17 August 2019


Seriously, these people are indistinguishable from ISIS:
A week before his re-election last year, state Rep. Matt Shea denied that a leaked manifesto he wrote was a road map for a holy war, one that would pit conservative Christian “patriots” against Muslim and Marxist “terrorists.”

Rather, Shea insisted, the document titled “Biblical Basis for War” contained notes for a scholarly sermon on war in the Old Testament.

But newly leaked emails, first reported by The Guardian on Wednesday, as well as a video on Shea’s public Facebook page, show the Spokane Valley Republican has had close ties with a group called Team Rugged that trained children, teens and men in their early 20s for religious combat.

“The entire purpose behind Team Rugged is to provide patriotic and biblical training on war for young men,” a man identified as the group’s leader, Patrick Caughran, wrote in a July 2016 email to Shea. “Everything about it is both politically incorrect and what would be considered shocking truth to most modern christians. There will be scenarios where every participant will have to fight against one of the most barbaric enemies that are invading our country, Muslims terrorists.”
Props to the Spokane county sheriff though:
Spokane County Sheriff Ozzie Knezovich, who has urged fellow Republicans to denounce Shea as an extremist, compared Team Rugged to the Hitler Youth of Nazi Germany.

“Any radicalization of youth in such a manner would be very comparable,” Knezovich said in a text message Wednesday.
I did Nazi that coming.

H/t EC at the Stellar Parthenon BBS.

The Real Question

Who Protected Epstein for Decades, and Why?

There is significant evidence that elements of the US state security apparatus may have protected Jeffrey Epstein, and his extensive sexual abuse of children, because he was an intelligence gathering asset, either as an informant, or as a "Honey Pot".

Even if this is not true, it is clear that SOMEONE OR SOMETHING was protecting him, and it behooves us to find out who and what.

Wells Fargo Needs to be Seized as a Criminal Enterprise

Xavier Einaudi did not want to wait for Wells Fargo to send him a check.

The bank informed Mr. Einaudi that it was closing all 13 of the checking accounts it provided his roofing company, CRV Construction, for a reason it called “confidential.” The letter said the accounts would be closed on June 27, and he would be mailed a check for the balance in his accounts.

Mr. Einaudi went to his branch and collected the money, so he did not have to wait for a check to arrive in the mail. But the accounts did not close on the preset date.

For weeks after the date the bank said the accounts would be closed, it kept some of them active. Payments to his insurer, to Google for online advertising and to a provider of project management software were paid out of the empty accounts in July. Each time, the bank charged Mr. Einaudi a $35 overdraft fee.

Mr. Einaudi called the bank’s customer service line. He went to his local branch. Nobody could help him. “They told me, ‘The accounts are closed out — we cannot do anything,’” he said.

By the middle of July, he owed the bank nearly $1,500.

“I don’t even know what happened,” he said.

Current and former bank employees said Mr. Einaudi got charged because of the way Wells Fargo’s computer system handles closed accounts: An account the customer believes to be closed can stay open if it has a balance, even one below zero. And each time a transaction is processed for an overdrawn account, Wells Fargo tacks on a fee.
This is intentional, not an accident by IT.

Wells Fargo is rotten from top to bottom, and regulators should burn it to the ground.

Think of the Innocent Venture Capitalists!

How dare a city set minimum standards for pay and disabled accessibility, as well as charging the companies for the congestion that they cause.

I've said it before, but it bears repeating:  Most of the so-called "Disruptive Innovation" out there is either regulatory and legal arbitrage (breaking the law), or monetizing the commons (Making the rest of use pay for their business model):
Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi, who took the helm of the controversial company back in 2017, is known for being pretty unflappable. He was even upbeat during the company’s second quarter earnings call, when he was charged with explaining why Uber posted more than $5 billion in losses in just a few months’ time.


The new wave of rule-passing started last summer, when the city instituted the country’s first-ever freeze on for-hire vehicle licenses, barring drivers from registering new cars to drive for the companies. (The freeze exempts wheelchair-accessible and electric vehicles.) In January, Uber and Lyft trips beginning or ending in much of Manhattan got slapped with an extra $2.75 congestion charge. (Taxis got a $2.50 surcharge of their own.) Then, despite a lawsuit from Lyft (and a smaller competitor named Juno), the companies were forced to begin paying drivers $17.22 per hour earlier this year. And a new state law will force the companies to rejigger their fleets to accommodate wheelchair using-passengers more quickly. Phew.

Now, new rules approved by city regulators this month extend the freeze on new Uber and Lyft vehicle licenses in New York indefinitely. (This spring, a judge blocked an Uber lawsuit aimed at stopping it). The rules also cut down on “cruising,” or the time drivers spend waiting for their next rides or driving to their customers, forcing the companies to again rethink how they’re dispatching drivers.


The city has symbolic importance, too. Though most other cities don’t have the authority to regulate ride-hail in the way that New York does, many, also sick of traffic, are looking for ways to do so. Some hope to levy fees on the companies, like the kind collected in Chicago, Washington, DC, and, if San Franciscoans decide to pass an upcoming ballot measure, the City by the Bay. Others are attracted to the hard stick of New York’s ride-hail vehicle cap. In the run up to her election, Chicago’s new mayor told a newspaper that she would favor new limits on the number of ride-hail vehicles in the city. (The city’s consumer protection office, which is in charge of regulating ride-hail, did not respond to WIRED’s request for comment.)


The ride-hail companies have responded to the rules, which they say have been instituted too quickly for anyone to understand their effect, with cat-and-mouse tactics aimed at keeping riders in cars and revenues in pocket. The companies have, for example, raised prices across the city, a move that Uber says has led to stunted ride growth in some low-income neighborhoods.

The ride-hail companies are also changing the way their apps work for New York City drivers, many of whom work full-time because of the city’s more stringent licensing policies. Now, in times of low demand, Lyft limits the number of drivers on the road, giving priority to high-volume drivers who have accepted and completed 90% of their rides, or those who have wheelchair-accessible cars, or those participate in the company’s Express Drive program, which rents vehicles to licensed drivers who don’t own cars. The driver app also now includes a “heat map” showing where rides are in the highest demand, and Lyft has urged drivers searching for rides to go there before turning on their app—urging them, essentially, to drive to where the app needs them without being paid for it, and without Lyft being penalized by both the new driver wage and new cruising rules. Uber sent an email to drivers earlier this month indicating it is also mulling changes to its driver app.
Rather ironically, the effects of unregulated Gypsy cabs like Uber and Lyft, low wages, unsafe vehicles, and congestion, are the very same reason why the medallion system was implemented in many cities in the first place.

16 August 2019

Snark of the Day

WeWork Officially Files To Be The Last IPO

This S-1 filing is a word quilt made up of every bad idea from every IPO of the past five years.

I am used to IPOs for companies that have no path to profitability, but WeWork's IPO documents admits that its CEO is literally looting the company.

This is a level of bald faced fraud that is extraordinary even by the standards of Silicon Valley.

Kochs Gave Seed Funding to the DLC as Well

It turns out that Third Way, the corporatist faux Democrats, are being bankrolled by the Koch brothers.

This is not a surprise.

Their political activities are not about political parties, they are about supporting their own self-interest and their own libertarian ideology:
In the fall of 2007, the tide was beginning to turn against free trade, as the ongoing hollowing out of the American middle class was becoming associated with globalization and the offshoring of jobs. Its leading public opponent was the bombastic CNN anchor Lou Dobbs, a proto-Trump whose economic nationalism curdled easily into racism and nativism. Many Democrats, too, were turning sour on free trade. Then-President George W. Bush relied on Republican votes to ram through the Central American Free Trade Agreement in 2005, but future deals were looking far from certain, particularly after Democrats seized control of Congress in the 2006 midterms.

