Month: August 2020

It’s Always the Hot Work that Gets You

It turns out that welding (hot work) to secure a door to prevent theft of the ammonium nitrate was what set off the massive blast at the port of Beirut.

This is no surprise.  Hot work has always been a leading cause of fires in industrial settings:

Multiple sources have reported that the disastrous explosion at Port of Beirut was sparked by hot work at a warehouse where officials had stored 2,750 tonnes of confiscated ammonium nitrate and a cache of fireworks. In a new report, senior officials provided Reuters with additional details: early this year they had learned that one of the warehouse’s doors was broken, raising the risk that a malicious actor could steal dangerous explosives. The port’s welding contractors set off the cache while trying to repair the door to protect the cache.

According to the report, the security investigation that set this chain in motion began in January after the broken door and a large hole in the warehouse’s wall were discovered. On June 4 – six months later – state security forces ordered the port to guard the warehouse and make appropriate repairs. On August 4 – two months after the order – the port sent a team of Syrian workers to fix the warehouse. Sparks from their welding work ignited a supply of fireworks, which had been stored next to the ammonium nitrate cache.

As an interesting aside, it appears that we still have no information as to who actually owned the ammonium nitrate which languished for years in a warehouse:

In the murky story of how a cache of highly explosive ammonium nitrate ended up on the Beirut waterfront, one thing is clear — no one has ever publicly come forward to claim it.

There are many unanswered questions surrounding last week’s huge, deadly blast in the Lebanese capital, but ownership should be among the easiest to resolve.


But Reuters interviews and trawls for documents across 10 countries in search of the original ownership of this 2,750-tonne consignment instead revealed an intricate tale of missing documentation, secrecy and a web of small, obscure companies that span the globe.

At this point, I’m pretty sure that there are 3 or 4 oligarchs crapping their pants over the possibility that they are tied to this disaster.

Saying the Quiet Part Out Loud

Donald Trump has now definitively stating that he is blocking US Post Office funding in an attempt to sabotage vote-by-mail:

President Donald Trump said on Thursday he was blocking Democrats’ effort to include funds for the U.S. Postal Service and election infrastructure in a new coronavirus relief bill, a bid to block more Americans from voting by mail during the pandemic.

Congressional Democrats accused Republican Trump of trying to damage the struggling Postal Service to improve his chances of being re-elected as opinion polls show him trailing presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden.

Trump has been railing against mail-in ballots for months as a possible source of fraud, although millions of Americans – including much of the military – have cast absentee ballots by mail for years without such problems.

Trump said his negotiators have resisted Democrats’ calls for additional money to help prepare for presidential, congressional and local voting during a pandemic that has killed more than 165,000 Americans and presented logistical challenges to organizing as large an event as the Nov. 3 elections.

“The items are the post office and the $3.5 billion for mail-in voting,” Trump told Fox Business Network, saying Democrats want to give the post office $25 billion. “If we don’t make the deal, that means they can’t have the money, that means they can’t have universal mail-in voting.”

Trump later said at a news briefing that if a deal was reached that included postal funding, he would not veto it.

So, he is admitting that he wants to squelch vote by mail, but it’s too much of a wimp to veto a relief bill.

In any case this will not prevent Trump and his Evil Minions from actively sabotaging Post Office operations:

The United States Postal Service is removing mail sorting machines from facilities around the country without any official explanation or reason given, Motherboard has learned through interviews with postal workers and union officials. In many cases, these are the same machines that would be tasked with sorting ballots, calling into question promises made by Postmaster General Louis DeJoy that the USPS has “ample capacity” to handle the predicted surge in mail-in ballots.

Motherboard identified 19 mail sorting machines from five processing facilities across the U.S. that either have already been removed or are scheduled to be in the near future. But the Postal Service operates hundreds of distribution facilities around the country, so it is not clear precisely how many machines are getting removed and for what purpose.

Even to local union officials, USPS has not announced any policy, explained why they are doing this, what will happen to the machines and the workers who use them. Nor has management provided a rationale for dismantling and removing the machines from the facility rather than merely not operating them when they’re not needed.


While the consequences of this new policy are mostly unclear for now, it neatly fits with the sudden, opaque, and drastic changes made by DeJoy, a longtime Republican fundraiser and Trump donor, in the less than two months he’s been postmaster general. Like his other changes, including the curtailing of overtime resulting in the widespread mail delays and sudden reorganization of the entire USPS, it is possible to see some semblance of corporate logic while second-guessing the decision to make drastic changes on the eve of the presidential election in which the USPS will play a critical role.

