31 May 2024

quote of the day

Most columnists are mediocre. This is not their fault. Almost no one on earth is capable of having two good ideas per week.
Hamilton Nolan, being quoted by me for the 3rd time in 3 days.

He's right, though I disagree with his central thesis, that most pundits suck because they don't have good ideas.

Most pundits suck BECAUSE they think that they have good ideas.

You don't have to have any ideas at all when you explain things, and how they work, and (perhaps more importantly) how they don't work.

Communication and explanation require understand and an appreciation of who you communicate with, not great ideas, or even good ones.

Nice to Know that Someone Reads Newspapers

State Department Bureau of Intelligence and Research has a pretty dull job.  They read target country media and actually spend some time studying the countries as countries.

No, covert spies seducing sexy code breakers, no high tech satellites and antenna networks to take in signals, they just read about countries of interest, and do so by reading the actual media from those countries.

They have one distinction though, none of the massive screw-ups or drastically wrong predictions of the TLAs in and around Washington, DC.

Go figure:

Every American knows what the CIA is. I would guess that maybe 1 in 1,000 have ever heard of INR — the State Department’s Bureau of Intelligence and Research, American diplomats’ in-house intelligence agency.

But if you do know about INR, you probably know two things:
  1. It has gotten big stuff right when the CIA and others screwed up.
  2. When it got that big stuff right, no one listened to it.
INR is the Cassandra of American intelligence, and it earned that reputation the hard way.

As early as 1961, INR analysts were warning that South Vietnam’s battle against the North and the Viet Cong insurgency was failing, and would ultimately fail because the Viet Cong had the support of villagers in the South. Their analyses prompted furious rebukes from the likes of then-Defense Secretary Robert McNamara. But they were right.

In 2002, it happened again. The CIA, the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA), and the rest of the intelligence community had concluded that Iraq’s Saddam Hussein was trying to build nuclear weapons, which became one of the ostensible motivations for the US invasion. INR thought their evidence was nonsense. It was right.

In 2022, it happened again. The intelligence community predicted that Russia would win its war on Ukraine easily, cruising into Kyiv in a matter of days. INR dissented, arguing that Ukraine would put up a spirited fight and prevent Russia from getting anywhere near the capital. It was right. (Brett Holmgren, INR’s current chief, took pains to tell me that INR was not the only dissenter but confirmed that the bureau thought Ukraine would put up a strong fight.)

With a minuscule head count, less than 500, and an even more minuscule budget, $83½ million, they get a lot of bang for the buck.

Tweet of the Day

Best take I've heard on the whole thing.

Our system of justice is deeply corrupt, but this is not demonstrated by Donald Trump's felony conviction yesterday, but rather it is demonstrated by the fact that he was not convicted in the 50 years prior to yesterday.

30 May 2024


We are seeing an unexplained spike in influenza A viruses in waste water in California.  

Type A influenza viruses include H5N1 "Bird Flu", which has been found in a f%$# ton of cattle lately.

Normally, there is very little flu floating around at this time of the year. 

Not good:

An increase in flu viruses detected at wastewater treatment plants in California in recent weeks has sparked concern that the H5N1 bird flu may be spreading more rapidly than anticipated, potentially putting the state’s 1.7 million dairy cows at risk for infection.

Health officials have observed multiple spikes in influenza A viruses, which include the H5N1 avian flu strain that has killed millions of birds worldwide and infected dozens of dairy cow herds across nine U.S. states.

The Bay Area, in particular, is a hotspot for flu activity, according to data from approximately 700 sites published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Nearly all monitored facilities in the region show moderate to high increases in influenza A viruses.

While the presence of bird flu has not been confirmed, it remains a possibility.

A spokesperson for the California Department of Public Health told the Chronicle that they are investigating the surge, which is “not following human influenza trends,” as it is not reflected in general population illness reports.

Normally, the circulation of influenza A — the type that more commonly causes flu in adults — diminishes significantly after the peak of the winter flu season. However, the current increase suggests otherwise.

H5N1 infections in humans yield a case fatality rate (CFR) of over 50%, though transmission is extremely difficult, and mild cases are missing from this number.

If the this virus enters an immune compromised person, a group which appears to include people who have had multiple Covid infections, and hangs around at a low level for a long time, there is a possibility that we could end up with something very nasty.

We Find the Defendant Incredibly Guilty

Trump has been found guilty on all 34 conspiracy and fraud charges.

Donald J. Trump was convicted on Thursday of falsifying records to cover up a sex scandal that threatened to derail his 2016 presidential campaign, capping an extraordinary trial that tested the resilience of the American justice system and transformed the former commander in chief into a felon.

The guilty verdict in Manhattan — across the board, on all 34 counts — will reverberate throughout the nation and the world as it ushers in a new era of presidential politics. Mr. Trump will carry the stain of the verdict during his third run for the White House as voters now choose between an unpopular incumbent and a convicted criminal.

While it was once unthinkable that Americans would elect a felon as their leader, Mr. Trump’s insurgent behavior delights his supporters as he bulldozes the country’s norms. Now, the man who refused to accept his 2020 election loss is already seeking to delegitimize his conviction, attempting to assert the primacy of his raw political power over the nation’s rule of law.


The 12 New Yorkers who composed the jury needed nearly 10 hours to decide a case stemming from Mr. Trump’s first White House run, when, prosecutors say, he perpetrated a fraud on the American people. The case — colored by tabloid intrigue, secret payoffs and an Oval Office pact that echoed the Watergate era — spotlighted months of scheming that begot a hush-money payment to a porn star and a plot to falsify documents to bury all trace of that deal.


Mr. Trump, who repeatedly violated a judge’s order barring him from attacking Mr. Cohen and the jury, attended every day of the trial in a courthouse that had long ago lost its majesty, a fading hulk with cracked wood paneling and yellowed fluorescent lighting that suited the case’s seedier elements. There, in the center of a city justice system that accommodates all manner of mayhem, the former president glowered, muttered and often closed his eyes, spending much of the trial either in a meditative state or apparently asleep.

What will be interesting here is whether or not Judge Merchan will also find him in contempt again.

Jailing him for contempt while the trial was going on could be seen as prejudicing the jury, but the jury is done, so maybe he'll spend a few days at Rikers.

OK, he won't but I can dream, can't I?

Paging Minister of War André Maginot

So, Poland has released plans for an intricate and expensive set of barriers between them ane Russia.

This sounds awfully familiar, but I just can't put my finger on it:

A NATO country unveiled a new plan for its border intended to defend against attacks coming from Russia.

Poland's defense ministry on Monday touted its "east shield," an operation to strengthen its eastern border with Russia and Belarus.

It said the effort would be the largest defensive effort on NATO's eastern flank since World War II ended in 1945.

A diagram released as part of a policy document showed one segment of the planned "border zone."

It featured at least eight distinct types of defense:

  • A permanent fence
  • Barbed wire
  • An anti-tank ditch
  • A field of anti-tank obstacles (known as hedgehogs)
  • Mines
  • Another ditch
  • A layer of vegetation

Officials also stated plans for increasing warning and tracking systems and anti-drone systems as well as preparing forward operating bases.

 For some odd reason, I am feeling nostalgic.

29 May 2024

Quote of the Day

Politicians will tell you that the South is attractive because it offers greater freedom. Actually, it offers cannibalism: it is willing to kill and eat its own to fuel a marginal improvement in your lifestyle.
Hamilton Nolan (For the second time in 2 days)

He is making the point that the semi-feudal slavery state of antebellum South has been replaced with a semi-feudal peonage state.

