29 February 2016

How Scalia's Death Makes the World a Better Place

Without Scalia on the court, business have lost a staunch defender of a business's right to defraud its customers, and so they are settling with plaintiffs:
Dow Chemical Co (DOW.N) agreed to pay $835 million to settle a decade-long lawsuit on price fixing, saying it had less chance of winning its petition at the Supreme Court after the death of Justice Antonin Scalia.

Dow, which is in the process of merging with Dupont (DD.N), said on Friday it decided to settle, without admitting any wrongdoing, citing "growing political uncertainties due to recent events within the Supreme Court."

The chemicals company was found liable by a federal jury in Kansas in February 2013 in the class-action lawsuit, which alleged Dow had conspired to artificially inflate polyurethane prices.

………

Justice Scalia died earlier this month. The next justice could tilt the balance of the nation's highest court, which was left with four conservatives and four liberals.

"While Dow is settling this case, it continues to strongly believe that it was not part of any conspiracy and the judgment was fundamentally flawed as a matter of class action law," the company said in a statement on Friday.
While we think of Scalia as a culture warrior, his role as the leading opponent of consumer protection and corporate accountability on the court has arguably hurt more people than anything else that he has done.*

*Except, of course for Bush v. Gore, but, as that opinion notes, it doesn't count.  It never counts.

Another TTP/TTIP Talking Point Shown to be a Lie

One of the claims made by the supporters of current and pending trade deals is that the US has never been sued through the Investor-State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) process, with the implication that such a suit will simply never happen.

Not so much:
A $15 billion lawsuit by the company behind the Keystone XL pipeline against the US government shows the serious threat to democracy posed by special privileges for investors, a new report has said. TransCanada is suing under investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS) clauses of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) to demand damages following rejection of the controversial pipeline due to its climate impact.

Keystone illustrates how the increasingly common ISDS clauses, that are contained in the draft EU-Canada trade agreement (CETA) and the proposed EU-US deal (TTIP), can be used to undermine climate action, the report by T&E, Friends of the Earth Europe and Sierra Club stated.

Last year US president Barack Obama denied permission to build the US-stage of the Keystone XL pipeline, which would have transported crude oil from Canada’s tar sands to American refineries, as it was not in the interest of national security and would have undercut America’s climate leadership. TransCanada’s lawsuit is under chapter 11 of NAFTA, which allows multinational corporations to sue governments if they feel they have not been treated as a domestic company would have been.

TransCanada has reportedly invested $3.1 billion in the project but is seeking five times this amount in damages. It will be able to launch its case as early as May 2016. A three-judge tribunal will issue a ruling, which cannot be appealed to any national court. It can award damages but not force the US to grant permission for Keystone to be built.
The ISDS process as currently practiced is a morass of corruption and opacity.

It's underlying philosophy is that government has no rights to protect the common good, and that any lost profits as a result is a taking.

It is a perverted and evil thing.

Quote of the Day

Clinton talks of possibly decades-long occupations and orderly regime changes, yet somehow Sanders is the fantasist.
Marcy "Emptywheel" Wheeler
Clinton's foreign policy positions are kind of like Dick Cheney's, only without Cheney's warmth and charisma.

Snark of the Day

Finding a Republican operative with character is like finding a Syrian moderate.
Lambert Strether at Naked Capitalism.

Huh. It Appears that He Can Talk

Clarence Thomas just just asked his first questions in a Supreme Court oral argument in 10 years. I am thinking that the absence of Scalia has something to do with this.

My guess is that he is confused, because Scalia is no longer there to tell him what to think:
Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, for the first time in a decade, asked questions from the bench during oral arguments, according to reporters present at Monday's Supreme Court hearings. His questions pertained to the rights of domestic abuse offenders to have a gun, in a case considering a federal law banning convicted abusers from owning guns.

The 10-year anniversary of the last time the conservative justice asked a question came just this month. In the period, however, Thomas did make a comment from the bench, but it was not a question. He has said that he would prefer to end oral arguments at the Supreme Court.
It appears that he was asking questions that had nothing to do with the actual issues raised by the litigants, so I am wondering if this exercise in "got from a Cracker Jack box judging" is an homage to the memory of Scalia, who frequently raised issues not brought forward by the litigants, and on many occasions assuming facts not in evidence. (Scalia's Hobby Lobby opinion is a particularly egregious example)

28 February 2016

This Ain't Just About Bernie Sanders or Hillary Clinton. It's Also About Debbie Wasserman-Schultz


That's gonna leave a mark
Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI), who is generally considered someone to watch in the Democratic Party, has resigned from the Democratic National Committee to endorse Bernie Sanders:
Representative Tulsi Gabbard, Democrat of Hawaii, resigned as a vice chairwoman of the Democratic National Committee on Sunday in order to endorse Senator Bernie Sanders for president.

The endorsement came a day after Hillary Clinton won the Democratic primary in South Carolina by a huge margin — she captured nearly 74 percent of the vote — in a signal of her support in the South right before several other Southern states vote in Tuesday’s primaries.

Ms. Gabbard explained her decision in a video on YouTube in which she said that, as a military veteran, she wanted the United States to avoid “interventionist wars of regime change.”

“As a veteran of two Middle East deployments, I know first hand the cost of war,” said Ms. Gabbard, one of the first female combat veterans to serve in Congress. “I know how important it is that our commander-in-chief has the sound judgment required to know when to use America’s military power and when not to use that power.
This is a harsh, and IMNSHO justified critique of Clinton's blithely bellicose foreign policy, but I have to think that a lot of this is that she no longer wants to deal with Debbie Wasserman Schultz.

Just to remind you, Wasserman-Schultz banned Gabbard from the debate audience for calling for more debates, so I am inclined to think that part of this is being driven by her no longer wanting to work with the hacktacular DWS.

Based on various statements from the Beltway media, I get the sense that it is not only Representative Gabbard who is getting sick of Wasserman-Schultz.

The DNC chair appears to be high handed, self absorbed, and threatened by competence around her, and that is a toxic mix in any organization.

Too Funny

It appears that during the last Republican debate, when everyone was calling everyone a c*cksucker, whoever was doing the closed captioning threw up his hands in despair:
Last night's Republican brawl at recess was best summed up by some anonymous soul working at the closed-captioning desk at CNN who clearly was completely fed up with the idiotic proceedings on stage and decided to let the hearing-impaired citizens of the United States of America know that he was. (In fact, I hope that the hearing-impaired citizens of the United States of America know how lucky they were last night.) This wasn't a political debate. This was a pissing contest among men who are worried about the size of their dicks.

(Unintelligible yelling)
Would you have trusted any of these clowns with the nuclear codes? (Maybe John Kasich, but only if there were absolutely no other option, Curly Howard being dead and all.) I wouldn't trust any of them to park my car.

(Unintelligible yelling)


What was your favorite moment? Was it Dr. Ben Carson's contention that the "fruit salad of their lives" are dangling precipitously on "the abyss of destruction?  What did he mean? Who knows? The mind of Dr. Ben Carson is not the mind of an ordinary man. The mind of Dr. Ben Carson is on loan from a curiosity shoppe somewhere on the moons of Saturn.
Perhaps I should start playing the Republican Debate Drinking game, because it does sound entertaining, if not particularly informative.

How Convenient

Normally, when one says that a Congressman is in bed with lobbyist, it is meant as a metaphor.

Not this time:
Congressman Bill Shuster from Pennsylvania, the Chair of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee and the lawmaker behind pro-airline legislation like this 2014 bill to remove any transparency from advertised airfares — and whose top campaign contributors are United and American Airlines — has admitted today to being in a romantic relationship with a top lobbyist for the airline industry.

