Just say “NO”

Here’s the hat Trump should wear in public

There is a factory in Pennsylvania, Braskem America, that creates the key component for PPE (Personal Protection Equipment such as masks and gowns). The employees know how crucial it is to get their product out that on March 23, 43 of them literally lived in the factory for 28 days straight, working 12-hour shifts every day. They called it a “live-in.” Braskem America CEO Mark Nikolich stated no one told them they had to do this. All of the workers who stayed volunteered, living at the plant to ensure no one caught the virus as they sought to meet the skyrocketing demand for their key product, polypropylene.

Ever the opportunist, Trump notified management he wanted to visit the factory and the workers there. They all got together and discussed it. They said, NO.

Many thanks to Michelle at motleynews.net for posting this.

Boeing email re 737 MAX: “I’ll be shocked if the FAA passes this turd.”

737 MAX fuselages waiting to become finished airplanes

Boeing has been forced to publicly apologise after internal communications suggested employees were aware of issues with its now grounded 737 Max plane before disaster struck.

Boeing on Thursday published over 100-pages of internal communications as part of the US Federal Aviation Authority and Congress’s investigations into issues with the 737 Max.

The planes have been grounded globally last March following two fatal crashes that killed all passengers…

“This airplane is designed by clowns, who in turn are supervised by monkeys,” a chat message from April 2017 reads. Another message from the same exchange describes working on the plane as “patch[ing] the leaky boat.”

This is such a shit show,” one employee wrote to another on a chat system in mid-2018.

“Totally,” a colleague replied, “I’ll be shocked if the FAA passes this turd.”

Building crap – or just doing a crappy job of building something – means the same thing to the families of all the folks who died as passengers in 737 MAX crashes.

Everyone ready for the Trump deficit?

❝ It is a post-financial-crisis myth that austerity-minded conservative governments always favor fiscal prudence, while redistribution-oriented progressives view large deficits as the world’s biggest free lunch. This simplistic perspective, while perhaps containing a grain of truth, badly misses the true underlying political economy of deficits.

The fact is that whenever one party has firm control of government, it has a powerful incentive to borrow to finance its priorities, knowing that it won’t necessarily be the one to foot the bill. So expect US President-elect Donald Trump’s administration, conservative or not, to make aggressive use of budget deficits to fund its priorities for taxes and spending…

❝ One only has to recall recent US economic history…to see the absurdity of claims that Republicans always aim to balance the budget while Democrats always try to spend beyond the country’s means. Back in the 1980s, conservative hero Ronald Reagan was willing to tolerate enormous deficits to fund his ambitious tax-cutting plans, and he did so in an era when borrowing wasn’t cheap.

In the early 2000s, another Republican president, George W. Bush, essentially followed Reagan’s playbook, again slashing taxes and sending deficits soaring. In 2012, at the height of the standoff between the Republican-controlled Congress and Democratic President Barack Obama over deficits and the national debt, Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney proffered an economic plan that featured eye-popping deficits to finance tax cuts and higher military spending.

❝ On the other side of spectrum, Democratic President Bill Clinton, during what most academic economists consider to have been an extremely successful presidency, actually put the government into surplus. Indeed, at the end of the 1990s, some researchers actually wondered how international markets would function if the US government gradually retired all of its debt. Bush’s subsequent tax cuts and unfunded wars ensured that this never became a problem.

What matters is not only the level of debt, but also how it is managed…But anyone counting on interest rates staying low because conservative governments are averse to deficits needs a history lesson.

Alas, we now have a president who needs lessons in history, economics, political economy, basic physics, etc. plus self-help on addictive lying, narcissism and more. As unlikely to listen to Ken Rogoff as is his peer-group neo-con Republicans.

Bill Gates best trade since retiring has been shorting Ballmer!

After giving away $28 billion, Bill Gates is no longer the third-richest man in the world. He’s the second-richest.

You read that right. Despite his considerable, praiseworthy charity work, the Microsoft cofounder is getting wealthier. In 2012, he wound up $7 billion ahead with a net worth of $63.4 billion, according to Bloomberg’s Billionaires Index…

Bill Gates has been aggressively selling down his Microsoft position for over a decade. Early on, this looked like a smart idea just on the basic tenets of diversification alone. But when he didn’t stop at 50% of his net worth, and went all the way down to the point where Microsoft was only a piddling 20% of his net worth, you could argue that this was more than just diversification.

Somewhere along the line, this massive and ongoing liquidation became a short-sale of his old friend (and current Microsoft CEO) Steve Ballmer. And it looks to have been a smart “trade”.

What triggered it? Was it the borderline breakeven profitability of the XBox after so many years of investment? How about the flaming wreckage of Microsoft’s internet properties and search game? Maybe it was the launch of the Zune ecosystem that wasn’t? Or perhaps he decided to sell more aggressively the day when Ballmer mocked the iPhone and mentioned that his kids were forbidden to own one.

