Tag: Government

I Want to See Elon Musk Frog-Marched out of His Offices in Handcuffs

Tesla Factory Parking Lot Today

Alameda county officials have been insisting on maintaining a lock-down, and everyone’s favorite sociopath* Elon Musk has opened the factory anyway, putting thousands of his employees, and tens of thousands or their family members at risk.

What’s more, he dared authorities to arrest him.

Simply put, Elon is throwing mama from the train because he wants his stock options to vest.

To quote some anonymous California pol, “F%$# Elon Musk.”

Arrest everyone in the factory, and put Elon at the back of the line for processing, so that he spends 2-3 days in the slam incommunicado.

2 days of jail food should beat a little bit of humility into him.

It will be a learning experience for him, and a warning for the rest of the law-breakers who claim to be noble “disrupters” when they are criminals:

The fight between Tesla and local officials regarding the reopening of a manufacturing plant escalated Monday after chief executive Elon Musk tweeted his plans and mentioned the potential for arrests.

“Tesla is restarting production today against Alameda County rules,” Musk wrote on Twitter. “I will be on the line with everyone else. If anyone is arrested, I ask that it only be me.”

It is one of the most prominent examples of a powerful business figure defying local health orders amid the response to the novel coronavirus. Tesla on Saturday filed suit against Alameda County, where its Fremont, Calif., factory is located, seeking an injunction against orders to stay closed. The suit alleged violations of the due process and equal protection clauses of the 14th Amendment.

Neetu Balram, a spokeswoman for Alameda County, said in a statement that the county hoped to work with Tesla to avoid any further escalation of the issue.

F%$# that.  Lock him up, and make sure that when he is arraigned, he is photographed in a prison uniform.

Just because he got lucky (and broke some banking regulations) and became a billionaire is no reason for authorities to allow him to arrogantly and openly flout the law.

*But I’m an engineer, not a psychologist, dammit!
I love it when I get to go all Dr. McCoy!

This is Completely Unsurprising

It turns out that former Michigan Governor Rick Snyder knew about the dangerous toxicity of the City of Flint’s new water supply months before he admitted it.

In fact, he knew before there were any adverse health consequences, and he knew tht there WOULD be adverse health consequences, which makes him a murderer.

Here is hoping that he goes to jail for a very long time:

During the inauguration of his successor, outgoing Michigan Governor Rick Snyder needed a favor.

At the January 2019 event, Snyder approached Karen Weaver, who was then the mayor of Flint, a city of nearly 100,000 people that was still reeling from financial decay and a toxic-water crisis. He asked whether she could meet with Congressman Elijah Cummings.

“You have a lot of influence with him,” Weaver remembered a worried Snyder saying to her about Cummings. At the time, Cummings was the incoming chairman of the powerful U.S. House Oversight Committee.

Throughout the water crisis, Cummings led the charge as Congress demanded Snyder and his administration provide more information about what he knew about the poisonous water that ravaged the impoverished majority-minority Rust Belt city after it switched water sources to the corrosive Flint River in 2014, and when he knew it. More specifically, Cummings pushed for more information on when Snyder first learned of the lethal Legionella pneumophila bacterial outbreak in Flint. Snyder testified to Congress that he first became aware of Legionella in January 2016 and held a press conference the next day. Flint residents didn’t believe the governor; their doubt intensified after Harvey Hollins, the director of the state’s Urban and Metropolitan Initiatives office, contradicted the governor, testifying to Congress that he informed Snyder about Flint’s Legionella outbreak in December 2015.

Back at the inauguration, Weaver said, Snyder asked her to get Cummings to “back off” from investigating him, emphasizing that he wanted to move on with his life as a private citizen. He said “it would go a long way” if the request to the congressman came from her, Weaver recalled to VICE. Weaver’s former spokesperson, Candice Mushatt, as well as two other sources, confirmed that she had described the governor’s request to them after it occurred. (Snyder did not respond to multiple requests for comment on this story).


After a VICE investigation spanning a year and a half across the state of Michigan, overwhelming evidence indicates Snyder had good reason to worry.

Hundreds of confidential pages of documents obtained by VICE, along with emails and interviews, reveal a coordinated, five-year cover-up overseen by Snyder and his top officials to prevent news of Flint’s deadly water from going public—while there was still time to save lives—and then limit the damage after the crisis made global headlines.

All told, the waterborne bacterial disease may have killed at least 115 people in 2014 and 2015, and potentially more whose pneumonia wasn’t officially considered Legionnaires’ disease, the illness caused by Legionella. In addition to the outbreak, Flint’s water supply was contaminated with lead and other heavy metals, harmful bacteria, carcinogens, and other toxic components. This wreaked havoc on Flint residents, leaving them with a laundry list of illnesses, including kidney and liver problems, severe bone and muscle pain, gastrointestinal problems, loss of teeth, autoimmune diseases, neurological deficiencies, miscarriages, Parkinson’s disease, severe fatigue, seizures, and volatile mood disorders.


