Month: January 2017


Mary Tyler Moore just died:

Mary Tyler Moore, whose witty and graceful performances on two top-rated television shows in the 1960s and ’70s helped define a new vision of American womanhood, died on Wednesday in Greenwich, Conn. She was 80.

Her family said her death, at Greenwich Hospital, was caused by cardiopulmonary arrest after she had contracted pneumonia.

Ms. Moore faced more than her share of private sorrow, and she went on to more serious fare, including an Oscar-nominated role in the 1980 film “Ordinary People” as a frosty, resentful mother whose son has died. But she was most indelibly known as the incomparably spunky Mary Richards on the CBS hit sitcom “The Mary Tyler Moore Show.” Broadcast from 1970 to 1977, it was produced by both Ms. Moore and her second husband, Grant Tinker, who later ran NBC and who died on Nov. 28.

A part of my childhood just left us.

I Think That This Is a F%$# You to Erdogan

Germany is revoking a law that made it an offense to insult foreign leaders:

Germany is ditching a law specifically protecting heads of state and government against insults, after Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan tried to sue a prominent satirist. Slander and libel laws still apply.

Chancellor Angela Merkel’s cabinet decided on Wednesday to abolish the rarely enforced section of the criminal code by January 1, 2018.

“The idea of ‘lese majeste’ dates back to a long-gone era, it no longer belongs in our criminal law,” Justice Minister Heiko Maas (pictured above) said. “The regulation is obsolete and unnecessary,” he added.

Maas said heads of state and government would still be able to defend themselves against slander and defamation “but no more or less so than any other person.”

Insulted foreign leaders will still be able to pursue their own libel and defamation cases. The main difference between the laws was the extent of the sentence, insulting a political leader could carry up to three years in jail while ordinary libel or slander can carry a one-year jail sentence or a fine.

This is a good thing, terrible law, but this is really about Merkel dissing the Turkish President, and I think that a significant amount of political self-interest is part of the motivation for doing this.


The truth about the McDonalds coffee lawsuit:

Well, We Now Have a List of Democrats Who Should Be Flipping Burgers………

BTW, the headline for this article is not a normal one for Slate, “Top Democrats Missed Women’s Marches to Attend Luxury Donor Retreat Thrown by Clinton Henchman, which implies that even the reliably “New Democrat” online news site is having enough of Clinton and their Evil Minions:

Saturday was probably the best day for progressives in the United States since the last time Barack Obama was elected. Roughly 3 million(!) people joined women’s marches across the country in an unexpectedly enormous demonstration of enthusiasm (and, perhaps more crucially, organization). And yet a number of the most influential figures in Democratic politics—the people who are ostensibly responsible for translating this energy into political and electoral action—missed the marches completely because they were at a retreat for bajillionaire donors at something called the “Turnberry Isle” luxury resort near Miami.

The gathering was hosted by David Brock, the onetime Clinton-hating right-wing quasi-journalist goon who switched sides and, during the latest election cycle, ran a number of pro-Hillary super PACs and advocacy groups. (Hat tip to the Observer for its colorfully accurate description of Brock as a “henchman.”) Among the attendees at Brock’s event, via a program helpfully snagged by the New Republic:

  • Five of the candidates running for the chairmanship of the Democratic National Committee, including Keith Ellison and Thomas Perez. (The one candidate who marched instead of attending the retreat was South Bend, Indiana, mayor and Slate contributor Pete Buttigieg. Attaboy, Mayor Pete!)
  • Planned Parenthood president Cecile Richards, AFL-CIO political director Michael Podhorzer, and the presidents of EMILY’s List, NARAL Pro-Choice America, and the Democracy Alliance. (Richards and NARAL president Ilyse Hogue were at retreat events on Friday but also spoke at the Women’s March on Washington on Saturday. EMILY’s List president Stephanie Schriock and Democracy Alliance president Gara LaMarche attended both the Miami retreat and the D.C. march as well.)*
  • More than 120” major Democratic donors. (The event was also a fundraiser for Brock’s organizations.)
  • James Carville
  • Rahm Emanuel
  • Jennifer Granholm
  • Former Joe Biden chief of staff Ron Klain
  • New York attorney general Eric Schneiderman
  • Keith Olbermann, for some reason
  • Harold Ford Jr., who was last seen in electoral politics losing a 2006 Senate race, has worked on Wall Street ever since, and who somehow nonetheless appeared on a panel called “Democratic Messaging That Can Work.”

