30 November 2014

Headline of the Day

"Get Me Off Your F%$#ing Mailing List" is an actual science paper accepted by a journal

(%$# mine)

It's actually an interesting story, about how phony scientific journals are proliferating.

AT&T Rescinds Ransom Letter

Remember AT&T's threat that it would curtail broadband rollout if network neutrality were implemented?

Well that threat is is  now inoperative:
AT&T now says it isn't really going to halt a huge fiber investment because of net neutrality despite its CEO recently claiming the company would do just that.

Don't celebrate yet—AT&T is making no promises to build anywhere.

AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson told investors on November 12 that "We can't go out and invest that kind of money deploying fiber to 100 cities not knowing under what rules those investments will be governed." Stephenson was referring to an April announcement in which AT&T said it would "expand its ultra-fast fiber network to up to 100 candidate cities and municipalities nationwide, including 21 new major metropolitan areas."

Because of uncertainty about net neutrality rules, Stephenson said at the investor event this month that it would be better to "pause" instead of proceeding with the 100-city investment. Construction in all 100 cities was never guaranteed to begin with, as it was contingent on municipal cooperation with AT&T.
I'm not surprised that they've blinked.

Even the FCC wasn't buying this as a credible threat.

Your Moment of Eric Arthur Blair

The Obama administration is claiming that US human rights law does not apply to the mercenary rebels that the US is training and arming in Syria:

Buried down in a report about Pentagon plans to train more mercenaries to fight against Syria we find this declaration of intend by the Obama administration to (again) break the law:
The military screening plan came together after the Obama administration determined that the training program for the Syrians would not be subject to what are known as the Leahy laws, which typically govern U.S. security assistance to foreign forces.

Under those laws, a small office at the State Department works with U.S. embassies overseas to ensure that recipients of State or Defense Department security assistance aren’t linked to major human rights abuses.


Because the Syrian rebels will not be part of a state-sponsored force, the laws will not apply, U.S. officials said.
Wait a second. The U.S. congress has set aside $500 million to train, equip and pay these fighters. The U.S. military will do the training. And the Obama administration claims that these are not "state-sponsored forces"? Is the U.S. no longer a nation state?

Besides that the Leahy law as codified for the Pentagon in Section 8057 of the 2014 Omnibus bill does not say anything about "state-sponsored forces":
(1) None of the funds made available by this Act may be used for any training, equipment, or other assistance for the members of a unit of a foreign security force if the Secretary of Defense has credible information that the unit has committed a gross violation of human rights.

(2) The Secretary of Defense, in consultation with the Secretary of State, shall ensure that prior to a decision to provide any training, equipment, or other assistance to a unit of a foreign security force full consideration is given to any credible information available to the Department of State relating to human rights violations by such unit.
There is nothing about "state-sponsored" in the Pentagon relevant portion of the Leahy law. Will these trained be "foreign"? Yes. Will they be "security forces"? Arguably because they will likely bring more insecurity to Syria than security. But they will have weapons, will be organized in units and will fight. That seems to fit the expression "foreign security force".


All the groups the CIA has trained and equipped to fight against Syria have committed major human rights violations. But the Leahy law does not apply to the CIA. Now as the Pentagon takes over the training of such groups the Leahy law becomes relevant. I dare anyone to find a group of Syrian insurgents fighting against the Syrian government that has not indiscriminately shelled civilians and not committed other major human rights abuses. There is none.

The Obama administration wants to avoid the applicability of the Leahy law because applying it would leave the Pentagon without any potential recruits to train as mercenaries against the Syrian government. It decided to break the law by using an interpretation that actually not covered by the laws wording. It has thus decided to break the law.
Barack Obama, who was a critic of the expansive view of the Unitary Executive advanced by the Bush administration, has become one of its biggest fans.

Worst Constitutional law professor ever.

I Approve

Today, members of the St. Louis Rams football franchise walked out onto the field with their hands up, using the gesture made famous by the Ferguson protesters:
Members of the NFL’s St. Louis Rams came onto their home field on Sunday posing with the ‘hands up, don’t shoot’ gesture associated with the shooting of teenager Michael Brown by police officer Darren Wilson in Ferguson, Missouri.

The gesture has become part of a movement designed to draw attention to the spate of shootings of young African-American men by police officers across the country.

As player introductions began at the Edward Jones Dome in St. Louis, five players — Stedman Bailey, Tavon Austin, Jared Cook, Chris Givens, and Kenny Britt — came out onto the field first, to the applause of the crowd, before being joined by their teammates.
Rather unsurprisingly, the police officer's union is calling for disciplinary measures to be taken against these players:
Reacting to five members of the St. Louis Rams coming onto the field for Sunday’s game displaying the ‘hands up, don’t shoot’ gesture, a St. Louis police officers fraternal organization is demanding the team discipline the players, and that the team and league issue a formal apology, reports KSDK.

In a statement released Sunday evening, the St. Louis Police Officers Association condemned the display, calling it “tasteless, offensive and inflammatory.”

Prior to player introductions before Sunday’s game, five players — Stedman Bailey, Tavon Austin, Jared Cook, Chris Givens, and Kenny Britt — came out onto the field first with their hands in the air prior to being joined by their teammates.
Notwithstanding some puffery from the union about the 1st amendment, it's clear that the St. Louis Police Officers Association has no concept of civil rights.

Or, to put it another way, "Why does the St. Louis Police Officers Association hate America?"

29 November 2014

Deep Thought

I guess that the Christmas shopping season has finally begun, because I saw this on Facebook:

To quote the Beatles, "If looks could kill, it would have been us instead of him."

H/t Who Rescued Whom?

Not What I Would Expect from the Koch Suckers at the Cato Institute

Considering their background, that of an Ayn Rand inspired think tank, I would think that their attitude toward IP, copyright and patents, would be one of absolute support, but here is an article where describes our current regime as regressive rent seeking:
All three of these critical national problems derive from the same source. We often talk about the last third of a century as an era of deregulation and the expansions of markets. And in certain areas that is certainly true. But the most important market rigidities that have been eliminated have been those that protected those from the middle class on down. In fact, the great paradox of the last third of a century is that we have actually had an explosion of regulation in this “supposedly deregulatory” era — but regulation that has the effect of redistributing, sometimes dramatically, upward.

A few examples will suffice to make the point. Intellectual property protections, especially patents and copyright, have been expanded dramatically over this period, both in time (through patent and copyright extensions for existing IP) and across space (by using trade agreements to push American IP principles into foreign law). While there is an argument that this expansion has actually reduced innovation, there is no doubt that it has allowed existing firms to use the force of law (rather than the market) to enrich themselves by reaching further into the pockets of consumers.

The article is actually fairly tepid in its conclusions, but considering that this is coming from the Cato institute, it does indicatge that the push-back against the American model of over aggressive IP protections is becoming more broadly accepted across the ideological spectrum.

Not a Vote of Confidence in the JSF

The Israeli cabinet has rejected a proposal to purchase additional F-35s: (Paid subscription required)
An Israeli cabinet panel has rejected a decision by the defense minister to procure an additional 31 Lockheed Martin F-35A Joint Strike Fighters and has limited the procurement of Israel’s second batch of JSFs to only 13.

It is unprecedented for the ministerial committee on defense procurement to reverse an air force requirement already approved by the defense minister, the former government and the National Security Council. The Israeli air force (IAF), which currently has 19 F-35s on order under a $2.74 billion contract, will have to be satisfied with a total of 32 aircraft in the coming years, and will not be able to complete two full squadrons as planned.

Israel’s decision to cut back on the near-term buy is notable; surrounded by existential threats, the country has been one of the most aggressive buyers of the single-engine, stealthy jet. It was the first F-35 nonpartner nation to sign up for a foreign military sale; Japan and South Korea quickly followed.

