31 January 2019

Tweet of the Day

And Dan Froomkin feels the same way about Trump that I just did about Lieberman.

Our forever wars are bankrupting us, and they are poisoning our society.

Clearly, The FBI Will Save Us From Putin

A domestic terrorism briefing the FBI gave to law enforcement agencies in 2017 warned them about the threat of “pro-abortion extremists.” That would be fine, except—as the FBI’s own briefing materials subsequently admit—violent pro-abortion extremists barely exist, and in no universe do they constitute an organized domestic terror movement. The existence of this briefing was uncovered by Property of the People, a government transparency group that uses Freedom of Information Act requests to shed light on the workings of the government.

To make the extent of the non-problem clear: Only one person could be fairly described as a “pro-choice terrorist” (he indeed described himself that way), and that is Theodore Shulman, who went to prison in 2012 for harrassing and threatening to kill two leading figures in the anti-abortion movement. (Shulman served 41 months in prison, followed by three years of supervised release.) The only known death of an anti-abortion protester is Jim Pouillon, who was shot and killed in September 2009 while holding a gory sign and protesting outside a Michigan clinic. Harlan James Drake, who was sentenced to life in prison for the murder, was severely mentally ill, according to his lawyers. He also killed a gravel pit owner the same day, reportedly believing both men had wronged his mother. According to evidence presented at trial, Drake shot Pouillon not because he was a radical pro-choice activist, but because he was offended that Pouillon was holding a disturbing sign in view of school children.

Anti-abortion groups, meanwhile, have harassed doctors and clinics who provide abortions for decades, leading to arson, constant death threats, a wave of bombings throughout the 1990s, and the murders of some 12 people between 1993 and 2012, all either clinic staffers or physicians. The nature of these constant threats, combined with consistent state and federal-level legislative efforts to curtail abortion or ban it outright, has changed the nature of abortion access in America.

And yet the FBI’s briefing to law enforcement agencies appears to be based on the idea that there are threats, particularly dangerous lone wolf-type extremists, on both sides.

Gunita Singh, the staff attorney at Property of the People, told us, “It should strike any reasonable person as astounding, irrational, and even offensive to see the words ‘pro-choice extremist’ strung together. Yet, in this FBI document we see this configuration appear in an Abortion Extremism Reference Guide, juxtaposed alongside ‘pro-life extremists,’ as if they’re somehow two sides of the same coin.”
The FBI is still the misbegotten child of J. Edgar Hoover, and if you view them with anything other than suspicion, you are a fool.


I want to see someone selling beer in a Klein Bottle:

30 January 2019

Taibbi Reads the Coffee Man's Book, So I Don't Have To

Matt Taibbi's review of Howard Schultz's autobiography From the Ground Up: A Journey to Reimagine the Promise of America, and it's up there with his epic take-downs of Tom Friedman's drivel:
Scientists may someday find the edge of the universe, but there is no end to the delusional self-regard of America’s one-percenters, as former Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz proved this week.

Sunday night on 60 Minutes, Schultz announced he was considering a run for president as an independent. The Twitter reaction was like something out of 28 Days Later: mobs of Trump-exhausted Americans sprinting to bite his face off. At a bookstore appearance for his new memoir, a heckler shouted “Go back to Davos!”

Why the severe reaction? Schultz openly declared his decision to run as an Independent was based on the idea that he’d have to “lean left” to win the Democratic nomination. This is rich-speak for “I obviously couldn’t win the nomination if I had to compete honestly.”


Schultz timed his announcement to coincide with his ghostwriter Joanne Gordon’s new work, the aforementioned memoir entitled, From the Ground Up: A Journey to Reimagine the Promise of America, released Tuesday.

From the Ground Up belongs to the F%$# You: How I Became a Billionaire and You Didn’t genre that has an oddly persistent market in America.

Because it’s also designed to double as an extended stump speech, it’s a particularly difficult read — the boring and insincere autobiography of a pretentious oligarch who probably hasn’t been told to his face he’s full of shit since the first Bush administration.

He finishes by asking, "Is anything in the world more dangerous than a bored billionaire?"

This is Taibbi at the top of his form, and you should read the rest.

Your Daily Schadenfreude

Citing “conduct that violates civil rights,” lawyers for Gov. Matt Bevin say former Rowan County Clerk Kim Davis should be held responsible for nearly $225,000 in legal fees and court costs incurred by couples who sued her in 2015 when she refused to issue marriage licenses because of her religious opposition to same-sex marriage.

Although Bevin, a Republican, publicly has praised Davis as “an inspiration ... to the children of America,” his attorneys are taking a more critical tone in court briefs, blaming the ex-clerk for failing to do her job following the U.S. Supreme Court’s June 2015 decision legalizing gay marriage.

A three-judge panel will hear arguments about who should bear the case’s expenses Thursday at the U.S. 6th Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati. A district judge ruled in 2017 that the couples suing for marriage licenses clearly prevailed and that the state of Kentucky must pay their fees and costs.

Bevin appealed that ruling, hoping to hand the bill instead to the Rowan County clerk’s office. Davis acted alone, without any state support, the governor’s lawyers told the 6th Circuit in briefs ahead of the oral arguments.

“Her local policy stood in direct conflict with her statutory obligation to issue marriage licenses to qualified Kentucky couples. The local policy also undermined the Commonwealth of Kentucky’s interest in upholding the rule of law,” Bevin attorney Palmer G. Vance II wrote in one brief.


Davis’ statutory authority to issue Kentucky marriage licenses came from the state government, Bunning said. And had the state chosen to, he said, it could have pursued criminal penalties against Davis for official misconduct for refusing to do her duty, or the legislature could have impeached her and removed her from office.

Instead, the state legislature “modified the marriage license form to appease Davis,” he said. Bunning rejected holding Davis personally responsible for the money because the couples prevailed against her in her “official capacity” as a public official, not as an individual, he said.
The hypocrisy is palpable, and fabulous.

Why Scott Walker Lost His Bit for Reelection

Because he offered over $4 billion in subsidies to the electronics manufacturer Foxconn to build a factory, an amount that could never be recouped.

It gets even better, because now Foxconn has announced that it won't be building the factory after all.

It appears that there wasn't a, "No backsies," provision in the contract:
It was heralded a year and a half ago as the start of a Midwestern manufacturing renaissance: Foxconn, the Taiwanese electronics behemoth, would build a $10 billion Wisconsin plant to make flat-screen televisions, creating 13,000 jobs. President Trump later called the project “the eighth wonder of the world.”

Now that prospect looks less certain.

Pointing to “new realities” in the market, the company said Wednesday that it was reassessing the plans, underscoring the difficult economics of manufacturing in the United States. “The global market environment that existed when the project was first announced has changed,” Foxconn said in a statement.

Company officials had signaled for months that their emphasis was increasingly on research and development rather than large-scale production, dampening the potential for blue-collar job creation.


The Foxconn statement followed a Reuters report that Louis Woo, a special assistant to the company’s chairman, Terry Gou, had said the costs of manufacturing screens for televisions and other consumer products were too high in the United States.

“In terms of TV, we have no place in the U.S.,” Mr. Woo told Reuters. “We can’t compete.”


