Month: October 2018

Economists Discover the Obvious

Economists are now (begrudgingly) announcing that Seattle’s $15/hour minimum wage did not cause an apocalypse, and that, in fact, it benefited the poorest workers in the city:

Earlier this year, a group of business school researchers from the University of Washington and NYU, as well as Amazon, published an influential paper claiming that the rising Seattle minimum wage had decreased take-home pay for workers by 6% due to cuts to work hours — the paper was trumpeted by right-wing ideologues as examples of how “liberal policies” hurt the workers they are meant to help.

But a new paper by the same authors (Sci-Hub mirror) shows that the rising minimum wage generated major increases for the workers who had the most hours, whose hours were only cut a little, but still came out ahead thanks to the wage increase; workers with fewer hours saw no financial harm from the rising minimum wage, working fewer hours and bringing home the same sum; and they found some harm to people who had the smallest number of hours) (which may actually reflect stronger demand for workers and fewer workers in this category of very-low-hour work).


Yeah, This Does Not Make Me Want to Buy GM Car

It turns out that GM has been secretly spying on its customers’ radio listening habits:

On September 12th, GM’s director of global digital transformation Saejin Park gave a presentation to the Association of National Advertisers in which he described how the company had secretly gathered data on the radio-listening habits of 90,000 GM owners in LA and Chicago for three months in 2017, tracking what stations they listened to and for how long, and where they were at the time; this data was covertly exfiltrated from the cars by means of their built-in wifi.

The company says it never sold this data, but the presentation to the advertising execs was clearly designed to elicit bids for it. Toyota has promised not to gather and sell telematics data, but GM seems poised to create a market in data gathered by your car, which can listen to you, follow you, take pictures of you and your surroundings, and even gather data on which passengers are in the car at different times by tracking Bluetooth beacons from mobile devices.

This is unbelievably creepy, and the fact that no one is going to jail over this is even worse.

Tweet of the Day

Many liberals today get so angry when you point out that our bad economy is a major contributor to the rise of the far right. But here’s a 2009 report from Obama’s Department of Homeland Security making that exact point.

— Walker Bragman (@WalkerBragman) October 28, 2018

Silly rabbit, don’t you know, it’s the Russians, or maybe, it was the fault of those damn Eskimos!

This is Bullsh%$

Trump’s people on the NLRB has effectively banned union picketers when they are employed by contractors:

An all-Republican panel of President Trump’s National Labor Relation Board (NLRB) recently ruled that janitors in San Francisco violated the law when they picketed in front of their workplace to win higher wages, better working conditions and freedom from sexual harassment in their workplace. The ruling could result in far-reaching restrictions on picketing that limit the ability of labor unions to put public pressure on management.

The NLRB reached its conclusion by using the complex and convoluted employment structure created by the janitors’ employers. The janitors were technically employed by one company, Ortiz Janitorial Services, which was subcontracted by another company, Preferred Building Services, to work in the building of a third company.


The NLRB based its decision on a particularly onerous provision in federal labor law that prohibits employees from engaging in boycotts, pickets or other activities that are aimed at a secondary employer. The provision was added as part of the 1947 Taft-Hartley Act, taking away one of labor’s most powerful weapons.

In this case, the NLRB overturned an administrative law judge’s ruling that because the second company had significant control over the employment relationship, it constituted a joint employer. The judge based her conclusion on evidence that Preferred Building Services was involved in the hiring, firing, disciplining, supervision, direction of work, and other terms and conditions of the janitors’ employment with Ortiz Janitorial Services. Therefore, both Ortiz and Preferred acted as joint employers to the janitors.

When Obama entered office, he dropped support for card check so fast it made your head spin.

Among other things, the Democratic Party needs to be more than a f%$#ing ratchet, where, whenever the Democrats take power, every reactionary action of the Republicans is never, ever reversed.

A Public Apology 27½ Years Overdue

I just wanted to make a note:  I founded Arisia over 25 years ago, filed the original paperwork, and the 501(c)3 application, and chaired the first two conventions in 1990 and 1991.

While it has been a while since I have done anything involved with Arisia (2005, because I decided that it was bad for me on a purely personal (as in in obsessive/addictive behavior) issues.)

However, I am aware that I made numerous errors during my tenure running the con, particularly in the last 6 months as chairman:  I was a legendary asshole during that time, and I believe that some of the organizational issues that Arisia appears to have to this day likely flow from this.

