Month: August 2014

This is Rich

King Abdullah, the ruler of Saudi Arabia, is warning that ISIS/ISIL/IS will go after the west nest, so they should engage in aggressive military action:

King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia has warned that the West will be the next target of the jihadists sweeping through Syria and Iraq, unless there is “rapid” action.

“If we ignore them, I am sure they will reach Europe in a month and America in another month,” he said in remarks quoted on Saturday by Asharq al-Awsat daily and Saudi-backed Al-Arabiya television station.

“Terrorism knows no border and its danger could affect several countries outside the Middle East,” said the king who was speaking at a welcoming ceremony on Friday for new ambassadors, including a new envoy from Saudi ally the United States.

While I am sure that some of the members of ISIS might eventually turn their attentions to the west, but they will be turning their eyes to toward Mecca, Medina, and Riyadh.

They are looking at establishing a Caliphate, and driving out apostasy and corruption as their first order of business, and the House of Saud is a good place to start.

Considering the fact that, until recently, the House of Saud was ISIS’s most important patron, I’m thinking that taking the Saudi’s advice is not in our best interest.


The Rams just cut Michael Sam. He performed well in the preseason, but the Rams simply had too many defensive linemen:

The St. Louis Rams have released defensive end Michael Sam, the first openly gay player selected in the NFL draft.

Sam, a seventh-round draft choice, had been battling undrafted rookie Ethan Westbrooks for a final roster spot. Westbrooks was one of nine defensive linemen to make the team.

Sam thanked the Rams for the opportunity in a series of tweets after the team made the announcement.

I still expect him to play for some team this season.

The More We Know About Pot, the Better it Looks

Note that I do not know the extent of the statistics, but the fact that states with legal marijuana have a 25% lower opioid overdose rate bears further investigation:

States that allow legal use of medical marijuana have lower rates of fatal overdoses from prescription medications.

A new study published in JAMA Internal Medicine found the 13 states where medical marijuana is legal had 24.8 percent fewer annual opioid overdose mortality rates.

The results indicate alternative treatments may be safer for patients suffering from chronic pain, researchers said.

About 60 percent of all deaths from opioid overdoses happen in patients who have legitimate prescriptions, and the number of patients who are prescribed opioids for non-cancer pain has nearly doubled over the last decade.

Deaths were nearly 20 percent lower in the first year after a state legalized medical marijuana and 33.7 percent lower five years later.

Clearly, the answer to this is to tighten restrictions on opioids, and we need to ditch all those medical marijuana programs.

Our drug policies are wasteful, destructive, and stupid.

The Stupid, It Burns Us!!!!!

Rather unsurprising, the source of the stupid is the ultimate neocon legacy hire, William Kristol:

Bill Kristol wants to bomb first and figure it out later. News at ten.

During a Monday interview with Laura Ingraham on the ongoing situation in Iraq, the Weekly Standard founder discussed his desire to forgo national debates and simply bomb ISIS forces immediately.


After mimicking his fellow talking heads who suggest that perhaps it’s best to have a national debate before using military force, Kristol then said: “What’s the harm of bombing [ISIS] at least for a few weeks and seeing what happens? I don’t think there’s much in the way of unanticipated side effects that could be bad there. We could kill a lot of very bad guys.”

Why is this guy not flipping burgers for a living?

Jared Bernstein Calls for Dropping Reserve Currency Status for the Dollar in the New York Times

His argument is rather similar to the one that I have, that the dollar’s status as a reserve currency artificially inflates the value of the currency, along with contributing to the excessive financialization of our economy, but the fact that a former Obama staffer is doing it in the Times is significant:

There are few truisms about the world economy, but for decades, one has been the role of the United States dollar as the world’s reserve currency. It’s a core principle of American economic policy. After all, who wouldn’t want their currency to be the one that foreign banks and governments want to hold in reserve?

But new research reveals that what was once a privilege is now a burden, undermining job growth, pumping up budget and trade deficits and inflating financial bubbles. To get the American economy on track, the government needs to drop its commitment to maintaining the dollar’s reserve-currency status.


