30 September 2016

More Insanity of our IP Regime

Cryptographic expert Matt Green has filed suit in federal court to prevent his arrest if he publishes a text book on encryption:
Assistant Professor Matthew Green has asked US courts for protection so that he can write a textbook explaining cryptography without getting sued under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act.

Green, who teaches at Johns Hopkins University in Maryland, is penning a tome called Practical Cryptographic Engineering that examines the cryptographic mechanisms behind the devices we use every day, such as ATM machines, smart cars, and medical devices. But this could lead to a jail sentence if the manufacturers file a court case using Section 1201 of the DMCA.

Section 1201 prohibits the circumvention of copyright protection systems installed by manufacturers, and comes with penalties including heavy fines and possible jail time. As such, the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) has taken up Green’s case, and that of another researcher, to try to get the provision ruled illegal by the courts.

“If we want our communications and devices to be secure, we need to protect independent security researchers like Dr Green,” said EFF staff attorney Kit Walsh.
The history of prosecutions under section 1201 have been an exercise in the copyright holders studiously avoiding taking cases that they might lose in order to maximize the chilling effect against researchers and consumer advocates, "The US Department of Justice has asked the courts to dismiss the case on the grounds that it is highly unlikely that Green would be prosecuted."

This chilling effect is why civil rights cases are allowed to proceed even though no one has has been prosecuted, so I find the Justice Department's argument specious.

We have a clear demonstration of a chilling effect, both for Green and Andrew Huang, who is trying to author an open source operating system.

Of course, the DoJ, and the White House, and most of the US Congress are in the pocket of IP rights holders, it is no surprise that they are opposing the application of common sense to these restrictions.
A contract for the serial production of the fifth-generation T-50 PAK FA fighter jet at the Komsomolsk-on-Amur Aircraft Plant is planned to be signed before the end of 2017, Governor of Russia’s Khabarovsk Territory Vyacheslav Shport said.


Russian Aerospace Force Commander-in-Chief Viktor Bondarev said earlier that the serial production of the T-50 fighter jet would begin in 2017.

According to the commander, the PAK FA fighter jet will be made operational with the Aerospace Force in 2017 as well.
This is pixie dust.

They are still not flying the aircraft with its intended power plant, and they are suggesting that it will enter service in a year.

Additionally, the current prototypes are still hand built.

Stepping up to mass production from this is a monumental task, particularly given the large portion of the skin and airframe made of composites, and the need to maintain tight tolerances to reduce radar signature.

This would be the first for a mass produced Russian aircraft.

It can be done, but it cannot be done in just 1 year.

This is the Wisest Thing I've Read in Some Time

Academician Dianne Pfundstein Chamberlain makes what should be an obvious point, that that military adventures for the purpose of promulgating the illusion of our national "credibility" is a complete clusterf%$#:
One of the most common criticisms of President Obama is that he has damaged American credibility. Obama’s foreign policy decisions have been thoroughly denounced by Republicans, some members of his own party, and even former members of his administration. When the United States opted not to respond with military action to the 2013 chemical weapons attacks in Syria, many people argued that failing to punish the Syrian regime would diminish U.S. credibility. Similar critiques were leveled when Russia annexed the Crimea and the United States responded with economic sanctions instead of force. “How can we expect other states to take us seriously if we fail to act in these cases?” these critics asked. In other words, tomorrow’s threats will fail if the United States does not follow through on today’s commitments.

In fact, the record of American coercion is entirely inconsistent with this simplistic view of the role of credibility and reputation in international politics. To examine this issue, I studied every international crisis between 1945 and 2007 in which the United States was involved. I found that the real world does not operate in the way that these critics of U.S. inaction seem to think it does. It is foolish for the United States to undertake military action for the primary purpose of reinforcing its reputation. Refraining from acting when U.S. interests are not directly engaged will not diminish America’s “credibility” or its ability to wield power effectively.


Threats and promises have credibility, and states and leaders have reputations. When people argue that the United States must act against Syria today to preserve its “credibility” with Russia tomorrow, they are actually making an argument about how the U.S. reputation for action influences the behavior of other states. The logic of this reputation theory is that following through on a commitment today is necessary to make tomorrow’s threat effective. In other words, this theory holds that bombing Libya today will make Putin think twice about invading Estonia tomorrow.

If this reputation theory accurately explains state behavior, then we should be able to observe two basic patterns in the record of U.S. coercion. First, we would expect American threats to become more effective over time if the United States follows through on these threats. That is, if the United States consistently demonstrates that it upholds its commitments, then targets of U.S. threats should be increasingly likely to concede to U.S. demands everywhere (or at the very least targets should not become less likely to concede over time). Second, we would expect threats to be more effective against a target after the United States has already followed through on at least one threat in the past against that same target. Once the United States has demonstrated to a particular state that its threats are credible, then subsequent threats against that same state should be highly likely to succeed.

When we look at the record of U.S. compellence, however, we find that the opposite is true: America’s compellent threats have been both more frequent and less effective on average since 1990 than they were during the Cold War. The target conceded to U.S. demands in 55 percent of Cold War crises in which the United States issued a compellent threat and in only 25 percent of crises in the post-Cold War period. In other words, despite the fact that the United States has demonstrated that it always follows through on its compellent threats, these threats have become less effective over time. This is the exact opposite of what we would expect given the logic of those who argue that U.S. inaction in Ukraine emboldened Putin to intervene in Syria and that inaction in Syria will similarly embolden him to invade the Baltics.


These are relatively easy tests, and the reputation theory has failed at both. We have looked for and failed to find two obvious patterns in the evidence from actual cases in which the United States tried to use threats to convince a target state to change its behavior. Even when we set the bar low, the reputation theory cannot clear it.
This is not a surprise, and I agree, but I think that Pfundstein Chamberlain misses part of the dynamic.

Many of the people who invoke "Credibility" to justify military adventures actually profit from these ill conceived actions.

"Credibility" justifies our bloated military establishment.  Defense contractors, retired generals, and their ilk profit from the maintenance of this edifice.


I'm Not Sure If This Is the Beginning of a Trend

But Sweden is reintroducing military conscription:
Sweden said Wednesday it would reintroduce compulsory military service from 2018, eight years after it was abolished.

The Scandinavian nation, which has not seen armed conflict on its territory in two centuries, ended conscription in 2010 after it was deemed an unsatisfactory way of meeting the needs of a modern army.


Around 4,000 young Swedes, 18-year-olds of both sexes, are expected to be called up each year.
This is preferable to the US system of ensuring sufficient "volunteers" for its military:
  • A lack of economic opportunity.
  • Ruinously expensive expensive college tuition.
  • Lack of affordable healthcare.
Poverty and desperation in the civilian population are central to the operation of our military machine.

Pardon Him Now

It appears that one of the effects of the Snowden disclosures was to make the US State Security Apparatus significantly less likely to abuse the provisions of the Patriot Act:
Edward Snowden’s disclosures were partially responsible for reversing a massive growth in the use of a controversial provision of the Patriot Act for acquiring email and other so-called “business records”, the US justice department’s internal watchdog has found.

The Patriot Act provision, known as Section 215, permits intelligence and law enforcement agencies to acquire from a service provider records of someone’s communications – such as phone calls or email records – that are relevant to a terrorism or espionage investigation.

In June 2013, the Guardian, based on Snowden’s leaks, revealed that the Bush and Obama administrations had secretly been using Section 215 to acquire Americans’ phone data in bulk. The revelation led Congress to significantly curtail domestic bulk phone records collection in 2015.

