30 April 2017

The Little Fighter that Could

Bulgaria has selected the Gripen to replace its MiG-29's:
Bulgaria has selected the Saab Gripen as its new future fighter aircraft, the country's interim deputy prime minister reportedly announced on 26 April.

Stefan Yanev said talks will now take place with Sweden to acquire eight aircraft to replace its Warsaw Pact-era MiG-29 'Fulcrum' fighters, the Reuters news agency reported, adding that a special commission into the procurement will be set up within a week.


While not specified in the Reuters report, Saab had offered Bulgaria the C/D-variant of the Gripen, and had offered to restart the production line which had recently transitioned over the E model (some Gripen C/D work has continued as Saab prepares for an expected Slovakia contract) .

In apparently securing selection, the Gripen beat-off competition from the Lockheed Martin F-16 Fighting Falcon, which Portugal was offering second-hand, and from the Eurofighter Typhoon, surplus models of which were being offered by Italy.
I gotta think that the lower direct operating cost, on the order of ½ that of the Typhoon, and about ⅓ less than the F-16, had a lot to do with this decision.

I also think that there may have been a preference for new, rather than 2nd hand fighters for all the wrong reasons.(i.e. national pride).

29 April 2017

Not Enough Bullets

American Airlines tends to underpay its employees relative to industry norms, and it shows.

Now that some of its unions have won some benefits in contract negotiations, the malefactors of great wealth are whining:
American Airlines is giving pay raises to its pilots and flight attendants, who have complained they are paid less than peers at other airlines. Wall Street isn't happy.

The raises come about two years before contract negotiations. Assuming they approve the increases, pilots and flight attendants will receive additional pay totaling close to $1 billion over three years.

At a time when American and other airlines are seeing higher costs for labor, fuel and maintenance while finding it difficult to raise airfares, this goodwill gesture didn't sit well with investors.

“This is frustrating. Labor is being paid first again. Shareholders get leftovers,” Citi analyst Kevin Crissey wrote in a note to clients. Investors showed their displeasure by sending American Airlines Group Inc.’s stock down 5.2% to $43.98 on Thursday.
(emphasis mine)

Seriously, Mr. Crissey needs to be sent to China and forced to work at Foxconn 14 hours a day and 7 days a week for $300 a month making iPhones.

Airlines suck like 1000 Hoovers all going at once, and much of this is because the endless downward pressure on wages, working conditions, by senior management.

If American does not want to become the passenger beating/bunny killing United, it needs to improve its product, and its product is produced by those icky labor sorts.

Please Kevin Crissey, while you are dining on that excrement, could you do us the favor of expiring.

Preach It, Brother!

In the Guardian, Thomas Frank makes a very good point, that "The Democrats' Davos ideology won't win back the midwest."

The current neoliberal consensus is that globalization benefits the deserving, and that if you lose, it's because you're stupid, and never studied in school:
The tragedy of the 2016 election is connected closely, at least for me, to the larger tragedy of the industrial midwest. It was in the ruined industrial city of Cleveland that the Republican Party came together in convention last July, and it was the deindustrialized, addiction-harrowed precincts of Ohio, Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Wisconsin that switched sides in November and delivered Donald Trump to the Oval Office.


And what I am here to say is that the midwest is not an exotic place. It isn’t a benighted region of unknowable people and mysterious urges. It isn’t backward or hopelessly superstitious or hostile to learning. It is solid, familiar, ordinary America, and Democrats can have no excuse for not seeing the wave of heartland rage that swamped them last November.

Another thing that is inexcusable from Democrats: surprise at the economic disasters that have befallen the midwestern cities and states that they used to represent.

The wreckage that you see every day as you tour this part of the country is the utterly predictable fruit of the Democratic party’s neoliberal turn. Every time our liberal leaders signed off on some lousy trade deal, figuring that working-class people had “nowhere else to go,” they were making what happened last November a little more likely.

Every time our liberal leaders deregulated banks and then turned around and told working-class people that their misfortunes were all attributable to their poor education, that the only answer for them was a lot of student loans and the right sort of college degree ... every time they did this they made the disaster a little more inevitable.


Of course it isn’t working out that way. So far, liberal organs seem far less interested in courting such voters than they do in scolding them, insulting them for their coarse taste and the hate for humanity they supposedly cherish in their ignorant hearts.

Ignorance is not the issue, however. Many midwesterners I met share an outlook that is profoundly bleak. They believe that the life has gone out of this region; indeed, they fear that a civilization based on making things is no longer sustainable.


I have no doubt that people in this part of America would respond enthusiastically to a populist message that addressed their unhappy situation – just look, for example, at the soaring popularity of Bernie Sanders.

As things have unfolded thus far, however, our system seems designed to keep such an alternative off the table. The choice we are offered instead is between Trumpian fake populism and a high-minded politics of personal virtue. Between a nomenklatura of New Economy winners and a party of traditional business types, willing to say anything to get elected and (once that is done) to use the state to reward people like themselves. The public’s frustration with this state of affairs, at least as I heard it on my midwestern trip, is well-nigh overwhelming.


But when “the resistance” comes into power in Washington, it will face this question: this time around, will Democrats serve the 80% of us that this modern economy has left behind? Will they stand up to the money power? Or will we be invited once again to feast on inspiring speeches while the tasteful gentlemen from JP Morgan foreclose on the world?
The argument of the privileged (center) left is that this is inevitable, and people who are harmed by this are to blame for this harm.

It is a pernicious attitude, one that stems from their inability to recognize their own unearned privilege.

This destructive sanctimony needs to be purged from the Democratic Party.  Let the Republicans have them.

28 April 2017

Have Some Helicopter Pr0n

I present to you the Sikorsky S-97 Raider:

I favor this over a tilt-rotor.

I want my rotor craft to auto-rotate in the event of an engine failure.

How Not to Design Reasonably

One of the fails going around the internet is Juicero, which is selling a press to squeeze raw juices from its pouches into a cup.

This press recently had its price reduced to "only" $400, for a juicer.

What's more reporters at Bloomberg discovered that you could get about the same amount of juice from the pouches using the Mark 1 human hand.

Not bad for a company that has raised $120 million in VC funding  ……… For a juice squeezer.

After all of this product designer Ben Einstein did a a disassembly and a deep dive, and  he found a ridiculously over-designed mess.

The short version is that there is a press using a custom motor and custom gear train, a half dozen machined aluminum parts which drives an aluminum plate against the pouch to uniformly apply pressure.

Einstein inventoried the following:
  • An extremely complex plastic molding, including co-molded parts.
  • A heavy custom machined aluminum frame.
  • A custom power supply.
  • Massive custom hinges on the door.
  • Custom sliders.
  • A very robust custom gearbox.  
  • Etc.
Looking at this problem, I immediately have a better way of doing things.

I could make a prototype using an off the shelf aquarium pump for less than $100 in in parts.  (It would work like the so called "Neat Squeeze" toothpaste tube), or do something similar with a store bought pasta maker retailing for $29.99.

That took me all of 15 minutes to think about it.

This is all of Silicon Valley dysfunction in a squeezable pouch.

It's Bank Failure Friday!!!

We have the 4th commercial bank failure of the year, First NBC Bank, or New Orleans, LA.

