16 October 2019

America's Finest News Source

Democrats Launch New ‘Listen Up, Hayseeds’ Campaign To Connect With Rural Voters

Unveiling the new nationwide messaging strategy after six months of planning and research, the Democratic Party launched its “Listen Up, Hayseeds” campaign Monday to win over rural voters. “Hey, you redneck simpletons, put down your whittling sticks, drag yourself away from the Cracker Barrel, and let us tell you how it is,” said a team of Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer on the debut commercial, part of a widespread advertising blitz that will be played at NASCAR races and monster truck rallies across the country.
Nostradamus has nothing on The Onion.

2 Years Ago, He Would Have Walked, Particularly in Texas

But it's 2019, so shooting a woman in her own home without seconds after you see her, and neglecting to identify yourself as a police officer, is now enough to get you fired, arrested, and charged with murder:
A former Fort Worth officer has been arrested and charged with murder in the shooting death of Atatiana Jefferson, according to jail and court records.

Aaron York Dean, 34, resigned from the Fort Worth Police Department on Monday morning. Early Saturday morning, he shot and killed Jefferson, 28, inside her home on Allen Avenue while responding to a call from a neighbor about the front door being open, police said.

Dean was listed as an inmate in the Tarrant County Jail as of 6:50 p.m. Monday night, according to records. At about 9:50 p.m., he bonded out of jail.
Here's hoping that this will make cops think twice, or maybe 3 or 4 times, before shooting with no warning and no cause.

Yeah, and He's Mobbed Up Too

The good folks at ProPublica have looked at Donald Trump's property tax filings and his statements to banks, and find conclusive evidence of fraud:
Documents obtained by ProPublica show stark differences in how Donald Trump’s businesses reported some expenses, profits and occupancy figures for two Manhattan buildings, giving a lender different figures than they provided to New York City tax authorities. The discrepancies made the buildings appear more profitable to the lender — and less profitable to the officials who set the buildings’ property tax.

For instance, Trump told the lender that he took in twice as much rent from one building as he reported to tax authorities during the same year, 2017. He also gave conflicting occupancy figures for one of his signature skyscrapers, located at 40 Wall Street.

Lenders like to see a rising occupancy level as a sign of what they call “leasing momentum.” Sure enough, the company told a lender that 40 Wall Street had been 58.9% leased on Dec. 31, 2012, and then rose to 95% a few years later. The company told tax officials the building was 81% rented as of Jan. 5, 2013.

A dozen real estate professionals told ProPublica they saw no clear explanation for multiple inconsistencies in the documents. The discrepancies are “versions of fraud,” said Nancy Wallace, a professor of finance and real estate at the Haas School of Business at the University of California-Berkeley. “This kind of stuff is not OK.”

New York City’s property tax forms state that the person signing them “affirms the truth of the statements made” and that “false filings are subject to all applicable civil and criminal penalties.”

The punishments for lying to tax officials, or to lenders, can be significant, ranging from fines to criminal fraud charges. Two former Trump associates, Michael Cohen and Paul Manafort, are serving prison time for offenses that include falsifying tax and bank records, some of them related to real estate.
This is the least surprising thing that I have heard in at least a month.

Even if he weren't Donald Trump, we would find this going on, because this, and exploiting political connections for profit, is pretty much what all real estate developers do.

15 October 2019

The Horror………

The kids were at school this evening, so I had to pick them up from the Metro station at about 10 pm.

That meant that I had to watch the Democratic Presidential debates Sober.

Tekeli li!!!  Tekeli li!!!!

Rule 1 of Granting Power to the FBI


Rule number 2 is see number 1:
In an October 2018 ruling unsealed and posted on October 8, 2019 by the Office of the Director of Intelligence, the United States Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC) found that the employees of the Federal Bureau of Investigation had inappropriately used data collected under Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA). The FBI was found to have misused surveillance data to look into American residents, including other FBI employees and their family members, making large-scale queries that did not distinguish between US persons and foreign intelligence targets.

The revelation drew immediate outcry from privacy advocates and renewed calls for the termination of FISA and USA FREEDOM Act that authorized bulk intelligence collection. President Donald Trump signed a bill extending Section 702 collection authorizations for six years in 2018; the Office of the Director of National Intelligence announced earlier this year that the administration would seek the extension of authority for collection of call data granted under the USA FREEDOM Act.

In a statement emailed to Ars Technica, ACLU Senior Legislative Counsel Neema Singh Guliani, said:
The government should not be able to spy on our calls and emails without a warrant. Any surveillance legislation considered by Congress this year must include reforms that address the disturbing abuses detailed in these opinions. Congress and the courts now have even more reason to prohibit warrantless searches of our information, and to permanently close the door on any collection of information that is not to or from a surveillance target.
The FBI remains the bastard child of J. Edgar Hoover.

Tweet of the Day


When issues of war and peace come up in America, the only way to get an accurate story is to find a foreign source.

14 October 2019

What a Concept

We now have a term for the mediocrities who go from failure to failure with lavish funding because they are children of extremely rich parents, the "Glass Floor."

This is pretty much where Rome was when it began to collapse:
In 2014, Zach Dell launched a dating app called Thread. It was nearly identical to Tinder: Users created a profile, uploaded photos and swiped through potential matches.

The only twist on the formula was that Thread was restricted to university students and explicitly designed to produce relationships rather than hookups. The app’s tagline was “Stay Classy.”

Zach Dell is the son of billionaire tech magnate Michael Dell. Though he told reporters that he wasn’t relying on family money, Thread’s early investors included a number of his father’s friends, including Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff.

The app failed almost instantly. Perhaps the number of monogamy-seeking students just wasn’t large enough, or capping users at 10 matches per day limited the app’s addictiveness. It could also have been the mismatch between Thread’s chaste motto and its user experience. Users got just 70 characters to describe themselves on their profiles. Most of them resorted to catchphrases like “Hook ’em” and “Netflix is life.”

After Thread went bust, Dell moved into philanthropy with a startup called Sqwatt, which promised to deliver “low-cost sanitation solutions for the developing world.” Aside from an empty website and a promotional video with fewer than 100 views, the effort seems to have disappeared.

And yet, despite helming two failed ventures and having little work experience beyond an internship at a financial services company created to manage his father’s fortune, things seem to be working out for Zach Dell. According to his LinkedIn profile, he is now an analyst for the private equity firm Blackstone. He is 22.

America has a social mobility problem. Children born in 1940 had a 90% chance of earning more than their parents. For children born in 1984, the odds were 50-50.

Most accounts of this trend focus on the breakdown of upward mobility: It’s getting harder for the poor to become rich. But equally important is the decline of downward mobility: The rich, regardless of their intelligence, are becoming more likely to stay that way.
You know, this explains a lot:  Donald Trump, Dan Lipinski, Liz Cheney, George W. Bush, George H.W. Bush, Mitt Romney, Jared Kushner, and Hunter Biden.  (also, those folks from Hyannis Port)

Get lucky with the right parents, and any sad sack can become a mover and a shaker.

Burying the Lede

In a story about the rapidly unfolding debacle in northern Syria, they weight until the 9th paragraph to note that the US is looking at evacuating the nuclear weapons stored at Incirlik Air Base in response to the instability and chaos in the region:
………

And over the weekend, State and Energy Department officials were quietly reviewing plans for evacuating roughly 50 tactical nuclear weapons that the United States had long stored, under American control, at Incirlik Air Base in Turkey, about 250 miles from the Syrian border, according to two American officials.