In Tel Aviv, Defense Minister Moshe “Bogie” Ya’alon, who had already concluded the terms of a $4.4 billion contract for an additional 31 F-35s with the Pentagon, is now asking for the same terms for a smaller number of aircraft. The U.S. has agreed to grant Israel $2.4 billion in credit for the deal, as well as to conduct offset procurement totaling $5.3 billion, under the expectation that Israel will acquire a total of 50 F-35s. The JSF procurement is financed through the $3.1 billion annual military aid that the U.S. provides to Israel.

It is unclear, however, if the U.S. will agree to provide Israel with the same terms for the smaller deal. “Minister Ya’alon will try to convince the Pentagon that this is a minor delay and that eventually Israel will procure the 50 aircraft,” a senior defense source told Aviation Week.


“For maintaining stealthiness, this aircraft has compromised maneuverability, shorter operational range and significantly less payload capability,” a senior Israeli official told Aviation Week. “We shouldn’t be buying so many of them when it is unclear whether the stealth is effective, or there is a countermeasure that would negate it. There are vast gaps in performance between the F-35 and fourth-generation fighters.”
This is a big deal.

Israel's participation in the F-35 program provides much of the credibility for foreign sales:  They were the first non-JSF partner nation to ink orders for the aircraft, and they have provided a lot of credibility to the program.

And the Plane that the USAF has Hated Since Its Introduction is Deployed to Iraq

Even as they are trying to kill it, the A-10 Warthog deployed for combat service in Iraq:
The low- and slow-flying A-10 Warthog jet is back in the Middle East—seven years after the attack planes withdrew.

The prospect of A-10s joining the war against Islamic State was subject to rumors in September, when elements of the Indiana Air National Guard’s 122nd Fighter Wing—which flies the twin-engine A-10—deployed to Southwest Asia.

While it’s not clear whether the Indiana A-10s have carried out any strikes against Islamic State yet … they surely will soon. The Warthogs’ mission is to provide close-air support to Iraqi army and police and Kurdish Peshmerga troops fighting on the ground.

An Air Force spokesman confirmed to Air Force magazine that the A-10s “will only be supporting military requirements in the Gulf region, including but not limited to, Operation Inherent Resolve.”

Inherent Resolve is the Pentagon’s code name for air strikes and other U.S.-led efforts targeting Islamic State.
This is not a surprise.

The demands of the tactical situation on the ground require an aircraft like the A-10, but the Air Force has been indifferent to the tactical situation on the ground since before it was an independent service (Bill Mauldin notes this in his memoir The Brass Ring, which covers his experiences in WWII).

Considering the level of dysfunctionalality in the Pentagon, the fact that the US Air Force is probably the most dysfunctional service truly scary.

28 November 2014

Demonstrating Why Matt Taibbi is the Only Credible Big Name Financial Reporter………

Case in point, perhaps the highest profile financial reporter in the United States, the New York Times' Andrew Ross Sorkin, who has gotten the vapors over Elizabeth Warren's opposition to the revolving door between Washington and Wall Street:
Wall Street stenographer Andrew Ross Sorkin of the New York Times complains this morning that Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren is making it harder for Wall Street veterans to take on government jobs overseeing the financial industry, calling the former Harvard law professor and longtime industry critic “misinformed” in her opposition to investment banker Antonio Weiss’ nomination to a key Treasury Department post.

Weiss, President Barack Obama’s nominee to be under secretary of Treasury for domestic finance, is currently head of global investment banking at Lazard, which advised Burger King on its merger with Canadian coffee and doughnut chain Tim Hortons — a so-called inversion that will help Burger King avoid taxes. Warren cited Lazard’s work on inversions in explaining her opposition to Weiss’ nomination, but Sorkin contends that her concerns are “misplaced.” Sure, tax avoidance may have been “a consideration” in the BK-Tim Hortons deal, Sorkin concedes, but they weren’t the “primary factor.” At any rate, Weiss was “simply as one of several advisers” of the merger — hardly its mastermind.

Sorkin — who has criticized some inversions in the past — apparently finds no fault with the Obama administration seeking to enlist Weiss even as it pledges to crack down on corporate tax avoidance schemes.

While the inversion issue formed the crux of Sorkin’s substantive defense of Weiss, Warren has also pointed to the nominee’s financial industry background as a broad concern in itself.
Sorkin has been thoroughly captured by the financial industry, and he cannot be trusted to report on wrongdoing in the financial industry.

It could be argued that his role never was to reporting on wrongdoing, but instead his job is to document the official actions of the banking sector.

He reports on things like mergers, interviews CEOs, etc.

Of course, if that IS is real role, he is not a journalist. He is a stenographer.

27 November 2014

Happy Thanksgiving

Nothing says like cinema inspired by the work of Charles Addams:

26 November 2014

Why the F%$# Do They Do This?

It's now been twice that the FEC ruling allowing for anonymously funded election ads has been ruled illegal:
A U.S. judge again tossed out a Federal Election Commission rule that allowed nonprofit groups running “issue ads” to keep their donors secret, in a setback for groups such as the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and Crossroads GPS.

U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson in Washington said today that the rule is “arbitrary, capricious and contrary to law.” Jackson arrived at her decision a second time, after a Washington-based appeals court asked her to reconsider a 2012 order requiring disclosure of donor names.

At issue were FEC regulations adopted in 2007 that let organizations and nonprofit groups keep secret the names of donors who pay for issue ads during an election campaign. In her previous ruling, Jackson said the regulations clashed with requirements of the 2002 campaign-finance law known as McCain-Feingold, a finding she reiterated today.

Congress passed the disclosure rules “to ensure that members of the public would be aware of who was trying to influence their votes just before an election,” Jackson wrote. The FEC’s rule “thwarts that objective by creating an easily exploited loophole that allows the true sponsors of advertisements to hide behind dubious and misleading names,” she said.


The rules at issue today apply only to what are known as “electioneering communications,” or ads that run before an election and mention a federal candidate without urging a vote for or against the person. So-called independent expenditures, which advocate support for or opposition to a candidate, aren’t affected by the decision.

The Supreme Court specifically allowed for disclosure requirements in their Citizens United ruling, and we the law explicitly calls for disclosure, and we are still litigating this?

Would the federal courts please finish cock punching Karl Rove?

You Would Have Thought that They Would Have Learned After the Ottoman Empire and the Ferme Générale Debacles………

Or, if they don't want to go back so far, the Chicago parking meter debacle, but history repeats itself, and Chris Christie's privatization of the New Jersey lottery shows once again that privatizing the collection government revenues, does not produce additional revenue, it just produces waste and corruption:
The state Assembly budget committee chairman is calling for a review of the contract privatizing parts of the state lottery following a news report that the firm hired to manage the system fell short of revenue benchmarks.

Assemblyman Gary Schaer (D-Passaic), reacting to a Bloomberg report Monday that Northstar New Jersey missed its projections by $24 million in the first fiscal year of a 15-year contract, said the shortfall puts programs for seniors, veterans and people with disabilities at risk.

The premise of the lottery contract is increasing lottery revenues according to Northstar’s own projections, Schaer said.

“The administration brought in a company to work on the lottery system, and clearly the results are not what they should be,” he said.

Christie inked the deal with Northstar in July 2013, making New Jersey the third state to hire a private firm to help run its lottery in hopes of boosting lottery sales.

Four months into the arrangement, which began Oct. 1, 2013, Northstar secured a contract amendment reducing its revenue goals, according to Bloomberg. Northstar cited slowed sales from Superstorm Sandy in its request.
These deals never generate more revenue.

At best, what they do is generate a dollar today at the cost of many more dollars tomorrow.