The new report from the justice department inspector general reveals that around 2009, the FBI began encountering resistance from email providers and others to a highly controversial nonjudicial subpoena for records, known as a National Security Letter. In the wake of this, the FBI began acquiring the information it sought through warrant requests to the Fisa court, a secret surveillance panel, using Section 215 of the Patriot Act, which the inspector general notes is a slower process.


But Snowden’s revelations, beginning in mid-2013, helped shift the FBI away from using Section 215 to acquire email and other metadata. The Fisa court approved warrants to collect non-bulk business records 179 times in 2013, a number falling to 142 times in 2015 – though this was still a vast increase on the 21 approved in 2009.

A senior national security official with the justice department told the inspector general that a “stigma” had been created around the Patriot Act provision, even outside of the bulk collection that privacy advocates rallied to stop.
Edward Snowden is an American hero and a patriot.

What I Did at My Former Job

My contract just finished up at Noxilizer, so I can end my self-imposed embargo, and write about what I did there.

Noxilizer uses a proprietary (and patent protected) NO2 based sterilization system.

NO2 is a powerful oxidising agent, and it has some advantages over other sterilization technologies: It operates at room temperature, and it leaves no residue.

A company called Eniware partnered with Noxilizer to create a sterilization unit that can operate in undeveloped ares.

It runs on batteries and used a gas generator (Copper and Nitric Acid), and after 8 hours the instruments in the chamber are sterilized

Below is a video of Eniware's founder extolling the virtues:

29 September 2016

This Sort of Thing Keeps Me Up at Night

India has just sent combat troops into Pakistani areas of Kashmir:
India announced on Thursday that it had carried out early morning “surgical strikes” on terrorist camps in Pakistani-controlled Kashmir, a step that risks escalating the conflict between the two nuclear powers.

However, Pakistan denied that a cross-border strike had taken place, saying that Indian troops had fired small arms across the Line of Control, killing two soldiers and injuring nine.

A senior Pakistani security official, speaking on the condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak publicly, said Pakistan would consider a cross-border strike by India an act of war.

The official warned that Pakistan could use tactical nuclear weapons in self-defense if India initiates a war.

The Indian operation, if it occurred as described in Delhi, would be precedent setting. Though India’s military has almost certainly carried out cross-border raids, the government has never publicly announced them, even during the brief conflict in Kargil in 1999.

Indian officials said that ground troops crossed the de facto border shortly after midnight and destroyed a handful of terrorist camps in Pakistani-controlled territory, inflicting “significant casualties” and returning across the Line of Control before dawn.

The operation was planned in retaliation for two attacks this month on Indian positions, including one that killed 19 Indian soldiers.
Remember: both India and Pakistan have significant nuclear arsenals.

The DPRK does not scare me. This does.

You have two military establishments that are fixated on a final cataclysmic conflict, and, particularly in Pakistan, these beliefs exhibit significant sway over the decision making process.

We are dealing with a bunch of generals who would make Curtis LeMay look like a wimp.

From the Department of, "Well, Duh!"

Finance Is Ruining America

I would only add that it is ruining pretty much everything that it touches as well.


Blackadder's Nationality Based Insults:

The origins of the Brexit may be here.

28 September 2016

Hell Yeah!

The House of Representatives and the US Senate just overrode Barack Obama's veto of a bill allowing Saudi Arabia to be sued for its support of terrorism:
Barack Obama suffered a unique political blow on Wednesday, when the US Congress overturned his veto of a bill that would allow families of the victims of the September 11 terrorist attacks to sue Saudi Arabia.

The overwhelming bipartisan vote in both the Senate and House inflicted the first veto override of Obama’s presidency, less than four months before he leaves office. The White House issued an unusually scathing response.

“I would venture to say that this is the single most embarrassing thing that the United States Senate has done, possibly, since 1983,” press secretary Josh Earnest told reporters. “Ultimately these senators are going to have to answer their own conscience and their constituents as they account for their actions today.”

Not even close to the worst thing that the Senate has done since 1983.

Not contesting the 2000 election, the invasion or Iraq, NAFTA, the bankruptcy bill, etc. were all way worse.

It wasn't even close:
The Senate voted 97-1, with the Democratic minority leader, Harry Reid of Nevada, alone in supporting the veto. The House followed suit a short time later, voting 348-77 to override and putting Congress directly at odds with the White House and national security establishment.
BTW, I would note that one of the arguments:
In a letter sent to [Senate Minority Leader Harry] Reid this week, Obama warned the bill would erode sovereign immunity principles that prevent foreign litigants “from second-guessing our counter-terrorism operations and other actions that we take every day”.
Obama is now aggressively pushing the TPP and TTIP, which include an Investor State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) apparatus allow for just this sort of second guessing on environmental protections, regulation of speculation, labor protections, etc.

I really hope that Saudi Arabia retaliates over this, because any estrangement between the United States and the House of Saud is an unalloyed good.

Obama got a well deserved black eye over this.

27 September 2016

Tweet of the Day

H/T 2:00PM Water Cooler 9/26/2016 naked capitalism.

Headline of the Day

In America, gun rights are for whites only

Eugene Robinson states the unspoken truth of the NRA ad its ammosexual supporers.

Oh Snap!

Notwithstanding an investigation of Chris Christie's involvement in "Bridgegate" (conducted by Christie's lawyer at public expense), the fact that David Wildstein has now testified that the New Jersey governor was specifically kept in the loop about their traffic snarling tactics by aides:
The prosecution's star witness in the Bridgegate scandal claimed Gov. Chris Christie was told of the traffic jams at the George Washington Bridge in the midst of the gridlock in Fort Lee in September 2013, and laughed when he heard about it.

At the same time, David Wildstein, who pleaded guilty to federal crimes associated with the scandal and is now cooperating with the government, testified that not only was Christie aware of the lane shutdowns as they were occurring —so was David Samson, the chairman of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, as were other members of Christie's closest inner circle.

Wildstein, testifying for the third day in federal court, said the governor's campaign manager Bill Stepien was in the loop before the lanes were actually shut down, that he not only made Samson aware of the lane closures before he told Christie, he specifically told him they were an act of political retaliation against the Fort Lee mayor.


According to Wildstein, he and Baroni "boasted" to the governor about the heavy traffic they had created when they saw him in person at a Sept. 11 memorial event in New York in 2013.

Wildstein said he and Baroni approached the governor and told him there had been a "tremendous amount of traffic" in Fort Lee that morning. "Major traffic jams. You'll be pleased to know Mayor Sokolich is very frustrated," Baroni told the governor, Wildstein told the jury.

A former political blogger who wrote anonymously under the name of "Wally Edge" before he was hired by the Port Authority to a $150,000-a-year position that never before existed, Wildstein said the governor took on a sarcastic tone as he was told about what was happening in Fort Lee.

"Well, I'm sure Mr. Edge would not be involved in anything that's political," he said Christie told them.

"Were you and Mr. Baroni bragging?" asked assistant U.S. attorney Lee Cortes.

"Yes, very much so," Wildstein replied. "We discussed how pleased we were the boss was happy."
I really hope that they turn enough of Christie's former aides that his ass ends up in jail.

26 September 2016

Quote of the Day

Frankly, I'm lucky to be alive. On Saturday, in the ballroom of a conference center here, I was in dangerous proximity to a bullsh%$ singularity, which, as you know, is the physical phenomenon of a one-dimensional point that contains a huge mass of bullsh%$ in an infinitely small space. I could have been converted into pure bullsh%$ energy and fired off through space and time, never to return. The one-dimensional point that contained a huge mass of bullsh%$ in an infinitely small space had a name. It was Kenneth Starr.
Charlie Pierce
Starr was at a talk suggesting that the rapes by Baylor football players was not a big deal.

