Month: May 2020

The Princess Bride as Prophecy

It turns out that as a result of anthropogenic climate change, the tundra is turning into a real-world version of the fire swamp.

There has been an upsurge in smoldering fires persisting through the winter to reemerge in the spring:

The bitterly cold Arctic winter typically snuffs out the seasonal wildfires that erupt in this region. But every once in a while, a wildfire comes along that refuses to die.

These blazes, known as “zombie fires” or “holdover fires,” can burrow into the rich organic material beneath the surface, such as the vast peatlands that ring the Arctic, and smolder under the snowpack throughout the frigid winter.

With the Siberian Arctic seeing record warm conditions in recent weeks and months, scientists monitoring Arctic wildfire trends are becoming more convinced that some of the blazes erupting in the Arctic this spring are actually left over from last summer.


The drying and burning of Arctic peatlands has major consequences for the planet as a whole. Northern peatlands contain more stored carbon than rainforests do, Waddington said. He compared fires that smolder during the winter without flames, only to reignite in the spring, to scenes from the fire swamp in the 1987 comedy “The Princess Bride,” which features bursts of flame emerging from underground.

(emphasis mine)

This would be cool, if it weren’t presaging the destruction of the world.

I’m Impressed

Bus deiver unions nationwide have announced that they will refuse to transport protesters to detention for the police.

People are noticing that hte police are actively stoking the violence, and refusing to support them:

Friday evening, bus drivers in New York City and members of TWU Local 100 refused to cooperate with police in transporting arrested Justice for George Floyd protestors.

The action comes a day after bus drivers in Minneapolis also refused to assist the police in transporting arrested protestors; shutting down the Twin Cities’ transit system.

“I told MTA our ops won’t be used to drive cops around. It is in solidarity [with Minneapolis’ bus drivers],” JP Patafio, vice president of TWU Local 100 told Motherboard.

Payday Report has learned that transit union leaders nationwide are instructing members not to cooperate with police in arresting protestors.

When juxtaposed with mainstream stories condemning the over-reaction of the police departments, see here, here, and here, this is a welcome development.

I just hope that this sticks.

The Impact of Police Unions

I came across a fascinating Twitter thread about the effect of police unions upon on law enforcement.

The study is preliminary, and the author is very clear on this, but the results are striking.

Police unionization has increased pay and benefits, no big surprise there, and a slight decline in police employment, which might correlate with the increase in the cost, which is also not a surprise.

The big take away is that there is a substantial increase in the lethality of law enforcement, with the death toll of minorities accounting for the bulk of the increase.

The number (admittedly preliminary) is stunning, “We find a substantial increase in police killings of civilians over the medium to long run (likely after unions are established) with an additional 0.026 to 0.029 civilians killed in a county each year of whom the overwhelming majority are non-white.”

Given that there are (Googling furiously) 3,143 county equivalents in the United States, this means that we would see about 82 extra deaths a year, and over the past 40 years, this would be more than 3200 excess deaths.

The obvious conclusion is that the decrease in accountability of police officers has resulted in increased violence and police racism, though as is frequently stated, correlation is not causation.

Additionally, court rulings over the past 50+ years have had the effect of reducing police accountability for the use of force as well, so teasing out the effects specific reductions of accountability would be difficult.

The obvious take-away though is that we need greater accountability for our police forces.

Great Googly Moogly………

Believe it or not, this is a cat

Happy ending

The Humane Society of Arizona collected a cat from its now dead owner, and its matted fur was so extensive that they were originally unsure what sort of animal it was.

After removing 2 pounds of fur, from what appears to be an 8 pound cat, (25% of its body weight!) we can see that it is a cat.

What’s more, some person or persons could see that this 4 year old queen* was a majestic specimen of the species Felis catus, and adopted her 2 days later.

Her name is “Fluffers.”

H/t Naked Capitalism.

*Queen is a female cat. A male cat is a Tom.

