Month: December 2018

Fröhliche Weihnachten Motherf%$#er

Amazon workers in Germany have just gone on strike:

Workers at two Amazon distribution centers in Germany have gone on strike as part of a push for improved work conditions, leading to fears that Christmas orders may not arrive in time.

The German news agency dpa reported that workers in Leipzig in eastern Germany and Werne in western Germany went on strike early Monday.

The ver.di union representing the workers says Amazon employees receive lower wages than others in retail and mail-order jobs in Germany.

Merry Christmas, Jeff Bezos.

Pass the Popcorn

Malaysia has formally filed criminal charges against Goldman Sachs for its role in the massive 1MDB scandal.

The scale of the scandal, and the Vampire Squid’s involvement in the scandal, is huge, and as such, it’s inconceivable that the most senior management at Goldman Sachs was unaware of what was going on.

All I want for New Years is Lloyd Blankfein frog-marched out of his office in handcuffs:

The breadth of Goldman Sachs ’ potential legal jeopardy in the 1MDB scandal keeps growing.

The U.S. Justice Department has already secured a plea agreement from the bank’s former chairman of its Southeast Asia business who said that evading compliance controls was part of the firm’s culture. The bank’s then-chief executive, Lloyd Blankfein, attended meetings that the shadowy Malaysian financier at the heart of the scandal was also present on at least two occasions, according to reports.


Now, the Malaysian government has filed its own criminal charges against subsidiaries of Goldman Sachs (GS) in connection to the 1MDB scandal, the country’s attorney general said in a statement.

The attorney general also said that charges would be filed shortly against a former partner of the bank and ex-chairman of its Southeast Asia business, Tim Leissner, and another former Goldman Sachs banker, Roger Ng.


The spokesman later added: “Certain members of the former Malaysian government and 1MDB lied to Goldman Sachs, outside counsel, and others about the use of proceeds from these transactions. 1MDB, whose CEO and board reported directly to the prime minister at the time, also provided written assurances to Goldman Sachs for each transaction that no intermediaries were involved. Under the Malaysian legal process, the firm was not afforded an opportunity to be heard prior to the filing of these charges against certain Goldman Sachs entities, which we intend to vigorously contest. These charges do not affect our ability to conduct our current business globally.”

(emphasis mine)

The technical term for this is, “Willfull blindness”.  They knew about the looting, but made sure not to look in the right direction.

In a November radio interview, Malaysia’s finance minister said the country would seek a $600 million refund on the fees it paid to Goldman Sachs for three bond offerings the bank underwrote in 2012 and 2013. Billions of dollars from those deals were allegedly siphoned off to private accounts and used to pay bribes, and were laundered through things like real-estate deals and Hollywood investments.

At the center of the alleged fraud is Jho Low, a financier with no formal role in the fund who nevertheless effectively controlled it, and Leissner, who said in his plea statement that he evaded the bank’s compliance controls to help Low divert money and that such actions were part of the bank’s culture.

Goldman Sachs underwrote the bonds and reaped around $600 million in fees from the deals—equal to about 10% of the total issuance, which is an astronomical fee for what was putatively debt issued by a sovereign wealth fund.

Leissner pleaded guilty to his role in shifting money out of 1MDB and of bribing various government officials in order to pull off the fraud in November but has yet to be sentenced. Low has also been charged but his whereabouts are unclear.

Goldman Sachs needs to be “Arthur Andersoned”, and their corporate carcass needs to be hung from the ramparts as a warning to other malefactors.


This is inspired:

I replaced the Amazon can you feel it commercial music with the theme from Winter Soldier

— Omar Najam (@OmarNajam) November 24, 2018

F%$# the Phone Company

After billions in subsidies, Verizon is engaging in massive layoffs, and studiously avoiding building up its fiber:

Verizon this week announced it would be trimming its workforce by more than 10,000 employees—despite repeatedly claiming the bevy of tax breaks and regulatory favors it has received in recent years would boost job creation and network investment.

According to a Verizon blog post, the company will be eliminating roughly 10,400 workers, or around 7 percent of its workforce, as part of what the telecom giant is calling a “voluntary separation program.” Under said program, Verizon says volunteers will receive “up to” 60 weeks’ salary, bonus and benefits “depending on length of service.”

Verizon insists the staff reductions are necessary to “optimize growth opportunities” related to next-gen 5G wireless, and to “better serve customers with more agility, speed and flexibility.”
But the workforce reduction comes after repeated claims by the telecom giant that a rotating crop of regulatory favors and handouts—from last year’s attack on net neutrality to the Trump tax cut—would buoy both job creation and broadband investment, neither of which has actually happened.

