18 December 2018

If It's Too Dicey for a Literal Vampire………

Elon Musk's self dealing between SpaceX and the Boring Company has alarmed even actual vampire,* and psychopath, Peter Thiel.

He is aggressively using SpaceX resources on his next big thing:
Elon Musk’s tunnel-digging venture, the Boring Co., is being pulled into the billionaire entrepreneur’s controversial practice of spreading overlapping assets across his disparate technology firms.

On Tuesday, the Tesla Inc. TSLA -3.27% chief is set to unveil a test tunnel developed by the Boring Co., the first of what Mr. Musk imagines as a futuristic series of high-speed underground highways to alleviate traffic.

The entrance of the two-mile-long Boring test tunnel is being constructed in Hawthorne, Calif., at the headquarters of another Musk-controlled company, Space Exploration Technologies Corp., partly by SpaceX employees using equipment purchased with SpaceX funds, people familiar with the matter said.

The arrangement alarmed some longtime investors in SpaceX, including its largest outside backer, Peter Thiel’s Founders Fund, some of the people said. The investors learned in recent months that despite the diversion of SpaceX resources and staffing to the fledgling Boring startup, it was Mr. Musk who was in line to receive almost all of any future profits, these people said.

The investors questioned SpaceX about why their investment dollars into a company ostensibly devoted to launching satellites and carrying humans to Mars were instead partly used to start a separate company that principally benefited Mr. Musk. When the Boring Co. was earlier this year spun into its own firm, more than 90% of the equity went to Mr. Musk and the rest to early employees, the company has said.


The SpaceX board never voted on devoting resources to Mr. Musk’s new venture.


The Boring Co.’s unusual inception is illustrative of how Mr. Musk defies the conventions of traditional corporate chieftains and sometimes supports his business empire by shuffling finances between companies.
"Defies the conventions of traditional corporate chieftains," huh?

I think that technical term, of course, is fraud and embezzlement.

ToMAYto/ToMAHto, whatever, I guess, because these days, the motto is, "Let Bond Villains be Bond Villains."

Listen to the cat, listen to the cat.

*I do mean this characterization of Thiel literally.  He is literally a vampire who wants to use the blood of the young to extend his lifespan.

Way to Go Beto!

After extensive documentation showing that Robert Francis "Beto" O'Rourke's campaign repeatedly and egregiously violated the "No fossile fuel money" pledge, the Oil Change USA has dropped him from their list:
Texas Democratic Rep. Beto O’Rourke has been removed from a pledge he signed to reject large donations from fossil fuel PACs and executives, following a recent Sludge investigation of federal campaign finance records.

Sludge reported on Dec. 10 that the congressman had accepted dozens of contributions of over $200 from oil and gas executives and had not reported refunding them. Oil Change USA, which led a coalition of environmental and democracy organizations to create the No Fossil Fuel Money Pledge, attempted to reach O’Rourke’s campaign and congressional office but did not hear back. Nor did Sludge.

David Turnbull, strategic communications director at Oil Change USA, told Sludge on Tuesday that the group had just removed O’Rourke’s name from the list of signers.
The pledge stipulates that in signing it, “a politician and their campaign will adopt a policy to not knowingly accept any contributions over $200 from the PACs, executives, or front groups of fossil fuel companies—companies whose primary business is the extraction, processing, distribution, or sale of oil, gas, or coal.”
It is interesting how this news has been greeted by his fans.

It appears that relating the facts makes me, and the dozens of journalists who went through FEC filings, Vladimir Putin's butt boys.

I prefer my candidates to stand for something, thank you very much.

17 December 2018

Fröhliche Weihnachten Motherf%$#er

Amazon workers in Germany have just gone on strike:
Workers at two Amazon distribution centers in Germany have gone on strike as part of a push for improved work conditions, leading to fears that Christmas orders may not arrive in time.

The German news agency dpa reported that workers in Leipzig in eastern Germany and Werne in western Germany went on strike early Monday.

The ver.di union representing the workers says Amazon employees receive lower wages than others in retail and mail-order jobs in Germany.
Merry Christmas, Jeff Bezos.

Pass the Popcorn

Malaysia has formally filed criminal charges against Goldman Sachs for its role in the massive 1MDB scandal.

The scale of the scandal, and the Vampire Squid's involvement in the scandal, is huge, and as such, it's inconceivable that the most senior management at Goldman Sachs was unaware of what was going on.

All I want for New Years is Lloyd Blankfein frog-marched out of his office in handcuffs:
The breadth of Goldman Sachs ’ potential legal jeopardy in the 1MDB scandal keeps growing.

The U.S. Justice Department has already secured a plea agreement from the bank’s former chairman of its Southeast Asia business who said that evading compliance controls was part of the firm’s culture. The bank’s then-chief executive, Lloyd Blankfein, attended meetings that the shadowy Malaysian financier at the heart of the scandal was also present on at least two occasions, according to reports.


Now, the Malaysian government has filed its own criminal charges against subsidiaries of Goldman Sachs (GS) in connection to the 1MDB scandal, the country’s attorney general said in a statement.

The attorney general also said that charges would be filed shortly against a former partner of the bank and ex-chairman of its Southeast Asia business, Tim Leissner, and another former Goldman Sachs banker, Roger Ng.


The spokesman later added: “Certain members of the former Malaysian government and 1MDB lied to Goldman Sachs, outside counsel, and others about the use of proceeds from these transactions. 1MDB, whose CEO and board reported directly to the prime minister at the time, also provided written assurances to Goldman Sachs for each transaction that no intermediaries were involved. Under the Malaysian legal process, the firm was not afforded an opportunity to be heard prior to the filing of these charges against certain Goldman Sachs entities, which we intend to vigorously contest. These charges do not affect our ability to conduct our current business globally.”
(emphasis mine)

The technical term for this is, "Willfull blindness".  They knew about the looting, but made sure not to look in the right direction.
In a November radio interview, Malaysia’s finance minister said the country would seek a $600 million refund on the fees it paid to Goldman Sachs for three bond offerings the bank underwrote in 2012 and 2013. Billions of dollars from those deals were allegedly siphoned off to private accounts and used to pay bribes, and were laundered through things like real-estate deals and Hollywood investments.

At the center of the alleged fraud is Jho Low, a financier with no formal role in the fund who nevertheless effectively controlled it, and Leissner, who said in his plea statement that he evaded the bank’s compliance controls to help Low divert money and that such actions were part of the bank’s culture.

Goldman Sachs underwrote the bonds and reaped around $600 million in fees from the deals—equal to about 10% of the total issuance, which is an astronomical fee for what was putatively debt issued by a sovereign wealth fund.

Leissner pleaded guilty to his role in shifting money out of 1MDB and of bribing various government officials in order to pull off the fraud in November but has yet to be sentenced. Low has also been charged but his whereabouts are unclear.
Goldman Sachs needs to be "Arthur Andersoned", and their corporate carcass needs to be hung from the ramparts as a warning to other malefactors.