Mr. Walker and state lawmakers had agreed to more than $4 billion in tax credits and other inducements over a 15-year period, an unusually high figure, for a plant in Mount Pleasant, near Racine.
That sound you hear is the final nail being hammered into the coffin of Scott Walker's political career.

Why Bankruptcy Laws Need to be Reformed

On Tuesday morning, California utility Pacific Gas and Electric (PG&E) filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy (PDF), citing billions of dollars in potential damages and fines stemming from liability in several 2017 and 2018 wildfires.

The utility noted in its Tuesday filing that it has secured $5.5 billion in debtor-in-possession financing to continue operating while it restructures. PG&E serves 16 million customers, primarily in northern California.

PG&E announced that it would file for bankruptcy earlier this month, as investigations into some of California's deadliest wildfires pointed to sparks from PG&E's transmission equipment as the causes of more than a dozen fires over the last two years. Investigators have implicated PG&E in 18 wildfires that occurred during October 2017, according to The Wall Street Journal. The fires "burned nearly 200,000 acres, destroyed 3,256 structures, and killed 22 people," the WSJ noted.

Investigators are still looking into whether PG&E's equipment sparked the deadly Camp Fire that ripped through northern California last fall, killing 86 people. Late last week, the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection announced (PDF) that PG&E was not responsible for the deadly October 2017 Tubbs Fire, which killed 23 people. That fire, the department said, was caused by a "private electrical system adjacent to a residential structure."

Still, despite not being held responsible for the Tubbs Fire, PG&E says it could be on the hook for more than $30 billion in damages and fines related to California's wildfires. Climate change has exacerbated wildfires in California, and the state allows fire victims to bring lawsuits against utilities whose equipment sparks a wildfire, even if that utility hasn't been found negligent.
They need to be "Arthur Andersoned", and their senior executives need to be jailed.

29 January 2019

Oh, Snap!

The Illinois Supreme Court just reversed a state appeals court decision, and said that 6-Flags amusement park is liable for collecting biometric data, specifically fingerprints.

This may not sound like a big deal, but it also means that companies like Facebook and Google are liable as well:
The Illinois Supreme Court on Friday upheld consumers’ right to sue companies for collecting data like fingerprint or iris scans without telling them how it will be used — a ruling that could have widespread implications for tech giants like Facebook and Google.

The unanimous ruling came in a lawsuit filed against Six Flags Entertainment Corp. by the family of a teenager whose fingerprint data was collected in 2014 when he bought a season pass to Great America, the company’s Gurnee amusement park. The lawsuit alleged violation of the 2008 Illinois Biometric Information Privacy Act, which has gained attention as biometric data are increasingly used for tasks such as tagging photos on social media and clocking in at work.

The law requires companies collecting information such as facial, fingerprint and iris scans to obtain prior consent from consumers or employees, detailing how they’ll use the data and how long the records will be kept. It also allows private citizens to sue, while other states let only the attorney general bring a lawsuit.

Here's why Facebook and Google care.

The Illinois Supreme Court on Friday ruled unanimously against Six Flags Entertainment Corp. in a lawsuit filed by the family of a teenager whose fingerprint data was collected in 2014 when he bought a season pass. (Mark Kodiak Ukena/Lake County News-Sun)
Ally MarottiContact ReporterChicago Tribune
Privacy Policy

The Illinois Supreme Court on Friday upheld consumers’ right to sue companies for collecting data like fingerprint or iris scans without telling them how it will be used — a ruling that could have widespread implications for tech giants like Facebook and Google.

The unanimous ruling came in a lawsuit filed against Six Flags Entertainment Corp. by the family of a teenager whose fingerprint data was collected in 2014 when he bought a season pass to Great America, the company’s Gurnee amusement park. The lawsuit alleged violation of the 2008 Illinois Biometric Information Privacy Act, which has gained attention as biometric data are increasingly used for tasks such as tagging photos on social media and clocking in at work.

The law requires companies collecting information such as facial, fingerprint and iris scans to obtain prior consent from consumers or employees, detailing how they’ll use the data and how long the records will be kept. It also allows private citizens to sue, while other states let only the attorney general bring a lawsuit.

The opinion, which overturns an appeals court ruling in favor of Six Flags, has the potential to effect biometrics lawsuits playing out in courtrooms across the country. Defendants in those cases, including Facebook, have argued that individuals shouldn’t have the right to sue if no real damage occurred after they handed over their biometric information. But the state Supreme Court ruled that violation of the law is damage enough.

“This is no mere ‘technicality,’ ” as the appellate court suggested, Chief Justice Lloyd Karmeier wrote in the opinion. “The injury is real and significant.”


The Illinois law is one of the strictest in the nation and has turned the state into a hotbed of lawsuits over alleged misuses of biometric data. Privacy experts say protecting that type of information is critical because, unlike a credit card or bank account number, it’s permanent.

Besides Facebook, companies across a wide range of industries — from other tech giants such as Google, Snapchat and Shutterfly to Chicago-based United Airlines, grocery company Roundy’s and InterContinental Hotels’ Kimpton chain — have faced allegations in Illinois involving improper use of biometrics.

There was already one bill being mooted to emasculate the Illinois law, and I expect to see more of that, along with federal court challenges, because, after all, there is money to be made and campaign donations to be made.

There are Stupid Business Plans, Moronic Business Plans, and Then There is ………

Only $500 a Cup
Setting up a company with a business plan to, "Use reentry heating to roast coffee beans."

This is f%$#ed up and sh%$.

This is the most transparent scam since ………  I don't know ……… Maybe Juicero?
A company called Space Roasters says it plans to use the considerable heat of reentry from space through Earth's atmosphere to roast coffee beans. It will then sell them for the perfect cup of joe.

In an interview with Room magazine, the founders of the company, Hatem Alkhafaji and Anders Cavallini, say space is the place to look for a next-level brew. "Coffee has been roasted the same way for centuries now, and as space science has improved many technologies, we believe it is time to revolutionize coffee roasting using space technology," the pair told the magazine.

How does it work? The company says it has patented a "space roasting capsule" in which heat from re-entry will be distributed around four cylinders each containing 75kg of coffee beans. Floating in microgravity, the beans will be evenly heated and roasted during the process. The capsule will then be recovered after landing with parachutes. "The entire process will last only 20 minutes but will end with a marvelous aroma as the hatch is opened," the founders told the magazine.

Although the company says it will offer a "pre-sale" about a month from now, it has not set a price for these coffee beans.
We really need to start prosecuting these "move fast and break things" idiots.

This is a Feature, Not a Bug

Private equity guys are parasites, stripping the assets from the companies that they take over, and leaving someone else to hold the bag.

It is no surprise therefor, that Eddie Lampert, who destroyed Sears by applying the management principles of Ayn Rant, is making looting the pension fund central to "saving" Sears & Roebuck:
Eddie Lampert’s last-ditch moves to save Sears have been lambasted by workers' rights groups, the company’s unsecured creditors and bankruptcy experts alike.

The latest stakeholder to come out swinging: the pension insurer for the U.S. government.

