31 January 2018

How Special

Trump's head of the CDC, Brenda Fitzgerald, has resigned.

It has to do with the fact that she couldn't do her job, because she had active investments in opioid tracking systems and in cancer detection systems and actively invested in tobacco companies.

Doing this while running a organization dedicated to eliminating the scourge of tobacco is a rather perverse way to hedge one's bets:
The director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention resigned on Wednesday, in the middle of the nation’s worst flu epidemic in nearly a decade, because of her troubling financial investments in tobacco and health care companies that posed potential conflicts of interest.

Alex Azar, the newly appointed secretary of Health and Human Services, announced the resignation of the director, Dr. Brenda Fitzgerald. An agency statement cited her “complex financial interests that have imposed a broad recusal limiting her ability to complete all her duties as the C.D.C. director.”

The statement continued: “Due to the nature of these financial interests, Dr. Fitzgerald could not divest from them in a definitive time period. After advising Secretary Azar of both the status of the financial interests and the scope of her recusal, Dr. Fitzgerald tendered, and the secretary accepted, her resignation. ”


The resignation was announced less than a day after Politico reported on Tuesday that Dr. Fitzgerald, 71, had traded in tobacco stocks even after taking the position at the public health agency. Her financial investments and potential conflicts of interest were a source of concern in recent months for some members of Congress, especially when she had to recuse herself from appearing before them on certain agency matters.

A former Georgia health commissioner, Dr. Fitzgerald was appointed to the federal agency last July by Tom Price, a fellow Georgian who served as Mr. Trump’s first H.H.S. secretary — until he too was forced to resign under fire, for traveling extensively on private jets and expensing more than $400,000 for those trips to the government. Both Dr. Fitzgerald and Mr. Price had controversial investments in health care and drug companies; Dr. Fitzgerald also had financial interests (along with her husband) in several major tobacco companies.

In a September ethics agreement, she said she would divest from many stocks, including the tobacco holdings, that might pose a conflict of interest. The companies included CVS Health, Quest Diagnostics, AbbVie, Merck, and Zimmer Biomet Holdings. But she also said that she and her husband, Dr. Thomas Fitzgerald, were unable to divest from some holdings because of legal or contractual restrictions. Those were GW Ventures and Greenway Messenger, which are limited liability companies formed to invest in Greenway Health LLC, an electronic health information company, and Isommune, a biotech company focusing on early cancer detection.
Did I forget to mention that, while Georgia health commissioner, she got funding from Coca Cola to run an anti-obesity program that downplayed the role of sugar?

To quote Elvis Costello, "Oh, I used to be disgusted, and now I try to be amused ."

30 January 2018

The Chinese are Copping a Major Attitude

The Chinese built a headquarters building for the African Union in Addis Ababa, Ethopia.

It seemed like a generous thing, until they discovered that everything in the building was engineered to spy on its occupants and then phone home.

Seriously China, who do you think you are, the United States?
In 2012, the Chinese government “graciously offered” African States a gift and constructed the African Union’s headquarters in Addis Ababa. The act of soft diplomacy proved to be a rather self-serving maneuver to spy on the activities and discussions being conducted by leaders of the exclusive continental group.

In Addis Ababa, ministers and heads of states meet twice a year to discuss major continental issues. While strict security measures give the impression that that building is closely monitored and secured, an unseen security threat was present from 2012 until 2017. The threat was from none other than those who built the headquarters: the Chinese. An investigation conducted by “Le Monde Afrique” exposed Chinese espionage efforts.

According to the report, for five years, between midnight and 2 a.m., computer servers were reaching a peak in data transfer activity. A computer scientist noticed the oddity of the situation. The organization’s technical staff later discovered that the AU servers were all connected to servers located in Shanghai.

Every night, the secrets of the AU were being stored more than 8,000 km away by what was thought to be a diplomatic ally of Africa.
I am reminded of the adage about social media, "If the product is free, you are the product .

NIMBY Bullsh%$

A law is working its way through the California that would required towns to allow higher density housing near to major mass transit projects.

The mayor of Berkeley is calling it, "A declaration of war against our neighborhoods."

No, it isn't. It's a common sense requirement to ensure that expensive mass transit projects benefit more than a few:
New proposed legislation, introduced by Sen. Scott Wiener and co-authored by Sen. Nancy Skinner, that would require California cities to allow denser, taller housing developments near transit hubs and bus lines, has ignited controversy in Berkeley and nationally.

With some limitations, SB 827 would eliminate restrictions on the number of houses that can be built within a half-mile of BART and within a quarter-mile of major bus routes, including Muni and AC Transit. It would also block cities from mandating parking requirements.

Skinner said the bill would help supply much-needed housing in Berkeley and the state.

“In the Bay Area alone, we’ve added thousands more jobs than we have housing units,” she said. “More housing is essential to reduce the pressure that lack of supply is causing in all our communities. And there’s no more logical place for housing than near transit.”

But the bill has drawn strong opposition from many who believe it would deprive cities of their rights to control their own zoning and could also lead to unwanted density. In fact Berkeley Mayor Jesse Arreguín characterizes the bill as “a declaration of war against our neighborhoods.”
Here is the deal, your honor: If you want transit in your neighborhoods, then your neighborhoods have to be transit friendly, and the first 3 requirements of transit friendly neighborhoods are density, density, and density.

Longer Range, More Payload, Superior Performance, Lower Cost, What's Not to Love?

The Israeli Air Force is inclined to order an advanced variant of the F-15 instead more F-35s.

Even if there are things that the F-35 can do that the F-15 can't, you want to minimize spending on silver bullets:
The Israel Air Force is to decide in a few months between purchasing a third squadron of F-35 fighter jets or the F-15I, which, while less advanced, has other advantages.

The acquisition requires the approval of the General Staff and a ministerial committee, but the recommendation of the air force generally carries the day.

IAF Commander Maj. Gen. Amikam Norkin, who reportedly is leaning toward the F-15, is to submit a recommendation in May.

Israel and the United States agreed last year on the purchase of 50 F-35 fighters, two squadrons, from Lockheed Martin, with delivery completed by 2024.


Senior IAF officers, including the force’s previous commander, Maj. Gen. Amir Eshel, have lavished praise on its capabilities. One of its most important operational capabilities is stealth, the ability to not show up on enemy radar.

But in order employ its stealth capabilities, the F-35 must fly with its bombs inside the plane’s belly, which limits its carrying capacity. If the bombs are carried on the outside of the plane, its stealth capabilities are impaired.

The F-15, though older, has two advantages over the F-35: a longer flight range and the ability to carry larger bombs. Another factor in its favor is that it’s built on a different platform, which means the air force would have a mix of planes rather than relying on a single model.

The F-15I is also cheaper to operate than the F-35. But the plane is currently being upgraded by the manufacturer, Boeing, and its purchase price is expected to rise in any future deal. Thus it could end up costing the same as the F-35 does next time around.
I gotta figure that there are elements in the IAF who are seriously worried that some crucial features of the F-35 will go completely titsup when the sh%$ hits the fan.