If it weren't for this opening paragraph, I would have used the line, "Let us pause here for a moment and note that, for sheer indefensible moral sanctimony, Ken Starr makes Jim Bakker look like Axl Rose."

Read the rest.

I Am Watching the Debates

And I am feeling the urge to gouge my own eyeballs out with a spoon, and puncture my eardrums with an ice pick.

I'm just saying.

On the Horns of a Dilemma

Part of me thinks that I should listen to the Presidential Debate, so that I can see how the candidates address the issues off the day.

Another part of me thinks that the debates will just be shallow reality television, as they she been since I was old enough to vote.

And finally, there is my spleen, which finds listening to either candidate skin to nails on a chalk board.

I know that my spleen is correct, but just because watching the debates will be as much fun as a home root canal kit, but that doesn't mean l shouldn't watch.

Posted via mobile.

25 September 2016

Pass the Popcorn

Pass the Popcorn
The corruption investigations have now swept up some former senior advisors to Governor Andrew Cuomo:
Federal and state prosecutors on Thursday announced charges against 10 men, including two onetime senior advisers to New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, in corruption and fraud cases involving state contracts worth hundreds of millions of dollars.

The charges followed a federal investigation into Buffalo Billion, a signature $1 billion economic development project of Cuomo aimed at revitalizing the area around the city of Buffalo, once an upstate industrial powerhouse.

Joseph Percoco, a former executive deputy secretary to the governor; Alain Kaloyeros, president of the State University of New York's Polytechnic Institute; and six others were charged in a criminal complaint filed in federal court in Manhattan.

Todd Howe, a lobbyist and an ex-adviser to Cuomo when he led the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, pleaded guilty to federal charges and is cooperating. Richard Morvillo, his lawyer, said Howe "will testify truthfully if called upon."

Prosecutors said in one scheme, Percoco, whom they called Cuomo's "right-hand-man," sought $315,000 in bribes in exchange for offering help to two of Howe's corporate clients, an energy company and a Syracuse real estate developer.

In an overlapping scheme, they said, Kaloyeros, who oversaw a grant application process for Buffalo Billion and similar programs, and Howe, whom he hired to help develop projects, conspired to rig bids for contracts favoring two developers.
There is still nothing tying hizzonner to any of this, but it is increasingly clear that Cuomo was knowingly swimming in a sea of corruption, so some wetness is a logical conclusion.

I'm inclined to think that Cuomo's aspirations of national office have become significantly less likely over the past few years.

Our Foreign Policy is Going Swimmingly

Despite US sanctions, Russia is now top wheat exporter, proving sanctions won’t work - MarketWatch:
Wheat, the world-feeding crop whose shortage was Pharaoh’s nightmare, is now at such a global surplus that last month its price was less than two-thirds its level in 2008.


Wheat prices have plummeted not for a circumstantial reason, like weather-driven bumper crops, nor for a cyclical reason like a major buyer’s recession. Though some such factors have been at play in this market, they were marginal compared with the structural fact that Russia, once an agricultural laggard, has joined the industry’s leaders — big time.

The first meaning of this far-reaching development is not about Russia’s place in the world, but about the commodity markets’ beauty.


Blessed with endless expanses of exceptionally fertile land known as “black earth,” Russia is doing to the grain markets what shale did to oil.

Russia’s annual wheat output, which 20 years ago was just under 35 million metric tons, is expected to cross the 70 million metric ton barrier this year. Nearly half that volume will be exported, making Russian media celebrate Russia’s emergence as the world’s largest wheat exporter.

This is the same Russia that, back when it was under Soviet management, depended on Western grain imports because it failed to use its rich soil to feed its people, a glaring embarrassment that mocked Moscow’s imperial ambitions and inspired its younger leaders’ economic heresy.


Now, the markets attest that Russia’s agrarian reform has been a smashing success, so much so that U.S. government charts show that Russia has just surpassed Uncle Sam in wheat production.


Russia’s new agricultural prowess has just made its farm exports surpass its arms sales for the first time ever. Earning $20 billion abroad last year, 15% more than the previous year, agriculture’s evolving centrality in the Russian economy is evidently part of a governmental design.
Modern Agriculture, like pretty much everything else, runs on credit, and theoretically, the international credit markets have been inaccessible to Russia, but they are now the largest exporter of wheat in the world.

Our sanctions were supposed to prevent this, but they don't because we've worn out the proverbial batteries.

This Program is Going so Swimmingly

Another F-35 had an engine fire on the ground, after the problem was supposed to be fixed:
An F-35A caught fire during an exercise at Mountain Home Air Force Base, Idaho, the Air Force confirmed to Defense News.

The incident took place at around noon and involved an F-35A aircraft from the 61st Fighter Squadron located at Luke Air Force Base, the service said in a statement. No serious injuries seem to have been sustained by the pilot or nearby crew.

"The pilot had to egress the aircraft during engine start due to a fire from the aft section of the aircraft," Air Force spokesman Capt. Mark Graff said in an email. "The fire was extinguished quickly. As a precautionary measure, four 61st Aircraft Maintenance Unit Airmen, three Airmen from the 366th Maintenance Group and the 61st Fighter Squadron pilot were transported to the base medical center for standard evaluation."

Seven F-35As from Luke AFB, which is one of the bases responsible for joint strike fighter pilot instruction, had deployed to Mountain Home to conduct surface-to-air training from Sept. 10 to 24.

The root cause of the event is under investigation, Graff stated.
To describe this program ill-starred is an understatement.

Krebs on Security is Back Online

The security blogger's highly regarded site was taken down by a massive DDOS attack, which forced Akamai to drop him from their protection system:

However, events of the past week have convinced me that one of the fastest-growing censorship threats on the Internet today comes not from nation-states, but from super-empowered individuals who have been quietly building extremely potent cyber weapons with transnational reach.

More than 20 years after Gilmore first coined that turn of phrase, his most notable quotable has effectively been inverted — “Censorship can in fact route around the Internet.” The Internet can’t route around censorship when the censorship is all-pervasive and armed with, for all practical purposes, near-infinite reach and capacity. I call this rather unwelcome and hostile development the “The Democratization of Censorship.”

Allow me to explain how I arrived at this unsettling conclusion. As many of you know, my site was taken offline for the better part of this week. The outage came in the wake of a historically large distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attack which hurled so much junk traffic at Krebsonsecurity.com that my DDoS protection provider Akamai chose to unmoor my site from its protective harbor.

Let me be clear: I do not fault Akamai for their decision. I was a pro bono customer from the start, and Akamai and its sister company Prolexic have stood by me through countless attacks over the past four years. It just so happened that this last siege was nearly twice the size of the next-largest attack they had ever seen before. Once it became evident that the assault was beginning to cause problems for the company’s paying customers, they explained that the choice to let my site go was a business decision, pure and simple.


Today, I am happy to report that the site is back up — this time under Project Shield, a free program run by Google to help protect journalists from online censorship. And make no mistake, DDoS attacks — particularly those the size of the assault that hit my site this week — are uniquely effective weapons for stomping on free speech, for reasons I’ll explore in this post.

Why do I speak of DDoS attacks as a form of censorship? Quite simply because the economics of mitigating large-scale DDoS attacks do not bode well for protecting the individual user, to say nothing of independent journalists.