This was a direct threat to Koch Industries, the sprawling business empire long led by billionaire brothers Charles and David Koch. The fossil-fuel giant’s business has long been based on importing oil from Canadian tar sands, which it refines at its massive Pine Bend plant in Minnesota — and the opposition to free trade threatened to make that business much more costly. The Kochs desperately needed help with Democrats, so they turned to a reliable partner: Third Way.

According to the new book “Kochland,” written by investigative reporter Christopher Leonard, Koch Industries secretly financed a report by Third Way, a corporate-funded think tank with ties to the centrist wing of the Democratic Party. The report, titled “Why Lou Dobbs is Winning” and published in November 2007, was written to promote the free trade agenda to liberals. The white paper explained it would be the first salvo in a yearlong effort to reshape the messaging around trade policy, warning that “a new and powerful populist strain has emerged on both the left and the right of American politics that threatens to turn the nation fearful and inward.”

Third Way did not respond to a request for comment.


It may seem odd to see the Koch brothers, who operate today as partisan Republicans, aligning with business-friendly Democrats, but the strategy dates back further. (After publication, Nicholas Gass, a Koch spokesperson, noted that David Koch has stepped away from advocacy and that the Koch strategy is less partisan in its focus than previously.)

A 2001 American Prospect investigation noted that Koch Industries was a member of the executive council of the Democratic Leadership Council, founded in 1985 by centrist Democrats to combat the left inside the party. Hall, thanked in the report, was a member of the DLC’s event committee at the time.
This is the least surprising news that I've heard in a long time.

15 August 2019

There is a Briar Patch Metaphor Here

The US ambassador to Germany, Richard Grenell, us threatening to move US troop installations to Poland if Berlin does not increase defense spending.

So, the US is saying that Germany would not have to deal with the noise from the jets, the tanks blocking streets when they deploy for war-games, and the other issues that arise from large deployments of foreign troops on their soil, because they would be just on the other side of the border and just as available for their defense needs.

I do not claim to be an expert on the German zeitgeist, but you have to be pretty dense not to get this:
An envoy of U.S. President Donald Trump suggested on Friday that Chancellor Angela Merkel’s unwillingness to boost defense spending might give the United States no choice but to move American troops stationed in Germany to Poland.

The comments by Richard Grenell, the U.S. ambassador to Germany, signal Trump’s impatience with Merkel’s failure to raise defense spending to 2% of economic output as mandated by the NATO military alliance.

“It is offensive to assume that the U.S. taxpayers continue to pay for more than 50,000 Americans in Germany but the Germans get to spend their [budget] surplus on domestic programs,” Grenell told the dpa news agency.

Germany’s fiscal plans foresee the defense budget of NATO’s second-largest member rising to 1.37% of output next year before falling to 1.24% in 2023.

Eastern European countries like Poland and Latvia, fearful of Russia after it annexed Crimea from Ukraine in 2014, have raised their military spending to the 2% target, drawing praise from Trump who wants Germany to do the same.
No nation wants foreign troops on its soil, it's a price that they are willing to pay for other benefits.

The Trump administration just offered the benefits with none of the costs.

Stephen King is a Portrait of Dorian Gray

Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) sparked a new uproar Wednesday after making incendiary comments about rape and incest, with Democrats — including multiple presidential candidates — rushing to condemn the controversial lawmaker.

King made the remarks while speaking to the Westside Conservative Club in Urbandale, Iowa, on Wednesday, where he sought to defend anti-abortion legislation with no rape or incest exceptions. “What if we went back through all the family trees and just pulled out anyone who was a product of rape or incest? Would there be any population of the world left if we did that?" the lawmaker said.

“Considering all the wars and all the rapes and pillages that happened throughout all these different nations, I know that I can't say that I was not a part of a product of that,” he added.

House GOP Conference Chairwoman Liz Cheney (Wyo.) tore into the Iowa Republican, suggesting his past and recent remarks made him unfit for Congress.

"As I’ve said before, it’s time for him to go. The people of Iowa’s 4th congressional district deserve better," Cheney said.
Republicans are not outraged because the statement is outrageous, they are terrified that King's comments reveal their true inner selves.

Stephen King is the mirror that they cannot bear to see.

It Appears that the Very Serious People in Britain Think that Corbyn is Worse than a Hard Brexit

I have been rather confused by how the anti-Brexit, and anti-hard Brexit actors have been behaving in what can only be described in a self-destructive manner.

Well, recent developments show that they believe that Jeremy Corbyn being Prime Minister is worse than a Brexit crash-out.

Considering the scenarios that they have described for a no-deal exit from the EU, a complete shut down of exports, food shortages, and an economic implosion, their phobia of the left-wing Labour leader is nuts:
Brexiters stop at nothing to get what they want and remainers stop at everything. The laws of political motion then dictate which direction things move.

Jeremy Corbyn has written to MPs inviting them to install him in Downing Street, having deposed Boris Johnson with a vote of no confidence. His tenure would, he promises, be “strictly time-limited” – long enough to call a general election and seek the necessary article 50 extension to conduct a ballot.

For Corbyn this is the simplest route out of the current mess. There is a government hell-bent on doing something that a majority of MPs oppose and believe to be ruinous – hurtling off a Brexit cliff-edge. The Fixed-term Parliaments Act gives the Commons 14 days to organise a replacement when an incumbent government is defeated in a no-confidence vote. Who else is going to lead that administration if not the leader of Her Majesty’s opposition? In constitutional terms he is the obvious candidate; probably the only candidate.

But in the minds of scores of MPs he is not. His past equivocations over Europe are not the reason, or at least not the only reason. Pro-European Tory rebels, Liberal Democrats, the rag-tag platoon of independents and semi-autonomous tribes of Labour MPs have spent months fretting about ways to thwart a hard Brexit, apparently ready to pull every procedural lever and contemplate all manner of unorthodox coalitions. Not much has been excluded from those considerations, except for a tacit prohibition on any route that makes a prime minister of the current Labour leader. Their horror of Corbyn is equal to – or greater than – their horror of Brexit. That has been so well understood by the participants in the discussion that few have felt much need to articulate it. Corbyn’s letter now obliges them to spell it out.

That is easier for some than others. Tories and ex-Labour independents don’t have much difficulty vocalising reasons why they think the Labour leader is unfit for office, even on a time-limited basis. They see him as a political extremist, a friend of terrorists, Putin stooges and antisemites. They think he would bring to Downing Street a sinister creed and a cabal of advisers whose very presence inside No 10 would sabotage the safety of the UK. For MPs who feel that way, the objection to a single day of Corbyn rule, even for a tactical purpose, is visceral and moral.

But there are others – Greens, Lib Dems and Labour moderates – who, if they share that passionate aversion, are reluctant to express it in public. Jo Swinson comes close. When elected to lead the Lib Dems she ruled out an alliance with Corbyn on the grounds that he couldn’t be trusted on the European question, but also (added almost as an afterthought) because “he is dangerous for our national security and for our economic security, too”.


There is something disingenuous about the discussions among MPs about a “government of national unity”(GNU) to avert a no-deal Brexit. It is predicated on concepts of nation and unity that don’t include those who are desperate to leave the EU. Those who voted leave are broadly satisfied with the government they currently have. It is, in truth, a euphemism for a model of technocratic, centre-facing liberal administration defined as much by a rejection of Corbynism as by revulsion at the Trumpian nationalist character that Brexit has acquired. There are many voters who would be glad to have a moderate, bipartisan government. They can play fantasy football with exotic cabinet combinations – Dominic Grieve as chancellor; Keir Starmer to fix Brexit; Caroline Lucas for the environment; Jo Swinson for home secretary. And the prime minister? David Lidington? Yvette Cooper? Anyone as long as it isn’t a Johnson … or a Corbyn. But the Commons numbers don’t add up for that either, unless most of the parliamentary Labour party abandons the whip. It won’t.

