31 December 2018

For the New Year, I'll Be Rooting for the Isolationist Right

Not the "Right" part, I remain a pinko, but the "Isolationist" part.

These days, the only people who seem to be opposing the the US archipelago of wars around the world are the isolationist right, as shown by this essay in American Conservative.

Unfortunately, the (very) few mainstream anti-War voices on the left are largely silent these days, because of the fear of being seen as supporting Trump, but we do have meaningful movement supporting a reduction of America's imperial ambitions on the right:
The mainstream media has attacked President Donald Trump’s decision to withdraw U.S. troops from Syria as impulsive, blindsiding his own national security team. But detailed, published accounts of the policy process over the course of the year tell a very different story. They show that senior national security officials and self-interested institutions have been playing a complicated political game for months aimed at keeping Trump from wavering on our indefinite presence on the ground in Syria.

The entire episode thus represents a new variant of a familiar pattern dating back to Vietnam in which national security advisors put pressure on reluctant presidents to go along with existing or proposed military deployments in a war zone. The difference here is that Trump, by publicly choosing a different policy, has blown up their transparent schemes and offered the country a new course, one that does not involve a permanent war state.
The article is worth a read, as well as some serious consideration for the upcoming year.

30 December 2018

Someone Is Losing Their Job

It appears that the shutdown of Gatwick airport may have been caused by police drones, and not some nefarious terrorist or prankster:
Some of the drone sightings which kept Gatwick Airport on lockdown for 36 hours may have been reports of Sussex Police's own aircraft, the force's highest-ranking officer admitted yesterday.

Police received 115 reports of sightings in the area surrounding the airfield, including 92 confirmed by Sussex Police's Chief Constable Giles York as coming from "credible people".

But the force launched its own drone to search for what officers believed at the time to be malicious aircraft deliberately being flown above the runway in the early hours of December 19 to intentionally force Gatwick to shut down.
Well, the behavior to this point DOES seem to reek of authorities covering up their own incompetence.

Gatwick was shut down for 3 days at the height of the holiday travel season, and if this turns out to be a police screw up, there will be hell to pay.

Irony Much?


The whole internet business model is f%$#ed up and sh%$.

Hoo Boy!

You know the Russian meddling in the Senate election where Doug Jones defeated Roy "10 Commandments" Moore?

It not turns out that it was a false flag operation by a Democratic Party consultant: (I'm sure that he was well remunerated)
Reid Hoffman, the tech billionaire whose money was spent on Russian-style social media deception in a Senate race last year, apologized on Wednesday, saying in a statement that he had not approved the operation and did not support such tactics in American politics.

Why am I thinking that Mr. Hoffman is lying through his teeth, and that he either knew what was going on, or was willfully blind?

Mr. Hoffman said he had no idea that political operatives whose work he had financed had used fakery on Facebook and Twitter in the special Senate election a year ago in Alabama. But he had an obligation to track how his money was spent, he said, and he promised to exercise more care in the future.

………

The New York Times and The Washington Post reported last week that $100,000 from Mr. Hoffman was spent on a deceptive social media campaign to aid Doug Jones, the Democratic candidate, who barely defeated the Republican, Roy Moore.

………

They also used thousands of Twitter accounts to make it appear as if automated Russian bot accounts were following and supporting Mr. Moore, according to an internal report on the project. The apparent Russian support for Mr. Moore drew broad news media coverage.
(emphasis mine)

It really remarkable just how facile the Democratic Party political consultant community has in stepping on their own penises.

Yet another example of how the Dems snatch defeat from the jaws of victory.

We really need to fire the whole lot of them.

Gee, You Make Their Working Conditions Hell, and Attack Their Pay and Benefits, and They Walk Away

After over 2 decades of a war on the teaching profession, it appears that teachers are now fleeing the professions:
Teachers and other public education employees, such as community-college faculty, school psychologists and janitors, are quitting their jobs at the fastest rate on record, government data shows.

A tight labor market with historically low unemployment has encouraged Americans in a variety of occupations to quit their jobs at elevated rates, with the expectation they can find something better. But quitting among public educators stands out because the field is one where stability is viewed as a key perk and longevity often rewarded.

The educators may be finding new jobs at other schools, or leaving education altogether: The departures come alongside protests this year in six states where teachers in some cases shut down schools over tight budgets, small raises and poor conditions.

………

The rising number of departures among public education workers is in contrast with 2009, when the economy was first emerging from a deep recession. Then, the rate was just 48 per 10,000 public education workers, a record low.

………

School districts have reported since at least 2015 having trouble finding enough qualified teachers to fill open slots, leading more states to open up temporary teaching jobs to people with no official training, according to the Learning Policy Institute, a nonpartisan education-policy research group. The rate at which qualified teachers are leaving the profession is likely to exacerbate that trend.

In the 12 months ended in October, one million workers quit public-education positions, according to the most recent Labor Department data. More than 10 million Americans work in the field.

………

In at least 12 states, public education budgets are down at least 7% from 2009 levels, adjusted for inflation, according to an analysis of census data by the left-leaning Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. Teacher pay across the country, adjusted for inflation, is now 5% lower than it was in 2009, according to data from the National Education Association, the nation’s largest teachers union.

Wages and salaries for public-education workers rose 2.2% in the third quarter from a year earlier, not adjusting for inflation. That matched the largest annual raise in nearly a decade, but was still well below the 3.1% annual increase in pay private-sector workers received in the third quarter, according to the Labor Department.

Sluggish pay gains have been tougher to swallow as more states require that teachers earn master’s degrees to work in the classroom, an expensive proposition that led more teachers to take out loans.

Tensions over inadequate pay and per-pupil funding levels came to a head in 2018 during statewide protests, in some cases shutting classrooms for as many as nine school days. The strikes produced modest gains in the states where they occurred—teachers in Arizona, West Virginia and Oklahoma all received raises—but they also popularized images of dilapidated textbooks and school rooms and portraits of teachers who took on odd jobs to make ends meet.
People are no longer entering the profession, enrollment in education schools has fallen as well.

They have been systematically removing pay, benefits, and job security while making the working conditions more punitive, and they are surprised when less people want that life?

This is econ 101, and kindergarten labor relations.

29 December 2018

I Wish I Could Talk to My Dad about This


Before the Demolition
Developers in the Bay Area have a trick: They historically significant properties, and get permission to renovate them

They then demolish the buildings, and rebuild them as urban mansions, and then they resell the properties to overpaid Silicon Valley executives for millions of dollars in profits.

It is a plague on the Fog City, andthe City Planning Commission has just opened up a can of whup-ass on a developer who did this:
A property owner who illegally demolished a 1936 Twin Peaks house designed by a renowned modernist must rebuild an exact replica of the home rather than the much larger structure the property owner had proposed replacing it with, the City Planning Commission ruled this week.

………

In a unanimous 5-0 vote late Thursday night, the commission also ordered that the property owner — Ross Johnston, through his 49 Hopkins LLC — include a sidewalk plaque telling the story of the original house designed by architect Richard Neutra, the demolition and the replica.

The commission directive, unprecedented in San Francisco, comes more than a year after the home at 49 Hopkins Ave., known as the Largent House, was almost entirely knocked down. All that remained of the white, two-story redwood-and-concrete-block home was a garage door and frame.