My money would among the items worrying IAF planners is its the JSF's ill-starred Autonomic Logistics Information System (ALIS).

McCarthyism Much?


1000 words on this:

I have no words.

H/t naked capitalism.

I Am Not Drunk Blogging the State of the Union Speech

I am actually not watching it as all.

Watching it sober would be masochistic, and drunk blogging it would probably leave me in a coma.

29 January 2018

Why I Tend to Favor Russia in its Dispute with the Ukraine

Because as bad as Russian antisemitism is, the Ukraine has more antisemitic incidents than the rest of the former Soviet Union combined, and this has been so since the days of the tzars:
In its main annual report on anti-Semitism, Israel’s government singled out Ukraine as unusual in Eastern Europe for the alleged increase in attacks there, triggering protest by Kiev.

The allegation appeared in the anti-Semitism report for 2017 that the Ministry for Diaspora Affairs under Education Minister Naftali Bennett published last week, ahead of the Jan. 27 International Day of Holocaust Remembrance.
“A striking exception in the trend of decrease in anti-Semitic incidents in Eastern Europe was Ukraine, where the number of recorded anti-Semitic attacks was doubled from last year and surpassed the tally for all the incidents reported throughout the entire region combined,” the report said.

The report did not name the total number of incidents reported but a ministry spokesperson queried by JTA said that throughout 2017, more than 130 incidents of anti-Semitism had been reported, including violent assaults, in Ukraine. The data came from Jewish communities and Nativ, an Israeli government agency that used to be part of the intelligence services but today deals exclusively with issues connected to aliyah, or immigration by Jews and their relatives to Israel.

The report also said that 2017 was the second consecutive year that Ukraine had the largest number of anti-Semitic incidents of any other country from the former Soviet Union.
Note that current Russian government isn't erecting statues to, naming streets after, and marching to honor dead genocidal maniacs who collaborated with the Nazis either.

While we are at it. f%$# the current Polish government for planning to literally making it illegal to acknowledge the historical FACT that there were large numbers of Poles who enthusiastically collaborated with the Nazis and helped execute the Holocaust, including some members of the Polish resistance.

Russia comes out as the best of an REALLY bad lot in that part of the world on issues of glorifying Nazis and denying the reality of what some of its populace did during WWII..

Tweet of the Day

I've verified this on Snopes, it is true.

I swear, the Trump administration couldn't organize a piss-up in a brewery, but this is probably a good thing, because it makes them less effective at prosecuting their agenda.

28 January 2018

Bummer of a Birthmark, Recep

It appears that even Cypriot Turks, for whom Turkey is a shield against ethnic cleansing by the Greek Cybriots, are taking to the streets against Recep Tayyip Erdoğan:
Thousands of Turkish Cypriots chanting “we want our country back” have taken to the streets of Nicosia despite heavy rain, after calls for a mass demonstration against Ankara’s heavy-handed policies towards the breakaway republic.

Tensions with the Turkish government mounted this week after a mob of hardliners attacked the office of the Turkish Cypriot newspaper Afrika for running a front-page article critical of the country’s military offensive against Kurdish militants in Syria.

Led by the nationalist Grey Wolves, they went on the rampage after the Turkish president, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, criticised the newspaper’s stance as “immoral” and “shameless”.

Beneath the headline “one more occupation from Turkey”, Afrika drew parallels with Ankara’s 1974 military operation in Cyprus when Turkey seized the island’s northern third.

The Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe condemned the attack as an assault on free press and freedom of speech.

Ahead of the protest on Friday, Sener Elcil, a trade unionist, told the Guardian: “The attack was very violent and very humiliating for Turkish Cypriots, who no longer feel secure in their own country.” At least 5,000 people were believed to have taken part.

“In Turkey, all the intellectuals, journalists and writers have been imprisoned. There is no opposition, but in Cyprus there are people who believe in democracy and peace,” he said.
If history is any indication, an overreaction in Cyprus by Turkish troops might very will go pear shaped in a hurry, and if Turkish troops are expelled from Cyprus, that would be the end of Erdoğan.

One can only hope.

27 January 2018

This is Ingenious

Comparison of various cycles


Pressure Profiles
Diesel engines have been getting a lot of bad news recently, but there is a another form of compression ignition that has been lurking in the laboratory for years.

A diesel compresses the air, and then squirts in fuel, which ignites in the hot air.

The other form of compression ignition compresses a fuel air mixture until it all ignites simultaneously.

Theoretically, this could result in superior fuel economy and low levels of pollution.

This is a tremendously difficult thing to do since things like this, since the line between ignition and nothing is a very fine line, and things like ambient temperature, barometric pressure, etc. can cause premature ignition, i.e. pinging, which hits the inside of an engine like a hammer.

Nissan has come up with an innovative way to fix the timing, they have added a spark assist so that they can control the timing.

As opposed to a conventional spark ignited engine, where the flame front progresses from the spark, in their "Skyactive X®" technology, and the initial local ignition kicks up the pressure and temperature enough for the compression ignition to kick in.

Mazda is now has a car with this technology on the road:
Despite rumors to the contrary, the internal combustion engine is far from dead. Recently we've seen several technological advances that will significantly boost the efficiency of gasoline-powered engines. One of these, first reported back in August 2017, is Mazda's breakthrough with compression ignition. On Tuesday, Mazda invited us to its R&D facility in California to learn more about this clever new Skyactiv-X engine, but more importantly we actually got to drive it on the road.

The idea behind Skyactiv-X is to be able to run the engine with as lean a fuel-air mixture (known as λ) as possible. Because very lean combustion is cooler than a stoichiometric reaction (where λ=1 and there is exactly enough air to completely burn each molecule of fuel but no more), less energy is wasted as heat. What's more, the exhaust gases contain fewer nasty nitrogen oxides, and the unused air gets put to work. It absorbs the combustion heat and then expands and pushes down on the piston. The result is a cleaner, more efficient, and more powerful engine. And Skyactiv-X uses a very lean mix: a λ up to 2.5.


This is known as homogeneous charge compression ignition, or HCCI, an idea that Kyle Niemeyer covered in depth for us back in 2012. HCCI has some other advantages, too. On top of burning cooler and with fewer pollutants, the combustion event happens faster, with a higher pressure peak, so you get more work out of the same energy. All of that sounds pretty wonderful, so you're probably asking yourself why every gasoline engine on the road doesn't just use HCCI.

Unfortunately, it has been one of those ideas that worked in the lab but couldn't ever quite be translated into a production engine. The biggest problem has always been controlling exactly when during the engine cycle compression ignition occurred, something that you want as close to top-dead center as possible.


