30 January 2023

Kind of like Your Mother-In-Law Driving over a Cliff in Your Brand New Car

It appears that the private political consultant NGP VAN is in the process of self-immolation.

The for profit manages the vast bulk of the lists and IT infrastructure for the Democratic Party nationwide, and now it has been taken over by the private equity firm Apax, who are now setting about laying off a significant portion of NGP VAN's employees.

I am sure some of you are wondering, "Why would anyone with a speck of common sense in a political party allow critical infrastructure and databases to become the property of a for profit firm when that firm did not generate this information in the first place?"

My first (Somewhat tongue in cheek) answer is that the Venn diagram of Democratic Party establishment (There is no Democratic Party establishment) and, "Anyone with a speck of common sense in a political party," is an empty set.

My second (Somewhat more serious) answer is that if these functions were kept in the official party infrastructure, then you could not have insiders in the Democratic Party establishment (There is no Democratic Party establishment) using the revolving door to secure excessive remuneration from the private firm.

If you are working for the DNC, or the DCCC, or the DSCC, senior executives are not going to get high six-figure salaries.

It's all about the looting, baby:

Less than two years after a British private equity firm acquired the campaign tech firm that holds the Democratic Party’s most sensitive data, the new parent company laid off at least 140 people.

In a companywide email on January 12, Mark Layden, the chief executive of Bonterra, the new merged company created by the private equity firm, notified staff that, in its pursuit of “long-term, efficient growth,” 10 percent of the company would be let go. Within the next several minutes, people who were laid off received emails telling them that they no longer had a job. Numerous employees shared their experiences on social media.

“Went to get coffee, by the time I came back to my comp I was locked out of all of the systems,” one Bonterra employee wrote on Twitter. “Folks lose jobs everyday but there was a better way. This was just tacky and apathetic.” Even some of those who kept their jobs announced their dissatisfaction; one tweeted the lack of warning was “just incredibly vile.”

What a bunch of untitled (and incompetent, but that's not a subject for today) assholes.

What the Democratic Party establishment (There is no Democratic Party establishment) should do right now is make sure that they get their data, pronto, but instead, they will wring their hands and keep paying money to a company that is being run into the ground.  (Actually quite a feat, since they were already underground because of their "vaunted" incompetence)

At NGP VAN — one of the two major organizations that run the Democratic Party’s vaunted organizing, voter file, and compliance tools — and EveryAction, the fundraising software company it operates under, some 40 people lost their jobs in the layoffs.

………

The cost cutting could have unintended consequences for the Democratic Party, said progressive strategist Gabe Tobias.

“There are no nefarious purposes necessarily, like that they don’t want Democrats to win,” he said. “I don’t think they care. But what happens if they just start degrading service? No one can do anything about it. Everything sits inside of VAN, and almost everyone uses the other services they have.”

While NGP VAN was one of the companies merged into Bonterra during the private equity purchase, it remained a standalone brand and has the monopoly on campaign tools and compliance reporting software for the Democratic Party, including its database of coveted Democratic National Committee voter file information. Loyal Democrats in the NGP VAN orbit fear the job cuts — across NGP VAN and EveryAction’s product, data services, client support, and sales departments — could hamper the entire party’s efforts.

This is why you don't fucking privatize core functions or an organization.  Eventually the looting, or as Cory Doctorow calls it, "Enshittification," will come back to bite you.

The ownership of these databases is unclear, but it appears to me that the Democratic Party establishment (There is no Democratic Party establishment) is in for a world of hurt.

This was foreseeable, but so long as the gravy train, paid for by duped Democratic Party donors, continued, no one cared.

A Lie Can Travel Halfway Around the World Before the Truth Puts On its Shoes

Noah Smith, who is generally well informed, kind of jumps the shark when he suggests that the problem with police is a lack of college degrees.

I don't see why this would work for cops when it never worked for journalists.

That was not what caught my eye though.  What caught my eye was that he cited an egregiously bad study of policing in the United States to suggest that there are too few police in the United States, and this is why we have so many incarcerated.

The study is so bad that I cannot ascribe incompetence from it, I have to ascribe a actual malice.  It's the academic equivalent of click-baiting.

They start with claim that there are 697,195 cops in the US.  This ignores every law federal enforcement officer, (FBI, DEA, CBP, US Marshall, etc) as well as private police forces (Private security, college police forces, etc.)

The US Census data gives 1,227,788 law enforcement, and Wikipedia gives 900K.

It really is remarkable how something can be deeply and transparently flawed can enter the zeitgeist so quickly.

Support Your Local Police

The Philadelphia Police have a number of problems, though far less than they had during the Frank Rizzo era.

It appears that a culture of corruption still tops the list as shown when injury disability claims instantly dropping by ⅓ once the press started covering the racket that the FOP had arranged.

The union had picked their unethical pet doctors to sign off on corrupt cops faking disability:
For years, Philadelphia police officials had been alarmed by an internal list that tracked the number of officers who were out of work but still getting paid.

………

And doctors handpicked by the Fraternal Order of Police Lodge No. 5 diagnosed the vast majority of officers as being so injured that they couldn’t even do menial work, like testifying in open criminal cases.

By September 2021, the weekly list of injured cops exceeded 650 — a staggering 14% of all patrol officers in Philadelphia, and a vastly higher percentage than in other major cities.

For the last year, The Inquirer has investigated potential fraud and abuse in the police disability system as part of a series, MIA: Crisis in the Ranks. Since the first installment was published in February, the weekly total of cops who are labeled “no duty” has changed dramatically.

Now, according to a recent list obtained by The Inquirer, the number of officers out with injury claims has dropped by 31%, while the number of injured officers cleared for court duty has more than tripled.

Two FOP-selected doctors, meanwhile, have left the Heart and Lung program, and Holmesburg Family Medicine, a Northeast Philadelphia practice that evaluated most injured officers, closed its Frankford Avenue doors in July.

The FOP specifically instructed its members avoid any examination that they had not approved.

This is corruption, and the Philadelphia FOP is engaging in racketeeering.

29 January 2023

Today in Extremely Dishonest Graphs



The real picture
The Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis responded further down that they were just trying to make the data easier to view.

This is, of course, complete bullshit.  This was deliberately deceptive.

I have attached a picture, showing everything on the same (i.e. not deceptive) scale.

The basic point here is that the ST. Louis Fed's graph was not an error, it was deliberately deceptive.

The US spends more on defense than the next 9 countries combined.

Now, it could, and IMHO should, be argued that the US is not getting the results that it should from this, Russia is not running out of artillery shells, and NATO is, for example, but that has nothing to do with the deceptive content of the graph and the post.

Seriously, if these guys ever took a statistics class in college, they must have gotten an "F".

Consider the Source

The mainstream media tends to favor an expansive view of IP (Patent, Copyright, etc.), and the New York Times tends to be the avatar of such things.

As such, I consider it remarkable, and a statement against interest when the Gray Lady puts out an article detailing how a pharmaceutical company abused the patent process to keep competing drugs off of the market.  It shows a shift in attitude at the paper:

In 2016, a blockbuster drug called Humira was poised to become a lot less valuable.