In case you were wondering, yes, the phrase “thought leader” did appear in the program.

I am a bit depressed at Ellison being there, but now we have a list of people we should not trust with elections, starting, of course, with the odious David Brock.

Being Born on 3rd Base and Thinking That You Hit a Triple

It turns out that the single most statististically segnificant characteristic of successful entrepreneurs is that they come from rich families:

We’re in an era of the cult of the entrepreneur. We analyze the Tory Burches and Evan Spiegels of the world looking for a magic formula or set of personality traits that lead to success. Entrepreneurship is on the rise, and more students coming out of business schools are choosing startup life over Wall Street.

But what often gets lost in these conversations is that the most common shared trait among entrepreneurs is access to financial capital—family money, an inheritance, or a pedigree and connections that allow for access to financial stability. While it seems that entrepreneurs tend to have an admirable penchant for risk, it’s usually that access to money which allows them to take risks.

And this is a key advantage: When basic needs are met, it’s easier to be creative; when you know you have a safety net, you are more willing to take risks. “Many other researchers have replicated the finding that entrepreneurship is more about cash than dash,” University of Warwick professor Andrew Oswald tells Quartz. “Genes probably matter, as in most things in life, but not much.”


For creative professions, starting a new venture is the ultimate privilege. Many startup founders do not take a salary for some time. The average cost to launch a startup is around $30,000, according to the Kauffman Foundation. Data from the Global Entrepreneurship Monitor show that more than 80% of funding for new businesses comes from personal savings and friends and family.

“Following your dreams is dangerous,” a 31-year-old woman who runs in social entrepreneurship circles in New York, and asked not to be named, told Quartz. “This whole bulk of the population is being seduced into thinking that they can just go out and pursue their dream anytime, but it’s not true.”

I’m not surprised, but I am a bit disgusted.

We need to understand that much of the sociology of success in the US, as it is everywhere, boils down to nepotism and tribalism.

Eleven Hours in the Tin Pan. God, There’s Got to Be Another Way!

I Felt a Little Like a Dying Clown, with a Streak of Rin Tin Tin

Even when everyone is on the same page, even when everyone is pleasant to each other, even when they are productive, meetings suck.

What’s more, the agony increases exponentially as the length goes up.

  • 15 minutes: Annoying
  • 30 minutes: Uncomfortable
  • 60 minutes: Agony
  • 2 Hours: Where is your God Now!
  • 3 Hours: I ache for the sweet succor of oblivion!
  • 5½ Hours: Tekeli-li! Tekeli-li!

All in all though, it was productive day.

Not Enough Bullets

At Davos, Jamie Dimon, the famously humorless head of JP Morgan Chase, shouted, “Make Elites Great Again!”:

Why did that avalanche hit that hotel in Italy, rather than those rat-f%$#s:

The most telling exchange at the World Economic Forum in Davos came on Thursday afternoon during a closed-door lunch hosted by the Washington Post, Foreign Policy, and Slate.

A couple hundred people were gathered at the Hotel Seehof, an expansive five-star hotel on the Davos promenade, to discuss the state of the world on the eve of the inauguration of Donald Trump. There were heads of state, both current and former, and captains of industry and finance.

The hostess, Lally Graham Weymouth, a senior associate editor at the Washington Post and daughter of the late Katharine Graham, was calling on people around the room to share their thoughts when she hit upon David Rubinstein, the jovial co-founder of the Carlyle Group. His remarks were different — and, people in attendance said, made as a joke. Rubenstein, three people in attendance told BuzzFeed News, pleaded to those gathered that elites were people too. With feelings! And they deserved to be listened to.

