28 February 2024

I Hope That This Applies to Cops Too


What about other obligations to protect?
I'm a bit late to this, I only became aware of Jennifer Crumbley's conviction of involuntary manslaaughter for her role in her son's mass shooting when I saw Leagle Eagle's video on the topic. (I follow him on YouTube)

One question that was not answered, and one that  immediately came to mind, was that if parents have a duty to protect, why don't police officers.

It is a clear Supreme Court precedent, coming from The Town of Castle Rock v. Gonzales, that the police have no obligation to protect the public.

Jennifer Crumbley does appear to be a horrible person, and a horrible person, but her career was not to, "Protect and Serve." 

I am not suggesting that she should not have been convicted, and that she should not go to jail.

What I AM suggesting is that police should be subject to at least as much legal scrutiny.


Joe Biden has Slowed Down. That is just a fact.

That being said, I do not think that his slowing down is an artifact of any age related infirmity.

I think that it is the result of over two decades of hard work.

The younger Joe Biden was a human gaffe machine, and while the press loved this, it is clear that Joe Biden did not, so he has spent the last (at least) 20 years teaching himself to take a pause and think about what he says before he says it.

It's not disability, it's self discipline.

The next time someone comments on this, your response should be, "Yeah, no more gaffes.  How'd he do that?  My kids would like to know, so that I can stop embarrassing the hell out of them."

Another Primary

And another Trump under-performance, this time in Michigan, where he once again did not get the votes that polling indicated.

Hopefully, this means that there will be a fair number of Republicans who will stay home in November, but as the child of J.R. "Those idiots nominated Nixon again, there's no way that they can win" Saroff, I do not that I am genetically predisposed to profoundly wrong predictions.

27 February 2024

There is Nothing Puzzling About This

I don't know why they headlined the story, "Covid Made Heart Disease Deadlier, Puzzling Scientists," when there is no reason for it to be a puzzle.

It has been known since the virus was first observed that Covid-19 attacks epithelial cells, particularly those in the lungs and lining the blood vessels.

It works a lot like smoking, and much like smoking, it gives you lung problems and circulatory system programs.

It would be nice if Bloomberg's reporters had a clue:

Almost three weeks before Covid-19 was reported to be spreading in the US, Patricia Cabello Dowd dropped dead in the kitchen of her San Jose, California, home. A previously healthy 57-year-old, Dowd had complained of body aches and flu-like symptoms days earlier, but nothing could explain why she died so suddenly.

Lab results 10 weeks later revealed Dowd, a manager at a Silicon Valley semiconductor firm, was one of the first US Covid fatalities. Inflammation of the heart muscle led to a finger-sized rupture which caused lethal hemorrhage, an autopsy report showed.

Her death portended an alarming pattern: Not only did the pandemic result in the most deaths in a century, but it also triggered a wave of deadly cardiovascular and metabolic illness. While cases like Dowd’s were known from the start, mortality data of the last four years are now revealing the scale of the impact. 

This is not a surprise.  We had amputations due to circulatory system failures early in the epidemic.

We had unexplained pulmonary embolisms, strokes, etc. very early in the pandemic, but this reporter takes the comments from the doctor that they interviewed that, "It’s unclear how many people died from Covid’s cardiovascular complications and how many died because of its indirect consequences, such as disrupted medical care and worsening rates of obesity and high blood pressure," as serious scientific statements.

They are not.  They are an evasion of scientific fact, because these doctors don't want to be in the crosshairs of the "Covid is over," crowd.

Learn to call bullsh%$ when you see it.

It Appears that I Never Learn

I spent most of the day reteaching myself the equations for a plane, and the equations for the distance from a point to that plane.

Back to the forgotten lessons of high school trigonometry class.

I now remember why I forgot them.

(on edit)

Yeah, it's also linear algebra, which I took circa 1982.

End Stage Empire

Women in the US are dying earlier than members of earlier generations.

This is what happens when your society is regressing to a feudal state.

For decades, young women in the US saw sharp progress in their health and safety with each passing generation, but that momentum has now reversed for millennials.

That's according to a November 30 report published by the Washington DC-based non-profit Population Reference Bureau, which studied the well-being of women aged 25 to 34 from each generation of Americans.

It found that women born between 1981 and 1999 — widely classified as millennials — have seen the first drop in well-being since the Silent Generation as they live through young adulthood.

"Women today are more likely to die during their late 20s and early 30s than at any other point in the previous three generations," said the report.

The death rate has risen in parallel with a startling increase in maternal mortality rates among women aged 25 to 34, with 30.4 deaths due to pregnancy complications out of 100,000 births for millennials, the report said.

That's compared to 21 deaths per 100,000 births for the Silent Generation — or women who were born during and before World War II — and 7.5 for baby boomers and 9.2 for Generation X when they were aged 25 to 34.

That's our for profit healthcare system, and network of parasites like insurance companies and pharmacy benefit managers sucking the marrow out of society.

………

And homicide rates for millennial women rose to 4.5 deaths per 100,000 women aged 25 to 34, compared to 4.3 deaths for Gen X women when they were the same age, according to PRB.

Well, gun company profits have to come from somewhere. 

This is beginning to sound a lot like the USSR circa 1991.

26 February 2024

Break Out the Cuffs, Ponch

It has been known for some time that special purpose acquisition companies (SPAC) are less an investment technique than they were regulatory arbitrage.

Basically,  it was all a scam.

Unfortunately, no one is going to jail: 

Yet another Wall Street investment fad has crumbled, this time a dodgy technique for taking companies public called SPACs, or special purpose acquisition companies. As is often the case, regular investors and rank-and-file employees are the losers; hedge fund managers and investment bankers are the winners. Not for the last time, regulators are stepping in to quash snake-oil schemes they didn’t do enough to stop when it might have made a difference.

It's worth taking note of this debacle now because it won’t be the last time Wall Street hustlers separate unsuspecting investors from their savings. It’s just the latest.

If you started paying attention to SPACs only a few years ago, you’d be forgiven for thinking they were a new financial elixir. In 2021, nearly 200 companies completed SPAC deals, up more than threefold from the year before. These deals were worth close to $500 billion, a fivefold increase.

But SPACs have been around for decades. Before a few years ago, however, only unsavory, little-known companies attempted to enter the public markets using this device. The transaction involves a financial player raising money from a pool of public investors to merge with a not-yet-identified company at a later date. SPACs had long been a backdoor path to an initial public offering that only a company that couldn’t do it the respectable way would pursue.

 ………

Late last year, Bloomberg counted more than 20 companies that had gone public by SPAC only to declare bankruptcy relatively shortly afterward. One of these was WeWork, the shared-workspace real estate company. WeWork’s backdoor IPO occurred well after company founder Adam Neumann had departed in a cloud of scandal. (Neumann reportedly is trying to take back control of WeWork, an effort that doesn’t seem to be going anywhere.)

It's fraud.  Jail the people who committed these fraud.

If you do this often enough, you will deter new fraudsters.

Interesting Point

Over at The Nation, Eric Reinhart makes a very interesting point, that doctors are spectacularly ill suited to managing a public health system, because their training from day 1 in medical is to disdain and eschew any concept of collective action.

They are taught that they, and they alone, are entirely responsible for the well being of their patients.