A lengthy report from Politico shines a light on the too-close-for-comfort relationship of Shuster and Shelley Rubino, VP for global government affairs for Airlines for America (A4A), an industry trade group whose members include the aforementioned United and American, along with other top Shuster donors like FedEx, UPS, and Atlas Air Worldwide.

And when you look at which politicians have most benefited from A4A’s contributions, Shuster is right at the top of the list, at $16,700 for the 2014 election cycle. That’s more than A4A gave to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. Not bad for a Congressman who represents a largely rural section of Pennsylvania.

“Ms. Rubino and I have a private and personal relationship, and out of respect for her and my family, that is all I will say about that,” said Rep. Shuster, who was recently divorced, in a statement to Politico.

The Congressman says his office has “a policy that deals with personal relationships that cover my staff and myself. This was created in consultation with legal counsel and goes further than is required by the law. Under that policy, Ms. Rubino doesn’t lobby my office, including myself and my staff.”

Even if the agreement prevents Rubino from lobbying Shuster directly, she is not prohibited from lobbying the dozens of other members of his powerful committee or their aides.

Legal experts say there is no apparent violation of House ethics rules going on here.
It does appear that the news of Congressman Shuster's application of applied kinematics to Ms. Rubino has, temporarily at least, put the kibosh on privatizing air traffic control:
The House Republican leadership is shelving plans to pass an overhaul of the Federal Aviation Administration, a major blow to House Transportation Chairman Bill Shuster of Pennsylvania, according to multiple senior aides

Instead, the House will revert to a short-term extension of the FAA's authority while "the Transportation Committee will continue their work on this transformative legislation," a leadership aide said Thursday. The FAA must be renewed by the end of March.

………

The bill was also a priority for Airlines for America, the lobby that represents every mainline U.S. air carrier except Delta. Shuster is very close with A4A, as it is known, and dates one of its top lobbyists. POLITICO reported that earlier this week, Shuster spent time lounging in Miami with Nick Calio, A4A's leader, and Shelley Rubino, the group's vice president and his girlfriend. The trip came days after Calio testified before Shuster's committee.
I gotta figure that the house leaders realized that this story was blowing up, and decided to put it on hold.

This is a good thing.

Air Traffic Control should not be placed in private hands, particularly when those hands are largely those of the 4 remaining large airlines, who are, after all, Shelly Rubino's clients.

Not a Surprise

Japan has started engaging in a policy of negative interest rates, where you pay the bank for the privilege of storing your money.

It's supposed to encourage people to spend money, because it creates a kind of a doppelganger of inflation to encourage consumption.

It appears that the only spending that this is encouraging is for safes to store cash in:
The Japanese are spending—but not in a way that is likely to strengthen the country’s economy.

Following the Bank of Japan’s decision to lower interest rates below zero in January, many consumers have reportedly rushed to hardwares store in search of one thing: safes.

Negative interest rates mean customers effectively pay a fee for parking cash in banks, so Japanese citizens are beginning to hoard yen, according to the Wall Street Journal, and they need somewhere to put it.

Sales of safes have doubled from the same period a year earlier at chain hardware store, Shimachu, according to the Journal. The chain has already sold out of one model worth $700. Others savers are considering more unconventional storage spaces.

“In response to negative interest rates, there are elderly people who’re thinking of keeping their money under a mattress,” Mariko Shimokawa, a Shimachu saleswoman told the Journal.

But hoarding cash is exactly what the Japanese central bank wants to avoid.

Bank of Japan Gov. Haruhiko Kuroda lowered rates to -0.1% for certain deposits on Jan. 29. The idea was to prop up the economy and increase inflation by encouraging consumers to spend and borrow while discouraging banks from keeping large reserves.

Officials have already noticed the increase in safe sales. The issue of cash hoarding was brought up in a parliamentary hearing Monday, with opposition lawmaker Katsumasa Suzuki saying that the increase in safe sales suggested a “vague sense of unease,” the Journal reported.
Central banks have been using quantitative easing, essentially printing money, and it hasn't worked, because the newly printed money has been handed to the banks, who either use it to shore up dodgy loans, or park it in the deposit accounts of those central banks so that they can make money on the spread between their interest payments and their interest income.

Here's an idea:  Print the money and give it to ordinary people, or drop it from a helicopter, as Ben Bernanke has suggested.

Once people pay off their loans, they will spend the money, and the banks will have to find new business to replace their usurious consumer loans.

27 February 2016

It's Bank Failure Friday!!! (On Saturday)

Still no commercial bank failures this year, but we have the 5th credit union failure of the year, ​Mildred Mitchell-Bateman Hospital Federal Credit Union, ​of Huntington, ​WI. (Full list)

I do not know why credit unions are failing so much more often than commercial banks, the last bank failure was about 5 months ago.

If my reader(s) have any insights, I would appreciate hearing from them.

The People Have Spoken, the Bastards!*

Hillary Clinton crushed Bernie Sanders in South Carolina:
Drawing overwhelming support from the African-American voters who deserted her here eight years ago, Hillary Clinton won her first resounding victory of the 2016 campaign in South Carolina on Saturday, delivering a blow to Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont as their fight turns to the 11 states where Democrats vote on Tuesday.

After supporting Barack Obama in 2008, black voters, who will be the dominant force in the coming Southern primaries, turned out in droves for Mrs. Clinton here. They chose her over Mr. Sanders by more than six to one, while white voters narrowly favored her as well, according to exit polls.

………

This time it was Mrs. Clinton who emerged from the first southern primary with a clearer path to the nomination. With 99 percent of the vote counted, Mrs. Clinton won 73.5 percent, to 26 percent for Mr. Sanders. Turnout was about 370,000, according to Edison Research — modest compared with the 532,000 ballots cast in the Clinton-Obama primary race here in 2008, and well below the record 743,000 votes cast in South Carolina’s Republican primary last Saturday, which Mr. Trump won.
Some observations:
  • She beat him by nearly 3 to 1, so Sanders lost this ugly.
  • There was not a whole bunch of voter enthusiasm. Turnout was low.
I think that the Sanders campaign needs to work on its ground game in general, and its GOTV effort in particular.

Bernie's demographic trends younger, and it is difficult to get younger voters to show up at the ballot box.

I was hoping for Sanders to stay within single digits, so I has a sad right now.

*Not my quote, it comes from the inestimable Dick Tuck.

26 February 2016

Charlie Played the Lead in Little Shop of Horrors Tonight

He played Seymour Krelborn.

He did a very good job, and his portrayal was remarkably dark, at least as compared to my recollections of the original Broadway show that I saw many decades ago.

He mentioned to me that he was channeling his middle school experiences, and I saw that.

He and Natalie clearly got their singing voices from my mom, because neither my wife or I can carry a tune.

Emails: Flint water warnings reached gov's inner circle

Another email dump, and now we have proof that the Governor's senior staff knew of the problems with Flint's water over a year before they acknowledged the problem
Two top advisers to Gov. Rick Snyder urged switching Flint back to Detroit’s water system in October 2014 after General Motors Co. said the city’s heavily chlorinated river water was rusting engine parts, according to governor’s office emails examined by The Detroit News.

Valerie Brader, then Snyder’s environmental policy adviser, requested that the governor’s office ask Flint’s emergency manager to return to Detroit’s system on Oct. 14, 2014, three weeks before Snyder’s re-election.

Mike Gadola, then the governor’s chief legal counsel, agreed Flint should be switched back to Detroit water nearly a year before state officials relented to public pressure and independent research showing elevated levels of lead in the water and bloodstreams of Flint residents.

“To anyone who grew up in Flint as I did, the notion that I would be getting my drinking water from the Flint River is downright scary,” Gadola wrote. “Too bad the (emergency manager) didn’t ask me what I thought, though I’m sure he heard it from plenty of others.”

