30 September 2020

Clearly, Young Skywalker Has Completed His Training

This is not just the best response to the debates, it's the best possible response to the debates:

That being said, Weird Al Yankovic is a pretty close second:

It's actually pretty impressive that he got together a song based on the actual event in such a short time.

Least Surprising News of the Day

Is anyone surprised that Amazon has been systematically deceiving its workers about safety

If you are surprised, I have a bridge in Brooklyn to sell you.

This is a company that prides itself on abusing its workers at all levels, and their lies, both to regulators and their employees, are a core part of company culture:

On Cyber Monday 2014, Amazon operations chief Dave Clark proudly unveiled the company’s new warehouse of the future in Tracy, California. Behind him, tall yellow racks packed with vitamins, toy rockets and paintball gear zipped across the floor, lugged by the powerful, squat orange robots that would help catapult the company toward world domination. In a checked shirt and with neatly parted hair, Clark looked more the part of a high school teacher than a corporate executive, as he cheerfully called himself “head elf of Santa’s workshop around the world.”

………

The following July, Amazon rolled out another innovation: Prime Day. The holiday-shopping season was already an intense pressure cooker of warehouse activity known as “peak” inside Amazon. Now the company had just manufactured a second peak in the middle of the year: a brand-new holiday that would become pivotal to the company’s growth.

………

In fact, as senators have fired off letters to the company and workers have led walkouts over health and safety, Amazon has engaged in an unapologetic public relations campaign. Robots, Amazon insists, are good for workers. “They make the job safer,” Jeff Wilke, one of two CEOs under Bezos, told PBS FRONTLINE last September. And Prime Day and the holiday rush are so well orchestrated, Amazon has claimed, that injury rates stay flat or even go down during these buying frenzies. Thanks to “diligent record-keeping,” Amazon told Business Insider, “we know for a fact that recordable incidents do not increase during peak.”

But a new cache of company records obtained by Reveal from The Center for Investigative Reporting – including internal safety reports and weekly injury numbers from its nationwide network of fulfillment centers – shows that company officials have profoundly misled the public and lawmakers about its record on worker safety. They reveal a mounting injury crisis at Amazon warehouses, one that is especially acute at robotic facilities and during Prime week and the holiday peak – and one that Amazon has gone to great lengths to conceal. With weekly data from 2016 through 2019 from more than 150 Amazon warehouses, the records definitively expose the brutal cost to workers of Amazon’s vast shipping empire – and the bald misrepresentations the company has deployed to hide its growing safety crisis.

………

Amazon often points to the tens of millions of dollars it has invested to enhance safety practices. Yet Amazon’s injury rates have gone up each of the past four years, the internal data shows. In 2019, Amazon fulfillment centers recorded 14,000 serious injuries – those requiring days off or job restrictions. The overall rate of 7.7 serious injuries per 100 employees was 33% higher than in 2016 and nearly double the most recent industry standard.

………

And for years, the internal data show, injury rates have spiked during the weeks of Prime Day and Cyber Monday, contrary to Amazon’s public claims. Those two weeks had the highest rate of serious injuries for all of 2019.

Monthly bulletins from Amazon’s environment, health and safety team show that the famously data-obsessed company is well aware of its safety problems. Each month, company officials sent out detailed updates – marked “Privileged & Confidential” – to warehouse safety managers across the country with data, charts and FAQs. They set safety goals and monitor progress closely. But the internal documents show that the company has failed to hit these targets. In 2018, Amazon aimed to lower its injury rate by 20%. Instead, injury rates went up. The next year, the goal was more modest: a 5% decrease. But the rate rose again.

………

Yet her email didn’t say how the company justifies its claim that these initiatives are working, while injury rates have continued, year after year, to rise.

Notwithstanding is protestations, Amazon does not care about its workers.

Even now that they are effectively a monopoly, they continue to build an empire on the blood of their employees.

They just don't care.

From the Department of About F%$#ing Time

 The State of Ohio has ordered GM to tax incentives for a factory that it has closed

A better idea is not to pay these bribes to the gods of capital in the first place:

The state of Ohio on Monday ordered General Motors to repay $28 million in public subsidies for reneging on its promise to keep its sprawling Lordstown plant open.

The automaker, which had pledged to keep operations going until 2040, closed its assembly plant last October, drawing criticism from elected officials in both political parties, including President Donald Trump. At the time, GM cited the collapsing market for small cars; Lordstown produced the compact Chevrolet Cruze.

But state officials said the closure violated the terms of two economic development agreements GM signed with Ohio more than a decade ago. Between 2009 and 2016, the company received more than $60 million in tax credits to maintain operations at the massive plant, which employed over 4,000 people.

On Monday, the Ohio Tax Credit Authority said GM must pay back roughly half of those tax benefits, as well as provide an additional $12 million in community support in the Mahoning Valley, the economically depressed region where the plant was located. The funds are targeted for education and job training at Youngstown State University and other colleges, community programs and infrastructure projects.

………

Although the clawback falls short of the total $60.3 million that GM received, the state’s action is significant, said Greg LeRoy, executive director of Good Jobs First, a nonprofit agency that tracks corporate subsidies and violations.

“The $28 million still stands as the biggest clawback we can point to” nationwide, he said. Yet he believes that the state should have pursued a total refund. “It’s kind of a two-thirds of a loaf for taxpayers.”

Unfortunately, it appears that authorities then doubled down on the same f%$#ing failed strategy:

………

At the same time, the tax authority awarded GM a new tax credit to support the battery plant. In return for a promise to create 1,000 jobs, the company will receive a 15-year tax break estimated to be worth $13.8 million over its term.

The numbers are clear on this:  These incentives never pay for themselves. 

It cost Scott Walker reelection in Wisconsin, but until a few more political "Flaming Datums" are out there, this insanity is likely to continue.

29 September 2020

Sober Blogging the Presidential Debates

10:38pm:
It's over. Jeebus.  I need a f%$#ing drink.

10:34pm:
Chris Wallace asks the candidates to ask their supporters not to freak out during a progracted recount, and not to declare victory , Trump's response, "If it's a fair election ………"

Biden's response, "Yes, and the fraud issue is bullsh%$."

10:30pm:
Chris Wallace pivots to election integrity.  (He is well and truly sick of Trump not following the rules)

Biden exhorts people to vote, and he weakly implies that Trump is trying to steal the election.

Trump just said, "Crooked Hillary Clinton."  If this were a drunk blog, I would have finished all the alcohol in the house, and gone to hospital. 

Trump is pushing his fraud strategy, big time.

10:24pm:
Did Trump actually suggest dropping a nuke on a hurricane?

Furious Googling: Sweet mother of the Flying Spaghetti Monster, it's true.

10:19pm:
The environment is the next segment.

Trump blusters.

Biden talks a bit about what he plans to do, but it does not sound sincere.

This is a mass-extinction crisis, a literal end of the world as we know it.  I would appreciate some more enthusiasm.

10:16pm:
I am finding it increasingly difficult to pay attention.

Shoot me now!!!

10:11pm:
Chris Wallace is clearly pissed at Trump, demands that he call out right wing milita groups, Trump refuses, and tells Trump, "We're done, sir."

I'm wondering if any of the moderators at the later events are drafting their resignation letters as I type.

10:07pm:
Biden says that Trump has been pouring gasoline on a fire.  True, but meaningless.

10:03pm:
Now they are spewing crime stats at each other.

10:01pm:
Trump is attempting to conflate anti-racism with hating America.

He actually has a point:  Racism in America is as American as Apple Pie.

9:59pm:
Biden is stuttering a bit.  It's the first time that I have noticed it.