Here is the full FDIC listFull FDIC list

No big news here, but it is enough for me to add abbreviated So, here is the graph pr0n with last few years numbers for comparison (FDIC only):

So Not a Surprise

This is no surprise. The British financial system is arguably the 2nd most invested in money laundering of any in the world (after Luxembourg). Any meaningful crackdown on money laundering would blow a big hole in the City of London's balance sheet:
So near and yet so far…

Hopes were riding high yesterday that UK parliamentarians might seize the opportunity to take historic action to end decades of financial secrecy in the UK’s Overseas Territories. We blogged about this yesterday highlighting the fact that a lot of ongoing Parliamentary business was at risk of being shelved because of the sudden general election called by British Prime Minister Theresa May. There’s a phenomenon known as the wash-up period which “refers to the last few days of a Parliament before dissolution. Any unfinished business is lost at dissolution and the Government may need the co-operation of the Opposition in passing legislation that is still in progress.”

An amendment was tabled for the Criminal Finances Bill some months back which would have obliged the UK’s Overseas Territories (including such secrecy havens as Bermuda, the British Virgin Islands and the Caymans) to create fully public registers of the beneficial ownership of companies. As we asked yesterday in our blog, will the UK parliament step up to the mark? Unfortunately, today we have the answer. No. Defeat has been snatched from the jaws of victory.
This is not a surprise.

There is corruption at the core of big finance, and the British financial industry is rather more corrupt than most, and they have been paying protection money to the political establishment for years.

Changing this will require coordinated and intense political activity over a period of years.

Deep Thought

I wish I had the opportunity to do this:

Seen on Facebook.

I am Amused

Jean-Luc Mélenchon who was in the tightly clustered top 4 Presidential candidates in the first round of balloting is approaching the question of an endorsement in the runoff is an interesting way, he is asking his supporters to decide.

He will not be endorsing Le Pen, but there is a question of whether to vote at all:
French leftist Jean-Luc Mélenchon on Tuesday launched a consultation asking his supporters if they plan to vote for Emmanuel Macron in the second and final round of the presidential election on May 7.

Mélenchon was the only one of the main candidates not to tell his backers to choose Macron rather than the far-right’s Marine Le Pen after the first round of voting on Sunday.

According to the consultation, sent to 450,000 registered supporters of Mélenchon’s “France Untamed” movement, “None of us will vote for the far-right. But does it mean we need to give voting advice?”

They are then given three options: Vote for Macron, spoil the ballot paper or abstain.


On the campaign trail, Mélenchon was a vocal critic of Macron, the centrist candidate and former banker, and that has continued since the vote, with the veteran left-winger saying he “will oppose the far-right candidate and the candidate of extreme-finance.”
This is some high class trolling, and I approve.

Adding a bit of a pucker factor for Macron is a good thing.

At worst it's an annoyance for the candidate about nothing, at best it forces to the candidate to be about something, for a while at least.

27 April 2017

But of Course

It turns out that the Australian bureaucracy created to collect fees for content creators has been diverting these fees to lobby against changes in their copyright laws:
Even though stories of copyright collecting societies failing to distribute the monies that they collect to artists abound -- we wrote about one just a few weeks ago -- this doesn't seem to discourage others from continuing to bend the rules somewhat. Here, for example, is a story from Australia, where there is a major battle to switch to a US-style fair use approach to copyright. Naturally, the affected industries there hate the idea of allowing the public a little more leeway in the use of copyright materials. So Australia's copyright collection agency decided to build up a war-chest to lobby against such changes. The Sydney Morning Herald explains where the money for that fighting fund is coming from:

Australia's government-mandated copyright collection agency has been diverting payments intended for journalists and authors to a [$11 million] "future fund" to fight changes to the law.
Specifically, the monies come from payments made by educational establishments in order to use orphan works. That's a major change of the agency's policy that was not disclosed to the Australian government's Productivity Commission that oversees this area:

[The Copyright Agency] has been criticised in a Productivity Commission review that is before the government over the transparency of its accounts and its practice of retaining, rather than returning, millions of dollars collected from schools and universities on behalf of the owners of "orphan works" who can't be traced.
This reinforces a point that I have made on numerous occasions: IP protections are government subsidies through the enforcement of monopoly rents, and are justified only to the degree that they encourage the creation of protected works.

Any amount in excess of this results in parasitic rent seeking, because this is the most effective way to make EVEN MORE money.

Copyright and patent have gone from a way to "To promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts," to a mechanism that corrupts the political process and hinders progress.

Just get a Persian Cat and Complete the Bond Villain Thing

USS Macon, 1934

Zorin Industries Blimp, 

James Bond: View to a Kill, 1985
Google founder Sergey Brin is making himself an airship:
Larry Page has his flying cars. Sergey Brin shall have an airship.

Brin, the Google co-founder, has secretly been building a massive airship inside of Hangar 2 at the NASA Ames Research Center, according to four people with knowledge of the project. It's unclear whether the craft, which looks like a zeppelin, is a hobby or something Brin hopes to turn into a business. "Sorry, I don't have anything to say about this topic right now," Brin wrote in an email.

The people familiar with the project said Brin has long been fascinated by airships. His interest in the crafts started when Brin would visit Ames, which is located next to Google parent Alphabet Inc.'s headquarters in Mountain View, California. In the 1930s, Ames was home to the USS Macon, a huge airship built by the U.S. Navy. About three years ago, Brin decided to build one of his own after ogling old photos of the Macon.

In 2015, Google unit Planetary Ventures took over the large hangars at Ames from NASA and turned them into laboratories for the company. Brin's airship, which isn’t an Alphabet project, is already taking shape inside one. Engineers have constructed a metal skeleton of the craft, and it fills up much of the enormous hangar.
Seriously.  This, and James Cameron's plans for his "asteroid mining operation" are disturbingly close to a plot device from a Bond film.

Happy Dance Time

Out Standing!
A member of Connecticut's Working Families Party has just won their first ever seat in the Connecticut General Assembly:
Union leader Joshua Hall became the first Working Families Party candidate to win a seat in the state House, collecting 41 percent of the vote in Tuesday's 7th District special election.

Hall, vice president of the Hartford Federation of Teachers and a former Weaver High School teacher, received 625 votes in an upset of Rickey Pinckney, the Democratic-endorsed candidate, who received 512 votes, and petitioning candidate Kenneth Green, who took 367 votes, according to unofficial election results released late Tuesday by Democratic Registrar of Voters Giselle Feliciano.


Hall's win marks just the second time a Working Families Party candidate has won a legislative seat. Ed Gomes was elected to the Senate in a 2015 special election.


all has leaned heavily on his experience in education and promised to fight for resources that the district needs, including school funding. Earlier this month, he said he opposed a plan by the governor to have municipalities pick up a portion of teacher pension costs — a proposal that would cost Hartford about $17 million.

"That $17 million is going to break Hartford Public Schools. It's going to break the city," he said. "I'm going to make sure that it does not happen."

In his statement, he also said he would prioritize the availability of good jobs, strong neighborhoods and a "just budget."

"That starts with eliminating backdoor tax increases on working families and setting budget policy that generates revenue without harmful cuts," Hall said.
One hopes that the sort of bottom-up campaigning will be a trend.

The high profile campaigns for Governor, Senator, and President favored by parties like the Greens has been shown to neither win elections nor build the party.

Until there is a meaningful force to hold the Democratic party to account for completely ignoring their promises of a just society, they will never keep their promises.