This is inspired:

16 December 2018

F%$# the Phone Company

After billions in subsidies, Verizon is engaging in massive layoffs, and studiously avoiding building up its fiber:
Verizon this week announced it would be trimming its workforce by more than 10,000 employees—despite repeatedly claiming the bevy of tax breaks and regulatory favors it has received in recent years would boost job creation and network investment.

According to a Verizon blog post, the company will be eliminating roughly 10,400 workers, or around 7 percent of its workforce, as part of what the telecom giant is calling a “voluntary separation program.” Under said program, Verizon says volunteers will receive “up to” 60 weeks’ salary, bonus and benefits “depending on length of service.”

Verizon insists the staff reductions are necessary to “optimize growth opportunities” related to next-gen 5G wireless, and to “better serve customers with more agility, speed and flexibility.”

But the workforce reduction comes after repeated claims by the telecom giant that a rotating crop of regulatory favors and handouts—from last year’s attack on net neutrality to the Trump tax cut—would buoy both job creation and broadband investment, neither of which has actually happened.
The slowest and most expensive broadband in the developed world.

The solution is publicly owned and operated broadband.

Cue Freddie Mercury

Soon to be former Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke is resigning.

Much like former EPA chair Scott Pruitt, his rampant and blatant corruption eventually proved too much:
Interior Department Secretary Ryan Zinke submitted his resignation to the White House on Saturday, facing intense pressure to step down because of multiple probes tied to his real estate dealings in his home state of Montana and his conduct in office.

President Trump announced Zinke’s exit via Twitter on Saturday morning and praised the departing Interior chief. “Secretary of the Interior @RyanZinke will be leaving the Administration at the end of the year after having served for a period of almost two years,” the president tweeted. “Ryan has accomplished much during his tenure and I want to thank him for his service to our Nation.”
Fired over twitter, epic.
Zinke — 57 and the first Montanan to have served in a presidential Cabinet — is the fourth member of Trump’s Cabinet to resign under an ethics cloud in less than two years. Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price, Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin and Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt also relinquished their posts amid scrutiny on subjects including how they spent taxpayer money on their travel.


During his tenure, Zinke came under at least 15 investigations, including: inquiries into his connection to a real estate deal involving a company that Interior regulates; whether he bent government rules to allow his wife to ride in government vehicles; and allowing a security detail to travel with him on a vacation to Turkey at considerable taxpayer cost.
It's amazing how petty, small, and pervasive their corruption is.

15 December 2018

The Flying Spaghetti Monster Abides

I got this at work, and my first thought was, "Someone in corporate communications must be a member of the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster on the down low.

Anyone out there know of any other Crypto-Pastafarians out there?

No Regrets for Me

Yeah, I should have gone to their offices and thrown shoes at them
The Weekly Standard was just shut down:
The Weekly Standard, the conservative political and cultural magazine, will shut down after its last issue appears on Monday, the chief executive of its parent company said Friday.

The Washington-based magazine’s 35-member editorial staff will be laid off as a result, said Ryan McKibben, the head of Clarity Media Group, the Colorado company that owns the Standard and its sister publication, the Washington Examiner newspaper.

“This was a business decision,” McKibben said. “As we looked at all of our options, we saw we were facing a steady decline in revenues and circulation. That drove us to our decision to close this week. . . . It was a tough decision.”

Staffers who were told of the closure by McKibben at a morning meeting on Friday were skeptical of the business rationale, saying Clarity has invested heavily in the Washington Examiner, with far greater losses than those produced by the Weekly Standard.

Several noted the timing of the closure announcement, calling it “the Christmas massacre.”

The Standard was founded in 1995 by three journalists — Bill Kristol, Fred Barnes and John Podhoretz — with funding from conservative media mogul Rupert Murdoch. Murdoch sold his interest to billionaire Philip Anschutz in 2009.
Anyone who calls Bill Kristol, Fred Barnes, or John Podhoretz "Journalists" has a twisted view of the Fourth Estate.
Employees have been told they will receive severance pay in exchange for signing a nondisclosure and nondisparagement agreement.
How utterly proper.

Don't worry about their employees though, I'm sure that wingnut welfare will take care of them.

14 December 2018

Sick to Death of Ammosexuals

Some gun fondler decided that it would be a good idea to send a bomb threat to Sandy Hook Elementary School on the 6th anniversary of the shooting.

Note that this is NOT related to the spate of threats attempting to extort Bitcoin that have been flying around for the past week or so.

In my younger days, I would have said that whoever did this deserved to get spinal cancer, but I am older and wiser now, so I wish some form of Fatal insomnia on them.  (It's a lot worse. you literally die of lack of sleep over about a year and a half.)

If the cops find out who did this, the prosecutors need to make an example of this motherf%$#er.

13 December 2018

This is F%$#ed Up and Sh%$

One day, they are there, and the next, they aren't, and they refuse all forms of contact:
Economists report that workers are starting to act like millennials on Tinder: They’re ditching jobs with nary a text.

“A number of contacts said that they had been ‘ghosted,’ a situation in which a worker stops coming to work without notice and then is impossible to contact,” the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago noted in December’s Beige Book, which tracks employment trends.

National data on economic “ghosting” is lacking. The term, which usually applies to dating, first surfaced in 2016 on Dictionary.com. But companies across the country say silent exits are on the rise.

Analysts blame America’s increasingly tight labor market. Job openings have surpassed the number of seekers for eight straight months, and the unemployment rate has clung to a 49-year low of 3.7 percent since September.

Janitors, baristas, welders, accountants, engineers — they’re all in demand, said Michael Hicks, a labor economist at Ball State University in Indiana. More people may opt to skip tough conversations and slide right into the next thing.

“Why hassle with a boss and a bunch of out-processing,” he said, “when literally everyone has been hiring?”
The academics above don't get it, but this guy does:
Someone who feels invested in an enterprise is less likely to bounce, write Melissa and Johnathan Nightingale, co-authors of “How F*cked Up Is Your Management?: An uncomfortable conversation about modern leadership.”

“Employees leave jobs that suck,” they said in an email. “Jobs where they’re abused. Jobs where they don’t care about the work. And the less engaged they are, the less need they feel to give their bosses any warning.”
Modern management has been eating its metaphorical seed corn for decades, and now they are reaping the consequences of the complete absence of goodwill from their employees.

Max Boot? Seriously?

Max Boot, a man who has been advocating blowing up brown people in useless wars for his entire career, has had an epiphany.

He now realizes that the Republican party is an authoritarian institution.

I cannot help but think that this is sour grapes.

If the Trump administration were receptive to his foreign policy "insights", and had spent some time padding Boot's ego, I'm sure that he would be wearing a MAGA hat.

Lucky That No One Else Wants the Job

So Theresa May has managed to survive a vote of no confidence from fellow members of the Conservative Party.

I have to think that the members who supported her was because no one wants to take her seat on the political electric chair.

May seems to realize it as well, as she nas now stated that she will not be standing for reelection.

It really is remarkable how poorly Brexit has been managed since David Cameron promised a referendum, never expecting that it would pass.

