31 March 2019

Clearly, Market Forces Work in Public Education

It turns out that small education systems in California are balancing their books by approving any Charter school that comes to them, and then charging them fees for non-existent "oversight".

I'm not sure if this is charter schools bribing boards of education, or if it is boards of ed extorting charter schools, but it is indicative of the corruption inherent in the system:


The superintendent’s plan was born of necessity.

In the aftermath of the Great Recession, as tax revenue plummeted, small school districts across California quickly felt the pain. Many were already lean, where administrators did the work of two or three, and students were counted in tens, not thousands. The economic collapse threatened their very existence.

In Superintendent Brent Woodard’s rural district, which covered the towns of Acton and Agua Dulce about 45 miles north of Los Angeles, enrollment in 2013 had fallen by more than a quarter over five years. The area’s population had aged, the birthrate declined and some students were choosing to attend schools outside the district. Without increasing revenue or making harmful cuts, the district was facing insolvency and the threat of a state takeover.

In California’s charter school law, Woodard saw financial salvation.

………

Court records detail how — methodically and rapidly — the Acton-Agua Dulce Unified School District began approving new charter schools. The first year, there were two. The next: 11. By 2017, the district, which operates only three schools of its own, had authorized 17 charter schools.

Some were located outside the district’s geographical boundaries, in places like L.A., Santa Clarita and Pasadena. Some were based entirely online.

Each charter brought the district something it badly needed: money.

………
Across California, other small districts hatched similar plans as word spread that they could fix their financial problems by approving certain types of charters and then charging them for a range of services.
This sort of corruption is the rule, rather than the exception, and  it is a feature, not a bug.

Looting, and busting teachers' unions, are the real goals of the charter school movement, and so these activities should come as no surprise.

30 March 2019

My Heart Bleeds Borscht for These Delicate Snowflakes

It appears tha former staffers of the Worst Presidential Campaign Ever™ are feeling unappreciated after Pete Buttigieg called out their, and her, incompetence:
An aide to Hillary Clinton on Saturday slammed comments made in January by South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg that were critical of how Clinton ran her 2016 presidential campaign.

"This is indefensible," Clinton spokesman Nick Merrill wrote on Twitter Saturday. "@HillaryClinton ran on a belief in this country & the most progressive platform in modern political history. Trump ran on pessimism, racism, false promises, & vitriol. Interpret that how you want, but there are 66,000,000 people who disagree. Good luck."

Donald Trump got elected because, in his twisted way, he pointed out the huge troubles in our economy and our democracy,” he told the outlet in the interview. “At least he didn’t go around saying that America was already great, like Hillary did.”
The self importance, incompetence, and complete cluelessness of these idiots is completely stunning.

Seriously, Reality Outstrips My Wildest Hallucinations

At the confirmation hearing for David Bernhardt, Trump's nominee to replace the fabulously corrupt Ryan Zinke as Secretary of the Interior, a protester donned a "Creature from the Black Lagoon" mask:
A protester dressed as a “swamp creature” was escorted out of a confirmation hearing for Interior Secretary nominee David Bernhardt Thursday morning.

The protester remained seated for two hours before being escorted out of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee hearing.

A protester dressed as a “swamp creature” was escorted out of a confirmation hearing for Interior Secretary nominee David Bernhardt Thursday morning. The protester remained seated for two hours before being escorted out of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee hearing.

Bernhardt, a former oil and gas industry lobbyist, reportedly helped block the release of a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service study outlining the effects of pesticides on endangered species while working as a deputy Interior secretary under Ryan Zinke, according to The New York Times.

An Interior Department spokesman told the Times that Bernhardt's actions had been “governed solely by legitimate concerns regarding the legal sufficiency and policy.”
Seriously weird:

29 March 2019

It's Bank Failure Friday!!!

And we have the first savings institution closing of the of the year, CBS Employees Federal Credit Union, of Studio City, CA.

And yes, it IS that CBS, "CBS Employees Federal Credit Union provided financial services to employees of CBS, Inc., Mary Tyler Moore Productions, and CBS/MTM who work in Studio City, California.

Here is the Full NCUA list. of failures so far this year.

Elizabeth Warren Is Working the Iowa Caucuses Hard

Warren has proposed a Federal right to repair law for tractors, and proposed to breakup the large agribusiness monopolies.

This is a savvy move for her on a number of levels.

It plays well among Iowa farmers, it's good policies, and it is in line with her public personae, so it appears sincere.

It's a win-win-win.

Hands Out for Another Government Subsidy

This tweet is wrong on a number of levels:


The first, and most disturbing, thing is that self driving car people are proposing criminalizing walking to make up for their inability to deliver the promised product, a self driving car that can actually drive itself.

But there is a more important point: When demanding that pedestrians be criminalized, they are actually seeking a subsidy.

It's too difficult (read expensive) to develop a self-driving car that can deal with the real world, so they want tax dollars to enforce a world that is more convenient (cheaper) for them.

H/t Eschaton.

28 March 2019

I Can't Even



Seriously?

I have no words.

Where Not to Shop for Consumer Electronics and Office Supplies

Office Depot and a partner company tricked customers into buying unneeded tech support services by offering PC scans that gave fake results, according to the Federal Trade Commission. Consumers paid up to $300 each for unnecessary services.

The FTC yesterday announced that Office Depot and its software supplier, Support.com, have agreed to pay a total of $35 million in settlements with the agency. Office Depot agreed to pay $25 million while Support.com will pay the other $10 million. The FTC said it intends to use the money to provide refunds to wronged consumers.

Between 2009 and 2016, Office Depot and OfficeMax offered computer scans inside their stores using a "PC Health Check" software application created and licensed by Support.com.

"Defendants bilked unsuspecting consumers out of tens of millions of dollars from their use of the PC Health Check program to sell costly diagnostic and repair services," the FTC alleged in a complaint that accuses both companies of violating the FTC Act's prohibition against deceptive practices. As part of the settlements, neither company admitted or denied the FTC's allegations.

The FTC filed its complaint against the companies in US District Court for the Southern District of Florida, while at the same time unveiling the settlements with each company.

………

"[W]hile Office Depot claimed the program detected malware symptoms on consumers' computers, the actual results presented to consumers were based entirely on whether consumers answered 'yes' to four questions they were asked at the beginning of the PC Health Check program," the FTC said. "These included questions about whether the computer ran slow, received virus warnings, crashed often, or displayed pop-up ads or other problems that prevented the user from browsing the Internet."

PC Health Check "tricked those consumers into thinking their computers had symptoms of malware or actual 'infections,' even though the scan hadn't found any such issues," the FTC said in a blog post. "Many consumers who got false scan results bought computer diagnostic and repair services from Office Depot and OfficeMax that cost up to $300. Suppport.com completed the services and got a cut of each purchase."
Of course, as a part of the settlement, "Office Depot neither admits nor denies any of the allegations in the Complaint," which sucks wet farts from dead pigeons.

Seriously, it would be great if these settlement were required by law to have an admission of wrongdoing.