The key patent on the best-selling anti-inflammatory medication, used to treat conditions like arthritis, was expiring at the end of the year. Regulators had blessed a rival version of the drug, and more copycats were close behind. The onset of competition seemed likely to push down the medication’s $50,000-a-year list price.

Instead, the opposite happened.

Through its savvy but legal exploitation of the U.S. patent system, Humira’s manufacturer, AbbVie, blocked competitors from entering the market. For the next six years, the drug’s price kept rising. Today, Humira is the most lucrative franchise in pharmaceutical history.

Next week, the curtain is expected to come down on a monopoly that has generated $114 billion in revenue for AbbVie just since the end of 2016. The knockoff drug that regulators authorized more than six years ago, Amgen’s Amjevita, will come to market in the United States, and as many as nine more Humira competitors will follow this year from pharmaceutical giants including Pfizer. Prices are likely to tumble.
Well, at least this story has a happy ending.

What follows is a case study in, "Evergreening," where a pharmaceutical firm uses tricks in the patent process to extend the period of exclusivity so that they can continue to overcharge the rest of us.

Why would they do this?  Because they can continue to hike prices, and the list price for the drug is now $80,000.00 a year.  (Not a screw-up on the decimal there)

………

AbbVie did not invent these patent-prolonging strategies; companies like Bristol Myers Squibb and AstraZeneca have deployed similar tactics to maximize profits on drugs for the treatment of cancer, anxiety and heartburn. But AbbVie’s success with Humira stands out even in an industry adept at manipulating the U.S. intellectual-property regime.

“Humira is the poster child for many of the biggest concerns with the pharmaceutical industry,” said Rachel Sachs, a drug pricing expert at Washington University in St. Louis. “AbbVie and Humira showed other companies what it was possible to do.”

………

The hope was that biosimilars would drastically drive down the cost of pricey brand-name biologics. That is what has happened in Europe. But it has not worked out that way in the United States.

Patents are good for 20 years after an application is filed. Because they protect patent holders’ right to profit off their inventions, they are supposed to incentivize the expensive risk-taking that sometimes yields breakthrough innovations. But drug companies have turned patents into weapons to thwart competition.

AbbVie and its affiliates have applied for 311 patents, of which 165 have been granted, related to Humira, according to the Initiative for Medicines, Access and Knowledge, which tracks drug patents. A vast majority were filed after Humira was on the market.

Some of Humira’s patents covered innovations that benefited patients, like a formulation of the drug that reduced the pain from injections. But many of them simply elaborated on previous patents.

The United States Patent and Trademark Office is broken, and the IP system is broken worldwide.

Unfortunately, the dynamic is that overreaching IP regulation creates excess profits, a portion of which are given to politicians to further extend the reach of these systems, which generates yet more excess profits.

Rinse, lather, repeat.

Just Lock Him the Fuck Up!

One of the most basic conditions for bail should that the accused not attempt to tamper with witnesses.

It should be standard operating procedure for any counsel for someone out on bail to impress upon their client the inappropriateness of their doing so.

I assumed that this was done, but it appears that Sam Bankman-Fried attempted to tamper with witnesses anyway.

If SBF cannot manage even this level of common sense and law abiding, he really should not be out on bail:

The Department of Justice (DOJ) requested that the court revise FTX founder Sam Bankman-Fried’s bail conditions on Friday, amid concerns about possible witness tampering.

Damian Williams, the U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York, asked that the judge bar Bankman-Fried from contacting current or former employees from his now defunct cryptocurrency exchange FTX and hedge fund Alameda Research, as well as block him from using encrypted or ephemeral messaging platforms like Signal.

The new request comes after Bankman-Fried reportedly contacted an individual who has “firsthand knowledge” of his actions during the collapse of the crypto exchange in November and may serve as a government witness at trial.

“I would love to reconnect and see if there’s a way for us to have a constructive relationship, use each other as resources when possible, or at least vet things with each other,” Bankman-Fried said in a message to the individual on Jan. 15, both via email and Signal.

Williams argued that the message is “suggestive of an effort to influence” the witness’s potential testimony and could constitute witness tampering.
(Emphasis mine)

Could constitute witness tampering? 

This is as about as blatant as his running a secret chat group at FTX called "Wirefraud." (As Anna Russel would say, "I'm not making this up, you know.")

Just lock him up.

I Missed this Last Week

I did not check to see if banks or credit unions had been shut down over the past few weeks, so I neglected to post about the Valwood Park Federal Credit Union of Carrollton , Texas being placed under conservatorship on January 20. (First closing of the year)

I screwed up my Bank Failure Friday monitoring.

Oops.

Tweet of the Day


This is beautiful. If you don't get the joke, you need to educate your self on the Queen of Soul.

28 January 2023

Well, Duh!

It seems that the New York Times is finally realized that long Covid symptoms are keeping a lots of people out of the US workforce.  When added to the ½ or so people in the workforce who have died (out of more than a million dead), it makes for a labor shortage problem:

Long Covid is having a significant effect on America’s work force, preventing substantial numbers of people from going back to work while others continue needing medical care long after returning to their jobs, according to a new analysis of workers’ compensation claims in New York State.

The study, published Tuesday by New York’s largest workers’ compensation insurer, found that during the first two years of the pandemic, about 71 percent of people the fund classified as experiencing long Covid either required continuing medical treatment or were unable to work for six months or more. More than a year after contracting the coronavirus, 18 percent of long Covid patients had still not returned to work, more than three-fourths of them younger than 60, the analysis found.

“Long Covid has harmed the work force,” said the report, by the New York State Insurance Fund, a state agency financed by employer-paid premiums. The findings, it added, “highlight long Covid as an underappreciated yet important reason for the many unfilled jobs and declining labor participation rate in the economy, and they presage a possible reduction in productivity as employers feel the strains of an increasingly sick work force.”

Covid is bad.  It's really REALLY bad.

………

Long Covid is defined by public health authorities as a constellation of symptoms that linger after the initial infection or that emerge weeks later and can include breathing problems, fatigue and brain fog. The Government Accountability Office estimated that long Covid has affected 7.7 million to 23 million people in the United States. 

That's somewhere between 4.2% and 13.9% of the workforce.

Also, we know that Covid can cause long term immune dysregulation, which might explain the hellish season for RSV infection.

Get vaccinated, and wear a fucking mask.

Issues from the Power Outage

FIOS™ is down, phone, "cable", and internet.

I'm connecting through my phone.

Sucks wet farts from dead pigeons.

White vs Black Cops

I'm not sure how much I have to add to the story of the police murder of Tyre Nichols as a news story.

I have been told that the video (at link) is extremely disturbing, and I have chosen not to watch it, because the descriptions (also at link) are enough for me.

What is noteworthy, and has not really been a part of the discourse, is just how blisteringly fast we went from abuse to justice.

When 5 white cops were involved in the beating murder of Ronald Greene, it was 2 years before the bodycam footage was released and 3½ years before charges were laid, when it was 5 black cops, it was 1½ weeks from when the event occurred and the charges were laid, and 2 weeks before the footage was released.

We have not seen any push-back from the rank and file police in Memphis, nor any racist and inflammatory statements from the Memphis Police Association, the officers' union.

