31 January 2016


After nearly a decade of parallel construction and lying to courts and defense attorneys, the first case regarding whether the use of a cell tower simulator (aka "Stingray") needs a warrant for its application has made it to a federal appelate court:
A criminal case examining the Fourth Amendment implications of cell-site simulators, also known as stingrays, has finally reached the 7th Circuit for the first time. Now one step below the Supreme Court, this case also likely marks the first time that warrantless use of stingrays has reached any federal appellate court.

Stingrays determine a phone’s location by spoofing a cell tower. In some cases, they can intercept calls and text messages. Once deployed, the devices intercept data from a target phone along with information from other phones within the vicinity. At times, police have falsely claimed the use of a confidential informant while in fact deploying this particularly sweeping and intrusive surveillance tool.

The 7th Circuit will now consider a 2013 case known as United States v. Patrick. It involves a Milwaukee man wanted on a probation violation who was suddenly located and arrested by local police with help from the FBI. There is very strong evidence to suggest that he was apprehended through the warrantless use of a stingray.

Patrick’s attorney, Chris Donovan, filed his opening brief in the appeal earlier this month. The case is so notable that the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) also filed an amicus brief earlier this week. The organizations note that the Fourth Amendment of the United States Constitution requires that search warrants demonstrate probable cause of a crime. And, they note, Wisconsin passed a 2014 state law mandating warrants for stingray deployment.
It's about f%$#ing time.

Law enforcement has been trying to conceal their warrantless use of this devices, because they are afraid that the courts will require warrants for this.

I hope that their concerns are justified.

It's not that big deal to get a warrant, but lazy incompetent cops want short cuts.

Time to Get Your Geek ON

Click for Slide Show
The Smithsonian is conducting a full refurbishment of the original 11 foot long Star Ship Enterprise model from the original series.

They are going whole hog on this, using multi-spectral and chemical analysis to determine original colors, as well as observing colors that were preserved in between pieces of the assembly:
The final painting of the Enterprise model will begin in April, using newly discovered reference photos from our appeal to Trek fans in the fall. The team will also build new nacelle domes with LED lights to mimic the spinning effect seen on television. For reference, they will first build a 1:1 mock-up of the original mechanism, which utilized mirrors, motors, nails, and Christmas lights. Conservator Ariel O’Connor explains, “Although the original nacelle dome lights did not survive, we can replicate the original effect in a way that is safe to install on the model. The LED lights can be programmed to match the original VFX footage while eliminating the burnt-out bulbs, extreme heat, and motor problems that troubled the original lights. It is a wonderful solution to re-light the nacelles while ensuring the model’s safety and longevity.”

The Enterprise model has been carefully separated into its individual components—saucer section; secondary hull; port and starboard nacelles and pylons; deflector dish array; hangar bay doors; and the bridge. Each section is being meticulously studied to determine its construction and condition and will be documented with visible, ultraviolet, and infrared photography. We completed X-ray photography, with help from our colleagues at the Smithsonian Zoological Park, in spring 2015.
Needless to say, once they are done, I will seriously get down to the Air and Space museum to get my geek on.

H/t Ars Technica.

It Was Inevitable

It seems that whenever you have a conspiracy theory nutcase, they will eventually descend into antisemitism and/or Holocaust denial.

Case in point, Oscar winning director Oliver Stone:
Jewish control of the media is preventing an open discussion of the Holocaust, prominent Hollywood director Oliver Stone told the Sunday Times, adding that the U.S. Jewish lobby was controlling Washington's foreign policy for years.

In the Sunday interview, Stone reportedly said U.S. public opinion was focused on the Holocaust as a result of the "Jewish domination of the media," adding that an upcoming film of him aims to put Adolf Hitler and Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin "in context."

"There's a major lobby in the United States," Stone said, adding that "they are hard workers. They stay on top of every comment, the most powerful lobby in Washington."

The famed Hollywood director of such films as "Platoon" and "JFK," also said that while "Hitler was a Frankenstein," there was also a "Dr Frankenstein."

"German industrialists, the Americans and the British. He had a lot of support," Stone told the Sunday Times, adding that "Hitler did far more damage to the Russians than the Jewish people, 25 or 30 [million killed]."

Referring to the alleged influence of the powerful Jewish lobby on U.S. foreign policy, Stone said that Israel had distorted "United States foreign policy for years," adding he felt U.S. policy toward Iran was "horrible."
So not a surprise.

Quote of the Day

I owe almost my entire Wall Street career to the Clintons.
—Chris Arnade
Mr. Arnade continues, "I am not alone; most bankers owe their careers, and their wealth, to them. Over the last 25 years they – with the Clintons it is never just Bill or Hillary – implemented policies that placed Wall Street at the center of the Democratic economic agenda, turning it from a party against Wall Street to a party of Wall Street."

He goes on to explain that the history of the Clintons is that they are creatures of big finance, and he uses the 1995 bailout of Mexico, which was really a bailout of big finance.

If you like Rubinomics, and believe that an excessively financialized economy is the future of America, by all means, vote for her in the primary.

Me, I'm hoping that my vote matters when Maryland votes on 26 April.

Deep Thought

H/t The Big Picture.

30 January 2016

Hillary Clinton is Scared, and Debbie Wasserman-Schultz Loses

It appears that the DNC is reversing itself, and there will be more debates:
After days of jostling over whether to meet for more debates, and how many, aides to Hillary Clinton and Senator Bernie Sanders have reached an agreement, of sorts, they said Saturday: The two will meet next week in New Hampshire and will hold three more debates thereafter.

A Clinton aide, speaking on the condition of anonymity to discuss continuing negotiations, confirmed the tentative agreement for four additional debates, which was first reported by BuzzFeed.

The two campaigns have engaged in a measure of brinkmanship in recent days, with Mr. Sanders’s team one-upping Mrs. Clinton’s by saying it would agree to an additional debate in New Hampshire if her team agreed to more beyond that.

Michael Briggs, a Sanders spokesman, said the agreement was still being discussed. “I’m optimistic,” he said, but he added, “The details are still being worked out.”

The Democratic National Committee has yet to weigh in on whether it would sanction the added debates.

The New Hampshire debate next week was originally scheduled as an unsanctioned one, sponsored by MSNBC and the New Hampshire Union Leader newspaper. But a Democratic National Committee official said The Union Leader would not be a sponsor.

Still, it would mean a highly watched showdown between Mrs. Clinton and Mr. Sanders before the Feb. 9 primary in New Hampshire.

After working in 2015 to restrict the number of debates, Mrs. Clinton’s team has since expressed regret about that as Mr. Sanders surged in the polls, especially because she has generally delivered strong performances in the debates.
I don't know who wins in this arrangement.

Clinton is clearly more comfortable debating, but the more that people see of Sanders, the more that they like him. (OK, this is a win for O'Malley, because he has nothing to lose in the debates, and everything to gain)

I can tell you who loses, however, Debbie Wasserman-Schultz, the incompetent and widely loathed head of the DNC, who had been steadfast in resisting debates after scheduling a pittance on weekends up against things like NFL playoff games.

This is an Inspired Protest

Britain has an official board, the British Board of Film Classification (BBFC), to review and censor movies.

It charges the film makers for the costs of censoring their movies, to the tune of  £101.50 plys £7.09 per minute of film.

British film maker and journalist Charlie Lyne had a kickstarter to make a protest film, and when he totaled up the costs, he submitted a 10+ hour of film of paint drying:
The British Board of Film Classification (BBFC) has determined that Charlie Lyne's 10-hour Paint Drying contains "no material likely to offend or harm", and has accordingly awarded it a "suitable for all" U certificate.