It's a petri dish for creating Randroid solutions to problems that demand collective actions and collective sacrifice:

A changing of the guard in US public health is impending—and, with it, a chance to rejuvenate a flailing field. Anthony Fauci has retired in the shadow of one of the worst preventable disasters in history, and President Biden is moving to make new appointments while establishing a permanent White House Office for Pandemic Preparedness and Response Policy. In doing so, Biden and his advisers must confront the fact that the rot in public health is structural: It cannot be cured by simply rotating the figureheads who preside over it. Building effective national health infrastructure will require confronting pervasive distortions of public health and remaking the leadership appointment systems that have left US public health agencies captive to partisan interests.

Part of what has made public health vulnerable and a plaything of partisan politicking is the field’s gradual medicalization. Consider, for example, the history of the nation’s most important public health agency. Since 1953, every director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has had a doctor of medicine, or MD, degree as their primary credential, with secondary degrees serving mostly as résumé decor. Given that medical interventions constitute only 10–20 percent of modifiable factors affecting health, the backgrounds reflected in CDC leadership—and, likewise, at most state and local public health agencies—are notable for their consistent prioritization of narrow biomedical expertise at the expense of other fields that represent the remaining 80–90 percent of pertinent knowledge for making public health policy.


Physician and public health scholar Milton Roemer once observed that for the work of public health, “most of medical education is irrelevant.” But neither doctors’ irrelevant medical knowledge nor relative ignorance of essential fields—labor history, social anthropology, political economy, epidemiology, environmental sciences—is the most troubling aspect of physician control of public health. Rather, it’s the lack of epistemic humility, conferring an inability to recognize the limits and hazards of clinical reasoning, with which medical training often imbues them. Clinical reasoning is not only not the population-level logic of public health; it is frequently antithetical to it.

………

When we treat patients, doctors are appropriately oriented around taking care of the individual in front of us. We recognize that we typically cannot change their life circumstances—such as economic and housing conditions, employers’ demands, student and medical debt, neighborhood violence, or social isolation—and so we focus our clinical attention on helping them live as well as possible within existing constraints.

Public health, by contrast, is about treating populations. As with medicine, the goal of public health is to enable individuals to be free of health limitations that curtail their ability to live as they please. But public health pursues this by very different means. The task is not to help individuals accommodate to oppressive social or labor contexts. It is instead to use the power of government to change conditions that are constraining people’s freedom. The core tools of public health, then, are not just vaccines or lab tests but also policies pertaining to corporate regulation and consumer safety standards; labor protections; public jobs and housing programs; investments in community health workers, decriminalization, and decarceration; and civil rights lawsuits.

People with experience in sociology, or anthropology, or statistics probably have more to offer than do doctors for public health issues, particularly given the innumeracy of doctors after 4 years of premed, and then Medical School, and then interning, where the study of mathematics is largely an artifice designed to reduce the numbers of people who eventually become doctors.

Doctors treat people public health experts address societal issues, things like poverty and the prevalence of carcinogenic emissions near poor neighborhoods, the consequences of inadequate ventilation, the need things like masking, etc.

These areas of knowledge are largely orthogonal. You don't need Gregory House, you need Joe Friday.

Also, wear your f%$#ing mask!

So Much for Competition

Airline JSX has been providing flights to people by having charters that only have 30 (first class) seats on what are normally 50 seat regional jets.

In so doing, they can board from private gates, allowing passengers to fly anywhere in the United States from Dallas' love field, and they can avoid the time consuming security TSA security checks.

The response of the airlines, particularly American which basically owns the Dallas/Fort Worth market is to run to the TSA to demand a change in regulations to rat-F%$# JSX.

Major U.S. airlines ran to the government to try to quash competition and a better inflight product option for passengers. Their first attempt, with the Department of Transportation, may not be working. But their next play with TSA can be done in secret and stands a better chance.

Dallas-based JSX flies regional jets that usually hold 50 seats with just 30 first class seats. This allows them to:
  • operate from private terminals, instead of the main terminal at airports
  • hire senior captains, often recently-retired from American Airlines and Southwest, as well as co-pilots with fewer hours in the cockpit
They do this by selling seats (part 380) on public charter flights (part 135), rather than as a regularly scheduled airline. It’s a brilliant business model that benefits from long-standing regulations, and provides a unique product to customers – show up at the airport 20 minutes before your flight, walk out to a shared private jet.

The lower time co-pilots mean that it is easier for a pilot to get flight time to get their type rating while being paid, as opposed to paying for a type rating at a cost of hundreds of dollars an hour, which has the ALPA up in arms, because they want the supply of rated pilots kept as small as possible. 

It also appears that the DoT in general, and the TSA in particular are actually prohibited from taking such actions on charters, but, you know, they are being lobbied by Southwest and American, and how can they secure remunerative post retirement sinecures if they don't do their bidding.

………

Currently, JSX passengers have their bags swabbed, their IDs checked against screening databases, and go through screening. This screening is not conducted by TSA however, and there’s no shoe removal or liquid bag restrictions.

I can't imaging why anyone with enough money would want to fly JSX.  ← (This is snark)

Best Healthcare System in the World

Seriously, burn the insurance companies, the pharmacy benefits managers, and the rest of the for-profit healthcare system to the ground.

Great Job, Elmer

It appears that Elon Musk's irrational and stupid hatred of labor unions are about to create some significant additional problems for him in Scandanavia, because The Swedish Union for Service and Communications Employees (SEKO) has announced that they will no longer service Tesla charging stations.

Given the entry of numerous other car companies into the electric car space, one of the few advantages that they have in the market is their network of chargers:

For the past several months, Tesla has been locked in a battle of wills with the labor unions of Sweden. The company’s refusal to ratify a collective bargaining agreement with a small number of workers associated with the Swedish union IF Metall has led to boycotts by other regional unions, turning what should have been a quickly resolved dispute into an ongoing disaster for the electric car company.

This week, yet another humiliation was visited upon the firm: An additional labor union has decided to take action against the car manufacturer, and this time the end result could be the stifling of Tesla charging stations throughout the country. The Swedish Union for Service and Communications Employees, or Seko, published a statement Wednesday, announcing it would be initiating a “sympathy” action against Tesla over its anti-union policies:
“IF Metall’s fight is also our fight. By refusing to comply with the rules of the game here in Sweden, Tesla is trying to gain a competitive advantage by giving the workers worse wages and conditions than they would have with a collective agreement. It is of course completely unacceptable. The fight that IF Metall is now taking is important for the entire Swedish collective agreement model. That is why we have chosen to issue another sympathy notice and increase the pressure on Tesla.
The impact here could be bad for Tesla, as Seko, which does important electrical work throughout the country, has promised to halt all “planning, preparation, new connections, network expansion, service, maintenance and repairs regarding all of the car brand Tesla’s charging stations in Sweden.” Elektrek has noted that the move could stop the launch of all new Tesla Superchargers within the country.

 It appears that the smartest man in the world is a f%$#ing moron.

25 February 2024

Speaking of Covid

It turns out that some very basic measures can mitigate the transmission of Covid, and it's so simple that an elementary school student can do it.

Or, more accurately then can when their elementary school cuts through the bullsh%$ and creates a comprehensive and transparent strategy to deal with potential infections.