And then Jamie Dimon, the head of JPMorgan Chase, replied in his own way, letting out an expressive: “Make elites great again!” The banker, who was compensated $28 million last year, is not known for his sense of humor.

Joseph Evangelisti, a spokesperson for JPMorgan, told BuzzFeed News: “It was tongue-in-cheek.” Those who heard Dimon’s private riposte weren’t so sure.

Amazingly enough, it gets worse from there.

I have a request for ISIS/ISIL/Daesh/Whatever: How about hitting Davos next year?

With careful planning you might get some Saudi princes as well.

The Canary in the Facebook Coal Mine

Alex Stamos, who quit Yahoo over CEO Marissa Mayer’s playing footsie with the NSA: (Limited time link, it goes behind a paywall in about a day)

Interesting piece on Re/Code this morning about the “secret meeting” of Valley engineers who fear that Trump is very, very bad for tech.

They’re right of course, and they’re also right when they talk about the potential for an engineers’ strike to grind major tech companies to a halt.

And yet, Re/Code still managed to bury the lede by breezing past a mention of one significant attendee…

The rules say all attendees are granted anonymity unless willing to be outed, which made Facebook Chief Security Officer Alex Stamos’s appearance all the more significant. He declined to comment, but did give Recode permission to print his name.

And that’s all the piece had to say about Alex Stamos. Which is a shame because simply describing Stamos as Facebook’s CSO doesn’t do him – or his appearance at the meeting – justice. In fact, taken at face value it almost suggests that Facebook had send such a high ranking exec to a “secret meeting” of rank and file techies to keep tabs on potentially troublesome workers.

The truth is something far more interesting, and far more encouraging.

It’s certainly true to say that Stamos is a high ranking Facebook exec, but he’s also something else: The canary in the coal mine. Anyone worried about Zuckerberg and Sandberg’s willingness to cosy up to Trump (and in Zuck’s case, his increasingly weird willingess to cosy up to ultra-nationalist demagogues and authoritarian regimes generally) should keep a very close eye on what Stamos does next.

For one thing, it’s hard to find a bio of Stamos that doesn’t include the phrase “vocal NSA critic.” Back in 2014, when Stamos joined Yahoo as its CSO, Entrepreneur magazine described him thus:


A year later, now at Yahoo, Stamos “clashed” with the director of the NSA over the agency’s demands for backdoors to access encrypted user data. Per the BBC


A few months later, it was reported that Stamos had been “poached” by Facebook. In fact, as Reuters revealed in 2016, Stamos resigned from Yahoo after discovering that his employer had agreed to pass data to the American government.

According to two of the former employees, Yahoo Chief Executive Marissa Mayer’s decision to obey the directive roiled some senior executives and led to the June 2015 departure of Chief Information Security Officer Alex Stamos, who now holds the top security job at Facebook Inc.

Which brings us to this week’s “secret meeting” and Stamos’ willingness to be mentioned by name as an attendee.


The question is whether Facebook continues to try to keep Trump happy when those requests start rolling in (see also: requests to hire fewer immigrants or, even worse, to share information on those immigrants currently employed.)

In that regard, at least based on past performance, Alex Stamos is someone to whom we should all be paying attention. And in that context the timing of his very public attendance at an anti-Trump meeting looks a lot like a shot across the bows of his own employer.

Should Stamos suddenly get “poached” by another company or decide to leave Facebook for some other unspecified reason, the rest of us should probably take that as a cue to get our data as far away from Mark Zuckerberg’s servers as possible.

Mark Zuckerberg is not to be trusted.  There has never been a privacy promise that Facebook has not broken, and his dealing with his partners has been problematic, and now there are rumors that he wants to run for President in 2024.

Unfortunately, the Web 2.0 Suicide Machine is gone, but I am sure that there are services out there that perform the same function in a more trustworthy and reliable manner than does Facebook.

