30 November 2022

Like Watching Your Mother-In-Law Driving off a Cliff in Your Brand New Car

Isn't it ironic?
It appears that the presence of insane vote deniers in a number of county offices in Arizona might have the effect of flipping the results of a US House and the state superintendent race.

This is probably not going to stand, with the Chochise County supervisors might end up in jail, but it's likely that this will be settled in court, and Republicans will win the House seat and the superintendent election.

That is as it should be, votes should be counted, even if they come from, "Whacko, my parents are first cousins, X-Files wannabe, black helicopter, tinfoil hat wearing, stupid, dim-witted, thinks pro wrestling is real," lunatics.

I'm really appreciating the irony that the Republicans will have to fight the certify the results of the election in order to save two elections.

It's ironic, in the way that the Alanis Morrissette song actually isn't.

Farther and farther down the rabbit hole we tumble in the Arizona election that has no end.

It’s a strange and surreal place where up is down and black is white and the two Republican members of the Cochise County Board of Supervisors have lost their ever-living minds.

It seems Supervisors Peggy Judd and Tom Crosby had this bright this idea that if they just declined to certify the election results in their ruby-red county that …

Well, I’m not sure what they thought would happen, but their decision to essentially disenfranchise their own voters – most of them Republicans − seems to be a protest of Maricopa County’s election. A protest that, if it stands, could actually land the supervisors in jail and another Democrat in Congress.

Without Cochise County’s vote, Republican Juan Ciscomani would lose what should be his southern Arizona congressional seat to Democrat Kirsten Engel. The supervisors’ shenanigans also could flip the state superintendent’s race from Republican Tom Horne to Democrat Kathy Hoffman and dash Republican Abe Hamadeh’s chances of overtaking Democrat Kris Mayes when the attorney general’s race is recounted next month.

Geniuses, those Cochise County officials.

It is delicious schadenfreude.

Today is the F%$# You Barack Obama Anniversary

You left off open slave markets and an ongoing refugee crisis.

To his credit, Obama acknowledges that this was a mistake.

(on edit)

I did not look at the video attached.  It is largely unrelated to the basic point.

Elon Musk Unveils Tesla Phone

I am certain that Apple, Google, Samsung, and are quaking in their boots.

OK, I need some help from my reader(s):  Am I dunking on Elon too much?

This is, of course is not the rumored Tesla Phone, but it is real, and the most steam punk mobile phone ever made, at least until someone comes up with an cell phone actually powered by steam.


Christine McVie of Fleetwood Mac has died at age 79.

I've never been a big fan of the group, but McVie always seemed to be joyful and playful (see video below) and was an antidote to the angst that always seemed to surround the rest of the band, particularly Stevie Nicks and Lindsey Buckingham.

As you can see here, she was cool making poking fun at herself.

I Did Nazi That Coming

It looks like there are a bunch of tech bros out there want to have huge numbers of children so that their (perceived) genetic superiority can be spread throughout the world.

This sh%$ is straight out of the pre-WWII eugenics movement, beloved by Francis Galton, Winston Churchill, J.H. Kellogg, and that unpleasant short German man with the tiny mustache.

I am not surprised.  Much like the philosophy of Ayn Rand, the "science" of eugenics is beloved by ordinary people who through luck and privilege achieve some success in life:

Sitting in their toy-filled family room on a sunny September afternoon, Simone and Malcolm Collins were forced to compete with the wails of two toddlers as they mapped out their plans for humankind.

"I do not think humanity is in a great situation right now. And I think if somebody doesn't fix the problem, we could be gone," Malcolm half-shouted as he pushed his sniffling 18-month-old, Torsten, back and forth in a child-size Tonka truck.

Along with his 3-year-old brother, Octavian, and his newborn sister, Titan Invictus, Torsten has unwittingly joined an audacious experiment. According to his parents' calculations, as long as each of their descendants can commit to having at least eight children for just 11 generations, the Collins bloodline will eventually outnumber the current human population.

If they succeed, Malcolm continued, "we could set the future of our species."

So this guy does not have the vaguest notion of how this all works.

First, they have not factored in deaths which will reduce the number who will reproduce, and second, you are going to start seeing intermarrying at the second, (legal in all US states) third, or fourth cousin level.

This becomes even more likely when one realizes that families tend to live closer to each other than random people, and in this case, they would all be living in the same cult compound.

Malcolm, 36, and his wife, Simone, 35, are "pronatalists," part of a quiet but growing movement taking hold in wealthy tech and venture-capitalist circles. People like the Collinses fear that falling birth rates in certain developed countries like the United States and most of Europe will lead to the extinction of cultures, the breakdown of economies, and, ultimately, the collapse of civilization. It's a theory that Elon Musk has championed on his Twitter feed, that Ross Douthat has defended in The New York Times' opinion pages, and that Joe Rogan and the billionaire venture capitalist Marc Andreessen bantered about on "The Joe Rogan Experience." It's also, alarmingly, been used by some to justify white supremacy around the world, from the tiki-torch-carrying marchers in Charlottesville, Virginia, chanting "You will not replace us" to the mosque shooter in Christchurch, New Zealand, who opened his 2019 manifesto: "It's the birthrates. It's the birthrates. It's the birthrates."
And, of course, that, "Unpleasant short German man with the tiny mustache."

This is all about the idea that non-white people are untermenchen, and so white people must have many children to prevent said, "Mud People," from taking over.

The reason that this sounds like a fever dream inspired by The Turner Diaries, is because, this is where eugenics of humanity inexorably takes you.


I reached out to the Collinses after I received a tip about a company called Genomic Prediction, where Musk's OpenAI cofounder Sam Altman was an early investor. (Altman, who is gay, also invests in a company called Conception. The startup plans to grow viable human eggs out of stem cells and could allow two biological males to reproduce. "I think having a lot of kids is great," Altman recently told an audience at Greylock's Intelligent Future event. "I want to do that now even more than I did when I was younger.")

Genomic Prediction is one of the first companies to offer PGT-P, a controversial new type of genetic testing that allows parents who are undergoing in vitro fertilization to select the "best" available embryos based on a variety of polygenic risk factors.

Rather ironically, if there is a genetic connection found to homosexuality, preventing gay children will become one of the, if not the, most common uses of the technology, because people are bigots.

That Altman does not "Get It" is a mark of his sense of privilege, and his deep stupidity.


They [the Collinses] both said they were warned by friends not to talk to me. After all, a political minefield awaits anyone who wanders into this space. The last major figure to be associated with pronatalism was Jeffrey Epstein, who schemed to impregnate 20 women at a time on his New Mexico ranch. Genetic screening, and the underlying assumption that some humans are born better than others, often invites comparisons to Nazi eugenic experiments. And then there's the fact that our primary cultural reference point for a pronatalist society is the brutally misogynist world of "The Handmaid's Tale."

If your movement is associated with Jeffrey Epstein and that, "Unpleasant short German man with the tiny mustache," you might want to reexamine your life.


The payoff won't be immediate, Simone said, but she believes if that small circle puts the right plans into place, their successors will "become the new dominant leading classes in the world."

Wow, I did Nazi that coming.


While pronatalism is often associated with religious extremism, the version now trending in this community has more in common with dystopian sci-fi. The Collinses, who identify as secular Calvinists, are particularly drawn to the tenet of predestination, which suggests that certain people are chosen to be superior on earth and that free will is an illusion. They believe pronatalism is a natural extension of the philosophical movements sweeping tech hubs like the Silicon Hills of Austin, Texas. Our conversations frequently return to transhumanism (efforts to merge human and machine capabilities to create superior beings), longtermism (a philosophy that argues the true cost of human extinction wouldn't be the death of billions today but the preemptive loss of trillions, or more, unborn future people), and effective altruism (or EA, a philanthropic system currently focused on preventing artificial intelligence from wiping out the human population).

