30 April 2019

Correlation? Causation? ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

Scientists have identified what they claim is a biomarker for chronic fatigue syndrome.

I am not so sure.

What they are describing is a marker for a stressed immune system, and there are any number of conditions that stress the immune system.

What they need to do is look at how this test works for people with other related conditions: Depression, mitochondrial disorders, McArdle's disorder, etc.

Then again, I'm an engineer, not a doctor, dammit!*

People suffering from a debilitating and often discounted disease known as chronic fatigue syndrome may soon have something they’ve been seeking for decades: scientific proof of their ailment.

Researchers at the Stanford University School of Medicine have created a blood test that can flag the disease, which currently lacks a standard, reliable diagnostic test.

“Too often, this disease is categorized as imaginary,” said Ron Davis, PhD, professor of biochemistry and of genetics. When individuals with chronic fatigue syndrome seek help from a doctor, they may undergo a series of tests that check liver, kidney and heart function, as well as blood and immune cell counts, Davis said. “All these different tests would normally guide the doctor toward one illness or another, but for chronic fatigue syndrome patients, the results all come back normal,” he said.

The problem, he said, is that they’re not looking deep enough. Now, Davis; Rahim Esfandyarpour, PhD, a former Stanford research associate; and their colleagues have devised a blood-based test that successfully identified participants in a study with chronic fatigue syndrome. The test, which is still in a pilot phase, is based on how a person’s immune cells respond to stress. With blood samples from 40 people — 20 with chronic fatigue syndrome and 20 without — the test yielded precise results, accurately flagging all chronic fatigue syndrome patients and none of the healthy individuals.

The diagnostic platform could even help identify possible drugs to treat chronic fatigue syndrome. By exposing the participants’ blood samples to drug candidates and rerunning the diagnostic test, the scientists could potentially see whether the drug improved the immune cells’ response. Already, the team is using the platform to screen for potential drugs they hope can help people with chronic fatigue syndrome down the line.

They have shown a test for immune response to various stressors, but this does not make it a reliable test for CFS, nor for that matter, does it prove the existence of CFS.

Absent a mechanism, or a more extensive study and comparison to other conditions that resemble, it's very preliminary to claim proof of anything.


*I love it when I get to go all Dr. McCoy!

Headline of the Day

Joe Biden Provides a Fossil Record of How the Democrats Have Changed
The Economist producing some world class snark
Joe is going to need some ointment for that burn.

29 April 2019

A Real Life Wile E. Coyote


Yeah, pretty much
I am referring, of course to Jacob Wohl, who at the young age of 21 years old, has been banned for life as a future's trader and from twitter, been caught trying to create a bogus accusation against Robert Mueller, and now, caught on tape trying to fabricate a sexual assault claim against Presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg:
A pair of right-wing provocateurs are being accused of attempting to recruit young Republican men to level false allegations of sexual assault against Democratic presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg.

The details of the operatives’ attempt emerged as one man suddenly surfaced with a vague and uncorroborated allegation that Buttigieg had assaulted him. The claim was retracted hours later on a Facebook page appearing to belong to the man.

A Republican source told The Daily Beast that lobbyist Jack Burkman and internet troll Jacob Wohl approached him last week to try to convince him to falsely accuse Buttigieg, the mayor of South Bend, Indiana, of engaging him sexually while he was too drunk to consent.

The source who spoke to The Daily Beast said Burkman and Wohl made clear that their goal was to kneecap Buttigieg’s momentum in the 2020 presidential race. The man asked to remain anonymous out of a concern that the resulting publicity might imperil his employment, and because he said Wohl and Burkman have a reputation for vindictiveness.
“The source who spoke to The Daily Beast said Burkman and Wohl made clear that their goal was to kneecap Buttigieg’s momentum in the 2020 presidential race.”

But the source provided The Daily Beast with a surreptitious audio recording of the meeting, which corroborates his account. In it, Wohl appears to refer to Buttigieg as a “terminal threat” to President Donald Trump’s reelection next year.
Seriously, if someone finds the time, could they beat the crap out of these guys?

Live in Obedient Fear, Citizen


It raises the obvious question: If they had a need to keep these records all these years, why do they have a burning need to destroy them now? (It's a rhetorical question)
More details are coming to light about California's opacity activists. Faced with impending transparency, a handful of law enforcement agencies decided to fire up the shredders rather than risk turning over police conduct records to the public under the new public records law.

Inglewood's police department was given the go-ahead to shred years of responsive documents last December in a council meeting that produced no record of discussion on the matter or the council's determination.

Public records requests filed after the new law went into effect in January uncovered moves made by the Fremont city council to help local police rid themselves of records the public might try to request. The city lowered the retention period for officer-involved shooting records from 25 years to ten and allowed the department to destroy 45 years of police misconduct records it had decided to hold onto until it became inconvenient for it to do so.

………

Departments are willing to hold onto misconduct/shooting records for decades, but only start destroying them when it looks like they might have to share. Agencies can point to mandated retention periods all they want, but the argument doesn't wash if they're only sticklers about it when transparency is being forced on them.
Why you cannot allow the police to police the police.

Mandy Reese Davies Applies

Bill Gates hates Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez's tax plan, to which the obvious rejoinder is, "Well, he would say that, wouldn't he?"
Bill Gates says he’s fine with the idea of higher taxes for the rich, but plans like the one being championed by Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, which target the top income brackets, are too extreme—and could encourage the wealthy to hide their money in offshore accounts.

Gates, in an interview with The Verge, didn’t mention Ocasio-Cortez or her well-publicized tax proposal directly by name, but his focus was clear. While the Microsoft co-founder and world’s second richest man agreed the U.S. could be “more progressive,” he downplayed “extreme” proposals, such as the freshman representative’s plan to raise the top tax rate from 37% to 70%.

“I believe U.S. tax rates can be more progressive. Now, you finally have some politicians who are so extreme that I’d say, ‘No, that’s even beyond,'” Gates said. “You do start to create tax dodging and disincentives, and an incentive to have the income show up in other countries and things. But we can be more progressive without really threatening income generation—what you have left to decide how to spread around.”
Bill Gates made his money in one of the most heavily subsidized industries on earth (copyright and patents are subsidies), and somehow any meaningful tax reform needs to be opposed, because some rich pig will find a way to avoid the taxes, so we have to try something else ……… And the next thing, that won't work either ……… Rinse, lather, repeat.

28 April 2019

You Know the Saying, "It's not the Crime, it''s the Coverup?"

Even if there was no underlying crime, interfering with the investigation is obstruction of justice, and now some of the Mueller prosecutors are saying that Trump DID obstruct justice, though it should be noted that the sourcing is a bit of a double play combination:
Prosecutors working for Special Counsel Robert Mueller concluded last year that they had sufficient evidence to seek criminal charges against President Donald Trump for obstruction of justice over the president’s alleged pressuring of then FBI Director James Comey in February 2017 to shut down an FBI investigation of the president’s then national security adviser, Michael Flynn.

Privately, the two prosecutors, who were then employed in the special counsel’s office, told other Justice Department officials that had it not been for the unique nature of the case—the investigation of a sitting president of the United States, and one who tried to use the powers of his office to thwart and even close down the special counsel’s investigation—they would have advocated that he face federal criminal charges. I learned of the conclusions of the two former Mueller prosecutors not by any leak, either from them personally or from the office of special counsel. Rather, the two prosecutors disclosed this information in then-confidential conversations with two other federal law enforcement officials, who subsequently recounted what they were told to me.

………

Independently of the Mueller report, confidential White House records that I have been able to review, as well as correspondence between the president’s attorneys and the special counsel already made public, demonstrate that the president and his attorneys considered Trump’s alleged attempt to shut down the Flynn inquiry to be the most direct threat to Trump’s presidency.

………

In the course of such cases, prosecutors and FBI agents working for Mueller often interacted with their peers in US attorneys’ offices around the country and in the DOJ’s Criminal Division and Public Integrity Section. Some of Mueller’s prosecutors, who had been detailed from other Justice Department offices, have since returned to their previous jobs or taken new positions in the department. The special counsel’s office was thus less sequestered than is generally believed.

It was against this backdrop that prosecutors working for the special counsel spoke to their peers in the Justice Department. That is how I learned what, in particular, the two Mueller prosecutors had to say about the Flynn investigation. Two people present during one such conversation provided me with detailed and consistent accounts of what the special counsel’s two prosecutors had said to them. A third person present corroborated that the conversation took place but declined to provide details of what was said.

One person who spoke to me reported grappling with the issue of what could be considered a breach of their colleagues’ confidence. But in part because of what they regarded as Attorney General Barr’s misrepresentations of the Mueller report, they believed it was important for the public and Congress to know what Mueller’s prosecutors had themselves privately concluded: that a charge of obstruction of justice was indeed merited by Trump’s actions in the Flynn matter.
Not a surprise.

Neither is Barr's blatantly corrupt behavior:  He has been covering up for Republican criminals since Iran-Contra.

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

Still no commercial bank failures, but we have another credit union failure, Mid East Tennessee Community Credit Union of Decatur , TN.

Here is the NCUA list for this year.

Looks to be another slow year.

Pass the Popcorn

It looks like Oliver North has been fired as president of the NRA amid claims that he attempted to force Wayne LaPierre's resignation by threatening to reveal his self dealing:
National Rifle Association President Oliver North has been ousted after an alleged extortion scheme within the group’s highest-ranking officials came to light on Friday. In a statement, North told the organization he was “informed” he would not be nominated for reelection. North’s term ends Monday.

The NRA’s chief executive, Wayne LaPierre, wrote a letter to the board Thursday accusing North of plotting to remove him from the group by threatening to release to the board “damaging” information about LaPierre. He claimed North, a former Marine Corps lieutenant colonel perhaps best known for his role in the Iran-contra affair, was pressuring him to resign over alleged financial transgressions.

“Delivered by a member of our Board on behalf of his employer, the exhortation was simple: resign or there will be destructive allegations made against me and the NRA,” LaPierre wrote in the letter, which was published Friday by the Wall Street Journal.

………

On Saturday, at the NRA’s annual meeting in Indianapolis, Richard Childress, a vice president at the NRA, read what amounted to a resignation letter from North that announced and explained his departure.

………

North continued his resignation letter by saying he believes the NRA should establish a committee to review the organization’s finances, which he said constitute a “clear crisis” that “needs to be dealt with” if the NRA wants to continue to be a viable organization.

The NRA’s board, comprising 76 members, is scheduled to meet Monday.

………

The Wall Street Journal reported that North, who became NRA president last year, defended himself in a letter to the board Thursday, indicating his actions were “for the good of the NRA.” North previously wrote a longer letter to the board’s executive committee, alleging LaPierre had made more than $200,000 of wardrobe purchases and charged them to a vendor.

………

The back-and-forth is apparently fueled by a growing rift in a decades-long relationship between the NRA and the advertising agency Ackerman McQueen, according to the Journal. The NRA filed a lawsuit against Ackerman McQueen this month in Virginia alleging the firm had not been transparent in justifying its billings. In a statement to the Journal, Ackerman McQueen argued it was complying and called the lawsuit “frivolous, inaccurate and intended to cause harm to the reputation of our company.”

The suit specifically mentions a contract between Ackerman McQueen and North, the Journal reports, who was hired by the agency last year to host an NRATV documentary program, which LaPierre says nets him “millions of dollars annually.”

LaPierre detailed a phone call between one of his staff members and North that took place Wednesday, in which North allegedly suggested Ackerman McQueen was prepared to release an “allegedly damaging letter to the entire NRA board.”

“The letter would contain a devastating account for our financial status, sexual harassment charges against a staff member, accusations of wardrobe expenses and excessive staff travel expenses,” LaPierre wrote. “But then, Col. North explained the letter would not be sent — if I were to promptly resign as your Executive Vice President. And, if I supported Col. North’s continued tenure as president, he stated he could ‘negotiate’ an ‘excellent retirement’ for me.”
I am very amused.

27 April 2019

One of the Particular Joys of Judaism

I just had lasagna and garlic bread after 8 days of Pesach (Passover).

It is such bliss. (Eza Machaya in Yiddish)

Fuck Donald Trump's Very Fine People

6 months after the shooting in Pittsburgh, another MAGA puke shoots up another synagogue, with 1 dead and 4 injured:
The timing, of course, was part of the intent. A gunman with a semiautomatic rifle walked into the Chabad of Poway synagogue during services Saturday morning and opened fire. It was the last day of Passover. At least one person was killed and three were wounded, while uncounted others have again been seared with mortal fear, all in the name of hate.

This is the second deadly synagogue attack in the United States in six months, following the shooting at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh in October. That was the deadliest anti-Semitic attack in U.S. history, leaving 11 people dead.

How can this be happening? What kind of shocking step backward is this?

For a while it was possible to look at anti-Semitic incidents — the swastikas painted on walls, the vile anti-Jewish rhetoric found on social media, the street attacks — as aberrational, as strange anachronistic bumps on the generally straight path forward for Jews in society.

But it is becoming clear that anti-Semitism is on the rise, both here and in Europe. France reported a 74% increase in anti-Jewish offenses in 2018, and in Germany, violent anti-Semitic attacks surged by more than 60%. In the U.S., the Anti-Defamation League has documented an alarming rise in hate incidents against Jews. According to the organization, anti-Semitic incidents jumped 57% in 2017 over the previous year. United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres warned in January that “we must rise up against rising anti-Semitism.”

We still have more to learn about the Poway attack, but a 19-year-old suspect has been arrested, and local officials are calling this a hate crime.
Seriously, fuck them, and fuck Trump, and fuck anyone whose cowardice leads them not to speak up.

26 April 2019

This Explains a Lot

Twitter has successfully set up algorithmic filters to stop posting by ISIS and al Qaeda, but they have not done the same for Nazis, Klansmen, and other violent white supremacists.

No we know why: It turns out that white supremacists are indistinguishable from Republican Politicians:
At a Twitter all-hands meeting on March 22, an employee asked a blunt question: Twitter has largely eradicated Islamic State propaganda off its platform. Why can’t it do the same for white supremacist content?

An executive responded by explaining that Twitter follows the law, and a technical employee who works on machine learning and artificial intelligence issues went up to the mic to add some context. (As Motherboard has previously reported, algorithms are the next great hope for platforms trying to moderate the posts of their hundreds of millions, or billions, of users.)

With every sort of content filter, there is a tradeoff, he explained. When a platform aggressively enforces against ISIS content, for instance, it can also flag innocent accounts as well, such as Arabic language broadcasters. Society, in general, accepts the benefit of banning ISIS for inconveniencing some others, he said.

In separate discussions verified by Motherboard, that employee said Twitter hasn’t taken the same aggressive approach to white supremacist content because the collateral accounts that are impacted can, in some instances, be Republican politicians.

The employee argued that, on a technical level, content from Republican politicians could get swept up by algorithms aggressively removing white supremacist material. Banning politicians wouldn’t be accepted by society as a trade-off for flagging all of the white supremacist propaganda, he argued.

………

Though Twitter has rules against “abuse and hateful conduct,” civil rights experts, government organizations, and Twitter users say the platform hasn’t done enough to curb white supremacy and neo-Nazis on the platform, and its competitor Facebook recently explicitly banned white nationalism. Wednesday, during a parliamentary committee hearing on social media content moderation, UK MP Yvette Cooper asked Twitter why it hasn’t yet banned former KKK leader David Duke, and “Jack, ban the Nazis” has become a common reply to many of Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey’s tweets. During a recent interview with TED that allowed the public to tweet in questions, the feed was overtaken by people asking Dorsey why the platform hadn’t banned Nazis. Dorsey said “we have policies around violent extremist groups,” but did not give a straightforward answer to the question. Dorsey did not respond to two requests for comment sent via Twitter DM.

………

Though Twitter has rules against “abuse and hateful conduct,” civil rights experts, government organizations, and Twitter users say the platform hasn’t done enough to curb white supremacy and neo-Nazis on the platform, and its competitor Facebook recently explicitly banned white nationalism. Wednesday, during a parliamentary committee hearing on social media content moderation, UK MP Yvette Cooper asked Twitter why it hasn’t yet banned former KKK leader David Duke, and “Jack, ban the Nazis” has become a common reply to many of Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey’s tweets. During a recent interview with TED that allowed the public to tweet in questions, the feed was overtaken by people asking Dorsey why the platform hadn’t banned Nazis. Dorsey said “we have policies around violent extremist groups,” but did not give a straightforward answer to the question. Dorsey did not respond to two requests for comment sent via Twitter DM.

………

“Most people can agree a beheading video or some kind of ISIS content should be proactively removed, but when we try to talk about the alt-right or white nationalism, we get into dangerous territory, where we’re talking about [Iowa Rep.] Steve King or maybe even some of Trump’s tweets, so it becomes hard for social media companies to say all of this ‘this content should be removed,’” Amarasingam said.

………

Any move that could be perceived as being anti-Republican is likely to stir backlash against the company, which has been criticized by President Trump and other prominent Republicans for having an “anti-conservative bias.” Tuesday, on the same day Trump met with Twitter’s Dorsey, the President tweeted that Twitter “[doesn’t] treat me well as a Republican. Very discriminatory,” Trump tweeted. “No wonder Congress wants to get involved—and they should.”
I understand why any algorithm would flag some Republican politicians as white supremacists, it's because some Republicans ARE white supremacists.

I am not sure if this is Twitter's problem, or everyone else's problem.

Why You Should Never Give to the DCCC, Part Gazillion

The DCCC is still enforcing its blacklist of consultants who work with primary challengers, and they have chosen Dan Lipinski, who is anti-abortion, anti-gay, and who literally inherited his from his father.

Needless to say, this has pissed off a lot of party activists, and I would argue, right thinking people:
Progressive groups are coming to the aid of Marie Newman after at least four consultants dropped her campaign under pressure from the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee’s new policy to cut off vendors working with primary challengers.

Politico reported Friday morning that a consultant had dropped Newman’s campaign as recently as Wednesday. She’s taking a second shot at unseating incumbent Dan Lipinski in Illinois’s 3rd District after she came within 2.2 points of beating him in a 2018 primary. Democracy for America, or DFA, is endorsing Newman and will fundraise for her, a spokesperson for the group told The Intercept. Politico reported that the DCCC was clear with the consultants that if they continued working against Lipinski, their future business with the party would suffer.

The DCCC policy, critics say, will have the effect of protecting white male incumbents defending seats against challengers in an increasingly diverse party. That’s the case with Lipinski, who inherited the seat from his father in 2005 and has retrograde views when it comes to much of the Democratic agenda, including his opposition to marriage equality and abortion rights. He voted against the Affordable Care Act in 2010, the signature legislation House Democratic leaders are trying to save in their campaign against Medicare for All.

While some House Democrats have strongly objected to the DCCC policy, others, including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, support it. The DCCC says the policy doesn’t discourage primary challengers and that anyone who wants to run for office can do so without them. The DCCC did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

“The DCCC would rather stand with a so-called Democrat who has stood against reproductive, immigrant, and LGBT rights and a $15 minimum wage rather than allow a fair competition and choice for voters,” said Alexandra Rojas, head of Justice Democrats. “The Democratic Party leadership is choosing machine politics over ushering in a new generation of leaders and the fundamental idea of democracy. Dan Lipinski needs to go and Marie came within 1,600 votes of defeating him with progressive support in 2018. We look forward to Marie finishing the job, but have not made a formal endorsement at this time.”

Newman told Politico and confirmed to The Intercept that the two mail firms that dropped her campaign did so specifically because of the DCCC policy implemented by Rep. Cheri Bustos, who chairs the committee. Newman said that a number of consultants unaligned with the DCCC reached out to her on Friday and that she is putting her campaign back together. “It’s tricky,” she told The Intercept. “This has been very expensive for my campaign — it’s cost time and money and effort and frustration, but we’re working through it.

………

NARAL Pro-Choice America endorsed and heavily backed Newman in 2018. The group’s president reacted angrily to the DCCC’s move against her.
Let me be clear: I have very little use for any consultant supported by the DCCC, I think that they over charge and under perform, but the DCCC creating such a blacklist, and choosing Dan Lipinski as their hill to die on, is really beneath contempt.

Local Baltimore Pol Makes the Big Time

Hauling out boxes of “Healthy Holly” books and documents, dozens of federal law enforcement agents Thursday struck homes, businesses and government buildings across Baltimore as an investigation into Mayor Catherine Pugh’s business dealings widened.

FBI agents and IRS officials executed search warrants at her City Hall office, Pugh’s two houses, and offices of the mayor’s allies, as the growing scandal consumed the city’s attention, generated national headlines and provoked fresh calls for the embattled Democratic mayor’s resignation.

“This is too much for our city,” Democratic City Councilman Zeke Cohen said. “It puts all of us under a tremendous strain, and again it is not fair either to the people that live here, or the people that work here.”
The short version of this is that Pugh is accused of using her office to push sales of her self-published "Healthy Holly" children's books.

It really amazes me just how petty and small time corruption typically is.

25 April 2019

URL of the Day

Cory Doctorow observed how Joe Biden kicked off his campaign.

This is the headline:
Joe Biden Kicks off His Presidential Bid with a Fundraiser Hosted by Comcast's Chief Lobbyist
Put your mouse over it, and read the URL.

Seriously, read the URL.

24 April 2019

Bad Day at the Office

The SpaceX Dragon crew capsule experienced an anomaly during testing at NASA's Kennedy Space Center.

In plain language, it blew up.

There are no repeated casualties:
An accident Saturday during an abort engine test on a Crew Dragon test vehicle at Cape Canaveral sent a reddish-orange plume into the sky visible for miles around, a setback for SpaceX and NASA as teams prepare the capsule for its first mission with astronauts.

SpaceX is testing the Crew Dragon ahead of the capsule’s first test flight with astronauts later this year, following a successful Crew Dragon demonstration mission to the International Space Station in early March.

SpaceX confirmed the accident, first reported by Florida Today, in a statement Saturday evening. No injuries were reported.

“Earlier today, SpaceX conducted a series of engine tests on a Crew Dragon test vehicle on our test stand at Landing Zone 1 in Cape Canaveral, Florida,” a company spokesperson said. “The initial tests completed successfully but the final test resulted in an anomaly on the test stand.”
The red plume in the photo is from the nitrogen tetroxide propellant.

Mo Money, Mo Money, Mo Money

Despite the fact that the F-35 technically entered service last year, it is still not combat ready.

The block 4 upgrade is supposed to get it there (maybe) and now we discover that the price tag for this will run into the billions:
Lockheed-Martin Corp.’s F-35 jet, the world’s costliest weapons program, just got even costlier.

The estimated total price for research and procurement has increased by $22 billion in current dollars adjusted for inflation, according to the Pentagon’s latest annual cost assessment of major projects. The estimate for operating and supporting the fleet of fighters over more than six decades grew by almost $73 billion to $1.196 trillion.

………

Instead, the increase reflects for the first time the current cost estimates for a major set of upgrades planned in coming “Block 4” modifications, according to the report.

………

But the long-range cost estimate for operating the fleet from 2011 to 2077 was problematic even before the latest independent Pentagon cost projection of an increase to $1.196 trillion. By contrast, the F-35 program office’s latest estimate declined by about $8.5 billion to $1 trillion.
Block 4 is a major upgrade, and includes integrating new weapons beyond its current meager loadout, (including European weapons and the short range Sidewinder), adding electronic warfare capabilities, and adding the ability for the F-35 to communicate with legacy aircraft.

Note that even with this upgrade, the cannon will still not work properly, and the vaunted ALIS maintenance program is still (at best) marginally operational, so the term "combat ready" is a bit of a stretch.

For only a few tens of billions of dollars, which could otherwise be used to rebuild aging infrastructure, educate citizens, and provide healthcare.

The F-35 is an exercise in what James Tiberius Kirk would call, "The illogic of waste."

Hell Yes

San Francisco is looking at instituting a payroll tax on stock awards.

They are calling it an "IPO Tax", and I wholeheartedly approve.
………

San Francisco Supervisor Gordon Mar is circulating a motion that, if approved by a majority of the county board, would place a payroll tax covering stock-based compensation on the November ballot. The proposal, a draft of which was obtained by Bloomberg, would impose a new cost, “for the privilege of engaging in business in the city,” on companies that dole out equity to employees.

Mar told local labor and community activists at a meeting Monday night that he plans to announce the proposal on Wednesday during a subcommittee hearing and to introduce it in the next couple weeks, said Kung Feng, executive director of Jobs With Justice San Francisco, a coalition of labor and community groups that’s among the organizations advocating for the tax. Uber declined to comment because it hasn’t seen the legislation.

………

“We know corporate IPOs alone did not cause income inequality and our social crises,” Mar plans to say at the Wednesday meeting, according to prepared remarks shared by his office. “But they have, and will, exacerbate it. So today I’m announcing a proposal to tax the wealth generated by IPOs to fund programs to address income inequality.”

The potential law, which some are calling an “IPO tax,” reflects uneasiness in a city with constant reminders of the income gap, from Google buses to Uber drivers sleeping in their cars. A new analysis from San Francisco’s budget office indicates that IPO riches under the current tax system will provide little benefit to the city while driving up housing prices. But there’s a long road to making a new law. For it to take effect, the motion would need to secure majority support from the board of supervisors, win approval from voters in November and survive any potential legal challenges from affected companies.

………

The money from the tax would support affordable housing, lower-income workers, education and other benefits, according to Feng, one of several people briefed on the plans who spoke to Bloomberg. This year’s IPOs are “going to create vast inequality and displacement, and we as a city need corporations to pay their fair share and be good neighbors,” said Feng. “The IPO tax is one step toward that.”
I don't expect it to pass, and if it does, I expect it to be tied up in court for years, but I can dream.

My Life is a Lie

I just read that the death metal band Hatebeak, has released its 4th album in 12 years.

That doesn't make my life a lie.

Neither does the fact that the lead singer is, "Waldo, a 21-year-old African grey parrot."

What makes my life a lie is the fact that they are a, "Baltimore-based three-man studio project", involving drummer Blake Harrison, guitarist Mark Sloan, and the aforementioned Waldo.

I have been living in the greater Baltimore area for 18 years, and I have never heard of Hatebeak.

Seriously, here is a a bit of Baltimore performance art that makes John Waters look like Pat Boone, and I was completely unaware.

What is wrong with me?

I could have had these guys play at Natalie's or Charlie's B'nei Mitzvah, if I had only known.


23 April 2019

Physics: 1 — 5G: 0

Much of the promise of blazingly fast 5G performance comes from using shorter frequencies to get data rates.

Physics is a cruel mistress, and so millimeter wave 5G will probably never move beyond densely populated urban areas, because the range, and penetration, are inadequate:
5G mobile networks have started arriving but only in very limited areas and amidst misleading claims by wireless carriers.

While all four major nationwide carriers in the United States have overhyped 5G to varying degrees, T-Mobile today made a notable admission about 5G's key limitation. T-Mobile Chief Technology Officer Neville Ray wrote in a blog post that millimeter-wave spectrum used for 5G "will never materially scale beyond small pockets of 5G hotspots in dense urban environments." That would seem to rule out the possibility of 5G's fastest speeds reaching rural areas or perhaps even suburbs.

Ray made his point with this GIF, apparently showing that millimeter-wave frequencies are immediately blocked by a door closing halfway while the lower 600MHz signal is unaffected:

………


With 4G, carriers prioritized so-called "beachfront spectrum" below 1GHz in order to cover the entire US, both rural areas and cities.

5G networks will use both low and high frequencies, but they're supposed to offer their highest speeds on millimeter waves. Millimeter-wave spectrum is usually defined to include frequencies between 30GHz and 300GHz. But in the context of 5G, carriers and regulators have generally targeted frequencies between 24GHz and 90GHz. T-Mobile's high-frequency spectrum includes licenses in the 28GHz and 39GHz bands.

Millimeter waves generally haven't been used in cellular networks because they don't travel far and are easily blocked by walls and other obstacles. This has led us to wonder how extensive higher-speed 5G deployments will be outside major cities, and now T-Mobile's top technology official is saying explicitly that millimeter-wave 5G deployments will just be for "small pockets" of highly populated areas.

………

"Some of this is physics—millimeter wave (mmWave) spectrum has great potential in terms of speed and capacity, but it doesn't travel far from the cell site and doesn't penetrate materials at all," Ray continued. "It will never materially scale beyond small pockets of 5G hotspots in dense urban environments."
I would also note that if a company is designing a 5G phone, the performance of its wireless modem chip in the millimeter wave band will not be a priority, because the end user will rarely, if ever, encounter the service.

So, 5G will likely be a bit faster, with lower latency, but not the game changer that the phone companies have promised us.

So, the Trump Administration is Pro Rape as a Weapon of War


It appears that the whole, "Shining city upon the hill," thing is now inoperative:
A German-drafted resolution was adopted after a reference was cut referring to the need for U.N. bodies and donors to give timely “sexual and reproductive health” assistance to survivors of sexual violence in conflict.

The U.S. veto threat was the latest in a string of policy reversals that some U.N. diplomats say has been driven by U.S. Vice President Mike Pence, a conservative Christian who staunchly opposes abortion rights.

………

Acting U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Jonathan Cohen did not speak after the council vote.

