19 February 2018

The New Pennsylvania Map is Out

Following the complete inability of the legislature and the governor to agree on come up with something that meets the requirements of the Pennsylvania constitution, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court has drawn the new Congressional map, and it appears to be a far fairer map:
The Pennsylvania Supreme Court on Monday imposed a new congressional district map that upends previous boundaries, renumbers districts across the state and gives a potential boost to Democrats in the 2018 House elections.

Under the court's redrawn map, districts more closely align with county lines and only 13 counties are split among two or three districts. By contrast, under the last map, enacted by the state legislature in 2011, more than twice as many counties were split among multiple districts.

In striking down that map last month as unconstitutional, the justices said the new districts should be as compact and contiguous as possible. Their new map, they wrote in an order, is “superior or comparable” to proposals submitted by the participants and interested groups during in the legal challenge that led to the historic ruling.

The reconfigured map prompted a sharp rebuke from top Republican legislators, who said honoring it would create a "constitutional crisis." Extending a political clash that has roiled the state for months, they said they might challenge the map — or the justices' authority to impose it — in federal court as early as Tuesday.
The US Supreme Court has already declined to review this, since the ruling is under the aegis of the Pennsylvania constitution, so I see it as somewhat unlikely that a Federal court overruling this.

The only way that I see an injunction is if the Supreme Court reverses itself and agrees to take the case directly.

They gave the legislature and governor an opportunity (albeit a short time) to come together on this, and they failed, so the court had to draw their own map.

18 February 2018

Ex-CIA Director Tells the Truth

On Fox News, (where else) Former CIA director James Woolsey admitted that the US routinely meddles in foreign elections, but "Only for very good cause," because, I guess it's OK when we do it.

You see laundering money to politicians in foreign countries is MUCH better than trolling on Facebook and Twitter:
Following a federal indictment of Russians accused of meddling in the U.S election, a former CIA director on Friday said the U.S. “probably” meddles in other countries’ elections, as well.

The Russian embassy flagged his comments.

When asked whether the U.S. interferes in other countries’ elections, James Woolsey said, “Well, only for a very good cause in the interests of democracy."

“Oh, probably, but it was for the good of the system in order to avoid communists taking over,” he told Laura Ingraham on her Fox News show on Friday night.

Woolsey served as CIA director under former President Clinton.
The New York Times has suddenly discovered this historical fact as well:
Bags of cash delivered to a Rome hotel for favored Italian candidates. Scandalous stories leaked to foreign newspapers to swing an election in Nicaragua. Millions of pamphlets, posters and stickers printed to defeat an incumbent in Serbia.

The long arm of Vladimir Putin? No, just a small sample of the United States’ history of intervention in foreign elections.

On Tuesday, American intelligence chiefs warned the Senate Intelligence Committee that Russia appears to be preparing to repeat in the 2018 midterm elections the same full-on chicanery it unleashed in 2016: hacking, leaking, social media manipulation and possibly more. Then on Friday, Robert Mueller, the special counsel, announced the indictments of 13 Russians and three companies, run by a businessman with close Kremlin ties, laying out in astonishing detail a three-year scheme to use social media to attack Hillary Clinton, boost Donald Trump and sow discord.

Most Americans are understandably shocked by what they view as an unprecedented attack on our political system. But intelligence veterans, and scholars who have studied covert operations, have a different, and quite revealing, view.

“If you ask an intelligence officer, did the Russians break the rules or do something bizarre, the answer is no, not at all,” said Steven L. Hall, who retired in 2015 after 30 years at the C.I.A., where he was the chief of Russian operations. The United States “absolutely” has carried out such election influence operations historically, he said, “and I hope we keep doing it.”
Hypocrisy much?

This Has Gotta Hurt

Republican Kevin Nicholson is running in the primary for a chance to run against Tammy Baldwin's for US Senate.

His parents have donated the maximum to the Baldwin campaign:
This is amusing. Apparently, Kevin Nicholson's parents are staunch Democrats, so much so they'd rather give their money to Tammy Baldwin than a Republican, even if he's their own son.
Sharper than a serpent's tooth, neh?

Tweet of the Day


Yeah, pretty much.

17 February 2018

Brazil Shows Us What We Need for Good Healthcare

It appears that all you need is a community minded hyper-violent drug lord:
Thomaz Vieira Gomes, also known as 2N, is considered one of the most dangerous criminals in Rio de Janeiro, but recently he actually did something decent, albeit still illegal, for once.

He and his gang kidnapped two male nurses and made them vaccinate the poor people of his favela against yellow fever.

For months, Brazil has been dealing with a yellow fever epidemic that has already left dozens dead. Despite the Health Ministry’s plans to vaccinate millions of people in the hopes of containing the outbreak, immunisation centres struggle to keep up with the high number of patients, and, as always, the poorest communities are usually ignored.

………

On January 27th, the young gang leader and a few of his cronies descended on a local state-run clinic in two black cars, took as many syringes and vaccine doses as they could find, and kidnapped two of the male nurses on duty that night.

They then drove to the Amarelinho bar in Salgueiro where the two nurses spent hours administering yellow fever vaccines to members of the local community.

………

After doing their job, the two victims were reportedly taken back to their workplace.

………

Even the country’s former Minister of Environment took to Twitter to comment on this bizarre story, saying that while 2N is still an “a-hole” his actions were a “public service”.
I'm not entirely sure WHAT the lesson to be learned here, but I am sure that there IS a lesson to be learned here.

16 February 2018

He Needs to Be Updating Obituaries for the next 6 Months

According to a now-deleted tweet, New York Times reporter Eric Lipton, the real tragedy of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting was that its victims were well spoken whites:

I really cannot read these comments in any other way.

I can think of no other term to describe this than, "White privilege."

Cowardly Pissant

Last year, Donald Trump signed an executive order repealing an Obama order limiting firearms access to people with psychological issues.

Now that someone has murdered 17 people at a high school, his administration is refusing to release a photo of his signing the order:
The White House has refused to release a photo of President Donald Trump signing a law making it easier for some people with mental illness to buy guns.

Despite repeated requests from CBS News, the White House press office has issued only a one-line response.

Mr Trump last year repealed an Obama-era rule allowing the names of certain people on mental health benefits to be entered into a criminal database.

The controversy follows a shooting by a suspect who had mental health issues.

………

CBS News says it requested a copy of the image - which White House photographers confirm exists - 12 separate times by phone or email.

White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders has only said in a note dated 19 April 2017: "We don't plan to release the picture at this time."

CBS News asked the White House again on Thursday to release the photo, but has not received a response.
He really is a chicken sh%$, isn't he.

