31 December 2021

It's Bank Failure Friday!!!

Yesterday, there was the 7th credit union failure of the year, Portsmouth Schools Federal Credit Union of Portsmouth, VA.

So, another year with more credit union failures than than commercial banks.

Not a clue as to what it means.


I was hoping that Betty White would make it to 100.  She died 18 days short of that today.

Not a good omen for 2022

30 December 2021

A Bit of Doom for the New Year

It looks like the Thwaites glacier in Antartica is breaking up even faster than previously thought previously thought, which would release much of the Western Ice Shelf, resulting in a sea level increase of over 3 meters:

One thing that’s hard to grasp about the climate crisis is that big changes can happen fast. In 2019, I was aboard the Nathaniel B. Palmer, a 308-foot-long scientific research vessel, cruising in front of the Thwaites Glacier in Antarctica. One day, we were sailing in clear seas in front of the glacier. The next day, we were surrounded by icebergs the size of aircraft carriers.

As we later learned from satellite images, in a matter of 48 hours or so, a mélange of ice about 21 miles wide and 15 miles deep had cracked up and scattered into the sea.

It was a spooky moment. Thwaites Glacier is the size of Florida. It is the cork in the bottle of the entire West Antarctic ice sheet, which contains enough ice to raise sea levels by 10 feet. The mélange that disintegrated was not part of the glacier itself, but a mix of icebergs and sea ice that had cozied up next to it. Still, the idea that it could just fall apart overnight was mind-blowing.

As it turns out, the ice breakup I witnessed was not a freak event. A few weeks ago, scientists participating in the International Thwaites Glacier Collaboration, a $25 million five-year-long joint research program between the National Science Foundation in the U.S. and the Natural Environment Research Council in the U.K., presented their latest research. They described the discovery of cracks and fissures in the Thwaites eastern ice shelf, predicting that the ice shelf could fracture like a shattered car window in as little as five years. “It won’t scatter out into sea as quickly as what you saw when you were down there,” Erin Pettit, a glaciologist at Oregon State University and one of the lead principal investigators in the ITGC, later told me. “But the basic process is the same. The ice shelf is breaking up and could be gone in less than a decade.”

If the "Doomsday Glacier" collapses, it could force millions of people to relocate.

Happy New Year, everyone.

Best Healthcare System in the World

The juxtaposition of private equity and healthcare is an unmitigated disaster, as was shown in the sad saga of Pinnacle Dermatology, a private equity backed medical chain that prioritizes profits over people:

The email to the health care workers was like something out of “The Wolf of Wall Street.” “We are in the last few days of the month and are only 217 appointments away from meeting our budget,” the August 2020 memo stated. “Don’t forget the August bonus incentive for all patients scheduled in August! That’s the easiest money you can make. Get that money!!”

The “Get that money!!” entreaty wasn’t addressed to a bunch of hard-charging, coke-snorting stockbrokers. It went to Michigan-based employees of Pinnacle Dermatology, a private equity-owned group of 90 dermatology practices across America.

The memo was shared with NBC News by a former Pinnacle employee, Dr. Allison Brown, a board-certified dermatologist and dermatopathologist. Brown says Pinnacle terminated her shortly after she advised management of questionable practices that she contends were hurting patients.
There is no human activity that private equity cannot ruin.


Physicians have a duty to put their patients’ interests first. But when aggressive financiers take over medical operations, the push for profits can take precedence, doctors in an array of specialties have told NBC News. Paying bonuses for increased patient visits may result in unnecessary appointments and costs, for example.


“The private equity business model is fundamentally incompatible with sound health care that serves patients,” concluded a paper in May co-authored by Richard M. Scheffler, professor of health economics and public policy at the University of California, Berkeley; Laura M. Alexander, the vice president of policy at the American Antitrust Institute, a nonprofit organization; and James R. Godwin, a Ph.D. candidate at the UCLA Fielding School of Public Health.

The researchers found that private equity’s focus on short-term profits “leads to pressure to prioritize revenue over quality of care, to overburden health-care companies with debt, strip their assets, and put them at risk of long-term failure, and to engage in anticompetitive and unethical billing practices.”

Private equity does that with everything that they touch. 

They are a cancer on society, but you would never find that out if you had it checked out at Pinnacle Dermatology.  Their lab would lose the results.

Support Your Local Police

How does a state trooper who patrols a rural part of Pennsylvania manage to shoot and kill 4 people in the span of 15 years, and got an "Officer of the year," award as well.

It appears that the fact that his own barracks refused to allow outside investigators to look into the incidents, and the local DAs had no interest in a thorough investigation:

In November 2008, Pennsylvania Trooper Jay Splain was honored at a county law enforcement banquet as a hero, the police officer of the year. The reason: He had shot and killed a suicidal man who allegedly pointed an Uzi submachine gun at him.

The man had the Uzi taped to himself, and it had been reported that it was pointed at his own head.

That was the first killing. Trooper Splain went on to fatally shoot three more people in separate incidents, an extraordinary tally for an officer responsible for patrolling largely rural areas with low rates of violent crime. All four who died were troubled, struggling with drugs, mental illness or both. In two cases, including that of the man with the Uzi, family members had called the police for help because their relatives had threatened to kill themselves.

The most recent death was last month, when Trooper Splain shot an unarmed man in his Volkswagen Beetle. After learning that the officer had previously killed three other people over nearly 15 years, the man’s sister, Autumn Krouse, asked, “Why would that person still be employed?”

Because cops place protecting their own over following the law.  That's why they still have a job, Ms. Krouse.

Of course, this is a story is from the New York Times, which makes it likely that this guy is going to get way a LOT of attention, as will his superiors.

Trooper Splain is an outlier. Most officers never fire their weapons. Until now, his full record of killings has not been disclosed; the Pennsylvania State Police even successfully fought a lawsuit seeking to identify him and provide other details in one shooting. In the agency’s more than a century of policing, no officer has ever been prosecuted for fatally shooting someone, according to a spokesman. That history aligns with a longstanding pattern across the country of little accountability for police officers’ use of deadly force.

Prosecutors and a grand jury concluded that Trooper Splain’s first three lethal shootings were justified, and an inquiry into the most recent one is ongoing. Rather than have independent outsiders look into the killings, the police agency has conducted its own investigations — which were led by officers from his unit — raising questions about the rigor of the inquiries. 

Gee, you think?

“When a police officer has shot at and potentially killed a civilian, the public will never trust the police agency to investigate itself and be unbiased,” said Tom Hogan, the former district attorney of Chester County, Pa. A Republican, he helped write recommendations by the state prosecutors’ association for independent investigations — a reform that many departments resist, but one sought by the national prosecutors’ association and major policing groups.
Departments resist independent reviews because they are corrupt and abhor the idea or personal accountability.
In its review of Trooper Splain’s killings, The New York Times found inconsistencies between the evidence of what occurred and what the state police said had happened. The officer appeared to have departed from police protocols in several of the fatal confrontations, according to interviews and an examination of investigative and court records.

Read the rest. The details are troubling.

