Month: September 2015

TransCanada Loses Again

They just gave up on a lawsuit in Nebraska over their attempt to assert extraordinary eminent domain rights:

TransCanada announced on Tuesday that the company will pull out of the lawsuit filed by over 100 Nebraska landowners challenging their right to use eminent domain to seize land for the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline.

Facing mounting legal expenses and a likely loss in court, the company will instead go through the Public Service Commission (PSC) review process it had originally hoped to avoid.

“We believe that going through the PSC process is the clearest path to achieving route certainty for the Keystone XL Project in Nebraska. It ultimately saves time, reduces conflict with those who oppose the project and sets clear rules for approval of the route,” said a representative of the company in a statement.

The PSC process will take at least a year, and cannot move forward if and when President Obama rejects the federal permit for the pipeline.


“TransCanada realizes that LB 1161 is unconstitutional,” added Art Tanderup, a farmer whose land is on the proposed pipeline route. “This is a victory for landowners standing up to prevent a foreign corporation from taking their land for corporate greed through eminent domain. TransCanada pushed LB1161 through the legislature to avoid using the Public Service Commission procedure that they now want to follow. We believe that the PSC will not allow Keystone XL to be placed in the Sand Hills or over the Ogallala Aquifer but are confident President Obama will reject the pipeline before the PSC even has a chance to conduct a review.”

So, TransCanada, the company that ignores regulations, and leans on lawmakers to exempt them from regulations, and then has their pipelines blow up, has decided that their latest attempt to subvert the regulatory prices isn’t going to work.

They lose, and the rest of us win.

I can live with that.

Stop Whining, Bitches

I am referring, of course to House of Saud:

Saudi Arabia has called on Bashar al-Assad to give up power or be removed by force, raising the global stakes at a time when the Russians are shipping troops and military hardware to Syria in an effort to prop up its beleaguered leader.

The threat was made on Tuesday by Saudi Arabia’s foreign minister, Adel Al-Jubeir.

“There is no future for Assad in Syria,” Jubeir told journalists at the UN general assembly. “There are two options for a settlement in Syria. One option is a political process where there would be a transitional council. The other option is a military option, which also would end with the removal of Bashar al-Assad from power.”

“This could be a more lengthy process and a more destructive process but the choice is entirely that of Bashar al-Assad.” The foreign minister did not specify how Assad would be forcibly removed, but pointed out that Saudi Arabia is already backing “moderate rebels” in the civil war.

The Saudi intervention fuelled an already heated row at the UN over Syria’s future, where the Russian president, Vladimir Putin, issued a forthright defence of the Syrian regime, describing it as fighting a lonely and “valiant” battle against Islamic State extremists.

You know, I know that you have all kinds of butthurt over the fact that the secular* Arab government in Damascus is still standing, even after they created ISIS to attempt to create another Sunni dominated sectarian state.

You are not a part of the solution, you are a part of the problem.

The fact that you are unable to accomplish your agenda in that part of the world is a good thing.

*And murderous. The regime is murderous too, but the House of Saud has no problem with murderously genocidal regimes, see Bahrain as an example.

American Clusterf%$#

Not Syria this time, Afghanistan:

Afghanistan was plunged deeper into crisis a day after the Taliban seized the northern city of Kunduz, as the insurgents on Tuesday kept assaulting the reeling Afghan security forces and the government struggled to mount a credible response.

Not only did a promised government counteroffensive on Kunduz not make headway during heavy fighting on Tuesday, but the day ended with yet another aggressive Taliban advance, with insurgents surrounding the airport to which hundreds of Afghan forces and at least as many civilians had retreated, thinking it would be safe.

After more than a day of relative silence as the situation worsened around Kunduz, the American military showed the first signs of increased involvement in what the Pentagon called “a setback,” conducting at least two airstrikes, and reportedly more as attacks continued at the airport late Tuesday.

Beyond the Taliban’s gains in Kunduz, there was evidence that the insurgents were also pushing a broader offensive in northern Afghanistan, officials said. One particular point of concern was Takhar Province, just east of Kunduz, where the insurgents were said to be heavily assaulting military checkpoints and government facilities in several districts over the past two days.

