31 May 2023

Not All Deep Fakes Are Evil

This is brilliant.

Replacing Steve Carell's face with Ron Desantis in this episode of The Office, where Michael Scott accidentally cross-dresses, is not evil, it is pure genius.

As Anna Russel Would Say, “I’m Not Making This Up, You Know.”

Michael Flynn, the QAnon ex-general, is now selling Covid unvaccinated sperm, among other bodily fluids.

This is not The Onion, or Private Eye, it's real, God help us:

Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, Donald Trump's former national security adviser who pled guilty to lying to the FBI in 2017, is launching an online community dedicated to people who have not been vaccinated for COVID-19.

The community is called 4thePURE, and members can connect with blood donors, sperm donors, breastmilk donors, surrogates, and unvaccinated singles, according to the website. It will also have a directory of "COVID-19 unvaccinated patriot businesses."

Studies have shown the vaccine doesn't have "deleterious effects" on semen, nor is it unsafe to donate blood or breastmilk if a donor is vaccinated.

In an advertisement on the site, Flyyn said 4thePURE's purpose is to"connect liked-minded individuals who courageously stood against the COVID-19 jab."

"Our programs will be used for news updates, friendships, dating, and business networking," Flynn, who is described as the founder of 4thePURE, said in the ad.

………

Since then, Flynn re-emerged into the spotlight to embrace QAnon, a pro-Trump conspiracy theory, and other falsities about COVID-19. Last year, he went on Alex Jones's Infowars show to say that the coronavirus was created by billionaires George Soros and Bill Gates as well Klaus Schwab, the head of the World Economic Forum.

We live in Bizarro World, and it turns out that Bizarro World is a very place to live.

How is Ron Desantis Like a Goya Painting?

This is Ron Desantis.


This is Francisco Goya's Saturno Devorando a Su Hijo.
(Saturn Devouring His Son)

Any questions?

Yeah, I know, nightmare fuel, but we are talking about Ron Desantis.

30 May 2023

Shocking!


Not the DFL

The Democratic Farmer Labor Party in Minnesota is on a serious tear.

Having control of the Governor's manshuion and both state houses, they have passed a plethora of progressive legislation, most notably major pro labor legislation:

Minnesota Democrats say a sweeping labor bill they passed on Tuesday could be the most significant worker protection bill in state history.

“This bill is a big damn deal,” said Sen. Erin Murphy, DFL-St. Paul, during a news conference.

The labor bill (SF3035) includes a Democratic wish list years in the making that will affect virtually every worker in the state. The bill mandates paid sick days, bans noncompete agreements, boosts funding for workplace safety inspectors and increases protections for workers in nursing homes, Amazon warehouses, meatpacking plants, construction sites, hospitals and public schools.

Democrats are also advancing a host of other labor bills that will create a statewide paid family and medical leave program, expand unemployment eligibility for hourly school workers and give hospital nurses a greater say in staffing levels.

Here are nine major labor changes in the labor bill passed by the Legislature, which the governor’s office says he’ll sign.

………

Unionized teachers will be able to negotiate over adult-to-student ratios in classrooms and student-to-personnel ratios, which could include school psychologists, custodians, or other staff. They will also be able to negotiate over student testing beyond what the state mandates.

The new rule won’t guarantee that schools will have smaller class sizes. Rather, teachers may now bargain over these provisions in labor contract negotiations with school districts.
New board will set industry-wide pay and benefits at nursing homes

Minnesota will create a first-in-the-nation board with the power to set minimum pay and benefits for workers at all nursing homes across the state. The Nursing Home Workforce Standards Board comes close to the sector-wide bargaining — common in Europe — in which labor groups negotiate pay and benefits for an entire industry rather than with individual employers.

The board is a leap forward for unions like SEIU Healthcare Minnesota and Iowa, which represent about a quarter of nursing home workers in the state. Having minimum standards removes an incentive for nursing homes to fight union efforts, and raises the floor against which unionized workers bargain for better treatment.

………

The bill also bans no-poach agreements, which operate as shadow noncompete agreements. Franchise owners within the same franchise — such as McDonald’s or Sbarro — agree not to hire from each other, which labor experts say suppresses wages.

………

General construction contractors will be liable for wage theft by their subcontractors and will have to make workers whole if they aren’t paid all that they’re owed.

Construction projects are often completed through a byzantine hierarchy, with general contractors hiring subcontractors who themselves may hire subcontractors. Sometimes even individual workers are treated as subcontractors, which means they don’t receive overtime pay, Social Security benefits or workers’ compensation insurance.

………

Currently, workers who have their wages stolen must hire an attorney or report it to government authorities. Such cases often take months or even years to be resolved.

………

Companies that operate warehouse distribution centers like Amazon will have to tell workers what work quotas they’re held to and provide workers with their individual productivity data.

………

The bill also directs state labor officials to investigate companies if injury rates are 30% higher than the average rate for comparable workplaces.

………

Employers won’t be allowed to require workers to attend anti-union presentations or any other meetings to hear about the employer’s religious or political views.

The so-called captive audience meetings are often the primary way employers discourage their employees from unionizing and can be highly effective. Union organizers argue the meetings give employers an unfair advantage and violate people’s rights to organize free from interference or coercion.

It produces some real and universal benefits, and it provides some real incentives for unionization.

In most states, and certainly in the US Congress, the so-called moderates would have been busy knifing their fellow Democrats in the back.

I am not sure how the DFL managed this, but bravo.

Of Course They Did

It turns out that before the SPAC mania went bust, as is to be expected for a financial instrument whose primary purpose is to avoid regulatory scrutiny, insiders sold out for huge profits.

To paraphrase Marvin the Martian, "I’m not angry. Just terribly, terribly disappointed."

The SPAC boom cost investors billions. Insiders in the companies that went public were on the other side of the trade.
Executives and early investors in companies that went public via special-purpose acquisition companies sold shares worth $22 billion through well-timed trades, profiting before share prices collapsed.

Some of the biggest winners were Detroit Pistons owner Tom Gores’s investment firm Platinum Equity, British billionaire Richard Branson and convicted Nikola founder Trevor Milton. They were among many insiders who got shares on the cheap and sold them as they rose in value, according to a Wall Street Journal analysis of insider-trading disclosures associated with more than 200 companies that did SPAC deals.

Companies that went public this way have lost more than $100 billion in market value. At least 12 have filed for bankruptcy and more than 100 are running low on cash, battered by higher interest rates and rising costs.

Many executives claimed during the boom that SPAC mergers were a better way for companies to go public than traditional initial public offerings. “It’s easy to understand why executives at the companies went with this option,” said New York University Law School professor Michael Ohlrogge, who studies SPACs. “It wasn’t because it was a better financial technology—it was because it was just better for them.”

Literally, the only benefit to SPACs was that you did not have to go through due diligence for an IPO.

Why regulators allowed this is beyond me, and that there are not criminal prosecutions is a travesty.

She’ll Be Out in Less than 18 Months

 

Elizabeth Holmes has finally reported to prison.

