Month: March 2019

Clearly, Market Forces Work in Public Education

It turns out that small education systems in California are balancing their books by approving any Charter school that comes to them, and then charging them fees for non-existent “oversight”.

I’m not sure if this is charter schools bribing boards of education, or if it is boards of ed extorting charter schools, but it is indicative of the corruption inherent in the system:

The superintendent’s plan was born of necessity.

In the aftermath of the Great Recession, as tax revenue plummeted, small school districts across California quickly felt the pain. Many were already lean, where administrators did the work of two or three, and students were counted in tens, not thousands. The economic collapse threatened their very existence.

In Superintendent Brent Woodard’s rural district, which covered the towns of Acton and Agua Dulce about 45 miles north of Los Angeles, enrollment in 2013 had fallen by more than a quarter over five years. The area’s population had aged, the birthrate declined and some students were choosing to attend schools outside the district. Without increasing revenue or making harmful cuts, the district was facing insolvency and the threat of a state takeover.

In California’s charter school law, Woodard saw financial salvation.


Court records detail how — methodically and rapidly — the Acton-Agua Dulce Unified School District began approving new charter schools. The first year, there were two. The next: 11. By 2017, the district, which operates only three schools of its own, had authorized 17 charter schools.

Some were located outside the district’s geographical boundaries, in places like L.A., Santa Clarita and Pasadena. Some were based entirely online.

Each charter brought the district something it badly needed: money.

Across California, other small districts hatched similar plans as word spread that they could fix their financial problems by approving certain types of charters and then charging them for a range of services.

This sort of corruption is the rule, rather than the exception, and  it is a feature, not a bug.

Looting, and busting teachers’ unions, are the real goals of the charter school movement, and so these activities should come as no surprise.

My Heart Bleeds Borscht for These Delicate Snowflakes

It appears tha former staffers of the Worst Presidential Campaign Ever™ are feeling unappreciated after Pete Buttigieg called out their, and her, incompetence:

An aide to Hillary Clinton on Saturday slammed comments made in January by South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg that were critical of how Clinton ran her 2016 presidential campaign.

“This is indefensible,” Clinton spokesman Nick Merrill wrote on Twitter Saturday. “@HillaryClinton ran on a belief in this country & the most progressive platform in modern political history. Trump ran on pessimism, racism, false promises, & vitriol. Interpret that how you want, but there are 66,000,000 people who disagree. Good luck.”

Donald Trump got elected because, in his twisted way, he pointed out the huge troubles in our economy and our democracy,” he told the outlet in the interview. “At least he didn’t go around saying that America was already great, like Hillary did.”

The self importance, incompetence, and complete cluelessness of these idiots is completely stunning.

Seriously, Reality Outstrips My Wildest Hallucinations

At the confirmation hearing for David Bernhardt, Trump’s nominee to replace the fabulously corrupt Ryan Zinke as Secretary of the Interior, a protester donned a “Creature from the Black Lagoon” mask:

A protester dressed as a “swamp creature” was escorted out of a confirmation hearing for Interior Secretary nominee David Bernhardt Thursday morning.

The protester remained seated for two hours before being escorted out of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee hearing.

A protester dressed as a “swamp creature” was escorted out of a confirmation hearing for Interior Secretary nominee David Bernhardt Thursday morning. The protester remained seated for two hours before being escorted out of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee hearing.

Bernhardt, a former oil and gas industry lobbyist, reportedly helped block the release of a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service study outlining the effects of pesticides on endangered species while working as a deputy Interior secretary under Ryan Zinke, according to The New York Times.

An Interior Department spokesman told the Times that Bernhardt’s actions had been “governed solely by legitimate concerns regarding the legal sufficiency and policy.”

Seriously weird:

Hands Out for Another Government Subsidy

This tweet is wrong on a number of levels:

At a mobility event today I met an auto industry rep who told me “to enable AV’s we need a period of increased urban law enforcement so pedestrians know what they can’t do. Then they’ll change behavior.”
I was so stunned I could barely respond “I think that’s a horrific idea.”