Johnston had received planning permission only to remodel with a design that would have largely kept the first floor of the existing home intact.

………

The case attracted attention because Neutra is considered one of the most important modern architects and because it highlighted the trend of speculators illegally razing modest homes with the intention of replacing them with mega-homes. The new houses can fetch upward of $5 million, double or triple the price of an average house in already expensive San Francisco.

Planning Commissioner Dennis Richards said he hopes the commission’s action in the 49 Hopkins case will send a message to speculators accustomed to ignoring city planning and building laws with few or no repercussions. 
My dad spent his professional career as a city planner, and it was sh%$ like this that made him tremendously cynical about his chosen profession.

I think that he would have pleased and surprised, as well as a bit dubious about the final outcome, at this news, but I'll never know.

Snark of the Day

I am not a fan of Nancy Pelosi.

Whatever her personal politics, it is clear that as speaker she is hostage to the big dollar donors in her official capacity as Speaker, and her obsession with "pay-go" is a disaster for the party and the country.

That being said, her characterization of Trump's wall proposal as a, "Beaded Curtain," is brilliant:
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) joked in a recent interview that President Trump's proposal for a wall along the southern border has shifted from a cement structure to a "beaded curtain."

"First of all, the fact ... that he says, ‘We're going to build a wall with cement, and Mexico's going to pay for it’ while he's already backed off of the cement — now he's down to, I think, a beaded curtain or something, I'm not sure where he is," Pelosi said in an interview with USA Today published Tuesday.
I love it.

28 December 2018

Gaah!!!!!!!!!!!!!


Not My Happy Face
Everyone left work early today, so I decided to get Chinese at my favorite Chinese buffet in the area, as it is on the way home.

I really shouldn't, because I tend to eat too much, and most of that stuff is really not particularly healthy, particularly if, as I do, you do lots of dumplings, kabobs, and ribs.

Well, it appears that the universe conspired to punish me for this act, because when I went in and paid for my meal, you pay upon entry, they gave me the senior citizen discount WITHOUT MY ASKING.

Hell, I didn't even know that they HAD a senior citizen discount.

I am not amused.  Not ……… One ……… Bit.

27 December 2018

Can We Just Give the Whales Weapons and Let the Chips Fall Where They May?

On Wednesday, Japan announced that it was pulling out of the International Whaling Commission (IWC), a step that will allow it to restart commercial whaling in the spring. The move comes after a failed attempt to get the IWC to set legal quotas for legal hunting by its members. For whales, the news is good and bad: the move with shift Japan's hunting to its territorial waters, and away from the healthier populations in the Antarctic.

The plunge in whale populations in the 1970s ultimately resulted in an international moratorium on the commercial hunting of whales. The IWC allowed some exemptions for subsistence hunting among native populations, and left a loophole for killing whales in the course of scientific research. Japan exploited that loophole, sending large vessels to the Antarctic that killed hundreds of whales annually, with their meat ending up for sale in Japan.

But Australia, which has put whale sanctuaries in place to protect Antarctic populations, took Japan to the International Court of Justice and won a suit over the practice. The International Court determined that there was little to Japan's claim that its whaling program was for science, as the country had never explored non-lethal alternatives or determined whether the number of whales it killed was appropriate to answer any scientific questions.
Japan has literally years of whale meat stored on ice, because even the Japanese don't want to eat cetacean flesh any more.

This is a pissing contents engaged on the backs of aquatic mammals.

I'm hoping that someone blows up the whole f%$#ing fleet, but I'm a very bad person.

India: 1 — Amazon and Walmart: 0

India has significant restrictions on foreign goods entering its consumer markets, and now it has ruled that Amazon and Walmart cannot buy Indian sellers to use as a pass thru for its products:
The Indian government dealt a surprise blow on Wednesday to the e-commerce ambitions of Amazon and Walmart, effectively barring the American companies from selling products supplied by affiliated companies on their Indian shopping sites and from offering their customers special discounts or exclusive products.

If strictly interpreted, the new policies could force significant changes in the India strategies of the retail giants. Amazon might have to stop competing with independent sellers and end its offerings of proprietary products like its Echo smart speakers in India, its top emerging market.

For Walmart, which spent $16 billion this year to buy 77 percent of Flipkart, India’s leading online retailer, the new rules could hamper its strategy of selling clothing and other products under its own private brands and prevent it from using its supply-chain expertise and clout with retailers to drive down prices for Indian consumers.
Or drive wages down, and local vendors and manufacturers out out of business.

And then they use their monopsony power over the labor market to turn their workplaces into freakish hellscapes.

It's just what they do.
………

Prime Minister Narendra Modi of India initially courted foreign companies to invest more in the country after his 2014 election victory, but his administration has turned protectionist as his party’s re-election prospects have dimmed in recent months. Mr. Modi has increasingly sought to bolster Indian firms and curb foreign ones through new policies, including one that requires foreign companies like Visa, Mastercard and American Express to store all data about Indians on computers inside the country. The government has also declared its intention to impose tough new rules on the technology industry.

The new e-commerce rules seemed to be an attempt by Mr. Modi to placate small traders, who have been hurt by his tax and financial policies, ahead of national elections next May, analysts said. The changes would also help Paytm, a local payments company that operates a digital mall, and Reliance Industries, an Indian conglomerate with online retail ambitions that is controlled by Mukesh Ambani, India’s richest man and a political patron of Mr. Modi.

Under Indian law, foreign-owned retailers were already barred from selling any products directly on their own e-commerce sites. In response, Amazon and Flipkart, which has long had foreign investors, set up partially owned affiliated companies to sell products like groceries, electronics and books on their sites. The arrangements gave them more control over customer service and allowed them to sell some products at prices below those offered by independent sellers.

The new policies appear to close that loophole. They also prevent the online platforms from striking deals to sell products exclusively, which they frequently do now for hot items like new phone models.
Modi is a religious bigot and a a fascist.

Amazon and Walmart are Amazon and Walmart.

My hope is not that one or the other wins, but that somehow, both sides lose.

I Firmly Believe That If You Can't Fool All of the People All of the Time You Should Start Breeding Them for Stupidity*

I think that we have determined a method to Valdimir Putin's various machinations.

He is determined to ensure that blithering idiots and delusional megalomaniacs take power in countries he considers a crucial to Russian interests:
Russia warned the U.S. against any effort to influence the royal succession in Saudi Arabia, offering its support to embattled Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who’s under continuing pressure over the killing of a government critic.

President Vladimir Putin’s envoy to the Middle East said Prince Mohammed has every right to inherit the throne when the ailing 82-year-old King Salman dies.

“Of course we are against interference. The Saudi people and leadership must decide such questions themselves,” Mikhail Bogdanov, who is also deputy foreign minister, said in an interview in Moscow on Tuesday. “The King made a decision and I can’t even imagine on what grounds someone in America will interfere in such an issue and think about who should rule Saudi Arabia, now or in the future. This is a Saudi matter.”
When you look at the various allegations of meddling by Putin, allegations that he supported Trump,. Erdoğan, le Pen, Modi, and now MBS.

