Thursday, November 20, 2014

Silicon Valley exec threatens the journalists who cover him. Where does the financing behind him come from? Round up the usual suspects.

Are the fat cats financing Silicon
Valley predators?
Who would finance corporate desperadoes who flout the law in a variety of localities – and then threaten to dig up dirt on journalists who report on their shenanigans?

Who would in effect say, by handing largesse to the same desperados, “Go ahead. Thumb your nose at the law. Stick a finger in the eye of the public. Just make sure you return the vig on the money we put up for you.”

No, I’m not talking about the Mafia. The Tony Soprano types are small potatoes in comparison to these guys. I’m talking about some of the financial folks whose names pop up whenever the outrageously rich demand personal tax breaks for investing other peoples’ money if they’re hedge funders, or try to beat publishing houses and authors into submission if they’re silicon savages.

Here’s a list of the money sources reportedly behind the threat-makers. It's taken from a Silicon Valley online journal called Pando Daily, a watcher and critic of today’s new breed of highwaymen. 

Menlo Ventures
Google Ventures
Kleiner Perkins
Summit Partners
Blackrock
Benchmark
TPG Growth
Jeff Bezos
Troy Carter
CrunchFund
Goldman Sachs
Scott Banister
Alfred Lin
Lowercase Capital
First Round
Naval Ravikant
Jason Calacanis
Shervin Pishevar

But let’s take a step back and explain this. 

Recently, the editor of Pando, and other journalists, began reporting on how Uber, a Silicon Valley disruptor company financed by people on the list you've just read, is muscling its way into various municipal markets with the equivalent of unlicensed  taxis. There’s big money in those smartphone-linked cabs, folks. And Uber didn’t like the negative publicity that some of its shadier activities were generating.

So at the Waverly Inn in New York City, at a dinner at which the the guests included the actor Ed Norton, the publisher Ariana Huffington, and the journalist Michael Wolff, Uber’s Senior Vice President of Marketing, Emil Michael, performed the communications equivalent of what a gangster signals by drawing his index finger across his throat.

Specifically, according to the online journal Buzzfeed, he “suggested that the company should consider hiring a team of opposition researchers to dig up dirt on its critics in the media — and specifically to spread details of the personal life of a female journalist who has criticized the company.”

I see two possibilities here. One is that Michael expected the word to get out and scare the living crap out of journalists, especially the intrepid reporter Sarah Lacy, editor of the website Pando Daily. This would have had the effect of – shall we say “discouraging?” –  further criticism of Uber. Michael later defended himself by saying he thought he was speaking “off the record.” To which my cranky reaction is, so what?

If a hit man, off the record, says he plans to terrorize the local police chief and and is looking to find machete with which  to commit the crime, his remarks have no right to privacy. I would submit that Michael’s threat to in effect terrorize reporters and critics into silence through implicit blackmail are equally unprotected.

This is all the more newsworthy not only because of the big financiers behind Uber, but because, according to Buzzfeed, Michael sits on a board that advises the Department of Defense. I leave it to you to imagine where his kind of mentality could lead a key department of our government. And why does the government, or the board, tolerate his proximity to the Pentagon?

Moreover, The CEO of Uber, Travis Kalanick, has refused to fire Michael. That’s no big surprise.  Kalanick himself is no sweetheart either. The Financial Times reported in May:
…in January, Uber apologised after its New York team was busted for repeatedly calling and cancelling rides from a rival car service. Kalanick would not discuss the incident on the record but Uber admitted at the time that this method for getting drivers’ details, hoping to poach them, was “likely too aggressive a sales tactic.”
Right. Or as Tony Soprano might have said, "I told you guys just to bust the guy's kneecaps. What's with all this getting  aggressive and strangling him with a piano wire?"

It all makes you wonder if our former democracy, which has already devolved into a corruptocracy, is now sinking even further, into a state of anarchy where only big money sources like those on the list, and big bad guys, can win. 

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

A letter to the editor from an outraged rat

Today's guest contributor
Hey Crank!

I live in New York City, on the east side of Manhattan. My home is a hole under a bush in St. Vartan’s Park over on 36th Street between First and Second Avenues. I make my living mostly scrounging rotting sandwich crusts from garbage cans in and around the park. Sometimes I get lucky and find a few rice grains or some birdseed that somebody scattered for the pigeons.

It’s a tough life. Some days I go hungry. And it’s worth your life to ignore the predators out here, including an occasional New York red tailed hawk, feral cats, and those bastards from the city’s department of health who put out poisoned rat bait for us. Did I mention speeding cars when I try to get across the street?

Anyway, the other day I found a copy of The New York Times and I decided to rip off a few strips of paper to line my nest for winter. And guess what? 

I found a feature story by a reporter named Corey Kilgannon about a rat whose name is Toby. That’s right, the Times these days is writing feature stories about rats. You want to make your name in journalism? Forget people. Go for the rodents.