— David Zipper (@DavidZipper) March 28, 2019

The first, and most disturbing, thing is that self driving car people are proposing criminalizing walking to make up for their inability to deliver the promised product, a self driving car that can actually drive itself.

But there is a more important point: When demanding that pedestrians be criminalized, they are actually seeking a subsidy.

It’s too difficult (read expensive) to develop a self-driving car that can deal with the real world, so they want tax dollars to enforce a world that is more convenient (cheaper) for them.

H/t Eschaton.

Where Not to Shop for Consumer Electronics and Office Supplies

Office Depot and a partner company tricked customers into buying unneeded tech support services by offering PC scans that gave fake results, according to the Federal Trade Commission. Consumers paid up to $300 each for unnecessary services.

The FTC yesterday announced that Office Depot and its software supplier,, have agreed to pay a total of $35 million in settlements with the agency. Office Depot agreed to pay $25 million while will pay the other $10 million. The FTC said it intends to use the money to provide refunds to wronged consumers.

Between 2009 and 2016, Office Depot and OfficeMax offered computer scans inside their stores using a “PC Health Check” software application created and licensed by

“Defendants bilked unsuspecting consumers out of tens of millions of dollars from their use of the PC Health Check program to sell costly diagnostic and repair services,” the FTC alleged in a complaint that accuses both companies of violating the FTC Act’s prohibition against deceptive practices. As part of the settlements, neither company admitted or denied the FTC’s allegations.

The FTC filed its complaint against the companies in US District Court for the Southern District of Florida, while at the same time unveiling the settlements with each company.


“[W]hile Office Depot claimed the program detected malware symptoms on consumers’ computers, the actual results presented to consumers were based entirely on whether consumers answered ‘yes’ to four questions they were asked at the beginning of the PC Health Check program,” the FTC said. “These included questions about whether the computer ran slow, received virus warnings, crashed often, or displayed pop-up ads or other problems that prevented the user from browsing the Internet.”

PC Health Check “tricked those consumers into thinking their computers had symptoms of malware or actual ‘infections,’ even though the scan hadn’t found any such issues,” the FTC said in a blog post. “Many consumers who got false scan results bought computer diagnostic and repair services from Office Depot and OfficeMax that cost up to $300. completed the services and got a cut of each purchase.”

Of course, as a part of the settlement, “Office Depot neither admits nor denies any of the allegations in the Complaint,” which sucks wet farts from dead pigeons.

Seriously, it would be great if these settlement were required by law to have an admission of wrongdoing.

This is Intentional

The law requires that 2 of the 5 members of the Securities and Exchange Commission be from the opposing party, nominated by the leader of that party in the Senate.

Chuck Schumer has refused to nominate someone to fill the second seat.

Last summer, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer failed to name a candidate for a minority position on the Securities and Exchange Commission, and now Wall Street lawyers are celebrating a virtual amnesty that they think could last the rest of Donald Trump’s term.

In a remarkably candid editorial, five partners with the D.C. law firm Debevoise & Plimpton have confidently predicted that the SEC will refrain from imposing financial penalties on corporations for securities violations “for the remainder of the current presidential term.” This benefits the large trading and securities interests that employ Debevoise for legal defense work. The editorial amounts to Debevoise informing their clients that the coast is clear.

The reason for the expected decrease in enforcement has to do with a fatal delay by Schumer to name a minority commissioner and the Trump administration’s unprecedented exploitation of this mistake.

The SEC is currently operating with four commissioners, three of whom were appointed by Republicans. Like many independent commissions, two of the SEC’s five commissioners must not be members of the party in the White House. But Kara Stein, a Democratic commissioner, ended her tenure January 2, and that seat remains vacant. Allison Lee, the former Stein aide preferred by Senate Democrats as her replacement, has yet to be formally nominated, though her name was recommended several months ago. Bloomberg reported March 20 that Lee will be announced “in the coming weeks,” though they also reported that last August.

