Author: Matthew G. Saroff

More of This

Joe Biden has signed an executive order giving farmers the right to repair their own tractors.

This is something that always seems to founder the rocks of the McConnell reef, and it is good policy, the right of people to what they own should be sacrosanct, and it shows the farmers, and the independent repair shops who serve those farmers, that it’s not all talk.

Tractors, with John Deere being a particularly egregious c%$# about it, have increasingly been locking farmers out of their own equipment, to the degree that older tractors actually have a higher resale value than newer models.

President Joe Biden will direct the U.S. Federal Trade Commission to draft new rules aimed at stopping manufacturers from limiting consumers’ ability to repair products at independent shops or on their own, a person familiar with the plan said.

While the agency will ultimately decide the size and scope of the order, the presidential right-to-repair directive is expected to mention mobile phone manufacturers and Department of Defense contractors as possible areas for regulation. Tech companies including Apple Inc. and Microsoft Corp. have imposed limits on who can repair broken consumer electronics like game consoles and mobile phones, which consumer advocates say increases repair costs.

The order is also expected to benefit farmers, who face expensive repair costs from tractor manufacturers who use proprietary repair tools, software, and diagnostics to prevent third-parties from working on the equipment, according to the person, who requested anonymity to discuss the action ahead of its official announcement.


The Biden Administration effort comes as the European Commission has also announced plans for new right-to-repair rules that would govern smart phones, tablets, and laptops. Environmental activists have said that restrictions on repairs encourage waste by making consumers more likely to throw out damaged items because of the high cost of repair.

But tech companies and manufacturers have warned that opening access to underlying software and services could endanger Americans, from improperly installed batteries on tech devices to modifications on tractors and other heavy equipment that could bypass environmental and safety systems.

By, “Endanger Americans,” the tech and agricultural equipment companies mean, “Endanger our monopoly rents.”

Now get to work on laws that prevent manufacturers from doing this, though one would think that the anti tie-in sales provisions of the Magnuson—Moss Warranty Act should already cover this.

My Condolences to the People of New York

It looks like Eric Adams, aka Rudy with a Tan, will be the next mayor of New York City.

Seeing as how his Republican opponent in the general election does not have billions of dollars (Bloomberg), and is a racist con-man, Curtis Sliwa, founder of the Guardian Anglos Angles.

I expect to see more charter schools, less police accountability, and more stop and frisk.

To quote Dick Tuck, “The people have spoken, the bastards.”

Eric L. Adams, who rose from poverty to become an iconoclastic police captain and the borough president of Brooklyn, declared victory in the Democratic nomination for mayor of New York City on Tuesday, putting him on track to become the second Black mayor in the history of the nation’s largest city.

The contest, which was called by The Associated Press on Tuesday night, was seen as one of the city’s most critical elections in a generation, with the winner expected to help set New York on a recovery course from the economic devastation of Covid-19 and from the longstanding racial and socioeconomic inequalities that the pandemic deepened.

But as the campaign entered its final months, a spike in shootings and homicides drove public safety and crime to the forefront of voters’ minds, and Mr. Adams — the only leading candidate with a law enforcement background — moved urgently to demonstrate authority on the issue.

Mr. Adams held an 8,400-vote lead over Kathryn Garcia, a margin of one percentage point — small enough that it was not immediately clear whether she or any of his opponents would contest the result in court. All three leading candidates had filed to maintain the option to challenge the results. If no one does so, Mr. Adams’s victory could be certified as soon as next week.

Not my problem, I live in Baltimore.

The Parable of the Frog and the Scorpion in Silicon

It appears that Qualcomm has plans to design a competitor to Apple’s M1 chip.

I don’t know if they actually have the technical ability to do this, they dominate the cell phone modem and SoC chip markets, but given their record of monopolistic and abusive business practices, what person in their right mind would rely on them for the technical core of their product?

Qualcomm’s new CEO, Cristiano Amon, says the company will have no problem producing laptop chips to compete directly with Apple’s M1—mainly because Qualcomm now employs some of the key minds behind Apple’s highly publicized breakthrough. Amon told Reuters in a recent interview that Qualcomm will attempt to design its own system-on-a-chip (SoC) for laptops without working with ARM, its partner in smartphone chips.

This SoC would include a 5G modem as well as a CPU. Explaining this strategy, Amon said:

We needed to have the leading performance for a battery-powered device. If Arm, which we’ve had a relationship with for years, eventually develops a CPU that’s better than what we can build ourselves, then we always have the option to license from Arm.

This year, Qualcomm purchased startup Nuvia for $1.4 billion. Nuvia was founded by former Apple employees who had worked on the Apple Silicon transition in the lead up to the launch of the M1.

Amon said that Qualcomm intends to use that Nuvia acquisition to drive the development of new chips for consumer devices, including laptops, to offer computer-makers a counterpoint to Apple’s highly efficient silicon.

Seriously, given their behavior in the past, how could ANYONE trust them not to institute onerous licensing requirements as soon as they have achieved a modicum of commercial success?

You know the senario, “Sorry, but we’ve changed our licensing terms.  Instead of the chip manufacturer paying a 30% royalty, the system manufacturer will have to pay a 20% royalty.  Have a nice day.”

No Blogging Tonight

As a result of our water eater giving up the ghost a few days back, we spent this evening separating the wheat from the chaff in the basement.

The wheat will be picked up by movers and move to storage tomorrow, and the traffic will be trashed out by the clean up crew the day after.

When you do things like this you think about deep philosophical questions like,  “Who in their right mind puts carpeting down in a basement?”, which is what the previous owners did.

I finished the evening sore and stinky, and so had a long hot shower.

Since Sharon joined me, the evening was not a complete loss.


  • Why You Hate Contemporary Architecture (Current Affairs) Short version:  Because Architects are trained to be jerks, but unlike (for example) pretentious and ugly music, it will hit you in the face every day.
  • The Cruelty Was Never the Point (The American Conservative) Touched a nerve, huh?  This characterization of Republicans is true.  It’s also true of “moderate” Democrats.  Means testing, which is more likely to turn away the most needy, is there for the sake of its own cruelty.
  • Techno-Feudalism Is Taking Over (Project Syndicate) Yanis Varoufakis notes that the agenda of the modern tech companies makes the notorious company towns look like an exercise in freedom.
  • The Team Resurrecting Ancient Rome’s Favorite Condiment (Gastro Obscura) Garum, fermented fish sauce, which is the very distant ancestor of Worcester sauce.  I wanna try me some.


Steve Hostetter on his (very one sided) Twitter war with Kevin Sorbo:

Hofstetter is known for taking on hecklers, and Sorbo gets completely owned. It’s beautiful.

I Missed This

Last week,

the House Juciciary Committee passed some rather expansive anti-monopoly billis, which is generally a good thing, as Matt Stoller notes:


And now to the good, bad, and meaning of the break-up votes. Here’s Jerry Nadler, the Chair of the Judiciary Committee.

The Good

The Judiciary Committee wrote and passed six different bills, two of them being general purpose antitrust acts and four being big tech-specific ones. These bills are an outgrowth of the 16-month investigation into Apple, Google, Amazon, and Facebook, with an analysis of millions of documents and hundreds of witnesses.

I would note the fact that only two of them being general is a bad thing.

Monopolies and ologopolies in insurance, banking, media, finance, pharmaceuticals, groceries, etc. need to be reined in as well.


So what do these bills do?

The first two are relatively simple. The first increases the amount of money that our antitrust enforcers can use to bring cases and regulate markets. (The FTC’s budget is $351 million, this would boost it to $418 million, while the Department of Justice Antitrust Division would go from $188 million to $252 million.) I wasn’t so keen on this one for a long time, because the Federal Trade Commission and the Antitrust Division are terrible and asking for more resources was an excuse for bad legal strategy. But with Lina Khan at the FTC, I’m more optimistic that she can restore the agency’s legitimacy. Or at least, now I know there’s someone there who recognizes the task at hand.

The second is a bill that is very procedural, but antitrust is a weedy area, and it matters. One of the techniques that monopolists use to avoid scrutiny is to move cases brought by state attorneys general to courts that are friendlier to big corporations. California, for instance, is well-known for tech-friendly judges – Google tried to move one key antitrust case on adtech to its home state. But big pharma does it too. In 2016, 40 state attorneys general filed suit in Connecticut against 18 pharmaceutical companies alleging price-fixing and market allocation of 15 generic drugs. The pharmaceutical companies, most of which were headquartered in the Philadelphia-area, successfully transferred the case to the Eastern District of Pennsylvania. It still hasn’t gone to trial. The second bill stops this nonsense, and lets state AGs keep the cases in the district they choose to bring suit. (Jurisdictional fights have always been a problem – in my book I profiled a 1937 suit over the monopolist Alcoa, in which the firm got the suit moved to its home town of Pittsburgh, and Congress in response nearly passed a law making it easier to remove judges.)

These two bills might not seem like a big deal. However, if these two bills were all that passed, they would still comprise the single most important strengthening of Federal antitrust law in a generation. For decades, antitrust was just not important, and the Judiciary Committee didn’t bother to focus on it. So to have these markups, and pass these bills, is in itself meaningful.

More money to enforcers and making it more difficult to judge shop (which should also apply to federal bankruptcy proceedings) are a good thing, but explicitly listing harms to competitors, and evaluating whether the behavior will lead to greater consolidation, a refutation of Robert Bork’s corrupt and hypocritical views on antitrust, are badly needed as well.

The other four bills solved for problems specific to Google, Apple, Amazon, and Facebook, problems ostensibly laid out in the big tech report by the subcommittee last year. Here are the four bills and what they did.

1) The ACCESS Act mandates that big tech firms have to make their systems open to competitors and business rivals, in the same way that AT&T customers can talk to T-Mobile customers, or users of different email systems can communicate with one another.

2) The merger bill makes it harder for big tech firms to buy rivals.

3) The nondiscrimination bill is intended to ban the ability to big tech firms to preference their own products, the way Google substitutes its own reviews for Yelp reviews, even if Yelp’s reviews are better.

4) The break-up bill is supposed to split apart big tech firms by prohibiting platforms from owning any line of business that uses that platform.

All four passed the committee, which is extraordinary and unexpected. And not only did they pass, but they passed with both Republicans and Democrats working on them.

These bills do not address a bigger question, which is that many agencies refuse to enforce the law, (Stoller gives the example of the FTC refusing to enforce the Robinson-Patman act, which led to an explosion of store mega-chains) and judges who have 50 years of precedent to defer to the word of the monopolists in court.

I think that the laws need to be completely rewritten to reject the past 50 years of jurisprudence, as well as placing the burden of proof on the accused monopolists.

It’s a good start though.


You know the story, Donald Trump gets kicked off of Twitter, Donald Trump and Evil Minions create a Twitter clone, and said clone gets flooded by Sonic the Hedgehog Pr0n.

You just KNEW that this would happen:

Nary a month after the dramatic implosion of former president (and current Twitter refugee) Donald Trump’s attempted blogging career, the septuagenarian authoritarian’s “team” of grifting enablers has launched its latest attempt at a social network for folks who are just too darn patriotic for mainstream social media…and also for all sorts of Sonic the Hedgehog porn.

The unpleasantly named GETTR—Hillary Clinton lives rent-free in that dude’s head—is essentially a Twitter clone. Its slogan, “the marketplace of ideas,” suggests that inexplicably fence-sitting centrists might find it appealing as well, and that’s particularly true if they’re into furry vore artwork and memes about Sonic the Hedgehog getting pregnant.

That keeps coming up, doesn’t it? It seems that GETTR’s early launch (it was originally promised for Independence Day) has attracted a variety of leftist riff-raff from TikTok, weird Twitter and the like, and they’ve embraced the unsavory, Trump-associated birdsite wannabe as the perfect place to share degenerate hentai, furry porn, leftist Sonic memes, and stock photos of pudgy, aged men in their underwear.

I need to get an account, and tell people that, “Joe Biden has given us lemons, so go to lemonparty dot org.”

Note to my reader(s), do not under ANY circumstances EVER go to lemonparty dot org. 

That which is seen can never be unseen.

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

We have the 5th credit union failure of the year, the Defense Logistics Federal Credit Union of Dover, New Jersey, which has been liquidated and taken over by the Pentagon Federal Credit Union (PenFed).

I still don’t know why the bank failures have flipped, with the credit unions outstripping commercial banks over the past few years.

Perhaps someone involved in banking regulation could give me a hint.

In any case, here is the Full NCUA credit union closing list.

Corrupt Partisan Pig-Felching Bastards

In what is a continuation of Chief Justice John Roberts’ life long quest to prevent Black people from voting, the Supreme Court has upheld Arizona’s voter suppression laws and further gutted the voting rights act.

This is a nakedly partisan and nakedly corrupt decision:

Conservatives have effectively accomplished their long-term goal of blotting the 15th Amendment out of the Constitution with a bottle of Wite-Out®. This has been the conservative project (whether those conservatives have called themselves “Democrats” or “Republicans” depends on the era) since the 15th Amendment was ratified in 1870.

The 15th Amendment, of course, prohibits both state and federal governments from denying the right to vote on the basis of race. Conservatives were shockingly effective at reading this amendment out of the Constitution for the first hundred years after its ratification. The amendment was so bad at stopping conservative racism that we needed a whole different rule, the 24th Amendment, which was ratified in 1964, to outlaw the poll tax, which had become a favorite way for white people to deny minority voting rights.


Yesterday, in a Supreme Court case called Brnovich v. Democratic National Committee, Justice Samuel Alito told conservatives how to defeat the Voting Rights Act, once and for all. White supremacists don’t have to storm the Capitol to hoard political power anymore. They just have to follow Alito’s instructions.

The issue in the case was pretty straightforward, as these things go. Arizona had enacted two voter restrictions. One outlawed “ballot harvesting”—which is the scary Republican label for, say, an older person giving their mail-in ballot to somebody else to walk it to the drop-off location. The other allowed the state to discard votes accidentally submitted at the wrong polling place.

Both of these laws had the effect of suppressing minority voter participation. That’s not a conjecture I’m making based on my apparent Black superpower of understanding what white people are trying to do. That’s an empirical fact, one we know from the data we have from Arizona elections, and that was acknowledged by the Arizona defenders of the laws and the Supreme Court itself. These laws disproportionately affected voters of color, period.

But the 6-3 conservative majority on the Supreme Court said that the racial bigotry inherent in these laws is fine, because they concluded it’s not that much bigotry. In the situation where ballots are cast in the wrong precinct, Alito noted that 1 percent of Hispanic, African American, and Native American voters cast votes in the wrong precinct (votes that can now be completely discarded in Arizona), while .5 percent of white voters did. Alito says that this disparity is too small to matter for the Voting Rights Act.


Elena Kagan, joined by Stephen Breyer and Sonia Sotomayor, blasted Alito’s framing in a dissent that is already more well-known than Alito’s majority opinion. It’s worth reading in full, but this part is stellar:

And what is a “mere inconvenience” or “usual burden” anyway?… Consider a law banning the handing out of water to voters. No more than—or not even—an inconvenience when lines are short; but what of when they are, as in some neighborhoods, hours-long? The point here is that judges lack an objective way to decide which voting obstacles are “mere” and which are not, for all voters at all times.

Kagan’s mention of water was a clear reference to the current eruption of voter suppression laws, enacted by Republicans in Georgia and elsewhere. She was absolutely right to go there, because Alito’s awful logic will not stay in Arizona. Instead, it will give voter-suppression efforts (those already happening and those yet to come) a clear safe harbor to smuggle in all their bigotry.

Alito applies his new conception of the Voting Rights Act to laws restricting the “time, place, and manner” of voting. Alito then makes up a five-factor test to apply to these voter restrictions (spoiler alert: racists win), but the upshot is that, going forward, states that argue that their voter suppression efforts only restrict when people can vote, where they can vote, and what they have to do in order to vote can functionally ignore the Voting Rights Act. It won’t matter if those time, place, and manner restrictions have a disparate racial impact. It won’t even matter if those restrictions are done with the express intent of racial bias. The presumption that voter restriction is illegal if it is designed to exclude or suppress minority voters has been replaced by Alito’s new ruling that the state can impose restrictions that merely inconvenience voters of color on purpose.


This is what conservative justices have always been here to do. People think that the issue that unites conservative justices is hostility toward abortion or antipathy toward the LGBTQ community or a shared passion for corporate malfeasance. And sure, conservatives broadly share horrible views about all that stuff. But the thing that truly binds a Trump judge with a Bush judge with a Ronald Reagan judge, the thing that reaches out across time and space to put Roger Taney in bed with William Rehnquist and John Roberts is their rejection of Black voting rights and the laws and the precedents meant to protect them. The idea that the 15th Amendment prohibits laws that say “No N***** Votes” but nothing else is the consistent theme of conservative voting-rights decisions. Unless the law explicitly uses the n-word, conservatives are going to tell you that it’s a “race neutral” restriction on voting and turn to stone.


Conservatives will never stop trying to take away the right of nonwhite citizens to vote. That has been their unyielding position since the end of the Civil War. You can have a free and fair democracy, or you can have conservatives in control of the judiciary, but the history of this country says that you can’t have both.

The history of conservative jurisprudence on voting is to the ideals of the constitution what Ebola is to the concept of French kissing.

The packing of the Supreme Court over the past 4 years has been a disaster for the nation, and a clear and present danger for our freedoms.


People are crowing about the arrest of Trump Organization CFO Allen Weisselberg for tax fraud.

A lot of people think that this is the beginning of the end for Trump, but that it just wishful thinking.  It is not even the end of the beginning.

I’ve seen this scenario too many times before.  The bad guys walk:

New York prosecutors on Thursday unveiled a 15-count indictment charging the Trump Organization and its finance chief, Allen Weisselberg, with a wide-ranging conspiracy to avoid paying taxes, launching the first criminal case resulting from a multiyear investigation into former President Donald Trump’s business affairs.

In a Manhattan courtroom, prosecutors described a 15-year-long tax-fraud scheme involving off-the-books payments to employees at the Trump Organization. Executives took perks such as car leases and Manhattan apartments without the company or the recipient paying taxes, prosecutors said.


“There’s no clearer example of a company that should be held to account,” said prosecutor Carey Dunne in court. “It’s not about politics.” He said the investigation was ongoing.

Mr. Weisselberg, appearing in handcuffs, pleaded not guilty. He was released pending trial, though he was required to surrender his passport after prosecutors said he was a flight risk. His lawyers said he would fight the charges.

The top charge for Mr. Weisselberg—grand larceny in the second degree—is a felony that, upon conviction, carries a maximum sentence of 15 years in prison. Mr. Weisselberg was charged with 15 counts. In addition to grand larceny, prosecutors charged him with scheme to defraud, conspiracy, four counts of criminal tax fraud and other crimes.

The Trump Organization, through its attorneys, also pleaded not guilty. The company was charged with 10 counts, including scheme to defraud, conspiracy and four counts of criminal tax fraud.


The charges could ratchet up the pressure on Mr. Weisselberg to turn on Mr. Trump, who wasn’t charged Thursday. Mr. Weisselberg has so far declined to cooperate, but some defendants change course when faced with the possibility of prison time, former prosecutors said.

He’s not going to flip.


Prosecutors would need to show three things to charge Mr. Trump: knowledge, intent and participation, said Daniel Horwitz, chairman of the white-collar defense and investigation practice at McLaughlin & Stern.

And they will not get that if Weisselberg does not flip.


A case solely focused on fringe benefits is unusual, former prosecutors said. Charging an individual or company for failure to pay taxes on employee benefits alone is rare, though such charges are used as part of larger cases.

Which is one reason why I think that we will not see anything reaching Trump.  The case, at least until the DA adds charges, is not going to put Trump in jail.



In a possible bid to escalate pressure on Mr. Weisselberg and other executives to cooperate, the indictment mentions—though doesn’t name—Mr. Weisselberg’s son, who paid $1,000 a month on one Trump Organization-owned apartment for seven years and then paid no rent on another Trump-owned apartment in 2018. The rental payments weren’t reported as income to tax authorities, prosecutors said. The Wall Street Journal has reported that his son, Barry Weisselberg, lived in Trump-owned apartments. A lawyer for Barry Weisselberg didn’t respond to a request for comment

This case is not a nothing-burger, but the chance that it will place Donald Trump appear to be quite small, though it does appear to be a threat to the Trump organization, as it is likely to make lenders skittish about extending additional credit.

Yeah, a Big F%$#ing Deal

Joe Biden has issued a rule banning surprise medical billing

I’m surprised, particularly its application to emergency services, where private equity has made surprise billing a central part of their profit generation strategies.  (Biden has a lot of PE types in the administration)

This is an very good, at least in the context of an executive order: (We really need a law to ban this)

The Biden administration on Thursday unveiled the first in a series of rules aimed at banning surprise billing.

The interim final rule bars surprise billing for emergency services and high out-of-network cost-sharing for emergency and non-emergency services. It also prohibits out-of-network charges for ancillary services like those provided by anesthesiologists or assistant surgeons, as well as other out-of-network charges without advance notice.


While public health insurance programs like Medicare and Medicaid already prohibit balance billing, people with job-based coverage or individual health plans frequently and unknowingly accept care from an out-of-network provider before they are slapped with a surprise medical bill. The new rule aims to put a stop to that.


This first round of regulation applies to providers, air ambulance providers, group health plans, health insurance issuers and Federal Employees Health Benefits Program carriers. The rule takes effect in 60 days, but most provisions don’t apply until January 1. Providers and insurers have until September 1 to submit comments.

Air Ambulance providers have been charging insane rates over the past few years as PE has snapped up more services.

The private equity model of medicine is to drastically overcharge people in situations where they have no choice.

Under the new rule, health plans that cover emergency services cannot use prior authorization for those services and must pay for them regardless of whether the clinician is an in-network provider or emergency facility. Likewise, insurers can’t charge their enrollees higher out-of-pocket costs for emergency services delivered by an out-of-network provider. They also have to count beneficiaries’ cost-sharing for those emergency services toward their in-network deductible and out-of-pocket maximums.


The Biden administration is still working out the details about how the dispute resolution process will work. But Congress laid out the broad-brush strokes in December’s No Surprises Act, which passed as part of its end-of-year spending package. Providers and insurers will have 30 days to agree to a price for the medical services delivered. And if they don’t settle, they’re supposed to enter arbitration, during which each side will present a final offer and make their case for why their recommendation is best. The arbitrator must then pick one of the two offers. But they can’t split the difference.

MY guess is that the PE parasites will still find a way to rat-f%$# people, it’s king of their “thing”, but it looks to be significantly harder now.

Personally, I favor a government owned National Health Service as a solution, but this is a positive move.

We Have a New Definition of Chutzpah

Amazon is demanding that FTC chief Lina Khan recuse herself on any decisions about Amazon’s abuse of its monopoly power because she has extensively studied the subject

They claim that she has pre-judged the issue, but really they are saying that anyone less corrupt than Robert Bork is biased.

Amazon can go Cheney themselves:

Amazon filed a 25-page petition today with the Federal Trade Commission asking that Chairwoman Lina Khan recuse herself from antitrust investigations into the company.

Khan, a frequent critic of Amazon and other Big Tech firms, was appointed FTC chair less than two weeks ago. Though there has been plenty of speculation about her first moves, her short tenure to date means she hasn’t had much opportunity to file lawsuits or announce investigations. Amazon’s petition shows that its legal team hasn’t sat idle since her nomination as commissioner and subsequent appointment as chair.

“Although Amazon profoundly disagrees with Chair Khan’s conclusions about the company,” Amazon wrote in the petition, “it does not dispute her right to have spoken provocatively and at great length about it in her prior roles. But given her long track record of detailed pronouncements about Amazon and her repeated proclamations that Amazon has violated the antitrust laws, a reasonable observer would conclude that she no longer can consider the company’s antitrust defenses with an open mind.”

Khan made a name for herself four years ago when she published a paper in a law journal. Titled “Amazon’s Antitrust Paradox,” the paper made the case that current antitrust laws have fallen short as tech platforms have risen to dominance. She argued that prices are a poor yardstick with which to measure anticompetitive behavior and market power, especially among platform companies like Amazon. The peculiar economics of platforms means that companies are happy to forgo profits in the name of growth, which leads to predatory pricing, she said. And because the very nature of platforms allows companies to control access to various products and services, it creates incentives for companies to favor their own products over rivals.

Since graduating from law school, Khan worked for the Open Markets Institute, which advocates for stronger antitrust laws and enforcement, and for the House Judiciary Committee, where she worked with Rep. David Cicilline (D-R.I.) to open a congressional inquiry into tech companies’ behavior.

The term for Amazon’s filing here is bullsh%$.

If Ms. Khan had made this statement as a government official, or if she had economic ties to Amazon or its competitors they might have an argument.

Here though, we simply have two drastically different views of the competitive landscape, and her statements were in an academic context.

To quote the noted philosopher Bender Bending Rodriguez:

If any member of the staff of the FTC were to suggest that there were a legitimate case for her recusal, I would suggest that they be reassigned to the FTC office in Butte, Montana.

The Overs Win

The US economy U.S. added 850,000 jobs in June, well over the consensus estimate of  706,000.

One fly in the ointment though, long term unemployment numbers continued to rise:

The U.S. labor market recovery is accelerating after a spring lull.

Employers added 850,000 jobs in June—the biggest gain in 10 months—and workers’ wages rose briskly, the government said Friday, both signs of robust demand for workers.

The unemployment rate, derived from a separate survey of households, rose to 5.9% last month from 5.8% in May. That was in part because of a positive development: A modest number of Americans came off the sidelines and entered the job search, expanding the labor pool. A broader measure of unemployment that takes into account workers stuck in part-time jobs and those too discouraged to look for work fell sharply last month.

Job growth lagged behind broader economic growth earlier this spring, with the economy adding 583,000 jobs in May and 269,000 in April. But big hurdles to hiring are starting to clear away. Rising vaccination rates, easing government restrictions on businesses and the expiration of unemployment benefits in many states are stoking the latest growth.

That last phrase is a bit of editorializing by the writer.  There is still no evidence that extended unemployment benefits are keeping people off of the job markets, but it’s dogma at places like the WSJ.

We are still not over the hump.

Bye, Felecia

Meghan McCain has quit as a host of The View on short notice.

She was probably pushed: 

Meghan McCain, the lone conservative voice on ABC’s daily talk show “The View,” told viewers Thursday that she was leaving her co-host chair at the end of the season this month.

McCain said at the start of the New York-based program that she wants to stay in Washington, D.C., where she worked during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I have this really wonderful life here that I ultimately feel like I didn’t want to leave,” McCain said.

McCain, who is married to conservative writer Ben Domenech, gave birth to a daughter, Liberty,[ed comment, WTF?] last fall. The couple have split their time between New York and Washington.


The Daily Mail, which first reported that McCain would exit, said the host had two years left on her contract with ABC.

(emphasis mine)

She announced it on very short notice. 

Pushed, with good reason.

Today in Amazon Rat-F%$#ery

A brief rundown of poor Amazon behavior, first despite triple digit temperatures in the Pacific Northwest, and the Kent, Washington warehouse continued operations in brutal heat with no air conditioning

Next, and more significantly, Amazon is demanding stock warrants to carry some merchants’ products in their store, which in addition to being something that Glass-Steagall USED to ban is a pretty big slam dunk example of anti-competitive behavior:

Suppliers that want to land Inc. as a client for their goods and services can find that its business comes with a catch: the right for Amazon to buy big stakes in their companies at potentially steep discounts to market value.

The technology-and-retail giant has struck at least a dozen deals with publicly traded companies in which it gets rights, called warrants, to buy the vendors’ stock in the future at what could be below-market prices, according to corporate filings and interviews with people involved with the deals.

Amazon over the past decade also has done more than 75 such deals with privately held companies, according to a person familiar with the matter. In all, the tech titan’s stakes and potential stakes amount to billions of dollars across companies that provide everything from call-center services to natural gas, and in some cases position Amazon among the top shareholders in those businesses.

The unusual arrangements offer another window into how Amazon uses its market heft to increase its wealth and clout. The company has been under growing scrutiny from regulators and lawmakers over its competitive practices, including with companies it partners with.


Amazon routinely leverages its size and power to force terms that benefit itself, including by getting partners in one business to sign on to its other services; learning about up-and-coming technology companies through its venture-capital fund; or creating top selling Amazon branded goods that compete with small sellers on its site. It has aggressively competed to wrest market share from rivals, which Amazon says results in better deals for shoppers.

In its supplier deals that include warrants, Amazon throws its weight around to exact lucrative terms, knowing many companies won’t refuse, according to former Amazon executives who worked on the deals.

An Amazon spokeswoman said the warrants it obtains in commercial agreements are typically tied to milestones that Amazon has to meet, such as large purchases from the supplier. The company declined to comment on specific deals, or say how many warrants it has exercised or the amount of money it has made from such agreements. The spokeswoman said it has warrant deals in fewer than 1% of the commercial agreements it enters into.

Grocery distributor SpartanNash Co. last year amended a contract with Amazon to deliver groceries to its Amazon Fresh arm. The Grand Rapids, Mich.-based company had been supplying Amazon with food since 2016, but this time Amazon added a condition: if it bought $8 billion worth of groceries over seven years, it could get warrants to purchase around 15% of SpartanNash’s stock at a price potentially lower than the market. Amazon also said it wanted to be notified of any takeover offers for SpartanNash and have a 10-day window to offer a counterbid.


Amazon has been doing such deals with vendors for about a decade but has aggressively increased the practice in the past few years, said former Amazon executives and lawyers who worked on structuring the deals. In its latest quarterly report, the company valued its warrants at $2.8 billion, more than five times the level three years ago. Amazon doesn’t disclose the value of stakes it owns as a result of exercising its warrants.

A broader measure of its warrants and the stakes it holds in companies through warrants, direct investment or other ways increased 10 times to $8.4 billion in that period, according to Amazon’s quarterly filings.


Like stock options, warrants let the holder buy a company’s shares at a set price during a set period. If the stock surpasses that strike price, the warrant holder can buy shares at a below-market price.

Corporate executives in a range of industries and lawyers said Amazon’s push to get warrants as part of vendor deals is highly unusual. Warrant deals have more commonly been used by investors who back companies in financial trouble, in deals deemed high risk.

Amazon is using its market dominance to steal from the share-holders, but that’s OK with the corrupt stooges that Robert Bork unleashed on antitrust law.


In talks with Atlas Air Worldwide Holdings Inc., Amazon broached a 10-year leasing deal, with similar terms. This time Amazon demanded warrants that would amount to up to 20% of Atlas’s equity over five years—with an option for 10% more later—depending on how much business it gave Atlas. Amazon also wanted the right to elect a director to Atlas’s board, after meeting certain milestones.

People involved on both sides said that warrants were a condition of Amazon partnering with Atlas. “There was definitely a sense that if it wasn’t agreed to there wouldn’t be a deal,” said one of the people. Atlas executives didn’t want to pass up the revenue opportunity from Amazon and viewed giving up the warrants as the price of doing business with Amazon, said the person.


Former Amazon executives said they avoided doing anything during supplier negotiations, such as putting its ultimatums in writing, that would give fodder to critics who have said Amazon abuses its power. One of the former executives said that most companies complied with its demands over warrants. Several former Amazon executives who worked on such deals said in interviews that they found them to be unfair and one-sided, saying the companies weren’t in a position to refuse and that most of the upside went to Amazon.

This is extortion and demanding kick-backs, and while it is likely legal, it really shouldn’t be.

This sort of behavior is baked into its DNA, as we can see by their dealing with the press as well, with intimidation and lies being the rule rather than the exception:

It was a slow news day at Gizmodo, the tech website where Dell Cameron worked. Without a story of his own to report he decided to aggregate—a journalism term for rewriting and crediting—a day-old Tampa ABC-affiliate’s TV piece on how Amazon’s Ring home surveillance security system was being marketed to dozens of Florida police departments.

A day later, an email from an Amazon spokesperson popped into Cameron’s inbox. The brief email claimed that the Tampa-based reporter, Adam Walser, was “correcting his story” and suggested that Cameron would need to do so as well. In her mail, the spokesperson challenged the accuracy of the station’s entire report. “It is inaccurate that AWS or Amazon is marketing Amazon Rekognition to law enforcement, either individually or in combination with Ring,” she wrote.

Cameron checked, and he didn’t see a correction on the Tampa story. Before making any change to his post, Cameron decided to reach out to Walser and double-check. “I read him the exact email that they sent me,” Cameron says. Walser was puzzled, according to Cameron. “He said ‘That’s just not true, we’re not issuing a correction. I don’t know what they’re talking about.’” Cameron wrote back to the Amazon spokesperson relaying what he’d been told, and mentioning that Gizmodo was planning their own potential follow-up story that was “likely to include that Amazon attempted to obtain a correction from Gizmodo by falsely claiming the ABC station was planning to issue one.”

The Amazon spokesperson doubled down, insisting that a correction had indeed happened. She accused Cameron of being “up in arms” and “threatening” by mentioning the possibility that Gizmodo would publish a piece about being misled by Amazon. “I do not appreciate being called… a liar,” she added in a follow-up email.


“I do not believe for a second that this person is naive or didn’t understand what a correction is,” Cameron told me recently, almost two years after the interaction. “They got a job in the PR department at one of the most powerful companies in the world. I think they were trying to trick me into correcting a story and didn’t expect me to go back and contact the reporter.”

It’s not unusual for communications teams for corporations, non-profits, and the government all alike to be withholding in their interactions with the press and to try to spin things in the best possible light. It’s rarer that companies try to mislead and intimidate the press into falling into the lines that they want. But of the dozen journalists I spoke with for this story, most of whom declined to be identified out of concern for professional repercussions, all recalled times Amazon’s press team had engaged in manipulative and sometimes deceitful behavior. According to these writers and editors, and my own experience reporting on the company, Amazon’s comms team readily employs these rarer, bare-knuckle PR tactics. The ultimate result isn’t just that reporters have a harder time writing stories. Some may be deterred from writing on the company at all. And if those that do are deceived and unduly influenced, then by extension the public is as well.

Aside from Cameron, at least two reporters recalled moments when they felt Amazon’s press team had outright lied to them. Almost all of the journalists told me they found that Amazon press relations was either the most or among the most clawing and deceptive corporate communications team that they had dealt with in their work.

“Amazon is the only company I’ve dealt with that has directly lied to me,” said one tech writer, recalling instances when Amazon boasted of warehouse safety guidelines in ways that journalists who had spoken with rank-and-file employees had found not to be true.

“They’d often lie about things we had proof of,” said another reporter, citing times they had visual evidence contradicting the communications teams’ claims. “There will be videos of these big walkouts and they’ll say only a few workers participated.”


“I do think that the broader effort is to disincentivize you from telling the truth. They want you to feel like it’s going to be a world of pain if you do your job,” one veteran tech reporter said. “Even if corrections aren’t needed, it’s still a headache and a waste of time for reporters and editors and lets them know that they’re probably scheduling another headache for themselves the next time that they decide to write about Amazon.”

Another reporter at a smaller outlet with less resources described a similar chilling effect after the company pressured him after a critical story. “It just eats up so much of time, going back and forth with our attorneys,” the reporter said, describing how the trouble had made him hesitant to cover Amazon again. “You think twice about it. Is it really worth it? Maybe you have a good story but it won’t change how they do business. It’s kind of a scary thing.”

Amazon tried a similar tactic this September on Reveal—a non-profit investigative news shop that often releases its stories in partnership with newspapers, broadcasters, and other outlets—after it published an award winning series from a team led by reporter Will Evans about the company’s efforts to mislead the public about warehouse injury rates. “Yesterday we published an investigation into Amazon’s massive misinformation campaign. Naturally, we’re now the *subject* of their misinformation campaign,” wrote Andy Donohue, Reveal’s deputy director of projects.


But others noted Amazon is willing to go to bold lengths compared to other companies they’ve reported on. Amazon has a broader reputation for fostering a cutthroat corporate culture, which seems to be reflected in the company’s external communications. Ahead of April’s high profile unionization vote at the company’s Bessemer, Alabama facility, Amazon fallaciously tweeted claims that its hard-pressed drivers and warehouse pickers didn’t actually have to pee in bottles, and chided lawmakers like Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren who had spoken out about the company’s labor conditions. Recode reported that the tweets were directly driven by Jeff Bezos, the company’s CEO and one of the world’s most wealthy men.

While that suggests the company’s aggressive PR efforts flow from the very top, there are other executives with a role in overseeing public relations and related portfolios. While the most high profile may be vice president of global corporate affairs Jay Carney, the former Time magazine reporter and Obama White House press secretary, two former Amazon communications staffers and another employee with knowledge of Amazon’s communications team told me that Drew Herdener, the vice president of communications, usually calls shots internally.


Amazon’s tactics seem to be well known among reporters. Beyond the dozen with personal experience I spoke with for this story, many others who had not themselves faced an Amazon harangue were aware of the company’s aggressive approach. Indeed, hints of Amazon’s press strategies have leaked out over the years. In 2019, a Twitter glitch notified users when they were put on other users’ private lists. Caroline Haskins, a reporter at BuzzFeed who had broken a series of stories on Amazon Ring, noticed that Morgan Culbertson, an Amazon PR person, had added her to a list called “Haters.”

The goal is to have these tactics, “Well known among reporters.”  The technical term for this is, “Chilling Effect.”

Even reporters who have never written a story about Amazon are leery of writing one.


It was not the first time I had been yelled at by a press flack—that’s not uncommon. Nor was it the first time I had been asked for a correction. But it was the first and only time a press flack tried to aggressively antagonize and intimidate me into stripping a quote out of a published story from an established expert.

That expert, Stacy Mitchell—the co-director of the Institute for Local Self-Reliance, a research group that advocates for small businesses—has seen the impacts of Amazon’s PR wrath firsthand. When I spoke with her for this story, Mitchell said that she’s had editors “tone-down and remove stuff to reduce the blowback from Amazon” or “at least brace themselves,” when preparing to publish op-eds she’s written.

See Effect, Chilling.


“I’ve heard about Amazon’s bullying from many journalists,” Mitchell says. “I sometimes ask reporters about it, and sometimes they bring it up off-handedly.”


Even accepting that less than ideal reality, Amazon seems to be doing something that goes beyond mere spin. Facebook, Google, or other tech giants’ softer pressure and prodding certainly don’t come with the best of intentions. But employing aggressive, intimidation tactics and playing word games that severely contort the truth clearly goes beyond the line, wherever it is.

I am not surprised.  The company was founded by a contemptible sociopath, and the company (Corporations are people, my friend) is a contemptible sociopath as well.

It’s Jobless Thursday

Initial unemployment claims fellell to a post pandemic low of 364,000, which is actually down to the level of a bad week in the before time:

Worker filings for jobless benefits fell to a new pandemic low last week and resumed a monthslong downward trend, adding to signs of a recovering labor market.

Initial jobless claims fell by 51,000 to a seasonally adjusted 364,000 in the week ended June 26 from the prior week’s revised total of 415,000, the Labor Department said Thursday.

The drop brought the four-week moving average, which smooths out volatility in the weekly figures, to 392,750, also a pandemic low. Jobless claims, a proxy for layoffs, are down by about 50% since the first week of April, but remain above pre-pandemic levels.

“We are seeing labor-market progress,” said AnnElizabeth Konkel, an economist at job-search site Indeed. She added that “we still have just a little bit more ways to go” before unemployment claims reach pre-pandemic levels.

Initial claims were at 256,000 on March 14, 2020, as Covid-19 took hold in the U.S. The 2019 average for claims was 218,000.

Thursday’s decline in unemployment claims came ahead of the June U.S. employment report, set to be released by the Labor Department on Friday. Economists project that employers created 706,000 jobs last month and that the unemployment rate fell to 5.6%.

As always, I will go with the under.

The Solution to this Problem is Democratic Legitimacy

Didier Reynders, the European Union’s justice minister is arguing that challenges to EU law on the basis of national law threaten to break up the organization.

That nations in the EU are taking these steps is no surprise.  The EU has no democratic legitimacy.

It has been, since its origins as the European Coal and Steel Community, a profoundly undemocratic institution.

The European Parliament is about as ineffective as the Roman Senate under Caligula,* and posesses far less power than said august Roman institution.

Ordinary voters still have a voice in their local government and in their local judiciary, while they have none (by explicit design) in the EU.

As such challenging EU dictum through the local courts is a logical, and likely popular, strategy, particularly in the face of German hegemony within the The European Commission:

The EU’s justice commissioner has vowed to fight back against a proliferation of legal challenges and rulings by member states that have attacked the supremacy of EU law, warning that they could destroy the union itself.

In an interview with the Financial Times, Didier Reynders said that this increased questioning of the primacy of EU law — and the right of the European Court of Justice to have the final word — created a “spillover effect” that had emboldened others to follow suit.

In a sign of the perceived threat, the European Commission this month launched legal proceedings against Germany in response to an explosive ruling by its constitutional court last year that the ECJ had acted beyond its competence in a case related to European Central Bank bond-buying.

This ruling is actually an artifact of German hegemony.  Bashing the lazy and profligate south has been a winning electoral strategy in Germany since the adoption of the Euro as a currency.

The next big legal challenge Brussels is bracing for is a decision by the Polish constitutional tribunal, which could come on July 13, on whether certain elements of the EU’s treaties are compatible with the constitution. The case, brought by Poland’s nationalist government, is regarded by legal experts as the most serious challenge yet to the EU’s legal order.

If the EU, and the Eurocrats, fail to realize that without political legitimacy through meaningful democratic processes these problems will only get worse.

Democracy is inconvenient, and a pain in the ass sometimes, but absent a muscular application of this concept to EU governance, the EU may cease to exist.

*The real history of Caligula appointing his favorite horse, Incitatus, to the Roman Senate is actually saner than is commonly represented. He threatened to appoint the horse to the Senate in order to demonstrate just how dysfunctional the body was.

It was a prank intended to humiliate the Senate.