Now Toby isn’t your average rat.  She’s not struggling to get by, like me. She’s so well off she even has a personal trainer named Lydia DesRoche, who also admits, according to The Times, that “she has become sort of a social secretary, chaperoning Toby as she interacts with the smitten cast and crew backstage at the Ethel Barrymore Theater.”

Right, Toby is a well-fed, well-paid,  probably well-bathed, carefully cosseted Broadway theater rat, part of the rodent world’s One Percent. I’ll stake two mud soaked bagel crusts that her monthly upkeep costs more than the average out-of-a-job factory worker’s unemployment benefits. 

Toby’s in a Broadway play called, “The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time” on Broadway. She lives better than the other 99 percent of us who are hiding out in holes in the ground and in sewers.

While the rest of us struggling rats get by on scraps and rotting food, Toby gets hand fed. She gets sleepover dates arranged for her, as if she was an incipient debutante at Spence, or Brearley, or one of those other academies for the one percent that charge $35,000-plus a year for tuition.

I’m not making this rat up. Don’t take my word for it. This is what the Times said:
 “While Ms. DesRoche takes Toby home on the weekends to her apartment on the Upper West Side, the rat goes home on weeknights with members of the cast and crew. There is no shortage of takers; members with children usually get first choice.” 
I’ll bet she gets free medical care, too.

Hey, this rat is better off than a lot of people I’ve run across, so to speak. With rents in this town easily getting to $2,800 a month for a studio apartment, Toby has her own spacious dressing room. Well, okay, she shares it with a dog who’s also in the show, but even so. I mean, check out this passage from the Times:
“Inside, yes, there are lightbulbs around the mirrors and fresh roses on the makeup counter (Toby likes to nibble on roses). Also, on the counter is a long tube, for scampering through, and a glass of water, which she climbs up into, and nearly hops into, as she drinks.”
Right. Ninety-nine percent of rats have no time for anything except scrounging for food and reproducing. I’ve got relatives so impoverished, they sleep in the subway, along with the homeless people. And this snotty, overprivileged rat has a light-up makeup mirror and her own toys. Toys! Not to mention the roses.

I mean, this is an outrage. I scooted past a flower shop over on Third Avenue the other night, and roses were going for eighty dollars a dozen. And this spoiled rat eats them? That’s in-your-face conspicuous consumption, if you ask me.

Hey, this is another example of how only the One Percent get the best of everything, from real estate, to rose salads, to  their own personal trainers and social secretaries, while the rest of us New York rats live in squalor and danger.

We’re sick and tired of being vilified pariahs. Toby undoubtedly comes from a family of very rich rats, because when the rest of us tried to raise money by putting together an act that consisted of some gymnastics and a bit of rodent-dancing, Fox News came down on us like a ton of bricks – like we’re liberals, or Democrats, or demonstrators, or gun-grabbers, or terrorists, or something. I mean, just look at this disgusting anti-rat political screed from Fox. Go ahead, I'll wait while you play it:


“We slant, you try and decide.” I mean, that was what I call a completely biased piece of reporting. Not one pro-rat spokesperson was interviewed.  All you see is a bunch of Fox pimps and their patsies making out like we’re disgusting. We weren’t being disgusting. We were trying to break into show business.

Anyway, Crank, please do me a favor and post this letter to your blog. It’s time people knew the rats have their one percent, too, and that characters like Toby are just as irritating to us as the Koch Brothers are to you.

Whether we're talking about rats or people, the one percent gets the best of everything. For the rest of us, life’s nothing but a rat race.

Sincerely,
Roscoe Norvegicus

P.S. The Times article also quoted Lydia DesRoche, the rat’s personal trainer, as saying, ““I’m just a rat servant now — I’m the rat butler.” Right. And hell will freeze over before the rich rats give it up. Taxing away a tiny little bit of extra income from the one percent might deprive them of their ridiculous luxuries, like butlers, and that’s why they pay off legislators to write laws in favor of the rich. Meanwhile, the greedy S.O.Bs. don’t care if the rest of us starve, or drown in a backed up sewer.  

P.P.S. While the rich drink Perrier, us poor rats have to slurp our water from puddles in the gutter. Wake me up when the revolution starts.

Monday, November 10, 2014

The American corruptocracy, the ISPs, and the coming destruction of net neutrality

"I'll give it to you any way you like, honey,
as long as you pay for it. I'm a lawmaker."
Prostitution is now legal. 

Oh shut up and stop telling me I’m wrong. Prostitution is not only legal, it’s a leading pastime in Washington. It just depends on what you’re selling.

Are you selling a Congressman? A Senator? A commission chairman? How do you want him or her? Nekkid? On his knees with his mouth open? Hanging from the ceiling by chains? Ready to talk dirty about coal, or oil, or taxes, or guns? Or to submissively whine and snivel about the hardships of the rich and how life isn't fair to them? No problem.