This is Intentional

The law requires that 2 of the 5 members of the Securities and Exchange Commission be from the opposing party, nominated by the leader of that party in the Senate.

Chuck Schumer has refused to nominate someone to fill the second seat.
Last summer, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer failed to name a candidate for a minority position on the Securities and Exchange Commission, and now Wall Street lawyers are celebrating a virtual amnesty that they think could last the rest of Donald Trump’s term.

In a remarkably candid editorial, five partners with the D.C. law firm Debevoise & Plimpton have confidently predicted that the SEC will refrain from imposing financial penalties on corporations for securities violations “for the remainder of the current presidential term.” This benefits the large trading and securities interests that employ Debevoise for legal defense work. The editorial amounts to Debevoise informing their clients that the coast is clear.

The reason for the expected decrease in enforcement has to do with a fatal delay by Schumer to name a minority commissioner and the Trump administration’s unprecedented exploitation of this mistake.

The SEC is currently operating with four commissioners, three of whom were appointed by Republicans. Like many independent commissions, two of the SEC’s five commissioners must not be members of the party in the White House. But Kara Stein, a Democratic commissioner, ended her tenure January 2, and that seat remains vacant. Allison Lee, the former Stein aide preferred by Senate Democrats as her replacement, has yet to be formally nominated, though her name was recommended several months ago. Bloomberg reported March 20 that Lee will be announced “in the coming weeks,” though they also reported that last August.

The Debevoise partners, whose clients include numerous big bank and securities firms, explain that this imbalance will come as good news for companies looking to break securities laws. “Because it is likely that this four-person commission will remain in place for the remainder of the current presidential term, we may soon see fewer corporate penalties in financial reporting cases and, if recent votes are indicative, potentially more broadly,” they write in an analysis for Law360, a trade publication for the legal community.

“It’s absolutely astonishing,” said David Segal of Demand Progress, which has closely tracked personnel moves under the Trump administration. “Trump’s violation of the longstanding norm that minority-party commissioners will secure nominations and fair confirmation processes is so severe that white-collar defense firms are now advising clients that laws likely won’t be enforced against them for the rest of his term.”

It would be highly unusual for a president to hold vacant a commission seat intended for the opposing party for two years. But critics like Segal place some of the blame on Schumer for failing to submit Lee’s name for consideration when there was an open Republican seat on the SEC last summer. Typically, commission slots like this move in pairs, giving Democrats and Republicans a reason to vote for the nominee from the other party.
Chuck Schumer is bought and paid for by Wall Street, and he doesn't make unforced errors like this.

He did this because he's opposed to meaningful enforcement actions against the Banksters.

Headline of the Day

Betsy DeVos Outraged That Her Own Budget Makes Her Look Like a Monster
Vanity Fair
You are proposing kicking disabled children to the curb.

There is no way to spin that favorably.

You are an evil and contemptible incompetent, and a blight on the human race.

27 March 2019

A Good Start

The Guggenheim Museum has announced that it will no longer take donations from the Sackler family, because they have revealed themselves to be little more than amoral drug pushers:
The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York said on Friday that it did not plan to accept future gifts from the family of Mortimer D. Sackler, a philanthropist and former board member whose money has been met with growing unease in the art world as his family’s pharmaceutical interests have been linked to the opioid crisis.

The Guggenheim’s decision was announced one day after Tate, which runs some of the most important art museums in Britain, announced a similar move, saying that “in the present circumstances we do not think it right to seek or accept further donations from the Sacklers.”

Earlier this week, Britain’s National Portrait Gallery also spurned the Sackler family, saying it would not accept a long-discussed $1.3 million donation from one of the family’s foundations, the London-based Sackler Trust.

The Guggenheim announced its decision on Friday in a brief statement that did not mention the opioid crisis or Mr. Sackler’s past on the museum’s board. A museum spokeswoman declined on Friday night to explain its rationale for the move or its decision-making process.

………

“No contributions from the Sackler family have been received since 2015,” the statement said. “No additional gifts are planned, and the Guggenheim does not plan to accept any gifts.”

………

The decision by a series of leading institutions to spurn gifts by the Sacklers, major donors on both sides of the Atlantic, is a potent sign of the deepening disquiet within the art world over the family’s connection to the opioid crisis.

………

Last month, Daniel Weiss, the president and chief executive of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, said in a statement that it valued its longstanding relationship with the Sackler family, whose name is on the wing housing the museum’s showpiece Temple of Dendur.

But he said the museum was “currently engaging in a further review of our detailed gift acceptance policies, and we will have more to report in due course.”
It's nice that the Sacklers are being shunned, as they should be, but I still want to see the Billy Ray Valentine solution.*

*The best way you hurt rich people is by turning them into poor people.

Historical Tweet of the Day



The translation reads:
Cartelization, monopolization in all sectors of the economy, the arrival of bank capital in all areas, from television to retail, the export of capital and the use of mercenaries to protect it - this, of course, is not at all what Lenin wrote about in his long-lost relevance brochure.
This reminds me of a joke in Russia from the 1990s, "Everything the Soviets ever told us about Communism was a lie. Unfortunately, everything they told us about capitalism was true."

Bernie Sanders is a Bad Ass

Republican opposition researchers have accused Bernie Sanders of wanting to do away with the health insurance companies.

Sanders' response:



I look forward to voting for him in 2020.

Libertarian Paradise? More Like Somolia.


It turns out that Ayn Rand buddy Alan Greenspan's adage that that there needs to be laws against fraud because, "If [someone] was committing fraud, the customer would figure it out and stop doing business with him," are just a bit too rosy:
There have been suspicions for a while that the markets are overinflated. In fact, fears of market manipulation have held up regulatory approval for a number of proposed Bitcoin exchange-traded funds (ETFs), frustrating many enthusiasts who believe that the eventual approval of ETFs will spur broader adoption of the technology by investors.

Now, in a twist, a company hoping to list an ETF has reported to US financial regulators that around 95% of all Bitcoin trading volume has been faked by exchanges.

Bitwise, a crypto-asset management firm, analyzed 81 exchanges, finding that 71 of them exhibited patterns that reflected artificial trading volume. One way to manufacture volume is via a technique called wash trading, in which someone simultaneously buys and sells the same asset. Although the exchanges in the study reported a combined $6 billion in daily volume during four days this month, Bitwise determined that only $273 million of it was real.

………

Why would exchanges dishonestly inflate their volumes? One incentive may be to attract ICO (initial coin offering) projects that want to be listed on exchanges that are facilitating lots of trading. To list such projects, some exchanges charge fees that can be as high as a few million dollars.
When Satoshi Nakamoto and the rest of the his merry band of crypto-libertarians conceived of their regulation free paradise, this was inevitable.

The regulatory system they so disdain was developed over nearly 500 years of trial and error dealing with frauds, charlatans, and incompetents, but they think that they can do away with the whole of history, and the very nature of humanity to create a system from a blank slate.

