31 October 2023

Why It’s Called “Tiger Beat on the Potomac”

So, Politico posted an article wherein they consulted 3 expert cobblers to address the burning question, "Does Ron DeSantis wear lifts in his boots?"

This is a guy who is literally threatening teachers with jail for having the wrong books in their desks, waging a war against Covid vaccinations, and drafted a "Don't Say Gay,: law, and the folks are wondering whether or not he wears lifts?

Seriously.  What the f%$#ing f%$#?

I Just Can't

You may have noticed that I have not written much about what is going on in Israel and Gaza.

I just have not been able to write about it.

I feel parilyzed by the terrorist attack and the aggressive response from Israel.

So,someone on Facebook reposed this video from actress and PhD Neuroscientist Mayim Bialik.

I'm not comment about the substance of what she said, but rather about her affect.

It matches what I have been feeling since the Hamas massacres in Israel.

I feel frozen in place, and unable to address what has gone on, and what is going on now.

It's gotten me so upset that I am talking about my feelings, an event that is about as rare as hen's teeth. (I'm not tough, I am just a lousy communicator)

I think that I can manage to offer my usual litany of ill-informed rants if (when?) Benjamin Netanyahu gets turfed out.

If my brain unfreezes, I'll make some comments on what is happening.

It's Up to You, New York, New York!

I am not sure what is more epic, the person doing that awsome "Pizza Rat" costume, or the commuter who blithely vaulted the banister.

New York is magical.

30 October 2023

It Does Not Need Sexy, It Needs Relevant

It appears that the European Union is working a plan to, "Sex up the European Parliament."

The EU Parliament cannot:

  • Draft legislation
  • Amend legislation
  • Draft a budget 

Why on earth should anyone care what goes on there?

The European Parliament knows it has a reputation for being boring. Now it’s trying to sex things up.

MEPs don’t bother showing up to debates during the monthly plenary sessions in Strasbourg; journalists barely pay the place any attention; and the Parliament’s procedures are a mess — that’s according to the Parliament’s own civil servants who issued the grim diagnosis in a “background note” to senior MEPs earlier this year.

Obtained exclusively by POLITICO, an obscure working group cooked up a document considering ways to overhaul the Parliament’s machinery in time for European elections in June 2024.

Notwithstanding its state as an elected body, serves no function beyond that of a debating society.

They would not have a working group on making them more interesting if they actually had a meaningful function.

The EU Parliament is basically an exercise in public masturbation, and people don't want to watch this ……… 

OK, REALLY bad metaphor.  There are a lot of people who want to watch public masturbation.  Some of them actually pay for it.

Let's call it "Parliamentary Masturbation", I'm sure that this particular fetish is limited to only a few thousand people in the EU.

Rule 34, you know.

Support Your Local Police

The San Diego Police Chief, and his evil minion mayor are claiming that public accountability for police surveillance techniques are obstructing the police, because ……… If police don't get to purchase any surveillance technology that they want with zero oversight, it's obstruction, I guess?

Law enforcement agencies aren’t used to oversight or accountability. That’s something that has rarely been deemed essential to the act of policing. After all, if the Supreme Court can create “qualified immunity” out of thin air to protect (most) cops from the consequences of their unconstitutional actions, surely podunk locals shouldn’t assume they’re more qualified than the Supreme Court (or the cops themselves) to judge their actions.

But things haven’t been going cops’ way lately. This is entirely due to cops’ own actions, which have repeatedly dis-endeared them to the public. And even if the voting bloc is generally considered to be too stupid to competently criticize cops, cops are finding fewer supporters from those in voting booths as well as those being voted for.

But when cops have managed to set the nation on fire (figuratively and literally) on a nearly annual basis for the past thirty years, some legislators have decided it might be time to do something.

And “something” it almost always is. Sure, some legislators push dumbass “blue lives matter” laws but other legislators appear to believe the public might be better served by holding local law enforcement agencies to some sort of standard, rather than just allowing them to do what they want.

In San Diego, this belated recognition that allowing cops to go rogue on the regular might be a bad idea has manifested as a surveillance oversight ordinance that gives legislators and residents more say in what surveillance tech cops can obtain and how they can use. It passed last September with the city council’s approval, prompted in part by the city’s mishandling of a “smart” streetlight program that provoked plenty of negative comments from city residents.

They weren’t just streetlights. They were streetlights with surveillance cameras that also acted as automated license plate readers. Combining the necessary (lights for streets) with something that only benefited law enforcement (the rest of it) wasn’t what residents wanted. Hence the new ordinance, which places more guidelines on surveillance tech and deployment.

Now that these guidelines are in force, the city’s mayor (Todd Gloria) and the San Diego police chief are now claiming this minimal move towards more oversight and accountability is simply making it impossible for the PD to do its job. And the police chief has used loaded language that equates accountability with a criminal act


This ordinance is not oversight, it’s obstruction,” Nisleit said. “The flaws in this ordinance will hamper our ability to investigate serious crimes, protect victims and keep our community safe.” 

(emphasis mine)

So the the time line is:

  1. Police are discovered to be surreptitiously surveilling much of the city.
  2. The public is outraged.
  3. The city council passes a law creating accountability.
  4. The police and the mayor refuse to cooperate with its implementation and do everything possible to delay its implementation.
  5. The police and the mayor then demand changes weakening the law because it is not ready.

You know, for a group charged with enforcing the law, the police seem to hate actually following the law.


Rule 1 of the Music Biz

Is that the record companies are shameless bastards.

Rule 2 is see rule 1. 

Case in point, after Taylor Swift's dispute with her old label, and the control of her master recordings, she re-recorded all of her old stuff, and re-released them, telling her fans not to stream the new recordings, and not stuff produced from the old masters owned by Scooter Braun.

She generated many millions in revenue for her, and the value of the old masters tanked.

Outraged at the prospect of an artist actually making some money from their work, the labels are trying to extend re-recording bans to as much as 30 years.

While Taylor Swift has been racking up billions of streams with updated “Taylor’s Version” re-recordings of her original hits over the past couple years, making cultural moments out of old material and simultaneously driving down the value of those original recordings that were sold away from her, record companies have been working to prohibit this sort of thing from happening again.

The major labels, Universal Music Group, Sony Music Entertainment and Warner Music Group, have recently overhauled contracts for new signees, according to top music attorneys, some demanding artists wait an unprecedented 10, 15 or even 30 years to re-record releases after departing their record companies. “The first time I saw it, I tried to get rid of it entirely,” says Josh Karp, a veteran attorney, who has viewed the new restrictions in UMG contracts. “I was just like, ‘What is this? This is strange. Why would we agree to further restrictions than we’ve agreed to in the past with the same label?'”

For decades, standard major-label recording contracts stated artists had to wait for the latter of two periods to expire before they could put out re-recorded versions, Swift-style: It could have been five to seven years from the release date of the original, or two years after the contract expired. Today, attorneys are receiving label contracts that expand that period to 10 or 15 years or more — and the attorneys are pushing back. “It becomes one of a multitude of items you’re fighting,” Karp says.


Until June 2019, when Swift announced she would re-record her first six albums, the concept of drawing fans to new versions of old songs was a music-business niche. Frank Sinatra rerecorded a number of his biggest hits in the ’60s, but in recent years, new Def Leppard and Squeeze versions had minimal commercial success. But after venture capitalist and longtime Justin Bieber manager Scooter Braun purchased Swift’s original label, Big Machine Music Group, she failed to re-obtain her original master recordings. The business transaction was personal to Swift — she has accused Braun of “incessant, manipulative bullying” — and she encouraged her huge fanbase and sympathetic radio programmers to exclusively play new Taylor’s Versions of Fearless, Red and others.

