31 December 2023

Happy New Year, Everyone

For all of my readers, I wish you a happy new year.

Hopefully, it will not be the kidney stone that 2023 was.

I need to remind all of you that while many take part in dry January, I do not.  I don't drink that much anyway.

However, I do eschew bowdlerizing my rather polific swearing in the 1st month of the year in a tradition that I call, "Say F$#@ January."  (I stop using the %$# bit and use the actual words for 31 days)

I still do not use the "C-Word", but consider this a warning to the more delicate reader(s) of this blog that the words that made George Carlin (even more) famous will be appearing unexpurgated.

Hippo Gnu Yarrr!!!!

Let Me Retire to My Fainting Couch

It appears that private equity and hedge fund types are getting hammered by interest rate increases.

I'm stunned.  I would have thought that with their exceptional financial brains, they would have taken actions to account for the rate hikes, and made even more money.

Does this mean that these are just ordinary and not particularly bright finance boys who have been overselling their allegedly mad skills?

Well knock me over with an LGM-118 Peacekeeper missile:

When Wall Street money managers fall from grace, there's usually some kind of discernible ruckus: the wail of angry investors, the steady drone of thousands of lawyers filing cases, and the rush of doomer headlines in the financial press. But even as some of Wall Street's elite are getting decimated, you can barely hear a sound.

In the post-financial-crisis world of zero interest rates, private equity — a clubby world of investment firms that use leverage (as well as some equity) to purchase portfolio companies — was one of the few places on Wall Street that guaranteed investors yield. But after that decade of winning, the industry's fortunes have started to turn — though you probably won't hear too much about it.


In recent years, both the market and American society have turned on private equity. Rising interest rates have thrown a wrench in PE's debt-laden business model. Meanwhile, regulators are starting to view PE's practices as anticompetitive and antisocial. In a post-COVID, pro-reshoring world, PE's ethos of efficiency is giving way to a reclamation of the redundant — a recognition that even if it's more expensive, having extra capacity in the economy benefits competition, public health, and national security. 

What, we are no longer worshiping them as the Randian Ubermenchen that they think that they are?

Merciful heavens!


Even the biggest players have various reasons to worry. Over at Carlyle Group, distributable earnings — profits that can be returned to shareholders — fell to $367.4 million in the third quarter, down 43% from the same time last year. At KKR, distributable earnings in the third quarter were down 6.6% compared to the same time the year before, much better than the 23% year-on-year drop the firm reported in the second quarter. This summer, the ratings agency Moody's downgraded Blackstone, Apollo, and KKR because of their large commercial real-estate holdings (only 66% of US workers have returned to the office full time, most reports indicate).

I know, I'll react like this
This is such a tragedy, how should I react to this?

Please, won't someone think of their the PE bankers cocaine dealers?

Think of the coke dealers, and the hookers, and the interns.


Weep for the Ammosexuals

The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals has stayed a lower court ruling by a GW Bush appointed judge, and will allow California's restrictions on gun carriage to stand.

This is good, and hopefully, we will see more of this: 

A federal appeals court on Saturday allowed California’s ban on the carrying of firearms in most public places to take effect in 2024, halting a lower court judge’s ruling that had blocked enforcement of the law.

The state law, Senate Bill 2, sets several restrictions on gun ownership, and Gov. Gavin Newsom approved it in September. But Judge Cormac Carney of the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California blocked enforcement of the law in December, saying that the ban on guns in most public places would unconstitutionally “deprive” citizens of their right to bear arms.

Judge Carney wrote in his ruling to grant an injunction that the ban “is sweeping, repugnant to the Second Amendment, and openly defiant of the Supreme Court.”
Gee, does Carney sound like a deranged partisan hack to you?  He does to me.

But the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals paused the injunction, allowing the law to go into effect on Monday while the court takes more time to decide on the constitutionality of the law.

So the judge has not been overturned, but the law will be allowed to take effect, but it seems likely that they the appeals court will rule in favor of the law.


Along with banning the carrying of guns in most public places, the law sets the minimum age for obtaining a gun license at 21 and adds more requirements for gun safety training before receiving a new license.

The public places covered by the law are divided into 26 categories with various locations, including playgrounds, public transportation, stadiums, amusement parks and museums. The law also prohibits people from carrying firearms on the grounds of private businesses unless there is clear signage indicating that they are allowed.

That last bit is a nice touch. It created the presumption that guns are not allowed on private property, and it requires merchants who want their spaces to be a free fire zone to make this clear to the public. Sweet.

Here is hoping that the appellate court ends up overturning the judge, and that the Supreme Court decides not to hear the case.

Same as It Ever Was

With the recent spike in Covid, hospitals in 5 states have reinstated mask mandates.

But I thought that Covid was over! (NOT

The desire to put Covid behind us has resulted in the disease staying with us even longer:

Hospitals across the U.S. are reinstating COVID-19 mask mandates as the JN.1 variant becomes the dominant strain spreading throughout the country.

Hospitals in California, Illinois, Massachusetts, New York and Washington D.C. have all brought back divisive rules meaning masks are mandatory for selected people in medical settings. The Centers for Disease Prevention and Control has recorded a 10.4 percent increase in COVID-19 hospitalizations across America in the week leading up to December 16. There has been an increase of 3.4 percent in deaths related to coronavirus in the same period. Newsweek has contacted the CDC for comment via email.

Mask mandates have long been controversial since they were implemented during the coronavirus pandemic, which reached the U.S. in early 2020. Medical professionals and the CDC have consistently advocated for mask wearing, including outside of doctor's office or hospital. Currently, no state in the country has a mandatory mask policy for any indoor and outdoor setting.


The mandatory masking rule is activated when this percentage surpasses 2.85 percent for two consecutive weeks and will be lifted once the rate falls below the same percentage for a week. 

First, wear a f%$#ing mask.

Second do not go into enclosed spaces with people who refuse to wear a f%$#ing mask.

Third, make remote learning work.  We already know that remote education improves the mental health of the students, so it's time to make sure that their education works as well.

Good News in the Copyright Front

An appeals court in the UK has ruled that if a work is out of copyright, then museum photographs of those works is out of copyright as well.

This will have the effect of preventing museums from erecting toll booths in front of authors who want to comment and research on art.

A recent judgement on copyright in the Court of Appeal (20 November) heralds the end of UK museums charging fees to reproduce historic artworks. In fact, it suggests museums have been mis-selling “image licences” for over a decade. For those of us who have been campaigning on the issue for years, it is the news we’ve been waiting for.

The judgement is important because it confirms that museums do not have valid copyright in photographs of (two-dimensional) works which are themselves out of copyright. It means these photographs are in the public domain, and free to use.

Museums use copyright to restrict the circulation of images, obliging people to buy expensive licences. Any thought of scholars sharing images, or using those available on museum websites, was claimed to be a breach of copyright. Not surprisingly, most people paid up. Copyright is the glue that holds the image fee ecosystem in place.

What has now changed? Museums used to rely on the 1988 Copyright, Designs and Patents Act, which placed a low threshold on how copyright was acquired; essentially, if some degree of “skill and labour” was involved in taking a photograph of a painting, then that photograph enjoyed copyright. But subsequent case law has raised the bar, as the new Appeal Court judgement makes clear.

