23 May 2022

I Don’t Want to Live on This Planet Any More



I weep for the children.

On a more serious note, worries about monkeypox, a member of the same genus as smallpox, has been an object of concern for years.

As to the Brownstone Institute, they are literally an organization opposed to public health measures of all forms, because, Ayn Rand, I guess.

I used to laugh at these folks, but seeing as how they are directly responsible for the deaths of hundreds of thousands of Americans, and millions of people world wide, I don't think that laughter is the appropriate response.

We're just lucky that the current outbreak, which includes community transmission, is of the West African clade, with a mortality of around 3% untreated, as opposed to the Congo Basin clade, which has a mortality rate above 10%.

Maybe You Should Have Reported This When It Mattered

So, some anonymous New York Times chose a the hed, "How Jack Welch’s Reign at G.E. Gave Us Elon Musk’s Twitter Feed," for an article which spends much of its time detailing just how complete and how poisonous the fraud during Welch's tenure at General Electric.

The headline buries the revelation that Jack Welch fraudulently massaged GE's finances to hit the numbers for nearly two decades.

This was clear when Jack Welch was defrauding shareholders while he was still running GE. 

GE beat its numbers every quarter for nearly 20 years.  It was a preternaturally smooth curve, much like what we saw from Bernie Madoff.

In so doing, he shut down much of GE's manufacturing and moved into finance, and now GE has collapsed, and was broken into separate component parts.

Finance reporters had to be willfully blind not to notice this in real time:

When Jack Welch died on March 1, 2020, tributes poured in for the longtime chief executive of General Electric, whom many revered as the greatest chief executive of all time.

David Zaslav, the C.E.O. of Warner Bros. Discovery and a Welch disciple, remembered him as an almost godlike figure. “Jack set the path. He saw the whole world. He was above the whole world,” Mr. Zaslav said. “What he created at G.E. became the way companies now operate.”

People are still trying to emulate him, and his proteges are still running companies into the ground.

………

Yet a closer examination of the Welch legacy reveals that he was not simply the “Manager of the Century,” as Fortune magazine crowned him upon his retirement.

Rather, he exerted a powerful and lasting influence on American business, informing how workers are treated, how shareholders are rewarded and how C.E.O.s comport themselves in an increasingly divisive age. When Donald J. Trump is elected president, when Jeff Bezos argues about inflation with the White House, when Elon Musk negotiates his $44 billion deal to buy Twitter by using the poop emoji — this is the world that Jack Welch helped create.

This is literally the one of two references to Elon Musk losing what is left of his sanity on Twitter, and comparing it to Welch's post retirement antics, but some editor decided that this afterthought needed to be the hed, because  ……… ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

For the past several years, I have written the Corner Office column for The Times, speaking with hundreds of executives about their careers and approaches to leadership. And time after time, Mr. Welch’s name kept coming up. Some wanted to model themselves after him, while others sought to define themselves in opposition to all he stood for. Either way, it was clear that Mr. Welch still looms over the corporate world, living rent-free in the minds of C.E.O.s around the globe.

 And this is why there should have been a reckoning when Welch was still alive, or, better yet, while he was still running GE into the ground.

………

Almost immediately after Mr. Welch retired in September 2001 with a $417 million severance package, G.E. went into a tailspin from which it would never recover.

His pupils, though, went on to run dozens of other major companies, including Home Depot, Albertson’s, Chrysler and Boeing. Most of them failed.

(emphasis mine)

Ouch, that's gonna leave a mark. 

More importantly, Jack Welch left a legacy of control fraud that has metastasized throughout the American economy:  Hit the numbers by any means, fair or foul, get stock options, and cash out.

………

G.E., too, is still reckoning with Mr. Welch’s legacy. For two decades after he retired, a succession of C.E.O.s tried and failed to return the company to its former glory. Then last year, G.E. management admitted defeat and made an announcement — the company would be broken up for good.

This is what it means when someone says that they, "Want to run the government like a business."

If you hear this, run away.

………

G.E. was worth $14 billion when Mr. Welch became C.E.O., just months after Ronald Reagan took office. Not long before Mr. Welch retired, just days before Sept. 11, 2001, the company was worth $600 billion, the most valuable company on Earth.

But the ways in which Mr. Welch created so much shareholder value often did more harm than good.

He was a compulsive dealmaker, fueling G.E.’s growth with a relentless series of mergers and acquisitions that took G.E. far from its industrial roots and set in motion a wave of corporate consolidation that would reduce competition in industries as diverse as airlines and media.

He closed factories and fired employees by the tens of thousands, unleashing a series of mass layoffs that destabilized the American working class. He devised systems like “stack ranking,” which mandated that the bottom 10 percent of workers be fired each year, and took root at other companies. And he embraced offshoring and outsourcing, sending labor overseas and turning to other companies to provide back-office functions like accounting and printing.

It was enough to earn him the nickname he hated but could never shake: “Neutron Jack,” a reference to the neutron bomb, which purportedly kills people while leaving buildings intact.

But more than the downsizing or the dealmaking, it was Mr. Welch’s obsession with finance that allowed him to steadily inflate G.E.’s valuation in the public markets.

G.E. was an industrial company when he took over — making most of its money selling appliances, light bulbs, power turbines and jet engines. By the time he retired, the company derived much of its profit from GE Capital, which was essentially a giant unregulated bank. Mr. Welch called it “the blob” — it was an amorphous, ever-changing collection of financial assets, capable of delivering whatever adjustments were most advantageous to the parent company in a moment’s notice.

The term for this is fraud.

………

Mr. Welch denied that GE Capital was employed as a tool to keep the company’s stock price rising. “We managed businesses — not earnings,” he once said. But his own deputies told a different story, acknowledging that the finance division was used to keep the stock price ticking up.

“There was very little transparency,” said Beth Comstock, a longtime G.E. marketing executive. “G.E. had a financial army that was able to close the quarter the way we’d said we would.”

Mr. Welch was never called to account for this questionable financial engineering while he was C.E.O. But in 2009, G.E. announced that it had settled sweeping accounting fraud charges with the Securities and Exchange Commission that pointed to decades of impropriety.

"Impropriety," my ass.  This was fraud.

………

This wasn’t a one-off anomaly, as the S.E.C. made clear. Distorting earnings was a well established practice inside the company. In its complaint, the S.E.C. took pains to note that G.E. met or beat analyst expectations every quarter from 1995 through 2004.

………

The roaring success Mr. Welch found at G.E. inspired countless imitators, as an entire generation of managers sought to emulate his techniques, his growth strategies and his values. And in G.E., Mr. Welch had the perfect apparatus to disseminate his ideology.

For the better part of a century, G.E. was the most influential company in the country when it came to organizational design and executive development.

Bernie Madoff levels of consistency, as is described in the article they cheated in order to, "Beat analysts’ estimates for nearly 80 quarters in a row.

And what were the consequences of this?  More fraud and incompetence at other companies:

………

For a time in the early 2000s, five of the top 30 companies in the Dow Jones industrial average were run by men who had worked for Mr. Welch. “That’s why they got hired,” said William Conaty, G.E.’s longtime chief of human resources. “Because they had the playbook. They had the G.E. tool kit. And boards back then thought that was the answer.”

………

The Welch protégés who struck out on their own rarely fared well. At Home Depot, Albertson’s, Conseco, Stanley Works and many other companies, the same story seemed to repeat itself ad infinitum.

A G.E. executive was named C.E.O. of another company. News of the appointment sent the stock of that company soaring. The incoming leaders were lavished with riches when they took their new jobs, signing multimillion-dollar contracts that ensured them a gilded retirement, no matter how well they performed. A period of job cuts usually ensued, and profits sometimes rose for a few quarters, or even a few years. But inevitably, morale cratered, the business wobbled, the stock price sank and the Welch disciple was sent packing.

………

More than any company besides G.E., it was Boeing that was most directly shaped by Mr. Welch.