She is to serve an 11 year (135 month) sentence, and with changes in US incarceration policies, she could theoretically be out of Prison in 5-6 years.

My guess is that there will be lobbying from many people to get her some sort of clemency, because:

I could be wrong about my estimate as to her actual time in prison, but I my pessimism is complete on this one.

The clamor for her early release will be like a telethon for overprivileged youth.

Theranos founder Elizabeth Holmes reported to prison on Tuesday to start her 11-year sentence for defrauding investors, marking a closing chapter in the downfall of one of Silicon Valley’s most prominent entrepreneurs after revelations about the company’s unreliable blood-testing technology.

A spokesman for the Bureau of Prisons confirmed Holmes arrived at the Bryan facility Tuesday afternoon local time.

………

Since The Wall Street Journal began publishing its findings about Theranos in 2015, Holmes has been convicted of wire fraud and conspiracy to commit wire fraud in federal court and settled separate civil securities-fraud charges brought by the Securities and Exchange Commission. As part of the settlement, she paid a $500,000 fine and was banned from being an officer or director of any public company for 10 years.

29 May 2023

When You Are in a Hole, Stop Digging

After over two decades of US regime change operations against Venezuela, it looks like Brazil is distancing itself from the United States on this issue, and reestablishing full diplomatic relations with Caracas.

You have to feel sorry for the Venezuelan people, they know that  Maduro government talks about the virtues of their regime, they are lying, but when they talk about the vices of the opposition, they are telling the truth.

Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva has held talks with his Venezuelan counterpart, as Nicolas Maduro made his first visit to Brazil in years in a sign of warming ties between the two South American nations.

Maduro was welcomed by an honour guard at the Brazilian presidential palace in the capital Brasilia on Monday, when Lula greeted him with a hug and a backslap.

The two left-wing leaders were expected to sign various agreements in a push to strengthen ties after a period of hostility during the tenure of Lula’s right-wing predecessor, Jair Bolsonaro, who banned Maduro from entering Brazil in 2019.

………

After his talks with Lula, the Venezuelan leader said he would propose that South America as a region asks the United States to lift its sanctions against the country.

Maduro also said his nation wants to be part of the BRICS group of leading emerging nations, with Lula saying he would personally favour a bid from Venezuela to join it.

Lula is the latest left-wing leader in the region to restore relations with the Maduro government, which faced a period of international isolation amid accusations it had cracked down on political opposition and civil liberties in Venezuela.

Relations between Colombia and Venezuela recently improved as left-wing Colombian President Gustavo Petro, who took office in August 2022, departed from the more confrontational path of his conservative predecessor Ivan Duque.

The two countries have re-established diplomatic ties and taken a series of steps to expand relations, such as easing travel restrictions on their shared border. Petro and Maduro held a bilateral meeting in the Venezuelan capital of Caracas in November.

I'm inclined to believe that US support for the Bolivian coup, as well as the involvement by the US State Security Apparatus in the "Lawfare" against Lula, Latin American nations that are run by anyone who wants to chart an independent course from the United States have realized that it is not in their best interest to blindly support US policy.

To put it more simply, these nations, at least the part that the CIA and FBI are enlisted to overthrow, realize that the relationship with the USA is very much like that of an abusive partner, and they are trying to get out.

Well, This Sucks

Recep Tayyip Erdo─čan has defeated Kemal K─▒l─▒├ždaro─člu in the presidential runoff in Turkey.

There are no indications of any sort of fraud in the collection of ballots, but obviously the paucity of independent domestic media sources in Turkey hamstrung the opposition.

So did the selection of K─▒l─▒├ždaro─člu, who also went hardcore nationalist during the runoff campaign, and was perceived as a weak and uninspiring candidate in some quarters. 

Finally, and I've not seen coverage of this, I think that anti-American sentiment in Turkey may have provided some of the margin of victory, Erdo─čan has been aggressively pursuing a resolutely neutral position with regard to Russia and the United States and Chins.  (You may recall the freakout among the US foreign policy establishment [really the military industrial complex] over the purchase of the Russian S-400 SAM system)

That being said, it was not particularly close, 52.14%  — 47.86%, a 4.18% margin. 

A lot of this comes down to issues between secular Kemalists and Islamists in Turkish society, as well as an urban rural divide, and unlike his predecessors, Erdo─čan did actually apply state resources to traditionally backward parts of Turkey.

Recep Tayyip Erdo─čan has extended his two decades in power, securing victory over his rival Kemal K─▒l─▒├ždaro─člu after an unprecedented presidential runoff election, in a vote that reflected Turkey’s stark and persistent political polarisation.

With 99.43% of the vote counted, Turkey’s supreme election authority announced late on Sunday that Erdo─čan had won 52.14% of the votes, while K─▒l─▒├ždaro─člu received 47.86%. With a gap of more than 2m votes between candidates, the votes yet to be counted would not change the result, said Ahmet Yener, the head of the election board.

………

While the opposition holds mayorships in Turkey’s six largest cities, K─▒l─▒├ždaro─člu’s campaign appeared to run aground outside his party’s traditional enclaves on the Aegean coast and in metropolitan centres. In the Turkish provinces where Erdo─čan’s rule previously catapulted many into the middle class, voters said they were unconvinced by the opposition’s campaign. 

It appears that the opposition is already blaming the Kurds for their loss.(At least on Twitter, for what it's worth.)

About the only policy suggestion that I have for the United States would be to get the nuclear bombs out of Incirlik, sooner rather than later.

What Is Best in Life?


Take left over roast beef.

Mix mayonnaise and horse radish and spread it on bread.

Place slices of the roast beef on the bread.

Devour.

That is good.

(This should be said in the same affect as Arnold Schwarzenegger in the first Conan movie)

Linkage

A Guy Strapped a Camera to His Cat and It’s the Best Thing We’ve Ever Seen:

28 May 2023

Memorial Day Barbecue Pr0n

Roast + my special rub + smoke + time.

Headline of the Day

U.S. Is Unhappy Mexico Is Spending Money on Its Own Citizens
The Intercept

The story is pretty straightforward, the US, at least from the perspective of the DNI, is that Mexico a colony of the United States.

The U.S. government is frustrated that Mexican President Andr├ęs Manuel L├│pez Obrador is prioritizing social spending for the benefit of his people over addressing matters that are important to the U.S., according to an excerpt of a leaked top-secret intelligence document. Part of a cache of classified intelligence records that were leaked on the platform Discord earlier this year, the document highlights the growing discontent by U.S. officials toward Mexico’s president, who has significantly limited U.S. law enforcement agencies’ role in the war on drugs, as fentanyl trafficked by Mexican criminal groups has worsened the overdose crisis in the U.S. and violence in Mexico.

“President Lopez Obrador’s federal budget for 2023 gives priority to social spending and signature infrastructure projects, rather than the investments needed to address bilateral issues with the US such as migration, security, and trade,” reads the document from the Office of the Director of National Intelligence. “Lopez Obrador’s meager investment in migration, security, and trade-related organizations will probably undermine Mexico’s ability to follow through on commitments to stem the flow of irregular migrants and fentanyl to the US and boost economic competitiveness in North America.”