This is literally page 1 of the despot’s play book, and if it were happening in Venezuela Mike  Pompeo would be condemning this as an affront to democracy.

Stopped Clock

Donald Trump has made a vague statement that he is open to the possibility of pardoning NSA whistle-blower Edward Snowden.

If he does this, it will be a good thing, even if does so for the basesest of reasons, because whistle-blowing like Snowden’s is essential to preserving democracy:

Donald Trump said on Saturday that he would look at the issue of giving a pardon to whistleblower Edward Snowden.

Snowden disclosed highly classified information from the National Security Agency in 2013. He revealed the news covertly to the Guardian after he fled to Hong Kong, before flying to Moscow to avoid extradition back to America. He currently lives in Russia.


At a press conference on Saturday Trump said he did not know much about the case and heard powerful arguments for and against a pardon. He then added that he would look into the matter.


In 2016 a petition was started urging Barack Obama to pardon Snowden. The Pardon Snowden petition reached a million signatures in 2017 and was delivered to the White House.

If Trump does this, it will almost certainly be because he wants to send another “F%$# You” Barack Obama’s way, but it is still the right thing, even if it is motivated by such petty motivations.

What is the Democratic Socialists of America?

Obviously, they are a political group that has seen explosive growth since the Presidential campaigns of Bernie Sanders that claims to support “Democratic Socialism”, though whether that term means actual state ownership of the means of production, or something akin to Roosevelt’s New Deal, is unclear.

On a deeper, and far more important. level, the question is whether the organization is interested in systemic or societal change, or is merely a vehicle for virtue-signaling.

We have an answer now, at least for the New York chapter, and it is that the comfortable merely want to feel comfortable about being comfortable, which is why they black-balled a talk by one of the most prominent African American Marxist scholars in the nation, Adolph Reed.

They did so, because he argues that class struggle is at the core of the current problems in our society, rather than eschewing class analysis to focus exclusively on racial and ethnic oppression.

I will admit that I am not an expert in the finer points of socialist theory, but I cannot see how one can possibly call themselves a Socialist if you deny the centrality of class struggle:

Adolph Reed is a son of the segregated South, a native of New Orleans who organized poor Black people and antiwar soldiers in the late 1960s and became a leading Socialist scholar at a trio of top universities.

Along the way, he acquired the conviction, controversial today, that the left is too focused on race and not enough on class. Lasting victories were achieved, he believed, when working class and poor people of all races fought shoulder to shoulder for their rights.

In late May, Professor Reed, now 73 and a professor emeritus at the University of Pennsylvania, was invited to speak to the Democratic Socialists of America’s New York City chapter. The match seemed a natural. Possessed of a barbed wit, the man who campaigned for Senator Bernie Sanders and skewered President Barack Obama as a man of “vacuous to repressive neoliberal politics” would address the D.S.A.’s largest chapter, the crucible that gave rise to Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and a new generation of leftist activism.

His chosen topic was unsparing: He planned to argue that the left’s intense focus on the disproportionate impact of the coronavirus on Black people undermined multiracial organizing, which he sees as key to health and economic justice.


Amid murmurs that opponents might crash his Zoom talk, Professor Reed and D.S.A. leaders agreed to cancel it, a striking moment as perhaps the nation’s most powerful Socialist organization rejected a Black Marxist professor’s talk because of his views on race.

“God have mercy, Adolph is the greatest democratic theorist of his generation,” said Cornel West, a Harvard professor of philosophy and a Socialist. “He has taken some very unpopular stands on identity politics, but he has a track record of a half-century. If you give up discussion, your movement moves toward narrowness.”

The decision to silence Professor Reed came as Americans debate the role of race and racism in policing, health care, media and corporations. Often pushed aside in that discourse are those leftists and liberals who have argued there is too much focus on race and not enough on class in a deeply unequal society. Professor Reed is part of the class of historians, political scientists and intellectuals who argue that race as a construct is overstated.


“Adolph Reed and his ilk believe that if we talk about race too much we will alienate too many, and that will keep us from building a movement,” said Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor, a Princeton professor of African-American studies and a D.S.A. member. “We don’t want that — we want to win white people to an understanding of how their racism has fundamentally distorted the lives of Black people.”

What the f%$# does, “We want to win white people to an understanding,” mean, beyond perhaps, “I’m a tenured professor living a comfortable life, so f%$# the poor to keep my taxes low, and stop the cops from pulling me over for driving a nice car.”

A contrary view is offered by Professor Reed and some prominent scholars and activists, many of whom are Black. They see the current emphasis in the culture on race-based politics as a dead-end. They include Dr. West; the historians Barbara Fields of Columbia University and Toure Reed — Adolph’s son — of Illinois State; and Bhaskar Sunkara, founder of Jacobin, a Socialist magazine.

They readily accept the brute reality of America’s racial history and of racism’s toll. They argue, however, that the problems now bedeviling America — such as wealth inequality, police brutality and mass incarceration — affect Black and brown Americans, but also large numbers of working class and poor white Americans.


In years past, the D.S.A. had welcomed Professor Reed as a speaker. But younger members, chafing at their Covid-19 isolation and throwing themselves into “Defund the Police” and anti-Trump protests, were angered to learn of the invitation extended to him.


None of this surprised Professor Reed, who sardonically described it as a “tempest in a demitasse.” Some on the left, he said, have a “militant objection to thinking analytically.”

Professor Reed is an intellectual duelist, who especially enjoys lancing liberals he sees as too cozy with corporate interests. He wrote that President Bill Clinton and his liberal followers showed a “willingness to sacrifice the poor and to tout it as tough-minded compassion” and described former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. as a man whose “tender mercies have been reserved for the banking and credit card industries.”


“I’ve never led with my biography, as that’s become an authenticity-claiming gesture,” he said. “But when my opponents say that I don’t accept that racism is real, I think to myself, ‘OK, we’ve arrived at a strange place.’”

Professor Reed and his compatriots believe the left too often ensnares itself in battles over racial symbols, from statues to language, rather than keeping its eye on fundamental economic change.

“If I said to you, ‘You’re laid off, but we’ve managed to rename Yale to the name of another white person’, you would look at me like I’m crazy,” said Mr. Sunkara, the editor of Jacobin.


“Liberals use identity politics and race as a way to counter calls for redistributive polices,” noted Toure Reed, whose book “Toward Freedom: The Case Against Race Reductionism” tackles these subjects.

DSA, at least the New York chapter to be more interested in mental masturbation than it is in either socialism or real change.

This is a Big F%$#ing deal

Hopefully this is the first of a thousand cuts that Amazon will die by:

Amazon was hit with a legal defeat this week after a California appeals court ruled that the company can be held legally liable for defective products sold on its site by third-party sellers.

In a unanimous decision issued Thursday, Judge Patricia Guerrero of the Fourth District Court of Appeals wrote that “under established principles of strict liability, Amazon should be held liable if a product sold through its website turns out to be defective.”


The case concerned a replacement laptop battery that Amazon customer Angela Bolger purchased from a Hong Kong-based company called Lenoge Technology, which went by “E-Life” on Amazon’s online marketplace. Bolger alleged in her lawsuit that “the battery exploded several months later, and she suffered severe burns as a result,” for which she argued Amazon should be held responsible.

Amazon had argued that it wasn’t liable because “it did not distribute, manufacture, or sell the product,” and that Lenoge was the seller.

But the court disagreed, finding that Amazon played such an outsized role in the transaction that it bore the responsibility for the defective battery.

Guerrero wrote that Amazon “placed itself between Lenoge and Bolger in the chain of distribution… accepted possession of the product… stored it in an Amazon warehouse… attracted Bolger to the site… provided her with a product listing… received her payment… shipped the product in Amazon packaging… controlled the conditions of Lenoge’s offer for sale… limited Lenoge’s access to Amazon’s customer information… forced Lenoge to communicate with customers through Amazon… “and demanded indemnification as well as substantial fees on each purchase.”

Jeff Bezos’ monster exerts a tremendous amount of control over its, “3rd party vendors,” and to quote Peter Parker Steve Ditko and Stan Lee, “With great power, comes great responsibility.”*

Doing things like stealing 3rd party data to develop competing products indicates that Amazon is more than just a simple store front.

“Whatever term we use to describe Amazon’s role, be it ‘retailer,’ ‘distributor,’ or merely ‘facilitator,’ it was pivotal in bringing the product here to the consumer,” she concluded.

The court also didn’t buy Amazon’s statement that it should be protected under section 230 of the Communications Decency Act of 1996, which shields internet companies from legal repercussions for content published by third parties on their sites.

It determined that section 230 didn’t apply because Bolger’s claims “depend on Amazon’s own activities, not its status as a speaker or publisher of content provided by Lenoge for its product listing.”

Pending the results of a possible appeal, Thursday’s ruling potentially opens up the online retail giant to significant legal exposure from other customers who could bring similar lawsuits for faulty or damaged products. It could also force Amazon to adjust its policies to more tightly regulate third-party sellers.

It does seem that the whole internet economy thing is increasingly just a mechanism for vendors to cheat people and avoid consequences.

*Peter Parker never said this, it was in the final panel of the first Spider Man comic book.

About That Russian Vaccine

There has been a lot of talk recently about Russian claims that they have a Covid-19 vaccine in late stage testing.

There has been much mockery of these claims, but the government agency behind these claims has a good record, and the model, that of a government research and development taking medical products from start to finish appears to have more potential than the current western, “Throw money at contemptible greed-heads,” model:

When Russia announced this week that it had granted the world’s first regulatory approval for a Covid-19 vaccine after just two months of human trials, many in the global pharmaceutical community were aghast at how quickly Moscow had deemed it safe to use.

Russia’s drug companies were comparatively small, little was known of the institute credited with the breakthrough and key steps needed to approve a shot for use had not been completed, critics said. But the man behind the vaccine insists instead that the success has been two decades in the making.

“[The speed] is not surprising if you understand the science behind it,” said Alexander Gintsburg, director of the state-run Gamaleya Research Institute of Epidemiology and Microbiology, which says it has worked on adenoviral vaccines like its Covid-19 shot since the 1980s.

“In the absence of global health threats in recent decades, vaccine research has been on the fringes of the global pharmaceutical industry while Russian labs continued their research,” he told the Financial Times. “We are proud of the legacy of Russian science, which allowed us to develop the Covid-19 vaccine very quickly.”


Defending the decision to roll out public vaccinations of what is still in effect an experimental drug, the Russian government and other supporters have pointed to the successful Ebola vaccine developed by Mr Gintsburg and his colleagues in 2015, the Gamaleya Institute’s most well-known previous success. Sputnik V is based on the same technology.


“The fact that Russian scientists can develop, and the Russian pharmaceutical industry can produce, drugs requiring intensive scientific research has long been no secret,” Mr Bespalov added. “In Russia, there is a background of serious scientific schooling, a plethora of scientists and organisations to back them up and significant historical experience.”


“Russia does not have any leading pharma companies. Most of its pharma research takes place in state institutions and less information comes out about it than from western or Chinese researchers,” said Rasmus Bech Hansen, chief executive of Airfinity, a London-based science analytics company.

In contrast to vaccines being developed in the UK and the US, where the government’s role has been to provide financial grants and advance purchase orders to private companies and researchers, Russia’s vaccine development has been wholly state-managed.

The Gamaleya Institute is government-controlled, the vaccine was funded by the sovereign wealth fund and an employee of the ministry of defence is named as an author of the vaccine. Senior government officials were given preapproval injections.

I don’t know if government run vaccine research is a good model for vaccine development, but I do know that relying on the tender mercies of the for profit pharmaceutical industry is a bad model for vaccine development.

Under 1 Million

The Trend is Encouraging

Initial jobless claims fell below 1 million for the first time in five months.

The number is bad, it’s no longer twice than the pre-Covid record:

U.S. unemployment claims fell below one million last week for the first time since the coronavirus pandemic struck in March, as the deeply wounded labor market continues to regain some footing.

New applications for unemployment benefits dropped to a seasonally adjusted 963,000 in the week ended Aug. 8, the Labor Department said Thursday, marking the second weekly reduction in filings. The number of people collecting unemployment benefits through regular state programs, which cover the majority of workers, also decreased to about 15.5 million at the beginning of August.

But both figures remain well above even the worst figures before the pandemic struck, with the number of people receiving benefits more than double the 6.6 million reached in 2009.

Unemployment remains elevated as other measures of the economy, including consumer spending, also lag behind levels from before the coronavirus hit. An increase in coronavirus infections across much of the country continues to threaten economic gains as states put in place new restrictions aimed at containing the pandemic.


The drop in claims could also reflect waning fiscal support by the government, Ms. Pollak said. The late-July expiration of an extra $600 a week in federal jobless benefits—added in March under a virus-relief package—puts much less money in unemployed individuals’ pockets, possibly discouraging them from seeking benefits.

Without the $600 weekly boost, payments dropped to the level set by states, which averaged about $330 a week for the 12 months through June, according to the Labor Department.

The downside to all of this is that more places, and businesses, are backing off from reopening because of new outbreaks, and the programs that cushioned the impact, notwithstanding Donald Trump’s bullsh%$ executive orders, have shut down.

The countervailing winds are strengthening.

Don’t Throw Me in that Briar Patch

I understand that Khosrowshahi is concerned that paying his drivers would adversely impact his stock options, but Uber literally has nothing but its dominance of the app based cab space.

If they shut down for a week, they will lose market share in California that they will NEVER get back.  They have no unique technology, no copyright or patent exclusivity, and very little in the way of good will from their customers or their drivers.

As an aside, now is the time for a couple of coder dudes to set up a app based driver cooperative:

Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi is warning that a landmark California ruling on the employment status of its drivers could force the company to shut down its service in California until November.

“We think we comply by the laws,” Khosrowshahi said on MSNBC. “But if the judge and the court finds that we’re not, and they don’t give us a stay to get to November, then we’ll have to essentially shut down Uber until November when the voters decide.”


After the law passed last year, Uber, Lyft, and DoorDash spent more than $100 million gathering signatures for a voter initiative that would overturn the law. It is slated to appear on the ballot in November. 

Do you want some cheese for that whine?

We Need H.L. Mencken Today

Reading H.L. Mencken this morning, on Woodrow Wilson’s biography of George Washington:

“This incredible work is an almost inexhaustible mine of bad writing… To find a match for it, one must try to imagine a biography of the Duke of Wellington by his barber.”

— Matt Taibbi (@mtaibbi) August 11, 2020

I know that H.L. Mencken was antisemitic and racist, particularly bu the standards of the day, but damn, that man could write.

World Class Snark

This take-down is a truly a thing of beauty.

It’s indisputable that Kamala and Beau took on the big banks as aggressively as the Obama/Biden administration.

— Jesse Eisinger (@eisingerj) August 11, 2020

In case you have been living in a cave, the Obama Administration’s response to the endemic fraud and corruption by the banksters are best described by the legal term, “Nolle prosequi.”

Florida, Man

It’s always Florida, isn’t it?

In this Marion County Florida, and future plague victim, Billy Woods has banned his officers, and all people who want to enter the sheriff’s office from wearing masks.

On Tuesday, as Florida set a daily record for covid-19 deaths, Marion County Sheriff Billy Woods prohibited his deputies from wearing masks at work. His order, which also applies to visitors to the sheriff’s office, carves out an exception for officers in some locations, including hospitals, and when dealing with people who are high-risk or suspected of having the novel coronavirus.

In an email to the sheriff’s department shared with The Washington Post, Woods disputed the idea that masks are a consensus approach to battling the pandemic.

“We can debate and argue all day of why and why not. The fact is, the amount of professionals that give the reason why we should, I can find the exact same amount of professionals that say why we shouldn’t,” Woods wrote in the email, which was first reported by the Ocala Star-Banner.


All visitors to sheriff’s department buildings will be asked to take off their masks in the lobby, Woods said, linking that rule to the ongoing protests against police brutality.

“In light of the current events when it comes to the sentiment and/or hatred toward law enforcement in our country today, this is being done to ensure there is clear communication and for identification purposes of any individual walking into a lobby,” he wrote.

Seriously, what the actual f%$#?

We are Living in a Movie Script

On the bright side, it’s The Princess Bride, complete with Rodents of Unusual Size (R.O.U.S aka Swamp Rats).

The down side, is that it looks like other movie scripts are showing themselves as well, things like A Clockwork Orange, The Terminator, 12 Monkeys, Blade Runner, Death Race 2000, Gattaca, the whole sequence of Mad Max, Brazil, The Handmaiden’s Tale, and, of course, Idiocracy.

Giant Swamp Rats are appearing in Kraus Baker Park in Texas and residents of the area fear that they may contaminate the water and destroy the ecosystem. They are massive in size and are apparently feeding alongside the ducks. One video posted shows exactly how invasive they have been.

The problem now is that they are looking for funding to deal with the issue. California and Louisiana are already calling for millions from the U.S. government in order to deal with their own swamp rat populations.

Female Nutria can have babies starting from the age of 4-6 months old and they can produce up to three litters a year. Each litter can have anywhere from 2-13 young. These rats eat 25% of their bodyweight everyday. Since they are alongside a water source they are fearing that they will contaminate it with parasites.