Ronan Farrow Has Found His Journalistic Niche

Specifically, Farrow completely owns the "Powerful men behaving badly toward women," space:
In June, 2006, Donald Trump taped an episode of his reality-television show, “The Apprentice,” at the Playboy Mansion, in Los Angeles. Hugh Hefner, Playboy’s publisher, threw a pool party for the show’s contestants with dozens of current and former Playmates, including Karen McDougal, a slim brunette who had been named Playmate of the Year, eight years earlier. In 2001, the magazine’s readers voted her runner-up for “Playmate of the ’90s,” behind Pamela Anderson. At the time of the party, Trump had been married to the Slovenian model Melania Knauss for less than two years; their son, Barron, was a few months old. Trump seemed uninhibited by his new family obligations. McDougal later wrote that Trump “immediately took a liking to me, kept talking to me - telling me how beautiful I was, etc. It was so obvious that a Playmate Promotions exec said, ‘Wow, he was all over you - I think you could be his next wife.’ ”

Trump and McDougal began an affair, which McDougal later memorialized in an eight-page, handwritten document provided to The New Yorker by John Crawford, a friend of McDougal’s. When I showed McDougal the document, she expressed surprise that I had obtained it but confirmed that the handwriting was her own. 
I didn't care about this crap when Bill Clinton did it, and I don't care about it now.

The problem is not that Donald Trump f%$#ed Karen McDougal, it's that he f%$#ed the rest of us.

I Am So Going to Jail

Bob Muller has just indicted 13 Russians for trolling the election.

I gotta figure that my blog is going to pop up on his radar soon, and I look awful in orange. Damn:
The special counsel investigating Russia’s interference in the 2016 presidential election charged 13 Russian nationals and three Russian organizations on Friday with illegally trying to disrupt the American political process, including efforts designed to boost the presidential candidacy of Donald Trump and hurt that of his opponent, Hillary Clinton.

The indictment represents the first charges by the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, for meddling in the 2016 presidential election — the fundamental crime that he was assigned to investigate.

In a 37-page indictment filed in United States District Court, Mr. Mueller said that the 13 individuals have conspired since 2014 to violate laws that prohibit foreigners from spending money to influence federal elections in the United States.
Obviously, I am never a non-US citizen, but occasionally,* I am a troll, so there is a concern about legal jeopardy for me.

As I understand this, Mueller's interpretation of the law makes door to door canvassing, or volunteering in a campaign office by foreigners unlawful.

Of course, my standard caveat on such things, "I'm an engineer, not a lawyer, dammit!," applies.

*OK, maybe more than occasionally.
I love it when I get to go all Dr. Mccoy!

15 February 2018

Tekeli Li!!!!! Tekeli Li!!!!!

See the horror that is a Singing Furby Organ:

Finally

The good folks at the Nation looked at a work of fiction by Matt Taibbi, and promptly concluded that it was an admission of actual wrongdoing, and wrote it up.

It appears that they have been disabused of this notion:

About f%$#ing time.

Oh You Delicate Snowflake………

It appears that Peter Thiel is considering moving to California, because people in Silicon Valley do not recognize the depth of his Randian genius.

For someone who has made his money on regulatory arbitrage (PayPal) and government money (Palantir Technologies), he sure has a thin skin.

I guess Peter is just a, "Beautiful Cinnamon Roll Too Good For This World, Too Pure."

Thoughts and Prayers Motherf%$#er

17 dead, and as The Onion says, "Gorilla Sales Skyrocket After Latest Gorilla Attack."

The new normal.

Thoughts and prayers
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Thoughts and prayers

14 February 2018

Tweet of the Day



The truth hurts, doesn't it.

President Drones-a-lot in a very close 3 way competition for worst American recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize ever with Henry Kissinger and Jimmy Carter for a reason.

13 February 2018

And Locally………

The two officers from the Baltimore Gun Trace Task Force who did not plead out on the were convicted on corruption charges:
A federal jury convicted two Baltimore police detectives Monday for their roles in one of the biggest police corruption scandals in city history.

Detectives Daniel T. Hersl, 48, and Marcus R. Taylor, 31, were found guilty of racketeering, racketeering conspiracy and robbery. Prosecutors said they and their comrades on the Gun Trace Task Force had acted as “both cops and robbers,” using the power of their badges to steal large sums of money from residents under the guise of police work.

“Their business model was that the people that they were robbing had no recourse,” acting U.S. Attorney Stephen Schenning said after the verdict. “Who were they going to go to?”

Acting Police Commissioner Darryl De Sousa said the trial — in which several unindicted officers were also accused of wrongdoing — had uncovered “some of the most egregious and despicable acts ever perpetrated in law enforcement.”

Hersl and Taylor face up to 60 years in prison.
Of course, there were dozens, if not hundreds, of people in the department who had at least an inkling of what was going on, but the blue wall of silence held on for years.

Support your local police, huh?

Pass the Popcorn

It's taken a while, but Israeli police have finally recommended that Benjamin Netanyahu be indicted for corruption:
The Israeli police announced on Tuesday that there was sufficient evidence indicating Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu took bribes in two separate cases and acted "against public interests."

The two cases are the so-called Case 1000 – in which Netanyahu is suspected of accepting lavish gifts from wealthy benefactors in return for advancing their interests – and Case 2000, which alleges that Netanyahu tried to strike a deal that would have provided him with positive coverage in Israel's second largest newspaper, Yedioth Ahronoth, in exchange for hurting its free rival, Israel Hayom.

According to the police, in Case 1000, Netanyahu received champagne, cigars, jewelry and clothing, by demand and systematically, valued at over one million shekels (around $280,000). The gifts he received from the Israeli-American Hollywood producer Arnon Milchan increased significantly once Netanyahu was elected prime minister.
Seriously, after spending almost $3000.00 on "Ice Cream" in 2013, criminal profligacy should surprise no one.

As a supporter of Israel, I consider Netanyahu to be a bigger threat to the safety and security of the Jewish state than Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, so I pleased at this news.

Linkage


Quentin Tarantino’s Star Trek:

12 February 2018

I Have Never Been So Happy to Flush a Toilet

The water main has been fixed, and so we now have running water again.

Stopped Clock, NASA Edition

Donald Trump is proposing privatizing the international space station:
The Trump administration wants to turn the International Space Station into a kind of orbiting real estate venture run not by the government, but by private industry.

The White House plans to stop funding the station after 2024, ending direct federal support of the orbiting laboratory. But it does not intend to abandon the orbiting laboratory altogether and is working on a transition plan that could turn the station over to the private sector, according to an internal NASA document obtained by The Washington Post.
I actually agree with move.

In scientific terms, the ISS is complete pants.  It has consumed massive resources for next to no scientific value.

Of course, there really isn't a commercial justification for this either:  Anything that you want to set up tto take advantage of micro-gravity would be cheaper to do without people.

It's basically a white elephant.

The Further Adventures of Everyone's Favorite Slum Lord

I am referring, of course, to Jared Kushner, who is being sued for an exceptional level of slum lord sliminess.

They have been trying to move the suit to Federal court, where the jury would be less sympathetic.

Unfortunately for him, being in Federal court would require his company to reveal all the investors, and a judge has ruled that this information would not be kept under seal, so going to stay in Maryland state court:
Jared Kushner’s family real estate company has backtracked on its effort to have a lawsuit filed against it by tenants of its Baltimore-area apartment complexes moved to federal court, after a judge ruled that this transfer would require it to reveal the identities of its investment partners.

The tenants’ class-action lawsuit was filed in the Circuit Court for Baltimore City in September, four months after a ProPublica article co-published with the New York Times Magazine described the highly aggressive tactics used by Kushner Companies to pursue tenants and former tenants over allegedly unpaid rent or broken leases. The lawsuit alleged that Kushner Companies, which owns 15 large apartment complexes in the Baltimore area, was improperly piling late fees and court fees onto tenants’ bills, often in excess of state limits, and using the threat of immediate eviction to force payment.

