28 February 2017


Bernie Sanders won't be giving his list to the DNC.

Seeing as how Tom Perez has made it clear that the pillaging of the party by overpaid and under-performing consultants will continue, it is best to keep them as far away from that list as is humanly possible.

Seriously, Are There ANY Ukrainian Nationalists without a Nazi Family Background?

Exclusive: Canada’s fiercely anti-Russian Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland says her Ukrainian grandfather struggled “to return freedom and democracy to Ukraine,” but she leaves out that he was a Nazi propagandist justifying the slaughter of Jews, writes Arina Tsukanova.It really says all you need to know.


So, it appears Freeland’s grandfather – rather than being a helpless victim – was given a prestigious job to spread Nazi propaganda, praising Hitler from a publishing house stolen from Jews and given to Ukrainians who shared the values of Nazism.
Among other things, as editor of the Polish newspaper Nowy Dziennik, he lauded the Babi Yar massacre of Kiev's Jews:
The Nov. 6, 1941 issue of Krakivski Visti ecstatically describes how much better Kiev is without Jews. “There is not a single one left in Kiev today, while there were 350,000 under the Bolsheviks,” the newspaper wrote, gloating that the Jews “got their comeuppance.”

That “comeuppance” refers to the mass shooting of Kiev’s Jewish population at Babi Yar. In just two days, Sept. 29-30, 1941, a total of 33,771 people were murdered, a figure that does not include children younger than three years old. There were more shootings in October, and by early November, Krakivski Visti was enthusing over a city where the Jewish population had “disappeared” making Kiev “beautiful, glorious.” Chomiak’s editorials also described a Poland “iinfected by Jews.”

It should be noted that my awareness of the history of Ukrainian nationalism going back hundreds of years, might influence my positions on the current conflict in the Ukraine.

On the other hand, it appears that Freeland would Steve Bannon's kind of foreign minister.

Headline of the Day

The Amazon Reviews for a Phone Designed for Rectal Smuggling Are Pretty Interesting Reading
Boing Boing
.Insert butt dialing joke here.

Not Enough Alcohol

I am not watching Donald Trump's speech.

There is not enough alcohol for me to watch him speak ……… In my house.

There is not enough alcohol for me to watch him speak ……… In my Owings Mills.

There is not enough alcohol for me to watch him speak ……… In Maryland.

There is not enough alcohol for me to watch him speak ……… In the United States.

There is not enough alcohol for me to watch him speak ……… In the world.

There is not enough alcohol for me to watch him speak ……… In the cosmos.

Charlie Pierce Owes me a F%$#ing Screen Wipe

He just described Trump Strategist Steve Bannon as, "The last heir to House Harkonnen."

I nearly hocked up a lung, even though I've never read the Dune books, though I saw the movie.


It Appears that I Still Have the Capacity for Outrage

Every now and then, I wonder if I have become so pessimistic, and so cynical that I can no longer be outraged by what is going on.

And then I read this report that Donald Trump and an aide are suggesting that liberals are calling in bomb threats to Jewish Community Centers and Schools while desecrating Jewish graves because it makes for good politics:
President Trump suggested on Tuesday that the recent spate of anti-Semitic bomb threats and cemetery vandalism could be politically coordinated attacks to “make people look bad” — an apparent suggestion that his opponents could be behind them.
Continue reading the main story

Speaking at the White House to attorneys general from around the country, Mr. Trump was asked by Josh Shapiro, the attorney general of Pennsylvania, about the wave of attacks and how the federal government could work with state governments to confront the violence.

“First, he said the acts were reprehensible,” Mr. Shapiro, a Democrat who was elected to the post in November, said while recounting Mr. Trump’s response. “Second he said: ‘And you’ve got to be careful, it could be the reverse. This could be the reverse, trying to make people look bad.’ ”

The comments echoed the Twitter post of an adviser, Anthony Scaramucci, who suggested that Democrats were behind threats to Jewish community centers.

Seriously, I need to go live in a f%$#ing cave.

Just shoot me now.

Something Else the F-35 Needs

A new wing:
The head of the F-35 Joint Program Office (JPO) says the outer wings of 32 carrier-based C-models need to be replaced to carry the Raytheon AIM-9X Sidewinder, the aircraft’s primary dogfighting weapon.

The U.S. Navy variant experienced an undisclosed amount of oscillation or turbulence during flight trials with the AIM-9X in December 2015, and Lt. Gen. Christopher Bogdan says aircraft already delivered need to be retrofitted with strengthened wings.

“It was discovered the outer, folding portion of the wing has inadequate structural strength to support the loads induced by pylons with AIM-9X missiles during maneuvers that cause buffet,” Bogdan says in written testimony to Congress on Feb. 16.

Engineers have already produced an enhanced outer wing design, which is now undergoing flight testing. The issue has impacted the timeline for fielding AIM-9X, which is being rolled out for the Navy in Block 3F. “Once the new design is verified to provide the require strength, the fix will be implemented in production and retrofitted to existing aircraft by swapping existing outer wings with the redesigned ones,” Bogdan writes.

The AIM-9X is the heat-seeking sidekick to the Raytheon AIM-120C advanced medium-range air-to-air missile. Without it, the F-35 would be incapable of high off-boresight shots at close range. Because of a seven-year schedule delay, the fifth-generation fighter will carry air superiority missiles that are one generation behind its legacy counterparts, which are already carrying the newest AIM-9X Block II and AIM-120D.
It can't dogfight, it can't use the current generation of missiles, 2 of the 3 variants do not carry a gun, the software is a mess of spaghetti, it cannot hit moving targets, and it costs an arm and a leg and several toes.

This deal is getting better and better.

27 February 2017

Today in Bad Defense Procurement………

We see the US Air Force, back for another star turn in what seems to be a never ending story, as their network upgrades have doubled in cost:
A critical network upgrade the U.S. Air Force will need to conduct air operations, and counterterrorism and humanitarian missions is more than three years overdue and has doubled in price, according to a report submitted to Congress last week.

Northrop Grumman Corp. is developing the so-called Air Operations Center Weapon System, or AOC 10.2, whose costs have surged from the original $374 million to $745 million, Bloomberg News’ Tony Capaccio first reported this week. The upgraded system in total could eventually climb to $3 billion, according to the report.

Officials now have three years to decide whether they will “fully deploy” the system — a decision originally planned for last July, the report stated.

The technology is designed to enhance battlefield command and control in part by converting “raw data into actionable information that is used to direct battlefield activities,” according to a press release from Northrop.

The Falls Church, Virginia-based company, working with the Air Force Life Cycle Management Center at Hanscom Air Force Base, Massachusetts, is under contract to develop “a secure, streamlined computing environment for legacy and stove-piped systems,” the release states.
In addition to winning the award for f%$#ing the taxpayer, the USAF and Northrop Grumman look set to be major competitors in the next bullsh%$ bingo competition.

Headline of the Day

iPhones and sex toys may cost more if there's a US-China trade war
BBC News
Trust the Beeb to get to the ……… heart ……… of the matter.

Tweet of the Day

Call me a humorless old fart, but I ain't laughing at this one.


Flamethrower Drone Used to Burn Debris Off Power Lines:

26 February 2017

Another Thing That the Mistake Jet Cannot Do

It appears that after years of development, and billions of dollars, the F-35 cannot hit a moving target:
Despite being among the most technologically advanced low-observable warplanes on the planet, the Lockheed Martin F-35 has one significant shortcoming. The Joint Strike Fighter cannot strike moving ground targets using the targeting system and weapons loadout delivered in its final combat Lightning II configuration, Block 3F.

The challenge is the F-35 is currently unable to lead a target with its laser designator to compensate for movement. This means the aircraft is limited to striking fixed or slow-moving objects  such as the surface-to-air missiles it has proven so skilled at destroying in Red Flag exercises.


The F-35 has already entered service with the U.S. Marine Corps (F-35B Block 2B) and Air Force (F-35A Block 3i), equipped with the laser-guided 500-lb. Raytheon/Lockheed GBU-12 Paveway II and GPS/IMU-guided 2,000- and 1,000-lb. Boeing GBU-31/32 Joint Direct Attack Munition (JDAM). Block 3F will add the 1,000-lb. Raytheon AGM-154 Joint Standoff Weapon (F-35C), 250-lb. Boeing GBU-39 Small-Diameter Bomb Increment 1 (F-35A), and the United Kingdom’s 500-lb. Raytheon UK Paveway IV (F-35B).

Those weapons can take out fixed or stationary targets, but not fast-movers such as tanks, trucks or mobile command posts. They would have some utility against relocatable, slow-moving targets if the F-35 had a lead-laser capability, which comes standard in modern targeting pods fielded on legacy, nonstealthy combat fighters and bombers. Weapons capable of automatically adjusting for so-called Kentucky windage without lead-laser correction will not arrive on the F-35 until the early 2020s as part of the Block 4 follow-on modernization program, under the existing plan.
This has fiasco written all over it.

The Democratic Party Leadership Has a Message for the Base

As one wit so trenchantly noted, "The progressives needed to receive some kind of gesture. And they have received one: an enormous middle finger."

Another poerson called this, "a suicide note," for the party.

Keith Ellison lost the race for head of the DNC to Tom Perez:
The Democratic National Committee was bracing for a backlash if Thomas Perez won its chairmanship, and it got one. In the AmericasMart meeting room where Perez defeated Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.), nine protesters from Democracy Rising carried out the protest — chants of “party of the people, not big money” as Perez and outgoing interim DNC chair Donna Brazile gritted their teeth. Writers on the left, including Nathan J. Robinson, Matt Bruenig and Corey Robin, were quick to ask whether the Democratic establishment had a death wish.
The answer is not that the Democratic Party Establishment has a death wish, but rather that they were following the Iron Law of Organizations Institutions, which states that power WITHIN an organization will be pursued at the even at the expense of the power OF that organization.

In another calculated f%$# you directed at the Democratic wing of the Democratic party, the DNC also voted down a ban on corporate and lobbyist donations, becase they just had to twist the f%$#ing knife.

The best summary of what happened is this:
Before this gets turned into another thing where the establishment Democrats posture as the reasonable adults victimized by the assaults of those left-wing baddies, let’s just be very clear about what happened here. It was the establishment wing that decided to recruit and then stand up a candidate in order to fight an internal battle against the left faction of the party. It was the establishment wing that then dumped massive piles of opposition research on one of their own party members. And it was the establishment wing that did all of this in the shadow of Trump, sowing disunity in order to contest a position whose leadership they insist does not really matter.

It should be noted that in terms of publicly stated positions, there was not a whole lot of difference between Perez and Ellison, but there is one that was VERY important, though it is sort of inside baseball.

Specifically, Perez expressly eschewed putting some distance between the DNC and the multi-million dollar consultants strip mining the party:
The DNC is going through an existential crisis, being at its weakest state since 1920.  This is not the Democrats’ first existential crisis, though. In 2005 the DNC members were at war with national consultants who they claimed were sucking up the resources of the party. It was that year when Vermont Governor Howard Dean won and enacted his 50 state strategy. But it came with a fight over resources, contracts and state funding. And while the 2017 DNC elections have been billed as the Bernie vs. Hillary or the progressives vs. establishment fight, it is actually the 2005 fight over funding, on steroids.

It’s become a common statement over the past few months: The Democrats have raised more money than ever and lost more seats than ever (1,000+ seats nationwide since 2009). They had an elaborate convention, beautifully crafted marketing, what was praised as the most sophisticated data operation to date and teams of veteran campaign strategists working in what was supposed to be the easiest Presidential race in recent history. But around 9:45pm ET on Nov 8, it was clear that the house of cards was on the verge of collapse. And that by the next day, the DNC would have to not just answer how they lost the Presidency and so many other races, but: Where did all that money go?

Former Chair Candidate, NH State Chairman Ray Buckley broke the news during the Phoenix DNC forum that as an executive member he had never seen the budget — and that most leaders at the DNC, as well as all of the members, had no idea where the record amount of money raised was being spent. When the DNC Chair candidates debated over whether the party should accept lobbyist money (which was banned under Obama’s administration), Buckley stated “the question should not be about whether we need the lobbyist money, but rather where we’ve spent all this money we’ve raised.”


Several DNC members have privately disclosed that they received calls on behalf of Tom Perez from Jennifer O’Malley Dillon, a partner of Precision Strategies and former Executive Director of the DNC when the OFA was housed within it. Dillon is also a Co-Chair of the upcoming Unity Commission, forged out of the 2016 rules committee. The goal of the Unity commission is to set the DNC’s new rules.

Members have repeatedly discussed the frustration with the conflicts of interests within the Democratic party. For Dillon — whose firm received $571,573 from HFA and $593,397 from the DNC, totaling almost $1.2 million — having a seat as a co-chair of the DNC’s rules committee, raises red flags.

One DNC member voting for Mayor Pete Buttigieg stated, “When a firm with a large contract with the DNC co-chairs the new rules committee and makes calls on behalf of a DNC candidate, you can’t help but wonder whether Perez’s interests lie with the DNC members or if he’s cut a deal to keep the contract with Precision.”


Today, it is openly acknowledged by many members that the DNC and the Clinton campaign were running an operation together. In fact, it doesn’t take much research beyond FEC filings to see that six of the top major consulting firms had simultaneous contracts with the DNC and HRC — collectively earning over $335 million since 2015. (This does not include SuperPACs.)

One firm, GMMB earned $236.3 million from HFA and $5.3 from the DNC in 2016. Joel Benenson, a pollster and strategist who frequents cable news, collected $4.1m from HFA while simultaneously earning $3.3 million from the DNC. Perkins Coie law firm collected $3.8 million from the DNC, $481,979 from the Convention fund and $1.8 million from HFA in 2016.

And, it would be irresponsible of me to not note that by a simple glimpse of FEC filings, former Chair, Debbie Wasserman Schultz and some of her senior staffers remained on payroll with the DNC until December, well past she resigned on July 25, 2016.

What does this all mean? The DNC, which lacks an open budget, has been allocating dozens multi-million dollar contracts without accountability from its members and leadership. The money, of course, did not go into state parties and organizing, and the majority of members I’ve interviewed expresses resentment and frustration.

But as we approach the DNC vote on Saturday, the question over conflicts of interests remaining in the party, is a priority. When I asked Sec. Tom Perez during an interview whether he’d ban conflicts of interests, he answered “The people I talk to want to build a Democratic party that works for everyone…. We have a big tent in the Democratic party.” Secretary Perez, a civil rights attorney surely knows that conflicts of interests would be alarming when presented in a court room. How can a party that condemns Trump’s vast conflicts continue to allow those with millions of dollars in consulting contracts with the national party be in leadership positions at the DNC and/or be voting members. Who controls whom?


At a time when the Democratic party is hemorrhaging members nationally and experienced eight years of crushing losses, many are questioning how a few consulting firms could continue their lobbying for national contracts. Some answer: just raise more money to send to the states. But it’s not just that these national contracts are expensive, it’s that the consultants’ track records are horrifying.

(emphasis mine)

Corrupt AND incompetent is a toxic brew, and I'm depressed enough to consider going to a Democratic Socialists of America meeting.

When They First Discussed Drone Deliveries, I Thought of This

It looks like UPS will working on drones that deploy from delivery trucks to speed up the process.

When people first started looking at drone deliveries, this sort of deployment immediately occurred to me.

It's called Horsefly
's a way to deal with the limited range of battery range and line of sight, and potential safety issues decrease with the shorter deployment range:
Of the myriad possible uses for small unmanned aircraft, the one that has captured and held public attention is package delivery. This has more potential to bring drones into everyday life than any other near-term use.

But how near term? The vision of package-toting drones crisscrossing neighborhoods delivering online purchases to doorsteps, or shuttling between offices in cities carrying urgent mail, must first overcome technical, regulatory and acceptance hurdles.


Now package delivery giant UPS has demonstrated how a truck-launched UAV could help its drivers, particularly in rural areas where its distinctive brown “parcel cars” must travel miles between deliveries. By avoiding some of the challenges of urban and residential operations, the truck-based approach could make drone deliveries a reality sooner.

A Feb. 20 demo in Lithia, Florida, was conducted with Workhorse Group, a manufacturer of hybrid-electric delivery vans that is developing the HorseFly truck-launched UAV. The company, which is building a fleet of 325 electric trucks for UPS, began flight testing its delivery drone with the University of Cincinnati in 2014.
These sort of half steps make a lot more sense than the full up warehouse to drone delivery envisioned by Amazon, if just from a regulatory perspective.

Whirling death machines in the sky may not be quite as amenable to ignoring existing law and regulations as has been gypsy cab operations. (Uber)

25 February 2017

Two Weekends, Two Plays

Last week, it was The Tempest and a wrap party at Open Space Arts, and this week our was a musical version of Cinderella at Lansdowne High School.

Charlie played a revolutionary, and Natalie helped back stage.

Busy times.


Have Paint singing solo in 4 part harmony about movie villains:

24 February 2017

When You Lie down with Dogs, You Wake up with Fleas

After endorsing Donald Trump for President, Caitlyn Jenner is now upset that Donald Trump is rolling back protections for transgender students.

He's pretty much said this all through his campaign, and he made a bigot his Attorney General,

Why are you surprised?

To quote Drax the Destroyer, "You are an imbecile."

Quote of the Day

Or perhaps the better solution is to follow an age-old piece of advice that company bosses never seem to grasp: don't treat your employees like sh%$.
The Register
The legal claim is that the now former Sysop is claiming that he was specifically authorized to muck about with the network, and so he cannot be charged with unauthorized access.

The back story is he was hired by a friend, and then the company treated his friend very poorly:
Things went well for two years until, out of the blue, the company's founders fired Cain. Cain suspected the reason for his firing was the founders were looking to sell the company – something they have done repeatedly in the past as serial entrepreneurs – and didn't want to have to give Cain his cut as the first employee. At the same time they fired Cain – on a Thursday – Thomas was offered a bonus to stay on and take over his friend's job.

It's fair to say that Cain was just a tad irritated. And he called Thomas to tell him the news and that he would be suing for wrongful dismissal. And that's when ClickMotive started having trouble with its IT systems.


That Sunday, Thomas deleted remotely stored backups and turned off the automated backup system. He made some changes to VPN authentication that basically locked everybody out, and turned off the automatic restart. He deleted internal IT wiki pages, removed users from a mailing list, deactivated the company's pager notification system, and a number of other things that basically created a huge mess that the company spent the whole of Monday sorting out (it turned out there were local copies of the deleted backups).
I'm not sure if Thomas' case will be reversed on appeal, I kind of doubt it, and I am not sure that I would want it to be overturned, I think that it is implicit in any working relationship that you don't sabotage your employers.

That being said, the owners of the ClickMove should be subject to what I call a "2 brick vasectomy".


Samurai Jack is coming back for a limited series:

23 February 2017

Quote of the Day

Let me just say at the outset that I will read any story anywhere that contains the phrase, "once stabbed a guy in the head with a broken margarita glass." (It's like Raymond Chandler rewritten by Carl Hiassen.)
Charlie Pierce on the rather colorful history of white supremacist, bar brawler, mobbed up stock scammer, CIA informant,  and Trump staffer Felix Sater.
I have to disagree with Charlie Pierce on this:  Carl Hiassen would not write this, it's simply too fantastic and unbelievable, even for Hiassen.

Heck, this is too weird for Kafka.


Tell me where the bad man touched you
At CPAC, Reince Preibus and Stephen Bannon were on a panel, and it's pretty clear that Priebus loathes Bannon:
During a discussion with Reince Priebus and Steve Bannon at the conservative conference CPAC, Bannon reached over at one point to touch Priebus’ leg. Priebus quickly brushed it away.

This is f%$#ed up and sh%$.

I expect to see the first tell all from a former staffer to be announced by a publisher before the year is out.

This Is What Happens When Big Pharma Takes over Research

As a result of increased corporate funding of research, and the pressure to deliver the desired results that inevitably results, the majority of current medical research is garbage that cannot be reproduced:
Science is facing a "reproducibility crisis" where more than two-thirds of researchers have tried and failed to reproduce another scientist's experiments, research suggests.

This is frustrating clinicians and drug developers who want solid foundations of pre-clinical research to build upon.

From his lab at the University of Virginia's Centre for Open Science, immunologist Dr Tim Errington runs The Reproducibility Project, which attempted to repeat the findings reported in five landmark cancer studies.

"The idea here is to take a bunch of experiments and to try and do the exact same thing to see if we can get the same results."

You could be forgiven for thinking that should be easy. Experiments are supposed to be replicable.

The authors should have done it themselves before publication, and all you have to do is read the methods section in the paper and follow the instructions.

Sadly nothing, it seems, could be further from the truth.

After meticulous research involving painstaking attention to detail over several years (the project was launched in 2011), the team was able to confirm only two of the original studies' findings.

Two more proved inconclusive and in the fifth, the team completely failed to replicate the result.

"It's worrying because replication is supposed to be a hallmark of scientific integrity," says Dr Errington.


According to a survey published in the journal Nature last summer, more than 70% of researchers have tried and failed to reproduce another scientist's experiments.

Marcus Munafo is one of them. Now professor of biological psychology at Bristol University, he almost gave up on a career in science when, as a PhD student, he failed to reproduce a textbook study on anxiety.


The problem, it turned out, was not with Marcus Munafo's science, but with the way the scientific literature had been "tidied up" to present a much clearer, more robust outcome.


"The issue of replication goes to the heart of the scientific process."
You said it.

The problem is that research has increasingly become a zero sum game in which corporate funders dictate results before the first experiment is fully designed.

It is a petri dish for corruption.

Monopolies Are Always Bad

The only question is whether or not the alternative is worse.

First we have the case study of the results AT&T's 1956 anti-trust consent decree, where it was required to release its patents to the general public:
To answer these questions, we study one of the most important antitrust rulings in US history, namely, the 1956 consent decree against the Bell System. This decree settled a seven-year old antitrust lawsuit that sought to break up the Bell System, the dominant provider of telecommunications services in the US, because it allegedly monopolised “the manufacture, distribution, and sale of telephones, telephone apparatus and equipment” (Antitrust Subcommittee 1958: 1668). Bell was charged with having foreclosed competitors from the market for telecommunications equipment because its operating companies had exclusive supply contracts with its manufacturing subsidiary Western Electric and because it used exclusionary practices such as the refusal to license its patents.

The consent decree contained two main remedies. The Bell System was obligated to license all its patents royalty free, and it was barred from entering any industry other than telecommunications. As a consequence, 7,820 patents, or 1.3% of all unexpired US patents, in a wide range of fields became freely available in 1956. Most of these patents covered technologies from the Bell Laboratories (Bell Labs), the research subsidiary of the Bell System, arguably the most innovative industrial laboratory in the world at the time. The Bell Labs produced path-breaking innovations in telecommunications such as cellular telephone technology or the first transatlantic telephone cable. But as Figure 1 shows, 58% of Bell's patent portfolio had its main application outside of telecommunications because of Bell's part in the war effort in WWII and its commitment to basic science. Researchers at Bell Labs are credited for the invention of the transistor, the solar cell, and the laser, among other things.


Our research shows that compulsory licensing increased follow-on innovation that builds on Bell patents. We measure follow-on innovation by the number of patent citations Bell Labs patents received from other companies that patent in the US. We find that in the first five years, follow-on innovation increased by 17%, or a total of around 1,000 citations. Back-of-the-envelope calculations suggest that the additional patents other companies filed as a direct result of the consent decree had a value of up to $5.7 billion in today's dollars.3

More than two-thirds of the increase in innovation can be attributed to young and small companies and individual inventors unrelated to Bell. This is in line with the hypothesis that patents can act as a barrier to entry for small and young companies who are less able to strike licensing deals than large firms (Lanjouw and Schankerman 2004, Galasso 2012, Galasso and Schankerman 2015). Compulsory licensing removed this barrier in markets outside the telecommunications industry, arguably unintentionally so. This fostered follow-on innovation by young and small companies and contributed to long run technological progress in the US.
Patent exclusivity frequently hinders, rather than helps, progress in the short term.

More generally, consequences of our increasingly monopolistic economy are, explained in detail by Barry C. Lynn:
There are many competing interpretations for why Hillary Clinton lost last fall’s election, but most observers do agree that economics played a big role. Clinton simply didn’t articulate a vision compelling enough to compete with Donald Trump’s rousing, if dubious, message that bad trade deals and illegal immigration explain the downward mobility of so many Americans.

As it happens, Clinton did have the germ of exactly such an idea—if one knew where to look. In an October 2015 op-ed, she wrote that “large corporations are concentrating control over markets” and “using their power to raise prices, limit choices for consumers, lower wages for workers, and hold back competition from startups and small businesses. It’s no wonder Americans feel the deck is stacked for those at the top.” In a speech in Toledo last fall, Clinton assailed “old-fashioned monopolies” and vowed to appoint “tough” enforcers “so the big don’t keep getting bigger and bigger.”

Clinton’s words were in keeping with Bernie Sanders’s attacks on big banks, but went further, tracing how concentration is a problem throughout the economy. It was a message seemingly tailor-made for the wrathful electorate of 2016. Yet after the Ohio speech, Clinton rarely touched again on the issue. Few other Democrats even mentioned the word monopoly.

The pity is that Clinton’s stance wasn’t simple campaign rhetoric. It was based on a substantial and growing body of research that confirms that consolidation is at the root of many of America’s most pressing economic and political problems.

These include the declining fortunes of rural America as farmers struggle against agriculture conglomerates. It includes the fading of heartland cities like Memphis and Minneapolis as corporate giants in coastal cities buy out local banks and businesses. It includes plunging rates of entrepreneurship and innovation as concentrated markets choke off independent businesses and new start-ups. It includes falling real wages, as decades of mergers have reduced the need for employers to compete to attract and retain workers.

Monopoly is a main driver of inequality, as profits concentrate more wealth in the hands of the few. The effects of monopoly enrage voters in their day-to-day lives, as they face the sky-high prices set by drug-company cartels and the abuses of cable providers, health insurers, and airlines. Monopoly provides much of the funds the wealthy use to distort American politics.
It comes as no surprise that when Reagan packed the Supreme Court in the 1980s, he chose Robert Bork and Douglas Ginsburg:  They both cut their teeth on the academic side of anti-trust law, which had been captured, largely through things like endowing chairs, by the right wing actors

They transformed the consensus, and the black letter law, on anti-trust from the idea of protecting a free and open market to a narrow view where regulation can only be justified through the showing of direct harm and immediate harm to consumers.

This has unleashed monopolies, and monopolies unleashed have lots of money to spend on politicians, which leads to more support for monopolies. (Our recent trade deals have been about expanding the reach of pharma and content monopolies, for example.)

Rinse, lather, repeat.

Tweet of the Day

This might explain why so many people were unmoved by Hillary Clinton's message that things are fine as well as the relative hostility of people in the lower half of the income distribution to Barack Obama.

When Barack Obama approved Timothy Geithner's policy of using HAMP to "Foam the Runway" for the banks, in so doing they reduced a significant proportion of the populace to penury.

H/t naked capitalism

22 February 2017

The New Economy in a Nutshell

In September, the grocery delivery company Instacart announced a big change that pissed off many of its workers: The startup was replacing tips with a “service fee” that would be collected by the company instead of the people delivering orders.

The startup’s explanation was that Instacart workers were too reliant on tips — around 80 percent of orders had one — and that the service fee would allow the startup to pay everyone a more reliable wage.

Many workers looked at it another way: Instacart, in their eyes, saw all of the tips they were making and wanted to capture that revenue for itself. And when Instacart’s best workers realized the tip-to-service-fee transition would mean lower pay for them, they, in turn, freaked out.

Instacart quickly relented and added the tipping feature back. But with a catch: The company made tipping much harder to find in the app.

Instead of the tipping option appearing on the checkout page as it originally had, a default 10 percent “service fee” sat in its place.

To get to the tip option, customers would have to click on a small arrow to the right of the service fee that doesn’t give any indication where it leads.


As a result, many Instacart delivery people have resorted to handing out flyers to customers to make it clear that the service fee is not a tip, and to explain that the “additional” tip is, in fact, the only tip. Many of these flyers also explain how to set the service fee to zero.


After all, it does take some skill — or, at a minimum, the willingness to be trained — to pick out good produce quickly and get it to someone’s door in a timely manner. And the supply of people willing to do it, while feeling like they are getting robbed, is not endless.
It appears that this was motivated clever accounting:  Tips could not be booked as revenue, while a service fee could.

The fact that it involved cutting the pay of the people who actual work was immaterial to pumping up the numbers, even if it does mean that the employees who are directly responsible for the quality of the service are going to bail on you.

This is what it means when Silicon Valley types talk about disruption.

It's all about the getting venture capitalists to give you lots of money, and then you, and the aforementioned VCs, go public, and get your vig from the stupid money that rushes in.

In a just world, we would see prosecutions for this, but I'm not holding my breath.

How About a Nice Cup of Shut the F%$# Up?

It appears that Senator Claire McCaskill (DINO-Missouri) has taken to whining about the fact that she might face a primary challenge in 2018:
Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) on Thursday compared a faction of Democrats calling for their party to become increasingly progressive to the Tea Party movement that grew out of Republicans’ opposition to President Barack Obama.

That wing of the party, McCaskill said on “The Mark Reardon Show” in St. Louis, could offer up a primary challenger to take on the two-term senator when she runs for reelection next year.

"I’m for sure going to run," McCaskill said. "And I may have a primary because there is, in our party now, some of the same kind of enthusiasm at the base that the Republican Party had with the Tea Party.”“Many of those people are very impatient with me because they don't think I'm pure. For example, they think I should be voting against all of Trump's nominees and of course I'm judging each nominee on its own merit," she said.
The Democratic Party is not going to take back the Senate in 2018.

There are 23 seats being defended by Democrats, and 9 being defended by Republicans.

There is no way that we are going to pick up 2 senate seats to retake the Senate.

No one has any reason to hold their nose and think of control of the Senate, so you should work on inspiring your base. Whining about how real Democrats don't appreciate you won't help.

I would suggest that the distinguished gentlewoman from Missoure try to stop being a coward and a hypocrite, but that is clearly not in your nature.

Not the Sort of Thing I Expect to See in Forbes

But this article sounds an awful lot like eco-socialism:
Capitalism has generated massive wealth for some, but it’s devastated the planet and has failed to improve human well-being at scale.


Corporate capitalism is committed to the relentless pursuit of growth, even if it ravages the planet and threatens human health

We need to build a new system: one that will balance economic growth with sustainability and human flourishing.
Personally, I would not be impressed with the article, it's advocacy for a sort of techno-utopian viewpoint common among Silicon Valley types who have their hand in your pockets, but I do not expect to see this in Forbes magazine.

It's significance is that it appears to indicate a shift in the Overton Window.

Quote of the Day

Travis Kalanick is the Darth Vader of the new economy but he makes it harder to accept him for his success and genius every time he tries to act like Yoda.
Thornton McEnery
He goes on further to state that, "A company predicated on exploiting inefficiencies in modern transportation and fighting for market share by using part-time labor who receive no protections or insurance and pay for their own cars is decidedly not a company underpinned by justice," which may qualify as the understatement of the year.

He still believes that Uber has a viable business plan, an assumption which this analysis (Part 1 of a 7 part series, read the whole thing) thoroughly debunks, but still it is an amusing take-down of the myth of benevolence that many people see in the car service.

And the 3rd Stopped Clock Moment in 3 Days

It turns out that one of the things that Donald Trump is doing is that he is ignoring the chain of command when dealing with military contractors on large projects, and the uniformed military is pissed off:
In an unorthodox move, President Trump, days before he formally assumed office, allowed Boeing chief executive Dennis A. Muilenburg to listen in on a call with the manager of a key Pentagon fighter jet program as the then-president-elect weighed the government’s options for lowering the costs of Lockheed Martin’s F-35.

Air Force Lt. Gen. Chris Bogdan, program manager for the F-35, provided details about the call at a briefing before the House Armed Services Committee Thursday morning, taking questions from congressional staff members just hours after Bloomberg reported the episode.

Boeing and F-35 maker Lockheed Martin declined to comment. But others characterized the call to Bogdan as an inappropriate subversion of the military’s ability to determine its own equipment requirements.

“The president directly trying to influence the requirements process in the presence of a [defense company executive] is wildly inappropriate and has the worst optics one can imagine … we’ve never seen anything like this before,” said Richard Aboulafia, a military analyst with Aerospace market research firm Teal Group.
The translation here is that generals and consultants who are eager to secure lucrative sinecures when they leave government service do not want their gravy train disrupted.

If the last 50 years have shown anything, it is that the Pentagon in general, and the uniformed military in particular, cannot be trusted to develop weapons: Even when the process is not rife with corruption, as it is in the US, the myopia of the military services puts the resources in the wrong place, and places too much emphasis on the wrong thing,

The Swedes discovered this in 1628, when the most powerful warship of the era capsized and sunk on its first foray from port because the naval officers ordered that a surfeit of guns be crammed onto it.

The result was that the military was separated from defense procurement, and the Swedish defense forces have been punching well above their weight ever since.

Again, I expect this to be supremely poorly implemented, but it is a change to a broken system,


This Raccoon Riding on a Garbage Truck Is the Only Thing in DC That Makes Sense (VICE) Kawaii (可愛い), neh?

21 February 2017

Another Stopped Clock Moment from Trump

After years of litigation and stonewalling from the Obama administration, the Trump administration has handed over the full classified Senate torture report to a Federal Court:
Credit where credit is due: Trump has done more to preserve the full CIA Torture Report than Obama ever did. On his way out the door, the DOJ fought on his behalf in federal court, arguing against an order to deposit the full report with the court clerk for preservation in the ongoing trial of Abd al-Rahim Al-Nashiri, who has alleged he was waterboarded while detained by the CIA.


Maybe it's oneupmanship or maybe the Trump's legal counsel feels it has too much on its plate already, but as the New York Times' Charlie Savage reports, Team Trump is handing over a full copy of the Torture Report to the court as requested.
[A]s the Obama era came to an end, two Federal District Court judges for the District of Columbia ordered the executive branch to provide a copy of the report to the court’s security officer, and today, on the deadline set by one of them, the Trump administration complied rather than appeal.
A one-page notice of compliance [PDF] was issued by the White House on February 10th.
Respondents are filing this notice to advise the Court that, in accordance with the orders entered in the above captioned cases on December 28, 2016, and January 23, 2017,2 on February 6, 2017, the Government deposited for the Court Information Security Officers (CISOs) for secure storage a complete and unredacted electronic copy of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence Committee Study of the CIA’s Detention and Interrogation Program (2014). Specifically, the Government deposited the electronic copy that had been previously delivered to the Department of Justice Office of Legislative Affairs.
My guess is that this is a case of doing the right thing for the wrong reason:  It is likely that Trump and  Evil Minions probably did this as a big "f%$# you" to Barack Obama.

Still, on this one issue, it does give the inverted traffic cone a leg up on the worst constitutional law professor ever.

Least Surprising News of the Day

A study has concluded that poisoning the largely black population of Flint, Michigan was an artifact of systemic racism:
A government-appointed civil rights commission in Michigan says systemic racism helped to cause the Flint water crisis, according to a report released Friday.

The 129-page report does not claim there were any specific violations of state civil rights laws, but says "historical, structural and systemic racism combined with implicit bias" played a role in the problems, which still linger in the city's drinking water almost three years later. 

"The presence of racial bias in the Flint water crisis isn't much of a surprise to those of us who live here, but the Michigan Civil Rights Commission's affirmation that the emergency manager law disproportionately hurts communities of color is an important reminder of just how bad the policy is," state Sen. Jim Ananich, a Democrat from Flint, said. 

It was an emergency manager, appointed by Gov. Rick Snyder, who had the cash-strapped city's water supply changed from Lake Huron to the Flint River in 2014 -- a decision reversed more than a year later amid reports of corroded pipes and elevated blood lead levels.

The report, which was released after a year-long investigation that followed three public hearings and took testimony from more than 150 residents and officials, says: "The people of Flint have been subjected to unprecedented harm and hardship, much of it caused by structural and systemic discrimination and racism that have corroded your city, your institutions, and your water pipes, for generations."
In related news water is wet ……… Well most places anyway.

In Flint, the water is brown and lumpy.

Psychopathic Is as Psychopathic Does

I'm sure that you have heard some of the stories about Uber, such as their simply refusing to pay taxes in the UK, and their relationship with the city of Pittsburgh, where after defending them against state regulators, ignoring the fact that they were pillaging the Carnegie-Mellon robotics lab, and allowing the ride service to roll out robotic cars on city streets, told the "City of Bridges" to pound sand when they requested help competing in the 2016 Smart City Challenge, Uber responded with a list of new demands.

And now, we have the case of Susan Fowler, and employee (full time programmer, not a driver) how documented the toxic and hostile workplace environment for women.
  • Her manager propositioned her on her first day of work.
  • HR said it was the first time that this had happened, and that he would get a stern talking to ……… The kicker is that they said this to her and at least a half dozen other complainants.
  • She transferred to a rather dysfunctional and chaotic division, and then was not allowed to transfer again because her performance review was downgraded because, "Performance problems aren't always something that has to do with work, but sometimes can be about things outside of work or your personal life." (Translation, "Women are to be seen, not heard.")
    • It is then revealed that her performance review was retroactively downgraded because, it prevented her transfer, "It turned out that keeping me on the team made my manager look good, and I overheard him boasting to the rest of the team that even though the rest of the teams were losing their women engineers left and right, he still had some on his team." (Women in the division went from 25% to 6%[!] while she was there)
  • HR asked if, "I had noticed that *I* was the common theme in all of the reports I had been making, and that if I had ever considered that I might be the problem."
  • She was threatened with firing for making complaints by her boss.
Note that she is no slouch, she has written what has been described as the de-facto standard on designing standard microservices, but she still got treated like crap, because treating employees, drivers, and customers like crap is what Uber does.

Uber CEO Travis Kalanick is a big fan of Ayn Rand and Objectivism, and I've said before, "That Ayn Rand Is to Business What Ebola Is to the Exchange of Bodily Fluids."


20 February 2017

Another Stopped Clock Moment

The White House has announced that they will be talking face-to-face with the DPRK.

The standard line in foreign policy is that talking with Pyongyang is somehow a victory for North Korea, so we should only talk to them after they have capitulated.

Given the rather xenophobic and paranoid proclivities of that regime, the result, active nuclear weapons, ICBM, and SLBM programs, should come as no surprise.

This is a welcome change:
Preparations are under way to bring senior North Korean officials to the United States for talks with former U.S. officials, the first such meeting in more than five years, The Washington Post reported on Sunday.

The talks would be the clearest indication yet that North Korean leader Kim Jong Un wants to communicate with the new Trump administration.

Planning for the "Track 1.5 talks" is still in a preparatory stage, the Post reported, citing multiple people with knowledge of the arrangements.

That name, reflecting planned contact between former U.S. officials and current North Korean ones, is a reference to what are known as "Track 2" talks involving former officials on both sides.
I don't expect this to end well, after all, it is an initiative by the Trump administration, but to the degree that this constitutes a reversal from a truly bone-headed foreign policy consensus, it is a good thing.

18 February 2017

No Blogging Tonight

The kids were in a production of Shakespeare's The Tempest, and I was taping it.

17 February 2017

Can We Please Impeach Him?

No, I am not talking about the Donald, rather I am talking about the mass of conflicts and poor jurisprudence that is Clarence Thomas:
Justice Clarence Thomas’s wife is organizing in support of President Donald Trump’s agenda. And it might make her husband’s life a little complicated.

In an email sent to a conservative listserv on Feb. 13 and obtained by The Daily Beast, Ginni Thomas asked an interesting question: How could she organize activists to push for Trump’s policies?

“What is the best way to, with minimal costs, set up a daily text capacity for a ground up-grassroots army for pro-Trump daily action items to push back against the left’s resistance efforts who are trying to make America ungovernable?” she wrote.

“I see the left has Daily Action @YourDailyAction and their Facebook likes are up to 61K,” she continued.

She then linked to a Washington Post story about the group.

“But there are some grassroots activists, who seem beyond the Republican party or the conservative movement, who wish to join the fray on social media for Trump and link shields and build momentum,” she wrote. “I met with a house load of them yesterday and we want a daily textable tool to start… Suggestions?”


Heidi Li Feldman, a professor at Georgetown Law School and expert on legal ethics, told The Daily Beast that the email could be grounds for lawyers challenging Trump’s travel ban to ask Justice Thomas to recuse himself from the case—a move that could doom the executive order.

“You can imagine circumstances easily where such conduct on the part of the spouse of a Supreme Court justice would lead to a non-frivolous disqualification motion,” she said.

This is not the first time that Clarence and Ginni Thomas have ignored the most basic rules of judicial ethics. (That case involved him refusing to recuse himself from a case involving a man who Ginni's advocacy group, set up a Clarence Thomas museum, gifted him a $19K bible, allowed him free access to a business jet, etc.)

16 February 2017

Interesting Speculation

87 miles as the crow flies
Here is an interesting bit of speculation on why a Russian spy ship is hanging out in international waters off of Long Island Sound:
I love maps. They often reveal things quickly and simply in a way text cannot. Like this map I’ve pulled together showing two points recently in the news.

To the right, Groton, Connecticut, where the U.S. has a naval facility

To the left, Glen Cove, New York — the location of a waterfront compound, Killenworth Mansion, owned for decades by Russia. The site was used for electronic spying according to the Reagan administration. A second compound, Norwich House, located five miles away in Upper Brookville, was vacated in December after former president Obama issued new sanctions on Russia in response to alleged interference in U.S. 2016 presidential election.

Multiple news reports yesterday noted a Russian spy ship “loitering” approximately 30 miles south of Groton, near Long Island’s shoreline, in international waters.

But none of them mentioned the ship was approximately 60-80 miles from the site of the Russian government compounds.


It’s almost if the Russians left something behind on Long Island and were looking for it.

Or listening for it.
As Mr. Spock would say, "Fascinating."


God Bless the Onion

15 February 2017

It Appears that Google is No Longer the Job Mecca it Once Was

It used to be that people would crawl over broken glass to get a job at Google.

Now, employees at Google's Waymo division bailed as soon as they got f%$#-you money:
Google has spent a lot of money on its self-driving car project, now spun off into a new entity called Waymo. Much of that money has gone to engineers and other staff, according to a new report from Bloomberg. In order to keep self-driving staffers happy — and, presumably, from leaving the company for other firms doing similar work — Google backed the proverbial Brinks truck up to the self-driving department and unloaded.

Bloomberg says that early staffers “had an unusual compensation system” that multiplied staffers' salaries and bonuses based on the performance of the self-driving project. The payments accumulated as milestones were reached, even though Waymo remains years away from generating revenue. One staffer eventually “had a multiplier of 16 applied to bonuses and equity amassed over four years.” The huge amounts of compensation worked — for a while. But eventually, it gave many staffers such financial security that they were willing to leave the cuddly confines of Google.

Two staffers that Bloomberg spoke to called it “F-you money,” and the accumulated cash allowed them to depart Google for other firms, including Chris Urmson who co-founded a startup with ex-Tesla employee Sterling Anderson, and others who founded a self-driving truck company called Otto which was purchased by Uber last year, and another who founded Argo AI which received a $1 billion investment from Ford last week.
These were people who were eager to leave, and as soon as they were secure, they left.

This does not say positive things about the workplace.

Yet Another Reason that I Hate Apple

As an engineer, I find their elevation of form over function, which goes all the way back to not having a cooling fan on the original Mac, but their recent jihad against the right of people to have their equipment repaired just reinforces this:
Apple representatives plan to tell Nebraska lawmakers that repairing your phone is dangerous.

Apple is planning to fight proposed electronics "Right to Repair" legislation being considered by the Nebraska state legislature, according to a source within the legislature who is familiar with the bill's path through the statehouse.

The legislation would require Apple and other electronics manufacturers to sell repair parts to consumers and independent repair shops, and would require manufacturers to make diagnostic and service manuals available to the public.

Nebraska is one of eight states that are considering right to repair bills; last month, Nebraska, Minnesota, New York, Massachusetts, Kansas, and Wyoming introduced legislation. Last week, lawmakers in Illinois and Tennessee officially introduced similar bills.

According to the source, an Apple representative, staffer, or lobbyist will testify against the bill at a hearing in Lincoln on March 9. AT&T will also argue against the bill, the source said. The source told me that at least one of the companies plans to say that consumers who repair their own phones could cause lithium batteries to catch fire. Motherboard is protecting the identity of the source because they are not authorized to speak to the press.


The bills nationwide are being pushed by Repair.org, a trade organization made up of independent repair shops who say that their companies have been harmed by an attempt by manufacturers to gain a monopoly over the repair business. Even without readily available repair parts or service manuals, a healthy DIY repair hobby has thrived thanks to online crowdsourced instruction manuals on sites like iFixit and grey market parts that are available directly from factories in China or can be salvaged from recycled devices.
This is not a surprise for a company whose response to a stupid antenna design was to tell consumers that they were holding the phone wrong.

This sh%$ is evil.

It is Called Selling Out

A number of the more prominent civil rights organizations in the United States have been bought off by the Telcos, and are opposing net neutrality:
Leading civil rights groups who for many years have been heavily bankrolled by the telecom industry are signaling their support for Donald Trump’s promised rollback of the Obama administration’s net neutrality rules, which prevent internet service providers from prioritizing some content providers over others.

The Obama administration’s Federal Communications Commission established net neutrality by reclassifying high-speed internet as a regulated phone-like telecommunications service, as opposed to a mostly unregulated information service. The re-classification was cheered by advocates for a free and open internet.

But now Trump’s new FCC Chairman Ajit Pai, a former Verizon attorney, is pushing to repeal the net neutrality reform by rolling back that re-classification — and he’s getting help not only from a legion of telecom lobbyists, but from civil rights groups.

In a little-noticed joint letter released last week, the NAACP, Asian Americans Advancing Justice, OCA (formerly known as the Organization for Chinese Americans), the National Urban League, and other civil rights organizations sharply criticized the “jurisdictional and classification problems that plagued the last FCC” — a reference to the legal mechanism used by the Obama administration to accomplish net neutrality.


None of the civil rights groups that signed the joint letter responded to a request for comment.

It’s not the first time civil rights group have engaged in lobbying debates seemingly unrelated to their core missions, but in favor of their corporate donors. At a time when OCA received major funding from Southwest Airlines, the group filed a regulatory letter on behalf of the airline in support of Southwest’s bid to open flights at Houston airport. The NAACP, after receiving financial backing from Wal-Mart, helped the retail chain during its contentious bid to open stores in New York City.


The civil rights group opposed to net neutrality have employed several arguments against the proposal. In one filing made in 2010, the NAACP signed onto an argument from MMTC that net neutrality reforms were a waste of resources because the FCC should focus on “more pressing racial discrimination and exclusionary hiring and promotion practices of certain Silicon Valley high-tech companies.” In a separate filing in 2014, MMTC and the NAACP argued that reclassification would threaten the “fragile state of minority engagement in the digital ecosystem.”

While advocating against net neutrality, the organizations on the joint letter have raked in money from the telecom industry.
If any of these organizations make a fundraising pitch to you, you should find another recipient.

It appears that these groups have already gotten well remunerated for their services to corporate America.

14 February 2017

Well, This is a Mind F%$#

The New York Times has a story about how the Republicans have their hatchets out for the the CFPB, and the hed is, The Watchdog Protecting Consumers May Be Too Effective.


The article itself is relatively straight forward, it simply details how Republicans hate protecting consumers from being defrauded, and hence they want to kill the agency, but the headline, suggesting that there can be too much honesty in financial transactions, simply buggers the mind.

Headline of the Day

Republicans to predatory companies: Grab as much as you can
Catherine Rampell, in, of all places, The Washington Post.
She is writing about Republican efforts to make it easier for the banksters to rip off consumers.

We Have a Contender for Wisest Thing Written This Year

Badtux the Snarky Penguin observes, "Don’t confuse tolerance of people who are different with tolerance of evil.

Your mouth to God's ear you sterling representative of the Spheniscidae family:
So precious little snowflake Nazis whine that we liberals preach tolerance but don’t practice it because, well, we laugh when a Nazi gets punched. But here’s the thing: Nazis lost the right to be tolerated when they started piling bodies of innocent men, women, and children into mass graves.

Yes, liberals preach tolerance — tolerance of people who have never committed harm against others. Don’t confuse tolerance of difference with tolerance of monsters. Tolerance of evil is the exact same thing as condoning evil, and liberals ain’t into that shit.

Also don’t confuse tolerance with pacifism. ………
It's a short read, but a good one.

Read the rest, and then punch a Nazi as your Valentines day gift to your sweet Baboo.

Tweet of the Day

H/t naked capitalism


The Netherlands Welcomes Donald Trump: