…what blows up [DOT 5/2/23]

should fall down...

…so…I’m sorry to inflict this on you undeserving folks…but…this lady is on the homeland security committee

…& thinks she isn’t paid enough

Earlier this week, the Republican representative from Georgia appeared on journalist Glenn Greenwald’s podcast and expressed concern about her congressional salary, which according to public records is $174,000 annually.
[…]
Additionally, Greene complained about the amount of time her congressional work consumes, saying: “The nature of this job, it keeps members of Congress and senators in Washington so much of the time, too much of the time … that we don’t get to go home and spend more time with our families, our friends … or maybe just be regular people because this job is so demanding. It’s turned into practically year-round.”

She continued: “For those of us in the House of Representatives, we have to run for Congress every two years. So you’re practically campaigning nearly the entire time that you’re here serving as a representative.”

https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2023/feb/04/marjorie-taylor-greene-backlash-congressional-salary

…except…the reality is she doesn’t seem to be paying enough…particularly in terms of attention

“The balloon spotted this week over Montana was not the first time the U.S. has detected Chinese balloons over their territory—with previous incursions occurring during the Trump Administration,” Bloomberg reported.
[…]
“Craig Singleton, a senior fellow at the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies, said Chinese surveillance balloons have been sighted on numerous occasions over the past five years in different parts of the Pacific, including near sensitive U.S. military installations in Hawaii,” the Associated Press reported on Saturday.

https://www.forbes.com/sites/mattnovak/2023/02/04/yes-chinese-spy-balloons-flew-over-the-us-when-president-trump-was-in-office-too/

…it’s hardly the first thing she’s got her facts wrong about…but…if she doesn’t grasp the concept of a deterrent

…well…maybe it isn’t hard to understand…but it still feels like cognitive whiplash…I dunno…maybe someone could have a whip round & buy her a dictionary for a start…because this sort of performative bullshit for sure isn’t improving anyone’s security

…not that it’s just her

…in terms of a different sort of security…& people not getting paid enough…there very well might be more pressing concerns for folks to be troubled by

Earlier this month, PitchBook – the go-to news outlet of the private equity industry – declared that “private equity returns are a major threat to pension plans’ ability to pay retirees in 2023”.

With more than one in 10 public pension dollars invested in private equity assets – and with states continuing to keep their private equity contracts secret – PitchBook cited a new study finding that losses from the investments may be on the horizon for retirement systems that support millions of teachers, firefighters, first responders and other government employees.

“Private equity returns get reported on a lag of up to six months, and with each update in 2022 values were coming down – which means 2022 numbers were including overstated private equity asset valuations and 2023 numbers are going to incorporate those losses,” noted the study from the Equable Institute.
[…]
In general, private equity firms use pension money to buy up and restructure companies to then sell them at a higher price than they were purchased. In between buying and selling, there are no transparent metrics for valuing the purchased asset – private equity firms can manufacture an alleged value to tell pension investors (and there’s evidence they inflate valuations when seeking new investments).

In a story about an investor receiving two different valuations for the same company, Institutional Investor underscored the absurdity: “Everyone Wants to Know What Private Assets Are Really Worth. The Truth: It’s Complicated.”

Meanwhile, valuation and fee terms in contracts between private equity firms and public pensions are kept secret, exempt from open records laws.

With that in mind, the new warnings are simple: private equity firms may have told their pension officials that their assets were worth much more than they actually are, all while the firms were skimming billions of dollars of fees off retirees’ money.

If write-downs now happen, it could mean that when it’s time to sell the assets to pay promised retiree benefits, pension funds would have far less money available than private equity firms led them to believe. At that point, there are three painful choices: cut retirement benefits, slash social programs to fund the benefits, or raise taxes to recoup the losses.

Signs of a doomsday scenario are already evident: some of the world’s largest private equity firms have been reporting big declines in earnings, and federal regulators are reportedly intensifying their scrutiny of the industry’s write-downs of asset valuations. Meanwhile, one investment bank reported that in its 2021 transactions, private equity assets sold for just 86% of their stated value last year.

But while pensioners may be imperiled, Wall Street executives are protected thanks to their heads-we-win-tails-you-lose business model. While reporting asset losses for investors, some of the firms managing pensioners’ money are raking in even more fees from investors and continuing to raise executives’ pay.

…sure seems like the sort of threat hard-working folks might reasonably expect their legislative representatives to…well…be in a position to do something about

The New York governor, Kathy Hochul, quietly signed […] legislation on the Saturday before Christmas, just weeks after the Wall Street Journal reported that analysts have started warning pension funds of looming private equity losses. New York lawmakers simultaneously rejected separate legislation that would have allowed workers and retirees to see the contracts signed between state pension officials and Wall Street firms managing their money.

