31 July 2022

F%$#

Both ground breaking actress Nichelle Nicols and great Boston Celtics center Bill Russell have died.

As Lt. Nyota Uhura on Star Trek, she changed the representation of Black women on TV, showing a hyper professional communications officer on the Enterprise, and was in ½ of the first interracial kiss, along with William Shatner, on a us major network TV program.

Later, she helped recruit minority and women to technical fields, particularly for NASA.

Bill Russell had a good case to be the greatest basketball player of all time, and an even better case as to being the most dominating basketball player of all time, and, in addition to being a lifelong civil rights activist, he was the first Black coach in the NBA in his final two seasons as a player, and first Black coach in the NBA to win an NBA title, and the only player coach to win an NBA title.

Damn, damn, damn.

30 July 2022

That's the 2nd Largest Carrot I've Seen in My Life


We dropped Nat off at The Strand Theater for a call-back (Follow-up audition), and walked down to Emma's Tea Spot on Harford Road in Hamilton (North East Baltimore) for some tea and a bite to eat.


They bill themselves as a, "Properly British Experience."


Very British


Very, very British


It's a cupboard. I wish that it was a blue police call box that's bigger on the inside.


With a gift shop the back for various English origin items.




Along with a shrine to England's most prominent inbred prats. (If you look closely, you'll see Jeffrey Epstein's best buddy)


I love their tea cozys.


Black tea, China Breakfast, for me, very nice, as was the unpictured mushroom soup.




I also had a very nice mushroom soup and a banger and egg sandwich, but I do not post pictures of what I eat because:

Nothing to See Here, Move Along


It's always the tapes.
It appears that Matt Gaetz was caught on tape promising Roger Stone a pardon if he did not flip on Trump.

While there is nothing here directly implicating Trump, it is slam dunk evidence that Gaetz committed criminal conspiracy to obstruct justice, offering a quid pro quo in exchange for Stone's silence:

As Roger Stone prepared to stand trial in 2019, complaining he was under pressure from federal prosecutors to incriminate Donald Trump, a close ally of the president repeatedly assured Stone that “the boss” would likely grant him clemency if he were convicted, a recording shows.

At an event at a Trump property that October, Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) predicted that Stone would be found guilty at his trial in Washington the following month but would not “do a day” in prison. Gaetz was apparently unaware they were being recorded by documentary filmmakers following Stone, whom special counsel Robert S. Mueller III had charged with obstruction of a congressional investigation.

“The boss still has a very favorable view of you,” said Gaetz, stressing that the president had “said it directly.” He also said, “I don’t think the big guy can let you go down for this.”

………

The lawmaker also told Stone during their conversation that Stone was mentioned “a lot” in redacted portions of Mueller’s report, appearing to refer to portions that the Justice Department had shown to select members of Congress confidentially in a secure room. “They’re going to do you, because you’re not going to have a defense,” Gaetz told Stone.

So Gaetz was leaking information to Stone from a classified briefing.

This should be pretty much a slam dunk for prosecutors if they have the guts to go after charges, which they probably won't, because of the norms fairy.

The 25-minute recording was captured by a microphone that Stone was wearing on his lapel for a Danish film crew, which was making a feature-length documentary on the veteran Republican operative. The filmmakers allowed Washington Post reporters to review their footage in advance of the release of their film, “A Storm Foretold,” which is expected later this year.
Gaetz, through his lawyer, is suggesting that the taping is illegal.  This is complete bullsh%$. 

First, the lapel mic is what you clipped to someone's collar for interview shows.  It's clearly visible, and second, in the tape, Gaetz specifically notes that there are microphones all over the place, showing that he had no expectation of privacy.

Also, unless Gaetz could show that Stone was acting on behalf on law enforcement, the tapes would still be be admissible in a criminal trial of Gaetz.

The standard caveats apply, of course, as I am an engineer, not a doctor dammit.*

………

Stone, a friend and adviser to Trump since the 1980s, was charged by Mueller with lying to Congress about his communications with Trump’s campaign regarding WikiLeaks’ 2016 release of emails from the Democratic National Committee and Hillary Clinton campaign. U.S. authorities determined that the emails were hacked by Russian operatives seeking to boost Trump’s candidacy. Trump and Stone denied to Mueller that they had discussed WikiLeaks, but testimony from other Trump aides contradicted their accounts.

Stone was convicted on seven felony counts that November and sentenced to 40 months in prison. But Trump, who publicly praised Stone for not “flipping” on him, commuted his prison sentence before it began and eventually pardoned him.

It is remarkable just how well Gaetz predicted the future.  It's almost as if he had a direct line to the White House.

Funny, innit?

*I love it when I get to go all Dr. McCoy!

29 July 2022

A Good Start

The Department of Justice and the National Labor Relations Board will be working together to prevent employers in an industry from colluding on worker recruiting and pay.

About f%$#ing time.  It won't mean anything ulesss they start frog marching executives out of their offices in handcuffs though:

The U.S. Justice Department’s competition enforcers have teamed up with the National Labor Relations Board to combat collusion among employers in their competition for workers.

The Justice Department’s antitrust division and NLRB intend to coordinate more closely on investigations and enforcement actions under a memorandum of understanding signed Tuesday.

The antitrust division, which has the power to bring criminal charges, will apply “extraordinary vigilance” to protecting workers’ right to earn a fair wage, said Assistant Attorney General Jonathan Kanter, who heads the division.

……….

Last week, the NLRB entered into a similar agreement with the Federal Trade Commission, an agency that both reviews mergers and takes action against deceptive practices by businesses. The FTC said that it would scrutinize mergers that hurt competition in labor markets, and take action against gig economy companies that lie to workers and job seekers. The two agencies also vowed to work together on investigative efforts and cross-train staff.

The antitrust division in March also signed an agreement with the U.S. Labor Department aimed at thwarting collusion among employers. The Justice Department increasingly has sought to punish companies that make illegal agreements, for example, to fix wages or avoid poaching each other’s workers.

On Monday, the department announced an $85 million settlement with Cargill Inc. and newly formed Wayne-Sanderson Farms over their alleged sharing of information on poultry workers’ wages.

The enforcement with the chicken guys is the sort of action that should not be taken.

A small fine and no admission of liability makes the action little more than a cost of doing business.

Without the threat of arrest and incarceration, nothing will change.

Not a Fan of Chairman Mao

But I have a though time feeling bad about his executing landlords.

Every time I hear a story about landlords and evictions, particularly when the private equity crowd is involved, I understand what motivated him.

There is now a report from the Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis revealed that the Wall Street landlords aggressively subverted the CDC proscription on evictions, because, of course they did:

A House subcommittee that investigated eviction practices by large landlords during the pandemic issued a scathing report that said four firms had engaged in “abusive” tactics to attempt to push renters out of their homes despite a federal moratorium.

The report was released Thursday, after a yearlong investigation and a hearing by the committee that looked into the business practices of so-called corporate landlords that led to eviction filings against tens of thousands of renters during the Covid-19 pandemic.

The committee focused mainly on four firms, including Invitation Homes, a rental firm for single-family homes, and Siegel Group, a weekly rental firm. Its report said the four had accounted for the filing of nearly 15,000 eviction cases from March 2020 to July 2021. It’s unclear how many renters were forced out of their homes.