VICE has learned that prosecutors leading the criminal investigation secretly subpoenaed key members of Snyder’s inner circle, including chief of staff Dennis Muchmore, Snyder’s “fixer” and top adviser Rich Baird, and state treasurer Andy Dillon, as they built a case against the governor. Documents reveal the governor’s chief legal counsel, Beth Clement, knew Snyder’s top officials were subpoenaed by prosecutors, suggesting Snyder knew as well (a spokesperson for Clement, now a judge, said she couldn’t comment on a case pending in any court). The aggressive investigation into Snyder may explain why the governor’s office’s legal fees, paid for by state taxpayers, came to at least $8.5 million in the years after the water crisis made national headlines.

Snyder and his administration were investigated by a team led by special prosecutor Todd Flood from 2016 to 2019. The team concluded that the administration had “committed conspiracies of ongoing crimes, like an organized crime unit,” a source with knowledge of the probe told VICE.

But before a case against Snyder could develop, the state’s newly appointed attorney general, Dana Nessel, fired top prosecutors and investigators pursuing the case.

Investigative subpoena documents obtained by VICE, along with details from sources with knowledge of the Flint water criminal prosecution, reveal that:

  • Snyder was warned about the dangers of using the Flint River as a water source a year before the water switch even occurred.
  • Snyder had knowledge of the Legionella outbreak in Flint as early as October 2014, six months after the water switch—and 16 months earlier than he claimed to have learned of the deadly outbreak in testimony under oath before Congress.
  • communication among Snyder, his top officials, and the state health department spiked in October 2014 around the same time state environmental and health officials traded emails and calls about the Legionella outbreak in Flint.

According to sources familiar with the criminal investigation, as well as Flint residents VICE spoke to, during those 16 months, Snyder’s top advisor, Baird, attempted to pay off sick Flint residents to keep quiet and silenced a whistleblower sounding alarms over the city using the Flint River while there was still time to save lives. And Snyder himself “punished” Weaver, Flint’s mayor, she said, after she repeatedly refused his administration’s requests for her to declare the water safe in Flint to residents.

What follows is the full, never-before-told story behind the cover-up of a government poisoning tens of thousands of innocent people—and the ongoing, six-year-old crisis.

But that latter proposal wasn’t free of flaws either. Genesee County, which Flint is part of, was the majority owner of the proposed KWA; oddly, the county’s elected drain commissioner, Jeff Wright, doubled as KWA CEO. Wright had a checkered past: In 2005, he was accused of laundering funds during his 2000 drain commissioner campaign; he ultimately wasn’t charged and denied the allegations, but the FBI did seize his campaign records. Years later, Wright became an FBI informant.

In March 2013, more than a year before the Flint River switch, Stephen Busch, a supervisor with MDEQ’s drinking water division, emailed other environmental officials in preparation for a call about Flint’s water options with state treasurer Dillon, Busch, and MDEQ director Dan Wyant. Busch warned that continuous use of the Flint River would pose “an increased microbial risk to public health” along with an “increased risk of disinfection by-product (carcinogen)” to Flint residents.

In the investigative subpoena interview between treasurer Dillon and special prosecutor Flood obtained by VICE, Dillon didn’t deny that Busch repeated his email’s warnings on the call they had the same day. Soon after the call, a source familiar with the details of the Flint water criminal investigation told VICE that Dillon and MDEQ director Dan Wyant—whom, VICE learned, prosecutors interviewed—briefed Governor Snyder in person on Busch’s warning about the hazards of the Flint River.

By the time Snyder received Busch’s October 2014 memo about the potential for a dangerous bacteria to be in the water, Flint residents had already been poisoned for six months.

“The source of the outbreak may be the Flint municipal water,” state epidemiologist Shannon Johnson wrote in an email to colleagues on October 13, 2014. This was the same day General Motors announced it would discontinue using the Flint River because high levels of chloride in the river water corroded its parts. A state health spokesperson told VICE that Johnson couldn’t answer questions “due to the ongoing criminal investigation.”

“He’s a fixer, he’s an old-fashioned fixer,” a source familiar with the criminal investigation told VICE. Baird’s M.O. was “by any means possible: threaten, coerce, whatever, to fix these things for Snyder.”

Baird’s “fixing” for Snyder expanded as the water crisis unfolded, allegedly descending into identifying Flint residents who could damage Snyder—and trying to pay them off.

By 2017, Flint resident Adam Murphy had become ill with seizures, memory loss, and double vision. Things grew so bad he could no longer work as a millwright welder. His then-wife Christina developed severe skeletal and muscle pain. Their newborn son Declan’s umbilical cord blood tested positive for lead in 2016 (the CDC cites no safe lead level for children).

Angry and desperate for help, Adam unleashed his rage at a water-crisis town hall in January 2017. A police officer removed him from the event and said she’d connect him with a top state official who could help his family, Christina recalled to VICE. Adam’s outburst received attention in the Flint Journal and the Detroit News.