Those weapons, one senior official said, were now essentially Erdogan’s hostages. To fly them out of Incirlik would be to mark the de facto end of the Turkish-American alliance. To keep them there, though, is to perpetuate a nuclear vulnerability that should have been eliminated years ago.

“I think this is a first — a country with U.S. nuclear weapons stationed in it literally firing artillery at US forces,” Jeffrey Lewis of the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies wrote last week.

For his part, Mr. Erdogan claims nuclear ambitions of his own: Only a month ago, speaking to supporters, he said he “cannot accept” rules that keep Turkey from possessing nuclear weapons of its own.

“There is no developed nation in the world that doesn’t have them,” he said. (In fact, most do not.)
This is unbelievably dangerous.

Also, given the nature of the potential nuclear exchanges these days, the forward deployment of nuclear weapons, particularly in a country run by a delusional megalomaniac, seems to be a profoundly unfortunate decision.

Don't Worry About the Russians Messing with the Elections

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has been hosting informal talks and small, off-the-record dinners with conservative journalists, commentators and at least one Republican lawmaker in recent months to talk about issues like free speech and discuss partnerships.

The dinners, which began in July, are part of Zuckerberg’s broader effort to cultivate friends on the right amid outrage by President Donald Trump and his allies over alleged “bias” against conservatives at Facebook and other major social media companies. "I’m under no illusions that he’s a conservative but I think he does care about some of our concerns,” said one person familiar with the gatherings, which multiple sources have confirmed.

News of the outreach is likely to further fuel suspicions on the left that Zuckerberg is trying to appease the White House and stay out of Trump’s crosshairs. The president threatened to sue Facebook and Google in June and has in the past pressured the Justice Department to take action against his perceived foes.

“The discussion in Silicon Valley is that Zuckerberg is very concerned about the Justice Department, under Bill Barr, bringing an enforcement action to break up the company,” said one cybersecurity researcher and former government official based in Silicon Valley. “So the fear is that Zuckerberg is trying to appease the Trump administration by not cracking down on right-wing propaganda.”
If you aren't worried about Mark Zuckerberg rat-f%$#ing the elections to cover his own ass, and his own fortune, you are either terminally stupid, comatose, or a liar.

This is, after all, the business that promulgated genocide and ethnic violence in Myanmar, Sri Lanka, Kenya, South Sudan, etc. for a few bucks.

Headline of the Day

Even WeWork's Phone Booths Reek of Death
Gizmodo
It turns out that the phone booths in their office space are contaminated with formaldehyde, aka embalming fluid.

Way to keep the eye on the ball, dudes.

Linkage


This take-down of Australian mining billionaire, abusive employer, and wannabee politician, Clive Parker, is a true thing of beauty. Watch the whole thing:

13 October 2019

Light Posting for a While

Some family stuff needs tending to.

12 October 2019

Not Enough Bullets

The judge in charge of Pacific Gas & Electric's bankruptcy case has stated that the utility decided to pay dividends instead of properly maintaining its infrastructure:
A federal judge in San Francisco ruled Tuesday that if PG&E doesn't meet aggressive goals aimed at preventing future wildfires, the utility won't be able to pay dividends to shareholders after it emerges from bankruptcy proceedings.

At a probation hearing related to the utility’s deadly 2010 gas pipeline explosion in San Bruno, Judge William Alsup said the embattled utility hasn't done enough to prevent wildfires through tree trimming and other maintenance work — even while its shareholders made millions.

“PG&E pumped out $4.5 billion in dividends and let the tree budget wither,” Alsup said.

But the judge declined to impose more sweeping changes that he’d earlier floated, including requiring PG&E to inspect its entire electrical grid. Lawyers for PG&E said that would take years to complete and be prohibitively expensive.

………

On Tuesday, the judge also directed a federal monitor to conduct random inspections of the tree-trimming program.

“I’m not cutting you any slack,” Alsup said. “If PG&E hasn’t cut the right trees, we’re going to have a hearing to get to the bottom of that.”

PG&E’s lawyers said that might be unrealistic.

“There’s a lot of trees out there, and we don’t have eyes on all of them,” said PG&E attorney Reid Schar.

“That’s a problem of your own making,” Alsup said, cutting him off. “A lot of money went to dividends that should’ve gone to your trees. Get square with the people of California, who depend on you to do the job safely.”
We really need to start throwing people like PG&E's management in jail for the crap that they pull.

We need to find an especially deep hole for them.

Dead Man Walking

Dennis Muilenburg, CEO of Boeing has been removed as chairman of the board.

The official argument is that he needs to focus on immediate matters at hand, but this is clearly a warning as well as a preparation for his eventual removal:
Boeing Co.’s board stripped Chief Executive Dennis Muilenburg of his dual role as chairman on Friday in an unexpected shake-up at the highest ranks of the company amid the prolonged crisis of its 737 MAX plane.

Boeing said it took the action to allow Mr. Muilenburg to focus on running the company as it returns the MAX fleet to service after it was grounded world-wide in March following two fatal crashes in less than five months.

The leadership change came hours after a panel or air-safety experts sharply criticized Boeing and the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration for missteps that led to the crashes, which killed all 346 people on flights in Indonesia and Ethiopia. The report has added to criticism in Washington, D.C., where lawmakers are considering potential changes to aviation oversight.

David Calhoun, a senior Blackstone Group Inc. executive who has been the board’s lead director, will become its chairman. The board has “full confidence in Dennis as CEO and believes this division of labor will enable maximum focus on running the business with the board playing an active oversight role,” Mr. Calhoun said in a statement.
This is clearly a warning shot across Muilenbugg's bow, and it's also setting him up as a skapegoat for the 737 MAX debacle.

I expect him to be out before New Years Day, 2021.

Linkage


Mason Williams and 3000 Years of Art:

11 October 2019

Ha Ha!

If Uber loses its appeal on driver status, it faces over £1 billion in VAT to HM Revenue and Customs:
Earlier this week Uber London Ltd filed its full accounts up until December 2018 at Companies House.

The big news wasn’t that the division made a relatively meagre profit of £5.1m. (The profit is hardly indicative of anything due to the group’s structural complexity.)

It was Note 13 which recounted the following about Uber London’s contingent liabilities:

………

The most newsworthy part was arguably this one: “the Uber Group is involved in an ongoing dialog with HMRC, which is seeking to classify the Uber Group as a transportation provider. Being classified as a transportation provider would result in a VAT (20%) on Gross Bookings or on the service fee that the Company charges Drivers, both retroactively and prospectively.”

Uber London’s accounts do not provide any indication of the total sum being recorded as a contingent liability at Uber London’s parent, the Uber Group.

But various sources tell us the bill could be as large as £1bn, or more. These are not small sums.

………

This is a big deal because the threshold for UK businesses having to pay VAT at the time was a turnover of more than £81K (it’s now £85k).

Since Uber drivers mostly earn much less than that, most do not incur VAT liabilities. If Uber is deemed an employer, however, those revenues would then be deemed Uber’s rather than drivers’ — more than surpassing the VAT threshold and thus exposing the company to potentially huge VAT liabilities from then on.
So, in addition to cheating their drivers, they have been using their "Gig Economy" structure to evade taxes, and now it's coming back to bite them in the butt.  Quelle surprise.

