Friday, October 31, 2014

At the SHAKA revival

I went to the SHAKA revival at Pukalani last night. I heard many dubious and some disgusting things, but RtO will report only 3 of them.

1. Some Filipino-Americans I know have mentioned strong anti-Filipino bias (some have used the word racism) from SHAKA. I had not encountered any of that myself. Now I have.

2. Again, the allegation -- made without any evidence -- that "every" journalist and public relations person speaking against the initiative has been paid by Monsanto. This seems to be a universal belief at SHAKA. I have heard it many times and, although at least one person (me) has said it isn't true (of me, that I'm sure of), none of the vilifiers has backed down.

This is not the only reason that I have classed SHAKA as the group with the least aloha of anybody on Maui exept meth cooks, but it contributes.

3. I had wondered (in a Facebook comment) whether Lorrin Pang would repeat his claim that the seed companies use "untested" chemicals if he knew I was in the room. He did and stared at me as he said it. Small island.

He elaborated (I won't go into details, he'll be happy to do that if you ask him), and his position boils down to -- no ag chemicals allowed, because of the impossibility of testing them as he believes they should be tested. Odd, coming from a man who used them, successfully, to eliminate dengue on Maui.

I thought I had heard him say, last week in a radio sound bite, that he thought eating GMO food was a threat. I could hardly believe it, and it was only a sound bite, so I filed that away. Turns out, he does believe that.

He then went into a longish discussion of regulation, and I will present a longish report of it. Bear with me (he jumped around a lot at this point and introduced several concepts that I am going to skip over).

He was (I did not at first know where he was going) developing a point that a man can do what he wants on his own property but once it goes outside, especially if he sells it, it comes under regulatory scrutiny. This applies, he said, to "everything" in the way of food or medicine.

Pang must be suffering from irony deficiency anemia, because (to judge by their dress and demeanor) at least a majority of his audience (of something over 100) are the people you see in the "health" store buying untested, unregulated supplements, and using untested quack cures and untested patent medicines. The kind of people who believe the energies in their bodies can become unbalanced and that this is a condition requiring medical treatment. (I kid you not; find the magazine with Pang on the cover and read the ads.)

All this (and more) was leading up to a grand challenge to introducing food altered by recombinent gene methods into the consumption arena, because it has not been -- and according to Pang, cannot be -- tested. His example was the Rainbow papaya.

(Here I must digress. Pang did not explain Rainbow papaya and it was obvious most or all of his audience knew nothing specific about it [or he would not have gotten away with the slick trick I will describe later], but you have to understand the fruit to understand the trick.

(Papaya can be infected by a virus -- ringspot -- that does not make it inedible but does make it so unsightly that it is unsaleable. In a nifty piece of work, a gene that codes for a protein in the coat of the virus is inserted into the papaya itself, which sets up an immune reaction.

(This method does not work for every disease-causing virus, unfortunately, but it does work in papaya. It is as if a gene for part of the AIDS organism were inserted into the mitochondria of human mothers, and their babies were born immune to AIDS, without any side effects. How cool would that be?)

Pang said that eating Rainbow papaya with its built-in ringspot vaccine is the same as getting the vaccine, like getting a flu vaccine shot. He held up a Hawaiian Airlines magazine that happened to have a laudatory article about Rainbow papaya next to an ad for flu vaccine.

The ad, he noted, mentioned signing a waiver and consent form for your flu shot. Do papaya eaters sign a consent form to get the ringspot virus? No, he said.

It was slick, I'll give him that, and the applause indicated it was effective. He had failed to make clear -- and his listeners were too ignorant to spot -- the gaps in his little immorality tale.

The recipient of the ringspot vaccine is not the human but the papaya tree and, yes, it's true, the tree did not sign a consent form. People don't get ringspot disease. In the course of the disease in the fruit, the virus replicates itself millions (perhaps billions) of times before the rings appear, and people eat the virus without effect.

We are not plants.

The Rainbow papaya does contain a virus protein that does not occur in other papayas -- unless they are infected with ringspot, in which case it includes not only that virus protein but all the others and the viral DNA, too.