The implication is that such a state is unsustainable, which given the degree to which former confederate states are pumped up by either large inflows of federal money or resource extraction revenue, is a reasonable conclusion.

That's a pretty good analysis.

Even If You Are Not a Fan of Noam Chomsky

Roll Tape!
Which generally means that you are not a fan of his politics, it is indisputable that he is one of the giants in the field of linguistics.  (I would argue, and he would probably agree that his politics and his work in linguistics are intertwined, but I digress)

I just came across an OP/ED by him in the New York Times where he dropped some much needed reality on Chat GPT.

At the time he wrote it, before the glorified ELIZA program became became, "Glue on Pizza," and other suck insanity.

Chomsky argues that not only can't large language models incapable of achieving intelligence, they cannot ever achieve language either:

Jorge Luis Borges once wrote that to live in a time of great peril and promise is to experience both tragedy and comedy, with “the imminence of a revelation” in understanding ourselves and the world. Today our supposedly revolutionary advancements in artificial intelligence are indeed cause for both concern and optimism. Optimism because intelligence is the means by which we solve problems. Concern because we fear that the most popular and fashionable strain of A.I. — machine learning — will degrade our science and debase our ethics by incorporating into our technology a fundamentally flawed conception of language and knowledge.

OpenAI’s ChatGPT, Google’s Bard and Microsoft’s Sydney are marvels of machine learning. Roughly speaking, they take huge amounts of data, search for patterns in it and become increasingly proficient at generating statistically probable outputs — such as seemingly humanlike language and thought. These programs have been hailed as the first glimmers on the horizon of artificial general intelligence — that long-prophesied moment when mechanical minds surpass human brains not only quantitatively in terms of processing speed and memory size but also qualitatively in terms of intellectual insight, artistic creativity and every other distinctively human faculty.

That day may come, but its dawn is not yet breaking, contrary to what can be read in hyperbolic headlines and reckoned by injudicious investments. The Borgesian revelation of understanding has not and will not — and, we submit, cannot — occur if machine learning programs like ChatGPT continue to dominate the field of A.I. However useful these programs may be in some narrow domains (they can be helpful in computer programming, for example, or in suggesting rhymes for light verse), we know from the science of linguistics and the philosophy of knowledge that they differ profoundly from how humans reason and use language. These differences place significant limitations on what these programs can do, encoding them with ineradicable defects. 


The human mind is not, like ChatGPT and its ilk, a lumbering statistical engine for pattern matching, gorging on hundreds of terabytes of data and extrapolating the most likely conversational response or most probable answer to a scientific question. On the contrary, the human mind is a surprisingly efficient and even elegant system that operates with small amounts of information; it seeks not to infer brute correlations among data points but to create explanations.


Indeed, such programs are stuck in a prehuman or nonhuman phase of cognitive evolution. Their deepest flaw is the absence of the most critical capacity of any intelligence: to say not only what is the case, what was the case and what will be the case — that’s description and prediction — but also what is not the case and what could and could not be the case. Those are the ingredients of explanation, the mark of true intelligence.

I would suggest you read the whole article, and then, if you are a betting man looking for an investment opportunity, find a way to short AI over the next 18-36 months.

The colloquies with Chat GPT embedded in the article are a hoot, particularly if you, as I did, first encountered the ELIZA program, which was a simulated therapist in 1980, and heard exactly the same sort of meaningless parroting of communication.

This Is What You Get When You Hire a Snake Oil Salesman with an Unbroken Record of Failing Upward

When Sam Altman got fired briefly by OpenAI, the said that they did so because, "he was not consistently candid in his communications with the board,” shorthand for, "He lied his ass off."

Former board member Helen Toner has now detailed these lies, and this goes beyond, "Self-aggrandizing tech bro getting high on his own farts," and into criminal acts, including fraud:

The former OpenAI board member Helen Toner has shared explosive new details about what led to CEO Sam Altman's brief ousting in November.

In an interview with Bilawal Sidhu on "The TED AI Show" that aired Tuesday, Toner said Altman lied to the board "multiple" times.

One example Toner cited was that OpenAI's board learned about the release of ChatGPT on Twitter.

Nope no crime, just tech bro fart stuff, though it could be argued that this sort of behavior might merit SEC or FTC civil action.


Toner — one of the board members who voted to kick Altman out — alleged that Altman also lied to the board by keeping them in the dark about the company's ownership structure.

"Sam didn't inform the board that he owned the OpenAI startup fund, even though he constantly was claiming to be an independent board member with no financial interest in the company," she said.

Deriving financial benefit through deceit.  Yeah, fraud.

She said that Altman keeping that from the board "really damaged our ability to trust him" and that the board was "already talking pretty seriously about whether we needed to fire him" in October.
The question here is not whether you need to fire him.  That's corporate governance 101.

The question is whether you pick up the phone and call state and federal prosecutors for securities and other forms of fraud.

Spoiler:  The answer is, "Yes, you DO drop a dime on him to the authorities."


She said that there were other individual examples but that ultimately, "we just couldn't believe things that Sam was telling us, and that's a completely unworkable place to be in as a board."

Toner added that it was "totally impossible" for the board to trust Altman's word. The role of the board, she said, was to have independent oversight of OpenAI and "not just helping the CEO to raise more money."

But then, last October, the board had several conversations in which two executives detailed their own experiences with Altman and used the phrase "psychological abuse," Toner said.

Yeah, that's what lying psychopaths do, they abuse people. (My money is on gaslighting)

Unfortunately, what lying psychopaths do is get lots of venture funding, because VC folks love lying psychopaths.

It would be amusing if Scarlett Johansson is what takes him down.

28 May 2024

Bezos' Cat Box Liner

You have doubtless heard the story about Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito's getting his insurrectionist freak flag on, I posted about it here, but did you know that the Washington Post had the story and buried it for more than three years?

What the f%$# is wrong with the editors:

The most interesting story in Sunday's Washington Post was on Page A3 — and 1,221 days late.

  • It turns out that The Post's former Supreme Court reporter, Bob Barnes, did a front-yard interview with Justice Samuel Alito on Jan. 20, 2021 — President Biden's inauguration day — about the upside-down American flag that had flown outside the justice's home in Fairfax County, Va.
  • The Post decided it wasn't a story, until The New York Times broke the news on May 16 — 3 years, 4 months later.

Why it matters: The flag — which Alito attributed to his wife, Martha-Ann Alito — raised ethics questions that were heightened after The Times reported last week on a second provocative flag flown at an Alito property.

The fact that Martha-Ann Alito is a right wing nutjob is probably not news, but when the spouse of a Supreme Court Justice does this in a scenario where there has been an attempted insurrection two weeks prior, this is, particularly given that by the standard canons of judicial ethics, back to the witch burning judge that Alito is so fond of quoting, this justifies a recusal, and Alito is refusing to do so. (Slso, Alito is lying about the time line, but that's just powdered sugar on the donut)

Quote of the Day

What Biden needs to worry about is not highly engaged activists making some considered calculation not to vote for him, but instead millions of regular ass people who will not vote for him because they don’t feel excited about him. They will stay home because he has not given them an inspiring thing to vote for.
Hamilton Nolan

But they will continue to hippy punch, because while Donald Trump and the Republicans are the opposition, but left wing activists are the enemy.

