31 May 2017

Everyone Hates Ted Cruz

Including the normally passively and hopelessly divided Federal Election Commission, which just cited Cruz for campaign finance violations:
This has not been a good week for Republican Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas. First he is the butt of a cutting joke by Democratic Sen. Al Franken of Minnesota (who told “USA Today” that “I like Ted Cruz probably more than my colleagues like Ted Cruz, and I hate Ted Cruz”), and now the Federal Election Commission has ruled against him — unanimously, no less.

The three Republican FEC members joined the two Democrats to find that Cruz failed to properly account for loans he had received from two banks, Goldman Sachs and Citigroup, during the 2012 election, according to a report by Bloomberg. Cruz borrowed $1.1 million worth of loans from the banks during his Senate campaign in Texas, with the FEC determining that Cruz had loaned his campaign $800,000 from Goldman Sachs (where his wife Heidi works) and $264,000 from Citigroup.

The reason that this happened is that literally EVERYONE hates Cruz with a whit hot burning passion, so the FEC saw a chance to throw some shade his way, and took it.

As Al Franken noted in an interview with NPR, "You have to understand that I probably like Ted Cruz more than most of my other colleagues like Ted Cruz, and I hate Ted Cruz." 

Once Again the Supreme Court Smacks Down the United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit

In its ruling in Impression Products, Inc. v Lexmark International, Inc., the Supreme Court once again issues a unanimous ruling overturning an over-broad interpretation of patent asserted by the United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit (Aka the "Patent Court")

A week ago they overruled the Patent Courts rules allowing plaintiffs to sue in the most gonzo patent venue in the nation, and this time they explained to the court that patent exhaustion is mandatory, not optional.

For the lay person, patent exhaustion means that the patent holder only gets one bite of the apple, so (for example) if a chip is manufactured either by the patent holder or by a manufacturer who pays license fees, they cannot charge the person who bought that chip to put in their widget.

In this case, Lexmark was using its patent to enforce a license to prohibit reselling the cartridges by toner refilling firms.

The Patent Court ruled that the patent exhaustion was basically a "default rule" which only applied to the degree that there were no other related restrictions, and the Supreme Court called bullsh%$ on this in no uncertain terms, noting that the Federal Circuit's interpretation would mean that used car dealers and auto mechanics could be locked out of business with this interpretation.

Once again, SCOTUS was unanimous in its repudiation of an excessively expansive views of patents:
Looking for a landmark ruling on patent exhaustion, the patent community got just that in the Supreme Court’s decision this morning in Impression Products, Inc. v Lexmark International, Inc. The court has been deciding a steady diet of patent cases for much of the last decade and has been rejecting the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit’s rulings in those cases almost routinely; the Federal Circuit is now 0 for 5 in the current term, by far the worst record of any of the federal courts of appeals. Most of those decisions reflect a cautious reluctance on the part of the court to say more than is necessary to decide the case before it, founded on an evident reluctance to wreak far-reaching and destabilizing consequences on the innovative markets for which patent doctrine is so important. In this case, by contrast, the opinion of Chief Justice John Roberts displays a confident and assertive verve, full of quotable maxims certain to populate the U.S. Reports for decades to come. More surprisingly, the opinion attracted the votes of all the eight active justices except for Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg (who dissented only from the court’s resolution of the cross-border question discussed at the end of the post).

The case involves the doctrine of “exhaustion,” under which a patentholder’s rights to enforce its patent ordinarily are “exhausted” with regard to any particular object at the moment the patentholder sells the object. As applied to this case, for example, Lexmark’s rights to control the use of its patented refillable print cartridges would be “exhausted” when it sells those cartridges to retail buyers, even if Lexmark conditions the sale on the promise that the buyer will not refill the cartridge. That, at any rate, is the argument of Impression Products, which makes a business out of refilling Lexmark cartridges in violation of those agreements. Lexmark’s argument, by contrast, supported by a quarter-century of Federal Circuit precedent, is that modern commerce requires that innovators have the flexibility to devise contracting structures that segment the market into separate sectors, each of which gets a different price commensurate with the uses to which products will be put in that sector.

The court could hardly have been more unequivocal in its broad embrace of a mandatory doctrine of exhaustion. For the court, the doctrine seemed to devolve ineluctably from the first principles of the law of patents:
When a patentee chooses to sell an item, that product is no longer within the limits of the monopoly and instead becomes the private, individual property of the purchaser, with the rights and benefits that come along with ownership. A patentee is free to set the price and negotiate contracts with purchasers, but may not, by virtue of his patent, control the use or disposition of the product after ownership passes to the purchaser. The sale terminates all patent rights to that item.
The court praised the “impeccable historic pedigree” of the exhaustion doctrine, tracing its lineage back to the common law’s refusal to permit restraints on the alienation of chattels.” With a flourish of rhetorical excess, the court suggested that post-sale conditions on alienation “have been hateful to the law from Lord Coke’s day to ours and are obnoxious to the public interest. The inconvenience and annoyance to the public that an opposite conclusion would occasion are too obvious to require illustration.”


In the end, though, the opinion shows a Supreme Court persuaded that the Federal Circuit did not merely err in some detail or nuance, but was as fundamentally misguided as it was when it came up with the venue rules discarded just last week in TC Heartland LLC v. Kraft Foods Group Brands, LLC. At bottom, when the court is minded to destroy the status quo, it knows how to do it, and this opinion provides a textbook exemplar. It will take years before we can observe the transactional structures that will emerge to protect the interests that have relied on the Federal Circuit’s lax rules about patent exhaustion. About the only thing we can say about them is that it will be harder, much harder, to implement them than it was before this sure-to-be-landmark decision.
Had this decision been directed by Quentin Tarantino, this opinion would have involved Samuel L. Jackson saying, "Motherf%$#er," loudly and repeatedly.

The Federal Circuit really needs to be shut down.  It is a complete clusterf%$# that has literally supported the patenting of a rainy day.

It is a court of hammers, which naturally see everything as a nail.

30 May 2017

The Currency of the Future Isn't Current

A primary characteristic of currency is that it is available for immediate use. (i.e. "current")

This means that unlike things like stocks, bonds, and derivatives, you can use it immediately to get stuff, and there is no one sitting astride that transaction taking a cut.

It turns out that this is a major problem:
Anyone and everyone’s attention in bitcoin is currently transfixed on a single number: the amount of unconfirmed transactions building up on the bitcoin network.

Earlier on Wednesday, the number surpassed 200,000, an unprecedented level.

Professional bitcoin OTC traders FT Alphaville spoke with see this as an alarming development and one of the drivers of rival cryptocurrency ether’s growing popularity. The views of one trader:
It definitely tempts people into ether. This is the biggest problem with bitcoin, it’s not just that it’s expensive to transact, it’s uncertain to transact. It’s hard to know if you’ve put enough of a fee. So if you significantly over pay to get in, even then it’s not guaranteed. There are a lot of people who don’t know how to set their fees, and it takes hours to confirm transactions. It’s a bad system and no one has any solutions.
Transactions which fail to get the attention of miners sit in limbo until they drop out. But the suspended state leaves payers entirely helpless. They can’t risk resending the transaction, in case the original one does clear eventually. They can’t recall the original one either. Our source says he’s had a significant sized transaction waiting to be settled for two weeks.