[…] In a landmark study entitled An Inconvenient Fact: Private Equity Returns & the Billionaire Factory, Oxford University’s Ludovic Phalippou documented that private equity funds “have returned about the same as public equity indices since at least 2006”, while extracting nearly a quarter-trillion dollars in fees from public pension systems.

A 2018 Yahoo News analysis found that US pension systems had paid more than $600bn in fees for hedge fund, private equity, real estate and other alternative investments over a decade.
[…]
Even some on Wall Street admit the truth: a JP Morgan study in 2021 found that private equity has barely outperformed the stock market, but it remains unclear whether that “very thin” outperformance is worth the risk of opaque and illiquid investments whose actual value is often impossible to determine – investments that could crater when the money is most needed.

https://www.theguardian.com/business/commentisfree/2023/feb/02/us-pension-funds-implosion-wall-street-private-equity

…but sure…tell me again how china knowing they’d come off worse if they picked a world war with the west is something the substantially-retired fox-news-watching demographic should be terrified of…& how the folks shilling that position of political convenience aren’t getting paid enough for their efforts…meanwhile…people who’ve been giving their shit away for free-as-in-beer…apparently ought to be paying for the privilege

The API provides access to Twitter data, which can be used to create third-party apps, automated bots, customer service tools for brands, and enables researchers to report on trends or patterns on the site.

While many larger companies already pay for access, it is unlikely some of the smaller developers of popular tools and accounts will be able or willing to pay.

…for example

Earthquake bots and other accounts set up to post automatic updates on the weather, environment or health issues such as Covid can be extremely useful. They generally work by scraping data from other sites and automatically tweeting it using the Twitter API.

Often they’re run on a volunteer basis, and not-for-profit, so they could also be in trouble following the changes.

https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2023/feb/03/some-popular-accounts-likely-to-disappear-from-twitter-as-elon-musk-ends-free-access-to-api

…as per his usual MO the whole thing seems to make little sense on the advertised basis…not to mention being tweaked on the fly as the dumber aspects of it get exposed to the light of day

Last week, Twitter said it is shutting down free access to its APIs starting February 9. Now, days before the deadline, Elon Musk said that after getting feedback from developers, Twitter will provide a write-only API for “bots providing good content that is free.”

[sure-jan.gif]

This decision is as opaque as some of the other policy decisions under Musk’s management. There is no information on what constitutes “good content” and who will decide that. However, if Twitter ends up implementing this rule, some bots will get a new lifeline on the social network.
[…]
Twitter’s free API discontinuation doesn’t just affect bot developers. There are tons of student developers and hate speech or misinformation researchers who might not have a budget to pay a monthly fee. Twitter’s v2 API had special access for academics but that might not be the case under the new API rules.

Developers have also pointed out that a lot of bots spreading spam don’t use actually use the official API. So the company’s intention to shut down free API to weed out spam might not work well.

https://techcrunch.com/2023/02/04/elon-musk-says-twitter-will-provide-a-free-write-only-api-to-bots-providing-good-content/

…still…I don’t necessarily buy the idea he doesn’t know what he’s actually doing (as opposed to saying he’s doing)

…I mean…fair play…if I wanted to claim to be the guy who burned more cash than anyone ever so I could own a thing I wanted to claim was a “digital town square” while not getting called on the fact that my biases were as bad as my influence on it…I probably wouldn’t want people to be able to find out how full of shit I was for free…but…leaving aside the part where he’d be hard pressed to find 300k+ people to like sophomoronic things like this absent those bots he claims to have issues with

…just because he’s willing to throw good money after bad on a scale the rest of us literally couldn’t compete with…doesn’t mean that’s a bandwagon people are gonna rush to jump on

…& that 420 thing…that came with some subtext

Elon Musk and Tesla have been cleared of wrongdoing in a lawsuit over a pair of tweets from the executive that investors say cost them billions of dollars.

After less than two hours of deliberation wrapping up a three-week trial, a jury in San Francisco ruled on Friday that the Tesla CEO had not deceived investors with two tweets posted in August 2018 about a Tesla buyout that never happened.