In this case, considering that it is Jabba the Governor, it's about payback for politically connected friends of Chris.

Hopefully, the media is over their man-crush on Christie, and and will begin to notice the morass of cronyism and self-dealing that is his tenure as Governor.

Your Statistical Graphic of the Day

Yesterdat, I mentione the relative rarity of Federal Grand Juries no-billing to provide context in the Ferguson ruling.

Today, I show you the infographic:

That data is from a report from the Bureau of Justice Statistics and covers October 1, 2009, to September 30, 2010. Over that time period, over 193,000 federal offenses were investigated, about 16 percent of which were declined for prosecution. That leaves just over 162,300 offenses that the government tried to prosecute. And the grand jury decided against doing so 11 times, finding no true bill or a lack of evidence to do so.

Nope. Nothing suspicious here.

Move along.

The Onion Abides

Heavy Police Presence In Ferguson To Ensure Residents Adequately Provoked
I really cannot expand on this.

It is simply brilliant.

25 November 2014

Least Surprising Headline of this Week

The Tech Worker Shortage Doesn't Really Exist
After the lede comes something that I have been saying for years:
“There’s no evidence of any way, shape, or form that there’s a shortage in the conventional sense,” says Hal Salzman, a professor of planning and public policy at Rutgers University. “They may not be able to find them at the price they want. But I’m not sure that qualifies as a shortage, any more than my not being able to find a half-priced TV.”
All about a labor shortage in tech is not about a real labor shortage, it's about creating a captive low wage workforce.

F%$# that.


Ted "Tailgunner" Cruz is at again, suggesting that Barack Obama appoint Joe Lieberman as the next Secretary of Defense.

Cruz is just f%$#ing with Democrats now.

Personally, I would troll back, and leak that John McCain was under consideration, which would serve a number of purposes:
  • It would scare the hell out of John McCain, because he would have to defend his own decisions in the real world, as opposed to simply complaining about what the other guys are doing.
  • It would shut up that whiny bitch Lindsey Graham, because he does not take a dump without McCain's approval.
  • It would set up a special election in Arizona, which would place limits on Republican Party f%$#ery. (Impeachment, government shutdown, etc.).
  • It would confound the Republican leadership.
Based on Obama's decision to keep the war going in Afghanistan, it is very clear that the civilian leadership in his administration gets its marching orders from the military, rather than the other way around, so the SecDef really does not matter anyway.

An Update on Ferguson

First, when they say that a prosecutor can indict a ham sandwich, they ain't kidding. For example, "According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, U.S. attorneys prosecuted 162,000 federal cases in 2010, the most recent year for which we have data. Grand juries declined to return an indictment in 11 of them."

Even with pre-indictment plea bargains, a grand jury no-billing is a very rare thing.

I was wrong about the DA not releasing the evidence from the grand jury proceedings, and it makes it even clearer that the fix was in.

During his testimony, Darren Wilson was allowed to blythly state the clearly racist trope that "Michael Brown looked like a demon:
St. Louis Public Radio published the full transcript of Wilson's testimony Monday. The St. Louis County Prosecutor's office released evidence from the grand jury proceedings after it was announced that no charges would be filed against Wilson.


Wilson explained to jurors that in order to keep shielding his face from Brown's punches, the only option available for him to defend himself was to pull out his gun. The officer struggled with Brown before he was able to fire the weapon, shattering glass from the police cruiser's door panel.

After that first shot went off, Wilson testified that Brown stepped back and "looked up at me and had the most intense aggressive face. The only way I can describe it, it looks like a demon, that's how angry he looked."
It appears that this is a variant of the "Magic Negro" trope that I was previously unaware of.

Then there was the evidence from "Witness #40", in the form of a journal entry, which exactly verified Officer Wilson's testimony, and dropped the N-word repeatedly.

The prosecution allowed this into evidence without any vetting or challenge from Prosecutor Robert McCulloch.

Also note that the ER report on Officer Wilson noted was in no distress when examined by doctors, that Wilson and Brown were the same size, and the medical examiner took no pictures because his camera battery was dead.

One final note: the behavior of prosecutor McCulloch was sufficiently odd, that both CNN and the New York Times noted that he behaved more like defense counsel than he did a prosecutor.

Furthermore, at the press conference announcing the grand jury decision, he appeared to have deliberately gone out of his way to sabotage any potential effort by the Department of Justice or a civil action by by publicly labeling witnesses who claimed that the shootings were not justified to be liars.

When juxtaposed with the fact that he appeared to have deliberately delayed the public release of the grand jury decision until a time calculated to maximize the possibility of civil unrest.

It might have been as a distraction from his document dump.

It might have been a way to dog-whistle his willingness to appease the racist sentiments of white voters in the county.

It might have been a fit of pique over having to convene a grand jury when he clearly did not want to do so.

In any case, I believe that a close investigation of the Saint Louis County Prosecutor's office would reveal a pattern of ethically questionable actions, but it is clear that, with Eric Holder heading out the door and Barack Obama once again trying not to remind people that he is black, there will be no meaningful investigation of the prosecutor's office.

Needless to say, I am appalled, though I am not surprised.

24 November 2014

And Here is a Part of the Solution to Law Enforcement Impunity

Here is a fascinating concept.

Given that police misconduct costs taxpayers millions of dollars, and a small percentage of the police are responsible for the bulk of these costs, how about requiring police officers to carry their own liability insurance, just as doctors are:
In almost every city across the US, tax dollars are used to cover the damages and settlements from lawsuits filed against their police departments due to officer misconduct. Taxpayers in essence pay out massive amounts in damages for officers not doing their job properly. Additionally, the cost is compounded because taxpayers are forced to continue paying the salaries of these criminal cops.

City officials don’t have the guts to hold officers accountable for their actions. So a new approach is necessary to hold rogue officers responsible for their conduct.

Just like doctors have to carry malpractice insurance, police officers should be required to carry professional liability insurance as a condition of employment.


Similarly to how other professionals, such as doctors who are sued too many times become uninsurable, the demands of professional liability insurance will ensure risk reduction takes place. Meaning basically that if city officials won’t hold police accountable for their actions an insurance company on the hook for large police misconduct payouts certainly will.

Problem officers would find their rates up until eventually they would become uninsurable, a wonderful way to have problem officers forced out of policing entirely.

To avoid running into problems with union contracts, the strategy would allow cities to fund the base rate of the coverage, and officers funding any additional costs that would be associated with their claims history.

In most cities, and Minneapolis in particular, it has been found that a handful of officers are responsible for the majority of complaints and lawsuits regarding police brutality.
Here is a quick rundown of how it would work:
  • Out of Control Cops: Evil.
  • Insurance Companies: Evil.
  • Insurance companies vs. Out of Control Cops: Pass the Popcorn.
Any questions?

The Grand Jury No-Bills in Ferguson

Not surprised. The District Attorney did his level best to throw the case:
A St. Louis County grand jury has brought no criminal charges against Darren Wilson, a white police officer who fatally shot Michael Brown, an unarmed African-American teenager, more than three months ago in nearby Ferguson.

The decision by the grand jury of nine whites and three blacks was announced Monday night by the St. Louis County prosecutor, Robert P. McCulloch, at a news conference packed with reporters from around the world. The killing, on a residential street in Ferguson, set off weeks of civil unrest — and a national debate — fueled by protesters’ outrage over what they called a pattern of police brutality against young black men. Mr. McCulloch said that Officer Wilson faced charges ranging from first-degree murder to involuntary manslaughter.
The prosecutor threw all this into the grand jury's lap without a recommendation, a highly unorthodox decision, and even with that, it appears that his presentation was deliberately weak.

If St. Louis County Prosecuting Attorney Robert McCulloch keeps his promise to release the proceedings to the public, and I don't expect him to, as it will reveal what he did, or more accurately what he did not do.