All of which proves bitcoin is anything but a cheap or competitive system. With great irony, it is turning into a premium service only cost effective for those who can’t — for some reason, ahem — use the official system.
So, Bitcoin has become, as Yves Smith so pithily notes, "Prosecution futures."

At some point the authorities are going to use the block chain to track money in ways that they never could with cash.

OK, This Was Creepy as F%$#

I was using Google Maps, specifically the navigation function today.

The radio was on, it was NPR, and I was talking back to the radio. (I have a problem, OK?)

The phone then said something like., "I don't understand your question.  Could you please repeat it?"  (Not an exact quote).

I had NOT turned on voice command on my phone, and all I can conclude is that my phone has been listening to and recording me, without my permission, at least when navigation is on.

I did a quick Google (Ironic, neh?) and discovered that Google Maps is tracking you, as well as listening to you. (See also here)

The problem is, I had already done all those things.

It turns out that "OK Google" has been installed in my phone on one of the myriad updates that have been pushed out on Google search.

You know Google Search, that bar across the top of the screen that the folks in Mountain View never let you remove.

Well, it turns out that there is a way to fix this: (Instructions are for Android Jelly Bean, specifically version 4.1.2, this may vary with version of OS and make and model of phone)
  1. Go to the app drawer, and open up Google Settings (NOT the same as the normal settings app) 
  2. Click on "Search."
  3. Scroll down until you see"Voice", and then click on that.
  4. Click on "OK Google Detection"
  5. Turn off "From the Google" which refers to search, and "While Driving", which refers to maps.  This turns off the phone's always listening snooping mode.
  6. Then, if you swear to your phone, go back up one level to voice, and turn "Block Offensive Words" off, so you can swear into speech to text.  (Optional for most, but essential for me, as I find the juxtaposition of profanity and technology to be invaluable.)
That should be it, at least until the Bond villains at Google come up with another way to put us into another panopticon.

29 May 2017

So Not a Surprise

Senator Corey Booker (D-NJ), has always been a big fan of things like privatizing schools (charters) and has relied on Wall Street for much of his campaign donations, has another source of significant amounts of campaign cash, Ivanka Trump's husband:
New Jersey Democratic Sen. Cory Booker — a potential 2020 White House contender and recipient of major campaign contributions from Jared Kushner and others in the Kushner family — declined to endorse his party's call for the White House to revoke the security clearance of the president's son-in-law.


Booker refused to support those calls during an interview with CNN Sunday. Asked if supports revoking Kushner's security clearance, the New Jersey senator said: "I think we need to first get to the bottom of it. He needs to answer for what was happening at the time. It raises very serious concerns for me. And that could be a potential outcome that I seek, but I want to understand, at least hear from Jared Kushner, as well as the administration, about what was exactly going on there."

Booker also pushed back against those calling for Trump's impeachment, saying, "I'm not going to rush to impeachment."

Kushner and other donors affiliated with Kushner Cos. delivered more than $41,000 to Booker's Senate campaign in 2013, according to data compiled by PoliticalMoneyLine.com. Politico reported that Ivanka Trump hosted a fundraiser for Booker during that election.

In 2009, Jared Kushner also gave $20,000 to Booker's Newark mayoral ticket "Booker Team for Newark," New Jersey campaign finance records show. That year, Booker attended the wedding of Kushner and Ivanka Trump.
Booker also sided with big pharma and against drug re-importation from Canada, so this is not a huge surprise.

Great.  Another Presidential contender who believes in nothing beyond their own manifest destiny to be president.

That's why we have President Trump.


Tom Hiddleston doing Owen Wilson playing Loki: (I'm not putting up the White Helmet vid ……… Too graphic)

28 May 2017

Tweet of the Day

Tru dat!

Welcome to Trumpistan

A man on a light rail train in Portland, Oregon, was berating two "Muslim appearing" women, one in a hijab.

When some bystanders attempted to intervene, he slashed three people, killing 2:
Two men were killed in a stabbing on a MAX train Friday when they tried to intervene as another man yelled racial slurs at two young women who appeared to be Muslim, including one wearing a hijab, police said.

A third passenger who tried to help was also stabbed, but is expected to survive, said Portland police spokesman Sgt. Pete Simpson.

Officers arrested the suspect as he ran from the Hollywood transit station into the neighborhood near Providence Portland Medical Center in Northeast Portland, Simpson said. Police are still working to identify him and the three men stabbed.

The suspect was ranting about many things, using "hate speech or biased language," and at one point focused on the young women, Simpson said.

The suspect then turned on the passengers who tried to help, Simpson said.

"In the midst of his ranting and raving, some people approached him and appeared to try to intervene with his behavior and some of the people that he was yelling at," Simpson said. "They were attacked viciously."

One good Samaritan died at the scene and another at the hospital, he said. The third victim was undergoing evaluation, but didn't suffer life-threatening wounds, he said.
It has since been revealed that the assailant was a well known white supremecist:
Memorial Day weekend started with a horrific attack on a MAX light rail train at rush hour Friday night. Here is what you need to know about the latest developments:

Police identified the victims who died as two local men. Rick Best and Taliesin Myrddin Namkai-Meche died and a third, 21-year-old Micah David-Cole Fletcher, was injured. Authorities have said his injuries were not believed to be life-threatening.

Police Chief Mike Marshman said the three men were stabbed in the neck.

Best died at the scene, and Namkai-Meche died at a hospital. Family and friends say the fact they both intervened was in keeping with their personalities and values.

Namkai-Meche, a 23-year-old Reed College graduate from Ashland, was remembered as the sort of person who would stand up for what he believed was right, even if it meant putting himself at risk.

Best, 53, had retired from the Army in 2012 after 23 years in the military. He lived in Happy Valley and had worked for the city for the past few years. He had three teenage sons and a 12-year-old daughter.

The accused was a convicted robber who spewed hatred. Jeremy Joseph Christian, 35, remained in jail on accusations of aggravated murder and attempted murder, as well as lesser crimes.

He had filled his Facebook posts with threats to kill people and Nazi sympathies. He came to wider attention in Portland during a march in April. The march occurred after a larger planned parade along 82nd Avenue was canceled over fear of disruptions.

A video of the event shows Christian, wrapped in a Revolutionary War-era American flag, casting Nazi salutes while shouting, "Die Muslims!"

He described himself as a sociopath. His only criminal record appears to stem from a hapless 2002 robbery. When he was 20, he stole cash and cigarettes from a North Portland market. The owner said the robber walked in wearing a black ski mask, with openings cut out for the eyes, nose and mouth, but he knew all his customers and immediately recognized Christian. During the ensuing police chase, Christian was shot in the face.
BTW, the Tweeter in Chief has been studiously silent on this.

My guess is that he lacks the courage to offend his base by condemning what is clearly an act of domestic terrorism.

Well What Do You Know. Obama May Have Spied on Trump………

And thousands of other Americans as well, as is revealed in a recent FISA court decision excoriating the practices of the NSA under the Obama administration:
U.S. intelligence agencies conducted illegal surveillance on American citizens over a five-year period, a practice that earned them a sharp rebuke from a secret court that called the matter a “very serious” constitutional issue.

The criticism is in a lengthy secret ruling that lays bare some of the frictions between the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court and U.S. intelligence agencies obligated to obtain the court’s approval for surveillance activities.


The document, signed by Judge Rosemary M. Collyer, said the court had learned in a notice filed Oct. 26, 2016, that National Security Agency analysts had been conducting prohibited queries of databases “with much greater frequency than had previously been disclosed to the court.”