Obviously, this wasn't without challenges. The fuel:air mix needs to be a little richer near the spark for it to ignite than you want it to be throughout the rest of the cylinder. These need to be distinct regions to avoid λ dropping to 2 or below (which won't undergo compression ignition). That's achieved by swirling the air inside the cylinder and generating a vortex effect, where the calm center has a low enough λ to ignite by spark, surrounded by a high λ region that then undergoes compression ignition.

Mazda's next challenge was to prevent pre-ignition, or knock. Higher compression ratios increase the potential for knock, which is why higher compression ratio engines usually also require more expensive, higher octane fuel that is knock-resistant. Now, technically, compression ignition is knock, but if it occurs before you want it to—at top dead center—bad things can happen, because a combustion event will exert downward pressure on the piston as it's moving up on a compression stroke.

The solution here was to use less time to heat the fuel:air mix. There's a small initial injection of fuel at first, then the bulk of the fuel is introduced into the cylinder as late as possible during the compression stroke. This is done using multiple orifice injectors to increase atomization and mixing of fuel and air.

If all that wasn't enough, there's the added problem of keeping track of compression ignition. In the past, this has been one of the hardest problems for HCCI engines to solve. Ideally you want combustion to happen at the same point in the engine cycle each time—about four degrees after top dead center. But as ambient conditions change—a cold day in Denver versus a hot one in Houston—the time needed for the fireball to reach sufficient pressure also changes. So the engine ought to be able to change spark timing to keep the peak pressure at the right spot.
It's basically an ingenious use of the stratified charge engine to create an HCCI engine.


More Mistake Jet Follies

It's supposed to dominate the skies, it's supposed to provide close air support to the troops on the ground, and it's supposed to have unparalleled reliability and availability.

Not so much:

Efforts to improve the reliability of Lockheed Martin Corp.’s F-35 are “stagnant,” undercut by problems such as aircraft sitting idle over the last year awaiting spare parts from the contractor, according to the Pentagon’s testing office.

The availability of the fighter jet for missions when needed -- a key metric -- remains “around 50 percent, a condition that has existed with no significant improvement since October 2014, despite the increasing number of aircraft,” Robert Behler, the Defense Department’s new director of operational testing, said in an annual report delivered Tuesday to senior Pentagon leaders and congressional committees.

The F-35 section, obtained by Bloomberg News, outlined the status of the costliest U.S. weapons system as it’s scheduled to end its 16-year-old development phase this year. Starting in September, the program is supposed to proceed to intense combat testing that’s likely to take a year, an exercise that’s at least 12 months late already. Combat testing is necessary before the plane is approved for full-rate production -- the most profitable phase for Lockheed.

Pentagon officials including Deputy Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan and chief weapons buyer Ellen Lord have highlighted the need to reduce the F-35’s $406.5 billion projected acquisition cost and its estimated $1.2 trillion price tag for long-term operations and support through 2070. Still, the Defense Department is moving to accelerate contracting and production for the fighter despite the persistence of technical and reliability issues disclosed in the current phase of development testing.
16 years in development, and it still does not work.

This has all gotten so dysfunctional that I'm waiting for a horse to be appointed to the Senate.


Why Do Cats Miaow?

26 January 2018

Corruption Much?

The New York City police union, like many other departments and police unions, issues "Friend/Relative of a cop" cards, they serve as "Get Out of Jail Free" cards.

Because of extensive reselling by the boys in blue, the union has slashed the number of cards that it issues, and the cops are pissed off.

They want their baksheesh, I guess:
The city’s police-officers union is cracking down on the number of “get out of jail free” courtesy cards distributed to cops to give to family and friends.

Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association boss Pat Lynch slashed the maximum number of cards that could be issued to current cops from 30 to 20, and to retirees from 20 to 10, sources told The Post.

The cards are often used to wiggle out of minor trouble such as speeding tickets, the theory being that presenting one suggests you know someone in the NYPD.

The rank and file is livid.


A source said Lynch ordered the cutback to stop the sale of the cards, which were being hawked on eBay last week for as much as $200.
Banana republic much?

This Business Will get out of Control. It Will get out of Control and we'll be Lucky to Live Through It.

A prankster who created the joke Cryptocurrency PonziCoin has called it off, because too many people want to keep giving him money:
People will never cease to amaze and the level of stupidity that human beings express sometimes surpasses any that we have seen before. It is one thing to fall for a Ponzi Scheme that was disguised as something legitimate but when someone takes the extra effort of warning you that you may lose all your money and you still jump in with your two feet, that is on you.


With the sudden spiral of cryptocurrency in the world, we have already seen quite a number of people lose money through fake ICOs (Initial Coin Offerings) and collapsing platforms, but people never learn and to prove this, a San Francisco based developer, Rishab Hegde, “jokingly” built a cryptocurrency based on Ethereum and named it PonziCoin – an exact copycat of what happened back in 2014.

Rishab Hedge went ahead to warn the investors on the coin that it was a Ponzi Scheme, “The world’s first legitimate Ponzi scheme,” reads the coin’s landing page. The bliss does not end there, the developer adds more warnings in the Frequently Asked Questions section:
Q: Is this a scam?

A: Yes, it’s as much a scam as 99% of the ICOs out there, but it’s more transparent about it 🙂

Now here’s the major news; People actually invested in the Ponzi scheme. Maybe with the hopes of being the early investors and cashing out before everything collapses. After around 8 hours, PonziCoin had attracted attention and the platform had collected around 250 Ether coins ( valued at more than $25,000).

Mr Rishab seems to have gotten cold feet due to the attention and he decided to pull the plug on PonziCoin, leaving investors out it the cold and possibly making away with their money since none of the investors got a payout on their investment. An update on the website reads:
This has gotten crazy out of hand, I apologize but we will no longer be selling PonziCoin on this site because this was a joke. I cannot terminate the contract but I will not be selling any coins that I own.
Tulips, Schmulips, this is a REAL bubble.

A Correction

Today I opened up my email, and I had a demand letter from GIP Development SARL, a firm that IP licensing and regulation management.

I will not be reposting this email, as it was listed as confidential, but they had a complaint about a post of mine regarding vulture funds targeting Argentine bonds.

I made an error, and have corrected my post.

In researching the vulture funds, I conflated two different, but similarly named financial firms that turned up in my google search.

Dr. Dirk Markus has no connection to Aurelius Capital Management LP, the vulture fund in question. 

He is  the CEO of Aurelius Equity Opportunities, which is a completely unrelated financial firm, and is not involved with the attempted looting of Argentina in any way.

My apologies for calling for his arrest and extradition to Buenos Aires.

As an aside, this is the first time that I have gotten anything this close to a cease and desist letter from a lawyer, and on some deep and perverse level it makes me feel important.

Gawd, I am so unbelievably lame.

25 January 2018

Signs of the Apocalypse

Jonah f%$#ing Goldberg is the voice of reason (I cannot believe I just said that) on the GOP's demonization of the FBI: (I also cannot believe that I am linking to the National f%$#ing Review)

He's saying that this stuff is overheated, and people should wait until we have more data.

