17 August 2018

Linkage



The Dead Kennedys have the song for the season:

16 August 2018

Baseball is Magic

If you don't follow baseball, you might not understand, but the Mets just beat the Phillies by 24-4.

The kicker? This score includes Eleven unearned runs:
The New York Mets are the greatest baseball team of the past two days. Following up on a 16-5 drubbing of the Orioles on Wednesday night, one of the biggest laughingstocks in baseball took down the Phillies this afternoon by a staggeringly competent score of 24-4. Those 24 runs today are a Mets franchise record.

The Phillies, meanwhile, paid tribute to the slapstick Mets we all remember from, uh, last week, by running down some of their greatest hits. Were there throwing errors? Reader, there were throwing errors, part of four total miscues by the Phillies that led to eleven(!) unearned runs.
The kicker is that this was a double header, and the Phillies won the 2nd game.

This is remarkable

Break Up Facebook: Reason LVLMMXCII

Facebook's "Head of news partnerships", the contemptible Campbell Brown (Charter School shenanigans) has threatened media organizations that choose not to partner with the social media company:
A senior Facebook executive told Australian media companies that if they didn’t cooperate with the social network, their businesses would die.

According to a report by The Australian, Campbell Brown, Facebook’s head of news partnerships, told a group of more than 20 broadcasters and publishers that she wanted to help media companies develop sustainable business models through the platform.

“We will help you revitalise journalism … in a few years the ­reverse looks like I’ll be holding your hands with your dying ­business like in a hospice,” she said, in comments corroborated by five people who attended the meeting in Sydney on Tuesday.

The Australian also reported that Brown said that Facebook’s chief executive, Mark Zuckerberg, “doesn’t care about publishers but is giving me a lot of leeway and concessions to make these changes”, although both Facebook and Brown vehemently deny this comment was made, referring to a transcript they have from the meeting.

Facebook would not release the transcript from the meeting.
Yes, this is a reason to break up the company.  This is way too much power for a private actor to have.

Also, I will note something that Yves Smith has said frequently, "If your business depends on a platform, your business is already dead."  (The media graveyard is littered with the remnants of companies that have come to depend on a 3rd party platform.)

Oh, Snap!

The SEC has served Tesla with a subpoena in response to Musk's "Going Private" tweet.

Meanwhile, his board of directors are desperately trying to get Elon to stop tweeting.

As my son put it:
Huh ……… Major public figure f%$#ing things up over Twitter ……… That's rare.

A Shande Far Di Goyim

There is an investigation in New York state over allegations that Orthodox Yeshivas (Jewish religious schools) are not providing an adequate education.

Specifically, there are allegations that these schools are not providing an adequate education on required secular subjects like math, science, history, English, etc.

About half of the Yeshivas have refused entry to inspectors:
Three years after the city launched an investigation into whether certain ultra-Orthodox Jewish schools were providing an adequate education in secular subjects, it revealed on Thursday that it had made little progress. In a letter to the state’s Education Department seeking guidance, Richard A. Carranza, New York City schools chancellor, acknowledged that investigators had managed to visit only half the schools involved.

The inquiry began in the summer of 2015, when a group of parents, former students and former teachers at yeshivas told the city that 39 schools were not sufficiently teaching subjects, like math, science, and English, leaving students ill-prepared for adulthood. The Education Department then launched an investigation of 30 of the schools, after determining the others were either no longer operating or did not fall under its jurisdiction.

As part of its investigation, the Education Department interviewed some of the parents and students who brought the complaint, who had experience at 11 schools. Most of those interviewed said the boys schools taught math and English for at most 90 minutes a day until boys turned 13, at which point secular instruction stopped. Some said attendance during secular instruction was voluntary. And while occasional science experiments might be done in class, they said there was no science curriculum. New York state law requires that nonpublic schools provide an education that is “substantially equivalent” to that of public schools.

Education officials also made announced visits to the schools, but, they said, 15 yeshivas did not allow them inside. “The D.O.E. has made repeated attempts to gain access to the schools,” Mr. Carranza said in the letter. “The long delay in scheduling visits to this group of 15 schools is a serious concern.”


Naftuli Moster, founder of Young Advocates for Fair Education, a vocal critic of secular education at the yeshivas, said in a statement, “It is disappointing, but not surprising, that nearly half of the schools to be investigated refused entry to the Department of Education. Reading between the lines, it’s hard not to conclude there is both a lack of secular instruction going on in these schools and that these schools believe they are above the law.”

………
Fifteen of the schools, he [NY Mayor Bill de Blasio] said, “welcomed us in, participated in an ongoing dialogue, made a number of changes, and according to our educational leaders, are doing well, and/or are making additional changes to do better. There’s another 15 that would not allow D.O.E. officials in the door and that, to me, is not an acceptable state of affairs.”
Let me leave you with Pirkei Avot 4:7, "Rabbi Tzadok used to say: Do not make the Torah a crown with which to aggrandize yourself, nor use it as a spade with which to dig."

Damn

Aretha Franklin has died.

A big voice has left the world:

15 August 2018

I Just Had a Minor Epiphany

We were having a discussion of politics at the Stellar Parthenon BBS, and JR noted that his wife was a big fan of Corey Booker until he voted against drug re-importation from Canada, and now he is politically dead to her.

This developed into a discussion of what I call the, "political event horizon," that point where a politician you are vaguely positive towards does something so hacktacular that that you wash your hands of them.

In the course of discussion, I realized that my two major downgrades of major Democratic Party figures from vaguely promising to weasels, Bill Clinton and Barack Obama, were both about the same thing:  Throwing the LGBT community under the bus.

In Clinton's case, it was "Don't Ask, Don't Tell," and in the case of Barack Obama, it was his embrace of homophobe Donny McClurkin in late 2007 to appeal to socially conservative South Carolina primary voters.

LGBT rights are a moral stance, and when people throw them over for ephemeral political benefit, it says something profound about their profound lack of ethics.

Trump Revokes Ex-C.I.A. Director John Brennan’s Security Clearance - The New York Times



Trumps stated justifications for this are valid, but that's not why he did this
Donald Trump has pulled John Brennan’s Security Clearance.

To be sure, after Brennan spied on a Senate investigation of the CIA, and lied about it, he should have been fired and jailed by Barack Obama, but this is not why his clearance was revoked happened 3 weeks ago (it was revealed today).  This was political retribution.

It's kind of like seeing your mother-in-law drive off a cliff in your brand new car though, and the same would apply to former DNI James Clapper, who committed perjury before Congress, and former CIA and NSA chief Michael Hayden whose trail of illegal domestic surveillance is legion.

If all of them hat their tickets pulled, it would be a good thing, but not this way:
In a remarkable attack on a political opponent, President Trump on Wednesday revoked the security clearance of John O. Brennan, the C.I.A. director under President Barack Obama, citing what he called Mr. Brennan’s “erratic” behavior.

The White House had threatened last month to strip Mr. Brennan and other Obama administration officials — including Susan E. Rice, the former national security adviser; and James R. Clapper Jr., the former director of national intelligence — of their security clearances. At the time, Ms. Sanders said that Mr. Trump was considering doing it because “they politicized, and in some cases monetized, their public service and security clearances.”

Mr. Trump has questioned the loyalties of national security and law enforcement officials and dismissed some of their findings — particularly the conclusion that Moscow intervened in the 2016 election — as attacks against him.

