Everyday Erinyes #108

 Posted by at 9:11 am  Politics
Jan 132018

Experts in autocracies have pointed out that it is, unfortunately, easy to slip into normalizing the tyrant, hence it is important to hang on to outrage.  These incidents which seem to call for the efforts of the Greek Furies (Erinyes) to come and deal with them will, I hope, help with that.  Even though there are many more which I can’t include.  As a reminder, though no one really knows how many there were supposed to be, the three names we have are Alecto, Megaera, and Tisiphone. These roughly translate as “unceasing,” “grudging,” and “vengeful destruction.”

I wrote last week about impersonation trolls and how “well” they are doing – for Nazis.  But it turns out that impersonation trolls are not JUST for Nazis.  Corporations are doing them too.

I know, I know, the line between corporations and Nazis is a pretty thin one, especially what with Citizens United and all.  But it seems to me that the goal of Nazis is to steal freedom, and lives, and livelihood from certain individuals, and when this involves stealing money, that’s just a fringe benefit.  Whereas with corporations, it’s just the opposite – the goal is to steal money (they are not so particular as to from whom), and any loss of life, or livelihood, or freedom is just a fringe benefit.

So we have a regime which wants generally to limit or eliminate regulations – you know, regulations, the things that keep us safe and keep our playing ground kinda sorta halfway level.  And, we have a bunch of wealthy corporations that just want to get wealthier, and those darned regulations are expensive to comply with.  Stir into the mix a sprinkling of people who know how to hack, and what do you get?  You get –

Hundreds of thousands of comments, purportedly made by Americans, have come in over the electronic transom to at least five different federal agencies calling for an end to Obama-era consumer protections and other regulations that impede profits, a series of investigative reports by the Wall Street Journal found. Except, the people who supposedly sent these comments never did.


“The Journal previously found fraudulent postings under names and email addresses at the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, Federal Energy Regulatory Commission and Securities and Exchange Commission and the Federal Communications Commission,” it continued. “The Journal’s findings were cited by calls from Congress to delay the repeal of the FCC’s net-neutrality rule.”

Well, we know what happened to that.

Posting a fraudulent comment on a Federal website is a felony, and the departments who have been defrauded will remove such comments when notified.  But most agencies make it a bit difficult to check the authenticity of comments independently.  Only a few, for instance, publish the email address with the comment.  And I find that reasonable.  When I post a comment, or sign a petition or a letter sponsored by an organization, I don’t mind the agency having my email address, nor do I have a problem with the organization having my email address (that’s probably how I found out about the petition.)  But I really don’t want my email posted by my name on the agency website – for exactly this reason.

I would, however, want my email address provided to any government attorney who is investigating comment fraud – and that’s just what is NOT happening.

The day before the FCC vote in late November, the Verge reported, “A search of the duplicated text found more than 58,000 results as of press time, with 17,000 of those posted in the last 24 hours alone.”

At that time, New York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, a Democrat, had been stonewalled by the FCC for six months in his office’s efforts to investigate the falsified public comments. (Verge first reported the fake comments in May 2017.)

I would certainly have trusted Eric Schneiderman with my email address (which, I suspect, is exactly why Ajit Pai wouldn’t.)   And we did hear a little bit about this, at the last minute, before the FCC threw us to the wolves – but it all happened pretty fast.  And it was just the tip of the iceberg anyway, as you see from the agencies we KNOW were targeted..

Furthermore, the impersonating software was able to insert subtle differences in the messages so that they would not be dismissed as identical.  It was even able to insert some phony comments on the side opposite the side that was being pushed!  Not so many as to distract from its main point, though.  Just enough to make unsuspecting agencies think there was an actual dialogue and real interest – on issues where there wasn’t.  Probably surprising no one, those whose identities were used without their permission were just as furious if they agreed with the comment as they were if they didn’t.

If you have a subscription to the Murdoch-owned Wall Street Journal, you can read the full report – it’s linked from AlterNet.  (I don’t.)

