25 November 2022

Needs to be Said

Rule 1 of Fossile Fuel Companies is that they lie
Rule 2 is see rule 1

I am not surprised that fossil fuel companies and their paid lackeys will discuss the negative externalities of alternative energy sources, but assiduously cover up their own.

You have the impacts of habitat destruction through things like mountain top removal coal mining, acid rain, oil spills, toxic waste, etc.

Even if one does not believe that anthropogenic climate change is an existential threat for our society, (I do believe that it is an existential threat) it is clear that there is an extensive and heavily funded campaign to minimize the perception of the risks, and the costs, involved.

Every time someone talks about the unacceptable costs of sustainable energy production, you need to fact check every word that they say, including the, "And," and the, "The."

Equally important, particularly for journalists, when quoting people like this, you need to follow the money, and find out who is funding their efforts to oppose an energy transition, and then you need to put this information in your story every time you write something.

Calling out propaganda as such is not biased reporting, it is the essence of good reporting.

Headline of the Day

Crypto: Everyone Was Just That Stupid

Heisenberg Report

I am not a finance maven, but it was apparent within a year of Bitcoin being created that it would never function as a currency. (Currency needs to be current, and the transaction time of crypto currency stretched to hours even back then)

As the mania increased, and the lack of underlying value became more and more obvious, it would seem to me that people in finance, and people involved in financial law enforcement, would have realized that it was all a Ponzi scheme.

Frog March Zuckerberg Out of His Offices in Handcuffs

Remember when the criminal enterprise formerly known as Facebook™ was caught collecting sensitive personally identifying medical information?

Well, now we find that they did the same thing on income tax preparation sites.

The short version is that the criminal enterprise formerly known as Facebook™ provided web tools to allow the tax preparation companies to identify how their users used the sites, with the goal of improving the user experience.

What Meta did not do was tell these companies that with the default settings, information like, their names, filing status, gross income, student loan status, number of dependents, and amount of refund.

Consent decrees and do not cut it.  We need to start criminally prosecuting executives at places like Meta and Google for their blatant and willful violation of their users' privacy:

Major tax filing services such as H&R Block, TaxAct, and TaxSlayer have been quietly transmitting sensitive financial information to Facebook when Americans file their taxes online, The Markup has learned.

The data, sent through widely used code called the Meta Pixel, includes not only information like names and email addresses but often even more detailed information, including data on users’ income, filing status, refund amounts, and dependents’ college scholarship amounts.

The information sent to Facebook can be used by the company to power its advertising algorithms and is gathered regardless of whether the person using the tax filing service has an account on Facebook or other platforms operated by its owner, Meta.

………

When users sign up to file their taxes with the popular service TaxAct, for example, they’re asked to provide personal information to calculate their returns, including how much money they make and their investments. A pixel on TaxAct’s website then sent some of that data to Facebook, including users’ filing status, their adjusted gross income, and the amount of their refund, according to a review by The Markup. Income was rounded to the nearest thousand and refund to the nearest hundred. The pixel also sent the names of dependents in an obfuscated, but generally reversible, format.

………

TaxAct wasn’t the only tax filing service using the Meta Pixel. Tax preparation giant H&R Block, which also offers an online filing option that attracts millions of customers per year, embedded a pixel on its site that gathered information on filers’ health savings account usage and dependents’ college tuition grants and expenses.

………

Megan McConnell, a spokesperson for Ramsey Solutions, said in an email that the company “implemented the Meta Pixel to deliver a more personalized customer experience.”

“We did NOT know and were never notified that personal tax information was being collected by Facebook from the Pixel,” the statement said. “As soon as we found out, we immediately informed TaxSlayer to deactivate the Pixel from Ramsey SmartTax.”

After The Markup contacted TaxSlayer, spokesperson Molly Richardson said in an email that the company had removed the pixel to evaluate its use. “Our customers’ privacy is of utmost importance, and we take concerns about our customers’ information very seriously,” she said, adding that Ramsey Solutions “decided to remove the pixel” as well.

Assuming that the statements from the tax preparation firms are not self-serving lies, (and that is a big assumption) then not only is Meta deceiving its users, who are what they sell, but it is deceiving its customers, and that is fraud.

Seriously, we need to start arresting and trying senior executives.

Elizabeth Holmes cannot be that alpha and omega of prosecution of criminal executives in the tech space.

Another Case of Elections Making a Difference

As a result of regulatory changes under the Biden administration, publicly held companies will be required to distribute proxies to their shareholders with all candidates for the board of directors.

Before this, alternative slates for the board of directors had to be sent out separately, at not inconsiderable cost, and it made it impossible for people to cast votes for nominees from both slates.

This should have the effect of making the positions of board members far less secure, and, one would hope, more responsive and responsible:

Sinking stock prices and a change in proxy-voting rules are emboldening many first-time shareholder activists to seek changes at some of the biggest names in American corporations.

Companies, always wary of activist advances, are feeling particularly vulnerable as a result of new rules imposed by U.S. regulators in September requiring the use of a so-called universal proxy card in corporate-director elections, bankers and lawyers say.

In the new format, directors nominated by a company must be listed on the same ballot as those put forth by activists, enabling investors to pick and choose, rather than voting entirely with either the company or the activist.

Advisers to companies say the likelihood of at least gaining one board seat will increase significantly for smaller players. That’s especially true given that they will no longer incur the substantial expense—sometimes running into six figures or more—of printing and mailing proxy cards to all shareholders, lowering the barriers to entering the activist game.

………

“This proxy season is shaping up to be the busiest on record,” said Shaun Mathew, a partner at law firm Kirkland & Ellis LLP who advises companies on how to prepare for and respond to activists.


“Companies are concerned it will draw in first-time activists who think they can take advantage of the new system to threaten proxy contests to create leverage to advance their agendas,” he said.

There is a better word to describe these, "Activists," owners.

We have been told for decades that shareholders are owners of these companies, and that through shared ownership of publicly traded companies, we all gain a stake in the prosperity of these companies.

The reality is that the upper management, including the (typically grossly overpaid) board of directors run a dictatorship in which they direct the proceeds of their businesses to themselves, and not to the owners.

Of course, this will also further empower corporate raider rat-f%$# types like Carl Icahn, but nowhere near as much.  They already exert excessive influence over companies, frequently pushing short term thinking to the detriment of those enterprises.

This is a very good thing.

Just Go the Jail, Benny

As you are no doubt aware, Binyamin Netanyahu sort-of won the last Israeli parliamentary elections, and Itamar Ben Gvir, right wing nut and bigot, whose party achieved unexpected success in the vote, is now a crucial member of any coalition.

And, he's gone there, demanding that Israel revoke recognition for non-Orthodox conversions, which would also mean revoking the right of return to non-Orthodox converts.  (He has been calling for expulsion or Arab Israeli citizens for years)

On any number of levels, moral, political, and diplomatic, this is a disastrous policy, but this is what proportional representation, or at least proportional representation with insufficiently low bars to entry into parliament, as the Knesset, does.

Rather ironically, a surfeit of democracy produces undemocratic results:

Far-right leader Itamar Ben Gvir on Sunday demanded that the presumed incoming coalition pass a law to end recognition of Reform conversions for the purposes of citizenship.

This latest demand in the ongoing coalition negotiations was quickly denounced by the Reform and Conservative religious rights groups, particularly the Reform movement’s legal arm, the Israel Religious Action Center. The outgoing diaspora affairs minister called the proposal an unnecessary provocation as only an exceedingly small number of Reform converts request Israeli citizenship while the symbolism of the move would ostracize non-Orthodox Jews from Israel.