Weeks later, Baird, an imposing man with broad shoulders and white-grey hair, stood in the Murphys’ living room, bizarrely flanked by former Army National Guard colonel Scott W. Hiipakka, a state trooper, and Sheryl Thompson, an official from the state health department, according to Christina. Baird was there representing Snyder, or as he told them, his “best friend.” He told the Murphys that the Snyder administration would fully pay for a medical treatment for Adam called chelation therapy, which injects agents into the body to bind to heavy metals like lead and extract them.

The Murphys weren’t the only Flint family Baird allegedly tried to silence, according to sources familiar with the details of the criminal investigation.

According to Mays, Baird approached her in May 2018, not-so-subtly trying to pay her off.

“Rick and I are out at the end of the year, so we have nothing to lose,” Mays recalled Baird saying. Baird allegedly said he was so tired of Flint residents’ complaining and lacking appreciation for all Snyder had done for them that he unilaterally, without the governor knowing, decided to end free water-bottle sites throughout Flint.

Mays told VICE she offered Baird to shower in her home as a demonstration of how unsafe the water still was. She also emphasized the need for transparent, non-state or EPA-funded water testing.

Baird’s response wasn’t subtle, according to Mays. “How about I do this: If I come in and replace your interior plumbing, your fixtures, the water heater, and your service line, would that make you happy and would that make you quiet?”

She didn’t flinch: “I just looked at him and said ‘If you do that for everybody,’” she remembered. “He turned beet red.”

Unfortunately, it does appear that the Snyder coverup will work, because the statute of limitations will expire in just a few months.

She’s Got Michelle Bachmann Eyes*

Republican Crazy Eyes

It looks like another right wing politician worshiping at the altar of Trump is now discovering that that whole Golden Calf thing was a warning, not an instruction.

So now South Dakota Governor Kristi Noem has one of the largest Covid-19 clusters, and a significant proportion of the United States pork production has been taken off line, and her state is in a world of hurt.

And yes, she has some seriously CRAZY eyes:

As governors across the country fell into line in recent weeks, South Dakota’s top elected leader stood firm: There would be no statewide order to stay home.

Such edicts to combat the spread of the novel coronavirus, Gov. Kristi L. Noem said disparagingly, reflected a “herd mentality.” It was up to individuals — not government — to decide whether “to exercise their right to work, to worship and to play. Or to even stay at home.”

And besides, the first-term Republican told reporters at a briefing this month, “South Dakota is not New York City.”

But now South Dakota is home to one of the largest single coronavirus clusters anywhere in the United States, with more than 300 workers at a giant ­pork-processing plant falling ill. With the case numbers continuing to spike, the company was forced to announce the indefinite closure of the facility Sunday, threatening the U.S. food supply.

“A shelter-in-place order is needed now. It is needed today,” said Sioux Falls Mayor Paul TenHaken, whose city is at the center of South Dakota’s outbreak and who has had to improvise with voluntary recommendations in the absence of statewide action.

You know, if your only goal is to drown the government in a bath tub, it’s a tough to sell in the middle of a pandemic.

*Apologies to Kim Carnes.

Oh, Snap!

A federal judge has ruled that Ken Cuccinelli was unlawfully appointed to head the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), and so all of the rulings that he has made are invalid:

A federal judge ruled on Sunday that Kenneth T. Cuccinelli II was unlawfully appointed to lead United States Citizenship and Immigration Services and that two policies he put in place that limited asylum seekers’ access to counsel should be nullified.

The judge, Randolph D. Moss of United States District Court in Washington, said the Trump administration violated a federal law that stipulates who can fill vacant leadership positions at federal agencies when Mr. Cuccinelli was tapped in June to be the acting director of the agency that oversees legal immigration.


The statute related to Mr. Cuccinelli’s appointment is the Federal Vacancies Reform Act, which says an official temporarily filling a cabinet-level position before Senate confirmation must be next in the line of succession by serving as the “first assistant” or must have worked as a senior official in the agency for at least 90 days. Mr. Cuccinelli, the former Virginia attorney general who aggressively defended Mr. Trump’s immigration agenda on television in the months before his appointment, did not meet either of those requirements, according to the ruling.


But Nitin Shah, senior counsel at Democracy Forward, one of the plaintiffs in the case, said lawyers would examine how other policies could be affected.

“It raises serious questions about the legality of a number of policies that Cuccinelli has enacted and may yet enact, and we and others will be taking a closer look at that in the coming days,” Mr. Shah said. He called the voiding of the asylum directives “a big blow for the Trump administration’s racist agenda.”

The only saving grace of the Trump administration is that they are incompetent.

A Feature, Not a Bug

We are now seeing indications that the 2020 census, which will go digital and online, is likely to crash and burn like the Iowa caucuses or the roll out of Obamacare.

I would argue that the failure of the census will not be a cluster-f%$# (incompetence) but a rat-f%$# (deliberate sabotage).

If the process descends into failure, it gives corrupt individuals the opportunity to manipulate the date for partisan political advantage.

The Republicans have been trying rat-f%$# the census for decades:

The stakes are high when a major civic exercise involves a large population, new technology that has not been thoroughly tested and an entire country waiting on the results.