Data Point of the Day

It's also a quote of the day. "New York City’s biggest pensions have invested about $13 billion with private-equity firms in pursuit of large returns. They would have done better with a low-cost stock index fund."

The only people who actually benefit from the activities of private-equity firms and hedge funds are private equity firms and hedge funds.


Not a video this time, because this still picture is too good:

26 April 2017

Stop Using Unroll.me, Right Now. It Sold Your Data to Uber.

That is the headline at The Intercept, and I'm inclined to agree:
Tucked away in a rollicking New York Times profile of amoral Uber CEO Travis Kalanick is a tidbit about Unroll.me, a popular service that aims to rescue your email inbox from unwanted newsletters and promotional messages with an easy automated unsubscribe service. The problem is, it’s been selling you out to advertisers, and you should stop using it immediately.

The Kalanick profile says that Uber previously used Unroll.me data to gauge the health of archrival Lyft:
Unroll.me's CEO then issued the most hypocritical "apology" ever:
Our users are the heart of our company and service. So it was heartbreaking to see that some of our users were upset to learn about how we monetize our free service.
Yes, he's SO sorry that he got caught.

Dump the service, and make sure that you never use anything from the founder, Jojo Hedaya, ever again.

Just When You Thought That the EpiPen Folks Could Not Get Any Worse

In addition to price gouging and fraud, it now appears that Mylan Pharmaceuticals used nuisance lawsuits to lock itself in as a preferred Medicaid provider:
Pharmaceutical company Mylan sued West Virginia in 2015 to keep its EpiPens on the state’s “preferred drug list,” which, if successful, would mean that the state’s Medicaid programs would have to automatically pay for the pricey epinephrine auto-injectors.

The bold and unusual move by Mylan—which ultimately failed—is yet another example of the aggressive marketing and legal tactics the company used to boost profits from EpiPens, which halt life-threatening allergic reactions. Since Mylan acquired rights to EpiPen in 2007, the company raised its price by more than 400 percent. Mylan also allegedly made illegal deals with schools to undercut competitors and allegedly scammed federal and state regulators out of millions in rebates by knowingly misclassifying the device.

Last year, EpiPen’s sales and expanded markets brought in more than $1 billion in revenue for Mylan. The company’s CEO, Heather Bresch, is one of the highest-paid CEOs in the industry, earning nearly $19 million annually.
Additionally, the company offered discounts on the condition that competitors' products not be covered:

When Mylan dramatically increased the price of its life-saving EpiPen devices, it drew sharp rebuke all around for what seemed like a purely greedy—and heartless—move. But according to a lawsuit filed by French drug maker Sanofi, the move wasn’t just out of simple greed. Instead, it was part of an underhanded scheme to “squash” competition from Sanofi’s rival device, the Auvi-Q.

With the lofty prices and near-monopoly over the market, Mylan could dangle deep discounts to drug suppliers—with the condition that they turn their backs on Sanofi’s Auvi-Q—the lawsuit alleges. Suppliers wouldn’t dare ditch EpiPens, the most popular auto-injector. And with the high prices, the rebates wouldn’t put a dent in Mylan’s hefty profits, Sanofi speculates.

Coupled with a smear campaign and other underhanded practices, Mylan effectively pushed Sanofi out of the US epinephrine auto-injector market, Sanofi alleges. The lawsuit, filed Monday in a federal court in New Jersey, seeks damages under US Antitrust laws.
In short, Sanofi claims that “Mylan engaged in illegal conduct to squelch this nascent competition, harming both Sanofi and U.S. consumers.”
According to the lawsuit:
In particular, Mylan offered new and unprecedented rebates to commercial insurance companies, pharmaceutical benefit managers, and state-based Medicaid agencies (collectively “third-party payors”) conditioned exclusively on Auvi-Q® not being an [epinephrine auto-injector] drug device that those payors would reimburse for use by U.S. consumers.
I'm beginning to think that we need to start throwing people in jail for monopolistic conspiracies, because fines are increasingly seen to be just a cost of business.

Deep Wisdom

In his review of the Clinton campaign tell all Shattered, Nathan Robinson and he provides a potent insight, specifically that there a number of factors that had to coincide for Clinton to lose the election, and that the Democratic Party political establishment needs to focus on the ones that are they have control over, and those factors are the fault of the Democratic Party political establishment.

The alleged Russian meddling in the election and Comey's behavior are both unlikely events, while the fact that the party establishment went all in on the worst possible candidate, and the party's consultants ran the worst possible campaign.

The last two items are something that could be fixed the next time around, though it's clear that neither party establishment, and the consultants who feed off the party apparatus want this to happen, since it means less for them.

The problem, much like the sitcom Seinfeld, the Democratic conventional wisdom calls for the party to be about nothing, and a bad something with bad hair and bad ideas still beats nothing:

First, let’s be clear on what we mean by identifying something that “caused” the result. Because the election was extremely close, and well under 100,000 people would have had to change their minds for the result to be different, hundreds and hundreds of factors can be identified as “but for” causes of the result, i.e. but for the existence of Factor X, Clinton would have won. So, say we narrow our 500 “but for” causes down to 4: the Clinton campaign’s incompetence, the Russian leaking of embarrassing internal documents, obstinate voters who refused to come out for Clinton, and James Comey’s letter. If we assume for the moment that we think each of these had an equal effect, we can see how it’s the case that in the absence of any one of them, the result would have changed:

That means that the decision of which factor to pick out for blame is subjective. Since both Comey’s letter and Clinton’s incompetence are equal causes, in that without one of them the result would have tipped in the other direction, the person who blames Comey and the person who blames Clinton are equally correct. Again, the actual chart would have about 5 million causes rather than 4. But the point is that we have to decide which of these causes to focus our attention on.

Thus the statement “The Clinton campaign lost because it lacked vision, authenticity, and strategy” is consistent with the statement “If it wasn’t for James Comey’s letter, Hillary Clinton would have won the election.” But personally, I believe it’s far more important to focus on the causes that you can change in the future. You don’t know what the FBI director will do, and you can’t affect whether he does it or not. What you can do is affect what your side does. So the Democrats cannot determine whether James Comey will choose to give a damning statement implying their candidate is a criminal. But they can determine whether or not to run a candidate who is under FBI investigation in the first place.

Note that even if you think Comey was the major cause of Clinton’s loss, it still might be advisable to turn your attention elsewhere:

If you fix the other things, then even a highly impactful Comey letter won’t tip the election. And correspondingly, even if you prove that Clinton’s own actions were 99% responsible for her loss, a Clinton supporter would be technically correct in identifying Comey as causing the outcome:

In any scenario, it’s probably best to figure out what your party itself can do to address the situation. After all, if we’re really adding up causes, Donald Trump himself is probably the primary one, yet it would be a waste of time to sit around blaming Donald Trump, if it’s also true that you ran a horrible campaign that alienated people.