The Pension Benefit Guaranty Corp. during the weekend came out against Lampert’s proposed $5.2 billion bid for the struggling retailer. In papers filed in U.S. Bankruptcy Court on Saturday, the PBGC specifically pointed to a $1.7 billion funding gap that, the corporation says, Lampert’s bid doesn’t account for.

Plus, bankruptcy experts say Sears could become the latest example among retailers and other companies that, once thrown into bankruptcy, have their pension plans wiped cleaned.
This is how these rat-f%$#s pay for their 3rd and 4th yachts.

We desperately need to reform the corporate bankruptcy laws to eliminate this, "Heads I win, tails you lose," bullsh%$.

It's 49° F in Seattle, and -22° F in Minneapolis, and I Know Someone Who Prefers the Weather in Minneapolis

Here is a shout out to my older, and hairier, brother, the Bear Who Swims.

I am sure that, upon hearing about the bitter cold settling in on Minneapolis, he is seriously considering going there for a quick trip because he misses the weather.

Silly old bear.

28 January 2019

My Heart Bleeds for These MotherF%$#ers

Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E) stated in a filing Wednesday that full compliance with a wildfire prevention court order would cost between $75 billion and $150 billion.

The US District Court for the Northern District of California proposed on January 9 to require PG&E to re-inspect all of its electrical grid and remove or trim any trees that could fall on the lines and fix all conductors that may push together. These changes were required to be completed before the 2019 wildfire season, which starts June 21, 2019.

The court declared in a preliminary finding last week that based on evidence presented, that uninsulated power conductors are often pushed together due to fallen trees or limbs. This then caused sparks to fall on the vegetation below which pose an “extreme danger” of starting a wildfire. The equipment was called a common cause of California wildfires in 2017 and 2018 that have been attributed to PG&E.


PG&E is accused of starting wildfires through reckless operation or maintenance of its power lines. The California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection has not concluded investigations into the 2018 Camp Fire or other 2018 wildfires, but the law suit states that the organization found evidence of state law violations in eleven 2017 wildfires. 
Screw them.

They have been doing this for years, and have never got anything more than bailouts from the California legislature.

They need to be "Arthur Andersoned" with extreme prejudice.

The corporation should be executed in the public square as a warning to others.

Old School, Seriously Old School

Over at War on the Rocks, Frank Blazich suggest that, in situations where you have aggressive electronic jamming, the military should reconsider carrier pigeons:
On April 16, 1919, the troop transport Ohioan docked at Hoboken, New Jersey. Among the various disembarking members of the American Expeditionary Forces was a small detachment of 21 men of the U.S. Army Signal Corp’s Pigeon Service Company No. 1. Pier-side newspaper reporters flocked around the officer in charge, Capt. John L. Carney, to ask about the exploits of the distinguished hero pigeons the Army chose to bring home. Foremost among the latter was an English-bred black check hen named Cher Ami. As Carney told the story, it was Cher Ami who on October 4, 1918 braved shot and shell to deliver a message from the besieged men of a composite force surrounded in the Charlevaux Ravine of the Argonne Forest, forever known as  “The Lost Battalion.” Cher Ami arrived at her loft with the intact message from the force’s commander, Maj. Charles W. Whittlesey, albeit minus a right leg and with a wound clear across the chest cutting through the breast bone. Cher Ami survived her injuries and Whittlesey’s message provided the exact position of his force back to the regimental and divisional headquarters, information which contributed to the eventual relief of the men.

Cher Ami’s story remains legendary to this day, a testament to the bravery of animals in war. The story, although the records are uncertain if Cher Ami or another pigeon delivered Whittlesey’s message, often obscures the purposes underlying the use of homing pigeons by the U.S. Army. From 1917 to 1957, the Signal Corps maintained pigeon breeding and training facilities, and birds saw service in World War II and Korea. When the pigeon service disbanded in 1957, the Army contended that advances in electronic communications rendered the peacetime maintenance of pigeon breeding and training facilities unnecessary. The remaining pigeons were sold at auction, with a select few being donated to zoos around the nation. Today the use of homing pigeons is viewed as novelty, a quirky vignette of the early 20th century battlefield.

Over 60 years later, the military homing pigeon warrants reexamination. The electromagnetic spectrum’s influence extends throughout the systems and operations of the battlespace into the fabric of civil society. Offensive and defensive operations in the cyber space realm, combined with kinetic strikes on air, land, sea, or space-based infrastructure, could potentially disable or severely damage entire communication or power grids. Adversaries with electronic warfare dominance would then be positioned to control the battlespace and restrict the options presented to American or allied commanders. Reflecting on electronic warfare’s potential, some communications between the front lines of the battlefield and rear echelon command and control elements may need to rest on the legs or back of a feathered messenger when a human runner or more visible vehicle or aircraft may prove too vulnerable to interception or destruction.
A quick back of the envelope calculation shows that if the pigeon is carrying a 256 gigabyte SD card, and takes 24 hours to reach its destination, it translates to a throughput of about 3 megabytes per second.

Honestly, I don't think that the military will go back to pigeons, alternatives such as line of site communication links, or similar satellite uplinks, (lasers and other tech) provide a more immediate communications solution, but I CAN see this as being a good alternative for insurgencies and unconventional combatants.

Of course, some people may say that it's silly to reactivate what is a Jurassic mode of communications, but birds, or as my meme-savvy son says, "Birbs," are actually dinosaurs, so, to quote Zathras, "At least there is symmetry.:

Politico Needs to Hire New Copy Editors

Tiger Beat on the Potomac has an article describing how Wall Street is completely losing its sh%$ over the prospect of the Democrats nominating a Presidential candidate who isn't completely owned by the finance industry:
Top Wall Street executives would love to be rid of President Donald Trump. But they are getting panicked about the prospect of an ultraliberal Democratic nominee bent on raising taxes and slapping regulations on their firms.
Because it is somehow unseemly for you folks to pay for nearly blowing up the world in 2008.
Early support from deep-pocketed financial executives could give Democrats seeking to break out of the pack an important fundraising boost. But any association with bankers also opens presidential hopefuls to sharp attacks from an ascendant left.

And it’s left senior executives on Wall Street flailing over what to do.
Just do what you always do: Follow the crowd, and lose money for your clients.
After mentioning Bloomberg, Wall Street executives who want Trump out list a consistent roster of appealing nominees that includes former Vice President Joe Biden and Sens. Cory Booker of New Jersey, Kirsten Gillibrand of New York and Kamala Harris of California. Others meriting mention: former Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe, former Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper, former Maryland Rep. John Delaney and former Texas Rep. Beto O’Rourke, though fewally know his positions.
(emphasis mine)

That should read APPALLING, not APPEALING.

Seriously, fire your copy editors.

27 January 2019

Because They Are a Corrupt Criminal Enterprise, and They Buy Politicians Accordingly

The good folks at Pro Publica are asking, "Why Aren’t Hedge Funds Required to Fight Money Laundering?

They do a good job of looking at what is going on, but they miss the underlying why.

According to their own description, hedge funds work by recognizing, and exploiting, "Market inefficiencies."

Translated into normal English, this means that they win by cheating.

What's more, they know that they win by cheating, and so they know that reductions in corruption, or increases in transparency are a direct threat to their core business model.