It said a judge chastised the NSA’s inspector general and Office of Compliance for Operations for an “institutional ‘lack of candor’ ” for failing to inform the court. It described the matter as “a very serious Fourth Amendment issue.”

The Fourth Amendment protects people from unreasonable searches and seizures by the government, and is a constitutional bedrock protection against intrusion.

Parts of the ruling were redacted, including sections that give an indication of the extent of the illegal surveillance, which the NSA told the court in a Jan. 3 notice was partly the fault of “human error” and “system design issues” rather than intentional illegal searches.


Data captured from both upstream and downstream sources are stored in massive databases, available to be searched when analysts need to, often months or as much as two years after the captures took place.

The prohibited searches the court mentioned involved NSA queries into the upstream databanks, which constitute a fraction of all the data NSA captures around the globe but are more likely to contain the emails and phone calls of people in the United States.

Federal law empowers the NSA and CIA to battle foreign terrorist actions against the United States by collecting the electronic communications of targets believed to be outside the country. While communications of U.S. citizens or residents may get hoovered up in such sweeps, they are considered “incidental” and must be “minimized” – removing the identities of Americans – before broader distribution.

The court filing noted an NSA decision March 30 to narrow collection of “upstream” data within the United States. Under that decision, the NSA acknowledged that it had erred in sweeping up the communications of U.S. citizens or residents but said those errors “were not willful.” Even so, the NSA said it would no longer collect certain kinds of data known as “about” communications, in which a U.S. citizen was merely mentioned.

The NSA announced that change publicly on April 28, two days after the court ruling, saying the agency would limit its sweeps to communications either directly to or from a foreign intelligence target. That change would reduce “the likelihood that NSA will acquire communications of U.S. persons or others who are not in direct contact with one of the agency’s foreign intelligence targets.”

The court document also criticized the FBI’s distribution of intelligence data, saying it had disclosed raw surveillance data to sectors of its bureaucracy “largely staffed by private contractors.”
This is a particularly scathing ruling when one considers the generally lackadaisical approach to the 4th amendment taken by the FISA court.

There is a reason why I call Barack Obama, "Worst Constitutional law professor ever."

This is why we need checks and balances.

From the Mouth of Babes………

A group of 8th graders were touring the Capitol, and they ran into the Speaker of the House, Paul Ryan.

When he offered to take a picture with them, half of them refused, because they thought that he was a scumbag:
About 100 eighth grade students refused to pose with Speaker of the House Paul Ryan on Friday, snubbing the top Republican to protest his policies.

Though Ryan’s official Instagram features a photo of him waving to a group students from South Orange Middle School in South Orange, New Jersey, it does not show their peers sitting in a park lot across the street, in an apparent rebuff of the GOP leader.

“It’s not just a picture,” student Matthew Malespina told ABC News. “It’s being associated with a person who puts his party before his country.”

When he learned of his school’s impending photo op with Ryan, Malespina texted his mother he’s “just not going to do it.”

“The point was, ‘I don’t want to be associated with him, and his policies and what he stands for,’” Matthew’s mother Elissa Malespina said.

An equal number of students opted to participate in the photo.
Good on them.

I know that some tossers will bleat about "civility", but this was a political photo-op. If you disagree with the politics, you are obligated to refuse.

The photo-refusniks should be getting extra credit in their civics class.

27 May 2017

Google Gives Us a New Definition of Chutzpah

The US Department of Labor is investigating Google for discriminating against women.

In response to a request for payroll data, Google has claimed that it's too expensive to collect the data.

This from a company that nets billions in profits, and which has automated search to a degree that would have been unimaginable only 3 decades ago.

It's like the man who murders his parents, and then asks for mercy because he is an orphan:
Google argued that it was too financially burdensome and logistically challenging to compile and hand over salary records that the government has requested, sparking a strong rebuke from the US Department of Labor (DoL), which has accused the Silicon Valley firm of underpaying women.

Allegations of possible employment violations emerge at court hearing as part of lawsuit to compel company, a federal contractor, to provide compensation data

Google officials testified in federal court on Friday that it would have to spend up to 500 hours of work and $100,000 to comply with investigators’ ongoing demands for wage data that the DoL believes will help explain why the technology corporation appears to be systematically discriminating against women.

Noting Google’s nearly $28bn annual income as one of the most profitable companies in the US, DoL attorney Ian Eliasoph scoffed at the company’s defense, saying, “Google would be able to absorb the cost as easy as a dry kitchen sponge could absorb a single drop of water.”

The tense exchanges in a small San Francisco courtroom emerged in the final day of testimony in the most high-profile government trial to date surrounding the intensifying debate about the wage gap and gender discrimination in the tech industry.

The DoL first publicly accused Google of “systemic compensation disparities” during a hearing in April, saying a preliminary inquiry had found that the Mountain View tech firm underpays women across positions.

The current court battle stems from the DoL’s lawsuit filed against Google in January, accusing the company of violating federal laws by refusing to provide salary history and contact information of employees as part of a government audit. As a federal contractor, Google is required to comply with equal opportunity laws and allow investigators to review records.
That whole, "Don't be evil," thing is so last week, I guess.

Tweet of the Day

This is a fascinating historical perspective.

Don't Worry, Trump Will Pick Someone Worse

Joe Liberman has withdrawn his name from consideration for the next FBI Director.

He cited conflicts of interests, he works at a law firm that represents Trump, as the reason.

I'm not sure how you could find anyone worse to run the agency, but I have faith that Trump has the ability to do so.

I'm thinking that he will appoint Roger "Ratf%$#er" Stone.

Hopefully, He Wakes Up in Hell

Zbigniew Brzezinski has died at age 89.

He was head of the National Security Council during the Carter Administration, and as such, proposed, a policy to buy a civil war in Afghanistan because he thought that it would hamstring the Soviets.

He was right, but he also lit the fuse that created al Qaeda and its ilk.

I don't think that he deserves to be in hell for indirectly causing 911, he could not have predicted that.

He deserves to be in hell for what he successfully accomplished: Creating a Vietnam for the Soviets in Afghanistan.

With the Vietnam war having ended only a few years prior, he knew what that meant, because there were somewhere around 2 MILLION civilian deaths in during the Vietnam war.

He knew that he was unleashing a cycle of unspeakable violence and brutality on the people of Afghanistan, but he did not care, because he hated Russians.

He was a war criminal.

Of course, we have to acknowledge that the buck stopped for these policies with Carter, who someday will share a place in hell with him.

26 May 2017

A Simple Metric To Identify Democrats to be Primaried

There is a divide in the Democratic Party now over the political path forward, between those who think that they should hammer the Republicans on healthcare and social programs, and those who think that the party should be all Putin all the time:
The Democratic Party is embroiled in a debate over where they should focus their efforts to win back political power: health care or Russia.

The party’s campaign committees and many of Democrats’ leading super PACs have spent virtually all their energy this year on shaming Republicans for their push to repeal Obamacare, an issue that clearly touches voters’ daily lives.

But on the other side of the split, American Bridge — the party’s outside-group research arm run by David Brock, the well-known Hillary Clinton ally — is among those convinced the investigation into possible collusion between President Donald Trump’s campaign and Russian officials is one Democrats would be foolish to downplay or wait to take advantage of.
(emphasis mine)

Of course David Brock would be at the center all of this and on the wrong side.

