31 December 2013

Wishing You a ………

Hippo Gnu Yarrr!!!!
Happy new year, everyone.

Deep Thought

It's New Years, and I decided to check out Rye.  (Jim Beam)


Next year, I'll do Scotch.

2014 is Coming, and US Broadband Still Sucks Wet Farts From Dead Pigeons

Yes, our, "market based solution," continues to overprice and under perform:
San Antonio is the seventh-largest city in the United States, a progressive and economically vibrant metropolis of 1.4 million people sprawled across south-central Texas. But the speed of its Internet service is no match for the Latvian capital, Riga, a city of 700,000 on the Baltic Sea.

Riga’s average Internet speed is at least two-and-a-half times that of San Antonio’s, according to Ookla, a research firm that measures broadband speeds around the globe. In other words, downloading a two-hour high-definition movie takes, on average, 35 minutes in San Antonio — and 13 in Riga.

And the cost of Riga’s service is about one-fourth that of San Antonio.

The United States, the country that invented the Internet, is falling dangerously behind in offering high-speed, affordable broadband service to businesses and consumers, according to technology experts and an array of recent studies.

In terms of Internet speed and cost, “ours seems completely out of whack with what we see in the rest of the world,” said Susan Crawford, a law professor at Yeshiva University in Manhattan, a former Obama administration technology adviser and a leading critic of American broadband.
The problem is the market based solutions.  It's more profitable to create and extract monopoly rants than it is to provide better and cheaper service, so they do that.

It's economics 101.

The free market mousketeers screw us again.

Your New Yearsn Buyllsh%$ Debunking

You may have received an email describing Silver pockets full that goes something like this:
August, next year, will have 5 Fridays, 5 Saturdays and 5 Sundays. This happens only once every 823 years. The Chinese call it 'Silver pockets full. " So: send this message to your friends and in four days money will surprise you. Based on Chinese Feng Shui. Whoever does not transmit the message ... may find themselves poor.
It's crap.

This is August 2014:
This is August 2025:
Any questions?

In Related News, Butterflies are Going to Fly Our of My Ass

We are now starting to see reports that Obama is planning to reign in the intelligence agencies:
Before he left for Hawaii, the president was sending signals that government surveillance programs need an overhaul to restore the public’s faith on issues of national security.

Before President Obama left for his 17-day vacation in Hawaii, White House officials made it clear that his holiday reading would consist of a lot more than beach novels to escape the stresses of Washington. He’d also be studying a 300-page report on how to rein in the government’s controversial surveillance programs that had just been delivered to him by a high-level panel of experts.

Sure, Obama has gotten in plenty of rounds of golf with his presidential posse, as well as impromptu trips to shave ice joints and leisurely strolls along the islands’ stunning beaches with his family. But weighing on him throughout the winter getaway has been one of the most consequential national security decisions of his presidency: whether to adopt a set of recommendations that would represent the most dramatic curbing of the intelligence community’s eavesdropping powers since the Vietnam War.


Still, behind the scenes, Obama's counterterrorism polices have continued to tug at his conscience. He has prodded his aides to re-address unfulfilled promises and occasionally chastised himself for not acting more in accordance with his personal convictions. His recent vow to “go back at” closing Guantanamo has led to the most sustained progress toward closing the detention facility since the first year of his presidency.
This, "If only the Czar knew," bullsh%$ is precisely that, 10 pounds of sh%$ in a 5 pound bag.

Obama has been consistent on these issues, he has moved to expand powers for the executive, on the theory that because he is a good guy, there is nothing to worry about.

It is why I call him the, "Worst Constitutional Law Professor ever".

It's Bank Failure New Years

24 bank failures, 13 credit union failures.

The only question is how much of this is an artifact of reducing stresses on banks, and how much is an artifact of consolidation in the bank industry, which reduces the number of bank that can fail.

30 December 2013

People Who Make the World a Better Place By Leaving It

Harold Simmons, age 82, who funded, among other things, the despicable "Swift Boating" of John Kerry.

Clearly, Answer is More Money to the NSA Contractors for Cyberdefense

Did you hear about the attack on a power plant in California?

No, it was not a cyber attack, it was guys with guns:
When U.S. officials warn about "attacks" on electric power facilities these days, the first thing that comes to mind is probably a computer hacker trying to shut the lights off in a city with malware. But a more traditional attack on a power station in California has U.S. officials puzzled and worried about the physical security of the the electrical grid--from attackers who come in with guns blazing.

Around 1:00 AM on April 16, at least one individual (possibly two) entered two different manholes at the PG&E Metcalf power substation, southeast of San Jose, and cut fiber cables in the area around the substation. That knocked out some local 911 services, landline service to the substation, and cell phone service in the area, a senior U.S. intelligence official told Foreign Policy. The intruder(s) then fired more than 100 rounds from what two officials described as a high-powered rifle at several transformers in the facility. Ten transformers were damaged in one area of the facility, and three transformer banks -- or groups of transformers -- were hit in another, according to a PG&E spokesman.


"These were not amateurs taking potshots," Mark Johnson, a former vice president for transmission operations at PG&E, said last month at a conference on grid security held in Philadelphia. "My personal view is that this was a dress rehearsal" for future attacks.
I am inclined to agree with Mr. Johnson.

We've spent billions on cyber defense for an attack on the grid which has never occurred, anywhere in the world, but physical attacks on power stations by insurgents have been occurring since power plants first existed.

Of course, it's not the current business model for the for-profit portion of out state security apparatus, so not a whole bunch of money there.

Better Than Bullets

François Holland has gotten court approval for a 75% tax on €1 million:
French President Francois Hollande received approval from the country’s constitutional court to proceed with his plan to tax salaries above 1 million euros at 75 percent for this year and next.

Under Hollande’s proposal, companies will have to pay a 50 percent duty on wages above 1 million euros ($1.4 million). In combination with other taxes and social charges, the rate will amount to 75 percent of salaries above the threshold, the court wrote in a decision published today.

“The companies that pay out remuneration above 1 million euros will, as expected, be called upon for an effort of solidarity on remuneration paid in 2013 and 2014,” the Economy Ministry said in an e-mailed statement.


A first proposal to put the change into law was turned down by the constitutional court in December last year because the tax applied to individuals and not households. The country’s top administrative court said any rate above 66 percent would be rejected as confiscatory.

Hollande revived the plan this year, making it apply to salaries and be paid by employers rather than individuals. The total amount is limited to 5 percent of a company’s revenue.
I'm not sure if "company's revenue" means total revenue (turnover) or profit (net revenue).

Hopefully the former.

€1 million is about $1.3 million, and I'm fine with that.  It's a sin tax, like those on alcohol, tobacco, marijuana, (in Colorado) and gambling.

If there is anything that the financial crisis shows, it is that excessive compensation is at least as corrosive as society as anything mentioned above.

Not Enough Bullets

Image from Because Finance is Boring
If you look at direct and indirect subsidies to the big banks, it appears that taxpayers are paying for the Bankster's bonuses:
Earlier this year, Bloomberg calculated that the top 10 U.S. banks receive a $83 billion a year in subsidies from the government, due to their cheap cost of funding & the preferential treatment creditors give them because they assume the government sees them as TBTF.