In 2013, America’s trade deficit was about $475 billion. Its deficit with China alone was $318 billion.

Though Mr. Austin doesn’t say it explicitly, his work shows that, far from being a victim of managed trade, the United States is a willing participant through its efforts to keep the dollar as the world’s most prominent reserve currency.


Note that as long as the dollar is the reserve currency, America’s trade deficit can worsen even when we’re not directly in on the trade. Suppose South Korea runs a surplus with Brazil. By storing its surplus export revenues in Treasury bonds, South Korea nudges up the relative value of the dollar against our competitors’ currencies, and our trade deficit increases, even though the original transaction had nothing to do with the United States.


But while more balanced trade might raise prices, there’s no reason it should persistently increase the inflation rate. We might settle into a norm of 2 to 3 percent inflation, versus the current 1 to 2 percent. But that’s a price worth paying for more and higher-quality jobs, more stable recoveries and a revitalized manufacturing sector. The privilege of having the world’s reserve currency is one America can no longer afford.

It’s really nothing new, but the fact that it’s Mr. Bernstein and the New York Times does appear to indicate that this idea is gaining currency.

About f%$#ing time.

Europe is About to Go Pear Shaped

Both the Europeans and the Ukrainians are going to have a long ans cold winter.

While it is clear that the hostilities between the Ukraine and Russia would put a crimp in gas supplies, it turns out that the current billing dispute is almost certainly going to be a bigger problem.

You see, the Ukrainian Government has taken the dispute to arbitration, and any deal that they might cut with the Russians could be used against Gazprom in that proceedings:

But let’s not get into that again today. In the slipstream of the talks this weekend in Minsk between Putin and Poroshenko, a precious little detail seems to have escaped the western press entirely. But I think all our fine journalists will soon have to address it.
You may remember that in an earlier phase of the dispute between Ukraine and Russia (not to be confused with the Kiev vs rebels fight), no agreement was reached on the payment of a $4.5 billion gas bill that Russian Gazprom said was overdue from Ukraine’s Naftogaz. And Gazprom demanded pre-payment for any future gas deliveries to Ukraine.

Kiev, instead of paying the bill, claimed Russia had overcharged it for the already delivered gas, by $6 billion, going back to 2010. And brought its argument before the Arbitration Institute of the Stockholm Chamber of Commerce.

Now maybe, just maybe, someone in the Kiev camp should have paused right before that moment, and consulted with their western backers in Brussels and Washington. Perhaps not so much Washington, but Brussels for sure, and Berlin. And Athens. Rome. Prague. Warsaw.

ou see, a pending case before the Arbitration Institute of the Stockholm Chamber of Commerce can apparently take 12-15 months to resolve. And perhaps Europe doesn’t have that much time. Which is what Putin hinted at at a press-op he did after the weekend Minsk talks. What it comes down is that even if Russia wanted to accommodate Ukraine, it can’t. On strictly legal terms, nothing political.

What’s more, Gazprom had already paid Naftogaz in advance for the use of Ukraine pipelines, but the payment was returned. And that can have grave consequences not just for Kiev, but for almost all of Europe. Lots of countries get their gas through these pipelines.

It looks like the EU, and especially Germany, has started to smell – potential – trouble:
EU Suggests Russia, Ukraine Sign Interim Gas Agreement

The E.U. has suggested an interim agreement on the gas supplies between Russia and Ukraine without waiting for a Stockholm arbitrary court decision, E.U. Energy Commissioner Gunther Oettinger said in a news conference following his meeting with Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko late Tuesday Two cases are before the Stockholm court, but the hearings will take 12-15 months, which is too long, while Europe needs an interim solution for this winter, Oettinger said In June, Russian gas giant Gazprom switched Ukraine off gas over the unpaid debt and filed a $4.5 billion suit to the Stockholm arbitration court. Later, Kiev reciprocated by sending a suit to the court against Gazprom for making Ukraine overpay $6 billion for gas since 2010, setting too high prices in its contract.