Ever since he switched sides, he has had this weird obsessive bromance with Hillary Clinton, and addressing real issues diminishes the polical future of both Hillary and her Evil Minions.

This is a proxy for a number of other positions. Basically Brock and his ilk are placing their doing well over their doing good for the country.

It's why DNC Chair Tom Perez got booed when he pushed Russian conspiracy theories instead of talking healthcare.

These are people who have no future in the Democratic Party.

Incompetent Preening Narcissist

A few days back, I noted news reports that said that Comey's rather unconventional behavior regarding Hillary's emails was driven by a document that was almost certainly a Russian forgery.

Clearly, this must have offended Comey and his Evil Minions at the FBI, because now they are saying that, Comey knew that the documents were fake, and acted on them because he did not want people saying bad things about him:
Then-FBI Director James Comey knew that a critical piece of information relating to the investigation into Hillary Clinton's email was fake -- created by Russian intelligence -- but he feared that if it became public it would undermine the probe and the Justice Department itself, according to multiple officials with knowledge of the process.

As a result, Comey acted unilaterally last summer to publicly declare the investigation over -- without consulting then-Attorney General Loretta Lynch -- while at the same time stating that Clinton had been "extremely careless" in her handling of classified information. His press conference caused a firestorm of controversy and drew criticism from both Democrats and Republicans.

Comey's actions based on what he knew was Russian disinformation offer a stark example of the way Russian interference impacted the decisions of the highest-level US officials during the 2016 campaign.
No, it is an example of how clueless self-importance had driven James Comey's behavior.

He wasn't concerned with the reputation of, "The probe and the Justice Department itself," he was concerned with HIS reputation.

In the long run, and by that I mean any period longer than the standard news cycle, "The probe and the Justice Department itself," would have been unaffected by any criticism coming from people quoting forged documents, because in short order, they would have been shown to have been forged.

What ……… A ………Tool.

It's Bank Failure Friday!!!

And here they are, ordered, and numbered for the year so far:
  1. Fayette County Bank, St. Elmo, IL
Full FDIC list

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

First, a comparison of 2016 and 2017 YTD. Notice that 2017 is well ahead of 2016. In fact, with less than half the year gone, it now ahead of the whole year of 2016, and it is on a pace to beat 2015.

I think that banks are getting complacent again:

Then we have the whole data series YTD:

And finally, we have the full series for a full year:

Tweet of the Day

This is f%$#ing brilliant!


John Oliver on how Trump is giving journalists whiplash, confusing Fox pundits, and exhausting the rest of us:

25 May 2017

I'm Impressed

Jeremy Corbyn called for young people to register to vote in the UK, and 90,000 of them registered in one day:
Over 90,000 young people registered to vote on Sunday in a boost to Jeremy Corbyn's election campaign.

A total of 90,200 18- to- 24-year-olds applied to vote on 21 May, according to the latest figures.

It came as the Labour leader made a last-ditch plea for students to register to vote by stressing its manifesto pledge to abolish tuition fees as early as this September.

Just 6,827 55- to- 64-year-olds and  2,628 65- to- 74-year-olds registered on Sunday- a day before applications close.
I understand why all those Blairites in Labour are so concerned about Corbyn's leadership of the party.

Clearly he cannot motivate people to vote for Labour.

Once again, I am forced to invoke the Iron Law of Institutions, which states that people pursue power within an organization, even at the expense of the power of that organization.

This is F%$#ed Up

Various aspects of the US State security apparatus have been leaking so egregiously that the Manchester police has stopped sharing data with US agencies over the concert bombing:
Police investigating the Manchester Arena bomb attack have stopped sharing information with the US after leaks to the media.

UK officials were outraged when photos appearing to show debris from the attack appeared in the New York Times.

It came after the name of bomber Salman Abedi was leaked to US media just hours after the attack, which left 22 dead.

Theresa May said she would tell Donald Trump at a Nato meeting that shared intelligence "must remain secure".


Greater Manchester Police hope to resume normal intelligence relationships - a two-way flow of information - soon but is currently "furious", the BBC understands.

Its chief constable Ian Hopkins said the recent leak had caused "much distress for families that are already suffering terribly with their loss.".

The force - which is leading the investigation on the ground - gives its information to National Counter-Terrorism, which then shares it across government and - because of the Five Eyes intelligence sharing agreement - with the US, Australia, Canada and New Zealand.


BBC security correspondent Gordon Corera says UK officials believe that US law enforcement rather than the White House is the likely culprit for the leaks.
The leaks do sound a lot like the FBI: The organization has a long tradition of grandstanding with the press.

And I would note that it has happened before, and it only seems when it's the FBI that's involved in the investigation:
Lord Blair, who was the head of the Metropolitan Police at the time of the bombings in London on 7 July 2005, said a similar leak had happened then.

"It's a different world in which the US operate in terms of how they publish things and this is a very grievous breach but I'm afraid it's the same as before," he said.
This is why my money is on the leaker being in the FBI.

Tweet of the Day

This is actually lamer than the tripe that oozes from the pens of Charles Krauthammer and Richard Cohen.

And in the Further Adventures of Florida Man………

This Picture Positively Screams "Florida Man"
A man in Florida, Devon Arthurs, shot his Neo-Nazi roommates because they mocked his recent conversion to Islam.

Before converting,he was also a Neo-Nazi, so I really don't understand how how Mr. Arthurs did not anticipate the reaction of his wannabee Aryan roommates:
A man in Florida who shot two of his roommates dead gave an unusual defense, the authorities say: they were neo-Nazis who had disrespected his recent conversion to Islam.

The arrest of the gunman, who said he had also been a neo-Nazi before becoming Muslim, led to the discovery that a fourth roommate had been stockpiling materials that could be used to create a bomb, according to a federal criminal complaint. That roommate, a member of the Florida National Guard, kept a picture of Timothy McVeigh, the Oklahoma City bomber, on his dresser, the authorities said.

Both men are now in custody. The accused gunman, Devon Arthurs, 18, has been charged with two counts of murder, and his surviving roommate, Brandon Russell, 21, has been charged with two counts related to the explosive material and devices.
Only in Florida, or maybe Montana.

Only in America………

In the special election for Montana's only Congressional seat,  Republican Greg Gianforte has been formally charged with assault for body-slamming a Guardian reporter.

There is an audio tape, and a Fox News camera crew witnessed it:
The Republican candidate for Montana’s congressional seat has been charged with misdemeanor assault after he is alleged to have slammed a Guardian reporter to the floor on the eve of the state’s special election, breaking his glasses and shouting: “Get the hell out of here.”

Ben Jacobs, a Guardian political reporter, was asking Greg Gianforte, a tech millionaire endorsed by Donald Trump, about the Republican healthcare plan when the candidate allegedly “body-slammed” the reporter.“He took me to the ground,” Jacobs said by phone from the back of an ambulance. “I think he whaled on me once or twice … He got on me and I think he hit me … This is the strangest thing that has ever happened to me in reporting on politics.”

Fox News reporter Alicia Acuna, field producer Faith Mangan and photographer Keith Railey witnessed the incident at Gianforte’s campaign headquarters in Montana, according to an account published on the Fox News website. After Jacobs asked Gianforte his question, Acuna wrote: “Gianforte grabbed Jacobs by the neck with both hands and slammed him into the ground behind him.