In November, a NYT analysis of a Johnson Associates survey found that the top eight U.S. banks set aside $91.44 billion for bonuses in 2013.
Note that this does not include other subsides (hello, Federal Reserve, etc.)

To paraphrase Samuel L. Jackson, I'm sick of these motherf%$#ing bonuses in this motherf%$#ing economy.

H/t Crooks & Liars.

Deep Thought

https://blogger.googleusercontent.com/img/b/R29vZ2xl/AVvXsEguGBWQ5vjCE0MtnkmZ-HwB_1wZalLEIty_ghk3i5Vx9_joVlAQmP40nlsYmGYyGTPPdMX0d5qf7pQMyvAKAz_HbF3eFwClEfu51Mqn_jCU-vmusOyIDZ_7WzKWXrbSxEVc2qYeiPz4lpA/s1600/fbthx.pngPlease share widely to places on the internet where stupid people congregate, and put the reaction in the comments.

For the tinfoil hat sites, say that it is an NSA mandated software upgrade.

29 December 2013

Another Whiskey Tango Foxtrot Moment from the NSA

In this case, it is reports that the, "NSA diverted computers and laptops from shipping facilities to install spyware."

Seriously, how does this not constitute an unreasonable search and seizure?
Der Spiegel reported on Sunday that the NSA’s “Tailored Access Operations” (TAO) has been diverting desktops and laptops shipped to U.S. consumers and installing spyware on them.

According to the report, the process, which TAO calls “interdiction,” involves intercepting packages on their way from manufacturers like Dell, Cisco, and Seagate, and installing bugs or spyware on them at a “secret workshop.”

The packages are then reintroduced into the delivery pipeline and arrive at their destination without the consumer ever realizing their machine has been compromised.
Our state security apparatus is completely out of control.

Benghazi!!! Benghazi!!! Benghazi!!!

The New York Times has just finished a nearly year-long investigation of the attach on the consulate in Benghazi, and found, "No evidence that Al Qaeda or other international terrorist groups had any role in the assault."

Months of months of faux-Republican outrage, all for nothing:
Months of investigation by The New York Times, centered on extensive interviews with Libyans in Benghazi who had direct knowledge of the attack there and its context, turned up no evidence that Al Qaeda or other international terrorist groups had any role in the assault. The attack was led, instead, by fighters who had benefited directly from NATO’s extensive air power and logistics support during the uprising against Colonel Qaddafi. And contrary to claims by some members of Congress, it was fueled in large part by anger at an American-made video denigrating Islam.

A fuller accounting of the attacks suggests lessons for the United States that go well beyond Libya. It shows the risks of expecting American aid in a time of desperation to buy durable loyalty, and the difficulty of discerning friends from allies of convenience in a culture shaped by decades of anti-Western sentiment. Both are challenges now hanging over the American involvement in Syria’s civil conflict.

The attack also suggests that, as the threats from local militants around the region have multiplied, an intensive focus on combating Al Qaeda may distract from safeguarding American interests.
Additionally, it appears that concerns about supporting US private investing in Libya led the State Department to soft pedal security concerns:
The diplomat, David McFarland, a former congressional aide who had never before met with a Libyan militia leader, left feeling agitated, according to colleagues. But the meeting did not shake his faith in the prospects for deeper involvement in Libya. Two days later, he summarized the meeting in a cable to Washington, describing a mixed message from the militia leaders.

Despite “growing problems with security,” he wrote, the fighters wanted the United States to become more engaged “by ‘pressuring’ American businesses to invest in Benghazi.”
Of course, the militiamen were naive. The US does not pressure American businesses to invest, they pressure the locals to give sweetheart deals to American businessmen, but the theory is similar.

Perhaps the State Department should reorient its priorities.

And in New York, a Court Ruling from the Pants-Wetting Coward Community

Following the ruling by District Judge Richard Leon in Washington stating that the NSA domestic spying program was illegal, in the New York District, District Judge William H. Pauley III ruled that the program was legal:
A federal judge in New York ruled Friday that the massive collection of domestic telephone data brought to light by former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden is lawful, rejecting a challenge to the program by the American Civil Liberties Union.

The decision marked a victory for the government less than two weeks after a District Court judge ruled against it, finding that the NSA’s program was almost certainly unconstitutional. If the split in rulings continues through the appeals process, it is likely the Supreme Court will have to decide the issue.

In a 53-page opinion, U.S. District Judge William H. Pauley III said Friday that the program, which collects virtually all Americans’ phone records, represents the U.S. government’s “counter-punch” to eliminate the al-Qaeda terrorist network and does not violate the Fourth Amendment, which prohibits unreasonable search and seizure.

Pauley endorsed the assertion made by government officials that if the United States had the phone data collection program before 2001, they might have had a better chance at preventing the Sept. 11 attacks.

“The government learned from its mistake and adapted to confront a new enemy: a terror network capable of orchestrating attacks across the world,” Pauley wrote. “It launched a number of counter-measures, including a bulk telephony metadata collection program — a wide net that could find and isolate gossamer contacts among suspected terrorists in an ocean of seemingly disconnected data.”

He added: “This blunt tool only works because it collects everything.”
Yes, this ruling is as cowardly and delusional as it sounds. As Charlie Pierce observes, "It cannot be easy issuing an important ruling while hiding under your bed."

I would also note that this ruling does not appear to address any real constitutional issues, and it relies on facts not in evidence.  (The judge implies that the program has produced intelligence successes, when it has not.)

The Washington Post's technology reporter has called the ruling, "Kafkaesque."

It should also be noted that some of the claims made by the government are flat out wrong.  For instance, the NSA has real time data as to the countries of both callers.

What's more there are increasing indications that the NSA's "drinking from a fire hose" strategy is actually harming its intelligence capabilities:
William Binney, creator of some of the computer code used by the National Security Agency to snoop on Internet traffic around the world, delivered an unusual message here in September to an audience worried that the spy agency knows too much.

It knows so much, he said, that it can't understand what it has.

"What they are doing is making themselves dysfunctional by taking all this data," Mr. Binney said at a privacy conference here.

The agency is drowning in useless data, which harms its ability to conduct legitimate surveillance, claims Mr. Binney, who rose to the civilian equivalent of a general during more than 30 years at the NSA before retiring in 2001. Analysts are swamped with so much information that they can't do their jobs effectively, and the enormous stockpile is an irresistible temptation for misuse.
This is not about safety.

Rather it emerges from a miasma of political expedience, cowardice, and the increasingly for-profit nature of our state security apparatus.

Elementary, My Dear Copyright Troll

A hundred and twenty five years after their publication, a Federal Court judge has told the estate of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle to go Moriarty themselves, and declared that the Sherlock Holmes universe is unequivocally in the public domain:
In the more than 125 years since he first appeared, Sherlock Holmes has popped up everywhere from fan fiction set in outer space to screen adaptations like CBS’s “Elementary,” set in contemporary Manhattan. But now, following a legal ruling, the deerstalker-wearing detective is headed to another destination: the public domain.