The slowest and most expensive broadband in the developed world.

The solution is publicly owned and operated broadband.

Cue Freddie Mercury

Soon to be former Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke is resigning.

Much like former EPA chair Scott Pruitt, his rampant and blatant corruption eventually proved too much:

Interior Department Secretary Ryan Zinke submitted his resignation to the White House on Saturday, facing intense pressure to step down because of multiple probes tied to his real estate dealings in his home state of Montana and his conduct in office.

President Trump announced Zinke’s exit via Twitter on Saturday morning and praised the departing Interior chief. “Secretary of the Interior @RyanZinke will be leaving the Administration at the end of the year after having served for a period of almost two years,” the president tweeted. “Ryan has accomplished much during his tenure and I want to thank him for his service to our Nation.”

Fired over twitter, epic.

Zinke — 57 and the first Montanan to have served in a presidential Cabinet — is the fourth member of Trump’s Cabinet to resign under an ethics cloud in less than two years. Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price, Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin and Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt also relinquished their posts amid scrutiny on subjects including how they spent taxpayer money on their travel.


During his tenure, Zinke came under at least 15 investigations, including: inquiries into his connection to a real estate deal involving a company that Interior regulates; whether he bent government rules to allow his wife to ride in government vehicles; and allowing a security detail to travel with him on a vacation to Turkey at considerable taxpayer cost.

It’s amazing how petty, small, and pervasive their corruption is.

No Regrets for Me

Yeah, I should have gone to their offices and thrown shoes at them

The Weekly Standard was just shut down:

The Weekly Standard, the conservative political and cultural magazine, will shut down after its last issue appears on Monday, the chief executive of its parent company said Friday.

The Washington-based magazine’s 35-member editorial staff will be laid off as a result, said Ryan McKibben, the head of Clarity Media Group, the Colorado company that owns the Standard and its sister publication, the Washington Examiner newspaper.

“This was a business decision,” McKibben said. “As we looked at all of our options, we saw we were facing a steady decline in revenues and circulation. That drove us to our decision to close this week. . . . It was a tough decision.”

Staffers who were told of the closure by McKibben at a morning meeting on Friday were skeptical of the business rationale, saying Clarity has invested heavily in the Washington Examiner, with far greater losses than those produced by the Weekly Standard.

Several noted the timing of the closure announcement, calling it “the Christmas massacre.”

The Standard was founded in 1995 by three journalists — Bill Kristol, Fred Barnes and John Podhoretz — with funding from conservative media mogul Rupert Murdoch. Murdoch sold his interest to billionaire Philip Anschutz in 2009.

Anyone who calls Bill Kristol, Fred Barnes, or John Podhoretz “Journalists” has a twisted view of the Fourth Estate.

Employees have been told they will receive severance pay in exchange for signing a nondisclosure and nondisparagement agreement.

How utterly proper.

Don’t worry about their employees though, I’m sure that wingnut welfare will take care of them.

Sick to Death of Ammosexuals

Some gun fondler decided that it would be a good idea to send a bomb threat to Sandy Hook Elementary School on the 6th anniversary of the shooting.

Note that this is NOT related to the spate of threats attempting to extort Bitcoin that have been flying around for the past week or so.

In my younger days, I would have said that whoever did this deserved to get spinal cancer, but I am older and wiser now, so I wish some form of Fatal insomnia on them.  (It’s a lot worse. you literally die of lack of sleep over about a year and a half.)

If the cops find out who did this, the prosecutors need to make an example of this motherf%$#er.

This is F%$#ed Up and Sh%$

One day, they are there, and the next, they aren’t, and they refuse all forms of contact:

Economists report that workers are starting to act like millennials on Tinder: They’re ditching jobs with nary a text.

“A number of contacts said that they had been ‘ghosted,’ a situation in which a worker stops coming to work without notice and then is impossible to contact,” the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago noted in December’s Beige Book, which tracks employment trends.

National data on economic “ghosting” is lacking. The term, which usually applies to dating, first surfaced in 2016 on But companies across the country say silent exits are on the rise.

Analysts blame America’s increasingly tight labor market. Job openings have surpassed the number of seekers for eight straight months, and the unemployment rate has clung to a 49-year low of 3.7 percent since September.

Janitors, baristas, welders, accountants, engineers — they’re all in demand, said Michael Hicks, a labor economist at Ball State University in Indiana. More people may opt to skip tough conversations and slide right into the next thing.