It makes his life a lot easier when people that you have to deal with are stupid, monomaniacal,  and/or delusional.

*President Adam Weisshaupt (from Dave Sim’s Cerebus)

26 December 2018

First, You Burn down Parliament, and THEN You Go with Slave Labor

It appears that Hungarian PM Viktor Orban has moved too quickly to make slave labor a reality in his country:
Viktor Orban, the far-right prime minister of Hungary, has been confronted by an unusually persistent wave of street protests after pushing through a bill this month that could require workers to put in up to 400 hours of overtime — a measure that opponents call a “slave law.”

About 5,000 demonstrators took to the streets of Budapest again on Friday, after President Janos Ader signed the bill into law. In a radio interview Friday morning, Mr. Orban dismissed opposition to the changes as “hysterical shouting.”

Since re-entering office in 2010, Mr. Orban has made a series of moves that have set off alarms among European allies and others in Hungary: curbing judicial independence, restricting news media freedom and plurality, and blatantly enriching his business allies. But few of his actions have ignited such anger as the changes to the labor law.

What does the law say?

The amendments to the Hungarian labor code passed by the governing majority in Parliament raise the yearly cap on overtime to 400 hours from 250, and gives companies three years instead of one to pay for the work.

In some cases it also lets them avoid paying extra for overtime, allowing them to compensate some employees at their regular hourly rate instead, experts said.

………

Analysts say the labor law changes have struck a rare chord among ordinary Hungarians, including outside the opposition heartland of the capital, Budapest, because the issue affects their daily lives.

………

Why did the government take this step?

The government needs Hungarians to accept longer hours because the country is running out of workers.

As many as 350,000 Hungarians, or more than 5 percent of the country’s working-age population, are working in another part of the European Union, according to Mr. Kollo.
These people have left to work elsewhere because pay is complete sh%$ in Hungary.

You have people voting with their feet.
Opponents of the changes argue that they were passed as a favor to multinational companies like German automakers, which have built plants in the country in recent years and whose economic model depends on a cheap and flexible work force.
And there you have it:  It's a desperate race to the bottom, and this is a (possibly the) core EU value, which, ironically enough, has denied Orban the freedom of action that (for example) Mussolini had in the 1920s.

It will be fascinating to see where this ends, but my guess is that it's time for the ordinary Hungarian to get the f%$# out of Dodge.

Unleashing the Power of the Private Sector

The price inflation in medicaid has tripled after Iowa privatized the program.

Obviously, it's a limited sample, but when one considers that this has almost always been the case with the private sector running healthcare, it should come as not surprise:
The average cost of insuring an Iowan on Medicaid has climbed nearly three times as fast since the state hired private companies to manage the program, when compared to the previous six years, new state figures show.

Since fiscal 2017, the first full year of privatization, the per-member cost of Iowa's Medicaid program has risen an average of 4.4 percent per year, according to the non-partisan Legislative Services Agency. In the previous six years, the per-member cost rose an average of 1.5  percent per year, the agency said.

The new cost figures come amid continuing controversy over whether Iowa should have hired private companies to run the $5 billion program. The shift’s supporters said it would slow growth in health care spending on the more than 600,000 poor or disabled Iowans covered by Medicaid.
It was never about making Medicaid working better, it was about making it worse, as well as being about shoveling money to politically connected contractors.

This is a feature, not a bug.

According to the Customs of My People, Chinese and a Movie on Christmas

Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse

Cast:
Shameik Moore ... Miles Morales (voice)
Jake Johnson ... Peter B. Parker (voice)
Hailee Steinfeld ... Gwen Stacy (voice)
Mahershala Ali ... Uncle Aaron (voice)
Brian Tyree Henry ... Jefferson Davis (voice)
Lily Tomlin ... Aunt May (voice)
Luna Lauren Velez ... Rio Morales (voice)
Zoë Kravitz ... Mary Jane (voice)
John Mulaney ... Spider-Ham (voice)
Kimiko Glenn ... Peni Parker (voice)
Nicolas Cage ... Spider-Man Noir (voice)
Kathryn Hahn ... Doc Ock (voice)
Liev Schreiber ... Wilson Fisk (voice)
Chris Pine ... Peter Parker (voice)
Natalie Morales ... Miss Calleros (voice)
Edwin H. Bravo ... Brooklyn Visions Security Guard (voice)
Oscar Isaac ... Interesting Person #1 (voice)
Greta Lee ... Interesting Person #2 (voice)
Stan Lee ... Stan (voice)
Jorma Taccone ... Green Goblin / Last Dude (voice)
Joaquín Cosio ... Scorpion (voice)
Marvin "Krondon" Jones III ... Tombstone (voice) (as Marvin Jones III)


Directors:
Directors: Bob Persichetti, Peter Ramsey, Rodney Rothman
Writers: Phil Lord, Rodney Rothman


Yes, it's better than the trailer
This is a spoiler free review, of Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, and I will not go into the minutae of the plot beyond what you can see in the (attached) trailer.

Charlie and I saw this, while Sharon* and Nat saw Mary Queen of Scotts, because Sharon* was not interested in seeing an animated superhero movie, and I have always had a visceral loathing of Mary I of Scotland, so I did not want to see the movie.

Natalie was up for both, but went, and enjoyed, Mary Queen of Scotts, which was probably best for her.

The basic plot is that Wilson Fisk (The Kingpin) is engaging in dimension spanning experiments to further his nefarious (but understandable) aims.

This threatens the very fabric of existence, and brings other Spider beings into Miles Morales' universe.

Miles Morales must learn how to use his powers and work with other Spider folks in order to do this.

It's a rather ordinary Spider-Man plot with a multiverse thrown in, but really, you don't go to this movie for the plot, you go to the movie for the characters and the art direction.

The characterization, and dialogue, are very good.

"How good?", you ask?

So good that I did not find Nicholas Cage, who voiced Spider-Man Noir, annoying.

The performances are all top flight, with Kathryn Hahn's performance as Doc Ock, and Hailee Steinfeld's performance as Gwen Stacy being the strongest.

As to the art direction, it was magnificent.

First, they had a clear vision, and a reason to use animation as a result.

Second, their vision recreated the medium of the printed comic book to a degree I have never seen.

In addition to using the classic boxes for internal dialogue, they treated the background in a way that evoked the occasionally problematic color registration issues present in comic books, along with the occasional captioned sound effects.

One health note here:  If you have an issue with flashing lights,  migraines or a seizure disorder, it might be triggering.

Nat was having a mild migraine yesterday, which is why it was good that she saw Mary Queen of Scotts instead. You probably want to make sure that you are ready for what is a very vibrant style on that day.

One final note, it has what will be one of  Stan Lee's final cameos, with him telling Milo that about his Spider-Man costume, "It always fits -- eventually,"  pulls at the heart strings.

There is also a blink-and-you-miss-it call out to Steve Ditko.

Finally, (do I need to say this for a Marvel Studios Film?) SIT THROUGH THE WHOLE CREDITS.  Seriously.

Overall rating: 9 of 10.

As to the Chinese food, we had dinner after seeing the movies, and I shared Peking Duck with Sharon* at David Chu's, a local kosher Chinese eatery, which I highly recommend.