The Debevoise partners, whose clients include numerous big bank and securities firms, explain that this imbalance will come as good news for companies looking to break securities laws. “Because it is likely that this four-person commission will remain in place for the remainder of the current presidential term, we may soon see fewer corporate penalties in financial reporting cases and, if recent votes are indicative, potentially more broadly,” they write in an analysis for Law360, a trade publication for the legal community.

“It’s absolutely astonishing,” said David Segal of Demand Progress, which has closely tracked personnel moves under the Trump administration. “Trump’s violation of the longstanding norm that minority-party commissioners will secure nominations and fair confirmation processes is so severe that white-collar defense firms are now advising clients that laws likely won’t be enforced against them for the rest of his term.”

It would be highly unusual for a president to hold vacant a commission seat intended for the opposing party for two years. But critics like Segal place some of the blame on Schumer for failing to submit Lee’s name for consideration when there was an open Republican seat on the SEC last summer. Typically, commission slots like this move in pairs, giving Democrats and Republicans a reason to vote for the nominee from the other party.

Chuck Schumer is bought and paid for by Wall Street, and he doesn’t make unforced errors like this.

He did this because he’s opposed to meaningful enforcement actions against the Banksters.

A Good Start

The Guggenheim Museum has announced that it will no longer take donations from the Sackler family, because they have revealed themselves to be little more than amoral drug pushers:

The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York said on Friday that it did not plan to accept future gifts from the family of Mortimer D. Sackler, a philanthropist and former board member whose money has been met with growing unease in the art world as his family’s pharmaceutical interests have been linked to the opioid crisis.

The Guggenheim’s decision was announced one day after Tate, which runs some of the most important art museums in Britain, announced a similar move, saying that “in the present circumstances we do not think it right to seek or accept further donations from the Sacklers.”

Earlier this week, Britain’s National Portrait Gallery also spurned the Sackler family, saying it would not accept a long-discussed $1.3 million donation from one of the family’s foundations, the London-based Sackler Trust.

The Guggenheim announced its decision on Friday in a brief statement that did not mention the opioid crisis or Mr. Sackler’s past on the museum’s board. A museum spokeswoman declined on Friday night to explain its rationale for the move or its decision-making process.


“No contributions from the Sackler family have been received since 2015,” the statement said. “No additional gifts are planned, and the Guggenheim does not plan to accept any gifts.”


The decision by a series of leading institutions to spurn gifts by the Sacklers, major donors on both sides of the Atlantic, is a potent sign of the deepening disquiet within the art world over the family’s connection to the opioid crisis.


Last month, Daniel Weiss, the president and chief executive of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, said in a statement that it valued its longstanding relationship with the Sackler family, whose name is on the wing housing the museum’s showpiece Temple of Dendur.

But he said the museum was “currently engaging in a further review of our detailed gift acceptance policies, and we will have more to report in due course.”

It’s nice that the Sacklers are being shunned, as they should be, but I still want to see the Billy Ray Valentine solution.*

*The best way you hurt rich people is by turning them into poor people.

Historical Tweet of the Day

Картелизация, монополизация во всех секторах экономики, приход банковского капитала во все сферы, от телевидения до ритейла, вывоз капитала и использование наемников для его защиты – это, конечно, совсем не то, о чем В.И.Ленин писал в своей давно потерявшей актуальность брошюре.

— Константин Семин (@KSyomin) March 27, 2019

The translation reads:

Cartelization, monopolization in all sectors of the economy, the arrival of bank capital in all areas, from television to retail, the export of capital and the use of mercenaries to protect it – this, of course, is not at all what Lenin wrote about in his long-lost relevance brochure.

This reminds me of a joke in Russia from the 1990s, “Everything the Soviets ever told us about Communism was a lie. Unfortunately, everything they told us about capitalism was true.”

Libertarian Paradise? More Like Somolia.