Musk had tweeted that he planned to take the electric carmaker private at $420 a share, and had “funding secured” to do so. The posts triggered stocks to surge over a 10-day period before falling back after Musk abandoned the deal, investors argued.
[…]
The case was seen as a test of whether or not Musk could be held liable for his freewheeling use of Twitter. The billionaire testified on multiple days of the trial, arguing that his tweets were a democratic way to communicate and did not always affect Tesla stock the way he expected. “Just because I tweet something does not mean people believe it or will act accordingly,” he told the jury.
[…]
The first tweet under scrutiny, posted just before he boarded his private jet, Musk declared he had “funding secured” to take Tesla private. A few hours later, Musk sent another tweet indicating that the deal was imminent. The price Musk chose – $420 – is widely considered to be a marijuana reference, further rankling investors who believed he was not taking the business seriously. Musk claimed during the trial the number was “not a joke” and any associations with cannabis were merely coincidence.
[…]
In addition to the class action lawsuit, Musk faced fraud charges in 2018 from the Securities and Exchange Commission over the tweets, and was required to pay $40m in penalties. As part of his settlement with the US agency, Musk had to agree to a requirement his tweets be approved by a Tesla attorney before being published – a clause he has been accused of violating multiple times since.

https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2023/feb/03/elon-musk-tesla-investors-lawsuit-twitter

…in the abstract I’m something of a fan of “the rule of law”…but…sometimes when it comes to the specifics I can be hard pressed to tell whether I’m more disappointed in the juries…or the judges

A federal law that prohibits people subject to domestic violence restraining orders from possessing firearms is unconstitutional, a conservative-leaning appeals court ruled Thursday.
[…]
The 5th US Circuit Court of Appeals said that the federal law targeting those believed to pose a domestic violence threat could not stand under the Bruen test, which requires that gun laws have a historical analogy to the firearm regulations in place at the time of the Constitution’s framing.
[…]
The court’s opinion was written by Judge Cory Todd Wilson, who was appointed by former President Donald Trump. He was joined by Reagan-appointee Judge Edith Jones and Judge James Ho, another Trump appointee who also wrote a concurrence.

The 5th Circuit panel was not persuaded by the historical parallels put forward by the US Justice Department, which was defending the conviction of a person who possessed a firearm while under a domestic violence restraining order that had been imposed after he was accused of assaulting his ex-girlfriend. The Justice Department argued that the domestic violence law was analogous to 17th-and 18th century regulations that disarmed “dangerous” persons.

“The purpose of these ‘dangerousness’ laws was the preservation of political and social order, not the protection of an identified person from the specific threat posed by another,” the 5th Circuit opinion read. “Therefore, laws disarming ‘dangerous’ classes of people are not ‘relevantly similar’” to “serve as historical analogues.”
[…]
Steve Vladeck, a CNN Supreme Court analyst and professor at the University of Texas School of Law, said clarity from the court is necessary.

“One of two things is true: Either this kind of blind, rigid, context-free, and common-sense-defying assessment of history is exactly what the Supreme Court intended in its landmark ruling last June in Bruen, or it isn’t,” Vladeck said.

“Either way, it’s incumbent upon the justices in the Bruen majority to clarify which one they meant – and to either endorse or reject the rather terrifying idea that individuals under an active domestic violence-related restraining order are nevertheless constitutionally entitled to possess firearms,” he added.

https://edition.cnn.com/2023/02/02/politics/domestic-violence-guns-fifth-circuit/index.html

…sure…it involves firearms & all…so it’s complicated…but…at the same time…it’s not that complicated?

The murder rates in Trump-voting states from 2020 have exceeded those in Biden-voting states every year since 2000, according to a new analysis by ThirdWay, a center-left think tank.

https://www.axios.com/2023/01/27/murder-rate-high-trump-republican-states

…what exactly is the benefit of giving people with provably concerning motivations access to a gun at a time & a place where there are any number of reasons why they ought not be in a position to use it?

The House Natural Resources Committee’s first meeting of the year turned heated Wednesday when a Democratic member offered an amendment that would prohibit lawmakers from carrying guns in its hearing room.

Rep. Jared Huffman, D-Calif., said he was proposing the “sadly necessary” amendment because it’s a “major issue of safety for members of our committee.”

He noted that the Republican-controlled Rules Committee removed a provision that Democrats had put in place for the previous two-year period prohibiting firearms in hearing rooms and committees. One of the new GOP majority’s first acts was to remove the magnetometers that former Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., had installed outside the House chamber after the Jan. 6 riot.

“To be clear, members and their staff are already prohibited by law from carrying guns into the hearing rooms and conference rooms of this Capitol. Currently, under statute and Capitol Police Board regulation, members are supposed to have firearms only in their offices,” Huffman said.

“This does not allow for carrying firearms into hearing rooms and doesn’t allow for walking around the Capitol with a loaded weapon. But we know some members think these rules do not apply to them,” he added.

