30 April 2021

Headline of the Day

Will "Goldman Penis Envy" Crash the Economy Again?
Matt Taibbi

The point of his article is that there are a lot of actors in Wall Street like Lehman, who are small enough that they feel that they have to massively over-leverage to compete with the Vampire Squid, but large enough to crash the system.

“We called it ‘Goldman Penis Envy,’” says Lawrence McDonald, former Lehman trader and author of A Colossal Failure of Common Sense. In telling the Gelband story, he explains that Fuld and Gregory were so desperate to beat out Goldman and become the richest men on Wall Street, they chased every bad deal at the peak of the speculative bubble.

“These tertiary financial institutions, in order to win business away from the big players, they have to continually juice their offerings, offer more leverage, more goodies,” says McDonald. “Dick and Joe, they wanted to do these banking deals, to steal Goldman’s business by offering more.”
He's suggesting that the collapse of Archegos Capital Management is a taste of things to come.

He's probably right.

Adventures in Google™ Adsense™

I don't pay a whole bunch of the attention that Google™ Adsense™ serves on my blog, but occasionally,I see somethng truly odd:

I don't understand how Google™ Adsense™, given the enormous amount of data that they have on me, would think that I care one whit about intestinal parasites in horses.

Please note: once again, that I do not vet, nor do I endorse any ad that appears on my site, and I reserve the right to mock both the ads that appear on my site, as well as the advertisers.

Also, please note, this should be in no way construed as an inducement or a request for my reader(s) to click on any ad that they would not otherwise be inclined to investigate further. This would be a violation of the terms of service for Google Adsense.

Deep Thought

Only Psychopaths and True Believers Are Willing to Put Up with the Bullshit in Politics, Because There Are More Psychopaths Than True Believers, So the Psychopaths Make the Rules.

It was a throw away line by me at the Stellar Parthenon BBS, in a more general discussion of dysfunctional politics, but it was well received, so I thought that I would share it here.

29 April 2021

Biden's Speech

I didn't watch it, I prefer to read the transcript.

The only thing close to the surprise was his pre-K childcare/education proposals, which are a good idea from both a policy and a political standpoint.

On the other hand, he is the first President who I can bear to listen to in at least 20 years.

I Could Walk There

Magnificent Desolation

Less than 5 miles from my house, there are exposed chunks of the mantle, at Soldiers Delight.

Because of the unique chemistry of the area, very low calcium and very high magnesium in the soil, we have what can be called a, "Barrens".

Standing among patches of muddy snow on the outskirts of Baltimore, Maryland, I bent down to pick up a piece of the planet that should have been hidden miles below my feet.

On that chilly February day, I was out with a pair of geologists to see an exposed section of Earth's mantle. While this layer of rock is usually found between the planet's crust and core, a segment peeks out of the scrubby Maryland forest, offering scientists a rare chance to study Earth's innards up close.

ven more intriguing, the rock's unusual chemical makeup suggests that this piece of mantle, along with chunks of lower crust scattered around Baltimore, was once part of the seafloor of a now-vanished ocean.

Over the roughly 490 million years since their formation, these hunks of Earth were smashed by shifting tectonic plates and broiled by searing hot fluids rushing through cracks, altering both their composition and sheen. Mantle rock is generally full of sparkly green crystals of the mineral olivine, but the rock in my hand was surprisingly unremarkable to look at: mottled yellow-brown stone occasionally flecked with black.

“Those rocks have had a tough life,” says George Guice, a mineralogist at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History.

Because of this geologic clobbering, scientists have struggled for more than a century to determine the precise origins of this series of rocks. Now, Guice and his colleagues have applied a fresh eye and state-of-the-art chemical analyses to the set of rocky exposures in Baltimore. Their work shows that the seemingly bland series of stones once lurked underneath the ancient Iapetus Ocean. 

More than half a billion years ago, this ocean spanned some 3,000 to 5,000 miles, cutting through what is now the United States’ eastern seaboard. Much of the land where the Appalachian mountains now stand was on one side of the ocean, and parts of the modern East Coast were on the other.

This is wicked cool.

Did Not Expect This

It should come as no surprise that the Department of Justice planned to indict all 4 officers involved in George Floyd's murder on Civil Rights charges

What does surprise me is that the DoJ planned to arrest Derek Chauvin in the court house in the event of a not-guilty verdict or a mistrial.

Leading up to Derek Chauvin's murder trial, Justice Department officials had spent months gathering evidence to indict the ex-Minneapolis police officer on federal police brutality charges, but they feared the publicity frenzy could disrupt the state's case.

So they came up with a contingency plan: If Chauvin were found not guilty on all counts or the case ended in a mistrial, they would arrest him at the courthouse, according to sources familiar with the planning discussions.

(emphasis mine)

These folks were sh%$ting their pants over the possibility that a bigot on the jury would blow everything up.

A Stopped Clock Moment

The 2nd worst Democrat in the Senate, Joe Manchin, has announced his support for IP waivers for generic Covid vaccines.

Of course, this might have something to do with his Kid's business, as Heather Bresch probably still has outstanding stock options with the now a part of  Upjohn, Mylan.

Mylan is/was a generic drug manufacturer :

Sen. Joe Manchin expressed support for the World Trade Organization proposal to temporarily suspend enforcement of patent and intellectual property enforcement for Covid-19 medical treatments.

The waiver request, led by India and South Africa and backed by a coalition of countries, would allow more widespread global production and distribution of generic coronavirus vaccines, tests, and treatments.

Asked about the waiver proposal on Thursday, Manchin said it sounded like a good idea.

“I’ve always been a supporter of generics coming on,” said Manchin, speaking to The Intercept on Capitol Hill.

I really don't care what his motivation is, it lends a some "Centrist" cred to the effort to place limits on the reach of IP.

The West Virginia Democrat referenced the fact that the U.S. government financed the research, development, and domestic deployment of coronavirus vaccines. He noted that the drug companies “shouldn’t” generate profits from a product sponsored by taxpayers.
This qualifier applies to every major pharmaceutical development over the past few decades.

Big pharma has devolved into an orgy of rent-seeking.  (Which seems to be my theme for tonight)

I See the Problem

 Look at this graph:

It might not look like much, but it shows how our economy has been taken over  by rent seekers.

IP, which only makes money to the degree that it is subsidized through government action, has increased by a factor of 5.

Even considering the rise in software as a product, it's clear that an increasing portion of our economy has been diverted to unproductive rent seeking.

It's a drag on our economy, and contributes to inequality.

Tweet of the Day


Drops mic.

Generally Favorable Economic News

H/t Calculated Risk for the graph pr0n
First, initial jobless claims fell to 553,000 last week.

This is definitely a good trend.

Also, US GDP grew at a blistering 6.4% annual rate in the last quarter. (See the graph)

Yes, this is unequivocally good news. 

It's getting tough to be pessimistic.

We are still down from where we started though.

28 April 2021

Their Tears Will Salt My Soup

When I see a headline like this:
Richest Americans Face Biden's Tax Hike With Anger, Denial, Grief

I smile.

It seems that many of these folks, who were born on 3rd base and thought that they had hit a triple, are so personally offended to be made pay their fair share.

They are losing their sh%$ over the lower tax rate for capital gains going away.

They keep saying things like, "Over-taxing success is un-American."

Oh, you poor delicate snowflake.  Your subsidy is going away, and your feelings are hurt.

F%$# you with Cheney's dick.

