31 July 2021

Of Course, the Venture Capitalists Love This

Corey Doctorow points to a study that shows, even by the corrupt standards of Robert Bork, surge pricing is a violation of antitrust law.

This is not surprising, neither is the support of this activity by the movers and shakers in finance and tech, who see law-breaking as "Disruption", and lionize those who do do it.  (I'd really like to see VC firms who knowingly fund law-breakers sued under RICO)

Surge pricing is an abuse of market power (my definition of a harm under antitrust regulations), and a harm to consumers (Little Bobby Bork's standard), so there is no reason not to go after these folks:

If you've paid any attention to the resurgent debate over antitrust, you've likely met the "consumer welfare standard," which is the cornerstone of post-Reagan monopoly law, and which is widely (and correctly) blamed for our new gilded age of vast, unaccountable monopolies.

In the years between the New Deal and the Reagan revolution, the cornerstone of antitrust enforcement was the idea that monopolies are just bad – bad for a clean political process free from excessive corporate corruption.

The watchword of this kind of antitrust is "harmful dominance" – the idea that monopolies hurt workers, suppliers, bystanders, customers, and the legitimacy of the democratic system itself.


"Consumer welfare" was supposed to replace the squishy, qualitative world of "harmful dominance" with an empirical, quantitative standard for when monopolies would face justice. That standard? Higher prices.


In practice, this is a nothingburger. Proving consumer welfare harms requires the creation and interpretation of complex mathematical models, and the highest bidder can always hire the most convincing mathematicians to prove that price rises can't be attributed to monopolies.


That's not how it works in practice. "The Efficient Queue and the Case Against Dynamic Pricing," a 2020 paper in the Iowa Law Review by U KY law/econ scholar Ramsi A Woodcock documents a widespread consumer welfare harm that's hiding in plain sight.


That harm? Surge pricing.

Woodcock argues that surge pricing is a pure transfer from consumers to producers – that is, a way to use market power to raise prices without any consumer benefit. He says we should ban it.

Woodcock's paper starts with the fact that shortages occur. The demand for a hot Christmas toy, or a spring break plane ticket, or a seat at Hamilton, or a ride on Space Mountain outstrips the supply. When that happens, some people aren't going to get what they want.

Merchants have two main tactics for deciding whom to disappoint: They can run an auction (surge pricing), or they can establish a queue.

Economists have historically hated queues. Camping out for a week to get a Tickle Me Elmo is considered wildly unproductive.

But the information age has given rise to a new kind of queue – the virtual queue, where you add your name to a waiting list or click a link at an appointed hour and see if you got the item or not.

Virtual queues eliminate the inefficiencies of physical queues, and they do so without raising prices – the one thing that antitrust law is supposed to ban.


Woodcock dismisses arguments that these excessive profits serve a market function by incentivizing others to enter the market. Not only are surges often too brief to provide this incentive, but actual surge pricing exceeds the price needed to bring new sellers to market.

For example, Uber's surge pricing has been documented to substantially exceed the price at which more drivers turn on their apps. Uber uses surge pricing as a pretence for price-gouging – as a transfer from riders to the company.

Woodcock's case for prohibiting surge pricing is bolstered by the "administratability" of such a prohibition. Courts have shied away from intervening in pricing because it's hard to set policies and monitor compliance.

A blanket ban on surge pricing, by contrast, is trivial to enforce, especially in the digital marketplaces where it is most widely practiced: Amazon, Disney World, airlines, Uber, etc.


Take Ticketmaster, an ugly, criminal monopoly that has grown to dominate ticketing and venues, thanks in large part to vast sums it laundered for the Saudi Royal family:


Ticketmaster operates its own reseller marketplace, an entire shadow industry for tickets in which they collude with scumbags to ensure that no tickets go to fans at face value. Instead, they're sold to profiteers, who list them on Ticketmaster's exchange at inflated prices.

Ticketmaster pockets a commission on each one of these sales – without giving a dime to the performers whose labor they depend on.


Ticketmaster's vertical dominance of the performance industry allows it to get away with this system of wage-theft and price gouging – it's harmful dominance that leads to consumer welfare harms.

In addition to meaningful regulation at the bureaucratic level,  I would suggest criminal prosecutions.

There are criminal provisions of antitrust law, which include jail time, that have not been used frequently in years, and it would be a good thing to dust them off and strike some terror into the malignant malefactors of monopoly.

Proving Ronald Reagan Wrong

Every Group Benefited

Unprecedented Reductions in Poverty

Ronald Reagan famously quipped, "We fought a war on poverty, and poverty won."

It wasn't true then, the great society programs reduced poverty by more than 40%, and it's not true now.

Case in point, it appears that aid programs associated with pandemic assistance have triggered a historical drop in poverty.

This won't satisfy the "Cruelty is the Point" crowd, but it should satisfy the rest of us.

Because of dire nature the of the emergency, these programs largely eschewed the means testing and bureaucratic hoops common to the social safety net in the US, which was good for those who needed it, even though it would be an anathema to faux liberals who make much of the Democratic Party establishment (There is no Democratic Party establishment):

The huge increase in government aid prompted by the coronavirus pandemic will cut poverty nearly in half this year from prepandemic levels and push the share of Americans in poverty to the lowest level on record, according to the most comprehensive analysis yet of a vast but temporary expansion of the safety net.

The number of poor Americans is expected to fall by nearly 20 million from 2018 levels, a decline of almost 45 percent. The country has never cut poverty so much in such a short period of time, and the development is especially notable since it defies economic headwinds — the economy has nearly seven million fewer jobs than it did before the pandemic.

The extraordinary reduction in poverty has come at extraordinary cost, with annual spending on major programs projected to rise fourfold to more than $1 trillion. Yet without further expensive new measures, millions of families may find the escape from poverty brief. The three programs that cut poverty most — stimulus checks, increased food stamps and expanded unemployment insurance — have ended or are scheduled to soon revert to their prepandemic size.

While poverty has fallen most among children, its retreat is remarkably broad: It has dropped among Americans who are white, Black, Latino and Asian, and among Americans of every age group and residents of every state.


The finding — that poverty plunged amid hard times at huge fiscal costs — comes at a moment of sharp debate about the future of the safety net.

The Biden administration has started making monthly payments to most families with children through an expansion of the child tax credit. Democrats want to make the yearlong effort permanent, which would reduce child poverty on a continuing basis by giving their families an income guarantee.

Progressives said the new numbers vindicated their contention that poverty levels reflected political choices and government programs could reduce economic need.

The most heavily taxed people in the United States are the poor who receive benefits.

Frequently, when they find a work, the resulting reduction in benefits is 100%, and not-infrequently, they exceed 100%.

Just give them the money, and if you have concerns about benefits, tax the rich.

Son of Clippy

I came across this image on Facebook, and I had an epiphany, that Clippy was not completely useless.

I really like where "Communist Ghost Schemes to Fight Capitalist Vampire Regimes" took this. 

I rather imagine that there is a whole sub-genre of Clippy based parody art.

If my reader(s) can direct me to similar art, no pr0n please, it would appreciated.

30 July 2021

There Is Something Seriously Wrong with Her


Apparently, Senator Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ) just told Chuck Schumer that her vacation plans for August are set, so if Senate leader tries to extend this session, she will simply leave town

Seriously, Whiskey Tango Foxtrot?

I get that members of Congress need to get back to their districts regularly, but she's not saying that, it's that she's already booked the plane tickets or some-such.

This is batsh%$ insane:


— Sinema is not letting BIF [reconciliation budget bill] or the reconciliation bill get in the way of her summer plans.