The police reviewed the circumstances, and fired the cops in a few days, and they have been open and transparent about the investigation and the evidence.

Call me a cynic, but if these officers had been white, the wheels of justice would have turned much more slowly.

Note that I am not suggesting that the Memphis cops are being treated unreasonably harshly, I am suggesting that the Louisiana cops were treated excessively leniently.

27 January 2023

No Blogging Tonight

Power has gone out.

Posted via mobile.

26 January 2023

Just Fucking Marvelous

With all of the disruption caused by Covid-19 (3.4% mortality rate), we should recall that there are worse diseases, like the original SARS (9.4% mortality rate), and Avian Flu (56% [not a typo] mortality rate). 

Thankfully, the latter two were far less contagious, particularly Avian Flu (H1N1) which is not human to human transmissible, and for which there fewer than 300 cases world wide.

With only 300 cases worldwide, and those requiring extensive contact with birds, it begs the question as to why experts are so concerned.

The answer is that the disease might make the jump to a HTH transmissible form, through some sort of intermediate species closer to us than birds are.

This happened with Covid, where it is believed that the transmission went from bats to pangolin to humans at the Huanan Wuhan Seafood market (武汉华南海鲜批发市场).

So the possibility of the virus becoming more effective through an intermediate species is a real concern.

So, if there were an H5N1 outbreak among another animal, particularly at a location where this intermediate is cultivated in high density by humans, for example a mink farm in Spain, there might be some cause for alarm.

It hit a mink farm in Spain, and 10s of thousands of the weasels are being culled as a result:

It’s like a script for a disaster movie that everyone has already seen. Europe is going through the most devastating bird flu epidemic in its history, with more than 50 million poultry slaughtered in one year. At the beginning of autumn, seagulls and gannets killed by this virus appeared on the beaches of Spain’s northwestern Galicia region. Days later, in early October, American mink began to die of hemorrhagic pneumonia on a fur farm in Carral, a few minutes’ drive from the city of A Coruña. Mortality in this outbreak exceeded 4% in a single week.

A scientific study now suggests that the avian flu virus jumped from wild birds to mink and mutated on the farm, beginning to spread from mammal to mammal but failing to infect mask-wearing farm workers. This outbreak has set off alarm bells across the planet. The Dutch virologist Marion Koopmans, who traced the origin of the Covid pandemic for the World Health Organization (WHO), has issued a warning on her social media accounts: “We are playing with fire.”

The British doctor Jeremy Farrar, an expert in emerging diseases who was recently appointed chief scientist at the WHO, has also alerted about the recent outbreak in Spain on his social media. “The greatest risk of a devastating flu pandemic is avian or animal flu that infects intermediate mammals, and evolves to mammal-to-mammal and human-to-human transmission with little or no human immunity,” he said on Twitter. Farrar, who correctly alerted the world to a strange pneumonia in the Chinese city of Wuhan on December 31, 2019, is now urging authorities to prepare vaccines and treatments for each type of animal flu. 

It should be noted here that preparing vaccine stocks for H5N1 might bey problematic, since the most common vaccine technology involves inoculating chicken eggs, and many H5N1 variants kill chicken eggs, just as it kills chickens.

………

The culprit in the Galician outbreak is a highly pathogenic avian influenza A (H5N1) virus, with an unusual mutation called T271A, a disturbing characteristic that was already present in the swine flu virus that caused a pandemic in humans in 2009. Regional health authorities decided on October 18 to immediately cull the 52,000 mink on the farm, located outdoors and with easy access to wild animals.

Who had war in Europe and a killer flu outbreak on their bingo card?

History is rhyming like a son of a bitch right now, ain't it?

Yeah, Who in Their Right Mind Would Pay for That Shit?

Following demands from the right wing flying monkey "News" channel Newsmax to get paid a fee, DirecTV has elected not to renew their contract with the network.

This is not a surprise.  Previously, Newsmax had a contract in which their content was rebroadcast by the satellite network for free, and now they want to collect a fee for this.

I guess scam ads for colloidal silver (Smurf medicine) was not generating enough revenue.

I am amused:

Newsmax is no longer on DirecTV, as the satellite video provider today said it decided not to renew an expiring deal because of Newsmax's money demands.

"On multiple occasions, we made it clear to Newsmax that we wanted to continue to offer the network, but ultimately Newsmax's demands for rate increases would have led to significantly higher costs that we would have to pass on to our broad customer base," DirecTV said in a statement provided to Ars. (AT&T owns 70 percent of DirecTV.)

The carriage deal expired at midnight last night. The "rate increase" demanded by Newsmax was actually from a base of $0 because DirecTV didn't have to pay Newsmax to carry the network under their now-expired deal, a DirecTV spokesperson told Ars. DirecTV says it was one of the first pay-TV providers to carry Newsmax starting in 2014.

While DirecTV described it as a financial decision, Newsmax accused DirecTV of discrimination and censorship. "This is a blatant act of political discrimination and censorship against Newsmax," Newsmax CEO Christopher Ruddy said in an article on the Newsmax website titled, "AT&T's DirecTV Cancels Newsmax in Censorship Move."
Of course, the usual suspects in Congress are trying to strong-arm DirecTV, which is as expected:
………

Rep. Wesley Hunt (R-Texas) and 41 other Republican members of Congress last week sent a letter to the CEOs of AT&T and DirecTV claiming that DirecTV appears to be "actively working to limit conservative viewpoints on its system." The letter suggested the Newsmax decision is part of what Republicans called an "un-democratic assault on free speech" orchestrated by congressional Democrats and the White House in coordination with private companies.

To quote Sal Tessio,, "It was only business."  It made sense for them to carry NewsMax for free, but once they had to pay a fee for each viewer, with a share on the order of 0.1%, it no longer made economic sense.

Why do these these poor delicate snowflakes hate capitalism?

Thursday Economic Numbers


Continuing Claims Trend
It appears that notwithstanding layoffs tied to rising interest rates, finance, real estate, and tech initial unemployment claims fell yet again, this time by 6,000 to 186,000, (seasonally adjusted, and as I have noted, I think that those adjustments may be flawed since the pandemic) while continuing claims rose slightly from 1.655 million to 1.675 million.

I think that the real bellwether here is continuing claims, which have been trending upward since last August. It implies a slowdown in hiring, particularly with the low layoff rate.

I think that a recession is inevitable at this point, particularly with the latest leading indicators strongly implying a recession.

Also, the GDP growth was down in the 4th quarter, to 2.9% from 3.2%, which was marginally better than forecasts.

I would expect to see a recession called in the May to July time frame, but my prognostic record is almost as bad as my Dad's was.


Fuck, This is Real


Not the Onion


This makes Mad Max look like a utopian dream

And here is a disturbingly upbeat video review

For those of you who think that your ordinary SUVs are not hostile and murderous enough, we now have the Rezvani Vengeance, which has options for a smoke screen, pepper spray projectors, and electrified door handles, in addition to the inevitable bullet proofing.

When I first saw this on Twitter, I thought that it was a joke, but it's fucking real.

Prices start at $285,000.00.

