30 September 2017

Best Animal Crackers Ever!

Today was Yom Kippur, the day off atonement.

So I just finished a 25 hour fast.

My synagogue has a little break the fast with juice, pretzels, and, you guessed it, Animal Crackers.

Yum.

As Cervantes said, " “Hunger is the best sauce in the world."


29 September 2017

If You Have a Problem Understanding Monetary Theory, Read This

Rebecca Rojer has done meticulous work describing Modern Monetary Theory (MMT), and seeing as how it is an approach that is both becoming more popular, and is in opposition to the (almost always wrong) economic orthodoxy, it pays to understand this:
Too often the origins of our economic ills are cloaked by a mystical reverence for some autonomous money spirit. The economists behind Modern Monetary Theory (MMT) seek to lift money’s veil by studying the specific actions that occur as money is created, circulated, and destroyed.

For those seeking a grand, unifying sociopolitical economic theory, MMT will disappoint. But as an analytic tool, MMT clarifies who holds genuine power—sovereignty—within society, and how they organize the money system to serve their interests. Unsurprisingly, this is often a story of tremendous cruelty and exploitation.

But the revelation that the rules of money are not immutable laws of nature but are instead created and constantly modified by people opens up possibilities beyond the scope of our current political imagination. The questions become: What sort of society do we want? Do we have the physical resources to support that society? And finally, how the hell do we muster the political will to get there?
At its core, MMT sees money as being a construct that derives from the willingness of the state to use coercion, and frequently violence, to enforce the use of a token for value.

Typically, this is done through taxation. The sequence runs like this:
  1. Government: Pay your taxes.
  2. Citizen: Here is some grain.
  3. Government: Nope, you have to use my coin.
  4. Citizen: But I have no coin.
  5. Government: Then sell your grain to give coin to me.
  6. Citizen: Sell my grain to who?
  7. Government: You can sell it to me, or to the blacksmith who I paid for spears, or to whoever the blacksmith paid with my coin.
Thus, Money is born.

Read the rest.  It opens a world of possibilities not imagined by our current leaders..

Linkage


Caption this picture: (H/T naked capitalism)

28 September 2017

Oh Snap!

In response to reports that the EU scientific report on the safety of its glyphosate (RoundUp) weedkiller, where large blocks of text were copied and pasted from Monsanto application for re-approval, the European parliament held hearings to investigate whether or not the agricultural giant exerted undue influence on the process.

Monsanto refused to attend the meeting, so banned Monsanto and its lobbyists from the European parliament:
Monsanto lobbyists have been banned from entering the European parliament after the multinational refused to attend a parliamentary hearing into allegations of regulatory interference.

It is the first time MEPs have used new rules to withdraw parliamentary access for firms that ignore a summons to attend parliamentary inquiries or hearings.

Monsanto officials will now be unable to meet MEPs, attend committee meetings or use digital resources on parliament premises in Brussels or Strasbourg.

While a formal process still needs to be worked through, a spokesman for the parliament’s president Antonio Tajani said that the leaders of all major parliamentary blocks had backed the ban in a vote this morning.

“One has to assume it is effective immediately,” he said.
I'm a pessimist, so I expect that, after aggressive American lobbying, the EU will re-approve the chemical, but I'd really love to see them get slapped down.

Oh, Crap!

The Supreme Court will hear a challenge to public labor unions.

With Gorsuch on the board, I expect a 5-4 decision saying that unions cannot collect fees to cover the cost of representing non members, effectively gutting  public labor unions:
Its conservative majority restored, the Supreme Court said Thursday it will return to an issue with the potential to financially cripple Democratic-leaning labor unions that represent government workers.

After the justices deadlocked 4-4 in a similar case last year, the high court will consider a free-speech challenge from workers who object to paying money to unions they don’t support.

The court, with conservative Justice Neil Gorsuch on board, could decide to overturn a 40-year-old Supreme Court ruling that allows public sector unions to collect fees from non-members to cover the costs of negotiating contracts for all employees.

The union fees case is among nine new cases the justices added to their docket for the term that begins on Monday. Others deal with a defendant’s right to direct his own defense, police searches of vehicles and overtime pay for service advisers at car dealerships.
Unions, and public employees, are going to get absolutely screwed.

Funeral Delayed Until They Can Shut the Casket

Hugh Hefner, the founder of Playboy magazine, has died at age 91.

Yes, it is a dick joke.

North Korea is Desperate

No, I don't mean that the sanctions are causing real problems. Nor do I mean that military posturing by the US has them terrified. What I mean is that Donald Trump is simply too weird for them to understand, so they are trying to hire Republican political consultants to explain what the f%$# is going on.
“Their number-one concern is Trump. They can’t figure him out,” said one person with direct knowledge of North Korea’s approach of experts on Asia with Republican connections.
You and me both can't figure Trump out.

 I think that the DPRK should consider hiring Paul Manafort, seeing as how he's a Republican political consultant, and he's not got a lot of clients right now.

27 September 2017

This is Kind of Tempting

The websites of US telly giant CBS's Showtime contained JavaScript that secretly commandeered viewers' web browsers over the weekend to mine cryptocurrency.

The flagship Showtime.com and its instant-access ShowtimeAnytime.com sibling silently pulled in code that caused browsers to blow spare processor time calculating new Monero coins – a privacy-focused alternative to the ever-popular Bitcoin. The hidden software typically consumed as much as 60 per cent of CPU capacity on computers visiting the sites.

The scripts were written by Code [Coin] Hive, a legit outfit that provides JavaScript to website owners: webmasters add the code to their pages so that they can earn slivers of cash from each visitor as an alternative to serving adverts to generate revenue. Over time, money mined by the Code-Hive-hosted scripts adds up and is transferred from Coin Hive to the site's administrators. One Monero coin, 1 XMR, is worth about $92 right now.
Let me start by saying that I won't be putting code like this on my site.

I am considering placing an additional button on my tip jar (aka Matthew's Saroff's Beer Fund), but it would take the form of another donation button, since the revenue from Google™ Adsense™ is so pathetic.

If I do this, it will be voluntary, another button to click on the page, and I might occasionally nag my reader(s) to click the button.

As always, note that this post should in no way be construed as an inducement or a request for my reader(s) to click on any ad that they would not otherwise be inclined to investigate further. This would be a violation of the terms of service for Google™ Adsense™.

Yeah, Like This is Gonna Work………

The Commodity Futures Trading Commission, which in recent years has been rather more aggressive in its investigation and regulation of various financial shenanigans, is changing its policies to rely soley on financial malefactors reporting themselves.

Yeah, like That is going to work:
After years as a sleepy federal backwater, the Commodity Futures Trading Commission became one of Wall Street’s most aggressive watchdogs during the Barack Obama administration.

