30 November 2023

Why am I Not Surprised

In news that should surprise no one, it turns out that most of the money being spent on aid for the Ukraine never leaves the USA, because it is diverted to the US Military Industrial Complex.

Mark Thiessen, one of the more loathsome OP/ED writers at WaPo (no small feat) argues that this means that we should spend more money, because it makes American war mongers richer.

No, it still is a waste, and it still costs all of us and makes the United States a poorer and crueler place.

Sending money to Lockheed Martin, and General Dynamics, and Boeing, and Northrop Grumman, and the rest of them is, to quote Dwight Eisenhower, who actually served in a war, who said:

Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies, in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed.
This world in arms is not spending money alone. It is spending the sweat of its laborers, the genius of its scientists, the hopes of its children. The cost of one modern heavy bomber is this: a modern brick school in more than 30 cities. It is two electric power plants, each serving a town of 60,000 population. It is two fine, fully equipped hospitals. It is some fifty miles of concrete pavement. We pay for a single fighter with a half-million bushels of wheat. We pay for a single destroyer with new homes that could have housed more than 8,000 people. . . . This is not a way of life at all, in any true sense. Under the cloud of threatening war, it is humanity hanging from a cross of iron.
The fact that a small portion of our futures is returned to legislators in the form of campaign donations does not make spending on our dysfunctional war machine any less of a waste.

Thursday Jobless Report time

Initial claims continued their slow rise while continuing claims hit a 2 year high.

So the Fed is getting their slowdown that they so desperately wanted:

Recurring applications for US unemployment benefits jumped to the highest in about two years, adding to evidence of a cooling labor market.

Continuing claims, which are a proxy for the number of people receiving unemployment benefits, rose to 1.93 million in the week ended Nov. 18, higher than all estimates in a Bloomberg survey of economists. This figure has climbed since September, suggesting out-of-work Americans are finding it more difficult to secure new employment.

Meanwhile initial jobless claims rose by 7,000 to 218,000 in the week ended Nov. 25, a period that included the Thanksgiving holiday. Given the figures tend to be particularly volatile around holidays, the four-week moving average offers a clearer picture of the trend in applications. That measure was little changed last week, according to a Labor Department report.

At the same time, consumer spending weakened and inflation slowed in October, providing more indications that the Fed over-corrected:

Americans slowed their spending in October and inflation continued cooling as the economy downshifted into fall after a fast-paced summer.

Consumer spending rose 0.2% in October, down sharply from a 0.7% rise in September, the Commerce Department said Thursday. The October reading marked the slowest increase since May. The combination of ebbing income growth, high interest rates and prices, dwindling pandemic savings and the resumption of student-loan payments is eroding Americans’ ability to keep boosting their spending as briskly as they did through the summer, economists say.

Inflation has cooled markedly this year, likely bringing the Federal Reserve’s interest-rate increases to an end. Price growth as measured by the personal-consumption expenditures price index, the Fed’s preferred inflation gauge, remained mild in October.

Core prices, which exclude volatile food and energy items, were up 3.5% from a year ago. They rose 2.5% at a six-month annualized rate, down from 4.5% in the six months through April, a dramatic improvement.

There won't be any rate cuts until 2025, at least, because to do so would be seen as an admission of error, and the Fed would sooner slit their own bellies that be seen as admitting that they were in error.

29 November 2023

Henry Kissinger, יִמַּח שְׁמו, is Dead

After a lifetime of murder and making the world a worse place, not only for brown and black people, but for the United States in the long run, the blight on humanity known as Henry Kissinger, יִמַּח שְׁמו, has died.

The fact that he continued to be feted by the very serious people in the US foreign policy and state security apparatus after being directly responsible for the deaths of millions of people is a mark of shame on the United States.

The late Anthony Bourdain was right when he talked about Kissinger.

Because They Can Get Rich Before the Bottom Drops Out

Why would a bank executive look at the implosion of First Republic and think, "I gotta get me some of that?"

Because banking executives are motivated by political gain, and setting up an under-capitalized section catering to wealthy clients will make them lots of money, and when the music stops, they will have already purchased their own private musical chairs:

Regional lender Citizens Financial Group opened a new private bank for wealthy customers last month. Its inspiration: First Republic Bank, which collapsed earlier this year in the second-largest bank failure in history.

Citizens, based in Providence, R.I., is spending tens of millions of dollars hiring former First Republic staffers. It hopes the strategy will help it crack a market it has long coveted. Executives say they plan to copy only the good parts of First Republic, such as its beloved customer service. “We scooped up the very best talent,” Citizens consumer banking head Brendan Coughlin said. “Our goal is going to be to build the pre-eminent private bank in the United States for high-net-worth individuals.”

Banks are in an arms race for rich customers, and lots of other, bigger players have a head start. Snagging such customers can lead to a bounty of fees, loans and deposits, something that particularly appeals to regional banks such as Citizens eager to prove their viability after First Republic and two other peers failed this year.

………

First Republic attracted wealthy customers by offering them a bureaucracy-free banking experience and extremely low rates on loans such as big mortgages. (Mark Zuckerberg once got one at a starting rate of 1.05%.) It seemed like a winning approach: The San Francisco-based bank became one of the 15 largest in the U.S.

But the business didn’t hold up when the Federal Reserve started raising interest rates, prompting rich customers to move their deposits out of no-interest accounts. The bank’s profits also started to get squeezed by its low-rate loans. A March run on peer Silicon Valley Bank prompted panicked First Republic customers to pull about $100 billion in deposits, mortally wounding the lender.

There is nothing to worry about here though:

………

There are some parts of First Republic that Citizens plans to leave in the past, such as 1% mortgages in a higher-rate world. The bank is, however, considering bringing back the fresh-baked chocolate-chip cookies and high-end umbrellas that First Republic was known for.  

Yeah, umbrellas and cookies.  That's what makes a bank work.

Citizens has hired about 60 top First Republic bankers and about 100 support staffers. The bankers were largely in roles where they were the main point of contact for customers. Customers would call them up if they needed yen delivered before a trip to Japan or a bespoke mortgage for a new vacation home. These staffers were largely paid based off the business they generated and could earn seven figures in a good year.

So these pople were incentivized to do risky shit, and then the maniacs blew it all up, but Citizens will do just fine, because ………

It will be different this time.

It won't be different this time, it's never different.

Until the banksters are subject to personal jeopardy, it will stay the same, because they make out like raped apes even as the taxpayers take it on the chin.

28 November 2023

Only in America

The amateur model is Emily one Oster..

She is an economist, and makes Larry Summers look like a saint.

Some of her hits:

  • Arguing that we should not give antivirals to Africa to treat the AIDS epidemic, because black people are not worth it.  (OK, that last part is subtext, but she did argue that promiscuous Black men in Africa were the real problem.)
  • Said that kids should be sent back to school because, "Kids don't get covid," and she doesn't give a f%$# about dead teachers. (OK, that last part is subtext)
  • Once it was revealed that kids DO get Covid, and kids DO die and suffer death and disability, she argued that there would be social and learning losses that justified the risk, because she wanted her brats out of the house for a few hours each day.  (OK, that last part is subtext)
  • Dismissed discrimination as a causes for skewed male female ratios in Asia, particularly China. (Straight up true.  She apologized when it was revealed that her data was garbage) 
  • Argued for drinking while pregnant. (True, she literally wrote a book that says this)
  • Argued that even though she was wrong about Covid, she and her fellow travelers should be "forgiven" because who knew that minimizing contact and masking would reduce the spread? (True, she said this, ignoring the fact that minimizing contact and mask wearing have been shown to be effective since before the wide spread adoption of germ theory)
  • Has been found to routinely cherry pick data to support her thesis.