I may be wrong in thinking that nobody but me saw Pang slide the pea out from under the walnut. During the applause, I noticed a couple of people sitting on their hands and in particular one woman whose face registered what I took to be disgust. If I had had a mirror, I expect mine would have, too. 

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Stop the Ebola, er, malaria carriers!

First, all the people who have died of Ebola fever in history do not equal the number of Africans who die of malaria every 3 days or so.

Second, a friend of mine who worked in Africa on AIDS control directed me to this commentary by someone who really does know what he's talking about. Worth reading, and then, for pete's sake, stop with the Ebola reports already. Nut grafs:

Doctors Without Borders combined the experience of earlier outbreaks with the treatment of thousands of cases during this outbreak.  They have done this under such difficult field conditions that it was assumed that most large hospitals in the United States could have done the same thing safely.  That turned out not to be true and protocols quickly reflected this new information.
While the autonomy of state and local jurisdictions is a given in this country, the federal government has responded with assistance and personnel exceeding any previous investigation and control effort.  Human evolution and response to unexpected problems will contain the virus in this country.
UPDATE: Not since Bitter Bierce amused the rowdy San Franciscans has an American journalist reached the levels of invective of Gary Legum. And maybe not even then. Legum is not as general a scold as Bierce, since he has only a single target. But it's a fat one and his latest volley is relevant to the topic of this post.

SECOND UPDATE: Judge in Maine, probably a socialist, calls out Republican idiots:

“The court is fully aware of the misconceptions, misinformation, bad science and bad information being spread from shore to shore in our country with respect to Ebola,” he wrote. “The court is fully aware that people are acting out of fear and that this fear is not entirely rational.”

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Spina bifida and GMOs

One of the claims made by SHAKA is that rates of spina bifida on Maui and Kauai are double the national average, and they suspect GMOs as the cause. This suspicion is entirely imaginary, as no one knows what causes this neural tube deformation; and no mechanism between GMO farming and the disease is proposed.

But is it even true that rates of spina bifida are double the national average? Let’s see.

Spina bifida is a reportable disease, so we know that there are about 8 cases a year in Hawaii, and perhaps others that are not reported because the fetus is aborted. The defect ranges from mild to severe and sometimes takes some time after birth to be noticed.

A known risk factor is insufficient folic acid in the mother’s diet during pregnancy, and about 3 in 5 Maui mothers do not get enough. However, there are 1,800 births a year on Maui and there are not 1,100 cases of spina bifida -- as we will see, the incidence is around 1 or less -- so rather than thinking of folic acid as a preventive, perhaps it would be better to think of it as something that interferes with the developmental failure in the rare cases when that is imminent.

Spina bifida has been around since long before gene splicing, so -- even if there is  a new cause at work today -- there must also be a background rate. Let us assign that as 1 per county per year. We will disregard the fact that 3 in 4 births are on Oahu, and treat each county as equal.

That leaves 4 cases a year that might be outside the base rate. Since SHAKA claims both Maui and Kauai are implicated, then the maximum number of anomalous cases is 2 on Maui and 2 on Kauai.

By making the unrealistic assumption that most cases of spina bifida occur outside Oahu, it is just barely arithmetically possible to claim that rates on Maui and Kauai could   be double the national average. But If the base rate for the Neighbor Islands is 1 per county per year, and if three-quarters of base cases occur on Oahu, there are not any available Neighbor Islands cases to be anomalous. We would need more than 8 total cases to make the sums work. (We require 12 cases to reach baseline.)

So, whatever the base rate is on Maui, it must be less than 1 per year.

Now we run into what might be called the Tyranny of Small Numbers. Let’s say you have 4 instances -- it might be 4 cases of spina bifida on Maui and Kauai attributable to GMOs. They can divide (between counties) as 4/0, 3/1, 2/2, 1/3 or 0/4.

And like every other natural phenomenon, they will. Think of hurricanes in Florida. Over a long period, the number coming ashore is about 1 per year. But there have been years with 4, and for the last 8 years or so, not any. Not just not any per year; not any over that longish period.

