21 April 2024

Worst Ear Worm Ever


The Horror!

So, I have had this ear worm for the past few days, and I think that I am going to lose what little is left of my mind.

The tune in question, Paul Simon's "You Can Call Me Al," is a fun catchy tune, but this is not the problem.

The problem is that I am hearing it in my head with different lyrics.

Specifically, I am hearing the tune, but they lyrics are the Jewish Hymn Adon Olam (אֲדוֹן עוֹלָם).

This hymn, which ends almost every Jewish service has a number of commonly used tunes, and it is thought by some to be able to be adapted to any tune.

I do know that in addition to the aforementioned Paul Simon song, that it works well with the Iron Butterfly anthem "In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida."

In any case, here is the full text of the hymn:

אֲדוֹן עוֹלָם אֲשֶׁר מָלַךְ
בְּטֶרֶם כָּל יְצִיר נִבְרָא‎

לְעֵת נַעֲשָׂה בְחֶפְצוֹ כֹּל
אֲזַי מֶלֶךְ שְׁמוֹ נִקְרָא‎

וְאַחֲרֵי כִּכְלוֹת הַכֹּל
לְבַדּוֹ יִמְלוֹךְ נוֹרָא‎

וְהוּא הָיָה וְהוּא הֹוֶה
וְהוּא יִהְיֶה בְּתִפְאָרָה‎

וְהוּא אֶחָד וְאֵין שֵׁנִי
לְהַמְשִׁיל לוֹ לְהַחְבִּירָה‎

בְּלִי רֵאשִׁית בְּלִי תַכְלִית
וְלוֹ הָעֹז וְהַמִּשְׂרָה‎

וְהוּא אֵלִי וְחַי גּוֹאֲלִי
וְצוּר חֶבְלִי בְּעֵת צָרָה‎

וְהוּא נִסִּי וּמָנוֹס לִי
מְנָת כּוֹסִי בְּיוֹם אֶקְרָא‎

בְּיָדוֹ אַפְקִיד רוּחִי
בְּעֵת אִישָׁן וְאָעִירָה‎

וְעִם רוּחִי גְוִיָּתִי
אֲדֹנָי לִי וְלֹא אִירָא‎

19 April 2024

Light Posting for a While

Getting ready for Pesach.  (Passover)

Shopping, cleaning, and kvelling.

Posted via mobile.

Ecch (Tweet) of the Day


This is f%$#ing brilliant!

Once again, I realize my deep inadequacy as both a writer and a wit.

18 April 2024

My Heart Bleeds Borscht for Them

After the losses in legislative elections by President Yoon Suk Yeol's People's Power Party, it appears that cuts in inheritance taxes for Korea's hyper-wealthy is dead, which means that the chaebol families are having a major sad.

Won't someone please think of the Oligarchs?

They have children who are completely incapable of putting in an honest day's work, and the inheritance taxes could leave them ……… Just insanely wealth, not obscenely wealthy:

Some of the richest people in South Korea may be among the biggest losers from elections last week that all but ended a proposal to cut one of the highest inheritance tax rates in the developed world.

President Yoon Suk Yeol had been looking to reduce the levy, a move that requires parliamentary approval, but his conservative People Power Party suffered a stinging blow in the vote that saw it lose seats in the body. Meanwhile, the main opposition bloc increased the size of its majority and is looking to have wealthy individuals and sprawling conglomerates — known as chaebol in the country — pay more in taxes.

South Korea’s regular maximum inheritance levy of as much as 50% is the second-highest among members of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, after 55% in Japan, and can go as high as 60% in the case of inheritance from a person listed as the top shareholder. The rate is meant to prevent families, such as those behind the chaebol that dominate the corporate landscape, from passing down the bulk of their fortunes and maintaining what critics contend is a disproportionate influence over the economy. 

The real cause for upset here is how low the, "Second highest," inheritance tax is.

Even with these taxes, their children have the resources to do anything, and likely still have the resources to do nothing, it's likely that their grandchildren will have the same advantages, even with the high tax rate.

………

When given a choice between Yoon’s pro-investor policies and the Democratic Party’s push to increase taxes on chaebol and the wealthy, voters mostly went with the opposition. The DP bloc left with 175 seats in the 300-seat unicameral parliament known as the National Assembly, while the PPP bloc was at 108.

………

“The idea of cutting inheritance tax may lose momentum after the opposition’s landslide victory in the election,” said Park Sangin, a professor at Seoul National University’s Graduate School of Public Administration. “It won’t be easy for the opposition bloc to agree to an easing of the inheritance tax as it criticized tax cuts for the wealthy during the election campaign.”

Some history here:  The chaebol were not the product of corruption, with their success a result of extensive state support in exchange for bribes of various sorts to governments of Syngman Rhee and Park Chung Hee.

To quote Honoré de Balzac, "Behind every great fortune, there is a crime."


Your Thursday ¯\_(ツ)_/¯


Not so bad


This, on the other hand………
So we got the unemployment numbers and the home sales numbers, and the latter are a little bit alarming.

Unemployment claims, both initial and continuing, were basically flat and relatively low, while home sales are about 50% off peak as a result of the Fed's rate increases:

The number of Americans filing new claims for unemployment benefits was unchanged at a low level last week, pointing to continued labor market strength that is driving the economy.
Labor market resilience, together with elevated inflation have led financial markets and some economists to expect that the Federal Reserve could delay cutting interest rates until September. A few economists doubt that the U.S. central bank will lower borrowing costs this year.

"Overall, layoffs remain low," said Rubeela Farooqi, chief U.S. economist at High Frequency Economics. "We expect a continuation of the current trend, with a further adjustment in the labor market coming from a moderation in hiring rather than a surge in firings."

Initial claims for state unemployment benefits were unchanged at a seasonally adjusted 212,000 for the week ended April 13, the Labor Department said on Thursday.

………

Fed Chair Jerome Powell backed away on Tuesday from providing any guidance on when rates might be cut, saying instead that monetary policy needed to be restrictive for longer. Financial markets initially expected the first rate cut to come in March, but the timing got pushed back to June and now to September as data on the labor market and inflation continued to surprise on the upside in the first three months of the year.

The Fed has kept its policy rate in the 5.25%-5.50% range since July. It has raised the benchmark overnight interest rate by 525 basis points since March of 2022.

………

The Fed's latest "Beige Book" report on Wednesday described employment as rising at a "slight pace overall" since late February, adding that "several districts reported improved retention of employees, and others pointed to staff reductions at some firms."

It also noted that even as labor supply has improved, "many districts described persistent shortages of qualified applicants for certain positions, including machinists, trades workers and hospitality workers."
Data next week on the number of people receiving benefits after an initial week of aid, a proxy for hiring, will offer more clues on the state of the labor market in April. The so-called continuing claims edged up 2,000 to 1.812 million during the week ending April 6, the claims report showed.

Though still low by historical standards, the slightly elevated level of continuing claims suggests it could be taking longer for some unemployed workers to land new jobs.

With the outlook for rate cuts uncertain, the average rate on the popular 30-year fixed-rate mortgage has drifted above 7%, data from mortgage finance agency Freddie Mac showed, combining with higher house prices to depress home sales.

A separate report from the National Association of Realtors showed existing home sales fell 4.3% in March to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 4.19 million units.

With commercial and residential real estate cratering, this seems awfully familiar to me.

2008 meltdown anyone?

I did Nazi that Coming


Bummer of a birthmark, Hal
It appears that a football (soccer) team in Germany made an unfortunate font choice for their uniforms, which resulted in a rather problematic appearance for any player with a jersey number of 44.