A federal judge has issued a declarative judgment stating that Holmes, Watson, 221B Baker Street, the dastardly Professor Moriarty and other elements included in the 50 Holmes works that Arthur Conan Doyle published before Jan. 1, 1923, are no longer covered by United States copyright law, and can therefore be freely used by others without paying any licensing fee to the writer’s estate.

The ruling came in response to a civil complaint filed in February by Leslie S. Klinger, the editor of the three-volume, nearly 3,000-page “New Annotated Sherlock Holmes” and a number of other Holmes-related books. The complaint stemmed from “In the Company of Sherlock Holmes,” a collection of new Holmes stories written by different authors and edited by Mr. Klinger and Laurie R. King, herself the author of a mystery series featuring Mary Russell, Holmes’s wife.

Mr. Klinger and Ms. King had paid a $5,000 licensing fee for a previous Holmes-inspired collection. But in the complaint, Mr. Klinger said that the publisher of “In the Company of Sherlock Holmes,” Pegasus Books, had declined to go forward after receiving a letter from the Conan Doyle Estate Ltd., a business entity organized in Britain, suggesting that the estate would prevent the new book from being sold by Amazon, Barnes & Noble and “similar retailers” unless it received another fee.


But the judge rejected what he called the estate’s “novel legal argument” that the characters remain under copyright because, it claimed, they were not truly completed until Conan Doyle published his last Holmes story in 1927.
This is a good thing.

There needs to be limits to the rent seeking related to IP. 

Holmes is already in the public domain in its native Britain, and any further royalties extracted by the estate does nothing to encourage the, "Promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts," which is the Constitutional justification for our IP regime.

Yes, There Are Real Welfare Moochers Out There

In this case, it is the heavily subsidized orthodox in Israel:
In mid-December, a report by the National Insurance Institute and the Central Bureau of Statistics reported that Israel’s poverty rate was shamefully high: 23.5 percent. It found that one-fifth of families — and one-fifth of retirees — in Israel are officially poor, as well as one-third of children.

Israel’s income gap is one of the highest in the world (following Chile, Mexico, Turkey and the United States). Israel, as O.E.C.D. reports have already indicated more than once, somehow manages to be a “start-up nation,” with high economic growth; yet, at the same time, it remains a backward nation with many extremely poor families.

The publication of the annual poverty report gave rise to two or three days of heated discussion. Aryeh Deri, the head of the Shas Party, called it a “poverty storm.” Shas relies on lower-income religious voters, and the report was an opportunity for a politician to demonstrate his outrage. Yet the storm quickly abated.

Israelis already know the numbers, and most have already formed opinions on this topic. Many middle-class Israelis are convinced that the poor themselves are at fault — and unless they do something about it, there’s not much that the state can do for them.

Two segments of Israel’s population stand out as the poorest of the poor: “ultra-Orthodox Jews” and “Muslim-Arabs.” Unemployment rates for ultra-Orthodox Jews (mostly ultra-Orthodox men) and Arabs (mostly Arab women) are very high. So are birth rates. The result: 59 percent of the ultra-Orthodox (also known as Haredim) are poor. Similarly, 58 percent of Arab Israelis are poor. Other groups with notably high rates of poverty are the elderly and new immigrants — but the numbers for these two groups are much lower, 23 percent and 17 percent, respectively.

Israel’s poverty doesn’t solely stem from the lack of full participation of these two groups in its economic life. But the high visibility among the poor Haredis and Arabs influences the never-ending public debate about how to put an end to poverty.

Kindling a sense of social solidarity among middle-class Israelis toward members of these groups is difficult for several reasons. First, the ultra-Orthodox and Arabs don’t mix much with most Jewish Israelis (both these groups refrain from military or other national service). Second, to be blunt, Israelis know that Haredis and Arabs are disproportionately represented in the underground economy (namely, by evading taxes). Finally, to a large extent they are poor because of choices they make — preferring their traditions over participating in the modern Israeli economy. Simply put: For Haredi Jewish men, the choice is generally to study the Torah and have many children (while the women have to provide for the families). For Muslim Arabs, it is to keep women at home and have many children (while the men go to work).


Only when unemployed Haredi men and Arab women go to work and black-market tax evaders are forced to pay taxes will the middle and upper classes be more open to thinking about a redistribution of wealth. Right now, the majority of Israelis have good reason — or good excuse — to object to any redistributive attempts to take from them and give to others.
I would argue that many of these problems are the issues of a segregated society.

The Heridim and Arabs live lives almost completely separate from mainstream society.

The Heridim have separate religious schools in which students are not provided with the tools to succeed in a mainstream society, and the Arabs are educated in "separate but equal" (they are not) schools in where teaching is in Arabic rather than Hebrew.

Furthermore, neither the Ultra-Orthodox nor the Arabs (the Druze excepted) do national (typically military) service, which serves as a touchstone for cultural cohesion.

Putting an end to both of these practices would go a long way toward fixing the problems with Israeli society.

28 December 2013

Boeing And Saab Join Up for T-38 Replacement

Unlike the competition, (shown) it appears that Saab/Boeing appears to be going with a clean sheet design:
Boeing and Saab have signed an agreement to jointly develop and build an all-new aircraft for the U.S. Air Force's T-X trainer competition, aimed at a replacement for the service's 540-plus T-38 trainers. Boeing will be the prime contractor, but both companies will invest in the new aircraft, which will compete with three candidates based on non-U.S. off-the-shelf aircraft: the BAE Systems Hawk, offered by partner Northrop Grumman; the Alenia M-346, with General Dynamics as the prime; and the Korean Aerospace Industries T-50, proposed by development partner Lockheed Martin.

Although Boeing and Saab are giving no details of the design—which in any case is described as flexible, depending on an Air Force requirement that has yet to firm up—it will not be based on Saab's Gripen, beyond incorporating “some Gripen DNA,” an industry source says. This shows that the two companies expect to offer a smaller and cheaper aircraft than the Gripen-sized T-50.

On the other hand, Saab's expertise is in high-performance aircraft, pointing toward a fast and agile trainer that can produce pilots ready to handle complex fighters with no two-seat versions, like the F-22, F-35 and (so far) the JAS 39E.

Discussions between Saab and Boeing were reported in September but have been underway for “much longer,” a Saab source says. Saab's demonstrated capability in designing aircraft for flexible, affordable production is the key to the agreement, says an industry source. At the Paris air show in June, Saab President/CEO Hakan Bushke said the company had reduced production costs on the Gripen C/D even while slowing annual production to 8-12 units from 28, and that the larger JAS 39E would be cheaper still. “Bushke has made no secret of the fact that Saab is highly profitable at such rates,” says a Saab official.
The fact that the expertise that the Swedes bring to the table is the ability to deliver on time and on budget is yet another case of the the almost 400 year fallout from the sinking of the Vasa.

While Saab is adamant that the trainer will not be a Gripen E derivative, I've always thought that if you took the base Gripen, pulled the afterburner off of the F-404 (Volvo RM-12), and pulled out the radar, and removed some hard-points, they could have a decent trainer, though the direct operating cost would almost certainly be more than the that of the Hawk, which has about ½ the installed thrust of the Gripen.