And now she is modeling a truly dull line of clothing.

In a just world, she would be a pariah, but she was born on 3rd base, and so she, and the very serious people who have lionized her over the years, assume that she hit a triple.

25 November 2023

I'm Wondering What his Tox Screen shows

After, all, Derek Chauvin is a convicted murderer serving a life sentence who was involved in a prison fight where he was stabbed.  He could have been hopped up on meth.

Derek Chauvin, the former Minneapolis police officer who was convicted of murdering George Floyd during a 2020 arrest that set off a wave of protests, was stabbed at a federal prison in Tucson, Ariz., on Friday, according to the office of Keith Ellison, the Minnesota attorney general.

The Federal Bureau of Prisons confirmed that an inmate at the Tucson prison was stabbed at 12:30 p.m., though the agency’s statement did not identify Mr. Chauvin, 47, by name. No other inmates or prison staff were injured, and the situation was quickly contained, according to the people familiar with the situation.
This is, of course, snark, but he put in huge amounts of overtime, and spend even more hours moonlighting as a security guard, so if he wasn't tweaking (Meth) he was even more impaired than if he were tweaking.

A Correction

Our Airbnb is on the banks of the Chicopee river, a tributary of the Connecticut river.

Here are some pictures:

Nice view. ,

24 November 2023

Support Your Local Police

A senior St. Louis murder investigator has been refusing to testify in court for his murder investigations because he does not like the reformist district attorney.

This raises some important questions:

  • Why are the police not disciplining him for this?
  • Why is the DA not subpoenaing hm?

Obviously, in a city with a non-corrupt police department, this guy would be out on his ass.

The voicemail left on St. Louis police detective Roger Murphey’s cellphone carried a clear sense of urgency.

A prosecutor in the St. Louis circuit attorney’s office was pleading with Murphey to testify in a murder trial, the sort of thing the lead detective on a case would routinely do to see an arrest through to conviction. The prosecutor told Murphey that, without his testimony, the suspect could walk free.

“I wanted to reach out to you one more time,” Assistant Circuit Attorney Srikant Chigurupati said in a message one afternoon in June 2021. “I do think we need you on this case.”

Murphey didn’t respond.

………

A number of American cities have elected prosecutors who promised progressive law enforcement, focusing as much on police accountability as being tough on crime. In St. Louis, that prosecutor was Circuit Attorney Kim Gardner, who was elected in 2016 following the fatal police shooting of Michael Brown in the suburb of Ferguson. Gardner came into office pledging to reduce mass incarceration and promote rehabilitation over punishment.

But from San Francisco to Philadelphia, prosecutors like Gardner have faced pushback from the police and, in several cities, from their own courtroom assistants. Politicians and voters have tried to remove some of these prosecutors from office — and, in a number of cities, they have been successful.

Murphey’s resistance to Gardner — Chigurupati’s boss when Vincent’s case went to trial — was unusual and, perhaps, extreme. By his own account, he was willing to help murder suspects walk free to make a point, even if he arrested them and believed that they should be behind bars.

………

Murphey never faced discipline from the police department for refusing to testify, a fact that criminal justice experts find astonishing. They said his refusal undermined not just the integrity of the cases but also the police department’s commitment to justice. 
The St. Louis PD is not an organization of peace officers sworn to enforce the law, it is an armed criminal gang with a government sanction to visit violence on the citizenry.

To Quote Arlo Guthrie

We had a ThanksgivingDinner that couldn't be beat.

We had friends over that we have not seen in years, all on the banks of the Connecticut river.


23 November 2023

Up in Chicopee

Picked up Nat from their position at the Isabella Freeman Center where they were charged with the care and instruction of children with regard to nature and the like.  (This appears to be more difficult than herding cats)

We will be having a day-late Thanksgiving and then head down to a Nest of Pirates.  (Baltimore)

FWIW, in the, "You learn something new every day," category, don't throw squashes into the woods.  It attracts bears.

(No children were harmed, though a shed might have been.)

22 November 2023

No Blogging Tonight

Heading up to pick up the Natl-unit from Connecticut.

Will have a delayed Thanksgiving on Friday.

Busy packing.

21 November 2023

Not a Lawyer

But when someone mocks stupid legal moves, I find it amusing.

Mike Masnick, who as the founder and owner Techdirt has had his share of experience with abusive litigation, having spent years fighting a SLAPP suit from a delusional tech bro who claimed to have invented email, has the best take-down of Elon Musk's delusional lawsuit against Media Matters for reporting that ads were showing up next to Nazi posts.  (Ars Technica should also get a shout out for describing the suit as, "Claiming Media Matters manipulated X by scrolling down.")

The high points of Mr. Masnick's analysis:

  • The suit was filed in the Northern District of Texas, despite the fact that Ecch (Twitter) is incorporated in Nevada, does business in California, and Media Matters is in DC.
    • Then again, they got a Trump judge, so following the law is not a certainty here.
  • The filing explicitly states that the ads actually were shown along with post from white supremacists, Nazis, and other Elon fanboi.
    • They are claiming malice because Media Matters created accounts and followed white supremacists, Nazis, and other Elon fanboi. 
    • Given that many of the aforementioned white supremacists, Nazis, and other Elon fanboi have purchased blue checks and as a result have their post monetized, it is inevitable that ads would appear next to their posts.
  • The lawsuit admits that they are objection how Media Matters objected to the framing and not the facts, which is explicitly protected under numerous precedents, including New York Times Co. v. Sullivan.
  • They admmoit in the filing that other people saw the ads posted next to white supremacists, Nazis, and other Elon fanboi.
  • No actual instance of defamation by Media Matters is actually mentioned.
  • No actual instance of defamation by Media Matters reporter Eric Hananoki, who has also been sued, is actually mentioned.
  • They try to assert that the Media Matters article resulted in advertisers suspending ads with Ecch (Twitter), despite the fact that their flight began the day before, after Musk explicitly endorsed antisemitic white replacement conspiracy theories. (Hell, the f%$#ing WHITE HOUSE condemned Musk's antisemitic posts before the Media Matters article came out)

Read the whole thing.

It is telling that it is NOT one of Musk's white shoe law firms that is handling this.

This does not pass the laugh test.

I'd pay money to see Musk in discovery with Media Matters' lawyers.

Imagine That

I've been saying this for a while, but we now have a study showing that, notwithstanding the pious hand wringing about the inflation on poor people, low wage workers benefited from more from the tight labor market than any other group following the lock-down induced recession.

Labor market tightness following the height of the Covid-19 pandemic led to an unexpected compression in the US wage distribution that reflects, in part, an increase in labor market competition. Rapid relative wage growth at the bottom of the distribution reduced the college wage premium and counteracted nearly 40% of the four-decade increase in aggregate 90-10 log wage inequality. Wage compression was accompanied by rapid nominal wage growth and rising job-to-job separations—especially among young non-college (high school or less) workers. Comparing across states, post-pandemic labor market tightness became strongly predictive of real wage growth among low-wage workers (wage-Phillips curve), and aggregate wage compression. Simultaneously, the wage-separation elasticity—a key measure of labor market competition—rose among young non-college workers, with wage gains concentrated among workers who changed employers. Seen through the lens of a canonical job ladder model, the pandemic increased the elasticity of labor supply to firms in the low-wage labor market, reducing employer market power and spurring rapid relative wage growth among young noncollege workers who disproportionately moved from lower-paying to higher-paying and potentially more-productive jobs.

This is true, and has been obvious since the start of the pandemic.

The people economists and politicians sound the alarm on inflation  don't care about poor people, they just think that "The help" is getting uppity.

