.

F%$# them.

Also, for those candidates who won despite meddling:  I suggest that they take this personally when the Beltway incompetents come around looking for support in a few months or a few years.

It's Called Monopoly Rents and Oligopolies

The good folks at the New York Times have noted that healthcare costs in the US started rising sharply relative to other developed nations around 1980.

Ignoring the obvious error (Dean Baker notes that the increase in US medical inflation started in the 1970s, not the 1980s) the history is clear: this began with a major push toward deregulation that began under the Carter administration, along with largely successful efforts to privatize what had been publicly owned research and development.

The walk-back from meaningful antitrust enforcement, and to deregulate many aspects of the market economy, along with efforts to privatize federally funded research progressed rapidly during the late 1970s, culminating with the disastrous Bayh-Dole act, which had the effect of handing government research to private entities.

Later, under the Reagan administration, the break-neck pace of these changes further accelerated.

It became the wild west, and a very opaque one at that, and to paraphrase former banking regulator Bill Black, if looting is possible, it has already happened.

What's more the proceeds of the looting are almost immediately reinvested in rent seeking activities like campaign donations, to embrace and extend the regime.

Rinse, lather, repeat.

15 May 2018

Of Course


I'm not:
Members of a special team at the Education Department that had been investigating widespread abuses by for-profit colleges have been marginalized, reassigned or instructed to focus on other matters, according to current and former employees.

The unwinding of the team has effectively killed investigations into possibly fraudulent activities at several large for-profit colleges where top hires of Betsy DeVos, the education secretary, had previously worked.

During the final months of the Obama administration, the team had expanded to include a dozen or so lawyers and investigators who were looking into advertising, recruitment practices and job placement claims at several institutions, including DeVry Education Group.

The investigation into DeVry ground to a halt early last year. Later, in the summer, Ms. DeVos named Julian Schmoke, a former dean at DeVry, as the team’s new supervisor.

Now only three employees work on the team, and their mission has been scaled back to focus on processing student loan forgiveness applications and looking at smaller compliance cases, said the current and former employees, including former members of the team, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because they feared retaliation from the department.
Could someone please tell Bob Mueller that Betsy DeVos was involved with secret discussions with Vladimir Putin?

Please?

Headline of the Day

Conservatives Will Never Get the Respect They Crave. They Don’t Deserve It
David Atkins
He says something that needs to be said:
But dig deeper and it’s the sort of deplorable stuff that no one involved in the creation of culture would ever want to countenance: that women should serve as obedient reproductive vessels; that white men are biologically and culturally superior to others; that the ability of corporate executives to get rich from polluting air and exploiting workers is a greater freedom than that of communities not to be poisoned and abused; that it’s the inherent right of powerful countries to bomb less powerful ones and steal their resources; that being rich is a sign of divine favor, and the poor deserve their plight; and so on.
He's right.  These ideas do not deserve respect, and they haven't since William F. Buckley endorsed a segregated south 60 years ago.

Why Does it Take So Long For Us to Build a Damn Bridge?

Putin annexed the Crimea in 2014

The contract to construct the bridge was issued in early in 2015, and the bridge opened today.

The 19km span is the longest bridge in Europe, and it would have taken at least twice as long in the US.

It took 25 years to complete the Bid Dig, and that tunnel borer underneath Seattle keeps breaking.

The New York Times noted something similar, where they discovered that per mile subway construction costs are from 5 to 10 times that of other similar projects in first world nations.

There is something seriously wrong here.

What Duncan Black Said

Ohio Senator Sherrod Brown has proposed a tax on employers whose employees are still forced to rely of food-stamps, medicaid, and other social welfare programs.

Black, better known as Atrios observes, that Democrats have a penchant for byzantine solutions, that these turn out to be sub-optimal policies and worse politics.

He believes that this bias against simple and universal is stupid, or has he pithily states, "Raise The Damn Minimum Wage":
This is a constant maddening Dem approach to policy. Basically there's meaningful opposition (and probably some intellectual agreement with this opposition) to a very simple idea. So someone comes up with a much more complicated solution to achieve essentially the same thing (but not really because it's really complicated) premised on the idea that maybe they can sneak that idea through because the lobbyists won't notice. Then you still don't get your complicated solution - or at least by the time it does get through the lobbyists it's even sh%$tier - and you don't even get credit for campaigning on a simple idea.
There is a sort of myopia among Democratic Party legislators that grasps for half measures when a full measure is better policy that has more of a political upside.

Like the bite of a dog into a stone, it is a stupidity.

It's a Hoax


I'd Be Smiling Too
The reports that a Lottery winner was arrested for dumping $200,000 of manure on ex-boss’ lawn is a hoax:
A man from Illinois was arrested for getting $224,000 worth of manure dumped on his former employer’s property, only two weeks after he won $125 million at the lottery and quit his job.

54-year old Brian Morris, from the small town of Clarendon Hills in Dupage County, bought over 20,000 tons of manure and asked for it to be dumped on his former boss’ property, pretending it was his residence.

Dozens of trucks filled with manure showed up in front of the house around 6:00 this morning and began dumping their smelly cargo over the property’s lawn.
It's not true, and I wish that it was.

I has a sad.

14 May 2018

A Message about Negative Externalities to the Competitors for HQ2

One of the things that is never considered when large firms try to extort subsidies is the fact that with additional jobs, they bring additional costs, and when you give into blackmail, the costs outweigh any benefits.

The good people of Seattle, who have learned about the downside of being a one industry town from the travails of Boeing in the 1970s, and now the Seattle City Council has voted unanimously to institute a head tax on large firms in order to pay for the costs that they impose on everyone else:
Following months of debate, raucous protests, and a threat from Amazon to erase 7,000 jobs from Seattle, the City Council on Monday voted to pass a head tax to fund housing and homelessness services.

The tax, which passed unanimously, is nearly half the size that four city council members originally proposed in April. Under the plan, Seattle would collect $275 per employee from businesses grossing more than $20 million in annual revenue, or about three percent of the businesses in the city.

The tax is projected to bring the city about $45 million of new annual revenue in its first year, according to a spending plan prepared by council staff. Under the legislation, council members would have the option of renewing the tax after five years.

Now the bill heads to Mayor Jenny Durkan’s desk. In a statement, she says she plans to sign the legislation. "This legislation will help us address our homelessness crisis without jeopardizing critical jobs," Durkan said.

The tax proposal represents a compromise between city council members who aimed much higher—$500 per employee to raise $75 million—and their colleagues who believed the initially proposed rate would be too costly for businesses. Mayor Durkan fell in the latter camp. Late last week, she put her support behind a $250 per employee tax.

Amazon achieved market dominance with a deliberate strategy of tax avoidance, its treatment of employees is horrific, and Jeff Bezos has aggressively campaigned against anything resembling an income tax, meaning that he has to a been a major cause of the problem, and a major impediment to any potential solution.

My position is to tell Amazon to go f%$# itself, though I do understand how most politicians would not find this a good campaign strategy.

Enough with paying off parasite billionaires in the vain hope that they will scatter a few crumbs before us.

Tweet of the Day


I challenge my reader(s) to create a stand-up bit of comedy lasting at least 3 minutes based on this.

If you have problems riffing on this, , I would note that the Charles Street Jail in Boston is now a luxury hotel, and there is likely comedic material aplenty there.

Linkage


This may be The best political ad of the season.

As an FYI, the station actually broadcast this, because federal regulations require it: (Warning, F-Bomb)