Suddenly, the concept of re-recording masters has evolved from archaic fine print buried in record deals to a widely scrutinized cause celebre. “Obviously, this is a big headline topic — the Taylor Swift thing,” Savur says. “Labels, of course, are going to want to do whatever they can to address that and to prevent it. But there’s only so much they can do. Artist representatives are going to push back against that, and a certain standard is ingrained in our industry that is not easy to move away from.”

Seriously, if you like a musician, buy their merch, go to their concert, or send them a f%$#ing tip in the f%$#ing mail.

You you buy or stream their songs, it's all going up some record executive's nose, and not going to the artist.

29 October 2023

Mind Officially Blown

I have always enjoyed th works of Roald Dahl, but I have for some time been aware of the fact that he held antisemitic beliefs, and his works chock full of bigoted stereotypes.

It's one of the things that comes from a British author born in 1916, and whether or not to read his works is up to the reader.

That being said, I was gobsmacked when I discovered that Dahl originally intended for the character Charlie of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory to be black.

He was convinced to change this by his agent and publisher, who believed that having a black hero would tank sales:

Roald Dahl originally wanted the eponymous hero of his much-loved children’s book Charlie and the Chocolate Factory to be black, his widow has said.

In an interview with BBC Radio 4’s Today programme for Roald Dahl day on Wednesday, Liccy Dahl said: “His first Charlie that he wrote about was a little black boy.”

Asked why it was changed, she replied: “I don’t know. It’s a great pity.”

Her husband’s biographer Donald Sturrock, who was also being interviewed, said the change to a white character was driven by Dahl’s agent, who thought a black Charlie would not appeal to readers.

“I can tell you that it was his agent who thought it was a bad idea, when the book was first published, to have a black hero,” said Sturrock. “She said people would ask: ‘Why?’”

The revelation about Dahl’s original wish for Charlie may surprise those who accused the author of racism in relation to the book. The allegation stemmed from the fact that the Oompa Loompas in the original version were black pygmies from Africa.

I read the first edition, and never realized that it had changed in the 2nd edition.

You can also read an interesting literary analysis of the original work, which was quite different, here, where Professor Catherine Keyser suggests that the original was intended to be about racism and inequality.

I would not go that far, but it is something to muse on.

Support Your Local Police

The good folks at DCist have done a deep dive on police overtime police at the Washington, DC police department.

When a police officer bills 2,735 overtime hours, a total of 4935 hours in a year, the equivalent of 13½ hour days every day of the year, something in profoundly wrong.

In fact, either the officer is engaging in overtime fraud, or they are wielding a gun while impaired from exhaustion.

If a trucker put in those hours, he would have his commercial license pulled.

To state the obvious, one of the problems with policing in the United States is that cops are sleep deprived to the point of psychosis:

For D.C. Metropolitan Police Department sergeant Tony Giles, working overtime is a full-time job of its own.

In the budget year ending September 30, 2022, Giles billed the city for 2,735 extra work hours, which — on top of a regular 40-hour workweek — is equivalent to working a 13-hour day, every single day, for all 365 days of the year.

This harrowing workload was so lucrative that Giles out-earned the highest paid officials in city government in fiscal year 2022. His total compensation was greater than the publicly reported salaries of every other city employee, including the police chief and D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser.

Giles, whose base salary was $114,000 that year, ultimately took home $361,000 in total pay.

The 33-year MPD veteran has doubled his base salary every year since at least 2014 — the earliest year with publicly available data on the D.C. Council’s website. And this year, he surpassed his 2022 total; as of the end of July, with a month-and-a-half remaining in the 2023 budget year, he’d already earned $249,577 in overtime and other bonus pay.

While Giles was the department’s highest earner, he was far from the only officer in the District significantly padding his wallet by banking overtime hours. He was one of 41 MPD employees who earned more than $100,000 in overtime and other extra pay in fiscal year 2022, according to data obtained and analyzed by DCist/WAMU and the Investigative Reporting Workshop. Through the end of this July, 44 MPD employees had already earned at least that much in extra pay in the most recent budget year.


Spreadsheets detailing MPD overtime hours for each of the past five fiscal years, obtained via public records request, show that officers routinely record 14- to 18-hour work days, in some cases breaking MPD policies on overwork. Department rules prohibit officers from working more than 18 hours during a 24 hour period or more than 98-hours over the course of a week unless they receive a special waiver.

“You don't want to be dealing with a cop on hour 15. I can promise you that,” says Chris Magnus, D.C.’s Deputy Auditor for Public Safety and a former police chief in multiple cities. “For anybody, 16 hours [or more] is craziness.”


But many also agreed that such overwork is not safe for officers themselves or for the public.

“When you start working officers too much, it affects their judgment, affects their situational awareness,” said Steve O’Dell, a decorated former MPD lieutenant who retired in 2003. O’Dell said officers who work excessive overtime tend to become either “overreactive”: quick to interpret a situation as a threat — or “underreactive”: less likely to respond quickly to potential threats. “Traffic accidents go up, injuries go up, and citizens’ complaints go up because you've got an officer who's fatigued, worked too much and he may not respond correctly under a stressful situation.”


Officers blocking off streets for the presidential motorcade often have to report early for their posts, which allows them to rest — or, in some cases, catch some shut eye. Several former officers described high earners in SOD sneaking naps on the job, especially in their cars, though Lewbel says the department does not tolerate sleeping on the job. 

Sleeping on the job is overtime fraud.

Hell, this is all overtime fraud.  

Unfortunately, in the police department, the inmates run the overtime asylum and making it worse, this overtime boosts their retirement benefits too.

Police officers are routinely defrauding their departments and their taxpayers.

How is This Not Bribery and Tax Evasion?

I have written earlier about how Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas secured a personal loan from a rich friend to purchase a top of the line RV.

It appears that it was worse than initial reports because, that loan was forgiven, turning it from a questionable financial transaction to an outright gift.

In fact, if the loan forgiveness was not reported to the IRS, then, in addition to being a pretty egregious violation of the norms of Supreme Court self-reporting, (There are no actual rules) it would be tax evasion.

Forgiven loans are supposed to be reported as income:

The terms of the private loan were as generous as they were clear: With no money down, Justice Clarence Thomas could borrow more than a quarter of a million dollars from a wealthy friend to buy a 40-foot luxury motor coach, making annual interest-only payments for five years. Only then would the principal come due.

But despite the favorable nature of the 1999 loan and a lengthy extension to make good on his obligations, Justice Thomas failed to repay a “significant portion” — or perhaps any — of the $267,230 principal, according to a new report by Democratic members of the Senate Finance Committee. Nearly nine years later, after Justice Thomas had made an unclear number of the interest payments, the outstanding debt was forgiven, an outcome with ethical and potential tax consequences for the justice.

“This was, in short, a sweetheart deal” that made no logical sense from a business perspective, Michael Hamersley, a tax lawyer who has served as a congressional expert witness, told The New York Times.

The chairman of Senate Finance Committee, Ron Wyden, is entitled to demand the tax returns of anyone in the nation, and as such, he could demand Thomas' tax returns for the period under the current tax code.

I would suggest that Wyden do this right now.  It should have a list of total interest payments over this time, and whether Thomas declared the loan forgiven.

It's time for this corrupt f%$# to be put in a cell with Donald Trump.

28 October 2023

Not Escalating at All

With Gaza brewing up the United States decides to launch air strikes in Syria, because air strikes are the answer to everything.

I do not think that this will be conducive to deescalation:

The U.S. military conducted airstrikes on two sites in eastern Syria associated with Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps and “affiliated groups” after attacks on U.S. personnel there and in neighboring Iraq, the Pentagon said late Thursday.