Needless to day the message here is that black lives are downright cheap in Saint Louis County, and probably at a significant discount in the rest of the United States.

Of course there are also larger issues with policing in the United States, where, for example, Seattle Police were responsible for 20.6% of all homicides, and Utah, police kill more people than gangs, drug dealers, and child abuse.

The juxtaposition of a hyper-militarized constabulary with the prison industrial complex is truly disasterous.

23 November 2014

Desperately Hydrating

Went to work today.

We are still working on that deadline.

For the first time in a really long time, I milled some simple parts.

Some people will handle this without batting am eyelash; no sweat.

Some people shut down in such a situation.

I kind of fall in the middle: I just go too work, but until I am comfortable, I sweat.

I sweat a lot.

So I was flop sweating while I was "Making Chips," and I really needed some supplemental hydration.

I am just glad that it wasn't August.

Posted via mobile.

22 November 2014

Bush With Tan ……… Again

Yes, it turns out that our exit from Afghanistan won't be an exit:
President Obama decided in recent weeks to authorize a more expansive mission for the military in Afghanistan in 2015 than originally planned, a move that ensures American troops will have a direct role in fighting in the war-ravaged country for at least another year.

Mr. Obama’s order allows American forces to carry out missions against the Taliban and other militant groups threatening American troops or the Afghan government, a broader mission than the president described to the public earlier this year, according to several administration, military and congressional officials with knowledge of the decision. The new authorization also allows American jets, bombers and drones to support Afghan troops on combat missions.


The decision to change that mission was the result of a lengthy and heated debate that laid bare the tension inside the Obama administration between two often-competing imperatives: the promise Mr. Obama made to end the war in Afghanistan, versus the demands of the Pentagon that American troops be able to successfully fulfill their remaining missions in the country.
Once again, we see the pattern.

Obama knows what the right thing to do is, but he has to accommodate the ones who f%$%#ed up in the first place, much like he did with Obamacare.

I understand the desire to be a conciliator, particularly given Obama's life story, but the role of POTUS is to be the adult in the room, because the Pentagon cannot be.

The generals, and the civilian side of the defense establishment, is simply incapable of making the call to cut their losses and leave.

They subscribe to the Green Lantern theory of Geopolitics, in which the limits of American military might are limited only by the will, and where any realistic examination of the risks and rewards are assiduously eschewed.

This is insane.


I want to know what happened when the car hit the freeway.

Deep Thought

Seen on Facebook.

20 November 2014

Seriously, Charles Schumer is a Boil on the Ass of the Body Politic

While I am highly dubious that the recent "leadership" position granted to Elizabeth Warren in the Senate, the response of Chuck Schumer to this development was a case study as to why the Democratic Party is seen as hopeless:
When Reid was in talks with Warren about a job in Senate leadership earlier this month, Schumer suggested tapping moderate Sen. Mark Warner, too, to balance out her progressive politics — or perhaps making her a “liaison to liberal groups,” a narrower job than what Reid had proposed, according to sources familiar with the private talks.

Warren, a Massachusetts Democrat, said no to both of Schumer’s suggestions, later taking the job as a policy adviser to Schumer’s messaging operation.
Mark Warner? Seriously?!?!?!

Because somehow or other, Elizabeth Warren is just so scary that Schumer needed for her to be counterbalanced by yet another bland creature of the oligarchs.

If I am Sounding a Bit Incoherent, It's Because I am a Bit Incoherent

Major deadline at work, and I put in 14 hours today.

I got everything done that I needed to do today, but I am completely knackered.

Tomorrow should be fascinating. (Not snarking here)

If Sid Vicious Had an iPhone, He Would Be Alive Today

Roll Tape!
Because it appears that Mr. Vicious' band mate, John "Johnny Rotten" Lydon, has discovered a new mode of dysfunctional addictive behavior, overdoing the Apple App store:
I wasted – you’re the first to know this – 10,000 f‑‑‑‑‑‑ pounds in the last two years on apps on my iPad. I got into Game of Thrones, Game of War, Real Racing, and I just wanted to up the ante. And like an idiot I didn’t check myself. I’ve been checked now. But there's a kid in me, see? A bit of my childhood was taken from me and I’m determined to bring it back.
I guess that it beats doing heroine, as Sid and his former girlfriend Nancy Spungen's all too brief lives demonstrate.

But still, app abuse?

It boggles the mind.

19 November 2014

Yes, the Goal is the Eimination of Employer Supplied Health Plans

Remember when I said that I thought that one of the hidden goals of Obamacare was the elimination of employer sponsored healthcare plans?

Well, pretty much:
In a 2011 conversation about the Affordable Care Act, MIT economist Jonathan Gruber, one of the architects of the law more commonly known as Obamacare, talked about how the bill would get rid of all tax credits for employer-based health insurance through "mislabeling" what the tax is and who it would hit.

In recent days, the past comments of Gruber -- who in a 2010 speech noted that he "helped write the federal bill" and "was a paid consultant to the Obama administration to help develop the technical details as well" -- have been given renewed attention.


The issue at hand in this sixth video is known as the "Cadillac tax," which was represented as a tax on employers' expensive health insurance plans. While employers do not currently have to pay taxes on health insurance plans they provide employees, starting in 2018, companies that provide health insurance that costs more than $10,200 for an individual or $27,500 for a family will have to pay a 40 percent tax.

"Economists have called for 40 years to get rid of the regressive, inefficient and expensive tax subsidy provided for employer provider health insurance," Gruber said at the Pioneer Institute for public policy research in Boston. The subsidy is "terrible policy," Gruber said.

"It turns out politically it's really hard to get rid of," Gruber said. "And the only way we could get rid of it was first by mislabeling it, calling it a tax on insurance plans rather than a tax on people when we all know it's a tax on people who hold those insurance plans."


The issue at hand in this sixth video is known as the "Cadillac tax," which was represented as a tax on employers' expensive health insurance plans. While employers do not currently have to pay taxes on health insurance plans they provide employees, starting in 2018, companies that provide health insurance that costs more than $10,200 for an individual or $27,500 for a family will have to pay a 40 percent tax.

"Economists have called for 40 years to get rid of the regressive, inefficient and expensive tax subsidy provided for employer provider health insurance," Gruber said at the Pioneer Institute for public policy research in Boston. The subsidy is "terrible policy," Gruber said.

"It turns out politically it's really hard to get rid of," Gruber said. "And the only way we could get rid of it was first by mislabeling it, calling it a tax on insurance plans rather than a tax on people when we all know it's a tax on people who hold those insurance plans."
Seriously, Obama, and the people who advise him, make Ronald Reagan look like a f%$#ing socialist.

Obamacare is chock full of manifestations of the unholy glee that Obama and His Evil Minions take in neoliberal free market ideology and the financial industry.

The most depressing thing is that the next president is probably going to be a lot worse.

More of This

At a hearing before the Senate Banking Committee, the senior Senator from the Commonwealth of Massachusetts cut Mel Watt, the Chairman of the Federal Housing Finance Agency, a well deserved new asshole:
What started as a dry, lame-duck session hearing on the Federal Housing Finance Agency in the Senate Banking Committee on Wednesday, got heated when U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., went guns blazing after the FHFA director.

Warren, an outspoken progressive and a likely candidate for the 2016 Democrat presidential nomination, went on the attack during FHFA Director Melvin Watt’s first hearing before the committee, saying that he’s never done anything to help homeowners who are underwater and facing foreclosure.

The hearing started benignly enough, with Watt's prepared remarks delivered in a measured tone. That soon ended, when Warren took the mic.