The Eviction Lab at Princeton University said that in the markets it tracked, all landlords had filed 495,216 eviction actions during the period the subcommittee examined.

“While the abusive eviction practices documented in this report would be condemnable under any circumstances, they are unconscionable during a once-in-a-century economic and public health crisis,” said Representative James E. Clyburn, a South Carolina Democrat who headed the subcommittee, in a statement.

Of course they are.  Unconscionable is is what happens when Wall Street gets involved, whether it be agriculture, medicine, or landlording.

The report found that Invitation Homes had “misleadingly downplayed” the effect of its pandemic eviction practices to Fannie Mae, the government-backed mortgage finance firm that provided $1 billion in financing to Invitation Homes in 2017. Invitation Homes is one of the nation’s largest single-family rental firms, operating more than 83,000 properties.

Siegel Group, which operates under the name Siegel Suites, was singled out as “uniquely egregious.” The report said the firm, which operates about 12,000 apartments in eight states, had “engaged in deceptive and potentially unlawful practices to prevent tenants from understanding their protection from eviction” under the moratorium. The committee also found that Siegel had used harassment tactics to push tenants out without filing an eviction action.

We really need to address our bankruptcy laws to lessen the corporate shield it presents to bad actors.

As I have mentioned before, history shows that the protections provided by bankruptcy promomte reckless and antisocial behavior.

Double Rainbow

Seen yesterday on my commute.

Hollowing Itself Out to Hit Quarterly Numbers

Whether it's airline pilots, teachers, or now technical talent in the rare earths industry, we see industries literally unable to find people who can do the work that is central to their business.

In the quest to hit the numbers, and bump up the share price that to turn senior executives stock options from worthless to a not-so-small fortune, they have shed staff, refused to train new staff, and made the conditions so onerous that new talent looks elsewhere.

Of course, if they were willing to put in a bit of training (maybe a year?) and paid and treated their staff well, they would find that there was no shortage of potential employees.

But there is no money in that for senior management:

Luisa Moreno, president and director of the Canadian rare earth mining company Defense Metals, rattles off the ages of some of her colleagues.

Their chief metallurgist, who consults for the company, is 81. A petrologist and geologist, who serves as a part-time expert advisor, is in his late 80s. One of their directors, a mineralogist specializing in rare earths, is 80-something.

“This is a major, major problem,” said Moreno.

That problem, specifically, is an acute shortage of skills and new talent in the critical minerals industry, which supplies lithium for batteries, rare earths for permanent magnets, and copper for electric vehicles and battery storage. And Defense Metals is no anomaly: another rare earths company she was chatting with recently has an average employee age of 75, she said.

“I think that skills is a missing element,” Peter Handley, who works for the European Commission on issues related to energy-intensive industries, said at a recent webinar on critical minerals. “We need to have resources, we need to have the refining, we need to have everything from exploration through to the recycling and reuse of things.”

To source enough raw material to power the global energy transition is as much a challenge of mining the earth as it is of hiring people to do that. 

Right now, there’s a shortage of both. The Paris-based International Energy Agency warned last year that insufficient mineral supply threatens to derail the energy transition. On the human capital front, a shortage of mining engineers and operators risks stalling projects.

As if this shortage of trained personnel somehow mysteriously just happened.

This is the natural result of decades of neglect.  It's a failure of imagination and a failure of management.

It's modern capitalism in a nutshell.

28 July 2022

Something that Biden is Doing Right

We are actually seeing meaningful anti-trust actions.

Last week, the FTC blocked 4 hospital mergers, and yesterday, the FTC sued to block the criminal enterprise formerly known as Facebook from acquiring the VR products company Within.

Given that the pivot toward virtual reality by Zuckerberg is largely fueled by acquisitions, this is a significant move for Meta, and an even more significant move by the FTC, which is being proactive to prevent monopolization of a nascent market.

Bad for Zuck, great for the rest of us:

Today, the big news in antitrust world is that the Federal Trade Commission, led by Chair Lina Khan, filed suit to stop Facebook, aka ‘Meta,’ from buying virtual reality app maker Within. The vote was 3-2, with the three Democrats voting to file a challenge, and two Republicans voting against bringing it. While not a large acquisition by dollar amount - the deal is just $400 million - there are a number of reasons why this merger challenge is historic.

First, let’s go over the deal, and the FTC’s action to block it. In October of last year, Facebook changed its name to Meta, signaling that Mark Zuckerberg did not see much more growth in the social networking space that his firm had heretofore controlled. He is seeking a new set of markets to dominate, which he calls ‘the Metaverse,’ a term he borrowed from science fiction denoting a set of immersive digital worlds.

………

If this were the early 2010s, his strategy to get out of this morass would be simple. He would pay massively for TikTok, which is clearly the missed product opportunity for Meta. “It’s better to buy than compete,” Zuckerberg once said in email. But due to regulatory pressure and Chinese power, he cannot get control over TikTok.

Zuckerberg is not a great product guy, but he is good at monopolizing markets, particularly at technological pivot points. In the 2000s, he was able to vanquish MySpace by promising privacy and safety to users, and then bought Instagram and WhatsApp when the new computing platform turned out to be mobile. But he can’t do that today, with TikTok or any other large firm. (Indeed there’s a good argument that Zuckerberg’s monopolistic behavior is the reason that TikTok emerged in China, and not in the U.S. But that’s a digression.)

So where’s the new area of growth?

The answer, Zuckerberg hopes, is virtual reality, aka the Metaverse. He has a massive cash gusher in the form of targeted ads, so he’s using that to finance the commercialization of this nascent and immature technology. In 2014, Facebook bought VR headset maker Oculus, and in the last year or so has invested roughly $10 billion annually to build it out, which includes subsidizing the sale of headsets below cost. In other words, Zuckerberg is trying escape his social media constraints by creating a technological pivot point, a computing platform he can control. While it’s good he’s investing in a new technology, the business goal is simple. Control. The FTC cites Zuckerberg stating this explicitly.

………

So far, the plan seems to be working. Meta had 62% of the VR headset market in 2020, and 78% in 2021. It doubled its revenue in 2019 and then again in 2020, so that Meta’s Reality Labs segment has $2.274 billion in 2021. That’s about 2% of the firm’s total revenue, so it’s not large, but it is what Zuckerberg thinks is the future, which is why he renamed the firm Meta. Moreover, Meta has a dominant app store, and in the last few years, the corporation has also gone on an acquisition spree, buying up VR firms Sanzaru, Dawn Studios, Beat Games, Echo RV, Downpour Interactive, Onward, BigBox, Unit 2 Games, Crayta, and Twisted Pixel. These are game makers and tool makers for ‘the Metaverse,’ and Meta wants to own it all.

………

The argument from the FTC is fairly straightforward. The firm Meta bought - Within - produces the most popular VR workout app, which is named Supernatural. According to Within’s co-founder and CEO, “Fitness is the killer use case for VR.” Meta already has a game called Beat Saber, where users slice musical notes as they come at you, and people often use it for exercise. (Meta bought Beat Saber’s parent company, Beat Games, in 2019).

