Month: October 2016

Financial “Innovation” in a Nut Shell

Here we have Wall Street at its finest, cheating teachers out of their retirement:

Bradley Bergeron’s first professional job out of college was selling retirement savings investments to public schoolteachers in Connecticut. The applications he carried in his black leather briefcase, however, were for one type of product only: a high-priced variable annuity.

“From the teacher’s standpoint, they really miss out getting quality advice,” said Mr. Bergeron, 27, who sold the plans for Axa Advisors’ retirement benefits group. “People who are in the schools pitching them and positioning themselves as retirement specialists are really there just to sell them one product.”

Workers at private companies typically enroll in a 401(k) retirement plan approved by the employer, which is held responsible for the menu of investment options offered. But public school employees and people working for nonprofits and religious institutions are often exposed to brokers who operate in a more unruly marketplace under different rules, which are defined by a patchwork of state laws and less stringent securities regulations.


“Teachers are still being preyed upon by salespeople,” said Dan Otter, founder of the advocacy and educational site, and a longtime teacher now working at the University of New Mexico. “The problem is their first experience with a 403(b) is in a sales environment.”


Brokers are trained to start by explaining how a teacher’s state pension works, how the tax-advantaged 403(b) operates and what sort of gap might have to be filled with savings to help maintain the teacher’s standard of living in retirement. Many — even those who later became disenchanted with their jobs — said they believed they were helping teachers save and realize their long-term goals.

Only after setting the stage does the broker introduce the main performer. For Axa’s brokers, that role is usually assigned to Axa’s Equi-Vest variable deferred annuity. It isn’t simple: To get the full rundown on how it works, people must sift through a document that is 460 pages long.

And it doesn’t come cheap. The most popular version of the Equi-Vest annuity has a total annual cost that can range from 1.81 to 2.63 percent, according to an analysis from Morningstar.

In contrast, large 401(k) plans usually charge an annual fee of less than half a percent of assets, according to a May report by BrightScope using 2013 data. Large, federally regulated 403(b) plans charge a bit more.

Then there is the surrender fee. An Equi-Vest annuity owner who wants to transfer savings into another 403(b) product or roll it over into an I.R.A., for example, would pay 5 percent to Axa on any of the withdrawal that was contributed in the previous six years.


Take an employee with a starting salary of $40,000 who saved 6 percent of her salary over a 40-year career. She would retire with about $175,000 when paying annual fees of 2 percent, assuming a 4 percent return after inflation, according to an analysis conducted by Vanguard. (The analysis also assumes that her salary rises 1 percent annually, also adjusted for inflation.)

But she would have 25 percent more, or a total of nearly $218,000, if fees had been 1 percent, and almost $260,000 if she paid 0.25 percent in fees.

As former S&L regulator and avenging angel Bill Black notes, pretty much all of the profits from the financial industry come from various flavors of fraud.

There needs to be hard fee limits on all forms of tax exempt investment vehicles.

Whiskey Tango Foxtrot?!?!?!?

How the F%$# did prosecutors manage to let the Malheur wildlife refuge occupiers get acquitted:

A jury has ruled that brothers Ammon and Ryan Bundy were not guilty of conspiring against the government, a surprising end to the high-profile Oregon standoff trial that sparked national debates about public lands and the rights of ranchers in the American west.

The decision, unveiled in federal court in Portland on Thursday, is a blow to the US government, which had aggressively prosecuted the rightwing activists who led an armed takeover of public property to protest American land-use regulations.

The Bundy brothers, who orchestrated a 2 January takeover of the Malheur national wildlife refuge, were acquitted on Thursday on a number of serious charges, along with five other defendants. Only a day earlier the court dismissed a juror over fears of bias, raising concerns that the trial would drag on for weeks.


Prosecutors charged the Bundy brothers and 24 other defendants with conspiracy to impede officers through use of force, intimidation or threats, and some also faced additional charges of firearm possession and theft of public property.