For years, Israel has accepted conversions performed by the Reform movement abroad as sufficient for Israeli citizenship, and last year the High Court of Justice ruled that such conversions performed in Israel would be recognized as well — for people who had already been living in Israel without citizenship.

This was possible because Israel’s Law of Return, which largely determines the country’s immigration policies, had left the issue of conversions deliberately vague, not specifying if they had to be performed by an Orthodox rabbi. As a result of this ambiguity, the court ruled that any conversion performed by an established community would suffice, including non-Orthodox ones, much to the consternation of Israel’s Chief Rabbinate and religious political parties.

………

This latest demand to give recognition only to Orthodox conversions comes days after Ben Gvir’s political partner, Bezalel Smotrich, issued his own contentious demand to remove the so-called “grandchild clause” of Israel’s Law of Return, which guarantees citizenship to anyone with at least one Jewish grandparent, provided they don’t practice another religion.

“This demand, if granted, means a clear and sharp rift between us and the majority of the Jewish community in the United State of America. This is the largest Jewish community in the world after Israel, they have a great influence and are vital for Israel and for our ties with the US,” Diaspora Affairs Minister Nachman Shai said in an interview with the Kan broadcaster on Sunday morning.
I would note that if these folks get what they want, they will no longer be able to depend on non-Orthodox Jewish taxpayers to provide subsidies for the schnorers who spend their days in Yeshiva and refuse to work for a living.  Additionally, the Orthodox will have to serve, and be subject to conscription, to replace the non-Orthodox people who are now serving in the IDF.

Tweet of the Day

Seriously, why does someone purchase an internet connected grill?

The much vaunted internet of things is more the internet of bullsh%$.

Between issues like updating at inopportune times, losing features when the manufactures abandon the products, and the equivalent of the blue screen of death, this is a losing proposition.

And then there are the inevitable hackers………

Emily Litella's Kid for Senate


First as comedy, then as farce
Herschel Walker is the patron saint of malaprops:

With his Georgia Senate race hanging in the balance, Republican candidate Herschel Walker had an unfortunate slip of the tongue as he tried to drum up support for his campaign Tuesday night. Flanked by Sens. Ted Cruz (R-TX) and Lindsey Graham (R-SC), Walker spoke on Fox News about the significance of his election. “This election is about more than Herschel Walker,” he said. “This ERECTION is about the people.”

(emphasis mine)

On April 17, 1976, (Season 1 of Saturday Night Live, when it was still funny) Gilda Radner, playing one of her many iconic characters, the hard of hearing and generally clueless Emily Litella, had an viewer response to the Weekend Update editorial about Presidential Erections.

46½ years later, Hershel Walker, who is apparently Emily's secret son, made this bit of comedy reality. 

In comedy, veritas. 

(It took me way too long to get the SNL vid embedded.

This is Nuts!

So, it's the day after Thanksgiving, I'm in Baltimore, and it is almost 60°F (15°C) and sunny.

And I'm comfortable in my T-shirt.

This ain't right.

24 November 2022

Done in by Tryptophan

Too much turkey.

Also stuffing, cranberry sauce, root vegetables, Brussels sprouts, and apple and pecan pie.

I made the pies.

Good night.

23 November 2022

Yeah, Like Bezos Will Do This

U.S. District Judge Diane Gujarati has ordered Amazon to stop harassing union organizers at its facilities.

Does the judge really believe that this is going to happen?

Bezos doesn't care, he doesn't have to, he still runs Amazon, though he has turned day to day operations to Andy Jassy, a man who used to sneak into warehouses to spy on employees so that he could identify and fire people that he deemed under performers.  (He got the nickname, "The Sniper.)

Relying on the Amazon to make good faith efforts to obey the law is like relying on Donald Trump to pay his bills:

A federal judge has ordered Amazon to stop retaliating against employees engaged in workplace activism, issuing a mixed ruling that also hands a loss to the federal labor agency that sued the company earlier this year.

The ruling came in a court case brought by the National Labor Relations Board, which sued Amazon in March seeking the reinstatement of a fired employee who was involved in organizing a company warehouse on Staten Island, New York.

In its lawsuit, the agency argued Amazon’s termination of the former employee, Gerald Bryson, was unlawful and would have a chilling effect on organizing. It said that not reinstating Bryson to his role would make workers think the agency would not be able to protect their labor rights under federal law.

On Friday, U.S. District Judge Diane Gujarati ruled there was “reasonable cause” to believe the e-commerce giant committed an unfair labor practice by firing Bryson. She issued a cease-and-desist order directing the Seattle-based company to not retaliate against employees involved in workplace activism.

But Gujarati denied the agency’s request to reinstate Bryson. She determined that the NLRB did not present evidence that Bryson’s termination is having considerable effect on organizing efforts by employees or the Amazon Labor Union, the nascent group in connection to Bryson that ultimately pulled off the first-ever labor win at an Amazon warehouse in the U.S. in March.

 I'm not sure how you deal with barbarians at the gate like Amazon, but this ain't it.

It's Jobless Thursday on Wednesday

They put the numbers out a day early on account of the holidays, and initial unemployment claims rose by 17,000 to 240,000, above the 2019 average of  218,400. (The before times)

Continuing claims rose by rose by 48,000 to 1,600,000 million.

The Federal Reserve should pause rate hikes for a while, but they won't, because central bankers need to prove their manhood:

Filings for U.S. unemployment benefits rose last week but stayed relatively low, the latest sign that the labor market remains on solid ground.

Initial jobless claims, a proxy for layoffs, increased by 17,000 to a seasonally adjusted 240,000 last week, the Labor Department said Wednesday. That is close to the prepandemic 2019 weekly average of 218,400, during the similarly strong labor market that prevailed before the Covid-19 pandemic hit.

The four-week moving average of weekly claims, which smooths out some volatility, rose by 5,500 to 226,750 last week, the most since early September. Jobless-claims numbers tend to fluctuate more in November and December due to holidays.

Weekly jobless claims have been generally edging higher since hitting a recent low of 166,000 in March of this year, and are now at their highest levels since early August. Many high-profile companies have announced job cuts or hiring freezes recently, amid an unusually sharp increase in interest rates and slowing economic growth.

………

Continuing claims, which reflect the number of people seeking ongoing unemployment benefits, rose by 48,000 to 1.6 million in the week ended Nov. 12, the sixth consecutive week of increase. That figure, which is reported with a one-week lag, is up from spring this year, but still near the lowest level since 1970, when the labor force was much smaller than it is today. 

And work force participation is still down, likely because of the millions of people suffering from long Covid.

This is not an overheating economy, but the barbers at the Federal Reserve will continue bleeding the patient.  It's all they know.

Headline of the Day

Aaron Brink, Pornstar Dad of Colorado Club Q Shooting Suspect Anderson Lee Aldrich, Spews Homophobia
The Daily Beast
Seriously, there something wrong with the whole world.

The Least Thanksgiving Spirit


Absinthe


Pale green


Louche
I am referring, of course, to Absinthe.

I decided to buy some for this for Thanksgiving, because of its association with angst ridden artists like Vincent Van Gough, Paul Verlaine, Edouard Manet, Charles Baudelaire, Ernest Hemingway, Paul Gaugan, Guy de Maupassant, Émile Zola, and Oscar Wilde.

Of course, Thanksgiving is not about angst ridden art, it's about getting together with family, and desperately trying not to punch out that racist relative of yours at dinner.

Absinthe is made from wormwood, anise, and (for Lucid brand absinthe) fennel and hyssop.