………

Brader’s email alludes to festering concerns about how the chlorine used to kill the bacteria outbreak was causing the formation of a harmful disinfection byproduct known as trihalomethane, a carcinogen that can increase the risk of cancer, liver, kidney and central nervous system problems.

“Specifically, there has been a boil water order due to bacterial contamination,” Brader wrote. “What is not yet broadly known is that attempts to fix that have led to some levels of chlorine-related chemicals that can cause long-term damage if not remedied (though we believe they will remedy them before any damage would occur in the population).”

Two months later, the Department of Environmental Quality issued a Safe Drinking Water Act violation to Flint for the high levels of trihalomethanes in the water. Flint violated the law twice more until coming into compliance on Sept. 2, 2015, state records show.

Despite the staff concerns about the city’s brownish water quality, Snyder’s staff never took a recommendation to him that Flint be switched back to Detroit water until the following October.
The Governor was not told because he made it clear that he did not want to be told.

We need to see some depraved heart murder prosecutions.

F%$# the Mouse

You know, now that Mickey has stopped palling around with Michael Eisner, Disney has really gone to the dark side:
The Walt Disney Company has a reputation for lobbying hard on copyright issues. The 1998 copyright extension has even been dubbed the “Mickey Mouse Protection Act” by activists like Lawrence Lessig that have worked to reform copyright laws.

This year, the company is turning to its employees to fund some of that battle. Disney CEO Bob Iger has sent a letter to the company’s employees, asking for them to open their hearts—and their wallets—to the company’s political action committee, DisneyPAC.

In the letter, which was provided to Ars by a Disney employee, Iger tells workers about his company's recent intellectual property victories, including stronger IP protections in the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a Supreme Court victory that destroyed Aereo, and continued vigilance about the "state of copyright law in the digital environment." It also mentions that Disney is seeking an opening to lower the corporate tax rate.

"With the support of the US Government we achieved a win in the Supreme Court against Aereo—an Internet service claiming the right to retransmit our broadcast signals without paying copyright or retransmission consent fees," writes Iger. "In the coming year, we expect Congress and the Administration to be active on copyright regime issues, efforts to enact legislation to approve and implement the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement, tax reform, and more proposals to weaken retransmission consent, to name a few."

The source who provided the letter to Ars asked to remain anonymous, and they were bothered by the assumption that anyone who worked for Disney would agree with the company's political positions on tax, trade, intellectual property, and other matters.

"It just seems insensitive to folks that support the company but don't necessarily support all of its priorities," the source said. "Especially for something like TPP, which I view as particularly controversial. We do have a company position, but there's going to be a wide variety of opinion [within the company]."

………
The Disney letter has language explicitly reassuring employees that their jobs won't be affected by their decision whether or not to give to DisneyPAC.

"Your contribution is important to all of us, but I want to emphasize that all contributions are voluntary and have no impact on your job status, performance review, compensation, or employment," writes Iger. "Any amount given or the decision not to give will not advantage or disadvantage you."
If you believe that Disney won't be making a list and checking it twice, you still believe in Santa Claus.

This isn't a United Way drive, this is a demand to employees that they give to an organization promulgating Disney's interest.

As I said at the start, f%$# the mouse.

25 February 2016

Very Long, Read Anyway

How America Made Donald Trump Unstoppable by the invaluable Matt Taibbi.

If  Mark Ames' 2004 essay, "Spite the Vote," gave us the big picture on Trump's appeal in a moment of prognostic brilliance, Taibbi's article explains the specifics, and the specific dangers.

He also makes a very good argument that Clinton is precisely the sort of candidate who will lose to him in the general.

I gotta look into Alyiah to Israel for my family and me. 

President Trump. 

I do not like that, Sam I Am.

Honestly, this is the Nicest Thing that Taibbi Says About the Morning Joe Crew In the Whole Article

Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski should be herded into a rocket and shot into space for their brown-nosing of Trump
Honestly, it makes his savaging of Tom Friedman look like a walk in the park.

Go read.

Quote of the Day

Over at the LGM blog, notes that  Hans "Der novotenf├╝hrer" Spakovsky is claiming that, "Voting is for Dead Republicans, Not Living African-Americans."

Von Spakovsky, whose entire career can be boiled down to 4 words, "Keep n*****s from voting," is now suggesting that Scalia's preliminary ballots should be counted as final.

But that is not the quote of the day.  The quote of the day comes from Warren Terra in the comments of another post
The joke here is of course that the delightfully named Hans Von Spakovsky has built a career as the country’s leading advocate of rejecting would-be voters on spurious grounds; now he’s got an actual corpse, and he wants to let it vote.
They really have no shame at all.

Finally, Someone Confronts Hillary About It.


Just Desserts at a Fundraising Dinner
I could call Hillary's endorsement of the penal state in the early to mid 1990s the "Elephant in the Room", but given the attendant political symbology, it wouldn't clarify the issue.

Bill Clinton was campaigning for president, and when he was campaigning for reelection, both he and Hillary Clinton acritively demonized black popular culture, see the "Sista Soulja Moment", particularly with regard to young black men.

Their crime bill was an abomination, and Hillary was blithely talking about "super predators" as a code word for young urban black males.

A black lives matter protester shelled out $500 for a fundraising dinner, and got in Clinton's face about her history:

Two activists with the Black Lives Matter movement interrupted a private fundraising event in Charleston, South Carolina, on Wednesday night, demanding that the Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton account for language she used as first lady about the need to “bring [at-risk youth] to heel”.

First reported by the Huffington Post, the protest began after Clinton told attendees about the need for police body cameras to stem police violence against members of the public. At this point, activist Ashley Williams stepped forward and unfurled a banner reading: “We have to bring them to heel.”

The banner’s text refers to a speech Clinton made in 1994 in support of her husband’s crime bill, the passage of which has since been criticized as having expanded the prison system and imposed unduly harsh sentencing on non-violent offenders.

“I’m not a super-predator, Hillary Clinton,” Williams said once Clinton turned around and noticed the sign, paraphrasing another line from the then first lady’s speech. “Will you apologize to black people for mass incarceration?”

Williams told the Huffington Post that she and another protester made a $500 donation to the Clinton campaign to attend the event, held in a private residence with roughly 100 attendees. Williams was eventually removed from the fundraiser by secret service agents.
Her eventual response, "Looking back, I shouldn’t have used those words, and I wouldn’t use them today," is a non-apology apology.

What's more it is further reduced in meaning in that she delivered this message only in writing.

There is a problem with what you said 20 years ago. 

The bigger problem was that you actively promulgated a racist trope because it helped Bill's reelection campaign.

It is a very sad part of your history, and any apology needs to come from your mouth, and not from a memo dashed off to one of your pet journalists.

Britain, You're Grounded!

This pro-Brexit video is beyond words.

That's it, out of the gene pool.



H/t Boing Boing.

Sandoval to Obama: Drop Dead

It appears that Obama's attempt to spelunk his way into a supreme court nominee has failed, because Republican Nevada Governor Brian Sandoval's having none of it.

You know, this whole prenegotiating bit, where he offers concessions before negotiations start, is really pretty damn stupid.

You would have though that Barack would have learned by now that this is stupid, and all it does is demoralize your power base.

It almost makes me long for President Trump.

24 February 2016

Anarchy in the UK


Your musical accompaniment
David Cameron has set June for a referendum on Britain leaving the European Union:
The UK will vote on whether to remain in the EU on Thursday 23 June, Prime Minister David Cameron has said.

The prime minister made his historic announcement in Downing Street after briefing the cabinet.

He said he would be campaigning to remain in a reformed EU - and described the vote as one of the biggest decisions "in our lifetimes".

