Saturday, March 30, 2019

Turning a blind eye

I feel sure that Juan Guaido is a fascist. The United States has never supported anyone but fascists in Latin America. This is not a complaint merely against the administration of Baldy but of every administration since April 13, 1945; and not just in Latin America. Dispatch of the sinister Elliot Abrams confirms it.

I have no objection in principle to knocking over brutal despots although the American record and practice has been disastrous not only for us but even more so for the people that we claimed to be helping. But if you knock over only leftists and democratic regimes and never interfere with rightists and fascist regimes your country is fascist.

The list of democratic regimes attacked by the United States since Roosevelt died is sad and long. It includes Iran, Guatemala,  Congo and Chile; the list of countries where we supported the fascists against leftist and democratic regimes is 10 times longer. Racism was often part of the mix. I remember attending movies in the South in the '60s where the feature was preceded by little documentaries about how if we did not support South Africa the Communists would take over. The proof? Photos of a fishing trawler in the South Atlantic.

Meanwhile democracy is under attack in a country that used to be that oight to be at least as much a concern to North Americans as Venezuela, but there is less about this country in the Post and Times then there was when the big issue was imports of frozen orange juice. Of all the newspapers that I read, the only one that is taking Brazil seriously is The Guardian. In the last few days it has run  stories about glorification of the murderous rightwing dictatorship and a lengthy background story about what that dictatorship was like.

Today's story occurred during the administration of Jimmy Carter even though he probably had more genuine concern for democracies than any president since Roosevelt. But he was unable -- if he tried and I do not know that he did -- to surmount the ignorant, hysterical, brutal national security apparatus.

Monday, March 25, 2019

Nobody in control

I used to think, when I was a very young business reporter,  that no really big corporation would ever manage itself into oblivion. I thought then that a $100 billion corporation -- which was as big as the biggest got then -- would always be able to afford good management.

I was wrong. I did not understand then what an older business reporter was trying to tell me when he said companies choose directors according to whom the existing directors play golf with.

It took me even longer to learn that corporations do not even value good management. They would far rather have managers who are comfortable to get along with than managers who are able to do their jobs. (This explains, in part, their refusal to put brown people or women at the top.)

Take Boeing. Please.

Has there ever been a clearer example of incompetence?

If I were a plaintiffs lawyer taking depositions in the Max cases, I'd ask, did Boeing have an acceptable limit of crashes with the 737 Max? If so what was the limit?

We know the answer to the first question is yes. And we know the answer to the second question is more than two.

The rarity of contact with terrain events these days appears to have blinded managers to the significance of any such event. Barring a shoot down, every crash should be all hands on deck incident.

That was not how Boeing responded to the loss of a few score Indonesians. 'Nothing to see folks,  move along.'

The fact that pilots were reporting continual failures with he autopilot -- both to the formal NASA reporting system and to the informal crowd sourcing system -- did not either bother Boeing's leadership or cause it to wonder if perhaps it had a problem. (Another question I'd ask in depositions: did Boeing monitor the crowd sourced reports? My guess is the answer to that one is no. The Boeing claim that it adheres to industry standards is telling: Boeing is a monopoly. Industry standards are Boeing standards, and it is evident that the marketing department -- which controls policy -- did not want to know about problems. Marketing departments never do.)

Following the crash in Africa it was evident to everyone except Boeing management and the Federal Aviation Administration that there was a problem. Boeing and the FAA stoutly insisted there was no proven or evidently even any hypothesized similarity in the two crashes although there was at least one: both involved contact with terrain.

It did not occur to the geniuses operating Boeing that if there really was no causal similarity in the two crashes, Boeing had not one but two serious safety failures on its hands

Instead it acted like it did not have any. The FAA, playing the role of Pontius Pilate to Dennis Muilenburg's Caiaphas, also insisted that it had not noticed any incidents that required it to do anything

Boeing continues to maintain it cannot imagine any connection between the two contacts with terrain.
We know why the company won't consider a connection and why the FAA was also reluctant. After all, half a trillion dollars is the biggest sales deal in history.

Why interfere with the good thing when there's money to be made?

We do not know yet if there were any consequential similarities between the crashes aside from contact with terrain, although extensive news reporting has suggested a number of possible scenarios about how there might be, given Boeing's desperation to outsell Airbus. Its corporate policy -- which is obviously not what Muilenburg's mealymouthed statement says it is -- that a few dead customers is no big deal; and its reputation as one of the most corrupt American corporations (the most corrupt nonfinancial corporation) explain why it blew off safety questions, but we must look somewhere else for an explanation of why it made its bet-the-company mistakes following the Lion crash and numerous other critical failures.

Still it should not have required a billion dollar executive to figure out that every step that Boeing has taken since the Lion Air crash offered the company nearly unlimited downside against very small upsides. Perhaps CEOs, like medieval kings (another class of overpaid and incompetent bosses), should keep a jester to prompt them whenever they're doing something more than usually silly.

UPDATE Tuesday

Just keep 'em flying. What could go wrong?

Wednesday, March 20, 2019

Punk rocks

Not too many people have a sense of humor when it comes to the Great Wall of Trump, but these guys  do.

But thieves in the city of Tijuana have made a mockery of Donald Trump’s attempts at beefing up border security by stealing the razor wire and reselling it to local residents in Mexico.

Residents of barrios abutting the border told XETW 12 television in Tijuana that entrepreneurial individuals have offered to sell them the stolen concertina wire and install it for just 40 pesos per home – barely $2.

. . .

 One resident, identified as VerĂ³nica, told El Sol de Tijuana newspaper that the man selling the wire was clearly not from Mexico. “It was an American punk: blue eyes, blond hair. He didn’t speak Spanish very well,” she said.

Good enough for Texas

Report from Deer Park:
Officials from the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality and local emergency management agencies are continuously monitoring air quality, which are still at acceptable levels.
Acceptable for Texas is not the same as acceptable.

Many years ago, I took the free tour of the Houston Ship Channel on the Sam Houston. As we passed a 48-inch pipe, a small stream of dark effluent was pouring into the channel. One of the tourists commented on how horrible that was.

The guide replied:

"You should have seen it before regulation. The companies love to show off that pipe now."

Wednesday, March 13, 2019

Kevin Downing retires

He must have gotten a very big fee, because after his performance in the Manafort case -- where he managed to get his client to admit to felonies for which he'd gotten a hung jury, then was called out by a judge for lying  -- who's going to choose him to be a mouthpiece now?


As Instapundit (is he still a thing?) would say.

Hat tip to Wonkette.

Tuesday, March 12, 2019

Box scores

What are the odds that a (purported) R Kelly sex tape that shows up in a box in the basement of some random guy in Pennsylvania is the sole and unique copy of that tape/

Who has the other ones?

* * *

Who has killed more Americans this year, illegal immigrants or Boeing?

Monday, March 11, 2019

Mirror, mirror . . .

Some researchers claim, controversially, that some apes show signs of self-awareness. If so, that puts them further along the evolutionary path than any elected Republican.

You cannot make this stuff up.

Repeated tips of the chapeau to Juanita Jean.

Lure of the Golden State

It turns out that high taxes are not driving the rich out of California.

“Substantially more rich people are moving into California than moving out,” says Cristobal Young, a Cornell University sociology professor. He teamed with others at Stanford University’s Center on Poverty and Inequality to write a research paper on “Millionaire Migration in California.”

Nor, although the LATimes story does not say so, are businesses fleeing California. 

This will surprise only Arthur Laffer (who I saw on teevee today claiming the Laffer Curve really does work; no, really, and big tax cuts reduce the deficit. I was surprised to find out he isn't in a home for the mentally-impaired.)

It must puzzle rightwingers that one result of Brexit (failed or unfailed) is that businesses are reluctantly leaving London. If you believe rightwing voodoo economics, they should all have left long ago.