Since that point, there has been no preparation for a hard Brexit, and the first action taken by the Tories was to cede any leverage they had by taking EU expats in the UK off of the table, and now they have a deal where they will be out, but unable to negotiate trade deals on their own, and any change must be approved by every single member of the EU.

Charles de Gaulle must be sitting in his tomb laughing.


This may be the trippiest ad ever: (I want to try this chutney)

12 December 2018

Nice Troll, Dude

The head of the 5-Star movement in Italy has suggested that France is risking budget sanctions from the EU because of Macron's capitulation to protesters.

There is no real risk for France though, because, as Orwell observed, "Some are more equal than others," but you have to admire the quality of the trolling:
Emmanuel Macron’s decision to make costly concessions to French protesters has prompted angry recriminations in Italy and Germany, where political leaders signalled Paris’ new spending plans could intensify Europe’s tense fiscal debate.

Luigi Di Maio, a leader of Italy’s populist government, said that France should be punished for breaching the EU’s deficit limits after Mr Macron promised tax cuts and handouts that could cost up to €10bn, arguing Rome was being sanctioned for similar “emergency” budget plans.

Mr Macron’s measures, designed to assuage the gilets jaunes protesters, would “cause a widening of the deficit” and should require the European Commission to “also open a case against France, if the rules apply to all,” said Mr Di Maio, head of the anti-establishment Five Star Movement.

Italy is in the middle of a bruising fight with Brussels over its breach of promised spending limits, with the European Commission calling the populist coalition’s new spending plans an “unprecedented” breach of its budgetary rules.
The real problem here is not the deficit, of course, it is that the EU is dominated by Germany, and failed German economics, and like the last disastrous turn, we are seeing the rise of Fascism in Europe as a result.

Did China Just Blink?

With all the gloom and doom about the upcoming trade war with China, the fact that China has cut tariffs on US autos.

This does seem to be a bit of a climb-down on their side.
Progress toward easing the steep tariffs China imposed on U.S. vehicle imports this year lifted carmaker stocks across the globe, as investors wagered on a thawing of tensions that have damaged the world’s biggest automotive market.

Toyota Motor Corp. and Hyundai Motor Co. tracked earlier gains for Daimler AG, General Motors Co. and Tesla Inc. after Bloomberg News reported that a proposal to eliminate the 25 percent surcharge slapped onto U.S.-made cars this year has been submitted to China’s cabinet. The plan would be reviewed in coming days, people familiar with the matter said.

The levy forms the backbone of China’s response to a trade war instigated by President Donald Trump as he seeks to reset trade relations and spur manufacturing in the U.S. Car sales in China have fallen for six straight months after decades of almost uninterrupted growth, and while there are other factors, the tit-for-tat jabs between the world’s biggest economies have played a role.
As Yves Smith observes, "Um, this does not look like Trump is losing the trade war."

OK, This is Weird

I came across this on Imgur:

I think that the great challenge of our time is WAY too much free time.

A Good Start

Progressive Democrats, most notably Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) and Ro Khanna (D-Calif.), managed to stop Nancy Pelosi's hair hare-brained scheme to require a super-majority to raise taxes:
House Democrats have backed off a proposed rule that would have made it more difficult for them to raise taxes and pass their most ambitious goals, an early victory for the left-flank of the party that is about to take control of the House.

Rep. Jim McGovern (D-Mass.), incoming chair of the House Rules Committee, told lawmakers Tuesday he will not advance “supermajority” rules requiring three-fifths majorities to approve tax hikes for most taxpayers, according to Rep. Mark Pocan (D-Wis.), co-chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus.

An existing rule created by House Republicans requires a three-fifths supermajority vote in the House to approve any income tax increase. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and other Democratic leaders proposed leaving the supermajority intact for most taxpayers, while scrapping the requirement for the wealthiest 20 percent of Americans and for corporations. But some liberal organizations and lawmakers said that did not go far enough, arguing that even the weaker rule would make it nearly impossible to enact progressive legislation such as Medicare-for-All or free universal college.

“We’re very glad to see that one go away,” said Pocan, who added the progressive caucus repeatedly expressed their disapproval of the proposal. “We ran in 2018 on increasing access to health care, and increasing people’s wages. ... Anything that took us off this conversation does not serve us well.”

The fight comes amid a broader battle in the Democratic Party over taxes, as an incoming crop of freshman lawmakers push the party to embrace social programs that require larger tax increases. Rep. Ro Khanna (D-Calif.) and Rep.-elect Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) were the first two Democratic lawmakers to publicly express their opposition to the rule.
The New Democrat types like to posture on the deficit, and they HATE doing anything that helps ordinary Americans, and this rule achieved both.

Now let's kill Pay-Go.

11 December 2018

Our Free Press

Liberal firebrand Jim Hightower writes a column for Creators Syndicate.

When he turned his pen on the private equity pukes sucking hte marrow out of journalism, they refused to carry it:
Jim Hightower’s latest column, “Free the Free Press from Wall Street Plunderers,” takes on the corporate bottom-feeders picking apart what’s left of America’s newspapers. He names names, singling out Digital First Media and GateHouse Media, which recently purchased the Austin American-Statesman, as the worst offenders — “hedge-fund scavengers” and “ruthless Wall Street profiteers out to grab big bucks fast” by gutting newsrooms. Tough stuff. And apparently too tough for Creators Syndicate, the distribution firm that has long placed Hightower’s column in various media outlets.

Last week, according to the Austin Chronicle, Creators informed Hightower that it would not be distributing his column out of fear of retribution from Digital First and Gatehouse. In an email to the Chronicle, Creators Managing Editor Simone Slykhous defended her decision, saying the company was only trying to protect Hightower. “We have more than 200 columnists and cartoonists, and our job is to make sure that our actions do not negatively impact them,” Slykhous said.

Melody Byrd, Hightower’s assistant, said Creators’ decision was understandable, but troubling.

“The big, hedge-fund owned newspaper chains that Hightower calls out in his column are big customers of theirs, and as such, they don’t want to risk offending them,” she said. “But while Creators’ reluctance to anger these powerful interests is somewhat understandable, the implications are frightening: It’s one more example of this dangerous time for America’s decreasingly free press that, ironically, Jim lays out in this very column.”
The Texas Observer printed his article, and you should read it.  It's a real barn burner.

Good Call

The good people of Charlemont, Massachusetts, have decided that telling Comcast to f%$# off is worth a million dollars:
A small Massachusetts town has rejected an offer from Comcast and instead plans to build a municipal fiber broadband network.

Comcast offered to bring cable Internet to up to 96 percent of households in Charlemont in exchange for the town paying $462,123 plus interest toward infrastructure costs over 15 years. But Charlemont residents rejected the Comcast offer in a vote at a special town meeting Thursday.

"The Comcast proposal would have saved the town about $1 million, but it would not be a town-owned broadband network," the Greenfield Recorder reported Friday. "The defeated measure means that Charlemont will likely go forward with a $1.4 million municipal town network, as was approved by annual town meeting voters in 2015."

About 160 residents voted, with 56 percent rejecting the Comcast offer, according to news reports.