That wasn't so hard:

A small primary school in Brisbane's west has done what many others have been unable to achieve during COVID-19's Omicron wave in Queensland: remain outbreak-free.

And it's all a result of a group of dads at the Brisbane Independent School in Pullenvale getting together with the principal and using science and engineering knowledge to prevent SARS-CoV-2 — the virus that causes COVID-19 — spreading through classrooms.

George Roff, a Brisbane scientist who specialises in marine ecology, said the working group — including an engineer and a medical specialist — started discussing ways of stemming the spread of COVID-19 through the 71-student school in December, after Queensland's interstate borders reopened.

Using a smoke machine, they studied airflow patterns in the school's five classrooms and administration areas.

Carbon dioxide meters were also used to identify low-ventilation areas or "dead spots".

They then purchased air purifiers — known as high-efficiency particulate absorbing (HEPA) filters — to mitigate the risk from SARS-CoV-2 particles that might be circulating in classrooms and other indoor areas of the school.

Although one teacher and up to two students in most, but not all classes, have had COVID-19 during Queensland's rampant Omicron wave, no in-school transmission has been identified.

"Our goal in creating clean-air classrooms at the school was to minimise this risk of transmission within the community," Dr Roff said.

Their approach has been called "Innovative".  It's not.

It's basic common sense steps that have been known since (at least) the end of World War II.

The reason that people are stunned by the program and its success is because the public health establishment has been opposed to the basic idea of public health because ……… FREEDUMB.

The polity of much of the developed world, and public health establishment in particular, is horrified by the idea that there are issues that must be addressed as a society, and cannot be cast as a matter of personal moral failings.

Anything else is evil socialism, and will lead to a downfall of society and your kid dating that 30-year old guy with the piercings and tattoos.

The Neocon Free Market Mousketeers™ believe, as Margaret Thatcher infamously said, "There's No Such Thing as Society."

If there is no such thing as society, then the "Public" in "Public Health" is an anathema.

I've Been Saying This Since

In March of 2020, I made a (pretty lame) attempt to use excess death rates to see the potential effects of Covid-19.

I have been suggesting that Covid mortality is under reported since May of 2020 using excess death rates.

Well, it's now in a peer reviewed paper:

Nearly 1,170,000 people have died from COVID-19 in the United States according to official federal counts, but multiple excess mortality studies suggest that these totals are vastly undercounted. While excess mortality provides an estimation of deaths that likely would not have occurred under normal, non-pandemic conditions, there is still little evidence into whether the SARS-CoV-2 virus contributed to these additional deaths, or whether these deaths were caused by other factors such as healthcare disruptions or socioeconomic challenges.

Now, a new study led by Boston University School of Public Health (BUSPH) and the University of Pennsylvania (UPenn) provides the first concrete data showing that many of these excess deaths were indeed uncounted COVID-19 deaths.

Published in the journal PNAS, the study compared reported COVID-19 deaths to excess deaths due to non-COVID, natural causes, such as diseases and chronic illnesses, and found that increases in non-COVID excess deaths occurred at the same time or in the month prior to increases in reported COVID-19 deaths in most US counties.

Focusing on excess deaths by natural causes rather than all-cause excess death estimates provides a more accurate understanding of the true number of deaths attributable to COVID-19, as it eliminates external causes for mortality, such as intentional or unintentional injuries, for which COVID-19 would not be a contributing factor.

"Our findings show that many COVID-19 deaths went uncounted during the pandemic. Surprisingly, these undercounts persisted well beyond the initial phase of the pandemic," says study corresponding author Dr. Andrew Stokes, associate professor of global health at BUSPH, who has led numerous studies analyzing excess mortality patterns and drivers during the pandemic.

A note here, the language seems to imply that the pandemic is an artifact of the past.  It ain't.

We are still suffering from the pandemic, and just reported Covid deaths appear to be remaining over 1,000 a week.

Finally, wear your f%$#ing mask.

A Genuinely Baltimore Mystery


In its heyday
On December 14, Baltimore's famous (or infamous) Tiki Barge went missing.

The former Polynesian themed bar, located next to the Baltimore Yacht club, much to the consternation of the Yacht owners, was known for its very un-yacht club atmosphere and a swimming pool that one could wade across after getting a drink.

It appears that someone bought the barge, which had declined significantly in price after a decade with no offers, and either took it to the breakers, or sank it to make an artificial reef.

Anyone with current information on the location of this quintessentially Baltimore weirdness is encouraged to contact Matti Gellman at the Baltimore Banner.

Was There a Primary Election Yesterday?

Oh, yeah, Trump v. Haley in South Carolina.

It currently stands at 59.8% to 39.5%, which is not as good as I had anticipated.  I was figuring that he would beat Haley by over 2:1.

No clue as to what this all means, except perhaps that Trump will be looting the RNC to pay his legal bills in a few weeks.


24 February 2024

We Are Heading for a Disaster of Biblical Proportions: Old Testament, Real Wrath of God Type Stuff, Fire and Brimstone Coming Down from the Skies! Rivers and Seas Boiling, Forty Years of Darkness, Earthquakes, Volcanoes, the Dead Rising from the Grave, Human Sacrifice, Dogs and Cats Living Together... Mass Hysteria!

Seriously, we are talking about the end of the world when Matt, "Close Encounters with the Third Grade" Gaetz is right about something, and when he condemned the Alabama Supreme Court's ruling that effectively banned IVF, he was right.

I'm not sure that I can deal with the thought that Gaetz is right about anything:

Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL) expressed alarm about the implications of an Alabama Supreme Court ruling that granted embryos the rights of people.

The decision prompted in vitro fertilization clinics in the state to pause the practice. Couples who have difficulty conceiving sometimes turn to IVF, whereby an egg is fertilized by sperm in a lab to create an embryo to implant in a uterus. Embryos are often frozen for later use or are destroyed if they go unused.

The court’s decision stemmed from a lawsuit by a couple whose embryos were accidentally destroyed at a clinic. The judges ruled that the state’s wrongful death laws do not exclude embryos, or what they deemed “extrauterine children.”
This is f%$#ed up and sh%$.

Another Reason for Aggressive Antitrust Activities

Because right now, Elon Musk, Jeff Bezos, and the Albrecht's (Trader Joes) are trying to reverse 90 years of precedent and get the courts to declare that labor unions are illegal.

These parasites need to be opposed, and, where possible, charged criminally and frog marched out of their offices in handcuffs:

Fourscore and seven years ago—1937, to be exact—our fathers on the Supreme Court (well, five of them, which was just enough) brought forth a new nation: New Deal America. In that year, the justices ruled that the most fundamental legislative works of Franklin Roosevelt’s presidency—Social Security and the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA)—were constitutional. So said the Court; so said, in the NLRA case, Chief Justice Charles Evans Hughes, the decision’s author, who had been the Republican candidate for president in 1916. From these decisions, which saved seniors from destitution and enabled workers to form unions, a broadly shared prosperity emerged that gave the nation a middle-class majority for the three decades after World War II.