Wildlife experts are asking the community not to feed them in hopes that they will leave the area naturally. If worst comes to worst however they may have to resort to more drastic measures to hopefully relocate them.

I am so done with 2020.

H/t Sharon* for the link.

If you want to suggest other movies that mirror this time, feel free to comment.

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

It’s Primary Night

Ilan Omar defeated the (former) union busting lawyer* whose campaign finance shenanigans were such that the Minnesota DFL filed an official complaint against him.

It wasn’t even close:

Rep. Ilhan Omar on Tuesday soundly defeated a well-funded primary challenger, the latest in a series of victories for liberals looking to secure their foothold in Congress and move the Democratic Party further left.

The Minnesota Democrat was leading Anton Melton-Meaux 57 percent to 39 percent with 96 percent of precincts reported when the race was called, putting to bed weeks of speculation that her career on Capitol Hill could be cut short by an opponent who argued Omar was more interested in fame than representing her district.

Residents of the Minneapolis-area district, however, chose the Somali refugee and first Muslim woman in Congress over Melton-Meaux, who raised a staggering $3.2 million last quarter from Omar critics around the nation. The race had become one of the most expensive House primaries this year, with each candidate bringing in north of $4 million.

On the less sane side of things, the crazy Q-Anon lady won her primary runoff in Georgia.

Florida man, meat Georgia woman:

In Georgia, however, Republicans didn’t have the same luck and in fact were up late into the night fretting over whether they should have done more to stop Marjorie Taylor Greene, who was running to replace retiring Rep. Tom Graves (R-Ga.).

Greene, who runs a construction company, has endorsed the QAnon conspiracy theory, which includes the idea that Trump is a messianic figure fighting the so-called deep state and that he alone can be trusted. She has also made a series of racist, anti-Semitic and Islamophobic comments in videos first reported on by Politico in June.

In one, Greene suggested that Black people “are held slaves to the Democratic Party.” She also called liberal investor George Soros a Nazi and filmed a campaign ad depicting her cocking a semiautomatic rifle while warning antifa, a loose collection of activists who oppose fascism and have sometimes embraced property damage and violent protest in recent years, to “stay the hell out of northwest Georgia.” Facebook removed the ad from its website.

Seriously, our politics are beginning to draw unflattering comparisons to Wiemar Germany.

*Mr. Melton-Meaux was a partner in the Jackson Lewis law firm, which has union busting as one of its core competencies.
Their other core competency is defending sexual harassers and bigot employers, and he has written extensively on how non disclosure agreements (NDAs) are a good thing and that #Metoo is a “Scarlet Letter” for employers.
Yeah, he also suggested that Black Lives Matter protesters should be protesting the quality of public schools instead of protesting being murdered in the streets and treated like dogs, because charter schools are not going to fund themselves.

This is a Feature, Not a Bug

If good data is collected and made public, then Trump cannot declare victory, and DHS has been politicized by Trump’s Evil Minions, and mismanaging a dire situation is really their only skill set.

The purpose of the switch was to give the Donald Trump to :

Public release of hospital data about the coronavirus pandemic has slowed to a crawl, one month after the federal government ordered states to report it directly to the Department of Health and Human Services and bypass the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Key indicators, such as estimates of the portion of inpatient beds occupied by Covid-19 patients, are lagging by a week or more, making it harder for citizens and local officials to get a handle on how the pandemic is progressing and for agencies to allocate supplies of antiviral drugs and personal protective equipment, public-health experts say.

The decision to switch data reporting in the middle of a public-health crisis was reckless, researchers and former public-health officials say.

“The transition has been a disaster,” as hospitals typically take time to adjust to new data systems, said Jeffrey Engel, senior adviser to the Council of State and Territorial Epidemiologists, an association that represents state public-health officials. “What HHS said was that the CDC was not nimble enough and couldn’t handle new data elements, and that’s simply not true.”

Chaos is job won.

Joe Biden Chooses the 3rd Worst VP Contender

The worst possible selection would have been Susan Rice, the foreign policy Mandarin whose bellicose tendencies make John McCain look like Jeannette Rankin, and the second worst decision would have been Val Demings, who as chief of police in Tampa aggressively protective abusive and corrupt cop.

So, we’ve got Kamala Harris, whose record as California AG is problematic as Biden’s running mate.

I’m not enthused about the choice, but the only thing that would enthuse me would have been Bernie Sanders in a dress.

Sharon* told me about Biden’s choice, and suggested that we move to New Zealand.

I had to explain that New Zealand would have no interest in (optimistically) middle aged Americans who don’t bring a few million dollars in investments taking up permanent residence there.

My take is far less alarming, “Meh.”

Joseph R. Biden Jr. selected Senator Kamala Harris of California as his vice-presidential running mate on Tuesday, embracing a former rival who sharply criticized him in the Democratic primaries but emerged after ending her campaign as a vocal supporter of Mr. Biden’s and a prominent advocate of racial-justice legislation after the killing of George Floyd in late May.

Ms. Harris, 55, is the first Black woman and the first person of Indian descent to be nominated for national office by a major party, and only the fourth woman in U.S. history to be chosen for a presidential ticket. She brings to the race a far more vigorous campaign style than Mr. Biden’s, including a gift for capturing moments of raw political electricity on the debate stage and elsewhere, and a personal identity and family story that many find inspiring.

Mr. Biden announced the selection over text message and in a follow-up email to supporters: “Joe Biden here. Big news: I’ve chosen Kamala Harris as my running mate. Together, with you, we’re going to beat Trump.” The two are expected to appear together in Wilmington, Del., on Wednesday.

After her own presidential bid disintegrated last year, many Democrats regarded Ms. Harris as all but certain to try for another run for the White House in the future. By choosing her as his political partner, Mr. Biden, if he wins, may well be anointing her as the de facto leader of the party in four or eight years.

I’m hoping that AOC will run in 2024.  She turns 35 then.

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

The Studios Get the Goose to the Chopping Block

Pirating films and music was very much a thing from the late 1990s through the middle of the teens.

It has largely died down because paid streaming services delivered a better product at a reasonable price.

However, the media conglomerates have been creating their own streaming services and making their content exclusive in order to get the entire revenue stream.

So, now instead of Netflix and Hule with a large overlap of content and each costing less than a double sawbuck, you now have something north of dozen services, each charging at least $20/month and having narrow catalogues.

It makes everything a major pain in the ass.

Case in point, the Harry Potter films:

The rise of streaming video competitors is indisputably a good thing. Numerous new streaming alternatives have driven competition to an antiquated cable TV sector that has long been plagued by apathy, high rates, and comically-bad customer service. That’s long overdue and a positive thing overall, as streaming customer satisfaction scores suggest.

But as the sector matures, there’s a looming problem it seems oblivious to.

Increasingly, companies are pulling their content off central repositories like Hulu and Netflix, and making them exclusive to their own streaming platforms, forcing consumers to subscribe to more and more streaming services if they want to get all the content they’re looking for.

Want to watch Star Trek: Discovery, you need CBS All Access. Can’t miss Stranger Things? You’ll need Netflix. The Boys? Amazon Prime. The Handmaid’s Tale? Hulu. Friends? AT&T. This week it was Comcast’s turn in announcing that the Harry Potter films would now be exclusive to Comcast’s new streaming service, Peacock. Of course it’s not as simple as all that. The titles will appear and disappear for the next few years, being free for a while… then shifting to a pay per view model for a while:


No, AT&T and Comcast probably aren’t going to “share” the Harry Potter films, meaning that to watch them you need to embrace the Comcast ecosystem. And while superficially you can easily understand why companies would want to lock down massive droves of exclusive content to drive subscriptions as the streaming wars heat up, there’s a certain myopia going on in terms of the impact. There doesn’t seem to be much of an awareness of that while competition is certainly good, having too many cordoned off exclusivity silos and too many content licenses shifting under the feet of consumers could generate confusion and drive more people to the simplicity of piracy.

So The Office is leaving Netflix in 2021 to go to an NBC streaming service….

— Jamie (@Jamie_2455) June 26, 2019

In fact, there’s some early anecdotal evidence this is already happening, and a few studies predicting it will get worse as every broadcaster and their moms jump into the streaming space. A 2019 Deloitte study found that nearly half (47 percent) of US consumers already suffer from “subscription fatigue,” and 56 percent were frustrated by quickly changing licensing deals.

The studios are painting targets on their shoes, and taking careful aim.

In just one example, the cost of YouTube TV has gone from $35 to $65 a month over the past few years.

This is not a good customer experience.

Your Move, Bitches

I am the CEO of Foxes. Hens deserve better.

