21 May 2018

There's a Special Place in Hell for Women Who Don't Help Each Other

And Hillary Clinton just endorsed Andrew Cuomo over Cynthic Nixon in the New York gubernatorial primary.

The quote in the headline, of course, was made by Madeline Allbright, and frequently invoked against Bernie Sanders supporters in 2016.

The juxtaposition is striking.

You Remember the Story of the Boy Who Cried Wolf?

After about a year and a half of a noun, a verb, and Vladimir Putin, we now have some pretty good evidence that Donald Trump and his relatives have been selling foreign policy.

We're talking an explicit quid pro quo, but you'll hear very little about this because it all fades into the miasma that is Trump's ethical lapses.

In the process of pursuing Vladimir Putin as if he were Ernst Stavro Blofeld, people have ignored the fact that Trump is deeply and profoundly corrupt, and always has been:
Today marks the 16-month anniversary of Donald Trump becoming the 45th president of the United States, and nowhere has our unlikeliest commander-in-chief placed a greater stamp on America’s place in the world than his dramatic — and sometimes arbitrary and capricious, or so it seems — shifts in foreign policy. None of these seismic changes seemed more baffling than last spring’s abrupt sellout of the Persian Gulf state of Qatar — a longtime ally where the U.S. Air Force Central Command and its 10,000 American troops are now based.

………

Trump stunned his own foreign policy team — including then-Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Defense Secretary James Mattis — when he tweeted that Qatar is a sponsor of terrorism and seemingly endorsed an economic and political blockage of the tiny, oil-rich nation organized and led by two powerful neighbors, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, or UAE.

………

How to make sense of a 180-degree shift in policy that seemed so counter to U.S. interests in the region? A few months later, people who suspect the worst about Trump and his minions learned a possible motive that was almost too cynical to comprehend. Not long before Team Trump switched gears on Qatar, key officials from the emirate had met with Charles Kushner — father of Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser, Jared, who’s in charge of Trump’s Middle East portfolio — to discuss a massive Qatar-funded bailout of 666 Fifth Ave., the debt-laden Manhattan skyscraper that was threatening to sink the Kushner family real estate empire. But the Qataris rejected the deal — just weeks before the policy about-face. Whatever actually happened, the appearance was simply awful. 
No, the reality is simply awful.
It also seems not to have been the full story. This weekend, the New York Times published a stunning report about a plan floated by a longtime emissary for the Saudis and the UAE in early August 2016, when Trump had just grabbed the GOP nomination but faced an uphill campaign against Hillary Clinton. Donald Trump Jr., aide Stephen Miller and Erik Prince, founder of the notorious mercenary outfit once know as Blackwater, listened intently as the emissary offered Team Trump millions of dollars in assistance, including a covert social-media campaign, to help Trump win that would be run by a former Israeli spy who specializes in psychological warfare, or psywar.

“The emissary, George Nader, told Donald Trump Jr. that the princes who led Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates were eager to help his father win election as president,” the Times reported. Some key elements — exactly who was behind the plan, and what parts, if any, were carried out — remain murky.
I should mention here that Nader is a convicted felon, having served multiple sentences for child porn and sexual child abuse.  (As Anna Russel would say, "I'm not making this up, you know.")

And the corruption is pretty explicit:
As long as Trump and Jared Kushner continue to hold onto their business holdings while leading U.S. foreign policy, this cloud will remain. Did Trump voice support last week for ending American sanctions on the Chinese telecom company ZTE Corp. because it would benefit their U.S. subcontractors, or because a Chinese fund is investing $500 million in an Indonesia theme park that should dramatically boost the value of a related Trump Organization development? Then there’s the matter of Qatar, because in recent months it has become clear that the Gulf state is again in the Trump administration’s good graces, and the strategic alliance has been renewed as if last spring’s blowup never happened. Is that because it’s a more sensible policy — or is it because a firm called Brookfield Asset Management that is backed heavily by Qatari funds is near a deal to bail out Kushner’s 666 Fifth Ave? Is it any wonder that so many longtime key allies of the United States wonder if they can trust Trump’s America?
I note that Trump was thoroughly corrupt, and deeply mobbed up last year, but, instead of looking at the stuff that blatantly obvious, we have discussions of pee tapes.

Pity about That Legacy, Paul Ryan


Bummer of Birthmark, Paul
House Speaker Paul Ryan is leaving, and on the way out, he wanted a legacy.

Seeing as how the soon to be former Congressman, AKA the zombie eyed granny starver, IS the zombie eyed granny starver, he sees his legacy as finding some new and inventive way to inflict cruelty on the helpless.

So, in contravention of more than 50 years of bipartisan consensus, Paul Ryan decided to gut food stamps (SNAP) in the latest farm bill, and so he had to pass the bill without Democratic votes, and the right wing nut-jobs of the Freedom Caucus refused to back the bill, because they wanted to vote on persecuting brown people first:
A sweeping farm bill failed in the House on Friday in a blow to GOP leaders who were unable to placate conservative lawmakers demanding commitments on immigration.

The House leadership put the bill on the floor gambling it would pass despite unanimous Democratic opposition. They negotiated with members of the conservative House Freedom Caucus up to the last minutes.

But their gamble failed. The vote was 213 to 198, with 30 Republicans joining 183 Democrats in defeating the bill.

The outcome exposed what is becoming an all-out war within the House GOP over immigration, a divisive fight the Republicans did not want to have heading into midterm elections in November that will decide control of Congress.

The bill’s collapse also highlight the splits within the GOP conference that have bedeviled House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.) and will be certain to dog the top lieutenants in line to replace him, Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) and Majority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.).

With moderate Republicans maneuvering to force a vote on legislation offering citizenship to some younger immigrants who arrived in the country as children, conservatives revolted. The farm bill became a bargaining chip as they lobbied leadership for a vote on a hard-line immigration bill.

………


The Washington Post
Democracy Dies in Darkness

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In blow to GOP, House fails to pass massive farm bill in face of conservative Republican showdown
by Erica Werner and Mike DeBonis May 18 Email the author

House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.) on Wednesday expresses support for the House Agriculture Committee’s work on the farm bill. (J. Scott Applewhite/AP)

A sweeping farm bill failed in the House on Friday in a blow to GOP leaders who were unable to placate conservative lawmakers demanding commitments on immigration.

The House leadership put the bill on the floor gambling it would pass despite unanimous Democratic opposition. They negotiated with members of the conservative House Freedom Caucus up to the last minutes.

But their gamble failed. The vote was 213 to 198, with 30 Republicans joining 183 Democrats in defeating the bill.

The outcome exposed what is becoming an all-out war within the House GOP over immigration, a divisive fight the Republicans did not want to have heading into midterm elections in November that will decide control of Congress.

The bill’s collapse also highlight the splits within the GOP conference that have bedeviled House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.) and will be certain to dog the top lieutenants in line to replace him, Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) and Majority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.).

With moderate Republicans maneuvering to force a vote on legislation offering citizenship to some younger immigrants who arrived in the country as children, conservatives revolted. The farm bill became a bargaining chip as they lobbied leadership for a vote on a hard-line immigration bill.