In southern California, parking lot warfare just got real. Not content with their supersized pickup trucks and child-killing SUVs, America’s road warriors can now go full military apocalypse, with the arrival of the Rezvani Vengeance.

While its competitors offer heated seats and optional roof-racks, this souped-up SUV boasts bulletproof glass, blinding strobe lights, electrified doorhandles, and wing mirrors that can shoot pepper spray – handy for putting those pesky cyclists in their place.

“Vengeance is yours,” trumpets the website, which details how the car can release a dense smoke screen to confuse people following you, as well as detect electromagnetic pulses from nuclear weapons. Always handy for the supermarket run.

Picking up the kids from school? You can announce your arrival through the car’s booming intercom system. Or why not just drive straight through the gates? The vehicle’s hefty steel ram bumpers and military-grade tyres would make mincemeat of any parking barrier – and dispatch the headteacher while they’re at it.

One thing oddly missing from the Vengeance (priced from $285,000, rising to $499,000 with all the extras) is a rear windscreen, because of course that would be unsafe. Instead, drivers are treated to a live video rear-view mirror and a front camera overlaid with “augmented reality”. Perhaps it shows an imaginary zombie army for you to mow down on your way to the mall.

………

This steroidal tank might seem like an anomalous extreme, but the truth is it represents the broader rise of the average US consumer vehicle into a supercharged killing machine. With its added tactical weaponry and paranoid styling, at least the Vengeance is honest about it.

According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, drivers behind the wheel of an SUV are two to three times more likely to kill a pedestrian in a collision than when driving a regular car. A study in Michigan found that, at 20-39 mph, 30% of SUV crashes resulted in a pedestrian fatality, compared with 23% of car crashes. While, at 40mph or above, 100% of SUV crashes resulted in a pedestrian death, compared with 54% of car crashes.

Like I said, hostile and murderous. 

When I shit like this, I understand why Osama bin Laden wanted to destroy our nation and our culture.

I do not approve, but I understand.

25 January 2023

I Need to Post This


Part 1, about an hour


Part 2, also an hour

As you may or may not be aware, the BBC produced a documentary about Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi it concludes that not only did he tacitly support the pogroms in Gugarat in, he actively supported them using the levers of power that he had as chief minister of Gugarat in 2002.

His goal was to ethnically cleanse Muslims from mixed areas.

This is not a surprise, and I probably would not have noticed the BBC documentary at all, but for the fact that the government of India is using pulling out all the stops to suppress any distribution of the two episodes describing this, including attempting to strong arm social media sites into taking down the videos.

So I noticed this because of the Streisand Effect, those attempts to suppress this story got a lot of ink.

So here are the videos, with links for downloads at the end:

Students at Jawaharlal Nehru University, one of India’s premier liberal institutions, gathered on Tuesday evening for a screening of a new BBC documentary about Prime Minister Narendra Modi. But university officials had other plans.

They swiftly locked the entry gates at the New Delhi campus and cut off electricity in the winter chill, leaving the students to sit and watch the program on laptops and cellphones, their faces glowing beneath a blank projection screen. Then, just minutes into the viewing, which the students were holding in defiance of an order by the public university, they were attacked by a smaller group of masked men throwing stones.

“They will shut one screen, and we will open hundreds,” said Aishe Ghosh, one of the student activists who attended.

The documentary, “India: The Modi Question,” focuses on Mr. Modi’s role during Hindu-Muslim riots that tore through the state of Gujarat in 2002, when he was its chief minister. The deaths of a group of Hindu pilgrims in a fire at a railway station prompted a wave of mob violence in which about 1,000 people, most of them Muslims, were killed, and perhaps 150,000 uprooted.

Mr. Modi’s critics at the time accused him of clearing the way for the carnage, or at least turning a blind eye to it. The BBC special cites an unnamed British official who wrote that the massacres bore “the hallmarks of ethnic cleansing” of Gujarat’s Muslim minority, and it reveals that a British investigation in 2002 had found Mr. Modi “directly responsible.”

………

But the government has not stopped at criticizing the documentary. It has also taken steps to make it difficult to view inside India, the latest intervention in the free flow of information by state machinery that carefully tends to the image of India’s most powerful leader in generations.

Without banning the documentary officially, India’s Ministry of Information and Broadcasting blocked segments of “The Modi Question” from appearing on YouTube, with the cooperation of the site’s parent company, Alphabet. The ministry took that action under a cluster of “I.T. rules” passed in 2021 that allow it to suppress virtually any information that appears online.

Such measures are unusual but not unprecedented — in 2015, the government blocked another BBC documentary, “India’s Daughter,” concerning a notorious rape and murder in New Delhi. (YouTube has since made it viewable.)

Twitter has been more resistant to barring content at the direction of the Indian government, but it, too, blocked posts linking to footage from “The Modi Question.”
Yeah, vaunted free speech absolutist Elon Musk capitulated to Modi and his fascist supporters in less time than it takes me to type this.

Real profile in courage there.

In any case, it's good that the brutal riots and ethnic cleansing is getting some attention again.

Modi really needs to end up at The Hague some day.

In any case, you can download the videos for Episode 1 and Episode 2 at the links.

Full disclosure, I have only viewed bits and pieces of the videos, but it is enough to convince me that I need to help distribute them as far and wide as possible.

A Big Deal for LGBTQ Rights

Notwithstanding the shade that Catholic conservatives throw at him, Pope Francis respects, and is bound by, the norms and traditions of the Catholic Church.

As such, the fact that he has made an unequivocal statement opposing the criminalization of homosexuality, even while clarifying that he considered homosexual behavior a sin, is the proverbial big fucking deal:

Pope Francis criticized laws that criminalize homosexuality as “unjust,” saying God loves all his children just as they are and called on Catholic bishops who support the laws to welcome LGBTQ people into the church.

“Being homosexual isn’t a crime,” Francis said during an exclusive interview Tuesday with The Associated Press.

Francis acknowledged that Catholic bishops in some parts of the world support laws that criminalize homosexuality or discriminate against the LGBTQ community, and he himself referred to the issue in terms of “sin.” But he attributed such attitudes to cultural backgrounds, and said bishops in particular need to undergo a process of change to recognize the dignity of everyone.

“These bishops have to have a process of conversion,” he said, adding that they should apply “tenderness, please, as God has for each one of us.”

Francis’ comments are the first uttered by a pope about such laws, but they are consistent with his overall approach to the LGBTQ community and belief that the Catholic Church should welcome everyone and not discriminate.

………

On Tuesday, Francis said there needed to be a distinction between a crime and a sin with regard to homosexuality.

“It’s not a crime. Yes, but it’s a sin,” he said. “Fine, but first let’s distinguish between a sin and a crime.”

“It’s also a sin to lack charity with one another,” he added.

While I disagree with the last bit, sexuality is not a sin, it is foundational to every human being in the world, whether it be straight, gay, bi, asexual, or celibate as a priest.

Still, this should stop Catholic clergy from lobbying for laws making homosexuality a criminal offense.

Not this Shit Again

Donald Trump will be reinstated to Facebook and Instagram.

The criminal enterprise formerly known as Facebook™ has made a number of significant mistakes lately, but this is makes Mark Zuckerberg's bet on virtual reality look like a hangnail.