Maybe it was just the cumulative effect of these embarrassments or missed opportunities – one after another. Either way, Gates’s sales have gone far beyond any kind of diversification that we’ve seen with the Google whiz kids or Larry Ellison over at Oracle. While the billionaire has remained almost completely silent on Microsoft’s loss of luster and standing, his trading activities have spoken volumes…

Joshua Brown ends his piece with an admonition to diversify. The body of the article says a lot more.

Steve Ballmer hasn’t a clue!

Talk doesn’t pay – psychiatry relegated to pill-pushers

Alone with his psychiatrist, the patient confided that his newborn had serious health problems, his distraught wife was screaming at him and he had started drinking again. With his life and second marriage falling apart, the man said he needed help.

But the psychiatrist, Dr. Donald Levin, stopped him and said: “Hold it. I’m not your therapist. I could adjust your medications, but I don’t think that’s appropriate.”

Like many of the nation’s 48,000 psychiatrists, Dr. Levin, in large part because of changes in how much insurance will pay, no longer provides talk therapy, the form of psychiatry popularized by Sigmund Freud that dominated the profession for decades. Instead, he prescribes medication, usually after a brief consultation with each patient. So Dr. Levin sent the man away with a referral to a less costly therapist and a personal crisis unexplored and unresolved.

Medicine is rapidly changing in the United States from a cottage industry to one dominated by large hospital groups and corporations, but the new efficiencies can be accompanied by a telling loss of intimacy between doctors and patients. And no specialty has suffered this loss more profoundly than psychiatry.

Trained as a traditional psychiatrist at Michael Reese Hospital, a sprawling Chicago medical center that has since closed, Dr. Levin, 68, first established a private practice in 1972, when talk therapy was in its heyday.

Then, like many psychiatrists, he treated 50 to 60 patients in once- or twice-weekly talk-therapy sessions of 45 minutes each. Now, like many of his peers, he treats 1,200 people in mostly 15-minute visits for prescription adjustments that are sometimes months apart. Then, he knew his patients’ inner lives better than he knew his wife’s; now, he often cannot remember their names. Then, his goal was to help his patients become happy and fulfilled; now, it is just to keep them functional.

I hold no brief for Freudian analysis; but, what I’ve learned over time about psychotherapy – especially in a clinical environment – leads me to conclude this is just one more modality, one more method of treating human ills that is being crushed into a tidy little profit center by hospital corporations, insurance companies and medical associations that are little more than trade groups and lobbyists.

Keep the patient functional enough to work for a living! Screw any core needs they or their family may have! Ignore whatever potential for a life that satisfies personal needs and goals – as long as the individual remains a productive member of society.

RTFA for details. Decide who is worthy of more contempt. Corporate medicine or the politicians taking a payoff as obedient toadies?

Vatican bank has new rule to combat money laundering

The Vatican will announce new rules to combat financial crime on Thursday as it continues to deal with a money-laundering probe that has seen 23 million euros frozen from its banking institution.

The Vatican said in a statement on Wednesday that Pope Benedict would issue a so-called apostolic letter on combating financial crime, money laundering and the funding of terrorism. The Holy See would create a financial information authority.

The Vatican bank, formally known as the Institution for Religious Works (IOR), has been under investigation for suspected violations of European Union money laundering rules since September. It denies any wrongdoing…

Finance police have frozen 23 million euros of the IOR’s funds held in an account in an Italian bank in Rome after authorities deemed that two transactions were suspicious.

Oh – the rule?

Thou shalt not hire crooks to run the bank!

GlaxoSmithKline whistleblower wins record payout

Cheryl Eckard, center – N.Y.TIMES photo by Gunther

A former quality control manager at GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) has received £61million, believed to be the largest ever reward for a whistleblower, after exposing a series of contamination problems at a drugs factory in Puerto Rico, and a subsequent cover-up by company bosses.

Cheryl Eckard, 51, will pocket the $96m share of a $750m criminal and civil settlement between US regulators and the British pharmaceuticals group. The case showed that the company repeatedly ignored serious failings, including allegations that staff were “skimming” drugs to sell them on the Latin American black market and that its factory had mixed drug types and doses in the same bottle.

Eckard first warned of the numerous violations after being sent by GSK to investigate problems in the group’s huge factory in Cidra, Puerto Rico, in July 2002, following a warning letter to the company from US health officials.

Over the next 10 months, she repeatedly alerted a string of GSK executives to a catalogue of breaches, only to be blocked and eventually sacked in 2003. In July of that year, Eckard phoned JP Garnier, the then chief executive, who declined to take the call to speak to her about the findings and the cover-up. Eckard, who is from North Carolina and is married with children, now works as a freelance consultant for the pharmaceutical industry…

Court documents show how Eckard was gradually sidelined, despite increasing complaints to a growing number of senior bosses.

