19 May 2024

They Only Did This Because They Got Caught

Academic publisher Wiley has shuttered 19 academic publications because they were so-called paper mills.

Short version is that they published bullsh%$ articles that the authors paid to be published to bump up their academic profiles.

US publishing house Wiley this week discontinued 19 scientific journals overseen by its Hindawi subsidiary, the center of a long-running scholarly publishing scandal.

In December 2023 Wiley announced it would stop using the Hindawi brand, acquired in 2021, following its decision in May 2023 to shut four of its journals "to mitigate against systematic manipulation of the publishing process."

Hindawi's journals were found to be publishing papers from paper mills – organizations or groups of individuals who try to subvert the academic publishing process for financial gain. Over the past two years, a Wiley spokesperson told The Register, the publisher has retracted more than 11,300 papers from its Hindawi portfolio.

As described in a Wiley-authored white paper published last December, "Tackling publication manipulation at scale: Hindawi’s journey and lessons for academic publishing," paper mills rely on various unethical practices – such as the use of AI in manuscript fabrication and image manipulations, and gaming the peer review process.


The Hindawi affair coincided with the departure of Wiley president and CEO Brian Napack in October, 2023. In its fiscal Q2 2024 earnings report [PDF] last December, Wiley admitted its $18 million decline in research publishing revenue was "mainly due to the Hindawi publishing disruption."

………

Academic publishers, however, appear to want the benefits of AI writing assistance without the downsides. Springer Nature, for example, last October launched Curie – an AI-powered writing assistant intended to help scientists whose first language is not English. Hence calls for better tools [PDF] to detect generative AI output – a call answered by recent efforts to improve AI content watermarking – which some researchers argue won't work.

A Wiley spokesperson characterized the decision to shut the 19 journals as part of its previously announced plan to integrate the Hindawi and Wiley portfolios, and distinct from the paper mill issue.

Yeah, sure.  It had nothing to do with the profits generated by publishing garbage articles for Wiley.

This is yet another example of how the profit motive poisons scientific study in all forms.

Yes, Just Add Cable Companies, That's the Ticket

There is a reason that cable providers are the most widely loathed businesses in the United States.

It's also the reason why so many people are cutting the cord. (not me ……… yet) 

It appears that the Comcast, a company so sh%$ty that it had to rename itself Xfinity, has a plan, they are going to insert themselves between streaming services and users and charge a toll.

I'm not sure how exactly they think that they are going to convince either the streaming providers or their customers to agree to this, but my guess is that it involves lots of money lobbying Congress for legislation requiring that they be gate-keepers:

In an ironic twist, cable TV and Internet provider Comcast has announced that it, too, will sell a bundle of video-streaming services for a discounted price. The announcement comes as Comcast has been rapidly losing cable TV subscribers to streaming services and seeks to bring the same type of bundling that originally drew people away from cable to streaming.

Starting on an unspecified date this month, the bundle, called Streamsaver, will offer Peacock, which Comcast owns, Apple TV+, and Netflix to people who subscribe to Comcast's cable TV and/or broadband. Comcast already offers Netflix or Apple TV+ as add-ons to its cable TV, but Streamsaver expands Comcast's streaming-related bundling efforts.

Comcast didn't say how much the streaming bundle would cost, but CEO Brian Roberts said that it will “come at a vastly reduced price to anything in the market today" when announcing the bundle on Tuesday at MoffettNathanson’s 2024 Media, Internet and Communications Conference in New York, per Variety. If we factor in Peacock's upcoming price hike, subscribing to Apple TV+, Netflix, and Peacock separately would cost $39.47 per month without ads, or $24.97/month with ads.

According to Roberts, Comcast is hoping that the upcoming package will help Comcast "add value to consumers" and "take some of the dollars out of” other streaming businesses.

 So, why would Comcast do this?  Because its abused customers are leaving in droves:

………

Last month, Comcast said it lost 487,000 cable TV subscribers in Q1 2024. It ended the quarter with 13,600,000 subscribers, compared to 14,106,000 at the end of 2023 and 16,142,000 at the end of 2022.

Comcast's broadband subscriber base also decreased from 32,253,000 at the end of 2023 to 32,188,000.

Peacock, Comcast's flagship streaming service, hasn't made any money since launching in 2020 and lost $2.7 billion in 2023. However, in April, Comcast said that Peacock's Q1 losses lessened from $704 million in Q1 2023 to $639 million in Q1 2024.

It's worth noting that in January, Comcast raised prices for its cable and Internet services by 3 percent, blaming the price hikes on broadband investments and an increase in programming costs.

So, will it work?  Probably not.

………

One of the common reasons people abandoned cable TV were bundled packages that forced people to pay for services, like phone or Internet, or channels that they didn't want. Now, Comcast is looking to save its shrinking subscriber base by bundling its cable TV or Internet service with some of its biggest competitors. Like streaming services, Comcast is hoping that bundling its products will deter people from canceling their subscriptions since they're tied to each other.

………

But Comcast's announcement hints at déjà vu as Comcast blatantly seeks to re-create the cable bundle or triple-play package using the very streaming services that are eating away at Comcast's cable business. Ironically, Comcast is seeking to bandage a declining business by feeding some of the biggest contributors to that decline, using the same tactics that drove many customers away in the first place.

………

But for people who left cable to avoid overloaded bundled packages and to get away from companies like Comcast, which group cable TV or Internet with streaming services that often raise prices, limit show and movie availability and features, and increasingly focus on ads, it just isn't worth the monthly savings.

Companies like Comcast spent decades abusing their customers, because they had effective monopolies where they operated.

Former customers will not forget this.

A Very Interesting Analysis of the Limitations of Generative AI


The original Ecch (Tweet) is quite long

The short version is that current artificial intelligence is unable to generalize the most basic period function out there, the sine wave is impossible for AI in general, and LLMs and neural networks in particular, to learn in the manner that humans do.

I'm not sure how important this is to what AI will be assigned to, derivative crap art and spam robots, but it does appear to me to be a major issue for the business.

If AI cannot "learn" a sin wave, something which even the most mathematically illiterate person out there can recognize and repeat, it means that AI is not learning.

If AI is not learning, then what it does with content covered by IP protection is not learning, but rather just repeating slightly modified output in an attempt to evade the exclusive licenses that are the defining feature of AI.

The short version of this is that most, if not all, of the activity in AI is less an exercise in developing a new technology, but rather an attempt by early funders of these programs to sell out before the generally lack of utility is apparent. 

An even shorter version is, to quote the great John Kenneth Galbraith, is that this is, "The bezzle," that interval between when a scam is initiated and when the victims recognize this.

Deep Thought

You never realize how dull your razor blade has gotten until you replace it with a new blade.

I am sure that there is a metaphor in all of this, but I am actually talking about replacing the safety razor blade that I just replaced to shave my neck.

18 May 2024

Old Enough to Remember This


Needs an Indiana Jones Hat
When I first discovered the internet, the "World Wide Web" was new, and people were unsure if it would last.

In fact, more people used a text based interface called Gopher.  (About 6 months later, the web passed Gopher, and never looked back).

There was also an older internet protocol, used to scour FTP sites, called Archie, which I used once or twice before it went away. (IIRC, it was a web portal to Archie)

I thought that it was gone, but, to quote Humphrey Bogart, "I was misinformed." 

