07 December 2022

Vuck Ferizon

FIOS DNS not working, they say that it will be fixed in the morning, so I am posting via my cell phone.

Posted via mobile.

Did Nazi That Coming

25 members of the right wing Reichsbürger movement have been arrested in Germany for plotting to overthrow the government.

It appears that the head of the plot was a self-styled prince,  Prince Heinrich XIII:

In a nationwide raid, 25 suspected members and supporters of a terrorist organization in Germany were arrested early Wednesday.

Officials said the network, part of a wider right-wing movement, was already well established with a concrete plan to overthrow the German state by force and install a new government. 

………

The raids were announced by Germany's federal prosecution agency and German Justice Minister Marco Buschmann. The minister said the investigations were directed against a suspected terrorist network with known ties to the Reichsbürger movement. He said that the raids had taken place on individuals suspected of planning an armed attack on state institutions.

"The suspicion exists that an armed attack on constitutional organs was planned," Buschmann wrote.

………

The search operation is reported to have covered 130 properties belonging to 52 suspects in 11 German states.

According to prosecution officials, the arrested suspects "belong to a terrorist organization" that was believed to have been founded at the end of November 2021.

The group "set itself the goal of overcoming the existing state order in Germany and replacing it with its own form of state, which has already been worked out in outline," prosecutors added. 

………

Prosecutors identified the suspected ringleaders only as Heinrich XIII P. R. and Ruediger v. P., in line with German privacy rules.

The news magazine Der Spiegel reported that the former was a well-known 71-year-old member of a minor German noble family, while the latter was a 69-year-old former paratrooper.

According to prosecutors, P. R., who the group planned to install as the new leader of Germany, had made contact with Russian officials seeking to establish a new order in Germany once the Berlin government was overthrown.

It should be noted that this is not an isolated incident. The far right has been increasingly numerous and increasingly strident, and there have been repeated incidents where law enforcement agents have been a part of these organizations.

06 December 2022

San Francisco Killer Robots, I Hate San Francisco Killer Robots

The police asked the San Francisco city council to approve their use of robots equipped to use deadly force. 

Last week, they approved their use in, "Extreme Circumstances," but following a freakout by the public that was rivaled only by the reactions to the death of Norton I., Emperor of the United States, the city council has unanimously reversed themselves, banning any use of killer robots.

Killer robots?  What could possibly go wrong?

San Francisco supervisors voted Tuesday to put the brakes on a controversial policy that would have let police use robots for deadly force, reversing course just days after their approval of the plan generated fierce pushback and warnings about the militarization and automation of policing.

The Board of Supervisors voted unanimously to explicitly ban the use of robots in such a fashion for now. But they sent the issue back to a committee for further discussion and could vote in the future to let police use robots in a lethal manner in limited cases.

The board voted last week to allow the use of deadly robots in extreme circumstances. The police department said it had no plans to arm the robots with guns but wanted the ability to put explosives on them and use then to contact, incapacitate or disorient dangerous or armed suspects when lives are at risk.

The initial vote thrust the famously liberal city into the center of a debate about the future of technology and policing, with some saying arming robots was a step too close to something one would see in a dystopian science fiction movie. Though robot technology for policing has become more widely available, departments across the country have rarely used it to confront or kill suspects.

Three supervisors who rejected the policy from the beginning joined dozens of protesters Monday outside City Hall to urge the board to change course. They chanted and held signs with phrases like “We all saw that movie... No Killer Robots."

Supervisor Dean Preston was among them, and on Tuesday he told his colleagues the public hadn't been given enough time to voice their concerns about such a pressing issue.

“The people of San Francisco have spoken loud and clear: There is no place for killer police robots in our city,” he said in a statement after the vote. “We should be working on ways to decrease the use of force by local law enforcement, not giving them new tools to kill people.”

Yeah, pretty much.

If technology exists, cops will abuse it.

Schadenfreude Alert!

Marjorie Taylor Greene is getting serious grief from the right-wing flying monkeys for her condemnation of racist antisemite Nick Fuentes.

I am so amused by this:

Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene was once a darling of the far-right. Apparently not anymore.

Republican Rep. Greene disavowed white nationalist livestreamer Nick Fuentes, who’s now getting cozy with disgraced rapper Ye (formerly known as Kanye), “and his racist, anti-semitic ideology” in a tweet last month. Ever since, Fuentes’ followers—known as “groypers”—have viciously turned on her.

Greene’s tweet was prompted by backlash to a dinner hosted last month by former President Donald Trump at Mar-a-lago featuring Ye, who is in the midst of a very public antisemitic meltdown, and Fuentes.

………

“She’s just weak. She goes and says something edgy to get attention, and then when the pressure comes, she buckles,” said Fuentes on a podcast after Greene’s disavowal of him. “You know, she’s gonna be a MAGA-mom and QAnon and all that, and then the second Kevin McCarthy reprimands her and she loses her committee, she goes and apologizes.”

Fuentes also mocked Greene’s dreams of becoming the face of “Christian nationalism” in the U.S. “How are you going to be the face of Christian nationalism when you’re a divorced woman, girlboss,” said Fuentes. “I’m so glad I don’t have to pretend to support that anymore.”

He’s also taken to calling Greene “Large Marge” and is encouraging his followers to heckle her at events.

Far-right activist Laura Loomer also announced that she was done with Greene. “MTG is no longer an ally to America First,” Loomer declared on Telegram. “She may have claimed to be so that she could climb the political ladder, but she has shown she is all talk and zero action, unless of course the action is selling t-shirts and wine glasses.”

If this does not amuse the hell out of you, you have no soul.

Warnock defeats Walker

I will note that it was embarrassingly close, just over 1%.

I do not mean that the Raphael Warnock campaign has anything to be ashamed of, but the voters of Georgia should be.  (As it stands right now, it's 51.19% 48.81%)

Herschel Walker is bat-sh%$ insane, can barely string two words together, is a hypocrite, and has a history of partner abuse.

This was an expensive campaign, with direct spending by the Warnock campaign was $126.2 million vs. Walkers $48.4 million, with outside spending of $125.0 million supporting Warnock and $101.3 million supporting Walker.

A razor thin majority when they outspent Walker by about $101½ million, so the the Democratic Party consultants should be ashamed at the results as well:

U.S. Sen. Raphael Warnock fended off a challenge from Republican Herschel Walker to win a full six-year term that broadens the Democratic majority in the chamber after a turbulent runoff campaign that sharpened partisan divides in one of the nation’s most politically competitive states.

Warnock’s victory Tuesday was a rare bright spot for Democrats in Georgia after a midterm that ended in triumph for every other statewide Republican candidate, and his win prevented an outright reversal just two years after Democrats swept the U.S. Senate runoffs and helped Joe Biden win the White House.

The $401 million race was the nation’s most expensive. The victory gives Democrats 51 seats in the Senate, meaning they can claim a majority on committees and exert more influence without having to depend exclusively on Vice President Kamala Harris’ tiebreaking vote.

In a subdued concession speech Tuesday night, Walker made no mention of Warnock but urged his supporters to “believe in our elected officials.”

That is literally the best thing that Walker has said the entire damn campaign.

I’m Shocked, Shocked to Find That Gambling Is Going On in Here!

Hoocoodanode that the FBI would be systematically under-reporting fatal police shootings?

I am writing this with a deeply shocked expression on my face.  (Not)

Reporting is voluntary for law enforcement agencies, and the FBI is still the misbegotten spawn of J. Edgar Hoover, so covering up the extant of police shootings is a cultural imperative:

Fewer fatal police shootings are recorded by the federal government every year, despite renewed scrutiny of police use of force and millions of dollars spent to encourage local law enforcement to report the data.