Or maybe someone did it on purpose, I don't know: 

The German Football Association (DFB) announced Monday that it will redesign the font used on its soccer jerseys after comparisons were drawn to a Nazi symbol, outlawed in Germany.

Parallels between the number 44 and the SS rune of the Nazi Schutzstaffel paramilitary organization — similar to two lightning bolts — were first drawn last week on social media. The SS was the unit most responsible for overseeing and administering the Nazis’ crimes against humanity, including the genocide of 6 million Jews.

None of the parties involved in checking the numbers “saw any proximity to Nazi symbolism in the creation process of the jersey design,” the DFB said in a statement on X.

“Nevertheless, we take the comments very seriously and do not want to provide a platform for discussions … we will develop an alternative design for the number 4 and coordinate it with UEFA.”

Two additional comments here:

  • I'm pretty sure that someone saw a proximity to Nazi symbolism.
  • F%$# the Washington Post for not including a picture of the number 4 in their article.

I had to focus hard on that image not to see the SS runes.

Linkage

Some more context on why Richard Burton said that, "To play Churchill is to hate him."

17 April 2024

I Get Junk Texts

So for some reason, it may have to do with Charlie attending an AIPAC event in high-school.  (Click through, our SMS colloquy is amusing)

Much like his dad, he loathes AIPAC, but given that he went down to Washington, DC on their dime, and got to talk to Congressmen, he thought that it was worth taking the trip.  (IIRC, I think that he got a sandwich as well)

While he was down there, instead of talking up AIPAC priorities, he talked with Congressmen about pending legislation to strengthen the US Chemical Safety Board.

President Biden has been a principled leader who has stood with our partner Israel as it protects itself from Iran and fights to free the hostages held captive by Hamas. This week, Congress is voting on Biden's emergency request to provide lifesaving aid to Israel.

Reply "YES" to make your voice heard and tell your member of Congress to pass this critical bill.

- AIPAC

Stop to stop

I have no problem with people who support Israel.  I support Israel.

I have a problem with people who claim to support Israel, but are so stupid, venal, or self-serving that they are a greater threat to the Jewish state than Hamas, Hezbollah, or ISIS.

This would include Benjamin Netanyahu, (יִמַּח שְׁמו) who would destroy Israel to stay in power and out of jail, Bezalel Smotrich, Itamar Ben-Gvir, and (of course) AIPAC.

AIPAC.  Go f%$# yourself.

I will not be a part of your right wing AstroTurf.

Makes Me Consider Buying Tesla Stock

Just so I can vote "No" on the latest attempt to grant Elon Musk a $56,000,000,000.00 pay package again.

I'm not going to though. I do index funds, not individual stock trades.

On the other hand, I'd love to see a proxy fight and some lawsuits over this:

A Delaware court may have voided Elon Musk's $56 billion Tesla pay package in February, but now the board is asking shareholders to reinstate it.

Tesla filed its 2024 proxy statement with the US Securities and Exchange Commission today that includes several shareholder proposals, most notably votes on restoring Musk's massive pay plan and to move Tesla's legal home from Delaware to Texas.

Musk's pay package, which would have awarded him all that cash in stock options for meeting certain growth milestones, was voided in February after a Delaware court decided it was unfairly approved by the board due to Musk's close ties with members and substantial influence over his electric car company.

That's a nice way to say that Elon and the board are corrupt rat-f%$#s who have been looting the company at the expense of the shareholders for years.

………

"The Board stands behind this pay package. We believed in it in 2018, as we asked Elon to pursue remarkable goals to grow the company," Denholm said, calling the pay package "a matter of fundamental fairness and respect to our CEO."

Tesla's board – Denholm among them – settled a case with shareholders last year that accused the company of awarding oversized pay packages to board members. Denholm, Elon's brother Kimbal Musk, and others agreed to return more than $735 million to Tesla coffers as part of the settlement.

Well, that does not sound corrupt at all, does it?

Ecch (Tweet) of the Day


Ruth Buzzi is a f%$#ing national treasure.

16 April 2024

Win

Renewable energy production in California exceeded total demand for 30 of 38 days, a significant milestone.

Admittedly, this is arguably the time of the year with the lowest electrical demand in the Golden State, but this is a heartening development:

In a major clean energy benchmark, wind, solar, and hydro exceeded 100% of demand on California’s main grid for 30 of the past 38 days.

Stanford University professor of civil and environmental engineering Mark Z. Jacobson has been tracking California’s renewables performance, and he shares his findings on Twitter (X) when the state breaks records. Yesterday he posted:

Jacobson notes that supply exceeds demand for “0.25-6 h per day,” and that’s an important fact. The continuity lies not in renewables running the grid for the entire day but in the fact that it’s happening on a consistent daily basis, which has never been achieved before.

Hopefully, we will see more of this.

This will not save the world on its own, but it's a start.

Today in Morton's Fork (Fuck Cigna)

Today was the last day to make elections on my health insurance from my employer.

They switched from Aetna  to Cigna (Fuck Cigna).

Unfortunately, when I tried to get information from Cigna (Fuck Cigna) about things like getting a full list of providers, their first response was, "Have you checked our pathetically bad web site?"

The second, and third response was, "You will get a directory once you are enrolled."

How the f%$# do I know which plan to get if I cannot get the directory?

Fuck Cigna.

Yes, I know that it's not January, and I generally avoid the top 3 of George Carlin's 7 dirty words in the other 11 months of the year, but this is Cigna.  (Fuck Cigna)

A Feature, not a Bug

When Canada decided to create a, "Victims of Communism," monument they were warned that Nazis and Nazi collaborators would end up on the wall.

Call me a cynic, but when one looks at who was most vocal in supporting this edifice, an awful lot of them had Nazi or Nazi collaborator ancestors.  (Chrystia Freeland most prominently) 

This is not sloppy work, it's malice:

An expert warned Canadian Heritage that names listed for commemoration on the “Victims of Communism” monument in Ottawa could be linked to Nazi collaborators and potential war criminals, a confidential report obtained by The Maple shows.

The 2021 report authored by historian Michael Petrou told the government department they would need to conduct extensive background research on hundreds of the submitted names to ensure against problematic commemorations.

The Maple obtained Petrou’s report through an Access to Information request. Previous informal requests for the report were declined.

The “Victims of Communism” monument was originally a private initiative led by the charity Tribute to Liberty, but it has since been taken over by the Department of Canadian Heritage.

Tribute to Liberty remains an active participant in the project, and was slated to develop as-yet undefined public educational materials for the monument at some point in the future.

A CBC News report in 2021 revealed that the names of wartime Nazi collaborators and assorted fascists had been listed for commemoration on Tribute to Liberty’s website, the names having been submitted to the charity by donors as part of a fundraising drive.

Tribute to Liberty then supplied the list of names to Canadian Heritage in order for them to be commemorated on the monument’s “Wall of Remembrance.”

It is not clear if Tribute to Liberty undertook any kind of independent analysis or assessment of the names provided to them by the donors before turning over the list to Canadian Heritage.

I would be willing to bet heavy odds that Tribute to Liberty was willfully blind here.  

To do otherwise would be antithetical to their fundraising.  They are selling bricks in a wall, and saying, "No, sorry, we won't sell bricks commemorating Ante Pavelić because he was the head of the Ustaše and was directly responsible for the murder of thousands of Jews, Gypsies, Muslims, and Serbs," is bad for the brick business.

So, what is this all about then?

………

The Maple learned that Canadian Heritage also contacted University of Ottawa historian Jan Grabowski in April 2023 for help in reviewing the commemorative list.