The generals in Washington are beginning to look like ……… The Washington Generals.*

Seriously, can anyone remember the last time our military adventures have come even close to success?

*Until recently, the Washington Generals were the team that played, and lost, by design, to the Harlem Globetrotters thousands of time, and won once.

It Appears that a Bear does Indeed Sh%$ in the Woods

Because the Pope was just outed doing something amazingly Catholic, and I do not mean that as a complement:

Pope Francis met privately in Washington last week with Kim Davis, the county clerk in Kentucky who defied a court order to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples, adding a new element to an American tour that saw Francis attract huge crowds and articulate left-leaning positions on poverty, immigration, the environment and inequality.

Vatican officials initially would not confirm that the meeting occurred, finally doing so on Wednesday afternoon, while refusing to discuss any details.

Ms. Davis, the clerk in Rowan County, Ky., has been at the center of a nationwide controversy over whether government employees and private businesses have a legal right to refuse to serve same-sex couples. She spent five days in jail for disobeying a federal court order to issue the licenses.

On Tuesday night, her lawyer, Mathew D. Staver, said that Ms. Davis and her husband, Joe, were sneaked into the Vatican Embassy by car on Thursday afternoon. Francis gave her rosaries and told her to “stay strong,” the lawyer said. The couple met for about 15 minutes with the pope, who was accompanied by security guards, aides and photographers.

Notwithstanding the affection recently shown by progressive elements inside and outside of the Catholic Church, the Pope is, at the end of the day, Catholic, which means that he will continue to be antediluvian on issues like birth control and gay rights.

I am disappointed, but not surprised.

iPhone Users Just Love Their Walled Garden

Even if it means that Apple is censoring what news they can read:

Metadata+, a free app that catalogues fatal drone strikes by the United States, was pulled from the App Store this morning. Users were alerted via a notification that said the app was removed because of “exceptionally crude or objectionable content.”

Metadata+ was developed by The Intercept’s research editor Josh Begley. The app listed the date and location of drone strikes, as well as the victims, and sent notifications to users when a new strike occurred.

Begley struggled to get the App Store to accept his work—Mashable reports that Metadata+ was approved this February after five rejections. The sensitive topic of U.S. drone strikes seems to have been a problem for Apple: Begley was rejected last August because his app might be “objectionable” for many audiences.


Begley told Mashable that an Apple Review Team employee contacted him after several rejections and told him that if the app focused specifically on U.S. drone strikes, “it’s not going to be approved.”

So, it appears that not cheerleading for US drone strikes is unacceptable content for Apple, Inc.

What happens when the FBI comes and asks for a backdoor into your private communications?

At least Android is open source, so if there is a backdoor, someone can compile a version without some back door that has elements of the US state security apparatus leering looking at your private communications.

No wonder Apple is lobbying so hard for a bill in congress that grants them immunity for sharing data.

Tervor Noah’s Debut

I watched his debut as host of The Daily Show, and it was a real stem winder.

I am seriously impressed.

It was funny, he made some fun of himself, and he was a bit bluer than John Stewart.

Obviously, this show was the product of many weeks of prep, so I expect some hiccoughs as they go from debut to routine, but it is a very good start.

I will note that he has not yet made my list of People I Do Not Want to Piss Off yet though.

This is Satire, and it Sucks to Have to Say It

No, the Pentagon is now requesting a budget authorization to purchase gold plated F-35s, it is parody from Duffelblog:

The Pentagon released a report today requesting Congressional authorization for 500 gold-plated F-35 fighter planes.

The F-35 Lightning II is a fifth-generation multirole stealth fighter intended to replace numerous aging aircraft, including the A-10 Thunderbolt II and the F-16 Fighting Falcon. The F-35 program has been fraught with problems, including numerous delays, cost overruns, and failure to deliver on promised operational performance.

The new variant, dubbed the F-35G, is proposed as an upgrade over existing F-35 models. In addition to 24K gold plating encasing its exterior, its cockpit is trimmed with wood grain paneling harvested from the endangered African blackwood tree and leather upholstery from the hide of the northern white rhinoceros. Its GAU-12/A 25mm rotary cannon is able to fire solid platinum rounds at a rate of 3300 per minute. Each round is handcrafted by a Swiss jeweler.