It's similar to other anise based drinks like Ouzo and Arak having a licorice forward flavor, though the bouquet and the undertones are rather different.

Also like other anise based drinks when water is added, the essential oils come out of solution, and create a cloudy colloidal suspension called the Louche.

Of course, I am not an angst ridden artist, I'm a generally happy ignorant asshole, and an engineer.

That being said, my eldest is a playwright and a poet, so I kind of figured that she had to drink Absinthe at least once, since it got legalized in the United States 2007.

It's nice, but I do not understand its association with depression and moral dissipation and turpitude.

This is the sort of drink that is nice to sip while having a spirited discussion about the aesthetics of Akira Kurasawa movies, not one that leaves you lolling in the gutter.

(later edit)

Dammit.  How could I post about Absinthe and not use the word ennui?

22 November 2022

America's Finest News Source

HR Director Reminds Employees That Any Crying Done At Office Must Be Work-Related
The Onion

This encapsulates the American workplace in a single line of snark. 

The fictional HR director, "Added that anyone with additional concerns about this rule should feel free to come to her and quietly bawl in her office."

Fired for Almost Starting WWIII

Remember that AP story that came out when the missile fell on Polish territory, killing two?

It quoted an anonymous, "Intelligence Source," that said that the missile definitely was fired the Russians.

It is now almost certain that it was an errant Ukrainian SAM, and the Associated Press retracted in less than 24 hours. 

This clusterf%$# has gotten embarrassing enough that the AP has fired James LaPorta, the reporter who wrote the story.

Based on this report of what happened, it seems to me that this was a case of finding the least senior person to take the fall.

The editors should be flipping burgers as well:

The Associated Press scared much of the world last Tuesday when it alerted readers that “a senior U.S. intelligence official” said “Russian missiles crossed into NATO member Poland, killing two people.”

That report, which was widely cited across the internet and on cable news, was taken offline the following day and replaced with an editor’s note admitting the single source was wrong and that “subsequent reporting showed that the missiles were Russian-made and most likely fired by Ukraine in defense against a Russian attack.”

On Monday, the AP fired James LaPorta, the investigative reporter responsible for that story, Confider has learned.

The piece, which was originally co-bylined with John Leicester (who is still working at the AP), attributed the information to a single “senior U.S. intelligence official,” despite the AP’s rule that it “routinely seeks and requires more than one source when sourcing is anonymous.”

………

The only exception, according to its statement of news values and principles, is when “material comes from an authoritative figure who provides information so detailed that there is no question of its accuracy”—a situation that seemingly did not occur, as the report was fully retracted last Wednesday.

………

It is unclear who edited LaPorta’s reporting in question or whether they faced any discipline for the error. 

Until this story was debunked, numerous entities were talking about invoking NATO Article 5, which could have resulted in open hostilities between Russia and NATO.

If you are wondering why I think that the editors should have been fired ……… out of a cannon ……… and into the sun, there is this bit of editorial thinging that the Washington Post reports:

………

Internal AP communications viewed by The Post show some confusion and misunderstanding during the preparations of the erroneous report.

LaPorta shared the U.S. official’s tip in an electronic message around 1:30 p.m. Eastern time. An editor immediately asked if AP should issue an alert on his tip, “or would we need confirmation from another source and/or Poland?”

After further discussion, a second editor said she “would vote” for publishing an alert, adding, “I can’t imagine a U.S. intelligence official would be wrong on this.”

But a person at the Associated Press familiar with the larger conversations surrounding the story that day said LaPorta also told his editors that a senior manager had already vetted the source of LaPorta’s tip — leaving the impression that the story’s sourcing had been approved. While that editor had signed off on previous stories using LaPorta’s source, that editor had not weighed in on the missile story.

Easton said the organization did not anticipate any discipline for the editors involved.

(emphasis mine)

These folks are editors? They have the journalistic acumen of Little Orphan Annie.

I am not saying that LaPorta should not have been fired, but those editors should be rewriting obituaries for the next 18 months under the most forgiving of circumstances.

21 November 2022

It’s Called Bankruptcy Fraud, and It Is a Felony

Ever since the Sandy Hook families sued Alex Jones, he has aggressively moved his assets in an attempt to deceive the court for a potential bankruptcy.

This is fraud, and it is punishable by up to five years in prison and/or a fine of up to $250,000.00. 

Perhaps it is time for the US Attorney and the FBI to look into this:

Alex Jones was losing in court.

Parents of children killed at Sandy Hook Elementary School had sued him and his media company for defamation after he repeatedly claimed the 2012 massacre in Connecticut was a hoax. Fans of the Infowars host had harassed and threatened grieving families. By the summer of 2020, two of the lawsuits weren’t going his way.

As the potential for damages mounted, Jones began moving millions of dollars out of his company, Free Speech Systems, and into companies controlled by himself, friends or relatives, according to a Washington Post review of financial statements, depositions and other court records. The transfers potentially put those funds out of reach of the Sandy Hook plaintiffs.

Between August 2020 and November 2021, Free Speech Systems signed promissory notes — essentially IOUs — for $55 million to cover what it said were past debts to a company called PQPR Holdings that Jones owns with his parents, according to financial records filed in court by Jones’s attorneys. PQPR, which is managed by Jones’s father, a dentist, had bought tens of millions of dollars in supplements for Jones that he then sold on his show, the records say. A lawyer for Free Speech systems has said in court that the debt accrued unnoticed due to sloppy bookkeeping.

This year, Jones started paying his personal trainer $100,000 a week to help ship supplements and other merchandise, a Free Speech Systems attorney said in court. A company managed by Jones’s sister and listed as a “supplier or vendor” was paid $240,000, financial records show.

Courts have awarded the Sandy Hook families nearly $1.5 billion in damages against Jones, including $45.2 million in a Texas case in August and $965 million in a Connecticut case two months later. On Nov. 10, the judge in the Connecticut case ordered Jones to pay an additional $473 million in punitive damages, including $323 million for legal fees. Jones has said on his show that he plans to appeal.

The IOUs and other recent transactions helped tip Free Speech Systems into bankruptcy in July, according to Jones’s court filings. An accountant hired by Jones calculated that Free Speech Systems had $79 million in liabilities at the end of May and only $14 million in assets, court records show. As a result, the Sandy Hook families could be left vying with other creditors — including the companies tied to Jones himself — to collect.

Alex Jones is engaged in bankruptcy fraud.  Charge him, arrest him, deny him bail, and freeze his  assets and those of his parents, his current wife, and those of his personal trainer Patrick Riley, and seize his web site.

If Jones played the bankruptcy straight, he would pay a lot, but he would remain set for life, and he would still have his business, but he got greedy.

He is a criminal, and not in a, "Let's go get sushi and not pay," sort of way.


Linkage

Nice perspective on cops and guns through the prism of British policing. 

20 November 2022

How about Some F%$#Ing Gun Control Laws?

Another mass shooting, this one in Colorado, and once again, the police appeared about as useful as tits on a bull.

Patrons of the LGBTQ Club Q had wrestled the man to the ground and disarmed him by the time that police arrived.

It also appears that police had ignored prior violent behavior and weapons possession of the alleged shooter, Anderson Lee Aldrich, for quite some time.

This happened in Colorado Springs, which should surprise no one, as it is ground zero for Talibaptist terror organizations like Focus on the Family and the Family Research Council:

Screams and gunshots interrupted dance music late Saturday night at a beloved gay nightclub in Colorado Springs when a gunman killed five people and wounded at least 25 before patrons stopped him.

Joshua Thurman at first mistook the gunfire as part of the music, but hid in a dressing room when he realized something was wrong. Thurman, who is gay, lives just down the street from the club and has been going there for years, he said.