Looking the competitors, with installed thrust varying by almost a factor 3, one can not help but think that the requirements of the program are not clear to the bidders.

Rand Corp. Study Finds that Joint Aircraft Costs More than Service Specific Aircraft

Comparing Apples to Apples
Considering the history of multi-service fighter programs, the F-111 comes to mind, but there is also the JPATS, JSTARS and the Osprey tilt-rotor, it should surprise no one that Rand Corp's analysis of the such programs shows that there are no savings. In fact, it shows that developing aircraft variants separately is less expensively than a common aircraft with service-specific variants.

The theoretical savings are a mirage:
A Rand Corp. report produced to guide future U.S. Air Force program plans has concluded that the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter program will cost more than three single-service programs would have done. That conclusion drew a sharp riposte from Lockheed Martin, which accused the report's authors of using “outdated data” that overstated the F-35's projected operating costs by a factor of two.

Lockheed Martin based its criticism on numbers that cannot be found in the report. The company declined to give a source for those numbers, stating that they were “government data.” The Joint Strike Fighter program office distanced itself from the argument, saying it had “no real issues” with the report, and did not confirm any of the company's figures.

Rand's Project Air Force team produced the report, which was requested in 2012 by then-commander of Air Force Materiel Command Gen. Donald Hoffman, as it became clear the JSF would be running many years behind the schedule that was planned up to 2010.

The study was based on historic data up to November 2011, including the fiscal year 2010 selected acquisition report (SAR). Rand, a think tank founded by the Air Force and still closely associated with the service, did not use the fiscal year 2011 SAR (issued in March 2012) which disclosed a three-year slip in development and actually reported higher cost projections than the 2010 report.

Because the JSF program is incomplete, and because no other joint fighter program has been completed as planned, the researchers used data from a variety of programs—from the F/A-18E/F and F-22 fighters to the T-6A turboprop trainer and E-8C surveillance platform—to gauge the historical cost increases in joint and single-service programs.

They did not focus on absolute costs, but on the percentage growth of estimated costs between the launch of a full-scale development program (Milestone B; MS B) and points five and nine years after MS B, the latter corresponding to the most recent JSF data available in late 2011.


Researchers compared the actual growth of F-35 estimates at the nine-year mark with growth rates for three separate programs based on historic growth with the F-22, the most comparable single-service fighter program. The same adjustments were applied to O&S costs, although a later and higher estimate of F-22 operational costs (at 14 years after MS B) was also included.

The study's conclusion: The JSF estimated life-cycle cost (LCC) in 2010 was already higher than that of three single-service programs. “Under none of the plausible conditions that we analyzed did JSF have a lower LCC than the notional single-service programs.” The report does not recommend any changes to the JSF program, but advises the Air Force to avoid joint projects in future.
Of course, this does not answer why this is so.

One could argue that it is typically ambitious of joint programs, since the military's goal of getting more bang for the buck is almost always more bang, not less buck, but if that were the case, the JPATS, the T-6 Texan II, where an extant turboprop trainer was adapted to a tri-service primary trainer would not have had a greater cost growth than the T-45 Goshawk, a naval advanced trainer, where an advanced jet was fully navalized to to land on carriers, but it did have a greater percentage cost growth.

When you further add the specifics of the JSF, specifically the Marine Corps requirement for STOVL, which f%$#s up the other variants in some very profound ways.

27 December 2013

Edward Snowden's Christmas Message

Needs to be seen

(On Edit)

Sorry for the autoplay.

I did not know that Newsind.com's videos autoplay. I fixed it by changing "widgetId=1" to "widgetId=2".

You Have Got to be Sh%$ting Me!

Pope Francis' condemnations of unbridled capitalism are far too mild.

26 December 2013

Looks Like the New York Times Bromance with Chris Christie has Ended………

It took f%$3ing with the George Washington Bridge in a fit of pique, but the Times finally begun to see that Chris Christie is not a brave truth teller, but a bully and a thug:
In 2010, John F. McKeon, a New Jersey assemblyman, made what he thought was a mild comment on a radio program: Some of the public employees that Gov. Chris Christie was then vilifying had been some of the governor’s biggest supporters.

He was surprised to receive a handwritten note from Mr. Christie, telling him that he had heard the comments, and that he didn’t like them.

“I thought it was a joke,” Mr. McKeon recalled. “What governor would take the time to write a personal note over a relatively innocuous comment?”

But the gesture would come to seem genteel compared with the fate suffered by others in disagreements with Mr. Christie: a former governor who was stripped of police security at public events; a Rutgers professor who lost state financing for cherished programs; a state senator whose candidate for a judgeship suddenly stalled; another senator who was disinvited from an event with the governor in his own district.

In almost every case, Mr. Christie waved off any suggestion that he had meted out retribution. But to many, the incidents have left that impression, and it has been just as powerful in scaring off others who might dare to cross him.
Your honor, people who used to see your crass bullying as something noble are beginning to see it for what it really is.

You are a punk, sir, and your comeuppance will be beautiful to behold.

H/T Balloon Juice.

A Lot of People Wonder Why There Haven't Been Any Wall Street Prosecutions, but ………

This time it's a United States District Judge on senior status for the Southern District of New York, and Judge Jed Rakoff is asking this question in the New York Review of Books:
One possibility, already mentioned, is that no fraud was committed. This possibility should not be discounted. Every case is different, and I, for one, have no opinion about whether criminal fraud was committed in any given instance.

But the stated opinion of those government entities asked to examine the financial crisis overall is not that no fraud was committed. Quite the contrary. For example, the Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission, in its final report, uses variants of the word “fraud” no fewer than 157 times in describing what led to the crisis, concluding that there was a “systemic breakdown,” not just in accountability, but also in ethical behavior.

As the commission found, the signs of fraud were everywhere to be seen, with the number of reports of suspected mortgage fraud rising twenty-fold between 1996 and 2005 and then doubling again in the next four years. As early as 2004, FBI Assistant Director Chris Swecker was publicly warning of the “pervasive problem” of mortgage fraud, driven by the voracious demand for mortgage-backed securities. Similar warnings, many from within the financial community, were disregarded, not because they were viewed as inaccurate, but because, as one high-level banker put it, “A decision was made that ‘We’re going to have to hold our nose and start buying the stated product if we want to stay in business.’”