In his ruling (THJ v Sheridan, 2023), Lord Justice Arnold wrote that, for copyright to arise: “What is required is that the author was able to express their creative abilities in the production of the work by making free and creative choices so as to stamp the work created with their personal touch”. Importantly, he went on: “This criterion is not satisfied where the content of the work is dictated by technical considerations, rules or other constraints which leave no room for creative freedom”. In other words, if the aim of a museum photograph is to accurately reproduce a painting (which it must be), then it cannot acquire copyright.

(emphasis mine)

It turns out that changes to copyright have made this the case since 2009.

There has been a sea change in how many governments and institutions, with the unfortunate exception of patent offices and WIPO, have viewed IP protections.

This is a good thing.

Police around the Nation Have Been "Quiet Quitting" in 2023

Which has had the predictable result that murder rates fell precipitously this year.

Wait, that's not the predictable result.  Aren't the police the thin blue line that is the only things that protects us from every day being, "The Purge?" 

With cops quiet quitting over the past few years in San Francisco, Austin, Chicago, Portland, etc., one would think that crime would have skyrocketed in 2023, but it didn't.

My guess would be that aggressive policing as it is currently structured tends to disrupt society more than anything else:

Detroit is on track to record the fewest murders since the 1960s. In Philadelphia, where there were more murders in 2021 than in any year on record, the number of homicides this year has fallen more than 20 percent from last year. And in Los Angeles, the number of shooting victims this year is down more than 200 from two years ago.

The decrease in gun violence in 2023 has been a welcome trend for communities around the country, though even as the number of homicides and the number of shootings have fallen nationwide, they remain higher than on the eve of the pandemic.

In 2020, as the pandemic took hold and protests convulsed the nation after the murder of George Floyd by a police officer in Minneapolis, the United States saw the largest increase in murders ever recorded. Now, as 2023 comes to a close, the country is likely to see one of the largest — if not the largest — yearly declines in homicides, according to recent F.B.I. data and statistics collected by independent criminologists and researchers.

Clearly, we as a society are doing policing wrong.

30 December 2023

This Has Been Obvious for How Long?

My position has always been that if a company mistreats its employees, it will mistreat its customers as well.

So count me as not as all surprised that Elon Musk's Tesla has been found to be defrauding its customers by accusing them of mistreating the vehicles instead of addressing known design flaws. (See also here, (original Reuters investigation) here, and here.)

I need to be clear here, when I am talking about design flaws, I am NOT talking about poor fit and finish, leaking door gaskets, or trunks not latching.  I am talking about things likewheels falling off of the car:

Tesla cars are shoddily built pieces of shit liable to fall apart and malfunction in dangerous ways at inopportune moments. No, this is not a blog from 2012! It is also not a blog from 2015 or 2018 or 2022. It is not even a blog from two weeks ago about Tesla's self-driving systems killing people all over the place. It is a blog from today, Dec. 21, 2023.

On Wednesday, Reuters published a big, thorough investigative story documenting a pattern of major parts failures on low-mileage Tesla vehicles—and Tesla's organized years-long effort to obscure the pattern and offload its costs onto drivers, so as to sustain the illusion that it is a profitable company making cars that are not piece-of-shit death traps. By "major parts failures," I should specify here that we are not talking about, like, a faulty turn signal, or an unreliable trunk latch. We are talking about stuff like a whole-ass wheel falling off of your Model 3 while it travels at highway speeds, or the suspension collapsing while you make a left turn, causing the body of the car to crunch down onto the road, or an axle half-shaft f%$#ing snapping while you accelerate, or the power steering suddenly failing while you are zooming along at 60 miles per hour.

We are talking, in short, about engineering failures—failures that anyone would find alarming if they encountered them in a soap box derby racer made out of literally a soap box—happening, abruptly and without warning, to Tesla cars that are for all practical purposes brand new. Moreover, they're happening to lots of them, because of manufacture and assembly problems the company knew about, and hid, and lied about, and blamed on the poor suckers who bought its crappy cars.

(emphasis original, %$# mine)


Back to Tesla. The Reuters piece makes clear that the internal practice of blaming part failures on drivers themselves—others can fight over whether it's fraud in any legal sense—was a common tactic on Tesla's part, made explicit in company documents. In this way it fought off expensive recalls in Europe and the U.S.—it couldn't do so in China, where regulators were less eager to fall for its bullshit—and made its business appear more profitable to investors, whose calculations would look quite different if they assumed hundreds or thousands of dollars of repair liability for each Tesla vehicle sold. Given that regulatory arbitrage, not selling cars, is Tesla's real business, I suppose it makes a grim sort of sense that this would be baked into the front-facing, car-selling part of the operation.

In general I don't like spoiling the kicker of somebody else's article, but I'd like to call your attention to the following quote, which ends the Reuters piece and crystallizes, I think, something important. The context is: A Tesla driver has brought his wife's Model 3 in for servicing because the power steering ceased operating after the car went over a normal speed bump. The service manager (note that Tesla, unlike other car manufacturers, owns and operates all of its dealerships, so the workers there are Tesla employees) identifies the culprit: A system component has become corroded—probably, he says, because the car went through a car wash. The repairs will cost $4,400. The driver observes, reasonably, that he has never heard of a car's wiring being damaged by simply taking it through a car wash.

Lundeen [the driver] said he was so shocked by the manager’s frank explanation of Tesla’s part failures that he wrote it down: “All I can tell you,” the Tesla manager said, “is we’re not a 100-year-old company like GM and Ford. We haven’t worked all the bugs out yet.”

Imagine offering this as a defense, as you charge a customer $4,400 to fix your own shoddy product. Look, pal, all I can tell you is that I don't know how to make the thing I sold you at great expense. Contained in this doofus Tesla service manager's quote is the ethos shared among all Elon Musk's ventures. It is the defining ethos of Silicon Valley.


Then the wheel falls off while you're driving, or the autopilot plows into a jersey wall, and you're meant to be thrilled.* Glad even. Grateful! This is proof: You were an early adopter. A beta tester, a brave explorer. You're helping to work out the bugs, mapping new territory. Who knows? In a hundred years this car's descendants might be as reliable as cars that by then will be 150 years old, and you will have played a part in making it so. Won't that be nice.

*Assuming you lived through it.

This is post was too good not to share, which is why I added the original Reuters investigation as a supplementary link.

Read both in full, but the bottom line is that neither the Apartheid Era Emerald Heir Pedo Guy™ nor Tesla, nor Solar City, nor Tesla Energy, nor Neuralink, can be trusted to even consider the best interest of their customers, so taking his products out on the road, or on the roof of your house, or (God forbid) inside your brain is a sucker bet.

Of Course They Won't

Prosecutors have ended their prosecution of Sam Bankman-Fried for (among other things) campaign finance violations.

They are basically saying that it is not necessary.

I think that the reality is that there are far too many people, on both sides of the political aisle, who would be implicated, and the prosecutors decided that this would not be worth it:

US prosecutors say they do not plan to conduct a second trial against Sam Bankman-Fried, who was convicted last month of stealing from customers of his now-bankrupt FTX cryptocurrency exchange.

In a letter filed on Friday night in federal court in Manhattan, prosecutors said the “strong public interest” in a prompt resolution of their case against the 31-year-old former billionaire outweighed the benefits of a second trial.