“Faith, Keith and I watched in disbelief as Gianforte then began punching the man, as he moved on top the reporter and began yelling something to the effect of ‘I’m sick and tired of this!’ … To be clear, at no point did any of us who witnessed this assault see Jacobs show any form of physical aggression toward Gianforte, who left the area after giving statements to local sheriff’s deputies.”

Jacobs subsequently reported the incident to the police. The Gallatin county sheriff’s office said on Wednesday night it had completed its investigation and that Gianforte had been issued with a charge of misdemeanour assault. 
It appears that Gianforte was upset with the Guardian's earlier report detailing his financial ties to sanctioned Russian businesses.

With heavy early voting, and with a significant portion of the Republican electorate objectively support assault in general, and assaults on journalists in particular, this nut-job is still likely to win the race, because ……… Montana.

24 May 2017

More of This

Content delivery network Cloudflare was subjected to an attempted shakedown by patent trolls, and not only did they not back down, they filed a complaint with the troll's state bar:
Cloudflare, the Internet security company and content delivery network, was founded more than seven years ago but miraculously hadn't ever been hit with a patent infringement lawsuit from a non-practicing entity (commonly referred to as a "patent troll") until this March.

Rather than pay a nuisance settlement, Cloudflare is going all-out to fight Blackbird Technologies LLC, a company founded by two former big-firm lawyers that has amassed dozens of patents and filed more than 100 lawsuits. Cloudflare CEO Matthew Prince says Blackbird is a classic "patent troll," albeit one with a new, and potentially dangerous, twist on its business model.

In addition to filing its responsive papers in court today, Cloudflare also has sent letters to state bar regulatory committees in Massachusetts and Illinois, asking them to investigate Blackbird further.

In an extensive blog post this morning, Prince says that in addition to beating a patent he views as invalid, he intends to look into Blackbird's operations further "and expose how patent trolls really operate." By Cloudflare's count, Blackbird has filed 107 cases since 2014, making it "one of the most prolific trolls in the United States."

Prince goes on to say that "Cloudflare will not settle this case and doesn’t plan to settle any patent troll case, ever." In addition, Cloudflare will spend $50,000 to crowdsource prior art that could invalidate Blackbird's patents. By issuing the prior art "bounty," Cloudflare seeks not just to invalidate the patent asserted against Cloudflare, but of any of the 37 other patents and applications owned by Blackbird.


That puts Blackbird squarely in the much-criticized business model sometimes derided as "patent trolling"—buying a patent, holding it in a shell company, filing a batch of lawsuits, and then (presumably) splitting the settlement revenue with the inventor.

There's a new twist, though. Blackbird Technologies LLC is now the patent holder and also appears to be directly owned by the attorneys who are litigating the case—Verlander and her cofounder, Chris Freeman.

In Prince's view, Blackbird is really a law firm and so shouldn't be allowed to act as its own client. "As far as we can determine, Blackbird produces no products or services which it makes available to the public," writes Prince. "Rather, it offers litigation services and is in the business of filing lawsuits."

Blackbird's vaunted "new model" is "to distort the traditional Attorney-Client relationship," according to Prince, simply buying a client's claims rather than actually taking the person on as a client.
(emphasis mine)

We really need to find a way to shut down these parasites.

BTW, quoting from the aforementioned blog post:

Worse still, Blackbird is a new, especially dangerous breed of patent troll. Like the dinosaur in the latest Jurassic Park movie, a synthetic combination of Tyrannosaurs and Velociraptor, Blackbird combines both a law firm and intellectual property rights holder into a single entity. In doing so, they remove legal fees from their cost structure and can bring lawsuits of potentially dubious merit without having to bear any meaningful cost. In other words, Blackbird’s new breed of entity is specifically designed to add leverage and amplify the already widely maligned problem of patent trolling.


Blackbird Technologies has filed 107 cases since September of 2014, making it one of the most prolific trolls in the United States. Its website links to a “News” item titled “4 Frequent Filers of IP Suits to Watch this Year” which highlights Blackbird as “a newer entrant on the list of top patent plaintiffs, coming in at fourth place with 48 suits last year in the District of Delaware spanning a wide range of technologies.” Some of the patents at issue include: Bicycle Pet Carrier, Buttock Lift Support, Sports Bra, and Method for Managing a Parking Lot. A complete list of Blackbird's patents is available here. Although they have been very aggressive about filing such claims, they have still not taken a single case through trial. And only a couple of those cases made it to the claim construction phase, where the Court defines the meaning of the patents at issue. Instead, many of Blackbird’s cases have been resolved shortly after filing, suggesting that these cases were never about legal rights or claims but were instead about creating the impetus for a nuisance settlement in the face of significant litigation costs.


Blackbird Technologies has filed 107 cases since September of 2014, making it one of the most prolific trolls in the United States. Its website links to a “News” item titled “4 Frequent Filers of IP Suits to Watch this Year” which highlights Blackbird as “a newer entrant on the list of top patent plaintiffs, coming in at fourth place with 48 suits last year in the District of Delaware spanning a wide range of technologies.” Some of the patents at issue include: Bicycle Pet Carrier, Buttock Lift Support, Sports Bra, and Method for Managing a Parking Lot. A complete list of Blackbird's patents is available here. Although they have been very aggressive about filing such claims, they have still not taken a single case through trial. And only a couple of those cases made it to the claim construction phase, where the Court defines the meaning of the patents at issue. Instead, many of Blackbird’s cases have been resolved shortly after filing, suggesting that these cases were never about legal rights or claims but were instead about creating the impetus for a nuisance settlement in the face of significant litigation costs.
They actually sued Netflix over the concept of mailing DVDs.

These people don't just need to be out of business.  They need to be disbarred for "acquiring a proprietary interest in the subject matter of litigation",* and for, "sharing fees or firm equity with non-lawyers."

They should also be jailed for fraud, because their use of these patents is clearly deceptive.

*Violation of Rule 1.8(i).
Violation of Rule 5.4(a) or 5.4(d).

The D.E.A. Directed Slaughters in Latin America, and Then Lied about It.

It appears that the Drug Enforcement Administration covered up its role in death squad activities in the Honduras.

I'm not particularly surprised. Given the US record on such things (Google School of the Americas) involves actively support of human rights abuses, and training for those who commit these crimes, it is part of the tradition of "American Exceptionalism."
The Drug Enforcement Administration misled the public, Congress and the Justice Department about a 2012 operation in which commando-style squads of American agents sent to Honduras to disrupt drug smuggling became involved in three deadly shootings, two inspectors general said Wednesday.

The D.E.A. said in response that it had shut down the program, the Foreign-deployed Advisory Support Team.

Under the program, known as FAST, squads received military-style training to combat Taliban-linked opium traffickers in the Afghanistan war zone. It was expanded to Latin America in 2008 to help fight transnational drug smugglers, leading to the series of violent encounters in Honduras in 2012.

A scathing 424-page joint report from the inspectors general of the Justice and State Departments underscored the risk that Americans accompanying partner forces on missions in developing countries, ostensibly as trainers and advisers, sometimes drift into directly running dangerous operations with little oversight.

The report focused on the first shooting, on a river near the village of Ahuas on May 11, 2012. A boat collided with a disabled vessel carrying American and Honduran agents and seized cocaine. Gunfire erupted, and four people on the boat were killed.

The D.E.A. said at the time that the victims were drug traffickers who had attacked to try to retrieve the cocaine, but villagers said they were bystanders. The inspectors general found no evidence to support the agency’s version, disputing a claim that surveillance video showed evidence that the people on the boat had fired on the disabled vessel.

