31 October 2017

Why Not to Trust the Cloud, Again

Google docs is amazing, except when it refuses to all you your own data:
A number of Google Docs users have reported being locked out of their documents today for, according to the message that pops up when they try to access the affected document, violating Google's terms of service. Users that have tweeted about the issue have said their locked-out pieces were about a range of topics including wildfire crimes, post-socialist eastern Europe and a response to reviewers of an academic journal submission.


A Google spokesperson told us, "We're investigating reports of an issue with Google Docs. We will provide more information when appropriate." The range of subject matters and number of reports suggest it's probably just a glitch, but the problem is a reminder of what we give up for the convenience and ease offered by cloud-based programs like Docs. Google Docs and others like it allow users to store their work offline, making it easily accessible wherever they happen to be. They also make it easy to share documents between a number of different people. But giving up control over your work comes with risks, as today's issues make clear. And though they're fairly rare, they can cause huge problems.

For example, Twitter user @widdowquinn said that while they had been encouraging others to use Google Docs for collaborative work on grants and academic papers, today's glitch is a deal breaker.
"A dealbreaker?"

Gee, you think?  Google can shut you out from your own documents, because it violates their, "Terms of service," and because it's Google, which means that you will never, ever get even remotely close to a human being.


Clueless Motherf$#er of the Day, Halloween Edition

Jeet Heer.

The title of today's intellectual super-fund site, "Hillary Clinton Shouldn’t Go Away. She Should Embrace Her Role as Trump’s Nemesis."

She is pretty much the only political figure in the United States less popular than Donald Trump, including Richard Bruce Cheney, who generally polls lower than hemorrhoids.

Donald Trump tries to get into tussles with Hillary, because he knows that it makes him look good.

The DERP is strong in this one.

30 October 2017

23 Years, and Not Yet Murdered

Though if Sharon were to kill me, it would be well justified.

Happy 23rd anniversary, dear.

Posted via mobile.

For Want of a Hyphen, a Kingdom Was Lost………

First we see the consequences of people dropping the Oxford comma, and now we seen the consequence of not knowing how to use a hyphen (and how the elimination of copy editors has impacted journalism, but that is a separate rant).


This looks fascinating:

29 October 2017

Meanwhile, In Iceland

It appears that, for just the 2nd time in its history, Iceland will not have a right wing government:
Iceland’s ruling centre-right parties have lost their majority after a tight election that could usher in only the second left-of-centre government in the country’s history as an independent nation.

With all votes counted after the Nordic island’s second snap poll in a year, the conservative Independence party of the scandal-plagued outgoing prime minister, Bjarni Benediktsson, was on course to remain parliament’s largest.

But it lost five of of its 21 seats in the 63-member Althing, potentially paving the way for its main opponent, the Left-Green Movement headed by Katrín Jakobsdóttir, to form a left-leaning coalition with three or more other parties.

The make-up of the new government, however, remains uncertain since both left- and rightwing blocs have said they deserve a chance to try to form a coalition and Iceland’s president has yet to designate a party to begin talks.

Benediktsson called the election last month after his three-party centre-right government collapsed over an alleged attempt to cover up efforts by his father to help “restore the honour” of a convicted child sex offender.

The outgoing government had been only formed 10 months ago after early elections triggered by his predecessor’s resignation. Sigmundur Davíð Gunnlaugsson stepped down amid public fury at revelations in the Panama Papers that his family had sheltered money offshore.
If the Left-Green Movement had a modicum of political savvy, and my guess is that they don't, they would take this opportunity to make changes to the political culture to make sure that their government is not just a short interregnum between more rule by the Independence Party.

This is important because Iceland won by bucking the standard neoliberal policy prescriptions, but the, largely through the Independence Party, there are (as the Panama Papers showed) still a number people who are eager to get back into that failed system.

Tweet of the Day

H/T  naked capitalism

Finally, a Senior Executive is Arrested

The billionaire founder of Insys Therapeutics was arrested on Thursday on federal charges that he participated in a scheme to bribe doctors to prescribe a fentanyl-based painkiller intended for cancer patients.

John Kapoor, the Insys founder, was charged with engaging in conspiracies to commit racketeering, mail fraud and wire fraud in an indictment filed in Federal District Court in Boston. He was arrested in Arizona, where Insys is based, and added as a defendant in a case that was previously filed against six former Insys executives and managers, including Michael Babich, the former chief executive, prosecutors said.


The charges escalate the continuing inquiries into Insys related to Subsys, an under-the-tongue spray that contains fentanyl, a highly addictive synthetic opioid. They came as President Trump declared the country’s opioid problem a public health crisis.

William D. Weinreb, the acting United States attorney for the District of Massachusetts, said the charges reflected a commitment on the part of authorities to combat the opioid-abuse epidemic. Opioids drugs were involved in more than 33,000 deaths in 2015, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“We must hold the industry and its leadership accountable, just as we would the cartels or a street-level drug dealer,” Mr. Weinreb said in a statement.
 So a pharma executive got busted like the dope dealer that he is.

Now, how about going after Dimon, Blankfein, and the rest of those evil f%$#s?

28 October 2017

Pass the Popcorn

The first charges have been issued in the investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 US presidential election and possible collusion by members of the Trump campaign and arrests could be imminent, according to several reports.

CNN, Reuters and the Wall Street Journal reported that a grand jury has approved charges filed by investigators led by special counsel Robert Mueller against at least one person, and the indictment has been sealed by a federal judge, pending arrest. There was no information of the nature of the charges or their target. The reports suggested one or more arrests could take place as early as Monday.

That would take the broad investigation into Russia’s role in the election, which has hung over Donald Trump’s presidency since it began, to a new level, raising questions over how the White House and its allies would respond. Trump and his supporters have disparaged Mueller and tried to portray him as a sympathiser of Hillary Clinton and James Comey, the FBI chief fired by Trump.
My I've searched, and found nothing definitive on who will actually be on Muller's hit parade.

My money would be on it be either Paul Manafort or Roger Stone, but we should find out in the next couple of days

Resurgent Germany, Revolt in Spain, Right Wing Populists Taking Power, What Could Possibly Go Wrong?

I don't think that Catalonian independence would happen if the Madrid had even the vaguest concept of deconfliction strategies.

Unfortunately for Spain, and for Catalonia, Spanish PM Mariano Rajoy has based his entire career on n*****baiting the Catalans and the Basques, so everything is going pear shaped:
The Spanish government has taken control of Catalonia, dissolved its parliament and announced new elections after secessionist Catalan MPs voted to establish an independent republic, pushing the country’s worst political crisis in 40 years to new and dangerous heights.