This Was Inevitable Once Amazon Bought Them Out


I guess that you would have this with fava beans and a glass of Chianti.

20 November 2023

What Part Of, "No Religious Test," Don’t You Get?

West Virginia has been requiring that inmates participate in a religion base substance abuse treatment program to qualify for parole for years.

Not any more.

The West Virginia Division of Corrections and Rehabilitation (WVDCR) has changed its parole requirements after a judge ruled in favor of an atheist inmate who claimed that he was denied parole because he did not want to participate in a religious program.

Andrew Miller, who was incarcerated at Saint Marys Correctional Center for breaking and entering, filed a lawsuit against the WVDCR in April in the U.S. District Court of Southern West Virginia saying that the state would not accommodate his request for a non-religious substance abuse program. Although Miller was not in prison on a substance-related charge, Miller was enrolled in the program because he is in recovery from addiction and the program was a condition of his parole; the lawsuit said that Miller was denied parole multiple times because of his refusal to do the program.

In a release on Wednesday, the American Atheists, which represented Miller in the case alongside Mountain State Justice, said that it won the lawsuit and that the WVDCR removed its “requirement that participants attend religious 12-step meetings,” and the “religious components from its federally funded Residential Substance Abuse Treatment Program (RSAT) handbook.” The release also said the WVDCR agreed to pay $80,000 in legal fees.

I'd like to see some criminal prosecutions of the folks who refused to do the right thing, but I'm not holding my breath.

Getting Your Paleoanthropology Geek On

This has everything, archaic representatives of the genus Homo, possible sophisticated tool use and sophisticated funerary rites, documents published without peer review, and the involvement of Netflix.

I want to be clear, there are no credible allegations of wrongdoing or academic fraud, but it does appear that the original researchers decided to go Hollywood prematurely.

It gives us a pretty good insight into the science paleoanthropology, as well as the modern anthropology of academe.

Good to Know

I've always wondered how cats, whose ancestors were desert wild cats in Africa, developed a taste for fish.

Well, wonder no more.

As the folks at SciShow observe, we may know how cats taste tuna fish, but the evolutionary forces that led to this is unclear.

Cats, of all sizes, are rather odd mammals, they are one of the few true (obligate) carnivores among mammals, along with seals, hyenas, many seals and whales.

They are unable to taste sweet as well, no taste buds for it.

19 November 2023

About F%$#ing Time

Following years of higher costs for the government, deceptive marketing to seniors, and general health insurer rat-f%$#ery, the White House is looking to rein in the excesses of the Medicare Advantage industry.

When you bring private companies in, you get increased costs, and arbitrary denials of essential health services.

Nice that someone inside the Beltway is beginning to recognize this:

The Biden administration is proposing a fresh crackdown on private health plans that have grown to cover half of the people on Medicare, restricting marketing practices as part of an effort to help consumers in the federal insurance system for older and disabled Americans get the health services they need.

Under a draft rule issued Monday by the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, Medicare Advantage plans would be required to work harder to encourage customers to make use of extra benefits available to them, rather than the companies merely invoking them as a selling point.

………

Older Americans choosing Medicare coverage “should not be subject to practices playing fast and loose with marketing rules,” Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra said during a Monday press briefing to outline the proposal.

The proposed rule marks the second time in a year that the administration has sought to stiffen regulation of Medicare Advantage, the private-sector version of Medicare that has soared in popularity in recent years. Late last year, HHS proposed a different set of changes that mainly focused on restricting predatory marketing practices, including deceptive advertising, by insurance brokers and agents trying to sell the private health plans to people on Medicare. That rule became final in April.

………

Medicare Advantage was created in 2003 as part of the same federal law that added prescription drug benefits to Medicare for the first time since the vast insurance program came into existence in the 1960s as part of President Lyndon B. Johnson’s “Great Society.” The traditional version of Medicare allows people 65 and older and those with disabilities to choose their own doctors and pay monthly premiums for outpatient care. The managed-care plans in the privatized version often offer extra benefits popular with older patients, such as vision and hearing services, but those plans usually restrict patients to a narrower network of health-care practitioners who have signed up to accept patients in a given plan.

When Medicare Advantage was created, replacing a few earlier forms of managed-care Medicare, the Republicans who held a majority in both chambers of Congress insisted the government pay the private plans more than the reimbursement rates under original Medicare, as an incentive for more plans to take part.

The Republicans wanted, and got, a subsidy for private insurers as a tactic to gradually unwind Medicare as a public insurance program.

Unfortunately, it's not politically tenable to shut down this bit of corrupt larceny of taxpayer funds, but aggressively enforcing existing regulations, along with frog marching a few insurance company executives out of their offices in handcuffs, could make them better, and eventually less of a drag on the taxpayer.

Yes

Should CALPERS Fire Everyone And Just Buy Some ETFs?
Meb Faber Research

This is a no brainer.

Private equity will under some circumstances and for a limited time, generate stunning returns, but over the long term they do not out perform the market, and when one considers the fees associated with PE, the numbers are universally grim.

It is malfeasance for any retirement system, much less a state run one, to throw their lot in with an industry which is opaque, rife with self dealing, and not very good at their jobs.

H/t naked capitalism

Consider the Source

About the only time to place any credence to the Wall Street Journal OP/ED page is when they print something so diametrically opposed to their normal line that it signifies a shift in thought behind the scenes.

That is the case with the OP/ED published from two members of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace describing victory for the Ukraine in its war with Russia as "Magical Thinking." 

The authors are, "Eugene Rumer, a former national intelligence officer for Russia at the National Intelligence Council, is director of the Russia and Eurasia program at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. Andrew S. Weiss, who worked on Russian affairs in both the George H.W. Bush and Clinton administrations, is Carnegie’s vice president for studies."

The Carnegie Endowment is a Neocon organization, chock full of former CIA officers and slavering war mongers like Robert Kagan, so this counts as a statement against interest:

As Russian President Vladimir Putin looks toward the second anniversary of his all-out assault on Ukraine, his self-confidence is hard to miss. A much-anticipated Ukrainian counter-offensive has not achieved the breakthrough that would give Kyiv a strong hand to negotiate. Tumult in the Middle East dominates the headlines, and bipartisan support for Ukraine in the U.S. has been upended by polarization and dysfunction in Congress, not to mention the pro-Putin leanings of Republican presidential front-runner Donald Trump.

Putin has reason to believe that time is on his side. At the front line, there are no indications that Russia is losing what has become a war of attrition. The Russian economy has been buffeted, but it is not in tatters. Putin’s hold on power was, paradoxically, strengthened following Yevgeny Prigozhin’s failed rebellion in June. Popular support for the war remains solid, and elite backing for Putin has not fractured.

Western officials’ promises of reinvigorating their own defense industries have collided with bureaucratic and supply-chain bottlenecks. Meanwhile, sanctions and export controls have impeded Putin’s war effort far less than expected. Russian defense factories are ramping up their output, and Soviet legacy factories are outperforming Western factories when it comes to much-needed items like artillery shells.

The technocrats responsible for running the Russian economy have proven themselves to be resilient, adaptable, and resourceful. Elevated oil prices, driven in part by close cooperation with Saudi Arabia, are refilling state coffers. Ukraine, by contrast, depends heavily on infusions of Western cash.

The rest of the article talks about the necessity of containment, says that Putin is bad, and that Russia and Putin are in many ways succeeding beyond the West's wildest expectations.

They also say that we can win this because ……… The Aristocrats!!!!!

If at any time over the past 30 years our foreign policy establishment had allowed even the smallest amount of sanity and reality penetrate their collective blob mind, rather than getting drunk on triumphalism and the "End of History", the entire world would be in a far better place than it is now.