L├│pez Obrador’s 2023 federal budget, presented to the Mexican Congress last fall, does increase funding for social programs, including a significant raise for the pension provided to older Mexicans. It also prioritizes large infrastructure projects, which are mostly concentrated in southern states of the country.

“The crisis of fentanyl is due to the negligence of pharmaceuticals in the U.S.,” said Carlos P├ęrez Ricart, a professor at the Center for Research and Teaching in Economics in Mexico City. “I don’t know what [the Director of National Intelligence] thinks the alternative is. Do they expect us to end our social spending and infrastructure policy to tend to a problem that belongs to the U.S.?”

Yes, they do expect you to, "End [y]our social spending and infrastructure policy to tend to a problem that belongs to the U.S."

This has always been the case.

Support Your Local Police

It turns out that some Baltimore City judges have had enough with officers lying kin their courts:

Baltimore Police Detective Alexandros Haziminas testified in a case that a judge threw out after raising questions about his credibility.

Hours later, Haziminas was back on duty. He was operating a CitiWatch camera at the intersection of North Howard and West Fayette streets and reported information that led police to arrest a man on a charge of possession with intent to distribute a controlled dangerous substance.

And less than two weeks after that happened, the Board of Estimates approved a $250,000 settlement in an unrelated federal lawsuit against Haziminas that alleged he assaulted a man and then taunted him in the hospital.

According to the Maryland Judiciary Case Search, Haziminas is listed as a participant in eight additional cases that are pending in Baltimore Circuit Court. His situation reflects an ongoing debate about when questions surrounding the past of a police officer should affect him or her in the future.

Defense attorneys have pushed for transparency about potentially relevant information that can be used to impeach the credibility of law enforcement in court. The Baltimore State’s Attorney’s Office has also maintained a list of police officers it will not call as witnesses because of past misconduct or other credibility issues.

Defense attorneys should get this information routinely.

They should get this list on a monthly basis, and they should get updates when an officer is to testify in one of their cases.


Putting on Your Democratic Party Rally Hat


Just the thing for caving

I haven't had a lot to say about the debt ceiling negotiations.

I really have only one thing to say, "Mint the f%$#ing coin."

Needless to say, in an effort to appease the "Norms Fairy", Biden is negotiating the debt limit.

We are in a situation where they are largely capitulating to 'Phant demands, but it is likely that any bill to raise the debt ceiling will require at least as many Democrats as Republicans.

Here is advice to members of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, don't be any of those legislators.  Let the Blue Dogs and New Dems take the heat.

Do the 14th amendment, do the coin, it does not matter, but capitulating to terrorists is always a bad idea

Nope, No Anthropogenic Climate Change Here

The Panama Canal has imposed shipping restrictions on shipping in response to an unprecedented drought.

A major artery of world trade, it carries about ½ of the trade between Asia and the Eastern US, is at risk of a long-term collapse in capacity:

A severe drought affecting the Panama Canal is forcing container vessels to lighten their loads and pay higher fees, with further increases in the cost of shipping cargo through the canal expected this summer.
The largest vessels will have to reduce their drafts — how low they sit in the water — by carrying less or cutting the weight of their cargoes as of May 24, followed by another decrease that kicks in on May 29. Some major ocean carriers have also announced new fees for goods shipped on the route as of June 1 in response to the canal restrictions.

These measures are likely to result in delays and higher costs for goods that are shipped through the canal, which typically sees 5% of annual global maritime trade pass through its locks.

………

Water levels in Lake Gatun, the largest of two lakes that feed the canal, are projected to hit historic lows by July, restricting ships’ drafts and how much cargo they can carry.


Starting May 24, Neo-Panamax vessels — the largest ships that transit the waterway — will be allowed drafts of up to 44.5 feet (13.56 meters), down from an already restricted 45 feet, according to canal spokesman Octavio Colindres.

The draft limit will decline again to 44 feet on May 30. While that seems like a minor change, it could translate to 40% less cargo on some containerships. A 50-foot draft is considered normal. During the droughts of 2019 and 2016, the draft limit went as low as 43 feet.

 We are completely unprepared for the consequences of global warming.

A Petri Dish for Sociopaths

I am referring, of course, to the Ivy League, which creates folks like Emily Oster (graduated from Harvard, faculty at Brown).

She caught a lot of flack, first for suggesting that we should not sent anti-retroviral drugs to treat AIDS in Africa because it was not economically while cherry-picking data to justify this, and her creation of a whole apparatus to get kids back to school because, "Kids don't get Covid," ignoring dead teachers, and when it proved that Covid kills kids too, she moved to social and educational consequences.

To the degree that she has contributed to an environment where the, "Everyone should get Covid," nuts have prevailed in the public discourse, she bears a direct responsibility for more than a million excess deaths in the United States, and more than 20 million deaths worldwide, she should be criticized for her sacrifice of those people on the alter of expedience.

Well, it would be, except for the fact that she comes from the right family, which means that criticism of her is worse than anything, as exemplified by an article titled, "Might “Vitriolic Attacks” Against Emily Oster Rival COVID’s Carnage?."

So, basically, any sort of criticism, or even worse consequences, for the elites is worse than the Holocaust.

Ignore the deaths, or the evidence that Covid causes long term health problems and cognitive deficits in both children and adults, the real injustice here is people calling Emily Oster out on various social media.

Don't worry about Ms. Oster in any case, she is doing fine, and selling all natural drinks for kids with Michelle Obama.

27 May 2023

And It Is On

After years of Republicans in Texas looking the other way when they saw clear and convincing evidence of criminality and corruption by Texas Attorney General, it appears that paying out $3,300,000.00 in state funds to former staffers who accused him of corruption was a bridge too far.

The Texas state house has voted 121-23 to impeach Paxton.

In a monumental decision that threatens to divide the powerful Texas Republican Party, the House of Representatives voted to impeach Attorney General Ken Paxton on Saturday after a scandal-plagued decade in which he has been accused in multiple investigations of misusing his office and of retaliating against those who've exposed his misdeeds.

Paxton's impeachment, triggered by a 121-23 vote with overwhelming Republican support, removes the 60-year-old attorney general from office pending a trial in the Senate. An interim replacement must be named by Gov. Greg Abbott.

The impeachment, just the third in Texas history and the first in nearly 50 years, punctuates a whirlwind week in the House that began with the three-term attorney general accusing House Speaker Dade Phelan of being intoxicated on the job and continued with a bombshell revelation that Paxton was the unidentified subject of a House investigation that began in March

This turd has been under indictment for securities fraud for 8 years, and nothing happened.

Even now, he is threatening legislators with political consequences.

Why this guy survived and thrived all these years is a mark of profound dysfunction in Texas politics.

Then again, Texas politics is notorious for its dysfunctionality.