Officials said the strikes were conducted by F-15 and F-16 fighter jets that dropped precision munitions on two facilities storing ammunition and weapons near the town of Bukamal. The airstrikes amplified a long-running feud between the United States and Iran at a moment of extreme tension in the Middle East, with the renewed conflict between U.S. ally Israel and Iran-backed Hamas in the Gaza Strip fueling concern that violence will spread.

On Friday, the Pentagon said in a statement that both facilities were destroyed and that U.S. military officials “currently assess there were no casualties in the strikes.”


Asked whether the airstrikes announced Thursday could result in additional violence, the defense official said, “That would be a decision made in Tehran.”

“Our desire,” the official added, “is for Iran’s most senior leaders to direct their proxies and militias to cease these attacks on U.S. personnel in Iraq and Syria.”

You know, the people in Syria need no encouragement to attack US forces (illegally) in Syria.

Maintaining this occupation is not in the interest of the region or the US.  It serves to encourage and create more Islamic extremists in the region.

Quote of the Day

Vlad's a bastard, he did it, but Vlad didn't emerge suddenly on February 24, 2022
Duncan "Atrios" Black on the failure of the US foreign policy establishment in the Ukraine

Russia has been declaring red lines since before the dissolution of the Soviet Union.  The arrogance of the US foreign policy Blob did not allow them to hear this.

Learning from Your Mistake

After years of opposing any common sense gun regulations, Representative Jared Golden (D-ME) has admitted that he was wrong and has changed his position:

Let us tell the tale of two congresscritters, one from the extreme northwest [sic] corner of the Continental 48 and the other just from the extreme in all things.

The extremist is speaker Johnson.

Rep. Jared Golden, Democrat of Maine, has long been considered one of those "independent" bipartisan nuisances here in this shebeen. For example, he stood almost alone among Democratic members of the House opposing the most recent attempts to break this country's lunatic attraction to its firearms. Golden voted against expanded background checks, against raising the age requirement for the purchase of assault-type weapons from 18 to 21, and, ultimately, on July 29, 2022, Golden voted against an assault-weapons ban in the wake of mass shootings in Buffalo and in Uvalde, Texas in which those weapons were used to deadly effect. Then, this week, the Reaper dropped by Golden's congressional district in Lewiston, Maine. Golden appeared at a press conference with other Maine politicians. After Senator Susan Collins contributed her customary dollop of mushy doubletalk, this is what Jared Golden said.
“The time has now come for me to take responsibility for this failure, which is why I now call on the United States Congress to ban assault rifles, like the one used by the sick perpetrator of this mass killing in my hometown of Lewiston, Maine. To the victims and their families, I ask for your forgiveness and support as I seek to put an end to these terrible shootings.”
This admission of responsibility and this acceptance of the necessity of change has "stunned" the national punditry, unaccustomed as it is to confronting these relics from the dusty attic of American politics. Spasms of actual governing catch everyone by surprise, particularly coming from the House of Representatives, which is newly presided over by this guy.

 "This guy," is the Speaker, who blames the shooting on no-fault divorce.

I only give limited props to Rep. Golden.  He should have come to this conclusion BEFORE it was his constituents had died.

BTW, the shooter is dead.

Haaretz Catches up to Me

I have been calling Benjamin Netanyahu (יִמַּח שְׁמו) a clear and present danger to the state of Israel* since 2015. 

It has been obvious that Netanyahu will burn down Israel to stay in power and to keep his corrupt ass out of prison for quite some time, so it is refreshing that people in the media are calling the Prime Minister, "An existential threat to Israel's survival:

In 2012 Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu presented a cartoon-like drawing of a bomb in an address to the United Nations and marked it on it with a red pen to illustrate when Iran would have enough uranium to create a nuclear bomb that would become existential threat to Israel.

Since corruption charges were filed against him, in January 2020, Netanyahu himself became an existential threat to Israel, pushing towards an equally dangerous red line.

If at first Netanyahu's efforts were to weaken the state institutions in order to sabotage criminal proceedings against him, by January 2023 he moved to dismantle them altogether, reducing them to such a low level of functionality that Israel, in many aspects, began to resemble a failed state.

Why did he do this? He believed that he was betrayed by the state itself -- as some would put it – the "deep-state". So according to his logic, it was not only necessary to take control of its institutions, but essentially, destroy them. A key tool in this operation was his move to appoint loyalists with minimal qualifications – if any. 

Nice to see people realizing the obvious.

*Please note that I am not calling him a רוֹדֵף (rodef), literally a pursuer, which would mean that we are required under Halacha (Jewish law) that a רוֹדֵף (rodef) be stopped by any means necessary, including lethal force.

It would be irresponsible for me to call him a רוֹדֵף (rodef). It would be irresponsible for anyone to ANYONE a רוֹדֵף (rodef).

It is an explicit call for the murder of another individual.

Do not call him a רוֹדֵף (rodef). It is wrong to call him a רוֹדֵף (rodef), even if Netanyahu tacitly endorsed such statements against Yitzhak Rabin before his assassination by a religious extremist.

Also calling him עֲמָלֵק (Amalek) is right out.


Will Anyone Hold Larry Summers Responsible for His Promotion of a Crypto Scam?
American Prospect
If anything defines Larry Summers' existence on this planet,it is his complete lack of accountability.

Bye Felicia!

Mike Pence has suspended his 2024 Presidential campaign.

Don't let the door hit you on the way out.

27 October 2023

No Blogging Tonight

I'm feeling like crap, and aching all over.

I did the test though, and it's not Covid.

Posted via mobile

26 October 2023

Desperate and Stupid

Former FTX CEO Sam Bankman-Fried will take the stand at his trial.

This means either that his lawyers realize that he has on chance of acquittal otherwise, or SBF decided that he's so clever that he needs to be on the stand.

If SBF were clever, he'd still be out on bail, and not in jail, having his basil revoked for his explicitly violating its terms:

Sam Bankman-Fried intends to take the witness stand in his criminal case over the multibillion-dollar collapse of crypto exchange FTX, a high-stakes bid by the former tycoon to appeal to the New York jury that could soon condemn him to life in prison.

A lawyer for the 31-year-old, who has sat silently for three weeks as several of his former colleagues testified against him, confirmed in a court conference on Wednesday that his client would answer questions under oath, potentially as early as Thursday.

“Our client is also going to be testifying,” Mark Cohen said, adding that the defence could rest as soon as the end of this week.

He's going to try and play it cute, like he did with his bail conditions, and the jury will convict in short order. 

One hopes that he gets the book thrown at him during sentencing.

And In Slovakia

The leftist populist Nato and Euro skeptic Robert Fico and his Smer party have formed coalition government and become Slovak PM for the 3rd time.

His coalition includes Hlas party, which hived off from Smer in 2020, and the ultra-nationalist Slovak National Party. 

He terminated arms aid to the Ukraine, as he had promised during the campaign, though commercial military deals will continue.

The freakouts are beginning already, particularly from the Baltic States.

In addition to the Ukraine and relations with Russia, turning away from the previous government's neoliberal dismantling of their social safety net appears to have figured prominently in this election.

In terms of the war, withdrawing military aid is int particularly significant, the contributions were never large, and Slovakia's military inventories are already depleted, and there are no indications that they would prevent the transit of 3rd party weapons to the Ukraine.

I do think that populists in general, and right nationalist populists in particular are likely to make gains across Europe.

Both the stresses of war, and the pushes by Brussels for austerity create a Petri dish for political extremism, particularly given the EU's largely anti-democratic structures making other alternatives politically non viable.

Thursday Job Numbers

So, initial unemployment claims rose by 10,000 to a still low 210,000, with continuing claims rising to by 63,000 to 1.79 million, which would indicate a (slight) slowing in the job market, but the 3rd quarter GDP numbers are showing a 4.9% annual growth rate.

So Jerome Powell is not getting his desired recession.