After the vote French U.N. Ambassador Francois Delattre told the 15-member body: “It is intolerable and incomprehensible that the Security Council is incapable of acknowledging that women and girls who suffered from sexual violence in conflict - and who obviously didn’t choose to become pregnant - should have the right to terminate their pregnancy.”

The language promoting sexual and reproductive health is long-agreed internationally, including in resolutions adopted by the Security Council in 2009 and 2013 and several resolutions adopted annually by the 193-member General Assembly.

The text adopted on Tuesday simply reaffirms the council’s commitment to the 2009 and 2013 resolutions. A reference to the work of the International Criminal Court in fighting the most serious crimes against women and girls was also watered-down to win over Washington, which is not a member of the institution.
This is beyond contempt.

Good News from Illinois

Not a common phrase, particularly with regard to legislation and politics, but post Bruce Rauner, it does look promising.

The state legislature has passed, and governor has signed, a law banning local right-to-work ordinances:
In a complete 180, the new Governor of Illinois J.B. Pritzker has signed a bill into law that would make local Right to Work laws illegal in the state. The new law, which takes effect immediately, was passed with overwhelming support from the State Senate and the State Assembly. It had been previously blocked by the Republican Governor Bruce Rauner.

The change comes after four years of anti-union policies coming out of the Governor’s mansion. Rauner was not only a major proponent of local Right to Work, but he was also a catalyst for encouraging Mark Janus to sue his union, AFSCME so that he would not have to pay fair share fees.

The need for the ban came after Lincolnshire, a northern suburb of Chicago, passed a local Right to Work law in 2015. The law created a legal gray area for Lincolnshire employees since Illinois is a free bargaining state. The new law also brings state law into line with lower court rulings that have affirmed the states right to determine whether local employees should pay agency fees.
Pritzker, much to my surprise, has also proposed amending the state constitution to allow for a progressive income tax.

Here's hoping that this initiative is successful as well.

Tweet of the Day


It's not just market forces: We have been subsiding offshoring and labor arbitrage for years.

Not Enough Bullets

It looks like Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac engaged in back flips to avoid government regulations holding senior executive pay to "only" $600,000,00.
Seriously, we need to stop the damn looting: (Also, prison for these rat-f%$#s, including the board, who is in on the conspiracy)
For years, the chief executives of two giant government-controlled companies, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, have operated under a strict constraint: They can’t be paid more than $600,000 a year.

The housing companies may have found a way around that congressionally mandated pay cap. Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac created a new job — president — transferring some of the work traditionally done by the CEOs to the new positions, according to government investigators. The presidents will be paid more than $3 million each.

………

At Fannie Mae, five executives earned more than $2 million each last year, while four executives at Freddie Mac earned more than $3 million, according to data compiled by Equilar, a research firm. The total amount spent on salaries for the top executives increased 31 percent at Fannie Mae and 4 percent at Freddie Mac last year, according to the data.

Fannie Mae declined to comment for this report. Freddie Mac challenged the conclusions of an Office of Inspector General report questioning the arrangement. “Simply put, the facts do not support the report’s conclusions,” company spokesman Christopher Spina said.

………

Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac stand as part of the last unfinished business from the crisis. The companies have been under government conservatorship since 2008 and received more than $100 billion in taxpayer bailouts.

………

Running companies of Fannie and Freddie’s size and complexity would typically be a career highlight for an ambitious executive. Fannie Mae has $3 trillion in assets, and Freddie Mac’s assets total $2 trillion. But the relatively low salary and the lack of rich stock options, or even the hope for a bonus, make it a tough sell, executive recruiters say. The companies’ CEOs also have little control over the ultimate fates of the housing giants, which is being debated by Congress and regulators, they say.
I have to note here:  Dan Ariely did a study on the effect of bonuses on performance, and discovered that very high levels of remuneration actually DECREASED performance.

Overpaying the executives will actually get you worse performance.
………

The issue became pressing as both companies faced major turnover last year. Fannie Mae’s longtime chief executive, Tim Mayopoulos, announced he would be stepping down before the end of the year.

While deciding how to replace Mayopoulos, now president of a digital lending company, Fannie’s board came up with a plan: The CEO’s pay would remain $600,000, but it would create a new position, president, and that person would earn more than $3 million a year.

………

Both positions were filled by company insiders. Hugh Frater, who had served on Fannie Mae’s board since 2016 and is also the nonexecutive chairman of Vereit, a real estate investment company, was picked to be CEO. David Benson, their chief financial officer, was promoted to president. Less than two months after Benson was appointed, Fannie Mae proposed increasing his salary 11 percent to $3.6 million, the Office of Inspector General noted.

Fannie Mae is now spending $4.2 million for work that used to be done for $600,000 when it had only a CEO, the inspector general’s report concluded.
Gee, they hired insiders.

It's not like they had to look very far for new presidents
………

Still, the inspector general’s office has challenged the arrangement. Freddie Mac now spends $3.85 million to pay two people for work that used to be done by one person for $600,000, according to the report. Both companies are involved in “financial engineering” meant to allow them to “circumvent” the salary cap put in place by Congress, the report said.
This is not "financial engineering". It is a criminal conspiracy to break the law.

Prosecute.

22 April 2019

KIll It With Fire!!!!!!

Yes, I know that this is snark, but I guarantee you that someone will pitch something like this to the French as a 21st century update for Notre Dame de Paris:

I know, it's a joke, but that the joker is going to hell for this, because this is WAY too close to reality.

And the Ukraine Elects a Comedian

Volodymyr Zelensky just just beat incumbent President Petro Poroshenko like an old rug, defeating him with 73% of the vote.

In large part, this was a rebuke to the Ukrainian establishment that is seen as ineluctably corrupt by the average citizen.

It should be noted that Poroshenko was largely stood up by the the West, particularly the US under the stewardship of Victoria Nuland, so, at least in (very small) part, this election could be seen as a rejection of Western meddling in the Ukraine.

I do hope that Zelensky takes move against the neo-Nazis like the Azov Battalion, the Svoboda party, and the Pravyi Sektor party, who, after want him dead because he is a zhid (Jew), but I do not expect anything to come of this.

Bait & Switch

Remember when I noted Charter Communications, the people who make ComCast look good, were threatened with the loss of their permits to operate in the state of New York over their refusal to invest in infrastructure and expand broadband access.
Their behavior is not a surprise: The business model is leveraging monopoly power, not providing good, or reasonably priced, services.

Unfortunately, the regulator blinked, so once again, Charter has agreed to sin no more, and we'll discover that they lied in a few years, and what they offer will be limited and overpriced:
Charter Communications won't be kicked out of New York after all.

Nine months after a New York government agency ordered Charter to leave the state over its alleged failure to comply with merger conditions, state officials have announced a settlement that will let Charter stay in New York in exchange for further broadband expansions. The settlement will enforce a new version of the original merger conditions and require a $12 million payment, about half of which could help other ISPs deploy broadband.
So, $6 million, could, but won't go to competitors, which is about enough to cover a single housing development.
The State Public Service Commission (PSC) had voted in July 2018 to revoke its approval of Charter's 2016 purchase of Time Warner Cable (TWC), saying Charter failed to meet interim deadlines for broadband-expansion requirements. The order, which came just a month after a $2 million fine, would have required Charter to sell the TWC system to another provider. But the PSC never enforced the merger revocation order as it repeatedly granted deadline extensions to Charter while the sides held settlement talks.

The result is a proposed settlement between Charter and the state Department of Public Service (DPS) that was announced Friday.

"Pursuant to the agreement, Charter would expand its network to provide high-speed broadband service to 145,000 residences and businesses entirely in Upstate New York; the network expansion would be completed by September 30, 2021 in accordance with a schedule providing frequent interim enforceable milestone requirements; and Charter will pay $12 million to expand broadband service to additional unserved and underserved premises," a DPS statement said.

………

The settlement needs approval from the PSC, which is taking public comments on the settlement for 60 days before making a final decision. The proposed settlement "does not constitute a finding or admission of any violation by Charter nor does it constitute a penalty or forfeiture under the New York State Public Service Law," Charter and the DPS said in a joint letter to the PSC. The settlement "allows the parties to move forward with the critical work of expanding access to broadband, by resolving their disagreements without the need for costly litigation," the letter said.

No admission of wrong doing, and as near as I can tell, more toothless declarations from the regulator if Charter ignores its obligations, and. trust me, it will ignore its obligations.

F%$# Charter, F%$# the DPS, and F%$# the PSC if they approve this bogus deal.

Being Evil

The organizers of an employee walkout over Google's plans to become in the Chinese state security apparatus are now saying that they are being retaliated against.

To paraphrase Ron Zeigler, Google's whole, "Don't be evil," thing is now inoperative:
Two employee activists at Google say they have been retaliated against for helping to organize a walkout among thousands of Google workers in November, and are planning a “town hall” meeting on Friday for others to discuss alleged instances of retaliation.

In a message posted to many internal Google mailing lists Monday, Meredith Whittaker, who leads Google’s Open Research, said that after the company disbanded its external AI ethics council on April 4, she was told that her role would be “changed dramatically.” Whittaker said she was told that, in order to stay at the company, she would have to “abandon” her work on AI ethics and her role at AI Now Institute, a research center she cofounded at New York University.
Claire Stapleton, another walkout organizer and a 12-year veteran of the company, said in the email that two months after the protest she was told she would be demoted from her role as marketing manager at YouTube and lose half her reports. After escalating the issue to human resources, she said she faced further retaliation. “My manager started ignoring me, my work was given to other people, and I was told to go on medical leave, even though I’m not sick,” Stapleton wrote. After she hired a lawyer, the company conducted an investigation and seemed to reverse her demotion. “While my work has been restored, the environment remains hostile and I consider quitting nearly every day,” she wrote.

Whittaker and Stapleton are two of the seven employees who helped organize the mass demonstration in November, during which 20,000 Google workers briefly walked out of their office to protest the company’s mishandling of sexual harassment claims.
Seriously, if you think that any of the internet giants are any less psychopathic than Exxon, Enron, or IG Farben, you are sorely mistaken.

21 April 2019

Posting a Picture of My Meat

I did this on a Weber grill.

Some charcoal, some hickory, time, my Indian spice rub, and a thermometer to monitor the temperature of the grill and the meat, and about 7 hours.

It turned out good.

20 April 2019

My Oddest Passover Seders

As I noted earlier, my Mother-in-Law is in hospital for infections, so instead of flying down to Memphis to spend Passover with my Sister-in-Laws family, we had our Seder in her hospital room.

It was cramped, and odd.

I'm sure that there other people have had odder Seders, but these 2, Friday and Saturday, were odd, with Marilyn in her hospital bed, and the rest of us around a card table.

Cramped, but we made it work.

Today in Self Ownage

In response to Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez's advocacy for a Green New Deal, Congressman Andy Barr, (R-KY) invited her to talk with coal minors in his district.

Much to his chagrin, she has enthusiastically accepted, and now Representative Barr is desperately trying to find a way to revoke his invitation:
Last month, a clip of New York representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez went predictably viral after she forcefully responded to one of her colleagues on the House Financial Services Committee when he called climate change an "elitist" concern. "Wanting clean air and water is not elitist," she said.

In response, Kentucky Republican congressman Andy Barr invited Ocasio-Cortez to come meet coal miners in his state "who will tell you what the Green New Deal would mean for their families, their paychecks." His concern, he said, is that the Green New Deal would phase out U.S. reliance on coal and fossil fuel, which would wreak havoc on the lives of people who work in those industries. Ocasio-Cortez accepted, saying she'd be "happy" to go, adding that the Green New Deal was written to fund coal-miner pensions. "We want a just transition to make sure we are investing in jobs across those swaths of the country," she said.

All in all, it seemed like an uncharacteristically cordial exchange for two members of Congress. And not even a month later, that cordiality is out the window: Barr attached a rather inhospitable and obnoxious demand to his invitation, writing in a letter posted to Twitter that she should "apologize to [Texas representative Dan Crenshaw] prior to coming to visit Kentucky," for a completely unrelated event before meeting with miners. The public scolding over purported incivility, along with the random call for an apology to a colleague from a completely different state, leaves the impression that the Barr might not want her to come to Kentucky after all.

Crenshaw was one of the first and most vociferous critics to pile on to Minnesota representative Ilhan Omar for out-of-context comments about 9/11. Strangely enough, Barr didn’t seem to think that Crenshaw directing an Islamaphobic attack towards Omar, culminating in an increase in death threats, demonstrated "a lack of civility." When Crenshaw shared a tweet that falsely claimed Omar said the 9/11 attacks weren't terrorism, Ocasio-Cortez pointed out: "You refuse to co-sponsor the 9/11 Victim’s Compensation Fund, yet have the audacity to drum resentment towards Ilhan w/completely out-of-context quotes. In 2018, right-wing extremists were behind almost ALL US domestic terrorist killings. Why don’t you go do something about that?"

………

Uninviting Ocasio-Cortez is probably a smart move on Barr's part in the long run. For one thing, there aren't any active coal mines in Barr's district. And James Comer, another Republican representative from Kentucky, told local news that he didn't "see any upside" to having her come to Kentucky. "I think a lot of Republicans are making a mistake picking on her. I think we need to be very prepared when we debate her on issues that we're having a hard time with."
(emphasis mine)

So, once Barr realized that:
  • Ocasio-Cortez was eager to talk to coal miners and
  • She'd probably have him for lunch.
He decided to require that she apologize for calling out another Republican who was actively trying to encourage some random nut job to ASSASSINATE one of her colleagues.

Really classy.

19 April 2019

This Won't Hurt a Bit, It's Supposed to Work That Way, I'll Respect you in the Morning

These are transparent lies.

Here is another one: anytime Facebook claims that it violated user privacy unintentionally:
Facebook harvested the email contacts of 1.5 million users without their knowledge or consent when they opened their accounts.

Since May 2016, the social-networking company has collected the contact lists of 1.5 million users new to the social network, Business Insider can reveal. The Silicon Valley company said the contact data was "unintentionally uploaded to Facebook," and it is now deleting them.

The revelation comes after pseudononymous security researcher e-sushi noticed that Facebook was asking some users to enter their email passwords when they signed up for new accounts to verify their identities, a move widely condemned by security experts. Business Insider then discovered that if you entered your email password, a message popped up saying it was "importing" your contacts without asking for permission first.

At the time, it wasn't clear what was happening — but on Wednesday, Facebook disclosed to Business Insider that 1.5 million people's contacts were collected this way and fed into Facebook's systems, where they were used to improve Facebook's ad targeting, build Facebook's web of social connections, and recommend friends to add.
Yeah, "Unintentionally," right.

Every time such an error is revealed, and it seems to be about every 6 months, it always is something that makes Facebook more money.