Prosecutors said that interest “weighs particularly heavily here”, given that Bankman-Fried’s scheduled sentencing on 28 March 2024 is likely to include orders of forfeiture and restitution for victims of his crimes.

Jurors convicted Bankman-Fried on 2 November on all seven fraud and conspiracy counts he faced. Prosecutors had accused him of looting $8bn from FTX customers out of sheer greed.


Bankman-Fried had faced six additional charges that had been severed from his first trial, including campaign finance violations, conspiracy to commit bribery and conspiracy to operate an unlicensed money transmitting business.

He had been extradited in December 2022 from the Bahamas, where FTX was based, to face the seven earlier charges.

The Bahamas, however, had yet to grant its consent for a trial on the remaining charges, leaving the timetable uncertain, prosecutors said.

Unless I miss my guess, the Bahamas is reticent about granting consent because they fear that the beneficiaries of SBF's donations, which include people such as Nancy Pelosi and Mitch McConnell, might use their power to retaliate against them,

I do hope that the prosecutions are restarted after sentencing, not because SBF deserves more jail time, though he probably does, but because we need to turn over the rocks in our political system, and following the money will do just that.

Upcoming Good Year for the Public Domain

First, I want to note that under our current copyright regime, both the totality of Shakespeare's works and Herman Melville's Moby Dick would be largely unknown. 

Next, you should look at Cory Doctorow's survey of what is entering the public domain this year.

To put it mildly, it ain't just Steam Boat Willie:

They stole something from you. For decades, they stole it. That thing they stole? Your entire culture. For all of human history, works created in living memory entered the public domain every year. 40 years ago, that stopped.

First in 1976, and then again in 1998, Congress retroactively extended copyright's duration by 20 years, for all works, including works whose authors were unknown and long dead, whose proper successors could not be located. Many of these authors were permanently erased from history as every known copy of their works disappeared before they could be brought back into our culture through reproduction, adaptation and re-use (copyright is "strict liability," meaning that even if you pay to clear the rights to a work from someone who has good reason to believe they control those rights, if they're wrong, you are on the hook as an infringer, and the statutory damages run to six figures).


But at least we'll get some music in the public domain again this year. Indeed, this year's public domain is shaping up to be an even bigger banger than 2023

And here is a list of the most prominent works entering the public domain from the above link:

Books and Plays

  • D.H Lawrence, Lady Chatterley's Lover
  • Bertolt Brecht, The Threepenny Opera (in the original German, Die Dreigroschenoper)
  • Virginia Woolf, Orlando
  • Erich Maria Remarque, All Quiet on the Western Front (in the original German, Im Westen nichts Neues)
  • W.E.B. Du Bois, Dark Princess
  • Claude McKay, Home to Harlem
  • A. A. Milne, illustrations by E. H. Shepard, House at Pooh Corner (introducing the Tigger character)
  • J. M. Barrie, Peter Pan; or the Boy Who Wouldn't Grow Up (because it was not "published" for copyright purposes until 1928)[4]
  • Radclyffe Hall, The Well of Loneliness
  • Evelyn Waugh,Decline and Fall
  • Agatha Christie, The Mystery of the Blue Train
  • Wanda Gág, Millions of Cats (the oldest American picture book still in print)
  • Robert Frost, West-Running Brook
  • Ben Hecht and Charles MacArthur, The Front Page


  • D.H Lawrence, Lady Chatterley's Lover
  • Bertolt Brecht, The Threepenny Opera (in the original German, Die Dreigroschenoper)
  • Virginia Woolf, Orlando
  • Erich Maria Remarque, All Quiet on the Western Front (in the original German, Im Westen nichts Neues)
  • W.E.B. Du Bois, Dark Princess
  • Claude McKay, Home to Harlem
  • A. A. Milne, illustrations by E. H. Shepard, House at Pooh Corner (introducing the Tigger character)
  • J. M. Barrie, Peter Pan; or the Boy Who Wouldn't Grow Up (because it was not "published" for copyright purposes until 1928)[4]
  • Radclyffe Hall, The Well of Loneliness
  • Evelyn Waugh,Decline and Fall
  • Agatha Christie, The Mystery of the Blue Train
  • Wanda Gág, Millions of Cats (the oldest American picture book still in print)
  • Robert Frost, West-Running Brook
  • Ben Hecht and Charles MacArthur, The Front Page

 Musical Compositions

  • Animal Crackers (musical starring the Marx Brothers; book by George S. Kaufman and Morrie Ryskind and lyrics and music by Bert Kalmar and Harry Ruby)
  • Mack the Knife (original German lyrics by Bertolt Brecht and music by Kurt Weill; from The Threepenny Opera)
  • Let’s Do It (Let’s Fall in Love) (Cole Porter; from the musical Paris)
  • Sonny Boy (George Gard DeSylva, Lew Brown & Ray Henderson; from the film The Singing Fool starring Al Jolson)
  • When You're Smiling (lyrics by Mark Fisher and Joe Goodwin and music by Larry Shay)
  • Empty Bed Blues (J. C. Johnson)
  • I Wanna Be Loved By You (lyrics by Bert Kalmar and music by Herbert Stothart and Harry Ruby; from the musical Good Boy)
  • Makin’ Whoopee! (lyrics by Gus Khan and music by Walter Donaldson)
  • You’re My Necessity, You’re The Cream in My Coffee (George Gard DeSylva, Lew Brown & Ray Henderson; from the musical Hold Everything!)
  • I Can’t Give You Anything But Love, Baby (lyrics by Dorothy Fields and music by James Francis)
  • Ramona (lyrics by L. Wolfe Gilbert and music by Mabel Wayne)
  • There’s a Rainbow ‘Round My Shoulder (Al Jolson, Billy Rose, Dave Dreyer; from the film The Singing Fool)
  • Beau Koo Jack (lyrics by Walter Melrose and music by Alex Hill and Louis Armstrong)
  • Pick Pocket Blues (Bessie Smith)

Sound Recordings:

  • Charleston (recorded by James P. Johnson)
  • Yes! We Have No Bananas (recorded by Billy Jones; Furman and Nash; Eddie Cantor; Belle Baker; The Lanin Orchestra)
  • Who’s Sorry Now (recorded by Lewis James; The Happy Six; the Original Memphis Five)
  • Down Hearted Blues (recorded by Bessie Smith; Tennessee Ten)
  • Lawdy, Lawdy Blues (recorded by Ida Cox)
  • Southern Blues and Moonshine Blues (recorded by Ma Rainey)
  • Down South Blues (recorded by Hannah Sylvester; The Virginians)
  • Wolverine Blues (recorded by the Benson Orchestra of Chicago)
  • Tin Roof Blues (recorded by the New Orleans Rhythm Kings)
  • That American Boy of Mine and Parade of the Wooden Soldiers (recorded by Paul Whiteman and his Orchestra)
  • Dipper Mouth Blues and Froggie More (recorded by King Oliver’s Creole Jazz Band, featuring Louis Armstrong)
  • Bambalina (recorded by the Ray Miller Orchestra)
  • Swingin’ Down the Lane (recorded by the Isham Jones Orchestra; The Shannon Four; The Columbians)

This is a huge benefit for society.

Let me explain my comments about both Shakespeare and Melville, starting with Melville.

In 1851, Herman Melville published the novel Moby Dick, and it was a resounding critical and commercial failure, and remained out of the public eye.