To the degree that Arisia has cultural and organizational issues, and I have been away for 13 years, so I honestly do not know anything about the current organizational culture, I was in at the beginning, and contributed to that.

I am profoundly sorry, and I wish that I had the common sense to realize in mid-1990 that my behavior was destructive and harmful, and do better by the convention and my then staff.

I sincerely apologize to people that I directly or indirectly hurt in the process.

Reader(s) of my blog will know that I have made only one substantive post regarding Arisia, two if you count my obit for Mary Robison,  in the 10+ years that I have been blogging, though I have made a few references indicating my experience in non-profits to rail against the evils that are televangelists, political front groups, and pineapple on pizza.

Want some Cheese with that Whine?

Donald Trump is such a delicate snowflake.

He is upset that, after literally decades of racist public statements, (remember the Central Park 5?) he has a sad because people people are blaming his rhetoric for contributing to the Squirrel Hill massacre, when no one said anything about Barack Obama when a white supremacist shot up the Emanuel AME Church in Charlston, SC.

Set me speak slowly here: No one blamed Barack Obama because he never called for violence against people on the basis of politics or ethnicity, and you have, and you continue to do so:

President Trump complained Monday about the news coverage he has received related to the alleged pipe bomber, saying a different standard was applied to then-President Barack Obama when nine black worshipers were killed at a church in Charleston, S.C., during his tenure.

Trump highlighted the contrast during a wide-ranging interview with Laura Ingraham of Fox News, who pointed out that Cesar Sayoc, who allegedly sent more than a dozen mail bombs to leading Democrats and CNN, was a big Trump fan. None of the devices exploded.

“I was in the headline of The Washington Post, my name associated with this crazy bomber,” Trump said. “They didn’t do that with President Obama with the church, the horrible situation with the church — they didn’t do that.”

They did not do it because:

  • Dylan Roof (יִמַּח שְׁמוֹ) was not a Barack Obama supporter, and was not spouting Obama speeches.
  • Cesar Sayoc (יִמַּח שְׁמוֹ) IS a Donald Trump supporter, and he was constantly spouting your vile racist sewage.
  • Robert Bowers (יִמַּח שְׁמוֹ) IS a Donald Trump supporter, and he was constantly spouting your vile racist sewage.
  • Gregory Bush (יִמַּח שְׁמוֹ) IS a Donald Trump supporter, and he was constantly spouting your vile racist sewage.
  • etc. (Too many shootings and acts of bigotry just this year to count)

Mr. Trump, get over yourself, you miserable vomitous mass.

Did not Need to Know This

Someone thought that it would be a good idea to sample people of different political persuasions as to their political fantasies.

I find it disturbing and illuminating

In this political environment, it’s easy to look at Republicans and Democrats as having next to nothing in common. Regardless of the issue at hand, we see them as wanting completely different things—especially when it comes to issues of sex and sexuality.

From differences in the way they have approached the sexual assault allegations against Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh to their views on abortion and same-sex marriage, Democrats and Republicans appear worlds apart.

It’s not just their public policy positions that seem to differ wildly, though.

According to the largest and most comprehensive survey of sexual fantasies ever conducted in the United States, it would appear that there are also political differences in our private sexual fantasies.

I surveyed 4,175 adult Americans from all 50 states about what turns them on and published the findings in a book entitled Tell Me What You Want. As part of this survey, participants were given a list of hundreds of different people, places and things that might be a turn-on. For each one, they reported on how frequently they fantasized about it.

I learned a lot about the nature of sexual desire in modern America, but one of the more intriguing things I uncovered was the political divide in our fantasy worlds.

While self-identified Republicans and self-identified Democrats reported fantasizing with the same average frequency—several times per week—I found that Republicans were more likely than Democrats to fantasize about a range of activities that involve sex outside of marriage. Think things like infidelity, orgies and partner swapping, from 1970s-style “key parties” to modern-day forms of swinging. Republicans also reported more fantasies with voyeuristic themes, including visiting strip clubs and practicing something known as “cuckolding,” which involves watching one’s partner have sex with someone else.

It appears that Republicans favorite sexual fantasies are also their favorite insults.

That juxtaposition of shame and sex does appear to explain quite a lot, though that is a thoroughly unprofessional opinion, as I am an engineer, not a doctor, dammit!*

*I love it when I get to go all Dr. McCoy!