The Labour leader knows this and he is calling the whole GNU bluff. If a government falls, the opposition leader is the next in line to have a go and, if that can’t be arranged, there is an election. That is how it works. There might be many reasons why MPs do not want an opposition leader to take charge – that is their constitutional right, too – reasons of tactical political advantage and reasons of conscience. But MPs have not all been candid about what those reasons are; why it is that so many find Corbyn as toxic as Brexit. Their problem is that there aren’t a lot of other options. And the laws of political motion are working against them.
This level of antipathy is not driven by a fear that Corbyn will fail, it is being driven by a fear that he might succeed.

It's OK that Iceland jailed the bankers and protected its citizens, because there are fewer than ½ a million people on that island.

If that happens in the UK, and more importantly to the financial center known as the City of London, then their patrons, and their comfortable lifestyles, are a thing of the past.

Bye Felicia

John Hickenlooper, corporate tool and friend of the fracking industgry, is suspending his Presidential campaign.

Still, he thinks that there is a place for him in politics, standing athwart progress saying, "Better things aren't possible."
John Hickenlooper, the former Colorado governor whose low-key brand of moderate politics made him popular in his home state but limited his appeal in a Democratic primary filled with urgent progressive energy, announced on Thursday that he was ending his presidential campaign.

Mr. Hickenlooper has been seriously considering a run for the Republican-held Senate seat in Colorado that is up for election in 2020 — a key pickup target in the Democrats’ strategy to try to retake control of the Senate.

“Today, I’m ending my campaign for president,” he said in a videotaped statement. “But I will never stop believing that America can only move forward when we work together.”

“I’ve heard from so many Coloradans who want me to run for the United States Senate,” he added. “They remind me how much is at stake for our country. And our state. I intend to give that some serious thought.”
Dude, go back to your f%$#ing brew pub.

14 August 2019

We Are in Another Game of Musical Chairs

There is significant evidence that it is Wall Street speculation that is driving the recent home price increases.

This means two things:
  • The home affordability crisis is driven by speculation, and not from inherent value.
  • There is a crash coming, and you do not want to be left holding the bag when this happens, because eventually, they WILL run out of useful idiots.
We're in another Tulip craze.
In a recent column, I focused on five key factors which indicate that housing markets may be topping out. Yet one other important factor may be the main reason why housing prices have not already deflated.

Investors have always played an important role in housing markets. I have written extensively about the crazy bubble years of 2004-06. Rampant speculation was one of the primary causes of the buying mania and subsequent collapse. A May 2005 Fortune magazine article described how speculators were descending on city after city in search of making a killing in real estate.

The chart below, from a 2011 study put out by the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, shows the percentage of homes purchased with a mortgage by investors in states where the bubble was most excessive. This chart breaks down investor mortgage borrowing by the number of first liens appearing on the credit report of these investors. Notice the substantial number of investors with three or more first liens:

The chart shows that in the bubble states, more than 40% of all new mortgage originations for purchases went to investors/speculators during the wildest years of 2006 and 2007. Another chart in this same study showed that nationwide, roughly 30% of all originations were for investors. If we include all-cash investor purchases, the percentage of homes purchased by speculators was even higher.

When home prices leveled off in the second half of 2006, nervous speculators in the hottest major metros began to sell in large numbers. This precipitated the price collapse which soon followed. By 2009, the foreclosure debacle was in full swing. For the next four years, investors focused on buying inexpensive repossessed properties. Most of these foreclosure sales were all-cash deals.

Contrary to a widely-held assumption, many of these investor-purchased homes were not bought by flippers. They were turned into rental units for a new type of renter — former homeowners whose house had been foreclosed.


Unlike the speculative housing bubble of 2004-07, the investment surge over the past six years has been largely driven by a purchase-and-rent strategy. This made a lot of sense. Rents have risen steadily as most home prices continued to climb. A report from CoreLogic stated that rents grew nationwide by an average of 3.2% in January 2019 from a year earlier. Another benefit was that the tenant retention rate of 70% was much higher than the 50%-53% retention rate for multi-family apartments, according to a recent Freddie Mac report.


Is there credible evidence that investor purchases of single-family homes have increased in recent years? Absolutely. Attom Data has provided previously unpublished data breaking down home purchases by owner-occupants and absentee owners, i.e., investors:

You can see in the table above that the percentage of homes purchased by absentee owners rises consistently from 2016 through the first half of 2019. According to these numbers, more than one-third of all home purchases in 2019 have been made by investors. Yet even with this increase in investor purchasing, the volume of home purchases in most major metros has been declining. That is a major red flag.

Indeed, had it not been for the aggressive buying by investors in the past two-and-a-half years, home prices would have already slumped in these metros. If you do not find this suggestion plausible, remember that it was the pullback by speculators/investors in 2006 and their dumping properties onto the market that started the housing collapse.
Look out below.

Tweet of the Day

This is tremendously cynical, and I am inclined to agree.

Adventures in Metrology

Over at Wet Machine, Harold Feld has given us  a new measurement for irony, the Morissette.

He was discussing the rumors that Trump is attempting to institute censorship of social media through FCC regulation, which is both legally and constitutionally impossible:
Granted, humiliating yourself at Trump’s command by publicly utterly reversing yourself on everything you previously said you believed in is almost a rite of passage for officials in the Trump Administration. But if Trump actually did do this, it would be a true work of Total Humiliation for Pai & friends. This is why I give even the rumor of this a rare 5 out of 5 Morissettes on the Irony Scale (named after singer Alanis Morissette and her famous ironic song “Irony” about things that aren’t actually ironic.)
(Emphasis Mine)

At this point, I am unclear if this is a linear or a logarithmic scale, but my money is on the latter.

Truly Elegant Troll

Because they have way too much free time, and because they want to force their views on others, the Kentucky legislature pass a law requiring schools to prominently display the national motto, "In God we trust."

In response, Fayette County Public Schools is hanging framed dollar bills.

Well played:
When Brittany Pike saw the back of a dollar bill framed at Lexington’s Athens Chilesburg Elementary School last week, she couldn’t have been more pleased.

Pike took a photo and posted it on Facebook Wednesday along with this message about Fayette County Public Schools’ response to Kentucky’s new law that requires the national “In God We Trust” motto to be displayed prominently at schools:

“This school year Kentucky began requiring schools to place “In God We Trust” in the building. I absolutely love living in a school district that wants to follow the law while also ensuring EVERY student feels welcomed back regardless of religious beliefs. Thank you so very much Fayette County Public Schools for simply posting a dollar with ‘In God We Trust.’ My kids don’t feel awkward or excluded for not believing in any God.”

Fayette Superintendent Manny Caulk said Wednesday afternoon that in complying with the new law, “all schools in our district have been provided a framed version of an enlarged copy of a $1 dollar bill to display in a prominent location.”
This is beautiful.

13 August 2019

The NRA Doth Protest Too Much

The NRA argued that it was their ad firm, and not them, that was attempting this blatant effort at self dealing.

Well, the Wall Street Journal now has the $70,000 check from the National Rifle Association to a shell company that was to execute the purchase:

In May 2018, the National Rifle Association sent a $70,000 check to an obscure Delaware entity called WBB Investments LLC, which had been incorporated a week earlier.

The check, a copy of which was obtained by The Wall Street Journal, raises new questions about the NRA’s attempts to explain a tangled transaction involving its then-outside advertising agency and an abortive plan to purchase a $6 million Dallas mansion for NRA CEO Wayne LaPierre.