Some of the defendants signed plea deals in hopes of getting shorter prison sentences, and a total of seven defendants have been on trial since September.

The defendants were acquitted on the conspiracy and firearm charges, though the jury could not come to an agreement on a property theft offense that faces Ryan.


A separate trial, involving Ammon, Ryan, Cliven and two other Bundy men, is planned for next year in Nevada on charges stemming from the 2014 standoff. Given the pending case, authorities refused to release Ammon in Oregon. When Mumford argued, he allegedly ended up in a scuffle with US marshals, resulting in his arrest.

I will repeat my question, “ow the f%$# did they lose this case?”

They were guilty as hell, they looted an Indian burial site, and they took firearms into a federal office.

I guess the law doesn’t apply to white folks.

Be Still My Beating Heart………

Why am I not surprised that new allegations imply that Clarence Thomas’s behavior towards women did not approve with his becoming a Supreme Court Justice:

The 25th anniversary of Justice Clarence Thomas’s confirmation to the Supreme Court has featured testimonials from his supporters, a symposium on his jurisprudence and tributes from conservative legal scholars about his influence on the court.

But Thursday brought an unwelcome echo of the sexual harassment allegations that almost derailed his 1991 nomination: An Alaska lawyer told the National Law Journal that Thomas groped her at a dinner party in 1999, when she was a young Truman Foundation scholar in Washington.

Through a court spokeswoman, Thomas told the publication: “This claim is preposterous and it never happened.”

The woman, Moira Smith, said she decided to make the allegations not because of Thomas but because of Donald Trump. She posted the information on her Facebook page on Oct. 7, hours after the media disclosed that Trump had boasted on tape about grabbing women.

“When Justice Thomas touched me inappropriately and without my consent, I was 23 years old — and felt there was nothing I could do,” Smith said in a statement released Wednesday. “Seventeen years later, it is clear that sexual harassment, misconduct and assault continue to be pervasive, having an impact on all women. I choose to speak out now in the hope that this will change.”

Smith said she was helping her boss at the dinner party when the incident occurred. Guests contacted by the National Law Journal said they saw nothing untoward. Smith, who posed for a photo with the justice later that night, did not tell them Thomas had grabbed her buttocks.

But friends said Smith told them about the alleged groping that same night and the next morning, and they were not surprised when Smith again recounted the incident earlier this month.

“I don’t remember the specific timeline,” Amy Hertel Buckley, 39, another Truman scholar at the dinner that night, told The Washington Post. “But when I saw her Facebook post, it was instantly familiar to me. It’s been a long time, but she definitely told me about that after it happened.”

Marcia Coyle, the longtime Supreme Court reporter who wrote the story, said Smith did not come forward. Smith initially made her Facebook posting private so that only friends could see it, Coyle said. Smith made it public after friends told her she should.

A source told Coyle about the posting — Smith’s Facebook account has now been deactivated — and Coyle interviewed her and others who corroborated her account over a two-week period, according to the NLJ report.

We know that during his confirmation hearings, there was another women in addition to Anita Hill who was similarly harrassed, but she was never called to testify by the head of the Judiciary Committee, Joe Biden.

As such, it’s no surprise that Thomas is a serial abuser.

If Clarence Thomas had any shame (Bush v. Gore shows that he doesn’t) he would resign sooner rather than later, but shame, honesty, and integrity are simply not a part of his makeup.

Still, if we end up with a 7 member court as a result, it means a non-wingnut majority on SCOTUS, which would be a very good thing.

I can haz schadenfreude?

(on edit)

I added the last three paragraphs to the post, which make it clear that this was a private posting between friends that got leaked to the press.

Food for Thought

I’ve come across an interesting study from the Council of Economic Advisors.