This is a Nice Start

I have noted on a number of occasions that the western United States' first use policies on water rights are dysfunctional, and lead to corruption and perverse incentives.

It appears that California may be looking at fixing it, around the edges at least, by banning financial institutions from buying and selling water rights for a profit.

If this makes its way to the governor's desk and is signed into law, this would be a very good thing™.

California lawmakers advanced a bill that would prohibit hedge funds and other institutional investors from buying and selling agricultural water resources for financial gain.

Under the measure, which passed the State Assembly by a 46 to 17 vote on Monday afternoon, speculation or profiteering by investment funds in the sale, transfer or lease of water rights on agricultural land would be considered a waste or unreasonable use of water.

………

Western Growers Association and other agricultural trade groups opposed the bill, saying that it would “prohibit a potential solution afforded by private capital invested in developing reliable supplies,” the bill analysis said. The measure still needs to be passed by the California Senate and signed by Governor Gavin Newsom before it becomes law.  

By, "Potential solution[s] afforded by private capital invested in developing reliable supplies," they mean that there are farmers out there who want to make bank from private equity and hedge funds because it's all about the Benjamins.

As I have noted on multiple occasions, "There is no human activity that private equity cannot ruin."

Occasionally, There Is Justice

So Envision Healthcare, which has gained notoriety for buying up hospital emergency room practices, and then cheating patients through balance billing, forcing doctors to upcode, and firing doctors who complained about their fraud, has had to file for bankruptcy:

Physician staffing firm Envision Healthcare has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy, citing its $7.7 billion in debt obligations, declining patient volumes, “flawed” implementation of the No Surprises Act and exclusionary health insurers as reasons for its financial decline in a restructuring announcement on Monday.

The bankruptcy wipes out private equity firm KKR’s investment in Envision. In 2018, the PE firm shelled out over $5 billion in 2018 to take Envision private, in a deal valued at $9.9 billion including debt. Last week, The Wall Street Journal reported that an Envision bankruptcy filing would be one of the steepest losses in KKR’s history.

The physician staffing firm suffered from declining profits amid hurdles from the COVID-19 pandemic and prolonged legal battles with health insurer UnitedHealthcare over payment to Envision clinicians, which caused Envision to lose its in-network status with the insurer in early 2021.

………

UnitedHealthcare sued the staffing firm in September, alleging that it overpaid Envision after it exaggerated the complexity of care provided by its clinicians. In April, Envision announced that it was awarded $91 million from an arbitration panel for payment disputes in 2017 and 2018. At the time, Envision CEO Jim Rechtin said it had three outstanding lawsuits against UnitedHealthcare that would take “several more years” to resolve.

Envision also targeted recent regulatory efforts to stop surprise out-of-network bills for patients in its bankruptcy announcement, saying that implementation of the No Surprises Act caused the company to lose “hundreds of millions of dollars” in delayed or reduced payments from insurers.

So a a healthcare operation whose business model was predecated on fraud is in bankruptcy, and the PE firm which created the firm in its current form lost billions.

I call that a good start.

My guess is that the lawsuit by physicians groups claiming that they were using shell companies to illegally acquire corporate control of doctor's practices had something to do with this: (Ownership of medical practices by non-doctors is illegal in most states)

Physicians and consumer advocates are monitoring a California lawsuit against Envision Healthcare, which alleges that Envision uses shell business structures to retain de facto ownership of emergency room staffing groups and asks the court to declare these structures illegal, Kaiser Health News reported Dec. 22.

Milwaukee-based American Academy of Emergency Medicine Physician Group, the plaintiff in the case set to start in January 2024, said a victory would result in prohibition of the practice across California in emergency rooms as well as anesthesiology and hospital medicine.

I agree with LA Times writer Michael Hiltzik, this is, "A rare victory for patients in the healthcare business." 

For profit enterprises, particularly those pump and dump artists in private equity, are completely incompatible with public health.

 

Only the Good Die Young

Pretty Much

So, Henry Kissinger turns 100 today.

He remains one of the greatest war criminals in human history:

Henry Kissinger is turning 100 this week, and his centennial is prompting assorted hosannas about perhaps the most influential American foreign policymaker of the 20th century. The Economist observed that “his ideas have been circling back into relevancy for the last quarter century.” The Times of London ran an appreciation: “Henry Kissinger at 100: What He Can Tell Us About the World.” Policy shops and think tanks have held conferences to mark this milestone. CBS News aired a mostly fawning interview veteran journalist Ted Koppel conducted with Kissinger that included merely a glancing reference to the ignoble and bloody episodes of his career. Kissinger is indeed a monumental figure who shaped much of the past 50 years. He brokered the US opening to China and pursued detente with the Soviet Union during his stints as President Richard Nixon’s national security adviser and secretary of state. Yet it is an insult to history that he is not equally known and regarded for his many acts of treachery—secret bombings, coup-plotting, supporting military juntas—that resulted in the death of hundreds of thousands.

Kissinger’s diplomatic conniving led to or enabled slaughters around the globe. As he blows out all those candles, let’s call the roll.

Cambodia: In early 1969, shortly after Nixon moved into the White House and inherited the Vietnam War, he, Kissinger, and others cooked up a plan to secretly bomb Cambodia, in pursuit of enemy camps. With the perversely-named “Operation Breakfast” launched, White House chief of staff H.R. “Bob” Haldeman wrote in his diary, Kissinger and Nixon were “really excited.” The action, though, was of dubious legality; the United States was not at war with Cambodia and Congress had not authorized the carpet-bombing, which Nixon tried to keep a secret. The US military dropped 540,000 tons of bombs. They didn’t just hit enemy outposts. The estimates of Cambodian civilians killed range between 150,000 and 500,000.

By way of comparison, the US dropped about the same amount of bombs on Germany during World War II.

Also, he is directly involved with the slaughter in Bangladesh, the coup in Chile, the invasion and slaughter in East Timor, approved the dirty war in Argentina, and approved an assassination program by Latin American dictators that led to a terrorist attack in Washington DC, etc.

In a just world Henry Kissinger should be cooling his heels in The Hague, not having a birthday party.

26 May 2023

When the Mask Slips


Whiskey Tango Foxtrot?
In internal email exchanges, members of the Brownstone Institute "Think" tank expressed nostalgia for child labor and child smoking.

As Anna Russel would say, "I'm not making this up, you know," were actually pining for the return of these poxes upon society.

I guess that I can understand their affection for child labor, it gives business the opportunity to have a compliant workforce that they can abuse, but wanting kids to smoke again?

That's just psychopathic:

The emails, which were obtained by Important Context, come from a Google email group and comprise a single conversation spanning two days—Wednesday, March 15, and Thursday, March 16. They contain several different threads and some content is missing. Additionally, different time zones make tracing through-lines somewhat challenging. Note: The email addresses of the individuals in this piece and potentially identifying information have been redacted.

