07 October 2015

Quote of the Day

I didn't get into Parliament to be a bit of f%$#ing arm candy'
—An unnamed Tory woman Member of Parliament, who was upset at being required to walk next to Prime Minister Cameron at the Conservative Party conference
Here's the deal.

If you join a party of Neanderthals, you will be dealing with Neanderthals with Neanderthal attitudes.

I would think that this should be self-evident:
Some female Tory MPs are apparently outraged at being lined up as 'arm candy' to walk alongside Prime Minister David Cameron at this year's party conference.

According to The Spectator, there are a number of new female MPs who have been told to stand and walk alongside the Prime Minister as he makes his way between events at this year's Tory conference in Manchester.

Some of the women are said to be unhappy with the arrangement, which is said to have become apparent when the special rota on who will accompany Mr Cameron on his visits was published among the team.

According to the publication, one source even claimed: 'I didn't get into Parliament to be a bit of f***ing arm candy'.

Gawdammit, Florida!

I am a firm believer in the principle that there should never be any sort of religious requirement for holding any position of public trust.

Still, when I heard about candidate for US Senate who admits to having sacrificed a goat and drinking its blood, I shake my head, and say, "Only in Florida".
A lawyer who is standing for the US Senate in Florida has admitted killing a goat and drinking its blood as part of a sacrifice "to the god of the wilderness".

Augustus Sol Invictus, who changed his name to the Latin phrase which means "majestic unconquered sun", has accused critics of running a smear campaign against him.

The 32-year-old is a member of the Libertarian Party in Florida and said he carried out the sacrifice as part of a pagan ritual.

He said: "I did sacrifice a goat. I know that's probably a quibble in the mind of most Americans.

"I sacrificed an animal to the god of the wilderness ... yes, I drank the goat's blood."

Mr Invictus was responding after the chairman of the Libertarian Party of Florida, Adrian Wyllie, resigned, calling on party leaders to denounce his candidacy.
Florida, Whiskey Tango Foxtrot?

I'm waiting for them to elect Marilyn Manson governor.

He Has to Be the Most Evil Ratf%$# in Business Today

Remember Martin Shkreli?

He's the contemptible greedhead who raised the price of Daraprim by 5500% when he got the rights to it.

After a storm of public outrage, he agreed to roll back the price to an unspecified degree.

Guess which drug has not come down a penny in price:
It's been two weeks since Turing CEO Martin Shkreli announced he would scale back the price of his drug, and so far nothing has really changed.

The biotech leader came under fire last month for his 5,000% price hike of Daraprim, a drug that fights parasitic infections.

The drug, which rose from $13.50 to $750 seemingly overnight, left the biotech and pharmaceutical industries reeling, with corporations such as Valeant facing a lot of criticism for their similar price-hike moves.

In September, he told ABC News, “We’ve agreed to lower the price of Daraprim to a point that is more affordable and is able to allow the company to make a profit, but a very small profit."

That hasn't happened yet. A 30-day, 30-pill supply of Daraprim would cost me $27,006 at my local pharmacy.

That boils down to about $900 a pill, which includes the wholesale cost, along with specific pharmacy fees based on the zip code I gave the pharmacy.

So while the price of the drug hasn't gotten any higher since Shkreli hiked it 5,000%, it hasn't gotten any lower since he promised to reduce it either. Turing did not respond to Business Insider's request for clarification about this price.
(emphasis original)

This ain't business, this is terrorism.

Perhaps the President should consider a drone strike.

Bobby Jindal: That guy's brain is a bag full of cats. You can smell crazy on him.

It does seem to be the day for rmorally bankrupt and batsh%$ insane tripe to pour our of the mouth of Republican candidates today.

In this case, the always reprehensible Piyush "Bobby" Jindal, who takes victim blaming to grieving parent who has tried to make sense of the evil that his child committed:
If, after last week's shooting at Umpqua Community College in Roseburg, Oregon, you held the gunman responsible, Bobby Jindal thinks you've missed the mark.

On Tuesday afternoon, Gov. Jindal published a self-described "sermon" on his campaign website, addressing what he believes are the root causes of mass shootings. These causes include, but are not limited to, "cultural decay," violent video games, absent fathers, and the general devaluing of human life.

"It's the old computer axiom—garbage in, garbage out," Jindal wrote. "We fill our culture with garbage, and we reap the result."

