20 July 2018

Missing the Bigger Picture

The Baddies Do Love Their iPhones
For all the allegations of treason swirling around Donald Trump, people are something right in front of their face, that Trump, and the Trump companies, have been laundering money from the Russian mob for at least a decade.

It's why they are now paying cash for projects.

Case in point, a Russian Pimp running a prostitution ring from a Trump property:
At first blush, it just looks like the bust of another Russian human trafficking operation, run by a husband-and-wife team with two kids and a pricey Miami condo.

And then you look a little closer and it's a Manhattan Russian criminal enterprise run remotely from Trump Tower III in Miami.

The husband and wife team, Yevgen Rizanov and Ksenia Khodukina, both 29, flew women from Russia to New York as part of a “sophisticated long-term operation promoting prostitution,” according to New York Assistant District Attorney James Lynch.


I'm sure the link to Trump properties is just a coincidence, too, though. Right? It's not like a lot of Russian criminal enterprises run out of Trump properties, right?

Wrong. FT reports:

An alleged Kazakh money-laundering network channelled millions through apartment sales at the Trump SoHo; a Russian oligarch bought a Palm Beach estate from Trump in 2008 for $95m, more than double what Trump had paid for it four years earlier; in Florida, 63 Russians, some with political connections, spent $100m buying property at seven Trump-branded luxury towers, Reuters established. The money was not exclusively from the former Soviet Union: at the Trump Panama, some of it allegedly belonged to Latin American drug traffickers.
 Seriously, how did the august representatives of 4th estate miss this?

This man has been mobbed up as f%$# for decades.

Quote of the Day

Political memories are short, but just 15 years after Iraq was destroyed and the chain reaction sent most of the Arab world back to the dark ages, it is now “treason” to question the word of the Western intelligence agencies, which deliberately and knowingly produced a fabric of lies on Iraqi WMD to justify that destruction. 
It would be more rational for it to be treason for leaders to blindly accept the word of the intelligence services.
Craig Murray
The validity or argument from authority is highly suspect, particularly when addressing problems, since, if the authorities knew their sh%$, we would not have a problem.


Russia's Plot to Make America Racist. Takes on the current hysteria and Ken Burns documentaries:

19 July 2018

Too Corrupt for Ajit Pai. I Did Not Know That It Was Possible.

It appears that in attempting to get approval with Tribune Media, Sinclair Broadcasting flat out lied, and then they got caught:

The Federal Communications Commission has voted unanimously against approving Sinclair Broadcast Group's acquisition of Tribune Media Company, likely dooming the merger.

Technically, the commission adopted a Hearing Designation Order that refers the merger to an administrative law judge. Mergers usually don't survive that legal process. Besides referring the merger to a judge, the FCC's other options included denying the merger outright, approving the merger, or approving it with conditions. The unanimous vote to refer the merger to a judge was finalized on Wednesday evening.

Sinclair's problems stem from its plan to divest some stations in order to stay under station ownership limits. FCC Chairman Ajit Pai proposed the designation order on Monday, saying that Sinclair's proposal to divest certain stations "would allow Sinclair to control those stations in practice, even if not in name, in violation of the law."


After Pai's announcement, Sinclair said it would revise its station divestiture plan in an attempt to avoid the referral to a judge. But the FCC was not swayed.


UPDATE: The FCC has released the full order. Here's one of the key parts:

Among these applications were three that, rather than transfer broadcast television licenses in Chicago, Dallas, and Houston directly to Sinclair, proposed to transfer these licenses to other entities. The record raises significant questions as to whether those proposed divestitures were in fact "sham" transactions. By way of example, one application proposed to transfer WGN-TV in Chicago to an individual (Steven Fader) with no prior experience in broadcasting who currently serves as CEO of a company in which Sinclair's executive chairman has a controlling interest. Moreover, Sinclair would have owned most of WGN-TV's assets, and pursuant to a number of agreements, would have been responsible for many aspects of the station's operation. Finally, Fader would have purchased WGN-TV at a price that appeared to be significantly below market value, and Sinclair would have had an option to buy back the station in the future. Such facts raise questions about whether Sinclair was the real party in interest under Commission rules and precedents and attempted to skirt the Commission's broadcast ownership rules. Although these three applications were withdrawn today, material questions remain because the real party-in-interest issue in this case includes a potential element of misrepresentation or lack of candor that may suggest granting other, related applications by the same party would not be in the public interest.
I believe that the phrase, "Screwed the pooch," applies here.

This is so bad that not even Pai can stay bought.

Jeff Bezos: Fire Fred Hiatt

I get that Hiatt has a fetish for putting lying right wingers on the WaPo OP/Ed pages, but we have an explicit call for ethnic cleansing that he just published.

I won't link directly to the article, but you can read analysis here and here.