Now we are engaged in a war with the rulers of the new economy, who, having already downsized that middle class by appropriating an ever larger share of the proceeds from its work for themselves, actually want to strike down the NLRA. In the past few weeks, three pillars of that economy—Elon Musk’s SpaceX, Jeff Bezos’s Amazon, and the Albrecht family’s Trader Joe’s—have all asked federal courts to declare the core functions of the NLRA unconstitutional, on the grounds that the National Labor Relations Board’s (NLRB) administrative courts, like those of other regulatory agencies, mix judicial functions with executive branch functions. In actual practice, what those bodies do is hear and rule on cases such as those brought by workers on organizing campaigns who’ve been illegally fired. What Elon and Jeff would prefer is that federal courts hear such cases directly, which guarantees that by the time they reach the bench, those organizing campaigns will have become a dim memory. Or maybe, they want no one to hear such cases. Or perhaps, given the deep hatred that Sam Alito holds toward unions, they hope that Alito can persuade enough of his colleagues to toss the NLRA altogether, as he did with Roe v. Wade.

Their arguments are the same that came before the Court in 1937, when the most reactionary corporate overlords of that era sought to destroy the threat of some modestly countervailing worker power, which then had been rising for several years. That same dynamic clearly threatens the Musks and Bezoses today, with unions’ approval rating at its highest levels in 60 years, with young workers particularly bent on winning a say in their work lives, and with Joe Biden’s NLRB working to restore some teeth to the NLRA, which had been largely defanged by decades of decisions from pro-corporate courts.

Mr Meyerson omits an important part of the situation here.  The NLRB has largely defanged itself.

For the past few decades, appointees to the board have been largely hostile to labor and obeisant to law-breaking anti-union businessmen, because recent presidents, who appointed board members including Clinton and Obama, have largely been hostile to labor unions.

That the courts might be poised to roll back labor relations to the Lochner days is largely an artifact of  this history.

Another Crime Boss Arrested


Wypipo, huh?
Much like Atrios, I was skeptical of the reports of massive shoplifting rings.

I kind of figured that it was a racist dog whistle used to pull stores out of black and brown neighborhoods.

It turns out that police have uncovered a shoplifting ring, though with a total haul of $8 million, I would call it largish rather than massive, and surprise, it's a white suburban mom on reselling the stolen goods on Amazon.

Yadda, yadda, DMCA and all that, but perhaps we should start pursuing the online marketplaces who are making not inconsiderable sums acting as fences:

A complaint alleges Michelle Mack of Bonsall was the ringleader of an organized national crime ring that stole nearly $8 million worth of makeup and other goods from stores, including hundreds of Ulta Cosmetics stores across the U.S., and re-sold them on her online Amazon storefront.

According to the complaint filed by the California Attorney General on Friday, more than $300,000 worth of makeup and other products were found in Michelle and Kenneth Mack's shared Bonsall home when a search warrant was served on Dec. 6, 2023.

………

Michelle Mack is accused of paying as many as 12 women for their travel expenses, as well as providing them with a list of retail stores across the country to target — including stores in 21 counties across California.

Those stores include a LensCrafters in Clairemont and an Ulta store in Mira Mesa, which was one of the 231 Ulta’s hit across the country. Several Sephora stores were also targeted.

The entire narrative on these crimes was that the there was more shoplifting in minority neighborhoods, which was a lie, and now we know that a significant proportion of this particular crime ring would need sunscreen in New York City in October.

Hoocoodanode?  A phony panic that was predicated on  the perceived criminality of minorities was run by a white suburban soccer mom.

Unsurprising News of the Day

It turns out that return to office mandates don't improve company performance, they just make employees unhappy.

This is a feature, not a bug.  For hard core MBA types, an unhappy workforce is an unalloyed good.

They see employee misery as a metric that indicates that their own overpaid incompetence is working. 

………

Then, bosses began calling their employees back to the office. Many made the argument that the return-to-office (RTO) policies and mandates were better for their companies; workers are more productive at the office, and face-to-face interactions promote collaboration, many suggested. But there's little data to support that argument. Pandemic-era productivity is tricky to interpret, given that the crisis disrupted every aspect of life. Research from before the pandemic generally suggested remote work improves worker performance—though it often included workers who volunteered to WFH, potentially biasing the finding.

For a clearer look at the effect of RTO policies after the pandemic, two business researchers at the University of Pittsburgh examined a sample of firms on the S&P 500 list—137 of which had RTO mandates and 320 that clearly did not between June 2019 and January 2023. The researchers collected publicly available data on each company, including financial data and employee reviews. They then looked at what factors were linked to whether a firm implemented an RTO policy—such as the company's size, financial constraints, and CEO characteristics—as well as the consequences of the RTO mandates—employee satisfaction and financial metrics of the firms.

Overall, the analysis, released as a pre-print, found that RTO mandates did not improve a firm's financial metrics, but they did decrease employee satisfaction.

Managers are not motivated by productivity or efficiency.  Instead, they feel that, too quote Blazing Saddles, "Gotta protect our phony baloney jobs."

Harrumph.

23 February 2024

fuck


Truly a magnificent bird


He will be missed
Flaco, the Eurasian Eagle Owl who has been thriving in Manhattan after he excaped from his cage at the Central Park Zoo, has died following crashing into a building.

In is honor, I am breaking my eleven month a year embargo on profanity.

I am bumming over this:

Flaco, the Eurasian eagle-owl whose escape from the Central Park Zoo and subsequent life on the loose in Manhattan captured the public’s attention, died Friday night after apparently striking a building on the Upper West Side, officials said.

The Wildlife Conservation Society, which operates the zoo, said in a statement that Flaco had been found on the ground after hitting a building on West 89th Street.

Building residents contacted the Wild Bird Fund, a rescue organization, whose staff members responded quickly, retrieved him and declared him dead a short time later, the society said.

Zoo employees took him to the Bronx Zoo, where a necropsy will be performed to determine the cause of death. He would have turned 14 next month.

Flaco’s year as a free bird began on the evening of Feb. 2, 2023, when someone shredded the mesh on the modest enclosure where he had lived nearly his entire life. The police said in January that no arrests had been made and that the investigation was continuing.

I don't know why, with all the hurt and cruelty in the world, this makes me so sad.

Good News Everyone!

Wayne LaPierre and the NRA have been found liable fraud and corruption.

It could not happen to a more deserving bunch of ammosexual psychopaths:

In a sweeping rebuke of the National Rifle Association, the nation’s most prominent gun rights group, a Manhattan jury ruled on Friday that its leaders had engaged in a yearslong pattern of financial misconduct and corruption.

The jury, after a week of deliberations, found that the group’s former leader, Wayne LaPierre, had used N.R.A. funds to pay for personal expenses, including vacations, luxury flights for his relatives and yacht rides, and that two other top executives had failed in their duties to the nonprofit organization.

………

Ms. James said late Friday that the N.R.A. verdict was a “major victory for the people of New York.”

“For years, Wayne LaPierre used charitable dollars to fund his lavish lifestyle, spending millions on luxury travel, expensive clothes, insider contracts, and other perks for himself and his family,” Ms. James said in a statement. “Today, after years of rampant corruption and self-dealing, Wayne LaPierre and the N.R.A. are finally being held accountable.”

Jurors found that Mr. LaPierre had misspent $5.4 million. He has repaid some of that sum, but must still repay $4.35 million. Mr. Phillips must repay $2 million.


The judge overseeing the case will decide in a second phase of the trial whether a monitor should be installed to oversee the N.R.A.’s administration of charitable assets, and whether Mr. LaPierre and Mr. Phillips should be barred from serving as officers or directors of any other New York nonprofits, Ms. James said in her statement.