In early November, the various Kushner affiliates named in the lawsuit filed a request to have the case moved from the state court, where it would be heard by a Baltimore City jury, to the federal courts, where it would be heard by a jury drawn from a broader geographic swath of Maryland. To get approval for this request, Kushner Companies had to show that none of the investors it has brought in as partners on the complexes are based in Maryland.

The Kushner affiliates also filed a motion in federal court seeking to have the list of the investment partners shielded from public view, citing the high degree of media interest in Jared Kushner, who as Kushner Companies CEO presided over the purchase of the complexes before moving into the White House to serve as senior advisor to President Donald Trump, his father-in-law. “Given the tenor of the media’s reporting of this case, including politically-motivated innuendo no doubt intended to disparage the First Family, there is foreseeable risk of prejudice to the privacy rights and reputations of innocent private investors,” the Kushner lawyers wrote.
So, who do you think that his investors are?

For real estate in general, and the Kushners in particular, helping people launder money with real estate is a core operating principle.

My guess is that it would be mobsters, drug lords, with Saudis, Chinese, and Russian oligarchs thrown in as a garnish.

This is Because They are Afraid of Going to Jail

People are wondering why Perdue Pharmaceuticals, a company known of hard selling its signature drug OxyContin, is shutting down its marketing to doctors.

It's pretty simple: They see the lawsuits coming, and the see the real possibility of criminal prosecutions, and they are trying to unwind the whole mess, and then cover it up.

Of course, this is America, so the Sackler family is at no risk of anything beyond a slap on the wrist, because billionaire criminals are above the law here.

Thanks, Obama………

One of the central tenets of the PPACA (Obamacare) was that the malefactors of healthcare, insurance companies, big pharma, corrupt medical coding, etc. needed a seat at the table.



The logical extension of this is the admission by Dr. Jay Ken Iinuma, former medical director for Aetna for Southern California, that he rejected claims without ever looking at medical records:
California's insurance commissioner has launched an investigation into Aetna after learning a former medical director for the insurer admitted under oath he never looked at patients' records when deciding whether to approve or deny care.
California Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones expressed outrage after CNN showed him a transcript of the testimony and said his office is looking into how widespread the practice is within Aetna.

"If the health insurer is making decisions to deny coverage without a physician actually ever reviewing medical records, that's of significant concern to me as insurance commissioner in California -- and potentially a violation of law," he said.

………

The California probe centers on a deposition by Dr. Jay Ken Iinuma, who served as medical director for Aetna for Southern California from March 2012 to February 2015, according to the insurer.
During the deposition, the doctor said he was following Aetna's training, in which nurses reviewed records and made recommendations to him.

Jones said his expectation would be "that physicians would be reviewing treatment authorization requests," and that it's troubling that "during the entire course of time he was employed at Aetna, he never once looked at patients' medical records himself."
This is what happens when you fetishize the market, and decide that people need "Skin in the Game".

This is the natural consequence of keeping predators in our healthcare system.

I Am Unclear What This Story Is About

It appears that Unilever, maker of Dove soaps, Axe Body Spray, Hellman's Mayonnaise, Lipton Tea, Ben and Jerry's, Q-Tips, and (of course) Marmite has put internet advertisers on notice that it is not amused. (see also here and here)

They are unsatisfied with what they are getting from internet advertising, though their statement about this mentions both what their products are paired with online, as well as the fact that the metrics are unreliable.

Though they soft pedal the latter in their statement, I think that this is their real agenda. Otherwise, why mention it all?

That's my assessment, given that having an ad show up on Logan Paul's YouTube stream is fleeting and easily corrected, but getting sold silicon snake oil is the sort of thing that gets the acounting types upset:
Unilever has threatened to withdraw its advertising from online platforms such as Facebook and Google if they fail to eradicate content which “create division in society and promote anger and hate”.

Keith Weed, chief marketing officer of the sprawling multinational, whose brands include Dove, Magnum, Persil and Marmite, said that online platforms were sometimes “little better than a swamp”. He told major advertising, media and tech firms gathered at a conference in California: “As one of the largest advertisers in the world, we cannot have an environment where our consumers don’t trust what they see online.”

He added: “We cannot continue to prop up a digital supply chain – one that delivers over a quarter of our advertising to our consumers – which at times is little better than a swamp in terms of its transparency.

“It is in the digital media industry’s interest to listen and act on this. Before viewers stop viewing, advertisers stop advertising and publishers stop publishing.” According to the analysts Pivotal, together Google and Facebook account for nearly three-quarters of all digital advertising in the US. In the UK the two have more than 60% of digital advertising and 90% of all new digital spending.
(emphasis mine)

That thing about swamp and transparency?

That is not about "fake news" or "hate speech", it is about things like Chinese click farms that generate false click throughs and the like, which costs them money, and delivers no customers.

I'm wondering if this whole thing is a dog whistle to Google and Facebook, and that the whole, "Divisions in society," thing is a smoke screen.


As always, note that this post should in no way be construed as an inducement or a request for my reader(s) to click on any ad that they would not otherwise be inclined to investigate further. This would be a violation of the terms of service for Google™ Adsense™.

While the Extoll the Virtues of Tech in Education

The Nomenklatura of Silicon have decided that when their children are education, they want a human touch with an absolute minimum of computers:
The Waldorf School of the Peninsula is small, exclusive and packed with the children of Silicon Valley executives who love the role that technology plays in the pupils’ education there. That is, it plays no role whatsoever.

Instead children at the $25,000-a-year elementary school in Los Altos, California, are learning to explore the world through physical experiences and tasks that are designed to nurture their imagination, problem-solving ability and collaborative skills.

Pencils, paper, blackboards and craft materials abound while tablets, smartphones and other personal electronic devices are banned from the classrooms until they are teenagers studying at the middle and high school campus nearby. Even then technology is only introduced slowly and used sparingly.

Alumni and present pupils include the children of Alan Eagle, a director of communications at Google, who helped to write the New York Times bestseller How Google Works, as well as those of a chief technology officer at eBay and senior executives at Apple and Yahoo. Their outlook is in line with some of the most powerful figures in the industry. Last month Tim Cook, the chief executive of Apple, said he did not want his nephew, who is about 12, to use social media. Last year Sean Parker, the billionaire and an early Facebook investor, admitted that he and the other creators of the publishing site had deliberately made it as addictive as possible. “God only knows what it’s doing to our children’s brains,” he said.

………

Ms [Beverly] Amico [Head of outreach at Waldorf Schools] sees no contradiction. “It’s a very attractive option for people in the tech world for their children,” she said. “All employers, tech world or not, are looking for graduates these days that can think independently, take initiative, are capable of collaborating, have curiosity and creativity.”

The approach contrasts starkly with the new classroom orthodoxy in most American schools where children are spending more and more time staring at screens in lessons. There too, however, a grassroots movement is beginning to build against the relentless march of technology, supported by research illuminating the harmful effects of smartphone use on young brains and new shareholder pressure on the IT giants that make them.
These folks know that at best, they are peddling digital crap, and at worst, they are peddling digital crack, and they want their children to have none of it.