Now the agency — which is responsible for policing a broad swath of markets and financial machinery, from trading in commodities to digital currencies to the complex derivatives that helped torpedo the financial system in 2008 — is shifting its law enforcement strategy: It will increasingly look to banks and other financial institutions to come clean on their own about misconduct and problems in the market.

The commission’s director of enforcement, James McDonald, plans to unveil the new framework in a speech Monday night at New York University. It is premised on the idea that large financial institutions, given the right incentives, have the potential to be invaluable partners for law enforcement.

“We start with the shared understanding that the vast majority of businesses want to comply with the law,” Mr. McDonald will say Monday, according to a draft of the speech reviewed by The New York Times.
Yeah, this goes hand in hand with Citi going back into the Synthetic CDO market, so I expect to see a resurgence bucket shops to accompany this regulatory malfeasance.

We are f%$#ed.

Things Just Went Pear Shaped in Iraq

Kurdistan has just overwhelmingly backed a referendum for independence, and the government in Baghdad is going postal:
The Iraqi government escalated its confrontation with its northern Kurdish region on Wednesday, threatening to send troops and seize oil fields there and taking steps to shut down international flights to and from the region.

The moves came in retaliation for a referendum on Monday in which the region, Iraqi Kurdistan, voted decisively to seek independence from Iraq. Kurdish officials announced Wednesday that nearly 93 percent of voters approved the referendum, which aims to create an independent state for the Kurds, an ethnic minority in Iraq.

Iraq’s Parliament asked the country’s prime minister on Wednesday to deploy troops to the oil-rich city of Kirkuk, one of several disputed areas held by Kurdish troops but claimed by Baghdad, and to take control of all oil fields in the Kurdish region.

A decision to send troops would be up to Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi. He gave no public indication of his intentions on Wednesday, except to say he wanted “no fighting among the people of the country.”

He also sent a delegation from the Iraqi military to Iran to “coordinate military efforts,” a military statement said.

Iraq has called the vote illegal and has vowed to ignore the results. The vote has also provoked the Kurdish region’s two powerful neighbors, Turkey and Iran.

All three countries have been conducting military exercises near the border of Iraqi Kurdistan this week.

………

Iraqi aviation authorities notified foreign airlines on Wednesday that it would cancel all permits to land and take off from two international airports in the Kurdish region as of Friday afternoon. The action followed an ultimatum by Prime Minister Abadi on Tuesday for Kurdistan to surrender control of its two international airports or face a shutdown of international flights.

This Business Will get out of Control. It Will get out of Control and we'll be Lucky to Live Through It.
This is going to get very crazy very fast.  I honestly expect both Iraq and Turkey to threaten invasion with a reasonable chance of this leading to an actual invasion.

To quote Freddie Dalton Thompson from The Hunt for Red October:

26 September 2017

Crazy Motherf%$#er Wins Republican Primary

What? Not specific enough?

OK, It was the Georgia Senate primary, and the crazy motherf%$#er just won.

What, still not specific enough?

OK, it was Roy Moore who beat the rather aptly named Luther Strange:
Roy S. Moore, a firebrand former chief justice of the Alabama Supreme Court, overcame efforts by top Republicans to rescue his rival, Senator Luther Strange, defeating him on Tuesday in a special primary runoff, according to The Associated Press.

The outcome in the closely watched Senate race dealt a humbling blow to President Trump and other party leaders days after the president pleaded with voters in the state to back Mr. Strange.

Propelled by the stalwart support of his fellow evangelical Christians, Mr. Moore survived a multimillion-dollar advertising onslaught, in the eight figures, financed by allies of Senator Mitch McConnell, the majority leader. His victory demonstrated in stark terms the limits of Mr. Trump’s clout.

In a race that began as something of a political afterthought and ended up showcasing the right’s enduring divisions, the victory by Mr. Moore, one of the most tenacious figures in Alabama politics, will likely embolden other anti-establishment conservatives to challenge incumbent Republicans in next year’s midterm elections.

And more immediately, the party will be forced to grapple with how to prop up an often-inflammatory candidate given to provocative remarks on same-sex marriage and race — all to protect a seat in a deep-red state. Mr. Moore’s incendiary rhetoric will also oblige others in the party to answer for his comments, perhaps for years to come, at a time when many Republicans would just as soon move on from the debate over gay rights.

On Dec. 12, Mr. Moore will face Doug Jones, a former federal prosecutor and the Democratic nominee, in a race that will test the party loyalties of center-right voters who may be uneasy about their nominee. It may also reveal just how reliably Republican the state has become in the quarter-century since a Democrat last won a Senate election here.
My prediction for the general election: 
  • We will receive innumerable fund raising emails. 
  • Doug Jones will spend a lot of money, and hire Democratic Party consultants.
  • They will advise him to run against Trump and avoid talking about real issues.
  • Doug Jones will listen to these consultants.
  • Doug Jones will lose the election badly.
  • Said consultants will blame Bernie Sanders.

Tweet of the Day


This is like the most Mark Hamill thing ever.

Not the Onion

The National Review is siding with a black athlete over a white Republican.

I think that this is a sign of the apocalypse:
Americans do not and should not worship idols. We do not and should not worship the flag. As a nation we stand in respect for the national anthem and stand in respect for the flag not simply because we were born here or because it’s our flag. We stand in respect because the flag represents a specific set of values and principles: that all men are created equal and that we are endowed with our Creator with certain unalienable rights.

These ideals were articulated in the Declaration of Independence, codified in the Constitution, and defended with the blood of patriots. Central to them is the First Amendment, the guarantee of free expression against government interference and government reprisal that has made the United States unique among the world’s great powers. Arguably, it is the single most important liberty of all, because it enables the defense of all the others: Without the right to speak freely we cannot even begin to point out offenses against the rest of the Constitution.

Now, with that as a backdrop, which is the greater danger to the ideals embodied by the American flag, a few football players’ taking a knee at the national anthem or the most powerful man in the world’s demanding that they be fired and their livelihoods destroyed for engaging in speech he doesn’t like?
I guess that this falls in the, "Stopped clock," category, but still, the National Review?

We are in Bizarro World.

Oh Dear Lord!

The vaguely legal form of gambling known as Synthetic CDOs are back, but don't worry, Citigroup is telling us that it's different this time.

