Month: October 2019

How Dare They Criticize Their Betters

It turns out that the Silicon Valley social media companies were actively enabling the slave trade in the Persian Gulf principalities:

Drive around the streets of Kuwait and you won’t see these women. They are behind closed doors, deprived of their basic rights, unable to leave and at risk of being sold to the highest bidder.

But pick up a smartphone and you can scroll through thousands of their pictures, categorised by race, and available to buy for a few thousand dollars.

An undercover investigation by BBC News Arabic has found that domestic workers are being illegally bought and sold online in a booming black market.

Some of the trade has been carried out on Facebook-owned Instagram, where posts have been promoted via algorithm-boosted hashtags, and sales negotiated via private messages.

Other listings have been promoted in apps approved and provided by Google Play and Apple’s App Store, as well as the e-commerce platforms’ own websites.

“What they are doing is promoting an online slave market,” said Urmila Bhoola, the UN special rapporteur on contemporary forms of slavery.

“If Google, Apple, Facebook or any other companies are hosting apps like these, they have to be held accountable.”

The social media companies still insist that they are engaged in a moral endeavor.

They are not. They are snollygosters engaging in humbug in order to enrich themselves.

It’s On

The House of Representatives just voted along almost completely partisan lines to formally initiate public impeachment proceedings.

I’m concerned that the impeachment investigation is too narrowly focused, after all, he is mobbed up, obstructed justice, evaded taxes, etc.

If you are going to have public hearings, you don’t want to limit yourself.

One other note: 2 Democrats, Collin Peterson (D-MN) and Jeff Van Drew (D-NJ), voted against the investigation.

I understand that they are from districts that Trump won, but NONE of the people who would be upset about the investigation would EVER vote Democrat.

What’s more, while I can see having a difference of opinion on the actual impeachment vote, the case for an investigation is the proverbial “slam dunk”.

Their careers need to be ended.

1⁄4 Century

On November 30, 1994, I married Sharon Rachel May, now Sharon Rachel Saroff.

It’s our 25th wedding anniversary.

Unfortunately for the single women of the world, I am still unavailable.

Fortunately for me, Sharon* has not (yet anyway) murdered me.

Lord knows that she has ample (no jury in the world would convict her) justification.

Here’s to women with exquisitely poor taste in men.  It’s how Saroffs find mates, I guess.

*Love of my life, light of the cosmos, she who must be obeyed, my wife.


Brian Blessed chewing the scenery about Brian Blessed chewing the scenery:

Gee, You Think?

It is time to begin thinking about public ownership of major utilities.

— Bernie Sanders (@BernieSanders) October 27, 2019

After setting fire to much of the state, and now shutting down power to much of the state, in pursuit of profit numbers to justify excessive executive bonuses, Bernie Sanders is suggesting that it’s time to start to seriously consider a move to publicly owned utilities:

As two million Californians go without power in the midst of for-profit utility giant PG&E’s intentional and unprecedented blackout—which the company says is necessary to prevent more wildfires—Sen. Bernie Sanders said Sunday that “it is time to begin thinking about public ownership of major utilities” to prevent such catastrophic corporate mismanagement in the future.

Preach it, brother!

Utilities are by their nature monopolies, you cannot have transmission wires from a dozen competitors competing for pole space, and it is clear that they (particularly the execrable PG&E) have the extraction of monopoly rents to maximize executive bonuses as their core, and perhaps only, value.

That’s why they have consistently refused to engage in proper maintenance of their transmission facilities.

I Want This Phone Charger

An artist and programmer has come up with a charger that generates a flood of false information to thwart the attempts of the various internet giants to track you:

Martin Nadal, an artist and coder based in Linz, Austria, has created FANGo, a “defense weapon against surveillance capitalism” that is disguised as a mobile phone charger.

On his page introducing the device, Nadal explains that the inside of the charger hides a micro controller that takes control of an Android smartphone by accessing the operating system’s Debug Mode. The device then makes queries and interacts with pages on Google, Amazon, YouTube, and other sites “in order to deceive data brokers in their data capture process.” It works similar to a fake Apple lightning cable, now mass-produced, that hijacks your device once connected.

Tools to frustrate tracking attempts by advertisers or data brokers are not new—AdNauseam is a plugin that clicks on all ads, while TrackmeNot does random searches on different search engines. Such projects, however, exclusively focus on desktops and web browsers. “Today we interact with the internet from the mobile mostly,” Nadal told Motherboard in an email. “We also use applications, where there is no possibility of using these plugins that hinder the monitoring making the user helpless.”