One of the effects of the increasing concentration in American business is that it creates a labor market monopsony which allows employers to push down wages:(PDF)

An excerpt:

There is also growing concern about an additional cause of inequity—a general reduction in competition among firms, shifting the balance of bargaining power towards employers (Furman and Orszag 2015). Such a shift could explain not only the redistribution of revenues from worker wages to managerial earnings and profits, but also the rising disparity in pay among workers with similar skills. These trends also have broader implications for the economy as a whole: instead of promoting growth, forces that undermine competition tend to reduce efficiency, and can lead to lower output, employment, and social welfare.

A growing literature has documented several indicators of declining competition in the United States, and economists have begun to explore the links between these trends and rising income inequality (Furman and Orzag 2015). While recent discussions have highlighted rising concentration among producers and monopoly pricing in sellers markets (The Economist 2016), reduced competition can also give employers power to dictate wages—so-called “monopsony” power in the labor market. While monopoly in product markets and monopsony in labor markets can be related and share some common causes, the latter has some distinct causes and policy implications.

This issue brief explains how monopsony, or wage-setting power, in the labor market can reduce wages, employment, and overall welfare, and describes various sources of monopsony power.1 It then reviews evidence suggesting that firms may have wage-setting power in a broad range of settings and describes several trends in recent decades consistent with a growing role for monopsony power in wage determination. It concludes with a discussion of several policy actions taken by the Obama Administration to help promote labor-market competition and ensure a level playing field for all workers.

Monopoly is when you have a single supplier. Monopsony is when you have a single buyer.

This is yet another case where the right wing monopoly theory fails: The damage from monopolies and economic concentration is not limited to higher consumer prices.

In fact this interpretation of modern antitrust law has been wrong from the very beginning.

Even a cursory examination of the creation of anti-monopoly laws clearly shows that the legislative intent was largely directed toward barriers to competitors entry into markets.

Of course, history, or truth, or public benefit, or basic integrity never mattered to Robert Bork and Evil Minions.

They developed the theory starting with the goal of increasing the power of the elites, and worked backwards.

Yet Another Reason to Oppose the AT&T/Time Warner Merger

It turns out that AT&T has created a warrant free smorgasbord privacy invasions while charging the taxpayer through the nose:


Hemisphere is a secretive program run by AT&T that searches trillions of call records and analyzes cellular data to determine where a target is located, with whom he speaks, and potentially why.

“Merritt was in a position to access the cellular telephone tower northeast of the McStay family gravesite on February 6th, 2010, two days after the family disappeared,” an affidavit for his girlfriend’s call records reports Hemisphere finding (PDF). Merritt was arrested almost a year to the date after the McStay family’s remains were discovered, and is awaiting trial for the murders.

In 2013, Hemisphere was revealed by The New York Times and described only within a Powerpoint presentation made by the Drug Enforcement Administration. The Times described it as a “partnership” between AT&T and the U.S. government; the Justice Department said it was an essential, and prudently deployed, counter-narcotics tool.

However, AT&T’s own documentation—reported here by The Daily Beast for the first time—shows Hemisphere was used far beyond the war on drugs to include everything from investigations of homicide to Medicaid fraud.

Hemisphere isn’t a “partnership” but rather a product AT&T developed, marketed, and sold at a cost of millions of dollars per year to taxpayers. No warrant is required to make use of the company’s massive trove of data, according to AT&T documents, only a promise from law enforcement to not disclose Hemisphere if an investigation using it becomes public.


While telecommunications companies are legally obligated to hand over records, AT&T appears to have gone much further to make the enterprise profitable, according to ACLU technology policy analyst Christopher Soghoian.

“Companies have to give this data to law enforcement upon request, if they have it. AT&T doesn’t have to data-mine its database to help police come up with new numbers to investigate,” Soghoian said.

AT&T has a unique power to extract information from its metadata because it retains so much of it. The company owns more than three-quarters of U.S. landline switches, and the second largest share of the nation’s wireless infrastructure and cellphone towers, behind Verizon. AT&T retains its cell tower data going back to July 2008, longer than other providers. Verizon holds records for a year and Sprint for 18 months, according to a 2011 retention schedule obtained by The Daily Beast.

