04 July 2022

Nope. Nope. Nope. Nope. Nope. Nope. Nope. Nope.

We saw this in Tennessee:

First, the developer has completely removed the ground cover on a very steep slope.

Second, even if the developer claims that they took special care with the foundations, I do not trust the developer. Never trust a real estate developer.

Finally, even if the developer is conscientious, the contractor might not be.

That's Not a Knife


THIS IS A KNIFE


Smoky Mountain Knife Works.
Knives, semi precious stones, fossils, V-2 parts, etc.
We took a detour on the way home to Pigeon Forge, TN to take a brief look at Dollywood, because Nat wanted to see it.

On the way we saw the sign for Smoky Mountain Knife Works, and has to check it out.

Then I saw the knife, and I knew that it was imperative for me to show it to Sharon.

Needless to say, I pointed the blade out, and quoted Crocodile Dundee in a very bad Australian accent, because, how could I not?


03 July 2022

Back in the Eastern Time Zone

Should be back in Baltimore tomorrow evening.

It's late, I'm tired, I'm going to sleep.

Also, as our Airbnb had Netflix, Nat binge watched season 3 of Umbrella Academy.  I found it rather incoherent.

02 July 2022

Still Cannot Make Planes

After years of the hedge fund types running Boeing, and using profits to buy back stock, as opposed to reinvest in the company, Boeing has gotten to the point where it has serious manufacturing and safety issues.

Now it appears that production quality issues unrelated to the MCAS system may ground the 737 MAX again.

Boeing's troubled 737 MAX planes — which have twice crashed, killing 346 people — have experienced at least six mid-air emergencies and dozens of groundings in the year after an extensive probe cleared them to fly. 

The incidents, pulled from US government air safety databases, are among more than 60 mid-flight problems reported by pilots in the 12 months after the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) recertified the plane's airworthiness in late 2020.

Former employees of both Boeing and the FAA characterised the reports — which included engine shutdowns and pilots losing partial control of the plane — as serious and with the potential to end in tragedy.

In one incident in December 2021, a United Airlines pilot declared a mayday after the system controlling the pitch and altitude of the plane started malfunctioning.

An ABC investigation can also reveal the US government will announce a new audit examining Boeing's production oversight of the 737 MAX planes.

I don't know how to fix Boeing, but the need to fix it is imperative.

About F%$#ing Time

So now, Biden is supporting a filibuster carve-out in order to pass national protections to abortion rights.

He should have done this months ago,  I give him no credit for this

Complete Ownage


Nothing to add, because this is perfection.

How To Handle This

I do not favor the response of Andrew Jackson to an adverse ruling by the Supreme Court, which was to say, "John Marshall has made his decision; now let him enforce it," and engage in genocide against the Cherokee nation, but the legislative response of the New York State Democrats to the Supreme Court Decision invalidating their century's old law placing mild restrictions on open carry is a decent alternative:

One week after the Supreme Court struck down a law limiting the spread of concealed handguns in New York, state Democratic leaders on Friday were expected to respond with new measures that would prohibit people from carrying firearms in many public settings deemed “sensitive places.”

The ban would apply to places like colleges, hospitals, subways, parks, stadiums and even Times Square — a last-minute addition in the late-night negotiations. It would also extend to any private property, such as a bar, restaurant or home, unless the property owner expressly allows guns, which they can do by placing a sign on their premises.

The expected legislation was seen as a forceful retort to the Supreme Court decision last week, and may be an early test of how far a state can go to limit the spread of handguns without violating the Supreme Court’s ruling.

By a 6 to 3 vote, the Supreme Court ruled that Americans have a broad right to carry weapons outside their homes, declaring that a century-old New York law was unconstitutional because of the way it limited those who could obtain carry permits.

Fearing that the decision would lead to a dangerous proliferation of guns amid an ongoing spike in gun violence that began during the pandemic, Gov. Kathy Hochul had ordered the Democrat-led Legislature to gather for an emergency session in Albany on Thursday to tighten the state’s gun laws.

………

Lawmakers were also progressing on a broad equality measure that would enshrine a right to abortion in the State Constitution, following the Supreme Court decision that overturned Roe v. Wade.

The measure, which would require an amendment to the State Constitution, would place New York at the forefront of legal efforts to codify the rights to an abortion, ensuring that it could not simply be revoked by a future Legislature. 

………

The gun bill adds new requirements for New Yorkers to receive a concealed carry permit, including 16 hours of training on how to handle a handgun, two hours of firing range training, an in-person interview and a written exam, as well as a review of social media accounts.

Legislative leaders and the governor appeared to have reached an agreement on a list of locations where guns would be banned: health care facilities; houses of worship; colleges and universities; places where children gather, such as schools, day care centers, playgrounds, parks and zoos; public transportation; places where alcohol or cannabis is consumed; and theaters, concerts, casinos and other entertainment venues.

Lawmakers also moved to ban weapons at protests or places where people have congregated to express their rights to free speech.

Carrying a weapon in a prohibited area would amount to a felony punishable by up to four years in prison. But the legislation would not apply to properly licensed security guards at work, former military members or retired law enforcement officials.

Don't like the exceptions for former military or law enforcement, but otherwise it seems to be a good response.

Would Margaret Atwood Please Pick up the White Courtesy Phone

Because woman's health does not matter

She brings receipts

So now, women are forbidden from receiving FDA approved treatments for FDA approved purposes completely unrelated to pregnancy. 

If a man had the same condition, there would be no question of his receiving treatment, because he has a right to appropriate treatment, but a woman has no rights to anything.

This was always going to happen when they repealed Roe v. Wade.

Unfortunately, Republicans embraced the assault on abortion rights as a proxy for racism, and Democrats embraced doing nothing, because it aided in their fund raising efforts and their electoral strategy, (such as it is) so nothing was done.

The Democratic Party establishment (There is no Democratic Party establishment) simply did not care enough to take definitive action.

The lesser of two evils is still evil 

01 July 2022

Let's Go Brandon!

Joe Biden will nominate a corrupt anti-abortion hack to a lifetime Federal Court judgeship in Kentucky in exchange for Mitch McConnell not screwing with his nomination of two US Attorneys in the state too much.

Chad Meredith, the potential beneficiary of this largess, is a part of McConnell's political machine.

So a lifelong position is to be gifted to a political hack who is hip deep in former Governor Matt Bevins' pardons for campaign donation scandals, in exchange for a couple of lawyers getting a good entry in their resumes.

To quote (not) Tallyrand, "This is worse than a crime, this is a mistake."

First you are giving away a big prize in exchange for basically nothing, and secondly, Mitch McConnell cannot be trusted to keep his end of the bargain.