The folks at the YouTube channel "The Serial Port" found a copy and have put it back online.

It's amazing, and a little sad, to think that something created in 1989 that changed how people used and viewed the then-nascent Internet had nearly vanished by 2024.

Nearly, that is, because the dogged researchers and enthusiasts at The Serial Port channel on YouTube have found what is likely the last existing copy of Archie. Archie, first crafted by Alan Emtage while a student at McGill University in Montreal, Quebec, allowed for the searching of various "anonymous" FTP servers around what was then a very small web of universities, researchers, and government and military nodes. It was groundbreaking; it was the first echo of the "anything, anywhere" Internet to come. And when The Serial Port went looking, it very much did not exist.

………

The Serial Port team works dozens and dozens of resources to find a working copy of Archie's code, including the Internet Old Farts Club on Facebook. I won't give away the surprising source of their victory, but cheers (or na zdrowie) to the folks who keep old things running for everyone's knowledge.

Not only did The Serial Port rescue the last working version of Archie (seemingly a 3.5 beta), but they posted its docs and now run an actual Archie server on an emulated Sun SPARCstation 5. It's currently indexing its own mirror of the Hobbes archive, along with the FTP sites for FreeBSD, Adobe, and D Bit emulation. Searching for "word" in Archie found me a bunch of files, including the classic "Antiword" app and password managers and generators for OS/2.

I think that this is kind of cool, in a profoundly geeky way. 

Text based interface baby, that's hardcore.

He Played Assholes Better than Anyone

I am referring, of course, to Dabney Coleman, who has died at the age of 92.

Interestingly enough, all of the reports about his behavior as a human being were quite positive.

He managed to separate his acting asshole from his normal self, which is more difficult than one would imagine.  

For example, Andy Griffith said that he would never do a character like Larry "Lonesome" Rhodes in A Face in the Crowd because of the toll it inflicted on his family.

Even when Coleman played the most despicable characters, you could not help but smile.

17 May 2024

She is a Saint

I am referring, of course to Sharon*, who has not murdered me over the past 30 years,  though such as action would be completely justified.

Case in point, she asked me to print the chicken away in the refrigerator, and I said, "No."

When she asked why, I replied, "Because I already have."

That may just seem mildly annoying, but I have been doing this for 30 years.

This, and 30 years of, "Funny haha, or funny strange?" (She still had not answered that question) make violence against me, whether bullet, knife, or cast irond skillet entirely justified.

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

16 May 2024

Stopped Clock Moment by a 7:2 Vote

The Supreme Court has ruled that the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau's funding is constitutional

The Supreme Court on Thursday rejected a challenge to the constitutionality of the structure used to fund the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, the federal agency tasked with enforcing consumer finance laws. By a vote of 7-2, the justices reversed a decision by a federal appeals court in Louisiana, which had ruled that the agency’s funding violates the Constitution because it comes from the Federal Reserve rather than through the congressional appropriations process.

Justice Clarence Thomas wrote for the majority, in a decision that relied heavily on both the text of the Constitution and early English and U.S. history.

Justice Samuel Alito dissented, in an opinion joined by Justice Neil Gorsuch. He offered a dueling interpretation of history that he suggested, leads to the conclusion that the CFPB’s funding scheme “blatantly attempts to circumvent the Constitution.”

The case was one of several on the court’s docket this term involving the division of authority between the three branches of government, as well as the power of administrative agencies. It began as a challenge by two industry groups to a “payday lending” rule that the agency issued in 2017. A three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit rejected their argument that the rule violated the federal laws governing administrative agencies.
I rather do think that the fact it was the Federal Reserve funding the CFPB saved it.

I do not think that stripping the CFPB of funding would have put the funding mechanism for the Federal Reserve at risk, and that would have pissed off the conservative justices financier patrons.

It's Thursday ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

Initial unemployment claims fell by 10,000 to 222,000, still higher than the forecast of 220,000, while continuing claims rose by 13,000 to 1.794 million.

Initial applications for US unemployment benefits fell last week, after seasonal factors caused a significant increase in New York claims in the prior week.

Initial claims decreased by 10,000 to 222,000 in the week ended May 11, according to Labor Department data released Thursday. The median forecast in a Bloomberg survey of economists called for 220,000.

Claims in New York dropped after surging the previous week while New York City public schools were on spring break. Some workers such as bus drivers are allowed to apply for benefits during school breaks, which tends to make weekly data volatile during and after recess.

Continuing claims, a proxy for the number of people receiving unemployment benefits, rose to 1.79 million in the week ended May 4.

While still below trend, this does appear to be heading in the wrong way.

Gee, What a Shame

The Department of Justice has announced that Boeing has breached its 2021 deferred prosecution agreement regarding the 737 MAX debacle.

This means that the criminal prosecution of Boeing for fraud, criminally negligent homicide, etc. can proceed.

As a start, you can frog march Jack Welch disciple Dave Calhoun out of Boeing's headquarters in handcuffs:

The U.S. Justice Department said on Tuesday that Boeing Co, opens new tab had breached its obligations in a 2021 agreement that shielded the planemaker from criminal prosecution over fatal 737 MAX crashes in 2018 and 2019 that killed 346 people.

The Justice Department said in a court filing in Texas that the U.S. planemaker had failed to "design, implement, and enforce a compliance and ethics program to prevent and detect violations of the U.S. fraud laws throughout its operations."

Justice Department officials made the finding in the wake of a separate January in-flight blowout that exposed continuing safety and quality issues at Boeing. A panel blew off a new Boeing 737 MAX 9 jet during a Jan. 5 Alaska Airlines, opens new tab flight, just two days before the 2021 agreement shielding Boeing from prosecution over the previous fatal crashes expired.

The determination exposes Boeing to a potential criminal prosecution over the 2018 and 2019 crashes that could carry steep financial penalties and tougher oversight, deepening a corporate crisis and reputational damage stemming from the January blowout.

While Boeing is now subject to prosecution as a result of breaching the 2021 agreement, the Justice Department said in the court filing, officials will consider steps the planemaker has taken to address and remediate violation of the pact before determining how to proceed.

The Justice Department directed Boeing to respond by June 13 and intends to decide whether to prosecute Boeing by July 7, the filing said.

This needs to be approached like an organized crime prosecution, go after the low-level actors, and get them to flip on their superiors.

15 May 2024

B. Kliban Explains


 He was a genius who died too young.  Here is the link to the cartoon.

Whiplash


A Lesson from Mr. Baseball
So a few weeks ago, in response to Rebecca Tinucci, Tesla's head of "Supercharger" deployment having the temerity to disagree with him while being a woman regarding layoffs in her department, Elon Musk fired her and her whole department.

Now, Tesla is rehiring most of the staff, including the distressingly uppity Ms. Tinucci because charging infrastructure is about all that Tesla has to offer now:

Tesla may have gone overboard with its latest round of layoffs--and CEO Elon Musk is hitting reverse.

The electric vehicle-maker has begun rehiring some employees responsible for its Supercharger EV charging network after laying off almost all of the close to 500 employees on the team, including its head, Rebecca Tinucci. Bloomberg first reported that Max de Zegher, director of North American charging and one of the managers under Tinucci, was among those rehired. It isn't clear how many employees have been brought back.

If someone is going back to Tesla after that, I rather hope that they watch the attached clip of Uchiyama (Ken Takakura) and take a lesson from this.  ("It's gonna cost you, chief.)