Even though federal records indicate that fatal shootings by police have been declining nationwide since 2015, The Washington Post’s Fatal Force database shows the opposite is true: Officers have shot and killed more people every year, reaching a record high in 2021 with 1,047 deaths. The FBI database contains only about one-third of the 7,000 fatal police shootings during this time — down from half when The Post first started tracking.

Fatal shootings by officers in at least 2,250 police and sheriffs’ departments are missing from the past seven years of federal records, according to an analysis of the database maintained by The Post, which began tracking the killings in 2015. The excluded data has created a misleading government picture of police use of force, complicating efforts at accountability. 

………

Criminologists say that a lack of accurate FBI data makes it difficult to know the full scope of police use of deadly force, despite renewed scrutiny that began with the shooting death of 18-year-old Michael Brown in 2014 in Ferguson, Mo.

This is a feature, not a bug. 

From top to bottom, law enforcement culture drives the subversion, and sabotage of any measure that would improve police accountability.

"To Protect and Serve," is a bit of particularly dark humor.

Quote of the Day

Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito fancies himself a wit—and as the late Christopher Hitchens once put it in another context, he's half-right.
—Charlie Pierce in Esquire in response to the Justice's joke about black children dressing up as Klansman

Alito is a bigot, and a troll, and a horrible human being.

You know that kid who delighted in frying ants with a magnifying glass, and probably graduated to kittens and puppies?

That's Samuel Anthony Alito Jr.

05 December 2022

Damn

The US Army has awarded its Future Long Range Assault Aircraft contract to the Bell V-280 tilt rotor.

I thought that the Boeing/Sikorsky Defiant-X should win.

First, we already know the issues with tilt rotor aircraft from the performance, or lack thereof, of the V-22.

Second, the Defiant-X is far more agile, (particularly during takeoff landing) and lighter, and requires smaller engines, and so will be cheaper to operate.

Third, it can auto-rotate to a relatively safe crash in the event of loss of power.

Forth, it's better suited to carrying external loads.

The V-280 is about 40 kts faster, and it appears to have longer range, but I don't think that this justifies the additional cost and reliability problems that have always been associated with tilt-rotor aircraft.

Also, I've been following Sikorsky's advancing blade helicopters since the S-69 in the 1970s, and it kind of a geek preference for me.

Quote of the Day

One of the Defining Marks of the Dominant Web Platforms—the Sign of the Beast Shared by All the Companies That Want to Control You—Is That There Is Never a Phone Number to Call.
—Ted Gioia at The Honest Broker

Whether it is Google, Amazon, Facebook, or Twitter, the fact that the customer service is non-existent, unless you are a celebrity, a politician, or are willing to hire a high powered lawyer, you can never contact a human being.

They act with impunity, with little or no recourse from their users, or their advertisers, or their vendors, because they CAN.

They don't care, they don't have to, they are monopolies.

You Misspelled Terrorism

Sorry, but if people are blowing up electrical infrastructure in order to disrupt speech that they don't like, this is not mere vandalism, so your headline, "Power Outage in Moore County, North Carolina, Caused by Vandalism," is woefully inadequate.

This is terrorism, and should be investigated, and prosecuted, as such:

A major power outage in North Carolina that left almost 40,000 people in the dark on Saturday night was caused by “intentional vandalism” at numerous substations, police said.

Moore County Sheriff Ronnie Fields said in a statement that the blackout that began just after 7 p.m. was “being investigated as a criminal occurrence.”

Chief Mike Cameron of the Southern Pines Fire and Rescue Department told the local newspaper, The Pilot, that the substations had been damaged by gunfire.

A reporter from the paper who visited one substation smelled oil leaking from it and saw an access gate snapped off its pole. Workers were scouring the area for bullet casings.

The sheriff did not suggest what the motive might be, but a local conservative activist who organized a protest against a drag show said on Facebook that she was visited by deputies.

“I welcomed them to my home. Sorry they wasted their time,” Emily Grace Rainey wrote.

“I told them that God works in mysterious ways and is responsible for the outage. I used the opportunity to tell them about the immoral drag show and the blasphemies screamed by its supporters. I told them God is chastising Moore County, thanked them for coming and wished them a good night. Thankful for the LEOs service, as always.”

Two hours earlier, Rainey had posted the message: “The power is out in Moore County and I know why.” And around the same time, she posted a picture of the Sunrise Theater, which was putting on the sold-out drag show, with the caption “God will not be mocked.”

It should be noted that Rainey resigned her commission in the Army as a result of her involvement in the January 6 insurrection.  She was in PSYOPS.

Nothing to see here, move along.

04 December 2022

So, They Have Rolled Out the B-21


A little different


A quick list of the obvious differences

Rather unsurprisingly, it looks very similar to its immediate predecessor, the B-2 Spirit.

The most obvious differences are that the engine intakes protrude less, changes to the glazing, probably to improve ease of aerial refueling, and a lighter landing gear, implying a lower gross weight and/or a lower landing speed.

It's clear that the inlets were the product of extensive CFD analysis not available in the late 1980s.

Doubtless, it will be more durable and less maintenance intensive than the B-2, given the issues with the predecessor.

My guess would be that it will do better at things like flying in the rain, which has been an issue with its predecessor.

It will be replacing the B-1 & B-2:

The U.S. Air Force and Northrop Grumman on Dec. 2 introduced to the world the next generation of stealth, a new strategic bomber built after the Cold War for a new focus on potential conflict in the vast ranges of the Pacific.

The B-21 Raider, rolled out at the company’s secretive Plant 42 complex about 34 years after a similar ceremony for its predecessor the B-2, is an evolution for the company’s stealthy flying wing shape. The aircraft has a new generation of low observable technology, in a lighter paint scheme than the B-2 and what appears to be elongated wings and lower profile inlets contributing to a stealth that Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin says will get through any enemy’s air defenses.

………

Brown says the Air Force is still targeting a buy of 100 of the aircraft, with deliveries starting in the mid-2020s. It is slated to replace the B-2 and B-1B, and serve as the “backbone” of the bomber fleet alongside modernized B-52s. During the national anthem at the ceremony, a B-52, B-1 and B-2 flew over the crowd in that order. 

………

To overcome the obvious disadvantage of embedding the inlets within the lifting flowfield above the wing, designers appear to have made extensive use of computational fluid dynamics to merge the varying supercritical airfoil surfaces ahead of the inlet and inside the nacelle itself.

Needless to say, this is largely irrelevant, and a waste of money.

All that strategic bombers will do is make the rubble bounce after a missile exchange.

DARPA Looking at Ekranoplan

They are calling it the, "Liberty Lifter."

It appears rather similar to the Bartini Beriev VVA-14, developed by the Soviets in the 1960s and 1970s.

The basic idea is that by designing an aircraft that operates at low altitude, under 15m or so, you can take advantage of the ground effect to create increased efficiency.

The difference between the earlier early Ekranoplans and Liberty Lifter and the VVA-14 and is that while they are designed to operate at extremely low altitude, both of the latter are designed to be able to clime to altitude, something over 8,000m for the VVA-14, and 10,000m for the Liberty lifter, which allows the aircraft to avoid rough seas and inclement weather, albeit at the cost of reduced efficiency for that part of the flight:

DARPA has launched a new "Liberty Lifter" program to design, build and test a highly-efficient wing-in-ground effect aircraft for transporting "very large, heavy loads" over long distances without runways. Prototypes could fly as early as 2027.

The wing-in-ground effect has seen a bit of a mini revival over the last few years. There are a few players trying to get ground effect vehicles (GEVs) into commercial circulation – notably Singapore's Wigetworks, with its Airfish-8 and Boston's Regent, which has drawn in considerable funding and pre-sales to build a prototype of its fully electric, 12-passenger Viceroy seagliders.