Instead we have good jobs numbers and very strong GDP numbers.


Thoughts and Prayers

Lewiston, Maine, 18 dead, 13 wounded with the gunman still at large by a firearms instructor recently released from a mental hospital.

What the f%$# is wrong with us?

Tricia Asselin laughed as she scattered the pins at the crowded Just-In-Time Recreation alley Wednesday night where two bowling leagues had gathered for a night of friendly competition.

Then a crash sounded – one that didn’t come from the lanes.

Her friend Chad Hopkins turned to face the source of the noise and found himself just 12 yards from a man adjusting a long, black rifle. He thought about charging the man but decided he’d never make it in time.

Instead, he turned to the Apple Valley bowling league members who filled the first 10 lanes and shouted, “Get out! There’s a shooter.”

The deadliest mass shooting in the United States in 2023 and the worst in Maine’s history had begun. Asselin, an unidentified Winthrop High School freshman, his father and 15 others were dead by Thursday morning.

Details are slowly emerging about the two shootings that claimed the lives of 18 people and injured 13 more in Lewiston Wednesday night. Three people remain in critical condition. Police have released little about a sweeping search for the Bowdoin man they believe is responsible for the carnage, which left the state paralyzed as schools and businesses remained closed Thursday and residents took cover indoors.

F%$# the NRA, f%$# the Roberts court for making sh%$ up about the 2nd amendment, and f%$# the political cowards who have given up.

25 October 2023

Replaced by Something Even More Bizarre and Inexplicable

I joked with friends when Kevin McCarthy was ousted as House Speaker that he would be replaced by worse, actually I quoted Douglas Adams (see title).

Rather unsurprisingly I was right, the right wingers in the Republican Caucus got what they wanted, and elected insurrectionist Christo-Fascist nut Mike Johnson (R-LA).

In addition to the nuttiness listed above, he is also a passionate supporter of independent legislature theory, which gives state legislatures the unreviewable ability to declare the winner in federal elections, has proposed a nationwide ban on abortion, a national "Don't say gay" law,  is implacably opposed to LGBTQ rights, etc.

The cherry on top is that upon securing the Speakership, he said, he was anointed by God. (As Anna Russel would say, "I'm not making this up, you know.")

Representative Mike Johnson of Louisiana won election on Wednesday to become the 56th speaker of the House of Representatives, as Republicans worn down by three weeks of infighting and dysfunction turned to a little-known conservative hard-liner beloved by the far right to end their paralysis.

The elevation of Mr. Johnson, 51, an architect of the effort to overturn the 2020 election and a religious conservative opposed to abortion rights, homosexuality and gay marriage, further cemented the Republican Party’s lurch to the right. It came after a historic fight that began when the hard right ousted Speaker Kevin McCarthy on Oct. 3, and raged on as the divided House G.O.P. nominated and then quickly discarded three other candidates to succeed him.

Exhausted from the feuding, which unleashed a barrage of recriminations and violent threats against lawmakers, both the right wing and mainstream Republicans finally united to elect Mr. Johnson, 51, in a 220-to-209 vote.

There was no uniting, it was just that the slightly less insane members of the Republican Congressional Caucus capitulated.


Evoking his evangelical Christian faith, Mr. Johnson repeatedly referred to scripture in his speech from the House floor.

The Bible is very clear that God is the one that raises up those in authority,” he said. “He raised up each of you, all of us. And I believe that God has ordained and allowed each one of us to be brought here for this specific moment.”

In a nod to the simmering frustrations among the hard-right flank of the party that ultimately deposed Mr. McCarthy, the California Republican, Mr. Johnson pledged that his office “is going to be known for decentralizing power.”

(emphasis mine

I do not believe that Johnson will be devolving power from the speaker.  Pretty much every speaker has promised this since Newt Gingrich created the imperial speaker, and none of them have done it, because that's not how people react to power.

This is probably good news for the Democrats, but it's bad news for the country.

You Should Have Jailed Him

So, stop me if you've heard this one, Trump's former lawyer Micfhael Cohen walks into a courtroom and testifies as to the fraudulent nature of the Trump Org finances ………

Haven't heard that one?  The punch line is that Trump loses it outside the court, and goes after the judge's clerk again, and gets fined $10,000.00.

This is in addition to the $5,000.00 fine the judge levied on Friday for the same thing.

Silence filled the courtroom in the fraud trial of Donald Trump on Tuesday in anticipation of the arrival of the case’s first star witness. Trump, at his usual place at the front of the courtroom surrounded by his lawyers, didn’t turn to look back at his former employee, Michael Cohen, entered to take the stand.


According to Cohen, Trump directed him and other executives to cook the books and “reverse-engineer” the values of different assets in order to help the former president inflate his net worth. Asked what numbers he came up with, Cohen said: “Whatever number Mr Trump told us to.”

It was a refrain Cohen repeated throughout his testimony. He, along with the former Trump Organization chief financial officer Allen Weisselberg, were in charge of helping Trump mark up his net worth. They did it in handwritten notes, in red pen.

“He would look at the total assets and he would say I’m actually not worth $4.5bn, I’m really worth more than $6bn,” Cohen said.


But Cohen was calm in the courtroom, even as Trump glowered at him from a few feet away. He was asked to list the crimes he had been convicted of, different counts of tax evasion, misrepresentation and campaign finance violations. When asked to elaborate on a charge of lying to Congress, Cohen said: “I did that at the direction of, in concern with and for the benefit of Mr Trump.”

To quote Mel Brooks (I'm doing that a lot lately) directorial debut The Producers, "We find the defendants incredibly guilty." 

And as to the contempt citation:

Donald Trump was briefly forced to testify at his civil fraud trial in New York and fined a further $10,000 after the judge found that he had breached a gag order.

The former president, who had already been fined $5,000 over a disparaging social media post about a key court staffer, was reprimanded for comments he had made outside court but denied he had violated the order, wherein he had been ordered to cease posting about court staff.

Judge Arthur Engoron said Trump “is not credible” as a witness after he claimed on the stand that his criticisms on Tuesday were not aimed at the judge’s law clerk, Allison Greenfield, who has been assisting Engoron throughout the trial.

Greenfield has usually been sitting next to the judge in the courtroom. On Tuesday, Trump was quoted by the Associated Press as saying: “This judge is a very partisan judge, with a person who is very partisan sitting alongside him – perhaps even much more partisan than he is.”

Trump insisted on the stand that the “very partisan” person he had referred to was Michael Cohen, his former fixer-turned-foe, who has been testifying against him in court this week. When Engoron asked if he was sure, the former president replied: “Yes, I’m sure.”

He continued to attack Greenfield, however. “I think she’s very biased against us,” Trump said. “I think that we’ve made that very clear.”

Engoron had previously threatened Trump with jail if he breached the gag order. Fining him $10,000 on Wednesday, he said: “Don’t do it again, or it will be worse.”

3 strikes, and he's out.  Next time send him to Rikers.

24 October 2023

Because the Authors Were Corrupt Nutjobs Who Were Determined to Mislead Their Readers

Over at Scientific American they are perplexed as to why the Cochrane Library published such a flawed and deceptive study on masks. (Previous posts here)

They asked, "What Went Wrong with a Highly Publicized COVID Mask Analysis?"

The article goes into some detail as to how the basic model of Cochrane, taking multiple randomized controlled trials (RCTs) and using statistics to tease out the bigger picture, is easily contaminated by junk data, but the truth is simpler.

The authors were malicious, and had a long record of dishonesty, and the Cochrane published anyway, because they have no interest in ferreting out this sort of fraud.

They handed the car keys to rabid badgers, and they are surprised at the wreck.

They state in the article, and this is almost always stated in articles about this debacle, that RCTs are the, "Gold standard of scientific research."