Even after all of this, I expect the lickspittles on Tesla's board of directors to go ahead with his multi-billion dollar compensation package.

Why they continue to allow this drug-addled (more on that later) narcissist to continue running things when he is no longer even a PR asset is beyond stupid.

He is no longer useful.  Treat him like he treated his assistant, or his ex wife.

Headline of the Day

Maggie Haberman and The New York Times F%$#ucking Suck
Jeff Tiedrich

(%$# mine)



Mr. Tiedrich is referring to the revelation from the Trump false documents trial, that Haberman was knowingly reporting lies from then Trump fixer Michael Cohen as sincere denials.

It's one thing to be burned by a source, but another thing entirely when a source tells you, "Here is my lie for the day, print it,"  and you write the story of a denial as if you were not told that it was a lie

Money quote: (%$# mine, capitalization peculiarities Jeff's)

it’s been painfully obvious for a long time that Maggs has been in the tank for Donald Trump — but yesterday, during the Big Trump Falsified Document Campaign F%$#ery Trial, we got concrete proof.

check out this bullsh%$.

PEOPLE’S EXHIBIT 260 - TEXTS BETWEEN COHEN AND MAGGIE HABERMAN OF NYT (2/13/18)

HOFFINGER: Who is Maggie Haberman?
COHEN: She is a reporter for the New York Times.

FROM MC TO MH: Big boss just approved me responding to complaint and statement. Please start writing and I will call you soon
holy sh$#. there it is, in black and white — when Team Trump needed someone to put a happy face on whatever evil sh%$ they were up to, they went running to Maggie Haberman.

This is way worse than a beat sweetener, where a reporter flatters a source in order to cultivate them.

This ain't that.  This is, getting informed that Trump is directing the response from his people and allowing him to claim that it's all persiflage and he does not know where any of this comes from.

Linkage

Lewis Black on artificial intelligence:

14 May 2024

Seriously?

Greek politicians have their panties in a twist because North Macedonia’s new president left off the "North" part during her inauguration speech, because there is a province of the same name in Greece, and because Greeks have been coasting on their 2000 year old ties to Alexander the Great.

Seriously, getting your panties in a twist over this is silly.

The facts that the Greeks have had their panties in a twist over this for over 30 years is pathetic.

It's not about the non-existent territorial claims of Skopje to Greek territory.  It's about grasping at the tenuous connections to Alexander the Great, who's degree of Greekness is still a matter dispute.

Orcas 1: Yacht 0

It looks like killer whales around Gibraltar are still trying to sink boats.

An unknown number of orcas have sunk a yacht after ramming it in Moroccan waters in the strait of Gibraltar, Spain’s maritime rescue service has said, in the latest in a series of similar incidents involving the animals.

The vessel, Alboran Cognac, which measured 15 metres (49ft) in length and carried two people, encountered the highly social apex predators, also known as killer whales, at 9am local time on Sunday.

The passengers reported feeling sudden blows to the hull and rudder before the boat started taking on water. After alerting the rescue services, a nearby oil tanker took them onboard and transported them to Gibraltar. The yacht was left adrift and eventually sank.

The incident is the latest example of recurring orca rammings around the Gibraltar strait that separates Europe from Africa and off the Atlantic coast of Portugal and north-western Spain. Experts believe them to involve a subpopulation of about 15 individuals given the designation “Gladis”.

According to the research group GT Atlantic Orca, which tracks populations of the Iberian orca sub-species, there have been nearly 700 interactions since orca attacks on ships in the region were first reported in May 2020.

I don't think that it's a fad, or a game.

Someone really pissed the whales off.

Meanwhile in Georgia

The Parliament there has passed a law requiring disclosure of funding sources of foreign NGOs operating in the former Soviet republic on the Black Sea.

The supporters of the bill say that NGOs funded by foreign governments meddle in the politics and the elections of Georgia.

Opponents of the bill say that this is in direct contravention of one the core principals of the EU, and that it would make any bid for EU accession harder.

They are both telling the truth.

NGOs funded by Brussels and Washington are used to manipulate the internal politics and elections in many nations, both within and outside of the EU, and the use of these NGOs to meddle in the internal affairs of nations nations, (including EU members) is a core EU principal.

What the law says is that organizations receiving more than 20% of their funding from foreign nations must register and report these contributions.

It's a lot like §§611-621, Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA), which is the law of the land in the United States:

The Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA) was enacted in 1938. FARA requires certain agents of foreign principals who are engaged in political activities or other activities specified under the statute to make periodic public disclosure of their relationship with the foreign principal, as well as activities, receipts and disbursements in support of those activities.  Disclosure of the required information facilitates evaluation by the government and the American people of the activities of such persons in light of their function as foreign agents. The FARA Unit of the Counterintelligence and Export Control Section (CES) in the National Security Division (NSD) is responsible for the administration and enforcement of FARA.
I get that the Europeans, and the US government want to fund more color revolutions, but seriously, at least be honest about it.

バカにつける薬はない ⃰

So, I'm working on something, and lose track of time, and I don't realize it until 10 minutes before the polls closed, and I am 45 minutes from my polling location.

I am a f%$#ing idiot.

Definitely doing early voting for the general.

I deserve any opprobrium that my reader(s) heap upon me.

I have met the enemy, and he is me.

*It's Japanese for, "There is no medicine for stupidity."  (Feel free to correct my Japanese)

That Blowed Up Good

They explosively demolished the debris from on top of the MV Dali.

Let no explosion be unseen:

They should be moving the container ship to a berth in the harbor now.

Let me say, "Hello, Dali."

13 May 2024

A Canadian Crime Against Humanity

The business at (part of) hand, exploring a centuries old German sport in which two men attempt to pull each other across a table using only one finger each. It's not hard to get started, just consult the index.

As It Happens, the Monday edition, radio that guesses that everyone wins by single digits.

—Chris Howden, presenter for the CBC program As It Happens, describing the German sport of "Fingerhakeln".

This was so bad that I had to pull over to recover after hearing it on the radio.

Me. Howden is clearly an invertebrate punster.  Someone please slug him. 

Posted via mobile. 

12 May 2024

Headlines That I Do Not Expect from Teen Vogue

Police Unions: What to Know and Why They Don’t Belong in the Labor Movement

While I wholeheartedly endorse the sentiment, I am surprised by the venue:

Massive protests against police brutality, and in pursuit of justice for George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and all the other Black lives that have been lost to police violence, have flooded cities and towns in all 50 states, and calls to defund the police — or abolish the police altogether — have become a rallying cry. As members of the police brutalize protesters on-camera and their leaders defend their actions, police unions have also come under closer scrutiny from labor activists, rank-and-file union members, and others concerned about the power that these peculiar institutions maintain. These associations play a major part in upholding the evils of police brutality, racism, and white supremacy, yet they are often tucked into the background. It’s high time to shine a spotlight on cop unions.

Police unions have always been outliers among organized labor, and there are many reasons why the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) union has long refused to allow cops (and prison guards) into its organization. For one thing, no other union members hold the legal ability to straight-up kill another human being while on the job. If an ironworker bashed someone’s head onto the concrete, or a retail worker shot someone in the back as they were running away, or a graduate student worker ground their knee into someone’s neck until they stopped breathing, there would be consequences. Actually, police unions themselves used to be illegal, because local governments worried about the consequences of allowing armed state agents to organize. And historically speaking, the police have been no friend to workers, whether officers were shooting at the families of coal miners during the Battle of Blair Mountain, crushing the ribs of immigrant garment workers during the Uprising of the 20,000, or teargassing working-class protesters in Minneapolis after police killed George Floyd.