The hedge funds are corrupt, and corrupting, to their core, and because of this, they spend a lot of money on campaign contributions, as well as on hiring former regulators, so that people there know, if they play the game, they can cash out when they retire:
For many years, the federal government has required banks, brokerages and even casinos to take steps to stop customers from using them to clean dirty money.

Yet one major part of the financial system has remained stubbornly exempt, despite experts’ repeated warnings that it is vulnerable to criminal manipulation. Investment companies such as hedge funds and private equity firms have escaped multiple efforts to subject them to rules meant to combat money laundering.


The Financial Action Task Force, an intergovernmental organization that seeks to combat money laundering around the world, characterized the lack of anti-money laundering rules for investment advisers, such as those who manage hedge funds and private equity funds, as one of the United States’ most significant lapses in a report two years ago.


Hedge funds and private equity funds can be attractive to big-dollar launderers who prize the funds’ anonymity, the variety of investments they offer and, in some cases, their use of off-shore tax and secrecy havens, experts say. After 2001, the number of annual hedge fund launches surged more than threefold, according to one report, and investments by high net worth individuals exceeded those of institutional investors.

“They’re a black box to everyone involved,” Kirschenbaum said. “They’re sophisticated and can justify moving hundreds of billions.”

Money launderers seek to hide illicit proceeds by making it appear they come from legal sources. Laundering hides crimes as diverse as drug dealing, tax evasion and political corruption. Experts say the massive, untracked streams of cash it creates can fuel more illegal activity, including terrorism.

About F%$#ing Time

For many years, potential Democratic candidates for President have made pilgrimages to Wall Street, and the Hamptons, to beg for money in exchange for letting the big casino to continue to parisitize the real economy.

In years past, no one noticed.

Not any more:
Ties to Wall Street and corporate interests are raising concerns about a number of high-profile Democratic candidates considering White House bids as the party moves to reduce the influence of big money in campaigns.

Sens. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) and Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) are likely to face questions about money they’ve received from financial institutions in Wall Street, according to strategists.

Meanwhile, former Vice President Joe Biden has his own ties to banks and credit card companies, dating back to his years in the Senate, while Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) could face scrutiny over her reluctance in 2013 to prosecute Steven Mnuchin’s OneWest Bank when she was attorney general of California.

The pushback could come as progressives such as Sens. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) turn to small donations to fuel campaigns, avoiding corporate donations that they, and many in the Democratic base, believe taint the electoral process.

“Here would be my warning to any candidate who's thinking about running in this environment today: This is not 2008. This is not 2012,” said Chris Kofinis, a Democratic strategist.
Sherrod Brown should be mentioned along with Sanders and Warren, but the big point is that even 2 years ago, kowtowing to the finance industry was considered ordinary, and questioning that behavior was considered unseemly.

I'm pretty sure what the response will be from corporate Democrats, they will accuse the real Dems of being Russian stooges.

26 January 2019

Deep Thought

With Measles spreading, well, like Measels though the Pacific Northwest, the only conclusion to be reached is that antivaxxers suck like a thousand Hoovers all running at once.

25 January 2019

Cox Didn't, Jaworski Didn't

But Mueller finally got an indictment of Roger Stone, Richard Nixon's most zealous rat-f%$#er:
The special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, revealed on Friday the most direct link yet between parallel efforts by the Trump campaign and WikiLeaks to damage Hillary Clinton during the 2016 election using Democratic Party material stolen by Russians.

A top Trump campaign official dispatched Roger J. Stone Jr., a longtime adviser to President Trump, to get information from WikiLeaks about the thousands of hacked Democratic emails, according to an indictment. The effort began weeks after Democratic officials publicly accused Russian intelligence operatives of the theft, which was part of Moscow’s broad campaign to sabotage the 2016 presidential race.

The indictment made no mention of whether Mr. Trump played a role in the coordination, though Mr. Mueller did leave a curious clue about how high in the campaign the effort reached: A senior campaign official “was directed” by an unnamed person to contact Mr. Stone about additional WikiLeaks releases that might damage the Clinton campaign, according to the court document.

In an indictment filled with colorful details about clandestine meetings, angry texts — even a reference to “The Godfather: Part II” — Mr. Stone was charged with seven counts, including obstruction, making false statements and witness tampering. Mr. Mueller did not say that Mr. Stone’s interactions with WikiLeaks were illegal, nor that the Trump campaign engaged in a criminal conspiracy with the organization.
This guy literally has a Nixon tattoo on his back, which would tend to put off any would-be jail suitors, so he'll be OK.

Once again, it ain't the crime, it's the coverup.

OK, I Did Not See This Coming

There are a number of things that I thought would never happen.

One of them was that the US Air Force would never order another F-15.

They have been trying to kill them for some time, but now it looks like they might be asking for some new Eagles in the 2020 budget:
Indecision has plagued the U.S. Air Force’s approach to managing a fleet of about 230 Boeing F-15C/Ds. Only two years ago, top Air National Guard officials floated a proposal to retire the U.S.-based portion of the air superiority fleet. After that idea withered under the heat of a Congressional backlash, the Air Force last year opted to deprive its F-15C/D units of a critical electronic warfare upgrade, making the entire fleet vulnerable to a near-term retirement decision. Again, Congress intervened and voted to partially restore the program in the enacted fiscal 2019 budget.

But Air Force leaders now seem poised to perform the budgetary equivalent of the F-15’s about-face Immelmann turn. Instead of launching another attempt to retire the F-15 fleet, the Air Force is likely to ask Congress for money to order new F-15s for the first time in 19 years. The anticipated policy reversal has prompted calls for the Air Force to justify such a sweeping, strange request in fleet strategy.

“We’re in a bit of a pickle, and the pickle is we don’t have the capacity we need,” Matt Donovan, Air Force undersecretary, explained on Jan. 18.

Donovan was careful to clarify that he was neither confirming nor denying reports that the F-15X would be included in the Trump administration’s upcoming fiscal 2020 budget, but he still offered a preview of the Air Force’s newly formed argument that the time has come to reverse its nearly two-decade-old position. Instead of insisting that acquiring more non-stealthy, manned fighters in the modern era is futile, Air Force officials are now pleading for more air superiority aircraft overall, regardless of whether they are less observable to radar.
There are a number of issues, the USAF is maintaining that they are not getting F-35s fast enough, but I am inclined to believe that in addition to their sky-high acquisition costs, that the operating costs of the Lightning II are much higher than anticipated.

The hourly direct operating cost of the F-15 is lower than either the F-22 or F-35, while the Eagle's unrefueled range is greater than either of the newer aircraft, and its air to air and air to ground loadouts are superior.

For about 95% of any conflicts, the F-15 is cheaper and more capable, so this decision would make sense, which is why I never expected the US Air Force to consider such a decision.

Tweet of the Day

This is the real problem of access journalism: It is inherently corrupting.

How Does it Feel to be Nancy's Bitch, Donnie?

President Trump agreed on Friday to reopen the federal government for three weeks while negotiations continued over how to secure the nation’s southwestern border, backing down after a monthlong standoff failed to force Democrats to give him billions of dollars for his long-promised wall.