“Even as information became available to D.E.A. that conflicted with its initial reporting, including that the passenger boat may have been a water taxi carrying passengers on an overnight trip,” the report said, “D.E.A. officials remained steadfast — with little credible corroborating evidence — that any individuals shot by the Hondurans were drug traffickers who were attempting to retrieve the cocaine.”

The inspectors general also rejected the D.E.A.’s insistence at the time that the operation — as well as two others, in June and July 2012 — had been led by Honduran law enforcement officials. The review “concluded this was inaccurate” and said D.E.A. agents “maintained substantial control.”


The D.E.A. refused to cooperate with the State Department as it sought to investigate what had happened in Ahuas. Michele M. Leonhart, then the agency’s administrator, told the inspector general she had approved that decision because subordinates told her there was no precedent for the State Department to investigate a D.E.A. shooting and it might compromise its investigations, the report said.


The killings in Honduras, along with at least two episodes in 2012 in which partner countries shot down suspected smuggling planes after receiving intelligence from the United States about their flight paths, led to increased media and congressional scrutiny of the D.E.A. Within a few months, the agency was rethinking and scaling back its operations, including considering a requirement that FAST agents stay on helicopters rather than join their trainees in raids.

One of the lawmakers who raised critical questions about the FAST operations in Latin America after the Ahuas shooting, Senator Patrick Leahy, Democrat of Vermont, called the new report “nothing less than a wholesale indictment of the D.E.A. and Honduran police.”

Calling for compensation to the families of the victims, he said the report unmasked “egregious events and conduct” and a subsequent cover-up that “demeaned the lives of the victims and the reputation of the United States.”
I think that Pat Leahy massively overestimates the esteem to which the United States is held.

Oh Snap!

It appears that everyone's favorite racist nut-job, Attorney General Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III, lied on his security clearance forms:
Attorney General Jeff Sessions did not reveal meetings with Russian officials when he applied for his security clearance to serve as the nation’s highest-ranking law enforcement official.

Sessions came under fire earlier this year for not disclosing to the Senate Judiciary Committee during his confirmation hearing that, as the senator from Alabama, he met twice with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak during the presidential election when he was also serving as an adviser to the president. In March, Sessions recused himself from investigations related to the 2016 presidential campaign after The Washington Post reported the two meetings.

That same information was omitted from Sessions’s security clearance form, which is known as an SF-86, as first reported Wednesday night by CNN.


The security clearance form requires anyone applying for a security clearance to list “any contact” that he or his family had with a foreign government or its representatives over the past seven years.
His spokesmen are claiming that the FBI told him that he didn't have to list the contacts, which is not what the law says.

There does appear to be an exception for contacts at foreign conferences as a part of government business, but none of Sessions fall under that exception:

A legal expert who regularly assists officials in filling out the form disagrees with the Justice Department's explanation, suggesting that Sessions should have disclosed the meetings.

"My interpretation is that a member of Congress would still have to reveal the appropriate foreign government contacts notwithstanding it was on official business," said Mark Zaid, a Washington attorney who specializes in national security law.
Zaid added that in a similar circumstance he advised a member of Congress to list all foreign contacts -- including those made during official US government business.

To obtain a security clearance, a federal official is not required to list the meetings if they were part of a foreign conference he or she attended while conducting government business. Sessions' meetings, however, do not appear to be tied to foreign conferences.
Jeff Sessions has been a cancer on the American political scene for decades.

One hopes that he won't weasel out of this.

Tweet of the Day

This tweet is Epic"

This response to the tweet is Epic as well:

It Looks Like Russian Intelligence Made Jim Comey Its Bitch

It appears that much of the Comey's strategy and pronouncements were driven by documents that had been forged by elements of the Russian state security apparatus:
A secret document that officials say played a key role in then-FBI Director James B. Comey’s handling of the Hillary Clinton email investigation has long been viewed within the FBI as unreliable and possibly a fake, according to people familiar with its contents.

In the midst of the 2016 presidential primary season, the FBI received what was described as a Russian intelligence document claiming a tacit understanding between the Clinton campaign and the Justice Department over the inquiry into whether she intentionally revealed classified information through her use of a private email server.

The Russian document cited a supposed email describing how then-Attorney General Loretta E. Lynch had privately assured someone in the Clinton campaign that the email investigation would not push too deeply into the matter. If true, the revelation of such an understanding would have undermined the integrity of the FBI’s investigation.

Current and former officials have said that Comey relied on the document in making his July decision to announce on his own, without Justice Department involvement, that the investigation was over. That public announcement — in which he criticized Clinton and made extensive comments about the evidence — set in motion a chain of other FBI moves that Democrats now say helped Trump win the presidential election.

But according to the FBI’s own assessment, the document was bad intelligence — and according to people familiar with its contents, possibly even a fake sent to confuse the bureau. The Americans mentioned in the Russian document insist they do not know each other, do not speak to each other and never had any conversations remotely like the ones described in the document. Investigators have long doubted its veracity, and by August the FBI had concluded it was unreliable.
There is NO ONE who comes off well on this entire matter:
  • Comey behaved as a preening narcissist.
  • Hillary Hillary stonewalled in a way that evoked Nixon, only without the charm.
  • Bill Clinton for his blindingly stupid tête-à-tête with Loretta Lynch aboard his plane.
  • Loretta Lynch for her blindingly stupid tête-à-tête with Bill Clinton aboard his plane.
It's a clusterf%$# all around.


The Death Star was an inside job:

23 May 2017

We are F%$#ed

Up in the arctic, there is a vault holding the seeds of thousands of species of crops.

Its purpose is to protect the biodiversity of agriculture in an increasingly commercial and monoculture system.

An unexpected thaw in permafrost just flooded portions of the complex:
It was designed as an impregnable deep-freeze to protect the world’s most precious seeds from any global disaster and ensure humanity’s food supply forever. But the Global Seed Vault, buried in a mountain deep inside the Arctic circle, has been breached after global warming produced extraordinary temperatures over the winter, sending meltwater gushing into the entrance tunnel.

The vault is on the Norwegian island of Spitsbergen and contains almost a million packets of seeds, each a variety of an important food crop. When it was opened in 2008, the deep permafrost through which the vault was sunk was expected to provide “failsafe” protection against “the challenge of natural or man-made disasters”.

But soaring temperatures in the Arctic at the end of the world’s hottest ever recorded year led to melting and heavy rain, when light snow should have been falling. “It was not in our plans to think that the permafrost would not be there and that it would experience extreme weather like that,” said Hege Njaa Aschim, from the Norwegian government, which owns the vault.

“A lot of water went into the start of the tunnel and then it froze to ice, so it was like a glacier when you went in,” she told the Guardian. Fortunately, the meltwater did not reach the vault itself, the ice has been hacked out, and the precious seeds remain safe for now at the required storage temperature of -18C.

But the breach has questioned the ability of the vault to survive as a lifeline for humanity if catastrophe strikes. “It was supposed to [operate] without the help of humans, but now we are watching the seed vault 24 hours a day,” Aschim said. “We must see what we can do to minimise all the risks and make sure the seed bank can take care of itself.”


“The Arctic and especially Svalbard warms up faster than the rest of the world. The climate is changing dramatically and we are all amazed at how quickly it is going,” Isaksen told Norwegian newspaper Dagbladet
Anthropogenic climate change is real, and we are only beginning to see the consequences.

Our Corrupt Pentagon

In an effort to simplify procurement and save costs, the Pentagon buys fuel for all the services, and then distributes it to each of them on an as needed basis.

In theory, this should save money by reducing procurement and inventory costs.

In practice, the Pentagon has overcharged the services and diverted the profits to a secret slush fund:
The Pentagon has generated almost $6 billion over the past seven years by charging the armed forces excessive prices for fuel and has used the money — called the “bishop’s fund” by some critics — to bolster mismanaged or underfunded military programs, documents show.

Since 2015, the Defense Department has tapped surpluses from its fuel accounts for $80 million to train Syrian rebels, $450 million to shore up a prescription-drug program riddled with fraud and $1.4 billion to cover unanticipated expenses from the war in Afghanistan, according to military accounting records.

The Pentagon has amassed the extra cash by billing the armed forces for fuel at rates often much higher — sometimes $1 per gallon or more — than what commercial airlines paid for jet fuel on the open market.

Under a bureaucracy that dates to World War II, the Defense Department purchases all of its fuel centrally and then resells it at a fixed price to the Air Force, Navy, Army, Marine Corps and other customers, who pay for it out of their own budgets. The system is intended to reduce duplication and promote efficiency.

The Defense Department is the largest single consumer of fuel in the world. Each year, it buys about 100 million barrels, or 4.2 billion gallons, of refined petroleum for its aircraft, warships, tanks and other machines.

The practice of exploiting fuel revenue to plug unrelated gaps in the defense budget has escalated in recent years, prompting allegations — and official denials — that the accounts are being used as a slush fund.
I am not sure of the etymology of the term "Bishop's Fund", maybe it goes back to the Borgia Popes or some such.

In any case,  this is no surprise coming from an agency that has kept its books unauditable for decades, despite laws requiring it to clean up its act.

Gee, I Think We've Found the Problem

After a political neophyte billionaire purchased the chairmanship of the Florida Democratic Party, he hired one Sally Boynton Brown as executive director of the party.

When she was asked about issues she responded that issues, or your know helping people didn't matter:
There is truly no defeat the Florida Democratic Party will avoid snatching from the hands of victory. Donald Trump has turned the Republican Party radioactive. His polling numbers are plummeting right alongside the GOP as a whole. And the nation is seeing a groundswell of progressive activism at levels not witnessed since the 1960s.

So how does the new, incoming brass running the Florida Democratic Party respond? By telling constituents that "issues" don't matter and that it's not the party's job to focus on policies that will actually help anyone, like single-payer health care.

Last night, the party's new second-in-command, Sally Boynton Brown, spoke in front of the Democratic Progressive Caucus of Broward County. And throughout the exchange, she steadfastly refused to commit to changing the party's economic or health-care messaging in any concrete way.

"This is not going to be popular, but this is my belief of the time and place we're in now: I believe that we're in a place where it's very hard to get voters excited about 'issues,' the type of voters that are not voting," Brown said.

Brown, the former executive director of the Idaho Democratic Party, was hired last month to take over for the outgoing executive director, Scott Arceneaux. Last night was her first encounter with local progressives, who are already disgruntled after Stephen Bittel — a billionaire real-estate developer, gas station franchiser, environmental dredging company executive, and major political donor — was elected to serve as party chair earlier this year. Many progressives accused him of buying his way into the job via campaign donations.

And Brown's speech perfectly illustrates why the Florida Democratic Party (and the party in general) can't seem to get out of its own way and actually win elections.


Later in the meeting, she then said that people who are struggling to make ends meet — and often decline to vote because they say it doesn't matter — do not vote based on "issues" they care about and instead vote because they are "emotional beings." She added that people apparently skip voting because they've somehow forgotten about the "power of democracy," whatever that means.

She also said that taking money from large corporations such as Florida Power & Light could somehow be a good thing — and that the "relationship" created when gigantic corporations give thousands of dollars to political candidates can somehow make it easier for politicians to push back against corporations when they are "raping our country."
Seriously, it was this sort of dysfunctional bullsh%$ that had an incompetent candidate run a truly clueless campaign that lost to an inverted traffic cone.

I understand how so-called "centrist" Democrats might support being a party about nothing, since they themselves are about nothing, but we have seen, a truly awful something beats an anodyne nothing.

22 May 2017

Why a Turtle Should Not Carry a Scorpion Across the Nile*

Because stinging you to death is in its nature.

Case in point, the City of Pittsburgh's extensive efforts to suck up to Uber:
When Uber picked this former Rust Belt town as the inaugural city for its driverless car experiment, Pittsburgh played the consummate host.

“You can either put up red tape or roll out the red carpet,” Bill Peduto, the mayor of Pittsburgh, said in September. “If you want to be a 21st-century laboratory for technology, you put out the carpet.”

Nine months later, Pittsburgh residents and officials say Uber has not lived up to its end of the bargain. Among Uber’s perceived transgressions: The company began charging for driverless rides that were initially pitched as free. It also withdrew support from Pittsburgh’s application for a $50 million federal grant to revamp transportation. And it has not created the jobs it proposed in a struggling neighborhood that houses its autonomous car testing track.

Blame is being pointed in many directions. While Mr. Peduto had trumpeted his relationship with Uber’s chief executive, Travis Kalanick, he didn’t get any commitments in writing about what the company would provide for Pittsburgh. That became an issue in Pittsburgh’s Democratic mayoral primary this month, with Mr. Peduto’s challengers criticizing his relationship with Uber and one calling the company a “stain” on the city. (Mr. Peduto won the primary.)

“This was an opportunity missed,” said Michael Lamb, Pittsburgh’s city controller, who has called on Uber to share the traffic data gathered by its autonomous vehicles.

The deteriorating relationship between Pittsburgh and Uber offers a cautionary tale, especially as other cities consider rolling out driverless car trials from Uber, Alphabet’s Waymo and others. Towns like Tempe, Ariz., have already emulated Pittsburgh and set themselves up as test areas for self-driving vehicles. Many municipalities see the experiments as an opportunity to remake their urban transportation systems and create a new tech economy.
There are two lessons here:  The first is that if you give public assets to a private business, there will be little if any long term goodwill generated in response, and thesecond lesson is that Uber in general, and Travis Kalanick in particular, are snakes, and they cannot be trusted.

*The folktale of the turtle and the scorpion. Just read it.

In News That Should Surprise No One

Former Trump NSC chair and current Islamophobic nut job Mike Flynn has taken the 5th and will refuse to testify before the Senate:
President Donald Trump’s former national security adviser Michael Flynn has formally invoked his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination in declining a subpoena to appear before a Senate committee.

Flynn’s attorneys cited the constitutional provision in a letter to the Senate Committee on Intelligence in which they declined to provide documents the congressional committee had requested pertaining to his communications with officials of the Russian government.

“Producing documents that fall within the subpoena’s broad scope would be a testimonial act, insofar as it would confirm or deny the existence of such documents,” the lawyers’ letter said, according to a copy obtained by the Associated Press.
Flynn is demanding immunity, despite the fact that in 2016 he publicly stated that a request of immunity was an admission of guilt.



The Supreme Court has finally ruled on the venue shopping by patent trolls:
The US Supreme Court ruled (PDF) today on how to interpret the patent venue laws, and the controversial business of "patent trolling" may never be the same.