As author Kristian Williams explains in Our Enemies in Blue: Police and Power in America, police unions developed in relative isolation from the rest of the labor movement, and their reliance on institutional solidarity is vastly different from the class consciousness that powers the organizing of other workers. “The police are clearly part of the managerial machinery of capitalism,” Williams writes. “Their status as ‘workers’ is therefore problematic. Second, the agendas of police unions mostly reflect the interests of the institution (the police department) rather than those of the working class.”

This is a fairly complex concept that can be reduced to a single fairly simple phrases, "Jack booted thugs dedicated to supporting capital over labor."

One could amend the last bit to read, "Dedicated to supporting the rich over the poor," or "Dedicated to supporting the strong over the weak," or any similar formulations, but it's all pretty much covered by the first three words of the phrase.

Still the Bastard Child of J. Edgar Hoover

FBI Deputy Director Paul Abbate sent an email to employees saying that they should aggressively look for excuses to use warrantless surveillance against Americans because otherwise Congress might not think that they need this capability.

This is an admission that warrantless surveillance is basically useless, but, because it makes their job easier, they need to manufacture the appearance of utility:

A Federal Bureau of Investigation official recently urged employees to "look for ways" to conduct warrantless surveillance on US residents, an internal email obtained by Wired shows. FBI Deputy Director Paul Abbate's email was reportedly sent on April 20, the same day President Biden signed a bill that was criticized as a major expansion of warrantless surveillance under Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA).

Abbate's email seems to argue that FBI employees should make frequent use of warrantless surveillance on US people in order to justify the continued existence of the program. "To continue to demonstrate why tools like this are essential to our mission, we need to use them, while also holding ourselves accountable for doing so properly and in compliance with legal requirements," Abbate wrote, according to Wired.

Abbate oversees all FBI domestic and international investigative and intelligence activities. His email made reference to a new requirement that FBI personnel obtain prior approval from an FBI supervisor or attorney before making queries about US people.

"I urge everyone to continue to look for ways to appropriately use US person queries to advance the mission, with the added confidence that this new pre-approval requirement will help ensure that those queries are fully compliant with the law," Abbate wrote.

This is the civil liberties shredding equivalent of a bureaucracy racing to spend its budget by the end of the fiscal year.

It is morally bankrupt and deeply troubling.

Maybe You Can Bunk with Peter Navarro

Steve Bannon's conviction for Contempt of Congress has been upheld by the DC Court of Appeals, meaning that he, like former Trump aide Peter Navarro will have to report to jail.

I hope that his experience is unpleasant, though I would urge prison authorities to monitor him carefully for delirium tremens, which can be fatal in extreme cases: (Even in Bannon's case, prison should never be a death sentence)

Steve Bannon, the controversial hard-right strategist who has been influential in the thinking of Donald Trump, has lost his appeal against his conviction for contempt of Congress relating to the investigation into the January 6 insurrection.

A unanimous ruling from a three-judge panel of the District of Columbia circuit court of appeals upheld Bannon’s conviction on Friday. The decision brings him closer to a four-month sentence behind bars meted out to Bannon for having resisted the terms of Congress’s subpoena against him.

Steve Bannon, the controversial hard-right strategist who has been influential in the thinking of Donald Trump, has lost his appeal against his conviction for contempt of Congress relating to the investigation into the January 6 insurrection.

A unanimous ruling from a three-judge panel of the District of Columbia circuit court of appeals upheld Bannon’s conviction on Friday. The decision brings him closer to a four-month sentence behind bars meted out to Bannon for having resisted the terms of Congress’s subpoena against him.

He has one last hope left to avoid a prison term – he could appeal to the full bench of the circuit court. He has seven days to make the move.

Bannon, a former editor of the far-right news outlet Breitbart, was convicted of contempt charges at trial in July 2022, having been charged with two federal counts. He was accused of refusing to appear for a deposition and of refusing to provide documents to the committee in response to a subpoena.

He was sentenced later that year to four months in prison. The punishment was put on hold after Bannon appealed.

Bannon’s lawyers claimed in the appeal that he had not ignored the committee’s subpoena, but was following the advice of his lawyer and acting out of concern that he might violate executive privilege objections raised by Trump.

I really hope that his time in the slam is profoundly unpleasant.

I Wanted to Call Dad All Day

My mom died when I was a freshman in high school, and dad had to be both mom and dad to us after that.

After that we always did something for him on "Mutha's Day", and after I moved out, I would always call him today.

The last time I called him on Mother's Day was in 2017.

Bummer

Another cloudy night, which means that once again, despite the largest geomagnetic storm in over 20 years, I will be unable to see the northern lights.

I'll check Aurorasaurus when the weather is clear.

11 May 2024

Best Person in the GOP Running for Federal Office This Year

That would undoubtedly be Jennifer Pace, who just won the Republican nomination for the (very Democratic Party) IN-7 Congressional district on Tuesday.

She is the best Republican because she is dead, and hence the Republican least likely to rat-F%$# the American public.  She died 2 months ago:

On Tuesday, Republicans in Indiana nominated a woman who has been dead for two months to take on incumbent Democratic Rep. André Carson.

Public relations specialist Jennifer Pace won a crowded primary in the state's 7th congressional district with more than 31% of the vote, according to Decision Desk HQ. But according to several reports, Pace — who also ran for the seat in 2022 — died of a heart attack in early March.

………

It remains unclear who will actually be the GOP nominee in the Indianapolis-based House seat. Under state law, local precinct committee members meet to select a new nominee when the current nominee dies.

But it's also somewhat beside the point — Carson, who's served in the House since 2008, has won with more than 60% of the vote since 2016.

Some people say that I cannot say anything good about a Republican.

I said something good by this one.

Also, have a bit of misappropriated Monty Python:

She's not pining'! She's passed on! This Congressional candidate is no more! She has ceased to be! She's expired and gone to meet her maker!

She's a stiff! Bereft of life, she rests in peace! If you hadn't nailed her to the ballot she'd be pushing up the daisies!

'Er metabolic processes are now history! She's off the twig!

She's kicked the bucket, she's shuffled off her mortal coil, run down the curtain and joined the bleeding choir invisible!!

THIS IS AN EX-CONGRESSIONAL CANDIDATE!!

We Have Lost a Giant

Roger Corman is dead at age 98.

Known as the "King of the B's,"  for his prodigious output, both as a director and an independent producer, of many, "B Movies," low budget productions, such as Little Shop of Horrors, the original Death Race 2000, a string of movies based on the works of Edgar Allen Poe starring Vincent Price, and, of course as executive producer on Sharktopus.

He actually had an enormous impact on American cinema, handling US distribution for foreign films from Kurasawa, Truffaut, Bergman, and Fellini, and giving starts to major directors who studied at the, "School of Corman," such as Francis Ford Coppola, Martin Scorsese, Peter Bogdanovich, and James Cameron.

We All Win, for Once

The US Senate just passed the FAA re-authorization, and it now goes to the House.

What is notable about this is that despite the best efforts of airline lobbyists, the requirement for airlines to automatically refund tickets with real money for canceled flights remained in the bill.

Originally, the bill had language to roll back a USDOT order requiring airlines to refund flyers money automatically, but once Dave Sirota's The Lever web site started covering this issue, and other news media picked up the story, and the lawmakers in the airlines' pockets were forced to back down:

Today’s piece is about how airline lobbyists were soundly thrashed in a fight over whether and how to offer refunds for flights that are canceled. While you would think something so simple would have been fixed long ago, it turns out that airlines have been stiffing people, on the order of potentially tens of billions, for years. Finally, this week, they lost, and Congress, yes, the dysfunctional body everyone hates, passed a law mandating that airlines give automatic refunds when your flight is canceled and you aren’t rebooked.

But it’s how the airlines lost that matters, because their loss implies that it is in fact possible to govern. The dispute represents, in miniature, the broader rethink of regulating corporations in America going on right now. You won’t hear this kind of good news most places, because we’re so inured to imagining politics can’t work. But it can. And it just did.

………

The two new phrases that emerged in politics last year were “junk fee” and “enshittification.” Junk fee means an unfair or hidden charge tacked onto what you thought was the price, while enshittification is the experience of seeing pervasive financial incentives destroy a communications platform. That these are actual new words requiring additions to our language shows that these concepts are commonplace.

………


Leading the way on that front has been the airline industry, which has found innovative ways of charging fees and annoying customers since pricing was deregulated in the 1980s. It’s so bad that there’s a consulting firm in the industry called IdeaWorks - whose slogan is ‘Building Revenue Through Innovation’ - that sends out regular press releases cheering the amount of airline junk fees they help invent.

There are a couple of reasons airlines were leaders in irritating customers. First, there really is a lot airlines can’t control. They are careful about safety, they manage weather risk, and there are accidents. But also, deregulation was an extremely bad policy choice, and led to a situation where airline CEOs can treat customers poorly, and it doesn’t affect their competitive position or profits.

………

Covid, however, shook us out of our demoralized slumber. From 2020 to 2022, it was an exceptionally obnoxious time in the industry. During the height of Covid, Trump’s Secretary of Transportation, Elaine Chao, along with her deputy and former airline lawyer Stephen Bradbury, paved the way for a miserable flying experience by making it harder for the DOT to propose consumer protection rules. At the same time, Congress bailed out the airlines with a $54 billion aid package in the CARES Act because there were simply no passengers. This money was necessary, but also showed that these are public utilities that should have some sort of obligation to the public.

Airline executives, however, saw the situation differently. They proceeded to screw customers over Covid-era refunds, with thousands of people complaining to DOT that they weren’t given their legally required refunds. A few years later, airlines over-scheduled their flights, which caused a summer of hell in terms of delays and canceled flights. Finally, during Christmas of 2022, Southwest canceled thousands of flights due to a poorly structured IT system. Basically, in the post-Covid era, there were a lot of headlines like this:

………




………

And yet, the Covid-era bailout and refund fiasco still colors the political environment around the industry, a situation airlines have never made right. So last month, Buttigieg announced a new rule to fix the refund problem. Airlines are required to refund passenger money if they cancel a flight and don’t rebook you. But the thing is, they often just… don’t.

There are many reasons. Passengers don’t know how to request a refund, airlines will offer vouchers instead of cash, the payments get delayed until a passenger jumps through a bunch of hoops, and again, sometimes the airline just doesn’t issue refunds because they’d prefer to keep the money. Since you can’t sue an airline, there’s little anyone can do except complaint to the Department of Transportation.

How much money are we talking about here? The answer, as it turns out, is that we don’t know. In 2010, Ralph Nader tried to find out, and airlines refused to tell him. This year, the Lever examined investment documents, and found that just two airlines - Southwest Airlines and Delta - “suggested in financial statements that they were holding up to an estimated $2 billion and $6 billion each in unused flight credits, respectively.” Bob Sullivan at NBC argued that unused tickets are actually a big profit center for airlines.

………

Of course, we’re not talking about making non-refundable tickets versus refundable, but refunds when the airline cancels a flight or otherwise doesn’t deliver a service to the customer, after the customer paid for that service. Last month, Buttigieg finalized a rule proposed in 2022 that would fix this problem by mandating automatic refunds if a flight is canceled and you aren’t rebooked. It was a simple and elegant solution, since it takes the onus off the passenger and puts it onto the airline, which can implement automated systems. It’s also something that Allegiant Air already does, so it’s an industry practice, just not a widespread one.

………

Lobbyists at the industry’s trade association, Airlines for America, reacted strongly and angrily to the new rule, issuing a harsh rebuke of the Biden administration.

"Unnecessary regulatory rules issued without collaboration will lead to three things: confusion for consumers, reduction in choice and a decline in competition, which historically drives up prices," A4A said. "Very simply put, a one-size-fits-all approach is anticompetitive and anticonsumer."

What comes next is usually where such rules come to die. Corporate lobbyists have a number of tricks to thwart popular ideas. They typically don’t confront it directly, since it’s popular and politicians don’t like to openly thwart the will of voters, if they can help it. Instead, lobbyists go after these kinds of rules procedurally. Instead of straight repeal, they often try to cut funding to enforce a rule. Or they can make it procedurally difficult to take advantage of a consumer or worker right, in the name of ‘due process’ for a dominant corporation. Sometimes, they can sue in the courts. Or they can put forward a similar proposal that looks similar to the popular provision, but is different in point of fact. And that’s what they did here.

Every five years, the Federal Aviation Administration gets reauthorized, and this time, lobbyists got language into an underlying bill that would require passengers to request a refund, the goal being to undercut the convenience of the automatic refund rule. The lead Senators, Maria Cantwell and Ted Cruz, probably didn’t realize what had happened, as they did seek to do something useful for consumers, and the FAA reauthorization bill is sprawling and it’s easy to lose track of the details of every provision. But journalists Katya Schwenk and Freddy Brewster at the Lever reported on the bad language, and then Senator Elizabeth Warren tweeted out the problem.

As an aside here, I'm pretty sure that "Tailgunner" Ted knew that this provision was in there and was likely involved in putting in the language emasculating the requirement. 

………

The Lever’s coverage led to a CNBC appearance where Cruz, who is the highest ranking Republican on the relevant committee, was confronted with the language by anchor Andrew Ross Sorkin. Cruz sought to downplay disagreement, and argued that the automatic refund rule meant that passengers couldn’t be rebooked, which wasn’t correct.

Of course it wasn't true.  It was a Ted Cruz ratf%$#ing.

After this appearance, Senator Warren and Senator Josh Hawley put forward an amendment that would replace the lobbyist language with language putting the automatic refund rule in law. The Biden administration, as well as consumer advocates, lobbied for it, and Cantwell and Cruz put it in the base text.

Yesterday, the full FAA authorization bill passed the Senate, and will likely pass the House next week, after which it will be signed into law.

This outcome is better than just having a regulation for a number of reasons. First, if it were just a regulation based on broad DOT authority to ban unfair practices, the airlines would have likely sued and tried to overturn the rule. It may not have worked, but judges in Texas have all sorts of tools they use to block administrative actions to take on corporate power. Now it’s almost impossible to sue and win. Second, the new practice of automatic refunds cannot be retracted without Congressional action, which means a different administration can’t just decide to repeal it on a whim if the airline lobbyists are able to influence the Secretary of Transportation.

In other words, Airlines for America tried to use their clout in Congress to undercut a popular rule put forward by Pete Buttigieg, a rule designed to fix a problem they caused by screwing people during the pandemic after they got bailed out. But their plan backfired, because politicians, journalists, and policymakers were actually paying attention. So now instead of repealing a rule they don’t like, they got that rule written into law.

Another aside here, I think that Matt Stoller is giving Buttigeig WAY too much benefit of the doubt.  As was clear from the Southwest debacle, "Mayor Pete" will only do the right t5hing when public outrage makes doing nothing impossible.

The fact that the lobbyists did not win is heartening though.

10 May 2024

Pass the Popcorn

One of the things that the criminal enterprise formerly known as Facebook™ has been particularly aggressive about is utilities that allow users to adjust what they get from Facebook.

One case in point is a utility called "Unfollow Everything", which was withdrawn under the threat of a massive lawsuit from Mark Zuckerberg and his Evil Minions™.

Now, a professor at my alma mater has filed a lawsuit to establish that his program, called, "Unfollow Everything 2," is protected from lawsuits or criminal charges by Section 230 (c) (2) (b) of the Communications Decency Act, which explicitly states that there can be no civil or criminality for people who want to filter web content to remove objectionable material.

I hope that he wins, because we will start seeing utilities that unwind Facebook's toxic ecosystem:

A lawsuit filed Wednesday against Meta argues that US law requires the company to let people use unofficial add-ons to gain more control over their social feeds.

It’s the latest in a series of disputes in which the company has tussled with researchers and developers over tools that give users extra privacy options or that collect research data. It could clear the way for researchers to release add-ons that aid research into how the algorithms on social platforms affect their users, and it could give people more control over the algorithms that shape their lives.

The suit was filed by the Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University on behalf of researcher Ethan Zuckerman, an associate professor at the University of Massachusetts—Amherst. It attempts to take a federal law that has generally shielded social networks and use it as a tool forcing transparency.

Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act is best known for allowing social media companies to evade legal liability for content on their platforms. Zuckerman’s suit argues that one of its subsections gives users the right to control how they access the internet, and the tools they use to do so.

“Section 230 (c) (2) (b) is quite explicit about libraries, parents, and others having the ability to control obscene or other unwanted content on the internet,” says Zuckerman. “I actually think that anticipates having control over a social network like Facebook, having this ability to sort of say, ‘We want to be able to opt out of the algorithm.’”

Zuckerman’s suit is aimed at preventing Facebook from blocking a new browser extension for Facebook that he is working on called Unfollow Everything 2.0. It would allow users to easily “unfollow” friends, groups, and pages on the service, meaning that updates from them no longer appear in the user’s newsfeed.

………

There’s good reason to think Meta might make changes to Facebook to block Zuckerman’s tool after it is released. He says he won’t launch it without a ruling on his suit. In 2020, the company argued that the browser Friendly, which had let users search and reorder their Facebook news feeds as well as block ads and trackers, violated its terms of service and the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act. In 2021, Meta permanently banned Louis Barclay, a British developer who had created a tool called Unfollow Everything, which Zuckerman’s add-on is named after.

“I still remember the feeling of unfollowing everything for the first time. It was near-miraculous. I had lost nothing, since I could still see my favorite friends and groups by going to them directly,” Barclay wrote for Slate at the time. “But I had gained a staggering amount of control. I was no longer tempted to scroll down an infinite feed of content. The time I spent on Facebook decreased dramatically.”

The CDA, both in its text, and in Congressional debate about its provisions was very explicit in allowing the use of filtering tools that a user, or an institution such as a school or library, to filter objectionable material.

This lawsuit won't prevent Facebook from banning apps like this, and banning users of apps like this, but should this lawsuit succeed the developers would be able to operate without the threat of legal action.

Elections Have Consequences

The FCC has issued its rules on net neutrality, and it shuts down a 5G technology called, "Network Slicing," which some carriers were looking as a back door into creating for pay fast lanes.

That's a nice development:

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has released the final text of its net neutrality order, adding changes that appear to rule out so-called "fast lanes" for applications that some advocates feared would undermine it.

America's telecoms regulator voted last month to adopt an order to reinstate net neutrality rules overturned by the Trump administration. These reclassify internet access as a "common carrier" service under Title II of the Telecommunications Act, requiring service providers to treat all traffic equally.

Yet there had been concerns raised that new technology introduced with 5G networks would allow the creation of what had been labelled "fast lanes" for some applications, for which the carrier would be able to charge a premium.

In other words, while telcos would be banned from throttling user connections, they might achieve the same effect by offering a paid-for boost instead.


The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) made exactly this point following the FCC's release of the draft rules.

………

The final version of the order now contains text that says: "We clarify that a BIAS (Broadband Internet Access Service) provider's decision to speed up 'on the basis of Internet content, applications, or services' would 'impair or degrade' other content, applications, or services which are not given the same treatment."

The technology that sparked those concerns is network slicing, a feature of 5G enabled with the rollout of full 5G Standalone (5G SA) networks. This can be likened to virtualization for networks, allowing multiple logical networks, each with different characteristics, to operate over the same infrastructure.

Once again, good policy and good politics.

This is Quite Frankly, Nuts.

Haaretz has a long article in which their reporter interviews his Gaza sources who have managed to escape the carnage and get to Egypt.

Needless to say, these are people who are, or were, privileged by the standards of Gaza, and as such they were heavily tied in tothe goings on of the government in Gaza.  (Quite a few of them were members of Fatah)

The article is a fairly long read, and the shocking headline, "Hamas Actually Believed It Would Conquer Israel. In Preparation, It Divided the Country Into Cantons," is ⅔ of the way down.

I had always figured that Hamas was motivated by producing responses from the Israeli government that would end up harming themselves more than the Islamist group, but it appears that the leadership in Gaza are delusional in addition to their other unpleasant characteristics:

………

He
[Sufyan Abu Zaydeh] met with [Hamas Gaza chief] Sinwar on many occasions. Their talks, he says, dealt mainly with the economic aid, consisting of funds from the United Arab Emirates, that Dahlan – who himself went into exile in Abu Dhabi in 2011, where he became close to the ruler, Mohammed bin Zayed al Nahyan – sent to the inhabitants of Gaza, principally for projects in the Jabalya and Khan Yunis refugee camps. "We founded many projects and awarded study scholarships totaling millions of dollars to young people," Abu Zaydeh says. "Hamas had a vested interest in this, because in practice we made things easier for them. That's the reason they didn't harass us."

………

I asked Abu Zaydeh whether he had ever thought that Hamas was capable of perpetrating horrors like those of October 7. "If you had asked me," he replied, "I would have answered like any Israeli intelligence officer: It's inconceivable that this is what they're planning. I would not have believed that they would not take into account what would happen to them on the day after."

He adds, "There were many statements by Hamas before October 7, and we in Fatah would laugh. For example, someone from Hamas wrote on Facebook: 'Remember, in another few months the al-Qassam men will get to Ashkelon, enter the jail and free all the prisoners.' That was the atmosphere. It was hard for us to grasp that they believed that with 3,000, 5,000 or even 10,000 armed militants they would conquer Israel. That's insane. But when you believe that God is sending you to do his bidding, there's no one to argue with. The signs were out there the whole time."

Indeed, Abu Zaydeh is well aware that for the past two years the Hamas leadership had been talking about implementing "the last promise" (alwaed al'akhir) – a divine promise regarding the end of days, when all human beings will accept Islam. Sinwar and his circle ascribed an extreme and literal meaning to the notion of "the promise," a belief that pervaded all their messages: in speeches, sermons, lectures in schools and universities. The cardinal theme was the implementation of the last promise, which included the forced conversion of all heretics to Islam, or their killing.

In a militant speech Sinwar delivered in 2021, after the IDF's Guardian of the Walls operation in Gaza, he made it clear that he was preparing for a broad war. "We stand before an open confrontation with the enemy, who is stubbornly insisting on transforming the battle into a religious war," he screamed into the microphone. "We must be ready to defend Al-Aqsa. Our whole nation needs to be ready to march in a 'raging flood' in order to uproot this occupation from our land."

But outside the hard core of the Hamas leadership, talk of an apocalyptic showdown was considered no more than a pipe dream in Gaza, nonsensical prattle that was intended to serve the PR purposes of Sinwar and his group, in order to divert public discussion away from the distress of Gazans. The group's madness was apparent to many. In fact, anyone who watched the Hamas television channel, heard Sinwar's speeches or followed his colleagues on Twitter, could have understood that a process was underway in Gaza of preparing people for a large-scale military operation. Yet only a few realized that these were not just fantasies, but a concrete ambition that would be translated into a concrete plan.

………

Iyad
[a pseudonym] is well acquainted with Hamas and its leadership, and they with him. A few years ago, during a meeting with Sinwar, the latter crowed about Hamas' achievements and showed him and a few others their vast tunnels project in Gaza. "He said they had invested $250 million in order to put Gaza under the ground," Iyad relates. "I told him he was crazy."

Already then, he says, he knew that Hamas had gone off the deep end. When they started talking about "the last promise," he too didn't think it was serious. But in 2021, his opinion changed. By then Iyad realized that this wasn't some off-the-wall idea propounded by a coterie of "wild weeds," but that the entire leadership had been taken captive by the Sinwar group's deranged idea of an all-out battle. They had an orderly plan and they believed they were fulfilling a divinely ordained mission.

"So strongly did they believe in the idea that Allah was with them, and that they were going to bring Israel down, that they started dividing Israel into cantons, for the day after the conquest."

Iyad describes an astonishing event, which demonstrates the scale of the madness in Hamas. "One day, a well-known Hamas figure calls and tells me with pride and joy that they are preparing a full list of committee heads for the cantons that will be created in Palestine. He offers me the chairmanship of the Zarnuqa committee, where my family lived before 1948."

The Arab village of Zarnuqa lay about 10 kilometers southwest of Ramle; today the Kiryat Moshe neighborhood of Rehovot stands on its land. Iyad was being informed that he would lead the group that would be in charge of rehabilitating the Ramle-Rehovot area on the day after the realization of "the last promise."

Iyad says he was flabbergasted. "You're out of your minds," he told the Hamas person, and asked him not to call him again.

Iyad's account may sound wacky, but it will not surprise those who know what went on in "The Promise of the Hereafter Conference," which was held on September 30, 2021, a few months after the end of Operation Guardian of the Walls. The event, which was held in the Commodore Hotel on the Gaza seashore, discussed in great detail the deployment ahead of the future management of the State of Palestine, following its "liberation" from Israel.

The conference was funded by Hamas and organized by the organization's Kanaan Obeid. Obeid, who is not a member of the military wing and seems to be a bland, unthreatening administrator, is considered the progenitor of the idea that prepared the hearts of the Hamas leaders and the residents of Gaza for the "Judgment Day" takeover of Israel. He is currently imprisoned in Israel, having been captured as he tried to flee to the south of the Gaza Strip.

Kanaan Obeid at "The Promise of the Hereafter" conference. "We have a registry of the numbers of Israeli apartments and institutions ... and we have no choice but to get ready to manage them," Obeid told the conference.

In a written speech that Sinwar sent to the conference, the organization's leader hinted that the campaign for the complete conquest of "the state of the Zionists" was "closer now than ever before." He averred that "victory is nigh" and that the "full liberation of Palestine from the sea to the river" is "the heart of Hamas' strategic vision… To this end, we are working hard and making many efforts on the ground and deep below it, in the heart of the sea, and in the heights of the heavens... We [can already] see with our eyes the [imminent] liberation and therefore we are preparing for what will come after it..."

………

So detailed were the plans that participants in the conference began to draw up list of all the properties in Israel and appointed representatives to deal with the assets that would be seized by Hamas. "We have a registry of the numbers of Israeli apartments and institutions, educational institutions and schools, gas stations, power stations and sewage systems, and we have no choice but to get ready to manage them," Obeid told the conference.

………

More specifically, the issue of a brain drain was discussed. "Educated Jews and experts in the areas of medicine, engineering, technology and civilian and military industry should be retained [in Palestine] for some time and should not be allowed to leave and take with them the knowledge and experience that they acquired while living in our land and enjoying its bounty, while we paid the price for all this in humiliation, poverty, sickness, deprivation, killing and arrests," the conference's concluding statement asserted.

The participants discussed the establishment of political apparatuses and decided that, "An announcement will be addressed to the United Nations declaring that the State of Palestine has succeeded the occupation state and will enjoy the rights of the occupation state." They also assumed that the new state would inherit the border agreements with Egypt and Jordan, "as well as the economic zone delimitation agreements with Greece in the eastern Mediterranean, the passage and shipping rights in the Gulf of Aqaba, etc." Because the shekel's value was likely to be reduced to "zero," they would recommend to Palestinians that they to convert all their savings "into gold, dollars or dinars."

………

Because of this, the
[Unnamed Fatah] senior figure says, he was not in the least surprised by Hamas' attack last October. "I knew where it was going, once Sinwar seized power and removed all his opponents," he says. "If you're talking about a blunder, the release of Sinwar from prison in Israel [in 2011] is the forefather of your blunder. You [in Israel] talk about Hamas all the time, and don't understand that it's Sinwar. As long as he's breathing, he manages things, and he is an insane fanatic." He notes that while Sinwar was "in prison in Israel, he only became more extreme, to the point where he believes truly and sincerely that he is 'the helper of the prophet Mohammed.'"

(emphasis mine)

While the existence of leaders with a screw loose has much historical precedent, Stalin's paranoia and brutality, Mao's messianic view of himself, Pol Pot, King George III, and (of course) the every single one of the Hapsburgs, having someone actually in charge, as opposed to being a figurehead, with this level of delusion is profoundly concerning.

I'm not sure how one can negotiate with him or his acolytes.

09 May 2024

Where I Want to Go on Vacation

Yoshida Village, Shimane Prefecture, Japan.

They have a vacation package where you spend a couple of days smelt steel, specifically tamahagane, the steel that is traditionally used in their swords.

I also want to hit Sri Lankha to participate in a wind driven "monsoon" furnaces recreation.

I am the dullest man on the face of the earth.

Headline of the Day

Cybertruck Deliveries Halted Due To Car Being A Big Piece Of Sh%$ That Doesn't Work 

Defector (%$ mine)

This about the latest debacle from the Apartheid Era Emerald Heir Pedo Guy™, where they had to halt shipments and physically recall the vehicles, because the accellerator pedal cover kept coming off and wedging the "Throttle" to the full position.

Seriously, for a guy who claims that he, "Know(s) more about manufacturing than anyone currently alive on earth," this seems to be mindbogglingly stupid.

Fly Airbus

Yet another Boeing whistle blower, this one still alive, has alleged that he was pressured to ignore safety.

We need to start arresting senior managers:

Plane bodies made by Boeing's largest supplier regularly left the factory with serious defects, according to a former quality inspector at the firm.

Santiago Paredes who worked for Spirit AeroSystems in Kansas, told the BBC he often found up to 200 defects on parts being readied for shipping to Boeing.

He was nicknamed "showstopper" for slowing down production when he tried to tackle his concerns, he claimed.

………

He was accustomed to finding "anywhere from 50 to 100, 200" defects on fuselages - the main body of the plane - that were due to be shipped to Boeing, he said.

"I was finding a lot of missing fasteners, a lot of bent parts, sometimes even missing parts."

Like bolts on door plugs, I guess.

Support Your Local Police

It appears that the New York Police Department has decided that it has issues with police officers "Juicing", i.e. abusing anabolic steroids.

The mayor, a former police officer who generally takes the cops side on everything, and the chief of police, have decided to tighten the regulations, requiring that in addition to a prescription from their personal doctor, which has been a part of the contract for over a decade, they now have to provide the medical information to the NYPD's Office of the Supervising Chief Surgeon.

I guess that there was widespread use of various pill mills by officers, but the Police Benevolent Association doesn't care, so they sued to preserve their right to induce psychotic rages and cancer.

New York City’s largest cop union is suing Police Commissioner Edward Caban and Mayor Adams for implementing a new “zero tolerance” policy on NYPD officers using steroids or other performance-enhancing drugs, the Daily News has learned.

In a lawsuit filed in Manhattan Supreme Court on Friday, lawyers for the Police Benevolent Association alleged the previously undisclosed policy flies in the face of a legal agreement the union entered into with the city in 2011.

The 2011 contract prohibited officers from ingesting or possessing any anabolic steroid or other forms of human growth hormones without a medical prescription. However, the old standard didn’t require officers to run any such prescription by their NYPD district surgeon before starting to use it.

The new protocol — which was enacted on Dec. 26, 2023, and described in an internal memo reviewed by The News as a “zero tolerance drug policy” — beefs up the old rule by affirming that officers must “immediately notify their district surgeon” of any steroid prescription they receive and provide “all supporting medical documentation” to the surgeon backing up the need for the drug.

………

The PBA’s lawsuit alleges the new protocol is illegal because it “unilaterally” revokes the 2011 standard without bargaining. The union says it is not challenging the prohibition on illegal steroid use.

No, they just want to make sure that any cop can go to a "Dr. Feelgood" who would write a prescription scrip on a roll of toilet paper.

Yes, steroid abusing cops is a good thing according to the PBA.

Adding to the List

I am referring, of course to my list of "They Who Must Not Be Named."

This list is for entities who I have decided are simply never going to be worth my comment on them.

For the first time, I have added a non-human entity to the list, and rather surprisingly it has no ties to artificial intelligence.

I have added RFK Jr.'s brain worm to my list, though I might continue to discuss the worm as a world health issue, as it appears to be a rather common condition.  (Best guess at this is that it is a form of tapeworm, and this is a fairly common condition in the tropics called Taeniasis which effects millions)

I will continue to comment on the various inanities and insanities of the both his Presidential campaign and his other endeavors, such as his antivaxx advocacy, but the worm I see as little more than a justification for a profoundly lazy joke at his expense.

If I am going to make a joke about RFK Jr. it won't involve the above, it will probably be nastier, and more difficult, though I will do my best not to make a joke involving Sirhan Sirhan.

08 May 2024

Speaking of Carbon Capture

It appears that that the impact of tree planting as a carbon capture technique has been grossly overstated.

Not a surprise:

Reforestation efforts to restock depleted forests are important for addressing climate change and for both capturing and restoring carbon from the Earth’s atmosphere. These types of solutions to mitigate carbon emissions are critical after 2023 proved to be the warmest year on record. However, some models have been found to be inaccurate.

New research from Michigan State University has found the carbon removal potential of some reforestation models have been over exaggerated — and not by a small factor — but by as many as three times of a factor. The goal set by the Paris Agreement in 2015 for countries to limit their global warming to 1.5 degrees is now close to being surpassed.

Runsheng Yin is a professor in the Department of Forestry in the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources, where he specializes in the evaluation of ecosystem services, ecological restoration and general natural resource economics and policy. Yin has published new research identifying that carbon-capture models have not factored in what happens to the timber after trees are logged.

“The climate crisis is heightening, with 2023 representing the warmest year on record,” Yin said. “Nature-based solutions have an important role to play in helping us stem the worst impacts of climate change — but rigorously assessed methods to reliably offset and reduce greenhouse gas emissions could not be more urgent. As the practice becomes increasingly monetized, it is crucial that the accounting is done accurately.”

Dr. Yin, as the practice becomes increasingly monetized, the incentives for fraud and deception increase.

Expecting a market solution to anthropogenic climate change is a mirage.

Well Deserved Award

ProPublica has been awarded a public service Pulitzer for its expose of rampant corruption at the Supreme Court.

It does appear though that unlike Thomas Nast taking down Boss Tweed, nothing is coming of this:

ProPublica won the prestigious public service Pulitzer Prize for what the judges described as “groundbreaking and ambitious reporting that pierced the thick wall of secrecy surrounding the Supreme Court to reveal how a small group of politically influential billionaires wooed justices with lavish gifts and travel, pushing the Court to adopt its first code of conduct.” The prize is given to the staff of a news organization that performed “meritorious public service.” It is the seventh Pulitzer Prize for ProPublica.

The Pulitzer Board also recognized a collaboration between The Texas Tribune, ProPublica and FRONTLINE as a finalist in the explanatory reporting category. The investigation provided a detailed analysis of the deeply flawed law enforcement response to the mass shooting at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas. The designation is ProPublica’s 17th Pulitzer finalist in 16 years.

ProPublica’s “Friends of the Court” series uncovered the biggest ethics scandal to hit the Supreme Court in the modern era. Reporters Justin Elliott, Joshua Kaplan, Alex Mierjeski, Brett Murphy and Kirsten Berg pierced decades of judicial secrecy and uncovered major gifts to justices from a small set of politically influential donors.

The series began a national conversation about ethics and judicial reform of the Supreme Court. In response to ProPublica’s reporting, the court announced in November that it had unanimously adopted the first ethics code in its 234-year history. Justice Clarence Thomas for the first time acknowledged that he should have reported selling real estate to billionaire Harlan Crow in 2014, writing in his annual financial disclosure form that he “inadvertently failed to realize” that the deal needed to be disclosed. Thomas also disclosed receiving three private jet trips from Crow, two of which ProPublica had already reported. The Senate Judiciary Committee voted to authorize subpoenas of Crow and conservative legal activist Leonard Leo as part of its ongoing effort to investigate ethics lapses by justices. 

A bit of a bone to pick here:  What is happening at the Supreme Court is not, "Ethical lapses," it is blatant and rampant corruption.