In an interview with The Boston Globe, Akamai executives said the attack — if sustained — likely would have cost the company millions of dollars. In the hours and days following my site going offline, I spoke with multiple DDoS mitigation firms. One offered to host KrebsOnSecurity for two weeks at no charge, but after that they said the same kind of protection I had under Akamai would cost between $150,000 and $200,000 per year.


What exactly was it that generated the record-smashing DDoS of 620 Gbps against my site this week? Was it a space-based weapon of mass disruption built and tested by a rogue nation-state, or an arch villain like SPECTRE from the James Bond series of novels and films? If only the enemy here was that black-and-white.

No, as I reported in the last blog post before my site was unplugged, the enemy in this case was far less sexy. There is every indication that this attack was launched with the help of a botnet that has enslaved a large number of hacked so-called “Internet of Things,” (IoT) devices — mainly routers, IP cameras and digital video recorders (DVRs) that are exposed to the Internet and protected with weak or hard-coded passwords. Most of these devices are available for sale on retail store shelves for less than $100, or — in the case of routers — are shipped by ISPs to their customers.

Some readers on Twitter have asked why the attackers would have “burned” so many compromised systems with such an overwhelming force against my little site. After all, they reasoned, the attackers showed their hand in this assault, exposing the Internet addresses of a huge number of compromised devices that might otherwise be used for actual money-making cybercriminal activities, such as hosting malware or relaying spam. Surely, network providers would take that list of hacked devices and begin blocking them from launching attacks going forward, the thinking goes.
The sheer disproportionality of the attack made one of his Krebs readers notes that this is odd, it's like the Death Star being tested out on the Millennium Falcon, rather than Alderran, but Krebs notes that with connectivity providers ignoring a very basic 12 year old protocol, (BCP38) it's more like there are an infinite supply of cloned warriors.  (Mostly, I prefer not to use Star Wars analogies myself.)

My thought is that this was a test. Krebs on Security was a well protected target, but taking it off line for a few days is not a huge deal in the scheme of things.

I think that it was a dress rehearsal, and so the question is what is going to be the main event.

The Stupidest Idea of the Year Doesn't Come From Donald Trump

It turns out that someone doesn't know his history, and thinks that a nuclear powered hypersonic airliner is somehow a good idea.

I would suggest that a review of the attempts at nuclear aircraft propulsion in the 1950s, including the nearly catastrophic tests on the NB-36H, where there was a (thankfully) minor airborne fire during testing:
Could this be the first nuclear powered airliner?

Currently, you would have to sit in a plane for eight or more hours after taking off from London Heathrow airport bound for New York’s J.F.K airport. Even first class travelling may not be fun in this case.

Imagine if you were told that within three hours someone could rush you over Atlantic Ocean and put you at J.F.K NY in a very comfortable plane as if you were in first class. Imagine if this were done with a speed of around 2300 mph/3,682Km/h.
They article suggests to that once fusion is perfected (magical thinking) it will be all hunky dory.

While the byproducts of Fusion are far more benign than those of fission, this is still an intensely stupid idea.

24 September 2016

Corbyn Wins Labour Leadership Race

It wasn't even close. He won with even more votes and a larger majority than the last election:
Jeremy Corbyn has pledged to “wipe the slate clean” after winning a convincing victory in Labour’s bitter leadership battle, securing 62% of the vote.

Rolling coverage of the announcement of the result of the Labour leadership election

Speaking after the result was declared in Liverpool, Corbyn thanked his rival, Owen Smith, and urged the “Labour family” to unite after the summer-long contest.

“We have much more in common than that which divides us,” he said. “Let’s wipe that slate clean from today and get on with the work we’ve got to do as a party together.”

Corbyn secured 61.8% of the vote to Smith’s 38.2%. The victory strengthens his hold on a party that has expanded dramatically since the 2015 general election and now has more than 500,000 members. In last year’s contest, he won 59.5% of the vote.

Corbyn won a majority over Smith in every category – members (59%), registered supporters (70%) and trades union affiliates (60%).
My prediction: The Blairites will attempt to sabotage Labour in the next general election, because this is how they roll.

One of the constants I've observed in politics is that the right wing of a political party, whether it be the Democrats, Republicans, Tories, or Labour, are willing to lose elections to enhance their power within the party.

I think that this is because they not are in politics to do things, they are in politics to tear things down.

Barbarians could sack Rome, but they could never have built it.

Today in Badassery

How can i not invoke William Shatner's unique performance in TJ Hooker?
Janelle Della-Libera had her purse snatched while she was fueling her car, and promptly jumped on the hood of the perpetrator's car in an attempt to retrieve her purse:
Janelle Irene Della-Libera was filling up the gas tank on the passenger side of her Volkswagen Tiguan at a Dania Beach Mobil station when she heard the driver's door of the SUV open and close.

A man was captured on video stealing Della-Libera's $300 black Kate Spade purse on Saturday afternoon. And within seconds, the 32-year-old Fort Lauderdale woman leaped onto the front windshield of his Cadillac DeVille sedan.

From her precarious perch, Della-Libera was filmed reaching inside the open door to try and keep him at the station, at 3991 Stirling Rd., the Broward Sheriff's Office said.

The driver made a sharp turn, Della-Libera lost her balance and tumbled head first to the pavement, where the Cadillac ran over her left ankle, according to the video and a deputy's incident report.

After she caught her breath, Della-Libera seemed to regret her actions.

"He could have killed me," Della-Libera told WPLG-Ch.10. "What if he had a gun? What if he would have been more vicious?...The scenario could have played out so much worse."
Like a significant portion of bad-ass behavior, it was not perhaps the wisest thing to do, because life is not TJ Hooker.

Well, He Promised the Veto

Obama has vetoed the "Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act", which allows survivors of the 911 attacks to sue the government of Saudi Arabia:
President Obama vetoed legislation on Friday that would allow families of victims of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks to sue the government of Saudi Arabia for any role in the plot, setting up an extraordinary confrontation with a Congress that unanimously backed the bill and has vowed to uphold it.

Mr. Obama’s long-anticipated veto of the measure, known as the Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act, is the 12th of his presidency. But unless those who oppose the bill can persuade lawmakers to drop their support by next week, it will lead to the first congressional override of a veto during Mr. Obama’s presidency — a familiar experience for presidents in the waning months of their terms.

In his veto message to Congress, Mr. Obama said the legislation “undermines core U.S. interests,” upending the normal means by which the government singles out foreign nations as state sponsors of terrorism and opening American officials and military personnel to legal jeopardy. It would put United States assets at risk of seizure by private litigants overseas and “create complications” in diplomatic relations with other countries, he added.

“I have deep sympathy for the amilies of the victims of the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, who have suffered grievously,” fMr. Obama wrote. But enacting the measure “would neither protect Americans from terrorist attacks nor improve the effectiveness of our response to such attacks.”
Not a surprise.

The DC consensus is that the House of Saud is an essential ally, and Obama is very much unable to see beyond the DC consensus.

What's more, his DCIA, John Brennan, has been a big fan of Riyadh ever since his days as station chief in Saudi Arabia.

I think that this veto will be overridden, for 2 reasons:
  • Republicans want to give Obama a great big f%$# you.
  • Any member of Congress, of either party, who votes to support the veto will be literally be writing their opponent's ads for the upcoming election.
Truth be told, Obama deserves to lose this one.

The House of Saud has spent decades creating the infrastructure of terrorism, and 911, or something like it, was a foreseeable result.