Fantasies in Washington

. . . State that is, not District of Columbia.

Start with Howard Schultz, Democrat running for president. Very rich Democrat.

Schultz took the advice of H.L. Mencken who said that no one ever went bust underestimating the taste of the American public. He sold crappy coffee-flavored drinks to people who don't even like coffee.

Just another American success story. But Schultz is either a phony or a crook. In 2013 Starbucks was one of many companies that had to pay a settlement to Kona coffee farmers for selling mislabeled coffee.

Kona coffee costs 10 times what the cheap stuff does. Starbucks' customers don't have a clue about what the differences it, so it was easy peasy. Capitalism in all its shiny glory. Wall Street loves Howard Schultz perhaps more than any other capitalist.

Starbucks legal defense was that is it actually bought Kona coffee.

The problem with this defense was that growers in Kona produce 2,000,000 pounds of coffee a year and the defendants were selling 20,000,000 pounds a year.

So Schultz either cannot tell the difference between Kona coffee and the cheapest Central American coffee or is a crook. Take your pick.

The settlement was an American success story, too. The crooked retailers included Costco, Amazon and Walmart among others beside Starbucks. They were selling 20 million pounds of fake coffee at $20 a pound for years and settled the lawsuit for $1 million.

Dr. Evil should do so well.

(Just this month a new lawsuit was filed alleging misbranding of Kona coffee. This one has not yet been adjudicated but some of the big firms in the previous lawsuit are named in this one. Not Starbucks, though. So maybe Starbucks learned something.)

Another Washingtonian running as a Democrat for president is Jay Inslee, once the governor. He's a single-issue candidate and his issue is that we are the last generation that can do something about climate change.

There's another player besides us in that game though. Inslee seems to think the usual or natural climate of Washington state is what we have seen over the last couple hundred years. This is as strange a belief as Howard Schultz's belief that there are 20,000,000 pounds of Kona coffee in the world.

The usual condition for Washington State over the past several million years has been that the western part of it has been buried under a mile of ice while the eastern part has been repeatedly flooded by the collapse of ice dams -- possibly a mile high -- on Lake Missoula.

Anybody who's been to eastern Washington can see the results -- the famous scablands.

RTO is all for cleaning up environmental insults, unlike the Republican policy which is to keep wallowing in our own filth. However, climate change really is coming and it really will be devastating, though there's little hope that we can put enough carbon dioxide into the atmosphere to  prevent it.

Friday, March 8, 2019

A coarser grind

When I was a very young reporter, I occasionally covered sentencings at the US District Court of the Eastern District of Virginia, where yesterday Judge Ellis gave a derisory sentence to Paul Manafort, saying that he had led "a blameless life." (This sentence was in Alexandria; I reported from the courthouse in Norfolk.)

Lying, cheating, stealing, supporting murderous dictators, subverting democracy and that sort of stuff. Some judges find some things easy to overlook.

The judge in my day in the Eastern District was "20 years Kellam" who I believe was the last Federal judge to be appointed who had not attended law school. He was a small-town banker and political power broker who was appointed by Kennedy as a political payoff, one of the numerous reasons that I have never worshiped at the cathedral in Camelot.

Judges have their predilictions. Just as Ellis has a soft spot in his heart for decrepit tax frauds, Kellum had a hard spot in his heart for anyone who would rob a bank. He was limited to 20 years for a bank robbery, so that's what he gave out.

It is said the mills of the gods grind slowly yet they grind exceeding fine. Nowadays the gods can dial in a coarser setting and so they do.

Manafort's sentence was rather less than what guys in hoodies get for robbing a 7-Eleven where the typical take is a couple hundred bucks. I do not want to minimize the heinousness of robbing 7-Elevens with a firearm where minimum wage clerks end up getting shot because of our worship of guns.

On the other hand, Manafort stole somewhere in eight figures.  To get that much, the guy in the hoodie would have to knock over upwards of 100,000 7-Elevens.