The Russian Legal Information Agency has this:

Putin: Naftogaz Suit Against Gazprom Axes Discount For Ukraine

The fact that Ukraine’s Naftogaz has invoked arbitration proceedings against Gazprom prevents Russia from giving Ukraine a gas price discount, President Vladimir Putin said in Minsk where he met with Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko. “We cannot even consider any preference solutions for Ukraine since it pursues arbitration,” Putin said. “Russia’s possible actions in this sphere could be used against it in the court. We couldn’t do it even if we wanted to.” After Gazprom switched to a prepayment system for gas deliveries to Ukraine on June 16, Naftogaz turned to the Arbitration Institute of the Stockholm Chamber of Commerce. Naftogaz wants Gazprom to cut the price for gas and to get back $6 billion that Ukraine has allegedly overpaid since 2010.

Gazprom in turn is seeking to recover Ukraine’s $4.5 billion debt for gas deliveries. Putin said Russia offered a compromise solution during the talks held before Gazprom switched to the prepayment scheme. “We reduced the price by $100,” Russian President said. Gas talks between Russia, Ukraine and the European Union went on from April to mid-June. Kiev said it would not repay its $4.5 billion debt unless Russia agreed to supply gas at a lower price. Russia offered a discount, but Ukraine turned down the offer. Russia then said it would only resume gas supply talks after Ukraine paid off its debt.

More signs of German nerves are here in a piece from the European Council on Foreign Relations – I kid you not, they exist -, along with a nice but curious admission:

Has Germany Sidelined Poland In Ukraine Crisis Negotiations?

As Germany takes over leadership of the European Union’s efforts to solve the Ukrainian crisis, Poland is questioning the motivations and strategies behind Berlin’s new diplomatic activism. The initiatives of German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier and Chancellor Angela Merkel are being followed closely in Warsaw – and often with mixed feelings. Is Berlin trying to mastermind a compromise with Russia on Moscow’s terms, ignoring Kyiv’s vital interests? And as Poland is increasingly edged out of the conflict resolution process, has Berlin-Warsaw co-operation on EU Ostpolitik broken down?

As an aside, if I were trying to make sure that there wasn’t someone actively trying not to be a turd in the punchbowl in negotiations with Russia, I would sideline Poland as well.

The (historically justified) political culture of Poland, and many other former Warsaw Pact nations is such that they are more driven a desire for payback than a realistic evaluation of their long-term interests.

Poland was, along with France and Germany, one of the countries that orchestrated the political shift in Ukraine in February. Since then, Warsaw has played a central role in forging a bolder EU response to Russia’s aggression and in providing meaningful assistance to the Ukrainian government. However, as the conflict has worsened, Warsaw has become less visible as an actor in crisis diplomacy. Polish Foreign Minister Radek Sikorski was not invited to join his German, French, Russian, and Ukrainian counterparts in the negotiations on conflict resolution held in Berlin in early July and early August. Before Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko and Russian President Vladimir Putin agreed to meet at the Customs Union summit in Minsk on 26 August, the idea had been floated of holding another high-level meeting in the “Normandy format” of France, Germany, Russia, and Ukraine.

Kiev is either so high on the EU, US and NATO support it was promised, or so desperate over its latest battlefield losses, that it goes for all on red, probably thinking, and probably rightly so, that the western press will swallow anything whole. Tyler Durden:

Ukraine Accuses Russia Of Imminent Gas Cut-Off, Russia Denies, Germans Anxious

So much for the Russia-Ukraine talks bringing the two sides together as even Germany’s Steinmeier could only say it’s “hard to say if breakthrough made.” Shortly after talks ended, Ukrainian Premier Yatsenyuk stated unequivocally that “we know about the plans of Russia to cut off transit even in European Union member countries,” followed by some notably heavy-on-the-war-rhetoric comments. The Russians were quick to respond, as the energy ministry was “surprised” by his statements on Ukraine gas transits and blasted that comments were an “attempt at EU disinformation.”

Here’s what Putin said at the press op after the talks:

Answers To Journalists’ Questions Following Working Visit To Belarus

Currently, we are in a deadlock on the gas issue. You see, this is very serious matter for us, for Ukraine and for our European partners. It is no big secret that Gazprom has advanced payment for the transit of our gas to Europe. Ukraine’s Naftogaz has returned that advance payment. The transit of our gas to European consumers was just about suspended. What will happen next? This is a question that awaits a painstaking investigation by our European and Ukrainian partners.

We are fulfilling all the terms of the contract in full. Right now, we cannot even accept any suggestions regarding preferential terms, given that Ukraine has appealed to the Arbitration Court. Any of our actions to provide preferential terms can be used in the court. We were deprived of this opportunity, even if we had wanted it, although we already tried to meet them halfway and reduced the price by $100.

The ball is squarely in the western court. Of course many will think and hope that Russia will give in because it needs the revenue, but the problem with that is it could cost the country too much (admittedly, that’s not the only problem). $6 billion to Ukraine for starters, then potentially many more billions on future deliveries to Kiev, and then there’s the rest of its contracts with two dozen or so European nations.

From a legal point of view, this may not be about what Moscow wants to do anymore, but about what it can. The Arbitration Court case may have tied its hands. And unless Europe wants a cold winter, it must seek a solution. Putin, who holds degrees in both judo AND law, understands this. But he didn’t set this up. Western and Kiev hubris did. Certain people got first too pleased with, and then ahead of, themselves.

BTW, I also learned another reason that the Russians do not like the EU deal, it has the effect of severely curtailing Russian exports to the Ukraine:

Putin pointed to another rather difficult but highly interesting legal ‘technicality’ as well, which involves Ukraine moving closer to the EU economically:

We once again pointed out to our partners – both European and Ukrainian partners – that implementation of the association agreement between Ukraine and the EU carries significant risks for the Russian economy. We have shown this in the text of the agreement, directly pointing to specific articles in that agreement. Let me remind you that this concerns nullifying Ukraine’s customs tariffs, technical regulations, and phytosanitary standards.

The standards in Russia and Europe currently do not correspond. But, as you recall, the most classic example is the introduction of EU technical regulations in Ukraine. In that case, we would not be able to supply our goods to Ukraine at all. We have different technical standards. And according to the European Union’s standards, we will not be able to supply our machine-building products there, or any industrial goods. If that happens, we cannot accept Ukrainian agricultural production goods in our territory, because we have different approaches to phytosanitary standards. We feel that many problems would occur.

If we do not achieve any agreements and our concerns are not taken into account, then we will be forced to take measures to protect our economy. And we explained what those measures would be. So our partners must weigh everything and make corresponding decisions.

So, even the EU actions, which were far less bellicose than those of the US State Department, begin to look more and more like a deliberately hostile act, even without considering the traditional Russian paranoia and xenophobia.

I think that Putin considers this a nearly existential threat to Russia, and he is responding accordingly.

H/t naked capitalism.

BTW, just to throw some more fuel on the fire, the Ukrainian PM just announced he will pursue NATO membership:

On Aug. 29, the Ukrainian prime minister said he will pursue NATO membership for his nation by asking parliament to overturn a law banning foreign alliances.

Separately, the NATO secretary general said Russia is undertaking direct military operations designed to destabilize the Ukraine—and that NATO will “fully respect” any change in the Ukraine’s non-aligned status. He made the comments today after an extraordinary meeting of the NATO-Ukraine Commission held at the Ukraine’s request.


“The Ukrainian government is submitting a bill to parliament on the abolition of the non-aligned status of the Ukrainian state and on the resumption of Ukraine’s course towards NATO membership,” Prime Minister Arseny Yatsenyuk said in an announcement.

Ukrainian law forbids the nation from forming alliances that would economically or politically entangle the country with the Russian Federation. Overturning this law would remove any legal barriers from Ukraine joining NATO, a goal which the alliance has said it supports.

This is stupidly and provocative.

We are going to see a war in Europe in the next few years, the only question is whether it will be cold, or hot.