The device’s name is an acronym for Facebook, Amazon, Netflix, and Google, who represent some of the most profitable companies in the world. Nadal, however, sees them as the engines of surveillance capitalism, a theorization of contemporary capitalism by Susanna Zuboff, a Harvard Business School professor emeritus.


Nadal is working on adding new features that might take such poisoning even further, using techniques such as geolocation spoofing. “[W]hile my phone is quietly charging at home, the data brokers think that I am walking or dining in another part of the city or world,” he said.

I love it.

Mixed Emotions

While making it official will remove a (clearly unconstitutional and corrupt) justification for Federalist Society hacks to rule against Congressional subpoenas, it also appears that this is an artifact of the permanent Democratic permanent protective crouch, because they have responded to Republicans saying mean things about them.

F%$# the Republicans with Cheney’s dick:

House Democrats unveiled new procedures for the impeachment inquiry of President Trump on Tuesday, responding to Republican demands for due process by setting out rules for future public hearings delving into whether Trump should be removed from office.

The resolution backed by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) hands the lead role to the House Intelligence Committee and its chairman, Rep. Adam B. Schiff (D-Calif.), who would have broad latitude to organize extended questioning of potential public witnesses. Two other committees that have so far participated in the closed-door investigation into Trump’s dealings with Ukraine — Foreign Affairs and Oversight and Reform — would not be permitted to directly participate in the open proceedings under the legislation.

It also sets out for the first time the ability of House Republicans to make their own requests for testimony and documents, though those requests will be subject to a vote of the Democratic-majority committee — a practice that matches the minority powers in the 1998 impeachment of President Bill Clinton.

I expect Republicans will continue to make Democrats jump through hoops, because, after all, this is what they do.

In less ambiguous news, a new witness has emerged, whose testimony strongly implies that the so-called transcript of Trump’s call to the Ukraine was altered to cover up evidence of attempted extortion:

Lt. Col. Alexander S. Vindman, the top Ukraine expert on the National Security Council, told House impeachment investigators on Tuesday that the White House transcript of a July call between President Trump and Ukraine’s president omitted crucial words and phrases, and that his attempts to include them failed, according to three people familiar with the testimony.

The omissions, Colonel Vindman said, included Mr. Trump’s assertion that there were recordings of former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. discussing Ukraine corruption, and an explicit mention by Ukraine’s president, Volodymyr Zelensky, of Burisma Holdings, the energy company whose board employed Mr. Biden’s son Hunter.

Colonel Vindman, who appeared on Capitol Hill wearing his dark blue Army dress uniform and military medals, told House impeachment investigators that he tried to change the reconstructed transcript made by the White House staff to reflect the omissions. But while some of his edits appeared to have been successful, he said, those two corrections were not made.

Colonel Vindman did not testify to a motive behind the White House editing process. But his testimony is likely to drive investigators to ask further questions about how officials handled the call, including changes to the transcript and the decision to put it into the White House’s most classified computer system — and whether those moves were meant to conceal the conversation’s most controversial aspects.

Drip  ……… drip  ……… drip  ……… drip  ………

Looks like Foreign Money Laundering is Tapering Off

At least in the New York City apartment market, where prices are falling of a cliff:

It’s a tough time to be a seller in Manhattan’s most-expensive neighborhoods, where price declines for previously owned apartments are accelerating.

In Tribeca, resale prices fell 28% year-over-year, the most for any neighborhood, to a median of $2.25 million in the third quarter, according to property listings website StreetEasy. Values in both Greenwich Village and Chelsea dropped 15%. The Upper West Side and the area that includes Soho were each down 14%.

As listings pile up across the borough, owners are starting to sense that the surest way to a deal is to lower their expectations of a hefty profit.

“Things that are selling are selling for lower prices, and expensive things, overall, are not selling,” said Grant Long, senior economist at StreetEasy.

One of the reasons for this is that people who are looking to hide overseas ill-gotten gains are looking at London, rather than the Big Apple, because they believe that a post-Brexit UK will be desperate and so will look the other way over suspicious real estate transfers.

As an aside, it took about 50 years for us to forget the lessons of the Great Depression, but we are on the path to repeat the Great Recession of 2008 11 years later.

Another Domino Falls

First, the Pennsylvania state Supreme Court ruled that their state constitution make extreme Gerrymandering unlawful, and now the North Carolina Supreme Court makes a similar ruling based on the state constitution.

What is nice about this, is that even the right wing hacks on SCOTUS cannot find a reason to overrule this, because their purview does not cover state constitutions:

A North Carolina state court effectively threw out the state’s map of congressional districts on Monday, saying critics were poised to show “beyond a reasonable doubt” that it was an unconstitutional partisan gerrymander favoring Republicans.

The ruling, by a three-judge panel in Superior Court in Raleigh, technically imposes a temporary ban on using the map in primary elections next spring. But the judges signaled that they were unlikely to change their minds by inviting plaintiffs in the case to seek a summary judgment ending the case in their favor. And the judges said they were prepared to postpone primary elections should that prove necessary to further litigate the case or draw new House districts.

The plaintiffs, North Carolina residents, were sponsored by the National Redistricting Foundation, an arm of a Democratic group led by former Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. that is seeking to challenge Republican control of the next round of redistricting in 2021.

The House map drawn by Republican legislators in 2016 all but guaranteed the party’s control of 10 of the state’s 13 House districts, even though voters’ political preferences are split almost evenly between the two major parties. A separate challenge to the same map went to the United States Supreme Court, which ruled in June that it did not have the ability to regulate partisan gerrymandering, however egregious.

But the state panel said the map violated broader provisions in North Carolina’s Constitution guaranteeing freedom of speech and assembly and equal protection under the law, as well as a guarantee of free elections that does not appear in the federal Constitution.

The Supreme Court has been loathe to deal with partisan gerrymanders because 5 of the 9 are politically partisan and corrupt.

The state courts have not (yet) been perverted as much by the Federalist Society and its ilk.

Missing the Point

Over at The Nation, they are wringing their hands over how the recent collapse of coffee prices are devastating small farmers all over the world.

The problem is not the vicissitudes of coffee prices.

The problem is that, as a result of trade policies from the United States and the EU, farmers are forced to move away from growing staples to growing cash crops, which makes those farmers lives even more precarious, because they are subject to the whims of the market, and they cannot eat what they grow.

So they starve, or they are forced to sell their farms.

The problem is heavily subsidized US and EU agricultural products flood their markets, and force them to abandon the production of food crops.

Well, this Sucks

My old phone died today.

I had some notice, and a more up to date rugged and waterproof phone is on the way, but until it arrives, hopefully wednesday, I am using this:

At least, it allows me to make calls and get texts.

I had to spend about an hour on the phone with Sprint tech support to activate the phone, because it is too old to do hands free activation.

Sprint was fine, it just took a while to escalate to someone who knew that the heck was going on.

Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi Killed Donald Trump Has WTF Moment

Seriously, I can understand his desire to announce the alleged killing of ISIS founder al-Baghdadi, but to the degree I could listen to his announcement, about 15 minutes, his affect was completely deranged:

The Islamic State leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, has been killed in a raid by US special forces on his Syrian safe house, Donald Trump has announced, ending a years-long hunt for one of the world’s most-wanted terrorists.

Trump said the “impeccable” two-hour operation was conducted on Saturday night in the province of Idlib, one of the few areas of the country still outside Syrian regime control, and that US officials had confirmed Baghdadi, 48, was among those killed.


The US president, facing impeachment proceedings and under bipartisan fire for withdrawing troops from the Syrian border, basked in the demise of the self-styled caliphate leader, whose final moments he described in vivid, indulgent detail.

“[Baghdadi] running into a dead-end tunnel, whimpering and crying and screaming all the way,” Trump said.

Cornered, Baghdadi detonated a suicide vest and killed himself and three of his children, Trump said. “He died like a dog, he died like a coward. The world is now a much safer place,” he said.

Seriously, it sounded even weirder when you heard it than when you read it.

Also, he was hiding in north east Syria, an area carved out for our al Qaeda allies(!) who were allegedly sworn enemies of IS, which indicates just how truly f%$#ed our priorities, tactics, and strategy is in Syria.

Cue Republicans claiming that the impeachment inquiry needs to end, because some bearded dude got whacked.