“Club Q is the only LGBTQ space in Colorado Springs,” he said. “And we don’t even have that anymore. What are we going to do? How do we move on from this? We can’t. We’re shattered. We’re broken.”

Colorado Springs police Chief Adrian Vasquez identified the suspect as 22-year-old Anderson Lee Aldrich at a news conference Sunday morning. Investigators recovered two guns on the scene and said Aldrich used a long gun during the shooting. Aldrich remained in a local hospital Sunday.

………

A man of the same name and age was arrested on suspicion of multiple felonies in June 2021 for allegedly threatening his mother with a bomb and other weapons. Colorado Springs officials would not comment Sunday on the 2021 incident or whether they believed the same man was responsible for Saturday night’s shooting.

………

The mass shooting at the club is at least the 11th in Colorado since 1993. The shooting occurred minutes before Transgender Day of Remembrance began and as homophobic rhetoric by extremists, politicians and pundits has intensified.

“You can draw a straight line from the false and vile rhetoric about LGBTQ people spread by extremists and amplified across social media, to the nearly 300 anti-LGBTQ bills introduced this year, to the dozens of attacks on our community like this one,” said Sarah Kate Ellis, president and CEO of the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation.

Ground zero for homophobic hate in the United States?  Colorado Springs, Colorado, where James Dobson's coterie of brown-shirts are based.

I am not sure hot to deal with the stochastic terrorism so enthusiastically embraced by Dobson and his ilk, but a way needs to be found/

Corrupt as Hell

Curious

Remember when the decision for the Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization striking down the right to abortion was leaked to the press, and there was a furor over someone betraying the tradition of secrecy of the court??

After about a week or so, suddenly all the questions about who the leaker might be stopped.

There was a theory that his had happened because the leaker was the author of the decision, Justice Samuel Alito.

Well, now he have reports from whistleblowers showing that Alito leaked like a sieve:

As the Supreme Court investigates the extraordinary leak this spring of a draft opinion of the decision overturning Roe v. Wade, a former anti-abortion leader has come forward claiming that another breach occurred in a 2014 landmark case involving contraception and religious rights.

In a letter to Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. and in interviews with The New York Times, the Rev. Rob Schenck said he was told the outcome of the 2014 case weeks before it was announced. He used that information to prepare a public relations push, records show, and he said that at the last minute he tipped off the president of Hobby Lobby, the craft store chain owned by Christian evangelicals that was the winning party in the case.

………

Mr. Schenck’s allegation creates an unusual, contentious situation: a minister who spent years at the center of the anti-abortion movement, now turned whistle-blower; a denial by a sitting justice; and an institution that shows little outward sign of getting to the bottom of the recent leak of the abortion ruling or of following up on Mr. Schenck’s allegation.

The evidence for Mr. Schenck’s account of the breach has gaps. But in months of examining Mr. Schenck’s claims, The Times found a trail of contemporaneous emails and conversations that strongly suggested he knew the outcome and the author of the Hobby Lobby decision before it was made public.

Mr. Schenck, who used to lead an evangelical nonprofit in Washington, said he learned about the Hobby Lobby opinion because he had worked for years to exploit the court’s permeability. He gained access through faith, through favors traded with gatekeepers and through wealthy donors to his organization, abortion opponents whom he called “stealth missionaries.”

………

In May, after the draft opinion in the abortion case, Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, was leaked in what Justice Alito recently called “a grave betrayal,” the chief justice took the unusual step of ordering an investigation by the Supreme Court’s marshal. Two months later, Mr. Schenck sent his letter to Chief Justice Roberts, saying he believed his information about the Hobby Lobby case was relevant to the inquiry. He said he has not gotten any response.

In early June 2014, an Ohio couple who were Mr. Schenck’s star donors shared a meal with Justice Alito and his wife, Martha-Ann. A day later, Gayle Wright, one of the pair, contacted Mr. Schenck, according to an email reviewed by The Times. “Rob, if you want some interesting news please call. No emails,” she wrote.

But wait, there's more.  It appears that there is an ongoing pattern of inappropriate contacts, and inappropriate benefits accruing to Justices going back to Scalia's tenure:

Lawmakers are demanding further investigation at the Supreme Court and renewing their calls for binding ethics rules for the justices, after allegations that a landmark 2014 contraception decision was prematurely disclosed through a secretive influence campaign by anti-abortion activists.

“The first step to recovery is to admit you have a problem,” Senator Sheldon Whitehouse, Democrat of Rhode Island, wrote on Twitter. “At SCOTUS, the problems run deep.”

………

That decision — like the one leaked this spring, overturning the right to abortion — was written by Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr. Mr. Schenck said he learned the Hobby Lobby details from a donor who had dined with Justice Alito and his wife. Both the justice and the donor denied sharing the information.

………

The revelations underscored the lack of accountability mechanisms at the Supreme Court. Unlike other federal judges, the justices are not bound by a written code of ethics; legislation that would create one is pending in Congress.

“While there are many potential solutions, here’s one that the Court could adopt in one minute: OPERATE UNDER THE SAME ETHICS RULES AS EVERY OTHER FEDERAL JUDGE,” Senator Amy Klobuchar, the Minnesota Democrat and another member of the Judiciary Committee, tweeted in response to the Times report.

………

Ed Whelan, the head of a conservative legal group who clerked for Justice Antonin Scalia, said on Twitter that, while the private breach alleged by Mr. Schenck was a different scenario, “It’s long past time for Chief Justice to provide a report on what Dobbs leak investigation has uncovered.”

………

But other scholars and lawmakers said the Times investigation pointed to the need for new transparency rules. Mr. Schenck said that his “stealth missionary” operation was premised on the court’s lack of firmly enforced rules. The court is more permeable than it looks, he said, describing how his group reached the justices, including through their faith, meals together and invitations to vacation homes.

This is the first time that I've seen a Times article that even obliquely alludes to the gratuities that are a routine part of the life of the right-wing Supreme Court justices, and this is what Senator Whitehouse alludes to.

As to the question of how to enforce it, make the ethical standards legally binding, and allow the Department of Justice to prosecute violations.

19 November 2022

Smells Like the DotCom Crash

Softbank CEO Masayoshi Son appears to be personally on the hook to the tune of almost $5 billion to the company that he runs, because of recent setbacks with the company's investments.

Son borrowed money from Softbank to make personal investments in the funds, and he's lost that money.

I really hope that he gets taken to the cleaners:

Masayoshi Son personally owes SoftBank close to $5bn because of growing losses on the Japanese conglomerate’s technology bets, which have also rendered the value of his stake in the group’s second Vision Fund worthless.

The billionaire’s ballooning personal liabilities, discovered through a Financial Times analysis of SoftBank’s recent filings, comes as the world’s biggest tech investor was hammered by plunging tech stocks and valuations in private companies over the past year.

………

The total amount the Japanese executive owes his company is now at $4.7bn, when losses in the group’s shortlived internal hedge fund SB Northstar are also taken into account, SoftBank confirmed to the FT.

………

Son has to personally cover a third of the losses in Northstar, which earned notoriety for carrying out the “Nasdaq whale” trades in US technology stocks in 2020. The stock-trading unit’s total investment losses grew to nearly $6bn at the end of September as the group continued to liquidate its investments.

If the internal hedge fund’s outsized derivative bets had paid off, Son would have reaped a third of the gains.

Similarly, if Vision Fund 2’s investments in private technology companies had been profitable, the SoftBank founder stood to gain handsomely without putting up any upfront capital. Instead the arrangement has wiped billions of dollars off the net worth of one of Japan’s richest men.