In related news, another scheme to cheat their drivers Uber's auto insurance division has lost one of its underwriters, probably either because of the gypsy cab firm's increasingly toxic public image, or because their risk reduction protocols, which would involve things like driver background checks, are woefully inadequate.

In either case, James River Group is claiming, "Pre-tax, adverse development of between $55 and $60 million," which was enough for them to dump their largest customer and tank their own stock:
PEMBROKE, Bermuda, Oct. 08, 2019 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- James River Group Holdings, Ltd. (the "Company") (NASDAQ: “JRVR”) today announced that it delivered a notice of early cancellation, effective December 31, 2019, of all insurance policies issued to its largest customer, Rasier LLC and its affiliates.  All insurance policies related to this customer are included in the Company’s commercial auto line of business within its Excess and Surplus Lines segment, and a majority of the insurance policies were due to expire on February 29, 2020.

“This account has not met our expectations for profitability, and we think it best to terminate the underwriting relationship as of year end,” said J. Adam Abram, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of James River.
Uber doesn't just f%$# its drivers, it f%$#s its suppliers as well.

H/t naked capitalism.

I am Calling Bullsh%$ On This

The US Navy has filed a patent for a room temperature superconductor and a high-energy electromagnetic field generator, and the patents claim that these technologies are "operable", meaning that they have working models.

There are a number of requirements for patent, most notably that it be non-obvious and novel, which the claims characteristics fulfill.

There is also a requirement that a patent be public, so that once it expires, a "Skilled person in the art," can implement their invention.

There is an exception to the public requirement though, the government can classify a patent for national security reason.

For example, the first patent for a laser was classified, and the creator of the patent was refused access to it, because of his political activities in his youth.

If there were actually working models of these two inventions right now, the Navy would have classified the patents.

They don't, but they want to clear the deck if someone does come up with working models, so those folks cannot restrict the government's use of whatever is developed:
Last month, The War Zone reported on a series of strange patent applications the U.S. Navy has filed over the last few years and questioned what their connections may be with the ongoing saga of Navy personnel reporting incidents involving unidentified objects in or near U.S. airspace.

We have several active Freedom of Information Act requests with the Department of Navy to pursue more information related to the research that led to these patents. As those are being processed, we've continued to dig through the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office's (USPTO) Public Patent Application Information Retrieval database to get as much context for these patents as possible.

In doing so, we came across documents that seem to suggest, at least by the Navy's own claims, that two highly peculiar Navy patents, the room temperature superconductor (RTSC) and the high-energy electromagnetic field generator (HEEMFG), may in fact already be in operation in some manner. The inventor of the Navy's most bizarre patent, the straight-out-of-science fiction-sounding hybrid aerospace/underwater craft, describes that craft as leveraging the same room temperature superconductor technology and high energy electromagnetic fields to enable its unbelievable speed and maneuverability. If those two technologies are already operable as the Navy claims, could this mean the hybrid craft may also already operable or close to operable? Or is this just more evidence that the whole exotic 'UFO' patent endeavor on the Navy's behalf is some sort of ruse or even gross mismanagement of resources?

At the heart of these questions is the term “operable.” In most patent applications, applicants must assert proof of a patent’s or invention’s “enablement,” or the extent to which a patent is described in such a way that any person who is familiar with similar technologies or techniques would be able to understand it, and theoretically reproduce it.

However, in these patent documents, the inventor Salvatore Pais, Naval Air Warfare Center Aircraft Division's (NAWCAD) patent attorney Mark O. Glut, and the U.S. Naval Aviation Enterprise's Chief Technology Officer Dr. James Sheehy, all assert that these inventions are not only enabled, but operable. To help me understand what that term may mean in these contexts, I reached out to Peter Mlynek, a patent attorney.

Mlynek informed me that the terms “operable” or “operability” are not common in patent applications, but that there is little doubt that the use of the term is meant to assert to the USPTO that these inventions actually work:
If they had working models for this sort of technology, this would a classified submittal, because it would be a a leap forward in the technology.

Later in the article, there is correspondence between senior Navy personnel and the patent examiner advocating for what are a profoundly weird claims, which implies that the Navy, or the Pentagon, has a reason for aggressively supporting the claims.

And all of these documents were publicly available, because????

My guess is that either the Navy finds this credible enough that they want to preempt other patent holders, or this is an attempt to send scientists and engineers from other nations (Russia and China) down a dead end.

Once Again Da Vinci Amazes


Subscale Reconstruction
Some wonks at MIT just did a recreation of a bridge proposal from Leonardo Da Vince, and, if their reconstruction from his notes is correct,* his bridge was centuries ahead of the state of the art:
Some 500 years after his death, researchers are still discovering just how talented and brilliant Leonardo da Vinci was. Architects and civil engineers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology used a 3D printer to create a replica of a bridge da Vinci designed, but never built. To their surprise, not only did it work, but it would have also revolutionized bridge design five centuries ago.

As the story goes, in 1502 A.D. the Sultan Bayezid II wanted to build a bridge to connect the city of Istanbul to its neighbor, Galata. One of the proposed designs came from Leonardo da Vinci, who had already made a name for himself in the arts and sciences at the time. In a letter he sent to the sultan, accompanied by a notebook full of sketches, da Vinci described a bridge that would span the proposed distance using a single, flattened arch design, supported by bases on either shore. Bridges at the time were typically made using a series of semicircular arches, and to span the distance between the two cities would have required at least 10 evenly spaced piers in between to support the entire structure. Da Vinci’s design, which would have easily allowed sailboats to pass beneath it, was radically different (and centuries ahead of its time), which is probably why the sultan decided not to take the risk. Half a millennium later, researchers were curious if it would have succeeded.

………

Not only did the bridge work, remaining strong and stable without the use of any mortars or fasteners, but the team at MIT also realized that da Vinci had even engineered a way to minimize unwanted lateral movements in the structure, which would have quickly led to its collapse. The footings on either side of the arched bridge featured designs that splayed outwards to add a considerable amount of stability. The bridge would have even survived most earthquakes, which were common at the time in that area, as the MIT researchers discovered by putting their replica on two movable platforms. It wasn’t indestructible, but it would have been an ancient architectural marvel.
There are a number of "Ifs" here:
  • Did the technology of the day allow for the construction of abutments to handle the not-inconsiderable thrust loads.
  • Does the material handling technology of the day allow for the handling of the stone blocks.
  • could the barge and scaffolding technology of the day effectively provide for the support of the structure when under construction?
My guess is that Da Vinci never looked at the nitty-gritty details involved in actually putting up such a bridge, because he was never really a details kind of guy.

*That is a VERY big if.

10 October 2019

Make it So

After ignoring a judge's order on forgiving loans for students of he failed Corinthian Colleges,  the judge is strongly implying that he will send Education Secretary Betsy DeVos to jail for contempt:
Education Secretary Betsy DeVos has been threatened with the possibility of jail after a judge deemed she was violating a court order for continuing to collect student debts on a now-defunct school.

That ruling, handed down in June of 2018, was made by U.S. Magistrate Judge Sallie Kim and prevented DeVos and her Department of Education for going after former students at the bankrupt Corinthian Colleges Inc.