What the emails do show, however, is Brownstone founder Jeffrey Tucker and several Brownstone contributors, including one of the institute’s 2023 fellows, discussing the merits of “the good old days” when children smoked tobacco and performed labor. The group lamented how young people today don’t share their values and are allegedly coddled and entitled.

In the course of the conversation, Tucker admitted to supporting “youth” cigarette smoking and labor. At one point, he confessed that he had even provided his high schooler son with cigarettes to get him away from marijuana. Later in the conversation, Tucker wrote that he would “fully [repeal] the 1936 ‘child labor’ law,” because “it is cruel and robs kids of a good life.” 

There is something seriously wrong with these assholes.

I mean in a clinical psychological sense, though obviously, I am an engineer, not a psychologist, dammit.*

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

The Headline is Very Revealing

There are now reports that Elon Musk's company Neuralink has been granted approval for clinical studies of its brain implants in human beings.

The interesting thing is that when I searched the news about this, all the headlines were the same.

Not one said that the FDA granted approval, they all said something like, "Neuralink claims," or "Neuralink says," that it has FDA approval for human trials.

This is an odd, and rather contrived, way of stating this.

It's almost as if no one believes a word that the Apartheid Era Emerald Heir Pedo Guy™ says.

It's not like he did any of the following:

  • Falsified self driving demonstrations.
  • Falsified solar shingles.
  • Misstated sales and production number of Tesla cars.
  • Resold returned lemons.
  • Lied about recalls to customers.
  • Lied about a battery swap program.
  • Required customers with defective cars to sign non-disclosure agreements in order to get service.
  • Lied about accident rates at the factories.
  • Overstated Starlink speed and latency.
  • Overstated Starlink coverage.
  • Claimed regulatory approval for an east coast hyperlink loop.
  • Lied about his dad having an ownership interest in an emerald mine, after telling the truth about it 5 years earlier.

Oh, wait, he DID do all of those things.

Maybe Elon is just a lying sack of sh%$.

25 May 2023

These Kids Today Have it So Easy

In my day, there was no internet*, if we wanted to prank a school, it was hours with many cases of toilet paper, or even longer disassembling the principal's car and reassembling it on the roof.

These days, with just a few keystrokes, you can list your high school for on Zillow for only $42,069.00.

School officials think that it is a senior prank? I don't know, 420 and 69? Whatever would make you think that some smart-ass high school student who did this?
As housing prices continue to increase, maybe consider buying a high school for the low, low price of $42,069.

No, Meade High School is not really for sale, but the senior joke still landed with Anne Arundel County school officials. The listing surfaced on Zillow earlier this week but has since been deleted by the property listing website.

The school, on the Fort George G. Meade military base in northwestern Anne Arundel County, was listed as a 20-bedroom, 15-bathroom single-family home complete with sewage issues, rodents and insects and “complementary trash-scented air freshener and water issues!”

………

Students at Broadneck High School pulled a similar senior prank in May 2020 during the COVID-19 pandemic. Instead of listing the property online, the students created a giant “FOR SALE” banner from a blue tarp and tape.

The Broadneck guys went old school.  I approve

These Meade guys scored a primo prank, and they probably did not even break a sweat.

I am jealous.

*OK, technically, there WAS an internet, the first two ARPANet nodes were created in 29 October 1969, but there was no access for ordinary folks outside of rather restrictive academic settings, and TCP/IP was not standardized until 1982, 2 years after I graduated from high school.  We didn't even have FidoNet until 1984.

It's Cows


Over ¾ of all water user


Sorry for using a strip from the racist asshole,
but it was too on point.

So we now have some numbers, and a neat graphic, on who is using the Colorado River water that is now in such short supply in the west.

It's the cows, and I mean that literally.

79% of the use of the river is agricultural, and over half is livestock feed.

It seems to me that the policy of growing crops that need a lot of water that is normally arid, and appears to be becoming even more arid thanks to anthropogenic climate change.

This is not a sustainable agricultural model.

It is made worse by the doctrine of prior appropriation of water rights, which gives eternal rights to water of the first users, so long as they continue to use the water.  (Talk about screwed up incentives)

Moving to lower water crops, and lower water livestock, in addition to water right reform, would go a long way to fixing the problem:

The water supply that 40 million Americans rely on has been pushed to its limit. Reservoirs and wells are running low. This week, the states that rely on water from the Colorado River reached a temporary deal with the Biden administration on sharing what’s left.

What’s using all that water?

The majority of the water in the Colorado River basin — more than one trillion gallons — is used to grow feed for livestock, connecting the region’s water crisis to how much dairy and meat we eat.

The crops grown for humans to eat directly, like vegetables, use up less than a quarter of the amount of water that livestock feed does, according to estimates from a 2020 study published in Nature Sustainability. And residential consumption, like watering your lawn and taking showers, uses a fifth of what livestock feed does.

………

Water footprint estimates can vary widely depending on the conditions that the livestock are raised in, or the farming practices and technology used. But, in general, beef and dairy are some of the most water-intensive foods we consume. Raising cattle also contributes relatively more greenhouse gas emissions, particularly methane, than most other food. 

There are low water crops and livestock out there, figs, okra, rhubarb, goats, legumes, chard, cucumbers, peppers, regular and sweet potatoes, grapes, some cows (NOT Angus), etc.

Unfortunately, what we here is a lot about taking shorter showers and the like, because entrenched interests don't want their role in this closely examined.

Not Long Enough


This Wins the Internet

Oath Keepers founder Stewart Rhodes has been sentenced to 18 years in prison for seditious conspiracy and other crimes.

Stewart Rhodes, the founder of the far-right Oath Keepers militia, was sentenced on Thursday to 18 years in prison, after being convicted of seditious conspiracy for his role in the January 6 attack on Congress.

Prosecutors sought a 25-year term. Lawyers for Rhodes said he should be sentenced to time served, since his arrest in January 2022.

Before handing down the sentence, the US district judge, Amit Mehta, told a defiant Rhodes he posed a continued threat to the US government, saying it was clear he “wants democracy in this country to devolve into violence”.

“The moment you are released, whenever that may be, you will be ready to take up arms against your government,” Mehta said.

………

Prosecutors successfully made the case that Rhodes and his group prepared an armed rebellion, including stashing arms at a Virginia hotel, meant for quick transfer to Washington DC.

………

In a first for a January 6 case, Judge Mehta agreed with prosecutors to apply enhanced penalties for “terrorism” under the argument that the Oath Keepers sought to influence the government through “intimidation or coercion”.

I'm sure that Rhodes will do fine in prison.  In fact, he might even do better.

Prisons are full of Nazi gangs.

A Correction

In yesterday's post lambasting the Presidential Campaign announcement by Desantis made in a meeting with the Apartheid Era Emerald Heir Pedo Guy™, I said that the Florida, "Resign to Run," bill would require him to leave office.

I was wrong.

First, it's not clear about the applicability of the law, and second, just hours before his disastrous campaign rollout, DeSantis signed s bill exempting Presidential and VP candidates from the bill:

In another incremental step in his bid for the White House, Gov. Ron DeSantis on Wednesday signed a bill clarifying that Florida elected officials can remain in office while running for president.