Think about that the next time that you hear about your local school district, or charter school, going all "high tech".

Things that Make you go HMMM………


(IC=Intelligence Community)

"The fight against global terror is sacrosanct, but the ability of the rich to dodge taxes in offshore accounts is more sacrosanct," he said paraphrasing Animal Farm.

11 February 2018

I Am a Horrible Human Being

For the past 24 hours, we have had no water at our house, because an 8 inch water main broke, shutting off water to 20-30 houses in my neighborhood.

Seeing as how we all were beginning to stink, we went to the JCC (Jewish Community Centers) to take showers, as they have a gym, locker room, and showers.

We were discussing the showers, and Sharon* mentioned that there were stalls with curtains in the women's locker room.

I noted to Charlie that this was not the case in the men's locker room, where it was an open floor plan.  (It turns out that my recollections were wrong.  They have added stalls and curtains)

Charlie was upset, as he is not enamored of the concept of taking a shower in front of other people, so he went to get his swim trunks.

So I asked him, "What is your problem with having a Zyklon B layout in the showers?"

He turned to me, and said that this was the worst thing that he had heard me say in his entire life.

I am a truly awful person.

*Love of my life, light of the  cosmos, she  who must be obeyed, my wife.

10 February 2018

So Not a Surprise

Donald Trump decided not to release the Democratic answer to the Nunes memo:
Donald Trump is blocking the release of the Democrats’ rebuttal to a Republican memo that accused the FBI of a politically biased investigation into the president’s ties to Russia.

Donald McGahn, the White House counsel, released a letter Friday night arguing that disclosure of the Democrats’ memo would “create especially significant concerns for the national security and law enforcement interests” and claiming that Trump was “inclined to declassify” the document, but could not at this time due to “classified and especially sensitive passages”.

Democrats on the House intelligence committee, which is investigating Russian meddling into the US election, authored the new memo, which they said provided context for a four-page memo authored by Republican Devin Nunes, a close ally of Donald Trump.

………

The Senate minority leader, Chuck Schumer, condemned the White House’s decision to block the Democratic memo on Friday, saying in a statement: “The President’s double standard when it comes to transparency is appalling. The rationale for releasing the Nunes memo, transparency, vanishes when it could show information that’s harmful to him. Millions of Americans are asking one simple question: what is he hiding?”
Yeah, pretty much, Chuck.

You know that Trump would never release the memo without redacting it into uselessness.

09 February 2018

I am Updating the Bad Hair Web Page

In the old days of the internet, I quickly realized that I could not create a particularly useful web page, so I deliberately created a useless one, dedicated to bad hair.

Because of an incident as he boarded Air Force One, I have updated my Bad Hair Web Page.

It's my first update since 2001, when I added Jim Trafficant.

This might be the lamest page on the web.

H/t Cthulhu at the Stellar Parthenon BBS.

Why am I Not Surprised?

One of the things that seems to be constant in the United States is that when there is a potential conflict between Nazis and counter-protesters, the police will favor the Nazis, see the case of protests in Sacramento, California:
California police investigating a violent white nationalist event worked with white supremacists in an effort to identify counter-protesters and sought the prosecution of activists with “anti-racist” beliefs, court documents show.

The records, which also showed officers expressing sympathy with white supremacists and trying to protect a neo-Nazi organizer’s identity, were included in a court briefing from three anti-fascist activists who were charged with felonies after protesting at a Sacramento rally. The defendants were urging a judge to dismiss their case and accused California police and prosecutors of a “cover-up and collusion with the fascists”.

Defense lawyers said the case at the state capital offers the latest example of US law enforcement appearing to align with neo-Nazi and white supremacist groups while targeting anti-fascist activists and Donald Trump protesters after violent clashes.

“It is shocking and really angering to see the level of collusion and the amount to which the police covered up for the Nazis,” said Yvette Felarca, a Berkeley teacher and anti-fascist organizer charged with assault and rioting after participating in the June 2016 Sacramento rally, where she said she was stabbed and bludgeoned in the head. “The people who were victimized by the Nazis were then victimized by the police and the district attorneys.”

………

Some California highway patrol (CHP) investigation records, however, raise questions about the police’s investigative tactics and communication with the TWP.

Felarca’s attorneys obtained numerous examples of CHP officers working directly with the TWP, often treating the white nationalist group as victims and the anti-fascists as suspects.

………

In one phone call with Doug McCormack, identified by police as the TWP affiliate who acquired the permit for the Sacramento rally, CHP investigator Donovan Ayres warned him that police might have to release his name in response to a public records requests. The officer said he would try to protect McCormack.

………

The officer’s write-up about an African American anti-fascist activist included a photo of him at the hospital after the rally and noted that he had been stabbed in the abdomen, chest and hand.

Ayres, however, treated the protester like a suspect in the investigation. The police investigator recommended the man be charged with 11 offenses, including disturbing the peace, conspiracy, assault, unlawful assembly and wearing a mask to evade police.

As evidence, Ayres provided Facebook photos of the man holding up his fist. The officer wrote that the man’s “Black Power salute” and his “support for anti-racist activism” demonstrated his “intent and motivation to violate the civil rights” of the neo-Nazi group. He was ultimately not charged.
(emphasis mine)

Seriously, This is not a case of a few bad apples. The whole damn orchard is rotten.

Good Point

The rise of cryptocurrencies, particularly Bitcoin, disproves the most efficient market hypothesis, which is the basis of neoliberal economics and hence the basis of deregulation:
The spectacular increase and recent plunge in the price of Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies have raised concerns that the bursting of the Bitcoin bubble will cause financial markets to crash. They probably won’t, but the Bitcoin bubble should finally destroy our faith in the efficiency of markets.

Since the 1970s, economic policy has been based on the idea that financial market prices reflect all the information relevant to the value of any asset. If this is true, market prices are the best estimates of the value of any investment and financial markets should be relied on to allocate capital investment.

This idea, referred to in the jargon of economics as the efficient market hypothesis (technically, the strong efficient market hypothesis), implicitly underlay the deregulation of financial markets that started in the 1970s. Although rarely stated now with as much confidence as it was during its heyday in the 1990s, the efficient market hypothesis remains a background assumption of much central-bank and economic policy.

The hypothesis survived the absurdities of the dot-com bubble in the late 1990s and early 2000s, as well as the meltdown in derivative markets that led to the global financial crisis in 2007 and 2008. Although the hypothesis should have been refuted by those disasters, it lived on, if only in zombie form.

But at least each of those earlier bubbles began with a plausible premise. The rise of the internet has transformed our lives and given rise to some very profitable companies, such as Amazon and Google. Even though it was obvious that most 1990s dot-coms would fail, it was easy to make a case for any of them individually.

As for the derivative assets that gave us the global financial crisis, they were viewed favorably in light of a widely held theory, known as the “great moderation,” that suggested that major economic crises were a thing of the past, thanks to certain systemic changes in the way developed nations ran their economies. The theory was backed by leading economists and central bankers. Asset-backed derivatives were, ultimately, a bet on the great moderation.