"Insanely Cheap," Huh?

It turns out that photovoltaic solar energy has gone from one of the most expensive electricity sources to one of the cheapest in the the past few years.

Rather unsurprisingly, there has been no such drop in the cost of nuclear power. 

Increasingly, fossil fuel generators are not competitive, which should help with our climate change problem:

In the year 2000, the International Energy Agency (IEA) made a prediction that would come back to haunt it: by 2020, the world would have installed a grand total of 18 gigawatts of photovoltaic solar capacity. Seven years later, the forecast would be proven spectacularly wrong when roughly 18 gigawatts of solar capacity were installed in a single year alone.


“When I got this job in 2005, I thought maybe one day solar will supply 1% of the world’s electricity. Now it’s 3%. Our official forecast is that it will be 23% by 2050, but that’s completely underestimated,” Chase says.

“We’ve got to the point where solar is the cheapest source of energy in the world in most places. This means we’ve been trying to model a situation where the grid looks totally different today.”


“The International Energy Agency now says solar is providing the cheapest energy the world has ever seen. But we’re headed towards a future of insanely cheap energy.

"Inanely cheap energy."

I like the sound of that.

Lock Him UP!! Lock Him UP!! Lock Him UP!!

The FBI just raided Rudolph Giuliani’s apartment in connection with his unregistered lobbying for the Ukraine.

Federal investigators on Wednesday seized cellphones and computers from Rudolph W. Giuliani, the former mayor of New York City who became President Donald J. Trump’s personal lawyer, stepping up a criminal investigation into Mr. Giuliani’s dealings in Ukraine, three people with knowledge of the investigation said.

F.B.I. agents executed search warrants around 6 a.m. at Mr. Giuliani’s apartment on Madison Avenue and his Park Avenue office in Manhattan, carting away the electronic devices, Mr. Giuliani confirmed in a statement.

The execution of search warrants is an extraordinary action for prosecutors to take against a lawyer, let alone a lawyer for a former president. The move marked a major development in the long-running investigation into Mr. Giuliani, which examines some of the same people and conduct that were at the center of Mr. Trump’s first impeachment trial.


The investigative actions on Wednesday were expansive, with agents also serving a grand jury subpoena on Mr. Giuliani’s executive assistant, two people with knowledge of the matter said.

One of the warrants for Mr. Giuliani’s devices indicated that the federal investigators were searching for communications between him and several Ukrainian officials, including the former president, Petro Poroshenko, and two former prosecutors who had helped Mr. Giuliani collect information about the Bidens in Ukraine, one of the people said.

F.B.I. agents also executed a search warrant on Wednesday morning at the Washington-area home of Victoria Toensing, a lawyer close to Mr. Giuliani who had dealings with several Ukrainians involved in the hunt for information on the Bidens, according to people with knowledge of that warrant. The warrant was for her cellphone.


The federal authorities have largely focused on whether Mr. Giuliani illegally lobbied the Trump administration in 2019 on behalf of Ukrainian officials and oligarchs, who were helping Mr. Giuliani’s dirt-digging campaign. At the time, Mr. Biden was a leading contender for the Democratic presidential nomination.

The United States attorney’s office in Manhattan and the F.B.I. had sought for months to secure Justice Department approval to request search warrants for Mr. Giuliani’s phones and electronic devices.

And William Barr almost certainly corruptly intervened to quash those subpoenas while he was still Attorney General

Even more than Giuliani, Barr needs to face consequences for his actions, because the Attorney General of the United States of America needs to meet a higher standard.

The culture of impunity in Washington, DC needs to end.


Unleash the Free Market

This graph explains how the American healthacre system is failing.

If the market worked, healthcare costs would continue to increase, but they don't.

Referring to the linked article, here are the money quotes:

  • Average health care spending per person per month for enrollees ages 60-64 in large employer plans ($1,061) is 38% higher than average monthly spending for traditional Medicare beneficiaries ages 65-69 ($770) (Figure 1). This comparison understates the savings that could be realized by shifting 60-64 year olds to Medicare, since one would expect 65-69 year olds to have roughly 20-25% higher spending, because health needs rise with age.
  • Average monthly health care spending for large employer plan enrollees ages 60-64 is similar to that of traditional Medicare beneficiaries in their early 70s, who tend to use more health care services than people in the younger age cohort.

New Amazon Union Drive in Staten Island

What the song says

Following the union election loss at the Amazon Bessemer, Alabama warehouse, a union drive has been started at their Staten Island facility.

Hopefully, the union should learn lessons from what happened in Bessemer.

Specifically, don't run a "Hot shop" effort, contact people out of work, and get in management's face from the start of the campaign:

In some ways, Amazon workers’ more than yearlong struggle for adequate COVID-19 protections and against corporate retaliation at the company’s Staten Island facility in New York City helped pave the way for this month’s unionization attempt at the Bessemer, Alabama, warehouse.

Now, as the Retail, Wholesale, and Department Store Union (RWDSU) seeks a second election through the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), filing official objections Friday charging Amazon with engaging in illegal interference to defeat the union, Staten Island “JFK8” warehouse workers with The Congress of Essential Workers (TCOEW) tell Truthout they aren’t deterred by the outcome. Rather, their on-the-ground experiences in Alabama, where the unionization effort gained national attention but ultimately failed, have taught them hard lessons that will inform their own approach to unionizing JFK8.


TCOEW organizers say one thing they’ve learned is to take a slower, more cautious approach in order to build enough internal support within the large warehouse for an independent union. “We’re just trying to get all the pieces in order so that we do it effectively rather than just rushing into it,” Palmer says.

JFK8 has several advantages over Bessemer, they say. For one thing, the warehouse has been around longer, and TCOEW organizers have more direct experience at the facility and a good reputation and influence among the workforce. Moreover, New York is a union-friendly state.

Please, make Jeff Bezos' life a living hell. 

Also, pass the PRO act.  It is good policy and good politics.

This is a Feature, Not a Bug

Given the education policies of Obama Administration, and its support for the most rapacious of the chrter school looters, it should be no surprise that  Seth Andrew, former, "Senior advisor and superintendent-in-residence at the U.S. Department of Education, " and , "enior advisor in the Office of Educational Technology," was charged with stealing from the charter school that he founded.

It is a perfect metaphor for the increasingly corrupt and increasingly segregated world of  charter schools:

A former senior adviser in the Obama administration was arrested Tuesday on charges that he stole more than $200,000 from a network of charter schools that he founded and used the money to get a lower interest rate on a mortgage for a Manhattan apartment, federal prosecutors said.

The founder, Seth Andrew, 42, is accused of taking money from bank accounts controlled by Democracy Prep Public Schools, which teaches mostly low-income students of color in New York and other states, and using it for the purchase of a $2 million apartment, prosecutors said.

Mr. Andrew is charged with one count each of wire fraud, money laundering and making a false statement to a bank. The first two charges both carry a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison, and the third carries a maximum sentence of 30 years in prison, according to a statement on Tuesday from Audrey Strauss, the U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York, and William F. Sweeney Jr., the assistant director-in-charge of the New York field office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

“Today Andrew himself is learning one of life’s most basic lessons — what doesn’t belong to you is not yours for the taking,” Mr. Sweeney said in the statement.
Don't you know the first rule of charter schools, "The only crime is to get caught."

This guy got caught.

"If You Had Any Balls, You'd Say 'Oh, My God, What Is That Thing?' Then Scream and Cut Your Mic."

There is a story, I'm not sure if it is urban legend, that Apollo 11 command module pilot Michael Collins said this when discussing what Neil Armstrong should say when he set foot on the moon.

I hope that the story is True.

Michael Collins died today.  He was 90 years old.


27 April 2021

Poor Messaging

Yale academics have written a study showing that Democratic Party anti-racism messaging harmed the party politically.

Obviously, some of the this can be ascribed to the racism of a portion of the electorate, but there is also the issue that anti-racism messaging has been offered as an alternative to basic issues of social justice, labor rights, and inequality.

That's why Hillary Clinton's, "Basket of Deplorables," quote was so damaging.

The subtext was, "If you did not have the talent and initiative to get a post-graduate degree at an elite institution, screw you."

The Democratic Party establishment (There is no Democratic Party establishment) has completely eschewed issues of socioeconomic class, because they are creatures of the top 1%, and racial reductionist statements allow them to check the various "social justice" text box while continue to serve the agenda of the economic elites.

The is the exact opposite of the answer that Jesse Jackson gave during his 1988 Presidential campaign when he was asked, "How you are going to get the support of the white steelworker?" and he replied, "By making him aware he has more in common with the black steel workers by being a worker, than with the boss by being white."

Bernie Sanders message in 2016 and 2020 was very similar, and (thankfully) Biden appears to be governing more toward the Jackson end of the Democratic Party ideological spectrum than he is toward the Clinton/Obama side of the spectrum, even if he did not campaign that way:

Beginning about a decade ago, the Democratic Party went through two important changes related to racism. The first is that the backlash against Barack Obama made far more white liberals aware of how deeply racial resentment inspired American conservatism. (Black people had by and large realized this all along.)

The second is that the party, which in previous years had painstakingly avoided the impression its agenda was mainly designed to help minorities, began emphasizing this very point. That change occurred in 2016, when Hillary Clinton started infusing her rhetoric with conscious appeals to racial equity. And it continued in 2020 — even though Joe Biden employed less race-conscious rhetoric than his more progressive rivals, he still cast some of his plans as explicitly anti-racist.

But is it working? Yale political scientists Micah English and Josh Kalla have found that adding explicitly race-conscious ideas to Democratic messages reduces their support. English and Kalla’s experiment borrows real-world messages from Democratic politicians and tests them with both a race-conscious component and a mix of race and class messaging. In either instance, telling subjects that a proposal would reduce racial inequity makes them less likely to support it:


Bigotry is evil, and it needs to be fought on every level, but using anti-racist virtue signaling as an alternative to meaningful change in a profoundly dysfunctional society, ends up harming both the progressive project and the ability to fight racism, because it reduces every government action to a zero sum game where the only determinant is ethnicity.

It's the Fraud, Stupid

It's Called Fraud

As I have noted a few times, any in depth examination of Facebook would reveal systematic fraud

Recently revealed emails uncovered in the fraud lawsuit against the social media network show Facebook was deeply aware that it was providing false information to advertisers, which seems to be a slam-dunk case of fraud.

Both Mark Zuckerberg or Sheryl Sandburg are famously "Hands On", and this is at the core of their business.

They knew that they were defrauding advertisers, and they took their money anyway:

Carolyn Everson, one of Facebook’s most senior advertising executives, said the company had to “prepare for the worst” over claims that it overstated the potential reach of its advertisements, according to newly released court filings.

The world’s largest social network has been fighting a class-action lawsuit in California since 2018 over claims that its figure for its “potential reach”, which told advertisers how many people saw their ads, included duplicate and fake accounts.

Facebook has argued that the numbers were only estimates and that advertisers are charged for actual clicks and impressions, rather than for the potential reach of an ad.

But according to filings in the lawsuit that were unredacted over the weekend, Everson, the vice-president of Facebook’s global business group, wrote an email in 2017 that said the metric “clearly impacted [advertisers’] planning”.

“We are going to get really criticized for that (and justifiably so),” she said. “If we overstated how many actual real people we have in certain demos, there is no question that impacted budget allocations. We have to prepare for the worst here.”


The lawsuit, which was filed in northern California in 2018 by a small-business owner, alleges that Facebook executives knew the potential reach figure was “misleading” and took no action to correct it in order to “preserve its own bottom line”.

It points to research showing Facebook had suggested potential reach in certain US states and demographics that was greater than the actual populations in those geographies.
A Financial Times investigation in 2019 found similar discrepancies in Facebook’s ads manager, an online tool to help advertisers build campaigns, even though the company made some changes to its potential reach definition earlier that year.

They knew that the metrics were complete crap, and they tried to bury the information and continued to use the bad data to get paid.

Break out the cuffs, Ponch.

From the Department of About F%$#ing Time

It looks like members of Congress are getting sick and tired of skyrocketing operational costs and fiscal obfuscation by the Department of Defense, and will be pushing back against any increase in acquisition.

Unfortunately, the excessive costs of the program has been baked into the program, with the DoD signing off a model that is clearly intended to maximize rent seeking by Lockheed-Martin: (Paid subscription required)

In response to new delays to the F-35 fighter program, senior House Democrats are threatening to limit aircraft production and end the practice of adding funding for aircraft the Pentagon never requested.

The laundry list of program problems includes cost overruns, a large engine backlog at the depots, funding cuts to an already temperamental predictive maintenance system and delays to essential upgrades.

“If this program continues to fail to significantly control and reduce actual projected sustainment costs, we may need to invest in other affordable programs and backfill an operational shortfall of potentially over 800 tactical fighters,” Rep. Donald Norcross (D-N.J.), House Armed Services Committee (HASC) tactical air and land forces subcommittee chairman, said during a hearing on the F-35 program.


Now that Democrats control the Senate, Garamendi and Norcross may turn the tide and prevent lawmakers from increasing the F-35 quantity in future budget requests. During the fiscal 2021 budget cycle, the HASC failed to convince the other defense committees not to add extra F-35s.


F-35 Program Executive Officer Lt. Gen. Eric Fick, agrees with Abba’s assessment. Delays in delivering required support equipment and technical data, along with the increased work scope for F135 power module repairs, are driving the depot shortfalls, he said.

The Government Accountability Office (GAO) acknowledges that the Pentagon is taking steps to increase depot repair capacity for the F135 power module, but the GAO says the number of capable aircraft will remain an issue in the near term.


Along with those delays, the cost of the engine is growing. The increase, likely 3% for the 15th production lot, is the result of Turkey being removed from the program after Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan opted to purchase the Russian-manufactured S-400 anti-aircraft weapon system.


Meanwhile, the F-35’s logistics system is experiencing yet another round of upheaval. The Pentagon was in the process of transitioning its Autonomic Logistics Information System (ALIS) to a new cloud-based network, the Operational Data Integrated Network (ODIN), by 2022. But the Pentagon has directed a “strategic pause” for the move to ODIN because of a 42% funding cut in fiscal 2021.


Other delays plaguing the program include the slowdown of Technology Refresh 3 (TR-3) and Block 4 development. Lockheed Martin waived $60 million in fees because of the delays to TR-3, the hardware providing the F-35 additive processing power, memory and open-systems architecture. The company says the delays were caused by supplier challenges related to the spread of the novel coronavirus.

Lockheed knows that they have the DoD, and particularly the USAF by the short hairs, and the "Mistake-Jet" continues to eat the operational capabilities of the USAF. 

The tail, now controlled by the contractors, is devouring the teeth.

26 April 2021

The New York Times Catches Up With Me

Worse than Spanish Influenza

I've been talking about how excess deaths is the best measure of Covid-19 mortality, (see here and here) and now the New York Times has discovered the statistical measure.

It only took them a year, though the graph surprised me.

It turns out that Covid is worse than the Spanish Influenza epidemic: 

A surge in deaths from the Covid-19 pandemic created the largest gap between the actual and expected death rate in 2020 — what epidemiologists call “excess deaths,” or deaths above normal.

Aside from fatalities directly attributed to Covid-19, some excess deaths last year were most likely undercounts of the virus or misdiagnoses, or indirectly related to the pandemic otherwise. Preliminary federal data show that overdose deaths have also surged during the pandemic.


In 2020, however, the United States saw the largest single-year surge in the death rate since federal statistics became available. The rate increased 16 percent from 2019, even more than the 12 percent jump during the 1918 flu pandemic.

These numbers are really f%$#ing scary.

Nevada Governor Backs Off Really Bad Cyberpunk Idea

If you've read any Cyberpunk, you are probably familiar with the idea of corporate controlled arcologies, which people are packed in like sardines and subject to the whims of psychopathic corporate drones.

Well the (hopefully soon to be former) governor of Nevada, Steve Sisolak, looked at this, and decided that allowing corporations to incorporate their own municipalities was just the balm that the state economy needed.

It was not well received, so the he's downgraded to a study, which hopefully means that this idea is well and truly dead:

Nevada Governor Steve Sisolak is retreating from his plan to introduce legislation that would have allowed tech companies to form local governments within the state. Per The Nevada Independent, the governor now instead plans to create a bipartisan committee made up of state Senate and Assembly members to study the idea. At the end of 2021, the group will present recommendations to Sisolak, with one possible outcome being that they suggest he abandon the proposal.

"Innovation Zones is a bold proposal for our State that deserves additional attention and discussion — and not under the pressure of less than 40 remaining days in the current legislative session," Governor Sisolak said in a statement. "I know that legislators, stakeholders and Nevadans still have questions, and I want those questions to be discussed and answered. I want people to be enthusiastic about this opportunity, not skeptical about a fast-tracked bill."

Governor Sisolak first floated the idea during one of his State of the State addresses earlier in the year. He positioned Innovation Zones as a way for Nevada to attract tech businesses without the need for measures like corporate tax breaks. Draft legislation obtained by the Las Vegas Review-Journal laid out a system where companies in verticals like cryptocurrency, artificial intelligence and renewables would have had the option to form local governments with the same powers and responsibilities as counties. That means those companies would have had to do things like collect taxes and operate school systems.

Just when you thought that this idea could not get any worse, we find that the big push for this initiative came from a Blockchain firm.

Kill it with fire.

Bill Gates Is Really a Worthless Piece of Sh%$

I have called Bill Gates a mass murderer for his efforts to prevent open source vaccines from being released, and now that there is a rising call for freeing up vaccines, the Microsoft founder is doubling down on his extremist mass-murdering agenda:

Bill Gates, one of the world's richest men and most powerful philanthropists, was the target of criticism from social justice campaigners on Sunday after arguing that lifting patent protections on COVID-19 vaccine technology and sharing recipes with the world to foster a massive ramp up in manufacturing and distribution — despite a growing international call to do exactly that — is a bad idea.

Directly asked during an interview with Sky News if he thought it "would be helpful" to have vaccine recipes be shared, Gates quickly answered: "No."

Asked to explain why not, Gates — whose massive fortune as founder of Microsoft relies largely on intellectual property laws that turned his software innovations into tens of billions of dollars in personal wealth — said: "Well, there's only so many vaccine factories in the world and people are very serious about the safety of vaccines. And so moving something that had never been done — moving a vaccine, say, from a [Johnson & Johnson] factory into a factory in India — it's novel — it's only because of our grants and expertise that that can happen at all."


Nick Dearden, executive director of Global Justice Now, one of the lead partner groups in an international coalition calling for WTO patent waivers at a crucial meeting of the world body next month, characterized Gates' remarks — and the ideological framework behind them — as "disgusting."

"Who appointed this billionaire head of global health?" asked Dearden. "Oh yeah, he did."

Bill Gates has always been an asshole.

He was a bully as a boss, and he has spent the past few decades trying to launder his reputation through charity actions that frequently, as in the case of Covid vaccines do more harm than good.

By the time this pandemic is over, he will probably be responsible for more deaths than Saddam Hussein, and perhaps more than Pol Pot.

"Tenacious Unicorn," Alpacas, Antifa, Geodesic Domes, and Guns. What's Not to Love?

Why Progressives Should Carry Guns*
Near Pueblo, Colorado there is an LGBTQ owned and operated ranch named, "Tenacious Unicorn," and they have guns

I generally support restrictive laws on firearms, but I understand that the political battle over gun control is lost, or at least that it is lost until people who are members of oppressed minorities start packing heat, as shown by the highly restrictive gun control law signed into law by Ronald Reagan when black people started packing heat.

Also, if the right wing realizes they the people who they try to bully might be armed, maybe they will think twice before attempting to intimidate progressives.

It's the Feel Good Story of the Day:

A year ago, transgender rancher Penny Logue found the dome. Fed up with a hostile landlord in the city and fearful for their safety amid record-high deaths in the transgender community nationwide, Logue and her business partner, Bonnie Nelson, sought refuge in the rural, open rangelands.

The geodesic dome perched on sprawling acreage in the remote Wet Mountain Valley on the eastern flank of the Sangre de Cristo Mountain Range, near the rural ranching hamlet of Westcliffe, Colorado. They were intrigued. “Domes are funky and cool and a bit against the status quo — and they help the planet,” Logue told me. So they bought it.


They bought the dome, and by March, with the pandemic raging and a divisive presidential election roiling, relocated to the valley and created the Tenacious Unicorn Ranch, a community of gun-loving, transgender, anti-fascist alpaca ranchers. While they already knew the financial, physical, and emotional challenges of operating a successful ranch, they had no idea that the Wet Mountain Valley had become a cauldron of right-wing conservatism — home to militias, vigilantes, Three Percenters — anathema to the ranch’s gender-inclusive, anti-racist, ecological politics.

But rather than retreat, the unique LGBTQ+ community, around a dozen strong, asserted its right to exist. They armed up and began speaking out, quickly developing a local reputation that galvanized other local rural progressives. In the process, they’ve showed how queer communities can flourish. “We belong here,” Logue told me this past November. “Queers are reclaiming country spaces.”

Custer County, Colorado, where the newly formed Tenacious Unicorn Ranch is located, is named after George Armstrong Custer. It was founded in March 1877 — nine months after Custer’s defeat at The Battle of Little Bighorn — and its overwhelmingly white, rural and conservative population hovers at around 5,000. While Colorado as a whole has shifted left in recent years, Custer County has tacked right: In every presidential election since 2008, when John McCain carried the county by 63%, the percentage of Republican votes has steadily increased; Trump won with nearly 70% in 2020.


The ranch exists at a philosophical intersection that is immediately evident inside the dome, where a wall displays prized firearms — Bonnie’s sniper, a Springfield AR-15, two 12-gauge shotguns and a 22-rifle — and flags for The Iron Front, the anti-Nazi symbol used by 1930s paramilitary groups, which now symbolizes anti-fascism and intersectional Pride. Pride flags with colorful stripes — pink, rose, yellow, green, pewter, black, white — bedeck the wall, celebrating asexuality, agender identity, lesbianism and nonbinary gender identities.

Since Logue founded the ranch in 2018, its frontier libertarian ethos has attracted social justice activists and gun-rights advocates, all seeking sanctuary. “We’re a haven. We offer work, we offer shelter, we offer peace,” says Logue, gesturing toward the expansive open space surrounding us. “There are a lot of people who visit for upwards of a week and just enjoy their time away from society,” Nelson added.


Logue and her cohort seek to challenge the patriotic myths — about Manifest Destiny, liberty and freedom — that their Wet Mountain Valley neighbors double-down on in The Sentinel. “The American frontier or ‘the American West’ wasn’t conquered with rugged individualism,” she said. “It was conquered by communities sticking together. … Nobody did that by themselves.” Their social mission — akin to that of mutual-aid networks and similar to anti-fascist groups like The Redneck Revolt as well as leftist pro-gun groups like the John Brown Gun Club or the Socialist Rifle Association — stems from their political commitments. “It isn’t through harsh words and violence that you defeat fascism,” Logue told me. “It’s through building community, but only if you can stay alive long enough to do it. That means you have to be armed — because fascists are armed, always.”

This is something they’ve learned firsthand. “There are militias in the Wet Mountain Valley,” Logue said. “They’ve showed up armed and threatening.” That spurred the ranchers to arm up. “Moving here demanded gun ownership,” she continued. The ranchers watched from their front porch with a high-powered scope and sniper rifle — the Springfield AR-15 on the living room wall — staking out visitors loitering at the end of their driveway. The visits ceased. It’s rumored locally that militias unofficially “patrol” their surroundings to establish dominance. “In order to be treated as a human, you have to show you can defend yourself more than they can hurt you,” Logue said. “Then you can reach equality.”

I love this story so much.

*The song of the Battle of Maxton Field is about Lumbee Indians confronting the Klan near Maxton North Carolina. The Indians kicked some serious ass that day and the Grand Dragon ended up in jail as a result.


Our dysfunctional unemployment insurance, John Oliver counts the ways:

25 April 2021

Clearly the Democratic Party is Anti-Semitic

This what forced Virginia Republicans to hold their nominating convention on Shabbat, with no provision for observant Jews to vote at an alternate time.

This is not a surprise.

Silly Jews, votes are for Goys:

The Virginia Republican Party, already under fire for a process for picking a gubernatorial candidate that critics say excludes some voters, just disenfranchised another constituency: Shabbat-observant Jews.

A majority of the State Central Committee voted Thursday for a religious exemption to voting at the convention taking place on May 8, a Saturday, but did not meet the 75% threshold to pass. Elections Daily, an elections news site, reported that 38 officials voted for an exemption, 28 voted against and three abstained.

An official at the state GOP confirmed the vote and told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency to submit a question in writing about the vote.

The Republican Jewish Coalition said on Twitter that it was disappointed in the decision.


Republicans in recent years have veered between primaries and conventions. Rank-and-file party members have often complained that conventions are a means for the leadership to make sure the candidates it favors get the vote.

This is not a surprise.

Republicans these days are determined to prevent the "Wrong People" from voting, and it comes as no surprise that Jews are the wrong people for them too.

If they had their way, they would repeal the 15th and 19th amendments as well, and limit the franchise to white Christian property owners.

H/T Stephen Saroff      o o  The Bear who Swims      
                         oo    oo


The Vaccine Makers are Hostage Takers

Something that we are missing in the story of the vaccines is how the vaccine manufacturers are attempting to hold whole countries hostage.

It's not a good look:

Pfizer has backed down over its controversial demand that the South African government put up sovereign assets guaranteeing an indemnity against the cost of any future legal cases. During Covid-19 vaccine negotiations, the company sought indemnity against civil claims from citizens who had experienced adverse vaccine effects – meaning that the government would have to cover the costs instead.

On Wednesday, the South African health minister, Zweli Mkhize, voiced frustrations about “difficult and sometimes unreasonable” terms his country’s government had been presented with during contract negotiations with vaccine manufacturers including Pfizer.

In a briefing letter sent ahead of his appearance at the parliamentary health committee, Mkhize said one condition in particular demanded by Pfizer was “too risky” – that the country put up sovereign assets as potential collateral.

In its negotiations to provide vaccines to countries around the world, Pfizer has been asking governments for wide-ranging indemnity protection against any civil claims a citizen might file. This means that if Pfizer was to be sued by someone who had suffered a rare adverse effect from the vaccine then the government, not the company, would have to pay for legal costs and compensation. This would apply even if the case had been brought as a result of the company’s own acts of negligence, fraud or malice. In other negotiations, Pfizer went further.

The company required some Latin American governments to put up sovereign assets – which could include federal bank reserves, embassy buildings or military bases – as a guarantee against indemnifying the cost of future legal cases. This was reported by the Bureau in February and picked up by more than 100 media organisations worldwide.


Experts have raised concerns about the fact that Pfizer and some other big pharma companies have demanded complete confidentiality during the recent vaccine negotiations, which would prevent the public from knowing about issues including indemnity protection and price. In South Africa, there are fears that any such secrecy clauses could undo public trust built up by years of anti-corruption work.


The delayed Pfizer deal arrives as South Africa is facing a third wave of Covid-19. In total, the country has recorded nearly 1.6m cases and more than 53,000 deaths.

We need to be clear about this:  The pharmaceutical industry will let nothing stand between them and their outrageous rents and are now behaving like mob bosses.

Their power needs to broken thoroughly and completely.

The Just in Time Economy

Now the global chip shortage has moved from automobiles to consumer electronics.

The capitalist system cannot create robustness in markets, because the creation of safety margins are expensive, and inherently unprofitable.

Our hyper-efficient global economy has a glass jaw:

The deepening global chip crunch is spreading to makers of smartphones, televisions and home appliances, according to suppliers in Asia, as companies boost stockpiles of in-demand semiconductors.

Chip supplies have tightened due to booming demand for electronics during the Covid-19 pandemic and outages at large production facilities.

But the shortage has been worsened by hoarding by sanctions-hit Chinese groups, which has made it harder for some companies to secure components for everyday electronics such as washing machines and toasters.


LG, a big appliance maker, said the chip shortage had not yet disrupted its production but admitted it was a risk. “We are closely monitoring the situation as no manufacturer can be free of the problem if it gets prolonged,” the company said.

A small TV maker in Seoul said: “It is getting more difficult to secure key components unless you pay higher prices. We have to hike TV prices, reflecting the rising material costs.”

Production of low-margin processors that carry out simple tasks such as weighing clothes in a washing machine or crisping bread in a smart toaster has been affected.

“Microcontroller units are in tight supply, which could be impacting general appliances,” said Randy Abrams, head of Asian semiconductor research at Credit Suisse.


Foundries in South Korea said they were unable to satisfy surging orders even while operating at full capacity.

This is why we need governments, and government regulation.

Running a society completely on selfishness is insane.

24 April 2021

I Think that His Consultant Gigs are at an End

Maryland Attorney General Brian Frosh has announced that there will be a review of all the reports on in custody depths by former Chief Medical Examiner for the State of Maryland David Fowler following his clearly dishonest testimony at the Derek Chauvin.

Given that Fowler is currently being sued for covering up the eerily similar death of Angus Black under police restraint, it seems to me that Fowler's days as a hired gun for bad cops are over.

As an aside, I am not at all surprised that he was born in what was then Rhodesia, (now Zimbabwe) and was did his medical school in Cape Town, South Africa, graduating from medical school in 1983,  working in South Africa until moving to the US in 1991.

It does appear that he has a rather long history of excusing law enforcement misconduct against people of color:

The Maryland’s Attorney General’s Office said Friday it believes there should be a review of “in custody” death reports produced by the state’s Office of the Chief Medical Examiner during the tenure of Dr. David Fowler, nine days after Fowler testified that an ex-Minneapolis police officer was not responsible for the death of George Floyd in police custody.

The announcement came less than 24 hours after the attorney general’s office received a letter from the former medical examiner of Washington, D.C., Roger A. Mitchell, signed by 431 doctors from around the country, saying Fowler’s testimony and conclusions were so far outside the bounds of accepted forensic practice that all his previous work could come into question.

“Dr. Fowler’s stated opinion that George Floyd’s death during active police restraint should be certified with an ‘undetermined’ manner is outside the standard practice and conventions for investigating and certification of in-custody deaths. This stated opinion raises significant concerns for his previous practice and management,” the letter said.

Attorney General Brian Frosh’s office said Friday afternoon that it agreed for the need to review Fowler’s work, and said it had been in contact with Gov. Larry Hogan’s staff.

“We agree that it is appropriate for independent experts to review reports issued by the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner (OCME) regarding deaths in custody,” Raquel Coombs, a spokeswoman for Frosh, said in an statement to The Baltimore Sun. “We are already in conversations with the Governor’s Office about the need for such a review, and have offered to coordinate it.”

Fowler testified that Floyd died of a sudden heart rhythm problem due to his heart disease while being restrained by police, contradicting several experts who said Floyd died due to a lack of oxygen. Former officer Derek Chauvin was convicted of murder and manslaughter for kneeling on Floyd’s neck.


Black’s 2018 death was captured on video, with Greensboro police holding the unarmed teenager down for more than six minutes. Fowler ruled that Black died because of a sudden cardiac event while struggling with police, and not because they pinned him in a prone position.

Testifying in the Floyd case, Fowler said that police, who held Floyd down in a prone position for more than nine minutes, did not cause Floyd’s death. His testimony was rebutted by a string of prosecution medical experts.


The office will review all cases from 2003-2020, which falls under Fowler’s tenure. He retired in 2019 after 17 years as chief medical examiner to go into private consulting practice. He was considered one of the foremost medical examiners in the country and served on national boards.

Included in that time period is the death of Tyrone West, who died after struggling with Baltimore Police following a traffic stop in 2013. Witnesses and the officers themselves said there was a violent struggle between the officers and West, but the state medical examiner’s office ruled that he died from natural causes exacerbated by the struggle and the summer heat. That ruling played a significant factor in the officers being cleared by the Baltimore State’s Attorney’s Office.

That the findings of the study are likely to support the lawsuit against him over the death of Angus Black is just the cherry on top of all of this.

Here is hoping that this guy's professional reputation is destroyed.  It should have happened years ago.

The First Flip on the Capitol Insurrection

John Schaffer, a founding member of Oath Keepers, has copped a plea and agreed to cooperate with prosecutors.

My first thought was, "Pass the popcorn," and my second thought was, "Hopefully this can lead to more people to flip, and hopefully the rich funders who have nurtured this movement will end up in the dock."

A founding member of the Oath Keepers arrested in the Jan. 6 riot at the Capitol pleaded guilty Friday and agreed to cooperate against others in the case — the first defendant to publicly flip in the sprawling domestic terrorism investigation that has led to charges against more than 410 people.

The plea comes exactly 100 days after Jon Ryan Schaffer and hundreds of other supporters of former president Donald Trump stormed the Capitol, allegedly in an effort to prevent Joe Biden from being confirmed as the next president. Prosecutors hope Schaffer’s plea spurs others to provide additional evidence in hopes of avoiding long prison sentences.

The plea marks a new stage in the historic investigation, as prosecutors seek to work up the chain of defendants to gather evidence and better understand the full scope of any planning and organizing of the violence — particularly among groups like the far-right Oath Keepers and the Proud Boys. Dozens of members from both groups appeared to act in concert to storm the building, prosecutors have alleged.

As an aside, the fact that Schaffer is the lead guitarist for the heavy metal band Iced Earth, which adds just the right level of surrealism to the whole affair.

I really hope that the widening scope of the prosecutions ends up including Roger Stone and the Mercers.

I Am Amused

Washington State, which is known, and notorious for, its regressive tax policies, has passed one of the higher levies on capital gains taxes in the nation.  (If passed, the 7% tax would take the state from 50th to 13th in the nation)

Given the enormous amount of wealth subject to the tax, and the fact that Bezos set up Amazon in Washington State specifically to avoid taxes, I am find this situation intensely amusing.

As a state that has some extreme wealth inequality, it's also good policy:

The home of the two richest men in America is on the brink of implementing a new tax on capital gains that would raise billions of dollars for early childhood education and child care programs — while setting off a years-long legal fight that could end a nearly century-long resistance to an income tax.

Washington state legislators are finalizing language on a bill that would tax capital gains over $250,000 at a 7 percent rate, in what may prove to be one of the most substantial tax increases approved by any state legislature in 2021.

Supporters of the measure say it would fall on just a few thousand of the wealthiest families in a state full of major technology companies and budding startups, from Amazon and Microsoft — companies founded by Washington residents Jeff Bezos and Bill Gates, numbers one and two on the list of the world’s richest people — to IMDb and Redfin.

In a state where the tax code remains one of the most regressive in America, the new tax would help even out the growing disparities between the wealthy and a shrinking middle class that has been pushed to the brink.


The capital gains tax has passed both the state House and Senate, though the two chambers have appointed members of a conference committee to hammer out several disagreements between the two versions. The legislators on the committee have until Sunday, the end of this year’s legislative session, to reach a deal.

Tara Lee, a spokeswoman for Gov. Jay Inslee (D), said Inslee would sign the bill if it makes it to his desk in time.

Legislative analysts estimate the new tax would pull in $550 million a year beginning in 2023, when it would take effect. Some estimates suggest it would impact about 8,000 tax filers, while others say it could hit up to 60,000 people — in either case, just a fraction of the 2.9 million households in the state.


But the proposed bill, Washington Republicans say, comes with a twist: Opponents see a longer-term legal play aimed at overturning an 85-year-old policy that has made Washington one of the few remaining states without an income tax.

Washington’s Supreme Court ruled in a landmark 1936 case that the state constitution required all property to be taxed at the same rate. The court ruled that income counted as property, striking down a graduated income tax rate that voters had approved a few years earlier.

Since then, Washington has been one of just a handful of states without an income tax. Voters have defeated six subsequent attempts to implement an income tax at the ballot box.

If the new tax on capital gains passes, Republicans see it as a path to open a new legal challenge to the validity of a graduated tax, one that might find a more receptive audience before a more liberal state Supreme Court.


Washington is one of just nine states that does not levy a tax on capital gains. A 7 percent rate would put Washington on par with states like South Carolina, Connecticut and Maine, which tax capital gains at about the same rate.

I rather imagine that Jeff Bezos is going to throw a sh%$-fit over this, because not paying his fair share is something that he thinks is his due.

Also, the idea that it is a camel's nose under the door regarding an income tax is something that recommends the tax even more.

Soak the rich.  The alternative is to eat the rich, and that is not kosher.

Only 90 Years Late

President Biden has formally declared the Armenian Genocide by Turkey a genocide, the first US President to do so.

The fact that this has taken over 100 years is an mark of shame and cowardice:

President Biden on Saturday recognized the mass killings of Armenians more than a century ago as genocide, signaling a willingness to test an increasingly frayed relationship with Turkey, long a key regional ally and an important partner within NATO.

“Each year on this day, we remember the lives of all those who died in the Ottoman-era Armenian genocide and recommit ourselves to preventing such an atrocity from ever again occurring,” Mr. Biden said in a statement issued on the 106th anniversary of the beginning of a brutal campaign by the former Ottoman Empire that killed 1.5 million people. “And we remember so that we remain ever vigilant against the corrosive influence of hate in all its forms.”

The declaration by Mr. Biden reflected his administration’s commitment to human rights, a pillar of its foreign policy. It is also a break from Mr. Biden’s predecessors, who were reluctant to anger a country of strategic importance and were wary of driving its leadership toward American adversaries like Russia or Iran.


But in a call on Friday, Mr. Biden told Mr. Erdogan directly that he would be declaring the massacre an act of genocide, according to a person familiar with the discussion who spoke on the condition of anonymity to disclose details of the conversation.

As to the feelings of the Turks in general, and of Erdogan in particular, those delicate snowflakes can go f%$# themselves.

Their ancestors committed genocide, and have denied it for a century, and there needs to be an accounting for that.

23 April 2021

A Good Start

One of the problems with privacy is that law-enforcement uses private actors to collect personal information to collect data which it would otherwise be constitutionally forbidden from doing.

Senator Ron Widen has introduced the 4th Amendment is not for Sale Act to forbid this.

It's nice, but the bill should be expanded to the point where Peter Thiel's Palantir is driven out of business:

Federal agencies have taken advantage of legal loopholes to collect massive amounts of personal information from cell phone and internet users without congressional or judicial authorization for years, but that practice is being challenged by a bipartisan and bicameral group of lawmakers who introduced legislation on Wednesday that would prevent the U.S. government from buying individuals' information from data brokers without a court order.

Led by Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), a group of 20 senators introduced the Fourth Amendment Is Not For Sale Act (pdf) in the upper chamber of Congress. Reps. Jerry Nadler (D-N.Y.) and Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.) also unveiled an equivalent bill in the House.

By closing major loopholes in federal privacy laws—including the Electronic Communications Privacy Act and the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act—the newly proposed legislation seeks to protect everyone in the U.S. from unlawful searches and seizures, one of the key civil liberties spelled out in the Bill of Rights.

In a press release (pdf), the lawmakers said that "while there are strict rules for consumer-facing companies—phone companies like AT&T and Verizon and tech companies like Google and Facebook—loopholes in the law currently permit data brokers and other firms without a direct relationship to consumers to sell Americans' private information to the government without a court order."


The Fourth Amendment Is Not For Sale Act would require law enforcement agencies to obtain a court order before accessing data about people through third-party brokers that "aggregate and sell information like detailed user location data, surreptitiously gathered from smartphone apps or other sources," The Verge reported Wednesday.

As Free Press Action explained, the bill would also prevent "police and intelligence agencies from buying data on people if the information was obtained from a user's account or device, or via deception, hacking, violations of a contract, privacy policy, or terms of service."

In addition, the bill would close loopholes that enable the national security state to buy metadata about U.S. residents' international calls, texts, and emails, and to collect records about their web browsing of foreign websites. While this is information that would typically require a warrant to access, the intelligence community has found ways to circumvent the Fourth Amendment, routinely violating individuals' constitutional rights in the process.

Call your Congress Critters and tell them to support the bill.

Not only will it force elements of the state security apparatus to behave more ethically, but it will also take money out of the pickets of the data brokers.

H/t naked capitalism.

Interesting Thesis

In a (sort of) obituary for Bernie Madoff, we learn that in interviews following his conviction for runing a Ponzi scheme, Madoff believed that everyone on Wall Street knew what he was doing.

Certainly, the pattern of financial players of cashing out early before the game of musical chairs stopped is suspicions:

Bernie Madoff died today, and he leaves behind a legacy of financial wreckage that stretched around the globe. His Ponzi scheme was the largest in history, wiping out some $65 billion in gains, albeit paper gains. The longevity of his scheme — decades — was breathtaking. He was without a doubt one of the most accomplished liars in history. Yet perhaps it takes a con man to know how the system cons us all. And Madoff understood the financial system as only a financial crook can. One thing he was certain of: They all knew.


I spent hours talking to Madoff during his years behind bars, and more hours listening to tape of his depositions from prison, exclusive material which offered insight into his crimes for my podcast. To the extent one can get into the mind of the greatest con artist of the age, I felt I knew him, or at least certain things about him. And I came to believe that Bernie Madoff was, in his way, a truth-teller. Madoff understood the workings of the financial system as few others did. Clearly he used that knowledge to sustain his con. The financial system’s attitude toward him was “willful blindness,” he said in one deposition.

When he was caught in 2008, as the financial crisis gripped America ever tighter, Madoff became a poster child for the misdeeds of that entire universe. The banks had pushed us to the brink of national ruin. But theirs was a complicated fraud, including such arcana as securitized bonds and overleverage. Their crimes weren’t easy to understand. Madoff, on the other hand, looked you in the eye, shook your hand, and then cut the shirt off your back. That was straightforward.

And so a narrative evolved. The systems, financial and to some extent judicial, cast Madoff as a rogue operator, a lone bad apple in an otherwise forthright arrangement. We were all hoodwinked, was the going line. He was that good.

Nonsense. The financial system enabled, weaponized, and profited handsomely from Madoff. Some hedge funds he did business with were nothing more than sales operations. They lured in clients with promises of due diligence and exclusive access. “I made them hundreds of millions,” Madoff said. It was true. And for doing what? Some simply took money from investors and handed it to him. For their trouble, they took a percentage off the top. They promised that they examined the details, but that simply wasn’t true.


Did the small investors know? Most of them didn’t. They trusted their financial advisors, those connected with institutions such as Banco Santander, who promised to keep an eye on Madoff’s operations.


Of course, he bears a large share of the responsibility for defrauding investors, although he liked to shrug that off. No doubt the notion of Madoff as another victim of the system is repulsive. But without the cold-blooded support of large financial players, Madoff would have been a local phenomenon, a tragedy limited in time and scope.

We need to make it easier to prosecute Wall Street malefactors, and we need to make it easier to claw back their ill gotten gains from them when it all goes pear shaped.

I Fat Fingered Myself into a New Word

In a discussion on the Stellar Parthenon BBS, there is a discussion thread about Chauvin's conviction, I shared an article titled, "Nancy Pelosi Can Go F%$# Herself For Real." 

I introduced the link with the following, "Speaking of paychopaths, I love this take-down of Pelosi's thank you to Floyd."

Clearly, my finger slipped and hit an "A" instead of a "S" in "Psychoath."

It seems completely apropos to describe the dysfunctional and corrupt, "Anything for a campaign donation," ruling elites to be described as a "Paychopath."

22 April 2021

Quote of the Day

He’s a Hateful, Bigoted Rich Prick, Always Has Been and Always Will Be
Scott Lemieux on the fact that in high school, Tucker Swanson McNear Carlson declared himself a member of the "Dan White" society while in high school.

Roll Tape!
For those of you who are not up on the history, Dan White was a homophobic politician who assassinated San Francisco Mayor George Moscone and San Francisco Board of Supervisors member Harvey Milk, and then got a slap on the wrist because of Twinkies. (Not The Onion)

If you are inclined to think that he was "just" a collete school student at the time, understand that he spent much of his childhood in San Francisco, and knew exactly what he was saying.

Tucker Carlson is a complete f%$#ing tool.

Good Unemployment News

In our latest edition of, "Jobless Thursday," initial unemployment claims fell to 547,000, a pandemic low, and the first unemployment report since the shutdown that can be described as normal recession levels, as opposed to, "Disaster of biblical proportions ……… Old Testament, Mr. Mayor, real wrath-of-God ……… Fire and brimstone coming down from the skies. Rivers and seas boiling ……… Forty years of darkness. Earthquakes, volcanoes ……… The dead rising from the grave ……… Human sacrifice, dogs and cats living together - mass hysteria," levels.

So the employment outlook is now beginning to look like a recession:

Worker filings for jobless benefits declined to 547,000 last week, a new pandemic low that adds to evidence of a strengthening labor market and overall economic recovery.

Initial unemployment claims, a proxy for layoffs, fell 39,000 last week from an upwardly revised 586,000 the prior week, the Labor Department said on Thursday. That put new claims on a seasonally adjusted basis below 600,000 for two consecutive weeks in mid-April, their lowest levels since early 2020. The four-week moving average, which smooths out volatility in the weekly figures, was 651,000, also a pandemic low.

The median sales price for previously owned homes climbed to a record high in March as a shortage of homes during the pandemic limited transactions, the National Association of Realtors said separately. Existing-home sales dropped 3.7% in March from February to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 6.01 million, marking the second straight month of sales declines.

Jobless claims remain higher than their pre-pandemic levels—the weekly average in 2019 was about 218,000—but last week’s drop extended a downward trend since the start of this year and raised expectations for further declines in coming weeks.

I hope that the powers that be won't take their foot off the accelerator pedal. 

The claims rate is still too damn high.

Surprised in a Good Way

Joe Biden has announced that he intends to raise the capital gains tax rate on the wildly communist idea* that people who work for a living should be taxed at a higher rate than people who sit on their ass waiting for their properties to appreciate.

I did not expect Biden to do something like this, but it is the right thing to do.  Capital has been under-taxed, and labor has been over-taxed for decades:

President Biden will seek new taxes on the rich, including a near doubling of the capital gains tax for people earning more than $1 million a year, to pay for the next phase in his $4 trillion plan to reshape the American economy.

Mr. Biden will also propose raising the top marginal income tax rate to 39.6 percent from 37 percent, the level it was cut to by President Donald J. Trump’s tax overhaul in 2017. The proposals are in line with Mr. Biden’s campaign promises to raise taxes on the wealthy but not on households earning less than $400,000.

$400,000 is still rich.  It's about 7 times the median family income.

The president will lay out the full proposal, which he calls the American Family Plan, next week. It will include about $1.5 trillion in new spending and tax credits meant to fight poverty, reduce child care costs for families, make prekindergarten and community college free to all, and establish a national paid leave program, according to people familiar with the proposal. It is not yet final and could change before next week.


To offset that cost, Mr. Biden will propose several tax increases he included in his campaign platform. That starts with raising the top marginal income tax and the tax on capital gains — the proceeds of selling an asset like a stock or a boat — for people earning more than $1 million. The plan would effectively increase the rate they pay on that income to 39.6 percent from 20 percent.

Capital gains income would also still be subject to a 3.8 percent surtax that helps fund the Affordable Care Act. It was unclear if the tax increase would also apply to income earned from dividends.

Hopefully, it will.  The rich, which means capital gains and dividends, have increasingly sucking more and more out of our society while contributing less and less.

*Note for the snark impaired, the invocation of communism is sarcasm.

21 April 2021

Headline of the Day

The Operating Costs of the F-35 Are High Because They Are Designed to Be

Money quote from the interview:

The operating costs are high because they are designed to be so. From the very beginning of the program, the F-35 was set up to operate as a “total system performance responsibility” enterprise which meant that the services were intentionally surrendering a great deal of control over the maintenance and operations of the weapon they were buying to the contractors. This incentivised the contractors to design the aircraft in such a way that only their personnel could perform many of the maintenance actions on the aircraft. It is nearly always more expensive to use contractor personnel to perform work for the government, which certainly drives up the cost-per-flight-hour. It also means that the government has only one source bidding for these contracts, so there is little incentive to lower costs.
This, "Total system performance responsibility," was not an accident.

The Pentagon procurement is deeply corrupt, with senior military officers choosing the most expensive, and hence most profitable ways to address their stated needs, because at the end of their career, after they retire, they secure comfortable sinecures at defense contractors and the like.

Our defense procurement system is corrupt, dysfunctional, and unaffordable.

Why Welfare?

Because if you take proper care of children growing up, they are far less likely to commit crimes later in life. (More details and numbers at the link)

Economists love to say “there is no such thing as a free lunch”. We often use it to describe the opportunity cost of scarce resources, but it is also literally true, and therefore hunger and poverty are usually positively correlated. This is because without income and work, there can be no trips to the grocer. And without ingredients, there can be no meals. And without regular meals, children eke out a level of consumption so small, they grow up malnourished and live below the biological minimum level needed for child development. Poverty, through malnourishment and stunted child development, can can make life feel hopeless, and hopelessness can make desperate choices appear best.

Andrew Barr and Alexander Smith have produced an exemplar study that plausibly shows that the Food Stamp program, by dramatically improving the development of cohorts through increased nutrition, caused a sizable decline in birth cohort crime at the onset of early adulthood. This paper adds to a growing body of research that shows early childhood interventions can have developmental ramifications so large, they may change a person’s entire life trajectory and in so doing, society itself.


But a separate literature explored whether childhood environments might be responsible for changing crime in adulthood. In a famous study by John Donohue and Steven Levitt, abortion legalization was suggested as at least partly responsible for the large, secular declines in crime that began in the early 1990s. But this theory was questioned and has since been more or less dropped by social scientists as an explanation for shifts in American crime rates. More promising explanations have focused on lead exposure and removal. But very little work, save a couple of small RCTs, have suggested that nutrition might be responsible for adult crime.

That has changed recently, though, in the last few years. Jill Carr and Analisa Packham, in a series of papers, present evidence that SNAP benefits can impact adult crime and domestic violence, but their work has tended to emphasize the program’s scheduling characteristics, not in utero and childhood development itself. Barr and Smith are unique in this pantheon of crime papers because of their focus on the Food Stamp Program’s nutritional benefits as opposed to the rational calculation of crime itself by adults. By providing nourishment and alleviating the sharp negative effects of poverty on the body’s development which can increase broadly defined human capital stock, something like a Food Stamp Program might reduce adult crime, not by changing the incentives adults face, but rather by changing the adult altogether.

This along with evidence of the effects of lead exposure, particularly through tetraethyl lead in gasoline, have had long term effects on crime rates. (See here, here, and here)

Spending money on policing, rather than treating making sure that children grow up with proper nutrition, healthcare and education is more than a cruelty, it is a stupidity.