I'm not a finance guy, and I know nothing of the laws regarding financial impropriety in Japan, but it stuns me that this sort of wheeling and dealing is legal.

It should not be.  This is the very epitome of parasitic finance.

Turning Police Transparency into a Sham

Baltimore County has gutted the section of the 2021 Maryland Police Accountability Act (Anton's Law) dealing with police records, by giving the officer in question 5 days to review the request and file an objection to stop its release.

With the help of a PBA lawyer, you can be certain that every single request for disciplinary records will be objected to:

Under new Baltimore County Police policies, officers whose disciplinary records are requested under the Maryland Public Information Act as well as the union representing police will be notified of such requests within two business days.

The officer and a designated representative — an attorney or member of the Fraternal Order of Police lodge, for example — will then be permitted to review the documents five days before they are released to the requester.

And the officer or representative will be able to object to the records’ release and file a “reverse MPIA” in the state court system.

………

Anton’s Law advocates have serious concerns about Baltimore County’s policy, which is similar to a Montgomery County agreement that is the subject of ongoing litigation.

David Rocah, a senior staff attorney with the ACLU of Maryland, called the policies a concerted effort to “gut” transparency and accountability provisions in Anton’s Law and said they are “explicitly aimed at facilitating” reverse PIA lawsuits he called improper.

………

Baltimore County Police said this week in response to questions from The Sun that the FOP has the opportunity to review policy changes under its agreement with the county and that it “was done in this case.” 

So, they knuckled under to the police union, which is implacably opposed to transparency and accountability for police officers. 

The FOP will literally have a lawyer on speed dial who will file an objection within minutes of any request being made.

………

Anton’s Law went into effect more than a year ago on Oct. 1, 2021.

It is named for Anton Black, who died in 2018 at age 19 shortly after a physical altercation in which police officers fired a Taser at him, pinned him down, cuffed him and stayed on top of him for almost six minutes. One of the officers involved in Black’s death, Thomas Webster IV, did not disclose use-of-force reports from his previous job in Delaware; his law enforcement certification was later revoked.

There were about 30 use of force incidents on his record, including assault charges, which Webster did not disclose when applying for a certification in Maryland.

Any cop who is opposed to even these most basic accountability measures should not be allowed to carry a badge, or own a gun, even in a civilian capacity.

Special Prosecutor Named for Trump

It was inevitable once Trump announced his candidacy for the Presidency again, and Merrick Garland has appointed Jack Smith as Special Prosecutor, which is an interesting choice.

The reason for this being interesting for a number of reasons:

  • He is a former head of the DoJ's public integrity section, so he is well suited to the position.
  • He was involved in the Brooklyn US Attorney's office investigation of Trump for traud in the 1990s. (There is a typo in the article as to the date)
  • Most recently, he has been working on war crimes investigations at International Criminal Court in the Hague, and Trump initiated sanctions against some of his co-workers there for doing their jobs in Afghanistan and Israel.
  • He has a background in the mishandling of classified information.

All in all, I think that this guy will likely be a scrupulous and relentless in his investigation of Trump, but the example of Lucy and the football still applies.

The US attorney general Merrick Garland has appointed a special counsel to determine whether Donald Trump should face criminal charges stemming from investigations into the former’s president’s alleged mishandling of national security materials and his role in the 6 January attack on the US Capitol.

The politically explosive move comes just three days after Trump announced he is running for the White House yet again, despite a disappointing Republican performance in the midterm elections, especially among candidates backed by the ex-president.

………

Garland named Jack Smith, a veteran prosecutor and top former justice department official, to oversee the investigations into Trump as the justice department examines his role in retaining classified documents at his Mar-a-Lago residence and in the effort to subvert the 2020 election.

………

Trump predictably attacked the move within hours, and complained about an “appalling decision today by the egregiously corrupt Biden administration” at a black-tie event Friday night after earlier telling Fox News’s digital arm: “It is not acceptable. It is so unfair. It is so political.”

I am using Trump's tears to season my soup.

………

But it was to allay those concerns, Garland said at the news conference, that he chose to appoint Smith to run the investigations. “Appointing a special counsel at this time is the right thing to do,” Garland said. “The extraordinary circumstances presented here demand it.”

………

At the US attorney’s office in Brooklyn, Smith helped prosecute a police brutality case that drew national attention and, in the 1970s, [sic, it was actually the 1990s, but fraud investigations of Trump are routing events] investigated Trump over possible fraud charges in a six-month inquiry that ended without charges.

Smith was also briefly involved in the prosecution of a CIA agent for disclosing national defense information and obstructing justice – crimes that echo potential charges against Trump, according to the warrant used by the FBI to search Mar-a-lago.

In a statement released by the justice department, Smith said: “I intend to conduct the assigned investigations, and any prosecutions that may result from them, independently and in the best traditions of the Department of Justice.

………

The appointment of a special counsel could indicate that the justice department has already accumulated substantial evidence of potential criminality by Trump and his allies, said Barbara McQuade, University of Michigan law school professor and former US attorney.

Your mouth to God's ears.

………

The White House press secretary, Karine Jean-Pierre, said Biden had not been given any advance notice of Garland’s announcement. “No, he was not aware, we were not aware,” she said at a delayed press briefing. “The department of justice makes decisions about criminal investigations independently. We are not involved.”

I still don't expect to see Trump in the dock, but I can dream.

You Maniacs! You Blew It Up! Ah, Damn You! God Damn You All to Hell!

As the reader(s) of this blog know, I like to dump on Elon Musk. 

As such, I have REALLY been enjoying Twitter lately.

It's like watching a train wreck, but without the loss of the life, for a while, at least.

It's been circling the drain, and I think that the downward trajectory has accellerated.

Normally, I would not post as about this so enthusiastically, but I appreciate the opportunity to quote the last line of Planet of the Apes.

Elon Musk restored the Twitter account of former president Donald Trump on Saturday, a pivotal move that could help the platform’s once loudest, bluntest force regain online attention just as a new presidential election begins.

“The people have spoken,” Musk wrote in a tweet, nodding to the results of a Twitter poll that had just completed on whether to reinstate the former president.

Trump’s account was repopulating with old tweets and followers Saturday night, though the former president had not tweeted immediately after being restored. He said earlier Saturday he remained focused on his Twitter clone, Truth Social, signaling he would not return to the site right away.

Twitter users who participated in Musk’s poll voted roughly 52 percent to 48 percent to restore Trump’s account, according to the unscientific and non-representative Twitter poll. Musk has put multiple pivotal decisions up to a vote from his Twitter feed, including, last year, on whether to sell 10 percent of his Tesla stock.

I'm wondering if someone like Mohammed bin Bone Saw (Mohammed bin Salman Al Saud) is paying him to destroy the site because it's favored by opposition by activists.

Or maybe Musk is just crazy.

18 November 2022

11¼ Years

The judge sentenced disgraced Theranos founder Elizabeth Holmes to 135 months in prison, followed by 3 years of supervised release.

Given that people typically serve 85% of the sentence, that's about 9⅗ years incarcerated.

This is a good thing.  She knowingly engaged in fraudulent behavior, and remains, in her own words, proud of it.

It's good, because it provides a disincentive to the next bunco artist running a fraudulent Silicon Valley startup, and it's good because it puts the lie to Elizabeth Holmes belief that, "They don’t put pretty people like me in jail."

We need more pretty crooks like her put in jail.

If we aggressively pursued fraud in tech startups, we probably would not be seeing things like the FTX collapse.