However, Kim said she was "astounded" to discover that DeVos was violating the court order at a hearing in San Francisco on Monday after a filing by the Education Department earlier disclosed that more than 16,000 former students at Corinthian College "were incorrectly informed at one time or another ... that they had payments due on their federal student loans."

At least 1,800 people reportedly lost wages or tax refunds according to the filing.

"At best it is gross negligence, at worst it's an intentional flouting of my order," Kim said, reported Bloomberg.

"I'm not sure if this is contempt or sanctions," she added. "I'm not sending anyone to jail yet but it's good to know I have that ability."
Please send her to jail.

Pretty please?

You Have to Love the Tote Bag Set

In news that should surprise no one, Philadelphia public radio station WHYY is declaring jihad on its employees unionization attempts, because solidarity with the working man is important, unless it inconveniences them personally:
A group of workers at the public media station WHYY last week delivered a petition to management declaring their intent to unionize with SAG-AFTRA.

The workers, who said they were unionizing to turn the station into a place where they could build their careers “without sacrificing [their] well-being,” had support from more than 80% of the nearly 100-person proposed bargaining unit — well over the simple majority needed to win a formal union election — and asked management to voluntarily recognize the union, rather than requiring it to go through a National Labor Relations Board election.

WHYY has not voluntarily recognized the union.

………

Generally, when workers announce their intent to unionize, it’s standard practice for employers to attempt to dissuade workers from voting for the union. As management-side lawyer Rick Grimaldi of Fisher Phillips put it, the employer uses the time before the NLRB election to “give employees the other side of the story.” Employers usually call this a period to educate their workers on the advantages and disadvantages of a union. Sometimes, though, employers agree to neutrality, promising not to carry out an anti-union campaign.

WHYY said in a statement, “WHYY is not anti-union nor have we made any attempts to dissuade workers from voting for the union."

Station spokesperson Art Ellis confirmed it has retained Duane Morris attorney James Redeker, who has been meeting with managers and senior management to brief them on “all the legal aspects of NLRB proceedings.” Redeker’s website says he has “engineered numerous successful counter-organizational campaigns for clients ... and conducted supervisory training throughout the country with respect to union avoidance.”
So, the station management is going to make it tough, and they have hired a union buster lawyer, because they are a bunch of people who think that running a humane workplace is beneath them.

I guess that it distracts them from being "Woke".

This is literally every stereotype of the NPR type promulgated by right wing talk radio.

If We Enforced the Law, Half of San Jose Would be in Jail

I am referring, or course to the recent revelations that Twitter collected users phone numbers for 2 factor authentication and then sold them to advertisers.

The Silicon Valley business models are increasingly indistinguishable from fraud and various forms or racketeering:
When some users provided Twitter with their phone number to make their account more secure, the company used this information for advertising purposes, according to a blog post from Twitter published on Tuesday.

This isn't the first time that a large social network has taken information explicitly meant for the purposes of security, and then quietly or accidentally use it for something else entirely. Facebook did something similar with phone numbers provided by users for two-factor authentication, the company confirmed last year.

"We recently discovered that when you provided an email address or phone number for safety or security purposes (for example, two-factor authentication) this data may have inadvertently been used for advertising purposes, specifically in our Tailored Audiences and Partner Audiences advertising system," Twitter's announcement reads.

In short, when an advertiser using Twitter uploaded their own marketing list of email addresses or phone numbers, Twitter may have matched the list to people on Twitter "based on the email or phone number the Twitter account holder provided for safety and security purposes," the post adds.

"This was an error and we apologize," it read.
This wasn't error, it was greed and a disdain for their users, who are, after all, not customers, but the protect that they sell to their customers, the advertisers.

09 October 2019

I Can't Even………

Trump is defending his abandonment of our Kurdish allies in northern Syria because they did not hit the beaches with us at Normandy.

This is amazingly stupid and ahistorical. (Turkey was neutral in the war, and Syria, Iran, and Iraq were under the control of the UK by the time that America entered the war)

I'm not surprised about the betrayal of the Kurds, this has been a bipartisan standard operating procedure for the United States since (at least) the early 1970s, but this justification is mind-bogglingly stupid.

Tweet of the Day


This may be the truest Venn diagram ever written.

About F%$#ing Time

The Supreme Court has ruled that blind people can sue businesses for having websites that are inaccessible to the disabled.

This is good for 2 reasons.

The first is that it's a place of business, and places of business are required to be accessible to the disabled. There should be no get out of jail card for, "Because………Inernet."

The second is that if they offer alternate websites that are disability friendly, these will be far less likely to be orgies of poorly written JavaScript that take 5 minutes to load.
The Supreme Court cleared the way Monday for blind people to sue Domino’s Pizza and other retailers if their websites are not accessible.

In a potentially far-reaching move, the justices turned down an appeal from Domino’s and let stand a U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruling holding that the Americans With Disabilities Act protects access not just to restaurants and stores but also to the websites and apps of those businesses.

Guillermo Robles, who is blind, filed suit in Los Angeles three years ago and complained he had been unable to order a pizza online because the Domino’s website lacked the software that would allow him to communicate. He cited the ADA, which guarantees to people with a disability “full and equal enjoyment of the goods and services ... of any place of public accommodations.”

This is Beyond Horrible


I first heard about this when my RABBI mentioned that there had been a shooting this afternoon:
A heavily armed gunman with a live-streaming head camera tried to storm a synagogue in eastern Germany on Wednesday as congregants observed the holiest day in Judaism. Foiled by a locked door, he killed two people outside and wounded two others in an anti-Semitic spree that smacked of far-right terrorism.

Hours later the police announced the arrest of a suspect in the assault in the city of Halle, one of the most brazen in a string of recent attacks aimed at Jews in Germany. Police officials declined to confirm if the suspect was the gunman or whether he had any accomplices.

The methodology of the assailant bore a striking resemblance to the rampage by a far-right extremist against two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand, more than six months ago, in which he broadcast his killings live on social media. Fifty-one people died in that attack.

Like the Christchurch killer, the Halle assailant recorded himself, in a 35-minute video of shooting, mayhem and hateful language. In accented English, he identified himself as Anon, denied the Holocaust, denounced feminists and immigrants, then declared: “The root of all these problems is the Jew.”

………

The assailant uploaded his video to Twitch, a live-streaming platform owned by Amazon that has struggled with moderating the real-time content that floods in from millions of active broadcasters. Alerted to the broadcast, Twitch scrambled to remove it and issue an apology, but not before right-wing sites had archived it. Some exalted the killer as a hero.
It could have been worse, but it appears that the gunman was a pretty crappy gunsmith, and his homemade weapons, an automatic weapon and a shotgun, both failed.

Of course he did it on Yom Kippur.

F%$# Nazis.

08 October 2019

Tweet of the Day


Yes, it sounds exactly like a grand jury, which is essentially what impeachment is in the House of Representatives.

Morally Indefensible

I've been thinking about the white cop (not mentioning her name) who murdered Botham Jean, and was (remarkably) convicted for her act, and specifically the behavior of her brother, Brandt Jean, and the judge presiding over the trial(!), after the sentence was announced.

Specifically they both gave hugs to the murderer cop in the spirit of forgiveness.

My take on this is profoundly different from that most of the (white and smugly) media about this, and not because of the "Magic Negro"* aspect of the whole storage. (Both Mr. Jean and the judge are African American)

It's not that I do not find this criticism unpersuasive, I find it very persuasive, but as someone who can pass as white without trying, I am so completely removed from the black experience to say anything meaningful.

On the other hand I am a Jew, and from a Jewish perspective, or at least MY perspective, (though not just me) I have found the behavior, particularly from the judge, disturbing, and with Yom Kippur coming up, I felt I need to talk about repentance, (teshuva) and forgiveness.

Forgiveness without teshuva is wrong in normative Judaism, and teshuva in Judaism is not the profoundly different from mere regret, or even guilt. Teshuva is about correcting the wrongs that you have done, and correcting yourself so that the wrongs are not repeated, and the harms are remediated as much as possible.

The murderer cop has done none of this, and forgiveness without teshuvah is more than meaningless, it is harmful.

To quote Mishnah Sanhedrin 4:5; Yerushalmi Talmud 4:9, Babylonian Talmud Sanhedrin 37a, "Whoever destroys a soul, it is considered as if he destroyed an entire world. And whoever saves a life, it is considered as if he saved an entire world."

The cop didn't just kill Botham Jean, and hurt his brother, and his mother, and his other loved ones, it is as if she destroyed the whole world.

This sort of throw away forgiveness minimizes the whole concept of repentance and the whole concept of forgiveness.

It makes the world a worse place, and it is completely wrong.

*Specifically, it appears that whenever a white person is finally held to account for brutality against a person of color, there the an expectation that some sort heart-warming expression of forgiveness must be made by the victim, or the victim's family in order to assuage any potential feelings of guilt from white narcissists.

I've Made Jokes about the Home Root Canal Kit, But………

The folks hawking an at-home rape kit have exceeded even my tasteless sense of humor, and God help them, they are serious:
It should perhaps come as no surprise that in the post-Theranos (and mid-Tia) world, someone, somewhere would attempt to “disrupt” the rape kit. The MeToo company, a start-up based in Brooklyn and created by Madison Campbell, has created — in theory — the first at-home, self-managed forensic exam, intended to be used by survivors of sexual assault. Campbell calls her product the “MeToo kit,” and its slogan adopts the ethos and language of its namesake movement: “Your experience. Your kit. Your story. Your life. Your choice.”

But many in the sexual-assault advocacy and legal professional communities have voiced concerns about the MeToo kit’s viability in the criminal justice system. At the end of August, Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel sent the company a cease-and-desist letter, accusing it of violating several sections of Michigan’s Consumer Protection Act. Nessel stated, “This company is shamelessly trying to take financial advantage of the ‘Me Too’ movement by luring victims into thinking that an at-home-do-it-yourself sexual assault kit will stand up in court … Career prosecutors know that evidence collected in this way would not provide the necessary chain of custody.” This week, New York attorney general Letitia James joined Nessel’s call for Campbell to cease and desist, stating her concern that the MeToo kits would “deter individuals from seeking professional care.”

Ebony Tucker, advocacy director of the National Alliance to End Sexual Violence, echoes the attorney generals’ concerns. “When evidence is taken as part of a forensic exam in a rape case, there has to be a very clear order of who came into contact with the evidence: who had access to touch it, see it, know where it was,” she says. These measures are taken in order to ensure evidence isn’t tampered with, and to prevent that claim from being made in court. Done at home, by oneself, there would be countless opportunities to contaminate evidence — and any defense attorney would know that.
The entire concept becomes even more horrifyingly clueless as you read further down in the story.

The whole "Disruption" culture is really a complete sh%$ show.

07 October 2019

Tweet of the Day

One Way to deal with a mask ban:


Someone Who Knows that he Owns his Persecutors

Former Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva is refusing a release from prision, and is instead demanding an investigation of the prosecutors who are now desperate to bury the corruption in their prosecution of him:
The same Brazilian prosecutors who for years exhibited a single-minded fixation on jailing former President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva are now seeking his release from prison, requesting that a court allow him to serve the remainder of his 11-year sentence for corruption at home. But Lula — who believes the request is motivated by fear that prosecutorial and judicial improprieties in his case, which were revealed by The Intercept, will lead to the nullification of his conviction — is opposing these efforts, insisting that he will not leave prison until he receives full exoneration.

In seeking his release, Lula’s prosecutors are almost certainly not motivated by humanitarian concerns. Quite the contrary: Those prosecutors have often displayed a near-pathological hatred for the two-term former president. Last month, The Intercept, jointly with its reporting partner UOL, published previously secret Telegram messages in which the Operation Car Wash prosecutors responsible for prosecuting Lula cruelly mocked the tragic death of his 7-year-old grandson from meningitis earlier this year, as well as the 2017 death of his wife of 43 years from a stroke at the age of 66. One of the prosecutors who participated publicly apologized, but none of the others have.

Far more likely is that the prosecutors are motivated by desperation to salvage their legacy after a series of defeats suffered by their once-untouchable, widely revered Car Wash investigation, ever since The Intercept, on June 9, began publishing reports based on a massive archive of secret chats between the prosecutors and Sergio Moro, the judge who oversaw most of the convictions, including Lula’s, and who now serves as President Jair Bolsonaro’s Minister of Justice and Public Security.
The prosecution of Lula was always sketchy as hell, and Lula realizes that the whole case against him is unraveling, and the prosecutors are now threatening to physically throw him OUT of prison in an attempt to prevent a thorough review of their behavior by Brazil's supreme court.

Prudent Move

When you consider the fact that Devin Nunes (Moo) leaked sensitive details of the House Intelligence Committee to the White House when he was chairman of the House Intelligence Committee,* it seems prudent that the current committee leadership is considering concealing the identity of the various whistle-blowers from Republicans ont he committee.

After all, they have already shown that they cannot be trusted to handle classified information responsibly:
House Democrats are weighing extraordinary steps to secure testimony from a whistleblower whose complaint prompted their impeachment inquiry, masking his identity to prevent President Trump’s congressional allies from exposing the individual, according to three officials familiar with the deliberations.

The steps under consideration include having the whistleblower testify from a remote location and obscuring the individual’s appearance and voice, these officials said.

The efforts reflect Democrats’ deepening distrust of their GOP colleagues, whom they see as fully invested in defending a president who has attacked the whistleblower’s credibility and demanded absolute loyalty from Republicans.

………

In a further sign of the breakdown of comity, the committee majority restricted access to the visitor logbook after GOP staffers leaked names of individuals signing in for job interviews when the majority was hiring new staffers in early 2019, according to a committee aide who spoke on the condition of anonymity to freely describe the situation.
That is amazingly chicken sh%$, but typical for for Republicans.

Their goal is to out the whistle-blower, and then allow their MAGA knuckle draggers to harass them and their family as a warning to others.

*https://www.wired.com/2017/04/devin-nunes-white-house-trump-surveillance/

Pass the Popcorn

A federal judge has ruled that Donald Trump must turn over his tax returns to the Manhattan District Attorney for their investigation into Trump's hush money payments in 2015.

In particular, the judge was unamused at the argument that Trump could not be prosecuted as President:
A federal judge on Monday dismissed President Trump’s lawsuit seeking to block the Manhattan district attorney from obtaining the president’s tax returns as part of an investigation into hush-money payments during the 2016 campaign.