Even if his behavior does not rise to the level of criminality, and it does sound like it rises to the level of a criminal act, it's pretty clear that this history is problematic in the context of basic professional standards of law enforcement.

Tweet of the Day

Yes, this is my brother, Daniel, and yes, this is a real museum.

Thursday Jobless Report Out

Initial unemployment claims fell to 198,000, which, once again, is a good number, even by the standards of the before times.

I still think that the seasonal adjustments are probably adding some inaccuracies to our current employment situation, but these numbers are positive by any measure.

The effects of Omicron, which is going through the US like sh%$ through a goose, is still not clear.
U.S. employers added a record number of jobs in 2021, as a gauge of layoffs fell to a half-century low and available positions surged on strong demand for labor during the economy’s recovery from pandemic-related shutdowns.

But the pace of labor market gains could slow early next year due to the uncertainty posed by the Omicron variant of Covid-19 pandemic, especially in restaurants, hotels and other venues where people gather.

Applications for unemployment benefits, a proxy for layoffs, have trended near five-decade lows in recent weeks. Jobless claims for the week ended Dec. 25 fell from the prior week to a seasonally adjusted 198,000, the Labor Department said Thursday. Last week’s four-week moving average, which smooths out volatility, fell to the lowest level since October 1969.


Jobless claims will be closely watched in the coming weeks for any signs that the Omicron variant is causing employers to lay off workers. Claims data, which are reported weekly, are often an early signal that hiring, and the broader economy, is shifting.


Oxford Economics expects employers to add 5 million payroll jobs in 2022, equal to an average of more than 400,000 a month. That would be a modest slowdown from this year, when U.S. employers added an average of 555,000 a month, or 6.1 million jobs through the first 11 months of 2021, according to the Labor Department. This year’s job increase is already the largest on record back to 1940.

I do wonder when the statistics will be adjusted to meat the new normal.

I also wonder what the hell the new normal actually is.

29 December 2021

Tweet of the Day

I would be remiss in not noting that the use of language to exclude people from various professionalized fields is not limited to economics, it's just that there is more vacuousness to hide in economics than in many other professional endeavors.

Also, you can never go wrong by assuming that Larry Summers is wrong.

Quote of the Day

Well, That Would Be All the Novels That I Was Assigned in My English Literature Class Last Semester
—A response to the question, "Name a book that you think you ought to have read, but haven't," which was posed to his students by professor Harry Brighthouse on Crooked Timber

Prof. Brighthouse was talking about how to engage students in class, and how to get them to do the reading.

His student's bit of snark is one for the ages.

28 December 2021

Harry Reid has Died

He was 82.

He was a decent guy, but like many Democratic Senators of his generation, he persisted in attempting a return to the decorous Senate of yore while the other side had decided to make the body a petri dish for narcissistic psychopaths.

On Par with Rheumatic Fever

If you are not frightened after this, you are in a Covid-19 induced coma. 

A lot of people are probably too old to recall Rheumatic Fever, at least in the West, but when immunologist Anthony Leonardi compares the Covid autoimmune response to this disease, he is speaking in apocalyptic terms.

Rheumatic Fever is an autoimmune response to an infection, streptococcus typically, that can cause arthritis and damage the heart, brain, and kidneys. 

The body attacks itself, causing potentially fatal damage.

This is seriously scary sh%$.

Get vaccinated now, if your are not, and get your booster if you are vaccinated.

This will probably reduce the severity of the disease, and so will probably reduce the chance that your immune system will go Hannibal Lecter on the rest of you.


That is all

Candace Owens Should Be Feeling Blue Shortly ……… And Permanently

Not a Photoshop

In a world of scams, it appears that Candace Owens has reached the apotheosis of scams, colloidal silver, which not only provides no health benefits but eventually turns your skin permanently blue.

She is touting it as a Covid cure:

Right-wing personality Candace Owens is urging her fans to consume a quack medical cure known for turning users’ skin blue.

In an Instagram video posted on Thursday, Owens praised the use of colloidal silver as a daily supplement, a treatment that comes with no valid medical use and plenty of health risks.

“Yes, colloidal silver!” Owens said in the video. “I take colloidal silver every single day, I love colloidal silver. That is a great one. That is another one that people probably know nothing about.”

While Owens and others have praised preventative use of colloidal silver as a way to stave off illness, colloidal silver has no valid medical purpose and plenty of potential dangers. In extreme cases, according to the Mayo Clinic, colloidal silver can cause seizure or organ problems.

Owens didn’t respond to a request for comment.

But colloidal silver’s most famous side effect is argyria—a condition that turns users’ skin a bluish-gray color, usually permanently. Despite those risks, colloidal silver has sometimes been embraced by political outsiders, including some libertarians seeking treatments for a variety of illnesses outside the medical system. Montana Libertarian politician Stan Jones, for example, turned his skin blue by consuming colloidal silver.

This sh%$ can shred your liver and kidneys, and I am not wishing that on Candace Owens and her Evil Minions, but I am wishing that they all turn blue.

It really is remarkable just how much of the right-wing infrastructure is just an exercise in defrauding true believers.

27 December 2021

What a Whiny Bitch

Jared Schmeck, they guy who called into NORAD's Santa Clause tracker to say, "Let's go Brandon," (right wing speaking in tongues meaning, "F%$# Joe Biden:) is upset that he has been wildly excoriated for his boorish behavior, claiming that this is a violation of his free speech.

Bullsh%$. The 1st amendment gives you the right to be a complete sh%$ heel, and it gives the rest of us the right to call you a sh%$ heel.

It also gives people the right to look at his history online, which shows that he is a MAGAt, and it has a number of people wondering why he left the Medford Oregon Police after only 6 years.

It's not like the guy who shouted "Go f%$# yourself," at Dick Cheney, who actually was briefly detained by the Secret Service.

Let's go Jared, because you, Mr. Schmeck are a complete schmuck.

Needs to be Said

Dwana Franklin-Davis Ruthe Farmer make the following exhortation, "Tech companies: Stop conflating privilege with potential."

Enabling bigotry while concealing it is a large part of many tech companies out there.  Just look at Airbnb, which allows renters to vet potential renters for race, or Uber and Lyft, which allows drivers and riders to do the same, or the Facebook's incorporation of racism into its employment advertisements, etc.

It's a feature not a bug of the tech bros, it's a part and parcel of their view of themselves as Ayn Rand style entrepreneur supermen.

If the market wants to pay for bigotry, by John Gault they will give it to the market.

I Missed this in September

The good folks at Ars Technica had a review of their top stories of the year, and I came across a story that I had missed. It appears that a hospital told their employees that if they had a religious objection to Covid-19 vaccines because or the use of fetal stem cells, they would have to pledge to eschew all drugs developed with that technology.

The list of drugs developed with that technology includes, "Tylenol, Pepto Bismol, aspirin, Tums, Lipitor, Senokot, Motrin, ibuprofen, Maalox, Ex-Lax, Benadryl, Sudafed, albuterol, Preparation H, MMR vaccine, Claritin, Zoloft, Prilosec OTC, and azithromycin." 