Just ask the organizers of the Iowa caucuses, which offered a cautionary tale on the technological woes that could befall a big political event. Some observers worry that this year’s census carries the same potential for mayhem — except on an infinitely larger scale.

The U.S. Census Bureau plans to try out a lot of new technology. It’s the first once-a-decade census in which most people are being encouraged to answer questions via the internet. Later in the process, census workers who knock on the doors of homes that have not responded will use smartphones and a new mobile app to relay answers.

A government watchdog agency, the Census Bureau’s inspector general and some lawmakers have grown concerned about whether the systems are ready for prime time. Most U.S. residents can start answering the questionnaire in March.

“I must tell you, the Iowa (caucus) debacle comes to mind when I think of the census going digital,” Eleanor Holmes Norton, the congressional delegate for the District of Columbia, said this week at a hearing on the census.

Cybersecurity is another worry. Experts consider the census to be an attractive target for anyone seeking to sow chaos and undermine confidence in the U.S. government, as Russia did in the 2016 presidential election.

In a worst-case scenario, vital records could be deleted or polluted with junk data. Even a lesser assault that interfered with online data collection could erode public confidence. In 2016, a denial-of-service attack knocked Australia’s online census offline, flooding it with junk data.

Why am I thinking that there might be a Republican operative who is thinking about passing access codes to the GRU?

Mixed Emotions

These Are All Hideous Dehumanizing Crap

Boston City Hall

Royal Ontario Museum

Vitra Design Museum

J.Edgar Hoover Building

Donald Trump has issued new architectural guidelines for government buildings, specifically calling for new buildings to be designed in a “Classical” style.

I have mixed emotions about this.

The first, and most obvious area of concern is that this should not be a decision made by the President.   Standards on buildings and the like should be driven at the staff level by technical issues.

Additionally this decision has clear echoes to Adolph Hitler’s (and Albert Speer’s) edicts on buildings during Germany’s Nazi era.

On the other side, every single, “Innovative,” public building that I have seen has been complete sh%$ from an aesthetic perspective, and the functionality has frequently been complete pants as well.

Ever since improvements in architectural materials have removed many constraints from buildings, high end architecture has increasingly been an exercise in mental masturbation:

In 1962, Daniel Patrick Moynihan, then an assistant secretary at the Labor Department, prepared a memo on the use of federal office space for President John F. Kennedy. Into this document he tucked a succinct yet deeply considered set of recommendations for the design of U.S. government buildings. These “Guiding Principles for Federal Architecture” were adopted as official policy shortly thereafter and are seen as axiomatic by American architects and planners.

Moynihan wrote that federal buildings must testify to “the dignity, enterprise, vigor, and stability of the American government.” But he was silent about which styles would best express those qualities—deliberately so. “An official style must be avoided,” he cautioned. “Design must flow from the architectural profession to the government and not vice versa.”

That flow may soon be reversed. As first reported by Architectural Record and confirmed by The New York Times, the Trump administration is considering an executive order that will direct that U.S. government buildings with budgets greater than $50 million be designed in classical and other traditional styles. A draft document retains Moynihan’s ringing phrase about “dignity, enterprise, vigor, and stability,” but stipulates that “the classical architectural style shall be the preferred and default style.” All federal courthouses and federal buildings in and around Washington, D.C., would have to follow the work of Greek and Roman architects and their emulators in subsequent centuries. The late-20th-century Brutalist and Deconstructivist styles, meanwhile, would essentially be banned from the federal projects covered by the order. The restriction would apply to renovation and expansion projects as well as new buildings.

Brutalism’s monumental concrete forms and the fractured geometries of Deconstructivism have attracted many other detractors, of course. But for the federal government to categorically discourage any architectural style is startling—and an utter misunderstanding of how architecture works.

The American Institute of Architects issued a statement saying it “strongly opposes” the move. Most architects today support using a range of styles for new buildings, as Moynihan did. But the AIA doesn’t speak for the cadre of die-hard classicists with whom the document originated. The National Civic Art Society (NCAS), a small Washington nonprofit, prioritizes the classical tradition in design and argues that contemporary architecture “has created a built environment that is degraded and dehumanizing.”

Contemporary architecture is crap, and even when it works functionally, it is corrosive to the very soul.


A study has shown that public spending on public goods results in greater satisfaction and happiness by the citizenry.

This is yet another data point showing that privatization of public goods is a bad thing:

Baylor University political scientist Patrick Flavin’s forthcoming study in Social Science Research finds that people in states with higher public goods spending (on “libraries, parks, highways, natural resources and police protection”) report higher levels of happiness. 

It’s not clear whether they are happier because they have better services, or whether people who choose to live in places where they don’t have to pay for their neighbors’ kids’ education, parks, etc, are selfish, miserable f%$#s.


Pennsylvania Pushes Back Against Hedge Fund Looting

The State Treasurer has taken a look at the hedge funds, and the state are moving to simpler financial instruments, which have far lower fees, and actually perform at least as well.

Of course, low fee funds don’t have the money to spend on political donations, so I do wonder how long it will be until the state legislature starts pushing back over this:

Pennsylvania Treasurer Joe Torsella last month told the world he’d pulled the state’s money — or at least the slice he oversees — “out of all so-called hedge-fund investments, resulting in [over] $14 million in annual fee saving.”