Leaders tried to come up with a compromise, but 11th-hour negotiations, offers and counteroffers failed. McCarthy and Scalise will face a share of the blame for the failure, and their fortunes in the race to replace Ryan next year could suffer accordingly.

The farm bill itself became practically a sideshow, despite its importance to agriculture and the significant changes it would institute to food stamp programs.

………

The farm bill itself broke open partisan House divisions as Democrats abandoned negotiations with Republicans over the food stamp changes, which would require adults to spend 20 hours per week working or participating in a state-run training program as a condition to receive benefits. Democrats argue that a million or more people would end up losing benefits, because most states do not have the capacity to set up the training programs required.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) described the legislation as “cruel” and argued that with the proposed changes to food stamps, “Republicans are taking food out of the mouths of families struggling to make ends meet.”
This outcome was eminently predictable, and it could not happen to a more deserving guy.

Good Proposal

One of the features land reform historically has been expropriation, and these days, that frequently is made very difficult by modern trade deals, and extra-territorial court decisions, where you see people seizing assets once they are out of countries.
There is another way, rigorously enforced property taxes at a significant , with a reasonable homestead exemption, something on the order of 20 hectares for agricultural use, and 2 hectares for other uses:
………Most of the land, and all the best land, is owned or controlled by absentee natives or by outside organizations—foreign corporations, banks or governments. Local government is corrupt, incompetent, and obligated to outsiders if not actually controlled by them. There’s a two-fold net effect. On the one hand, there’s a continuing drain of working capital and labor to the outside, as rents, interest, profits flow out and young adults emigrate. On the other hand, the extraction process cripples the economy, by cutting off working capital and killing labor incentives. The local government, cannot or will not provide adequate services, due to corruption and lack of tax money. Metaphorically, these colonies are being bled dry.

Suppose a reform government were to come to power in these places and suppose it could stave off foreign threats. How could it stop the bleeding?

………

The same strategy can work for modern colonies. A reform government can heavily tax the value of real estate, possibly with exemptions for small resident property owners. Better yet, and much easier to implement, tax only the land component of real estate. Such a tax would force absentee owners to send euros or dollars back to the colonies. The government could then begin to provide services and repair infrastructure. But why tax real estate? Why not tax income or imports? Because absentees and foreign based corporations can easily avoid income taxes by funny accounting. Taxes on most imports are regressive and a drain on the economy. The real money is in real estate.

All but the most primitive governments keep some sort of registry of property, crude and out of date in Greece, Haiti, and Puerto Rico. A reform government can easily create new cadastral maps—that’s what George Washington did as he surveyed Native American land. In the age of GPS it’s even easier. The government can then place the existing claims on the map. The recorded “owner” may be a shell corporation based in the Bahamas, but no matter. Just tax it. Where claims overlap, they can be taxed twice—forcing owners to resolve the boundaries. The government can claim any blank spots—forcing hidden informal owners to declare themselves or lose the property.
If you juxtapose this with a stated goal of land reform through eminent domain, where the owners are paid a fair market value for their properties, you can create a simple assessment of the property:
Another strategy for getting initial property values is to ask owners to declare the values themselves, with the government having the right to purchase the properties at the declared value. The government right to purchase, if enforced, takes away owners’ incentive to understate the value.
As an aside here, if you require this declaration for a reduced tax rate, say 20% if the owner does not make a declaration versus 2% if they do, and you require the land to be tied to an actual person for a homestead exemption, which means that obscure ownership arrangements become economically unsustainable.

The downside, of course, is the urge of politicians to cut tax deals with large corporations for the immediate political benefit, even though any sane analysis shows that this ends up costing more than it generates in revenue.  (Amazon's grotesque competition for its second headquarters is simply the most egregious example ……… so far.)

Linkage


How police treat open carry activists depending on the color of their skin:

20 May 2018

Good Point

The good folks at FAIR note, and disapprove of the fact that when white people engage in racist behavior, the press does their level best to maintain their anonymity:
The presumption of innocence is supposed to protect those accused of a crime, in law and in the press. In corporate media, that rule also seems to apply to white people who report people of color to the police for doing innocuous things. As FAIR found, their identities are far more closely protected than those of people falsely targeted for “suspicious” behavior.

In the past few weeks, major news media have been flooded with coverage of incidents of alleged racial profiling and implicit bias—from golfers reported to police for playing “too slowly,” to picnickers fingered for using the wrong type of grill at a park. This coverage was prompted by viral videos and other social media posts released by the accused or by concerned bystanders, in real time or soon after these events occurred. The characters in these stories had one thing in common: The callers and officers involved were white; the alleged offenders, black or brown.

In a survey of coverage of four recent racial profiling cases, FAIR examined articles or segments in the New York Times, Washington Post and USA Today; on NPR, CNN, Fox, and the CBS, NBC and ABC evening news; as well as in major papers in the region where the incidents occurred.

These stories, while similar in content (often using the same quotes or incorporating Associated Press reports), didn’t lack for details. Those accused, police, witnesses, and corporate and institutional leaders were interviewed. Multimedia elements were included, such as smartphone, regular, and police body cam videos, audio from 9/11 calls, police reports and screen captures of social media posts.

But almost across the board, while the accused’s names and personal details have been made public, the accusers remain unnamed. Though equally newsworthy, they were allowed to retain their anonymity.
It took a while for the racist Starbucks manager, or the racist Yale grad student, or the woman who called the police on black people barbecuing in the park, to be revealed, and the information was crowd sourced, and on Twitter, before the major news organizations deigned to publish this information.

For other news stories, the identity of the malefactor would be in the first two paragraphs of the story, but there seems to an editorial omerta as regards wypipo behaving badly.

19 May 2018

It Was Inevitable………

The Trump administration is going balls to the wall to defund Planned Parenthood and reduce access to birth control services by reviving the Reagan gag rule:
The Trump administration is proposing to bar clinics that provide abortion services or referrals from receiving federal family-planning funds, a far-reaching move that would deprive Planned Parenthood and other women’s health centers of millions of dollars a year.

The proposal would require a “bright line” of physical and financial separation between clinics that receive $260 million annually in federal funding and any organization that provides abortions or referrals to abortion clinics.

The move delivers on a long-held objective of abortion opponents, who are staunch supporters of President Trump. In a statement Friday, White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said that it “would ensure that taxpayers do not indirectly fund abortions” and that Trump “is pleased to support” it.

The president plans to unveil the proposal Tuesday in a speech before the Susan B. Anthony List, a political action committee that opposes abortion, according to two administration officials.
The Republicans look at the Margaret Atwater's book The Handmaiden's Tale, and they think, "I gotta get me some of that."

Tweet of the Day


Cynthia Nixon is campaigning at a subway platform.

This is the same subway that Andrew Cuomo has been under-funding for years.

This is what they are handing out to would be subway passengers who are wondering why their train is late ……… Again.

Nixon is a long shot, but it does look like she will be putting the kibosh on his Presidential aspirations.