"It's different this time," is the most terrifying phrase in finance:
By now, the whole Lucy-and-the-football thing has become a political cliché, which is the worst kind of cliché to be. However, while considering the history and practice of the Wall Street casino, it is the most accurate metaphor and it’s likely to be until the day of glory and sunshine when the tumbrels begin to roll. From Bloomberg:
The 35-year-old Citigroup Inc. director has spent the past two years meeting clients, speaking at industry panels and becoming the face of a resurgent market for synthetic CDOs -- complex derivatives that let buyers make big, leveraged bets on the health of corporate America. Along the way, she’s helped establish Citigroup as its dominant player. It’s an astonishing comeback for the roughly $70 billion market for synthetic CDOs, which rose to infamy during the crisis and then faded into obscurity after nearly destroying the financial system. But perhaps the most surprising twist is Citigroup itself. Less than a decade ago, the bank was forced into a taxpayer bailout after suffering huge losses on similar types of securities tied to mortgages. Now, many in the industry say Citigroup is responsible for over half the deals that come to market, though precise numbers are hard to come by.

I’ll bet they are.

This time, Citigroup says, it’s doing things differently. The deals are tailored in a way that insulates it from any losses, while giving yield-starved buyers a chance to reap returns of 20 percent or more. The market today is also just a fraction of its size before the crisis, and few see corporate defaults surging any time soon. But as years of rock-bottom interest rates have pushed investors toward riskier products, the revival of synthetic CDOs may be one of the clearest signs yet of froth in the credit markets.
Why in the everloving fck would we trust these clowns again? And, even if we all got really stoned and decided to do that, why would we trust them with the same goddamn hand grenades that blew up everything the last time? There’s recividism and there’s recidivism and then there’s a genetic predisposition to stick your hands in everyone’s pockets and steal every last lint-covered penny that’s in there.
This is unbelievably f%$#ed up and sh%$.

More of This

A group of people on Twitter known as "Sleeping Giants" has taken to visiting Breitbart, taking screenshots showing the ads and then naming and shaming the advertisers:
Hardly anyone paid attention last November when a strangely named Twitter account, Sleeping Giants, sent its first tweet into the digisphere. “Are you aware that you’re advertising on Breitbart, the alt-right’s biggest champion, today?” read the tweet, aimed at a consumer lending outfit called Social Finance. “Are you supporting them publicly?”

Within 30 minutes, Social Finance replied, tweeting that it would stop running ads on Breitbart.

It was, it turns out, the start of an odd, and oddly effective, social media campaign against Breitbart, the influential conservative news site headed by Stephen K. Bannon, President Trump’s former campaign chairman and ex-chief White House strategist.

………

Sleeping Giants’ basic approach is to make Breitbart’s advertisers aware that they are, in fact, Breitbart advertisers. Many apparently don’t know this, given that Web ads are often bought through third-party brokers, such as Google and Facebook. The brokers then distribute them to a network of websites according to algorithms that seek a specific target audience (say, young men) or a set number of impressions.

………

So when an ad appears on Breitbart, Sleeping Giants or one of its 109,000 Twitter followers and 35,000 Facebook followers flag the advertiser, often accompanied by an image of the sponsors’ ad next to a Breitbart story.

The other day, for example, a Sleeping Giants follower tweeted at Country Inns, informing the hotel chain that it was advertising on “the racist Breitbart site.” Within a day, the company tweeted back: “Thank you for your concern. . . . We have added Breitbart to our blacklist of ads.”

This apparently happens a lot. Sleeping Giants’ database lists nearly 2,900 companies that have declared Breitbart off limits since November — an astonishing figure, though one hard to confirm because some ad buys recur. Nevertheless, it’s not an implausible number. During one 24-hour period, advertisers such as the air-conditioning manufacturer Rheem, transport operator Caltrain, Sutter Health Plus and Rose Medical Center of Denver all publicly acknowledged that they had blacklisted Breitbart in response to a Sleeping Giants tweet.

………

The group decided to single out Breitbart almost by happenstance. “It really happened as a reaction to Steve Bannon’s rise,” the spokesman says. “We weren’t familiar with Breitbart at the time and were obviously pretty shocked at the articles. . . . To be honest, we weren’t familiar with [other conservative] sites,” so those weren’t even considered, he says.

The group has raised about $1,500 from T-shirt sales and about $7,000 from an online fundraiser, but it otherwise operates with little overhead, he notes. “If I had a nickel for every claim that we’re being funded by [liberal billionaire activist] George Soros, I’d be well off. It’s crazy. There’s not much need for funding. Tweeting is free.”
Two points here:
  • People have been writing to advertisers about where their ads appear since Madison Avenue was a cow path.
  • The fact that the big players in the online advertising market are this cavalier with how they serve up ads.  If you buy ads, be aware of this, or maybe beware of this; your choice.
I think that I might know someone who knows who these guys are.

Wah ……… Wah ……… Wah ……… Waaaaahhhhhh


Cue Sad Trombone Music
Mitch McConnell just threw in the towel in the last attempt to repeal Obamacare:
Senate Republican leaders on Tuesday abandoned their latest campaign to dismantle the Affordable Care Act, conceding that their plan lacked key support. But they showed little interest in moving swiftly to shore up the seven-year-old law with the crucial funding it needs.

The official collapse of the Cassidy-Graham health-care bill once again leaves the party short of fulfilling a signature promise, which some Republicans worried could inspire a backlash among their base heading into the 2018 midterm elections.

And the failure of that alternative to the ACA, combined with the GOP’s reluctance to fix weaknesses in the existing law, leaves states, insurers and millions of consumers who rely on its coverage with substantial uncertainty. Enrollment begins in barely a month for 2018 health plans in marketplaces created under the law.

The Senate leaders said they would turn their attention to their next major legislative undertaking. “Where we go from here is tax reform,” Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) told reporters after holding a closed-door policy lunch with members of his caucus.

Republicans already are bracing for the political fallout from the measure proposed by Sens. Lindsey O. Graham (S.C.) and Bill Cassidy (La.)., which McConnell had hoped to bring to a vote this week. They said the pressure to pass a tax overhaul bill was higher than ever and hoped the Republican base would give them a bit more time to take another shot at repealing the ACA.
Sucks to be Mitch McConnell today, then again, it sucks to be Mitch McConnell EVERY day.

About the only thing that sucks worse is being Elaine Chao.