The FTC is making two claims about why this acquisition is illegal, but also implying a few others. First, “letting Meta acquire Supernatural would combine the makers of two of the most significant VR fitness apps, thereby eliminating beneficial rivalry between Meta’s Beat Saber app and Within’s Supernatural app.” That’s a straightforward structural argument. And second, if Facebook weren’t allowed to buy Within, it would produce its own direct fitness app. So this merger is eliminating potential competition. Such an argument about eliminating potential competition is something we haven’t seen for decades; this is Khan and the FTC pushing the bounds of law, which is something that is risky but ultimately necessary.

I have to differ with Matt Stoller here a bit.  I do not see this as a stretch.

Until Robert Bork's dishonest arguments and the Reagan administration eagerness to serve big business emasculated antitrust enforcement in the 1980s, this sort of enforcement did happen.

Corruption should not be treated as binding precedent.

This Ain't Good

Yes, I know that this is not the formal definition of a recession, but the common definition.

We just got the last quarter's numbers, and we have just had the 2nd straight quarter of negative GDP growth.

It should be noted that the 2 straight quarters thing is not the formal definition of a recession according to economists, for what that;s worth.

The U.S. economy shrank for a second quarter in a row—a common definition of recession—as the housing market buckled under rising interest rates and high inflation took steam out of business and consumer spending.

Gross domestic product, a broad measure of the goods and services produced across the economy, fell at an inflation and seasonally adjusted annual rate of 0.9% in the second quarter, the Commerce Department said Thursday. That followed a 1.6% pace of contraction in the first three months of 2022.

The report indicated the economy met a commonly used definition of recession—two straight quarters of declining economic output.

………

Analysts noted that much of the decline in the second quarter was due to a slower pace of inventory restocking.

Fasten your seat-belts it's going to be a bumpy ride,

And the Award for the Best Mistranslation Goes To


For those of you who don't read ancient Greek, "ΜΟΛΩΝ ΛΑΒΕ," translates to come and take them, currently finding favor as a taunt issued by ammosexuals who value their guns more than their children.

Damn



Bernard Cribbins has died. he was 93. If the name does not ring a bell, perhaps these pictures will.

He did a lot, but on this side of the pond, he is best remembered as the only actor who played multiple companions for the Doctor in Doctor Who, first as Tom Campbell in the theatrical release Daleks' Invasion Earth 2150 A.D. in 1966, and later Wilfred Mott with both David Tennant's and Matt Smith's Doctor.

He had a storied career in the UK over 75 years.

I'm sad, and I have the urge to go and blow up a Dalek in his honour.

Tweet of the Day


Unfortunately for us, the Biden Administration in general, and the CDC in particular, are firmly in the sucking snot out of people's noses camp.

27 July 2022

As Expected

The Federal Reserve has raised its benchmark Federal Funds Rate by 75 basis points (¾%)

Given that gas prices have come down almost a dollar in the past month, I do wonder how much of this significant hike is from inflationary concerns, and how much is their attempting to get away from the zero bound.

Basically, you cannot lower interest rates below 0% for stimulus, and it has been at or near that since 2008, meaning that the Fed has been pushing on a string, a state of affairs that reduces the Fed's power and makes fiscal, rather than monetary policy more appealing.

Changing this serves to move power over the economy back to the Federal reserve.

There is an African Proverb

One of the interesting results of the war between Russia and The Ukraine is the collateral damage in countries that are not participants.

We see this in skyrocketing fuel shortages and food shortages, but the most extreme case I've seen so far, as described by John Helmer, is the collapse of Sri Linka.

The short version is that emergency shipments of oil from Russia to the island nation were never off-loaded because of attempts by the Sri Lankan government to enforce US sanctions as a result of US pressure:

The President of Sri Lanka, Gotabaya Rajapaksa, was toppled from power in Colombo and forced to flee the country on July 13, leaving behind a prime minister he had appointed to succeed him, assuring his immunity from prosecution and delaying national elections for two years. A week earlier, on July 6, Rajapaksa telephoned President Vladimir Putin and requested emergency shipments of Russian fuel to the country on credit because Sri Lanka had run out of fuel and also the money to pay for it.

The last Russian shipment, 90,000 tonnes of Russian crude oil to restart Sri Lanka’s sole but bankrupt refinery, had been ordered from intermediary traders and then delivered to port in May. However, the oil could not be unloaded until the government produced the cash to pay for it.  Rajapaksa followed in the last days of June by sending two officials to Moscow to ask for direct government-to-government oil deliveries without cash. There was no Russian agreement.

………

In Moscow the Russians interpreted Wickremesinghe and Rajapaksa to be making a public show of asking for Russian help in order to persuade Washington to rescue them instead.

The Kremlin was convinced the Sri Lankans were scheming and bluffing. The reason was that on June 2, at Colombo’s airport, an Aeroflot Airbus Flight SU-288, with more than two hundred Russians returning to Moscow from holiday in the country, had been prevented from departing;  the aircraft had been stopped by an order from a judge of the Commercial High Court. Ostensibly, the court was acting on a lawsuit filed against Aeroflot by an Irish aircraft leasing company called Celestial Aviation Trading 10 Limited.

In fact, that entity was a front for AerCap, the dominant global aviation leasing corporation in the world, controlled by General Electric of the US;   Celestial Aviation is an AerCap special purpose vehicle;  its claim against the Aeroflot aircraft in Sri Lanka was part of Washington’s sanctions war — and Rajapaksa and Wickremesinghe were immediately told so by Russian officials. They claimed the court order was a “commercial dispute” with “no involvement of the state”;  the Russians didn’t believe them. 

The aircraft was released on June 6 and a court official charged with corruption. But a month later, by the time Rajapaksa was appealing to Putin, Aeroflot had not restarted its flights. There would also be no Russian oil nor credit to save Rajapaksa. 

………

The State Department and the Pentagon were actively courting Rajapaksa during the weeks leading up his ouster. A delegation of US officials led by Under Secretary of State Victoria Nuland [Victoria Nuland?  Where have I heard that name before?] and the Pentagon official in charge of Sri Lanka, Amanda Dory, were in Colombo on March 22-23. “You are a vital partner of the United States at a key crossroads in the Indo-Pacific,” Nuland declared, “and we are eager to support you at this critical moment…We share a commitment to a free and open Indo-Pacific and as the Foreign Minister said, to a rules-based, democratic, international order.” That meant US opposition to Sri Lanka’s relations with China and Russia. “I want”, Nuland emphasized, “to particularly make note of the fact that Russia’s brutal aggression in Ukraine just underscores for all of us the importance of the democracies, strengthening ourselves and standing together in the face of brutal autocratic behavior, coercion, aggression. Whether it’s coming from Russia, whether it’s coming from other autocracies around the world.”

………

In April Nuland followed with an official warning that if Sri Lanka’s relationships with Russia or China crossed Nuland’s red lines, Rajapaksa would face sanctions. “Malign influence countries could displace any U.S. agreements being signed. We will mitigate this risk by staying tied in with our allies, friends and partners along with steady engagement across the Sri Lankan services to ensure the U.S. remains a partner of choice. Congressional scrutiny could limit the amount of funding available to Sri Lanka for Security Cooperation/Security assistance.”