Nicely described by the BBFC as "a film showing paint drying on a wall", Paint Drying is the result of a Kickstarter campaign aimed at highlighting the "prohibitively expensive" cost of presenting cinematic works for classification.

The BBFC charges a £101.50 submission fee and £7.09 per minute of film. However, it is obliged to sit through every single frame of material, so Lyne decided he'd make the censors work for their money.

He originally planned to raise £109 for a symbolic one-minute submission of paint drying, but ultimately attracted pledges of £5,936, financing an extended 607-minute submission to the BBFC.
It took 2 days for the BBFC to review the film.

29 January 2016

Joseph Heller is Spinning in His Grave

Admiral Ted “Twig” Branch is the head of Naval Intelligence, but for the past 2 ye\ars, while at this position, his clearance has been suspended, and so he cannot read, review, or discuss classified material:
For more than two years, the Navy’s intelligence chief has been stuck with a major handicap: He’s not allowed to know any secrets.

Vice Adm. Ted “Twig” Branch has been barred from reading, seeing or hearing classified information since November 2013, when the Navy learned from the Justice Department that his name had surfaced in a giant corruption investigation involving a foreign defense contractor and scores of Navy personnel.

Worried that Branch was on the verge of being indicted, Navy leaders suspended his access to classified materials. They did the same to one of his deputies, Rear Adm. Bruce F. Loveless, the Navy’s director of intelligence operations.

More than 800 days later, neither Branch nor Loveless has been charged. But neither has been cleared, either. Their access to classified information remains blocked.

Although the Navy transferred Loveless to a slightly less sensitive post, it kept Branch in charge of its intelligence division. That has resulted in an awkward arrangement, akin to sending a warship into battle with its skipper stuck onshore.

Branch can’t meet with other senior U.S. intelligence leaders to discuss sensitive operations, or hear updates from his staff about secret missions or projects. It can be a chore just to set foot in colleagues’ offices; in keeping with regulations, they must conduct a sweep beforehand to make sure any classified documents are locked up.
What the f%$# is wrong with the military?

The guy is forbidden by to do his job, and as opposed to doing the sane thing, and transfer him to a new post where he can do his job, you cripple a crucial department.

The idea that anyone in the Pentagon would allow this to happen for more than 2½ years is an indication that the bureaucracy and the general officer corps have become a dysfunctional carrerist dystopia.

Smedley Butler was right.  It's a racket.

Protect and Serve, My Ass

What a surprise. Chicago cops are actively sabotaging their dashcams:
Why are so many police dashcam videos silent?

Chicago Police Department officers stashed microphones in their squad car glove boxes. They pulled out batteries. Microphone antennas got busted or went missing. And sometimes, dashcam systems didn’t have any microphones at all, DNAinfo Chicago has learned.

Police officials last month blamed the absence of audio in 80 percent of dashcam videos on officer error and “intentional destruction.”

A DNAinfo Chicago review of more than 1,800 police maintenance logs sheds light on the no-sound syndrome plaguing Police Department videos — including its most notorious dashcam case.

Maintenance records of the squad car used by Jason Van Dyke, who shot and killed Laquan McDonald, and his partner, Joseph Walsh, show monthslong delays for two dashcam repairs, including a long wait to fix “intentional damage.”

On June 17, 2014, police technicians reported fixing a dashcam wiring issue in police vehicle No. 6412, the squad shared by Van Dyke and Walsh, about three months after it was reported broken, records show.

A day later, the same vehicle's dashcam system was reported busted again. It took until Oct. 8, 2014, to complete repairs of what technicians deemed “intentional damage,” according to reports.

Just 12 days later, on Oct. 20, 2014, dashcam video recorded from squad car No. 6412 on the night Van Dyke shot and killed McDonald did not record audio. The video that went viral showing Van Dyke killing Laquan was taken from a different squad car, but it, too, had no audio.


Police officials quickly placed the blame on officers and shift supervisors responsible for making sure dashcam systems work properly before officers go on patrol.

In December, interim Police Supt. John Escalante warned the rank and file that they would be disciplined for failing to follow proper dashcam protocol. Weeks later, he followed through by hitting some officers and supervisors with formal reprimands and up-to-three-day suspensions.

“To boil this down, the Police Department will not tolerate officers maliciously destructing equipment,” police spokesman Anthony Guglielmi said.
Note that there are threats, but when the president of the local police union complains, he does not complain about actual punishments, just the threat of punishment.

This isn't going to be fixed until someone from the outside excises the rot at the department's core.

28 January 2016

The Overton Window has Shifted

The editorial board of the New York Times has come out in favor of a financial transaction tax.

It does not get any more establishment than that:
A financial transaction tax — a per-trade charge on the buying and selling of stocks, bonds and derivatives — is an idea whose time has finally come. It has begun percolating in the Democratic presidential campaign, with all three candidates offering proposals.

Hillary Clinton and Martin O’Malley have proposed a worthy but narrow tax on certain high-frequency trades, which generate windfall profits on small and fleeting differences in prices at the expense of ordinary investors and market stability. Bernie Sanders supports a hefty tax on a broader range of transactions to raise revenue from Wall Street, also a worthy goal, but his proposal would be likely to squeeze investors too hard. Republicans have not engaged the debate, except to say no to taxes no matter what.

A well-designed financial transaction tax — one that applies a tiny tax rate to an array of transactions and is split between buyers and sellers — would be a progressive way to raise substantial revenue without damaging the markets. A new study by researchers at the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center has found that a 0.1 percent tax rate could bring in $66 billion a year, with 40 percent coming from the top 1 percent of income earners and 75 percent from the top 20 percent. As the rate rises, however, traders would most likely curtail their activity. The tax could bring in $76 billion a year if it was set at 0.3 percent, but above that rate, trading would probably decrease and the total revenue raised would start to fall.

The burden of this tax would be concentrated at the top, because that’s where the ownership of financial assets is concentrated. However, individuals who buy and hold investments, including those who invest in index funds that trade infrequently, would be largely unaffected. Pension funds that devote a portion of their portfolios to speculative trading, often through hedge funds, would be hit, but some pension funds have already stopped using hedge funds because the returns do not justify the costs. A financial transaction tax that encouraged other pension funds to follow suit could actually benefit pension participants in the long run.

Such a tax would also bring the United States more in line with other countries. There are already financial transaction taxes in Britain, Switzerland and South Korea as well as in Hong Kong and other developed markets and emerging nations, generally at rates of 0.1 percent to 0.5 percent on stock transfers. In addition, 10 countries in the European Union, including Germany and France, have agreed to apply a common financial transaction tax starting in 2017, though relentless lobbying by investment banks and hedge funds threatens to delay and even derail the effort.
There are a number of arguments against this.

The strongest one is that it will collect less revenue than expected, because it would disincentivize speculation.

As if that were a bad thing.

Today in Blithering Idiocy

New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof is wondering where the compassionate conservatives have gone in the Republican Party:
Back in 2000, George W. Bush did something fascinating: On the campaign trail he preached “compassionate conservatism,” telling wealthy Republicans about the travails of Mexican-American immigrants and declaring to women in pearls that “the hardest job in America” is that of a single mother.

Those well-heeled audiences looked baffled, but applauded.