H/t naked capitalism

Why, "F%$# the Cable Companies," Is Such a Good Campaign Slogan

While people remain exclusively fixated on the telecom industry's attacks on net neutrality, the reality is companies like Comcast, Charter, AT&T and Verizon are busy trying to eliminate nearly all federal and state oversight of their businesses. And while deregulation has its uses in healthy markets as part of an effort to protect innovation, you may have noticed that the telecom market isn't particularly healthy. As such, the end result of eliminating most meaningful regulatory oversight without organic market pressure in place is only likely to make existing problems worse.

This battle is getting particularly heated on the state level. After the Trump administration dismantled net neutrality and consumer privacy protections, states began flexing their muscle and attempting to pass their own privacy and net neutrality rules. ISP lobbyists, in turn, tried to head those efforts off at the pass by lobbying the FCC to include (legally untested) language in its net neutrality repeal "pre-empting" states from being able to protect broadband consumers in the wake of federal apathy.

And in the wake of the net neutrality repeal, companies like Charter (Spectrum) are trying to claim that states have no legal authority to hold them accountable for failed promises, slow speeds, or much of anything else.

For example, Charter is already trying to use the FCC net neutrality language to wiggle out of a lawsuit accusing it of failing to deliver advertised speeds. And the New York Public Service Commission also recently stated it found that Charter has been effectively lying to regulators about meeting conditions affixed to its $89 billion acquisition of Time Warner Cable and Bright House Networks. As part of the deal, Charter was supposed to deploy broadband to a set number of additional homes and businesses, but regulators found (pdf) several instances where Charter actively misled regulators.

Last week Charter replied to these allegations by again claiming that states have no authority over them. As part of that effort the company is already citing the FCC's preemption language buried in its net neutrality repeal:
Seriously.  If Democrats are running for office, and not mentioning this sh%$, they, and their high priced consultants, are engaging in political and electoral malpractice.

18 May 2018

Is This Even News Any More?

Another lethal school shooting, this one in Texas near Houston, with 10 dead so far:
A male student used a shotgun and a .38 revolver in a shooting spree at a high school in southeast Texas on Friday morning, leaving at least 10 dead — the majority believed to be students — and 10 others wounded, the authorities said.

In what has become a national rite, the authorities arrived en masse at a campus, this time at Santa Fe High School, 35 miles from Houston, as students fled in tears. The suspect, whom the authorities identified as Dimitrios Pagourtzis, 17, appears to have obtained the weapons from his father who legally owned them, Gov. Greg Abbott of Texas said at a news conference.
The shooter is wypipo, so there is no talk of terrorism, despite the fact that he posted Nazi sh%$ online.

You know how it is: Wypipo are never terrorists.

About the only thing different about this time is that some MAGA loser showed up packing heat and waving a flag:
Trump supporter earned the rebuke of a fellow Second Amendment fan when he brought his open-carry pistol and an American flag to the scene of a school shooting in Santa Fe, Texas that resulted in the reported deaths of multiple students.

When asked what his first thought was upon hearing about the active shooter at Santa Fe High School, the unnamed Trump supporter said he first thought he needed to “get to the school,” and then the phrase “make America great again.”

He told a reporter from Houston’s KHOU that he was there “offering support,” and that a “god bless y’all will go a long way right now.”

As he walked away, the camera panned to the man’s hip to show that he had a pistol holstered on his belt — a fact that enraged another resident interviewed by the news station.
I'm not making this up, you know. (Anna Russell abides)

I guess that this is the point where I offer thoughts and prayers, right?

We Need a Death Penalty for Corporations

Case in point, Wells Fargo:
Some employees in a Wells Fargo unit that handles business banking improperly altered information on documents related to corporate customers, according to people familiar with the matter.

The behavior again raises questions about Wells Fargo’s risk-management practices and controls. The bank has been sanctioned in recent months by federal regulators for problems in these areas and as a result can’t grow its balance sheet.

The employees in Wells Fargo’s so-called wholesale unit, which is separate from its retail bank, added or altered information without customers’ knowledge, according to the people familiar with the matter. The information added varied from social security numbers to addresses to dates of birth for people associated with business-banking clients, the people said.

………

The behavior took place in 2017 and early 2018 as Wells Fargo was trying to meet a deadline to comply with a regulatory consent order related to the bank’s anti-money-laundering controls, the people said. The employees were also working to get documents in order prior to new requirements from another regulator for disclosures related to proof of beneficial ownership of businesses, the people added.

Wells Fargo became aware of the behavior in recent months from employees, the people said. After investigating, the bank discovered the behavior wasn’t an isolated incident, the people added. The bank is still investigating the matter, one of these people said.

………

The altering of information within the business-banking division of Wells Fargo, which serves small firms with annual sales ranging from $5 million to $20 million, comes as the bank is continuing to grapple with the fallout from the sales-practices scandal that erupted in September 2016. That involved bank employees fabricating information to open as many as 3.5 million accounts without customers’ knowledge or authorization.
The phrase, "Rotten to the core," applies here.

If there is a company who is as unequivocally merited its erasure from the universe, it is Wells Fargo.

To paraphrase Pat Boone, Wells Fargo should, "Be displayed publicly and have all of his fingers and toes broken, and then publicly executed," as a warning to other miscreants.

So, Is Your Money on "Suicide" or "Natural Causes"?


When juxtaposed with their preventing his communication with the outside world, I'm beginning to see the actuarial possibilities as kind of bleak:
The president of Ecuador, Lenin Moreno, has ordered the withdrawal of additional security assigned to the Ecuadorian embassy in London, where WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange has remained for almost six years.

………

Over more than five years, Ecuador put at least $5m (£3.7m) into a secret intelligence budget that protected him while he had visits from Nigel Farage, members of European nationalist groups and individuals linked to the Kremlin.

Rafael Correa, the then Ecuadorian president who approved of the operation, later defended the security measures as “routine and modest”.

However, his successor, Moreno, appears to differ in his view. His government said in a statement: “The president of the republic, Lenin Moreno, has ordered that any additional security at the Ecuadorian embassy in London be withdrawn immediately.

………

Moreno has previously described Assange’s situation as “a stone in his shoe”.
I inclined to believe that, "A stone in his shoe," translated from the Ecuadorean dialect of Spanish to, "Will no one rid me of this turbulent priest?"

This will not end well.

17 May 2018

F%$# Them

I am, of course, referring to Amazon and Starbucks, which are manifesting petulant butt-hurt over a tax bill which results directly from their impact on Seattle:

Amazon has threatened to move jobs out of its hometown of Seattle after the city council introduced a new tax to try to address the homelessness crisis.

The world’s second-biggest company has warned that the “hostile” tax, which will charge firms $275 per worker a year to fund homelessness outreach services and affordable housing, “forces us to question our growth here”.

Amazon, which is Seattle’s biggest private sector employer with more than 40,000 staff in the city, had halted construction work on a 17-storey office tower in protest against the tax.

Pressure from Amazon and other big employers, including Starbucks and Expedia, had forced councillors to reduce the tax from an initial proposal of $500 per worker. The tax will only effect companies making revenue of more than $20m-a-year.