Charlemont has about 1,300 residents and covers about 26 square miles in northwest Massachusetts. Town officials estimate that building a municipal fiber network reaching 100 percent of homes would cost $1,466,972 plus interest over 20 years.

An increase in property taxes would cover the construction cost. But the town would also bring in revenue from selling broadband service and potentially break even, making the project less expensive than Comcast's offer.

"With 59 percent of households taking broadband service, the tax hike would be 29 cents [per $1,000 of assessed home value], similar to that for Comcast," a Recorder article last month said. "But if 72 percent or more of households subscribe to the municipal-owned network, there is no tax impact, because subscriber fees would pay for it."

Currently, Comcast covers about 9.5 percent of Charlemont, while Verizon DSL is available in about 88 percent, according to estimates by BroadbandNow.

The town plans to charge $79 a month for standalone Internet service with gigabit download and upload speeds and no data caps, though the price could rise to $99 a month if fewer than 40 percent of households buy the service. The town also plans to offer phone and TV service at rates cheaper than Comcast's.
This is making the right call.

It's worth spending a million dollars to exclude Comcast from you community.

To paraphrase Johnny Cash, I shot a man in Reno, just to avoid having Comcast.

Smedly Butler* Would Say That This Makes War Look Honest

I am referring, of course, to the American healthcare system, specifically pharmaceutical manufacturers:
Executives at more than a dozen generic-drug companies had a form of shorthand to describe how they conducted business, insider lingo worked out over steak dinners, cocktail receptions and rounds of golf.

The “sandbox,” according to investigators, was the market for generic prescription drugs, where everyone was expected to play nice.

“Fair share” described dividing up the sales pie to ensure that each company reaped continued profits. “Trashing the market” was used when a competitor ignored these unwritten rules and sold drugs for less than agreed-upon prices.

The terminology reflected more than just the clubbiness of a powerful industry, according to authorities and several lawsuits. Officials from multiple states say these practices were central to illegal price-fixing schemes of massive proportion.
 God bless our private sector healthcare.

*General Smedly Butler's best known quote is, "I spent 33 years and four months in active military service and during that period I spent most of my time as a high class muscle man for Big Business, for Wall Street and the bankers. In short, I was a racketeer, a gangster for capitalism."

Why You Don't Deal with Companies That Mistreat Their Employees

Because these employees have no incentive to deal honestly with either their employer, or with the customer.

Case in point (again) is Amazon, where employees were leaking internal data to dishonest vendors on their site:
Amazon.com Inc. is fighting a barrage of seller scams on its website, including firing several employees suspected of having helped supply independent merchants with inside information, according to people familiar with the company’s effort.

Amazon was investigating suspected data leaks and bribes of its employees, The Wall Street Journal reported in September. Since then, the company has dismissed several workers in the U.S. and India for allegedly inappropriately accessing internal data that was being misused by disreputable merchants, these people said.

Amazon in recent weeks also has deleted thousands of suspect reviews, restricted sellers’ access to customer data on its website and stifled some techniques that trick the site into surfacing products higher in search results, according to the people.

An Amazon spokeswoman said the company is aggressively pursuing those who are trying to harm sellers on its website, using tools including machine learning to block bad behavior before it happens.
Yep, AI will solve this, which is why there are no trolls and scammers on Twitter and Facebook.
The crackdown, however, hasn’t stopped some sellers from sabotaging rivals. A recent rash of merchants claim competitors are maliciously flagging products as being counterfeit or infringing trademarks, prompting Amazon to temporarily boot legitimate products from the site while it evaluates them.

Sellers also are buying Amazon wholesaler accounts on the black market to gain access to volumes of product listings, people familiar with the practice said. These accounts on Amazon’s Vendor Central system are designed to enable wholesalers to edit product listings to ensure they are marketed accurately. But some sellers misuse these accounts to alter rivals’ product pages, such as by changing photos to unrelated items, these people said.


Some sellers engage in a practice dubbed “brushing,” in which fake accounts use real addresses to place orders so they can leave positive reviews, according to people familiar with the matter. Amazon’s security team was sent scrambling late last year, when a customer wrote Chief Executive Jeff Bezos to complain of such a scam after a vibrator he didn’t order was sent to his address, one of the people said.


​Amazon is focusing part of the internal bribery investigation on India, a major alleged source of data misuse by Amazon employees, according to a person familiar with the effort.

Some Amazon employees in India and China who work with sellers in customer-support roles have said their ability to search an internal database for data such as specific product performance or trending keywords has been strictly limited, according to people familiar with the matter. Some in India also are no longer able to use their USB ports to download such data, some of the people said.
The issue is not China, or India, it is that employees of Amazon want to get their money, and get the f%$# out of Dodge.

If they saw the possibility of making a decent career, and a decent life through Amazon, they would consider losing their jobs there as a risk, but they don't, and so the technological terror that Jeff Bezos has constructed will continue to be a highly problematic place.

As to actually fixing the problems by being a better employer, where's the money in that?

10 December 2018

Quote of the Day

The country is being run by the Harkonnens.
Lambert Strether
He made this observation when reporting a story about how a school district was turning over lunch debts of its students to a collection agency .

Seriously, when did evil become the default for everyone in this country?

No Thanks, I Have a Gig as Spın̈al Tap's Drummer

John Kelly is resigning as Donald Trump's Chief of Staff by the end of the year.

Good riddance.

He's a xenophobic, misogynistic, racist asshole, but it appears that "The Donald" does not think that he's a campaign season consigliere, and (God help us) we are into the Presidential campaign season.

Unfortunately for the White House, no one wants the job.
President Trump said on Saturday that his chief of staff, John F. Kelly, would step down by the end of the year, the latest move in a long-planned staff shake-up as the president heads into the 2020 campaign facing growing peril from the special counsel and newly empowered Democrats.

The departure of Mr. Kelly, who had been brought in last year to impose order on the West Wing but found managing Mr. Trump an impossible task, had been rumored for months, and Mr. Trump announced it to reporters before departing for the Army-Navy football game in Philadelphia. He said a replacement would be named in the next day or two.

“John Kelly will be leaving — I don’t know if I can say ‘retiring,’” the president said. “But he’s a great guy. John Kelly will be leaving at the end of the year.”

Mr. Trump has settled on Nick Ayers, a youthful but experienced political operative who serves as chief of staff to Vice President Mike Pence, as his top choice to replace Mr. Kelly, people familiar with the matter said. In Mr. Ayers, Mr. Trump sees what Mr. Kelly, a career military officer, was not: a wily political operative whose focus would be on politics and campaigning as the president looks toward his re-election bid.  

Ayers is not interested in the job.
But Mr. Ayers, 36, who has young children and wants to return home to Georgia with his family, has so far agreed to serve only on an interim basis through the spring. Mr. Trump, who does not want more turnover, is pressing Mr. Ayers to agree to a more permanent stay, those familiar with the discussions said.

If the president ultimately turns to another candidate, potential choices include the Treasury secretary, Steven Mnuchin; his budget director, Mick Mulvaney; and the United States trade representative, Robert Lighthizer.