Quote of the Day

I just wish there was some sort of respectful, silent, civil protest that people could engage in that wouldn't enrage the other side.
Stephen Colbert
He then showed a picture of Colin Kaepernik kneeling silently during the national anthem.

This was f%$#ing brilliant.

Bit about Keepernik starts at about 1:10:


Philomwna Cunk explains time. (Devastating funny satire)

23 September 2016

It's Bank Failure Friday!!!

And here they are, ordered, and numbered for the year so far.
  1. Allied Bank, Mulberry, Ar
Full FDIC list

So, here is the graph pr0n with last few years numbers for comparison (FDIC only):

About F%$#ing Time

After more than 75 years. California Farm Workers have finally got the right to overtime pay:
California just approved the strongest overtime pay legislation in the nation for farmworkers, long exempt from overtime standards mandated for most other occupations.

The legislation, known as AB 1066, was signed into law this week by Gov. Jerry Brown and will eventually result in time-and-a-half pay for farmworkers who work more than eight hours a day or 40 hours a week.

“This bill corrects 78 years of discrimination, not just in the state but in the country,” says Juan Garcia, an internal coordinator with the United Farm Workers (UFW). “Most of the people that I’ve talked to here in Sonoma that have worked 30, sometimes 40 years—they’ve been waiting for something like this.”

Nationwide, almost all farmworkers are exempt from overtime thresholds thanks to agricultural worker exemptions in the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938. The law excluded farmworkers in order to appease Dixiecrat leaders who objected to minimum wage and overtime federal standards for the mostly black farmworkers of the time.


Under AB 1066, the state will reduce the overtime threshold by half an hour every year, starting in 2019, until it reaches the 8 hours a day or 40 hours a week standard in 2022. AB 1066 affects the roughly 800,000 farmworkers in California, one-third of all agricultural laborers in the country according to 2014 estimates by Philip Martin, professor of agricultural economics at the University of California, Davis. These workers earn, on average, between $16,500 and $19,000 a year, according to Martin and other researchers at UC Davis. When employed by farm labor contractors, instead of growers directly, farmworkers, on average, earn even less—an estimated $12,719 per year. The California Research Bureau reports that approximately 30 percent of California households with farm laborer incomes are below the poverty line.
The horrible conditions that farm workers labor under are a searing indictment of the US agricultural industry.

Let's Talk About the Backstory Here

When Dassault won the medium multi-role combat aircraft (MMRCA) contract, it wanted to partner with Reliance Industries, but the Indian Government insisted on local co-production be conducted by Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL), the company that took over 30 years to deliver the massively under-performing Tejas fighter aircraft.

When Dassault saw the level of technical competence at HAL, they refused to work with them, figuring that it would be a complete horror show, and they would be on the hook for this, so now we have India signing a deal for 36 French made fighters:
India has concluded a deal to acquire 36 Dassault Rafale fighters, with a contract signed in New Delhi by the nation’s defence minister, Manohar Parrikar, and his French counterpart Jean-Yves Le Drian on 23 September.

The deal is worth €7.75 billion ($8.69 billion) for the French-built aircraft along with associated weapons and a support package.

Finalisation of the contract brings to a close a long-running acquisition process to equip the Indian air force with the Rafale, which was selected as the winner of its medium multi-role combat aircraft (MMRCA) tender in 2012, defeating the Boeing F/A-18E/F Super Hornet and Eurofighter Typhoon. Other previous candidates for the deal included the Lockheed Martin F-16, RAC MiG-35 and Saab Gripen.

The air force was originally slated to acquire 126 aircraft via the programme, but the original deal ran aground over cost concerns. [Cost concerns my ass. Dassault found HAL incapable of executing a co-production deal] It was revived by Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi during his visit to France in 2105, when he declared that 36 aircraft would be acquired in “fly-away” condition from Dassault. This was keeping in view the “critical operational necessity” of the service, he said at the time.
This was the Rafale's first foreign sale, and it was a very big deal for Dassault, but they could not get co-production to work, but the fact that they had this order made it a viable choice on other foreign markets, which is why there are sales to Egypt and Qatar as well, so the deal, even if much diminished was a lifesaver for the Rafale production line.

The ineptitude of the Indian defense establishment in developing new systems (see the Tejas, the Arjun tank, the INSAS rifle system, etc.) remains staggering.

22 September 2016

This Would Not Have Happened 3 Years Ago

When Tulsa police officer Betty Shelby shot Terence Crutcher last week, I'm sure that she thought that therw would be little or no repurcussions.

Before Black Lives Matter protests, and the increasing frequency of videos of police misconduct, the worst that could be expected was that she might have been fired, and then gone to work at another police department.

Not today.  The district attorney charged officer Shelby with 1st degree manslaughter:
The police officer who fatally shot an unarmed black man in Tulsa, Oklahoma, on Friday has been charged with manslaughter, prosecutors announced on Thursday afternoon.

Tulsa County’s district attorney, Steve Kunzweiler, said he had filed a first-degree manslaughter charge against Betty Shelby, the white police officer who killed Terence Crutcher last week.


A court filing by prosecutors said Shelby “unlawfully and unnecessarily” shot Crutcher because he was refusing to comply with her orders.

Shelby “reacted unreasonably by escalating the situation”, according to an affidavit from Doug Campbell, Kunzweiler’s chief investigator, who alleged that she became “emotionally involved to the point that she overreacted”.

Kunzweiler said a warrant has been issued for Shelby’s arrest and “arrangements are being made for her surrender to the Tulsa County sheriff’s department,” where Shelby was previously employed.
The video of the shooting is pretty clear on what happened, and what did not happen.

When even Donald Trump thinks that this was a bad shoot, you know that something seriously went wrong that day:
Donald Trump has expressed concern over the recent police killing of an unarmed black man in Tulsa, Oklahoma.

Speaking to a crowd of black pastors at an Ohio church, the Republican nominee said he was "very, very troubled" by the shooting.


But Mr Trump has billed himself as the "law and order candidate", making his remarks stand out as a rare criticism of police actions.

The New York billionaire, who has been a vocal critic of the Black Lives Matter movement, received an endorsement by The Fraternal Order of Police on Friday.

"I must tell you, I watched the shooting in particular in Tulsa and that man was hands up. That man went to the car, hands up, put his hand on the car," Mr Trump said at the New Spirit Revival church in Cleveland Heights.
When a shooting of a black man draws public doubt from Donald f%$#ing Trump, it is not a good shoot.

Between this shooting and the shooting in Charlotte, which has experienced unrest and a curfew, it is no surprise that distrust of the police is at the highest level in at least a generation.

Department of Ed Takes Steps Against the For Scam Profit Colleges

The Accrediting Council for Independent Colleges and Schools (ACICS), which has been a source for performance free accreditation for the for-profit colleges, has been debarred by the US Department of Education, which means that the schools that it accredits will not qualify for federal student loans:
The Education Department on Thursday moved to shut down the nation’s largest accreditor of for-profit colleges, which had stood watch as failing institutions like Corinthian Colleges and ITT Technical Institute teetered on a pileup of fraud investigations.

The Accrediting Council for Independent Colleges and Schools — known as A.C.I.C.S. — is one of a few dozen different organizations charged with maintaining standards and quality at the country’s more than 5,400 higher education institutions.

An accreditor’s seal of approval is a prerequisite for colleges’ enrollment of students receiving federal student loans and aid, a funding stream that is essential for the institutions’ survival.

A letter from the Education Department said that A.C.I.C.S. was out of compliance with regulations in 21 areas. While it acknowledged some progress, the letter stated that the group’s “track record does not inspire confidence that it can address all of the problems effectively.”