The tax is expected to raise between $45m and $49m a year, of which about $10m would come from Amazon.

………

“We are disappointed by today’s city Council decision to introduce a tax on jobs,” said Drew Herdener, an Amazon vice-president. We remain very apprehensive about the future created by the council’s hostile approach and rhetoric toward larger businesses, which forces us to question our growth here.”

………

Campaigners said the company should be forced to take financial responsibility for Seattle’s cost of living, which has forced many families on to the streets. There are almost 12,000 homeless people in Seattle region, equating to the third-highest rate per capita in the US. Last year 169 homeless people died in Seattle. The city declared a state of emergency because of homelessness in late 2015.

………

Politicians from 50 other US cities wrote an open letter to Seattle council in a show solidarity with the councillors attempt to tackle Amazon’s impact on the city.

“By threatening Seattle over this tax, Amazon is sending a message to all of our cities: we play by our own rules,” the letter said.

Starbucks had also fought against the tax, with its public affairs chief, John Kelly, accusing the city of continuing to “spend without reforming and fail without accountability, while ignoring the plight of hundreds of children sleeping outside”.
These guys have been driving the cost of living up in Seattle, and aggressively fighting any sort of taxes to address this issue, and somehow or other, it's everyone else's fault.

F%$# them, and f%$# all the capitalist ubermenschen who have their hands out for public subsidies.

6 Democrats Who Should Never Get Your Votes Ever Again

They are Senators Joe Manchin (WV), Joe Donnelly (IN), Bill Nelson (FL), Heidi Heitkamp (ND), Jeanne Shaheen (NH), and Mark Warner (VA).

Simply put, they just voted to appoint admitted torturer Gina Haspel as head of the CIA, and this is a direct endorsement of torture, and they know it.

This is not about politics.  This is about right and wrong, and they have morally disqualified themselves from any position of authority.

This is an affront to basic human decency:
What's a little harsh interrogation between friends? President Donald Trump's pick Gina Haspel was today voted in by the Senate as the new head of the CIA, despite playing a key part in post-9/11 torture programs under President George W. Bush.

Her role in destroying the CIA's damning torture tapes in earlier years makes her the perfect spy boss for Trump, the President for whom force, secrecy, and lies are solutions to every problem.
Let me reiterate:  Trump does not matter here.  This isn't about Donald Trump, or the Republican Party, or the Easter Bunny.

This is about torture, and this is about rewarding torturers, which these 6 Senators just did.

Note that this was not an empty gesture.  Their votes were crucial to her approval:
Lawmakers approved Haspel’s nomination 54 to 45, with six Democrats voting yes and two Republicans voting no, after the agency launched an unprecedented public relations campaign to bolster Haspel’s chances. She appears to have been helped, too, by some last-minute arm-twisting by former CIA directors John Brennan and Leon Panetta, who contacted at least five of the six Democrats to endorse her bid to join President Trump’s Cabinet, according to people with knowledge of the interactions.
Do the math.  If they had all voted against the torturer, it would have been 48 to 51, if just 5 of them had voted against the torturer, Haspel would still had been rejected by 1 vote.

There is a special place in hell for these cowards.

16 May 2018

And the House Will Never Allow a Vote, and Trump Will Veto It

Still, the fact that Democrats managed to peel off a few votes and overturn the repeal of net neutrality is good policy and good politics:


The US Senate today voted to reverse the Federal Communications Commission's repeal of net neutrality rules, with all members of the Democratic caucus and three Republicans voting in favor of net neutrality.

The Senate approved a Congressional Review Act (CRA) resolution that would simply undo the FCC's December 2017 vote to deregulate the broadband industry. If the CRA is approved by the House and signed by President Trump, Internet service providers would have to continue following rules that prohibit blocking, throttling, and paid prioritization.

FCC Chairman Ajit Pai has scheduled his repeal to take effect on June 11. If Congress doesn't act, the net neutrality rules and the FCC's classification of ISPs as common carriers would be eliminated on that date.

Democrats face much longer odds in the House, where Republicans hold a 236-193 majority. Republicans have a slim majority in the Senate, but Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine), Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.), and Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) broke ranks in order to support net neutrality and common carrier regulation of broadband providers.

The vote was 52-47.
The optimist in me celebrates this.

They cynic in me wonders how many Democrats in the Senate would have voted yes if there was any possibility of it actually being passed.

There Were Primaries Last Night

I'm going to lead with irony.

For your consideration, West Virginia Republican State Senator Robert Karnes, an implacable foe of unions, who said that the teachers' strike in his state, "I can’t say that it will have zero effect, but I don’t think it’ll have any significant effect because, more often than not, they probably weren’t voting on the Republican side of the aisle anyways."

He was turfed out yesterday:
Labor activists, it turns out, know how to get involved on the Republican side of the aisle, too. Karnes was facing a primary challenge from fellow Republican Delegate Bill Hamilton, who beat him, with all the votes counted, 5,787 to 3,749. It was a blowout.
Oh Snap.

It was generally not a good night for former Republicans running as Democrats, anti-abortion politicians:


Tuesday’s primaries featured the crucial state of Pennsylvania plus a smattering of contests in the not-so-crucial states of Nebraska, Idaho, and Oregon.



………

But it’s clear the party is moving in a leftward direction, with even the most mainstream new Democratic candidates on the scene embracing views that would have been extremely daring five or 10 years ago. They are also simply riding positive momentum from the national political environment and — in the specific state of Pennsylvania, though not nationally — from some newly favorable district boundaries.

………

A real sign of the shifting winds of American politics came from the victory of a pair of first-time candidates backed by the Democratic Socialists of America who knocked off two incumbent state legislators from a well-established Pittsburgh political family.
Both Dom and Paul Costa, the incumbent losers, were on the conservative side of modern Democratic Party politics but also seemingly well-entrenched.
Instead, they lost — to Sara Innamorato, a 32-year-old nonprofit manager and former Apple retail store worker, and Summer Lee, a 2015 graduate of the Howard University School of Law. Their wins are ideological victories for the left but also reflect basic demographic dynamics. Women, and especially younger women and women with college degrees, are the core of the anti-Trump political mobilization, and candidates who can mirror and channel that specific demographic are well-positioned to win Democratic primaries this cycle.

………


By contrast to the Innamorato and Lee wins, Bernie Sanders endorsed Rich Lazer in the PA-5 primary, and Sanders and his Our Revolution organization invested heavily in Gregory Edwards’s campaign in PA-7.

Edwards ended up losing to a former Allentown solicitor named Susan Wild who ran with the support of Emily’s List, which works to get pro–abortion rights Democratic women elected to office. (The third candidate, longtime Northampton County District Attorney John Morganelli — an anti-abortion, anti-immigrant Trump supporter — would have been a very awkward fit for the House Democratic caucus.) And Lazer came up short against Mary Gay Scanlon.