They would like to believe this, but it simply is not true.  (Just look at all the junk science put out through RCTs by big pharma to get new drugs released).

Real world experiments, things like wars, changes in marital property laws, the actual effects of the minimum wage, education, etc.

As Richard Feynman said during the investigation of the loss of the Challenger, "For a successful technology, reality must take precedence over public relations, for Nature cannot be fooled."

Where this is possible, this is almost always better than an RCT because the real world does not care about who is funding your damn research.

Even better than that is to understand the phenomenon, so if one looks at the effectiveness of parachutes

Analysis of things like sanitation, masks, and the effectiveness of parachutes,*, and pretty much everything that is made today, where the phenomenon are understood and can be analyzed and better studied, is better still.

That's why, for example, why we have building codes based on analysis, and not double-blind studies.

*That being said, the parody article published by the BMJ on a parachute RCT is an absolute hoot. The planes were on the ground when the test was conducted.

Busy Day

First, now former Trump lawyer Jenna Ellis has pled guilty and agreed to testify in the Georgia election prosecution, and Trump chief Mark Meadows has been granted immunity and agreed to testify in the Washington, DC insurrection case.

I am beginning to think that Trump will actually face trial and be found guilty.

Jenna Ellis, a pro-Trump lawyer who amplified former President Donald J. Trump’s baseless claims of election fraud as part of what she called a legal “elite strike force team,” pleaded guilty on Tuesday as part of a deal with prosecutors in Georgia.

Addressing a judge in an Atlanta courtroom, she tearfully expressed regret for taking part in efforts to keep Mr. Trump in power after he lost the 2020 election.

To the degree these tears are sincere, she is crying for herself, not the rule of law. 

Ms. Ellis, 38, pleaded guilty to a charge of aiding and abetting false statements and writings, a felony. She is the fourth defendant to plead guilty in the Georgia case, which charged Mr. Trump and 18 others with conspiring to overturn the 2020 presidential election in Mr. Trump’s favor.

Ms. Ellis agreed to be sentenced to five years of probation, pay $5,000 in restitution and perform 100 hours of community service. She has already written an apology letter to the citizens of Georgia, and she agreed to cooperate fully with prosecutors as the case progresses.

Yeah, she is crying because as a felon, she will be disbarred.

As to Meadows:
Donald Trump’s former White House chief of staff Mark Meadows testified to a federal grand jury about efforts by the former president to overturn the 2020 election results pursuant to a court order that granted him limited immunity from prosecution, according to two people familiar with the matter.

The immunity – a powerful tool that forces witnesses to testify on the promise that they will not be charged on their statements or information derived from their statements – came after a legal battle in March with special counsel prosecutors, who had subpoenaed Meadows.

Trump’s lawyers attempted to block Meadows’ testimony partially on executive privilege grounds. However, the chief US district judge overseeing the grand jury ruled that executive privilege was inapplicable and compelled Meadows to appear before the grand jury in Washington, the people said.

Meadows appears to have then asserted his fifth amendment right against self-incrimination at his appearance. At some point, Howell granted a request from prosecutors to give Meadows limited-use immunity, the people familiar with the matter said.

That Meadows testified pursuant to a court order suggests prosecutors in the office of special counsel Jack Smith were determined to learn what information he declined to initially provide because of self-incrimination concerns – but it does not mean he became a cooperator.

So I'm not sure what he is saying, but in juxtaposition with Ellis, I'm pretty sure that Trump is sh%$ting his Depends right now.

Snark of the Day

DeRosa’s exploration of this question never reaches the level of meaningful self-reflection. Actually, to note that this memoir lacks self-reflection is like observing that Moby-Dick lacks zebras.
—Rebecca Traister in NY Mag reviewing the memoir of Melissa DeRosa, former chief goon for disgraced former NY Governor Andrew "Rat Faced Andy" Cuomo

She is still trying to settle scores.

It's like the Bourbon Kings.

To paraphrase (not) Tallyrand, "She has learned nothing, and she has forgotten nothing."

Groundhog Day

So, Tom Emmer, (R-MN) was the next Republican nominee as House Speaker, for all of about 3 hours:

Long about mid-afternoon, the voice descended from atop Loon Mountain.
I have many wonderful friends wanting to be Speaker of the House, and some are truly great Warriors. RINO Tom Emmer, who I do not know well, is not one of them. He never respected the Power of a Trump Endorsement, or the breadth and scope of MAGA – MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN! He fought me all the way, and actually spent more time defending Ilhan Omar, than he did me—He is totally out-of-touch with Republican Voters. I believe he has now learned his lesson, because he is saying that he is Pro-Trump all the way, but who can ever be sure? Has he only changed because that’s what it takes to win? The Republican Party cannot take that chance, because that’s not where the America First Voters are. Voting for a Globalist RINO like Tom Emmer would be a tragic mistake!
It took the Republicans of the House of Representatives five ballots in a closed-door meeting to come up with Rep. Tom Emmer of Minnesota as the next clay pigeon to send aloft. Emmer is what passes for a "moderate" in that bunch. He voted to certify the 2020 election, but then signed onto the Texas lawsuit that sought to overthrow the results. His positions on most social issues are predictably retrograde. He is, however, one of the House's foremost crypto boosters, for whatever the hell that's worth. In any event, according to Politico, at least 25 Republican representatives voted against Emmer. And, with El Caudillo del Mar-a-Lago chiming in against Emmer, his candidacy appeared to have flatlined before any floor vote could be taken. He took it upon himself to meet with his opponents, which is a strategy that might work among people practicing politics with some lucidity, to say nothing of sanity. Sanity, alas, never has the votes. After three full hours as Speaker-designate, Emmer hit the silk.
Next on the hit parade is likely Mike Johnson, (R-LA), who is an insurrectionist who supports the cockamamie "Independent State Legislature Theroty", which posits that state legislators can declare whoever they want the victors in federal elections.


Yep, it's the loony from Louisiana, Mike Johnson.  

One hopes that the (slightly) less crazy faction decides to give the QAnon caucus what they have been giving the whole Republican caucus, and shoots him down.

Turn about is fair play.

23 October 2023

Deep Thought

I was looking at taking a vacation on Viking River Cruises.

Their website looked nice, but then I realized that the allegedly "All-Inclusive" vacation would not provide us the opportunity to sack any monasteries.*


*The Viking raid on Lindesfarne, 793 CE. It is generally considered the start of the viking age in Europe. Read a book, why don't ya'?

Getting Your Archeology On

It appears that from 2600 BCE through 1900 BCE, there was a sophisticated and complex Indus Valley society which shows no sign of the class stratification typical of the time.

There are no palaces, no massive temples, just well laid out communities with good homes all of a similar size.

Little more than a century ago, British and Indian archaeologists began excavating the remains of what they soon realized was a previously unknown civilization in the Indus Valley. Straddling parts of Pakistan and India and reaching into Afghanistan, the culture these explorers unearthed had existed at the same time as those of ancient Egypt and Mesopotamia, and covered a much larger area. It was also astonishingly advanced: sophisticated and complex, boasting large, carefully laid out cities, a relatively affluent population, writing, plumbing and baths, wide trade connections, and even standardized weights and measures.

What kind of a society was the Indus Valley Civilization, as it came to be known? Who lived there and how did they organize themselves? Archaeologists and other experts ask these questions to this day, but the first explorers were already noticing some unique features.

In Mesopotamia and Egypt, “much money and thought were lavished on the building of magnificent temples for the gods and on palaces and tombs of kings,” observed Sir John Marshall, who supervised the excavation of two of the five main cities, Harappa and Mohenjo-daro, “but the rest of the people seemingly had to content themselves with insignificant dwellings of mud.” In the Indus Valley, “the picture is reversed and the finest structures were those erected for the convenience of the citizens. Temples, palaces, and tombs there may of course have been, but if so, they are either still undiscovered or so like other edifices as not to be readily distinguishable from them.”