Buh Bye, Angela

Following a disastrous electoral showing in Hesse, Angela Merkel has announced her resignation of the CDU and that she will not stand for reelection as chancellor:

After dominating European politics for well over a decade, Angela Merkel has said her fourth term as Germany’s chancellor will be her last.

Speaking after disastrous regional elections in Hesse and Bavaria for her Christian Democrats and its Bavaria-only sister party, Merkel on Monday said she saw the results as a “clear signal that things can’t go on as they are”.

She said she would not be standing as party leader at the CDU conference in December nor seek another term as chancellor at Germany’s next federal elections, due in 2021, adding that she would withdraw completely from politics after that date.

She also stated she would also not run for chancellor if snap elections were called before 2021.

Here’s hoping that whoever succeeds her is less likely to favor banks and bankers over real people.

Here’s also hoping that her successor won’t be, you know, actual Nazis, from the AfD.

Seriously, this is worse than Pittsburgh

For most of us, the actions by, “Betsy Riot, a neo-suffragette, punk-patriot resistance movement,” would be a source of amusement, (it involved googly eyes) but for Nebraska Congressman, and humorless wanker, Jeff Fortenberry (NE-1), it’s a sign of just how dangerous and violent our political discourse has become.

Has anyone else noticed just what delicate snowflakes Republicans are?

Yes, he actually tweeted his outrage, and the responses to it are epic.

H/t DC at the Stellar Parthenon BBS.

Quote of the Day

What the reactionary centrist refuses to recognize is that centrism as a political position can only flourish by marginalizing the political fringes. In America today, the ideological fringe is represented by, on the one hand, leftist critics of the Democratic party, and on the other, supporters of authoritarian ethno-nationalism.

The former group has no political power. The latter group now controls the Republican party, which controls the national government. The GOP has been slouching toward authoritarian ethno-nationalism for more than a half century, and now it is finally all the way there.

People who long for the return of some sort of consensus centrist politics should be working toward the destruction of the Republican party. The idea of political compromise with authoritarian ethno-nationalism is not only immoral: from a pragmatic perspective it is deeply absurd.

Paul Campos

This is where the both-siders preaching high Broderism lose their grasp on reality: They conflate powerless crazies with people who are currently running all 3 branches of government.

They things are not the same, and implying that they are is delusional.

This Exceeds My Collection of Face Palm Icons

Nope, not enough

The keynote speaker at the The 15th International Conference on Advances in Computer Entertainment Technology is Steve Bannon.

Yes, that guy, the poster child for drinking yourself to death.

That racist former member of the Trump administration will keynote ACE 2018.

What the f%$# were they thinking?

It’s like inviting Vox Day to keynote a Worldcon.

This will not end well.

Brazil is Completely F%$#ed

Right wing lunatic Jair Bolsonaro has been elected President of Brazil, and we should expect things to get much, much, worse for the people of Brazil.

Unfortunately, the move to a mild form of social democracy so unnerved the Brazilian elites that they have conducted a years-long coup against a fairly mild left-wing party, and it looks like Brazil is in for some truly unsettled times as a result:

A far-right, pro-gun, pro-torture populist has been elected as Brazil’s next president after a drama-filled and deeply divisive election that looks set to radically reforge the future of the world’s fourth biggest democracy.

Jair Bolsonaro, a 63-year-old former paratrooper who built his campaign around pledges to crush corruption, crime and a supposed communist threat, secured 55.5% of the votes after more than 94% were counted and was therefore elected Brazil’s next president, electoral authorities said on Sunday.


Over nearly three decades in politics, he has become notorious for his hostility to black, gay and indigenous Brazilians and to women, as well as for his admiration of dictatorial regimes, including the one that ruled Brazil from 1964 until 1985.

“The extreme right has conquered Brazil,” Celso Rocha de Barros, a Brazilian political columnist, told the election night webcast of Piauí magazine. “Brazil now has a more extremist president than any democratic country in the world … we don’t know what is going to happen.”

Expect massive logging, and an explosion of violence against the LGBT and indigenous people for a start.

Not a Surprise

Congress thinks there are too many generals and flag officers holding positions in the Defense Department.

It’s something the 2017 defense authorization act directly addressed by telling DoD to reduce the number of general and flag officer billets by 110 by 2022.