In 1891, Melville died and Moby Dick was republished, again vanishing without a ripple.

Almost 30 years after his death, the novella Billy Budd, which was unfinished among his effects, creating a renaissance in his works, and Moby Dick was still available at that time, and critically reevaluated, and became the classic that almost everyone reads in high school today.

Under the current copyright regime, Moby Dick would have been caught in the layer of publication hell reserved for orphan works until 1951, by which time there might have been no more than a dozen copies extant.

And now onto Shakespeare:

William Shakespeare died in 1616 without heir, and his plays, generally considered to be low-brow entertainment, as all theater was at the time, were not published.

What remained were copies used by actors.

In 1623, these workes were assembled through the efforts of John Heminges and Henry Condel, members of Shakespeare's theater company, and published as the First Folio.

Under the current copyright statute, his works would not have entered the public domain for 100 years from the date of publication, which means that anyone with a memory of these this work, and more importantly anyone with a copy of his scripts, would have been dead.

The vast bulk of his work would have been lost for eternity, because ownership of the rights was unclear, and even if acting in good faith, anyone republishing could have been subject to hundreds of thousands of dollars in penalties, even though they had acted in the best of faith.

There is little to no money to be made for the rights holders publish, but there is ALWAYS enough in statutory penalties to support pursuing and suing anyone who wants to republish this.

So our cultural heritage is wiped out, because some people want those last few pennies.

F%$# that.

29 December 2023

Still Can't Build Planes

It looks like there may be loose bolts floating around the rudder mechanisms of Boeing 737 MAX aircraft.

This is not a surprise.  One of the MBA "Innovations" introduced by Boeing since its merger with McDonnell is the wholesale elimination of safety inspectors.

This happening was both predictable and predicted:

Boeing is asking airlines to inspect its 737 Max jets for a potential loose bolt in the rudder control system, the airplane maker and Federal Aviation Administration confirmed this week.

The FAA said it would be “closely monitoring” the targeted inspections. The agency said Thursday that Boeing issued its inspection guidance to airlines after an international operator found a bolt with a missing nut during routine maintenance. In a separate case, Boeing also discovered an undelivered aircraft that had a nut that was not properly tightened.

“The issue identified on the particular airplane has been remedied,” the Arlington, Virginia, company told The Associated Press on Friday. “Out of an abundance of caution, we are recommending operators inspect their 737 MAX airplanes and inform us of any findings.”

Next time I fly, it's Airbus, or Embraer, or Comac, or Joe's Bar and Grill.

If it's Boeing, I ain't going.

Live in Obedient Fear, Citizin

Did you know that your pharmacy is giving law enforcement warantless access to your medical records?

So, if your Cop ex-spouse wants a copy of your prescription records in order to contest custody arrangements, for example, all they have to do is ask.

I do not find this reassuring:

All of the big pharmacy chains in the US hand over sensitive medical records to law enforcement without a warrant—and some will do so without even running the requests by a legal professional, according to a congressional investigation.

The revelation raises grave medical privacy concerns, particularly in a post-Dobbs era in which many states are working to criminalize reproductive health care. Even if people in states with restrictive laws cross state lines for care, pharmacists in massive chains, such as CVS, can access records across borders.

Lawmakers noted the pharmacies' policies for releasing medical records in a letter dated Tuesday to the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Xavier Becerra. The letter—signed by Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.), and Rep. Sara Jacobs (D-Calif.)—said their investigation pulled information from briefings with eight big prescription drug suppliers.

They include the seven largest pharmacy chains in the country: CVS Health, Walgreens Boots Alliance, Cigna, Optum Rx, Walmart Stores, Inc., The Kroger Company, and Rite Aid Corporation. The lawmakers also spoke with Amazon Pharmacy.

All eight of the pharmacies said they do not require law enforcement to have a warrant prior to sharing private and sensitive medical records, which can include the prescription drugs a person used or uses and their medical conditions. Instead, all the pharmacies hand over such information with nothing more than a subpoena, which can be issued by government agencies and does not require review or approval by a judge.

Some members of Congress are concerned by this and are asking the Department of Health and Human Services to declare that such data is private.

I would not hold my breath on this one.  HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra has a long history of opposition to meaningful regulation of law enforcement.


The “required by law” phrase is important here. Law enforcement agencies have their own legal interpretations of the Third Party Doctrine, but none of that matters much in the case of HIPAA. All it would take to prevent pharmacy chains from handing out this data without a warrant would be the federal Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) taking this out of the Third Party Doctrine’s hands and placing a presumption of privacy on it.

That’s the gist of the letter [PDF] recently sent to HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra by Senator Ron Wyden, Rep. Pramila Jaypal, and Rep. Sara Jacobs. It cites a bit of courtroom and private company precedent to urge this situation along.
We urge HHS to consider further strengthening its HIPAA regulations to more closely align them with Americans’ reasonable expectations of privacy and Constitutional principles. Pharmacies can and should insist on a warrant, and invite law enforcement agencies that insist on demanding patient medical records with solely a subpoena to go to court to enforce that demand. The requirement for a warrant is exactly the approach taken by tech companies to protect customer privacy. In 2010, after just one Federal Court of Appeals held that Americans have a reasonable expectation of privacy in their emails and that the 1986 Congressionally enacted law permitting disclosures of email pursuant to a subpoena was unconstitutional, all of the major free email providers — Google, Yahoo, and Microsoft — started insisting on a warrant before disclosing such data.
Looks pretty simple. All that’s needed is a change of policy, even if there’s no change in law. The problem with this, though, is that the head of the HHS has had plenty of time to change this policy to erect a higher standard for demands for customers’ information. The letter notes the legislators first informed Becerra of this potential issue in July, following the Dobbs decision in June, hoping the HHS would erect more protections to prevent people from being prosecuted for obtaining birth control products.

Unfortunately, unless and until a Republican lawmaker's drug habit becomes public as a result of this loophole, Congress will not pass any legislation preventing this abuse of process.


How right wingers talk about power while never acknowledging that it is about power:

28 December 2023

It's Thursday, So

It's time for the weekly unemployment numbers, with initial claims rising by 12,000 to 218000, with the continuing claims rising by 14,000 to 1.875 million.  The 4-week moving average was basically flat, falling 250 to 212,000.

I'm still a pessimist on the economy, though my predictions mean nothing, because I am an engineer, not an economist, dammit.*

I am still thinking that a recession is likely, particularly with increased weakness in real estate, (Particularly in commercial real estate) but I am as uninformed as the next bloke.


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

Deep Thought on Piracy

Isn't that special

So long as the paid experience is worse than the unpaid experience, this will continue.

At the beginning of the month, Sony announced that it would be deleting content from the Discovery Channel that users had purchased. (They backtracked on this after securing a last minute licensing deal)

Note that this was purchased content, it was supposed to be like a DVD, or a physical book, but because our digital economy is based on the idea of continuing and increasing rents, you own nothing.

Sony announced on Monday that it would remove all Discovery content, including shows like “MythBusters” and “Deadliest Catch,” from user libraries, even if they had been purchased on the PlayStation Store.

The company, which owns and operates PlayStation game consoles, said in a brief statement that the Discovery shows would be deleted on Dec. 31, attributing the decision to “our content licensing arrangements with content providers.”