Linkage

I am not a big fan of the music, it's mindless pop, but this was done in one continuous shot with one camera, which is impressive, even with a Steadicam:

25 September 2017

Not a Surprise

The EU spent €360,000.00 on a study of the effects of piracy on sales of media, and found that there was no evidence of an effect, so they buried the report in a deep hole in Brussels until an MEP demanded its release:
One of the problems in the debate about the impact of unauthorized downloads on the copyright industry is the paucity of large-scale, rigorous data. That makes it easy for the industry to demand government policies that are not supported by any evidence they are needed or will work. In 2014, the European Commission tried to address that situation by putting out a tender for the following research:
to devise a viable methodology and to subsequently implement it in view of measuring the extent to which unauthorised online consumption of copyrighted materials (music, audiovisual, books and video games) displaces sales of online and offline legal content, gathering comparable systematic data on perceptions, and actual and potential behaviour of consumers in the EU.
The contract was awarded to Ecorys, a "research and consultancy company" based in the Netherlands that has written many similar reports in the past. The value of the contract was a princely €369,871 -- over $400,000. Given that hefty figure, and the fact that this was public money, you might expect the European Commission to have published the results as soon as it received them, which was in May 2015. And yet strangely, it kept them to itself. In order to find out what happened to it, a Freedom of Information (FOI) request was submitted by the Pirate Party MEP, Julia Reda. It's worth reading the to and fro of emails between Reda and the European Commission to get an idea of how unhelpful the latter were on this request. The European Commission has now released the report, with the risible claim that this move has nothing to do with Reda's FOI request, and that it was about to publish it anyway.

………

The European Commission was quite happy to publish partial results that fitted with its agenda, but tried to bury most of its research that showed industry calls for legislation to "tackle" unauthorized downloads were superfluous because there was no evidence of harm. This is typical of the biased and one-sided approach taken by the European Commission in its copyright policy, shown most clearly in its dogged support for the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement -- and of the tilted playing field that those striving for fair copyright laws must still contend with on a regular basis. Sadly, it's too much to hope that the European Commission's own evidence, gathered at considerable cost to EU taxpayers, will now lead it to take a more rational approach to copyright enforcement, and cause it to drop the harmful and demonstrably unnecessary upload filter it is currently pushing for.
The study actually showed that illegal downloads BOOSTED legal sales of games, books, and music.

You can see MEP Reda's comments on this whole perfect storm hypocrisy here .

Speaking of Fascism………

The Ukraine has upped its slow-walked ethnic cleansing program, the Ukrainian parliament has passed a law banning non-Ukrainian language education after elementary school:
Timeya Leshko doesn’t see much of a future for her four children in Ukraine, where a Moscow-backed conflict still flares up in the east and economic opportunities seem few and far between elsewhere.

"There’s no way to earn a living here. Everyone knows that. All the young people are leaving," Leshko told RFE/RL’s Ukrainian Service in a recent interview. "And I don’t think it’s going to get better, only worse."

The ethnic Hungarian in the sleepy village of Mali Heivtsi on Ukraine’s western fringes, not far from Slovakia and Hungary, is convinced that learning her native tongue is the ticket out for her kids.

But that may be tougher for Leshko and other ethnic minorities in Ukraine after the country’s parliament passed an educational-reform bill on September 5 that includes a clause making Ukrainian the required language of study in state schools from the fifth grade on.

Leshko is not a fan of the bill, which would roll back the option for lessons to be taught in other languages.

"I don't like it. Why? Because, for example, I am a Hungarian. I was studying in a Hungarian school and I want my children also to speak Hungarian," she explained. "Maybe they will move to Hungary or maybe they will go there to earn money. In that case, the Hungarian language will be more useful than Ukrainian, I think."
They want you to leave.

This is what the Quebecois did in Canada, and they have been fairly successful.

And Then There's the German Elections………

The neoNazi AfD is now a part of the German parliament for the first time cince WWII, the so-called center-left SPD had its worst showing since that guy with the funny mustache abruptly left the Chancellorship over 70 years ago.

Also, the both "center" parties had their worst showing since before 1950.

On the other side of the populist spectrum, die Linke (the Left) which was already in the Bundestag picked up a few seats, as did the Greens, and the (kinda libertarian) FDP, which got back into parliament.

When people wonder why the "Center Left" in Europe is in trouble, they need to understand that it no longer exists.

The parties that were "Center-Left" in the 1960s and 1970s have decided that their defining position is unequivocal and unconditional support for the European Project, and the  European Project is a fundamentally reactionary program.

This is why when the SDP was in power, its leader introduced "Agenda 2010", with the justification that the European project demands it, which involved:
  • Tax cuts.
  • Cuts to unemployment benefits.
  • Cuts to general social welfare programs.
  • Cuts in pension benefits.
  • Deliberate downward pressure on wages. 
  • Reduced labor regulations.
It also resulted in an increase in poverty, and falling wages relative to GDP.

As is normal, the rising tide did not lift all boats, just the rich getting richer, and everyone else getting the shaft.

What it means is that the "Center-Left" is now about forcing down wages, tax cuts for millionaires, throwing poor people out in the street, and sucking up to media moguls.

The "Center-Left" has consumed itself on the altar of neoliberal dogma.

On the bright side, it appears that a bit of self immolation is occurring with the fascist AfD as well:
Germany’s rightwing nationalist party Alternative für Deutschland, in celebratory mode after coming third in elections, was delivered a bombshell by its co-leader when she announced she would not sit with the party in the Bundestag.
What the stunning success of AfD means for Germany and Europe | Cas Mudde
Read more

Frauke Petry walked out of a press conference on Monday morning at which the party leadership marvelled at its success, having secured nearly 13% of the vote and 94 seats in the federal parliament.

The departure of one of the AfD’s most prominent figures illustrates the splits in the party despite its attempts to show a united front during the election campaign.

Petry, who was on the moderate wing of the party, saw her role as that of uniting the AfD. But she has earned scorn from emboldened rightwing nationalists who have increasingly sidelined their opponents.
This is what happened to Ukip after Brexit.  It's like a dog that has finally caught a car:  The racist right doesn't know what to do next.

We Are Unbelievably Screwed

A glacier in the Antarctic just calved an iceberg 4 times the size of Manhattan:
An enormous Antarctic glacier has given up an iceberg over 100 square miles in size, the second time in two years it has lost such a large piece in a process that has scientists wondering whether its behavior is changing for the worse.

The Pine Island Glacier is one of the largest in West Antarctica, a region that is currently Antarctica’s biggest ice loser. Pine Island, which loses an extraordinary 45 billion tons of ice to the ocean each year (– equivalent to 1 millimeter of global sea level rise every eight years — is 25 miles wide where its floating front touches the sea, and rests on the seafloor in waters more than a half-mile deep. The single glacier alone contains 1.7 feet of potential global sea level rise and is thought to be in a process of unstable, ongoing retreat.

That’s why scientists are watching it closely, and on Saturday, Stef Lhermitte, a satellite observation specialist at Delft University of Technology in the Netherlands, posted a satellite image showing that Pine Island had “calved,” or broken off a piece of ice about 103 square miles in area. (For comparison, Manhattan is 22.83 square miles in size.) The rectangular piece of ice then appears to have lost some of its shape immediately as smaller pieces splintered off.