18 November 2023

Another Nail in the Amyloid Plaque Theory

When the brains of Alzheimer's patients are examined post mortem, there are large amounts of deposits on the nerves in the central nervous system known as amyloid plaques.

It has been dogma in the field for almost 50 years that this is the cause of this form of dementia, but it increasingly looks like these structures are not the cause of the condition, but rather a symptom, which has the effect of invalidating 50 years of basic and pharmaceutical research into the disease:

At the start of the 20th century, psychiatrist Alois Alzheimer became the first person to notice the strange clumps and tangles in the brain of a person who had died with dementia.

These bundles of amyloid beta proteins have since become the dominant hypothesis for what causes Alzheimer's disease. And, despite decades of failed studies, finding ways to clear them away has remained an obsession.

Now, in two trials, a drug designed to eradicate these sticky plaques has failed to preserve the cognitive abilities of people with early Alzheimer's disease compared to people given a placebo.

The monoclonal antibody gantenerumab did significantly reduce the amount of amyloid beta in the brain as intended, but this did not translate into improvements in cognitive function.

"Among persons with early Alzheimer's disease, the use of gantenerumab led to a lower amyloid plaque burden than placebo at 116 weeks but was not associated with slower clinical decline," the researchers reported in their paper covering the two drug trials.

These results arrive as the amyloid hypothesis reaches a critical juncture in its history – with pharmaceutical companies controversially winning anti-amyloid drug approvals based on thin evidence.

So, it is very likely we've been wrong for the past 50+ years. 

It's time to go to work and get a better understanding of the mechanisms involved.

It's time, to quote the movie The Martian, to, "Science the sh%$ out of this."

 

Well, This is New

One of the world's preeminent ransomware gangs, AlphV, hacked digital lender MeridianLink, something that has become rather commonplace lately.

What AlphV also did was report the lender to the Security and Exchange Commission for not reporting this hack.

This is actually kind of interesting.

Now, not only will they make your data inaccessible, they will rat you out to the authorities if you do not pay:

One of the world’s most active ransomware groups has taken an unusual—if not unprecedented—tactic to pressure one of its victims to pay up: reporting the victim to the US Securities and Exchange Commission.

The pressure tactic came to light in a post published on Wednesday on the dark web site run by AlphV, a ransomware crime syndicate that’s been in operation for two years. After first claiming to have breached the network of the publicly traded digital lending company MeridianLink, AlphV officials posted a screenshot of a complaint it said it filed with the SEC through the agency’s website. Under a recently adopted rule that goes into effect next month, publicly traded companies must file an SEC disclosure within four days of learning of a security incident that had a “material” impact on their business.

“We want to bring to your attention a concerning issue regarding MeridianLink's compliance with the recently adopted cybersecurity incident disclosure rules,” AlphV officials wrote in the complaint. “It has come to our attention that MeridianLink, in light of a significant breach compromising customer data and operational information, has failed to file the requisite disclosure under item 1.05 of form 8-K within the stipulated four business days, as mandated by the new SEC rules.”

As noted, the rule hasn’t yet gone into effect, so even if the breach meets the legal definition of a material event, it’s not likely MeridianLink would be in violation. That said, AlphV is likely capitalizing on the industry-wide anxiety caused by the SEC’s recent decision to sue the chief information security officer of SolarWinds. The SEC alleged the SolarWinds executive misled investors about the company’s cybersecurity practices before a 2020 cyberattack by Russian hackers who then went on to infect 18,000 SolarWinds customers with malware.

I guess it's another way that they can exert leverage against their victims, so this was inevitable.

Still, it's a bit ironic.

Headline of the Day

Control Altman Delete
The Register on the firing of Sam Altman as CEO of OpenAI.

The reason for his defenestration is that he was not, "Consistently candid in his communications."

I'm not sure exactly what went down there, but I think that the board, technically the board of the non-profit OpenAI which owns the for-profit OpenAI Global, LLC subsidiary fired him.

It appears that Altman's goals, which appear to be self-aggrandizement and wealth, ran counter to the stated goals of the not-for-profit:

OpenAI's board of directors just fired CEO Sam Altman for not being "consistently candid in his communications."

CTO Mira Murati has been appointed as the interim CEO to lead the lab in the meantime as the board finds a new boss.

In a statement Friday, the board of directors said: "OpenAI was deliberately structured to advance our mission: to ensure that artificial general intelligence benefits all humanity. The board remains fully committed to serving this mission. We are grateful for Sam's many contributions to the founding and growth of OpenAI. At the same time, we believe new leadership is necessary as we move forward."

Altman, an OpenAI co-founder, was ousted after the board carried out a probe and concluded he had not been completely honest and forthright in his conversations with the directors, leading to a lack of confidence in his abilities to continue as CEO.

The move comes as a shock. Launched in 2015 as a not-for-profit focused on fostering artificial general intelligence with the short-lived backing of Elon Musk and a culture of openness, Altman transformed the upstart into a secretive for-profit biz. A number of OpenAI staffers later hit eject, and got together to form rival AI lab Anthropic, we note.

………

Under Altman, the startup's valuation catapulted as it attracted billions of dollars from investors. Its largest backer Microsoft splashed what is believed to have been $10 billion on a deal with OpenAI that gave the IT titan a 49 percent stake in the upstart, and at one point the lab was valued at $29 billion.

At the same time, Microsoft has been keen to slap its own branding over OpenAI's technology as the Windows and Azure giant integrates the lab's neural networks into every corner of its products and services, from Bing to Windows. And at one point even labeled ChatGPT as a security risk.

Altman's sudden exit comes just as OpenAI talked up its app-store-like marketplace for applications built on top of its AI chatbot ChatGPT.

………

Perhaps it had to do with Altman constantly crying about the potential for AI to destroy society – fears some experts have said are overblown – and heralding a general form of artificial intelligence no one in their right mind would want.

Perhaps there was tension over the for-profit, commercialized direction the super-lab was heading as opposed to its not-for-profit roots.

Yeah, the board was not to enthusiastic about having this grandstanding tech bro making outlandish claims which would serve to undercut their stated mission.

Good.

17 November 2023

The Only Australian Prosecuted for War Crimes is a Whistleblower

Members of the Australian special forces murdered Afghan civilians, and the only person facing legal jeopardy as a result is a former military lawyer turned whistleblower, David McBride.

After the judge refused to provide the defense evidence of the war crimes, and explicitly ruled out any argument of interest in public McBride pled guilty to lesser charges.

With his options for a fair trial exhausted, Australian whistleblower David McBride on Friday asked for a new indictment to which he pled guilty on all counts.  

McBride, a former military lawyer, was charged with stealing government documents and giving them to journalists to reveal covered-up murders of unarmed civilians by Australian soldiers in Afghanistan.  

His defense had rested on the court accepting his argument that his oath to the British crown gave him a duty beyond obedience to military orders to instead inform the entire nation of these crimes.

But the trial judge, Justice David Mossop, said he would instruct the jury, which was to be selected starting Monday, to disregard any public interest in the defense. “There is no aspect of duty that allows the accused to act in the public interest contrary to a lawful order,” he told the court Wednesday.

McBride’s legal team tried to appeal that decision, but its application was denied by Supreme Court Chief Justice Lucy McCallum on Thursday. Later that day Mossop ordered that agents of the Attorney General’s office could remove classified documents from the defense’s possession, which McBride’s team had intended to present to the jury.

The appropriate term here is "Kangaroo Court."


Because of those regressive rulings, McBride accepted his attorneys’ advice that, left with no viable defense, he should plead guilty.

SPACE KAREN!!!!!!

In response to posts where Elon Musk explicitly endorsed antisemitic replacement theories, a number of entities that shown a light on his perfidy have been threatened by with a "Thermonuclear" lawsuit by the Apartheid Era Emerald Heir Pedo Guy™.