About F%$#ing Time

I do not know if this ruling will stand, but a judge in South Carolina has ruled that the states asset forfeiture programs are unconstitutional:

Asset forfeiture certainly seems unconstitutional. But we don’t have a lot of case law actually saying that. Something that began in the United States as a way to punish wrongdoers located elsewhere in the world, but whose property (usually a ship and its contents) had sailed into US jurisdiction, is now used by American law enforcement to take cash, vehicles, and whatever else they can haul away from people they think smell like weed.


So, asset forfeiture continues pretty much unabated. Fortunately, there’s been another ruling handed down that says pretty much everything about civil asset forfeiture is unconstitutional… in multiple ways. The downside is that, for now, it only affects part of one state.

A South Carolina circuit court judge in Horry County has ruled the state’s civil asset forfeiture law unconstitutional, in violation of the U.S. Constitution’s Fourth, Fifth and 14th amendments.

While the decision by 15th Circuit Court Judge Steven H. John doesn’t set precedent beyond his courtroom, it could set the table for a state appellate court to determine whether South Carolina needs to enact reforms to its law.


The decision [PDF] doesn’t pull any punches. Judge John can’t find anything he likes about the state’s forfeiture programs. First up, it’s the Eighth Amendment, which — as incorporated by South Carolina’s Constitution — forbids excessive fines. Here, the judge draws the line the Supreme Court of the United States didn’t: forfeitures without convictions makes any seizure excessive. [emphasis in the original]

This Court finds that South Carolina’s forfeiture statutes violate both the federal and South Carolina constitutional protections against excessive fines by permitting the government to seize unlimited amounts of cash and other property without regard to the proportionality of the crime that may have been committed. Indeed, they allow the government to seize unlimited amounts of cash and other property when no crime has been committed, without a criminal conviction and without proof of a crime having been committed beyond a determination of probable cause.

[S]outh Carolina’s forfeiture statutes would allow law enforcement to seize millions in assets from an individual when the maximum fine authorized by law is minimal or when no crime has been committed at all. This unfettered authorization to seize unlimited amounts of property from citizens without regard to the proportionality of the offense committed — indeed, without evidence proving that the individual committed an offense — compels this Court to find that the statutory scheme is unconstitutional and must be invalidated…


Judge John pitches a shutout. Asset forfeiture in almost any form is unconstitutional. Civil asset forfeiture in any form is unquestionably unconstitutional. Where the government chooses to take this from here will be interesting. Does it take the loss and limit the damage to this judge’s courtroom, meaning it will have to hope any forfeiture proceedings it engages in are routed around this new damage? Or does it challenge the ruling and risk having this spread across the state? If the agencies affected are greedy enough, they might just act against their own interest. And that could be good news for South Carolinians.

It’s been clear for decades that asset forfeiture amounts to little more than legalized theft, and the scale of this theft is literally larger than what actually occurs from our so called criminal element.

Argentina: 1 — IMF: 0

Argentine president Mauricio Macri has decisively lost his bid for reelection, showing that the the people of Argentina have gotten sick of the myth of expansionary austerity:

Argentina’s Peronists swept back into power on Sunday, ousting conservative president Mauricio Macri in an election result that shifts Latin America’s No. 3 economy firmly back toward the left after it was battered by economic crisis.

Peronist Alberto Fernandez had 47.79% of the vote, ahead of Macri’s 40.71%, with more than 90% of ballots counted, putting the center-left challenger over the 45% threshold to avoid a runoff and win the election outright.

Macri, speaking at his election party, conceded the race and congratulated Fernandez. He said he had invited Fernandez to the presidential palace on Monday to discuss an orderly transition, seen as essential for Argentina’s shaky economy and markets.

Here’s hoping that this is the beginning of a trend.

The standard neoliberal prescriptions create little more than misery.

Live in Obedient Fear, Citizens

On very rare occasions, the front mouths for law enforcement — police unions — will surprise you with inadvertent truthiness. Such a rarity occurred recently. It was — as almost every union outburst is — provoked by the introduction of the tiniest sliver of accountability.

The Bronx District Attorney decided to release its list of cops even it can’t trust. What the New York Post refers to as a “naughty list” bears some resemblance to the Brady lists compiled (but rarely released) by other city prosecutors. These lists contain cops who have been caught lying in reports or in court or have had evidence tossed (usually more than once) for Constitutional violations.

These lists are supposed to make their way to criminal defendants. This rarely happens either. No prosecutor wants their star witness impeached, even if the prosecutor knows what we know: cops lie. Some more than others.


Here’s where it gets fun. The Sergeants Benevolent Association, one of New York’s law enforcement unions, reacted very badly to the release of the naughty list. Bear in mind this list only includes officers who’ve “given questionable testimony” or “had evidence tossed for unconstitutional policing.”

This is how the SBA responded, cloaked in stupidity it mistook for righteous anger.

The city’s police union responded to the release by slamming the Bronx DA’s prosecution record and attacking the “anti-cop activists” who requested the lists to smear “honest, hard-working police officers.”

So, if we’re to take the SBA at its word, the release of “naughty” list “smeared” “honest, hard-working” officers who… lied in court or committed Constitutional violations. Any straight reading of this assertion results in the assumption the SBA considers lying and Constitutional violations to just be part of the honest, hard work officers perform. That’s a bit disturbing.

One has to remember that these officers are still on the force, despite the fac that they have routingely violated their duty to follow the law, and that the rest of the force, or at least their duly designated representatives, is just fine with that.

The cops who lie and violate citizens rights are bad cops, but so are the cops who do not report them.

There needs to be a top to bottom cleanup of police forces across the county.

I Don’t Care About the World Series, But ………

I am Amused

The fact that Donald Trump showed up to game 5 of the world series, and the crowd booed and started chanting, “Lock him up,” is something that I find intensely amusing:

Donald Trump once claimed he was courted by several major league baseball clubs in his youth but turned them down because they couldn’t offer him enough money. On Sunday, baseball got its revenge.

The President attended Game 5 of the World Series between the Washington Nationals and Houston Astros at Nationals Park, a short journey from the White House. When Trump was shown on the video screens in the stadium he was loudly booed by fans. That, perhaps, was predictable: Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan, Richard Nixon and both Bushes were all booed while attending baseball games as President. What came shortly afterwards was a little more personal in a city that is heavily Democratic as cries of “Lock him up!” rang out, a reference to the chants about Hillary Clinton used at Trump’s rallies in the run-up to the 2016 presidential elections.

I wish that I could have seen his face when this happened.

Oh, wait, I can:

It’s Bank Failure Friday!!! (On Saturday)

The 2nd and 3rd commercial banks have failed this year, matching the number of credit union failures for the year, this compares with 0 for all of 2018, and 8 total for 2017.

I’m not sure if this is just a blip, or if this is a return to trend, and 2018 is an outlier,

And here they are, ordered, and numbered for the year so far:

  1. Louisa Community Bank, Inc., Lousia, KY
  2. Resolute Bank, Maumee, OH

Full FDIC list

Chump Change

As threatened, Federal Magistrate Judge Sallie Kim held the Education Depaartment in contempt and assigned a $100,000.00 fine for continuing to attempt to collect debts from students of Corinthian Colleges.

That amount is chump change to someone like Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos, even it had been assigned to her.

She needed to spend a few days in jail, because these actions were deliberately thwarting the judge’s instructions:

A federal judge on Thursday held Education Secretary Betsy DeVos in contempt for violating an order to stop collecting loan payments from former Corinthian Colleges students.

Magistrate Judge Sallie Kim of the U.S. District Court in San Francisco slapped the Education Department with a $100,000 fine for violating a preliminary injunction. Money from the fine will be used to compensate the 16,000 people harmed by the federal agency’s actions. Some former students of the defunct for-profit college had their paychecks garnished. Others had their tax refunds seized by the federal government.

“There is no question that the defendants violated the preliminary injunction. There is also no question that defendants’ violations harmed individual borrowers,” Kim wrote in her ruling Thursday. “Defendants have not provided evidence that they were unable to comply with the preliminary injunction, and the evidence shows only minimal efforts to comply.”


In September, the federal agency revealed in a court filing that former Corinthian students “were incorrectly informed at one time or another … that they had payments due on their federal student loans” after Kim put a hold on collections in May 2018.


Attorneys for the borrowers proposed an array of sanctions, including fining DeVos $500 per day until the Education Department is fully compliant with the original court order.

Toby Merrill, director at the Project on Predatory Student Lending, a legal-aid group representing the students, said the “rare and powerful action to hold the Secretary of Education in contempt of court shows the extreme harm” of DeVos’s actions.

Fine, schmine, DeVos Should have spent some time in jail.

DeVos probably spends more on berthing costs for her yacht than the $500.00/day proposed by the borrowers.