That decision does not mean Trump’s tax returns will be handed over immediately. Trump appealed within minutes, and an appeals court put the case on hold until it can hear the president’s challenge.

But Monday’s ruling by U.S. Judge Victor Marrero was still a broad rejection of Trump’s precedent-shattering argument in this case.

The president argued that, as long as he is president, he cannot be investigated by any prosecutor, anywhere, for any reason.

Marrero said that was “repugnant” to an American ideal as old as the Constitution: that no man, even a president, is above the law.

“The Court cannot square a vision of presidential immunity that would place the President above the law with the text of the Constitution, the historical record, the relevant case law” or any other authority, Marrero wrote.

“This Court cannot endorse such a categorical and limitless assertion of presidential immunity from judicial process,” he wrote in another section of his 75-page ruling.
It's not often that you find the term "Repugnant" in a judge's opinion.

………

The Justice Department has previously declared that presidents cannot be indicted by federal prosecutors, relying on a series of legal memos from White House lawyers going back to the 1970s.

In this case, Trump had sought to turn those protections into a more far-reaching legal shield. Citing those memos, he asserted he should have immunity not just from indictment but also any sort of investigation — and not just from federal prosecutors, but local prosecutors like Vance, too.

Additionally, there is no immunity under law for the President.  At best, there is a Justice Department policy, something that only applies to the DoJ, on this, and it has no force on local or state prosecutors.

Finally, Vance is not (yet) prosecuting a case against Donald Trump at this time, so even Trump's assertion of immunity for prosecution do not apply.

I rather imagine that the court of appeals will rule similarly, but if the Supreme Court agrees to hear the case, all bets are off.

06 October 2019

William Barr Needs to Go to Jail, and His Law License Needs to be Revoked

Even if he were just White House Counsel, William Barr's active participation in covering up scandals would be criminal.

As Attorney General, his behavior is a disgrace that makes John Mitchell look like Clarence Darrow:
Attorney General Bill Barr is keeping busy. He previously announced in May that he had appointed John Durham, the U.S. attorney in Connecticut, to review the origins of the Russia investigation during the 2016 campaign. This week, multiple news outlets reported that Barr is putting the full weight of American diplomacy behind the probe. The attorney reportedly asked President Donald Trump to ask the Australian and British governments to aid his inquiry. He also personally traveled to Italy to meet with that country’s intelligence officials and gather evidence himself.

……….

It’s hard to think about Barr’s role in all of this without thinking about his predecessor. Jeff Sessions had been one of President Donald Trump’s earliest political allies and an unstinting champion of his policies in office. When his departure became public last November, I wrote that the former Alabama senator had “spent the last two years reshaping federal law enforcement into a blunter and more punitive instrument, squeezing legal and undocumented immigrants alike, and tilting the scales of justice away from disadvantaged communities.”

Sessions deserved the lion’s share of criticism he received, especially for his role in separating migrant children from their families at the border. The only exception was the criticism that came from Trump. Sessions recused himself from the Russia investigation in early 2017 out of ethical and legal obligations, and the president never forgave him for doing so. The Mueller report is essentially a catalogue of Trump’s campaign to pressure Sessions into shutting down the inquiry. When Sessions refused to un-recuse himself or sabotage Mueller, Trump unceremoniously ousted him last November.

Barr, by comparison, seems to have no such scruples about carrying out Trump’s whims. He hasn’t really deviated from Sessions’s overall policy agenda since taking over DOJ. In some aspects of immigration and criminal-justice matters, he’s even gone further than Sessions ever did. But his greatest achievement so far is doing what his predecessor spent almost two years resisting: transforming the Justice Department from a semi-independent actor into an instrument of Trump’s political interests.

………


The irony is that Barr, more than any of his predecessors since the Watergate era, seems to think that his job is to help discredit his boss’ political opponents. He prefaced the Mueller report’s public release with an unabashed defense of Trump’s misdeeds, saying the president was “frustrated and angered by a sincere belief that the investigation was undermining his presidency, propelled by his political opponents, and fueled by illegal leaks.” (Being mad is not a statutory exemption to obstruction of justice.) While testifying before Congress in April, he also asserted that U.S. intelligence agencies had spied on the Trump campaign, validating one of the president’s favorite complaints. FBI Director Christopher Wray and other U.S. intelligence officials have strenuously denied that any spying took place.

………

It’s worth noting that Jeff Sessions was no Elliot Richardson. It took a combination of public pressure and damaging revelations to force his eventual recusal from the Russia investigation in the spring of 2017. The trauma experienced by migrant families at the border during his tenure should also haunt Sessions for the rest of his life. If it does, he can at least take a small modicum of comfort in knowing that he was only the second-worst attorney general to ever serve under President Donald Trump.
I look forward to seeing Barr frog marched out of the Department of Justice in handcuffs.

Another CIA Officer is Lawyering Up

Someone else in the US state security apparatus has contacted the IG in preparation of making a whistle-blower complaint:
A second intelligence official who was alarmed by President Trump’s dealings with Ukraine is weighing whether to file his own formal whistle-blower complaint and testify to Congress, according to two people briefed on the matter.

The official has more direct information about the events than the first whistle-blower, whose complaint that Mr. Trump was using his power to get Ukraine to investigate his political rivals touched off an impeachment inquiry. The second official is among those interviewed by the intelligence community inspector general to corroborate the allegations of the original whistle-blower, one of the people said.

The inspector general, Michael Atkinson, briefed lawmakers privately on Friday about how he substantiated the whistle-blower’s account. It was not clear whether he told lawmakers that the second official was considering filing a complaint.

A new complaint, particularly from someone closer to the events, would potentially add further credibility to the account of the first whistle-blower, a C.I.A. officer who was detailed to the National Security Council at one point. He said that he relied on information from more than a half-dozen American officials to compile his allegations about Mr. Trump’s campaign to solicit foreign election interference that could benefit him politically.
I still think that Congress should have a broad impeachment investigation, because the complete lawlessness of this administration needs to be made public, but this does make things for Trump and his Evil Minions.

As an aside, excluding Trump's rather incendiary tweets,  the reception that these whistle-blowers have received from the establishment and the intelligence agencies have been far more supportive than (for example) Binney, Drake, and Kiriakou.

The only logical explanation for this is that this (relatively) benign behavior is a result of their being more supportive of the whistle-blowing regarding the Ukraine than they are of whistle-blowing regarding torture, spying on American citizens, and going to war under false pretense.

Whistle-blowers are generally treated like sh%$, and this needs to change.

Live in Obedient Fear, Citizen

The Oregon Titan Fusion Center, a federally funded anti-terrorism center, was used to track peaceful environmental protesters.

This is not a surprise.  Repurposing resources in this way is pretty much baked into the whole "Fusion Center" concept, and we already know that law enforcement in Oregon is pro white supremacist and anti-environmentalist:
A federally sponsored anti-terrorism fusion center in Oregon assisted a taskforce monitoring protest groups organizing against a fossil fuel infrastructure project in the state, according to documents obtained by the Guardian.

The Oregon Titan Fusion Center – part of a network set up to monitor terrorist activities – disseminated information gathered by that taskforce, and shared information provided by private security attached to the gas project with some of the task force members.