Harlotry, the FCC
and net neutrality

The latest manifestation of red blooded American harlotry is the coming destruction of net neutrality by the Chairman of the FCC, Tom Wheeler. And it has to do with a matter that generally provokes barely stifled yawns. Net neutrality. No no, don’t run away. Come back here and pay attention, damnit! 

Net neutrality simply means that nobody using the Internet can have a leg up on anybody else – or any corporation else – that also uses the Internet. With net neutrality, you can’t be thrown off the Internet because your Internet service provider doesn’t like your politics. The content you read or watch can't be blocked. The company that feeds you movies can't be charged a king's ransom – aransom that eventually gets passed along to the consumer.

For example, if you transmit movies the way Netflix does, net neutrality means you can’t gain a monopoly by paying to make sure your movies get seamless transmission, while your competitor gets his transmissions so badly slowed down that the film keeps being interrupted – forcing the audience to stare at a little turning wheel until they give up and stop watching.

And so, if we manage to preserve net neutrality, Netflix, or Google, can’t gain a virtual monopoly, or near-monopoly, on movies and then charge whatever sum pops into their greedy heads.

And Comcast and Verizon can’t decide to throw any blogger off the Internet who doesn’t walk around in a bra and spiked heels, praising how well Comcast and Verizon are hung.

Utility shmootility! 
The ISPs want to control you.

The easiest way to preserve net neutrality is to treat every Internet Service Provider as a utility. Listen, your electric company can’t decide to cut your service because you’re using their juice to watch MSNBC or Fox. The movies you subscribe to shouldn’t be made unwatchable by Internet slowdowns because the movie provider’s president didn’t pay the Internet Service Providers their vig.

Or to quote President Obama, “Simply put: No service should be stuck in a ‘slow lane' because it does not pay a fee.That kind of gatekeeping would undermine the level playing field essential to the Internet’s growth.”

But there are some people out there who don’t like net neutrality. And yes, you can round up all the usual suspects: AT&T, and Verizon, and Comcast, and Time Warner Cable. They want to control the toll bridge to and from your mind, your eyeballs, your ears and your wallet. 

And their pet hooker at this moment is Chairman Wheeler. How he got his job in the first places is very nearly a puzzlement, since his last job was as a lobbyist for the very industry he’s supposed to be regulating now. Do you detect a whiff of conflict of interest there?

Nah!

I am ashamed to say that Wheeler is an Obama appointee. But at least President Obama seems to be having second thoughts.

Razzle-dazzle ‘em 
with soporific language

Wheeler’s thought? Delay and obfuscate and take a “hybrid approach.” Obfuscate how? Prop your eyelids open with toothpicks, boys and girls, because Wheeler wants to make sure you're asleep while this matter is considered. He recently explained...
“Whether in the context of a hybrid or reclassification approach, Title II brings with it policy issues that run the gamut from privacy to universal service to the ability of federal agencies to protect consumers, as well as legal issues ranging from the ability of Title II to cover mobile services to the concept of applying forbearance on services under Title II.”
Thank you for that edifying and reassuring thought, Chairman Wheeler. 

You can try parsing Wheeler’s prose line by line if you want. But the executive summary is simply this: the public and democracy are screwed.

And if you think most of your senators and Congresswhores are going to step in and legislate net neutrality if Wheeler succeeds in killing or crippling it, have another think. This is a corruptocracy we live in, child. The people with money buy the laws and regulations they want. Congress, like Wheeler, simply works for the whorehouse.

Somehow what comes to mind is a filthy song we used to sing at the student pub at the University of Leeds student union, way back in my exchange student days in England. This blog doesn't limit obscenity very much. But I’ve got to have at least a little bit of propriety. So I’ve taken the liberty of plucking a few verses from the old pub song more-or-less out of context here – and presenting them to you, with the most vulgar of the four-letter words replaced. 

All the same, pay attention. This is where the United States is going. Or are we already there?

It’s the same the whole world over
It’s the poor wot gets the blame
While the rich has all the pleasures
Isn’t it a crying shame?

See him in the House of Commons
Making laws for all mankind
While the victim of his dirty rotten pleasures
Has to live off her behind.

If you’re rich, randy, and rotten
You can buy whomever you wish
While the poor put out for pennies
Let ‘em starve, ‘cause life’s a bitch.

It’s the same the whole world over
It’s the poor wot gets the blame
While the rich has all the pleasures
Isn’t it a crying shame?