The president’s concession paved the way for the House and the Senate to both pass a stopgap spending bill by voice vote. Mr. Trump signed it on Friday night, restoring normal operations at a series of federal agencies until Feb. 15 and opening the way to paying the 800,000 federal workers who have been furloughed or forced to work without pay for 35 days.

The plan includes none of the money for the wall that Mr. Trump had demanded and was essentially the same approach that he rejected at the end of December and that Democrats have advocated since, meaning he won nothing concrete during the impasse.
So much winning.

My guess is the evidence that the air traffic control system was on the brink of collapse, just before the Superbowl, and I'm sure that his rich friends would not be amused if they were chilling their heels at Hartsfield-Jackson airport.


A horse in a hospital:

24 January 2019

It Does Seem to Be an American Tradition

Another administration, another coup fomented in Latin America.

This is wrong, and it's a distraction, we should be spending our energy on being outraged about Russian Facebook trolls.

I mean that literally, there has been an overthrow of a regime promulgated by the US in every administration since (at least) the Reagan administration.  (Honduras was Obama's coup.)
President Nicolas Maduro of Venezuela officially cut off dipomatic ties with the U.S. government on Wednesday—and gave American diplomats 72 hours to leave the country—in response to President Donald Trump declaring formal recognition of an opposition lawmaker as the "Interim President" of Venezuela, despite not being elected by the nation's people for that position.

"Before the people and nations of the world, and as constitutional president," declared Maduro to a crowd of red-shirted supporters gathered outside the presidential residence in Caracas, "I've decided to break diplomatic and political relations with the imperialist U.S. government."


Critics of U.S. imperialism and its long history of anti-democratic manuevers in Latin American expressed immediate alarm on Wednesday after Trump's announcement. And what Trump identified as "democracy," critics of the move instead used Maduro's description: "coup."


Mark Weisbrot, co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR), called the latest moves by the Trump administration a "disgrace."

"It's acceleration of the Trump administration's efforts at regime change in Venezuela," said Weisbrot. "We all know how well that strategy has worked out in Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, and Syria—not to mention that hundreds of thousands of people in Latin American have been killed by U.S.-sponsored regime change in Latin America since the 1970s."
I don't claim omniscience, but I will say that should this coup be successfully prosecuted, the ordinary Venezuelan is going to  suffer, and the Venezuelan elites, along with Wall Street will loot the sh%$ out of the place.

23 January 2019

Tweet of the Day

The MSM is scrambling to avoid discussing the possibility that her policies might be responsible for her prominence.

Truly America's Finest News Source

I am referring, of course to The Onion who just penned, "Kamala Harris Assembles Campaign Staff Of Unpaid California Prison Laborers."

It is a reference to her office, when she was California state Attorney General, her office literally argued against the release of prisoners from California's overcrowded prisons because they needed the slave labor.

Being Evil

It looks like Google, now that an anemic Firefox is the last other browser standing, will cripple ad blockers in Chrome.
What a surprise, an advertising company who dominates the browser market is crippling ad blockers:
Google engineers have proposed changes to the open-source Chromium browser that will break content-blocking extensions, including ad blockers.

If the overhaul goes ahead, Adblock Plus and similar plugins that rely on basic filtering will, with some tweaks, still be able to function to some degree, unlike more ambitious extensions, such as uBlock Origin, which will be hit hard. The drafted changes will limit the capabilities available to extension developers, ostensibly for the sake of speed and safety. Chromium forms the central core of Google Chrome, and, soon, Microsoft Edge.

In a note posted Tuesday to the Chromium bug tracker, Raymond Hill, the developer behind uBlock Origin and uMatrix, said the changes contemplated by the Manifest v3 proposal will ruin his ad and content blocking extensions, and take control of content away from users.


"If this (quite limited) declarativeNetRequest API ends up being the only way content blockers can accomplish their duty, this essentially means that two content blockers I have maintained for years, uBlock Origin and uMatrix, can no longer exist," said Hill.

The proposed changes will diminish the effectiveness of content blocking and ad blocking extensions, though they won't entirely eliminate all ad blocking. The basic filtering mechanism supported by Adblock Plus should still be available. But uBlock Origin and uMatrix offer far more extensive controls, without trying to placate publishers through ad whitelisting.
"Users should have increased control over their extensions," the design document says. "A user should be able to determine what information is available to an extension, and be able to control that privilege."

But one way Google would like to achieve these goals involves replacing the webRequest API with a new one, declarativeNetRequest.

The webRequest API allows browser extensions, like uBlock Origin, to intercept network requests, so they can be blocked, modified, or redirected. This can cause delays in web page loading because Chrome has to wait for the extension. In the future, webRequest will only be able to read network requests, not modify them.

The declarativeNetRequest allows Chrome (rather than the extension itself) to decide how to handle network requests, thereby removing a possible source of bottlenecks and a potentially useful mechanism for changing browser behavior.

"The declarativeNetRequest API provides better privacy to users because extensions can't actually read the network requests made on the user's behalf," Google's API documentation explains.


"If this (quite limited) declarativeNetRequest API ends up being the only way content blockers can accomplish their duty, this essentially means that two content blockers I have maintained for years, uBlock Origin and uMatrix, can no longer exist," said Hill.

The proposed changes will diminish the effectiveness of content blocking and ad blocking extensions, though they won't entirely eliminate all ad blocking. The basic filtering mechanism supported by Adblock Plus should still be available. But uBlock Origin and uMatrix offer far more extensive controls, without trying to placate publishers through ad whitelisting.


Hill observes that several other capabilities will no longer be available under the new API, including blocking media elements larger than a specified size, disable JavaScript execution by injecting Content-Security-Policy directives, and removing the outgoing Cookie headers
This means that it is almost certain that NoScript, for example, whose security bona fides are such that it is distributed with the TOR browser, will never work effectively on Chromium based browsers.

This does not help user privacy or security, it's just Google being evil, again.

22 January 2019

I Like this Take on Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez

Not surprising, since it's Matt Taibbi, and he draws a straight line between the clueless political elite and their discomfort with AOC's outspoken nature:
One of the first things you learn covering American politicians is that they’re not terribly bright.

The notion that Hill denizens are brilliant 4-D chess players is pure myth, the product of too many press hagiographies of the Game Change variety and too many Hollywood fantasies like House of Cards and West Wing. 

The average American politician would lose at checkers to a zoo gorilla. They’re usually in office for one reason: someone with money sent them there, often to vote yes on a key appropriation bill or two. On the other 364 days of the year, their job is to shut their yaps and approximate gravitas anytime they’re in range of C-SPAN cameras.


We’ve seen this a lot in recent weeks with the ongoing freakout over newcomer Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. Lest anyone think any of the above applies to “AOC,” who’s also had a lot to say since arriving in Washington, remember: she won in spite of the party and big donors, not because of them.

That doesn’t make anything she says inherently more or less correct. But it changes the dynamic a bit. All of AOC’s supporters sent her to Washington precisely to make noise. There isn’t a cabal of key donors standing behind her, cringing every time she talks about the Pentagon budget. She is there to be a pain in the ass, and it’s working. Virtually the entire spectrum of Washington officialdom has responded to her with horror and anguish.


All of which brings us back to the issue of Washington’s would-be 4-D chess players. Time and again, they reveal how little they understand about the extent of their own influence, or anti-influence, as it were.
Seriously, the Democratic Party has been seized by the most and timid amongst us.