If he leaves,

Quote of the Day, Tinfoil Hat Edition

How do we know that black bloc is run by police informers? Because they break windows and burn cars but leave surveillance cameras unmolested.

—Reported as said by, “A correspondent,” on Naked Capitalism

Considering the numerous times that undercover law enforcement has been the primary motivator in violent protests, I’m not sure if this is a tinfoil hat, or just a Panama hat with a red and black band.

It’s Official

I am the dullest motherf%$#er on the face of the Earth.

I noted a while ago that I had purchased a 2004 Toyota Prius.

I have been driving it for a while, and I noticed that I am enjoying it far more than any car I’ve ever driven.

I just realized something:  This is my midlife crisis car, and instead of something like an MG-TD, or an old Triumph, or a Karmann Ghia, or a Jaguar, or Fiat Spider, I bought a 13 year old used hybrid.

They could market me as a sleeping aid.

I’m Worried about His Other Promises

Donald Trump just officially pulled the US out of the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP):

President Trump formally abandoned the Trans-Pacific Partnership on Monday, pulling away from Asia and scrapping his predecessor’s most significant trade deal on his first full weekday in office, administration officials said.

Mr. Trump sharply criticized the partnership agreement during last year’s campaign, calling it a bad deal for American workers. Although the deal had not been approved by Congress, the decision to withdraw the American signature at the start of Mr. Trump’s administration is a signal that he plans to follow through on promises to take a more aggressive stance against foreign competitors.

In other action on a busy opening day, Mr. Trump ordered a hiring freeze in the federal work force, exempting the military. And he reinstituted limits on nongovernmental organizations that operate overseas and receive American taxpayer money from performing abortions. Republican presidents typically impose those restrictions soon after taking office, and Democratic presidents typically lift them when they take over.

The president’s withdrawal from the Asian-Pacific trade pact amounted to a drastic reversal of decades of economic policy in which presidents of both parties have lowered trade barriers and expanded ties around the world. Although candidates have often criticized trade deals on the campaign trail, those who made it to the White House, including President Barack Obama, ended up extending their reach.

He made the promise, and he kept it.

Bill Clinton promised side agreements, and never tried to get them, and Barack Obama moved heaven and earth in an attempt to pass the TPP and passed CAFTA and similar deals, with their pro big pharma, pro big Ag, pro Wall Street provisions.

Unfortunately, while putting a stake through the heart of the TPP is a good thing, Donald Trump promised a lot of stuff that is simply batsh%$ insane, and it looks like he’s going to keep those promises too.

He’s already at work on NAFTA:

Aides signaled that Mr. Trump may also move quickly on renegotiating the North American Free Trade Agreement. He is scheduling meetings with the leaders of Canada and Mexico, the two main partners in that pact, first negotiated by the elder President George Bush and pushed through Congress by President Bill Clinton. Nafta has been a major driver of American trade for nearly two decades, but it has long been divisive, with critics blaming it for lost jobs and lower wages.

Do not be heartened that the spray tan orange stopped clock is right once today.

We are, as the Chinese are wont to say, living in interesting times.


Old School Heavy Metal:

Stating the Obvious on Populist Rejection of Expert Opinions

Whether it’s the Brexit, or Donald Trump, it is clear that disdain for experts figures prominently in populist politics, particularly on the right.

Dean Baker makes a point that needs to be made, that the experts have proven themselves to be unable to find their ass with both hands while insisting that they must remain the exclusive font of all policy:

Ivan Krastev, a permanent fellow at the Institute for Human Sciences in Vienna, had an interesting NYT column on the disenchantment of the European public with the meritocrats who have been largely running governments there for the last three decades. Krastev’s main conclusion is that the public doesn’t identify with an internationally-oriented group of meritocrats who possess skills that are easily transferable from their home country to other countries.