It seems to me that Sri Lanka in general, and Gotabaya Rajapaksa in particular.,is roadkill on the “Domino Theory” road, like Laos and Cambodia were.

When elephants fight it is the grass that suffers.

H/T naked capitalism.

Speaking of Lucy and the Football

We now have reports that Trump's behavior around the January 6 insurrection is being investigated by the Department of Justice

It's not gonna happen.  The very serious people are dedicated to ensuring that no accountability ever attaches itself to elites, even the most contemptible elites:

The Justice Department is investigating President Donald Trump’s actions as part of its criminal probe of efforts to overturn the 2020 election results, according to four people familiar with the matter.

Prosecutors who are questioning witnesses before a grand jury — including two top aides to Vice President Mike Pence — have asked in recent days about conversations with Trump, his lawyers, and others in his inner circle who sought to substitute Trump allies for certified electors from some states Joe Biden won, according to two people familiar with the matter. Both spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss an ongoing investigation.

The prosecutors have asked hours of detailed questions about meetings Trump led in December 2020 and January 2021; his pressure campaign on Pence to overturn the election; and what instructions Trump gave his lawyers and advisers about fake electors and sending electors back to the states, the people said. Some of the questions focused directly on the extent of Trump’s involvement in the fake-elector effort led by his outside lawyers, including John Eastman and Rudy Giuliani, these people said.

In addition, Justice Department investigators in April received phone records of key officials and aides in the Trump administration, including his former chief of staff, Mark Meadows, according to two people familiar with the matter. That effort is another indicator of how expansive the Jan. 6 probe had become, well before the high-profile, televised House hearings in June and July on the subject.

………

The revelations raise the stakes of an already politically fraught probe involving a former president, still central to his party’s fortunes, who has survived previous investigations and two impeachments. Long before the Jan. 6 investigation, Trump spent years railing against the Justice Department and the FBI; the investigation moving closer to him will probably intensify that antagonism.

Federal criminal investigations are by design opaque, and probes involving political figures are among the most closely held secrets at the Justice Department. Many end without criminal charges. The lack of observable investigative activity involving Trump and his White House for more than a year after the Jan. 6 attack has fueled criticism, particularly from the left, that the Justice Department is not pursuing the case aggressively enough. 

………

No former president has ever been charged with a crime in the country’s history. In cases when investigators found evidence suggesting a president engaged in criminal conduct, as with Richard M. Nixon and Bill Clinton, investigators and successive administrations concluded it was better to grant immunity or forgo prosecution. One goal was to avoid appearing to use government power to punish political enemies and assure the tradition of a peaceful transfer of power.

By eschewing accountability for an attempted coup, we are making a peaceful transfer of power less likely, not more likely.

Impunity leads to violence and corruption.

I do not know if jailing is required, but a full investigation, and a trial if justified is.

Relying on the vicissitudes of the norms fairy is not a strategy, it is capitulation.

I’m Sure That Lucy Will Hold the Football This Time

We now have news that Joe Manchin will be supporting the latest tax and climate bill.

Do you believe that Manchin can be taken at his word?  I don't.

Either Sinema will object to something, most likely the limits on the carried interest loophole, or he'll pull out because AOC tweets something vaguely mean about him.

His public brand is sabotaging the Democratic Party agenda and claiming that it is somehow bipartisan.  (His private brand is corruption, but that is another story)

Senator Joe Manchin, the West Virginia Democrat infamous for thwarting his own party’s most ambitious policy goals, announced he has signed on to a domestic policy bill that would pay down the national debt, lower healthcare costs and address the climate crisis.

After reaching a deal with the Senate majority leader, Chuck Schumer, Manchin said the new policy package was called the Inflation Reduction Act of 2022 and included “realistic energy and climate policy”.

The development comes almost two weeks after Manchin had appeared essentially to kill off flagship climate action legislation when he came out against raising taxes on wealthy Americans and refused to support more funding for climate action.

………

After Manchin indicated that he would support a narrower package that excludes climate policies, the new agreement came suddenly.

Joe Biden said he supported the compromise. “I want to thank Senator Schumer and Senator Manchin for the extraordinary effort that it took to reach this result,” he said.

I will be very surprise if this does not all fall apart before September.

Just a Followup

 Tony Dow has died.

The announcement was only about a day premature.

Go to the Wiki.  He had a fascinating life after Beaver.

26 July 2022

It's the Corruption, Stupid

It turns out that the medical orthodoxy that amyloid plaques cause Alzheimer's disease are the product of fraud.

When I say that there is a problem with corruption in the sciences, and that this contributes to science denialism by much of the population, this is what I mean:

In short, Schrag has uncovered "anomalies" in the data at the heart of AD research that are the equivalent of discovering proof that mosquitoes had no role in spreading yellow fever. It also has put him in the middle of a controversy that has raged within the AD research community for decades, once thought to have been settled but which now seems primed to explode all over again.

………

In short, Schrag has uncovered "anomalies" in the data at the heart of AD research that are the equivalent of discovering proof that mosquitoes had no role in spreading yellow fever. It also has put him in the middle of a controversy that has raged within the AD research community for decades, once thought to have been settled but which now seems primed to explode all over again.

………

If Schrag is right—and his research seems sound and his approach judicious—then we could be looking at one of the biggest and most important cases of bad science of all time. As I said, there always has been a raging argument over the role of beta-amyloid in AD. Is the protein the cause of the disease's devastating effects, or is it simply a marker of the disease's passage through the brain? (One opponent of the amyloid hypothesis explained his position by saying that the amyloid deposits were "like gravestones. They mark where the body is, but they're not what killed the person.") If the original basis for the amyloid hypothesis turns out to have been flawed, that would lead to the conclusion that billions of dollars have been wasted hunting snipes down blind alleys.

Not wasted, stolen.  If one looks at Aduhelm, cost $56,000.00 a year while providing no measurable improvement in cognitive function, someone is benefiting from this, it's just not patients or the public.

If you have to to wonder cui bono whenever you see a piece of potentially ground breaking research, you have a corruption problem in your field of study.

This is a Warning Sign

There are a lot of people who are big on Kamala Harris's possibilities as the Democratic nominee in 2004 and 2008.

There is a problem with this, she cannot keep good staff.

Her staff turnover rivals that of Amy Klobuchar, whose behavior to staff was so bad that Harry Reid was forced to intervene with Klobuchar with in 2015

This is disqualifying.  The job of President is too big for one person, and even if you cannot attract the best staff, a revolving door spinning like an exercise wheel of a meth addled hamster:

There’s been a running theme for years in Kamala Harris’s world.

When she was senator, very few people in her office had the institutional knowledge of her time as attorney general in California. And when she was attorney general, there was some overlap but only a small cadre of staffers could contextualize her time as district attorney in San Francisco.

Now, as the vice president’s domestic policy adviser Rohini Kosoglu, one of her closest and longest serving staff members, leaves her office, Harris is facing that problem yet again.

More than 13 high-profile aides have left the vice president’s office, including her director of speechwriting, Meghan Groob, just last week.

The revolving door has made headlines during Harris’s tenure, creating a narrative of instability in the vice president’s office. But some Democrats worry about larger implications, particularly if President Biden chooses not to run for reelection. 

………

Still, the lack of consistency with her staff could hamper the vice president’s political prospects, observers say.

