31 May 2018

I Am Not Sure Who Blinked Here

After panic in the bond markets, 5 Star and the League will be forming a government in Italy:
After 88 days of impasses and negotiations, two Italian populist parties with a history of antagonism toward the European Union received approval Thursday night to create a government that has unsettled the Continent’s political order and promises a sweeping crackdown on the illegal immigration that helped fuel their ascent.

Only days ago, President Sergio Mattarella of Italy rejected a populist government over concerns about a proposed finance minister who had helped write a guide for withdrawing Italy from the euro, Europe’s single currency. The political chaos and sudden uncertainty about the euro helped send global financial markets reeling.

On Thursday, the populists reshuffled, keeping the same prime minister, Giuseppe Conte, and other top players, but moving the objectionable finance minister to a less critical post.
I would note that the "Objectionable" former pick for FM, Paolo Savona, is a former member of the Bank of Italy who pioneered econometric models of the Italian economy, so he was clearly qualified.

The issue here was his philosophy, not competence.
That was apparently enough to satisfy the president, who preferred an elected government to a caretaker alternative he had in reserve. The populist parties constituting the new government won the most votes in a March 4 election.
I tend to think that the general freakout over snap elections, and talk of impeaching Mattarella, had more to do with this than any profession of devotion to the Euro by the now incoming government.
The cabinet still included the minister blocked by President Mattarella — Paolo Savona, the euro-skeptic economist. But Mr. Savona has now been moved from the powerful finance ministry to the less consequential European affairs ministry.

He will nevertheless be Italy’s representative in Brussels, a key spot for a coalition that wants to change the rules of the European Union.

………

In a retort to the European Commission president, Jean-Claude Juncker, who suggested that Italians must work harder and be less corrupt, Mr. Salvini made clear that the days of Italy going “hat in hand” to Brussels were over.
Fasten your seat belts, we are in for a bumpy ride.

30 May 2018

Why I Get No Ad Revenue

Because they keep serving up ads like this:



Seriously Google™ Adsense™?

You looked at my blog, and you saw my regular use of the term, "Ammosexual," to describe gun fondlers, and you thought that my reader(s) would be a good place for a f%$#ing ad from the f%$#ing US Concealed Carry Association?

What the f%$# were you thinking?

My standard disclaimer on any post about the aforementioned service applies:
Also, please note, this should be in no way construed as an inducement or a request for my reader(s) to click on any ad that they would not otherwise be inclined to investigate further. This would be a violation of the terms of service for Google™ Adsense™.

We ……… Are ……… F%$#ed


It took over 50 years after the crash of 1929 for the the next banking crisis, the Savings and Loan crisis, to occur.

It took 25 years after that for he next crash, in 2008.

Now, my money is on us not even making it to 15 years:
Big banks are getting a big reprieve from a postcrisis rule aimed at curbing risky behavior on Wall Street.

Federal bank regulators on Wednesday unveiled a sweeping proposal to soften the Volcker Rule, a cornerstone of the 2010 law that was enacted after the financial crisis to rein in risky trading. The change would give Wall Street banks more freedom to make their own complex bets — activities that can be highly profitable but also leave them more vulnerable to losses.

The rule, part of the broader Dodd-Frank law, was put in place to prevent banks from making unsafe bets with depositors’ money. It took five agencies three years to write it and has been criticized by Wall Street as too onerous and harmful to the proper functioning of financial markets. On Wednesday, the Federal Reserve proposed easing several parts of the rule, and four other regulators are expected to soon follow suit, kicking off a public comment period that is expected to last 60 days.

The loosening of the Volcker Rule is part of a coordinated effort underway in Washington to relax rules put into place in the wake of the 2008 financial crisis. Big banks, emboldened by President Trump’s deregulatory agenda and a more favorable political climate in Washington, have begun pressing for changes to several postcrisis rules, including the Volcker Rule.