Monday, November 03, 2014

Hot air, nutcase thinking and hatred – some of the latest from the far edge of the far right wing. Yes, these guys, among others:

Tea Party Logo












Above: the logotypes from three of the nuttiest organizations-with-a-following in America. I didn't find them. They found me, as have several other batcrap crazy political organizations. They all think I'm one of them. They have thought so ever since I got curious a few years back, about an online ad from a guy who wanted to give me a free gun for taking his "self defense" course. I clicked for more information. And then the gears and wheels started turning.

The free gun guy evidently sold my name to some right wing organizations, who evidently sold my name to even further-right organizations, who then sold my name to...well, you get the idea. And what e-mail I get from them!

The mail sounds as if it comes from  mental wards for fantasy thinkers who truly believe I want to destroy my own Social Security income, live without health insurance, impeach President Obama, store a cache of weapons in a secret underground burrow, arrest Senator Harry Reid for treason, and...well the list goes on. And on. And on some more. And also...

Did I mention they also want to sell you and me: super vitamins...lessons in survival for when The End comes...surefire investment advice to protect you and me against things s like "the coming global economic holocaust," and...well if it'll put my money or your money in their pockets, they're selling it.

As in the pitch reported here to save me from the dreaded ravages of Ebola, which is either breathing up my pants leg or getting carried across the Mexican border by Mexican Al Queda or ISIS agents -–agents hellbent on smuggling an epidemic into this country in their lungs and their noses. After which they'll...I dunno, breathe on us maybe.

Put on your aluminum hats, boys and girls!
The Space Visitors will be here in a flash!

Now, before you read any further, run, do not walk to the kitchen, get out your roll of aluminum foil, and make yourself a foil hat, because that's the only way to ward off all the danger that has been reported to me in e-mails. Here are some excerpt

The New York Crank's nominee for the
"Not-Quite-Sharpest Knife In The Drawer" Award:
Fellow Patriot,
Do you know the most dangerous tool you can own?
The answer might just surprise you...A knife is the most important tool anyone can have.
Most of us use one everyday.
It's at our side and we use it without even thinking of it (oftentimes for things a knife should never be used for.)
But it can also be the most dangerous...
Protect yourself with this FREE deviceYou see, you are 10 times more likely to cut yourself with a dull knife than you are with a sharp one.
So I'd like to give you a simple device that ensures you never have a dull blade again... Absolutely Free.
O the horror! Gay Apple exec reveals he's gay!
There must be a plot in here somewhere.
In Shocking “Coming Out” Letter, Apple CEO Makes It Clear He Will Use His Position of Power to Push for Gay Rights
"I’m proud to be gay, and I consider being gay among the greatest gifts God has given me."
After reading Cook’s public announcement that he prefers to have sex with men, one is forced to wonder: WOhat does a person’s sexual orientation have to do with growing Apple’s profits, selling iPhones, or running a business in general?
What do you think about Cook going public about his homosexuality and his admission that Apple will “do its part” to advance gay rights? Leave a comment below.
And here are a pair of the 
choicest comments about Cook
You pretty much nailed it to the wall, hit the pill (baseball) out of the park!!!! They know (?) what they are doing is WRONG, goes against just about EVERY religion known to man!! I've seen it said that even Islamist are against homosexuality! 
*** 
What these gay's want is for the rest of humanity to say "It's perfectly alright/ normal" that you are gay! They want EVERYONE else to justify their sexual orientation so "they" can feel good about themselves! Lest they forget that come Judgement Day they will have to answer to the Creator/ God!! He doesn't have to be PC! HE gets the final word! They say they want acceptance but in reality they want "us" to justify their perversion!

The alleged price of his beer leaves
Obama foes foaming at the mouth
Obama Drinks Most Expensive Beer in History
Shucks, I'm not only a dangerously subversive
liberal. I'm (even worse!) also a snob.
Liberals are funny creatures.
They walk around with an attitude that they’re better than everyone else. Nothing a liberal does, says, reads, or thinks can ever be criticized without a barrage of ad hominem attacks being hurled at you.
If you want a good laugh, or if you want to dig up some serious dirt on liberals...
It's a $200 value – your free!
(See, they make money by 
being too good to be true.)
ATTENTION!
The first 500 people that go to 
the website below will receive 
a FREE copy of:
"The Complete Survival System"
(That's a $200 value - yours FREE 
if you hurry!)
The "system" has been specifically 
designed for both MEN and WOMEN to 
cover the unique needs of each.

Y'see, what it is, I'm guessing, is that men stand up to urinate while women have to sit, so when it comes to survival...uh...umm....

Build a secret AR14 in your basement today
and surprise those lefty neighbors tomorrow


Dear Patriot,If you would like to know how a group of underground, true American Patriots are building their own AR-15’s at home completely “off the books”.Meaning ...
• no serial number
• No registration...
• And 100% legally
... with just a handful of tools and simple, inexpensive parts in their garage, then simply watch this urgent video now....
Vote, or these loonies will
 end up controlling America

That's it for today, folks. Tomorrow's election day. And, gulp! The Tea Party crazies seem to be gaining on the rest of us. Proof that you can't be too dumb. Or too dumberer.