All of these aircraft, as well as the Liberty Lifter and Russia's famous WW2 [This is incorrect.  The work on Ekranoplans began in the 1950s]  Ekranoplan program, aim to make use of a neat bit of physics: when a plane flies very close to the ground – at an altitude less than half of its own wingspan – it can ride on a cushion of high-pressure air between the wing and the surface, gaining additional lift while reducing lift-induced drag. This can make these things extremely efficient – flying at an altitude around 5 percent of the wingspan can get you from A to B up to 2.3 times more efficiently.
The real advantage of these aircraft is payload, with DARPA looking at payloads in excess of 1000 tons.

It really is remarkable how these concepts keep coming around.

03 December 2022

Sounds Like When Reserve Primary Fund Broke the Buck and Had to Be Liquidated in 2008

A bit of history for my reader(s).  Reserve Primary Fund was the first money market fund, founded in 1970, created in the United States.

It was supposed to work like a savings account, you put in a dollar, and you get out a dollar, and have.

Because of its structure, it was not subject to FDIC regulations, and it was not covered by FDIC limits on the interest rates that it paid to depositors.

In the run up to the 2008 financial crisis, they went large into, "Commercial Paper," short term business loans, typically made by investors and money market firms.

When the crisis hit, they suddenly had their hands on a lot of bad paper, and could no longer support redemptions at $1 per share, it's called, "Breaking the Buck," and they had to be liquidated.

Well now, Private Equity firm Blackstone is limiting redemptions from their Blackstone Real Estate Income Trust because of a surge.

It's called a bank run:

Blackstone Inc. shares took a big hit after the investing giant’s real-estate fund aimed at wealthy individuals said it would limit redemptions.

Blackstone Real Estate Income Trust Inc., more commonly known as BREIT, said Thursday in a letter posted to its website that the amount of withdrawals requested in October exceeded its monthly limit of 2% of its net-asset value and its quarterly threshold of 5%.

That spooked Blackstone shareholders, who sent the company’s stock down nearly 10% at one point Thursday morning. More recently, they were down 7.1% Thursday, giving the company a market value of more than $100 billion.

BREIT, a nontraded real-estate investment trust whose net-asset value now totals $69 billion, has been one of Blackstone’s biggest growth engines in recent years. It has helped the private-equity firm attract a new class of investors who might not be wealthy enough to invest in its traditional funds but want access to private assets.

BREIT is designed to generate steady cash flows for its investors. It has delivered net returns of 9.3% year-to-date and 13.1% annually since inception, with an annualized distribution rate of 4.4%, according to its website. Despite those healthy returns, the vehicle has had an increase in redemption requests from investors in recent months.

………

Blackstone executives have said BREIT’s withdrawal thresholds were designed to prevent it from having to become a forced seller. The firm said the vehicle has $9.3 billion of immediate liquidity and $9 billion of debt securities it could sell if needed. 

The time between the 1929 crash and the 2008 financial crisis was almost 80 years.

Now we seem to be on the cusp of repeating the 2008 financial crisis just 14 years later.

Unfortunately, no real effort was taken to correct the speculative excesses, and the regulatory inadequacy, that led to 2008, so we are seeing a repeat hurtling down the tracks toward us.  (Thanks, Obama)

Meanwhile in the Insane Hellscape Known as Arizona

Under threat of jailing from a judge, Cochise County supervisors voted to certify the vote, which has the effect of swinging two elections to the Democrats Republicans, which as I have noted before, is a good thing.Votes should be counted, no matter who makes them.

Also, former Newscaster, and runner up to the title of poster child for going off of anti-psychotic medications, Kari Lake, as well as her legal team, got sanctioned for their bullsh%$ voter fraud suit:

A judge in Arizona on Thursday ordered the governing board of a ruby-red county in the southeastern corner of the state to certify the results of the Nov. 8 election, finding that its members had no authority to shirk a duty required under state law.

“You will meet today,” Superior Court Judge Casey F. McGinley told the three members of the Cochise County Board of Supervisors. “You will canvass the election no later than 5 o’clock.”

When the board convened at 3:30 p.m., with one Republican absent, the two remaining supervisors, one Republican and one Democrat, voted to certify the results.

The surrender, under court order, ended a standoff in Cochise County that threatened to upend the state’s process for affirming the will of more than 2.5 million Arizona voters. The ensuing chaos could have undermined the projected victories of Republicans in a U.S. House seat and the statewide race for schools superintendent.

………

The denouement in Cochise County played out as a federal judge, also on Thursday, sanctioned lawyers for Kari Lake and Mark Finchem, the unsuccessful GOP candidates for governor and secretary of state, respectively. Taken together, the orders show how judges are scorning efforts to politicize ministerial roles and undermine election administration.

The federal judge, John Tuchi of the U.S. District Court for the District of Arizona, wrote that sanctions would “make clear that the Court will not condone litigants … furthering false narratives that baselessly undermine public trust at a time of increasing disinformation about, and distrust in, the democratic process.”

This won't stop the bullsh%$ about stolen elections, but hopefully it will make it more difficult for these nut jobs getting credulous coverage.

Headline of the Day

NATO Exists To Solve The Problems Created By NATO's Existence
Caitlin Johnstone

The old saw about NATO was that it was about, "Keeping the Americans in, the Russians out, and the Germans down."

While NATO does serve some valuable functions, I make regular use of NATO standards (STANAG) for example, it does seem that since the end of the cold war, it acts as a marketing tool for US defense contractors.

02 December 2022

Tweet of the Day


Pity Keith Olbermann. He thinks that both Chris Licht and Chris Cillizza are no talent hacks. and now he has to figure out who gets mentioned first on his podcast.

Economic News Dump

Yesterday, initial unemployment claims fell from 241,000 to 225000, with the 4-week moving average rising by 1,750 to 228,750 and continuing claims rising 57,000 to 1,610,000.

It's best described as not bad, and not good.

Unfortunately, this means that the Federal Reserve will continue its efforts to short circuit the jobs market, because, despite wage increases lagging inflation, their solution for anything is to put more people out of work.

This is particularly likely since non farm payroll rose by 263,000, about 50% more than what would accommodate natural growth in the labor market.

Meanwhile, consumer spending rose slightly and household spending fell a lot, so the rate hikes are not putting too much money in people's pockets, and hiring remained difficult, and the worker shortage has eased slightly, and 3rd quarter GDP was revised upward.

It should be noted that worker turnover, the so-called JOLTS report, has been falling steadily, and that if we were in the wage-price spiral we would not be seeing this.

I'm not saying that the Fed should put their foot on the accelerator, but they should ease off on the brakes.

Lame, Matt, Lame

No links on this one, for obvious regions.

So, it appears that Elon Musk and Matt Taibbi have teamed up for a "Blockbuster" expose.

It appears that numbers of powerful actors, including the Biden and the Trump campaigns had access to staff not available to ordinary plebes like the rest of us, and could, and frequently did, get tweets that they found problematic removed.

I think that this is wrong, but this is common knowledge, and has been for some time.

The blockbuster part is that the Biden campaign made a request to remove tweets about Hunter Biden, his son, and they were taken down in less time than it takes me to write about it.

Mercy, is this Hunter Biden's laptop?  Is this evidence of a vast left wing conspiracy?

No, it's Hunter Biden's penis.  

Some people on twitter were posting nude photographs of Hunter Biden, and this was something that they did for almost any celebrity or political figure, regardless of their political positions.

The scandal here is that they would not do if for anyone else.

For anyone else, you have to make a report, and never get in touch with a human being.

There is no story, at least not justifying the hysterical tweets made by Taibbi.

Matt, you are better than this, or at least you were better than this.

01 December 2022

Too Fascist, Racist, and Antisemitic for Alex Jones


That moment when Alex Jones realizes that he is not the craziest person in the room
I know that I have put a celebrity on my list of they who must not be named.