You can also think certain things acted as precipitating causes without necessarily being at fault. For example, you might think that WikiLeaks was a direct cause of the result, but not think them at fault because it’s their job to post the material they receive. The same goes for the New York Times covering the email story; it might have contributed to the outcome, but you might think this isn’t their fault because they’re journalists and that’s what they do. Likewise James Comey; you might believe he was doing his job as he saw fit. And Bernie Sanders: Clinton may have lost both because she gave speeches to Goldman Sachs and because Bernie Sanders repeatedly criticized her for it, but you might think that one of those things is more justified than the other. There’s a question of which things you can change to improve outcomes, and then there’s a question of which things you should change. In 1992, for example, Bill Clinton realized that Democrats could win more elections if they adopted the Republican platform of slashing welfare and locking up young black men. This did change outcomes. But it was also heinous. And personally, I think you’re changing something about the party, you should change “Democrats enriching themselves from Wall Street speeches” rather than “people pointing out that Democrats are enriching themselves from Wall Street speeches.”

Shattered is both tragic and comic. It’s tragic because Donald Trump becomes president at the end. But it’s comic in that it depicts a bunch of egotistical and hyper-confident people arrogantly pursuing an obviously foolish strategy, dismissing every critic as irrational and un-pragmatic, only to completely fall on their faces. There was, Allen and Parnes tell us, “nothing like the aimlessness and dysfunction of Hillary Clinton’s second campaign for the presidency—except maybe those of her first bid for the White House.” And however horrible it may be to have Donald Trump as commander in chief (it is incredibly, deeply horrible and threatens all of human civilization), reading Shattered one cannot help but get a tiny amount of satisfaction from the fact that Mook and Clinton’s cynical and contemptuous attitude toward the American public didn’t actually produce the result that they were certain it would. One wishes they had won, but one is also a tiny bit glad that they lost.

Vision, authenticity, strategy. You need to have clear sense of what you want to do and why you want to do it. You need to show people that you mean it and believe in it. And you need to have an idea of how to get from here to there. The Clinton campaign had no vision, was inauthentic, and botched its strategy. But that’s not a problem unique to Hillary Clinton, and singling her out for too much criticism is unfair and, yes, sexist (especially because Bill is much worse). This is a party-wide failure, and it will require more than just banishing the Clintons from politics. If the Democrats are to have a future, they must offer something better, more honest, and more inspiring. With Republicans dominating the government, we cannot afford to end up shattered again.

25 April 2017

Thank God for Anti-Lock Brakes

My car is fine.

My underwear, not so much.

Is This a Supercarrier?

Video courtesy of RT.
China has launched its first indigenously produced aircraft carrier:
China’s first domestically built aircraft carrier, formally named the Shandong, was launched on Wednesday in the latest display of Beijing’s growing naval power.


The carrier, which had earlier been temporarily named the Type 001A, is China’s second after the Liaoning, a refitted former Soviet Union-made carrier that was put into commission in the PLA Navy in 2012.

The carrier, 315 metres long and 75 metres wide, has a cruising speed of 31 knots and a displacement of 70,000 tonnes.

It is slightly larger than the Liaoning, China’s first aircraft ­carrier, which was refurbished from the semi-completed Soviet carrier Varyag, which Beijing bought from a Ukrainian shipyard in 1998.


Even though its layout is almost the same as the Liaoning, the Shandong features new equipment and a more advanced operational concept, including a bigger hangar to carry more J-15 fighter jets and more space on deck for helicopters and other aircraft.

Type 001A

USS Kennedy and Saratoga
At 70,000 metric tons (Tonnes) displacement, this ship displaces more than Forrestal Class, Kitty Hawk Class, and the John F. Kennedy at normal load, but it lacks catapult gear, which to my mind is a requirement fo be called a "Supercarrier".

One of the thing that I find interesting is the size of the island.

The superstructure is MUCH larger than those for the now retired) US conventional supercarriers.

My guess is that the air defense suite for the Type 001A is rather more extensive than those of US carriers, and that this additional island space accommodates more types of radars as well as launchers for missiles of a type that are typically carried by the carrier's escorts in a US carrier group.

The Chinese are very early in the process of learning how to operate a carrier battle group, and so are providing capabilities on their carrier, at the expense of deck space and (possibly) sea keeping, that the US has found to be superfluous.

Almost, but Not Quite a Stopped Clock Moment

The reliably wrong "Very Serious Person" (VSP) Matthe Yglesias,  is justified in his condemnation of Obama's $400,000 payday Wall Street speech, but his statement that this, "Will undermine everything he believes in," is wrong on a number of levels.

First, there is no way to determine what any public figure truly believes, so couching this in those terms is wrong, and second any examination of the Obama administration would lead one to conclude that his public acts had the effect of pleasing and protecting the "Malefactors of Great Wealth", (Timothy Geithner, anyone?) and this action is consistent with his behavior while in office.*

The revolving door, and people cashing in after their time in his administration, were a fixture in his two terms of office, and this, along with his policies, are entirely consistent with his paid speaking gig.

I agree with Yglesias that it's sleazy as hell, but I tend to find it consistent with his actual behavior, and not at odds with what he did as President.

*Note the difference between Yglesias comment and mine.  I talk about the effects, and do not imply that I know the the inner dialogue of Obama and his Evil Minions.

Bitcoin in a nutshell:

Over at the reliably amusing Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal web comic, they just put up a new cartoon titled, "Dadbucks."

It details the results of creating a household currency to encourage the performance of chores.

I think that this is a wonderful metaphor for Bitcoin, and I think that someone should hire him as a financial regulator because he gets it.

Cartoon after the break.

24 April 2017

Rinse, Lather, Repeat: F-35 Edition

Development testing of the Lockheed Martin F-35 could be delayed by 12 months and cost another $1.7 billion, the US Government Accountability Office (GA0) warns in a new report published on 24 April.

In a report submitted to the US Congress, the GAO says that the F-35’s government managers at the joint programme office (JPO) have adopted an “optimistic” estimate for a five-month delay and $532 million cost overrun to complete Block 3F software, the fifth and final software release to support the 15-year-long system development and demonstration phase of the family of stealth fighters.

GAO’s analysis based on historical data suggests Block 3F testing won’t be complete until May 2018, or 12 months later than currently scheduled. The GAO’s anticipated or cost growth of $1.7 billion would raise overall development programme costs to $56.8 billion, $22.4 billion higher than the original budget at contract award in October 2001.
This sort of clusterf%$# has become so common for the F-35 that I'm not sure if it even qualifies as news these days.

It Looks Like the Ottomans Missed a Document

For more than a century, Turkey has denied any role in organizing the killing of Armenians in what historians have long accepted as a genocide that started in 1915, as World War I spread across continents. The Turkish narrative of denial has hinged on the argument that the original documents from postwar military tribunals that convicted the genocide’s planners were nowhere to be found.

Now, Taner Akcam, a Turkish historian at Clark University in Worcester, Mass., who has studied the genocide for decades by piecing together documents from around the world to establish state complicity in the killings, says he has unearthed an original telegram from the trials, in an archive held by the Armenian Patriarchate of Jerusalem.

“Until recently, the smoking gun was missing,” Mr. Akcam said. “This is the smoking gun.” He called his find “an earthquake in our field,” and said he hoped it would remove “the last brick in the denialist wall.”

The story begins in 1915 in an office in the Turkish city of Erzurum, when a high-level official of the Ottoman Empire punched out a telegram in secret code to a colleague in the field, asking for details about the deportations and killings of Armenians in eastern Anatolia, the easternmost part of contemporary Turkey.

Later, a deciphered copy of the telegram helped convict the official, Behaeddin Shakir, for planning what scholars have long acknowledged and Turkey has long denied: the organized killing of up to 1.5 million Armenians by the leaders of the collapsing Ottoman Empire, an atrocity widely recognized as the 20th century’s first genocide.