In an interview, Grabowski told The Maple he had heard criticisms and concerns for years “about the monument being a ‘countermeasure’ to the Holocaust Monument, about the need to ‘elevate’ the suffering of the victims of Communism to the level of the Holocaust.”

Scholars refer to this as “Holocaust envy,” Grabowski explained.

Support for the monument came from right-wing nationalist organizations that are mostly active among Canadians of Eastern European backgrounds, he added.

“I also heard about the planned individual commemoration of some very unsavoury characters, some of them linked to mass murder of Jews during the Holocaust.”

At some point, Canada should address its post war support of Nazis.

It should, but it won't.

15 April 2024

Not Walking the Walk

Have you ever wondered why so many companies who strive for a liberal image go Josef Stalin on unionization attempts?

It's arrogance, hypocrisy, and capitalism.

Wow, that was quick.

Of course there is more than that glib sentence why companies like REI, Trader Joes, and Starbucks refuse to do right by their employees.

Claire Chang and Steve Buckley knew it wasn’t going to be easy. But the two retail workers-turned-union organizers had been heartened by progress made during the first year of contract negotiations with REI, the outdoor gear and apparel chain. By June 2023 — more than a year after Chang and Buckley’s store in Manhattan became the first REI location in the country to unionize — the bargaining committee on which they serve had reached a number of tentative agreements with the company. ​“It seemed like we were building up a rhythm,” says Chang, who has worked at the REI store in SoHo for more than six years.

Then, negotiations quickly went south, Buckley says. REI began working with Morgan Lewis, a management-side law firm known in union circles for hardline, union-busting tactics. The company sent its lawyers to bargaining sessions alone, without any corporate managers, which Buckley saw as part of a new strategy to stretch out negotiations and sap the union’s strength. As of April, there’s been no progress toward a first contract for nearly a year. ​“Blatant disregard and openly hostile negotiations aren’t productive,” Buckley says. The company has ​“continued to get worse and worse because they’re embracing their worst impulses.”

Talk to union members at Trader Joe’s, which (like REI and Starbucks) also has unionized retail stores across the country pushing for a first contract, and you’ll hear similar things. Four Trader Joe’s stores have unionized since July 2022 (and another has filed for union election), 9 REI stores have unionized since March 2022 (with another store election coming later this month) and nearly 400 Starbucks stores have unionized since December 2021. The efforts at these companies, which have all tried to burnish progressive reputations, provide a window into the challenging process of negotiating a first contract more than two years after a wave of unionizing first hit the retail industry.

Trader Joe’s Union (TJU) Vice President Sarah Beth Ryther describes contract negotiations this way: ​“Every single bargaining session is excruciatingly long. Eight hours where almost nothing happens.” The company’s strategy, she says, is: ​“We will waste all of your resources as much as possible, we will dangle tiny little treats that won’t come to fruition.”

So it all ends up in courts, both administrative and federal:

………

In lieu of progress at the bargaining table, the three unions that have kept organizing momentum going after initial historic victories — Trader Joe’s United, Workers United and the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union (which REI workers joined) — have spent a lot of time in court.

The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), the agency charged with enforcing federal labor law, has ruled in the unions’ favor dozens of times on various matters, including illegal retaliatory firings and finding that Starbucks has failed to bargain in good faith. The NLRB has ruled similarly against Amazon, which still refuses to recognize the validity of Amazon Labor Union’s (ALU) sole warehouse union victory in April 2022.

In fact, the NLRB has filed more than 125 complaints against Starbucks. Late in 2023, the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union filed 80 unfair labor practice charges against REI with the NLRB, alleging a ​“concerted, multi-pronged union-busting campaign” including retaliatory firings, schedule changes and disciplinary actions. TJU has filed similar charges against the grocery store chain. Starbucks, REI and Trader Joe’s have denied all wrongdoing, although they have settled specific charges. An REI spokesperson said in an email that the company ​“is committed to and engaged in good-faith bargaining.” Starbucks and Trader Joe’s did not respond to emailed questions.

It’s amazing how much — and yet how little — can happen in two years, when it comes to first contract negotiations. It has long been a slow process, and it appears to be lengthening. Economic Policy Institute research found that between 1999 and 2003, 37% of newly unionized workplaces didn’t have a first contract after two years, while 30% didn’t have one after three years. A study of union elections in 2018 found that 63% didn’t reach a first contract in the first year after organizing and 43% still didn’t reach one after two years. That study also concluded that employer obstruction through unfair labor practices served as a major impediment to negotiating a first contract.

Such lengthy delays would likely increase if the courts side with anti-union forces’ latest tactics. In January, Morgan Lewis introduced a new innovation to the corporate anti-union playbook. The firm, which (along with REI) represents Trader’s Joe’s, Amazon and SpaceX, began arguing before the NLRB that the 89-year-old agency’s structure is unconstitutional. The argument, which challenges long-standing legal precedents, claims that the NLRB ​“violates constitutional separation of powers and due process protections by wielding different types of authority in the same case,” Bloomberg Law reported. Starbucks began making a similar argument in February in a case that will head to the Supreme Court for oral argument later this month. If the court rules in favor of Starbucks, the NLRB’s ability to reinstate workers fired during a union campaign could be curtailed.

Part of the problem here is that union busting lawyers are no longer advising employers of their rights.  They are active co-conspirators in breaking the laws.

There is an entire industry to support and instruct people in how to break the law, which needs to be shut down.

14 April 2024

Tell Them to Go F$#@ Themselves

US investment banks are threatening the French government that will move their offices elsewhere if French regulations are not changed to allow for the same sorts is arbitrary and capricious firing that exists in the United States or the City of London.

Wall Street banks are demanding the right to be abusive employers:

Wall Street banks have warne1that their next wave ohiring in France may be stunted without restrictions on dismissal costs for highly paid traders, a flagship measure that has been left out of a reform package intended to bolster Paris as a financial centre. 

Paris has emerged as the main winner among European cities vying to become Europe’s top financial centre post Brexit, and the caps were meant to be part of an “attractiveness bill” discussed in parliament this week. However, they have not been included for now as the French government and lawmakers seek legal workarounds for implementation under the country’s protective labour laws. 

..........

Some said their future expansion partly depended on a further loosening of labour laws, including around traders defined as “key risk takers”.

“We’d only really consider going much further in our hiring if French labour rules became truly adapted to these kinds of cyclical activities,” said one executive at a US bank in Paris. 

Redundancy payouts to traders earning more than €1mn a year in Paris can end up being more than five times that of London, although there is less of a difference between France and the rest of Europe.  

“This is really a measure mainly driven by the US investment banks and with the idea that it’s really a Paris-London issue,” said Jean-Charles Simon, chief executive of Paris Europlace, which promotes the French capital as a financial centre. 

Pampered over-privileged parasites are not a good basis for the economic well being of your citizenry.

All that it gets you is unaffordable housing and increases in profits for prostitutes and cocaine dealers.

I See Your Problem

Ohio's governor, Mike DeWine, is attempting to pass public health initiatives through the legislature.

In order to do so, the governor has to eschew the term, "Public Health," because the term is toxic among his fellow Republicans.

While much of this article is a vapid beat sweetener, this morsel of data is important.

It is not just rent wing Republicans who find the very concept of public health to be offensive.

Your find the same among many mainstream Democrats, as well as the public health establishment, particularly at the CDC, where the idea of masking, distancing, improved ventilation, etc. which address the problem without generating big pharma profits, are as welcome as a fart in a deep sea diving suit.

Unfortunately, at this time, where we are seeing the apotheosis of free-market fundamentalism, where the profit motive has gone from being ONE source of innovation to being THE ONLY POSSIBLE source of innovation in any endeavour.