Mr. Brennan has become a frequent critic of Mr. Trump since the 2016 presidential election, often taking to Twitter to question the president’s ability to serve in the Oval Office.

Tweet of the Day



This guy is apparently the Boaty McBoatface of the fossile fuel industry.

14 August 2018

And the Pentagon Coverup Metastasizes


This report must be truly horrific:
The Pentagon again delayed release of a report ranking the risk of sexual assault at more than 200 military installations, comparing the study to unleashing an untested weapon system, according to interviews and documents obtained by USA TODAY.

The release of the study, rescheduled for September, could spark concerns among troops and their families, particularly those stationed at bases where RAND Corp. research determined they face the highest risk of suffering sexual assault.

The report's rankings will be of particular interest to the tens of thousands of recruits who join the military each year and their families. It could raise questions about what choice, if any, they have in declining assignment to a post with a higher risk of assault and what liability the military has for a recruit assaulted at such a base.

The Pentagon received an updated draft of the study on July 24, four days after USA TODAY reported that Defense Department officials were reluctant to release it. RAND stood by its findings. The only changes being made to it now are to communicate its conclusions better, according to Jeffrey Hiday, a RAND spokesman.
The obvious question:  What are they hiding?

Limitless Corruption on Both Sides of the Aisle

New documents show that notwithstanding her claims to the contrary, Gina Haspel directly supervised waterboarding at a Thailand black site:
In late November 2002, C.I.A. interrogators at a secret prison in Thailand warned a Qaeda suspect that he had to “suffer the consequences of his deception.”

As interrogators splashed water on the chest of the man, Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri, he pleaded that he was trying to recall more information, according to a newly released C.I.A. cable. As he cried, the cable reports, the “water treatment was applied.”

The “water treatment” was bureaucratic jargon for waterboarding, and 11 newly released top-secret cables from the time that Gina Haspel, now the C.I.A. director, oversaw the base provide at times graphic detail on the techniques the agency used to brutally interrogate Qaeda captives. Agency leaders and officers were racing to uncover what they feared were large-scale plots against the United States in the chaotic months and years after the Sept. 11 attacks.

As the chief of the base, Ms. Haspel would have written or authorized the cables, according to Tom Blanton, the director of the National Security Archive, a research organization at George Washington University. The cables, obtained by the archive in a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit, were redacted to eliminate the names of interrogators and C.I.A. officers involved.

ProPublica previously reported on cables from the Thailand black site, which also offered details of the C.I.A.’s methods. Like those documents, the new cables describe the waterboarding of Mr. Nashiri as well as the use of other torture techniques.

………

But the interrogators appear to have ultimately concluded that Mr. Nashiri was not lying. Some of the cables back to headquarters, apparently written by Ms. Haspel, described him as “compliant and cooperative,” according to the 2014 report on the interrogation program by the Senate Intelligence Committee.

Officials at C.I.A. headquarters were displeased by such comments, directing the field officers to stop making such “sweeping statements” about Mr. Nashiri’s compliance. The superiors in Langley, Va., insisted that he knew more than he was saying.

Ms. Haspel arrived to oversee the Thailand black site in late October 2002. The site was shut weeks later, on Dec. 4, 2002.
Needless to say, it is now clear that the Senate Intelligence Committee chairman and ranking member, Richard Burr and Mark Warner, knew it and aided in the coverup, because they clearly had access to these documents, and either refused to look at them or actively suppressed them.

You Know Those Saudi Investors Itching to Invest in Tesla?

Well, neither do I.

More importantly, neither does the Tesla Board of directors:
An abrupt tweet last week by Elon Musk about the prospect of taking Tesla private was dashed off with little forethought, and had not been cleared ahead of time with the company’s board, two people familiar with the chain of events said Monday.

The account raised new questions about the cryptic Twitter post last week in which Mr. Musk, the mercurial co-founder and chief executive of the electric-car maker, said he had “funding secured” for a buyout of the $60 billion company.

The tweet was a highly unusual way of announcing a key strategy change at a public company. It prompted the Securities and Exchange Commission to contact Tesla to inquire about the accuracy of Mr. Musk’s tweets and the reason the disclosure had not been made in a regulatory filing, according to a person briefed on the inquiry, who was not authorized to speak publicly on behalf of the agency.

………

But three people familiar with the workings of the Saudi fund cast doubt on his account. They said the fund had taken none of the steps that such an ambitious transaction would entail, like preparing a term sheet or hiring a financial adviser to work on the deal.

And even if the fund were ready to move forward with such an agreement, it would invite review by the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States, the government body that reviews the national-security implications of such transactions.
I'm hoping that prosecution is on the table, because there are way too many people in Silicon Valley who are thinking that Elizabeth Holmes is some sort of black swan.

To quote a failed Presidential candidate, "They need to be brought to heel."

What Palmer Said*

In response to a lawsuit alleging misuse of copyrighted material in their Michael Jackson biopic, Disney is now claiming that it is. "Taking a stand against overzealous copyright holders.

This is like Nathan Myhrvold complaining about patent trolls:
The entertainment giant and its broadcast subsidiary ABC submit its response in court to a copyright lawsuit over 'The Last Days of Michael Jackson.'

Disney won't be shamed out of standing its ground in the face of "overzealous copyright holders" like the Michael Jackson Estate. On Monday, the entertainment giant and its broadcast subsidiary ABC filed an answer to the copyright lawsuit over the two-hour documentary The Last Days of Michael Jackson, which used excerpts from This Is It and other works including music videos for "Thriller" and "Black or White."

The lawsuit came in California federal court in May and pointed to just how seriously Disney takes its own intellectual property. The complaint gave examples: Disney threatened to sue childcare centers for having pictures of Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck on the wall; Disney once sued a couple on public assistance for $1 million when they appeared at children's parties dressed as an orange tiger and a blue donkey; Disney sent takedown notices to social media services upon users posting photographs of their new Star Wars toys; and so forth.

In fact, Disney's response to the Michael Jackson lawsuit comes just days after it suffered a setback in a lawsuit against a business that sends individuals in costumes to kids' birthday parties.

No matter and forget any sense of irony.

Answering claims over illicit use of Michael Jackson rights, Disney states, "This case is about the right of free speech under the First Amendment, the doctrine of fair use under the Copyright Act, and the ability of news organizations to use limited excerpts of copyrighted works — here, in most instances well less than 1% of the works — for the purpose of reporting on, commenting on, teaching about, and criticizing well-known public figures of interest in biographical documentaries without fear of liability from overzealous copyright holders."
Seriously, the level of hypocrisy here is so dense that there is a non-trivial risk of a black hole forming.




*In John Carpenter's movie The Thing, when Norris' head sprouted legs and began to walk away, Palmer (no first name) observed, "You gotta be f%$#ing kidding."

13 August 2018

The Important Question is, "What Will Happen to His Partner?"


Graphic Content
A Baltimore cop caught on video brutally beating a man has resigned from the force, and prosecutors are considering assault charges.
In the larger scheme of things though, the important development will be what happens to his partner, who largely stood idly by during the beating:
The Baltimore police officer caught on video punching a man repeatedly this past weekend has resigned and prosecutors are considering filing second-degree assault charges against him, interim Police Commissioner Gary Tuggle said.

The beating of Dashawn McGrier, 26, by the officer Saturday morning in East Baltimore was captured on cellphone video that circulated widely online. The police department suspended the officer with pay later Saturday.

Tuggle called the incident “disturbing” — singling out the officer’s “repeated head strikes” to the man. He said he could not comment further because the matter remains under active criminal investigation.