He did so just hours after officially filing paperwork to join the 2024 presidential race, and about two hours ahead of an expected announcement of his presidential run on Twitter with Elon Musk.

The bill, SB 7050, makes a number of sweeping election changes. One clause is the much-watched exemption to the state’s resign-to-run law for presidential and vice presidential candidates, which lawmakers had hinted at last year with DeSantis’ political ambitions in mind.

 Also included in the bill were more voter suppression measures.

That is all.

24 May 2023

So, About that Twitter Announcement………

Did you know that Ron Desantis went on Twitter Meetings with Elon Musk to announce his candidacy for President?

It did not go well, either for Ronda or for Apartheid Era Emerald Heir Pedo Guy™:

The screen kept saying “Preparing to launch”. But this wasn’t one of Elon Musk’s space rockets that soars through the stratosphere and settles into a comfortable orbit. This was one that blew up on the pad in a dazzling ball of flame.

The eccentric billionaire had invited Ron DeSantis, the governor of Florida, to the somewhat niche Twitter Spaces – a dedicated audio streaming feature on the social media platform – to announce his run for the Republican nomination for president in 2024.

For Musk it looked like an easy win in his effort to make Twitter the public square, especially one that attracts rightwing blowhards and steal a march on Fox News. For DeSantis it seemed like a chance to make a bit of political history, show off his tech savvy and poke his rival Donald Trump, once the undisputed world tweeting champion.

Even better, DeSantis could hold court in an audio only format without having to meet and greet real people, famously not his strength. But what liberals may have feared as the ultimate alliance of two anti-woke supervillains proved to carry all the menace of a damp dishcloth.

………

Once people had got beyond the “What is Twitter Spaces?” stage, they were greeted with blank windows, broken snatches of conversation and other technical glitches.

………

The debacle was a fresh blow to the credibility of Musk, whose Tesla brand has lost its shine of late and who, having laid off dozens
[Actually, he's gotten rid of 6,500 employees] of Twitter staff, seemed to be on the end of divine retribution from the tech gods.

………

It was an even bigger political disaster for DeSantis, who has built the entire theory of his candidacy around the idea that he is an efficient chief executive of Florida who pays attention to detail. Even Trump used to be able to put out 280 characters on Twitter, admittedly often in a seemingly random order.

The sorry experience did little to suggest that Musk knows how to run a social media platform or that DeSantis is capable of governing a global superpower armed with nuclear weapons.

Seriously, neither of them could organize a 2 car funeral.

I am very amused.

Also, the law has not changed in Florida yet, so doesn't the announcement mean that Desantis has to resign as Florida Governor?

Has anyone filed suit yet?

1 First St NE, Washington, DC 20543


Here's how you get from the DoJ to the Supreme Court.
Now go and frog-march Clarence Thomas out of the Supreme Court in Handcuffs
Chief Justice John Roberts says that, "The Supreme Court will address ethics issues."

We already know the address of the ethics issues, it's up there, see? ↗

John Roberts is not going to do anything meaningful, that much was clear when he completely blew off Congressional oversight:

Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. said Tuesday night that he was “confident” the Supreme Court will convince the public that it “adheres to the highest standards of conduct.”

Accepting an award at the American Law Institute, Roberts did not directly comment on the controversies that have surrounded the court’s members and their financial disclosures or the mounting congressional pressure for a specific code of conduct for the Supreme Court.

But he said that disturbances outside the court have not affected the nine justices: “Inside the court, there is cause for optimism,” he said.

Then he added:

“I want to assure people that I’m committed to making certain that we as a court adhere to the highest standards of conduct. We are continuing to look at things we can do to give practical effect to that commitment. And I am confident that there are ways to do that consistent with our status as an independent branch of government and the Constitution’s separation of powers.”

The translation of that statement is, "We don't care, we don't have to, we are the Supreme Court, bitches."

Nothing is going to change until there is an independent reckoning for the blatant corruption at the Court.


Corrupt as F%$#

Joe Manchin again:

After killing Joe Biden’s audacious Build Back Better legislation in 2021 and emerging as a constant roadblock to Democrats’ sweeping climate agenda, Sen. Joe Manchin’s sprawling coal empire became the focus of intense scrutiny for its impact on the citizens and ecosystem of northern West Virginia. What went unnoticed at the time was another company the senator is quietly profiting off of, housed in the very same building where his coal company Enersystems is headquartered, with an even greater reach.

Manchin has said in recent weeks that he won’t rule out running to replace Biden in the 2024 presidential election. He maintains a cozy relationship with the moderate political nonprofit No Labels, which has raised tens of millions of dollars to run a third-party presidential ticket in 2024, and he himself has raised millions from special interest groups cheering on his intransigence. But while Manchin has long cultivated the image of a liberty-loving champion, his financial ties to a biometric surveillance company draw a sharp contrast.

For decades, Manchin has been the landlord of the lucrative biometric surveillance firm co-founded in 1991 by his then-23-year-old daughter Heather Bresch, along with her late husband Jack Kirby and Manchin’s brother-in-law, Manuel Llaneza.

Bresch, as I have observed before, was Mylan Pharmaceuticals, and she engaged in egregious price gouging after she achieved a monopoly in Epinephrine pens.

The Manchin crime family™ appears to be very busy.

………

The firm received large contracts from the West Virginia state government in the years that Manchin served as secretary of state and then as governor. In more recent years, Tygart has secured tens of millions of dollars in federal contracts from law enforcement and defense agencies to supply biometric data collection services to intelligence operations in West Virginia and across the country.

Bresch has held no financial interests in the company since her divorce from Kirby in 1999, according to reporting from the Charleston Gazette, but she is still registered as an agent for the company, according to West Virginia Secretary of State records. Kirby died in 2019, but Tygart’s new president also has ties to the senator. John Waugaman served on Manchin’s transition team for governor, according to the company’s website, and has donated some $12,000 to Manchin in the past decade. Neither a spokesperson for Manchin nor Tygart Technology responded to The Intercept’s questions.

………

Tygart received its first contract from West Virginia in 2000, eventually billing the state for more than $6 million, including web service subcontracts worth tens of thousands of dollars. In 2006, the state auditor launched an investigation into the company as part of a larger audit request by then-Secretary of State Betty Ireland, embroiling Manchin, then governor, in a no-bid contract scandal for services rendered by Tygart Technology.

The obnoxious radical centrists on the national scene, Manchin, Sinema, Gottheimer, etc. seem to be even more corrupt than the Republicans.

I guess that if you are in politics, and you believe in nothing, then it's all about getting power and money.

Perhaps some effort should be made by the local law enforcement to do a deep dive on all 535 members of Congress.

It appears to be a target rich environment.

 

Headline of the Day

The Debt-Ceiling Crisis Is Christmas Morning for Ratfckers
Charlie Pierce

(%$# mine)

The always readable Charlie Pierce has a way with words. 