A.C.I.C.S. was responsible for approving roughly 240 institutions that received $4.7 billion in taxpayer money last year.

An estimated 600,000 students currently attending schools the council has accredited are in no immediate danger of losing their federal financial aid. Regardless of any appeal, those schools have 18 months to secure the approval of another accreditor — although they might have to meet more stringent standards.


As a group, the mostly for-profit colleges that A.C.I.C.S. has overseen have the lowest graduation rates in the country and among the highest rates of student loan defaults. The Education Department staff report found that it failed to verify job placements, identify institutions that were at risk and monitor educational quality.

The accrediting agency was also plagued with conflicts of interest. At least two-thirds of its commissioners worked as executives at for-profit colleges, including Corinthian and ITT, a ProPublica investigation discovered last year.


“Accrediting agencies are supposed to make sure students get a good education and ensure colleges aren’t cheating students while sucking down taxpayer money,” said Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, one of the sponsors. “But right now the accreditation system is broken.
Your mouth to God's ear, Senator Warren.

Interestingly enough, this is a single point of failure for the scam colleges, who are dependent on a captive accreditation process, so by effectively shutting down this agency, the Department of Education has effectively opened up a major can of whup ass on the whole corrupt industry.

Well done.

21 September 2016

About that Clinton Credit Card Post………

It turns out that the report of many multiple unauthorized charges against donor's credit cards by the Clinton campaign was reported by the Observer, and their publisher is Jared Kushner, who is Donald Trump's son-in-law. (Thanks Daniel)

I looked around the internet, and with one exception, all the stories come link back to the Observer.

The exception, dating from June, is a TV report about he travails of a single donor who experienced problems.

As such, this story is unsubstantiated, and I refract retract it.

I will continue to follow this though.

This is Unconscionable

“Nobody believes in it. You’re like, ‘F%$# this,’” a former Green Beret says of America’s covert and clandestine programs to train and arm Syrian militias. “Everyone on the ground knows they are jihadis. No one on the ground believes in this mission or this effort, and they know they are just training the next generation of jihadis, so they are sabotaging it by saying, ‘F%$# it, who cares?’”

“I don’t want to be responsible for Nusra guys saying they were trained by Americans,” the Green Beret added. A second Special Forces soldier commented that one Syrian militia they had trained recently crossed the border from Jordan on what had been pitched as a large-scale shaping operation that would change the course of the war. Watching the battle on a monitor while a drone flew overhead, “We literally watched them, with 30 guys in their force, run away from three or four ISIS guys.”
The term for this is, "Going The Good Soldier Švejk."

Expanding on this, Jack Murphy notes that the CIA continues to be uninterested in fighting ISIS, instead focusing on overthrowing the Assad regime, while different CIA task forces are fighting each other:
One of the major points of this article is that the CIA doesn’t give a rat’s ass about the Islamic State in Syria or Iraq. By the end of 2014 there were only twenty CIA targeting officers and analysts were dedicated to IS. By early 2016, it was not much better. Instead, the CIA neurotically focused on removing Assad from power by any means possible. This laser focus was established by Brennan. I surmise this focus is shared by most in the Obama Administration

In spite of this focus, the CIA’s efforts in Syria is plagued by bureaucratic infighting. The CIA has three elements jockeying for power. The Syria Task Force is similar to the Iraqi Task Force and Iranian Operations Group that preceded it. It is Brennan’s baby. Damascus X is the Syrian CIA station now operating in Amman. And then there is the CTC/SI (Counterterrorist Center/Syria-Iraq), which is tragically focused on the Assad government rather than the terrorists. I have seen this kind of food fight for resources and prestige in the CIA and even in the DIA during the fat money days of the GWOT. I’m sure this cat fight is even more intense in today’s leaner fiscal environment.
The buck on this stops at Barack Obama's desk.

It is clear that he has been passive, and allowed the US state security apparatus to set their own, frequently conflicting priorities, and Obama's passivity with regard to this is the main cause.

It doesn't help that current DCIA, John Brennan, was a former station chief in Saudi Arabia, and has relentlessly supported Saudi policy goals ever since.

This is not as much of a clusterf%$# as the invasion of Iraq, yet, but it really is a level of incompetence simply buggers the mind.

Nashville Does the Right Thing, of Course, AT&T Will Sue to Stop This

After months of obstruction and delay by the incumbent providers, the Nashville City Council has voted to Google Fiber authorization to mount the the lines on the poles themselves.

Needless to say AT&T will not stand for such consumer friendly behavior:
The Nashville Metro Council last night gave its final approval to an ordinance designed to help Google Fiber accelerate deployment of high-speed Internet in the Tennessee city, despite AT&T and Comcast lobbying against the measure. Google Fiber's path isn't clear, however, as AT&T said weeks ago that it would likely sue Nashville if it passes the ordinance. AT&T has already sued Louisville, Kentucky over a similar ordinance designed to help Google Fiber.

The Nashville Council vote approved a "One Touch Make Ready" ordinance that gives Google Fiber or other ISPs quicker access to utility poles. The ordinance lets a single company make all of the necessary wire adjustments on utility poles itself, instead of having to wait for incumbent providers like AT&T and Comcast to send work crews to move their own wires.

One Council member who opposed the ordinance asked AT&T and Comcast to put forth an alternative plan, but the council stuck with the original One Touch Make Ready proposal.
AT&T and Comcast were using their positions on the top of the poles to delay Google deployment, a rather unsurprising state of affairs given that their business model is predicated on extracting monopoly rents.

The existing model is not a free market, but incumbent monopolies, which is why US internet is so expensive and so slow.

The Term for This Is "Desperately Flailing around for an Exit Strategy"

Barack Obama is clearly concerned that the campaign against ISIS will be a prominent stain on his legacy, as well it should be, and now he is throwing any sh%$ he can at Syria to see what sticks.

Case in point, they are now looking at openly arming the Kurdish militia:
The Obama administration is weighing a military plan to directly arm Syrian Kurdish fighters combating the Islamic State, a major policy shift that could speed up the offensive against the terrorist group but also sharply escalate tensions between Turkey and the United States.

The plan has been under discussion by the National Security Council staff at a moment when President Obama has directed aides to examine all proposals that could accelerate the fight against the Islamic State, also known as ISIS or ISIL. Mr. Obama has told aides that he wants an offensive well underway before he leaves office that is aimed at routing the Islamic State from Raqqa, the group’s de facto capital in northern Syria.

Deciding whether to arm the Syrian Kurds is a difficult decision for Mr. Obama, who is caught in the middle trying to balance the territorial and political ambitions of Turkey and the Syrian Kurds, two warring American allies that Washington needs to combat the Islamic insurgency.

Directly providing weapons for the first time to the Syrian Kurds, whom American commanders view as their most effective ground partner against the Islamic State, would help build momentum for the assault on Raqqa. But arming them would also aggravate Mr. Obama’s already tense relations with Turkey’s president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan. The United States and Turkey sharply disagree over Syria’s Kurdish militias, which Turkey sees as its main enemy in Syria.


American commanders view the plan to arm the Syrian Kurds, whose population straddles the border with Turkey, as an incentive to keep them on board for the fight against the Islamic State. Asked if the recent volatile military and political situation around the Syrian-Turkish border had slowed the pace for taking Raqqa, Gen. Joseph L. Votel, the head of Central Command, said last week that it might have.
In desperation, our Syria policy is becoming even more incoherent.

Understanding Ammosexual Deviancy

A new study has shown that ½ of all guns in America are owned by just 3% of the population.