That instinct to show a little heart helped elect Bush but then largely disappeared from Republican playbooks and policy. Yet now, amid the Republican Party’s civil war, there are intriguing initiatives by the House speaker, Paul Ryan, and some other conservatives to revive an interest in the needy.
Has the columnist, aka Mr. "Sh%$ for Brains" actually read these proposals?

They are all the same:  "Make the alternative starvation, and the poor will pull themselves up by their bootstraps.

As fellow Times pundit Paul Krugman noted Eight Years Ago, "Compassionate Conservatism" was, "A dog-whistle to the religious right:
Oy. Why are political writers still unaware that Bush’s phrase “compassionate conservatism” wasn’t an acceptance of the Great Society, but rather a dog-whistle to the religious right? It comes from Marvin Olasky’s The Tragedy of American Compassion. From the Publisher’s Weekly review:
Compassion means tough love in which those who give must demand self-help from those who receive … Olasky adds a proviso that the giver too must be personally involved. He holds up the example of 19th-century charity workers, whose religious beliefs made them compassionate and willing to deal intimately with the poor … Olasky does not blame the system for poverty. He faults the poor, along with social workers back to Jane Addams and the founders of the settlement house movement.
Paul Ryan and the rest of them have no plan beyond making the poor even poorer.

My conclusion is that Nicholas Kristof is in a competition with Tom Friedman for dumb-assery.


Maine's Governor, Paul LePage, aka the "Human Bowling Jacket", is proposing a return to the guillotine:
Maine Gov. Paul LePage says his state is too easy on drug crimes, suggesting it should bring back the guillotine for serious offenders.

The Republican governor, known for his controversial statements, was speaking on local radio Tuesday about combating the drug epidemic in his state.

"What I think we ought to do is bring the guillotine back," he told WVOM. "We could have public executions and have, you know, we could even have (guessing) which hole it falls in."

He said that he was "all in" on fighting drug criminals and said a recent proposal to establish a minimum sentence of four years for drug traffickers was too lenient.

"I think the death penalty should be appropriate for people that kill Mainers," LePage said.


Even as the hosts of the show tried to wrap the interview, LePage interrupted to show his resolve, suggesting the guillotine be used for public executions, joking that the idea was part of his French ancestry.

"I like French history," he said.

It's only the latest controversial comments from LePage. Earlier this month, he made waves talking about drug dealers in his state.

"These are guys with the name D-Money, Smoothie, Shifty," he said. "They come from Connecticut and New York, they come up here, they sell their heroin, then they go back home. Incidentally, half the time they impregnate a young, white girl before they leave."
Seriously, can the legislators of Maine please impeach his flabby white ass?

We already know that he has abused his official power to engage in a personal vendetta, and the investigation is ongoing, but it needs to move faster.

This guy is a clear and present danger to the state of Maine.

H/t Charlie Pierce.

Deep Thought

H/t JR at the Stellar Parthenon BBS.

27 January 2016

Trump: 1 — Fox News: 0

I think that Donald Trump's beef with Megyn Kelly is stupid, and his promised boycott of the next debate because she will be a moderator is more about tactics than any real sense of offense.

It's a win-win for Donald.

He is clearly would be the one on stage with the most to lose, and by standing up to Fox, he reinforces the image that he wishes to cultivate: That he is beholden to no one, because he is dissing what is arguably the kingmaker of Republican Presidential politics:
Instead of attending the debate, "We'll have an event here in Iowa, with potentially another network, to raise money for wounded warriors," campaign manager Corey Lewandowski said. "And Fox will go from probably having 24 million viewers to about 2 million."

The fracas escalated quickly on Tuesday, but was the culmination of months of tension between the GOP frontrunner and the Fox News host Megyn Kelly.


Trump's apparent decision changes the dynamic for Thursday's event, which is the last GOP debate before the all-important Iowa caucuses.

Without Trump, Ted Cruz will take center stage. Cruz also challenged Trump to go mano a mano.


The disagreement came to a head on Tuesday afternoon. Around 1 p.m. Trump polled his fans on Twitter, asking, "Should I do the GOP debate?"

The poll suggested a real reluctance to attend, perhaps because Trump, as the frontrunner, arguably has the most to lose on Thursday night. The respondents were evenly split, with about half saying he should skip it.

In an Instagram video that coincided with his poll, Trump said, "Megyn Kelly's really biased against me. She knows that, I know that, everybody knows that. Do you really think she can be fair at a debate?"
The other winner here is Ms. Kelly, a phony journalist who can use this incident to better pretend that she is a real journalist.

My prediction* is that Trump wins Iowa and New Hampshire, and the then runs the table to become the Republican nominee.

I need to update my f%$#ing passport.

*With the obvious caveat that Saroff electoral predictions have frequently been very, very wrong.

Finally! Part Deux

Following the arrests of the Y'all Qaeda militants yesterday, the FBI has blockaded the remainder of the militants at the Malheur refuge:

Federal agents sealed off an Oregon wildlife refuge occupied by armed protesters Wednesday, hours after authorities arrested several members of that group and killed one of the most prominent occupiers.

The frenzy of activity at Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in Harney County marked a sudden escalation in the ongoing standoff that has simmered for more than three weeks, ever since a small group of men and women took control of a remote facility in southeastern Oregon.

Officials set up checkpoints and roadblocks around the refuge, saying that people who tried to travel inside would be arrested and calling for the armed people remaining there to leave. That message was echoed by the leader of the group later in the day. But law enforcement officials suggested Wednesday that the situation at the refuge would not continue indefinitely and placed blame for the fatal encounter a day earlier on those occupying the refuge.

“They had ample opportunity to leave the refuge peacefully,” FBI Special Agent in Charge Greg Bretzing said at a news conference late Wednesday morning. “And as the FBI and our partners have clearly demonstrated, actions are not without consequences.”
They really should have done this weeks ago.

LaVoy Finicum might be alive if they had not held off, and given those inbred morons ime to develop a sense of impunity.

Instead, they were allowed to come and go as they pleased  ……… At an occupation.

That was some seriously weak tea from law enforcement.

Business as Usual in the Charter School Industry

The man at the center of dozens of charter school deals in southern California has been arraigned for corruption and self-dealing:
By the time Steve Van Zant left the Mountain Empire Unified School District in 2013, he had overseen the authorization of more than a dozen charter schools to operate in other districts throughout San Diego County — with several going on to hire his education consulting firm.

All the while, Van Zant coached at least one other district on how to approve out-of-town charters, according to emails obtained by the San Diego Union-Tribune. As more districts approved far-flung charters, Van Zant’s EdHive consultant business took on some of the schools as clients.

The San Diego district attorney’s office arraigned Van Zant on Jan. 15 on a felony conflict-of-interest charge from an undisclosed incident in May 2010 while he was superintendent of Mountain Empire.

The district attorney’s office declined to disclose details of its investigation, and it is unclear whether the charge relates to his work with charter schools. According to the criminal complaint, Van Zant violated laws that prohibited him “from being financially interested in contracts made by him in his official capacity.”

The Union-Tribune has tracked a charter empire built by Van Zant by taking advantage of what some call a shortcoming in state law that gives districts a financial incentive to place charters in other school districts. By placing charters outside its boundaries, a district can raise new funds — up to 3 percent of a charter’s revenue — without any threat to enrollment or state attendance funds.

More than 80 out-of-district charters have been approved in San Diego County, the vast majority of which were authorized by small East County districts — several with help from Van Zant, who includes a list of charter clients on his LinkedIn professional network profile.


When Van Zant accepted the job in 2013 as superintendent of the Sausalito Marin City School District, he was positioned to devote even more time growing his consulting business. He would commute from his Mission Bay home for the three-day-a-week position in Northern California with a starting salary of $165,000 and still run EdHive, which recently opened an office in Symphony Towers in downtown San Diego.

The EdHive website says it can “find an authorizing district for your charter and cut a deal that provides the financial incentive for the district and still save your school money” among services such as negotiating leases and setting salaries.


Van Zant has been placed on indefinite paid leave in Sausalito. He was seen leaving EdHive’s Symphony Towers office Friday.
There are way too many stories like this.

I know that there is an opportunity for corruption in schools of any sort, as there is with any sort of public funds, but the degree to which charter schools are a petri dish for corruption strongly implies that this is a feature of the system, not a bug.

Headline of the Day

As Sanders Slams Wall Street Elite, Clinton Ditches Iowa To Fetch Their Checks
Common Dreams
The issue is not whether Clinton is corrupt, she isn't in any conventional sense.

It is rather that she, like Barack Obama, is one of them.

Deep Thought

H/t The Barking Hobbit.

26 January 2016

Bummer ……… I Thought that He Would Live Forever

Actor Abe Vigoda is dead at 94.

About F%$#ing Time

They finally arrested 6 Y'all Qaeda members, including the two of the Bundy brothers:
Ammon Bundy, the leader of an armed seizure of a federal wildlife refuge in Oregon, was arrested and one was person was killed Tuesday night during a traffic stop in rural Oregon, the F.B.I. and the Oregon State Police said.

Five other people, including Mr. Bundy’s brother Ryan Bundy, were arrested, the authorities said.

The Bundy brothers and four supporters were arrested during a traffic stop along Highway 235 around 4:25 p.m., officials said in a news release. Shots were fired during the arrests, and two people who were with the Bundys were struck. One of them died, and the other was arrested and taken to a hospital with injuries that were not considered life-threatening.


Each of the defendants faces a felony charge of conspiracy to impede federal officers from discharging their official duties through the use of force, intimidation or threats. They remained in custody late Tuesday.

Arrested on Tuesday were Brian Cavalier, 44, of Bunkerville, Nev.; Shawna Cox, 59, of Kanab, Utah; and Ryan Waylen Payne, 32, of Anaconda, Mont. Joseph Donald O’Shaughnessy, 45, of Cottonwood, Ariz. was arrested in a separate incident, the authorities said. Officials said they were waiting for the medical examiner’s office to identify the person who was killed.
It is unfortunate that one of the protesters was killed: I am sure that the next right wing domestic terrorist will use it as an excuse for the deaths he causes.

According to local reports, it was LaVoy Finicum who was shot and killed, and Ryan Bundy was lightly wounded.

ON the other hand, but the impartial enforcement of the law against right wing militia types is long overdue.

In addition to occupying a federal building, they looted an Indian archaeological site, and bulldozed a road across a nature preserve.

This should have happened weeks ago.

F%$# Me. Now I Have to Defend Sarah Palin

I understand that Track Palin, Sarah's kid, is alleged to have beaten and brandished a firearm at his (hopefully former) girlfriend.

I also heard Sarah Palin blaming Barack Obama, because Track was in Iraq, and has PTSD.

I'm inclined call bullsh%$ on former ½ Governor Palin, because the best evidence is that Track Palin has always been a been prone to violent outbursts.

That being said, articles like this one that claims that Track could not have PTSD because he never saw combat, are crap:

The head of Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA), Rick Rieckhoff responded to Palin's statement, saying she shouldn't "politicize" the issue of PTSD and hoped it "doesn’t become a portable chew toy in a political campaign."

In addition, Track Palin's public records indicate that not only did he only serve one year in Iraq, which was under the George W. Bush administration, he also didn't even see one moment of combat. An anonymous fellow solider also spoke about the issue, debunking Palin's earlier claims. “Speaking as a combat vet who literally slept in the same barracks as Track Palin, his mother is wrong and her son is not a victim.”
Let's be clear here: This is NOT how PTSD works.

There are doctors, and nurses, and MPs, and supply officers who never saw a shot fired in anger who have PTSD.

Not being shot at, or shooting someone, does NOT rule out PTSD.

Honestly, I think that the PTSD explanation is likely Palin alibiing (again), but painting with that broad a brush maligns a lot of people who have a very real condition, and need treatment. 

25 January 2016

Quote of the Day

To understand the Saudi royal family, you don't go to the Kennedy School of Government, you read Shakespeare!
Bruce Riedel, former CIA national intelligence officer for the Middle East
It's in the 2nd 'Graph of the article linked above.

It describes the rather convoluted and dysfunctional succession politics in the House of Saud, and it's a good read.

It appears that the current king suffers from dementia, and his two most likely successors are engaged in a death match to assume the throne.

When the House of Saud falls, and it is when, not if, it will start with a dynastic dispute, and honestly, I think that this might be the time.

Saudi family politics have always been dicey, but with the King being pretty much a figurehead, and his successors being young enough that either one would have a reign of decades, this looks to end up a complete hairball.

It Appears that Unicorns* Don't Believe in Due Diligence

We have another shoe dropping at Theranos Lab:
U.S. health inspectors have found serious deficiencies at Theranos Inc.’s laboratory in Northern California, according to people familiar with the matter.

The problems were found during an inspection by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, the chief federal regulator of clinical labs, at the blood-testing company’s facility in Newark, Calif. Failing to fix the problems could put the Theranos lab at risk of suspension from the Medicare program.

The inspection results are expected to be publicly released soon, these people said. A spokesman for the agency said it “can’t confirm any survey conclusions or results at this time.”


Theranos already has stopped collecting tiny samples of blood from patients’ fingers for all but one of its tests while it waits for the Food and Drug Administration to review the company’s applications for wider use of the proprietary vials called “nanotainers.” In October, the FDA said it had determined that the nanotainers were an “uncleared medical device.”

Since then, Theranos has been performing just one test—to detect herpes—using its proprietary Edison device, people familiar with the matter said. That test was approved by the FDA.

Theranos is using traditional machines for the rest of the more than 200 tests it offers to consumers, the people said.
Theranos has been a hawking a proprietary technology which allows for a wide range of blood tests to be conducted by a simple finger prick.

They have a valuation of over $1 billion, their technology does not work reliably. their conventional lab tests have been cited by the FDA, and most of their business they have to outsource at a loss.

I understand that this Might Be a promising technology, but how does this become a multibillion dollar valuation?

How is there difference between this and much of the rest of the froth in Silicon Valley?

There are no venture capitalists.  There are just con men looking for the next idiot.

*In the world of business, a unicorn is a company, usually a start-up that does not have an established performance record, with a stock market valuation or estimated valuation of more than $1 billion.

You Have Gotta be F%$#ing Kidding Me………

In the latest episode of "Welcome to a Police State", prosecutors are arguing that they don't need a warrant to use a Stingray to track people by their cell phone data because ……… Google Maps:
Up in Baltimore, where law enforcement Stingray device use hit critical mass faster and more furiously than anywhere else in the country (to date...) with the exposure of 4,300 deployments in seven years, the government is still arguing there's no reason to bring search warrants into this.