Ministers immediately divided up into the leave and remain camps as the campaigns got under way in earnest.
Fasten your seat-belts. It’s going to be a bumpy ride.

The Official Hat of Team Obama


A Spelunking Helmet for Frequent Cavers
There are reports taht Barack Obama is considering Nevada Governor Brian Sandoval as a Supreme Court appointment:
The White House is considering picking the Republican governor from Nevada to fill the current vacancy on the Supreme Court, scrambling political calculations in what is expected to be a contentious confirmation battle in which Senate Republicans have pledged to play the role of roadblock.

President Obama is weighing the selection of Brian Sandoval, a centrist former federal judge who has served as governor since 2011, according to two people familiar with the process. Though the review process is in its initial phases and it is unclear whether the governor could ultimately emerge as the president’s pick, even the prospect of his nomination poses a difficult dilemma for Senate Republicans who have promised not to consider any nomination before November’s elections.
Here's the kicker though, it turns out that Sandoval has explicitely called Obamacare unconstitutional:
The Washington Post reports that the White House is vetting Brian Sandoval, the Republican governor of Nevada who once labeled President Obama’s signature health law “unconstitutional,” as a possible nominee for the Supreme Court vacancy left by the death of Justice Antonin Scalia. Sandoval previously served as a federal district judge, the lowest rank of judges who receive lifetime appointments, for just under four years. He resigned to run for governor in 2009.

Though the Post claims that “Sandoval is increasingly viewed by some key Democrats as perhaps the only nominee President Obama could select who would be able to break a Republican blockade in the Senate,” the second-ranking Senate Republican poured cold water on this idea almost immediately after the Post’s report went live. According to Politico’s Burgess Everett, Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn (R-TX) “says [it] doesn’t make a difference if Sandoval is the nominee.”

The fact that Obama would consider naming Sandoval is surprising, given the governor’s past statements on the Affordable Care Act. In his first State of the State Address in 2011, Sandoval said that “many aspects of the law are unconstitutional” and he pledged to “continue to fight to have them overturned.” He later personally signed briefs filed in the Supreme Court arguing against the law’s constitutionality and claiming that the Supreme Court “should hold the ACA invalid in its entirety.”

It’s worth noting that, after losing this case, Sandoval did agree to implement provisions of the law, such as its Medicaid expansion. Nevertheless, if Sandoval’s position had prevailed in the Supreme Court, Obamacare would have completely ceased to exist.
I understand that Obama is looking for items to bolster his legacy, and getting another Supreme Court justice confirmed by the Senate would be a feather in his cap, but Sandoval is only 52, and would likely be on the court for more than 25 years.

I understand your need to do your PPUS (Post Partisan Unity Schtick), and I know that you really want to appoint another justice, but it's not worth it if you have to appoint a bad justice.

Reasons that People Don't Trust Her

This hed says it all:
45 Times Clinton Pushed the Trade Bill She Now Opposes
She needs to own who she is and what she has done.

In this case, she helped negotiate the TPP and TPIP.

What an Unbelievably Transparent Cop-Out

This is why, if Hillary Clinton wins the nomination, she is likely to get beaten by Donald Trump:
Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton again refused to release transcripts of her paid speeches to big banks, telling a CNN town hall audience Tuesday night that she will only release her transcripts if her Republican opponents release theirs.

“Earlier tonight, I asked Senator Sanders: Will you give your transcripts of speeches?” said host Chris Cuomo. “He said he doesn’t have the bank speeches. If he can find any of the speeches that he did give for money, he will gladly give the transcripts up. So: Will you agree to release these transcripts? They have become an issue.”

Clinton replied: “Sure, if everybody does it, and that includes the Republicans.”

She continued: “Because we know they have given a lot of speeches.” She then went on to offer a defense of her Wall Street regulatory plan.

And she asked: “Why is there one standard for me, and not for everybody else?”
Because you are claiming that you are not in Wall Street's pocket, and the Republicans are in Wall Street's pockets as an article of faith?

Because you have made a specific claim that you told them to "Cut it out"?

Because you got over a half a million dollars for your speeches?

Because that answer makes you look like a whiny self-entitled jerk.

Because you are f%$#ing running for f%$#ing President of the f%$#ing United f%$#ing States?

Even if you believe Hillary Clinton's argument that she is likely to be more successful at getting things through Congress, which means that you have to ignore the fact that Bernie did more in the House and Senate than she did, this means that she is pretty damn near hopeless as a candidate.

She is the Martha Coakley of Presidential campaigns.

Letting her get the nomination likely to make Donald Trump President.

It Appears that we are Having a Spot of Rain

Lots of wind too.



Posted via mobile.

23 February 2016

Headline of the Day

Hillary Clinton's Latest Attack on Bernie Sanders Sounds a Lot Like Mitt Romney:
Fresh off a vindicating win in Saturday's Nevada caucuses, Democratic presidential frontrunner Hillary Clinton found herself embroiled in a controversy over remarks denigrating rival Bernie Sanders' policy proposals as "free everything" — an attack, critics charge, that echoes Republican talking points.

The former secretary of state actually delivered the jab on Thursday, as polls showed her locked in a tight contest with Sanders in the Silver State. But the remarks didn't receive widespread attention until late this weekend, after Clinton defeated Sanders by more than 5 percentage points.

Speaking at a campaign rally, Clinton said, "I'm not just making speeches and not just promising free this and free that and free everything." The line was widely interpreted as a dig at Sanders' proposals for tuition-free public college and a single-payer, Medicare-for-All health system.

A familiar refrain? For many listeners, Clinton's remarks evoked memories of Mitt Romney and Jeb Bush, both patrician Republicans who came under fire for comments suggesting that Democrats sought to curry favor with voters by offering free benefits.
I think that there is a lot more of the "Hillary Rodham Goldwater Girl" from 1964 in her than I had previously realized.

Depraved Heart Murder

The Governor of Michigan can now be shown to have studiously ignored the outbreak of Legionnaires Disease in Flint, Michigan:
It was the Fourth of July, a warm summer night in 2014, but Tim Monahan was shivering in a thick blanket as he watched fireworks from his front yard here. By the next afternoon his temperature had shot to 104.6, and doctors at the hospital he had checked into puzzled over what was wrong.

Two days later, they had an answer: Legionnaires’ disease, a virulent form of pneumonia caused by a type of bacteria that can multiply in water systems. Mr. Monahan, now 58, was given antibiotics and eventually recovered, but his case turned out to be at the leading edge of a Legionnaires’ outbreak that sickened at least 87 people in the Flint region, killing nine of them, from June 2014 through October 2015.

State officials still say they cannot conclusively link the outbreak to Flint’s contaminated water supply, partly because sputum cultures were not collected from patients. But the possibility of a link was raised in internal government emails as early as October 2014, and state officials did not inform the public of the outbreak until last month.

The Legionnaires’ cases started popping up as Flint residents were complaining about the foul-smelling, discolored water flowing into their homes after the city switched to a new water source, the Flint River, in April 2014. Soon they were reporting rashes and stomach ailments, and whistle-blowers eventually pointed to alarming levels of lead in the water supply and in children’s blood.

An examination of government emails, and interviews with people who survived Legionnaires’ and relatives of those who died, shows the government response to the Legionnaires’ outbreak followed the same pattern that prevailed throughout the Flint water crisis: a failure to act swiftly to address a dangerous problem or warn the public.

Even as more residents became critically ill with Legionnaires’ disease, and some died, the officials remained mired in jurisdictional battles, according to emails released by the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services and the health department in Genesee County, which includes Flint. Some at the state level seemed more concerned about following bureaucratic protocol, and not raising public alarm, than protecting residents.
People were dying, and they knew it, and they deliberately did nothing.