The Talibaptists in the UK Challenge the Doctor

Seriously?  They filed complaints about Dr. Who?


The controversial “lesbian-lizard” kiss in Saturday’s Doctor Who episode will not be investigated by the media regulator, which said it “did not discriminate between scenes involving opposite sex and same-sex couples”.

Six people complained to Ofcom after Saturday’s series opener, Peter Capaldi’s first full episode as the Doctor, in which lizard woman Madame Vastra kissed her human wife, Jenny Flint.

The pair, played by Neve McIntosh and Catrin Stewart, shared a kiss as they were forced to hold their breath as they hid from killer droids, prompting complaints from some viewers that it was “gratuitous” and “unnecessary”.

A spokeman for Ofcom said: “Ofcom can confirm it received six complaints about a kiss broadcast in an episode of Doctor Who on Saturday 23 August.

“Having assessed the complaints, we can confirm that they do not raise issues warranting further investigation. Our rules do not discriminate between scenes involving opposite sex and same sex couples.”

What a bunch of f%$#ing wankers.

Oh, Snap!

It looks like the situation in the Ukraine is in the process of spinning out of control:

World powers have called a succession of emergency meetings to step up the international response to Russia after Kiev accused Moscow of a de facto invasion and of opening up a second front in the conflict in eastern Europe.

The UN security council was meeting in emergency session, the US national security council convened at the White House, and Nato and EU leaders will consider their response on Friday, amid signs that hundreds of Russian soldiers are actively involved in the insurrection against Kiev’s rule in Ukraine.

Russia denies that any of its troops are in eastern Ukraine. But on Thursday Nato said it estimated there were now more than 1,000 Russian soldiers fighting there. The organisation released satellite images that it said showed Russian armoured vehicles and artillery had been crossing into Ukraine for at least a week.

The Russians have offered a rather unconvincing denial that they sent troops, but it’s pretty clear that the Russians are aggressively supporting the rebels in any case.

Hoodoodanode that it would all go pear shaped when the State Department decided it wanted another color revolution.

The illogic of waste, Mr. Spock.

F%$# Me. I Agree with Rand Paul

He just accused Hillary Clinton of being ridiculously bellicose:

Sen. Rand Paul is redoubling his efforts to paint Hillary Clinton as a hawk whose policies are dangerous for the United States.

The Kentucky Republican and 2016 hopeful took to the opinion pages of the Wall Street Journal to launch his latest broadside against the former secretary of state, saying her proposed foreign policy of arming the Syrian rebels would have emboldened Islamic militant group ISIS.

“To interventionists like former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, we would caution that arming the Islamic rebels in Syria created a haven for the Islamic State. We are lucky Mrs. Clinton didn’t get her way and the Obama administration did not bring about regime change in Syria. That new regime might well be ISIS,” he wrote in a piece published online Wednesday.

Paul added: “Those who say we should have done more to arm the Syrian rebel groups have it backward. Mrs. Clinton was also eager to shoot first in Syria before asking some important questions. Her successor John Kerry was no better, calling the failure to strike Syria a ‘Munich moment.'”

And let us not forget our little adventure in Nulandistan (the Ukraine) that seems to be blowing up right now.

He’s right. The only difference between the Neocons, like Richard Pearle and Paul Wolfowitz, and the Liberal Interventionists, like Hillary Clinton and Samantha Powers, is purely one of their vocabulary, their policy prescriptions are similarly short-sighted, and the results are similarly catastrophic.

For Once, Labor Beats the Asset Strippers in Management

Arthur T. Demoulas will be buying out the other side of the family for the Market Basket grocery chain:

After the intervention of two governors and an enormous public outcry, the chaos that has paralyzed the Market Basket supermarket chain ended Wednesday night with a deal between the two warring factions of the Demoulas family, the company said in a statement.

The deal approved by the chain’s board essentially meets the sole demand of the workers who have been staging huge public rallies for six weeks: that Arthur T. Demoulas, who was president until June, be reinstated to lead the company.