When CHUCK SCHUMER announced
earlier this month that he might keep the Senate in session into August — delaying a previously scheduled recess in order to shepherd the two gigantic bills through the chamber — Sinema told the majority leader that she was not sticking around to vote, multiple Senate sources tell Playbook.

She had prior vacation plans, she said, and wasn’t about to let the infrastructure or reconciliation bills get in the way.

In fairness, Sinema is staying in D.C. this weekend to work instead of attending one previously scheduled event: a wine retreat fundraiser at Sonoma’s ritzy MacArthur Place Hotel & Spa, where summer rates hover around $950 per night. (Wine is kind of Sinema’s thing. Last August, she held a three-week internship at Three Sticks Winery in Sonoma, for which the senator was paid an entry-level salary of $1,117.40.)

I guess that already put down her AirBNB deposit.

I've never seen a member of Congress who is so openly contemptuous of the responsibilities implied by their position.

Pass the Popcorn

In a reversal of the Department of Justice under William Barr, the Department of Justice has ruled that the IRS must release Donald Trump's tax returns to Congress.

This is not surprising.  This has been black letter law since the early 1920s, it's just that Barr corruptly pretended that it was not: 

Former president Donald Trump’s tax returns should be turned over to House Democrats who tried unsuccessfully for years to get the documents, the Justice Department said Friday, in a legal analysis reversing a position taken two years ago.

The decision marks another significant legal setback for Trump, who has fought a multifaceted campaign to keep his tax records secret from prosecutors, lawmakers, and the public. Trump was the first president in decades to refuse to share his tax returns as a candidate or while in office.

Earlier this year, Trump’s tax records were turned over to the Manhattan district attorney, after a separate legal fight in which the Supreme Court declined to intervene. The prosecutor’s office has been examining Trump’s finances as part of a criminal probe of his businesses, and has indicted Trump’s longtime financial officer, Allen Weisselberg, on tax charges. Weisselberg has denied the charges.

While he was president, Trump successfully beat back efforts by the House Ways and Means Committee to see his tax returns, including a battle in federal court. But the new opinion from the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel said the committee’s request to see the records — as part of its oversight of the Internal Revenue Service’s presidential audit program — is valid and should be fulfilled.


Based partly on that legal guidance, then-Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin refused the committee’s demands for the tax returns, saying Democrats were seeking them for partisan reasons.


Federal law gives the Ways and Means Committee broad authority to get tax information for any individual — though the committee cannot disseminate the information to others without taking additional steps.

In the 39-page legal opinion, the Justice Department concluded that seeking Trump’s taxes serves “a legitimate legislative purpose” and said the committee “has invoked sufficient reasons for requesting the former President’s tax information.”


A 1924 law gave the tax-writing committee authority to seek tax returns and other records to oversee the effectiveness of the Internal Revenue Service’s audit program. But that authority has not historically been used to seek the president’s returns, primarily because presidents have for many years made their tax records public.

It would be completely unethical for any member of the committee or the staff to release this information to the public.

That would be wrong, that's for sure.

This is Completely Insane

Republicans have gotten so insane about vaccines that members of some right wing families feel compelled to disguise themselves to get vaccines.

Seriously, this sh%$ makes Caligula appointing his horse Incitatus to the Roman Senate* look sane. 

The idea that members of the Neanderthal Right have to get faccinated in secret is f%$#ed up and sh%$:

Even as the more contagious Delta variant drives a surge in infections, the Covid-19 vaccination effort has become so polarized in Missouri that some people are trying to get shots in secret to avoid conflicts with friends and relatives, a doctor there said.

In a video circulated by her employer, Dr. Priscilla A. Frase, a hospitalist and the chief medical information officer at Ozarks Healthcare in West Plains, Mo., said this month that several people had pleaded for anonymity when they came in to be vaccinated, and that some appeared to have made an effort to disguise themselves.

“I work closely with our pharmacists who are leading our vaccine efforts through our organization,” she said, “and one of them told me the other day that they had several people come in to get vaccinated who have tried to sort of disguise their appearance and even went so far as to say, ‘Please, please please, don’t let anyone know that I got this vaccine.’”


“Nobody should have to feel that kind of pressure to get something that they want, you know,” she added. “We should all be able to be free to do what we want to do, and that includes people who don’t want to get the vaccine as well as people who do want to get the vaccine. But we’ve got to stop ridiculing people that do or don’t want to get the vaccine.”

The video was circulating online as public health officials in Missouri were confronting a resurgent outbreak, driven by the Delta variant and concentrated in the state’s south and southwest.

This is insane.  Completely and totally nuts.

I have come to 2 conclusions on what this means:

  1. America is doomed, because the stupid has crossed something akin to the event horizon on a black hole.
  2. We cannot work with these people, we can only try to stop them.

*There needs to be a clarification here: Caligula never actually appointed his horse Incitatus to the Roman Senate. He joked about doing so as a way of demonstrating the fecklessness of the body. He suggested that his horse could do a better job than the Roman Senate could, much in the same way that I suggest that my cat could do a better job than Texas Governor Greg Abbott.

29 July 2021

Live in Obedient Fear, Citizens

It turns out that the ShotSpotter gunfire locator has been routinely falsifying its data and analysis at the request of the police.

This is not a surprise, after all, the cops are their customers, not justice or due process:

On May 31 last year, 25-year-old Safarain Herring was shot in the head and dropped off at St. Bernard Hospital in Chicago by a man named Michael Williams. He died two days later.

Chicago police eventually arrested the 64-year-old Williams and charged him with murder (Williams maintains that Herring was hit in a drive-by shooting). A key piece of evidence in the case is video surveillance footage showing Williams’ car stopped on the 6300 block of South Stony Island Avenue at 11:46 p.m.—the time and location where police say they know Herring was shot.

How did they know that’s where the shooting happened? Police said ShotSpotter, a surveillance system that uses hidden microphone sensors to detect the sound and location of gunshots, generated an alert for that time and place.

Except that’s not entirely true, according to recent court filings.

That night, 19 ShotSpotter sensors detected a percussive sound at 11:46 p.m. and determined the location to be 5700 South Lake Shore Drive—a mile away from the site where prosecutors say Williams committed the murder, according to a motion filed by Williams’ public defender. The company’s algorithms initially classified the sound as a firework. That weekend had seen widespread protests in Chicago in response to George Floyd’s murder, and some of those protesting lit fireworks.

But after the 11:46 p.m. alert came in, a ShotSpotter analyst manually overrode the algorithms and “reclassified” the sound as a gunshot. Then, months later and after “post-processing,” another ShotSpotter analyst changed the alert’s coordinates to a location on South Stony Island Drive near where Williams’ car was seen on camera.

“Through this human-involved method, the ShotSpotter output in this case was dramatically transformed from data that did not support criminal charges of any kind to data that now forms the centerpiece of the prosecution’s murder case against Mr. Williams,” the public defender wrote in the motion.

The document is what’s known as a Frye motion—a request for a judge to examine and rule on whether a particular forensic method is scientifically valid enough to be entered as evidence. Rather than defend ShotSpotter’s technology and its employees' actions in a Frye hearing, the prosecutors withdrew all ShotSpotter evidence against Williams.


Motherboard’s review of court documents from the Williams case and other trials in Chicago and New York State, including testimony from ShotSpotter’s favored expert witness, suggests that the company’s analysts frequently modify alerts at the request of police departments—some of which appear to be grasping for evidence that supports their narrative of events.