To quote Richard Dreyfuss, "This was no boating accident."

18 April 2019

No Blog for You!!!

My Mother in Law is in hospital with what I hope is a minor infection, and I have been running around all night as a result.

Headline of the Day

Maybe Rich Liberals Don’t Hate Sanders Because They Fear He Can’t Win, But Because They’re Rich
Fairness & Accuracy In Reporting
Takes on the assumption that the New York Times makes in their article, you know, the, "From canapé-filled fund-raisers on the coasts," one, that rich donors are acting for the good of the party, as opposed to their own personal interests:
Why does the New York Times take rich liberals at their word that their concern with Bernie Sanders is that he would lose to Trump, rather than the obvious, glaring fact that his election would run counter to their interests?

………

That a network of multi-millionaire and billionaire donors would dislike a candidate who not only rejects their funding, but is actively trying to tax them at rates not seen since 1960, would surely be enough reason to explain why these wealthy elites would want to “stop” his nomination. But not to the credulous New York Times, which takes at face value rich donors’ claim to oppose Sanders because they believe he simply can’t defeat Trump:

………

Because it would be unseemly to suggest a group of super-rich hedge fund managers, Hollywood producers and CEOs would dislike a candidate who has made a career out of promising to expropriate the bulk of their wealth, we get a faux pragmatism argument. But polls show Sanders defeating Trump with numbers comparable to any other declared candidate—a fact the New York Times never bothers to mention, letting the idea go unchallenged that “socialist” (!!) Sanders is an electoral liability. The simpler, less altruistic motive is simply never entertained.

It’s a variation on the Inexplicable Republican Best Friend trope FAIR previously documented (2/26/19): Instead of assuming that lifelong conservatives may just prefer more conservative politicians, progressive-bashing GOP pundits are propped up as neutral observers simply looking out for the Democratic Party. Just the same, super-wealthy Democratic donors can’t oppose Sanders because they simply prefer more centrist, pro-Wall Street candidates; they must have a sincere, pragmatic concern he would lose the general election.
They are voting with their bloated wallets.

17 April 2019

Sometimes a Single Phrase Clarifies Everything

In a New York Times has an article about how the wealthy donor class of the Democratic Party is colluding with the party leaders to take down Bernie Sanders.

This isn't exactly secret, but this quote pretty much explains the whole scene in a remarkably vivid way:
From canapé-filled fund-raisers on the coasts to the cloakrooms of Washington, mainstream Democrats are increasingly worried that their effort to defeat President Trump in 2020 could be complicated by Mr. Sanders, in a political scenario all too reminiscent of how Mr. Trump himself seized the Republican nomination in 2016.
The whole  "Ancien Régime" vibe is vivid, and it is appaling.

16 April 2019

Bernie in the Lions' Den

Bernie Sanders kicked serious ass at the Fox News town hall.

He was on point, answered the questions, and was a forceful advocate of his policies.

The hostile hosts were owned.

Favorite bit: Fox drone host asks audience who has insurance through their employer. (Lots of hands go up)

Drone host then asks who among them wants Medicare for all. (ALL the hands stay up, and they begin to cheer)

It's probably the best thing that has been on Fox News in years.




Tweet of the Day


It really is remarkable that Madame Tussaud's is the only organization on the face of the earth that can imbue Mark Zuckerberg with a sense of humanity.

Oh No, Not Again

Former Alabama Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore leads the field of potential Republicans vying for the chance to challenge Sen. Doug Jones (D), a year and a half after Moore lost what was supposed to be an easy election in a deep-red state.

A new poll shows Moore leading a still-evolving field of Alabama Republicans competing for the nomination. He is the top choice of 27 percent of Alabama Republican voters, according to the Mason-Dixon Polling & Strategy Inc. survey.
 Someone needs to check the water supply in Alabama, because someone has dosed it with something strong.

Stochastic Terrorism and the Cowardice of the Democratic Leadership

Make no mistake about it: Donald Trump's attacks on Ilhan Omar are an attempt to induce one of his more unbalanced supporters to kill her.

This is not a surprise.

This has been the modus operandus of the right wing since before they assassinated Alan Berg.

What is also not a surprise is the complete cravenness of the Democratic establishment, including Nancy Pelosi's absolute refusal to offer a meaningful pushback against Trump.

She's refusing to even say Omar's name, saying simply that his statements was, "Beneath the dignity of the Oval Office.

The response to the rank and file has been exactly the opposite, where Omar's fundraising numbers have blown past Pelosi's numbers, without the benefit of the Speaker's fat cat donors and bundlers.

Seriously, if the whole of the Democratic Party establishment were replaced with bobblehead dolls, not only would they be braver, they would be less self-destructive.

15 April 2019

World's Largest White Elephant Takes to the Sky

I am referring, of course to the late Paul Allen's abortive Stratolaunch program:
On Saturday morning, exactly 45 minutes after the sun began to rise over the Mojave Desert, the largest airplane ever created—and its record-breaking 385-foot wingspan—took off for the very first time. The aircraft, from the company Stratolaunch, has been eight years in the making. By 2022, the company hopes to use the twin-fuselage, six-engined, catamaran-style aircraft to launch satellite-bearing rockets into space.

"All of you have been very patient and very tolerant over the years waiting for us to get this big bird off the ground, and we finally did it," Stratolaunch CEO Jean Floyd told reporters on a press call. The company reported the airplane hit speeds of 189mph and heights of 17,000 feet during its 150-minute test flight, before landing safely at the Mojave Air and Space Port.

"The systems on the airplane ran like a watch," test pilot Evan Thomas told reporters. But the day's events were bittersweet. Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen, a longtime space enthusiast who founded and funded the Stratolaunch project, passed away last October at age 65 from complications related to non-Hodgkin lymphoma. "Even though he wasn't there today, as the plane lifted gracefully from the runway, I did whisper a 'thank you' to Paul for allowing me to be a part of this remarkable achievement," Floyd said.

One day soon, Stratolaunch hopes to carry 250-ton rocket ships loaded with satellites to a height of 35,000 feet—into the stratosphere. Once at cruising altitude, a rocket's engines would ignite, carrying it and its satellite cargo the rest of the way into space. Only a select few facilities, like the Kennedy Space Center in Florida, can handle rocket launches, which means tight competition for scheduling and long wait times. Airplanes can take off from many more runways, which Stratolaunch hopes will give its aircraft a competitive edge for those wishing to launch satellites into orbit.
The aircraft is a white elephant because, as I noted a few months back, Stratolaunch was designed as an airborne launcher for rockets, but Stratolaunch has abandoned its development for launchers, so there is nothing for it to launch.

There are, and never will be, "250-ton rocket ships loaded with satellites," for it to carry.

There is talk of Stratolaunch being used to carry the Pegasus XL, but that is 25 tons, and has already been launched from an almost certainly cheaper to operate Lockheed L-1011 carrier, so I do not see how it would make any sense from an economic or a business perspective, even with Stratolaunch having the ability to launch 3 Pegasus XLs simultaneously.

This is Heartbreaking


The spire falls at about 15s





There has been a at a massive fire at the Notre Dame de Paris :
A fire that devastated Notre Dame Cathedral in the heart of Paris was brought under control by firefighters in the early hours of Tuesday morning, though officials warned there were still residual fires to put out.
Thousands of Parisians watched in horror from behind police cordons as a ferocious blaze devastated Notre Dame Cathedral on Monday night, destroying its spire and a large part of the roof.