Biden flat out says that justice is not administered fairly in the US.

9:57pm:
Race comes up, and Biden criticizes him, but Biden should call him a racist using that word.  It will drive him crazy.

OMFG, Trump tells the truth about Biden's record on crime and race, particularly on the Clinton crime.

This may be the first True thing he has said in the debate.

9:54pm:
Wallace actually called out Trump for his constant interrupting.  I did not expect that.

9:53pm:
Biden may have had the best line so far, "You had good people, and you fired them."

More crosstalk, and I am feeling pity for Chris Wallace.

9:49pm:
Did Trump just say to Biden, "No, you're number 2?"

Really mature dude.  This is not middle school.

9:48pm:
Trump is arguing that the stock market is the economy.

9:45pm:
Biden just called Trump the worst President ever.  Cool.

9:43pm:
Wallace asks Trump about his taxes.

Trump evades, and Wallace presses (I'm impressed), and Trump says that he pays, "Millions".

9:41pm:
Trump goes off again, and Chris Wallace is quietly losing his mind.

Trump claims that he saved football.  Yeah, right.

9:40pm:
Biden explains the K-shaped economy, raises Trump's taxes.

It's an OK strategy for him, and he does sound sincere when he talks about the plight of first responders.

9:38pm:
Wallace is pivots to the economy.

Trump: China China China.

Also, I think that Trump is even more orange than normal.

Also Trump:  Democrat governors are conspiring against me.

9:35pm:
Wallace is asking about the size of their rallies vis a vis Covid. WTF? 

It's now dick measuring.

9:33pm:
GAWD!!!!!

Chris Wallace has the worst job in the world.

9:32pm:
Trump objects to Biden calling him stupid.  It's a raw nerve, hammer on it constantly.

Trump will lose his sh%$ if you do this.

9:31
Biden calls Trump a liar again.  When do you call him a con-man and a tax cheat?

9:28pm
The entire back and forth over Covid is heat completely devoid of light.

It's like some bizarre collapsing star.

9:25pm:

Trump is claiming that "Democrat Governors" are praising his actions.

9:22pm:
Wallace moves on to the pandemic.

Biden goes first, and tears into Trump, brings up his praise for Xi Jinping's handling of the pandemic.

Trump's response, "China, China, China."

9:20pm:

Wallace asks about packing the court and eliminating the filibuster, Biden is very non committal, though I liked his, "Keep Yappin' man barb to Donald Trump.

9:18pm:
And then he pivots back to Obamacare, because he's trying to run as Obama's 3rd term.

I think that this is a losing proposition. 9:17pm:
Biden just dropped the, "L-bomb," and called Trump a liar.

9:15pm:
Trump is arguing more with moderator Chris Wallace than he is with Biden.

9:13pm:
Biden notes that Trump is trying to reverse Roe v. Wade.

Trump tries to sleaze out of his support of criminalizing abortions.

9:12pm:
Trump is a noun, a verb, and socialism.

9:07pm:
First question on Amy Barrett's nomination to the Supreme court.

Trump's respnse is, "Neener Neener, I have Mitch McConnel, so f%$# you."

Biden pivots to it being an assault on Obamacare.

Then he compliments Barrett. (No, just no, you moron)

Trump is saying that there are not 100,000,000 people with pre-existing conditions.
Yes, there are.

So Not a Surprise

Is anyone surprised that U.S. tech firms are refusing to obey EU data transfer regulations

Criminality is an integral part of the Silicon Valley ethos.  That's what, "Move Fast and Break Things," means.

Technology firms' compliance with European restrictions on transatlantic data transfers is shockingly poor, Austrian privacy campaigner Max Schrems said on Monday, publishing a survey here of companies including Facebook and Netflix.

The Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) ruled in July that the data arrangement set up in 2016, called Privacy Shield, was invalid under Europe’s privacy framework because of concerns about U.S. surveillance.

………

Exercising the right of customers to ask companies how their data is handled under the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), the survey drew a mixed bag of responses - some firms did not respond and others gave misleading answers.

………

“Overall, we were astonished by how many companies were unable to provide little more than a boilerplate answer,” said Schrems.

“The companies that did provide answers largely are simply not complying with the CJEU judgment. It seems that most of the industry still does not have a plan as to how to move forward.”

This IS their plan for moving forward:  Break the law and force the EU to go after them.

Until assets are seized, or executives are arrested, the lawbreaking will continue.

Pray for Me

 At the request of Sharon,* I will be live blogging the debates sober.

**Shudder**

To quote Captain Kirk, "But he was alone. Can you imagine the mind emptied by that thing? Without even a tormentor for company."

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

28 September 2020

Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross, Just Had a Bull Durham Moment


Judge Koh Will be Seeing You
It's never a good idea to call an umpire a c%$# sucker.  As was shown in the classic Baseball Movie Bull Durham.

 If you are a ball player, you are certainly going to get ejected, and likely to get fined.

When a senior administration official does the same thing with a Federal judge, as Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross has just done with the census, this becomes a setup for a privileged asshole to have a very unpleasant day with a pissed off judge.

Even if he only spends a few hours in the slam waiting for a DoJ motion to bail him out, he will not enjoy himself.

An announcement Monday that Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross is aiming to end census data collection by Oct. 5 took a federal judge by surprise days after she ordered operations to continue through Oct. 31 to get an accurate population count.

“Breaking news,” a lawyer for the Commerce Department told U.S. District Judge Lucy Koh as a hearing was under way on a lawsuit by civil rights groups claiming that the Trump administration’s move to compress the timeline for the once-a-decade census will result in an undercount of minorities.

The government lawyer pointed the judge to a tweet from the Census Bureau about Ross’s intentions.

Koh said she was “disturbed” that “despite the court’s order,” census supervisors have told field workers to wrap up data collection. The judge added that she’s been “inundated” with emails from field workers making similar allegations.

Clearly, I need to bring this to a head sooner than I thought,” she said. “And I’m prepared to do it. So let’s do this.” 

(emphasis mine)

I am an engineer, and not a lawyer, dammit,* it seems to me that this is a judge who is very pissed off at what has just happened.

Hopefully, she will take action against the administration officials behind this, and not just the department of commerce.

*I love it when I get to go all Dr. McCoy!

Well, This Explains the Taylor Non-Indictments

A grand juror in the Breonna Taylor case has asked for, and and been granted, the release of the transcripts and the right to comment publicly on the proceedings.

They are alleging that the attorney general refused to present any evidence against the two officers who were not charged and lied about the proceedings.

Given that Attorney General Daniel Cameron is a long-time protege of Mitch McConnell, his rat-f%$#ing of the prosecution should come as no surprise:

A juror in the Breonna Taylor case contends that the Kentucky attorney general misrepresented the grand jury’s deliberations and failed to offer the panel the option of indicting the two officers who fatally shot the young woman, according to the juror’s lawyer.

The unnamed juror filed a court motion on Monday seeking the release of last week’s transcripts and permission from a judge to speak publicly to set the record straight. Hours later, the office of Attorney General Daniel Cameron granted both requests, saying that the juror is free to speak and that recordings of the session will be made public.

………

The lawyer said the juror came to him last week feeling anxious after Mr. Cameron repeatedly said at a news conference that the law did not permit him to charge Sgt. Jon Mattingly and Detective Myles Cosgrove, the two officers who shot Ms. Taylor on March 13 — and that the jury had agreed with him.

Why there needs to be an office that deals only with law enforcement misconduct in any state prosecutors' office.  Also, they should  probably be in the chain of reporting from police Internal Affairs (IA) departments.

Prosecutors who have to work with cops day after day will bend, if not break, the law to preserve their relationships with police departments.