I know of a well-respected New York lawyer and academic who would be particularly well suited to monitoring the activities of the National Rifle Association, Zephyr Teachout.

She knows the law, and is unlikely to "Go Native" while serving as monitor.

Today in Leopards Eating People's Faces


Hoocoodanode?

In rather unsurprising news, a Texas woman who supports the banning of abortions is now having second thoughts after legal concerns led to her daughter almost dying of complications of an ectopic pregnancy.

………

When Roe v. Wade was overturned in 2022, the two had argued fiercely about what a near-total abortion ban would mean for women in the state — with Norris-De La Cruz fearing a loss of personal freedoms, and Lloyd welcoming new protections for babies who couldn’t speak up for themselves.

Initially, Lloyd said, she thought the Texas abortion law would only affect people who decided they didn’t want to be pregnant — never imagining it could prevent women from accessing lifesaving care. Now, she said, she has completely changed her mind about abortion bans.

“I didn’t realize how far it had gone,” she said. “But it has happened to my life now, with my daughter."

The purpose of the anti-abortion laws is to hurt women because they think that women should be published for having sex. 

These people cannot be negotiated with.  They cannot be reasoned with.  They can only be defeated.

I take this personally, because the anti-abortion Talibaptists would have killed my wife and seen my son never born.

22 February 2024

John, Are You Setting up a GoFundMe?


HBO is now delaying the YouTube drop to Thursdays
On the latest Last Week Tonight, John Oliver is offering Clarence Thomas $1,000,000.00 a year and a $2½ million RV if he quits the court.

I don't think that Thomas will take the offer, after all, whores traditionally do not betray their clients.:

When it comes to Supreme Court reform, John Oliver is tired of just talking about term limits and ethics codes. Instead, the late-night talk-show host said he’s taking a page out of the playbook used by the rich and powerful, who the comedian said routinely lavish gifts on public servants to curry favor.

“If we’re going to keep the bar of accountability this low, perhaps it’s time to exploit that low bar the same way billionaires have successfully done for decades,” Oliver said on Sunday’s episode of HBO’s “Last Week Tonight,” before announcing the offer he had for Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas: $1 million per year if he steps down from his post immediately.

Oliver is also throwing in a new $2.4 million motor coach that’s outfitted with a king-size bed, four televisions and a fireplace — a potential deal-sweetener for Thomas, who has come under fire for receiving significant gifts and favors from a network of wealthy friends and patrons.

Oliver’s “somehow legal” proposal — at least, according to the experts he consulted, Oliver said — was made at the end of a segment devoted to the highest court in the land. The Supreme Court, Oliver argued, had reached a “breaking point” following a string of scandals involving the patronage of right-wing billionaires — many of whom, the comedian pointed out, have a stake in some of the cases brought before the court.

I'd like to see an impeachment, but absent that, Congress does have the power to both make the federal judicial code of conduct stricter and to make it binding on SCOTUS.

The Supreme Court is restlessly corrupt, and it needs to be policed by someone who does not answer to them.

Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?

Speaking of Financial Crises


The technical term for this is screwed
It appears that bad loans in the commercial real estate market are exceeding bank reserves.

The 2008 financial crisis is only 14 years ago, and it appears to be roaring back: 

Bad commercial real estate loans have overtaken loss reserves at the biggest US banks after a sharp increase in late payments linked to offices, shopping centres and other properties.

The average reserves at JPMorgan Chase, Bank of America, Wells Fargo, Citigroup, Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley have fallen from $1.60 to 90 cents for every dollar of commercial real estate debt on which a borrower is at least 30 days late, according to filings to the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation.

The sharp deterioration took place in the last year after delinquent commercial property debt for the six big banks nearly tripled to $9.3bn.

We are f%$#ed, and the taxpayers are going to be on the hook for another bailout bigger than the total spending on WWII.

………

Bill Moreland of BankRegData, which collects and analyses lender data, said that across the industry there was little doubt that “allowances for these loan losses have to come way up”.

“There are banks that may have looked fine six months ago, that are going to look not so good next quarter,” Moreland said.

Earlier this month New York Community Bank shed more than 50 per cent of its market value after reporting hundreds of millions in previously undisclosed potential losses in its commercial property loan book.

The question is not if a major banking institution is going to implode, but when.

………

Bank of America’s chief executive Brian Moynihan said in December that the bank had identified just $5bn in commercial property debt tied to buildings in sectors of the property market in which prices had dropped, a figure he said was tiny for a bank that earned nearly $30bn last year and has more than $3.2tn in assets.

“It’s such a small part of the table,” Moynihan said. “We feel good.”

Of course you feel good, you benighted blithering banal bloated buffoon, you get your bloody bonus until the collapse hits, and you probably still get your bloody bonuses after that.

You will make out like a raped ape while the rest of us pay you.

Bugger that. It's complete bollocks.

Jeebus

It looks like the Alabama Supreme Court has decided to go full Handmaidens Tale, citing the Bible as a justification to allow an IVF clinic to be sued because of a break-in at their facility.

I get that Alabama is ……… well ……… Alabama, and that the open air lunatic asylum that they call their state legislature passed extremely aggressive anti-abortion legislation that the courts are bound to follow, but citing the bible?  That's just f%$#ing nuts.

A new ruling out of Alabama may spell the beginning of the end of the third-party fertility industry—and its reasoning partially relies on a verse from the Bible.

On Friday, the Alabama Supreme Court decided that embryos created through in-vitro fertilization would be protected under the Wrongful Death of a Minor Act, effectively classifying single-celled, fertilized eggs as children.

The case, known as LePage v. Mobile Infirmary Clinic, Inc, rested upon an argument by several intended parents that their “embryonic children” had been victims of a wrongful death when an intruder broke into the IVF clinic, dropping trays containing some of the embryos and ultimately destroying them.

In a 7–2 decision, Alabama’s highest court ruled that the clinic had been negligent, allowing the parents to proceed with a wrongful death lawsuit. The court also ruled that it is “the public policy of this state to recognize and support the sanctity of unborn life and the rights of unborn children, including the right to life,” referring to the Alabama Constitution’s Sanctity of Life Amendment, ratified in 2018.

“Here, the text of the Wrongful Death of a Minor Act is sweeping and unqualified,” wrote Alabama Supreme Court Associate Justice Jay Mitchell in the majority’s opinion. “It applies to all children, born and unborn, without limitation. It is not the role of this Court to craft a new limitation based on our own view of what is or is not wise public policy. That is especially true where, as here, the People of this State have adopted a Constitutional amendment directly aimed at stopping courts from excluding ‘unborn life’ from legal protection.”

But the opinion also quotes the Bible as reasoning for functionally killing IVF access within the aggressively pro-life state, turning to an eyebrow-raising verse from Jeremiah 1:5 for guidance before deciding to make it harder for Alabamans to have a family.

“We believe that each human being, from the moment of conception, is made in the image of God, created by Him to reflect His likeness. It is as if the People of Alabama took what was spoken of the prophet Jeremiah and applied it to every unborn person in this state: ‘Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, Before you were born I sanctified you.’ Jeremiah 1:5 (NKJV 1982),” the opinion read.