Nice way to call out religious hypocrisy:

A hospital system in Arkansas is making it a bit more difficult for staff to receive a religious exemption from its COVID-19 vaccine mandate. The hospital is now requiring staff to also swear off extremely common medicines, such as Tylenol, Tums, and even Preparation H, to get the exemption.


"This was significantly disproportionate to what we've seen with the influenza vaccine," Matt Troup, president and CEO of Conway Regional Health System, told Becker's Hospital Review in an interview Wednesday.

"Thus," Troup went on, "we provided a religious attestation form for those individuals requesting a religious exemption," he said. The form includes a list of 30 commonly used medicines that "fall into the same category as the COVID-19 vaccine in their use of fetal cell lines," Conway Regional said.

The list includes Tylenol, Pepto Bismol, aspirin, Tums, Lipitor, Senokot, Motrin, ibuprofen, Maalox, Ex-Lax, Benadryl, Sudafed, albuterol, Preparation H, MMR vaccine, Claritin, Zoloft, Prilosec OTC, and azithromycin.

Conway Regional notes that the list includes commonly used and available drugs but that it is not an all-inclusive list of such medicines.


The intent of the form is twofold, Troup says. First, the hospital wants to ensure that staff members are sincere in their stated beliefs, he said, and second, it wants to "educate staff who might have requested an exemption without understanding the full scope of how fetal cells are used in testing and development in common medicines.

I am amused.


 Have an Alton Brown recipe:

26 December 2021

Pay Per View Review

Director…………Destin Daniel Cretton

Writers…………Dave Callaham

Destin Daniel Cretton
Andrew Lanham

Simu Liu……Shaun / Shang-Chi
Tony Chiu-Wai Leung ……Xu Wenwu
Awkwafina ……………………Katy
Ben Kingsley ……Trevor Slattery
Meng'er Zhang ……………Xialing
Fala Chen ……………Li
Michelle Yeoh ……………Ying Nan
Wah Yuen Master Guang Bo
Florian Munteanu ……………Razor Fist
Andy Le ……………Death Dealer
Paul W. He Chancellor Hui
Jayden Zhang …………Young Shang-Chi
Elodie Fong …………Young Xialing
Arnold Sun ……Teen Shang-Chi
Yesterday, we ordered Chinese takeout and watched Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings on pay per view.

As I noted on Friday, we have no interest in being another Covid statistic, so we did not eat in and did not go to a movie theater.

After some back and forth, we decided on the Marvel film, largely because it is largely detached from the whole Infinity War/Endgame story-line, because it's just f%$#ing exhausting.

Thankfully, this proved to be true.  It was about as tied into the whole Marvel story arc as the original Black Panther.

There are a few references, but nothing major.

My spoiler-free review of the movie is that it's pretty good for what it is, and definitely in the top half of the Marvel films that I have seen, which is pretty good considering that it is an origin film, which means that a significant part of the film is devoted to non-plot history.

The reason that this is a good film is because of the stand-out performance by Awkawfina, who plays Shang-Chi's best friend and side-kick. 

She is comic relief, straight-woman, and active participant in Joseph Campbell's Hero's Journey that is at the center of all super hero origin stories.

It's better than run of the mill Marvel fair, but not as good as the original Captain America.

I'd give it a solid 8 out of 10 in the context of the genre, largely on the performance of Awkawfina.

Some pictures after the break: (click for bigger picture)

25 December 2021

So Far, So Good

The James Webb Telescope has been successfully launched.

So far, so good:

The dreams and work of a generation of astronomers headed for an orbit around the sun on Saturday in the form of the biggest and most expensive space-based observatory ever built. The James Webb Space Telescope, a joint effort of NASA, the European Space Agency and the Canadian Space Agency, lifted off from a spaceport near the Equator in Kourou, French Guiana, a teetering pillar of fire and smoke embarking on a million-mile trip to the morning of time.
There is a hell of a lot that go wrong as it moves to its station at a LaGrange point.

A million miles as a long way.

Not a Good Time to Go on a Cruise Ship

 I am just stating the obvious:

Ashley Peterson had a different mental image of her Christmas break than what actually transpired: The 34-year-old thought she would finally visit the Caribbean reef-lined island of Bonaire, the 99th country in her quest to travel at least 100.

Instead, her cruise ship, the Carnival Freedom, sailed past its destination Wednesday after a port turned away the boat because of coronavirus infections onboard. At least four sailings on Royal Caribbean, Holland America, Carnival and others this week were altered by coronavirus outbreaks as cruise ships prepared for pre-pandemic levels before sailings were paused. Although vessels resuming cruising have beefed up coronavirus precautions, requiring vaccinations and testing passengers, the wave of new infections, fueled by the quickly proliferating omicron variant, has knocked the devastated industry and alarmed cruisers.

“We’re sailing on a petri dish,” Peterson said. “I feel like I just spent my past week at a superspreader event.”

Gee, you think?

The Right Thing for the Wrong Reasons

It appears that the Biden administration has been driven to aggressive antitrust actions to fight inflation.

The Biden administration should be taking aggressive antitrust actions just because it's the right thing to do:

As rising inflation threatens his presidency, President Biden is turning to the federal government’s antitrust authorities to try to tame red-hot price increases that his administration believes are partly driven by a lack of corporate competition.

Mr. Biden has prodded the Agriculture Department to investigate large meatpackers that control a significant share of poultry and pork markets, accusing them of raising prices, underpaying farmers — and tripling their profit margins during the pandemic. As gas prices surged, he publicly encouraged the Federal Trade Commission to investigate accusations that large oil companies had artificially inflated prices, behavior that the administration says continued even after global oil prices began to fall in recent weeks.

The push has extended to little-known agencies, like the Federal Maritime Commission, which the president has urged to search for price gouging by large shipping companies at the heart of the supply chain.

The turn to antitrust levers stems from Mr. Biden’s belief that rising levels of corporate concentration in the U.S. economy have empowered a few large players in each industry to raise prices higher than a more competitive market would allow.

This is likely true, particularly in the case of meat packers, but shutting down monopolies is an independent good.

Support Your Local Police

It turns out that there is a disciplinary panel, staffed by DC police, that has routinely blocked disciplinary actions against police officers in the department convicted of crimes.

The old adage that, "Self-regulation is to regulation as self-importance is to importance," applies here.

In fact, I would argue that the police are even less capable of regulating themselves than the Wall Street banksters: 

The two sex workers in Washington, D.C., suspected that the drunk, bearded man in the silver Nissan Maxima was a police officer. Standing outside the car on a December night in 2015, they could see his black boots and blue cargo pants. Then there was the way he held his gun as he pointed it at them. Exactly how a cop is trained to do, one of the workers thought, according to internal police records.

After they’d called 911 reporting that a belligerent man had solicited sex, threatened one of them with a gun and then accused them of stealing his phone, the Metropolitan Police Department officer dispatched to the scene ran the Nissan’s plates, the documents show. Sure enough, it belonged to Ronald Faunteroy, a fellow MPD officer.