Animal Crackers are the Best Food in the World

Because of Covid, we did Yom Kippur services from home.

However, we continued the shul tradition of breaking the fast with animal crackers.

To quote Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra, "Hunger is the best sauce."

Posted via mobile.


Linkage

All your coffee are belong to us:

27 September 2020

Of Course This Drops Just Before Kol Nidre

The New York Times has gotten its hands on more than 20 years of Donald Trump's income tax returns, and it appears that this is the real deal*, revealing a pattern of massive losses and next nothing in taxes paid.

I'm about to eat, and then fast, so I have barely had a chance to glance at the article.

The nickel tour appears to indicate that he's a money loser who cheats on his taxes. 

This raises the question:  How has the Trump Org continued to be a going concern over all of these years?

My answer is that he's been laundering money for the mob, whether it is US, or, as is more likely, foreign organized crime.

To quote Bette Davis, "Fasten your seat belts, it's going to be a bumpy night."

*As opposed to Rachel Maddow's widely mocked expose of a handful of Trump's tax documents in 2017.

Tweet of the Day

This critique applies not only to Joe Biden, but to the whole of the Democratic Party establishment (There is no Democratic Party establishment), who have spent their time on the Sunday shows explaining how they are powerless to offer meaningful opposition to Trump's and McConnell's court packing.

A Good Take on Woke Politics

I agree with the folks at Redline, "Wokies are the Establishment."

It's why we see things like the New York Chapter of DSA black-balling one of the foremost scholars of race and class in the nation, wokeness is a way that people with comfortable lives can pretend that they are doing something to resolve inequality and corruption in our society while benefiting from that inequality and corruption in our society:

In the absence of a better word with which to refer to the rabid activists who claim progressivism while demanding adherence to an increasingly prescriptive set of political beliefs, I call them “woke”. With its roots in Black American slang, the term originally denoted a person or a group who were enlightened on social justice issues and awake to the inequalities in America. As words do, it has evolved from a self-descriptor to more of a term the fed up masses use to describe the drivers of cancel culture and identity politics throughout the anglosphere and indeed most of the West.

Wokeism claims Marxism as not only an influence, but as foundational political doctrine on which their various social justice issues are based. So fierce are their claims on modern Marxism they have all but consumed many of the traditional Marxist organisations and re-educated the world on their new brand of socialist theory. However, even someone with the loosest understanding of the writings of Karl Marx and the complicated history of his movement is able to discern some serious flaws in the woke iteration. Not only does it differ from the previously accepted principles and aims of Marxism, stark contradictions can be seen in much of the behaviour exhibited by wokeists.

For a group of people with an aggressive aversion to binary concepts e.g. binary biological sex, wokeism has pounced on the binary tension between oppressor and oppressed that is at the core of Marxist theory. It is perhaps the only place in which they can be said to really resemble the political theory they have claimed. Unfortunately, however, these usually middle-upper class, educated elites have little time for the analysis of class that is supposed to underpin this exploiter/exploited and oppressor/oppressed concept. Rather they will apply it to whichever pet social justice issue they are espousing at the time.

The woke appropriate the struggles of various marginalised groups and collect their oppressions in order to rail against their perceived oppressors. They have entrenched themselves in the politics of race and transgenderism in particular and while there are of course some valid discussions to be had in regards to inequalities and discrimination faced by people of colour and transgender people, the narrative set by woke activists is riddled with disingenuity and gaslighting.

It is time that society catches up and realises that wokeism is not the movement for the disadvantaged and oppressed. Wokeism is the establishment. It is inextricably linked to corporate politics and capitalism. Woke activists have disproportionate social power in today’s fraught world. They are the establishment in the culture wars. Consider this:

………
 
Wokeism is performance. It is mostly educated, establishment youths LARPing the struggles of truly marginalised groups. It is time we stopped letting them pretend to be saviours when they’re just malignant power in a different outfit.
This critique strikes at the core of both "Wokism" and "Identity Politics."

Here's Hoping for an Easy Fast for my Fellow Landsmen

Yom Kippur starts in a few hours, so 25 hours of prayer, and no food or drink.

It does seem to be an odd Day of Atonement though.

I think that I will be spending more time praying for the redemption of the world than I will for my own redemption.

26 September 2020

American Exceptionalism , Huh?

Minnesota has had to Stop Corona Virus surveys in Mennesota because of the racism and violence of the "Real Americans" in the state's agricultural heartland.

This is not a surprise, but it has gotten MUCH worse over the past few years.

It's almost as if people were deeply and pervasively bigoted, and they were only waiting for permission.

So, now they are letting their bigotry put their lives, and the lives of their loved ones, to promulgate their racist fantasies:

A door-to-door COVID-19 testing survey has been halted due to multiple incidents in greater Minnesota of residents intimidating and shouting racial and ethnic slurs at state and federal public health survey teams.

The CDC pulled its federal surveyors out of Minnesota this week following reports of verbal abuse and intimidation, including an incident in the Iowa border town of Eitzen, Minn., in which a survey team walking to a house was blocked by two cars and threatened by three men, according to state health officials. One man had his hand on a holstered gun.

………

Surveyors had been fanning out to 180 neighborhoods this month — offering free diagnostic testing for active COVID-19 infections and blood antibody testing to identify prior infections — to understand the true prevalence of the coronavirus causing the pandemic.

………

The surveyors trapped in the Eitzen incident were permitted to leave and did not file a police report about the gun-toting man or the two others who approached them.

………

The frequency of problems became clear last weekend when surveyors discussed their experiences, Yendell said. A Hispanic surveyor was called one slur "more in the last week than in her entire life," she said.

………

The forced end to the study is an amalgam of 2020's overriding tensions — the anger over prolonged business restrictions to limit COVID-19 and the racial tensions following police killings of Black people that resulted in protests and riots, and some predominantly white counterprotests.

………

Incidents occurred mostly in central and southern Minnesota, rural areas where there has been pent-up resentment over the spring statewide shutdown, the indoor mask mandate and the bar and restaurant restrictions. Such measures were seen as overkill in small towns where virus transmission has been less prevalent.

If, as the Republicans insist, these sorts of rural communities are the "Real America," then the "Real America" is a profoundly nasty place.

H/T Stephen Saroff      o o  The Bear who Swims      
                        (_)_____o      
                     ~~~~(______)~~~~~~~~~~
                         oo    oo

Pass the Popcorn

A New York judge has ordered Eric Trump to give a deposition on the Trump Organizations's business practices by October 7

Trump wanted it deferred until after the election, but the judge was not buying that sh%$.

Assuming that the deposition is leaked, and that is not beyond the realm of possibility, we will either see him incriminate himself, because he is very stupid, or constantly taking the 5th, because he understands just how stupid he is.

In either case, it's pretty obvious that the Trump Org is a criminal enterprise, even if you ignore the obvious, that they are mobbed up as f%$#:

A state judge on Wednesday ordered Eric Trump to be deposed no later than Oct. 7 in the New York attorney general's examination of the Trump Organization's financial practices, rejecting a protest by President Trump's son, who has said he is too busy to meet with investigators until after November's election.

The ruling was handed down by New York Supreme Court Justice Arthur Engoron after nearly two hours of arguments in a lawsuit brought by state investigators conducting the civil investigation.

The president’s company is managed now by his two sons, Eric Trump and Donald Trump Jr., both of whom have taken active roles in their father’s reelection efforts. An attorney for Eric Trump said during Wednesday’s hearing that the president’s son travels nearly seven days a week to make campaign-related appearances.