The advertising agency, Ackerman McQueen, recently turned over documents to the proposed house purchase to the New York attorney general’s office, which is probing Mr. LaPierre’s dealings with the agency as part of a broad investigation of the NRA.

When the Journal broke the story last week, the NRA initially said the plan to buy the mansion was hatched by Angus McQueen, the ad agency’s late co-CEO, as a kind of safe house for Mr. LaPierre. The NRA chief had concerns about his security in the wake of the February 2018 mass shooting at a high school in Parkland, Fla.

The NRA said the house was to be purchased by a company owned by senior Ackerman executives, and Mr. LaPierre shut down the transaction after discovering that the ad company intended to use NRA funds for the deal. “Not a cent of NRA money was ultimately spent,” the NRA said.

An NRA check for $70,000 to an obscure Delaware entity called WBB Investments is the most-direct evidence to have emerged of the flow of money in the aborted mansion deal.
Ackerman, for its part, says Mr. LaPierre had wanted the mansion, which it said was to be paid for by the NRA. According to Ackerman’s version of events, Mr. LaPierre had asked Ackerman to help facilitate the deal, and an Ackerman lawyer set up WBB Investments to buy the house so the LaPierre connection wouldn’t become public.

Mr. LaPierre and his wife, Susan, twice visited the house—a 10,000-square-foot residence in a gated golf community—and were preparing to put down $70,000 in earnest money to make an offer, according to people familiar with this version of the transaction.

Enter the check, dated May 25, 2018, and drawn on an NRA account at Wells Fargo . It is the most-direct evidence of the flow of money in the aborted deal to have emerged.

“If there’s a check from the NRA to an LLC, that doesn’t seem consistent with a story that Ackerman was going to pay for it,” said Elizabeth Kingsley, a Washington lawyer who specializes in nonprofit law. “Even if it’s just earnest money, the money is on the line and the check shows NRA money, not Ackerman funds.”

The NRA was laundering money for Wayne LaPierre's personal benefit.

The Family

It looks like the Christofascist organization known as "The Family" is getting a documentary on Netflix.

Here is hoping that shedding light on the organization, which among other things was largely responsible for Uganda's "Kill the Gays" bill, gets some much deserved scrutiny as a result.
From the Illuminati to the freemasons to QAnon, there’s no shortage of conspiracy theories trying to explain how power is accumulated and shared in Washington, D.C. But the wide-ranging network of politicians, world leaders, and men of faith that make up the Fellowship isn’t mere conspiracy theory: it’s 100 percent true. What’s more, some of its members are speaking on the record about it for the first time in the new five-part Netflix series The Family, directed by documentarian Jesse Moss.

The Fellowship, also known as the Family, is a highly secretive group of evangelical Christian men who meet for Bible study and prayer meetings; it’s best known for serving as the organizer of the National Prayer Breakfast, an annual gathering of diplomats and world leaders in Washington, D.C. Founded in 1935 by a man named Abraham Veride, the Fellowship initially arose from Vereide trying to arrange a meeting of business owners to crush laborers’ attempts at organizing. Over the course of the past 75 years, it has evolved into what some have referred to as a secret theocracy, or an underground movement of prominent Christian men who exert their influence not just in the United States, but abroad as well.


Fellowship members operate under a veil of secrecy, which is by design; Fellowship head Douglas Coe, who died in 2017, believed that the group could best exert its influence that way. Its members include senators, diplomats, and religious leaders around the world: Sen. Chuck Grassley, Sen. Jim Inhofe, and Rep. Bart Stupak have been linked to the group, while Vice President Mike Pence and attorney general Jeff Sessions have also been referred to as “friends of the Family.” And it’s a testament to the persistence of the production team that a handful of Fellowship members, including former Congressman Zach Wamp, speak on the record for the first time about the organization in the series. Moss attributes their willingness to talk in part to the organization’s attempts to “adapt to the 21st century with a greater degree of transparency, though only time will tell if that’s true.” Sharlet, however, has a slightly different take: “They’re not opening the doors. They’re not becoming transparent. That simply hasn’t happened. But they do want to have their say.”

The primary way the Fellowship maintains influence, the series argues, is through the National Prayer Breakfast, which every president since Eisenhower has attended over the past 50 years. Though many consider the Prayer Breakfast something of a “banal event,” according to Moss, he says, “It’s really quite an impressive demonstration of influence and power.”


In its efforts to consolidate its power, the Family has extended its tentacles overseas. One episode of The Family focuses in large part on a trip that Rep. Robert Aderholt, a right-wing politician tied to the group, made to Romania to campaign for anti-LGBTQ rights and advocate for Christian policy. Members of the Family have also aligned themselves with global leaders who had committed atrocities in their home countries, including Libyan dictator Moammar Gaddafi, who once prayed with Coe. “In the face of all these dictators, they don’t say anything at all,” says Sharlet. “They don’t ask any accountability.”
This is a group that literally orchestrated the introduction of a bill that had the death penalty for homosexuality.

They are dangerous fundamentalist extremists.

The System is Finally Working

Indian body shops are complaining because H-1B visa applications have been rejected at unprecedented rates.


The H1B visa system is SUPPOSED to companies' need for skills that are simply unavailable nationally, but the reality is that it's used for cheap and marginally skilled labor.

The fact that this law is actually being enforced is an unalloyed good:
Denial of work visas to employees of India’s largest IT services exporters has risen to an all-time high, according to data sourced from a US-based research foundation.

The country’s big four software services exporters — Tata Consultancy Services, Infosys, HCL Technologies and Wipro — have seen around half of their work visa applications rejected in the past year as the Donald Trump administration pushed for more employment and higher wages for American workers.

The visa denial rate for TCS has gone up from 6% in FY15 to 37% during the first quarter of FY19 (October-December 2018), according to a report by the National Foundation for American Policy (NFAP). NFAP sourced data from the US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) that follows a October-September financial year. 

Shades of Bobby Tables

Some hacker who thought that he was cleverer than he actually was, decided to get a vanity license plate reading "Null".

He figured that it might prevent him from getting parking tickets as well.

No such luck. Not only did he get tickets, he also got bills for an additional $12,000.00 in parking tickets that were listed as, "Null."

So basically, he executed a code injection attack on himself:
The relationship between Americans and their automobiles is a complicated one. More than mere transport, cars can become extensions of one's personality—think of stereotypes about drivers of a particular model like a Corvette, for instance. Since cars are mass-produced, it's natural that people want to personalize them. Sometimes it's covering them with every bit of chromed plastic you can find at JC Whitney. Sometimes it's plastering them in stickers. And sometimes, it might just be a personalized number plate.

The rules for personalized plates vary depending on the state in which you're registering your car. These can foster creativity, but today we have a cautionary tale from California, which reveals the risks of being too creative. It's the story of a security researcher known as Droogie, who presented his experience at the recent DEF CON conference in Las Vegas. Droogie decided his new vanity plate should read "NULL." While he did this mainly for the giggles, he told the audience that there was an ulterior motive, as reported by Mashable:

Droogie's hope was that the new plate would exploit California's DMV ticketing system in a similar manner to the classic xkcd "Bobby Tables" cartoon. With any luck, the DMV's ticket database would see "NULL" and consign any of his tickets to the void. Unfortunately, the exact opposite happened. 

Poster Child for Lack of Moral Standing

I am referring to the organization generally known as the US Olympic Committee (It's actually the US Olympic and Paralympic Committee).

They have gotten their panties in a bunch because athletes have used the medal awards ceremonies to protest issues of racism and law enforcement misconduct.