It's depraved heart murder.

A Nice Piece on Realpolitik

This explains why London Mayor Boris Johnson, aka "Copper Bottomed, Double Dealing Hypocritical Little Sh%$," has come out in favor of the UK leaving the EU.

It's really simple: He wants to be Prime Minister, the Tories are the most Euroskeptic of the mainstream parties, and his two most prominent rivals have pledged to oppose a Brexit.

His supporting Britain leaving the European Union is a rather savvy political move, given the realities of Tory politics:
Like all successful gamblers, Boris Johnson knows how to play the hand he is dealt, clearly calculating the odds of success. The London mayor’s decision to break with David Cameron to become a figurehead of the Leave side in the forthcoming EU referendum is the product of untold hours of calculation.

When Boris tells us that the referendum presents us with “a once in a lifetime chance”, we should believe him. If he has made the right calculations, Boris could become the next British Prime Minister. Let’s have a look at what those calculations might have been.

………

So what about Boris’ chances of becoming leader of the Conservative Party? Here it is clear that opting for Leave has drastically shortened the odds to 1/3.

One of the interesting consequences of the Labour Party’s current problems is that David Cameron’s status as an electoral asset – more popular in the country than the party he leads – is less important than usual. Without meaningful opposition, backbench MPs are less reliant on their leader to keep hold of their seats. This makes Cameron more vulnerable to a leadership challenge after the referendum, regardless of the outcome, and he may well resign if the public votes to leave.

In any leadership battle, the bookies have Boris, chancellor George Osborne, and home secretary Theresa May as the current favourites. Both Osborne and May have come out in favour of Remain. Coming out in support of Cameron’s position would have won Boris some short-lived praise for statesman-like behaviour and negation of personal ambition but it would have failed to differentiate Brand Boris from its competitors.

If he had done this and the Great British Public voted Remain, the majority of the plaudits would go to Cameron and the political capital would probably flow to Cameron’s preferred successor Osborne. Conversely, whatever the result of the referendum, Boris coming out in favour of Leave places him at the helm of the increasingly dominant faction in the Tory party and well placed to win the subsequent leadership election.
Tell David it was only politics. I always liked him.

Truth be told, I am rather surprised that Johnson either has the facilities, or the people with the facilities, to run this scenario.

My impression has always been an inbred prat who was perhaps one drink away from actually drooling.

I stand corrected.

Flies in 2018. Bankruptcy in 2019

Terrafugia has announced that its flying car will take flight by 2018.

There is a long history of flying cars (or roadable planes), and it never makes it to the mass market:
When will we finally pilot our own flying cars? It’s a question that’s haunted anyone who grew up watching sci-fi classics, and one American company claims they’re coming sooner than you’d think. Terrafugia is building the first-ever unmanned prototype of its TF-X flying car. They claim the vehicle will be ready for testing in 2018 and available for purchase by 2025.

The TF-X hybrid electric flying car looks mostly like a high-tech 4-seat sedan, except it’s equipped with fold-out wings that have twin electric motors on each side. These motors, powered by a 300 horsepower engine, can assume a horizontal position for flight and a vertical position for takeoff and landing. After using propellers to rise into the air (eliminating the need for any kind of runway), the vehicle would be capable of cruising at 200 mph for up to 500 miles.

There would be no need for a driver to have a pilot’s license, given that the car will be semi-autonomous. The driver can simply input the destination and allow the car to steer itself. The vehicle operator will, of course, have final say over whether the car should land in a particular area, and can abort landing at any time if the area seems unsafe.
This has been in the works for a long time, and I am sure that the most of the tech will work as promised.

After all there have been a dozen or so flying cars over the years.

They've just never made the leap from prototype to product.

This is Actually Not a Bad Thing

It appears that much of Clinton's victory margin was delivered by Harry Reid's political organization:
I’d like to congratulate the winner of the Nevada Democratic caucuses: Harry Reid.

What’s that, you say? The Senate Democratic leader wasn’t running? What am I talking about?

Last Saturday may well have been the day that altered the course of the Democratic presidential race — when Hillary Clinton blunted Bernie Sanders’ campaign. After she was forced to work as hard as she ever has for a week (with a little help from a lot of friends), she was sling-shotted with new momentum into South Carolina's primary this Saturday and Super Tuesday on March 1. Nevada could indeed prove to be the contest that saved Clinton’s campaign.

But the caucuses, which Clinton won by about 5 percentage points, also cemented Prince Harry as a man Machiavelli would have bowed to, a man with one eye who still sees the field better and is still more dangerous, effective and cunning than any pol the state (the country?) has ever seen. Clinton might not have won Nevada if Reid had not interceded last week, when the man feigning neutrality saw what everyone in the Democratic elite saw: Sanders erasing a once mountainous lead and on the verge of perhaps winning Nevada and rendering inoperative the “Hillary is more electable” argument.

The story of the Nevada caucuses is that a lame-duck senator and a self-neutered union conspired to revive the Clinton campaign in a remarkable bit of backroom maneuvering that helped Madame Secretary crush Sanders in Clark County, the key to winning almost any statewide election. Combined with a Clinton machine, erected last spring and looking invincible, that suddenly had to scrape the rust off its gears and turn out her voters, Caucus Day also was a remarkable story of an indomitable candidate, her nonpareil Nevada staff and a ragtag but committed Sanders operation that made them sweat.
Politically, Clinton is not a great campaigner, but playing this sort of insider game is her mutant super power..

I'm pretty sure that Hillary had to ask for this help, and knowing when to ask for help is a valuable skill.

I would rather that Sanders had won the caucus, but this is a smart move.

H/t DownWithTyranny!

The Stupidest Argument This Side of a Republican Debate

Jim Clyburn (D-SC) has just come up with the stupidest argument against Bernie Sanders plan for free tuition for college students that I have ever heard:
Days after endorsing Hillary Clinton, Rep. Jim Clyburn has a specific and sharp critique of her opponent: Bernie Sanders’ education plan would threaten the existence of smaller, private historically black colleges, Clyburn told BuzzFeed News in an interview.

The third-ranking Democrat in the House is one of the fiercest and most prominent champions for historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs) in politics.

………

The next Democratic primary contest is here, where Clyburn is immensely popular. He said he will speak on Clinton’s behalf at Union Baptist Church in Charleston on Sunday — and also to Clinton herself to map out a game plan about whether the two will campaign together in South Carolina before the Feb. 27 primary.

But on Saturday he told BuzzFeed News in a telephone interview that while he acknowledged Sanders’ campaign is gaining traction with college-aged students in South Carolina, the education plan they’re attracted to doesn’t protect institutions like nearby Claflin University, which is private.

“You’ve got to think about the consequences of things,” Clyburn said. “[If] you start handing out two years of free college at public institutions are you ready for all the black, private HBCUs to close down? That’s what’s going to happen,” Clyburn said.

“Tougaloo College in Misssissippi will be closed if you can go to Jackson State for free,” he said.
Let me get this straight: You want college students, specifically black college students, to start their lives Enslaved by crushing debt because it might inconvenience some institutions that he has a sentimental attachment to.

This is without a doubt the stupidest thing that I've heard all week, and given that it's an elections year, that is a mind boggling concept.

Given that Donald Trump is leading the Republican field, it being the stupidest thing that I have heard all week is a complete mind f%$#.

22 February 2016

So Not a Surprise

Transparency International is a NGO whose mission is to name and shame corruption.

The state Delaware was just named one of the most corrupt organizations on earth:
Normally, when one of our 50 states gets singled out by an international body of some consequence, you would hope it would be good news and something that the locals would brag about. But that’s not likely to be the case with Delaware’s recognition by Transparency International this month as one of the world’s best examples of “grand corruption.” The dubious distinction comes in recognition of the state’s laissez faire corporate registration system, which critics say provides corporations, fraudsters and wealthy individuals secrecy and asset protection that puts it on a footing with notorious tax havens like the Cayman Islands.