The disclosure of Hemisphere was not the first time AT&T has been caught working with law enforcement above and beyond what the law requires.


Once AT&T provides a lead through Hemisphere, then investigators use routine police work, like getting a court order for a wiretap or following a suspect around, to provide the same evidence for the purpose of prosecution. This is known as “parallel construction.”

“This document here is striking,” Schwartz told The Daily Beast. “I’ve seen documents produced by the government regarding Hemisphere, but this is the first time I’ve seen an AT&T document which requires parallel construction in a service to government. It’s very troubling and not the way law enforcement should work in this country.”


Sheriff and police departments pay from $100,000 to upward of $1 million a year or more for Hemisphere access. Harris County, Texas, home to Houston, made its inaugural payment to AT&T of $77,924 in 2007, according to a contract reviewed by The Daily Beast. Four years later, the county’s Hemisphere bill had increased more than tenfold to $940,000.

AT&T is profiteer in support of the modern surveillance state. 

Increasing the data that they can collect through mergers and acquisitions is not good for the rest of us.

Why Trump, and Not an Anti Press Vendetta or Being a Literal Vampire?

As a result of his vociferous support of Donald Trump, people are refusing to do deals with organizations that Peter Theil is associated with.

I find this odd, since Thiel has engaged on a nearly decade long secret vendetta against Gawker, and that he is aggressively working on plans to harvest the blood of young people to extend his own life. (That is literally vampirism)

The vendetta, and the blood lust are OK, but the Donald is a bit too far for Silicon Valley.

They have a very weird set of priorities in the immediate vicinity of Palo Alto:

The divisions over Peter Thiel and his support for Donald Trump are deepening in Silicon Valley.

Dismay over the billionaire venture capitalist’s stance on the Republican candidate has been showing up all across the technology landscape — from a startup founder saying he regrets taking a Trump backer’s money to a prominent diversity group refusing to work with any company associated with Thiel. In one recent case, it also throttled the flow of cash into a fledgling VC fund.

Arlan Hamilton, managing partner at Backstage Capital, said she rejected a potential investor because the person refused to disavow and sever ties with Thiel, a co-founder of PayPal and Palantir Technologies Inc. She declined to name the investor, saying the person offered to put $500,000 in her Los Angeles-based technology seed fund.

Thiel has been “Morally Problematic” since his days at Stanford, when he got his start as a venture capitalist by gay bashing and outing fellow students and faculty.

The fact that he is finally getting shunned, after a lifetime of being a truly awful human being, (He’s also belittled rape victims in the past) mitigates against to the conceit in Silicon Valley that they should be viewed as moral avatars.


Photo: Natalie J. Saroff

We have a colony of feral cats that hang out behind our house in an wild corner of a neighbor’s yard.

Today, I came home, and a kitten darted out in front of me, and I caught it.

We now have to decide what to do with the cat.

We already have 2½ cats (2 cats plus an adult feral cat that is in the house), so adding a kitten to the mix might not be fair to the existing cats, my family, and the kitten.

Family discussion time.

Still, he is a seriously cute dude.

If anyone reasonably close to Owings Mills, Maryland wants a kitten, Email Me.

Wheels Within Wheels on the Russian Hack of the DNC

The Headers in Question

If you are following the hack of the DNC and various Clinton campaign staffers, you are aware that the hackers engaged in “Spearfishing“, a targeted email that is intended to trick the user out of their passwords.

The emails come from Yanex, the Russian equivalent of Google and GMail, which would seem to point to a Russian source, only the headers show that the origin is from, not, using the RUNET proxy which means that they were sent from the English language portion of the site:

On March 22, 2016 William “Billy” Rhinehart, a regional field director at the Democratic National Committee, received an email from Google warning him that someone tried to access his account and that he should immediately change his password. He complied.

Unfortunately for Mr. Rhinehart, it wasn’t Google who sent him that email. He, along with many others, were a victim of Threat Group 4127 — the SecureWorks designation for Fancy Bear (CrowdStrike), APT28 (FireEye), and Sofacy (Kaspersky Lab). Secureworks assesses that TG 4127 “is operating from the Russian Federation and is gathering intelligence on behalf of the Russian government.