“It’s the fifth large calving event since 2000,” Lhermitte said. “This one and 2015, they were much further inland than the previous ones. So there has been a retreat of the calving front, specifically between 2011 and 2015.”
Clearly anthropogenic climate change is a myth.

Quote of the Day

There I was, the black grandson of a slave, the son of a black sharecropper, part of a historic occasion, a symbolic hero to my people. The air was sparkling. The sunlight was warm. The band struck up the national anthem. The flag billowed in the wind. It should have been a glorious moment for me as the stirring words of the national anthem poured from the stands. Perhaps, it was, but then again, perhaps, the anthem could be called the theme song for a drama called The Noble Experiment. Today, as I look back on that opening game of my first world series, I must tell you that it was Mr. Rickey’s drama and that I was only a principal actor. As I write this twenty years later, I cannot stand and sing the anthem. I cannot salute the flag; I know that I am a black man in a white world. In 1972, in 1947, at my birth in 1919, I know that I never had it made.
Jackie Robinson, in his autobiography.
(emphasis mine)

24 September 2017

Don't Normally Comment on Football, but ………

I have commented on some egregious calls calls by the officials, when I it felt that it had to do with the unfair treatment of referees by the league.

This weekend, Donald Trump went after the league because some players kneeled during the national anthem to protest racism, and in solidarity with Colin Kaepernick, who has been shut out of the league by craven management.

Trump tweeted, and the players and owners just told Trump to go Cheney himself:
Some stood. Some kneeled. Some remained in the locker room, choosing to speak through their absence from the NFL’s pregame ceremonies, in which the American flag is displayed and the national anthem sung. But from London to Los Angeles, virtually all NFL players on the sidelines before kickoff of Sunday’s slate of 14 games locked arms with each other in response to President Trump’s three-day campaign demanding that team owners “fire or suspend” players who kneel during the national anthem and calling on fans to boycott games if the form of protest continued.

The silent rebuke to the president, determined independently by each of the 28 NFL teams in action Sunday, represented an unprecedented collective action and show of solidarity among players who battle against one another 16 weeks, some more, each season.

Some, such as the Jacksonville Jaguars, Philadelphia Eagles and Washington Redskins, were joined on the sideline by their team owners, Shahid Khan, Jeffrey Lurie and Daniel Snyder, respectively. Most were joined in standing shoulder-to-shoulder by coaches, staff and, in some cases, police officers.

All but two of the NFL’s 32 team owners and CEOs issued statements Saturday night and through Sunday in response to Trump’s crusade against protesting NFL players, which began in earnest during a Friday night rally in Alabama. After making a thinly veiled allusion to former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick, who sparked a national debate by taking a knee during August 2016 preseason games to protest police violence against minorities, Trump called on NFL coaches to get the “son of a bitch” players off the field if they continued to kneel. The president repeated his call with no less intensity on Twitter on Saturday and Sunday morning.

………

Among the more notable was New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft, a vocal Trump supporter and a $1 million donor to his inaugural.

“There is no greater unifier in this country than sports and, unfortunately, nothing more divisive than politics,” Kraft wrote in his statement released Sunday morning. “I think our political leaders could learn a lot from the lessons of teamwork and the importance of working together toward a common goal.”
Well done, but Colin Kaepernick has still not been signed. 

I'll wait to hear about that.  (BTW, if the Raven's performance today is any indication, sign him.) 

23 September 2017

Not Again………

Recep Tayyip Erdoğan's goons just beat more protesters in the United States again:
Violence erupted at a New York hotel after protesters heckled a speech by Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan with chants of "terrorist".

Mr Erdogan was addressing supporters in Turkish at the Marriott Marquis Hotel in Times Square when he was interrupted by several demonstrators.

"You're a terrorist, get out of my country," one protester shouted before he was punched and dragged away.

Mr Erdogan is in New York for the UN General Assembly.

In footage from the speech on Thursday, protesters are seen being pushed and punched in the head as they are ejected from the venue by suited men.

It is not clear at this stage if they were pro-Erdogan attendees, presidential bodyguards, or guards providing security at the hotel.
It's pretty clear what they were.

We saw this in DC as well. It's his goons.

We need to declare his entire security detail personae non grata, and let some more responsible entity, say for example Blackwater, manage his security.

Linkage


Gordon Ramsay makes a simple and intriguing breakfast:

22 September 2017

Toys R Us Implosion Driven by Private Equity

That noted communist rag the Financial Times has observed that the Toys R Us bankruptcy was driven by private equity looting:
Who brought down Toys R Us? The 69-year-old toy behemoth listed a host of reasons for its slide into bankruptcy in a Chapter 11 regulatory filing, including “expensive debt service”, “unrelenting competition from ecommerce and big box retailers” and a news report that turned its consideration of bankruptcy protection into a self-fulfilling prophecy.

But the blame is perhaps to be placed most squarely on its private equity ownership. Toys R Us has spent more than $250m a year servicing $5bn in long term debt, which was “not a sustainable situation,” one investor said, as the company faced increasingly crushing competition from Amazon and Walmart.

After years of rearranging its debt burden, like other big leveraged buyouts of the pre-financial crisis era, it is presenting a restructuring under bankruptcy protection as a bid for freedom. Toys R Us says it now has a chance to bring its “vision to fruition”, announcing plans to invest in marketing and technology and even promising to raise store employees’ wages.

………

By 2005, as competitors ate into its profitability, Toys R Us hired Credit Suisse and found a buyer: a consortium of private equity firms KKR and Bain Capital, which had experience in retail, and Vornado, the real estate investment firm. The three firms put in $1.4bn in cash, split equally, and borrowed over $5bn to finance the transaction.

………

The three buyers who leveraged it are now expected to have their equity stakes wiped out in the restructuring. KKR and Vornado have written off their investment over time, while Bain has been carrying it near zero.
The Barbie brand owes a debt of gratitude to Toys R Us, which heavily promoted it in its stores, such as this New York outlet in 2007 © Getty

However, the losses to the firms and their investors are mitigated by the fact the buyout firms have paid themselves over $200m in expenses, advisory and management fees, according to SEC filings over 12 years of ownership
The losses accrue to the investors in their funds, the money for expenses and fees, that goes to the firm, and their bonuses.

There is nothing that cannot be ruined through an application of American financial professionals.

H/t naked capitalism

Tweet of the Day


This is really some remarkably astute political satire, which is not something that I would expect from Mad.

It appears that Trump is good for political commentary.

I particularly like the Norman Rockwell sendup.

About F%##ing Time

After a continuing problems with driver vetting, incident reporting, and its treatment of its employees, Uber has been stripped of its operating permit by the Transport for London.

Specifically, they have been ruled that Uber is not a, "Fit and proper," private car operator:
Uber has been stripped of its London licence in a surprise move that dealt a serious blow to one of Silicon Valley’s fastest rising companies and sparked an outcry from a coalition of customers, government ministers and drivers at the ride-hailing company.