Now, a new RAND study commissioned by the Pentagon finds there are just about that many general and flag officers that are unneeded.

The study revealed that after looking at the requirements for general and flag officer positions, about 132 of the 615 positions didn’t meet the need for such a high ranking official.

“We tried to look and see to make sure each of the positions that were on the books were adequately justified,” Lisa Harrington, associate director of the Forces and Resources Policy Center at the RAND Corporation told Federal News Network. “Our method tries to look at these positions from a different perspective, either organizationally, the characteristics of the individual position, what opportunities are there for reductions and then what are inconsistencies across the services?”

RAND concluded that about 10 percent of those positions can be downgraded to leadership below a flag officer or be eliminated altogether.

Congress and other critics of flag officer inflation feel the issue has gotten out of hand.

Gee, you think?

It’s not just general officers.  The ratio of officers to men in the military has been 10:1 for hundreds of years, since before the founding of the Republic, and these days, its 5:1.

Bloated administration seems to be a good first step to determine where we should cut the military.

Support Your Local Police

Cop Gang Tats

As a part of a wrongful death lawsuit against the LAPD LA County Sheriff’s Department, a judge has ordered the LA County sheriff’s department to inspect its officers for police gang tattoos:

A judge said Thursday that Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department officials must reveal whether they know the names of deputies who have matching skull tattoos at the Compton station.

Allegations about a secret society of inked deputies at the station have been at the center of a wrongful death lawsuit filed by the family of Donta Taylor, who was shot and killed by deputies in 2016.

Superior Court Judge Michael P. Vicencia stopped short of ordering the department to force deputies to bare their skin to show whether they have tattoos, but he left open the possibility that officers could be compelled to answer questions about their ink if they’re given the chance to object first.

“I’m not saying you shouldn’t get the information,” Vicencia said to the family’s attorney at the hearing in Long Beach. “But this is unusual. I don’t know I’ve ever seen this before.”

John Sweeney, who represents the family of Taylor, who was black, has argued the shooting was carried out by members of a racist deputy clique that targets black residents. He said the identities of the group’s members among the 163 deputies at the Compton station should be known.

One of the deputies involved in the shooting, Samuel Aldama, admitted in a deposition in May to having a tattoo on his calf of a skull with a rifle and a military-style helmet with flames surrounding it. He said as many as 20 other deputies at the Compton station have the same tattoo.

It’s come to the point where the cops are indistinguishable from MS-13.

Hope for Humanity

A crowdfunding campaign formed by two Muslim groups has raised more than $60,000 for the victims of the Pittsburgh synagogue shooting, which killed 11, the Independent reported.

Muslim-American non-profits Celebrate Mercy and MPower Change were behind the campaign, “Muslims Unite For Pittsburgh Synagogue.” It is also in partnership with the Islamic Center of Pittsburgh.

The campaign reached its initial goal of $25,000 goal in six hours. As of press time, it raised $62,500 of its new $75,000 goal. The proceeds will help with funeral expenses and medical bills.


A group of Jewish leaders told President Trump that he is no longer welcome in Pittsburgh until he denounces white nationalism following the shooting at a synagogue there over the weekend.

Eleven members of the Pittsburgh affiliate of Bend the Arc: A Jewish Partnership for Justice penned a letter to Trump following the Saturday shooting at the Tree of Life Synagogue.

“Our Jewish community is not the only group you have targeted,” the group wrote. “You have also deliberately undermined the safety of people of color, Muslims, LGBTQ people, and people with disabilities. Yesterday’s massacre is not the first act of terror you incited against a minority group in our country.”

Hopefully the rest of the community in Pittsburgh take a similar position.

Some Sanity from the Library of Congress

The Library of Congress regulates how people interact with copyrighted digital equipment, and they just ruled that you have a right to break the manufacturers’ digital rights management (DRM) in order to repair your device:

The Librarian of Congress and US Copyright Office just proposed new rules that will give consumers and independent repair experts wide latitude to legally hack embedded software on their devices in order to repair or maintain them. This exemption to copyright law will apply to smartphones, tractors, cars, smart home appliances, and many other devices.

The move is a landmark win for the “right to repair” movement; essentially, the federal government has ruled that consumers and repair professionals have the right to legally hack the firmware of “lawfully acquired” devices for the “maintenance” and “repair” of that device. Previously, it was legal to hack tractor firmware for the purposes of repair; it is now legal to hack many consumer electronics.