While this lack of sufficient national identity may play a role in the dislike of the meritocrats, there is a much simpler explanation: they have done a horrible job. Much of Europe continues to suffer from high unemployment, or low employment rates, almost a decade after the collapse of housing bubbles sent the continent’s economy in a downward spiral. The meritocrats deserve the blame for both the weak recovery and allowing dangerous bubbles to grow in the first place. In most countries, most of the population has seen declining incomes over the last decade in spite of the substantial technological progress we have seen over this period.

It doesn’t matter if it is the City of London, or Brussels, or Wall Street, or Washington, DC, or Berlin, these people nearly destroyed our world, and continue to promulgate policies that do not work, and still they remain largely in charge of our policy apparatus.

These people need to have a job that involves asking, “Do you want fries with that?”

This Should Surprise No One

Russia has just completed an agreement with Syria expanding their access to the Syrian port of Tartus:

Russia and Syria have signed an agreement this week to expand Russia’s sole foreign base – a naval repair facility in Syria – into a larger naval base capable of permanently hosting 11 ships, according to the agreement issued by the Russian government.

The agreement — signed on Wednesday – would allow the Tartus installation to expand to berth larger surface combatants and submarines, according to Russian state-controlled press reports.

“The deal stipulates that 11 Russian vessels can be present in the harbor of Tartus at once, including the ships equipped with nuclear marine propulsion, provided that nuclear and environmental safety guidelines are respected,” read a report in the Kremlin-controlled Sputnik wire.

“Russia promises to send to Syria, at its request, specialists to help restore Syrian warships and will help organize the defense of the harbor of Tartus and help mount search and rescue operations in Syrian waters.”

This is not surprising.

There was always going to be a quid pro quo for Russia’s support of the Assad regime.

Obama Just put the Lie to the Clinton’s Red Baiting

In his final Presidential press conference, Barack Obama said that the DNC emails were leaked, not hacked:

Three U.S. Intelligence Agencies (CIA, NSA and FBI) claim that IT-Systems of the Democratic National Committee were “hacked” in an operation related to the Russian government. They assert that emails copied during the “hack” were transferred by Russian government related hackers to Wikileaks which then published them.

President Obama disagrees. He says those emails were “leaked”.

Wikileaks had insisted that the emails it published came from an insider source not from any government. The DNC emails proved that the supposedly neutral Democratic Party committee had manipulated the primary presidential elections in favor of the later candidate Hillary Clinton. This made it impossible for the alternative candidate Bernie Sanders to win the nomination. Hillory Clinton, who had extremely high unfavorable ratings, lost the final elections.

Here is President Obama in his final press conference yesterday (vid @8:31):

First of all, I haven’t commented on WikiLeaks, generally. The conclusions of the intelligence community with respect to the Russian hacking were not conclusive as to whether Wikileaks was witting or not in being the conduit through which we heard about the DNC emails that were leaked.

The DNC emails “that were leaked” – not “hacked” or “stolen” but “leaked”.

One wonders if this is a parting shot is primarily aimed at the involved Intelligence Agencies led by James Clapper and John Brennan. Or is dissing Hillary Clinton and her narrative the main purpose?

Dissing Hillary is the main purpose.

If Obama weren’t thoroughly in the pocket of Clapper and Brennan, he would have fired them when they lied to and spied on members of Congress.

More importantly, it indicates that the DNC email leaks were an inside job, not the work of the GRU (read the reports, the FSB may have gotten into the DNC, but they did not redistribute the results, basic spycraft).

Snark of the Day

As a woman with a Trump scarf on climbed into the backseat of a black Suburban — her driver standing by her side, eagerly waiting for her to sit down so he could close the door — she kept lunging out the vehicle to give her commentary on the scene around her. She was clearly disgusted by the marchers surrounding her car. At one point, the woman in the Suburban said to a passerby:

“If you people had jobs, you wouldn’t be out here doing this mess.”

As this happened, another woman walked by and, without pausing to look at the Chevrolet Suburbanite, said:

“Bitch, it’s Saturday.”