“In an ever-evolving battlefield, it is imperative to have a military equipped with tactical vehicles that offer versatility, adaptability, and mother of pearl ice buckets to keep champagne bottles cold during missions,” reads the Pentagon report. “Our service men and women deserve to fly in only the finest combat aircraft.”

Each F-35G unit is projected to cost 8.2 billion dollars, approximately twice the average annual GDP of some of the countries it is expected to bomb. The total cost, including development, procurement, operation, and sustainment, will top $15 trillion over the life of the program.

I will note that this is not that far from the truth.

Each B-2 bomber, for example, costs about $2.1 billion dollars.

With an empty weight of 158,000 lbs, and the current price of gold being $1,147.00/ troy ounce, it costs almost as much as if it were made of gold. (158,000 lbs of gold would cost $2,642,878,402.00)

Us weapons procurement is well and truly broken.

If You Treat Your Employees Like Crap, It Flows to the Customer

It turns out that the Wal-Mart grocery business is lagging, because they suck at running supermarkets:

Wal-Mart’s grocery business is getting crushed by competitors, according to analysts.

The retailer is plagued by negative customer feedback “due to lack of convenience in shopping Supercenter formats, below-average customer service, and below-average quality, freshness, and breadth of produce,” Wayne Hood, an analyst at BMO Capital Markets, wrote in a recent research note.

As a result, Wal-Mart is losing grocery market share to rivals like Kroger and Publix, which have higher customer satisfaction ratings than Wal-Mart, according to Hood.

That’s a troubling sign for Wal-Mart, which gets more than half of its revenue from groceries, and has been consistently offering lower prices than its rivals, Hood writes.

Grocery prices at Wal-Mart are approximately 10% to 15% lower at Wal-Mart compared to Kroger, according to Hood.

But the lower prices have failed to spur growth in Wal-Mart’s grocery business, as illustrated in the graph below.

Basically, Wal-Mart sucks, but they are cheap.

Of course, dollar stores are cheaper and they are not suckier, and Target is a bit more expensive and much less sucky, and now it turns out that even the lowly supermarket chain produces stores that people are wiling to pay extra to go to.

Couldn’t happen to a more repulsive company.

John Boehner Just Issued a Big F%$# You to the Teabaggers

I guess that it’s one way to have some fun as he is heading out the door:

House Speaker John Boehner said Sunday that there will be “no” government shutdown over Planned Parenthood funding, and signaled plans to pass the Senate stop-gap funding bill with help from Democrats.

“I expect my Democratic colleagues want to keep the government open as much as I do,” Boehner, R-Ohio, said on CBS’ “Face the Nation.”

The interview was Boehner’s first since announcing his resignation Friday.

The announcement came as Republican leaders spar over how to handle a series of budget extension proposals to keep the federal government operating past Sept. 30, the end of the fiscal year. Moderates within the House GOP caucus had been pushing for any plan that will avoid a shutdown while more conservative members had vowed to strip funding from Planned Parenthood programs at any cost.

If Boehner was still trying to remain speaker, he would not have done this.

Never underestimate the the power of someone who has given his last f%$#.

Editorial of the Day

Brevity is the soul of wit

Michigan State Representative Cindy Gamrat, a Teabagger from the banks of the Kalamazoo river, was expelled from the state house because she and fellow rep (and fellow Teabagger) Todd Courser (who resigned) used state funds to cover up their adulterous affair.

A special election was called to replace her, and Gamrat is running for reelection.

The Grand Rapids Press and Kalamazoo Gazette editorial on this development is remarkably concise: (click for a larger image)


It’s as if Ernest Hemingway wrote this editorial.

H/t Jim Romenesko

Because We Know that Eliminating Human Physical Contact Improves the Development of Children

Out on Mercer Island, Washington, the school district has banned the game of tag as a sweeping ban of all forms of physical contact between students:

Webster’s defines “tag” as “a game in which the player who is it chases others and tries to touch one of them who then becomes it.” Wikipedia explains that the game, also known in Britain as “it, tip you’re it” is “a playground game that involves one or more players chasing other players in an attempt to ‘tag’ or touch them, usually with their hands.”

So is the game of “tag” still “tag” if tagging is banned?