This will not end well:

Just over two years after Donald J. Trump’s accounts were suspended from Facebook and Instagram, Meta, the owner of the platforms, said on Wednesday that it would reinstate the former president’s access to the social media services.

Mr. Trump, who had the most followed account on Facebook when he was barred, will “in the coming weeks” regain access to his accounts that collectively had hundreds of millions of followers, Meta said. In November, Mr. Trump’s account was also reinstated on Twitter, which had barred him since January 2021, collectively giving the former president more of a megaphone as he campaigns for the White House in 2024.

Meta suspended Mr. Trump from its platforms on Jan. 7, 2021, the day after hundreds of people stormed the Capitol in his name, saying his posts ran the risk of inciting more violence. Mr. Trump’s accounts on other mainstream social media services, including YouTube and Twitter, were also removed that week.

But Meta, which critics have accused of censoring Mr. Trump and other conservative voices, said on Wednesday it had decided to reverse the bans because it had determined that the risk to public safety had “sufficiently receded” since January 2021. The company added that it would add guardrails to “deter repeat offenses” in the future.

Yeah, another promise from the criminal enterprise formerly known as Facebook™ that they will go forth and sin no more.  They have made promises, and then gone back to their old was, before.

Not good.

………

Snark of the Day

As we said back in November, Alphaville.club was an unofficial thing that would live or die on its own merits. Turns out it’s “die” — but as failed experiments go, this one hasn’t cost anyone $44bn. That’s something, relatively.
The Pink Paper

The good folks at the Financial Times are shutting down their Mastodon server, because operating even a small node on a social network is rife with resource demands, legal risk, and general pain in the ass, or as they observed, "Mastodon has proved more hassle than it’s worth."

Of course it's the, "But as failed experiments go, this one hasn’t cost anyone $44bn. That’s something, relatively," that I am referring to as the magnificent snark.

The British have a way with inflicting a burn, in this case on Elon Musk, with precise and devastating cuts that I admire profoundly.

24 January 2023

It's All About the White Supremacy

Dan Froomkin notes something about the January 6 Committee report missed, and has also been missed by the mainstream media, that the Capitol Police basically enabled the occupation of Congress that day.

I think that Froomkin has a good description of what happened, but only obliquely refers to the underlying issue when he says that Capitol Police leadership, "Were unable to imagine white Trump supporters as a clear and present danger."

I believe that what we are dealing with here is that police in the America are inherently supportive of white supremacists.  We see this when police bend over backwards to accommodate white supremacists in places like  Minneapolis, Minnesota, Portland, Oregon, Washington, DC, Charlottesville, VA, New York, New York, etc. (FWIW, Froomkin approved of my sentiment, or at least he liked my Tweet saying this)

The news media’s continuing failure to explore why the U.S. Capitol was so scantily defended against an angry horde of white Trump supporters on Jan. 6, 2021, has now been compounded by the House select committee’s refusal to connect the most obvious dots or ask the most vital questions.

It’s true that there were countless law enforcement failures that day — indeed, far too many to be a coincidence.

But the singular point of failure — the one thing that could have prevented all of it from happening — was that Capitol Police leaders brushed off ample warnings that an armed mob was headed their way.

………

Exploring why Capitol Police leaders chose not to prepare for combat, despite mounds of intelligence pointing directly toward such a scenario, should have been a key goal of the Jan. 6 committee.

That Capitol Police leaders — like so many others in law enforcement — were unable to imagine white Trump supporters as a clear and present danger remains one of the most tragically under-addressed elements of that day’s legacy, leaving crucially important lessons entirely unlearned.

As is noted in the article, the January 6 Committee ignored these lessons because Liz Cheney demanded that they be ignored.

………

Then-Capitol Police Chief Steven Sund was the single person most responsible for the failure to protect the Capitol. But no one even asked him (or anyone else) to address how and why the lackadaisical preparations for Jan. 6 compared to the overenthusiastic deployments for Black Lives Matter protests that never posed any danger to the Capitol, and that weren’t even on the Capitol grounds.

Nobody asked any law enforcement officials if they viewed the Jan. 6 insurrectionists sympathetically, or if they were under political pressure not to upset Trump, or if they feared for their jobs.

And certainly nobody asked Sund or anyone else to consider whether the white privilege they shared with the Jan. 6 mob had made it seem unthreatening to them.

It’s no secret why none of these issues were brought up. Committee vice chair Liz Cheney is why.

As multiple committee staffers have told the Washington Post, Cheney’s leadership on the committee came with strings attached. She insisted that the focus of the hearings and the committee’s final report be exclusively on Trump, rather than on any other lessons learned — especially those that might not reflect well on law enforcement.

Not really surprised by Cheney's behavior, like the story of the frog and the scorpion, it's in her nature.

And here is the mic drop:

………

It would have made some obvious, yet desperately needed, recommendations for law enforcement agencies going forward, including: Don’t discount the threat posed by white people.
  • Don’t assume that right-wingers are law-abiding.
  • Don’t let political pressure affect your decisions.
  • Do become acutely aware of the enormous threat posed to the rule of law, its institutions and the general public by violence from supporters of right-wing extremism, Christian nationalism and white supremacy.

It's not surprising that Liz Cheney did not want any of this to be covered by the committee.

While I grudgingly accept the idea that her role on the committee was driven, at least in part, by a desire to hang Donald Trump out to dry for creating an occupation of the Capitol, she also did not want to antagonize potential allies in the conservative movement.

I do not know if Cheney will run for President in 2024, but it is clear to me that the possibility of her running for President in 2024 was a part of her calculus regarding how she addressed the issues of right wing terrorism and law enforcement misconduct.

 

How to Lose a Game of Chicken

About a week ago, I suggested that Germany was holding off on sending Leopard to the Ukraine until the US sends Abrams tanks to the former Soviet Republic because they wanted to be sure that there were pictures of both tanks being destroyed on the battlefield, which would minimize potential impacts on their tank sales. 

The US pushed back hard, suggesting without providing much data, that the M-1 was too much of a tank for the Ukrainians, while the Leopard was.

Secretary of Defense, and tool of the Military Industrial Complex, Lloyd Austin was reportedly apoplectic over this.

Well, it now appears that, the United States blinked first, and will be sending about a dozen tanks to the Ukraine:

The United States appears poised to start a process that would eventually send dozens of its M1 Abrams battle tanks to Ukraine, US media reported, in a reversal that could have significant implications for Kyiv’s efforts to repel Russian forces.

………

The move follows reports on Tuesday that Berlin has succumbed to huge international and domestic pressure and was set to announce that it will send German-manufactured tanks to Ukraine, and allow other countries to do the same.

An official US announcement that it will send just over 30 tanks is expected to come on Wednesday, a US official told the Associated Press.

………

While eventually backtracking, Berlin had said it would only send the Leopard tanks to Ukraine if the United States agreed to send its own tanks.

“The only reason the United States would send M1 tanks to Ukraine is to give Germany the political cover it requires to unlocking the Leopard tanks,” said Mark Cancian, a defense expert at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

I know that some folks will suggest that my ascribing all of this to crass military salesmanship is excessively cynical, but it appears to me that pretty much any US military endeavor in my lifetime has been motivated in significant part by defense contractor profits.