It turns out that Ayn Rand buddy Alan Greenspan’s adage that that there needs to be laws against fraud because, “If [someone] was committing fraud, the customer would figure it out and stop doing business with him,” are just a bit too rosy:

There have been suspicions for a while that the markets are overinflated. In fact, fears of market manipulation have held up regulatory approval for a number of proposed Bitcoin exchange-traded funds (ETFs), frustrating many enthusiasts who believe that the eventual approval of ETFs will spur broader adoption of the technology by investors.

Now, in a twist, a company hoping to list an ETF has reported to US financial regulators that around 95% of all Bitcoin trading volume has been faked by exchanges.

Bitwise, a crypto-asset management firm, analyzed 81 exchanges, finding that 71 of them exhibited patterns that reflected artificial trading volume. One way to manufacture volume is via a technique called wash trading, in which someone simultaneously buys and sells the same asset. Although the exchanges in the study reported a combined $6 billion in daily volume during four days this month, Bitwise determined that only $273 million of it was real.


Why would exchanges dishonestly inflate their volumes? One incentive may be to attract ICO (initial coin offering) projects that want to be listed on exchanges that are facilitating lots of trading. To list such projects, some exchanges charge fees that can be as high as a few million dollars.

When Satoshi Nakamoto and the rest of the his merry band of crypto-libertarians conceived of their regulation free paradise, this was inevitable.

The regulatory system they so disdain was developed over nearly 500 years of trial and error dealing with frauds, charlatans, and incompetents, but they think that they can do away with the whole of history, and the very nature of humanity to create a system from a blank slate.


I remember when this was a joke video from Funny or Die.  Now it is real:

The Bright Side to Brexit

A controversial directive introducing sweeping changes to copyright enforcement across Europe has been approved by the European parliament, despite ferocious campaigning led by Google and internet freedom activists.

The European copyright directive, voted in by 348 MEPs to 274 against, is best known for two provisions it contains: articles 11 and 13, referred to as the “link tax” and “upload filter”, respectively, by opponents.

The latter has been the main focus of campaigning. It requires websites that host user-generated content to take active measures to prevent copyrighted material from being uploaded without permission, under the penalty of being held liable for their users’ copyright infringement.

Article 11, the “link tax”, includes new requirements aimed at making companies like Google pay licensing fees to publications such as newspapers whose work gets aggregated in services like Google News.

Supporters say it prevents multinational companies from freeloading on the work of others without paying for it, but critics argue that it effectively imposes a requirement for paying a fee to link to a website.

Publishers and artists have pushed for the clauses, arguing that they would put an end to widespread infringement on sites such as YouTube and Instagram, while companies including Google and Amazon have attacked the measure as unworkable in practice, and overbearing to the extent that it may force them to close services in Europe.

When the link tax hit Spain, Google stopped carrying Spanish news links, and Spanish media has yet to recover from the loss of viewers.

The automated filters called for in Article 13 don’t work.

They filter out content that is not covered by copyright.

This is going to be a complete clusterf%$#.

Not the Onion

Rep. Mo Brooks (R-Ala.) took to the House floor on Monday to portray President Trump’s detractors as Nazis but ended up slurring them using an anti-Semitic conspiracy theory drawn verbatim from Adolf Hitler’s writings.

It’s 2019, and the Führer’s magnum opus, “Mein Kampf,” has become a playbook for political combat in Congress, at the very moment that Trump is calling the Democrats “anti-Jewish. ”

Brooks, a five-term Republican, accused Democrats and members of the media of propagating a “big lie” about collusion. The expression was coined by Hitler to describe how Jews used their “unqualified capacity for falsehood” to blame a top German military commander for the country’s losses in World War I. A lie could be so big, Hitler claimed, that it perversely defied disbelief.

It was unclear if Brooks grasped that by leveling charges of the “big lie,” he had inverted his own analogy, making Democrats the equivalent of interwar German and Austrian Jews. He set out to compare the other side to fascists, but he was the one employing a fascist smear — one that, ironically, came to define Nazi propaganda.

