How It’s Done Downtown

Uhh… here on Sores and Boils Alley we’re hipper than you think. I live near a family that are distant relatives of some totally legitimate business people as far as I know and we never really feel the need to lock our doors at night.

If you know what I mean.

Frank Cali, Gambino crime boss, killed in front of Staten Island home
By Timothy Bella, Washington Post
March 14, 2019

Frank Cali, the reputed boss of the Gambino crime family whose deep ties to the Sicilian Mafia made him a figure of influence and power in both New York and Sicily, was fatally shot outside his home in Staten Island on Wednesday night, police told The Washington Post.

At around 9:15 p.m. Wednesday, Cali, 53, was in front of his red-brick colonial style home in the Todt Hill neighborhood, when he was approached by a blue pickup truck. Known as “Franky Boy,” the Gambino boss was reportedly shot six times in the chest and run over by the truck, as first reported by the New York Daily News. Police said that a suspect sped off in the truck, WNBC reported.

Cali’s death marks the first time in 34 years that a crime family boss was fatally shot in New York City. The previous instance was in 1985, when Paul Castellano, another Gambino crime boss, who was assassinated under the orders of John Gotti outside Manhattan’s Sparks Steak House. As the Daily News reported, Cali lived only a half-mile away from Castellano’s home.

Once described as “the rising star of the American mafia,” Cali was an influential figure who surrounded himself with many Italian-born associates. He gained the trust of Jackie “The Nose” D’Amico, an acting boss who promoted him to capo before the age of 40. Cali’s ascension within the Gambino crime family, once considered one of the most significant criminal organizations in the U.S., came years after federal prosecutors sent its top leaders to prison, crippling its national and global reach. One of those prosecutors, Rudolph W. Giuliani, currently the attorney for President Trump, used the 1986 indictment of the heads of the five crime families to help launch his successful campaign for mayor of New York years later.

As a leader, Cali was reportedly considerably less flashy than the ebullient Gotti, another Gambino boss, and was described by the New York Post as “a real quiet old-school boss.” Cali’s influence reportedly stemmed from his family connections with the Inzerillo crime family in Palermo, Sicily.

“Cali is seen as a man of influence and power by organized crime members in Italy,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Joey Lipton said during a bail hearing in 2008.

Lipton went on to quote an intercepted conversation from an Italian mobster, who described Cali as “a friend of ours.”

“He is everything over there,” the mobster allegedly said, referring to Cali’s stature in New York, according to the Daily News.

Federal authorities recognized Cali’s sense of stability and attempted to stop his meteoric rise. In what would be his only mob-related criminal conviction, Cali plead guilty to conspiring to extort money in 2008, stemming from a failed bid to build a NASCAR track on Staten Island years earlier. He was released after completing a 16-month prison sentence. Upon his release, the Justice Department ordered that Cali not come in contact with his uncle, John Gambino, if it was not approved ahead of time by his probation officer. (Gambino died at 77 of natural causes in 2017.)

In 2015, Cali was reportedly elevated to acting boss of the Gambino crime family, succeeding Domenico Cefalu, according to the Daily News. During his run with the family, Cali was looked at as a unifying leader, concentrating on enhancing the organization’s role in the OxyContin and heroin trade, the New York Post reported.

The death in Todt Hill came on the same day that Bonnano crime family boss Joseph Cammarano Jr., and his consigliere, John Zancocchio, were acquitted in federal court of charges of racketeering and conspiracy to commit extortion.

But, Stars Hollow.

One night for yuks I went to a notorious restaurant which, while they seemed somewhat surprised that I waltzed in, sat at the Bar, and asked for a menu, was otherwise completely unremarkable.

Democratic Iraq

First of all, it’s not that Democrats aren’t entirely complicit in Iraq, because they are. Still, it’s primarily associated in the public mind with W and the Republican Party.

What Democrats have to own is their response to the financial crisis (Panic? Depression? Recession?) of 2007 – 2008 and their $10 Trillion+ Bailout of Banksters and Billionaires at the expense of…

Well, basically everybody else.

I haven’t forgotten, bless your heart, and neither has our buddy dday

Kamala Harris Celebrates Her Role in the Mortgage Crisis Settlement. The Reality Is Quite Different.
by David Dayen, The Intercept
March 13 2019

Pretty much every major Democratic official involved in responding to the foreclosure crisis during the Obama years did an unforgivably terrible job. That’s how we wound up with 10 million families losing their homes, an unprecedented disaster that touched every corner of America and triggered the populist backlash we’re living through today.

There isn’t a particular individual to single out and blame for the party’s failure, and that’s not what this story is doing. Kamala Harris’s role in the affair was no more or less tragic than anyone else’s. But now that she’s running for president, Harris is not only eliding responsibility for her part in the failure, but claiming it as an outright success. That claim doesn’t withstand a moment’s scrutiny.

“We went after the five biggest banks in the United States. We won $20 billion together,” Harris said in her initial campaign address in Oakland, California. She has highlighted the settlement for years as an example of her record of taking on powerful interests.

Harris is referring to the national mortgage settlement, a massive deal made with Bank of America, Wells Fargo, JPMorgan Chase, Citigroup, and Ally Bank (formerly known as GMAC) in 2012, when she served as California attorney general. And that settlement is best understood as a second bank bailout, protecting legally exposed mortgage fraudsters while doing little to prevent evictions. In fact, more families lost their homes as a result of transactions facilitated by the national mortgage settlement than those who got a sustainable loan modification to save them.