That duck is why I did not write the review last night. It's delicious, but it is perhaps the best sleeping aid that I have ever encountered.

I was sleeping like a baby at 8:30 pm.

*Love of my life, light of the  cosmos, she  who must be obeyed, my wife.

25 December 2018

Headline of the Day

Banks Allegedly Rigged Sovereign Bonds, Because They Exist
Dealbreaker
A good summary of our financial system in a nutshell.

24 December 2018

Italy Just Caved

The Italian government has capitulated to Brussels on its budget:
Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte forged a deal with populist leaders to submit a revised budget proposal to the European Commission, in a bid to avert fines against Italy.

Conte’s euroskeptic deputies Matteo Salvini and Luigi Di Maio, who hold most of the political power in the administration, set aside their opposition to concessions at talks running late into Sunday night and agreed on a new package to send to Brussels, government officials said.
Because shrinking your economy is the best way to get out of debt, if you are a mad dog or a German economist.

The Italian budget is already in primary surplus (excluding debt payments), but more cuts are demanded because of an unwillingness to recognize that Brussels', and Berlin's, world view is creating poverty and right wing populism.

Headline of the Day

The Guy Who Taught Trump to Tweet Owes Us All a Goddamn Apology
GQ on Justin McConney, who inadvertently taught Trump to Tweet
He's a social media consultant, who should try to find an honest line of work.

Linkage


I'm surprised that anyone found this in the article, it is tiny:

23 December 2018

What Have They Got to Hide?

Inglewood, California, a municipality with a horrible record on police shootings and other law enforcement misconduct, is planning to destroy police records ahead of a California law coming into force that makes these records public.

My only conclusion is that the actual records will confirm that their problem is far worse than has been reported:
The city of Inglewood has authorized the shredding of more than 100 police shooting and other internal investigation records weeks before a new state law could allow the public to access them for the first time.

The decision, made at a City Council meeting earlier this month, has troubled civil liberties advocates who were behind the state legislation, Senate Bill 1421, which takes effect Jan. 1. The law opens to the public internal investigations of officer shootings and other major uses of force, along with confirmed cases of sexual assault and lying while on duty.

“The legislature passed SB 1421 because communities demanded an end to the secrecy cloaking police misconduct and use of force,” Marcus Benigno, a spokesman for the American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California, said in a statement. “Inglewood PD’s decision to purge records undermines police accountability and transparency against the will of Californians.”

………

Inglewood City Council approved the destruction of records that have been in the police department’s possession — more than 100 cases — longer than required by law. The city staff report and council resolution describing the action makes no mention of the new police transparency law. Instead it says the affected records are “obsolete, occupy valuable space, and are of no further use to the police department.” It added the traditional method of destroying such records is to shred them.

………

The Inglewood Police Department has a reputation for secrecy and using excessive force. In 2008, the department's officers fatally shot four men in as many months, three of whom turned out to be unarmed. The U.S. Department of Justice launched a civil rights probe and found significant flaws in the way the department oversaw use-of-force cases and investigated complaints against officers.

Civil rights advocates still question why Inglewood police opened fire on a couple found sleeping in a car in 2016, killing them both.
I'm sure that the police told the Inglewood City Council, that this was the only way to avoid liability, but that's a lie.

The only people being protected here are the police, the city will have any defense hamstrung by things like Federal Court Rule 37 on discovery.

Of course, the police did not tell the councilmen about that, because at the end of the day, the police work for the police.

Good Point

The good folks at El Reg make a very good point about how Facebook's recent problems may pose an existential threat, because, "No one likes a lying asshole."

Increasingly, we are seeing people looking for ways out of Facebook, and this is why:
Let's get one thing straight right off the bat: Facebook, its CEO Mark Zuckerberg, and its COO Sheryl Sandberg, and its public relations people, and its engineers have lied. They have lied repeatedly. They have lied exhaustively. They have lied so much they've lost track of their lies, and then lied about them.

………

By any measure, Facebook as an organization has knowingly, willingly, purposefully, and repeatedly lied. And two reports this week demonstrate that the depth of its lying was even worse than we previously imagined.

Before we dig into the lies, though, it's worth asking the question: why? Why has the corporation got itself into this position, and why does it have to be dragged kicking and screaming, time and again, to confront what it already knows to be true?

………

Mark Zuckerberg knows that all too well, and as internal emails handed over to the British Parliament and then published make clear, the top tier of Facebook was highly focused on that question of existential dread: how do we avoid becoming the next MySpace, Geocities, Google Plus, or Friendster?

………

And the answer was the smart one: make yourself a part of the digital ecosystem. Yes, Facebook was completely reliant on its users, but everyone else wanted those users, too, and while it had them, the corporation needed to make sure it became enmeshed in as many other systems as possible.

………

Facebook started cutting shadier and shadier deals to protect its bottom line. Its policy people started developing language that carefully skirted around reality; and its lawyers began working on semantic workarounds so that the Silicon Valley titan could make what looked like firm and unequivocal statements on privacy and data control, but in fact allowed things to continue on exactly as they had. What was being shared was not always completely clear.

………

Well, you can do all that, and still Facebook will know where you are and sell that information to others.

To which the natural question is: how? Well, we have what we believe to be the technical answer. But the real answer is: because it lies. Because that information is valuable to it. Because that information forms the basis of mutually reinforcing data-sharing agreements with all the companies that could one day kill Facebook by simply shrugging their shoulders.

………

What Zuckerberg didn't factor into his strategic masterstroke, however, was one critical detail: no one likes a liar. And when you lie repeatedly, to people's faces, you go from liar to lying asshole. And lying asshole is enough to make people delete your app.
And to think, only a year ago, people were mooting Mark Zuckerberg as a presidential candidate.

Bye Felicia………

It looks like Uber's business model has just become illegal in the UK:
Uber has lost its latest court bid to stop its British drivers being classified as workers, entitling them to rights such as the minimum wage, in a decision which jeopardizes the taxi app's business model.

Two drivers successfully argued at a tribunal in 2016 that the Silicon Valley firm exerted significant control over them to provide an on-demand service, and that they should cease to be considered as self-employed, which gives few protections in law.

An employment appeal tribunal upheld that decision last year, prompting Uber to go to the Court of Appeal. On Wednesday, a majority of judges there said they agreed with the previous verdicts and rejected Uber's arguments.

………

Uber said it would appeal the verdict, meaning the legal process will continue.

………
In Britain, the self-employed are entitled to only basic protections such as health and safety, but workers receive the minimum wage, paid holidays and rest breaks. Uber has introduced a number of benefits for drivers this year.
Uber's business model is predicated on abusing its workers and evading regulations.

It's really nice to see the noose tightening.

I just hope that the bubble bursts before the IPO, so that the early funders lose their shirts.

22 December 2018

Tweet of the Day


Bitcoin in a nutshell.

This is Trippy

One sees a number of proposals for using distributed electric propulsion for vertical takeoff and landing systems, but this is without a doubt the oddest concept that I've seen yet:
A vertical-takeoff-and-landing (VTOL) design with wings that both tilt and fold, providing stable hover and efficient flight, is under development by Boston-area startup PteroDynamics. The company is targeting the military unmanned-aircraft market initially, but has ambitions to develop an air taxi.