President Joe Biden struck a deal with Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell to nominate Chad Meredith, a Republican anti-abortion advocate, to a federal judgeship on the Eastern District of Kentucky, Slate has confirmed. Under the arrangement, Meredith would take the seat currently occupied by Judge Karen Kaye Caldwell, a George W. Bush nominee. Caldwell submitted her move to senior status on June 22, which, once complete, will allow Meredith to take the seat. A lawyer with connections to the Kentucky governor’s office who is familiar with the agreement told Slate that Caldwell conditioned her move upon the confirmation a successor—specifically, the conservative Meredith. In exchange, McConnell will allow Biden to nominate and confirm two U.S. Attorneys to Kentucky.

Caldwell, who once dated McConnell, conditioning her retirement on the nomination and confirmation of a chosen successor is a statement that she will be making an official act, her retirement, in exchange for what should be a completely unrelated official act by the President of the United States and the US Senate.

That sounds an awful lot like a solicitation of a bribe, or extortion, to me.

………

The deal has prompted fury from Democrats since it was first reported by the Louisville Courier Journal’s Andrew Wolfson and Joe Sonka on Wednesday. Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear, a Democrat, confirmed the planned nomination at a Thursday press conference. Democratic Rep. John Yarmuth also confirmed the White House’s intent to nominate Meredith in an interview with Slate on Friday. Yarmuth described the agreement as “indefensible” and said he wrote “the strongest text message I have ever written to anybody” to a contact at the White House expressing his “outrage.”

Gee, a strongly worded text message.  How about digging up dirt on this guy?

Beshear and Yarmuth were especially frustrated because they had intended to submit potential nominees as soon as vacancy arose on the court. The White House was aware of this plan, but did not inform them that Caldwell planned to take senior status. As a result, Beshear and Yarmuth had no opportunity to make recommendations. Instead, the Biden administration coordinated with McConnell to tee up Meredith’s nomination once Caldwell announced her intent to leave the seat. According to Slate’s source in Kentucky, McConnell agreed, in exchange, to stop blocking Democrats’ preferred nominees for U.S. Attorney in the state. McConnell has sought to place his own allies in these positions—including prosecutor Thomas B. Wine, who as the Jefferson County Commonwealth’s Attorney refused to charge the police officers who killed Breonna Taylor.

I get that there is a custom for the senior Senator to have a role in making these nominations, but nothing in the Senate rules or law requires this, and if it takes an additional few weeks for the vote, so be it.

Negotiating with terrorists is never a good idea. 

………

Meredith is an especially controversial nominee because of his close ties with Matt Bevin, the former Republican governor. He played an integral role in the controversial pardons that Bevin issued after losing reelection in 2019. Most notably, the former governor pardoned Patrick Baker, a man convicted of homicide whose family hosted a political fundraiser for Bevins. U.S. Attorneys later retried Baker in federal court; he was once again convicted by a jury and sentenced to nearly four decades in prison. Meredith assisted Bevins with pardons in his capacity as legal counsel to the governor, recommending which applicants merited clemency. He then withheld records relating to these pardons from the Beshear administration. The Trump administration considered nominating Meredith to a federal judgeship but dropped the plans in 2020 following the pardon controversy, as the Louisville Courier Journal reported at the time.

So, this guy was too dirty for Donald John Trump, but Biden is OK with this?

Alarmingly for Democrats, Meredith also defended Kentucky’s anti-abortion legislation, including a law that forced patients to undergo an ultrasound and listen to audio of the fetal “heartbeat” before terminating a pregnancy. Meredith prevailed at the court of appeals. He also defended a law requiring abortion providers to secure “transfer agreements” with hospitals, an onerous burden on clinics with no health benefit to patients. The appeals court upheld that statute, as well. 

This guy is not just a corrupt McConnell crony, he is an active menace to the rights of every woman in his potential jurisdiction.

This action by the Biden administration transparently craven and hypocritical.

As such, it is bad policy, and worse politics, because people do not want to vote for cowards.

The Cruelty is the Point

Thanks to its restrictive abortion laws, a 10 year old Ohio rape victim will have to leave the state to terminate her pregnancy.

This is not a surprise.  They don't care about people who they harm, or even whether or not they actually help children.

They just want to punish women and keep them in their place:

On Monday three days after the Supreme Court issued its groundbreaking decision to overturn Roe v. Wade, Dr. Caitlin Bernard, an Indianapolis obstetrician-gynecologist, took a call from a colleague, a child abuse doctor in Ohio.

Hours after the Supreme Court action, the Buckeye state had outlawed any abortion after six weeks. Now this doctor had a 10-year-old patient in the office who was six weeks and three days pregnant.

………

Indiana lawmakers are poised to further restrict or ban abortion in mere weeks. The Indiana General Assembly will convene in a special session July 25 when it will discuss restrictions to abortion policy along with inflation relief.

But for now, the procedure still is legal in Indiana. And so the girl soon was on her way to Indiana to Bernard's care.

While Indiana law did not change last week when the Supreme Court issued its groundbreaking Dobbs decision, abortion providers here have felt an effect, experiencing a dramatic increase in the number of patients coming to their clinics from neighboring states with more restrictive policies.

Since Friday, the abortion clinics where Dr. Katie McHugh, an independent obstetrician-gynecologists works have seen “an insane amount of requests” from pregnant people in Kentucky and Ohio, where it is far more difficult to get an abortion.

A ban on abortions after six weeks took effect on last week in Ohio. Last Friday the two abortion providers in Kentucky shut their doors after that state’s trigger law banning abortions went into effect.

This was foreseeable.  In fact it was foreseen.

The people behind these laws don't care.  They just hate women, and in particularly hate the freedom women have in a modern society.

They are no different from the Taliban.

They are not the opposition, they are the enemy, and an implacable enemy at that.

They cannot be reasoned with.  To quote Robert Graves, "They must be struck into the dust, struck down again as they rise. Struck again while they lie groaning, while their wounds still pain them; they will respect the hand that dealt them."

The Power of Prophecy

The prediction

The confirmation


The whole image, as Twitter crops it.

You may recall that when I wrote about the Supreme Court completely overturning Roe v. Wade, I posted a prophetic quote from Francesca Fiorentini.

Well, we now have confirmation, with this screen shot of yet another fundraising email from Nancy Pelosi.

Just when I think that the Democratic Party establishment (There is no Democratic Party establishment) cannot get any more stupid, venal and self-destructive, they amaze me at the new lows that they reach.

What's more, it all seems so effortless.

These folks have taken the philosophy of Boies Penrose ("Yes, but I'll preside over the ruins") to a place that was far beyond my most pessimistic visions.

Once again, I am left staring at the screen with an expression on my face like a poleaxed steer.

30 June 2022

There is Some Hope

In response to the Supreme Court decision requiring Maine to fund religious schools, the state formerly known as that other part of Massachusetts is now requiring that all schools that receive state funding to not discriminate against LGBTQ students.