His cousin, Arthur S. Demoulas, and his allies agreed to sell their 50.5 percent stake in the company to Arthur T. Demoulas and his allies, who own 49.5 percent, according to the statement.

As part of the deal, Arthur T. Demoulas will return immediately “with day-to-day operational authority,” according to the statement. But he will not technically become chief executive until the deal is finalized over the next several months.

The current co-chief executives, Felicia Thornton and James Gooch, who were installed by Arthur S. Demoulas, will “remain in place” until the deal closes, the announcement said.

It was the firing of Arthur T. Demoulas and the installation of Ms. Thornton and Mr. Gooch that touched off protests by employees in mid-July. The deal includes a set of penalties and incentives intended to get Arthur T. Demoulas to finalize the transaction by the end of February.

The settlement would end one of the strangest labor actions in American business history, one that disrupted a low-price grocery chain that attracted two million shoppers in Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Maine. And perhaps most surprising, it ends with the sole demand of the workers, from top management to the lowliest clerks, being met.

Basically the good Arthur, Arthur T., was given the boot, and the evil Arthur, Arthur S., brought in some MBA types to do their magic:

After a long family feud, the majority stockholders fired their cousin, longtime CEO Arthur T DeMoulas. He had built the business on low prices, high wages, and ZERO company debt- All employees get profit sharing and a livable wage, and many have been with the company 20, 30, even 50 years.

Arthur T. was replaced with the former president of Radio Shack, with an evident goal of strip mining the wealth from the company–raising prices, cutting benefits, loading up with debt, and selling off real estate–in order to pay out higher stock dividends to the controlling shareholders.

The employees revolted. Top executives walked off the job and picketed in front of headquarters. Employees from managers to baggers are using their vacation time to protest outside stores. 68 out of 71 managers have pledged to quit unless Artie T is reinstated or allowed to purchase the remaining 51% of the family-owned company. Deliveries have stopped and twitter is full of photos of completely bare shelves. The board has responded with termination letters and threats.

In case you think that this was a fever dream, it should be noted that, at the start of this conflict,”The board voted to distribute $250 million to family shareholders, an action opposed by Arthur T.

The 50.5% stake was purchased for $1.6 giving a market value of $3.2 billion (probably less; it appears that Arthur T. probably overpayed a bit.), and they wanted to make a payout of nearly 10% of the value of the company to shareholders.

You know how it works:

  • New management.
  • Financial engineering generating cash from monetizing assets.  (i.e. eating your seed corn)
  • Raiding the retirement fund
  • Destroy the lives of the employees.
  • The suits get golden parachutes.

For once, it got stopped.  The good guys won.

I will note that the culture of business in the United States is profoundly dysfunctional.

Normally, My Commenting Fashion is Like My Commenting on Menstrual Cramps, But ………

I think that I can call this a major fashion fail:

Spanish clothing retailer Zara pulled a baby T-shirt from its web store Wednesday after social media users pointed out that its horizontal stripes and yellow star resembled a concentration camp prisoner’s uniform.

An Israeli writer at 972 Magazine was the first to notice that the white-and-blue striped shirt, which featured a yellow star reading “SHERIFF” on one side, looked like the uniforms Jewish prisoners were forced to wear during the Holocaust.

Zara apologized to outraged Twitter users for the resemblance, explaining in several languages that the shirt was inspired by classic Western films and that it was no long available in stores.

Gee, you think that there might be some issues with that shirt?

There is Hope for the Democrats in November

It appears that the more that people hate Congress, the more likely they are to vote:

Could voter disdain for Congress motivate more people to turn out this November? Could be.

A new Gallup study suggests that in recent elections, disapproval of Congress’ job performance meant higher turnout. Currently, Gallup’s congressional job approval is 13 percent, with 19 percent of registered voters saying members of Congress deserve re-election.

Voters may feel they can effect change, since in 1994, 2006 and 2010 control of the House of Representatives changed parties.

“There has been a clear pattern of turnout being on the higher end of the midterm year range when Americans were less approving of Congress,” said Gallup analyst Jeffrey Jones in the Gallup study.