The ability to retain and keep loyal staff is crucial for a presidential campaign, and Kamala Harris cannot keep staff.

Even if she were able to get the nomination, and then win the general, she would be surrounded by people who are not invested in her success, and instead would pursue their own agendas.

This is a recipe for disaster.

 

I Am Irrationally Stoked about This

James Sie is reprising his role in Avatar, the Last Airbender in Netflix's new live action version.


Why am I so happy about this? Because this is no ordinary character. 

It's this guy:

Yes, James Sie will be reprising his role as the world's most devoted cabbage merchant:

Today, our friends over Avatar News have confirmed that voice-actor James Sie will return to play the live-action version of The Cabbage Merchant from the original Avatar: The Last Airbender animated series. We at Knight Edge Media speculated in March that he could appear in the Netflix series based on his secret trip to Vancouver during filming. As well as star Gordon Cormier mentioned on Instagram, it was nice meeting each other.

I can't stop smiling about this.

Cue Monty Python

Tony Dow Still Alive: Wally Cleaver on 'Leave It to Beaver' Not Dead
Variety

Much like Mark Twain, the reports of his his death have death are greatly exaggerated. (Also, Mark Twain never said that)

Unfortunately, it does appear that Mr. Dow is in hospice care for cancer, and is not expected to be with us much longer.

25 July 2022

What the F%$# is Wrong With Them?

Isn't it wonderful that Joe Biden has employed a sociopath who will do anyting to avoid common sense public health measures to head the CDC?

So, we are back to the days of the Reagan admistration, were inaction is tolerated because the disease, in this case Monkeypox, is a, "Gay thing."

Two children are among more than 2,500 people in the U.S. who have contracted monkeypox, according to CDC Director Rochelle Walensky, MD.

"We have seen now two cases that have occurred in children. Both of those children are traced back to individuals who come from the men who have sex with men community — the gay men community," Dr. Walensky told The Washington Post in a live interview July 22. "And so, when we have seen those cases in children, they have generally been what I call 'adjacent' to the community most at risk."

In case you are wondering, the easily anticipated responsed the anabolic steroid abusing Talibaptist set followed almost immediately.

Her statement is stupid, bigoted, and irresponsible.

What's it's in the service of an agenda which is opposed to sensible community measures to protect the public health.

It is worse than a crime, it is a mistake. 

Tweet of the Day


This sounds like a classic, "Oh Hell No!" moment.

Linkage


A nice description on how Musk should, though not necessarily will, be taken to the cleaners by Twitter:

24 July 2022

But She Went to Harvard!

You may have heard of Tina Tchen.  She was President and CEO of Time's Up, a charity dedicated to holding sexual harassers to account.

At the same time, she was running a side business, where she was reputation washing serial sexual abusers' reputations, which led to her being forced out.

This included her being deeply involved in attempts by then New York Governor Andrew Cuomo and his Evil Minions™ to smear the Governor's accusers.

So, you are thinking that there are consequences?

Not so much.  She's been hired by the Obama Foundation as their Executive Vice President and Chief Strategy and Impact Officer.

This is kind of like being a "Made Man" in Martin Scorsese's classic film Goodfellahs:

Nearly a year after Tina Tchen resigned amid controversy from heading a national charity aimed at fighting sexual harassment, the Obama Foundation on Wednesday announced it has tapped the longtime Chicago attorney to serve in a new leadership role.

Tchen will lead the “development, implementation, and monitoring of the foundation’s strategy,” as well as working with alumni from President Barack Obama’s White House and a program that seeks to empower adolescent girls around the world, according to a foundation release.

………

The move to hire Tchen follows local and national controversies, most notably her role advising disgraced New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo during a #MeToo scandal that ultimately led to her resignation as president and CEO of the nonprofit Time’s Up.

Tchen was criticized following reports that Cuomo and his aides sought her advice on how to handle a growing harassment scandal while she simultaneously led the nonprofit, which was founded to help those who have been sexually harassed or assaulted.

………

Tchen also faced criticism from some Chicago-area #MeToo advocates for endorsing Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle when she ran for Chicago mayor in 2019. Preckwinkle faced scrutiny over her handling of sexual assault accusations against her former chief of staff. The Tribune revealed Preckwinkle knew about an alleged assault for six months before firing that staffer one day before launching her mayoral bid. Tchen said the endorsement was made in her personal capacity, not as the head of Time’s Up.

………

Asked why Tchen was tasked with this program given the controversies, Obama Foundation spokesperson Courtney Williams said, “Tina has spent a career fighting for positive change for women. Her life’s work has been geared toward making workplaces fair and equitable and safer for women.” 

Putting the fox in charge of the hen house.  Smooth move.

This is not surprising though.  Soaring rhetoric and hypocrisy are really on brand for Obama.

The Biggest Burn in Texas

In the Texas Tribune, we see the following quote describing the actions, or more the lack of actions, by numerous branches of the Texas and Federal constabulary at the Uvalde school shootings, "In total, 376 law enforcement officers — a force larger than the garrison that defended the Alamo — descended upon the school in a chaotic, uncoordinated scene that lasted for more than an hour."

Trust me, invoking the Alamo to describe the failed law enforcement response is just about the worst insult that could be made in the Lone Star State.

It is, of course, the inevitable response of the culture and training of modern law enforcement, which is to encourage cowardice among its members.

That's what's behind trigger happy training methods that are taught to cops, and the acceptance of this cowardice is why a police officer only has to prove that they were legitimately afraid to have most courts let them off the hook.

Neither bravery nor cowardice have anything to do with the presence or the absence of fear.  They have to do with whether you allow that fear to control you.

Cops are trained to be cowards.  We saw this in Uvalde, Florida we saw this in Parkland, Florida, and we saw this at Columbine.

Given that much of the money that is given to law enforcement is predicated on the idea that they will put themselves at risk to keep the peace, and given that the culture of law enforcement is to aggressively eschew putting themselves at risk to keep the peace, perhaps some of the resources directed toward the police are better directed elsewhere.

23 July 2022

We Are F%$#ed


This is an evocative, and terrifying, representation of anthropogenic climate change.

Tweet of the Day


This is one for the ages.

22 July 2022

Corruption Much?

Why am I not surprised that a distinguished economist, a chair of Barack Obama's Council of Economic Advistors, took $100,000.00 from Uber to put his name on a piece of PR from the ride share firm and pass it off as an actual academic paper that he wrote. (see also here)

Should bought-and-paid-for corporate white papers get published under the auspices of the venerable National Bureau of Economic Research? That's the question raised by new disclosures from the Uber files leak.

State of play: A major NBER research paper c0-authored by Alan Krueger, the former chair of the White House Council of Economic Advisers, was revealed last week to have been paid for by Uber as "part of a production line of political ammunition that could be fed to politicians and the media," in the words of Guardian investigative reporter Felicity Lawrence.

Context: NBER, more than a century old, is one of the most venerable economic institutions in the world. It's funded mostly by U.S. government agencies, but also by a broad range of corporations and foundations. There is no more prestigious venue in which to publish economic research.

By the numbers: Uber paid Krueger $100,000 for the controversial 2016 study, which has been cited by 981 scholarly articles to date. A payment of that magnitude "is not trivial and is relevant," one high-profile economist tells Axios.