Jindal also lashed out at the shooter's father, who has called for gun control in the wake of his son's rampage. "He's a complete failure as a father, he should be embarrassed to even show his face in public," Jindal wrote. "He's the problem here.
This is remarkably awful, even to the degree that ammosexuals blame the victims (as in the Newtown Massacre), this is repulsive, evil, and delusional to a degree that puts the rest of the Republican Presidential field to shame.

Seriously?!?!?! "Go to the Next One" Whiskey Tango Foxtrot

Presidential Candidate, Neurosurgeon, and poster child for the batsh%$ insane Ben Carson has eschewed visiting the victims and the families of the victims of the Umpqua Community College shooting.

He basically said that he was too busy running for President.

I can understand how he's being honest, but then he says that he, "Would Go to the Next One."

So he's maintaining that there is no problem with easy access to firearms, and that his way of dealing with the (literally) daily mass shooting is that he, "Would go to the next one."

Then Fox’s Brian Kilmeade asked if, like Obama, Carson would would still travel to visit victims’ families despite some residents protests of grandstanding, to which Carson replied all too casually:
Probably not. I mean, I would probably have so many things on my agenda that I would go to the next one.
So Carson doesn’t have faith in any sort of regulation to stop the massacres that that have become all too routine in this country, nor does he apparently believe that anything can stop them ever.
Did this guy somehow acquire Mad Cow Disease?


Because of the enormous commercial possibilities should he succeed:

06 October 2015

Good News

Of course, if Europeans on the the TTIP trade deal, then the privacy ruling of the European High Court would go away:
Europe's top court, the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU), has struck down the 15-year-old Safe Harbour agreement that allowed the free flow of information between the US and EU. The most significant repercussion of this ruling is that American companies, such as Facebook, Google, and Twitter, may not be allowed to send user data from Europe back to the US.

It's important to note that the CJEU's ruling (PDF) will not immediately prevent US companies from sending data back to the motherland. Rather, the courts in each EU member state can now rule that the Safe Harbour agreement is illegal in their country. It is is very unlikely, however, that a national court would countermand the CJEU's ruling in this case.

The case was originally sent to the CJEU by the High Court of Ireland, after the Irish data protection authority rejected a complaint from Maximillian Schrems, an Austrian citizen. He had argued that in light of Snowden's revelations about the NSA, the data he provided to Facebook that was transferred from the company's Irish subsidiary to the US under the Safe Harbour scheme was not, in fact, safely harboured. Advocate General Yves Bot of the CJEU agreed with Schrems that the EU-US Safe Harbour system did not meet the requirements of the Data Protection Directive, because of NSA access to EU personal data.

According to an earlier CJEU statement (PDF), "the access enjoyed by the United States intelligence services to the transferred data constitutes an interference with the right to respect for private life and the right to protection of personal data, which are guaranteed by the [Charter of Fundamental Rights of the EU]." Another issue, according to the Advocate General, was "the inability of citizens of the EU to be heard on the question of the surveillance and interception of their data in the United States," which therefore amounts to "an interference with the right of EU citizens to an effective remedy, protected by the Charter."

Because the CJEU was ruling on an issue in Ireland, the Irish court is expected to make its own judgement shortly. It is likely that the Irish court will side with the CJEU. When that happens, one of two things will need to happen: Facebook, and many other US companies with Irish subsidiaries, will need to keep European data within the EU; or the US will need to provide real privacy protection for EU data when it flows back to the US. As the latter is unlikely due to pressure from the NSA and other intelligence agencies, we suspect most US companies will opt for the former.
If the TTIP, the trans-Atlantic version of the TPP, is adopted, all of these protections go away, because profits trump people under these deals.


It appears that the Russian military deployment to Syria has put the kibosh on plans for establishing a no fly zone in Syria.

Considering what "No Fly Zones" are these days, the military overthrow of a sovereign nation, (see Libya) this is a good thing:
Russia’s bombing of anti-regime rebels in Syria has been described as a disaster for the US-led coalition’s efforts to destroy Isis, the Islamist militant group, but the Kremlin’s real challenge to Washington is in the skies above the war-torn country.

Alongside a modest Latakia-based contingent of two dozen Su-24 Fencer and Su-25 Frogfoot jets — planes designed to strike land targets — Moscow has deployed assets which render the prospect of no-fly zones enforced by the US or its allies over Syria impossible to enact.