Some have kneeled, some have used an outstretched fist, and not the OSOC is threatening sanctions.

This is an organization that covered up the sexual abuse of Larry Nassar,  was complicit in corruption at the 2002 winter Olympics in Salt Lake City, and was the proximate or contributing cause of dozens of other scandals.

F%$# them.  They  have no moral standing whatsoever to claim to be guardians of the Olympics or of the Olympic ideal.


Saxon Glass Working:  Experimental Archeology looking at how the Saxons recycled glass from the Roman era for the next few centuries:

12 August 2019

Russia Gets Antitrust Right

Russia has not been hobbled by the counterfactual and ahistorical school of though that permeates the United States, so they are actually inclined to take action for monopolistic behavior.

I think that their experience in 1990s, when their country was pillaged by oligarchs and western financial institutions has contributed to these attitudes.

Now, they have have unloaded a well-deserved can of whup-ass on the poster child for anti-competitive behavior, Apple Computer:
Russian officials opened an antitrust investigation into Apple for restricting and removing parental control apps from its App Store shortly after the company released its own competing service, the latest sign of the growing scrutiny of Silicon Valley’s power.

Russia’s Federal Antimonopoly Service said late Thursday that it would investigate whether Apple had violated Russian competition law when it rejected a parental control app made by Kaspersky Lab, a Russian cybersecurity company, from the iPhone App Store. The Russian agency said that after reviewing Kaspersky’s complaint, it concluded that Apple had rejected the app, which it had previously approved, and set unclear requirements for app developers.

The New York Times reported in April that shortly after Apple introduced tools to help people limit the time they and their children spent on iPhones, the company removed or restricted popular apps that offered similar services. Apple said the apps improperly used technologies that gave them too much access to users’ data.

In June, Apple reversed itself and allowed the apps to return with the same technologies, as long as they promised to not “sell, use or disclose to third parties any data for any purpose.” Many of the apps have since returned to the App Store.


Kaspersky said in a blog post that despite Apple’s policy reversal, the Silicon Valley company has still put parental control apps at a disadvantage. As part of its complaint, Kaspersky said that Apple’s rules for returning to the App Store were vague, that Apple prohibited the apps from sharing data with third-party analytics firms to improve their services and that Apple did not allow the apps to use the same technology it did to help parents control their children’s phones.


Two other developers of parental control apps, Kidslox and Qustodio, have complained to the European authorities that Apple unfairly blocked their apps. At least one American company has lodged similar complaints in conversations with Justice Department officials, according to a person close to the talks who spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were private.
This investigation is justified, Apple is an anti-competitive actor: They one of the leaders in the efforts to collude to depress Silicon Valley wages, and now they have placed an (as yet not activated) kill switch on their latest MacBooks to brick machines that are serviced by 3rd parties.

Justice for the Vampire Squid ……… In Malaysia

The United States could never bring itself to prosecute Goldman Sachs executives for fraud and other financial crimes, but Malaysia has indicted 17 executives at the brokerage firm:
When it comes to serial and systemic frauds perpetrated by big banks on Wall Street, the U.S. Department of Justice typically punts. It will either not charge the bank itself or it will issue a felony charge along with a non-prosecution agreement that lets the bank settle the charges without a trial. These tactics by the Justice Department are why Wall Street crimes remain serial and systemic in nature.

This morning, the Attorney General in Malaysia stunned Goldman Sachs with an indictment of 17 of its former and current executives. That came on the heels of criminal charges filed last December by Malaysian authorities in the same matter against three Goldman Sachs subsidiaries and two former Goldman employees, Tim Leissner and Roger Ng.

Indictments announced this morning included charges against Richard J. Gnodde, Goldman’s top international banker in London and former Goldman executive J. Michael Evans, who is currently president of Alibaba.

The charges stem from a Malaysia state development fund, 1Malaysia Development Bhd (1MDB) for which Goldman Sachs underwrote $6.5 billion in bonds in 2012 and 2013. Goldman made an outsized $600 million in fees on the deals. According to prosecutors, $4.5 billion in 1MDB funds have gone missing, of which at least $2.7 billion was stolen according to prosecutors.

Malaysia Attorney General Tommy Thomas said jail time and criminal fines will be sought against those indicted given the “severity of the scheme to defraud and fraudulent misappropriation of billions in bond proceeds” and “the lengthy period over which the offences were planned and executed….”


Contrast how Malaysia has moved to hold key Goldman Sachs executives accountable versus what the U.S. Department of Justice has done. On November 1 of last year, the Justice Department announced charges against former Goldman employees Tim Leissner and Roger Ng and a financier involved in the dealings, Jho Low. But the Justice Department did not bring charges against any of the three units of Goldman Sachs that were involved and its press release is even too timid to mention the name Goldman Sachs. It refers simply to “U.S. Financial Institution #1,” suggesting it believes Goldman Sachs somehow deserves reputational protection.

It’s important to recall that the Justice Department let Goldman Sachs wiggle out of criminal prosecution with a payment of $550 million in 2010 over its role in facilitating a $1 billion fraud called Abacus. Goldman Sachs allowed the hedge fund, John Paulson & Co., to select mortgage bonds that were likely to fail to put into the deal so that the hedge fund could short the deal and end up making $1 billion. Goldman Sachs pitched the deal to its investors as a sound investment. Those investors ended up losing the same $1 billion that Paulson & Co. made in profits. A lowly Goldman Sachs’ salesman on the deal, Fabrice Tourre, was the only Goldman employee to be charged in the matter. Tourre was found guilty at trial but also got off by paying a fine. (See John Paulson and the Ick Factor at NYU.)
For the love of God, please let these prosecutions proceed to completion.

SOMEONE needs to hold these ratf%$#s accountable.

A Good Start, US Forest Service Smackdown Edition

A judge has ruled that the US Forest Service erred in granting a mining permit, upending decades of policy by the agency, which has literally operated on the assumption that it has no basis do deny a mining claim in almost all circumstances.

Basically, the ruling says that while there is an affirmative right for miners to mine a claim where there is valuable minerals (Gold, Silver, Platinum, Uranium, Tungsten, etc.) on public land, but that if you are dumping millions of tons of tailings on a part of your claim, you are tacitly admitting that there are no valuable minerals under that portion of your claim.

As a matter of law and common sense, this seems to be correct.

Clearly, this will be appealed, and clearly it is clear that the Trump administration, and the Forest Service:
For decades, the U.S. Forest Service has said it can’t say “no” to a mine on its land.

Now, the recent federal court ruling overturning approval of the Rosemont Mine on service land near Tucson will make it harder for the Forest Service to say “yes.”

Legal experts say U.S. District Judge James Soto’s July 31 ruling, if upheld in higher courts, will have national repercussions.


The ruling could chill the hard-rock mining industry that has lived under a generally favorable legal climate since Congress passed the 1872 Mining Law to encourage mineral exploration of public lands.

Mining industry lawyers say the ruling usurps the role of government agencies in making such decisions, could bring chaos to federal mining reviews and will add more delays in permitting to an industry already having some of the longest permit times for new mines in the Western world.

Environmental law professors say the ruling is well-grounded factually and could end a century-old practice by mining companies of skirting or dodging federal law by dumping mining wastes on federal lands without proper reviews.


Soto’s order is “likely the most significant federal court decision on federal mining law in several decades,” mining industry lawyers James Allen and Michael Ford of the Phoenix-based law firm Snell and Wilmer wrote in an online article.


In the meantime, the ruling, if upheld, would make opening a big new mine in the United States on public lands very hard, said Leshy, professor emeritus at the University of California-Hastings College of Law.


Soto overturned the Forest Service’s approval of the mine, which would create 500 full-time jobs at high wages and 2,500 construction jobs, but would disturb 3,653 acres of national forest.