“This court finds that application unpersuasive,” Engoron said, referring to Eric Trump’s stated need to put off an interview until mid-November. He added that he felt Eric Trump’s attorney had cited no legal authority to support a bid to delay the deposition.

………

The probe is a civil matter, not a criminal one. James’s office has said the Trump Organization potentially misled lenders and duped tax authorities. The state attorney general’s office began investigating the company last year after the president’s former personal attorney Michael Cohen, a former executive with the company, gave Congress copies of financial statements from 2011 to 2013.

This should be fun.

Yes, Genocide

In addition to detaining millions, and forced reeducation, we now knwo that thousands of mosques in Xinjiang have been destroyed. (Also here)

When you look at actions that indicate genocide and ethnic cleansing, systematic destruction of religious buildings is a pretty clear indicator:

Thousands of mosques in Xinjiang have been damaged or destroyed in just three years, leaving fewer in the region than at any time since the Cultural Revolution, according to a report on Chinese oppression of Muslim minorities.

The revelations are contained in an expansive data project by the Australian Strategic Policy Institute (ASPI), which used satellite imagery and on-the-ground reporting to map the extensive and continuing construction of detention camps and destruction of cultural and religious sites in the north-western region.

The thinktank said Chinese government claims that there were more than 24,000 mosques in Xinjiang and that it was committed to protecting and respecting religious beliefs were not supported by the findings, and estimated that fewer than 15,000 mosques remained standing – with more than half of those damaged to some extent.

“This is the lowest number since the Cultural Revolution, when fewer than 3,000 mosques remained,” the report said.

It found around two-thirds of the area’s mosques were affected, and about 50% of protected cultural sites had been damaged or destroyed, including the total destruction of Ordam mazar (shrine), an ancient site of pilgrimage dating back to the 10th century.

A lot of people will be asking, "What can be done?"

The answer is, "Quite a lot," because while the "Hanification" of outlying regions has been a priority of the Chinese Government since before the founding of the People's Republic of China, this particular case of aggressive genocide is very specifically the initiative of current President Xi Jinping.

An aggressive policy of economic and political isolation, one that applies to all of the Chinese elites, would put pressure on them to change the policy or change the President.

A Handmaiden's Justice

As promosed, Donald Trump has nominated Amy Coney Barrett to replace Ruth Bader Ginsberg. This woman is a serious right wing nut-job.

Donald Trump’s pick for America’s highest court, Amy Coney Barrett, is an “ideological fanatic” who threatens abortion rights, healthcare and the environment, activists warned on Saturday, before Trump unveiled his third supreme court nominee in the White House Rose Garden.

Barrett is the ideological opposite of the woman she will succeed if confirmed, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who died earlier this month aged 87.

She's a member of a group called People of Praise, whose ideas of gender roles is exemplified by the fact the highest role for a woman in the group was called for a long time called a "Handmaids".

 As Anna Russel would say, "I'm not making this up, you know."

Just when I think that I have been inured to the vacuous evil of the Trump administration, they take it up a notch.

25 September 2020

Support Your Local Police

Over at Mother Jones, they tell the story of  a police officer who resigned rather than act as a mercenary for real estate developers who wanted to expel minorities from a neighborhood:

Three years in, I had basically arrived—I had been transferred to the day shift. It was the premier shift. You wanted to get the day shift because those are the best hours, good days off.

On my beat, they started telling me: “We really want you to start policing this section of Boulevard and Ponce de Leon Avenue, basically the Bedford Pines Apartments. We think there are dope boys in there. We think there’s a lot of illegal activity happening and we want to really focus there. So we’re gonna put up signs that say you can’t park on the street. I want you to go and write tickets on every single car that’s on the street and I want you to get those cars out of there; if they don’t move, tow ’em. I want you to start running checks on everybody standing on the street; if they have got warrants, I want you to lock ’em up.”

It became this very aggressive policing strategy in the Bedford Pines. Which was strange. Because it was extremely rare for them to tell you to do anything. It’s unusual for them to give you very specific directions, and then for them to be very serious about it and follow up—I’d have supervisors show up and say, “Hey I drove by, there were some cars parked out there, did you ticket them?”

It made me very curious. So on my own time—I live in Atlanta, I live in the zone I policed, which is super rare—I drove over there and had a conversation with some people. I was like: “Hey, this is what I’m being asked to do. Why do you think that is? What’s going on?”

A homeowner in the area was very frank with me. He said the guys who own Bedford Pines got their tax bill last year, and their taxes were assessed based on all the gentrification that’s happening in the area. And so they wanted to move everybody out of these apartments and knock ’em down and rebuild these nice expensive apartments and the government said no. And so then they said, “Well, that’s ok, we’ll just increase the rent.” They tried to increase the rent and the Section 8 guys came back out and said, “No, you can’t do that either.”

The only way you can evict or do anything like that is if the person who owns the apartment is convicted of a felony. So the Bedford Pines guys just went to the police department and said: “We want you to police in here, and we’re going to give you a section of Bedford Pines to actually have office space. And I want you to lock up as many people as possible so we can make these apartments vacant and we can knock ’em down.”

I go to my supervisors: Is this what the case is? And they looked at me like, what are you, stupid? Of course, why else would we be doing this?

………

There was something about that that made me think now, when I clock into work, I’m not doing any good. I’m actually doing harm.

………

It dawned on me that the entire system, the entire thing, was just a sh%$ty mafia system. If you tried to do a good job and say, “I’m going to be a good cop, and I’m going to obey commands,” they would abandon you, charge you, leave you behind, and not even think twice. If you didn’t obey the rules, then they were gonna charge you for that. And if you tried to remain quiet and do your job, you are going to be a piece of modern-day redlining that way, too. There was no way that I could exist and feel good about it. And because I didn’t have to—and that’s the privilege part—I just decided not to.

When I told the department I was quitting, they said, “Good for you. If I could quit, I would quit.” My supervisor literally said: “Can we get together after work and you tell me what else I can do? I don’t know what else to do and I cannot stomach being here.”

The rest of the story is that when he quit, someone in the department swore out false allegations of child and pet abuse to harass him.

It is all, "Just a sh%$ty mafia system."

Still Can't Make Planes

It's time for more fun with Boeing.

According to the British Airline Pilots' Association (BALPA), Boeing's 737 Max fixes do not address the problem

Specifically, requiring both pilots to simultaneously operate the manual trim wheel when MCAS goes insane is bat sh%$ insane:

The British Airline Pilots' Association (BALPA) has told American aviation regulators that the Boeing 737 Max needs better fixes for its infamous MCAS software, warning that a plane crash which killed 149 people could happen again.

………

In public comments submitted to the FAA's notice of proposed rulemaking (NPRM), BALPA warned that one of the proposed workarounds for a future MCAS failure could lead to a repeat of the crash of Ethiopian Airlines flight ET302.

………

The NPRM, published here, proposes various fixes to the 737 Max design, its software and procedures for pilots to follow in the event of a problem. One of those procedures includes disabling the airliner's automatic trim system, operated by MCAS when the software kicks in, and having the two pilots use a manual backup trim wheel instead of the aircraft's powerful electric motors.

BALPA said: "Requiring both crew members to turn the trim wheel simultaneously in a non-normal scenario is extremely undesirable and goes against all philosophies of having one pilot fly and one run the QRH [quick reference handbook: reading out the emergency checklist]. No flight control system should require both pilots to operate it at any stage, let alone in an emergency."

The trade union added: "It is felt that this should be reconsidered (particularly in light of the smaller diameter trim wheel as fitted to the MAX to enable the new larger screens to fit, and as per the scenario observed in the Ethiopian Airlines accident).