As such, the religious schools in question will still not get funding, because they love their bigotry more than they love their money:

What a week so far for conservatives. On Tuesday, the Supreme Court struck down a Maine law that prohibited religious private schools from receiving taxpayer dollars. On Thursday, it invalidated a New York State gun safety law limiting the public carry of firearms. And on Friday, it overturned Roe v. Wade. The outcome in these cases was not surprising. The court has ruled in favor of religious litigants in an overwhelming number of cases; the gun case’s outcome was clear from the oral argument before the justices in November; and the court’s draft abortion decision was leaked in May.

What is surprising is how little the 6-to-3 decision in the Maine case, Carson v. Makin, will matter practically. And the reason offers a glimpse of hope for those who worry about a future dominated by the court’s conservative supermajority — including the many Americans troubled by the court’s decision in the gun case, New York State Rifle & Pistol Association v. Bruen.

Let’s start with the Carson case. Anticipating this week’s decision, Maine lawmakers enacted a crucial amendment to the state’s anti-discrimination law last year in order to counteract the expected ruling. The revised law forbids discrimination based on gender identity and sexual orientation, and it applies to every private school that chooses to accept public funds, without regard to religious affiliation.

The impact was significant: The two religious schools at issue in the Carson case, Bangor Christian Schools and Temple Academy, said that they would decline state funds if, as Maine’s new law requires, accepting such funds would require them to change how they operate or alter their “admissions standards” to admit L.G.B.T.Q. students.

Nice move, but you've only bought a few years.  

The Supreme Court has already made it clear that it wants to force public funding of discrimination in Fulton v. Philadelphia.

Maine should use the time that they have to replace their program with public schools in rural areas.

I Got a Bad Feeling about This

My brother, Stephen, the Bear who Swims, posted this on Facebook.

Too good not to share, even if it is, as one wag put it, an intergalactic fleshlight.

Tweet of the Day


A pun this bad merits criminal charges.

29 June 2022

Please, Just Kill Me

It looks like some people, including right wing troll and GW Bush cousin John Prescott Ellis, are calling for the Democrats to nominate Hillary Clinton again for President in 2024.

At least that's what perennial douche bag both sider pundit Chris Cilizza is telling us.

All I know is that :

In the immediate aftermath of the Supreme Court's monumental decision to overturn Roe v Wade, conservative writer John Ellis took to the internet to make a provocative case: It was time for Hillary Clinton to make a(nother) political comeback

"Now is her moment," he wrote. "The Supreme Court's decision to overturn Roe vs. Wade creates the opening for Hillary Clinton to get out of stealth mode and start down the path toward declaring her candidacy for the 2024 Democratic presidential nomination."

………

He's not the only person eyeing a Clinton re-emergence.

Writing in The Hill newspaper, Democratic pundit Juan Williams makes the case that Clinton should become a major figure on the campaign trail this year.

"Clinton is exactly the right person to put steel in the Democrats' spine and bring attention to the reality that 'ultra-MAGA' Republicans, as President Biden calls them, are tearing apart the nation," Williams writes, adding: "Keep talking and talk louder, Hillary!"

Juan Williams is arguably the stupidest pundit in Washington, DC, which is no small accomplishment.  (He's also a regular on Fox News)

Let me be clear here:  I think that Joe Biden is a DEEPLY flawed candidate, and he has a penchant for doing DEEPLY stupid things as a candidate.

That being said, what he has not done is lose to Donald Trump, and Hillary Clinton has, which in the minds of Ellis, Celliza, and Williams seems to make her a better candidate against Donald Trump, because ……… The Aristocrats!

This just makes me want to go live in a cave.

In Memphis

We have arrived in Memphis, safe, sound, and sane, which is no small feat.

There were some delays, so we Arrived a few hours late. 

As a consequence of this, we were forced to eat Robin's minstrels, and there was much rejoicing.

28 June 2022

Truer than Taxes

Seen at a coffee shop:


Without coffee, there would be no intelligent life on earth.

27 June 2022

Yeah, This One is Delusional

The latest big idea coming out of the G7 talks on how to sanction Russia is to enforce a price cap on Russian oil of about ⅕ the current market rate.

The idea here is to use the threat of sanctions against the rest of the world, because only the G7 nations can process payments and provide shipping insurance.

Given the current effect of sanctions, the Ruble has risen more than any other currency on earth since the start of the war in the Ukraine, this seems to be a highly dubious proposition, particularly since oil is pretty fungible, and to the degree that it is not, Russian oil plays an outsize role in refining to diesel fuel, so any switch would require retooling of the refineries.

This is the act of a group trying to show people that they are doing something, not actually doing something:

G7 leaders meeting for a summit in the Bavarian Alps are seeking a deal to impose a “price cap” on Russian oil as the group works to curb Moscow’s ability to finance its war in Ukraine.

Talks were set to continue on Monday, having begun on Sunday in the luxury resort of Schloss Elmau, where leaders want to enlist a range of countries beyond the G7 to put a ceiling on the price paid for Russian oil.

………

On Monday, the caps will be debated by a broader group when the leaders of Germany, the US, UK, France, Italy, Japan and Canada are joined by “partner” countries invited to the summit. These include India, which has become a big buyer of discounted Russian oil since the invasion of Ukraine, as well as Argentina, South Africa, Senegal and Indonesia.

I'm thinking that there is a sovereign bond case where a crazy federal judge in New York has Argentina over a barrel (pun intended) that might come up for review as a result.


Charles Michel, president of the European Council, said the EU was ready to decide with its partners on a price cap but stressed the need for a “clear vision” and awareness of possible knock-on effects. “We want to make sure the goal is to target Russia and not to make our life more difficult and more complex.”

Which means that you cannot make it work.

Existing sanctions have already hit the west, in particular the EU harder than Russia.  See the example of the reductions of flow through the Nord Stream 1 pipeline, because sanctions have prevented maintenance on the line.

………

Host Olaf Scholz, Germany’s chancellor, said all the G7 states were worried about the “crises we currently face”. But he said he was convinced the group would send a “very clear signal of unity and decisive action”.

This is an acknowledgement that the sanctions are not working.

The leaders are also targeting China. Biden said the G7 had built on a deal first announced in Cornwall a year ago to offer infrastructure funding to poor countries as an alternative to China’s Belt and Road Initiative.

The alternative being offered is small subsidies, with massive public-private-partnerships, which as I have noted before, are a way to throw massive subsidies at corrupt private businesses, and then require governments to cover any potential losses.

It's an even bigger sucker bet than China's Belt and Road Initiative.


………

The idea of an oil price cap comes as the high price of crude means Russia’s revenues from oil exports have not necessarily declined despite western restrictions on Russian oil imports.

Concern is also mounting that attempts to ban ships carrying Russian oil from accessing western insurance markets this year could drive global oil prices to unprecedented levels. The International Energy Agency warns it could contribute to the shutdown of more than a quarter of Russia’s pre-invasion production.

Under the price-capping scheme, Europe would limit the availability of shipping and insurance services that enable the worldwide transport of Russian oil, mandating that the services would only be available if the price ceiling was observed by the importer. A similar restriction on the availability of US financial services could give the scheme added impact.