………

“This proposal is no minor set of technical tweaks to the Volcker Rule, but an attempt to unravel fundamental elements of the response to the 2008 financial crisis, when banks financed their gambling with taxpayer-insured deposits,” Marcus Stanley, policy director at Americans for Financial Reform, said in a statement.

Senator Elizabeth Warren, the Massachusetts Democrat who has been among the most vocal critics of changes to Dodd-Frank, called the proposal the latest example of corruption in Mr. Trump’s Washington.

“Even as banks make record profits, their former banker buddies turned regulators are doing them favors by rolling back a rule that protects taxpayers from another bailout,” Ms. Warren said.
Honestly, I blame all those people who decided that it would be too "disruptive" to jail banksters.

There were lots of bankers jailed, including the head of the New York Stock Exchange in the 1930s.

In the 1980s, it was a smaller number of S&L executives.

Under Barack Obama and Eric "Place" Holder, no prosecutions at all.

The banksters are going to make more money, and the rest of us will eventually have to pay for their excesses.

Privacy Is Not for Peasants

It appears that mobile phone providers are telling potential advertisers when you go to the emergency room, so that ambulance chasers can now electronically chase emergency room patients:
With digital traps in hospitals, there’s no need for personal injury lawyers to chase ambulances these days.

Law firms are using geofencing in hospital emergency rooms to target advertisements to patients’ mobile devices as they seek medical care, according to Philadelphia public radio station WHYY. Geofencing can essentially create a digital perimeter around certain locations and target location-aware devices within the borders of those locations. Patients who unwittingly jump that digital fence may see targeted ads for more than a month, and on multiple devices, the outlet notes.

………

Last year, Healey’s office barred a digital firm from using geofencing in healthcare settings in the state after the firm was hired by a Christian pregnancy counseling and adoption agency to use digital perimeters to target ads to anyone who entered reproductive health facilities, including Planned Parenthood clinics. The goal was to make sure “abortion-minded women” saw certain ads on their mobile devices as they sat in waiting rooms. The ads had text such as “Pregnancy Help” or “You Have Choices,” which, if clicked, would direct them to information about abortion alternatives.

Healey equated the move to digital harassment and successfully claimed that it violated the state’s consumer protection act.

Still, the use of geofencing in hospitals for marketing is not necessarily illegal overall, and law firms and marketing agencies remain eager to put up their fences. Healthcare-related geo-targeting is occurring across the country, including in Tennessee and California. Bill Kakis, who runs the New York-based marketing firm Tell All Digital, told WHYY it was one of the fastest-growing parts of his business. He was recently hired by personal injury law firms in the Philadelphia area to target patients, for instance.
There are two obvious conclusions about this, and they are that the new European privacy regulations, the GPDR has two problems, it's not strong enough, and that it is not here.

Tweet of the Day



This is, of course, in response to Rosanne Barr claiming that Ambien made her tweet racist bullsh%$.

In less than 24 hours, Rosanne has had me compliment the ethics of a TV executive, and express admiration for the public relations activities of a large pharmaceutical firm.

Reality has exceeded my capability for satire: It's like a hideous inverse function of a miracle.

If Arkady Babchenko Walks Outside, and Sees His Shadow, It Means 6 More Weeks of Winter


Roll Tape
This just in, Arkady Babchenko is still alive:
The assassination bore all the hallmarks of yet another contract killing carried out in the murky shadows of the conflict pitting Russia against Ukraine.

A photo of the victim, a dissident Russian journalist, showed him lying face down Tuesday in a vermilion pool of his own blood. He was found by his wife, and died on the way to a hospital from multiple gunshot wounds to the back, said the police in Kiev, Ukraine’s capital.

Then on Wednesday, the journalist, Arkady Babchenko, to all appearances very much alive, walked into a news conference that Ukrainian security officials had called to discuss his “murder.”