No, EA is a way of justifying enormous wealth and making it appear virtuous, because you will be making donations (in the distant future) to help people in the far more distant future.  It is morally bankrupt, or as one Twitter wag put it, "It's a prosperity gospel for agnostics."

It is camouflage for greed and bigotry.


According to tech-industry insiders, this type of rhetoric is spreading at intimate gatherings among some of the most powerful figures in America. It's "big here in Austin," the 23andMe cofounder Linda Avey told me. Raffi Grinberg, a pronatalist who is the executive director of Dialog, said population decline was a common topic among the CEOs, elected officials, and other powerful figures who attended the group's off-the-record retreats. In February, the PayPal cofounder Luke Nosek, a close Musk ally, hosted a gathering at his home on Austin's Lake Travis to discuss "The End of Western Civilization," another common catchphrase in the birth-rate discourse.

Here, once again, I have to go back to the real world experiment that some call history, and note that after the Black Death killed half of Europe, living standards rose further and faster than at any time in history.

The elites did not see the benefits of the increased productivity, because they had to pay their workers more, and passed laws to suppress wages, but in some cases (Poland) where contemporaneous records of the Black Death are absent, we know that the plague hit them because of the post plague wage spikes.

A declining population, one where the average Joe pays 10% more in old age benefit taxes, but earns 40% more is good for everyone, except the holders of capital, like Musk or Nosek.


These worries tend to focus on one class of people in particular, which pronatalists use various euphemisms to express. In August, Elon's father, Errol Musk, told me that he was worried about low birth rates in what he called "productive nations." The Collinses call it "cosmopolitan society." Elon Musk himself has tweeted about the movie "Idiocracy," in which the intelligent elite stop procreating, allowing the unintelligent to populate the earth.

"Productive nations," and "cosmopolitan society," huh?  What they mean is "Wipipo".  They might as well just say that they are worried about N*****s taking over.

As to basing your philosophy on Idiocracy, I would suggest that you go with a far better movie from Mike Judge, Office Space.  Elon Musk already has the role of William Lundberg, so marvelously played by Gary Cole in the original, down pat.


Once pronatalists reach critical mass, the Collinses hope, they can begin to shape society around their needs.

"You have to create cultures that reward" and have structures for large families, Simone explained. Pronatalist pet issues include everything from increasing housing development to changing laws around car-seat regulation (one study found that people would stop having children when they couldn't fit any more car seats in their vehicle). During the coronavirus pandemic, the Collinses tried to raise money for a family-friendly "startup town" they called Project Eureka, where all community rules would be "ultimately set — all disputes resolved" by the Collinses.

When fundraising stalled, they redirected their focus to the Collins Institute for the Gifted, a specialized online lab school that is partnering with the Bari Weiss-cofounded University of Austin and the Thiel-backed 1517 Fund. (Musk similarly created a boutique education program, Ad Astra, for his family and employees' children that has since expanded into the online school Astra Nova.)

The logic behind the Collins Institute reflects their thinking at large: "If you want to make the future better for everyone and you could choose to dramatically increase the educational outcomes of the bottom 10% of people or the top 0.1% of people," the Collinses say to choose the 0.1%. 

The Collinses are paraphrasing William Edward Hickman, who kidnapped and dismembered a little girl in 1927, and said "What is good for me is right."

They benefit from lobbying for a future in which all of society's resources are directed toward them, because this is all that they concieve of.

It should be noted that Ayn Rand described that Hickman quote as, "The best and strongest expression of a real man's psychology I have heard."

To be fair, Hickman's victim, Marion Parker, was born October 11, 1915, which means that she would be dead now, so according to the ethics put forward by "Effective Altruism," it's all good.

29 November 2022

Guilty, Guilty, Guilty!

Former gun safety instructor who shot his own eye out, Stewart Rhodes, and and one of his senior minions, Kelly Meggs were found guilty of seditions conspiracy, while 3 co-defendants were found not guilty of that crime.

All 5 defendants were convicted of obstructing Congress. Both charges can carry a sentence of up to 20 years:

Stewart Rhodes, the leader of the far-right Oath Keepers militia, was convicted on Tuesday along with one of his subordinates of seditious conspiracy as a jury found them guilty of seeking to keep former President Donald J. Trump in power through an extensive plot that started after the 2020 election and culminated in the mob attack on the Capitol.


Seditious conspiracy is the most serious charge brought so far in any of the 900 criminal cases stemming from the vast investigation of the Capitol attack, an inquiry that could still result in scores, if not hundreds, of additional arrests. Mr. Rhodes, 57, was also found guilty of obstructing the certification of the election during a joint session of Congress on Jan. 6 and of destroying evidence in the case. On those three counts, he faces a maximum of 60 years in prison.


Mr. Rhodes was convicted of sedition along with Kelly Meggs, who ran the Florida chapter of the Oath Keepers at the time the Capitol was stormed. Three other defendants who played lesser roles in the planning for Jan. 6 — Kenneth Harrelson, Jessica Watkins and Thomas Caldwell — were found not guilty of sedition.

Mr. Rhodes was also acquitted of two different conspiracy charges: one that accused him of plotting to disrupt the election certification in advance of Jan. 6 and the other of planning to stop members of Congress from discharging their duties that day.

Mr. Meggs, who led a group of Oath Keepers into the Capitol, and Ms. Watkins, who went in separately and was recorded on a digital walkie-talkie app, were both convicted of conspiracy to stop the election certification. Along with Mr. Harrelson, they were also found guilty of the count of conspiracy to interfere with members of Congress during the attack. All five were convicted of obstructing an official proceeding and destroying evidence in the case.


In between those remarks, prosecutors showed the jury hundreds of encrypted text messages swapped by Oath Keepers members, demonstrating that Mr. Rhodes and some of his followers were in thrall to outlandish fears that Chinese agents had infiltrated the United States government and that Mr. Biden — a “puppet” of the Chinese Communist Party — might cede control of the country to the United Nations.


On Jan. 6 itself, Mr. Rhodes remained outside the Capitol, standing in the crowd like “a general surveying his troops on the battlefield,” Mr. Nestler said during the trial. While prosecutors acknowledged that he never entered the building, they claimed he was in touch with some of the Oath Keepers who did go in just minutes before they breached the Capitol’s east side.

Even with the convictions, the government is continuing to prosecute several other Oath Keepers, including four members of the group who are scheduled to go on trial on seditious conspiracy charges on Monday. A second group of Oath Keepers is facing lesser conspiracy charges at a trial now set for next year, and Kellye SoRelle, Mr. Rhodes’s onetime lawyer and girlfriend, has been charged in a separate criminal case.

I hope that the judge throws the book at them.

I Cannot Believe that I am Quoting this Guy

Michael Needham is Marco Rubio's chief of staff, so he is a professional liar, and Marco Rubio has no more interest in supporting the health and well-being of railroad workers than he does in supporting the health and well-being of Raul Castro.

But he illustrates an important point, one that I made last night, that Biden's call for Congressional action to force a bad deal on rail workers is politically stupid.

At the very least, Biden can call for imposing a deal that is not a reward for railroad intransigence.