I will make some notes as to why this is a firing offense.

First, he let the following quote through:
Second, it specifies two criteria for American citizenship: birth or naturalization (i.e., lawful immigration), and being subject to U.S. jurisdiction. We know what the framers of the amendment meant by the latter because they told us. Sen. Lyman Trumbull of Illinois, a principal figure in drafting the amendment, defined “subject to the jurisdiction” as “not owing allegiance to anybody else,” that is, to no other country or tribe. Sen. Jacob Howard of Michigan, a sponsor of the clause, further clarified that the amendment explicitly excludes from citizenship “persons born in the United States who are foreigners, aliens, [or] who belong to the families of ambassadors or foreign ministers.”
Trumbull never said "or", hence the brackets.

By adding the [or] he reverses the meaning of the quote.

In fact, Trumbull explicitly said during the debates on the amendment that the children "Chinese and Gypsies" would "undoubtedly" be citizens, which was tremendously inflammatory at the time.

That's not the reason that Hiatt should be fired though.

Not fact checking the drivel that appears in his section appears to be one of his primary responsibilities, and if it isn't, it clearly is his trademark.

What he should be fired for is letting this to hit the pages of his paper:
It is no wonder that citizens of other countries take advantage of our foolishness. Life is still better here than almost anywhere else, including rising China and relatively prosperous Mexico. The wonder is that we Americans continue to allow our laws to be flouted and our citizenship debased
This is an explicitly racist call to ethnic cleansing, and it crosses a line that never should be crossed. Ever.

Fire him.

Fire him now.

Wake Me up When You Have a Light Saber

No cooling ports either
China is now claiming that they have developed a high power laser weapon with the weight of an assault rifle:
The ZKZM-500 laser assault rifle is classified as being “non-lethal” but produces an energy beam that cannot be seen by the naked eye but can pass through windows and cause the “instant carbonisation” of human skin and tissues.

Ten years ago its capabilities would have been the preserve of sci-fi films, but one laser weapons scientist said the new device is able to “burn through clothes in a split second … If the fabric is flammable, the whole person will be set on fire”.

“The pain will be beyond endurance,” according to the researcher who had took part in the development and field testing of a prototype at the Xian Institute of Optics and Precision Mechanics at the Chinese Academy of Sciences in Shaanxi province.

The 15mm calibre weapon weighs three kilos (6.6lb), about the same as an AK-47, and has a range of 800 metres, or half a mile, and could be mounted on cars, boats and planes.

Particularly this bit:
The rifles will be powered by a rechargeable lithium battery pack similar to those found in smartphones. It can fire more than 1,000 “shots”, each lasting no more than two seconds.
Some data points:
  • The power level of the laser has to be on the order of least a kilowatt, and probably more than 10.
  • Energy from the laser ignoring any losses would therefore be at least 2,000,000 joules, and probably 10 times that.
  • The maximum power density of a LiIon battery is currently less than 1 MJ/kg, so the battery pack would need to weigh, again Before Any Losses of at least 2 kilograms, and for a more realistic power level, we would likely be talking 10 times this.  Also note that maximum power and maximum energy in a battery are more or less inversely related, so you at well under the 1 MJ/kg figure.
  • The current limits on laser efficiency, diode lasers, less than 70%. 
  • The efficiency of the battery on discharge is likely to be less than 90%, but lets call it 95%.
  • The losses incurred will mean that you will need an active cooling system, which will consume a significant amount of power.
So, if we run the numbers, the minimum power from the battery is on the order of 2 MJ/70%/95%= 3MJ, which means that the battery pack comprises the complete weight of the weapon.

And also note the cooling requirements here, which will, at best, make a leaf blower quiet in comparison.

I'm calling bullsh%$.

Tweet of the Day

Not anything that I can add to that.

18 July 2018

Tweet of the Day

What she said.

Well, This is Reasurring

Even with the US Supreme Court doing its level best to make corruption prosecutions impossible, former New York Senate Dean Skelos, Former Senate Majority Leader, has been convicted as corruption:
Dean G. Skelos, once one of the most powerful figures in New York State politics, was found guilty of bribery, extortion and conspiracy on Tuesday, the latest in a drumbeat of corruption convictions to roil Albany in a heated election year.

The verdict itself was not necessarily a surprise, as a different jury had found Mr. Skelos, the former leader of the State Senate, and his son guilty on the same charges in 2015 before the convictions were overturned. But its timing — on the heels of three other successful Albany-focused prosecutions this year, including one last week in the courtroom next door — fed the perception that the culture of ethical neglect in the state capital had reached its nadir.
The conviction was overturned because of the SCOTUS ruling on former Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell, where they basically said that the payoffs had to be mind-bogglingly explicit.