Some PlayStation console users expressed frustration with Sony for taking away content that already had been purchased. One user posted on social media that they were expecting a full refund for products bought on the PlayStation. Another wrote that the message from Sony to customers was essentially, “If you ‘purchased’ any of these titles via PlayStation, they are going to disappear soon and too bad for you.”


The erasure of Discovery content has raised questions about what it means to “own” digital products and highlighted how customers are increasingly at the mercy of licensing arrangements between media companies and online stores.

Gee, ya think?

Quoting Tyler James Hill by way of Cory Doctorow,  "If buying isn't owning, piracy isn't stealing."

It never was stealing.  At its worst, it was a violation of a license for exclusivity.

Lobby your Congressmen, and get them to pull out of WIPO and roll back the increasingly draconian IP restrictions that have been implemented over the past 60 years.

Yeah, “Insufficient,” Is Kind of Their Thing

Consumer Reports has looked at Tesla's massive recall over its dangerous self driving technology, and determined that it is essentially a Potemkin recall which addresses none of the problems noted by the NHTSA.

This is not a surprise.  Tesla has been treating its customers, and its employees as disposable since it started selling cars:

Tesla’s fix for its Autopilot recall of more than 2 million vehicles is being called “insufficient” by Consumer Reports, following preliminary tests.

Kelly Funkhouser, the nonprofit organization’s associate director of vehicle technology, tells TechCrunch she discovered it’s still possible to cover the cabin camera while using Autopilot, meaning drivers can neutralize one of the two main ways the car monitors if they are paying attention to the road.

What’s more, Funkhouser says she did not notice any differences when activating or using Autopilot’s flagship feature, Autosteer, outside of the controlled-access highways where Tesla says the software is designed to be used.

While the testing isn’t comprehensive, it shows questions remain unanswered about Tesla’s approach to driver monitoring — the tech at the heart of the recall.

I expect Apartheid Era Emerald Heir Pedo Guy™ to hit CU with a SLAPP suit in the next few days, because that's kind of his thing. 

Really though, just stop letting Tesla use the general public as beta testers.

There Is Nothing That They Cannot Ruin

What a surprise.  When private equity firms buy hospitals, the quality of healthcare goes to sh%$.

There are more infections, more bedsores, more falls, though, interestingly enough, not more deaths.

If I had a guess, that last bit is from the PE firms adopting policies to get the very sick out the door as soon as possible, but that just my cynicism speaking:

The rate of serious medical complications increased in hospitals after they were purchased by private equity investment firms, according to a major study of the effects of such acquisitions on patient care in recent years.

The study, published in JAMA on Tuesday, found that, in the three years after a private equity fund bought a hospital, adverse events including surgical infections and bed sores rose by 25 percent among Medicare patients when compared with similar hospitals that were not bought by such investors. The researchers reported a nearly 38 percent increase in central line infections, a dangerous kind of infection that medical authorities say should never happen, and a 27 percent increase in falls by patients while staying in the hospital.

“We were not surprised there was a signal,” said Dr. Sneha Kannan, a health care researcher and physician at the division of pulmonary and critical care at Massachusetts General Hospital, who was the paper’s lead author. “I will say we were surprised at how strong it was.”

Although the researchers found a significant rise in medical errors, they also saw a slight decrease (of nearly 5 percent) in the rate of patients who died during their hospital stay. The researchers believe other changes, like a shift toward healthier patients admitted to the hospitals, could explain that decline. And by 30 days after patients were discharged, there was no significant difference in the death rates between hospitals.

The key quote from the JAMA study about the death rates is, "Medicare beneficiaries at private equity hospitals were modestly younger, less likely to have dual eligibility for Medicare and Medicaid, and transferred more to other acute care hospitals relative to control, likely reflecting a lower-risk population of admitted beneficiaries. This potentially explained a small relative reduction for in-hospital mortality that dissipated by 30 days after hospital discharge."

PE instituted aggressive cherry picking policies.  Hoocoodanode?

We need to change bankruptcy laws so that predatory entities like PE and hedge funds don't get to suck the marrow out a business, and walk away Scot free as that business descends into insolvency.

This is not essential investment, this is destructive speculation.

2 and Counting

Still not comfortable with the precedent, but I will enjoy the conservative butt-hurt that is soon to follow Maine secretary of state's decision to bar Donald Trump from the Presidential primary ballot.

Pass the popcorn:
Secretary of State Shenna Bellows, in Augusta last January, acknowledged in her ruling Thursday that no secretary of state has ever deprived a presidential candidate of ballot access based on Section 3 of the 14th Amendment.

Secretary of State Shenna Bellows issued a ruling Thursday night barring former President Donald Trump from appearing on Maine’s March 5, 2024, presidential primary ballot.

Bellows, a Democrat, became the first state election official to conclude that Trump’s primary petition is invalid, ruling that he is not qualified to hold the office of the president under Section 3 of the 14th Amendment. Trump’s campaign say it will challenge her ruling in state court.

Her decision makes Maine just the second state in the country to bar Trump from the ballot. Earlier this month, the Colorado Supreme Court booted Trump from the ballot under the same Civil War-era provision of the Constitution.

“I conclude … that the record establishes that Mr. Trump, over the course of several months and culminating on January 6, 2021, used a false narrative of election fraud to inflame his supporters and direct them to the Capitol to prevent certification of the 2020 election and the peaceful transfer of power,” Bellows said in the statement she issued Thursday night. “I likewise conclude that Mr. Trump was aware of the likelihood for violence and at least initially supported its use given he both encouraged it with incendiary rhetoric and took no timely action to stop it.

Much like the case in Colorado, I don't expect this to stand.

The Supreme Court, which has bent over backwards to defend Republican electoral manipulation (Bush v. Gore) will leave skid marks in their haste to overturn their prior precedents.

Still, until this happens, I will enjoy seeing the 'Phants trolled.

OMFG, Someone Stupider than Ben Shapiro

Today in stopped clocks being right twice a day, right wing nutjob Ben Shapero engages in a debate at Oxford, and gets a student debating him to argue that the British did not bomb civilians in World War II.

This assertion is so completely ludicrous, that the crowd, who are primed to meet Ben Shapiro with mockery and derision, as all people of good will are inclined to do, publicly makes it clear that this woman is a complete prat.

You could watch the video below, but honestly, I do not want to inflict that sort of pain on my reader(s), so here is a transcript of this brief exchange.

Palestinian Advocate: It's clearly unjust what the IDF has been doing to the Palestinians because there's a vast disparity between the number of Palestinians being killed and the number of Israelis.
Ben Shapiro: I mean I would certainly hope that Israel is killing more Hamas ………
Palestinian Advocate: This isn't a conflict this isn't a conflict this is one-sided ethnic cleansing.
Ben Shapiro: Again, I'm just asking you if based on the numbers more Germans died than Brits in World War II.
Did that mean that British the British were wrong in World War II because they did. Many more Germans side than Brits,
Based on the numbers that mean that Britain was wrong in World War II?
Palestinian Advocate: In World War II, Britain wasn't bombing civilian … civilians. There’s a clear difference.

Completely Loses the Crowd

Ben Shapiro: You should talk to you should talk to the people in Dresden, but you can't ‘cause they're dead.


The stoopid, it burns.