For the sake of argument let's call him Clayton Bigsby.

And Clayton appeared on Alex Jones show, and proved too bigoted, and too insane for Alex Jones to deal with. (As Anna Russell would say, "I'm not making this up, you know.)

The rapper (*The Artist formerly known as Clayton Bigsby*) praised Adolf Hitler and Nazis in an interview Thursday with far-right provocateur Alex Jones, drawing a fresh round of condemnation for his incendiary antisemitism a week after he dined with former president Donald Trump alongside white nationalist Nick Fuentes.

“I like Hitler,” a fully masked (*The Artist formerly known as Clayton Bigsby*) told Jones. Minutes later, the rapper said, “I love Jewish people, but I also love Nazis.”

Jones laughed and quickly added, “Well, I have to disagree with that.”

………

The House Judiciary GOP Twitter account on Thursday deleted a tweet it posted in October that said simply: “(*Clayton*). Elon. Trump.”

………

The conversation with Jones focused on the Nov. 23 dinner
(*The Artist formerly known as Clayton Bigsby*) and Fuentes had with Trump, which occurred one week after Trump had announced another run for president. The interview underscored Trump’s long-running ties to, and refusal to fully denounce, public figures known for spreading hate speech and baseless conspiracy claims.

………

In the days after news of the dinner emerged, top Republican officials throughout the country, to varying degrees, criticized Trump for dining with two of the country’s most high-profile antisemites. Trump claimed he did not know of Ye’s and Fuentes’s public statements about Jewish people. According to advisers who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss confidential conversations with him, Trump thought the controversy would blow over.

“I think it’s dying down,” they recalled Trump saying.

Ye’s interview and its fallout paint a different picture.

During Thursday’s show, Jones told Ye, “You’re not a Nazi” and “You don’t deserve to be called that and demonized.”

“Well,” he replied, “I see good things about Hitler.”

And then Alex Jones looks uncomfortable, wondering, "Who the f%$# is this crazy man?

………

The dinner also elevated antisemitism “to the highest echelon of political life,” Jacobs said. After reading excerpts of Jones’s show Thursday, Jacobs added, “I never imagined this would be the day-to-day reality of our world.”

………

Jones appeared to revel in the attention his guests were bringing to his show. “I’m the crazy one here,” Jones said. “We’re all crazy. The whole world is crazy. And the whole power structure is coming down.”

Jones added: “This is absolutely lit. This is lit, lit, lit, lit, lit, lit. Number one show in the world right now.”

(All Clayton Bixby variants mine)

No, Alex, you were not the crazy one there, you're just one of the other crazy guys out there.

It's finally happened.

This is some majorly f%$#ed up sh%$.

On the other hand, I imaging that not being the craziest guy in the room must be killing Alex Jones, so I am amused.

30 November 2022

Like Watching Your Mother-In-Law Driving off a Cliff in Your Brand New Car


Isn't it ironic?
It appears that the presence of insane vote deniers in a number of county offices in Arizona might have the effect of flipping the results of a US House and the state superintendent race.

This is probably not going to stand, with the Chochise County supervisors might end up in jail, but it's likely that this will be settled in court, and Republicans will win the House seat and the superintendent election.

That is as it should be, votes should be counted, even if they come from, "Whacko, my parents are first cousins, X-Files wannabe, black helicopter, tinfoil hat wearing, stupid, dim-witted, thinks pro wrestling is real," lunatics.

I'm really appreciating the irony that the Republicans will have to fight the certify the results of the election in order to save two elections.

It's ironic, in the way that the Alanis Morrissette song actually isn't.

Farther and farther down the rabbit hole we tumble in the Arizona election that has no end.

It’s a strange and surreal place where up is down and black is white and the two Republican members of the Cochise County Board of Supervisors have lost their ever-living minds.

It seems Supervisors Peggy Judd and Tom Crosby had this bright this idea that if they just declined to certify the election results in their ruby-red county that …

Well, I’m not sure what they thought would happen, but their decision to essentially disenfranchise their own voters – most of them Republicans − seems to be a protest of Maricopa County’s election. A protest that, if it stands, could actually land the supervisors in jail and another Democrat in Congress.

Without Cochise County’s vote, Republican Juan Ciscomani would lose what should be his southern Arizona congressional seat to Democrat Kirsten Engel. The supervisors’ shenanigans also could flip the state superintendent’s race from Republican Tom Horne to Democrat Kathy Hoffman and dash Republican Abe Hamadeh’s chances of overtaking Democrat Kris Mayes when the attorney general’s race is recounted next month.

Geniuses, those Cochise County officials.

It is delicious schadenfreude.

Today is the F%$# You Barack Obama Anniversary

You left off open slave markets and an ongoing refugee crisis.

To his credit, Obama acknowledges that this was a mistake.

(on edit)

I did not look at the video attached.  It is largely unrelated to the basic point.

Elon Musk Unveils Tesla Phone

I am certain that Apple, Google, Samsung, and are quaking in their boots.

OK, I need some help from my reader(s):  Am I dunking on Elon too much?

This is, of course is not the rumored Tesla Phone, but it is real, and the most steam punk mobile phone ever made, at least until someone comes up with an cell phone actually powered by steam.

Damn

Christine McVie of Fleetwood Mac has died at age 79.

I've never been a big fan of the group, but McVie always seemed to be joyful and playful (see video below) and was an antidote to the angst that always seemed to surround the rest of the band, particularly Stevie Nicks and Lindsey Buckingham.

As you can see here, she was cool making poking fun at herself.

I Did Nazi That Coming

It looks like there are a bunch of tech bros out there want to have huge numbers of children so that their (perceived) genetic superiority can be spread throughout the world.

This sh%$ is straight out of the pre-WWII eugenics movement, beloved by Francis Galton, Winston Churchill, J.H. Kellogg, and that unpleasant short German man with the tiny mustache.

I am not surprised.  Much like the philosophy of Ayn Rand, the "science" of eugenics is beloved by ordinary people who through luck and privilege achieve some success in life:

Sitting in their toy-filled family room on a sunny September afternoon, Simone and Malcolm Collins were forced to compete with the wails of two toddlers as they mapped out their plans for humankind.

"I do not think humanity is in a great situation right now. And I think if somebody doesn't fix the problem, we could be gone," Malcolm half-shouted as he pushed his sniffling 18-month-old, Torsten, back and forth in a child-size Tonka truck.

Along with his 3-year-old brother, Octavian, and his newborn sister, Titan Invictus, Torsten has unwittingly joined an audacious experiment. According to his parents' calculations, as long as each of their descendants can commit to having at least eight children for just 11 generations, the Collins bloodline will eventually outnumber the current human population.

If they succeed, Malcolm continued, "we could set the future of our species."

So this guy does not have the vaguest notion of how this all works.

First, they have not factored in deaths which will reduce the number who will reproduce, and second, you are going to start seeing intermarrying at the second, (legal in all US states) third, or fourth cousin level.

This becomes even more likely when one realizes that families tend to live closer to each other than random people, and in this case, they would all be living in the same cult compound.

Malcolm, 36, and his wife, Simone, 35, are "pronatalists," part of a quiet but growing movement taking hold in wealthy tech and venture-capitalist circles. People like the Collinses fear that falling birth rates in certain developed countries like the United States and most of Europe will lead to the extinction of cultures, the breakdown of economies, and, ultimately, the collapse of civilization. It's a theory that Elon Musk has championed on his Twitter feed, that Ross Douthat has defended in The New York Times' opinion pages, and that Joe Rogan and the billionaire venture capitalist Marc Andreessen bantered about on "The Joe Rogan Experience." It's also, alarmingly, been used by some to justify white supremacy around the world, from the tiki-torch-carrying marchers in Charlottesville, Virginia, chanting "You will not replace us" to the mosque shooter in Christchurch, New Zealand, who opened his 2019 manifesto: "It's the birthrates. It's the birthrates. It's the birthrates."
And, of course, that, "Unpleasant short German man with the tiny mustache."