Without giving further examples, the point is that, in the aftermath of the financial crisis, the prevailing view of many government officials (as well as others) was that the crisis was in material respects the product of intentional fraud. In a nutshell, the fraud, they argued, was a simple one. Subprime mortgages, i.e., mortgages of dubious creditworthiness, increasingly provided the chief collateral for highly leveraged securities that were marketed as AAA, i.e., securities of very low risk. How could this transformation of a sow’s ear into a silk purse be accomplished unless someone dissembled along the way?


suggest that this is not the best way to proceed. Although it is supposedly justified because it prevents future crimes, I suggest that the future deterrent value of successfully prosecuting individuals far outweighs the prophylactic benefits of imposing internal compliance measures that are often little more than window-dressing. Just going after the company is also both technically and morally suspect. It is technically suspect because, under the law, you should not indict or threaten to indict a company unless you can prove beyond a reasonable doubt that some managerial agent of the company committed the alleged crime; and if you can prove that, why not indict the manager? And from a moral standpoint, punishing a company and its many innocent employees and shareholders for the crimes committed by some unprosecuted individuals seems contrary to elementary notions of moral responsibility.
Coming from a federal judge, one of the first who refused to approve the standard, "No harm, no foul," consent decrees from the SEC and the DoJ, this is fairly shocking to hear.

New England Ain't got Nothing on Maryland

You know what Mark Twain said about New England weather, "If you don't like the weather in New England now, just wait a few minutes."

This Sunday, it was 70°F (21°C), on December f#@% ing 22, (!) on Tuesday, it went down to the teens, and morning, Boxing Day, we have heavy snow this morning.

Un dirty word believable

Posted via mobile.

25 December 2013

Where Useless Fascists Go to Die

The Council on Foreign Relations.

Case in point racist stop and frisk former NYPD Commissioner Ray Kelly:

Outgoing New York City Police Department commissioner Ray Kelly will join the Council on Foreign Relations in January as a distinguished visiting fellow, the organization announced Monday.

"Ray Kelly spearheaded the modernization of the New York Police Department. The result is that crime is down and the NYPD's counterterrorism capabilities are second to none," CFR President Richard N. Haass said in a statement. "We are excited and proud to have his experience, expertise, and judgment at the Council."
Not a surprise, from the gang that made the incomparably awful Amity Shlaes a "senior fellow in economic history".

The Snowden Clause

Have you heard of the new clause in many overseas contracts?

It is a clause requiring that a suppliers are forbidden from storing any related data in the United States:
By now, we've heard from tech companies such as Facebook, Google and Cisco Systems that the National Security Agency's spying poses a threat to their international business and, in Cisco's case, is already hurting it. So what does that threat look like, exactly, at ground level?

Some companies are apparently so concerned about the NSA snooping on their data that they're requiring - in writing - that their technology suppliers store their data outside the U.S.

In Canada, a pharmaceutical company and government agency have now both added language to that effect to their contracts with suppliers, as did a grocery chain in the U.K., according to J.J. Thompson, chief executive officer of Rook Consulting, an Indianapolis, Indiana-based security-consulting firm. He declined to name the companies, which are using Rook to manage the segmentation and keep the data out of the U.S.
The US is already choking off its domestic technology industry with insane draconian IP protections, and now we have this.

We are an empire which is sacrificing all on our need for hegemony.

Why Government Internet Filters are a Really Bad Idea, Part XXXIX

In the UK David Cameron's "child protection" internet filters do more than filter porn. They also filter political and advocacy:
Through secretive negotiations with ISPs, the coalition has divided the internet into 'acceptable' and 'unacceptable' categories and cut people off from huge swathes of it at the stroke of a key.

There is no porn filter, and blocking Childline [a confidential service for children and teens] is not an accident

The idea of an internet porn filter has always been a political fiction, a conveniently inaccurate sound bite used to conjure images of hardcore fisting and anal rape in the feverishly overactive imaginations of middle Britain. What activists actually called for - and ISPs were forced to provide - is an 'objectionable content' filter, and there is a vast, damp and aching chasm between the two.

The language of the mythical 'porn filter' is so insidious, so pervasive, that even those of us opposed to it have been sucked into its slippery embrace. And so even when it turns out that O2 are blocking the Childline and Refuge websites, or that BT are blocking gay and lesbian content, we tend to regard them as collateral damage – accidental victims of a well-meaning (if misguided) attempt to protect out children from the evils of cock.

But this was never the case. As Wired reported back in July, Cameron’s ambitions extended far beyond porn. Working through secretive negotiations with ISPs, the coalition has put in place a set of filters and restrictions as ambitious as anything this side of China, dividing the internet into 'acceptable' and 'unacceptable' categories, and cutting people off from huge swathes of it at the stroke of a key.

"As well as pornography, users may automatically be opted in to blocks on "violent material", "extremist related content", "anorexia and eating disorder websites" and "suicide related websites", "alcohol" and "smoking". But the list doesn't stop there. It even extends to blocking "web forums" and "esoteric material", whatever that is. "Web blocking circumvention tools" is also included, of course."

And the restrictions go further still. Over the weekend, people were appalled to discover that BT filters supported homophobia, with a category blocking, "sites where the main purpose is to provide information on subjects such as respect for a partner, abortion, gay and lesbian lifestyle, contraceptive, sexually transmitted diseases and pregnancy."


O2, the Slough-based BT spin-off, do allow people to check which websites are blocked [5], and although their filter has been around for a few years now, the results are terrifying. Their 'parental control' settings can be blocked from accessing Childline, Refuge, Stonewall or the Samaritans – which is even more frightening when you realise that they could just as easily be switched on by an abusive partner. The most vulnerable people in society are the most likely to be cut off from the help they need. As Adrian Short argues, some websites simply shouldn’t be blocked.
FWIW, Peter Hansteen, a self admitted tech geek checked some web sites, and found the following blocked:
This is why we really want to avoid having moralists prats filter our internet.

How Iron Maiden Got it Right, and Metallica Got it Wrong

In the early days of P2P file sharing, it was Metallica to the first file sharing site, Napster, which was shutdown and eventually reemerged as a ……… (furiously Googling) ……… a link to Rhapsody.

Metallica earned a lot of enmity from its fans, and probably sold no more songs as a result.

Iron Maiden found a similar problem, they recently discovered a spike in file sharing in Latin America, and their response was to aggressively market there, and put on a concert tour:
Enter another U.K. company called Musicmetric, which specializes in analytics for the music industry by capturing everything from social media discussion to traffic on the BitTorrent network. It then offers this aggregated information to artists to decide how they want to react. Musicmetric noticed Iron Maiden's placement and ran its own analytics for the band.

"Having an accurate real time snapshop of key data streams is all about helping inform people's decision making. If you know what drives engagement you can maximize the value of your fan base. Artists could say ‘we're getting pirated here, let's do something about it’, or ‘we're popular here, let's play a show’," said Gregory Mead, CEO and co-founder of the London-based firm.

In the case of Iron Maiden, still a top-drawing band in the U.S. and Europe after thirty years, it noted a surge in traffic in South America. Also, it saw that Brazil, Venezuela, Mexico, Colombia, and Chile were among the top 10 countries with the most Iron Maiden Twitter followers. There was also a huge amount of BitTorrent traffic in South America, particularly in Brazil.

Rather than send in the lawyers, Maiden sent itself in. The band has focused extensively on South American tours in recent years, one of which was filmed for the documentary "Flight 666." After all, fans can't download a concert or t-shirts. The result was massive sellouts. The São Paolo show alone grossed £1.58 million (US$2.58 million) alone.
New fans, new sales, a new market.

Interesting business plan, no?

Just Saw Thor 2

Better than the original.