The firm’s application for a new licence in London was rejected on the basis that the company is not a “fit and proper” private car hire operator.

Uber’s cars will not disappear immediately as its current licence expires on 30 September and it plans to challenge the ruling by London’s transport authority in the courts immediately. The hailing app can continue to operate in the capital – where it has 3.5 million users – until the firm has exhausted the appeals process. Uber has 21 days to launch an appeal but can continue to operate until the process expires – which could take months.

Uber chief executive Dara Khosrowshahi wrote to staff on Friday confirming that the company would appeal the ruling. He said he disagreed with the decision but it was based on past behaviour.

“The truth is that there is a high cost to a bad reputation,” he wrote. “It really matters what people think of us, especially in a global business like ours.

………

TfL said it had rejected the company’s application to renew its licence because “Uber’s approach and conduct demonstrate a lack of corporate responsibility” in relation to reporting serious criminal offences, obtaining medical certificates and driver background checks.

The licensing body also said it was concerned by Uber’s use of Greyball, software that can be used to block regulatory bodies from gaining full access to its app and undertaking regulatory or law enforcement duties.
What Khosrowshahi is basically saying is that Travis Kalanick is simply too toxic to run Uber.

As Hannah Jane Parkinson has noted, "You name it, and if it’s sh%$#y behaviour, Uber has probably done it." (%$# mine)

Uber's primary innovation has always been a willingness to behave with complete disregard for the law and for ethics.

It's nice to see that bubble popped.

Quote of the Day

Police Don't Need Better Training; They Need to Stop Treating Noncompliance as Justification for Violence.
The Nation
This is an article about how police departments routinely treat disabled people as violent, because the disabilities prevent immediate compliance, and police routinely apply violence to any form of noncompliance.
Magdiel Sanchez, a 35-year-old Latino man, was sitting on his porch in Oklahoma City on Tuesday night as two law-enforcement officers approached his house. He got up and walked toward them, when, according to news reports and a statement, the officers noticed he was holding a metal pipe. They started giving him “verbal commands” to lie down, then one fired his Taser and the other shot him in the chest with his sidearm. Sanchez died. Officers later claimed not to have heard neighbors shouting that Sanchez was deaf and couldn’t hear their commands.

The police were there because allegedly Sanchez’s father had been in a hit-and-run (injuring property, not people, if the accusations are true). Sanchez carried the pipe, neighbors said, to ward off dogs. He was deaf and reportedly developmentally disabled. In a statement, the ACLU said, “Magdiel Sanchez was shot at his own home, without having committed any crime, and in front of neighbors who knew he was deaf trying to communicate to the police that what they were about to do was wrong.”

Sanchez is far from the first deaf or disabled person to be killed or brutalized by police. It happens almost every day. According to The Washington Post, police have shot 165 people in mental-health crisis in the first 263 days this year (and 715 total). When you add people like Sanchez and individuals with invisible, undiagnosed, or unrevealed disabilities, the numbers start to get much higher. In a white paper I co-wrote in 2016 for the Ruderman Foundation, I noted that disability-rights advocates routinely argue that a third to a half of all people killed by police are disabled. Most of those people, especially in cases where police clearly misused lethal force, turn out to also be marginalized by race, class, gender orientation, or other factors that intensify vulnerability.

………

At least four disabled people died at the hands of police this week. One previous case of unjustified police violence came to light. Except for the brief media attention of the Sanchez and Leibel cases, that’s a pretty normal week. It’s unlikely anyone will be held accountable, except possibly in the situation where Leibel, a white teenager in an affluent neighborhood, was brutalized. There, the combination of powerful video, a compelling victim, widespread coverage, and a good lawyer might help. In the other cases, the multiply marginalized status of the victims plus the lethality of the encounter will make accountability difficult, if not impossible. And then next week, alas, the same types of stories will play out again, and more people will die.
The subhead on the article quoted above makes it clear:  The problem is not individual police officers, or even individual policies.

Rather the problem is the intersection of court decisions and law enforcement culture which makes the application of violence routine, and in fact rewarded, in circumstances that no decent human being would do so.

21 September 2017

Ka-Ching!

Hillary Clinton says she made a mistake when she gave speeches on Wall Street after leaving government. Taking money from banks, she writes in her new memoir, created the impression she was in their pocket.

Her old boss doesn’t seem to share her concern.

Last month, just before her book “What Happened” was published, Barack Obama spoke in New York to clients of Northern Trust Corp. for about $400,000, a person familiar with his appearance said. Last week, he reminisced about the White House for Carlyle Group LP, one of the world’s biggest private equity firms, according to two people who were there. Next week, he’ll give a keynote speech at investment bank Cantor Fitzgerald LP’s health-care conference.
So much for hope an change.

20 September 2017

They Really are Chicken Sh%$s

Trump's HHS Secretary Tom Price has been burning up private jet hours so profligately that it might make Steve Mnuchin blush:
In a sharp departure from his predecessors, Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price last week took private jets on five separate flights for official business, at a cost of tens of thousands of dollars more than commercial travel.

The secretary’s five flights, which were scheduled between Sept. 13 and Sept. 15, took him to a resort in Maine where he participated in a Q&A discussion with a health care industry CEO, and to community health centers in New Hampshire and Pennsylvania, according to internal HHS documents.

The travel by corporate-style jet comes at a time when other members of the Trump administration are under fire for travel expenditures, and breaks with the practices of Obama-era secretaries Sylvia Mathews Burwell and Kathleen Sebelius, who flew commercially while in the continental United States.

Price, a frequent critic of federal spending who has been developing a plan for departmentwide cost savings, declined to comment.

………

Price’s spokespeople declined to comment on why he considered commercial travel to be unfeasible. On one leg of the trip — a sprint from Dulles International Airport to Philadelphia International Airport, a distance of 135 miles — there was a commercial flight that departed at roughly the same time: Price’s charter left Dulles at 8:27 a.m., and a United Airlines flight departed for Philadelphia at 8:22 a.m., according to airport records.
Seriously, what is wrong with these people?

Now Which Pathological Liar Are We to Believe?*

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has claimed that Donald Trump apologized for forcing Turkish security forces to attack unarmed protesters, while the White House has denied this:
The White House on Wednesday denied Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s claim that President Donald Trump called him to apologize for an incident in May where Turkish security agents allegedly attacked protesters in Washington.

A White House spokesman told the Hill late Tuesday that Trump and Erdogan “discussed a wide range of issues but there was no apology.”

“It’s not true,” White House spokesperson Lindsay Walters said, according to BuzzFeed News reporter John Hudson.