Monday, October 27, 2014

After “messing with the wrong redhead” Governor Fatso gets verbally bitch-slapped. He then backs down, like the opportunist and coward he is.

Governor Christie and Massachusetts
gubernatorial candidate Charlie 
Baker are involved in a scandal. Is 
the NewJersey Ebola panic an attempt
 to deflect attention? Read this story 
all the way through.
I truly wonder if the headline at the top of this post is strong enough. If you keep reading you’ll see that the real story may not be about Ebola, but about a political “pay to play” scandal. Here’s the story.

A nurse from Maine, Kaci Hickox, got off a plane in New Jersey on her way home after an heroic stint helping an overwhelmed population in West Africa fight the ravages of Ebola.

Fatso Governor Chris Christie “arrested” her. No, let me take that verb out of quotes. He arrested her. Period.

The governor lies about
an heroic nurse’s health

She was “obviously ill,” the big fat bully said of the nurse. 

So he confined her for 21 days to a tent, with no flush toilet (living in a tent with a chemical toilet is like living with a port-a-pottie in the bedroom), no shower, not even a television set.

That’s tantamount to imprisonment in a particularly disgusting prison. People in need of medical quarantine should be quarantined in a hospital room, or their own homes, not a filthy tent.

Except, Nurse Hickox is not at all ill. She has test negative twice for Ebola. She is showing no symptoms.

“Obviously ill?” That’s Chris Christie telling a flat out lie to cover his own fat butt. 

The bully, still lying.
backs off from the nurse

The brave nurse spoke out. She got a lawyer. She protested. And now the lying governor is backing off, sort of. The New York Times reports Christie as saying:
“It’s always been about her condition. And if her condition permits release, then we will work with the state officials in Maine to make sure she could go home,” he said. “Our preference always is to quarantine people in their homes.”
No, Governor Christie, it has never been about her condition because she is not sick, did not arrive her sick, and the test results show that she does not have Ebola. And the reason you want to “make sure she could go home,” is that this thing has blown up in your face like projectile vomit from a real Ebola patient.

“…he’s messed with the wrong redhead,” the Times reported that Nurse Hickox’s boyfriend said. And here’s more from the Times:
“She’s not a loudmouth activist,” said Dr. Nora Rowley, a classmate at Johns Hopkins in Baltimore.But she understands the contagiousness of the virus, and now she has to come back and be subjected to a policy that’s not based on anything other than fear.” 
Her boyfriend, Ted Wilbur, a nursing student in Fort Kent, Maine, said she had not planned on speaking to the news media but changed her mind after Mr. Christie said on Saturday that she was “obviously ill” when she knew she was not.
Let me offer an alternative theory to explain Christie’s police state behavior. He’s not panicked. He’s trying to spread panic, the equivalent of yelling fire in a crowded theater. And I submit that his motivation for this unpardonable behavior is to deflect attention from yet another Christie scandal, every bit as big as the George Washington Bridge mess of a few months back.

The simmering 
pay to play scandal

There seems to be a pay-to-play scandal regarding Christie’s people awarding contract to manage New Jersey’s pension money to Charlie Baker, a candidate for governor in Massachusetts against Democrat Martha Coakley. There are documents that increasingly sound like they’d reveal violation of New Jersey’s state laws by its own governor, but Fatso isn’t releasing them.

The Crooks and Liars website sums it up:

The documents being withheld pertain to an investigation of Baker's $10,000 contribution to the New Jersey Republican State Committee. The contributions came just months before Christie officials gave Baker's company, General Catalyst, a contract to manage New Jersey pension money. New Jersey's pay-to-play rules prohibit contributions to state parties from "any investment management professional associated" with a firm managing state pension money. 
When the campaign donations and subsequent pension contract came to light in May, Democrats criticized  Baker, who was then launching his 2014 campaign for governor of Massachusetts. In response, New Jersey launched a formal investigation into Baker's contributions. The Newark Star-Ledger reported at the time that Christie officials "said the review would take several weeks.” 
Five months later, with Baker now neck-and-neck in the polls with Democratic Attorney General Martha Coakley and backed by more than $5 million from the Christie-led RGA, Christie officials have denied an open records request for the findings of the investigation. 
In a reply to International Business Times' request for the findings of the audit under New Jersey's Open Public Records Act, Christie's Treasury Department said the request is being denied on the grounds that the documents in question are "consultative and deliberative material."  
Despite officials' assurances in May that the probe would take only weeks, the New Jersey Treasury said in September that the investigation is still "ongoing" -- a designation the department says lets it to stop the records from being released.
So how do you deflect attention from an offense that could have you thrown out of office, screw up any possibility you still have left of a presidential run, and mess up a probably-not-completely-honest Republican gubernatorial candidate in Massachusetts to boot?

