31 March 2017

It's Bank Failure Friday!!! (On Saturday)

We had a credit union failure on Friday, the 3rd so far this year, Valley State Credit Union of Saginaw, MI.

Here is the Full NCUA list.

Seriously, This Guy Should Have Been Drowned at Birth

I am referring, of course to Penn State trustee Albert Lord, who has stated that he is, "Running out of sympathy for 35 yr old, so-called victims with 7 digit net worth for the people who were raped by Jerry Sandusky, with the knowledge of Joe Paterno and Penn State:
Penn State trustee Albert L. Lord said he is “running out of sympathy” for the “so-called” victims of former Nittany Lions assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky, according to an email sent to The Chronicle of Higher Education.

Lord, a former CEO of student loan company Sallie Mae, also defended Graham Spanier, the dismissed Penn State president who was convicted of one count of child endangerment last week for his handling of complaints about Sandusky.

"Running out of sympathy for 35 yr old, so-called victims with 7 digit net worth," Lord said in the email sent Saturday. "Do not understand why they were so prominent in trial. As you learned, Graham Spanier never knew Sandusky abused anyone."
One thing to note here:  He is an trustee elected by alumni, and there is a contested election for his position that will be ongoing for the next few months.

If you are an alum, vote early and often for the other guys.

Donate to their Primary Opponents, and Do Not Vote for Them in the General

Two Democratic Senators, Joe Manchin and Heidi Heitkamp, have announced that they will vote to appoint Neil Gorsuch to the US Supreme Court:
Senators Joe Manchin and Heidi Heitkamp on Thursday became the first Democrats to support the confirmation of President Donald Trump's Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch, giving Republicans two of eight Democratic votes needed to avoid a nasty fight on the U.S. Senate floor next week.

Both West Virginia's Manchin and North Dakota's Heitkamp are up for re-election next year in states that voted for Trump in the 2016 presidential election.

"I hold no illusions that I will agree with every decision Judge Gorsuch may issue in the future, but I have not found any reasons why this jurist should not be a Supreme Court justice," Manchin said in a statement. Manchin met with the nominee for a second time on Wednesday night.

Heitkamp said that Gorsuch "has a record as a balanced, meticulous and well-respected jurist who understands the rule of law."
This has got to be a red line:  If you vote for cloture, we are done with you.

I can't speak to Heitkamp, she has been off my radar, but Manchin is a deeply corrupt individual who pulled strings to get the University of West Virginia to grant his daughter an unearned MBA degree, and later, when his daughter became CEO of Mylan Pharmaceuticals, he pushed to mandate them in public schools, even as the company was aggressively price gouging.

He is a bad, bad man, and we are not taking back the Senate in 2018.

If anything there will be fewer Dems in the Senate, because there are 9 Republican seats, and 25 Democratic seats (including independents who caucus with the Dems).

There is no way that Democrats will pick up two seats in Alabama, Arizona, Mississippi, Tennessee, Texas, Utah,* and Wyoming, and not lose any of the 25 other seats.

Naah gaah naah happen.

Better to be rid of them, and best to make an example of them, so that (to paraphrase Pat Boone's bloodthirsty call for the execution of on neo-Nazi JCC gunman Buford Furrow) those who think like them will think differently in the future.

*The Oxford Comma, bitches, it just works.

For Once, Maryland Politics Works

About a month ago the Maryland state Supreme Court ordered an overhaul of the bail system so that people do not spend weeks or months in pre-trial detention simply because they are poor:
Maryland’s highest court voted unanimously Tuesday to overhaul the state’s bail policies, essentially abolishing a system in which poor people could languish behind bars for weeks or months before trial because they could not post bond.

The rule change, which takes effect July 1, requires judges to impose the “least onerous” conditions when setting bail for a defendant who is not considered a danger or a flight risk.

That means Maryland will join a handful of states, including New Mexico, Kentucky and New Jersey, that have moved away from bail as part of a larger criminal-justice overhaul movement.

Judges will be required for the first time to consider whether a defendant can afford to make bail before setting their pretrial release conditions. They must also weigh whether defendants pose a risk of committing another crime or of not appearing for their next court date.

The directive approved by the rules committee of the Maryland Court of Appeals says that “preference should be given to additional conditions without financial terms,” court spokesman Kevin Kane said.

Maryland Attorney General Brian E. Frosh (D), who has been pushing for an overhaul of the system, called the rules change a “huge step forward” that will lead to “more justice in Maryland.”
Of course, there is a politically connected group who promptly got the state Senate to pass a bill eviscerating this ruling, but following an overwhelming vote against this bill by Maryland black caucus in the House of delegates, it appears it won't even make it to the floor there:
In what could be a devastating blow to bail bondsmen, Maryland's Legislative Black Caucus voted overwhelmingly Thursday to oppose legislation that would partially restore the role of cash bail in pretrial release.

The caucus voted, 31-5, to oppose a bill favored by the bail bond industry — and approved by the state Senate — that would overrule the Court of Appeals' instruction in February that court commissioners and judges consider other forms of pretrial release before resorting to cash bail.

Opponents of the bill said the vote gives House Speaker Michael E. Busch the political cover he needs to keep the legislation off the House floor. Busch later acknowledged that the vote affects the bill's future.

"This sends a clear message to House leadership that the issue is dead for this year," Del. Curt Anderson said.

The question of how the General Assembly should respond — if at all — to the Court of Appeals rule has been one of the hardest-fought battles of this legislative session. The caucus came down firmly on the side of letting the rule stand.


The industry objected to a provision of the Court of Appeals rule that diminished the role of cash bail in pretrial release. "Preference should be given to additional conditions without financial terms," the rule reads.

The Senate bill would supersede that provision and put cash bail on a par with other conditions, which include steps such as drug treatment, monitoring and home detention.

The bill is now bottled up in the House Rules & Executive Nominations Committee because the Senate passed it after a legislative deadline. Opponents want the speaker to keep it there, and the caucus action bolsters their case. Members of black caucus make up about 40 percent of Democrats in the House.
I've gotta contact Busch's office and ask him to keep the bill off the floor.

BTW, like all recipients of corporate welfare, the bail bondsmen have set up a sophisticated and expensive lobbying and PR campaign.

All this to fight a rule that basically says, "If the defendant is not a risk, don't throw him in jail for being poor."

These ratf%$#s make Comcast look like Albert Schweitzer.

30 March 2017

Quote of the Day

Mainstream economic models are nothing but broken pieces models. That kind of models can’t make economics a science.
Lars P. Syll
That sound you hear is a mic dropping.

This Would Be Ironic

When the Supreme Court declined to overturn Obamacare, they did restrict it somewhat, by declaring that the provision of the law that required states to expand Medicaid or leave the program.

The Court found that it was too coercive.

Legal experts are saying that this ruling would likely apply to Jeff Sessions' attempts to defund sanctuary cities:
The Trump administration announced this week that it will make good on its January threat to claw back funding from so-called sanctuary cities that limit information-sharing with federal immigration officials. Yet hundreds of legal experts say the move would itself be illegal—in part due to a court ruling Republicans cheered just a few years ago.

In 2012, the Supreme Court forced the Obama administration to make Medicaid expansion voluntary for states instead of mandatory, ruling that when the federal government “threatens to terminate other significant independent grants as a means of pressuring the States to accept” a federal policy, it is unconstitutionally coercive.

Conservative groups that celebrated this victory over "infringement on state sovereignty by the federal government" may now be dismayed to learn that it could throw a wrench into the Trump administration's current plan to punish sanctuary cities.
I am amused.