Adventures in Skeuomorphic Design

My car is in the shop, and I am renting a car, a Nissan Sentra, because the smaller Toyota Corolla was not available.

I prefer the Toyota to the Nissan, but I got an impressive example of well executed skeuomorphic user interface design as a result.

For the uninitiated, skeuomorphism is the use of real world analogues in an interface, so in a drawing program, you have pens that look like a pencil, or a pen, or a spray can, or an eraser.

I had a pleasant surprise with the Sentra and its lane departure warning (LDW) system.

My car, the one in the shop, is a 2004 Toyota Prius with over 270,000 miles (435,000 km) on it, which is best described as a mid-life crisis car for the most boring mother-f%$#er on the planet, lacks such a system.  (I'm keeping it until it reaches 300,000 miles, because 300,000 miles, thank you very much).

On the Sentra, if you drift too close to a lane marker, it: (Quoting the manual)

The LDWsystem provides a lane departure warning function when the vehicle is driven at speeds of approximately 37 mph (60 km/h) and above and the lane markings are clear. When the vehicle approaches either the left or the right side of the traveling lane, THE STEERING WHEEL WILL VIBRATE and the LDW indicator on the instrument panel will blink to alert the driver.

(emphasis mine)

The indicator on the instrument panel is old school, and that, along with a chime, I have encountered in other rentals that I have used in the past few years.

The wheel vibration though, provides both a tactile and aural indication that is almost identical to the rumble strips that you find on the side of the road.

This is f%$#ing brilliant.  It is a near perfect simulation of an existing sensory input, and I reacted in exactly the same way that I would if I encountered a rumble strip on the road.

Note that I have received no consideration for this opinion, but if either Nissan Corp. or Enterprise Car Rental wishes to pay me,  I am more than willing to take their filthy capitalist lucre.

28 November 2022

Have I Mentioned that Amazon is Evil?

Cory Doctorow, cape wearing internet superhero explains how Amazon's monopoly rents are cheating their vendors, their customers, and people who don't even shop at Jeff Bezos' monster.

The short version is that Amazon extracts upwards of 45% from independent vendors in fees to be listed in Amazon's Prime service, fees to be distributed from Amazon warehouses, and ad revenue extorted in order to appear on the first page.

When juxtaposed with Amazon's requirement that its vendors offer its lowest price on the hellsite, meaning that anything sold through any other service, online or offline cannot be offered at a lower price.

This has the effect of raising the prices for everyone, and makes other sales venues subsidize Amazon.

Lina Khan, are you listening?

In Bezos's original plan, the company called "Amazon" was called "Relentless," due to its ambition to be "Earth's most customer-centric company." Today, Amazon is an ensh%$tified endless scroll of paid results, where winning depends on ad budgets, not quality.

Writing in Jeff Bezos's newspaper The Washington Post, veteran tech reporter Geoffrey Fowler reports on the state of his boss's "relentless" commitment to customer service. The state is grim.

Search Amazon for "cat beds" and the entire first screen is ads. One of them is an ad for a dog carrier, which Amazon itself manufactures and sells, competing with the other sellers who bought that placement.

Scroll down one screen and you get some "organic" results – that is, results that represent Amazon's best guess at the best products for your query. Scroll once more and yup, another entire screen of ads, these ones labeled "Highly rated." One more scroll, and another screenful of ads, one for a dog product.


Keep scrolling, you'll keep seeing ads, including ads you've already scrolled past. "On these first five screens, more than 50 percent of the space was dedicated to ads and Amazon touting its own products." Amazon is a cesspit of ads: twice as many as Target, four times as many as Walmart.

How did we get here? We always knew that Amazon didn't care about its suppliers, but being an Amazon customer has historically been a great deal – lots of selection, low prices, and a generous returns policy. How could "Earth's most customer-centric" company become such a bad place to shop?

The answer is in Amazon's $31b "ad" business. Amazon touts this widely, and analysts repeat it without any critical interrogation, proclaiming that Amazon is catching up with the Googbook ad-tech duopoly. But nearly all of that "ad" business isn't ads at all – it's payola.

Amazon charges its sellers billions of dollars a year through a gladiatorial combat where they compete to outspend each other to see who'll get to the top of the search results. May the most margin-immolating, deep-pocketed spender win!

Why would sellers be willing to light billions of dollars on fire to get to the top of the Amazon search results?



If you are a seller, you have to be on Amazon, otherwise no one will find your stuff and that means they won't buy it. This is called a monopsony, the obscure inverse of monopoly, where a buyer has power over sellers.


Back in June 2021, DC Attorney General Karl Racine filed an antitrust suit against Amazon, because the company had used its monopoly over customers to force such unfavorable terms on sellers that prices were being driven up everywhere, not just on Amazon.

Here's how that works: one of the unfavorable terms Amazon forces on sellers is "most favored nation" status (MFN), which means that Amazon sellers have to offer their lowest price on Amazon – they can't sell more cheaply anywhere else.

Then Amazon hits sellers with fees. Lots of fees:

  • Fees to be listed on Prime (without which, your search result is buried at the bottom of an endless scroll):
  • Fees for Amazon warehouse fulfillment (without which, your search result is buried at the bottom of an endless scroll)

And finally, there's payola – the "ads" you have to buy to outcompete the other people who are buying ads to outcompete you.

All told, these fees add up to 45% of the price you pay Amazon – sometimes more. Companies just don't have 45% margins, because they exist in competitive markets. If I'm selling a bottle of detergent at a 45% markup, my rival will sell it at 40%, and then I have to drop to 35%, and so on.

But everyone has to sell on Amazon, and Amazon takes their 45% cut, which means that all these sellers have to raise prices. And, thanks to MFN, the sellers then have to charge the same price at Walmart, Target, and your local mom-and-pop shop.


This brings me back to the ensh%$tification of Amazon search, AKA late-stage (platform) capitalism. Amazon's dominance means that many products are now solely available on the platform. With the collapse of both physical and online retail, Prime isn't so much a choice as a necessity.


Remember that one of those search-results for a cat-bed was a product for dogs? Remember that Amazon made that dog product? How did that end up there? Well, if you're a seller trying to make a living from cat-beds, your ad-spending is limited by your profit margin. Guess how much it costs Amazon to advertise on Amazon? Amazon is playing with its own chips, and it can always outbid the other players at the table.

Those Amazon own-brand products? They didn't come out of a vacuum. Amazon monitors its own sellers' performance, and creams off the best of them, cloning them and then putting its knockoffs above of the original product in search results (Bezos lied to Congress about this, then admitted it was true).


Historically, we understood that businesses couldn't be trusted to be on both sides of a transaction. The "structural separation" doctrine is one of the vital pieces of policy we've lost over 40 years of antitrust neglect. It says that important platforms can't compete with their users.

Ms. Khan, tear down that wall!

Simply a Betrayal

Joe Biden is calling for legislation to enforce the rejected deal for rail workers.

The reason that there has been no progress in negotiations in 3 years is because the railroad executives know that when push comes to shove, Congress will legislate a deal favorable to them.

Unless the bill is identical to the Union's proposals, it's a sell-out of the ordinary people that Biden purports to care about:
With less than two weeks until a railroad strike deadline, President Biden called on Congress on Monday to impose a deal negotiated with help from his administration this year to avert a shutdown of the country’s freight railroads.

“I am calling on Congress to pass legislation immediately to adopt the Tentative Agreement between railroad workers and operators – without any modifications or delay – to avert a potentially crippling national rail shutdown,” Biden said in his statement on Monday evening.