Why, of course you change the subject by creating an Ebola panic.

That’s yelling “fire’ in a crowded theater for sure. 

It’s time for Christie to go. Preferably to the fat farm. Despite lapband surgery, he’s still obviously overweight. And he’s got a big fat lying mouth.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Right wing fanatic stirrer-uppers discover there’s money in Ebola – their gullible followers’ money.

Genuine right-wing baloney
Some of those folks who stir up the gullible on emotional issues from abortion to immigration to guns have made a big, profitable discovery.

Ebola.

More about this in a moment. But first a short explanation of how I glommed on to this information.

Some years ago, I clicked on an e-ad offering to give me a free gun if I'd sign up for an arms course. I didn’t want no stinkin’ gun. And I didn’t want an arms course, having taken all the arms courses I’ll ever need in U.S. Army Basic and Advanced Infantry training. 

But I was curious. So I requested more information. I read all about the free gun offer, yawned, and trashed it out of my mailbox. But then, junk e-mails by the buh-zillions began to flow in.

Now I get regular mail from Rand Paul. I get regular mail from something called “the Right to Bear in Defense of Your God Given Rights.” (In case you didn’t know it, God wrote the U.S. Constitution when he was finished with the Bible. And I suppose I’m going to learn next that God designed the Confederate flag. But I digress.)

I get breathless updates on an alleged secret plot by Barack Obama to enslave us, Muslimize us, turn us into Africans, destroy our school system and give us dreaded diseases. All in the name of either Mulim domination, or Socialist domination, or domination by the secretive rich. Take your choice.

The latest, which popped up in my mailbox just a few days ago began,

“Read this or you and your family might die.”

Yup, that’s what it said. It also told me that the message was “from our advertising sponsor, UJGAR, LLC,” whatever the hell UIGAR is. And then it got down to the terrifying brass tacks. It said:
Forgive the "in-your-face" email ... but this is serious.Ebola is here and the TRUE facts are so scary ... it's unbelievable.(Hint: the Government and the Center For Disease Control (CDC) are NOT telling you everything because they don't want people to panic)In short, if you are not preparing for an Ebola pandemic I believe you are making a HUGE mistake ...Click the link below to see what you can do to get ready now. Read this or you and your family might die 
Dave Walon Editor

So I clicked and learned, just for openers…
WARNING:Ebola Has Invaded The USA!It started with just one reported case in Dallas, Texas. Now ...Ebola infections are DOUBLING every 21-days (the amount of time it might take for a person to show the infection symptoms) ...The Center for Disease Control (CDC) predicts a worst-case scenario of 1.5 MILLION cases by January 2015 ...
Sheesh! And to think that we've only had a handful of reported cases of Ebola in the U.S, and we’re getting news reports (no doubt all of them lies inserted into the news by Secretive Socialist Rich Muslim terrorists) that this whole thing has been pretty much nipped in the bud. Even though that frantic website is warning me…
Once the panic and infections spread ...We might see full-blown Martial Law in the United States!
M-m-m-martial law?! Who’s telling me all this horrifying news? He writes:
My name is Caleb Lee. And I’m the editor and founder of THE 3-PERCENTER REPORT, an exclusive society of self-reliance and self-defense practitioners. I’m also an NRA certified firearms instructor and I’ve been black belt for well over a decade now ...
Phew! That’s a relief. If Caleb ever runs into an Ebola virus, thanks to his epidemiological expertise he can shoot it with an AR-15, or use his black belt self-defense skills to at least karate chop the daylights out of it.

But what it all boiled down to is, Caleb wants you to send him seven bucks. For seven bucks  he’ll send you his book. Well, not a paper book, despite that picture showing it spiral bound with a bright yellow cover. It’s actually a digital download, but hey, what’s a misleading graphic among Tea Party patriots, survivalists, gun nuts, and Obama-haters?
If (and when) the infections spread ... and panic sets in ... we will most likely see entire cities or regions of the United States under military quarantine.This is serious.
And on and on. Oh, bother!

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

What’s next for Southwest and Jet Blue airline passengers? Mid-air executions?

A hanging at sea (below the American flag, at the boat’s stern) dated from the mid-19th Century. Could an airline pilot have you hanged in flight for having an opinion??

There was a time when, at sea, the captain’s word was law. If he didn’t like the way you looked at him, or the fact that you whispered something to a shipmate, or that you complained about wanton flogging of the crew, he could hang you from the yardarm, like that

The hanging depicted in the picture above occurred in 1842 aboard a ship called the USS Somers. The hanged men were almost certainly innocent. You can read the horrifying tale of the paranoid captain and the hapless sailors here.