That is the question for the Mercer County School District in Washington state and for some unhappy parents.

It all started with a social media report earlier this week when a group of parents, responding to what they had heard was a ban on the game of tag in elementary schools, formed a group called “Support ‘tag’ at Recess.”

It was their impression that there was indeed a ban and the word soon spread to the news media.


A spokesman for the school district seemed to reinforce the impression with a statement:

“The Mercer Island School District and school teams have recently revisited expectations for student behavior to address student safety. This means while at play, especially during recess and unstructured time, students are expected to keep their hands to themselves. The rationale behind this is to ensure the physical and emotional safety of all students.

“School staffs are working with students in the classroom to ensure that there are many alternative games available at recess and during unsupervised play, so that our kids can still have fun, be with their friends, move their bodies and give their brains a break.”

“Good grief, our kids need some unstructured playtime,” mom Kelsey Joyce told the TV station. “It’s a game that practically everyone has played – but if you go to public school on Mercer Island, keep your hands to yourself.

“I totally survived tag,” said Joyce. “I even survived red rover, believe it or not.”

More significantly, the school board ignored the fact that physical touching is an necessity, particularly for developing children.

The reason that children play touching games is because children need touching.

Well, This Helps with 5th Amendment Rights

In an insider trading scandal, a judge has ruled that prosecutors cannot force suspects to unlock their phones.

Basically, he said that the prosecution was asking for it “Just Because”, and that was not sufficient reason:

The Fifth Amendment right against compelled self-incrimination would be breached if two insider trading suspects were forced to turn over the passcodes of their locked mobile phones to the Securities and Exchange Commission, a federal judge ruled Wednesday.

“We find, as the SEC is not seeking business records but Defendants’ personal thought processes, Defendants may properly invoke their Fifth Amendment right,” US District Judge Mark Kearney of Pennsylvania wrote.


In the latest case, the SEC is investigating two former Capital One data analysts who allegedly used insider information associated with their jobs to trade stocks—in this case, a $150,000 investment allegedly turned into $2.8 million. Regulators suspect the mobile devices are holding evidence of insider trading and demanded that the two turn over their passcodes.

The defendants balked at supplying their passcodes, saying the Fifth Amendment protected them. The judge agreed and said that the government was going on a fishing expedition:

Here, the SEC proffers no evidence rising to a “reasonable particularity” any of the documents it alleges reside in the passcode protected phones. Instead, it argues only possession of the smartphones and Defendants were the sole users and possessors of their respective work-issued smartphones. SEC does not show the “existence” of any requested documents actually existing on the smartphones. Merely possessing the smartphones is insufficient if the SEC cannot show what is actually on the device.

The prosecution is not looking for evidence here.

What they are looking for is statements that impeach the defendants, and force them to cut a plea deal.

They want to find texts where these guys call their clients morons, or some such, knowing that they can then present this to a jury in order to make the jury hostile to their defense.

I wholeheartedly approve of this ruling.

This is a Feature, Not a Bug

The fact that the nominee for head of the FDA has extensive financial ties to the pharmaceutical industry should come as no surprise.

The revolving door has been spinning just as fast during the Obama administration as it ever has been:

It seems to be the season of the revolving door

in health care. The latest version got some media attention, because it involves one of the most important health care leadership positions in the US government, the Director of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). However, the case actually seems much more serious than what the media has recently reported.


The only fly in the ointment was the matter of Dr Califf’s ties to industry. The WSJ article included,

Diana Zuckerman, president of the National Center for Health Research, a Washington-based group focusing on medical-product safety, questioned his ties to the drug industry.

‘Dr. Califf’s expertise and his close ties to the pharmaceutical industry are both well-known,’ she said. ‘His ties to industry have been a source of great concern to public-health experts when he was previously considered for FDA commissioner, and those ties raise important questions about this nomination.’

The MedPage Today article noted that Public Citizen’s Health Research Group stated,

‘During his tenure at Duke University, Califf racked up a long history of extensive financial ties to multiple drug and device companies, including Amgen, Astra-Zeneca, Eli Lilly, Johnson & Johnson, Merck Sharpe & Dohme and Sanofi-Aventis, to name a few,’ Michael Carome, MD, the group’s director, said in a statement. ‘Strikingly, no FDA commissioner has had such close financial relationships with industries regulated by the agency prior to being appointed.’