Equating a toothless settlement with a sufficient penalty for criminal fraud sets a meager baseline for what constitutes punishment, virtually ensuring subsequent crimes. If we will ever dismantle a system that delivers one set of laws for the powerful and another for everybody else, we must be honest about the glaring inadequacies of the past. Harris often uses the phrase “let’s speak that truth” as a throat-clearer in speeches. Well, let’s speak some truth about the national mortgage settlement.

Let’s first understand what the settlement was about. During the run-up of the housing bubble, banks acquired thousands of subprime mortgages and turned them into securities. They created trusts as repositories of the mortgages, with bonds flowing out to investors around the world. All of this produced explosive demand for new mortgages, hooking millions more with subprime debt and inflating the bubble that later popped.

Governed mostly under New York state law, the trusts had to receive the mortgages before a stipulated closing date, with no grace period after the fact. But banks simply didn’t execute the transfers, breaking the chain of ownership on virtually all securitized mortgages in the housing bubble years. As a result, mortgage-backed securities were backed by nothing.

When the collapse of the bubble ushered in a flood of mortgage defaults, the trust administrators lacked the legal authority to foreclose. In an industrial-scale cleanup, law firms, mortgage servicing companies, and third-party subcontractors fabricated, forged, and backdated documents to paper over the failed securitizations.

This cover-up was not infallible, and the subsequent chaos — foreclosures on homes with no mortgage, foreclosures on people who never missed a payment, and multiple companies seeking foreclosure on the same property — revealed the fracturing of a property records system that had served America well since the 1630s. Mortgage companies were also caught piling on illegal fees, pushing customers into foreclosure, and lying to borrowers seeking loan modifications. Eventually, this mountain of false evidence and fraud burst into public view. By the fall of 2010, the leading mortgage companies in America stopped foreclosing on people, because they couldn’t do it anymore legally.

The stakes couldn’t have been higher. Trillions of dollars in securitized mortgages were apparently corrupted; title insurance companies were refusing to insure them until the mess was resolved. Following the law on these loans would have wiped out most of the major banks in the United States. Law enforcers had the leverage necessary to end the foreclosure crisis by allocating losses from the crash equitably, while punishing those responsible to prevent routinized fraud and abuse from ever happening again.

But in that crucial moment, nobody bothered to investigate the breadth of the fraud and how many were affected, instead moving directly to negotiating what facsimile of a penalty would be tolerable to the banks. A 50-state foreclosure fraud task force was formed to be the vehicle to clean all this up and get the system humming again.

Harris wasn’t in office when negotiations commenced in the fall of 2010, and while she nominally joined the task force executive committee after her election as California attorney general, for her first several months in office she kept relatively quiet on the matter. She was not the first attorney general to break from the investigation; New York’s Eric Schneiderman and five other Democrats got there first, and Schneiderman largely led the resistance.

A coalition called Californians for a Fair Settlement formed (with Schneiderman’s help) to separate Harris from the negotiations. They jammed office phone lines with constituent calls, and eventually got Gavin Newsom, at the time Harris’s biggest potential rival in state politics, to sign a letter opposing the emerging deal. (Newsom has since endorsed Harris’s presidential candidacy; the two share campaign consultants.) A month of persistent grassroots pressure and challenges to her political advancement led to Harris’s dramatic break with the talks, after a day spent with bankers trying to salvage them.

When Harris departed in September 2011, the deal being discussed by the task force with five banks was for around $20 billion; the final deal, which she returned to in February 2012, totaled $25 billion.

I think dday misstates himself because one way of reading the next bit is that Obama wanted to take action when the only action Obama wanted to take was to foam the runway for the Banksters and Billionaires. To continue-

The national mortgage settlement only included $5 billion in actual hard dollars: $3.5 billion to the states, and another $1.5 billion in “sorry you illegally lost your home” checks for foreclosure victims. The checks totaled $1,480 each, barely a month’s rent in California. As for the state relief, Harris and her fellow negotiators never mandated that the money go toward helping homeowners. So, like many others, California Gov. Jerry Brown purloined most of the state’s $410 million share to fill holes in the budget. Years later, private litigants sued the state for robbing the settlement fund and won, but the state has yet to return the money, years after it could have done much good.

When Harris talks about how she “won $20 billion” for the state, she isn’t referring to those hard-dollar provisions. She means the consumer relief portion of the settlement, which were credits given to banks for assisting struggling homeowners with their mortgages. The credits were lower than the raw dollar figure, but Harris always highlights the higher number. In addition, banks could modify loans they serviced on behalf of investors, who took the actual hit. This means that banks paid much of their fine with other people’s money.

Of the $20 billion Harris touts, nearly half of it, $9.5 billion, came in the form of short sales, in which homeowners sell their properties for below the mortgage balance without having to make up the difference. That can be helpful to someone’s credit score, but it results in losing the home, the exact opposite intention of the settlement. And because California is a “non-recourse” state, lenders are prevented from seeking mortgage balances from borrowers after a home sale anyway.

In 2013, Harris’s predecessor, Sen. Barbara Boxer, got a ruling from the Internal Revenue Service that short sale forgiveness in California represented no material value to borrowers. In other words, this supposed “gift” for homeowners from Harris’s settlement totaled $0.00.

Another $4.7 billion of relief in California involved forgiveness of second mortgages like home equity lines of credit, which were deeply delinquent and “essentially dead,” according to mortgage experts. That forgiveness did not prevent lenders from pursuing foreclosure on the same families over their primary mortgages. And banks were getting credit toward their total for something they’d have had to do anyway: writing off debt that would never be collected.

So over 70 percent of Harris’s $20 billion settlement either removed people from their homes or canceled unrecoverable debt. A little less than 33,000 California families actually got principal reductions on their primary mortgages, the most sustainable type of relief.