Linkage

I remember when this was a joke video from Funny or Die.  Now it is real:

26 March 2019

The Bright Side to Brexit

A controversial directive introducing sweeping changes to copyright enforcement across Europe has been approved by the European parliament, despite ferocious campaigning led by Google and internet freedom activists.

The European copyright directive, voted in by 348 MEPs to 274 against, is best known for two provisions it contains: articles 11 and 13, referred to as the “link tax” and “upload filter”, respectively, by opponents.

The latter has been the main focus of campaigning. It requires websites that host user-generated content to take active measures to prevent copyrighted material from being uploaded without permission, under the penalty of being held liable for their users’ copyright infringement.

Article 11, the “link tax”, includes new requirements aimed at making companies like Google pay licensing fees to publications such as newspapers whose work gets aggregated in services like Google News.

Supporters say it prevents multinational companies from freeloading on the work of others without paying for it, but critics argue that it effectively imposes a requirement for paying a fee to link to a website.

Publishers and artists have pushed for the clauses, arguing that they would put an end to widespread infringement on sites such as YouTube and Instagram, while companies including Google and Amazon have attacked the measure as unworkable in practice, and overbearing to the extent that it may force them to close services in Europe.
When the link tax hit Spain, Google stopped carrying Spanish news links, and Spanish media has yet to recover from the loss of viewers.

The automated filters called for in Article 13 don't work. 

They filter out content that is not covered by copyright.

This is going to be a complete clusterf%$#.

Not the Onion

Rep. Mo Brooks (R-Ala.) took to the House floor on Monday to portray President Trump’s detractors as Nazis but ended up slurring them using an anti-Semitic conspiracy theory drawn verbatim from Adolf Hitler’s writings.

It’s 2019, and the Führer’s magnum opus, “Mein Kampf,” has become a playbook for political combat in Congress, at the very moment that Trump is calling the Democrats “anti-Jewish. ”

Brooks, a five-term Republican, accused Democrats and members of the media of propagating a “big lie” about collusion. The expression was coined by Hitler to describe how Jews used their “unqualified capacity for falsehood” to blame a top German military commander for the country’s losses in World War I. A lie could be so big, Hitler claimed, that it perversely defied disbelief.

It was unclear if Brooks grasped that by leveling charges of the “big lie,” he had inverted his own analogy, making Democrats the equivalent of interwar German and Austrian Jews. He set out to compare the other side to fascists, but he was the one employing a fascist smear — one that, ironically, came to define Nazi propaganda.
To quote Molly Ivins, "It probably sounded better in the original German."

Boeing's Problems Metastasize


I am sure that the operators of aircraft are going over their procedures and training as we speak:
Boeing’s 767-based tankers use a version of the pitch augmentation system that grounded the 737 Max 8 fleet, the manufacturer and U.S. Air Force officials say.

The disclosure provides a new data point in the unfolding story of how Boeing installed the Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System (MCAS) on the narrowbody airliner fleet.

Both the KC-767 and KC-46 fleets delivered to air forces in Italy, Japan and the U.S. rely on the MCAS to adjust for pitch trim changes during refueling operations.

………

By 2011, Boeing had already delivered KC-767s to Italy and Japan fitted with the first version of MCAS. The use of the system then spread as Boeing won the Air Force’s KC-46 contract in February and launched the 737 Max 8 in August. ………

The U.S. Air Force has launched a review of flight procedures for the KC-46, a spokeswoman says.

“The USAF does not fly the models of aircraft involved in the recent accidents, but we are taking this opportunity to exercise due diligence by reviewing our procedures and training as part of our normal and ongoing review process,” she says.
Oops.

The UN Plans to Set up a Concentration Camp for Rohingya

This sort of sh%$ is why am not a fan of civil society groups.

Between their providing sanctuary for genocidal maniacs in Rwanda, and their agreeing to staff Serbian detention camps in Kosovo, I've never been impressed.

I understand the need to provide aid, if you aren't, then you have no job, but not when it makes you complicit in ethnic cleansing.

I understant the conflict inherent in their role: If they don't supply aid, they don't have a job, but the UN proposal to basically maroon Rohingya refugees on a barren and flood prone island int he Bay of Bengal is simply indefensible:
Human rights groups have reacted with horror to reports of United Nations draft plans to help relocate thousands of Rohingya refugees from Bangladeshi camps to a barren, flood-prone island in the Bay of Bengal.

A document drawn up this month by the World Food Programme (WFP), the UN's food aid arm, and seen by Reuters, has revealed how the agency supplied the Bangladeshi government with detailed plans of how it could provide for thousands of Rohingya being transported to the island on a voluntary basis.

Dhaka has long insisted that it is unable cope with the dramatic influx of refugees to camps in Cox’s Bazar since a brutal crackdown by the Burmese military in August 2017, said by UN investigators to have been conducted with “genocidal intent”, prompted some 730,000 Rohingya to flee their homes.

Relocation to the uninhabited, remote island of Bhasan Char has been touted as a solution to chronic overcrowding. But many Rohingya are fearful to go and human rights experts warn that the move to an island made of silt and vulnerable to frequent cyclones could spark another crisis.

The revelation of draft WFP plans, including a timeline and a budget for how the agency and its partners "may facilitate the identification, staging, forward movement, reception, and sustainment of refugees" on Bhasan Char, was met with outrage on Monday.

“What the hell is the WFP thinking? Bangladesh’s plan to move Rohingya refugees to Bhasan Char looks like a human rights and humanitarian disaster in the making so UN agencies should be talking about how to stop this ill-considered scheme, not facilitate it,” said Phil Robertson, deputy Asia director for Human Rights Watch.
This is being complicit in the Myanmar genocide of the Rohingya.

25 March 2019

Tweet(s) of the Day

Yes, it's two tweets, because the first one is brilliant snark, and the 2nd one explains the the problems with the obsession with the Mueller investigation.

I could not decide which to post, so why not both:



H/t naked capitalism

Corrupt, Incompetent, and Stupid Is No Way to Go through Life, Son

I am referring, of course to Zuckerberg's monster, AKA Facebook, where their vaunted legions of programmers were unable (or unwilling) to take down videos of the Christchurch mosque shooting:
Facebook admitted, at best nonchalantly, on Thursday that its super-soaraway AI algorithms failed to automatically detect the live-streamed video of last week's Christchurch mass murders.

The antisocial giant has repeatedly touted its fancy artificial intelligence and machine learning techniques as the way forward for tackling the spread of harmful content on its platform. Image-recognition software can’t catch everything, however, not even with Silicon Valley's finest and highly paid engineers working on the problem, so Facebook continues to rely on, surprise surprise, humans to pick up the slack in moderation.

There’s a team of about 15,000 content moderators who review, and allow or delete, piles and piles of psychologically damaging images and videos submitted to Facebook on an hourly if not minute-by-minute basis. The job can be extremely mentally distressing, so the ultimate goal is to eventually hand that work over to algorithms. But there’s just not enough intelligence in today’s AI technology to match cube farms of relatively poorly paid contractors.