Warren is known for aggressively grilling witnesses, but this was an unusual case of a “blue on blue” attack, as Watt is a former congressional Democrat and Obama appointee, and considered a strong advocate for affordable housing and homeowner assistance.
It does not matter what Watt was.

If you are working on housing in the Obama administration, your role is to coddle the criminals working for Wall Street at the expense of the ordinary American citizen, even if it costs the taxpayer money:
Five million families lost their homes during the financial crisis and millions more are still struggling,” Warren said, prefacing her questions to Watt. “According to the latest data from CoreLogic…another 5.3 million homeowners remain underwater on their homes. And people are continuing to lose their homes every day in foreclosure.

“We talk a little bit about the law here, now one of your duties under the law. One of your duties is to conserve the assets of Fannie and Freddie, but another duty given equal importance by Congress … is to implement a plan that seeks to maximize assistance for homeowners and take advantage of available programs to minimize foreclosures,” Warren said.

She went on to recite that Congress explicitly included reduction of loan principal as an option for the FHFA to use.

“Principal reduction is often a win-win that both helps Fannie and Freddie and helps a family,” she said.

She cited a 2013 Congressional Budget Office study found that even a modest principal reduction plan for Fannie and Freddie mortgages could help 1.2 million underwater homeowners, prevent 43,000 defaults and save Fannie and Freddie about $2.8 billion.


Watt appeared a little shaken by the line of attack.

“It’s probably an overstatement to say it’s not been a priority,” Watt stammered. “It’s just a very difficult issue. The reason it is difficult is because we are looking for exactly what you said – a win-win situation. We have to do this in a way that is responsible, otherwise we just reduce principal for everybody across the board…is not what anybody I think is advocating for, so then we have to decide what is a responsible way to do that—”

Warren cut him off.

“Chairman Watt, you have had a year to do that, you have known for five years before that what the problem was, we have two studies coming out showing that Fannie and Freddie could make money by doing this,” she said. “In the meantime you have done the reps and warranties, the buyback policy, private mortgage insurance rules, a whole list of tough technical things, and I applaud you for doing that, but people have lost their homes in the last year and every day that you delay more families lose their homes. There are 5.4 million families out there underwater so I want to know when are you going to have an answer on this?”
See my earlier comment about Obama's priorities.

For all the flak that I have thrown at exiting Attorney General Eric "Place" Holder, the buck stops at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, and the reason that nothing has been done to fix the cesspools of corruption is because Barack Obama does not want the swamps drained.

What Emptywheel Says

Journalist, and internet deity on privacy and national security, Marcy Wheeler explains whyshe is opposed to the latest attempt to reign in government spying, the USA Freedom Act (USAF).

Basically it comes down to the fact that neither the state security apparatus, who are operating under legal opinions that are classified, nor Barack Obama, who has kept those legal opinions from the public, can be trusted not to take an absolutely maximalist approach to any possible loopholes under any regulatory regime, and this bill is full of loopholes.  Here are her section headings:
  • No one will say how the key phone record provision of the bill will work
  •  USAF negotiates from a weak position and likely moots potentially significant court gains 
  • USAF’s effects in limiting bulk collection are overstated
  • USAF would eliminate any pushback from providers\
  • USAF may have the effect of weakening existing minimization procedures
  • USAF’s transparency provisions are bullsh%$
  • Other laudable provisions — like the Advocate — will easily be undercut
Basically, any bill that is not passed over strenuous opposition from the Worst Constitutional Law Professor ever will be meaningless.

If Obama supports it, it will be an expansion of the surveillance state.

Read the whole thing.  It's worth it.

18 November 2014

Snark of the Day

Paul Krugman points us to this gem from Wolfgang Münchau:
German economists roughly fall into two groups: those that have not read Keynes, and those that have not understood Keynes.
Too True.

Japan Once Again Proves that Contractionary Economics is ……… Contractionary

It is no surprise that the Japanese, in their haste to go back to austerity when the first glimmers of light has driven their economy back into recession:
Japan’s economy unexpectedly fell into recession in the third quarter, a painful slump that called into question efforts by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to pull the country out of nearly two decades of deflation.

The second consecutive quarterly decline in gross domestic product could upend Japan’s political landscape. Mr. Abe is considering dissolving Parliament and calling fresh elections, people close to him say, and Monday’s economic report is seen as critical to his decision, which is widely expected to come this week.


Rising sales taxes have been blamed for triggering the downturn by deterring consumer spending, and with Japan having now slipped into a technical recession, the chances that Mr. Abe will seek a new mandate from voters to alter the government’s tax program appear to have increased significantly.

The preliminary economic report, issued by the Cabinet Office, showed that gross domestic product fell at an annualized pace of 1.6 percent in the quarter through September. That added to the previous quarter’s much larger decline, which the government now puts at 7.3 percent, a slightly worse figure than in its last estimate of 7.1 percent.


Although the second part of the tax increase would not be carried out until October, Mr. Abe needs to decide what to do about it soon, to give Parliament time to change legislation if he opts to cancel or postpone it. If fully enacted, the plan would increase the tax on all goods and services sold in the country to 10 percent over 18 months. It now stands at 8 percent after the first increase in April.
Yeah, imposing crushing sales tax increases, taxes were taken from 5% to 8%, with an as yet not implemented increase to 10%, will discourage consumer spending, and have a deflationary effect. (See also Krugman saying, "I told you so," here and here and about a gazillion other places.)

If you are concerned about the deficit, tax financial and currency speculation,  which, in addition to reigning in destabilizing speculation, would encourage that money to go into investments in plant, equipment, training, etc.

Do Not Do Business with Psychopaths, Even if They Appear to be Hip and Edgy

A CURRENT senior executive at Uber suggested opposition research against unfriendly journalists, including going after their families:
A senior executive at Uber suggested that the company should consider hiring a team of opposition researchers to dig up dirt on its critics in the media — and specifically to spread details of the personal life of a female journalist who has criticized the company.

The executive, Emil Michael, made the comments in a conversation he later said he believed was off the record. In a statement through Uber Monday evening, he said he regretted them and that they didn’t reflect his or the company’s views.

Michael, who has been at Uber for more than a year as its senior vice president of business, floated the idea at a dinner Friday at Manhattan’s Waverly Inn attended by an influential New York crowd including actor Ed Norton and publisher Arianna Huffington. The dinner was hosted by Ian Osborne, a former adviser to British Prime Minister David Cameron and consultant to the company. At the dinner, Uber CEO and founder Travis Kalanick, boyish with tousled graying hair and a sweater, made the case that he has been miscast as an ideologue and as insensitive to driver and rider complaints, while in fact he has largely had his head down building a transformative company that has beat his own and others’ wildest expectations.

A BuzzFeed editor was invited to the dinner by the journalist Michael Wolff, who later said that he had failed to communicate that the gathering would be off the record; neither Kalanick, his communications director, nor any other Uber official suggested to BuzzFeed News that the event was off the record.


Over dinner, he outlined the notion of spending “a million dollars” to hire four top opposition researchers and four journalists. That team could, he said, help Uber fight back against the press — they’d look into “your personal lives, your families,” and give the media a taste of its own medicine.

Michael was particularly focused on one journalist, Sarah Lacy, the editor of the Silicon Valley website PandoDaily, a sometimes combative voice inside the industry. Lacy recently accused Uber of “sexism and misogyny.” She wrote that she was deleting her Uber app after BuzzFeed News reported that Uber appeared to be working with a French escort service. “I don’t know how many more signals we need that the company simply doesn’t respect us or prioritize our safety,” she wrote.


Then he returned to the opposition research plan. Uber’s dirt-diggers, Michael said, could expose Lacy. They could, in particular, prove a particular and very specific claim about her personal life.

Michael at no point suggested that Uber has actually hired opposition researchers, or that it plans to. He cast it as something that would make sense, that the company would be justified in doing.