…if someone does buy MTG that dictionary she so desperately needs…maybe she could loan it to her boebel-headed friend

Fellow committee member Lauren Boebert, R-Colo., who vowed in a viral 2020 video to carry a gun in the Capitol, decried Huffman’s “anti-member safety amendment” as a “political stunt” before she unveiled an enlarged photo of him wearing a tinfoil hat.

https://www.nbcnews.com/politics/congress/democrats-republicans-clash-carrying-guns-capitol

…apparently the lady is unfamiliar with the term irony…but then she’d hardly be alone in that when it comes to the self-styled champions of “law & order”

For 14 months, officers from the high-profile Scorpion unit of the Memphis Police Department patrolled city streets with an air of menace, zooming up on targets, jumping out of their Dodge Chargers at a dead run, shouting at people to get out of their vehicles, lie down on the ground.
[…]
In some quarters of the city, Mr. Nichols’s death was shocking, but it was not a surprise. Even as city officials credited Scorpion officers with bringing down violent crime, their presence had spread fear in the predominantly low-income neighborhoods they patrolled, and records show that Black men were overwhelmingly their targets.
[…]
Since its formation in November 2021, the specialized squad of some 40 officers that was deployed to deter violence in some of the city’s most troubled neighborhoods was responsible for repeated acts of intimidation, harassment and violence by some of its officers, according to interviews with dozens of people in the community, including several arrested by the unit’s officers.
[…]
Young Black men have disproportionately borne the brunt of the Scorpion operations: A New York Times review of arrest affidavits in about 150 of what are estimated to be thousands of cases handled by the unit suggests that the unit’s tactics appeared to rely heavily on the vehicular equivalent of “stop and frisk,” a tactic that civil rights advocates say can drive racial profiling and put people of color at risk of police violence.

In the sample reviewed by The Times, about 90 percent of those arrested by the unit were Black — much higher than the share of the city’s population that is Black, about 65 percent. Black residents across Memphis were three times as likely as white residents to be subjected to physical force by police officers, according to department data over the past seven years.
[…]
Two of the officers charged in Mr. Nichols’s death had been disciplined previously after using force and failing to submit the required documentation on how it was used, according to personnel files. In one of those cases, a woman reported being beaten by officers and slammed against a patrol car.
[…]
The dissolution of the Scorpion unit was just the beginning of addressing a larger problem, said Amber Sherman, a community organizer who led recent protests.

“We want a disbandment of every special task force,” Ms. Sherman said. The police have long used such units “to over-criminalize low-income, poor Black neighborhoods and to terrorize citizens,” she added. “We want that ended.”

https://www.nytimes.com/2023/02/04/us/memphis-police-scorpion.html

…might be worth dusting off the definitions of “protect” & “serve” while we’re at it…I’m pretty sure we’re all more familiar than we’d like to be with the meaning of “deplorable

Earlier this week, I wrote that American policing lies largely outside of democratic control. In practice, despite the formal authority of mayors, city councilors and other elected officials, police departments can and do operate without meaningful accountability or public oversight.

But the problem of democracy and American policing goes beyond questions of accountability. The police shape the experience of American democracy as much (or as little) as they are shaped by it. Police departments, as much as any other institution, mediate and define citizenship for millions of Americans.

Or, as the political scientists Joe Soss and Vesla Weaver argued in 2017 against the backdrop of the Black Lives Matter movement, “Police are our government.” The paper in question is primarily addressed to scholars of American politics, urging them to widen their aperture and turn greater attention to the “activities of governing institutions and officials that exercise social control and encompass various modes of coercion, containment, repression, surveillance, regulation, predation, discipline, and violence,” what they call the “second face of the state.” To that end, Soss and Weaver make valuable observations about the role policing plays in modern democratic life.

The middle-class residents of a moderately affluent suburb are likely to experience government in ways that affirm their sense of agency and political belonging, whether at a polling place, their child’s school or a local government office. For poor and low-income Americans, and especially those in segregated, marginalized communities, the experience of government is so radically different as to challenge our use of the word “government” to refer to both.

The upshot of all of this is to make the police “one of the most visible and proximate instantiations of state power in many citizens’ lives,” Soss and Weaver write. In fact, as Weaver and the political scientist Amy E. Lerman observe in “Arresting Citizenship: The Democratic Consequences of American Crime Control” (a book I referred to in my previous column), there are a host of reasons to think that “criminal justice contact rivals other more traditional politically socializing experiences and venues for civic education.”
[…]
As I have been saying, the American police are largely insulated from democratic control — that much is obvious, even if it isn’t always expressed in those terms. Much less obvious is the degree to which policing itself shapes, constricts and degrades the citizenship of millions of law-abiding Americans, making a mockery of the idea that they live in a democracy or enjoy anything like political equality.

https://www.nytimes.com/2023/02/03/opinion/police-violence-democracy.html

…it’s almost as if…that’s not the point?

