28 February 2022

An Uncompensated Product Endorsement

I just got myself my second pair of Jabra Talk 15 mono Bluetooth headphones

They have lasted for about  3 years for me, and I highly recommend them.

They are durable, I can't count the number of times that I dropped mine on a hard surface without any effect, they have good battery life, and decent (mono) sound quality, good range, (I frequently keep my connection with my phone over 50 feet away), good comfort, and decent ergonomics, including a a real on off switch, as opposed to a button that you hold down to turn it on and off.

Best of all, they retail for only $29.99.

If you are making phone calls, this just works.

The Next Domino to Fall in the Ukraine Conflict

Where will the next uprising be?
It won't be in the Ukraine, nor will it be in Moscow.

With food prices already increasing, as the attached chart show, we can expect to see profound hunger issues around the world, and likely significant unrest as a result.

The abortive "Arab Spring" has a spike in the prices of food staples as a major contributor, and unrest in response to hunger is a very common response, at least in the urban areas.

Note also, it's not just the countries on the right that will be effected by this, because the food markets these days are international, and given the increasing concentration in agriculture, it is likely that as prices spike, much of the food will be diverted to wealthier nations.

This is a recipe for disaster.

Of Course, You Waited until It Did Not Matter, You Pig Felching F%$#

Forrmer Trump Consigliere Attorney General William Barr has written a self-serving book where he maintains that he tried to keep Trump from doing the REALLY crazy sh%$.

No, you gleefully supported him, as it was a part of the whole Unitary Executive theory of the separation of powers, which states that a Republican President can do whatever he wants, because f%$#-you.

Go back to the slime filled hole that you crawled out of:

Former Attorney General William Barr writes in a new book that former President Donald Trump has “shown he has neither the temperament nor persuasive powers to provide the kind of positive leadership that is needed,” and that it is time for Republicans to focus on rising new leaders in the party.

The release of the former attorney general’s 600-page book, “One Damn Thing After Another,” is coming as Mr. Trump, who remains the GOP’s dominant figure, contemplates another presidential run. Mr. Barr writes that he was convinced that Mr. Trump could have won re-election in 2020 if he had “just exercised a modicum of self-restraint, moderating even a little of his pettiness.”


The recollections and conclusions by Mr. Barr are notable because he was one of Mr. Trump’s most powerful cabinet secretaries and was once such a close ally that Democrats accused him of acting more like the president’s defense attorney than an apolitical law-enforcement official.

The most depressing thing about this is that even though he has shown himself to have the moral integrity of a slime mold, he is still considered one of the "Very Serious People" in  Washington, DC.

The halls of power in Washington, DC are rank with corruption.

The halls of power in Washington, DC are rank with hypocrisy.

The halls of power in Washington, DC are rank with  incompetence.

The halls of power in Washington, DC are just plain rank.

Making a Bad Thing Worse

I understand Zelensky's motivations, but his request for immediate entry into the European Union is a mistake, and it has nothing to do with Putin and Russia, and everything to do with Turkey and Erdoğan.

You see, Turkey has been attempting to enter the EU for decades, since 1987, well before Erdoğan;s entry into politics, and they have been repeatedly put off, while other (Whiter and more Christian) nations have been admitted with open arms.

Various Turkish governments have been profoundly disappointed by this, and have attributed this lack of action to bigotry on the part of EU members.  (I am inclined to agree)

Currently, Turkey is trying to thread the needle with regards to its relationships with NATO, Russia, and the Ukraine, but if the EU were to grant membership right now, it's pretty clear that the Turkish polity in general, and Erdoğan in particular are going to blow a gasket, as the Ukraine met very few of the requirements for this.

Given that Turkey controls the Dardanelles and the Bosporus, could make things very difficult for anyone who might want to engage in operations in the Black Sea:

President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine urged the European Union on Monday to grant his country immediate accession to the bloc in response to Russia’s invasion.

In a passionate speech aimed at rallying Ukrainians to continue to defend their country and encouraging further international support, he thanked E.U. countries that have decided to supply arms to Ukraine over the past few days and said he had spoken to Ursula von der Leyen, president of the European Commission, to urge her to take “even stronger steps.”

“We appeal to the European Union for Ukraine’s immediate accession under a new special procedure,” Zelensky said in a video broadcast from the capital, Kyiv. “Our goal is to stand alongside all Europeans and, most importantly, to stand on their level.”

I am once again forced to call out a famous quote often misattributed to Charles Maurice de Talleyrand-Périgord, "It is worse than a crime, it is a mistake."

So Glad that Uranus is Not Trending

I was perusing Google News, and as anyone who goes there, they group stories about the same thing together in tiles.

Or at least they try to do this:

Needless to say, there are still a few bugs in Google's algorithmic story selection.

This is not a surprise.

Who Says that Irony is Dead

You've done enough. Have you no sense of decency? At long last, have you left no sense of decency?

The spectacle of Condoleeza f%$#ing Rice blithely describing the invasion of a sovereign nations as a war crime shows a lack of self-awareness that buggers the mind.


Here is a nice roundup of the advantages and disadvantages of the longbow as versus a shorter recurve:

27 February 2022

From the Department of, "Well, Duh"

It appears that the Biden administration is concerned that there will be costs to the American public from the sanctions against Russia.

This is not a surprise.  There will be markets in Russia that will be closed, it's likely that Russian energy production will fall, driving up costs, and given that Russia and the Ukraine account for nearly ¼ of grain exports, it's likely that food prices will rise worldwide, which will also increase instability in poorer nations.

All actions have costs.

The solution is to get ahead of the story, and make it clear to the American public what these costs are, and why they are necessary.

Boeing is F%$#ed

Richard Aboulafia has an essay on Boeing's chances to continue to manufacture civil airliners, and his characterization is very grim.

He calls the upcoming year, "Crucial," for Boeing, but what he describes is a course of action that the embattled aviation conglomerate has neither the will nor the technical resources to execute.

Boeing has become McDonnell, a company run by financial types into the ground, before McDonnell took over Boeing with Boeing's money in 1997:

Perhaps the biggest question in the aviation industry today is whether Boeing will create a new jet, specifically a midmarket one. The market clearly wants a new product in this class, and the company clearly needs one to compete against Airbus. But an examination of both the company and the market indicates that time is of the essence.

First, the market. The middle of the market—200-250-seat jets with 4,000-5,000-nm range—is easily the healthiest part of the industry in terms of orders. The orderbook for the Airbus A321neo—4,079 jets—is now the same size as Boeing’s entire MAX orderbook (686 delivered plus 3,405 on backlog, after ASC606 accounting adjustments). Notably, Airbus received 667 A321neo orders in 2020-21, when orders otherwise collapsed, and more than 1,000 in the last three years. While Boeing’s MAX 10 had a few good orders in 2021, the A321neo appears to be ahead of Boeing’s largest single-aisle jet by at least seven to one.


Second, there is Boeing’s ability to create a new jet and the broader context of workforce trends. Boeing last launched an all-new jet, the 787, in 2004. This 18-year gap is a record in Boeing’s history. Boeing Commercial Airplanes’ (BCA) independent R&D funding fell 30% in 2020 from 2019, and it fell 21% in 2021 from 2020 (see chart). Boeing says this key metric will start to grow again this year.

But if they spend more on R&D, then the return on investment drops, which means that bonuses and stock options for senior management drops, so management will not engage in a meaningful increase in R&D.