“Why hassle with a boss and a bunch of out-processing,” he said, “when literally everyone has been hiring?”

The academics above don’t get it, but this guy does:

Someone who feels invested in an enterprise is less likely to bounce, write Melissa and Johnathan Nightingale, co-authors of “How F*cked Up Is Your Management?: An uncomfortable conversation about modern leadership.”

“Employees leave jobs that suck,” they said in an email. “Jobs where they’re abused. Jobs where they don’t care about the work. And the less engaged they are, the less need they feel to give their bosses any warning.”

Modern management has been eating its metaphorical seed corn for decades, and now they are reaping the consequences of the complete absence of goodwill from their employees.

Max Boot? Seriously?

Max Boot, a man who has been advocating blowing up brown people in useless wars for his entire career, has had an epiphany.

He now realizes that the Republican party is an authoritarian institution.

I cannot help but think that this is sour grapes.

If the Trump administration were receptive to his foreign policy “insights”, and had spent some time padding Boot’s ego, I’m sure that he would be wearing a MAGA hat.

Lucky That No One Else Wants the Job

So Theresa May has managed to survive a vote of no confidence from fellow members of the Conservative Party.

I have to think that the members who supported her was because no one wants to take her seat on the political electric chair.

May seems to realize it as well, as she nas now stated that she will not be standing for reelection.

It really is remarkable how poorly Brexit has been managed since David Cameron promised a referendum, never expecting that it would pass.

Since that point, there has been no preparation for a hard Brexit, and the first action taken by the Tories was to cede any leverage they had by taking EU expats in the UK off of the table, and now they have a deal where they will be out, but unable to negotiate trade deals on their own, and any change must be approved by every single member of the EU.

Charles de Gaulle must be sitting in his tomb laughing.


This may be the trippiest ad ever: (I want to try this chutney)

Nice Troll, Dude

The head of the 5-Star movement in Italy has suggested that France is risking budget sanctions from the EU because of Macron’s capitulation to protesters.

There is no real risk for France though, because, as Orwell observed, “Some are more equal than others,” but you have to admire the quality of the trolling:

Emmanuel Macron’s decision to make costly concessions to French protesters has prompted angry recriminations in Italy and Germany, where political leaders signalled Paris’ new spending plans could intensify Europe’s tense fiscal debate.

Luigi Di Maio, a leader of Italy’s populist government, said that France should be punished for breaching the EU’s deficit limits after Mr Macron promised tax cuts and handouts that could cost up to €10bn, arguing Rome was being sanctioned for similar “emergency” budget plans.

Mr Macron’s measures, designed to assuage the gilets jaunes protesters, would “cause a widening of the deficit” and should require the European Commission to “also open a case against France, if the rules apply to all,” said Mr Di Maio, head of the anti-establishment Five Star Movement.

Italy is in the middle of a bruising fight with Brussels over its breach of promised spending limits, with the European Commission calling the populist coalition’s new spending plans an “unprecedented” breach of its budgetary rules.

The real problem here is not the deficit, of course, it is that the EU is dominated by Germany, and failed German economics, and like the last disastrous turn, we are seeing the rise of Fascism in Europe as a result.

Did China Just Blink?

With all the gloom and doom about the upcoming trade war with China, the fact that China has cut tariffs on US autos.

This does seem to be a bit of a climb-down on their side.

Progress toward easing the steep tariffs China imposed on U.S. vehicle imports this year lifted carmaker stocks across the globe, as investors wagered on a thawing of tensions that have damaged the world’s biggest automotive market.

Toyota Motor Corp. and Hyundai Motor Co. tracked earlier gains for Daimler AG, General Motors Co. and Tesla Inc. after Bloomberg News reported that a proposal to eliminate the 25 percent surcharge slapped onto U.S.-made cars this year has been submitted to China’s cabinet. The plan would be reviewed in coming days, people familiar with the matter said.

The levy forms the backbone of China’s response to a trade war instigated by President Donald Trump as he seeks to reset trade relations and spur manufacturing in the U.S. Car sales in China have fallen for six straight months after decades of almost uninterrupted growth, and while there are other factors, the tit-for-tat jabs between the world’s biggest economies have played a role.

As Yves Smith observes, “Um, this does not look like Trump is losing the trade war.”

A Good Start

Progressive Democrats, most notably Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) and Ro Khanna (D-Calif.), managed to stop Nancy Pelosi’s hair hare-brained scheme to require a super-majority to raise taxes:

House Democrats have backed off a proposed rule that would have made it more difficult for them to raise taxes and pass their most ambitious goals, an early victory for the left-flank of the party that is about to take control of the House.