In PteroDynamics’ Transwing concept, the wings tilt and fold back along the fuselage, and the aircraft acts like a multicopter in vertical flight. To transition to forward flight, the wings rotate into horizontal position, allowing the Transwing to fly like a conventional aeroplane.

“Our vehicle is completely unique,” says CEO Matthew Graczyk. “It’s 100% fixed wing in horizontal flight and 100% rotary wing in vertical flight, with no compromises.” Unlike a tiltwing, the Transwing can transition between vertical and forward flight with no stall range, he says. The aircraft can have a long wing for cruise efficiency, but folds into a compact size for VTOL.

………

PteroDynamics has flown a 12-ft.-span model, but has not yet attempted transition between vertical and horizontal flight and does not know how well the design scales. “We did get lucky with the prototype,” says Petrov. “What will happen at 40-ft. or 400-ft. span we don’t know, but as we understand how it works we see no fundamental reason it will not scale.”

As the wing rotates aft it has more dihedral and sweep and the angle of attack never exceeds 20 deg., while propeller wash helps prevent flow separation. “A tiltwing goes past 45 deg. into wing stall and the wing becomes an obstacle to forward flight,” Petrov says. Transwing “can stall, but mildly. We tufted the wing and video shows the airflow does separate, but not badly. Mostly the flow stays attached.”

Petrov describes the tilt/fold articulation as similar to the wing-fold mechanism on Grumman carrier-based aircraft such as the Avenger and Hellcat, except that Transwing folds leading edge up. The hinge mechanism will carry high loads, but reinforcement of the wing at the fold “should not penalize the aircraft too much, perhaps 5% of maximum takeoff weight,” he says.
I can't wait for a full size test.

I Have Released a My First Ever Piece of Software

When the Firefox browser was updated from 56 to 57 (Quantum) the previous browser addon technologies (XUL/XPCOM) were obsoleted and replaced with the (less powerful) Web Extensions API.

One that I could not live without was BBCodeXtra, which provided a context menu which allowed various tags in bbCode, vBulletin, Markdown, and HTML to be automated, along with users to create custom tags.

Right now, it is largely a copy of the menu structure of BBCodeXtra.

(on edit) I now have the program up on the releases page at gitHub.

As soon as this is on addons.mozilla.org, I will post the link to that here. 


BbCodeWebEx Change Log

  • 7 January 2019, Version 0.1.0
Beta release.  Can be downloaded from it's GitHub release page.
  • 23 December, 2018, Version 0.0.1
Alpha release to Github

bbCodeWebEx Quick Start Guide

(click on any image to see a larger popup)

Description
When you right click on text in a text box, it provides a context menu that allows you to apply formatting in bbCode, vBulletin, HTML, XHTML, Markdown, and user defined (custom) tags.

As you can see, I have not yet figured out how to create a color wheel for font color, so it's just a sub menu. (I'm working on it)


Settings
The settings page allows you to activate or deactivate menus.

You simply select or deselect the check boxes, and then click "save menu options."

Since vBulletin is a superset of bbCode, the vBulletin menu is a submenu of bbCode menu, and if you deactivate bbCode, you deactivate vbulletin as well.

Custom Tags
If you click on the "custom tags" button, the custom tags page will popup, either as a new tab or as a window depending on your browser settings.

You can re order the tags by dragging and dropping the rows, but you cannot drag anything to the bottom row. You must drag to the 2nd row from the bottom, and then drag the bottom row up. (I'm working on it)

Once you have finished, click the "Save Tag Order" button.

To edit a tag, click, select a tag from the list, and it will populate the input boxes at the bottom of the page.

Make any changes you might want to the Menu Title and Menu Argument input boxes, and then click "Save Custom Tag", and it will be updated in the list.

The two simplest, and most commonly used, tokens for making an argument to be used in a menu are are: (Other, more complex, tags, are described in the detailed documentation)
  • {{selection}}
  • {{clipboard}}

An example of the use of selection would be
<b><span style="font-size: 100%; font-variant: small-caps;">{{selection}}</span></b>
which makes the selected text bold and small caps.

An example of the use of clipboard would be:
<img src="{{clipboard}}">
Which takes the content of the clipboard, and pastes it into the html code for an image.

If you want to delete a tag, click on it, and it will populate the input boxes at the bottom of the page.

When you click the delete button, you will be asked to confirm, and then the custom tag will be deleted.

To create a tag, click on the "New Tag" button, and the "Menu ID" input box (you cannot change this value), and the "Parent Menu" input boxes will be filled in. (you cannot change this value either)

Enter a title for the sub menu and an argument, and then click "Save Custom Tag", and it will be added to the bottom of the list.

To export your custom tags, click on the "Export Settings…" button, and you will be warned that things like unsaved new and edited tags will be deleted. If you are OK with that, click OK, and save the file, which will have the name "bbCode_WebEx_YYYY-MM-DD.json" will be saved to disk.

To import your custom tags, click on the "Import Settings…" button. You will be asked to confirm, because this will erase your existing tags, (Back up first) and then you can use your file dialog box to load a file.

Export and import files must/will be JSON array file format.

bbCodeWebEx Custom Tags & Advanced Use


Available codes:

(Note: these are case sensitive, and they can be used multiple times in a single menu.)
  • {{clipboard}}: This pastes in the current clipboard contents where it is placed.
  • {{selection}}: This pastes in the currently selected texts where it is placed.
Example: [url={{clipboard}}]{{selection}}[/url]
So if you copy a url, and select text, this would add a link to it for bbCode, and around the code words are double curly braces, "{}".

Here is an example of using the tag more than once.

This right justifies an image, sizes it to 200 pixels wide, and adds a link to the fullsize image that pops up in blogger:

<a href="{{clipboard}}"><img src="{{clipboard}}" style="margin: 0px 0px 10px 10px; float: right; cursor: pointer;" width="200"></a>

Nice picture, huh?

Don't hate me because I'm beautiful.


JSON array format:

It is basically a text format (UTF-8 character set) that this extension uses to externally save data.

Here are the first three standard custom tags that come with the extension.

Note that the last one does NOT have a comma after the closing curly brace.

Theoretically, you could manually edit these, and if you wanted to combine two sets of custom tags, you could with a cut and paste, making sure that all of the closing closing braces are followed by a comma, except for the last one.

[
  {
    "menuId": "bbcwbx.custom.001",
    "menuTitle": "First custom menu",
    "parentId": "bbcwbx.custom",
    "menuArg": "Arg 1",
     "icons": ""
  },
  {
    "menuId": "bbcwbx.custom.002",
    "menuTitle": "Second custom menu",
    "parentId": "bbcwbx.custom",
    "menuArg": "Arg 2",
     "icons": ""
  },
  {
    "menuId": "bbcwbx.custom.003",
    "menuTitle": "Third custom menu",
    "parentId": "bbcwbx.custom",
    "menuArg": "Arg 3",
     "icons": ""
  }
]
The indents and the new lines here just for readability.

21 December 2018

Quote of the Day

Trump should build his Wall out of Hillary’s Emails since no one can seem to get over them.
I have no clue as to the source, it was related to me 3rd hand, but it is f%$#ing brilliant.