………

Facebook has blamed the failure of its AI software to spot the video as it was broadcast, and soon after when it was shared across its platform, on a lack of training data. Today's neural networks need to inspect thousands or millions of examples to learn patterns in the data to begin identifying things like pornographic or violent content.
If I were a cynic, I could conclude Facebook probably wanted to keep the video, just to get the clicks and ad revenue.

Wait ……… I am a cynic, and my guess is that Facebook milked this for all it's worth.

The Return of Pierre Laval

I am referring, of course, to Emmanuel Macron, who just gloated that police fracturing a 73 year old woman's skull might beat some sense into her.

Manu is arguably the most contemptible politician in France, if not in all of Europe, and I am including Le Pen, Farage, Wilders, Hofer, Berlusconi, and Orbán on that list.

What a repulsive excuse for a human being.

2 Face Palms Here

The RIAA is claiming that an ISP is inducing music piracy in court.

It appears that the amazingly high speeds offered by the provider are inducing piracy.  (facepalm 1)

Face Palm 2
The provider that they are accusing of  "dangerously fast" internet?  Charter Communications.

Charter communications is so bad that they WISH that they had Comcast, a company so reviled that it had to take the alias Xfinity.
The music industry is suing Charter Communications, claiming that the cable Internet provider profits from music piracy by failing to terminate the accounts of subscribers who illegally download copyrighted songs. The lawsuit also complains that Charter helps its subscribers pirate music by selling packages with higher Internet speeds.

While the act of providing higher Internet speeds clearly isn't a violation of any law, ISPs can be held liable for their users' copyright infringement if the ISPs repeatedly fail to disconnect repeat infringers.

………

The music labels' complaint also seems to describe the basic acts of providing Internet service and advertising high speeds as nefarious:

Many of Charter's customers are motivated to subscribe to Charter's service because it allows them to download music and other copyrighted content—including unauthorized content—as efficiently as possible. Accordingly, in its consumer marketing material, including material directed to Colorado customers, Charter has touted how its service enables subscribers to download and upload large amounts of content at "blazing-fast Internet speeds." Charter has told existing and prospective customers that its high-speed service enables subscribers to "download just about anything instantly," and subscribers have the ability to "download 8 songs in 3 seconds." Charter has further told subscribers that its Internet service "has the speed you need for everything you do online." In exchange for this service, Charter has charged its customers monthly fees ranging in price based on the speed of service.

That paragraph from the music labels' complaint merely describes the standard business model of Internet providers. There is nothing illegal about offering higher Internet speeds in exchange for higher prices.
But the labels also allege that Charter's lax approach to copyright enforcement helped it earn more revenue, in part because piracy supposedly inspired consumers to subscribe to faster Internet tiers.
So basically, they are suing Charter for being an ISP, and they are suing Charter for being too fast.

If I didn't know the RIAA, I would be convinced that they were punking the judge.

Linkage


Perhaps the best analysis I've seen of Brexit, and it is (nominally) comedy.

Spoiler: it is a natural consequence of government not serving the public.

24 March 2019

It's Worse Than a Crime, It Was a Mistake

We now have a a summary of Robert Mueller's report.

It's pretty much what most people who weren't trying to alibi their own incompetence in 2016, and the people who melted down like Mort Sahl did in 1963 (I'm talking to you, Maddow).

Basically, there is little evidence of direct coordination between the Trump campaign and the Kremlin, but that there are concerns about obstruction of justice.

So, something may yet come of this, but something may not.

The bigger picture, though, is that the Republican wing of the Democratic Party, hitched its wagon to "Russiagate", in order to ignore the pervasive incompetence the party establishment.

Now, it appears that Trump, who is almost certainly both mobbed up and a bunco artist, has effectively been immunized from any accusations of wrongdoing for the 2020 election.

This was a big unforced political error.

My Heart Bleeds Borscht

Bayer is now facing major blow-back over from its acquisition of Monsanto.

Evil is as evil does:
Bayer insists that glyphosate-based weedkillers like its Roundup and Ranger Pro products pose no health risk to the farm workers and gardeners who use them around the world. For one particular group of people, however, the substance has proven highly toxic: Bayer’s own shareholders.

Shares in the German pharmaceuticals and chemicals group took another plunge on Wednesday, after a San Francisco jury found that there was a direct causal link between glyphosate and cancer. The product in question was Roundup, the weedkiller acquired by Bayer as part of its $63bn takeover of US seeds and chemicals giant Monsanto last year.

The latest legal setback appeared to take investors by surprise, sending Bayer shares down more than 10 per cent. Since last August, when another California jury ordered Bayer to pay $289m in damages in a similar case, the group’s shares have fallen by more than a third — wiping almost €25bn from its market value. As they contemplate the ever-growing list of glyphosate cases pending in US courts — 11,200 at the latest count — investors have every reason to feel glum.
If you lie with dogs, you get up with fleas, and those glum investors are getting what they deserve.

As Goes California………

The US Supreme Court has refused to hear an appeal meaning that California truck drivers classified as owner-operators must be reclassified as direct employees.

This is a very big deal, not just in the trucking industry, but also in terms of the "Sharing Economy" (Lyft, Uber, etc):
The U.S. Supreme Court rejected an appeal by the California Trucking Association on Monday in a case that could classify tens of thousands of California truck drivers as employees of freight-hauling companies, with the right to minimum wages, overtime pay and reimbursement for business expenses.

The drivers sign up with freight haulers under standard contracts that describe them as “owner-operators” of their trucks. The Trucking Association and its members contend those drivers are independent contractors, paid at a specific rate and responsible for their own expenses.

More than 400 of the drivers have challenged their classification before the state Department of Industrial Relations, which has found nearly all of them to be employees rather than contractors. Other drivers have joined in class-action suits against trucking companies, seeking employee status.

California labor officials have relied on a 1989 state Supreme Court ruling that classified workers as employees if the company had substantial control over the work they did, and that put the burden of proof on the company to show contractor status.

Last April the court, in a case involving package delivery drivers, said a company must prove workers are running their own independent businesses to classify them as contractors. Labor unions are backing legislation that would affirm that ruling as state law.

In federal court, the Trucking Association argued that a 1994 federal deregulation law prohibited California from determining the drivers’ employment status. That law bars states from enforcing any statutes or regulations “related to a price, route or service of any motor carrier ... with respect to transportation of property.”

………

But the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the state regulation in September and said the classification of drivers as employees or contractors did not regulate a company’s prices, routes or services.
The use of independent contractor status as a way of evading one's responsibility as an employers is wrong, and it should be ended.

23 March 2019

What is DARPA's Endgame Here?


Nuclear thermal rockets typically have around twice the Isp (basically fuel economy) of chemical rockets, on the order of 800—1000, which is a lot less than than electric propulsion, which is typically ten times that of chemical rockets, but the available thrust produced is far greater, 100-1000 kilo-newtons for nuclear thermal vs. 10-500 milli-newtons for the various electric rockets.