………

The staged death, said Vasily S. Gritsak, the head of the Ukraine Security Service, was a sting operation aimed at stopping a real assassination plot against Mr. Babchenko. It was the latest twist — if an especially bizarre one — in the tortured relations between Ukraine and Russia, which annexed the Crimean Peninsula in 2014 and is fueling a separatist war in eastern Ukraine.

Ukraine and Russia constantly lob charges and countercharges accusing each other of various forms of skulduggery. And they often accuse each other of fabricating claims. The announcement by the Ukrainian authorities that they had, in fact, made up the Babchenko killing offered the Russians a rare chance to claim the high ground. Russia’s Foreign Ministry issued a blistering statement, saying Ukraine would be better off solving real crimes, like the killing of two journalists in Kiev in 2015 and 2016.

“Matters of life and death in Ukraine, as well as trust of the international community to its policy, are nothing more than a bargaining chip used to fuel the anti-Russian hysteria of the Kiev regime,” the Russian statement said.

Both the story of Mr. Babchenko’s death and that of his resurrection garnered enormous attention around the world.

Various voices, especially from the world of journalism, called the ploy a bad idea in an era when battling fake news has become a daily problem — and when real news is dismissed as fake news whenever politicians from Washington to the Kremlin find it in their interest to do so.
I am not entirely clear of how this all works, but it appears that reports of his death were greatly exaggerated.

Linkage


This is my dad in 1969, talking about municipal mergers in an interview. He has since grown a beard and stopped wearing bow ties:

29 May 2018

Handmaiden's Tale in Arkansas

The Supreme Court has allowed Arkansas' draconian abortion restrictions to stand:
The Supreme Court refused on Tuesday to hear a challenge to an Arkansas law that could force two of the state’s three abortion clinics to close.

As is their custom, the justices gave no reasons for turning away the appeal. The case will continue to be litigated in the lower courts.

The law concerns medication abortions, which use pills to induce abortions in the first nine weeks of pregnancy. The law, enacted in 2015, requires providers of the procedure to have contracts with doctors who have admitting privileges at a hospital in the state. Abortion clinics in Arkansas said they were unable to find any doctors willing to sign such contracts.

After the Supreme Court’s action, Planned Parenthood said it would for now stop providing medication abortions in the state.
We are going to see Roe v. Wade overturned in the next few years.

We Live in Strange Times

Two months ago, Roseanne Barr was a star again.

Her sitcom “Roseanne” returned in March after a two-decade absence to enormous ratings on ABC. Network executives were celebrating their strategy of appealing to wider swaths of the country after Donald J. Trump’s surprising election win and the president himself called Ms. Barr to congratulate her on the show’s large audience.

But on Tuesday, that all came crashing down. ABC abruptly canceled “Roseanne” hours after Ms. Barr, the show’s star and co-creator, posted a racist tweet about Valerie Jarrett, an African-American woman who was a senior adviser to Barack Obama throughout his presidency and considered one of his most influential aides. Ms. Barr wrote if the “muslim brotherhood & planet of the apes had a baby=vj.”

Ms. Barr later apologized, but it was too late. In announcing the show’s cancellation, ABC’s entertainment president, Channing Dungey, said in a statement that “Roseanne’s Twitter statement is abhorrent, repugnant and inconsistent with our values.”


The show had ended its successful comeback season last week and was expected to return in September for a 13-episode run. Robert A. Iger, the chief executive of the Walt Disney Company, ABC’s corporate parent, shared Ms. Dungey’s statement on his own Twitter account, adding: “There was only one thing to do here, and that was the right thing.”

The sudden cancellation of a hit show — it had the highest ratings of a new TV series in years — because of offscreen controversy was almost without precedent.
Seriously, I would not expect this from someone with the title, "President of ABC Entertainment Group."

Entertainment executives are not generally known for taking morally courageous stands.

28 May 2018

Once Again, I Disavow an Ad on My Site

So, I just saw a advertisement from Ashley Madison, the site for people who want to cheat on her spouses.