Speaking on Friday evening, the Spanish prime minister, Mariano Rajoy, said his cabinet had fired the regional president, Carles Puigdemont, and ordered regional elections to be held on 21 December.

Rajoy said the Catalan government had been removed along with the head of the regional police force, the Mossos d’Esquadra. The Catalan government’s international “embassies” are also to be shut down.


The actions came hours after Spain’s national unity suffered a decisive blow when Catalan MPs in the 135-seat regional parliament voted for independence by a margin of 70 votes to 10.
 If Madrid's response had been a bit more measured, this would not be racing toward disaster.

And the Mistake Jet Cluster F%$# Continues

The F-35 was intended to be a major technical leap, not just in performance (it isn't), and not just in stealth (it isn't), but also in terms of its availability and maintenance overhead.

It turns put that it has failed the last bit as well:
The Pentagon is accelerating production of Lockheed Martin Corp.’s F-35 jet even though the planes already delivered are facing “significantly longer repair times” than planned because maintenance facilities are six years behind schedule, according to a draft audit.

The time to repair a part has averaged 172 days -- “twice the program’s objective” -- the Government Accountability Office, Congress’s watchdog agency, found. The shortages are “degrading readiness” because the fighter jets “were unable to fly about 22 percent of the time” from January through August for lack of needed parts.

The Pentagon has said soaring costs to develop and produce the F-35, the costliest U.S. weapons system, have been brought under control, with the price tag now projected at $406.5 billion. But the GAO report raises new doubts about the official estimate that maintaining and operating them will cost an additional $1.12 trillion over their 60-year lifetime.

Already, the agency said in the draft obtained by Bloomberg News, the Defense Department “must stretch its resources to meet the needs of continued system development and production while at the same time sustain the more than 250 aircraft it has already fielded.”
In addition to this, it has been revealed that the first 108 F-35s produced will never be combat capable, so something around $40 billion has been flushed down the toilet:
The new F-35 program executive officer, U.S. Navy vice admiral Mat Winter, said his office is exploring the option of leaving 108 aircraft in their current state because the funds to upgrade them to the fully combat-capable configuration would threaten the Air Force’s plans to ramp up production in the coming years.

These are most likely the same 108 aircraft the Air Force reportedly needed to upgrade earlier in 2017. Without being retrofitted, these aircraft would become “concurrency orphans” — airplanes left behind in the acquisition cycle after the services purchased them in haste before finishing the development process.

Left unsaid so far is what will become of the 81 F-35s purchased by the Marine Corps and Navy during that same period. If they are left in their current state, nearly 200 F-35s might permanently remain unready for combat because the Pentagon would rather buy new aircraft than upgrade the ones the American people have already paid for.

 What makes this particularly galling is the aircraft that would be left behind by such a scheme were the most expensive F-35s purchased so far. When the tab for all the aircraft purchased in an immature state is added up, the total comes to nearly $40 billion.
If you run the numbers, that is about $370 million for each of these hangar queens.

Imagine what could have done with that money.

I Experienced This in 2004. It Makes Sense.

There has been a diplomatic dust-up over the alleged use of a "sonic weapon" against US diplomatic personnel.

An extensive investigation by Cuban authorities has revealed that the noises in questions were cicadas and crickets.

I was in northwest Baltimore City in 2004, when the cicadas, Brood X technically, came out, and the noise levels were intense, so I know how disruptive it can be:
The US pulled the bulk of its diplomats from Cuba in September, blaming attacks on its staff that caused hearing loss and concussions. Cuba has denied any involvement, and now it is offering a counter-explanation: The alleged “sonic attacks” are coming from cicadas and crickets.

That detail comes from an AP report on a television special aired in Cuba yesterday to refute the US narrative about flagging diplomatic relations.

“We compared the spectrums of the sounds and evidently this common sound is very similar to the sound of a cicada,” Lt. Col. Juan Carlos Molina, a Cuban government expert, said on the television broadcast Alleged Sonic Attacks. The program also claimed sufficiently loud insect noises could “produce hearing loss, irritation and hypertension in situations of prolonged exposure.”

The US embassy was only reopened in 2016. Since the attacks, the Trump administration, which opposes normalizing relations with Cuba, has expelled Cuban representatives from the US and issued a warning against travel to the island nation.
If there were a brood coming out, I could see how it could cause all these symptoms.

The din of a cicada brood is indescribable.

27 October 2017

I Demand to See the Original Birth Certificate!

Australian politics has been thrown into disarray after 5 MPs were ruled ineligible to serve for holding dual citizenship:
The Australian deputy prime minister, Barnaby Joyce, and four senators have been ruled ineligible to sit in parliament by the high court, with only the National party’s Matt Canavan and NXT’s Nick Xenophon surviving a challenge that has hung over seven parliamentarians since their dual citizenship was discovered in July and August.

The court’s unanimous decision to uphold a strict reading of the constitutional disqualification of foreign citizens will trigger a byelection in the New South Wales seat of New England, won comfortably by Joyce, the National party leader, at the 2016 election. The court’s ruling also forced the deputy National party leader, Fiona Nash, and One Nation’s Malcolm Roberts out of the Senate. Two Greens senators, Scott Ludlam and Larissa Waters, who had already resigned, were confirmed as ineligible by the court.

Joyce’s exit strips Malcolm Turnbull’s government of its one-seat majority in the House of Representatives for now, but he could return through a byelection on 2 December.


In a joint decision the justices rejected the commonwealth’s argument that MPs or senators would need to have knowledge of their dual citizenship in order to be disqualified.

Speaking after the decision, Joyce, who was born in Australia but held New Zealand citizenship by descent from his father, said he had “no reason to believe that ... I was a citizen of any other country than Australia”.

Joyce said the decision was “tough” but he was not “totally surprised” by it. He said he would not “cry into his beer” but rather prepare for the byelection in New England.

The Labor opposition rounded on the government, with its leader, Bill Shorten, claiming Australia now has “a minority government”:

It is the silly season down under as well, it appears.

Death Wears Fuzzy Bunny Slippers

It turns out that while waiting for the literal end of the world, nuclear crews spend a lot of time waiting ……… and waiting ……… and waiting ……… and waiting ……… and waiting.

Two guys a hundred feet underground for 24+ hours waiting for the call that they hope never comes.

One is watching the dials, and the other one gets comfortable and relaxed so that they will be sharp when his turn comes to watch the dials.

Snuggies and fuzzy bunny slippers are a not infrequent part of the latter regime, hence the most awesome unit patch ever.


Have a Halloween meme video:


26 October 2017

Commitment to Transparency, My Ass

There was never an indictment, because it was determined that this would serve to alert the Japanese that their codes had been broken, but what was interesting to me was that, 70 years after the fact, the government was still trying to keep this cloaked in secrecy:
Newly published documents by the National Security Archive reveal why a grand jury refused to prosecute a Chicago Tribune reporter during World War II for a leak.

Correspondent Stanley Johnston was accused of revealing the United States cracked a Japanese code, which alerted the military to Japanese war plans before the Battle of Midway. A Tribune editor attributed the source of information to “naval intelligence.”

A prosecution was contemplated under the Espionage Act, but the government backed off because they feared what may happen if a trial publicized that the U.S. compromised the Japanese code.

The Justice Department under President Barack Obama fought against a lawsuit filed by the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press. It lost when a district court ruled in 2015 that disclosure would “result in a more complete public record of this historic event” and affirm the government is “open, in all respects, to scrutiny by the people.”

Yet, the government appealed, and it was not until September 2016, when the appeals court ruled against the government’s claim that a federal court had no jurisdiction to order the release of transcripts, that an effort to keep 75 year-old documents secret came to an end.
This is a 75 year old secret, and Barack Obama and his Evil Minions felt compelled to keep it under wraps, because ……… Worst Constitutional law professor ever.

One would think that Obama was working for the US state security apparatus, not the other way around.

Our Friends in the Ukraine

There are now indications that the Ukraine is a major contributor to the recent rapid advancement in the North Korean ICBM program.

The only question is whether the technology transfer id the result of corruption or espionage.

My money is on the latter:
Pyongyang’s rogue missile-firing has evoked a commotion among its neighbours. But the anger has turned into threats after Kim Jong-un’s regime astounded the world on July 4 – Independence Day in the United States – with its first intercontinental ballistic missile, which flew almost 1,000 kilometers after being launched.

The Hwasong-14, which means ‘fire star’ in Korean, reached an altitude of 2,802 km and traveled 933 kilometers east into the Sea of Japan after a 39-minute flight.


The international community had previously been told that it could take more than 10 years before Pyongyang could come up with an ICBM prototype that might pose a substantial threat – until Hwasong-14 skirted across the airspace of northern Japan.


The Russian Defence Ministry initially believed the missile was merely one of the many makeshift “toys” that the Kim regime liked to parade, but the Pentagon confirmed shortly after that it was the real deal.

Russian missile experts who examined photos of Hwasong-14 were quoted as saying the North Korean ICBMs may be copycat versions of long-range missiles made by the Soviet Union, such as the SS-18 Satan, capable of carrying multiple warheads with independently targetable reentry vehicles, Kanwa Defense Review has said.

The Hwasong missiles bear all the hallmarks of the SS-18, and one telling indicator is its strikingly similar fairings.

An initial analysis of the known trajectory and payload of the Hwasong family has lent fresh evidence to conjecture that Pyongyang may have obtained key ICBM technology from the Ukraine-based Yuzhnoye Design Office, which was once a Soviet Union bastion for rockets and advanced weaponry research and development, but is now allegedly laden with debt.


North Korea’s ability to “skip grades” in missile technology, notably in regard to composite materials, solid fuels, and warhead thermo-protection, has spooked analysts, who now suspect the regime may have taken lessons from outside, given that Pyongyang is hard pressed to even feed its own population.

“Since 2000, Pyongyang has been sending spies to Ukraine, sometimes via Moscow, forcing the latter of tip-off Kiev to intercept [them]. But it appears that the strained ties between Moscow and Kiev are now playing into Pyongyang’s hand,” an observer said.
Or they are just paying money.

Even if Pyongyang got the plans for the rocket, getting the necessary manufacturing and systems expertise to make sense of those plans a non trivial endeavor.  (It's probably more difficult for spies to get the latter)

That's why my guess is that someone at the Yuzhnoye Design Office got paid for the information.

A Bit Late to Admit This

As I noted in April, the rag-f%$#ing of likely Sanders voters did not appear the result of, "Entirely innocent incompetence."
The New York City Board of Elections is admitting it broke state and federal law when it improperly removed voters from the rolls ahead of the presidential primary last spring, including more than 117,000 voters in Brooklyn.

That’s according to a draft consent decree announced Tuesday— nearly a year after the Board was sued in federal court for violating the National Voter Registration Act and state election law.

The Brooklyn voter purge was first reported by WNYC just days before last spring’s primary election.

As a part of the settlement, the Board agreed to a series of remedial measures that will be in place at least through the next presidential election, November 2020 — pending court approval. The deal restores the rights of improperly purged voters and establishes a comprehensive plan to prevent illegal voter purges in future elections.
You know, the fact that these bastards got to say, "My bad," and walk into the sunset without being frog-marched out of their offices in handcuffs kind of honks me off.

Yeah, I'm still bitter over this sh%$.

If There Were a Nobel Prize for Snark………

Then I know who would win the award this year.

Emmett Rensin decided to write a review of Hillary Clinton's campaign memoir, What Happened, as if she had never heard of either Hillary Clinton or the 2016 campaign.

It is an inspired bit of sarcasm, and it is absolutely brutal.

I cannot excerpt it in a way to justice.

Just read it.

25 October 2017

Headline of the Day

The DNC Picked a Bunch of Sleazy Lobbyists as Superdelegates, Can't Figure out Why No One Is Donating.

It's an on-point analysis of a rather anodyne story at Politico on DNC fund raising panic, but there is a few gems of unvarnished truth out there:
Party officials involved in fundraising say donors repeatedly turn them away with a "try again next year," especially since it became clear there won't be an official party autopsy from 2016. Democrat Jon Ossoff's loss in his much-hyped special congressional election in Atlanta's suburbs in June has also depressed donor enthusiasm.


DNC members themselves have now been asked to give or raise $1,000 each, some said — a request people who've been around the committee for decades say they can't remember being made before.
Not only the party base, but the big donors are demanding reforms.

I don't think that the moneybags wing of the Party are looking to implement a socialist agenda, but I do think that they realize that they spent a huge amount of money on a hapless candidate and a hapless party establishment, and they want to see changes.

I do not expect to see meaningful changes until dissatisfaction reaches a crescendo, because there are simply too many people who earn a living by mismanaging Democratic party operations.

Midvale School for the Gifted

I was going to Maariv* at the local Kollel, so that I could say Kaddish for her.

Charlie came with me, because we studied some Gemara before services.

Charlie walked into the study area, and pushed the door open (it swings both ways) despite the large signs taped to it marked "Pull."

I said, "Midvale School for the Gifted," and Charlie gave me a blank look.

I had to remind him that it was a Gary Larson cartoon.

*Evening services.
Community religious study center.
A memorial prayer, it is the 41st anniversary of her death.
A companion work of the Mishna, together they constitute the Talmud.

24 October 2017

Headline of the Day

Question the Generals? Hell, Yes
—The South Florida Sun Sentinel editorial board
This is in response to rather egregious behavior of the Trump administration in general, and former general and Chief of Staff John Kelly.

I think that we may be approaching some sort of tipping point on blind acceptance of military bullsh%$.

At least I hope that we are.

What Could Possibly Go Wrong?

It appears that tech companies are looking to running portions of towns.

Why do I NOT find this reassuring?
It sounds almost dystopian: One of North America's largest cities handing over a key neighborhood to a tech giant so it can be rebuilt from scratch. That, however, may be exactly what is about to happen. Recently, it was announced that Sidewalk Labs, a division of Google-parent Alphabet, will (pending approval) lead the creation of about a 12-acre district called Quayside in a prime area of Toronto's newly revitalized waterfront area.

But if the plan immediately sounds like the beginning of a sci-fi movie in which things are about to go very wrong, Sidewalk Labs' vision at least is distinctly utopian. Simply put, Google's urban spinoff wants to build a laboratory for how a city should be run, a smart city predicated on tech, data, and everything from self-driving shuttles to garbage sorted by robots — all while shifting its Canadian headquarters to the new district.
This has fail written all over it.

After all, these are the folks who can't write a calculator app that adds 1+2+3.

Oh, Snap

Remember the infamous "Trump Dossier", which alleged that Trump paid prostitutes in Moscow to pee on a bed used by Barack Obama a few years before?

It turns out that the Clinton campaign and the Democratic National Committee paid for the report.

So, it was opposition research, which isn't a big deal. This is what political campaigns, and party committees do.

Obviously, the source of the funding will influence what sort of direction that Fusion GPS gave to former MI6 agent Christopher Steele, the author of the report, which would influence where he looked, and also the level of confirmation of any stories that he might come across.

Of course, the current leadership of the DNC has disavowed what the earlier leadership of the DNC did, but many in the Democratic party establishment, most notably the execrable Joy Reid, are saying that the source does not matter.

Apparently, the logic of the previous paragraph does not apply to the DNC email leaks, which have actually been confirmed as true, because ……… Consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds, I guess.

I is confoozled.

Corruption Much?

A company owned by a Trump donor which has just 2 employees, was just awarded a $300 million contract to rebuild the Puerto Rico power grid.

The outbreak of corruption makes the Katrina recovery effort look honest and competent:
For the sprawling effort to restore Puerto Rico’s crippled electrical grid, the territory’s state-owned utility has turned to a two-year-old company from Montana that had just two full-time employees on the day Hurricane Maria made landfall.

The company, Whitefish Energy, said last week that it had signed a $300 million contract with the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority to repair and reconstruct large portions of the island’s electrical infrastructure. The contract is the biggest yet issued in the troubled relief effort.

Whitefish said Monday that it has 280 workers in the territory, using linemen from across the country, most of them as subcontractors, and that the number grows on average from 10 to 20 people a day. It said it was close to completing infrastructure work that will energize some of the key industrial facilities that are critical to restarting the local economy.

The power authority, also known as PREPA, opted to hire Whitefish rather than activate the “mutual aid” arrangements it has with other utilities. For many years, such agreements have helped U.S. utilities — including those in Florida and Texas recently — to recover quickly after natural disasters.

The unusual decision to instead hire a tiny for-profit company is drawing scrutiny from Congress and comes amid concerns about bankrupt Puerto Rico’s spending as it seeks to provide relief to its 3.4 million residents, the great majority of whom remain without power a month after the storm.


Whitefish Energy is based in Whitefish, Mont., the home town of Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke. Its chief executive, Andy Techmanski, and Zinke acknowledge knowing one another — but only, Zinke’s office said in an email, because Whitefish is a small town where “everybody knows everybody.” One of Zinke’s sons “joined a friend who worked a summer job” at one of Techmanski’s construction sites, the email said. Whitefish said he worked as a “flagger.”

Zinke’s office said he had no role in Whitefish securing the contract for work in Puerto Rico. Techmanski also said Zinke was not involved.


The scale of the disaster in Puerto Rico is far larger than anything Whitefish has handled. The company has won two contracts from the Energy Department, including $172,000 to replace a metal pole structure and splice in three miles of new conductor and overhead ground wire in Arizona.

Shortly before Maria ravaged Puerto Rico, Whitefish landed its largest federal contract, a $1.3 million deal to replace and upgrade parts of a 4.8-mile transmission line in Arizona. The company — which was listed in procurement documents as having annual revenue of $1 million — was given 11 months to complete the work, records show.


Kent McNellie, an investment professional at HBC, the Texas investment firm that is now the largest financier of Whitefish, said the company’s experience reconstructing a one-mile power line destroyed in a wildfire in Washington state was more relevant to Puerto Rico’s needs than is the experience of many companies on the mainland. The span in Washington included an elevation change of about 5,000 feet, and the terrain required crews and equipment to be delivered by helicopter.

HBC investments, sounds familiar  ……… Gee, I wonder why:
The private-equity firm that finances Whitefish, HBC Investments, was founded by Joe Colonnetta, who serves as its general partner.

Federal Elections Commission data compiled by The Daily Beast shows Colonnetta contributed $20,000 to the Trump Victory PAC during the general election, $2,700 to Trump’s primary election campaign (then the maximum amount permitted), $2,700 to Trump’s general election campaign (also the maximum), and a total of $30,700 to the Republican National Committee in 2016 alone. Colonnetta’s wife, Kimberly, is no stranger to Republican politics either; shortly after Trump’s victory, she gave $33,400 to the Republican National Committee, the maximum contribution permitted for party committees in 2016.
(emphasis mine)

Nothing to see here, move along.

23 October 2017

Item Number 1033 of Things that I Thought I Would Never Say*

Yeah, I cannot believe that I just said that, but everyone's favorite philandering self-important martinet just slapped down the Trump administration for saying that reporters should not fact check Trump's chief of staff, John Kelly, on his the lies that he spewed a few days back.
ABC's THIS WEEK host Martha Raddatz began her interview by asking Gen. Petraeus about this incident.

"I want to start with what the White House said, about it being highly inappropriate to debate a four-star general," she said.

Petraeus replied, "Well, I think we're all fair game." He continued, "We, in uniform, protect the rights of those to criticize us, frankly."
We live in strange times.

*The number one thing that I thought I would never say remains, as always, "It’s not buffet time at the Wildebeest."

This Dick Waving Is Going to Get Us All Killed

We now have reports that, for the first time since 1991, the United States Air Force will be putting nuclear bombers back on round-the clock nuclear alert:
The U.S. Air Force is preparing to put nuclear-armed bombers back on 24-hour ready alert, a status not seen since the Cold War ended in 1991.

That means the long-dormant concrete pads at the ends of this base’s 11,000-foot runway — dubbed the “Christmas tree” for their angular markings — could once again find several B-52s parked on them, laden with nuclear weapons and set to take off at a moment’s notice. 

“This is yet one more step in ensuring that we’re prepared,” Gen. David Goldfein, Air Force chief of staff, said in an interview during his six-day tour of Barksdale and other U.S. Air Force bases that support the nuclear mission. “I look at it more as not planning for any specific event, but more for the reality of the global situation we find ourselves in and how we ensure we’re prepared going forward.”
I am NOT feeling any safer right now.

Tweet of the Day

So, Mr. Woolley, tell me how you really think.

God Damn Staten Island Commies!

Cue Jake and Elwood
Now we have reports that the Russian intelligence agencies were running their nefarious meddling in the US elections out of Staten Island, New York.

If you find that absurd, I wholeheartedly agree.

Looking at what they did, and what they hosted, I cannot see anything that is in any manner indistinguishable from from your run of the mill click-bait troll farms.

This, "A noun, a verb, and Vladimir Putin," sh%$ is getting seriously old.

Oh well, anything to avoid any serious self-examination.

22 October 2017

Headline of the Day

Cy Vance Represents Everything Wrong with the Justice System
The Outline
Of course, Paul Blest is referring to Manhattan district attorney Cyrus Vance, Jr., not his dad who was secretary of state.

Vance is almost certainly going to be reelected next year, but it now appears that he let the rich and powerful skate in exchange for campaign donations:
If you’re looking for an example of unequal treatment perpetuated in our criminal justice system, you should look no further than the decisions made by the Manhattan District Attorney’s office

Last week, as reports of Harvey Weinstein’s decades of sexual harassment and assault became public, news emerged that Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus “Cy” Vance Jr. had declined to prosecute Weinstein in March 2015 for misdemeanor sexual abuse, a charge that carries the maximum of three months in jail or one year’s probation, plus a $500 fine. It was later found that the prosecution was in possession of a recording from a sting operation, including the victim, where Weinstein had admitted he had committed the assault. Still, Vance declined to file the charges. Last week, the International Business Times reported one major conflict of interest regarding the case: Weinstein’s lawyer, David Boies, donated $10,000 to Vance in August 2015, four months after Vance declined to prosecute.

The case is emblematic of Vance’s time in the DA’s office. Throughout his two terms – and he’s likely to win re-election next month – Vance has shied away from prosecuting powerful people like Weinstein, even when the cases are solid, and he’s chosen repeatedly to go after less- influential people when the cases are suspect or the crimes committed didn’t hurt anyone. Beyond Vance’s own office, however, it highlights a more pressing, systemic issue: there are two different justice systems for two different Americas.

The Weinstein decision echoed another one made earlier in Vance’s career as DA, a position he was elected to in 2009. Dominique Strauss-Kahn, the former head of the International Monetary Fund, was accused in 2011 of sexually assaulting a housekeeper at a hotel in Manhattan. Vance also declined to bring charges in that case. “I look at the DSK case as a paragon,” Vance told the New York Times in a 2013 interview, “because we absolutely believed this poor woman should be believed over this powerful man, and when additional facts came out, we were willing to show them to the defense.” (Those “additional facts,” as Colorlines noted in 2011, didn’t have anything to do with the accuser’s account of her assault at the hands of Strauss-Kahn.)
And then there are Trump kids:
Apart from Vance’s miserable failure at doing either of these things, Ivanka and Donald Trump Jr. were, similarly to Weinstein, left untouched by Vance in 2012 even after Vance’s major economic crimes division recommended that he should bring charges of felony fraud against them for “misleading prospective buyers of units in the Trump SoHo, a hotel and condo development.” Less than six months later, ProPublica reported, the Trumps’ lawyer had donated and raised over $50,000 for Vance’s re-election. It was only after the ProPublica story came out that Vance — who is running for re-election unopposed — returned the donation. 
The most favorable interpretation is that Vance doesn't want to prosecute rich people because they hire armies of lawyers, but that interpretation seems to be rather naive given the juxtaposition of campaign donations.

I don't think that this is an isolated incident.

21 October 2017

Remember Those Apocryphal Stories of Vietnam Vets Being Spat On?

One Case, and it was a war suppporter
There have been many claims over the years that returning Vietnam vets were spat on by protesters.

It turns out no one had been able to find a single contemporaneous report of this ever happening.

Well, someone has finally found one, only the veterans being spat on were VVAW members protesting the war, and the spitter was a war supporter:
A couple of days ago, the New York Times published an opinion piece by Jerry Lembcke “The Myth of the Spitting Antiwar Protester.” Lembcke wrote a book a few decades ago debunking that myth but it is still going strong… stronger than ever, actually. The trope of “they’re spitting on our veterans” is popular with anti-kneeling fanatics who maintain that athletes who protest during the national anthem are “spitting on the graves” of those who died to defend the flag and the freedom to do as you’re told and stand during the national anthem.

I have always found Lembcke’s argument and evidence compelling but I don’t like to take anything for granted. So I did a little extra digging. Some of that was digging through a stash of old Amex/Canada magazines that I have held onto for 45 years or so. A Vietnam veteran named Al Reynolds wrote an account published in the May-June 1973 issue reporting on the Vietnam Veterans Against the War contingent in the “Home with Honor” parade staged in New York City at the end of March of that year.


So there it is, folks. The making of a myth. An older woman in a fur coat, with carefully teased hair, her face distorted with rage, spitting at Vietnam veterans protesting against the war is transformed into a Legionnaire, with a red face, waiting at the airport gate to spit on returning G.I.s for not winning the war and finally into anti-war “maggots” protesting poor little John Rambo who was just doing what he had to do to win. So where does that leave us in October 2017? My, my, look at all the rhinestone Rambos!
There you have it. One report, and it was a war supporter spitting on veterans who were trying to end the war.

Not exactly what draft-dodger Sylvester Stallone raged about in Rambo.

Vlad, Baby, You Are a Word Class Troll, and I Mean That as a Compliment.

Say what you will, but more than any other world leader, Vladimir Putin is the trolling master:
Russian President Vladimir Putin says that Americans don't show enough respect for President Trump.

"Mr. Trump was elected by the American people. And at least for this reason it is necessary to show respect for him, even if you do not agree with some of his positions," Putin said at the Valdai International Discussion Club when asked what advice he could give his U.S. counterpart, according to state-run Tass Russian News Agency.

Putin said that "disrespect is shown for [Trump]" in the U.S., which he called "regrettable."
Seriously, I am in awe.

Well, played.

Headline of the Day

House (of Representatives) Negroes Rally Against Russia
Black Agenda Report
Today's must read take-down of the Congressional wing of what BAR executive editor Glen Ford calls the, "Black Misleadership Class."

20 October 2017

Headline of the Day

Thanks, Obama: Trump Plans to Make It Easier to Kill Civilians with Drones

True dat.


This SNL sketch is both hilarious and terrifying:

19 October 2017

Live in Obedient Fear, Citizen!

Someone leaked the ICE asset forfeiuture guide to The Intercept, and it is a truly chilling:
An internal handbook obtained by The Intercept provides a rare view into the extensive asset seizure operations of ICE’s Homeland Security Investigations, an office that trains its agents to meticulously appraise the value of property before taking it.

HSI’s 71-page “Asset Forfeiture Handbook,” dated June 30, 2010, underscores the role seizures play in “helping to fund future law enforcement actions” and covering costs “that HSI would otherwise be unable to fund.” It thus offers an unprecedented window into ICE’s wide-ranging asset forfeiture operations and the premium the agency places on seizing valuable property. Forfeiture proceeds can bolster ICE’s partnerships with local police departments, which are now the subject of heightened debate given the Trump administration’s hard-line immigration agenda.
 We need to change the rules on asset forfeiture, because we have cops engaging in shakedowns

This Is the Stupidest Thing I've Read All Day, including Twitter

There is a happy ending though, because the author of this post on Reddit has finally realized that you don't have to pay to take books out of the library.

How do people not know this?

Admittedly, I live just outside Baltimore City, where the local library is known as the "Enoch Pratt Free Library," which is a bit of a tell, but I am still stunned.

Keith Ellison, Please Resign as Deputy Chair of the Democratic National Committee

I know that you and Tom Perez are supposed to be working together well, but once again, the so called centrists have decided retribution against perceived slights from the left takes precedence.

Just quit. Don't tell Perez why, he doesn't deserve an explanation, and don't discuss it with the press, just leave.

Let the action speak for itself:
A shake-up is underway at the Democratic National Committee as several key longtime officials have lost their posts, exposing a still-raw rift in the party and igniting anger among those in its progressive wing who see retaliation for their opposition to DNC Chairman Tom Perez.

The ousters come ahead of the DNC's first meeting, in Las Vegas, Nevada, since Perez took over as chairman with a pledge this year to unite a party that had become badly divided during the brutal Bernie Sanders-Hillary Clinton 2016 primary race.


The removal and demotion of a handful of veteran operatives stood out, as did what critics charge is the over-representation of Clinton-backed members on the Rules and Bylaws Committee, which helps set the terms for the party's presidential primary, though other Sanders and Ellison backers remain represented.
Those who have been pushed out include:
  • Ray Buckley, the New Hampshire Democratic chairman and longtime DNC official who ran against Perez for chair before backing Rep. Keith Ellison, D-Minn. Buckley lost his spots on the Executive Committee and DNC Rules Committee.
  • James Zogby, the president of the Arab American Institute and prominent Sanders backer, is no longer co-chair of the Resolutions Committee and is off the Executive Committee, a spot he has held since 2001.
  • Alice Germond, the party’s longtime former secretary and a vocal Ellison backer, who was removed from her at-large appointment to the DNC.
  • Barbra Casbar Siperstein, who supported Ellison and Buckley, was tossed from the Executive Committee.
The moves exposed a rift in the partnership between Perez and his deputy chair, Ellison, who have publicly broadcast their "bromance" since Perez tapped Ellison for the post in a show of unity after their hard-fought race this year for the party's chairmanship.
It's one thing to make nice for the good of the party, and ignore, among other things, an Islamaphobic whisper campaign during the contest for DNC chair.

It's another thing to stand idly by while these same people continue a vendetta against the liberal wing of the party.

Walk away.  It's time.  Just walk away.

I Did Not Expect This

Warning, graphic video
The officers who brutalized David Dao on a United Airlines flight a few months ago have been fired:
According to the initial police report, Dao was said to have pushed away an officer's arm, causing "the subject to fall, hit, and injure his mouth on the armrest on the other side of the aisle." Another officer corroborated that account, but none of this is visible on the videos passengers posted online.

Thomas Demetrio, Dao's attorney, said video evidence is what doomed the officers.

"Do not state something that is clearly contrary to video viewed by the world," he said in a statement. "Our cell phones are the best deterrent to ensure mistreatment becomes a rarity."

The inspector general inquiry said that officers had "deliberately removed material facts from their reports." Aviation officials fired the security official who had "improperly escalated the incident" as well as an official involved in removing facts from a report on the incident.
You have the constitutional right to tape LEOs in action.  Use it.

As the counselor notes, "Cell phones are the best deterrent to ensure mistreatment becomes a rarity."

This May Be the Worst Thing That I Have Ever Said

We just had a workplace shooting in Maryland and Delaware yesterday.

3 dead and 6 wounded. Just another day at the office.

My wife and I were discussing this as I was getting ready to go to work, and I said, "My advice is always to shoot the boss, not your co-workers."

Sharon,* ever the optimist, asked a very wise question, "How about not shooting anyone."

Without thinking, I replied:
This is America, that's not an option.
That was literally the first thought in my head, like some kind of like a Rorschach test.

That may have been the worst thing that I have ever said in my entire life.

I'm not sure if it reflects poorly on me, on our society, on my understanding of our society, or the universe.

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

18 October 2017

The Very Definition of Concern Trolling

Douglas Schoen, former Clinton pollster and current Fox News "Democrat", has advice for the Democratic Party, "Genuflect to Wall Street:
Many of the most prominent voices in the Democratic Party, led by Bernie Sanders, are advocating wealth redistribution through higher taxes and Medicare for all, and demonizing banks and Wall Street.

Memories in politics are short, but those policies are vastly different from the program of the party’s traditional center-left coalition. Under Bill Clinton, that coalition balanced the budget, acknowledged the limits of government and protected the essential programs that make up the social safety net.
Mass incarceration, particularly of people of color, destroying welfare, NAFTA, etc.

Yeah, good times, good times.

Go Cheney yourself.

Consider the Source

Andrew Ross Sorkin, the New York Times's cheerleader for Wall Street and its ilk, has finally noticed that Silicon Valley unicorns valuations are 6 pounds of sh%$ in a 5 pound bag:
Uber is said to be worth $62.5 billion. Airbnb is valued at $31 billion. Elon Musk’s SpaceX Technologies is valued at $21 billion, and Pinterest at $12.3 billion.

Those eye-popping valuations regularly fill articles and water-cooler conversations in Silicon Valley, all under the umbrella of “unicorn” companies — a term for private companies that are said to be worth more than $1 billion. That moniker now applies to at least 135 businesses, making the descriptions of them as unicorns, well, less apt. (Maybe donkeys?) Early investors and employees spend countless hours calculating and recalculating how much their stake is worth.

Here is some bad news for them: Those valuations may be a bit of myth — or perhaps wishful thinking.

In Palo Alto, Calif., just down the road from many of the biggest tech companies and the most influential venture capitalists, a professor at Stanford University has quietly been working on a project to crunch the valuation numbers behind some of these private companies.

Ilya A. Strebulaev and another professor working with him, Will Gornall of the University of British Columbia, have come to a startling conclusion: The average unicorn is worth half the headline price tag that is put out after each new valuation.

And if the special side deals that most unicorn companies offer to certain investors — more on this sleight of hand in a moment — are taken into account, almost half of the companies would fall below the $1 billion threshold.
Of course, Sorkin still cannot bring himself to drop the F-bomb (Fraud), but this is systemic fraud.

I don't just want to see sanity and honesty in Silicon Valley, I want to see venture capitalists frog-marched out of their offices in handcuffs.

This is Called, "Owning It."

The Tory Chancellor of the Exchequer Phillip Hammond, has claimed that Jeremy Corbyn is an, "Existential challenge to our economic model," Jeremy Corbyn wholeheartedly agrees with the Conservative official:
Jeremy Corbyn will say the chancellor, Philip Hammond, is right to call the Labour party an “existential challenge to our economic model” as he pledges to lead a government that will overturn the economic status quo.

Corbyn will tell the Co-operative party conference on Saturday that Labour would forge a fresh consensus for a modern economy, which would allow digital platforms and technological advancement such as automation to flourish in ways that empowered workers.

Responding to Hammond’s warning in his speech at this month’s Conservative conference, Corbyn will say the chancellor is “absolutely right” to say that Labour is threatening to destroy the current economic model, adding that the current system “allows homelessness to double, 4 million children to live in poverty and over a million older people not getting the care they need”.
This is how you do it.

Tweet of the Day

Yea, pretty much.


Sand cats are the only cats that live exclusively in the desert, and sand kittens have just been filmed for the first time.

Cute alert:

17 October 2017

Interesting Twitter Fact

I would note that most, if not all, of these statues to genocidal anti-Semites have been erected since the fall of the USSR.

It ain't just history.

H/t Mark Ames.

Tweet of the Day

This tweet is making the rounds:

This is my favorite response:
Many of the responses to Lewinsky's tweet are respectful and considerate.

There are a fair number, however, are beyond contempt.

My guess is that there is a high correlation with these tweets and, "I'm with her," bumper stickers.

H/t naked capitalism.

Whiskey Tango Foxtrot?

Kevin Wilshaw, a longtime of the National Front in the UK, and a self-admitted Nazi, has eschewed his previous radical racism and come out as having a Jewish mother and being Gay:
A white supremacist active as recently as the start of this year says today he is publicly renouncing 40 years of hate. Speaking on Channel 4 News he comes out as gay for the first time – and admits to a violent past. After a lifetime of involvement with the far-right Kevin Wilshaw announces on Channel 4 News that he is leaving the movement – at the same time publicly coming out as gay.

The well known National Front organiser in the 1980s was still active in white supremacist groups earlier this year – including speaking at events.

But tonight on Channel 4 News he explains for the very first time why he is publicly disavowing the movement – sharing his secrets, explaining how he was both a Neo-Nazi and of Jewish heritage , while admitting to violent acts and what motivated his hatred.

Kevin Wilshaw also opens up about his Jewish mother.

“She was part Jewish, maiden name was Benjamin, we have Jewish blood on that side.
And here is the money quote:
Mr Wilshaw admits that being a Nazi who is gay – but with a Jewish background – is a contradiction.
Gee, you think?

BTW, Mr. Wilshaw, according to Jewish law, you are Jewish, because your mother was Jewish.

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

Nope, No Anthropogenic Climate Change Here

Yep, a Hurricane, hitting Ireland
A hurricane is hitting Ireland.

You heard that right, Ireland

This is the furthest east time ever that a hurricane has been observed in the modern era:
The system formerly known as Hurricane Ophelia is moving into Ireland on Monday, bringing "status red" weather throughout the day to the island. The Irish National Meteorological Service, Met Éireann, has warned that, "Violent and destructive gusts of 120 to 150km/h are forecast countrywide, and in excess of these values in some very exposed and hilly areas. There is a danger to life and property."

Ophelia transitioned from a hurricane to an extra-tropical system on Sunday, but that only marginally diminished its threat to Ireland and the United Kingdom on Monday, before it likely dissipates near Norway on Tuesday. The primary threat from the system was high winds, with heavy rains.

Forecasters marveled at the intensification of Ophelia on Saturday, as it reached Category 3 status on the Saffir-Simpson scale and became a major hurricane. For a storm in the Atlantic basin, this is the farthest east that a major hurricane has been recorded during the satellite era of observations. Additionally, it was the farthest north, at 35.9 degrees north, that an Atlantic major hurricane has existed this late in the year since 1939.

"Ophelia is breaking new ground for a major hurricane," National Hurricane Center scientist Eric Blake wrote on Twitter. "Typically those waters much too cool for anything this strong." He also added, "I really can’t believe I’m seeing a major just south of the Azores." Seas near where Ophelia intensified Saturday were 1-2 degrees Celsius above normal.
It goes without saying that we are in for some serious hurt over the next few years.

It also follows that climate change deniers are full of crap.

Headline of the day

It's Time for Democrats to Stop Being Such Gormless Chumps
The Week
The thesis of the article is that Democrats need understand that Republicans have no respect for the traditions of government, and that the Democrats insistence on preserving these niceties, when Republicans end them as soon as they become inconvenient, is a sucker's game:
One of the most marked characteristics of 21st century political history is the one-sided application of political norms. Democrats have done things like abolish earmarks, adopt "PAYGO" budgeting (in which the long-term stability of the national debt is written into the budget process), and respect the "blue slip" rule, which gives senators a veto over judicial appointments in their home state.

In return, Republicans have shredded those norms the moment they got in the way of their application of power. Word is, they now plan to use imaginary future growth to sidestep PAYGO rules, and it seems likely that the blue slip rule is next on the chopping block.

It's time for Democrats to stop being such gormless chumps, and start matching Republicans' procedural hardball.
The problem right now is that there is no blow-back for Republicans doing this, because when the Democrats get back in power, they pretend that the past never happened.

To quote David Mamet (he wrote the script), "They pull a knife, you pull a gun. He sends one of yours to the hospital, you send one of his to the morgue."

An Old Hollywood Story

Here is a gem buried in a discussion about plans for the tech giants to take over the entertainment world:
Several times in conversations with people in Hollywood, I heard the tech people referred to as “dumb money” — the sort of outsiders (in the past, they came from oil, then from finance) who parade through town looking to call the shots. One Hollywood executive who has worked often with tech companies told me: “I wouldn’t say we’ve looked at them with fear, no.”
Yeah, pretty much.

I Have a Script Treatment for the Sharknado XIX

It appears that scientists have discovered that sometimes, alligators hunt and kill sharks:
American alligators are frequently seen ambling around golf courses in Florida as players warily compete their rounds. But new research suggests the reptiles partake in a far more outlandish habit when away from the greens – eating sharks.

US researchers have documented instances of alligators preying upon small sharks along the Atlantic and Gulf coasts. A study, published in the journal Southeastern Naturalist, claims to be the first scientific study of the largely unseen struggle between the two feared predators.

“The frequency of one predator eating the other is really about size dynamic,” said James Nifong, a researcher at Kansas State University. “If a small shark swims by an alligator and the alligator feels like it can take the shark down, it will, but we also reviewed some old stories about larger sharks eating smaller alligators.”
Nature in all its glory.

16 October 2017

Germany Hegemony in Europe, Civil Turmoil in Spain, Fascists in Austria ……… I'm Sensing a Pattern

As the saying goes, "History doesn't repeat itself but it often rhymes, and Vienna is today's episode of European slam poetry:
Austria became the latest European country to take a sharp turn right on Sunday, with the conservative People’s Party riding a hard-line position on immigration to victory in national elections and likely to form a government with a nationalist party that has long advocated for an even tougher stance.

The result puts the 31-year-old foreign minister and People’s Party leader, Sebastian Kurz, in line to become Austria’s next chancellor after a campaign in which he emphasized the need to strengthen border controls, reduce caps on refugees and slash benefits for newcomers.

Much of Kurz’s rhetoric echoed positions long held by the Freedom Party, which for decades has anchored the far right of politics in this nation of 8.7 million.

With nearly all results counted as of Monday morning, the Freedom Party was in second place at 27.4 percent, with the ruling Social Democrats trailing close behind at 26.7 percent. The People’s Party was the decisive winner, at 31.6 percent.
 I hope that I'm just being alarmist here, but I fear that I'm being prescient.

The Obvious Point Is That the Kurds Don't Have Their Sh%$ Together

I'd like to see a Kurdish homeland some day, but it's not going to happen until Kurdish dynastic conflicts don't take precedence over their own sense of nationhood.

Until then, they will be played off against each other for the benefit of other peoples:
After weeks of threats and posturing, the Iraqi government carried out a military assault on Monday to curb the independence drive by the nation’s Kurdish minority, wresting oil fields and a contested city from separatists pushing to break away from Iraq.

The deadly clashes pitted two crucial American allies against each other, with government forces seizing Kirkuk from Kurds who had intended to build a separate nation in the northern third of Iraq.

The Kurds voted overwhelmingly for independence from Iraq in a referendum three weeks ago. The United States, Baghdad and most countries in the region had condemned the vote, fearing it would fuel ethnic divisions, lead to the breakup of Iraq and hobble the fight against the Islamic State.

Iraqi government troops and the Kurdish forces, known as pesh merga, are both essential elements of the American-led coalition battling the Islamic State, also known as ISIS or ISIL. Both forces are supplied and trained by the United States.

Despite the resounding success of the referendum, Iraqi forces were able to take Kirkuk in a single day and with little fight, partly because it is a multiethnic city of Kurds, Turkmens and Arabs, and partly because the Kurds themselves were divided.

Baghdad had forged an agreement with the Kurdish faction that controlled most of the strategic points of Kirkuk, allowing government forces to sweep into much of the city without firing a shot. But skirmishes with another Kurdish faction left nearly 30 dead and dozens wounded, according to local hospitals.
(emphasis mine)

They are a people, but they are not yet a nation.

Of Course, It's P G & F%$#ing E

Well, authorities are now looking at the potential cause of the devastating fires in northern California.

At the top of the list is tree branches hitting power-lines.

The power-lines in the area are operated by Pacific Gas and Electric, and PG&E has a very long history of short changing basic maintenance to improve the bottom line for shareholders.

This resulted in it being hit with significant fines for (quick Google) the Butte Fire (2015), the Rough and Ready fire (1994), the San Bruno gas explosion (2010), and (of course) poisoning people in Hinkley with toxic waste. (the movie Erin Brokovich was based on this)

The fires started almost simultaneously with reports of power outages around the origin points.
As the first reports came in Sunday night of numerous fires that would grow into one of the most destructive wildfire disasters in California history, emergency dispatchers in Sonoma County received multiple calls of power lines falling down and electrical transformers exploding.

In all, according to a review of emergency radio traffic by the Bay Area News Group, Sonoma County dispatchers sent out fire crews to at least 10 different locations across the county over a 90-minute period starting at 9:22 pm to respond to 911 calls and other reports of sparking wires and problems with the county’s electrical system amid high winds.

State fire officials said Tuesday that they are still investigating the cause of the blazes, which as of late Tuesday had killed 17 people and destroyed more than 2,000 homes in Sonoma, Napa and other Northern California counties.

But the reports of the power equipment failures began to turn the spotlight on PG&E, the giant San Francisco-based utility, raising questions about how well it maintained its equipment in the area and whether it adequately cut back trees from power lines to reduce fire risk — as required by state law.


PG&E and other large utilities in California have a long history of being found responsible for major wildfires because of inadequate maintenance of their power lines.

In April, the state Public Utilities Commission fined PG&E $8.3 million for failing to maintain a power line that sparked the Butte Fire in Amador County in September 2015. That fire burned for 22 days, killing two people, destroying 549 homes and charring 70,868 acres.

CalFire announced last year that it will seek to force PG&E to pay $90 million in firefighting costs. More than 1,000 lawsuits and claims are still pending against the utility.

“It was more than just a lack of maintenance. It was a complete disregard for their requirements of vegetation management in rural areas,” said Burlingame attorney Frank Pitre, who sued on behalf of the victims.
PG&E claims that these winds were "hurricane force", which is a lie.

Winds were in the 45 mph range (sustained) with gusts (3-5 seconds) to 75 mph, which are not at all unusual for California.

If they hadn't been bingeing on their own seed corn to overpay senior management, PG&E would have had no problems, and the current disaster would not have happened.

These sorts of disasters will get worse with the impact of anthropogenic climate change.

California privately owned utilities in general, and PGE in particular, have a long record of  neglecting maintenance, and PUC has an equally long history of being in bed with these companies.

Now might be a good time to look at making municipally owned utilities easier via the initiative petition process.

It gives cheaper rates and better run utilities.

Strike while the iron, and the forest, and a few thousand homes, are hot.