So let’s say you know (although you don’t) what the base or natural rate of spina bifida is on Maui. Let’s say it is 1. Let’s say in a year you have 4 total cases.

You cannot call these anomalous, because if the natural average rate is 1, then in some years you will have 4 natural cases, and in other years 0.

You would need a long series of years to know if you had a trend.

So, like all the other SHAKA claims I have checked, this one is bogus. (The only way to make it not bogus would be to claim a huge spike in cases; claiming a mere doubling won’t do it, it just shows they are making things up -- and don’t understand evidentiary rules.)

All politics in 140 characters

Over at Wonkette, commenter GayerThanThou sums up the 2014 (and all recent) elections in 2 lines. He is reacting to a post about nepotism, which rightwing nepot columnist Bill Kristol (son of Irving) thinks is a besetting sin of Democrats:

I haz a confused: I thought the whole point of abolishing the Death Tax was so that Junior wouldn't have to make it "on his and/or her own."
He could have fitted it into a tweet. Who says lefties are spendthrifts?

Child sacrifice, again

The Marysville murder demonstrates -- what needs no demonstration any more -- that an armed society is a society that sacrifices its children, and it gets nothing in return, not even good crops or good hunting.

It also demonstrates that the gun control moderates, who are fighting an initiative struggle in Washington state over background checks, are also wrong.

1. The gunman was not stopped by a good man with a gun. Even if a good man with a gun had been present, it appears the four students who were shot would still have been shot.

2. The killer was rushed by an unarmed teacher, and what happened is yet unclear. Did the killer shoot himself trying to shoot the teacher, or by accident while trying to pull loose, or was he finished shooting all the children he wanted to shoot and was in the act of shooting himself? Had he stopped to reload?

So all the lying crap that the NRA feeds America is crap.

3. However, claims that the killer had stopped to reload, giving the teacher a moment to rush him, and thus showing the utility of regulations against high-capacity magazines, are, so far, speculative. It is not certain that the killer was trying to reload.

4. The initiative to require background checks, if in effect, would have been pointless. It looks as if the pistol was a family item, purchased and registered according to form and owned by someone who is not suspected of murder.

So, why does a family man in Marysville, Washington, who owns several rifles for hunting, also require a .40-caliber automatic pistol? Are home invasion robberies common in Marysville? Had he been threatened by a violent neighbor? Or was he just the victim of relentless, lying, fatal gun nut propaganda?

An armed society does not care anything about its children.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Seeing the light

On my birthday a couple weeks ago, I had dinner with a friend whose birthday is one day later, and she quizzed me about why I am not a Catholic any more. She is a Catholic, but let's say her outlook has evolved since her daughter turned out to be gay and got married and had kids.

In fact, I'd say she's evolved waaaay past what we Catholics (back when I was one) would have called a liberal Catholic. We don't agree on very much theologically, but we did agree that the recent Synod devoted to issues like divorce, gayness and stuff being held by a bunch of unmarried, straight (we presume) men only was "tone deaf."

I proposed that and she said, "That's a good word for it."

I haven't talked with her since the Synod broke up but I know she was disappointed that the bishops didn't show more kindness to divorced straight Catholics or married gay Catholics. But on the bright side, they at least talked about it. There are other religions that only lecture. And in that other United States too.

I don't think I have ever said so at RtO (although I have done so elsewhere) but it is only stating the obvious that the worst idea humans have ever had was universalizing salvationist monotheism.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Why do the rightwngers quiver?

It isn't a rhetorical question. They do. But why, I'd like to know? Examples:

* They are afraid to go into a pizza parlor without carrying an assault rifle.

And, no, don't give me that shinola about how libtards don't even know what's an assault rifle. If the M1 Garands carried by their grandfathers onto Omaha Beach were not assault rifles, then the words have no meaning.

* They are quivering with fear about the Ebola fever -- and before that about Guatemalans bringing in scabies over the Rio Grande.