………

Washington, D.C. police in June issued arrest warrants for nine Turkish security guards and three Turkish police officers accused of attacking protesters who gathered outside the Turkish ambassador’s residence. A grand jury in August issued indictments for three more Turkish security officials charged with attacking protesters.
This is seriously f%$#ed up.

*Not my line. It's from the comments thread of the post.


Tweet of the Day

FWIW, "Peter Douche" is a parody account mocking Clinton supporter Peter Daud, and he captures the reality of the corporate "Democratic Party" moderates.

Quote of the Day

That said, if all it takes to neutralize a billion plus in Clinton campaign contributions is $100K in Russian Facebook ads and some Twitterbots, then then political class has a lot to answer for in terms of its ROI.
Lambert Strether
For the non-financial types, ROI=Return On Investment.

The Democratic Party consult class really is hopelessly incompetent.

Spain is Going Nuts

There are elements of the population of the Spanish province of Catalonia who want to secede from Spain.

They are pushing for a referendum, and the central government in Madrid has responded by sending federal police into to seize government buildings and arrest politicians:
Spanish national police have stormed ministries and buildings belonging to Catalonia's regional government to put a stop to the region's independence referendum.

The Guardia Civil, which acts with the authority of Madrid's interior ministry, is searching for evidence regarding the planned 1 October referendum on Catalan independence, which Spain's Constitutional Court has declared illegal.

In the early hours of the morning armed officers arrived at various Catalan ministries, including the economy department, foreign affairs department, and social affairs department, Spanish media reports.

At least twelve Catalan officials are said to have been arrested, including the chief aide to Catalonia's deputy prime minister, Josep Maria Jové. The arrests come as the mayors of Catalan towns who back the referendum were yesterday questioned by state prosecutors.

Pro-independence crowds have formed outside the regional ministries in support of the provincial government and in protest against the raids and searches.
It should be noted that the Spanish Constitutional Court ruled the referendum illegal, so some sort of action to stop the election is justified, but what is going on now seems guaranteed to inflame tensions and make a peaceful solution less likely.

So, in Europe, we are seeing, the rise of the racist right wing, and now we are seeing a conflict in Spain that has the very real possibility of going violent.

History may not repeat itself, but it does rhyme.

Linkage

Here is a classic Star Wars parody.  It's 20 years old.  I feel old:

19 September 2017

Pass the Popcorn

I've generally been pretty dismissive of the "A noun, a verb, and Vladimir Putin," wing of the Democratic Party.

I've always observed that at worst, what we have is a violation of campaign finance laws, where, if the Russians explicitly coordinated with the Trump campaign, it was an illegal in-kind donation.

That's a lot of "ifs", and even if true, the penalties are minimal.

The real jeopardy only occurs if members of the Trump campaign engaged in obstruction of justice in an attempt to cover this up.

After all, it was obstruction of justice that took Nixon down.

I'm still not sure if there is any "There" there, but things is getting profoundly interesting:
CNN and the New York Times this evening published dueling scoops on former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort.

As Jim Comey might put it: Lordy, there appear to be tapes.

First, CNN reported that U.S. government investigators wiretapped Paul Manafort, the onetime Trump campaign chairman, both before and after the 2016 presidential election. According to CNN, the court that provides judicial oversight for the administration of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act authorized an FBI investigation into Manafort in 2014 focused on “work done by a group of Washington consulting firms for Ukraine's former ruling party.” Manafort’s firm, among notable others, had failed to register under the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA) for work with the pro-Russian Ukrainian regime. This first investigation was reportedly halted in 2016 by Justice Department prosecutors because of lack of evidence, but a second warrant was later issued in service of the FBI’s investigation into Russian influence of the election and potential ties between the Trump campaign and Russian operatives.

CNN reported that interest in Manafort was “reignited” because of “intercepted communications between Manafort and suspected Russian operatives, and among the Russians themselves.” The FBI also conducted physical searches: one of a storage facility belonging to Manafort and a more widely reported search of his Alexandria home in late July. Manafort was not under surveillance when he became chairman of Trump’s campaign, CNN sources suggested, because of the gap between the two warrants.

………

Shortly after CNN’s story broke, the New York Times published its own scoop regarding Manafort. The story is largely a scene piece, but includes a number of highly significant facts. The Times catalogs what it describes as “aggressive tactics” that Special Counsel Robert Mueller has employed in his investigations of Trump associates, specifically Manafort and former national security adviser Michael Flynn. First, the Times reveals that after the July raid on Manafort’s residence, Mueller’s prosecutors warned Manafort that he would be indicted. The story also reports that Mueller’s team has subpoenaed several of Manafort’s associates, including Jason Maloni, a former Manafort spokesman; the heads of Mercury Public Affairs and the Podesta Group; and one of Manafort’s former lawyers (with Mueller’s team claiming an exception to attorney-client privilege). While White House officials have been given the opportunity to appear for “voluntary interviews” instead of before grand juries, Manafort’s associates have been subpoenaed, marking a less deferential approach to the Manafort investigation. The Times suggests that Mueller, leaving no rock unturned, is investigating Manafort for “possible violations of tax laws, money-laundering prohibitions and requirements to disclose foreign lobbying.”
I'm not sure where this is going, but it is getting interesting.

Headline of the Day

Hopeful Martians Emerge From 8-Month Experiment To Find Earth Horrific As Ever
Gizmodo
This is an actual news story.

The headline is opinion, but I do understand the sentiment:
Before Elon Musk, Jeff Bezos and other space enthusiasts can ship humans to Mars as easily as an Amazon Prime delivery, we need to figure out they’ll fare on a foreign planet. Luckily, NASA and the University of Hawaii have been all over this, funding several successful iterations of an experiment called Hawaii Space Exploration Analog and Simulation (HI-SEAS), in which a crew of “astronauts” live in Mars-like conditions in a dome on a Hawaiian volcano. On Sunday, the fifth Hi-SEAS endeavor ended, meaning a crew of six “astronauts” have left the comfort of a literal bubble to greet the fresh hell that is Earth right now.
I do understand the urge to stay in a cave.  I have on occasion had an urge to go live in a cave.

18 September 2017

A Good Explaination of the Brexit

At its core, the Brexit vote was a political act, not an economic one, despite the arguments made by both supporters and opponents of the UK leaving the EU:
Defending Brexit is not the easiest thing to do at the moment when we have a government hell bent on delivering the worst case scenario. It also doesn't help that the Brexit groupthink produces pretty feeble economic justifications rather than looking at the issue as a whole. Fighting on the enemy's turf is always a loser and the mainstream Brexiter economic justifications are collapsing

I have argued for a long time now that the economy is a secondary concern - and as far as that goes, the aim of the Brexit process should be to minimise what is bound to be economically stressful. Something this government is failing to do.