In its heyday, from about BC 2600 to BC 1900, the Indus Valley Civilization created what may have been the world’s most egalitarian early complex society, defying long-held presumptions about the relationship between urbanization and inequality in the past. Its large cities were expansive, planned, and boasted large-scale architecture, including roomy residential houses, and smaller settlements in the surrounding areas appeared to support a similar culture with a similar standard of living.

The most tantalizing feature of the ancient Indus Valley remains is what they appear to lack: any trace of a ruling class or managerial elite. This defies the longtime theoretical assumption that any complex society must have stratified social relations: that collective action, urbanization, and economic specialization only develop in a very unequal culture that takes direction from the top, and that all social trajectories evolve toward a common and universal outcome, the state. Yet, here was a stable, prosperous civilization that appeared to remain that way for centuries without a state, without priest-kings or merchant oligarchs, and without a rigid caste system or warrior class. How did they manage it?

I don't claim to have much in the way of vision, but I cannot understand how such a society would function.

I can see it in hunter-gatherer tribes, but for a complex civilization, you need complex intensive agriculture, sophisticated infrastructure, etc.

It appears that these peoples were more imaginative than I am:


In the late 1990s, Indus archaeologists started to consider a new concept that seemed to better fit the facts. Heterarchy asserts that complex political organization, including cities, can emerge through the interaction of many different, unranked social groups, rather than from top-down decisions by an elite: that cooperation, not domination, can produce collective action. It’s now widely argued that multiple social groups contributed to the construction of Indus cities and the economic activities that took place in them, and that none seemed to dominate the others.

Bolstering this argument, no evidence exists that any group of Indus producers was excluded from the use of scarce materials that craftspeople had to obtain from long distances away, or that particular groups limited access to those materials to seize a higher position for themselves in Indus society. One of the most distinctive and technically dazzling products of the Indus culture are stamped seals engraved with imagery and text; over 2,500 have been found at Mohenjo-daro alone. But the seals were produced by many different groups of artisans in many locations, and there is no evidence that a ruling class controlled production. Technological styles tended to cross-cut different groups of artisans, indicating a great deal of openness and knowledge sharing.

Indus city-dwellers built large- and small-scale public buildings; the Great Bath at Mohenjo-daro is a massive structure that contained a large paved bath assembled from tightly fitted baked bricks, waterproofed with bitumen and supplied with pipes and drains that would have allowed control over water flow and temperature. At Mohenjo-daro, nonresidential structures were built atop brick platforms that were as substantial as the structures erected on top of them, and would have required a great deal of coordinated action. It’s been calculated that just one of the foundation platforms would have required 4 million days of labor, or 10,000 builders working for more than a year.

Yet, at both Harappa and Mohenjo-daro, these large nonresidential structures were relatively accessible, suggesting that they were “public,” as opposed to palaces or administrative centers restricted to a privileged class. Some of these may have served as specialized spaces for exchange, negotiation, and interaction between different groups clustered in neighborhoods or along important streets and roads. These spaces may have helped the city-dwellers maintain a high degree of consensus on planning and policy and ensured that no one group was able to accumulate wealth at the expense of the rest.

This sounds an awful lot like Marx's definition of true Communism, which was to follow the Dictatorship of the Proletariat.  (Spoiler, no Communist regime got past the dictatorship part)

I wish that we knew how they did it. 

It might not have any application to today, or it might have application to today, but either way, I would love to know how this was done.

I’m behind This 100%

Noah Smith observes that over the past almost 50 years the federal government has been privatizing core functions and core expertise, with the result that services are more expensive to provide as well as being less effective.

Of course, those private contractors make campaign donations, so it's all good, I guess, if you are a politician or a political consultant, in which case, ka-ching!

This is a picture of Deirdre Beaubeirdre, a character from the comedy sci-fi movie Everything Everywhere All At Once — an IRS auditor who hounds the immigrant protagonists mercilessly. I loved that movie, but I also thought Deirdre’s character was emblematic of a common and unhelpful way that Americans tend to think about the civil service. Ronald Reagan famously said that “the nine most terrifying words in the English language are: I'm from the Government, and I'm here to help.” I think that antipathy toward government workers has filtered through to much of American society — not just to libertarians or conservatives, but to many progressives as well.

I believe that the U.S. suffers from a distinct lack of state capacity. We’ve outsourced many of our core government functions to nonprofits and consultants, resulting in cost bloat and the waste of taxpayer money. We’ve farmed out environmental regulation to the courts and to private citizens, resulting in paralysis for industry and infrastructure alike. And we’ve left ourselves critically vulnerable to threats like pandemics and — most importantly — war.


If government spending isn’t going to pay government workers, it must be going to pay people who work in the private sector — nonprofits, for-profit contractors, consultants, and so on. In other words, state capacity is being outsourced. But this graph doesn’t actually capture the full scope of the decline, because it doesn’t include outsourcing via unfunded mandates — things that the government could do, but instead simply orders the private sector to do, without providing the funding.

At this point, Mr. Smith cites a John DiIulio book approvingly, I am not quoting, but I am listing as a warning, given that Dilulio has been aggressive in promiting religion in the public sphere, and he, along with Bill Bennett and and John Walters, pushed the myth of the teen super-predator, which lead (at the Clinton Administration's urging) to a massive increase in incarceration, particularly among Black and Latino youths.

The alternative to a strong state regulatory apparatus is private litigation, which has many negative externalities:


But in fact, this is not actually how the most cumbersome environmental regulation works in America! Instead, we have laws like NEPA and its stronger state-level equivalents like CEQA, which farm out the job of environmental regulation to citizens and the courts. The way it works is this: A developer starts work on a project, like a solar plant or an apartment complex. Then private citizens who don’t want that project in their backyards — because of concern over scenic views, or property values, or “neighborhood character”, or whatever — sue the developer in court. Even if the project satisfies all relevant environmental laws from day 1, citizens can sue the developer under NEPA or CEQA to force it to stop the project and complete a cumbersome environmental review — basically, a ton of paperwork. This often delays the project for years, and drives up costs immensely — which of course discourages many developers from even trying to build anything in the first place.

Enforcing environmental regulation via judicialized procedural review has had devastating consequences on America’s ability to build the thing we need. Housing projects are routinely held up by NIMBYs using environmental review laws to sue developers, often under the most ridiculous of pretexts (such as labeling human noise from apartment complexes a form of pollution). The solar plants and battery factories and transmission lines that we need to decarbonize our economy aren’t getting built nearly as fast as they should, because they’re getting held up by these review laws. And remember that most of these projects aren’t violating any environmental review laws in the first place — the NIMBYs have the right to sue and hold up development regardless of whether any regulation is actually being violated!

Which raises an obvious question: How can we know if no environmental regulation is being violated, other than waiting for a lawsuit and a multi-year environmental review? The answer is: bureaucrats. The answer is that you have a bunch of government workers examine the project and make sure it checks all the relevant regulatory boxes, and then if it does, you simply allow the project to go ahead, without lawsuits or multi-year studies. This is called “ministerial approval” or “ministerial review”. This is how Japan does things, which is why they’ve been able to build enough housing to keep rent affordable.

In addition to the problems mentioned above, protection by litigation only protects rich people, because lawyers are expensive.

Having a competent, well trained, and well paid bureaucracy produces a huge benefit to most of society.

In its absence various malefactors, finance, insurance, real estate, and their respective lawyers benefit to the detriment of the rest of us.

Of Course it Will

Gary Gensler, the head of the SEC is warning that basically inevitable that artificial intelligence will cause another stock market crash.