27 December 2023

I Attribute This to Diet, Not the Divine

While delivering a fire and brimstone condemnation of Israel on the floor of the Turkish parliament, and after declaring that, "Israel will suffer Allah’s wrath," right wing Turkish MP Hasan Bitmes suffered a heart attack and later died in hospital.

He was 53.

I have a few points to make:

  • I don't believe that God smites people like this.
  • I am in agreement with Abraham Lincoln, who said, "My concern is not whether God is on our side; my greatest concern is to be on God's side"
  • If God were smiting people for stuff like this, a good quarter of the members of Congress would be pushing up daisies.

I will say that my initial reaction upon hearing this news was significantly more ……… Biblical ……… than what I stated above, but (for once) I decided not to let my initial appraisal of the situation inform what I wrote.

But Texas is Still Texas

Corrupt Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton is demanding Seattle Children’s Hospital case files in order to prosecute parents pursuing gender affirming care.

The hospital is suing to stop him:

A new lawsuit by Seattle Children’s pits the hospital against the Texas Attorney General’s Office, amid a national fight over privacy for children seeking gender-affirming care.

In the lawsuit, filed this month in Travis County District Court in Texas, Seattle Children’s is aiming to protect patient information of Texans who left their home state, where it’s illegal for minors to access gender-affirming care, to seek treatment here, where it is legal.

It also invokes Washington’s new shield law, legislation state lawmakers approved earlier this year to protect hospitals from being forced to share information about transgender and gender-diverse children who are seeking medical care. Many Democrat-led states have passed similar shield laws, fearing that people crossing state lines for abortions and gender-affirming care could be prosecuted as more Republican-led states continue to pass laws restricting access to these services.

Children’s filed the new lawsuit after the office of Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton served the hospital with a civil investigative demand in late November, according to the complaint. The request sought information about patients from Texas who had received gender-affirming care services from Children’s, including details related to diagnoses, medications prescribed, laboratory testing and other treatment protocols.

Why this son of a bitch is allowed to demand anything from anyone is beyond me.

Burying the Lede

Over at The New York Times, they have an article about how Obamacare enrollment is surging.

What they bury, in the 2nd and 3rd to last paragraphs in the article, are the reason that this is happening.

People are being thrown off Medicaid in record numbers:


The Affordable Care Act’s marketplaces have become particularly valuable to the people losing Medicaid coverage this year after a federal policy that guaranteed coverage earlier in the pandemic lapsed in April.

The millions of people dropping off Medicaid rolls has contributed to the uptick in marketplace enrollment, Ms. Cox said, and to surges during normally sleepier periods outside open enrollment. (Certain life events, such as the sudden loss of other health coverage, allow some Americans to get new plans outside the open enrollment period.)

(emphasis mine)

The lede should be, "Millions forced off Medicaid," not, "Americans Are Signing Up for Obamacare in Record Numbers."

This is journalistic and editorial malpractice.

Ecch (Tweet) of the Day

This wins the internet.

This is also marvelously gay, in both senses of the word.

I Gotta Agree with Texas Republicans On This One

This is number 3 on the list of things that I never thought that I would say.

Republicans in a number of areas in Texas are considering hand counting ballots, and various voting experts are predicting an apocalypse.

These "Experts Think" think that it will be too slow, (47,587,254 ballots in the UK in one evening in their last general election), too prone to fraud, (Vote counting is public), or too expensive (Costs less than the purchase and licenses for computerized voting machines).

Also, clearly the experts are not IT folks:

Link to original

The obvious question is whether or not Republicans would use hand counting in an attempt to subvert elections, and the obvious answer is, "Yes."

That being said the Republicans have used EVERY aspect of voting in an attempt to subvert elections, including purging legitimate voters, colluding with America's enemies during conflict, systematically under-supplying voting infrastructure to Democratic Party areas, criminalizing voting assistance, Gerrymandering, etc.

With paper ballots, the subversion has to be done one ballot at a time.  With computers, you can do this in bulk.

It should also be noted

Even without the obvious points, that paper ballots marked by hand are cheaper, can be counted almost as quickly, and are less vulnerable to large scale fraud, paper ballots are more credible to large sections of the populace than any form of electronic voting.

Counting paper ballots is a process that is understood by everyone, while electronic voting machines are black boxes whose internal workings are trade secrets carefully kept away from the public.

While it may take a few hours longer to count the vote, and while there are costs for securely storing ballots for some time after the elections, the advantages of paper ballots outweigh both of these.

26 December 2023

Netanyahu F%$#ed Up

In addition to all the other intelligence failures that led to the October 7 Hamas attack, it appears that the merry band of incompetents that Netanyahu brought in failed to find a tunnel large enough to drive a car through that came within 400m of a major Israeli border check point.

This is what happens when you select crucial personnel, and loyalty and political machinations take precedence over competence: 

The Israeli military said Sunday it has discovered a large tunnel shaft in Gaza close to what was once a busy crossing into Israel, raising new questions about how Israeli surveillance missed such conspicuous preparations by Hamas for the militants’ deadly Oct. 7 assault.

The entryway to the tunnel is just a few hundred yards from the heavily fortified Erez crossing and a nearby Israeli military base.

The military said it stretches for over 2.5 miles, links up with a sprawling tunnel network across Gaza and is wide enough for cars to pass through. The army said Sunday that the tunnel facilitated the transit of vehicles, militants, and supplies in preparation for the Oct. 7 attack.


Maj. Nir Dinar, a military spokesperson, said that Israeli security services did not know about the tunnel before Oct. 7 because Israel’s border defenses only detected tunnels meant to enter Israel.

“As far as I know, this tunnel doesn’t cross from Gaza into Israel and stops within 400 meters from the border, which means the indicators won’t indicate that a tunnel is being built,” Dinar said. He added that the entrance, a circular cement opening leading to a cavernous passageway, was located under a garage, hiding it from Israeli drones and satellite images.

Get Bibi out of office and into jail.

Your Mouth to God's Ear, Mr. Senator

Jeff Merkly (D-OR) has submitted a bill that would fine any company that owns more than 100 single family homes.

It is an attempt to get Wall Street and hedge funds out of the landlord business.

It's nice that he is looking at resolving this problem, but the bill as I understand it would not do so, because of corporate shell games that these organizations routinely play.

Splitting their businesses into a plethora of corporations and LLCs for tax and regulatory purposes is already routine in the business:

As millions of Americans struggle to afford rent and mortgage rates, U.S. Sen. Jeff Merkley on Wednesday unveiled legislation intended to stop major Wall Street investors and hedge fund predators from continuing to exacerbate the nation's housing crisis.


Merkley's End Hedge Fund Control of American Homes Act aims to prevent rich investors from taking advantage of renters and limiting homeownership by creating a $20,000 federal tax penalty for each single-family home owned in excess of 100--money that would go toward helping first-time homebuyers with down payments.

"Following the 2008 housing crisis, large private equity hedge funds bought large portfolios of foreclosed homes," notes a fact sheet from his office. "Regrettably, the federal government enabled this growth through bulk sales of federally-backed mortgages and foreclosed properties."

"While some of our housing challenges, including a supply shortage, will take years to remedy," the document states, "others can be addressed immediately, including a strong ban on hedge funds owning and controlling large parts of the American housing market."

Even implementation of Merkley's plan would take some time, given how much housing is already owned by Wall Street. Recognizing the need for "an orderly exit from the housing investment market," the bill would allow for sales over the next several years.