Sadly, California made out better than the rest of the country. Nationwide, while the settlement’s architects promised 1 million principal reductions, only 83,000 received them. Set against the millions of foreclosures in this period, to call it a drop in the bucket is generous. And praising Harris for making the best of a shameful deal is faint praise indeed.

Harris has noted a tension between exacting adequate punishment for mortgage crimes and delivering speedy relief to homeowners. But nearly 16 months elapsed between the initiation of the 50-state “investigation” and the settlement, and none of that time was actually spent investigating. The actual relief for homeowners was totally inadequate.

For the banks, the settlement was cause for celebration. Despite being caught red-handed in a litany of abuses, they paid off their penalty by either using other people’s money or performing routine functions. The actual impact made barely a dent in their profits. And they got a broad release from prosecution, putting their intense legal exposure behind them.

Needless to say, no bank executive went to jail for these crimes. In exchange for agreeing to the settlement, Schneiderman got to co-chair an overhyped federal-state task force that would allegedly serve as the real vehicle for criminal accountability. (Harris also wanted the gig, but Schneiderman out-maneuvered her for the position.) The task force wound up being a repository for existing cases, issuing no criminal subpoenas and merely securing more weak settlements.

Over Macho Grande?

No. I don’t think I’ll ever get over Macho Grande. Those wounds run… pretty deep.

The Breakfast Club (Research)

Welcome to The Breakfast Club! We’re a disorganized group of rebel lefties who hang out and chat if and when we’re not too hungover we’ve been bailed out we’re not too exhausted from last night’s (CENSORED) the caffeine kicks in. Join us every weekday morning at 9am (ET) and weekend morning at 10:00am (ET) (or whenever we get around to it) to talk about current news and our boring lives and to make fun of LaEscapee! If we are ever running late, it’s PhilJD’s fault.

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This Day in History

Albert Einstein born; Eli Whitney receives patent for cotton gin; First US Astronaut in space on Russian rocket; Michael Caine and Quincy Jones born.

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Something to Think about over Coffee Prozac

If we knew what it was we were doing, it would not be called research, would it?

Albert Einstein

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Bananas

I think Mr. Mellish is a traitor to this country because his views are different from the views of the President and others of his kind. Differences of opinion should be tolerated, but *not* when they’re too different. Then he becomes a subversive.

How the global banana industry is killing the world’s favorite fruit
By Gwynn Guilford, Quartz
March 3, 2014

Starting in 1903, Race 1, an earlier variant of today’s pathogen, ravaged the export plantations of Latin America and the Caribbean. Within 50 years, Race 1 drove the world’s only export banana species, the Gros Michel, to virtual extinction. That’s why 99% of the bananas eaten in the developed world today are a cultivar called the Cavendish, the only export-suitable banana that could take on Race 1 and live to tell.

Over the half-century it took to wipe out the Gros Michel, Race 1 caused at least $2.3 billion in damage (around $18.2 billion in today’s terms.) And that was in the commercial heart of global banana production. Tropical Race 4, by comparison, has damaged $400 million in banana crops in the Philippines alone.

But the bigger difference now is that, compared its 20th-century cousin, Tropical Race 4 is a pure killing machine—and not just for Cavendishes. Scores of other species that are immune to Race 1 have no defenses against the new pathogen. In fact, Tropical Race 4 is capable of killing at least 80%—though possibly as much as 85%—of the 145 million tonnes (160 million tons) of bananas and plantains produced each year, says Ploetz.

And at $8.9 billion, bananas grown for export are only a fraction of the $44.1 billion in annual banana and plantain production—in fact, bananas are the fourth-most valuable global crop after rice, wheat, and milk. Where are the rest of those bananas sold? Nearly nine-tenths of the world’s bananas are eaten in poor countries, where at least 400 million people rely on them for 15-27% of their daily calories. And that’s the really scary part. Since the first Panama disease outbreak, bananas have evolved from snacks into vital sustenance. And this time there’s no back-up banana variety to feed the world with instead.

In the same way that the Cavendish gets all the fame, brand names like Chiquita and Dole dominate the popular conception of the banana market. But exports make up only 15% of global output; the rest is consumed by banana-producing nations or sold unofficially in regional markets. In fact, the top two banana and plantain producers—India and China—don’t export at all, though they produce a combined 35% of the global yield.

The developed world prizes bananas as a food of convenience—it’s cheap, portable and reasonably healthy. In poor countries, however, bananas are often a basic source of nourishment for at least 400 million people. The average person in Uganda, Gabon, Ghana and Rwanda relies on bananas and plantains for more than 300 calories each day—around 16% of the UN’s nourishment threshold (and bear in mind that around 20% of the 74 million people living in those four countries are undernourished). Roughly 70% of all bananas consumed locally are vulnerable to Tropical Race 4.

And while millions of farmers feed their families with home-grown bananas, many millions more use income from growing them to buy other crops. Bananas are the most important export commodity for Ecuador, Panama, Costa Rica, and Belize. They’re in the top three in Colombia, the Philippines, Guatemala, Honduras, and Cameroon. That’s a lot of the developing-world economy reliant on a very vulnerable crop. “This disease is a problem, not only because of its potential impact on the price and availability of our favorite fruit, but also because it’s a life-changing event for the people in developing countries who rely on bananas as a staple food and incomes,” Alice Churchill, a scientist studying plant biology at Cornell University, told the Cornell Sun, ”Those affected by [Panama disease] lose both their livelihoods and an important source of nutrition.”

