21 July 2018

Major Ownage

Michelle Wolf just cut ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement)a new asshole, and it is beautiful:

The Only Crime Is to Get Caught

A federal judge just unloaded a can of whup-ass on FBI agents for gross misconduct in obtaining warrants.

The misconduct is not a surprise. It is the nature of law enforcement to ignore the rules unless there is a real and immediate consequence for their misdeeds:
A federal judge in San Francisco recently excoriated the government over its improper methods in searching one suspect's cell phone and in the use of a stingray to find an alleged co-conspirator.

Prosecutors say the two men, Donnell Artis and Chanta Hopkins, were engaged in credit card fraud and also illegally possessed firearms, among other pending charges that also involve four other people. The crux of the issue is that, in April 2016, an FBI agent sought and obtained two warrants from an Alameda County Superior Court judge: one to search Artis' phone and another to deploy a stingray to locate Hopkins.


However, California law does not allow state judges to sign off on warrants for federal agents, something that this particular FBI agent, Stonie Carlson, apparently did not know.

"But the two warrants were plagued by numerous errors, reflecting a pattern of systematic recklessness by law enforcement that militates in favor of suppressing the evidence (and against applying the 'good-faith exception' to the exclusionary rule)," US District Judge Vince Chhabria wrote in a July 3 order. "This ruling is published separately to put the relevant actors in the criminal justice system on notice that California law prevents state judges from issuing search warrants to federal law enforcement officers, which means that federal law enforcement officers are not permitted to execute such warrants."


"The good-faith exception to the exclusionary rule does not apply in this case," Judge Chhabria wrote in the second July 3 order. "Perhaps any one of the above-referenced errors, viewed in isolation, could be excused under the good-faith exception. But the whole string of errors embodied in these warrant applications militates against applying the good-faith exception. Indeed, although the above-described errors are the most egregious ones, they are not the only instances of sloppy, inappropriate law enforcement work.
What the judge doesn't explicitly say, but which is strongly implied by the rest of the article, is that the FBI agents were lying through their teeth.

This is not a surprise.  The product that law enforcement produces is case clearances, and the downside of occasionally suppressed is not considered to be a major issue career-wise for those officers.

Short version:  Police lie and break the law because they are rewarded for lying and breaking the law.

Today is the Worst Day Ever

I don't mean this personally, but rather on a far broader level.

It's the 9th of Av (Tisha B'Av) on the Jewish calendar.

It's kind of the Spinal Tap drummer of Jewish history.

Here is a sample of its greatest "hits":
  • The report of the spies from Canaan, resulting in the people of Israel spending 40 Years in the Desert.
  • The destruction of the 1st Temple.
  • The destruction of the 2nd Temple.
  • The Romans razed Betar, killing 100,000 Jews.
  • The Romans plowed the temple mount.
  • The start of the 1st Crusade. (You see it as a coming together of Christendom. I see it as a pogrom with years of murder and rape.)
  • The expulsion of Jews from England.
  • The expulsion of Jews from France.
  • The expulsion of Jews from Spain.
  • Germany entered the WW I. (Can be legitimately claimed to have directly led to the Shoah)
  • Formal approval of the "Final Solution" by the Nazis in 1941.
  • Deportations to Treblinka from the Warsaw Ghetto begin in 1942.

20 July 2018

I had Forgotten How Good This Was

My daughter's rehearsal went long, so I watched the first episode of Kolchak: The Night Stalker on my phone in the parking lot. (She has a thing about us being in one of her plays, she is the stage manager, when the rehearsal is going. She also has a problem with people saying the name of the Scottish Play. Whatever.)

Nowadays, it's primarily remembered as being the inspiration for shows like The X-Files, but it was very well done television.

I remembered enjoying it as a kid, but it's a lot more sophisticated and polished than I noticed back then.

Darren McGavin was engaging, the relationship between him and Simon Oakland, who played his ever-annoyed editor Tony Vincenzo showed a lot more depth than I recalled. (you get a sense of mutual the respect that they have for each other)

The supporting actors Jack Grinnage, as Kolchak's uptight and barely competent cow-orker Ron Updyke, and the guest appearance of Beatrice Colen as the gore and food obsessed competitor Jane Plumm was spot on. (I did not like all the fat jokes about her: It was the one thing that rankles now.)

The action sequences/SFX are amazing in that there really are no special effects, the show was done on a shoe string, but, because of good directing and camera work, you really don't notice this.

Through inspired use of camera angles, light, and darkness, you believe that there is a superhuman maniac tossing policemen around like they were puppies.

I would also note that its representation of reporting has shaped my view of the trade.  It was an entertaining depiction of old fashioned  shoe leather journalism.

This show is one reason why I tend to disdain the sort of access journalism favored these days.

The following video is the "Ripper", the first episode of the series: (run time 51:44)

How Convenient

In response to revelations that the NRA has been laundering foreign money for political lobbying, Trump's Treasury Secretary has eliminated donor disclosure requirements:
The U.S. Treasury said on Monday that it will no longer require certain tax-exempt organizations including politically active nonprofit groups, such as the National Rifle Association and Planned Parenthood, to identify their financial donors to U.S. tax authorities.

The policy change, heralded by conservatives as an advance for free speech, maintains donor disclosure requirements for traditional charity groups organized to receive tax-exempt donations under a section of the Internal Revenue code known as 501(c)(3), the Treasury said.

But the move frees labor unions, issue advocacy organizations, veterans groups and other nonprofits that do not receive tax-exempt money from meeting confidential disclosure requirements set in place decades ago.
Well, we already know that they are trying to hide.

Another Brick in the Wall

And another government has said that Uber drivers are employees, at least fore the purposes of unemployment insurance:

In what worker advocates are calling a substantial victory that could impact Uber drivers statewide, the New York State labor review board has made a final determination that three former Uber drivers were Uber employees for the purposes of unemployment insurance.

The finding applies to the drivers in question, as well as all "similarly situated" drivers.

The issue of unemployment insurance, while seemingly arcane, underscores a pivotal question for the global gig economy: Are the people driving for Uber or delivering coffee for Postmates independent contractors or are they employees with benefits like unemployment insurance?

New York state now appears closer to having an official position, one that Uber fought hard to forestall. The company has exhausted all options for challenging that decision within the confines of the labor department.

“We won and they lost,” said New York Taxi Workers Alliance Executive Director Bhairavi Desai, in an interview on Wednesday.
They are in a no win situation here:  Either they play this like the old Uber, or the the possibility of profit becomes even more ephemeral.

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.