Democratic Party establishment (There is no Democratic Party establishment) is Boies Penrose*, only writ small and incompetent.

It wasn't the people who voted for Jill Stein in 2020, or Ralph Nader in 2000, (they both still suck, though) who flipped the elections, it was the people who could not be motivated to vote because of things like running mate Joe Lieberman and candidate Hillary Clinton.

The Democratic Party establishment (There is no Democratic Party establishment) is by its nature, is an institution whose basic message is, "Better things are not possible," and even when they find a champion who possesses rhetorical skills that can overcome these limitations, like Barack Obama and Bill Clinton, they are followed by an electoral bloodbath when they refuse to deliver on that promise.

Biden lacks these rhetorical skills, though he has delivered more than any Democratic President since Lyndon Johnson, but he is still very much a creature of the Democratic Party establishment (There is no Democratic Party establishment), and proud of it.

To the degree that Biden is at all viable, it is because his opponent is so profoundly awful.

*You know, the Iron Law of Institutions, which as stated by Jon Schwarz, "The people who control institutions care first and foremost about their power within the institution rather than the power of the institution itself. Thus, they would rather the institution "fail" while they remain in power within the institution than for the institution to "succeed" if that requires them to lose power within the institution." Or, as then Pennsylvania Senator Boies Penrose said, when accused of ruining the state Republican Party by putting forward a slate of candidates that were likely to lose, "Yes, but I'll preside over the ruins."
They don't suck for the reason that you think. They suck because they play to now play to lose. They are wealthy privileged assholes who like being wealthy privileged assholes, but feel guilty about it, and so engage in theatrical agitprop.

27 May 2024

Clearly, Anthropogenic Climate Change is a Myth

One of the little known facts about the weather, at least among those not following meteorology is that the most deadly weather events are not hurricanes, or tornadoes, or droughts, but heat waves.*

It appears that Phoenix, Arizona is having a surge of deaths associated with increased temperatures:

Scorching pavement blisters uncovered skin. Pus oozes from burned feet and bacteria-teeming wounds fester under sweat-soaked bandages for people living on the street.

They might be the lucky ones.

Relentless heat led to 645 deaths last year in Maricopa County, the most ever documented in Arizona. The soaring number of heat mortalities — a 1,000 percent increase over 10 years — comes as temperatures reach new highs amid exploding eviction rates in the Phoenix area, leading to a collision of homelessness and record-setting heat waves.

The crisis has left local officials searching for answers in a region that regularly relies on churches more than the government to save people’s lives by offering them a cool place to hide from the desert air.

Almost half of the victims last year were homeless — 290 people. Twenty died at bus stops, others were in tents, and an unrecorded number of people were found on the pavement, prone as if on a baking stone. More than 250 other people — the elderly, ill and unlucky — died in uncooled homes, on bikes or just going for a walk.

I have always believed that Phoenix was an unlivable hell-hole, with its acres of concrete, lack of shade, and car driven city layout, but it appears that climate change is turning my metaphorical statement into reality.


What This Yid Thinks of Red Lobster

As we are all aware, the Red Lobster chain is declaring bankruptcy, and the media take is something to the effect of, "All you can eat shrimp did them because Americans are gluttonous fat f%$#s." 

While the shrimp was a money loser for the seafood restaurant, those losses were an insignificant part of the problem. 

The real problem was (no surprise) that private equity (PE) looted them after buying the chain.

This is not a surprise.

Classic PE tactics are things like loading the companies they buy in debt, selling off the real estate underneath these companies to themselves and taking the proceeds for themselves, etc.

There are lots of stories you can tell about why Red Lobster declared bankruptcy this week. You can point to the impact of the COVID pandemic, which put a dent in the full-service dining market that Red Lobster never recovered from. (According to its bankruptcy filing, Red Lobster’s guest count is down 30% from 2019.) You can cite the impact of inflation and higher wages for restaurant workers, which has raised the cost of dining out and made cheaper fast-casual restaurants more appealing to consumers. And you can enumerate the chain’s marketing missteps, including its introduction of the now-infamous Ultimate Endless Shrimp for $20 promotion in May 2023, which cost Red Lobster $11 million in losses in less than a year. But the biggest reason Red Lobster went under is pretty simple: Its owners sank it.

The first of the owners in question was a private-equity firm called Golden Gate Capital, which bought Red Lobster in 2014 from Darden Restaurants, which owns a number of different restaurant brands, including Olive Garden and LongHorn Steakhouse. Typically, when a private-equity firm takes over a company, it finances the acquisition by loading the company down with debt, which makes the deal cheaper for the PE firm but also makes it harder for the company to thrive. In Red Lobster’s case, though, the problems went beyond that. While Golden Gate Capital did add debt to Red Lobster’s balance sheet, it also made another move, selling off Red Lobster’s real-estate assets for $1.5 billion, forcing Red Lobster to lease those locations back.


The rents on many of these properties are also, according to the bankruptcy filing, priced above market rates. The result is that last year, the company spent almost $200 million leasing locations, a full third of which it spent on locations for what it calls underperforming stores. (Golden Gate did not respond to a request for comment.)


That wasn’t the only time a Red Lobster owner helped itself while hurting the company. In 2016, Golden Gate sold a 25% stake in the company for $575 million to a seafood company called Thai Union, which was (and is) one of Red Lobster’s biggest suppliers. And four years later, in the middle of the pandemic, Golden Gate sold off its remaining stake to Thai Union and a consortium of other investors. That was a good move by Golden Gate. But it meant that Red Lobster was being controlled by owners without much restaurant experience at a moment when the chain was confronting some of the biggest challenges in its history. And this problem was compounded by the fact that the company’s longtime CEO Kim Lopdrup stepped down the following year. Over the next three years, the company would have four different CEOs.

Thai Union’s acquisition of Red Lobster also created an odd set of incentives. Thai Union, as one of Red Lobster’s biggest suppliers of shrimp, had a clear incentive to increase the amount of shrimp Red Lobster bought from it, as well as the prices it paid for that shrimp. And Red Lobster’s CEOs had an incentive to keep the owners happy. So perhaps it was no coincidence that in 2023, Red Lobster’s former CEO Paul Kenny made the Ultimate Endless Shrimp deal, which had previously been only a short-lived promotion, a permanent part of the menu—even though, according to the bankruptcy filing, there was “significant pushback” against the idea from other members of the management team.

This is looting, and this should be fraud under the law, and the proceeds that Golden Gate made from this deal, particularly the (not mentioned in the article) management fees should be subject to claw-back in bankruptcy. 

This is really a microcosm of what is wrong with business and finance in the United States.

26 May 2024

Cola Corporation is Experiencing Supply Chain Problems

The Cola Corporation, which describes itself as being, "Started in 2019 with the simple goal of trolling MAGA," makes T-shirts, hoodies, and similar protest related apparel. 

Among these sartorially exquisite products is a T-shirt which states, "F%$# the LAPD."

In response to this T-shirt, the LAPD Foundation sent a DMCA takedown letter, claiming violation of the copyright on the use of LAPD.  (Yes there are some legal errors there, but I'll get to those)

Cola Corporation, contacted their counsel, Mike Dunford,  who, perhaps taking taking a page from noted anti-Fascist fighter then Brigadier General Anthony Clement McAuliffe, responded, "LOL, no."