………

Its pilots disabled electric trim motors that had been activated by MCAS and, crash investigators believed, tried to use the manual trim wheel in the cockpit to physically undo what the software had done – following Boeing procedures published after the Lion Air crash. Thanks to the aircraft's excessive speed, built up as MCAS forced its nose to point downwards at the ground, the pilots were unsuccessful. Aerodynamic forces on the control surfaces made it impossible for them to rotate the trim wheel and point the airliner's nose back at the sky.

Meanwhile, back with the FAA's NPRM, the Joint European Max Operators' Group, which includes Ryanair, Norwegian, and Tui, among other airlines, made some minor suggestions for textual edits while reassuring the FAA that they "are not intended to impact on the planned RTS [return to service] programme" for the 737 Max. Some airlines believe all will be well when their Maxes are allowed to fly again. ®

Bootnote

The 737 Max will be known as the 737-7, 737-8 and 737-9. In Ryanair's case it will be known as the 737-8200, a reference to the base -8 Max model having been fettled to fit 200 seats rather than the stock -8's 180ish.

International Air Transport Association aeroplane type codes will be B37M, B38M and B39M should you want to avoid booking a flight on one.

bbCode for Web Extensions (bbCodeWebEx) Version 0.3.0 Released

I have updated my Firefox addon, bbCode for Web Extensions (bbCodeWebEx), to revision 0.3.0.

Just to remind you, it adds a context menu to automate bbCode and HTML coding for blogging, discussion boards, and the like.

The new version was driven by the fact that the indescribably awful update to the Blogspot editor broke it.

In addition to that fix, there have been some updates:

I have also added the following:

  • Color picker for fonts in HTML and XHTML.
  • Added a new line token ( ~_~nl~_~) to allow users to make multi-line custom tags.

At some point, I'll look into porting it to Chrome, which uses a similar technology for its add-ons, because it appears that senior Mozilla management is hell-bent killing off Firefox through stupid management tricks like, abandoning their core expertise for the latest shiny object, destroying their internal knowledge base, and looting the organization through excessive pay and benefits for senior management.

24 September 2020

I Can't Even

A prosecutor who wants an indictment can indict a ham sandwich.

It's clear that the prosecutors did their level best to lose in the Breonna Taylor murder.

F%$# the prosecutor, and f%$# the police.

Initial Claims Remain at Horrific Levels

Initial unemploument claims rose by 4,000 to 870,000

So, still above any weekly claims level that was not in 2020.

If you are wondering why the steep drop and then a flattening out, probably because the aid programs stopped:

The number of applications for unemployment benefits has held steady in September at just under 900,000 a week, as employer uncertainty about the economic recovery six months into the coronavirus pandemic continued to restrain hiring gains.

Jobless claims increased slightly to 870,000 last week from 866,000 a week earlier, according to Thursday’s Labor Department report. The totals remain well above pre-pandemic peaks but are down significantly from nearly seven million in March.

The labor market has added jobs in the prior four months after steep declines in employment at the beginning of the pandemic, helping bring down the jobless rate to 8.4% in August from near 15% in April. But the pace of gains has slowed recently, and persistently elevated jobless claims in September point to continued cooling in the jobs market.

This is not a good economy.

This

Dean Baker makes a very good point: CEOs Maximize CEO Pay, Not Shareholder Returns

They act in their own self interest, not those of the company, which is why the insane pay arrangements for senior executives do not result in increased performance for any task involving thinking, which we have known for years, and was demonstrated by Dan Ariely over a decade ago:

It is a cult among policy types to say that CEOs maximize shareholder returns, as in this NYT piece. This is in spite of the fact that returns to shareholders have not been especially good in the last two decades. And, this is even though returns were boosted by a huge corporate tax cut in 2017 that increased after-tax profits by more than 10 percent, other things equal.

There is considerable evidence that CEOs do not earn their $20 million pay, in the sense of providing $20 million in additional returns to shareholders, compared to the next schmuck down the line. This matters in a big way because CEO pay influences pay structures throughout the economy. If CEOs got paid 20 to 30 times the pay of ordinary workers, like they did in the 1960s or 1970s, or around $2 million to $3 million a year, the next in line execs would likely get around $1.5 million and the third tier corporate execs would get in the high hundreds of thousands. That is a contrast from today when the CFO and other top tier execs might get close to $10 million and the third tier can easily make $2-$3 million.

Preach it, Brother.

23 September 2020

Light Posting for a While


If You Miss an Opportunity to Reference The Princess Bride, You'll Be Gleeped by the Todal

Google Blogger has updated,and they have broken my Firefox addon, bbCode for Web Extensions (bbCodeWebEx).

Between that and work, and a desperate need to avoid dealing with the impending sense of dread over the upcoming election, I'm swamped.

I have an app to fix, my country’s 500th anniversary to plan, my wedding to arrange, some fleas to murder, and Guilder to frame for it. I’m swamped!

Disclaimer: I am not going to war with Guilder this week, but you know, The Princess Bride.

22 September 2020

Better off Ted is Reality, Zoom Edition


Algorithms are a Dystopian future

A professor teaching Zoom classes, and he discovered that his head was being removed by the program. 

He called tech support, who trouble shot the problem, and (with said professor's permission) related the account on Twitter. 

It turned out that he Zoom algorithm was choosing a globe for his head, and removing his actual head when it was doing that background trick thing.

One fact that will surprise anyone who has seen THAT episode of Better off Ted, is that the professor with the problem was Black. (See clip below)

It appears that much like Racist Republicans, Zoom cannot see color.

It cannot see it at all, and so the person is erased, which is one f%$# of a metaphor.

The optimists among us say that computer algorithms will eventually do away with racism.

The pessimists among us say that the computer algorithms will reinforce and extend racism.

The police, of course, are pulling out their wallets, because this gives them a excuse to discriminate, as is evidenced by the false arrest of a black man based on racist facial recognition.

Color me cynical.

They Say over 200,000. I Think That It Is over ¼ Million


Excess Deaths is the Gold Standard Here

So, the official death toll from Covid-19 crosses the 200,000 mark

The reason that I think that this number is low is that I have looked at the CDC's excess death figures, and the range there is between 201,917 and 262,877, only the death numbers can be 6-8 weeks late, and these figures only go to the week ending September 5, and deaths have been running at about 10,000 a week. 

Given that we are now entering the busy season for viral spreading, more indoor activity and lowering humidity in those spaces, I think that ½ million dead is not outside of the realm of possibility by year's end.

Yes, By All Means, Trust the FBI

Once agaim, it now appears that the FBI has soft pedaled evidence that a mass shooting event was tied to right wing militant movements. 

 This time, it's Stephen Paddock, who murdered 58 people at a country music festival in Las Vegas, who had strong ties to right wing militia movements, specifically, he was big into the Boogaloo movement, or at least its immediate antecedent:

Three years after the worst mass shooting in recent American history, the FBI has yet to identify a motive explaining what could have driven Stephen Paddock to open fire on a crowded music festival from a Las Vegas hotel window, killing 58 people and injuring many hundreds more. But the FBI, which has been notoriously slow to recognize right-wing threats in recent years, may have ignored a politically inconvenient explanation: Paddock, in our view, fit the profile of a far-right political extremist bent on sowing violence in society.

Paddock appeared fixated on three pillars of right-wing extremism: anti-government conspiracy theories, threats to Second Amendment rights, and overly burdensome taxes. For instance, one witness told Las Vegas police that Paddock was “kind of fanatical” about his anti-government conspiracies and that he believed someone had to “wake up the American public” and get them to arm themselves in response to looming threats. Family members and associates of Paddock painted a picture of a man who loathed restrictions on gun ownership and believed that the Second Amendment was under siege, according to our review of their statements to investigators after the shooting and other documents compiled by the authorities.