When Jonah Goldberg is the voice of reason on any issue, you have entered the Twilight Zone.

This Is a Truly Sick Burn

Donald Trump contacted the Guggenheim Museum and asked to borrow a Van Goch to hang in the Presidential Residence.

The museum declined his request, but offered a recently closed exhibit:

The emailed response from the Guggenheim’s chief curator to the White House was polite but firm: The museum could not accommodate a request to borrow a painting by Vincent van Gogh for President and Melania Trump’s private living quarters.

Instead, wrote the curator, Nancy Spector, another piece was available, one that was nothing like “Landscape With Snow,” the 1888 van Gogh rendering of a man in a black hat walking along a path in Arles, France, with his dog.

The curator’s alternative: an 18-karat, fully functioning, solid gold toilet — an interactive work titled “America” that critics have described as pointed satire aimed at the excess of wealth in this country.

For a year, the Guggenheim had exhibited “America” — the creation of contemporary artist Maurizio Cattelan — in a public restroom on the museum’s fifth floor for visitors to use.

But the exhibit was over and the toilet was available “should the President and First Lady have any interest in installing it in the White House,” Spector wrote in an email obtained by The Washington Post.

This is Brilliant

Trump is trying to add a question to the 2020 Census about citizenship status, likely for a court challenge to reduce Congressional representation for blue states by depressing immigrant responses.

Thankfully, this process is rather involved.

Gerard Magliocca looks at the question, and comes up with a brilliant question to add to the census:
I have a separate suggestion. If we are going to add new questions to the census about citizenship, then I would propose reviving one that was asked in the 1870 census. The modern version would ask all citizens above the age of 18 whether their right to vote has ever been "denied . . . or in any way abridged, except for participation in rebellion or other crime." This is language from of Section Two of the Fourteenth Amendment, which states that if states deny or abridge suffrage to presumptively eligible voters to excess then their representation in Congress shall be reduced.
It's never gonna happen, but that made my day.

Tweet of the Day

Yeah, pretty much.

24 January 2018

Kudos to Montana

The Big Sky State has become the first red state to draft net neutrality regulations in response to the FCC repeal of net neutrality:
Montana will require Internet service providers to follow net neutrality principles in order to receive state government contracts.

Governor Steve Bullock, a Democrat, today signed an executive order imposing that requirement beginning July 1, 2018.

"There has been a lot of talk around the country about how to respond to the recent decision by Federal Communications Commission to repeal net neutrality rules, which keep the Internet free and open," Bullock said. "It's time to actually do something about it. This is a simple step states can take to preserve and protect net neutrality. We can't wait for folks in Washington, DC, to come to their senses and reinstate these rules."
Seriously, Montana?

I'm thinking that this issue may be an albatross around the neck of the Republicans.

Righteous Anger

Burn it all down. That is the calm and reasoned conclusion to which I have come as one horror story after another unspooled in the courtroom. Nobody employed in the upper echelons at USA Gymnastics, or at the United States Olympic Committee, or at Michigan State University should still have a job. If accessorial or conspiracy charges plausibly can be lodged against those people, they should be prosecuted to the full extent of the law. Those people should come out of civil courts wearing barrels. Their descendants should be answering motions in the 22nd Century. In fact, I can argue convincingly that none of those three institutions should continue to exist in its current form. USA Gymnastics and the USOC should lose their non-profit status forthwith. Michigan State should lose its status within the NCAA for at least five years. American gymnastics is no longer a sport. It’s a conspiracy of pedophiles and their enablers.
Charlie Pierce, on the complicity of people with authority at all levels for the pedophile predator Larry Nassar
And that might not be the angriest thing in his Sports Illustrated article.

A Mulligan? Seriously?

Tony Perkins, Christofascist President of the Family Research Council, an SPLC designated hate group, has announced that he is giving Donald Trump a "Mulligan’ on cheating on his pregnant wife with a porn star:
Donald Trump is still the answer to many conservative evangelical leaders’ prayers. Or at least to their continuing grievances.

They embrace Trump the policymaker, despite being uneasy about Trump as a man, says Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council, a prominent evangelical activist group.

Perkins knows about Stormy Daniels, the porn actress who claimed, in a 2011 interview, that in 2006 she had sex with Trump four months after his wife, Melania, gave birth to their son, Barron. He knows of the reports that Daniels (real name: Stephanie Clifford) was paid off to keep the affair quiet in the waning weeks of the 2016 election. He knows about the cursing, the lewdness and the litany of questionable behavior over the past year of Trump’s life or the 70 that came before it.

“We kind of gave him—‘All right, you get a mulligan. You get a do-over here,’” Perkins told me in an interview for the latest episode of POLITICO’s Off Message podcast.

Weigh a paid-off porn star against being the first president to address the March for Life live via video feed, and a lot of evangelical leaders insist they can still walk away happy
Hypocrisy much?

Today, I Wrote the Quote of the Day

At the Stellar Parthenon BBS, we are having a discussion about 2020, and there was a difference of opinion.

Basically, it came down to a bunch of us saying that the Democratic Party is f%$#ed up, and before the Presidential campaign begins in earnest, we need to correct the fundamentally dysfunctional structure and culture of the party before going there.

On the other side was one guy, who was shouting for all the "Bernie Bros" to shut up.

It went around and around, and finally said that his position was about:
Who would be the best general for the Polish cavalry, when they are still charging Panzers on horse back, is like the bite of a dog into a stone; it is a stupidity.
That whole dog/bone thing was actually from Friedrich Nietzsche, but the analogy was mine.

I know, it ain't deathless prose, but it's as close as I'll ever get.

23 January 2018

Another Day ……… Another School Shooting

Today, it's Benton, Kentucky, for the 11th school shooting of the year, and it's only January 23rd:
On Tuesday, it was a high school in small-town Kentucky. On Monday, a school cafeteria outside Dallas and a charter school parking lot in New Orleans. And before that, a school bus in Iowa, a college campus in Southern California, a high school in Seattle.

Gunfire ringing out in American schools used to be rare, and shocking. Now it seems to happen all the time.

The scene in Benton, Ky., on Tuesday was the worst so far in 2018: Two 15-year-old students were killed and 18 more people were injured. But it was one of at least 11 shootings on school property recorded since Jan. 1, and roughly the 50th of the academic year.

Researchers and gun control advocates say that since 2013, they have logged school shootings at a rate of about one a week.
F%$# the NRA.

F%$# Wayne LaPierre.

F%$# the ammosexuals.

Most particularly, f%$# the cowardly politicians who run screaming from even the most basic common sense gun laws.

A Sordid Chapter in a Tawdry Tale

My son was never a fan of his
Former Baltimore County superintendent Dallas Dance has been indicted for perjury.

He was appointed superintendent in 2012, and required a waiver for this, because he did not meet the statutory requirements, then he dumped lots of money into unsuccessful whiz bang and consultants, and finally, he paid lots of money to high dollar consultants through no bid contracts.