Thanks to a bizarre twist involving Guccifer 2.0’s solicitation of a journalist at The Smoking Gun (TSG) to write about the DCLeaks emails in exchange for giving TSG an early look at some of the stolen documents, TSG was able to obtain the original spear phishing email directly from Billy Rhinehart and shared it with ThreatConnect, who posted this screenshot of the email’s headers and identified the actual sender of the email:


How Do I Get A Email Address on RUNET?

Now let’s say that you don’t want a email. You want a email. So you type into your browser and …, no joy. It resolves back to

For some reason, RUNET is set up to send you to the .ru domain of whatever website you type into your address bar. Besides Yandex, I tried going to and was sent to I typed and was sent to

So how does our presumed Russian intelligence operative get his email address? He has to click on the link from the homepage (highlighted below).


The point that I’m trying to make is that if anyone in Russia wanted to spear phish employees of the DNC, then creating a email address instead of a email address is not only unnecessary extra effort but it makes absolutely no sense. You don’t gain anything operationally. You’ve used Yandex. You might as well paint a big red R on your forehead.

However, you know what does make sense?

That the person who opened the account DOESN’T SPEAK RUSSIAN!

He went with because all analysis stops with merely the name of a Russian company, a Russian IP address, or a Russian-made piece of malware. To even argue that a Russian intelligence officer let alone a paranoid Russian mercenary hacker would prefer a email to a email is mind-numbingly batsh%$ insane.

(emphasis original, %$ mine)

This does not prove that the Russians, or that SOME Russians weren’t behind this, but it does imply that whoever did this might not have been a Russian speaker.

Or it could be an attempt to create the illusion that the sender of the emails was trying to frame the Russians, or maybe the Russians were employing some non-Russian speakers, or maybe ………

I’ll stop here. I’m getting a headache.

Musing on Whiskey

During the third and final debate on Wednesday, I played a debate drinking game.

I was drinking a VERY cheap, though not awful, Scotch whiskey, Inver House Green Plaid.

Tonight while celebrating Simchat Torah, I drank another Scotch whiskey, Glenlivet.

The latter is a more expensive, and much better, spirit.

Each whiskey was appropriate to its use, Glenlivet is a high quality product which is appropriate for celebrating Torah, being far less harsh, and possessing far more subtlety and nuance.

Using it to help me cope with hearing Donald Trump, Chris Wallace, and Hillary Clinton would be an affront to the efforts of the distiller.

By the same token, drinking Inver House Green Plaid at a Simchat Torah celebration would be an affront to God, but out is perfectly suited to the fingernails-on-a-chalkboard experience of the Presidential debates.

Each was eminently well suited to the role that they played.

Posted via mobile.


Have a very 80s video of Roger Hodgson’s 80’s hit Sleeping with the Enemy (From the former Supertramp lead vocalist’s first solo album):

This is Some Quality Trolling

In an apparent move to embarrass the United States over Donald Trump’s claims of a “rigged” presidential election, Russia sought to send monitors to U.S. polling stations for the Nov. 8 vote, Russian media revealed Thursday.

The bid was sharply rebuffed by the State Department, and one state election official threatened criminal action if Russian monitors showed up, according to state-controlled Izvestia daily and broadcaster RT.

State Department deputy spokesman Mark Toner called the Russian effort a “PR stunt” and denied that the United States blocked Russian diplomats from observing the election.

A spokeswoman for Louisiana Secretary of State Tom Schedler, who received a request to allow Russian monitors, called it a “propaganda ploy.”

“We’ve allowed observers from overseas in the past from other countries, never from Russia,” Meg Casper said. She added that the FBI and Department of Homeland Security also “told us not to do this.”

This is world class trolling, as evidenced by the stupid and self destructive response from the State Department.