The officer on the scene immediately notified Agent Charles Weeks, a 20-year veteran tasked with investigating his fellow officers. Weeks’ investigative notes suggest he threw himself into the case, seemingly dispelling any notion that there was a buddy-buddy culture within the department that would protect Faunteroy.

That very day, Weeks recorded video interviews with both of the sex workers who interacted with Faunteroy, according to Weeks’ investigative files. In the weeks that followed, he reviewed surveillance footage from two cameras in the area and interviewed every officer involved with the case. He acquired equipment records, incident reports, 911 audio, dispatch logs and property records. He had even photocopied the notebooks of the officers responding at the scene, scouring through their chicken-scratched notes to understand what exactly happened.


The Metropolitan Police Department swiftly took action, moving to terminate Faunteroy. The Internal Affairs Division determined that “a preponderance of evidence existed to sustain the allegations” that he violated D.C. laws and department policy.

Yet a powerful tribunal of three high-ranking officers, known as the Adverse Action Panel, overruled the department’s decision to fire Faunteroy. The officer in charge of the panel: Robert J. Contee, who has since risen to become chief of police. Faunteroy was stripped of his title of master patrol officer, a high-ranking patrol officer paid extra to “provide effective coaching, mentoring, and guidance to other officers,” but the department roster shows he’s since regained the title.

Internal records show that MPD’s Disciplinary Review Division sought to terminate at least 24 officers currently on the force for criminal misconduct from 2009 to 2019. In all but three of those cases, the records show, the Adverse Action Panel blocked the termination and instead issued much lighter punishment – an average of a 29-day suspension without pay. These officers amassed disciplinary records for domestic violence, DUIs, indecent exposure, sexual solicitation, stalking and more. In several instances, they fled the scenes of their crimes.


Details from misconduct investigations like these have typically remained hidden from the public, with police departments citing personal privacy laws. In April, a ransomware attack on D.C. police by a group called Babuk resulted in the hacking of 250 gigabytes of police data. Reveal gained access to the entire data trove through DDoSecrets, a transparency nonprofit made up of journalists and technologists unaffiliated with the hack. Reveal found the misconduct investigations and disciplinary decisions buried in tens of thousands of records that included a controversial gang database, intelligence briefs on right-wing activists and emails describing the conduct of a specialized police unit trying to suppress robberies.


Mike Gottert, who served as the director of MPD’s Disciplinary Review Division from 2016 to late 2019, said he and many within the department’s management were frustrated by how infrequently officers ended up being fired after a panel hearing. “Obviously, when we recommend people to be terminated, we think they should be terminated,” he said. “We’d go through this whole process, and the panel would say no for whatever reason.”

Gottert provided additional records from his tenure that show the Adverse Action Panels overturned nearly two-thirds of all terminations his department sought.

Policing in DC, and in much of the nation, is deeply and profoundly corrupt.

24 December 2021

Tweet of the Day

I've seen Nostalgia Critic's The Wall. It's profoundly and deeply awful.


Indoor dinNing, huh?  It must be awfully loud.

We are actually getting takeout at David Chu's China Bistro, (very good kosher Chinese; the Szechuan soft won ton are to die for) and I was dropping by to pick up a menu, and I saw the error on their sign.

You see, it is the custom of my people to celebrate December 25 with Chinese food and a movie.

Normally, this is dinner in a Chinese restaurant and a movie in the theater, but with the Omicron variant of Covid going through Maryland like sh%$ like a goose, we chose the better part of honor, and will be doing takeout and pay per view. (David Chu's will be open Mozei Shabbos at starting at 6:30 tomorrow)

23 December 2021

Surprised and Pleased

Just 2 years ago, police officer Kimberly Potter would not have convicted for shooting of Daunte Wright.

Attitudes have changed, so we had a prosecutor who was willing to file charges and a jury willing to take a fair look at the facts:

Jurors convicted former Brooklyn Center police officer Kimberly Potter on Thursday of both manslaughter counts filed against her in the April 11 fatal shooting of Daunte Wright, making her the third officer in Minnesota to be convicted of killing a civilian while on duty.

Potter, 49, stood between two of her attorneys and showed little emotion as Hennepin County District Judge Regina Chu read the guilty verdicts for first- and second-degree manslaughter. Upon hearing each verdict, Potter, with her attorneys hands on either shoulder, turned her gaze from the judge to the table below her.


Potter's sentencing is scheduled for Feb. 18. Engh declined to comment on the verdicts. Gray, who shook his head throughout Thursday's proceeding and briefly rested his head on the attorneys' table, did not return a message seeking comment.


Police had pulled over Wright's car for expired tags and a dangling air freshener and discovered an arrest warrant for carrying a gun without a permit and a temporary restraining order filed against him by a woman. Wright had a female passenger with him at the time.

Wright broke free of an officer, Anthony Luckey, attempting to handcuff him and jumped back into his car. Then-Sgt. Mychal Johnson was standing outside the front passenger door and had reached into the vehicle to prevent Wright from shifting it into drive. Potter's body worn camera showed her warning Wright twice that she was going to Tase him before she shot him once in the chest with her handgun while yelling, "Taser! Taser! Taser!"

Potter's defense argued that she meant to use her Taser instead of her handgun. They told jurors she had the legal right to use a Taser or deadly force because Wright resisted arrest and put officers' lives at risk. Wright contributed to his own death by using marijuana and disobeying orders, Potter's defense argued.

Prosecutors argued that Potter acted recklessly and negligently. They told jurors she received copious training during her 26-year career and should have known better, and that even deploying a Taser was inappropriate for the situation due to the risks it posed to others. Prosecutors meticulously walked through the differences between Potter's Taser and handgun at trial and encouraged jurors to handle the deactivated weapons during their deliberations.


Jurors reached a verdict on second-degree manslaughter at 10:30 a.m. Tuesday, and a verdict on first-degree manslaughter at 11:40 a.m. Thursday.


Defendants with no criminal history such as Potter would face about seven years in prison for first-degree manslaughter and four years for second-degree manslaughter, according to state sentencing guidelines.

Prosecutors intend to argue for a longer term than recommended by the guidelines in light of "aggravating factors" they still must prove to the judge at a later date.

This case is particularly egregious because of Potter's extensive training, she was a training officer, which meant that she knew better.

Police should behave in accordance with the law.

Who Will Think of the Billionaires?

Despite the best efforts of legions of high paid lawyers, the worst people in the world were unable to keep the city of New York from reopening a homeless shelter at the Park Savoy Motel in midtown Manhattan.

The denizens of "Billionaires Row" don't want to see the victims of their depredations:

Just a few steps away from the horse-drawn carriages that whisk tourists through New York’s Central Park and the opulence of the Plaza Hotel is an unassuming building on a quiet block in midtown Manhattan.

The building is marked by an awning that reads “Park Savoy Hotel”. Nestled in between a 24-hour parking structure and an apartment building on a predominantly residential street, the Park Savoy blends in with the other hotels in the neighborhood.

A sign on the front window of the building that says “Welcome to the Park Savoy rapid re-housing program” is the only marker that indicates it is a homeless shelter, built in one of the most pricey neighborhoods in New York. One that rich locals fought for years, spending hundreds of thousands of dollars campaigning against the crime and “irreparable injuries” they said it would bring – fears that appear to have been unfounded.