Transparency International’s selection of the top nine “grand corruption” winners was based on both internal deliberations by the non-governmental organization, most famous for its global ranking of the world’s nations for corruption, and the votes of 170,000 people around the world. Other “winners” include Brazilian oil giant Petrobras, enmeshed in an octopus like $2 billion dollar scandal that has shaken the sitting government; as well as FIFA, former leaders of the Ukraine, Panama and Tunisia, and Lebanon’s entire political system.

In the statement announcing the “dirty nine,” Transparency International said all the nominees were central to an “abuse of high level power that benefits the few at the expense of the many, and causes serious and widespread harm to individuals and society” in a way “that often goes unpunished” yet “concerns millions of victims around the world.”

Delaware’s over the top pro-business Chancery Court, its statutory trust provisions, non-existent taxes, as well as its extremely user friendly limited-liability-corporation registration process, has drawn in more than 60 percent of Fortune 500 companies and over half of America’s publicly traded companies. Back in 2012, the New York Times reported that Delaware had more registered corporations than it had residents, roughly one million compared to fewer than 900,000 people.

………

Worth noting: Delaware’s functioning as America’s home-away-from-home sanctuary for all business, big and small, brings in $1.1 billion dollars a year in revenue to the state coffers, roughly a quarter of the state’s annual budget.

“This is Delaware’s industry,” says William Black, professor of Economics and the Law at the University of Missouri and Kentucky. “They sell corporate leaders protection from compliance from fiduciary obligations and the provisions of law like anti-money laundering statutes.”

Boosters of Delaware say that the major reason businesses choose Delaware is their business savvy Chancery Court, which has been sorting out commercial equity issues since the 1790s and today has jurisdiction over suits in which the massive universe of Delaware entities are named as defendants.

Black — who as a federal bank regulator blew the whistle on the role of Congress in the Keating 5 (McCain, Glenn et al) savings and loan scandal — says Delaware’s Chancery Court is at the heart of the problem, noting it has enforced trusts between parties in a way that “allows you to eliminate the fiduciary duty of standard of care for shareholders and eviscerates the fiduciary duty of loyalty through their court decisions.”
I am not sure how the US can engage in sanctions against one of its own states, but if Delaware were a foreign nation, sanctions would be well justified.

I Did Not Expect This from The Boston Globe

It's not the editorial board, but they just published an OP/ED calling out our incoherent and contradictory and ineffective policy in Syria:
Coverage of the Syrian war will be remembered as one of the most shameful episodes in the history of the American press. Reporting about carnage in the ancient city of Aleppo is the latest reason why.

For three years, violent militants have run Aleppo. Their rule began with a wave of repression. They posted notices warning residents: “Don’t send your children to school. If you do, we will get the backpack and you will get the coffin.” Then they destroyed factories, hoping that unemployed workers would have no recourse other than to become fighters. They trucked looted machinery to Turkey and sold it.

This month, people in Aleppo have finally seen glimmers of hope. The Syrian army and its allies have been pushing militants out of the city. Last week they reclaimed the main power plant. Regular electricity may soon be restored. The militants’ hold on the city could be ending.

Militants, true to form, are wreaking havoc as they are pushed out of the city by Russian and Syrian Army forces. “Turkish-Saudi backed ‘moderate rebels’ showered the residential neighborhoods of Aleppo with unguided rockets and gas jars,” one Aleppo resident wrote on social media. The Beirut-based analyst Marwa Osma asked, “The Syrian Arab Army, which is led by President Bashar Assad, is the only force on the ground, along with their allies, who are fighting ISIS — so you want to weaken the only system that is fighting ISIS?”

This does not fit with Washington’s narrative. As a result, much of the American press is reporting the opposite of what is actually happening. Many news reports suggest that Aleppo has been a “liberated zone” for three years but is now being pulled back into misery.

………

Washington-based reporters tell us that one potent force in Syria, al-Nusra, is made up of “rebels” or “moderates,” not that it is the local al-Qaeda franchise. Saudi Arabia is portrayed as aiding freedom fighters when in fact it is a prime sponsor of ISIS. Turkey has for years been running a “rat line” for foreign fighters wanting to join terror groups in Syria, but because the United States wants to stay on Turkey’s good side, we hear little about it. Nor are we often reminded that although we want to support the secular and battle-hardened Kurds, Turkey wants to kill them. Everything Russia and Iran do in Syria is described as negative and destabilizing, simply because it is they who are doing it — and because that is the official line in Washington.

………

Politicians may be forgiven for distorting their past actions. Governments may also be excused for promoting whatever narrative they believe best suits them. Journalism, however, is supposed to remain apart from the power elite and its inbred mendacity. In this crisis it has failed miserably.

Americans are said to be ignorant of the world. We are, but so are people in other countries. If people in Bhutan or Bolivia misunderstand Syria, however, that has no real effect. Our ignorance is more dangerous, because we act on it. The United States has the power to decree the death of nations. It can do so with popular support because many Americans — and many journalists — are content with the official story. In Syria, it is: “Fight Assad, Russia, and Iran! Join with our Turkish, Saudi, and Kurdish friends to support peace!” This is appallingly distant from reality. It is also likely to prolong the war and condemn more Syrians to suffering and death.
This is the sort of thing I would expect to see in the Guardian or the BBC, not in a major US paper with a closet full of Pulitzers.

Our incoherent policies, and our "allies" who work for terrorists are generally terra incognita for our mainstream media.

Baltimore's Man From Teach for America

With the rather hapless Stephanie Rawlings Blake not running for reelection as Mayor of Baltimore, it it is a bit of a free for all, with pretty much everyone, including her larcenous (she was convicted and served time) predecessor.

Needless to say, there is much opportunity for mischief, and it appears that the hedge funds first choice for pillaging the public school system, Teach for America, has a candidate in the race:
For those who’ve never paid much attention, Teach For America sounds like a benevolent and benign idea: recruit bright college grads, give them some teacher-training and place them in some of the nation’s neediest schools for a two-year commitment to teach kids.

The reality behind TFA’s sunny exterior is somewhat more sinister. Education policy experts today consider the nonprofit founded by Wendy Kopp in 1990 to be at the vanguard of the school privatization movement. TFA is also a media juggernaut in its own right, known for deploying a sophisticated public relations arsenal to advance an agenda focused on crushing teachers’ unions and privatizing public school systems. TFA's funders, including the Waltons, Bill and Melinda Gates and top Fortune 500 corporations, all have plenty to gain from the commodification of public goods and the destruction of public service unions, and its 11,000 corps members provide a valuable service to that end.

………

When Mckesson announced his campaign for mayor of Baltimore this month, his name topped the list of trending topics on Twitter for several hours. Even without outlining a strategy to defeat better-known, more entrenched candidates, Mckesson received nearly $130,000 in online donations, met with President Barack Obama (who said Mckesson and associates “were better organizers than I was”), and secured his status as one of the country’s most closely watched political outsiders. Headlines appeared across national media, from Slate to the Guardian to the Washington Post, with the progressive online magazine Truthdig proclaiming Mckesson "Truthdigger of the Week."

With his candidacy for a city whose public schools are a key target of the education reform movement, the time seems right to scrutinize Mckesson’s relationship with Teach for America more closely. His high-profile appearance at the TFA gala only days after filing his last-minute bid to enter the race was only the latest collaboration with the organization spearheading a sustained attack on teacher's unions and traditional public schools.

………

As Mckesson rose to prominence, TFA was there to provide promotion through its powerful PR apparatus.