Baltimore State’s Attorney Marilyn J. Mosby’s office has declined to comment since the incident occurred.

The Police Department has not released the name of the officer, but McGrier’s attorney, Warren Brown, identified him as Arthur Williams, who he said has taunted and harassed McGrier for months.

“This was personal; it was not professional,” Brown said. “It was, ‘I’m the police and I have the power.’”

McGrier, who suffered a fractured jaw and ribs, swelling around his eye and ringing in his ears, was not charged in Saturday’s incident.

He was expected to be released from the hospital Monday, Brown said.
Look at the other cop:  He's basically watching this like it was a sporting even, when at the very least, he should be holding back his partner.  (He should really be arresting him)

The problems with bad cops will never be fixed until their cow-orkers are held accountable for enabling this sort of behavior, so his partner needs to be crucified over this as well.

If Only We Can Apply this to Twitter

Bethesda Softworks has come up with an inventive way of dealing with trolls in its most recent online game, Fallout 76.

Basically, they have literally painted bulls-eyes on the backs of abusive gamers:
When Bethesda mentioned that Fallout 76 was an online game, you could hear alarm bells ringing in fans' heads. How were they going to deal with the inevitable trolls who come in to ruin other players' fun? Now we know: it's making them a part of the game. In a presentation at QuakeCon, game lead Todd Howard revealed that people who kill unwilling victims will get bounties on their heads, with the money coming out of their total cap balance (that is, currency) and reflecting their character level. They'll also be impossible to miss -- you'll see a red star on the map.

This will help you avoid troublemakers, but you'll have a strong incentive to take them down. Fallout 76 will include a revenge mechanic that doubles the usual payout if you take down the person who killed you. You also won't lose your core gear like weapons and armor, so you don't have to worry that someone will swipe your hard-earned laser weapon.
There has to be a way to extend this to Twitter.

That place is a cesspool.

The DNC Could F%$# Up a 2 Car Funeral

After less than 2 months, the DNC has reversed itself and decided that they will take energy company money after all.

The original motion was passed with an eye toward, "connecting with grass-roots voters and emphasize the party's stance on environmentalism," but apparrently it's big donors that matters:
The Democratic National Committee (DNC) overwhelmingly passed a resolution on Friday evening saying it welcomes donations from fossil fuel industry workers and “employers’ political action committees.”

Critics of the newly passed resolution are calling it a reversal of the DNC’s recently adopted ban on accepting donations from fossil fuel companies’ political organizations.

DNC Chairman Tom Perez sponsored Friday’s resolution that allows the committee to accept contributions from “workers, including those in energy and related industries, who organize and donate to Democratic candidates individually or through their unions’ or employers’ political action committees.”

Perez, who served as Labor Secretary in the Obama administration, said the new measure was a commitment to organized labor. The resolution also says that the party wants “to support fossil fuel workers in an evolving energy economy.”
Bullsh%$.

This is about the money, and the cut that consultants get from wasteful media buys.

Do not donate to the DNC, or the DCCC, or the DSCC.

Choose your candidates, and dial directly.

Meanwhile, In Connecticut

The state insurance department has just banned Donald Trump's proposed phony health insurance:
The Connecticut Insurance Department has determined state law prohibits the sale of skimpy “short term” plans that are being promoted by President Donald Trump as a cheaper alternative to Affordable Care Act coverage.

“Connecticut already has the necessary statutory consumer protections in place to prohibit ‘junk plans’ ” Insurance Commissioner Katharine Wade said in a statement released Thursday.

The department also said a review of the new Trump administration rules for short-term, limited duration plans require any of these policies sold in the state to cover the Affordable Care Act’s comprehensive “essential health benefits.”

Those essential benefits include hospitalization and outpatient care, as well as mental health, maternity, prescription drug coverage, pediatric care and rehabilitative services.

The ACA allowed people to purchase short-term plans, which usually lacked maternity, mental health, full drug benefit and other coverages, but limited their coverage period to three months. These policies were also not renewable.

But the Trump administration’s new rules, issued Aug. 1, allow for nearly a year’s coverage under a short-term plan. They also allow short -term plans to be renewed for up to three years.lans require any of these policies sold in the state to cover the Affordable Care Act’s comprehensive “essential health benefits.”

The Connecticut Insurance Department said state law prohibits exclusions for pre-existing conditions for any policy that has coverage of six months or longer.

………

Other states, including New Jersey and Massachusetts, also regulate short-term plans to make them follow nearly all the same insurance rules that the Affordable Care Act plans have. In some of those states, carriers have decided against offering any short-term plans at all.
I rather expect to see more of this in other blue states.

I am not sure of the end-game here, but this is a glorious f%$# you to President inverted traffic cone.

A Big Old F%$#-You to Anti-Abortion Zealots

California is looking at requiring state colleges to carry abortion pills in their health services:
California legislators are set to plunge into an election-year debate over abortion access, taking up a bill that would make the state the first in the nation to mandate public universities offer medication abortion as part of basic student health services.

The measure, which passed the state Senate in January, would expand abortion rights at a time when some other states are enacting new restrictions on the procedure. The bill on Wednesday came before a key Assembly committee, which decided to determine by the end of next week whether it will move to the floor. The Assembly would have to clear the measure by Aug. 31 for it to reach Gov. Jerry Brown's desk.
It's good policy, it's better and safer than pregnancy, and a lot less expensive.

As to the politics, f%$#ing with the anti-abortion Talibaptists is a good thing too.

About F%$#ing Time

A jury just issued a multi-million dollar verdict against Monsanto (Now Bayer) for cancer caused by its Roundup (glyphosate) herbicide:
Bayer shares plunged as much as 14 percent on Monday, losing about $14 billion in value, after newly acquired Monsanto was ordered to pay $289 million in damages in the first of possibly thousands of U.S. lawsuits over alleged links between a weedkiller and cancer.

After the verdict in favor of a California school groundskeeper with terminal cancer, Monsanto faces more than 5,000 similar lawsuits across the United States over claims it did not warn of the cancer risks of glyphosate-based weedkillers, including its Roundup brand.

Monsanto, bought by Bayer this year for $63 billion, said that it would appeal against the jury’s verdict in California, which is the latest episode in a long-running debate over claims that exposure to Roundup can cause cancer.

The case by plaintiff Dewayne Johnson, filed in 2016, was fast-tracked for trial due to the severity of his non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, a cancer of the lymph system that he alleges was caused by Roundup and Ranger Pro, another Monsanto glyphosate herbicide.

“The jury’s verdict is at odds with the weight of scientific evidence, decades of real world experience and the conclusions of regulators around the world that all confirm glyphosate is safe and does not cause non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma,” Bayer said in a statement.
Ummm………the state of California declared glyphosate a likely carcinogen in 2015 in response to a report from the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), and the the, "Weight of scientific evidence," is an artifact of a decades long PR campaign, ghost writing OP/EDs, academic journal articles, and an large portions of an official report of the European food safety agency.

Monsanto is trying to sell its own PR efforts as a scientific consensus, and the jury did not buy it.

This Sounds Like CYA to Me

Elon Musk has been on a Jihad against short-sellers of Tesla forever.

The other day, he tweeted that Tesla would be going public at $420, about a 30% premium.

Now, with regulators wondering if this might be an illegal stock manipulation scheme, Musk is claiming that he has what is pretty much a done deal with the Saudi Arabian sovereign wealth fund.