Rep. Jim McGovern (D-Mass.), incoming chair of the House Rules Committee, told lawmakers Tuesday he will not advance “supermajority” rules requiring three-fifths majorities to approve tax hikes for most taxpayers, according to Rep. Mark Pocan (D-Wis.), co-chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus.

An existing rule created by House Republicans requires a three-fifths supermajority vote in the House to approve any income tax increase. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and other Democratic leaders proposed leaving the supermajority intact for most taxpayers, while scrapping the requirement for the wealthiest 20 percent of Americans and for corporations. But some liberal organizations and lawmakers said that did not go far enough, arguing that even the weaker rule would make it nearly impossible to enact progressive legislation such as Medicare-for-All or free universal college.

“We’re very glad to see that one go away,” said Pocan, who added the progressive caucus repeatedly expressed their disapproval of the proposal. “We ran in 2018 on increasing access to health care, and increasing people’s wages. … Anything that took us off this conversation does not serve us well.”

The fight comes amid a broader battle in the Democratic Party over taxes, as an incoming crop of freshman lawmakers push the party to embrace social programs that require larger tax increases. Rep. Ro Khanna (D-Calif.) and Rep.-elect Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) were the first two Democratic lawmakers to publicly express their opposition to the rule.

The New Democrat types like to posture on the deficit, and they HATE doing anything that helps ordinary Americans, and this rule achieved both.

Now let’s kill Pay-Go.

Our Free Press

Liberal firebrand Jim Hightower writes a column for Creators Syndicate.

When he turned his pen on the private equity pukes sucking hte marrow out of journalism, they refused to carry it:

Jim Hightower’s latest column, “Free the Free Press from Wall Street Plunderers,” takes on the corporate bottom-feeders picking apart what’s left of America’s newspapers. He names names, singling out Digital First Media and GateHouse Media, which recently purchased the Austin American-Statesman, as the worst offenders — “hedge-fund scavengers” and “ruthless Wall Street profiteers out to grab big bucks fast” by gutting newsrooms. Tough stuff. And apparently too tough for Creators Syndicate, the distribution firm that has long placed Hightower’s column in various media outlets.

Last week, according to the Austin Chronicle, Creators informed Hightower that it would not be distributing his column out of fear of retribution from Digital First and Gatehouse. In an email to the Chronicle, Creators Managing Editor Simone Slykhous defended her decision, saying the company was only trying to protect Hightower. “We have more than 200 columnists and cartoonists, and our job is to make sure that our actions do not negatively impact them,” Slykhous said.

Melody Byrd, Hightower’s assistant, said Creators’ decision was understandable, but troubling.

“The big, hedge-fund owned newspaper chains that Hightower calls out in his column are big customers of theirs, and as such, they don’t want to risk offending them,” she said. “But while Creators’ reluctance to anger these powerful interests is somewhat understandable, the implications are frightening: It’s one more example of this dangerous time for America’s decreasingly free press that, ironically, Jim lays out in this very column.”

The Texas Observer printed his article, and you should read it.  It’s a real barn burner.

Good Call

The good people of Charlemont, Massachusetts, have decided that telling Comcast to f%$# off is worth a million dollars:

A small Massachusetts town has rejected an offer from Comcast and instead plans to build a municipal fiber broadband network.

Comcast offered to bring cable Internet to up to 96 percent of households in Charlemont in exchange for the town paying $462,123 plus interest toward infrastructure costs over 15 years. But Charlemont residents rejected the Comcast offer in a vote at a special town meeting Thursday.

“The Comcast proposal would have saved the town about $1 million, but it would not be a town-owned broadband network,” the Greenfield Recorder reported Friday. “The defeated measure means that Charlemont will likely go forward with a $1.4 million municipal town network, as was approved by annual town meeting voters in 2015.”

About 160 residents voted, with 56 percent rejecting the Comcast offer, according to news reports.

Charlemont has about 1,300 residents and covers about 26 square miles in northwest Massachusetts. Town officials estimate that building a municipal fiber network reaching 100 percent of homes would cost $1,466,972 plus interest over 20 years.

An increase in property taxes would cover the construction cost. But the town would also bring in revenue from selling broadband service and potentially break even, making the project less expensive than Comcast’s offer.