The knitting of our fate with that of Tropical Race 4 began more than a century ago, with a banana far tastier than any most Quartz readers have ever had. While its famously creamy flavor made the Gros Michel—or “Big Mike”—a big hit around the Caribbean among small-time farmers, its tough, thick skin and its high yield are what landed this cultivar in cereal bowls and lunch bags far beyond the tropics.

Like all domesticated bananas, the vast majority of Gros Michel didn’t carry seeds. So how did they reproduce? You simply would cut off a chunk of a banana tree, plant it, and wait for your banana tree to sprout. In other words, the bananas eaten commercially are all clones.

Those qualities also gave rise of the industrialization of banana-growing, as they allowed scrappy American entrepreneurs to construct banana empires throughout Latin American rainforests, often building railroads to ports in exchange for long-term land rights. These banana barons pioneered the industrial agriculture model familiar today, maximizing land, minimizing labor, and vertically integrating in order to send their product far and wide.

That let them sell Big Mikes for cheap—an important development given that in 1899, the fruit was still found mainly in posh hotels, where it often was accompanied with instructions on how to peel it. That next year, Americans ate around 15 million bunches of bananas. Within a decade that had surged to 40 million, making them more popular than apples and oranges, as Dan Koeppel documents in his book, Banana: The Fate of the Fruit That Changed the World. At a time when apples and oranges were prohibitively expensive to most Americans, the banana was marketed for mass consumption. United Fruit successfully styled it as the fruit of the common man, its popularity reflected in the slapstick ubiquity of slipping on banana peels found in the films of Buster Keaton, Charlie Chaplin, and other comedians, as Koeppel points out.

From there, United Fruit ramped up marketing to further the banana’s American conquest, hiring doctors to endorse mashed bananas as baby food and setting up a “home economics department” to get images of bananas in front of housewives and in textbooks. After its test kitchens struck upon the idea of the banana as the perfect breakfast on the go, the company began offering coupons on cereal boxes, linking bananas and breakfast cereal for the first time, writes Koeppel.

To ramp up production while preserving its margins, United Fruit began burnishing its famously bloody reputation for union-busting. (A 1928 crackdown on striking United Fruit workers in Colombia inspired the massacre in Gabriel García Márquez’s novel, One Hundred Years of Solitude). The strategic importance of the crop meant that the troops of both Latin American dictatorships—the namesake of “banana republics”—and the US government often enforced United Fruit’s will on unruly workers.

However, in 1903, United Fruit encountered an enemy that all the military interventions in the world couldn’t stop. It first showed up in Panama—a blight that wilted leaves and infected fruits until the entire plant toppled over and died, usually before it could bear any fruit. Once it appeared, it laid waste to a region’s plantations, usually at a gradual pace, but sometimes with devastating speed. It needed only five years to wipe out all of Suriname’s banana plantations.

As you undoubtedly guessed, the pestilence in question is none other than Panama disease, Race 1. As whole plantations failed, United Fruit and others made the obvious choice: they picked up and moved somewhere else in Latin America.

But the blight followed. After it wiped out plantations in Costa Rica, Panama disease followed United Fruit to Guatemala. And then to Nicaragua, then Colombia and then Ecuador. By 1960, 77 years after it had appeared, Panama disease had wiped the Gros Michel out of every export plantation on the face of the planet.

In the Gros Michel’s rise and fall, the banana industry struggled with the paradox that plagues all industrial agriculture crops. Natural reproduction is bad for short-term profits. The way to grow a consistent product at yields that achieve economies of scale is to stamp out the risks of diversity and imperfection that happens when genes reshuffle. To boost profit, you then grow that crop to the exclusion of less valuable species.

This is what’s called a “monoculture” or “monocrop,” the cultivation of a single plant species, usually on a massive, standardized scale. These things come at a cost, though. Just as their genetic similarity makes for cheap, large-scale production, it also prevents monocrops from adapting to attack from pests or disease. (Other disastrous consequences of monocrops include that farmers soak their crops in ever-increasing amounts of harmful chemicals and that this scale of growing is incredibly taxing on the environment.)

No episode in history illustrates this cost more nightmarishly than the Irish potato blight, “the biggest experiment in monoculture ever attempted and surely the most convincing proof of its folly,” as journalist Michael Pollan called it in his book Botany of Desire.

Introduced to Ireland two centuries earlier, the potato had by the early 1800s become a staple crop for farmers, a principal source of food for the poor and a major fodder crop for livestock. The vast majority of Irish farmers were planting a single potato species, the Irish Lumper, to the exclusion of other potato types. When a Mexican fungus-like microorganism hit Ireland, it encountered virtually no natural resistance, destroying around three-quarters of Ireland’s 1846 potato harvest. The blight eventually wiped out one million people between 1845 and 1852. As much as one-quarter of Ireland’s population either fled or died.

Pollan makes an unnerving point about this tragedy. Many of the one million who died “probably owed their existence to the potato in the first place.” In other words, Ireland’s large-scale potato monoculture supported a bigger population than growing a more diverse range of crops would have; when that extra food disappeared, so did they.

Panama disease’s scorched earth campaign was briefly terrible for United Fruit and for many Latin American economies. It was frustrating enough for US consumers to have inspired the song “Yes, We Have No Bananas.” But a tropical reprise of the Irish potato famine it wasn’t.

There are many reasons for this, but a big one is simply that Lumper potatoes were an Irish staple; poor banana farmers in Latin America largely didn’t eat Gros Michel bananas—they were an export good, a nice-to-have snack in wealthy countries. When it came to feeding themselves, farmers in Latin America and the Caribbean had plenty of alternative bananas—species too thin-skinned to be exported or too weird-looking for Westerners to buy. Since Panama disease—remember, this is Race 1 we’re talking about—killed only the Gros Michel and a couple other types of bananas, plantains, as the type of banana commonly consumed in Latin America and Africa are known, were unscathed.