The claim sounded familiar. I looked it up, and sure enough Torsella had announced back in April 2017 that he was moving $2.4 billion in state funds away from private investment managers into a “passive investment strategy, saving an estimated $5 million per year in fees.”

The 2017 purge was against “actively managed” stock investors. This fall’s move, dumping nearly $500 million out of hedge funds, was “the next installment,” Torsella spokeswoman Ashley Matthews told me.

This was smaller than the stocks move (just one-fifth of the assets), but also bigger (almost three times the fee savings).

The move reflects Torsella’s long-held position to put more state pension money in low-cost index funds while avoiding high-fee hedge funds.

Through a company called Aksia, a “fund-of-funds” manager hired under Torsella’s predecessor Rob McCord, Pennsylvania employed more than 50 hedge funds — such big firms as BlackRock D.E. Shaw, and Philadelphia’s PFM, as well as more obscure investors in a web of hedging strategies — to invest a slice of Pennsylvania families’ Tuition Assistance Program (TAP) money.

What does the record show? Since 2013, Aksia and its funds were paid more than $100 million by the Pennsylvania treasury — $15 million a year — in fees and shared profits (“carried interest”), for managing that not-quite-$500 million.

How’d they do? According to Treasury data, after paying those fees, the hedge funds returned an average of less than 4 percent a year over those 6½ years. That is less than the college savings plans’ long-term target for all investments, which is 6 percent a year.

This is an unalloyed good.

First it means that the taxpayers of the state of Pennsylvania are no longer being ripped off, and second,  it represents a claw-back of power and money from Wall Street.

I Cannot Find the Evil Here

Gilead Sciences has been sued by the US government for violating HHS patents with its HIV preventative drugs. (Truvada and Descovy)

Considering the fact that their drugs costs $1800.00/month in the US, and $8.00 in Australia, going after the price gougers at Gilead is an unalloyed good, but it’s the Trump administration, so I’m trying to figure out how they got here.

There has to be some sort of corruption or evil behind this.

A rift between the Centers for Disease Control and pharmaceutical giant Gilead Sciences ruptured further Wednesday when the Trump administration sued Gilead in U.S. District Court, asserting that Gilead made billions of dollars on HIV prevention therapy while repeatedly ignoring government patents.

The patent infringement case against a major drug company, coming at a time of increasing political anger over drug prices, signals a shift in a relationship that typically has been collaborative. The San Francisco-based company has worked for years with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to fight HIV, including providing free drugs for government experiments, as well as efforts to expand treatment of hepatitis C.

But the lawsuit filed on behalf of the Department of Health and Human Services this week describes how, beginning in 2015, Gilead repeatedly refused to recognize CDC patents for an HIV prevention called Truvada for PrEP.

“Gilead has repeatedly refused to obtain a license from CDC to use the patented regimens,’’ the government said in its lawsuit, filed by the Justice Department in federal court in Delaware. “Meanwhile, Gilead has profited from research funded by hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars. Indeed, Gilead has reaped billions from PrEP . . . but has not paid any royalties to CDC.’’

If I were directing CDC of HHS policy, I would not be asking for royalties, I’d be demanding price controls as a condition for the license.

It would save a lot more money than any royalty scheme.

Mixed Emotions

I am heartened that some of the regime change mousketeers are finally turning their eyes toward the House of Saud, and seeing it, and particular its young scion Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, as a threat to peace and stability.

On the other hand, I am terrifed that they are comparing him to Saddam Hussein, because this implies an eventual invasion, and invading Saudi Arabia, which would involve the “Infidel” in Medina and Mecca, would create a clusterf%$# that would make our little adventure in Iraq look like a game of Parcheesi.

We need to stop our incompetent meddling.

It Appears that Voting Him Immunity was a Bridge too Far

Benjamin Netanyahu has been unable to form a government, so there will be snap elections.

I think the fact that he was going to use the new government to grant himself for immunity for impending corruption charges was a major contributing factor:

Israel’s parliament has voted to dissolve itself after Benjamin Netanyahu failed to form a government, in a move that will lead to a second round of elections just one month after the country held a national poll.

At a suspenseful gathering that ended weeks of unsuccessful bartering and brinkmanship, the Knesset voted to disperse and call new elections, set for 17 September.

Coalition talks stalled after far-right former defence minister Avigdor Lieberman, a Netanyahu ally-turned-rival, refused to back the prime minister.

Netanyahu needed support from Lieberman’s ultranationalist party, Yisrael Beiteinu, for a majority in Israel’s parliament.


Lieberman, whose party’s base includes largely secular Russian-speaking Israelis, wanted guarantees that the prime minister would back legislation to insist ultra-Orthodox Jews, also known as haredi, undertake mandatory national service like other Israelis.

Netanyahu, however, also needed the 16 seats from ultra-Orthodox parties for a 61-seat majority of parliament’s 120 seats. Those parties demanded that the existing exemption from conscription for seminary students stays in place.