In a statement through an Uber spokeswoman, Michael said: “The remarks attributed to me at a private dinner — borne out of frustration during an informal debate over what I feel is sensationalistic media coverage of the company I am proud to work for — do not reflect my actual views and have no relation to the company’s views or approach. They were wrong no matter the circumstance and I regret them.”


[Uber Spokesman Nairi] Hourdajian also said that Uber has clear policies against executives looking at journalists’ travel logs, a rich source of personal information in Uber’s possession.


At the Waverly Inn dinner, it was suggested that a plan like the one Michael floated could become a problem for Uber.

Michael responded: “Nobody would know it was us.”
(emphasis mine)

He said, "Nobody would know that it was us."

Yeah, no threat there.

Wanna trust that guy?

The Uber spokesman admits that they have logs of your personal travel that they could use against you, but they double pinky swear that they won't, even though they could.

Particularly when this still employed at Uber senior executive said that he, Prove a particular and very specific claim," about the personal life of Uber foe Sarah Lacy?

Gee, I wonder where he got that bit of information.

Wanna trust this company with your data about your comings and goings?

I think not.

A journalist is reporting on unflattering stories, and is further opining that the company and its senior executives are unethical in their business practices, and Uber wants to go after her family.

If Uber wanted to go through her professional behavior with a fine tooth comb, I would agree that it's fair game, albeit a bit petty.

If she goes after your business ethics and competence, and you go after her business ethics competence.

You don;'t go after her family.

FWIW, Ms. Lacy has penned a blistering response, one which seems to imply that whatever Mr. Michael thinks he has, it's not about her, but it's about her family.

Do not give these motherf%$#ers your money.

Do not give these motherf%$#ers your personal information.

Do not give these motherf%$#ers your attention.

Delete the f%$#ing app from your phone.


Headline of the Day

Standard Chartered Is Outraged That It Is Treated Like A Criminal For Its Criminal Acts.

Just read the whole thing.

17 November 2014

The Cops will Riot, Not the Protesters. That's What Happened the Last Time

Craven Politician,* and Missouri Governor Jay Nixon has decided to declare a state of emergency and call out the National Guard:
Governor Jay Nixon activated the Missouri National Guard in anticipation of unrest when a grand jury decides whether to indict a white police officer who shot and killed an unarmed black teenager.

Nixon declared a state of emergency and created a “unified command” of police agencies in preparation for the decision, due this month in the slaying of 18-year-old Michael Brown of Ferguson, a St. Louis suburb.

“As part of our ongoing efforts to plan and be prepared for any contingency, it is necessary to have these resources in place in advance of any announcement,” Nixon, a 58-year-old Democrat, said yesterday in a statement. “Public safety demands that we are fully prepared.”
The violence in Ferguson last time did not come from the protesters. It came from the cops.

The Ferguson, and the other local and county police forces participating, rioted.

If Nixon wants to do the right thing, he needs to take those Guard troops, and use them to keep the local police in their barracks.

If he is not willing to do so, then Obama should federalize the guard, and lock down the cops.

A lot of meaningless violence would be prevented.

*But I repeat myself.

16 November 2014

As Nome, Alaska Goes, So Goes the Country

Well, not usually, though the good people of Nome have been at the forefront of dealing urban polar bear infestations.

In this case, however, if Nome decides to charge sales taxes to churches and other non-profits, it will be a very big deal:
Nome, Alaska, is a tiny town of less than 4000 people. Despite its size, its name is well-known, showing up in popular culture venues from "The Lucy-Desi Comedy Hour" of the 1950's, to "The X-Files," to "The Simpsons Movie." And Nome is the finish line of the 1049 mile-long Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race.

Nome, Alaska, may one day soon be known for another reason: as the first American town to tax its churches.

Strapped for cash, the town's Finance Director, Julie Liew believes taxing churches and other non-profits could raise $300,000 annually. The city council has already met to debate the idea, and it looks like they may move forward.

“You get rid of the sales tax exemption, most of the time these other exemptions aren’t given — we’re a very nice city [to do] it,” City Council member Matt Culley said, according to KNOM. “When we sit down at budget time, [with] the numbers to look at, if we want to donate that [money back to nonprofits], the money can go all back in … but we have control over it now, as opposed to it going whatever direction that we have it going now.”
This is a very good idea.

More money is being spent on various tax exemptions in the United States than is spent on food stamps. (source of the table above)

Subsidizing religion and religiosity is not a good thing

More of This

Elizabeth Warren has announced that she is opposing the nomination of Antonio Weiss as Treasury undersecretary, because he is a creature of the corrupt Wall Street establishment who arranged a huge "inversion" deal to avoid US taxes:
Sen. Elizabeth Warren plans to oppose President Barack Obama’s nomination of Antonio Weiss, a Wall Street investment banker, to be Treasury Undersecretary for Domestic Finance, another sharp-elbowed move by the progressive movement’s most prominent leader.

Weiss, head of global investment banking at Lazard, is widely respected on Wall Street. But he advised on Burger King’s acquisition of Canadian doughnut chain Tim Horton’s, a so-called “tax inversion deal.” Defenders say the deals are commonplace across Wall Street and Weiss did not advise on the tax portion. Such arguments have not swayed the Massachusetts Democratic senator, a persistent Wall Street critic who appears headed to a leadership role in the next Congress.

A Warren adviser told POLITICO: “She is a no on Antonio Weiss. She was a Treasury official herself, she cares a lot about who is in the domestic finance role. It oversees Dodd-Frank implementation and other core economic policy-making.”

The adviser added that Warren “agrees with Senator Grassley that his past work with corporate inversions is a major issue, and she’s had growing concerns with the Administration being loaded with so many appointees from Wall Street rather than more people who would bring different perspectives.”

The adviser also argued that Weiss’ mergers and acquisitions background on Wall Street was not a good fit for the domestic finance post. “She also doesn’t believe that his investment banking background – which focuses almost entirely on Europe and on international mergers and acquisitions – puts him in a good position to oversee domestic issues like consumer protection and US financial regulation,” the adviser said.
The fact that Obama has nominated is a Wall Street type who is unsuited, and probably disinclined, to protect consumers from the banksters is not an unintentional oversight.

Neither it is Obama practicing eleventy dimensional chess.

If the past 6 years have shown anything, it is that Barack Obama and Eric "Place" Holder have put the wealth and impunity of the financial sector above all other policy concerns.

Since ISIS was Created by Efforts to Overthrow Bashar al-Assad, It Follows that Fighting ISIS Might Involve Eschewing the Goals to Overthrow Bashar al-Assad

One of the realities that is studiously ignored in the west is that the Syrian civil war has its roots in efforts by the Gulf monarchies to overthrow the Damascus regime.

These efforts sowed misery throughout the region, and boosted Salafist militias through the area.

Another reality being studiously ignored is that ISIS was, until recently, the private military of the House of Saud, assembled by Prince Bandar bin Sultan, then head of the Saudi intelligence agency.

It comes as no surprise that it appears that people are discovering that fighting ISIS is incompatible with the immediate overthrow of the Baathist regime in Syria:
The Obama administration, as I wrote last week, has at least a hypothetical way forward in Iraq, but not in Syria, which it is currently treating as the rear sanctuary for Islamic State (IS) forces besieging Iraq. By the time its long-term plan to train insurgents to fight both IS and the regime of President Bashar al-Assad reaches fruition, there may be very little Syria left to save. Even that's assuming that the administration takes its own plan seriously, which past history suggests it will not.

What, then, can be done -- by anyone -- to turn off the Syrian meat grinder?