Evil is as Evil Does

Amazon is shuttering its "Smile" donation program, claiming that it was not having sufficient impact.

Rather unsurprisingly, the program was not an attempt at charity, instead, it was an attempt to game Google out of referral fees for its advertisements.

Even by the standards of Amazon and Jeff Bezos, this it profoundly crass and rapacious:

You may have heard last week that Amazon has announced the end of its “AmazonSmile” program, in which you could shop at Amazon, and a portion of all of the money you paid would actually go to the charity of your choice. Amazon claimed that the program “has not grown to create the impact we had originally hoped” and (perhaps reasonably!) implied that the overhead of delivering small amounts to many different charities was not very efficient. The company noted that the “average” donation to charities was less than $230 per charity. ………

Some people, naturally, assumed that Amazon was doing this to claw back some of the money that it had previously been sending to the various non-profits. But, it appears the actual story here may be even more crazy.

Soon after the news broke, there was a fascinating post on Reddit from someone claiming they used to work at Amazon corporate and was around when the Smile program was launched, and claimed that the program was never designed to be as generous as it was presented. It was really just designed to fuck over Google and have to pay that company less in referral fees

………


While there’s no way to prove that this person really did work there, it does sound accurate, and another commenter backed this up, with credible additional info: 

………

Later on that same commenter notes that another “side benefit” to doing this was to push back on some local news stories that had slammed Bezos for not being involved in enough charitable works. So this kinda killed multiple birds with a single “look at how good we’re being” stone.

From all that, I’m wondering if Amazon is now realizing that the overhead of handling this program just wasn’t worth it any more, and the fact that they made it so difficult to use didn’t really stop that many people from Google, so if they have to just write a slightly larger check to Google that’s easier than having a team figuring out how to send hundred dollar checks to charities.

I will be so glad when the antitrust folks come after these folks.

Headline of the Day

Rishi Sunak Isn’t the Leader Britain’s Tories Need — but He’s the One They Deserve
Jacobin
I've not got anything to add to that.

23 January 2023

What a Fucked-Up Country


This is Fucked Up and Shit
Have you heard the latest?  Mars Wrigley is doing away with the M&Ms spokes-candies because Tucker Carlson has a sad.

As Anna Russel would say, "I'm not making this up, you know."

If you’re pondering what will be the stupidest right-wing freakout of 2023, you can probably stop now.

No, there will be a stupider one.

After all, the right-wing flying monkeys have already given us George Santos. 

There WILL be a stupider right wing freakout this year.

We’re barely three weeks into the year, but the uproar over the personalities and images of M&M’s candies seems well poised to top the list.

Most Americans — those who have, you know, a life — are probably unaware that Tucker Carlson and his far-right peanut gallery have been throwing a fit about a marketing makeover that Mars Wrigley, the private company that makes M&M’s, gave this signature brand last year.

The company had long ago given the candies some personality, but not too much, giving them cartoon faces, arms, legs, etc. etc. Last year it updated their looks, making the group more “inclusive” in the company’s term, slightly changing their garb and endowing them with insouciant grins and smirks. Notably, the footwear of the two female-presenting M&M’s was toned down.

The supposed de-feminization of those candies was too much for Carlson, who has covered it to a degree that suggests some sort of foot and/or candy fetish. On Monday, Mars Wrigley capitulated to the supposed uproar Carlson had ginned up and announced it would “take an indefinite pause from the spokescandies.” They’ll apparently disappear from its ad campaigns. The new face of M&M’s will be entertainer Maya Rudolph.

What the fuck is wrong with people?  What is wrong with Tucker Carlson? (Long list there)  What is wrong with those fucking candy executives?

What is wrong with America?

Just an Ordinary Day in the USA

11 shot dead at Monterey Park, California balroom dance studio, 2 shot dead at Des Moines, Iowa alternative school program, and 12 shot and injured at a Baton Rouge nightclub in just the past 48 hours.

In most of the world, this would qualify as a national crisis and a calamity.  In the United States, it's just Monday.

Fuck the NRA.  Fuck the 2nd Amendment and the Supreme Court's ahistorical ruling in District of Columbia v. Heller. Fuck the ammosexual community.

Most of all, fuck the cowardly politicians who allow this carnage to continue.

Tweet of the Day


This was seen in a bar in Austin. I approve.

Linkage

Have a documentary about the Russo-Japanese War:

22 January 2023

A Number to Shock You

One of the issues that is frequently ignored in dealing with effective law enforcement is overtime abuse by the rank and file.

Unlike almost any other workers, cops can put in overtime without authorization, or much in the way of supervision.

In the case of New York City, this means that in 2023, the NYPD is on track to go through almost twice the $454 ,000,000.00 budgeted:

Under Mayor Eric Adams’ latest budget plan, many city agencies from libraries to public schools would be strained mightily to trim costs without reducing services or laying off workers.

With the police department, however, there is a little more flexibility.

Under the preliminary budget Adams unveiled Thursday, the NYPD budgeted $452 million for overtime in coming fiscal year 2024, which begins July 1. Based on the department’s track record, that number seems highly unrealistic.

For the current fiscal year, 2023, the department had budgeted about the same amount: $454.8 million. But as of Dec. 31 — halfway through the fiscal year — they’d already spent nearly $412 million.

If the NYPD continues to spend at that rate, the final overtime bill for fiscal 2023 will pass $820 million.

Hours after Adams released out his budget plan, city Comptroller Brad Lander already tagged the department’s overtime estimate as “under budgeted.” Public Advocate Jumaane Williams asserted that it essentially protected law enforcement from making sacrifices while shifting the lion’s share of cost-cutting to social services and education.

The budget consequences are clear, but it should also be noted that all of this overtime also produces bad policing from sleep deprived cops. 

Half of all NYPD cops put in about 400 hours of overtime a year, a 48 hour week, and some put in more than 1200 hours, which is about a 64 hour week.

The cops at the high end are as impaired as if they drank a pint of Vodka at the start of their shifts.

Lack of overtime controls also gets the citizens of the City of New York, "Collars for Dollars," where cops make bogus arrests in order to pad their overtime.

It needs to stop now.

We are Completely Fucked

We now have more data, and it appears that the Greenland ice field is melting faster than previously thought, and it is seeing unprecedented temperatures.

Not only will the melting of this ice cause sea levels to rise, but the land underneath will spring back once the weight of the ice is removed, further increasing sea level rise:

The coldest and highest parts of the Greenland ice sheet, nearly two miles above sea level in many locations, are warming rapidly and showing changes that are unprecedented in at least a millennium, scientists reported Wednesday.

That’s the finding from research that extracted multiple 100-foot or longer cores of ice from atop the world’s second-largest ice sheet. The samples allowed the researchers to construct a new temperature record based on the oxygen bubbles stored inside them, which reflect the temperatures at the time when the ice was originally laid down.

“We find the 2001-2011 decade the warmest of the whole period of 1,000 years,” said Maria Hörhold, the study’s lead author and a scientist at the Alfred Wegener Institute in Bremerhaven, Germany.