A Deal Inked in LA Teachers' Strike

And true to their word, the contract is primarily about protecting the public school system from the predations of the hedge fund crowd:
What was going to be a fierce morning march on school district headquarters became a celebration instead Tuesday as thousands of striking teachers learned of a tentative agreement to end a six-day strike.

“You just taught the best lesson of your life,” union President Alex Caputo-Pearl told a sea of supporters in union-red T-shirts gathered in Grand Park.………

“Public education is now the topic in every household in our community,” he said. “Let’s capitalize on that. Let’s fix it.”

“We can’t solve 40 years of underinvestment in public education in just one week or just one contract,” he said.

The Board of Education is expected to move quickly to ratify the deal. Board members convened a morning closed session to review and discuss it. The deal also must be approved by United Teachers Los Angeles through a vote of its members.


The tentative deal includes what amounts to a 6% raise for teachers — with a 3% raise for the last school year and a 3% raise for this school year. (Teachers also lost about 3% of their salary by being on strike for six days, according to the school district.)

This 6% offer had been on the table before teachers went on strike, but the walkout was always about more than salary.

The agreement, which runs through June 2022, also includes a reduction of class sizes over four years to levels in the previous contract, but removes a contract provision that has allowed the school district to increase class sizes in times of economic hardship, Caputo-Pearl said in an interview. It was not immediately clear how that issue would be dealt with going forward.


Under the agreement, the district agreed to create 30 community schools — a model that has been tried in Cincinnati and Austin, Texas. These schools are supposed to provide social services to students and family, rich academic programs that include the arts and leadership roles for parents and teachers.

The district also agreed to expand to 28 the number of schools that will no longer conduct random searches of middle and high school students. That provision was especially important to students who marched in support of their teachers.
What is remarkable is just how much support that the UTLA has received throughout the entire strike was amazing.

I hope that this is an indicator of some sort of sea change in society, but I fear that it is not.

Profiting from Being a Public Nuisance

I am referring, of course, to the so-called "Sharing Economy", in this case the scooter companies, who are making lives of the disabled a living hell, but what the hell, there's money to be made:
Alex Montoya, who wears prosthetics on both arms and his right leg, used to enjoy walking in his East Village neighborhood where he lives. No longer. Now he fears for his safety because every day he is dodging scooters travelling at high speeds down the sidewalk. Several times scooters strewn across his path also have caused him to nearly trip.

In recent months, dock-less scooters have become more common throughout San Diego’s neighborhoods. They are ubiquitous. This proliferation has occurred in an unregulated and haphazard fashion. For many scooters may be a nuisance. For others they may be a convenience. However, for blind people and people with mobility impairments, the presence and use of these scooters deny them access to public walkways and pose a serious risk to their safety.

Yesterday, the law firm of Neil, Dymott, Frank, McCabe & Hudson, and Disability Rights California filed a class action lawsuit https://www.disabilityrightsca.org/cases/montoya-et-al-v-bird-rides-inc-et-al on behalf of people with disabilities in the U.S. District Court under the Americans with Disabilities Act and state anti-discrimination laws. The suit challenges the failure of San Diego and private scooter companies to maintain accessibility of the city’s public sidewalks, curb ramps and cross walkways for people with disabilities. Plaintiffs are seeking an Order prohibiting the scooter companies from operating on public walkways and denying access to San Diego’s disabled residents.

“People with disabilities should not have to stay in their houses because they are afraid to venture out the door due to scooters blocking their pathway everywhere they go,” said Ann Menasche from Disability Rights California, one of the attorneys for the Plaintiffs. “They have a right to use the city sidewalks just like everyone else who lives or visits here.”

“The Scooter companies have treated our free public walkways as their own private rental offices, show rooms and storage facilities. The city has done nothing to stop them,” said Bob Frank, of Neil, Dymott Attorneys. “People with disabilities need to have access to city sidewalks and their needs must come first.”

Aaron Greeson, one of the Plaintiffs, who is blind, and visits the City several times a week, explained, “I never leave the Blind Center anymore. I’ve already fallen once because of the scooters. I don’t want it to happen again.”
These folks make money by stealing the public commons from the rest of us.

This isn't disruption, it's privatizing the profits and socializing the costs.

If Kiev Got a Football Team, I would Root for the Dallas Cowboys

I don't think that it is fair to blame the people of the Ukraine, or Poland, or Latvia, or Lithuania, or Estonia for what their grandparents, or great grandparents, did.

However, I do fault them for honoring genocidal Nazi collaborators from that time.

21 January 2019

Great. The Syrian War is Going to Run Into Netanyahu's Electoral Ambitions

A Snowboarder Caught this On Tape
We now have a report that Iranian forces fired a rocket at Israel, and Israel responded with air-strikes:
Israeli forces bombed targets belonging to Iran inside Syria early Monday morning, the Israel Defense Forces said in a statement, as tensions on the northern border continued to skyrocket.

The Israeli army said at 1:30 a.m. it was “now striking Iranian Quds targets in Syrian territory,” and warned Syrian forces not to intervene.


The attack came less than a day after Israel reportedly carried out a rare daylight strike on targets near Damascus, after which Iranian forces in Syria fired a retaliatory missile at Israel, according to the IDF. The exchanges ratcheted up concerns of a wider confrontation between Israel and Iran in Syria. The Yedioth Ahronoth newspaper reported Monday that the Iranian missile, intercepted en route to the Golan by Israel’s Iron Dome defense system, carried a nearly half-ton warhead.
I do not think that this is unrelated to the fact that Knesset elections will be in less than 3 months.

Say what you will about Binyamin Netanyahu, but he has an almost preternatural knack for tapping into the Israeli electorate fears to further his own political career..

Not a Surprise

Less than 6 months after the death of it's founder, and primary funder, software billionaire Paul Allen, Stratolaunch has ended its booster and rocket development process.

This is not a surprise.

It was, at it's core a rich man's hobby, and with Allen gone, I am sure that the company will be far more resource limited than before:
Air launch space company Stratolaunch has abandoned development of a family of dedicated launchers and PGA rocket engines destined for deployment from the company’s very large carrier aircraft currently poised for first flight at Mojave, California.

The shocking move comes just weeks after Stratolaunch achieved the first long duration runs on its ”PGA” rocket engine’s preburner in tests at NASA Stennis Space Center in Mississippi -- and only three months after the death of Stratolaunch founder Paul Allen. Described by Stratolaunch leaders as “the world’s most efficient hydrogen engine”, the PGA was expected to begin full-scale testing in 2020 and was to power a family of launchers unveiled by the company.

Although Stratolaunch has given no explanation for the abrupt cancellation of the ambitious project, development costs are thought to have risen steeply as testing accelerated. The company says only that “we are streamlining operations, focusing on the aircraft and our ability to support a demonstration launch of the Northrop Grumman Pegasus XL air-launch vehicle. We are immensely proud of what we have accomplished and look forward to first flight in 2019.”
My prediction, and my record on predictions is crappy, is that there will be a few launches, but that it won't manage to be a meaningful player in the commercial launch space.