Observers, including the American Civil Liberties Union, argue these efforts break Oregon law.

………

The national network of fusion centers were created in the wake of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, as focal points for cooperation and information sharing between federal, state and local agencies in detecting and responding to terrorist and criminal activities. In 2018 the House homeland security committee counted 79 fusion centers around the country.

In its own materials, the Titan Fusion Center is described as “a collaborative effort of state and federal law enforcement agencies”, focused on “terrorism, organized crime and gang-related criminal activity”.

The center also says that it “may retain protected information that is based on a level of suspicion that is less than ‘reasonable suspicion’, such as tips and leads or suspicious activity report (SAR) information”.

National fusion center materials say that they “receive information from a variety of sources, including suspicious activity reporting (SAR) information from stakeholders within their jurisdictions, as well as federal information and intelligence”.

The center also says that it “will not seek or retain information about an individual or organization solely on the basis of their religious, political, racial, or social views or activities; their participation in a particular non-criminal organization or lawful event”.

The center states that its activities are governed by Oregon statutes that prevent the gathering of “information about the political, religious or social views, associations or activities of any individual, group, association, organization, corporation, business or partnership unless such information directly relates to an investigation of criminal activities”.

But it is precisely such statutes that observers like the ACLU of Oregon say that SWOJTF, and the fusion center, are breaking.

Kelly Simon, an ACLU of Oregon staff attorney, said: “These communications are just more evidence of the Coos county sheriff’s and Titan Fusion Center’s utter disregard for the bedrock principle of freedom of expression and of Oregon’s anti-profiling laws”.
It should be noted that the , "Titan Fusion Center’s utter disregard for the bedrock principle of freedom of expression and of Oregon’s anti-profiling laws," is a feature, and not a bug of the program.

Whenever efforts like this are initiated, law enforcement uses them to avoid the legal and constitutional restrictions on how they do their jobs.

This is a fact that is frequently ignored when such programs are drawn up.

05 October 2019

Well, Congress Has a Real Justification for Trump's Tax Returns Now

An Internal Revenue Service ­official has filed a whistleblower complaint reporting that he was told that at least one Treasury Department political appointee attempted to improperly interfere with the annual audit of the president’s or vice president’s tax returns, according to multiple people familiar with the document.

Trump administration officials dismissed the whistleblower’s complaint as flimsy because it is based on conversations with other government officials. But congressional Democrats were alarmed by the complaint, now circulating on Capitol Hill, and flagged it in a federal court filing. They are also discussing whether to make it public.

The details of the IRS complaint follow news of a separate, explosive whistleblower complaint filed in August by a member of the intelligence community. That complaint revealed Trump’s request of Ukranian leaders to investigate former vice president Joe Biden, a political rival. It has spurred an impeachment probe on Capitol Hill.

The IRS complaint has come amid the escalating legal battle between the Treasury Department and House Democrats over the release of President Trump’s tax returns. Part of that inquiry from Democrats is over how the IRS conducts its annual audit of the president’s and vice president’s tax returns. That process is supposed to be walled off from political appointees and interference.
Of course political appointees are trying to interfere with Trump's audits.

The Mad Emperor must be appeased, after all.

Congress needs to review all of Trump's audits, which means that they need his tax returns.

Fuck CIGNA

Fuck CIGNA
Fuck CIGNA
Fuck CIGNA
Fuck CIGNA
Fuck CIGNA
Fuck CIGNA
Fuck CIGNA
Fuck CIGNA
Fuck CIGNA
Fuck CIGNA
Fuck CIGNA
Fuck CIGNA
Fuck CIGNA
Fuck CIGNA
Fuck CIGNA

And in conclusion,

Fuck CIGNA

That is all.

04 October 2019

Blog Announcement

In order to prevent impeachment stories and speculation from taking over my blog, I will only be reporting on impeachment progress, and new Trump revelations, on days of the week that end with the letter "Y".

That is all.

Rats, Sinking Ship, You Know

Senator Ron Johnson, (R-WI) just threw Donald Trump under the bus:
A Republican senator said he was told by an American diplomat in August that the release of U.S. aid to Ukraine was contingent on an investigation desired by President Trump and his allies, but Mr. Trump denied pursuing any such proposal when the lawmaker pressed him on it.

Sen. Ron Johnson said that Gordon Sondland, the U.S. ambassador to the European Union, had described to him a quid pro quo involving a commitment by Kyiv to probe matters related to U.S. elections and the status of nearly $400 million in U.S. aid to Ukraine that the president had ordered to be held up in July.

Alarmed by that information, Mr. Johnson, who supports aid to Ukraine and is the chairman of a Senate subcommittee with jurisdiction over the region, said he raised the issue with Mr. Trump the next day, Aug. 31, in a phone call, days before the senator was to meet with Ukraine’s president, Volodymyr Zelensky. In the call, Mr. Trump flatly rejected the notion that he directed aides to make military aid to Ukraine contingent on a new probe by Kyiv, Mr. Johnson said.

“He said, ‘Expletive deleted—No way. I would never do that. Who told you that?” the Wisconsin senator recalled in an interview Friday. Mr. Johnson said he told the president he had learned of the arrangement from Mr. Sondland.
That Trump was trying to extort the Ukraine by delaying aid was obvious to anyone who was following the issues in aid going to Kiev. (I was not one of these people, but Johnson was).

He is releasing this statement now only because he's afraid of being collateral damage in the every widening disaster.

I still don't think that any Republicans will vote to convict in the Senate, but the cockroaches are fleeing the light.

Aggressive Enforcement of Metrics Lead to Cheating


Ayn Rand style completion works about as well in the healthcare industry as it did at Sears:
On a Thursday morning this past April, 61-year-old Darryl Young was lying unconscious in the eighth-floor intensive care unit of Newark Beth Israel Medical Center. After suffering from congestive heart failure for years, Young, a Navy veteran and former truck driver with three children, had received a heart transplant on Sept. 21, 2018. He didn’t wake up after the operation and had been in a vegetative state ever since.

Machines whirred in his room, pumping air into his lungs. Nutrients and fluids dripped from a tube into his stomach. Young had always been fastidious, but now his hair and toenails had grown long. A nurse suctioned mucus from his throat several times a day to keep him from choking, according to employees familiar with his care. His medical record would note: “He follows no commands. He looks very encephalopathic” — brain damaged.

That day, in another wing of the hospital, where a group of surgeons, cardiologists, transplant coordinators, nurses and social workers gathered for their weekly meeting in a second-floor conference room, his name came up.

“Anything on Darryl Young?” asked cardiologist Dr. Darko Vucicevic, according to a recording of the meeting obtained by ProPublica.

………

The recordings show that the transplant team was fixated on keeping him alive, rather than his quality of life or his family’s wishes, because of worries about the transplant program’s survival rate, the proportion of people undergoing transplants who are still alive a year after their operations. Federal regulators rely on this statistic to evaluate — and sometimes penalize — transplant programs, giving hospitals across the country a reputational and financial incentive to game it. Newark Beth Israel’s one-year survival rate for heart transplants had dipped, and if Young were to die too soon, the program’s standing and even its own survival might be in jeopardy.

June 30, Zucker explained at the meeting, was the date of the next report by a federally funded organization that tracks transplant survival rates. “If he’s not dead in this report, even if he’s dead in the next report, it becomes an issue that moves out six more months,” he said in the recording.

………

In the ensuing months, the doctors continued to leave Young’s family in the dark, according to his sister Andrea and employees familiar with Young’s care. They didn’t want to run any risk that the people who loved him would interfere with their agenda: boosting the program’s numbers. “I’m not sure that this is ethical, moral or right,” Zucker told the team at the April meeting, but it’s “for the global good of the future transplant recipients.”

………

Arthur Caplan, head of the Division of Medical Ethics at NYU School of Medicine, reviewed transcripts of the recordings, including discussions about Young. “The management of this patient is egregiously unethical,” he said. “Prolonging ‘dying’ to preserve a flawed transplant program makes a mockery of transplant medicine and is an assault on both ethics and compassion.”
This is unalloyed evil, and everyone who knew of it, and refused to report it, should be banned from the practice of medicine forever.

03 October 2019

Still Cheaper than the F-35 Mistake Jet

The Snake-And-Alligator Border Moat: A Budget Analysis
Defense One
Someone ran the numbers of Trump's suggested border moat with various reptiles, and came up with, "$2.5 billion in set-up costs, plus annual operating costs of $1.8 billion."

By comparison, the F-35 is expected to cost US$1.508 trillion through 2070, 64 years, or about $23½ billion a year.

Personally, I want Sharks with frikken lasers, or at least some ill-tempered mutated sea bass.

Almost Literally Shooting Someone on 5th Avenue

Trump has doubled down on pressuring foreign government to investigate his political opponents, publicly urging China to investigate Hunter Biden, Joe's kid.

Let me be clear, the complaint that Hunter Biden trades on his family name has validity, but this does not justify the President* using the power of his office to coerce foreign nations to do opposition research:
President Trump, already facing impeachment for pressuring Ukraine to investigate his political rivals, publicly called on China on Thursday to examine former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. as well, an extraordinary request for help from a foreign power that could benefit him in next year’s election.

“China should start an investigation into the Bidens, because what happened in China is just about as bad as what happened with Ukraine,” Mr. Trump told reporters as he left the White House to travel to Florida. His request came just moments after he discussed upcoming trade talks with China and said that “if they don’t do what we want, we have tremendous power.”

The president’s call for Chinese intervention means that Mr. Trump and his attorney general have now solicited assistance in discrediting the president’s political opponents from Ukraine, Australia, Italy and, according to one report, Britain. In speaking so publicly on Thursday, a defiant Mr. Trump pushed back against critics who have called such requests an abuse of power, essentially arguing that there was nothing wrong with seeking foreign help to fight corruption.
Clearly the sort of actions for which impeachment was originally conceived by the founders, but that still makes the chance of a conviction smaller than winning the lottery.

NIMBY, Silicon Valley Edition

Silicon Valley techies really don't want self-driving cars on their streets.

This is very different from the XKCD cartoon, where software experts disavow computerized voting for everyone, because it is most of the article is about the people wanting the testing to go on somewhere else:
Karen Brenchley [full disclosure, we dated in the mid 1980s] is a computer scientist with expertise in training artificial intelligence, but this longtime Silicon Valley resident has pangs of anxiety whenever she sees Waymo self-driving cars maneuver the streets near her home.

The former product manager, who has worked for Microsoft and Hewlett-Packard, wonders how engineers could teach the robocars operating on her tree-lined streets to make snap decisions, speed and slow with the flow of traffic and yield to pedestrians coming from the nearby park. She has asked her husband, an award-winning science-fiction author who doesn’t drive, to wear a shiny vest while cycling to ensure autonomous vehicles spot him in a rush of activity.

The problem isn’t that she doesn’t understand the technology. It’s that she does, and she knows how flawed nascent technology can be.

“I’m not skeptical long-term,” said Brenchley, who has lived in Silicon Valley for 30 years. “I don’t want to be the guinea pig. I don’t want my husband to be the guinea pig.”
Well, then who should be the guinea pig then?

If it's not ready to share the roads with your bike-riding spouses or children they are not ready to share the roads with ANYONE'S bike-riding spouses or children.

I expect to see commercial fusion power before we see truly autonomous cars outside of very limited roadways.



BTW, Elon Musk's vision for a video only self driving scheme is even more hair-brained, as this Twitter thread demonstrates.   (after break)

Musk doesn't care though, because he is one major facial scar away from being a Bond villain:


Your Worst Nightmare: Talibaptist Cops

Two Tennessee Police officers used the threat of arrest to force a woman to be baptized.

When you read this account, you just know that this was not the first time that happened.

My guess is that they get their jollies by seeing a shivering wet woman in their underwear:
A woman in Tennessee said a sheriff’s deputy stripped down to his boxers and forcibly baptized her at a boat ramp late one night in February.

Now she’s suing for more than $10 million, according to court documents.

Shandle Marie Riley accused two sheriff’s deputies and the Hamilton County government of civil rights violations and assault in a lawsuit filed Tuesday, saying she was “horribly violated” when one of the men got partially naked and dunked her in freezing cold water — all reportedly to keep her out of jail after a traffic stop.

“(The deputy) had no lawful basis to coerce (Riley) into obtaining towels, following (him) to a remote location, and participating in a baptism in exchange for not going to jail,” the complaint states. “No reasonable law enforcement officer would have acted in this manner.”

Representatives from the county and the sheriff’s office did not immediately respond to McClatchy news group’s request for comment Wednesday.

………

During the traffic stop, the deputy accused Riley of having meth and ordered her to get out of the car, according to the suit.

“Without any lawful justification, Wilkey then conducted a search of the plaintiff’s person by feeling, through plaintiff’s clothing, her breasts, abdomen, buttocks, inner thighs and her crotch,” the complaint states.

He also reportedly asked her to “reach under her shirt and pull out her bra and shake the bra and the shirt.”

When Riley asked if a female officer should be present, Wilkey told her the law didn’t require it, according to the suit.

………

“Wilkey then told plaintiff that God was talking to him during the vehicle search, and Wilkey felt the lord wanted him to baptize the plaintiff,” the complaint states. “Wilkey further told plaintiff that he felt ‘the spirit.’”

In exchange for the baptism, the deputy told Riley he would not take her to jail but issue a criminal citation for the marijuana, according to the suit.

Per his instructions, Riley said she brought two towels from her friend’s home and followed the deputy to a boat ramp at Soddy Lake, more than 20 miles outside Chattanooga.

“Wilkey did not say where he was taking her,” the complaint states. “At no time did plaintiff feel free to simply ignore Wilkey and not do as he commanded.”

Another deputy, Jacob Goforth, reportedly met them at the boat ramp to serve as a witness and “attest to the ritual.”

Wilkey then stripped down to his boxer shorts and gave Riley the same option, which she declined, according to the suit.

The deputy led Riley waist-deep into “frigid water” and submerged her with one hand on her back and the other on her breasts “for several moments,” she said in court documents.

“(Riley) was shivering uncontrollably, and felt horribly violated,” the complaint states.

After toweling off, Riley said Goforth “smirked” at her but never attempted to intervene or report his colleague.
The New York Times also notes that officer Wilkey also faces an unrelated excessive force lawsuit.

Why are these guys still on the force.

Also, why are they not cooling their heels in jail.