While engineering headcount did not fall precisely in line with these cuts, it has fallen markedly. Between early 2020 and mid-2021, BCA lost roughly 18% of its engineering and technical workforce, according to Bloomberg, following serious cuts in the previous decade. Here again, Boeing says it is starting to hire engineers; this is another measure to watch in 2022.

When, or if, Boeing does launch a new jet, it will be difficult to restore its engineering staff, thanks to inflationary salary trends. A very strong tech sector is paying very high salaries. SpaceX and other new space ventures are hiring aggressively, as are many well-funded advanced air mobility startups.
Boeing has been eating its seed corn for years, cutting its engineering capabilities, its manufacturing capabilities, etc.

As I have said before, they can no longer build aircraft.

The good news for Boeing is that the very same airlines and lessors that are eagerly ordering A321neos—and other financiers—would cheer a new Boeing midmarket jet and provide hundreds of up-front orders. Boeing also has a history of arriving late to a segment with a winning jet, as with the 777 (after the MD-11 and A330/340) and 787 (after the A330-200). With the right jet, Boeing could even recover its lost position as the world’s biggest jetliner company.

Mitigating against a new Boeing airliner is the company’s difficult financial state: It has $16.2 billion in cash but $58.1 billion in debt. There are few doubts about Boeing’s ability to access additional cash through debt or equity, though. And in the broader context, starting a new program with $500 million per year, say, in incremental spending would not make a serious difference to the company’s financial position.

Only, regulatory officials now know that Boeing lied to them with the 737MAX, that the 787 is still coming off the line needing extensive rework, and there are not many people at the company who could execute the development of a new aircraft. 

They are screwed.

Tweet of the Day

Some context here: The day before Russian military operations against the Ukraine began, Snowden confidently and categorically denied even the possibility of an invasion.

He was wrong, he admitted it, and he shut the f%$# up.

Compare that to someone like David Frum, or Peter Beinart, or Tom Friedman, or David Brooks, or William Kristol, or Michael O'Hanlon, etc., who have never admitted error in a meaningful way, and, more significantly, never shut the f%$# up.

I should probably follow Mr. Snowden's example, but probably won't, because I am a bit of a tool.

26 February 2022

Tweet of the Day

The Gravel institute for the win.

This is Journalistic Malpractice

Over at the Washington Post,  Joanna Slater, writes about how a North Carolina based right-wing Q-Anon type group organized a campaign of harassment and threats against a hospital in New Hampshire over the use of Ivermectin.

What precipitated this was that a patient, Lee Chamberlain to the hospital with Covid, who subsequently died of the disease.

He had told hospital personnel that he did not want the drug, though his wife Janet claims that she could not confirm this because she was only allowed to visit him twice.  (Probably because she is not vaccinated)

This is a story about deplorable story about people doing deplorable things, up to and including making a bomb threat against a hospital, but in covering the story, Ms. Slater names, but does properly describe, the group in question: Truth Seekers 88.

Their name is a tell, and a powerful one, but it's not the "Truth Seekers" part, it's the 88 part.

You see, 88 is a very specific white supremacist hate symbol, referring to the 8th letter of the alphabet repeated twice, so 88 = HH = Heil Hitler, a fact from which a reasonable person could deduce that the principals involved in this dispute on the pro Ivermectin side are neo-Nazis/

She had to know, and her editor had to know, what 88 means, and in choosing not to report this, they have both failed the story and the institution of journalism.

25 February 2022

Things that Make Me Think About My Dad

Did you know that a bidet manufacturer had a "best poop" contest with a $10,000 grand price for Superb Owl Sunday?

Well, now you do.

My dad's life-long battle with his colon, all three of his of his sons called to congratulate him when he got mild dysentery, is a part of Saroff family lore, which is rather scatological at times.

Still, this is clearly the worst attempt to monetize the Superb Owl ever:

If you grew up listening to people complaining about America going to Hell in a handbasket…well, this one’s for you, Kimosabe.

In what appears to be an apparent attempt to drag this country to the bottom of the moral barrel, TUSHY Bidet is asking Americans to send them pictures of your poop. The rules make for a riveting read (BY SUBMITTING AN ENTRY, ENTRANT ACKNOWLEDGES THAT THEIR ENTRY MAY BE EXPLOITED ON TUSHY’S WEBSITE, IN TUSHY’S SOLE AND EXCLUSIVE DISCRETION), but can you imagine being one of the poor souls tasked with judging this contest?

If you work for TUSHY Bidet, is this in your employment contract? And does the judging take place before or after lunch?

Are there going to be categories? Best color? Consistency? Size? Does Taco Bell diarrhea disqualify an entrant? And what constitutes “extra flair” of an entry? Are we talking about poop with sparklers and confetti? Or perhaps a color not typically found in nature?

Wait; a poop picture can’t have won another prize? Do you mean to tell me there are other contests? In Japan, maybe?

They announced the winner, and I have no desire at all to click the link .


Seriously, punditry is not a hard job, and there are no requirements for certification or any special training involved, so just don't put them on the air.

So Stupid that It Came from the Mind of Jacob Rees-Mogg

Rees-Mogg is in there somewhere

In order to increase prosperity in the UK following Brexit, Jacob Rees-Mogg, the newly minted, "Minister for Brexit Opportunities," has commissioned a study to investigate the economic benefits of returning to Imperial units, you know, inches, feet, gallons, furlongs, etc.

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

Seriously, this is the stupidest thing since ……… OK, since yesterday, but to be fair, it is CPAC week:

The government is to launch a study of the economic benefits of reintroducing imperial units of measurement, to quantify a supposed advantage of Brexit.

Ministers provoked mockery from opposition politicians with the “ludicrous” move, which will be overseen by the business department this year.

In 2019, Boris Johnson pledged to usher in a new “era of generosity and tolerance towards traditional measurements” and suggested that measuring in pounds and ounces was “ancient liberty”.

This month he appointed Jacob Rees-Mogg as “minister for Brexit opportunities” in order to examine how Britain can benefit from leaving the EU.

This is kind of a trifecta of stupidity.


While the measurements have largely been out of use for some 60 years, they are believed by politicians to be beloved of some older voters, and so occasionally become a political issue. In reality, Britain operates a mixed system, with businesses using metric weights and measures, while imperial miles are used on roadsigns and pints used in pubs.

Paul Scully, a Tory business minister, said reintroducing imperial labelling would be “an important step in taking back control” and that a planned “assessment of the economic impact on business will be carried out in due course”.


“Ministers must explain how reverting to a system not used in nearly 60 years will help businesses attract new customers, and how imperial units will be of any help to companies looking to trade with the rest of the world – when the vast majority of countries use the metric system.

“Instead of wasting taxpayer money on looking to bring back imperial measurements, the government should be focusing on the real issues affecting businesses, like the miles of queues at our ports and the reams of red tape thrown up by Boris Johnson’s shambolic EU trade deal.”

Yeah, pretty much.








The Times, They are A-Changing

The other 3 cops complicit in George Floyd's murder have been found guilty on all counts in Federal court.

The willingness of juries to apply the law to cops is a welcome change:

Three former Minneapolis police officers were convicted by a federal jury Thursday of depriving George Floyd of his constitutional rights by failing to stop a fellow officer from using the excessive force that killed him on the street outside Cup Foods nearly two years ago.

J. Alexander Kueng, Thomas Lane and Tou Thao were found guilty on all counts. They showed little reaction as the judge read the verdicts, with Lane slightly shaking his head and shrugging as he looked at his attorney.