And then, just like that, most of the original documents and sworn testimony from the trials vanished, leaving researchers to rely mostly on summaries from the official Ottoman newspaper.


Instead, he found a photographic record of the Jerusalem archive in New York, held by the nephew of a Armenian monk, now dead, who was a survivor of the genocide.

While researching the genocide in Cairo in the 1940s, the monk, Krikor Guerguerian, met a former Ottoman judge who had presided over the postwar trials. The judge told him that many of the boxes of case files had wound up in Jerusalem, so Mr. Guerguerian went there and took pictures of everything.

The telegram was written under Ottoman letterhead and coded in Arabic lettering; four-digit numbers denoted words. When Mr. Akcam compared it with the known Ottoman Interior Ministry codes from the time, found in an official archive in Istanbul, he found a match, raising the likelihood that many other telegrams used in the postwar trials could one day be verified in the same way.


The genocide is commemorated each year on April 24, the day in 1915 that a group of Armenian notables from Istanbul were rounded up and deported.

It was the start of the enormous killing operation, which involved forced marches into the Syrian desert, summary executions and rapes.

Two years ago, Pope Francis referred to the killings as a genocide and faced a storm of criticism from within Turkey. Many countries, including France, Germany and Greece, have recognized the genocide, each time provoking diplomatic showdowns with Turkey.
It is well past time for the US to recognize the genocide.

In fact, I think that if anything, we need to be even more aggressive about this than we are about Holocaust deniers, because they are (thankfully) a relatively small fringe group, while the Turkish state continues to continue this crap in their mandatory education curriculum, polluting the minds of the next generation.


Simon's Cat on Boxes

*In any discussion of Charles Murray, it should be noted that he Burned a Cross on a hill next to the local police station. He claims not to know the significance ……… In 1960 ……… With both the civil rights movement and Klan terrorism in full swing. Bullsh%$. He's a man who has made a career out of being a professional racist.

23 April 2017

It's Le Pen and Macron

I didn't expect Jean-Luc Mélenchon to make it too the runoff, but I am still bummed that it's going to be Emmanuel Macron and Marine Le Pen in the runoff:
In France’s most consequential election in recent history, voters on Sunday chose Emmanuel Macron and Marine Le Pen to go to a runoff to determine the next president, official returns showed. One is a political novice, the other a far-right firebrand — both outsiders, but with starkly different visions for the country.

The result was a full-throated rebuke of France’s traditional mainstream parties, setting the country on an uncertain path in an election that could also decide the future of the European Union.

It is the first time in the nearly 59-year history of France’s Fifth Republic that both of the final candidates are from outside the traditional left-right party structure. Together, they drew less than half the total votes cast in a highly fractured election.

Even before the official tallies were announced, the political establishment was rallying behind Mr. Macron, warning of the dangers of a victory by Ms. Le Pen’s far-right National Front, though few analysts give her much of a chance of winning the May 7 runoff.
I am surprised that the scandal plagued Fillon got as many votes as he did.

Some things to note: 
If I were a Frenchman, I would walk into the ballot box, and urinate in it during the runoff.

As an aside, I think that the French system with its imperial Presidency is showing itself to be somewhat problematic.

Perhaps moving back to a parliamentary system with a relatively high election threshold (10+ percent) or a first past the post constituency system would better serve the citizens of L'hexagone.

The New York Times Weighs in on Comey

The article is long, but a read reveals something very basic: That James Comey was a rather clueless narcissist who ignored standard procedures because he wanted to ingratiate himself to Republicans:
The day before he upended the 2016 election, James B. Comey, the director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, summoned agents and lawyers to his conference room. They had been debating all day, and it was time for a decision.

Mr. Comey’s plan was to tell Congress that the F.B.I. had received new evidence and was reopening its investigation into Hillary Clinton, the presidential front-runner. The move would violate the policies of an agency that does not reveal its investigations or do anything that may influence an election. But Mr. Comey had declared the case closed, and he believed he was obligated to tell Congress that had changed.


What he did not say was that the F.B.I. was also investigating the campaign of Donald J. Trump. Just weeks before, Mr. Comey had declined to answer a question from Congress about whether there was such an investigation. Only in March, long after the election, did Mr. Comey confirm that there was one.


An examination by The New York Times, based on interviews with more than 30 current and former law enforcement, congressional and other government officials, found that while partisanship was not a factor in Mr. Comey’s approach to the two investigations, he handled them in starkly different ways. In the case of Mrs. Clinton, he rewrote the script, partly based on the F.B.I.’s expectation that she would win and fearing the bureau would be accused of helping her. In the case of Mr. Trump, he conducted the investigation by the book, with the F.B.I.’s traditional secrecy. Many of the officials discussed the investigations on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to reporters.

Mr. Comey made those decisions with the supreme self-confidence of a former prosecutor who, in a distinguished career, has cultivated a reputation for what supporters see as fierce independence, and detractors view as media-savvy arrogance.


Mr. Comey’s defenders regard this as one of the untold stories of the Clinton investigation, one they say helps explain his decision-making. But former Justice Department officials say the F.B.I. never uncovered evidence tying Ms. Lynch to the document’s author, and are convinced that Mr. Comey wanted an excuse to put himself in the spotlight.


Mr. Comey’s criticism — his description of her carelessness — was the most controversial part of the speech. Agents and prosecutors have been reprimanded for injecting their legal conclusions with personal opinions. But those close to Mr. Comey say he has no regrets.

By scolding Mrs. Clinton, Mr. Comey was speaking not only to voters but to his own agents. While they agreed that Mrs. Clinton should not face charges, many viewed her conduct as inexcusable. Mr. Comey’s remarks made clear that the F.B.I. did not approve.

Former agents and others close to Mr. Comey acknowledge that his reproach was also intended to insulate the F.B.I. from Republican criticism that it was too lenient toward a Democrat.

At the Justice Department, frustrated prosecutors said Mr. Comey should have consulted with them first. Mrs. Clinton’s supporters said that Mr. Comey’s condemnations seemed to make an oblique case for charging her, undermining the effect of his decision.

“He came up with a Rube Goldberg-type solution that caused him more problems than if he had just played it straight,” said Brian Fallon, the Clinton campaign press secretary and a former Justice Department spokesman.
It is really a pretty sad picture, and it reveals how a political operative can manipulate him fairly easily.

This is profoundly disturbing, though if Democrats take a similar tack against him with Trump as the Republicans did with Clinton my outrage would be muted, but it's not gonna happen with the red scare bullsh%$ being passed around. 

They really have to target the ongoing corruption and lawlessness in the Trump administration, particularly with regard to the AG Jeff Sessions.

This is the sort of thing that will jam up Comey, and force him to investigate and hold uncomfortable press conferences.

Another Staple of Neoliberal Economics Falls

Correlation does not imply causation, but lack of correlation does imply lack of causation.

As such the /complete lack of causation between minimum wage levels and employment puts a stake through the heart of the trope that minimum wages kill jobs:
Since the passage of the Fair Labor Standards Act in 1938, business interests and conservative politicians have warned that raising the minimum wage would be ruinous. Even modest increases, they’ve asserted, will cause the U.S. economy to hemorrhage jobs, shutter businesses, reduce labor hours, and disproportionately cast young people, so-called low-skilled workers, and workers of color to the bread lines. As recently as this year, the same claims have been repeated, nearly verbatim.