On the 100Th Anniversary of His Birth, Am I Obligated to Whitesplain Martin Luther King, Jr.?

You've done enough. Have you no sense of decency, sir, at long last? Have you left no sense of decency?
No. I am not.

I am not a historian, and I am not Black, and these days, everyone from David Brooks to Ann Coulter seems determined to show people that he was really one of them.

I was 6 years old when he died, and lived in a place which (I think) still required an operator assisted call to reach the "Lower 48," so any recollections that I have are entirely from historical documents.

There is plenty of primary documentation of his life, his letters, his speeches, film and video, and I highly recommend that you check it out.

About the only thing that I can say with certainty from what I know of history history is that the FBI under J.Edgar Hoover was a profoundly pernicious organization that aggressively subverted the civil rights of its targets, and that there was never a proper reckoning for their behavior.

I'm inclined to believe that his legacy still permeates the Bureau, and current events would tend to bolster my opinion.

Baby, It's Cold Outside

No, really, it's f%$#ing cold outside.

Specifically, it is about 12° F (-11° C), which I am very much aware of, because I was outside looking at the lunar eclipse.

The weather was perfect for viewing the astronomical event, but it was hell for the person doing the viewing.

After a few minutes outside, a witch's breasts looks invitingly warm.

20 January 2019

A Shande far di Goyim

I knew that there was a major Measles outbreak in the New York City area, but I had not realized that it was almost exclusively among the ultra-Orthodox Jewish communities, where vaccination is far less common than the general population:
Through the fall, traveler after traveler arrived in the ultra-Orthodox Jewish communities of New York from areas of Israel and Europe where measles was spreading. They then spent time in homes, schools and shops in communities where too many people were unvaccinated.

Within months, New York State was facing its most severe outbreak of the disease in decades, with 182 cases confirmed by Thursday, almost exclusively among ultra-Orthodox Jews. Health officials in New Jersey have reported 33 measles cases, mostly in Ocean County, driven by similar conditions.

In 2018, New York and New Jersey accounted for more than half the measles cases in the country.

Alarmed, health officials began a systematic effort to bring up vaccination rates and halt the disease’s spread.

But while there has been progress, the outbreak is not yet over. Health officials said part of the problem has been resistance among some people in ultra-Orthodox neighborhoods to fully cooperate with health workers, get vaccinations and promptly report infections.


Dr. Ruppert said that health officials discovered that some religious schools, or yeshivas, in ultra-Orthodox communities in Rockland County had vaccination rates as low as 60 percent, far below the state average of 92.5 percent. Audits found that some schools were overreporting vaccination rates, she added.
Seriously.  What the F%$# is wrong with these people.

This is a danger to their community, and a danger to the surrounding community.

Measles is one of the most contagious diseases on the face of the earth, and all the rabbis would have to do is explain this to their congregants, and ten pick up the phone and get the state to set up some vaccination clinics

This has not happened..

Trump is Being Owned by Pelosi Right Now

Trump has blinked, making an offer to extend DACA status and TPS status for 3 years in exchange for wall funding.

Pelosi turned it down flat:
President Trump on Saturday offered Democrats three years of deportation protections for some immigrants in exchange for $5.7 billion in border wall funding, a proposal immediately rejected by Democrats and derided by conservatives as amnesty.

Aiming to end the 29-day partial government shutdown, Trump outlined his plan in a White House address in which he sought to revive negotiations with Democrats, who responded that they would not engage in immigration talks until he reopened the government.

Trump proposed offering a reprieve on his attempts to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program and temporary protected status (TPS) for immigrants from some Latin American and African nations, in exchange for building hundreds of miles of barriers on the southern U.S. border and hiring thousands of new law enforcement agents to be deployed there.


House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) dismissed the proposal as a “non-starter” and vowed that Democrats would pass legislation in the coming week to reopen the government, putting the onus on the Republican-led Senate to follow suit.

“The president must sign these bills to reopen government immediately and stop holding the American people hostage with this senseless shutdown,” Pelosi said. Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) also said he opposed the plan.
It's pretty clear who is the tougher negotiator.

Pelosi knows the political dynamics of this situation, and she knows to count to 218, and Trump can do neither.

What the Performers at the Superbowl Should Do

Go down on one knee, and sing the Star Spangled Banner.

F%$# the cowardly owners, and f%$# Trump.

19 January 2019

This Just In: Jeremy Corbyn Can Count

Jeremy Corbyn has been opposed to a a 2nd referendum on Brexit ever since the process started.

There have been a few motivations ascribed to to this with Corbyn's mild Euroskepticism (true) and the suggestion that that the EU is fundamentally a neoliberal institution that is structured to dismantle the modern social safety net (also true).

Well, now we have what seems to be a more likely explanation, that Jeremy Corbyn understands the political dynamics involved.

There are two very clear data points:
As Labour Party leader, these have to be a part of his considerations.


The marvelously profane Simon Pie on Brexit:

18 January 2019

It Appears That I Was Too Pessimistic

Good news everyone!

I invented a device that makes you read this in your head using my voice!
I thought that the EU's disastrous article 13 copyright directive was a done deal.

It appears that I was too pessimistic, which is not something that I say too frequently.

It appears that between strong opposition from those who understand how insane that these proposals, and the looters from the content industries, who thought that they were not insane enough, it looks like the EU is backing off this proposal, for a while, at least:
So, this is certainly unexpected. Just hours after we pointed out that even all of the lobbyists who had written/pushed for Article 13 in the EU Copyright Directive were now abandoning their support for it (basically because the EU was considering making it just slightly less awful), it appears that Monday's negotiations have been called off entirely:


As Reda notes, this does not mean that the Copyright Directive or Article 13 are dead. They could certainly be revived with new negotiations (and that could happen soon). But, it certainly makes the path forward a lot more difficult. Throughout all of this, as we've seen in the past, the legacy copyright players plowed forward, accepting no compromise and basically going for broke as fast as they could, in the hopes that no one would stop them. They've hit something of a stumbling block here. It won't stop them from still trying, but for now this is good news. The next step is making sure Article 13 is truly dead and cannot come back. The EU has done a big thing badly in even letting things get this far. Now let's hope they fix this mess by dumping Articles 11 and 13.

Headline, and Snark, of the Day

Tens to be disappointed as Windows 10 Mobile death date set: Doomed phone OS won't see 2020
The Register
El Reg does seem to completely own the "snarky computer industry headline" space, doesn't it?

Speaking of Outrage

It's Facebook, yet again.

This time, they are praying on children, and the judge has ruled that the documents proving this must be released:
A trove of hidden documents detailing how Facebook made money off children will be made public, a federal judge ruled late Monday in response to requests from Reveal.

A glimpse into the soon-to-be-released records shows Facebook’s own employees worried they were bamboozling children who racked up hundreds, and sometimes even thousands, of dollars in game charges. And the company failed to provide an effective way for unsuspecting parents to dispute the massive charges, according to internal Facebook records.

The documents are part of a 2012 class-action lawsuit against the social media giant that claimed it inappropriately profited from business transactions with children.


The court documents, which have remained hidden for years, came to light after Reveal from The Center for Investigative Reporting intervened last year to request the records be unsealed. There is increased public interest in Facebook’s business practices in the wake of high-profile scandals, including fake news published on the site and the leaking of user data. On Monday, the court agreed to unseal some of the records.