Biden is, unfortunately, going to negotiate with the terrorists.

What he should do, to quote the late Alan Rickman, is, "Cut [their] heart out with a spoon."

Linkage

Kitties, big f%$#ing kitties:

23 May 2023

Always Been a Scam


Preach it John Oliver!
As I have noted on multiple occasions, carbon offsets are a scam

They are a way for non-profits, and brokers, to get money for things like protecting forests from logging that will never be logged, or, in more extreme cases, forests that have never existed.

David Antonioli, the CEO of Verra, which is responsible for the vast bulk of the certifications of these instruments after revelations that more than 90% of the offsets that it certified are fraudulent.

The process of buying and selling carbon credits is inherently criminogenic, kind of like cryptocurrency.

That fraud has taken over is a shame, but not a surprise:

The head of the world’s leading carbon credit certifier has announced he will step down as CEO next month.

It comes amid concerns that Verra, a Washington-based nonprofit, approved tens of millions of worthless offsets that are used by major companies for climate and biodiversity commitments, according to a joint Guardian investigation earlier this year.

In a statement on LinkedIn on Monday, Verra’s CEO, David Antonioli, said he would leave his role after 15 years leading the organisation that dominates the $2bn voluntary carbon market, which has certified more than 1bn credits through its verified carbon standard (VCS).

………

The announcement follows a difficult period for Verra, which has seen the environmental integrity of their carbon standard satirised by the comedian John Oliver and journalistic expos├ęs about the integrity of their carbon credit certification process.
[The vid is above]

In January, a nine-month investigation by the Guardian, the German weekly Die Zeit and the investigative group SourceMaterial found Verra rainforest credits used by Disney, Shell, Gucci and other big corporations were largely worthless, often based on stopping the destruction of rainforests that were not threatened, according to independent studies. It also found evidence of forced evictions at a flagship scheme co-operated by Conservation International in Peru.

Antonioli strongly rejected the findings of the investigation and defended Verra’s impact on the conservation of rainforests. The organisation is in the process of introducing new rules for generating rainforest carbon credits, with all projects set to be using the new system by mid-2025.

Translation, "We are doing nothing wrong, and we promise never to do it again." 

I know that I say this way too often, but the people who are engaged in these frauds should be frog-marched out of their offices in handcuffs.

Carbon taxes are cheaper to administer and far less vulnerable to fraud, and the enforcement on transnational trade can follow the same model used for a value added tax.

The only advantage to cap and trade, and this applies only if you are a corrupt sociopath, is that you and your fellow Wall Street or City of London friends can make back sitting astride the transactions and extracting a toll.

Of Course He Is

Florida Governor Ron Desantis is spending millions of dollars recruiting police with criminal records to come to the state.

It's this sort of sh%$ that makes comedy writers look at themselves in the mirror, and wonder if they should have gone into their dad's dry cleaning business:

Numerous police officers lured to new jobs in Florida with cash from Governor Ron DeSantis’s flagship law enforcement relocation program have histories of excessive violence or have been arrested for crimes including kidnapping and murder since signing up, a study of state documents has found.

DeSantis, who is expected to launch his campaign for the 2024 Republican presidential nomination this week, has spent more than $13.5m to date on the recruitment bonus program, which he touted in 2021 as an incentive to officers in other states frustrated by Covid-19 vaccination mandates.

………

However, among the almost 600 officers who moved to Florida and received the bonus – or were recruited in state – are a sizable number who either arrived with a range of complaints against them, or have since accrued criminal charges, the online media outlet Daily Dot has discovered.

They include a former trainee deputy with the Escambia county sheriff’s office charged with murdering her husband; an officer with the Miramar police department fired for domestic battery and kidnapping; and a former member of the New York police department (NYPD) who was hired by the Palm Beach police department having once been accused of an improper sexual proposition.

………

The Daily Dot compiled its report from state records it obtained from the Florida department of economic opportunity through a Freedom of Information Act request. The undated document lists payments of more than $8.8m split between 1,310 newly hired officers, with most receiving $6,693.44 from the signing-on and additional bonuses.

I'm sure that the marching orders for these cops is clear, no brutality, or murder, or kidnapping, or rape of white people.

Can We Please Give Texas Back to Mexico?


OK, maybe drunk
So, Texas Attorney General, Ken Paxton, who is under criminal investigation for securities fraud, (Among other things) has accused Texas House Speaker, Dade Phelan of being drunk while presiding over a state house session.

It was a 14 hour house session, which indicates that Mr. Phelan is not a particularly good speaker, a good speaker gets their ducks in a row to prevent such excesses, but after 14 hours, Dick F%$#ing Clark would slur his words.  (To be fair, they were running up against a midnight deadline that day)

Needless to say, Paxton does not know, nor does he care about this, he has a personal beef with Phelan because the Texas House is investigating a $3.3 million dollar whistle-blower settlement, paid for with public funds, with former Paxton aides. (Short version:  He supplied unusual favors to one of his biggest donors)

Also, the video may have originally been posted on social media by some friends of former state representative Bryan Slaton, who was expelled from the body after being caught f%$#ing his 19 year old intern after he got her drunk.

These bumpkin Borgias are are running the state.

Giving Texas back to Mexico would give the citizens of the state a less corrupt and more functional government.

I Did Nazi That Coming

So,1 19 year old, Sai Varshith Kandula, just crashed a U-Haul truck into barriers in front of the White House in an attempt to take over the United States.

There was nothing in the truck but him, his backpack, and a Nazi flag.

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

A Missouri teen who allegedly crashed into a security barrier near the White House on Monday night reportedly told cops he was trying to kill President Joe Biden and seize power of the government.

That man, identified by U.S. Park Police as 19-year-old Sai Varshith Kandula, now faces charges that include threatening to kill, kidnap, or inflict harm on a president, vice president, or family member.

Unnamed law enforcement sources told ABC News that Kandula said he wanted to seize power from the president, flying to Washington, D.C. from St. Louis to carry out the failed attack. Many details about the incident are unclear, but Secret Service spokesman Anthony Guglielmi confirmed Tuesday that the crash appeared to be intentional.

Authorities say Kandula rammed into security bollards at Lafayette Park—across the street from the White House—using a rented U-Haul box truck. A law enforcement source told CNN that no explosives were found in the but a witness told Reuters that cops dug out a Nazi flag from his truck. (A Reuters photographer captured the flag laid out on the ground next to the truck before it was taken away as evidence.) Fox 5 reported that cops also recovered a backpack, duct tape, and “a notebook with pages full of writing” from the truck.

………

Kandula now faces a slew of federal charges, including assault with a dangerous weapon, destruction of federal property, trespassing, and reckless operation of a motor vehicle.

This sh%$ is seriously getting out of hand. 

Also, I did some Googling, and it appears, and it appears that South Asian Hitler fanboi are way more common than I knew.

Live and learn.

22 May 2023

Sometimes, Elections Matter

Under a Republican administration, the Department of Justice would not have filed, much less won, a lawsuit against JetBlue and American Airlines anticompetitive Northeast Alliance.

It may not be the beginning of the end for Robert Bork's corrupt, hypocritical, and ahistorical theory of antitrust, but hopefully it is the end of the beginning for Robert Bork's corrupt, hypocritical, and ahistorical theory of antitrust:

The U.S. Justice Department has won its lawsuit in a Boston courtroom to undo the so-called "Northeast Alliance" partnership between JetBlue Airways and American Airlines.

The decision is a blow to JetBlue, which is Boston Logan Airport's biggest airline. JetBlue operates flights to multiple airports across Massachusetts and New England.

U.S. District Judge Leo Sorokin wrote that through their alliance, American and JetBlue carved up Northeast markets between them, "replacing full-throated competition with broad cooperation."

The partnership had the blessing of the Trump administration when it took effect in early 2021. It let the airlines sell seats on each other’s flights and share revenue from them. It covered many of their flights to and from Boston's Logan Airport and three airports in the New York City area: John F. Kennedy, LaGuardia and Newark Liberty in New Jersey.

………

The lawsuit, filed in September 2021, said that the airlines’ alliance was effectively a merger that would hurt consumers by driving up fares.

The trial was held last September in Boston, with the decision handed down on Friday.

"The court finds that the plaintiffs have convincingly established that the NEA violates Section 1 of the Sherman Act," the ruling said.

"There is simply no credible evidence that American and JetBlue have continued to treat each other as competitors within the NEA," the decision said.

This is the sort of thing that should have been seen as illegal on its face, but the Federal Judiciary has been loaded up with free market Mousketeers, and so it was by no means a certain thing.

As an aside, in more enlightened days, by which I mean before the Reagan administration, the executives who negotiated these deals would have been criminally charged and frog-marched out of their offices in handcuffs.

It's time to go back to the old ways.

Not The Onion

Uber just suspended its chief of diversity, equity and inclusion for allegations of sensitivity INSENSITIVITY.

Specifically Bo Young Lee is alleged to have conducted multiple multiple meetings to help people understand and appreciate "Karens".

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

Uber has suspended its head of diversity, equity and inclusion after Black and Hispanic employees complained about the workplace events she moderated exploring the experience of white American women under the title “Don’t Call Me Karen”.

The ride-hailing app has confirmed that it has asked Bo Young Lee, who has led its DEI department for five years, to take a leave of absence while the company works out “next steps”. Her suspension is the latest wave of chaos to strike the $72bn company over its corporate culture.

Lee’s suspension, which was first reported by the New York Times, follows mounting internal discontent over two “Don’t Call Me Karen” sessions that she convened on Zoom for up to 500 employees. The events, one in April and the second last week, were billed as “diving into the spectrum of the American white woman’s experience from some of our female colleagues, particularly how they navigate around the ‘Karen’ persona”.

………

Uber has labored hard to improve and modernize its workplace culture after the 2017 resignation of its chief executive, Travis Kalanick, following months of scandals. Under his leadership, the company was alleged by a whistleblower to have fostered widespread gender discrimination and sexual harassment.

Kalanick’s replacement as chief executive, Dara Khosrowshahi, vowed to turn around the culture. His efforts have included a focus on DEI, led by Lee, whom he brought into the company in 2018.

Uber is a horrible company. It makes its money by abusing its drivers.

Any alleged focus on DEI is rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic.

There is difference between an evil company that makes its money by ruthlessly exploiting workers, and one that makes its money by ruthlessly exploiting workers with regular DEI training sessions.

I'm sure that there is some sort of pithy, "Arbeit macht frei," reference I could make here, but my writing skills are insufficient to find it.

This Reminds Me of My Mom

It turns out that the Penn Club of Manhattan, a club for University of Pennsylvania alumni, has a portrait of one of its more famous members, Donald Trump, hanging on the wall.

The thing is, it's low on the wall, hidden behind a sofa.

This is slightly amusing, but it reminds me of one of the funnier bits of my family history.

While my father taught at the University of Virginia, he also taught at the Federal Executive Institute (FEI).

The FEI had a New Year's Eve party every year, and my mom would get schicker, swipe the official photograph of then President Richard Nixon, and hang it in the lady's room.

One year, some wag found the portrait in the lady's room, and with a marker put a mustache (and perhaps also glasses) on the portrait.

It's not that big a deal, the marking was on the glass, but someone at FEI took great umbrage at this bit of alcohol induced merriment, particularly the mustache (and perhaps also glasses).

Somehow or other, one year, Nixon's portrait ended up in house, and was hung above the upstairs toilet.

It's location was the source of no small amount of amusement among guests to our house.

When we moved from Charlottesville in August 1975, about a year after Nixon resigned in disgrace, mom and dad decided to return the portrait.

My dad hung it back up on the wall at FEI, and it vanished it about 5 minutes.

As bizarre as this may sound, I may be the most normal member of my family.

What great malefactor would you have a toilet picture of?

Subhead of the Day

Well, Well, Well, If It Isn’t the Leaning Tower of Fisa Again
The Register

The Headline read, "FBI Abused Spy Law but Only like 280,000 Times in a Year," which is way less entertaining than the subhead on the article.

It's time for the annual report on just how badly the FBI is abusing the FISA process and the civil rights of American citizens.

Once again, they show that yhey are still the misbegotten spawn of J. Edgar Hoover:

The FBI misused controversial surveillance powers more than 278,000 times between 2020 and early 2021 to conduct warrantless searches on George Floyd protesters, January 6 rioters who stormed the Capitol, and donors to a Congressional campaign, according to a newly unclassified court opinion.

On Friday, the US Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court made public a heavily redacted April 2022 opinion [PDF] that details hundreds of thousands of violations of Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) — the legislative instrument that allows warrantless snooping.

The Feds were found to have abused the spy law in a "persistent and widespread" manner, according to the court, repeatedly failing to adequately justify the need to go through US citizens' communications using a law aimed at foreigners.

Section 702 is supposed to permit the federal government to spy on communications belonging to foreign individuals outside of America, theoretically to prevent criminal and terrorist acts. Those communications can sweep up phone calls, texts and emails with US persons, however, and are stored in massive databases. The FBI, CIA and NSA can search these communications without a warrant.


In the doublespeak world of American intelligence, such information isn't technically stored; it's only considered so if it's actually used by analysts. And while foreign communications are fair game, the Feds can search about three levels down in data - ie, who the suspect talked to, and who their contact spoke to, and the next line in the communications link - so think Kevin Bacon levels of contacts.

………

The police power is set to expire at the end of the year unless Congress renews it. With this looming deadline, the now-unclassified court documents add fuel to Section 702 opponents' arguments that the government routinely abuses these warrantless searches.

"These abuses have been going on for years and despite recent changes in FBI practices, these systematic violations of Americans' privacy require congressional action," US Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR) said in a statement. "If Section 702 is to be reauthorized, there must be statutory reforms to ensure that the checks and balances are in place to put an end to these abuses."

The FBI is being the FBI again.