Qu'ils Mangent De La Brioche

The French police are seriously considering joining the gilets jaunes protesters because of how they have been treated:
The French government is desperately trying to keep its exhausted police force onside following weeks of violent protests demanding economic reforms, improved living standards and the resignation of President Emmanuel Macron.

On Wednesday, French officials met with police trade union leaders to work out a deal to soothe anger in law enforcement ranks regarding overwork, unpaid overtime and difficult working conditions, Le Monde reported.


………

Police have accumulated some 23 million hours of overtime that is yet to be paid. According to The Local France, police union leader Frédéric Lagache explained, “Faced with this irresponsibility [of the government], we are forced to be irresponsible in our actions.”
It really is remarkable just how badly Macron is screwing this all up.

I'm waiting for him to start a speech with, well, you know.

It's Turtles All the Way Down

I read a very interesting review of Bad Blood: Secrets and Lies in a Silicon Valley Startup by Wall Street Journal reporter John Carreyrou.

It's about the Theranos, Elizabeth Holmes, and the culture of what can only be called charismatic fraud at the now shuttered blood test firm.

It provides a lot of insight into what went wrong, and the review very ably provides a summary of what happened and why.

On the other hand, when one looks at a history of Silicon Valley startups, the only difference between them and Theranos is that Theranos was operating in the real world with a real product that depended on real chemistry and real physics.

I'm wondering if the real issue with the entire Theranos affair might not be how a blond in a black turtleneck managed to defraud a very large number of investors, but instead that this is simply business as usual.

When one looks at Silicon Valley Firms, with very few exceptions, the business models frequently seem to be predicated on regulatory arbitrage (cheating, see Uber, AirBnB, etc), or having no viable business plan (Uber again, and various startups whose founders made their money from being bought out), etc.

I refer to the above as, "Turtles all the way down".

I'd really like to see a US Attorney go zero tolerance on this sort of crap.

20 December 2018

Oh, the Horror!!!

The powers that be in the UK are freaking out over a proposal to set a minimum wage of £30,000 for immigrants admitted as "Highly Skilled".

By way of perspective, at the current exchange rate, that translates is about $38,000 a year, or a bit over $18/hour, or about 3 bucks more than Bernie's proposed minimum wage here in the US.

Econ 101: if you pay a decent wage, they will come:
Proposals for a minimum annual wage could see the UK without tens of thousands of doctors, nurses and teachers.

Industry leaders have stressed ‘high skills do not equal high pay’ as the government seeks to curb immigration after Brexit.
………

Mr Javid confirmed the Government would be scrapping the current 20,700 annual cap on ‘highly skilled migrants.’

It will now set a minimum salary for workers applying for five-year visas and they would need to be sponsored by a company.

The Migration Advisory Committee (MAC) have recommended a £30,000 threshold.


………

The starting salary for nurses, midwives and paramedics is £23,000. Junior doctors start at £27,000 while healthcare assistants are at £17,000.

Most scientific researchers also earn below the proposed threshold.
I think that I may have identified a significant problem in the UK:  They have set up an economy where the City of London (finance) is impoverishing the rest of the nation.

<Crocodile Dundee> That's Not a Purity Troll………

This is a purity troll: </Crocodile Dundee>

A Second Term for Trump is Better Than Beto
Benjamin Studebaker
Seriously, this is f%$#ed up and sh%$.

Tweet(s) of the Day



and this:



Maybe Claire McKaskill lost her bid for reelection because she did not reflect the values of her state, but rather she reflected the values of the Wall Street banksters.

19 December 2018

Headline of the Day

Deportations under Trump Are on the Rise but Still Lower Than Obama's, ICE Report Shows

It must really chap Trump's ass to be second best to Obama on this.

Why Are These Folks Not in Jail?

It appears that some schools are routinely fitting disabled students with shock belts.

This is evil beyond belief:
An international body entrusted with upholding human rights across the Americas has called for an immediate ban on the controversial use of electric shocks on severely disabled children in a school outside Boston.

The Judge Rotenberg Center in Canton, Massachusetts, is believed to be the only school in the world that routinely inflicts high-powered electric shocks as a form of punishment on vulnerable children and adults. About 47 of its students are currently subjected to the “treatment”, which involves individuals being zapped with electric currents far more powerful than those discharged by stun guns.

Disability rights campaigners have tried for decades to stop the practice, which the school’s administrators call “aversive therapy”. So far the institution has managed to fend off all opposition, arguing that electric shocks are an acceptable way of discouraging harmful habits.

Now the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) has issued a rare formal notice known as “precautionary measures” that calls for immediate cessation of the electric shocks.

In a seven-page resolution, the Washington-based panel says that the practice poses a “serious impact on the rights” of the vulnerable children at the school, “particularly on their right to personal integrity which may be subjected to a form of torture”.

The commission cites the work in 2013 of the then UN monitor on torture, Juan Méndez, who found JRC’s electric shock technique was a potential violation of the UN convention against torture and other international laws. It also notes several federal agencies and professional groups have called for a ban on “aversive techniques” on grounds they can cause psychological trauma.
They are torturing students, and it must be stopped.

Fabulous!!!!

Canada's top court has ruled in favour of denying accreditation to a Christian law school that banned students from having gay sex.

Friday's ruling against Trinity Western University in British Columbia (BC) was closely watched by both religious freedom and gay rights advocates.

The university made students promise not to have extra-marital or gay sex.

The Supreme Court found that protecting LGBT students from discrimination trumped religious freedom.

………

Ontario, British Columbia and Nova Scotia law societies denied the school accreditation, on the grounds that it required all students to sign a covenant binding them to a code of conduct which banned sex outside the confines of heterosexual marriage.
Specifically, it said that it could (would) expel students for gay sex.

Good on the court.

Your need to hate does not trump basic human rights.

A Stopped Clock is Right Twice a Day

ISIS/ISIL/Daesh/Whatever has been eliminated as a proto-nation state/caliphate.

It is now a diffuse terrorist organization, and as such, the only remaining justifications for keeping 2-3000 (and probably more off the books) troops on the ground are promulgating regime change and doing the House of Saud's dirty work in their hundreds of years long battle with Iran.

As such, I think that Trump's announcement that they are pulling ground troops from Syria, effective immediately, is a good thing, even if is (probably) being done for the most base of reasons:
The United States will move quickly to withdraw all forces from Syria, the White House abruptly announced Wednesday, as President Trump defied warnings from his top advisers and upended plans for a continued mission against the Islamic State.

The move plunged U.S. allies into uncertainty and created the potential for greater regional instability even as it provided Russia and its ally, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, a chance to cement greater control over the country.

“Our boys, our young women, our men, they’re all coming back and they’re coming back now, we won and that’s the way we want it,” Trump said in a video message on Twitter, an unusual format for the president. “That’s the way we want it, and that’s the way they want it,” he said, pointing to the sky in an apparent reference to American soldiers killed in Syria.
To quote John Kerry, "How do you ask a man to be the last man to die for a mistake?"
The decision also delivers on the president’s repeated threat this year to pull out troops. Since before taking office, Trump has promised to conclude the campaign against the Islamic State, also known as ISIS, and questioned the value of costly and dangerous military missions overseas.