It turns out that these consultants also paid his company for consulting, something he neglected to mention on his disclosure forms, hence the perjury charges:
Former Baltimore County school superintendent Dallas Dance was indicted Tuesday on four counts of perjury for failing to disclose nearly $147,000 in pay he received for private consulting with several companies and school districts beginning in 2012, the Maryland State Prosecutor announced.

The four-count indictment handed down by a Baltimore County grand jury alleges the former superintendent falsely stated on financial disclosure forms filed with the county school district that he earned no additional income personally or through his consulting company, Deliberate Excellence, in 2012, 2013 and 2015.


The charges allege he negotiated a no-bid contract between the school system and Chicago-based SUPES Academy in 2012 while he was earning approximately $90,000 from the company without telling the school system.

“Parents of Baltimore County Public School students should be able to trust that their Superintendent of Schools is carrying out his duties, honestly, with transparency and in the best interest of the students and the schools,” state Prosecutor Emmet C. Davitt said Tuesday. “Any violation of that trust is intolerable.”

We Have Met the Enemy, and He is Us*

Seriously? Brunch?

This is the sort of thing that makes people think you are shallow entitled self-centered narcissistic asshole.

H/t naked capitalism.

*Pogo the comic strip. Read it.

22 January 2018

Tweet of the Day


Here Is Hoping the SCOTUS Will Leave This One to the States

Of particular interest is the fact that they ruled solely on the state constitution, which means that, assuming that the US Supreme Court doesn't pull some sort of bogus law out of its ass,* this ruling will stand.
In a decision that could tilt the congressional balance of power in a key swing state in favor of Democrats, Pennsylvania's highest court decided Monday that the state's GOP-drawn congressional districts violate its Constitution, and ordered all 18 districts redrawn in the next few weeks.

Less partisan congressional districts could give Democrats a chance this November to win back as many as half a dozen seats that had been lost to them over the past decade. It could also give the party a major boost in its quest to take back the House of Representatives, where Democrats need to net 24 seats to win control of the chamber.


In a 4-to-3 decision, Pennsylvania's Supreme Court ordered the Republican-controlled state legislature to redraw the lines by Feb. 9, an extraordinarily quick timeline that will reset the districts in time for the state's May congressional primaries. Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf will have veto power over the maps.


How the court reached its decision is just as significant as what they decided. This is the second court case in recent weeks to throw out electoral lines because they were drawn to favor one party's voters over another, decisions that have mostly benefited Democrats.


Monday's case wasn't the only one involving Pennsylvania's maps. A three-judge panel on a federal court recently sided with Republicans, though Pildes and other legal experts think Monday's state Supreme Court decision will be the final word.

Legal analysts also weren't sure that appealing to the Supreme Court is a possibility, given that Pennsylvania's state court ruled that the lines violated the state Constitution. The Supreme Court has never thrown out a state's redistricting plan because of extreme partisan gerrymandering.
(emphasis mine)

The thing to watch for here is whether or not the US Supreme Court issues an injunction, which would indicate that a significant portion of the court is planning to do some seriously partisan bullsh%$.

*Bush v. Gore, 531 U.S. 98 (2000)

Racist Voter Suppression Much?

The now (thankfully) shuttered "voter fraud" commission wanted a list of Texas voters with Hispanic names flagged:
President Trump’s voting commission asked every state and the District for detailed voter registration data, but in Texas’s case it took an additional step: It asked to see Texas records that identify all voters with Hispanic surnames, newly released documents show.

In buying nearly 50 million records from the state with the nation’s second-largest Hispanic population, a researcher for the Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity checked a box on two Texas public voter data request forms explicitly asking for the “Hispanic surname flag notation,” to be included in information sent to the voting commission, according to copies of the signed and notarized state forms.

White House and Texas officials said the state’s voter data was never delivered because a lawsuit brought by Texas voting rights advocates after the request last year temporarily stopped any data handoff.

The voting commission was disbanded Jan. 3 after Trump cited a host of ongoing state and federal lawsuits and resistance from state officials over the sweeping pursuit, in the name of investigating alleged voter fraud, of information about more than 150 million voters across the country. The voting panel said it would destroy all voter data it had gathered, without detailing any data purchases.


Texas since 1983 has identified voters with a Hispanic name to mail bilingual election notices in Spanish and English as required by state and federal laws, said Sam Taylor, spokesman for Texas Secretary of State Rolando Pablos (R). Names are selected from the U.S. Census Bureau’s list of most common surnames by race and Hispanic origin, Taylor said.


On the forms sent to Texas by the voting panel, commission policy adviser Ronald Williams II checked a box to flag Hispanic names and signed a notarized form required as part of the overall process to get voter records released.
Kobach and his Evil Minions have denied any knowledge of this request.

If you believe them, I have a bridge in Brooklyn to sell you.

Terrorists Are Not Daleks

A real estate developer in New York is, as part of his development deal, building an elevator to the allow the disabled to access the Subway from that stop, neighbors are objecting because they are afraid that terrorist will use the elevator to attack them.

Seriously? Terrorists are going to attack via the subway? And they cannot climb stairs?
To some, the prospect of adding new subway elevators not far from the World Trade Center is a godsend, a desperately needed portal for the disabled to a subway system that is among the least accessible in the nation.

To a group of neighbors who live beside the proposed site, the elevators seem like something else entirely: a hazard a terrorist could turn into shrapnel.

On one side of a growing skirmish on Broad Street in Lower Manhattan are disabled riders, advocates and a real estate developer building the elevators in exchange for being granted permission by the city to add more square footage to the mixed-use building the developer is erecting at 45 Broad Street.

On the other are tenants of nearby buildings like 15 Broad Street, a high-rise designed by the architect Philippe Starck. It is a pocket of the city that has long been under intense security because of its proximity to prime potential targets like the New York Stock Exchange, and critics say the elevators could pose a threat in an area where police and bomb-sniffing dogs routinely check vehicles driving through.

“The idea that people can then ride in on the subway with a bomb or whatever and come straight up in an elevator is awful to me,” said Claudia Ward, who lives in 15 Broad Street and was among a group of neighbors who denounced the plan at a recent meeting of the local community board. “It’s too easy for someone to slip through. And I just don’t want my family and my neighbors to be the collateral on that.”

This, "Is one of the most insanely idiotic things I have ever heard. At no point in your rambling, incoherent response were you even close to anything that could be considered a rational thought. Everyone in this room is now dumber for having listened to it. I award you no points, and may God have mercy on your soul."

Terrorists climb stairs, you bloody moron wankers.

Get Your Official Democratic Party Rally Hat Here

For all your caving needs
3 days, and the Democrats cave on the government shutdown.

They shave 1 week off the stop gap, and the Dems get nothing.

21 January 2018

From the Department of, "Well, Duh!"