For longer missions, Mars and the further, it's clear that electric propulsion is better and faster, so the only applications that I see are some sort of manned moon base, or an as yet undisclosed military mission:
DARPA plans to demonstrate a nuclear thermal propulsion (NTP) system that can be assembled on orbit to expand U.S. operating presence in cislunar space, according to the Pentagon advanced research agency’s fiscal 2020 budget request.

The agency is seeking $10 million in 2020 to begin a new program, Reactor On A Rocket (ROAR), to develop a high-assay low-enriched uranium (HALEU) propulsion system. “The program will initially develop the use of additive manufacturing approaches to print NTP fuel elements,” DARPA’s budget document says.

“In addition, the program will investigate on-orbit assembly techniques (AM) to safely assemble the individual core element subassemblies into a full demonstration system configuration, and will perform a technology demonstration,” the document says.

In a nuclear thermal rocket, propellant such as liquid hydrogen is heated to high temperature in a nuclear reactor then expanded through a rocket nozzle to produce thrust. Propulsive efficiency, or specific impulse, can be twice that of a chemical rocket.
Given the advances in electric propulsion, I do not see where nuclear thermal will have an advantage, except possibly for supplying a moon base or some as yet undisclosed military program.

Don't Give to the DCCC

I've mentioned on many times that the DCCC (Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee) does a piss-poor job of supporting real Democrats when they run for Congress.

Now the DCCC is saying that it will blacklist any political consultants who work for someone challenging an incumbent:
The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee warned political strategists and vendors Thursday night that if they support candidates mounting primary challenges against incumbent House Democrats, the party will cut them off from business.

The news was officially announced Friday morning, paired with a statement on the committee’s commitment to diversity in consulting — “which, obviously, is just to give themselves cover,” a Democratic political consultant who learned of it Thursday told The Intercept. The consultant asked for anonymity given their relationship with the DCCC, and the party organization’s professed strategy of blacklisting firms that don’t fall in line.

To apply to become a preferred vendor in the 2020 cycle, firms must agree to a set of standards that includes agreeing not to work with anyone challenging an incumbent.

“I understand the above statement that the DCCC will not conduct business with, nor recommend to any of its targeted campaigns, any consultant that works with an opponent of a sitting Member of the House Democratic Caucus,” the form reads.
If you make campaign donations to Democrats, it is likely that the DCCC has contacted you.

Just say no.

Any Californians Want to File a Report to the Medical Board?

A single San Diego doctor wrote nearly a third of the area’s medical vaccination exemptions since 2015, according to an investigation by the local nonprofit news organization Voice of San Diego. The revelation follows growing concern that anti-vaccine parents are flocking to doctors willing to write dubious medical exemptions to circumvent the state’s vaccination requirements. Since California banned exemptions based on personal beliefs in 2015, medical exemptions have tripled in the state. The rise has led some areas to have vaccination rates below the levels necessary to curb the spread of vaccine-preventable illnesses. Moreover, it signals a worrying trend for other states working to crack down on exemptions and thwart outbreaks of vaccine-preventable diseases. There are currently six outbreaks of measles across the country.

Medical vaccination exemptions are intended for the relatively few people who have medical conditions that prevent them from receiving vaccines safely. That includes people who are on long-term immunosuppressive therapy or those who are immunocompromised, such as those with HIV or those who have had severe, life-threatening allergic reactions (e.g. anaphylaxis) to previous immunizations. Such patients typically receive medical exemptions incidentally during their medical care. But some doctors are providing evaluations specifically to determine if a patient qualifies for an exemption and granting exemptions using criteria not based on medical evidence. Some doctors are even charging fees for these questionable exemption evaluations—including the doctor in San Diego, Tara Zandvliet.

Zandvliet’s practice website specifically lists “Evaluation for Medical Exemption to Vaccination” as a service provided. The website also lays out the conditions and diseases she considers as qualifying for a medical exemption. The list reaches far beyond what medical experts say are acceptable reasons for exempting someone from life-saving immunizations. The list includes having a family history of bee-sting allergies, type I diabetes, or simply hives. After a reporter with the Voice of San Diego questioned some of the conditions listed, Zandvliet removed three from the list: asthma, eczema, and psoriasis.

“I have found that a few of the diseases on my list seem to invite misinterpretation more than others, and so I have deleted them,” she told the outlet in an email.

Zandvliet charges $180 for the evaluation, and her practice does not accept insurance.

Since 2015, Zandvliet has issued 141 of the 486 total medical exemptions granted in the San Diego Unified School District. After Zandvliet, the second highest number of medical exemptions granted by a single doctor was 26. The Voice of San Diego noted that Zandvliet’s practice is listed on several websites as being friendly to anti-vaccine parents.
She is renting her medical license to antivaxxers.

The solutions is to pull her medical license.

Mark Zuckerberg is a Lying Sack of Excrement, Part VMCMLXIX


This is not a surprise.

All evidence indicates that, at least until it got caught, Facebook did not care about how its data was used until it became a public relations debacle, because they still got their money:
Facebook knew about Cambridge Analytica's dodgy data-gathering practices at least four months before they was exposed in news reports, according to internal FB emails.

Crucially, the staff memos contradict public assurances made by Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg as well as sworn testimony offered by the company.

Those emails remain under a court seal, at Facebook's request, although the Attorney General of Washington DC, Karl Racine, is seeking to have them revealed to all as part of his legal battle against the antisocial media giant.

Racine's motion to unseal [PDF] the files this month stated "an email exchange between Facebook employees discussing how Cambridge Analytica (and others) violated Facebook’s policies" includes sufficient detail to raise the question of whether Facebook has – yet again – given misleading or outright false statements.

The redacted request reads: "The jurisdictional facts in the document shows that as early as September 2015, a DC-based Facebook employee warned the company that Cambridge Analytica was a “[REDACTED]” asked other Facebook employees to “[REDACTED]” and received responses that Cambridge Analytica’s data-scraping practices were “[REDACTED]” with Facebook’s platform policy."

It goes on: "The Document also indicates that months later in December 2015, on the same day an article was published by The Guardian on Cambridge Analytica, a Facebook employee reported that she had '[REDACTED].'"

The reason this is critical is because Facebook has always claimed it learned of Cambridge Analytica's misuse of people's profile information – data obtained via a third-party quiz app built by Aleksandr Kogan – from press reports. Zuckerberg said in a statement more than two years later: "In 2015, we learned from journalists at The Guardian that Kogan had shared data from his app with Cambridge Analytica. It is against our policies for developers to share data without people's consent, so we immediately banned Kogan's app from our platform."

Zuck omitted, incidentally, that Facebook threatened to sue the newspaper if it published its story. Facebook also admitted today that its executives have claimed the same thing as their boss under oath – that the social network only learned about the data misuse from press reports.

………

The truth is that Facebook is a train wreck with executives encouraged to do whatever they wanted in order to secure Facebook's position in the digital economy and bring in revenue, regardless of laws or ethics or morals or anything else.

Its work culture is fundamentally broken with top executives making it plain that the company will obfuscate, mislead, block and bully before they even consider telling the truth – and that culture attracts more of the same.
Even by the notoriously lax ethical standards of the tech industry, Facebook is a particularly bad actor.

It's Mueller Time

So, Bob Mueller has released his report to the US Attorney General, but the rest of us mere mortals have no clue as to what is in it.

Many people are trying to guess what is in there.

My advice is to wait.

We aren't even getting leaks yet.

22 March 2019

Interesting Data Point

The press has been saying a lot about Beto O'Rourke's fundraising in the first 24 hours since his announcement, but it should be noted that it came from far fewer donors than Bernie Sanders:
Beto O’Rourke announced additional details Wednesday about the massive fundraising haul in the first day of his presidential campaign, showing that while he may have beat rival Bernie Sanders in total money raised, Sanders had the advantage in two key metrics.

After a campaign stop here, O’Rourke told reporters that he received “more than 128,000 unique contributions” in the first 24 hours, with an average donation size of $47. O'Rourke's campaign later corrected the average donation size, saying it was actually $48. By comparison, Sanders’ campaign said its first-day haul came from over 223,000 individual donors for an average contribution size of $27.

………

O’Rourke first announced Monday that he had raised $6.1 million in the opening 24 hours of his campaign. That figure was $5.9 million for Sanders.
The difference in averages actually is more significant than one would initially think.

Think about the case of Jeff Bezos walking into a bar.

On average, everyone in the bar would now be a billionaire.

We already have reports of big money bundlers raising Wall Street cash for Beto, so it's not unreasonable to surmise that most of his money came from (perhaps) 10% of his donors.

This means two things:  His support is not broad, and his donors may already be running into campaign finance law limits on donations.

I Would Suggest Changing Your Name to Rectal Bleeding, or Pedophile, or Alex Jones

It appears that, because of the poor reputation of their members, American Cable Association changing its name to America's Communications Association

Kind of like when Comcast became Xfinity, or when Blackwater became Xe became Academi, or when Nazis became the Alt-Right.

When your behavior is so reprehensible that you have to change your name, perhaps you should be looking at something more substantial than just changing the optics:
Cable lobbyists don't want to be called cable lobbyists anymore. The nation's top two cable industry lobby groups have both dropped the word "cable" from their names. But the lobby groups' core mission—the fight against regulation of cable networks—remains unchanged.

The National Cable & Telecommunications Association (NCTA) got things started in 2016 when it renamed itself NCTA-The Internet & Television Association, keeping the initialism but dropping the words it stood for. The group was also known as the National Cable Television Association between 1968 and 2001.

The American Cable Association (ACA) is the nation's other major cable lobby. While NCTA represents the biggest companies like Comcast and Charter, the ACA represents small and mid-size cable operators. Today, the ACA announced that it is now called America's Communications Association or "ACA Connects," though the ACA's website still uses the americancable.org domain name.
Seriously, there is a reason that everyone hates your clients .

21 March 2019

Wrong

It looks like the usual suspects are trying to sell a bloated defense budget as being a net job creator.

In this case, it's Peter Navarro, assistant to the president and the director of the Office of Trade and Manufacturing Policy, and in his New York Times OP/ED, he extols how, "the Trump defense budget is helping to create good manufacturing jobs at good wages."

Those jobs cost on the order of 10 times as much, and at the end of they day, we have nothing.

To quote Ike Eisenhower, these tanks, and guns, and bombs are "A theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed."

You could get 5-10 times the number of jobs spending money on repairing our decaying infrastructure, or by working on projects to get new less polluting power on the grid, or on healthcare and early education.

But that, of course, is socialism, so flushing money down a Desert Tan toilet it is, I guess.

New Zealand Fixes Things

In less than a week, they have banned semi-auto weapons, less than a week after the Christchurch massacre:
New Zealand has banned military-style semiautomatic weapons and assault rifles, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced Thursday, just six days after attacks on two mosques in Christchurch that left 50 people dead.

A buyback program will be launched to take existing weapons out of circulation, and gun owners who do not comply will be subject to fines, she said.

“On 15 March, our history changed forever. Now, our laws will, too,” Ardern said. “We are announcing action today on behalf of all New Zealanders to strengthen our gun laws and make our country a safer place.”

The gunman who attacked the Al Noor and Linwood mosques here Friday used AR-15 rifles in the worst mass shooting New Zealand has ever seen. In addition to the 50 killed, 40 people were injured.

New Zealand has a tradition of hunting and shooting as sport, but there is no legal provision to own weapons for self-defense.

Ardern has said there is no reason for New Zealanders to own these kinds of weapons, and there is broad consensus on that argument.

The center-right opposition National Party supported the ban. Its leader, Simon Bridges, said it was “imperative in the national interest to keep New Zealanders safe.”

The changes mean that the weapons will now be removed from circulation.

After the return period has passed, those who continue to own them will face a $2,700 fine or up to three years imprisonment.
This is what it looks like when you don't have an ammosexual lobby poisoning any discussion of gun reform like the United States.

Good on them.

What You've Just Said Was One of the Most Insanely Idiotic Things I Have Ever Heard


and May God Have Mercy on Your Soul
The above Billy Madison quote is directed at Katie Wheelbarger, acting assistant secretary of defense for international security affairs.

She is a part of the Pentagon freakout over Turkey buying S-400 SAMs from Russia.

As I have noted before, this butt-hurt is about US defense contractors not geting their vigorish, and then not distributing a cut to Pentagon Generals through post-retirement sinecures.

There are claims of security issues, but given that US allies in NATO are currently operating the nearly as capable S-300 system, Bulgaria, Greece, and Slovakia, I'm calling bullsh%$.

Katie, however, turned the knobs on stupidity and hypocrisy up to eleven with when she said this:
“The S-400 is a computer. The F-35 is a computer. You don’t hook your computer to your adversary’s computer and that’s basically what we would be doing,” Katie Wheelbarger, acting assistant secretary of defense for international security affairs, told Reuters.
Undoubtedly the S-400 has ESM capabilities, and as such it could read emissions from the F-35 (as could more extensive installations in Russia) but the idea that somehow, because they both have chips in them, the S-400 could hack into the F-35 is beyond brain dead.

I have it on good authority that you can tell when Katie Wheelbarger has been using your computer, because there is Wite-Out® on the screen.

Why an Impeachment Investigation is Merited

Given the current theory that a Republican (and only a Republican) President is unlimited in their powers by virtue of the unitary executive theory, the fact that, "Trump White House Lawyers Plan To Tell House Judiciary to ‘Go F*ck Themselves’," the only way to pierce the veil of executive impunity is via an impeachment investigation, since the Constitution unequivocally pierces executive privilege:
President Trump’s White House attorneys are preparing to tell a key congressional panel investigating the administration “to go f%$# themselves,” as a person familiar with the deliberations characterized them to The Daily Beast.