Rosemont also would disturb and desecrate 33 ancient Native American burial grounds containing or likely containing human remains of ancestors of the Tohono O’Odham, Pascua Yaqui and Hopi tribes, the judge wrote, as he ruled on two lawsuits, filed by four environmental groups and the other by the three tribes.

The opponents’ lawsuits successfully argued that only public lands directly above valuable mineral deposits are covered by the federal 1872 Mining Law’s definition of mining rights.

The judge found that the Forest Service had erred in approving Rosemont without determining the validity of the mining claims on 2,447 acres of public land where Hudbay Minerals Inc. wants to dump the mine’s waste rock and tailings.

To prove validity under the 1872 law, Soto wrote, Hudbay would have had to show that the land contained valuable mineral deposits, which he said the company had failed to do.


Soto’s ruling effectively holds that the feds cannot say “yes” to a proposal to dump mine tailings on invalid mining claims, said Mark Squillace, a University of Colorado law professor. Mining claims can only be used to extract the minerals located there, he said.

“Since dumping tailings on the claims could make it difficult or almost impossible to develop the claims going forward, Rosemont seems to be admitting that the claims do not contain valuable minerals and thus are not valid claims,” Squillace said.


Since the 1872 Mining Law passed, mining companies have legally dealt with their need to dispose of waste rock and tailings in two ways.

They have placed them, as Hudbay wants to do, on federal land on which they have filed “unpatented” mining claims, on which they don’t own the land but own its mineral rights.

Or, they have created what are known as mill sites to let them put wastes on those lands. That doesn’t require proof of a valuable mineral deposit but is limited to 5 acres per mining claim.

Legal experts on both sides of the issue say the use of unpatented claim land for mine wastes without a check on their validity has survived largely unchallenged until now.


The exceptions would occur when a mining company wants to operate on land where the service has already forbidden mining; when someone applies to “patent” a claim by getting it as their property; and when the service determines that a company’s proposed land use isn’t related to mining.

Nearly seven years later, in the final Rosemont environmental impact statement, the service said that putting waste rock and tailings on forest land is considered to be connected to mining under federal rules.


Soto’s ruling bought into Huckelberry’s arguments, saying Rosemont’s proposal to bury its unpatented claim land with waste “was a powerful indication that there was not a valuable mineral deposit underneath that land.”

Geological studies and maps indicate primarily common sand, stone and gravel lie beneath the land: “This does not constitute a valuable mineral,” Soto wrote.

He noted that the Forest Service and Hudbay cited two federal laws passed a half-century apart that say mining can’t be prohibited on federal lands. One, the Multiple Use Act of 1955, also prohibits interfering with “reasonably incidental mining activities” on federal lands, which Rosemont says its waste disposal would be.

But those laws only protect mining activities permitted under the 1872 Mining Law, which isn’t the case for Rosemont’s dumping tailings and waste rock on non-valid claimed land, the judge wrote.


Attorney Jensen’s view is what former Interior Solicitor Leshy said he expects will be the industry and government’s arguments during an appeal.

“It’s basically saying, the government can stick its head in the sand and not look at the obvious, and the courts should not intervene to stop it. It’s kind of a ‘prosecutorial discretion’ argument — the government gets to decide when and whether to challenge the validity of mining claims,” he said.

But although the government gets a good deal of deference, it can’t act “arbitrarily and capriciously,” said Leshy, citing a phrase from Soto’s ruling.

“It is arbitrary and capricious for the government to close its eyes to the plain facts in front of it — these mining claims used for tailings piles do not have minerals that can be profitably mined and are therefore invalid, and that means the company does not have a right to use them for that purpose.”
Here is hoping that this ruling survives appeal.

11 August 2019

Segregation is a Feature, Not a Bug, of Charter Schools

Case in point, Sausalito, California, where public schools have become almost completely minority, while the charter school is plurality white.

The state AG has issued a report declaring that the city deliberately segregated their schools.

Clearly, racism is a thing of the past:
Just two taxpayer-funded schools serve the quaint town of Sausalito, Calif. There’s a charter school where a plurality of the students are white, and a traditional district school where almost no one is.

That’s no accident, according to California’s attorney general, who alleges the school district knowingly created and maintained a segregated school, and starved it of funding needed for basic necessities while funneling extra money to the charter school.

On Friday, the Sausalito Marin City School District agreed to a settlement that orders officials to unravel the segregation, compensate graduates who were harmed by it and build a more equitable system. If the district fails, the charter school might lose its Sausalito campus.


The settlement, filed in state court Friday, is a rare example of government-mandated school desegregation in recent years. It has been several decades since the state of California forced a district to make these sorts of changes, a Becerra spokeswoman said. Nationwide, most court-ordered desegregation plans have been lifted. The Supreme Court has barred school systems from considering race in student assignment plans, even when the goal is desegregation.
The only people who believe that racism is over in the United States are racists.

Something Bad Happened Near Severodvinsk

In Russian

There was some sort of event, involving a significant release of radiation, at the Nenoksa naval base:
On the morning of Thursday, August 8, something exploded at the Nenoksa Naval Base in Russia, not far from the city of Severodvinsk. This article is a good summary of what we knew by Friday. Since then, the Russian government has said that a radioactive source was involved in the explosion, along with liquid rocket fuel. Reports have gone back and forth on whether radiation detectors in Severodvinsk detected anything. Five more people have been reported dead. Sarov/VNIIEF, one of the Russian nuclear weapons laboratories, has released a statement, which some folks are rushing to translate.
The translation that I have seen of this video shows it not to be particularly informative, but it does reveal that there was an incident, and there were fatalities.

The New York Times coverage is similarly anodyne, though it does reveal a spike in radiation, albeit one that stays below recommended limits, at a nearby town.

The indications are that this is not a nuclear warhead, both Russian and US nuclear warheads have been designed to survive things like a rocket motor explosion, so it would imply that it was a test of some sort of nuclear propulsion system, along the lines of the 9M730 Burevestnik nuclear powered cruise missile announced by Putin last year.

How Convenient

I have nothing in the way of direct knowledge of the events, but Jeffrey Epstein's suicide does appear to solve what was a troubling situation for his rich and powerful friends.

Whether this was the final act of a psychopathic narcissist, or the desperate act of those billionaires who he had damning evidence on, it doesn't matter.

What does matter is that these people, and there were dozens, if not hundreds, of people who were willing partners in this horror show, and now there will be no accounting:
It was Friday night in a protective housing unit of the federal jail in Lower Manhattan, and Jeffrey Epstein, the financier accused of trafficking girls for sex, was alone in a cell, only 11 days after he had been taken off a suicide watch.

Just that morning, thousands of documents from a civil suit had been released, providing lurid accounts accusing Mr. Epstein of sexually abusing scores of girls.

Mr. Epstein was supposed to have been checked by the two guards in the protective housing unit every 30 minutes, but that procedure was not followed that night, a law-enforcement official with knowledge of his detention said.
Again, how convenient.
In addition, because Mr. Epstein may have tried to commit suicide three weeks earlier, he was supposed to have had another inmate in his cell, three officials said. But the jail had recently transferred his cellmate and allowed Mr. Epstein to be housed alone, a decision that also violated the jail’s procedures, the two officials said.

At 6:30 a.m. on Saturday, guards doing morning rounds found him dead in his cell. Mr. Epstein, 66, had apparently hanged himself.
I'll be spending the next few days considering the tin-foil hat possibilities.

10 August 2019

Well, This Sucks

I just had to wipe and reinitialize my cell phone.

Reinstalling all the old apps now.