The state's Attorney General apparently would like the Baltimore PD's use of pen register orders to remain standard operating procedure. According to a brief filed in a criminal case relying on the warrantless deployment of an IMSI catcher (in this case a Hailstorm), the state believes there's no reason for police to seek a warrant because everyone "knows" cell phones generate data when they're turned on or in use. (h/t Brad Heath of USA Today)
The whereabouts of a cellular telephone are not "withdrawn from public view" until it is turned off, or its SIM card removed. Anyone who has ever used a smartphone is aware that the phone broadcasts its position on the map, leading to, for example, search results and advertising tailored for the user's location, or to a "ride-sharing" car appearing at one's address. And certainly anyone who has ever used any sort of cellular telephone knows that it must be in contact with an outside cell tower to function.
The state's brief folds in parts of the Third Party Doctrine and the Supreme Court's 1979 Smith v. Maryland decision to make a truly terrible argument that because certain aspects of cell phones involuntarily create location data, the Fourth Amendment never comes into play.

Matt Blaze rephrases the state's argument slightly, exposing the ridiculousness of this assertion.
The state follows this up by arguing that, because the use of a pen register order to deploy an IMSI catcher is not expressly forbidden by local statutes, the evidence shouldn't be suppressed.


All well and good, except that the only reason there was no statute in place is because local law enforcement spent years keeping its cell phone tracking devices hidden from judges and defendants, obscuring the technology through parallel construction and misleading pen register order requests. This case is no different than the hundreds preceding it. The magistrate judge signing the pen register order had no idea what the Baltimore PD was actually doing. The presiding judge in this prosecution declared the Baltimore PD's pen register request contained "material misrepresentations" on his way towards granting the suppression of evidence.
This is why we need the exclusionary rule.

Lazy cops and lazy prosecutors are a threat to our civil liberties.

It takes very little to get a warrant from a judge, and for these guys, it's too much.

Your Daily Schadenfreude

Under pressure from the Texas Governor's Office, the Harris County prosecutor's office convened a grand jury to investigate the bogusly edited video from the so called "Center for Medical Progress" that alleged that Planned Parenthood sold fetal tissue.

They came back with indictments ……… of the antiabortion Taliban that created the video:
A grand jury here that was investigating accusations of misconduct against Planned Parenthood has instead indicted two abortion opponents who made undercover videos of the organization.

Prosecutors in Harris County said one of the leaders of the Center for Medical Progress — an anti-abortion group that made secretly recorded videos purporting to show Planned Parenthood officials trying to illegally profit from the sale of fetal tissue — had been indicted on a charge of tampering with a governmental record, a felony, and on a misdemeanor charge related to purchasing human organs.

That leader, David Daleiden, 26, the director of the center, had posed as a biotechnology representative to infiltrate Planned Parenthood affiliates and surreptitiously record his efforts to procure tissue for research. Another center employee, Sandra Merritt, was indicted on a felony charge of tampering with a governmental record.


On Monday, the Harris County district attorney, Devon Anderson, said in a statement that grand jurors had cleared Planned Parenthood of any wrongdoing.


The case here started in August, when Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, a Republican and an outspoken opponent of abortion and Planned Parenthood, asked Ms. Anderson to open a criminal investigation into the organization. His request came after the release of an undercover video recorded at a Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast office in Houston with a research official for the organization. Mr. Patrick said the video showed the group “discussing the gruesome and barbaric work of Planned Parenthood and what appears to be its profiteering from selling body parts from aborted babies.”


This month in federal court in San Francisco, Planned Parenthood sued the center, Mr. Daleiden and other abortion opponents involved in the videos. The suit accused them of engaging in a three-year criminal enterprise to target the group.

“These people broke the law to spread malicious lies about Planned Parenthood in order to advance their extreme anti-abortion political agenda,” Eric Ferrero, a spokesman for the Planned Parenthood Federation of America, said in a statement Monday. “As the dust settles and the truth comes out, it’s become totally clear that the only people who engaged in wrongdoing are the criminals behind this fraud, and we’re glad they’re being held accountable.”

In making the videos, Mr. Daleiden and others have been accused of setting up a fake company called Biomax Procurement Services, creating fake identities and claiming to be part of a legitimate provider of fetal tissue to researchers. The charge of tampering with a governmental record appeared to be related to Mr. Daleiden’s and Ms. Merritt’s use of fake ID cards.

“We know that they used fake IDs that had their real photographs but fake names and fake addresses purported to be issued by the state of California,” said Josh Schaffer, a Houston lawyer who represents Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast in the Harris County criminal investigation. Mr. Daleiden and Ms. Merritt presented those IDs to security at the Planned Planned office to gain entry to the building. “They never denied that they presented a fake ID,” Mr. Schaffer said.

Mr. Schaffer said he believed the misdemeanor charge stemmed from laws prohibiting offers to buy fetal tissue. He said that following the meeting with Planned Parenthood officials in Houston, Mr. Daleiden sent an email to them offering to buy fetal tissue for $1,600 per sample.

“It does not surprise me that a grand jury that chose to correctly apply the law to the evidence that was presented would return this result,” Mr. Schaffer said. “The written charges have not been released publicly yet, so at this point I am working on my knowledge of the investigation.”
I am so amused by all of this.

Considering the nature of their actions, I'm thinking that Homeland Security should put Daleiden and his co-conspirators on the no fly list, but that is probably a pipe dream.

It's the Insurance, Stupid

We have yet another article wondering why fewer people are getting drivers licenses these days:

Young people are not getting driver’s licenses so much anymore. In fact, no one is. According to a new study by Michael Sivak and Brandon Schoettle at the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute, the percentage of people with a driver’s license decreased between 2011 and 2014, across all age groups. For people aged 16 to 44, that percentage has been decreasing steadily since 1983.

It’s especially pronounced for the teens—in 2014, just 24.5 percent of 16-year-olds had a license, a 47-percent decrease from 1983, when 46.2 percent did. And at the tail end of the teen years, 69 percent of 19-year-olds had licenses in 2014, compared to 87.3 percent in 1983, a 21-percent decrease.

Among young adults, the declines are smaller but still significant—16.4 percent fewer 20-to-24-year-olds had licenses in 2014 than in 1983, 11 percent fewer 25-to-29-year-olds, 10.3 percent fewer 30-to-34-year-olds, and 7.4 percent fewer 35-to-39-year-olds. For people between 40 and 54, the declines were small, less than 5 percent.


Maybe it’s just that people today have more things they’d rather do than practice parallel parking between traffic cones. Or maybe it’s because the photos on those plastic cards are almost never flattering. Sivak and Schoettle are hoping to soon study possible reasons for the drop in driver’s licenses. But regardless of the cause, it seems that if you want to insult a teen today, shaming them for not being able to operate a motor vehicle might not be the way to go.
It's not difficult to understand.

The FIRE (Finance, Insurance, and Real Estate) sector has been sitting athwart our economy sucking the marrow out of its bones for a very long time, and it appears that the insurance industry has finally reached a level where it's breaking up America's love affair with the automobile.

All in all, it's king of a mixed emotions thing here.  The insurance industry and auto industry have both done a lot to f%$# up our country.

If only they could both lose.

24 January 2016

Why it Pays to be a Professional Badass

After a patent troll realized that they had sued Newegg, a company that is known for going to the mat against patent trolls, they dropped their case like it was plutonium:
A shell company that sued dozens of computer peripheral makers has quickly dropped Newegg house brand Rosewill from its list of defendants. The motion to dismiss, filed yesterday, comes just days after Newegg's lawyers filed notices of their appearance in the case.

Minero Digital LLC dismissed its case against Rosewill one day after Newegg Chief Legal Officer Lee Cheng authorized his outside lawyer to try to settle the case in exchange for a "nominal donation to charity." During that conversation (the attorneys' first discussion about the case), Newegg's outside counsel said that although the proposed agreement wouldn't pay Minero anything, it was likely to be Newegg's best and final offer. He suggested Minero search the Internet for news articles about Newegg's policies on settling "patent troll" type cases. (The short version: Newegg doesn't pay patent trolls.)