Fortunately for prosecutors, Skelos was very explicit.

The jury in Federal District Court in Manhattan deliberated for three days before finding Mr. Skelos and his son, Adam, guilty on all eight counts. Prosecutors said the older Mr. Skelos, the former leader of the Senate’s Republican majority, had wielded his political clout to pressure business executives to send his son about $300,000 for a patchwork of no-show or low-show jobs.

Forgot to mention, the New York State Assembly Speaker was convicted on retrial as well:
Instead, jurors may have been swayed by prosecutors’ descriptions of Mr. Skelos’s nearly unparalleled influence as one of Albany’s “three men in a room,” who, along with Mr. Cuomo and the former Assembly speaker, Sheldon Silver — who was himself convicted in a retrial in May — controlled lucrative state contracts and hobnobbed regularly with lobbyists and millionaire donors.

I would note that while Cuomo has not been caught up with this, some of his closest aides have been:
Mr. Cuomo was not connected to any evidence in the trials of Mr. Skelos and Mr. Silver. Nor was the governor accused of wrongdoing in either of the two other major corruption trials this year, even though they led to the convictions of Joseph Percoco, once one of Mr. Cuomo’s top aides, and Alain Kaloyeros, Mr. Cuomo’s former economic point person.
I don't think that this will swing the primary to Cynthia Nixon, but I do think that this makes a run for the Presidential nomination in 2020 far less likely, which is a good thing.

Have a Nice Cup of Shut the Fuck Up, Joe Lieberman

You may notice that, apart from quoting Joe Biden, and embedding Tweets, I typically obscure profanities (%$#).

However, I make an exception for that Joe Lieberman, who took to the pages of (where else) the Wall Street Journal to exhort Bronx voters to vote for Joe Crowley on the 3rd part ballot slot so that Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez does not become a member of Congress.

Joe Lieberman has been actively sabotaging the Democratic Party ever since they declined to nominate him for President in 2004.

The smarm, the hypocrisy, and the narcissism are so typically Joe Lieberman.

While you are thinking deeply Mr. Lieberman, please do me a favor:  Eat shit and die.

17 July 2018

When the NYPD Says Hurry Up and Investigate Its Officers ………

It appears that Jefferson Beauregard Sessions' Department of Justice has been so egregious in dragging its feet in their investigation of the Eric Garner death that they are threatening to initiate disciplinary hearings against the officers involved:
The New York Police Department, impatient at the slow pace of the federal government’s civil rights investigation into the death of Eric Garner in July 2014, told the Justice Department on Monday that it would soon start disciplinary proceedings against the officers involved in the killing in the absence of federal action.

The Police Department, acting one day before the fourth anniversary of Mr. Garner’s death on Staten Island, said it would no longer hold off on disciplinary proceedings if the Justice Department had not announced by Aug. 31 whether it will file criminal charges.

“Understandably, members of the public in general and the Garner family in particular have grown impatient with the fact that N.Y.P.D. has not proceeded with our disciplinary proceedings and they have difficulty comprehending a decision to defer to a federal criminal investigation that seems to have no end in sight,” Lawrence Byrne, the department’s deputy commissioner for legal matters, said in a letter to the Justice Department on Monday.
Seriously, the DoJ is trying really hard not to do their job.

Not Surprised

It appears that Uber has systematically structured its pay system to underpay women:
Uber Technologies Inc. is being investigated by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission after a complaint about gender inequity, according to people familiar with the matter.

The inquiry, one of a series of federal probes of the ride-hailing giant, began last August and hasn’t been previously reported. EEOC investigators have been interviewing former and current Uber employees, as well as seeking documents from Uber officials, the people said. They are seeking information related to Uber’s hiring practices, pay disparity and other matters as they relate to gender, one person said.


Uber has struggled to overcome a reputation for being permissive of chauvinism that was largely sparked by former software engineer Susan Fowler’s viral blog post in early 2017.


Last week, Uber pushed out its human-resources chief, Liane Hornsey, following an internal probe of her department’s handling of racial discrimination claims. And Uber Chief Operating Officer Barney Harford, hired by Mr. Khosrowshahi from their former employer Expedia Group Inc., last week sent employees a letter of contrition after internal complaints that remarks he made were racially insensitive. The New York Times earlier reported on Mr. Harford. 
Uber abides.

The First Pebble. Hopefully a Prelude to an Avalanche

The first House Republican has has agreed to sign a discharge petition to overturn the repeal of net neutrality:
A bill that would reinstate the Federal Communications Commission's net neutrality rules has won its first House GOP supporter — who is also one of the most vulnerable Republicans in this fall's midterms.