Had the Cook County State’s Attorney’s office not withdrawn the evidence in the Williams case, it would likely have become the first time an Illinois court formally examined the science and source code behind ShotSpotter, Jonathan Manes, an attorney at the MacArthur Justice Center, told Motherboard.

“Rather than defend the evidence, [prosecutors] just ran away from it,” he said. “Right now, nobody outside of ShotSpotter has ever been able to look under the hood and audit this technology. We wouldn’t let forensic crime labs use a DNA test that hadn’t been vetted and audited.”


At the core of the opposition to ShotSpotter is the lack of empirical evidence that it works—in terms of both its sensor accuracy and the system’s overall effect on gun crime.

The company has not allowed any independent testing of its algorithms, and there’s evidence that the claims it makes in marketing materials about accuracy may not be entirely scientific.

Over the years, ShotSpotter’s claims about its accuracy have increased, from 80 percent accurate to 90 percent accurate to 97 percent accurate. According to Greene, those numbers aren’t actually calculated by engineers, though.

“Our guarantee was put together by our sales and marketing department, not our engineers,” Greene told a San Francisco court in 2017. “We need to give them [customers] a number … We have to tell them something. … It’s not perfect. The dot on the map is simply a starting point.”

The outsourcing of central government functions, like policing, to private operators whose bottom line trumps accountability or the truth is very problematic.

A cynic might conclude that it's a feature, not a bug.

Speaking of Rolling Back Stimulus

It turns out that states that have rolled back enhanced unemployment benefits have not seen an increase in jobs.

It's not a surprise, pulling stimulus out of an economy does not typically have an expansionary impact:

The 20 Republican-led states that reduced unemployment benefits in June did not see an immediate spike in overall hiring, but early evidence suggests something did change: The teen hiring boom slowed in those states, and workers 25 and older returned to work more quickly.

A new analysis by payroll processor Gusto, provided to The Washington Post, found that small restaurants and hospitality businesses in states such as Missouri, which ended the extra unemployment benefits early, saw a jump in hiring of workers over age 25. The uptick in hiring of older workers was roughly offset by the slower hiring of teens in these states. In contrast, restaurants and hospitality businesses in states such as Kansas, where the full benefits remain, have been hiring a lot more teenagers who are less experienced and less likely to qualify for unemployment aid.

The findings suggest hiring is likely to remain difficult for some time, especially in the lower-paying hospitality sector. The analysis also adds perspective to the teen hiring boom, revealing that more generous unemployment payments played a role in keeping more experienced workers on the sidelines, forcing employers to turn to younger workers. It indicates teen hiring could slow further in September, as unemployment benefits are reduced across the country and young people return to school.

There’s a growing trend in helpwanted ads of lowering the age and experience requirements, especially in the hospitality sector, according to QuickHire, a recruiting firm in Wichita.

One of the consequences of the pandemic is that there are a lot of people who just aren't willing to deal with the sh%$ that is the status quo.

It's Jobless Thursday

And initial unemployment claims fell, though the 4-week moving average rose slightly:

Workers’ filings for new unemployment benefits resumed their decline last week and remain near a pandemic low as the labor market continues to recover from the pandemic, economists say.

New jobless claims dropped slightly to 400,000 for the week ended July 24 from a revised 424,000 the week before, the Labor Department reported Thursday. The four-week moving average, which smooths out volatility in the weekly figures, edged higher to 394,500.

The labor market and overall economy are expected to continue recovering from a sharp downturn earlier in the pandemic. But economists cite uncertainty from the Delta variant of Covid-19, continuing supply-chain constraints and a shortage of available workers as risks to the outlook.

About the recent surge, it appears that the GDP numbers for the 2nd quarter disappointed, though they still showed robust growth:

The U.S. economy grew rapidly in the second quarter and exceeded its pre-pandemic size, but the outlook has suddenly turned cloudier due to the fast-spreading Delta coronavirus variant.

Virus cases are rising again, particularly in parts of the country where vaccination rates remain low. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention this week recommended that vaccinated people resume masking indoors in places with high or substantial transmission of coronavirus, leading some local governments and businesses to reinstate restrictions on activity.


Gross domestic product, the broadest measure of U.S. goods and services produced, grew at a 6.5% annual rate in the second quarter, up slightly from a 6.3% growth rate in the first three months of the year, the Commerce Department said Thursday. The reading was below economists’ estimates but pushed the size of the economy above its pre-pandemic level, a milestone that underscores the speed of the recovery that began in May 2020.

The strong spring growth was fueled by trillions of dollars in fiscal stimulus and consumer spending that jumped at an 11.8% annual rate as more people received vaccinations and businesses reopened. U.S. payrolls continued to grow during the quarter, expanding the labor market by an average of nearly 600,000 a month. More recently, initial jobless claims last week resumed their decline.

Economists see two main ways the spread of the Delta variant could derail the robust recovery. First, some state and local governments could reimpose restrictions on businesses. Second, consumers could curtail spending on travel, dining out and moviegoing out of heightened cautiousness.

The natural question here is, "What happens when the stimulus spending is cut, as happens in September?"

We are still well behind where we would have been without the pandemics, even if we have "caught up" to where we were in February of last year.

28 July 2021

And a Deal is Cut

The smaller infrastructure deal has apparently been settled in the Senate:

The Senate voted on Wednesday to take up a bipartisan $1 trillion infrastructure deal, as Republicans joined Democrats to pave the way for action on a crucial piece of President Biden’s agenda.

The 67-to-32 vote, which included 17 Republicans in favor, came just hours after centrist senators in both parties and the White House reached a long-sought compromise on the bill, which would provide about $550 billion in new federal money for roads, bridges, rail lines, transit projects, water systems and other physical infrastructure programs.

Among those in support of moving forward was Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the Republican leader and a longtime foil of major legislation pushed by Democratic presidents. Mr. McConnell’s backing signaled that his party was — at least for now — open to teaming with Democrats to enact the plan.

The deal still faces several obstacles to becoming law, including being turned into formal legislative text and clearing final votes in the closely divided Senate and House. But the vote was a victory for a president who has long promised to break through the partisan gridlock gripping Congress and accomplish big things supported by members of both political parties.

The bipartisan thing a pipe dream.

McConnell's making nice is simply waiting for a target of opportunity.

Additionally, Pelosi is disinclined to pass this bill without a conference committee, and she has said that she won't consider this bill without the Senate passing the larger ($3+ trillion) bill that is a part of the budget resolution.

Also, I'd like to see increased IRS funding back in the bill, which might happen if there is a conference committee.

Pedro Castillo Sworn in as President of Peru

I figured that the elites in Peru would find a way put the relentlessly corrupt Keiko Fujimori in power, but I am happy to be wrong.

That being said, if he actually delivers on his promises to move toward a more just and equal society, I would expect that the aforementioned elites, as well as elements of the US state security apparatus, will attempt to overthrow him: 

Mr. Smith went to Washington. Now, Mr. Castillo has come to Lima.

The rise of Pedro Castillo, a previously obscure leader of a rural teachers union, to Peru’s highest office is the most glaring example yet of the power of the pandemic to upend politics in Latin America.

The ravages of the coronavirus, and the surges in poverty and inequality it has caused, have provoked nearly 1 million people to protest in Colombia and saw a communist elected mayor of Santiago, the capital of Chile, the region’s free-market model.


In an address to Congress, he celebrated Peru’s Indigenous peoples and blamed the Spanish conquest and the legacy of colonialism for the inequalities that persist in the nation today.


He outlined a vision for a much-changed country — one where attending universities would be free, but unemployed youth who were not in school would be conscripted by a military redeployed for engineering and public works projects. Indigenous languages would be used inside government offices and by state officials in parts of the country where they predominate. Immigrants who commit crimes, he said, would be summarily deported within 72 hours.

This guy is rather "eclectic", isn't he.

The priority for his new government, he said, will be coronavirus vaccinations, access to health care, economic revitalization, improving education and aiding the rural poor.

He sought to temper fears that his government would enact a series of far-left policies including nationalizations and land seizures, saying property rights would be guaranteed. “We will do none of that,” he said.

At the same time, however, he pledged to target “monopolies” that have driven up prices for everything from gasoline to medicines, and suggested the state might intervene in some sectors “to reduce costs.” He put on notice the foreign investors who he suggested had negotiated overly generous contracts with past governments to extract Peru’s natural resources.

“The state must have the freedom to promote, to monitor and regulate according to the interests of the majority,” he said.

Yeah, that will get the CIA and State Department in his corner.


Yet he faces a number of challenges from the start, including a struggle within his inner circle for influential positions within a cabinet he has yet to announce. He confronts a hostile, fractured Congress run by his political enemies, with a history of impeaching presidents.

Yep, you can be sure that someone at Langley is already drafting impeachment scenarios.


He has vowed to insert the state more deeply into the country’s lucrative mining sector, but has not explained when, how or to what extent. He is a social conservative who has opposed same-sex marriage but tried to focus his candidacy more on the nation’s economic plight, with pledges to fight the pandemic, poverty and unemployment.

Yeah, changing the status quo in resource extraction, even a little, will attract people who want to destabilize his administration.


Peru has had four presidents in five years. Two were forced out amid corruption allegations, and another over the use of excessive force against protesters. More than 50 lawmakers in the 130-member legislature are under investigation or facing criminal charges. Keiko Fujimori has been in and out of jail in the past two years amid allegations of money laundering and campaign finance violations.

A profoundly dysfunctional polity, that.


Yet his election produced as much fear as hope. Secretary of State Antony Blinken congratulated Castillo after he was declared winner. Privately, U.S. officials have expressed concern about the anti-American sentiments that pervade his party.

Why would anyone in Latin America have Latin America have anti-American sentiments?

Perhaps it might have something with supporting the worst possible rulers to further the interests of American capital for almost 200 years.

Given developments in Brazil, Ecuador, and Bolivia, I would expect some sot of similar form of coup, whether by the military or by "lawfare" will have him removed before he finishes his term.

Literally Everything That Is Wrong with the Democratic Party Establishment (There Is No Democratic Party Establishment) In One Paragraph

Roll Tape!

In a discussion of college debt, Nancy Pelosi insisted that only Congress has the power to forgive student debt, and that Joe Biden could not do unilaterally.

I am not particularly surprised by this, though I am not sure that she is right.  It is natural that the Speaker of the House would insist on the prerogatives of the legislative branch.

What followed, however, was a statement of opposition to the idea of forgiving college debt which is stunning in is moral and intellectual bankruptcy:

Suppose…your child just decided they, at this time, [do] not want to go to college but you’re paying taxes to forgive somebody else’s obligations. You may not be happy about that.

The moral calculus here is that no one should support a government policy if they do not personally from that specific policy.

This is completely antithetical to both effective government as well as the basic concept of the public good.

The government will do things because these things support the public good, not because every single person benefits from these actions.

I don't oppose food stamps because I don't get them, (though I would support a restructuring of the program to end its legislative linkage to a profoundly corrupt program of agricultural subsidies). and I do support reductions in defense even though I am working for a defense contractor.

The idea that government should be nothing but a source of swag is pernicious to society as anything that I've heard from the Republicans, and it's so crazy that it almost makes Ayn Rand sound same ……… Almost.

27 July 2021

Not Sure How You Do This

The FTC is threatening to seize algorithms from companies that have developed them from misusing data

I'm not sure how they could do this, since anyone with a memory stick can make a copy and walk out the door:

The chief technologist of the U.S. Federal Trade Commission told a conference on Tuesday that the agency envisions forcing companies that engage in illegal data uses to "not just disgorge data and money," but also "algorithms that were juiced by ill-gotten data."

Chief technologist Erie Meyer also floated the possibility of corporate restructuring and stronger enforcement against "companies that sacrifice security in service of speed," making them "subject to bans just like abusive debt collectors."

"We're going to make sure that data abusers face consequences for their wrongdoing," she said. She slammed fixes that make "a disclosure longer or a one time fine bigger" and suggested the FTC needed to take on entire business models.

This is all very welcome, but I expect this to be tied up in court fort years.

If they are serious though, they need to take down one of these tech unicorns first.

Republican Ethics

College Football coach turned Senator from Alabama Tommy Tuberville, has just been cited for some SEC violations, the stock and securities kind, not the NCAA Southeastern Football Conference kind.*

Rather ironically, some of the trades in question involve Alibaba Group Holding Limited, the Chinese Ecommerce giant, and Coach Tuberville has been making some extremely aggressive statements about preventing people from investing in Chinese Companies:

Sen. Tommy Tuberville, the junior Republican from Alabama, failed to properly disclose stock and stock-option trades together worth at least $894,000 and as much as $3.56 million, according to an Insider analysis of newly filed Senate records.

Tuberville was weeks or months late in disclosing nearly 130 separate trades made between early January and early May. Federal lawmakers violate the STOCK Act's transparency provision if they don't formally disclose a trade in a certified report within 45 days of a stock trade.

Among Tuberville's trades: a January 25 stock option sale involving Alibaba Group Holding Limited. The Chinese e-commerce company has ties to the Chinese Communist Party, for which it reportedly helped produce a propaganda app.

Tuberville's office previously told Insider the senator had fully divested of a separate Alibaba stock investment in 2020 before becoming a senator early this year. Tuberville is one of Congress' preeminent critics of China's government.

So not a surprise.  College football coaches are a model of lawbreaking and impunity.

So are members of Congress, the article lists Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA),Tom Malinowski (D-NJ); Pat Fallon (R-TX), Dan Crenshaw (R-TX), Blake Moore (R-UT), Sean Patrick Maloney (D-NY), Harley Rouda (D-CA), Richard Burr (R-NC),Kelly Loeffler (R-GA), David Perdue (R-GA), Donna Shalala (D-FL), and Chris Collins (R-NY).

Quite a rogues gallery, huh?

*I'm not the only one to make this SEC joke, so I claim no ownership.

Could Not Happen to a Nicer Insurrectionist

Both the House Counsel and the Department of Justice have determined that Representative Mo Brooks (R-GA AL) was not acting in his scope of office when he exhorted the insurrectionists to invade the Capitol, which means that he has to hire his own lawyers, and it is far less likely that he will be able to convince a judge that he is entitled to qualified immunity.

Essentially, both sets of lawyers determined that Brooks was engaging in electioneering, so Representative Eric Swalwell's (D-CA) lawsuit against Mo Brooks for incitement and conspiracy can proceed:

The Justice Department declined on Tuesday to defend a congressional ally of former President Donald J. Trump in a lawsuit accusing them both of inciting supporters at a rally in the hours before the Jan. 6 storming of the Capitol.

Law enforcement officials determined that Representative Mo Brooks, Republican of Alabama, was acting outside the scope of his duties in an incendiary speech just before the attack, according to a court filing. Mr. Brooks had asked the department to certify that he was acting as a government employee during the rally; had it agreed to defend him, he would have been dismissed from the lawsuit and the United States substituted as a defendant.

“The record indicates that Brooks’s appearance at the Jan. 6 rally was campaign activity, and it is no part of the business of the United States to pick sides among candidates in federal elections,” the Justice Department wrote.

“Members of Congress are subject to a host of restrictions that carefully distinguish between their official functions, on the one hand, and campaign functions, on the other.”


Lawyers for the House also said on Tuesday that they declined to defend Mr. Brooks in the lawsuit. Given that it “does not challenge any institutional action of the House,” a House lawyer wrote in a court filing, “it is not appropriate for it to participate in the litigation.”

The Justice Department and House filed their briefs on Tuesday, the deadline set by Judge Amit P. Mehta of the Federal District Court for the District of Columbia. The lawsuit, filed in March by Representative Eric Swalwell, Democrat of California, accuses Mr. Brooks of inciting a riot and conspiring to prevent a person from holding office or performing official duties.

Mr. Swalwell accused Mr. Brooks, Mr. Trump, his son Donald Trump Jr. and his onetime personal lawyer Rudolph W. Giuliani of playing a key role in inciting the Jan 6. attack during a rally near the White House in the hours before the storming of the Capitol.

I am not sure whether Swalwell will prevail, but discovery for this lawsuit is going to be VERY revealing.

The Insurrection Hearings

The Snark is Strong in This One

Today, we saw something that we have not seen since the Watergate hearings in the 1970s,* Republicans on a committee investigation of the wrongdoing of a President who, a modicum of good faith.

Of course, the fact that these folks have been excommunicated from the Congressional Republican party, Liz Cheney was removed from her number 3 position in the caucus, and both her and Adam Kinzinger are being threatened with removal from all of their committee positions.

They have nothing to lose.

Today was the first day of hearings, and first up was Capitol Police officers relating their harrowing experiences.

This, and there are videos as well, and it's abundantly clear that this was not a group of tourists on holiday:

One officer described how rioters attempted to gouge out his eye and called him a traitor as they sought to invade the Capitol.

Another told of being smashed in a doorway and nearly crushed amid a “medieval” battle with a pro-Trump mob as he heard guttural screams of pain from fellow officers.

A third said he was beaten unconscious and stunned repeatedly with a Taser as he pleaded with his assailants, “I have kids.”

A fourth relayed how he was called a racist slur over and over again by intruders wearing “Make America Great Again” garb.

“All of them — all of them were telling us, ‘Trump sent us,’” Aquilino A. Gonell, a U.S. Capitol Police sergeant, said on Tuesday as he tearfully recounted the horrors of defending Congress on Jan. 6, testifying at the first hearing of a House select committee to investigate the attack.

One hopes that the committee gets phone and email records, because it's pretty clear that there was a lot more involvement of senior Republicans than has been revealed.

Subpoena Kevin McCarthy, put him under oath, and make him sweat.

*The Republicans were not great at the Watergate Hearings, but not all of them were aggressively sabotaging the proceedings.

26 July 2021

Maybe If They Showed an Interest in Building Planes

It turns out that one of the problems that Boeing has building planes is that their workforce is fleeing for the exit.

This is not a surprise.  Boeing has made it clear that they are in the business of manipulating their stock prices to benefit senior management, not building aircraft.

The repeated debacles, and the repeated outsourcing of core technologies, has made it clear that management does not value their technical expertise.

It's no wonder that they are leaving:

Boeing Co. will put its battered engineering reputation on the line again this week when its Starliner spacecraft blasts off from Florida with a load of supplies for the International Space Station.

The mission is a do-over of a 2019 trip that almost ended in calamity, and a dress rehearsal for the Boeing capsule's first flight with astronauts later this year. If successful, it would narrow the gap with an ascendant rival, SpaceX, and answer the latest space-faring feats by the billionaire founders of Blue Origin and Virgin Galactic.

A tour de force by Starliner might also help distract from a potential problem Boeing is facing back on earth: An exodus of some of the company's most experienced engineers that threatens its rebound from a bruising run that includes the grounding of its 737 Max jets after two fatal crashes and the plunge in global air travel amid the spread of Covid-19.


More than 3,200 engineers and technical workers have left the company’s Seattle airplane manufacturing hub since the start of last year, about 18% of the union that represents them, with only a scant number added behind. In all, Boeing is aiming to cut 23,000 employees — from its executive committee to the factory floor — through layoffs, buyouts and retirement initiatives it launched last year as it racked up record financial losses.

The engineers departed an employer that had shifted away from the bet-the-company ethos that gave the world the 747 jumbo jet and the Apollo era's Saturn rocket. Over the past decade, cost-obsessed Boeing executives wowed Wall Street by plowing more than $40 billion into share buybacks. The strategy made Boeing the best performer in the Dow Jones Industrial Average for a span, but left the manufacturer ill-prepared for leaner times and new competitive threats.  

The strategy made them unable, and unwilling to invest money in new products.

McDonnell, a company which had one [failed] civilian project in its whole history took over Boeing, and resulted in a company being run by finance guys, as opposed to engineers, and finance doesn't make anything, it just loots.

Until Boeing kicks the looters out, it will not find success.

Uber Screws Its Drivers Again

The Gypsy cab company has been showing its drivers a lower fare than it charges its passengers, which means that the drivers have been deliberately deceived on their percentage of the fare.

This is not a surprise:  Screwing their employees is at the core of their business plan, even though they still have no possible path to profitability.

Their excuse?  "Prop 22 made me do it," which is kind of ironic, considering that Uber quite literally bought that law's way onto the ballot, and then spent hundreds of millions of dollars lying to the Californian electorate in order to keep screwing their workers:

Uber Technologies Inc. acknowledged Friday it had been showing drivers lower fares than what riders actually paid and promised to change the practice, which it attributed to a California law the company spent tens of millions of dollars to support.

Uber made the change after San Francisco news site Mission Local reported that drivers in the city were consistently shown a lower fare than what riders are actually paying, raising issues of transparency for drivers who want to know how much of a cut Uber takes from each ride.

Uber is sorry that they got caught, not that they defrauded their drivers.


Uber, Lyft Inc. and other gig companies spent more than $200 million to support Proposition 22, which promised certain new benefits to drivers in order to bypass a state law that required them to treat drivers as employees instead of independent contractors. Uber is passing on the costs of those new benefits — which include guaranteed earnings equivalent to 120% of the minimum wage during drivers’ engaged or booked time, health stipends for some drivers, and more — to riders, which is why they see a higher price for the ride than drivers do, [Uber Spokesman Matthew] Wing said.

“On the driver receipts they were not being shown those fees,” Wing said. “They were just being shown the amount of the fare that they were getting a cut from.”

And Uber would never play games with those fees to screw their drivers, right?

If you believe that, I have some swamp land in Arizona to sell you.
Uber will start showing the same information to riders and drivers starting next week, he said.

Advocacy group Gig Workers Rising on Friday scoffed at Uber’s explanation. “If this discrepancy was truly just about the Prop 22 ‘benefits fee,’ why refuse transparency?” said Lauren Casey, lead organizer at Gig Workers Rising.


Uber and Lyft say they have already paid out millions of dollars in guaranteed earnings and health-care stipends since Proposition 22 was passed last year. Wing explained that the rates riders see are what they agree to pay for the ride, but drivers’ pay is determined by factors beyond base rate and distance like how long a ride takes, which can vary.

It's complicated = "F%$# you, I'm keeping it all".

The Mission Local story includes questions about Uber’s take rate — what percentage of a ride’s cost the company is getting versus how much drivers are earning. Uber has said its take rate is about 25%, but according to calculations by that story’s reporter, the drivers’ average take rate was about 56%, meaning the company’s take rate averaged about 44%.

How is this not fraud?

Neither Uber of Lyft have a path to profitability.  Their business model is neither technically difficult or protected by IP.

All they have going for them is massive amounts of VC money to subsidize their money-losing expansion, and the only way that the money keeps flowing is if they show that they are "serious", which is defined by venture capitalists as f%$#ing their workers like a drunk sorority girl.

It is an indictment of US style crony capitalism.

Life in Obedient Fear, Citizen

In Florida, Pasco County Sheriff Chris Nocco has made harassing people for things like bad grades official policy.

His office has been sending out threatening letters that their own private their department of pre-crime.

This guy does not need to be turfed out of office, he needs to go to jail, because this is literally the issuance of terroristic threats:

It starts like an offer of admission from a prestigious university.

“We are pleased to inform you that you have been selected…” it says.

But the four-page letter from the Pasco Sheriff’s Office goes on to tell recipients they will be facing enhanced police scrutiny under the agency’s controversial intelligence program.

“You may wonder why you were enrolled in this program,” the letter continues. “You were selected as a result of an evaluation of your recent criminal behavior using an unbiased, evidence-based risk assessment designed to identify prolific offenders in our community. As a result of this designation, we will go to great efforts to encourage change in your life through enhanced support and increased accountability.”

Last year, a Tampa Bay Times investigation revealed that the Sheriff’s Office creates lists of people it considers likely to break the law based on criminal histories, social networks and other unspecified intelligence. The agency sends deputies to their homes repeatedly, often without a search warrant or probable cause for an arrest.

Targets and their relatives, including four who are now suing the Sheriff’s Office in federal court, described the tactics as harassment and a violation of their constitutional rights. National policing experts drew comparisons to child abuse and surveillance that could be expected under an authoritarian regime.

The Times also found that the agency has a separate program that uses schoolchildren’s grades, attendance records and abuse histories to label them potential future criminals.


In an online video, Sheriff’s Office Captain Toni Roach says being selected is “good news” because participants will “have the opportunity to receive assistance from the Pasco Sheriff’s Office and several community partners.”

But critics of the agency’s intelligence efforts, including an alliance of local, state and national organizations known as People Against the Surveillance of Children and Overpolicing, or the PASCO Coalition, said the latest communication raises even more concerns.

“The letter is basically threatening and promising a certain level of harassment and oversight that is in line with the stories we are hearing from the community,” said Raniah Elgendi, of the Council of American-Islamic Relations-Florida.


The Times found being named a Sheriff’s Office target could have serious consequences. Deputies showed up at homes at all hours of the day and night, writing tickets for violations like overgrown grass and making arrests for any reason they could find.

By 2020, some 1,000 people had been ensnared. About 100 were 18 years old or younger.

I don't think that it is unreasonably to describe the Pasco County Sheriff's department as a bunch of jack-booted thugs. 

I'm waiting for discovery, because I'll bet you dollars to navy beans that Blacks and Hispanics are more aggressively targeted than whites.

From the Department of About F%$#ing Time

The FDA has finally decided to start enforcing the laws that require companies to allow their customers to repair what they own.

The vote was unanimous, but I do not that there would have been a vote at all but for the fact that newly appointed FTC chair Lina Khan pushed for this:

The “Right to Repair” movement seems to be having a moment.

Earlier this month, President Biden signed a broad executive order that — among other things — tasked the Federal Trade Commission with tackling “unfair anticompetitive restrictions on third-party repair or self-repair of items, such as the restrictions imposed by powerful manufacturers that prevent farmers from repairing their own equipment.” Then, just last week, the FTC followed the White House’s lead and unanimously voted to take action.

If this policy push ultimately leads to “Right to Repair” laws being passed, you might be able to easily fix your own ailing gadgets with official repair manuals and parts. Not exactly the handy type? That’s okay — you may also have access to a wider array of third-party repair shops and technicians to help you instead.

Restrictions on repair can “significantly raise costs for consumers, stifle innovation, close off business opportunity for independent repair shops, create unnecessary electronic waste, delay timely repairs, and undermine resiliency,” said Commission chair Lina Khan in a statement on Wednesday. But it’s important to remember that, despite everything the FTC has said so far, we’re still very much at the beginning of a long road.


The problem lies in cases where those companies essentially restrict people who own their products from finding other ways to service them. You might have heard some of the horror stories: Some tractors need specific software and proprietary tools to be repaired, all but ensuring farmers and third-party technicians can’t fix issues on their own. Smartphones rely on highly specialized parts to function, but they’re often glued into place with adhesives, making some repairs needlessly difficult. And at least one camera maker has stopped the flow of replacement parts to third-party repair shops, putting their livelihoods at risk.

In the face of all that, “Right to Repair” advocates argue that manufacturers should provide independent technicians and the people who own their products — like you and me — access to the tools, parts and information needed to fix the things we own.


The FTC says it plans to “devote more enforcement resources” to going after companies that unlawfully restrict repair options, particularly those that violate the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act. (Translation: The Commission will consider suing companies with demonstrably shady warranty tricks.) And that’s where you come in.


“What the company can’t do is say ‘Look, we have this part available, you have to pay for it, and if you opt for any other option, we will void your warranty’,” [law prof Aaron] Perzanowski said. The heart of the issue here is that a company can’t require you to pay for official parts or service as a condition of keeping the rest of your product’s warranty intact.

Here’s another example: Your phone’s battery life isn’t quite what it used to be, so you screw up your courage, grab a tiny screwdriver, and discover a few of those pesky “warranty void if removed” stickers inside. Turns out, those aren’t okay either, since they “prevent or discourage consumers from using third-party parts or third-party servicers” as Perzanowski put it.


A White House fact sheet summarizing President Biden’s executive order calls out cellphone manufacturers that “impose restrictions on self and third-party repairs,” and an FTC report presented to Congress earlier this year contains comments from a repair shop owner that call out Apple specifically. Apple didn’t address the issue but pointed to a page in its Environmental Progress Report where the company claims “customers should have convenient access to safe and reliable repair services.”

The law says that it is illegal for companies to condition warranties on who can repair their products (the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act), but companies are trying to extract illegal rents from their customers.

The FTC, and the DoJ need to nail them on the wall over this.


John Oliver crushing on Octopi may be the cutest thing this week:

25 July 2021

3000 Year Old Revenge Pr0n

The idea that a 3000 years ago, Assyrian King Ashur-bel-kala commissioned hundreds of statues of a naked woman, and sent them across his empire, to embarrass some specific woman is mind blowing.

Revenge pr0n was a lot more involved in the old days.

This Makes Me Unbearably Happy

[Rich] Pigs in Space!!!
The FAA has made a rules change which means that Jeff Bezos and the rest of the Blue Origin crew may not get their astronaut wings.

The rule change, which took place after Richard Branson launched into space, but before Bezos rode his space dildo into the thermosphere, means that absent an appeal, Bezos is not an "Astronaut".

Given the actual level of involvement of Bezos and the rest of the, "crew," are best described as, "Cargo," though I am sure that someone more charitable than I am would compare them to the chimpanzees that were shot into space at the beginning of the space race.

It's clear that this change was a response to the general outrage that his flight engendered, as well as the prospect that anyone with a few hundred thousand dollars to burn getting wings.

Just because you ride on an airline, you don't get to be called a pilot, and the fact the Bezos, and his Brother, won't get their wings amuses me:

Federal aviation regulators have made a rare change to the requirements for its Commercial Astronaut Wings Program, meaning Blue Origin founder Jeff Bezos may not officially be recognized for his spaceflight this week.

The Federal Aviation Administration changed rules for the program on the same day Bezos, his brother and two others made their historic first commercial spaceflight on Tuesday.

For the first time in 17 years, the FAA updated its Commercial Astronaut Wings Program. Before the change, all that was required to be recognized was to fly to at least an altitude of 50 miles.

The change added a requirement that any commercial flight must also include activities during flight that are "essential to public safety" or contribute to "spaceflight safety."

In addition, the FAA will permit crew members for such flights and the spacecraft will need to be licensed by the agency.


A little more than a week before the Blue Origin flight, Virgin Galactic CEO and founder Richard Branson flew to space aboard Virgin's SpaceShipTwo. He and three others aboard the flight received their wings as part of the program, as it occurred before the change.

Under the new rules, only the two pilots on that flight would have qualified.

First the city and state of New York told Jeff Bezos (and his helipad) to go pound sand, and now it's the FAA.

I want to see more of this.

I Approve of this Rat F%$#ing

Nancy Pelosi's response to Kevin McCarthy's tantrum refusing to appoint any Republicans to the committee to investigate the January 6 insurrection is to is to appoint Adam Kinzinger as the 2nd Republican on the panel.

Just to remind those of you have been living in a cave, Kinzinger, and fellow Republican on this committee, Liz Cheney, both voted to impeach Donald Trump.

There were 8 other Republicans* who voted to impeach, and perhaps some of them would like to be on the committee as well.

Keep turning the knife, Nancy.

The carrot has not worked for at least 40 years.  Go with the stick, and shove it where the sun don't shine:

Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Sunday appointed Representative Adam Kinzinger to the special committee investigating the Jan. 6 riot at the Capitol, adding a second Republican who is a forceful critic of former President Donald J. Trump to the panel.

The move, which bolsters the committee’s bipartisan credentials, came after Ms. Pelosi rejected two Republicans who are among Mr. Trump’s most vociferous defenders in Congress from joining, saying their conduct suggested they could not be trusted to participate.

Mr. Kinzinger, a six-term congressman from Illinois who has drawn censure from his own party for disavowing Mr. Trump and the conspiracy theories the former president perpetuated, said in a statement that he had accepted the post.

“While this is not the position I expected to be in or sought out, when duty calls, I will always answer,” said Mr. Kinzinger, one of 10 House Republicans who voted to impeach Mr. Trump. “This moment requires a serious, cleareyed, nonpartisan approach. We are duty bound to conduct a full investigation on the worst attack on the Capitol since 1814 and to make sure it can never happen again.”

Ms. Pelosi, who has final say over the committee’s membership, has already given one of the eight seats normally reserved for the majority party to Representative Liz Cheney, Republican of Wyoming. Ms. Cheney was ousted from House leadership in May for criticizing Mr. Trump and his actions before and during the riot.

Democrats have been fetishizing bipartisanship for a very long time, and Republicans have been weaponizing this for almost as long. 

This time, they are literally trying to protect people who intended to murder you.

Democrats need to get a clue about this, and stop acting like an abused spouse.

*John Katko (NY), Fred Upton (MI), Jaime Herrera Beutler (WA), Dan Newhouse (WA), Peter Meijer (MI), Anthony Gonzalez (OH), Tom Rice (SC), and David Valadao (CA).

Dark Humor Appeals to My Soul

Which is why I find this bit from Reddit so damn funny.

H/t Charles Saroff. (Non Bowlderized Version is at the link)

24 July 2021

Excess IP Protections Are a Threat to National Security

I am referring, of course, to the fact that soldiers are forbidden from performing repairs on essential equipment, because the military contractors use patent and trade secret protections to force the military to use their services.

This expensive and potentially dangerous

The comments on this video are rather telling.

A typical example:

This has been a problem in the army for years. We had to pay contractors to help us fix things because we didn’t have access to “proprietary “ company information. A big problem with the Apache.

It All Comes Down to Antitrust

Did you know that there is a law that allows Ivy League universities to collude on financial aid awards?

Finance 101 would indicate that since they know what their competitors would offer, they offer less than they would otherwise for top flight students.

The upside to all of this is that this law, Section 568 of the Higher Education Act, expires in September 2022.

The downside is that the Ivys (Ivies?) can spend the next year lobbying for an extension, as I am sure that they will.

Given that each of the schools have enormous endowments, Harvard's is $40,900,000,000.00 (even after the predations when Larry Summers was president) about $1.8 million per student, their claim that they won't have enough money if they have to compete is complete pants.

23 July 2021

Right Lucy, I'll Kick the Football

So, we have yet another breathless article suggesting that we now have direct and irrefutable evidence of criminality on the part of Donald Trump, and strongly suggesting that a prosecution is right around the corner.

We have been getting stories like this for 4 years now, and until Donald Trump is taken into custody in handcuffs, I will not believe that anything will come of this:

A witness in the New York investigation against the Trump Organization has told prosecutors that Donald Trump personally guaranteed he would cover school costs for the family members of two employees in lieu of a raise—directly implicating the former president in an ongoing criminal tax fraud case.

The explosive claims come from Jennifer Weisselberg, the ex-wife of a longtime company employee, during a teleconference call with investigators on Friday, June 25, according to two sources who agreed to speak on the condition of anonymity.


Weisselberg then provided key details for investigators. In January 2012, inside Trump’s office at Trump Tower on Fifth Avenue, Jennifer Weisselberg watched as Trump discussed compensation with her husband and her father-in-law, both company employees. Her husband wouldn’t be getting a raise, but their children would get their tuition paid for at a top-rated private academy instead.


If true, Jennifer Weisselberg’s claims would directly tie Trump to what a New York criminal indictment described as a corporate scheme to pay executives “in a matter that was ‘off the books.’”

Call me a cynic, but I do not expect Trump to ever see the inside of a criminal court room over this.

Matt Tiabbi is Wrong this Time

He is right on most, if not all of the particulars, but his dissection of NPR's awful coverage of Ben Shapiro and The Daily Wire focuses almost exclusively on the navel gazing nature of both the story and NPR in particular.

The problem is, as I noted a few days ago, is that this story is not an artifact of NPR's self-absorbed hyper-woke culture, it is the result of deliberate misreporting of news.

NPR knowingly (see my link for that) covered up corruption and fraud at both Facebook and The Daily Wire.

Taibbi's essay is akin to complaining about the tunes played by the ship's orchestra as the Titanic slides beneath the waves.

Well, This Sucks

One of the joys of my having gotten my Covid-19 vaccination is that I can occasionally go to a Chinese buffet for lunch.

Yesterday, I did so, and when I got the the bill (at the beginning, that's how the buffets work) the number was a little bit low.

When I got to my table, I scrutinized the bill, and realized that I had received the senior discount.

It's supposed to apply to those 60 and older, and I am 59.

And they did not ask if I wanted the senior discount.

I haz a sad.

About F%$#ing Time

Someone has finally sued some of the Big Pharma companies and pharmacy benefits managers under RICO for conspiring to drive up the cost of insulin.

What took them so long?

Diabetes giants Sanofi, Eli Lilly and Novo Nordisk, plus a trio of pharmacy benefit managers will have to face racketeering charges over claims they systematically hiked the price of insulin drugs.

U.S. District Judge Brian Martinotti on Friday denied motions by the defendants—which also include PBM bigwigs OptumRx, Caremark and Express Scripts—to scrap claims under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) Act.

Martinotti did drop antitrust claims under the Robinson-Patman Act, meant to stop distributors from charging different prices to retailers, and the Sherman Antitrust Act, which more broadly targets monopolies. 


The RICO claims stand for now, given the plantiff's compelling case that the drugmakers may have engaged in bribery, plus mail and wire fraud, Martinotti said in the court filing.

Both companies said they can't speak further on ongoing litigation. Eli Lilly did not immediately respond to Fierce Pharma's request for comment.

Last year, drug wholesalers filed a lawsuit accusing Novo, Lilly and Sanofi of boosting prices of their insulin analog drugs through rebates with PBMs, in turn securing favorable placement on those benefit managers' prescribing lists, the court filing states.

I want to see the folks behind this frog marched out of their offices in handcuffs, because these actions are not just civil, they are criminal. 

When these senior executives start getting thrown in jail, we will see a reduction in this sort of criminality.

So Not a Surprise

I am completely unsurprised that the FBI succumbed to political pressure from the Trump White house and did not conduct a proper background check on Brett Kavanaugh.

We now know that the FBI's response to over 4500 tips was to review them to the White House Counsel rather than investigating him:

A group of Democratic senators is asking for more answers after the FBI shared details about its handling of a supplemental background investigation into Brett Kavanaugh when he was a Supreme Court nominee.

Jill Tyson, an assistant director of the FBI, said in a letter on June 30 that the agency had received 4,500 tips regarding Kavanaugh and that it turned over "relevant tips" to the White House counsel, who was Don McGahn in 2018. Tyson also said the FBI interviewed 10 people.

Tyson's letter was made public on Thursday by Sens. Sheldon Whitehouse and Chris Coons, who said it was a response to a letter they'd sent in August 2019 asking for answers about the investigation.

They interviewed 10 people in a background check for a Supreme Court nominee?  When I got my (now expired) clearance in the early 1990s, there were at least 5 people that I know of who were contacted.

They were in the tank for Trump and Evil Minions.

"This long-delayed answer confirms how badly we were spun by Director Wray and the FBI in the Kavanaugh background investigation and hearing," Whitehouse said on Twitter, referring to FBI Director Chris Wray. "It confirms my suspicions that the 'tip line' was not real and that FBI tip line procedures were not followed," he added.

The Congress needs to investigate the FBI's dereliction of duty, and further, given that we now know that there was not a meaningful there needs to be a meaningful investigation of Kavanaugh's testimony, particularly with regard to his finances, because it is likely that he perjured himself.

22 July 2021

It's Jobless Thursday

We can see the benefit shutdowns kicking in

And the roller coaster heads back up, with initial jobless claims rose by 51,000 to 419,000, though continuing claims of all sorts have fallen as cruelty fetishing governors shut down extended benefits:

The number of Americans receiving jobless payments fell this month to the lowest level since early in the coronavirus pandemic, but first-time applications rose as supply constraints persist in the auto industry.

Continuing payments made through all unemployment benefit programs fell by 1.3 million in the week ended July 3, to 12.6 million, the Labor Department said Thursday. That was the lowest level since late March 2020, when new programs responding to the pandemic first came online.

In recent weeks about half of states have acted to end enhanced and extended unemployment benefits. The end of pandemic programs in Texas drove the latest decrease.

Note that this is billions of dollars that have been pulled out of the economy, which under whatever model you are using has a deflationary impact.


Meanwhile, initial jobless claims, a proxy for new layoffs, rose by 51,000 to a seasonally adjusted 419,000 for the week ended July 17, the Labor Department said Thursday. The increase returned the new claims near to levels recorded in early June. The four-week moving average, which smooths out volatility in the weekly figures, increased by 750 to 385,250.

I am inclined to believe that a 12% jump in initial claims might have been influenced by all of the Sado-Republicans taking money out the pockets of people most likely to spend that money.

Headline of the Day

People Want To Work, They Just Don't Want To Work For You
Ed Zitron
It's pretty simple: If you treat your employees like crap and pay them poorly, they are not going to be favorably inclined to you and your enterprise.

Pundit Klein Bottle: His Head Is That Far up His Ass

This is What Happened in the Iran Contra Hearings
I am referring, of course, to Chris Celizza, who insists that Nancy Pelosi denying seats on the panel to investigate the January 6 insurrection to participants in the conspiracy to foment said insurrection is a mistake

Why is it a mistake? Because allowing Republicans to sabotage an investigation in furtherance of sedition is bipartisan.

I can't even:

So what does he think a committee with two people dedicated to nothing but sabotaging the investigation look like? As is usual with this kind of punditry, he doesn’t even disagree with Pelosi on the merits!
Pelosi and her Democratic defenders will cast the decision as the only one she really had available to her after McCarthy made his picks known earlier this week. And it’s beyond debate that McCarthy’s choices — especially Banks and Jordan — were aimed at turning the committee into something of a circus. Both men would have, at every turn, sought to turn the tables on Democrats — using the platform provided by the committee to push debunked claims about Antifa’s involvement in the Capitol riot, questioning Democratic leadership’s readiness for just such an attack and trying to broaden the committee’s mandate to cover the Black Lives Matter protests of summer 2020.

Seriously, why does ANYONE pay people like this to write, and why does anyone read these people.

Eventually, they will all turn up in the morgue with a toe-tag saying, "Intellectually exhausted and morally bankrupt."

Amazon Ends Use of Arbitration for Customer Disputes - The New York Times

Remember when I wrote about law firms that have autimated the process of applying for arbitration, which means that the companies inserting binding arbitration clauses in their terms of service were getting hammered by hundreds or thousands of filing fees?

Many of the most egregious abuses of this process have started to back away from what is now a significant cost, and even corporate Bond villain Amazon has ended the use of arbitration, which would be a win for society even if weren't Amazon that were the loser.

I am amused:

Amazon told customers this week that it would no longer require them to resolve their legal complaints involving the technology giant through arbitration, a significant retreat from a strategy that often helps companies avoid liability.

In a brief email to customers, Amazon said anyone using its products would now have to pursue disputes with the company in federal court, rather than go through the private and secretive arbitration process, which critics say puts consumers at a huge disadvantage.


Amazon has been hit with roughly 75,000 arbitration claims alleging that devices, such as the Echo, that feature the company’s voice-operated assistant, Alexa, were recording customers without their consent. Amazon faces potentially tens of millions of dollars in fees that it will have to pay the private arbitrators to have those cases heard.

The Alexa-related cases are part of a relatively new tactic that a handful of law firms are using in an effort to upend the fundamental reason most companies include arbitration clauses in their contracts: to prevent customers from pursuing a legal claim.


To prevent class actions, many companies began inserting language in their contracts that required customers buying services in nearly every facet of life — from renting a car to admitting a parent to a nursing home — to agree to arbitration in the event of a dispute. That meant signing away their opportunity to be part of a class action.

The Supreme Court has upheld this legal tactic, in large part because companies have successfully argued that they would make sure arbitration was fair for the consumers, including agreeing to pay many of the fees. But the upshot was that very few people ever used the arbitration system.

In the Amazon Alexa cases, lawyers representing the customers turned this feature of the arbitration system to their advantage. By filing claims en masse, the strategy left Amazon with a large legal bill even before any cases had been resolved. Just to hire the arbitrator and to get the process started for a single claim cost Amazon about $2,900.

“For most companies, arbitration was always part of an effort to evade liability, not just to escape class actions,” said Travis Lenkner, a lawyer at the firm Keller Lenkner, which is representing the consumers in the Alexa-related claims. “This is the first company to turn tail. Others may well do so.”

Amazon automated warehousing and distribution, and these lawyers automated lawsuits.

The lawyers win, and a huge company loses.

I can't complain.