That deal was recently voted down by four railroad unions representing most of the union members. The rail workers have said they are angry and frustrated that the deal lacked paid sick days or other substantial changes to an attendance policy that penalizes workers for taking time off while they are sick.


Union officials have recently said it’s looking increasingly unlikely that the unions and major rail freight carriers would reach a deal over lingering issues before a Dec. 9 strike deadline.

The president said that while he was hesitant to push a deal that had been rejected by union members, acknowledging his promise to stand by unions, he also said a rail strike “would devastate our economy” and “hurl this nation into a devastating rail freight shutdown.”

“As a proud pro-labor President, I am reluctant to override the ratification procedures and the views of those who voted against the agreement,” he said. “But in this case – where the economic impact of a shutdown would hurt millions of other working people and families – I believe Congress must use its powers to adopt this deal.”


All 12 unions need to vote individually to ratify their contracts, unless Congress imposes a contract. If one union moves to strike, all of the unions — which represent more than 115,000 rail workers — would probably move in solidarity, triggering an industry-wide work stoppage.

Well, we can always trust Pelosi to make it worse:


Less than 30 minutes after the White House sent out Biden’s statement, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) put out a statement saying the House will consider legislation this week to avert the rail strike. “The House will take up a bill adopting the Tentative Agreement – with no poison pills or changes to the negotiated terms – and send it to the Senate,” she said in a statement.

The existing deal was already a poison pill.

The union negotiators took the deal because they did not want to sabotage Democratic Party in the midterms.

It was a bad deal.

Unless the Democrats force a better deal down the Railroad's throats, doing this is is a profoundly bad faith action toward rail workers, and workers generally.

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

Now This is Hardcore

Not only does Elon want to make Tweeps work 80 hour seeks, it now appears that he wants them to work for free as well

I guess chasing 90+% of your payroll staff was not a good thing: 

Twitter is investigating why some staff in Europe have not received their November salaries in a timely manner amid sweeping cuts and layoffs across the company since Elon Musk’s takeover.

Twitter staff in the UK received an email just before 1 pm London time on November 25 telling them their pay date would be November 28. Alongside the email, sent from the EMEA Payroll Team, staff received their usual monthly payslips. However, staff in the UK and Germany appear not to have been paid on time.

“It has come to our attention that some of you may not have received your November 2022 salary yet in your bank account,” an email sent to current and former staff reads. “The payments have gone through our Twitter bank account, and as usual, with no change to the process.”

The email says this “might be a delay in Interbank settlement” but adds the company is “actively investing [sic] with our bank and will keep you posted.”

Four independent sources in the UK and Germany told Ars Technica that they had not received payment on the morning their salaries were due.

The sources included current and former staff—the latter of whom should still be paid per the terms of their release from the company.


Twitter has already been criticized by former staff for not paying their expenses on time. Former Twitter employees who incurred expenses while still working for the company are owed thousands in expenses that are gathering debt on their personal bank accounts. Much of Twitter's payroll staff resigned in mid-November after Musk's work-long-hours-or-quit ultimatum.

Seriously, Elon has no idea how to run a business.


Tweet of the Day

Holy Bigass Bronze Boot, Batman!


How Private Equity is robbing us all blind:

27 November 2022

World Class Snark

Dean Baker suggests that crypto-bunco entrepreneur Sam Bankman-Fried has engaged in his most aggressive act of "Effective Altruism" by demonstrating that finance in general, and crypto-currency in particular, are complete balderdash.

It's amusing:

We should all recognize that Sam Bankman-Fried is much smarter than the rest of us. After all, outwardly he looks to be one of the biggest frauds of all time. By the age of 30 he amassed a fortune that dwarfs that of your average billionaire. He did it by running a crypto Ponzi-scheme. While claiming to be using his wealth to support philanthropies that were carefully selected to maximize human welfare, he was actually living a high life-style with his friends.

Now that the Ponzi has collapsed, the investors who trusted him look to be out of luck. And, of course there is no money for the philanthropies that he supported, many of which will are now struggling because they won’t get contributions they had been counting on.

That all looks pretty reprehensible, but maybe that’s the point. See, Sam Bankman-Fried was so committed to his philosophy of effective philanthropy that he was prepared to make himself appear to be the epitome of a despicable human being, and spend many years in prison, all to teach us that finance is a wasteful cesspool that needs to be reined in for the good of humanity. And, the place to start is his particular corner of the cesspool: crypto.

It continues for a bit, and it's worth a read.

It is the Expedient Thing to Do

It appears that the US is relaxing sanctions against Venezuela to ameliorate the impact of its Russian sanctions:

The Biden administration said on Saturday it would lift a key oil sanction against Venezuela, marking the first significant crack in a years-long U.S. embargo that could eventually help ease the tight global energy market.

Chevron, the only remaining active U.S. oil company in Venezuela, is part of a joint venture with the country’s state oil company but has been barred by sanctions from operations there. Under a new Treasury Department license, it will be able to resume pumping oil. The limited license stipulates that any oil produced can only be exported to the United States. No profits from its sale can go to the Venezuelan state-owned company but must be used to pay off Venezuelan creditors in the United States.


The official dismissed reports that the administration was acting to ease an oil shortage and high energy prices exacerbated by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. “Allowing Chevron to begin to lift oil from Venezuela is not something that is going to impact international oil prices. This is really about Venezuela and the Venezuelan process,” the official said, where the United States is “supporting a peaceful, negotiated outcome to the political, humanitarian and economic crisis.”

Yeah, right, nothing to do with the effects of the war and the Russia sanctions.

If you believe that, I have some swamp land in Nebraska to sell you. 

Also, this is not enough to get Venezuelan oil flowing again.

Bad day at the Office

A small plane, apparently on approach to Montgomery County airport in heavy fog, struck power lines, interrupting power across the area.

Rather surprisingly, the aircraft, a Mooney M20, remained suspended in the power lines and the pilot and passenger were unharmed.

This is nuts: 

A small plane crashed into a power line Sunday, knocking out power for tens of thousands of people in Montgomery County.

The Federal Aviation Administration said in a statement that the single-engine plane, which had departed from White Plains, New York, crashed into the power lines near Montgomery County Airpark in Gaithersburg around 5:40 p.m. The FAA said two people were aboard.

The Maryland State Police said in a news release Sunday evening that troopers were sent just before 6 p.m. to Montgomery Village, where a plane had been found suspended in the air, tangled in a power line tower near Goshen Road and Rothbury Drive.

Patrick Merkle, 65, of Washington, D.C., was piloting the Mooney Mike 20P single-engine plane, state police said. Merkle and passenger Jan Williams, 66, of Louisiana were unharmed and awaiting rescue Sunday evening.


Montgomery County Fire Chief Scott Goldstein told reporters that it would take until 9:30 p.m. or later to have all the resources in place to proceed with rescue efforts, but he gave no timetable for how long after that it would take to bring the plane occupants down.

Goldstein said utility contractors will first work to ground the high-tension wires to make it safe for rescuers to work. Fire crews will then use bucket trucks or a crane to make the plane stable by chaining it or strapping it to the tower. After the plane is more stable, Goldstein said, rescuers will use the crane or bucket trucks to bring the two people down. He said rescuers are periodically contacting them by cellphone to check on them.

Two observations, don't fly when the weather is like this, and Merkle and Williams are some very lucky motherf%$#ers to have survived.