………

The FBI and Las Vegas police each spent many months searching for a motive in the Las Vegas attack, and both agencies claimed to come up empty in the end. There was “no single or clear motivating factor behind Paddock’s attack,” an FBI panel concluded in a report released in January 2019, and it found “no evidence that Paddock’s attack was motivated by any ideological or political beliefs.” The FBI said that “throughout his life, Paddock went to great lengths to keep his thoughts private, and that extended to his final thinking about this mass murder,” much like many violent lone actors before him.


………

To be sure, factors like Paddock’s declining mental health or an apparent downturn in his high-stakes gambling could also have played a part in his twisted thinking that night. We may never know for certain what would drive a man to barricade himself inside the Mandalay Bay resort with nearly two-dozen high-powered weapons and commit an act of such horrendous violence. But consider what is known about Paddock’s deep-set political beliefs and grievances on issues like guns and taxes.

Paddock “had an obsession with guns” and would become angry when challenged on the Second Amendment, according to Adam LeFevre, who dated the sister of Paddock’s partner. Paddock “made it very clear he would have no part of gun ownership restrictions,” said LeFevre, who got a glimpse of Paddock’s well-stocked gun room during a tour of his home, in another interview. Indeed, by the time of the attack, Paddock had amassed an arsenal of some 80 firearms, mostly assault-style rifles, in addition to stockpiling ammunition and some survivalist equipment — another glaring attribute of the far right.

“He was animated about the government and the tax system,” LeFevre told us in an email. “He was outspoken about the inadequacies and waste of the government.”

Paddock’s ardent opposition to gun restrictions bled into his embrace of a number of the debunked conspiracy theories that have helped to fuel a rise in right-wing extremism in recent years, according to the statements collected by the Las Vegas police, as well as interviews with journalists.

The month before the shooting, one unnamed associate recounted to Las Vegas police detectives that Paddock tried to bribe him into selling a gun part used to convert a semiautomatic firearm into a fully automatic machine gun, demonstrating a total disregard for federal firearms laws. When the associate refused because he said it would be illegal, Paddock reportedly became enraged and made references to a litany of anti-government conspiracy theories, including supposed plans by the Federal Emergency Management Administration to set up “detention camps” of Americans and plans for widespread confiscation of firearms. Paddock believed that Hurricane Katrina in 2005 “was just a dry run for law enforcement and military to start kickin’ down doors and confiscating guns,” the associate said.

“He was kind of fanatical about this stuff,” the associate added, quoting Paddock as saying that “somebody has to wake up the American public and get them to arm themselves.”

………
 
While the FBI has been reluctant to label many attacks by far-right figures as terrorism, outside academics and researchers who track terrorism have filled that void in recent years, compiling data on the growing amount of far-right violence. The managers of two exhaustive databases on terrorism incidents — the START program at the University of Maryland, which works with the Department of Homeland Security, and the Center for Investigative Reporting — decided to include Paddock’s Las Vegas massacre as an act of domestic terrorism, even though the FBI does not classify it that way.

………

President Donald Trump, with little evidence, has tried repeatedly to blame antifa and “left-wing” protesters for organized violence surrounding the protests. But in most cases of violence, evidence on the ground so far points instead to far-right, anti-government protesters — particularly members of the so-called boogaloo boys, who believe in conspiracies about the government’s confiscation of guns and predict a coming civil war in America.

………

Both of us have examined from a close vantage point the rise of right-wing extremism — and resistance from the federal government in recognizing it. Daryl Johnson was the author of a 2009 report at DHS on the rising threat, which was retracted under political pressure by Republicans, and he has written two books on the subject. Eric Lichtblau has written about the subject extensively over the years, including an article in The Intercept in June about an intelligence report acknowledging the government’s failings in confronting the threat of domestic extremists.

People may disagree, based on the evidence, about whether Paddock should be considered part of the rogue’s gallery of ideologically inspired, right-wing killers — alongside people like Roof in Charleston and Crusius in El Paso. But the clues to his political motives certainly merit further review from law enforcement officials to help solve the mystery of what drove him to massacre those dozens of concertgoers on that October night three years ago. The families of the victims deserve it, and the government’s efforts to head off the next massacre demand it.

The vast bulk of law enforcement in the United States is aggressively supportive or the right wing, and right wing violence.

This is the case with the vile spawn of J. Edgar Hoover as well.

I'm sure that they will mention right wing violence when there is absolutely no other alternative.

They are far more measured when it's not a black or a brown perp.

21 September 2020

Headline of the Day

Banks’ Airtight Compliance Procedure Involves Laundering Money, Sending Report That Won’t Be Read, Collecting Fees, Laughing All The Way Back To Themselves
Dealbreaker

To be fair, the story was broken by Buzzfeed, but they don't have the same attitude as Dealbreaker.

A huge trove of secret government documents reveals for the first time how the giants of Western banking move trillions of dollars in suspicious transactions, enriching themselves and their shareholders while facilitating the work of terrorists, kleptocrats, and drug kingpins.

And the US government, despite its vast powers, fails to stop it.

Today, the FinCEN Files — thousands of “suspicious activity reports” and other US government documents — offer an unprecedented view of global financial corruption, the banks enabling it, and the government agencies that watch as it flourishes. BuzzFeed News has shared these reports with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists and more than 100 news organizations in 88 countries.

These documents, compiled by banks, shared with the government, but kept from public view, expose the hollowness of banking safeguards, and the ease with which criminals have exploited them. Profits from deadly drug wars, fortunes embezzled from developing countries, and hard-earned savings stolen in a Ponzi scheme were all allowed to flow into and out of these financial institutions, despite warnings from the banks’ own employees.
Laws that were meant to stop financial crime have instead allowed it to flourish. So long as a bank files a notice that it may be facilitating criminal activity, it all but immunizes itself and its executives from criminal prosecution. The suspicious activity alert effectively gives them a free pass to keep moving the money and collecting the fees.

………

But the FinCEN Files investigation shows that even after they were prosecuted or fined for financial misconduct, banks such as JPMorgan Chase, HSBC, Standard Chartered, Deutsche Bank, and Bank of New York Mellon continued to move money for suspected criminals.

This information should be routinely made public.

Name and shame the oligarchs and those who help them to launder their money.

House Passes Bill to Regulate the Internet of Sh%$

Given that our f%$#ing light bulbs are being hijacked to DDOS Instagram influencers, legislation to regulate the so-called "Internet of Things" is long overdue:

Though it doesn't grab the same headline attention as the silly and pointless TikTok ban, the lack of security and privacy standards in the internet of things (IOT) is arguably a much bigger problem. TikTok is, after all, just one app, hoovering up consumer data in a way that's not particularly different from the 45,000 other international apps, services, governments, and telecoms doing much the same thing. The IOT, in contrast, involves millions of feebly secured products being attached to home and business networks every day. Many also made in China, but featuring microphones and cameras.

Thanks to a laundry list of lazy companies, everything from your Barbie doll to your tea kettle is now hackable. Worse, these devices are now being quickly incorporated into some of the largest botnets ever built, resulting in devastating and historic DDoS attacks. In short: thanks to "internet of things" companies that prioritized profits over consumer privacy and the safety of the internet, we're now facing a security and privacy dumpster fire that many experts believe will, sooner or later, result in some notably nasty results.