Now both Southwest and Jet Blue airlines seem to want to renew the practice of giving captains and themselves God-like legal powers over people aboard their vessels – air vessels in this case, to stop them from posting opinions on Twitter.

And no, the passengers are not tweeting threats. They’re not tweeting Al Qaeda or ISIS propaganda. They’re not tweeting remarks about bombs.

Instead, they’ve been tweeting how unhappy they were with airline personnel, and service.

For this, the passengers were forced off their flights. I suppose the authority to do this dates from that old rule of the sea, the one that enabled captains to hang people aboard their ships: the captain’s word is law.

Before I go on, I should point out that I like Jet Blue, one of the two airlines whose philosophy seems to be, “throw ‘em off the plane if they’re unhappy” Or at least I used to like Jet Blue. I’ve flown them several times. Their seats are roomier than comparable seats on United, which I’ve also flown in recent years. Their employees, at least when I’ve flown the airline, always seemed to be in better humor and consequently more courteous and accommodating to their passengers. My baggage got handled correctly and promptly. I wasn’t nickeled and dimed the way other airlines chisel their passengers.

But in one recent case, a planeload of passengers were delayed because the captain took umbrage at a tweet that questioned his sobriety Which leads me to wonder if there wasn’t really something to that passenger’s tweet after all. I’d be pretty plastered before I’d turn a plane around in mid-air and fly back to the airport to give myself a sobriety test and have a passenger taken off the plane for criticizing me.

Worse yet, although Jet Blue offered a paragraph full of long-winded gobbledygook, it in fact provided no rational or specific explanation at all of why the tweeting passenger was put off the plane. Here’s the reported full text of Jet Blue’s explanation.
It is not our practice to remove a customer for expressing criticism of their experience in any medium. We will remove a customer if they are disruptive and the crew evaluates that there is a risk of escalation which could lead to an unsafe environment. The decision to remove a customer from a flight is not taken lightly. If we feel a customer is not complying with safety instructions, exhibits objectionable behavior or causes conflict at the gate or on the aircraft, the customer will be asked to deplane or will be denied boarding especially if the crew feels the situation runs the risk of accelerating in the air. In this instance, the customer received a refund and chose to fly on another carrier.
So which was it, Jet Blue?” “Not complying with safety instructions?” “Exhibits objectionable behavior” by silently tweeting an opinion? “Causing conflict at the gate or in the aircraft?” Or more likely, just saying something about Jet Blue on Twitter that screws up the image you want to project, whether it's an accurate image or not?

In the Southwest Airlines case, a man and his two little kids felt he had been treated rudely by a gate agent and  tweeted that opinion. And then,
...after he boarded, an announcement came over the plane asking his family to exit the aircraft. Once at the gate, the agent said that unless the tweet was deleted, police would be called and the family would not be allowed back onboard.

Note, what Southwest, with less than a sterling reputation objected to was not the man’s behavior on the plane, but the text of his tweet.  And that tweet was hardly unique among Southwest’s present and more likely former customers. I mean, Southwest has a problem. I mean, a big problem. I mean, a horrendous problem. I mean…well, you get the idea.

Southwest’s solution to customers complaining about mistreatment? Don't stop mistreating them. Just  yank ‘em off the plane if they refuse to accept the Southwest party line.

Thie behavior  raises a question. If the captain or his employer can hark back to ancient laws of the sea to put you off a plane simply because he’s in a paranoid, or drunk, or simply cranky enough mind to, or because the airline doesn’t like to get caught misleading the public,  why can’t the captain hang you in midair? 

And what makes you think it will never happen?

Thursday, October 09, 2014

The Secret Service, the White House, the tan suit, Ebola, and Republican attack opportunists

The Ebola virus has African origins. Our
president's lineage is half African. Therefore
as any good Republican can see, err, ahh...
The Republican penchant for attacking the president – on any grounds, on flimsy grounds, on no rational grounds whatsoever – is getting a tad tiresome.

It started with that socialistic, communistic, fascistic, maybe even Muslimistic (not to mention totally totalitarian) idea that was the crown jewel of the Obama administration: seeing to it that as many Americans as possible had health care coverage. O, the horror of it all! 

Even to this day, Kentucky Republican Senator Mitch McConnell is running for re-election on a promise to repeal that accursed law and throw us back to the tender mercies of the greedy insurance companies. They will, he implies, do as right by us as they always have in the past because, uh, Freedom.

The American public has also endured Republicans foaming at the mouth concerning, uh, well let’s call them (and this is only a partial list) Benghazigate, Birthergate, Golfgate, Vacationgate, and what until now has been my all-time favorite. 

TanSuitgate 

TanSuitgate was when Republican Congressman Peter King launched into a vicious attack on President Obama for wearing a tan suit to a press conference. Then, facing withering scorn for his own idiocy, King walked it back maybe, oh a half step or so, and insisted he was only speaking in metaphors. Metaphors? Isn't that actually Congresspeak for speaking in tongues? 