Mckesson had no connection to Ferguson when he first arrived on Aug. 16, 2014, according to an interview he gave Huffington Post later the same year. But it didn’t take him long to connect with another protester named Brittany Packnett, with whom he began working the same day. The fact that Packnett is executive director of TFA’s St. Louis chapter likely contributed to their immediate rapport.

At the time, Mckesson was senior director of human capital for Minneapolis Public Schools. He says he commuted to Ferguson on weekends before eventually quitting his job to protest full-time.

A Twitter search query produces a clear timeline of Mckesson's subsequent transition from human resources manager to social justice talent, aided by promotion from Teach For America. It begins with a post to TFA’s official blog, in which Mckesson pontificates on his activities in Ferguson. TFA tweeted a link to that post on Aug. 21, 2014, at which point Mckesson would have been in the besieged midwestern town for five days.


………

I reached Mckesson by phone soon after he announced his candidacy for mayor. When I asked him how he funded all of his travel despite not having a job, he initially replied, “I don’t have an answer to that. There’s an answer in the New York Times article.”

After being informed that the Times offered no such answer, Mckesson stated, “You know, people ask me this, and I haven’t even had to answer this. I, you know, me and you don’t have a relationship. You know, you’re a reporter to me, you know—I’ve answered it many times. I will put that on my list of things and try to double back with you.” Several hours later, Mckesson texted me the link to a Tweet from last spring claiming that his excursions were funded by unnamed “family and friends.”


………

Mckesson the ruthless administrator is a difficult characterization to reconcile with Mckesson the protester, as he’s typically portrayed in print, nor does it come through in his television appearances. But commentary from some activists who have encountered him on the ground in Ferguson and Baltimore suggests that the public image he’s cultivated is a media fiction.

Baltimore activist Duane Davis, in a tweet addressed to DeRay, says, “[W]e crossed paths. On more than one occasion....you never engaged in conversation. [Y]ou were more focused on media attention.”

In a February 15 interview with Jared Ball on Real News Network, Hands Up United Coalition co-founder Taureen Russell offered a withering assessment of Mckesson’s alleged role as a protest organizer. “I never worked with DeRay. I’m really hard-pressed to find any local people who have worked with DeRay. All the local people that I know worked with DeRay...work with the establishment,” he said. “So when I hear him go on Colbert and Colbert is saying he’s organized protests in Ferguson...I don’t know an action or a protest that he was a part of.”

Russell is a founder of the organization that initiated the protests in Ferguson against the police killing of Michael Brown and the acquittal of the officer who gunned him down. He told Ball he was relieved that Mckesson had moved on to politics because “it makes my job [as a grassroots organizer] a little easier.”

Addressing Baltimore, Russell said of Mckesson: “He’s a proponent for charter schools. He’s not typically a fan of public schools. So the educational issue comes up. His policy, to be honest, most people see as a neoliberal kind of policy. And we know his policy comes from Teach For America.”

………

Mckesson’s political platform, which he has begun rolling out on the DeRay For Mayor website, seems modeled in part on those who have forced corporate education reforms under big-city mayors like Rahm Emanuel and Michael Bloomberg. Both of those mayors have justified unilateral takeovers of the public school districts in their respective cities using teacher evaluations based on standardized test scores, which have consistently been debunked as unreliable measures of academic performance.

The language in his section on education is typical of school privatization advocates, according to Dr. Julian Vasquez Heilig, a professor of education at California State University at Sacremento who has written extensively about Teach For America on his website, Cloaking Inequity.


………

The lack of transparency in the DeRay For Mayor campaign means the public will have to wait until March to identify all the contributors to its six-figure finances. But if history is any indicator, we can expect it to include many of the same financial interests that have waged assaults on public school teachers and students across the country. It remains to be seen if Teach For America and one of its most famous cadres will finally be held to account for their privatization agenda, before it begins to take hold in Baltimore.
Yes, I know that this sounds tin-foil hat, until one looks at the history of the charter school movement.

There is a lot of  money to made from sucking the marrow from pub lic education, and when there is a lot of money to be made, people work very hard to make it.

It's basic economics, or to quote Willie Sutton, "Because that's where the money is."

Wall Street is hip deep in privatizing education, and leveraging politics to create ill gotten gains is their "A" game.

Headline of the Day

Boris Is a Copper Bottomed, Double Dealing Hypocritical Little Sh%$. The Press Will Destroy Him
Jerry Hayes, who appears to be a bit put off by the fact that Boris Johnson, the Mayor of London, has come out in favor of a Brexit.
(%$ mine)

Say what you will about the British, but the land of Shakespeare has not lost its facility for venom .

21 February 2016

The classic Scorsese movie is Taxi Driver, not Uber Driver.

I dunno, maybe it's a 20-teens thing that a wannabee Travis Bickle is now driving Uber:
The man accused of killing six people and injuring two more in a Saturday evening shooting rampage in Kalamazoo, Michigan, was an Uber driver who picked up and dropped off passengers between shootings, a source with knowledge of the investigation told CNN.

The source, who is not authorized to speak to media, said investigators believe Jason Brian Dalton was even looking for fares after the final shooting of a nearly seven-hour killing rampage.
It could be that this guy is just nuts.

It could be that Uber's abuse of its drivers drove him mad.

It could be that a he has a history of issues that would not have allowed him to get a hack license.

I'm not sure, but I saw the Scorsese reference.

Very Funny, New Yorker

The associated art with this article on populism in the presidential campaign.

If you do not see it, then you haven't seen the internet meme "Goatse".

If you haven't seen the internet meme "Goatse", for the love of God, do not Google it!

That which is seen cannot be unseen.

It's One Thing to Get Called out by Politifact, But to Get Outed by Snopes?


No chanting here
Delores Huerta, a civil rights activist and campaigner for Hillary Clinton, claimed that her efforts to translate at a caucus in Nevada were shouted down by Sanders supporters chanting "English only".

Snopes.com, the urban myth busting site for the internet, Finds these claims to be false, which is unsurprising. Huerta made similar discredited claims against Obama in 2008:

Claim: Supporters of Bernie Sanders shouted "English only" at civil rights activist Dolores Huerta during one Nevada caucus event, ostensibly objecting to a translation of remarks into Spanish.

False

Origin: On 20 February 2016, the Nevada Democratic caucuses ended in a victory for Hillary Clinton.  Not long after that, actress America Ferrera tweeted that  that supporters of Bernie Sanders shouted "English only!" at longtime civil rights activist Dolores Huerta (who had apparently offered to translate from English to Spanish at an event at Harrah's casino on the Las Vegas strip), objecting to a translation of remarks from English to Spanish:

………

Origin: On 20 February 2016, the Nevada Democratic caucuses ended in a victory for Hillary Clinton. Not long after that, actress America Ferrera tweeted that that supporters of Bernie Sanders shouted "English only!" at longtime civil rights activist Dolores Huerta (who had apparently offered to translate from English to Spanish at an event at Harrah's casino on the Las Vegas strip), objecting to a translation of remarks from English to Spanish:

………

Huerta initially didn't specify how she identified the chanters as Sanders supporters. We spoke to Erin Cruz, who was present at the rally with a nurses' union to support Sanders:


Cruz told us she was accompanied by ten other nurses and actors Susan Sarandon and Gaby Hoffman. Cruz said she was unaware of any recording during the disputed chanting:

………

As Sarandon correctly stated, the segment in dispute started around the 53:30 mark, when parties called for a Spanish-language translator. As she indicated, at 55:18 the caucus moderator (not Sanders' supporters) simply stated that the inability to locate a neutral translator meant the caucus would continue in "English only." At no point did any Sanders supporters appear to have refused a translator based on the fact that translation was objectionable to them; nor was "English only" used in a pejorative fashion. The term was invoked a single time, during the moderator's assertion that no suitable translator was located to provide Spanish-language translations:
Between Madeline Allbright claimin that women Bernie supporters are going to hell, Gloria Steinem claiming that women Bernie supporters are in it for the Bernie Boys, and now this, it appears that Hillary's supporters may be a bigger problem for her than Bernie's supporters.