Raise wages, lose jobs, the refrain seems to go.

If the claims of minimum-wage opponents are akin to saying “the sky is falling,” this report is an effort to check whether the sky did indeed fall. In this report, we examine the historical data relating to the 22 increases in the federal minimum wage between 1938 and 2009 to determine whether or not these claims—that if you raise wages, you will lose jobs—can be substantiated. We examine employment trends before and after minimum-wage increases, looking both at the overall labor market and at key indicator sectors that are most affected by minimum-wage increases. Rather than an academic study that seeks to measure causal effects using techniques such as regression analysis, this report assesses opponents’ claims about raising the minimum wage on their own terms by examining simple indicators and job trends.

The results were clear: these basic economic indicators show no correlation between federal minimum-wage increases and lower employment levels, even in the industries that are most impacted by higher minimum wages. To the contrary, in the substantial majority of instances (68 percent) overall employment increased after a federal minimum-wage increase. In the most substantially affected industries, the rates were even higher: in the leisure and hospitality sector employment rose 82 percent of the time following a federal wage increase, and in the retail sector it was 73 percent of the time. Moreover, the small minority of instances in which employment—either overall or in the indicator sectors—declined following a federal minimum-wage increase all occurred during periods of recession or near recession. That pattern strongly suggests that the few instances of such declines in employment are better explained by the overall national business cycle than by the minimum wage.

These employment trends after federal minimum-wage increases are not surprising, as they are in line with the findings of the substantial majority of modern minimum-wage research. As Goldman Sachs analysts recently noted, citing a state-of-the-art 2010 study by University of California economists that examined job-growth patterns across every border in the U.S. where one county had a higher wage than a neighboring county, “the economic literature has typically found no effect on employment” from recent U.S. minimum-wage increases. This report’s findings mirror decades of more sophisticated academic research, providing simple confirmation that opponents’ perennial predictions of job losses when minimum-wage increases are proposed are rooted in ideology, not evidence.
Of course, this runs counter to the two rules of neoliberalism:
  1. Because markets.
  2. Go die!
But neoliberalism has never lived up to its promise of a rising tide lifting all boats.

It's widespread adoption have correlated to reduced growth and falling wages, though, of course, we know that correlation does not imply causation.

H/t The Big Picture.

22 April 2017

An Old Home Remedy that Worked for Me

They are such cute merciless killing machines
With a feral cat in our house, the infamous RP the Cat, our decidedly non-feral cats, Meatball/Mousetrap and Destructo have suffered from fleas.

This has particularly been hard on Destructo, as he is a long hair.

I have tried the normal treatments, Frontline® and Advantage®, but they have been of limited effectiveness, I think that the fleas have developed resistance, and they are rather pricey, and Destructo must have the back of his head shaved (he hates this) for this to work, because otherwise it never makes contact with his skin.

I had heard that brewers yeast ameliorates flea infestations, so twice a week, we take a can of wet cat food, mix in two heaping teaspoons of brewers yeast.

The cats love the wet food, and it works like a dream.

Destructo is now almost completely free of flea sores, and their fur is thicker and more luxurious.

It's easy, cheap, and it involves no cat induced blood loss.

21 April 2017

Gotta Check This out When It Hits the Library

I am of course referring to the scathing tell all Shattered: Inside Hillary Clinton's Doomed Campaign.

I've read the reviews, Matt Taibbi has my favorite review, and what stands out is how everyone involved with campaign knew that Hillary Clinton had no reason to tun for president beyond her sense of personal entitlement:
"All of the jockeying might have been all right, but for a root problem that confounded everyone on the campaign and outside it," they wrote. "Hillary had been running for president for almost a decade and still didn't really have a rationale."
As Taibbi notes:
Shattered is sourced almost entirely to figures inside the Clinton campaign who were and are deeply loyal to Clinton. Yet those sources tell of a campaign that spent nearly two years paralyzed by simple existential questions: Why are we running? What do we stand for?


The real protagonist of this book is a Washington political establishment that has lost the ability to explain itself or its motives to people outside the Beltway.

In fact, it shines through in the book that the voters' need to understand why this or that person is running for office is viewed in Washington as little more than an annoying problem.
This should make for a fascinating read.

It also appears to prove that old adage, "You can't beat something with nothing."

It's Bank Failure Friday!!!

I missed a credit union last week, and there was one this week as well:

The credit union closings:
  1. Shreveport Federal Credit Union,Shreveport, ​LA
  2. Community United Federal Credit Union, Waycross, ​GA
Here is the Full NCUA list.

Once again, we are looking at a year where credit union failures out pace commercial bank failures.

I'm not sure why, but it is odd.

Clearly Got His Law Degree Out of a Cracker Jack Box

Acting New York State Supreme Court Justice John Galasso, who never read the Constitution through completely: He stopped before the first amendment.

A note of reassurance here: The New York Supreme court is just what they call the trial court there, a rather different application of the term than the common usage.

Live in Obedient Fear, Citizen!

It looks like Jeff Sessions will be seeking to press charges against Julian Assange, in a move that many are calling a direct assault on the practice of journalism:
In an unprecedented and dangerous move that threatens the press freedom rights of all journalists, the US Justice Department has indicated it is preparing to charge WikiLeaks with a crime and may attempt to arrest its founder Julian Assange. The charges may stem from the publication of US State Department cables in 2010 and their more recent of disclosure of CIA hacking tools.

Whether you like or dislike WikiLeaks – especially if you dislike them – it’s important to understand just how dangerous this potential prosecution is to the future of journalism in the United States. Newspapers publish classified information all the time, and any prosecution of WikiLeaks puts journalists of all stripes at risk of a similar fate. Even WikiLeaks’ harshest critics need to denounce this potential move as a grave threat to the first amendment.

People may not realize it, but not a week goes by without classified information on the front pages of the New York Times, Washington Post or Wall Street Journal. Without the right to publish secret information, as New York Times reporter Max Frankel put it more than 40 years ago in the landmark Pentagon Papers case: “There could be no adequate diplomatic, military and political reporting of the kind our people take for granted, either abroad or in Washington and there could be no mature system of communication between the government and the people.”
This is a profoundly chilling prospect.  As Marcy "Emptywheel" Wheeler notes, "Jeff Sessions’ DOJ could pick and choose which publishers’ speech gets curtailed."

This is a natural outgrowth of Barack Obama's jihad against leakers, and it was a foreseeable development, but because he saw himself as a good person, he thought that everything was Ok.

Worst Constitutional law professor ever.


GWAR Covers Kansas' Carry On My Wayward Don. A Hardcore-Metal cover is different, but in a good way:

Song starts at about 1:25

Apologies to Karen Williams.

20 April 2017

Speaking of Corruption

Andrew Cuomo wrote a very poorly selling memoir. His publisher paid him $245 for a gook that had a suggested retail price of $29.99:
Gov. Andrew Cuomo's low-selling 2014 memoir netted him another $218,100 last year, pushing his total book payments to $783,000 over the past four years, according to his tax returns.

Cuomo's 2016 tax records, which his office made available for review Tuesday, showed the latest round of payments from HarperCollins, the major publisher that gave him a lucrative book deal in 2013.