Of Course They Aren’t………

Trump and his Evil Minions are refusing to release economic projections for the upcoming quarter, probably because they have run the numbers, and they are unbelievably f%$#ing grim.

I am not sure if this is reelection campaign thing, or they are just worried about the tantrum that Trump would throw if they released the data.

It really does not matter what reason they have for this, it’s a thoroughly cowardly move:

White House officials have decided not to release updated economic projections this summer, opting against publishing forecasts that would almost certainly codify an administration assessment that the coronavirus pandemic has led to a severe economic downturn, according to three people with knowledge of the decision.

The White House is supposed to unveil a federal budget proposal every February and then typically provides a “mid-session review” in July or August with updated projections on economic trends such as unemployment, inflation and economic growth.

Budget experts said they were not aware of any previous White House opting against providing forecasts in this “mid-session review” document in any other year since at least the 1970s.


“It gets them off the hook for having to say what the economic outlook looks like,” said Douglas Holtz-Eakin, a former director of the Congressional Budget Office who served as an economic adviser to the late senator John McCain (R-Ariz.).

The Disturbances

And they wonder why people make porcine references

What is clear is that there have been an outbreak of demonstrations against police officers murdering black men with impunity.

What is also clear is that these protests are largely peaceful until the police riot, and so escalate the situation.

Police, and those above them in the chain of command, appear to be constitutionally incapable of deescalating protests against them.

While this won’t be discussed by the major news media, who are wringing their hands over a f%$#ing Target being looted, most of the violence and disruption has been initiated by police, even if you don’t believe (I am on the fence) that a significant proportion of those initiating property crimes and vandalism are not in some way police agents.

This, “You must respect my authoritay!” crap is getting old.

Today in Evil

It’s Amazon’s turn, and Amazon has been so bad about protecting its workers, and giving any information to its employees about outbreaks at warehouses, that its employees have set up trackers so that they can know when they are being endangered by the company:

Usually Jana Jumpp works nights loading trucks at an Amazon facility the size of 28 football fields in Jeffersonville, Ind. Now, she spends them shut in her room, clacking away on her sluggish computer.

The emails and Facebook messages from Amazon workers at warehouses across the country tumble in.


Jumpp has a counterpart at Amazon-owned Whole Foods, Katie Doan, who has been collecting cases since April 2. The two women have never spoken, but they describe nearly identical work fielding a torrent of private messages, searching Facebook groups, Reddit, Twitter and news outlets for reports of infections, and meticulously updating Google documents with the numbers.

Jumpp and Doan, who until this week worked at a store in Tustin, a city in Orange County, say they do this because their co-workers don’t feel safe; they aren’t able to gauge the risk of reporting for work to their warehouse or store because Amazon won’t tell them how many people are believed to have gotten infected there.

As of Wednesday, 343 Whole Foods workers had tested positive, according to crowdsourced data in a publicly available Google document. Of those, 44 cases are in 24 store locations across California. At least Four Whole Foods employees have died, including a manager at a store in Pasadena.

Amazon’s response is typical corporate bullsh%$


Yet Amazon has challenged the notion that it should be providing fuller data. An Amazon spokesperson said the company does track the information at a site level but does not release the aggregate numbers because those numbers might contain outdated information — cases that were resolved weeks or months ago — and thus are not informative to workers.


Dr. David Eisenman, director of the Center for Public Health and Disasters at the UCLA Fielding School of Public Health, disagreed. He said that type of data, correctly gathered, is crucial for reducing future infections of employees and understanding which kinds of job sites and occupations carry elevated risk of contracting COVID-19.

“Saying aggregate data is not useful is like pulling wool over your eyes. Of course it’s useful, we’re using it to open the country up again,” Eisenman said.

Yet another reason to hate Amazon.

Who Had the 2020 Over and Under for Super-Volcano?