Assistant U.S. Attorney LeeAnn Bell, the lead prosecutor on the case, spoke at a courthouse news conference afterward, thanking the jurors for their attentiveness during a long and difficult trial in St. Paul.

"We haven't been able to talk about George Floyd for much of this trial, but as one of the brave bystanders said, 'George Floyd was a human being,'" Bell said. "He deserved to be treated as such."


During the trial, lawyers for the former officers argued that the Minneapolis Police Department (MPD) training on the duty to intervene on illegal force was inadequate. All three men testified in their defense and said they didn't see what fellow officer Derek Chauvin was doing and didn't realize Floyd's grave condition.

They also argued that they deferred to the 19-year veteran and trusted him to do the right thing.

This is the Nuremburg defense, "I was just following orders."


Kueng and Thao were convicted of two counts. They were found guilty of failing to intervene on Floyd's behalf as he pleaded for his life and repeatedly said he couldn't breathe while pinned under Chauvin's knee for more than 9 minutes.


Having found the officers guilty, the jury also was asked whether Floyd's restraint caused his death. The jury answered yes, allowing the possibility that the judge can impose lengthy sentences.


All three men face a second trial in Floyd's death on June 13 in Hennepin County District Court in Minneapolis, where they are accused of aiding and abetting murder and manslaughter.

Chauvin was found guilty of murder last April in state court and sentenced to more than 22 years in prison. In December, he pleaded guilty to federal charges of violating Floyd's constitutional rights but has yet to be sentenced.


The all-white jury came from across Minnesota. Eight were women; four were men. There were two each from Hennepin, Ramsey and Olmsted counties, and one from each of the following counties: Anoka, Blue Earth, Washington, Jackson, Nicollet and Scott.

An all white jury, no less.

Surprised, but in a good way.

Tweet of the Day

This is dark as hell, and funny as hell.

I am not sure why, but I have an affinity for Slavic humor.

Maximum Derp

According to movement Republicans, "The Gay" is responsible for the Russian invasion of the Ukraine.

Seriously, you are trying to claim that the LGBTQ community is responsible for this?

What is wrong with these people?

24 February 2022

Today in Evil

Is anyone surprised that this comes from Texas Governor. Greg Abbott is attempting to define treating trans kids humanely as child abuse

Seriously, all these people have is hate:

Responding to conservative Republican opposition to gender-affirming care for young transgender Texans, Gov. Greg Abbott on Tuesday ordered the state child welfare agency to investigate reports of "gender-transitioning procedures" as child abuse.

The move came one day after Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton issued a written opinion defining gender-affirming care as child abuse under state laws — and months after state lawmakers considered but did not pass similar bills when the Legislature met last year.

Can we please give Texas back to Mexico?

I Am Surprised and Pleased

While I do think that Justin Trudeau was too passive in dealing with the right-wing Nazi truckers who shut down Ottawa, I am surprised that he has just ended the use of the Emergencies Act, meaning that normal jurisprudence will be applied from this point on.

Generally, when an executive is granted extraordinary powers, they are loath to give them up:

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is revoking the use of the Emergencies Act, the powerful legislative tool that was deployed in response to protests and blockades that erupted in Ottawa and at border crossings over recent weeks.

"The situation is no longer an emergency," Trudeau told a news conference.

"We are confident that existing laws and bylaws are now sufficient to keep people safe."

The Governor General signed off on the revocation on Wednesday afternoon, which formally ended the state of emergency.

MPs in the House of Commons voted to affirm use of the act on Monday. The Senate was in the midst of debating the act on Wednesday but withdrew the motion shortly after Trudeau made his announcement.
This is unequivocally the right thing to do, and that makes it rare in the upper echelons of politics.

It's Time for the Jobs Report

And the initial unemployment claims fell by 17000, while 4th qurter GDP was revised upoward to an annual rate of 6.9%.

I'm not sure what it means, as there are other factors that will have a major impact on the US and world economies right now.

Quote of the Day

I now know the go to Marx/Engles quote for every cluster-f%$#:

Google translate gives the translation as, "The whole sh%$ is on the verge of breaking."

This was offered in response to a request for a Marx/Engels quote that could be applied to the current situation in the Ukraine.

If Warren Zevon were to paraphrase this, he would say, "Send lawyers, guns, and money, The sh%$ has hit the fan."

It's nice to know that there is a quote for this.

Well, I Called it Wrong

It appears that there is Russian bombing going on throughout the Ukraine, as well as what appears to be either an amphibious landing, or a deployment from Muldova (Transnistria) in Odessa.

I figured that Putin would stop at a frozen conflict in the Dunbas.  It appears that I was wrong.

No clue as to what the end game is here.

This is not going to end well for anyone.

23 February 2022

Stating the Obvious

The Pink Paper, AKA The Financial Times has noticed that the whole Silicon Valley ecosystem is still lying about the prospects of startups, even after Elizabeth Holmes got convicted for fraud.

Fraud has been their model since at least the late 1990s.

The model has been: over-promise, get lots of VC money, sell out to less sophisticated investors and pocket your profits.

Rinse, lather, repeat:

The world would like to remember the conviction of Theranos founder Elizabeth Holmes as a cautionary tale of Silicon Valley hubris. The collapse of her blood-testing company was hailed as both the end of tech’s “fake it till you make it” culture and of the dubious cultural phenomenon of the girlboss. But here in the San Francisco Bay Area there is no interest in learning lessons from the debacle.

While Holmes awaits sentencing and her business partner waits for his own trial, venture capital money continues to flow into wild start-up ideas. No broader reckoning has been linked to her story. In the weeks since her January conviction, I have had more conversations about the trial with people in London than San Francisco. This is despite the fact that Holmes lives nearby and remains one of the most high-profile female founders the US tech sector has ever produced.

Instead of seeing the case as a spur to toughen up due diligence, the tech sector is choosing to dismiss it as an outlier. Just as imploded co-working company WeWork was described by west coast tech workers as a New York company, Theranos’s non-tech investors tend to be invoked when talking about its failure. The implication is that real tech investors would have been able to spot the lies. The truth is more complicated. Silicon Valley was involved, albeit at an early stage. Although late investors included Walgreens and Rupert Murdoch, one of Theranos’s earliest backers was notable VC firm Draper Fisher Jurvetson. (And, of course, Holmes went to Stanford.)

There is no interest in, "learning lessons from the debacle," because what Holmes did is central to what startups do, and what VC's encourage in Silicon Valley.

The only difference is that she was doing it in healthcare, where you cannot fool reality, and not in, more typical pursuits of tech.  You know, things like cheating cab drivers, extorting delivery fees from restaurants, etc.

Startup and VC culture is basically the bezzle.

As I Have Noted, Online Businesses Embrace Discrimination, It's Their Special Sauce

Whether it's Uber, Lyft, Airbnb, or now Redfin, the ability to use algorithms, or to allow your vendors to promulgate their bigotry while you wash your hands, is a big part of many consumer facing business:

To understand how inequities in real estate persist in the U.S., consider two homes in Chicago. The first is a brick bungalow with five bedrooms and 2 1/2 bathrooms on the city’s predominantly Black South Side. The home has more than 2,000 square feet and sits on a pretty, tree-lined street, a short walk from a Nigerian restaurant. The second property is an 800-square foot, two-bedroom condominium unit in Glencoe, a mostly White suburb.

The South Side house is worth $187,000, about $20,000 more than the Glencoe condo, according to a recent visit to the website of Redfin Corp., the real estate technology company. Based in Seattle, Redfin provides home listings and valuation estimates to buyers and sellers. The company also operates one of the country’s largest real estate brokerages—but it doesn’t provide its services to just anyone. On its page describing the more expensive house in an overwhelmingly Black part of the city, Redfin’s site noted that “customer demand is through the roof right now,” so it couldn’t provide one of its real estate agents to help broker a sale. It offered a referral to another company instead. For the less expensive apartment in the overwhelmingly White suburb, Redfin promised a lot more. “We’ll handcraft your analysis,” the site said, offering a call from an agent and comprehensive market data within two days.

The striking contrast in Redfin’s treatment of these two homes—and similar disparities in the level of service the company provides in majority-White and non-White neighborhoods—can be found in cities across the country. It is, Redfin’s detractors say, a sort of digital redlining that harkens back to the days when loan officers shaded no-go areas red on maps. The critics include fair housing groups, which are in talks with the company to settle a federal lawsuit they filed that could force changes in how Redfin manages its business, and at least some of its own employees, who have pushed for more service in minority neighborhoods.


Sellers whose homes are worth more than whatever the minimum happens to be when they sign up for Redfin’s service get professional photos, 3D walkthroughs, data analysis, and added visibility on its site—all while paying less in commissions than they would with a typical real estate brokerage. Sellers of homes that are below the company’s minimum threshold get a referral to a non-Redfin agent, which the company calls a “partner agent,” or no service at all. As a result, fair housing groups contend, these sellers may have to pay a bigger commission for an inferior listing, and may ultimately accept a lower price.

Their claim is pretty simple, that they need to generate a certain level of commission before it makes business sense to provide services, but in the specific case listed above, they refused service on the bigger commission.

It's ironic because Redfin CEO Glenn Kelman has been outspoken about what he sees as the embedded racism in the existing real estate industry.

It looks like his district offices are being run by the guys he criticizes, and it's on him.

Good News, Everyone!

A North Carolina court has ruled that the Republican congressional resistricting in the state is unconstitutional, and imposed a fair map

It's good to see Republicans stepping on their own dicks: 

A North Carolina court rejected a Republican-drawn map of the state’s 14 congressional districts on Wednesday and substituted its own version, the second time in less than two weeks that a court in the state has invalidated a Republican House map as unconstitutionally partisan.

The new map, drawn by a nonpartisan panel of four redistricting experts, appeared to split North Carolina’s congressional districts roughly equally between Republicans and Democrats, in a state where voters are divided evenly along partisan lines. It gives each party six relatively safe House seats and makes the remaining two winnable by either side.

The Republican-drawn map that was rejected would have awarded the G.O.P. six safe seats and Democrats four, leaving the remaining four as tossups.

Voting-rights advocacy groups and Democrats had argued to block the latest Republican map, saying it unlawfully favored Republicans. A three-judge panel of the state Superior Court in Raleigh agreed. It ruled Wednesday that the latest map failed to meet the standards for fairness set out by the State Supreme Court on Feb. 4, when that court invalidated the original map drawn by the Republican-controlled State Legislature.

In the Feb. 4 ruling, the State Supreme Court said that Republican maps of congressional districts and State Legislature seats violated a host of provisions in the State Constitution that guarantee freedom of speech, free elections and equal protection. Any valid map, the justices said, would have to satisfy “some combination” of five statistical measures of partisan fairness developed by political scientists in recent decades.

To quote Bruce Willis, "Yippee-kai-yay, motherf%$#er."

Also this:


Also on Wednesday, the State Supreme Court in Pennsylvania put its mark on that state’s congressional map, settling a partisan dispute over boundaries for House seats by selecting a map drawn by a Stanford University political scientist.

Notwithstanding the desire of the Neanderthal wing of the US Supreme Court to make voting as unfair and difficult (particularly for minorities) as possible, there have been a number of wins in state courts recently.

Yeah, I Figured That He Was a Corrupt SOB

Ed Mullins, former president of the New York City Sergeants Benevolent Association, one of 3 cop unions in the city, has been charged with fraud in relation to his actions as head of the union.  He stole from his union member.

I figured that he was dirty when I heard the outrageously inflammatory language that he used against his critics, and leaked an arrest report (and doxxed) then Mayor de Blasio's daughter.

No one goes that far out on the ledge unless said ledge is lining their pockets.

So, now we know the outcome of the October raid of his home and offices:

The former union president, Edward D. Mullins, the combative longtime leader of the Sergeants Benevolent Association, sought reimbursement for hundreds of high-end meals, clothing, jewelry, home appliances and a relative's college tuition, the U.S. attorney’s office in Manhattan said in a court filing.

In all, Mr. Mullins, 60, was reimbursed by the union over a recent four-year period for more than $1 million in expenses, the majority of which was fraudulently obtained, the government said.

More than a million?  That ain't a few copies on the office copier.

The benevolent association is the fifth largest police union in the United States, with a membership of about 13,000 active and retired police sergeants in New York, the authorities said. Mr. Mullins had run and been elected as its president for five successive four-year terms, and around 2017, the government said, he devised a scheme to fund his personal expenses thorough the union’s money.


Mr. Mullins, who surrendered to the F.B.I. on Wednesday morning, pleaded not guilty and was released on $250,000 bond at a brief hearing in Federal District Court in Manhattan. 


The prosecution represents the latest chapter in the swift collapse of the career of Mr. Mullins, a once influential police union official who retired on Nov. 5 after four decades with the department, the same day officials announced he had been found guilty of two departmental infractions and was fined $32,000 for violating rules governing the use of social media.

In one message Mr. Mullins had posted on Twitter, he made public an unredacted police report involving then-Mayor Bill de Blasio’s daughter, Chiara. In other messages, Mr. Mullins used vulgar language to denigrate city officials.

Mr. Mullins had quit his union position a month earlier, hours after his Long Island home and the union’s Manhattan headquarters were raided by F.B.I. agents. At the time, the union issued a statement acknowledging the search and saying that Mr. Mullins was “apparently the target” of a federal investigation. 


Damian Williams, the U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York, said Mr. Mullins “abused his position of trust and authority to fund a lavish lifestyle that was paid for by the monthly dues of the thousands of hard-working sergeants of the N.Y.P.D.”


He also maintained two copies of his credit card statements. The first, often labeled with a sticky note bearing the words “Clean Copy,” had no additional markings. The second, often labeled “Work Copy” or “Work Sheet,” included Mr. Mullins’s handwritten annotations, showing where he had changed the amount and at times the type of expense, the court filing said.

The “Work Copy” of Mr. Mullins’s April 2021 credit card statement, for example, shows that he changed a $45.92 charge from a wine bar in New Jersey to $845.92; and that he inflated a steakhouse bill from $609.89 to $909.89, the court filing said.

It said he also altered a $185.88 charge from a Long Island supermarket to a $685.88 charge at an Italian restaurant in Manhattan.

Unfortunately, he made bail.  I'd really like to see him spending the next few months chilling his heels in Rikers.

22 February 2022

I Can Haz Impeachment?

The New York Times just did a deep dive on the political partnership of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas and his wife Ginny, and it's a miasma of unethical behavior. (I suppose that Justice Thomas would call this a, "High tech lynching.")

This has been common knowledge, and runs counter to the code of ethics that Federal Judges, except for Supreme Court Justices, have to adhere to.

This would not be an issue if Thomas chose (and it is a choice, not a requirement for him) to recuse himself, but that would mean his not ruling on voting rights, abortion, church-state issues, etc., which is not going to happen.

There is a belief that judges should avoid even the appearance of impropriety, but the Thomases:

The call to action was titled “Election Results and Legal Battles: What Now?” Shared in the days after the 2020 presidential election, it urged the members of an influential if secretive right-wing group to contact legislators in three of the swing states that tipped the balance for Joe Biden — Arizona, Georgia and Pennsylvania. The aim was audacious: Keep President Donald J. Trump in power.

The group, the Council for National Policy, brings together old-school Republican luminaries, Christian conservatives, Tea Party activists and MAGA operatives, with more than 400 members who include leaders of organizations like the Federalist Society, the National Rifle Association and the Family Research Council. Founded in 1981 as a counterweight to liberalism, the group was hailed by President Ronald Reagan as seeking the “return of righteousness, justice and truth” to America.

As Trump insisted, without evidence, that fraud had cheated him of victory, conservative groups rushed to rally behind him. The council stood out, however, not only because of its pedigree but also because one of its newest leaders was Virginia Thomas, the wife of Justice Clarence Thomas and a longtime activist in right-wing circles. She had taken on a prominent role at the council during the Trump years and by 2019 had joined the nine-member board of C.N.P. Action, an arm of the council organized as a 501(c)4 under a provision of the tax code that allows for direct political advocacy. It was C.N.P. Action that circulated the November “action steps” document, the existence of which has not been previously reported. It instructed members to pressure Republican lawmakers into challenging the election results and appointing alternate slates of electors: “Demand that they not abandon their Constitutional responsibilities during a time such as this.”


The Thomases have long posed a unique quandary in Washington. Because Supreme Court justices do not want to be perceived as partisan, they tend to avoid political events and entanglements, and their spouses often keep low profiles. But the Thomases have defied such norms. Since the founding of the nation, no spouse of a sitting Supreme Court justice has been as overt a political activist as Ginni Thomas. In addition to her perch at the Council for National Policy, she founded a group called Groundswell with the support of Stephen K. Bannon, the hard-line nationalist and former Trump adviser. It holds a weekly meeting of influential conservatives, many of whom work directly on issues that have come before the court.

Ginni Thomas insists, in her council biography, that she and her husband operate in “separate professional lanes,” but those lanes in fact merge with notable frequency. For the three decades he has sat on the Supreme Court, they have worked in tandem from the bench and the political trenches to take aim at targets like Roe v. Wade and affirmative action. Together they believe that “America is in a vicious battle for its founding principles,” as Ginni Thomas has put it. Her views, once seen as on the fringe, have come to dominate the Republican Party. And with Trump’s three appointments reshaping the Supreme Court, her husband finds himself at the center of a new conservative majority poised to shake the foundations of settled law. In a nation freighted with division and upheaval, the Thomases have found their moment.


The reporting uncovered new details on the Thomases’ ascent: how Trump courted Justice Thomas; how Ginni Thomas used that courtship to gain access to the Oval Office, where her insistent policy and personnel suggestions so aggravated aides that one called her a “wrecking ball” while others put together an opposition-research-style report on her that was obtained by The Times; and the extent to which Justice Thomas flouted judicial-ethics guidance by participating in events hosted by conservative organizations with matters before the court. Those organizations showered the couple with accolades and, in at least one case, used their appearances to attract event fees, donations and new members.

It's a very long read, but the conclusion is inescapable, that Clarence Thomas has been routinely violated the most basic canons of judicial ethics for years.

I think that high crimes and misdemeanors includes this.

This is a Feature, Not a Bug

Over at The New Republic, which improved immeasurably since Marty Peretz was forced out.

Case in point, this article on how the consultant class of the Democratic Party establishment (There is no Democratic Party establishment) is robbing the donors blind.

In the closing days before the November 2020 election, Amy McGrath, a retired Marine fighter pilot challenging the powerful Republican incumbent Senator Mitch McConnell in Kentucky, sent a series of email blasts to her followers. The race was “tightening,” one said, and she needed more money “to hit Mitch harder than ever before.” Another urgent-sounding appeal hinted that a cash crunch might be at hand: “After tonight, we’ll have to make some big choices about the budget.” Yet another warned, “[W]e simply can’t afford to scale back any of our programs in the final days of this election.”

There was little evidence the contest was tightening. McGrath’s internal polls late in the summer gave her campaign team at least a little hope, but by October that was no longer the case. As for money, she already had enough. In fact, she had raised more than enough—tens of millions of dollars more—than what was needed to run a robust campaign in the state of Kentucky. By Election Day, McGrath had brought in a record-obliterating $94 million—$63 million more than had ever been raised for a campaign in Kentucky. McConnell dramatically stepped up his fundraising this time around, but she still outpaced him by $27 million.

Modern political campaigns like McGrath’s are multimillion-dollar pop-ups. The operatives involved in them raise the money, spend it, shut it all down after Election Day, and move on. They are not accountable to a board of directors or to the donors who fund the campaigns. A big chunk of the cash raised from donors comes back to the campaign pros in the form of fees and commissions for creating TV and digital advertising—for placing those ads, which is known as media buying—and for the fundraising itself. McGrath’s campaign manager, Mark Nickolas, had stepped away from politics for six years before getting back into the game to work with her. He viewed himself as an outsider and was critical of the campaign ecosystem. “An incestuous f%$#ing orgy of money,” is how he referred to it in one of our conversations.

(%$# mine)

With days to go in the campaign, and no way to spend the money that they had, they continued to raise money.  McGrath did in Kentucky, Sara Gideon ($74.5 million)did it in Maine, and Jaime Harrison ($130.5 million) did it in South Carolina.

None of the races were even close, and Gideon ended with almost $15 million in the bank.


In the minds of a growing number of Democratic activists, too many campaigns abused small donors by taking advantage of the traits they tend to hold in tandem: passion, and a lack of political savvy. With Democrats’ razor-thin margins in both the House and the Senate, and the stakes so high in the 2022 midterms, the temptation will be to do it again—or perhaps to ratchet it up even more. But at what cost? And to what end? Is it really good enough to say: Well, at least our tactics aren’t as bad as the Republicans? The long-term danger is that small donors, barraged with overheated email pleas that range in veracity from half-truths to outright bullsh%$, will eventually catch on.

(%$ mine)

Josh Nelson, a Democratic digital strategist, is among the operatives, most of them from the Democrats’ progressive wing, trying to get the party to abide by more ethical standards. “I just don’t think you can view people on your list as ATM machines, or like they’re idiots,” he said. “It might work for a while, but it’s not sustainable.”


In every competitive Senate race in 2020 where a Democratic challenger went up against an entrenched Republican incumbent, the candidates on both sides were funded at record-high levels. In each of them, the Democratic challengers were better funded. All the contests were of course influenced by their own state-specific factors. But money was the thing they had in common. In closely watched, bitterly fought Georgia, the dual victories of Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff gave Democrats control of the upper chamber. The Georgia races were extraordinarily expensive, with more than $500 million spent during the general election and runoff by the four candidates and the outside groups backing them. And although Warnock and Ossoff had the edge in the fundraising, no one I talked to for this story thought they won because they had more money. Instead, credit for turning Georgia blue was largely given to statewide organizing conducted by Stacey Abrams and others over the last decade. That’s the kind of patient, on-the-ground work that is the antithesis of the pop-up campaign.


By the end, the McGrath campaign had 200-plus employees and a monthly payroll of nearly $1 million. But like most campaigns of its size, the bulk of its dollars were going to outside vendors. McGrath sent a combined $58 million to the agency that placed television ads, Buying Time, and to another that made and placed digital ads, Do Big Things. Most of that money would have gone from the agencies directly to local television stations, as well as to Facebook and Google, but the firms take commissions. Those are negotiated and can be as high as 20 percent of the buy. Generally, the more a campaign spends, the lower the rates it can get.

Nickolas became the campaign’s director of paid media. Two weeks after the election, he received a $367,000 payment from the campaign. When I asked about it, he said it was something he had negotiated based on a percentage of the campaign’s ad buy, and it seemed fair to him, considering the money that outside vendors had raked in. “The money is offensive, and I hate it,” he said. “And it goes to the consulting class. People like me come and go, but they’re the permanent members.”

(emphasis mine)

Stupid overspending is encouraged because the consultants make just as much money on stupid spending as they do on smart spending, and stupid spending is way easier.


Democrats were already feeling anxious about the 2022 midterms. Losing the governor’s race in Virginia in 2021—Glenn Youngkin’s shocking victory over former Democratic Governor Terry McAuliffe—turned nervousness into something more like panic. That won’t hurt, either. Digital practitioners are expert at writing panic into their scripts. “Every two years, the money spent is more than the two years before that, and it just keeps on going that way,” said [Pennsylvania political consultant Neil] Oxman. “It’s an amazing business model. It’s why so many people want to get into it.

By that, Oxman meant consultants, not candidates, flocking into the business. It’s hard to think of other enterprises with the same levels of money washing through them and such slack regulation.

(emphasis mine)

Corruption is at the core of the problem with the Democratic Party establishment (There is no Democratic Party establishment).  It leads to bad candidates and worse campaigns.

In a way, this is more corrupt than what the Republicans do, because even when the 'Phants hawk colloidal silver, gold coins, dubious nutritional supplements, get rich quick schemes, and mesothelioma ambulance chasers, they know that they are scamming their supporters.

The Democrats, by contrast have managed to convinced themselves that they heroes rescuing hapless candidates that they are actually cheating.

At least the Republicans don't lie to themselves.

So, Is It a Bad Banker, a Bad Bank, or a Bad Banking System?

Yet another series of leaks have revealed that Credit Suisse is hip deep in corruption and money laundering.

I gotta figure that this is a feature, not a bug, and also that the Swiss bankers are more likely to have an attack of conscience than British ones, because London is the money laundering center for the world:

A massive leak from one of the world’s biggest private banks, Credit Suisse, has exposed the hidden wealth of clients involved in torture, drug trafficking, money laundering, corruption and other serious crimes.

Details of accounts linked to 30,000 Credit Suisse clients all over the world are contained in the leak, which unmasks the beneficiaries of more than 100bn Swiss francs (£80bn)* held in one of Switzerland’s best-known financial institutions.

The leak points to widespread failures of due diligence by Credit Suisse, despite repeated pledges over decades to weed out dubious clients and illicit funds. The Guardian is part of a consortium of media outlets given exclusive access to the data.

We can reveal how Credit Suisse repeatedly either opened or maintained bank accounts for a panoramic array of high-risk clients across the world.

They include a human trafficker in the Philippines, a Hong Kong stock exchange boss jailed for bribery, a billionaire who ordered the murder of his Lebanese pop star girlfriend and executives who looted Venezuela’s state oil company, as well as corrupt politicians from Egypt to Ukraine.

One Vatican-owned account in the data was used to spend €350m (£290m) in an allegedly fraudulent investment in London property that is at the centre of an ongoing criminal trial of several defendants, including a cardinal.

The huge trove of banking data was leaked by an anonymous whistleblower to the German newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung. “I believe that Swiss banking secrecy laws are immoral,” the whistleblower source said in a statement. “The pretext of protecting financial privacy is merely a fig leaf covering the shameful role of Swiss banks as collaborators of tax evaders.”


This month, Credit Suisse became the first major Swiss bank in the country’s history to face criminal charges – which it denies – relating to allegation it helped launder money from the cocaine trade on behalf of the Bulgarian mafia.

However, the repercussions of the leak could be much broader than one bank, threatening a crisis for Switzerland, which retains one of the world’s most secretive banking laws. Swiss financial institutions manage about 7.9tn CHF (£6.3tn) in assets, nearly half of which belongs to foreign clients.

The Suisse secrets project sheds a rare light on one of the world’s largest financial centres, which has grown used to operating in the shadows. It identifies the convicts and money launderers who were able to open bank accounts, or keep them open for years after their crimes emerged. And it reveals how Switzerland’s famed banking secrecy laws helped facilitate the looting of countries in the developing world.

There have been proposals in the European Parliament to list Switzerland as a center for money laundering, which would likely have a devastating effect on its banking sector if passed, but it won't be.

There are always calls for reforms when things like this happens, just never any actual reform.

I Don't See How This is Legal

In their latest bit of union busting, an Amazon "Union Avoidance Official" said told workers in their Staten Island warehouse that if they voted for a union, Amazon would make things worse

Specifically, he suggested that Amazon would cut wages to the minimum wage if they voted for a union, which is a violation of section 8(a) of the National Labor Relations act, which states that employers may not "Threaten employees with adverse consequences, such as closing the workplace, loss of benefits, or more onerous working conditions, if they support a union, engage in union activity, or select a union to represent them."

This is a clear violation, and likely a very common one.

It would be less common if they frog marched people who did this out of their offices in handcuffs:

An Amazon union avoidance official told employees at JFK8, Amazon’s largest New York City warehouse, that if they unionize, certain workers could see their salaries reduced to minimum wage, or that negotiations could start with minimum wage as a baseline, according to leaked audio from the mandatory anti-union meeting that took place Wednesday and was obtained by Motherboard.

When describing the collective bargaining process, the union buster explains to workers that “The negotiation phase of the process is called collective bargaining, and in the negotiation, there are no guarantees … you can end up with better, the same, or worse than you already have.”

An employee interrupts and asks, “So wait, you’re saying we could end up with worse. What does that mean?”

“There are no guarantees as to what would happen, right? … We can’t make any promises things will get better or stay the same. They could get worse. We can’t promise what’s going to happen. Amazon can’t promise you that they’re going to walk into negotiations and that the negotiations will start from the same [pay and benefits workers have already],” the union avoidance official says. “They could start from minimum wage, for instance. I don’t think that will happen, but it’s a possibility.”

“So you’re saying that Amazon’s gonna say…” the worker responds.

“I just said I’m not saying that,” the Amazon official said.

“So why put that out there?” the worker says.
Because they know that, even if they walk it back, they have poisoned the well.  

This is illegal as hell, and we should be arresting people who do this.

This is My Shocked Face

Former Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke has been cited as having broken ethics rules by the Inspector General.

Short version:  He may have sold real estate to some folks who then got special access and favors.

Likely, he got a better than expected price too.

Nothing to see here, move along:

Facing serious allegations about his ethics and conduct in office, Ryan Zinke, then secretary of Donald Trump’s Interior Department, told a government official in 2018 that he had done nothing improper. Negotiations over a land deal in his hometown of Whitefish, Mont., were proceeding without him. His involvement was minimal, he said; his meeting with the project’s developers at Interior headquarters was “purely social.”

But a report released Wednesday by the department’s internal watchdog caught Zinke in a lie. Email and text message exchanges show he communicated with the developers 64 times between August 2017 and July 2018 to discuss the project’s design, the use of his foundation’s land as a parking lot, and his interest in operating a brewery on the site.

“These communications, examples of which are set forth below, show that Secretary Zinke played an extensive, direct, and substantive role in representing the Foundation during negotiations with the 95 Karrow project developers,” Inspector General Mark Greenblatt’s office wrote.

Zinke “was not simply a passthrough for information,” the report said. “He personally acted for or represented the Foundation in connection with the negotiations.”

The report found that Zinke broke federal ethics rules repeatedly by improperly participating in real estate negotiations with the then-chairman of the energy giant Halliburton and other developers.


Now a leading Republican candidate for a newly drawn congressional seat in Montana this fall, Zinke also misused his official position, the report concluded. Investigators found that he had directed some of his staff to set up a meeting with the developers and print documents related to the project. Federal officials are generally prohibited from assigning their employees tasks related to their private business.

Zinke, 60, a former Navy SEAL who rode to work on horseback on his first day at Interior, served one term in the House of Representatives before he joined Trump’s Cabinet. A major proponent of oil and gas drilling and coal mining, Zinke resigned under pressure less than two years later under an avalanche of investigations into his conduct.

What I find interesting here is just how often former Navy SEALS are involved in something deeply corrupt.

You have Zinke, Eric Prince (Blackwater), Eric Greitens (alleged blackmail and rape), Dan Crenshaw (alleged insider trading), Scott Taylor (multiple staffers indicted related to electoral petition fraud), etc.

It seems that there may be a problem within the culture of the SEALS.

In any case, the Trump appointed inspector general just said that Zinke is dirty.

Tweet of the Day

I don't know about you, but I find this terrifying, and I am now living in abject fear of accidentally seeing this Kid Rock video. (H/t JR on the Stellar Parthenon BBS)

A Bad Day at the Office

That can't be good

In late January, an F-35C crashed while attempting to land on the USS Carl Vinson in the South China Sea, sliding off the deck and sinking in thousands of feet of water, triggering a race to recover the aircraft with the Chinese. (the pilot was recovered successfully)

Video of the accident has been shared online, and now 4 chiefs and an ensign have been brought up on charges over the leak.

Regardless of the circumstances of the leak, the video is rather compelling.


21 February 2022

And Ottawa is Clear

The protesters have been cleared from downtown Ottawa.

As near as I can tell, this was done relatively peacefully:

Canadian police on Sunday secured the downtown core of Ottawa with fencing, as city workers cleaned up trash and snow plows cleared streets after two days of tense standoffs and 191 arrests ended a three-week occupation.

Demonstrators used hundreds of trucks and vehicles to block the city center since 28 January, prompting the prime minister, Justin Trudeau, to invoke rarely used emergency powers.

It should be noted that the Parliament has approved Trudeau's use of emergency powers just now.


The protesters initially wanted an end to cross-border Covid-19 vaccine mandates for truck drivers but the blockade turned into a demonstration against Trudeau.

Seventy-six vehicles had been towed, police said on Sunday, as stragglers packed up a logistics depot that the so-called “Freedom Convoy” had set up in a parking lot to supply protesters camped several kilometers away in front of parliament. Police handed out flyers, warning them to leave or risk arrest and a fine.

I was alarmed at first by the low-key response of Canadian law enforcement, but they appear to have rolled this up with a minimum of conflict and violence.

From the Department of, "About F%$#ing Time"

Good Take on All of This

19 Austin, TX police officers have been indicted for aggravated assault for their excessive responses to George Floyd protests.

It should be noted that  over $10 million in settlements have already been made, so it's clear that the police, as is their wont, were brutally over-reacting to the protests, because they want to preserve their privilege.

Unfortunately for them, and fortunately for the citizens of Austin, Texas, there was a new DA elected on a platform that explicitly stated that police brutality would be prosecuted, and not it has been:

Austin police officers were following orders from leadership and using commonly accepted tactics when they used force against protesters, according to defense attorneys representing eight of 19 indicted over the 2020 protests over racial injustice.

“The decision to impact these people or beanbags was ordered or otherwise authorized by the highest levels of APD command,” defense attorney Doug O’Connell said at a Monday news conference. “These aren't a few rogue officers doing what they wanted to do.”
"I was just following orders," is not a great defense.  It did not work at Nuremberg.
A Travis County jury has charged each of the eight officers with two counts of aggravated assault, which is a first degree felony when committed by law enforcement, O’Connell confirmed. The charge is punishable by five to 99 years in prison, or a fine of up to $10,000.

If the DA can get them to flip on higher-ups, that would be a good thing.  I have no doubt that their behavior was (at least) tacitly approved by higher-ups.


The eight officers represented — Josh Blake, Stan Vick, Brett Tableriou, Ed Boudreau, Christopher Irwin, Eric Heim, Jeff Teng, and Texas House candidate Justin Berry are among the officers accused — were placed on paid administrative duty unless the indictments are resolved at trial, O’Connell said.

Surprise!  Berry is running as a Republican, so the indictment will probably get him votes in the primary.


The charges stem from crowd control measures used during the May 2020 protests in Austin. Thousands protested for over a week after the police killings of George Floyd in Minneapolis and Michael Ramos in Austin. The officer involved in Floyd’s death, Derek Chauvin, was found guilty of murder. The APD officer who fired on Ramos, Christopher Taylor, has been charged with murder and is awaiting trial.

Central to the indictments is the use of bean bag rounds, or small cloth baggies filled with #9 lead shot and fired from a 12-gauge shotgun. The bean bag rounds, which police consider a “less-lethal” weapon, wounded several demonstrators.


The city of Austin has faced at least 14 lawsuits because of serious injuries involving the use of this particular weapon against protesters, three of which have resulted in settlements.

On Thursday, the city announced an $8 million settlement with Justin Howell — the highest amount ever awarded in an excessive force case involving an Austin police officer. Howell, then a 20-year-old Texas State University student, had a fractured skull and brain damage as a result of the bean bag rounds, which Austin police have said were aimed at a nearby man that threw a water bottle.

The city also approved on Thursday a $2 million settlement with Anthony Evans, who police fired at as he walked away from the demonstration. Evans' jaw was fractured. And in a separate settlement earlier this month, 21-year-old Arianna Chavez received $150,000 from the city.

Even if he had not made a promise to hold police accountable for misconduct, DA José Garza is doing the right thing.

Police need to be held to the highest standards.

Aw Hell

Putin has recognized the breakaway republics in the Donbas and is sending in peacekeepers.

This is clearly Putin seizing the opportunity to further his influence in the region, and (rather unfortunately) draws directly from the 1990s precedent in Kosovo, where NATO forces, without a UN imprimatur, used similar justifications to support the partitioning of Serbia.

The difference is that there was an actual genocide going on in Serbia, and there was not one in the Donbas, though some elements of the Ukrainian polity were calling for such.

The only winners in this, I think, will be the Right-Wing paramilitaries and the parties that they are affiliated with.

Notably, Biden has not currently implemented sanctions against Russia, and has refrained from calling the movement of "Peacekeepers" into the Donbas an invasion, though he has announced sanctions against Lugansk and Donetsk.

It is pretty clear that the US response from the start of this has been needlessly alarmist and incompetent, and has been akin to pouring gasoline on a fire, because there are elements of the US foreign policy and defense apparatus, Secretary of State Anthony Blinken for example, who have continued to prosecute the old Cold War conflict against Moscow:

Vladimir Putin has ordered his military to enter the Russian-controlled areas of southeast Ukraine following a decision to recognise the territories as independent states.

The decision to dispatch his troops to perform “peacekeeping duties” will be viewed in Ukraine and by other western allies as an occupation of the region and likely trigger tough sanctions and a Ukrainian military response.

The deployment was revealed in the text of two treaty documents that Putin signed with the leaders of the separatist republics on Tuesday.

The third article of the treaties provided for the “implementation of peacekeeping functions by the armed forces of the Russian Federation” in the Luhansk and Donetsk People’s Republics, which Ukraine and most of the world views at its sovereign territory.

On Monday night Ukrainian officials said Russian troops may have already entered separatist territory. The officials said local people in the town of Makiivka, 15kms west of rebel-held Donetsk, saw what appeared to be Russian armoured vehicles on the move.


In a televised address early on Tuesday morning, Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskiy accused Russia of wrecking peace talks and ruled out making any territorial concessions. Zelenskiy said Ukraine was committed to peace and diplomacy and Ukraine was expecting “clear and effective” steps from its allies. “We are not afraid,” he said.

Perhaps these actions were inevitable, but it's pretty certain that the overwrought predictions of doom US increased tensions and accelerated the process.

Still Worth It

The scandal involving Representative Marie Newman is metastasizing.  It appears that she paid off a potential primary challenger and his aide so that they would not run in the primary, which would have split the vote against the incumbent Dan Lipinski.

Lipinski was a horrible Rep, who literally inherited the seat through the machinations of his father, and he desperately needed to go, and anyone else in the race would have split the anti-Lipinski vote, and Newman won by only 2½%.

Lipinski is anti-abortion, anti-healthcare reform, anti-LGBT rights, refused to endorse Obama after won the primary, etc.

Taking out the worst Democrat in Congress was worth it:

Rep. Marie Newman (D-IL) is already under investigation for allegedly inking an improper contract with a rival to keep him from running against her. But it turns out that rival isn’t the only one who scored a sweet deal with the freshman Democrat; one of his top political allies got one, too.

In her deposition to the Office of Congressional Ethics late last year, Newman attested that not only did she sign documents as a 2020 candidate guaranteeing a six-figure job to would-be primary competitor Professor Iymen Chehade, but she also made a similar pact with her current chief of district affairs, Shadin Maali. What’s more, sources told The Daily Beast, Maali conducted outreach and introductions on behalf of Chehade’s never-official bid for what is now Newman’s Chicagoland seat.

Chehade, a Palestinian-American academic now running for a new Illinois House district created under reapportionment, sued Newman last year for failing to make good on the bargain. The two ultimately settled the case out of court in June. And two days after reaching an undisclosed agreement, Newman’s campaign began making payments to the professor, whom it has since called “an important member of our team.”

In the suit, Chehade reiterated that he dropped his own candidacy as part of trade that was supposed to yield him a plum job in Newman’s congressional office. But the civil complaint also appeared to connect the Newman campaign’s recruitment of Maali to this arrangement.

There is no hand wringing from me over this. I do not care what tactics were used to take down Lipinski, only that they succeeded.


Rush lights, the peasant light source in medieval times:

20 February 2022

Pass the Popcorn

The Biden administration has decided that Trump’s White House visitor logs are not covered by executive privilege, and will turn them over to the January 6 committee.


The National Archives said it will turn over to Congress visitor logs from former President Donald Trump’s White House on March 3 unless a court intervenes.

David Ferriero, the archivist of the United States, sent a notice to Trump Wednesday that the records will be given to the House committee investigating the Jan. 6, 2021, insurrection at the U.S. Capitol following President Joe Biden’s rejection of his predecessor’s claims that the logs are subject to executive privilege.

Ferriero wrote that the House committee has agreed “to ensure that Executive Branch interests are adequately protected.” He states that includes treatment of the visitor-log entries “designated as national-security sensitive (NSS) or otherwise-highly sensitive (OHS) as confidential and to refrain from sharing or discussing such entries” outside of the committee.


Remus directed Ferriero to turn over the records within 15 days of providing notice to Trump.

I'm not sure that such a decision would have been made by the Obama Administration with regard to a similar investigation of George W. Bush, because the Obama Administration was extremely aggressive in its attempts to preserve executive branch prerogatives.

This is a welcome development in any case.


The The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe  (OSCE) has observers on the ground monitoring the situation in and around the Donbas in the Ukraine, and they are reporting that most of the current shelling is coming from Ukrainian controlled area.

Given the statements of Ukranian officials, including their military, I do not believe that this is coming from their regular army units, but rather the right-wing paramilitaries like the Neo-Nazi Azof Battalion:

The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe has an observer mission along the line of control between the government and rebel side in south east Ukraine.

It reports that on Friday the number of ceasefire violations around the rebellious Donbas region of Ukraine had again nearly doubled:

  • In Donetsk region, the SMM recorded 591 ceasefire violations, including 553 explosions. In the previous reporting period, it recorded 222 ceasefire violations in the region.
  • In Luhansk region, the Mission recorded 975 ceasefire violations, including 860 explosions. In the previous reporting period, it recorded 648 ceasefire violations in the region.


The OSCE observer mission helpfully provides maps in its daily reports that show the impact points of artillery attacks. Yesterday a large majority of those were within the rebel controlled areas.

Here is a cutout from the OSCE map below.


The OSCE observer mission reports can be found among its press releases. The daily updates are here and the longer term Trends and Observations reports are here.

When in doubt of what is happening take a look at them.

It's clear from the OSCE reports, and the OSCE is largely a western Europe institution not inclined to favor the Russians, that the escalation in shelling has come from the Ukrainian side of the line.

I do not think that this is official policy from Kiev, even if they were to "Win" a conflict that draws in the Russians, the costs on the Ukraine would be unsustainable.

In contrast, the paramilitaries would likely find their influence in a post-conflict Ukraine enhanced.

Cui bono?

19 February 2022

The CIA Abides

Once again, the CIA has been exposed engaging in illegal collection of data from US citizens inside the United States.

This is, of course, explicitly illegal, but they are the CIA.  They don't care, they don't have to:

Two US senators have gone public with evidence of what they assert is a previously secret bulk data collection effort by the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), conducted outside the law and without oversight.

Democratic Senators Ron Wyden and Martin Heinrich, of Oregon and New Mexico respectively, on Thursday announced that in April 2021 they sent a co-signed letter [PDF] to director of national intelligence Avril Haines and CIA director William Burns, seeking expedited declassification of the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board's (PCLOB) review of two CIA counterterrorism programs – named "Deep Dive I" and "Deep Dive II".

The Deep Dives were made possible by Executive Order 12333 – a Reagan-era order that allows widespread data collection, and data-sharing with the CIA, in the name of national security.

The senators wanted a review of the documents' status because they felt the CIA had conducted a bulk information collection effort that harvested data on US citizens – probably illegally. Declassifying the documents, they argued, was necessary as the public has a right to know what the CIA gets up to, and to ensure Congress could exercise oversight of the agency. 

Absent aggressive oversight by both their nominal civilian bosses in the executive and by Congress, this will always happen.

It is the case with intelligence agencies (and law enforcement) everywhere: If they not kept on a tight leash, they will violate the privacy and civil rights of those they are supposed to protect.