Joe Biden's Marijuana Legalization Isn't Legalization

What he wants to do is to reschedule from 1 to 2.

This will place in the same category as cocaine and methamphetamines, which means that its distribution will still be tightly restricted, and usage outside of those tight conditions remain a felony.

It also means that he will be making the manufacture and distribution the exclusive purview of big pharma.

It's actually worse than the status quo, which is not a surprise, "Uncle Joe" has been among the most hardcore of the drug warriors for over 4 decades:
No one person created America's war on drugs. No individual is responsible for the accompanying manufactured crises of mass incarceration and impoverishment of working class communities of color. But in the same shamed strata as Richard Nixon and Nancy Reagan, in the view of many, you can find Joe Biden, the wobbly 2020 frontrunner and former vice president.

In his 40 years in the Senate, as is now well known, Biden was a key architect of harsh criminal penalties for nonviolent drug users. Undoing much of his own work was one way to make sense of a large part of the criminal justice plan his presidential campaign recently released. Finding a centrist's safe-and-happy medium on weed in particular, Biden has not embraced legalization—a.k.a. commercialized, recreational pot use—but has claimed to back decriminalization, or removing at least most pot offenses from the criminal justice system.

But Biden is actually pushing a policy that could wreck the growing American weed industry and massively disrupt users' access to the drug, attorneys, consultants, academics, and entrepreneurs well-versed in US cannabis policy say.

"I view Biden's plan as a ham-fisted handing over of cannabis to the pharmaceutical industry," said Gavin Kogan, a California-based cannabis executive and attorney who chairs Grupo Flor, a large, vertically-integrated cannabis firm.

Cannabis is currently listed as a Schedule I controlled substance, the classification intended for drugs with a high potential for abuse and no medical value—a designation contradicted by a 2017 National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine review, mocked on a daily basis by dozens of states with medical-use laws, and that even Attorney General William Barr apparently believes is untenable.

Other than cannabis, there are no major state-legal markets for Schedule I drugs. Would making weed Schedule II—intended only for strictly controlled pharmaceutical drugs, and not recreational nor wellness products, the rubrics under which cannabis is often marketed and sold to Americans—make more sense? It might, but here's the catch: Drugs listed under Schedule II (which include cocaine and methamphetamine as well as prescription opiates like fentanyl) are available legally but only under strict Food and Drug Administration controls. That is, only with a doctor's prescription, only after a lengthy FDA-overseen approval process that can include years of clinical trials (and then sold only via a licensed pharmacy), and only for limited applications.

In other words, there are no Schedule II drugs grown, processed, and sold in the way cannabis is brought to market in the United States, either—so that label, too, is probably inadequate. More to the point, if strictly enforced to the letter, Biden's marijuana policy could rip cannabis away from its current producers and sellers and hand over control of commercial weed to corporate interests instead.

"If the federal government actually enforced the CSA [Controlled Substances Act] Schedule II [on cannabis in a Biden administration], then almost all current state-legal activities would be banned and could be shut down," said Jonathan Caulkins, a professor at Carnegie Mellon University's Heinz College who has served as co-director of the nonpartisan RAND Corporation's Drug Policy Research Center.


It wasn't just advocates with skin—financial or otherwise—in the game suggesting Biden's plan would likely amount to a gift to a few key players. Experts said the impact of the policy, if enacted, was pretty cut-and-dried.

“To the extent that FDA regulation always favors bigger companies that can afford to meet the regulations, then, yes, putting cannabis in Schedule II would be a sort of Big Pharma model,” said David Herzberg, a historian at the University at Buffalo who specializes in drug policy and authored Happy Pills in America: From Miltown to Prozac, a review of how prescription drugs have been developed, marketed, and sold.


It's not clear exactly how Biden hit upon Schedule II as the magic solution, or if he took input from drug-policy reform advocates or cannabis industry players—or took cues instead from the anti-legalization activists working against them. A spokesman for Biden's campaign did not respond to emails, text messages, or a phone call seeking comment.

"There's no way this [Biden's plan] will ever go far enough to remedy the damages these communities of color have suffered," said Solonje Burnett, co-founder of the Brooklyn-based cannabis brand hub Humble Bloom, adding that his was a "half measure" that put him on "the wrong side of history, again."


"His stance is to blow up 90 percent of the existing regulated and traditional market," said Sean Donahoe, an Oakland, California-based cannabis-industry consultant. That could be a disruption worse, even, than any George Bush or Barack Obama-era crackdown—when many businesses and operators suffered raids or received threatening letters.

This "shows [Biden's] fundamental worldview is framed through a corporate lens with no regard for existing operators, nor good public policy," Donahoe added.

As absurd as it might be to list cannabis in Schedule I, lumping weed with opiates, coke, and pharmaceuticals in Schedule II is also intellectually dishonest, critics said.


The proposal would do for cannabis "the same thing it’s done for meth: Ensure reduced research initiatives, selective prosecution, and a thriving black market," said Michael Backes, a Southern California-based cannabis industry consultant and author of Cannabis Pharmacy: The Practical Guide to Medical Marijuana.
This is classic Biden:  It's wrong, and favors entrenched and predatory incumbents, just like he did with the credit card industry.

09 August 2019

Speaking of Cable Company Rat-F%$#ery………

People hate their internet companies.

Whether it is Comcast, Charter, CenturyLink, Verizon, Frontier, etc. their business plan is all about creating and maintaining a monopoly, and then extracting rents with over-priced and under-performing internet.

It's why US internet costs are among the highest in the developed world while having the lowest performance.

The response of the incumbent providers has been to lobby to maintain their monopolies, doing things like forbidding municipal broadband.

Well, it appears that their lobbying is losing its effectiveness, even in Republican dominated states like North Carolina:
Broadband expansion legislation that stalled earlier this year after strong opposition from cable and telecommunications providers cleared a key N.C. House committee Thursday, but only after a long debate on the role of government in providing internet access.

House Bill 431, the FIBER NC Act, would eliminate existing state restrictions on local government investments in broadband infrastructure and put in place a system that would allow counties and municipalities to build out the infrastructure and then lease it to a private provider.

Members of the State and Local Government Committee debated for an hour and half before approving the bill in a 13-9 vote.

The majority, a mix of the committee’s Democrats and a handful of Republican legislators from rural districts, also defeated an amendment to require a local referendum on public broadband investment by the same margin.

The bill was introduced early in the session but has been opposed by the state’s main internet providers, who say it is government encroachment into private enterprise.
North Carolina might not be the last place where I would expect to see such a bill progressing, but it's the second or third to last place where I would expect to see it.

People are getting sick and tired of the looting.

Rule 1 of Connectivity is that Phone and Cable Companies will F%$# You Like a Drunk Sorority Girl

Rule 2 is SEE RULE 1.

Case in point, AT&T lying to the court about the effects of its merger with Time Warner:
When AT&T acquired Time Warner last year for $85 billion, the companies said the deal would be great for consumers, who would benefit from lower prices and improved service.

The Justice Department said the opposite, predicting the merger would give AT&T so much market power that price hikes and channel blackouts were all but inevitable.

And now we know. The government was right.

AT&T wasted no time in raising the price of its DirecTV satellite-TV service by $5 a month. It then raised the price of its DirectTV Now streaming service by $10 a month. (The company said last week DirecTV Now is being renamed AT&T TV Now.)

More than 6.5 million of AT&T’s DirecTV and U-verse pay-TV customers are currently cut off from CBS channels because AT&T says CBS wants too much money for its programming.

Meanwhile, more than 12 million Dish Network and Sling TV subscribers have lost access to AT&T’s HBO and Cinemax channels because, according to Dish, AT&T wants too much money for its own programming.