The reason that the Telcos are desperately trying to forestall any attempt at community run broadband is because they know the business, and they know that government running broadband is better and cheaper than the for profit alternative:

A new study out of Harvard once again makes it clear why incumbent ISPs like Comcast, Verizon and AT&T are so terrified by the idea of communities building their own broadband networks.

According to the new study (corrected link) by the Berkman Klein Center for Internet and Society at Harvard University, community-owned broadband networks provide consumers with significantly lower rates than their private-sector counterparts.

The study examined data collected from 40 municipal broadband providers and private throughout 2015 and 2016. Pricing data was collected predominately by visiting carrier websites, where pricing is (quite intentionally) often hidden behind prequalification walls, since pricing varies dramatically based on regional competition.

In many markets, analysts couldn’t make direct comparisons with a private ISP, either because the ISP failed to meet the FCC’s 25 Mbps down, 3 Mbps up standard definition of broadband (a problem for countless telcos who refuse to upgrade aging DSL lines), or because the ISP prequalification website terms of service “deterred or prohibited” data collection.

But out of the 27 markets where they could make direct comparisons, researchers found that in 23 cases, the community-owned ISPs’ pricing was lower when the service costs and fees were averaged over four years.

“When considering entry-level broadband service—the least-expensive plan that provides at least 25/3 Mbps service—23 out of 27 community-owned [fiber to the home] providers we studied charged the lowest prices in their community when considering the annual average cost of service over a four-year period, taking into account installation and equipment costs and averaging any initial teaser rates with later, higher, rates,” they noted.

In these 23 communities, prices for the lowest-cost service meeting the FCC’s definition of broadband were between 2.9 percent and 50 percent less than the lowest-cost such service offered by a private ISP in that market.
Of course, the study will be ignored, because neoliberal economics, and its attendant privatization of basic public services can never fail, it can only be failed.

The Amazonization of Whole Foods

It looks like Whole Foods was attempting to out-Amazon Amazon while it was negotiating its sale to the internet retailer because it established a just in time inventory system that is leaving shelves empty of staple foods:
Whole Foods is facing a crush of food shortages in stores that's leading to empty shelves, furious customers, and frustrated employees.

Many customers are blaming Amazon, which bought Whole Foods in August for $13.7 billion. Analysts have speculated that the shortages could be due to a spike in shopper traffic in the wake of the acquisition.

But Whole Foods employees say the problems began before the acquisition. They blame the shortages on a buying system called order-to-shelf that Whole Foods implemented across its stores early last year.


Order-to-shelf, or OTS, is a tightly controlled system designed to streamline and track product purchases, displays, storage, and sales. Under OTS, employees largely bypass stock rooms and carry products directly from delivery trucks to store shelves. It is meant to help Whole Foods cut costs, better manage inventory, reduce waste, and clear out storage.

But its strict procedures are leading to storewide stocking issues, according to several employees. Angry responses from customers are crushing morale, they say. (Many of the photographs in this story were provided to Business Insider by customers.)

"At my store, we are constantly running out of products in every department, including mine," an assistant department manager of an Illinois Whole Foods told Business Insider. "Regional and upper store management know about this. We all know we are losing sales and pissing off customers. It's not that we don't care — we do. But our hands are tied."

Whole Foods did not respond to several requests for comment on this story. The company's executives have described the changes as cost-saving, and employees acknowledge that they have helped reduce food spoilage in stock rooms.
Let's be clear: this predates the Amazon acquisition, but it seems to correspond with when negotiations likely began.

Either they were trying to make themselves more attractive to Amazon, or they were trying to be more like Amazon, but groceries ain't books or The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel.

H/t Atrios.

Truth is Antithetical Modern Corrections

The New York Times has a story on how jails and prisons across the country are banning the book The New Jim Crow, the article is titles, "Why Are American Prisons So Afraid of This Book?"

The answer to this question is simple:  They don't want inmates to understand the subtext of their detention, because for jailers, ignorance is bliss:
In the eight years since its publication, “The New Jim Crow,” a book by Michelle Alexander that explores the phenomenon of mass incarceration, has sold well over a million copies, been compared to the work of W.E.B. Du Bois, been cited in the legal decisions to end stop-and-frisk and sentencing laws, and been quoted passionately on stage at the Academy Awards.

But for the more than 130,000 adults in prison in North Carolina and Florida, the book is strictly off-limits.

And prisoners around the country often have trouble obtaining copies of the book, which points to the vast racial disparities in sentencing policy, and the way that mass incarceration has ravaged the African-American population.

This month, after protests, New Jersey revoked a ban some of its prisons had placed on the book, while New York quickly scrapped a program that would have limited its inmates’ ability to receive books at all.

Ms. Alexander, a civil rights lawyer and former clerk on the Supreme Court, said the barriers to reading the book are no accident.

“Some prison officials are determined to keep the people they lock in cages as ignorant as possible about the racial, social and political forces that have made the United States the most punitive nation on earth,” she said. “Perhaps they worry the truth might actually set the captives free.”

A spokeswoman for the Florida Department of Corrections confirmed that the book had been banned but would not elaborate. A form from the prison system’s literature review committee obtained by The New York Times indicates that the book was rejected because it presented a security threat and was filled with what the document called “racial overtures.”


The central thesis of “The New Jim Crow” is that the mass incarceration of black people is an extension of the American tradition of racial discrimination.

It zeroes in on how the “law and order” rhetoric of the 1950s and 1960s led to the war on drugs and harsh law enforcement and sentencing policies, which disproportionately affect black people.

“It is no longer socially permissible to use race, explicitly, as a justification for discrimination, exclusion, and social contempt,” she writes in the introduction. “So we don’t. Rather than rely on race we use our criminal justice system to label people of color ‘criminals’ and then engage in all the practices we supposedly left behind.”
Jailers don't like to be called racist stooges.

They certainly do not want the recipients of their tender mercies of this fact.

So they just ban the book.

Rinse, lather, repeat.

Tweet of the Day

This is a Pulitzer level of snark.

Not a Surprise

We know that correlation does not imply causation, but lack of correlation does imply a lack of causation, and it appears that stop and frisk falls firmly into the latter category:
If you grew up in New York City in the 1970s, the number can be hard to get your head around: 291. If you were a reporter in New York City in the early 1990s, the number can almost make your head explode: 291 murders in 2017, the lowest total since the 1950s.

But the number is perhaps most striking when set not against the numbers of murders in other years, but against this figure: the roughly 10,000 police stops conducted in 2017.

The longstanding rationale for the New York Police Department’s widespread use of what came to be known as stop-and-frisk — encounters between officers and people they suspected of suspicious behavior — had been that it was an essential crime-fighting tool. Such stops got guns off the street, the theory went, and low-level enforcement helped sweep up criminals destined to commit more serious crimes.


Ultimately, a federal judge, Shira Scheindlin, found the NYPD’s enforcement of stop-and-frisk racially unfair and unconstitutional. A new mayor, Bill de Blasio, and the judge’s orders for reform, prompted a radical scaling back of stop-and-frisk. Critics predicted a disastrous return to, depending on one’s age and experience, the 1970s or the 1990s.