The devil on these sorts of things is always in the details.

Also, limiting this to single family homes ignores the huge number of renters who live in duplexes, apartment complexes, and town-houses.

Still, it's a good start.

Support the Troops, Huh?

In 2007, the Worcester Wreath Company had a problem.  They had just lost their contract with L.L. Bean, who had previously been responsible for 90% of their sales.

Their solution was to create a 501(C)3 charity, Wreaths Across America, and then use this charity to aggressively solicit people to put wreaths on dead soldiers graves.

The thing is, Wreaths Across America only buys from the Worcester Wreath Company, and as such, their prices are not what one would call competitive.

The technical term for this is self-dealing, and if the appropriate regulators executed their duties as they are supposed to, this would result in a loss of charity status or perhaps jail time.

Wreaths Across America is a non-profit organization that places wreaths on the graves of military veterans. It's a simple gesture that has proven popular. Wreaths Across America placed 33,000 wreaths in 2007, its first year. This year, the organization expects to place 2.9 million wreaths at 4,225 cemeteries across all 50 states, a spokesperson for the organization tells Popular Information.

According to Wreaths Across America, wreath-laying is a "simple act of gratitude" that "brings together communities and supports local veterans and military families." But while the wreaths provide symbolic support for veterans and military families, the overwhelming majority of the over $30 million raised in the fiscal year that ended in June 2022 goes to Worcester Wreath Company, which produces the wreaths.

Wreaths Across America was founded in 2007 by members of the Worcester family, owners of the Worcester Wreath Company. The creation of the Wreaths Across America occurred around the same time that Worcester Wreath Company lost its contract with L.L. Bean, which accounted for 90% of Worcester Resources' wreath sales. Rob Worcester, a co-owner of Worcester Wreath Company, said that the loss of L.L. Bean's business following a legal dispute left the firm "in dire straights." The wreath-laying charity, he said, "allowed us to get our feet back under us." Rob Worcester's wife is a member of the Wreaths Across America board.

Nothing fishy here:

In fiscal year 2022, $20,605,527 of the money raised by Wreaths Across America went directly to Worcester Wreath Company. Most of the rest of the funds went to marketing, overhead, and staff salaries.


Beginning in 2017, Wreaths Across America began soliciting a "request for proposals" (RFP) every three years to supply wreaths. Several members of the non-profit board who are also employees of Worcester Wreath Company, along with Karen Worchester, are formally recused from this process. This, Wreaths Across America says, ensures that "Wreaths Across America receives the most advantageous terms in it's [sic] purchase of wreaths to further it's [sic] charitable purpose."

But for the first RFP, Worcester Wreath Company was the only company that submitted a proposal. "We have certain standards that we look for and for other [companies] to follow that would be difficult,” board chair Wayne Hanson said. Worcester Wreath Company has also won all subsequent RFPs.

But wait, there's more, it appears that Worcester Wreath Company has a dangerous workplace:


The Worcester Wreath Company also has a record of workplace safety and labor violations. In May 2022, the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) fined the company $11,500 in connection with a COVID outbreak that left one employee dead and more than 80 workers sick.

According to records obtained by the Maine Monitor, the company failed to report the wreath worker’s death to OSHA within the required eight hours. It also did not “conduct contact tracing to determine who she had been in contact with.” In addition, an OSHA investigator found that–even after the outbreak–the company refused to enforce its mask policy “despite the CDC’s warnings and guidance regarding the usage of masks in close quarters.” The official concluded that the company’s response was “an act of simple indifference” and pointed out that Worcester Wreath Company had received prior citations in 2017 and 2019 for “failing to maintain illness and injury records.”

“This standard has always been a very-back burner issue for the employer as seen in its prior violations and in the manner it has dealt with the citations with OSHA,” the official wrote.

Worcester Wreath Company received reporting violations again in 2023. In March and April, OSHA imposed $24,000 in penalties against Worcester Wreath for “two reporting violations.” The bulk of this amount, about $22,000, was for “failing to publicly post a report on work-related injuries and illnesses earlier this year” the Maine Monitor reports. Similar to the COVID penalty, this incident was deemed a “willful violation,” meaning that investigators found that the company was acting with “purposeful disregard” or “plain indifference.”

In 2018, the U.S. Department of Labor ordered the company to pay “$55,654.16 in back wages to 95 employees” to resolve overtime violations. The same year, seasonal migrant workers at the company have also claimed that they were subject to “repeated sexual harassment by a crew boss contracted by Worcester Wreath Company.” The workers allege they were fired and kicked out of employer-owned housing for raising these concerns.

It appears that the Fox News darlings, both Karen and Morrill Worcester are regularly on the cable network, have been using public money, 501(C)3 donations (including the wreath purchases) are tax deductible as a marketing tactic for their own for profit purposes.

In the non-profit world, this is supposed to be a, "No-No."

It isn't, one only need to look at the the supposedly non-profit charter schools set up around the country, or the various foundations set up by silly-con valley tech bros.

The unwillingness of the IRS and the DoJ to pursue this sort of fraud is a real and serious prob lem.

Why We Have Juries, Antitrust Edition

Because when juries look at anti-competitive and blatantly unfair behavior, they don't refer to Robert Bork's morally bankrupt theories on competition, they convict Google, while the judge in the Apple case decided that because there were no consumers involved, no harm and no foul.

It also did not help Google's case that they, as they have done many times before, systematically destroyed evidence:

Epic Games has won its antitrust battle against Google.

The case was heard by the United States District Court for the Northern District of California. As The Register has reported, the matter tested Epic's allegations that Google stifles competition by requiring developers to pay it commissions even if they use third-party payment services, and paid some developers to secure their exclusive presence on the Play store.

The case commenced in early November and on Monday a nine-member jury found in Epic's favor.


In [Epic Games CEO Tim] Sweeney's telling, the jurors heard "evidence that Google was willing to pay billions of dollars to stifle alternative app stores by paying developers to abandon their own store efforts and direct distribution plans, and offering highly lucrative agreements with device manufacturers in exchange for excluding competing app stores."


The dispute started in 2020 when Google ditched Epic's mega-hit Fortnite from the Play store after the game's developer implemented third-party payment options for in-game purchases – circumventing Google Play’s facilities for such payments. Google asserted Epic's actions contravened its terms and conditions. Epic fought back with its antitrust argument.

As the dispute unfolded, Google seemingly conceded by introducing a scheme called user choice billing that allowed some apps to access third-party payment services. But Google still charged commission on those payments, arguing that the cost of operating its Play store justified the charges.

This has also led to a settlement between Google and a gaggle of plaintiffs in a related antitrust suit:

Google is to pay $700 million and overhaul some policies to settle the Play Store antitrust lawsuit launched by US states and consumers.

The September settlement, made public this week, includes $630 million that Google will pay into a fund to be distributed for the benefit of consumers, and $70 million is headed to a fund to be used by the states.

The lawsuit was initially lodged against Google in 39 jurisdictions, according to the settlement [PDF], before 50 states, the District of Columbia, and two territories decided to join "because they believe it will enhance competition in the relevant market and properly redress consumers' injuries."