The best trolls say something that seems eminently reasonable that triggers a conflict and makes the targets look like complete stooges.

Well played, Vladimir.

I Think That This Is a Test Run

A major internet infrastructure and DNS provider, Dyn, was briefly taken down by a massive DDOS (Distributed Denial of Service) attack:

Criminals this morning massively attacked Dyn, a company that provides core Internet services for Twitter, SoundCloud, Spotify, Reddit and a host of other sites, causing outages and slowness for many of Dyn’s customers.

In a statement, Dyn said that this morning, October 21, Dyn received a global distributed denial of service (DDoS) attack on its DNS infrastructure on the east coast starting at around 7:10 a.m. ET (11:10 UTC).

“DNS traffic resolved from east coast name server locations are experiencing a service interruption during this time. Updates will be posted as information becomes available,” the company wrote.

DYN encouraged customers with concerns to check the company’s status page for updates and to reach out to its technical support team.


The attack on DYN comes just hours after DYN researcher Doug Madory presented a talk on DDoS attacks in Dallas, Texas at a meeting of the North American Network Operators Group (NANOG). Madory’s talk — available here on — delved deeper into research that he and I teamed up on to produce the data behind the story DDoS Mitigation Firm Has History of Hijacks.

That story (as well as one published earlier this week, Spreading the DDoS Disease and Selling the Cure) examined the sometimes blurry lines between certain DDoS mitigation firms and the cybercriminals apparently involved in launching some of the largest DDoS attacks the Internet has ever seen. Indeed, the record 620 Gbps DDoS against came just hours after I published the story on which Madory and I collaborated.

The record-sized attack that hit my site last month was quickly superseded by a DDoS against OVH, a French hosting firm that reported being targeted by a DDoS that was roughly twice the size of the assault on KrebsOnSecurity. As I noted in The Democratization of Censorship — the first story published after bringing my site back up under the protection of Google’s Project Shield — DDoS mitigation firms simply did not count on the size of these attacks increasing so quickly overnight, and are now scrambling to secure far greater capacity to handle much larger attacks concurrently.

I’m not sure if the miscreants intend to mess with the election, or the holiday shopping season, but this could get really ugly really fast.

Google Goes to the Dark Side

The firm that used to have the motto, “Don’t be evil,” has just decided to renege on their promise not to use personally identifiable tracking:

When Google bought the advertising network DoubleClick in 2007, Google founder Sergey Brin said that privacy would be the company’s “number one priority when we contemplate new kinds of advertising products.”

And, for nearly a decade, Google did in fact keep DoubleClick’s massive database of web-browsing records separate by default from the names and other personally identifiable information Google has collected from Gmail and its other login accounts.

But this summer, Google quietly erased that last privacy line in the sand – literally crossing out the lines in its privacy policy that promised to keep the two pots of data separate by default. In its place, Google substituted new language that says browsing habits “may be” combined with what the company learns from the use Gmail and other tools.

The practical result of the change is that the DoubleClick ads that follow people around on the web may now be customized to them based on your name and other information Google knows about you. It also means that Google could now, if it wished to, build a complete portrait of a user by name, based on everything they write in email, every website they visit and the searches they conduct.

The magic of the market will not fix this ……… ever.

Christie Knew About Bridgegate While it Was Being Planned.

Bridget Anne Kelly just testified that she notified Governor Chris Christie at every step about the lane shutdowns on the GW bridge, though she claims that she actually thought that it was a legitimate traffic study:

In an emotional day of testimony, Bridget Anne Kelly refuted the charges against her in the Bridgegate scandal, telling a jury she told Gov. Chris Christie in advance about the plan to close toll lanes at the George Washington Bridge in 2013, and had gotten his approval for what she thought was a legitimate traffic study.

She denied ever having any knowledge of the bizarre scheme of political retaliation alleged by federal prosecutors.

And she asserted that other higher-ups in the governor’s inner circle were all well-aware of what was going on in Fort Lee, long before it played out, and that no one seemed that concerned about it.