Stop me if you’ve heard this before: Two years after a Democratic president took office and pushed ambitious policies through Congress, Republicans have regained control of the House. They don’t have the votes required to repeal the president’s achievements, but a quirk of U.S. law — which requires that Congress vote a second time to authorize the borrowing that results from already enacted spending and tax legislation — seems to give them an opportunity to engage in blackmail, threatening to create a financial crisis unless their demands are met.
[…]
But the most important difference is that this time Republicans aren’t making coherent demands. It’s completely unclear what, if anything, they want in exchange for not blowing up the economy. At this point they’re blackmailers without a cause.
[…]
As always, the fundamental fact about the budget is that the federal government is basically an insurance company with an army. Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid and the military dominate spending, and it’s impossible to do much about deficits unless you either raise taxes — which is obviously not part of the G.O.P. playbook — or make major cuts to these programs.

In the past, Republicans did try to change safety net programs in ways that would in effect have amounted to major cuts. George W. Bush tried to privatize Social Security. Republicans almost made a deal with President Barack Obama that would have reduced Social Security cost of living adjustments and raised the age of Medicare eligibility. In 2017 Paul Ryan, speaker of the House at the time, declared that he had been “dreaming” of cutting Medicaid since his college days.
[…]
Inevitably, some Republicans are trying to make the budget a culture-war issue, claiming that large sums can be saved by eliminating “woke” spending. But what spending are they talking about?

I’ve been trying to find specific examples of federal outlays that conservatives consider woke, bearing in mind that right-wing think tanks and politicians have a strong incentive to find big-ticket items that sound outrageous. The results of my search were, well, embarrassing. For example, the spending listed in a Heritage Foundation report thundering against “woke earmarks” totaled about $19 million — less than the federal government spends every two minutes.

So the bottom line on the debt crisis is that there is no bottom line: Republicans denounce excess spending, but can’t say what spending they want to cut. Even if Democrats were inclined to give in to extortion, which they aren’t, you can’t pay off a blackmailer who won’t make specific demands.
[…]
But it’s hard not to be worried. It’s dangerous when a political party is willing to burn things down unless it gets its way; it’s even more dangerous when that party just wants to watch things burn.

https://www.nytimes.com/2023/02/02/opinion/republicans-debt-ceiling-crisis.html

…some might say…if you’re busy throwing gasoline about while claiming to be a fire-fighter…you’d more properly be described as an indiscriminate arsonist

By his own acknowledgment, Rep. Andrew S. Clyde (R-Ga.) has been handing out lapel pins shaped like assault rifles to fellow GOP lawmakers — an exercise that comes in the wake of a spate of mass shootings and during a week intended to honor survivors of gun violence.
[…]
The assault-rifle pins have angered Democrats, who began noticing them in recent days before they knew of their origin. On Wednesday, Rep. Jimmy Gomez (D-Calif.) posted images of two GOP members of Congress — Reps. Anna Paulina Luna (Fla.) and George Santos (N.Y.) — sporting the assault-rifle pins on their lapels.

“Where are these assault weapon pins coming from?” Gomez asked. “Who is passing these out?”

Gomez also noted that Paulina Luna was wearing such a pin less than 48 hours after a mass shooting in her state wounded 11 people.

“This isn’t the flex you think it is,” Gomez tweeted.

Rep. Cori Bush (D-Mo.) pointed out that GOP lawmakers were wearing the lapel pins during National Gun Violence Survivors Week. Dozens of mass shootings have already taken place across the country in 2023, outpacing previous years, according to data tracked by the Gun Violence Archive.
[…]
Perhaps more than other GOP lawmakers, Clyde has downplayed the severity of the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol, saying that parts of it were comparable to a “normal tourist visit.”

Clyde also later voted against awarding police officers who protected the Capitol on Jan. 6 the Congressional Gold Medal, and refused to shake hands with Michael Fanone, one of the officers who had responded to the violence and was beaten unconscious during the attack.

Clyde’s distribution of the gun-shaped pins comes after newly elected Rep. Cory Mills (R-Fla.) passed out dummy grenades stamped with the GOP logo last week to other members of Congress, along with a note on his office letterhead emphasizing that the ordnance was made in Florida.

https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/2023/02/03/assault-rifle-pins-gop-clyde/

…as metaphors go…freaking people out with something with the appearance of being explosive that’s actually harmlessly inert…that might be less ironic than they think?