“The Likud surrendered completely to the haredi,” Lieberman said before the parliamentary vote on Wednesday.


This time, Netanyahu, 69, was under additional pressure to form a government as he faces potential indictments for bribery, fraud and breach of trust in three cases. He denies any wrongdoing, labelling the accusations as a “witch hunt”.

His loyalists had been planning to grant him immunity in the next parliament. A draft law they proposed would overrule court decisions and in effect protect the prime minister, although Netanyahu has not publicly backed the plan.

I cannot but think that the plans for immunizing Bibi were giving his coalition partners some serious concerns that they would pay for giving him a get out of jail free card.

Nope, No Racism Here

The Mayor of Hoschton, GA excluded a candidate for city administrator from consideration because he was black, and then claimed that racism wasn’t an issue:

The mayor of Hoschton, a nearly all-white community 50 miles northeast of Atlanta, allegedly withheld a job candidate from consideration for city administrator because he was black, an AJC investigation has found.

According to documents obtained by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and interviews with city officials, Mayor Theresa Kenerly told a member of the City Council she pulled the resume of Keith Henry from a packet of four finalists “because he is black, and the city isn’t ready for this.”

The AJC’s investigation into the controversy revealed not only a deeply flawed hiring process, but also hard racial attitudes inside Hoschton’s government. All of this occurs as the city of fewer than 2,000 people just outside Gwinnett County is poised for dramatic growth with the construction of thousands of new homes.


The mayor reportedly made her comments to a member of the council in an overheard whisper during a closed-door session of the council March 4. Councilwoman Hope Weeks said she repeated them to her in the parking lot after the meeting, according to a document released by the city in response to an open records request from the AJC.

“She proceeded to tell me that the candidate was real good, but he was black and we don’t have a big black population and she just didn’t think Hoschton was ready for that,” Weeks wrote in an account dated March 4.

Weeks confided with Councilwoman Susan Powers, and both women agreed to take the matter to city attorney Thomas Mitchell.


Councilman Jim Cleveland defended the mayor, while confirming many aspects of the story, including that she made a tearful apology in another executive session on March 12. According to accounts from council members, Kenerly said she was “looking out” for Henry because the city does not have a lot of minority residents.

“I was there for that,” Cleveland said. “She cried. She had tears in her eyes. It was in my opinion a very sincere apology.”

Powers said she was unimpressed with the apology. “It was, ‘I’m sorry if I caused you guys trouble,’” she said. “She was apologizing to the council. To me, she shouldn’t be apologizing to us, but to the person she harmed and to the city.”


Councilman Cleveland said he did not think Kenerly was necessarily wrong.

“I understood where she was coming from,” he said. “I understand Theresa saying that, simply because we’re not Atlanta. Things are different here than they are 50 miles down the road.”

Cleveland described Hoschton as “a predominantly white community” not in accord with urban sensibilities about race.

“I don’t know how they would take it if we selected a black administrator. She might have been right,” he said.


While Cleveland said it was not an issue in his decision on whom to hire, he did share his beliefs about race.

“I’m a Christian and my Christian beliefs are you don’t do interracial marriage. That’s the way I was brought up and that’s the way I believe,” he said. “I have black friends, I hired black people. But when it comes to all this stuff you see on TV, when you see blacks and whites together, it makes my blood boil because that’s just not the way a Christian is supposed to live.”

Nope, no racism here, you inbred, racist, stupid Deliverance rejects.

Bye Felicia Catherine

Baltimore Mayor Catherine Pugh has resigned following multiple criminal investigations of the sales of her self-published children’s book series:

Baltimore Mayor Catherine Pugh (D) resigned in disgrace through her attorney Thursday after weeks of temporary leave coinciding with the unfurling scandal of her self-dealing children’s book scheme.

“I am sorry for the harm that I have caused to the image of the city of Baltimore and the credibility of the office of the mayor,” Pugh’s attorney, Steven Silverman, read from a statement. “Baltimore deserves a mayor that can move our great city forward.”

Pugh’s resignation is effective immediately

Using her children’s series “Healthy Holly,” Pugh cut multiple book deals with organizations that do business with the city and other organizations she oversaw.

In the first break in the case, the Baltimore Sun revealed that she did not disclose that she’d received $500,000 from the University of Maryland medical system since 2011, while she sat on its board.

It really is remarkable just how petty and small time this all is.

The UN Plans to Set up a Concentration Camp for Rohingya

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sortition in Ostbelgien

It looks like there will be councils established in the German speaking (eastern) regions of Belgium:

A fixed Citizen Council will set the agenda and monitor the follow-up by the elected politicians of the recommendations of individual Citizens’ Assemblies. Both bodies will be drawn by lot from the inhabitants of the region as of 16 years old. #OstbelgienModell pic.twitter.com/tObDRaNge1

— G1000org (@G1000org) February 25, 2019

They are establishing citizens advisory councils selected by lot: (PDF)

As of September 2019 a Citizen Council (Bürgerrat) consisting of 24 members will propose policy recommendations to the elected parliament on its own initiative or after a request. In doing this, the Council will rely on recommendations drafted by re gular, independent Citizens’ Assemblies drawn by lot ( Bürgerversammlungen ). Parliament has to respond to the recommendations.