Seriously, we need to set up a legal fund to deal with the billionaire SLAPP lawsuit bullsh$#:

Elon Musk has said he will be filing a “thermonuclear lawsuit” against Media Matters and others, after major US companies paused their adverts on his social media site over concerns about antisemitism.

The media watchdog Media Matters said earlier this week that it found corporate advertisements by IBM, Apple, Oracle and Comcast’s Xfinity were being placed alongside antisemitic content, including that praising Adolf Hitler and the Nazis.

It led to a number of big names in technology and media announcing they would be withdrawing their advertising. It also included Warner Brothers, Paramount and Disney.

“The split second court opens on Monday, X Corp will be filing a thermonuclear lawsuit against Media Matters and ALL those who colluded in this fraudulent attack on our company,” Musk said in a post on X, formerly known as Twitter.

Musk on Wednesday agreed with a post on X that falsely claimed Jewish people were stoking hatred against white people, saying the user, who referenced the “great replacement” conspiracy theory, was speaking “the actual truth”.


This is indisputedly antisemitic
Advertisers are ditching Ecch (Twitter) faster than house Republicans ditched Kevin McCarthy, with Apple, IBM, Disney, Warner Brothers Discovery, Paramount, Sony Pictures, and Comcast NBCUniversal suspending ads on the platform.

And then the White House chimed in:

………

The White House joined the outcry against Musk’s tweet on Friday, with a statement calling it an “abhorrent promotion of antisemitic and racist hate” that “runs against our core values as Americans”.

Referring to the 7 October attacks by Hamas against Israel, the White House spokesperson Andrew Bates said: “It is unacceptable to repeat the hideous lie … one month after the deadliest day for the Jewish people since the Holocaust.”

Seriously, this is nucking futz.

When is one of his relatives going to have him committed?

Hail Satan!

In New Mexico, the Satanic Temple has opened the Samuel Alito's Mom Abortion Clinic, which provides abortion medications, abortion counseling, and reproductive healthcare. (Services are free, but medications are sold at market rates)

They are calling what they provide an, "Abortion Ritual," which is a little bit (OK, as lot) snarky, but they are doing God's work here.  (Yeah, I know, odd turn of phrase)

It should be noted that Jewish theology does not view Satan at all the same ways that the other Abrahamic religions, and Zoroastrians, view Satan, so I am not at all offended.  (I'm amused)

In Torah, Satan is never mentioned as a proper noun, it is a title, הַשָּׂטָן,, THE Satan, meaning adversary, and in normative Jewish theology, The Satan, is best described (albeit incompletely) as our own evil inclination.

Rose Fradusco Alito gave birth on April Fool’s Day, 1950. Hundreds of women would die that year from botched illegal abortions in the United States, where the procedure had been widely banned for decades. But here in the Alito household in suburban New Jersey, all was grand. Rose thrilled at new motherhood. She was a schoolteacher, then a principal. Her husband Sam was a teacher too, then a director in state government. Their son, named after his father, would go on to do important things someday; Rose could feel it. When she died in 2013, Samuel Alito Jr. was all grown up, with a big fancy job on the U.S. Supreme Court.

It’s unlikely that Rose ever considered abortion for herself (a few years before she passed away, she told reporters she opposed it). But what if her circumstances had been different—if her own life had been endangered by the pregnancy or if the fetus had a fatal anomaly or if Rose simply hadn’t been ready for a child? What if she’d had a choice and access to safe, legal abortion care? Nearly 75 years later, in a reproductive rights landscape that feels like it’s sliding back in time, one group decided to channel this policy fantasy into a new health care enterprise named in her honor.

Samuel Alito’s Mom’s Satanic Abortion Clinic. Does it sound like pure clickbait? Sure. But beneath the outlandish branding lies a sincere mission: The New Mexico–based telehealth practice, a legitimate medical entity run by an accredited clinical team, offers abortion care to patients within state lines. The staff prescribes abortion pills (at $91 per set, a competitive price) up until the eleventh week of pregnancy and offers 24/7 phone access to licensed medical personnel to anyone in need. It’s just that they’re also Satanists, members of a religious organization called The Satanic Temple.

Need a minute? No problem. This marrying of lightning-rod concepts is...a lot. Intentionally so, as The Satanic Temple (TST) attempts to take pervasive moral panic and flip it on its head, utilizing Satanists’ reputation for defiance to expand access to urgent health care.

John Oliver's take on this is that it's the best "Yo' mamma," joke of all time:(I agree)

Not a Good Thursday

Initial jobless claims numbers came out, and they are grim, initial claims rose by 13,000 to 231,000 well above the 220,000 forcast.

Additionally, continuing claims rose to 1.87 million, the highest level in almost 2 years.

The Fed is getting the recession that they wanted so badly:

Continuing applications for US unemployment benefits rose to the highest level in almost two years, underscoring the increasing challenges unemployed workers are facing in finding new jobs.

Recurring jobless claims, a proxy for the number of people continuously receiving unemployment benefits, jumped to 1.87 million in the week ended Nov. 4, according to Labor Department data out Thursday. That marked an eighth straight week of increases.

Initial jobless claims also rose, to 231,000 in the week ending Nov. 11. That was the highest since August.

………

A separate report Thursday showed that US factory production fell in October by more than expected, largely reflecting a strike-related pullback in activity at automakers and parts suppliers. And homebuilder sentiment dropped to the lowest level this year in November as high mortgage rates kept a lid on housing demand.

I don't expect the Fed to raise rate at its next meeting, but I also do not see rates lowered for at least the next 6 months, as that would imply an admission of error.

Fasten your seat belts, we are in for a bumpy ride.

16 November 2023

Back from New Jersey

We drive out early this morning for my mother-in-law's funeral.

It was all exhausting.

Posted via mobile.

15 November 2023

Light Posting for the Next Few Days

 Going to New Jersey for my mother-in-law's funeral.

Reality Exceeds My Imagination Once Again

Just when I thought that the Tories could not get any more insane, they just fired Suella Braverman from the UK cabinet for being a complete lunatic, which engendered hostility from the loony wing of the Conservative Party.  (Maybe that should be "Loonier"  there is no sane wing of the party)

In order to placate the Parliamentary Party rabies carriers, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has appointed Esther McVey as the "Minister of Common Sense."

She is actually a what is called a, "Minister without portfolio," who has been brought in to, "Fight wokeness."

They are very near to make me wishing for the return of zombie Margaret Thatcher: (Almost)

Those who went to bed on Monday concerned about the scourge of wokery awoke to good news in Tuesday’s Sun newspaper. Rishi Sunak’s new cabinet would include a minister just for them, in the form of the former work and pensions secretary – and current GB News presenter – Esther McVey.

Officially appointed as a minister without portfolio, McVey’s role would be “commonsense tsar”, tasked with “tackling the scourge of wokery”, the newspaper was briefed. She would be “leading the charge on the government’s anti-woke agenda” a government source said.

Pressed for clarification on the BBC’s Today programme about what “common sense” meant to the reshuffled government, the newly appointed Tory chair, Richard Holden, mentioned “freedom of speech at university campuses”. He was also challenged on McVey’s views on trans rights and said she was a “plain-speaking northerner” who held “various different views”.

………

McVey ran for the Tory leadership in 2019. During the campaign she repeated her views that parents should be able to stop their children learning about same-sex relationships. “If parents want to take their young children – primary school children – out of certain forms of sex and relationship education then that is down to them,” she said.