This is all about the idea that non-white people are untermenchen, and so white people must have many children to prevent said, "Mud People," from taking over.

The reason that this sounds like a fever dream inspired by The Turner Diaries, is because, this is where eugenics of humanity inexorably takes you.

………

I reached out to the Collinses after I received a tip about a company called Genomic Prediction, where Musk's OpenAI cofounder Sam Altman was an early investor. (Altman, who is gay, also invests in a company called Conception. The startup plans to grow viable human eggs out of stem cells and could allow two biological males to reproduce. "I think having a lot of kids is great," Altman recently told an audience at Greylock's Intelligent Future event. "I want to do that now even more than I did when I was younger.")

Genomic Prediction is one of the first companies to offer PGT-P, a controversial new type of genetic testing that allows parents who are undergoing in vitro fertilization to select the "best" available embryos based on a variety of polygenic risk factors.

Rather ironically, if there is a genetic connection found to homosexuality, preventing gay children will become one of the, if not the, most common uses of the technology, because people are bigots.

That Altman does not "Get It" is a mark of his sense of privilege, and his deep stupidity.

………

They [the Collinses] both said they were warned by friends not to talk to me. After all, a political minefield awaits anyone who wanders into this space. The last major figure to be associated with pronatalism was Jeffrey Epstein, who schemed to impregnate 20 women at a time on his New Mexico ranch. Genetic screening, and the underlying assumption that some humans are born better than others, often invites comparisons to Nazi eugenic experiments. And then there's the fact that our primary cultural reference point for a pronatalist society is the brutally misogynist world of "The Handmaid's Tale."

If your movement is associated with Jeffrey Epstein and that, "Unpleasant short German man with the tiny mustache," you might want to reexamine your life.

………

The payoff won't be immediate, Simone said, but she believes if that small circle puts the right plans into place, their successors will "become the new dominant leading classes in the world."

Wow, I did Nazi that coming.

………

While pronatalism is often associated with religious extremism, the version now trending in this community has more in common with dystopian sci-fi. The Collinses, who identify as secular Calvinists, are particularly drawn to the tenet of predestination, which suggests that certain people are chosen to be superior on earth and that free will is an illusion. They believe pronatalism is a natural extension of the philosophical movements sweeping tech hubs like the Silicon Hills of Austin, Texas. Our conversations frequently return to transhumanism (efforts to merge human and machine capabilities to create superior beings), longtermism (a philosophy that argues the true cost of human extinction wouldn't be the death of billions today but the preemptive loss of trillions, or more, unborn future people), and effective altruism (or EA, a philanthropic system currently focused on preventing artificial intelligence from wiping out the human population).

No, EA is a way of justifying enormous wealth and making it appear virtuous, because you will be making donations (in the distant future) to help people in the far more distant future.  It is morally bankrupt, or as one Twitter wag put it, "It's a prosperity gospel for agnostics."

It is camouflage for greed and bigotry.

………

According to tech-industry insiders, this type of rhetoric is spreading at intimate gatherings among some of the most powerful figures in America. It's "big here in Austin," the 23andMe cofounder Linda Avey told me. Raffi Grinberg, a pronatalist who is the executive director of Dialog, said population decline was a common topic among the CEOs, elected officials, and other powerful figures who attended the group's off-the-record retreats. In February, the PayPal cofounder Luke Nosek, a close Musk ally, hosted a gathering at his home on Austin's Lake Travis to discuss "The End of Western Civilization," another common catchphrase in the birth-rate discourse.

Here, once again, I have to go back to the real world experiment that some call history, and note that after the Black Death killed half of Europe, living standards rose further and faster than at any time in history.

The elites did not see the benefits of the increased productivity, because they had to pay their workers more, and passed laws to suppress wages, but in some cases (Poland) where contemporaneous records of the Black Death are absent, we know that the plague hit them because of the post plague wage spikes.

A declining population, one where the average Joe pays 10% more in old age benefit taxes, but earns 40% more is good for everyone, except the holders of capital, like Musk or Nosek.

………

These worries tend to focus on one class of people in particular, which pronatalists use various euphemisms to express. In August, Elon's father, Errol Musk, told me that he was worried about low birth rates in what he called "productive nations." The Collinses call it "cosmopolitan society." Elon Musk himself has tweeted about the movie "Idiocracy," in which the intelligent elite stop procreating, allowing the unintelligent to populate the earth.

"Productive nations," and "cosmopolitan society," huh?  What they mean is "Wipipo".  They might as well just say that they are worried about N*****s taking over.

As to basing your philosophy on Idiocracy, I would suggest that you go with a far better movie from Mike Judge, Office Space.  Elon Musk already has the role of William Lundberg, so marvelously played by Gary Cole in the original, down pat.

………

Once pronatalists reach critical mass, the Collinses hope, they can begin to shape society around their needs.

"You have to create cultures that reward" and have structures for large families, Simone explained. Pronatalist pet issues include everything from increasing housing development to changing laws around car-seat regulation (one study found that people would stop having children when they couldn't fit any more car seats in their vehicle). During the coronavirus pandemic, the Collinses tried to raise money for a family-friendly "startup town" they called Project Eureka, where all community rules would be "ultimately set — all disputes resolved" by the Collinses.

When fundraising stalled, they redirected their focus to the Collins Institute for the Gifted, a specialized online lab school that is partnering with the Bari Weiss-cofounded University of Austin and the Thiel-backed 1517 Fund. (Musk similarly created a boutique education program, Ad Astra, for his family and employees' children that has since expanded into the online school Astra Nova.)

The logic behind the Collins Institute reflects their thinking at large: "If you want to make the future better for everyone and you could choose to dramatically increase the educational outcomes of the bottom 10% of people or the top 0.1% of people," the Collinses say to choose the 0.1%. 

The Collinses are paraphrasing William Edward Hickman, who kidnapped and dismembered a little girl in 1927, and said "What is good for me is right."

They benefit from lobbying for a future in which all of society's resources are directed toward them, because this is all that they concieve of.

It should be noted that Ayn Rand described that Hickman quote as, "The best and strongest expression of a real man's psychology I have heard."

To be fair, Hickman's victim, Marion Parker, was born October 11, 1915, which means that she would be dead now, so according to the ethics put forward by "Effective Altruism," it's all good.

29 November 2022

Guilty, Guilty, Guilty!

Former gun safety instructor who shot his own eye out, Stewart Rhodes, and and one of his senior minions, Kelly Meggs were found guilty of seditions conspiracy, while 3 co-defendants were found not guilty of that crime.

All 5 defendants were convicted of obstructing Congress. Both charges can carry a sentence of up to 20 years:

Stewart Rhodes, the leader of the far-right Oath Keepers militia, was convicted on Tuesday along with one of his subordinates of seditious conspiracy as a jury found them guilty of seeking to keep former President Donald J. Trump in power through an extensive plot that started after the 2020 election and culminated in the mob attack on the Capitol.

………

Seditious conspiracy is the most serious charge brought so far in any of the 900 criminal cases stemming from the vast investigation of the Capitol attack, an inquiry that could still result in scores, if not hundreds, of additional arrests. Mr. Rhodes, 57, was also found guilty of obstructing the certification of the election during a joint session of Congress on Jan. 6 and of destroying evidence in the case. On those three counts, he faces a maximum of 60 years in prison.

………

Mr. Rhodes was convicted of sedition along with Kelly Meggs, who ran the Florida chapter of the Oath Keepers at the time the Capitol was stormed. Three other defendants who played lesser roles in the planning for Jan. 6 — Kenneth Harrelson, Jessica Watkins and Thomas Caldwell — were found not guilty of sedition.