The shelter quietly opened its doors in early November. It is designed to house up to 80 men and is known as an “employment shelter” meant for those who are seeking employment or who are actively employed, especially in midtown Manhattan. The shelter has been taking in about five new occupants a week since it opened 8 November, according to a city spokesperson.

The men will be neighbors with some of Manhattan’s wealthiest residents: the shelter abuts Billionaires Row, a nickname given to the cluster of super-tall luxury “pencil towers” that were constructed within the last decade. The penthouse of One57, the tower that is directly behind the shelter, was bought by billionaire Michael Dell in 2014 for $100m – the most expensive piece of real estate ever sold in the city at the time.


The Park Savoy shelter was slated to open in spring 2018, but the city entered a lengthy legal battle with residents and business owners in the area who vehemently opposed the shelter and formed a group, called the West 58th Street Coalition to block it.


Determined to stop the shelter, the West 58th Street Coalition filed a lawsuit in 2018 that argued the building was too “unsafe” for occupants and that “crime and loitering” caused by the shelter would lead to “irreparable injuries”. The coalition also spent at least $287,000 toward lobbyists advocating against the shelter, according to non-profit news site The City. They spent another $100,000 on billboards in Iowa meant to prod de Blasio during his brief run for president in 2020.

There has been no apocalypse.  The neighborhood is fine, but they just did not want it around them, because any vestige of kindness to the less fortunate is an anathema to them.

These people know nothing of the milk of human kindness.

Support Your Local Police

The FBI is looking at ending its attempts to collect data on police use of force because police departments are refusing to participate in the program.

The program is voluntary, which explains why the departments are refusing to participate:  Cops hate transparency and accountability when it applies to them:

In an attempt to create a definitive database on how often police officers use force on citizens, the FBI launched the National Use-of-Force Data Collection program in 2019, imploring police departments to submit details on every incident, not just fatal shootings. But the failure of police and federal agencies to send their data to the FBI puts the program in jeopardy of being shut down next year without ever releasing a single statistic, a new report by the Government Accountability Office says.

The program was required to obtain data representing 60 percent of law enforcement officers, to meet a standard of quality set by the Office of Management and Budget, or else stop the effort by the end of 2022. In 2019, the data covered 44 percent of local, state, federal and tribal officers, and last year the total increased to 55 percent, according to the program’s website. So far this year, the data represents 57 percent of all officers, the FBI said Wednesday.

“Due to insufficient participation from law enforcement agencies,” the GAO wrote, “the FBI faces risks that it may not meet the participation thresholds” established by OMB, “and therefore may never publish use of force incident data.”

Relying on police to voluntarily police themselves is like the bite of a dog into a stone, it is a stupidity,

Raising Rates at Just the Wrong Time

Not the Federal Reserve, it's the Bank of England raising rates by 15 basis points.

I do not consider this to be a particularly savvy move.  Between the UK getting hammered by Covid and Brexit, the last thing their economy needs is contractionary policy and a rising currency:

The Bank of England raised its benchmark interest rate to tame accelerating inflation, the first rate increase by a major central bank since the pandemic began.

Officials on the U.K. central bank’s Monetary Policy Committee voted eight to one to lift the BOE’s policy rate to 0.25% from a record low of 0.1%, saying the strength of the labor market meant higher borrowing costs were appropriate to keep a lid on price growth. 


The decision wasn’t widely expected. Though a rate rise had been telegraphed, many investors and economists judged the BOE would likely hold steady until early next year while the economic effect of Omicron became clearer.

The pound rose 0.75% against the dollar to $1.336. Yields on one-year U.K. gilts jumped 0.13 percentage points to 0.36%, their biggest increase since October, according to FactSet.

Consumer prices in the U.K. rose 5.1% in November compared with a year earlier, the Office for National Statistics said Wednesday, the biggest annual jump since Sept. 2011.

I can't but think that this is really about bolstering the financial center City of London, rather than dealing with inflation issues, which are pretty mild considering world supply chain issues and the impact of Brexit.


It's Jobless Thursday!

Initial unemployment claims held steady at 205,000 last week, low even by the standards of the before times.

While the numbers are good, I am concerned about another economic metric, that consumer spending fell year over year last week as well, probaby due to the explosion of the Omicron variant of the Coronavirus:

Worker filings for unemployment benefits hovered at the lowest level in more than half a century last week as a strong labor market kept layoffs low, despite rising concerns about the rapid spread of the Omicron variant.

Initial jobless claims, a proxy for layoffs, were unchanged at 205,000 in the week ended Dec. 18, the Labor Department said Thursday.


Economists warn, however, that the spread of the Omicron variant of Covid-19 in the U.S. could push layoffs higher in the weeks ahead, particularly in the services sector, as consumers adjust travel and entertainment plans to reduce the risk of getting sick.

And as to consumer spending, it's down 15% YoY, and last December was not great to begin with.

This is not surprising, as Omicron is going through parts of the United States like sh%$ through a goose:

Signs are mounting that the U.S. economy is losing some steam as the Omicron variant of the Covid-19 virus spreads rapidly through parts of the country.

The number of diners seated at restaurants nationwide was down 15% in the week ended Dec. 22 from the same period in 2019, a steeper decline than in late November, data from reservations site OpenTable show. U.S. hotel occupancy was at 53.8% for the week ended Dec. 18, slightly below the previous week’s level, according to STR, a global hospitality data and analytics company.


Consumers boosted their spending by 0.6% last month, a slowdown from 1.4% growth in October, the Commerce Department reported Thursday. Economists attributed part of the November slowdown to consumers shifting their holiday purchases a month earlier, amid warnings of potential shortages due to supply-chain problems.

For now, economists expect the highly contagious Omicron variant to cause a short-term soft patch for spending and broader economic growth as some people stay home.

Many economists have lowered their growth projections for early 2022 due to growing concerns about the latest surge in coronavirus cases. The forecasting-firm Oxford Economics now expects U.S. gross domestic product to grow at a 2.5% annual rate in the first quarter, down from a previous estimate of 3.4% growth.

I have no clue as to where this is all going.

22 December 2021

Maybe the Good Guys Will Win This Time

Following a storm of criticism directed at the FDA for its approval of the Alzheimer's drug Aduhelm on the weakest of evidence, and a similar level of condemnation at Biogen's absurd price gouging, it appears that Biogen has been forced to cut the price of its drug in half, and even then almost no one is getting the prescribing the drug:

Biogen slashed the price of its controversial new Alzheimer’s drug Aduhelm on Monday as the drug faces weak sales and mounting criticism.

The price was reduced to $28,200 a year from $56,000 on the same day that a group of Alzheimer’s experts and health advocates called on the Food and Drug Administration to pull the drug off the market and said they were supporting an effort to file a formal petition with the agency to withdraw it.

“The F.D.A.’s decision to approve Aduhelm is indefensible in both scientific and clinical terms,” said a statement signed by 18 scientists, most of them doctors. “This drug should be withdrawn from the market immediately.”