Silicon Valley is openly and proudly fraudulent in its business practices, and it needs to held to account:

Disgraced Theranos chief Elizabeth Holmes was sentenced Friday to more than 11 years in prison for duping investors in the failed startup that promised to revolutionize blood testing but instead made her a symbol of Silicon Valley ambition that veered into deceit.

The sentence imposed by U.S. District Judge Edward Davila was shorter than the 15-year penalty requested by federal prosecutors but far tougher than the leniency her legal team had sought for Holmes, who has a year-old son and another child on the way.

Holmes, who was chief executive throughout the company’s turbulent 15-year history, was convicted in January in the scheme, which revolved around the company’s claims to have developed a medical device that could detect a multitude of diseases and conditions from a few drops of blood. But the technology never worked, and her claims were false.

………

The judge gave Holmes more than five months of freedom before she must report to prison on April 27. She gave birth to a son shortly before her trial started last year.

If Holmes’ pregnancy had a role in determining her sentence, the decision could prove controversial. A 2019 study found that more than 1,000 pregnant women entered federal or state prisons over a 12-month study period; 753 of them gave birth in custody.

………

Federal prosecutor Robert Leach described the Theranos scam as one of the most egregious white-collar crimes ever committed in Silicon Valley. Leach told the judge he has an opportunity to send a message that curbs the hubris and hyperbole unleashed by the tech boom of the last 30 years.
 

Mr. Leach is wrong.  Theranos is not, "One of the most egregious white-collar crimes ever committed in Silicon Valley."  It's not even close to the top.

The difference was, that unlike software, which is fungible by nature, the laws of physics and chemistry made it clear that she was lying.

Here is hoping that we start seeing other tech executives frog marched out of their offices in handcuffs, and not just for fraud.  There is also criminal anti-competitive behavior (Zuckerberg, Pichai, Bezos), illegal price fixing (Schmidt, Jobs, etc.), privacy violations, and a host of other behaviors which, had they occurred in 1962 instead of 2022, would have resulted in arrests and jail time.

It's about time to apply justice equally.

17 November 2022

Well, This Is a F%$#Ing Train Wreck


Why Yes, this IS someone projecting insults onto Twitter HQ

The toxic combination of egotism, delusion, cruelty, and stupidity that is Elon Musk has reached a a crescendo of dysfunction at Twitter.

At around midnight on Tuesday, Elon Musk sent out an email demanding that all remaining employees agree to be, "Extremely Hardcore," and commit to insane amounts of overtime and basically sign a loyalty oath to him.*

A deadline to sign this oath was set for 5:00 pm on Thursday, and those who did not commit to this were told that they would be fired, albeit with 3 months severance.

So 41 hours later the deadline has come and gone, and hundreds, and perhaps as more than a thousand, Tweeps are headed for the door, with some entire departments leaving en masse:

Hundreds of Twitter’s remaining employees have resigned ahead of Elon Musk’s “extremely hardcore” cultural reset of the company, according to internal Slack messages seen by The Verge and employee tweets.

The fresh purge of Twitter’s ranks comes after Musk recently fired dozens of employees who criticized or mocked him in tweets and internal messages. Musk then set a deadline of 5PM ET on Thursday for all employees to respond “yes” on a Google form if they want to stay for what he is calling “Twitter 2.0;” otherwise, today would be their final day of work and they would receive a severance package. After the deadline hit, hundreds of employees quickly started posting farewell messages and salute emojis in Twitter’s Slack, announcing that they had said no to Musk’s ultimatum.

………

Twitter had roughly 2,900 remaining employees before the deadline Thursday, thanks to Musk unceremoniously laying off about half of the 7,500-person workforce when he took over and the resignations that followed. Remaining and departing Twitter employees told The Verge that, given the scale of the resignations this week, they expect the platform to start breaking soon. One said that they’ve watched “legendary engineers” and others they look up to leave one by one.

………

Multiple “critical” teams inside Twitter have now either completely or near-completely resigned, said other employees who requested anonymity to speak without Musk’s permission. That includes Twitter’s traffic and front end teams that route engineering requests to the correct backend services. The team that maintains Twitter’s core system libraries that every engineer at the company uses is also gone. “You cannot run Twitter without this team,” a departing employee said.

;And what does the, "Very Stable Genius," have to say about this?

Yeah, right.  That's why Musk decided to lock down Twitter offices until Monday, because he is worried that these, "Best People," are going to sabotage Twitter:

Twitter's offices abruptly shut down on Thursday as hundreds of employees refused to continue working under Elon Musk's new vision for the social platform.

Company officials told employees all buildings were being temporarily closed, effective immediately, and that their ability to renter with ID access was being suspended for the time being, two people familiar with the company's action told Insider. The offices are expected to reopen Monday.

A current employee noted the closing of offices is a dramatic move, but intended to "prevent physical sabotage while they sort out access revocations," according to a Slack message seen by Insider. The closure was first reported on Twitter by Zoe Schiffer of the Platformer newsletter.

Seriously, he's nutty as a fruitcake.  It's only a matter of time before he starts storing his urine in jars and constantly watching the film Ice Station Zebra.

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

Welcome to the Handmaid's Tale

In a discussion of legislation criminalizing abortion in Tennessee, anti-abortion activists, "Raised the possibility of regulating contraception and in vitro fertilization in a few years’ time."

The anti-abortion movement has never been about the sanctity of human life.  It began as a proxy for racism and has since also became a movement to punish women for their sexual agency as well as to and control women's lives:

When state Sen. Richard Briggs voted “yes” on Tennessee’s total abortion ban, he never thought it would actually go into effect.

It was 2019, and Roe v. Wade was the law of the land. His vote seemed like a political statement, not a decision that would soon impact people’s lives.

But on Aug. 25, the ban, one of the strictest in the country, kicked in. It contains no explicit exceptions for circumstances under which the procedure would be allowed. Any doctor who performs an abortion in Tennessee faces a felony that carries penalties of up to 15 years in prison and fines of up to $10,000.

………

On Oct. 27, the Tennessee affiliate of National Right to Life held a webinar to encourage GOP legislators to hold the line. The anti-abortion organization helped write and lobby for so-called trigger bans — laws that outlawed abortion in anticipation of Roe being overturned — in Republican-majority statehouses across the country.

ProPublica reviewed a recording of the call. It provides the clearest examples yet of the strategy that the law’s architects are pursuing to influence legislators and the public amid growing national concerns that abortion bans endanger women’s health care and lives.

During the hourlong meeting, representatives of Tennessee Right to Life and Susan B. Anthony Pro-Life America urged the legislators to stay the course and protect the nation’s “strongest” abortion ban as it stands.

………

“It’s not that [the doctor] didn’t violate the text of the statute, it’s that they had a justifiable reason to do so,” said another activist. “And that reason — you’ve drawn it very narrowly — is to save her life, to prevent an organ system from failing.”

A Tennessee lawmaker on the call suggested health data could be mined to track and investigate doctors, to make sure the abortions they provided to save patients' lives were truly necessary.

The discussion also captured anti-abortion groups coaching legislators on messages aimed at swaying the wider public to support their stance.

One researcher said that when lawmakers are challenged about the state’s lack of exceptions for rape and incest cases, they should try to “hide behind the skirts of women” who carried such pregnancies to term and believe abortion is wrong. Others suggested “negativity” toward the law would fade and raised the possibility of regulating contraception and in vitro fertilization in a few years’ time.

(emphasis mine)

The elimination of contraception is a part of their end game, because they do not want women to have autonomy of body or spirit.

These are not people that we can deal with.  They must be opposed unconditionally and completely.