The next day, Minero dismissed the lawsuit against Rosewill. The dismissal is without prejudice, which means it could be re-filed in the future.
It appears that Newegg Chief Legal Officer Lee Cheng is kind of bummed, because no one wants to dance with him any more, "I never get invited to parties anymore. Now I keep getting kicked out."

BTW, while there are a concerns about how one reigns in patent trolls while continuing to incentivize creativity, adding transparency to the process, to prevent obscure shell companies from obscuring who owns, and who benefits from, their behavior.

I think that naming and shaming the likes Nathan Myhrvold, who tries to pretend that he's a scientist and philanthropist, and not an extortionist, would make the world a better place.

Headline of the Day

Michael Bloomberg decides to hold a gun to the head of American democracy

It'a an interesting, and probably accurate assessment, that Bloomberg is making an implicit threat to the Democratic Party: That if Sanders wins the nomination, then he will queer the general in favor of Donald Trump or Ted Cruz:
According to this morning’s New York Times, former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg has decided that there are not enough billionaires trying to sway the outcome of the next presidential election: “If Republicans were to nominate Mr. Trump or Senator Ted Cruz of Texas, a hard-line conservative, and Democrats were to pick Mr. Sanders, Mr. Bloomberg—who changed his party affiliation to independent in 2007—has told allies he would be likely to run.”


Bloomberg’s intent is clear: He’s considering running not because he has a viable program he wants to promote, but because he wants to exercise a veto over the already existing parties—especially a veto over whom the Democrats pick. His gambit makes Sanders’s path to the White House much more difficult but also explains why Sanders’s campaign is necessary.
Yet another Wall Street narcissist throwing a tantrum.

Vote Sanders, and tell Michael Bloomberg to go Cheney himself.

Well, Isn't That Special

In response to a request for transcripts of her extremely well remunerated speeches to Goldman Sach is a dismissive laugh:
After Hillary Clinton spoke at a town hall in Manchester, New Hampshire, on Friday, I asked her if she would release the transcripts of her paid speeches to Goldman Sachs. She laughed and turned away.

Clinton has recently been on the defensive about the speaking fees she and her husband have collected. Those fees total over $125 million since 2001.

Her rival Democratic presidential candidate, Bernie Sanders, has raised concerns in particular over the $675,000 she made from Goldman Sachs, an investment bank that has regularly used its influence with government officials to win favorable policies


During one of her paid speeches to Goldman Sachs, Clinton reportedly reassured the crowd and told them that banker-bashing was unproductive and foolish, according to a Politico report based on accounts offered by several attendees.


When asked by the Des Moines Register on Thursday if she regretted her decision to make money from speaking to various interest groups, Clinton compared herself to President Barack Obama, noting that significant campaign donations from Wall Street did not stop him from passing the Dodd-Frank reform law.

But the Obama administration did in fact go easy on Wall Street by refusing to criminally prosecute the major financial institutions responsible for the 2008 economic crisis. And Dodd-Frank, many critics say, does not go far enough in preventing systemic risk.
Clinton does not want a transcript of that speech released.

It is almost certainly something that she does not want to see the light of day, because it almost certainly a declaration of common cause with the banksters.

I rather do hope that someone recorded a cell phone video of her speech.

This is So Not a Surprise

In news that surprise no one, Eve Moskowitz's Success Academy has been sued for systematic discrimination against disabled students:
When it was revealed that a Brooklyn school run by the Success Academy charter network was systematically pushing out struggling and disabled students identified on a "Got to Go" list, the company's head Eva Moskowitz said the list was the work of a rogue principal, unrepresentative of any broader policy. Critics of the lucrative, influential 36-school network have long alleged that it maintains high test scores by pressuring parents of students with disabilities to pull them from its schools. A federal civil rights complaint filed yesterday by 13 parents along with politicians and advocacy groups bolsters the case, alleging that difficulties faced by special-needs kids are actually the result of a company-wide policy that has been in effect for years.

"Success Academy operates schools in some of the most distressed neighborhoods of this city and receives considerable public funding but fails to serve students with disabilities in accordance with the law," Legal Services NYC direct Raun Rasmussen said in a statement. "These children deserve better."


When it was revealed that a Brooklyn school run by the Success Academy charter network was systematically pushing out struggling and disabled students identified on a "Got to Go" list, the company's head Eva Moskowitz said the list was the work of a rogue principal, unrepresentative of any broader policy. Critics of the lucrative, influential 36-school network have long alleged that it maintains high test scores by pressuring parents of students with disabilities to pull them from its schools. A federal civil rights complaint filed yesterday by 13 parents along with politicians and advocacy groups bolsters the case, alleging that difficulties faced by special-needs kids are actually the result of a company-wide policy that has been in effect for years.

"Success Academy operates schools in some of the most distressed neighborhoods of this city and receives considerable public funding but fails to serve students with disabilities in accordance with the law," Legal Services NYC direct Raun Rasmussen said in a statement. "These children deserve better."


The other cases all echo this one, with some variations—some parents have already withdrawn their child, one was expelled in his fourth year, and some parents, like Jackson, are still fighting to receive special education within Success schools.

Each set of allegations involves school administrators ignoring or downplaying disability diagnoses, and when confronted with them, failing to provide such support measures as small classes or paraprofessionals. When behavioral problems arise with the inadequately accommodated special-needs child, rather than reassessing, the schools allegedly suspend the kids, force parents to pick them up early, and in some cases, call paramedics to take them to emergency rooms.


Meanwhile, the State University of New York, which licenses charter schools, is planning to investigate Success's alleged pressure tactics, according to a New York Post report.
This is how charter schools work, because this is what we pay them for.

Essentially, they get paid for high test scores, and the easiest way to do this is to make sure that under-performing or difficult students never enroll, and to make sure that those who do enroll leave.

Why Hillary Clinton's Stint as Secretary of State Is Not a Positive

Her tenure at State was categorized by mindlessly bellicose rhetoric, and not a whole bunch of major accomplishments.

One of the best examples of this, though it started a few months after Clinton left Foggy Bottom, was the negotiations to open up with Cuba, where the Obama administration had to keep the State Department in the Dark to prevent it from sabotaging negotiations.

It wasn't Clinton's direct doings, but it was her people that the Obama administration had to deceive.

The most compelling case on a personal level is how Clinton's mindlessly bellicose statements  kept US citizens prisoners, detained, and abused in Iran:
I rarely think about being a prisoner in Iran anymore. I've been free for more than four years. It's been a long time since the sounds of hard soles on a cement floor would remind me of my interrogator or I would suddenly need to bolt from a restaurant because I couldn't take the throngs of people after so much time in a prison cell.

Last Saturday, I was dripping coffee on myself during an early morning drive when I heard that four Americans were being released from Iran as part of a prisoner swap. Suddenly, my eyes welled up. I could feel the knot of excitement and confusion that had turned in my gut when my plane from Tehran hit the tarmac in Muscat, Oman, in September 2011. I pictured the way my and my friend Josh's families looked small in the distance, their little hands waving, as we taxied toward them. I remembered the force that pulled me—running!—down the stairs of the airplane and how, at the bottom, I laughed and cried at the same time. Everyone else did too.

I was elated for these men and their families.