Mnuchin doesn't want the job either, and neither does Lighhizer.

Yet Another Reason Not to Give to NPR

Julia Botero was happy to catch on, and determined to stay on, at NPR. After completing an internship at the public broadcasting organization in Washington in 2013, she began a year-long stint as a temporary employee, moving between producing jobs at NPR’s signature news programs, “All Things Considered” and “Morning Edition.”


Worse was the sense of constant competition among her fellow temps, many of whom were angling to be hired for a limited number of permanent positions. “The only person I felt I could trust,” she said, “was the person I was dating, who was in the same position I was.” After a year of such uncertainty, she left, taking a job as a reporter for a group of public radio stations in New York state.

What’s surprising about Botero’s experience is how unsurprising it is at NPR.

For decades, the public broadcaster has relied on a cadre of temporary journalists to produce its hourly newscasts and popular news programs. Without temporary workers — who are subject to termination without cause — NPR would probably be unable to be NPR. Temps do almost every important job in NPR’s newsroom: They pitch ideas, assign stories, edit them, report and produce them. Temps not only book the guests heard in interviews, they often write the questions the hosts ask the guests.

And there are a lot of them. According to union representatives, between 20 and 22 percent of NPR’s 483 union-covered newsroom workforce — or 1 in 5 people — are temp workers. The number varies week to week as temps come and go.


Resentment among temps about their status has boiled beneath the surface at NPR for years, but the tensions have begun to bubble up over the past several months. Some temporary employees raised complaints in the wake of a sexual harassment scandal involving Michael Oreskes, the former head of NPR’s newsroom. Oreskes was accused by several women, including a then-temporary employee, of misconduct. Oreskes was forced to resign by NPR last year; several women said his behavior highlighted the vulnerability of temporary employees, who fear they could be blackballed for complaining or resisting an overly aggressive manager.

The outrage over Oreskes coalesced into a broader employee inquiry into the status of temps at NPR. Following “listening sessions” conducted among 40 current and former temporary journalists, NPR employees produced a report in May detailing a number of grievances and allegedly abusive practices.

Among them: Temps were often left in the dark about how long their assignments would last, how much they’d be paid, who they were reporting to, or what their title was. They also said they received little feedback from supervisors after completing an assignment, and were “routinely” overlooked in NPR’s recruiting efforts.

Several temps interviewed for this story use the same word to describe NPR’s temp system: “Exploitative.”

By any measure, NPR is unusual among broadcast media organizations in the size of its temporary workforce.


NPR’s union representatives remain guarded, however. They noted that during bruising negotiations over a new three-year contract last year, NPR’s management proposed eliminating all benefits for temps (except those required by law), including health insurance and holiday pay. Those proposals were withdrawn amid broad staff opposition.
As I have noted before, if a company does not do well by its employees, it's claims to do good are highly suspect.

09 December 2018

Tweet of the Day

This is at its core why some people, myself included, loathe the entire Clinton campaign, and think that everyone who worked for this should be asking people if they, "Want fries with that," for a living.

The incompetence and outright looting of the Hillary Clinton's campaign gave us Trump, and these people want another opportunity to get paid for their incompetence.

They are the real Washington Generals.

08 December 2018

So Not Reassured

"Helicopter Destroyer," my ass!
I read this yesterday, December 7, and for some reason, I was not reassured at reports that the Japanese Navy will be reconstituting its aircraft carrier fleet:
The Japanese government announced on Nov. 27, 2018 that it plans to modify its two Izumo-class helicopter carriers to support F-35B Lightning II stealth fighters.

The announcement follows years of speculation that began even before Izumo commissioned into service in 2015.

“Since we are equipped with such vessels, it is desirable that we will use them for various purposes,” Japanese defense minister Takeshi Iwaya told reporters. “We would like to advance our research and studies on this.”


Japan’s post-war constitution forbids offensive military operations. For decades, the country’s leaders have interpreted the prohibition to mean the Japanese navy legally could not possess aircraft carriers.

The Japanese fleet sidestepped the carrier-ban by acquiring what it called “helicopter destroyers” — that is, surface warships with hangars and unusually large flight decks.

The Izumo class stretched the credibility of the “helicopter destroyer” moniker. The type lacks major weaponry. Its flight deck extends from stem to stern. It’s a carrier in everything but name. In practice, Izumo and sister ship Kaga, which commissioned in 2017, only have embarked helicopters.

Each 814 feet long and displacing 27,000 tons of water while fully loaded, Izumo and Kaga are small for carriers. The U.S. Navy’s supercarriers each are a thousand feet long and displace more than 100,000 tons. The Americans’ amphibious assault ships — which support helicopters, AV-8B Harrier jump jets and F-35s — are around 850 feet long and displace 41,000 tons.
Yep, nothing to see here, move along.

Understanding the Yellow Vest Movement

We can talk about what is, and is not, causing this phenomenon, but at its core, it boils down to this statement, "France's Gas Tax Disaster Shows We Can't Save Earth by Screwing Over Poor People."

French President Emanuel Macron has been cutting taxes on the rich, and raising taxes on everyone else, ever since entering office.

This is a well deserved smack-down of an investment banker who has seen his role as making life easier for other investment bankers.

Headline of the Day

When It Comes to American Jobs, the US Could Learn from Its Largest Sex-Furniture Manufacturer
It's more than just occupying a niche.

It's local sourcing,  a skilled and well remunerated (and hence stable) workforce, a deserved reputation for quality, and good communication with customers.

07 December 2018

We're Gonna Need a Smaller Violin

It appears taht Bill Kristol's Weekly Standard is at risk of closure:
Things don’t look good for The Weekly Standard. Yesterday, CNN’s Oliver Darcy reported that the conservative magazine may shutter after sparring between its leadership and owners MediaDC, who told the magazine’s editor, Stephen Hayes, that he could court potential buyers, then went back on the pledge. While MediaDC’s parent company wouldn’t be drawn publicly last night, MediaDC’s chairman, Ryan McKibben, has reportedly requested a meeting with Hayes next week. Ominously, Darcy reports, he’s requested that the entire Standard staff be made available immediately afterward.

The Standard has steadfastly opposed the Trump presidency, making it a relative rarity in conservative media circles. Its anti-Trump stance—and stated commitment to fact-driven and nuanced debate—helps explain why CNN’s scoop elicited such widespread concern in the mediasphere. On the right, Noah Rothman, an associate editor at Commentary magazine, tweeted, “This would be a disaster. The Weekly Standard is indispensable.” Further left, Mother Jones CEO Monika Bauerlein called CNN’s story “terrible news.” The Atlantic’s Adam Serwer added, “I’m obviously not the target audience for The Weekly Standard but its output in the Trump era has mostly avoided the bizarre tone of Trumpist sycophancy dominating much of conservative media and losing it would be bad.”

The fact that The Weekly Standard is right, for all the wrong reasons, for once, does not justified its continued existence.

Even now, as a "fact checker" for Facebook, it continues its role as a pox on public discourse and a welfare program for overpriviliged conservatives.

The hand-wringing for a publication that was begun to pursue Bill Clinton's penis and to advocate for destabilizing wars throughout the world does not deserve support for anyone who might consider themselves a journalist.

I'm Guessing Steve Bannon or Another of Trump's Minions

You literally could not have chosen a worse time for a caravan to set off to the United States than mid to late October before an election in which a nativist demagogue was trying to keep his party in power.

It gave Trump the ability to stoke his base, and wave his dick around and pretend to be brave.

It now turns out that fraudulent accounts on social media played a large role in instigating the caravan, and applying the old saw of cui bono, the most likely suspects are people tied to Trump and the Republican party:
Just days before the migrant caravan set out from Honduras, an imposter stole the identity of a prominent early supporter on Facebook, using a fake account to try to boost the caravan’s numbers.

Bartolo Fuentes, a Honduran activist, journalist, and former lawmaker told BuzzFeed News that someone used the phony account to send Facebook messages falsely claiming that established migrant groups were organizing the effort. News like that — coming from a well-known public figure in Honduras, such as Fuentes — could go a long way to convincing people to join the group of migrants traveling to the US.

The caravan, which threaded north through Guatemala and Mexico, eventually ballooned in size to more than 7,000 people. It also became a political flashpoint in the lead-up to last month’s US midterm elections.In response to a query from BuzzFeed News, a Facebook spokesperson said the phony account “was removed for violating [the company’s] misrepresentation policy,” but declined to share any further information, such as what country it originated from, what email address was used to open it, or any other details that might reveal who was behind it. Facebook added that, barring a subpoena or request from law enforcement, it does not share such information out of respect for the privacy of its users.
Actually Facebook does share such information (Cambridge Analytica), but only with people who won't advertise the fact.
As far as Fuentes can tell, the fake account, which primarily used Facebook Messenger to spread disinformation, was created less than a week before the caravan was scheduled to depart.

On his real account, Fuentes did post a few times about the caravan, which he said he’d heard about in mid-September after being invited to join a small private WhatsApp group of would-be migrants. One of his posts, from Oct. 4, showed a stylized image of a bedraggled migrant and indicated the caravan “spontaneously convened” without any formal organizer.

But the messages being sent by the imposter, which also had Fuentes’s photo, had a very different flavor, the former lawmaker learned. They claimed that the prominent and influential migrant rights organization Pueblo Sin Fronteras was organizing the caravan and would be leading it on the arduous journey.

But the news was fake. Although Pueblo Sin Fronteras had organized several previous caravans, including a big one in the spring that attracted 1,500 people, it staunchly opposed the latest effort based on well-founded fears it would stoke anti-immigrant sentiment ahead of the elections.

The bogus Fuentes account stands out for its sophistication and timing. It was created before the caravan departed, when the event had not yet attracted news coverage. It operated entirely in Spanish and precisely targeted influencers within the migrant rights community. And rather than criticize or undermine the caravan — as other online campaigns would later attempt to do — it was used to legitimize the event, making a loosely structured grassroots event appear to be a well-organized effort by an established migrant group with a proven track record of successfully bringing Central American people to the US border.

Fuentes has been unable to get any information from Facebook about the account, but one small detail stood out. Whoever created it listed the Honduran capital of Tegucigalpa as Fuentes’s hometown, rather than the San Pedro Sula suburb of El Progreso. That might seem like a minor error, but it’s the sort of mistake a foreigner — not a Honduran — [also, in my personal opinion, not a member of the FSB or GRU] would make about the well-known former lawmaker, whose left-wing party stands in opposition to the current president’s administration.


The largest caravan organized by Pueblo Sin Fronteras numbered 1,500 people. To this day, Mujica said he is mystified by how the latest caravan could have grown so large.

“Nobody wanted this to take place so close to the elections,” he added. “Somebody was clearly trying to mislead people to generate more interest in the caravan.”
This is precisely the sort of Karl Rove style rat-f%$#ery that we see from the Republicans.   (Rove once planted bugs in his own office to create the impression that his opponents were spying on him)

There is Republican stink all over this.

06 December 2018

Dropping the "A Word" on Brexit

Mervyn King, former governor of the Bank of England, has gone there, likening Theresa May's Brexit deal to Neville Chamberlain's policy of appeasement during the late 1930s.

This is rather evocative language within the context of British Politics, and what it evokes is well deserved loathing of May and her Evil Minions:
Mervyn King, the former governor of the Bank of England, has launched a stinging attack on Theresa May’s Brexit deal, likening it to the appeasement of the Nazis in the 1930s.

In a sweeping attack on No 10, the Treasury and his successor, Mark Carney, the Brexit-supporting King said the political elite was allowing the UK to become a vassal state that would be forced to accept Brussels diktats. He described the deal negotiated by the government as “incompetence of a high order”.

King’s comments came as Carney told the Treasury select committee on Tuesday that the price of food could go up by 10% if the UK left the EU with no deal and with no plans to avoid chaos at the country’s ports.

He said Britain’s ports were not ready for a shift to World Trade Organization rules for the country’s exports and imports with the EU.

King, however, slammed May’s deal as “a muddled commitment to perpetual subordination from which the UK cannot withdraw without the agreement of the EU”.

He added: “It simply beggars belief that a government could be hellbent on a deal that hands over £39bn while giving the EU both the right to impose laws on the UK indefinitely and a veto on ending this state of fiefdom.”
May's Brexit deal is so bad that it could have been negotiated by Donald Trump.

Not Just Pennsylvania

Broadband sucks everywhere in the US, but researchers at Penn State have revealed that it is far worse than the official numbers:
It’s often a foregone conclusion that rural areas face major challenges to improve their access to high-speed broadband, and in Pennsylvania, that’s very much true. But what if you actually measure broadband speeds statewide from millions of data points to get a better sense of the geographic disparities of connectivity? One new study says it’s  actually much worse than previously thought.

Researchers at Pennsylvania State University spent much of this year studying internet speeds across the state, and found that only a small fraction of residents—just under 10 percent—live in areas that meet the Federal Communication Commission’s minimum speed needed for broadband connectivity. Most of those areas that meet the federal minimum standard are, as shown in green below, in the state’s major population centers, including Philadelphia, Pittsburgh and Harrisburg.

The work at Penn State uncovered stark differences between advertised internet speeds and actual speeds.

“It’s not just a little different. It appears that the more rural areas have a larger difference between advertised and actual broadband speeds than urban locations,” Penn State researcher Sascha Meinrath said in a recent university announcement. “In some locales, the discrepancy between actual and advertised speeds are an order of magnitude difference or larger. And if you’re this underserved or without internet access entirely, you’re just not going to be a viable part of the 21st century economy.”
This is not something that will be fixed with deregulation, no matter what the free market mousketeers.

Tardis, Meet Turdis

The residents of Biggin Hill, which is perhaps the the most English place name in the UK, are upset because the local transit agency has installed a massive outside rest room for its bus drivers:
Residents on a quiet residential road have complained after transport planners installed an 11-ft lavatory block for bus drivers outside their homes.

On Tuesday Transport for London (TfL) installed the lavatory block - dubbed the “Turdis” by angry residents - on a street in Biggin Hill, on the border of South London and Kent, amid claims that homeowners on the road were not consulted.

Local councillor Julian Bennington said that furious residents smashed its windows within hours of its installation earlier this week and that its lock is already broken.

He said: “People are very angry - it's literally outside their houses.

"It's a monstrosity dumped here - the size of it and everything else - in the middle of what is a residential area.

"We knew nothing about it as local councillors and the council didn't either. Residents have now been asking about why they weren't consulted.”
I don't want to make fun of this situation, but a, "Turdis in Biggin Hill," is simply too much to ignore.

05 December 2018

Remember When the Koch Brothers Funded Study on Single Payer?

The headline number was supposed to be the taxes required, but even with their money skewing the analysis, courtesy of the best minds at George Mason University that money can buy, the savings were in the trillions of dollars. (Self own time)

Well, some good folks at my alma mater ran the numbers without a thumb on the scales, and the savings are even more eye poppingly huge:
Medicare for All advocates just received an early holiday present: a new study from the Political Economy Research Institute (PERI) at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst finds that single-payer health care will save the US $5.1 trillion [as compared to the $2.054 trillion from the Mercatus Center study noted above] over a decade while drastically cutting working-class Americans’ health spending. It’s the most robust, comprehensive study yet produced on Medicare for All, which has long been in need of easily citable research.

The study analyzes Sen. Bernie Sanders’s Medicare for All Act from top to bottom, elaborating on several key aspects of the bill, including what the transition to a fully public, comprehensive, free-at-the-point-of-use health care system might look like and what impact the program will have on US residents. Most significantly, it answers the most common question single-payer advocates face: “How will we pay for it?”

The findings are impressively thorough. Reaching nearly two hundred pages in length, the report has been praised by health policy experts for its sound methods and clarity. Alison Galvani of the Yale School of Public Health predicts it will become recognized as the “seminal analysis” of Medicare for All.
This amounts to over $1500 a year savings for every man, woman, and child in the United States.

We need to do it now.

It Sucks to be Uber, Too.

The New Work City Taxi and Limousine Commission (TLC) just imposed a minimum hourly wage on Uber and Lyft:
The city's Taxi and Limousine Commission (TLC) said on Tuesday that it passed rules that will require "high volume" drivers of for-hire vehicles to receive a wage per trip that corresponds to $27.86 per hour, or $17.22 after expenses. The rules will go into effect in mid-January.

"New York City is the first city globally to recognize that the tens of thousands of men and women who are responsible for providing increasingly popular rides that begin with the touch of a screen deserve to make a livable wage and protection against companies from unilaterally reducing it," TLC chair Meera Joshi said in a statement.

According to the commission, the rules will result in the equivalent of a $10,000 annual raise for 96% of New York City's Uber, Lyft, Juno, and Via drivers. A report commissioned by the TLC found that median earnings for high-volume drivers of for-hire vehicles decreased by over 10% between 2016 and 2017.


The New York City Council in August voted in favor of establishing a minimum wage for ride-hailing drivers and preventing ride-hailing services from hiring new drivers for a year. The decision came after a report from transportation analyst Bruce Schaller that said ride-hailing services increased traffic congestion.

In July, the New York Unemployment Insurance Appeal Board issued a ruling that requires Uber to provide unemployment benefits for its drivers.
Increasingly, people are coming to realize that Uber, Lyft, and the rest of the, "Gig Economy," are little more than con men who are personally profiting from negative externalities, much like polluters, the banksters, and spammers.

It Sucks to be Zuck

Remember those internal emails that Parliament seized from the CEO of a company suing Facebook?

These documents have now been released to the public, and it is not pretty.

First, rather unsurprisingly, we have copious evidence of anti-competitive behavior, and second, it is now clwar that Facebook was a willing co-conspirator with Cambridge Analytica:
Facebook Inc. wielded user data like a bargaining chip, providing access when that sharing might encourage people to spend more time on the social network -- and imposing strict limits on partners in cases where it saw a potential competitive threat, emails show.

A trove of internal correspondence, published online Wednesday by U.K. lawmakers, provides a look into the ways Facebook executives, including Chief Executive Officer Mark Zuckerberg, treated information posted by users like a commodity that could be harnessed in service of business goals. Apps were invited to use Facebook’s network to grow, as long as that increased usage of Facebook. Certain competitors, in a list reviewed by Zuckerberg himself, were not allowed to use Facebook’s tools and data without his personal sign-off.

In early 2013, Twitter Inc. launched the Vine video-sharing service, which drew on a Facebook tool that let Vine users connect to their Facebook friends. Alerted to the possible competitive threat by an engineer who recommended cutting off Vine’s access to Facebook data, Zuckerberg replied succinctly: “Yup, go for it.”

In other cases Zuckerberg eloquently espoused the value of giving software developers more access to user data in hopes that it would result in applications that, in turn, would encourage people to do more on Facebook. "We’re trying to enable people to share everything they want, and to do it on Facebook," Zuckerberg wrote in a November 2012 email. "Sometimes the best way to enable people to share something is to have a developer build a special purpose app or network for that type of content and to make that app social by having Facebook plug into it. However, that may be good for the world but it’s not good for us unless people also share back to Facebook and that content increases the value of our network."

The emails were released by a committee of U.K. lawmakers investigating social media’s role in the spread of fake news. They provide more insight into how Facebook achieved its dominance of social media, and how it thought about the value of users’ data, which users provide to the company for free. Facebook, which runs a network of more than 2 billion people globally, has been interrogated by regulators about the reaches of its power, and the effect of that control on user privacy, the spread of misinformation, and global elections.

Lawmakers obtained the documents after compelling the founder of U.S. company Six4Three to hand them over during a business trip to London, despite the fact that they were under seal in a California court case.


Damian Collins, head of the committee that released the documents, says the emails show that Facebook shut off access to data required by competing apps and conducted global surveys of the usage of mobile apps by customers possibly without their knowledge. He also said that a change to Facebook’s Android app policy that resulted in call and message data being recorded was deliberately made difficult for users to know about. He explained his rationale for releasing the emails in a tweet:

This is why you don't f%$# with a parliamentary investigation when you run a multi-national corporation.

They will find a way to f%$# you.

I'm really not surprised at the revelations, though.

A cursory look at his history reveals that he's a dishonest, narcissistic, and amoral rat-bastard.

This is just more of the same.

More of This

Acero, a large public school chain in the Chicago area, has the dubious distinction of being the first charter school in the nation to have its teachers strike:\
Hundreds of educators at Chicago's Acero charter schools walked off the job Tuesday morning, halting classes for 7,500 predominantly Latino students and launching the nation's first strike over a contract at the independently operated campuses.

Backed by affiliates at the Chicago Teachers Union, the charter network's teachers said they would not return to work after what they described as a series of fruitless negotiations with management.

"We're going to stay on strike until we get educational justice for the people who work in Acero charter schools," CTU President Jesse Sharkey said outside the charter network's empty Zizumbo elementary school campus as dozens of picketers settled in. "We're going to stay on strike until the students at Acero charter schools get the resources into their classrooms that they need to do their jobs."

The charter network cancelled all classes, athletics and extracurricular activities. School buildings will remain open with group activities supervised by nonunion staff members, though parents were encouraged to keep children at home or at nearby parks and community facilities.

Acero's chief executive blasted the walkout as the product of an "anti-charter political agenda."


The CTU has said key issues include reduced class sizes, maternity and paternity leave, a revamped teacher evaluation system and better pay. The union said they were also unable to secure commitments on special education services and guaranteed protections for undocumented students and families.
I am surprised that this has taken so long.

The underlying business plan of most charter schools is to treat their teachers like garbage.


Spaghetti and Meat Balls, a film by Quentin Tarantino:

04 December 2018

Now We Know Why Trump Tried to Keep Haspel Away From Congress

Unlike SecDef Mattis and Secretary of State Pompeo, who have studiously avoided looking at the intelligence data so that they could express doubt about the accusations that Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MBS) ordered the murder of Jamal Khashoggi, CIA Director Gina Haspel has to look at the intelligence.

It's job one for the DCIA.

So, now that she has briefed Senators on what she knows, and while they cannot discuss the specific intelligence, they have said that MBS guilty as hell:
Senators emerged from an unusual closed-door briefing with the CIA director on Tuesday and accused the Saudi crown prince of complicity in the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

In some of their strongest statements to date, lawmakers said evidence presented by the U.S. spy agency overwhelmingly pointed to Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s involvement in the assassination.

“There’s not a smoking gun — there’s a smoking saw,” said Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.), referring to the bone saw that investigators believe was used to dismember Khashoggi after he was killed Oct. 2 by a team of Saudi agents inside the country’s consulate in Istanbul.

Armed with classified details provided by President Trump’s handpicked CIA director, Gina Haspel, senators shredded the arguments put forward by senior administration officials who had earlier insisted that the evidence of Mohammed’s alleged role was inconclusive.

“If the crown prince went in front of a jury, he would be convicted in 30 minutes,” said Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.), the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

Haspel, who had declined to appear alongside Mattis and Pompeo at a briefing on U.S.-Saudi policy for the full Senate last week, was joined by agency personnel and gave what lawmakers described as a compelling and decisive presentation of the evidence that the CIA has analyzed since Khashoggi, a Washington Post contributing columnist, was killed.


Graham leveled sharp criticism at Pompeo and Mattis, saying he thought they were “following the lead of the president.” He called them “good soldiers.” But, Graham added, one would “have to be willfully blind not to come to the conclusion” that Mohammed was “intricately involved in the demise of Mr. Khashoggi.”

“It is zero chance, zero, that this happened in such an organized fashion without the crown prince,” Graham said.

Sen. Richard C. Shelby (R-Ala.) said that “it would defy logic to think” that someone other than Mohammed was responsible, noting that members of the prince’s own royal guard are believed to have been part of the team that killed Khashoggi.
The only question now is whether Trump is protecting his, or Jared Kushner's business interests in Saudi Arabia.

03 December 2018

Brings Back Childhood Non-Memories

The recent earthquake in Anchorage is familiar to me in a completely unfamiliar way.

I was in the last big one in Alaska, the 9.6 Richter Scale quake on March 27 1964, but I was only about 20 months old, so I have no memory of the event.

The scale is logarythmic 7.0 Richter Scale trembler had about 400 times (102.2) less energy, so the damage is far less extreme, and this has been further mitigated by improved building standards since 1964, so the impact has been far less severe:
A collapsed section of road on the Glenn Highway north of Anchorage is set to snarl traffic for days as Southcentral Alaska pivoted from crisis response to cleanup in the area’s most significant earthquake in a half-century.

The 7.0 earthquake jolted Anchorage and the rest of Southcentral Alaska on Friday morning, cracking and collapsing roads and highways, damaging buildings, knocking out power and sending people scrambling outside and under furniture. The violent shaking left many homes a mess, and aftershocks continued through the night and through the day Saturday. Schools in Anchorage will be closed until Dec. 10, and many schools in the Mat-Su Borough will be closed until at least Wednesday.

Seismologists called the earthquake the most significant in Anchorage since the 1964 Good Friday earthquake, in terms of how strong the ground itself shook and severity of impact. The size of the quake and a risk of underwater landslides in Cook Inlet triggered an unusual localized tsunami warning. The day after, people all over Southcentral Alaska were rattled and anxious.

But relief was tangible as Anchorage officials reported that there were no deaths, and generally minor injuries — a broken arm, cuts from glass. And despite widespread reports of varying degrees of structural damage, no buildings entirely collapsed, which officials credited to Anchorage’s strict building codes. Hospitals and airports were fully functional Saturday and businesses were beginning to reopen.
Thankfully, the feared tsunami never materialized.
 I know that I was there, my dad was on the (generally ignored) commission that recommended not rebuilding in areas subject to liquefaction, but it's weird as hell how this evokes non-existent memories in me.

Another Day, Another Corruption Allegation

No, it's not Trump, it's Benyamin Netanyahu:
The Israeli police recommended Sunday that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu be indicted on bribery, fraud and other charges, accusing him of trading regulatory favors for fawning news coverage, in what is potentially the most damaging of a series of corruption cases against him.

It was the third time this year that the police have urged that Mr. Netanyahu face criminal prosecution. And it dealt another blow to his teetering governing coalition, which narrowly averted collapse last month and is clinging to a one-vote majority in Parliament while edging closer to calling early elections.

Mr. Netanyahu, who has dominated Israeli politics for a decade and continues to lead all potential challengers in opinion polls, must now await the decision of the attorney general, whom he appointed, on whether to indict him in all three cases. Depending on the decision, which could take months, he could be Israel’s first sitting prime minister to be indicted.


In the other cases, he is accused in the first of accepting hundreds of thousands of dollars in gifts in exchange for political favors, and in the second of trading influence for favorable coverage in a leading Israeli newspaper.


In the new case against him, Mr. Netanyahu is not accused of getting rich himself, but of enriching the country’s biggest telecommunications company, Bezeq, at the public’s expense and for the sake of his own image and that of his wife and family.

Between 2012 and 2017, Mr. Netanyahu “intervened in a blatant and ongoing manner, and sometimes even daily,” in coverage at Walla, a news website owned by Bezeq, the police said. This ensured “flattering articles and pictures” were published and critical content about him and his family was removed.

The police said Mr. Netanyahu and his associates sought to sway Walla’s hiring of senior editors and reporters. In return, Mr. Netanyahu, who personally oversaw the communications ministry from 2014 to 2017, rewarded Bezeq with enormously lucrative concessions, the police said. Those included approval of its merger with Yes, a satellite television company, despite the objections of lower-level ministry officials.
This man has been a pox on Israeli politics for over 3 decades.

Here's hoping that he will finally get his comeuppance.

Tweet of the Day

Yeah, pretty much.

The biggest problem with Obamacare is that selecting a plan is about as pleasant as Home Proctology Kit, the game.