But then, I repeat, this isn't an economic question and it never was. It is political, cultural and constitutional. It is said that Brexit has divided the nation but in fact all it has done is exposed a deep cultural chasm that was not being addressed by the status quo. There is a gulf of misunderstanding between the factions and it's time we dragged it all out for examination.
And then comes this bit, which I found particularly informative:
When we look at that we find that it stems from a collapse of trust in UK institutions. And that can hardly be a surprise. Every major increment in EU membership has been done by subterfuge and deception. Direct consent has never been sought and our interactions in the EU have been yet more deception. Cameron's phantom veto and the bogus attempts at reform were quite obvious pieces of political theatre from an establishment with no regard to the wishes of the public.
I think that this critique, when taken generally, is also at the core of the right-wing populist movements throughout the western world.

People feel that the sales pitch for increasing global integration have been dishonest, and I'm inclined to agree.

Interesting Texts Received Today

I am not quite sure why this happened, but I got a warning about a gas leak about 15 miles away from where I was working.

The basic story was rather straightforward, chlorosulfonic acid leaked from a chemical plant, but I am unclear who pulled the trigger on the emergency text that got sent out to a whole lot of people.

It was definitely surreal.

17 September 2017

Well, This is Great

Did you know that Equifax runs the My Social Security and is responsible for verifying data for Obamacare exchanges for the US government?

You know, that whole, "Reinventing Government", thing that Bill Clinton put forward in the 1990s, when critical government functions were outsourced to private for-profit operators, is looking to be an even worse deal than when it was first implemented in the mid-1990s.

Of course, efficiency and savings were never really the goals: It was a depressingly successful attempt to subvert the civil service laws and to return to the spoils system.

Just ask President Garfield how well that worked out.

16 September 2017

What a Load of [Excrement Metaphor]

Researchers at Abertay University and the University of New South Wales Canberra have concluded that boys are better at physics because they can "Fire for Effect" when peeing:
Boys are better at Physics because they learn about “projection” while going to the toilet, researchers have claimed.

From a young age, boys are taught about how to aim accurately so that they do not make a mess in the bathroom, and this gives them a better understanding of “projectile motion”, according to three academics.

Writing for Times Education Supplement (TES), Anna Wilson of Abertay University along with Kate Wilson and David Low of the University of New South Wales Canberra, explained their theory.

“Playful urination practices – from seeing how high you can pee to games such as Peeball (where men compete using their urine to destroy a ball placed in a urinal) – may give boys an advantage over girls when it comes to physics,” the academics wrote.

The researchers said they have examined gender differences in achievement on physics tests, and found that girls generally perform worse than boys, but with a more marked gap in specific topic areas.

“In particular, the largest gaps in performance between girls and boys arise in questions that involve projectile motion – things that have been thrown, kicked, fired, etc,” they said.

“On some projectile questions, we’ve seen only around one-third of girls answer correctly, compared to two-thirds of boys. This isn’t a trivial gap in performance, particularly when a diagnostic test may contain several questions on projectiles.”
Seriously?

The stupid, it burns ………

More of This

The best way to protect your credit is to initiate a cred freeze with the cred bureaus.

They make this difficult, and charge for doing this.

Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) has introduced a bill requiring the credit bureaus to offer a credit freeze for free:
In the wake of the the massive Equifax customer data breach, many consumers are wondering: Why, exactly, should we be paying the credit bureaus for credit freezes or monitoring when it was one of them that just lost all our personal data? Two U.S. Senators are wondering that, too, and have now introduced a bill to fix it.

Senators Elizabeth Warren (MA) and Brian Schatz (HI) today introduced a bill that would prevent credit bureaus from charging people for freezing their records. In the grand tradition of government backronyms, the bill [PDF] is called the FREE Act, or Freedom from Equifax Exploitation Act. (Yes, that would actually be the FFEE Act. Maybe you’re supposed to squint a little.)

The bill’s purpose is simple: If passed, it would stop credit bureaus from charging consumers to place a freeze on their credit records to prevent identity theft.
Good policy and good politics.

Needless to say, Democratic "moderates" will find a way to oppose this.

15 September 2017

Cowards

In the past week, the hypocrites at Harvard University have denied entry to their PhD program to a world renowned candidate* in history and the Harvard Kennedy School denied has denied visiting fellow status to Chelsea Manning.

As near as I can ascertain, this is because they are worried that right wing talk show host will say nasty things about them:
Yesterday, we discussed Harvard overriding a decision to admit Michelle Jones to the History Ph.D program, based at lest in part of the well-known sacred moral principle What Would Tucker Carlson Say? Well, capitulating to criticism from vocal reactionaries (pre-emptive or otherwise) is now becoming a hot trend:
Facing harsh criticism, a Harvard dean said early Friday morning that he was revoking his invitation to Chelsea Manning, a former United States soldier convicted of leaking classified information, to be a visiting fellow at the university.

The sudden turnabout by the Harvard Kennedy School came after a day of intense backlash over the university’s announcement on Wednesday that Ms. Manning would become a visiting fellow at the Institute of Politics this school year. Douglas W. Elmendorf, the dean of the Harvard Kennedy School, said that while the university encourages a diversity of opinions and does not shy from controversy, naming Ms. Manning a fellow was a mistake for which he accepted responsibility.
It should be noted that the Harvard Kennedy School granted visiting fellow status to serial liar Sean Spicer and failed Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski.

The deal is, you give a talk, hang around for questions, and you become a "Visiting Fellow."

Only the torturers and the torturer apologists in the US state security apparatus has major butt-hurt over this, so they folded.

The case of Michelle Jones is even more egregious, though the reason for potential outrage, a horrific crime for which she served her time, is marginally more understandable, though the two professors who went jihad against her admission to the history program were crystal clear as to their motivations, they were motivated by cowardice:
“We didn’t have some preconceived idea about crucifying Michelle,” said John Stauffer, one of the two American studies professors. “But frankly, we knew that anyone could just punch her crime into Google, and Fox News would probably say that P.C. liberal Harvard gave 200 grand of funding to a child murderer, who also happened to be a minority. I mean, c’mon.”
I believe that these two professors pictures appear in the dictionary next to the definition of "Limousine Liberals."

This is amazing.  The current administration at Harvard is making me long for the days of Lawrence Summers as University President.

On the bright side, the current President of Harvard, the incredibly aptly named Dr. Faust, is leaving in about a 10 months.

*She did groundbreaking original research that found that prostitutes were not sent to prison in Indiana, but rather they were sent to forced labor laundries operated by the Catholic Church (see Magdalene Laundries) as opposed to being sent to prison around the turn of the 19th century.