Facebook has 10 days to make the bulk of the documents – more than a hundred pages – available to the public, according to the order.
Seriously, Mark Zuckerberg is one facial scar from being a f%$#ing Bond Villain.

The Difference Between Sanders and Warren

I like Elizabeth Warren, but I'm gonna go with Bernie Sanders, because he gets it.

Let's compare the quotes of big Pharma price gouging:

Giant companies may hate my Affordable Drug Manufacturing bill - but I don’t work for them. The American people deserve competitive markets and fair prices. By fixing the broken generic drug market, we can bring the cost of prescriptions down.

If the pharmaceutical industry will not end its greed, which is literally killing Americans, then we will end it for them.
Most Democrats, even  liberal ones, are unwilling to place this in moral terms, which leaves you with, "Not as bad as the other guy."

They are prisoners of a system which is immoral, and they lack the ability to see it.

If you do not feel outrage, you a mindful human being, that's probably the nicest way I can put it.

17 January 2019

Tweet of the Day

So much wrong in one one short quote.

This is f%$#ed up and sh%$.

The Man Beat Wall Street

I am referring, of course, to John Bogel, the founder of Vanguard, and the man who gave us the index fund, which showed that the self-appointed masters of the universe on Wall Street did worse than a random throw of the dice.

He died yesterday, aged 89:
John C. Bogle, who founded the Vanguard Group of Investment Companies in 1974 and built it into a giant mutual fund company, with $4.9 trillion in assets under management today, died on Wednesday at his home in Bryn Mawr, Pa. He was 89.

His personal assistant, Michael Nolan, said the cause was esophageal cancer. Mr. Bogle, who had struggled with a congenital heart defect and had several heart attacks, received a heart transplant in 1996.

Mr. Bogle built Vanguard, which is based in Malvern, Pa., on a cornerstone belief that was anathema to most mutual fund companies: that over the long term, most investment managers cannot outperform the broad market averages. He popularized and became the leading proponent of indexing, the practice of structuring an investment portfolio to mirror the performance of a market yardstick, like the Standard & Poor’s 500 stock index.

“Indexing was the purview of institutional investors, but Jack Bogle came up with the consumer version,” said Daniel P. Wiener, the editor of The Independent Adviser for Vanguard Investors, a newsletter and website that has tracked the company for decades. “He made people aware of expenses, and told them that costs come right out of the bottom line.”

But Mr. Bogle became a harsh critic of the mutual fund industry in later years. In the second half of the 1990s, he said, stock market investors were spoiled by average annual returns of more than 20 percent per year and, as a result, cared too little about the high expenses they were paying to mutual fund managers for those managers’ presumed expertise at picking stocks. Mutual fund companies, he said, were all but immoral for accepting such fees.
He was right.

This Business Will Get out of Control. It Will Get out of Control and We'll Be Lucky to Live through It.

No, I am not referring to the "Black Budget" that covers things like our spy satellites, I mean pretty much everything, up to and including the Department of Housing and Urban Development:

The only thing that did not make the news was an announcement by a little-known government body called the Federal Accounting Standards Advisory Board — FASAB — that essentially legalized secret national security spending. The new guidance, “SFFAS 56 – CLASSIFIED ACTIVITIES” permits government agencies to “modify” public financial statements and move expenditures from one line item to another. It also expressly allows federal agencies to refrain from telling taxpayers if and when public financial statements have been altered.

To Michigan State professor Mark Skidmore, who’s been studying discrepancies in defense expenditures for years, the new ruling ­— and the lack of public response to it — was a shock.

“From this point forward,” he says, “the federal government will keep two sets of books, one modified book for the public and one true book that is hidden.”

Steven Aftergood of the Federation of American Scientists’ Project on Government Secrecy was one of the few people across the country to pay attention to the FASAB news release. He was alarmed.

“It diminishes the credibility of all public budget documents,” he says.

I spent weeks trying to find a more harmless explanation for SFFAS 56, or at least one that did not amount to a rule that allows federal officials to fake public financial reports.


In plain English, the new guidance allowed federal agencies to “modify” public financial statements, with essentially a two-book system. Public statements would at best be unreliable, while the real books would be audited in “classified environment[s]” by certain designated officials.

When I asked FASAB who would be doing the auditing in “classified environment[s],” they answered:

“Please contact the federal entity’s Office of the Inspector General for questions pertaining to who does the auditing in a classified environment.”

This new rule is not confined to a few spy agencies. It appears to allow a stunningly long list of federal agencies to make use of new authority to “modify” public financial statements.

The Treasury Department’s definition of a “component reporting entity” includes 154 different agencies and bodies, from the Smithsonian Foundation to the CIA to the SEC to the Farm Credit Administration to the Railroad Retirement Board. The notion that any of these agencies could now submit altered public financial reports under the rubric of national security is mind-boggling.


One thing is certain: the taxpayer who opens up a federal financial statement expecting to find correct numbers will no longer be sure of what he or she is reading. Bluntly put, line items in public federal financial statements may now legally be, for lack of a better word — wrong.

Moreover, the state is not required to include a disclaimer telling the reader that modifications have been made.


Reached by email, Austin Fitts was pessimistic about the meaning of the new rule.

“The White House and Congress just opened a pipeline into the back of the US Treasury,” she wrote, “and announced to every private army, mercenary and thug in the world that we are open for business.”

What the rule actually will mean in practice is not clear. But it’s not hard to imagine how it could be employed. A quick look in the historical rearview mirror offers more than a few hints.

The Iran-Contra affair was, at its core, an accounting issue. In it, a group of actors used proceeds of weapons sales to fund unauthorized support of Nicaraguan rebels. Money was moved from one place to another, with the public cut out of the loop.
This is in-f%$#ing-sane.

They Should Spend the Rest of Their Lives in Prison

I am referring, of course to the Sacklers, who aggressively misled the American public about the risks of Oxycontin:
Members of the Sackler family, which owns the company that makes OxyContin, directed years of efforts to mislead doctors and patients about the dangers of the powerful opioid painkiller, a court filing citing previously undisclosed documents contends.

When evidence of growing abuse of the drug became clear in the early 2000s, one of them, Richard Sackler, advised pushing blame onto people who had become addicted.

“We have to hammer on abusers in every way possible,” Mr. Sackler wrote in an email in 2001, when he was president of the company, Purdue Pharma. “They are the culprits and the problem. They are reckless criminals.”

That email and other internal Purdue communications are cited by the attorney general of Massachusetts in a new court filing against the company, released on Tuesday. They represent the first evidence that appears to tie the Sacklers to specific decisions made by the company about the marketing of OxyContin. The aggressive promotion of the drug helped ignite the opioid epidemic.

The filing contends that Mr. Sackler, a son of a Purdue Pharma founder, urged that sales representatives advise doctors to prescribe the highest dosage of the powerful opioid painkiller because it was the most profitable.
This is a criminal enterprise. 

Go RICO on their asses and get a forfeiture order, because, as Billy Ray Valentine noted, "You know, it occurs to me that the best way you hurt rich people is by turning them into poor people."

See also here .