I've posted the image, but not the link, because:
The ads on my blog are selected by Google with no input on my part.

Ashley Madison not a business I would recommend to my reader(s) .

It could be worse, and it has been, as was the case in 2008, when I was regularly getting John McCain's "Death Star" banner ads every time I mocked him.

My standard disclaimer regarding advertisements on my site applies:
As always, note that this post should in no way be construed as an inducement or a request for my reader(s) to click on any ad that they would not otherwise be inclined to investigate further. This would be a violation of the terms of service for Google™ Adsense™.
*Note that this is different from mutually agreed open relationships.

I am Fine, I am Dry, and This Was Not A Natural Disaster


Area in yellow has been paved over, creating a flood making machine
Notwithstanding the flooding which got wide coverage in Ellicott City, it was not a big deal where I live, Owings Mills, about 20 miles away.

It was a fairly intense storm, but beyond a few flooded basements, it should not have been a disaster.

The flooding was caused by reckless and uninformed real estate development:
ELLICOTT CITY FLOOD: STOP CALLING IT A NATURAL DISASTER

For 200+ years the flooding in Ellicott City came from the rising of the Patapsco River and was mostly limited to lower Main Street. During major rain storms the water was absorbed into the ground in the surrounding woods north and west of town and the Tiber River, which runs east along Fredrick Road, was wide enough to handle the overflow that ran through town. (rivers have the uncanny ability to be just as wide and deep as they need to be)


In the past 20+ years developers and Howard County zoning board have banded together to pave over all of those woods with medium and high density housing. The yellow area is mostly new construction built in the last two decades. When you pave over the natural terrain and add sewers and roads that lead directly to Main Street (red area) you get a high speed rollercoaster for the water to ride right through town. This “top down” flooding has nothing to do with Mother Nature. This is a man-made disaster caused by greedy and/or uninformed people who decided that building homes above this wonderful city was worth the risk of destroying it.

………

The county executive may be right that this is a “once in a thousand year storm” but anyone who has ever been on Main Street in a rain storm knows that flooding is a common occurrence since the construction above town became so out of control. Now, in perfect irony, The state and county will spend more money than they earn on tax from new construction to fix the damage it created. This is a horrible disaster but nature had nothing to do with it.
This problem was foreseeable, and there have been plenty of indications of a problem even before the last flood 2 years ago.

I am not sure what can be done to fix this now, though requiring the replacement of driveways and parking lots with porous surfaces could not hurt.

27 May 2018

The Fix is In

The 5-Star and the Lega parties won the last election, with a combined 50% of the vote, and they agreed to form a coalition government with Giuseppe Conte as prime minister.
Conte has now ended their attempt to form a government because the Italian President has refused to approve their economy minister:
A standoff over Italy’s future in the eurozone has forced the resignation of the populist prime minister-in waiting, Giuseppe Conte, after the country’s president refused to accept Conte’s controversial choice for finance minister.

Sergio Mattarella, the Italian president who was installed by a previous pro-EU government, refused to accept the nomination for finance minister of Paolo Savona, an 81-year-old former industry minister who has called Italy’s entry into the euro a “historic mistake”.

“I have given up my mandate to form the government of change,” Conte told reporters after leaving failed talks with Mattarella.

Italy has been without a government since elections on 4 March ended in a hung parliament.

The country is now expected to go to the polls again in the autumn.

The president’s move to quash Savona’s nomination was unprecedented in recent history and exposed a deep divide between Mattarella, who serves as the head of state and is suppose to be politically neutral, and the two populist parties – the Five Star Movement (M5S) and the far-right Lega (formerly the Northern League) – who have struggled desperately to form a government and support a more antagonistic relationship with Brussels.

Mattarella defended his decision by saying that naming Savona as finance minister – which he already said he opposed – posed a risk for Italian families and citizens, because it created uncertainty in the Italian economy.