But there’s one thing missing from it:

[T]hey didn’t explore the most obvious question: who is behind these moves? While there is likely to be more than one answer and one culprit, only one category of special interest has the means and motives to thwart government regulators: that’s the targeted industries, professional trade association and lobbyists and the biggest corporate players.

Instead the Journal’s investigative reports leave readers with small-scale indignation and not the bigger pattern that private sector interests have found a new way to steal and use personal data for their bottom-line battles with government.

Yes, other things happened last week.  But many of them we know about, thanks to TC and Sam and Stephen and Rachel and all the others.  And I think this is important enough to stand alone and receive the attention of all three Furies (and all their nameless sisters – you never know – there could be thousands – even millions.)

AlectoMegaeraTisiphone – it’s a deceptively simple problem.  Corporations have plenty of money to produce huge fakes (which make them more money).  Regulators do not have the resources (money, but also adequate staffing, adequate training, adequate time) to tear them down.  And, even if they did, the corporations would just have the Republicans steamroll over them.  So  it all comes down to getting them out.

We are trying our best to have candidates everywhere – and to get out the vote everywhere – and to deliver our true message well enough to get more people involved everywhere.  But – help us.  Please.

The Furies and I will be back.

Cross posted to Care2 HERE.


Everyday Erinyes #94

 Posted by at 1:39 pm  Politics
Sep 302017

Experts in autocracies have pointed out that it is, unfortunately, easy to slip into normalizing the tyrant, hence it is important to hang on to outrage.  These incidents which seem to call for the efforts of the Greek Furies (Erinyes) to come and deal with them will, I hope, help with that.  Even though there are many more which I can’t include.  As a reminder, though no one really knows how many there were supposed to be, the three names we have are Alecto, Megaera, and Tisiphone. These roughly translate as “unceasing,” “grudging,” and “vengeful destruction.”


This story is over a week old, but I am still shaking my head over it, because it is so unprovoked, so off the wall, so out of nowhere.  Well, of course, it isn’t – we know where this kind of behavior comes from – but two years ago, even one year ago, can anyone imagine this happening?

The detais of the incident are so surreal that it may be anybody’s guess what actually happened.  Some details, I suppose, could be getting withheld to protect the integrity of a criminal case, and far be it from me to interfere with that!  But, as best as I can reconstruct looking at multiple sources, here it is –

Emily Bailey was driving near the intersection of Little Road and State Road 54 in Pasco County, Florida.  Another car, driven by Alicia Scarduzio or Kelly Gemberling, was attempting to pass Ms. Bailey’s car (and was being driven aggressively by whichever woman was the driver) when a light turned red, and both vehicles stopped.

Ms. Bailey honked her horn.  She was under stress so it may not even have been intentional.  But, regardless, the two other women “kept screaming at me, telling me they wanted to f****g kill me.  I just wanted the light to change.  I never thought they would get out of their car and run toward me and pull me out of my vehicle.”

But they did.  They dragged her out of her car by the hair.  They beat her.  They banged her head on the ground.  They broke her nose.  They eventually knocked her unconscious.  All the while Scarduzio was yelling “Stop hitting my mom.  Quit hitting my mom.”  (Do I hear echoes of “Stop resisting”?)

A deputy arrived about the same time a man from another car dragged the aggressors off of the victim.  The aggressors claimed they were the victims.  But there is video and there were witnesses.  They have been charged with burglary and aggravated battery.  They were booked into detention the noght of the incident.

Although we know this was not a racist attack (all three women are “white,” and obviously the expression “batshit crazy” must come to everyone’s ind, I still can’t imagine reading this a couple of years ago.  When rage is unleashed, it is unleashed.  It can go anywhere.  Tisiphone, I hope you can follow up on this case and help achieve justice.

In other news – well, I guess it is hardly news that Republicans still do not grasp the concept of “consent,” and Republicans in Louisiana are no exception.  I can’t tell this any better than the Times-Picayune:

A former Tulane University enrollee accused of raping a fellow student on Election Night 2015 received a two-year suspended sentence and was placed on two years’ active probation Monday (Sept. 18) after pleading guilty to two lesser crimes.