‘There are some who believe his relationship with [the drug industry] may be a problem, but most see it as a value-added factor in building a functional, more streamlined relationship with the industry in order to improve the speed with which truly effective and quality drugs and devices are made available, mitigate the excessive costs associated with pharmaceuticals, and influence policies and practices intended to improve health status.’

If that doesn’t scare the hell out of you, it should.

What that nameless source just said is that this is the sort of guy who could make the approval of a drug like Thalidomide go through more smoothly.

The Flies Return to the Sh%$

By which I mean that homophobic bigot Kim Davis is officially changing her party affiliation to Republican.  Good riddance:

A county clerk in Kentucky who was briefly jailed for refusing to issue marriage licenses to gay couples said on Friday that she and her family have switched to the Republican Party because the Democrats no longer represented them.

Rowan County Clerk Kim Davis, 50, who has said her beliefs as an Apostolic Christian prevent her from issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples, said they had changed parties last week. She was a long-time Democrat in eastern Kentucky.

“My husband and I had talked about it for quite a while and we came to the conclusion that the Democratic Party left us a long time ago, so why were we hanging on?” she told Reuters in an interview at a hotel in Washington, where she has traveled to be feted at a Family Research Council event later on Friday.

Not a surprise, really.

Since she is now making bank on being a bigot, she has to get that official American bigot membership card.

He Didn’t Jump, He Was Pushed

In a surprise announcement, the worst Speaker of the House in the history of ……… well ……… history, John Boehner, made a surprise announcement that he will be resigning from Congress:

Speaker John A. Boehner, an Ohio barkeeper’s son who rode a conservative wave to one of the highest positions in government, said Friday he would relinquish his gavel and resign from Congress, undone by the very Republicans who swept him into power.

Mr. Boehner, 65, made the announcement in an emotional meeting with his fellow Republicans on Friday morning as lawmakers struggled to avert a government shutdown next week, a possibility made less likely by his decision.

Mr. Boehner told almost no one of his decision before making it Friday morning. “So before I went to sleep last night, I told my wife, I said, ‘You know, I might just make an announcement tomorrow,’ ” Mr. Boehner said at a news conference in the Capitol. “This morning I woke up, said my prayers, as I always do, and thought, ‘This is the day I am going to do this.’ ”

His downfall again highlighted the sinewy power of a Republican Party faction whose anthem is often to oppose government action. It also made vivid the increasingly precarious nature of a job in which the will and proclivities of politically divisive body must be managed. No House speaker since Thomas P. O’Neill Jr., who held the gavel from 1977 to 1986, has left the job willingly.

As much as I appreciate the standard line that Boehner left under his own power, I kind of doubt it.

If this was really about him being tired of a restive Congress, he would have left when he realized that he lacked the skill of vote counting, which is essential for a legislature.

I have repeatedly referred to him as the worst Speaker ever because, in the House of Congress most amenable to steam roller politics, he was constantly back on his heels, because he wanted the job of Speaker so badly that he was unable and unwilling to actually manage the house.

It simply makes no sense that he left left because he got tired. He left because some of his colleagues had “the talk” with him.

Still, if you favor the “left under his own power” theory, I would suggest that you read ​Charlie Pierce’s take on this:

Way I figure it is this. In their private chat yesterday, Boehner explained to the pope the problems he was having with the flying monkey caucus, and Papa Francesco who, after all, heads a bureaucracy with a long history as a seething cauldron of ambition, scandal, murder and betrayal, as well as a unique tradition of crazy institutional proceedings (See: Cadaver Synod), listened to Boehner’s plight and said, mildly, “Jesus H. Christ in a Fiat, my son, these people crazy. Get out while you can.” That’s the way I’m going to figure it, anyway.

It is a sane theory, but sanity does not apply in this situation.

Sanity has almost been as rare as competence during the Speakership of John Boehner.

Do You Know What Drug in Your Medicine Cabinet is Most Likely to Kill You?

If you answered Acetaminophen (Tylenol) you would be right.