“I asked for that ministry an authoritative political figure from the coalition parties who was not seen as the supporter of a line that could provoke Italy’s exit from the euro,” Mattarella said.

“The uncertainty over our position within the euro has alarmed Italian and foreign investors who have invested in securities and companies,” he said.

………

Mattarella said he would evaluate a call by the leaders of the M5S and the Lega for snap elections. He summoned a former official at the International Monetary Fund, Carlo Cottarelli, to the presidential palace on Monday, which was interpreted as a sign that Cottarelli would be asked to form a government of unelected technocrats.

Mattarella’s move could risk a constitutional crisis.

Matteo Salvini, the bombastic head of the far-right Lega, angrily denounced the decision to block Savona, his personal choice for finance minister, saying that Mattarella had overstepped his authority and was revealing bias against a qualified individual – who once worked at the Bank of Italy – simply because he is anti-euro.

“In a democracy, if we are still in a democracy, there’s only one thing to do, let the Italians have their say,” Salvini said.

Luigi Di Maio, who heads the M5S, also criticised the decision.

“In this country, you can be a condemned criminal, a tax fraud convict, under investigation for corruption and be a minister … but if you criticise Europe, you cannot be an economy minister,” he said.
Basically, the Italian President said that the fact that the Economy Minister was a Euroskeptic was bad for the bond market, and besides, he really likes the EU and the Euro, so f%$# you.

There are deep and profound problems with the EU and the Euro Zone, and the conventional thinking will not solve those problems, because it never solves those problems, and the fact that the responses of the Pro EU establishment are increasingly un and anti-democratic in response.

This will not end well.

Nancy D'Alesandro Pelosi Will You Please Go Now

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi's refusal to unequivocally condemn the National Football League's new rules — designed to prevent players from protesting by kneeling during the national anthem — is one of the reasons many black voters, particularly black millennials, question whether the Democratic Party has their best interests in mind.

At a CNN town hall Wednesday, anchor Chris Cuomo asked Pelosi whether she was okay with the rule change.

“I would be more okay with it if they had consulted with the players,” Pelosi said, referring to the NFL Players Association's claim that athletes had not been given a chance to weigh in on the new rules. “I don't think the players agreed to this. This is the owners, and, by the way, it's the owners who would be fined.”

“I love the national anthem,” she added. “I'm from Baltimore. That's where it was written during the War of 1812. So I'm very possessive of it. Sometimes people say, 'Maybe we should change the national anthem.' No.”

“I love the national anthem. I love the flag,” Pelosi said. “And I love the First Amendment, and I'll just leave it at that.”

As one Twitter commenter noted, "Pelosi is unwilling to take a stance on an issue that's literally killing Black people."

This sort of prevarication is endemic to the Democratic Party establishment, and it loses elections.

Cowardice never gives good policy, and almost never gives good politics.

It's this sort of sh%$ that makes potential voters wonder whether you will ever stand up on THEIR behalf.

Poem, apologies to Theodore Geisel, after the break:

26 May 2018

The Free Women of Ireland: 1 — Catholic Church: 0

Irish voters have just voted overwhelmingly to legalize abortion:
Ireland has voted by a landslide to legalise abortion in a stunning outcome that marks a dramatic defeat for the Catholic church’s one-time domination of the Republic.

The Irish electorate voted by 1,429,981 votes to 723,632 in favour of abolishing a controversial constitutional amendment that gave equal legal status to the lives of a foetus and the woman carrying it. The result was a two-thirds majority: 66.4% yes to 33.6% no.

By voting yes in unexpectedly large numbers to abolish the eighth amendment to the Irish constitution, the country has enabled the government in Dublin to introduce abortion in Ireland’s health service up to 12 weeks into pregnancy.