Y'know, if your mother started babbling the way U.S. Rep. Steve Stockman does, you'd worry she'd had a stroke and put her in a hospital:

It’s just bizarre there’s not enough action up front and I’m wondering if that’s — I’m not saying this — but I’m wondering if that’s intentional in order to create a greater crisis to use it as a blunt force to say, well in order to solve this crisis we’re going to have to take control of the economy and individuals and so forth. I don’t know. It’s just a strange non-response, a strange way of handling it and I think that if it does go forward and we do not control it, there may be an overreaction where the government starts taking away the rights of those that aren’t that necessarily involved or need that to happen. I hope that’s not that case but as you know this current government uses crisis to advance their philosophy and their agenda. - See more at:
 It’s just bizarre there’s not enough action up front and I’m wondering if that’s — I’m not saying this — but I’m wondering if that’s intentional in order to create a greater crisis to use it as a blunt force to say, well in order to solve this crisis we’re going to have to take control of the economy and individuals and so forth. I don’t know. It’s just a strange non-response, a strange way of handling it and I think that if it does go forward and we do not control it, there may be an overreaction where the government starts taking away the rights of those that aren’t that necessarily involved or need that to happen. I hope that’s not that case but as you know this current government uses crisis to advance their philosophy and their agenda.
Madwoman on the loose

And if your grandma started raving like Phyllis Schlafly, you'd call for the men in white coats to keep her from hurting herself:

“There are all kinds of diseases in the rest of the world, and we don’t want them in this country,” Schlafly told WND, adding that “of all the things [Obama has] done, I think this thing of letting these diseased people into this country to infect our own people is just the most outrageous of all.”
She went on to imply that President Obama is intentionally allowing people infected with Ebola into the United States because he wants America to be “just like everybody else, and if Africa is suffering from Ebola, we ought to join the group and be suffering from it, too. That’s his attitude.”

But the rightwingers don't want it to

 * And they are full of indignation that our precious electoral system might be harmed if someone claimed to be someone else in order to cast a fraudulent vote; although the only person known to have done this recently was a white, rightwing Republican, Robert Monroe. But can you name one rightwinger, ever, who said he worried that out precious electoral system would be damaged by systematic laws designed to keep poor people from voting? No you cannot.

Except maybe this one. Except that I've read some of Judge Posner's many books, and while he easily qualifies as a conservative and a Republican, he is doubtfully a rightwinger. He did a lot of damage, though, to our precious voting system:

His dissent includes a devastating response to virtually every false and/or disingenuous rightwing argument/talking point ever put forth in support of Photo ID voting restrictions, describing them as “a mere fig leaf for efforts to disenfranchise voters likely to vote for the political party that does not control the state government.”
As we leftwingers have been saying from the get-go. Some people are just slow learners.

Friday, October 17, 2014

How dumb is Ted Cruz?

Really, really dumb.

The arginine libel

In a Page One story about turtle tumors in The Maui News the other day, UH researchers blamed arginine in the seaweed the turtles eat.

I am skeptical. But one statement in the story was, too typically of greeniacs, just backwards:

Hannah Bernard, president of Hawai'i Wildlife Fund based on Maui, said that arginine is an immunosuppressive and promotes viral growth.
"It is a double whammy," said Bernard, noting that the tumors are caused by fibropapillomatosis, a disease associated with the herpes virus. "Their diet is promoting the growth of the tumors and suppressing their immune system."
Where do they get this stuff? The people, I mean, not the turtles. Pretty much the reverse is believed to be the case. Supplemental arginine may help in wound recovery and some other conditions.

It would be a big surprise to learn that arginine, an amino acid that people make in their bodies, was an immunosuppressor, for us or turtles. Odd things happen in animal metabolism but immunosuppression by one of the commoner amino acids would be hard to explain in evolutionary terms.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

A well-regulated militia

Of course, most gun nuts aren't in any militia, regulated or otherwise, so that argument they use wouldn't fool a 9-year-old idiot. However, the historical fact is that the United States has never had a well-regulated militia.