The governor's memoir — "All Things Possible: Setbacks and Success in Politics in Life" — did not perform well: Just 3,200 copies sold since its release, including just 100 copies over the past two years, according to NPD Books, which tracks book sales nationwide.

It was a money-loser for HarperCollins, which ultimately paid Cuomo about $245 per book sold. It retailed at $29.99.
His Presidential aspirations are the subject of frequent speculation, which would be a f%$#ing disaster.

He needs not to be the Democrats 2020 nominee.

Heck:  He needs not to be the Governor New York State.

He needs to be fired ……… Out of a cannon ……… Into the sun.

20,000 Cases to be Reversed in Massachusetts

Annie Dookhan, a chemist at Massachusetts' Hinton State Laboratory Institute, routinely falsified information for years, which means that something like 20,000 cases are likely to be dismissed:
More than 20,000 drug cases tied to a disgraced former state chemist appear headed for dismissal, lawyers for the American Civil Liberties Union and public defenders said Tuesday as they combed through legal filings from local prosecutors in Massachusetts.

“We’re all overjoyed today at having what is, we think, the largest dismissal of criminal cases as a result of one case in the history of the United States of America,” said Carl Williams, a lawyer with the A.C.L.U. of Massachusetts, which has pressed for the dismissal of tainted cases.

It was the latest development in the yearslong story of Annie Dookhan, a chemist whose co-workers called her Superwoman because she worked so fast. But she was found to have mishandled drug samples, forged signatures and returned positive results on drugs she never bothered to test, and in 2013, she pleaded guilty to 27 counts, including obstruction of justice, perjury and tampering with evidence.

By then, the damage was done. Prosecutors and defenders around the state had already begun the imposing task of figuring out which convictions had been tainted by the failings. Early estimates rose above 40,000. Hundreds of people were released from prison.

In January, the state’s highest court ordered district attorneys to produce the lists of people they believe they could reprosecute, were a new trial permitted, and those whose cases they will dismiss. Those decisions were due on Tuesday.

On Tuesday afternoon, lawyers combed through spreadsheets inside an ornate courthouse here, and counted 21,587 likely dismissals. They had estimated that prosecutors would not vacate the convictions of 500 to 700 people.
Of course, people like racist Attorney General Jeff Session think that this is some sort of technicality that demoralizes law enforcement.

This is corruption, and the people around her knew that something was wrong, but because it favored prosecutors, law enforcement never paid attention.

This is why we need things like the exclusionary rule and meaningful and independent investigations of law enforcement misconduct.

Just When I Think That Reality Has Jaded Me………

I am once more horrified in the latest Republican adventure in blatant corruption:
Congressional Republicans are baldly enticing donors with the promise of meetings with senior legislative staff, effectively placing access to congressional employees up for sale to professional influence peddlers and other well-heeled interests.

Documents obtained by The Intercept and the Center for Media and Democracy show that the National Republican Senatorial Committee and the National Republican Congressional Committee are both telling donors that in exchange for campaign contributions, they will receive invitations to special events to meet with congressional staff including chiefs of staff, leadership staffers, and committee staffers.

While selling donors access to senators and representatives and their campaign staff is nothing new, the open effort to sell access to their legislative staff — the taxpayer-funded government employees who work behind the scenes to write legislation, handle investigations, and organize committee hearings — appears to be in violation of ethics rules that prohibit campaigns from using House and Senate resources in any way.

Congressional ethics rules flatly forbid Capitol Hill employees from engaging in fundraising activities as part of their official duties. Any explicit fundraising work must be done strictly as a volunteer, and there must be a clear firewall separating government work from campaign work.


But a document obtained by The Intercept and the Center for Media and Democracy from the NRSC, the Senate GOP campaign arm, lists the benefits of “D.C. Personal Giving Memberships,” which costs as little as $1,500 a year. Among them: “Invitation to attend events with Republican Chiefs of Staff, Leadership Staff, and Committee Staff.”


It’s not the first time a major Capitol Hill funding outfit has raised campaign cash using congressional employees. In 2013, the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee advertised a “Women on the Hill Dinner” with chiefs of staff to Democratic senators. The event was asked for a suggested donation of $1,000.

But the new Republican effort is more structured, making the exchange of money for meetings with a variety of congressional staffers an official element of the party’s fundraising apparatus, with regular events and tiered levels of access.
This makes Newt Gingrich's peccadilloes seem almost quaint.

Colbert on O'Reilly's Firing

As I have noted many times, Colbert is on my list of, "People I Do Not Want to Piss Off." for a very good reason.

19 April 2017

Why Do I Even Bother?

Yesterday, I wrote a lengthy post explaining the profoundly dysfunctional Presidential campaign in France.

Today, I came across John Oliver's summary of the campaign on his show, and I am feeling profoundly inadequate.

It covers the issue and entertains at the same time, though I think that there could be a little less focus on the laughs and more on the humor.

The only thing that I object to is his characterization of Le Pen's position on the wearing of religious regalia in public.

It's not outrageous by the standards of France:  French republics have been thoroughly and militantly secular since Charles de Gaulle was a teen,* to the degree that religious wedding ceremonies are not recognized by the state, and couples have to be married in a civil ceremony to have their union recognized.

The policy is called Laïcité, and while Le Pen's absolutism regarding this policy is a minority position, it is well within the bounds of what is considered mainstream French political thought.

Still, I feel really inadequate right now.

*Specifically, since the passage of the 1905 French law on the Separation of the Churches and the State, though secularism was a significant portion of French political discourse since at least the French revolution.

A Well Deserved Beat Down

Katie Halper looks at Susan Bordo's paean to Hillary Clinton, The Destruction of Hillary Clinton, and her related OP/ED in the Guardian, and observes that she gets the facts wrong, contradicts herself, and removes any agency from women who disagree with her:
……… Your piece sets out to blame millennial feminists and show us what we did wrong in supporting Sanders, but it winds up illuminating your own failings, sadly not uncommon among certain Clinton supporters, especially those who chose to blame everyone and everything but Clinton for her loss:
  • An over-identification with Clinton and her biography that eclipses appreciation of young women’s lives and hardships and the political differences
  • Basing an argument solely on personal impressions, vague remembrances, mental and emotional associations
  • A condescending tone with occasional unconvincing gestures of respect and understanding for your younger sisters
  • Misleading statements, omissions, falsehoods or indisputable error, here related to Clinton’s statements on superpredators and warranting an immediate editorial correction
This is just a brief excerpt of what is a point by point "Fisking" of what is a self-absorbed, incoherent, and deeply dishonest screed.

It is well worth the read.

Risking a Schadenfreude Overdose Here

I just heard that, after millions of dollars of sexual harrassment settlements over the past 2 decades, Fox News has finally fired Bill O'Reilly:
Bill O’Reilly’s reign as the top-rated host in cable news came to an abrupt and embarrassing end on Wednesday as Fox News forced him out after the disclosure of a series of sexual harassment allegations against him and an internal investigation that turned up even more.

Mr. O’Reilly and his employers came under intense pressure after an article by The New York Times on April 1 revealed how Fox News and its parent company, 21st Century Fox, had repeatedly stood by him even as he and the company reached settlements with five women who had complained about sexual harassment or other inappropriate behavior by him. The agreements totaled about $13 million.