 Saturday’s triumph for abortion reformers occurred only months before a papal visit to the country – the first since John Paul II’s tour of Ireland in 1979. After Pope Francis leaves Ireland in August, the Irish minority government, with the backing of opposition parties, will within weeks start the process of drawing up legislation to allow for abortion, which was once an unthinkable political project in Ireland.
And Pope Frank will be visiting in a August.

I welcome Ireland to the ranks for first world nations.

Live in Obedient Fear, Customer


Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos is one Persian cat away from being a Bond villain, and people are paying him money to put listening devices in their houses:
It's time to break out your "Alexa, I Told You So" banners – because a Portland, Oregon, couple received a phone call from one of the husband's employees earlier this month, telling them she had just received a recording of them talking privately in their home.

"Unplug your Alexa devices right now," the staffer told the couple, who did not wish to be fully identified, "you're being hacked."

At first the couple thought it might be a hoax call. However, the employee – over a hundred miles away in Seattle – confirmed the leak by revealing the pair had just been talking about their hardwood floors.

The recording had been sent from the couple's Alexa-powered Amazon Echo to the employee's phone, who is in the husband's contacts list, and she forwarded the audio to the wife, Danielle, who was amazed to hear herself talking about their floors. Suffice to say, this episode was unexpected. The couple had not instructed Alexa to spill a copy of their conversation to someone else.

"I felt invaded," Danielle told KIRO-TV. "A total privacy invasion. Immediately I said, 'I'm never plugging that device in again, because I can't trust it.'"

………

According to Danielle, Amazon confirmed that it was the voice-activated digital assistant that had recorded and sent the file to a virtual stranger, and apologized profusely, but gave no explanation for how it may have happened.

………

But the truth is that if Alexa devices can easily be turned into bugs if there is a hardware or software mistake and we are willing to bet that in its haste to constantly update its devices Amazon let a big mistake through.
Amazon insists that its box mistakenly heard them say Alexa, and then it mistakenly heard them say to send the recording to their workplace.

I don't find this particularly reassuring, and neither should you.

So Much for the Free Market

Banks have decided to clamp down on financing gun purchases, and Republicans in Congress are trying to stop them:
When Congress decided not to take significant action after a spate of mass shootings this year and last, some big banks opted to take matters into their own hands by restricting financing for gun sellers.

Now, Republican lawmakers are pressing regulators to stop banks from doing so, over concerns they are veering too far into social activism.

………

“If you’re going to turn us into a nation of red banks and blue banks, you’re making a mistake,” Senator John Kennedy, a Louisiana Republican and member of the banking committee, said in a recent interview before the latest shooting. “Don’t come crying to us when you screw up and you want the American taxpayer to bail you out.”

Mr. Kennedy said he planned to file complaints with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau against banks that are effectively restricting gun sales by setting their own rules on legal products and refusing to do business with gun makers and retailers that do not comply. He is also working to get Republican colleagues to join him in writing legislation to stop banks from discriminating against gun buyers.

Major banks have taken a series of steps this year to prevent guns from falling into the wrong hands. They are restricting their credit card and banking services to gun retailers and halting lending to gun makers that do not comply with age limits and background check rules determined by the banks. They are also freezing out businesses that sell high-capacity magazines and “bump stocks,” attachments that enable semiautomatic rifles to fire faster, even though such products are legal under federal law.

………

Gun advocates have viewed the moves as a direct assault on the industry.

………
Gun lobbyists that usually direct their resources at attacking Democrats have now jumped into the fray to take on banks, pressing Republican lawmakers to use their influence to make the banks back down.
Hypocrisy much?

Crap Websites

It really is remarkable just how crapified and bloated websites have become.

It's ads and trackers that crapify websites, and I'm sure that in the next few days, USA Today will succeed in coming up with a website just as bloated and slow as the US one.

25 May 2018

It's Completely Nuts


Seriously, Easter Eggs?
Elon Musk is giving Donald Trump a seriously run for his money in the insane tweet division.