The house of Saud may not be the sharpest tack in the drawer, but taking Tesla private at a 30% premium when their best case PE ratio in the next decade is something north of 100:1 is foolish even by the standards of inbred oil-wealth.

My guess is that there were some very preliminary talks, and Musk wants to use this as a cover for his attempt to hurt the short-sellers.

I hope that there is a full investigation:
Elon Musk, Tesla’s chief executive, said on Monday that he had held meetings with representatives of a Saudi sovereign wealth fund who expressed an eagerness to help him take the electric-car maker private.

Writing in a post on Tesla’s corporate blog, Mr. Musk offered his fullest explanation yet for what he said were the circumstances behind his Aug. 7 message on Twitter that he was “considering taking Tesla private at $420” and had “funding secured.” The post sent Wall Street scrambling for more information.

In the blog post, Mr. Musk said the Saudi fund had approached him several times about taking the company private as part of the country’s efforts to diversify its economy beyond oil.

Mr. Musk said that after several meetings that began in early 2017, he had left talks with the fund’s managing director on July 31 “with no question” that a deal could be closed and “that it was just a matter of getting the process moving.”
Yeah, sure, and if you believe that, I have a bridge in Riyadh you might be interested in buying. 

12 August 2018

Silicon Valley Rules: When the Going Gets Tough, Hire Lobbyists

In response to a state court ruling saying that workers for Uber, Lyft, Instacart, etc. are employees, the "gig" companies are lobbying for a law change.

They knew that their business plans, which included meticulous tracking of so-called "independent contractors" ran afoul of the law, ignored this, and now they want the law changed to validate their criminality.

F%$# that.

These guys, who see themselves as Randian supermen, may not get it, but their businesses are predicated on a subsidy from the rest of society.

Not having to pay unemployment, workmens comp, foisting liability on underpaid workers, etc. is more than a violation of the law:  It is a subsidy from the rest of us to line their pockets:
Leading gig economy companies including Uber and Lyft are quietly lobbying California’s top Democrats to override or undermine a court ruling that could make many of their contract workers into employees.

In April, the California Supreme Court issued a far-reaching ruling which could make it much harder for companies to claim their workforces of independent contractors are not full-fledged employees under the state’s wage laws. Over the months since, business leaders have been pleading their case to state officials including members of Governor Jerry Brown’s cabinet, Brown’s presumed successor Gavin Newsom, and members of the state legislature.

The business leaders are pushing to blunt the ruling’s impact, either through legislation or through executive action by the governor -- moves that would reverberate across the national debate over the rights and roles of workers in the modern gig economy, and what Democrats’ posture toward tech companies should be.
Let me translate the next of bullsh%$ bingo that is coming from the lobbyists:
An executive at one of the companies behind the push, speaking on condition of anonymity, said that because Brown and Newsom are both pro-tech and pro-worker, they are uniquely positioned to strike a compromise with the potential to be replicated. Forging a balance between the need for flexible, scalable work arrangements and workers’ rights shouldn’t just be left to the courts or calculated based on old models, the executive said.
We broke the law, but let us continue to do so, and we'll transfer some of our ill-gotten gains to your campaign coffers:  We need your subsidies to survive.

Mind you they don't see this as a subsidy, they see it as disruption, but they will have a very tough time competing, and a tougher time raising massive amounts of venture capital, if they have to treat their employees fairly:
The April ruling in the California case, Dynamex Operations West Inc. v. Superior Court of Los Angeles, established what’s sometimes called an “ABC” test for enforcement of the state’s wage laws. Among the key elements of the new standard, which is more stringent than most states’ or the federal government’s, is the determination that people are employees of a company unless they are conducting “work that is outside the usual course” of the company’s business. For businesses whose core capacity is delivering a service to customers via an army of workers classified as independent contractors, that could be a challenging test to pass.

The court ruling applied only to California, but companies worry that, along with upending their operations in the nation’s most populous state, it could be a harbinger of things to come elsewhere. The week after the Dynamex decision, U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders introduced a bill -- backed by a handful of fellow potential contenders for the Democratic Party’s 2020 presidential nomination -- that would make an equivalent ABC test the standard for federal labor laws, like who has the right to unionize.

………

Leading gig economy companies including Uber and Lyft are quietly lobbying California’s top Democrats to override or undermine a court ruling that could make many of their contract workers into employees.

In April, the California Supreme Court issued a far-reaching ruling which could make it much harder for companies to claim their workforces of independent contractors are not full-fledged employees under the state’s wage laws. Over the months since, business leaders have been pleading their case to state officials including members of Governor Jerry Brown’s cabinet, Brown’s presumed successor Gavin Newsom, and members of the state legislature.

The business leaders are pushing to blunt the ruling’s impact, either through legislation or through executive action by the governor -- moves that would reverberate across the national debate over the rights and roles of workers in the modern gig economy, and what Democrats’ posture toward tech companies should be.

“The magnitude of this issue requires urgent leadership,” nine companies wrote in a July 23 letter reviewed by Bloomberg, which warns of the ruling “stifling innovation and threatening the livelihoods of millions of working Californians” and says that without political intervention it will “decimate businesses.” The letter was sent on behalf of Uber Technologies Inc., Lyft Inc., Instacart Inc., DoorDash Inc., Postmates Inc., TaskRabbit Inc., Square Inc., Total System Services Inc. and Handy Technologies Inc. It was addressed to the governor’s secretary of labor and cabinet secretary.

A spokeswoman for the governor’s office declined to comment on whether Brown, whose final term ends in January, was mulling granting the companies’ pleas.

An executive at one of the companies behind the push, speaking on condition of anonymity, said that because Brown and Newsom are both pro-tech and pro-worker, they are uniquely positioned to strike a compromise with the potential to be replicated. Forging a balance between the need for flexible, scalable work arrangements and workers’ rights shouldn’t just be left to the courts or calculated based on old models, the executive said.

Spokespeople for Lyft, Handy, TaskRabbit, Square, Postmates and Instacart declined to comment on the companies’ lobbying efforts. DoorDash did not respond to inquiries. Spokespeople for TSYS and Uber referred requests for comment to the California Chamber of Commerce, which has been an outspoken opponent of the new requirements. “If you have a business model that doesn’t lend itself to the strict structure that an employer-employee relationship dictates,” said the Chamber’s president and CEO Allan Zaremberg, then the ruling “puts you in a situation that it’s almost impossible to continue your business model.”

Zaremberg declined to comment on the prospect of executive action from the governor’s office, but said the Chamber aims to get a legislative fix introduced and passed by the state’s assembly and senate before the legislative session closes at the end of the month. Without it, he said, workers and companies alike will be “hamstrung,” and whole sectors of California’s economy could be in jeopardy. “People depend very much now on an on-demand economy,” said Zaremberg. “In the worst-case scenario, it isn’t a viable business model anymore.”

The California Labor Federation pledged Sunday to resist the efforts to suspend or reverse the ruling. "With income inequality at an all-time high and millions of working families struggling to survive in this unfair economy, why would our state’s leaders intervene to protect big corporations from paying the wages owed to their workers?" said the group’s legislative director Caitlin Vega.

Federal and California state laws entitle employees to a suite of rights including minimum wage, overtime pay, protection from sexual harassment, payroll tax contributions from employers and the chance to win collective bargaining. Those perks don’t extend to independent contractors, a category for workers with greater autonomy to choose the terms of their work. The boundary between an employee and a contractor can be fuzzy, though, and is defined differently under different laws. The question of who gets employee protections has been hotly contested in a slew of government agency proceedings and lawsuits around the country, frequently targeting app-based sectors like ride-sharing as well as older industries such as trucking and health care.