Let's run the math: (rounding a bit) There are about 320 million people in America. There are something north of 300 million guns in America.

3% of 320 million people is 9.6 million people.

½ of 300 million guns is 150 million guns.

That means that each of the serious gun fondlers has an average of 15⅝ guns per member of the ammosexual community.

Actually, I rounded.  The article is a bit more dire:
More specifically, the survey showed that the 3 percent owned 133 million guns. Each of these 7.7 million “super-owners” possess between 8 and 140 firearms for an average of 17 guns per person. For some context, most of America’s estimated 55 million gun owners own, on average, three guns and nearly half have one or two, according to the survey.
17 guns per person isn't just someone who has a lot of guns, this is a deranged nut with a firearms fetish.

How Utterly Proper

It appears that the Clinton Campaign has been erroneously overcharging its donors credit cards, but but only the small donors are effected, so no harm, no foul.

There is a metaphor here, but it is not yet fully formed in my mind:
Hillary Clinton’s campaign is stealing from her poorest supporters by purposefully and repeatedly overcharging them after they make what’s supposed to be a one-time small donation through her official campaign website, multiple sources tell the Observer.

The overcharges are occurring so often that the fraud department at one of the nation’s biggest banks receives up to 100 phone calls a day from Clinton’s small donors asking for refunds for unauthorized charges to their bankcards made by Clinton’s campaign. One elderly Clinton donor, who has been a victim of this fraud scheme, has filed a complaint with her state’s attorney general and a representative from the office told her that they had forwarded her case to the Federal Election Commission.

“We get up to a hundred calls a day from Hillary’s low-income supporters complaining about multiple unauthorized charges,” a source, who asked to remain anonymous for fear of job security, from the Wells Fargo fraud department told the Observer. The source claims that the Clinton campaign has been pulling this stunt since Spring of this year. The Hillary for America campaign will overcharge small donors by repeatedly charging small amounts such as $20 to the bankcards of donors who made a one-time donation. However, the Clinton campaign strategically doesn’t overcharge these donors $100 or more because the bank would then be obligated to investigate the fraud.

“We don’t investigate fraudulent charges unless they are over $100,” the fraud specialist explained. “The Clinton campaign knows this, that’s why we don’t see any charges over the $100 amount, they’ll stop the charges just below $100. We’ll see her campaign overcharge donors by $20, $40 or $60 but never more than $100.” The source, who has worked for Wells Fargo for over 10 years, said that the total amount they refund customers on a daily basis who have been overcharged by Clinton’s campaign “varies” but the bank usually issues refunds that total between $700 and $1,200 per day.
Here's some more detail for the metaphor:
The source said that pornography companies often deploy a similar arrangement pull. “We see this same scheme with a lot of seedy porn companies,” the source said. The source also notes that the dozens of phone calls his department receives daily are from people who notice the fraudulent charges on their statements. “The people who call us are just the ones who catch the fraudulent charges. I can’t imagine how many more people are getting overcharged by Hillary’s campaign and they have no idea.”
I so want to go live in a cave until this f%$#ing election is over.

20 September 2016

The Bull Durham Rule of Constitutional Law

Do not call the judge a C%$# Sucker.

On the issue of voting rights, the state of Texas has left a Federal Court Judge profoundly unamused:
Texas violated a court order intended to preserve voting rights. And it got caught.

Earlier this month, the Justice Department informed a federal court that Texas is violating a recent court order that sought to keep the state from disenfranchising voters. After an appeals court struck down the state’s voter ID law, a common form of voter suppression favored by conservative lawmakers, the state agreed to be bound by an order that would permit voters to cast a ballot in the 2016 election if they “cannot reasonably obtain” photo ID.

Despite this order, Texas published press releases, voter education materials, and training manuals for poll workers that effectively stated that a voter without ID cannot vote unless it is literally impossible for that voter to obtain a photo ID. Thus, for example, a voter who had to make multiple day long trips to a government office and make burdensome document requests to obtain an ID would not be able to vote, under Texas’ standard, unless that voter was willing to jump through all of these considerable hoops.

On Tuesday, Judge Nelva Gonzales Ramos, the judge overseeing this case, weighed in on Texas’ defiance of the court order. And, if the order she issued on Tuesday is any indication, she’s pissed.


Among other things, the Tuesday order requires Texas to “re-issue its press releases concerning voting to properly reflect the language in the Court’s Order,” to “edit the poster to be printed and placed at polling locations to accurately reflect the language in the Court’s Order,” and to “edit digital materials on its website page(s) that address voting rights and procedures, including titles or headlines and FAQs” to bring them into compliance with the original court order.

Significantly, the Tuesday order also provides that “the State of Texas shall provide to counsel for all Plaintiffs scripts and copy for documents and advertisements that have not yet been published for review and objection prior to publication.” As a practical matter, this gives the Justice Department (as well as the private plaintiffs in this case) the power to read over and object to new elections related materials before those materials are published.
You read that right:  The judge put the state of Texas back under a pre-clearance regime, at least this year.

Oh snap.

The EpiPen Price Gouging is a Family Affair

It turns out that Gayle Manchin, Senator Joe Manchin's wife and mother of Mylan CEO Heather Bresch, was appointed chair of the National Association of State Boards of Education , where she relentlessly pushed to increase EpiPen sales:
After Gayle Manchin took over the National Association of State Boards of Education in 2012, she spearheaded an unprecedented effort that encouraged states to require schools to purchase medical devices that fight life-threatening allergic reactions.

The association's move helped pave the way for Mylan Specialty, maker of EpiPens, to develop a near monopoly in school nurses' offices. Eleven states drafted laws requiring epinephrine auto-injectors. Nearly every other state recommended schools stock them after what the White House called the "EpiPen Law" in 2013 gave funding preference to those that did.

The CEO of Mylan then, and now, was Heather Bresch. Gayle Manchin is Heather Bresch's mother.
The whole Manchin clan is in on this bit of looting.

On the bright side, both New York (first link) and West Virginia are looking at antitrust and Medicate fraud allegations against the firm:
On the eve of a Congressional hearing on the soaring price and lack of competition for the EpiPen emergency allergy treatment, the attorney general for West Virginia has confirmed his office is investigating EpiPen maker Mylan for allegations of antitrust violations and Medicaid fraud.

WV Attorney General Patrick Morrisey confirmed the investigation today, revealing that he’d issued a subpoena to Mylan back in August, seeking documents and other information related to EpiPen, but that the company failed to meet the Sept. 7 deadline.

In response, Morrisey’s office has petitioned [PDF] a state circuit court to enforce that subpoena.

The state believes that EpiPen has been short-changing the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Services Bureau for Medical Services (BMS) by paying smaller rebates than it should have.

Drug companies pay different levels of rebates to BMS depending on whether a medication is considered an “innovator” or a “non-innovator.” The lower, non-innovator distinction, is usually reserved for generics, but Morrisey says that Mylan was paying that rate for EpiPen, even though it’s a brand-name drug.

This may constitute Medicaid fraud under state law, according to the petition.

The state also believes that Mylan may have violated state antitrust laws by filing an intellectual property suit against Teva Pharmaceuticals in 2012 over an in-development generic version of EpiPen.
Joe Manchin will lose his bid for reelection in 2018.

If the Democratic base does not aggressively primary him, they are idiots.