Who in their right mind thinks that it wouldn't be completely insane to put "Easter Eggs" in the critical systems of a 2 ton death machine?

No one, that's who.

Elon Musk just tweeted thinks that it's just ducky to put a f%$#ing Rick Roll in the display for his cars.

This is profoundly unhinged.

And Now We Have Dope Fiend Mollusks

Mussels in Puget Sound have tested positive for opioids, which raises the obvious question, how the hell do you get them to pee into a cup?
Scientists at the Washington State Department of Fish and Wildlife have found that mussels in Seattle's waters are testing positive for opioids.

The finding suggests "a lot of people" are taking oxycodone in the Puget Sound, researchers say.

Scientists used mussels as a way to test pollution in Seattle's waters and discovered high enough oxycodone levels for the shellfish to test positive.

Mussels do not metabolise opioids, but some fish can become addicted.

Mussels are filter-feeders, which means they filter water for nutrients to nourish themselves. In the process, they end up storing pollutants in their tissues, which makes them a prime indicator species.

State researchers distributed clean mussels around the Puget Sound and extracted them months later to test the waters.

Of the 18 locations scientists used, three showed traces of oxycodone. The drug traces were not enough to get any humans high from consumption, but enough to indicate a problem, officials said.
There is a stand-up comedy routine in this story.

And Sesame Street is Suing Who?


I Gotta See This
Ben Henson, Jim Henson's kids, and director of many Muppet movies, is being sued by Sesame Street over the marketing of his latest film, an R-rated cop movie with puppets:
Not everything is A-OK on Sesame Street today. The creators behind the beloved children’s show are suing STX Entertainment for the use of their brand name in the trailer and other marketing of the R-rated Muppets-inspired movie The Happytime Murders, according to Variety.

Both the trailer and the poster for the risqué project, directed by Jim Henson’s son Ben Henson, carries the tagline “No Sesame. All Street.” As such, the Sesame Street makers claim that this tarnishes their child-friendly brand, and they want all references to it completely Gonzo or else.

The film imagines a world where Muppet-like puppets get up to all manner of no good (the trailer contains drug use, foul language, and a pretty graphic puppet sex scene, watch below) with Melissa McCarthy playing a detective on the hunt for a serial killer who is intent on blowing the loveable creatures to pieces of fluff.
I am so going to see this movie.

Clearly, We Need to Regulate Video Games

Another school shooting, this one in middle school just outside of Indianapolis:
A teacher and a student were injured in a shooting Friday morning at Noblesville West Middle School, and a male student was arrested. Here's what we know:
The Noblesville school shooter had two handguns

The shooting began shortly after 9 a.m. A male student asked to be excused and returned to the classroom with two handguns, Noblesville Police Chief Kevin Jowitt said.

The identity of the student, who was in custody Friday, was not released. What prompted the shooting and how events unfolded in the classroom were unclear. Authorities said Friday afternoon they were still investigating.
F%$# the NRA.

Without lube.

24 May 2018

Another Stopped Clock Moment

Donald Trump has granted a posthumous pardon of former heavyweight boxing champion Jack Johnson:
For more than 100 years, Jack Johnson’s legend as the first black heavyweight boxing champion has been undisputed, but his legacy had been tarnished by a racially tainted criminal conviction.

His battles against white opponents, in the ring and outside of it, gave rise to “The Great White Hope” play and movie and he came to be lionized as a barrier breaker.

But the criminal conviction from 1913 that most would find abhorrent today — for transporting a white woman across state lines — haunted Johnson well after his death in 1946 and motivated politicians and celebrities for years to advocate for a pardon, however symbolic.

On Thursday in the Oval Office, Johnson posthumously found an unexpected champion: President Trump.

Although his own record on civil rights has come under question, often harshly, Mr. Trump, flanked by boxing champions and Sylvester Stallone, the actor who brought the case to his attention, signed an order pardoning Johnson.