Spencer Schneider, 23, had faced up to 25 years in state prison if found guilty as charged of third-degree rape. But under a plea agreement crafted with the help of his high-powered legal team, Schneider resolved the rape case by pleading guilty to a felony count of obscenity and a misdemeanor count of sexual battery.

The obscenity conviction eventually can be expunged from Schneider’s record, but the misdemeanor sexual battery plea cannot. Neither requires Schneider to register as a sex offender.

Criminal District Judge Robin Pittman imposed the sentence after being assured by the state that the accuser in the case had no opposition to the plea agreement, nor to Schneider being placed on probation. The accuser, who later spoke to The Times-Picayune under condition of anonymity, said she accepted the outcome despite some dissatisfaction.

“Although two years’ probation and an obscenity felony is a far cry from what I think would be just, as he deserved to be convicted of rape and registered as a sex offender, I do believe that this was the best that could be done,” the woman said. “In today’s climate, college rapists are rarely even indicted. I am grateful for any sort of conviction.

Just to clarify a little, the obscenity charge is a felony, but can be explunged.  The sexual battery charge, a misdemeanor, cannot.  Two years is damned little, and two years “active probation” is even less, but I would bet a generous sum that it won’t be nearly two years before he is in court trying to get out of it, because he will find it onerous.

Megaera, can’t we start doing better than this?

I’m not trying to pick on the South today, and certainly a state which can produce a Reverend Dr. Barber and a John Pavlovitz is not devoid of real Christians.  However, fake ones are everywhere, including North Carolina.

Word of Faith, a “church” which has about 750 members in rural North Carolina and maybe 2,000 more combined in Brazil, Ghana, Sweden, Scotland, etc., has been under investigation for multiple abuses, such as “exorcism” by means of punching and chioking, luring non-citizens to the U.S, and keeping them in “virtual slavery, and who knows what all (in this case, they definitely are being reticent about the investigation to protect criminal cases, so I won’t press for details) for years.  But the newest allegations to come to light may make even Republicans a little nauseated.

When Randy Fields’ construction company faced potential ruin because of the cratering economy, he pleaded with his pastor at Word of Faith Fellowship church to reduce the amount of money he was required to tithe every week.

To his shock, Fields said church founder Jane Whaley proposed a divine plan that would allow him to continue contributing at least 10 percent of his income to the secretive evangelical church while helping his company survive: He would file fraudulent unemployment claims on behalf of his employees. She called it, he said, “God’s plan.”

The word “venal” somehow springs to mind.  This, ladies and gentlemen, is how the Dominionists would govern – by theft.  Alecto, theocracy is very old, but it has always been horrible.  Even though the people who need to be convinced probably will not be, since they are accustomed to a level of cognitive dissonance way beyond what we can tolerate, it is still important to prove – again – that crime like this does not pay.

The Furies and I will be back.

Cross posted to Care2 here.

Jun 062017

It is Monday afternoon and I have word about TC.  After feeling so crappy by 4 June 2017, TC was taken to the hospital presumably by his friend Wendy and diagnosed with prancreatitis.  Additionally, he will be having surgery to remove his gallbladder.  We don't know the timing of all this but will try to keep you all apprised.  As I did a year and a half ago, I will publish OT's as often as possible, and I know that you will also see articles from JD (Joanne), Nameless and Lona.  Speaking for myself, I can't give you the expert coverage of the American political scene like TC does, but you won't go hungry either.  For now, prayers or good vibes for TC are appreciated.  And many, many thanks to Wendy for her care of TC.  She is most definitely a keeper!

Jig Zone Puzzle

Today’s took me 5:24 (average 10:02).  To do it, click here.  How did you do?  I will not mask my feelings for this one — it's a real barn burner!

Short Takes

Quartz — US president Donald Trump just announced he will withdraw the country from the international Paris agreement on climate change. He says he wants a better “deal” for the US, and that the country will begin renegotiating the terms of the agreement immediately after exiting it.