This has subsequently gone viral, and Cola has had their entire stock bought out during the past few days.

If this is not the Streisand Effect, it is certainly Streisand Effect adjacent.

For a slightly more in-depth response, and one that provides a bit mroe in the way of explanation, you can read this legal analysis, which additionally provides more information as to the nature of the legal errors made.

Short version:

  • LAPD cannot be copyrighted, so a DMCA take-down request is wrong.
  • If they were referring to trademark, there is no possibility of confusion, between LAPD and F%$# the LAPD, so that is moot as well.
  • The law firm that sent the cease and desist letter specializes in IP law, and as such, had to have known that the request was not in accordance with the law, and as such why they, and their client should not be sued. (see 7 U.S.C. § 512(f))
  • The use of IP law to interfere with criticism of a government agency is ruled out by the First Amendment.

Who Had "Rubber Chicken" on Their Bingo Card?

Because rubber chickens were a part of RFK, JR agitprop at the Libertarian convention, to the degree that the Secret Service was confiscating the novelty item at security checkpoints.

To quote Anna Russel once again, "I'm not making this up, you know."

Rubber, squeaky chickens were handed out this weekend at the Libertarian Party convention in Washington, D.C., to call on former President Trump to debate independent presidential candidate Robert F. Kennedy Jr.

The rubber chickens, which had the words “Debate Bobby” on them were passed out by the pro-Kennedy American Values 2024 super PAC at the weekend convention, where Trump was met with a raucous crowd and a mix of boos and cheers.

Tony Lyons, the co-chair of American Values 2024, confirmed to The Hill that the group distributed the rubber chickens to attendees Saturday.

“Biden and Trump are scared to death to debate Bobby because they know what the voting public is learning rapidly—that Bobby Kennedy can win, that he alone will end the corruption, end the wars, end the chronic disease epidemic and rebuild the middle class, the engine of our democracy,” Lyons said in a statement.

In one video of Trump’s Saturday address, an apparent silhouette of a rubber chicken could be seen being held up by an audience member.

CNN reported that Secret Service agents confiscated some of the rubber chickens ahead of Trump’s speech.

Seriously, at this point, I'm expecting someone to appoint a horse to the Senate.

Our body politic has moved beyond Salvador Dali straight to Gaius Caesar Augustus Germanicus, aka Caligula.

24 May 2024

Nope, No Antisemitism Here

One could be a cynic, and say that the behavior of Gaza solidarity protesters is to quote (not Tallyrand),* "Worse than a crime, it is a mistake," but in this case, I will not be cynical and say that, the demands of the protestors at Drexel Univwersity  that Hillel, Chabad, and other Jewish groups be expelled from campus is flat out religious bigotry.  (It's also really stupid, but you don't get this stupid without the antisemitism)

Following the start of the Gaza Solidarity Encampment, which was established just after a documentary screening discussing the events of Oct. 7, Jewish students expressed concerns over the rhetoric used by protestors and demands by the Drexel Palestine Coalition to disband Jewish organizations on campus, including Hillel and Chabad.

Among the encampment’s many demands include terminating both Jewish organizations on Drexel campus, Hillel and Chabad. The coalition claims Hillel’s primary purpose is to “facilitate birthright trips to Occupied Palestine” and claim Chabad should be banned for “welcoming an ex-IOF soldier into the Drexel Community.”


Drexel Palestine Coalition did not get back to The Triangle for comment on the demand to terminate Hillel and Chabad. They responded to The Triangle via email with an updated “Communique” of the encampment’s disbandment.

“Early in the morning of Thursday, May 23rd 2024, the Gaza Solidarity Encampment at Drexel University launched a strategic retreat from campus,” the Communique stated.  


The soldier with “horrific war crimes and human rights violations” referenced by the demands, refers to an ex-Israeli Defense Force soldier who visited campus on March 14 to share her story of how she survived the Nova festival massacre. She attended the festival after finishing her army service as a yoga instructor for soldiers.

I am not going to use this incident to argue that all of the Gaza protesters are antisemites, I'm not even going to argue that all of the Gaza protesters at Drexel are antisemites, but this does make it clear that all of the Gaza protesters at Drexel are either antisemites or fellow travelers, and this applies to the protestors at the University of California Santa Cruz (go banana slugs) who have made similar demands.

Anti-Zionism is not is not necessarily antisemitism, but frequently it is.

The fact is that modern secular Zionism, and the existence of the state of Israel, are a direct indictment of the modern west.

Zionism's origins began with journalist Theodore Herzl reporting on the Dreyfus Affair, after which he concluded that Jews were not safe in the west, and thus needed a homeland as a refuge for when (not if) their lives are threatened by virtue of their heritage.

Subsequent events proved Herzl right, and this is an indictment of western society.

*While this quote, "Cest pire qu'un crime, c'est une faute, is generally attributed to Charles Maurice de Talleyrand-Périgord, he did not say this. It was likely either Antoine Boulay de la Meurthe or Joseph Fouché.

Intriguing Concept

I'm not a big fan of civil forfeiture.  I think that it is legalized theft, and should be ended. 

That being said, I do think that the proposal to use civil forfeiture against energy companies.

Short version of civil forfeiture:  If a cop claims that they think that an asset, (Homes, cars, cash , jewelry, etc.) they can take it, and the onus is on you to prove that this property is not involved with a crime.

In a given year, law enforcement typically takes more assets from people than do burglars.

The procedural barriers are basically non existent.  All the police officer has to do is claim that they think that what they took was involved in a crime, and they can take it, and you have to file a lawsuit to prove that this is untrue.

How easy should it be for cops to steal things from you? Very easy, the Supreme Court ruled in Culley v. Marshall earlier this month. “Civil asset forfeiture,” as it’s called, is a legal tool available in most states and under federal law that allows law enforcement agencies to seize essentially any form of property, including cars, money, and real estate. The state doesn’t need a criminal conviction, criminal charges, or even an arrest. If the police have reasonable grounds to believe that your car is linked to alleged criminal activity, they can seize it. That’s even true if the suspected crime had nothing to do with you, like in Culley, where plaintiff Halima Culley’s car was taken after her son was pulled over for driving with marijuana.

This is clearly an inequitable system. But what if it were directed at worthy targets? What if, instead of targeting assets like Halima Culley’s 2015 Nissan Altima, public safety officials utilized this powerful tool to seize and hold property connected to serious corporate crimes, like dangerous fossil fuel infrastructure whose criminally reckless use by Big Oil companies is endangering countless Americans?

Asset forfeiture was introduced to help law enforcement officials thwart large-scale criminal enterprises—the FBI describes it as a tool that targets “criminal organizations” and “terrorists” in order to “disrupt, dismantle, and deter those who prey on the vulnerable for financial gain.” But these days, a typical case involves the police seizing the property of a low- or moderate-income person of color because of a suspected connection to drugs. Then the person seeking to recover their property is subjected to a labyrinthine process—which the Supreme Court upheld—that makes it nearly impossible for them to recover their assets. In some instances, keeping the assets is the whole point. One amicus brief in Culley describes incidents in which law enforcement officials were caught on tape describing forfeited flat-screen televisions as “very popular with police departments” and referring to forfeited property as “little goodies.” Many departments are permitted to keep the proceeds from selling seized property and, perhaps not surprisingly, those facing budget challenges engage in more seizures. A 2020 study estimated that governments have taken in at least $68.8 billion through these procedures.