The disaster never happened. Instead, what many scholars and police officials thought nearly unthinkable — further reductions in crime after two decades of plummeting numbers — did.

Holding murders under 300 was just the headline of 2017 statistics that saw considerable reductions in almost every category of major crime.
Stop and frisk was never a tactic to reduce crime, though the naive might have believed that, it was a way to keep people of color down.  (With a bit of law-enforcement theater thrown in.)

Snark of the Day

We all know about the skills shortage. Many employers can't find workers with the necessary skills. For example, the NYT can't find columnists who understand economics, so they had to hire Bret Stephens instead.
Dean Baker
That's gonna leave a mark.

20 January 2018

This is Impressive

The costs of renewable energy installations, including storage, has fallen precipitously:
Proposals for renewable electricity generation in Colorado are coming in cheap, like, $21/MWh-cheap for wind and battery storage. Though there are a few caveats to those numbers, federal incentives and quickly falling costs are combining to make once-quirky renewable projects into major contenders in an industry where fossil fuels have comfortably dominated since the 19th century. 

Early last year, Colorado energy provider Xcel Energy requested proposals for new electricity generation. Specifically, the company needed 450 megawatts of additional generation to meet future demand. In a separate request called the Colorado Energy Plan, Xcel said (PDF) it would consider replacing two coal plants providing 660MW of capacity with "hundreds of megawatts of new wind and solar as well as some natural gas-fired resources" if new resources could be found cheaper than what those coal plants cost to operate (including costs to shut down the plants early).

By late November, energy companies had submitted their best offers. Although exact details of the offers aren’t available yet, Xcel Colorado was required to make public a summary of the proposals (PDF) in the month after the bids were submitted.


Still, the prices quoted were encouragingly competitive. Although Xcel's report doesn't have a lot of details, this is what we know:

  • Out of 152 standalone solar bids, the median bid price was $29.50/MWh.
  • Standalone wind received the second-most bids from potential developers (that is, 96), and the median bid price was an astonishingly low $18.10/MWh. That's on the same level as a record-low $17.70/MWh bid put forward in Mexico in November.
  • 87 bids were placed to develop solar-plus-storage installations, with a median bid of $36/MWh. Still, we don’t know what kind of storage was proposed or how much of it was proposed. If you have a giant solar field sending electricity to the grid as it gets made, and a small battery installation to manage frequency regulation or serve a local community for an hour of downtime, that’s not terribly exciting. This median price is down from a previous competitive price of below $45/MWh signed by Tucson Electric.
  • 11 bids were placed to build wind-with-storage at a median bid of $21/MWh. The same problem with evaluating Xcel's solar-and-storage bids is present in the reported wind-and-storage bids: without more detail, it’s hard to evaluate how much storage comes with that.
  • Seven bids suggested a combination wind, solar, and battery storage installation, with a median price of $30.60/MWh.
  • Five bids suggested combining solar and wind for around $19.90/MWh.

A few more traditional, dispatchable technologies were proposed as well, but Xcel asked bidders to price these out in terms of dollars per kilowatt-month ($/kW-mo). That unit of measurement is considered capacity pricing, or pricing for electricity that's generated when demand exceeds a certain point, so it's not quite comparable to the $/MWh seen above.

Among those resources, combustion turbines came in at $4.80/kW-mo, and combustion turbines with battery storage came in at $6.20/kW-mo. For context, in a 2010 paper (PDF), New England's grid saw a $4.50/kW-mo bid for more traditional fossil fuel generators.
Renewables are still more expensive to install, but the differential is falling quickly.

A Good Surprise

The staff of the Los Angeles Times has overwhelmingly voted to unionized:
The Los Angeles Times’ editorial staff voted to unionize in a rebuke to owner Tronc Inc. that marks a new era in the newspaper’s 136-year history.

The employees’ union, NewsGuild, won the vote by a margin of more than 5-to-1, organizer Nastaran Mohit said Friday. The guild is an affiliate of the Communications Workers of America union, which has been organizing at the Times since late 2016.
Perhaps the fact that overpaid senior executives in the organization are being investigated for misconduct, while the news room has been gutted, has something to do with the lopsided vote:
The company also said Friday that Ross Levinsohn, the L.A. Times’ publisher, is taking a voluntary unpaid leave while the company looks into allegations of misconduct.

The vote heralds the beginning of a bargaining process that’s sure to prove contentious. Like the rest of the industry, the L.A. Times has been in almost constant turmoil in recent years, amid dwindling readership, falling advertising revenue, editorial shakeups and, most recently, the allegations against its publisher. Meanwhile, the company that eventually became Tronc has lurched from bankruptcy to a spinoff to a change in ownership and, finally, a new name in under a decade.


“There was a time, way back when, when a guild couldn’t make headway in the newsroom, because the people were treated very well,” Paul Pringle, an investigative reporter who helped spearhead the drive, said in an interview before the vote. “Those days are over.”
Increasingly, newspapers are run by people who do not believe in newspapers, and because of this, their business model is to extract as much money as possible by making its employees lives a living hell.

Unionization is a logical response to this.

This was Intentional

The NSA, despite being ordered by a judge to preserve records because of a lawsuit, deleted all of the records:
The National Security Agency destroyed surveillance data it pledged to preserve in connection with pending lawsuits and apparently never took some of the steps it told a federal court it had taken to make sure the information wasn’t destroyed, according to recent court filings.

Word of the NSA’s foul-up is emerging just as Congress has extended for six years the legal authority the agency uses for much of its surveillance work conducted through U.S. internet providers and tech firms. President Donald Trump signed that measure into law Friday.

Since 2007, the NSA has been under court orders to preserve data about certain of its surveillance efforts that came under legal attack following disclosures that President George W. Bush ordered warrantless wiretapping of international communications after the 2001 terrorist attacks on the U.S. In addition, the agency has made a series of representations in court over the years about how it is complying with its duties.

However, the NSA told U.S. District Court Judge Jeffrey White in a filing on Thursday night and another little-noticed submission last year that the agency did not preserve the content of internet communications intercepted between 2001 and 2007 under the program Bush ordered. To make matters worse, backup tapes that might have mitigated the failure were erased in 2009, 2011 and 2016, the NSA said.
This is a repeated behavior, and it was repeated over and over again, from an organization that throws away nothing, ever.

This was a deliberate action that was conducted to cover up misconduct by the organization. 

The only question is how high in the chain of command that it went.

Nope, No Attempt to Destroy the CFPB Here

The new head of the Consumer Finance Protection Bureau, Mick Mulvaney, has requested no money at all for its budget in the upcoming year:
The Trump-appointed acting director of the federal government’s consumer watchdog agency requested zero dollars of funding for its second-quarter budget, saying he intends to first spend down the agency’s rainy day fund.