— Marshall Steinbaum 🔥 (@Econ_Marshall) August 10, 2020

The Management is Simply Contemptible Human Beings.

Read the whole thread, or check it out on the Threadreader App

A California judge has just issued an injunction preventing Uber and Lyft forbidding the Gypsy cab companies from treating their drivers as independent contractors:

A California judge has issued a preliminary injunction that would block Uber and Lyft from classifying their drivers as independent contractors rather than employees.

The move on Monday came in response to a May lawsuit filed by the state of California against the companies, which alleged they are misclassifying their drivers under the state’s new labor law.

That law, known as AB5, took effect on 1 January. The strictest of its kind in the US, it makes it more difficult for companies to classify workers as independent contractors instead of employees who are entitled to minimum wage and benefits. The lack of workers’ compensation and unemployment benefits for drivers has become increasingly urgent during the coronavirus pandemic, as ridership plunges and workers struggle to protect themselves.

California is the largest market in the US for Uber and Lyft and the state where both companies were founded.

The lawsuit, and Monday’s injunction, are the most significant challenges to the ride-hailing companies’ business model thus far. Judge Ethan Schulman of the San Francisco superior court delayed enforcing his order by 10 days to give the companies a chance to appeal.

Uber, and to a slightly smaller degree Lyft, have shifted their cost onto the rest of us by not paying workers’ comp, not paying unemployment insurance, not paying their portion of FICA, not vetting their drivers properly, increasing congestion, etc.

They need to pay their fair share, and allowing them to ignore the law, “Because ……… Internet,” means that the rest of us are subsidizing their businesses.

What the F%$#?

What the hell is going on in Chicago?

Hundreds of people swept through the Magnificent Mile and other parts of downtown Chicago early Monday, smashing windows, looting stores and confronting police after officers shot a suspect in Englewood hours earlier.

The mayhem marked the second time since late May that the city’s upscale shopping district has been targeted by looters amid unrest, reigniting the debate over policing as city leaders continued to point fingers and downtown again was shut down overnight heading to Tuesday.

As businesses owners boarded up shops and braced for the possibility of additional looting, some cautioned against simplifying the situation or blaming any single issue.

“It’s not just people looting,” said Patsy Mullins, whose Gold Coast store, Accessorize, was completely emptied. “Let’s dig to the root of the problem, let’s not look at the surface. … We need to get to the bottom of this. Otherwise, well, this problem will never be solved and it will continue again and again.”

City officials said the seeds for the crime spree were sown on social media Sunday afternoon, after officers shot and wounded a 20-year-old man who allegedly had fled and fired shots at them.

Mayor Lori Lightfoot on Monday decried “a false rumor on social media” that police officers killed a 15-year-old boy. That led residents to clash with police officers in Englewood and prompted calls to head toward downtown.

Needless to say, racist dirt-bags and senior Chicago police officials (but I repeat myself) have been quick to accuse the Mayor and the new DA of coddling “troublemakers”.

“This was not an organized protest,” Chicago police Superintendent David Brown said. “Rather, this was an incident of pure criminality. This was an act of violence against our police officers and against our city.”

Black Lives Matter Chicago, which protested outside a Near South Side police precinct Monday night, blasted Lightfoot for accepting the police version of events and not doing more to institute reforms. The organization suggested the man was right to flee authorities, given the department’s history of racism and abusive tactics.

“In a predictable and unfortunate move, she did not take this time to criticize her officers for shooting yet another Black man,” the organization’s statement read. “Lightfoot instead spent her time attacking ‘looters.’ The mayor clearly has not learned anything since May, and she would be wise to understand that the people will keep rising up until the CPD is abolished and our Black communities are fully invested in.”

On the bright side, Chicago protesters have learned an important lesson:  Hold your protests in THEIR neighborhood, not YOUR neighborhood.

Cops are not going to drop a bomb on the Magnificent Mile and let the neighborhood burn down.

I’m Not Blowed Up

There was a massive gas explosion in Northwest Baltimore this afternoon.

There has been at least one confirmed fatality.

The accident occurred in the 4200 block of Labyrinth Road, and when I first came to Baltimore, I lived on the 3700 block of Labyrinth Road, about 10 minutes walking distance.

I have since moved about 8 miles north-west, an at the time of the explosion, I was over 15 miles further south.

It’s surreal when sh%$ like this happens in the old ‘hood.


Using an old poll lathe: (I love old tools)