Members of the Citizens’ Council hold their seat for a year and a half. They are drawn by lot from previous members of the Citizens’ Assemblies and convene once a month. A Citizens’ Assembly on the other hand will normally last about three weekends over th ree months and has a maximum of 50 members. The Citizen Council will be able to decide how large a specific a Citizens’ Assembly needs to be and how long a given topic should be debated. Participation by citizens is not mandatory, but a daily fee will be given to those who do. The composition of both bodies, Citizen Council and Citizen Assemblies, needs to be representative in terms of gender, age, education and residence. Extra criteria can be added, if needed. Citizens’ as of the age of 16 can be chosen to be part of a Citizens’ Assembly.

As always, I am dubious of such efforts, but this is limited in scope, so it provides a relatively risk free way to evaluate the concept.

Can Any Francophiles Comment on This Analysis?

I do not that massive and disruptive protests are very much a part of French political culture.

I do think that part of this comes from centuries old cultural traditions, but André Sapir makes a cogent argument that this is an artifact of France’s highly centralized government presided over by its imperial Presidency:

Outside France, many economists tend to ascribe the yellow vest movement to the fact that the French are rebellious and that France is politically unmanageable. But what is special about France is not its people but its institutional system, which differs vastly from those of other European countries. Three dimensions seem to me particularly relevant in the current context.

The first concerns the political system. Under the current constitution, power is far more personalised than elsewhere. France is not a parliamentary democracy like Britain or Germany. Sure, all three have a lower and an upper chamber, but political parties play a fundamentally different role in France.

There, the dominant party is a creation of the president – like the RPR was a creation of Jacques Chirac, the Socialist party was created by François Mitterrand, and La République en Marche is the creation of Emmanuel Macron, around whom the party entirely revolves.

Elsewhere, the history of the major political parties is clearly distinct from the persona of their current leader. The CDU in Germany or the Conservative party in Britain are not the creation of Angela Merkel or Theresa May.

The second French peculiarity concerns the role of intermediate institutions, and in particular labour unions. Among the large European countries, France is where the rate of union membership is the lowest. In 2015, it was 36% in Italy, 25% in Britain, 18% in Germany, 14% in Spain, 12% in Poland and barely 8% in France. And the current practice further weakens the role of labour unions in the management of social conflicts.


Despite this situation, France is the most centralised of the six biggest EU countries. According to the OECD, the share of sub-national entities in total public expenditure is only 20% in France against 50% in Spain, 47% in Germany, 32% in Poland, 30% in Italy and 26% in Britain.

The conclusion is incontestable. France is the European country where there is the most rebellion against its leader, because his power is the most personalised and the most centralised among the six big EU countries.

The personalisation of power, the weakness of Parliament – with a dominant party dominated by a single person – and the weak role of intermediate bodies like labour unions all combine to create a situation where citizens have no recourse to make their voice heard other than taking to the streets and demanding the resignation of the president.


Many French economists rightly favour reforming France’s social model towards greater flexibility and greater security, like in Scandinavian countries. But they should remember that these countries have very high unionisation rates (67% in Denmark and Sweden) and extensive territorial decentralisation of public expenditures (with sub-national entities accounting for 65% of such expenditures in Denmark and 50% in Sweden). Attempting to copy the Scandinavian social system without changing the French institutional system would not be very productive.

France is not unmanageable. It simply needs a better governance. Why not start with a greater decentralisation of public expenditures? A reasonable objective could be to increase the share of sub-national entities in public expenditures from 20% to 30% by 2025, and further to 40% by 2030. But this cannot be done without a substantial institutional reform to ensure that decentralised public expenditures are both efficient and of good quality.

I think that a lot of this is history, mass protests in France have been a feature of their political economy since (at least) the French Revolution, but I do think that the weakness of political parties and the centralization of the government have exacerbated this phenomenon.

H/t naked capitalism.

This Business Will Get out of Control. It Will Get out of Control and We’ll Be Lucky to Live through It.

No, I am not referring to the “Black Budget” that covers things like our spy satellites, I mean pretty much everything, up to and including the Department of Housing and Urban Development:


The only thing that did not make the news was an announcement by a little-known government body called the Federal Accounting Standards Advisory Board — FASAB — that essentially legalized secret national security spending. The new guidance, “SFFAS 56 – CLASSIFIED ACTIVITIES” permits government agencies to “modify” public financial statements and move expenditures from one line item to another. It also expressly allows federal agencies to refrain from telling taxpayers if and when public financial statements have been altered.

To Michigan State professor Mark Skidmore, who’s been studying discrepancies in defense expenditures for years, the new ruling ­— and the lack of public response to it — was a shock.

“From this point forward,” he says, “the federal government will keep two sets of books, one modified book for the public and one true book that is hidden.”

Steven Aftergood of the Federation of American Scientists’ Project on Government Secrecy was one of the few people across the country to pay attention to the FASAB news release. He was alarmed.