Now going to eat Chinese food, the traditional Jewish observance of Christmas. (Movie & Chinese food, that is)

Posted via mobile.


V2.0 of the Engineer's Guide to Cats

24 December 2013

Eric Arthur Blair is Once Again Spinning in His Grave

Have you heard the latest from the Obama Administration? Susan Rice, the head of the NSC is now saying that lies of Clapper and Alexander are not lies, they "Inadvertently Made False Representations":
STAHL: “Officials in the intelligence community have actually been untruthful both to the American public in hearings, in Congress, and to the FISA court.”

RICE: “There have been cases where they have inadvertently made false representations, and they themselves have discovered it and corrected it.”
This is what happens when the government is operated for the benefit of the state security apparatus, rather than the other way around.

It is thoroughly corrupt, and completely un-American.

Things That Make Me Agree with Rand Paul, and Make me Want to Have My Head Examined

In honor of the 100th anniversary of the founding of the Federal Reserve, PBS had a debate between 2 financial historians over the benefits of the central bank, and rather surprisingly, they both agreed that the Federal Reserve now sees one of its primary roles as supporting stock market prices:
Consuelo Mack’s Wealthtrack program on PBS had invited James Grant, Editor and Founder of Grant’s Interest Rate Observer, and Richard Sylla, the Henry Kaufman Professor of the History of Financial Institutions and Markets at NYU’s Stern School of Business. The opening scene for the program shows Sylla in a party hat lighting the candles on the Fed’s birthday cake while Grant snuffs them out – suggesting that Sylla would be making pro-Fed statements while Grant would take the opposing view.

What happened during the program, however, was that both men made the candid and bold accusation that the Federal Reserve, for the first time in its history, has assigned itself the job of propping up the stock market.

Grant had this to say: “New thing – it is in the business of talking up the stock market…The Fed is manipulating prices, especially on Wall Street.” To another question from Mack, Grant says: “The Fed has presided over the decay of finance.”

Professor Sylla adds more fuel to the fire, stating: “The Fed seems to have, I think almost deliberately, is trying to push the stock market up. I’ve watched this stuff for 40, 50 years now and this is the first time in my memory when it seemed to be official U.S. government policy that the stock market goes up. And the Fed likes this because it thinks that when the stock market goes up, people who own stocks feel richer, they’ll go out and spend more money, and the unemployment rate will come down.” You can watch the full program here.

Is it possible that the Federal Reserve, with its economic wizards and differential equations, doesn’t know that the more it props up the stock market and Wall Street, the more it is undermining Main Street and exacerbating wealth inequality in America?
I see sh%$ like this, and I start to agree with Rand (and Ron) Paul about the need to reign in the Fed.

The show goes further, and talks about how the rather customary expense ratio of 2% on a 401(K) means that Wall Street ends up with ⅔ of your money.

It's why we need to cut back on Wall Street.  It's like f%$3ing Kudzu.

Don't Let the Door Hit Your Ass on the Way Out

An Ultra-Orthodox Knesset member is saying that Heridim will leave Israel if they become subject to universal conscription:
Haredi Member of Knesset Rabbi Yisrael Eichler was interviewed on Army Radio about the situation with the looming draft of haredim and the haredi community leadership’s decision to fight that draft with all its might and the government's decision to force haredi schools to teach some secular core subjects, Yeshiva World reported.

Eichler – who is known for making outlandish statements that slander and smear political and religious opponents – told listeners that if need be, haredim will leave Israel en masse to avoid being drafted.

“The haredi community feels choked by the situation, to the point many are contemplating forfeiting their Israeli citizenship. If you want to rule over us then do so – but regarding education and culture, we must maintain our autonomy, as it has been for the last 3,000 years,” Eichler reportedly said.
(Emphasis miine)

First is the obvious question: Who will take them.

After all, many of them have been doing little but living off the dole while "studying" Jewish religious law.

They have no useful skills that any other country would desire.

Even if they can find a country to take them in, they have been living a lifestyle largely funded by the government subsidies paid them, and working for a living at a real job full time is a lot tougher than they think.

Of course, I'm not sure that they have much to worry about in the near term, because Netanyahu's Likud is completely dependent on the Heredi parties, they have once again put off subjecting Yeshiva students to mandatory military service.

In Judaism, at least, if one is to assume a role of a religious scholar, one is more obligated to full one's basic duties as a citizen, not less obligated.

They should not be allowed to shirk military service.

Farewell Mikhail………

Kalashnikov, father of the AK-47 assault rifle is dead at 94.

He was a giant in light weapons design, not quite at the level of John Browning or but certainly at the level of Eugene Stoner.

He did not produce the first mass produced assault rifle, that was the German StG-44, but he created a truly inexpensive (Once they got the stamped spot welded sheet metal receiver perfected with the AKM) weapon with reliability and simplicity that are still the standard. (Not so much on accuracy).

It fit the doctrine of the Soviet military, as well as the numerous irregular "liberation" movements throughout the world, and something in the neighborhood of 100 million have been produced to date.

Much of this production was because licenses to manufacture were freely and fully available to any government that indicates some sort of favor toward "international socialism".

In a very real way, this was an open source licensing model applied to steel, wood, and lead.

As such, it is doubtlessly responsible for more deaths than any other military firearm in history.

23 December 2013

Tweet of the Week

Background here.

Packed Like Lemmings into Shiny Metal Boxes………

The Source for the Hed
Kevin Drum muses on the cause of the ever increasing numbers of violent incidents on airlines.

He notes that such incidents have increased by more than1200% since 2007, and then points to a New York Times article, "On Jammed Jets, Sardines Turn on One Another."

It's kind of a "Well, Duh!" moment.

"Contestants in a suicidal race," indeed.

Because, It's Always a Good Time to Lampoon Tom Friedman

First, we have the always amusing Charlie Pierce:
Back a few years, David Halberstam was supposed to speak at my son's graduation from Brandeis, but Halberstam died a car wreck shortly before the ceremony so, scrambling, Brandeis went to the alumni bullpen and called in...Tom Friedman. This was the worst strategic move since Darrell Johnson brought in Burton for Willoughby in Game 7 of the 1975 Series. I don't remember what Friedman said, but it was pretty damned banal. I have considered asking for all four years tuition back ever since.
While Pierce is good, Billmon wins the Internet today:

One of these days, I hope to be able to write well enough to lampoon Tom Friedman on my own ……… Then again, if I were to lambaste what he writes, I would actually have to READ what he writes.

Maybe  I'm lucky just to quote people trashing him.

One of the Best Articles on Security Theater I've Seen this Far

Read this essay from a former head of security at Ben Gurion airport:
For a bunch of people in snappy uniforms patting down crotches, the TSA is remarkably unpopular. Nobody likes going through security at the airport, but you probably figured most of it had a point. All those hours spent in line with other shoeless travelers are a necessary precursor to safe flying. It's annoying, but at least it wards off terrorism.

That's all bullsh%$. The TSA couldn't protect you from a 6-year-old with a water balloon. What are my qualifications for saying that? My name is Rafi Sela, and I was the head of security for the world's safest airport. Here's what your country does wrong.
He is clear, and concisely explains the systemic problems present in the agency.