20 February 2016

There Were Some Elections Tonight

Quick take:  Trump wins decisively in South Carolina, Hillary Clinton wins and under-performs in Nevada, and Jeb(!) bows to the inevitable, and drops out of the race.

I'm not sure what it all means, though I think that two guys named Guido and Nunzio will be having words with Jeb(!) about the $150,000,000.00+ that he spent, and how they might get their vig.

That Company Foreclosing You May Not Hold the Mortgage, Part MCMLXXVI

The California Supreme court just ruled for a plaintiff who claimed that the company that foreclosed on her never held the mortgage:
The California Supreme Court on Thursday ruled unanimously in favor of a fraudulently foreclosed-upon homeowner in a case that should serve as a wake-up call to state and federal prosecutors that mortgage companies continue to use false documents to evict homeowners on a daily basis.

“A homeowner who has been foreclosed on by one with no right to do so has suffered an injurious invasion of his or her legal rights at the foreclosing entity’s hands,” the justices wrote.

………

In this case, Tsvetana Yvanova purchased a $483,000 mortgage in 2006 from New Century, a company that went bankrupt in 2007. Four years later, in December 2011, New Century somehow transferred the mortgage to a trust, from which thousands of pooled mortgages had created mortgage-backed securities. But by law, the mortgages placed in that pool had to be put in it by January 27, 2007.

The eventual trustee, Western Progressive, foreclosed on Yvanova and sold her house at auction in September 2012. Yvanova later argued that her foreclosure was illegal because a bankrupt company (New Century) could not have transferred the deed of trust, and because the trust had closed to new loans four years before the transfer was executed. Therefore, the assignment document was false, and the foreclosure void.

A state appeals court ruled that Yvanova lacked the ability to challenge the defective assignment, because she was not a direct party to the transfer of ownership. But the state Supreme Court rejected that analysis.

“We conclude, to the contrary,” the ruling states, that “an allegation that the assignment was void… will support an action for wrongful foreclosure.”

The 33-page ruling is narrow – the court did not rule on the validity of the assignment itself in the case, nor did it allow state homeowners to pre-emptively challenge threatened foreclosures on these issues. But it did establish that borrowers have a chance to receive compensation for a wrongful foreclosure if they find it to have been executed with false documents.

………

California Attorney General Kamala Harris filed an amicus brief last April supporting Yvanova’s right to challenge her foreclosure. But Harris, like every other state and federal law enforcement official in the country, has not stepped in to prevent the continuing flood of false documents submitted to courts.

The 2012 National Mortgage Settlement with the five largest mortgage companies (Bank of America, JPMorgan Chase, Wells Fargo, Citigroup, and Ally Bank) included language committing the firms to end the production of false documents. But they continue to be used on a daily basis to evict homeowners. The foreclosure in the Yvanova case occurred in September 2012, seven months after the completion of the National Mortgage Settlement.
Despite promises from the banks and the mortgage servicers, mortgages and their progress through the financial system continues to be resemble nothing more than Captain Benjamin Willard meandering up stream in his pursuit of Colonel Kurtz in the movie Apocalypse Now.

Our own heart of darkness.

Understanding the Trump Voter

In 2004, Mark Ames wrote about the "Spite Voter", and it is the best explanation of the Trump appeal.

Here is a sample paragraph:
Spite voting is not just an American problem; it’s a flaw in democracies everywhere. When I lived in Kosovo in the late summer of 2000, I asked my Serb friends there if they thought Milosevic was going to win the upcoming Serbian presidential elections. Most were pessimistic. They told me of friends, young people even, who voted for Milosevic “just out of spite.” The Serbian spite voters believed that if the opposition got their way and Serbia became as tame and civilized as Luxembourg, all those college-educated Otpor protestors and pro-Western intellectuals would simply take the privileges enjoyed by Milosevic’s cronies for themselves. They didn’t want caste-based happiness and its accompanying propaganda, so they voted for Milosevic precisely because he was wrong, because he was a vote against hope. Under Milosevic, nearly every Serb was f%$#ed equally, and that suited some people, particularly some Serbian males, just fine. But if you’re a failure under two completely different regimes, then the inescapable conclusion would be that it’s your own damn fault. Better to keep the villain in, and the young ambitious go-getters out.
(%$# mine)

Read the rest.  It's long, but well worth reading.

Have I Said before That Our Policies in Syria Are Completely Incoherent?

We are now in a situation where our Pentagon supported rebels are at war with out CIA supported rebels:
American proxies are now at war with each other in Syria.

Officials with Syrian rebel battalions that receive covert backing from one arm of the U.S. government told BuzzFeed News that they recently began fighting rival rebels supported by another arm of the U.S. government.

The infighting between American proxies is the latest setback for the Obama administration’s Syria policy and lays bare its contradictions as violence in the country gets worse.

The confusion is playing out on the battlefield — with the U.S. effectively engaged in a proxy war with itself. “It’s very strange, and I cannot understand it,” said Ahmed Othman, the commander of the U.S.-backed rebel battalion Furqa al-Sultan Murad, who said he had come under attack from U.S.-backed Kurdish militants in Aleppo this week.

Furqa al-Sultan Murad receives weapons from the U.S. and its allies as part of a covert program, overseen by the CIA, that aids rebel groups struggling to overthrow the government of Syrian president Bashar al-Assad, according to rebel officials and analysts tracking the conflict.

The Kurdish militants, on the other hand, receive weapons and support from the Pentagon as part of U.S. efforts to fight ISIS. Known as the People’s Protection Units, or YPG, they are the centerpiece of the Obama administration’s strategy against the extremists in Syria and coordinate regularly with U.S. airstrikes.

Yet as Assad and his Russian allies have routed rebels around Aleppo in recent weeks — rolling back Islamist factions and moderate U.S. allies alike, as aid groups warn of a humanitarian catastrophe — the YPG has seized the opportunity to take ground from these groups, too.
And now we also have the Turks demanding that the US cease aiding the Kurds, who are arguably the most effective opposition to ISIS:
The U.S. said it won’t break off ties to a Kurdish militia that’s fighting Islamic State in Syria, rebuffing the demands of NATO member Turkey, which blames the group for a bombing in the capital Ankara this week.

Turkey says Wednesday’s attack on a military bus, which killed 28 people, was carried out by the PKK and its Syrian affiliates. The U.S. agrees with Turkey that the PKK, which has been fighting for autonomy in Turkey’s Kurdish regions for three decades, is a terrorist group. But the status of the Kurdish fighters in Syria has been straining ties between the NATO allies, as their interests there diverge after more than five years of war.

The U.S. says defeating Islamic State, also known as Daesh, is the overwhelming priority. Turkey has signed up for that goal, but it’s also trying to prop up rebels in northwest Syria fighting against President Bashar al-Assad, whose Russian-backed army threatens to encircle them. The Syrian Kurds are in position to cut off vital supply lines to Aleppo, where the opposition groups are holed up, and their territorial gains may also set an example for Kurds seeking autonomy inside Turkey.
So, we are fighting ISIS, as are the Kurds, and we are allies with Turkey and Saudi Arabia, who have supported ISIS, and oppose the Kurds.

And now Ankara and Riyadh are looking to mount a ground war to "put down ISIS" but is really intend to create a fundamentalist Sunni regime and put down the Kurds.

Confused enough yet?