The April ruling in the California case, Dynamex Operations West Inc. v. Superior Court of Los Angeles, established what’s sometimes called an “ABC” test for enforcement of the state’s wage laws. Among the key elements of the new standard, which is more stringent than most states’ or the federal government’s, is the determination that people are employees of a company unless they are conducting “work that is outside the usual course” of the company’s business. For businesses whose core capacity is delivering a service to customers via an army of workers classified as independent contractors, that could be a challenging test to pass.

The court ruling applied only to California, but companies worry that, along with upending their operations in the nation’s most populous state, it could be a harbinger of things to come elsewhere. The week after the Dynamex decision, U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders introduced a bill -- backed by a handful of fellow potential contenders for the Democratic Party’s 2020 presidential nomination -- that would make an equivalent ABC test the standard for federal labor laws, like who has the right to unionize.

Rather than treating that as an idle threat, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce has already been lobbying congressional offices about the bill, according to federal disclosures. In meetings with U.S. Senate staff, business leaders have been emphasizing the downsides of Dynamex’s ABC test, according to a person familiar with the conversations. Getting Democratically controlled California to pump the breaks on its new court-decreed standard could also have a significant impact on national-level discussions.

In their letter to Governor Brown, the businesses floated options to curtail the ruling’s influence. Those included issuing an executive order barring state agencies from implementing the ABC test, reviving a defunct state commission that could amend it and passing legislation that would suspend it. The companies cite an estimate by the pro-free-market research group R Street Institute that more than 300,000 California workers could be newly considered employees rather than independent contractors due to the ruling. Once the imminent damage from Dynamex is averted, the companies say in the letter, there could be “a robust legislative discussion about how we can collectively invest to protect worker voices and benefits” in the new economy, as well as a “balanced test” for who is an employee.

Besides the letter, the companies have also met with the governors’ office to plead their case, according to a person familiar with the matter, who asked not to be identified because the meetings were private. And they have discussed the issue with the Democrats who lead the state’s assembly and senate and with Lieutenant Governor Newsom. Spokespeople for Newsom, Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon and Senate President Pro Tempore Toni Atkins declined to comment.

Gig-economy startups aren’t the only companies concerned. The “I’m Independent” Coalition, a project of the California Chamber of Commerce devoted to opposing the ABC test, also counts the Internet Association as a backer. The association’s members include Google, Amazon and Facebook, all of which also hire contractors. “The internet industry is concerned about the implications of the Dynamex ruling and its potential to jeopardize internet-enabled, freelance work,” the association’s California government affairs director Kevin McKinley said in an emailed statement.

The Chamber’s coalition also includes the state associations representing restaurants, retailers, publishers, hospitals, shopping centers, child-care providers, farms, grape growers, manufacturers, trucking, taxis, ambulances and insurers. The coalition has gathered statements from workers about why they prefer to be classified as contractors, and is working to mobilize some for an Aug. 15 rally at the state capitol in Sacramento.

Company officials are also urging their own workers to join the cause. On Thursday, DoorDash sent an email to its “California Dashers” telling them that the Dynamex ruling threatens their “flexibility to choose when, where and how you want to work,” and providing a web tool to send their state legislators a message asking them “to help protect my freedom to choose the way I work.”

Attorney Shannon Liss-Riordan, who represents a worker suing DoorDash, responded by filing a motion Friday in federal court asking a judge to enjoin the company from "engaging in further coercive and misleading communications" that she alleged encourage workers covered by her putative class action lawsuit to "undermine their claims" in the case. DoorDash did not respond to inquiries.

Workers’ advocates have argued that responsible companies should welcome the clarity of the court’s April ruling. “It’s been a bit of a free-for-all, particularly in California, where a whole economy of companies has risen up in recent years saying that they can build their workforce off of workers that don’t have any employment protections,” said Liss-Riordan, who also represents workers currently suing other gig economy companies including Uber, Lyft and Postmates over alleged denials of employee rights (the companies have denied wrongdoing).

Labor advocates say there’s no reason for California to water down workers’ rights. “These companies continue to have choices about their business model,” union leaders from the state’s building trades, Teamsters union affiliates, and AFL-CIO chapter told Governor Brown and legislative leaders in a July letter reviewed by Bloomberg. “They can convert workers to employees and retain control over their work rules and their rates. Or they can contract with true independent contractors. The only thing they can’t do after Dynamex is have their cake and eat it too.”
I prefer to to call them moochers, but, "Have their cake and eat it too," works too.

Not What You Expect from The Financial Times

But they published an editorial saying that the expansion of the scope of trade deals has not worked:
How will the world trade regime handle a large, increasingly powerful country such as China that apparently plays globalisation by different rules? This is the question that keeps US and European policymakers awake at night. The fever runs highest in the US, where the Trump administration has blamed China for engaging in economic aggression and has declared trade war in response. The US president’s methods may be frowned upon, but the view that something has to be done about China’s trade and industrial practices is widespread among mainstream policy elites.

………

But US and European policymakers are asking the wrong question. The problem is not with China’s policies as much as it is with the world trading regime. The World Trade Organization — as well as every trade agreement since — has been predicated on the idea that economic practices in different nations would eventually converge. This has not happened, as China’s example amply indicates. More importantly, there is no good reason for national economic models to converge in the first place. World trade rules need to change, regardless of what China does, to accommodate economic diversity.

The trade agreements concluded in the early postwar period left plenty of space for countries to pursue their own paths. The various trade rounds under the old General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade system covered only explicit barriers to manufactured goods at the border, mainly import tariffs and quotas. Services and agriculture were excluded. Developing countries could do almost as they pleased. When an import surge in garments threatened economic dislocation in developed countries in the early 1970s, a special regime was established that enabled these countries to re-impose quantitative restrictions.

The WTO changed all that. Negotiated at a time of neoliberal triumphalism, it reached inside the border to constrain domestic policies in subsidies, health and safety and intellectual property. Any domestic regulation with an adverse impact on imports could now be treated as a trade restriction. Subsequent trade agreements went further, prioritising trade and foreign investment over domestic concerns.

Western policymakers tend to think of today’s global trade rules as neutral and impartial, treating all participants fairly. But trade agreements are political documents, reflecting the interests of dominant coalitions. Multinational corporations, international banks and Big Pharma play a particularly important role in shaping them. It is no surprise that long-term concerns about development, or indeed labour rights and the environment, are given short shrift.

There is little doubt that China violates the spirit, if not the letter, of WTO rules on intellectual property and subsidies. But when the US and Europe complain that China is infringing “global norms and rules”, they forget their own economic history. China’s policies are not so different from those that they too embraced while catching up with technological leaders of the time. For example, US patent rules were notably lax in the late 18th and 19th centuries, and the US textile industry would never have arisen without widespread “theft” of technological secrets from Britain. Similarly, many of Europe’s industries, such as aircraft, steel and cars, were nurtured by government support.

………

If the WTO has become dysfunctional, it is because our trade rules have over-reached. A fair world trade regime would recognise the value of diversity in economic models. It should seek a modus vivendi among these models, rather than tighter rules.
The author, Dani Rodrick, is an economist who has been dubious of the neoliberal consensus on trade for some, and as such, this is very much in line with what he has written before, but it is not something that I would have expected to appear on the pages of FT.