Deploying civil forfeiture in these ways is profoundly unjust. But many communities do, in fact, urgently need tools that can disrupt and disable large criminal enterprises that are inflicting serious harms on the public, as civil forfeiture was initially intended to do. Rather than continuing to focus on the property of suspected low-level offenders (or that of their mothers), state and local officials should turn this power against serious offenders causing mass harm, like corporate criminal enterprises. One example is the fossil fuel companies whose actions are responsible for widespread destruction and death in communities across the country. For decades, Big Oil companies and the products they sell have generated the majority of all global greenhouse gas emissions and defrauded the public to block climate action, despite knowing that these actions would lead to lethal and, in their own words, “globally catastrophic” climate consequences. A growing number of legal experts believe these actions could fall under the category of criminal violations such as reckless endangerment, criminal mischief, conspiracy and racketeering, and homicide. Such charges are routinely lodged against defendants who have not engaged in the same type of willful conduct and are not inflicting the same scale of harm as fossil fuel companies.

Sounds to me like I there is enough here for law enforcement officers to claim that they think that oil company assets are the product of a crime, and so they could seize corporate jets, real estate leased for energy exploration, refineries, tankers, etc.

What's more should they do so so, one can be reasonably assured that Congress and state legislatures would change the law to tighten up procedural standards to prevent this.

The central tenet of conservatism, and corrupt law enforcement, is that, to quote (the composer, not the political theorist) Frank Wilhoit, "There must be in-groups whom the law protects but does not bind, alongside out-groups whom the law binds but does not protect."

If the law is applied to bind the rich and powerful, the polity will respond by making the law less arbitrary and capricious.

This Court Is Built for Africa and for Thugs Like Putin

That was what an unidentified senior government official said to International Criminal Court prosecutor Karim Khan in discussions about the potential criminal indictment of Benjamin Netanyahu.


In an interview with CNN’s Christiane Amanpour, Karim Khan, the ICC’s prosecutor, recounted a conversation with a senior leader who remarked: “This court is built for Africa and for thugs like Putin,” underscoring the complexities surrounding international legal proceedings.

The attitude here is, to once again quote composer Frank Wilhoit, is that, "There must be in-groups whom the law protects but does not bind, alongside out-groups whom the law binds but does not protect."

Whether or not one believes that Netanyahu has committed crimes against humanity, it is undeniable that this assertion is mainstream in the Anglo/American polity.

The so called "Foreign Policy Blob" believes that the rules are there only serve their own goals.

F%$# that.

Mr. Khan, tell us who said this.

23 May 2024

Not Learning from Our Mistakes

It appears that much like in 1929, and in 2008, leverage in general and margin debt in particular have exploded over the past few years.

It was easy to make money by leveraging up when interest rates were near 0%, but eventually the house of cards comes crashing down.

It took 80 years for the lessons of the Great Depression to be forgotten, but this time, it looks likely that it will be well under 2 decades:

Even I was shocked when I first plotted the data in Figure 56. While the private debt to GDP ratio grew by roughly 40% over the decade of the 1920s, the margin debt component of private debt grew far more quickly, from 1% of GDP in 1918 to 8.5% in 1929. Then it crashed, even more rapidly than it had risen, collapsing to half a percent of GDP in 1931. From then it was quiescent for decades, until a blip during the 1987 stock market bubble and crash, followed by its dramatic rise in the days of the "Greenspan Put",74F to which the '87 Crash gave birth.

This is Chapter 12 from my forthcoming book Rebuilding Economics from the Top Down, which will be published by the Budapest Centre for Long-Term Sustainability and the Pallas Athéné Domus Meriti Foundation. I am serialising the book chapters here. A watermarked PDF of the manuscript is available to supporters.

One look at this chart should be sufficient to understand why the Great Crash of 1929 was both great, and a major cause of the Great Depression which followed it, and why levered speculation, rather than rational calculation, dominates the behaviour of asset markets.

The author goes on to show how classical economic theory ignores the role of credit, and the dangers of credit, which, while an interesting read, is not what concerns me. 

What concerns me is that we are in a speculative bubble that will collapse, probably sooner than later, and its impact will be deep broad, and long.

In comparing the Great Recession of 2008, and the Covid recession of 2020, it is clear that finance and speculation is a far greater risk to our economy than is a disease that has killed millions.

Good on the Distinguished Gentleman from Vermont

I agree with Bernie Sanders.  The ICC is completely justified in issuing an arrest warrant for Benjamin Netanyahu:

US Senator Bernie Sanders expressed support for the requests by International Criminal Court (ICC) chief prosecutor Karim Khan for arrest warrants for Israeli leaders and urged the US to respect international law.

"The ICC as I see it is trying to uphold international law and minimum standards of decency. Our government should do no less," Sanders told the Senate floor Tuesday night.

His remarks came after Khan applied for arrest warrants on Monday for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Yoav Gallant and three leaders of the Palestinian group Hamas for “war crimes and crimes against humanity” committed in Israel and the Gaza Strip.

Sanders said that when the ICC declared Russian President Vladimir Putin a war criminal last year, the US government welcomed its decision.

"Some have argued that it is unfair to compare the democratically elected head of the Israeli government to Putin, who runs an authoritarian system...Yes, democratically elected officials can commit war crimes," he said.

"The ICC is doing its job. It’s doing what it is supposed to do. We cannot only apply international law when it is convenient," Sanders added.

A lot of the issues with the current war in Israel are complex regarding the nature of warfare, when overwhelming (technically legal) force become indiscriminate force, (technically illegal), the right to Palestinian self-determination, etc.

Netanyahu's behavior is not complex.  It is plainly criminal.

His decisions both before October 7 have been driven by his desire to hold onto power by any means necessary, and as such he has acted in blatant disregard for international law and the interests of the state of Israel.

Who is Their Software Vendor?

San Francisco lawyer Christine Dudley has found that her choices of library books choices resulted in ads being served to her that were clearly driven by her reading choices.

In April, attorney Christine Dudley was listening to a book on her iPhone while playing a game on her Android tablet when she started to see in-game ads that reflected the audiobooks she recently checked out of the San Francisco Public Library.

Her audiobook consumption, she explained, had been highly focused the previous month, focused on a specific subgenre that she doesn't believe would come up by chance.

"You don't coincidentally come across mobile ads [for that particular subgenre]," she told The Register. "Those ads made me extremely angry."

How likely do you think it is that the SF library's is running IT back office?

Even if the library has strict policies against sharing its users' reading habits, their IT provider might ignore user privacy issues.

Certainly, it smells a lot like General Motors' privacy debacle, where they sold customers driving habits to data brokers who in turn sold the data to insurance companies.

This is why government agencies should bring IT functions in house.

This is My Shocked Face

Recently revealed documents show that the House of Saud was hip deep in the 911 attacks.


A new filing in a lawsuit brought by the families of 9/11 victims against the government of Saudi Arabia alleges that al-Qaeda had significant, indeed decisive, state support for its attacks. Officials of the Saudi government, the plaintiffs’ attorneys contend, formed and operated a network inside the United States that provided crucial assistance to the first cohort of 9/11 hijackers to enter the country.

The 71-page document, released in redacted form earlier this month, summarizes what the plaintiffs say they’ve learned through the evidence obtained in discovery and recently declassified materials. They allege that Saudi officials—most notably Fahad al-Thumairy, an imam at a Los Angeles mosque and an accredited diplomat at Saudi Arabia’s consulate in that city, and Omar al-Bayoumi, who masqueraded as a graduate student but was identified by the FBI as an intelligence operative—were not rogue operators but rather the front end of a conspiracy that included the Saudi embassy in Washington and senior government officials in Riyadh.