These free-market Mousketeers are destroying our society.

13 April 2024

It Looks Like the Sh%$ is Hitting the Fan

It appears that Iran has launched something over 200 drones and missiles at Israel in retaliation for an Israeli air strike against an Iranian consulate in Syria.

I have no clue where this is all going.

Speaking of Elon's Lawsuits

It looks like Musk and Tesla caved, and settled the Autopilot wrongful death lawsuit.

My guess is that they decided that once their engineer testified under oath that Autopilot was little more than software designed to follow the lines painted on the road, that they had no other option.

Yesterday, trial was due to begin in the case of Huang v. Tesla, a wrongful death lawsuit brought by the family of a man killed in his Tesla Model X in 2018. But the case will now not be heard by a judge—Tesla has settled with the family for an undisclosed sum.

Walter Huang was driving to work in his Model X on March 23, 2018, when his car drove headlong into a concrete divider at an exit on US Highway 101 in California. Tesla's partially automated driving system, Autopilot, was active at the time, and Huang trusted it enough to play video games on his phone despite having noticed that the car got confused at that particular intersection more than once.

The National Transportation Safety Board investigated Huang's death and published its findings in 2020. The NTSB found plenty of parties to blame. Tesla's misleading marketing of Autopilot, such as video interviews where the Tesla CEO operated the system without keeping his hands or eyes on the road, and a staged self-driving demonstration contributed to Huang's mistaken trust in Autopilot.

………

We are unlikely ever to know the terms of Tesla's settlement with Huang's family. The company asked the court to seal the terms to prevent others from perceiving "the settlement amount as evidence of Tesla’s potential liability for losses, which may have a chilling effect on settlement opportunity in subsequent cases."

They will probably get the record sealed, which is bad, because, given the engineer's admission, Tesla has clearly been been "Toes in Chewing Tobacco," careless.

I Believe That the Term for This Is "Perjury"

Elon Musk doxxed and accused a college student of being a part of an Antifa/Government false flag operation.

Rather unsurprisingly, the student, Ben Brody, sued, and as a part of this lawsuit, Musk was deposed, and despite attempts to seal the record, this deposition is has been released as a part of the public record.

It appears that Musk knowingly made a number of false statements that were materiel to the case, which appears to my non-legal mind to fit the definition of perjury.

Denying that he knows, or even knows of, the plaintiff, and trying to assert that it's actually the lawyer that is suing him, is perhaps the biggest one.

He aggressively doxxed and defamed the Brody, and was then sued.  Having no knowledge of him is so patently false that it buggers the mind.

After Elon Musk was accused of defaming Ben Brody—a 22-year-old Jewish man falsely linked to a neo-Nazi brawl in tweets that Musk responded to last year—the owner of X (formerly Twitter) sat for a heated Zoom deposition where he repeatedly denied ever knowing who Brody was.

When Brody's attorney, Mark Bankston, asked Musk if he thought he ever did anything "wrong" to Brody, Musk replied, "I don't know Ben Brody."

"You're aware that Ben Brody is somebody who's sued you, right?" Bankston asked.

"I think you're the one suing," Musk said, adding that he views "many cases and probably this one too that the real plaintiff is the lawyer seeking money like you." Continually, Musk emphasized, "what I think" the defamation case is "really about is about you getting a lot of money."

While I think that the intellect of the Apartheid Era Emerald Heir Pedo Guy™ has consistently been overstated by much of the media, and by Musk himself, it is clear, given his long history of litigation, that he knows what a counsel is, and what a plaintiff is, and what a defendant is.

While this sort of statement won't fly with a judge, and it probably won't fly with a jury, it probably got compliments from the sycophants that he surrounds himself with, so he felt clever lying.

Which brings us to another term, "Self defenestration," which means throwing one's self out of a window:

Musk filed a motion to dismiss Brody's case in January, accusing Brody of targeting "Musk’s exercise of his freedom of speech for the improper purpose of obtaining a payment 'exceed[ing] $1,000,000,' to which Brody is not entitled from Musk." In the deposition, Musk accused Bankston of attacking his free speech rights, and in the motion to dismiss, Musk argued that "the public’s discussion of the identity of perpetrators of crime would be unduly trampled by the fear of liability for merely negligent speech," if Brody won his defamation suit.

In that petition, Musk accused Brody of targeting him because he's a billionaire, repeatedly pointing out that Brody had not sued other X users who had specifically named Brody as an alleged brawler in blogs and on X.

Silly rabbit, you don't sue poor people.

Also, we need to understand that it is likely, Musk has on occasion made statements to this effect, that he believes that he is the only human being in the world, and that everyone else are avatars generated in a simulation, which means that he as a human has a right to free speech, and it is unfair for there to be consequences for his speech.

If this sounds nuts, it is because it is.

Even if the theory were true, the resultant simulation would have to be treated as reality in order to preserve the integrity of the simulation.  So the rules of the simulation would require the defamation suit.

………

Bankston told Musk that his X post garnered more than a million views, asking Musk, "Do you think you owed it to Ben Brody to be accurate as you could?"

Musk told Bankston that he aspires "to be accurate no matter who the person is," suggesting that while it's possible to be harmed by people posting false information, he did not think Brody was harmed by his tweet.

"I don't think he has been meaningfully harmed by this," Musk said, insisting to Bankston that he could not have defamed Brody because "I have no ill will to Ben Brody. I don't know Ben Brody."

Brody's complaint alleged that Musk boosting a post linking him to the neo-Nazi brawl has caused permanent reputational damage and severe emotional harm. Bankston declined Ars' request to comment on whether Brody continues to be a target for harassment and death threats.

Mr. Bankston, the term is Stochastic Terrorism.  Use it.

………

Musk's deposition is a painful read, with Bankston and
[Musk counsel Alex] Spiro continually trading barbs as Spiro attempts to limit the scope of the deposition. Spiro claims early on that "this isn't like a real case," suggesting the suit is "stupid," and Musk tells Bankston, "I've rarely met a lawyer with less decorum than you, if you could be called a lawyer." Throughout, Spiro asks Bankston to stop "yelling," while Musk repeatedly urges Bankston to "calm yourself." At one point, Bankston expresses feeling "disturbed" by the exchanges, and as if tensions weren't heightened enough by the circumstances, because it's all going down on Zoom, there are also moments when the Internet cuts in and out or Musk drops off the call.

………

It's unclear what exactly was so problematic about the deposition that prompted Spiro to push for the transcript to be confidential. But near the end of the deposition, Spiro accused Bankston of "teasing out" Musk's response that he had no "ill will" to Brody. Bankston also seemed to trip Musk up when discussing whether Musk's X account should be considered a personal account or perhaps a business account that benefits X's bottom line.

Bankston started by asking Musk if prior to his acquisition, Twitter received a "free benefit" from Musk driving engagement on the platform as one of its top influencers.

"Essentially, yes," Musk agreed.

But when Bankston then pivoted to ask if "after the acquisition," Musk "personally" benefits "from the engagement" that he creates because X is his company, Spiro tried to stop Musk from responding, demanding to know how the question was relevant, since obviously Musk owns X.

Seemingly getting the response he wanted, Bankston explained that "if you're willing to just go ahead and stipulate he is the owner of Twitter, that is not a purely personal account, that account also advances the interest of the company, we're done, and I won't have to ask any more questions."

Ultimately, Spiro allowed Musk to answer that X is "not necessarily" benefiting from his posts.