Put more succinctly, AT&T, after raising subscriber costs, wants to pay as little as possible for channels included on its pay-TV services. But it wants as much as possible from other pay-TV services for its own channels.

And it’s willing to hold consumers hostage to get what it wants.

“When you start seeing blackouts, it’s obvious you’re looking at a merger that’s not serving consumers very well,” said Herbert Hovenkamp, a law professor at the University of Pennsylvania and one of the nation’s top antitrust authorities.


U.S. District Judge Richard J. Leon ruled last year — and was subsequently upheld by an appellate court — that the government was mistaken when it warned of consumers being harmed by the merger.

Leon said it would be counter-productive for a merged AT&T/Time Warner to withhold its own channels from competing pay-TV providers or black out competitors’ channels, and thus the likelihood of this happening was low.

“The evidence of his being wrong is bordering on the absurd,” said Christopher Sagers, a professor at the Cleveland-Marshall College of Law.


“Plain and simple, the merger created for AT&T immense power over consumers,” Andy LeCuyer, Dish’s senior vice president of programming, said in a statement.

“AT&T no longer has incentive to come to an agreement on behalf of consumer choice,” he said. “Instead, it’s been given the power to grab more money or steal away customers.”


Einer Elhauge, a professor at Harvard Law School, said the current circumstances “seem to be precisely what the Department of Justice predicted would happen after the merger of AT&T and Time Warner, and precisely what AT&T successfully persuaded the trial court was implausible for it to ever do post-merger.”

His verdict? “It looks like the court just got it wrong.”

If so, what if anything can be done?

There was once a time when regulators decided AT&T had too much power over the phone industry and decided to break up the company.

I wonder if the same case now can be made for AT&T’s power over the TV industry.


The antitrust experts I spoke with said AT&T’s post-merger behavior makes a strong case for separating pay-TV and programming companies — but it may be too late to fix the problem.
I hope that it's not too late, but once again, Robert Bork's laissez faire theories of monopolies and competition are shown to be wrong.

In fact they are not just wrong, they are delusional, and I would argue deeply hypocritical.

Canada Concludes that the US Drug Market is Insane

Canada uses a sophisticated formula to set drug prices.

They have just updated the algorithm to eliminate US drug prices from their calculations because they are completely out of line.

Pharma is unamused, but they can go and Cheney themselves:
The Canadian government on Friday announced final regulations to reduce patented drug prices it said would save Canadians C$13.2 billion ($10 billion) over a decade, overriding heavy opposition from pharmaceutical companies.


The new rules, described in a statement by Health Canada, were largely in line with a December 2017 draft. They came after months of delay prompted speculation the government would back down in the face of industry lobbying or simply run out of time before Canada’s October election.


Under the new rules, Canada will change the countries the federal drug price regulator, the Patented Medicine Prices Review Board (PMPRB), compares domestic prices to, dropping the United States and Switzerland where prices are highest, and let the agency consider the cost-effectiveness of new medicines.

It will also force drugmakers to disclose some confidential discounts to the PMPRB, which sets maximum prices.


Global drugmakers, including Johnson & Johnson, Merck & Co and Amgen Inc, argued against the draft plan.

Petitpas Taylor said the new rules would lay the foundation for a new national pharmaceutical care program. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s government is expected to announce a program to cover the cost of prescription drugs for some or all Canadians, but the program’s scope is not yet clear.

Big pharma needs to be taken down.

Be Still My Beating Heart

House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler has announced that his committee is conducting an impeachment inquiry of Trump.

I think that there is plenty of probably cause for an inquiry, but I can't help but wonder if this is just some sort of ploy to take the heat off of House leadership:
House Democrats have begun impeachment proceedings against President Trump. A key Democrat admitted as much Thursday.

“This is formal impeachment proceedings,” the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.), told CNN on Thursday, after weeks of dancing around whether his committee would formally consider impeaching Trump.

“We are investigating all the evidence, gathering the evidence,” Nadler added. “And we will [at the] conclusion of this — hopefully by the end of the year — vote to vote articles of impeachment to the House floor. Or we won’t. That’s a decision that we’ll have to make. But that’s exactly the process we’re in right now.”

His statement makes clear what a lawsuit filed Wednesday by his committee states: that the “Judiciary Committee is now determining whether to recommend articles of impeachment against the President based on the obstructive conduct described by the Special Counsel.”
I would also suggest looking into tax evasion, fraud, and mob connections.

Tweet of the Day

Yeah, this is pretty much the definition of the, "Thin Blue Line."

08 August 2019

We Are Unbelievably Screwed

It looks like updated models are showing that anthropogenic climate change will be even more disastrous than previously predicted:
Our planet’s climate may be more sensitive to increases in greenhouse gas than we realized, according to a new generation of global climate models being used for the next major assessment from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). The findings—which run counter to a 40-year consensus—are a troubling sign that future warming and related impacts could be even worse than expected.

One of the new models, the second version of the Community Earth System Model (CESM2) from the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR), saw a 35% increase in its equilibrium climate sensitivity (ECS), the rise in global temperature one might expect as the atmosphere adjusts to an instantaneous doubling of atmospheric carbon dioxide. Instead of the model’s previous ECS of 4°C (7.2°F), the CESM2 now shows an ECS of 5.3°C (9.5°F).

“It is imperative that the community work in a multi-model context to understand how plausible such a high ECS is,” said NCAR’s Andrew Gettelman and coauthors in a paper published last month in Geophysical Research Letters. They added: “What scares us is not that the CESM2 ECS is wrong…but that it might be right.”

At least eight of the global-scale models used by IPCC are showing upward trends in climate sensitivity, according to climate researcher Joëlle Gergis, an IPCC lead author and a scientific advisor to Australia’s Climate Council. Gergis wrote about the disconcerting trends in an August column for the Australian website The Monthly.

Researchers are now evaluating the models to see whether the higher ECS values are model artifacts or correctly depict a more dire prognosis.
I would note that every time that researchers update their models as a result of real world data, the predictions get more and more dire.

We are in for a huge world of hurt.

Do You Want Some Cheese to Go with That Whine?

Hypocrisy Much
Joaquin Castro is Presidential candidate Julian Castro's twin brother, he grew a beard so that they are not confused, and he just
tweeted the names of people who have donated the maximum to the Trump campaign, and the Republicans, and the press has completely lost their sh%$.

This information is publicly available on the web, and, as death threats and doxxing is central to right wing communication, the pot is calling the kettle back:
Joaquin Castro, a Democratic congressman from Texas and chairman of the presidential campaign of his twin brother, Julián, fired back on Tuesday after being castigated on social media for tweeting the names and occupations of his constituents who’d maxed out their donations to President Donald Trump.

His tweet contained a graphic titled “Who’s funding Trump?” and listed the names of 44 people who purportedly contributed the maximum amount allowed by campaign finance laws. Their occupations, which, like donor names, are public record, were also listed. Close to a dozen of the donors shown are retirees.

“Sad to see so many San Antonians as 2019 maximum donors to Donald Trump,” Castro wrote, naming local businesses whose owners were on the list. “Their contributions are fueling a campaign of hate that labels Hispanic immigrants as ‘invaders.’”

The graphic, which Castro indicated had originated with a Democratic activist group, was blasted out to the more than 27,000 followers of his congressional campaign account on Tuesday afternoon. It came as politicians’ loaded rhetoric has come under closer scrutiny after a mass shooting over the weekend in El Paso that killed 22 and wounded dozens of others. Trump’s anti-immigrant rhetoric, which mirrored language used by the suspected shooter in a racist manifesto, has loomed over the tragedy in the days since.
You are supporting a racist ratf%$#, in any decent society, opprobrium should be a consequence of this, you delicate snowflakes.