………

It’s rare to see an incumbent lieutenant governor attract vigorous primary challenges, but Mike Stack managed to land himself in an unusual sweet spot. Scandals related to his spending and treatment of state employees weren’t bad enough to drive him from office in disgrace but did cost him the confidence of the state party (Gov. Wolf hasn’t endorsed him for reelection) and drew a number of challengers into the race.

The winner is John Fetterman, the heavily tattooed mayor of the small town of Braddock outside Pittsburgh. He was also challenged by Nina Ahmad, a physician and former deputy mayor of Philadelphia. The two challengers were both avatars of competing visions of the future of the Democratic Party, with Fetterman emblematic of a back-to-the-future drive to connect with the white working class and Ahmad representing a vision of a diverse party firmly grounded in the classes of professionals and social service providers.

Fetterman ran for Senate in 2016 as a kind of Berniecrat (though without really garnering support from Sanders himself) and surprised observers by pulling 20 percent of the vote against two much better-known opponents. This won himself a reputation as a charismatic figure and potential rising star.

………

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee does not endorse primary candidates, per se, but it does maintain a roster of Red to Blue program members who are considered the party’s best prospects for flipping seats. It sometimes adds people to Red to Blue before nominations have been settled.

………

But Brad Ashford, who served one term in the US House of Representatives from the Omaha-based second district, has not had it so lucky. Ashford, a moderate who used to be a Republican state legislator and who ran for Omaha mayor as a nonpartisan independent, fits the DCCC recruiting model perfectly.

Local progressives rallied instead behind Kara Eastman, a more conventional liberal who runs a nonprofit called the Omaha Healthy Kids Alliance. In national politics, she secured support from Justice Democrats and the Progressive Change Campaign Committee.

Despite running a platform of single-payer health care and a $15-per-hour minimum wage, Eastman didn’t snag an Our Revolution endorsement (likely because she backed Clinton in 2016) but also didn’t secure support from Emily’s List or NARAL. They overlooked Ashford’s past as an anti-abortion state legislator in favor of his solidly pro-abortion rights record during his two years in the House.

The race was incredibly close (and hadn’t yet been called at press time [It's been called, Eastman won by about 1%]), a fact that doesn’t bode well for the DCCC’s top choices.
I've heard reports that the so-called professionals at the DNC and te DCCC are concerned.

F%$# them.

Also, for those candidates who won despite meddling:  I suggest that they take this personally when the Beltway incompetents come around looking for support in a few months or a few years.

It's Called Monopoly Rents and Oligopolies

The good folks at the New York Times have noted that healthcare costs in the US started rising sharply relative to other developed nations around 1980.

Ignoring the obvious error (Dean Baker notes that the increase in US medical inflation started in the 1970s, not the 1980s) the history is clear: this began with a major push toward deregulation that began under the Carter administration, along with largely successful efforts to privatize what had been publicly owned research and development.

The walk-back from meaningful antitrust enforcement, and to deregulate many aspects of the market economy, along with efforts to privatize federally funded research progressed rapidly during the late 1970s, culminating with the disastrous Bayh-Dole act, which had the effect of handing government research to private entities.

Later, under the Reagan administration, the break-neck pace of these changes further accelerated.

It became the wild west, and a very opaque one at that, and to paraphrase former banking regulator Bill Black, if looting is possible, it has already happened.

What's more the proceeds of the looting are almost immediately reinvested in rent seeking activities like campaign donations, to embrace and extend the regime.

Rinse, lather, repeat.

15 May 2018

Of Course


I'm not:
Members of a special team at the Education Department that had been investigating widespread abuses by for-profit colleges have been marginalized, reassigned or instructed to focus on other matters, according to current and former employees.

The unwinding of the team has effectively killed investigations into possibly fraudulent activities at several large for-profit colleges where top hires of Betsy DeVos, the education secretary, had previously worked.

During the final months of the Obama administration, the team had expanded to include a dozen or so lawyers and investigators who were looking into advertising, recruitment practices and job placement claims at several institutions, including DeVry Education Group.

The investigation into DeVry ground to a halt early last year. Later, in the summer, Ms. DeVos named Julian Schmoke, a former dean at DeVry, as the team’s new supervisor.

Now only three employees work on the team, and their mission has been scaled back to focus on processing student loan forgiveness applications and looking at smaller compliance cases, said the current and former employees, including former members of the team, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because they feared retaliation from the department.
Could someone please tell Bob Mueller that Betsy DeVos was involved with secret discussions with Vladimir Putin?

Please?

Headline of the Day

Conservatives Will Never Get the Respect They Crave. They Don’t Deserve It
David Atkins
He says something that needs to be said:
But dig deeper and it’s the sort of deplorable stuff that no one involved in the creation of culture would ever want to countenance: that women should serve as obedient reproductive vessels; that white men are biologically and culturally superior to others; that the ability of corporate executives to get rich from polluting air and exploiting workers is a greater freedom than that of communities not to be poisoned and abused; that it’s the inherent right of powerful countries to bomb less powerful ones and steal their resources; that being rich is a sign of divine favor, and the poor deserve their plight; and so on.
He's right.  These ideas do not deserve respect, and they haven't since William F. Buckley endorsed a segregated south 60 years ago.

Why Does it Take So Long For Us to Build a Damn Bridge?

Putin annexed the Crimea in 2014

The contract to construct the bridge was issued in early in 2015, and the bridge opened today.

The 19km span is the longest bridge in Europe, and it would have taken at least twice as long in the US.

It took 25 years to complete the Bid Dig, and that tunnel borer underneath Seattle keeps breaking.

The New York Times noted something similar, where they discovered that per mile subway construction costs are from 5 to 10 times that of other similar projects in first world nations.

There is something seriously wrong here.

What Duncan Black Said

Ohio Senator Sherrod Brown has proposed a tax on employers whose employees are still forced to rely of food-stamps, medicaid, and other social welfare programs.

Black, better known as Atrios observes, that Democrats have a penchant for byzantine solutions, that these turn out to be sub-optimal policies and worse politics.

He believes that this bias against simple and universal is stupid, or has he pithily states, "Raise The Damn Minimum Wage":
This is a constant maddening Dem approach to policy. Basically there's meaningful opposition (and probably some intellectual agreement with this opposition) to a very simple idea. So someone comes up with a much more complicated solution to achieve essentially the same thing (but not really because it's really complicated) premised on the idea that maybe they can sneak that idea through because the lobbyists won't notice. Then you still don't get your complicated solution - or at least by the time it does get through the lobbyists it's even sh%$tier - and you don't even get credit for campaigning on a simple idea.
There is a sort of myopia among Democratic Party legislators that grasps for half measures when a full measure is better policy that has more of a political upside.

Like the bite of a dog into a stone, it is a stupidity.

It's a Hoax


I'd Be Smiling Too
The reports that a Lottery winner was arrested for dumping $200,000 of manure on ex-boss’ lawn is a hoax:
A man from Illinois was arrested for getting $224,000 worth of manure dumped on his former employer’s property, only two weeks after he won $125 million at the lottery and quit his job.