Mr. Rhodes was also acquitted of two different conspiracy charges: one that accused him of plotting to disrupt the election certification in advance of Jan. 6 and the other of planning to stop members of Congress from discharging their duties that day.

Mr. Meggs, who led a group of Oath Keepers into the Capitol, and Ms. Watkins, who went in separately and was recorded on a digital walkie-talkie app, were both convicted of conspiracy to stop the election certification. Along with Mr. Harrelson, they were also found guilty of the count of conspiracy to interfere with members of Congress during the attack. All five were convicted of obstructing an official proceeding and destroying evidence in the case.

………

In between those remarks, prosecutors showed the jury hundreds of encrypted text messages swapped by Oath Keepers members, demonstrating that Mr. Rhodes and some of his followers were in thrall to outlandish fears that Chinese agents had infiltrated the United States government and that Mr. Biden — a “puppet” of the Chinese Communist Party — might cede control of the country to the United Nations.

………

On Jan. 6 itself, Mr. Rhodes remained outside the Capitol, standing in the crowd like “a general surveying his troops on the battlefield,” Mr. Nestler said during the trial. While prosecutors acknowledged that he never entered the building, they claimed he was in touch with some of the Oath Keepers who did go in just minutes before they breached the Capitol’s east side.

Even with the convictions, the government is continuing to prosecute several other Oath Keepers, including four members of the group who are scheduled to go on trial on seditious conspiracy charges on Monday. A second group of Oath Keepers is facing lesser conspiracy charges at a trial now set for next year, and Kellye SoRelle, Mr. Rhodes’s onetime lawyer and girlfriend, has been charged in a separate criminal case.

I hope that the judge throws the book at them.

I Cannot Believe that I am Quoting this Guy


Michael Needham is Marco Rubio's chief of staff, so he is a professional liar, and Marco Rubio has no more interest in supporting the health and well-being of railroad workers than he does in supporting the health and well-being of Raul Castro.

But he illustrates an important point, one that I made last night, that Biden's call for Congressional action to force a bad deal on rail workers is politically stupid.

At the very least, Biden can call for imposing a deal that is not a reward for railroad intransigence.

Adventures in Skeuomorphic Design

My car is in the shop, and I am renting a car, a Nissan Sentra, because the smaller Toyota Corolla was not available.

I prefer the Toyota to the Nissan, but I got an impressive example of well executed skeuomorphic user interface design as a result.

For the uninitiated, skeuomorphism is the use of real world analogues in an interface, so in a drawing program, you have pens that look like a pencil, or a pen, or a spray can, or an eraser.

I had a pleasant surprise with the Sentra and its lane departure warning (LDW) system.

My car, the one in the shop, is a 2004 Toyota Prius with over 270,000 miles (435,000 km) on it, which is best described as a mid-life crisis car for the most boring mother-f%$#er on the planet, lacks such a system.  (I'm keeping it until it reaches 300,000 miles, because 300,000 miles, thank you very much).

On the Sentra, if you drift too close to a lane marker, it: (Quoting the manual)

The LDWsystem provides a lane departure warning function when the vehicle is driven at speeds of approximately 37 mph (60 km/h) and above and the lane markings are clear. When the vehicle approaches either the left or the right side of the traveling lane, THE STEERING WHEEL WILL VIBRATE and the LDW indicator on the instrument panel will blink to alert the driver.

(emphasis mine)

The indicator on the instrument panel is old school, and that, along with a chime, I have encountered in other rentals that I have used in the past few years.

The wheel vibration though, provides both a tactile and aural indication that is almost identical to the rumble strips that you find on the side of the road.

This is f%$#ing brilliant.  It is a near perfect simulation of an existing sensory input, and I reacted in exactly the same way that I would if I encountered a rumble strip on the road.

Note that I have received no consideration for this opinion, but if either Nissan Corp. or Enterprise Car Rental wishes to pay me,  I am more than willing to take their filthy capitalist lucre.

28 November 2022

Have I Mentioned that Amazon is Evil?

Cory Doctorow, cape wearing internet superhero explains how Amazon's monopoly rents are cheating their vendors, their customers, and people who don't even shop at Jeff Bezos' monster.

The short version is that Amazon extracts upwards of 45% from independent vendors in fees to be listed in Amazon's Prime service, fees to be distributed from Amazon warehouses, and ad revenue extorted in order to appear on the first page.

When juxtaposed with Amazon's requirement that its vendors offer its lowest price on the hellsite, meaning that anything sold through any other service, online or offline cannot be offered at a lower price.

This has the effect of raising the prices for everyone, and makes other sales venues subsidize Amazon.

Lina Khan, are you listening?

In Bezos's original plan, the company called "Amazon" was called "Relentless," due to its ambition to be "Earth's most customer-centric company." Today, Amazon is an ensh%$tified endless scroll of paid results, where winning depends on ad budgets, not quality.

Writing in Jeff Bezos's newspaper The Washington Post, veteran tech reporter Geoffrey Fowler reports on the state of his boss's "relentless" commitment to customer service. The state is grim.

Search Amazon for "cat beds" and the entire first screen is ads. One of them is an ad for a dog carrier, which Amazon itself manufactures and sells, competing with the other sellers who bought that placement.

Scroll down one screen and you get some "organic" results – that is, results that represent Amazon's best guess at the best products for your query. Scroll once more and yup, another entire screen of ads, these ones labeled "Highly rated." One more scroll, and another screenful of ads, one for a dog product.

………

Keep scrolling, you'll keep seeing ads, including ads you've already scrolled past. "On these first five screens, more than 50 percent of the space was dedicated to ads and Amazon touting its own products." Amazon is a cesspit of ads: twice as many as Target, four times as many as Walmart.

How did we get here? We always knew that Amazon didn't care about its suppliers, but being an Amazon customer has historically been a great deal – lots of selection, low prices, and a generous returns policy. How could "Earth's most customer-centric" company become such a bad place to shop?

The answer is in Amazon's $31b "ad" business. Amazon touts this widely, and analysts repeat it without any critical interrogation, proclaiming that Amazon is catching up with the Googbook ad-tech duopoly. But nearly all of that "ad" business isn't ads at all – it's payola.

Amazon charges its sellers billions of dollars a year through a gladiatorial combat where they compete to outspend each other to see who'll get to the top of the search results. May the most margin-immolating, deep-pocketed spender win!

Why would sellers be willing to light billions of dollars on fire to get to the top of the Amazon search results?

Prime.

………

If you are a seller, you have to be on Amazon, otherwise no one will find your stuff and that means they won't buy it. This is called a monopsony, the obscure inverse of monopoly, where a buyer has power over sellers.

………

Back in June 2021, DC Attorney General Karl Racine filed an antitrust suit against Amazon, because the company had used its monopoly over customers to force such unfavorable terms on sellers that prices were being driven up everywhere, not just on Amazon.

Here's how that works: one of the unfavorable terms Amazon forces on sellers is "most favored nation" status (MFN), which means that Amazon sellers have to offer their lowest price on Amazon – they can't sell more cheaply anywhere else.

Then Amazon hits sellers with fees. Lots of fees:

  • Fees to be listed on Prime (without which, your search result is buried at the bottom of an endless scroll):
  • Fees for Amazon warehouse fulfillment (without which, your search result is buried at the bottom of an endless scroll)

And finally, there's payola – the "ads" you have to buy to outcompete the other people who are buying ads to outcompete you.

All told, these fees add up to 45% of the price you pay Amazon – sometimes more. Companies just don't have 45% margins, because they exist in competitive markets. If I'm selling a bottle of detergent at a 45% markup, my rival will sell it at 40%, and then I have to drop to 35%, and so on.