So, China, and India, and Brazil, and Iran, etc. cannot do business without using US dominated payments systems (False), and cannot operate without insurance supplied by the UK by Lloyd's of London and other British firms. (False) 

This might make it difficult to deliver oil to the US, but no oil is going directly from Russia to the US right now anyway.

Attempting to extend sanctions Russia like this, whose costs primarily fall on the EU and non-aligned nations, seems to me a recipe for destroying the, "Very clear signal of unity and decisive action," that Olaf Scholz is so deeply enamored of.

H/t Naked Capitalism.

Halfway to Memphis

Sharon,* the kids, and I are now safely esconsed in a hotel.

Just so you know, we are NOT going to Graceland.

We'll see a few sites, hit some museums, and see my mother-in-law.

*Love of my life, light of the cosmos, she who must be obeyed, my wife.

Linkage

I really wish that John Oliver had replaced Jon Stewart, and not Trevor Noah:

26 June 2022

Well, That Only Took 6 Years

6 years ago, it was revealed that Facebook had created advertising tools that allowed its customers to discriminate in employment and rental ads.

Well, Facebook has finally agreed to stop helping bigots.

What took them so long?

In a settlement announced by the Department of Justice on Tuesday, Meta Platforms — formerly known as Facebook — has agreed to eliminate features in its advertising business that allow landlords, employers and credit agencies to discriminate against groups of people protected by federal civil rights laws.

The deal comes nearly six years after ProPublica first revealed that Facebook let housing marketers exclude African Americans and others from seeing some of their advertisements. Federal law prohibits housing, employment and credit discrimination based on race, religion, gender, family status and disability.

For years, ProPublica and other researchers showed that problems persisted in the delivery of advertisements related to housing, employment and credit, even as Facebook pledged to fix the loopholes that we identified.

………

As part of the settlement, Meta has agreed to deploy new advertising methods that will be vetted by a third-party reviewer and overseen by the court.

The company said in a statement that it will implement a “novel use of machine learning technology that will work to ensure the age, gender and estimated race or ethnicity of a housing ad’s overall audience matches the age, gender, and estimated race or ethnicity mix of the population eligible to see that ad.”

………

After we reported on the potential for advertising discrimination in 2016, Facebook quickly promised to set up a system to catch and review ads that discriminate illegally. A year later, ProPublica found that it was still possible to exclude groups such as African Americans, mothers of high school kids, people interested in wheelchair ramps and Muslims from seeing advertisements. It was also possible to target ads to people with an interest in anti-Semitism, including options such as “How to burn Jews” and “Hitler did nothing wrong.”

We later found that companies were posting employment ads that women and older workers could not see. In March 2019, Facebook settled a lawsuit brought by civil rights groups by creating a “special ads portal” specifically for employment, housing and credit ads. The company said the portal would curb advertisers’ targeting options and also limit its algorithm from considering gender and race when deciding who should see ads.

………

ProPublica also continued to find employment advertisements that favored men or excluded older possible applicants, potentially violating civil rights law. Some advertisers we interviewed were surprised to learn that they were unable to reach a diverse audience, even if they tried.

(emphasis mine)

So, not only did Facebook help discriminate, they discriminated for clients who did not want to discriminate.

Facebook is a deeply and profoundly evil organization.

This is a Good Thing

There is a lot of hand wringing going on over theinvestigation and subsequent resignation of John Allen as president of the Brookings Institute, a Washington, DC think tank.

The short version, was that Brookings got lots of money from the government of Qatar, and that during an FBI investigation of whether or not Allen was an unregistered foreign lobbyist:

Last week a bipartisan bill was introduced in the House of Representatives to curb foreign influence in the US political process. This bill comes on the heels of Ret. Gen. John Allen’s resignation from his post as president of the Brookings Institution—the most prominent left-leaning think tank in the US—after being accused by the FBI of secretly lobbying on behalf of Qatar and obstructing the government’s investigation into his alleged lobbying and influence activities on behalf of the Qataris. This bombshell news and congressional action should send shockwaves through the national security community.

Think tanks are supposed to be the intellectual backbone of D.C. Their rigorous research guides policy discussions, and their staff shape media narratives, lobby Congress and the executive branch, and even help to write our nation’s laws. We know—we’ve worked at multiple think tanks for more than a decade and have done all of these things.

Clearly Mandy Rice-Davies* applies here.  The authors, Eli Clifton and Benjamin Freeman, having made their careers in the think tank industry, see their role as essential.

The truth is that these institutions are both corrupt and corrupting, defining what is and what is not acceptable discourse while taking money from numerous sources.  (See Neera Tanden's tenure at the Center for American Progress, where she took money from hedge funds, and served the interests of the UAE and the House of Saud after getting large donations.)

………

This risk is particularly high given that think tanks are awash in foreign money. In fact, foreign governments donate tens of millions of dollars to the United States’ most prominent think tanks every year, and there are myriad examples of how this money influences what these institutions do (or don’t) say. In some cases, think tanks have exploited loopholes in US lobbying laws, like the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA). Yet few in Congress or law enforcement have seemed to care—until now.

The accusations leveled against Allen represent the first publicly known Department of Justice investigation of a think tank staffer or leader for FARA violations since FARA enforcement began ramping up after Russian meddling in the 2016 election.

The Allen allegations do not implicate anyone else at Brookings or the institution itself, but do raise the flag that Qatari funding has flooded Brookings’ coffers for years. While funding records are incomplete as Brookings, like all think tanks, is not required to disclose any of its funders, publicly available information indicates that the think tank has received more than 30 million from Qatar in just the past 15 years, with the Embassy of Qatar regularly appearing in Brookings’ contributors list in the “2 million and above” category. Brookings certainly isn’t alone in accepting foreign government funding. In fact, with few exceptions—like the Council on Foreign Relations, Human Rights Watch, and the Quincy Institute, where we work—most US think tanks accept foreign government funding, with some accepting millions annually. Many of these think tanks have also been accused of bending to the desires of their foreign funders. Foreign funding has, allegedly, paid for a research report for the Center for a New American Security that recommended policies beneficial to the foreign funder. In other circumstances, it has financed conferences denigrating a foreign funders’ geopolitical rival. Think tanks have been notably silent about the misdeeds of their foreign funders. At Brookings, for example, one former employee alleged that he was not permitted to write negatively about Qatar.

(emphasis mine)

The entire think tank ecology is corrupt.

I'm not sure if it can be fixed, I would advocate burning them all to the ground, but a good first step would be to make their funders public.

*Well, he would say that, wouldn't he? Seriously, know your history.

Light Posting for a While

I'm on vacation through July 4.

We are driving to Memphis to visit with my mother-in-law.

I Did Not Expect Even This

The Senate actually passed its extremely weak tea gun control legislation.