The filing, responding to a Saudi motion to dismiss the case, which is currently before the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, makes extensive reference to FBI investigative reports, memos, communications records, and contemporaneous evidentiary materials that are still under seal but are likely to be made public in the coming weeks. One of us—Steven Simon—has been a plaintiffs’ expert in the case, enlisted to review and provide an independent assessment of the evidence. Some of the claims in the filing appear to be corroborated by a document, prepared by the FBI in July 2021 and titled “Connections to the Attacks of September 11, 2001,” as well as by other documents declassified under President Joe Biden’s Executive Order 14040. The materials produced thus far in the case deal mainly with Saudi support provided to these two California-based al-Qaeda operatives, and their fellow hijackers of American Airlines Flight 77, which was crashed into the Pentagon. Assuming that the case—now seven years old—goes forward, the presiding judge could order a further, broader discovery phase probing possible Saudi support for the other hijackers, most of whom came to the East Coast beginning in mid-2000.

The materials that have already surfaced, however, document the extent of the complicity of Saudi officials. The 9/11 Commission Report recounted numerous contacts between Bayoumi and Thumairy, but described only “circumstantial evidence” of Thumairy as a contact for the two hijackers and stated that it didn’t know whether Bayoumi’s first encounter with the operatives occurred “by chance or design.” But the evidence assembled in the ongoing lawsuit suggests that the actions Thumairy and Bayoumi took to support the hijackers were actually deliberate, sustained, and carefully coordinated with other Saudi officials.

In addition to the documents showing financial and logistical support, the evidence includes several videotapes seized by the U.K. during raids of Bayoumi’s properties there when he was arrested in Birmingham in September 2001. One video—a more complete version of a tape reviewed by the 9/11 Commission—shows Mihdhar and Hazmi at a welcome party arranged by Bayoumi after they moved to San Diego. The full video, the filing claims, shows that the party was organized by Bayoumi and Thumairy “to introduce the hijackers to a carefully curated group of likeminded community members and religious leaders.” The U.K. police also found, according to the filing, a notepad on which Bayoumi had sketched “a drawing of a plane, alongside a calculation used to discern the distance at which a target on the ground will be visible from a certain altitude.”

The US unqualified support for the House of Saud is a mistake, and not just because they are repugnant.

The fall of the House of Saud is a certainty, and it will happen sooner rather than later.

The only question as to whether it will fall like the House of Windsor, where King Charles and the rest of "The Firm" are primarily a tourist attraction and fodder for the tabloids, or whether it will fall like the House of Romanov, and be shot and dumped into a mine shaft.

To the degree that US offers unqualified support to the House of Saud, a path toward democratic reform in Riyadh becomes less likely, which makes a violent end to the Saudi absolute monarchy,

Good Policy and Good Politics

The DoJ  has filed a lawsuit against Live Nation/Ticketmaster calling for its breakup.

Given the state of public opinion regarding this company, they are arguably more loathed than cable companies, and the well documented abusive and anti-competitive behavior, this is a no brainer, even if this action just motivates Taylor Swift nation:

The US government today sued Live Nation and its Ticketmaster subsidiary in a complaint that seeks a breakup of the company that dominates the live music and events market.

The US Department of Justice is seeking "structural relief," including a breakup, "to stop the anticompetitive conduct arising from Live Nation's monopoly power." The DOJ complaint asked a federal court to "order the divestiture of, at minimum, Ticketmaster, along with any additional relief as needed to cure any anticompetitive harm."

The District of Columbia and 29 states joined the DOJ in the lawsuit filed in US District Court for the Southern District of New York. "One monopolist serves as the gatekeeper for the delivery of nearly all live music in America today: Live Nation, including its wholly owned subsidiary Ticketmaster," the complaint said.

US Attorney General Merrick Garland said during a press conference that "Live Nation relies on unlawful, anticompetitive conduct to exercise its monopolistic control over the live events industry in the United States... The result is that fans pay more in fees, artists have fewer opportunities to play concerts, smaller promoters get squeezed out, and venues have fewer real choices for ticketing services."

"It is time to break it up," Garland said.


The lawsuit seeks a judgment declaring that Live Nation and Ticketmaster violated antitrust law in various ways. "Live Nation has acted unlawfully to maintain its monopoly" in the ticketing market, for example, "by entering into long-term exclusive primary ticketing contracts with major concert venues that unreasonably restrain trade in the United States," the lawsuit said.

Live Nation was accused of breaking the law "by tying artists' use of Live Nation owned, controlled, and exclusively booked large amphitheaters to their purchase of promotional services from Live Nation." The US and states also say that Live Nation has illegally maintained its "monopoly in the markets for the provision of concert booking and promotion services to major concert venues and the provision of promotion services to artists performing in major concert venues."

In addition to seeking a breakup of Live Nation and Ticketmaster, the US asked the court to order the "termination of Live Nation's ticketing agreement with Oak View Group." Oak View Group owns or manages over 200 venues and is "uniquely positioned to compete against Live Nation," but "now operates as an agent and a self-described 'pimp' and 'hammer' for Live Nation, often influencing venues and artists for the benefit of Live Nation," the lawsuit said.

Elections have consequences.

In this case, we all benefit.

(Insert random snark dissing Obama here for allowing the Live Nation — Ticketmaster merger in 2010)

22 May 2024

This is Nuts

The Colorado Republican Party has called for parents to stop sending their children to public schools.

They think that public schools turn their kids Trans.

You know, I am opposed to literacy tests to vote, but if more Republicans keep their kids out of school, I might reconsider:

The Colorado Republican Party is warning parents that there's a good chance their children will become transgender if they are educated in the public school system.

Local news station 9 News reports that the Colorado GOP sent out an email blast to supporters this week informing them that "all Colorado parents should be aiming to remove their kids from public education" on grounds that leaving them there will "turn more kids trans."

There is no evidence that children can be forced to become transgender, let alone that being educated in public schools can push them to identify as such.

The email in question was written by Darcy Schoening, director of special initiatives for the Colorado GOP who is also a former leader of a local Moms for Liberty chapter in El Paso.

This is f%$#ed up and sh%$.

Confirming the Obvious

Trisha Greenhalgh, et al., have completed an exhaustive study on the efficacy of masks for preventing respiratory infections, and rather unsurprisingly, it throws serious shade at the Cochrane Library for their blatantly deceptive study on masking.

Among other things, they note that the approach of limiting studies to RCTs (randomised controlled trials) is a recipe for junk science:

This narrative review and meta-analysis summarizes a broad evidence base on the benefits—and also the practicalities, disbenefits, harms and personal, sociocultural and environmental impacts—of masks and masking. Our synthesis of evidence from over 100 published reviews and selected primary studies, including re-analyzing contested meta-analyses of key clinical trials, produced seven key findings. First, there is strong and consistent evidence for airborne transmission of severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) and other respiratory pathogens. Second, masks are, if correctly and consistently worn, effective in reducing transmission of respiratory diseases and show a dose-response effect. Third, respirators are significantly more effective than medical or cloth masks. Fourth, mask mandates are, overall, effective in reducing community transmission of respiratory pathogens. Fifth, masks are important sociocultural symbols; non-adherence to masking is sometimes linked to political and ideological beliefs and to widely circulated mis- or disinformation. Sixth, while there is much evidence that masks are not generally harmful to the general population, masking may be relatively contraindicated in individuals with certain medical conditions, who may require exemption. Furthermore, certain groups (notably D/deaf people) are disadvantaged when others are masked. Finally, there are risks to the environment from single-use masks and respirators. We propose an agenda for future research, including improved characterization of the situations in which masking should be recommended or mandated; attention to comfort and acceptability; generalized and disability-focused communication support in settings where masks are worn; and development and testing of novel materials and designs for improved filtration, breathability, and environmental impact. 