54-year old Brian Morris, from the small town of Clarendon Hills in Dupage County, bought over 20,000 tons of manure and asked for it to be dumped on his former boss’ property, pretending it was his residence.

Dozens of trucks filled with manure showed up in front of the house around 6:00 this morning and began dumping their smelly cargo over the property’s lawn.
It's not true, and I wish that it was.

I has a sad.

14 May 2018

A Message about Negative Externalities to the Competitors for HQ2

One of the things that is never considered when large firms try to extort subsidies is the fact that with additional jobs, they bring additional costs, and when you give into blackmail, the costs outweigh any benefits.

The good people of Seattle, who have learned about the downside of being a one industry town from the travails of Boeing in the 1970s, and now the Seattle City Council has voted unanimously to institute a head tax on large firms in order to pay for the costs that they impose on everyone else:
Following months of debate, raucous protests, and a threat from Amazon to erase 7,000 jobs from Seattle, the City Council on Monday voted to pass a head tax to fund housing and homelessness services.

The tax, which passed unanimously, is nearly half the size that four city council members originally proposed in April. Under the plan, Seattle would collect $275 per employee from businesses grossing more than $20 million in annual revenue, or about three percent of the businesses in the city.

The tax is projected to bring the city about $45 million of new annual revenue in its first year, according to a spending plan prepared by council staff. Under the legislation, council members would have the option of renewing the tax after five years.

Now the bill heads to Mayor Jenny Durkan’s desk. In a statement, she says she plans to sign the legislation. "This legislation will help us address our homelessness crisis without jeopardizing critical jobs," Durkan said.

The tax proposal represents a compromise between city council members who aimed much higher—$500 per employee to raise $75 million—and their colleagues who believed the initially proposed rate would be too costly for businesses. Mayor Durkan fell in the latter camp. Late last week, she put her support behind a $250 per employee tax.

Amazon achieved market dominance with a deliberate strategy of tax avoidance, its treatment of employees is horrific, and Jeff Bezos has aggressively campaigned against anything resembling an income tax, meaning that he has to a been a major cause of the problem, and a major impediment to any potential solution.

My position is to tell Amazon to go f%$# itself, though I do understand how most politicians would not find this a good campaign strategy.

Enough with paying off parasite billionaires in the vain hope that they will scatter a few crumbs before us.

Tweet of the Day


I challenge my reader(s) to create a stand-up bit of comedy lasting at least 3 minutes based on this.

If you have problems riffing on this, , I would note that the Charles Street Jail in Boston is now a luxury hotel, and there is likely comedic material aplenty there.

Linkage


This may be The best political ad of the season.

As an FYI, the station actually broadcast this, because federal regulations require it: (Warning, F-Bomb)

13 May 2018

When the Going Gets Tough, the Tough Tell Lies

Westmoreland did it in Vietnam in the 19602, and the Pentagon is doing it in Afghanistan today:
It is challenging enough that the war in Afghanistan has gone on for almost 17 years. But now the Trump administration is raising hackles in Congress by cloaking in official secrecy an unusual amount of data about the longest armed conflict in American history, including, until very recently, the dwindling size of the beleaguered Afghan military.

Information contained in a recently issued government report provides a window into what the Pentagon has been keeping secret since last year: The Afghan army has shrunk by 11 percent and insurgents have gained territory, raising questions about whether the Pentagon has been concealing a strategy gone awry.

………

But just as the Pentagon began sending thousands more troops to Afghanistan, it also began classifying key war metrics it had previously made public. That included ways of measuring the success or failure of America’s mission: training and funding the Afghan military so it can beat back the Taliban and other insurgents.

The latest report by John Sopko, the special inspector general for Afghanistan reconstruction — who objected strongly to the new program of secrecy and pried some of the data out of US military leaders in Afghanistan — contained some worrisome figures.
There has been a long history of the US military lying to Congress, and in come cases lying to the President to continue with their wars, whether it be Vietnam, or Iraq, Lebanon, or (to a slightly smaller degree) Korea, we know that the military will attempt to restrict information given to the civilian leadership so that they can continue fighting.

To quote Georges Clemenceau, "War is too important to be left to the generals."

Spelunking Helmet, the Official Hat of Congressional Democrats


It turns out there is low level of moral depravity that conservative Democrats will affirm out of abject cowardice.

It is also a losing proposition in the long run, when Democrats refuse to stand up for the basic standards, their voters know that they will refuse to stand up for them:
The Senate appears to be moving full speed ahead on confirming Gina Haspel as director of the CIA.

The Intelligence Committee is expected to vote to advance her nomination to the floor during a closed business meeting scheduled for Wednesday morning, and a Saturday morning announcement by Indiana Democratic Sen. Joe Donnelly further reduced the suspense.

“I believe that she has learned from the past, and that the CIA under her leadership can help our country confront serious international threats and challenges,” Donnelly said in a statement. “Importantly, Ms. Haspel expressed to me her commitment to be responsive to congressional oversight and to provide her unvarnished assessment — both to members of Congress and the president.”

Donnelly’s office said the Indiana Democrat met Thursday with Haspel, the current acting director of the CIA.

The same night, President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Penceappeared together Indiana at a rally in support of Donnelly’s Republican challenger Mike Braun.

During the event, Trump and Pence criticized Donnelly for his voting record, while also pushing him to support the CIA nominee. In his statement, the senator said the support Haspel has received from the intelligence community was an important factor in his decision.
The people in the intelligence community who are supporting her are covering their own asses.

Either they were complicit in torture, or they are interested in sucking up to a woman who they see as being the next head of the CIA, and either their boss, or their client.

The ultimate fault lies with Barack Obama, who should have prosecuted torturers, but instead retained and promoted them.

12 May 2018

Social Engineering 101

A man in Chicago had a novel way to make some money, he used a US Post office change of address form to redirect mail to UPS headquarters, and then he cashed the checks that came in the mail:
As federal crimes go, this one seems to have been ridiculously easy to pull off.

Dushaun Henderson-Spruce submitted a U.S. Postal Service change of address form on Oct. 26, 2017, according to court documents. He requested changing a corporation's mailing address from an address in Atlanta to the address of his apartment on Chicago's North Side.

The post office duly updated the address, and Henderson-Spruce allegedly began receiving the company's mail — including checks. It went on for months. Prosecutors say he deposited some $58,000 in checks improperly forwarded to his address.

The corporation isn't named in the court documents, but the Chicago Tribune reports that it's the shipping company UPS.
Note to self:  Check and see if there is a way to place a lock on my forwarding addresses.

They Have Made this Error Before

Repeating the short-sighted decisions made by US auto makers the last time gas prices were Ford has decided the future is trucks and SUVs, and so will be abandoning conventional passenger cars.

Sounds like the, "Small cars equal small profits," mentality that nearly destroyed auto makers in the 1970s and again in the 1990s, after oil prices spiked:
Ford Motor Co. said Wednesday it will stop investing in sedans in North America, bowing to U.S. drivers’ seemingly never-ending zest for crossovers and pickup trucks.

Ford  shifted focus on “building a winning portfolio” of vehicles, by which it meant no more of its slow-selling sedans at least for North America.