The contrast with Bitcoin is stark. The Bitcoin bubble rests on no plausible premise. When Bitcoin was created about a decade ago, the underlying idea was that it would displace existing currencies for transactions of all kinds. But by the time the Bitcoin bubble took off last year, it was obvious that this would not happen. Only a handful of legitimate merchants ever accepted Bitcoin. And as the Bitcoin bubble drove up transactions charges and waiting times, even this handful walked away.

………

But even if the claim is true, the idea that Bitcoin is valuable simply because people value it and because it is scarce should shake any remaining faith in the efficient market hypothesis.

………

Whatever happens to Bitcoin, we must not lose sight of a more fundamental — and more worrisome — development: A financial product with a purely arbitrary value has been successfully introduced in the world’s most sophisticated financial markets.

Bitcoin probably won’t bring financial markets crashing down. But it shows that regulators need to cut those markets down to size.

We need to regulate, and we need to throw the banksters in jail.

Tweet of the Day


Yep. That's pretty much the Tory Brexit plan in a nut shell.

08 February 2018

The Bottom Line Is That These Are Evil Hateful Ratf%$#S

Because hurting the chronically ill and infirm sexually arouses them, the Trump administration is looking to add lifetime limits to Medicaid.

This is in addition their proposal to add a work requirement:
After allowing states to impose work requirements for Medicaid enrollees, the Trump administration is now pondering lifetime limits on adults’ access to coverage.

Capping health care benefits — like federal welfare benefits — would be a first for Medicaid, the joint state-and-federal health plan for low-income and disabled Americans.

If approved, the dramatic policy change would recast government-subsidized health coverage as temporary assistance by placing a limit on the number of months adults have access to Medicaid benefits.

The move would continue the Trump administration’s push to inject conservative policies into the Medicaid program through the use of federal waivers, which allow states more flexibility to create policies designed to promote personal and financial responsibility among enrollees.

However, advocates say capping Medicaid benefits would amount to a massive breach of the nation’s social safety net designed to protect children, the elderly and the impoverished.

In January, the Trump administration approved waiver requests from Kentucky and Indiana to terminate Medicaid coverage for able-bodied enrollees who do not meet new program work requirements. Ten other states have asked to do the same.
These folks really should have drowned at birth.

Syria war: Assad's government accuses US of massacre

The US just launched airstrikes against Syrian and allied forces:
The closer the U.S. gets to its original goal in Syria of defeating the Islamic State group, the murkier its end game. New layers of complexity are descending on a shifting battlefield, as demonstrated by a deadly barrage of American air and artillery strikes on a shadowy attacker.

The Pentagon insists it is keeping its focus on defeating IS, but Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said Thursday U.S.-backed fighters in eastern Syria faced a “perplexing” overnight assault by about 300 pro-Syrian government fighters whose nationalities, motives and makeup he could not identify. A number of U.S. military advisers were present alongside local allied forces, and the Americans led a punishing response that other officials said killed about 100 of the assailants.

Mattis asserted the episode was an aberration that should not be seen as an expansion of the U.S. war effort. But Trump administration critics disagreed. The Pentagon boss also dismissed any suggestion that Russia, the Syrian government’s most powerful military ally, had any control over the mysterious attacking force.

“I am gravely concerned that the Trump administration is purposefully stumbling into a broader conflict, without a vote of Congress or clear objectives,” said Sen. Tim Kaine, a Virginia Democrat, who has challenged the legal grounds on which American troops can operate in Syria for post-IS operations.

Mattis rejected Kaine’s suggestion the U.S. is being drawn into a broader war.

“It was self-defense,” he said. “We’re not getting engaged in the Syrian civil war.”
I'm going to call bullsh%$ on this.

Given that many elements in the US military, diplomatic, and state security apparatuses are determined to promulgate regime change in Syria, the juxtaposition of events that led to these airstrikes seems to me to be AWFULLY contrived.

There have simply been too many Gulf of Tonkin type events for me to believe that they have been unintentional.

Not a Surprise

When I worked on Future Combat Systems in the early 200s, one of the things it was supposed to do was to save fuel because it used hybrid propulsion.

Because it was carrying a large number of batteries, it was also supposed to be able to spend an significant amount of time running on battery power in "silent watch mode", where it would be hard to detect, because it would be operating without running its engine while its sensors took in information about its immediate vicinity and relayed it across the network.

It turned out that a "significant amount of time" ended up to be something less than an hour because of the power consumption of the sensors, computers, and communications systems.

It turns out something very similar is happening with self-driving cars:
For longtime residents of Pittsburgh, seeing self-driving cars built by Uber, Argo AI, and others roam their streets is nothing new. The city's history with robot cars goes back to the late 1980s, when students at Carnegie Mellon University caught the occasional glimpse of a strange vehicle lumbering across campus. The bright-blue Chevy panel van, chugging along at slower than a walking pace, may not have looked like much. But NavLab 1 was slowly—very slowly—pioneering the age of autonomous driving.

Why did the researchers at CMU's Robotics Institute use the van instead of, say, a Prius? First, this was a decade before Toyota started making the hybrid. Second, the NavLab (that's Navigational Laboratory) was one of the first autonomous vehicles to carry its computers with it. They needed space, and lots of it. For the four researchers monitoring computer workstations, with their bulky cathode ray monitors stretched across a workbench. For the on-board supercomputer, camera, giant laser scanner, and air-conditioner. And for the four-cylinder gasoline engine that did nothing but generate electricity to keep the kit running.

Thirty years on, the companies carrying that early research into reality have proven that cars can indeed drive themselves, and now they're swiveling to sort out the practical bits. Those include regulations, liability, security, business models, and turning prototypes into production vehicles, by miniaturizing the electronics and reducing that massive electricity draw.

Today's self-drivers don't need extra engines, but they still use terrific amounts of power to run their onboard sensors and do all the calculations needed to analyze the world and make driving decisions. And it's becoming a problem.

A production car you can buy today, with just cameras and radar, generates something like 6 gigabytes of data every 30 seconds. It's even more for a self-driver, with additional sensors like lidar. All the data needs to be combined, sorted, and turned into a robot-friendly picture of the world, with instructions on how to move through it. That takes huge computing power, which means huge electricity demands. Prototypes use around 2,500 watts, enough to light 40 incandescent light bulbs.

“To put such a system into a combustion-engined car doesn’t make any sense, because the fuel consumption will go up tremendously,” says Wilko Stark, Mercedes-Benz's vice president of strategy. Switch over to electric cars, and that draw translates to reduced range, because power from the battery goes to the computers instead of the motors.
Don't be depressed.  Self driving cars are only 10 years away, and will be just 10 years away for the next few decades, just like fusion and the Iranian nuclear arsenal.

America's Finest News Source

I am, of course, Referring to The Onion:

FBI Warns Of ‘American Dream’ Scam

Noting that millions have already fallen victim to the long-running grift, the FBI warned Monday of the ‘American Dream’ scam. “Reports are coming in all across the country of Americans who were promised great prosperity and success in exchange for a lifetime of hard work, only to find themselves swindled and left with virtually nothing,” said agent Dean Winthrop, who explained that susceptible parties are made to believe that class mobility is possible simply through ability or achievement, despite the fact that innumerable social, economic, and racial barriers prevent the vast majority of U.S. citizens from attaining even marginal amounts of upward movement. ………
Brilliant.