Later, the joy was tempered by an old, familiar frustration. While scouring the internet for updates on the four Americans, I read that shortly after their release, Hillary Clinton called for new sanctions on Iran for testing two ballistic missiles last year. I was shocked. The prisoners had not yet been let out of the country. Why would she provoke Iran when their freedom was still on the line?

The Omani envoy trying to negotiate our release was repeatedly frustrated by Clinton. "Why can't your Hillary just keep quiet?" he blurted to me.

I remembered sitting in my cell in 2009—I think I was trying to memorize a family tree from Greek mythology or something equally random—when I heard then-Secretary of State Clinton's voice from a television in a neighboring cell. I ran to the door and pressed my ear into its little window. She was commanding Iran to release us immediately. My heart sank. I imagined my interrogator bringing me into his padded room, blindfolded, and ranting about how Iran would not be bossed around by America, "The Great Satan." I came to fear the sound of Clinton's voice. Whenever I heard her publicly slam Iran about something, I would mentally prepare for at least another couple of months in prison.

Though I didn't know it at the time, I wasn't the only one who felt that way. Many of our family members grew frustrated with their meetings with her and White House officials. My wife, Sarah, who was released a year before Josh and I were, shared this frustration. Once, during a meeting with us in the prison, Swiss Ambassador Livia Leu, who represented American interests in Iran, broke from her usual reassuring demeanor and said, "They will never respond to your government demanding they release you. They need to talk to the Iranians."
The title of this article, "When I was a prisoner in Iran, I came to fear the sound of Hillary Clinton's voice," pretty much says it all.

Clinton's mindless dick swinging in foreign policy (Yes, I intend the juxtaposition) is not an indication of foreign policy knowledge, it is an indication of her determined and unwavering foreign policy ignorance.

She gives Dick Cheney a run for his money in the incompetence in the foreign policy arena.

Their Goal Is to Punish Women. Mission Accomplished

One of the not so tightly kept secrets of the abortion criminalization movement is that they want to ban birth control as well.

The reason for this is because they want to punish women for their sexuality, and now a study shows that when they get what they want, they succeed in punishing women:
In the US, there are many laws limiting when and how women can receive abortions. But there is almost no research on what happens to women who seek out abortions and are denied them. Now a team of health researchers at the University of California, San Francisco has completed a longitudinal study of a group they call "Turnaways," women who tried and failed to get abortions due to local laws. The researchers found that women who received abortions were over six times as likely to have and achieve positive life plans than Turnaways.

The Turnaway study

To gather their unusual Turnaway data set, the researchers spent two years interviewing 956 women who sought abortions at 30 different abortion clinics around the US. 182 of them were turned away. All the women were interviewed a week after being turned away or receiving an abortion and then again a year later to assess the longer-term outcomes of their experiences. The team has also just completed interviews with the women that will reveal where they are five years after being turned away or not.

In its first analysis of turnaway data published two years ago, the team found that women seek out abortions for complicated reasons, with the most common being a feeling of financial unpreparedness. This earlier analysis also showed that 86 percent of turnaways chose to keep their children, and 67 percent of them would up below the poverty line a year later. By comparison, 56 percent of women granted abortions in the study were below the poverty line a year later. This finding lent credibility to many turnaways' concerns that being financially unprepared would cause problems down the line.


Only 53 percent of the goals were aspirational among turnaways. Women who received abortions had roughly 85 percent aspirational plans. Women who had children but did not parent them had 80 percent aspirational plans. The upshot was that turnaways who kept their children had far fewer positive goals for the future than their counterparts who received abortions.

Of all the goals measured, 47 percent were achieved. There was little difference between turnaways and women who had abortions when it came to achieving their goals. However, as the researchers write in their paper, women who received abortions "were significantly more likely to have both an aspirational plan and to have achieved it" than turnaways who kept their children. Upadhyay was quick to point out that overall, most of the women's goals were aspirational. "They all had high hopes," she said. But Turnaways "were much more likely to have negative goals."

What this latest phase in the Turnaway study reveals is that not having access to abortion can negatively impact women's lives. As Upadhyay and her colleagues put it in their paper, "Whether or not a person has aspirational plans is indicative of her hope for the future. Without such plans or hopes, she misses out on opportunities to achieve milestones in life."

Put bluntly, the Turnaways had fewer hopes, so they had fewer reasons to push themselves toward what they defined as better lives.
Destroying these women's lives is one of the goals of the anti-abortion movement.

You won't ever hear them say it, but it is clear from what they do.

23 January 2016

I Finally Have a Word for It, "Stochastic Terrorism"

"Stochastic" is a word for an event that seemingly occurs randomly, but actually follows statistical patterns, which means that one can look there is some sort of cause and effect relationship involved.

Elisabeth Parker uses the term Stochastic Terrorism to describe the right wing's use of language and mass communications to inspire the occasional "Lone Wolf" mass shooter:
I recently argued for treating all mass shooters and bombers as terroristic threats. Now I’ll explain how the GOP ratchets up the threat level through a process called stochastic terrorism.

As we mourn the victims of the latest mass shooting, we can also clearly see a pattern: The shooters (or sometimes bombers) nearly always turn out to be white males with right-wing political leanings, and the media nearly always describes them as “insane” or as “disturbed loners.” Philly Mayor Michael Nutter and others view these attacks as looming terroristic threats, but — because the killers often lack formal ties with extremist groups — we often don’t want to call them “terrorists” because we’re still struggling to describe what has grown more and more obvious.

Luckily for us, someone has already coined the term we’re looking for: “stochastic terrorism.” G2Geek came up with it on Daily Kos back in 2011 in response to the Tucson shooting that left Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-Ariz.) with a severe brain injury that cut her term short.
Stochastic terrorism is the use of mass communications to stir up random lone wolves to carry out violent or terrorist acts that are statistically predictable but individually unpredictable.

To further clarify, G2Geek later updated his post to explain that the stochastic terrorists aren’t the ones who pose the actual terroristic threats. No, they’re the ones who use their access to the media to broadcast extreme views that inspire “disturbed loners” like Dylann Roof and Robert Lewis Dear to attack. In his post, G2Geek specifically calls out hate-mongering people on Fox “News” like Sean Hannity and Bill O’Reilly. Now, GOP officials, lawmakers and 2016 presidential candidates have likewise come under fire for their over-the-top, insane and hateful rantings about immigrants, gays, Planned Parenthood, blacks, and Muslims.
The person who actually plants the bomb or assassinates the public official is not the stochastic terrorist, they are the “missile” set in motion by the stochastic terrorist. The stochastic terrorist is the person who uses mass media as their means of setting those “missiles” in motion.
Ms. Parker asserts, and I agree that this is a part of a deliberate strategy, and I agree.

In, fact, I would argue that this strategy is already bearing fruit, as the fear of another Oklahoma City bombing, a classic example of Stochastic Terrorism, is keeping law enforcement officials from enforcing the law at the Malheur reserve in Oregon.

The question is how to stop it.

H/t Pieter Lugt‎

Mission From God Delayed

Too much snow for igloo making.

It took an hour and a half to shovela path to the front yard, where we intend to start construction.

And it is still snowing hard.

Great googly moogly!

Posted via mobile.

22 January 2016

It's One Thing to Be Lied to, It's Another to Be Thought an Idiot

It's the sort of thing that makes one want to go all Samuel L. Jackson in Pulp Fiction:*
Hillary Clinton defended her paid speeches to Wall Street firms, rejecting the idea that the millions of dollars she earned in fees would sway her views on financial firms.