U.S. drivers have gravitated to SUVs and pickup trucks for years, thanks in part to these vehicles’ relative fuel economy improvements and price drops. Many car buyers also report enjoying the high-riding seating position of an SUV or pickup truck.

“Ford realized it can’t be everything to everyone, and in today’s market that could be OK,” said Jessica Caldwell, an analyst with Edmunds. “The key to success is focusing on where your customers are and where your strengths lie, and for Ford doubling down on trucks and SUVs could be just what the brand needs.”

The move isn’t without risk, however. Ford is willingly alienating some of its car owners and conceding market share in segments that, while declining, are still relevant to some buyers, she said.
When, and it's always when, gasoline prices spike again, those people trading in Ford trucks and SUVs for more efficient vehicles will not be able to find those new vehicles at their Ford dealer, and so loyal customers will go somewhere else.

They are repeat their historical mistakes, over, and over, and over, and over again.

All Your Base Are Belong to Us!


Who could have known that the police union, the PBA, and its "Blue Lives Matter" campaign were Putin's stooges?

Of course, this is sarcasm. The Police Benevolent Association does not support the efforts of a Russian authoritarian with no respect for human rights, it supports the efforts of a number of American authoritarians with no respect for human rights:
The most-viewed Facebook message secretly created by a St. Petersburg-based Russian troll farm was one that allegedly backed American cops.

“Back The Badge” appeared to be an authentically American community on Facebook rallying support for police officers. In fact it was Russian, a creation of the Internet Research Agency, an online propaganda mill that special counsel Robert Mueller indicted in February on conspiracy charges.

The ad itself was nondescript, a simple portal to Back The Badge’s Facebook page. It showed the group’s logo, an officer’s shield, over a background image of a cop car’s flashing blue and red lights. “Community of people who support our brave police officers,” the ad read.

That ad, released on Thursday by Democrats on the House intelligence committee, ran on Oct. 19, 2016, less than a month before the election. According to material turned over to the committee by Facebook, it appears to be the most influential single ad the troll farm is ever know to have concocted.

There is no way to decisively determine the impact of any particular advertisement or other piece of propaganda. But more people saw the Back The Badge ad than any other inauthentic account, page, or advertisement that the Internet Research Agency concocted. Facebook’s data tools, in the hands of the Internet Research Agency, ensured that it appeared in the Facebook feeds of over 1.3 million users, a fact first noted by NBC. Over 73,000 people clicked on it.
This this has always seemed more like trolling for clicks and revenue than it does a sophisticated covert intelligence operation.

11 May 2018

Tweet of the Day

It's actually a tweet storm, and here are the a few more images.

The basic thesis is that the Democratic Party electoral motto, at least as put forward by the DNC, DCCC and DSCC, of, "Vote for us, we are marginally less contemptible," is not a way to win hearts and minds.

Capitalizing on the weak points of one's opponent is good tactics, but if you don't go beyond this, you have no strategy















Even by the Standards of Trump, This is Unbelievably Stupid

Donald Trump has a plan to lower drug prices in the United State.

Basically, he wants to force other countries to pay more, and then big pharma, out of the goodness of its heart, will lower prices in the USA, because the drug companies will only take as much money as they need, and won't waste it on excessive executive compensation or stock buybacks.

I'm not sure if they are being stupid, or if they think that we are this stupid, but in either case, the level of idiocy buggers the mind:
President Trump, poised on Friday to unveil his strategy to lower prescription drug prices, has an idea that may not be so popular abroad: Bring down costs at home by forcing higher prices in foreign countries that use their national health systems to make drugs more affordable.

On Tuesday, Mr. Trump rebuffed his European allies by withdrawing from the Iran nuclear deal. Threatened tariffs on steel and aluminum have strained relations with other developed nations. And now the administration is suggesting policies that could hit the pocketbooks of some of America’s strongest allies.

“We’re going to be ending global freeloading,” Mr. Trump declared at a meeting with drug company executives in his first month in office. Foreign price controls, he said, reduce the resources that American drug companies have to finance research and develop new cures.

The White House Council of Economic Advisers fleshed out the idea three months ago in a report that deplored the “underpricing of drugs in foreign countries.”

The council said that profit margins on brand-name drugs in the United States were four times as high as those in the more regulated markets of major European countries and Japan. The United States, it said, needs to “address the root of the problem: foreign, developed nations, that can afford to pay for novel drugs, free-ride by setting drug prices at unfairly low levels, leaving American patients to pay for the innovation that foreign patients enjoy.”
Most of pharma research funding already comes from the governmet and big pharma spends more on advertising and marketing than they do on research, but, according to Trump and his Evil Minions, the problem is that they can't rape consumers hard enough.

Great googly moogly.

10 May 2018

There is Bad, Really Bad, and ………


It's Gina Haspel wot done it. Between her torture, her aggressive support of torture, and her oleaginous performance before the Senate Intelligence Committee, it was too much for the WaPo editorial board.

I would note that Fred Hiatt's merry band of psychopaths, cheered the invasion of Iraq, destroying Libya, the Whitewater investigation, Bush's purge of US attorneys, privatizing social security, supporting Trump's border wall even as they called it stupid, privatizing education, and letting Richard Cohen near a typewriter.

I had though that there was no limit to their stupid, but Gina Haspel is just a bridge too far for them:
Gina Haspel, President Trump’s nominee to head the Central Intelligence Agency, faced a clear test when she appeared before the Senate Intelligence Committee on Wednesday. After a 33-year career at the agency, she may be, in many respects, the most qualified person ever nominated to the post, as one Republican senator contended. But she has a dark chapter in her past: her supervision of a secret prison in Thailand where al-Qaeda suspects were tortured, and her subsequent involvement in the destruction of videotapes of that shameful episode.

As Sen. Mark R. Warner (Va.), the ranking Democrat on the committee, made clear from the outset, Ms. Haspel needs to clearly repudiate that record. She must confirm that techniques such as waterboarding — now banned by law — were and are unacceptable, and she must make clear that she will never again accept orders to carry out acts that so clearly violate American moral standards, even if they are ordered by the president and certified by administration lawyers as legal.

Ms. Haspel did not meet that test. She volunteered that the CIA would not on her watch engage in enhanced interrogations; she said she supported the “stricter moral standard” the country had adopted after debating the interrogation program. Pressed by Mr. Warner and several other senators, she eventually said she “would not allow CIA to undertake activity that I thought was immoral, even if it was technically legal.” What she would not say was that the torture she oversaw was immoral, or that it should not have been done, or that she regretted her own role in it — which, according to senators, included advocating for the program internally.

That ambiguity matters at a time when the United States is led by a president who has cheered for torture, who lacks respect for the rule of law and who demands absolute loyalty from his aides. Unfortunately, it makes it impossible for us, and others for whom the repudiation of torture is a priority, to support Ms. Haspel’s nomination.
The Post's editorial page is the 2nd most likely to be contradicted on the facts (a close race that the bat sh%$ insane Wall Street Journal editorial board won), but Gina Haspel is too much for them.