Last week, David Ignatius of the Washington Post wrote about a leaked document proposing a set of local cease-fires between Syrian rebels and the regime that might ultimately lead to a process of political reconciliation. The column whipped up a tornado of speculation in the very small world of Syria experts. That, in turn, led David Harland, the head of the Centre for Humanitarian Dialogue (HD), the Geneva-based organization responsible for the document, to produce a finished report outlining the proposal and then to send it to me. The document remains private, so I can't link to it, but I can quote from it. The argument it makes must be taken seriously by anyone who cares about Syria.


The premise of the HD report, titled "Steps to Settle the Syrian Conflict," is that neither the regime nor the rebels are capable of defeating the other. The savage stalemate creates conditions in which both IS and Jabhat al-Nusra, the local al Qaeda offshoot, can thrive. Worse, the haplessness of mainstream insurgent groups has "radicalized and salafized" the rank and file, who are increasingly joining the jihadists. With the rout last week of American-backed brigades in the western city of Idlib, non-jihadi rebels are in danger of becoming a marginal force in Syria. At the same time, the Syrian state -- which is now functional, but not much more, across much of the country -- is coming ever closer to collapse. As the state grows weaker, criminal elements and militias grow ever stronger, while IS and al-Nusra fill the vacuum of governance. Syria could collapse into Somalia. There is an urgent need to preserve the state, so the argument goes, even if that also means keeping Assad in power. "Better to have a regime and a state than not to have a state," as Harland pithily puts it.
I see any action that can be seen as a big f%$# you to the House of Saud as an independent good, so I am not an unbiased source, but I do think that this is the reality here.

When AT&T Has Even the FCC Calling Bullsh%$………

You know how it goes.

The FCC is increasingly aware of massive public opposition to the broadband monopolists attempts to rape the consumers and internet businesses, what John Oliver rightly called "Cable company F%$#ery", and so the former cable company lobbyist who is currently running the FCC is making noises about making it a touch more difficult for the last mile providers.

In response to this, AT&T tries blackmail, suggesting that any pro-consumer and pro-competition regulation will result in their curtailing their plans for a significant expansion of their fiber build-out.

The FCC called bullsh%$ on AT&T's claims, and have demanded to see their detailed plans for expansion of broadband capability:
Two days after AT&T claimed it has to "pause" a 100-city fiber build because of uncertainty over network neutrality rules, the Federal Communications Commission today asked the company to finally detail its vague plans for fiber construction.

Despite making all sorts of bold promises about bringing fiber to customers and claiming its fiber construction is contingent on the government giving it what it wants, AT&T has never detailed its exact fiber plans. For one thing, AT&T never promised to build in all of the 100 cities and towns it named as potential fiber spots. The company would only build in cities and towns where local leaders gave AT&T whatever it wanted. In all likelihood, only a small portion of the 100 municipalities were likely to get fiber, and nobody knows which ones.


Today, the FCC challenged AT&T to finally reveal some facts about its fiber plans in a letter to AT&T Senior VP Robert Quinn. Jamillia Ferris, a former Justice Department antitrust lawyer who joined the FCC to review the AT&T/DirecTV merger, began the letter by describing Stephenson's statement that "the Company would limit its fiber deployment to the '2 million additional homes' that are 'commitments to the DirecTV announcement' and that any other fiber deployment would depend on the outcome of the Commission’s Open Internet Proceeding." Ferris then asked Quinn for:

(a) Data regarding the Company’s current plans for fiber deployment, specifically: (1) the current number of households to which fiber is deployed and the breakdown by technology (i.e., FTTP [fiber-to-the-premises] or FTTN [fiber-to-the-node]) and geographic area of deployment; (2) the total number of households to which the Company planned to deploy fiber prior to the Company’s decision to limit deployment to the 2 million households and the breakdown by technology and geographic area of deployment; and (3) the total number of households to which the Company currently plans to deploy fiber, including the 2 million households, and the breakdown by technology and geographic area of deployment;

(b) A description of (1) whether the AT&T FTTP Investment Model demonstrates that fiber deployment is now unprofitable; and (2) whether the fiber to the 2 million homes following acquisition of DirecTV would be unprofitable; and

(c) All documents relating to the Company’s decision to limit AT&T’s deployment of fiber to 2 million homes following the acquisition of DirecTV.
Of course, AT&T never intended to put all that fiber in the ground, but it is nice that the FCC is saying that the emperor has not clothes.

This is all very simple, really: 
  • Businesses are in the business of making money.
  • When a business has a strangle hold on a market, like the Telcos and Cable companies do, the most profitable actions that they can take are those taken to reinforce their monopoly statusand those taken to extract monopoly enforced rents.
  • Thus businesses have no incentive to improve services.
  • Cable company f%$#ery.  QED.
These companies are the most loathed companies in America for a reason.

To quote Lily Tomlin, "We don't care. We don't have to. We're the Phone Company."

15 November 2014

More on That Zeppo Thing

Basically, I was trying to come up with a way of holding two things together that would allow for simple installation and removal of a payload on top of a mast.

After coming up with a number of rather ugly potential solutions, I remembered that Zeppo (Herbert) Marx had developed a clamp in his post showbiz career as an Engineer and manufacturer, developing the Marman Clamp* (pictured), which found extensive use as a stage separation mechanism in space craft in addition to securing the "Fat Man" inside the B-29 "Bock's Car" when it dropped the atomic bomb on Nagasaki.

The clamp, plus a couple of pins for alignment, and I had a solution that was clean, dirt cheap, robust, and nearly soldier proof.

Needless to say, I am feeling rather smug about this.

*It appears that Zeppo did not invent the clamp, but rather he was the one to bring it to mass production.

Nothing can be made soldier proof. It simply can be made somewhat soldier resistant.

14 November 2014

Thank You Zeppo Marx

More details later.

Busy week.

Posted via mobile.

13 November 2014

This is a Twisted Equivalent of a Japanese Corner Office

In Japan, a corner office is not a mark of status.

The term is Madogiwa-zoku (窓際 literally"at the window tribe"), and it is a way of cashiering long term loyal employees who have not quite made it to retirement age.

The twisted bit here is the idea of taking a promising person, and giving them a shiny new "Leadership" position as a way of neutering them.

The person in question being taken to the Vet's is Elizabeth Warren:
Senate Democrats are elevating Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) to a new leadership position on Thursday. She will help shape policy and messaging for the party.

Warren's title will be Strategic Policy Advisor to the Democratic Policy and Communications Committee. She will serve as a liaison to liberal organizations, a source familiar with the move confirmed to TPM.

"Senator Warren will be a liaison to the liberal groups in our base to ensure that they have a voice in leadership meetings and discussions," the source said.

A top Democratic leadership aide told TPM that "the idea was to create a position in leadership for her within the Democratic Policy and Communications Center, which is the messaging and policy “war room” chaired by Senator Schumer and Vice Chair Stabenow."
This is all about making sure that Warren is not in a position to agitate for changes in the (frequently inept) Senate leadership now, or to be a public voice for economic and financial regulation in 2016 primaries.  (I do not expect her to run, but I can see her being a pain for a Wall Street friendly candidate, like Hillary Clinton.)

F%$#ing Flowers!!!!!

I mean that quite literally.

I have had a most unpleasant day.

I do not know which angiosperm gives off copious amounts of pollen in November in Maryland in a final bit of libidinous excess.

Some plant is f%$#ing their proverbial roots off, and my nose is running like a faucet.

Or maybe it's the beginning of a cold.

Hopefully it's the plant thing.

Republicans Simply Do Not Understand Rock and Roll

There was a concert on the Mall in Washington, DC for memorial day , and right wing heads exploded over his singing the John Fogerty song Fortunate Son:
It's still unclear if Bruce Springsteen, one of the musicians at the center of the latest controversy, will be similarly apologetic.

