Relevant and even prescient commentary on news, politics and the economy.

Politics and Spending Bills In Congress

MacRumors: Apple’s New Privacy-Focused Tracking Prompt Begins Appearing for iOS 14 Users

As a privacy measure for their customers, Apple will be requiring developers of iPhone and iPad “apps” to request permission from users to track their activity across other apps and websites for personalized advertising purposes starting early next year. iOS 14.4 should be publicly released in January or February.

Facebook pulled out the usual canard; “They (Apple) are hurting small businesses and publishers who are already struggling in a pandemic. These changes will directly affect their ability to use their advertising budgets efficiently and effectively.”

I think Zuckerman should be more worried about what happens to section 230 than Apple allowing iPhone owners blocking their collection of personnel information. He and Facebook have lived way too long under the protection of being a small business as detailed in Section 230.

WSJ: Senate Approves Trump’s Pick for FCC

During a lame-duck session, Republicans have added a new member to the FCC an action which typically has been left to an incoming administration.

Along party lines, the Republican-led Senate voted 49-46 to approve Nathan Simington for a five-year term on the FCC.

Mr. Simington told the Senate Commerce Committee last month he saw “no reason” to change the FCC’s approach to the regulation of internet-access services, a signal he could oppose Democrats’ expected efforts to restore net-neutrality rules that Republicans recently dismantled. The rules, if reinstated, would require internet-access providers to treat content equally. Cable and telephone companies have opposed them.

If cable and telephone service providers oppose net neutrality, then there must be more to this. I do not know about you; but, 90% of the calls to my regular phone are BS calls to sell me something, “spoofing” or the fake IRS.

Monarch Butterflies are Disappearing from the Environment

Conservationists were disappointed on Tuesday when the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced it would not recommend putting the monarch on the threatened species list. It’s not that the species isn’t edging to extinction—the monarch meets criteria to be considered threatened, the service admits. But there are “higher priority listing actions.”

Rachael BaleANIMALS Executive Editor, National Geographic. The Big Question is: Why IS The U.S. Letting These Monarch Butterflies Disappear?

Every fall, the iconic orange-and-black monarch butterflies begin their migration to warmer weather. In central Mexico, monarchs by the hundreds and thousands have been arriving from the eastern U.S. and Canada, coating oyamel trees so densely that the bark can’t be seen. In the space of 10 minutes this past October, one volunteer counted 505.

On the California coast, it’s a different story. At a time when western monarchs (which live west of the Rocky Mountains) should be showing up in droves to spend the winter in groves of eucalyptus and Monterey cypress, there is mostly silence. Fewer than 2,000 have been counted this year, down from last year’s count of 30,000. And way down from the four million that wintered there in the 1980s. It’s a drop of 99 percent.

And despite the spectacle in central Mexico, even eastern monarchs, which last year numbered about 60 million, have dropped by 80 percent in recent decades.

Quote of the Day – “very, very Concerned”

A comment from Kentucky State Senator Rand Paul on voter turnout. Paul who has falsely claimed the election was “stolen” from President Donald Trump (without any evidence), warned that increased voter turnout in Georgia could cost Republicans the Senate majority and urged Republican state officials to stop encouraging people to vote.

Senator Paul is actually very worried about the mailing of absentee ballots for the senate vote given what took place during the 2020 Election. His concern is Democrats still may win in Georgia even with all of their fumbling around.

Senator Rand Paul:

“I’m very, very concerned that if you solicit votes from typically non-voters, that you will affect and change the outcome. I am very worried the Democrats will control all three branches of Government and they will very truly transform America and not for the better.”

Now isn’t that what many of us had hoped would happen in November?

If you do not like to read or can not imagine how concerned Rand Paul is, here is the Maria Bartiromo Fox Business News of Senator Rand Paul as captured in a tweet by Eric Kleefeld.

GOP ‘Electors’ In Michigan Turned Away By State Police

Michigan did not miss out on all the fun on Elector’s Day this last Monday.

I was listening to Stephen Miller talk (Fox New Telecast) about sending Alternative Electors to state capitals to vote for a “trump” in place of Biden President as selected by the popular vote in each state. Sending alternative electors did not include every state in the union and just the ones which had voted with mail-in ballots. And illegally according to the claims of some pundits and commenters. To which every level of court in the US up to SCOTUS have proclaimed the voting process was legal. Still the contesting is going on today with trump filing in New Mexico also.

Stephen never mentioned Alternative Electors for Michigan in a Fox New Telecast (displayed at Crooks and Liars) early on in his broadcast which I thought was rather odd since trump met with the Michigan Senate Leader (Shirkey) and the House Speaker Lee Chatfield. “trump” after calling for them to come to Washinfton D. C. Like good boys, they went. The after-thought was, Shirkey and Chatfield would do something stupid and rile people . . . most likely Dems . . . up. The Repubs are devious; but not smart.

Karoli Kuns writes at Crooks and Liars,

SCOTUS: States Can Regulate Insurance Plan Contractors

While briefly discussing (accessible link below for addition information) this decision, keep in mind this is a big deal in lowering the costs of pharmaceuticals as it goes right to the source of some of the excess takings involved in the distribution of drugs from manufacturer to drug stores.

December 10, 2020: the Supreme Court handed a win to states and broadened the path for state health care cost control efforts. In Rutledge v. Pharmaceutical Care Management Association, the Court ruled 8-0 that the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA) did not preempt Arkansas’s law regulating pharmacy benefit managers (PBMs), the intermediaries that administer prescription drug benefits for health plans.