This is the money quote:
Of course, after a little while it came out that these scanners were useless. I could strap a bomb capable of taking down a 747 to my body and walk right through a body scanner. Nobody would catch me. I'd rather not explain exactly how, but this German man was able to sneak a fake bomb through the same scanners without being caught. And he did it in Germany, a country where "airport security officer" isn't a synonym for "failed Walmart cashier."
His basic thesis is that the organization is fatally flawed because it is designed to regulate itself.

22 December 2013

Fabulous ……… Utah???? Are You Kidding Me?

The New Mexico Supreme Court just ruled to legalize gay marriage, and a Federal Court legalized gay marriage in Utah.

Utah? Seriously?

Bigots and homophobes, it's game over, and you have lost.

This Week's Spylapalooza

It's been a busy week for developments in spying by the US state security apparatus.

First, we have the report from the President's hand picked panel, "Liberty and Security in a Changing World." (PDF)

From people who know the issues, the reviews have been this weak tea.

The EFF's conclusion was that, "The reportleft open the door for future mass surveillance and failed to address the constitutionality of the NSA's mass spying, recently questioned by the D.C. federal court and raised by EFF in its multiple lawsuits."

Marcy Wheeler, who is has perhaps the most knowledgeable on these sorts of issues, observes that the panel refused to address whether the NSA spying program was illegal.  There is simply nothing in the report about this.

When she looks what is in the report, she sees signs that the NSA is probably functioning as a domestic security agency:
Which is why I’m curious what’s behind the following language, offered in support of the recommendation to clearly designate NSA as a foreign intelligence organization and presented with two other things we know NSA does.
It should not be a domestic security service, a military command, or an information assurance organization.

[...] Like other agencies, there are situations in which NSA does and should provide support to the Department of Justice, the Department of Homeland Security, and other law enforcement entities. But it should not assume the lead for programs that are primarily domestic in nature.
That seems to suggest that, in addition to supporting DHS, DOJ, and other law enforcement entities (cough, DEA, as well as probably Secret Service in its cyber-role), NSA takes the lead on certain issues that are primarily domestic.I do hope we’ll learn what this refers to. Because if NSA is operating domestically (maybe to police IP?), it will be scandalous news.
Pro Publica notes that one of the more direct recommendations of the panel is that the NSA needs to stop undermining publicly available encryption algorithms:
The National Security Agency should not undermine encryption standards that are designed to protect the privacy of communications, the panel of experts appointed by President Obama to review NSA surveillance recommended in a report released today.

The recommendation, among the strongest of the many suggested changes laid out by the panel, comes several months after ProPublica, the Guardian, and the New York Times reported that the NSA has successfully worked to undercut encryption. The story was based on a set of documents provided by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden.

Outside of the intelligence review board, we have learned that the NSA paid RSA Security LLC to incorporate insecure encryption in its products:
As a key part of a campaign to embed encryption software that it could crack into widely used computer products, the U.S. National Security Agency arranged a secret $10 million contract with RSA, one of the most influential firms in the computer security industry, Reuters has learned.

Documents leaked by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden show that the NSA created and promulgated a flawed formula for generating random numbers to create a "back door" in encryption products, the New York Times reported in September. Reuters later reported that RSA became the most important distributor of that formula by rolling it into a software tool called Bsafe that is used to enhance security in personal computers and many other products.

Undisclosed until now was that RSA received $10 million in a deal that set the NSA formula as the preferred, or default, method for number generation in the BSafe software, according to two sources familiar with the contract. Although that sum might seem paltry, it represented more than a third of the revenue that the relevant division at RSA had taken in during the entire previous year, securities filings show.
In total, this explains the flight from services like Google to non-US algernatives.

In a perfect world,  all of this might lead the White House, and the intelligence agencies to back off regarding their expansion of power, but you would be wrong.

They are at this time attempting to quash a court ruling on the constitutionality ofits domestic spying program by invoking the state-secrets privilege.

And for your amusement, we have Mark Fiore's comments on the difference between the data collection by the government and commercial interest.

21 December 2013

Someone Else to add to My List of They Who Must Not Be Named

All of the F%$#ing Duck Dynasty.

I do not think that I need to know why but this video (completely NSFW) does help illustrate why.

Saab Wins Brazil's Fighter for Gripen NG by Turning Over Recipe to Special Sauce

It's been a long time coming, and through a number of odd twists and turns.

Earlier in the process, then Brazilian President Lula da Silva said that there was a deal with the French for the Dassault Rafale, largely for foreign policy reasons, but the defense establishment was fairly vehemently opposed to this, because of the much higher purchase and life cycle costs of the twin engine Rafale as compared to the single engine Gripen NG.

Still most of the stories seem to bury the lede:
Brazil has selected the Saab Gripen E/F for the 36 aircraft F-X2 requirement to replace its air force's older combat types.

With an acquisition cost in the region of $4.5 billion, the Gripens will replace the Dassault Mirage 2000C fighters operated by the 1st Air Defence Group and a number of the modernised Northrop F-5EMs in four other Air Force squadrons.

The long-awaited announcement was made on 18 December by Brazilian defence minister Celso Amorim and Brazilian air force Chief Gen Juniti Saito.

The decision was driven by aircraft performance, transfer of technology and low through-life costs, according to the officials.

Contract negotiation is expected to last between 10 and 12 months.

Saab has guaranteed the total transfer of technology of “all systems” including the weapons command software, which will allow future integration of Brazilian-developed missiles and weapons.
(Emphasis Mine)

Both the F/A-18 E/F and the Rafale software suites are far more tightly integrated,  and the software of the F-35 is even more tightly integrated, which makes it more difficult to modify to incorporate new systems.

Saab deliberately chose to put a firewall between flight critical and tactical software, meaning that crashing the latter won't crash the whole aircraft, which creates an easier upgrade and testing path.

20 December 2013

Our Loquacious Neanderthal Progenitors

And yes, Neanderthal genes are in all of us, so they are in part our ancestors.

One of the enduring myths about Homo neanderthalensis (some would argue Homo sapiens neanderthalensis) is that they lacked the vocal structures to have our fluidity of speech.

30 years ago, the model that showed this was debunked because it was shown that it also prevented H neanderthalensis from swallowing.

The theory only barely passed the laugh test for about 5 years, but you still hear it coming up all the time.

One of the reasons for this is that the bone at the base of the tongue, the Hyloid is unattached to the rest of the skeleton, and fragile, so the fissile record is meager.

Well, they have found a Neanderthal hyloid, and it was very similar to ours, and now a group of scientist have modeled the Hyloid, and the surriounding soft tissues, and determined that they were very chatty folk:
An analysis of a Neanderthal's fossilised hyoid bone - a horseshoe-shaped structure in the neck - suggests the species had the ability to speak.

This has been suspected since the 1989 discovery of a Neanderthal hyoid that looks just like a modern human's.

But now computer modelling of how it works has shown this bone was also used in a very similar way.

Writing in journal Plos One, scientists say its study is "highly suggestive" of complex speech in Neanderthals.