You Gotta Read This

It's an article on, "12 people, things that ruined the EU.

It starts with Zeus's rape of Europa, but my favorite item is number 2:

2. Edith Cresson

Going straight from Zeus, ruler of Mount Olympus, to good old Edith Cresson may seem a bit of a stretch. But as a strong contender for the title of worst European commissioner ever, the Frenchwoman does have a claim to fame, too. In the early 1990s, Cresson was a French prime minister who quickly fell out of favor and was forced to resign after less than a year in office. That apparently qualified her for a high-powered job in Brussels. As commissioner for science, research and development, Cresson famously paid her dentist to be a scientific adviser. In 1999, allegations of fraud intended to target Cresson ended up bringing down the entire Commission. To put it crudely: Cresson did to the EU what Zeus did to Europa.
Read it all.

It may not mean anything about the future of the EU, but it is a hoot.

Something Useful from the C.I.A.

Among the various CIA documents Wikileaks has released recently is instructions for how covert operatives can handle aggressive screeners at airports.

I've not read the document in detail yet (it's a PDF at the link), but it seems to me that it has some useful hints for travelers.

Unfortunately, it doesn't say much about dealing with the increasingly out of control ICE & CPB agents in the US, but it is good general primer on how to avoid that body cavity search.

Snark of the Day

New record sees woman make it to 9.05am before hearing word ‘Brexit’
The Daily Mash

Opening 'graph:
Mary Fisher forgot to turn the radio on after getting up at 7.30am and opted to listen to music on her commute, thus avoiding the B-word for a euphoric 95 minutes.
Look at the bright side:  On our side of the pond, we have Trump, which is much worse than Brexit.


Have some Martha and Muffins:

29 March 2017

The Balloon Has Gone Up

Theresa May has officially begun the Brexit process:
Theresa May has told parliament that she accepts Brexit will carry consequences for the UK, as a letter delivered to Brussels began a two-year countdown to Britain’s departure from the EU.
The prime minister made a speech on triggering article 50 minutes after the European council president, Donald Tusk, confirmed he had received notification. He declared that “the UK has delivered Brexit” nine months after a bruising referendum campaign.

“We understand that there will be consequences for the UK of leaving the EU. We know that we will lose influence over the rules that affect the European economy. We know that UK companies that trade with the EU will have to align with rules agreed by institutions of which we are no longer a part, just as we do in other overseas markets. We accept that,” she said.

A number of MPs congratulated the prime minister on the tone of her letter to Tusk, which stressed Britain’s commitment to the continent as a close friend and ally. But others accused her of issuing a “blatant threat” to withdraw security cooperation if the EU27 fail to deliver on a trade agreement. The letter suggests that the government hopes to roll the separate issues together, claiming no deal will mean WTO rules but also that “our cooperation in the fight against crime and terrorism would be weakened”. May’s spokesman repeatedly insisted placing security and trade relations alongside each other in the letter to Tusk was not intended as a threat. “It’s a simple statement of fact that if we leave the EU without a deal, then the arrangements we have as part of our EU membership will lapse,” he said.
This is going to be a bumpy ride.

The expectations on the British side are somewhat self contradictory, and there are elements of the EU establishment (and not just Wolfgang Schäuble) who want to make the UK an abject lesson for anyone else who is considering either an EU or Euro zone exit.

This is going to be nasty divorce ugly.

Quote of the Day

Trump doesn’t need to subvert American institutions to achieve his goals, because they are already powerful tools of oppression.
Corey Robin
I'm not sure that I agree, but it is rather wonderfully evocative.

Why Chelsea Clinton Running for Office Would Be a Disaster

Matt Bruenig details the professional history of Chelsea Clinton, and it is a miasma and nepotism.

If she runs for office, and it is clear that Hillary, at least, wants her to continue in the "family business", her entry in politics would be a disaster:
Rumors are that Chelsea Clinton is gearing up to run for office. This is troubling news insofar as it might keep the Clinton machine and its hangers-on in politics. It also seems like a questionable idea insofar as Clinton is a nepotist legacy case whose whole career to this point has been hopping from one dodgy patronage job to another, not exactly the ideal image for the Democratic Party.

McKinsey (2003–2006)

After graduating high school, Chelsea goes to Stanford and gets a degree in history and then goes to Oxford and gets a degree in international relations. So far, so banal.
But after Oxford, Chelsea Clinton signed up with McKinsey, a consulting company known as an elite business training corps. She was the youngest in her class, hired at the same rank as those with M.B.A. degrees. Her interview was more like a conversation, said D. Ronald Daniel, a senior partner. “That’s why she was a good consultant, because we are professional question-askers and professional listeners,” Mr. Daniel said.  —  New York Times
Despite having no background in business, statistics, or any other related field, Chelsea gets hired by McKinsey straight out of Oxford alongside elite business school graduates. The interview process for that was “more like a conversation.”
It goes on from there, and it's an exercise in corrosive nepotism, including a gig with NBC that boils down to "$26,724 for each minute she subsequently appeared on air" and I agree with Breunig's final conclusion:
You could not put together a more unappealing force in the world than what Chelsea Clinton represents, personally or politically.
It doesn't make her a bad person, but it makes any entry into electoral politics by her an unmitigated catastrophe.

Live in Obedient Fear, Citizen

It turns out that the DEA data mines your travel data to see if it is worth it to steal your money:
Federal drug agents regularly mine Americans’ travel information to profile people who might be ferrying money for narcotics traffickers — though they almost never use what they learn to make arrests or build criminal cases.

Instead, that targeting has helped the Drug Enforcement Administration seize a small fortune in cash.

DEA agents have profiled passengers on Amtrak trains and nearly every major U.S. airline, drawing on reports from a network of travel-industry informants that extends from ticket counters to back offices, a USA TODAY investigation has found. Agents assigned to airports and train stations singled out passengers for questioning or searches for reasons as seemingly benign as traveling one-way to California or having paid for a ticket in cash.

The DEA surveillance is separate from the vast and widely-known anti-terrorism apparatus that now surrounds air travel, which is rarely used for routine law enforcement. It has been carried out largely without the airlines’ knowledge.

It is a lucrative endeavor, and one that remains largely unknown outside the drug agency. DEA units assigned to patrol 15 of the nation’s busiest airports seized more than $209 million in cash from at least 5,200 people over the past decade after concluding the money was linked to drug trafficking, according to Justice Department records. Most of the money was passed on to local police departments that lend officers to assist the drug agency.

“They count on this as part of the budget,” said Louis Weiss, a former supervisor of the DEA group assigned to Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport. “Basically, you’ve got to feed the monster.”
There may be times that seizure is justified, but by allowing those executing the seizures to keep the money for themselves, they end up becoming little more than mobsters running a protection racket.

More News from the Internet of Things

In another episode of how manufacturers are f%$#ing things making ordinary objects around your house internet enabled, now hackers can take over your dishwasher:
Don't say you weren't warned: Miele went full Internet-of-Things with a network-connected dishwasher, gave it a web server, and now finds itself on the wrong end of a security bug report – and it's accused of ignoring the warning.

The utterly predictable vulnerability advisory on the Full Disclosure mailing list details CVE-2017-7240 – aka "Miele Professional PG 8528 - Web Server Directory Traversal.” This is the builtin web server that's used to remotely control the glassware-cleaning machine from a browser.

“The corresponding embedded Web server 'PST10 WebServer' typically listens to port 80 and is prone to a directory traversal attack, therefore an unauthenticated attacker may be able to exploit this issue to access sensitive information to aide in subsequent attacks,” reads the notice, dated Friday.