Just weeks ago, after months of diplomacy, officials were close to an agreement on enforcing aerial safe-zones to end the Assad regime’s bombing of civilians in northern and southern Syria, according to diplomats and military officials in the US-led coalition. The agreement was based on Jordanian and Turkish plans presented earlier this year.


“The ultimate reason all this is happening is because of the renewed focus on Syria and the need for some sort of political solution there — something which we thought we could achieve by enforcing no-fly zones, safe zones,” said one senior European diplomat.

But any hopes of military co-ordination with Russia to achieve this, even in the wake of its disruptive deployment, are swiftly being dashed.

Nato’s supreme military commander in Europe, US General Phillip Breedlove warned last week that the alliance was “worried about another A2/AD bubble being created in the eastern Mediterranean.” A2/AD stands for anti-access, area denial.

Gen Breedlove’s fears have been realised in the past days as Russia’s small deployment of four Su-30 “flanker” jets, which are at Latakia’s Bassel al-Assad air base — highly manoeuvreable aircraft designed to shoot down other aircraft — has been augmented with a far more powerful arsenal.

Russia’s ministry of defence announced on Friday the deployment of its navy cruiser the Moskva to Latakia. The Moskva is armed with a complement of 64 S-300 ship-to-air missiles, Russia’s most powerful anti-aircraft weapon.


“The Russian forces now in place make it very, very obvious that any kind of no-fly zone on the Libyan model imposed by the US and allies is now impossible, unless the coalition is actually willing to shoot down Russian aircraft,” says Justin Bronk, research analyst at the Royal United Services Institute.

“The Russians are not playing ball at deconfliction — they are just saying, ‘keep out of our way’. The coalition’s operations in Syria will be vastly more complex from a risk assessment point of view and from a mission-planning point of view.”
Just to remind you, the Libyan model was for the air forces to provide close air support for the rebels while arming them to the teeth.

Libya is now a complete mess, of course, with no functioning central government, and ethnic cleansing of  their more darkly complected citizenry.

And this is the model that General Strangelove Breedlove wants to repeat.

The USAF Supports Witch Burning

I'm beginning to think that sees itself as a branch of Oral Roberts University.

In the latest episode of stupidity in the service, or at least the latest episode that doesn't involve the over priced and under performing F-35, the Air Force has fired a dental technician for being a witch.

In an even bigger f%$# up, the person that they fired was a Hindu, the 3rd largest religion on the face of the earth:
Deborah Schoenfeld says she was harassed at a Fort Meade, Md., dental clinic for her Hindu faith and then fired when she complained about it.

The Military Religious Freedom Foundation is representing a former Air Force contractor who says she was fired from a dental clinic at Fort Meade, Maryland, after complaining that her co-workers discriminated against her because she was Hindu. She claims they then accused her of being a witch.

Group founder and president Mikey Weinstein wrote in a letter to officials: “We have spoken with witnesses at the clinic under your command who have universally confirmed that, not only did this horrid harassment take place, but ever since the execution of her punishment for failing the religious test imposed by the leadership of Epes Dental Clinic, a particular offending party has effusively celebrated her replacement by a Catholic woman by saying publicly that ‘It's good to see we got an angel, since last time we had the devil.’”


Reached by Air Force Times, Deborah Schoenfeld said that her co-workers at the Epes Dental Clinic harassed her over her Hindu faith, claiming she was satanic for wanting to practice yoga and meditating.

Speaking on condition of anonymity, two of her former co-workers confirmed Schoenfeld's account to Air Force Times and said that other employees at the dental clinic are devoutly Christian and deeply suspicious of Hinduism. One of them confirmed that she was referred to as a "Hindu witch."

One co-worker, who Schoenfeld said prayed for her to find Jesus, told her that meditation summons demons, adding that “all the soldiers who are doing meditation and yoga to help their PTSD, they are getting infected also,” Schoenfeld said.

When her requests for help through the chain of command went nowhere, she filed a formal complaint on Sept. 2, Schoenfeld said. That day, she was fired for allegedly using profanity against a co-worker, although she was not allowed to know who had accused her of doing so, she said.
This is something that is counter to the discipline and good order of the military, and yet it continues.

The  USAF in particular has problems with this, which is unsurprising, since their academy is a neighbor of the Talibaptist organization "Focus on the Family" in Colorado Springs.

Yeah, It Doesn't Work in Education Either

A study has shown that payments for quality of outcomes in hospitals do not actually improve those outcomes:
Medicare’s quality incentive program for hospitals, which provides bonuses and penalties based on performance, has not led to demonstrated improvements in its first three years, according to a federal report released Thursday.

The Government Accountability Office examined the Hospital Value-Based Purchasing Program, one of the federal health law’s initiatives to tie payment to quality of care. Earlier this year Medicare gave bonuses to 1,700 hospitals and reduced payments to 1,360 hospitals based on their mortality rates, patient reviews, degree of improvement and other measurements.

While the payments to a majority of the nation’s hospitals have been affected each year, the audit found the financial effect has been minimal. Most hospitals saw their Medicare payments increase or drop by less than half a percentage point. In the fiscal year that ended Sept. 30, 74 percent of hospitals fell within that range, with a median bonus of $39,000 and a median penalty of $56,000, according to the analysis.


The report said that even before the program began in October 2012, hospitals had been improving in how consistently they followed basic clinical guidelines, such as performing blood cultures before giving patients antibiotics. That improvement continued but did not increase with the advent of the financial incentives. The same was true for patient ratings, on such items as the quality of communication from doctors and nurses, and for mortality rates for heart attack patients. Heart failure and pneumonia death rates stayed roughly the same.

“Our analysis found no apparent shift in … quality measure trends during the initial years of the program, but such shifts could emerge over time as the program implements planned changes,” the GAO wrote.
This is unsurprising.

As these payments become more significant, I expect to see hospitals use the same tactics as the charter schools: Find a way to encourage hard cases to go elsewhere.

These sorts of pay for performance schemes tend to generate efforts to game the metrics, not to improve performance.

You Arrogant Ass! You Killed Us!

Somehow or other, they got an agreement on the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP), so they win, and the rest of us lose:
The United States and 11 other Pacific Rim countries have agreed to wide-ranging trade pact that would eliminate duties on countless goods and establish uniform rules on intellectual property, labor rights and the environment.

The seven-year effort by the U.S., concluded Monday, was aimed at embedding an American-led vision of an economic and political order in Asia. If approved by Congress, the accord would be the biggest regional trade pact ever reached and one that the U.S. hopes will be a model for future agreements.

The Trans-Pacific Partnership, or TPP, trade deal is expected to help a few U.S. industries while hurting a handful of others. In general, the deal will benefit larger companies in several industries such as pharmaceuticals, entertainment and other services where the U.S. is a global leader. Businesses such as mom-and-pop car-part dealers and apparel makers will probably face more competition from foreign-made goods.
Basically, small businesses get the shaft, as do workers, union rights, environmental and safety protections.

This is a bad deal, and a bankrupt philosophy, and Obama pushed it because he wanted to check another box on his legacy ticket.

I will be calling my Representative and my Senators, and telling him that if they vote for the TPP, I will vote against them in the primary, and in the general.

I'm not just talking about a symbolic vote. I'll vote for whoever is most likely to defeat them, even if this is a Republican.*

My Hope is that there are enough Republicans who will let their hysterical hatred of Obama to vote this down, even though their corporate masters want this.

*I just threw up in my mouth.

Google Drops, "Don't Be Evil"

Google has reorganized itself under a holding company called "Alphabet", and this new holding company makes no reference whatsoever to its former slogan:
Google is now Alphabet. Temporary Holding Company Number Two is now Google. And “don’t be evil” is now one step closer to being a thing of the past.

Following the corporate reshuffle at Google, the world’s largest search firm is now owned by a holding company called “Alphabet” – which, confusingly, was temporarily a subsidiary of Google but then executed a “reverse takeover” of its parent company to become the new boss, at which point Google spun off a number of its own subsidiaries such as its life sciences subsidiary Calico and “moonshot” division X to sit under Alphabet.

The end result is that the Google we all know and love still exists, but sits under an entirely new company, with a new name, new brand, new website – and new ethics policy.

When Alphabet was revealed, it was made clear that Google’s pre-existing ethics policy would only apply to the search firm itself, rather than its parent company. But now that Alphabet has revealed its own Code of Conduct, and the words “don’t be evil” are nowhere in sight.
It was only a matter of time, I guess.

The interesting thing here is whether Google's eschewing its prior values will have the effect of making recruiting more difficult.

After all, before Carly Fiorina destroyed "The HP Way", people were willing to take a pay cut to work at the firm.

I'm Sure That the Pentagon Will Conduct a Full Investigation with All the Thoroughness and Integrity of the Pat Tillman Investigation

Ashton Carter is promising a full investigation of what led to a 30 minute long barrage of munitions on a hospital run by Doctors Without Borders (MSF):
U.S. Defense Secretary Ash Carter on Sunday promised a full and transparent investigation into whether a U.S. aircraft providing support for American and Afghan commandos was responsible for the explosions that destroyed a hospital in northern Afghanistan, killing 22 people.

Speaking to reporters traveling with him to Spain, Carter said, "the situation there is confused and complicated, so it may take some time to get the facts, but we will get the facts."

He said he spoke to Gen. John Campbell, the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan, and to Marine Gen. Joseph Dunford, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, during his flight to Madrid, adding that "there will be accountability as always in these incidents, if that is required."

Carter said he told Campbell to make sure that the U.S. provides any medical care needed for those in the northern city of Kunduz.

U.S. officials said American special operations forces advising Afghan commandos in the vicinity of the hospital requested the air support when they came under fire in Kunduz. The officials said the AC-130 gunship responded and fired on the area, but Carter said it's not certain yet whether that was what destroyed the hospital.

Carter said he believes the U.S. will have better information in the coming days, once U.S. and international investigators get access to the hospital site. Officials said the senior U.S. military investigator is in Kunduz but hasn't yet been able to get to the site because it continues to be a contested area between the Afghans and the Taliban militants.
If Mr. Carter is really interested in investigating what happened at this hospital, and I rather doubt that he is serious about a full and honest investigation, he will be dealing with an officer corps determined to obstruct him, and to the degree that they fail, they will be determined to ensure that any consequences flow as low on the chain of command as possible.

Nothing to see here, move along.

Props to Charles Grassley

Yeah, I cannot believe that I said this either.

He has gone on mdeieval on Red Cross efforts to stonewall a GAO investigation:
Sen. Charles Grassley is demanding more information about the American Red Cross and its “apparent unwillingness to fully cooperate” with a government investigation into its disaster relief work.

Grassley asked the head of the Government Accountability Office for a list of material the Red Cross refused to provide to investigators, as well as the names of officials who didn’t cooperate and any communications in which the charity explained why it was not cooperating.

“The lack of transparency is cause for concern as the Red Cross is a federal instrumentality created by Congressional charter and receives millions of dollars every year from donors across the country,” Grassley, an Iowa Republican, wrote in a letter today to the head of the GAO.

The GAO report, released earlier this month, explored the Red Cross’ government mandated role in responding to disasters. It found that there is no regular oversight of the Red Cross despite a string of flawed disaster responses. It also recommended Congress find a way to fill that gap.


The head of the GAO inquiry said earlier this month that the Red Cross had not given “unfettered access” but that investigators were able to get the information they needed “to sufficiently answer our research questions.”
Seeing as how the American Red Cross seems to have a long history of inefficiency in the execution of large scale disaster aid, as well as bait and switch in their fund raising,* there seems to be some justification in heightened oversight, particularly given their federal charter.

This sort of crap has been going on since the late 1980s, when Red Cross refusal to properly test their blood products killed a significant portion of the US hemophiliacs.

*And there is that whole thing in Haiti, where they took in nearly ½ billion dollars for Haiti aid, and built a grand total of 6 homes.

05 October 2015

Normally, this is Not What I Think of When I Hear "Ma Bell" and "Ring"

H/t JR at the Stellar Parthenon BBS.

It is Simchat Torah

And I am completely and totally ......... sober.


To quote my cats, "F#$@ this, I am taking a nap."

Posted via mobile.

04 October 2015

The Mask Slips

The leading candidate to replace John Boehner as speaker, Kevin McCarthy just accidentally told the truth about the House's Benghazi investigations:
So now we know: One of the principal reasons Republicans spent so much public money investigating the tragic Benghazi episode was to bring down Hillary Clinton’s poll numbers.

Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), the likely successor to House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio), told Fox News’s Sean Hannity explicitly on Tuesday night that the Clinton investigation was part of a “strategy to fight and win.”

He explained: “Everybody thought Hillary Clinton was unbeatable, right? But we put together a Benghazi special committee, a select committee. What are her numbers today? Her numbers are dropping. Why? Because she’s untrustable. But no one would have known any of that had happened, had we not fought.”

The Republican-led House hasn’t been particularly good at governing, but perhaps governing has never been the point. Why govern when there’s a future election to influence?
That the Benghazi investigation is a crock of sh%$ is not a surprise.

That a Republican party leader basically admitted that it was all a politically motivated freak show on a public program is a bit of a surprise.

More Freedom Bombs………

It looks like the US military launched an intense and sustained airstrike against a hospital in Kunduz, Afthanistan:
An airstrike apparently carried out by U.S. forces heavily damaged a charitable hospital in northern Afghanistan on Saturday, killing at least 19 people — three of them reportedly children — in an incident that a senior U.N. official equated to a war crime.

The airstrike occurred before dawn when a Doctors Without Borders trauma center in war-torn Kunduz was struck while doctors were treating dozens of patients. Hospital officials said they were assaulted from the air for 30 to 45 minutes, resulting in a large fire that burned some patients to death in their beds. Among those killed were 12 of the charity group’s staff members, the group said.

“This attack is abhorrent and a grave violation of international humanitarian law,” said Meinie Nicolai, the group’s president.

While the charity’s workers reported waves of bombs hitting their facility, the U.S.-led military coalition in Kabul issued a statement confirming one American airstrike that may have caused “collateral damage” to a “medical facility.” Authorities said it was launched against “insurgents who were directly firing upon U.S. servicemembers” who had traveled to Kunduz to advise Afghan security forces.


It was unclear how close Taliban fighters may have been to the hospital Saturday or whether the U.S. military didn’t realize the building was a hospital. Afghan security officials said Taliban fighters had been pouring into the facility in recent days seeking treatment for gunshot wounds and other injuries.

The charity and other international organizations reacted with outrage, and the hospital’s management said it had repeatedly informed the U.S.-led coalition of the facility’s precise GPS coordinates over the past few months. The location of the hospital was last conveyed to the international coalition three days before the airstrike, officials added.


“This event is utterly tragic, inexcusable and, possibly, even criminal,” said Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein, the U.N. high commissioner for human rights, adding that “if established as deliberate in a court of law, an airstrike on a hospital may amount to a war crime.”

Jason Cone, executive director of Doctors Without Borders in the United States, said hospital officials in Kunduz immediately reached out to U.S. military officials when the airstrike occurred.

“The bombing continued for more than 30 minutes after American and Afghan military officials in Kabul and Washington were first informed,” the organization said in a statement.

A U.S. military official, speaking on the condition of anonymity to talk freely, said the strike appears to have been carried out by an AC-130 gunship, a heavily armed warplane.
I will make a point here: An AC-130, notwithstanding its bulk and lumbering appearance, is a precise weapon, arguably much more precise than guided bombs, if just because they engage at a fraction of the distance.

They hit what they were ordered to hit, and they did so for nearly an hour.

The only questions is whether their orders were an error, or if the the targeting was deliberate, either because MSF was treating members of the Taliban (a war crime by the US) or because the Taliban was using the hospital compound for military purposes (a war crime by the Taliban).

Rather unsurprisingly, MSF is demanding an independent investigation, but given the record of the US military on such matters, and the continuing cover-up of the Pat Tillman friendly fire incident, I would not hold my breath.

What actually happened is unclear at this time, but what is clear, and in fact is certain, is that this will be used by the Taliban for a long time as a recruiting tool.


I Wish that You Had Said This in 2009, Motherf%$#er

In a Greenspanesque attempt to rehabilitate his reputation, Ben Bernanke is now saying that we should have jailed more (really any) bankers following the financial meltdown:

With publication of his memoir, The Courage to Act, on Tuesday by W.W. Norton & Co., Bernanke has some thoughts about what went right and what went wrong. For one thing, he says that more corporate executives should have gone to jail for their misdeeds. The Justice Department and other law-enforcement agencies focused on indicting or threatening to indict financial firms, he notes, "but it would have been my preference to have more investigation of individual action, since obviously everything what went wrong or was illegal was done by some individual, not by an abstract firm."
If he had said this in 2009, maybe some of the big name banksters would have seen the inside of a prison cell, and maybe the industry, and the Congress, would have made meaningful reforms to prevent a repeat of the orgy of fraud and greed that led to the last meltdown.

Too late, dude.

And in the Ongoing Clusterf%$# in Syria………

There is a very good reason why Presidents should never, Ever listen to the war mongering interventionists (on both sides of the political) who prowl the halls of power in Washington. Because they are always wrong.

All they bring are disaster and misery, in this case, of course, we are talking about Syria, where our support for regime change in Syria, particularly when juxtaposed by the Saudi desire to overthrow a secular Arab government at all costs has created an unrelenting string of disasters.

First, we are now seeing a realignment in the Middle East, with Russia, Iraq, Iran, and Syria sharing intelligence to aid each other in their fight against ISIS:
For the second time this month, Russia moved to expand its political and military influence in the Syria conflict and left the United States scrambling, this time by reaching an understanding, announced on Sunday, with Iraq, Syria and Iran to share intelligence about the Islamic State.

Like Russia’s earlier move to bolster the government of President Bashar al-Assad by deploying warplanes and tanks to a base near Latakia, Syria, the intelligence-sharing arrangement was sealed without notice to the United States. American officials knew that a group of Russian military officers were in Baghdad, but they were clearly surprised when the Iraqi military’s Joint Operations Command announced the intelligence sharing accord on Sunday.

It was another sign that President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia was moving ahead with a sharply different tack from that of the Obama administration in battling the Islamic State, also known as ISIS or ISIL, by assembling a rival coalition that includes Iran and the Syrian government.

For the second time this month, Russia moved to expand its political and military influence in the Syria conflict and left the United States scrambling, this time by reaching an understanding, announced on Sunday, with Iraq, Syria and Iran to share intelligence about the Islamic State.

Like Russia’s earlier move to bolster the government of President Bashar al-Assad by deploying warplanes and tanks to a base near Latakia, Syria, the intelligence-sharing arrangement was sealed without notice to the United States. American officials knew that a group of Russian military officers were in Baghdad, but they were clearly surprised when the Iraqi military’s Joint Operations Command announced the intelligence sharing accord on Sunday.

It was another sign that President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia was moving ahead with a sharply different tack from that of the Obama administration in battling the Islamic State, also known as ISIS or ISIL, by assembling a rival coalition that includes Iran and the Syrian government.
The ineptitude of our foreign policy apparatus has allowed Russia to resurrect the Soviet era relations that used to exist there.

It gets even worse, with even the Syrian Kurds approaching Russia military aid:
The Syrian Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) has asked Russia to support it in its fight against ISIS as well as the Al-Qaeda affiliated Nusra Front.

YPG chief Sipan Hemo told Sputnik Türkiye—which is owned by Moscow—that his fighting force requested arms from Russia as well as general military coordination, according to a translation of the interview prepared by Turkey’s Anadolu news agency.

“He also called on Moscow to bomb Al-Nusra Front’s positions,” Anadolu added a day after Russia began its airstrikes in Syria on behalf of the Bashar al-Assad regime.

In turn, the report added that a foreign relations official for the Syrian Kurdish Democratic Union Party—which controls the YPG—said his party was “ready to cooperate with any actor fighting ISIS.”
I rather expect that the YPG does not expect Russia to support them, after all they want to secede from Syria, but this is a a great way to whipsaw the US into bombing other Islamist targets, and, more importantly, keeping the Turks from bombing the Kurds.

Yet another failure in a chain of failures.

It really is beginning to look like the end stage of empire:  Increasingly delusional policies that lead to failures, which lead to doubling down on delusional policies.

This is part of a series of failures that feed on themselves.

What Happens When Your Intelligence Service Thinks Itself a Breed Apart………

It turns out that the CIA's unwillingness to play nicely with other US Agencies left a trail of bread crumbs that the KGB used to identify covert operatives:
As the Cold War drew to a close with the fall of the Berlin Wall in November 1989, those at CIA headquarters in Langley, Virginia, finally hoped to resolve many long-standing puzzles.

The most important of which was how officers in the field under diplomatic and deep cover stationed across the globe were readily identified by the KGB. As a consequence, covert operations had to be aborted as local agents were pinpointed and CIA personnel compromised or, indeed, had their lives thrown into jeopardy.

………How could these disasters have happened with such regularity if the agency had not been penetrated by Soviet moles?

The problem with this line of thought was that it did not so much overestimate CIA security as underestimate the brainpower of their Russian counterparts.

A name soon emerged from the KGB undergrowth: that of Yuri Totrov, a veritable legend who soon became known with grim humor as the shadow director of personnel at CIA.

The Cold War over, a senior and very experienced officer was dispatched to Japan to seek out Totrov and offer him a vast sum of money for his “memoirs.” Totrov’s retort was typically blunt. “Have you not read what is on my file at Langley? It says, ‘Not to be Pitched.'”


So how, exactly, did Totrov reconstitute CIA personnel listings without access to the files themselves or those who put them together?


What Totrov came up with were 26 unchanging indicators as a model for identifying U.S. intelligence officers overseas. Other indicators of a more trivial nature could be detected in the field by a vigilant foreign counterintelligence operative but not uniformly so: the fact that CIA officers replacing one another tended to take on the same post within the embassy hierarchy, drive the same make of vehicle, rent the same apartment and so on. Why? Because the personnel office in Langley shuffled and dealt overseas postings with as little effort as required.

The invariable indicators took further research, however, based on U.S. government practices long established as a result of the ambivalence with which the State Department treated its cousins in intelligence.

Thus one productive line of inquiry quickly yielded evidence: the differences in the way agency officers undercover as diplomats were treated from genuine foreign service officers (FSOs). The pay scale at entry was much higher for a CIA officer; after three to four years abroad a genuine FSO could return home, whereas an agency employee could not; real FSOs had to be recruited between the ages of 21 and 31, whereas this did not apply to an agency officer; only real FSOs had to attend the Institute of Foreign Service for three months before entering the service; naturalized Americans could not become FSOs for at least nine years but they could become agency employees; when agency officers returned home, they did not normally appear in State Department listings; should they appear they were classified as research and planning, research and intelligence, consular or chancery for security affairs; unlike FSOs, agency officers could change their place of work for no apparent reason; their published biographies contained obvious gaps; agency officers could be relocated within the country to which they were posted, FSOs were not; agency officers usually had more than one working foreign language; their cover was usually as a “political” or “consular” official (often vice-consul); internal embassy reorganizations usually left agency personnel untouched, whether their rank, their office space or their telephones; their offices were located in restricted zones within the embassy; they would appear on the streets during the working day using public telephone boxes; they would arrange meetings for the evening, out of town, usually around 7.30 p.m. or 8.00 p.m.; and whereas FSOs had to observe strict rules about attending dinner, agency officers could come and go as they pleased.
It is very interesting to see that many of the CIA's failures during the cold war appear not to be the result of treason, or of individual incompetence.

They are the result of a toxic and dysfunctional organizational culture, and the events since then, torture, spying on congressional staffers investigating them, etc. has indicated that if anything, the problem has gotten worse.


Bummer of a birth mark, Федеральное космическое агентство Россиu
It appears that there may be a few issues with the Russian space program:
The Soyuz TMA-16M capsule with international space crew descends beneath a parachute just before landing near the town of Zhezkazgan, Kazakhstan

Work at Russia's new $ 3 billion spaceport in the Far East has ground to a halt after a critical piece of infrastructure was discovered to have been built to the wrong dimensions, and would not fit the latest version of the country's Soyuz rocket, a news report said.

The Vostochny Cosmodrome, under construction in the Amur region, north of China, is intended to become Russia's primary spaceport, replacing the Soviet-built Baikonur cosmodrome in Kazakhstan.

The cutting-edge facility was meant be ready for launches of Soyuz-2 rockets in December, but an unidentified space agency of a of a told the TASS news agency of a of a late Thursday that the rocket would not fit inside the assembly building where its parts are stacked and tested before launch.

The building "has been designed for a different modification of the Soyuz rocket," the source said, according to news website Medusa, which picked up the story from TASS.


"Work with the rocket at the integration and testing complex now can not be conducted because the facility is not ready," the spokesperson said in the report. "There are still imperfections in the construction."

The problems with the testing and assembly building are the latest incident in a saga of corruption scandals, embezzlement cases, high-profile arrests, worker strikes, and construction delays at the Vostochny cosmodrome.
If there is an equivalent of The Daily Show in Russia, they are all getting drunk right now, because their script has already been written.