“It just wasn’t a big deal,” she said.


Wildstein said he thought after initial traffic jams in Fort Lee, drivers would adapt and that Christie and New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo would ultimately be able to take credit for quicker access into New York, Kelly testified.

But first, Wildstein wanted Kelly to talk to the governor, which she did, she testified.

“I said, governor, by the way, I spoke to Wildstein about … the Port Authority doing a traffic study,” Kelly said.

“He said, ‘OK, why are we doing this?'” Kelly recalled of Christie’s reaction.

After she explained, the governor, at first, didn’t “really react.”

Then he said he was fine with it. “Typical Wally,” she said he remarked, referring to Wildstein’s pen name as an anonymous political blogger when he wrote under the name of Wally Edge.

Kelly said the governor told her to run it by O’Dowd.

Within “a few hours,” Kelly texted O’Dowd asking for time to talk to him, she said. “I told him that I had spoken to the governor,” Kelly recalled.

O’Dowd didn’t have any objections, she said.

But the governor did have one question, Kelly said. He wanted to know about the status of his office’s relationship with Sokolich.

This makes three witnesses, the 3rd is Mike DuHaime, who have testified that Christie knew about this in advance, and unlike Wildstein and Kelly, he has not cut a deal and is not on trial.

Methinks (me hopes?) that Jabba the Governor is going to jail.

Their Customer Service Will Make Comcast Look Like Tesla

AT&T is looking to by Time Warner cable:

AT&T Inc. is close to an agreement to acquire Time Warner Inc. for about $86 billion, people with knowledge of the matter said, a deal that would create a media behemoth that offers TV, wireless, and the content that goes with it.

The bid values Time Warner at about $110 a share — 23 percent more than where the stock closed Friday — and is structured as an even split between cash and equity, said the people, who asked not to be identified because the information is private. If accepted, it would cement the biggest acquisition of the year, surpassing Bayer AG’s $66 billion takeover of U.S. seed giant Monsanto Co., announced in May.

Buying Time Warner would give AT&T premium entertainment programming including HBO and the Cartoon Network, which it could offer its millions of pay-TV, mobile phone and Internet subscribers. AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson has been trying to transform the Dallas-based phone company into a media and entertainment giant, and now has one of Hollywood’s top film and TV producers in his cross-hairs.

What do you get when you juxtapose the customer service cultures of the artist formerly known as Ma Bell with what was formerly the 2nd worst cable company in America?

I think that it would be fair to call this merged company the Donald Trump of communications.

Tom Daschle Would Suck off a Corpse for a Cheeseburger

Tom Daschle, who never left Washington, DC after losing his bid for reelection in 2004, and has become a lobbying hired gun, and as Matt Taibbi noted in the above hed, has no shame.

Case in point, lobbying Hillary Clinton while refusing to register as a lobbyist:

Former Democratic Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle pushed Hillary Clinton’s top aides to consider supporting a massive health insurance merger for one of his clients — even though at the time he was not registered to be a company lobbyist.

Daschle registered to be a lobbyist for Aetna in February of 2016, which subjected him to disclosure and ethics regulations. However, an email released Thursday by Wikileaks shows Daschle pressing the company’s agenda with political power players in October 2015.

“I wanted to reach out in reference to Hillary’s statements today regarding the insurance mergers,” Daschle wrote to Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta on the day Clinton publicly raised questions about the merger. “I certainly understand her concerns over the pending deals. I’ve been working with Aetna on ACA [Affordable Care Act] involvement for the past several years. That has led to other health related matters including the merger. Their team has what they view to be compelling arguments around the benefits of the Humana merger and why it will be beneficial for consumers.”

Then Daschle said: “Would you and your team be willing to have a conversation with them?”

Clinton’s campaign ultimately declared its support for a Justice Department lawsuit aimed at blocking the merger.

In 2015, a joint study by the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics and the Sunlight Foundation spotlighted how many former members of Congress appear to be circumventing ethics rules by working in government relations on behalf of corporate clients, but not registering as lobbyists.