If this is true, then the Dems will definitely hold onto the Senate, because high turnout favors Dems, and this Congress rates 100% voter turnout.

A Very Good Point on the Issue of Palestinian Statehood

Journalist Matti Friedman makes the interesting point that most of the coverage completely ignores the idea that there exists any Palestinian agency:

A reporter working in the international press corps here understands quickly that what is important in the Israel-Palestinian story is Israel. If you follow mainstream coverage, you will find nearly no real analysis of Palestinian society or ideologies, profiles of armed Palestinian groups, or investigation of Palestinian government. Palestinians are not taken seriously as agents of their own fate. The West has decided that Palestinians should want a state alongside Israel, so that opinion is attributed to them as fact, though anyone who has spent time with actual Palestinians understands that things are (understandably, in my opinion) more complicated. Who they are and what they want is not important: The story mandates that they exist as passive victims of the party that matters.

Corruption, for example, is a pressing concern for many Palestinians under the rule of the Palestinian Authority, but when I and another reporter once suggested an article on the subject, we were informed by the bureau chief that Palestinian corruption was “not the story.”

Let me be clear, Mr. Friedman is clearly hawkish on this matter, but I think that this argument has a lot of validity to it.

I would also argue that it is not just the press that buys into this lack of agency, so do many Israelis and Palestinians, which explains why so much of the negotiation process seem to be more about playing to an outside audience than actually talking with each other.

Stupid Uber Tricks

It has been revealed that Uber has been mounting a sophisticated program of industrial sabotage against their rival Lyft:

Uber is arming teams of independent contractors with burner phones and credit cards as part of its sophisticated effort to undermine Lyft and other competitors. Interviews with current and former contractors, along with internal documents obtained by The Verge, outline the company’s evolving methods. Using contractors it calls “brand ambassadors,” Uber requests rides from Lyft and other competitors, recruits their drivers, and takes multiple precautions to avoid detection. The effort, which Uber appears to be rolling out nationally, has already resulted in thousands of canceled Lyft rides and made it more difficult for its rival to gain a foothold in new markets. Uber calls the program “SLOG,” and it’s a previously unreported aspect of the company’s ruthless efforts to undermine its competitors.

Together, the interviews and documents show the lengths to which Uber will go to halt its rivals’ momentum. The San Francisco startup has raised $1.5 billion in venture capital, giving it an enormous war chest with which to battle Lyft and others. While the company’s cutthroat nature is well documented, emails from Uber managers offer new insight into the shifting tactics it uses to siphon drivers away from competitors without getting caught. It also demonstrates the strong interest Uber has taken in crushing Lyft, its biggest rival in ridesharing, which is in the midst of a national expansion.

This kind of crap is why Uber, Lyft, and their ilk need to be required to actually have employees with hack licenses drive their cars.

What happens if Uber, a company that employs price gouging as a significant portion of its business model, actually becomes the 800 pound gorilla in the commercial personal transport market?

It won’t be pretty, it will make Comcast look like Mother Theresa.

The US State Security Apparatus has Dropped Even the Pretense of Cooperating with the Senate Intelligence Committee on Their Torture Report

Because they have put a defense attorney who represented some of the CIA torturers in charge of making the CIA’s redactions in the torture report:

The background of a key negotiator in the battle over a Senate report on the CIA’s use of interrogation techniques widely denounced as torture has sparked concerns about the Obama administration’s objectivity in handling the study’s public release.

Robert Litt, the general counsel for the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, is a former defense lawyer who represented several CIA officials in matters relating to the agency’s detention and interrogation program. Now he’s in a key position to determine what parts of the Senate Intelligence Committee’s 6,300-page report will be made public.

Litt’s involvement doesn’t appear to be an ethics issue, at least by the legal definition. But experts say that while it may be acceptable on paper, his involvement in the review should have been a red flag.

Seeing as how Obama has seriously drunk the CIA’s Koolaid, the only way that the torture report will see the light of day in any meaningful way is if the Senate votes to declassify it on their own, which they are authorized to do by statute.