Musk admitted that he was sometimes guilty of "self-inflicted wounds," telling Bankston that with his controversial posts, "I may have done more to financially impair the company than to help it, but certainly I—I do not guide my posts by what is financially beneficial but what I believe is interesting or important or entertaining to the public."

So, he just admitted that his account is now an official voice of the company, and of Musk, and that he ignores his responsibilities as an officer of the organization in order to get his kicks.

Is that the sound of glass breaking above my head?

………

Bankston has asked the court to order sanctions over what he described as Spiro's "unprofessional behavior," including allegations that Spiro "continually interrupted the deposition with commentary, gave numerous improper instructions not to answer, berated opposing counsel, insulted plaintiff’s claims, mocked counsel’s questions, and attempted to derail damaging testimony."

It should be noted here that the argumentative behavior from Alex Spiro is the icing on the cake Mark Bankston's request for sanctions.  The biggies are, practicing law in Texas without a Texas law license by signing filings, practicing law in Texas without a Texas law license by acting as counsel during the deposition,that he showed up at the deposition unannounced, that he answered questions directed toward the defendant.

I lack sufficient legal knowledge to even guess whether sanctions will be taken against Spiro, but this behavior is a total mind-f%$#.

I'd like to see Musk and his attorney spending a few days in jail, but the chance of that approaches 0.

12 April 2024

Stupid Arrogance

Following the coup in Niger, US officials visited the generals and threatened them if they got too close to Russia or China, and the regime told the US military to get the f%$# out of the country.

Seriously, the US foreign policy Blob is amazingly incompetent:

On March 17 Niger’s National Council for the Safeguard of the Homeland (CNSP) suspended its military agreement with the United States after a visit by senior U.S. officials to the capital, Niamey. A CNSP spokesman said the decision was made after the U.S. delegation warned the military regime against partnering with Russia and Iran. Niger, which hosts around 1,000 U.S. troops and a drone base, has been an important partner in Washington’s counterterrorism operations in the region. But relations have deteriorated considerably since July 2023, when Niger’s presidential guard removed democratically elected Mohamed Bozoum and installed General Abdourahamane Tchiani.

Russian influence looms large in Western discourse on the Sahel, and now informs U.S. policy and decision-making in places like Niger. This is a mistake. Outsized focus on Russia misunderstands the scale and scope of Moscow’s presence. More importantly, it ignores longstanding patterns of governance and denies the role of Africans in emerging pro-sovereignty movements and political blocs.Neither the U.S. nor Russia are in a position to force Africans to choose sides, efforts to do so will only result in rebuke.

African governments seek to balance outside powers while retaining the ability to work with each. Historically, local elites leverage these often unequal relations with powerful states to enhance their own domestic position. In francophone Africa, the cozy relationship between French officials, companies, and African autocrats came to be known as Françafrique. Niger had become somewhat of an exception among its peers, however, when it pursued close military ties with the United States.

Recent years have seen a wave of anti-French sentiment hit the Sahel. Military regimes seeking political legitimacy have helped foment anti-French sentiment, but they do not control it. The backing of Paris is politically poisonous; kicking the French military out of Niger was necessary to the CNSP’s survival.

………

It appears that the U.S. delegation’s visit to Niamey in March — led by Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs Molly Phee and AFRICOM Commander General Michael Langley — did significant damage. Sahel expert Alex Thurston noted the reportedly uniliteral announcement of the U.S. delegation’s visit, and the relatively low rank of visiting officials, may have played a part.

The subject of the talks — Niger’s turn towards Russia and Iran — appears to have been equally insulting. Ironically, the U.S. delegation’s attempt to counter Russian influence in Niger has further pushed the CNSP to seek ties with Russia.

U.S. focus on Russia misses the reality that Africans, not Russians or Americans, are driving major political shifts in the Sahel. The formation of the Alliance of Sahelian States (AES), for example, was a project initiated by Mali, Burkina Faso, and Niger first and foremost to counteract the military threat from a regional bloc, ECOWAS. That Russia welcomed the development does not mean Moscow inspired it.

This is what happens when you have self-absorbed narcissists running negotiations. 

If you are unwilling understand the needs and concerns the people with whom you negotiate, you will be unable to succeed.

Of Course He Did

Leonard Leo, briber in chief of Supreme Court Justices, is refusing to appear before a Senate committee and discuss the gifts that he arranged.

He's a corrupt son-of-a-bitch, so it is no surprise that he is trying to avoid public scrutiny:

The Senate Judiciary Committee sent a subpoena Thursday to conservative judicial activist Leonard Leo as part of a months-long inquiry into undisclosed gifts to Supreme Court justices and he promptly rejected it, calling the move “politically motivated.”

“I am not capitulating to his lawless support of Senator Sheldon Whitehouse and the left’s dark money effort to silence and cancel political opposition,” Leo said of Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), the committee’s chairman, in a statement to The Washington Post.

The committee voted along party lines on Nov. 30 to authorize subpoenas for Leo and Texas billionaire Harlan Crow following reports that Supreme Court Justices Clarence Thomas and Samuel A. Alito Jr. accepted — and did not disclose — free luxury travel and gifts from Crow, Leo and conservative donor Robin Arkley II.

Crow did not receive a subpoena Thursday, his spokesman Michael Zona told The Post.

Because Crow is dodging service maybe?

 ………

With Leo’s refusal, Democrats would be forced to hold a Senate vote if they wanted to seek enforcement of the subpoena in court — a nearly impossible task in a narrowly split chamber with 60 votes needed to break a filibuster.

Merciful heavens, what about the norms? 

………

Republicans on the committee have criticized the subpoena effort as a political attempt to discredit the high court’s conservative majority. Republicans walked out of the November meeting in protest and later questioned the validity of the authorization vote, accusing their Democratic counterparts of violating procedural rules.

The Democrats would not be looking into rampant corruption at the Supreme Court if the conservative members of the Supreme Court were not relentlessly corrupt.

This Week in ¯\_(ツ)_/¯


You see the real problem
Ordinary folk are making more money


Cannot separate signal from noise
Unemployment claims drop and inflation disappoints.

What the f%$# this means, I have no clue:

U.S. producer prices increased moderately in March as a rise in the cost of services was softened by a fall in goods prices, calming fears of a resurgence in inflation.

The report from the Labor Department on Thursday led economists to anticipate milder increases in the inflation measures tracked by the Federal Reserve for monetary policy relative to the strong consumer price readings in March.

High inflation and persistent labor market strength have prompted financial markets and most economists to push back expectations for an initial Fed interest rate cut to September from June. The minutes of the U.S. central bank's March 19-20 policy meeting, which were released on Wednesday, also showed policymakers were concerned that progress on inflation might have stalled.

"Producer prices tell us that inflation is not worsening, yet," said Christopher Rupkey, chief economist at FWDBONDS. "Policymakers can remain vigilant as they await more data on where inflation is heading next. Tamer producer prices may spell some relief for consumers in coming months."
The producer price index for final demand rose 0.2% last month after increasing by an unrevised 0.6% in February, the Labor Department's Bureau of Labor Statistics said. Economists polled by Reuters had forecast the PPI would gain 0.3%.

In the 12 months through March, the PPI advanced 2.1% after rising 1.6% in February.

………

In a separate report on Thursday, the Labor Department said initial claims for state unemployment benefits dropped 11,000 to a seasonally adjusted 211,000 for the week ended April 6. Economists had forecast 215,000 claims for the latest week.

Unadjusted claims increased 17,037 to 214,386 last week. There was a surge of 4,190 in filings in New Jersey, likely the result of temporary layoffs related to spring breaks at public schools. There were also notable increases in claims in New York, Texas, Oregon and Pennsylvania.