The agency approved Aduhelm in June, even though a council of senior F.D.A. officials, an advisory committee of outside experts and many Alzheimer’s specialists said the scientific evidence showed that the drug did not provide a clear benefit to patients and that it carried risks of dangerous side effects.Major health systems, including Cleveland Clinic, Mount Sinai Health System, Mass General Brigham and the Department of Veterans Affairs have declined to offer Aduhelm, citing questions about its benefits and risks. In October, Biogen reported that Aduhelm had brought in just $1.9 million in revenue through September, a strikingly small amount given that about 1.5 million Americans have the mild Alzheimer’s-related dementia that makes them eligible for the drug.
Huh.  Let's run the numbers:  
  • $56,000.00 a year, so June through September would cost about $14,000.00.
  • Let's reduce this by 50% to account for people who got the drug later, and for profits of middlemen in the process, which gives us a cost per patient.
  • So, $1,900,000.00 ÷ $7,000.00 gives us 271 patients.

This is not what one would call a blockbuster.


But Brian Skorney, an analyst at Robert W. Baird & Company, said after the price announcement: “For the broad majority of people who are critical of Aduhelm, $56,000 and $28,000 are both exceptionally high prices for a drug that a lot of people perceive doesn’t work at all.”

The statement from Alzheimer’s experts and health advocates calling on the F.D.A. to withdraw Aduhelm grew out of a three-hour video meeting among the scientists last week.

“We’re not just saying the approval was probably the worst decision the F.D.A. ever made,” Dr. Peter Whitehouse, a neurologist and Alzheimer’s expert at Case Western Reserve University who led the Dec. 15 meeting, told attendees during the session. “It’s so bad that we should advocate for withdrawal.”


I get that Alzheimer's treatments are current mostly palliative, but approving the drug with little evidence of efficacy, and significant evidence that it cause things like brain bleeds, is simply irresponsible.

The FDA has been captured by big Pharma.

Tweet of the Day


Tweet of the Day

This is not an unreasonable idea.

The death toll from the Chicago Boys probably exceeds that of Pol Pot.

Hell, the death toll from the Chicago Boys probably exceeds that of Pol Pot just over the course of this pandemic.

They Are Freaking Out at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue

Joe Biden has been dismissive of student debt forgiveness for a long time, but it appears that the prospect of a complete electoral blowout has him reevaluating this position.

He just extended the loan repayment pause by 3 months, to May 1, in what is clearly an attempt to salvage a horrible news:

The Biden administration, shifting course on a crucial pocketbook issue for millions of adults, announced Wednesday it will extend a pause on federal student loan payments through May 1 as the omicron variant threatens to hurt the U.S. economy.

President Biden depicted the move as an essential step to help borrowers at a moment of ongoing public health challenges. Until now, the payment moratorium had been scheduled to end in a little more than a month.

“Now, while our jobs recovery is one of the strongest ever — with nearly 6 million jobs added this year, the fewest Americans filing for unemployment in more than 50 years, and overall unemployment at 4.2 percent — we know that millions of student loan borrowers are still coping with the impacts of the pandemic and need some more time before resuming payments,” Biden said in a statement.


Many activists had pushed for the administration to take the step, but the White House initially resisted extending the moratorium.

In August, the Education Department had issued the fourth suspension of federal student loan payments during the coronavirus pandemic. That moratorium had been set to expire on Jan. 31. At the time it was issued, administration officials had said it would be the final such extension offered to borrowers.

It was the final extension until it wasn't.

The White House has been spending an awful lot of time avoiding the use of executive orders to make things better.

In so doing, he has enabled the worst elements of both his party and the opposition.

I hope that this marks a change in tactics.


Today in "Too Much Free Time", we have this:

21 December 2021

Remember that Guy Who Fired 900 People on a Zoom Call?

He has taken a leave of absence from Better.com.

Given his history, I think that it is safe to say that he was pushed, because this guy has no shame.

As an aside, whenever he hear of some sort of tech firm treating their atrociously, it always seems that Softbank is a major investor.  (Perhaps this is a central part of their investing strategy?)

Looks like Better.com CEO Vishal Garg’s behavior is catching up to him.

This morning, employees were notified via email by the Better board of directors that Garg would be taking time off effective immediately after the “very regrettable events over the last week.”

The move came, according to an employee who wished not to be named, after the digital mortgage company hired a crisis firm earlier this week. For those of us following the drama over the past week — over the past year, really — it was not a surprise.

More details around the executive’s behavior have emerged, including in emails that surfaced this week in which Garg berated his own investors, Vice reported. He already had a reputation for using abusive language in emails to employees, but the treatment toward his investors was yet another shock.

In the email to employees sent this morning, the board said that during the interim period, CFO Kevin Ryan would be assuming the responsibilities of CEO. It also acknowledged that it had engaged “an independent 3rd party firm to do a leadership and cultural assessment,” the results of which would be “taken into account to build a long-term sustainable and positive culture at Better.”


The pressure seemingly intensified over the past few months as the company took a hit when the number of refinancings declined.

“It wasn’t a shock that the market had turned on us,” the employee said. “But the model’s predictions were that it wouldn’t happen this quickly. There just seemed to be more underlying anxiety after the SoftBank investment over the summer and with the SPAC approaching. But they could have been more transparent and just admit they overhired people last year.”

The company laid off 9% of its staff last week, one day after receiving a $750 million cash infusion as part of an amended SPAC agreement. While it was not the first (or likely the last) company to lay off workers via Zoom in this pandemic era, the way it was handled seemed to offend even casual observers.


In mid-November, HousingWire reported on preliminary results published by Better’s SPAC partner, Aurora Acquisition Corp., revealing that the digital lender expected a net loss between $85 million and $100 million in the third quarter. And the forecast looked even worse for the fourth quarter, according to an S-4 filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.


This is after a year in which Garg received a $25 million cash bonus: “In 2020, after previously requesting an equity-based award, our CEO was paid a one-time discretionary bonus of $25.0 million as determined by the Board based on his 2020 performance,” the S4 filing said.

Guys like this always make out, no matter how badly the f%$# up and no matter who they hurt.

The venture capitalists eat this up, because it makes the companies look like they are running a tight ship, which gives said VCs time to go public, and then dump the stock on their latest flock of pigeons.

Someone Finally States the Obvious

Baltimore City State's Attorney (the DA) Marilyn Mosby stated what has been transparently clear about Maryland Governor Larry "Governor Ratf%$#" Hogan, that he has been using criticism of Baltimore City as dog-whistle racism.

This is not a surprise:  Maryland Republicans come in two flavors, the dog-whistlers, who run against Baltimore City and PG County, and the blatant racists:

Baltimore State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby shot back at Larry Hogan on Tuesday with an open letter accusing the Maryland governor of “incessant dog-whistling attacks about Baltimore crime” and rebutting his criticisms that she’s lenient on violent criminals in the city.

While surrounded by posters boasting 90% conviction rates, Mosby read aloud from her five-page rebuttal letter to the governor, saying she recognized his “entitlement,” “privilege” and “political posturing” last month when he threatened to withhold state funding to her office.