07 February 2018

It Is Now Officially the Trump Economy

Down 666 points on Friday, and 1175 points on Monday.*

The benefits of the tax cuts are positively amazing:
The Dow Jones industrial average plunged 1,175 points Monday in an exceptionally volatile day for financial markets around the world, stirring concerns about the durability of the long-running stock gains.

In the biggest global sell-off since 2016, financial markets from Asia to Europe to the United States were rocked primarily by concerns about inflation.

The Dow was off a heart-stopping 1,600 points during afternoon trading, the largest intraday point decline in the blue-chip index’s history. But the 4.6 percent loss for the day was not even close to the biggest.

The downdraft raised fresh anxieties among Americans who have seen their retirement savings and household worth march steadily higher without any of the gyrations that are part of a normal market cycle.

It also threatened to deprive President Trump and the GOP of a favorite talking point at the nascent stages of the 2018 midterm campaign.

Although the declines were eye-catching, market observers have been anticipating a correction after a year of big gains in the Dow, the broader Standard & Poor’s 500-stock index and the tech-heavy Nasdaq.
You know, Trump was right. I'm sick of winning.

*Yes, I know that the stock market, and particularly the Dow, are separate from the real economy.

Meathead

Dead from the neck up
Well, now I understand how Rob Reiner produced and directed the fiasco that was North.

Rob Reiner seems to think that criticizing a man who lied to Congress about warrantless wiretaps (Clapper), and another who has spent most of his career sucking up to the House of Saud with a detour excusing torture?

The only word that I can think that describes his neo-McCarthyite bullsh%$ is Deplorable.

The final word on this tweet is:
I hated this tweet. Hated, hated, hated, hated, hated this tweet. Hated it.

Quote of the Day

You are picking up pennies and dimes in front of the steamroller, and you are eventually going to get steamrolled.

Wall Street will invent anything to provide a casino for people to speculate until it blows up.

Peter Boockvar, chief investment officer of Bleakley Financial Group
Yeah, pretty much.

Ht CZ at the Stellar Parthenon BBS.

The Resistance: Grift Edition

Scott Dworkin aggressively raised funds for his anti-Trump "resistance" group, the Democratic Coalition Against Trump, and then he kept most of the money for himself and his friends:
Omar Siddiqui couldn’t make it to an August fundraiser in Beverly Hills for the Democratic Coalition Against Trump. But he ponied up the $2,000 ticket price after the group’s senior adviser, Scott Dworkin, sent him a personal invitation.

Months later, Siddiqui, the Democratic challenger to Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA), was surprised to discover his money—or three of every four dollars of it—had gone to the coffers of consultants and lawyers the group leaned on to fight a libel suit, rather than pushing back against the president.

When told by The Daily Beast how the group had spent his money, Siddiqui was, charitably speaking, not pleased.

“Being an attorney,” he said, “I intend to investigate this further and look forward to receiving a full explanation about the use of donations.”

The Democratic Coalition, one of the many new progressive-minded organizations to bloom in the age of anti-Trump fervor, brought in nearly half a million dollars last year. Its donors include Siddiqui, a pair of Hollywood television producers, a former Real Housewife of Miami, and a member of the U.S. Broadcasting Board of Governors. The vast majority of its funds, however, have come from people whose names don’t make it into Federal Election Commission disclosures: the small, “unitemized” donors who give $200 or less.

It’s what the group has done with its money—not how much it has brought in—that has raised eyebrows among other operatives.

The Democratic Coalition paid more than half of the money it raised last year to its employees or their consulting firms, according to Federal Election Commission records. Dworkin’s Bulldog Finance Group was the chief beneficiary, drawing more than $130,000 from The Democratic Coalition.
This is what is wrong with the Democratic Party establishment in a nutshell.

The DNC requires candidates that it supports to spend a large proportion of their money on a consultant from their list, and Scott Dworkin is most assuredly on their list, at least until this story came out.

First, we need to end the grifting.

06 February 2018

Pass the Popcorn

So, now the House Intelligence Committee has approved the release of the Democratic rebuttal to the Nunes memo, so the ball is in Trump's court now.

So, Trump can approve the memo, and look like a complete tool, or he can try to suppress the memo, and look like a complete tool, or he can do nothing for a week, and look like a complete tool.

All in all, I am amused:
#ReleaseTheMemo is set to happen again.

Just days after releasing a memo sowing doubt about the integrity of those investigating ties between President Trump and Russia, the House intelligence committee agreed to declassify a Democratic rebuttal.

The original memo—penned by the staff of chairman Devin Nunes and released after fierce objections from both the Justice Department and the FBI—was immediately championed by Trump as a vindication.

But the top Democratic on the panel, Rep. Adam Schiff, claimed after prevailing in a unanimous committee vote on Monday that his document would reveal “many distortions and inaccuracies in the [Republican] memo.”

The vote came hours after Trump taunted Schiff on Twitter. And it was an abrupt reversal for the committee Republicans, all of whom voted against releasing the Democratic document last week—something their Democratic colleagues said was a political stunt to ensure the pro-Trump narrative laid out in the Nunes memo had days to circulate unrebutted. Schiff said Monday night that the Republicans’ transparency rhetoric placed them in an “unsupportable position” to reject the Democratic memo.

Much as with last week’s disclosure of Nunes’ memo, Trump now has five days to object to the release of the Democratic counter-memo. Should he, the full House can vote to override Trump and release it. Asked ahead of the Monday committee vote if the FBI had reservations about the release of the Democratic memo, the bureau declined comment.
This would be perfect, except that we are seeing bunches of alleged civil libertarians defending the surveillance activities of the FBI, CIA, and NSA.

What Trevor Noah Said

I missed it the evening that it came out, but caught it on Youtube.

At 2:10 in the video, he notes how Hillary Clinton responded to allegations of sexual harassment on her staff in 2008.

Spoiler: It wasn't good, and her response when it hit the news a few days ago was even worse.

In 2016, she was in a close race for the least self-aware major party presidential candidate nominee, and I am still not sure who actually won THAT contest.

Tweet of the Day


A remarkably on point statement of the modern stock market.

05 February 2018

The World is a Very Strange Place

The following headline is proof of this:
Jacinda Ardern Considers Offer from Maori Leaders to Bury Placenta at Historic British Treaty Site
I have no words.

Good News Everyone!

Good news everyone!


I invented a device that makes you read this in your head using my voice!
In a shocking outbreak of judicial integrity, Justice Samuel Alito, who covers appeals from Pennsylvania, has refused to issue an injunction against the Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruling which requires an immediate redistricting:
The Supreme Court on Monday denied a request from Pennsylvania Republicans to delay redrawing congressional lines, meaning the 2018 elections in the state will most likely be held in districts far more favorable to Democrats.

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court last month ruled that the state’s Republican legislative leaders had violated the state Constitution by unfairly favoring the GOP. Although there are more registered Democrats than Republicans in the state, Republicans hold 13 of 18 congressional seats.

The GOP leaders asked the U.S. Supreme Court to intervene, but Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr. turned down their request for a stay without even referring the case to his colleagues. He gave no reason for the decision, but generally the Supreme Court stays out of the way when a state’s highest court is interpreting its own state constitution.
That sound you hear is political consultants frantically updating their spreadsheets and their voter roll databases.

04 February 2018

Why Us Broadband Sucks, and How to Fix It

The nickel version is stop throwing money the for profit companies, and actually build the infrastructure ourselves.


You can, do this in the same way that we established power and telephone service in rural areas in the past, which involved cross subsidies to support rural service and the establishment of rural co-ops to actually provide the service.

Noted telecommunications advocate Harold Feld (link above) goes in a different direction, he suggests that infrastructure be publicly provided, and suggests that this can be done through the expansion of unlicensed spectrum, which naturally creates a competitive marketplace:
The beauty of modern communications networks is that we can actually break up the supply chain and target subsidies to be much more specific. We can subsidize infrastructure instead of subsidizing carriers. The advantage of this is that by subsidizing infrastructure, we can subsidize infrastructure for many potential competitors (or at least more than one), rather than basically having a monopoly provider we either need to regulate up to the eyebrows to make sure we actually get decent, affordable service in exchange for the subsidy. Additionally, we have a lot of different ways to lower cost that actually lower cost. If we do that, we can actually see local businesses and local institutions willing and able to provide service for profits that, while perfectly reasonable for a local business, would be utterly uninteresting to even a small traditional carrier.

He then gives the example of WISPs (wireless ISPs) as to how this would generally function, but that the important bit is that the infrastructure has to be held commonly in some manner
WISPs aren’t the answer. WISPs are part of the answer. But, more importantly, WISPs provide a real life demonstration that we do not need to rely on the traditional “find a single carrier and pay the carrier” to bring broadband to rural America. If we focus on providing infrastructure, either indirectly by providing necessary inputs (like spectrum) or directly (for example, by building towers or backhaul fiber), we will see entities interested and eager to provide service in regions that traditional carriers do not find sufficiently profitable to be interesting.
Personally, pinko that I am, I would like to have publicly owned fiber to the curb, with ISPs doing the final connection to the home, but as I've gotten older, I've become increasingly enamored of public ownership of the means of production.

Preach it, Brother!

Over at Foreign Policy magazine, an avatar of the establishment, has published an article calling for comprehensive and independents audits of state secrets:
The battle over the disclosure of the memo on the Russia investigation prepared by Republican Rep. Devin Nunes has been analyzed mostly in narrow partisan terms, but it has much larger significance for the health of American democracy. A key weakness of the U.S. democratic system, and indeed all democracies, is the paradox of secrecy: voters need to know what the government does in order to evaluate it but the government needs secrecy to effectively serve the public. As parties have polarized, the tensions inherent to that paradox have become increasingly impossible to ignore.

These tensions now demand some attempt at a resolution, even if any such answer will inevitably demand sacrifices from current stakeholders. The most plausible solution may be one that nobody in the political establishment has yet seriously contemplated — the creation of a system of public audits for government secrets.

Everyone knows that secrecy is a problem for democracy because voters cannot easily evaluate the government if the government acts in secret. This leads to endless calls for greater transparency, with the obligatory invocation of Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis’s memorable line that “sunlight is said to be the best of disinfectants.” What this trite sentiment overlooks is that secrecy is also essential to democracy. No democracy can function unless the government is permitted to act in secret.

 ………

Hence the need for a public auditing system, one that requires the government from time to time to release batches of classified information to the public — and in real time, not decades later, as is the current practice. For this to work, all secret information at a given time — tax records, health records, military strategies, weapons systems, CIA analyses, FBI and IRS investigations — would need to be accessible. A citizens’ counsel could be created, with the authority to review that secret information, subpoena government officials to defend their classification choices, and disclose the information to the public if the officials fail to persuade.
While I disagree with the mechanism, I have been advocating for the incorporating Swedish principle of Offentlighetsprincipen (Openness) into the US constitution for years, it is not a bad start.

Why Wages Never Rise

Because any hint of wages increasing along with productivity result in the Federal Reserve trying to shut it down.

The Fed has been promulgating low wage economics for decades:
There have been all kinds of carefully phrased semi-hawkish statements emanating from carefully contained semi-hawkish Fed governors recently. Today, Dallas Fed President Robert Kaplan repeated what he has been saying for a while – that the “base case” should be three rate hikes this year, and that there could be four, warning, “if we wait to see actual inflation, we’ll be too late.”

But it’s the most fervent “doves” – when they start getting cold feet as doves – that matter the most when it comes to tightening monetary policy.

One of the most persistent, most vocal doves on the policy setting FOMC has been Minneapolis Fed President Neel Kashkari. He voted against all three rate hikes in 2017, and was vocal about why he did: inflation was too “low.”

 ………

There was a number in the jobs report this morning that got his attention: Average hourly earnings in January gained 2.9% year-over-year, the largest gain since June 2009, hallelujah, finally. Pressures are building up in parts of the economy, and companies are griping they cannot hire enough workers in some professions – or that they would have to pay more, God forbid, to hire them.

………

“The most important thing that I saw in a quick review of the jobs data is wage growth,” Kashkari told CNBC on Friday.

“We’ve been waiting for wage growth. Everyone has been declaring that we’re at maximum employment. More Americans have been coming in, which is a really good thing. But there hasn’t been much wage growth. This is one of the first signs that we’re seeing wage growth finally starting to pick up. That’s good for the public as a whole. I think it’s good for the economy overall. But I do think if wage growth continues, that could have an effect on the path of interest rates.”

The path of these interest rates is already winding uphill. For now, everyone at the Fed when they advocate for higher rates keeps repeating the qualifier, “gradual.” But so far, Kashkari has used every opportunity to vote and speak out against any and all rate hikes.

Yet the moment wages tick up, suddenly it gets his attention. It gets every Fed governor’s attention. Wage increases give them the willies.

Creating asset price inflation, including the most glorious housing bubble imaginable, became the Fed’s publicly stated policy goal under Chairman Bernanke – his infamous “wealth effect” doctrine. And consumer price inflation must always be high enough to eat up wage gains and help companies show growing revenues, but not so high that it blows down the whole house.

But wage inflation is toxic for the Fed. Wage inflation means that people get paid more for the same amount of work. A higher income due to promotions, for example, is not part of wage inflation.
Expect rates to go up much more rapidly now.

About the Only Super Bowl News That Matter

No one took a knee during the national anthem.

Have I Mentioned that the Middle East is F%$#ed Up and Sh%$?

First, we have an al Qaeda linked group shooting down a Russian jet with a US missile:
Syria’s former al-Qaeda affiliate claimed responsibility Saturday for the downing of a Russian warplane in northern Syria, apparently using a surface-to-air missile to target the aircraft.

The pilot was killed after he ejected and exchanged gunfire with militants on the ground, the Russian Defense Ministry and a monitoring group said.

Hayat Tahrir al-Sham, or HTS, a powerful rebel alliance that publicly split from al-Qaeda last year, said it had used a shoulder-fired weapon to down the Su-25 fighter jet as it flew low over the opposition-held town of Saraqeb.

………

It also raises questions about the source of the apparent “man-portable air-defense system,” or MANPADS, a shoulder-fired weapon for which Syria’s rebels have repeatedly pleaded from their international backers. The United States has been strongly opposed, fearing that antiaircraft weapons could fall into the hands of the country’s extremist groups.

