31 July 2019

Kamala, Yuo Been Memed

In response to Kamala Harris's absurd proposal for college loan forgiveness, which provided for (only) $20,000.00 in loan forgiveness and required:
  • That you be a Pell grant recipient.
  • Start a business in a disadvantaged community.
  • Run it for 3 years.
There might be 3 people in the United States who would actually qualify for this grant.

It might be 6 if you count the well-off parents who are pulling the guardian scam to snag undeserved financial aid for their kids.

In response, someone has written the Oddly Specific Kamala Harris Policy Generator, where you press a button, and get a randomly generated policy, like the following:
Yesterday, I announced that, as president, I'll establish a basic income program for Atheists who open a spy agency that operates for 12 weeks in Comet Ping-Pong.
………
Yesterday, I announced that, as president, I'll establish a high speed rail program for African-Americans who open a fire dept. that operates for 8 days in communities of color.
………

Yesterday, I announced that, as president, I'll establish a military expansion program for firefighters who open a bungee jump that operates for 19 weeks in the Google App Store.
………
Yesterday, I announced that, as president, I'll establish a tort reform program for Tea Party voters who open a buffet that operates for 10 days in their local tourist trap.
I am amused.

Quote of the Day

It's hard to sum up what happened tonight, but most of it was a bunch of guys with no chance to win the Democratic nomination yelling Republican talking points at the people who can. It was like watching the seven dwarves offering Snow White a poison apple.
Stephen Colbert
Steven Colbert is a f%$#ing treasure.

Everyone at the Pentagon Needs to Read Superiority, by Arthur C. Clark

The newest carrier in the US Navy, and the lead ship in the class, the USS Gerald Ford, has experiences many problems related to new technologies implemented on the ship.

First, it was the electromagnetic catapults, which are still missing performance and reliability goals, then it was the advanced arrester gear, and now it appears that the munitions elevators cannot deliver ordinance to the flight deck, meaning that the Ford is not even close to combat ready:
Only two of 11 elevators needed to lift munitions to the deck of the U.S. Navy’s new $13 billion aircraft carrier have been fully installed, according to a Navy veteran who serves on a key House committee.

“I don’t see an end in sight right now” to getting all the elevators working on the USS Gerald R. Ford, the costliest warship ever, Democratic Representative Elaine Luria of Virginia said in an interview. The ship was supposed to be delivered with the Advanced Weapons Elevators, which are moved by magnets rather than cables, working in May 2017.

It’s another setback for contractor Huntington Ingalls Industries Inc. -- and for the Navy, which had said in December it planned to complete installation and testing of all 11 elevators before the Ford completed its post-delivery shakedown phase this month, with at least half certified for operation.

Instead, the shakedown phase has been extended to October and the vessel won’t have all the elevators fully installed -- much less functioning -- by then, according to Luria, a 20-year Navy surface warfare officer whose served on two aircraft carriers and as shore maintenance coordinator for a third.

“Essentially, the ship can’t deploy,” Luria said. “It can’t carry ammunition.” She said the Navy and Huntington Ingalls are trying to solve new problems with doors and hatches lining elevators shafts that don’t meet specifications.

Navy Secretary Richard Spencer said in January that he told President Donald Trump to fire him if the service couldn’t fix the weapons elevators by July. Instead, Trump praised the Ford as “phenomenal” on July 22.

The Ford’s Advanced Weapons Elevators are designed for the carrier’s crew to move as much as 24,000 pounds of ordnance at 150 feet-per-minute, up from the 10,500 pounds at 100 feet-per-minute on the older Nimitz-class carrier. That would increase by more than 30% the number of combat sorties that could launch from the carrier over 24 hours, according to the Navy.

The elevators aren’t the only issue plaguing the ship, which has had problems with two other core systems -- the electromagnetic system to launch planes and the arresting gear to catch them when they land.
What can I say, but, "But I cannot be held responsible for my future actions if I am compelled any longer to share my cell with Professor Norden, late Chief of the Research Staff of my armed forces."*

The Pentagon is going to innovate itself into oblivion.

*Seriously, just read the story, you can find it online.

Clearly, Reagan Would Have Supported Trump

In a conversation with Richard Nixon in 1971, Ronald Reagan, then governor of California, described African UN representatives from as, "Those monkeys from those African countries, damn them.

I always knew that the Gipper was an enthusiastic supporter of racist and racism, launching the 1980 Presidential campaign with a speech about states rights in Philadelphia, Mississippi, where civil rights activists Chaney, Goodman, and Schwerner were assassinated.

His entire career was about dog whistling to racists.

Now we know that he was a bigot and a racist.

Rot in hell Ronnie, rot in hell.

30 July 2019

CNN, and Jake Tapper, Suck

That's my take on the debate.

Right wing framing, a phobia of substantive answers, and general wankertude.

Bernie was good, if you like him combative, and I do, but Elizabeth Warren had the quote or the evening, directed at the hapless John Delaney:
I Don’t Understand Why Anybody Goes to All the Trouble of Running for President of the United States Just to Talk about What We Really Can’t Do and Shouldn’t Fight For
She just won the internet.

Burying the Lede

I love reading Taibbi, but in his article on the craziness in the run-up to the Iowa caucuses, he buries the lede.

More than ⅔ down in the article is the money quote, "Sanders is the revolutionary. His election would mean a complete overhaul of the Democratic Party, forcing everyone who ever worked for a Clinton to look toward the private sector."

This primary season is about how the Democratic Party consultant class, the leeches, is fighting for its power at the expense of both the party and the country.

5G May be Undone by Physics



In 2017, members of the mobile telephony industry group 3GPP were bickering over whether to speed the development of 5G standards. One proposal, originally put forward by Vodafone and ultimately agreed to by the rest of the group, promised to deliver 5G networks sooner by developing more aspects of 5G technology simultaneously.

Adopting that proposal may have also meant pushing some decisions down the road. One such decision concerned how 5G networks should encode wireless signals. 3GPP’s Release 15, which laid the foundation for 5G, ultimately selected orthogonal frequency-division multiplexing (OFDM), a holdover from 4G, as the encoding option.

But Release 16, expected by year’s end, will include the findings of a study group assigned to explore alternatives. Wireless standards are frequently updated, and in the next 5G release, the industry could address concerns that OFDM may draw too much power in 5G devices and base stations. That’s a problem, because 5G is expected to require far more base stations to deliver service and connect billions of mobile and IoT devices.

“I don’t think the carriers really understood the impact on the mobile phone, and what it’s going to do to battery life,” says James Kimery, the director of marketing for RF and software-defined radio research at National Instruments Corp. “5G is going to come with a price, and that price is battery consumption.”

And Kimery notes that these concerns apply beyond 5G handsets. China Mobile has “been vocal about the power consumption of their base stations,” he says. A 5G base station is generally expected to consume roughly three times as much power as a 4G base station. And more 5G base stations are needed to cover the same area.

So how did 5G get into a potentially power-guzzling mess? OFDM plays a large part. Data is transmitted using OFDM by chopping the data into portions and sending the portions simultaneously and at different frequencies so that the portions are “orthogonal” (meaning they do not interfere with each other).

The trade-off is that OFDM has a high peak-to-average power ratio (PAPR). Generally speaking, the orthogonal portions of an OFDM signal deliver energy constructively—that is, the very quality that prevents the signals from canceling each other out also prevents each portion’s energy from canceling out the energy of other portions. That means any receiver needs to be able to take in a lot of energy at once, and any transmitter needs to be able to put out a lot of energy at once. Those high-energy instances cause OFDM’s high PAPR and make the method less energy efficient than other encoding schemes.
Short range, poor building penetration, and high battery consumption.

Heady brew.

It's Called Eating Your Seed Corn


The Vampire Squid, calls it, "Returning cash to shareholders," but what it really is looting by senior management.