………


McVey was an outspoken opponent of Covid lockdown measures, writing in November 2020: “The ‘lockdown cure’ is causing more harm than Covid. The world cannot be put on hold, and the government must stop pressing the pause and stop button for the whole nation on a whim with all the disastrous effects this brings to our lives, livelihoods, health and relationships.”
………

McVey is a supporter of Conservative Way Forward, a Thatcherite campaign group, and backed a report in December 2022 that claimed £427m was spent each year on equality and diversity initiatives. It has led some to speculate that one of her priorities in her new role could be cutting diversity and inclusion officers from the civil service.

………

McVey was a housing minister when she accepted a job at GB News without applying first for clearance from the anti-corruption watchdog, Acoba, which it said broke lobbying rules.

She is now a regular presenter on the channel alongside her husband and fellow Conservative MP, Philip Davies.

Their show, Saturday Morning Live with Esther and Philip, has covered a mix of rightwing fare, with recent segments including discussions on banning burqas in the UK, “woke universities” and why Britain shouldn’t apologise for historical atrocities.

It is literally impossible to parody this.

14 November 2023

Sounds Like 2008

This is how it always starts, some problems in an obscure corner of the market, and then it explodes.

Houston, we have ignition in a dicey part of the commercial real estate market: (CRE)

Foreclosures are surging in an opaque and risky corner of commercial real-estate finance, offering one of the starkest signs yet that turmoil in the property market is worsening.

Lenders this year have issued a record number of foreclosure notices for high-risk property loans, according to a Wall Street Journal analysis. Many of these loans are similar to second mortgages and commonly known as mezzanine loans.

Mezzanine loans have high interest rates and offer a faster and easier path to foreclose than mortgages. The Journal analysis found notices for 62 mezzanine loans and other high-risk loans this year through October. That is more than double the number for all of last year, and likely the highest total ever for a single year, as higher interest rates and rising vacancies punish the property sector.

Basically, unlike a mortgage, which is secured by the property, a mezzanine loan is unsecured, though it is senior to any claims from stockholders, and so higher risk, and thus charges a higher interests rates.

They are also easier to foreclose upon.

During times of low interest rates, they are attractive because saver alternatives have low returns.

With interest rates rising, all bets are off.

………

In contrast, foreclosing on mezzanine loans is often quick and easy because they aren’t technically mortgages. Because the loans don’t appear in property records, the Journal was unable to determine the dollar value of the announced foreclosures.

These loans took off in the decade following the 2008-09 financial crisis as regulators cracked down on big banks and they became more conservative lenders. Many property owners made up the financing shortfall by borrowing from smaller banks, or by taking out these second loans from debt funds and other nonbank lenders, often on top of bank mortgages.

Lenders liked providing mezzanine debt because these loans generated higher yields, often more than 10% during years when interest rates on long-term government bonds hovered around 2%. 

………

That debt allowed investors to bid up prices while putting in little of their own money, inflating the commercial real-estate market leading up to 2022.  

………

Mezzanine loans are notoriously opaque. Unlike mortgages, they don’t appear in property records, so real-estate data companies can’t track many of them. No one knows how much of this debt is out there. 

To measure distress, The Wall Street Journal counted so-called uniform-commercial-code foreclosure-sale notices for commercial-property loans published in the print editions of dozens of national and regional newspapers going back 15 years. These notices are typically for mezzanine loans, although sometimes mortgage lenders also use them, brokers say.

Mezzanine loans are secured by the limited-liability company owning the building, not by the real estate itself. That means lenders can often take over the building in a matter of weeks, though not all announced foreclosure sales actually happen.

………

Before rates started rising last year, mezzanine loans often came with interest rates of around 10% to 12% or more, said Alex Draganiuk, who runs the commercial-loan sales desk at brokerage Mission Capital. Now these same loans often cost more than 15%. That makes it much harder to refinance when they expire, leading to more defaults and foreclosures.

This is just the start.

With the ongoing fights over return to work, with well over a million former members of the workforce either dead of disabled by long Covid, the CRE market is not coming back, and the market is largely populated by actors who have been maximizing their leverage for more than a decade.

This consequences from a downturn are likely to be extreme.  Leverage is the enemy of stability.

Pass the Popcorn

Following changes in the US-China relationship, and changes in Beijing's approach to foreign investments, private equity firms find themselves with over a trillion dollars stuck in China, with any attempt to extricate these funds likely resulting in their getting pennies on the dollar.

It gives me warm fuzzies:

Private equity firms that amassed more than $1.5 trillion of assets in China in just two decades are now struggling to offload once-promising investments they were counting on for hefty returns.

With public markets in a slump and offering unattractive valuations, buyout firms are exploring private sales. But mounting concerns about the risks of investing in mainland China have left so-called secondary buyers demanding discounts of 30% to more than 60%, according to people familiar with the market. Haircuts in Europe and the US are closer to 15%.

Many firms are also looking at an alternative strategy, putting off sales by setting up so-called continuation funds to take over holdings for several more years, according to interviews with about a dozen of private equity investors and advisers. That’s also proving challenging.

Yeah, let's pretend that there are no losses in the hope that everything will eventually turn around.

To quote Herb Stein, ""If something cannot go on forever, it will stop."

I just hope that the American taxpayers don't have to bail out these very special geniuses again.

It Does Not Count Unless There Is a Caning*

So today, we had former Speaker Kevin McCarthy sucker punching a house MAGAt opponent, and Senator Markwayne Mullin (R-OK) tried to throw down with UAW president Teamsters president Sean O'Brien.

Congress is getting crazy, but but not Preston Brooks crazy:

Historian Joanne Freeman's wonderful Fields Of Blood, an account of how the Congress became the Octagon in the years before the Civil War, may be ripe for a sequel. Things are getting unstrung in the national legislature again.

On Tuesday, at a hearing of the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP), Oklahoma Senator Markwayne Mullin and Teamsters president Sean O'Brien were prepared to throw hands over comments O'Brien had made in the past about Mullin's contention that he is a self-made millionaire.
Mullin (Quoting an O'Brien tweet) : "Quit the tough guy act in these Senate hearings. You know where to find me. Any place, Anytime cowboy." This is a time, this is a place. We can be two consenting adults. We can finish it here.
O'Brien: “OK that’s fine, perfect.”
Mullin: “You wanna do it now?”
O'Brien: “Would love to do it right now,”
Mullin: “Well stand your butt up then,”
O'Brien: “You stand your butt up...”

This Lincolnesque colloquy went on for a few minutes more, with committee chairman Senator Bernie Sanders uncorking a very respectable imitation of Mills Lane. This even surpassed Robert Kennedy's legendary flex-off with Teamsters president Jimmy Hoffa back before the McClellan committee in 1957.

Meanwhile, over on the House side of things, there was some more excitement to be had. From ABC News:
Tennessee Rep. Tim Burchett, one of the eight Republicans who voted to oust Kevin McCarthy from the speakership last month, claimed to ABC News that McCarthy elbowed him in the back after a House GOP meeting on Tuesday morning. Burchett said he was speaking to the NPR reporter when McCarthy walked behind him and allegedly put his elbow intentionally into Burchett's back. Burchett said he was pushed forward and then followed McCarthy down the hallway to confront him. According to the reporter, Burchett asked McCarthy: "Why'd you walk behind me and elbow me in the back?" The former speaker responded: "I didn't elbow you in the back." And Burchett replied: "You got no guts, you did so."

I'm hoping that the Republicans start killing each other each other.

That being said, the Dems should start packing some very sturdy metal headed canes. 

*The caning of Charles Sumner by Preston Brooks on 22 May 1856. Learn your history.

Headline of the Day

When the Solution to Your Problem Is David Cameron, You Know You’re in Deep Trouble
—Simon Jenkins in The Guardian

I would differ. The fact that right wing nut-job Suella Braverman was made Home Secretary, was the indication of trouble.