Masks work, and you have to twist yourself into knots to find otherwise.

Getting His Freak Flag On

I am referring, of course to Supreme Court Justice Sam Alito, who in addition to flying the Amercian flag upside down in a MAGAt display, it now appears that he also flew the Christofascist insurrectionist "Appeal to Heaven" flag.

Seriously, when are we going to start looking at naked corruption by the Supreme Court's right wing hacks?

Last summer, two years after an upside-down American flag was flown outside the Virginia home of Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr., another provocative symbol was displayed at his vacation house in New Jersey, according to interviews and photographs.

This time, it was the “Appeal to Heaven” flag, which, like the inverted U.S. flag, was carried by rioters at the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021. Also known as the Pine Tree flag, it dates back to the Revolutionary War, but largely fell into obscurity until recent years and is now a symbol of support for former President Donald J. Trump, for a religious strand of the “Stop the Steal” campaign and for a push to remake American government in Christian terms.

Three photographs obtained by The New York Times, along with accounts from a half-dozen neighbors and passers-by, show that the Appeal to Heaven flag was aloft at the Alito home on Long Beach Island in July and September of 2023. A Google Street View image from late August also shows the flag.

The photographs, each taken independently, are from four different dates. It is not clear whether the flag was displayed continuously during those months or how long it was flown overall.


In commenting for the Times report last week about the upside-down American flag at his Virginia home in 2021, Justice Alito said that it had been raised by his wife, Martha-Ann Alito, during a clash with a neighbor.

The revelation about that flag prompted concerns from legal scholars and ethicists, and calls from dozens of Democratic lawmakers that the justice recuse himself from cases related to Jan. 6. The news also drew criticism from some conservative politicians, including Senator Lindsey Graham, who said that displaying the inverted flag was “not good judgment.”

During the period the Appeal to Heaven flag was seen flying at the justice’s New Jersey house, a key Jan. 6 case arrived at the Supreme Court, challenging whether those who stormed the Capitol could be prosecuted for obstruction.

The corruption here is not his active support of January 6 insurrectionists, though this clearly was a statement of active support of the January 6 insurrectionists, the corruption is here is his refusal to recuse himself.

How about a criminal investigation?  It is well justified.

Support Your Local Police

Federal authorities have coerced DNA samples from millions of immigrants and have put them into a national criminal database.

Among other things, it appears that agents were telling people that they were administration Covid tests when they were taking DNA samples:

A new investigation published today by Georgetown University’s Center on Privacy & Technology reveals the Department of Homeland Security has amassed 1.5 million people’s DNA in recent years thanks to a potentially unconstitutional and predatory legal amendment targeting marginalized communities—a 5,000-percent increase compared to its database’s previous two decades of existence. This genetic material is permanently indexed under “offender” profiles and mostly belongs to BIPOC noncitizens, many of them coerced, intimidated, or misled by ICE, FBI, and DHS officials into believing they were taking COVID-19 tests.

The study’s authors believe the situation “extremely risky” for both individuals and the general public “given rapid advances in DNA technology, the lack of strong legal limits on what the government can do with those samples, and increasing political instability in the US.”


A new investigation published today by Georgetown University’s Center on Privacy & Technology reveals the Department of Homeland Security has amassed 1.5 million people’s DNA in recent years thanks to a potentially unconstitutional and predatory legal amendment targeting marginalized communities—a 5,000-percent increase compared to its database’s previous two decades of existence. This genetic material is permanently indexed under “offender” profiles and mostly belongs to BIPOC noncitizens, many of them coerced, intimidated, or misled by ICE, FBI, and DHS officials into believing they were taking COVID-19 tests.

The study’s authors believe the situation “extremely risky” for both individuals and the general public “given rapid advances in DNA technology, the lack of strong legal limits on what the government can do with those samples, and increasing political instability in the US.”


The government’s unprecedented expansion into genetic surveillance began during the Trump administration. Building upon the 2005 DNA Fingerprint Act, a 2020 Justice Department policy expansion grants FBI, Department of Homeland Security (DHS), and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officials the authority to gather an individual’s DNA after being “detained” in an immigration context.

“As a practical matter almost nobody is categorically excluded from DNA collection by the requirement that they first be detained,” the Center explains.

Regardless of someone’s guilt or innocence, all samples are entered into the Combined DNA Index System (CODIS) federal database as permanently searchable “offender” profiles available to local, state, federal, and international criminal law enforcement. The program has remained active throughout the Biden administration and there is no indication Congress is considering to re-examine the policy.


Following an extensive review of available information, the Center on Privacy & Technology concludes these immigration policy exploitations have allowed the DHS to collect DNA mostly from people of color, often noncitizens, at a rate that wouldn’t be possible in traditional criminal policing. If the DHS continues at its projected pace, as much as one-third of all CODIS “offender” profiles by 2034 will come from methods that don’t follow standard police procedural rules for collecting DNA. The investigators also “did not discover a single instance of a person refusing to submit to DNA” in all of their interviews with previously detained individuals. Many people cited fear and intimidation as key factors in agreeing to the DNA swabs.

This is racist, corrupt, and abusive.

Not only should the individuals responsible for this be fired, they should be jailed.

21 May 2024

Elections Have Consequences

The Bureau of Land Management has announced that it will end coal mining leases in the Powder River Basin.


The Bureau of Land Management announced Thursday that it would no longer make federally managed lands in Wyoming’s Powder River Basin available for new coal mining leases, drawing condemnation from the fossil fuel industry in the region that produces the most coal in the country, but delivering a boon to the nation’s clean energy transition.

The Powder River Basin, a geological formation that covers much of northeast Wyoming and a portion of southeast Montana, has been the nation’s largest source of coal for decades, with production there peaking in 2008. Since then, demand for coal has plummeted, largely due to the rise of natural gas and renewable energy. Taking federal coal off the table in the basin could all but put an expiration date on the nation’s thermal coal industry.

“This is a really critical, and frankly long overdue step that BLM has taken,” said Melissa Hornbein, an attorney at the Western Environmental Law Center, which was part of the legal team that represented several environmental groups in two legal challenges to the Bureau of Land Management’s previous resource management plans for the area.

Juxtaposing the large number of environmental issues from mining coal, as well as lease terms are more subsidies than they are a revenue source for the government, this is an unalloyed good/

This is My Shocked Face!

In news that will surprise absolutely no one, the Massachusetts "Millionaires' Tax," has raised a f%$# ton of money, without the rich pig types not fleeing the state as had been threatened.

Funny, innit?

The “millionaires tax,” which went into effect for the first time last year, is set to bring in billions.

State officials announced Monday that the surtax on high earners had generated more than $1.8 billion in revenue this fiscal year, with three months left to go, according to the State House News Service.