Pretty much everyone has had something to say about Springsteen's performance Tuesday at the "Concert for Valor," an HBO musical event for veterans held on the National Mall in Washington, D.C.

Performing with Zac Brown and Dave Grohl, Springsteen sang "Fortunate Son," Creedence Clearwater Revival's classic Vietnam War-era anthem that examines issues of class and jingoism in America. John Fogerty, the CCR frontman, said that his own experience as a drafted serviceman served as an inspiration for the song.

"I was the same age as the soldiers serving in Vietnam and from the same lower-middle class as them," Fogerty once said.


Springsteen also performed his hit "Born in the U.S.A.," a song that, as the Washington Post's Justin Moyer pointed out, actually includes many of the same themes as "Fortunate Son."
Of course, as Charlie Pierce pithily observes, the song supports the troops,  It condemn the people who profit from war without fighting themselves:
Apparently, one of the Fox peawits did notice what the song actually is about. (And it's here where I point out that, unlike most of the people pretending to be offended today, Fogerty actually is a veteran, and that, when I was covering Vietnam veterans issues in the late 1970's, most of the guys I talked to absolutely adored this song.) It's not about people like this.

It's about people like this.

Glad I could clear that up.
Republicans do not understand Rock and Roll.


12 November 2014

Welcome to Serfdom

The latest case of non-compete agreement abuse, how about a $15-an-hour janitor?
Back in the spring, Benny Almeida was unemployed for a spell. So he took the first job offer that came his way — $15 an hour to work as a water-damage cleanup helper in Bellevue.

“At that point what savings I had was gone,” the 26-year-old says.

But three months into his work for ServiceMaster of Seattle, Almeida got a better offer. A rival firm he had also applied to called to say it now had a job opening — paying $18 an hour.


Sounds like your typical American free-enterprise story. Except Almeida either forgot or didn’t understand that he was part of the latest corporate fad in squeezing blue-collar workers: noncompete clauses even for low-wage jobs.

To get the $15-an-hour job last spring, Almeida was required to sign a “restriction on competition” clause that said if he leaves, he can’t work for two years for any firm doing similar work in ServiceMaster’s “geographic area” — which the company’s lawyer told me means King, Snohomish, Island, Yakima and Kittitas counties.

ServiceMaster of Seattle, a franchise in a $3.4 billion national corporation, now is trying to force Almeida to forfeit his $18-an-hour job at Superior Cleaning of Woodinville.

The noncompete clause would mean Almeida also couldn’t work in any water- or fire-damage job, janitorial, office cleaning, window washing, floor or carpet cleaning or other job ServiceMaster does.

“ServiceMaster of Seattle hereby demands that you immediately cease all employ with Superior Cleaning,” reads a “notice of violation” letter the company’s law firm wrote to Almeida (who lives with his aunt in Lynnwood).
I'm waiting for McDonald's to claim that, "Do you want fries with that?" is a trade secret.

Seriously, where is Madam la Guillotine when you need her?

Well, This is Just Ducky

It appears that some ISPs are stripping the encryption out of their user's email, even when connecting to outside servers:
Recently, Verizon was caught tampering with its customer's web requests to inject a tracking super-cookie. Another network-tampering threat to user safety has come to light from other providers: email encryption downgrade attacks. In recent months, researchers have reported ISPs in the US and Thailand intercepting their customers' data to strip a security flag—called STARTTLS—from email traffic. The STARTTLS flag is an essential security and privacy protection used by an email server to request encryption when talking to another server or client.1

By stripping out this flag, these ISPs prevent the email servers from successfully encrypting their conversation, and by default the servers will proceed to send email unencrypted. Some firewalls, including Cisco's PIX/ASA firewall do this in order to monitor for spam originating from within their network and prevent it from being sent. Unfortunately, this causes collateral damage: the sending server will proceed to transmit plaintext email over the public Internet, where it is subject to eavesdropping and interception.

This type of STARTTLS stripping attack has mostly gone unnoticed because it tends to be applied to residential networks, where it is uncommon to run an email server2. STARTTLS was also relatively uncommon until late 2013, when EFF started rating companies on whether they used it. Since then, many of the biggest email providers implemented STARTTLS to protect their customers. We continue to strongly encourage all providers to implement STARTTLS for both outbound and inbound email. Google's Safer email transparency report and starttls.info are good resources for checking whether a particular provider does.
STARTTLS is not a particularly strong, but it does filter out metadata like addresses and subjects.

What was (when discovered, the ISP in question, AIO Wireless, stopped doing this) is all about is an attempt to resell user data, or serve ads to the users.

As the good folks at Golden Frog observe:
Neither the old or the new proposed Internet rules being debated by the FCC would stop wireless providers from blocking encryption technologies. That is very frustrating and one of the key points in our FCC filing. The FCC is a government organization and tasked with protecting national security when it comes to electronic communications. They are part of the same government that surveils its citizens. It’s not unreasonable to think they are getting pressure to curtail encryption.

Furthermore, ISPs have incentive to block privacy technologies like VPNs. They want to profit as much as possible from the way you use the Internet. Privacy services that are independent of their offerings don’t allow them to do that. If they aren’t selling the service to you, they aren’t making money and that frustrates them. However, when they are blocking privacy services, they are dangerously putting businesses’ confidential communications and individual customers’ privacy at risk.

We strongly believe that the same Open Access rules that should apply to wired Internet providers should also apply to mobile Internet providers, especially considering this specific encryption-related incident that affects online privacy.
Unfettered free market capitalism ……… Gotta love it.

H/T naked capitalism.

And the Other Shoe Drops on Net Neutrality

Former Cable TV Lobbyist, and Barack Obama's FCC chairman, just told Barack Obama to go Cheney himself on net neutrality:
Federal Communications Commission Chairman Tom Wheeler is not convinced that the FCC should treat consumer broadband service as a utility despite President Obama urging him to do so.

A report last night in The Washington Post says Wheeler met Monday with Web companies including Google, Yahoo, and Etsy and told them that he wants to find a compromise that addresses the concerns of Internet service providers such as Comcast, Time Warner Cable, and AT&T. Wheeler was formerly a lobbyist for the cable and wireless industries.

“What you want is what everyone wants: an open Internet that doesn’t affect your business,” Wheeler told attendees of the meeting, according to the Post's sources. “What I’ve got to figure out is how to split the baby.”

Obama argued that reclassifying consumer broadband service as a utility is the best way to implement net neutrality rules that prevent ISPs from blocking or throttling Web services or prioritizing traffic in exchange for payment. Obama noted that the FCC is an independent agency that can vote however it wants, a message Wheeler apparently has taken to heart.

"I am an independent agency," Wheeler said repeatedly during the meeting, according to the Post's sources.

While the Post story said Wheeler is "moving in a different direction" from the president's plan, it did not provide any details as to what that direction is. Before Obama's call for a full reclassification of broadband as a utility, Wheeler was reportedly close to settling on a hybrid approach in which the service ISPs offer to content providers would be treated as a utility while the service ISPs offer to consumers would remain a lightly regulated information service.

"Wheeler worries that the president’s more drastic approach is too simplistic, according to people familiar with his thinking," the Post wrote. "With his long experience in the telecommunications industry, Wheeler is well aware of concerns that ill-considered regulations could stifle innovation and slow the growth of the country’s broadband infrastructure, those people said. And he worries that the White House is being naive about the ripple effects of changing how a major piece of national infrastructure is governed."
I guarantee you that Wheeler got a heads up before Obama made the statement.

In fact it was probably more than just a heads up.  I think that Obama knew what Wheeler's response would be before he made his statement.

When I doubted Obama's sincerity, and worried that he would, "find a way to f%$# the ordinary guy and benefit the big corporations again," it appears that I was right.

He gets to pretend to be on our side, while siding with the oligarchs.