I did not expect anything to happen:

President Biden on Saturday signed into law a bipartisan gun bill intended to prevent dangerous people from accessing firearms and increase investments in the nation’s mental health system, ending nearly three decades of gridlock in Washington over how to address gun violence in the United States.

Final passage of the legislation in Congress came one month after a mass shooting at an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas, left 19 children and two teachers dead, a horror that galvanized a bipartisan group of lawmakers to strike a narrow compromise.

“God willing,” Mr. Biden said as he put his pen down on Saturday morning, “it’s going to save a lot of lives.”

If we are lucky, we might save 1 or 2 lives.  It has been watered down to near irrelevance:

………

The president acknowledged that the legislation fell far short of the sweeping measures he had pushed for, but he said it included some long-sought priorities.

………

For lawmakers, advocates and survivors of gun violence, the law is the culmination of decades of work, building on repeated failed efforts to overcome Republican opposition and overhaul the nation’s gun laws in response to mass shootings across the country. But the law’s enactment came the same week that the Supreme Court struck down a New York law limiting where gun owners could carry a firearm outside the home, citing the Second Amendment.

And then there is the Supreme Court sabotaging any attempt to enact reasonable gun laws.

The gun legislation will expand the background check system for prospective gun buyers under the age of 21, giving authorities up to 10 business days to examine juvenile and mental health records. It sets aside millions of dollars so states can fund intervention programs, such as mental health and drug courts, and carry out so-called red flag laws that allow authorities to temporarily confiscate guns from any person found by a judge to be too dangerous to possess them. 
Like I said, weak tea, though I am sure that Democrats will try to run on it.

And the Supreme Court Makes it Official

Some Selected Takes on the Ruling


By this logic, it would invalidate Loving v. Virginia as well making his marriage illegal in Virginia


This will doubtless be the response of the Democratic Party establishment (There is no Democratic Party establishment)


You know that you will see this. They have been using it to fundraise for decades.


Obama also said that the Freedom of Choice Act was not a priority.


Also, Cuellar is opposed to any gun control. Not a good look.


"The Freedom of Choice Act is not my highest legislative priority."
We have the recipts, Mr. Obama.

I've been having a hard time wrapping my head around the fact that the Supreme Court just overturned Roe v. Wade.

In fact, I spent most of yesterday staring at the screen, which explains why I did not post this Saturday.

Clearly this decision was intellectually bankrupt, hypocritical, nakedly partisan, and  corrupt, but so was Bush v. Gore, and there was no consequences for that.

Interestingly enough, this is likely not to be the most significant decision of this session.  In West Virginia v. Environmental Protection Agency, the conservatives on the court ate looking to strip most of the regulatory powers of federal agencies.  

This would have the effect of largely dismantling the the ability of federal regulations to institute regulations that ware not specifically authorized through legislation.

While this might not completely roll back the regulatory role of the federal government to before 1935, it comes pretty close.

The Roe decision is not a surprise.  It was leaked 1½ months ago, and the final version is largely unchanged:

The Supreme Court on Friday eliminated the constitutional right to obtain an abortion, casting aside 49 years of precedent that began with Roe v. Wade.

The decision by Justice Samuel Alito will set off a seismic shift in reproductive rights across the United States. It will allow states to ban abortion, and experts expect about half the states to do so.

In one of the most anticipated rulings in decades, the court overturned Roe, which first declared a constitutional right to abortion in 1973, and Planned Parenthood v. Casey, which re-affirmed that right in 1992. The decision followed the leak in early May of a draft opinion showing that a majority of the justices were privately poised to take that step. On Friday, they made it official.

The vote to overturn Roe was 5-4. Justices Clarence Thomas, Neil Gorsuch, Brett Kavanaugh, and Amy Coney Barrett joined Alito’s opinion. Chief Justice John Roberts did not join the opinion. He agreed with the majority that the Mississippi abortion restriction at issue in the case should be upheld, but in a separate opinion, he argued that the court should not have overturned Roe.

The court’s three liberals — Justices Stephen Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor, and Elena Kagan — filed a joint dissent. They called the majority opinion a violation of women’s autonomy and said it would harm the court’s legitimacy and jeopardize other constitutional rights.

………

The majority contended that Friday’s ruling would not undermine other decisions by the court involving fundamental rights that the Constitution does not expressly mention, such as the right to contraception (Griswold v. Connecticut) and the rights to same-sex intimacy (Lawrence v. Texas) and marriage (Obergefell v. Hodges). Unlike those rights, Alito wrote, abortion terminates what Roe and Casey refer to as “potential life” and what the Mississippi law refers to as an “unborn human being.” “Nothing in this opinion,” Alito added later, “should be understood to cast doubt on precedents that do not concern abortion.” 

This last bit is crap.  Roe flows from the the right for people not to have the state, or the states, dictate their personal decisions, and this precedent flows from Griswold and Loving v. Virginia, which ruled anti-miscegenation (interracial marriage) laws unconstitutional.

If you pull that string, it all unravels, and saying, as the hacktacular Samuel Alito, "Because Babies," (actually, he says, "Potential Life") it does not apply to other rulings, is dishonest and stupid.

Unsurprisingly, this does not hold up to scrutiny.  At the core of his argument is that since abortion was not considered a fundamental right in 1868, there is no right to abortion.

This argument also invalidates the idea that the 14th amendment protects, contraception, gay marriage, and interracial marriage.

In a separate concurrence, Clarence Thomas gets this right: (I cannot believe that I just wrote that)

………

But a concurring opinion by Thomas indicated that, at least for him, decisions like Griswold, Lawrence, and Obergefell are very much in doubt. Thomas reiterated his view that the Constitution’s due process clause only protects process – the right to have the government follow proper procedures before taking away someone’s life, liberty, or property. The due process clause, Thomas wrote, does not protect any substantive rights. Because the Alito opinion concluded that there is no right to an abortion even under the Supreme Court’s substantive due process cases, Thomas explained, he joined the court’s opinion. But in a future case, he urged, the court should “reject substantive due process entirely” and reconsider cases like Griswold, Lawrence, and Obergefell.

And, as I had noted, Loving v. Virginia

Even if this opinion is not applied to LGBTQ rights or contraception, and it will be, it creates a mess, where in vitro fertilization will be criminalized, as will pregnancy, with criminal investigations of miscarriages becoming common in many parts of the nation.

This is a disaster, promulgated by a deeply evil and deeply corrupt group of people, and it is going to get much worse before it gets better.

24 June 2022

Tweet of the Day


Been there, done that, got the f&$#ing T-Shirt.

23 June 2022

Maybe They Just Aren't Good at Their Jobs


US cops cannot imagine living in a world where cops not carrying firearms can enforce the law, because they have been trained to be in fear of their lives at all times, and to act as if they have complete impunity.

It is a toxic mix.

If cops spent their first few years not carrying a firearm, we'd have much better cops.

A Point I Missed

The invaluable Cory Doctorow make an observation that is so obvious in retrospect that I feel ashamed. 

It is almost a cliche that the erotic media industry is on the cutting edge of communications technology because for some reason they are particularly attuned to developments in technology, and are eager to implement these technologies.

Mr. Doctorow makes an obvious point, pr0n does not have a special affinity for technology, they use new technology because they have been excluded from more normal avenues for success.

They start on the next big thing because they have no alternative:

The sex industry has pioneered every new communications tool since the printing press: in my own lifetime, I've watched it take the lead in VCRs, desktop publishing, BBSes, digital text, digital images, digital videos, live streaming services, cryptocurrency, and VR. It would be easy to conclude that being interested in sex is somehow correlated with being fascinated by technology.

But that's wrong. While there are lots of sex workers and sex industry participants who have an innate fascination with technology, there's no reason to think that being into sex is a predictor of being into tech. And yet, sex workers are the vanguard of every technological revolution. What gives?

Well, think about the other groups that make up that vanguard – who else is an habitual early adopter? At least four other groups also take the lead on new tech: political radicals, kids, drug users, and terrorists. There's some overlap among members of these groups, but their most salient shared trait isn't personnel, it's exclusion.

Kids, drug users, political radicals, sex workers and terrorists are all unwelcome in mainstream society. They struggle to use its money, its communications tools, and its media channels. Any attempt to do so comes at a high price: personal risk, plus a high likelihood that some or all of their interactions and transactions will be interdicted – their work seized and destroyed or blocked or deleted.

Using a new technology comes at a cost. If it's 1979 and you're Walt Disney Pictures, you've got no reason to explore the VCR. The existing system works great for you – and it works great for your audience. You can always find a movie theater willing to show your movies, your audience is happy to be seen entering that cinema, and the bank gladly accepts ticket revenues as deposits.

Once again, the old adage that, "Necessity is the mother of invention," is proved true.

22 June 2022

I Need a German Word

I am sure that all of you know the word Backpfeifengesicht, a German word meaning, "A face that begs to be slapped."

The term gained popularity when Martin Shkreli, felon and prescription drug profiteer, became a, "Thing."

I need a stronger word to describe the face of Mitch McConnell.

Tweet of the Day


A pretty good summation of Obama's greatest legacy.

It's Always the Tapes, Isn't It

It appears various principals in Trump Land are completely losing their sh%$ over the revelation that the January 6 committee will be getting all the tapes from a documentarian who covered the campaign for months.

It appears that British filmmaker Alex Holder filmed had months of intimate access to Trump, his family, and his campaign organization.  Even better, he's completely fine with cooperating with the Congressional investigation:

After we scooped this morning that the Jan. 6 committee has subpoenaed documentarian Alex Holder for his 2020 footage of Donald Trump and his inner circle, Holder confirmed the news in a statement, saying he’s fully cooperating with the probe.

“When we began this project in September 2020, we could have never predicted that our work would one day be subpoenaed by Congress,” he said. “As a British filmmaker, I had no agenda coming into this. We simply wanted to better understand who the Trumps were and what motivated them to hold onto power so desperately.”

Holder added that the project is a three-part series over which he had total editorial control, including filming at the Capitol on Jan. 6.

Oh my.

As to what is there (from the "scooped" link), we have:

………

(1) Raw footage from Jan. 6.

(2) Raw footage of interviews from September 2020 to present with Trump, Pence, DONALD TRUMP JR., IVANKA TRUMP, ERIC TRUMP and JARED KUSHNER.

(3) Raw footage “pertaining to discussions of election fraud or election integrity surrounding the November 2020 presidential election.”

Holder is expected to fully cooperate with the committee in an interview scheduled for Thursday. Read the full subpoena.

I'm sure that the footage will be fascinating.

Worst Labour Leader Ever

If you don't live in they UK, you may not have heard about the strike at National Rail, the biggest labor action in the UK in decades.

One would expect that Labour would support the  National Union of Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers.

Instead, Sir Kier Starmer, the head of the Labour Party, (for a while, at least) forbade senior members of Parliament (Front Benchers) from showing up at the picket lines in support, because ……… Labour should never be seen as supporting labo(u)r unions?

In a rather pleasant surprise, a number of the aforementioned front benchers ignored this direction:

Keir Starmer is on a collision course with the left wing of his party over strike action, after at least three junior frontbenchers defied his instructions and joined RMT union picket lines on Tuesday morning.

Kate Osborne and Paula Barker, both parliamentary private secretaries to shadow ministers, tweeted that they had shown solidarity with striking workers on Tuesday morning.

The third frontbencher defying Starmer’s ban was Navendu Mishra, a Labour whip. He tweeted: “As a proud trade unionist, I stand with all workers on our railway network who are taking industrial action to fight for their jobs and keep passengers safe.”

………

Jarrow MP Osborne tweeted that she would, “always stand on the side of the workers”. She was pictured alongside RMT strikers in Bromley, south-east London.

………

Anas Sarwar, the leader of Scottish Labour, took a markedly different approach from Starmer, tweeting a picture of himself meeting striking RMT workers in Glasgow. “Solidarity with those on the picket lines. This is a crisis entirely of the government’s making,” he wrote.

I get that political expedience has a role in the actions that a party leader must take, and that starmer is concerned about labor unrest being tied to the Labour Party, but his actions are not only immoral, they are stupid.  (Worse than a crime, a mistake)

It only serves to demoralize his supporters, and the Tories will tag him for the strike anyway.

It now appears, that in an effort to save face,  Starmer is trying to strong-arm the rebellious front benchers into apologies, because, or course, this is all about him:

Labour frontbenchers who defied Keir Starmer to appear on picket lines have been encouraged to issue public apologies or risk disciplinary action, despite some shadow cabinet members urging the Labour leader to drop the issue.

Several frontbenchers were pictured alongside striking RMT workers on Tuesday, despite explicit instructions from Starmer to stay away.

The Guardian understands some of the rebel MPs involved have been asked to issue a statement explaining their attendance.

One senior party source jokingly suggested a junior frontbencher had been asked to claim they had been “ambushed by a picket line” – a reference to an excuse used to explain Boris Johnson’s attendance at his own birthday party.

Another source, an MP, said the whips were “threatening people at the moment, trying to get them to issue apologies”. It is unclear what the consequences would be if they refused to apologise.

Meanwhile, Starmer is under pressure from some members of his shadow cabinet to drop the threat of disciplinary action.
To say that Starmer's actions are completely reprehensible is an understatement.

21 June 2022

Completely Not Shocked

With the growing sh%$ storm over various attempts by Trump and his Evil Minions™ attempts to corruptly subvert thge 2020 election making waves, Trump is doing what he always does, throwing his lackeys to the wolves, in this case it is lawyer (though hopefully not for long) John Eastman.

In a perfect world, Eastman would start showing investigators where the bodies are buried for both Trump and the Thomases, but I am not holding my breath:

With the Justice Department and Jan. 6 committee taking a close look at Donald Trump’s efforts to overturn the 2020 election, he and his cronies could certainly use a fall guy, and it looks like they’ve found their patsy: right-wing lawyer John Eastman.

Eastman worked for Trump as the attorney devised legal strategies to overturn the election to keep the outgoing president in power. But, in recent weeks, Trump has confided to those close to him that he sees no reason to publicly defend Eastman, two people familiar with the matter tell Rolling Stone. The ex-president is also deeply annoyed with Eastman and all the negative “attention” and media coverage that the lawyer’s work has brought Trump and his inner sanctum, including during the ongoing Jan. 6 hearings on Capitol Hill.

Furthermore, to those who’ve spoken Trump about Eastman in recent months, the ex-president has repeated an excuse he often uses when backed into a corner, as investigators confront him with an associates’ misdeeds: He has privately insisted he “hardly” or “barely” knows Eastman, despite the fact that he counseled Trump on taking a string of extra-legal measures in a bid to stay in power and wrote the so-called “coup memo,” which laid out the facsimile of a legal argument for reversing Trump’s election defeat.

………

Indeed, the infamously garrulous Trump has publicly kept his mouth shut about Eastman, a lawyer whose work became integral to the scandalous efforts to nullify President Biden’s 2020 victory. (Trump even considered Eastman as counsel for his post-insurrection impeachment.)

Nowadays, in the top ranks of MAGAland, there’s a clear attitude towards Eastman (“Johnny,” as some Trump advisers derisively call him): He might be going down. So be it, as long as he doesn’t take anyone else down with him.

………

Eastman has become an increasing focus for the January 6th committee for his role in spearheading many of the Trump campaign’s efforts to overturn the election. Exhibits posted by the committee last week included excerpts of a deposition by Trump White House attorney Eric Herschmann in which he described a heated confrontation with Eastman the day after the insurrection where he told Eastman to “get a great fucking criminal defense lawyer” because “you’re going to need it.”

Shortly afterward, Eastman emailed fellow Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani to say: “I’ve decided that I should be on the pardon list, if that is still in the works.”

“Any time you give legal advice and then feel compelled to ask for a pardon, it probably wasn’t good legal advice,” says Steven Groves, formerly a lawyer and then a spokesman in Trump’s White House.

Indeed.

……….

Eastman, a former clerk for Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas turned conservative constitutional law professor, was first welcomed into Trump’s orbit during the penultimate year of Trump’s term in office. Trump, enamored of Eastman’s skepticism of the birthright citizenship afforded by the constitution, increasingly came to rely on the attorney’s crackpot views of election law as the the odds of overturning Biden’s 2020 election victory grew longer. On behalf of Trump, Eastman authored briefs for the Supreme Court to intervene in the election in Trump’s favor — both ultimately discarded by the justices.

………

But the idea that Eastman is becoming something of a fall guy for Trump and various Republicans’ efforts in 2020 and early 2021 is now so prevalent in influential conservative circles that it’s now being acknowledged by some of the former president’s favorite right-wing media stars.

………

When the FBI arrested Trump’s former trade advisor Peter Navarro for defying a subpoena from the committee, the former president thundered with outrage that “our great trade genius, Professor Peter Navarro, was just handcuffed, shackled, and put in jail.” Ginni Thomas, whose efforts to overthrow Biden’s victory in Arizona, received similar encouragement from Trump when The Washington Post uncovered her emails urging legislators there to ignore the voters’ will and proclaim Trump the state’s victor. Thomas, Trump wrote after the Post story, is a “Great American Patriot, the wonderful wife of Justice Clarence Thomas” who “fought for Voter Integrity in the Great State of Arizona.”

On Trump’s personal website, where the former president hosted written statements after his ouster from Twitter and before the launch of Truth Social, he’s been similarly mum. Eastman’s name appears on the site only twice, in hosted copies of the Supreme Court election briefs he authored in 2020.

Does it make me a bad person to feel nothing but amusement about all of this. 

OK, I'm feeling a little bit disappointed that Donnie Two Scoops isn't in the same position, but nothing is going to happen to him, because of the norms fairy.

I Have an Endorsement

Which I am sure that my reader(s) in Baltimore County are waiting for with bated breath.

Specifically, I am endorsing Robbie Leonard over incumbent Scott Shellenberger in the race for Baltimore County State's Attorney.  (Another name for DA, you can get a good start on the issues involved here.)

The short version is that Schellenberger is a soft on cops, refusing to prosecute misconduct, and he threatened a rape victim in an attempt to keep her from filing charges on her own.

………

Shellenberger is a defendant in a federal lawsuit alleging unfair treatment of female victims of sexual assault. A judge dismissed most of the lawsuit, but let one claim go forward: an allegation that Shellenberger and others in his office violated a woman’s constitutional rights.

The remaining case centers on events that followed a Towson University student’s report she was raped by three men in 2017. After county prosecutors declined to charge the men, the woman tried to file charges on her own through a court commissioner. Shellenberger and others in his office, according to the lawsuit, told police to go to her home to tell her to stop seeking charges.

The judge handling the lawsuit wrote that the case should be heard because a reasonable jury could find that Shellenberger and other defendants had a “retaliatory motive.“ A civil trial is scheduled for September.

Shellenberger said he acted out of concern that the men would sue the woman or file criminal charges against her.

So, as opposed to, for example, having someone call and explain the legal jeopardy, he sent cops to this woman's home.  Does not sound like concern to me.

It sounds like he did not want his office embarrassed by a private prosecution after soft pedaling a gang rape, and used the cops as his bully-boys.

Stay classy, my friend.

Tweet of the Day

If this story is not true, it should be.

As the great philosopher Mason Williams once observed, "Who needs truth if it's dull."

Full disclosure, I am not a fan of post-modernist philosophy

20 June 2022

Tweet of the Day


This, ironically enough, is truer than taxes.

19 June 2022

A Good Start

At the Federal Trade Commision (FTC) Lina Kahn has made the radical step of actually enforcing corporate bribery statutes, which have been ignored by the regulatory body for decades.

About damn time:

This is a weird moment in politics, with obvious dysfunction everywhere. There are mass flight cancellations, shortages of everything from cat food to baby formula to tampons, real wage declines, and an administration that looks out of its depth in so many ways. But in our corner of the world, the political fight to take on monopolies, things are going… well.

I’m going to highlight a bunch of policy actions that happened this week, and how they show that out of the limelight we are slowly turning key parts of the U.S. government around. The most important change is FTC Chair Lina Khan resurrecting an old antitrust law that bars corporate bribery, and using it to attack corrupt middlemen in the insulin market. But while insulin is the immediate target, this law can reach Amazon and a host of other monopolies.

This is a very good thing.

………

A year ago, Lina Khan became Chair at the Federal Trade Commission, followed a few months later by Jonathan Kanter taking the helm at the Department of Justice’s Antitrust Division. Khan and Kanter are perhaps the most aggressive proponents of antitrust enforcement in decades, returning competition policy to the basic view that when it comes to corporate power, big is usually bad.

This week, three actions will help flesh out what this new enforcement regime looks like practically. First, Jonathan Kanter at the Antitrust Division filed a statement of interest on a court case asking for the narrowing of the antitrust exemption for Major League Baseball. MLB is embroiled in litigation over its choice to eliminate 40 minor league teams, and has been heavily criticized for mistreating minor league players. It was trying to use its antitrust exemption to get the lawsuit dismissed. With this statement of interest, as well as a series of others, Kanter is using his posture as the chief antitrust enforcer at DOJ to shape the law in a more assertive direction.

Second, on Thursday, the FTC voted to resurrect the Robinson-Patman Act, a bill prohibiting corporate bribery and price discrimination by middlemen that hasn’t been meaningfully enforced since the 1970s. I wrote several chapters in my book on the titanic fight in the 1930s to tame chain stores with this law, and the equally vicious conflict in the 1970s to stop enforcing it. The end of RPA enforcement is why chain stores like Walmart and Amazon took over our retail space, and why dominant middlemen control every area of our economy at this point. It’s worth noting that Robert Bork’s most hated statute was the Robinson-Patman Act, and he considered it a tremendous victory that he helped end the enforcement of the law.

So what happened at the FTC? All five commissioners voted on a policy statement saying that the use of rebates by dominant middlemen in the insulin market were a potential violation of different laws under the jurisdiction of the FTC, including the Robinson-Patman Act. This vote is a signal to every private antitrust lawyer, state attorney general, and judge, that the Robinson-Patman Act can once again be dusted off and used.

Insulin is a great test case for this law, because everyone knows how unfair and inefficient the insulin market truly is. It’s a medication that has been around since 1922, and yet it has been increasing in cost every year for decades. And while the three main producers engage in all sorts of schemes to push up cost, most of the high cost of insulin is actually a result the middlemen named pharmacy benefits managers - CVS Caremark, Cigna (Express Scripts), and United Healthcare (OptumRx) - who manage and control how medicine is priced and sold. PBMs demand rebates of up to 70% for the right to have an insulin company sell their product to patients. These rebates in turn massively drive up the price of insulin.

………

It takes a while to stop a giant ship, turn it around, and get it going in the opposite direction. That’s where we are with antitrust. We started this journey in 2013 or so, and finally got the ship stopped by the end of the Trump administration. Well, the ship has turned around, and it is beginning to move in the right direction. Slowly. But it’s speeding up.

This is the most aggressive antitrust enforcement since (at least) the Reagan administration.

I hope that this is not just a blip,

I’m Sure That the CIA Is Already Planning a Coup

For the first time ever, Colombian has elected its first leftist president, defeating a right wing populist in the mold of Donald Trump,

I imagine that somewhere in a basement in Langley, Virginia, someone is planning something similar to the now-discredited "Car Wash" investigation in Brazil that targeted Lula:

Colombia has elected a former guerrilla fighter Gustavo Petro as president, making him the South American country’s first leftist head of state.

Petro beat Rodolfo Hernández, a gaff-prone former mayor of Bucaramanga and business mogul, with 50.47% of the vote in a runoff election on Sunday and will take office in July amid a host of challenges, not least of which is the deepening discontent over inequality and rising costs of living. Hernández had 47.27%, with almost all ballots counted, according to results released by election authorities.

Petro’s election marks a tidal shift for Colombia, a country that has never before had a leftist president, and follows similar victories for the left in Peru, Chile and Honduras.

………

Hernández looked to be a contender, though could not escape an almost constant stream of scandal. He referred to Hitler as a “great German thinker” and has been filmed galavanting with models on a yacht in Miami. His posts on TikTok – from where he ran much of his campaign – were laden with profanity and he refused to attend any debates ahead of Sunday’s vote.

On the agenda for the new leader will be the country’s faltering peace process with the leftist rebels of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (Farc), which was signed in 2016 and formally ended five decades of civil war that killed more than 260,000 people and displaced more than 7 million. Duque has been accused of slow-walking the accord’s implementation in order to undermine it.

Another headache for Petro will be neighbouring Venezuela, which has been mired in social, political and economic crisis for years. Petro has advocated for a reopening of ties with Venezuelan strongman Nicolás Maduro, bucking the Duque government’s policy of isolation.

Petro has also pledged to wean the country off its dependence on fossil fuels, worrying investors.

Seriously, this just screams CIA sponsored coup, doesn't it?

Couldn't Happen to a More Deserving Asshole

Emmanuel Macron's Ensemble party has lost its majority in parliament.

Given that his policies have consisted of Islamophobia and screwing the average French workers, this is a completely justified turn of events:

Emmanuel Macron’s centrist grouping has lost its absolute majority in parliament, amid gains by a new left alliance and a historic surge by the far right, according to projected results in Sunday’s election.

After five years of undisputed control of parliament, the recently re-elected Macron, known for his top-down approach to power, now enters his second term facing uncertainty over how he will deliver domestic policies, such as raising the retirement age and overhauling state benefits. His centrists will need to strike compromises and expand alliances in parliament to be able to push forward his proposals to cut taxes and shake up the welfare system.

"Raising the retirement age," means making people whose bodies are broken by decades of manual labor, and, "Overhauling state benefits," means reducing benefits for the most needy in order to cut taxes on rich people.

He is the epitome of the neoliberal policies at the core of the current EU.

………

Projections by Ipsos pollsters, based on partial results, showed that Macron’s centrists would win about 234 seats – much less than the 289 required for an absolute majority in the National Assembly.

A historic alliance of parties on the left, led by the hard-left Jean-Luc Mélenchon’s France Unbowed party with the Socialists and the Greens, seemed poised to become the largest opposition group, with about 141 seats.

But the most striking result of the night came for Marine Le Pen’s far-right, anti-immigration National Rally party, which was forecast to increase its seats from eight in 2017 to about 90 – a historic high for a party that in the past has struggled to make gains in the first-past-the-post parliamentary voting system.

Unfortunately, if Macron continues to follow his current course, he will hew even more strongly to the right and to populist bigotry in an attempt to control the legislative agenda.

Today in Irony

Anna “Delvey” Sorokin Announces She Will “Move Away from the ‘Scammer Persona’” and Launch NFTs
Web 3 is Going Just Great

So a woman who engaged in a massive fraud of the New York glitterati is moving to NFTs.

Anna Sorokin, the scammer who convinced people and companies to give her hundreds of thousands of dollars by pretending to be a German heiress, has decided to get into NFTs. After winding up with a "scammer persona", which she says is a result of the Netflix series about her and not a result of the scams that landed her in prison, she has announced her intentions to "move away from" it. Now she is focusing on an NFT collection, which she announced in an interview from a detention facility in New York. 
So she is moving from scamming to NFTs?

This definition of self improvement that I was previously aware of. 

Who says that irony is dead?