DeSantis and other conservative politicians argue that they are saving America’s young from leftwing indoctrination, and that students should instead be exposed to “civic education” that extolls a patriotic vision of America. When DeSantis and his growing number of acolytes present themselves as champions of civic education, however, they are in fact undermining the whole point of civics: not to make children “patriotic” or just fill brains with facts (how many branches of government are there again?), but to enable individuals to be fearless, critical citizens.

That very enterprise is threatened by these systematic intimidation campaigns. In fact, DeSantis’s anti-education crusade is doubly authoritarian – most obviously in its use of state power to suppress ideas and information, but also in its more subtle assumption that teaching is ultimately about imposing doctrines of one sort or another.
[…]
Teachers are rightly worried that, in an age of hyper-polarization, politics can make their classrooms explode; often enough, they also lack the time, resources and skills to deal with what can be a drawn-out and difficult process of young people learning how to negotiate their differences in a democratic manner. Add to that the sense that we are falling behind globally in Stem, and hence should not waste time on soft subjects that won’t help us compete with China.

But there is no escape: those declaring the supposed “education establishment” their enemy won’t accept claims that schools aren’t doing politics. The likes of Viktor Orbán and his de facto pupil DeSantis will frame professors as purveyors of dangerous ideologies no matter what. For that is their political business model. Moral panics happen because political entrepreneurs want to spread panic; responses that come down to “don’t panic!” or “let’s talk about something else” won’t work.

That is especially so with propaganda about pedagogy: schooling is so damn close to home, and yet not under the control of those at home; appeals to deep worries about what is happing to the kids when they are out of our hands can be very effective. (It is not an accident that conspiracy theories like QAnon use the quasi-natural resource of parental fears for generating panic and hate.)

So, should one simply concede that it’s all politics, all the time, all the way down, and that everyone is simply spreading their ideology? Of course not. Education is political not because everyone gets to teach their politics to innocent charges, but because it is indispensable for democracy. As John Dewey, the greatest 20th-century philosopher of education put it, “democracy has to be born anew every generation and education is its midwife”. Countries with well-functioning democracies also do well on civic education scores. But that is not just a matter of knowledge about democracy, but doing democracy, which can be uncomfortable, even distressing and guilt-inducing (feelings which the Sunshine State Inquisitors try to banish by law from the classroom).

https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2023/feb/04/conservatives-ron-desantis-florida-education

…it’s not just balloons that can be full of hot air…or begging to be deflated…just sayin’

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32 Comments

  1. It’s not the Chinese spy balloons we have to fear. Although if the US tried to launch a few “commercial airship meteorological monitoring balloons going astray” over the Middle Kingdom I doubt it would go well.

    No. It is the Germans. One guy formed his 14 dogs into a conga line, which outdid his daughter, who formed her nine dogs into a conga line. Discipline. Devotion to the cause. To what end? We don’t know. But we do know we would be defenseless in the face of a canine conga line.

     

  2. I’ve known for quite sometime that private equity (aka hedge funds) are shit as someone who bailed out of actively managed Mutual Funds six years ago from his group Retirement Savings Plan (Canada 401K equivalent) and just put them in three passively managed ETFs

    The %s show that some of the funds beat the market, but the fees (2X to 4X more than what I pay) pretty much wipe out most of the gains so it isn’t worth it.

    Since the change I’ve outperformed the vast majority of my coworkers to their dismay.  I advise them to change, but most don’t listen so I tell them don’t come screaming to me when you get your statement next time.

    I don’t want to make fund managers rich or pay for their coke/stripper habits. I want to make myself rich… or at least make my retirement not entirely based on lottery winnings.

    • …passive ETFs are pretty neat…but there are a lot of different sorts of ETF…& by the sounds of it those colleagues of yours could probably manage to lose money with them, too

      …if, say, someone picked a leveraged one tracking the tech sector over the last few months…I’m guessing there might still have been tears before bedtime when the statements arrived?

      • You mean like Cathy Woods’ ARKfunds (stay the fuck away)?

        Yeah. I nearly bought that one, but her picking philosophy (“Oooh, that looks neat” which to be fair was how I picked tech stocks, but I am not a financial professional or claim to be at all plus I changed dramatically into less speculative ones and bought a number of blue chip stocks) and her bullshit financial metrics scared the shit out of me.

        I invested for 3 weeks in an ETF tracking Bitcoin.  I made $25 on a $500 investment.  This makes me one of the most successful crypto traders ever. I jumped out just after the crash started (At peak I was up $230, but jumped out after the first 3 bad days and got a small ‘return’)

        I just went with the broad indices (S&P500, TSX300, etc) rather than focusing on the individual sectors (I learned my lesson from buying Mutal Funds focused on oil and gas and gold… I was so fucking stupid.)