“We, the people that live in the city of Baltimore, are not naive enough to believe that your attacks come from any form of sincere concern about the problems we face. Rather, your actions are purely political,” she said. “You have blamed the Mayor, the Police Commissioner, the judges, the City Council, and even the State Legislature for the crime in Baltimore City, yet many of the city’s problems can be laid at the door of the state agencies you oversee.

Silly rabbit, don't you know that government services are only for wipipo?

Hogan, meanwhile, has hammered on the issue of violent crime in Baltimore, blaming the city’s Democratic leaders. His oft-repeated criticism resonates with a law-and-order base in the Republican party. In answer to the “defund the police” movement, he’s urged more money for law enforcement. Hogan has repeatedly blamed Baltimore street crime on Mosby’s policies.


In March, Mosby formalized her policy to stop prosecuting men and women for nonviolent crimes such as drug possession, prostitution, open containers and minor traffic offenses. Her office continues to prosecute people for dealing drugs, however. Her office began dismissing the other nonviolent cases a year earlier, in March 2020 as the coronavirus pandemic struck, and has since dropped more than 1,400 criminal cases and open warrants.
And this is the crux of the matter:  Governor Ratf%$# wants more people of color in prison.

Without appeals to racism, Hogan would just be a member of a 3-Stooges reenactment group.  (He would be Curly.)

The Kellogg’s Strike Has Ended

The workers voted to approve the latest offer from the processed food giant.

They got a better deal than could have been expected just a year ago.

Unionized Kellogg’s workers in four states have approved a new five-year contract, bringing a swift end to one of the longest-running strikes of 2021.

Employees in four states voted to accept a tentative agreement reached last week, according to company and union representatives. The five-year contract includes across-the-board wage increases and cost-of-living adjustments, as well as expanded health care and retirement benefits. It also provides a pathway for newer employees to reach the company’s coveted “legacy” wage and benefit status, partially addressing a concern that many workers had raised about a two-tiered workforce.

Over the course of the 11-week strike, there had been multiple entreaties from policymakers to return to the bargaining table, as well as criticism from President Biden and other prominent lawmakers after Kellogg’s said it would find permanent replacements for the 1,400 cereal plant workers in Michigan, Nebraska, Pennsylvania and Tennessee who went on strike Oct. 5.

With the ratification vote, union members return to work Monday.

Anthony Shelton, president of the Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco Workers and Grain Millers International Union, lauded the strikers who “courageously stood their ground and sacrificed so much in order to achieve a fair contract.” He emphasized that the deal “does not include any concessions.”


The contract leaves in place a “two-tiered” system that gives newer employees with lower wages and slimmer benefits than legacy staff. But the company agreed to create an “accelerated” path from one tier to the next.

Michigan State Rep. Jim Haadsma (D), a labor relations and workers’ compensation lawyer who has lived in Battle Creek since 1994, called the outcome a significant victory for the labor movement.

“This shows the continued evolving muscularity of organized labor,” Haadsma said. “[Kellogg’s workers] held on and got a little bit more than what they were afforded in the contract two or three weeks ago.”

The fact that a union was able to negotiate any concessions at all from a multinational corporation could serve as a powerful signal to other unions, he said, possibly encouraging workers elsewhere to be more assertive. “It will be interesting to see what it does in terms of provoking more employees to think about the benefits that exist by relation of belonging to a union, and what will happen at other unions.”

One would hope that this presages a more muscular labor movement.

Perhaps Joe Biden could encourage this through executive orders and other administrative acts, because with the sociopaths Manchin and Sinema in the Senate, we aren't going to get any legislation.

A Restaurant Recommendation

Last Saturday, the Saroff posse was looking for some food late at night following an evening at the theater, and casting about on Google Maps, there was a restaurant around the corner, Yemen & Gulf Restaurant at 401 S Broadway Baltimore, MD 21231, on the corner of South Broadway and Bank.

It looked intriguing, particularly since it had a lot of good reviews, and half of them were in Arabic, which considered to be was a good omen.

My instincts on this were correct.  This restaurant, which appears to be little more than a hole in the wall next to a cell phone star has exquisite Middle Eastern food, including flat breads that they bake while you wait.

The portions are huge, and the prices are cheap.

The ambiance is non-existent, but even that is a part of the charm.

I love it when you can find little gems, this one a bit rough-cut, where you least expect them.

They don't have a web page, but the Google Maps link is here

20 December 2021

We Are Unbelievably Screwed

Both Elizabeth Warren and Cory Booker have announced that they have Covid19, despite having received both the vaccine and the booster.

I got my (J&J) booster last Friday, and I am not feeling particularly sanguine about my odds right now:

Sens. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and Cory Booker (D-N.J.) announced on Sunday that they have tested positive for COVID-19 despite being fully vaccinated against the virus.

"I regularly test for COVID & while I tested negative earlier this week, today I tested positive with a breakthrough case," Warren said in a tweet around 4:30 p.m.

"Thankfully, I am only experiencing mild symptoms & am grateful for the protection provided against serious illness that comes from being vaccinated & boosted," she added.

Booker announced later in the day that he had also tested positive for COVID-19 after experiencing symptoms of the virus on Saturday.

"My symptoms are relatively mild,” Booker said. “I’m beyond grateful to have received two doses of vaccine and, more recently, a booster – I’m certain that without them I would be doing much worse.”

The experts are comparing the Omicron variant to the Measles, which is the most contagious common virus out there.

This is scary.

Remember the Story of the Frog and the Scorpion?*

Nailed it months ago
So, after getting almost everything that he wanted from the Democrats in the Senate, he has announced that he can't vote for Build Back Better, because Democrats are not sufficiently nice to him, and because, as he has stated privately that he believes that recipients of the child tax credit will, "Spend their money on drugs."

I do not know why the Democratic Party establishment (There is no Democratic Party establishment) spends their time trusting people with no integrity.

It's almost like they are playing to lose:

The declaration from Senator Joe Manchin III that he cannot support his party’s $2.2 trillion Build Back Better bill has significantly dimmed the prospects for the climate action that scientists say the United States must take to avert the most catastrophic effects of global warming.

Mr. Manchin, who comes from the coal-rich state of West Virginia and personally profits from his family’s coal brokerage, has received more campaign donations from the oil, coal and gas industries than any other senator in the current election cycle.

He first expressed his opposition to the legislation in an interview on Fox News Sunday, and then released a follow-up statement that echoed industry objections to its climate and clean-energy provisions, saying they “risk the reliability of our electric grid and increase our dependence on foreign supply chains.”

As the swing Democratic vote in an evenly split Senate where all Republicans are opposed to the legislation, Mr. Manchin is in the unique position of deciding whether the bill can pass.

So, no child tax credit, which has reduced child poverty in the US by about 40%, and no child care subsidies, which means that women cannot go to work, and diabetics will still have to spend over $1,000.00 a month to survive.

For Manchin, I'm sure, that last one is a feature not a bug, since his daughter is currently being sued, and should be criminally prosecuted, for colluding with the CEO of Pfizer to raise the price of Epipens

Frog marching these two out of their offices in handcuffs would have a rather salutary effect on people's faith in both the criminal justice and political systems in the United States.