Plus, there was a huge yellow life raft in the form of the Race 1-resistant Cavendish, which Standard Fruit started rolling out in 1947. The rest of Big Banana eventually followed suit, ramping up plantations to produce more sterile Cavendish clones than ever. Soon it wasn’t just the multinationals; because Cavendish plants are so productive, farmers growing subsistence crops for local consumption took to growing them as well. Now around 60% of the 40 million tonnes of Cavendishes grown each year is eaten locally, not exported.

While United Fruit and Standard Fruit—which soon morphed into Chiquita and Dole, respectively—and other banana giants built booming businesses around Cavendish clones, Panama disease was busy too. The banana industry then did the fungus a huge favor: In the 1980s it launched huge Cavendish plantations in Malaysia, one of the ancient cradles of banana civilization. That’s where University of Florida’s Ploetz thinks Panama disease originally came from.

Even though it’s famed as the scourge of Latin America, the fungus is actually the natural foe of Malaysian wild bananas. That’s why moving banana production to Asia was such a bad move; wherever you find the most highly adapted wild bananas, you’re likely to find the most highly adapted diseases. For many millennia, an evolutionary bloodsport between Panama disease and wild bananas has raged on in Malaysian jungles. While the fungus made sure wild bananas passed on only the best genes for survival, wild bananas kept the fungus primed for lethal combat. When the fungus was brought to Latin America in the late 19th century, the Gros Michel never stood a chance. This, after all, was a fungus born to kill the most evolved banana species out there. Wiping out a sterile mutant with no natural resistance was a cakewalk.

The Cavendish was clearly made of tougher stuff. But that helped it only against Race 1, the strain of Panama disease that had been transplanted to Latin America more than a century ago. In the intervening years, the pathogen that stayed in Malaysia kept adapting and out-adapting Malaysian wild bananas. And that’s why Tropical Race 4 is so much more lethal: It’s a fungus with 100 extra years of banana-killing evolution under its belt.

Big Banana’s global conquest didn’t create Tropical Race 4. But it did help “select” it, says Ploetz. By building its business on a monoculture, the big exporters made their species sitting ducks for constantly adapting strains of Panama disease. And by moving banana production around the globe, far beyond the species’ natural habitats, companies ensured that species became host for a vicious disease against which the vast majority of cultivated bananas had no defenses. The good news, relatively speaking, was that in the last 20 years it’s been confined to Asia and Australia. But its sudden appearance in Mozambique and Jordan last year puts it closer to devastating global banana and plantain production—in a way the world has never before seen.

All this might seem alarmist, particularly given how slowly Panama disease typically spreads. Big Banana, for one, would agree with that. “This is something that this industry has dealt with for decades,” said Chiquita’s Ed Lloyd. ”It’s not a ‘sky is falling’ sort of situation.”

To some extent, University of Florida’s Ploetz agrees. “Bananas aren’t going to go extinct—they’re not going to disappear,” he says. “What [Dole and Chiquita] have in their favor is that it’s not going to move through their plantation like wildfire… But the problem is its cryptic nature: Once you have it you don’t know how widespread it is.”

The picture’s much different when you look beyond exported bananas. Tropical Race 4 doesn’t have to spread that fast to start shrinking the food supply for the 400 million people in Asia, Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean who depend on bananas for basic sustenance. The fact that it’s now in Africa is distressing considering that 227 million people — many of them small-scale farmers—are already underfed.

And while Chiquita and other big banana multinationals shrug off its threat to Latin America, it doesn’t sound like they’re taking into account the possibilities that Ploetz flags, such as the Latin American farmers setting up plantations in the affected Mozambique area. Did they scrub their shoes well enough? Time will tell.

Though the banana panic won’t hit tomorrow, the nature of Tropical Race 4 and the fact that scientists haven’t yet found a viable back-up banana to sub in for the Cavendish means an eventual production collapse is inevitable.

What might that look like? In the crude terms that Pollan invoked with the Irish potato famine, the population that owes much of its survival to cheap, productive banana plants is the one that will shoulder the impact when those plants die. If the same huge numbers of the banana-eating global population are going to stay fed, the only viable solution at the moment may be genetic modification. On that front, there are promising signs, though still nothing to take to the bank. While some find the genetically modified alternative objectionable, it’s hard to argue against modifying an already pretty heavily genetically tweaked fruit given the scale of malnourishment or perhaps even starvation, if that’s what it comes down to.

But the GMO lightning rod distracts from the larger cautionary tale: Our reliance on monoculture to feed surging global populations is catching up with us. International agricultural organizations are already scrambling to find new scourge-resistant substitutes for things like rice and potatoes. In fact, so dire are other global agricultural problems that Tropical Race 4’s onslaught doesn’t even get bananas near the top of priority list. ”Getting support to develop new resistant bananas is really tough—there are already so many demands on the international agricultural community,” says Ploetz. “There’s a lot of hunger in the world and bananas just have to get in line behind all those other big problems.

But that’s just a decades old problem that isn’t getting any better, you know, like Global Warming. How about Some More News?

I think Cody’s Showdy is just as important as John Oliver and Sam Bee, and for the same reason. By tackling just a single story per week (for the most part), he’s able to bring a depth of detail that Trevor and Stephen and Seth can’t match.

Pondering the Pundits

Pondering the Pundits” is an Open Thread. It is a selection of editorials and opinions from> around the news medium and the internet blogs. The intent is to provide a forum for your reactions and opinions, not just to the opinions presented, but to what ever you find important.