“It diminishes the credibility of all public budget documents,” he says.

I spent weeks trying to find a more harmless explanation for SFFAS 56, or at least one that did not amount to a rule that allows federal officials to fake public financial reports.


In plain English, the new guidance allowed federal agencies to “modify” public financial statements, with essentially a two-book system. Public statements would at best be unreliable, while the real books would be audited in “classified environment[s]” by certain designated officials.

When I asked FASAB who would be doing the auditing in “classified environment[s],” they answered:

“Please contact the federal entity’s Office of the Inspector General for questions pertaining to who does the auditing in a classified environment.”

This new rule is not confined to a few spy agencies. It appears to allow a stunningly long list of federal agencies to make use of new authority to “modify” public financial statements.

The Treasury Department’s definition of a “component reporting entity” includes 154 different agencies and bodies, from the Smithsonian Foundation to the CIA to the SEC to the Farm Credit Administration to the Railroad Retirement Board. The notion that any of these agencies could now submit altered public financial reports under the rubric of national security is mind-boggling.


One thing is certain: the taxpayer who opens up a federal financial statement expecting to find correct numbers will no longer be sure of what he or she is reading. Bluntly put, line items in public federal financial statements may now legally be, for lack of a better word — wrong.

Moreover, the state is not required to include a disclaimer telling the reader that modifications have been made.


Reached by email, Austin Fitts was pessimistic about the meaning of the new rule.

“The White House and Congress just opened a pipeline into the back of the US Treasury,” she wrote, “and announced to every private army, mercenary and thug in the world that we are open for business.”

What the rule actually will mean in practice is not clear. But it’s not hard to imagine how it could be employed. A quick look in the historical rearview mirror offers more than a few hints.

The Iran-Contra affair was, at its core, an accounting issue. In it, a group of actors used proceeds of weapons sales to fund unauthorized support of Nicaraguan rebels. Money was moved from one place to another, with the public cut out of the loop.

This is in-f%$#ing-sane.

Oh Snap!

Nancy Pelosi just just told Donald Trump that he can’t get his State of the Union Address while the government is shut down, claiming that the government shutdown raises significant security concerns:

As a federal shutdown lumbered through its fourth week, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) on Wednesday sent a letter to President Trump urging him to postpone his Jan. 29 State of the Union address because of shutdown-related security reasons. Perhaps Trump could deliver his speech in writing that day, Pelosi suggested.

The letter was immediately described as a “power move” against Trump and as Pelosi “playing hardball” by threatening to deprive the president of both a stage and an audience. Meanwhile, the GOP decried it as “unprecedented” partisanship, with some (including Trump’s eldest son) accusing Pelosi of attempted censorship.

In retaliation, Trump canceled a trip by Pelosi and other members of Congress to visit troops overseas.

Nancy Pelosi has clearly one, because Trump just made himself look like a complete pissant:

The fight over the weeks-long government shutdown hit a bizarre new low as President Trump on Thursday canceled a planned trip to Afghanistan by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, a day after she angered Republicans by suggesting the president delay his State of the Union Address.

Hours before Pelosi and top Democrats were set to depart for a visit to military leaders in Brussels and to troops in Afghanistan, Trump released a letter canceling what he termed a “public relations event.”

“I also feel that, during this period, it would be better if you were in Washington negotiating with me and joining the Strong Border Security movement to end the Shutdown,” he wrote. “We will reschedule this seven-day excursion when the Shutdown is over.”

I am amused.

The Costs of a Military Establishment

Costa Rica abolished its military in 1949.

A major has now shown that this is associated with a 0.8% annual increase in per capita GDP:

This article estimates the causal long-term developmental effects of Costa Rica’s constitutional abolishment of its army in 1949 after the 1948 civil war.

This is done by performing synthetic control estimates and analyzing the political history of Costa Rica in the 1940s and 1950s. We find that upon the abolishment of the army, Costa Rica’s annual average per capita GDP growth increased from 1.42% to 2.28% in the 1950-2010 period relative to a counterfactual Costa Rica that did not abolish its army. This implies that Costa Rica doubled its per capita GDP every 30 years rather than every 49. These estimates are robust to different model specifications and we show that this shock is exclusive to Costa Rica in Latin America. Furthermore, we provide evidence that the positive effects associated with this increase in the per capita GDP growth rates have endured over time; namely because the abolition of the army granted a political and institutional context that allowed the country to devote more resources to public spending, which in turn contributed to its long run development. Our case study findings are evidence that committing to peace and democracy pays off in the long run.

Running the numbers, this means that Costa Rica’s per capita GDP is 75% larger than what it would have been with a military.

Obviously a part of this difference is because the resources of Costa Rica have not been diverted from other purposes.

To quote Dwight Eisenhower, “Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies, in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed.”

Another reason for this is that the presence of a military in Latin America has led to repeated coups against military governments, and repeated insurgencies as a result, which are likely even more disruptive to the well-being of the nation.  (Google the School of the Americas to better understand how this was largely an artifact of US Policy)