Every single technical innovation that has been applied to the finance industry has resulted in fraud, or crashes, or both:

The head of the US Securities and Exchange Commission Gary Gensler has warned that the increasing use of AI systems will almost certainly crash financial markets at some point in the coming decade.

Gensler said that the current free-for-all over AI development told the Financial Times such a crash was "nearly unavoidable" unless regulators stepped in to control how the technology is used. He said he was talking to other regulators and the government about how to remedy a potentially catastrophic situation.


It wouldn't be the first time computers have played merry hell with the financial markets, most recently the 2010 flash crash that briefly wiped out nearly a trillion dollars in value. A British trader has been accused of causing the issue with bogus orders, which then triggered automated selling of stock before humans stepped in.

To head off the next one, Gensler wants the SEC and other American regulators to take another look at the potential for crash-inducing code. But it was a new and uncertain area and he worries that progress may be difficult.

Fraud and insider trading is built in to our current finance system. 

That they would use new technology to further their ill gotten gains to the detriment of the market, or the economy is a given. 

Of course it's going to blow up.


John Oliver does a deep dive on home schooling, and it ain't pretty:

22 October 2023

Not Sure What This Means

It appears that there will be a runoff in the Argentine Presidential election.

It had been predicted (Feared?) that right wing nutjob Javier Milei would win outright in the first round, but not only did he not clear that hurdle, he came in second to Sergio Massa, (a Peronist, but no longer a member of THE Peronist PJ) so they will face off in the November runoff.

So we have the incumbent party facing off against a would be Trump/Bolsonaro/Johnson.

This was a surprise given his success in the primaries earlier this year. (There is an open primary, where anyone not getting 1.5% is dropped, then a general election where the winner has to get 45%, or 40% with a 10% margin above the 2nd place finisher, and if neither of these occur there is a runoff.)

Thoroughly confused?  I know that I am:

The eccentric far-right populist Javier Milei has failed to win the first round of Argentina’s presidential election, with the centrist finance minister Sergio Massa unexpectedly beating his radical challenger.

Supporters of Milei, a potty-mouthed political outsider described as an Argentinian mashup of Donald Trump, Jair Bolsonaro and Boris Johnson, had hoped he was heading for a sensational outright victory similar to Bolsonaro’s shock triumph in Brazil in 2018.

However, with 97% of votes counted on Sunday night, it was his Peronist rival Massa who won the day with 36.6% of the 26.3m votes cast. Milei – who has promised to abolish Argentina’s central bank and shun its biggest trade partners, China and Brazil – came second with 30%. The third main candidate, the conservative former security minister, Patricia Bullrich, finished third, with about 23.8%.

Massa, 51, and Milei, 53, will now face off in a second round on 19 November. For an outright victory, a candidate would have needed more than 45% of votes or more than 40% with a more than 10-point lead over their closest rival.


The result leaves Argentina poised for another month of profound uncertainty, economic turbulence and fake news before the showdown between Massa and Milei, a libertarian economist who only entered the world of politics when he was elected to congress in 2021. A Massa victory is not assured given that many of Bullrich’s right-wing voters may migrate to Milei.

As he cast his vote on Sunday, Milei, who shot to fame as a television pundit prone to rhapsodizing about tantric sex, claimed he could lead “the best government in history” if elected.

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

What happens in November is anyone's guess.


So the Republicans are now going after this group. It's a group whose ENTIRE raison d'etre is to give Republicans a means to sabotage Democratic Party initiatives by providing a façade of bipartisanship for disloyal Democrats.

They take aim at their foot, and they shoot. 

Couldn't happen to a nicer bunch of rat-f%$#s.

Oh, Now I Get It

Maybe it is just me, but I have always had problems with the effect/affect thing.

This helps a lot.

21 October 2023

Behold the Power of Cats

The Kansas City VA system had a 4 hour computer outage because of keyboard cat.

Apparently, a tech was looking at server configuration when his cat jumped on the keyboard deleting the server keyboard configuration.

A four-hour system interruption in September at the Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Kansas City, Missouri has been attributed to a cat jumping on a technician's keyboard.

So we're told by a source, who heard the tale on one of the regular weekday calls held by the US government department with its CIO, during which recent IT problems are reviewed. We understand that roughly 100 people – contractors, vendors, and employees – participate in these calls at a time.

On a mid-September call, one of the participants explained that while a technician was reviewing the configuration of a server cluster, their cat jumped on the keyboard and deleted it. Or at least that's their story.

Kurt DelBene, assistant secretary for information and technology and CIO at the Department of Veterans Affairs, is said to have responded on the call with words to the effect that: "This is why I have a dog." There was laughter and not much more – it was a short incident report.

This is not an unheard of problem. Anecdotes of feline data vandalism abound in various online forums. This reporter has personal experience with typos introduced by an orange tabby conducting a keyboard crossing to reach a sunny spot by the window, and one of El Reg's editors has suffered similar issues.

You know, I'd put this down to random chance, but this happens way too frequently to be happenstance.

There is a massive conspiracy out there, and I don't know what it is, and I do not know what their goals are, but I do know that, much like the fog, it comes on little cat feet.

Not a Surprise

A study has shown that nominally nonprofit hospitals spend very little on charity while grossly overpaying senior executives.

Our for-proof system of healthcare is so bad that it corrupts our charities: 

Nonprofit hospitals are under increasing scrutiny for skimping on charity care, relentlessly pursuing payments from low-income patients, and paying executives massive multi-million-dollar salaries—all while earning tax breaks totaling billions.

One such hospital system is RWJBarnabas Health, a large nonprofit chain in New Jersey, whose CEO made a whopping $17 million in 2021, while the hospital system only spent 1.65 percent of its nearly $6 billion in revenue on charity care.

To compare apples to apples, so one chief executive gets about ⅙ of its total spending on charity.

This is unjustifiable.


RWJBarnabas Health is far from alone in having plump executive pay and slim charity care spending. A HELP committee staff report released earlier this month examined the financial data on 16 of the country's largest nonprofit, tax-exempt hospital systems. The systems collectively make more than $3 billion in revenue each year, but in 2021, 12 of the 16 systems spent less than 2 percent of their revenue on charity care—even though, as nonprofits, they earn federal, state, and local tax exemptions for providing charity care to low-income people and other charitable community benefits. Of those 12 spending less than 2 percent, six of them spent less than 1 percent.


Meanwhile, CEO compensation for the 16 systems averaged over $8 million, with a collective total of over $140 million. By far, the biggest earner was the CEO of CommonSpirit Health, a massive Catholic nonprofit system that runs 139 hospitals in 21 states. In 2021, CommonSpirit's CEO made $32 million. In the same year, the system spent $507 million on charity care, or 1.5 percent of its $33 billion revenue.

There is a simple solution to all of this, place a cap on maximum salaries at charities.  I would suggest a base salary limit $400,000.00, that of the President of the United States, with total remuneration, which would include bonuses, housing, travel, etc., being pegged to twice that.

That college football coaches in some programs would lose over 80% of their wages is just an unintended benefit.

Our Broken IP System

About a decade ago, I had a gout attack.  Among other things, I was prescribed Colchicine.

It was originally derived from the Autumn crocus, and has been in use for more than 2000 years.

My pills cost about $8.00 each.  

A year earlier they had cost $0.25 each, but the FDA had granted exclusivity, so the cost went up by 3,200%.

This was done as a part of the Orphan Drugs Act, which was intended to support the production of drugs that would not be otherwise be made, and because the FDA is thoroughly captured by big pharma, it was applied to drugs that were widely available.

The FDA has been aggressively pushing exclusivity, and higher prices for decades.

Now they are doing it again with Colchicine, this time turning it into a $20.00 pill for the prevention of heart attacks and strokes.  The justification for this grant of exclusivity is that that the pill has 0.5 mg of Colchicine, as opposed to the older pill that has 0.6mg, which is still under exclusive licensing and still about $5.00 a pill.


In 2009, the FDA allowed URL Pharma to bring colchicine to market under the brand name Colcrys at a new dose of 0.6 mg per pill. Under the Orphan Drugs Act, URL Pharma was given 3 years of market exclusivity at this dose for the treatment of gout. URL Pharma also received an additional 7 years to exclusively market Colcrys for the treatment of familial Mediterranean fever at the same dose of 0.6 mg per pill. As part of these agreements, unapproved single-ingredient colchicine could not be sold in the U.S. It disappeared from the market.

The FDA and the public soon recognized that the unintended consequences of the initiative also included drug shortages and higher prices to treat gout. With these new approvals, the cost of colchicine went from pennies to about $5 per pill. The rheumatology community and other groups were extremely upset when their patients could no longer obtain fair priced generic colchicine.

During the decade following the price increase, there was a 27% reduction in the use of colchicine among gout patients who needed it. In 2013, applications were filed (and later granted in several countries abroad) for new patents allowing colchicine to be marketed as a novel agent for the prevention of cardiovascular events. While there are now 17 patents for Colcrys, until last June there was only one FDA approved form of colchicine.


Meanwhile, Agepha just released a retail price for Lodoco of $621 for a 30-day supply — nearly $21/pill. It will be available with a coupon at Walgreens for $170/month or about $5.66/pill. Using either the retail or coupon price, Lodoco can cost as much as four to six times more than Colcrys.

Colcrys and Lodoco are essentially the same drug. Both have only one active ingredient — colchicine. The only difference is a tiny variation in the dose. Colcrys has 0.6 mg of colchicine, while Lodoco has 0.5 mg — a difference that could be considered of no clinical consequence.

This is deeply and profoundly corrupt.

IP, patents and copyright, are a form of societal rent-seeking.  

I understand why we allow companies to enact a private tax on us in order, "To promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts,"* but we have created a system that does not work.

We are now encouraging looting, not innovation.

*US Constitution, Article I, Section 8, Clause 8.

Support Your Local Police

Once again, we return to that Mecca of police misconduct, Minneapolis, Minnesota, where regulatory authorities and police are colluding to shakedown local small business owners for unneeded payouts to officers for "Security."

This is literally the definition of a protection racket:

When Maya Santamaria was opening a Minneapolis club in 2003, a city worker handed her a card for a Minneapolis police officer and said, “You’re going to work with this guy.”


Then, MPD “socked it to me,” she said. She started out paying the officers $40 to $45 an hour, always more than one officer per night. And they didn’t just work one or two hours; they charged a minimum of four hours no matter how many they actually worked, she said. The pay gradually increased to nearly $60 an hour.

“I spent hundreds of thousands of dollars,” she said. “There were many years I wasn’t making it, and they didn’t give a damn.”

Santamaria was later required to come up with security plans outlining the number of officers needed per night. The officers insisted on getting paid cash, she said. She feared if she didn’t oblige, she’d lose her license.

Eventually, another officer helped schedule off-duty work: Derek Chauvin. He worked security at her club for 17 years.


Santamaria’s allegations about MPD off-duty work are echoed by the experiences of other business owners, documented in government reports and even remarked upon by the city’s new police chief, Brian O’Hara. He said the system is “ripe for corruption,” citing a federal investigation in Jersey City, where a dozen cops were arrested due to widespread corruption of off-duty work.

The timing is favorable for more rigorous oversight: MPD is soon to be operating under both state and federal supervision following damning investigative reports about racist policing, and O’Hara is a newish outsider who speaks the rhetoric of reform.

Changes to off-duty policy face a key obstacle, however: A 1997 court injunction restricts how much the city can manage officers’ side gigs. Given the injunction, the city can only seek major reforms via the collective bargaining process, which means if the city wants to change off-duty policies, it would likely have to give up something in return.

Here’s how the off-duty work program works: Some businesses — like large nightclubs — are required by the city to have security, which until 2020, sometimes had to be off-duty Minneapolis police officers.

The city can also require that organizers of large events and businesses plagued with a lot of 911 calls also hire off-duty MPD officers. Businesses may also voluntarily hire off-duty officers for security and traffic control, and negotiate pay and hours directly with officers.

The city doesn’t keep track of how much officers are working or how much they’re paid, or even have access to the contracts. Off-duty work often pays a lot more — up to hundreds of dollars per hour — than working overtime for MPD.

This was how the New Orleans PD operated before the Feds cracked down.

Minneapolis police are little more than a protection racket.

20 October 2023

And the Rats Begin to Leave the Sinking Ship

We are now seeing guilty pleas and agreements to testify against other defendants.

Specifically we have seen lawyers Sidney "Kraken" Powell and Kenneth Chesebro (Cheese and Kraken?) pleading guilty and agreeing to cooperate with Fulton County DA Fani Willis.

Now we know why neither of them waived their right to a speedy trial, they were planning to flip.

First the "Kraken":

Former Trump lawyer Sidney Powell, charged alongside the former president for conspiring to overturn the 2020 election results in the state of Georgia, has pleaded guilty as part of a cooperation agreement with prosecutors just days before her trial was scheduled to start.

The conversion of Powell into a cooperating witness marks a major victory for the Fulton county district attorney, Fani Willis, given Powell’s involvement in some of Trump’s most brazen schemes to reverse Trump’s election defeat – which she could now testify about.

Powell pleaded guilty to six misdemeanor counts of conspiracy to commit interference with election duties. She was sentenced to six years’ probation, a $6,000 fine, $2,700 in restitution to the state, and is required to turn over documents and testify truthfully in her co-defendants’ trials. 


The most far-reaching consequence of Powell taking the plea deal could be her agreement to testify in future trials, given her proximity to Trump in the final weeks of his presidency and her close involvement in various schemes to reverse Trump’s election defeat.

Among other episodes, Powell was a key player in a contentious December 2020 meeting at the White House, where Trump named Powell a special counsel to investigate supposed election fraud, after she pitched a plan to suspend normal laws and use military force to seize voting machines.

And then the "Cheese":

Just before Christmas 2020, as President Donald J. Trump was running out of options to stave off losing the election, Kenneth Chesebro wrote an email to a group of other lawyers who were thinking of filing a last-ditch lawsuit to reverse Mr. Trump’s defeat.

The odds of winning the suit did not look good, Mr. Chesebro wrote, pegging them at only “1 percent.” But even though their efforts were unlikely to prevail in court, Mr. Chesebro suggested that Mr. Trump continue to push his baseless claims of fraud.

“The relevant analysis,” Mr. Chesebro argued, according to emails reviewed by The New York Times, “is political.”

On Friday, Mr. Chesebro pleaded guilty to a single felony count of conspiring to file false documents in Georgia and agreed to cooperate with the local prosecutors who have charged Mr. Trump and 17 others in a sprawling racketeering indictment accusing them of tampering with the election in the state.


But Mr. Chesebro’s deal could present a more serious threat to Mr. Trump than the others given that he pleaded guilty to a conspiracy count that involved both the former president and some of his closest allies.

Mr. Chesebro also maintained an extensive correspondence with other pro-Trump lawyers charged in the case and played a central role in one of Mr. Trump’s chief plans to stay in office: a scheme to create slates of pro-Trump electors in states like Georgia, which Mr. Trump had actually lost.


If Mr. Chesebro were to testify that Mr. Trump’s lawsuits challenging his loss were not designed to win, but merely as ploys to sow doubt about the election, it could cut against Mr. Trump’s possible plan to use a so-called advice of counsel defense. That strategy involves blaming one’s lawyers for giving bad advice.
I'm still not optimistic that Donald Trump will ever see the inside of a prison cell, but I am less pessimistic.