On the heels of repeated attacks from Senator Bernie Sanders, who has seized on the fees to portray Mrs. Clinton as out of touch with ordinary Iowans and other voters, Mrs. Clinton gave an interview this week in Iowa to The Des Moines Register, saying she had no regrets. “Anybody who thinks they can buy me doesn’t know me,” Mrs. Clinton said, in the article published Friday.

She described her paid speaking — which spanned events for financial firms and a number of other trade associations and businesses, which typically paid fees of around $225,000 per speech — as a chance for business leaders to hear about her views on world events.

“What they were interested in were my views on what was going on in the world,” Mrs. Clinton said. “And whether you’re in health care, or you sell automobiles, or you’re in banking – there’s a lot of interest in getting advice and views about what you think is happening in the world.”
We get it, and it's not what you are saying.

The speaking fees are not a bribe, speeches are a Reward for Demonstrating that You are One of Them.

In talking to them and taking their money, you are proving that you buy into their corrupt and parasitic world view.

The speeches, and the speaking fees are not you selling yourself, they are a Demonstration That You Are Already Owned.

* Jules: Does he look like a bitch?

Brett: What?

Jules: [Shoots Brett in the shoulder] DOES HE LOOK LIKE A BITCH?

Brett: No!

Jules: Then why you try to f%$# him like a bitch?

Brett: I didn't...

Jules: Yes you did. Yes you did! You tried to f%$# him. And Marcellus Wallace don't like to be f%$#ed by anybody except Mrs. Wallace.

We're on a Mission from God

Now that we finally have a heavy snow storm, Charlie and I are going to attempt to make an igloo tomorrow.

It should be interesting.

I expect a glorious fiasco.

We'll use our Tupperware to make the bricks.

21 January 2016

Governor Ratf%$# Just Got Served

Yesterday, he Maryland legislature overrode 5 of Governor Hogan's vetoes:
The Maryland General Assembly on Thursday overturned five of Gov. Larry Hogan’s 2015 vetoes, turning the bills into law and proving that the Democratic-controlled legislature can enforce its will despite opposition from a popular Republican chief executive.

The resurrected measures dealt with public marijuana smoking and pot paraphernalia; police seizures of criminal assets; taxation of online hotel-booking services; and funding to renovate an arts center in Annapolis.

Overturning a veto requires the approval of three-fifths of the 141-member House of Delegates and the 47-member Senate. Both chambers completed the process for the five measures Thursday.


The Senate postponed action on Hogan’s veto of a bill that would grant voting rights to felons who are on parole or probation, pushing the vote to Feb. 5 so that a vacant seat can be filled.

Miller said this week that the vote of the new senator could be critical. The voting-rights bill passed the Senate last year with 29 votes, exactly the number needed to override Hogan’s veto.
I really hope that they expand voting rights.

Removing voting rights from felons is an evil relic of Jim Crow.

Surprisingly Good News

The Supreme Court has just ruled that defendants cannot shut down a class action suits by paying off the lead plaintiff:
An effort to gut one of the most important mechanisms the law uses to deter businesses against widespread violations of the law failed on Wednesday, when the Supreme Court handed down its 6-3 decision in Campbell-Ewald v. Gomez. Had the defendants, who were backed by powerful business interest groups such as the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the Business Roundtable, prevailed in this lawsuit, it would have significantly altered the balance of power between large corporations and their customers and workers.

Campbell-Ewald involved a company that allegedly sent many unsolicited text messages to various cell phone users. Under federal law, someone who receives such a message may recover $500 for each violation of the law. The named plaintiff in this case, Jose Gomez, is a man who received one of the unwanted messages.

This tiny case about an annoying message took on far greater importance, however, because Gomez also sought to bring a class action on behalf of others who also received the unsolicited messages. As ThinkProgress previously explained, class actions are often the only mechanism available against defendants who commit small-scale violations of the law against many different individuals:

Suppose that a company cheats you out of a few hundred dollars. While you’ll probably be angry and may make some irate phone calls to the company’s customer service line, chances are you’re not going to sue if the company refuses to back down. The cost of bringing a lawsuit will greatly exceed any amount you are likely to recover from the company, and you are unlikely to find a lawyer willing to take such a small-dollar case unless you agree to pay that lawyer expensive hourly fees.

Class action lawsuits are often the solution to this problem. If the company cheats you and you alone out of a few hundred dollars, you’re probably out of luck. But if the same company illegally cheats thousands of people out of a few hundred dollars as part of the same scheme, class actions allow those thousands of people to join together in one grand lawsuit. Because their combined suit is now worth a lot of money, they are suddenly likely to be able to recruit excellent legal counsel to represent the class.
Campbell-Ewald, however, sought to allow class action defendants to sabotage these lawsuits. Typically, such lawsuits begin when a single plaintiff or small group of plaintiffs file a complaint laying out their allegations. Though Gomez’s complaint indicated his intention to bring this case as a class action, the question of whether the case can proceed as class litigation is not decided until later in the proceedings. That created an interim period when the defendants knew that a class action was coming, but the only plaintiff properly before the court was Gomez.

During that interim period, the defendant company offered Gomez $1,500 per unwanted text message that he received — an offer that would effectively buy off Gomez but leave the other class members with nothing. They then claimed that, even if Gomez did not agree to this offer, the lawsuit had to cease. Under Article III of the Constitution, the company argued, a lawsuit must not proceed unless there is an active “case” or “controversy” between two parties. So when the defendant company offered to give Gomez everything he personally could expect to collect under the law, that offer allegedly rendered the case moot because there was no longer a real dispute between the two sides.
 Considering the relentlessly pro business bent of this court, I am surprised, but pleased.

What a Surprise: Privatizing London's Rail System Failed

After decades of poor and inconsistent service, incomprehensible fares, higher costs, and a lack of investment in essential infrastructure, London is moving to re-privatize its commuter rail lines:
So, last week, the Centre for London think tank published a report called "Turning South London Orange", which argued that Transport for London (TfL) should take over all suburban rail services in the south of the capital.

This morning, the mayor of London Boris Johnson and the British government's transport secretary, Patrick McLoughlin, released a joint statement, saying, basically: Okay.

Wow, that happened fast.

Actually the statement goes rather further than that, mentioning services into six different rail terminals. They're only proposals at this stage - "views are being sought". Even if it does happen, TfL will only take control of different routes once the various franchise come up for renewal, so the change will take five years or more to take effect.

But this is nonetheless a remarkable statement of intent that the capital's rail network should be run by the capital's transport authorities. It's a big deal.


When a private rail franchise controls a route, its ultimate goal is to make money for its shareholders: running trains is the means, not the end.

By contrast, when TfL controls a route, its ultimate mission is to run lots of trains to help the city run smoothly. That's true even when TfL's role is contract management, and the actual trains are run by a private firm, as happens with the London Overground.

Some London train franchises have a history of cancelling train services at the drop of a hat, just because it's easier and cheaper than letting them run late. Maybe we're being utopian, but it's hard to imagine a TfL-run network doing the same. Even without investment, this would be a big change.
The author notes that this is odd, given that Boris Johnson only has a few more months in office, and explains why they are moving now:
The message here is the Conservatives can be trusted to back Londoners against any big businesses that might be making their lives hell. It's almost as if there's an election coming up.

It's true. Privatized rail is so sidely loathed that the even the bloody Adam Smith Institute, which describes itself as working to, "Promote libertarian and free market ideas through research, publishing, media commentary, and educational programmes," is cheering the return of publicly owned and operated rail:
Unleashing the private sector frequently does not deliver the promised results.

H/t Atrios.