Patriotism in a Nutshell

Betsy Devos has a $140 million dollar yacht moored in the shores of Lake Erie, and it flies the flag of the Cayman Islands to dodge taxes.

It appears that patriotism only counts if you are poor, or if it does not cost the rich anything:
When someone untied a yacht owned by U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos’s family, Fox News portrayed the episode as an illustration of uncouth anti-Trump sentiment. The yacht’s foreign flag, though, was an illustration of how an allegedly “America First” administration is chock-full of moguls who have eagerly stashed their wealth offshore — as long as doing so means avoiding taxes, regulations, transparency requirements and domestic employment laws.

………

Now there’s Betsy DeVos, one of the heirs of Amway’s multi-level marketing empire. When her family’s 164-foot yacht was untied from a Huron, Ohio dock, it was flying a flag of the Cayman Islands, where VesselTracker says the yacht is registered. According to federal records, the yacht is owned by RDV International Marine, which is an affiliate of the company that controls the DeVos family’s fortune.

………
Why would an American billionaire’s floating mansion moored at a northern Ohio dock be registered in an exotic Caribbean archipelago?

Co-published by Newsweek

When someone untied a yacht owned by U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos’s family, Fox News portrayed the episode as an illustration of uncouth anti-Trump sentiment. The yacht’s foreign flag, though, was an illustration of how an allegedly “America First” administration is chock-full of moguls who have eagerly stashed their wealth offshore — as long as doing so means avoiding taxes, regulations, transparency requirements and domestic employment laws.

We already know that Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao’s family shipping consortium routes its business through the Marshall Islands — a notoriously secretive tax haven. Federal records also detail how Trump’s Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, Securities and Exchange Commission Chairman Jay Clayton and Federal Reserve board appointee Randal Quarles held parts of their personal fortunes in investments based in the Cayman Islands, which are not necessarily required to adhere to America’s domestic financial regulations.

Now there’s Betsy DeVos, one of the heirs of Amway’s multi-level marketing empire. When her family’s 164-foot yacht was untied from a Huron, Ohio dock, it was flying a flag of the Cayman Islands, where VesselTracker says the yacht is registered. According to federal records, the yacht is owned by RDV International Marine, which is an affiliate of the company that controls the DeVos family’s fortune.

Betsy DeVos did not respond to Capital & Main’s questions about her family’s Cayman-registered yacht — and the larger question about foreign yachts was never deeply explored during the 2012 kerfuffle over the foreign flags on Mitt Romney’s boat. Interviews with maritime attorneys suggest it is a scheme that allows wealthy Americans to feign foreign status — and glean the lucrative benefits offered by offshore tax havens.

………

When buying a vessel or cruising in U.S. waters, American yacht owners like the DeVoses could face state sales or use taxes. However, registering a yacht in a locale like the Caymans — under what has come to be known as a “flag of convenience” — allows those American yacht owners to effectively characterize themselves as foreigners for tax purposes, thereby avoiding the obligation of paying the standard sales and use levies, while enjoying police and Coast Guard services during times their vessels are untied.

………

Offshore registration can also reduce labor costs.
So, she saves on taxes, cheats her crew, and it's all good, because she's rich with money that she has never lifted a finger to earn.

This sort of sh%$ is the best advertisement for Marxis-Leninists you can possibly imagine.

I Wasn't Really Planning on Landing It

A man stole an aircraft from SeaTac airport and flew aerobatics before crashing it.
All in all, it is a rather flamboyant suicide:
He had all the proper security credentials. He had been working his shift and was believed to still be in uniform. The baggage handler didn’t seem out of place at all — until he was taxiing down the runway and taking off in a stolen passenger plane.

Richard Russell sparked a combination of amazement and fear as he flew — alone — a 76-seat Horizon Air Q400 plane for more than an hour before it crashed on a wooded area on Ketron Island south of Seattle.

He did a barrel roll. A daring swoop. Officials said they didn’t believe he even had a pilot’s license.

………

Jimmy Thomson, deputy editor of Canadian investigative environmental news outlet the Narwhal, compiled portions of the air traffic recording. In one clip, the man says he wouldn't know how to land the plane. "I wasn't really planning on landing it," he says. 
F-15s were scrambled to intercept.

This is profoundly weird.

11 August 2018

This Is Weird without Context, and I Have None

Impeachment proceedings have begun against all the remaining judges on the West Virginia Supreme Court:
The West Virginia House Judiciary Committee approved 14 articles of impeachment against the four sitting justices of the West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals on Tuesday.

The eighth day of the committee’s meetings regarding possible impeachment produced the first material results when 14 articles of impeachment were introduced at 9:25 a.m.

By the time the committee adjourned at 6:15 p.m., its members had added two new articles to their draft and rejected two of the original proposed articles, advancing the possibility of impeachment for the majority of the elected officials in the Mountain State’s judicial branch of government.

“It’s a sad day, and it certainly isn’t a cause for celebration,” Judiciary Chairman John Shott, R-Mercer, said Tuesday as the articles were distributed to the 24 committee members present in the House chamber.

Those articles will now advance to the full House of Delegates for consideration. Speaker Pro Tempore John Overington, R-Berkeley, said Tuesday he called for the House to reconvene at 10 a.m. Monday.
I have no clue as to what this is about, but there has to be a subtext.

Linkage


Anonymous promises to bring hellfire and brimstone down on "Q".  It's funny, but I am not sure if that is intentional.


10 August 2018

Speaking of Brain Dead Antitrust Enforcement………

The DoJ is appealing the ruling on the AT&T-Time Warner merger, and they are using some fairly strong language to do this:
The Justice Department argued Monday that a trial judge ……… when he allowed AT&T Inc.’s acquisition of Time Warner Inc., as a host of new details about the antitrust trial became public for the first time.

The government’s arguments came in a brief filed in federal appeals court, where the Justice Department continues to challenge the more than $80 billion cash-and-stock deal—even after the companies completed the transaction in June upon winning a six-week trial.

U.S. District Judge Richard Leon had ruled for the companies, saying the government didn’t come close to proving its claims that the deal would yield higher prices and less competition in the pay-TV industry. But the Justice Department called the decision erroneous in its brief filed Monday with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit.

The department said the judge ignored the fact that corporations will do what they can to maximize profits and instead accepted without reservation the testimony of defendants’ executives.
(Emphasis mine)

The judge seems a hot mess: he berated the DoJ for using lawyers that he saw as too young, and a sidebar included a discussion of donations for the unveiling of his official portrait.

A question to the lawyers out there, is sort of crap normal, or is Richard Leon entering Colonel Kurtz territory.

Another Refugee Flow

Americans who move to Europe for a free college education:
Chelsea Workman went to Ohio State University because it was her cheapest option. But she still had to take out student loans and work to make ends meet.

By the middle of her sophomore year, she'd had enough. She dropped out and moved to Germany to finish her degree where college is free.

Hunter Newsome, from California, decided to go to college in Estonia rather than the University of California, Davis -- at the very last minute. He's saving more than $10,000 a year on tuition, and he'll earn a bachelor's degree in three years rather than four.

There are at least 44 schools across Europe where Americans can earn their bachelor's degree for free, according to Jennifer Viemont, the founder of an advising service called Beyond The States.