………

The bottom line: It is commonplace for companies to pay economists to write research that then gets published by the company itself. When the research appears in academic outlets, however, the current disclosure regime can feel insufficient.

Not just insufficient.  Deeply corrupt, and completely consistent with the ethics and practice of economics, which is why, among a legion of corrupt professions, (think of all of the conflicts of interest, payments, and corruption in medicine and pharmaceuticals) economists are the least trustworthy.


Well, Duh


I'm shocked! Shocked! To find that gambling is going on this establishment

Recent documents show that the Trump Administration in general and Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross attempted to use a citizenship question to create a political advantage in redistricting and then lied about it.

This has been transparently obvious since they first proposed this:

Previously unreleased internal communications indicate the Trump administration tried to add a citizenship question to the census with the goal of affecting congressional apportionment, according to a report issued Wednesday by the House Committee on Oversight and Reform.

The documents appear to contradict statements made under oath by then-Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross, who told the committee that the push for a citizenship question was unrelated to apportionment and the reason for adding it was to help enforce the Voting Rights Act.

The nearly 500 documents include several drafts of an August 2017 memorandum prepared by a Commerce Department lawyer and political appointee, James Uthmeier, in which he initially warned that using a citizenship question for apportionment would probably be illegal and violate the constitution, the report said.

In later drafts, Uthmeier and another political appointee, Earl Comstock, revised the draft to say there was “nothing illegal or unconstitutional about adding a citizenship question” and claiming the Founding Fathers “intended the apportionment count to be based on legal inhabitants,” the report said. In December 2017, the Justice Department sent a formal request to the Commerce Department, which oversees the Census Bureau, asking it to add the question; in March 2018, Ross announced it would be added to the 2020 Census.

“Today’s Committee memo pulls back the curtain on this shameful conduct and shows clearly how the Trump Administration secretly tried to manipulate the census for political gain while lying to the public and Congress about their goals,” Oversight Committee Chairwoman Carolyn B. Maloney (D-N.Y.) said in a statement.

The administration’s effort to add the question lasted two years. It was challenged by civil rights groups who blasted it as an effort to undercount Latinos and scare immigrant communities from participating in a survey that determines congressional apportionment and redistricting, as well as the disbursement of $1.5 trillion in federal funds annually.

It should be noted here that the actions of the Trump administration are in complete accordance with the actions of the Republican Party going back at least to Ronald Reagan.

He Will Never See the Inside of a Jail Cell

Steve Bannon was just convicted of contempt of Congress.

Unfortunately, even if this survives the inevitable appeal, which will take months, I don't see anything beyond a fine.

The culture of impunity (Omerta?) in Washington, DC is sacrosanct among the bipartisan merry band of psychopaths who make up the what qualifies as the "Elites" in Washington, and I'm sure that they will prevent any meaningful consequences:

Stephen K. Bannon, the right-wing podcaster and longtime confidant of former president Donald Trump, was convicted Friday of contempt of Congress for his refusal to provide documents or testimony to a House committee probing the Jan. 6, 2021, attack.

Bannon, 68, is the closest person to Trump to be convicted of a crime amid the fallout from the attack on the Capitol, which occurred as lawmakers met to formally tally the 2020 presidential election result. The contempt case involved legislative efforts to investigate the Jan. 6 violence and what led up to it, however, rather than the actual events of the day.

The trial, which lasted a week and only featured two witnesses, tested a rarely used criminal statute meant to ensure people comply with congressional subpoenas. The verdict, after 2½ hours of jury deliberations, sent a message to other potential committee witnesses, the panel’s chair and vice chair said in a joint statement.

“The conviction of Steve Bannon is a victory for the rule of law and an important affirmation of the Select Committee’s work,” Rep. Bennie G. Thompson (D-Miss.), the chairman, and Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.), the vice chair, said. “Just as there must be accountability for all those responsible for the events of January 6th, anyone who obstructs our investigation into these matters should face consequences.”

………

Bannon’s lawyer, David Schoen, called the conviction “a foregone conclusion” based on pretrial rulings but said he would file a “bulletproof” appeal. “You’ll see this case reversed,” he predicted.

Nichols scheduled sentencing for Oct. 21. Each of the two misdemeanor charges is punishable by at least 30 days and up to one year in jail. But that does not guarantee Bannon will end up behind bars; no one has been incarcerated for contempt of Congress in more than half a century, since the red-baiting hearings of the Cold War era.

The tell on where this is going is Bannon's bail conditions.

I hope that they jam him up like a motherf%$#er.

Tweet of the Day


The heat wave is serious business, and it's killing thousands of people, but this snark is hilarious. (and the British spelling of "Colonize" is perfect)

21 July 2022

Welcome to the Third World

We just had the first case of polio in the United States since 2013.

Unsurprising that this occurred in Rockland County, NY.  It's a major Orthodox Jewish center, and has very low vaccination rates.  They were ground zero for a measles outbreak in 2019 as well.

The first U.S. case of polio in nearly a decade has been confirmed in an unvaccinated individual in Rockland County, N.Y., local and state health officials announced Thursday.

While the origins of the case are still being investigated, the 20-year-old man had traveled to Poland and Hungary this year and was hospitalized in June, according to a public health official close to the investigation who was not authorized to speak on the record. He was initially diagnosed with a possible case of acute flaccid myelitis, caused by inflammation of the spinal cord that results in severe muscle weakness and paralysis. But subsequent testing detected a type of polio that indicates transmission from outside the United States, according to a joint alert Thursday from the New York State Health Department and Rockland County.

The patient has since been discharged and living at his parents’ home with his wife. He is able to stand, but is having difficulty walking, the official said.

Hungary?  Probably a Satmar Chassid.

………

The Rockland County man lives in a community that has historically been under-vaccinated and was the epicenter of the measles outbreak in 2019, according to public health officials who spoke on the condition on anonymity.

In this case, genetic sequencing performed by the Wadsworth Center — New York state’s public health laboratory — and confirmed by the CDC, showed a type of polio virus that indicates transmission from someone who received the oral polio vaccine, according to Thursday’s alert.
The oral (attenuated virus) vaccine is not administered in the US, so he probably caught it in Europe.

If the US had a functioning public health regime, we would see a lot less of this crap.

Pleading the Belly is Heading for a Return

This is an old article, 2019, but it appears that when states pass fetal personhood laws, they create a situation where detention of the mother violates the due process rights of the fetus.

This means that imprisoning a pregnant woman is illegal incarceration:

On Tuesday, [May 7, 2019] Georgia Republican Gov. Brian Kemp signed a “fetal heartbeat” bill that seeks to outlaw abortion after about six weeks. The measure, HB 481, is the most extreme abortion ban in the country—not just because it would impose severe limitations on women’s reproductive rights, but also because it would subject women who get illegal abortions to life imprisonment and the death penalty.

The primary purpose of HB 481 is to prohibit doctors from terminating any pregnancy after they can detect “embryonic or fetal cardiac activity,” which typically occurs at six weeks’ gestation. But the bill does far more than that. In one sweeping provision, it declares that “unborn children are a class of living, distinct person” that deserves “full legal recognition.” Thus, Georgia law must “recognize unborn children as natural persons”—not just for the purposes of abortion, but as a legal rule.