“We will see if we can make a deal that’s fair. And if we can, that’s great. If we can’t, that’s fair,” Trump said at a press conference today (June 1).

The statement is a stark example of the president’s zero-sum thinking, and it’s wholly inaccurate. The reality is the US did not have to withdraw from the Paris agreement to renegotiate how it will participate. In fact, once it with withdraws, it legally cannot renegotiate the terms of its participation. It also cannot withdraw immediately.

Here are comments from Hardball's Chris Matthews.

Also, The Washington Post has this short video presentation "Why Trump's Withdrawal From The Paris Agreement Is So Controversial" which is both interesting and informative.

Just incase you have not seen this petition, here is one from Daily Kos — Sign if you are outraged Trump pulled us out of the Paris climate agreement.  The text of the petition follows.

The Paris Climate deal was the most comprehensive international accord to fight climate change yet. It was signed by all but two countries (Syria and Nicaragua), and hailed as an historic effort to save our planet.

So of course, President Trump decided the United States would withdraw. This would mean the United States ditches crucial environmental regulations that can make all the difference in saving our planet.

By exiting from the Paris agreement, Trump ignored advice from the Pope, foreign leaders and even business leaders like Exxon. He is even rebuffing pleas from his own daughter, and from Secretary of State Rex Tillerson.

All to spite President Obama, who worked hard to craft the Paris climate agreement.

Sign if you are outraged the United States pulled out of the Paris climate agreement, and that we must do everything we can to fight this.

It can easily be said that Drumpf has "just shot himself in the foot" with his own ignorance about the Paris climate agreement.  So is there anything new in that?  Not really.  He displays his ignorance on a wide range of things daily.

Resist and Persist!!!

Daily Kos — The journalistic fraud that is Fox News is well known. It's a network that was contrived as a right-wing spin factory, but dishonestly marketed as being "fair and balanced." They have a revolving cast of scripted characters who alternately play politicians and pundits. Often the same person in both roles. Their commitment to partisan deceit is rooted deeply in the foul culture nurtured by its founders Rupert Murdoch and Roger Ailes.

However, a new investigation proves that ideological fraud is not the only unethical practice employed by Fox News. Following the scandal-driven departures of Ailes and Bill O'Reilly, a new cretin was crowned as the top Foxie. Tucker Carlson was awarded O'Reilly's prized time slot that anchors the network's primetime lineup. 

The Center for Media and Democracy conducted an exhaustive investigation into the stewardship of his website, The Daily Caller (TDC). Carlson launched the site six years ago and it quickly became a staple of wingnut propaganda. The Washington Post published CMD's findings with this summary of the scam:

"Most of the roughly 50 journalists who produce content for the Daily Caller actually work for the Daily Caller News Foundation, a tax-exempt organization with 501(c)(3) status that is ostensibly separate from DailyCaller.com. The two entities share the same floor of the same Washington office, however, and virtually everything produced by the foundation — which accepted $3 million in donations in 2015, according to an IRS filing — appears on the for-profit website, which sells advertising on the articles.

In short, TDC takes in tax-free donations to finance their for-profit newsroom. Then they use the articles written by foundation authors to populate a commercial website that receives advertising revenue. The Post cites legal experts that describe this an obvious tax dodge:

"'It's a huge rip-off for taxpayers if the Daily Caller News Foundation is receiving revenue that it doesn't pay taxes on, to produce stories that are used by the for-profit enterprise, which then makes money on the stories through ads,' said Lisa Graves, a deputy assistant attorney general in the Clinton administration who now serves as executive director of the Center for Media and Democracy."

Read the rest of the article . . . there is more.  We already know that much of the right wing news media is anything but "fair and balanced", but add onto that being a factory for alternative facts and extreme partisanship.  I knew that the Daily Caller was a right wing "rag", but what I did not know was that it was started and is still run by Tucker Carlson.  He received help from conservative multi-millionaire Foster Friess.  You may remember him from the 2012 presidential campaign when he said "…they used Bayer aspirin for contraception. The gals put it between their knees, and it wasn’t that costly."  With his oh so pseudo Christian values, Carlson is committing fraud by registering TDC as a charity.  In essence, it means that all taxpayers are subsidising right wing propaganda which needs to be stopped.