………

Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) and Sen. Jack Reed (D-R.I.), the ranking members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and Senate Armed Services Committee, respectively, warned in a statement that the decision would benefit Russia and Iran, Assad’s other major patron.
I use the tears of the regime change Mousketeers to sweeten my coffee.

Of course, the wing of U.S. officialdom known as, "The Blob," are doing their level best to prevent a sudden outbreak of peace:
President Donald Trump may have declared the so-called Islamic State “defeated,” sparking talk of a U.S. withdrawal from the former ISIS stronghold of northeastern Syria. But administration officials, several of whom were taken by surprise, indicated an effort was underway to stop or slow a pullout.

………

Yet the official added a harder-edged warning suggesting that military force against Iran in Syria remained an option: “Iran knows the U.S. stands ready to re-engage at all levels to defend American interests.”
OK, Mr. Anonymous Official, name 3 significant American interests in Syria, and you cannot use, "Iran's there," or, "Mohammad Bin Salman Al Saud's dick won't suck itself."

Linkage


'Bohemian Chanukah', a riff on Queen:

18 December 2018

If It's Too Dicey for a Literal Vampire………

Elon Musk's self dealing between SpaceX and the Boring Company has alarmed even actual vampire,* and psychopath, Peter Thiel.

He is aggressively using SpaceX resources on his next big thing:
Elon Musk’s tunnel-digging venture, the Boring Co., is being pulled into the billionaire entrepreneur’s controversial practice of spreading overlapping assets across his disparate technology firms.

On Tuesday, the Tesla Inc. TSLA -3.27% chief is set to unveil a test tunnel developed by the Boring Co., the first of what Mr. Musk imagines as a futuristic series of high-speed underground highways to alleviate traffic.

The entrance of the two-mile-long Boring test tunnel is being constructed in Hawthorne, Calif., at the headquarters of another Musk-controlled company, Space Exploration Technologies Corp., partly by SpaceX employees using equipment purchased with SpaceX funds, people familiar with the matter said.

The arrangement alarmed some longtime investors in SpaceX, including its largest outside backer, Peter Thiel’s Founders Fund, some of the people said. The investors learned in recent months that despite the diversion of SpaceX resources and staffing to the fledgling Boring startup, it was Mr. Musk who was in line to receive almost all of any future profits, these people said.

The investors questioned SpaceX about why their investment dollars into a company ostensibly devoted to launching satellites and carrying humans to Mars were instead partly used to start a separate company that principally benefited Mr. Musk. When the Boring Co. was earlier this year spun into its own firm, more than 90% of the equity went to Mr. Musk and the rest to early employees, the company has said.

………

The SpaceX board never voted on devoting resources to Mr. Musk’s new venture.

………

The Boring Co.’s unusual inception is illustrative of how Mr. Musk defies the conventions of traditional corporate chieftains and sometimes supports his business empire by shuffling finances between companies.
"Defies the conventions of traditional corporate chieftains," huh?

I think that technical term, of course, is fraud and embezzlement.

ToMAYto/ToMAHto, whatever, I guess, because these days, the motto is, "Let Bond Villains be Bond Villains."

Listen to the cat, listen to the cat.

*I do mean this characterization of Thiel literally.  He is literally a vampire who wants to use the blood of the young to extend his lifespan.

Way to Go Beto!

After extensive documentation showing that Robert Francis "Beto" O'Rourke's campaign repeatedly and egregiously violated the "No fossile fuel money" pledge, the Oil Change USA has dropped him from their list:
Texas Democratic Rep. Beto O’Rourke has been removed from a pledge he signed to reject large donations from fossil fuel PACs and executives, following a recent Sludge investigation of federal campaign finance records.

Sludge reported on Dec. 10 that the congressman had accepted dozens of contributions of over $200 from oil and gas executives and had not reported refunding them. Oil Change USA, which led a coalition of environmental and democracy organizations to create the No Fossil Fuel Money Pledge, attempted to reach O’Rourke’s campaign and congressional office but did not hear back. Nor did Sludge.

David Turnbull, strategic communications director at Oil Change USA, told Sludge on Tuesday that the group had just removed O’Rourke’s name from the list of signers.
The pledge stipulates that in signing it, “a politician and their campaign will adopt a policy to not knowingly accept any contributions over $200 from the PACs, executives, or front groups of fossil fuel companies—companies whose primary business is the extraction, processing, distribution, or sale of oil, gas, or coal.”
It is interesting how this news has been greeted by his fans.

It appears that relating the facts makes me, and the dozens of journalists who went through FEC filings, Vladimir Putin's butt boys.

I prefer my candidates to stand for something, thank you very much.

17 December 2018

Fröhliche Weihnachten Motherf%$#er

Amazon workers in Germany have just gone on strike:
Workers at two Amazon distribution centers in Germany have gone on strike as part of a push for improved work conditions, leading to fears that Christmas orders may not arrive in time.

The German news agency dpa reported that workers in Leipzig in eastern Germany and Werne in western Germany went on strike early Monday.

The ver.di union representing the workers says Amazon employees receive lower wages than others in retail and mail-order jobs in Germany.
Merry Christmas, Jeff Bezos.

Pass the Popcorn

Malaysia has formally filed criminal charges against Goldman Sachs for its role in the massive 1MDB scandal.

The scale of the scandal, and the Vampire Squid's involvement in the scandal, is huge, and as such, it's inconceivable that the most senior management at Goldman Sachs was unaware of what was going on.

All I want for New Years is Lloyd Blankfein frog-marched out of his office in handcuffs:
The breadth of Goldman Sachs ’ potential legal jeopardy in the 1MDB scandal keeps growing.

The U.S. Justice Department has already secured a plea agreement from the bank’s former chairman of its Southeast Asia business who said that evading compliance controls was part of the firm’s culture. The bank’s then-chief executive, Lloyd Blankfein, attended meetings that the shadowy Malaysian financier at the heart of the scandal was also present on at least two occasions, according to reports.

………

Now, the Malaysian government has filed its own criminal charges against subsidiaries of Goldman Sachs (GS) in connection to the 1MDB scandal, the country’s attorney general said in a statement.

The attorney general also said that charges would be filed shortly against a former partner of the bank and ex-chairman of its Southeast Asia business, Tim Leissner, and another former Goldman Sachs banker, Roger Ng.

………


The spokesman later added: “Certain members of the former Malaysian government and 1MDB lied to Goldman Sachs, outside counsel, and others about the use of proceeds from these transactions. 1MDB, whose CEO and board reported directly to the prime minister at the time, also provided written assurances to Goldman Sachs for each transaction that no intermediaries were involved. Under the Malaysian legal process, the firm was not afforded an opportunity to be heard prior to the filing of these charges against certain Goldman Sachs entities, which we intend to vigorously contest. These charges do not affect our ability to conduct our current business globally.”
(emphasis mine)

The technical term for this is, "Willfull blindness".  They knew about the looting, but made sure not to look in the right direction.
In a November radio interview, Malaysia’s finance minister said the country would seek a $600 million refund on the fees it paid to Goldman Sachs for three bond offerings the bank underwrote in 2012 and 2013. Billions of dollars from those deals were allegedly siphoned off to private accounts and used to pay bribes, and were laundered through things like real-estate deals and Hollywood investments.
………

At the center of the alleged fraud is Jho Low, a financier with no formal role in the fund who nevertheless effectively controlled it, and Leissner, who said in his plea statement that he evaded the bank’s compliance controls to help Low divert money and that such actions were part of the bank’s culture.