This Should Be Illegal

It should surprise no one that San Francisco police engaged in a deliberated coordinated slowdown when Chesa Boudin became District Attorney.

If there is some sort of underlying crime, this is a criminal conspiracy:

San Francisco police officers stepped up street enforcement in significant ways after District Attorney Chesa Boudin was recalled and replaced by mayoral appointee Brooke Jenkins, a new analysis of city data finds.

In the three months since Jenkins was sworn in July 8, police initiated eight more traffic stops per day on average when compared with the three months before — an increase of nearly 30%.

Also in the 45 days after Jenkins was sworn in, officers made 10 additional “public order” stops per day, a 20% increase, according to the analysis conducted by an economist from New York University’s Public Safety Lab in partnership with The Chronicle.

Public order stops include those related to vandalism, illegal dumping, soliciting sex, trespassing and sit-lie ordinances, which prohibit individuals from sitting or lying on city sidewalks between 7 a.m. and 11 p.m. These crimes are mostly classified as lower-level, and police typically exercise more discretion in responding to them than they do with more serious offenses like robberies and shootings.

The jump in stops raises questions about whether the change was driven by the replacement of a progressive, reformist prosecutor with a more moderate district attorney who has publicly pledged to increase punishment for people accused of crime.

Some police critics decried what they saw as purposeful police inactivity under Boudin’s tenure — an assertion that officials disputed — while some voters who ousted Boudin believed he was hamstringing the cops by being too lenient with prosecutions. Recall supporters have been asking for more street enforcement.

“The paper’s potential implications that there were significant changes in officers’ behavior relating to the recall election are very concerning to me,” Police Commissioner Kevin Benedicto told The Chronicle in an email. “I plan to review the paper and data closely and discuss the findings with Chief Scott and SFPD leadership.”

………

Attempts to measure the impact of Boudin’s and Jenkins’ policies on crime and on how police do their jobs have been challenging, in part because Boudin took office right before the COVID pandemic upended the city’s social and economic order, causing far larger changes to crime rates than any district attorney could.

But the analysis conducted in partnership with The Chronicle suggests that while San Francisco’s switch in district attorneys hasn’t significantly impacted actual crime rates in the city, it has influenced police behavior.

The police were engaged in a wildcat strike, and it wasn't because they though that Boudin was not "tough" enough , but because Boudin had decided to prosecute corrupt and brutal cops.

Jenkins has put those prosecutions on hold, and the cops are doing their jobs again.

Once again, I find it difficult to distinguish between a police department and a criminal gang.

Not Sad to See Her Go

Nancy Pelosi is stepping down from her leadership role for the House Democrats.

About f%$#ing time.

While I admire her ability to twist arms and count votes, which is 90% of the job, I think that she has functioned as a conservative Democrat during her time in the leadership and her time as a Representative.

Obviously, she has been pro LBNTQ rights, and anti-racist, and pro-immigration, but those are simply the cost of entry to being elected a Democrat in the Bay Area.

On the important issues, inequality, real estate speculation, insider trading by members of Congress, whom she grooms for the leadership, etc. she has been firmly right wing.

Unfortunately, her likely replacement is Hakeem Jeffries, who is a tool of Wall Street.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), who broke Congress’s glass ceiling as the first woman to hold the post, announced Thursday she will not seek reelection as the House Democratic caucus’s top leader, ending one of the most consequential leadership tenures in American political history.

………

In her more than three decades serving in the House, Pelosi earned a reputation for amassing power in the face of male colleagues who at times undermined her opinions, and she earned respect by delivering votes on her party’s top priorities, even if that meant twisting the arms of her colleagues to take a bill over the finish line. Pelosi’s ability to keep her caucus in line has led to bipartisan recognition that she alone may be capable of wrangling Democrats’ disparate factions. She led the House Democratic caucus through a bitter fight in 2010 to pass the Affordable Care Act, and most recently managed a razor-thin majority in passing several key pieces of President Biden’s legislative agenda. The White House said in a statement that Biden spoke with Pelosi on Thursday morning and “congratulated her on her historic tenure.”

As I have noted, she could count votes very well.

………

Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (N.Y.), chairman of the House Democratic Caucus, will run for House minority leader, according to two people familiar with the decision who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss the private conversations. Jeffries, 52, would be the first Black person to lead a party in Congress, and has long been seen as a potential heir when Pelosi stepped down.

Jeffries will be joined by Reps. Katherine M. Clark (Mass.) and Pete Aguilar (Calif.), who will seek the No. 2 and No. 3 positions, respectively. Rep. James E. Clyburn (S.C.) would stay on as assistant leader, a position that used to be third in line, but will now be fourth in the leadership structure.

While those four leaders have held private conversations about running for leadership posts, or stepping aside like Clyburn, the intentions of Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer (Md.) were less clear. But minutes after Pelosi announced her decision, Hoyer announced he would not seek reelection to leadership and endorsed Jeffries for the top spot.

Unfortunately, the only credible challenger to Jeffries right now, Adam Schiff, has explicitly taken his hat out of the ring, likely because he intends to run for the Senate to replace Dianne Feinstein.

16 November 2022

It Looks Like We Won’t Die This Week


The Range of a 5V55 Missile


The debris appears to be from an 5V55 missile a part of the S-300 SAM system

As you may have heard, a missile struck the village of Przewodów in Poland, about 6 km from the border with the Ukraine, and killed two people. 

Initial reports, most notably a very dubiously sourced AP story, ("A Senior U.S. intelligence official") stated that the missile, a component of the SA-300 surface to air missile system (NATO designation SA-10 Grumble, SA-12 Giant/Gladiator, and SA-20 Gargoyle)  was almost certainly fired by Russia.

The missile in question, from the debris pictures, is a 5V55 which can be fired in surface to surface mode, and has a range of 150 km, which means that the only place under any semblance of Russian control is a small corner of Belarus.

As the missile fell during a substantial Russian attack on Ukrainian infrastructure, the most likely explanation is that this was an errant missile from the Ukrainian air defense systems, while the second most likely explanation would be a Russian SSM similarly going off course.

A deliberate Russian strike, which might invoke NATO Article 5, and hence a direct military confrontation between NATO, including the United States, and Russia, was the least likely scenario.

Well, this morning, Polish President  Andrzej Duda stated that it was almost certain that it was a Ukrainian SAM that struck the village.

This means that today, at least, we are not going to war with Russia, and the possibility of a nuclear exchange between nations possessing the world's two most powerful nuclear arsenals is less than it was 12 hours ago.

I probably should have posted this last night, my guess at the time was an errant SAM, but it was late, I was tired, and I figured that we would get more information in the next 24 hours.

Just a note:  This situation is far more volatile, and far more dangerous, than what we see in Western (or for that matter, Russian) media.

If this goes really pear shaped, we could see a nuclear exchange.

Another Election Update

Alex Villanueva, the LA County Sheriff who fostered murderous criminal gangs among his officers, and used his official powers to harass his critics, has lost his bid for reelection.

Here is hoping that he ends up in the dock as a criminal defendant, because he is dirty as hell:

Robert Luna, a little-known retired police chief from Long Beach, will be the next sheriff of Los Angeles County after he soundly beat the incumbent, Alex Villanueva, who leaves office in the wake of a single term marred by the upheaval and discord he sowed.

With Luna holding a commanding 20-percentage-point lead in the vote count and the number of ballots yet to be tallied shrinking by the day, Villanueva conceded the race Tuesday.