“With 59 percent of households taking broadband service, the tax hike would be 29 cents [per $1,000 of assessed home value], similar to that for Comcast,” a Recorder article last month said. “But if 72 percent or more of households subscribe to the municipal-owned network, there is no tax impact, because subscriber fees would pay for it.”

Currently, Comcast covers about 9.5 percent of Charlemont, while Verizon DSL is available in about 88 percent, according to estimates by BroadbandNow.

The town plans to charge $79 a month for standalone Internet service with gigabit download and upload speeds and no data caps, though the price could rise to $99 a month if fewer than 40 percent of households buy the service. The town also plans to offer phone and TV service at rates cheaper than Comcast’s.

This is making the right call.

It’s worth spending a million dollars to exclude Comcast from you community.

To paraphrase Johnny Cash, I shot a man in Reno, just to avoid having Comcast.

Smedly Butler* Would Say That This Makes War Look Honest

I am referring, of course, to the American healthcare system, specifically pharmaceutical manufacturers:

Executives at more than a dozen generic-drug companies had a form of shorthand to describe how they conducted business, insider lingo worked out over steak dinners, cocktail receptions and rounds of golf.

The “sandbox,” according to investigators, was the market for generic prescription drugs, where everyone was expected to play nice.

“Fair share” described dividing up the sales pie to ensure that each company reaped continued profits. “Trashing the market” was used when a competitor ignored these unwritten rules and sold drugs for less than agreed-upon prices.

The terminology reflected more than just the clubbiness of a powerful industry, according to authorities and several lawsuits. Officials from multiple states say these practices were central to illegal price-fixing schemes of massive proportion.

 God bless our private sector healthcare.

*General Smedly Butler’s best known quote is, “I spent 33 years and four months in active military service and during that period I spent most of my time as a high class muscle man for Big Business, for Wall Street and the bankers. In short, I was a racketeer, a gangster for capitalism.”

Why You Don’t Deal with Companies That Mistreat Their Employees

Because these employees have no incentive to deal honestly with either their employer, or with the customer.

Case in point (again) is Amazon, where employees were leaking internal data to dishonest vendors on their site: Inc. is fighting a barrage of seller scams on its website, including firing several employees suspected of having helped supply independent merchants with inside information, according to people familiar with the company’s effort.

Amazon was investigating suspected data leaks and bribes of its employees, The Wall Street Journal reported in September. Since then, the company has dismissed several workers in the U.S. and India for allegedly inappropriately accessing internal data that was being misused by disreputable merchants, these people said.

Amazon in recent weeks also has deleted thousands of suspect reviews, restricted sellers’ access to customer data on its website and stifled some techniques that trick the site into surfacing products higher in search results, according to the people.

An Amazon spokeswoman said the company is aggressively pursuing those who are trying to harm sellers on its website, using tools including machine learning to block bad behavior before it happens.

Yep, AI will solve this, which is why there are no trolls and scammers on Twitter and Facebook.

The crackdown, however, hasn’t stopped some sellers from sabotaging rivals. A recent rash of merchants claim competitors are maliciously flagging products as being counterfeit or infringing trademarks, prompting Amazon to temporarily boot legitimate products from the site while it evaluates them.

Sellers also are buying Amazon wholesaler accounts on the black market to gain access to volumes of product listings, people familiar with the practice said. These accounts on Amazon’s Vendor Central system are designed to enable wholesalers to edit product listings to ensure they are marketed accurately. But some sellers misuse these accounts to alter rivals’ product pages, such as by changing photos to unrelated items, these people said.


Some sellers engage in a practice dubbed “brushing,” in which fake accounts use real addresses to place orders so they can leave positive reviews, according to people familiar with the matter. Amazon’s security team was sent scrambling late last year, when a customer wrote Chief Executive Jeff Bezos to complain of such a scam after a vibrator he didn’t order was sent to his address, one of the people said.


​Amazon is focusing part of the internal bribery investigation on India, a major alleged source of data misuse by Amazon employees, according to a person familiar with the effort.

Some Amazon employees in India and China who work with sellers in customer-support roles have said their ability to search an internal database for data such as specific product performance or trending keywords has been strictly limited, according to people familiar with the matter. Some in India also are no longer able to use their USB ports to download such data, some of the people said.

The issue is not China, or India, it is that employees of Amazon want to get their money, and get the f%$# out of Dodge.

If they saw the possibility of making a decent career, and a decent life through Amazon, they would consider losing their jobs there as a risk, but they don’t, and so the technological terror that Jeff Bezos has constructed will continue to be a highly problematic place.

As to actually fixing the problems by being a better employer, where’s the money in that?