Because warming has only continued since that time, the finding is probably an underestimate of how much the climate in the high-altitude areas of northern and central Greenland has changed. That is bad news for the planet’s coastlines, because it suggests a long-term process of melting is being set in motion that could ultimately deliver some significant, if hard to quantify, fraction of Greenland’s total mass into the oceans. Overall, Greenland contains enough ice to raise sea levels by more than 20 feet.

………

The work also found that compared with the 20th century as a whole, this part of Greenland, the enormous north-central region, is now 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit) warmer, and that the rate of melting and water loss from the ice sheet — which raises sea levels — has increased in tandem with these changes.

………

Scientists have posited that if the air over Greenland becomes warm enough, a feedback loop would ensue: The ice sheet’s melting would cause it to slump to a lower altitude, which would naturally expose it to warmer air, which would cause more melting and slumping, and so forth.

This is something that needs to be fixed though government fiat, not through market based solutions and nudges favored by the free market Mousketeers.

Damn

An old housemate of mine, Paul Acks, known as Viscount Master Syr Bear of the Axe also called Wallsbane, (Order of the Basset) died last night.

We roomed together in Erie, PA for about a year just before I got married.

Solid dude, and only 70.

21 January 2023

From the the Criminal Enterprise Formerly Known as Facebook™

Notwithstanding Facebook's assertions that it has improved its processes and algorithms, Facebook is still blithely approving advertisements inciting violence and terrorism.

It's the Zuckerberg 2-step, do wrong, apologize and promise to do no wrong, and then go back to doing wrong:

“Unearth all the rats that have seized power and shoot them,” read an ad approved by Facebook just days after a mob violently stormed government buildings in Brazil’s capital.

That violence was fueled by false election interference claims, mirroring attacks in the United States on January 6, 2021. Previously, Facebook-owner Meta said it was dedicated to blocking content designed to incite more post-election violence in Brazil. Yet today, the human rights organization Global Witness published results of a test that shows Meta is seemingly still accepting ads that do exactly that.

Global Witness submitted 16 ads to Facebook, with some calling on people to storm government buildings, others describing the election as stolen, and some even calling for the deaths of children whose parents voted for Brazil’s new president, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva. Facebook approved all but two ads, which Global Witness digital threats campaigner Rosie Sharpe said proved that Facebook is not doing enough to enforce its ad policies restricting such violent content.

“In the aftermath of the violence in Brasilia, Facebook said that they were ‘actively monitoring’ the situation and removing content in violation of their policies,” Sharpe said in a press release. “This test shows how poorly they’re able to enforce what they say. There is absolutely no way the sort of violent content we tested should ever be approved for publication by a major social media firm like Facebook.”

To ensure that none of their test ads reached vulnerable audiences, Global Witness deleted the ads before alarming messages like “Death to the children of Lula voters” could be published.

Global Witness identified this as a problem that is particularly concerning on Facebook—not necessarily a weakness of all ad-based social platforms—by also testing the same ad set on YouTube. Unlike Facebook, YouTube did not approve any of the ads. YouTube also took the additional step of suspending the accounts that attempted to publish the ads.

“YouTube’s much stronger response demonstrates that the test we set is possible to pass,” Sharpe said.

I live for the day that Mark Zuckerberg is frog marched out of his offices in handcuffs.

I Did Not Expect This

Joe Biden has called to change police officer training to reduce the use of deadly force.

I'm not sure if this means anything, but if it does, it's significant:

President Joe Biden said that police in the US should be retrained to use deadly force less frequently in a speech about racial justice.

Biden addressed a civil rights group in Washington, DC, on Monday, where he criticized Republicans for not passing a Democratic policing reform bill.

"We have to retrain cops as to why shouldn't you always shoot with deadly force. The fact is, if you need to use your weapon, you don't have to do that," Biden said.

Biden was speaking at a National Action Network event to mark Martin Luther King Jr. Day.

Biden also spoke about the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act, a Democratic police reform bill drafted after the death of George Floyd, a Black man who died when a police officer knelt on his neck for what prosecuters said was more than nine minutes in May 2020.

………

Biden, who was not in office when Floyd died, has criticized law enforcement's harsh response to protesters after Floyd's death.

He later praised the legal conviction of the police officer who killed Floyd, and said that to "deliver real change, we must have accountability when law enforcement officers violate their oaths, and we need to build lasting trust between the vast majority of the men and women who wear the badge honorably and the communities they are sworn to serve and protect."

Many cities have passed policing reform bills since Floyd's death, but over the past two years some have reverted back to their original police funding models, Insider's DeArbea Walker reported last year.

Cops are trained to spend their entire time in abject terror if the people they are ostensibly supposed to protect.

Not only does it result in cops shooting people when they don't have to, but this training is a Petri dish for PTSD.

Having hoards of homicadally twitchy police on the street is not a recipe for domestic tranquility.

We Are Going to See More of This

A failed candidate for office in New Mexico hired hit-men to shoot up the houses of Democratic office holders.

The rhetoric and actions of the far right have increasingly become violent and eliminationist, and I think that we are going to see something very similar to the troubles in Ireland in the if we don't get on top of this:

The arrest of a defeated candidate for the New Mexico legislature on charges that he orchestrated a plot to shoot up the homes of four Democratic officials in Albuquerque prompted widespread condemnation Tuesday as well as accusations that the stolen-election rhetoric among supporters of former president Donald Trump continues to incite violence.

Following the Monday arrest, new details emerged Tuesday about the alleged conspiracy, including how close a spray of bullets came to the sleeping 10-year-old daughter of a state senator. Albuquerque police said in charging documents released Tuesday that Solomon Peña, 39, a Republican who lost a state House seat in November by a nearly 2-1 margin but complained that his defeat was rigged, hatched the plot. Police accused him of conspiring with four accomplices to drive past the officials’ homes and fire at them.

Peña “provided firearms and cash payments and personally participated in at least one shooting,” the documents said. They alleged he intended to cause “serious injury or death” to the people inside their homes, the documents said. The group allegedly stole at least two cars used in the incidents, police said.

One of the targets of the attack said the shootings were part of a lineage of violence that stems from Trump’s false claims of a stolen election and that includes the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol.

Gee, you think?

Unless and until federal law enforcement is made to take right wing domestic terrorism, we are going to see more of this.

It's Always Been a Scam


Fail
Once again, we discover that most carbon offsets are a scam.

This time, it's Verra, the not for profit that sets the standards for carbon offsets.

This is not a surprise.  The incentives are all for carbon theater rather than real carbon offsets.

If the offsets had to be :

The forest carbon offsets approved by the world’s leading provider and used by Disney, Shell, Gucci and other big corporations are largely worthless and could make global heating worse, according to a new investigation.

The research into Verra, the world’s leading carbon standard for the rapidly growing $2bn (£1.6bn) voluntary offsets market, has found that, based on analysis of a significant percentage of the projects, more than 90% of their rainforest offset credits – among the most commonly used by companies – are likely to be “phantom credits” and do not represent genuine carbon reductions.

The analysis raises questions over the credits bought by a number of internationally renowned companies – some of them have labelled their products “carbon neutral”, or have told their consumers they can fly, buy new clothes or eat certain foods without making the climate crisis worse.