Besides the old examples of drunkenness and murder and shooting workers whenever the bosses asked, right up to the minute, we have this:

Lt. Col. Lawendowski is a rough tough military man and the Deputy Chief of Staff for Operations and Training of the Alaska National Guard. Please note the use of present tense there, which is rather surprising, given that military investigators submitted a confidential report (an “AR 15-6” in military terms, not to be mistaken for the similarly named semiautomatic rifle) back in March and leaked to the Anchorage Press.
The Press says Lawendowski was found “directly responsible for empowering Alaska guard recruiters to sexually assault and harass female soldiers, recruits and civilians.” The report recommended that he be given an “other than honorable” discharge for his role in allowing some seriously bizarre misbehavior by recruiters when he served as commander of the Alaska Army National Guard Recruiting and Retention Battalion (RRB) from November 2007 to May 2012. Also, too, the growing scandal could very well spill over into the 2014 Alaska governor’s race, since there are questions about Gov. Sean Parenll’s knowledge of the mess — the usual what did he know and when did he know it stuff.
Lawendowski himself appears to be the very model of a modern Bad Lieutenant Colonel. Just check his résumé! He is both a “former pornography company owner” and the “co-founder of an ‘end times’ fundamentalist group,”

Well, at least he didn't shoot any workers. Maybe that's progress. The part about the Mongolian Army is curious.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Slow motion stock market crash

RtO has not had much to say about financial markets recently, except to note that people worried about beating down inflation are kinda nuts. ("Whip Inflation Now! Whip it again!," Sept. 14)

But the graceful swan dive by Wall Street -- the DJIA managed to get under 15,000 today before closing at 16,141, about a thousand below where it was just a couple weeks ago -- merits some comment:

Listen up, people. Inflation is whipped. Beat, over and done with. RtO has been saying so almost since its inception in early 2008. Deflation is the problem, and as we learned in the Republican-engineered Crash of '29, deflation is the hardest of all possible economic crises to manage your way out of. (The famous hyperinflation in Germany was controlled rather easily by replacing all the money with "Rentenmarks," though the damage done was irreversible.)

Some people just won't believe it. According to Bloomberg News:

Investors who poured more than $1 billion this year into a $3.8 billion leveraged exchange-traded fund that bets against long-dated U.S. Treasuries are suffering a 4.1 percent loss today alone, Bloomberg data show. The fund is down 38 percent this year, a small window into the magnitude of pain in a market where many traders have been wagering debt prices would fall.
Gold, at last, finally woke up to the fact that securities are tanking and started playing its accustomed role as refuge when people are worried. Monied people, I mean. Gold, after managing to get below $1200 an ounce, was up to $1241 today. Not fabulous compared to where it has been over the last couple of years but reversing a slide that has been going on almost all year.

More from Bloomberg:

“The markets are clearly very jittery,” said Larry Milstein, managing director in New York of government-debt trading at R.W. Pressprich & Co. “It’s not just the global slowdown.”
While Wall Street economists may be sticking to their forecasts Treasuries will lose value, a lot of bond buyers aren’t listening right now. And the bears are suffering the consequences.

Worse off maybe than bond traders is Vladimir Putin. A different Bloomberg story says:

 Oil has been the key to Putin’s grip on power since he took over from Boris Yeltsin in 2000, fueling a booming economy that grew 7 percent on average from 2000 to 2008.
Now, with economic growth slipping close to zero, Russia is reeling from sanctions by the U.S. and the European Union over its land grab in Ukraine, and from a ruble at a record low. Putin, whose popularity has been more than 80 percent in polls since the annexation of the Crimean Peninsula in March, may have less money to raise state pensions and wages, while companies hit by the sanctions also seek state aid to maintain spending.
“His ratings remain high but for a person conducting such a risky policy, Putin has to understand the limits of patience for the people, business and political elite,” said Olga Kryshtanovskaya, a sociologist studying the country’s elite at the Russian Academy of Sciences in Moscow. “Putin is thinking hard how not to lose face while maintaining his support.”
Couldn't happen to a nicer fellow, either. I await momentarily John McCain's going on Fox to take back all that bad stuff he said about President Obama.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

I call the result of the GMO vote

SHAKA vandalized my sign
The anti-GMO initiative will lose. Big time.

Tonight I attended the lecture on "History, Future and Science of Genetics in Agriculture." About 75 people were there. Significantly, almost no Japanese-Americans.

The AJA vote is not as large, proportionally, as it used to be, and perhaps not as cohesive as it used to be. But it is still true that if an issue doesn't matter to Maui's AJAs, it doesn't matter at the ballot box.

The talk by Harold Keyser and Sally Irwin was long on facts. F'rinstance:

* Toxicity of pesticides has declined by a huge amount -- a factor of 34 -- since the EPA started disallowing the worst kinds, which was around 1965. Most of the decline came before GM crops were introduced around 1996, but the trend remains down. Total amounts used are also down.

* In 2012, the use of GM seed in developing countries exceeded use in developed for the first time.

* It is not true that Europe has banned GMO crops. It imports most of its animal feed, and almost all of that is GMO sourced. It is true that only 2 GMO crops have been approved for growing in Europe.

* Introduction of GMO varieties is regulated and the average time for approval is 7-9 years.

You may have heard different but them's the facts.

The lecture will be posted at within a couple of days.

Another lecture at Maui College, giving a forum to the anti-GMO side, will be held in a couple of weeks (exact date still open).

Judging by T-shirts, and because I know quite a few of the people who attended, I guess about 15, maybe 20% of the crowd were SHAKA.

I was pleased to see them, less pleased to find that SHAKA had vandalized my Vote
No yard sign overnight.


Friday, October 10, 2014

How stupid is the Internet?

Pretty stupid. I have recently discovered Caitlin Dewey's Friday column in the Washington Post: What was fake on the Internet this week? You have no idea.

Or maybe you do, if, for example, you read Breitbart. I hope/doubt many followers of RtO do that, though.

It is certainly interesting, like a time-lapse motion picture of a wound suppurating. But I don't think I will make it a regular stop.

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Luxury goods

I am opposed to organic agriculture as long as there are still hungry people. When all farming was organic, most everybody went hungry. It was the advent of chemical agriculture (and other modern practices like integrated pest management) that made it possible for whole nations to feed themselves and, in fortunate circumstances, other groups.

It was modern, chemical farming that made urbanization possible. Today 49 out of 50 Americans do not live on farms. Most of those 49 understand little about how food is made, a gap all too obvious when listening to the anti-GMO drumbeaters.

Harold Keyser, who before his retirement worked at NifTAL (Nitrogen Fixation in Tropical Agricultural Legumes, has a brief, line-by-line commentary on the GMO initiative. Note that Professor Keyser spent his research efforts on finding and breeding crops (in his case, mostly trees) that poor tropical peasants could use to increase their incomes without spending money on fertilizer (because legumes fix their own nitrogen).

In other words, Dr. Keyser contributed more to reduction of pesticide use than ALL the organic farmers in the history of Hawaii put together. Which is apparent, once you know the background, from this one comment in his review ("11." is part of the text of the initiative; Keyser's comment follows):

11.          Agriculture is a [sic] important component of Maui’s agricultural economy. Organic agriculture is a rapidly expanding sector of Maui’s agricultural economy.
Response:  Yes, according to USDA’s latest National Ag Statistics Service’s annual survey and their latest Certified Organic Production Survey (Oct 2012), the sales of organic farm products in Hawaii of $7.475 million accounts for 1.2% of all agricultural sales, produced on 2,701 organic certified acres (1,049 in pasture/range), or 0.24% of the state’s agricultural acreage. Data by county in Hawaii could not be found.
Organic food is a rare, costly luxury item in the diet of rich people who know nothing of farming and little to nothing about nutrition. We are able to tolerate this wasteful fad in America because our real farms are so productive that there is enough produced to meet (and exceed) all demand.  