The crux of the case was the allegation that Google entered into anti-competitive contracts with OEMs and mobile service providers to stop other app stores from being preloaded on Android devices. This meant consumers were forced to use the Google Play Store. According to the allegations in the settlement, this enabled Google "to extract enormous sums from consumers" through the 30 percent cut the Chocolate Factory demands from every purchase.

The terms of the settlement are broad. As well as paying the money, Google will have to stump up for an Independent Compliance Professional (ICP) to monitor the company's activities for the next five years.

It must also continue to allow sideloading of apps and third-party app stores for at least seven years and maintain Android OS support for those third-party app stores. It must also not enter into exclusivity deals with OEMs for at least five years. 
It's a good start.

$155 Million Busting Token Suckers

Your tax dollars at work
Because hizonner, Eric Adams, Mayor of the City of New York, wants to look tough on crime, he has authorized a massive police presence on the subway, resulting in overtime pay for police on this duty going from $4,000,000.00 to 155,000,000.00, with the most of the effort going to pursue fare evaders.

Even by the standards of recent Mayors of New York, Giuliani, Bloomberg, and de Blasio, Adams is a complete ass-monkey.

NYPD overtime pay for extra officers in the subway went from $4 million in 2022 to $155 million this year, according to city records obtained by Gothamist.

The new spending was part of a push by Mayor Eric Adams and Gov. Kathy Hochul to reduce crime and crack down on New Yorkers sleeping in the transit system – in part by flooding the subways with uniformed NYPD officers working overtime shifts.

The influx of officers corresponded to a 2% drop in what police call “major” crimes in the subway, including robbery, rape and murder. But the most marked effect of adding officers was a skyrocketing number of tickets and arrests for fare evasion. Police officials said they count that as a success.

Of course they count it as a success.  They got paid overtime for this bullsh%$ job. 

I really hope that Eric Adams' complete uselessness won't somehow lead to the revival of "Rat Faced Andy" Cuomo's career.

He is making noise about running for Mayor the next time around.

25 December 2023

Macron in Neoliberal Political Endgame

Emmanuel Macron's agenda has always been straightforward.  Make the rich richer, and make the ordinary folk work longer and for less money. 

Now that the bloom is off that rose (what took them so long), Macron is adopting the anti-immigrant policies of the far-right National Rally Party. (Formerly the National Front)

It's pretty clear that he sees Marine Le Pen as his most worrying political threat, and he is adopting her policies in an attempt to neutralize her.

Here is hoping that it does not work, and that Le Pen does not make it to the runoff this time around:

The French government is facing a political crisis after the health minister Aurélien Rousseau offered his resignation in protest over a hardline immigration bill.

Emmanuel Macron’s ruling centrist party was divided and soul-searching on Wednesday after a strict new immigration law was approved by parliament but contained so many hardline measures that the far-right Marine Le Pen claimed it as an “ideological victory” for her own anti-immigration platform.


His interior minister Gérald Darmanin had argued that the bill “protected the French”, saying the government had to take tough measures on immigration in order to stem the rise of Le Pen’s anti-immigration far-right National Rally, which is now the single biggest opposition party in parliament and polling in first position ahead of next year’s European elections.

But after opposition parties refused to even debate the immigration bill in parliament last week, a compromise text was swiftly drawn up by a special parliamentary committee. As a result, the centrist government put forward a much tougher, right-wing bill which reduced access to welfare benefits for foreigners, toughened rules for foreign students, introduced migration quotas, made it harder for the children of non-nationals born in France to become French, and ruled that dual nationals sentenced for serious crimes against the police could lose French citizenship.

Why would the opposition debate the bill?  The left is opposed to the crack-down, and Le Pen and her merry band of Fascists gain nothing by negotiating.

So Macron blinked, because he had no alternative.

The last two 'graphs of the article say it all:


Opposition politicians on the left pointed out that when Macron was re-elected for a second-term in 2022, he had acknowledged that many voters chose him not for his own ideas but to keep out the far-right ideas of his opponent Marine Le Pen.

Cyrielle Chatelain, a Green MP, told parliament there was a feeling of “shame and betrayal” that Macron had instead brought in the ideas of the far-right with this bill.

Trust me on this, because as an American, I have had a lot of experience with this, when you make a decision to run candidates who stand for nothing, because the other side is perceived as frightening, eventually, these nothings will be forced to adopt core policies of the opposition, because they have no foundation to stand on.

I can think of no better examples of this than Bill Clinton, (Eviscerating welfare, anti-union, repealing Glass-Steagall, etc.), and Barack Obama. (Get out of jail free for fraud and torture, anti-union, in bed with the health insurance companies and big pharma, support for forever wars, etc.)

A Christmas Gift for Democracy

Not in the least contiguous
On a 4-3 vote, divided on partisan lines, the Wisconsin Supreme Court has overturned the Republican Gerrymander.

Interestingly enough, this is not subject to Supreme Court review, because it is based on a specific section of the state constitution, and the Supreme Court does not do state constitutional issues. 

In article IV, which defines the legislative branch, sections 4 and 5 state in explicit language that the districts for state representatives and state senators must be contiguous:

Section 4
The members of the assembly shall be chosen biennially, by single districts, on the Tuesday succeeding the first Monday of November in even− numbered years, by the qualified electors of the several districts, such districts to be bounded by county, precinct, town or ward lines, to consist of contiguous territory and be in as compact form as practicable.

Section 5
The senators shall be elected by single districts of convenient contiguous territory, at the same time and in the same manner as members of the assembly are required to be chosen; and no assembly district shall be divided in the formation of a senate district. The senate districts shall be numbered in the regular series, and the senators shall be chosen alternately from the odd and even−numbered districts for the term of 4 years.

(Emphasis mine)

The requirement that districts be contiguous is right there in the text of the Wisconsin Constitution. It seems to me that this is what is called black letter law.  It is explicit and definitive.

The requirement for compactness is a bit less clear, given that the, "As compact form as practicable," seems to give the legislature more wiggle room.

Wisconsin’s Republican-drawn legislative district boundaries are unconstitutional and must be redrawn before next year’s elections, the Wisconsin Supreme Court decided in a landmark ruling Friday that could dramatically alter the makeup of the Legislature.

In a 4-3 decision, the state’s highest court ruled the current, Republican-drawn maps violate the Wisconsin Constitution’s requirement that legislative districts be contiguous.

The decision marks a big political win for Democrats. Redistricting experts have said new maps drawn under nonpartisan principles are likely to give Democrats many more legislative seats, though Republicans are still likely to keep the majority given the state’s political geography. Under the current maps Republicans hold a 64-35 majority in the Assembly and a 22-11 supermajority in the Senate.


“At least 50 assembly districts and at least 20 senate districts include separate, detached parts,” Karofsky wrote in the majority opinion. “That is to say, a majority of the districts in both the assembly and the senate” violate the constitutional requirement for districts to be contiguous.

Of course, the self-described originalist Republican judges are whining about following the explicit text in the constitution, because ……… The Aristocrats!


“The court of four takes a wrecking ball to the law, making no room, nor having any need, for longstanding practices, procedures, traditions, the law, or even their co-equal fellow branches of government,” she [Judge Annette Ziegler] said. “Such power-hungry activism is dangerous to our constitutional framework and undermines the judiciary.”

Shorter version of their demented tirades, "How dare judges follow the law as written!"

I've got the world's smallest violin just for you, you contemptible partisan hack.