For people who are not familiar with UK government, is a lot like Attorney General, DHS Chief, and ultimate authority for all the local police departments in the UK.

You do not appoint someone that deranged to this position if you value sanity and stability in government.

She is the most foaming at the mouth lunatic to be made Home Secretary since ……… Checks Notes ……… Winston Churchill.

 

13 November 2023

This is My Shocked Face


Video is in English
After taking control of Rantisi Children's Hospital, the IDF found a Hamas command center, along with munitions and evidence that hostages were held there.

It's against the laws of war to use a hospital for military purposes (treating wounded is not a military purpose), and if it is so used, it becomes a legitimate military conduct.

Hamas has been hiding behind women and children for decades, and now there is video evidence.

This is not a surprise:

IDF Spokesman Rear Adm. Daniel Hagari says the Navy’s elite Shayetet 13 commando unit and the 401st Armored Brigade have raided Gaza City’s Rantisi Hospital, which treats children, and that Hamas operatives were holed up there. He says he has just returned from the hospital, having filmed there, and that the IDF has evidence indicating that hostages were held there.

“Underneath the hospital, in the basement, we found a Hamas command and control center, suicide-bomb vests, grenades, AK-47 assault rifles, explosive devices, RPGs, and other weapons, computers, money, etc,” Hagari says, in an English-language press conference.

“We also found signs that indicate that Hamas held hostages here,” he says, adding that “this is currently under our investigation,” but that the IDF has intelligence to verify it.

“Additionally, we found evidence that Hamas terrorists came back from the massacre [in southern Israel] on October 7 to this hospital, among others, after butchering Israelis in their homes,” he says.

“Hamas hides in hospitals. Today, we will expose this to the world,” he says.

 ………

He shares the raw footage [in the tweet above] filmed a few hours earlier “proving that Hamas systematically runs its terror machine under hospitals in Gaza.”

In the basement of Rantisi, Hagari shows a Hamas armory with grenades, bombs and RPGs. He highlights the dangers to patients of explosives under hospitals.

He shows a motorcycle in the basement that he believes was driven here by October 7 terrorists, presumably with a hostage.

Nearby, he shows what he says are multiple indications that hostages were held here, including an improvised toilet and other infrastructure to hold hostages.

Let me stress here that if a Hamas fighter were injured and went to hospital, this would be in accordance with the laws of war, and if they took a wounded hostage to the hospital, this would also be in accordance with the laws of war.

Holding the hostages there and having military supplies there?

That's a war crime.

What's worse, it turns this hospital, and likely every hospital in Gaza into a legitimate target.

There is a difference between fading away into a crowd and hiding behind civilians, but they don't give a crap about, they don't have to, they're Hamas.

Window Dressing

Dragged kicking and screaming into rearranging the ethical deck chairs on the Titanic, the Supreme Court has adapted a thoroughly toothless and meaningless code of conduct for the first time ever.

This shows us a few things:

  • The Supreme Court is truly terrified at the prospect of meaningful oversight of the behavior of the justices.
  • This is theater in attempt to forestall meaningful change.
  • A majority of the justices believe that Congress will impose a mandate involving real change if they don't find a way to short circuit real reform.

Color me cynical:

The Supreme Court issued its first-ever code of conduct on Monday following reports of undisclosed trips and other favors that sparked criticism and put pressure on the justices to adopt a set of ethical rules.

The 15-page document said it largely compiled practices the justices informally followed. But the lack of a formal document “has led in recent years to the misunderstanding that the Justices of this Court, unlike all other jurists in this country, regard themselves as unrestricted by any ethics rules,” it says. “To dispel this misunderstanding, we are issuing this Code, which largely represents a codification of principles that we have long regarded as governing our conduct.”

The code says justices can seek guidance from colleagues, judicial decisions, lower court judges, the Supreme Court’s in-house legal counsel, “and from scholars, scholarly treatises, and articles.” It creates no single ethics office or adviser and doesn’t provide penalties for violation of ethical standards.

All nine current justices signed the document, which suggests that it may not be binding on future appointees unless they affirmatively accept the code.
It's toothless, and it will not bind any future justices.  That is a feature, not a bug. 
Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D., R.I.), a leading critic of the justices’ conduct and the court’s conservative direction, said there was more work to do.

“This is a long-overdue step by the justices, but a code of ethics is not binding unless there is a mechanism to investigate possible violations and enforce the rules. The honor system has not worked for members of the Roberts Court,” he said.
Indeed Senator Whitehouse.
Reports by ProPublica and other news organizations this year detailed previously undisclosed vacations and other favors wealthy benefactors have provided Justice Clarence Thomas, along with potentially questionable conduct by several other justices. That led some lawmakers who have long called for the court to adopt an ethical code to renew their scrutiny of the court. The Senate Judiciary Committee, led by Democrats, passed legislation that would tighten standards for the Supreme Court.
And the justices are afraid of this, because, notwithstanding the protestations of Alito and Thomas that the justices reign exist in a world with no checks and balances, at least 2 of the right-wing justices understand what it would mean for Congress to create an independent oversight process and they were to rule this unconstitutional.
………

Last week, Judiciary Committee Republicans scuttled at least temporarily an effort by Democrats to subpoena two of the wealthy figures identified in the news reports, Dallas real estate tycoon Harlan Crow and Leonard Leo, who controls a network of conservative organizations pushing for a more conservative judiciary.

Of course they did, because they know that some of the Republican justices are corrupt as f%$#.

F%$# the court.  Pass a law that creates hard and fast rules, and appoint an Inspector who has the right to subpoena records, including tax returns, who is mandated to report any irregularities to Congress.

How Car Centric Planning is Killing Us

It turns out that traffic lanes vary between 9 feet (2.7 m) and 15 feet (4.6) in the United States, with the most common on city streets being 10 and 12 feet.

It turns out that 12 ft wide traffic lanes have 50% accidents than the 10 ft ones, largely because people speed more in wider lanes.

Of course traffic planners like the wider lanes because it moves traffic faster, which also kills people, which is a microcosm of US traffic management:

10 is plenty — and nine is even better.

The lightning-fast 12-foot lanes that run down countless roads in U.S. neighborhoods are associated with a roughly 50-percent higher rate of crashes than nine-foot ones, a new study finds — but many state and national design guidelines are still encouraging engineers to build them based on the false assumption that wider is safer.

The finding is a result of a painstaking Johns Hopkins analysis of more than 1,100 non-interstate street sections in seven major U.S. cities — and amazingly, it may be the first time the relationship between lane width and safety has ever been comprehensively studied on such a large scale.

Roomy roads are proven to encourage faster, deadlier driving regardless of the speed limit, but previous research based on more limited data found less correlation between gargantuan lanes and high crash rates — with some researchers and engineers even arguing that narrow roads are more dangerous because they increase the possibility of "side friction" between cars. Unlike the 129-page Hopkins paper, though, those studies didn't go street-by-street on Google Maps and use advanced machine learning to identify and control for all the other traffic-calming features that might be cutting crashes besides paint, including the number of lanes, the curvature of the road, and the presence of bike lanes, street trees and generous sidewalks.

(emphasis original)

In Europe, the lanes are typically 8.2 feet (2.5 m) and 10.6 feet (3.25m), and pedestrian deaths and other accidents are far less. 

Car friendly design is bad for the environment and kills people.

Linkage

 

The late Dave Graeber was remarkably prescient ……… on everything:

12 November 2023

Damn

I will miss the the pandas formerly residing at the National zoo.