I’m hard-pressed to comprehend companies that display this kind of pigheadedness. I’ve been peripherally involved with a few similar cases in major American firms – one of which resulted in an arrest – and time and again the fault lies with management that [a] refuses to believe that one of their peers could possibly be stupid, criminal or incompetent; and [b] they can’t believe that an ordinary mortal down in the bowels of the firm has turned up this foolishness – even with evidence staring them in the face.

If you pretend to care about the quality of your business, you had better listen to everyone up and down that ladder of command.

I’m pleased as Punch to see a whistleblower rewarded. Especially after being harassed and fired for her efforts.

UK records show profound decline in fish stocks

Over-fishing means UK trawlers have to work 17 times as hard for the same fish catch as 120 years ago, a study shows.

Researchers used port records dating from the late 1800s, when mechanised boats were replacing sailing vessels.

In the journal Nature Communications, they say this implies “an extrordinary decline” in fish stocks and “profound” ecosystem changes.

Four times more fish were being landed in UK ports 100 years ago than today, and catches peaked in 1938.

“Over a century of intensive trawl fishing has severely depleted UK seas of bottom living fish like halibut, turbot, haddock and plaice,” said Simon Brockington, head of conservation at the Marine Conservation Society and one of the study’s authors.

“It is vital that governments recognise the changes that have taken place (and) set stock protection and recovery targets that are reflective of the historical productivity of the sea…”

Representatives of industrial fishing and marketing say recent improvements in management counter historic declines.

But Professor Roberts counters that the long historical timeline in his study shows the recent improvements to be small in scale.

“If you get a 50% increase from 2% of a species’ former abundance, you get to 3% of its former abundance, so you shouldn’t celebrate too hard,” he said.

That’s why this perspective is important…”

UK fishermen tend to blame the EU’s Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) for their economic problems, the authors of this study say it proves that depletion stems from mismanagament well before the CFP came into existence.

“There’s nothing basically wrong with the CFP and not much wrong with the scientific research they receive,” commented Dr MacMullen.

“But what happens to that advice when it goes up to the Council of Ministers – it’s completely mis-managed.”

RTFA. If fish ain’t important to your diet, realize they’re still important to your economy.

Chinese firms can’t hire fast enough in economic recovery

Migrant workers arrive in Beijing for training as domestic help
Daylife/Getty Images used by permission

Chinese employment service providers said domestic firms have started a fresh round of hiring, especially for management level position, as part of the efforts to cash in on the economic recovery, but most of these firms are still finding it hard to get the right candidates.

Three industries — real estate, hi-tech and retailing — are at the forefront of the current round of hiring, according to China Daily.

DoWelljoin Hunter…sees clients back for new hires last month. Its business has grown by 40 percent last month compared with the previous months. The growth rate was even higher than a year earlier.

However, companies in China are still finding it difficult to get the right candidates for the wanted positions, said a survey by Manpower.

According to the survey, 15 percent of the employers are struggling to fill up positions. The top three jobs that they are having difficulties to fill up this year are technicians, management or executives and sales representatives.

We’ll have to loan them some Republicans who can stand around say, “there is no recovery, there is no recovery. No. no. no!”

Measuring snow with a bucket, a windmill, and the sun?

In Maine, government scientists have figured out how to measure snowfall in remote areas with a bucket, a small windmill, and the sun – all the while saving money, energy, and, ultimately helping to save lives.

What led to this energy-efficient ingenuity was the need to help the National Weather Service forecast and predict the risk of floods from spring snowmelt.

The problem was this: While the USGS has about 15 snowmelt measurement sites in Maine, they also needed a way to measure snowfall in remote areas where power grids are scarce. Emergency managers need accurate information to prepare for forthcoming hazards and energy companies need to plan ahead for how much water to expect in reservoirs.

Bob Lent, chief of the USGS Maine Water Science Center in Augusta: “We cobbled together a small-scale commercial windmill to replace commercial AC power, and supplemented the windmill with solar panels. What we ended up with is a windmill that powers our measurements on windy and cloudy days, and solar panels that power them on calm, sunny days…”

Basically, the system looks like this: a gage is attached to a 5-gallon bucket that sits atop a simple wooden platform on a metal pole. The gage has a heating element to melt the snow as it collects in the cone of the bucket. The gage only turns on when snow is detected. Nearby is a data-collection box that is linked to the windmill and solar panels. When the bucket fills up with melted snow it tips over and empties. Each tip of the bucket measures 0.01 inches of precipitation and is recorded to the data recorder, which transmits the data and is updated on the web every hour…

It’s a very small step in a very long journey of helping this country become greener, but this embodies what we need to be doing and the direction in which we need to be going,” said Lent.

Couple really good points in the release: [1] Over a few years, the system saves money. Ain’t it nice to have a government that supports that sort of ideology. [2] This can work as well in a funky Florida swamp as glacial Maine.