Thanks to ek hornbeck, click on the link and you can access all the past “Pondering the Pundits”.

Follow us on Twitter @StarsHollowGzt

http://maientertainmentlaw.com/?search=order-propecia-online Paul Krugman: The Power of Petty Personal Rage

Today’s column is about plastic straws, hamburgers and dishwashing detergent. Also Captain Marvel.

No, I haven’t lost my mind, or at least I don’t think so. But quite a few other people have — and their rage-filled pettiness is a more important force in modern America than we like to think. [..]

What do these things have in common? All of them involve cases where individual choices impose costs on other people. Plastic straws really are a source of ocean pollution. While nobody is planning to ban beef, flatulent cows really are an important source of methane, a powerful greenhouse gas. And phosphates contribute to toxic algae blooms.

But the rage seems to come from the suggestion that these costs imposed on others mean that white men — it does seem to always be white men — should consider changing their behavior, even a bit, in the public interest. Which brings me to Captain Marvel.

For those blissfully unaware of the issue, the latest superhero movie features a female protagonist, and the actress who plays her has expressed some mildly feminist views. So?

quanto costa viagra generico 25 mg in farmacia a Torino Harry Litman: Manafort’s sentence last week was absurd. That shouldn’t matter Wednesday.

U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson is set to sentence Paul Manafort on Wednesday in federal court in Washington. Look for her to play it by the book ― which is precisely the opposite of what U.S. District Judge T.S. Ellis III did last week when he sentenced Manafort for a separate series of crimes.

Ellis’s decision to sentence President Trump’s former campaign chairman to 47 months in prison ― in a case in which the U.S. sentencing guidelines prescribed a range of 19 to 24 years ― has been roundly criticized both by prosecutors and defense lawyers. It has been cited in particular to highlight perceived systemic disparities between white-collar and violent-crime defendants in the federal system.

Those disparities are real, but they cannot begin to account for the caprice and the disdain for core sentencing law and policy that Ellis’s sentence reflected. [..]

The damage is done, and Jackson cannot, and should not, try to reverse it. But she can, and likely will, affirm proper sentencing policy. Look for her to impose a conventional sentence within the bounds of her lawful discretion, perhaps seven or eight years, and to make it run consecutive to Ellis’s 47 months. That’s neither harsh nor lenient — but straight.

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Oh When The States…

 

Oh when the States come marching in.
Can’t Pardon, your way, out of this one…
When the States come marching in.

And by the way,
And by the way,
And by the way,
And by the way,
We don’t work for your DoJ…

And have to follow its stupid 1973 OLC guidelines on executive immunity from prosecution bless your heart.

There should be a mic drop and a feedback squeal here actually.

Well, ok, I didn’t exactly stick the landing with that one, but the point is Unidicted Co-conspirator Bottomless Pinocchio is about to become… indicted, and in State Court too. Ossining is ranked second only to ADX Florence and I’ve been to Westchester County and it ain’t all that.

I assume Ivanka, if she’s not occupying a nearby cell, will gladly spare the 50 minute commute (one way, but that’s what drivers are for) to visit as often as she can.

New York Attorney General Opens Investigation of Trump Projects
By William K. Rashbaum and Danny Hakim, The New York Times
March 11, 2019

The New York attorney general’s office late on Monday issued subpoenas to Deutsche Bank and Investors Bank for records relating to the financing of four major Trump Organization projects and a failed effort to buy the Buffalo Bills of the National Football League in 2014, according to a person briefed on the subpoenas.

The inquiry opens a new front in the scrutiny of Deutsche Bank, one of the few lenders willing to do business with Donald J. Trump in recent years. The bank is already the subject of two congressional investigations and was examined last year by New York banking regulators, who took no action.

The new inquiry, by the office of the attorney general, Letitia James, was prompted by the congressional testimony last month of Michael D. Cohen, President Trump’s former lawyer and fixer, the person briefed on the subpoenas said. Mr. Cohen testified under oath that Mr. Trump had inflated his assets in financial statements, and Mr. Cohen provided copies of statements he said had been submitted to Deutsche Bank.

The request to Deutsche Bank sought loan applications, mortgages, lines of credit and other financing transactions in connection with the Trump International Hotel in Washington; the Trump National Doral outside Miami; and the Trump International Hotel and Tower in Chicago, the person said.

Investigators also requested records connected to an unsuccessful effort to buy the Bills, the person said. Mr. Trump gave Deutsche Bank bare-bones personal financial statements in 2014 when he planned to make a bid for the team, The New York Times has reported. The deal fell through when the team was sold to a rival bidder for $1.4 billion.

Mr. Trump worked with a small United States-based unit of Deutsche Bank that serves ultra-wealthy people. The unit lent Mr. Trump more than $100 million in 2012 to pay for the Doral golf resort and $170 million in 2015 to transform the Old Post Office Building in Washington into a luxury hotel.

New Jersey-based Investors Bank was subpoenaed for records relating to Trump Park Avenue, a project it had backed.

Deutsche Bank and Unidicted Co-conspirator Bottomless Pinocchio are both agents in a Russian money laundering scheme. The beauty part is it’s undeniable because it’s all on paper (“Is this your signature?” Turn and flourish the copy to the Jury. “I have no further questions for this witness your honor.”). And Mueller has had it for months.

Yeah, yeah, independent discovery my ass. Unidicted Co-conspirator Bottomless Pinocchio going down.

Put that in your pipe and smoke it Nancy.

Cartnoon

Wherein we argue Star Trek movie trivial.

Mr. McLuhan

Beyond A Reasonable Doubt

Yeah, white guy justice. So not parallel to anything that happened recently to someone who wears Ostrich Leather suits.

I never include politics in my Cartnoons. All about the yuks.

The Breakfast Club (Ladders)

Welcome to The Breakfast Club! We’re a disorganized group of rebel lefties who hang out and chat if and when we’re not too hungover we’ve been bailed out we’re not too exhausted from last night’s (CENSORED) the caffeine kicks in. Join us every weekday morning at 9am (ET) and weekend morning at 10:00am (ET) (or whenever we get around to it) to talk about current news and our boring lives and to make fun of LaEscapee! If we are ever running late, it’s PhilJD’s fault.

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This Day in History

Uncle Sam cartoon debuts; Law prohibiting teaching evolution goes into effect; Deadly rampage at Scottish elementary school; Brigadoon opens on Broadway.

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Breakfast Tunes

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Something to Think about over Coffee Prozac

Courage is the ladder on which all the other virtues mount.

Clare Boothe Luce

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Making Progress

Well, of a sort.

Theresa May has once again been shot down by Parliament over Brexit, this time by a mere 149 votes instead of 230, so, umm… better?

MPs ignore May’s pleas and defeat her Brexit deal by 149 votes
by Heather Stewart, The Guardian
Tue 12 Mar 2019

Theresa May has suffered a second humiliating defeat on her Brexit deal, as MPs rejected the last-minute reassurances she won from the EU27 on Monday and voted it down by a crushing majority of 149.

With just 17 days to go until the UK is due to leave the EU, MPs ignored the prime minister’s pleas to “get the deal done”, after the Democratic Unionist party (DUP) said it could not support the agreement.

The prime minister immediately gave a statement, saying she was “profoundly disappointed” that her deal had been rejected again.

She said the government would table a motion, so that MPs can debate on Wednesday whether the UK should leave the EU without a deal on 29 March, and that she would offer her MPs a free vote on that decision.

There will then be another vote on Thursday, on whether to request an extension to article 50.

But May insisted: “Voting against leaving without a deal, and for an extension, does not solve the problems we face. The EU will want to know what use we want to make of that extension. The house will have to answer that question.”

With her voice cracked and fading, the prime minister had earlier pleaded with the House of Commons: “This is the moment and this is the time – time for us to come together, back this motion and get the deal done. Because only then can we can get on with what we need to do, what we were sent here to do.”

Some Conservatives who rejected the deal in January, when May lost by a record majority of 230, did switch sides; many feared Brexit would be delayed or reversed if they didn’t support the agreement.

But most Labour MPs trooped through the voting lobbies with the DUP, the pro-Brexit European Research Group (ERG), and remain-supporting Tories, to sink the deal.

Jeremy Corbyn said Labour would now press for a softer Brexit. “I believe there is a majority in this house for the sort of sensible, credible and negotiable deal that Labour has set out. I look forward to parliament taking back control so that we can succeed where this government has so blatantly failed,” he said.

Earlier, the attorney general, Geoffrey Cox, had called on his colleagues to treat the vote as a “political judgment”, after his much-anticipated legal advice offered little comfort to those concerned about the backstop.

In his statement, he suggested the changes reduced the risk of the UK being trapped indefinitely in the Northern Ireland backstop – but did not eliminate it.

Cox’s verdict was echoed in a statement published by a self-styled “star chamber” of leave-supporting lawyers, assembled by the ERG and including the DUP’s Nigel Dodds and the former Brexit secretary Dominic Raab.

They said the changes offered only “faint and remote prospects of escaping” from the backstop, and “do not materially change the position the UK would find itself in if it were to ratify the withdrawal agreement”.

Britain really needs to dump May, now, in almost the same way we need to dump our Unidicted Co-conspirator Bottomless Pinocchio. Her leadership and policies have demonstrably failed. This is supposed to be easier in a Parliamentary system yet she keeps hanging on because Tories are wary of the verdict of the voters and are seeking to delay it any way possible.

Throw the bums out. All of them.

Merc With A Mouth

Readers of my regular ruminations on Hessians perhaps think me ill disposed to those who foster and profit from Wars as professional murderers.

Mea culpa.

And there is no doubt Erik Prince falls in that category, death and destruction for a profit is what he sells and he is still trying to get Unidicted Co-conspirator Bottomless Pinocchio to privatize our misguided involvement in the Middle East for his financial benefit.

He has an inside track, he was an early and strong supporter of Unidicted Co-conspirator Bottomless Pinocchio and his sister, Betsy DeVos, currently serves as Education Secretary. They both subscribe to a particularly virulent and apocalyptic Evangelical Christianity that is far too common in Michigan which is one reason I’m eternally grateful to Richard and Emily for migrating East to saner climes. Don’t get me wrong, parts of the Mitten State are quite beautiful and provided you stay away from Religion and Politics, and the pervasive Racism doesn’t make you gag, it’s perfectly possible to have a pleasant conversation sitting on the Davenport sipping some Pop, but don’t drink the water! Lead and other Industrial Waste, they just don’t care (the roads are kind of odd too, straight as an arrow and a harsh concrete that makes your car oscillate between a thump and a howl).

Did I mention I was born there? Makes me eligible for French citizenship.

Anyway, I hope we’re beyond the point where merely referring to Al Jezzera at all puts me on a ‘No Fly’ list (not that I want to- 737 Max anyone?) because they’re Qatari, who are supposed to be our Arab friends, based and funded and on certain subjects they’re fairly reliable (as you could say about Russia Today).

Still, I’ve shied from using them for years (YouTube even warns you) because of the stigma but sometimes they come up with a story too big to ignore.

Yeah, that’s the interview, all of it, officially.