Goldman Sachs underwrote the bonds and reaped around $600 million in fees from the deals—equal to about 10% of the total issuance, which is an astronomical fee for what was putatively debt issued by a sovereign wealth fund.

Leissner pleaded guilty to his role in shifting money out of 1MDB and of bribing various government officials in order to pull off the fraud in November but has yet to be sentenced. Low has also been charged but his whereabouts are unclear.
Goldman Sachs needs to be "Arthur Andersoned", and their corporate carcass needs to be hung from the ramparts as a warning to other malefactors.

Linkage


This is inspired:

16 December 2018

F%$# the Phone Company

After billions in subsidies, Verizon is engaging in massive layoffs, and studiously avoiding building up its fiber:
Verizon this week announced it would be trimming its workforce by more than 10,000 employees—despite repeatedly claiming the bevy of tax breaks and regulatory favors it has received in recent years would boost job creation and network investment.

According to a Verizon blog post, the company will be eliminating roughly 10,400 workers, or around 7 percent of its workforce, as part of what the telecom giant is calling a “voluntary separation program.” Under said program, Verizon says volunteers will receive “up to” 60 weeks’ salary, bonus and benefits “depending on length of service.”

Verizon insists the staff reductions are necessary to “optimize growth opportunities” related to next-gen 5G wireless, and to “better serve customers with more agility, speed and flexibility.”

But the workforce reduction comes after repeated claims by the telecom giant that a rotating crop of regulatory favors and handouts—from last year’s attack on net neutrality to the Trump tax cut—would buoy both job creation and broadband investment, neither of which has actually happened.
The slowest and most expensive broadband in the developed world.

The solution is publicly owned and operated broadband.

Cue Freddie Mercury

Soon to be former Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke is resigning.

Much like former EPA chair Scott Pruitt, his rampant and blatant corruption eventually proved too much:
Interior Department Secretary Ryan Zinke submitted his resignation to the White House on Saturday, facing intense pressure to step down because of multiple probes tied to his real estate dealings in his home state of Montana and his conduct in office.

President Trump announced Zinke’s exit via Twitter on Saturday morning and praised the departing Interior chief. “Secretary of the Interior @RyanZinke will be leaving the Administration at the end of the year after having served for a period of almost two years,” the president tweeted. “Ryan has accomplished much during his tenure and I want to thank him for his service to our Nation.”
Fired over twitter, epic.
Zinke — 57 and the first Montanan to have served in a presidential Cabinet — is the fourth member of Trump’s Cabinet to resign under an ethics cloud in less than two years. Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price, Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin and Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt also relinquished their posts amid scrutiny on subjects including how they spent taxpayer money on their travel.

………

During his tenure, Zinke came under at least 15 investigations, including: inquiries into his connection to a real estate deal involving a company that Interior regulates; whether he bent government rules to allow his wife to ride in government vehicles; and allowing a security detail to travel with him on a vacation to Turkey at considerable taxpayer cost.
It's amazing how petty, small, and pervasive their corruption is.

15 December 2018

The Flying Spaghetti Monster Abides


I got this at work, and my first thought was, "Someone in corporate communications must be a member of the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster on the down low.

Anyone out there know of any other Crypto-Pastafarians out there?

No Regrets for Me


Yeah, I should have gone to their offices and thrown shoes at them
The Weekly Standard was just shut down:
The Weekly Standard, the conservative political and cultural magazine, will shut down after its last issue appears on Monday, the chief executive of its parent company said Friday.

The Washington-based magazine’s 35-member editorial staff will be laid off as a result, said Ryan McKibben, the head of Clarity Media Group, the Colorado company that owns the Standard and its sister publication, the Washington Examiner newspaper.

“This was a business decision,” McKibben said. “As we looked at all of our options, we saw we were facing a steady decline in revenues and circulation. That drove us to our decision to close this week. . . . It was a tough decision.”

Staffers who were told of the closure by McKibben at a morning meeting on Friday were skeptical of the business rationale, saying Clarity has invested heavily in the Washington Examiner, with far greater losses than those produced by the Weekly Standard.

Several noted the timing of the closure announcement, calling it “the Christmas massacre.”

The Standard was founded in 1995 by three journalists — Bill Kristol, Fred Barnes and John Podhoretz — with funding from conservative media mogul Rupert Murdoch. Murdoch sold his interest to billionaire Philip Anschutz in 2009.
Anyone who calls Bill Kristol, Fred Barnes, or John Podhoretz "Journalists" has a twisted view of the Fourth Estate.
Employees have been told they will receive severance pay in exchange for signing a nondisclosure and nondisparagement agreement.
How utterly proper.

Don't worry about their employees though, I'm sure that wingnut welfare will take care of them.

14 December 2018

Sick to Death of Ammosexuals

Some gun fondler decided that it would be a good idea to send a bomb threat to Sandy Hook Elementary School on the 6th anniversary of the shooting.

Note that this is NOT related to the spate of threats attempting to extort Bitcoin that have been flying around for the past week or so.

In my younger days, I would have said that whoever did this deserved to get spinal cancer, but I am older and wiser now, so I wish some form of Fatal insomnia on them.  (It's a lot worse. you literally die of lack of sleep over about a year and a half.)

If the cops find out who did this, the prosecutors need to make an example of this motherf%$#er.

13 December 2018

This is F%$#ed Up and Sh%$


One day, they are there, and the next, they aren't, and they refuse all forms of contact:
Economists report that workers are starting to act like millennials on Tinder: They’re ditching jobs with nary a text.

“A number of contacts said that they had been ‘ghosted,’ a situation in which a worker stops coming to work without notice and then is impossible to contact,” the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago noted in December’s Beige Book, which tracks employment trends.

National data on economic “ghosting” is lacking. The term, which usually applies to dating, first surfaced in 2016 on Dictionary.com. But companies across the country say silent exits are on the rise.

Analysts blame America’s increasingly tight labor market. Job openings have surpassed the number of seekers for eight straight months, and the unemployment rate has clung to a 49-year low of 3.7 percent since September.

Janitors, baristas, welders, accountants, engineers — they’re all in demand, said Michael Hicks, a labor economist at Ball State University in Indiana. More people may opt to skip tough conversations and slide right into the next thing.

“Why hassle with a boss and a bunch of out-processing,” he said, “when literally everyone has been hiring?”
The academics above don't get it, but this guy does:
Someone who feels invested in an enterprise is less likely to bounce, write Melissa and Johnathan Nightingale, co-authors of “How F*cked Up Is Your Management?: An uncomfortable conversation about modern leadership.”

“Employees leave jobs that suck,” they said in an email. “Jobs where they’re abused. Jobs where they don’t care about the work. And the less engaged they are, the less need they feel to give their bosses any warning.”
Modern management has been eating its metaphorical seed corn for decades, and now they are reaping the consequences of the complete absence of goodwill from their employees.