Now would be a good time to note that The University of Alabama at Birmingham’s health system is freezing all IVF treatments as a result of this ruling, and while an Alabama state senator is proposing a change to the law to apply protections only after implantation*, which would shield IVF clinics.

I don't think that the law will pass though, because it would also have the effect of legalizing the use of an IUD in Alabama, and most of the Talibaptists out there think that an IUD, by preventing implantation, is murder.  (They also hate women and contraception more generally, but that is another rant.)

This is both terrifying and entirely unsurprising.

When the Supreme Court repealed Roe v. Wade, this was predicted before the ink was dry.

*Interesting tidbit here, according to Mormon theology, an embryo is only imbued with a soul, and is therefore only a human, after implantation.

F%$# Me, I Agree With Israeli Klansman Bezalel Smotrich

If you don't follow Israeli politics, Finance Minister Smotrich is a right wing nut job who has been arrested on suspicion of terrorism, is vehemently anti LGBTQ, proposed legislation weakening civil law to promote "Torah Law", aggressively pursued settlements in the West Bank as a form of ethnic cleansing, etc.

But he is in hot water now for saying that is not the most important thing to consider in the Gaza war.

Like a stopped calendar, I guess that he gets to be right once a year.

If you base your policies on getting hostages back, not only do you hamstring yourself, but you create a petri dish for hostage taking.

Hostage taking works as a tactic because the immediate response of the Israeli polity is that the first priority is to get the aforementioned hostages back safely.

This reflexive response is understandable, but it is also wrong.

Once More, It's Thursday


Claims over the past year


The 4 week moving average since 1971 H/t Calculated Risk
Once again, initial unemployment claims fell more than forecast.

I'm not sure what it means beyond the fact that the Federal Reserve woill continue to keep rates high, because they have not got their sado-monetarist freak on yet:

Initial applications for US unemployment benefits fell to the lowest in a month last week, underscoring continued strength in the labor market despite a growing number of high-profile job cuts at large companies.

What they mean by large companies are tech firms, like Apple (161,000 employees), Google (191,000 employees), Microsoft (221,000), the criminal enterprise formerly known as Facebook™ (86,000 employees), etc.

This compares to Toyota (366,000 employees), Amazon (1,608,000 employees, but they are just laying off the small segment of white collar employees), Walmart (2,100,000 employees).

These stunning layoffs from large corporations, are neither particularly stunning, nor from particularly large companies.

Software companies have an atypically low head count relative to their turnover, and don't actually manufacture or deliver a physical thing, which is why their headcounts are so low.

Journalists pay attention to these fleas because the jobs that they provide are very much like their own jobs, in that journalist produce no physical objects, and require very little in the way of capital.  (Printing and delivering newspapers is a very small part of their total headcount)

Initial claims decreased by 12,000 to 201,000 in the week ending Feb. 17, according to Labor Department data released on Thursday. The figure was lower than all economists’ estimates in a Bloomberg survey.

Continuing claims, a proxy for the total number of people receiving unemployment benefits, dropped to 1.86 million in the week ending Feb. 10, also the lowest in a month.

The latest data, which show filings remain near record lows, add to other reports indicating the labor market remains robust despite elevated interest rates. Many economists see job stability as a key factor underpinning a forecast for ongoing increases in consumer spending this year.

Weekly claims tend to be volatile. The four-week moving average, which helps smooth short-term swings, decreased to 215,250.

I still think that we are headed for a recession, and unlike our relatively brief pandemic shutdown driven recession, this will be driven by a financial crisis, which I'll discuss in detail later, which will last far longer, and recover more slowly, because it will be addressed by bailing out the banksters, which does not actually help the economy.

21 February 2024

No Trademark for You!

Current Wall Street and Silicon Valley darling, and future business school failure case study OpenAI has been denied a trademark for the term GPT, because the term, which is an abbreviation for, "generative pre-trained transformer," is a generic term describing function, and as such, you don't get a trademark on it.

I would have thought that, with all of those very stable geniuses out there involved with the company, they would have understood this, but it appears that I was misinformed.

The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office has denied OpenAI’s attempt to trademark “GPT,” ruling that the term is “merely descriptive” and therefore unable to be registered. It’s a blow to OpenAI’s branding, but don’t expect its competitors to start releasing their own version of the ubiquitous chatbot.

ChatGPT is certainly the most recognizable brand in AI right now, being the most popular conversational model on the market and the one that most visibly took large language models from curiosity to global trend.

But the name, according to the USPTO, doesn’t meet the standards to register for a trademark and the protections a “TM” after the name affords. (Incidentally, they refused once back in October, and this is a “FINAL” in all caps denial of the application.)

As the denial document puts it:

 Registration is refused because the applied-for mark merely describes a feature, function, or characteristic of applicant’s goods and services.
OpenAI argued that it had popularized the term GPT, which stands in this case for “generative pre-trained transformer,” describing the nature of the machine learning model. It’s generative because it produces new (ish) material, pre-trained in that it is a large model trained centrally on a proprietary database, and transformer is the name of a particular method of building AIs (discovered by Google researchers in 2017) that allows for much larger models to be trained.

Ah, yes.  The, "Rules don't apply to us, we are special," application.

I am pleasantly surprised that the USPTO called bullsh%$ on this.

This does not mean that OpenAI can't apply for a trademark on ChatGPT, but it won't prevent a competitor from creating TalkGPT, or ShoutGPT, or FartGPT.

Speaking of Boeing

Boeing has fired Ed Clark, the VP in charge of the 737 MAX program.  His replacement, will be Katie Ringgold, VP of 737 deliveries.

Ringgoold will be the 6th VP in charge of the MAX since 2018, which works out to a new person every year.

Also, how are they both VPs?  If Boeing is trying to save money, which they are, in order to spend it on stock buybacks and executive bonuses, why so many positions which pretty much mandate 7 figure salaries?

Boeing has ousted the leader of the 737 MAX program at its Renton plant and reshuffled its leadership team at the Commercial Airplanes division, effective immediately.

The moves come more than a month after a Renton-assembled MAX 9 saw a fuselage panel blow out of an Alaska Airlines flight departing Portland. Investigators contend key bolts were missing from the plane prior to the Jan. 5 blowout, a failure that has increased scrutiny of quality control at Boeing and its suppliers and put intense pressure on company leadership.

Ed Clark, vice president of the MAX program and general manager at the Renton facility, will leave the company. He’s being replaced by Katie Ringgold, the current vice president 737 delivery operations.

………

Clark took charge of the MAX program in 2021 as it returned to service after two fatal crashes had grounded the jets worldwide for almost two years. He was responsible for 737 engineering, supply chain, manufacturing and other support functions.

………

However, a person familiar with the decision and who asked not to be identified commenting on sensitive personnel decisions, confirmed that Clark’s departure was not voluntary.

Clark is an engineer. His successor Ringgold has business degrees. However she began her aviation career performing avionics systems maintenance and troubleshooting on C-130 cargo aircraft in the U.S. Air Force.

It does seem to me to be rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic.

Some Good News out of the Court

The Supreme Court will not hear New York City landlord's case against rent control, which means that the appellate court ruling against them will stand.

I am pleased and surprised.

Last October, the justices declined to review a challenge to the constitutionality of New York’s rent-stabilization system, which applies to just under half of New York City’s rental housing and (among other things) limits rent increases and generally requires landlords to renew a tenant’s lease. On Thursday, the justices denied review in two cases presenting the same question, with Justice Clarence Thomas filing a statement regarding that denial.