But everyone has to sell on Amazon, and Amazon takes their 45% cut, which means that all these sellers have to raise prices. And, thanks to MFN, the sellers then have to charge the same price at Walmart, Target, and your local mom-and-pop shop.

………

This brings me back to the ensh%$tification of Amazon search, AKA late-stage (platform) capitalism. Amazon's dominance means that many products are now solely available on the platform. With the collapse of both physical and online retail, Prime isn't so much a choice as a necessity.

………

Remember that one of those search-results for a cat-bed was a product for dogs? Remember that Amazon made that dog product? How did that end up there? Well, if you're a seller trying to make a living from cat-beds, your ad-spending is limited by your profit margin. Guess how much it costs Amazon to advertise on Amazon? Amazon is playing with its own chips, and it can always outbid the other players at the table.

Those Amazon own-brand products? They didn't come out of a vacuum. Amazon monitors its own sellers' performance, and creams off the best of them, cloning them and then putting its knockoffs above of the original product in search results (Bezos lied to Congress about this, then admitted it was true).

………

Historically, we understood that businesses couldn't be trusted to be on both sides of a transaction. The "structural separation" doctrine is one of the vital pieces of policy we've lost over 40 years of antitrust neglect. It says that important platforms can't compete with their users.

Ms. Khan, tear down that wall!

Simply a Betrayal

Joe Biden is calling for legislation to enforce the rejected deal for rail workers.

The reason that there has been no progress in negotiations in 3 years is because the railroad executives know that when push comes to shove, Congress will legislate a deal favorable to them.

Unless the bill is identical to the Union's proposals, it's a sell-out of the ordinary people that Biden purports to care about:
With less than two weeks until a railroad strike deadline, President Biden called on Congress on Monday to impose a deal negotiated with help from his administration this year to avert a shutdown of the country’s freight railroads.

“I am calling on Congress to pass legislation immediately to adopt the Tentative Agreement between railroad workers and operators – without any modifications or delay – to avert a potentially crippling national rail shutdown,” Biden said in his statement on Monday evening.

That deal was recently voted down by four railroad unions representing most of the union members. The rail workers have said they are angry and frustrated that the deal lacked paid sick days or other substantial changes to an attendance policy that penalizes workers for taking time off while they are sick.

………

Union officials have recently said it’s looking increasingly unlikely that the unions and major rail freight carriers would reach a deal over lingering issues before a Dec. 9 strike deadline.

The president said that while he was hesitant to push a deal that had been rejected by union members, acknowledging his promise to stand by unions, he also said a rail strike “would devastate our economy” and “hurl this nation into a devastating rail freight shutdown.”

“As a proud pro-labor President, I am reluctant to override the ratification procedures and the views of those who voted against the agreement,” he said. “But in this case – where the economic impact of a shutdown would hurt millions of other working people and families – I believe Congress must use its powers to adopt this deal.”

………

All 12 unions need to vote individually to ratify their contracts, unless Congress imposes a contract. If one union moves to strike, all of the unions — which represent more than 115,000 rail workers — would probably move in solidarity, triggering an industry-wide work stoppage.

Well, we can always trust Pelosi to make it worse:

………

Less than 30 minutes after the White House sent out Biden’s statement, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) put out a statement saying the House will consider legislation this week to avert the rail strike. “The House will take up a bill adopting the Tentative Agreement – with no poison pills or changes to the negotiated terms – and send it to the Senate,” she said in a statement.

The existing deal was already a poison pill.

The union negotiators took the deal because they did not want to sabotage Democratic Party in the midterms.

It was a bad deal.

Unless the Democrats force a better deal down the Railroad's throats, doing this is is a profoundly bad faith action toward rail workers, and workers generally.

This is worse than a crime, it is a mistake.

Now This is Hardcore

Not only does Elon want to make Tweeps work 80 hour seeks, it now appears that he wants them to work for free as well

I guess chasing 90+% of your payroll staff was not a good thing: 

Twitter is investigating why some staff in Europe have not received their November salaries in a timely manner amid sweeping cuts and layoffs across the company since Elon Musk’s takeover.

Twitter staff in the UK received an email just before 1 pm London time on November 25 telling them their pay date would be November 28. Alongside the email, sent from the EMEA Payroll Team, staff received their usual monthly payslips. However, staff in the UK and Germany appear not to have been paid on time.

“It has come to our attention that some of you may not have received your November 2022 salary yet in your bank account,” an email sent to current and former staff reads. “The payments have gone through our Twitter bank account, and as usual, with no change to the process.”

The email says this “might be a delay in Interbank settlement” but adds the company is “actively investing [sic] with our bank and will keep you posted.”

Four independent sources in the UK and Germany told Ars Technica that they had not received payment on the morning their salaries were due.

The sources included current and former staff—the latter of whom should still be paid per the terms of their release from the company.

………

Twitter has already been criticized by former staff for not paying their expenses on time. Former Twitter employees who incurred expenses while still working for the company are owed thousands in expenses that are gathering debt on their personal bank accounts. Much of Twitter's payroll staff resigned in mid-November after Musk's work-long-hours-or-quit ultimatum.

Seriously, Elon has no idea how to run a business.

Moron.

Tweet of the Day


Holy Bigass Bronze Boot, Batman!

Linkage

How Private Equity is robbing us all blind:

27 November 2022

World Class Snark

Dean Baker suggests that crypto-bunco entrepreneur Sam Bankman-Fried has engaged in his most aggressive act of "Effective Altruism" by demonstrating that finance in general, and crypto-currency in particular, are complete balderdash.

It's amusing:

We should all recognize that Sam Bankman-Fried is much smarter than the rest of us. After all, outwardly he looks to be one of the biggest frauds of all time. By the age of 30 he amassed a fortune that dwarfs that of your average billionaire. He did it by running a crypto Ponzi-scheme. While claiming to be using his wealth to support philanthropies that were carefully selected to maximize human welfare, he was actually living a high life-style with his friends.

Now that the Ponzi has collapsed, the investors who trusted him look to be out of luck. And, of course there is no money for the philanthropies that he supported, many of which will are now struggling because they won’t get contributions they had been counting on.

That all looks pretty reprehensible, but maybe that’s the point. See, Sam Bankman-Fried was so committed to his philosophy of effective philanthropy that he was prepared to make himself appear to be the epitome of a despicable human being, and spend many years in prison, all to teach us that finance is a wasteful cesspool that needs to be reined in for the good of humanity. And, the place to start is his particular corner of the cesspool: crypto.

It continues for a bit, and it's worth a read.

It is the Expedient Thing to Do

It appears that the US is relaxing sanctions against Venezuela to ameliorate the impact of its Russian sanctions:

The Biden administration said on Saturday it would lift a key oil sanction against Venezuela, marking the first significant crack in a years-long U.S. embargo that could eventually help ease the tight global energy market.

Chevron, the only remaining active U.S. oil company in Venezuela, is part of a joint venture with the country’s state oil company but has been barred by sanctions from operations there. Under a new Treasury Department license, it will be able to resume pumping oil. The limited license stipulates that any oil produced can only be exported to the United States. No profits from its sale can go to the Venezuelan state-owned company but must be used to pay off Venezuelan creditors in the United States.

………

The official dismissed reports that the administration was acting to ease an oil shortage and high energy prices exacerbated by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. “Allowing Chevron to begin to lift oil from Venezuela is not something that is going to impact international oil prices. This is really about Venezuela and the Venezuelan process,” the official said, where the United States is “supporting a peaceful, negotiated outcome to the political, humanitarian and economic crisis.”

Yeah, right, nothing to do with the effects of the war and the Russia sanctions.

If you believe that, I have some swamp land in Nebraska to sell you. 

Also, this is not enough to get Venezuelan oil flowing again.