Speaking for an unanimous Court, Justice Sonia Sotomayor, held that “state laws requiring PBMs to pay pharmacies no less than their acquisition costs for prescription drugs was not preempted by ERISA (the federal statute governing employee benefits). ERISA does not pre-empt state rate regulations that merely increase costs or alter incentives for ERISA plans without forcing plans to adopt any particular scheme of substantive coverage.”

SCOTUS Decides Texas Lawsuit regarding Georgia, Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin

Given the makeup of the Supreme Court after 3 conservative appointments to the court, I was concerned as to what the outcome of the Court’s decision might be. Whether they would agree with Texas and trump was the concern.

The italicized sentence is basically the Court’s decision. The note from Alito and Thomas being an acceptance of the motion for review and not grant the petitioner relief.

“The justices’ dissents, though, are considerably less significant than all that.

As The Post’s Supreme Court guru Robert Barnes and many others noted, the dissents echoed the long-standing positions of the two justices, which is that the court’s “original jurisdiction” means it must accept such a case involving conflicts between states. Their dissents on that point, in fact, were merely a matter of course for them — something they’ve done before — not any kind of commentary on the substance of the claims.

And indeed, they actually made a pretty significant statement about the substance — but not in Trump’s favor.

“I would therefore grant the motion to file the bill of complaint but would not grant other relief,” Alito said in the dissent which Thomas joined, “and I express no view on any other issue.”

Feedback on the New AB System

The new AB commenting and posting has been up for at least a week now. I would like to hear what “you” the commenters are seeing or experiencing when you comment. Please let us know so we can correct or improve what has been changed. Letting us know what you like is helpful also.

Some things I have noticed:

  • The system is slow to get into for posting and commenting.
  • Commenters are ending up in the trash bin where I have to go and restore their comments.
  • There is no resource to go to and find out what each function does.
  • Posting this, took too long

Your turn! Drive – by visitor constructive comments are welcome too, What are you seeing or experiencing?

“Trump’s Bogus Claims Of Election Fraud Targets Michigan Secretary Of State”

Ophelia at “Butterflies and Wheels” has a commentary about the protests in front of the home of Democratic Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson which makes for a good read along with the comments.

Follow the link.

It is one thing to write a letter of protest to a politician and quite another to invade the proximity of a person’s home, within shouting distance, and upset the occupants which included a child. Meanwhile the Republican leaders quietly sit by with no comment chastising “their” constituents.

“Unambiguous and threatening”

“Michigan secretary of state Jocelyn Benson said dozens of armed protesters gathered in a threatening manner outside her home on Saturday evening chanting “bogus” claims about electoral fraud.

Armed protesters. Outside her house. In support of a criminal trying to steal an election. We’re on a knife-edge here.

In a Twitter statement on Sunday, Benson said the protesters were trying to spread false information about the security and accuracy of the US election system. “The demands made outside my home were unambiguous, loud, and threatening.”

The individuals gathered outside my home targeted me as Michigan’s Chief Election officer. But their threats were actually aimed at the 5.5million Michigan citizens who voted in this fall’s election, seeking to overturn their will. They will not succeed in doing so. My statement:

— Jocelyn Benson (@JocelynBenson) December 7, 2020

Michigan attorney general Dana Nessel, in a separate Twitter post, accused the pro-Trump demonstrators of “mob-like behavior (that) is an affront to basic morality and decency”.

“Anyone can air legitimate grievances to Secretary Benson’s office through civil and democratic means, but terrorizing children and families in their own homes is not activism.”

Knife Edge in Michigan.”

Living in Michigan can be interesting.

Social Security Trustees Update 2020 Report To Include Effects of Covid Recession

Reader and poster Coberly updating Angry Bear readers on recent Social Security findings in the 2020 report. Reader Bruce Krasting had alerted Angry Bear to the publication by the Social Security Trustees of a “revised baseline” that includes effects of the Covid recession on their projections otherwise from the 2020 Trustees Report.Updated Baseline for Actuarial Status of the OASI and DI Trust Funds, Reflecting Pandemic and
Recession Effects

The Trustees have better information than I have and assumed a lower unemployment rate with effects of the recession lasting over several years, but returning to “normal” by the year 2029.  Their new projections bring the Trust Fund exhaustion date one year closer, but the ultimate 75 year deficit remains at about 4% of payroll.

Using their revised baseline, and attendant projected changes in some of the parameters they use for their projections, I was able to replicate their calculations, giving me confidence that my own findings regarding necessary payroll tax changes are consistent with their projections.

The necessary payroll tax changes amount to an average tax increase of less than one tenth of one percent (each) per year.  This is different from my pre-covid findings only in that the tax increases would need to be a bit larger in the first years than previously estimated.

PRC busts the price cap, lawsuits sure to follow

Fact: Contrary to what President Trump claims, the Postal Service can’t solve its financial problems by raising “the price of a package by approximately four times.”

Steve Hutkins at Save The Post Office discusses the financial issues facing the United States Postal Service and why the Postal Regulatory Commission  new plans to increase prices may be problematic. By no means is this a new topic. It has been brought up repeatedly by members of Congress and this administration as well as earlier administrations. The USPS was not meant to be profitable and its present situation is the result of the Postal Accountability and Enhancement Act.


The Postal Regulatory Commission has spent the past four years working on a revision of the rate system for Market Dominant products. Yesterday the Commission issued its final rule on the changes. The order is here. The PRC’s press release is here. The media kit contains a useful FAQ.

The process of reviewing the rate system involved the Commission, the Postal Service, and an extensive list of stakeholders and commenters.  And even though it’s been going on since December 2016, it’s not over yet, not by a long shot. Given that many of the mailers have fought the changes that were finally approved, it’s widely expected that some stakeholders will appeal the PRC’s order to the D.C. Circuit.