Demolishing Erik Prince: One TV interview shows how to deal with Trump’s allies
by Bob Cesca, Salon
March 12, 2019

Erik Prince, the former Blackwater CEO, Trump lackey and brother of Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos, made the wonderful mistake of appearing on Hasan’s show. I’m sure he regrets the hell out of it now. Here’s why.

In little more than two minutes, (Mehdi) Hasan not only illustrated how the press should be confronting the Trump crime family, he also worked his way through Prince’s series of excuses, the likes of which the rest of us commonly refer to as “gaslighting,” the tactic most often employed by Trump and his loyalists to make us feel like up is down, black is white, and we’re losing our minds.

Every observable indicator proves their collective guilt, including and especially Trump’s tweets, yet these ghouls continuously deny it, using childishly flimsy “who me?” excuses that only serve to worsen the appearance of guilt. Again, they can’t keep getting away with it.

Hasan began by quizzing Prince about his November 2017 congressional testimony in which he denied having any contacts with the Trump campaign — no “official or unofficial” role in the Trump campaign save for posting some yard signs and writing “papers.”

It turns out, however, that among other behind-the-scenes schemes — including an alleged meeting in the Seychelles to establish back-channel communications with the Russians — Prince attended an August 2016 Trump Tower meeting in which reps from an Israeli firm, the Psy Group, briefed Prince, Donald Trump Jr., Stephen Miller and George Nader about using social media to manipulate voters.

Hasan asked Prince why he didn’t disclose that meeting in his congressional testimony. Prince replied point-blank, “I did.” Without flinching, Hasan directly quoted the transcript of Prince’s testimony in which Prince flat out said other than the usual yard-sign crap, no, he played no role in the campaign.

This is where the gaslighting gets brutally thick. Prince, apparently taken off guard by the questioning, grinned and said, “We were there to talk about Iran policy.” Hasan asked if perhaps he should have disclosed that to the House Intelligence Committee. Prince: “I did.” Hasan hit back: The testimony doesn’t show any mention of Iran. So Prince scrambled for another preposterous excuse, saying with a grin, “I don’t know if they got the transcript wrong.”

I don’t know if they got the transcript wrong. Seriously. We’re supposed to believe the then-Republican controlled House Intelligence Committee accidentally omitted some BS line about Iran? Sorry, no. Understandably, the “Head to Head” audience laughed out loud at this stupid, crap-on-a-stick excuse by a conspirator whose motives are clear and whose collusion has been independently verified by numerous publications (here, here and here, for example). I mean, Prince himself admitted to Hasan on video that the meeting was real. We know people from the Psy Group were there, too, and we know the purpose had nothing to do with Iran policy.

Erik Prince was entirely cornered. His only recourse should have been to simply confess: he attended the meeting and then lied about it to Devin Nunes’ committee. Instead, we got the flimsiest of all answers: The transcript is wrong. It’s not unlike the president’s and Don Jr.’s experimentation with the so-obviously-guilty-it’s-ludicrous idea of putting the investigators on trial. All told, these are alibis torn from the same playbook as the dog ate my homework.

As Deep Throat says in “All the President’s Men,” “These aren’t very bright guys and things got out of hand.” Because the Trump gang are all such obvious nincompoops, it ought to be easier for American journalists to corner the Trumps with the kind of laser-like focus Hasan deployed against Erik Prince. While it’s almost hilariously easy to ensnare them in their own lies, every single one of these entitled, privileged, wealthy white guys still believes he can, in fact, keep getting away with it.

It helps, too, when journalists like Maggie Haberman of the New York Times grant them completely undeserved benefit of the doubt or when jurists like Judge T.S. Ellis sentence them to a wrist-slap cushioned by a gushing series of compliments, in the face of the most corrupt campaign and administration in U.S. history.

They think they can get away with it because the press and most of the Republican Party has allowed them to — from day one. And while a majority of American voters believe Trump and his men are guilty, and while we’re always hearing about Robert Mueller’s Herculean prosecutorial chops while the Southern District of New York is supposedly gearing up to outflank the White House, I’m not convinced the currently unindicted conspirators will ever face the accountability they so thoroughly deserve.

Money, influence and a compliant press are formidable roadblocks in the pursuit of justice, but not if the diligence of law enforcement and the stonewall fortitude of journalists like Mehdi Hasan continue to establish a benchmark for challenging them. No, they can’t keep getting away with it, and here’s to the men and women of strong will and clear eyes who will make sure of it.

No Collusion Pelosi? No Impeachment?

They are convicted by their own public statements! Is Impeachment now reserved only for Consensual (with creepy power dynamics) Blow Jobs? Unidicted Co-conspirator Bottomless Pinocchio is unidicted for the crime of paying hush money to a Porn Star!

Cartnoon

I wish to assure you that Mr. Heidecker’s experience with our criminal justice system is not typical and bears no resemblance to reality.

Well, if you’re a Woman, Brown, or Poor.

Expert Character Assassins

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The Breakfast Club (Moderation)

Welcome to The Breakfast Club! We’re a disorganized group of rebel lefties who hang out and chat if and when we’re not too hungover we’ve been bailed out we’re not too exhausted from last night’s (CENSORED) the caffeine kicks in. Join us every weekday morning at 9am (ET) and weekend morning at 10:00am (ET) (or whenever we get around to it) to talk about current news and our boring lives and to make fun of LaEscapee! If we are ever running late, it’s PhilJD’s fault.

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This Day in History

Hitler takes Austria; FDR’s first fireside chat; Gacy convicted; Girl Scouts predecessor founded; Les Miserables opens.

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Something to Think about over Coffee Prozac

If moderation is a fault, then indifference is a crime.

Jack Kerouac

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