Daschle’s wife — a former federal aviation regulator-turned-airline lobbyist — opened her own lobbying firm in 2008.

This isn’t just an ethics issue.  It’s what I call back loaded bribery, and it is a cancer on the American body politic.

I Want to Move to Iceland, Part XLII

In Iceland, the Pirate Party is leading the polls, and they have announced that they will not be in coalition with either of the current ruling parties:

Iceland’s Pirate Party (‘Píratar’) has issued an up-front refusal to work with either of the two current governing parties after the next elections – in a move unprecedented in Icelandic political history.

“These early elections have come about as a result of the corruption revealed to the world by the Panama Papers,” explains Pirate MP Birgitta Jónsdóttir. “Five ministers have been exposed as corrupt since the current government took power.”

“In some of the biggest protests in Icelandic history, the public expressed their desire for change,” she says.

In a press conference yesterday, the Pirates ruled out any possibility of entering a coalition with either of the current two governing parties, the centre-right Independence Party (‘Sjálfstæðisflokkurinn’) and the centrist Progressive Party (‘Framsóknarflokkurinn’).

Instead, the Pirates have sent a letter to a leaders of the three other opposition parties currently with MPs in the Icelandic Parliament (‘Alþingi’) and to the brand-new Regeneration (‘Viðreisn’) party, inviting them to pre-election coalition talks.

The may be aided in their goal by a surge in the polls by the Green Party:

A brand-new opinion poll now gives Iceland’s Left-Green party (‘Vinstrihreyfingin – Grænt framboð’) a 19.2% share of the vote – four points higher than in the previous similar poll.

The latest survey, conducted by Icelandic daily Fréttablaðið (link in Icelandic) and dated 17-18 October, puts the Left-Greens hot on the heels of the second-place Pirate Party (‘Píratar’).

Iceland is perhaps is the only nation on earth that has actually experienced meaningful and positive political change as a result of the financial crisis, as opposed to the rest of the world, which has given us, Nigel Farage, Marine le Pen, Gert Wilders, Frauke Petry, Donald Trump, and those of a similar ilk.

New Jersey is a Strange Place

Chris Christie finally has a criminal summons filed against him.

It wasn’t a prosecutor who did this, it was a retired fire-fighter who took this to court:

A New Jersey firefighter succeeded where federal prosecutors failed: He brought criminal charges against Gov. Chris Christie in the Bridgegate scandal.

A Bergen County courtroom echoed with cheers after Judge Roy McGeady signed off Thursday on the criminal summons presented by retired smoke-eater William Brennan.

Brennan and lawyers for the governor are due back in court Oct. 24 over Christie’s alleged role in the vindictive George Washington Bridge lane closures.

“Now he’s defendant Chris Christie,” said Brennan, a former Teaneck firefighter. “He did exactly what is charged, and I have the evidence to prove it.”

McGeady found probable cause to proceed on the complaint from Brennan, who claims Christie knew about the shutdown — and did nothing to reopen the bridge.


The criminal complaint described the politically motivated gridlock as an “intentional evil-minded act taken by public officials acting on the authorities vested in them by the office of governor.”

It’s not a surprise that it wasn’t a DA who did this:  Chris Christie appoints them all.

They work for him.

Yet another thing that needs to be fixed in New Jersey government.

The 3rd Worst Job on Earth

Tasmanian Devil Milker:

Milk from Tasmanian devils could offer up a useful weapon against antibiotic-resistant superbugs, according to Australian researchers.

The marsupial’s milk contains important peptides that appear to be able to kill hard-to-treat infections, including MRSA, say the Sydney University team.

Experts believe devils evolved this cocktail to help their young grow stronger.

The scientists are looking to make new treatments that mimic the peptides.

They have scanned the devil’s genetic code to find and recreate the infection-fighting compounds, called cathelicidins.

Milking a Tasmanian Devil is not high on my list of career options.