To quote Molly Ivins, “It probably sounded better in the original German.”

Boeing’s Problems Metastasize

I am sure that the operators of aircraft are going over their procedures and training as we speak:

Boeing’s 767-based tankers use a version of the pitch augmentation system that grounded the 737 Max 8 fleet, the manufacturer and U.S. Air Force officials say.

The disclosure provides a new data point in the unfolding story of how Boeing installed the Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System (MCAS) on the narrowbody airliner fleet.

Both the KC-767 and KC-46 fleets delivered to air forces in Italy, Japan and the U.S. rely on the MCAS to adjust for pitch trim changes during refueling operations.


By 2011, Boeing had already delivered KC-767s to Italy and Japan fitted with the first version of MCAS. The use of the system then spread as Boeing won the Air Force’s KC-46 contract in February and launched the 737 Max 8 in August. ………

The U.S. Air Force has launched a review of flight procedures for the KC-46, a spokeswoman says.

“The USAF does not fly the models of aircraft involved in the recent accidents, but we are taking this opportunity to exercise due diligence by reviewing our procedures and training as part of our normal and ongoing review process,” she says.


The UN Plans to Set up a Concentration Camp for Rohingya

This sort of sh%$ is why am not a fan of civil society groups.

Between their providing sanctuary for genocidal maniacs in Rwanda, and their agreeing to staff Serbian detention camps in Kosovo, I’ve never been impressed.

I understand the need to provide aid, if you aren’t, then you have no job, but not when it makes you complicit in ethnic cleansing.

I understant the conflict inherent in their role: If they don’t supply aid, they don’t have a job, but the UN proposal to basically maroon Rohingya refugees on a barren and flood prone island int he Bay of Bengal is simply indefensible:

Human rights groups have reacted with horror to reports of United Nations draft plans to help relocate thousands of Rohingya refugees from Bangladeshi camps to a barren, flood-prone island in the Bay of Bengal.

A document drawn up this month by the World Food Programme (WFP), the UN’s food aid arm, and seen by Reuters, has revealed how the agency supplied the Bangladeshi government with detailed plans of how it could provide for thousands of Rohingya being transported to the island on a voluntary basis.

Dhaka has long insisted that it is unable cope with the dramatic influx of refugees to camps in Cox’s Bazar since a brutal crackdown by the Burmese military in August 2017, said by UN investigators to have been conducted with “genocidal intent”, prompted some 730,000 Rohingya to flee their homes.

Relocation to the uninhabited, remote island of Bhasan Char has been touted as a solution to chronic overcrowding. But many Rohingya are fearful to go and human rights experts warn that the move to an island made of silt and vulnerable to frequent cyclones could spark another crisis.

The revelation of draft WFP plans, including a timeline and a budget for how the agency and its partners “may facilitate the identification, staging, forward movement, reception, and sustainment of refugees” on Bhasan Char, was met with outrage on Monday.

“What the hell is the WFP thinking? Bangladesh’s plan to move Rohingya refugees to Bhasan Char looks like a human rights and humanitarian disaster in the making so UN agencies should be talking about how to stop this ill-considered scheme, not facilitate it,” said Phil Robertson, deputy Asia director for Human Rights Watch.

This is being complicit in the Myanmar genocide of the Rohingya.

Tweet(s) of the Day

Yes, it’s two tweets, because the first one is brilliant snark, and the 2nd one explains the the problems with the obsession with the Mueller investigation.

I could not decide which to post, so why not both:

What Democrats really wanted from Mueller is evidence Clinton was a good candidate.

— Matt Stoller (@matthewstoller) March 25, 2019

Apropos of nothing in particular, one of the most disastrous mistakes of the Italian left during the Berlusconi years was waiting for the justice system to disqualify him from political office or, better still, jail him.

— Giovanni Tiso (@gtiso) March 24, 2019

H/t naked capitalism