An overdose of the drug can destroy your liver, and for some people, toxic effects can be as little as twice the therapeutic dose.

Well, the FDA is looking at tightening up regulations on the drug, and the maker of Tylenol ramped up a lobbying campaign to prevent the FDA protecting the public:

Recently filed court documents show the makers of Tylenol planned to enlist the White House and lawmakers to block the Food and Drug Administration from imposing tough new safety restrictions on acetaminophen, the iconic painkiller’s chief ingredient.

An executive with McNeil Consumer Healthcare – which counts Tylenol as its flagship product – told the board of directors for parent company Johnson and Johnson about a campaign to “influence the FDA” and block recommendations made by an agency advisory panel in 2009.

About 150 Americans a year die by accidentally taking too much acetaminophen, the active ingredient in Tylenol. The toll does not have to be so high. Read the story.

After Dr. Janet Woodcock, the FDA’s top drug regulator, put off meeting with McNeil executives, the company’s president, Peter Luther, sent out an August 2009 email.

“We’re being too nice and too worried about stepping on FDA’s toes. It may be time to let members of Congress to put some pressure on FDA,” Luther wrote to other top executives. ”We have to make this our top priority and pull out all stops.”

Acetaminophen is considered safe when taken as directed. But in higher doses, the drug can cause liver damage and death. Studies show the drug is the leading cause of acute liver failure in the U.S., with fatalities increasing seven-fold in the decade between 1995 and 2005 to more than 200 a year.


The previously unreported lobbying campaign was disclosed as part of a trial scheduled to start today in Atlantic City that promises to draw new scrutiny to McNeil’s efforts to protect its painkiller from additional regulation and disclosures about the full extent of its risks.

The case pits McNeil against Regina Jackson, a New Jersey state employee who claims she was hospitalized with elevated liver enzymes after inadvertently exceeding the daily recommended dose for Extra Strength Tylenol for a couple of days.

The Atlantic City case is being watched closely as it is the first to come to trial of more than two hundred lawsuits currently pending in state and federal courts that allege McNeil knew its drug was potentially dangerous while promoting its safety.

As detailed in a 2013 investigation by ProPublica and This American Life, McNeil has opposed warning labels, dosage restrictions and even public awareness campaigns over concerns of profitability.

At the same time, the investigation found that the FDA has delayed implementing suggestions to improve the safety of acetaminophen, taken by tens of millions of Americans every week. Though hearings began more than 38 years ago, the agency has yet to finalize regulations for the safe use of the drug.


The proposed lobbying campaign arose in response to a June 2009 meeting of more than three dozen scientists, researchers and pharmacists convened by the FDA to review the safety of acetaminophen.

The panel of independent experts endorsed a sweeping set of reforms. They recommended that the FDA reduce the total daily dose of acetaminophen, and make extra-strength pills available only by prescription.

McNeil officials viewed the recommendations as a threat to sales of Extra Strength Tylenol, according to R. Clay Milling, one of the plaintiff’s attorneys. McNeil makes about $400 million in revenue from its extra-strength line, compared with only about $14 million from regular strength Tylenol, Milling told the court, according to a transcript.

Milling, who reviewed internal McNeil documents as part of the lawsuit, told the court that a senior McNeil executive made a presentation to the Johnson and Johnson board about a plan that included contacting the White House, the Office of Management and Budget and lawmakers.


The current recommended daily dose for the drug is four grams per day — the equivalent of eight extra strength pills. But occasional reports in scientific literature have documented liver damage occurring after taking as little as two extra pills per day for several days.

The agency has worried about the prevalence of acetaminophen on the market — McNeil and its generic competitors have developed hundreds of over-the-counter products that contain the drug, increasing the risk that a consumer could inadvertently ingest dangerous levels.

The most recent FDA data show that acetaminophen remains, by far, the leading cause of acute liver failure in the United States, with the number of cases increasing.

(emphasis mine)

Pharma greed is not just some asshole hedge fund puke raising prices.

It’s also stuff like this, where companies like Johnson & Johnson call in chips to bought and paid for politicians so that they can keep killing people.

In fact, I think that the guys at J&J are worse.  Unlike Martin Shkreli they knew that they were lobbying for the opportunity to profit off of killing hundreds of people a year.