All public colleges in Germany, Iceland, Norway and Finland are free for residents and international students. And some private schools in the European Union don't charge for tuition either. Many are going out of their way to attract foreigners by offering programs taught entirely in English.
This does not apply the UK, so you would need to learn a foreign language, even if the school offers an English only curriculum, but it sure beats debt peonage so that some assistant to the assistant to the college president can pull in $150K/year.

Because Dealing with the Real World Equivalent of Lex Luthor Works out so Well

Of course, I am referring to Lex Luthor lookalike Jeff Bezos, and it increasingly appears that Amazon is increasingly using its contracts with state and local governments to lock out vendors who don't use their platform.

Also, it looks like the promised cost savings have not materialized:
Amazon has already helped reshape the retail landscape for books, clothes and groceries. Now the online retail giant is moving into local government procurement. This new business venture is raising concerns that cities, school districts and counties will end up spending more money than they have to on supplies.

Early last year, Amazon contracted with the Prince William County School District in Virginia and by extension earned a contract with U.S. Communities, a purchasing group with public-sector members in all 50 states. More than 1,500 public agencies have since signed on to buy products through Amazon Business, the B2B counterpart to the company's popular Prime service.

While Amazon and U.S. Communities have touted their partnership as a cost-saver for public agencies and a boon for suppliers, a new report finds that Amazon Business does not always deliver the savings it promises. The report by the Institute for Local Self-Reliance, a frequent critic of Amazon, also argues that Amazon is increasingly cornering the supply market by forcing vendors to sell their products through Amazon.

………

On a press call about the report, Mike Mucha of the Government Finance Officers Association explained the contractual problems with an example of a government choosing a new type of software, in which Apple is expected to be one of the proposed vendors.

“You can structure that process so that you can truly evaluate the merits of [different companies] through a fair process. Or you can include a requirement in the RFP [request for proposal] that says, ‘The logo must be in the shape of a fruit,'" he says. "It’s not a real RFP.”

Prince William County Public Schools created a similar bid in 2016 when it required 10 product categories in an RFP for office supplies. Of the 12 firms that submitted bids, only Amazon was able to supply all 10 of the categories requested.

Additionally, the Amazon contract differs dramatically from traditional procurement contracts between governments and businesses. While government purchases are usually based on fixed prices, the Amazon Business prices can vary by the day and even by the hour. The report analyzed purchases made by a California school district and found that buying those supplies from a local vendor as opposed to Amazon would have saved the district between 10 and 12 percent.

………

If public agencies have long-established relationships with certain vendors, they are now only allowed to continue buying from them if those vendors join Amazon's marketplace.
Seriously, we need aggressive and broad antitrust enforcement today.

Not Surprised by What this Mniscreant has Done

In an effort by Steve Mnuchin to benefit his buddies, the Treasury Secretary has declared that banks are not financial institutions:
Do “financial services” include banking? Not according to the Trump administration, whose new rule, issued Wednesday by the Treasury Department, argues there is a difference — and then cites the alleged difference as a means of extending lucrative tax breaks to the banking industry. The new rule represents more than semantic hairsplitting and hands a huge windfall to the banking industry.

At issue is the Trump tax bill’s treatment of so-called pass-through income — or income that is gleaned from partnerships, LLCs and S corporations. The 2017 Republican tax legislation dramatically slashed tax rates on income from such entities, generating a firestorm of criticism that it was a giveaway to real estate moguls like Trump, U.S. Senator Bob Corker (R-TN) and other Republican backers of the legislation who have such entities in their personal portfolios. (The criticism became known as the “Corker Kickback” scandal.)

To reduce some of the cost of the overall tax cut bill — and to mute some of the specific criticism of the pass-through sections — GOP lawmakers included provisions prohibiting certain kinds of businesses from qualifying for the pass-through tax cut. One such business was “financial services,” and its removal countered assertions that the bill could enrich big banks.

However, less than a year after passage of the tax legislation, the Treasury Department, headed by former banker Steve Mnuchin, issued the proposed rule whose fine print asserts that “financial services” actually do not include banking. If that interpretation of the tax bill stands, hundreds of banks operating as S corporations — as well as their owners — could claim the tax cut.
Don't you know?  Only little people pay taxes.

Kobach Blinks

After a minor uproar, after Kansas Secretary of State Kris Korbach announcing that he would preside over his own recount, he has reversed himself:
Secretary of State Kris W. Kobach of Kansas, clinging to the slimmest of leads in the Republican primary for governor, said Thursday night that he planned to recuse himself from the vote-counting process. Earlier in the evening, his opponent, Gov. Jeff Colyer, said that some local election officials had been provided incorrect information by Mr. Kobach that could suppress votes.

“I’ll be happy to recuse myself,” Mr. Kobach, who oversees the state’s elections, said in an interview with CNN. Mr. Kobach, who has the endorsement of President Trump and has built a national reputation for warning of widespread vote fraud, suggested that his role in the Kansas count had been mostly symbolic anyway.

The governor’s fiery recusal request, and Mr. Kobach’s pledge to comply, came after the nationally watched primary left the candidates separated by only 191 votes entering Thursday.

In a letter, Mr. Colyer said some clerks had been provided incorrect information about which ballots to count, and he urged Mr. Kobach to appoint the state attorney general to handle future questions from local election workers.

 “It has come to my attention that your office is giving advice to county election officials — as recently as a conference call yesterday — and you are making public statements on national television which are inconsistent with Kansas law and may serve to suppress the vote in the ongoing Kansas primary election process,” Mr. Colyer wrote.
Yeah.  Classic Korbach.

He has made a carreer out of invalidating votes that he does not like.

The only difference this time is that he is disenfranchising white Republicans, not black and Hispanic Democrats.

When this is all over, there really needs to be a serious investigation of his behavior, because Korbach is crooked as hell.

09 August 2018

Germany, Huh?

It appears that elements of the German secret services have been advising the neo-Nazi AfD party:
Hans-Georg Maaßen, the president of Germany’s Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution (BfV), met with former Alternative for Germany (AfD) leader Frauke Petry several times in 2015, advising her how to avoid nationwide surveillance of the AfD by the German secret service and having her party designated as “right-wing extremist.”

This was revealed in a recently published book, Inside AfD, by AfD dropout Franziska Schreiber. The 28-year-old author was a close colleague of Petry’s and was chairperson of the AfD youth organization Junge Alternative in Saxony.

“Petry informed me later that Maaßen had told her what the AfD had to do to evade surveillance by the Office for the Protection of the Constitution, which he had not wanted himself,” writes Schreiber. “They both seem to have developed a certain sympathy for one another.”

Maaßen is said to have advised the AfD leader to expel Björn Höcke, a representative in the state parliament of Thuringia associated with the AfD’s ethnic nationalist wing. In December 2015, shortly after meeting with Maaßen, Petry did in fact call for Höcke’s resignation and prepared expulsion procedures against him. According to Schreiber, she did this “at the urgent advice” of the chief of intelligence.

The BfV has in the meantime indirectly confirmed that Maaßen met with Petry. One generally conducts conversations with representatives of all parties, a spokesperson told the Süddeutsche Zeitung, not denying that the meetings took place. He did, however, deny that Maaßen advised the AfD or recommended the expulsion of specific leading members.

That there were close relations between Maaßen and Petry was already known long before the publication of Inside AfD. The news magazine Der Spiegel reported in early 2016 that they had “at Petry’s request” met several times in the fall of 2015. The magazine referred to “several AfD politicians,” including Petry.
Is anyone else getting a 1930s vibe from all this?