For the record, here’s one of the Congressman’s kingly "metaphors" on what clearly, from his enraged tone, must have been nearly an act of treason by Obama:
“There’s no way I don’t think any of us can excuse what the president did yesterday,” King said.  “You have the whole world watching, you have a week, two weeks of anticipation of what the United States is going to do and then for him to walk out — I’m not trying to be trivial here — in a light suit, a light tan suit.”
So why am I not amazed, or even slightly surprised, that the Republicans are barking and snapping like a pack of rabid Yorkshire terriers because the Secret Service is is falling down on its job of protecting him?

Yes, we should all be concerned about lapses in the President’s security. And yes, the Secret Service needs a cataclysmic culture change to get the problem fixed. But some professions of concern over the president’s security by all the folks who’ve been trying to bring him down for the past two terms strikes me as a bit, eh, shall we say disingenuous?

 When Congressman Darrell Issa, the would-be scourge of President Obama, attacks the Secret Service for not adequately protecting Obama, one has to think his secret hope is that some of the mud flung at the secret service will instead stick to the President.

As the Fiscal Times reports:
Rep. Darrell Issa’s two terms as chair of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform have been marked by hearings on issues that seemed to greatly excite members of the hard right, Issa himself (R-CA) and the anti-Obama element of the Republican Party. Until now, Chairman Issa’s tendency to work himself into high dudgeon over scandals, including the “Fast and Furious” investigation and Lois Lerner’s IRS emails have failed to get real traction with the broader American public.
This morning, however, given the latest news reports about the severity of the Secret Service’s lapses in protecting the White House, Issa might finally get what he seems to have wanted all along – the chance to indulge in some high-profile righteous anger that has the sentiment of the American people behind it.

And now, the E-bomb

Now the latest stink bomb in the Republican arsenal is emerging. Ebola. You see, the E-bomb is all Obama’s fault. 
Many Republicans—and conservative media outlets—are also now hitting the president for thus far refusing to block flights to the U.S. from those nations, something some European countries have done.
Of course, if we block air traffic to the affected African countries and fail to send medical assistance to the areas where Ebola has reached epidemic proportions, the epidemic will inevitably spread faster, likely evolving into a worldwide pandemic that could cripple the United States.

Meanwhile, we’d have more and more, longer and longer delays at American airports, more and more angry passengers, more and more financial losses.

But of course, that would have to be the President’s fault, too.

Monday, October 06, 2014

Pharmaceutical prices, football, drug companies and a possible new role for universities

Football is a moneymaker for universities, no? 
Universities could create non-profit com-
petition for drug companies that would
help lower drug prices

But what does football have to do with scientific research or the advancement of knowledge in general – the reasons, presumably, for universities to exist?

Not a damn thing.

Meanwhile, earnings-hungry drug companies doing advanced research are literally bankrupting cancer patients who are faced with a choice that comes down to, “Your money or your life.”

When Leslie Stahl brought this home to 60 Minutes viewers on Sunday, she wasn’t revealing anything new. She was merely adding fresh emphasis to the horrid state of affairs that includes not only outrageous drug prices but also the power of the drug companies over Congress, which currently makes it illegal for Medicare to negotiate prices with insurance companies. 

When a drug company charges in excess of $100,000 to extend your life a month or more, even insured cancer victims end up paying staggering co-pays.

But there may be a stronger answer in the future than negotiation. It may veto create lower-cost, less greedy competitors to drug companies.

What if, instead of the hundreds of millions of dollars poured into football stadiums, perhaps with seed money from wealthy foundations universities put that kind of money into acquiring laboratories and researchers who would hunt for and test new drugs?

That’s a perfectly legitimate business for universities to be in. And nonprofit universities could be expected to use drug prices to pay back the price of their research and perhaps generate a little extra for their institutions – without charging the outrageous prices drug companies are getting.

The universities are also likelier to develop some new low-priced alternatives to medicine’s dwindling repertoire of effective antibiotics, to mention just one of the additional benefits.

You can expect the drug companies to bleat cries of self-pity over this, should it come to pass. Let me weep with them now: oh boo hoo. And yes, some universities will find greedy leaders who will want to overcharge as much as the pharmaceutical giants. But university overcharges threaten their non-profit status and could be controlled by reminding them of the trade off.

All the same, some additional cash from pharmaceutical royalties flowing to the universities could help stem the tide of endless tuition increases. It could create a resource on campuses for all sorts of student learning and work opportunities. It could add to the prestige of universities that sponsor such programs, especially when they yield valuable new drugs.

Yes, there are undoubtedly some institutions that will prefer to invest in football. That’s nothing new. 

But if you’re looking for a job (other than in coaching or sports marketing) would you rather say you went to a football school, or a scientific research school?


Just asking.