Resist and Persist!!!

Alternet — It doesn’t make rational sense for Trump to pull out of the Paris accord. Even Trump’s secretary of state, Rex Tillerson, has argued against withdrawal, as has Tillerson’s former company, Exxon Mobil. The traditional reasons for conservative opposition to cleaner energy — protecting energy profits — don’t hold up as well as they used to. So why is Trump doing this?

The likely answer is, I’m afraid, a disheartening one: Trump’s anti-environmentalism is ultimately not about the gross but rational pursuit of profit, so much as it’s the result of a nihilistic anti-conservationist ideology that has been fomented for years on the far right. It’s an ideology concerned more with hating liberalism and undermining former President Barack Obama’s legacy [emphasis added] than with petty matters like peace or prosperity. 

… But a lot of what motivates him [Utah Rep Rob Bishop] appears to be a deeply rooted unwillingness to have his state be home to anything that could be considered an Obama accomplishment.

Weiss pointed out that a similar fight, fueled by blind hatred of Obama, is going on in Maine. The founder of Burt’s Bees donated 87,500 acres to the federal government, and Obama designated it the Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument. But the Trumpian governor of Maine, Republican Paul LePage, is so angry about the monument’s existence that he has refused to let the state post road signs telling people where it is. The Katahdin Woods monument is also included in Trump’s executive order to review such designations. 

Weiss pointed out that a similar fight, fueled by blind hatred of Obama, is going on in Maine. The founder of Burt’s Bees donated 87,500 acres to the federal government, and Obama designated it the Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument. But the Trumpian governor of Maine, Republican Paul LePage, is so angry about the monument’s existence that he has refused to let the state post road signs telling people where it is. The Katahdin Woods monument is also included in Trump’s executive order to review such designations.

This abject hatred of all things Obama is no doubt brought on by the fact that Obama dared to be Black while president.  Republicans are so predictable in their hatred.

Resist and Persist!!!

CBC — Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne has announced a plan to increase the provincial minimum wage to $15 an hour by Jan. 1, 2019. 

The increase would be phased in over the next 18 months, rising to $14 an hour on Jan. 1, 2018, and then to $15 the following January. 

After that, it will rise annually with inflation.

Among the proposed changes are the requirement that after five years with the same employer, the minimum vacation entitlement for workers would rise to three weeks per year.

All workers would also be given 10 personal emergency leave days a year, and a minimum of two of those days must be paid. (Currently, only employees of large companies are entitled to this.) 

Employers would not be allowed to request a sick note from an employee taking personal emergency leave. 

Many of the changes address shift work in particular. The proposed legislation says employers would be required to pay three hours of wages to an employee whose shift is cancelled with less than 48 hours notice, and that employees would be able to refuse shifts without repercussion if given less than four days notice.

The proposed legislation also says: 

  • Equal pay would be mandated for part-time workers doing the same job as a full-time workers.
  • Employers would be prohibited from misclassifying employees as "independent contractors."
  • Rules for creating a union would be modernized, including the extension of card-based certification to temporary workers, building services workers and community care workers.  

The act also lays out a plan to hire 175 more employment standards officers, and launch an education program for employees and business owners to help them learn about their rights and responsibilities.

minimum wage graphic

Read the rest of the article for a few more details of the legislation.  This is only in Ontario which has the largest workforce in Canada.  Alberta was the first province to put legislation in place.  I am hopeful that British Columbia will tackle this issue next now that the election is over.  Here the ruling Liberal party (not the same as the federal Liberal party) did not win the election, 43 seats, nobody really did.  However, the New Democrats (41 seats) and the Green Party (3 seats) have formed a coalition and presented their agreement to the Lieutenant Governor for approval.  Minimum wage is a topic for both the NDP and Greens.

My Universe

The magic motivator . . . food!