This radical revision of Georgia law is quite deliberate: The bill confirms that fetuses “shall be included in population based determinations” from now on, because they are legally humans, and residents of the state. But it is not clear whether the bill’s drafters contemplated the more dramatic consequences of granting legal personhood to fetuses. For instance, as Georgia appellate attorney Andrew Fleischman has pointed out, the moment this bill takes effect on Jan. 1, 2020, the state will be illegally holding thousands of citizens in jail without bond. That’s because, under HB 481, pregnant inmates’ fetuses have independent rights—including the right to due process. Can a juvenile attorney represent an inmate’s fetus and demand its release? If not, why? It is an egregious due process violation to punish one human for the crimes of another. If an inmate’s fetus is a human, how can Georgia lawfully detain it for a crime it did not commit?

The overturn of Roe v. Wade will have more unintended consequences than perhaps any court decision in a generation.

This was foreseeable, and foreseen, years ago, but the radicals on the court do not care.  They saw a chance to roll back the civil rights, worker protections, and government authority to regulate.

What they really want to do is bring us back to the Lochner era, where the court invented the liberty of contract, where the government was forbidden to regulate commerce in any meaningful way, because ……… Freedumb!

H/t Naked Capitalism

Poxy McPoxface?

It appears that the World Health Organization is looking to rename monkeypox.

My suggestion is above.  You can put yours in the comments:

The World Health Organization says it is working with experts to come up with a new name for monkeypox.

It comes after more than 30 scientists wrote last week about the "urgent need for a non-discriminatory and non-stigmatising" name for the virus and the disease it causes.

Continued reference to the virus as African is both inaccurate and discriminatory, they said.

Also Steve.  Steve would be good.

 

I Said This Months Ago

I said this in March.

We do not have a failure of public health efforts in the United States, we have a failure to HAVE ANY public health efforts in the United States at all.

Tweet of the Day


This is WAY more amusing than, "Etaoin shrdlu."

20 July 2022

We Are F%$#ed

If the Greenland ice sheet melts, it would raise ocean levels by 6 meters.

I'm not sure if that includes the additional water displaced when its land mass will literally spring up from the reduction of weight on top of it.

Well, it appears that its ice field is melting even faster than previously thought:

It rained for 9 hours at Summit Station/Greenland, 10,530’ elevation.

Greenland is sending signals to coastal metropolises around the world that it’s never too early to start building seawalls. These are not mixed signals from the big ice island. Rather, they are straightforward signals indicative of rapid breakdown of average ice thickness of 5,000 feet sooner than ever thought possible.

Stating the obvious, it’s horrible news.

In conjunction with freakish rain at the top of Greenland, the response to global warming has increasingly exposed humans as farcically trapped behind the biggest eight ball of all time by not taking global warming seriously. Now, there may be no way around it.

Greenland is acting out. For example, it rained at the Summit Station at 10,530 feet above sea level where it has never rained throughout all recorded history. It’s not supposed to rain at the top of an ice sheet nearly two miles above sea level. But, it did.

………

Regarding the analysis according to Christopher Shuman, a glaciologist with University of Maryland: “To see this many melt events at this intensity in such a short period is absolutely remarkable in the historic records that are available to us… We now see three melting events in a decade in Greenland – and before 1990, that happened about once every 150 years, and now rainfall in an area where rain never fell,” Ibid.

 This will not end well.

I Love a First Flight


Have some video

and some pictures

The first flight of the KF-21 happened yesterday at the Sacheon airport in South Korea.

The aircraft, roughly the size of an F/A-18 A model, is midway between the 4th generation fighters like the F-15, F-16, Eurofighter Typhoon, Dassault Rafale, MiG-29, and Su-27, and aircraft like the F-22, F-35, Su-57, Sukhoi Checkmate, Chengdu J-20, and Shenyang FC-31, which are optimized for full stealth.

The KF-21 is clearly designed for a low radar cross section, but, at least at this point, it is not designed to operate routinely with internally. stowed weapons.

There is talk of a variant with internal weapons bay, but this decision gives far more flexibility in terms of the weapons that it can carry.

Depending on on the configuration of its weapon load-outs, the aircraft could have a pretty low RCS.

Notably, it took to the air carrying dummy Meteor missiles in semi-recessed bays, which is surprising for a maiden flight.

The first prototype of the KF-21 Boramae (Korean for “Hawk”), the next-generation fighter developed by KAI (Korea Aerospace Industries), carried out its first flight on at Sacheon airport, home of Korea Aerospace Industries’ production facilities some 300 kilometers south of Seoul, South Korea, on Jul. 19, 2022.

………

As we have already explained in details here at The Aviationist, the aircraft, unveiled last year and developed as a low-cost, less-stealthy alternative to the American F-35, is expected to be fielded by the ROKAF (Republic Of Korea Air Force) by the 2030s to replace its fleet of ageing F-4E Phantom and F-5E/F Tiger II aircraft. Six prototypes, including two twin-seat aircraft, are being built to support the testing campaign that is expected to last until 2026, when full scale production should begin with KF-21 Block I.

It's interesting that they will be fielding a 2-seat version.  To the best of my knowledge, this is the only stealthy fighter to have a two seat version. 

It looks to be an attempt to thread the needle between 4th generation fighters like the Typhoon, Rafale, and Flanker and the expensive to operate and difficult to upgrade 5th generation fighters

In any case, I love reading about this sh%$.

I’ve Seen This Movie Before, It Does Not End Well

With rising interest rates, the housing market is rapidly contracting and the median price of a house hit a record.

This is actually not a surprise.  Most of the decline in housing market has been in low-end starter homes, and when you cut out the bottom of the market, the median rises.

2008 is calling, it wants its housing crisis back. 

The U.S. housing market continued to soften in June, with home sales falling and mortgage demand hitting a 22-year low as rising interest rates and recession fears held off would-be buyers.

Existing-home sales are down 5.4 percent compared with May, according to data released Wednesday by the National Association of Realtors, marking a fifth straight month of declines. But they’ve tumbled 14.2 percent compared with June 2021.

The data reinforce signals the nation’s once-frenzied housing market is in the midst of a cool-down and may portend its next phase as the Federal Reserve presses its aggressive campaign to subdue soaring prices. Central bankers are raising the cost of borrowing for businesses and households to slow spending, which in turn is supposed to slow inflation. But the Fed’s tinkering also runs the risk of tipping the nation into recession and icing consumers — who as a result have less buying power — out of the housing market.

………

Mortgage demand fell more than 6 percent last week, to the lowest level since 2000, according to data published by Mortgage Bankers Association. The median price on an existing single-family home was just over $423,000 in June, according the national Realtors group, up more than 13 percent from this time last year.

………

The average rate for a 30-year fixed rate mortgage is 5.5 percent, according to Freddie Mac, up 2.6 percentage points from a year ago — a difference that can add hundreds of dollars to a monthly mortgage payment. The rise also coincides with a flattened stock market and higher prices for just about everything, making saving for a down payment even more difficult. The resulting squeeze on affordability is locking buyers out and leading to fewer deals.

I would note that a 5.½% fixed rate mortgage is still pretty damn low.