        • …I’m certainly no expert…but I think that was more or less where I was going

          …something that broadly mirrors an index seems like a relatively safe bet…something that’s leveraged &/or focused on a narrower set of stocks…well…investments can go down as well as up & past performance is not a reliable indicator of future performance…& so on & so forth

          …sometimes I think the big short ought to be required viewing for people who have investments…but as someone I know who spent a long time working in/with the stock market was fond of saying…mostly you need to be right 51% of the time…& if all else fails…there’s always a bigger sucker

          …either way…it does seem like not all hedge funds really ought to go by the name…it was hedge as in hedge-your-bets…but some of them seem inclined to go all-in?

    • …it might lose something in translation…but based on slang that was in use when I was a teenager…citizen caned might work…the guy is endlessly high on his own supply, after all?

  3. This piece on the political machine that elected Santos is wild (paywalled, unfortunately):

    https://www.wsj.com/amp/articles/the-political-machine-that-made-george-santos-nassau-county-new-york-gop-republicans-endorsement-misconduct-11675286449

    In brief, the GOP political machine on Long Island holds control over who gets nominated. The author tried to compete in the GOP primary for a House seat, but lost to the party’s pick:

    When, at the 11th hour, the boss’s pick—a county legislator unprepared for the race—was announced, Republican committeemen were instructed that anyone supporting me should resign. Supporters who held municipal jobs or contracts ceased openly supporting me for fear of termination—and, on occasion, admitted as much to me.

    The author notes that multiple Long Island GOP leaders have been arrested and convicted on corruption charges in recent years. Santos wasn’t their choice because he fooled anyone in charge. He was their choice because he raised a ton of money for them, and they would have nominated a Chinese balloon if it dropped suitcases of cash on Long Island.

    Which of course makes press coverage even more ridiculous — why not dig into the complicity, lies and absolute corruption involved? It’s a much juicier story, and the evidence is just as open as Santos’ lies were last year. They don’t have to keep playing up the “innocent dupes” line.

    • …for anyone who might be interested that WSJ piece is archived here…which…let’s say…obviates the paywall

      …& its author does make some legitimate criticisms, certainly…although there’s another thing courtesy of the similarly paywalled newyorker that makes for an interesting companion piece…it’s an interview with the publisher of “the north shore leader” & its managing editor…& they were well ahead of the game when it came to that particular fraudster

      https://www.newyorker.com/podcast/political-scene/the-local-paper-that-first-sounded-the-alarm-on-george-santos

      …from the blurb beneath the audio file

      “We heard story after story after story about him doing bizarre things,” Lally [said publisher] told [the interviewer]. “He was so well known, at least in the more active political circles, to be a liar that by early summer he was already being called George Scamtos.”

      …one thing it mentions that I for one hadn’t taken in before is that santos tried putting himself forward in 2020 but was widely viewed not to be a “serious candidate”…so…I guess that might excuse the national press from not bothering to pick up on his bullshit credentials…the first time…but once they plumped for making him the candidate…seems less excusable…per the interview he hadn’t got a discernible campaign before labor day…but his campaign finance disclosures claimed he’d already spent more than a million bucks campaigning…a lot of it in $199.99 chunks…a cent below the threshold of having to disclose what it was spent on…which at this point has been covered in some detail…but…I gotta wonder why the democrats in the district weren’t all over what should have been a lay-up in terms of oppo research?

      [ETA …late in the interview they mention that the website traffic for their little local paper is up thirty-some-thousand percent…which is a little late for this particular party…but maybe the next santos won’t be so rewarded for taking the position of “who’s going to check?”]

      • The whole innocent dupes cover story falls apart because the Long Island GOP had actually been meeting the guy, and even by the standards of typical politicians anyone who talked to him knew he was a grifter.

        The NY Times in their spin job on their failure to cover Santos — surprise, surprise, it’s so complicated you dumb critics — sheepishly admitted the Democrats had dug up some of the dirt and had tried to get major reporters interested, but couldn’t get any to care, and as you noted, the local paper was literally publishing it.

        Cousin Matt I’m sure can tell far more stories about how much work tbig outlets do to avoid connecting the dots on corruption in both parties in NY, and if their hands are forced, will turn their attention to the narrowest dumb thing they can find.

        It’s like the old bit of PR advice — if you think you’ll get caught with your pants down around your ankles, make sure you’re wearing ugly shoes, and that’s all reporters will ever talk about.