The Easter and Passover holidays, whose timing shifts every year, also tend to inject volatility into the claims data. Nonetheless, last week's data suggested the labor market remained healthy early in the second quarter. Job growth accelerated in March, while the unemployment rate slipped to 3.8% from 3.9% in February.

The number of people receiving benefits after an initial week of aid, a proxy for hiring, increased 28,000 to 1.817 million during the week ending March 30, the highest level since January, the claims report showed. The uninsured unemployment rate was unchanged at 1.2%.

I'm feeling like Michael Binkley here:

11 April 2024

Headline of the Day

News Station Accidentally Airs Footage of Dude's Balls Instead of the Solar Eclipse
The Rock

A solar eclipse is generally described as what happens when the moon passes between the sun and the observer.

A total eclipse occurs when the sun's disc is completely covered by the moon.

What do you call it when the in addition to the moon, testicles are interposed between the sun and the observer?

The video is below, and it is clearly NSFW:

My First Reaction: It Sounds Like a Good Start

Vietnamese real estate mogul Truong My Lan has been convicted of fraud and sentenced to death.

Given that the fraud was $44,000,000,000.00, and Vietnam's annual GDP was $408,800,000,000.00, this means that her fraud was equivalent of 10.7% of Vietnamese GDP, so I understand the sentence.

I don't approve of the sentence though.  I oppose the death penalty:

It was the most spectacular trial ever held in Vietnam, befitting one of the greatest bank frauds the world has ever seen.

Behind the stately yellow portico of the colonial-era courthouse in Ho Chi Minh City, a 67-year-old Vietnamese property developer was sentenced to death on Thursday for looting one of the country's largest banks over a period of 11 years.

It's a rare verdict - she is one of very few women in Vietnam to be sentenced to death for a white collar crime.

The decision is a reflection of the dizzying scale of the fraud. Truong My Lan was convicted of taking out $44bn (£35bn) in loans from the Saigon Commercial Bank. The verdict requires her to return $27bn, a sum prosecutors said may never be recovered. Some believe the death penalty is the court's way of trying to encourage her to return some of the missing billions.

………

The evidence was in 104 boxes weighing a total of six tonnes. Eighty-five others were tried with Truong My Lan, who denied the charges and can appeal.

All of the defendants were found guilty. Four received life in jail. The rest were given prison terms ranging from 20 years to three years suspended. Truong My Lan's husband and niece received jail terms of nine and 17 years respectively.

………

Truong My Lan comes from a Sino-Vietnamese family in Ho Chi Minh City, formerly Saigon. It has long been the commercial engine of the Vietnamese economy, dating well back to its days as the anti-communist capital of South Vietnam, with a large, ethnic Chinese community.

This may explain why they went after Ms. Truong.

Going after an ethnic minority, in this case Vietnamese of Chinese descent, is generally a political win.

She started as a market stall vendor, selling cosmetics with her mother, but began buying land and property after the Communist Party ushered in a period of economic reform, known as Doi Moi, in 1986. By the 1990s, she owned a large portfolio of hotels and restaurants.

Although Vietnam is best known outside the country for its fast-growing manufacturing sector, as an alternative supply chain to China, most wealthy Vietnamese made their money developing and speculating in property.

A need for a translate here, "Made their money developing and speculating in property," translates to, "Corrupt parasite."

Of course, she made her money because she was lining the pockets of party officials, but at some point, it became unsustainable.

I'm wondering what the next step in this anti-corruption campaign will be.

10 April 2024

Speaking of Inflation

 It appears that staff at the Bureau of Labor Statistics have been leaking advance notice of inflation data to large financial firms for years.

The so-called "Super Users" could then use this data to profit.

There is no evidence of payoffs to get this data, it was done simply to please the titans of Wall Street:

The Bureau of Labor Statistics shared more information about inflation with Wall Street “super users” than previously disclosed, emails from the agency show. The revelation is likely to prompt further scrutiny of the way the government shares economic data at a time when such information keenly interests investors.

An economist at the agency set off a firestorm in February when he sent an email to a group of data users explaining how a methodological tweak could have contributed to an unexpected jump in housing costs in the Consumer Price Index the previous month. The email, addressed to “Super Users,” circulated rapidly around Wall Street, where every detail of inflation data can affect the bond market.

At the time, the Bureau of Labor Statistics said the email had been an isolated “mistake” and denied that it maintained a list of users who received special access to information.

But emails obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request show that the agency — or at least the economist who sent the original email, a longtime but relatively low-ranking employee — was in regular communication with data users in the finance industry, apparently including analysts at major hedge funds. And they suggest that there was a list of super users, contrary to the agency’s denials.

Of course officials at the BLS denied it.

It's not like they are going to say, "We are Jamie Dimon's butt-boy, and we are proud of it," even though they are Jamie Dimon's butt-boy and they are proud of it. 

………

In at least one case, emails to super users appear to have shared methodological details that were not yet public. On Jan. 31, the employee sent an email to his super users describing coming changes to the way the agency calculates used car prices, at the time a crucial issue for inflation watchers. The email included a three-page document providing detailed answers to questions about the change, and a spreadsheet showing how they would affect calculations.

………

The Bureau of Labor Statistics had announced the change in a news release in early January, but did not publish details about it on its website until mid-February, two weeks after the email from the employee.

Yadda, yadda, frog-march office handcuffs.

Cue the Freakout


A Moving Average Makes Look Less Alarming

Inflation ran higher than estimates in March, freaking out everyone who thought that the Fed might lower rates at their next meeting.

Looking at a the inflation with a rolling average, the recent developments looks far less alarming:

Stubborn inflation pressures persisted in March, seriously weakening the case for the Federal Reserve to begin cutting interest rates in June.

The consumer-price index, a measure of goods and services prices across the economy, rose 3.5% in March from a year earlier, the Labor Department said Wednesday. That was a touch higher than economists had forecast and a pickup from February’s 3.2%.

Excluding volatile food and energy categories, so-called core prices rose 3.8% from a year earlier. Of particular interest to investors and economists who care mostly about recent trends, the increase in core prices was 0.4% over a one-month period. That was above economists’ expectations for a 0.3% gain. It matched the increases of the previous two months, which had also topped forecasts.

Stocks fell shortly after the opening bell Wednesday, with the Dow Jones Industrial Average dropping about 500 points. Yields climbed on U.S. government bonds after the report, reflecting bets that the data could help delay and diminish future interest-rate reductions. The yield on the benchmark 10-year Treasury note touched 4.5% for the first time since November, according to Tradeweb, up from 4.365% Tuesday.

Wednesday’s report had been hotly anticipated because Fed leaders had been willing to play down firmer-than-anticipated inflation readings in January and February as reflecting potential seasonal quirks. But a third straight month of above-expectations inflation data erodes that story and could lead Fed officials to postpone anticipated rate cuts until July or later.

The issue is not inflation, but the overreaction to it, and the fact that monetary policy has far less effect on it than in previous years.

As our economy has become more monopolistic and financialized, the impact of things like hedge funds buying up rental properties and price gouging, and oligopolies using their power to increase prices seem to have more effect.  (Greedflation)

09 April 2024

Not Enough Money

Norfolk Southern railroad has settled the lawsuit over the East Palestine derailment for $600 million dollars

That is not enough money.

I'm not sure if there is enough money in the world to punish them for the damage that they did, but bankrupting the company, and going after its executives bonuses for being unsafe would be a good start.

Light Posting Tonight

I am working on making a 393 year old recipe for chocolate.  (See below)

I am actually using only 6 cups of water, because I will be adding an equal portion (actually 1.5 liters) of rum (Mount Gay Eclipse Rum, of course) to make a cordial.