To that end, the House this week finally passed the Internet of Things Cybersecurity Improvement Act, which should finally bring some meaningful privacy and security standards to the internet of things (IOT). Cory Gardner, Mark Warner, and other lawmakers note the bill creates some baseline standards for security and privacy that must be consistently updated (what a novel idea), while prohibiting government agencies from using gear that doesn't pass muster. It also includes some transparency requirements mandating that any vulnerabilities in IOT hardware are disseminated among agencies and the public quickly:

I would suggest some additional requirements, like length of support requirements, and liability for the manufacturers and/or vendors.

About F%$#ing Time, Massachusetts Edition

The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court has ruled that prosecutors must tell prosecutors how often specific police officers lie on the stand

I'm not surprised the prosecutors refuse to tell defense attorneys about cops who lie, but I am surprised that the courts have let it slide so long.

Cops lie. Cops lie enough there's a term for it: testilying. Honest prosecutors don't want lying cops on the stand dirtying up their case with their impeachable testimony. Unfortunately, police unions are powerful enough to thwart this small bit of accountability. "Brady lists" are compiled by prosecutors. They contain the names of officers whose track record for telling the truth is so terrible prosecutors don't want to have to rely on their... shall we say... misstatements in court.

Unfortunately, these lists are often closely-guarded secrets. Judges aren't made aware of officers' penchant for lying. Neither are defendants in many cases. But they're called "Brady" lists because they're supposed to be disclosed to defendants. The "Brady" refers to Brady v. Maryland, where it was decided prosecutors are obligated to turn over possibly exculpatory information to defendants to ensure their right to a fair trial. This includes anything that might indicate the cop offering testimony might not be telling the truth.

The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court has ruled [PDF] prosecutors have an obligation to inform defendants of officers who have made their "Brady" lists. Two cops who made false statements in a use-of-force report were granted immunity for their testimony in front of a grand jury. The district attorney prosecuting a different criminal case handed this information over to the defendant. The cops challenged this move, claiming their grand jury immunity should have prevented this exculpatory information from being given to the defendant and discussed in open court. (h/t Matthew Segal)

The cops argued there's no constitutional duty to disclose this information (under the US Constitution or the Commonwealth's) unless failing to do so would alter the outcome of the trial by creating reasonable doubt where none previously existed. The Supreme Judicial Court says that argument is wrong under both Constitutions.
First, prosecutors have more than a constitutional duty to disclose exculpatory information; they also have a broad duty under Mass. R. Crim. P. 14 (a)(1)(iii) to disclose "[a]ny facts of an exculpatory nature." This duty is not limited to information so important that its disclosure would create a reasonable doubt that otherwise would not exist; it includes all information that would "tend to" indicate that the defendant might not be guilty or "tend to" show that a lesser conviction or sentence would be appropriate.

[...]

Second, even if prosecutors had only their constitutional obligation to disclose, and not the broad duty under our rules, we would not want prosecutors to withhold exculpatory information if they thought they could do so without crossing the line into a violation of the defendant's right to a fair trial.

This is a SIGNIFICANT expansion to the Brady rule.  The SJC is saying that the information does not have to show innocence, but something that might lead to some reasonable doubt with some jurors, or even that it might result in a more lenient sentence.

This is a big change.

………

The cops also argued their immunity from prosecution during their grand jury testimony should shield them from any adverse consequences. Wrong again, says the court. The immunity only covers prosecution for the admitted crimes. It is not a shield against reputational damage that may result from this information being made public or handed over to defendants.

………

The Court wraps this up by laying down the law: this is Brady info and it needs to be disclosed to defendants. The SJC is not f%$#ing around.
[W]e conclude, as did the district attorney, that the prosecutors here have a Brady obligation to disclose the exculpatory information at issue to unrelated criminal defendants in cases where a petitioner is a potential witness or prepared a report in the criminal investigation. That obligation remains even though that information was obtained in grand jury testimony compelled by an immunity order. And the district attorney may fulfill that obligation without prior judicial approval; a judge's order is needed only for issuance of a protective order limiting the dissemination of grand jury information.

More broadly, we conclude that where a prosecutor determines from information in his or her possession that a police officer lied to conceal the unlawful use of excessive force, whether by him or herself or another officer, or lied about a defendant's conduct and thereby allowed a false or inflated criminal charge to be prosecuted, the prosecutor's obligation to disclose exculpatory information requires that the information be disclosed to defense counsel in any criminal case where the officer is a potential witness or prepared a report in the criminal investigation.
That's the standard in Massachusetts. And bad cops are on notice there's pretty much nothing they can do to escape the consequences of their own actions. This is as it should be. Now, if the courts could just make sure prosecutors and police departments are actually compiling Brady lists, we'd be set. At least in this Commonwealth.

Having cops revealed to be liars in open court is a good thing, because those cops are going to get torn up on the stands by defense attorneys, and so will be an embarrassment to the force, and not get promoted. 

It's more long-overdue accountability.

Linkage



From The Who's latest album. Not my favorite song of theirs, but definitely The Who, and not just Pete Townshend:

20 September 2020

I'm Calling Political Ploy

The reports of an envelope sent to the White House containing ricin are highly suspect.

First, it's been known for almost 2 decades, since the anthrax mailings, that ricin was one of the substances routinely scanned for in White House mail, and second, this is straight out of the Republican playbook.

After all, we do know that Karl Rove, the morning star for the current crop of Republican political consultants, once planted a bug in his own office for political advantage.

The Hysterectomy Doc Story Gets Worse

It turns out that the butcher who was routinely sterilizing ICE detainees was not a board certified OB/Gyn.

My conclusion at this point is that either Dr. Mahendra Amin was getting all of the sterilization jobs because he was paying kickbacks, or someone at the facility wanted mass sterilizations at the facility, and he was a willing conspirator, or both:

The doctor at the center of a scandal over unwanted hysterectomies at an immigrant detention facility in Georgia is not a board certified OB-GYN, The Daily Beast has learned.

Dr. Mahendra Amin came under scrutiny after immigrant rights groups issued a report accusing him of conducting unnecessary or unwanted gynecological procedures on women detained at the Irwin County Detention Center in Ocilla, Georgia.

………

ICE declined to comment on the record about Amin’s certification or policies concerning board-certified physicians. The agency has previously said it "vehemently disputes the implication that detainees are used for experimental medical procedures,” and cautioned that "anonymous, unproven allegations” should be treated with skepticism.

Reached by text message, Amin declined to comment on his board certification and deferred all questions to his lawyer, who did not respond to multiple requests for comment on the issue.

Amin has practiced in Douglas, Georgia for at least two decades, both in his own private practice and as the medical director for the labor and delivery department at Irwin County Hospital. Business records reviewed by The Daily Beast show he also incorporated a new “Amin Surgery Center for Women” in September 2019, and sought state approvals to build the facility two months afterward. Gayle Evans, a consultant for the project, said the surgical center is still under construction and has not started seeing patients.

………

Since then, lawyers representing 17 detainees have claimed their clients received unnecessary medical gynecological procedures from Amin, according to the office of Rep. Pramila Jayapal. The Department of Homeland Security’s inspector general has launched an investigation into the allegations, and the chair of the House Homeland Security Committee said his panel would also look into them.

………

Board certification is a voluntary process meant to enhance a specialist’s expertise beyond state licensure. (Georgia state law requires only one year of education after medical school to obtain a license.) Physicians seeking ABOG certification must pass a written and oral exam and demonstrate experience in treating women's health care. They are also required to participate in a program to keep them abreast of the latest evidence-based treatments.

………

Court records show Amin has previously settled lawsuits with at least two patients or their family members outside the detention center. In one case, Amin was accused of discharging a pregnant patient despite “life threatening abnormal lab values.” According to the suit, the woman returned to the hospital 48 hours later with contractions, blurred vision, high blood pressure and vaginal bleeding. She received an emergency cesarean section and died shortly thereafter. In a court filing, Amin denied any negligence and any knowledge of the abnormal lab values.