And because Miele is an appliance company and not a pure-play IT company, it doesn't have a process for reporting or fixing security bugs. The researcher who noticed the dishwasher's web server vuln – Jens Regel of German company Schneider-Wulf – complains that Miele never responded when he contacted the biz with his findings; he says his first contact was made in November 2016.

Appliance makers: stop trying to connect stuff to networks, you're no good at it.
I would also add, regulators need to police this stuff, and civil liability law needs to be rewritten to ensure that the manufacturers, and perhaps senior management are explicitly liable for this crap, including punitively harsh mandatory penalties.

If copyright trolls can threaten 6 figure judgements against people's kids who Bit Torrent a Nickelback song,* then these manufacturers need to face at least that much jeopardy.

*I will note, if your kids are downloading Nickelback, I do think that a visit from Child Protective Services (CPS) might be in order, because, well, it's f%$#ing Nickelback.

Ironic Headline of the Day

Former Obama Aide Who Helped Kill Single-Payer in the ACA Solicits Donations for Sick Friend's GoFundMe Page

The former Barack Obama, and Max Baucus, aide is Jim Messina, who played a pivotal role in close lining even the remotest possibility of single payer or a public option, as well as steering the negotiations towards Baucus, who made a complete hash of the negotiations, and made the bill far worse as a result.

I am not suggesting that you not donate to Will Leaverton, who is having a very rough time dealing with pancreatitis, I am suggesting that you might want to find a way make Messina feel as badly about his role in the current state of affairs as is possible.

28 March 2017

I Know that Correlation is not Causation

Historical patent data

Patents vs economic growth
But it does appear that there is a negative correlation between the number of patents and economic growth:
Recently I discussed a paper by David Autor, David Dorn, Gordon Hanson, Gary P. Pisano and Pian Shu. The paper noted that as competition from China increased, innovation by US firms, measured by patent output, decreased. I believe the result, but started to wonder… are patents a good measure of innovation? Do patents drive economic growth?

I don’t know how to measure innovation, but I can look at the relationship between patents and economic growth. We being by looking at patents per capita. I found patent data going back to 1840, and population to 1850. The graph below shows patents per capita beginning in 1850. (All data sources provided at the end of this post.)


If it kind of looks to you like patents are not driving economic growth, well, it kind of looks like that to me too. In fact, if anything, the lines seem to be more negatively than positively correlated. In years where there are more patents, the subsequent growth rate in real GDP for capita over a ten year period seems to go down. Conversely, fewer patents in one year seem to be associated with more growth over the next ten years.
This is not a surprise.

Patents are increasingly an instrument for extracting monopoly rents with no meaning productive activity, as such they are increasingly parasitic.

This is an Interesting Legal Strategy

Last Thursday, prosecutors announced that Chicago police officer Jason Van Dyke is facing new criminal charges in the fatal October 2014 shooting of 17-year-old Laquan McDonald. Van Dyke was indicted by a grand jury earlier this month on 16 counts of aggravated battery with a firearm—one count, apparently, for each bullet he fired at McDonald. Van Dyke had previously been indicted on charges of first-degree murder and misconduct in office. Special prosecutor Joseph McMahon filed the new indictment—which included the original charges—to replace the first one.

"I've never seen charges shot by shot," says former Cook County prosecutor Robert Milan.

All of which begs a few questions: Why would prosecutors charge Van Dyke separately for each bullet he fired? How common are these kinds of charges in shooting cases? And how likely is it that a jury will buy the argument that Van Dyke committed 16 separate felonies?

To get some answers, I reached out to Robert Milan, previously the No. 2 prosecutor in the state's attorney's office for Cook County, which includes Chicago. Milan has personally tried more than 100 shooting cases, he says, and "I've never seen charges shot by shot."

Prosecutors, he says, may have filed the aggravated assault charges to preempt the defense's inevitable argument that Van Dyke had the authority to use deadly force to protect himself and others, or to prevent McDonald—who was wielding a knife and had reportedly attempted to break into cars—from committing a violent felony.

Jurors would consider the battery charges in addition to (not in place of) first-degree murder. So prosecutors could ask the judge to instruct the jury to consider Van Dyke's self-defense claim only for the bullets he fired before McDonald fell to the ground, on the grounds that the claim no longer applied after McDonald was down.

"If Van Dyke gets the total defense instruction for the entire act, I'm sure prosecutors are concerned that it covers all 16 shots," Milan said. But "if the judge buys it, and Van Dyke doesn't get that instruction, then that defense goes flying out the window for those shots. I really think that's what they're doing here."
I'm not sure that I approve of this strategy, but I DO approve of the enthusiasm.

Generally, when prosecutors have to prosecute a bad cop, they run as weak ass cases that seem to be designed to acquit cops.

That this prosecutor is serious about getting a conviction is a most welcome change.

How I Made the SMS Viewable (Kind of Techie,)

First, I used SMS Backup and Restore to save the SMS messages.

Then I viewed the XML file generated in Firefox, using the following style sheets I downloaded for a threaded view. (Direct link)

If you put the contents of the zip file in the same directory as the xml file.

It would would then show up on Firefox as this:

At this point, I thought that it was there, but I was wrong.

Basically, there was no way for me to get it out.

It did not copy and paste properly, and so I knew that the information was there, I just didn't know how to extract it to a blog post.

It turns out that if I use the link with the style sheets from above, there is one that generates a table in Firefox, and I can cut and past into an excel table, and there it is, with the sender, date, and content, whcih means that I can use my (not particularly) mad skillz at Excel text manipulation to generate the html code which set my stuff flush right, his flush left, added avatars, and had different background colors.

It also means that reordering texts to better reflect the order of the conversation (latency is a bitch)is easier:  Just insert a blank row, move the row there, and delete the now blank row.

Purists out there may object to my abuse of the table tag, which you can see on my earlier post if you look at the html code.

All in all, it comes pretty close to the way that it looks on my phone.

Still, it is a remarkably fugly way to do things, but fugly is what I do.

Here is a Transcript of Charlie's AIPAC Texts

Except for the massaging necessary to convert the SMS texts, the only changes are to manually add the single MMS post, scroll down for Bibi's hair dye, which was a picture of the hair disaster, and bowdlerizing some swear words.

There are some exchanges that are a bit confusing, because things get a bit temporally dislocated because of the lag between sending and receiving a message and the time to actually thumb type/Swype a response.

Charlie and I worked to clarify this as much as possible.

I have put it after the break, because it would otherwise it would push everything else off the page.

Click thru, particularly if you are reading this through Facebook.

I think that you will find it amusing:

27 March 2017

These Folks Are Never Going Away, They Just Change Their Name

I am referring to the now-shuttered Democratic Leadership Council, which declared war on the poor and allied itself with Wall Street and the Koch Brothers.

The DLC still exists, of course, it's just renamed itself the "Third Way" while promulgating the same cruel and parsimonious policies:
Stringer Bell had a problem. On HBO's show "The Wire," the rather learned kingpin was concerned that the drugs his gang sold on the streets of West Baltimore were too weak, which jeopardized their control of the streets. So, in a memorable scene, Bell, who was taking economics courses at a community college, asked his instructor, "What are the options if you have an inferior product in an aggressive marketplace?" The instructor offered him some prescient advice, mentioning how WorldCom (now MCI Inc.) once faced a similar problem.

"The company was linked to one of the largest fraud cases in history," he said. "So, they decided to change the name."


The world of politics and ideas is an especially aggressive marketplace. Here, so-called centrist "New Democrats" adopted a very similar approach. For many years, Democrats proudly associated themselves with the Democratic Leadership Council (DLC), a powerful group founded in the 1980s that sought to build a Democratic Party "liberated"­ from labor and grounded in "support for free market and free trade economics ... an end to the politics of 'entitlement' [and] a rejection of affirmative action."

At the height of its power the DLC was the dominant force in the party, boasting President Bill Clinton and UK Prime Minister Tony Blair as its acolytes. But like Bell's weak narcotics, the DLC, which supported the Iraq War and received money from the likes of the Koch Brothers, soon became a tainted brand. Long before 2011, when the organization dissolved, the DLC label hung around politicians like a scarlet letter. Even President Obama publicly distanced himself from the organization in 2004 as he ascended as a national figure.

So, eager to maintain power and influence, New Democrats did what Stringer Bell ended up doing. They changed the name.So, eager to maintain power and influence, New Democrats did what Stringer Bell ended up doing. They changed the name.


Now, as Democrats face an existential crisis in the aftermath of the election of Donald Trump, these fundamentally conservative organizations, armed with millions in corporate donations, are working with a renewed aggressiveness in the public sphere. They are attempting to convince the party to shun its base and further embrace the so-called "vital center," and the corporatism that has long defined these groups.

If Third Way succeeds, the Democrats will leave an opening for right-wing "populism" to thrive long after the Trump presidency. If this happens, Americans will increasingly (and correctly) see Democrats as a party run by the establishment, and serving the interests of its donors, rather than the working class. This is why progressive activists are fighting hard to rid the party of Democrats who embrace this agenda.
These are folks are saying that "Now is the time for unity," and that no meaningful changes need to be made to both the structure and the policy of the Democratic Party.

Labor and the working man need to get more than lip-service, Wall Street needs to be kicked to the curb, and the corrupt and incompetent political consultants need to find new work.

Good Point

Marcie "Emptywheel" Wheeler gives us a bright side to the Trump administration:
I have a confession.

There’s something I like about the Trump Administration.

It’s the way that his unpopularity taints long-standing policies or practices or beliefs, making people aware of and opposed to them in a way they weren’t when the same policies or beliefs were widely held under George Bush or Barack Obama. Many, though not all, of these policies or beliefs were embraced unquestioningly by centrists or even avowed leftists.

I’ve been keeping a running list in my mind, which I’ll begin to lay out here (I guess I’ll update it as I remember more).

  • Expansive surveillance
  • The presumption of regularity, by which courts and the public assume the Executive Branch operates in good faith and from evidence
  • Denigration of immigrants
  • Denigration of Muslims
  • Denigration health insurance
As an example, Obama deported a huge number of people. But now that Trump has expanded that same practice, it has been made visible and delegitimized.

In short, Trump has made things that should always have been criticized are now being far more widely so.

It's true.  Obama's war on whistle-blowers is unprecedented, he was the deportation president, he terrorized half a dozen with drone strikes, and he expanded surveillance beyond Dick Cheney's wildest dreams.

The so-called left never had an objection to what Obama was doing, but now, even the far right is wondering about things like the surveillance state.

Obama normalized a lot of bad things, and now Trump is abnormalizing those same excesses.

It's kind of like watching your mother-in-law going over a cliff in your brand new car.

Snark of the Day

POLL: Did Vice President Pence deserve the ‘Working for Women’ award?Salon.

Judy B: “No more than Obama deserved the Nobel Peace Prize.”
Naked Capitalism

Not Enough Bullets………

I don't mean the fictitious family* profiled, I am reserving my opprobrium for the reporter who has asked us to feel the pain and deprivation of a family getting by on just $½ million a year.

You see, they only have about 7½ grand a year free and clear after:
  • Putting $36,000 a year in their 401(K) plans.
  • Contributing $18,000 a year to charity.
  • Spending $5000/month on a mortgage in the City.
  • Spending $18,000/year on 3 vacations.
  • Spending $42,000/year on childcare.
  • Spending $9,500/year on two cars ……… In New York City.
  • Spending $23,000/year on food, including regular jaunts to New York restaurants.
  • $10,000/year for "stuff that comes up".
Let's also note that the reporter ignores The deductiblity of:
  • Charitable donations.
  • Mortgage interest
  • Child care

Which would lower their tax burden by something on the order of $40K/year.

Also, their biggest expense, the mortgage would likely be half that if we stopped letting mobsters and corrupt politicians launder their money through real estate deals, which inflates real estate prices.

Still, even after all that fiscal incompetence, this fictional family has $140 a week mad money.

Not so bad.

To quote Marie Antoinette's last words, "I'm sorry operator, I've been cut off."

*We need to have sympathy for this family, because they are fictitious, a condition effecting thousands of families around the world.
Please give generously to the Fictitious Family Relief Fund. They are funding research on making the sufferers of this condition real.
At this point, they can only exist in virtual reality.


JFK on Education at Vanderbilt University, 1963.

It seems particularly apropos:

H/t CZ @ SP

26 March 2017

Charlie is at the AIPAC Conference

My son was one of two teens at our synagogue who were given to the opportunity to go the AIPAC (American Israel Public Affairs Committee) conference.

We dropped him off at the bus at 7:00am this morning

We've had some text  message exchanges, and they have been a complete hoot.  (We share our pinko proclivities)

I would appreciate hints on how to best extract an archive of Android text messages to a usable format, please respond.

15 Minutes of Fame ……… Expired

Conservative firebrand, and spokes blond Tomi Lahren has been fired from right wing web site The Blaze:
Tomi Lahren won’t be appearing on Glenn Beck’s multiplatform network, TheBlaze, anymore.

Sources say Lahren — who was suspended last week after flip-flopping on abortion and declaring herself pro-choice — has been banned permanently.

“Glenn is reminding the world of his conservative principles by sidelining Tomi after she insulted conservatives by calling them hypocrites,” one Beck insider told me.
Gone before even her first wrinkle. (She's 24)

That's gotta hurt.

25 March 2017

106 Years Ago Today

Workers who fell to their death
Wikimedia Commons
The Triangle Shirtwaist factory fire:
Today marks the 106th anniversary of the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire, which in twenty minutes consumed the lives of 146 people, mostly young immigrant Jewish and Italian women and girls who worked in the New York City factory. The youngest victims, Kate Leone and Rosaria Maltese, were just fourteen years old.

In the wake of what went down as the worst industrial disaster in New York history, labor activists mobilized the International Ladies Garment Workers Union (ILGWU) and the wealthier Women’s Trade Union League to win worker protections that we still enjoy to this day. More than a century later, March 25 stands as a pivotal date in the history of feminism and organized labor in America.

Triangle carries a particular significance for Jewish-American radicals. Many of the most prominent leaders of the post-fire mobilization — including the seamstress, lesbian, and feminist socialist Rose Schneiderman — were Jewish-American women.


After the 1905 and 1909 strikes, most factories had settled with the unions. But Triangle refused. Their thousands of peak-season employees were paid $5.50 an hour or less in 2016 figures, and had to work nine hours during the week and another seven on Saturdays. They fired union employees and resisted making any improvements in working conditions.

In the Triangle factory — located just off Washington Square Park, occupying the eighth, ninth, and tenth floors of a building that is now part of New York University — workers endured cramped conditions, poor ventilation, and blocked fire exits (which were intended to deter walkouts). Other doors were locked to prevent employee theft; managers would only unlatch them at the end of the shift, checking women’s purses as they left for the day.

Just days before the Triangle disaster, Schneiderman had documented similar conditions at a shop in Newark, where fire escapes were blocked to prevent workers from stealing. There, twenty-five people had perished when the building caught fire. At Triangle, the toll would be well over one hundred.

On March 25, 1911 — which happened to be Shabbat, the Jewish day of rest — five hundred employees reported for work.

At about 4:40 PM, a discard bin that contained two months’ worth of cloth caught fire and quickly spread to the several hundred pounds of cloth surrounding the bin. The alarm sounded. Employees on the eighth floor managed to escape and warn those on the tenth floor. But workers on the ninth floor were trapped. The managers with keys to the locked doors had already fled. Twenty people made it to a flimsy fire escape, but it collapsed, and they fell to their deaths.

The only way out was the elevators. Three times, the elevators ran up to the ninth floor — until the heat buckled their railings. Desperate workers still on the ninth floor pried the elevator shaft doors open and plunged to their deaths, the impact of their bodies on the elevator warping its metal frame.

The sight on the street was equally horrifying: firefighters’ ladders couldn’t reach the ninth floor, so passersby watched as sixty-two people jumped to their deaths. Louis Waldman, a socialist who became a New York assemblyman, recalled the gristly scene: “Occasionally a girl who had hesitated too long was licked by pursuing flames and, screaming with clothing and hair ablaze, plunged like a living torch to the street. Life nets held by the firemen were torn by the impact of the falling bodies.”
Remember this when some politician starts talking about job killing regulations.

These regulations don't kill jobs.  Their absence enables the worst of the worst to kill and maim their workers.

24 March 2017

Now It's an Off Broadway Play

Remember passing mentioned I made that someone reenacted the Trump Clinton debates, and found that Hillary did ever worse when gender roles were reversed?

Well, it's going to play the Jerry Orbach Theater in Manhattan:
After watching the second televised debate between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton in October 2016—a battle between the first female candidate nominated by a major party and an opponent who’d just been caught on tape bragging about sexually assaulting women—Maria Guadalupe, an associate professor of economics and political science at INSEAD, had an idea. Millions had tuned in to watch a man face off against a woman for the first set of co-ed presidential debates in American history. But how would their perceptions change, she wondered, if the genders of the candidates were switched? She pictured an actress playing Trump, replicating his words, gestures, body language, and tone verbatim, while an actor took on Clinton’s role in the same way. What would the experiment reveal about male and female communication styles, and the differing standards by which we unconsciously judge them?

Guadalupe reached out to Joe Salvatore, a Steinhardt clinical associate professor of educational theatre who specializes in ethnodrama—a method of adapting interviews, field notes, journal entries, and other print and media artifacts into a script to be performed as a play. Together, they developed Her Opponent, a production featuring actors performing excerpts from each of the three debates exactly as they happened—but with the genders switched. Salvatore cast fellow educational theatre faculty Rachel Whorton to play “Brenda King,” a female version of Trump, and Daryl Embry to play “Jonathan Gordon,” a male version of Hillary Clinton, and coached them as they learned the candidates’ words and gestures. A third actor, Andy Wagner, would play the moderator in all three debates, with the performances livestreamed. Andrew Freiband, a professor in the Department of Film/Animation/Video at the Rhode Island School of Design, provided the video design. (Watch footage from a Her Opponent rehearsal below.)

The two sold-out performances of Her Opponent took place on the night of Saturday, January 28, just a week after President Trump’s inauguration and the ensuing Women’s March on Washington. “The atmosphere among the standing-room-only crowd, which appeared mostly drawn from academic circles, was convivial, but also a little anxious,” Alexis Soloski, a New York Times reporter who attended the first performance, observed. “Most of the people there had watched the debates assuming that Ms. Clinton couldn’t lose. This time they watched trying to figure out how Mr. Trump could have won.”


And this was just the first phase of the project: Her Opponent has been adapted as an off-Broadway play opening at the Jerry Orbach Theater, and its creators envision adapting a recording of the experiment as a classroom teaching tool to explore the complex ways our personal biases influence how we receive messages. The gender-swapping technique, Salvatore suggests, could also be used to explore the communication styles of different political figures in other charged confrontations.
This has gone from an interesting factoid to something profoundly weird.

Freudian Slip

Pauly Ryan says that he wants to destroy American healthcare:


Tweet of the Day

I have no urge to see the movie, but the fail by the Talibaptist right is amusing.

I Want What He Is Smoking

In a discussion of the Republican attempts to repeal Obamacare, Cornell Professor Robert Frank drops this incredibly panglossian turd:
If the repeal effort stalls, attention will shift to what comes next. In an earlier column, I suggested that Mr. Trump has the political leverage, which President Obama did not, to jettison the traditional Republican approach in favor of a form of the single-payer health care that most other countries use. According to Physicians for a National Health Program, an advocacy group, “Single-payer national health insurance, also known as ‘Medicare for all,’ is a system in which a single public or quasi-public agency organizes health care financing, but the delivery of care remains largely in private hands.” Christopher Ruddy, a friend and adviser of the president, recently urged him to consider this option.
This is not going to happen.

I would like for this to happen, if just to see how both the Clinton and Obama wings of the Democratic party twist themselves into knots to oppose this, but it's NOT going to happen.

I know, yadda yadda yadda, Nixon going to China, but it ain't going to happen, particularly when he would have to get it through the Senate, where his own Vice President would oppose this as its presiding officer, and the filibuster still exists.

Na ga na happen.

23 March 2017

The Supreme Court Just Upended Bankruptcy Abuse by Wall Street

The Supreme Court just overturned decades of Wall Street chicanery that was used to f%$# employees and other ordinary folks:

Czyzewski v. Jevic Holding Corp. is the latest battleground in a 150-year struggle over whether senior creditors whose liens exhaust a bankruptcy estate, and junior creditors or equity holders with control over the bankruptcy proceeding, can combine to use bankruptcy processes to implement a division of value that skips over otherwise out-of-the-money intervening creditors over their objection. In the landmark case of Northern Pacific Railway Company v. Boyd, the court created the “absolute priority rule” to prevent just that eventuality in federal equity receiverships over 100 years ago, before any federal statutory reorganization procedure existed. Ever since and all along, bankruptcy practitioners struggling to make deals and solve practical problems have creatively fought, evaded, and sought to limit the scope of that prohibition. The most fashionable current step in this never-ending bankruptcy dance has been the “structured dismissal.” The court’s opinion in Jevic puts the brakes on this device by making clear that priority deviations implemented through non-consensual structured dismissals are not permitted.

The bankruptcy code provides three ways to end a Chapter 11 case: confirmation of a plan, conversion to a Chapter 7 liquidation, or dismissal. The code contemplates that dismissal will return the parties to their prebankruptcy positions, except to the extent the bankruptcy court orders otherwise. In a structured dismissal, however, the bankruptcy court’s dismissal order alters the rights and liabilities of the parties in ways that differ from the three options outlined in the code. Unlike a Chapter 11 plan, a structured dismissal does not require disclosure, voting by affected constituents and bankruptcy-court findings that the plan meets substantive and procedural legal standards, including compliance with the code’s priority rules. Unlike conversion to Chapter 7, a structured dismissal does not lead to a statutorily regulated liquidation consistent with established bankruptcy priorities. And unlike a straight dismissal, a structured dismissal does not simply return the parties to their prebankruptcy positions.

Jevic is a trucking company that filed under Chapter 11. During the bankruptcy proceeding, fraudulent-transfer claims against Jevic’s senior secured lenders were resolved by a $3.7-million settlement subject to a structured dismissal in which certain priority claims, based on employment-law violations under the Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act, of truck drivers who worked for Jevic were skipped over. Had there been a settlement but no dismissal, and had the settlement proceeds been distributed under a plan or in a Chapter 7 liquidation, the workers’ priority claims would have entitled them to $1.7 million. Had there been no settlement but rather a straight dismissal or conversion, the fraudulent-transfer claims against the senior creditors would have revested in the workers or become an asset of the Chapter 7 bankruptcy estate, respectively. In the structured dismissal approved by the bankruptcy court over the workers’ objection, however, the workers received no proceeds, even as junior creditors received a distribution out of the settlement funds, and the fraudulent-transfer claims were extinguished.

The courts below approved this structured dismissal on the basis that no good alternative existed. No Chapter 11 plan could be confirmed given the estate’s inability to satisfy outstanding administrative and priority claims (i.e., the estate was “administratively insolvent”), and, in a Chapter 7 liquidation, no one other than the senior secured creditors would receive anything, because the fraudulent-transfer action would have to be abandoned for lack of resources to prosecute. In short, the lower courts concluded, the workers were no worse off in the structured dismissal, and other constituents were all measurably better off.

Justice Stephen Breyer wrote for the six-member majority (Chief Justice John Roberts and Justices Anthony Kennedy, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan, as well as Breyer himself). Jevic had raised a threshold objection, asserting that the truck drivers did not have standing to bring their claims. Breyer made short work of this argument, noting that it depended on two dubious propositions: that no bankruptcy settlement that included the workers was feasible, and that absent settlement the fraudulent transfer claims could not be prosecuted. The fact that the settling defendant asserted that it would not agree to a settlement that included workers who were separately suing it on WARN Act claims could well have been a bluff; in any event, the court noted, the settling defendant’s independent WARN Act liability had been subsequently resolved, removing that obstacle. Similarly, the bankruptcy court’s prediction that fraudulent-transfer claims with an apparent settlement value of $3.7 million were otherwise worthless was speculative. In short, the workers had standing to object to the structured settlement because a successful objection might result in value for them.


Jevic places into serious doubt the continued viability of the already controversial practice of “gifting” — that is, implementing priority deviations out of collateral proceeds through Chapter 11 plans without intervening class consent, or, in Chapter 7 liquidations, by characterizing the distribution as a ”gift” of the secured creditor’s collateral rather than a distribution of estate assets. Although the court’s opinion never refers to the practice of “gifting,” or to the lower court cases adopting or limiting gifting theories, Jevic’s reasoning, especially the primacy it places on the code’s distributional provisions, is in serious tension with that practice. On the other hand, the court’s embrace of the opinion of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit in In re Iridium Operating LLC, which approved an interim priority-deviating settlement on a gifting theory, may give gifting proponents heart.

More importantly, however, the court went out of its way to draw a sharp line between interim orders entered by the bankruptcy court in connection with its administration of an ongoing bankruptcy case and the structured dismissal at issue in Jevic. The common Chapter 11 practices of first-day wage orders, critical-vendor orders, roll-ups and interim settlements were all expressly distinguished from the objectionable structured dismissal in Jevic, which, the court expressly noted, involved a final distribution inconsistent with the code’s priority scheme as part of the case’s final disposition. The court’s implicit ratification of these established practices to the extent they serve other reorganization objectives undoubtedly will be embraced by the bankruptcy community.


Jevic places into serious doubt the continued viability of the already controversial practice of “gifting” — that is, implementing priority deviations out of collateral proceeds through Chapter 11 plans without intervening class consent, or, in Chapter 7 liquidations, by characterizing the distribution as a ”gift” of the secured creditor’s collateral rather than a distribution of estate assets. Although the court’s opinion never refers to the practice of “gifting,” or to the lower court cases adopting or limiting gifting theories, Jevic’s reasoning, especially the primacy it places on the code’s distributional provisions, is in serious tension with that practice. On the other hand, the court’s embrace of the opinion of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit in In re Iridium Operating LLC, which approved an interim priority-deviating settlement on a gifting theory, may give gifting proponents heart.

More importantly, however, the court went out of its way to draw a sharp line between interim orders entered by the bankruptcy court in connection with its administration of an ongoing bankruptcy case and the structured dismissal at issue in Jevic. The common Chapter 11 practices of first-day wage orders, critical-vendor orders, roll-ups and interim settlements were all expressly distinguished from the objectionable structured dismissal in Jevic, which, the court expressly noted, involved a final distribution inconsistent with the code’s priority scheme as part of the case’s final disposition. The court’s implicit ratification of these established practices to the extent they serve other reorganization objectives undoubtedly will be embraced by the bankruptcy community.
The plain English translation of this is as follows:
  • Private equity (PE) firm drives a company that it bought into the ditch.
  • While gleefully taking the company to financial ruin, the PE firm charges many fees, generating profits for themselves, and shafts creditors, share holders, and employees.
    • This is called Fraudulent Conveyance, and it is technically illegal.
  • PE firm closes down without warning, violating the WARN Act, which typically requires 60 days notice.
    • The employees then have a claim in the bankruptcy proceedings, which is senior to most of the unsecured debt in the company.
  • Four things can happen when the company files for Chapter 11 (reorg):
    • A successful Chapter 11 filing.
      • Under Chapter 11, the priority of debt needs to be generally followed, and debtors have the right to object, and have those objections evaluated, and WARN Act claims remain open.
    • An unsuccessful Chapter 11 filing, followed by Chapter 7 (liquidation)
      • Under chapter 7 the priority of debts must be strictly followed, and WARN Act claims remain open.
    • A  straight dismissal, where everything is returned to where it was before the filing.
    • A structured dismissal, in which the court determines that there is a best best deal possible, where SOME of the creditors cut a deal, and people like employees screwed out of wages have no say.
The final option is a favorite of PE firms after they have looted a company into oblivion.

SCOTUS basically ruled the priority of debtors needs to be maintained, AND that the court's ruling that its decision was the only one that could be beneficial to the greatest possible number of creditors, was complete crap.

Here's hoping that the PE parasites see further reversals in the not too distant future.

Face Plant

He's trying to look chill, but he's just a bitch
Paul Ryan has had to postpone the vote on Trumpcare because he is unable to secure the votes for the measure:
“The closer,” it turns out, needs extra innings.

After a frenetic 48 hours of Oval Office lobbying sessions, closed-door talks in the Cabinet room and shuttle diplomacy on both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue, President Donald Trump and Speaker Paul Ryan pulled the plug Thursday on a scheduled vote on their health care legislation after falling short of the support needed for passage.

Conservative House hardliners would not budge on their demanded concessions. Moderate Republicans grew skittish of the new proposed changes. And, as the morning turned to afternoon without an accord on final legislative language, Republicans fretted about the optics of jamming the far-reaching bill through in the middle of the night.
Pauly, you had one job, and all it required was the ability to count to 218, and you couldn't manage that.

This is what happen when you let the Teabaggers go off their meds and run for office.

I'll Believe It When I See It

Chuck Schumer is claiming that Democrats will filibuster the Gorsuch nomination.

I do not believe that Schumer has the competence to manage this, and I don't think that the Democrats will hold together.

Too many in the Democratic caucus will want to, "Keep their powder dry," to filibuster an even worse Supreme Court nominee.

Rinse, lather, repeat:
Senate hearings on Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch ended Thursday on a confrontational note, with the body’s top Democrat vowing a filibuster that could complicate Gorsuch’s expected confirmation and ultimately upend the traditional approach to approving justices.

Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) said he will vote no on President Trump’s nominee and asked other Democrats to join him in blocking an up-or-down vote on Gorsuch.

Under Senate rules, it requires 60 votes to overcome such an obstacle. Republicans eager to confirm Gorsuch before their Easter recess — and before the court concludes hearing the current term of cases next month — have only 52 senators.

Republicans have vowed Gorsuch will be confirmed even if it means overhauling the way justices have long been approved. Traditionally, senators can force the Senate to muster a supermajority just to bring up the nomination of a Supreme Court justice. If that is reached, the confirmation requires a simple majority.

In a speech on the Senate floor, Schumer said: “If this nominee cannot earn 60 votes — a bar met by each of President Obama’s nominees and George Bush’s last two nominees — the answer isn’t to change the rules. It’s to change the nominee.”
I don't believe him.

They will threaten this for a couple of weeks, raise money off of that posturing, and then fold up like overcooked broccoli.

I will not vote for any Senator who votes for cloture on Gorsuch, ever, for any office, ever.

I will support their opponents in any primary.

Call your Senator, and tell them the same.

Quote of the Day

But the rest were the most fantastic collection of creeps since the "Thriller" video. Many were blunderers and conspiracists whose sole qualification for office appeared to be their open hostility to the missions of the agencies they were tapped to run.
Matt Taibbi on Donald Trump's nominations for cabinet and sub-cabinet level staff.

This is Profoundly Odd

The Westminster attacker has been identified as as Khalid Masood, age 52.

I am rather surprised at this age.

This is well beyond the age that you typically find people going violent jihadi.

I'm wondering if this was more of a generic sort of spree killing (and yes, I know how awful that concept sounds) than an act of terrorism:
A 52-year-old ex-convict from Birmingham was named on Thursday as the man who carried out the terrorist attack on Westminster in which he and four other people died, while eight others were arrested as police hunted for evidence of a wider conspiracy.

Khalid Masood, a man who had used a string of aliases, was described by police as a criminal with a 20-year record of offending, who had once been investigated for extremism but was assessed as posing a low risk.

Theresa May told MPs Masood had been previously known to MI5: “Some years ago, he was once investigated in relation to concerns about violent extremism. He was a peripheral figure. The case is historic – he was not part of the current intelligence picture.”

Amber Rudd, the home secretary, later added that Masood had spent time in jail, but not for terrorist offences, while the Metropolitan police said “Masood” was in all likelihood not his birth name.
While he did have a rather extensive rap sheet, it appears that his prior criminal activity ended over a decade ago:
Police revealed that Masood, born in Kent on Christmas Day 1964, had a string of criminal convictions. In a statement, the Met said: “He was known to police and has a range of previous convictions for assaults, including GBH, possession of offensive weapons and public order offences.

“His first conviction was in November 1983 for criminal damage and his last conviction was in December 2003 for possession of a knife.”
Daesh did claim that he did it for them, but did not include his name in their press release, which implies that there was no direct connection.

All in all, it's rather odd.

22 March 2017

Our IP System in One Profoundly Dysfunctional Nutshell

It turns out that American farmers are being forced to use software from Ukrainian hackers to repair their own tractors:
To avoid the draconian locks that John Deere puts on the tractors they buy, farmers throughout America's heartland have started hacking their equipment with firmware that's cracked in Eastern Europe and traded on invite-only, paid online forums.

Tractor hacking is growing increasingly popular because John Deere and other manufacturers have made it impossible to perform "unauthorized" repair on farm equipment, which farmers see as an attack on their sovereignty and quite possibly an existential threat to their livelihood if their tractor breaks at an inopportune time.

"When crunch time comes and we break down, chances are we don't have time to wait for a dealership employee to show up and fix it," Danny Kluthe, a hog farmer in Nebraska, told his state legislature earlier this month. "Most all the new equipment [requires] a download [to fix]."

The nightmare scenario, and a fear I heard expressed over and over again in talking with farmers, is that John Deere could remotely shut down a tractor and there wouldn't be anything a farmer could do about it.

A license agreement John Deere required farmers to sign in October forbids nearly all repair and modification to farming equipment, and prevents farmers from suing for "crop loss, lost profits, loss of goodwill, loss of use of equipment … arising from the performance or non-performance of any aspect of the software." The agreement applies to anyone who turns the key or otherwise uses a John Deere tractor with embedded software. It means that only John Deere dealerships and "authorized" repair shops can work on newer tractors.

"If a farmer bought the tractor, he should be able to do whatever he wants with it," Kevin Kenney, a farmer and right-to-repair advocate in Nebraska, told me. "You want to replace a transmission and you take it to an independent mechanic—he can put in the new transmission but the tractor can't drive out of the shop. Deere charges $230, plus $130 an hour for a technician to drive out and plug a connector into their USB port to authorize the part."

"What you've got is technicians running around here with cracked Ukrainian John Deere software that they bought off the black market," he added.
The affection we have in our society for rent seeking through things like the DMCA (Digital Millennium Copyright Act), and it serves no one but parasites.

In fact, it creates a society based on this parasitism, which crowds out productive activities, and leads to inequality,

We have created a society of Martin Shkrelis, and this is not a good way to be.

No, That Was Margaret Thatcher, It's a Common Mistake

OK, the headline on the BBC was, "Major shake-up suggests dinosaurs may have 'UK origin'," but I still think that it was Margaret Thatcher:
The first dinosaurs may have originated in the Northern Hemisphere, possibly in an area that is now Britain.

This is one of the conclusions of the first detailed re-evaluation of the relationships between dinosaurs for 130 years.

It shows that the current theory of how dinosaurs evolved and where they came from may well be wrong.

This major shake-up of dinosaur theory is published in this weeks's edition of the journal Nature.

The reassessment shows that the meat eating beasts, such as Tyrannosaurus rex and Velociraptor, have been wrongly classified in the dinosaur family tree.

One of the implications is that dinosaurs first emerged 15 million years earlier than previously believed.

And the fossil evidence suggests that this origin may have occurred further north than current thinking suggests - possibly in an area that is now the UK, according to the new study's lead author, Matthew Baron of Cambridge University.
Well, that was my first thought when I read the headline.

What the Hell?

It appears that there was a terrorist attack in London outside of Parliament:
Five people have died, including a police officer, and at least 20 people have been injured in a major terror attack outside the Houses of Parliament, the Metropolitan police have confirmed.

Mark Rowley, the head of counter-terrorism at the Met, said a police officer had died after being stabbed by a lone attacker attempting to enter the House of Commons. The suspect was shot and killed.

Moments earlier, at about 2.40pm, the attacker drove a vehicle at speed into pedestrians on Westminster Bridge, near parliament, killing two people.

Rowley said at least 20 people, including three officers, were hurt in the attack on the bridge. A diplomatic source told Reuters three French students were among the injured.

“This is a day we’ve planned for but hoped would never happen. Sadly it’s now a reality,” Rowley said. “The attack started when a car was driven over Westminster Bridge hitting and injuring a number of members of the public, also including three police officers on their way back from a commendation ceremony.

“The car then crashed near to parliament and at least one man armed with a knife continued the attack and tried to enter parliament.
I'm not really sure what to think at this point, except for one thing: If it had been the United States, as opposed to London, it would have been a gun, not a knife, and the death toll would likely have been in the double digits.

What?  The wrong time to argue for gun control? Too soon?

It's always too soon to talk about gun control, it seems.

Quote of the Day

“The New Rules Hurting Retirement Security” [Democracy Journal]. “Fewer than one third of Americans aged 65 to 74 have any savings in a retirement account and the accounts that exist are inadequate to provide a secure retirement—the median balance is just $49,000. The situation for younger workers is even more dire.” So, in the face of this crisis, liberals have a complicated “nudge theory” Rube Goldberg device, which sucks, and conservatives have a simple machine (in this case, the screw). The unasked question: Why should people have to “save for retirement” at all?
—Lamberth Strether at Naked Capitalism
Except for calling the screw a simple machine, I think of it as a helical wedge, and think that the ancient Greeks were in error giving it status as a separate element, I agree completely.

Private retirement accounts are primarily about lining Wall Street's pockets, which is why the Clinton/Obama wing of the Democratic Party has been Jonesing to privatize Social Security for decades.

I Knew That It Was Bad………

But I did not realize that Trumpcare was actually worse than a complete repeal of Obamacare:
The Congressional Budget Office recently said that around 24 million fewer Americans would have health insurance in 2026 under the Republican repeal plan than if the current law stayed in place.

That loss was bigger than most experts anticipated, and led to a round of predictable laments from congressional Democrats — and less predictable ones from Republican senators, including Bill Cassidy of Louisiana and John Thune of South Dakota, who told reporters that the bill needed to be “more helpful” to low-income people who wanted insurance.

But one piece of context has gone little noticed: The Republican bill would actually result in more people being uninsured than if Obamacare were simply repealed. Getting rid of the major coverage provisions and regulations of Obamacare would cost 23 million Americans their health insurance, according to another recent C.B.O. report. In other words, one million more Americans would have health insurance with a clean repeal than with the Republican replacement plan, according to C.B.O. estimates.
I knew that it was bad legislation, but I did not know that it was literally worse than nothing.

This is a level of active stupidity that literally buggers the mind.

"Literally worse than nothing," kind of sounds what a mandated truth in advertising law would label Republican think tanks.

21 March 2017

ICE Needs to Be Burnt to the Ground and Rebuilt from Scratch

Recent incidents related to Trump's Muslim ban indicated that that there was some rot, but this shows that there is nothing but rot.

This is the sort of abuse of law enforcement power that would give J. Edgar Hoover a hard on:
Federal agents privately alerted two magistrate judges in late January that they would be targeting the Austin area for a major operation and that the sting was retribution for a new policy by Travis County Sheriff Sally Hernandez that dramatically limited her cooperation with them, according to one of the judges.

The revelation — made Monday in open court by U.S. Magistrate Judge Andrew Austin — conflicts with what Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials told local leaders after the sweep, when ICE characterized the operation as routine and said the Austin area was not being targeted. It also provides evidence after weeks of speculation that Hernandez’s policy triggered ICE’s ire.

“We had a briefing … that we could expect a big operation, agents coming in from out of town, that it was going to be a specific operation, and at least it was related to us in that meeting that it was the result of the sheriff’s new policy that this was going to happen,” Austin said.

“My understanding, what was told to us, is that one of the reasons that happened was because the meetings that had occurred between the (ICE) field office director and the sheriff didn’t go very well,” he said.
In case you wondering, these folks are clearly feeling empowered by the Trump administration, and are revealing themselves to be people who should be kept far, far, FAR, away from anything resembling law enforcement.

Live in obedient fear, citizen.

It's Cheap, It Works Better, Let's Kill It

I just discovered that the Veterans Administration has a medical records system that it been running and evolving since the late 1970s.

It runs better than commercial systems, largely because doctors have been brought into the system early, and because it has an open architecture it can be easily adapted to the specific needs of specific departments and locations.

It's also much cheaper than the commercial alternatives.

Of course, this means that it must be replaced by an over priced under performing system from a politically connected contractor:
Four decades ago, in 1977, a conspiracy began bubbling up from the basements of the vast network of hospitals belonging to the Veterans Administration. Across the country, software geeks and doctors were puzzling out how they could make medical care better with these new devices called personal computers. Working sometimes at night or in their spare time, they started to cobble together a system that helped doctors organize their prescriptions, their CAT scans and patient notes, and to share their experiences electronically to help improve care for veterans.

Within a few years, this band of altruistic docs and nerds—they called themselves “The Hardhats,” and sometimes “the conspiracy”—had built something totally new, a system that would transform medicine. Today, the medical-data revolution is taken for granted, and electronic health records are a multibillion-dollar industry. Back then, the whole idea was a novelty, even a threat. The VA pioneers were years ahead of their time. Their project was innovative, entrepreneurial and public-spirited—all those things the government wasn’t supposed to be.

Of course, the government tried to kill it.

Though the system has survived for decades, even topping the lists of the most effective and popular medical records systems, it’s now on the verge of being eliminated: The secretary of what is now the Department of Veterans Affairs has already said he wants the agency to switch over to a commercial system. An official decision is scheduled for July 1. Throwing it out and starting over will cost $16 billion, according to one estimate.

What happened? The story of the VA’s unique computer system—how the government actually managed to build a pioneering and effective medical data network, and then managed to neglect it to the point of irreparability—is emblematic of how politics can lead to the bungling of a vital, complex technology. As recently as last August, a Medscape survey of 15,000 physicians found that the VA system, called VistA, ranked as the most usable and useful medical records system, above hundreds of other commercial versions marketed by hotshot tech companies with powerful Washington lobbyists. Back in 2009, some of the architects of the Affordable Care Act saw VistA as a model for the transformation of American medical records and even floated giving it away to every doctor in America.


The Hardhats’ key insight—and the reason VistA still has such dedicated fans today—was that the system would work well only if they brought doctors into the loop as they built their new tools. In fact, it would be best if doctors actually helped build them. Pre-specified computer design might work for an airplane or a ship, but a hospital had hundreds of thousands of variable processes. You needed a “co-evolutionary loop between those using the system and the system you provide them,” says one of the early converts, mathematician Tom Munnecke, a polymathic entrepreneur and philanthropist who joined the VA hospital in Loma Linda, California, in 1978.


Munnecke, a leading Hardhat, remembers it as an exhilarating time. He used a PDP11/34 computer with 32 kilobytes of memory, and stored his programs, development work and his hospital’s database on a 5-megabyte disk the size of a personal pizza. One day, Munnecke and a colleague, George Timson, sat in a restaurant and sketched out a circular diagram on a paper place mat, a design for what initially would be called the Decentralized Hospital Computer Program, and later VistA. MUMPs computer language was at the center of the diagram, surrounded by a kernel of programs used by everyone at the VA, with applications floating around the fringes like electrons in an atom. MUMPS was a ludicrously simple coding language that could run with limited memory and great speed on a low-powered computer. The architecture of VistA was open, modular and decentralized. All around the edges, the apps flourished through the cooperation of computer scientists and doctors.


This is bitter fruit for many VistA fans. Some still say the system could be fixed for $200 million a year—the cost of a medium-sized hospital system’s EHR installation. “I don't know if there even is an EHR out there with data comparable to the longitudinal data that VistA has about veterans, and we certainly do not want to throw that data out if a new EHR were to be used,” says Nancy Anthracite, a Hardhat and an infectious-disease physician.
Eventually, this system will be shut down, and replaced by a more expensive inferior commercial system, because that is how the government rolls these days.

It's been heading in this direction for a while, but the institutionalization of dumbing down government agencies so as to require expensive contractors really got its start in Dick Cheney's programs when he was Secretary of Defense, and it became an existential need in response to the Clinton administration's "Reinventing Government" initiative.

It all comes down to normalizing corruption.