NY Mag

This is a Fascinating Perspective on Hillary and Trump Supporters

Frequently the analysis is about how the winners and losers in an increasingly interconnected and technical worls engage in her.

Using the example of the opoid epidemic, Lambert Strether makes another point, that the professional and credentialed class (Hillary’s base) has benefited from the losses of the working class:

That said, can we think of any reasons beyond despair why rural voters might vote red (and not blue)? I think we can, if we look at the role that urban credentialed professionals and institutions play. In “Credentialism and Corruption: The Opioid Epidemic and ‘the Looting Professional Class’” I wrote:

CEOs, marketing executives, database developers, marketing collateral designers, the sales force, middle managers of all kinds, and doctor: All these professions are highly credentialed. And all have, or should have, different levels of responsibility for the mortality rates from the opoid epidemic; executives have fiduciary responsibility; doctors take the Hippocratic Oath; those highly commissioned sales people knew or should have known what they were selling. Farther down the line, to a database designer, OXYCONTIN_DEATH_RATE might be just another field. Or not! And due to information asymmetries in corporate structures, the different professions once had different levels of knowledge. For some it can be said they did not know. But now they know; the story is out there. As reader Clive wrote:

Increasingly, if you want to get and hang on to a middle class job, that job will involve dishonesty or exploitation of others in some way.

And you’ve got to admit that serving as a transmission vector for an epidemic falls into the category of “exploitation of others.”

And I don’t think it’s too much of a stretch to think that red-shift voters would identify Clinton’s base in the urban, professional classes with the very same people responsible for the opioid epidemic that was killing their families. Consciously? I don’t know. Viscerally? I’d bet on it.

It isn’t just the opiod crisis.

You see it in healthcare price increases (Doctors and administrators benefit), the skyrocketing cost of education (Administrators and tenure track professors), finance (’nuff said), etc.

The professional, college educated class needs to understand that they are not spectators to the destruction of  working class lives and livelihoods, they actively benefit from this destruction.

To fix this requires sacrifices on our part.

An Historical Perspective for Bank Failure Friday

Since the introduction of federal deposit insurance

From 1921 to Present

Over at Calculated Risk, they have the numbers for bank failures since the creation of federal deposit insurance:

In 2016, five FDIC insured banks failed. This was the lowest level since 2007.

Most of the great recession / housing bust / financial crisis related failures are behind us.

The first graph shows the number of bank failures per year since the FDIC was founded in 1933.


The second graph includes pre-FDIC failures. In a typical year – before the Depression – 500 banks would fail and the depositors would lose a large portion of their savings.

The late 1980s bank failures were caused by corruption and control fraud.

The 1990s bank failures would have been far larger if we hadn’t bailed them all out.

Pre FDIC is just f%$#ing scary.

The Source of the Problem Spends $20 Million to Find the Source of the Problem

The pro-corporate anti-people wing of the Democratic party is set to spend $20 million to find someone else to blame:

Hoping to help Democrats recover from what it has dubbed the party’s “worst electoral position since the Civil War,” a centrist think tank is launching a $20 million campaign to study how the party lost its way and offer a new economic agenda for moving forward.

The think tank, Third Way, on Tuesday is set to launch “New Blue,” a campaign to help Democrats reconnect with the voters who have abandoned the party. The money will be spent to conduct extensive research, reporting and polling in Rust Belt states that once formed a Blue Wall, but which voted for president-elect Donald Trump last November.


Part of the economic message the group is driving — which is in line with its centrist ideology — is to steer the Democratic Party away from being led into a populist lurch to the left by leaders like Sen. Bernie Sanders or Sen. Elizabeth Warren.

Let me save you $20 million:  Relentlessly careerist political operatives, who have never done an honest day’s work in their lives, and loathe those who do honest work, are the problem.

Look in the f$#@ing mirror, and quit sucking up to Wall Street and big Pharma.*

Better yet, why don’t you quit your damn job, and join a monastery, preferably one that has a vow of silence.

*I’m talking to you, Corey Booker.