Snark of the Day

Moderate Republican is now defined as "not a complete Trump boot licker." You can put on a Nazi uniform and say, "Trump sucks," and you'll be called a moderate.
This is a succinct, if somewhat excessive, description of, Lisa Murkowski, Elizabeth Cheney, Mitt Rmoney, Steve Schmidt, John Kasich, Jeff Flake, John Bolton, etc.

Hiring Hardcore

Rather unsurprisingly, it appears that Elon Musk's quest for hiring the very best people has a few bugs.

Let's be clear: The fact that the .gitignore files was publicly available for anyone does not constitute a security risk in and of itself, but it does provide information as to the directory structure of the site, which is an  area of concern.

This is site security 101, and it means that some serious stuff is likely being missed.

26 November 2022


Government audits are now showing that Medicare Advantage, the chosen route by the free market mousketeers to privatize Medicare, is rife with fraud and overcharges.

This is one of the reasons that many Mayo Clinic facilities have stopped taking these plans, announcing to their patients that they would only take patients in,  "Original Medicare (Parts A, B and D) as well as Medicare supplements." 

Between the fraud, ponderous bureaucracy, overcharges, deliberately inaccurate coding, and arbgitrary denial of benefits meant that Mayo wanted nothing to do with this.

No medical facility should be a participant in this scam:

Newly released federal audits reveal widespread overcharges and other errors in payments to Medicare Advantage health plans for seniors, with some plans overbilling the government more than $1,000 per patient a year on average.

Summaries of the 90 audits, which examined billings from 2011 through 2013 and are the most recent reviews completed, were obtained exclusively by KHN through a three-year Freedom of Information Act lawsuit, which was settled in late September.

The government’s audits uncovered about $12 million in net overpayments for the care of 18,090 patients sampled, though the actual losses to taxpayers are likely much higher. Medicare Advantage, a fast-growing alternative to original Medicare, is run primarily by major insurance companies.

Officials at the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services have said they intend to extrapolate the payment error rates from those samples across the total membership of each plan — and recoup an estimated $650 million as a result.

But after nearly a decade, that has yet to happen. CMS was set to unveil a final extrapolation rule Nov. 1 but put that decision off until February.

Nothing to see here, move along.


The 90 audits are the only ones CMS has completed over the past decade, a time when Medicare Advantage has grown explosively. Enrollment in the plans more than doubled during that period, passing 28 million in 2022, at a cost to the government of $427 billion.

Seventy-one of the 90 audits uncovered net overpayments, which topped $1,000 per patient on average in 23 audits, according to the government’s records. Humana, one of the largest Medicare Advantage sponsors, had overpayments exceeding that $1,000 average in 10 of 11 audits, according to the records.


That approach has frustrated both the industry, which has blasted the audit process as “fatally flawed” and hopes to torpedo it, and Medicare advocates, who worry some insurers are getting away with ripping off the government.


Most of the audited plans fell into what CMS calls a “high coding intensity group.” That means they were among the most aggressive in seeking extra payments for patients they claimed were sicker than average. The government pays the health plans using a formula called a “risk score” that is supposed to render higher rates for sicker patients and lower ones for healthier ones.

But often medical records supplied by the health plans failed to support those claims. Unsupported conditions ranged from diabetes to congestive heart failure.

Overall, average overpayments to health plans ranged from a low of $10 to a high of $5,888 per patient collected by Touchstone Health HMO, a New York health plan whose contract was terminated “by mutual consent” in 2015, according to CMS records.

Basically, you see your doctor for indigestion, they do an EKG, and code you as cardiac and per-diabetic, and juice their own numbers.

Most of the audited health plans had 10,000 members or more, which sharply boosts the overpayment amount when the rates are extrapolated.


Brian Murphy, an expert in medical record documentation, said collectively the reviews show that the problem is “absolutely endemic” in the industry.

Auditors are finding the same inflated charges “over and over again,” he said, adding: “I don’t think there is enough oversight.”

CMS has been captured by the corrupt insurance companies.

As to the non-corrupt insurance companies, there are not any.

A criminogenic environment has been created where the only path to viability as a business is fraud.

This Ain't Good

Despite relatively low jobless claims numbers, other more reliable indicators are pointing to a recession.

Specifically, income tax withholding receipts are declining significantly, and unlike the other metrics, this is an actual number, not a sampling extrapolated across the entire economy:

I have a new post up at Seeking Alpha, in which I lay out all of the short leading indicators, and conclude that the conditions have now been met for a recession to begin at any point in the next 6 months.


Typically recessions have only begun when 8 of the 10 components of the Index of Leading Indicators are down compared with their levels 6 months previously. And so, I go through the list . . . .

In the piece, I note that the strong jobs reports have been the biggest reason why no recession has occurred yet. But in the past several weeks I’ve been pounding the table about the implications of the steep deceleration in tax withholding receipts since mid-year. Here’s the YoY% change in total tax withholding receipts since then:

July +7.8%*
Aug +10.2%
Sep +1.2%*
Oct +12.2%
Nov +3.7% (to date)*

*= less than YoY% change in CPI


In the meantime, consider that the monthly household report is prepared from a sample of 50,000. The monthly establishment report is prepared from a sample over 100,000+. But tax withholding is a full and complete report of what every taxpayer/employer in the US remits daily to the Department of the Treasury.

As a result, total tax withholding receipts should come fairly close to mirroring aggregate payrolls, especially for non-supervisory workers, in the household jobs report. The one important difference is that even bosses pay withholding taxes, up to $147,000 of salary, on Social Security, and also on Medicare without any income limit. With that in mind, here is a graph of the YoY% change in aggregate payrolls for both non-supervisory workers and all workers for the past year:

What tax withholding data is strongly suggesting is that the actual job losses in the household reports in June and October were signal, not noise, and that there is a strong likelihood that the establishment numbers are going to be revised downward in the future as more complete data is updated.

The depressing bit is that this won't stop the Fed from continuing to raise rates.

All of their incentives favor creating a recession.

25 November 2022

Needs to be Said

Rule 1 of Fossile Fuel Companies is that they lie
Rule 2 is see rule 1

I am not surprised that fossil fuel companies and their paid lackeys will discuss the negative externalities of alternative energy sources, but assiduously cover up their own.

You have the impacts of habitat destruction through things like mountain top removal coal mining, acid rain, oil spills, toxic waste, etc.

Even if one does not believe that anthropogenic climate change is an existential threat for our society, (I do believe that it is an existential threat) it is clear that there is an extensive and heavily funded campaign to minimize the perception of the risks, and the costs, involved.

Every time someone talks about the unacceptable costs of sustainable energy production, you need to fact check every word that they say, including the, "And," and the, "The."

Equally important, particularly for journalists, when quoting people like this, you need to follow the money, and find out who is funding their efforts to oppose an energy transition, and then you need to put this information in your story every time you write something.

Calling out propaganda as such is not biased reporting, it is the essence of good reporting.

Headline of the Day

Crypto: Everyone Was Just That Stupid

Heisenberg Report

I am not a finance maven, but it was apparent within a year of Bitcoin being created that it would never function as a currency. (Currency needs to be current, and the transaction time of crypto currency stretched to hours even back then)

As the mania increased, and the lack of underlying value became more and more obvious, it would seem to me that people in finance, and people involved in financial law enforcement, would have realized that it was all a Ponzi scheme.

Frog March Zuckerberg Out of His Offices in Handcuffs

Remember when the criminal enterprise formerly known as Facebook™ was caught collecting sensitive personally identifying medical information?

Well, now we find that they did the same thing on income tax preparation sites.

The short version is that the criminal enterprise formerly known as Facebook™ provided web tools to allow the tax preparation companies to identify how their users used the sites, with the goal of improving the user experience.