State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said any allegation that the United States has provided MANPAD missiles in Syria was untrue, and she denied that U.S. equipment was used in shooting down the Russian plane.
Considering the fact that the CIA has been supporting groups that the US military has been attacking, so take that with a grain of salt.

The rather more shocking news today though is that Israel has been conducting airstrikes in the Sinai with the affirmative assent of the Egyptian government:
The jihadists in Egypt’s Northern Sinai had killed hundreds of soldiers and police officers, pledged allegiance to the Islamic State, briefly seized a major town and begun setting up armed checkpoints to claim territory. In late 2015, they brought down a Russian passenger jet.

Egypt appeared unable to stop them, so Israel, alarmed at the threat just over the border, took action.

For more than two years, unmarked Israeli drones, helicopters and jets have carried out a covert air campaign, conducting more than 100 airstrikes inside Egypt, frequently more than once a week — and all with the approval of President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi.


The remarkable cooperation marks a new stage in the evolution of their singularly fraught relationship. Once enemies in three wars, then antagonists in an uneasy peace, Egypt and Israel are now secret allies in a covert war against a common foe.

The Israeli airstrikes are not that unusual, but the fact that there has been official (though not public)n approval, and not just grudging acknowledgement, of the Egyptian government.

The obvious conclusion here is that the Egyptian Government (particularly el-Sisi) is desperate, which indicates that the government is far less secure than it would like to proclaim.

03 February 2018

The Nunes Memo

It's complete crap.

There are a number of what appear to be elementary factual errors, but it's basically a nothing-burger.

It is also a document that should ever have been classified at any level.

The claims that its release would compromise national security are, and ALWAYS HAS BEEN six pounds of sh%$ in a 5 pound bag.

Everyone involved in this knew this before the release, because the summaries that had been floating about made that quite clear,

The claims of security damage were made because the FBI did not want a criticism of their actions to be made public.

The bottom line is that Devin Nunes peddled a sh%$ sandwich for explicitly partisan political purposes.

There is nothing shocking about this:  This is what politicians, particularly hacks like Nunes do.

The objections, and the hysteria from the US state security apparatus is rather more concerning.  They are, as they frequently have in the past, attempted to short circuit any meaningful oversight by making bogus claims of national security consequences.

What is probably most significant is that this is the first time ever that the House Intelligence Committee has declassified a document unilaterally using Clause 11(g) of Rule X of the House rules.

What this means is that the intelligence apparatus was unable to delay, suppress, or rewrite this document to its liking.

This rule has been in existence since the 1970s, and has never been invoked before, and from this narrow perspective, at least from my perspective as someone who is profoundly suspicious of US intelligence and law enforcement agencies, this is a welcome change.

In fact, it should have happened years ago.

So Not a Surprise

I know that uccess has many fathers, but failure is an orphan, the DNC has taken this to hacktacular levels:
In the immediate aftermath of Doug Jones’ shock victory in the Alabama Senate race, the Democratic National Committee tried to take no small amount of credit. Indeed, it took $1 million worth of credit.

The truth is more complicated.

After Jones defeated Republican and accused pedophile Roy Moore, the DNC said it had quietly spent $1 million constructing a voter-outreach effort for the Democrat, including an extensive campaign of text messages, phone calls, and door-knockers.

Now, faced with documentation that questions the claim, DNC officials say the committee spent only $250,000 of its own money on the race, cash that funded more than two dozen staffers on the ground in the state who, among other things, conducted extensive outreach to African-American voters.

The rest – nearly three-quarters of the total funds originally claimed – was not a direct injection of DNC money but instead cash the DNC raised on behalf of Jones through email solicitations.

Counting that kind of assistance as funds spent is unusual, according to Democrats familiar with campaign fundraising; political groups typically make clear distinctions between the money they raise for a candidate and the money they spend backing a candidate.
Just when I thought that the DNC could not get any lamer.

A Major Smackdown Out the Door

As one her last official acts as Fed Chair, Janet Yellen froze the level of its assets in response to repeated wrongdoing:
After markets closed on her final workday in office, Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen delivered a blow to one of the nation’s largest banks: Wells Fargo & Co. won’t be allowed to grow until it cleans up.

Fed officials said the San Francisco-based lender’s pattern of consumer abuses and compliance lapses called for an unprecedented sanction. Until Wells Fargo addresses shortcomings in areas including internal oversight, it can’t take any action that would boost total assets beyond their level at the end of 2017, without the Fed’s permission. The bank said after-tax profit in 2018 would be reduced by $300 million to $400 million and its stock slumped in late trading Friday.

“This is akin to the last scene in ‘The Godfather,”’ said Isaac Boltansky, an analyst at Compass Point Research & Trading. “Chair Yellen decided to handle unfinished business on her way out the door.”

Yellen’s act stands out at a time when the Trump administration is looking to dial back some of the financial regulations put in place after the 2008 global financial crisis. Those moves include watering down enforcement actions at the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and proposing revisions to Dodd-Frank reforms on Wall Street.

………

Regulators can’t allow “pervasive and persistent misconduct at any bank,” Yellen said in a statement. She also sent a letter on Friday to Senator Elizabeth Warren, a Massachusetts Democrat who’s among the bank’s -- and the financial industry in general’s -- most prominent critics.

“The firm has much to do to earn back the trust of its customers, supervisors, investors and the public,” Yellen told the lawmaker. The growth restriction “is unique and more stringent than the penalties the Board has imposed against other bank holding companies for similar unsafe and unsound practices.”
I expect this to be overturned within the next 12 months, but it is seriously gangsta.

It's Bank Failure Friday!!! (On Saturday)

We had the first failure of the year on Tuesday, St. Elizabeth’s Credit Union of Chicago, IL.
    Here is the Full NCUA list.

    Slow pace this year so far.

    They've Finally Found a Use for Testosterone

    It appears that, in addition to increasing the size of paychecks, testosterone offers protection from autoimmune disease:
    Testosterone. Source of prostates and testes, muscles and machismo, chest hair, and according to some, even math skills. Its levels are only one of the biological differences between males and females, but they may help to explain another: the discrepancies in the incidence of autoimmune diseases.

    Women are three to nine times more likely than men to suffer from autoimmune diseases, including multiple sclerosis (MS), Grave’s disease, celiac disease, systemic lupus erythematous, and rheumatoid arthritis. Not only do women get these diseases at higher rates, they usually get them at younger ages.

    Men’s higher testosterone levels—about seven to eight times higher than women’s—have been shown to be protective for MS in both mice and men. But it was not clear exactly how this worked. Recent work in a mouse model of MS has filled in the downstream effectors that mediate testosterone’s protective effects. These effectors might be useful as therapeutics, whereas testosterone use really isn’t, especially for women, who are the ones who need it most.

    The work focused on a type of immune cell called a mast cell. Mast cells get a bad rap because they release histamine during allergic reactions, but they're generally involved in inflammation. In the mice that recapitulate MS, testosterone influences the behavior of mast cells in the lymph nodes, central nervous system, and lining of the brain. In female mice, which don’t have as much testosterone, mast cells instead produce pro-inflammatory signaling molecules called cytokines.
    The more you know.