22 January 2019

I Like this Take on Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez

Not surprising, since it's Matt Taibbi, and he draws a straight line between the clueless political elite and their discomfort with AOC's outspoken nature:
One of the first things you learn covering American politicians is that they’re not terribly bright.

The notion that Hill denizens are brilliant 4-D chess players is pure myth, the product of too many press hagiographies of the Game Change variety and too many Hollywood fantasies like House of Cards and West Wing. 

The average American politician would lose at checkers to a zoo gorilla. They’re usually in office for one reason: someone with money sent them there, often to vote yes on a key appropriation bill or two. On the other 364 days of the year, their job is to shut their yaps and approximate gravitas anytime they’re in range of C-SPAN cameras.


We’ve seen this a lot in recent weeks with the ongoing freakout over newcomer Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. Lest anyone think any of the above applies to “AOC,” who’s also had a lot to say since arriving in Washington, remember: she won in spite of the party and big donors, not because of them.

That doesn’t make anything she says inherently more or less correct. But it changes the dynamic a bit. All of AOC’s supporters sent her to Washington precisely to make noise. There isn’t a cabal of key donors standing behind her, cringing every time she talks about the Pentagon budget. She is there to be a pain in the ass, and it’s working. Virtually the entire spectrum of Washington officialdom has responded to her with horror and anguish.


All of which brings us back to the issue of Washington’s would-be 4-D chess players. Time and again, they reveal how little they understand about the extent of their own influence, or anti-influence, as it were.
Seriously, the Democratic Party has been seized by the most and timid amongst us.

A Deal Inked in LA Teachers' Strike

And true to their word, the contract is primarily about protecting the public school system from the predations of the hedge fund crowd:
What was going to be a fierce morning march on school district headquarters became a celebration instead Tuesday as thousands of striking teachers learned of a tentative agreement to end a six-day strike.

“You just taught the best lesson of your life,” union President Alex Caputo-Pearl told a sea of supporters in union-red T-shirts gathered in Grand Park.………

“Public education is now the topic in every household in our community,” he said. “Let’s capitalize on that. Let’s fix it.”

“We can’t solve 40 years of underinvestment in public education in just one week or just one contract,” he said.

The Board of Education is expected to move quickly to ratify the deal. Board members convened a morning closed session to review and discuss it. The deal also must be approved by United Teachers Los Angeles through a vote of its members.


The tentative deal includes what amounts to a 6% raise for teachers — with a 3% raise for the last school year and a 3% raise for this school year. (Teachers also lost about 3% of their salary by being on strike for six days, according to the school district.)

This 6% offer had been on the table before teachers went on strike, but the walkout was always about more than salary.

The agreement, which runs through June 2022, also includes a reduction of class sizes over four years to levels in the previous contract, but removes a contract provision that has allowed the school district to increase class sizes in times of economic hardship, Caputo-Pearl said in an interview. It was not immediately clear how that issue would be dealt with going forward.


Under the agreement, the district agreed to create 30 community schools — a model that has been tried in Cincinnati and Austin, Texas. These schools are supposed to provide social services to students and family, rich academic programs that include the arts and leadership roles for parents and teachers.

The district also agreed to expand to 28 the number of schools that will no longer conduct random searches of middle and high school students. That provision was especially important to students who marched in support of their teachers.
What is remarkable is just how much support that the UTLA has received throughout the entire strike was amazing.

I hope that this is an indicator of some sort of sea change in society, but I fear that it is not.

Profiting from Being a Public Nuisance

I am referring, of course, to the so-called "Sharing Economy", in this case the scooter companies, who are making lives of the disabled a living hell, but what the hell, there's money to be made:
Alex Montoya, who wears prosthetics on both arms and his right leg, used to enjoy walking in his East Village neighborhood where he lives. No longer. Now he fears for his safety because every day he is dodging scooters travelling at high speeds down the sidewalk. Several times scooters strewn across his path also have caused him to nearly trip.

In recent months, dock-less scooters have become more common throughout San Diego’s neighborhoods. They are ubiquitous. This proliferation has occurred in an unregulated and haphazard fashion. For many scooters may be a nuisance. For others they may be a convenience. However, for blind people and people with mobility impairments, the presence and use of these scooters deny them access to public walkways and pose a serious risk to their safety.