There have been a series of mild earthquakes which may indicate that the Yellowstone super-volcano might be becoming active again:

Monitoring services from the US Geological Survey (USGS) found there have been 213 earthquakes in the Yellowstone National Park in the past 28 days. The tremors were relatively small, with the largest being a 2.1 magnitude tremor on May 22.

However, some experts warn it is not necessarily the size of an earthquake which is an indicator a volcano might erupt, but the quantity of them.

Portland State University Geology Professor Emeritus Scott Burns said: “If you get swarms under a working volcano, the working hypothesis is that magma is moving up underneath there.”

But others disagree about whether an earthquake swarm near a volcano could be a sign of things to come.

Jamie Farrell at the University of Utah in Salt Lake City believes this is just part of the natural cycle for Yellowstone volcano, saying: “Earthquake swarms are fairly common in Yellowstone.

“There is no indication that this swarm is related to magma moving through the shallow crust.”

The Yellowstone supervolcano, located in the US state of Wyoming, last erupted on a major scale 640,000 years ago.

As an FYI, when the Yellowstone Supervolcano (also called the Yellowstone Caldera) last erupted, it put something on the order of 100 km3 material into the air, with heavy ash falls as far away as 1000 miles away.

Additionally, it would likely precipitate a climate catastrophe with widespread crop failures and famine.

I know that the chance of something happening is tiny, but if that doesn’t sound like a 2020 thing to you, you have not been paying attention.

About F%$#ing Time

It looks like people are starting to look at Rat-Face Andy’s record as governor during the Corona Virus, and his heroic façade is is curmbling.

It’s good to see the world to come around to my point of the view about the Governor of New York:

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo made it very clear who was in charge as the coronavirus began to infiltrate his state. The governor — in near-daily nationally televised appearances — said he would make difficult but necessary choices to contain the spread and would take the blame for any negative effects on New Yorkers’ lives.

“The buck stops on my desk,” Cuomo said to both a New York and national audience on March 17, after ordering bars and restaurants to close across the state. “Your local mayor did not close your restaurants, your bars, your gyms or your schools. I did. I did. I assume full responsibility. … If you are upset by what we have done, be upset at me.”

Two and a half months into the crisis, Cuomo’s take-charge attitude has begun to soften. The governor, who gained legions of fans for his briefings that blended an authoritative tone with a personal touch, is increasingly on the defensive — and casting blame on the federal government and its guidance.


The limelight’s fade coincides with mounting scrutiny of New York state’s response to the crisis, particularly in nursing homes, where more than 5,700 residents have died from Covid-19. A growing body of research is finding that earlier shutdown measures could have averted many of the state’s more than 23,700 fatalities.

“It’s ludicrous. You can’t one day say you can blame me and the buck stops with me, and the next day pass the buck to anyone besides yourself,” said Assembly Member Ron Kim (D-Queens), who has previously clashed with Cuomo.


The limelight’s fade coincides with mounting scrutiny of New York state’s response to the crisis, particularly in nursing homes, where more than 5,700 residents have died from Covid-19. A growing body of research is finding that earlier shutdown measures could have averted many of the state’s more than 23,700 fatalities.

“It’s ludicrous. You can’t one day say you can blame me and the buck stops with me, and the next day pass the buck to anyone besides yourself,” said Assembly Member Ron Kim (D-Queens), who has previously clashed with Cuomo.


The governor has drawn particular criticism for his policy of sending recovering Covid-19 patients to nursing homes, which he effectively reversed this month — even as he denied the change was a reversal at all. State officials say the nature of the fast-moving and unprecedented crisis forced the state to follow national guidance on the issue.


Manhattan Assemblymember Richard Gottfried, a Democrat and chair of the Assembly’s health committee, is among state lawmakers calling for an independent investigation of the state’s handling of the outbreak in nursing homes. He says the blame rests largely on decades of ignoring issues that became more acute during the pandemic.

“The federal government never told New York to tolerate low staffing levels in nursing homes or to have a lax or understaffed enforcement of health and safety safeguards in nursing homes,” Gottfried said. “The executive branch — going back decades — has done that all by itself.”

Cuomo was behind de Blasio on addressing this, and Bill de Blasio was just plain late to the pandemic, and Cuomo’s antipathy to the Mayor of New York further hamstrung the response.

Additionally, he has turned the emergency legislation into yet another orgy of cronyism and corruption.

If, as some have suggested, Cuomo is the Democratic Party savior, then the Democratic Party is beyond saving.

“Only” 2.1 Million New Jobless Claims

Yes, “Only”, 3 times as many initial claims as had ever been filed before 2020.

That’s just great:

The number of workers receiving unemployment benefits fell for the first time since February and new weekly claims continued to ease, offering evidence that layoffs related to the coronavirus pandemic are slowing.

Initial claims for unemployment benefits declined to a seasonally adjusted 2.1 million last week from 2.4 million the prior week, the Labor Department said. The level of claims is still 10 times prepandemic levels but has fallen for eight straight weeks.

Because employers are running out of people to lay off.

I will note that the recovery is not likely to be strong, because the people who are looking for work won’t have the resources to buy sh%$ once they find a new job.

Oh, Now I Get It

I wondered why Andrew “Rat Face Andy” Cuomo sent all those Covid-19 patients to nursing homes.

It turns out that it may have been all about the proverbial Benjamins, send the patients to the nursing homes and the nursing homes make big bucks, and there is no downside for them, because Cuomo inserted immunity provisions into pandemic legislation, because their executives gave big donations to Cuomo’s primary challenge in 2018.

This is an awfully convenient turn of events:

As Governor Andrew Cuomo faced a spirited challenge in his bid to win New York’s 2018 Democratic primary, his political apparatus got a last-minute boost: a powerful health care industry group suddenly poured more than $1 million into a Democratic committee backing his campaign.

Less than two years after that flood of cash from the Greater New York Hospital Association (GNYHA), Cuomo signed legislation last month quietly shielding hospital and nursing-home executives from the threat of lawsuits stemming from the coronavirus outbreak. The provision, inserted into an annual budget bill by Cuomo’s aides, created one of the nation’s most explicit immunity protections for health care industry officials, according to legal experts.

Critics say Cuomo removed a key deterrent against nursing home and hospital corporations cutting corners in ways that jeopardize lives. As those critics now try to repeal the provision during this final week of Albany’s legislative session, they assert that data prove such immunity is correlating to higher nursing-home death rates during the pandemic — both in New York and in other states enacting similar immunity policies.


And then came Cuomo’s annual budget — which included a little-noticed passage shielding corporate officials who run New York hospitals, nursing homes, and other health care facilities from liability for COVID-related deaths and injuries.


Prior to the budget language, Cuomo had already temporarily granted limited legal immunity to doctors and nurses serving on the medical front lines. But the carefully sculpted passage buried in the state’s annual spending bill expanded that by offering extensive immunity to any “health care facility administrator, executive, supervisor, board member, trustee or other person responsible for directing, supervising or managing a health care facility and its personnel or other individual in a comparable role.”

Every time you turn over a rock in New York state you find a trail of slime leading back to the Governor’s office.

F%$# Jack Welch

Jack Welch’s Con

General Electric is selling off its light bulb business as it continues to slowly consume itself following decades of earnings and stock manipulation by Jack Welch.

This is what happens when you make massaging finance more important than actually making stuff:

General Electric has finally found a buyer for its lighting business and will be selling off its last consumer-facing business after more than 120 years of operation.

Boston-based GE said today it would divest the lighting business to Savant Systems, a smart home management company also based in Massachusetts. The companies did not disclose financial terms of the deal, but sources told The Wall Street Journal that the transaction was valued at about $250 million.

Savant specializes in full smart home systems for the luxury market. Acquiring a lighting business directly will allow it to take advantage of vertical integration and take more control over the physical equipment it installs in consumer’ homes. Savant will keep the business’s operations in Cleveland, where it is currently based, and will receive a long-term license to keep using the GE branding for its products.

The lighting business is GE’s oldest segment, dating all the way back to the company’s founding through a series of mergers with Thomas Edison’s companies in the late 1880s and early 1890s. The company became a conglomerate early, investing in a wide array of technology and communications businesses. It moved toward aviation and energy and away from consumer products through the 1980s and 1990s under CEO Jack Welch. That industrial mindset lasted into the 21st century, under CEO Jeff Immelt, from 2001 through 2017.

By 2017, though, GE was carrying a staggering amount of corporate debt—about $77 billion, analysts estimated—and GE’s stock price dropped heavily through Immelt’s term. In October 2017, the new CEO, John L. Flannery, promised to streamline the company’s operations and divest $20 billion worth of businesses.

Jack Welch has destroyed GE by eating its seed corn, and the Wall Street masters of the universe still think that he’s a genius for it.

This is everything that is wrong with your economy in one story.

Only the Moderate Democrats Want the Surveillance State

My guess is that so-called “Moderate Democrats” are the only ones who want an expansive FISA renewal because they are the ones who get the big bucks from members of the US state security apparatus and and their corporate profiteers.

We now have Donald Trump, the most right Republicans in the House, and progressive Democrats are cooperating to shut down the FISA renewal, while the Democratic leadership is determined to make sure that there the intelligence-industrial complex gets what they want.

What can I say, but “Puck Felosi”.  This needs to stop:

Speaker Nancy Pelosi and top Democrats postponed a vote on Wednesday to reauthorize key parts of the federal surveillance program known as FISA, after an 11th hour revolt by Republicans and progressive Democrats.

Democrats have not decided when or if they will take up the bill. The legislation had broad bipartisan support in the Senate, but lost support from GOP lawmakers after sudden resistance from President Donald Trump and the Justice Department.

“We haven’t made that decision,” House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) said in an interview late Wednesday as he left Pelosi’s office.

It was clear for much of Wednesday that Democrats lacked the votes, with few, if any, Republicans willing to buck Trump and his veto threat. Without them, the House’s delicate coalition fractured and Democrats found themselves without the support to pass it on their own. The Congressional Progressive Caucus, which has roughly 100 members, formally opposed the bill, virtually guaranteeing that Democrats would need GOP votes.


The latest rupture began over a proposal by Wyden to block the FBI from collecting the web browsing data of Americans. Wyden’s plan failed by a single vote in the Senate, but Lofgren negotiated with House leaders to bring it up for a House vote when the chamber considered the broader bill.

But Lofgren also negotiated a deal with House Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff to tweak the language to narrow the restrictions on the FBI, a deal that infuriated Wyden and left him and other progressives calling for the defeat of the measure.

By, “Narrow the restrictions,” they mean, “Emasculate.”

The FBI, and the CIA, and the rest of these three letter organizations have no interest in protecting your civil rights, and they will go to whatever line we set, and cross that line if they think that they can get away with it, but folks like Pelosi and Hoyer don’t care, they just want their money for their PACs.

During Pledge Week, DON’T GIVE

The Department of Justice has announced plans to retry Cliven Bundy and Evil Minions, and NPR decides to give this group of racist terrorists a big wet kiss in their coverage.

I do not know whether Kirk Siegler is a fellow traveler, or the folks at NPR are so deep in a protective crouch to the right wing that they have lost all integrity, but until it is fixed, you need to not give at pledge time.

At least ⅔ of this story is a stenographic reporting from the right wing, particularly the contemptible Larry Klayman, allowing them to make their claims unchallenged.

My guess is that this is a beat sweetener for Siegler, he wants another interview with Bundy, and so he does not want to offend him, but he, and whoever the hell his editor is, should both be ashamed of themselves.