But doubts have been raised repeatedly over whether they are really effective.

The nine-month investigation has been undertaken by the Guardian, the German weekly Die Zeit and SourceMaterial, a non-profit investigative journalism organisation. It is based on new analysis of scientific studies of Verra’s rainforest schemes.

It has also drawn on dozens of interviews and on-the-ground reporting with scientists, industry insiders and Indigenous communities. The findings – which have been strongly disputed by Verra – are likely to pose serious questions for companies that are depending on offsets as part of their net zero strategies.

Verra, which is based in Washington DC, operates a number of leading environmental standards for climate action and sustainable development, including its verified carbon standard (VCS) that has issued more than 1bn carbon credits. It approves three-quarters of all voluntary offsets. Its rainforest protection programme makes up 40% of the credits it approves and was launched before the Paris agreement with the aim of generating revenue for protecting ecosystems.

………

The journalists again analysed these results more closely and found that, in 32 projects where it was possible to compare Verra’s claims with the study finding, baseline scenarios of forest loss appeared to be overstated by about 400%. Three projects in Madagascar have achieved excellent results and have a significant impact on the figures. If those projects are not included, the average inflation is about 950%.

It's the same scam as I noted for the Nature Conservancy

Money gets paid, reports get written, and all of the people who do that have jobs.

They are bullshit jobs, at least according to the definition put forward by the late David Graeber, but jobs, and careers are built on this.

This is why a carbon tax works better than cap and trade.

We Now Have a Number

A week ago, I mentioned that the FDA had intends to ban non-compete clauses.

Well, someone has run the numbers, and it looks like this rule could increase wages by about $300 billion.

According to the FTC, there are about 30 million people covered by these agreements, which means that the pay difference would be about $10,000 each for those effected.

That is not chump change:

“You’re not really free if you don’t have the right to switch jobs or choose what to do with your labor,” Lina Kahn, the chair of the Federal Trade Commission, wrote earlier this month. But thanks to noncompete clauses that ban employees from working for similar businesses if they leave their jobs, that is the reality for millions of Americans. Under Khan, the FTC wants to eliminate that practice. On January 5, the agency, which is responsible for regulating businesses so they don’t engage in unfair and uncompetitive practices, announced a proposed rule that would make noncompete clauses illegal.

“Non-union workers have one source of power with respect to their employers, and it is their ability to quit,” said Heidi Shierholz, president of the Economic Policy Institute. “The only thing they have is the ability to say, ‘If you’re not paying a competitive wage, I’m just going to go somewhere else.’” Even if they don’t leave, it often takes a credible outside offer to get an employer give someone a raise.

Noncompetes erase workers’ power to improve their incomes, then, by removing the best card they can play. Having that power back would be significant. The FTC has estimated that its proposed ban, if enacted, will raise wages by nearly $300 billion a year. Evan Starr, an associate professor at the University of Maryland who has studied noncompetes, argues that this is a low estimate, because when firms can no longer game a patchwork of state laws to keep using them, the impact may be even larger than past studies have found.

Non-compete agreements are wage theft.  That's their effect, and that is there purpose.

20 January 2023

Gee, Insider Trading Much?

Peter Thiel, right-wing nutjob, PayPal founder, billionaire, investor, and literal vampire, ended his 8-year investment in Bitcoin just before everything imploded. (behind paywall)

I'm thinking that he had information from insiders about the upcoming problems, and got out before the shit hit the fan.

Information from insiders, what is the term for that?

Founders Fund, the venture capital firm co-founded by billionaire Peter Thiel, closed almost all of its eight-year bet on cryptocurrencies shortly before the market began to crash last year, generating about $1.8bn in returns.

The San Francisco-based fund made its first investment in bitcoin in early 2014 and went on to invest large sums in crypto. About two-thirds of its overall investment was used to buy bitcoin, said people close to the fund.

Founders Fund sold out of the vast majority of its entire cryptocurrency portfolio by the end of March 2022 — before the digital assets market became swept up in a crisis in May last year, said one of the people close to the fund.

The fund currently has no significant exposure to cryptocurrencies, the people said. The winding-down of its crypto bet has not previously been reported. Founders Fund declined to comment.

Thiel, a big backer of Republican candidates and a supporter of former US president Donald Trump, was one of the earliest mainstream investors to buy large sums of bitcoin and has subsequently been loudly bullish on the digital currency.

Pump and dump, and trading on insider information?

When does the crap end up warranting an indictment?

Tweet of the Day

The Hashtag #ITradedMyTeslaFor something safer is trending, and this is what someone posted.

This is both funny as hell, and a sick burn.

Cue Inspector Renault


I'm shocked! Shocked, I tell you! To find that gambling is going on this establishment

Gee, after an incredibly thorough investigation, investigators at the Supreme Court are unable to figure out how the Dobbs decision, which reversed Roe v. Wade.

Of they left no stone unturned, except, of course, for actually questioning the justices.

They did not do that, because ……… They were afraid of catching the perpetrator? **cough** Samuel Alito **cough** 

Once it became likely that Alito was the leaker, the investigation was soft pedaled:

Today the embattled institution known as the Supreme Court released a report on its investigation into the leaked draft of the opinion overturning Roe v. Wade. The report “concludes” that the court is “unable to determine at this time, using a preponderance of the evidence standard, the identity of the person(s) who disclosed the draft majority opinion.”

We used air quotes because this report is far from conclusive, as it appears the investigators did not question the nine justices themselves. Those justices include Sam Alito, who allegedly leaked a birth control opinion in 2014, and Clarence Thomas, whose wife Ginni is a conservative activist who tried to overturn the 2020 election of Joe Biden.

Legal journalist Chris Geidner highlighted that on page 3, the report says: “The investigation focused on Court personnel—temporary (law clerks) and permanent employees—who had or may have had access to the draft opinion during the period from the initial circulation until the publication by Politico.” Law clerks and other employees were even asked to hand over their cell phones, as described on page 13.

………

But on page 11, the investigators acknowledge that it wasn’t only employees who had access to sensitive documents, emphasis ours: “The investigators determined that in addition to the Justices, 82 employees had access to electronic or hard copies of the draft opinion.”

Everyone knows who did this, and it was not Colonel Mustard with a candlestick.

19 January 2023

It's Thursday, So

We have the weekly jobs report, with initial unemployment claims falling by 15,000 to 190,000, the lowest number in about 9 months, and the 4-week moving average fell as well.

I still think that the seasonal adjustments need to be adjusted to the new post-Covid normal, so YMMV.

More significantly, continuing claims ticked up by 20,000 to 1.65 million.

Meanwhile, the Fed's Beige Book, a survey of business sentiment, came out, and businesses are getting more pessimistic, which would imply a reduction in capital investment and inventories, which would slow the economy.

Retail sales fell 1.1% from November, though they still increased 6.6% year over year, which continues to point to a slowdown as well.

On the good news side, producer prices rose by the slowest pace in over a year, which hopefully means that the Fed will be less inclined to raise rates.

My not-particularly-educated guess is that we will see a depression in the next 2-3 months, though, economic statistics being what they are, it won't be called such until September.