Never Stop Your Enemy from Stepping on His Own Dick



Your honor, we find the defendants incredibly guilty
Representative Chris Collins (R-NY) has been charged with insider trading.

What's more, he was caught on video calling his son about failed drug trials ……… At the White House:
Federal prosecutors charged Rep. Chris Collins (R-N.Y.), President Trump’s first congressional supporter, with insider trading on Wednesday, alleging the New York Republican schemed with his son to avoid significant losses on a biotechnology investment.

Collins was at a congressional picnic at the White House last year when he learned that Innate Immunotherapeutics, an Australian biotechnology company, had received bad news about an important drug trial. Collins frantically attempted to reach his son, Cameron Collins, whom he tipped off to the confidential corporate information days before it would be made public, according to prosecutors. Cameron Collins and several others used the information to avoid more than $700,000 in losses, they said.

Collins “helps write the laws of this country,” said Geoffrey S. Berman, the U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York. But Collins “acted as if the law did not apply to him.”

Collins turned himself in to the FBI at 7 a.m. Wednesday morning and then appeared in a Manhattan federal court in the afternoon wearing a dark suit and white button-down shirt open at the collar. He spoke only briefly during the nearly 20-minute hearing, telling the judge: “I plead not guilty.”

………

The charges could turn into a headache for several House Republicans who invested in Innate Immunotherapeutics at Collins’s encouragement. Prosecutors did not allege in the indictment that Collins tipped off any of his colleagues in Congress about the failed drug trial before it was made public, but Democrats pounced on the charges and said those lawmakers would have to answer tough questions about their investments in Innate.

………

According to the indictment, while at the June 2017 congressional picnic at the White House, Collins received an email from Innate Immunotherapeutics' chief executive alerting the company’s board that an eagerly anticipated drug trial had been a failure. Minutes later, Collins responded to the email: “Wow. Makes no sense. How are these results even possible???”

Almost immediately, Collins tried to get in contact with his son, who owned millions of shares of the company’s stock, according to the indictment. Within a few minutes, Collins and his son called each other six times before connecting and talking for six minutes. During that last call, Collins told Cameron Collins, his son, about the failed drug trial, according to the indictment, which cites phone and bank records as well as texts.
It gets even better: It looks like a number of other Republican Congressmen are implicated in this:
………

Collins, worth $66 million, apparently urged Republican colleagues in Congress to invest.

“If you get in early, you’ll make a big profit,” Collins reportedly told House Republicans last summer.

At least six Republicans appear to have been convinced by Collins’ pitch (though at various times they claimed to have arrived at the stock purchase through media reports).

They were:

1. Tom Price, who served as Secretary of Health and Human Services. During his confirmation hearings, Price was accused of taking advantage of a special deal on Innate stock only available to a select number of lawmakers at a discount offered by Collins.

2. Rep. John Culberson (R-TX): The Texas Republican claimed he heard about Innate from media reports, but as the Houston Chronicle noted, it’s not clear which. At the time of his purchase, Innate was described as “a tiny pharmaceutical company from Australia that has no approved drugs and no backing from flashy venture capital firms.” The Chronicle pointed out that Culberson’s past investment history does not square with his purchase of biotech stocks and his opponent, a research physician, has wondered what led Culberson to invest, “since at the time he bought it in January there had been no published research articles or significant clinical trial updates on the drug, known as MIS416.”

3. Rep. Mike Conaway (R-TX) is another Texas lawmaker who bought large shares in Innate. He does not appear to have purchased Innate stock at a discount.

4. Rep. Doug Lamborn (R-CO) sat Health Subcommittee of the Committee on Energy and Commerce at the time of his stock purchase, raising a possible conflict of interest, reports the Daily Beast.

5. Rep. Markwayne Mullin (R-OK) sat on the subcommittee as well.

6. Rep. Billy Long (R-MO) reportedly became far more active in the stock market in 2015. Long sat on the House Energy and Commerce Committee, which addresses health policy.
Republicans, particularly Trump Republicans are not having a good time right now.

In 2006, it was Mark Foley, and now it seems that there a whole passel of Mark Foleys.

H/t Crooks and Liars.

More of This

Baltimore City is send a city charter change to voters for prohibit privatizing its water and sewer:
Baltimore City Council members concerned about lobbying efforts to privatize the city’s water supply unanimously approved legislation Monday that, if approved by voters, would make Baltimore the first major city to ban the sale or lease of the water system.

City Council President Bernard C. “Jack” Young waived council rules to allow for fast-tracked approval of a charter amendment that will go to voters on the November ballot.
“Access to clean and affordable water should be looked at as a basic human right,” Young said.
Baltimore council considering charter amendment to ban sale of city water system

The move could make Baltimore the first city in the country to amend its charter to preserve public ownership and control over its water and sewer systems, and the largest U.S. city to prohibit sale or lease of its water system. Northampton, Mass., passed legislation in 2016 prohibiting the sale or lease of its water system.
Incorporating this into the city charter doesn't make it more difficult to sell off the water system, it means that there has to be a public vote, and weeks, if not months, of public discussions, which the privatizers would probably lose.

Given the record of privatizing public services, this is a very good thing.

You Know How the Record Labels Talk about How You Need to Pay the Artists Whose Music You Listen To?

Recording artists received just 12% of the $US43 billion that the music industry generated in 2017, according to a Citigroup report published on Monday, and led by analyst Jason B. Bazinet.

$US43 billion matches a 12-year peak that the industry hasn’t hit since 2006, the report said.

The proportion of the total music industry revenue artists are capturing has actually risen since 2000, when artists took home only a 7% share of the revenue.

But this increase is due in large part to the growth of concerts and touring as a revenue stream that is largely distinct from the intermediary of their music labels. Artists are still taking home a meager share of the increasing revenues in streaming for their music, where music labels and music streaming services act as intermediaries.

The report shows that “consumer outlays,” which includes streaming, concert sales, and purchased music, generated an all-time high of more than $US20 billion last year. But music businesses, including labels and publishers, took almost $US10 billion, while artists received just $US5.1 billion, the “bulk” of which came from touring.
If you want to support the artists, go to their concerts, because they do not get sh%$ from the record distributors.

Pass the Pop ……… F%$#it, Bring the Popcorn by Truck

Omarosa is writing a book, and while in the White House, she taped conversations in the White House, including conversations with Donald Trump:
Michael Cohen, Donald Trump’s former personal attorney and fixer, isn’t the only one with secretly recorded audio of the president.

Multiple sources with direct knowledge of the situation tell The Daily Beast that Omarosa Manigault-Newman, the infamous former Apprentice star who followed Trump to the White House, secretly recorded conversations with the president—conversations she has since leveraged while shopping her forthcoming “tell-all” book, bluntly titled UNHINGED.

For months, it has been rumored that Manigault had clandestinely recorded on her smartphone “tapes” of unspecified private discussions she had in the West Wing. Audio actually does exist, and even stars Manigault’s former boss.

One person confirmed to The Daily Beast they had heard at least one of her recordings featuring President Trump. Multiple sources familiar with the “Omarosa tapes” described the recorded conversations between Trump and Manigault as anodyne, everyday chatter, but said they did appear to feature Trump’s voice, either over the phone or in-person.

The mere existence of such recordings represents a dramatic betrayal of trust by a onetime confidante who has since abandoned years of professed loyalty to the president and has apparently decided to profit off her years of closeness to Trump.
I am way more amused by this than I should be by this.