The rent-stabilization system at the center of 74 Pinehurst v. New York and 335-7 LLC v. New York has been in place for over 50 years. It applies to approximately one million homes in New York City – 44% of all rentals. Under the system, a board appointed by the mayor sets the rate at which landlords may increase rents each year, and landlords must generally renew a tenant’s lease when it expires.

In 2019, the state enacted changes to the rent-stabilization system that were intended to provide more protection for tenants. Among other things, under the 2019 amendments landlords can only reclaim one rent-stabilized apartment for their own use or the use of their family. The law also allows courts to put an eviction on hold for a year even after determining that the tenant violated the lease.

In 74 Pinehurst and 335-7 LLC, a group of landlords went to federal court to challenge the rent-stabilization system. They argued that the system created both a “taking” of property under the Fifth Amendment, both as a general matter and as applied to them. For example, two of the landlords, Dimos and Vasiliki Panagoulias, want to set aside an apartment in their family’s building for another family member but are not permitted to do so. And the value of their buildings, the landlords said, has fallen as much as 60 to 70%. But the lower courts rejected those arguments, prompting the landlords to come to the Supreme Court earlier this year.

After considering the cases at 12 consecutive conferences, the justices denied review without any additional explanation.

In a two-page statement, Thomas emphasized that the “constitutionality of regimes like New York is an important and pressing question” on which the federal courts of appeals have taken different positions. But, Thomas explained, this case might not be a suitable one in which to consider the constitutionality of such regimes, because the challengers’ filings “primarily contain generalized allegations about their circumstances and injuries,” rather than the kind of analysis that would allow the justices to understand how the city’s regulations work. But “in an appropriate future case,” Thomas concluded, the justices should grant review “to address this important question.”

It looks like Thomas basically said, come back with a lawyer who knows how to file a case, so the potential for a ruling in support of landlords is a distinct possibility in the future.

I Don't Blame Boeing on This One, but Damn!


That does not look good


That looks even worse.
The last Boeing 757 left the factory in October of 2004, so the youngest aircraft in service are at least 20 years old, and as such, any problems now are most likely an arti&fact of maintenance issues, and not design or manufacturing issues.

In the case of the airline forced to divert to Denver on a San Francisco to Boston flight yesterday, a Boeing 757-200, United Flight UA354, registration number N57111, that lost part of its leading edge slat in flight, the aircraft was delivered to Continental Airlines in 1994, so it's almost 30 years old.

Again, I don't blame Boeing for this one, but this seems to be to be increasingly indicative of a death spiral, where even events largely, if not entirely out of Boeing's control, are biting it on the ass:\

A United Airlines flight from San Francisco to Boston was diverted to Denver on Monday because of an issue with the plane's wing - and a worried passenger on board captured the apparent problem on video.

"Just about to land in Denver with the wing coming apart on the plane," Kevin Clarke says in a video shared with CBS News. "Can't wait for this flight to be over."

I can imagine.

BTW, it turns out that this issue with the leading edge slats is a known issue with the B757, the FAA had issued an AD, 82 FR 17773 requiring inspections for moisture ingress and delamination of the slats in 2017.

This sort of inspection requirement for older planes, and when the AD was issued the youngest 757 was 13 years old, is neither unusual nor alarming.

I'll blame United, or whoever they subcontracted the inspections to.

If I were feeling charitable, I would suggest that Boeing should get a shaman or two and burn sage throughout its offices and factories, but I am not feeling charitable, so instead, I will suggest that they end the f%$#ing stock buybacks, and fire senior management.

20 February 2024

Light Posting Tonight

In the middle of trying to update a PhpBB database that I sysop, a ask for which I am monumentally ill-suited. 

As such, I am currently consumed with the task.

Snark of the Day

The reporters flock to Harvard to work through their personal struggles with generational overachievement. There’s no “crisis in higher education”; there’s just a crisis of New York Times writers with daddy issues and anxiety over what the end of legacy admissions could mean for their children’s college prospects.
—Emily N. Dial in The Harvard Crimson
This is true, as true as turnips is, as true as taxes is, and nothing is true than them.

H/t Atrios

Ecch (Tweet) of the Day


This is true.

What is also true is that the anti vax/anti mask MAGAt teabagging snow flakes would completely lose their sh%$ over this, which makes it a win-win.

19 February 2024

This is a Feature, Not a Bug

It looks like the Veterans Administration plan to provide an option for privatized services has resulted in massive cost overruns and delays even worse than the government run VA system.

Imagine that.

In 2014, Congress passed the Veterans Access, Choice, and Accountability Act, which set up a temporary program that outsourced veterans’ care from the Veterans Health Administration (VHA) to private sector providers. In 2018, President Donald Trump signed the VA MISSION Act, which made this outsourcing program permanent and greatly expanded it. Indeed, the legislation set up a parallel private sector network—the Veterans Community Care Program or VCCP—which pays private sector providers to treat more than a third of the nine million veterans enrolled in the VHA.

The Veterans Community Care Program promised to give veterans speedier access to high-quality care if they couldn’t get a timely appointment at the VHA or had to drive too long to get to one. Instead, as many studies have documented, VCCP care is of lower quality than that provided by the VHA. It also takes longer, on average, to get an appointment with a VCCP provider than it does with one at the VHA, and perhaps most importantly, the cost of this private sector program is soaring. Between 2014 and 2024, expenses for veterans’ care in the community quadrupled from $8 billion to $31 billion, accounting for a third of the budget for veterans’ medical services.

One reason for surging costs is that too many VCCP providers are unnecessarily utilizing high-cost tests and procedures and fraudulently billing for care that was never delivered.

Imagine that.  Adding a profit motive led to fraud and cost plus waste?

As a friend of mine is wont to say, "Chaos is job won!"

………

Furnishing veterans with more expensive services might theoretically be justified if it produced better outcomes. Three economists connected to the Bureau of Economic Research tested this hypothesis in a meticulously designed study of dually eligible veterans experiencing a medical emergency. An ambulance transported them to either a VA or private sector emergency department. The results of their respective care revealed that overtreatment was associated with poorer outcomes. Veterans who went to a non-VA facility received more services attached to higher reimbursement rates, for example, a cardiogram or inpatient admission. But rather than improving their lives, veterans brought to private sector EDs had a 46 percent greater chance of dying in the following month than if they’d gone to a VA facility.

(emphasis original)

Of course they were more likely to die.  Private sector profits are not free.  You have to sacrifice veteran's lives in order to support capitalism.

Killing the program is probably too toxic right now, but aggressively pursuing, and prosecuting, fraud, including the actions of executives who create a criminogenic environment, would be a good idea.

If the hedge fund owners of many of these medical practices were frog marched out of their offices in handcuffs, one would find the problems going away.

Finally

After decades of rat-f%$#ery, Wisconsin has finally has finally adopted relatively fair districts for their state legislature.

I do not think that the voters will be kind to Republicans in 2024:

Wisconsin’s dinosaur-shaped legislative district could soon be history.

The curiously drawn district and other oddities associated with the state’s extreme gerrymandering would be erased in new voting maps passed this week by the Wisconsin Legislature.