Honestly, I did not think that this was possible.

Once Again Proving that High Finance Can Destroy Everything

In this case, it's Univision that they have run into the ground:
This is the story of how corporate raiding, complacency, excess, and incompetence are gutting a media company that matters to tens of millions of people. It’s not a novel story, and perhaps not even scandalous by the standards of corporate opulence: A shark-obsessed boss, millions wasted on consultants, and an executive who insisted on publishing softcore porn are more embarrassing buffoonery than insidious greed. The main problem—the billions in debt the company ran up in the process of its owners buying it and weighing it down—is practically routine in media and beyond; that doesn’t make it any less infuriating.

This company is Univision, which until recently obligingly filled the role of absentee stepfather to Gizmodo Media Group, our employer. Now, Univision’s business is struggling, and GMG has suddenly found itself under a very watchful eye.

Once upon a time, Univision, an American broadcasting operation aimed primarily at Spanish speakers in the United States, was a tremendous golden goose laying tremendous golden eggs: It made incredible amounts of money and had to do essentially nothing for it other than run programming produced by Televisa, a Mexican broadcasting operation. The fairy tale ended long ago. Univision has been in decline for years, thanks to a disastrous private equity buyout finalized in 2007; an aging audience; a burdensome program-licensing deal with Televisa; competition from Telemundo and Netflix; layers of overpaid and useless middle management; and a general failure to position itself for a digital future.

………

From routine human resources f%$#ups to vastly overselling the prospects of an IPO whose ultimate doom this March precipitated the company’s current cost-cutting spree, Univision has been deeply mismanaged and is in the midst of making huge cuts that have, among other things, already claimed vast swaths of Univision Noticias—the most vital newsgathering operation serving the Spanish-speaking community in the U.S.—and Fusion Media Group. Consultants from Boston Consulting Group, who have reportedly recommended budget cuts of up to 35 percent in some parts of the company, have been combing through the books for months, and more than 150 people have been laid off so far. Plenty more cuts are pending (Univision president of news Daniel Coronell reportedly described them as “catastrophic” to his newsroom), including at GMG, the staff of which fears the newsroom may be cut by up to a third by the end of June, perhaps as part of a broader pivot toward video and branded content. What is happening to the company is not ultimately a failure of editorial or even executive management, though: If Univision was a mammoth whose failure to adapt slowed it down, it was private equity investors, consumed by the thought of turning their riches into more riches, who brought it down and bled it dry.
(emphasis mine)
You'll notice a pattern: Company has problems, or potential problems, takes said company private with other people's money, bleeds it dry, and leaves bleached bones.

Rinse, lather, repeat:
In 2007, a consortium including Texas Pacific Group, Thomas H. Lee, Madison Dearborn, Providence Equity, and Saban Capital took Univision private for $13.7 billion. These firms—executives of which still shape Univision’s board—borrowed heavily to finance the deal, saddling their new prize with more than $10 billion of debt. According to an FCC filing, each firm holds between 20.6 and 7.1 percent of Univision’s equity, and between 27.3 and zero percent of the voting interests. Thomas H. Lee, the only firm with no voting rights, has no official members on Univision’s board, but two of THL’s employees, James Carlisle and Laura Grattan, are listed as Univision board observers in their company bios; Univision would not say if the firm had appointed members to the board or who they were. Univision, for its part, declined to answer questions about the board, while all the involved firms either declined to comment or did not respond to questions about their involvement with Univision.

Leveraged buyouts such as the ones by which these companies acquired control of Univision were common in the years leading up to the financial crisis: Investors borrow a huge amount of money to purchase a company and then make that company responsible for paying back the debt. The amount of borrowing required is often large relative to a company’s earnings. This relationship—known as leverage—is used to gauge whether a company is likely to be able to pay back its lenders. The financial world commonly measures this through the ratio of “debt to EBITDA,” or earnings before interest, taxes, and depreciation and amortization of various assets. (The finance industry’s inscrutable jargon is a feature, not a bug. Just think of this ratio as a company’s debt compared to how much money it makes each year.)
Univision’s ratio, estimated at 12.5-to-1, made it highly leveraged even by the standards of the pre-crisis boom period. (In 2013, Obama administration regulators would urge banks to limit companies’ leverage to roughly half this level to reduce the risk of default.) Still, in 2007—when the company maintained a tight grip on the then-swelling U.S. market for Spanish-language media, and before media enterprises came to be viewed as dead investments—Univision found itself in a position of relative strength.
One of the reasons that we see this is because our regulatory and tax regimes subsidize such behavior.

As to a fix, on the mild side are things like changing the bankruptcy code to allow for private equity management fees, and all paid received by executives in excess of $1 million a year to be clawed back.

On the more severe side, and I think that this might be necessary, completely eliminating the deductability of interest payments would be a good thing.

I am sure that there is a middle ground, but I want to fiddle while Wall Street burns.

09 May 2018

I am Not Surprised

The US military officer corps has increasingly been exhibited religious bigotry, as its chaplain corps has becomem more and more dominated by the Talibaptist wing of Evangelical Christianity.

Well, now that chaplains at Fort Campbell have banned Jewish Lay leaders from holding services on campus.

Yet another case of the Talibanization of the US military:  (It's even worse in the US Air Force)
Chaplains in the 101st Airborne Division have fired the longstanding Jewish lay leaders at Fort Campbell, Kentucky, allegedly without providing any reason, effectively ending Friday night Shabbat services for Jewish soldiers and their families.

The two ranking chaplains also refused to support the Jews’ attempts to celebrate Passover on March 30, the first night of the eight-day long religious celebration, allegedly because it conflicted with Christians’ Good Friday observances and would save money during the installation’s four-day holiday.

Jeanette Mize, her husband, Curt, and son, Lawrence, served as lay leaders for Jewish worship on the installation for nearly two decades. On Feb. 28, the three were allegedly fired without cause under the direction of the division chaplain, Col. John Murphy, and his deputy chaplain, Lt. Col. Sean Wead.

“There was no explanation why I was fired,” Jeanette Mize told Army Times.

She added that her family has “faithfully provided weekly Shabbat and yearly religious worship events since 1999,” and they have worshiped at Fort Campbell since 1984.

Mize contacted Mikey Weinstein, founder and president of the Military Religious Freedom Foundation, who lodged a complaint with base officials. Weinstein subsequently spoke by phone with Col. Brett Sylvia, the division’s chief of staff, who is currently deployed with the headquarters to Afghanistan.

………

But Weinstein said he was informed on Friday morning that the inquiry had become a 15-6 investigation. That type of inquiry hints at the severity of the allegations and how seriously the Army is taking them, according to Weinstein.

“About 10 percent of the cases I file with the Army become 15-6 investigations,” he said.

Mize and her family have never been paid for the services they provide for the roughly 80 members of the Jewish community on Fort Campbell.
The nearest synagogue is about 50 miles away, and it appears that the chaplains were attempting to force Mize out for some time.

The term for the chaplain's behavior is, "Contrary to good order and discipline."