Specifically, it allows breaking digital rights management (DRM) and embedded software locks for “the maintenance of a device or system … in order to make it work in accordance with its original specifications” or for “the repair of a device or system … to a state of working in accordance with its original specifications.”

The Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) has always been a horrible law, but no where is it worse in cases where it allows manufacturers to lock people out from repairing items that they bought and paid for.

Blaming Trump for This One

Trump has made bigotry fashionable in large segments of society, and he has demonized immigrants and refugees, and now we have a mass shooting at a synagogue in Pittsburgh:

Eleven people are dead and six more are wounded — including four police officers — after a mass shooting at the Tree of Life Congregation in Pittsburgh’s Squirrel Hill neighborhood Saturday morning.

The shooter, who officials said had an assault-style rifle and three handguns, is in custody, Pittsburgh police report. Officials have confirmed he is Robert Bowers, 46, of Baldwin Borough. He is in Allegheny General Hospital in fair condition with multiple gunshot wounds, officials said.


Gunfire erupted shortly before 10 a.m. as a baby-naming ceremony was getting underway, officials confirmed.


The Anti-Defamation League said it believed it was the deadliest attack on the Jewish community in the U.S. history.

There was an initial confrontation in which two officers were injured, Mr. Hissrich said. Two more who are members of SWAT were injured in a later confrontation, Pittsburgh Police Chief Scott Schubert said at the news conference. Officials said they believe the suspect was acting alone.

It appears that his actions were a juxtaposition of antisemitism and anti-immigrant bias, making hime the very modern model of the modern Trump Republican:

Someone posting under the name Robert Bowers on the social media site, wrote on or around Oct. 10: “Why hello there HIAS! You like to bring in hostile invaders to dwell among us? We appreciate the list of friends you have provided,” and included a link to the website for HIAS National Refugee Shabbat, formerly the Hebrew Immigration Aid Society.

HIAS was founded in 1881 to help Jews fleeing Eastern Europe. In the 2000s, it expanded its work to include non-Jewish refugees, including those fleeing Afghanistan, Bosnia, Bulgaria, Czechoslovakia, Ethiopia, Haiti, Hungary, Iran, Morocco, Poland, Romania, Tunisia and Vietnam.

HIAS led events held last weekend and billed online as “a moment for congregations, organizations, and individuals around the country to create a Shabbat experience dedicated to refugees.” Jewish Family and Community Services is listed on the HIAS website as a partner of the organization. The website indicates that JFCS and three Pittsburgh congregations were participating in the group’s awareness campaign last weekend: Beth Shalom, Dor Hadash and Makom HaLev.

Robert Bowers on indicated a week ago that he “noticed a change in people saying ‘illegals’ that now say ‘invaders’ I like this.” He also called one other poster on a “deceptive little oven dodger” in response to a post debunking a rumor that trucks marked with the Star of David were bringing Central American migrants to the U.S.

This is a direct result of Donald Trump and his rhetoric.

The right wing has been weaponizing bigots and the mentally ill to intimidate the rest of us since at least the Reagan administration.

We’ve seen it with mass shootings, the assassination of Alan Berg, violence against abortion clinics, etc.

There is an entire domestic terrorist infrastructure that the right wing has built, and it needs to be taken down.

The Ukraine is Being the Ukraine Again

It turns out a prominent Ukrainian politician is celebrating Cossack pogroms against Jews, because ……… the Ukraine:

A regional leader of the Svoboda far-right party in Ukraine posted on Facebook a picture of a Cossack beating a Jew with a bloody flail, along with a poem celebrating the “threshing.”

Yuri Gorbinko, head of the party in Fastiv, a municipality near Kiev, posted the picture earlier this month, Eduard Dolinsky, the head of Ukrainian Jewish Committee, wrote on the same social network.

It shows a man dressed in traditional garb of the Cossacks, a Slavic group that lived in Eastern Ukraine and some parts of Russia that was responsible for countless pogroms against Jews and other minority groups well into the 20th century.

The picture came with a short poem extolling agricultural work, including “threshing.”

The Jewish figure, dressed in Hasidic style, is on his knees looking up in horror at the Cossack. A second figure, a disfigured blond-haired man, possibly representing Polish people, is seen lying in a pool of blood. A third individual, possibly Russian, is holding up his arms defensibly.

For some reason, these are our allies.