Yesterday, the law firm of Neil, Dymott, Frank, McCabe & Hudson, and Disability Rights California filed a class action lawsuit https://www.disabilityrightsca.org/cases/montoya-et-al-v-bird-rides-inc-et-al on behalf of people with disabilities in the U.S. District Court under the Americans with Disabilities Act and state anti-discrimination laws. The suit challenges the failure of San Diego and private scooter companies to maintain accessibility of the city’s public sidewalks, curb ramps and cross walkways for people with disabilities. Plaintiffs are seeking an Order prohibiting the scooter companies from operating on public walkways and denying access to San Diego’s disabled residents.

“People with disabilities should not have to stay in their houses because they are afraid to venture out the door due to scooters blocking their pathway everywhere they go,” said Ann Menasche from Disability Rights California, one of the attorneys for the Plaintiffs. “They have a right to use the city sidewalks just like everyone else who lives or visits here.”

“The Scooter companies have treated our free public walkways as their own private rental offices, show rooms and storage facilities. The city has done nothing to stop them,” said Bob Frank, of Neil, Dymott Attorneys. “People with disabilities need to have access to city sidewalks and their needs must come first.”

Aaron Greeson, one of the Plaintiffs, who is blind, and visits the City several times a week, explained, “I never leave the Blind Center anymore. I’ve already fallen once because of the scooters. I don’t want it to happen again.”
These folks make money by stealing the public commons from the rest of us.

This isn't disruption, it's privatizing the profits and socializing the costs.

If Kiev Got a Football Team, I would Root for the Dallas Cowboys

I don't think that it is fair to blame the people of the Ukraine, or Poland, or Latvia, or Lithuania, or Estonia for what their grandparents, or great grandparents, did.

However, I do fault them for honoring genocidal Nazi collaborators from that time.

21 January 2019

Great. The Syrian War is Going to Run Into Netanyahu's Electoral Ambitions

A Snowboarder Caught this On Tape
We now have a report that Iranian forces fired a rocket at Israel, and Israel responded with air-strikes:
Israeli forces bombed targets belonging to Iran inside Syria early Monday morning, the Israel Defense Forces said in a statement, as tensions on the northern border continued to skyrocket.

The Israeli army said at 1:30 a.m. it was “now striking Iranian Quds targets in Syrian territory,” and warned Syrian forces not to intervene.


The attack came less than a day after Israel reportedly carried out a rare daylight strike on targets near Damascus, after which Iranian forces in Syria fired a retaliatory missile at Israel, according to the IDF. The exchanges ratcheted up concerns of a wider confrontation between Israel and Iran in Syria. The Yedioth Ahronoth newspaper reported Monday that the Iranian missile, intercepted en route to the Golan by Israel’s Iron Dome defense system, carried a nearly half-ton warhead.
I do not think that this is unrelated to the fact that Knesset elections will be in less than 3 months.

Say what you will about Binyamin Netanyahu, but he has an almost preternatural knack for tapping into the Israeli electorate fears to further his own political career..

Not a Surprise

Less than 6 months after the death of it's founder, and primary funder, software billionaire Paul Allen, Stratolaunch has ended its booster and rocket development process.

This is not a surprise.

It was, at it's core a rich man's hobby, and with Allen gone, I am sure that the company will be far more resource limited than before:
Air launch space company Stratolaunch has abandoned development of a family of dedicated launchers and PGA rocket engines destined for deployment from the company’s very large carrier aircraft currently poised for first flight at Mojave, California.

The shocking move comes just weeks after Stratolaunch achieved the first long duration runs on its ”PGA” rocket engine’s preburner in tests at NASA Stennis Space Center in Mississippi -- and only three months after the death of Stratolaunch founder Paul Allen. Described by Stratolaunch leaders as “the world’s most efficient hydrogen engine”, the PGA was expected to begin full-scale testing in 2020 and was to power a family of launchers unveiled by the company.

Although Stratolaunch has given no explanation for the abrupt cancellation of the ambitious project, development costs are thought to have risen steeply as testing accelerated. The company says only that “we are streamlining operations, focusing on the aircraft and our ability to support a demonstration launch of the Northrop Grumman Pegasus XL air-launch vehicle. We are immensely proud of what we have accomplished and look forward to first flight in 2019.”
My prediction, and my record on predictions is crappy, is that there will be a few launches, but that it won't manage to be a meaningful player in the commercial launch space.

On the 100Th Anniversary of His Birth, Am I Obligated to Whitesplain Martin Luther King, Jr.?

You've done enough. Have you no sense of decency, sir, at long last? Have you left no sense of decency?
No. I am not.

I am not a historian, and I am not Black, and these days, everyone from David Brooks to Ann Coulter seems determined to show people that he was really one of them.