………

Amin and eight other doctors at the Irwin County Hospital also agreed to pay $520,000 to the federal government in 2015, after the Department of Justice accused them of fraudulently billing Medicare and Medicaid for services they did not provide. The complaint named Amin as the owner of MGA Health Management, which was contracted to run the hospital, and also identified him as a part owner of the institution.

………

The complaint further identifies a kickback scheme whereby Amin and other physicians directed patients to ICH instead of other institutions. Because of Amin’s ownership stake in ICH, he allegedly profited off every such referral.

………

Shahshahani said her organization is still working on discerning the total number of women who received surgery against their will. While she described the attention given to the hysterectomies as “well-deserved,” she cautioned against putting all the blame on an individual doctor.

“At the end of the day, it was the doctor that was performing these procedures but the buck really stops with ICE,” she said. “The U.S. government had the responsibility for the welfare and protection of these women.”

So, we know that he's corrupt, and we know that ICE is deeply and pervasively racist.

You do the math.

European Leaders Call Bullsh%$ on Trump's Anti-Iran Jihad


We don't care, we don't have to ……… we're the United States.

The European signatories of the Iran nuclear deal are saying that they will not support the US move to reimpose UN sanctions on Iran

More specifically, they note that, since the US unilaterally pulled out of the deal, the UN response is none of our business.

I get what is going on here, Trump, who wants to overturn one of the few Obama administration foreign policy successes, has found common ground with the regime change folks, but this is not a basis for a winning friends and influencing people:  (Also, Russia and China still have a veto)

European leaders have warned the US that its claim to have the authority to reimpose sweeping UN-mandated sanctions on Iran has no effect in law, setting up a major legal clash that could lead to Washington imposing sanctions on its European allies.

In a joint statement on Sunday, France, Germany and the UK (E3) said any attempt by the US to impose its own sanctions on countries not complying with the reimposed UN ones was also legally void.

On Saturday, the US moved to reinstate a range of UN sanctions against Iran, saying it had the authority to do so as an original signatory of the joint comprehensive plan of action (JCPOA), the 2015 nuclear deal between Iran and other major powers.

The other signatories claim the US left the JCPOA in 2018 and therefore no longer has a unilateral legal right to either declare Iran in breach of the agreement or to reimpose sanctions in the name of the UN.

………

The disagreement is not just a legal wrangle since the Trump administration claims the US now has the authority to act against any country breaching the reimposed sanctions.

The US also claims the scheduled lifting of the UN embargo on arms sales to Iran in October is null and void. There is also a risk that the US will claim it has a new mandate to interdict Iranian shipping, a move that could lead to a naval clash in the Gulf.

In a joint statement, the E3 said: “The United States of America ceased to be a participant in the JCPOA following their withdrawal from the agreement on 8 May, 2018. Consequently, the notification received from the United States and transmitted to the member states of the [UN] security council, has no legal effect. It follows that any decision or action which would be taken on the basis of this procedure or its outcome have no legal effect.

………

Earlier on Saturday the US secretary of state, Mike Pompeo, said the US had reimposed UN sanctions and expected “all UN member states to fully comply with their obligations to implement these measures”.

Since the fall of the USSR, the United States' foreign policy can be summed up as, "Rules for thee, but not for me."

I am stunned that France and Germany have called the Trump administration on this, and I am positively flabbergasted that the US poodle in Europe (the UK) is also making the same statement.

19 September 2020

Rule 1 of Cops, Police Brutality and Police Protests: They Lie

Rule 2 is, "See rule 1."

Case in point?  When the Rochester mayor and chief of police claimed that a woman from Alaska was an, "Outside Agitator," he a woman from Alaska who was a student at the University of Richester

After the upheaval of the protest on Sept. 5 in downtown Rochester, police announced nine demonstrators were detained and charged.

During a press conference the following day, both Mayor Lovely Warren and former Chief La'Ron Singletary said people from as far away as Massachusetts and Alaska were arrested.

Singletary said there was evidence and intelligence pointing to "outside agitators" in our community. During a listening session with City Council Wednesday, it was revealed that the Alaska resident charged with unlawful assembly after the protest is actually a 19-year-old sophomore at the University of Rochester.

Sonia McGaffigan addressed City Council and chastised Warren, Singletary and the media for perpetuating this narrative on outside agitators during the rallies and protests after the death of Daniel Prude became public in early September.

McGaffigan said during her three-minute response to City Council that it was her first-ever protest and she described the scene after police knocked her off her bicycle while she was attempting to ride back to campus.

And if that weren't enough, we now have details about how aggressively the Rochester police attempted to cover up their crime:

It was early June, days after the death of George Floyd, and cities around the country were erupting in protests against police brutality.

In Rochester, the streets were relatively calm, but behind closed doors, police and city officials were growing anxious. A Black man, Daniel Prude, had died of suffocation in March after police officers had placed his head in a hood and pinned him to the ground. The public had never been told about the death, but that would change if police body camera footage of the encounter got out.

“We certainly do not want people to misinterpret the officers’ actions and conflate this incident with any recent killings of unarmed Black men by law enforcement nationally,” a deputy Rochester police chief wrote in an email to his boss. “That would simply be a false narrative, and could create animosity and potentially violent blowback in this community as a result.”

His advice was clear: Don’t release the body camera footage to the Prude family’s lawyer. The police chief replied minutes later: “I totally agree.”

The June 4 exchange was contained in a mass of city documents released on Monday that show how the police chief, La’Ron Singletary, and other prominent Rochester officials did everything in their power to keep the troubling videos of the incident out of public view, and to prevent damaging fallout from Mr. Prude’s death.

………

In a police report on the confrontation, marking a box for “victim type,” an officer on the scene listed Mr. Prude — who the police believed had broken a store window that night — simply as an “individual.” But another officer circled the word in red and scribbled a note.


“Make him a suspect,” it read.

If the people who enforce your laws routinely lie to protect themselves from the law, you do not have law enforcement, you have a criminal gang.

The New Blogger Sucks

The authoring, both in rich text and in HTML is indescribably awful.

The tag applications still do not work reliably, and both interfaces are clearly slower.

Either this is an attempt by Google to drive people away from Blogspot to justify their shutting down the service, or their programming team for Blogger needs to be fired.

I have no clue as to who, and how, they evaluate user interfaces at Google, but these folks need to be fired too.

Fuck

Ruth Bader Ginsberg, Supreme Court Justice, has died at age 87.

Ruth Bader Ginsburg, the second woman to serve on the Supreme Court and a pioneering advocate for women’s rights, who in her ninth decade became a much younger generation’s unlikely cultural icon, died at her home in Washington on Friday. She was 87.

The cause was complications of metastatic pancreatic cancer, the Supreme Court said.

By the time two small tumors were found in one of her lungs in December 2018, during a follow-up scan for broken ribs suffered in a recent fall, Justice Ginsburg had beaten colon cancer in 1999 and early-stage pancreatic cancer 10 years later. She received a coronary stent to clear a blocked artery in 2014.

Needless to say, Mitch McConnell is studiously ignoring what he did when he blocked Obama's nominee in 2016, because he is an evil man who has no ideology beyond a quest for power.

Also, we have reports that Trump will be nominating a replacement, which is not a surprise. 

Both stacking the court, and violating the norms of governance are core branding for Trump and his administration, so I would expect to see a nomination in the next few weeks, with an actual vote on the candidate in the lame duck session, where the Senators, particularly those who have lost their bid for reelection, will be able to vote with little, if any repercussions.