Stock buybacks drive up the price of the stock, which takes executives stock options from worthless to a multi-million dollar payout.

It's the looting, baby:
S&P 500 companies are returning cash to shareholders at an unsustainable rate, says Goldman Sachs analysts.

Goldman data show that in the 12 months ended on March 31, firms in the S&P 500 index, spent 103.8% of their free cash flow on stock buybacks and dividends, up from 101.9% in the fourth quarter of last year.

This latest spree is the first time that constituents of the index spent more cash than they earned on payouts since the period between September 2006 and March of 2008, when there was a seven-quarter stretch during which S&P 500 companies paid out more to shareholders than they earned in cash, on a trailing 12-month basis.
They are literally borrowing money to driver up their stock price without creating any actual value.

We need to understand that this is control fraud, not responsible stewardship of the enterprise.

Our Broken Higher Education System

In addition to bribing school officials for admission, parents are now setting up phony guardianships of their children to avoid having their assets considered by colleges:
Dozens of suburban Chicago families, perhaps many more, have been exploiting a legal loophole to win their children need-based college financial aid and scholarships they would not otherwise receive, court records and interviews show.

Coming months after the national “Varsity Blues” college admissions scandal, this tactic also appears to involve families attempting to gain an advantage in an increasingly competitive and expensive college admissions system.

Parents are giving up legal guardianship of their children during their junior or senior year in high school to someone else — a friend, aunt, cousin or grandparent. The guardianship status then allows the students to declare themselves financially independent of their families so they can qualify for federal, state and university aid, a ProPublica Illinois investigation found.

“It’s a scam,” said Andy Borst, director of undergraduate admissions at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. “Wealthy families are manipulating the financial aid process to be eligible for financial aid they would not be otherwise eligible for. They are taking away opportunities from families that really need it.”
 While ProPublica Illinois uncovered this practice in north suburban Lake County, where almost four dozen such guardianships were filed in the past 18 months, similar petitions have been filed in at least five other counties and the practice may be happening throughout the country. ProPublica Illinois is still investigating.

Borst said he first became suspicious when a high school counselor from an affluent Chicago suburb called him about a year ago to ask why a particular student had been invited to an orientation program for low-income students. Borst checked the student’s financial aid application and saw she had obtained a legal guardian, making her eligible to qualify for financial aid independently.

The University of Illinois has since identified 14 applicants who did the same: three who just completed their freshman year and 11 who plan to enroll this fall, Borst said.
You will notice that it is the well off, not poor people who are pulling this scam.

The rich are different from you and me, they are significantly less ethical than the rest of us.

That's probably how they get rich in first place.

To not quote Honoré de Balzac, it appears that he never actually wrote this, "At the base of every great fortune there is a great crime."

29 July 2019

Adding to the List of They Who Must Not Be Named

When a gunman opened fire at the Gilroy Garlic Festival in Gilroy, California, on Sunday evening, killing at least three people, including a 6-year-old boy, and wounding 12 others, Dilbert creator Scott Adams apparently saw a juicy marketing opportunity for his blockchain app.

Adams is best known for creating Dilbert, a comic strip satirizing soulless corporate culture and the grueling punishment dished out on its eponymous engineer by idiot co-workers and clueless management. But he also moonlights. In addition to punditry on topics ranging from fifth-dimensional chess analyses proclaiming Donald Trump a genius Pavlovian manipulator to tortured theological treatises, to questioning the specifics of the Holocaust’s atrocities, Adams is the co-founder of app company WhenHub. WhenHub is similar to Cameo, the app that allows everyday people to pay celebrities to create customized videos, except instead of pre-recorded messages from movie stars and rappers, it offers live chats with a range of subject-matter experts.

………

Adams seems to have concluded the Gilroy Garlic Festival shooting was an ideal time to direct-market this app to witnesses—who, as he made quite clear on Twitter, he believed could cash in on their traumatic experience by selling interviews to news organizations via WhenHub.

According to the Los Angeles Times, the gunman opened fire sometime around 5:30 p.m. PT on Sunday when the festival was nearing its conclusion. Less than three hours later, at 8:21 p.m. PT, about 13 minutes after President Trump advised locals to exercise caution because reports indicated the shooter was still at large, Adams began pitching the survivors on signing up for, and charging for, interviews with media outlets via WhenHub.

“If you were a witness to the #GilroyGarlicFestivalshooting please sign on to Interface by WhenHub (free app) and you can set your price to take calls. Use keyword Gilroy,” Adams tweeted.

Roughly 23 minutes later, Adams had some advice for critics who correctly identified this as shameless opportunism aiming to capitalize off an atrocity: Grow up and stop it with the “fake outrage.”

………

Adams did not immediately respond to our request for comment, although he did respond to the controversy in a livestream Monday morning on Periscope, where he continued to stand by his promotion efforts and blamed the controversy on socialism.
#BoycottDilbert is trending on Twitter, with good reason.

He hasn't had an original idea for his comic strip since before the end of the last century.

Don't read his comics, don't buy his merch, and if you want to complain to your local paper about this, that would be nice too.

Scott Adams should have been drowned at birth.

They Need to Add Frickin' Laser Beams Attached to Their Heads

China has created an underwater that looks like a shark.

I am sure that I am not the only one who's initial response was to think of the movie,
Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery?

Because I cannot look at that shark drone, and not think that this something out of a parody of the James Bond films.

Of course, I always thought that they missed a joke with the Sea Bass:  At the time that Dr. Evil went into the deep freeze, there was no such thing as a Sea Bass, they were known as Patagonian Toothfish.

Just saying, "Patagonian Toothfish," is funny.

Tweet of the Day

Matt Lubchansky channels Maureen Dowd:
He shoots, he SCORES!!

They Have Forgotten How to Make Airliners

I am referring, of course, to Boeing, which is rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic with the 737 and 787:
Boeing is considering the drastic move of temporarily halting 737 MAX production and rejigging 777X assembly plans as uncertainty continues over its two newest commercial aircraft programs.

Executives at the beleaguered aerospace giant acknowledged July 24 that it will accelerate assembly of 777 freighters next year to offset the impact of a slowdown on the new 777X linked to its General Electric GE9X engines. Yet, despite facing what could be a yearlong delay to flight test and delivery, the widebody program issues barely register when laid next to those of the 737.

………

While many analysts embraced the news as a rare bit of clarity in a fluid situation, Boeing’s earnings call comments suggest that the MAX’s notional return-to-service timeline and related ramifications are tenuous estimates.

………

Boeing has been working on software and training changes designed to convince regulators that the MAX is ready to fly again. While neither the FAA nor Boeing discussed public return-to-service timelines in the weeks after the grounding, Boeing was set to present a finalized version of its changes to the FAA in April when several issues cropped up. Boeing did not provide a revised timeline estimate until its recent second-quarter charge revelation. During Boeing’s second-quarter call, Muilenburg reiterated that Boeing’s current assumptions include delivering the final package detailing the changes to the FAA “in the September time frame.”

………

While next year’s 737 production plans remain in flux, Boeing has already decided to make changes in its 777 assembly plan to ensure it maintains its current rate even as delays push back the 777X’s debut.

“We continue to expect 777 delivery rates to be approximately 3.5 aircraft per month in 2019,” Muilenburg says. “Given the pressure around [the] 777X first-delivery timeline, we are reassessing the 2020 skyline. In light of the strong demand for our freighter line, we intend to mitigate some of the impact by producing more 777 current-generation freighters in 2020.”
"2020 skyline?"  Someone just won a game of corporate bullsh%$ bingo.

Stop worrying about the business, and start worrying about the damn planes.

Great Job, Nancy

Nancy Pelosi has been putting faux Democrats with a history of recruiting other faux Democrats since she has led the party in the House of Representatives.

I thought that she had truly scraped the bottom of the barrel with Steve Israel, who she literally praised as reptilian, but she has truly screwed the pooch with Cheri Bustos:
The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee is in full-blown turmoil.

Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee Chairwoman Cheri Bustos (D-Ill.) was set to make an unplanned trip to Washington from her district Monday amid an outcry from top black and Latino lawmakers over a lack of diversity in the campaign arm's senior management ranks.

………

POLITICO reported last week that black and Hispanic lawmakers are furious with Bustos’ stewardship of the campaign arm. They say the upper echelon of the DCCC is bereft of diversity, and it is not doing enough to reach Latino voters and hire consultants of color. In addition, several of Bustos’ senior aides have left in the first six months of her tenure, including her chief of staff — a black woman — and her director of mail and polling director, both women.
I would note that the complaint here is that the consultants of color aren't getting the patronage jobs that they deserve.
In response to the outcry, Bustos has agreed to participate in diversity and inclusion training for DCCC employees. An August training had previously been scheduled for just staff.

“Chairwoman Bustos is coming back because she understands how important it is for her to hear from staff directly and to reassure them that we have a strong commitment to diversity and inclusion at every level,” said DCCC spokesman Jared Smith.
This is exactly what she said in response to the outrage of her setting up a blacklist for primary challengers.

She promised to listen, but then did nothing.

Rinse, lather, repeat.

“She plans to approve changes to the structure before she leaves town and wants to get staff input as we work to build a stronger DCCC and make sure our team, from senior leadership on down, reflects the full range of diversity that gives the Democratic Party its strength," Smith added. "She looks forward to reaching out to her colleagues to get their input, address their concerns and update them on the progress we are making.”

………

The all-staff meeting was “very emotional all around,” according to a committee aide. Multiple employees of the campaign arm got visibly upset and at least one demanded to hear directly from Bustos about the ongoing issues. She was not present.
Of course she wasn't there.  She does not give a sh%$ what the staff thinks.
Some employees expressed anger during the meeting that the campaign arm’s executive and deputy directors are not people of color. Others complained that only a small number of people of color are in positions reporting directly to Jaslow, contrary to Bustos’ past promises to increase diversity in the senior DCCC ranks.

In addition, DCCC employees worried about how the lingering tensions with Democratic lawmakers would affect the campaign arm’s ability to collect member dues.
One current staffer complained that this is the third issue during Bustos’ tenure that caught employees off guard. The other two were a controversial vendor blacklist and outcry over a planned fundraiser with a Democrat who opposes abortion rights.
She's a conservative Democrat, she thinks that the only way that Democrats can win is to dog whistle to the Handmaiden's Tale crowd and racists.

Unfortunately for Nancy Pelosi, Cheri Bustos is too crass, and perhaps too stupid pretend otherwise.
Democratic sources said an all-staff phone call with Bustos on Saturday didn't go much better. The Illinois Democrat only “briefly” apologized for comments about her family’s racial background that had inflamed some lawmakers and DCCC employees. In response to complaints about the DCCC's diversity, she has noted that her husband is of Mexican descent, that her children are half-Mexican and that her son is marrying an African-American woman.
Ah, the "Some of my best friends," stratagem, which never really worked.

Stupid.
Bustos’ senior team did acknowledge anger among staffers that they did not know about the POLITICO article before it published. They promised to have a better internal communication strategy moving forward, according to multiple sources who participated in the call.
Shows that she does not have her staff's back.
………

But multiple Democratic sources said they left Saturday's call feeling like little is actually being done to address the diversity issues that have been simmering for months, or that Bustos understands the totality of the problem.
It's not about  Bustos understanding anything, she just doesn't care.

I don't think that Pelosi cares either beyond the obvious optics.  Otherwise, she would not have appointed Bustos to such a sensitive position.

Bustos is heading the DCCC because Pelosi thinks that she has skills sucking up to rich ratf%$#s.

This has been the only criteria Pelosi has used for decades, and it's finally biting her in the ass.

Good.

Well, Now We Know Why Barr Reactivated the Death Penalty


Needless to say, not only will the death penalty NOT be off the table, but I figure that the prosecution will be directed to try to fry him as quickly as possible.

For all the talk of Trump being a Russian stooge, he truly is the House of Saud's rent boy, and if KSM is willing to rat out Riyadh, then the Donald Trump, and his stooge Bob Bill Barr will make sure that he never has that chance:
Alleged Sept. 11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed has opened the door to helping victims of the terrorist attacks in their lawsuit against Saudi Arabia if the U.S. government spares him the death penalty at a Guantanamo Bay military commission, according to court documents.

Mohammed’s offer was disclosed in a Friday filing in the victims’ federal lawsuit in New York, which accuses the Saudi government of helping coordinate the 2001 suicide attacks. Nearly 3,000 people were killed when terrorists crashed hijacked airliners into the World Trade Center, the Pentagon and, after passengers resisted, a Pennsylvania field. Riyadh has denied complicity in the attacks.

Separately, President Trump signed legislation Monday that pays for medical claims from victims of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, including first responders, for the rest of their lives.

In the lawsuit against Saudi Arabia, plaintiffs’ lawyers had requested depositions from three of the five Guantanamo detainees accused in the Sept. 11 conspiracy. In the Friday filing, a status letter to U.S. Magistrate Judge Sarah Netburn, the lawyers wrote that earlier Friday, Mohammed’s counsel told them their client wouldn’t consent to a deposition “at the present time.”

Mohammed’s lawyer said, however, that “the primary driver” of the decision was the “capital nature of the prosecution” and that “[i]n the absence of a potential death sentence much broader cooperation would be possible,” according to the filing.
His lawyers just signed his death warrant.

They will never let him testify against Saudi Arabia.

28 July 2019

Judges Have Had It with These Mother-F%$#Ing Copyright Trolls in Their Mother-F%$#Ing Courts!


The law, which was almost never applied to copyright plaintiffs, was that if the defendant made a reasonable offer in negotiations, and the final judgement was less than that, then the plaintiff was responsible for all court costs of the defendant.

This judge is sick of this lawyer using her court as an extension racket, and so has demanded that a $50,000.00 bond be posted for such an eventuality.
In the last couple of years, lawyer Richard Liebowitz has really made a name for himself in copyright trolling circles. He's quite aggressive, and even got a huge profile written about him at Slate, in which it notes that, unlike many trolls who focus purely on shakedown settlement letters, Liebowitz runs straight to court to leverage the power of an expensive court case to push for insane settlements. "Sue first and negotiate later." The Hollywood Reporter has done its own profile on Liebowitz as well.

It appears that many of his cases have ended up before federal judge Denise Cote, who clearly sees through his scam. Last year, we noted her scolding him for his practices, including not following court rules. Cote even referred to him as a "copyright troll" -- something that offended him so much he requested that it be redacted. That request not only failed, but Cote reiterated:
"His litigation strategy in this district fits squarely within the definition of a copyright troll."
Liebowitz is back before Judge Cote yet again in one of his many cases, and it's not going well. As pointed out by the copyright troll fighters at Booth Sweet, Liebowitz is busy setting precedents that are bad for copyright plaintiffs. In this particular case, the issue has to do with Rule 68 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. Under Rule 68, when sued, a defendant may make a settlement offer that includes some specific terms. 

In this particular case, Liebowitz, representing photographer Gregory Mango, sued Democracy Now!. Democracy Now! looked up how much Mango was licensing his photos for (a maximum of $220) and made a Rule 68 offer to settle for 5 times that amount. Liebowitz quickly turned the offer down, as he was seeking much more. But here's the fun part of Rule 68. It's part (d):
 Paying Costs After an Unaccepted Offer. If the judgment that the offeree finally obtains is not more favorable than the unaccepted offer, the offeree must pay the costs incurred after the offer was made.
Translated: If Mango/Liebowitz's final judgment is less favorable than the ~$1,000 Democracy Now! offered under Rule 68, then Mango is on the hook for all of Democracy Now's legal fees incurred after that offer was made. That is likely to be many thousands of dollars. As Booth Sweet notes, many courts have said that Rule 68 doesn't apply to copyright cases, but in Cote's latest ruling she says it does, and tells Liebowitz to post a bond for $50,000.

In other words, even if Mango "wins" the case, but gets less than $1,000, he may be on the hook for tens of thousands of dollars in legal fees.


………

As we've seen with similar trollish operation, Mathew Higbee, it's unclear whether these trolling operations are fully informing their clients that this kind of litigation could leave the clients on the hook for paying the other side's legal fees. Both Liebowitz and Higbee promote their services on their respective pages as nearly risk free. Liebowitz's says: "We work on a contingency fee basis, meaning we don’t get paid unless and until you get paid." Higbee's reads: "We are results oriented, so most of the cases we handle even have a money back guarantee or are done on contingency."

That's probably why so many photographers are willing to jump on board -- as it seems like a "free" way to get extra cash while doing nothing. But not realizing that you may be opening yourself up to quite a bit of liability for filing bogus copyright lawsuits seems like a problem. Actually, it seems like a risk that a good lawyer would explain to his or her clients before signing them up. One wonders whether or not Liebowitz actually warns his clients of such a risk.
I am pretty sure that the lawyers don't warn their clients about this, but I'm pretty sure that a lot of judges will require them to notify their clients in the future.

Headline of the Day

Better to Have a Few Rats Than to Be One
Baltimore Sun Editorial Board
This is in response to Trump's latest tirade against Elijah Cummings, where he slams the Congressman and his district, basically relegates Baltimore to his list of "sh%$ holes".

Needless to say, residents of the Charm City, and I consider myself one, though I live in the suburb of Owings Mills, are less than amused at the Donald's latest tantrum.

On edit.

Nancy Pelosi, Baltimore native and daughter of former mayor Tommy D'Alesandro, is unamused by this as well.

27 July 2019

Went to Hershey Park Today

My employer had a "Hershey Park Day," and so the whole family went up.

We had a good time, but I got a bit too much sun, so Sharon is driving us home.

I need a hat for such circumstances.


Posted via mobile.

26 July 2019

Deep Thought

If Corporations Are Legal People, Then Most of Them Need to Be Committed to a Hospital for the Criminally Insane.

Well, this Explains Bird and Lime

One of the incessant tropes of the draw-by-crayon libertarians is that doing harm to the public is simply bad business.

To quote the Bard of Baltimore, this ,"Is an answer that is clear, simple, and wrong."

It tuens out that there are many ways in which a business can profit from doing harm, and streets strewn with haphazardly parked scooters is the least of it:


Arlie Russell Hochschild’s Strangers In Their Own Land profiles residents of deeply conservative parts of Louisiana, pondering why they are so opposed to government environmental regulations even as they suffer from environmental catastrophes that stricter regulations could have prevented. I don’t wish here to dive into the many reasons why that is. Instead, I’d like to look at one popular belief that pops up in the book that is very easy to believe but also very wrong. When Hochschild talks to people about the 2010 BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill, she discovers that they are all strongly opposed to Barack Obama’s temporary moratorium on deep sea drilling, even though they were also appalled by the spill. One of the interviewees says the following:
“It’s not in the company’s own interest to have a spill or an accident. They try hard… so if there’s a spill, it’s probably the best the company could do.”
 I think it’s easy to see why people believe this. There’s actually a persuasive-sounding logic to it. Many libertarian economists believe it entirely. The argument, expanded a bit, goes: The fact that corporations pursue their own financial self-interest means that regulation is not needed. A company that causes disasters is certainly not helping its own profits. BP didn’t want to spill all that oil in the Gulf, obviously. BP has every incentive to avoid oil spills, because they want to keep the oil! Accidents happen, no company is perfect, but ultimately profits and safety coincide. A corporate executive who bungles like this is not actually pursuing the self-interest of the company, and so when corporations produce environmental catastrophes it is not because they are pathologically self-interested, but rather because they were not pursuing their self-interest well enough. Greed is still good.

………

It’s true that accidents themselves are not in a company’s self-interest, in that no company gains anything from a horrible accident that destroys their equipment (and possibly their employees’ lives, though from a company’s perspective employees are fungible). But “the behavior that produces accidents” can absolutely be in a company’s self-interest, and accidents don’t always sufficiently damage a company’s self-interest to make it worthwhile to avoid them. Eating the cost of a few accidents here and there might end up being more profitable than extreme precaution.

………

A Friedmanite, i.e. sociopathic, company only has incentives not to hurt people to the extent that there are strong external institutions, in the form of government, media, consumer groups, and labor groups, that can create those incentives. If hurting people doesn’t cost money, then it isn’t in the interest of companies to avoid cheap, risky practices. The “expected return” on a dangerously risky move might be high enough that it is “economically rational” (not to be confused with being “actually rational”).

It’s also important to remember that just because a gamble doesn’t pay off, doesn’t mean it was the wrong move. Even if there are strong coercive external institutions that punish toxic cloud emission, and mean that if you emit the toxic cloud your company will be severely hurt, a company might still take the gamble on Method A, because the potential rewards are so high. If there’s a 99/100 chance that by pressing a given button you get a billion dollars, and a 1/100 chance that you’ll be instantly killed, “self interest” doesn’t necessarily dictate that you’ll stay away from the button. It depends on whether you’re feeling lucky. The 2008 financial crisis was like this. People made piles and piles of money of risky investments, until they didn’t. They weren’t necessarily “failing to pursue their own interest” just because they took risks. For many of them, it was probably a smart move that turned out well. Every company takes risks. What if playing dice with people’s lives actually turns out to be good for BP, on the whole? It might go wrong once or twice, but what if overall they make out pretty well from putting quantity of oil over safety, because the oil makes up for the accident costs? Then what?


………

BP certainly wants to convince the ordinary Louisianans that Hochschild talked to that the company is a partner and friend. Why would we want to hurt you? We’re all in this together! We’re bringing you jobs. We’re cleaning up the spill, and we certainly don’t want another. Don’t believe them. Milton Friedman was quite clear: All they want is money, and if they can convince people that “big government” is bad and regulation is unnecessary, then environmental destruction is costless. (The companies tearing down the Amazon rainforests, and displacing native populations, are behaving precisely as Friedman would have wanted.) Doing harm is only bad for business if we make it bad for business.
I am beginning to think that if corporations are legal people, then most of them need to be committed to a hospital for the criminally insane.

25 July 2019

This Is the Rule, Not the Exception for Charter Schools

Who could have imagined that shoveling taxpayer money to opaque institutions would result in an explosion of fraud and self-dealing:
A state investigator’s search warrant filed in court Tuesday seeks evidence of alleged embezzlement of state funds and obtaining money under false pretenses at Epic Charter Schools, including through the use of “ghost students” who receive no actual instruction at the school.

Epic and and its two co-founders, David Chaney and Ben Harris, are the subject of a state law enforcement investigation, according to the seven-page affidavit and warrant filed in Oklahoma County District Court.

The agent reviewed bank statements and found Chaney and Harris split school profits of at least $10 million between 2013 and 2018, the affidavit states. Epic is a publicly funded charter school that is managed by a for-profit company, Epic Youth Services, which is owned by Chaney and Harris. The filing of the warrant was first reported by The Oklahoman.

………

Epic is accused of receiving state funding for “ghost students” as early as 2014. Those students were homeschooled and attended private and sectarian schools and enrolled in Epic to receive an $800 “learning fund” without receiving instruction from Epic, the affidavit states. Epic teachers dubbed those students “members of the $800.00 club.” The learning fund is provided to all Epic students and can be spent on curriculum, technology and extracurricular activities.

………

When asked whether the allegations would affect the handling of Epic’s 2019-20 funding, Education Department spokeswoman Steffie Corcoran said they will consult with law enforcement to determine the next appropriate steps. Epic’s state funding for next year is estimated at $120 million.
So basically, they were paying parents to engage in phony registrations.

Charter schools' records are private, their finances are not available for public review, and financial entanglements are secret.

It is a recipe for fraud.

Headline of the Day

DoorDash Says It’s Very Sorry You Noticed Its Tip-Skimming Scheme
Gizmodo
A reminder: A company that abuses its workers will abuse its customers as well.

They were actively deceiving their customers.

Finally Reversing the F-22 Crippling of the F-35

The F-35 has a very limited air to air weapons loadout.

My theory for this is that it was a crippled in an attempt a futile effort to protect the F-22 purchase.

Well, it now appears that the weapons bay is being modify to fix this shortcoming: (It still is an over priced and under performing platform though)
Lockheed Martin will modify the F-35 weapons bay to accommodate a very long-range, anti-radiation missile and support a potential future upgrade to carry up to six air-to-air missiles internally, a source close to the program says.

………

The contract announcement released by the Pentagon specifically calls for altering the portion of the Station 425 bulkhead inside the weapons to carry “aft heavy weaponry.”

A source close to the program says the weapon involved in the modification program is the Navy’s Advanced Anti-Radiation Guided Missile-Extended Range (AARGM-ER).

………

The modification to Station 425 also will allow the F-35 to carry six AIM-120 missiles internally, the source says.

Lockheed has proposed the so-called “Sidekick” modification to increase the F-35’s internal load-out from four to six air-to-air missiles.
Still a misbegotten waste of resources though.

Not Enough Bullets………

After making a complete dogs breakfast of his time at Equifax, Former CEO Richard Smith has secured a $20+ million payout to leave:
For a majority of workers, failure at the workplace is deeply frowned upon and frequently incurs the ultimate penalty—dismissal, usually accompanied with a pittance for severance pay. Yet, in many ways, corporate executives remain above the rigmarole of a pay-for-performance model. A blue-chip executive can run a company to the ground and still be guaranteed a big payday in the form of a multi-million dollar golden sendoff. A few days ago, Equifax Inc., one of the largest consumer credit reporting agencies on the land, made headlines after agreeing to pay a total of $700 million to the U.S. government for claims tied to a massive data breach two years ago.

The data breach will go down as one of the largest ever after private information including social security data from 150 million consumers--about 56 percent of America’s population--was compromised.

………

Former CEO Richard Smith, on the other hand, is set to collect ~$19.6 million in stock bonuses that cover part of his performance in the year the hack took place, not to mention a generous offer to cover his medical bills for life; a $24-million pension and $50,000 in tax and financial planning services.

That’s roughly 1,000x the maximum payout to affected customers.
Seriously, I am sick to death of the heads I win, tails you lose bullsh%$ corrupt business management in America.

By all rights, this guy should be asking, "Do you want fries with that?"

Linkage


The Movie version of Penguins and sushi:

24 July 2019

Sadistic Psychopaths

In Luzern County, Pennsylvania, where magistrates were found to have taken bribes, the Wyoming Valley West school district has threatened to put children in foster care over unpaid lunch bills.

It now appears that they have doubled down, and the school board has refused to take donations to clear the debt, because, "Capitalism," or somesuch:
The president of a Pennsylvania school board whose district had warned parents behind on lunch bills that their children could end up in foster care has rejected a CEO’s offer to cover the cost, the businessman said Tuesday.

Todd Carmichael, chief executive and co-founder of Philadelphia-based La Colombe Coffee, said he offered to give Wyoming Valley West School District $22,000 to wipe out bills that generated the recent warning letter to parents.

But school board President Joseph Mazur rejected the offer during a phone conversation Monday, Carmichael spokesman Aren Platt said Tuesday. Mazur argued that money is owed by parents who can afford to pay, Platt said.

“The position of Mr. Carmichael is, irrespective of affluence, irrespective of need, he just wants to wipe away this debt,” Platt said.

………


The letters from the school district warned parents that they “can be sent to dependency court for neglecting your child’s right to food,” and that the children could be removed and placed in foster care.

Child welfare authorities have told the district that Luzerne County does not run its foster system that way.

Luzerne County’s manager and child welfare agency director wrote to Superintendent Irvin DeRemer, demanding the district stop making what it called false claims. DeRemer has not returned messages in recent days.

In an editorial Tuesday, the Times-Tribune of Scranton called the threats shameful and an act of hubris. The paper urged lawmakers and the state Department of Education to “outlaw such outlandish conduct by law and regulation covering lunch debt collection.”

Carmichael said he was struggling to understand why district officials would not welcome his help.
I understand Mr. Carmichael's confusion, but it's actually pretty simple: Joseph Mazur and the rest of ilk, are sadistic psychopaths who think that they are teaching people a useful lesson.

Some people like to use their power to inflict cruelty on others.

They are deeply evil people without a shred of decency or empathy.

Live in Obedient Fear, Citizen!

In response to a spate of officers caught posting bigoted and what can only be called terrorist threats to social media, the Phoenix Police Malovelent Association is offering a service to scrub officers accounts, because accountability and responsibility are anti-police, I guess:
An investigation called the "Plain View Project" has uncovered a truly disturbing amount of bigoted, violent social media posts by police officers located all over the United States. The entire database of posts is located here. Anyone wanting to see what their public servants truly think about the people they serve can click through and be horrified.

It would be horrifying enough if officers just kept their thoughts to themselves and let those thoughts guide their actions. But these are public posts able to be viewed by anyone and these officers apparently had no qualms about displaying the content of their character. This is just a small sampling:

……… (you really don't want to read that crap)

Lovely. That's the mindset of far too many cops. The people they interact with daily are viewed as subhuman garbage only worthy of a beating or a bullet. The good news is that since the publication of this database, the hammer is starting to fall.
A whopping 21 Dallas police officers are under investigation for “racist or violent” Facebook posts, which were uncovered by the Plainview Project. Four others have been placed on administrative leave, the Dallas police chief announced Friday.
Things have gone even further in Philadelphia, where officers are actually losing their jobs over their Facebook posts

………

These are all rational responses to the public outing of law enforcement officers as not-so-closeted bigots and homophobes. Then there are the clearly irrational responses, emanating almost exclusively from police unions.
In Philadelphia, the Fraternal Order of Police has expressed its "disappointment" that the PD would actually punish officers for their hate-filled social media posts. Of course, unions like this also express their disappointment when cops are punished for literally any act, including unjustifiable homicide.
But the prize for most idiotic response (so far!) goes to the Phoenix Law Enforcement Association. PLEA doesn't seem to believe the bigoted posts by police officers are problematic. No, the real issue here -- according to PLEA -- is that the posts were seen by outside eyes. PLEA doesn't want better officers. It only wants less accountable officers.
After dozens of Phoenix police officers were caught posting racist memes and praising violence on Facebook, Phoenix police union president Michael London said the union plans on purchasing a service that will "scrub" police officers' information from the Internet.

"The Facebook investigation is still going on," London said Thursday in a video shared on the Phoenix Law Enforcement Association's Facebook page. "We had our monthly board meeting this past Tuesday, and Franklin Marino has contacted a service that will scrub your name from the internet. It's more of a security and privacy type thing. There's some more information about it on the members-only Facebook."

"We think right now with the numbers we have, it would cost you about $3 a month, but we're still trying to contact the provider of this and see if we can work out a deal," London said.
That's the solution. Just pay and make it all go away. The union head is so secure in his delusion he actually claimed this wasn't about making stuff vanish, but rather to "protect" officers from people attacking them online. Yep, it's the bigoted cops who are the real victims here.
I understand the need for labor unions to zealously defend their members, but this is being a co-conspirator in a coverup.