They are on their way back to China:

Early this morning, the three pandas at the Smithsonian’s National Zoo were coaxed into large metal crates, then taken by forklift up the zoo’s main walkway toward three waiting FedEx trucks, past a gaggle of dozens of members of the media from around the world.

Giant pandas Mei Xiang, Tian Tian, and Xiao Qi Ji have begun their journey from the Smithsonian’s National Zoo to Chengdu, China.

The animals are among the District’s cutest, furriest, and most famous residents.

It's kind of a bummer, but China is doing good work on recovering and rewilding pandas, so there is that.

 

Fascism Much?

Following decisive wins for abortion rights and marijuana legalization in referenda last week, the Republican and Gerrymander dominated state legislature promptly set about attempting to subvert the will of the people.

I'm not sure how you address the issue of politicians have no respect for the Democratic process.

The alternative to ballots is ……… Not pretty:

Ohio voters just took firm positions on abortion and reproductive rights and adult-use recreational marijuana Tuesday, but gerrymandered Ohio lawmakers are already planning to flout, ignore, challenge, and abuse the voters’ wishes. This is what gerrymandering brings. This is why it’s a fundamental poison in the lifeblood of our republic.

Mere hours after Ohio voters passed the Issue 1 reproductive rights amendment with 56.62%, according to unofficial results, and the Issue 2 recreational marijuana law with 57% (both getting nearly 2.2 million votes), Ohio Republican legislative leaders signaled they would not respect the will of the people.

“This isn’t the end,” Republican Ohio Senate President Matt Huffman said about Issue 1. “It is really just the beginning of a revolving door of ballot campaigns to repeal or replace Issue 1.”

On Issue 2, Huffman has a host of changes to the law he says he wants to make, which gerrymandered lawmakers can do because Issue 2 was an initiated statute, not an amendment. “The General Assembly may consider amending the statute to clarify the questionable language regarding limits for THC and tax rates as well as other parts of the statute,” Huffman said.

Republican Ohio House Speaker Jason Stephens leveled similar warnings that lawmakers would not respect Tuesday’s election results. On Issue 2, Stephens said that the lawmakers should reallocate revenue from marijuana toward building jails and funding law enforcement. “Now is the time for the legislature to lead,” Stephens said.

………

Just this year, these politicians implemented one of the most restrictive voter laws in the country. In 2022, they politicized our state supreme court by adding party labels, and this year they have proposed to do the same to our state board of education. They have also proposed to increase hyper-partisanship in Ohio by closing our primaries.

Ohio Republican politicians spent most of this year trying to attack Ohio majority authority over the constitution itself, and failed in August.

………

On Issue 2, the lawmakers will likely go forward with whatever changes they’re determined to make in defiance of the voters, and DeWine will choose whether or not to sign those changes.

………

Ohio lawmakers could try to legislate. They do have the power of action right now. They could try to legislate something that conforms to the fetal-viability-outside-the-uterus standards of the new amendment (around 24-26 weeks), or try to flout the amendment entirely. They seem to be indicating they want to bring yet another amendment on abortion rights to voters.

We already know that Ohio Republicans are relentlessly corrupt, and this is what drives a lot of their anti-Ohio actions.

They need to pander to the right wings, and stack elections, because otherwise, they cannot get on the graft gravy train.

Of Course They Did

The Department of Justice has secured an agreement from Apple for fines resulting from their abuse of the foreign employee visa process.

Basically, they actively discouraged American workers for positions that they wanted to fill with cheaper foreign workers.

Any realistic assessment of the associated programs, H1B and L1A, is that driving wages down is the real purpose of this:

Apple illegally discriminated against US citizens and other US residents in its hiring and recruitment practices for certain types of positions that went to foreign workers, the US Department of Justice said yesterday. Apple agreed to pay up to $25 million in back pay and civil penalties to settle the DOJ allegations.

Apple discriminated "against US citizens and certain non-US citizens whose permission to live in and work in the United States does not expire," the agency said. The $25 million payment was called the largest ever collected by the Justice Department under the anti-discrimination provision of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA).

Apple is required to pay $6.75 million in civil penalties and create an $18.25 million fund to provide back pay to those harmed by its hiring practices. Apple did not admit guilt in the settlement. But the company acknowledged in a statement that it had "unintentionally not been following the DOJ standard," according to Reuters.

………

As Reuters noted, "Foreign labor can often be cheaper than hiring US workers, and immigrants who rely on their employers for green card sponsorship are seen as less likely to leave for a different job."

Any unbiased analysis of the foreign worker programs is that wage suppression is a feature, not a bug.

Companies getting caught abusing this is the exception, not the rule.

I Don't Care What He Thinks

When you look at the actions of FBI chief Christopher Ray, understand that his permanent home is not in the area, and he is a member of the Federalist Society.

This in large part explains his jihad on the relocation location of FBI headquarters to Greenbelt, Maryland.

So he doesn't want the FBI headquarters to move to Maryland because he doesn't want to pay Maryland taxes.

The current HQ is in DC, and he, and the agents tend to live in Virginia, where they save money by not paying DC taxes, and Maryland taxes are higher than Virginia taxes.

Unlike DC, Maryland can tax people out of state workers who work in-state.

Wray is implying that there is something unethical going on because the GSA official who made the decision used to work for the entity who currently owns the land.

If this entity were a real-estate developer, or a manufacturer, or a sports team, this might be concerning, but entity is the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA), the government agency that runs transit in the area.

There is no issue with a quid pro quo with a government agency.  There is no issue of delayed payback, or any profit being generated, so the argument is bullsh%$.

Wray, and one could assume much of the HQ staff, don't want pay Maryland taxes, and he is using spurious implications (they don't rise to the level of allegations) of impropriety as a beard for his actions.  (There is also the possibility that he and his agent do not want to work in PG County, which is 64% Black)

After over a decade of searching for the best place in Maryland or Virginia to locate the FBI’s new headquarters, the federal General Services Administration finally decided on Wednesday: It would go to a site in Greenbelt, Maryland.

That Prince George’s County site, one of three on the GSA’s shortlist (and one of two in PG County), is currently owned by the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority. The third site option was in Fairfax County’s Springfield area.

And according to a letter from FBI Director Christopher Wray obtained by VPM News, the GSA senior executive who made the call had come to the agency from working at WMATA. The agencywide letter, which was first excerpted by the Washington Post, was sent after the GSA’s announcement. It includes a list of concerns and a succinct timeline of how site selection was reached, changed and executed since the plan’s revival in spring 2022.

Maryland officials have heralded the decision, which they say will bring overdue federal investment to Prince George’s County, one of the largest majority-Black jurisdictions in the country. Putting the headquarters there, they said, would be a major step toward the FBI’s goal of bringing jobs to a racially diverse community.

………

A new headquarters for the law enforcement agency has been a point of discussion since President Barack Obama’s administration. After a pause during Trump’s administration, the headquarters discussion was revived by Biden’s team in March 2022, following advocacy from the Maryland and Virginia congressional delegations.

………

The current Hoover Building headquarters in downtown Washington, D.C., was built in 1975 and intended to house 2,000 people. With a current capacity of 5,500 workers, it’s bursting at the seams. Budget documents from the Biden administration say the building “can no longer support the long-term mission of the FBI.”

There were 5 criteria used for the evaluation, "Proximity to mission-related locations, transportation access, site development flexibility and schedule risk, promoting sustainable siting and advancing equity and cost," and Greenbelt won 4 of 5.  Most notably it is the only site walkable from a Metro stop.

The only one that it did not win, proximity to the Quantico training facility. 

F%$# him, and f%$# his attempt to meddle in a decision that should not be his.  This is the best decision for the taxpayers, and if staff at this facility wants to remain in Virginia, they are free to do so.

They can take the Metro to work.