The president called Johnson “a truly great fighter” who “had a tough life” but served 10 months in federal prison “for what many view as a racially motivated injustice.” Mr. Trump said the conviction took place during a “period of tremendous racial tension in the United States.”

………

Still, in Johnson, Mr. Trump found a way in one swoop of the pen to stake a claim on civil rights and rebuke his predecessor, Barack Obama, for not taking action on an issue that seemed in line with the principles of fighting injustice that he had championed.

Though other presidents passed up the chance to pardon him, Mr. Trump noted that the last resolution in Congress calling for the pardon was while Mr. Obama was in office, in 2015.

“They couldn’t get the president to sign it,” Mr. Trump said.
It's not surprising that Obama did nothing about this: he was parsimonious in his pardons, and he was remarkably timid regarding any issue that involved the intersection of bigotry and law enforcement.

FWIW, I give very little credit to Trump for this:  As a casino owner, he's made a lot of money from boxing, and he has long of history of being involved with the sport, so for him, it's about boxing, not race.

The Law is for Little People

Elon Musk just tweeted that if his workers vote to unionize, they will lose their stock options.

I'm really not sure how much value the stock options would be to the shop floor workers, they will be locked up well past when they are worthless, much as it happened in the Dot Com bust, but still his threat is a direct violation of the NLRA, which prohibits penalizing workers for exercising their labor organizing rights:
The United Auto Workers has been Elon Musk’s target for days of derision on Twitter, and his posts may open Tesla Inc. up to trouble with U.S. labor regulators.

………

The UAW, which is actively trying to organize Tesla’s California assembly plant, has fired back with tweets of its own. But the more consequential outcome from the spat on the social-networking service may come in the form of unfair labor practice allegations made to the National Labor Relations Board, according to Wilma Liebman, who led the agency during the early years of the Obama administration.

Musk posted earlier this week that nothing was stopping Tesla employees in Fremont, California, from voting to join a union. But, he wrote, “Why pay union dues & give up stock options for nothing?” Liebman read this as a warning that the company would take away workers’ stock options if they succeeded in organizing the factory.



“If you threaten to take away benefits because people unionize, that’s an out-and-out violation of the labor law,” Liebman, who’s done legal work for the UAW in the past, said in an interview.
This, is, as the saying goes, black letter law, and, if the expected complaint is filed, I would expect the NLRB to take some sort of action.

Ironically enough Trump's NLRB might be more likely to take action than the Obama's, because the Trump administration is less enamored with Silicon Valley than was the Obama administration, though I would not expect much beyond a stern warning.

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

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

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

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

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

Headline of the Day

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

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

Gawd Help Me, I am Praising New York Jets Management


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


23 May 2018

Read This

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

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

Tweet of the Day

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

What a group of cowards.

A New Definition of Hell

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

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

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

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

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

This is unbelievably f%$#ed up.

I Love This

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

Truth hurts, don't it?

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

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

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

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

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

………

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

………

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

………

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

The world has become an increasingly brutal and hypocritical place.

22 May 2018

Primary Night

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

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

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

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

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

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

Speaking of Bureaucrats Lying to Legislators,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

………

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

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

Officials now admit none of those statements are true.

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

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

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

It's Time for Metaphor Mania

There is a sinkhole on the White House north lawn.

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

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

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

Another Magical Space Drive Bites the Dust

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

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

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

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

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

………

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

Let the adults have a go

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

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

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

………

Testing all the things

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

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

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

………

WTF-thruster is a magnetic WTF-thruster

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

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

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

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

Score one for physics.

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

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

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

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

21 May 2018

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

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

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

The juxtaposition is striking.

You Remember the Story of the Boy Who Cried Wolf?

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

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

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

………

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

………

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

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

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

Pity about That Legacy, Paul Ryan


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

………


The Washington Post
Democracy Dies in Darkness

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

………

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

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

Good Proposal

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

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

………

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

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

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

Linkage


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