Rep. Mike Coffman (R-Colo.) announced on Tuesday that he would be signing a discharge petition to bring the Congressional Review Act (CRA) bill up for a floor vote. He also revealed his own bill to codify the principles of net neutrality into law.
He is in a highly competitive district, and he is not alone, and even a majority of rank and file Republicans support net neutrality, because everyone hates their cable company.

I'll start feeling hopeful when the 3rd Republican signs the discharge petition.

About That "Gerasimov Doctrine"

The academic who created the idea of the "Gerasimov Doctrine", which was alleged a Russian blueprint for social warfare through chaos, has has completely disavowed his analysis.

It turns out Mark Galeotti, who created the concept on his a blog as a sort of throw away on his blog,* realized on further analysis that General Valery Vasilyevich Gerasimov was not writing about Russian strategies.

The general was writing about what he saw as a deliberate US strategy which had been promulgated through various color revolutions and the Arab spring, and was discussing how to combat this:
Everywhere, you’ll find scholars, pundits, and policymakers talking about the threat the “Gerasimov doctrine” — named after Russia’s chief of the general staff — poses to the West. It’s a new way of war, “an expanded theory of modern warfare,” or even “a vision of total warfare.”

There’s one small problem. It doesn’t exist. And the longer we pretend it does, the longer we misunderstand the — real, but different — challenge Russia poses.

I feel I can say that because, to my immense chagrin, I created this term, which has since acquired a destructive life of its own, lumbering clumsily into the world to spread fear and loathing in its wake. Back in February 2013, the Russian newspaper Military-Industrial Courier — as exciting and widely read as it sounds — reprinted a speech by Gen. Valery Gerasimov. It talks of how in the modern world, the use of propaganda and subversion means that “a perfectly thriving state can, in a matter of months and even days, be transformed into an arena of fierce armed conflict, become a victim of foreign intervention, and sink into a web of chaos, humanitarian catastrophe, and civil war.”


A blog is as much as anything else a vanity site; obviously I want people to read it. So for a snappy title, I coined the term “Gerasimov doctrine,” though even then I noted in the text that this term was nothing more than “a placeholder,” and “it certainly isn’t a doctrine.” I didn’t think people would genuinely believe either that he came up with it (Gerasimov is a tough and effective chief of the general staff, but no theoretician), less yet than it was a “programmatic” blueprint for war on the West.


The problems with this formulation are numerous, though. Gerasimov was actually talking about how the Kremlin understands what happened in the “Arab Spring” uprisings, the “color revolutions” against pro-Moscow regimes in Russia’s neighborhood, and in due course Ukraine’s “Maidan” revolt. The Russians honestly — however wrongly — believe that these were not genuine protests against brutal and corrupt governments, but regime changes orchestrated in Washington, or rather, Langley. This wasn’t a “doctrine” as the Russians understand it, for future adventures abroad: Gerasimov was trying to work out how to fight, not promote, such uprisings at home.
So basically, we are accusing the Russians of doing what the Russians are accusing us of doing.

*Note to self, people actually read this stuff. Plan accordingly.

Clueless, Rich, and Narcissistic

I am referring to Elon Musk, who met with workers and said that he, "Would Allow" them to unionize if he did not personally resolve their issues.

Mr. Musk, you are not the person who makes that decision. Your workers make that decision, period, full stop.

That's how the system works, no matter how much you want to "disrupt" it.

What's more, you are not allowed to threaten loss of benefits to employees if they choose to unionize:
In a June 2017 meeting with Tesla employees, CEO Elon Musk solicited their complaints about safety issues and promised to address their concerns, so long as they refrained from trying to organize a union, the National Labor Relations Board alleges.

The new claims emerged last month as a trial got underway over a complaint filed against Tesla by the NLRB, a government agency tasked with enforcing U.S. labor laws.

During the June 7, 2017, meeting, Musk allegedly solicited employees complaints about safety issues, and “impliedly promised to remedy their safety complaints if they refrained from their union organizational activity,” the NLRB said.


Musk has made his disdain toward the United Auto Workers’ two-year union campaign at Fremont well known, but publicly he’s even gone so far as to call for workers to hold a unionization vote. The NLRB’s latest allegation appears to be the first documented claim of the CEO directly appealing to workers to refrain from organizing activity.  


In its filing, the agency said Musk’s statements violated sections 8(a)(1) of the National Labor Relations Act, which says “It shall be an unfair labor practice for an employer to interfere with, restrain, or coerce employees in the exercise of the rights guaranteed” to organize a union.

“For example, employers may not respond to a union organizing drive by threatening, interrogating, or spying on pro-union employees, or by promising benefits if they forget about the union,” according to the NLRB’s website.
And, BTW, he also tweeted that if they voted to unionize, that the would lose their stock options, which is a violation of black letter labor law.

But he's a Silicon Valley big wig, and laws are for little people.

Here is hoping that the judge will disabuse him of this notion.