Dr. Keyser and Dr. Sally Irwin, two of the most knowledgeable people on Maui about ag genetics, will be giving a talk on Oct. 14 at Maui College. I plan to be there, to listen. I hope the antis, of they come, will listen, too. They have a great deal to learn.

The lecture "History, Future and Science of Genetics in Agriculture" will be from 5 to 7 p.m. at Ike Lea Room 144 Lecture Hall.

Friday, October 3, 2014

2 reasons you should never stay at a Marriott

Suspect in Internet scams

This morning, I became aware of this story about Marriott blocking customers' hotspots, forcing them to pay up to $1,000 to use Marriott's wifi. (The first story I saw was an AP story on the NY Times site; the story has now multiplied all over. The CNN story I have linked adds something that the AP did not have: Interfering with cellular service is a crime.)

But as Bishop Talleyrand said of the murder of the duc d'Enghien, it was worse than a crime, it was a mistake. Keep reading, because by the end of this post Marriott will be exposed -- by Marriott, mostly -- as a den of lying, stupid thieves.

When the FCC consent decree was released, Marriott issued a CYA statement:

"Marriott has a strong interest in ensuring that when our guests use our Wi-Fi service, they will be protected from rogue wireless hot spots that can cause degraded service, insidious cyber-attacks and identity theft," the statement said. "Like many other institutions and companies in a wide variety of industries, including hospitals and universities, the Gaylord Opryland protected its Wi-Fi network by using FCC-authorized equipment provided by well-known, reputable manufacturers.
"We believe that the Opryland's actions were lawful. We will continue to encourage the FCC to pursue a rulemaking in order to eliminate the ongoing confusion resulting from today's action and to assess the merits of its underlying policy."
My reaction was to note that Marriott extracted a douceur of $1000 for this service, which was not included in the "resort fee." On a Facebook post, I nominated this as the lamest attempt at damage control this year, which has been notable for lame excuses.

But wait . . . Could Marriott manage to shoot itself in the other foot with an elephant gun? It could! 

Last week, the Courtyard by Marriott hotel in Midtown Manhattan was discovered to come with some hidden extras: The free Wi-Fi connection inserted lines of code for serving special ads into every Web page a guest visited.

The Times again, and apparently not aware of its earlier AP story.

Marriott offered another lame excuse:

As soon as we learned of the situation, we launched an investigation into the matter. Preliminary findings revealed that, unbeknownst to the hotel, the Internet service provider (ISP) was utilizing functionality that allowed advertising to be pushed to the end user. The ISP has assured the hotel that this functionality has now been disabled.
While this is a common marketing practice with many Internet service providers, Marriott does not condone this practice. At no time was data security ever at risk.
We will continue to look into this matter and find opportunities to remind our hotels of Marriott’s high-speed Internet policies.
Yeah, right, the company's "High-speed Internet policies" that were so good they charged $1000 for them. Marriott is claiming to be super knowledgable and concerned about the Internet, but it was unaware of a "common marketing practice" using the Internet to interfere with and hoodwink and overcharge customers.

I cannot remember ever seeing a business caught out so definitively and so completely by its own incompetence as this. And so quickly. The whole deal unraveled in less than 4 hours (although RtO is, so far as Mr. Google reveals, the first to tie up all the threads.

UPDATE: The FCC, living up to its well-deserved reputation as lapdog of the rich and enemy of consumers,  let Marriott off with a paltry fine, not even a slap on the wrist. More like a butterfly kiss. And no requirement to make refunds to the ripped-off customers.

Marriott admits it has a corporate high-speed Internet policy, so it is certain that the same scam ran at all its 3000 hotels. The take, at $250 and up per conventioneer, must have been in the billions.

If I were a tort lawyer, I'd be recruiting plaintiffs for a class action to seek recovery for theft of services, intentional interference with cellular service, and -- in areas with reasonable consumer protection regulations -- fraud. I'd be thinking of filing under RICO and I'd be naming the big bosses.

You know who is a director of Marriott International? Ol' Mr. 1% himself, Mitt Romney.