When I bought my house in 2004, I counted myself lucky to get a 5¾% mortgage.

Much like the last housing crash, I expect to find a morass of corruption, fraud, and self dealing, just like the last time around.

Hopefully, this time, we will prosecute the criminals, unlike the last time, when Barack Obama, Eric "Place" Holder, and  Lanny Breuer, decided to go along to get along.

In any case, fasten your seat-belts, we're in for a bumpy ride.

Deep Thought

This the first, and perhaps only, time that Sharknado has been used as a potential "Successories" poster.

Were this made into an actual poster, I am not sure if Successories or Despair.com would be more likely to publish this.

19 July 2022

Interesting Perspective

Over at Jacobin, they have an interesting perspective on the Russian-Ukraine war.

Specifically, they assert that the Ukraine is unable to transition its economy and society to a war footing because Kiev's commitment to their particularly extreme and corrupt form of capitalism

So, in addition to being bad for the physical and mental health of most of us, and requiring a bailout from the rest of us every decade or so, it appears that Anglo-Saxon style hyper-capitalism is bad for making war.

There are historical precedents.  Nazi Germany had the most laissez-faire economy of any of the major combatants in WWII, and they did not reach a full war footing until less than 2 years before their surrender:

In a 2020 lecture, Canada’s former ambassador to Ukraine said that after Euromaidan the country had become a laboratory for ideal-world experimentation. In other words, the economic liberalization unacceptable at home could instead be tried out in Ukraine.

But how is this “experiment” dealing with conditions of total war? And if such a situation generally pushes states toward economic interventionism, is Ukraine following suit?

………

Since 2014 — but with renewed vigor in recent days — Ukraine’s Western partners have pushed Ukraine to “fight corruption.” This “struggle” has many important economic effects. Generally, states at war tend to nationalize key sectors of the economy to maximize armaments production and stabilize the civilian economy, both to prevent chaos in the rear and feed the army. Strangely, this has not taken place in Ukraine, despite what the government declares a “total war” situation. Remarkably, a law was even passed in late June that aims to “restart privatization of state assets on a new level.” Some politicians have critiqued this approach — Vadym Denysenko, assistant to the interior minister earlier in the war, urged a turn toward “direct state management of the economy.” But so far, his call has gone unheeded.

Calling for nationalization, Denysenko noted that “it is no longer time for the National Anti-Corruption Bureau of Ukraine (NABU).” He said this because over the past eight years, a flurry of “anti-corruption organs” — NGOs, state organs, and in-between — have focused on eliminating state intervention in the economy.

Set up by Ukraine’s liberal “civil society,” the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), and the Open Society Foundation, such organs have created websites such as Prozorro (“transparency”), which handles Ukrainian state purchases. The mayor of Dnipro has harshly criticized Prozorro in recent months, due to the government’s decision to require all purchases of military equipment to go through this program. He insists that such public transparency in military affairs and the bureaucratization of urgent military tenders is only helping the Russian army.

 ………

The requirement that state tenders be made with a minimum amount of domestic suppliers is common in most countries, and its absence in Prozorro was called “extremely strange” by the new economy minister in 2021. As a result of this neutralization of the “corruption risks” presented by the domestic localization of state purchases, around 40 percent of Ukrainian state purchases are from foreign producers. By comparison, the United States and European Union (EU) countries make around 5 and 8 percent of their state purchases abroad respectively. The imperatives of “stopping corruption” take priority over Ukraine’s economic development.

When Ukrainian legislators tried to pass a bill in 2020 ensuring localization of state purchases, the anti-corruption bureaus (as well as the EU and the United States) frantically tore it down, citing the “possibilities for the corrupt use” of this patently ordinary measure. The law was eventually passed — but amended, so that localization restrictions were only applied to non–EU or North American nations. In short, Ukraine’s vast anti-corruption ecosystem is a control mechanism that keeps its economy perpetually open to decimation by foreign exporters who often enjoy preferential treatment from their own governments. The idea that “corruption” is the greatest barrier to development is a fiction used to justify trade liberalization in which the stronger Western capitalists inevitably win, to the detriment of the Ukrainian economy.

So, the "anti-corruption" institutions demanded by the west have the effect of funneling more money out of the country.  Ka-ching.

It's a good read detailing how the juxtaposition of failed policy and looting by the western governments and the associated civil society groups have left the Ukraine in a uniquely poor position.

The Whole of the Charter School Business Model


Scary attrition rate
It turns out that Eva Moskowitz's Success Academy is systematically forcing students out in order to juice their test scores.

Well, that's one way to look good:

With 40 schools and 20,000 students, Success Academy is the highest profile charter school network in New York City. It is known for its high standardized test scores and its equally impressive PR campaigns. Here is an advertisement I saw recently at a bus stop. Notice they say we “can” be classmates for life and not we “will” be classmates for life. Based on data I’ve recently obtained, I can see why they were wise to not put “will” or they would be committing false advertisement.

Over the years I’ve tracked the attrition at Success Academy. They are a K-12 program and I’ve found that generally when I compare the number of kindergarteners entering the school with the number of 12th graders that graduate 13 years later, they lose approximately 75% of their students over the 13 years.

Success Academy has argued that losing 75% over 13 years isn’t actually that bad since it equates to about 10% attrition per year, which is what district schools also have. One flaw in that reasoning is that district schools fill in those 10% of seats each year while Success Academy stops ‘backfilling’ in the 4th grade. Another problem with comparing attrition rates from Success Academy to district schools is that a student can pretty easily move from one district school to another and those schools won’t be all that different. But for Success Academy which are supposedly the best schools in the country, it is a major life change to leave Success Academy for a district school so if they really are as good as they say, you would expect their attrition to be less than the 10% per year that district schools have.

I recently got some data from New York State that puts the attrition of Success Academy in a different and scary context. Since Success Academy is a K-12 school and you can’t get in after 4th grade, any student who makes it to 9th grade there has been at the school for anywhere from 5 to 9 years. After making it that long, the last four years should be pretty easy. It’s like running a marathon and getting to the 25 mile mark, of course you are going to finish the race. But some new data I got reveals that this isn’t the case with Success Academy. In general, only about 60% of the students who become 9th graders there eventually graduate within 6 years. And with certain subgroups it is a lot less than that. 

………

This data is really scandalous. Have you ever heard of a school that sheds almost half their students in a four year period from 9th to 12th grade even though those students have been in the school since kindergarten or maybe 4th grade at the latest? A question I wonder is why do so many students leave the school so late in the game after succeeding there for so many years? My suspicion is that Success Academy does this little game where they tell students that they are going to make them repeat a grade but that they will promote them if they transfer out. I’ve heard so many cases of that over the years. Basically its a legal way for them to arbitrarily expel any students they feel have ‘got-to’go’ without making an actual list.

Maybe there are some charter schools who actually do a better job of educating students, but all of the studies have not shown that when correcting for the students that they admit, they perform no better.

The allure of charter schools comes from three things:

  • The ability of for profits to be extracted from public moneys. (Looting)
  • Antipathy of the aforementioned looters toward unions in general, and teachers' unions in particular.
  • By virtue of how they recruit students, they can create segregated schools.

It's a corrupt racket.

H/t Diane Ravitch