According to three sources familiar with the situation, the White House counsel’s office, currently headed by Pat Cipollone, was still, as of Thursday morning, in the process of drafting a letter responding to the House Judiciary Committee’s request for a wide array of documents.

The documents requested by the Democratic-run committee are part of the sweeping and long-telegraphed inquiry into a range of Trump administration and Trump-associate activities earlier this month.

Cipollone’s letter response to the committee is essentially similar to one he sent to the Oversight, Foreign Affairs, and Intelligence committees, which Politico reported on Thursday. Those committees, along with the Ways and Means panel, coordinate regularly over their complementary investigations into the administration.

The formal response to House Judiciary, these sources say, is expected to raise executive-privilege concerns and initially withhold any documents that the committee has requested. The response from the Trump White House is already several days overdue, per the Monday deadline set by Democratic lawmakers on the committee.

It’s the latest sign that Trump and his team are gearing up for a protracted war with the Democrats on the committee. Representatives for the committee did not immediately respond to a Daily Beast inquiry.
Beginning an impeachment investigation in order to forestall any ratf%$#ing by an increasingly corrupt and politicized federal judiciar would allows Democrats to thread a political needle.

They would be able to show a base that is clamoring for impeachment that they are willing to move, while reassuring a Democratic Party establishment that has lost anything resembling a set of cojones, that this is just a pretense to allow them to conduct real investigations.

Just do it.

20 March 2019

It is Purim

So I may be blogging drunk, which means that I will likely be even less coherent than usual.

I know what you are asking yourself, "How could he get any LESS coherent?"

However, I promise that even if I drink so much that I cannot tell the difference between Mordecai and Haman, I will be able to tell the difference between Donald Trump and a fence post, with the latter being more honest, more intelligent, and more attractive.

Kremlinology is Difficult with People This Evil

I am referring, of course, to the House of Saud, where it appears that what appears to be a superficial clipping of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman's wings by his father:
The heir to the Saudi throne has not attended a series of high-profile ministerial and diplomatic meetings in Saudi Arabia over the last fortnight and is alleged to have been stripped of some of his financial and economic authority, the Guardian has been told.

The move to restrict, if only temporarily, the responsibilities of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman is understood to have been revealed to a group of senior ministers earlier last week by his father, King Salman.

The king is said to have asked Bin Salman to be at this cabinet meeting, but he failed to attend.

………

The relationship between the king and his son has been under scrutiny since the murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, which was alleged to have been ordered by Prince Mohammed and provoked international condemnation of the crown prince. This has been denied by the Saudi government.

………

But while most observers expect Prince Mohammed to accede to the throne, there are some signs that the king is seeking to rein in his controversial son at a time when Saudi Arabia is under the spotlight.
I don't know what this all means.

I simply do not have a frame of reference:  The Saudi court is simply to venal and too unconcerned about their subjects' well being for me to understand their approach to governance.

19 March 2019

I Will Use Their Tears to Season My Supper

New York City real estate brokers, despondent over it becoming more for them to profit off money from drug dealer, despots, and corrupt businessmen are saying that the so called "Pied-a-Terre Tax" is "class warfare" on their clients:
High-end real estate brokers in New York worry that foreign second-home buyers are feeling under assault from all sides and may end up going elsewhere. Already wary of President Donald Trump’s anti-immigrant rhetoric, they now see a planned tax on absentee owners as a swipe from the political left.

“The international buyer has basically gone away over the past two years,” said real estate broker Martin Eiden at Compass, who sells about $50 million of residential property a year. “There’s only so much that people will take -- they’ll either go somewhere else or they’ll just get a hotel room.”

The proposed tax would apply to properties above $5 million owned by non-residents. Governor Andrew Cuomo says the state needs it to pay for transit fixes. Mayor Bill de Blasio says the rich should pay more, especially those who pay no income taxes while full-time residents bear the costs of services that make New York City so attractive to foreigners and out-of-staters.
These people are paying enormous amounts of cash for properties where they spend a week a year because they are laundering money.

It makes no economic sense otherwise:
Properties over $5 million would be subject to the tax surcharge, starting at 0.5 percent of the home value to a maximum rate of 4 percent on homes above $25 million. A part-time owner of a $10 million unit, for example, would have to shell out an extra $45,000 a year.
These guys blow more money than that on a birthday party.

They object to the tax because they want to be worshiped, and taxes are antithetical to this.

F%$# them.

Now that Theresa Has Made a Complete Dogs Breakfast of It

And a "hard" Brexit seems increasingly likely, the Bank of England is moderating its predictions of a post-apocalyptic wasteland following a crash-out.

It's almost like their earlier predictions were intended to influence, and perhaps prevent, Brexit.

But that couldn't be true, central banks never meddle in domestic politics, and according Gilbert and Sullivan, "Married men never flirt".
Earlier this month (March 5, 2019), the Governor of the Bank of England fronted the House of Lords Select Committee on Economic Affairs for his annual grilling. The details of his evidence, covered in the transcript produced – Uncorrected oral evidence: Annual session with the Governor of the Bank of England – should have generated headlines in all the major British press outlets but the UK Guardian, noticeably, avoided reporting the details. The Guardian has jumped on every negative projection since before the 2016 Referendum and published volumes of Op Ed pieces from various correspondents amplifying the negativity. But it largely failed to report the Mark Carney’s backtracking. Turns out that the Bank of England thinks Brexit will be considerably less damaging than its headlined Project Fear estimates published last November, And that is without factoring in any fiscal response from government. It seems that the Bank now believes that a no-deal (disorderly) Brexit won’t be all that damaging at all and an orderly Brexit would be associated with an over-full employment boom over the next three years. Quite a different story to that offered in November 2018. The latest revelations will give Remainers some headaches – their collapse scenarios are evaporating.

I have long held the view that the real problem confronting the British economy has been the neoliberal policy positions taken by the current government which has reduced the incentive of British firms to invest in new productive infrastructure and equipment.

While the Remainers have been hysterical in their focus on the damage that the Brexit decision has ’caused’ (their assertion), and, seize on all the ridiculously overblown estimates coming from the likes of HM Treasury, the Bank of England and other private groups, such as the NIESR, to prosecute their case, the real game has been the decline in business investment and the reliance on increasing household debt as the austerity straitjacket has been tightened.

Note, that, unlike many of the Remainers who just want to overturn the Leave decision in any way they can, I distinguish between the decision to leave (the Referendum result) and the incompetent process that the Tories have pursued in implementing that decision.

I continue to fully support the Leave decision but find the process so ridiculously mismanaged that it is little wonder that the long-standing pessimism of investors (firms), driven by the painful austerity, has been exacerbated.
In fact, it appears that the mismanagement of Brexit is such that about 40 Tory opponents to her deal have demanded her resignation in exchange for their vote.

When one considers that she needs to flip about 40 votes to win another vote (if that can even happen under parliamentary rules)
Conservative MPs have told Theresa May and her aides in phone calls and meetings over the weekend that she must publicly commit to standing down as prime minister to secure their votes for her Brexit deal.