This means state officials could have millions of dollars to spend on transportation and education initiatives.


The SHNS reported that the revenue from the tax is already $800 million more than the Legislature and Gov. Maura Healey planned to spend in surtax revenue for all of the fiscal year 2024.


However, the estimates supported claims that the surtax would generate significant revenue for the state, despite fears that it would drive out some of its wealthiest residents.

In 2022, voters approved the ballot initiative that levies an additional 4 percent tax on annual earnings over $1 million.

Even if tycoons do flee the state, it will serve to make more land available for housing, and reduce the effect of lobbying on the government.

What's not to love?

What the Federal Reserve is Trying to Stop

It turns out that inflation adjust wages have been rising for 12 months.

Clearly our elites want this stopped:

Average hourly wage growth has exceeded inflation for 12 straight months, according to new Bureau of Labor Statistics data released this morning. This real (or inflation-adjusted) wage growth is a key indicator of how well the average worker’s wage can improve their standard of living. As inflation continues to normalize, I’m optimistic more workers will experience real gains in their purchasing power.

The dark blue line in the figure below plots year-over-year real hourly wage changes for all private-sector workers.

When economists whine about, "Wage Pressures," they mean that the poors are doing too well.

Thank You Lina

It looks like the Federal Trade Commission (Chaired by Lina Khan) will finally go after the auto industry for their continued abuse of car owner privacy.

Considering what has happened lately, the example of GM selling car owner's driving data to data brokers comes to mind, this is long overdue:

In 2023, Mozilla released a report noting that modern cars had the worst security and privacy standards of any major technology industry the organization tracks. That was followed by a NYT report earlier this year showing how automakers routinely hoover up oodles of consumer driving and phone info, then sell access to that data to auto insurance companies looking to justify rate hikes.

The very least the auto industry can do is make these transactions clear to car owners, but most of the time they can’t even do that.

Now it looks like the FTC might be considering legal action against the auto industry for lax privacy standards. An FTC blog post indicates that the “connected car” industry has been on the agency’s “radar for years,” and hinted at potential future actions:
“Car manufacturers—and all businesses—should take note that the FTC will take action to protect consumers against the illegal collection, use, and disclosure of their personal data.”

Your mouth to God's ear, Ms. Khan.

F%$# No

Microsoft has finally creates something worse than Clippy, an artificial intelligence assistant that will record everything you do on your computer.

This feature is a misbegotten son of a Bob.

At a Build conference event on Monday, Microsoft revealed a new AI-powered feature called "Recall" for Copilot+ PCs that will allow Windows 11 users to search and retrieve their past activities on their PC. To make it work, Recall records everything users do on their PC, including activities in apps, communications in live meetings, and websites visited for research. Despite encryption and local storage, the new feature raises privacy concerns for certain Windows users.

"Recall uses Copilot+ PC advanced processing capabilities to take images of your active screen every few seconds," Microsoft says on its website. "The snapshots are encrypted and saved on your PC’s hard drive. You can use Recall to locate the content you have viewed on your PC using search or on a timeline bar that allows you to scroll through your snapshots."

By performing a Recall action, users can access a snapshot from a specific time period, providing context for the event or moment they are searching for. It also allows users to search through teleconference meetings they've participated in and videos watched using an AI-powered feature that transcribes and translates speech.

At first glance, the Recall feature seems like it may set the stage for potential gross violations of user privacy. Despite reassurances from Microsoft, that impression persists for second and third glances as well. For example, someone with access to your Windows account could potentially use Recall to see everything you've been doing recently on your PC, which might extend beyond the embarrassing implications of pornography viewing and actually threaten the lives of journalists or perceived enemies of the state. 

I'm pretty sure that Google and the criminal enterprise formerly known as Facebook™ are salivating over the associated ability for them to stalk us and sell our data to advertisers.

If you think that something will have these malefactors salivating, run away.

20 May 2024

A Reprieve of a Sort

Julian Assange has been been granted a new appeal against his extradition to the United States.

I'm not hopeful, but anything that interferes with the US attempts to jail him for journalism is a good thing:

Julian Assange has been granted leave to mount a fresh appeal against his extradition to the US on charges of leaking military secrets and will be able to challenge assurances from American officials on how a trial there would be conducted.

Two judges had deferred a decision in March on whether Assange, who is trying to avoid being prosecuted in the US on espionage charges relating to the publication of thousands of classified and diplomatic documents, could take his case to another appeal hearing.

On that occasion, Dame Victoria Sharp and Mr Justice Johnson ruled he would be able to bring an appeal against extradition on three grounds, unless “satisfactory” assurances were given by the US.

The assurances requested were that he would be permitted to rely on the first amendment of the US constitution, which protects freedom of speech; that he would not be “prejudiced at trial” due to his nationality; and that the death penalty would not be imposed.

Call me a cynic, but even if these assurances were made, they would be meaningless. 

Yeah, Not a Good Look

One of the hardest groups to unionize are engineers, because too many of them subscribe to a sort of Ayn Rand view of the world.

Boeing's relationship with its engineers has been fraught enough that they have been unionized as the SPEEA since 1946, and they went on a largely successful 40 day strike in 2000.

Well, now the SPEEA is conducting whistleblower rights training.

It seems to me that the rank and file is kind of honked off:

A union representing Boeing employees held a training session last week on whistleblower protection rights, suggesting the troubled jetmaker's problems may be far from over.

The Society of Professional Engineering Employees in Aerospace (SPEEA), which represents workers at Boeing and Boeing spin-off-slash-supplier Spirit AeroSystems, held a training session for council representatives at both corporations on Friday.

"The seminar comes after two years of SPEEA unsuccessfully trying to negotiate strong anti-retaliation language with the Boeing Co. in particular," the union said on its website. It said such anti-retaliation measures are needed because SPEEA members continue to report being punished for speaking out about safety concerns.

"The whistleblower seminar will provide Council Reps the basic tools to be front-line resources to SPEEA members who are considering speaking up about an issue but don't trust their employers' internal systems," the SPEEA added.

And then there is this:


Brian Knowles, a lawyer who represented both deceased Boeing whistleblowers, said earlier this month that he has at least ten more Boeing employees ready to come forward. Those ten may not be alone if the need for whistleblower training is any indicator.

Yeah, this is beginning to sound like an aviation themed sequel to the Tom Cruise movie The Firm, but that is crazy talk.

Then again, considering the body count that has come from Boeing adopting the management philosophy of Jack Welch, it is way more than just 2 whistle blowers, who knows what a relentless pursuit of shareholder value might lead to?


The UAW lost the unionization vote at Mercedes Benz in Alabama.  This was after 70% of the employees signed petitions for the election.

There are a number of possible reasons for this, it was the first attempt, the effort was too top down, push-back from fascist Republican politicians throughout the south, and aggressive tactics, which are being investigated by both US and German regulators, but I think that the biggest reason was that Mercedes removed the plant manager (not a firing, a sideways transfer) and promised to do better.

That was kind of a big deal, since Michael Göbel had been plant manager (technically CEO of the plant) for 5 years.

They won't do better, of course, because if they wanted to do better, they would never have built the plant in Alabama, but firing the plant manager impressed the workers, as did bringing in legendary former University of Alabama Football coach Nick Saban to give an anti-union dog and pony show.

I may be whistling past the graveyard, but I recall that it took three tries to unionize at VW in Chattanooga, so this is only the beginning.