Where is the damn RICO lawsuit, anyway?

I Guess I Have to Say Something About Mueller's Testimony


Like the bite of a dog into a stone, it is a stupidity
I did not expect much, an from the reports, I was not disappointed.

Unfortunately, the Democratic Party leadership, particularly Speaker Pelosi, have decided that there will be no movement toward impeachment until something is revealed that can get most of the Congressional Republicans to call for Trump's removal, and even if Mueller were to stand on the desk screaming, "Impeach the mother-f%$#er!" (Spoiler, he didn't)

One can only hope that the Democrats, particularly House Judiciary Chairman Jerrold Nadler, decide to initiate an impeachment investigation in defiance of the Speaker, but do not see that happening.

My guess?  Democrats will ironically clap their way into a 2nd Trump term.

All Those Moments Will Be Lost in Time, like Tears in Rain

Rutger Hauer has died at age 75.

Most of the obituaries talk about his role as Roy Batty in Bladerunner, but I recall his roles in Blind Fury and Sam Pekinpaw's final film, The Osterman Weekend, which I always thought was under-rated.

23 July 2019

Headline of the Day

Tesla Enters “Whistleblower Hell”
The Drive
This bit of snark is the hed for an article showing how whistle-blowing from Tesla employees is reaching critical mass.

Simply put, there are now too many whistle-blowers for Elon Musk to shame, intimidate, and, in at least one case SWAT.


Mark Madoff Zuckerberg


Given Facebook's culture, and Zuckerberg's complete lack of ethics, I am inclined to believe that this is an accurate characterization of how the social media giant hits its numbers:
Facebook now has a market capitalization approaching $600 billion, making it nominally one of the most valuable companies on earth. It’s a true business miracle: a company that was out of users in 2012 managed to find a wellspring of nearly infinite and sustained growth that has lasted it, so far, half of the way through 2019.

So what is that magical ingredient, that secret sauce, that “genius” trade secret, that turned an over-funded money-losing startup into one of America’s greatest business success stories? It’s one that Bernie Madoff would recognize instantly: fraud, in the form of fake accounts.

Old money goes out, and new money comes in to replace it. That’s how a traditional Ponzi scheme works. Madoff kept his going for decades, managing to attain the rank of Chairman of the NASDAQ while he was at it.

Zuckerberg’s version is slightly different, but only slightly: old users leave after getting bored, disgusted and distrustful, and new users come in to replace them. Except that as Mark’s friend and lieutenant, Sam Lessin told us, the “new users” part of the equation was already getting to be a problem in 2012. On October 26, Lessin, wrote, “we are running out of humans (and have run-out of valuable humans from an advertiser perspective).” At the time, it was far from clear that Facebook even had a viable business model, and according to Frontline, Sheryl Sandberg was panicking due to the company’s poor revenue numbers.

To balance it out and keep “growth” on the rise, all Facebook had to do was turn a blind eye. And did it ever.

In Singer v. Facebook, Inc.—a lawsuit filed in the Northern District of California alleging that Facebook has been telling advertisers that it can “reach” more people than actually exist in basically every major metropolitan area—the plaintiffs quote former Facebook employees, understandably identified only as Confidential Witnesses, as stating that Facebook’s “Potential Reach” statistic was a “made-up PR number” and “fluff.” Also, that “those who were responsible for ensuring the accuracy ‘did not give a shit.’” Another individual, “a former Operations Contractor with Facebook, stated that Facebook was not concerned with stopping duplicate or fake accounts.”

………

Yet signs that Mark’s fake account problem is no different than Madoff’s fake account statement problem are everywhere. Google Trends shows worldwide “Facebook” queries down 80% from their November 2012 peak. (Instagram doesn’t even come close to making up for the loss.) Mobile metrics measuring use of the Facebook mobile app are down.

And the company’s own disclosures about fake accounts stand out mostly for their internal inconsistency—one set of numbers, measured in percentages, is disclosed to the SEC, while another, with absolute figures, appears on its “transparency portal.” While they reveal a problem escalating at an alarming rate and are constantly being revised upward—Facebook claims that false accounts are at 5% and duplicate accounts at 11%, up from 1% and 6% respectively in Q2 2017—they don’t measure quite the same things, and are impossible to reconcile. At the end of 2017, Facebook decided to stop releasing those percentages on a quarterly basis, opting for an annual basis instead. Out of sight, out of mind.

………

What Facebook does say is this: its measurements, the ones subject to “significant judgment,” are taken from an undisclosed “limited sample of accounts.” How limited? That doesn’t matter, because “[w]e believe fake accounts are measured correctly within the limitations to our measurement systems” and “reporting fake accounts…may be a bad way to look at things.”

And how many fake accounts did Facebook report being created in Q2 2019? Only 2.2 billion, with a “B,” which is approximately the same as the number of active users Facebook would like us to believe that it has.

A comprehensive look back at Facebook’s disclosures suggests that of the company’s 12 billion total accounts ever created, about 10 billion are fake. And as many as 1 billion are probably active, if not more. (Facebook says that this estimate is “not based on any facts,” but much like the false statistics it provided to advertisers on video viewership, that too is a lie.)

So, fake accounts may be a bad way to look at things, as Facebook suggests—or they may be the key to the largest corporate fraud in history.

Advertisers pay Facebook on the assumption that the people viewing and clicking their ads are real. But that’s often not the case. Facebook has absolutely no incentive to solve the problem, it’s already in court over it, and its former employees are talking. From Mark’s vantage point, it’s raining free money. All he has to do to get advertisers to spend is convince the world that Facebook is huge and it’s only getting huger.

………

But I’m not wrong. Facebook is a real product, but like Enron, it’s also a scam, now the largest corporate scandal ever. It won’t release its data about the 2016 election, about fake accounts, or about anything material—and because Mark knows it’s a scam, he won’t agree to testify before the British parliament in a way that could require him to actually answer any substantive questions, as I did in June. And because Facebook is also a component of the S&P 500, countless people have an incentive to maintain the status quo.

So should we break up the tech companies and Facebook in particular? It’s already a campaign issue for the next presidential election. Elizabeth Warren says yes. Beto O’Rourke wants “stronger regulations.” Kamala Harris would rather talk about privacy. Everyone else—even Donald Trump—generally agrees that something needs to be done. Yet the unspoken issue at the center of it all remains: Mark is running a Ponzi scheme, but Wall Street, Congress, the Federal Trade Commission, the think tanks, and their associates haven’t figured it out.

………

The biggest problem with treating Facebook as a monopoly, as opposed to the byproduct of what Jesse Eisenger calls “The Chickensh%$ Club,” is that it wrongly affirms Mark’s infallibility and fails to see through him and his scheme, let alone the reality that he’s not even in control anymore because no one is.

Would it have helped to separate Madoff Securities LLC into one company per floor, or split up Enron by division? Probably not, but talking about it is Facebook’s dream come true. Because the question we should really be discussing is “How many years should Mark Zuckerberg and Sheryl Sandberg ultimately serve in prison?”
If this is true, and I do find the argument compelling, I would pay money to watch his being frog marched out of his Menlo Park headquarters in handcuffs.

There Hasn't Been a Tory Political Figure Who Has Failed Upward so Spectacularly since ……… Checks Notes ……… Winston Churchill

So, Boris Johnson is the new Conservative Party leader, and so he will be the next Prime Minister of Great Britain.

While it is patently obvious that he will be an unmitigated disaster, in the States we would call him a hot mess, but the Brits prefer the term, "Shambolic," it is almost certain that he will be better than Theresa May.

Theresa May was inflexible, deeply stupid,convinced of her own brilliance, and unwilling to admit her own errors. (She was also cruel for its own sake, just ask the Windrush immigrants, or the recipients of public aid, or people trying to get healthcare at the NHS)

Apart from the trait of stupidity, Boris is a classic upper class twit who would not be out of place in a Gilbert and Sullivan operetta, he shares none of the above shortcomings.

Boris has no integrity, and he has made a career out of screwing up, and then using his considerable personal charm to get things fixed, and he is gleefully ignorant.

It is inevitable that Boris Johnson will be a complete disaster as Prime Minister, but it is likely that he could still do a better job than Theresa May.

At the very least, I expect him to adapt, and get people planning for a hard Brexit.

Additionally, I think that BoJo's antics will likely foam the runway for Jeremy Corbyn.

As to my title mention of Churchill, read your history, this was a man who had a legacy of uninterrupted failure: Gallipoli, the return to the gold standard, calling for the use of poison gas on Iraqi civilians, and his disastrous Norway campaign, whose failure led to the resignation of Neville Chamberlain and Churchill's ascension to Prime Minister.

22 July 2019

Walking Dead Man

Someone has come up with a list of Jeffrey Epstein associates among the Davos set, and upon perusing the list, I can only conclude that he is never going to survive trial, because they do not want their secrets to come out:
Perhaps, at long last, a serial rapist and pedophile may be brought to justice, more than a dozen years after he was first charged with crimes that have brutalized countless girls and women. But what won’t change is this: the cesspool of elites, many of them in New York, who allowed Jeffrey Epstein to flourish with impunity. For decades, important, influential, “serious” people attended Epstein’s dinner parties, rode his private jet, and furthered the fiction that he was some kind of genius hedge-fund billionaire. How do we explain why they looked the other way, or flattered Epstein, even as they must have noticed he was often in the company of a young harem? Easy: They got something in exchange from him, whether it was a free ride on that airborne “Lolita Express,” some other form of monetary largesse, entrée into the extravagant celebrity soirées he hosted at his townhouse, or, possibly and harrowingly, a pound or two of female flesh.

If you watch Fox News, you will believe Bill Clinton was Epstein’s No. 1 pal and enabler. If you watch MSNBC, this scandal is usually all about Donald Trump. In fact, both presidents are guilty (at the very least) of giving Epstein cover and credibility. There are so many unanswered questions about Epstein, but one that looms over all of them is whether the bipartisan crowd who cleared a path for him will cover its tracks before we can get answers — not just Clinton and Trump and all those who drank at Epstein’s trough but also (among others) institutions like Harvard, Dalton, and the Council on Foreign Relations, or lawyers like the New York prosecutor Cy Vance Jr., whose office tried to downgrade Epstein’s sex-offender status; Kenneth Starr, who tried to pressure Republican Justice Department officials to keep the Epstein case from ever being prosecuted; and Alan Dershowitz, who tried to pressure the Pulitzer Prizes to shut out the Miami Herald for its epic investigative reporting that cracked open the case anew.

………

This project is meant to catalogue how Epstein’s secure footing in elite spheres helped hide his crimes. It includes influential names listed in his black book, people he flew, funded, and schmoozed, along with others whose connections to him have drawn renewed attention. Certainly, not everyone cited here knew of everything he was up to; Malcolm Gladwell told New York, “I don’t remember much except being baffled as to who this Epstein guy was and why we were all on his plane.” Some said they never met Epstein at all, or knew of him only through his ex-girlfriend and alleged accomplice, the socialite Ghislaine Maxwell. Others backed away from him after the scandal. But all of the influential people listed here were attached in some way to Epstein’s world. The sum of their names constitutes a more concrete accounting of Epstein’s power than could any accounting of his disputed wealth. Consider this a pointillist portrait of enablement that all too chillingly overlaps with a significant slice of the Establishment.
The list of names, with descriptions, is jaw dropping, and almost endless.

It goes from Trump, to the Clintons, to Andrew Cuomo, to Woody Allen, to the Sultan of Brunei, to Malcolm Gladwell, to Stephen Hawking, to Stephen Banning ………

There is no way that someone among this very long list is arranging an unfortunate accident or suicide for Mr. Epstein as I type this.

H/t Eschaton

I Felt a Little Bit Sickened When I Heard This

I played Dungeons and Dragons in my teen years until my late 20s.

I remain kind of a purist: I tend to think that the pre-packaged adventures are somehow cheating.

So, when I found out that people are making a living selling their services as Dungeon Masters, I felt like throwing my radio out the window:
Dungeons & Dragons is not the same game it was 40 years ago. And not just because rule updates have made the game less fussy and easier to play. The game, which kicked off the role-playing genre in the 1970s, is actually popular.

Role-playing games like D&D are different from traditional board games. Instead of a fixed set of objectives, D&D is modular. It lets players create their own adventurers and solve quests created by another player — the dungeon master. That person is responsible for coming up with the story, acting out nonplayer characters and running behind-the-scenes mechanics. 

And with 40 million D&D players, there’s a growing need for dungeon masters, or DMs. Some voice actors and playwrights are turning to D&D as a source of income. High-end DMs charge up to $500 per session, according to Mary Pilon, who wrote about professional dungeon masters for Bloomberg Businessweek.
My childhood (OK, adolescence) is destroyed.

This is Literally the Least We Can Do as a Society

You know, when people make their fortunes off the misery of the rest of society, we should be able to do more than just make it difficult for these malefactors to green-wash their names.

The fact that the Louvre has removed the Sackler family name from its Oriental Antiquities wing, and artists are withdrawing from the Whitney Art Museum's biennial art show over a board member's business supplying tear gas used on asylum seekers.

I am not enough of an optimist to think that this is the start of something.

Instead, I see this as a marker of our impotence as a society to deal with the immorality and misdeeds of our billionaire class. 

It's their world, and we just live in in at their sufferance.

21 July 2019

This is What Pay-Go is Supposed to Do

I'm always that Pelosi's insistence on Pay-Go rules was profoundly self destructive.

I used to believe that this was a short-sighted policy driven by a need to appeal to the inside the Beltway pundits for whom deficits are important whenever Democrats take power.

I increasingly believe the affection of Pelosi, and the rest of the Democratic Party establishment for Pay-Go is more about having an excuse for not doing the right thing, because they don't want to do the right thing.

Case in point, Democrats using Pay-Go to gut funding on community health centers:
Several Democratic lawmakers are accusing members of their own party of advancing a plan that would have the effect of cutting health care services for millions of Americans in poor and rural parts of the country — a charge fiercely denied by the package’s supporters.

Rep. Frank Pallone Jr. (D-N.J.), chair of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, is pushing a bipartisan plan that would provide flat levels of federal funding for hundreds of community health centers nationwide, at about $4 billion for the next four years. A similar plan is advancing in the Senate with the support of Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.), the top Democrat on the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions committee.

Lawmakers face a September deadline for the community health centers, after which their funding would begin to expire, likely leading to steep cuts.

Pallone said the plan would provide the security of the longest guaranteed funding commitment ever secured by the clinics, averting the September cliff. But flat funding would not keep pace with medical inflation, likely forcing the community health centers to serve about 4 million fewer people annually by 2023 than they do now, said Leighton Ku, professor of health policy at George Washington University’s Milken Institute School of Public Health.
There is always money for a free for the next bloated defense program, but when you want to provide poor people with basic healthcare, we must be fiscally responsible.

The neoliberal consensus of the Democratic Party leadership is bad politics and bad policy.

This is China Paying for It

Notwithstanding the claims of the free market mousketeers, China has always had more to lose in the event of a trade war.

Now, we are seeing the Chinese consequences of a trade war, where US firms are moving their supply chains from China.

It is neither trivial nor cheap to move a supply change, and once moved, it is neither trivial nor cheap to move a supply chain back, so any changes resulting from Trump's tariffs are likely to be long term:
U.S. manufacturers are shifting production to countries outside of China as trade tensions between the world’s two biggest economies stretch into a second year.