In a letter to the Federal Reserve, which directly funds the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, Mick Mulvaney said the bureau does not need any new funds to operate during its second quarter. The bureau has on deposit $177.1 million to cover emergencies and contingencies, which Mulvaney says is too large. He said he intends to spend that down by roughly $145 million.
Since he's been there he has also killed regulation of payday lenders, invited Wall Street into its regulation process, and dropped a lawsuit against predatory lenders.

The CFPB is a dead man walking.

About that Shutdown

Yes, a government shutdown started at midnight.

This should be basically invisible until Monday, so right now we are getting political theater, with Trump demanding his wall, and the Dems demanding an extension to DACA.

I would be very surprised if we this isn't resolved by Wednesday or so.

The only wild card is the White House, where the incompetence of Trump, and the incoherent and conflicting agendas of both him and his staff.

Still, that is one f%$# of a wild card.

Is This the Proper use of the use of the Term Ironic?

Pat Meehan (R-PA) who has been a major figure on the House Judiciary Committee's work on sexual harassment, has been removed from the committee for sexually harassing an aide:
Representative Patrick Meehan, a Pennsylvania Republican who has taken a leading role in fighting sexual harassment in Congress, used thousands of dollars in taxpayer money to settle his own misconduct complaint after a former aide accused him last year of making unwanted romantic overtures to her, according to several people familiar with the settlement.

A married father of three, Mr. Meehan, 62, had long expressed interest in the personal life of the aide, who was decades younger and had regarded the congressman as a father figure, according to three people who worked with the office and four others with whom she discussed her tenure there.

But after the woman became involved in a serious relationship with someone outside the office last year, Mr. Meehan professed his romantic desires for her — first in person, and then in a handwritten letter — and he grew hostile when she did not reciprocate, the people familiar with her time in the office said.

Life in the office became untenable, so she initiated the complaint process, started working from home and ultimately left the job. She later reached a confidential agreement with Mr. Meehan’s office that included a settlement for an undisclosed amount to be paid from Mr. Meehan’s congressional office fund.
 Yeah, this is getting to be regular thing.


How do Cats Use Their Whiskers? Slow-Motion - Cats Uncovered - BBC:

19 January 2018

Stooges, Definitely, Russian? I Don't Know.

At least, there is symmetry.

It now appears that everyone's favorite group of jack-booted thugs, the National Rifle Association, is being investigated by the FBI for acting as a pass through Russian money to support the Trump campaign.

It's not clear from the story as to whether this is Russian government money, or just money from rich Russians, and separating the two is generally problematic, but here we have a real crime, money laundering, which is a felony:
The FBI is investigating whether a top Russian banker with ties to the Kremlin illegally funneled money to the National Rifle Association to help Donald Trump win the presidency, two sources familiar with the matter have told McClatchy.

FBI counterintelligence investigators have focused on the activities of Alexander Torshin, the deputy governor of Russia’s central bank who is known for his close relationships with both Russian President Vladimir Putin and the NRA, the sources said.

It is illegal to use foreign money to influence federal elections.

It’s unclear how long the Torshin inquiry has been ongoing, but the news comes as Justice Department Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s sweeping investigation of Russian meddling in the 2016 election, including whether the Kremlin colluded with Trump’s campaign, has been heating up.

All of the sources spoke on condition of anonymity because Mueller’s investigation is confidential and mostly involves classified information.

The extent to which the FBI has evidence of money flowing from Torshin to the NRA, or of the NRA’s participation in the transfer of funds, could not be learned.

However, the NRA reported spending a record $55 million on the 2016 elections, including $30 million to support Trump – triple what the group devoted to backing Republican Mitt Romney in the 2012 presidential race. Most of that was money was spent by an arm of the NRA that is not required to disclose its donors.
Even a lower level prosecution might put the NRA's tax exemption at risk, but getting Wayne LaPierre convicted of a felony, which would require him to give up all of his guns, would make my f%$#ing day, big time.

18 January 2018

End Stage of Empire

Deaths of mothers in child birth in the US are skyrocketing:
The rate of Texas women who died from complications related to pregnancy doubled from 2010 to 2014, a new study has found, for an estimated maternal mortality rate that is unmatched in any other state and the rest of the developed world.

The finding comes from a report, appearing in the September issue of the journal Obstetrics and Gynecology, that the maternal mortality rate in the United States increased between 2000 and 2014, even while the rest of the world succeeded in reducing its rate. Excluding California, where maternal mortality declined, and Texas, where it surged, the estimated number of maternal deaths per 100,000 births rose to 23.8 in 2014 from 18.8 in 2000 – or about 27%.

But the report singled out Texas for special concern, saying the doubling of mortality rates in a two-year period was hard to explain “in the absence of war, natural disaster, or severe economic upheaval”.

From 2000 to the end of 2010, Texas’s estimated maternal mortality rate hovered between 17.7 and 18.6 per 100,000 births. But after 2010, that rate had leaped to 33 deaths per 100,000, and in 2014 it was 35.8. Between 2010 and 2014, more than 600 women died for reasons related to their pregnancies.

No other state saw a comparable increase.

In the wake of the report, reproductive health advocates are blaming the increase on Republican-led budget cuts that decimated the ranks of Texas’s reproductive healthcare clinics. In 2011, just as the spike began, the Texas state legislature cut $73.6m from the state’s family planning budget of $111.5m. The two-thirds cut forced more than 80 family planning clinics to shut down across the state. The remaining clinics managed to provide services – such as low-cost or free birth control, cancer screenings and well-woman exams – to only half as many women as before.
Part of the Texas spike seems to be a statistical and data collection artifact, but a 27% increase nationally is nothing short of catastrophic.

It is symptomatic of a some very serious and deep rooted problems that taken root in our society.

More of This………

US Representatives Jan Schakowsky and Luis Gutierrez have endorsed fellow Congressman Dan Lipinski's primary opponent, Marie Newman, in the upcoming primary.

This is really unprecedented:
In a rare break from the usual tradition of House incumbents either backing each other or staying neutral in a primary, Illinois Democratic Reps. Jan Schakowsky and Luis Gutierrez on Wednesday endorsed challenger Marie Newman over Rep. Dan Lipinski.

“It’s not easy to endorse a challenger over a colleague in the House of Representatives,” Gutierrez said at a press conference on Capitol Hill with Newman and Schakowsky.

“Especially when that colleague is a member of your party. But I think this is a very special and at the same time a very dangerous time,” he said.

Said Schakowsky, “this is not personal,” with the split, she said, “based on issues.”

Lipinski told me when we talked after the press conference that working-class issues — not gay rights and abortion — are what the Democratic voters in his district care the most about.

The March 20 Illinois primary is one of the earliest in the nation and this intra-Democratic fight for the third congressional district seat will be a real time test of voter mood in this Trump era.
Lipinski is a right wing nut job who is where he is because his dad bequeathed him his seat.

Turf his ass out.

Newman's Act Blue fund raising page is here.