*The story goes as follows, "A scorpion asks a frog to carry him over a river. The frog is afraid of being stung, but the scorpion argues that if it did so, both would sink and the scorpion would drown. The frog then agrees, but midway across the river the scorpion does indeed sting the frog, dooming them both. When asked why, the scorpion points out that this is its nature."

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

Candy-Ass Move

Following widespread opprobrium for its threats to fire its workers and replace them with scabs, Kellogg's is removing its name from Pop-Tarts packaging.

Gee, I wonder why your brand has become so toxic?

On Friday, Kellogg's confirmed online rumors that it has removed its name from Pop-Tarts boxes. The move comes amidst a months-long strike involving about 1400 workers across four cereal plants, but Kellogg's says the design decision is about "simplified" design, not a last-ditch effort to get around consumer boycotts (hmm).

You know, when companies calculate their value, they are supposed to include the intangible asset "Goodwill".  At least that''s what the accountants say.

Kellogg's has lost billions of dollars in value.

Maybe this should be considered when senior executive bonuses are considered.

19 December 2021

I Can't Even

Ted Cruz, who fled Texas for Cancun during the winter weather caused blackouts there, is now saying that Democrats are worthless and weak while observing that, "In a time of crisis, character is revealed."

The level of toxic unawareness shown here is mind boggling.

Hopefully, It’s the Death Knell of Pinochet’s Legacy


Gabriel Boric who first came to prominence in Chile as a student activist, has decisively won the Presidential runoff.

Given that they are also in the process of rewriting the Chilean constitution, and the left has a dominating lead in that assembly as well, it provides an opportunity to excise the influence of murderous psychopath dictator Augusto Pinochet and his Chicago Boys, who tried (and largely failed) to rebuild the Latin American nation in Milton Friedman's image:

Chileans on Sunday elected Gabriel Boric as their next president, entrusting the young leftist lawmaker with helping to shape the future of a nation that has been roiled by protests and is now drafting a new Constitution.

At 35, Mr. Boric will be the nation’s youngest leader and by far its most liberal since President Salvador Allende, who died by suicide during the 1973 military coup that ushered in a brutal 17-year dictatorship.

He will assume office at the final stage of a yearslong initiative to draft a new Constitution, an effort that is likely to bring about profound legal and political changes on issues including gender equality, Indigenous rights and environmental protections.


The president-elect defeated José Antonio Kast, a far-right former lawmaker who sought to portray Mr. Boric as a radical communist who would destroy one of the region’s most solid economies. Mr. Boric’s coalition includes the Communist Party.

Mr. Kast conceded the race, saying he had called Mr. Boric to congratulate him.


With more than 98 percent of ballots counted, Mr. Boric had won more than 55 percent of the vote and Mr. Kast had 44 percent. The margin surprised political observers because recent polls suggested the race was tighter.


Mr. Boric, leader of the leftist coalition Frente Amplio, has been a staunch supporter of the push to update the charter, which was set in motion by a wave of protests in late 2019 over inequality, the cost of living and Chile’s free market economy.


Mr. Boric and Mr. Kast each found traction with voters who had become fed up with the center-left and center-right political factions that have traded power in Chile in recent decades. The conservative incumbent, Mr. Piñera, saw his approval ratings plummet below 20 percent over the past two years.

The conventional wisdom is failing, as it always done in times of trouble, because if the conventional wisdom were correct, one would not be in a time of trouble.

Mr. Boric got his start in politics as a prominent organizer of the large student demonstrations in 2011 that persuaded the government to grant low-income students tuition-free education. He was first elected to congress in 2014.


In the wake of the sometimes violent street protests and political turmoil set off by an increase in subway fares in October 2019, he vowed to turn a litany of grievances that had been building over generations into an overhaul of public policy. Mr. Boric said it was necessary to raise taxes on corporations and the ultrarich to expand the social safety net and create a more egalitarian society.

Boric will be fought tooth and nail by the center-left and center-right politicians who have built careers on catering to the elites and not getting anything meaningful done.

Hopefully, he is aware of this, and makes is first order of business breaking said elites, because otherwise, he will fail.

I guarantee that some of the elites are already talking to US politicians and bureaucrats located in Langley, Virginia to take him down.

Bummer, Jeff

It looks like the attempt to recall Seattle city council member Kshama Sawant has failed.

I'm glad that the Chamber of Commerce set has failed in their effort to remove an avowed socialist, but based on reviews from my brother, the Seattle resident known as "Bear who Swims", Sawant is a bit of a clown, so it's a bit of a mixed outcome:

Seattle socialist Kshama Sawant has narrowly avoided being ousted from her seat on the city council, following a widely watched recall election.

By Friday afternoon, just over 41,000 ballots had been counted, with the no recall vote leading by 310. Though a recount request is possible, it is considered unlikely.

“For us to have overcome that in this spectacular manner really speaks to not only the organizational strength of our campaign, of Socialist Alternative, of working people in general, but also the political ideas on which this victory has been based,” Sawant told the Guardian on Friday.

The recall result for Sawant – who became the first socialist on the Seattle council in nearly a century after she beat out a Democrat and 16-year incumbent in 2013 – was viewed as a win for progressives and a rebuff of big business.

It's a squeaker and a warning to Sawant that she needs do do better in the ordinary business of politics and spend a few percent less time on grandstanding.


But with a significant subsection of residents in Sawant’s district voting to remove her, the result also clarified just how much of a polarizing figure she has remained.

The recall effort was based on claims that she opened city hall to demonstrators during a protest, disregarding Covid-19 restrictions, used city resources for a “Tax Amazon” effort, and led a march to Seattle mayor Jenny Durkan’s home despite the address being protected under state confidentiality laws.


She added: “In reality if the rightwing, if big business was allowed to win in this recall [then] they would only be emboldened to go after progressive movements both in Seattle and nationally.”

The election drew widespread national attention and both sides have seen substantial financial contributions, some coming from states away.


On election night, 7 December, the recall had the lead, but as more votes were counted in the following days (Washington state runs a vote-by-mail system that means final results may take days to appear), the no recall side soon took a slight lead.

Eva Metz, 29, who lives in Sawant’s district and works as a nursing assistant and restaurant host, said she was motivated to volunteer in support of the councilmember because of her work for renters’ rights. She said she spent virtually the entire weekend before the vote going door-to-door and speaking to voters from a table on the street.

“The goal was to make it so that you couldn’t really walk around District 3 and miss the campaign,” she said. “So, I think we did that job pretty well.”

Sawant, now in her third term, has helped to increase Seattle’s minimum wage to $15 an hour – a first for a major US city – and helped to secure more rights for renters, while pushing for the city’s police budget to be slashed.

But after seven years in office, some of her constituents have grown increasingly tired of what they view as more talk than actual results.

She might want to have a word with Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who has opened nearly 2000 constituent cases this year, and coasted to reelection.

If you want to help the proletariat as a politician, you have to actually serve the proletariat.