I was 6 years old when he died, and lived in a place which (I think) still required an operator assisted call to reach the "Lower 48," so any recollections that I have are entirely from historical documents.

There is plenty of primary documentation of his life, his letters, his speeches, film and video, and I highly recommend that you check it out.

About the only thing that I can say with certainty from what I know of history history is that the FBI under J.Edgar Hoover was a profoundly pernicious organization that aggressively subverted the civil rights of its targets, and that there was never a proper reckoning for their behavior.

I'm inclined to believe that his legacy still permeates the Bureau, and current events would tend to bolster my opinion.

Baby, It's Cold Outside

No, really, it's f%$#ing cold outside.

Specifically, it is about 12° F (-11° C), which I am very much aware of, because I was outside looking at the lunar eclipse.

The weather was perfect for viewing the astronomical event, but it was hell for the person doing the viewing.

After a few minutes outside, a witch's breasts looks invitingly warm.

20 January 2019

A Shande far di Goyim

I knew that there was a major Measles outbreak in the New York City area, but I had not realized that it was almost exclusively among the ultra-Orthodox Jewish communities, where vaccination is far less common than the general population:
Through the fall, traveler after traveler arrived in the ultra-Orthodox Jewish communities of New York from areas of Israel and Europe where measles was spreading. They then spent time in homes, schools and shops in communities where too many people were unvaccinated.

Within months, New York State was facing its most severe outbreak of the disease in decades, with 182 cases confirmed by Thursday, almost exclusively among ultra-Orthodox Jews. Health officials in New Jersey have reported 33 measles cases, mostly in Ocean County, driven by similar conditions.

In 2018, New York and New Jersey accounted for more than half the measles cases in the country.

Alarmed, health officials began a systematic effort to bring up vaccination rates and halt the disease’s spread.

But while there has been progress, the outbreak is not yet over. Health officials said part of the problem has been resistance among some people in ultra-Orthodox neighborhoods to fully cooperate with health workers, get vaccinations and promptly report infections.


Dr. Ruppert said that health officials discovered that some religious schools, or yeshivas, in ultra-Orthodox communities in Rockland County had vaccination rates as low as 60 percent, far below the state average of 92.5 percent. Audits found that some schools were overreporting vaccination rates, she added.
Seriously.  What the F%$# is wrong with these people.

This is a danger to their community, and a danger to the surrounding community.

Measles is one of the most contagious diseases on the face of the earth, and all the rabbis would have to do is explain this to their congregants, and ten pick up the phone and get the state to set up some vaccination clinics

This has not happened..

Trump is Being Owned by Pelosi Right Now

Trump has blinked, making an offer to extend DACA status and TPS status for 3 years in exchange for wall funding.

Pelosi turned it down flat:
President Trump on Saturday offered Democrats three years of deportation protections for some immigrants in exchange for $5.7 billion in border wall funding, a proposal immediately rejected by Democrats and derided by conservatives as amnesty.

Aiming to end the 29-day partial government shutdown, Trump outlined his plan in a White House address in which he sought to revive negotiations with Democrats, who responded that they would not engage in immigration talks until he reopened the government.

Trump proposed offering a reprieve on his attempts to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program and temporary protected status (TPS) for immigrants from some Latin American and African nations, in exchange for building hundreds of miles of barriers on the southern U.S. border and hiring thousands of new law enforcement agents to be deployed there.


House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) dismissed the proposal as a “non-starter” and vowed that Democrats would pass legislation in the coming week to reopen the government, putting the onus on the Republican-led Senate to follow suit.

“The president must sign these bills to reopen government immediately and stop holding the American people hostage with this senseless shutdown,” Pelosi said. Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) also said he opposed the plan.
It's pretty clear who is the tougher negotiator.

Pelosi knows the political dynamics of this situation, and she knows to count to 218, and Trump can do neither.

What the Performers at the Superbowl Should Do

Go down on one knee, and sing the Star Spangled Banner.

F%$# the cowardly owners, and f%$# Trump.

19 January 2019

This Just In: Jeremy Corbyn Can Count

Jeremy Corbyn has been opposed to a a 2nd referendum on Brexit ever since the process started.

There have been a few motivations ascribed to to this with Corbyn's mild Euroskepticism (true) and the suggestion that that the EU is fundamentally a neoliberal institution that is structured to dismantle the modern social safety net (also true).

Well, now we have what seems to be a more likely explanation, that Jeremy Corbyn understands the political dynamics involved.

There are two very clear data points:
As Labour Party leader, these have to be a part of his considerations.


The marvelously profane Simon Pie on Brexit: