31 January 2017

So it's the Ice Queen's Kid?

So, Trump appointed Neil Gorsuch, the daughter of Anne Gor butsuch Burford, known as the "Ice Queen" by her staff during her brief tenure as the worst head ever of the EPA, is Donald Trump's selection to replace Antonin Scalia.

I'm glad that the speculation is over, because the speculation had some of the stupidest sh%$ ever written, such as this paean to the alleged brilliance of Clarence Thomas, but this guy is actually to the right of Scalia, particularly with regard to administrative rulings.

The Democrats are promising a filibuster, but, true to form, the right wing Democrats upon which the establishment lavishes so much aid, are already lining up to knife the party in the back.

WV Senator Joe Manchin (Father of the Epipen profiteer) has already announced that he will not filibuster the appointment, and Senator Heidi Heitkamp has pretty much said as much.

The Republicans have threatened to nuke the filibuster, but they will do so eventually anyway.

If your Democratic Senator votes for cloture, don't vote for them for reelection.  They don't deserve your vote.

Quote of the Day

I am afraid that [White House Press Secretary Sean] Spicer is starting to look like the Nomad probe from the old Star Trek episode when Kirk talks it into a logical box and it blows itself up. Not sure I think this is going to end well.
Charlie Pierce
With the exception of Melania Trump, Sean Spicer may have the worst job in Washington, DC.

My Bad

I missed a bank closing on "Bank Failure Friday," Seaway Bank and Trust Company, of Chicago, Illinois.

It's the 2nd bank failure of the year.

I'll start doing the graph pr0n when we get to 3 banks.

Yeah, She Does Look Like a Terrorist

Trump Spokesthug Kellyanne Conway thinks that its silly for her to go not to breeze through airport checkpoints because she doesn't look like a terrorist. (Translation: White people are never terrorists)

Not so much:
Maybe it is because I am part Irish, or because I am flying to Dublin this week to present at the Trinity Economic Forum, but Kellyanne Conway’s claim that though she does not “resemble” any “terrorist,” she has to go through security checks at airports, stunned me. Given her name and looks, that struck me as a bizarre statement. Surely, she must “resemble” some of the IRA terrorists. It took me four minutes of research to find an Irish terrorist that she resembles.

This is a photo of Conway.

Now, we all know what she means when she says that she does not “resemble” a terrorist – she does not look like her origins were the Middle East.  She looks like her family origins were in Northern Europe.  (Yes, I know, we all share African origins.)  Her family name was “Fitzpatrick” prior to her marriage.  Her dad was Irish and her mom Italian.  She went to Catholic schools.

It is no surprise, therefore, that she closely resembles terrorists.  Conway (nee Fitzpatrick), meet the famous Irish terrorist Dolours Price who grew up attending Catholic schools in Belfast – and helped blow up Old Bailey.

I dunno ……… I think that Ms. Conway does resemble a bone fide terrorist, and a particularly nasty one (she also facilitated an IRA hit on a mother of 10) at that.

Note to self: Perhaps Going to Catholic School should put people on a DHS watch list. (Not really)

Protest Sign of the Day

H/t JR at the Stellar Parthenon BBS.


The video really makes things clear: Many of Trump's policies are extensions of Obama's: Mass deportations, coddling the big bankers, implicit and explicit support for torture (Under Obama, they were not prosecuted, they were promoted to run the agencies), etc.

What's more the consequences of these policies led to a Completely Foreseeable backlash which put Trump in office.

30 January 2017

Quote of the Day

McConnel’s obstructionism and Trump’s birtherism were obnoxious but they didn’t destroy Obama’s agenda. Failure to push for card check, Medicare for all, voter registration, prosecuting Wall Street fraud and war crimes, new trade deals, authorizing the extra-judicial murder of US citizens, and overthrowing the government in Guatemala, Ukraine, and Libya were the real disasters.
James F.
He also notes that, "In 2008, Obama was really popular and he had the support of his own party. Obama failed to ram through his agenda because he refused to rally the people who put him into office."

There is a saying in politics, that Republicans fear their base, and Democrats hates their base.

Obama is a fairly strong argument for the final clause in that statement.

The Onion Nails It ……… Again

Man Dying From Cancer Spends Last Good Day On Phone With Insurance Company

As an aside, this is the real problem with ObamaCare.

Basically, the ACA brings in John Dillinger to supervise bank security.

This is F%$#ed Up and Sh%$

My Congressional District, MD-2
I had to lookup contact for my Congressional Rep a few days back, (Dutch Ruppersberger) and used the House web page for this.

It also put out a map, and the shape of my district is a complete mind-F%$#.

I just want to note that is one seriously Gerrymandered district.

It kind of looks like a Jackson Pollock.

I Didn't Go There, but Other People Are

On Friday, I made it a point to reflect on other victims of the Holocaust.

I did so in a way that specifically mentioned Jews.

Saturday, I took a rare day off from blogging, and on Sunday, I noted, among other things, that Trump had not mentioned Jews at all in their Holocaust Remembrance Day message.

Given the sh%$ storm that erupted, it was at the end of this post, though.

Now Tim Kaine, of all people, is saying that the omission of Jews is a form of Holocaust denialism:
Senator Tim Kaine said on Sunday that it was “not a coincidence” that the White House did not mention Jews or Judaism on Holocaust Remembrance Day yet Donald Trump signed an executive order banning travel from seven Muslim-majority countries.
“The final solution was about the slaughter of Jews,” said Kaine, Hillary Clinton’s running mate in her defeat by Trump in November, in an interview with NBC’s Meet the Press on Sunday. “We have to remember this. This is what Holocaust denial is.

“It’s either to deny that it happened, or many Holocaust deniers acknowledge, ‘Oh, yeah, people were killed. But it was a lot of innocent people. Jews weren’t targeted.’ The fact that they did that and imposed this religious test against Muslims in the executive orders on the same day – this is not a coincidence.”

Kaine spoke after White House chief of staff Reince Priebus, appearing on the same show, stood by the original statement.

“I don’t regret the words,” Priebus said, adding: “I mean, everyone’s suffering in the Holocaust, including, obviously, all of the Jewish people.”

On Friday, International Holocaust Remembrance Day, the White House said: “It is with a heavy heart and somber mind that we remember and honor the victims, survivors, heroes of the Holocaust. It is impossible to fully fathom the depravity and horror inflicted on innocent people by Nazi terror.”

Pressed on the omission on Saturday, after criticism from the Anti-Defamation League and Anne Frank Center, Trump spokeswoman Hope Hicks told CNN: “Despite what the media reports, we are an incredibly inclusive group and we took into account all of those who suffered.”
Certainly, one of the tropes of Holocaust deniers from the more antisemitic side of that crowd (there is also a more pro Nazi side) is to assert that the deaths of Jews,* and say that everything has to be viewed in the context of overall Nazi brutality.

Steve Bannon is clearly on one of those sides, and given that Trump just put him in every meeting of the National Security Council, it's pretty clear that he is the power behind the throne right now.

So I am inclined to agree with Kaine's assessment, though it is unclear to me whether or not this was Bannon freelancing or not.

In the final analysis, it does not matter, and my Orthodox Jewish friends and relatives who voted for Trump need to keep this on their list when asking God for forgiveness on Yom Kippur.

*Pretty much everyone ignores the Roma (Gypsies), because they are perhaps the most despised minority in the Western world.

You Gotta Love the Right Wing Media

Fox and its ilk are continuing to proclaim that the terrorist who shot up a mosque in Quebec is a Moroccan, despite the fact that this is not true.

The  Mohamed el Khadir, who is of Moroccan extraction in this crime was the guy who called 911:
A mass shooting at a Quebec City mosque last night left six people dead and eight wounded. The targeted mosque, the Cultural Islamic Center of Quebec, was the same one at which a severed pig’s head was left during Ramadan last June. Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau called the episode a “terrorist attack on Muslims.”

Almost immediately, various news outlets and political figures depicted the shooter as Muslim. Right-wing nationalist tabloids in the UK instantly linked it to Islamic violence. Fox News claimed that “witnesses said at least one gunman shouted ‘Allahu akbar!’,” and then added this about the shooter’s national origin:
White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer exploited the attack to justify President Trump’s ban on immigrants from seven Muslim-majority countries. “It’s a terrible reminder of why we must remain vigilant and why the President is taking steps to be proactive rather than reactive when it comes to our nation’s safety and security,” Spicer said at this afternoon’s briefing when speaking of the Quebec City attack.

But these assertions are utterly false. The suspect is neither Moroccan nor Muslim. The Moroccan individual, Mohamed el Khadir, was actually one of the worshippers at the mosque and called 911 to summon the police, and played no role whatsoever in the shooting.

The actual shooting suspect is 27-year-old Alexandre Bissonnette, a white French Canadian who is, by all appearances, a rabid anti-immigrant nationalist. A leader of a local immigration rights groups, François Deschamps, told a local paper he recognized his photo as an anti-immigrant far-right “troll” who has been hostile to the group online. And Bisonnette’s Facebook page – now taken down but still archived – lists among its “likes” the far right French nationalist Marine Le Pen, Islam critics Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens, the Israeli Defense Forces, and Donald J. Trump (he also “likes” the liberal Canadian Party NDP along with more neutral “likes” such as Tom Hanks, the Sopranos and Katy Perry).
Clearly, we need to ban Katy Perry fans from entering the United States.

They are dangerous.

I Gotta Figure That This is a Big F%$# You to Trump from Google

I saw today's Google doodle:

And I think that this is Mountain View's way of telling Trump to go Cheney himself.

29 January 2017

I Take One Day off from Blogging, and the Whole World Goes Pear Shaped

Trump just issued an executive order banning entry from seven predominantly Muslim countries.  Rather unsurprisingly, given the motley crew of racists populating his senior administration, this applies to legal residents of the United States (green card holders) as well:
President Trump on Friday closed the nation’s borders to refugees from around the world, ordering that families fleeing the slaughter in Syria be indefinitely blocked from entering the United States, and temporarily suspending immigration from several predominantly Muslim countries.

In an executive order that he said was part of an extreme vetting plan to keep out “radical Islamic terrorists,” Mr. Trump also established a religious test for refugees from Muslim nations: He ordered that Christians and others from minority religions be granted priority over Muslims.
There's something that I think even Clarence Thomas would rule as unconstitutional before the ink was dry.
“We don’t want them here,” Mr. Trump said of Islamist terrorists during a signing ceremony at the Pentagon. “We want to ensure that we are not admitting into our country the very threats our soldiers are fighting overseas. We only want to admit those into our country who will support our country, and love deeply our people.”

Earlier in the day, Mr. Trump explained to an interviewer for the Christian Broadcasting Network that Christians in Syria were “horribly treated” and alleged that under previous administrations, “if you were a Muslim you could come in, but if you were a Christian, it was almost impossible.”
BTW, the Trump administration is now walking back applying the EO to green card holders.

This clusterf%$# was complete with Customs and Immigration refusing a federal court order to allow lawyers to talk to the detainees:

Early in the evening, a huge piece of news broke: Two federal judges, Ann Donnelly of the Eastern District of New York and Leonie Brinkema of the Eastern District of Virginia, had made rulings that would stall the implementation of Trump’s anti-refugee executive order.

For the lawyers at Dulles Airport, Brinkema’s ruling generated a ton of excitement. She ruled that the travelers detained by Customs and Border Protection (CBP) had a right to see lawyers. 


But lawyers who spoke to The Daily Beast said it’s also unheard of for government agencies like CBP to prevent people who have the legal right to live in the U.S. from seeing their lawyers. And that’s what was happening.

After Brinkema’s order came down, and lawyers at Dulles prepared to meet their new clients, the CBP balked, barring these lawyers from seeing their would-be clients. 
It's gotten so bat that Richard Bruce Cheney is calling it a bad idea.

And in the bad idea area, Trump Trump put Steve Bannon on the National Security Council, while dropping the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and Director of National Intelligence from the Principal's Committee:
President Donald Trump is reshuffling the US National Security Council (NSC), downgrading the military chiefs of staff and giving a regular seat to his chief strategist Steve Bannon.

Mr Bannon, formerly the head of the populist right-wing, Breitbart News website, will join high-level discussions about national security.

The order was signed on Saturday.

The director of national intelligence and the joint chiefs will attend when discussions pertain to their areas.

Under previous administrations, the director and joint chiefs attended all meetings of the NSC's inner circle, the principals' committee.
I actually have mixed emotions on this, on one hand, he is clearly removing experienced voices in the American intelligence establishment from a major role, on the other hand, these American intelligence establishment has been a giant clusterf%$# of fail since well before the Bay of Pigs invasion.

And finally, and I am sure that Bannon had something to do with this. they issued a statement acknowledging Holocaust Rememberance Day which neglected to mention Jews at all.

27 January 2017

Speaking as a Jew on Holocaust Memorial Day

I would like to remind everyone of the:
  • 1½ Million Roma (Gypsies) murdered.
  • 300,000 disabled murdered.
  • 100,000 gays murdered.

I Am Losing My Motherf%$#Ing Mind

I was talking with Sharon* about our schedule for the weekend, and I noted that we needed to get me, "……… Those things with aglets on the end."

I had forgotten the word for shoe laces, but I had remembered the word for the little tips of the shoelaces.

Clearly, I picked the wrong week to quit sniffing glue.

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

26 January 2017

Deep Thought

H/t Mock Paper Scissors.

Too F%$#ing Soon Folks, Too F%$#ing Soon………

Having nothing better to do, the Washington Post has taken to viewing the votes of Senators through the lens of the 2020 Presidential campaign.

Please, make it stop:
This tweet has gotten 85,000 retweets and likes in the past 27 hours.

Remember that in 2020, indeed.

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand's (D-N.Y.) name has come up as a potential Democratic presidential candidate before, of course — pretty much ever since she was appointed to replace that other female senator from New York who ran for president. Our own Chris Cillizza has put Gillibrand on his shortlist of leading 2020 Democratic candidates, and The Post's Paul Kane, who covers her in the Senate, concurs.

Since that tweet, she broke her streak — voting for Nikki Haley to become U.S. ambassador to the United Nations later Tuesday — but it is conspicuous that this former moderate congresswoman turned more-liberal senator has been so anti-Trump on the first few votes of the Trump era. She has now voted against three of four Trump Cabinet-level nominees, which is still more than any other Democrat.
For the love of God, can we wait until after the 2018 primaries, or after Trump leaves office, whichever comes first, before we start talking about the 2020 campaign?


Headline of the Day

Dems to David Brock: Stop Helping, You Are Killing Us

I am not surprised. He raised a huge amount of money, and much of it went for lavish parties and an army of paid trolls.

He's been selling it as fighting Koch-sucker fire with fire, but it's not: The Koch's have been trying to destroy America, Civil Rights, and Democracy for decades, and they don't go all ADHD humming bird every Presidential year.

I get that every political movement has its share of grifters, but David Brock's tale of conversion from the right wing has passed its expiration date:
As David Brock attempts to position himself as a leader in rebuilding a demoralized Democratic Party in the age of Trump, many leading Democratic organizers and operatives are wishing the man would simply disappear.

Many in the party—Clinton loyalists, Obama veterans, and Bernie supporters alike—talk about the man not as a sought-after ally in the fight against Trumpism, but as a nuisance and a hanger-on, overseeing a colossal waste of cash. And former employees say that he has hurt the cause.


During Trump’s inauguration weekend, Brock held a conference for activists, politicians, and donors at a resort in South Florida to pitch his grand vision. All but one of the candidates currently running to chair the Democratic National Committee attended, conspicuously missing the Women’s March on Washington on Saturday.

Meanwhile, many Democratic grassroots activists and campaign alums have been giving his proposed plans some stern side-eye.

“His ability to produce wins for Democrats is nonexistent,” Jeff Weaver, former campaign manager for Bernie Sanders’s 2016 presidential run, told The Daily Beast. “He does not have the kind of understanding of what kind of coalition you have to bring together to win national races—that’s his fundamental problem.”


It’s clear why Brock has acquired a long list of enemies on the more progressive corners of his own party. Brock’s political evolution is well-known: the former anti-Clinton right-winger who starting in the late 1990s transformed into a relentlessly pro-Clinton Democratic operative.

But the friction between Brock and Democrats is not merely limited to its more progressive faction—many alumni of Obama’s campaigns and White House, as well as Hillary Clinton’s failed 2016 run, say they want Brock to stay far away from the Democrats’ future plans.


Another senior 2016 Clinton aide, who asked not to be named because the ex-staffer did “not want to deal with Brock’s bullshit,” described Brock and his organizations in 2016 as “useless—you might as well have thrown those [tens of] millions of dollars down a well, and then set the well on fire.”


“I met with him a couple times—he’s f%$#ing weird,” a former Obama administration official, who also requested anonymity, told The Daily Beast. “I felt like I was meeting Mugatu from Zoolander… I don’t know what the f%$# [Brock’s network] did besides raise a ton of money, and I don’t think the after-action report on 2016 says we need more David Brock. Probably the opposite is true.”
You know things are weird when a discussion of political operatives invokes Zoolander, but weird I can handle, weird, self-absorbed, and incompetent is another thing entirely.

This Has Got to Be the Single Most Corrupt Thing Said This Year

And it Wasn't said by a member of the Trump administration:
“[Hillary Clinton] understands that a forensic exam of the campaign is necessary, not only for her, but for the party and other electeds, and for the Investors in the Campaign,” said a close Hillary Clinton friend in Washington who, like several others, declined to speak on the record because their conversations with one or both Clintons were private. “People want to know that their Investment was treated with respect, but that their mistakes wouldn’t be repeated.”
"Investors" in the campaign?


While I understand that this wasn't said by the Clintons, it is emblematic of how thoroughly corrupt, and clueless, the Democratic Party establishment is, particularly the Clinton wing of the establishment.

We REALLY need to clean house, because these folks cannot see beyond their next big donor or consulting gig.

He's Gonna Fold Like Overcooked Broccoli

Greek PM Alex Tsipras is insisting that he will go no further with austerity.

While I agree with his sentiments, Angela Merkel and her Evil Minions have turned Greece into the world's largest debtor's prison, Tsipras has been saying this for years now, and when push comes to shove, he folds:
Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras dug in against creditor demands for more pension cuts and tax increases before a meeting of euro-area finance ministers to unblock the country’s bailout review.

“There is no way we are going to legislate even one euro more than what was agreed in the bailout,” Tsipras said in an interview with Efimerida ton Syntakton, to mark the two-year anniversary since he was elected on an anti-austerity platform. “The demand to legislate more measures, and contingent ones, no less, is alien not just to the Greek Constitution but to democratic norms.”

Euro-area finance ministers will discuss Greece when they meet in Brussels on Thursday, with Greece and officials representing the European Commission, the European Central Bank, the European Stability Mechanism and the International Monetary Fund locked in a stand-off over how to complete the country’s second bailout review, now a year behind schedule. The IMF, in particular, views the projections shared by Greece and the European creditors that the country can reach a primary budget surplus of 3.5 percent of gross domestic product by 2018 as too optimistic.
The IMF will make noises about the unsustainability of the program, but will then break its own rules and go along.

The Greeks will protest, and then capitulate.

Angela Merkel will use her "toughness" as a cudgel in the next round of elections.

The Greek people will continue to suffer.

Bet on it.

25 January 2017


Mary Tyler Moore just died:
Mary Tyler Moore, whose witty and graceful performances on two top-rated television shows in the 1960s and ’70s helped define a new vision of American womanhood, died on Wednesday in Greenwich, Conn. She was 80.

Her family said her death, at Greenwich Hospital, was caused by cardiopulmonary arrest after she had contracted pneumonia.

Ms. Moore faced more than her share of private sorrow, and she went on to more serious fare, including an Oscar-nominated role in the 1980 film “Ordinary People” as a frosty, resentful mother whose son has died. But she was most indelibly known as the incomparably spunky Mary Richards on the CBS hit sitcom “The Mary Tyler Moore Show.” Broadcast from 1970 to 1977, it was produced by both Ms. Moore and her second husband, Grant Tinker, who later ran NBC and who died on Nov. 28.
A part of my childhood just left us.

I Think That This Is a F%$# You to Erdogan

Germany is revoking a law that made it an offense to insult foreign leaders:
Germany is ditching a law specifically protecting heads of state and government against insults, after Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan tried to sue a prominent satirist. Slander and libel laws still apply.

Chancellor Angela Merkel's cabinet decided on Wednesday to abolish the rarely enforced section of the criminal code by January 1, 2018.

"The idea of 'lese majeste' dates back to a long-gone era, it no longer belongs in our criminal law," Justice Minister Heiko Maas (pictured above) said. "The regulation is obsolete and unnecessary," he added.

Maas said heads of state and government would still be able to defend themselves against slander and defamation "but no more or less so than any other person."

Insulted foreign leaders will still be able to pursue their own libel and defamation cases. The main difference between the laws was the extent of the sentence, insulting a political leader could carry up to three years in jail while ordinary libel or slander can carry a one-year jail sentence or a fine.
This is a good thing, terrible law, but this is really about Merkel dissing the Turkish President, and I think that a significant amount of political self-interest is part of the motivation for doing this.


The truth about the McDonalds coffee lawsuit:

24 January 2017

Tweet of the Day

H/t naked capitalism.

Well, We Now Have a List of Democrats Who Should Be Flipping Burgers………

BTW, the headline for this article is not a normal one for Slate, "Top Democrats Missed Women’s Marches to Attend Luxury Donor Retreat Thrown by Clinton Henchman, which implies that even the reliably "New Democrat" online news site is having enough of Clinton and their Evil Minions:
Saturday was probably the best day for progressives in the United States since the last time Barack Obama was elected. Roughly 3 million(!) people joined women's marches across the country in an unexpectedly enormous demonstration of enthusiasm (and, perhaps more crucially, organization). And yet a number of the most influential figures in Democratic politics—the people who are ostensibly responsible for translating this energy into political and electoral action—missed the marches completely because they were at a retreat for bajillionaire donors at something called the "Turnberry Isle" luxury resort near Miami.

The gathering was hosted by David Brock, the onetime Clinton-hating right-wing quasi-journalist goon who switched sides and, during the latest election cycle, ran a number of pro-Hillary super PACs and advocacy groups. (Hat tip to the Observer for its colorfully accurate description of Brock as a "henchman.") Among the attendees at Brock's event, via a program helpfully snagged by the New Republic:

  • Five of the candidates running for the chairmanship of the Democratic National Committee, including Keith Ellison and Thomas Perez. (The one candidate who marched instead of attending the retreat was South Bend, Indiana, mayor and Slate contributor Pete Buttigieg. Attaboy, Mayor Pete!)
  • Planned Parenthood president Cecile Richards, AFL-CIO political director Michael Podhorzer, and the presidents of EMILY's List, NARAL Pro-Choice America, and the Democracy Alliance. (Richards and NARAL president Ilyse Hogue were at retreat events on Friday but also spoke at the Women's March on Washington on Saturday. EMILY's List president Stephanie Schriock and Democracy Alliance president Gara LaMarche attended both the Miami retreat and the D.C. march as well.)*
  • "More than 120" major Democratic donors. (The event was also a fundraiser for Brock's organizations.)
  • James Carville
  • Rahm Emanuel
  • Jennifer Granholm
  • Former Joe Biden chief of staff Ron Klain
  • New York attorney general Eric Schneiderman
  • Keith Olbermann, for some reason
  • Harold Ford Jr., who was last seen in electoral politics losing a 2006 Senate race, has worked on Wall Street ever since, and who somehow nonetheless appeared on a panel called "Democratic Messaging That Can Work."

In case you were wondering, yes, the phrase "thought leader" did appear in the program.
I am a bit depressed at Ellison being there, but now we have a list of people we should not trust with elections, starting, of course, with the odious David Brock.

Being Born on 3rd Base and Thinking That You Hit a Triple

It turns out that the single most statististically segnificant characteristic of successful entrepreneurs is that they come from rich families:

We’re in an era of the cult of the entrepreneur. We analyze the Tory Burches and Evan Spiegels of the world looking for a magic formula or set of personality traits that lead to success. Entrepreneurship is on the rise, and more students coming out of business schools are choosing startup life over Wall Street.

But what often gets lost in these conversations is that the most common shared trait among entrepreneurs is access to financial capital—family money, an inheritance, or a pedigree and connections that allow for access to financial stability. While it seems that entrepreneurs tend to have an admirable penchant for risk, it’s usually that access to money which allows them to take risks.

And this is a key advantage: When basic needs are met, it’s easier to be creative; when you know you have a safety net, you are more willing to take risks. “Many other researchers have replicated the finding that entrepreneurship is more about cash than dash,” University of Warwick professor Andrew Oswald tells Quartz. “Genes probably matter, as in most things in life, but not much.”


For creative professions, starting a new venture is the ultimate privilege. Many startup founders do not take a salary for some time. The average cost to launch a startup is around $30,000, according to the Kauffman Foundation. Data from the Global Entrepreneurship Monitor show that more than 80% of funding for new businesses comes from personal savings and friends and family.

“Following your dreams is dangerous,” a 31-year-old woman who runs in social entrepreneurship circles in New York, and asked not to be named, told Quartz. “This whole bulk of the population is being seduced into thinking that they can just go out and pursue their dream anytime, but it’s not true.”
I'm not surprised, but I am a bit disgusted.

We need to understand that much of the sociology of success in the US, as it is everywhere, boils down to nepotism and tribalism.

Eleven Hours in the Tin Pan. God, There's Got to Be Another Way!

I Felt a Little Like a Dying Clown, with a Streak of Rin Tin Tin
Even when everyone is on the same page, even when everyone is pleasant to each other, even when they are productive, meetings suck.

What's more, the agony increases exponentially as the length goes up.
  • 15 minutes: Annoying
  • 30 minutes: Uncomfortable
  • 60 minutes: Agony
  • 2 Hours: Where is your God Now!
  • 3 Hours: I ache for the sweet succor of oblivion!
  • 5½ Hours: Tekeli-li! Tekeli-li!
All in all though, it was productive day.

Not Enough Bullets

At Davos, Jamie Dimon, the famously humorless head of JP Morgan Chase, shouted, "Make Elites Great Again!":

Why did that avalanche hit that hotel in Italy, rather than those rat-f%$#s:
The most telling exchange at the World Economic Forum in Davos came on Thursday afternoon during a closed-door lunch hosted by the Washington Post, Foreign Policy, and Slate.

A couple hundred people were gathered at the Hotel Seehof, an expansive five-star hotel on the Davos promenade, to discuss the state of the world on the eve of the inauguration of Donald Trump. There were heads of state, both current and former, and captains of industry and finance.

The hostess, Lally Graham Weymouth, a senior associate editor at the Washington Post and daughter of the late Katharine Graham, was calling on people around the room to share their thoughts when she hit upon David Rubinstein, the jovial co-founder of the Carlyle Group. His remarks were different — and, people in attendance said, made as a joke. Rubenstein, three people in attendance told BuzzFeed News, pleaded to those gathered that elites were people too. With feelings! And they deserved to be listened to.

And then Jamie Dimon, the head of JPMorgan Chase, replied in his own way, letting out an expressive: “Make elites great again!” The banker, who was compensated $28 million last year, is not known for his sense of humor.

Joseph Evangelisti, a spokesperson for JPMorgan, told BuzzFeed News: “It was tongue-in-cheek.” Those who heard Dimon’s private riposte weren’t so sure.
Amazingly enough, it gets worse from there.

I have a request for ISIS/ISIL/Daesh/Whatever: How about hitting Davos next year?

With careful planning you might get some Saudi princes as well.

23 January 2017

The Canary in the Facebook Coal Mine

Alex Stamos, who quit Yahoo over CEO Marissa Mayer's playing footsie with the NSA: (Limited time link, it goes behind a paywall in about a day)
Interesting piece on Re/Code this morning about the “secret meeting” of Valley engineers who fear that Trump is very, very bad for tech.

They’re right of course, and they’re also right when they talk about the potential for an engineers’ strike to grind major tech companies to a halt.

And yet, Re/Code still managed to bury the lede by breezing past a mention of one significant attendee…

The rules say all attendees are granted anonymity unless willing to be outed, which made Facebook Chief Security Officer Alex Stamos’s appearance all the more significant. He declined to comment, but did give Recode permission to print his name.
And that’s all the piece had to say about Alex Stamos. Which is a shame because simply describing Stamos as Facebook’s CSO doesn’t do him - or his appearance at the meeting - justice. In fact, taken at face value it almost suggests that Facebook had send such a high ranking exec to a “secret meeting” of rank and file techies to keep tabs on potentially troublesome workers.

The truth is something far more interesting, and far more encouraging.

It’s certainly true to say that Stamos is a high ranking Facebook exec, but he’s also something else: The canary in the coal mine. Anyone worried about Zuckerberg and Sandberg’s willingness to cosy up to Trump (and in Zuck’s case, his increasingly weird willingess to cosy up to ultra-nationalist demagogues and authoritarian regimes generally) should keep a very close eye on what Stamos does next.

For one thing, it’s hard to find a bio of Stamos that doesn’t include the phrase “vocal NSA critic.” Back in 2014, when Stamos joined Yahoo as its CSO, Entrepreneur magazine described him thus:


A year later, now at Yahoo, Stamos “clashed” with the director of the NSA over the agency’s demands for backdoors to access encrypted user data. Per the BBC


A few months later, it was reported that Stamos had been “poached” by Facebook. In fact, as Reuters revealed in 2016, Stamos resigned from Yahoo after discovering that his employer had agreed to pass data to the American government.

According to two of the former employees, Yahoo Chief Executive Marissa Mayer's decision to obey the directive roiled some senior executives and led to the June 2015 departure of Chief Information Security Officer Alex Stamos, who now holds the top security job at Facebook Inc.
Which brings us to this week’s “secret meeting” and Stamos’ willingness to be mentioned by name as an attendee.


The question is whether Facebook continues to try to keep Trump happy when those requests start rolling in (see also: requests to hire fewer immigrants or, even worse, to share information on those immigrants currently employed.)

In that regard, at least based on past performance, Alex Stamos is someone to whom we should all be paying attention. And in that context the timing of his very public attendance at an anti-Trump meeting looks a lot like a shot across the bows of his own employer.

Should Stamos suddenly get “poached” by another company or decide to leave Facebook for some other unspecified reason, the rest of us should probably take that as a cue to get our data as far away from Mark Zuckerberg’s servers as possible.
Mark Zuckerberg is not to be trusted.  There has never been a privacy promise that Facebook has not broken, and his dealing with his partners has been problematic, and now there are rumors that he wants to run for President in 2024.

Unfortunately, the Web 2.0 Suicide Machine is gone, but I am sure that there are services out there that perform the same function in a more trustworthy and reliable manner than does Facebook.

If he leaves,

Quote of the Day, Tinfoil Hat Edition

How do we know that black bloc is run by police informers? Because they break windows and burn cars but leave surveillance cameras unmolested.
—Reported as said by, "A correspondent," on Naked Capitalism
Considering the numerous times that undercover law enforcement has been the primary motivator in violent protests, I'm not sure if this is a tinfoil hat, or just a Panama hat with a red and black band.

It's Official

I am the dullest motherf%$#er on the face of the Earth.

I noted a while ago that I had purchased a 2004 Toyota Prius.

I have been driving it for a while, and I noticed that I am enjoying it far more than any car I've ever driven.

I just realized something:  This is my midlife crisis car, and instead of something like an MG-TD, or an old Triumph, or a Karmann Ghia, or a Jaguar, or Fiat Spider, I bought a 13 year old used hybrid.

They could market me as a sleeping aid.

I'm Worried about His Other Promises

Donald Trump just officially pulled the US out of the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP):
President Trump formally abandoned the Trans-Pacific Partnership on Monday, pulling away from Asia and scrapping his predecessor’s most significant trade deal on his first full weekday in office, administration officials said.

Mr. Trump sharply criticized the partnership agreement during last year’s campaign, calling it a bad deal for American workers. Although the deal had not been approved by Congress, the decision to withdraw the American signature at the start of Mr. Trump’s administration is a signal that he plans to follow through on promises to take a more aggressive stance against foreign competitors.

In other action on a busy opening day, Mr. Trump ordered a hiring freeze in the federal work force, exempting the military. And he reinstituted limits on nongovernmental organizations that operate overseas and receive American taxpayer money from performing abortions. Republican presidents typically impose those restrictions soon after taking office, and Democratic presidents typically lift them when they take over.

The president’s withdrawal from the Asian-Pacific trade pact amounted to a drastic reversal of decades of economic policy in which presidents of both parties have lowered trade barriers and expanded ties around the world. Although candidates have often criticized trade deals on the campaign trail, those who made it to the White House, including President Barack Obama, ended up extending their reach.
He made the promise, and he kept it.

Bill Clinton promised side agreements, and never tried to get them, and Barack Obama moved heaven and earth in an attempt to pass the TPP and passed CAFTA and similar deals, with their pro big pharma, pro big Ag, pro Wall Street provisions.

Unfortunately, while putting a stake through the heart of the TPP is a good thing, Donald Trump promised a lot of stuff that is simply batsh%$ insane, and it looks like he's going to keep those promises too.

He's already at work on NAFTA:
Aides signaled that Mr. Trump may also move quickly on renegotiating the North American Free Trade Agreement. He is scheduling meetings with the leaders of Canada and Mexico, the two main partners in that pact, first negotiated by the elder President George Bush and pushed through Congress by President Bill Clinton. Nafta has been a major driver of American trade for nearly two decades, but it has long been divisive, with critics blaming it for lost jobs and lower wages.

Do not be heartened that the spray tan orange stopped clock is right once today.

We are, as the Chinese are wont to say, living in interesting times.


Old School Heavy Metal:

22 January 2017

Stating the Obvious on Populist Rejection of Expert Opinions

Whether it's the Brexit, or Donald Trump, it is clear that disdain for experts figures prominently in populist politics, particularly on the right.

Dean Baker makes a point that needs to be made, that the experts have proven themselves to be unable to find their ass with both hands while insisting that they must remain the exclusive font of all policy:
Ivan Krastev, a permanent fellow at the Institute for Human Sciences in Vienna, had an interesting NYT column on the disenchantment of the European public with the meritocrats who have been largely running governments there for the last three decades. Krastev's main conclusion is that the public doesn't identify with an internationally-oriented group of meritocrats who possess skills that are easily transferable from their home country to other countries.

While this lack of sufficient national identity may play a role in the dislike of the meritocrats, there is a much simpler explanation: they have done a horrible job. Much of Europe continues to suffer from high unemployment, or low employment rates, almost a decade after the collapse of housing bubbles sent the continent's economy in a downward spiral. The meritocrats deserve the blame for both the weak recovery and allowing dangerous bubbles to grow in the first place. In most countries, most of the population has seen declining incomes over the last decade in spite of the substantial technological progress we have seen over this period.
It doesn't matter if it is the City of London, or Brussels, or Wall Street, or Washington, DC, or Berlin, these people nearly destroyed our world, and continue to promulgate policies that do not work, and still they remain largely in charge of our policy apparatus.

These people need to have a job that involves asking, "Do you want fries with that?"

This Should Surprise No One

Russia has just completed an agreement with Syria expanding their access to the Syrian port of Tartus:
Russia and Syria have signed an agreement this week to expand Russia’s sole foreign base – a naval repair facility in Syria – into a larger naval base capable of permanently hosting 11 ships, according to the agreement issued by the Russian government.

The agreement — signed on Wednesday – would allow the Tartus installation to expand to berth larger surface combatants and submarines, according to Russian state-controlled press reports.

“The deal stipulates that 11 Russian vessels can be present in the harbor of Tartus at once, including the ships equipped with nuclear marine propulsion, provided that nuclear and environmental safety guidelines are respected,” read a report in the Kremlin-controlled Sputnik wire.
“Russia promises to send to Syria, at its request, specialists to help restore Syrian warships and will help organize the defense of the harbor of Tartus and help mount search and rescue operations in Syrian waters.”
This is not surprising.

There was always going to be a quid pro quo for Russia's support of the Assad regime.

Obama Just put the Lie to the Clinton's Red Baiting

In his final Presidential press conference, Barack Obama said that the DNC emails were leaked, not hacked:
Three U.S. Intelligence Agencies (CIA, NSA and FBI) claim that IT-Systems of the Democratic National Committee were "hacked" in an operation related to the Russian government. They assert that emails copied during the "hack" were transferred by Russian government related hackers to Wikileaks which then published them.

President Obama disagrees. He says those emails were "leaked".

Wikileaks had insisted that the emails it published came from an insider source not from any government. The DNC emails proved that the supposedly neutral Democratic Party committee had manipulated the primary presidential elections in favor of the later candidate Hillary Clinton. This made it impossible for the alternative candidate Bernie Sanders to win the nomination. Hillory Clinton, who had extremely high unfavorable ratings, lost the final elections.


Here is President Obama in his final press conference yesterday (vid @8:31):
First of all, I haven't commented on WikiLeaks, generally. The conclusions of the intelligence community with respect to the Russian hacking were not conclusive as to whether Wikileaks was witting or not in being the conduit through which we heard about the DNC emails that were leaked.
The DNC emails "that were leaked" - not "hacked" or "stolen" but "leaked".

One wonders if this is a parting shot is primarily aimed at the involved Intelligence Agencies led by James Clapper and John Brennan. Or is dissing Hillary Clinton and her narrative the main purpose?
Dissing Hillary is the main purpose.

If Obama weren't thoroughly in the pocket of Clapper and Brennan, he would have fired them when they lied to and spied on members of Congress.

More importantly, it indicates that the DNC email leaks were an inside job, not the work of the GRU (read the reports, the FSB may have gotten into the DNC, but they did not redistribute the results, basic spycraft).

Snark of the Day

As a woman with a Trump scarf on climbed into the backseat of a black Suburban — her driver standing by her side, eagerly waiting for her to sit down so he could close the door — she kept lunging out the vehicle to give her commentary on the scene around her. She was clearly disgusted by the marchers surrounding her car. At one point, the woman in the Suburban said to a passerby:

“If you people had jobs, you wouldn’t be out here doing this mess.”

As this happened, another woman walked by and, without pausing to look at the Chevrolet Suburbanite, said:

“Bitch, it’s Saturday.”
NY Mag

21 January 2017

This is a Fascinating Perspective on Hillary and Trump Supporters

Frequently the analysis is about how the winners and losers in an increasingly interconnected and technical worls engage in her.

Using the example of the opoid epidemic, Lambert Strether makes another point, that the professional and credentialed class (Hillary's base) has benefited from the losses of the working class:
That said, can we think of any reasons beyond despair why rural voters might vote red (and not blue)? I think we can, if we look at the role that urban credentialed professionals and institutions play. In “Credentialism and Corruption: The Opioid Epidemic and ‘the Looting Professional Class'” I wrote:
CEOs, marketing executives, database developers, marketing collateral designers, the sales force, middle managers of all kinds, and doctor: All these professions are highly credentialed. And all have, or should have, different levels of responsibility for the mortality rates from the opoid epidemic; executives have fiduciary responsibility; doctors take the Hippocratic Oath; those highly commissioned sales people knew or should have known what they were selling. Farther down the line, to a database designer, OXYCONTIN_DEATH_RATE might be just another field. Or not! And due to information asymmetries in corporate structures, the different professions once had different levels of knowledge. For some it can be said they did not know. But now they know; the story is out there. As reader Clive wrote:
Increasingly, if you want to get and hang on to a middle class job, that job will involve dishonesty or exploitation of others in some way.
And you’ve got to admit that serving as a transmission vector for an epidemic falls into the category of “exploitation of others.”
And I don’t think it’s too much of a stretch to think that red-shift voters would identify Clinton’s base in the urban, professional classes with the very same people responsible for the opioid epidemic that was killing their families. Consciously? I don’t know. Viscerally? I’d bet on it.
It isn't just the opiod crisis.

You see it in healthcare price increases (Doctors and administrators benefit), the skyrocketing cost of education (Administrators and tenure track professors), finance ('nuff said), etc.

The professional, college educated class needs to understand that they are not spectators to the destruction of  working class lives and livelihoods, they actively benefit from this destruction.

To fix this requires sacrifices on our part.

An Historical Perspective for Bank Failure Friday

Since the introduction of federal deposit insurance

From 1921 to Present
Over at Calculated Risk, they have the numbers for bank failures since the creation of federal deposit insurance:
In 2016, five FDIC insured banks failed. This was the lowest level since 2007.

Most of the great recession / housing bust / financial crisis related failures are behind us.

The first graph shows the number of bank failures per year since the FDIC was founded in 1933.


The second graph includes pre-FDIC failures. In a typical year - before the Depression - 500 banks would fail and the depositors would lose a large portion of their savings.
The late 1980s bank failures were caused by corruption and control fraud.

The 1990s bank failures would have been far larger if we hadn't bailed them all out.

Pre FDIC is just f%$#ing scary.

20 January 2017

The Source of the Problem Spends $20 Million to Find the Source of the Problem

The pro-corporate anti-people wing of the Democratic party is set to spend $20 million to find someone else to blame:
Hoping to help Democrats recover from what it has dubbed the party’s “worst electoral position since the Civil War,” a centrist think tank is launching a $20 million campaign to study how the party lost its way and offer a new economic agenda for moving forward.

The think tank, Third Way, on Tuesday is set to launch “New Blue,” a campaign to help Democrats reconnect with the voters who have abandoned the party. The money will be spent to conduct extensive research, reporting and polling in Rust Belt states that once formed a Blue Wall, but which voted for president-elect Donald Trump last November.


Part of the economic message the group is driving -- which is in line with its centrist ideology -- is to steer the Democratic Party away from being led into a populist lurch to the left by leaders like Sen. Bernie Sanders or Sen. Elizabeth Warren.
Let me save you $20 million:  Relentlessly careerist political operatives, who have never done an honest day's work in their lives, and loathe those who do honest work, are the problem.

Look in the f$#@ing mirror, and quit sucking up to Wall Street and big Pharma.*

Better yet, why don't you quit your damn job, and join a monastery, preferably one that has a vow of silence.

*I'm talking to you, Corey Booker.

Snark of the Day

NATO called 'obsolete' by Trump, anyone who saw them fight in Afghanistan

Selections from America's Finest News Source

The Onion on the inauguration:
I'm not sure if the Biden one or the drone one is the best.

Well, It's Official

19 January 2017

Remember that "Hiatus" in Anthropogenic Climate Change from 1998-2012?

Not so much.

The reports of a plateau in we saw were due to a change in instrumentation and methodology.

Specifically, in the mid 1990s, ocean water temperature reporting moved from ships cooling water intake data to dedicated free-standing buoys.

It turns out that there is significant heating present in the ships that is not present in the newer methods:
Nope, climate change didn't pause for about 15 years, scientists say – again. But just how did that misunderstanding happen?

From around 1998 to 2012, the rise in global temperatures seemed to plateau, according to NOAA's Extended Reconstruction Sea Surface Temperature (ERSST) dataset.

To most climate scientists, this so-called hiatus was another puzzle of our complex climate system for them to work out. But to people who were already skeptical of global warming, this data was evidence for the idea that human-induced climate change is a hoax.

But the data itself was unsound, scientists now say. There is no evidence of a hiatus.


For decades, sea surface temperatures were measured on ships, using water sucked into a ship's engine room. But in the mid-1990s, scientists began deploying a new strategy across the world's oceans: thermometers on buoys. By the late 1990s, this method had taken off, Hausfather says.

But here's the catch: the buoys bobbing on the surface of the sea take colder measurements than those taken within the warm engine room of a ship. And, in the ERSST version 3b, scientists had just tacked on the buoy data without adjusting for that difference.

When NOAA scientists realized the problem, they calculated that difference and weighted the data differently, resulting in ERSST version 4. And, according to their calculations, version 4 showed more than twice as much warming, on the global scale, as version 3b.


Instead of looking at all the data mashed together, Hausfather and his colleagues studied the trends in the data from different sources separately, including data from ships, buoys, satellites, and drifting robots called Argo floats.

"The authors did a great job of inter-comparing independent and semi-independent SST data sets," Thomas Karl, the lead author on the 2015 NOAA paper and former director of NOAA's National Centers for Environmental Information, writes in an email to the Monitor. "Their results show the importance of independent measurements to clarify observational uncertainties."

"This paper further allays any qualms that there may have been scientific errors or any non-scientific agendas," Kevin Trenberth, senior scientist in the Climate Analysis Section at the National Center for Atmospheric Research, who was not part of either paper, writes to the Monitor. "Lamar Smith owes Tom Karl an apology."
So from the late '90s to the early teens, there was a transformation in the sources of the data, and if you view the data filtered by source, you see the ΔT, but if you view it in aggregate, it shows a moderation.

Good science, but bad news.  We are in for a world of hurt.


Why we love cats:

18 January 2017

Tweet of the Day

The argument was bogus when John John Lewis made it, and it is bogus now.

I have no idea what Clinton had on the Democratic Party establishment, they really did sell their soul to her during the primaries.

The Term Here is Kafkaesque

In Supreme Court arguments, the state of Colorado is arguing that it has no obligation to refund fines collector after a defendant is exonerated:
The Supreme Court on Monday seemed deeply skeptical of a Colorado law that makes it hard for criminal defendants whose convictions are overturned to get refunds of the fines and restitution they had been ordered to pay.

The justices were helped by the forthright presentation of the state’s solicitor general, Frederick R. Yarger, who did not shy away from the more extreme implications of his argument. Money taken from defendants after valid convictions belongs to the state, he said.

A Colorado law requires people cleared by the courts to file separate civil suits and prove their innocence with clear and convincing evidence in order to obtain reimbursement. But Mr. Yarger said the state was under no obligation to do even that much. He said the state was not only free to impose onerous procedures, but could also enact a law making exonerated defendants forfeit the money entirely.

Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. asked if the state could impose a $10,000 fine on everyone convicted of a crime and refuse to return the money if the convictions were later overturned.

Mr. Yarger said yes. Just as there is no need to pay people for the time they spend in prison after their convictions are reversed, he said, there is no need to reimburse them for fines and fees. “The assumption is that the deprivation of both the liberty and the property at the time of conviction is lawful, and that the property passes into public funds,” he said.


The Colorado law was challenged by Shannon Nelson and Louis Madden, who had been ordered to pay thousands of dollars in fees and restitution after they were convicted of sex offenses. After their convictions were overturned, they filed motions in their criminal cases seeking refunds of what they had paid.

The Colorado Supreme Court ruled against them, saying that their trial courts lacked authority to compensate them. Under the state’s law, the State Supreme Court said, they had to file a new civil suit and meet a heightened burden of proof.

Stuart Banner, a lawyer for Ms. Nelson and Mr. Madden, said the state’s approach amounted to “charging people money for the privilege of trying them unlawfully.”
This may be stating the obvious, but when the state subverts the administration of justice such that it becomes little more than a protection racket, you have a Mafia state.

Not Enough Bullets

Amazingly enough, the story shows the subjects of the story even more self-absorbed and clueless than the headline dows:
Davos Elite Fret About Inequality Over Vintage Wine and Canapés
You morons broke the world.

You were born on 3rd base and though that you hit a triple.

You are not deserving, you are lucky.
  • You won the parent lottery.
  • You won the nationality lottery.
  • You won the social class lottery.
Now try and do something to make the world a better place for the rest of us.

Another John Carpenter Moment

Yesterday, I noted that after almost 35 years, I was finally more horrified and disgusted than Palmer was in the 1982 version of the movie The Thing.

Who knew that the mixture of horror and disgust at Betsy Devos would be exceeded in the next day.

Specifically Judith Miller tweeted her horror at the commutation of Chelsea Manning's sentence:

This engendered the following observation from Jason Concepcion:

For those of you who don't recall, during the run-up to the invasion of Iraq, Judith Miller, then a New York Times reporter was desperately shilling for the Bush administration (Google Judith Miller Curveball) and was typing up anything and everything that she could find, without regard to classification to help them.

So, 4,424 US Soldiers dead, and around 500,000 Iraqis dead, because of her casual handling of classified material, and her even more casual handling of the truth, and suddenly, she's concerned about the body counts.

Why she isn't selling perfume one cash register over from Janet Cooke for a living is completely beyond me.

H/t Naked Capitalism.

17 January 2017

Still a Few Bugs in the System

Some neuroscientists decided to see if the latest neuroscience tools could handle a simpler case than the human brain.

They chose a 40+ year old CPU, and they failed abysmally:
In 2014, the US announced a new effort to understand the brain. Soon, we would map every single connection within the brain, track the activity of individual neurons, and start to piece together some of the fundamental units of biological cognition. The program was named BRAIN (for Brain Research through Advancing Innovative Neurotechnologies), and it posited that we were on the verge of these breakthroughs because both imaging and analysis hardware were finally powerful enough to produce the necessary data, and we had the software and processing power to make sense of it.

But this week, PLoS Computational Biology published a cautionary note that suggests we may be getting ahead of ourselves. Part experiment, part polemic, a computer scientist got together with a biologist to apply the latest neurobiology approaches to a system we understand far more completely than the brain: a processor booting up the games Donkey Kong and Space Invaders. The results were about as awkward as you might expect, and they helped the researchers make their larger point: we may not understand the brain well enough to understand the brain.

On the surface, this may sound a bit ludicrous. But it gets at something fundamental to the nature of science. Science works on the basis of having models that can be used to make predictions. You can test those models and use the results to refine them. And you have to understand a system on at least some level to build those models in the first place.


That's where Donkey Kong comes in.

Games on early Atari systems were powered by the 6502 processor, also found in the Apple I and Commodore 64. The two authors of the new paper (Eric Jonas and Konrad Paul Kording) decided to take this relatively simple processor and apply current neuroscience techniques to it, tracking its activity while loading these games. The 6502 is a good example because we can understand everything about the processor and use that to see how well the results match up. And, as they put it, "most scientists have at least behavioral-level experience with these classical video game systems."

So they built upon the work of the Visual 6502 project, which got ahold of a batch of 6502s, decapped them, and imaged the circuitry within. This allowed the project to build an exact software simulator with which they could use to test neuroscience techniques. But it also enabled the researchers to perform a test of the field of "connectomics," which tries to understand the brain by mapping all the connections of the cells within it.

To an extent, the fact that their simulator worked is a validation of the approach. But, at the same time, the chip is incredibly simple: there is only one type of transistor, as opposed to the countless number of specialized cells in the brain. And the algorithms used to analyze the connections only got the team so far; lots of human intervention was required as well. "Even with the whole-brain connectome," Jonas and Kording conclude, "extracting hierarchical organization and understanding the nature of the underlying computation is incredibly difficult."
Remember, in a microprocessor, a transistor is a transistor is a transistor, in the brain, neurons and ganglia vary from cell to cell.

This is a valid test of the software, the 6502 is arguably the most thoroughly understood CPU in existence, and Donkey Kong is arguably one of the best understood pieces of software in existence.

And they still could not do it on a  processor that can access only 64K of RAM.

We are much further from mapping the brain in any detail than is implied in the mainstream media reports.