Over the past 25 years, a succession of men who worked for Mr. Welch refashioned the airplane maker’s culture to resemble G.E.’s, transforming a company that once made a priority of aeronautical engineering into one that thrived on financial engineering.

As I have noted before Boeing can't make aircraft any more

The same could be said for much of American industry, which is one reason while transnational supply chains breaking down has had such a devastating effect on the economy.

Heck of a legacy.  

"Neutron" Jack is to decent corporate governance as Mary Mallon is to the catering industry.

22 May 2022

This Explains A Lot

I have had a hard time understanding British politics, but this makes things much clearer.

Fact: Prince Charles claims to be a descendant of Vlad the Impaler.

It's enough to make someone a (small r) republican.

Least Surprising News of the Day

The latest CPAC (Conservative Political Action Conference) conference was held in Hungary, and it hosted Hungarian talk show host Zsolt Bayer as a speaker.

Bayer is a racist and anti-Semitic Magyar nationalist.

Come to think of it, this is remarkably consistent branding:

A notorious Hungarian racist who has called Jews “stinking excrement”, referred to Roma as “animals” and used racial epithets to describe Black people, was a featured speaker at a major gathering of US Republicans in Budapest.

Zsolt Bayer took the stage at the second day of the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) Hungary, a convention that also featured speeches from Donald Trump, Fox News host Tucker Carlson, and Trump’s former White House chief of staff, Mark Meadows.

The last featured speaker of the conference was Jack Posobiec, a far-right US blogger who has used antisemitic symbols and promoted the fabricated “Pizzagate” conspiracy theory smearing prominent Democrats as pedophiles.

Bayer, a television talkshow host in Hungary, has been widely denounced for his racism. During the 2020 Black Lives Matter protests, he wrote on his blog: “Is this the future? Kissing the dirty boots of fucking [racist epithet] and smiling at them? Being happy about this? Because otherwise they’ll kill you or beat you up?”

In 2011, he used the phrase “stinking excrement” to refer generically to Jews in England, and in 2013 wrote: “a significant part of the Roma are unfit for coexistence. They are not fit to live among people. These Roma are animals and they behave like animals.”

This is my shocked face: 

Hoocoodanode that racist Republicans would bring in racist speakers at their racist Konklave?

Finally, a Story with a Happy Ending

Remember, Christian Cooper?

He was a bird watcher who confronted a woman for allowing her dog to run unleashed in an area of Central Park where it was forbidden, and the woman Amy Cooper (no relation) called the cops and told them that a black man was threatening her.

Video of the, "Central Park Karen," as she became known, went viral, and she lost her job and was charged with making a false police report.

Well Christian Cooper has now been hired by the National Geographic channel:

Christian Cooper, the bird-watching Black man who was the target of false accusations during an encounter in New York City's Central Park in 2020, has a new TV show airing on National Geographic.

The channel announced this week that Cooper, a lifelong bird-watcher, will host a series called Extraordinary Birder. In the series, Cooper will take viewers into the "wild, wonderful and unpredictable world of birds," according to National Geographic.

"Whether braving stormy seas in Alaska for puffins, trekking into rainforests in Puerto Rico for parrots, or scaling a bridge in Manhattan for a peregrine falcon, he does whatever it takes to learn about these extraordinary feathered creatures and show us the remarkable world in the sky above," the network said in a statement.

The channel has yet to announce a premiere date for the show.

In an interview with The New York Times, Cooper said his love for bird-watching began at age 10, and he told the newspaper he "was all in" when National Geographic approached him about the possibility of a TV show nearly a year and a half ago.

"I love spreading the gospel of birding," he said in the Times interview.

The good guy won this time.

21 May 2022

Drip, Drip, Drip

I've always viewed Elon Musk as an abusive fraud.

  • PayPal was an exercise in regulatory arbitrage, not innovation in either finance of technology
  • Tesla does a very bad job of making cars.  (Injury rates and fit and finish are the worst in the industry)
  • His tunnel mass transit proposals don't work.
  • He has engaged in blatant and illegal stock manipulation. 
  • Extensive self dealing in his financial transactions.  (The Tesla bailout of SolarCity)

Also, his behavior both as a boss and as a human being have been abusive, whether it be his tolerance of racism at Tesla, his extensive use of NDAs to silence his critics, etc.

Now, we have reports that Elon Musk sexually assaulted a stewardess on his private jet.

Color me unsurprised, though, given Musk's reputation for savage retribution, I am surprised that this came out:

SpaceX, the aerospace firm founded by Elon Musk, the world's wealthiest man, paid a flight attendant $250,000 to settle a sexual misconduct claim against Musk in 2018, Insider has learned.

The attendant worked as a member of the cabin crew on a contract basis for SpaceX's corporate jet fleet. She accused Musk of exposing his erect penis to her, rubbing her leg without consent, and offering to buy her a horse in exchange for an erotic massage, according to interviews and documents obtained by Insider.

The incident, which took place in 2016, is alleged in a declaration signed by a friend of the attendant and prepared in support of her claim. The details in this story are drawn from the declaration as well as other documents, including email correspondence and other records shared with Insider by the friend.

The next paragraph strongly indicates that this was not an isolated incident, and that Musk had exploited his company to facilitate his sexual predation:

According to the declaration, the attendant confided to the friend that after taking the flight attendant job, she was encouraged to get licensed as a masseuse so that she could give Musk massages. It was during one such massage in a private cabin on Musk's Gulfstream G650ER, she told the friend, that Musk propositioned her.

So, they asked her to get certified as a masseuse on her own dime.  Everyone involved in the operation of his $70 million jet has to be aware of this, or they would not have asked his victim to get massage lessons.

………

The flight attendant told her friend that the billionaire SpaceX and Tesla founder asked her to come to his room during a flight in late 2016 "for a full body massage," the declaration says. When she arrived, the attendant found that Musk "was completely naked except for a sheet covering the lower half of his body." During the massage, the declaration says, Musk "exposed his genitals" and then "touched her and offered to buy her a horse if she would 'do more,' referring to the performance of sex acts." 

Really classy, Elon.

SpaceX places a special emphasis on massages, going so far as to employ in-house massage therapists as a perk for executives. According to the friend, the flight attendant was encouraged by her superiors to purchase her own professional massage training for her sessions with Musk.

"They encouraged her to get licensed as a masseuse, but on her own time, on her own dime," the friend said. "They implied that she would get to fly more often if she were to do this because she'd be able to give Elon proper massages. I thought that was kind of strange because — you weren't hired to be a masseuse. You were hired to be a flight attendant. And if Elon likes massages, then he should be paying for you to go to masseuse school. But she was just so happy and eager to have the job and be able to travel."

In 2018, after becoming convinced that her refusal to accept Musk's proposal had diminished her opportunities at SpaceX, the attendant hired a California employment lawyer and sent a complaint to the company's human resources department detailing the episode. Around that time, the attorney's firm contacted the friend and asked her to prepare the declaration corroborating the claims.

The attendant's complaint was resolved quickly after a session with a mediator that Musk personally attended. The matter never reached a court of law or an arbitration proceeding. In November 2018, Musk, SpaceX and the flight attendant entered into a severance agreement granting the attendant a $250,000 payment in exchange for a promise not to sue over the claims.

The agreement also included restrictive non-disclosure and non-disparagement clauses that bar the attendant from ever discussing the severance payment or disclosing any information of any kind about Musk and his businesses, including SpaceX and Tesla.

You know, for someone who says that they favor free speech, Musk seems to love NDAs to prevent people from talking about him.

Given numerous other reports about his personal behavior, including a truly essay about his bizarre behavior from his first wife, I am inclined to believe that this is true.

Normally, I Do Not Approve of Pranks Involving Firearms

But I am impressed at both the sense of humor and the mad shooting skilz of whoever did this in Kingsland, Arkansas:


The alleged shooter looks exactly as I imagined, and the local constabulary has arrested Timothy Sled and charged with multiple crimes, which is fight and proper.

What he did was vandalism of public property, and the repairs will cost a rather significant amount of money for a town of only 514 residents.

Still, it is funny as hell:

Deputies have released the identity of the man who they said shot the Kingsland, Arkansas, water tower, springing a leak and bringing a national spotlight onto the birthplace of Johnny Cash.

According to the Cleveland County Sheriff’s Office, Timothy Sled of Kingsland is facing two felony charges tied to the vandalism, which caused a leak in the tower in a spot where a silhouette of the music legend was, making it look as though the Man in Black was relieving himself.

Deputies said Sled, 38, could face up to $20,000 in fines and 16 years in prison for the incident.

Repair work to patch the leak started Wednesday, Mayor Luke Neal said. The spray had been costing Kingsland $200 a day in losses, and repairs were expected to cost more than $5,000, great expenses for a small town of only 514 residents.

16 years and $20,000.00, huh?  That's a lot to do for the lulz, "I shot a man in Kingsland, just to watch him pee."

Forget it Jake, It's Miami

As much as man New York Mayor Eric Adams (Whose life's mission appears to be to make Bill deBlasio look better) is big into crypto, Miami mayor Francis Suarez is an even bigger supporter of the dubious financial instrument, and Miami just got burned as a consequence:

On Feb. 2, the city of Miami cashed out its cryptocurrency MiamiCoin for the first time, depositing $5.25 million into city coffers. Miami mayor Francis Suarez hailed it as a “historic moment” and predicted the cryptocurrency could one day even replace municipal taxes as the government’s primary source of funding.

Currency is not an investment scheme, nor a source of revenue, it is a system of measuring value to allow for relatively smooth goods and services.

If you think that somehow there will be limitless profits from any form of currency, whether specie, paper money, or the Ponzi schemes like Bit Coin, you are ignoring basic realities of economics and finance.

………

Over the last nine months, however, MiamiCoin has lost nearly all of its value, falling about 95% from its September peak to just $0.0032 as of May 13. Its rapid descent has burned investors on the way down, muting the dreams of Miami’s city leaders, and possibly raising red flags for regulators now investigating cryptocurrency transactions.

………

MiamiCoin is the first in what CityCoins, a Delaware-based company with a mailing address in a Los Angeles strip mall, has promised will be a series of US city-branded cryptocurrencies. New York City mayor Eric Adams tweeted his approval of NYCCoin on Nov. 8, shortly after his election, welcoming CityCoins to “the global home of Web3” (Web3 is a crypto-optimist idea of a decentralized internet built on blockchains and cryptocurrencies). But Adams hasn’t spoken of NYCCoin since taking office on Jan. 1 of this year, and the coin has fallen 68% since then. Meanwhile, Philadelphia’s government has explored the CityCoins idea, but announced in April it would not proceed.


Miami has forged ahead, though. In October 2021, it signed a “gift agreement” with CityCoins, allowing Miami to receive proceeds from the coin. The city does not own or manage the cryptocurrency, however. (Suarez has caveated in public statements that the city is only a legal beneficiary.)

At the outset, the arrangement benefited both Suarez and CityCoins. CityCoins has needed the backing of big-city mayors as it promotes more cryptocurrencies. And Suarez, a rising Republican star with national electoral ambitions, has made it clear he believes MiamiCoin can burnish his own image as a pro-tech politician.

………

So far, MiamiCoin remains a purely speculative asset. Neither the city itself nor private merchants appear to accept the cryptocurrency in exchange for goods or services. CityCoins was able to point to one potential city project (proposed but not yet implemented) involving a city contractor that would use the cryptocurrency to reward residents for reporting incorrectly parked rideshare scooters to the city’s 311 phone service.

Instead, MiamiCoin has primarily served as a volatile asset that makes money for the city government based on its value among investors who mine and trade it on the crypto market.

………

In Florida, that reality may be sinking in. This February, as MiamiCoin’s price tanked to less than half of one cent, Suarez conceded to the Miami Herald that the project might fail. “Innovation doesn’t always work,” he told the newspaper. But Suarez still appears to believe in the power of cryptocurrencies to transform local government, touting “the impact this technology will have on democracy,” while speaking at a Miami tech conference on April 19. 
Seriously, this sort of sh%$ is so transparently fraudulent that it buggers the mind.

Either Mayor Suarez is to stupid to be allowed to cut his own meat, or he has personal interests tied to the crypto-currency.

In either case, investigators should be so close to him that they share underwear.

20 May 2022

Pshaw

The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) has found that Amazon illegally threatened its employees over the prospect of unionization.

Gee, I never saw THAT one coming:

U.S. labor board prosecutors plan to accuse Amazon.com Inc. of threatening staff that if they unionized it could propose paying them minimum wage and of punishing an employee for seeking a paid Juneteenth holiday.

Unless the company settles, the National Labor Relations Board will issue a complaint, agency spokesperson Kayla Blado said Thursday. An Amazon spokesperson didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

………

The NLRB’s Brooklyn-based regional director has determined that, prior to that election, the company held mandatory “captive audience” meetings at the warehouse in which it threatened that if workers chose the union to represent them, Amazon could use minimum wage pay as the starting point for negotiations. The company also said they might take years to get an actual union contract, or never get one, and that while those contract talks were going on, Amazon couldn’t make improvements to their working conditions, according to Blado.

The labor board official also found merit in the union’s claim that when an employee used Amazon’s “Voice of the Associate” board at the warehouse to advocate for a paid Juneteenth holiday, the company retaliated by barring that worker from posting there again.

Until regulators take this lawbreaking seriously, and actually arrest executives behind this behavior, this illegal behavior will continue.

They behave as if they have impunity because they for all intents and purposes HAVE impunity.

Arrest them, finger print them, book them.

Tweet of the Day


I love the hashtag #Elongate.

19 May 2022

Out of the Mouths of Idiots


Dumbass

In this case, Shrub, aka George W. Bush attempted to condemn Russia's invasion of the Ukraine, and accidentally referred to Iraq instead.

This is a pretty spectacular self-own, even by George W. Bush, a master of the malaprop.

Just before the gaffe, Bush talked about how elections are fraudulent in Russia, which makes me think, "Brooks Brothers Riot," Florida, 2000.

I'm not sure if this is an astonishing lack of self-awareness, or if this is an astonishing, at least by the standards of the Bush Crime Family, level of actual self awareness.

I am not going to try to get into his head.  That would leave me gibbering Tekeli-Li:

It was the “decision of one man to launch a wholly unjustified and brutal invasion of Iraq,” former president George W. Bush said Wednesday before quickly correcting himself, saying he meant to describe Russian President Vladimir Putin’s war on Ukraine.

“Iraq, too, anyway,” he added under his breath to laughter from the audience during a speech at his presidential center in Dallas.

But while the joke landed with some, many were quick to pounce on his verbal slip after nearly two decades of sharp criticism that Bush was unjustified in directing the United States’ 2003 invasion of Iraq, with some lobbing accusations that the 43rd president is a war criminal — the same label some have given Putin after his invasion of Ukraine this year, which has been widely criticized by the international community as illegal and inhumane.

You're calling this a joke? Seriously?  Who the f%$# is your editor, Muhammad "Baghdad Bob" Saeed al-Sahhaf?

The audience laughed because either they were uncomfortable, or because they are sociopaths.

“I’m not laughing, and I am guessing nor are the families of the thousands of American troops and the hundreds of thousands of Iraqis who died in that war,” said Mehdi Hasan, a liberal commentator and cable news host, on “MSNBC Prime” on Wednesday night.

“How many Americans were sent to die by him for a lie? Disgusting,” tweeted conservative media personality Tim Young.

If there is any justice in the world, George W. Bush will be in the dock in the Hague, but that's never going to happen.

It's Thursday

So last week's initial unemployment claims numbers were released today.  203K, up 1,000. 

That's basically no change.

Also, continuing claims fell to a 52 year low.

On the other hand, 80% of small business owners are convinced that a recession is imminent.

Assuming that the rate increases from the Federal Reserve continue apace, I think that there is a pretty good chance that we will see a major down turn in real estate, along with attendant knock on effects.

My prediction?

¯\_(ツ)_/¯

18 May 2022

Normally, I Don't Quote a Corrupt Right Wing Asshole Who Took Bribes from Jack Abramhoff………

But Doug Bandow, who was all too briefly let go by the Cato Institute when it was discovering that he was publishing propoaganda for Jack Abramoff is righ when he says, that for all of the bleating from the US foreign policy Blob about a rules based order, the US has not the slightest interest in following the rules when it is inconvenient:

Perhaps the most persistent foreign policy mantra in Washington, voiced by Republicans and Democrats alike, is the importance of American “leadership.” Without US “leadership” the rest of the world is lost. But with Washington’s taking the lead, the rest of the world, friends and foes alike, will follow, doing whatever Americans demand.

Thus, if bad things occur, US policymakers assume the problem is lack of “leadership.” After Donald Trump was elected Republicans blamed everything on Barack Obama’s failure to lead. President Joe Biden and fellow Democrats blamed Trump’s poor relations with allied states the latter was supposed to lead. Now Republicans are blaming Biden for today’s tsunami of international problems. In their view he is, yes, failing to lead.

Washington does have a problem with leadership, but it is because the Blob, as the foreign establishment is known, doesn’t understand leadership. US policymakers believe leadership requires domination, ordering the rest of the world to behave properly. When they speak of failed leadership, they mean others are not following America’s instructions. They believe anyone failing to do so should be forced to comply—with diplomatic pressure, economic sanctions, and, if necessary, military action.

The latest example is far from events currently dominating international headlines. The Solomon Islands recently signed a treaty with the People’s Republic of China. The agreement has not been released, but reportedly allows China to deploy police and military forces to protect both the government and Chinese nationals, as well as dock ships. The Solomons are most noted for the island of Guadalcanal, which served as one of the most important Pacific battlegrounds in World War II. Since then it mattered so little to the US that the latter closed its embassy three decades ago.

Now, however, hysteria has gripped Washington as well as America’s ally Australia, which is about 1,200 miles from the Solomons. Both are demanding that Honiara drop the treaty and have even muttered darkly about the possibility of military action. Alas, US hypocrisy is on flagrant display, Washington having filled the Asia-Pacific with treaties, allies, partners, bases, garrisons, troops, and ships. At the same time, China’s military power, though growing, remains much more restricted in range; the Chinese navy is not ready to launch, with or without the Solomons, an invasion of DownUnder.

………

It doesn’t matter what policy toward Russia “should” be. Despite its best efforts, Washington cannot dictate policy to the world. And the more America fulminates, the more other nations resist. Even US defense dependents, most notably the Gulf kingdoms, and vulnerable neighbors, many throughout Latin America, are going their own way. So is India, which Washington hopes to turn into a quasi-ally against Beijing.

………

However, there also is substantial resentment of US and allied hypocrisy and sanctimony. No developing state could miss the fact that while Washington constantly talks about a “rules-based order,” it violates the system whenever it chooses. Most spectacularly, the Iraq war was illegal, brutal, unjustified aggression against another state. Even long-time allies France and Germany were among America’s critics.

Yeah, the freakout over the Solomon Islands does seem a bit hypocritical.

Last Night Was Primary Night

While I was busy squinting, there were some primaries.

First, John Fetterman won every single county in the state, demolishing the establishment's great white hope, Connor Lamb, who was endorsed by almost every member of the Democratic Party establishment (There is no Democratic Party establishment) nationally and state wide.

I think that this throw away line in an otherwise stupid NY Times article explains why, "I look at him as another Joe Manchin."

I would also note that voters can, if given enough time, distinguish between a genuinely authentic candidate (Fetterman) and a grasping self serving careerist (Lamb).

I do wish that Kenyatta had come in second instead of Lamb, though.

The Republican side is too close to call, and will almost certainly be heading to a recount between two guys whose only virtue is that they are rich. (Dr. Oz ahead by 0.2% at this moment)

In the PA Republican Governor's race, they nominated a human bowling jacket, one Douglas Mastriano, much to the chagrin of the Republican Party establishment.

Mastriano went up to the door, but not into the Capitol on January 6, and was heavily involved in the stolen election lies.

Madison Cawthorn was defeated. What a shame. I wanted to hear more about the cocaine fueled orgies.

In Kentucky, Democrats nominated a sacrificial lamb to go up against Brogressive Man-Crush Senator Aqua Buddha.

Charles Booker is a decent man, and should have been the one to take on McConnell last time, rather than the hot mess that was Amy McGrath, but as a black man in Kentucky, the odds are stacked against him, and given that but Rand Paul has the Republican Party, the McConnell machine, and Paul's dad's libertarian fans behind him in a state full of Republicans, I don't see much of a chance here.

In Oregon, what looks like one of the worst Blue Dogs in the Congress is going down.

Kurt Schraeder is currently down by  22 points, over 9,000 votes, to progressive Jamie McLeod-Skinner , but because of a printer error in Clackamas County, about 41000 of the about 85,000 votes have not yet been counted.

Given that Shraeder would need to pull about 62% of the remaining votes to overcome this deficit, I do think that the Amalie Materna is warming up and reviewing her music in the wings.

17 May 2022

Light Posting Tonight

I am having some medical issues.

Nothing major, I just went to the eye doctor today, and I've been sitting in my car with my eyes shut and my sunglasses on, because my eyes have been dilated.

I'm pretty useless with a screen and keyboard right now.

As an aside, I am favorably impressed at the speech recognition capabilities of Android phones.

It seems to be less prone to typographical errors than my fingers are.


16 May 2022

Headline of the Day

The Cryptocurrency Crash Is Replaying 2008 as Absurdly as Possible
—David Gerard at Foreign Policy Magazine

With the collapse of Terra's "Stablecoin", there are unpleasant echoes of the financial implosion of 2008-2009.

The Sanctions Mousketeers in the Blob Could Be Replaced with Bobble Head Dolls with No Ill Effect

The Russian Ruble is now up more than any other currency in the world for 2022

This was most assuredly not what sanctions were supposed to accomplish:

Capital controls imposed by Russia have turned the ruble into the world’s best performing currency this year, though not many people can pocket a profit on the rally.

The ruble resumed its advance against the dollar on Wednesday as the Moscow Exchange reopened after two days of public holiday. It’s now up more than 11% against the US dollar since the start of the year, surpassing the real’s 9% advance to become the top gainer among 31 major currencies tracked by Bloomberg. The offshore rate is up even more, about 12%.

………

Still, the irony of the ruble performing so well while at war is remarkable, especially as other countries that imposed capital controls in the recent past have not achieved the same results. Turkey and Argentina tried similar measures when they faced a horde of sellers in the past few years with disastrous consequences for the lira and the peso, which reached fresh all-time lows and never recovered.

There is nothing ironic about this.  Unlike the Turks and the Argentines, who encountered unexpected speculative attacks on their currencies, the Russians have spent years gaming the effects of severe Western sanctions, and came up with ways of countering these actions.

Their bankers are better trained than their soldiers.

Gee, Ya Think?

It appears that Joe Biden is realizing that there will be no great bipartisan renaissance in Congress.

He had a front seat at the 8 years of absolute obstruction of Barack Obama, and he thought that he could bring back bipartisanship because ……… I dunno ……… Biden is not black, I guess?

He had a front seat at the Clinton impeachment as well, and he still thought that he could play nice with the barbarians at the gate.

To quote not-Tallyrand, this is worse than a crime, it is a mistake:

The fever didn’t break. And for the Biden White House, efforts at bipartisanship have finally taken a backseat.

To the frustration of many Democrats and some of his closest advisers, President Joe Biden has steadfastly spent more than a year in office insisting on trying to work across the aisle with Republicans.

It’s produced some notable legislative successes. But it’s also been colored by a fair dose of in-your-face GOP obstructionism. Now, more than a year later, Biden no longer believes that most Republicans will eventually drop their fealty to Donald Trump and show a willingness to engage. He himself admitted he was wrong.

“I never expected the ultra-MAGA Republicans who seem to control the Republican Party now to have been able to control the Republican Party,” the president said last week. “I never anticipated that happening.”

To many Democrats, the admission was long overdue. Even some in Biden’s orbit had been urging a far more aggressive response, according to four White House officials and Democrats close to the White House.

What took him so long?

Thoughts on the Terrorist Attack in Buffalo

There has been yet another mass shooting, this one in Buffalo, driven by the racist. "Replacement Theory."

The shooter targeted a Tops supermarket in Buffalo's largely black East Side, and target blacks after posting a racist screed suggesting that minorities were taking over America.

He has previously been investigated by police for threatened to shoot up a his high school.

The obvious problem here is that firearms are far to readily available in America, but that is not the main thrust of this post.

I would like to talk about the use, and misuse, of "Replacement Theory" in America.

The basic idea behind "Replacement Theory" (The last time that I will use that noxious term, I promise) is that the that there is a conspiracy underpinning the demographic transition in the United States, driven by the "Elites", frequently involving the scheming of the "Elites", which frequently involves the Eternal Jew as a malefactor.

Elise Stefanik, the number 3 Republican in Congress, actually pushed this noxious lie from the floor of the House. (But is still lauded as a "Moderate".  Go figure.)

This demographic transition is actually true, and it has been going on, and has been going on since well before the founding of the Republic, as has been the bleeting of bigots about "invasions" or the like.

The glory of America is that eventually many, though by no means all, of the people who come to America eventually become white people.  For example, the Irish, Italians, Poles, Russians, Greeks in 1890 were not white people then, but are white people now.

Of course, some people are not allowed to make this transition, African Americans and Indigenous Americas being  the most prominent cases.

The claims that there is a conspiracy is false, and using this as an excuse for generating hate is reprehensible.

Unfortunately, moderate Democrats, most notably Ruy Teixeira, who co-wrote The Emerging Democratic Majority in 2002, have been aggressively selling that immigration driven demographic transition as a path to power for the Democratic Party, and the Democratic Party establishment (There is no Democratic Party establishment) has bought into this as an alternative to actually doing things to help ordinary people.  (You can read an interview with Teixeira where he suggests that Democrats were too soft on crime, to soft on immigration, to strident on abortion, etc.  You can read the interview here.)

This pops up not infrequently in various "centrist" (Corporatist) Democratic Party discourse, where it serves an excuse to do nothing.

It is also used as a sliver of truth by those who encourage people like that genocidal maniac in Upstate New York.

15 May 2022

This May Not Be What It Seems

Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has expressed opposition to Finland and Sweden joining NATO.

My reaction to this was that this was part of Erdoğan's pissing contest with the US over the Turkish purchase of the Russian S-400 surface to air missile system, which resulted in the cancellation of sales of F35s to Ankara.

It may be more than that.  Sweden has exchanged consular officials with the "Kurdistan Region" in northern Iraq, and as such, they are much closer to a formal recognition of Kurdish independence than any other nation in Europe.

A central tenet of Turkish foreign policy since the founding of modern Turkey, has been the vociferous opposition to Kurdish self-determination and autonomy all Kurds, whether in Turkey, or in neighboring regions.

This may not be an easily resolved issue. 

My guess is that the US response will be to pressure Swedish officials to distance themselves from the government of Iraqi Kurdistan, because screwing the Kurds has been US policy for more than 40 years.

I Wish That I Was There

I would like to visit Great Britain, but never more than now, because I very much wish that I could have been a part of the egging of a recently erected statue of Margaret Thatcher statue egged within hours of it being installed in Grantham, Lincolnshire

I wish that I could have been there, if only just to watch, because I have a lousy throwing arm:

Warnings that a new statue of Margaret Thatcher would attract egg-throwing protests came true within two hours of it being installed in her home town of Grantham on Sunday.

The bronze statue was, without ceremony, placed on a 3-metre (10ft) high plinth to make it more difficult for protesters to inflict any damage.

Shortly afterwards a man was seen throwing eggs from behind a temporary fence and, when one connected, a cry of “oi” could be heard.

Yes, indeed, "Oi."

About F%$#ing Time

The House Judiciary Committee has passed out a bill requiring that the Supreme Court abide by an ethics code

Unlike the rest of the Federal Judiciary, there is currently ethics code for SCOTUS, which means that, for example, a justice would be required to recuse himself if their spouse were paid by an organization with an interest in the case before them. Mr. Subliminal: Clarence and Ginny Thomas

Rather unsurprisingly, this was a party line vote.  Republicans are objectively pro-Supreme Court corruption:

Recent controversies aside, efforts to pass Supreme Court reform legislation have been in the works for years. Now ethics reform is drawing national attention as polls show that public confidence in the court is plummeting. Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., and Rep. Pramila Jayapal, D-Wash., announced sweeping ethics legislationon Tuesday that would impose a code of conduct on the justices and would ban them from owning securities. And on Wednesday night, the House Judiciary Committee voted 22-16 along party lines to move a court ethics bill, delayed by the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, to the full House. Democrats in the Senate then introduced a companion bill.

The House bill, known as the Supreme Court Ethics, Recusal, and Transparency Act of 2022, would require the court to create a code of conduct for the justices and employees of the court. Justices and their clerks would be required to adopt disclosure standards, for gifts, reimbursements, and income they receive, that at least match congressional standards. The bill would require a justice to recuse when a party to a case lobbied for a justice’s confirmation or gave gifts to a justice or a justice’s immediate family. The bill would also require amicus groups to disclose who participated in and funded their briefs.

This is long overdue.

14 May 2022

Deep Thought

If you are on a portable devise, or browsing with images turned off, this image says:
In 1978, amateur astrophysicists Frederick Mercury and Brian May posited that the planet's axial rotation was due to sizably-posteriored members of the female population. In 40 years, this theory has yet to be disproven or even refuted by the scientific community at large.

In the interest of completeness, it should be noted that Brian May has earned a PhD in astrophysics as well as being published in numerous peer reviewed journals, so he is no longer an amateur astrophysicist.

For some reason, this makes me want to ride my bicycle.

Musk Blinks

It appears the sh%$ storm that has blown into Elon Musk's life over his proposal to take over twitter, along with the increased scrutiny of his life and accomplishments, have led Musk to place the acquisition on hold.

He is arguing that Twitter is understating the number of bots and inauthentic accounts, but I think that this is really about people saying mean things about him:

Elon Musk today said his deal to purchase Twitter is "temporarily on hold" while he awaits details on the number of spam and fake accounts on the site, but he later added that he remains "committed" to the acquisition.

"Twitter deal temporarily on hold pending details supporting calculation that spam/fake accounts do indeed represent less than 5 percent of users," Musk wrote in a tweet Monday morning. In a follow-up tweet two hours later, he wrote, "Still committed to acquisition."

The first tweet saying that the deal is "on hold" included a link to a May 2 Reuters article noting that Twitter had "estimated in a filing... that false or spam accounts represented fewer than 5 percent of its monetizable daily active users during the first quarter."

Either he is looking for a way out where he can blame Twitter, and demand a cancellation fee from them, or he is looking to lower his bid by driving the price down.  (Twitter shares fell over 20% in response to his tweets) 

If it is the latter, perhaps the SEC should have another word with him.

In either case, he has already popped the bubble that was his reputation as a genius visionary.

Doing Something Right

Perhaps the most corrupt part of our economy, and definitely the most corrupt part of the education industrial complex are charter schools.

They are more expensive, do not produce better results, are more segregated, and they are rife with fraud and self dealing.

The last two bits, segregation and corruption are why they are so popular.  The people who never got over Brown v. The Board of Education of Topeka, like the first one, and the banksters and other bunco artists love the second part, because creating criminogenic situations is how they make money.

The fact that this band of moral reprobates are upset that the Biden administration is proposing more oversight and accountability is a pretty good indication that the White House is doing the right thing:

New rules proposed by the Education Department to govern a federal grant program for charter schools are drawing bipartisan backlash and angering parents, who say the Biden administration is seeking to stymie schools that have fallen out of favor with many Democrats but maintain strong support among Black and Latino families.

The proposal would add requirements to the application process for grants from the federal Charter Schools Program, which has doled out billions of dollars over nearly 30 years to help open new charter schools or expand existing ones. It sets tighter restrictions on the schools’ relationships with for-profit entities and encourages more collaboration between charters and the districts they operate in.

The most controversial part of the plan would require grant applicants to prove demand and community support for their schools, examine the effect they would have on neighboring district-run schools, and demonstrate that they would not exacerbate segregation.

Proponents of the plan say it is aimed at increasing accountability for the schools, which promised to be engines of innovation and competition that improve district-run schools. But critics say the rules are onerous and out of touch with the reality of how many charter schools operate: autonomously, and as alternatives to traditional public schools.

Leaders across the charter school community have said the new requirements would quell the growth of such schools, which serve 3.6 million students — 69 percent of them students of color and two-thirds from low-income households — and have waiting lists of millions more.

Emphasis mine.  The reason that charter schools disproportionately serve poor and minorities is because one of the unspoken goals is to create a segregated school system. 

Individual schools are even more segregated, with schools tending to be nearly 100% minority or lily white.

The regulations with regard to for relations with for-profit groups are long overdue.  Between over-payment for curricula and educational materials, and excessive rents paid, billions of dollars are being looted from schools, frequently to the school founders, who own those same for-profit businesses.

………

As a candidate, Mr. Biden declared that he was not “a charter school fan,” which shocked many given that the schools had proliferated under the charter-friendly Obama administration. On the campaign trail, Mr. Biden vowed to cut off for-profit charters — less than 12 percent of the nation’s 7,700 charter schools — from federal funding.

Between Barack Obama and his education secretary Arne Duncan, it's amazing that there were any public schools at all left in America.  They were more aggressive in privatizing education than the BW Bush administration.

Also, as I have noted, charter schools do not perform any better than the public alternatives.

The experiment has failed worse than the "New Math" did in the 1960s and 1970s. (Full disclosure: New Math worked for me)

………

The pledge reflected a longstanding goal of congressional Democrats — led by Rosa DeLauro of Connecticut, the chairwoman of the powerful House Appropriations Committee — who in recent years have seized on loopholes that allowed for-profit management companies to tap federal funding, including from the Charter Schools Program, by contracting with nonprofits to essentially run their day-to-day operations.

The efforts came after a series of scandals in the sector, including a self-dealing scheme and other fraud, and research showing that students in for-profit charter schools performed worse academically than their peers in nonprofit charters.

This is literally a crackdown on fraud, and the response of the charter school industry is lobbying, basically rent seeking, which is an indication of their ineffectiveness and corruption.

The proposed rules deliver on Mr. Biden’s promise, requiring that charters receiving federal grants not enter into a contract with a for-profit entity to manage “substantial administrative control” of their operations. That provision has met little opposition, even among charter supporters.

Carol Corbett Burris, the executive director of the Network for Public Education and an ardent critic of charters, said the rules merely addressed the need for more accountability and transparency that should be required for any taxpayer-funded programs. The Network for Public Education, an advocacy group, has chronicled for-profit tactics, charter school scandals and how the federal grant program disbursed millions to schools that never opened or closed.

Ms. Burris’s organization joined dozens of others — including the National Education Association, which is the nation’s largest teachers union, and the Southern Poverty Law Center — in praising the department for “thoughtful and well-reasoned regulations.”

If you want to look at what the charter school supporters are up to:

………

For example, separate provisions that would prioritize applicants that partner with school systems and require applicants to secure a facility before receiving all their funding do not acknowledge the tensions that often exist between charters and district-run schools, said Amanda Johnson, the executive director of Clarksdale Collegiate Public Charter School in Clarksdale, Miss.

And now, quoting Paul Harvey, "The Rest of the Story."

Amanda Johnson was vociferously opposed to a Mississippi state requirement that board members who received state funding comply with state ethics rules

Complying with ethics rules is not that tough, it means that board members cannot steer funds to their companies or their employers companies, and that they need to disclose such conflicts.

Complying with those regulations should be, at most, a minor annoyance for anyone who wants to honestly run a charter school.

13 May 2022

Well, That's One Way to Handle the Rat-F%$#ing

The Minnesota Grassroots Legalize Cannabis Party has a problem.  It appears that Republicans are running spiler candidates under the party banner to siphon votes away from members of the Minnesota Democratic Farmer-Labor-Party in close elections.

Some members have come up with a solution to prevent Republicans from using their name to put fascists in office, they want to change the party name to the Constitutional Liberty Party, which would make it far less attractive for Republicans to use for their dirty tricks:

Several members of Minnesota's Grassroots Legalize Cannabis Party are pushing to change its name to the Constitutional Liberty Party, a direct response to allegations that conservatives recruited marijuana candidates to act as spoilers to Democrats in 2020.

………

The party's internal turmoil has emerged ahead of the state's candidate filing period for 2022 and as some pro-marijuana activists are grappling with allegations that their party was used as a spoiler in several critical legislative and congressional swing races in the election two years ago.

………

In several of those close races, Democrats said the marijuana party pulled enough votes from their candidates to hand Republicans victory. Minnesota's DFL Party and top Democrats also support legalizing recreational marijuana use for adults.

Candidates running under the banner of the proposed Constitutional Liberty Party could flip that strategy, likely pulling votes from Republican candidates instead of Democrats.

………

In 2020, some of the registered marijuana candidates didn't campaign or have any connection with the pro-legalization parties. Some of those candidates had ties to Republican politics or posted on social media in favor of conservative candidates.

One of them was Adam Weeks, who ran on the Legal Marijuana Now Party ticket. In a voicemail to a friend, he said Republicans had recruited him to draw votes away from U.S. Rep. Angie Craig in the Second District. Weeks died before the election but still pulled in nearly 25,000 votes. Craig narrowly beat GOP challenger Tyler Kistner by about 9,000 votes.

Angie Craig had TWENTY FIVE THOUSAND people chose to vote for a DEAD MAN instead of her, which nearly cost her the election? 

Clearly she needs to do something different, and one hopes that she has taken the lesson to heart.

In southern Minnesota's First District, DFLer Dan Feehan lost by roughly 13,400 votes in a race where a little-known pro-marijuana candidate drew more than 21,000 votes. Democrats blamed that candidate for handing the race to the late GOP Rep. Jim Hagedorn, as well as helping Republicans win at least two state legislative seats.
I suggest that they append, "And Gun Club," to the new party name.

Hypocrite

Here is a surprise, Samuel Alito, much like his previous purveyors of perfidious pretense, predecessors like Scalia and Bork, states that he has a philosophy of the law that he abides by, but he drops that idea like a hot potato when he gets a result he does not like

Balls and strikes, my ass:

In his first public address since the explosive leak of a draft Supreme Court opinion he wrote that would overturn Roe v. Wade, Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr. breezed through a detailed examination of statutory textualism, and renewed a disagreement over the court’s decision saying federal discrimination law protects gay and transgender workers.

………

Alito’s topic centered on how Scalia, who died in 2016, had transformed the court’s methods of reviewing federal laws, putting far more emphasis on the text of the law rather than the intent of Congress. It is a method he favors, Alito said, but it was used incorrectly in the gay rights case, Bostock v. Clayton County.

In that case, the court ruled 6 to 3 that a landmark federal civil rights law from the 1960s protects gay and transgender workers, a watershed ruling for ­LGBTQ rights written by one of the court’s most conservative justices, Neil M. Gorsuch.

Gorsuch and Roberts joined the court’s liberals in the ruling. They said Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits discrimination “because of sex,” includes gay and transgender employees.

Gorsuch is a “colleague and friend,” Alito said, and someone he is happy to have on the court. But he said the decision relying on the text of the law alone was “in my view indefensible.”

While he said he wasn’t defending past actions, Alito said it was clear Congress at that time allowed and practiced discrimination.

That in a case he brings up on his own, he shows himself unworthy to wash Neil Gorsuch's jock-strap.

Among a host of hypocrites cloned by the Federalist Society, Alito shows himself to be the lowest of the low.

Quote of the Day


"Opinions differ on slavery," said the sh%$-heel pretending to be a mindful human being.

When PlayStation president Jim Ryan, "Urged employees to respect differences of opinion," with regard to abortion rights, he revealed what he was, and it ain't pretty.

Tweet of the Day


For those of you who are not aware of the fact, Matt Damon did a crypto-currency ad, and over the past few days, there has been a bloodbath in the Ponzi Scheme decentralized finance product.

Needless to say, the slaughter of Bored Apes is tragic.

12 May 2022

Pass the Popcorn

The House committee investigating the January 6 insurrection has now subpoenaed 5 Congressional Republicans, including House Minority leader Keven "Comandante Derp"McCarthy

Note that the committee is not requesting their presence, it is subpoenaing them, which is something I've never seen happen outside of perhaps the House Ethics Committee:

The House select committee investigating the January 6 attack on the Capitol has issued unprecedented subpoenas to five Republican members of Congress, seeking to compel their cooperation with the inquiry into Donald Trump’s efforts to overturn the 2020 election.

The select committee empowered the chairman, Bennie Thompson, to move ahead with subpoenas to the House minority leader, Kevin McCarthy, Jim Jordan of Ohio, Scott Perry of Pennsylvania, Andy Biggs of Arizona and Mo Brooks of Alabama.

The five congressmen flatly refused to accept invitations to provide voluntary assistance to the investigation, sources said.

Thompson said: “Before we hold our hearings next month, we wished to provide members the opportunity to discuss these matters with the committee voluntarily. Regrettably, the individuals receiving subpoenas today have refused and we’re forced to take this step to help ensure the committee uncovers facts concerning January 6th.”

It's pretty clear that McCarthy hates Donald Trump and is scared to death of Donald Trump and his Evil Minions™, so this should be entertaining.

………

The voluntary cooperation letters outlined in damning detail the reasons that the select committee wanted to depose the five Republicans, as House investigators prepare to wrap up their work ahead of public hearings in June.

From McCarthy, the select committee said it wanted to learn more about his communications with Trump before, during and after January 6, including a conversation in which the former president admitted he was partly at fault for the Capitol attack.

The panel is keenly interested in what McCarthy believes prompted Trump to make such an admission, the sources said, since it could offer evidence that the former president had a guilty conscience for a possible future justice department criminal investigation.

What sort of wine should you serve when watching Kevin McCarthy being grilled by Liz Cheney?

I'm thinking Mad Dog 2020.

Tweet of the Day


All the butthurt over the announdement that we will be seeing a black Doctor is stupid, and this tweet was prescient.

Of Course They Did

We now know that meat packing giants lied about potential shortages of beef, pork, and chicken in order to keep operating unsafely, which likely killed thousands of their workers.

It appears that more than 100 years after Upton Sinclair first published The Jungle, the meat packing industry remains a seething den of vile putrescence:

The biggest players in the U.S. meat industry pressed “baseless” claims of beef and pork shortages early in the pandemic to persuade the Trump White House to keep processing plants running, disregarding the coronavirus risks that eventually killed at least 269 workers, according to a special House committee investigating the nation’s pandemic response.

In a report released Thursday, the committee alleges that Tyson Foods’s legal team prepared a draft with input from other companies that became the basis for an executive order to keep the plants open that the Trump administration issued in April 2020, making it difficult for workers to stay home.

“Meatpacking companies knew the risk posed by the coronavirus to their workers and knew it wasn’t a risk that the country needed them to take,” according to the report by the select subcommittee on the coronavirus crisis. “They nonetheless lobbied aggressively — successfully enlisting [the U.S. Agriculture Department] as a close collaborator in their efforts — to keep workers on the job in unsafe conditions, to ensure state and local health authorities were powerless to mandate otherwise, and to be protected against legal liability for the harms that would result.”

The report alleges the nation’s largest meatpackers and industry trade groups repeatedly misled the public when they warned that any slowdown in their operations posed an imminent threat to the nation’s meat supplies. But “these fears were baseless,” investigators wrote.

………

Internal industry documents showed that “despite awareness of the high risks of coronavirus spread in their plants, meatpacking companies engaged in a concerted effort with Trump Administration political officials to insulate themselves from coronavirus-related oversight, to force workers to continue working in dangerous conditions, and to shield themselves from legal liability for any resulting worker illness or death,” the report states.

………

An estimated 334,000 coronavirus cases nationwide have been tied to meatpacking plants, resulting in more than $11 billion in economic damage, according to research from the University of California at Davis. Researchers found that per capita infection rates in counties that housed beef- and pork-processing facilities were twice as high. In counties with chicken-processing facilities, the transmission rate was 20 percent higher.

Publicly, meat industry lobbyists and executives raised alarms about the threat that plant closures would present to the nation’s food supply chain. The concerns about worker absenteeism hampering production came as the virus first swept across the country, and the government unleashed an unprecedented flood of unemployment benefits to support workers.

………

But that same month, U.S. pork exports were at a three-year high, the report found. In the first three quarters of 2020, JBS exported 370 percent more pork to China than it had in the same period of 2017; Smithfield reported a 90 percent increase during the same window.

“These employers must be held accountable for the consequences of their blatant disregard of the safety and lives of their employees,” Stuart Appelbaum, president of the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union, said Thursday in a statement. “Today’s report is just one step towards accountability, but much more must be done to prevent corporations from putting profits over people’s lives in the industry.”

At least 59,000 workers at Tyson Foods, Smithfield Foods, JBS, Cargill and National Beef — companies that control most of the U.S. meat market — fell ill with the coronavirus in the pandemic’s first year, the subcommittee previously found. At least 269 industry workers died between March 1, 2020, and Feb. 1, 2021.

The actual number of sicknesses and death, which should include people who likely caught Covid from those workers, is likely at least 10 times higher.

I've said it before, and I will say it again.  Without a credible threat of jail time for corporate executives who behave criminally, all corporate executives will be criminals.

11 May 2022

Speaking of Faceberg

In response to a proposal in Australia to institute a link tax, it appears that the criminal enterprise now known as Meta deliberately shut dozens of Australian organizations out in order to intimidate Canberra.

Seriously.  No one should have this much power, even if we are all wise, all men an women of understanding, and all learned in Torah:

Last year when Facebook blocked news in Australia in response to potential legislation making platforms pay publishers for content, it also took down the pages of Australian hospitals, emergency services and charities. It publicly called the resulting chaos “inadvertent.”

Internally, the pre-emptive strike was hailed as a strategic masterstroke.

Facebook documents and testimony filed to U.S. and Australian authorities by whistleblowers allege that the social-media giant deliberately created an overly broad and sloppy process to take down pages—allowing swaths of the Australian government and health services to be caught in its web just as the country was launching Covid vaccinations.

The goal, according to the whistleblowers and documents, was to exert maximum negotiating leverage over the Australian Parliament, which was voting on the first law in the world that would require platforms such as Google and Facebook to pay news outlets for content.

Let me clarify my position here, one which I share with Cory Doctorow:  There is no need for a link tax, and it will be incredibly destructive to the open internet, "Big tech isn’t stealing news publishers’ content, it’s stealing their money.

Going after the fraudulent and oligopolistic online ad industry would do a lot more while allowing fair use of people's creative content.

Despite saying it was targeting only news outlets, the company deployed an algorithm for deciding what pages to take down that it knew was certain to affect more than publishers, according to the documents and people familiar with the matter.

It didn’t notify affected pages in advance they would be blocked or provide a system for them to appeal once they were.

The documents also show multiple Facebook employees tried to raise alarms about the impact and offer possible solutions, only to receive a minimal or delayed response from the leaders of the team in charge.

F%$#ing their users in order to f%$# Australia was a feature, not a bug.

After five days that caused disorder throughout the country, Australia’s Parliament amended the proposed law to the degree that, a year after its passage, its most onerous provisions haven’t been applied to Facebook or its parent company, Meta Platforms Inc.

“We landed exactly where we wanted to,” wrote Campbell Brown, Facebook’s head of partnerships, who pressed for the company’s aggressive stance, in a congratulatory email to her team minutes after the Australian Senate voted to approve the watered-down bill at the end of February 2021.

Facebook Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg and Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg chimed in with congratulations as well, with Ms. Sandberg praising the “thoughtfulness of the strategy” and “precision of execution.”

………

Instead of using Facebook’s long-established database of existing news publishers, called News Page Index, the newly assembled team developed a crude algorithmic news classifier that ensured more than just news would be caught in the net, according to documents and the people familiar with the matter. “If 60% of [sic] more of a domain’s content shared on Facebook is classified as news, then the entire domain will be considered a news domain,” stated one internal document. The algorithm didn’t distinguish between pages of news producers and pages that shared news.

………

The team also created a timeline for how it would roll out the takedown that showed it intended to launch before an appeals process was ready, the documents show. The move didn’t follow typical procedure, according to the people familiar with the takedown.

Unfortunately, Silicon Valley Tech Bros, and I am including the Lean In Girl Sheryl Sandburg in this group, are people who have largely been born on 3rd base and thought that they hit a triple, and are now convinced that they are the super men from a trashy Ayn Rand novel (But I repeat myself) who think themselves above the law.

This will not end unless and until the powerful are held to account, and tried and imprisoned for their crimes.

Nothing to See Here, Move Along

I am not a fan of either Facebook or Mark Zuckerberg, as my reader(s) are no doubt aware, but credit where credit is due:  They do a very good job of spying on and violating the privacy of their users.

As such it is kind of surprising that they did not have any inkling of the January 6 insurrection, and they did not report this information to the authorities.

Well, it turns out that they did know about the planned insurrection, and they did report it to the authorities, specifically the FBI.

The FBI, it seems did nothing about this, because the misbegotten child of J.Edgar Hoover was too concerned with pursuing peaceful Black Lives Matter protesters to deal with right wing terrorists.

There's a shocker:

A new report from the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) reveals that seven federal law enforcement and intelligence agencies were aware of open source information on social media about “potential violence” planned for January 6, 2021. The report suggests that federal agencies had ample authority and information to anticipate and prepare for a violent assault on the Capitol.

The findings of the report, titled “Federal Agencies’ Use of Open Source Data and Related Threat Products Prior to January 6, 2021,” also raise questions about statements by FBI Director Christopher Wray in previous testimony to Congress. The report states that the representatives of at least two social media platforms – Facebook and Parler – told the GAO that their companies provided information to the FBI “regarding potential violence at the U.S. Capitol on January 6.”

With the House Select Committee investigating the January 6 attack set to kick off public hearings next month, the report may inform several lines of inquiry. Those include the failure of law enforcement and intelligence agencies to take action on the threat, what legal authorizations are already in place for social media surveillance, how those authorities are used in practice, and what technical tools and resources federal agencies need to do their jobs. Looming over all of these questions is a broader set of concerns about civil liberties, and what some regard as bias in the way the federal government failed to act on the threat of violence from former President Donald Trump’s supporters.

………

The GAO also “interviewed representatives from three social media platforms, including two large ones—Facebook and Twitter—and a smaller one—Parler—to determine the extent to which they shared open source information with federal agencies.” While Parler previously revealed to congressional investigators that it sent specific warnings to the FBI about threats on its platform, including threats to kill politicians and the coordination of armed groups, the GAO report is the first to confirm that Facebook shared information with the FBI regarding potential violence at the U.S. Capitol on January 6:

………

While the GAO report initially refers vaguely to “a federal agency” as the recipient of information “regarding potential violence at the U.S. Capitol on January 6,” Parler’s letter was sent specifically to the FBI, the FBI is the only federal agency listed in a table as having “received data from social media platforms” directly, and the GAO goes on to say “Facebook officials noted that they shared information with the FBI before, during, and after January 6.”

There is a potential discrepancy between what Facebook and Parler told GAO about the information they gave the FBI, and what the FBI told the GAO. The report states that “according to FBI officials, the FBI reviewed social media posts, dated November 3, 2020, through January 5, 2021. FBI officials noted that its review of these posts did not reveal information specifically citing the ‘U.S. Capitol’ during this review period.” It is also puzzling that the FBI would come across no such references given that social media was replete with such content and other federal agencies collected and analyzed it (see also the bipartisan Senate report on such findings).

IMNSHO, this comes down to racism and cowardice.  The overwhelming majority of domestic terrorists in the United States over the past few decades has been right wing and white, but the FBI doesn't want to do their job, because the Republicans in Congress complain about them, and because they simply cannot imagine wypipo being terrorists.

This Will Not End Well

With millions of people immiserated by our economy, or the pandemic, or the opioid crisis, or the general abandonment of the most basic ideas of community, people are sad.  They are very sad.

So, what do sad people do, at least in the United States, they get therapy, and frequently psychoactive drugs as well.

So demand for psychological services in America is rising, so private equity looters want to do to the counseling industry what they did to ER services, which is to say that they want to burn it all down for the insurance money.

There there is nothing that exists where adding Wall Street finance to the mix will not make it worse:

Psychiatrists and psychologists once ran their own practices. Now the local therapist office could be controlled by a buyout king.

Venture capitalists and private-equity firms are pouring billions of dollars into mental-health businesses, including psychology offices, psychiatric facilities, telehealth platforms for online therapy, new drugs, meditation apps and other digital tools. Nine mental-health startups have reached private valuations exceeding $1 billion last year, including Cerebral Inc. and BetterUp Inc.

Demand for these services is rising as more people deal with grief, anxiety and loneliness amid lockdowns and the rising death toll of the Covid-19 pandemic, making the sector ripe for investment, according to bankers, consultants and investors. They say the sector has become more attractive because health plans and insurers are paying higher rates than in the past for mental-health care, and virtual platforms have made it easier for clinicians to provide remote care.

………

The number of behavioral-health acquisitions jumped more than 35% to 153 in 2021 versus the previous year, and of those, 123 involved private-equity firms, according to Mertz Taggart. In the first quarter of this year, there were 41 acquisitions, of which 30 involved PE firms.

The push into mental health carries risks. A rush of private-equity firms could send prices for practices higher, reducing potential profits. A risk for patients and clinicians is that new owners could focus on profits rather than outcomes, perhaps by pressuring clinicians to see more patients than they can handle. If care becomes less personal and private, patient care might also suffer.

Might?  When you look at what they did to emergency room and air ambulance operations, it's clear that overcharging and worse health outcomes are the goal, not an unintended side effect of PE takeovers in healthcare.

Online mental-health company Cerebral and other telehealth startups have begun to face scrutiny over their prescribing practices. The Wall Street Journal has reported that some of Cerebral’s nurse practitioners said they felt pressure to prescribe stimulants. This past week, Cerebral said it would pause prescribing controlled substances such as Adderall to treat ADHD in new patients. Last year, Cerebral logged a $4.8 billion valuation.

As an aside, it should be noted that Cerebral is backed by SoftBank, which funded WeWork, Uber, etc. so it's kind of a self licking ice cream cone:  They search out companies whose business model is based on making their employees' lives awful, and now they are going to make money from these folks needing counseling for their miserable lives. 

This, buy the way, is why I do not support single payer healthcare.  I support a national health service, where the medical facilities are government owned.

Single payer will end up a lot like the defense industry, a criminogenic monopsony that will continue to ill serve both the public health and the public purse.