It is my first cordial, and I will be entering it into the Storvik Novice Tournament this weekend.

I actually first made the recipe in 2007.  It is from a recipe contained in a 1631 Spanish treatise which was translated into English in 1652 titled, in English anyway, Chocolate, an Indian Drinke.

It should end up about 40 proof and the interplay of the chocolate and the pepper and the rum should be interesting.

I had considered making two versions, one boiled, and one where the ingredients just steeped, but I would need a few weeks for the latter.

I did not grind as finely as I did the last time, I used a mortar and pestle instead of a coffee grinder, but as opposed to 15 minutes on the burner (though it is getting that), it will also have 4 days sitting in a mixture of 40 proof alcohol, which should finish the extraction.

Recipe for the non alcoholic version follows:

08 April 2024

Ecch (Tweet) of the Day


This translates to, "If van Gogh had a cell phone."

This definitely evokes Starry Night.

Oh the Huge Manatee!

This year, Boeing's CEO had his bonus cut.

A door flies off a newly bought airplane, and they punish the CEO.

That's so unfair.  (Not)

Well, I guess that David Calhoun will have to be satisfied with his base salary of ……… checks notes ……… $33,000,000.00.

Boeing CEO David Calhoun received $33 million in compensation last year, mostly from stock awards, but gave up a roughly $3 million cash bonus and is getting less stock this year in the wake of a near tragedy on Jan. 5.

Boeing’s board said it took additional steps to tie executive pay to new quality and safety goals in the wake of the door-plug blowout on a 737 MAX jet. The board recently announced that Calhoun would step down by year-end and that it was searching for a new leader.

Calhoun and other senior executives will get stock awards for 2024 that are about 22% below original targets—a figure matching the decline in Boeing’s share price after the blowout, the company said. That percentage amounted to a reduction of about $3.75 million for Calhoun. The CEO also gave up a cash bonus for 2023 that was targeted at $2.8 million.

Calhoun’s 2023 compensation totaled $32.8 million, including $1.4 million in salary and equity awards valued at $30.2 million when they were granted last year, the company said in its annual proxy statement, filed Friday. His pay totaled $22.6 million in 2022, including $17 million in stock and options.

Boeing said the value of Calhoun’s 2023 equity awards had declined by about $8 million through year-end and significantly from the value it had placed on his compensation at the outset. Boeing’s share price rose almost 29% during 2023 but is down by a similar percentage so far this year.

Why he has been allowed to hang on until the end of this year is beyond me.

He should fired immediately, out of a cannon, and into the sun.

All Skill Is Vain If an Angel Pees in the Touch Hole of Your Musket

We have bits falling off another Boeing aircraft.

It's a Boeing 737-800, last made in 2019, so it's not Boeing's fault.

Someone at the airline, Southwest, almost certainly failed to properly fasten the cowling after maintenance.

Still, the headline is about Boeing, and not Southwest.

More evidence that, to quote Branch Rickey (and possibly John Milton), "Luck is the residue of design."

An engine cover on a Southwest Airlines, opens new tab Boeing 737-800 fell off on Sunday during takeoff in Denver and struck the wing flap, prompting the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to open an investigation.

No one was injured and Southwest Flight 3695 returned safely to Denver International Airport around 8:15 a.m. local time (1415 GMT) on Sunday and was towed to the gate after losing the engine cowling.

The Boeing aircraft bound for Houston Hobby airport with 135 passengers and six crew members aboard climbed to about 10,300 feet (3,140 m) before returning 25 minutes after takeoff.

Passengers arrived in Houston on another Southwest plane about four hours behind schedule. Southwest said maintenance teams are reviewing the aircraft.

The plane entered service in June 2015, according to FAA records. Boeing referred questions to Southwest.

The 737-800 is in the prior generation of the best-selling 737 known as the 737 NG, which in turn was replaced by the 737 MAX.

Southwest declined to say when the plane's engine had last had maintenance.

Normally, this incident would not raise a ripple outside of the aviation industrial press, but given the current spate of problems at Boeing, it's headlines across the mainstream media.

This is what happens when a company is in trouble. 

Gee, You Think?

In depositions in a California against Tesla, soon to be former employees (for telling the truth) have stated that Elon's vaunted AI driven autonomous navigation system does little more than follow lines painted on a road.

Given the inevitable wear on lines on the roads, and how roads are repainted, this is a recipe for disaster:


So this fatally confuses the Tesla sooper sekret self driving software?

In Tesla’s marketing materials, the company’s Autopilot driver-assistance system is cast as a technological marvel that uses “advanced cameras, sensors and computing power” to steer, accelerate and brake automatically — even change lanes so “you don’t get stuck behind slow cars or trucks.”

Under oath, however, Tesla engineer Akshay Phatak last year described the software as fairly basic in at least one respect: the way it steers on its own.

“If there are clearly marked lane lines, the system will follow the lane lines,” Phatak said under questioning in July 2023. Tesla’s groundbreaking system, he said, was simply “designed” to follow painted lane lines.

Phatak’s testimony, which was obtained by The Washington Post, came in a deposition for a wrongful-death lawsuit set for trial Tuesday. The case involves a fatal crash in March 2018, when a Tesla in Autopilot careened into a highway barrier near Mountain View, Calif., after getting confused by what the company’s lawyers described in court documents as a “faded and nearly obliterated” lane line.

The driver, Walter Huang, 38, was killed. An investigation by the National Transportation Safety Board later cited Tesla’s failure to limit the use of Autopilot in such conditions as a contributing factor: The company has acknowledged to National Transportation Safety Board that Autopilot is designed for areas with “clear lane markings.”

………

In the months preceding the crash, Huang’s vehicle swerved in a similar location eleven times, according to internal Tesla data discussed by Huang’s lawyers during a court hearing last month. According to the data, the car corrected itself seven times. Four other times, it required Huang’s intervention. Huang was allegedly playing a game on his phone when the crash occurred.

The NTSB concluded that driver distraction and Autopilot’s “system limitations” likely led to Huang’s death. In its report, released about two years after the crash, investigators said Tesla’s “ineffective monitoring” of driver engagement also “facilitated the driver’s complacency and inattentiveness.”

I would also add that Tesla has lied about its so-called self driving capabilities, which would have contributed to driver complacency.

Why Elon has not been frog-marched out of his offices in handcuffs over these lies, lies which he as personally made, is beyond me.

07 April 2024

Today in Wear Your F$#@ing Mask

A study in the New England Journal of Medicine has found that Covid infections result in significant and long lasting mental impairments.