Companies that make Crocs shoes, Yeti beer coolers, Roomba vacuums and GoPro cameras are producing goods in other countries to avoid U.S. tariffs of as much as 25% on some $250 billion of imports from China. Apple Inc. also is considering shifting final assembly of some of its devices out of China to avoid U.S. tariffs.

Furniture-maker Lovesac Co. is making about 60% of its furniture in China, down from 75% at the start of the year. “We have been shifting production to Vietnam very aggressively,” said Shawn Nelson, chief executive of the Stamford, Conn., company. Mr. Nelson said he plans to have no production in China by the end of next year.

………

“Once you move, you don’t go back,” Mr. Nelson said.
This is something that people miss:  China is far more dependent on existing supply chains than the US does.

Recognizing Reality

The Code of Conduct for Federal Judges has been changed, and it appears that it will prohibit sitting judges from attending Federalist Society events:
………

For anyone concerned about the unseemly mingling of politics and the judiciary, a little-noticed formal ethics opinion issued in February by the committee responsible for the Code of Conduct for United States Judges may offer hope.

Judges are bound by the Code of Conduct, which comprises five canons and associated formal opinions issued by the committee, which provide ethical guidance. Substantial speech and associational restrictions are imposed on active judges to preserve the judiciary’s independence and integrity.

………

For many years, the Code of Conduct committee ducked the issue of judicial participation in the Federalist Society, in part, it seemed, because many powerful judges (see above) either have been or are associated with the organization.

The committee now appears to have drawn a line with its issuance of advisory opinion No. 116 expanding the scope of prohibited political activity. The Federalist Society is not mentioned by name, but the opinion is directed to the propriety of participation by judges in programs or membership in groups engaged in public-policy debates.

The prohibited political activities include those involving “hot-button issues in current political campaigns” or that are “politically-oriented” or have “political overtones.” Public perception also plays a vital role, as the opinion bars judges from participation that would “give rise to an appearance of engaging in political activity” or “would otherwise give the appearance of impropriety.”

The committee also warned judges that they should stay away from groups “where the funding sources are unknown or likely to be from sources engaged in litigation or political advocacy.” The New York Times noted of the Federalist Society’s 2015 annual report, the organization “discloses who contributes most of its money. But it also takes anonymous contributions, from players including the Mercer family, which was a major backer of Donald Trump.” The annual report listed 14 anonymous donors on the “platinum” level — those giving $100,000 or more.

………

The expanded definition of prohibited political activity does not endanger the Federalist Society , nor its ability to function as a conduit of conservative ideology for lawyers and academia. It simply makes the continued participation of judges in the organization indefensible.
Sitting judge's hobnobbing with a partisan group like the Federalist Society has always been indefensible and corrupt.

Now it's just official.

Airbus and Boeing Juxtaposed

It turns out that much like its 737 MAX counterpart, the Airbus A321 NEO also has a pitch up issue.

There is an important difference though, Airbus actually spent the money to make sure that was well tested and thoroughly redundant, while Boeing did it on the cheap:
The European Aviation Safety Agency EASA has issued an Air Worthiness Directive (AD) to instruct operators of the Airbus A321neo of a Pitch instability issue.

EASA writes “excessive pitch attitude can occur in certain conditions and during specific manoeuvres. This condition, if not corrected, could result in reduced control of the aeroplane.

We analyze how this is similar or different to the Boeing 737 MAX pitch instability issues.

………

As the AD does not apply to the in-service A320neo, the issue must not be connected to the pitch instability which comes as a natural consequence of mounting the larger neo engines on the A320 series. It can be restricted to how the A321neo version of the ELACs handles the aircraft’s controls in an excessive pitch up condition.

Since publishing the article Airbus has provided us the following information:

The issue is an A321neo landing configuration at extreme aft CG conditions and below 100ft only issue, discovered by Airbus and reported to AESA. Violent maneuvers in for instance a go-around in these conditions can cause a pitch up which the pilots can counteract using their side-sticks. No FBW nose downs or similar is commanded, it’s just the FBW doesn’t neutralize the pitch-up (like FBW using the Airbus style flight laws are supposed to do), the pilots have to do it. Airbus has assisted AESA in issuing the AD which restricts the aft CG used in operational landings until the ELAC software is updated.


Our comment: The Airbus information explains why the issue is limited to the A321neo. The A321 has a different flap configuration than the A320/A319, giving a more nose-down approach angle (a lift curve with a transposed AoA vs. lift range). It seems this difference can set the condition for the pitch-up which the FBW at this point does not compensate for. The Pilots have to do it. The FBW will take away this pitch-up in a FBW software release available 3Q2020.

………

Like the 737 MAX, the A319/320/321neos are affected by the mounting of larger engines with their larger nacelles ahead of the center of gravity, Figure 1.



Figure 1. A321 shown on top of A321neo. The larger engine nacelles are marked with a violet color. Source: Airbus and Leeham Co.

………

There are several takeaways from the above:

  • As we have written in the MAX articles, pitch instabilities in certain parts of an airliner’s wide flight envelope are common.
  • It comes down to how these are addressed to produce a safe aircraft. In the case of the MAX and A320, software-based control logic is used, controlling the movements of the horizontal stabilizer and elevator.
  • The key is how these controls are designed, tested and implemented.
  • The original MAX implementation was inacceptably badly done. It relied on a single sensor, commanded unnecessary repeated nose-down trim commands and didn’t have any global limitation on its authority.
  • The Airbus version for the A321neo has a solid implementation based on adequate hardware/software redundancy and relevant limitations on its authority. But it can be improved (see our Airbus update on cause and fix).
Similar problems, and in one case they aren't killing people, because they aren't letting finance and marketing drive basic engineering decisions.

20 July 2019

This Is the Saddest Thing That I Have Read in a Very Long Time

A Philadelphia man walked out of a would-be robbery after telling the cashier that the money in the till wouldn’t be enough to fund his daughter’s kidney transplant operation, according to police.

………

The store owner told police that the man waved his gun in the air and demanded cash, according to CBS 3. But after getting at least a couple hundred dollars, he changed his mind and gave the money back.
Clearly, our healthcare system is the best one in the world.

Went to Artscape Today

Artscape is an arts festival in Baltimore, and we went there today.

Think of it as an enormous art themed block party.

The whole family went down, saw a lot of art, saw a show from Baltimore Improv Group, and got a little too much sun.  (Temps topped 95°F and high humidity)

It's on tomorrow as well, if you want to check it out.

50 Years Ago Today………

We landed on the f%$#ing moon.

These days, we are tweeting pictures of what we had for breakfast.

I find this state of affairs profoundly depressing.

I vaguelly recall seeing the landing on the TV briefly.

We were driving cross-country from Alaska to Virginia for my dad's new job.

It's really a pretty vague memory.

19 July 2019

This is a Thing of Beauty

I guarantee you that that Mr. Costa thought that he had a great "gotcha" question here, and Sanders owns his lame ass attempt to put half quotes in his mouth.

An interviewer comes after Sanders with half a quote, and Sanders remembers the whole quote:
MR. COSTA: Let's stick with that race point you just brought up. In 1974, you said that bussing policies were well meaning in theory but sometimes result in "racial hostility."

SEN. SANDERS: What else did I say in that?

MR. COSTA: Tell me.

SEN. SANDERS: No, you got it there. Read it. Read the whole quote.

MR. COSTA: I don't have the whole quote.

[Laughter]

SEN. SANDERS: The whole quote is the federal government doesn't give a sh%$ about African Americans.

MR. COSTA: Well, that is true. That's why I didn't include it.

SEN. SANDERS: All right. Okay.
The point that Sanders was making, and the point that he remembered from 45 years ago, was that the Federal government was refusing to enforce fair housing laws.