………

Dislike for Villanueva and his antagonistic style of rule played out elsewhere on the ballot as well: Measure A, which rewrites the county charter to give the Board of Supervisors the power to fire a sitting sheriff, looks likely to pass overwhelmingly, with about 70% of voters approving it so far. Supervisors put the measure to voters after years spent battling with Villanueva.

The results were a resounding rebuke of Villanueva’s four chaotic years in office — a tenure during which he morphed from an upstart candidate buoyed by the support of progressive voters into a conservative, combative lawman who clashed endlessly with elected officials and others who oversee him and the department.

Luna’s victory means another turnover in leadership for the Sheriff’s Department, which will see its fourth sheriff since Lee Baca resigned eight years ago amid a federal corruption probe that ultimately sent him to prison.

………

After decades of neglect, the county’s jails will present Luna with no shortage of problems, as they have his predecessors. Treatment for the thousands of mentally ill people housed in the facilities is woefully insufficient, while the facilities in general are badly outdated.

Controversial shootings and other misconduct continue to be issues as well. The Board of Supervisors recently agreed to pay $47.6 million to settle several lawsuits alleging excessive force or negligence by sheriff’s deputies. The payouts included $8 million for the family of Andres Guardado, whose killing in 2020 by a deputy prompted large protests.

………

Still unresolved are criminal investigations the Sheriff’s Department opened into some of Villanueva’s most ardent critics that led to widespread accusations that he was abusing the power of the office to attack adversaries. California’s attorney general has taken over those investigations and is looking into the misconduct claims.

And lawsuits by top-ranking sheriff’s officials alleging Villanueva covered up an incident in which a deputy kneeled on the head of a jail inmate remain open .

The oversight commission, meanwhile, is holding public hearings into gang-like groups of deputies that have operated in the department for decades. Villanueva came under fire for his handling of the problem, both downplaying its seriousness and claiming to have taken decisive steps to address it. He has also rebuffed subpoenas from the commission to answer questions about the groups and other problems under oath.

This man was a complete sh%$-show, as iss the LA County Sherrif's Department, which has turned the county jail into a medieval house of horrors, in addition to the whole criminal gang thing.

Placing the Sheriff under civilian oversight, with the ability to remove the them, is a decent start, and decarceration which would save money and immediately make the jail less hellish, would be a good second step.

Snark of the Day

Who Said It: Elon Musk or Mr. Burns?
The New Republic, which has improved immeasurably since Marty Peretz was turfed out.

I only scored 75% on the test, and I have followed both The Simpsons and Musk for a while.

It really is difficult to tell the difference between the two.

Quote of the Day

But such safety measures would only strengthen the impression that, given its remarkable lack of other uses, the shiny staircase to nowhere is the first structure in human history whose sole purpose is suicide.
The Baffler, discussing the now closed, "Vessel," a 46 m high stairway maze to nowhere at the  Hudson Yards Redevelopment Project.

It is closed, probably permanently, after the 4th person committed suicide by jumping from the sculpture in just 2 years.

Stephen M. Ross, the (heavily subsidized) real estate developer behind the project, and the main force behind the. "Monument," had hoped that this would be a symbol that defined New York in the same way that the Eiffel Tower is emblematic of Paris.

This is, of course absurd, because:

  • New York already has symbols, the Brooklyn Bridge, the Empire State Building, and the subway and they all actually do something, or did something, or represented a leap forward in technology.
  • The Eiffel Tower was an engineering marvel, displacing the Great Pyramid of Gisa as the tallest human structure in the world after a nearly 4500 year run.

This structure is just a exercise in destructive public masturbation by a rich pig.

It's also simply hideous:


By Epicgenius - Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, Link

15 November 2022

How Can We Miss You If You Never Go Away?

A short time ago, Donald Trump announced that he is running for President in 2024?

Aside from the obvious, even Rupert F%$#ing Murdoch is sick of him, there is the fact that by his own statements, it would be illegal for him to run again, since the 22nd amendment explicitly states that no one can be elected President more than twice.

No person shall be elected to the office of the President more than twice, and no person who has held the office of President, or acted as President, for more than two years of a term to which some other person was elected President shall be elected to the office of the President more than once.

Of course, Trump did not win in 2020, but I'd still find amusing if he were struck from the ballot by a DeSnatis ally for just that reason.

Also, enough is enough.  Would the aliens please take me from earth?  I don't want to be here any more.

One does wonder though, "Is this just a ploy to dissuade Merrick Garland from prosecuting Trump for Sedition, Mishandling of Classified Documents, and Obstruction of Justice?"

I'm thinking that this definitely plays into Trump's calculus, to the degree that the inverted traffic cone can actually engage in coherent thought.

That's 3 Unions to Reject the Sellout Deal

The Boilermakers’ union has rejected the deal negotiated with the help of the Biden administration.

Not a surprise.  Biden and his Evil Minions™ browbeat the unions into taking a bad deal in order protect the Democratic Party's chances in the midterms. (It worked)

Now that the rank and file are voting on it, they are disinclined to roll over and show their belly:

The boilermakers’ union that represents 300 railroad workers has rejected their tentative agreement with the U.S. Class I systems, becoming the third labor organization to give a new contract a thumbs down.

The union announced today that its members rejected the contract that had been based on the recommendations of the Presidential Emergency Board convened this summer after railroads and the unions failed to reach a contract deal.

The two sides now will enter a cooling-off period that will run through at least Dec. 9.

………

The Kansas City, Kan.,-based International Brotherhood of Boilermakers, Iron Ship Builders, Blacksmiths, Forgers & Helpers said it expects “continue negotiating further toward a satisfactory contract in the future with the NCCC.” (National Carriers Conference Committee)

The IBB joins the unions representing maintenance of way employees and signalmen in rejecting their tentative agreements with the railroads. Seven unions have ratified their contracts.

But the two largest unions — the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen, and the SMART-TD that represents conductors — won’t announce their ballot results until Nov. 21. Industry observers believe BLET and SMART-TD are likely to vote down their agreements, setting up the prospect of the first nationwide railroad strike since one that led to a brief lockout in 1992.

The working conditions at the railroads are literally killing workers.  Is it any wonder that they want the abuse to stop?

PPI Improves

So, the Producer Price Index (PPI) increased at a slower rate than forecast in October.

The question is whether changing facts on the ground will have the Federal Reserve will moderate their rate increases in response.

My money is on, "No," because even if they overshoot, they will still receive accolades for being, "Tough."

Their incentive is to over-correct.  Just look at how Paul Volker was lionized.

Making war on the American worker is the official policy of most economists and politicians:

U.S. supplier price increases slowed in October for the second straight month, adding to signs that inflation pressures could be abating.

The producer-price index, which generally reflects supply conditions in the economy, climbed 8% in October compared with the same month a year ago, the Labor Department said Tuesday. Though prices continued to rise rapidly, the pace marked an easing from September’s revised 8.4% increase, and was down sharply from the 11.7% increase in March, the highest since records began in 2010.

U.S. stocks rose and U.S. government bond yields fell after producer prices increased by less than investors anticipated.

Consumer price increases also eased last month after hitting a four-decade high over the summer. The Federal Reserve is aggressively raising interest rates to bring down inflation and cool the economy, without triggering a recession. The latest inflation numbers likely keep the central bank on course to start slowing the pace of rate rises.

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PPI captures what suppliers are charging businesses and other customers. It generally reflects the changes in costs that producers are facing combined with the pricing power they command—which, in turn, can indicate inflationary pressure building throughout the production pipeline.

The bottom is already falling out of the real estate market, and the knock on effects are likely to be significant.

A pause, or at least making an increase of only 25 basis points ( ¼%) should be what the Fed does at their next meeting, but they won't.