Since then, more than 50 advertisers had abandoned his show, and women’s rights groups had called for him to be fired. Inside the company, women expressed outrage and questioned whether top executives were serious about maintaining a culture based on “trust and respect,” as they had promised last summer when another sexual harassment scandal led to the ouster of Roger E. Ailes as chairman of Fox News.
There are a number of reports that a contributing factor in "Billo's"  firing was the fact he was a complete asshole to those around him, and so when he his behavior finally caught up with him, he had no support within the network.

I'm wondering when he will replace Sean Spicer as press secretary in the Trump administration.

74 Years Ago Today

The Warsaw Ghetto Uprising started 74 years ago today.

Let us remember Mordechaj Anielewicz (Z"L), Paweł Frenkiel (Z"L), and the rest of the fighters (Z"L), who managed to hold out almost as long as the the whole country of Poland did in 1939.

I Hate F%$#ing Plants

Note the syntax here.

The "F%$#" is an adjective that modifies "plants", not an adverb that modifies "hate".

When I come out in the morning, the windshield of my car has a thin layer of dust on it.

When I clean it off with the wipers, it turns out to be a yellow powder.

It's a thin layer of pollen, i.e. plant sperm, and it is making my life a living hell right now.

Thankfully Fexofenadine HCl (generic Allegra®) takes a bit of the edge off.

Thank You DC!

By that, I mean DC at the Stellar Parthenon BBS.

I was engaging in self pity over my general lack of writing skills, and he posted this:

You Will be seeing this again on my blog.

It's a Runoff in GA-6 is Close

It looks like he fell 1-2% short of an absolute majority:
Democrat Jon Ossoff is headed for a runoff in June against a Republican contender after failing Tuesday to score an upset victory to represent a suburban Atlanta district in Congress.

CNN called the race just after midnight.

The 30-year-old investigative filmmaker aimed for an outright win in the 6th District race, but a furious Republican counterattack joined by President Donald Trump appears to have kept him under 50 percent.
I would give him no more than a 1 in 4 chance of winning the runoff.

18 April 2017

Political Panic in France

Fasten Your Seat Belts
The French Presidential elections were predicted to be pretty ordinary.

François Holland, being about as popular as proverbial turd in the punch bowl, decided not to stand for reelection, and did so fairly late in the process, which left the "Socialists" in a lurch, and so it was expected that the right wing Gaullists would field a candidate which would face a runoff against the racist-nativist National Front, (FN) which has made it to the runoff election with alarming regularity in French Presidential elections in the past few decades.

Unfortunately for the Gaullists, they nominated François Fillon, who in addition to being fairly far right by the standards of French politics turns out to have made a habit of employing his wife and children in no show jobs, for which he is under formal criminal investigation.

As a result,  Emmanuel Macron, a former Economic Minister under the Socialist government, who was instrumental in implementing the anti-worker Neoliberal reforms for Holland, effectively sealing the current President's political fate, and is running under what is best described as a self-founded vanity party,  En Marche !, (with the space before the "!") became the favorite for contesting the runoff against Marine Le Pen of the FN.

So far, it's pretty normal:  You've swapped one stooge of the banksters for another, and they are virtually assured of beating Le Pen in the runoff.

Then something funny happened:  A former Socialist who left the party because he felt that they had sold out their principles, Jean-Luc Mélenchon made a charge in the polls, and HE is closely associated with the movement known as the "Left Front" in Europe.

As you can see from the polling numbers, we now have all 4 of the candidates within the margin of error, and Mélenchon appears to significant momentum.

The prospect of having a Euroskeptic racist facing a Euroskeptic leftist facing each other in the Presidential runoff is freaking out the establishment throughout the EU:
A specter is haunting Europe — the specter of Jean-Luc Mélenchon.

In the latest plot twist in France’s highly contentious presidential election, Mélenchon — an outspoken 65-year-old leftist who often appears on the campaign trail via hologram and who has pitched his proposal to nationalize France’s biggest banks and renegotiate its relationship with the European Union via free Internet games and YouTube videos — is now soaring in the polls. With less than two weeks before the election, his meteoric and unexpected rise is already sending jitters through financial markets and shock waves through an increasingly anxious electorate.

For months, analysts have likened the upcoming French election to “Europe’s Stalingrad,” a crucial turning point that will determine the future of a country and a continent. But while commentators worldwide have focused on the steady rise of the far-right, fiercely anti-immigrant National Front of Marine Le Pen, few have paid any attention to the leftist fringe of Jean-Luc Mélenchon, who has vaulted into the picture in the past week and who shares with Le Pen the desire to drastically alter France’s relationship with the E.U., the 28-state bloc it once designed.

Mélenchon is running as the candidate of the Unbowed France political movement, in an alliance with the French Communist Party. The latest polls show him narrowly trailing Emmanuel Macron, long seen as the favorite, and Le Pen, expected to qualify for the final round of the two-round vote but to lose to Macron in the end. In the final days of a truly unprecedented campaign, Mélenchon’s unexpected surge is a reminder that radical change is in the air and that its extremist apostles — on the right or the left — may soon hold power.

Some have reacted with panic: Investors have begun frantically selling off French bonds, while the head of France’s largest trade union has decried what he described as Mélenchon's “rather totalitarian vision.”


Perhaps more than any of the other candidates, it is Mélenchon who best represents 2017’s potential rupture with history, or at least the status quo. Central to his platform is the promise to abolish France’s Fifth Republic, the system of government established by Charles de Gaulle in 1958.

What Mélenchon detests in this style of government is its monarchical presidency — designed for de Gaulle himself — which can dissolve parliament at will and is subject to few checks and balances. Mélenchon has pledged to found what he calls the “Sixth Republic,” a vision that would “take us out of this presidential regime, notably with proportionality in all elections.”

It is an idea that resonates widely — even among those who do not necessarily support Mélenchon’s other more radical proposals, including taking France out of NATO and imposing a 100 percent tax on all income earned over 400,000 euros ($425,000).
Just how freaked out is the establishment?

They are so freaked out that the nominal front runner, Emmanuel Macron, has been forced to tell the truth about the EU and the Germans.

He is explicitly saying that Berlin is gaming the system as a predatory exporter:
Centrist French presidential candidate Emmanuel Macron called for a “rebalancing” of Germany’s trade surplus in an interview with French and German media published Monday.

Even as he touted strong relationships with the German political leaders, Macron used the interview with Ouest-France newspaper and Germany’s Funke newspapers to call out German trade policy for hurting the Continent’s economy.

“Germany benefits from the imbalances within the eurozone and achieves very high trade surpluses,” he said. “Those aren’t a good thing either for Germany or for the economy of the eurozone. There should be a rebalancing.”

Macron, an independent, is facing fresh pressure from anti-EU candidates in the final week before the presidential election’s first-round vote. He has been running neck-and-neck with nationalist Marine Le Pen, ahead of three other candidates. However, recent polls suggest a surge for Jean-Luc Mélenchon, who rails against Europe from the left.
This is true, of course, but it is also as close to heresy as you can get from the any EU supporter.

The conventional wisdom, of course, is to inflict austerity on the ordinary folk, and then wait for the confidence fairy to make growth magically appear, all while capital and finance f%$# the bottom 90% of society.

If it ends up a race between Le Pen and Mélenchon, I fully expect the powers that be to pull for Le Pen, because for them, racism is preferable to economic justice.