A state Supreme Court decision finally forced Wisconsin Republicans to cede an advantage they enjoyed for more than a decade with maps that made the state one of the nation’s foremost examples of gerrymandering. 

The Senate and Assembly voted to adopt voting maps drawn by the office of Gov. Tony Evers, a Democrat. Evers said a week ago that he would sign his redistricting plan into law if passed unchanged by the Legislature, and proponents of fairer maps have encouraged him to do so.

………

Prior to the legislative action, justices had been set to select new district maps from a group of proposals, including the one from Evers. Indications were the decision would not be favorable to the GOP.

Rather than take their chances, Republicans decided to approve the governor’s maps, which are considered to be “friendlier” to the GOP than the others when measuring partisan bias and incumbent matchups.

Once again, we see that Republicans can be trusted to do the right thing, if they are left with absolutely no other options.

Also, I think that Evers' plan was too conciliatory, but I think that any attempt at reconciliation with Republicans is a losing proposition.

Call Your Congresscritters and Ask Them to Support This

And by this, I mean the Justice in Forensic Algorithms Act of 2024, which gives the defendants the right to review any computer program used to evaluate evidence or make sentencing recommendations.

As I have observed previously, the software is rife with sloppy coding, erroneous assumptions, and flat out racism, so creating a right to review is the 2nd best way to address this. (The best way to address this is to require that any software used is developed by and owned by the government, and that its complete source code be made publicly available)

Democratic lawmakers once again have proposed legislation to ensure that the software source code used for criminal investigations can be examined and is subject to standardized testing by the government.

On Thursday House Representatives Mark Takano (D-CA) and Dwight Evans (D-PA) reintroduced the Justice in Forensic Algorithms Act of 2024, a draft law that forbids using trade secret claims from barring defense attorneys from reviewing source code relevant to criminal cases and establishes a federal testing regime for forensic software.

………

Often this isn't the case because makers of forensic software can resist public review of their source code by claiming it's classified as a trade secret.

………

And yet they do. Northpointe, the developer of a system called COMPAS (Correctional Offender Management Profiling for Alternative Sanctions), used for calculating recidivism risk to inform pre- and post-trial decisions, considers its system to be proprietary and has refused to reveal how it works.

But the outputs of the program clearly show bigotry coded in.  ProPublica reported on this in 2016 on this specific piece of software.

It's not just sentencing recommendations though, it's also DNA screening software, fingerprint analysis, facial recognition, and ballistic analysis (Ballistic analysis has been ruled junk science in Maryland), etc.

This sh%4 is positively Kafkaesque.

Comic Strip of the Day

Link.

It is funny because it is true.

Linkage

Here is the latest Dick Tracey Special:

18 February 2024

The Technical Term for This Is Death Spiral

The non-profit Mozilla foundation created and maintains Firefox, my browser of choice. (I've also written a Firefox addon.)

Unfortunately, senior management there is complete pants.

Rather than focusing on the browser, they have spent their time trying to sell me a VPN, or a way to save web pages to the cloud, collaboration software, etc.

Now, Mozilla is laying off people so that it can focus on AI.

After installing a new interim CEO earlier this month, Mozilla, the organization behind the Firefox browser, is making some major changes to its product strategy, TechCrunch has learned.

Specifically, Mozilla plans to scale back its investment in a number of products, including its VPN, Relay and its Online Footprint Scrubber. Mozilla will also shut down Hubs, the 3D virtual world it launched back in 2018, and scale back its investment in its mozilla.social Mastodon instance. The layoffs will affect roughly 60 employees. Bloomberg previously reported the layoffs.

Going forward, the company said in an internal memo, Mozilla will focus on bringing “trustworthy AI into Firefox.” To do so, it will bring together the teams that work on Pocket, Content and AI/Ml.

Well, that filled in my bullsh%4 bingo card.

Maybe Mozilla should pay senior management less, and hire management less likely to mindlessly follow the latest shiny object, and just work on the damn browser.

Today's Must Read

Paul Campos relates how he successfully prosecuted his discrimination against the University of Colorado Law School, getting a significant settlement from both the school, and its Dean, Critical Race Theory specialist  Lolita Buckner Inniss, (As Anna Russel would say, "I'm not making this up, you know.") hung themselves out to dry by admitting in various permanent media that they were discriminating, and that they did not care.

I’ve settled my lawsuit against my employer, the University of Colorado, and Lolita Buckner Inniss, the current dean of the law school, where I’ve been on the faculty for the past 34 years.

In the settlement agreement, the university denies having done anything wrong, but, as always, actions speak louder than words.   In addition to paying all of my legal fees from two years of litigation, the university paid me a substantial sum to not take the case to trial, removed Dean Inniss as my supervisor for whatever time may be left in her tenure as Dean, and made various other concessions regarding the conditions of my employment going forward. 

………

Part I of the story describes the sheer absurdity of a law school dean who claims to be an expert on discrimination in America responding to a report of such discrimination from a faculty member by insisting something like that couldn’t be happening at the institution she had arrived at eleven months earlier.  It lays out the astonishing professional incompetence Lolita Buckner Inniss displayed when she retaliated against me in such a blatant way that my own lawyer was literally incredulous when I told him about it, because he was certain no lawyer could ever be so careless as to send the self-damning email that the Dean sent me.  That documented retaliation made both this lawsuit and its costly resolution possible.

Part II is about how bureaucratic mechanisms, such as peer review committees, can be co-opted to shield from public view discrimination based on petty personal grudges, and clearly illegal sex discrimination.

Part III is about the consequences for someone inside a major research university when he tries to bring the gross financial mismanagement of his own school within that university to the attention of central university administrators, whose own negligence has allowed that mismanagement to go on for many years. 

………

Employment discrimination law in this country is extremely defendant-friendly.  It’s usually very hard for plaintiffs to prove that bad treatment from their employers was a product of illegal motives, and it’s also difficult in these cases to prove that the employer is liable for enough damages to make these cases worth pursuing.  And of course people don’t want to sue their employers because they want to keep their jobs.

Because of academic tenure, I’m in an unusually privileged position in regard to the last factor, but like most employees who sue their employers for discrimination, I was still going to have trouble proving that I was being treated badly for illegal as opposed to legal reasons, and to prove just what damages I’d incurred as a result.

This is where Dean Inniss inadvertently came to my legal rescue. She engaged in a series of egregious retaliatory acts after my lawyer sent the university a letter putting it on notice that we were considering filing a lawsuit.  First, she kicked me off an important committee that I had worked to get assigned to precisely because remaining on it was critical to my professional advancement.  In an email she told me she was kicking me off the committee because I was complaining about being discriminated against.  After I complained to her about this retaliation, she removed me from teaching a class because I was purportedly making racist and sexist statements in that class.  My lawyer then let the university know that the law school had complete recordings of the class in question, which we had reviewed in detail, and which no one at the law school had ever even looked at.  This pretty much put an end to that rationale, and revealed it for what it was: a libelous pretext for continuing to punish me for having reported the dean’s discrimination in the first place.

It really is a complete mind-f%$# just how incompetent, and how petty this all is, particularly given that the Dean is (allegedly) an expert in discrimination related law.

This exceeds my wildest expectations, and given my existing views on the academy, that is a pretty high bar to clear.

See also parts II and parts III of his adventures with academe.