As Downing Street struggles to persuade enough rebel MPs to back May’s withdrawal agreement in time for the third meaningful vote scheduled for Tuesday, a group of 40 backbenchers have warned they will not vote for the deal unless she agrees to step aside so a new PM lead the next stage of Brexit negotiations.

In conversations with May, her senior advisers in Number 10 and chief whip Julian Smith on Saturday and Sunday, details of which have been shared with BuzzFeed News, MPs on both the Remain and Leave wings of the Tory party said the price for getting the deal through is her departure.

May was told in direct terms by several MPs in one-on-one phone calls on Sunday that she should make a pact promising to resign if her deal passes, a source familiar with the conversations said.

In one of the phone calls, a former cabinet minister who last week swapped sides to vote for the deal told May she would win round other rebels if she announced she is willing to go. A source familiar with the conversation said the PM reacted with “surprise” and “faux astonishment” at the idea of a resignation pact.
I do not think that it is ,"FAUX astonishment."

Theresa May is as dumb as a cabbage.

18 March 2019

Walking the Walk, Bernie Sanders Again

Sanders campaign staff is going to join a union:
Employees on Sen. Bernie Sanders’s presidential campaign are joining a labor union, officials announced Friday, a historic move that comes amid a Democratic primary featuring intense competition for working-class voters.

All campaign employees below the rank of deputy director will be represented by the United Food & Commercial Workers Local 400, the union said, adding that it will start negotiating a collective bargaining agreement as soon as possible.

“We expect this will mean pay parity and transparency on the campaign, with no gender bias or harassment, and equal treatment for every worker, whether they’re in Washington, D.C., Iowa, New Hampshire or anywhere else,” UFCW Local 400 President Mark Federici said in a statement.

Sanders (I-Vt.) has faced questions about the way his 2016 campaign handled allegations of sexual misconduct. Asked if the effort to unionize was a response to that, Jonathan Williams, the communications director for UFCW Local 400, said it was not. A Sanders spokeswoman did not immediately respond to a request for comment on that question.

The Sanders campaign applauded the move to unionize its members.

“We’re honored that his campaign will be the first to have a unionized workforce,” said Sanders campaign manager Faiz Shakir in a statement. The campaign said it helped pave the way for its workers to organize and did not require an election.
Bernie is walking the walk, unlike, for example, the sexual harassment in the Gillibrand Senate office, and the abusive environment in Klobuchar's Senate office.

I think that a lot of the Democratic Presidential candidates are trying very hard to fake authenticity, and it shows.

New Jersey Does the Right Thing

I know that this sounds like a typo, but the Garden State has passed a law banning cashless shops and restaurants.

This has increasingly become an issue as shops have gone cashless in order to refuse service to the unbanked and homeless:
On Monday, New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy signed a bill banning cashless retail stores and restaurants in the Garden State. Murphy's signature makes New Jersey the second state in the US to ban cashless stores, after Massachusetts banned them in 1978.

More recently, New Jersey's move follows that of Philadelphia, which banned cashless stores earlier this month. Philadelphia's legislation was a reaction to a growing number of stores that only accept credit cards or require customers to pay with an app, like Amazon's new Amazon Go stores.

Ars contacted Amazon for comment on the new law, but the company did not respond.

Much like Philadelphia's new law, New Jersey's law makes an exception for parking garages and car rental companies, where a credit card is required upfront for incidentals. There is also an exception carved out for some airport stores, according to NJ.com.

Proponents of cashless stores say that they prevent theft, speed up customer convenience, and are generally more modern. Opponents say that cashless stores unfairly disadvantage people who don't or can't have credit cards and who don't want the fees associated with prepaid debit cards.

According to NJ.com, State Assemblyman Paul Moriarty said in a statement that "Many people don't have access to consumer credit, and any effort by retail establishments to ban the use of cash is discriminatory towards those people."
It's a good start.

Many of the so-called "innovations" coming out of tech seem to have as an unspoken selling point the ability to discriminate.

We've seen this in AirBnB, Uber, Lyft, etc.

I'd like to see this on the ballot in California.

This May be the Most Epic Self-Own of All Time

Devin Nunes is suing Twitter and the Twitter parody accounts Devin Nunes' Mom and Devin Nunes' Cow, claiming that they are mean to him, and that Twitter is "Shadow Banning" conservatives.

Needless to say, the mocking has been trending:
A US congressman is getting a crash course in the Streisand Effect after filing a lawsuit this week against Twitter and a handful of his harshest critics on the antisocial network.

Rep. Devin Nunes (R-CA) seeks a $250m payout from the micro-blogging site, and three tweeters who lampooned him in recent years. He also seeks $350,000 in punitive damages for what his lawyers call "censorship" and "shadow banning" of political conservatives on the site.

Nunes' complaints almost immediately started trending on Twitter and elsewhere on the web.

While Nunes hopes his legal action will expose what he believes is a secretive campaign within Twitter to silence the voices of Twitter addicts on the political right, the 40-page complaint is also a greatest hits album of people making fun of the SoCal congresscritter.

The lawsuit paperwork – which seeks defamation payouts from San-Francisco-based Twitter, plus former Republican campaign strategist and tweeter Liz Mair and two Twitter accounts dubbed "Devin Nunes' Mom" (since suspended) and "Devin Nunes' Cow" (still active as @DevinCow) – at various times spotlights tweets that are, to say the least, not particularly flattering for the congressman.

Of "Devin Nunes' Mom", the suit alleges it "falsely stated that Nunes would probably join the Proud Boys, if it weren’t for that unfortunate ‘no masturbating’ rule" and "falsely accused Nunes of being part of the President’s taint team," as well as "Devin might be a unscrupulous, craven, back-stabbing, charlatan and traitor, but he’s no Ted Cruz," and "falsely stated that @Devin Nunes is DEFINITELY a feckless c%$#."
This is the most amazing case of self-ownership since Barbara Streisand sued to remove pictures of her home from the internet. (See the Wiki for "Streisand effect")

Linkage


Kermit rapping, I Like Pig Butts:

17 March 2019

Monty Python Abides, Brexit Edition


I see the similarities
Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte has said that Theresa May is like the legless knight from Monty Python and the Holy Grail.

It's an inspired analogy:
"Tis but a scratch." "A scratch?! Your arm's off!" "No it isn't."

Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte likened Theresa May to a Monty Python character who refuses to admit defeat despite losing all his limbs in a sword fight.

“I have a lot of respect for Theresa May. She reminds me occasionally of that Monty Python character where all his arms and legs are cut off and then says to his opponent: let’s call it a draw,” Rutte said in an interview on the “WNL op Zondag” TV show, Bloomberg reported.

He was referring to the Black Knight (played by John Cleese, a Brexiteer) in the film "Monty Python and the Holy Grail" who, even after having all of his limbs cut off by King Arthur, declares "I'm invincible."
I have no clue as to why May has not been turfed out by her Tory colleagues, but the Dutch PM has her nailed.