The hyoid bone is crucial for speaking as it supports the root of the tongue. In non-human primates, it is not placed in the right position to vocalise like humans.

An international team of researchers analysed a fossil Neanderthal throat bone using 3D x-ray imaging and mechanical modelling.

This model allowed the group to see how the hyoid behaved in relation to the other surrounding bones.

Stephen Wroe, from the University of New England, Armidale, NSW, Australia, said: "We would argue that this is a very significant step forward. It shows that the Kebara 2 hyoid doesn't just look like those of modern humans - it was used in a very similar way."
Personally, I think that it is difference in fecundity that led to Neanderthals being supplanted by modern humans, but I am not a paleoanthropologist.

Most Amazing Medical Development Ever Happened Wednesday

This guy turned 70 on Wednesday.

Considering the level of abuse that he has voluntarily inflicted on himself, he should have been found dead in his swimming pool about 40 years ago.

Somewhere in his genes is the making of an absolutely indestructible superhero, as well as a kick ass rhythm guitarist.

You can hover over the image with your cursor to get the answer if you do not recognize the guy.

Uganda Passes "Kill the Gays Lite"

Life in prison for "aggravated homosexuality":
Ugandan lawmakers Friday passed an anti-gay bill that calls for life imprisonment for certain homosexual acts, drawing criticism from rights campaigners who called it the worst such legislation in the world.

When the bill was first introduced in 2009, it was widely condemned for including the death penalty, but that was removed from the revised version passed by parliament.

Instead it sets life imprisonment as the penalty for a homosexual act in which one of the partners is infected with HIV, for sex with minors and the disabled, and for repeated sexual offenses among consenting adults, according to the office of a spokeswoman for Uganda’s parliament.

The bill also prescribes a seven-year jail term for a person who “conducts a marriage ceremony” for same-sex couples.

Lawmakers passed the bill unanimously, with no one voicing an objection.

President Yoweri Museveni must sign the bill within 30 days for it to become law. Although in the past he spoke disparagingly of gays, in recent times Museveni has softened his position on the matter, saying he is only opposed to gays who appear to “promote” themselves.

“In our society there were a few homosexuals,” Museveni said in March. “There was no persecution, no killings and no marginalization of these people, but they were regarded as deviants.”

The passage of the bill makes it “a truly terrifying day for human rights in Uganda,” said Frank Mugisha, a prominent Ugandan gay activist, who called the legislation “the worst anti-gay law in the world.” He urged the country’s president not to sign the bill into law.

“It will open a new era of fear and persecution,” he said. “If this law is signed by President Museveni, I’d be thrown in jail for life and in all likelihood killed.”
Understand that this is largely not a home grown movement.  As Rachel Maddow so ably demonstrated, (vid here) much of the impetus has come from the shadowy American Christo-Fascist group known as "The Family," has been aggressively lobbying for for anti-Gay legislation.

Well, Duh

Eric Stern, a staffer for Brian Schweitzer, demonstrates how the NRA systematically ignores its alleged values to endorse Republicans:
………But when the NRA voter guide was published, Schweitzer received an F. He called the NRA to demand an explanation. They claimed they never received his questionnaire. It must have gotten lost in the mail, they told him. Schweitzer faxed them a copy, but they said it was too late.


Once again he mailed in his NRA survey, confident of an A (I believe that at the time, an A-plus rating was only achievable by answering “Yes” to the question, “Do you support the right to possess guns in all places, including schools?”).

For insurance, he met with NRA staff in Washington. They assured him that he was likely to receive the endorsement. But then the voter guide arrived, and the NRA had endorsed his opponent.

Again he demanded an explanation. The NRA said they’d decided that Schweitzer’s opponent “should get the benefit of the doubt” because he was an incumbent, whereas Schweitzer had never held office.


Schweitzer won that race narrowly, but rose to become a powerful political force in Montana, upending the old order, turning much of the state from red to blue, and pulling in many other democrats on his substantial coattails. He also revealed a distinctive quality: he sought revenge against anyone that crossed him, often without regard to the the political cost of doing so. So he naturally couldn’t resist bad-mouthing the NRA on the Bill Maher show one evening in 2007 when the subject of gun politics was raised, accusing the group of being “a fully owned division of the Republican Party…the National Republican Agency.”

This created an enjoyable situation when, in 2008, running for reelection as a virtually unbeatable incumbent, he notified the NRA that he not only expected an endorsement this time around, but that he wanted Wayne La Pierre, the NRA president, to come do it personally.

The NRA did everything they could to come up with an excuse to not grant the request, but ultimately they blinked. La Pierre, perhaps wary of Schweitzer’s penchant of creating a commotion if slighted, came to Billings in the summer of 2008 for a press conference at which he grudgingly told the TV cameras that Montana gun owners and hunters that should vote for Schweitzer. (Schweitzer’s challenger was already projected to lose by about 30 points, but for good measure Schweitzer rented a giant billboard right across the street from the guy’s campaign headquarters, with an ad boasting of the NRA’s endorsement.)

When the NRA voting guide arrived that fall, there were Montana candidates endorsed for Senate, Congress, Attorney General….but no Governor. Schweitzer called once again for an explanation. They told him that they had no idea how this had happened. The printer must have screwed up. It was a regrettable mix up, and they would try to correct it immediately.

But of course, they didn’t.
Brian Schweitzer is seriously considering a Presidential run in 2016, and the fact that he might have a Lyndon Baines Johnson level of vindictiveness makes me look upon her more favorable.

19 December 2013

I Think that Chris Christie now has a "-Gate" Scandal on His Hands

Pass the Popcorn
Christie's two recently resigned political appointees to the Port Authority have lawyered up:
Two appointees of New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie who recently resigned amid a controversy over lane closures at the George Washington Bridge have retained private attorneys, according to correspondence reviewed by The Wall Street Journal.

Bill Baroni and David Wildstein, former executives at the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, have sought outside counsel amid an investigation into why traffic lanes leading to the nation's busiest bridge were closed, the documents showed.

The hirings came as correspondence and documents related to the bridge controversy are due to be delivered soon to a legislative inquiry of the state Assembly.

The Democrat-led Transportation Committee subpoenaed documents from people involved in the incident, including Messrs. Baroni and Wildstein and leadership of the authority, seeking more information about how the lanes were closed and why.

Mr. Wildstein recently hired Alan L. Zegas, a criminal lawyer from Chatham, N.J., to represent him, according to an email sent from Mr. Zegas to the state Legislature Tuesday.

Mr. Zegas was co-counsel to former Newark Mayor Sharpe James in 2008 in response to federal corruption charges brought by Mr. Christie when he served as the U.S. Attorney in New Jersey, according to Mr. Zegas's biography.

Mr. Baroni retained Michael Himmel, of Lowenstein Sandler LLP. Mr. Himmel works at the firm's New York City and Roseland, N.J. offices, and specializes in white collar crime, according to his biography.
I figure that this will eventually degenerate into finger pointing, and the question is whether it will just involve Mssrs Baroni and Wildstein, or if it will go higher.