So it's not you imagination when you think that people have gotten dummer post pandemic:

Abstract

BACKGROUND

Cognitive symptoms after coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19), the disease caused by severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2), are well-recognized. Whether objectively measurable cognitive deficits exist and how long they persist are unclear.
.......
SECONDARY ANALYSES
In analyses of individual tasks on the cognitive battery, we observed associations similar to those of the primary regression model, both among the 102,263 participants who completed all the tasks (excluding those within 12 weeks after infection onset) and among the 141,583 participants who completed at least one task. Memory, reasoning, and executive function (i.e., planning) tasks were the most sensitive and had the largest deficits in the group with unresolved persistent symptoms as compared with the no–Covid-19 group (−0.33 to −0.20 SD) (Table S14A and S14B). This pattern was similar with regard to hospitalization but was disproportionately greater for visuospatial deficits (as tested by the two-dimensional mental manipulation task) in the ICU group (Figure 3).
We found small associations between specific task scores and reports of poor memory or brain fog in the previous 2 weeks. Among participants with unresolved persistent symptoms, decrements in specific task scores were observed in verbal analogical reasoning accuracy (−0.20 SD among those reporting poor memory and −0.16 among those reporting brain fog), spatial working memory maximum span (−0.15 SD and −0.19 SD, respectively), and immediate memory accuracy (−0.21 SD and −0.16 SD). Among 53,422 participants with resolved symptoms, the profile was similar to that among participants with unresolved persistent symptoms (correlation of absolute effect sizes between the unresolved-symptoms group and the resolved-symptoms group across tasks: poor memory, r=0.81, and brain fog, r=0.76) but with smaller effect sizes in the resolved-symptoms group (maximum effect size, −0.14 SD among those reporting poor memory and −0.11 SD among those reporting brain fog). These associations were all negligible (<0.1 SD) when we contrasted participants who reported poor memory or brain fog with those who did not report such issues among 46,261 participants in the no–Covid-19 group (Figure 4 and Tables S15 and S16).
.......

Discussion

In this large community-based study, we found that Covid-19 was associated with longer-term objectively measurable cognitive deficits. The difference of approximately −0.2 SD in the global cognitive score in the groups of participants who had symptoms that had resolved, as compared with the no–Covid-19 group, is classified as “small” according to Cohen’s effect sizes24; this deficit would equate to a difference of −3 points on a typical IQ scale, in which 1 SD equals 15 points. Participants with unresolved persistent symptoms had a greater mean difference of approximately −0.4 SD. This downward shift was most evident at the distribution extreme,25 with a probability of task performance below the cutoff point for moderate impairment (−2 SD) that was 2.4 times as high among these participants as that in the no–Covid-19 group. ICU admission was associated with larger cognitive differences relative to the no–Covid-19 group (−0.63 SD, equivalent to a difference of −9 IQ points), with the probability of a score that was below −2 SD being 3.6 times as high as that in the no–Covid-19 group; this finding aligns with previous findings of medium-to-large-scale cognitive deficits in patients hospitalized in a critical care unit.

The association between Covid-19 is present, and it is statistically significant, and it is more strongly associated with more severe cases.

Wear your mask. 

06 April 2024

Kosher Lysistrata?

One of the peculiarities of Jewish jurisprudence is that only a man can request a divorce.

This has led to Agunot (literally, "Chained women) who cannot remarry, as a result of their husband's spite.

Because of the biblical definition of adultery, a married woman having relations with someone not her husband, this means that her children with a future partner are mamzerim (bastards, but with far greater religious consequences), while his are not.

This has been recognized as unfair and unjust by many scholars, and many of the sages thought that it was appropriate to physically beat a man in order to make him grant a get.

Women activists in the Brooklyn Orthodox Jewish community are now threatening a sex strike over the indifference shown by male members of the community over the plight of the agunot.

About f%$#ing time:

It’s a movement to stop the schtup.

In a rare display of public protest, women in Brooklyn’s Orthodox Jewish community are railing against a traditional practice that makes it hard for married women to get a divorce– by going on a sex strike.

The collective action was sparked by the plight of Malky Berkowitz, an Orthodox woman in upstate New York whose husband has for years reportedly refused to grant her the religious document that would allow her to officially separate from him and remarry, according to organizer and influencer Adina Sash.

“It's been four years and they've been trying to help free Malky from the clutches of a very toxic relationship that has multiple levels of coercive control,” Sash said in an interview. And they approached me and they said, ‘We need you to come out loudly and we need you to raise awareness,’”

Sash is a self-proclaimed Orthodox feminist and activist based in Brooklyn who often speaks out on her Instagram account, Flatbushgirl. She said this is not the first time the community has rallied around an “agunah” — a woman “chained to a dead marriage” — with a public pressure campaign.


………

Sash says Orthodox women can protest sex just by refusing to go to the mikvah – a religious bathhouse where women cleanse themselves after menstruation. If they don’t go, their husbands cannot be intimate with them.

She said this particular form of protest is a very effective way to get attention from men in the community, who primarily control the religious court that issues gets.

“They're saying, ‘You want me as your wife to partake in our physical intimacy union, then what are you doing to protect me from being the next agunah?” Sash said. “What are you doing to protect my sister?’”

While Sash noted that she can’t exactly “go into people’s bedrooms” to verify how many women have joined in the strike, she estimates that hundreds of women from Brooklyn to Kiryas Joel in Orange County are participating based on messages she’s received.

“I was speaking to a mikvah attendant who told me that she was actually shocked that she is seeing a decline in the number of women who are coming to her local mikvah, which is in a prominent Brooklyn neighborhood,” Sash said. “And I've been hearing from a lot of men who are very irritated about the fact that their wives are taking their sexual agency into their own hands.”


………

Rabbi Hershel Schachter, a prominent community leader affiliated with Yeshiva University, even issued a statement on the subject, where he condoned “demonstrations in front of the home or place of employment” to pressure an unwilling husband to give his wife a get, but stopped short of approving the sex strike.

“To suggest such a tactic on a mass scale involving women and men who have no social relationship with the recalcitrant husband, is a recipe for disaster,” Schachter wrote in a letter viewed by Gothamist.

The statement by Schachter, about public shaming of husbands who refuse to grant a get is in fact the normative position of Judaism, with a lot of discussion about this in various tractates:

Hilchos Geirushin 2:20

If the law requires a man to divorce his wife but he doesn’t want to, the court can have him beaten until he agrees to do so, at which point they have a get written. Such a get is valid in all times and places (as opposed to requiring a Sanhedrin). Similarly, if non-Jews beat the recalcitrant husband, telling him to yield to the court order, and the court has the non-Jews pressure him until he agrees, the divorce is valid. However, if non-Jews of their own volition compel a man to divorce his wife, the get is invalid. The difference in these cases is that in the former scenario, it is the law that requires the man to divorce his wife. One might think that even the former get should be void because the man is being coerced. However, the idea of being coerced only applies when a person is being forced to do something that the Torah doesn’t require of him, such as if one is beaten until he agreed to sell something, or to give it away (i.e., such a transfer of ownership is not binding). However, if a man’s yeitzer hara (evil inclination) keeps him from performing a mitzvah or drives him to violate a prohibition, and he was beaten until he did the thing that was required of him, or he ceased the prohibited activity, this is not considered being coerced. Rather, it was the person himself who was causing this scenario. Accordingly, this man who refuses to divorce his wife ultimately wants to be a Jew in good standing, performing mitzvos and avoiding sin. He is only refusing because he is being compelled by his yeitzer hara. Therefore, when he is beaten until his urge to disobey diminishes and he agrees to give the get, he is considered to have done so willingly. Let’s say, however, that the law doesn’t require a man to divorce his wife but he is nevertheless compelled to do so by the court or by lay people. In such a case, the get is invalid but since he was compelled by Jews, he should complete the divorce. If non-Jews compel a man to divorce his wife when not required by law, divorce is not effected. Even if he told the non-Jews that he agreed and instructed Jews to write and sign a get, the get is meaningless because the law didn’t require divorce of him and he was coerced by non-Jews.

Jewish marital law, except for the issues of divorce, are actually fairly forward looking, despite having been formalized over 1,000 years ago.

For example, the obligation of sex in marriage is from the husband to the wife, and if a woman refuses to have sex and husband coerces here, it is viewed unequivocally as rape, something that occurred in US civil law around 1975.

Even more surprising, women in Kiryas Joel, arguably the most orthodox community in the United states has seen protests on behalf of Mrs. Berkowitz.

Here is hoping that the local rabbinates become more responsive to this issue.