An investigation has been opened by the prosecutor’s office, but police said it began accidentally and may be linked to building work at the cathedral. The 850-year-old gothic masterpiece had been undergoing restoration work.

The French president, Emmanuel Macron, attended the scene and later gave a speech in which he vowed that the cathedral would be rebuilt, as fire crews said the landmark’s rectangular bell towers and structure of the building had been saved.
I'm not sure how much has been lost, but given that the structure, the part that isn't wood, is limestone and old mortar, which is very susceptible to fire damage.

I'm not sure what has been lost, but I'm pretty sure that when a final inventory is made there will be some very sad architects, artists, and historians.

In bizarrely related news, there has been a (relatively minor) fire at the al Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem.

Unlike the Notre Dame fire, the source of this one is currently suspicious, having occurred during a 15 minute change-over of local security:
A fire broke out in al-Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem, the third-holiest site in Islam, on Monday. The blaze didn’t cause significant damage, but it did endanger a part of the worship site that’s over 2,000 years old.
​The fire broke out in the guard room outside the al-Marwani Prayer Room Monday evening, according to a statement by the mosque's Islamic Waqf (Endowments) Department. According to The New Arab, a guard reported a short gap in guard rotations between 7:15 and 7:30 p.m. local time.
Weird.

14 April 2019

People Are Stunned that Sanders States the Obvious

It appears that it is news that Bernie Sanders has called out the Center for American Progress's jihad against progressives, and the delicate flowers in the commentariat are having the vapors over this:
Senator Bernie Sanders, in a rare and forceful rebuke by a presidential candidate of an influential party ally, has accused a liberal think tank of undermining Democrats’ chances of taking back the White House in 2020 by “using its resources to smear” him and other contenders pushing progressive policies.

Mr. Sanders’s criticism of the Center for American Progress, delivered on Saturday in a letter obtained by The New York Times, reflects a simmering ideological battle within the Democratic Party and threatens to reopen wounds from the 2016 primary between him and Hillary Clinton’s allies. The letter airs criticisms shared among his supporters: that the think tank, which has close ties to Mrs. Clinton and the Democratic Party establishment, is beholden to corporate donors and has worked to quash a leftward shift in the party led partly by Mr. Sanders.

“This counterproductive negative campaigning needs to stop,” Mr. Sanders wrote to the boards of the Center for American Progress and its sister group, the Center for American Progress Action Fund. “The Democratic primary must be a campaign of ideas, not of bad-faith smears. Please help play a constructive role in the effort to defeat Donald Trump.”

Mr. Sanders sent the letter days after a website run by the action fund, ThinkProgress, suggested that his attacks on income inequality were hypocritical in light of his growing personal wealth. The letter is tantamount to a warning shot to the Democratic establishment that Mr. Sanders — who continues to criticize party insiders on the campaign trail — will not countenance a repeat of the 2016 primary, when he and his supporters believe party leaders and allies worked to deny him the Democratic nomination.
CAP, and its president, Neera Tanden, have been a cancer of American politics since its founding by uber-lobbyist  (and poster child for poor IT security) John Podesta.

It's goal has always been the promotion of neoliberal DLC type politics and the sabotage of progressives.

They are funded by the owners of Walmart and various Persian Gulf potentiates.

They are claiming that Sanders' letter, "threatens to undo a delicate rapprochement, and could presage another bitter primary battle."

That is complete bullsh%$.  CAP has been targeting progressive Democrats since its founding.

CAP is not, as the headline asserts, a "Liberal Think Tank," it's a full-employment scan for former Clinton, and now Obama, administration toadies.

As to Tanden, she's just a horror show:
Since Mr. Trump’s victory, Ms. Tanden has recast herself and her organization as leaders of the anti-Trump “resistance,” and has sought to harness the energy of liberal activists who backed Mr. Sanders in 2016, even as she has continued complaining about his supporters.

Ms. Tanden, in an email Sunday morning, deferred comment to the editor in chief of ThinkProgress, which she said is “editorially independent” of CAP and its action fund.
Neera Tanden is lying about ThinkProgress being editorially independent.

We actually have evidence (from Wikileaks) of CAP, and Neera Tanden meddling in ThinkProgress.

Also, this is not just about Bernie.  They are going after anyone who they have deemed "unworthy" in the most scorched-earth manner possible:
Mr. Sanders also accused ThinkProgress of “personal attacks” on two other Democratic presidential candidates who have espoused progressive policies, Senator Cory Booker of New Jersey and Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts. He cited a February post on the website accusing Mr. Booker of undermining a bill he wrote with Mr. Sanders that would allow the importation of medications from Canada and other countries. Mr. Sanders further accused ThinkProgress of playing into President Trump’s hands by publishing op-eds criticizing Ms. Warren for claiming Native American heritage.
So, this appears to be a a "Liberal Think Tank" thet embraced Trump's "Pocahontas" comments about Warren.

CAP, and ThinkProgress, are a cancer on American Politics, and they need to be called out

13 April 2019

Do You Want Some Cheese with Your Whine?

Caio Mussolini, Benito's grandson and a Fascist in his own right, is upset because Facebook took down his account for being a Fascist. (It has since been restored)

You lie down with dogs, you get up with fleas, dude.

The Best Argument for Forfeiture Reform is an Argument for Forfeiture

Case in point, retired police chief Robert Stevenson who argues that reforms to asset forfeiture will make it too hard for the police to steal your money:
One of the worst defenses of civil asset forfeiture has been penned by retired police chief Robert Stevenson for the Michigan news site, the Bridge. It's written in response to two things: pending forfeiture reform bills in the state legislature and the Supreme Court's Timbs decision, which indicated forfeiture may fall on the wrong side of the 8th and 14th Amendments.  

………

First, Stevenson argues that cops should be able to take money they feel deeply in their hearts is derived from drug dealing even if it can't find any evidence linking the person carrying it to a crime. 

………

That part comes in his second argument for forfeiture -- one that says even if cops have all the evidence they need to push for a conviction, they still should just be able to take the cash instead. 
I have always thought that the first step in reforming a larcenous asset allocation system is to ensure that the proceeds do not remit back to the courts and the cops who make the decision. (I would suggest scholarships to state schools)

There are probably other reforms after that, but once law enforcement stops making money from the process, the incentives to abuse the process are much reduced.

Once Again, May Chooses the Stupid Option

Given the clusterf%$# that is Brexit, it's not surprising that there was someone toiling away in a back office trying to plan for a no-deal scenario.

Well, now that May has been given 6 more months to get nothing done, she has shuttered the office planning for a no-deal.

May is being short sighted and stupid, but I am repeating myself:
Emergency planning for No Deal was called off today after the Brexit delay was written into law.

Civil servants were reportedly told to stand down from urgent meetings meant to ensure the UK is ready to leave the EU without a deal.

The move comes after the Brexit date was moved from April 12 to October 31 following a late-night Brussels summit.

The decision comes as citizens and businesses - including L'Oreal, Tesco and BMW - were continuing to stockpile for No Deal.

………

Officials had been working around the clock to make sure Britain would not suffer if we crashed out of the EU without a withdrawal agreement.

Government sources today said the work has been put on the back burner now the cliff edge deadline has been pushed back.

A Cabinet source told The Sun: "We're easing off on the No Deal preparations because it's not the priority at the moment.
Six more months of incompetence and inaction does not  justify abandoning preparation for the worst case.

Not planning for the worst case scenario on something as potentially disruptive as Brexit is governmental malpractice.