Bad day at the Office

A small plane, apparently on approach to Montgomery County airport in heavy fog, struck power lines, interrupting power across the area.

Rather surprisingly, the aircraft, a Mooney M20, remained suspended in the power lines and the pilot and passenger were unharmed.

This is nuts: 

A small plane crashed into a power line Sunday, knocking out power for tens of thousands of people in Montgomery County.

The Federal Aviation Administration said in a statement that the single-engine plane, which had departed from White Plains, New York, crashed into the power lines near Montgomery County Airpark in Gaithersburg around 5:40 p.m. The FAA said two people were aboard.

The Maryland State Police said in a news release Sunday evening that troopers were sent just before 6 p.m. to Montgomery Village, where a plane had been found suspended in the air, tangled in a power line tower near Goshen Road and Rothbury Drive.

Patrick Merkle, 65, of Washington, D.C., was piloting the Mooney Mike 20P single-engine plane, state police said. Merkle and passenger Jan Williams, 66, of Louisiana were unharmed and awaiting rescue Sunday evening.

………

Montgomery County Fire Chief Scott Goldstein told reporters that it would take until 9:30 p.m. or later to have all the resources in place to proceed with rescue efforts, but he gave no timetable for how long after that it would take to bring the plane occupants down.

Goldstein said utility contractors will first work to ground the high-tension wires to make it safe for rescuers to work. Fire crews will then use bucket trucks or a crane to make the plane stable by chaining it or strapping it to the tower. After the plane is more stable, Goldstein said, rescuers will use the crane or bucket trucks to bring the two people down. He said rescuers are periodically contacting them by cellphone to check on them.

Two observations, don't fly when the weather is like this, and Merkle and Williams are some very lucky motherf%$#ers to have survived.

Snark of the Day

Moderate Republican is now defined as "not a complete Trump boot licker." You can put on a Nazi uniform and say, "Trump sucks," and you'll be called a moderate.
Atrios
This is a succinct, if somewhat excessive, description of, Lisa Murkowski, Elizabeth Cheney, Mitt Rmoney, Steve Schmidt, John Kasich, Jeff Flake, John Bolton, etc.

Hiring Hardcore

Rather unsurprisingly, it appears that Elon Musk's quest for hiring the very best people has a few bugs.

Let's be clear: The fact that the .gitignore files was publicly available for anyone does not constitute a security risk in and of itself, but it does provide information as to the directory structure of the site, which is an  area of concern.

This is site security 101, and it means that some serious stuff is likely being missed.

26 November 2022

Unsurprising

Government audits are now showing that Medicare Advantage, the chosen route by the free market mousketeers to privatize Medicare, is rife with fraud and overcharges.

This is one of the reasons that many Mayo Clinic facilities have stopped taking these plans, announcing to their patients that they would only take patients in,  "Original Medicare (Parts A, B and D) as well as Medicare supplements." 

Between the fraud, ponderous bureaucracy, overcharges, deliberately inaccurate coding, and arbgitrary denial of benefits meant that Mayo wanted nothing to do with this.

No medical facility should be a participant in this scam:

Newly released federal audits reveal widespread overcharges and other errors in payments to Medicare Advantage health plans for seniors, with some plans overbilling the government more than $1,000 per patient a year on average.

Summaries of the 90 audits, which examined billings from 2011 through 2013 and are the most recent reviews completed, were obtained exclusively by KHN through a three-year Freedom of Information Act lawsuit, which was settled in late September.

The government’s audits uncovered about $12 million in net overpayments for the care of 18,090 patients sampled, though the actual losses to taxpayers are likely much higher. Medicare Advantage, a fast-growing alternative to original Medicare, is run primarily by major insurance companies.

Officials at the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services have said they intend to extrapolate the payment error rates from those samples across the total membership of each plan — and recoup an estimated $650 million as a result.

But after nearly a decade, that has yet to happen. CMS was set to unveil a final extrapolation rule Nov. 1 but put that decision off until February.

Nothing to see here, move along.

………

The 90 audits are the only ones CMS has completed over the past decade, a time when Medicare Advantage has grown explosively. Enrollment in the plans more than doubled during that period, passing 28 million in 2022, at a cost to the government of $427 billion.

Seventy-one of the 90 audits uncovered net overpayments, which topped $1,000 per patient on average in 23 audits, according to the government’s records. Humana, one of the largest Medicare Advantage sponsors, had overpayments exceeding that $1,000 average in 10 of 11 audits, according to the records.

………

That approach has frustrated both the industry, which has blasted the audit process as “fatally flawed” and hopes to torpedo it, and Medicare advocates, who worry some insurers are getting away with ripping off the government.

………

Most of the audited plans fell into what CMS calls a “high coding intensity group.” That means they were among the most aggressive in seeking extra payments for patients they claimed were sicker than average. The government pays the health plans using a formula called a “risk score” that is supposed to render higher rates for sicker patients and lower ones for healthier ones.

But often medical records supplied by the health plans failed to support those claims. Unsupported conditions ranged from diabetes to congestive heart failure.

Overall, average overpayments to health plans ranged from a low of $10 to a high of $5,888 per patient collected by Touchstone Health HMO, a New York health plan whose contract was terminated “by mutual consent” in 2015, according to CMS records.

Basically, you see your doctor for indigestion, they do an EKG, and code you as cardiac and per-diabetic, and juice their own numbers.

Most of the audited health plans had 10,000 members or more, which sharply boosts the overpayment amount when the rates are extrapolated.

………

Brian Murphy, an expert in medical record documentation, said collectively the reviews show that the problem is “absolutely endemic” in the industry.

Auditors are finding the same inflated charges “over and over again,” he said, adding: “I don’t think there is enough oversight.”

CMS has been captured by the corrupt insurance companies.

As to the non-corrupt insurance companies, there are not any.

A criminogenic environment has been created where the only path to viability as a business is fraud.

This Ain't Good

Despite relatively low jobless claims numbers, other more reliable indicators are pointing to a recession.

Specifically, income tax withholding receipts are declining significantly, and unlike the other metrics, this is an actual number, not a sampling extrapolated across the entire economy:

I have a new post up at Seeking Alpha, in which I lay out all of the short leading indicators, and conclude that the conditions have now been met for a recession to begin at any point in the next 6 months.

………

Typically recessions have only begun when 8 of the 10 components of the Index of Leading Indicators are down compared with their levels 6 months previously. And so, I go through the list . . . .

In the piece, I note that the strong jobs reports have been the biggest reason why no recession has occurred yet. But in the past several weeks I’ve been pounding the table about the implications of the steep deceleration in tax withholding receipts since mid-year. Here’s the YoY% change in total tax withholding receipts since then:

July +7.8%*
Aug +10.2%
Sep +1.2%*
Oct +12.2%
Nov +3.7% (to date)*

*= less than YoY% change in CPI

………

In the meantime, consider that the monthly household report is prepared from a sample of 50,000. The monthly establishment report is prepared from a sample over 100,000+. But tax withholding is a full and complete report of what every taxpayer/employer in the US remits daily to the Department of the Treasury.

As a result, total tax withholding receipts should come fairly close to mirroring aggregate payrolls, especially for non-supervisory workers, in the household jobs report. The one important difference is that even bosses pay withholding taxes, up to $147,000 of salary, on Social Security, and also on Medicare without any income limit. With that in mind, here is a graph of the YoY% change in aggregate payrolls for both non-supervisory workers and all workers for the past year:

………
What tax withholding data is strongly suggesting is that the actual job losses in the household reports in June and October were signal, not noise, and that there is a strong likelihood that the establishment numbers are going to be revised downward in the future as more complete data is updated.

The depressing bit is that this won't stop the Fed from continuing to raise rates.

All of their incentives favor creating a recession.