        • …according to that interview it wasn’t only people who talked to him…to hear them tell it literally everyone with an interest in politics knew he was full of it, at least locally

          …there are a lot of questions begged by the fact that he managed to secure himself a seat…but when it comes to the one about why nobody seemed to care how much of a flagrant fabulist the man is until it was too late to make any difference…it certainly seems like both the press & the parties ought to need some answers before ’24 rolls around

          …though I guess if that really were the bare minimum we could expect we wouldn’t be where we are in the first place…so…who knows?

          • The one thing I’d quibble with is the idea that nobody cared — that’s the line of apologists like the NY Times. Plenty of people did care, including Democratic Party opponents and individual Republicans.

            But the GOP machine and the press affirmatively decided to say nothing. Now the GOP is playing a completely corrupt version of Captain Renault, shocked by the presence of gambling, and the press acts like they’re in a game of Simon Says where if other players don’t follow rules to a T, they’re out of the game. And of course it’s the GOP leadership that still gets to play.

            • …the ones that made him the candidate & the ones that voted him in would presumably be the ones who “counted”…but the ones you’d have thought would have made more mileage out of the rafts of disqualifying facts about him laying about for the taking & the ones that didn’t bother to follow where the north shore leader could have lead them…they all seemed to somehow agree that “nobody cared”

              …it was more by way of a figure of speech than a literal pronouncement…but fair enough

  4. This piece is really interesting, not only in the details themselves but in the tangled story of its publication.

    https://bylinetimes.com/2023/02/04/russia-and-the-us-press-the-article-the-cjr-didnt-publish/

    The story, which was written for the Columbia Journalism Review by Duncan Campbell,  details how The Nation published endless pro-Russia material going back to the 2016 election, including completely groundless cover for Russian hacking.

    Weirdly, CJR top editor Kyle Pope spiked this story in 2020, and its author only found another publisher now.

    Kyle Pope also just published an embarassingly false account of the press and Russia investigations, which uses some of the same bad actors in the earlier spiked report as sources to simply handwave the issue away as “Russiagate.”

    CJR is supposed to be one of the premier gatekeepers of journalism standards, but Pope enlisted former NY Times reporter Jeff Gerth to credulously treat the claims of Trump defenders Glenn Greenwald, Aaron Mate and Matt Taibbi as legitimate.

    Campbell promises more background, and Kyle Pope is looking awfully sketchy. It’s not as if there was no massive public record to draw on to quickly check against Gerth’s claims.

    https://www.motherjones.com/politics/2023/02/columbia-journalism-review-jeff-gerth-trump-russia-the-media/

    • …one of the things linked to as you scroll through that bylinetimes piece is another article about a military study commissioned during the dotard era which placed brexit as the opening salvo in an “information blitzkrieg”

      https://bylinetimes.com/2022/03/02/trump-military-study-saw-brexit-as-first-step-in-russian-information-blitzkrieg-on-west/

      …which in turn leads to a collated twitter thread from carole cadwalladr that characterizes the last 8years as having been a campaign of informational warfare which, arguably, putin has been winning handily

      https://bylinetimes.com/2022/02/28/the-first-great-information-war-a-thread-by-carole-cadwalladr/

      …& around july of last year she had another thread on twitter about boris & some sketchy stuff that mostly only made headlines for him being hungover in public flying back from a party

      …it’s not a pretty picture…& although it’s a while since I actually read the thing…my recollection is that whatever flaws it may have had…the mueller report actually seemed pretty clear about a bunch of the shit russia was busy pulling back in ’16…so quite why so much of this stuff got/gets so little traction in the better-read media is quite the fucking mystery to me, for one?

      • …so that thread the bylinetimes collated seems to have been from the end of february ’22…& it appears to have dropped the last two for some reason…so here they are for the sake of completeness

          • …pretty much

            …I mean, I do my best to maintain some sort of perspective that allows for more or less functioning rather than succumbing to the sheer existential terror of it all…but…at the same time relatively little of this stuff is entirely new?

            …like…I didn’t know about santos specifically…& some of the details are similarly recent in terms of confirmation…but the broad strokes of what cadwalladr & fiona hill refer to as a war…& the sketchy ways politicians seemed to be facilitating the interests of what you’d think would be the opposition…that stuff seemed plenty discernible before snowden…& the downsides of monopolistic social media platforms even before that…so…I try to tell myself there’s no need to be more freaked out tomorrow than I was yesterday

            …doesn’t always work…but I’m pretty sure it beats the alternative?

  5. welp…seems the swiss are now selling an electric car i actually want

    i mean…just look at that adorable little egg

    granted with a maximum speed of 90km/h and a range of around 230km it doesnt make a lot of sense for the states

    but its a perfect little runabout over here

    (also i picked the commercial video as i didnt really want to drop a 20 minute or so review video on here)

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