The Brave New World of Technological Innovation, It's Another way to F%$# the Students

Greg Mankiw, who teaches Economics 10 at Harvard has decided to inflict an overpriced online license for course materials:
For the first time, students in the College’s introductory economics class must purchase a $132 access code to an online textbook and set of online materials—a course requirement that many have criticized as making the class too expensive. But the course’s professor and the textbook’s author, N. Gregory Mankiw, said the new system is worth the pricetag.
When Greg Mankiw says that this is, "Worth the pricetag," means that this makes him money, because, even if he cannot directly profit from Harvard sales, a standard setup at universities, it creates sales at other institutions, which does benefit him directly.
Students enrolled in Harvard's introductory economics course must now purchase loose-leaf copies of N. Gregory Mankiw's 'Principles of Microeconomics' as well as a code to online materials.

Unlike in previous years, students in Economics 10: “Principles of Economics,” the foundational course for the Economics Department, cannot purchase used textbooks, which often offer a cheaper alternative to the new books. Instead, they must purchase access to the MindTap learning system, an online platform developed by the textbooks’ publisher that includes test preparation materials, problem-sets, and quizzes for the course. An online copy of the textbook is included on MindTap’s website, and students also receive a loose-leaf hard copy.

The access will expire after 12 months, so students can not resell their textbooks, Mankiw said.
How convenient.

The Douglas Adams phrase, "A bunch of mindless jerks who'll be the first against the wall when the revolution comes," seems an apt description of both Dr. Mankiw his fellow travellers.

If a Business Treats Their Employees Like Crap, They Probably Do So to Their Customers

Case in point, Amazon, whose searches serve up their own products when better and cheaper alternatives are available:
One day recently, we visited Amazon’s website in search of the best deal on Loctite super glue, the essential home repair tool for fixing everything from broken eyeglass frames to shattered ceramics.

In an instant, Amazon’s software sifted through dozens of combinations of price and shipping, some of which were cheaper than what one might find at a local store. TheHardwareCity.com, an online retailer from Farmers Branch, Texas, with a 95 percent customer satisfaction rating, was selling Loctite for $6.75 with free shipping. Fat Boy Tools of Massillon, Ohio, a competitor with a similar customer rating was nearly as cheap: $7.27 with free shipping.

The computer program brushed aside those offers, instead selecting the vial of glue sold by Amazon itself for slightly more, $7.80. This seemed like a plausible choice until another click of the mouse revealed shipping costs of $6.51. That brought the total cost, before taxes, to $14.31, or nearly double the price Amazon had listed on the initial page.

What kind of sophisticated shopping algorithm steers customers to a product that costs so much more than seemingly comparable alternatives?

One that substantially favors Amazon and sellers it charges for services, an examination by ProPublica found.

Amazon often says it seeks to be “Earth’s most customer-centric company.” Jeffrey P. Bezos, its founder and CEO, has been known to put an empty chair in meetings to remind employees of the need to focus on the customer. But in fact, the company appears to be using its market power and proprietary algorithm to advantage itself at the expense of sellers and many customers.


We looked at 250 frequently purchased products over several weeks to see which ones were selected for the most prominent placement on Amazon’s virtual shelves — the so-called “buy box” that pops up first as a suggested purchase. About three-quarters of the time, Amazon placed its own products and those of companies that pay for its services in that position even when there were substantially cheaper offers available from others.
There is a difference between expecting a lot from your employees, and treating them like crap.

If a company does the latter, they will treat the customer like sh%$ as well.

Elizabeth Warren Gets Added to My List of People I Do Not Want to Piss Off

Oh, Snap
Wells Fargo has been coercing low level employees to create accounts without customer's knowledge.

Wells has fired over 5000 low level employees over the criminogenic environment created by upper management.

They mandated cross-selling 8 accounts per customer when the industry norm is less than 3 accounts per customer

The manager of the division, Carrie Tolstedt, was allowed to retire with a $125 million wet kiss from the bank.

Well, the CEO of Wells Fargo, John Stumpf, was called before the Senate Banking Committee, and Elizabeth Warren gutted him like an overfed mackerel:
The Senate Banking Committee conducted a hearing Tuesday about the massive scandal currently engulfing Wells Fargo. The word "fraud" was used repeatedly by senators on both sides of the aisle when describing the bank's creation of millions of unauthorized bank and credit card accounts for existing customers.


Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren—a longtime advocate for more stringent regulation of Wall Street—tore into Stumpf, describing the unauthorized accounts as a "massive, years long scam." She asked Stumpf what he has done to take responsibility for his bank's actions. "You have said repeatedly, 'I am accountable,'" she said. "But what have you done to actually hold yourself accountable? Have you resigned?"

Stumpf avoided answering the question directly, prompting Warren to repeat her question, her voice rising, at least three times.

Warren proceeded to pummel Stumpf with more questions. "Have you returned one nickel of the money you earned while this scam was going on?" she asked. Stumpf evaded the question several times. (Stumpf said earlier in the hearing that he earned $19.3 million last year.) Finally, an exasperated Warren said, "I'll take that as a 'no.'"

She then asked if he'd fired any members of his senior management. Stumpf initially began by describing the firing of regional branch managers, but Warren stopped him, emphasizing that her question was not about low-level leadership but about the people at the top. Again, Stumpf's answer was no.
She then went on to note that Stumpf had earned an additional $200 million in stock options from the stock appreciation largely driven by their absurdly high cross-selling numbers.

She really took the bark off that asshole, and it is a true thing of beauty.

Watch ……… the ……… Video.

19 September 2016

They Went There

In the "Bridgegate" trial, prosecutors are saying that Chris Christie knew about the traffic tie up as it happened, and why it happened:
Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey knew that three of his top officials were involved in a plan to shut down lanes leading to the George Washington Bridge as it was happening and that the closings were intended to punish a local mayor for declining to support him, federal prosecutors said on Monday.

The assertion was an unexpected and startling beginning to the trial of two former Christie administration officials charged with closing the lanes in 2013 and then covering it up. And it was a surprising claim because of the side of the courtroom it came from, as lawyers made opening statements.

Defense lawyers have long argued that Mr. Christie, a Republican, and his top advisers were well aware of the lane closings and that they directed the cover-up as they tried to protect the governor’s political aspirations — saying their clients were “thrown under the presidential bus,” as one lawyer argued on Monday.

But this was the first time a prosecutor had pointed a finger at Mr. Christie. And it directly contradicts the governor’s statements in the three years since the lanes were mysteriously closed, paralyzing the borough of Fort Lee, N.J.

Mr. Christie, a former top federal prosecutor in New Jersey, has consistently denied that he knew about the lane closings as they unfolded, and argued that the United States attorney’s office had “exonerated” him when it declined to indict him along with the defendants now standing trial.

The prosecutor, speaking for the United States attorney’s office, said that two of the alleged co-conspirators in the case, David Wildstein and Bill Baroni, had “bragged” to the governor about the lane closings at a memorial service for the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, on the third day of the closings, and that they had been done to “mess” with Mayor Mark Sokolich of Fort Lee, a Democrat, because he had declined entreaties to endorse the governor’s re-election. Mr. Baroni and Bridget Anne Kelly, who were close allies of Mr. Christie, are the two defendants in the trial.

Mr. Wildstein and Mr. Baroni boasted to Mr. Christie that panicked phone calls from Mr. Sokolich, pleading that the lane closings were a “public safety emergency,” were deliberately being ignored, the prosecutor said.
Wildstein has copped a plea and is testifying for the state, so my guess is that we will see some very interesting testimony.

I am not unsure whether or not the intent her is to finger Christie, or if it is a ploy to set the defense attorneys back on their heels.

Still, pass the popcorn.