In a unanimous decision, the justices held that the US Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit, which handles all patent appeals, has been using the wrong standard to decide where a patent lawsuit can be brought. Today's Supreme Court ruling in TC Heartland v. Kraft Foods enforces a more strict standard for where cases can be filed. It overturns a looser rule that the Federal Circuit has used since 1990.

The ruling may well signal the demise of the Eastern District of Texas as a favorite venue for patent lawsuits, especially those brought by "patent trolls," which have no business outside of licensing and litigating patents.

The TC Heartland case will affect the entire tech sector, but the parties here are battling over patents on "liquid water enhancers" used in flavored drink mixes. TC Heartland, an Indiana-based food company, got sued by Kraft Foods in Delaware, then sought to move the case back to its home turf. Neither the district court judge nor the Federal Circuit would allow such a transfer.


Not a word about "patent trolls" appears in today's 13-page opinion, but it's no secret that do-nothing patent holders were the issue at the heart of the contentious debate over patent venue. Plenty of companies had reason to complain about the Federal Circuit's rule, and they let their concerns be known. A brief (PDF) signed by 48 Internet companies and retailers asked the Supreme Court to uphold the "restrictive patent venue statute" that Congress had approved, and to "stop forum shopping." Trade groups representing bankers, realtors, and big software companies also supported TC Heartland.

The Texas attorney general, joined by 16 other states, filed a brief (PDF) as well, noting the incredible concentration of patent cases in the Eastern District of Texas. The AGs sided with TC Heartland, writing that they "have an interest in protecting their citizens from abusive claims of patent infringement, which businesses and residents confirm are a drag on economic growth."

Finally, the Electronic Frontier Foundation, Public Knowledge (PDF), and Engine Advocacy (PDF) chimed in, complaining that the venue rules had empowered "patent assertion entities" to the detriment of small innovators.
The Eastern District of Texas figures prominently because federal judges have the ability to set their own rules, and the judges in this district are basically the patent trolls bitches.

There are blocks of offices in east Texas that are empty but have tenants.  They are rented by venue shopping trolls.

Putting an end to this is a good first step in ending patent abuse.

What the F%$#

Someone just bombed an Ariana Grande Concert in Manchester:
An explosion that may have been a suicide bombing killed at least 19 people on Monday night and wounded 59 others at an Ariana Grande concert filled with adoring adolescent fans, in what the police were treating as a terrorist attack.

Panic and mayhem seized the crowd at the Manchester Arena as the blast reverberated through the building, just as the show was ending and pink balloons were dropping from the rafters in a signature flourish by Ms. Grande, a 23-year-old American pop star on an international tour.

Traumatized concertgoers, including children separated from parents, screamed and fled in what appeared to be the deadliest episode of terrorism in Britain since the 2005 London transit bombings.

Speaking to reporters early Tuesday, Manchester’s chief constable, Ian Hopkins, said the police learned of the explosion around 10:33 p.m. The wounded were taken to six hospitals, he added.

There was no immediate word from the authorities on the precise cause of the blast, but unconfirmed reports said a suicide bomber might have detonated a nail-filled explosive device.

Intelligence officials in the United States were briefed on the Manchester explosion late Monday and were told that it appeared to be a terrorist attack, according to a senior official who was not authorized to discuss the matter publicly and spoke on the condition of anonymity.

The scene in downtown Manchester immediately evoked the terrorist attacks in Paris in November 2015, which included a deadly assault inside the Bataclan concert hall, where the Eagles of Death Metal had been playing. But unlike the Bataclan show, the Manchester concert was filled with young teenagers.
Why the f%$# would anyone bomb an Ariana Grande concert? (Seriously, no irate music critic jokes right now.  It's too soon.)

OK, This Is the Weirdest Political Development of the Week

Note that I'm not saying that this is the weirdest political development in the UK, nor am I saying that it is the weirdest political development if you excluding Donald Trump.

I am saying that this is the weirdest political development in the world this week.

In the past week or so, Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, who has been seen as a dead man walking, has started to look like he's actually going to give the Tories a run for their money:
It would be a severe overstatement to suggest that things are currently going well for Labour. There’s been a recent upturn in the polls, true, but the party is still lagging a good nine points behind the Tories. It’s only because things were looking so bleak before that a comparatively smaller defeat can be interpreted as some kind of success. On a uniform swing, current polling suggests they’ll lose 12 seats while the Conservatives will gain 16. And even that’s optimistic, as evidence suggests that vote losses have been heavier in crucial marginal constituencies.

Still, when you think about where they were a month ago it’s hard not to be somewhat impressed. This election was supposed to be May’s for the taking. Having insisted there would be no early election, she then changed her mind to boost her majority at a time when Labour seemed at its weakest. Since then, her poll lead has halved. In vote share terms, Labour is currently polling only a percentage point lower than its result in the 2005 election – which was enough to secure a significant majority. The reason the Tories are still so far ahead is because, post-EU referendum, they’ve swallowed up most of the Ukip vote by adopting the nationalist agenda.

The release of the parties’ respective manifestos was a pivotal moment. Even some of Corbyn’s harshest critics felt obliged to admit that, actually, the Labour one contains a lot of good stuff. Promises including free childcare for all two- to four-year-olds, a properly funded NHS, free hospital car parking, one million new homes, a cap on rent hikes, an increase in the carers’ allowance, an end to the 1 per cent public sector pay rise cap, an increase in carers’ allowance, the reintroduction of the education maintenance allowance and free higher education made sure there was plenty to appeal to a broad cross-section of society.

Plans to introduce a “fat-cat” tax on banks and a new 50p income tax band for earnings over £123,000 (but no tax rises for anyone earning under £80,000) allayed fears about how such measures will be funded. The whole document was costed in detail – an essential move for a party particularly vulnerable to accusations of economic incompetence.

In contrast, the Conservative manifesto has gone down like a lead balloon. Entirely uncosted (something the Tories find easier to get away with) and almost all punishment with few positive promises to sweeten the deal. Though the largest swing seems to have been amongst 25-49s, who are now 15 per cent more likely to say they’re planning to vote Labour than they were previously, the policy that has attracted most negative attention primarily affects the elderly. The so-called “dementia tax” is basically a levy on inheritance that only affects people unlucky enough to need social care. Critics on the left have pointed out that the policy may deter people for seeking the help they need because they worried about being to leave something for their children. There’s also a strong risk it will encourage suicide.

The backlash was so strong that May was forced into an embarrassing U-turn, but her attempted “clarification” left voters with more questions than it answered. It seems she’s still planning to go ahead with the “dementia cap” but will introduce a cap on the total amount that can be taken. Of course, this only helps the richest who’ve got more than can be taken. Comparatively less wealthy dementia sufferers will be hit just as hard.
Some translation here:  What the Britons call a "Manifesto", we in the States call a platform, and what they call, "Social care," is what we would call "Assisted living".

So, round the clock care for cancer monitoring is covered, but the same (probably less expensive) care for Alzheimers would not be covered.

This has been damaging to the Tories for a number of reasons:

  • Many of the proposals in the Tory manifesto show a sort of radicalism that runs counter to British political culture.
  • Theresa May is showing herself to be a bit of a social sadist.  (A true daughter of Thatcher)
  • May's "U-turn" is transparent weaseling, which makes her appear weak. 
I still think that Labour's chances of winning an election are somewhere near that of the Minnesota Vikings winning a Super Bowl, but they may significantly outperform expectations.