What Meta did not do was tell these companies that with the default settings, information like, their names, filing status, gross income, student loan status, number of dependents, and amount of refund.

Consent decrees and do not cut it.  We need to start criminally prosecuting executives at places like Meta and Google for their blatant and willful violation of their users' privacy:

Major tax filing services such as H&R Block, TaxAct, and TaxSlayer have been quietly transmitting sensitive financial information to Facebook when Americans file their taxes online, The Markup has learned.

The data, sent through widely used code called the Meta Pixel, includes not only information like names and email addresses but often even more detailed information, including data on users’ income, filing status, refund amounts, and dependents’ college scholarship amounts.

The information sent to Facebook can be used by the company to power its advertising algorithms and is gathered regardless of whether the person using the tax filing service has an account on Facebook or other platforms operated by its owner, Meta.


When users sign up to file their taxes with the popular service TaxAct, for example, they’re asked to provide personal information to calculate their returns, including how much money they make and their investments. A pixel on TaxAct’s website then sent some of that data to Facebook, including users’ filing status, their adjusted gross income, and the amount of their refund, according to a review by The Markup. Income was rounded to the nearest thousand and refund to the nearest hundred. The pixel also sent the names of dependents in an obfuscated, but generally reversible, format.


TaxAct wasn’t the only tax filing service using the Meta Pixel. Tax preparation giant H&R Block, which also offers an online filing option that attracts millions of customers per year, embedded a pixel on its site that gathered information on filers’ health savings account usage and dependents’ college tuition grants and expenses.


Megan McConnell, a spokesperson for Ramsey Solutions, said in an email that the company “implemented the Meta Pixel to deliver a more personalized customer experience.”

“We did NOT know and were never notified that personal tax information was being collected by Facebook from the Pixel,” the statement said. “As soon as we found out, we immediately informed TaxSlayer to deactivate the Pixel from Ramsey SmartTax.”

After The Markup contacted TaxSlayer, spokesperson Molly Richardson said in an email that the company had removed the pixel to evaluate its use. “Our customers’ privacy is of utmost importance, and we take concerns about our customers’ information very seriously,” she said, adding that Ramsey Solutions “decided to remove the pixel” as well.

Assuming that the statements from the tax preparation firms are not self-serving lies, (and that is a big assumption) then not only is Meta deceiving its users, who are what they sell, but it is deceiving its customers, and that is fraud.

Seriously, we need to start arresting and trying senior executives.

Elizabeth Holmes cannot be that alpha and omega of prosecution of criminal executives in the tech space.

Another Case of Elections Making a Difference

As a result of regulatory changes under the Biden administration, publicly held companies will be required to distribute proxies to their shareholders with all candidates for the board of directors.

Before this, alternative slates for the board of directors had to be sent out separately, at not inconsiderable cost, and it made it impossible for people to cast votes for nominees from both slates.

This should have the effect of making the positions of board members far less secure, and, one would hope, more responsive and responsible:

Sinking stock prices and a change in proxy-voting rules are emboldening many first-time shareholder activists to seek changes at some of the biggest names in American corporations.

Companies, always wary of activist advances, are feeling particularly vulnerable as a result of new rules imposed by U.S. regulators in September requiring the use of a so-called universal proxy card in corporate-director elections, bankers and lawyers say.

In the new format, directors nominated by a company must be listed on the same ballot as those put forth by activists, enabling investors to pick and choose, rather than voting entirely with either the company or the activist.

Advisers to companies say the likelihood of at least gaining one board seat will increase significantly for smaller players. That’s especially true given that they will no longer incur the substantial expense—sometimes running into six figures or more—of printing and mailing proxy cards to all shareholders, lowering the barriers to entering the activist game.


“This proxy season is shaping up to be the busiest on record,” said Shaun Mathew, a partner at law firm Kirkland & Ellis LLP who advises companies on how to prepare for and respond to activists.

“Companies are concerned it will draw in first-time activists who think they can take advantage of the new system to threaten proxy contests to create leverage to advance their agendas,” he said.

There is a better word to describe these, "Activists," owners.

We have been told for decades that shareholders are owners of these companies, and that through shared ownership of publicly traded companies, we all gain a stake in the prosperity of these companies.

The reality is that the upper management, including the (typically grossly overpaid) board of directors run a dictatorship in which they direct the proceeds of their businesses to themselves, and not to the owners.

Of course, this will also further empower corporate raider rat-f%$# types like Carl Icahn, but nowhere near as much.  They already exert excessive influence over companies, frequently pushing short term thinking to the detriment of those enterprises.

This is a very good thing.

Just Go the Jail, Benny

As you are no doubt aware, Binyamin Netanyahu sort-of won the last Israeli parliamentary elections, and Itamar Ben Gvir, right wing nut and bigot, whose party achieved unexpected success in the vote, is now a crucial member of any coalition.

And, he's gone there, demanding that Israel revoke recognition for non-Orthodox conversions, which would also mean revoking the right of return to non-Orthodox converts.  (He has been calling for expulsion or Arab Israeli citizens for years)

On any number of levels, moral, political, and diplomatic, this is a disastrous policy, but this is what proportional representation, or at least proportional representation with insufficiently low bars to entry into parliament, as the Knesset, does.

Rather ironically, a surfeit of democracy produces undemocratic results:

Far-right leader Itamar Ben Gvir on Sunday demanded that the presumed incoming coalition pass a law to end recognition of Reform conversions for the purposes of citizenship.

This latest demand in the ongoing coalition negotiations was quickly denounced by the Reform and Conservative religious rights groups, particularly the Reform movement’s legal arm, the Israel Religious Action Center. The outgoing diaspora affairs minister called the proposal an unnecessary provocation as only an exceedingly small number of Reform converts request Israeli citizenship while the symbolism of the move would ostracize non-Orthodox Jews from Israel.

For years, Israel has accepted conversions performed by the Reform movement abroad as sufficient for Israeli citizenship, and last year the High Court of Justice ruled that such conversions performed in Israel would be recognized as well — for people who had already been living in Israel without citizenship.

This was possible because Israel’s Law of Return, which largely determines the country’s immigration policies, had left the issue of conversions deliberately vague, not specifying if they had to be performed by an Orthodox rabbi. As a result of this ambiguity, the court ruled that any conversion performed by an established community would suffice, including non-Orthodox ones, much to the consternation of Israel’s Chief Rabbinate and religious political parties.


This latest demand to give recognition only to Orthodox conversions comes days after Ben Gvir’s political partner, Bezalel Smotrich, issued his own contentious demand to remove the so-called “grandchild clause” of Israel’s Law of Return, which guarantees citizenship to anyone with at least one Jewish grandparent, provided they don’t practice another religion.

“This demand, if granted, means a clear and sharp rift between us and the majority of the Jewish community in the United State of America. This is the largest Jewish community in the world after Israel, they have a great influence and are vital for Israel and for our ties with the US,” Diaspora Affairs Minister Nachman Shai said in an interview with the Kan broadcaster on Sunday morning.
I would note that if these folks get what they want, they will no longer be able to depend on non-Orthodox Jewish taxpayers to provide subsidies for the schnorers who spend their days in Yeshiva and refuse to work for a living.  Additionally, the Orthodox will have to serve, and be subject to conscription, to replace the non-Orthodox people who are now serving in the IDF.

Tweet of the Day

Seriously, why does someone purchase an internet connected grill?

The much vaunted internet of things is more the internet of bullsh%$.

Between issues like updating at inopportune times, losing features when the manufactures abandon the products, and the equivalent of the blue screen of death, this is a losing proposition.

And then there are the inevitable hackers………

Emily Litella's Kid for Senate

First as comedy, then as farce
Herschel Walker is the patron saint of malaprops:

With his Georgia Senate race hanging in the balance, Republican candidate Herschel Walker had an unfortunate slip of the tongue as he tried to drum up support for his campaign Tuesday night. Flanked by Sens. Ted Cruz (R-TX) and Lindsey Graham (R-SC), Walker spoke on Fox News about the significance of his election. “This election is about more than Herschel Walker,” he said. “This ERECTION is about the people.”

(emphasis mine)

On April 17, 1976, (Season 1 of Saturday Night Live, when it was still funny) Gilda Radner, playing one of her many iconic characters, the hard of hearing and generally clueless Emily Litella, had an viewer response to the Weekend Update editorial about Presidential Erections.

46½ years later, Hershel Walker, who is apparently Emily's secret son, made this bit of comedy reality. 

In comedy, veritas. 

(It took me way too long to get the SNL vid embedded.)

This is Nuts!

So, it's the day after Thanksgiving, I'm in Baltimore, and it is almost 60°F (15°C) and sunny.

And I'm comfortable in my T-shirt.

This ain't right.

24 November 2022

Done in by Tryptophan

Too much turkey.

Also stuffing, cranberry sauce, root vegetables, Brussels sprouts, and apple and pecan pie.

I made the pies.

Good night.

23 November 2022

Yeah, Like Bezos Will Do This

U.S. District Judge Diane Gujarati has ordered Amazon to stop harassing union organizers at its facilities.

Does the judge really believe that this is going to happen?

Bezos doesn't care, he doesn't have to, he still runs Amazon, though he has turned day to day operations to Andy Jassy, a man who used to sneak into warehouses to spy on employees so that he could identify and fire people that he deemed under performers.  (He got the nickname, "The Sniper.) (On edit: That was Dave H. Clark, not Jassy)

Relying on the Amazon to make good faith efforts to obey the law is like relying on Donald Trump to pay his bills:

A federal judge has ordered Amazon to stop retaliating against employees engaged in workplace activism, issuing a mixed ruling that also hands a loss to the federal labor agency that sued the company earlier this year.

The ruling came in a court case brought by the National Labor Relations Board, which sued Amazon in March seeking the reinstatement of a fired employee who was involved in organizing a company warehouse on Staten Island, New York.

In its lawsuit, the agency argued Amazon’s termination of the former employee, Gerald Bryson, was unlawful and would have a chilling effect on organizing. It said that not reinstating Bryson to his role would make workers think the agency would not be able to protect their labor rights under federal law.

On Friday, U.S. District Judge Diane Gujarati ruled there was “reasonable cause” to believe the e-commerce giant committed an unfair labor practice by firing Bryson. She issued a cease-and-desist order directing the Seattle-based company to not retaliate against employees involved in workplace activism.

But Gujarati denied the agency’s request to reinstate Bryson. She determined that the NLRB did not present evidence that Bryson’s termination is having considerable effect on organizing efforts by employees or the Amazon Labor Union, the nascent group in connection to Bryson that ultimately pulled off the first-ever labor win at an Amazon warehouse in the U.S. in March.

 I'm not sure how you deal with barbarians at the gate like Amazon, but this ain't it.

It's Jobless Thursday on Wednesday

They put the numbers out a day early on account of the holidays, and initial unemployment claims rose by 17,000 to 240,000, above the 2019 average of  218,400. (The before times)

Continuing claims rose by rose by 48,000 to 1,600,000 million.

The Federal Reserve should pause rate hikes for a while, but they won't, because central bankers need to prove their manhood:

Filings for U.S. unemployment benefits rose last week but stayed relatively low, the latest sign that the labor market remains on solid ground.

Initial jobless claims, a proxy for layoffs, increased by 17,000 to a seasonally adjusted 240,000 last week, the Labor Department said Wednesday. That is close to the prepandemic 2019 weekly average of 218,400, during the similarly strong labor market that prevailed before the Covid-19 pandemic hit.

The four-week moving average of weekly claims, which smooths out some volatility, rose by 5,500 to 226,750 last week, the most since early September. Jobless-claims numbers tend to fluctuate more in November and December due to holidays.

Weekly jobless claims have been generally edging higher since hitting a recent low of 166,000 in March of this year, and are now at their highest levels since early August. Many high-profile companies have announced job cuts or hiring freezes recently, amid an unusually sharp increase in interest rates and slowing economic growth.


Continuing claims, which reflect the number of people seeking ongoing unemployment benefits, rose by 48,000 to 1.6 million in the week ended Nov. 12, the sixth consecutive week of increase. That figure, which is reported with a one-week lag, is up from spring this year, but still near the lowest level since 1970, when the labor force was much smaller than it is today. 

And work force participation is still down, likely because of the millions of people suffering from long Covid.

This is not an overheating economy, but the barbers at the Federal Reserve will continue bleeding the patient.  It's all they know.

Headline of the Day

Aaron Brink, Pornstar Dad of Colorado Club Q Shooting Suspect Anderson Lee Aldrich, Spews Homophobia
The Daily Beast
Seriously, there something wrong with the whole world.

The Least Thanksgiving Spirit


Pale green

I am referring, of course, to Absinthe.

I decided to buy some for this for Thanksgiving, because of its association with angst ridden artists like Vincent Van Gough, Paul Verlaine, Edouard Manet, Charles Baudelaire, Ernest Hemingway, Paul Gaugan, Guy de Maupassant, Émile Zola, and Oscar Wilde.

Of course, Thanksgiving is not about angst ridden art, it's about getting together with family, and desperately trying not to punch out that racist relative of yours at dinner.

Absinthe is made from wormwood, anise, and (for Lucid brand absinthe) fennel and hyssop.

It's similar to other anise based drinks like Ouzo and Arak having a licorice forward flavor, though the bouquet and the undertones are rather different.

Also like other anise based drinks when water is added, the essential oils come out of solution, and create a cloudy colloidal suspension called the Louche.

Of course, I am not an angst ridden artist, I'm a generally happy ignorant asshole, and an engineer.

That being said, my eldest is a playwright and a poet, so I kind of figured that she had to drink Absinthe at least once, since it got legalized in the United States 2007.

It's nice, but I do not understand its association with depression and moral dissipation and turpitude.

This is the sort of drink that is nice to sip while having a spirited discussion about the aesthetics of Akira Kurasawa movies, not one that leaves you lolling in the gutter.

(later edit)

Dammit.  How could I post about Absinthe and not use the word ennui?

22 November 2022

America's Finest News Source

HR Director Reminds Employees That Any Crying Done At Office Must Be Work-Related
The Onion

This encapsulates the American workplace in a single line of snark. 

The fictional HR director, "Added that anyone with additional concerns about this rule should feel free to come to her and quietly bawl in her office."

Fired for Almost Starting WWIII

Remember that AP story that came out when the missile fell on Polish territory, killing two?

It quoted an anonymous, "Intelligence Source," that said that the missile definitely was fired the Russians.

It is now almost certain that it was an errant Ukrainian SAM, and the Associated Press retracted in less than 24 hours. 

This clusterf%$# has gotten embarrassing enough that the AP has fired James LaPorta, the reporter who wrote the story.

Based on this report of what happened, it seems to me that this was a case of finding the least senior person to take the fall.

The editors should be flipping burgers as well:

The Associated Press scared much of the world last Tuesday when it alerted readers that “a senior U.S. intelligence official” said “Russian missiles crossed into NATO member Poland, killing two people.”

That report, which was widely cited across the internet and on cable news, was taken offline the following day and replaced with an editor’s note admitting the single source was wrong and that “subsequent reporting showed that the missiles were Russian-made and most likely fired by Ukraine in defense against a Russian attack.”

On Monday, the AP fired James LaPorta, the investigative reporter responsible for that story, Confider has learned.

The piece, which was originally co-bylined with John Leicester (who is still working at the AP), attributed the information to a single “senior U.S. intelligence official,” despite the AP’s rule that it “routinely seeks and requires more than one source when sourcing is anonymous.”


The only exception, according to its statement of news values and principles, is when “material comes from an authoritative figure who provides information so detailed that there is no question of its accuracy”—a situation that seemingly did not occur, as the report was fully retracted last Wednesday.


It is unclear who edited LaPorta’s reporting in question or whether they faced any discipline for the error. 

Until this story was debunked, numerous entities were talking about invoking NATO Article 5, which could have resulted in open hostilities between Russia and NATO.

If you are wondering why I think that the editors should have been fired ……… out of a cannon ……… and into the sun, there is this bit of editorial thinging that the Washington Post reports:


Internal AP communications viewed by The Post show some confusion and misunderstanding during the preparations of the erroneous report.

LaPorta shared the U.S. official’s tip in an electronic message around 1:30 p.m. Eastern time. An editor immediately asked if AP should issue an alert on his tip, “or would we need confirmation from another source and/or Poland?”

After further discussion, a second editor said she “would vote” for publishing an alert, adding, “I can’t imagine a U.S. intelligence official would be wrong on this.”

But a person at the Associated Press familiar with the larger conversations surrounding the story that day said LaPorta also told his editors that a senior manager had already vetted the source of LaPorta’s tip — leaving the impression that the story’s sourcing had been approved. While that editor had signed off on previous stories using LaPorta’s source, that editor had not weighed in on the missile story.

Easton said the organization did not anticipate any discipline for the editors involved.

(emphasis mine)

These folks are editors? They have the journalistic acumen of Little Orphan Annie.

I am not saying that LaPorta should not have been fired, but those editors should be rewriting obituaries for the next 18 months under the most forgiving of circumstances.

21 November 2022

It’s Called Bankruptcy Fraud, and It Is a Felony

Ever since the Sandy Hook families sued Alex Jones, he has aggressively moved his assets in an attempt to deceive the court for a potential bankruptcy.

This is fraud, and it is punishable by up to five years in prison and/or a fine of up to $250,000.00. 

Perhaps it is time for the US Attorney and the FBI to look into this:

Alex Jones was losing in court.

Parents of children killed at Sandy Hook Elementary School had sued him and his media company for defamation after he repeatedly claimed the 2012 massacre in Connecticut was a hoax. Fans of the Infowars host had harassed and threatened grieving families. By the summer of 2020, two of the lawsuits weren’t going his way.

As the potential for damages mounted, Jones began moving millions of dollars out of his company, Free Speech Systems, and into companies controlled by himself, friends or relatives, according to a Washington Post review of financial statements, depositions and other court records. The transfers potentially put those funds out of reach of the Sandy Hook plaintiffs.

Between August 2020 and November 2021, Free Speech Systems signed promissory notes — essentially IOUs — for $55 million to cover what it said were past debts to a company called PQPR Holdings that Jones owns with his parents, according to financial records filed in court by Jones’s attorneys. PQPR, which is managed by Jones’s father, a dentist, had bought tens of millions of dollars in supplements for Jones that he then sold on his show, the records say. A lawyer for Free Speech systems has said in court that the debt accrued unnoticed due to sloppy bookkeeping.

This year, Jones started paying his personal trainer $100,000 a week to help ship supplements and other merchandise, a Free Speech Systems attorney said in court. A company managed by Jones’s sister and listed as a “supplier or vendor” was paid $240,000, financial records show.

Courts have awarded the Sandy Hook families nearly $1.5 billion in damages against Jones, including $45.2 million in a Texas case in August and $965 million in a Connecticut case two months later. On Nov. 10, the judge in the Connecticut case ordered Jones to pay an additional $473 million in punitive damages, including $323 million for legal fees. Jones has said on his show that he plans to appeal.

The IOUs and other recent transactions helped tip Free Speech Systems into bankruptcy in July, according to Jones’s court filings. An accountant hired by Jones calculated that Free Speech Systems had $79 million in liabilities at the end of May and only $14 million in assets, court records show. As a result, the Sandy Hook families could be left vying with other creditors — including the companies tied to Jones himself — to collect.

Alex Jones is engaged in bankruptcy fraud.  Charge him, arrest him, deny him bail, and freeze his  assets and those of his parents, his current wife, and those of his personal trainer Patrick Riley, and seize his web site.

If Jones played the bankruptcy straight, he would pay a lot, but he would remain set for life, and he would still have his business, but he got greedy.

He is a criminal, and not in a, "Let's go get sushi and not pay," sort of way.


Nice perspective on cops and guns through the prism of British policing. 

20 November 2022

How about Some F%$#Ing Gun Control Laws?

Another mass shooting, this one in Colorado, and once again, the police appeared about as useful as tits on a bull.

Patrons of the LGBTQ Club Q had wrestled the man to the ground and disarmed him by the time that police arrived.

It also appears that police had ignored prior violent behavior and weapons possession of the alleged shooter, Anderson Lee Aldrich, for quite some time.

This happened in Colorado Springs, which should surprise no one, as it is ground zero for Talibaptist terror organizations like Focus on the Family and the Family Research Council:

Screams and gunshots interrupted dance music late Saturday night at a beloved gay nightclub in Colorado Springs when a gunman killed five people and wounded at least 25 before patrons stopped him.

Joshua Thurman at first mistook the gunfire as part of the music, but hid in a dressing room when he realized something was wrong. Thurman, who is gay, lives just down the street from the club and has been going there for years, he said.

“Club Q is the only LGBTQ space in Colorado Springs,” he said. “And we don’t even have that anymore. What are we going to do? How do we move on from this? We can’t. We’re shattered. We’re broken.”

Colorado Springs police Chief Adrian Vasquez identified the suspect as 22-year-old Anderson Lee Aldrich at a news conference Sunday morning. Investigators recovered two guns on the scene and said Aldrich used a long gun during the shooting. Aldrich remained in a local hospital Sunday.


A man of the same name and age was arrested on suspicion of multiple felonies in June 2021 for allegedly threatening his mother with a bomb and other weapons. Colorado Springs officials would not comment Sunday on the 2021 incident or whether they believed the same man was responsible for Saturday night’s shooting.


The mass shooting at the club is at least the 11th in Colorado since 1993. The shooting occurred minutes before Transgender Day of Remembrance began and as homophobic rhetoric by extremists, politicians and pundits has intensified.

“You can draw a straight line from the false and vile rhetoric about LGBTQ people spread by extremists and amplified across social media, to the nearly 300 anti-LGBTQ bills introduced this year, to the dozens of attacks on our community like this one,” said Sarah Kate Ellis, president and CEO of the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation.

Ground zero for homophobic hate in the United States?  Colorado Springs, Colorado, where James Dobson's coterie of brown-shirts are based.

I am not sure hot to deal with the stochastic terrorism so enthusiastically embraced by Dobson and his ilk, but a way needs to be found/