22 February 2018

Your Mainstream Media

This week, the New York Times rightly called so-called firearms expert John Lott a fraud.

Last week, they published an OP/ED on gun control by John Lott:
Remember last week, when the New York Times ran an op-ed from the gun ‘researcher’ John Lott, who has been thoroughly and consistently debunked by basically everyone else who researches gun violence?

Apparently, the Times —yes, the people wot run the bad op-ed in the first place—does not remember! The paper issued an editorial today on criminal justice reform, which included this paragraph dunking on Lott:
Perhaps the most insidious part of the Trump administration’s approach to criminal justice lies in its efforts to link crime to its broader crackdown on immigration. In a speech last month, Mr. Sessions said undocumented immigrants are far more likely than American citizens to commit crimes, a claim he found in a paper by John Lott, the disreputable economist best known for misusing statistics to suit his own ideological ends. In this case, it appears Mr. Lott misread his own data, which came from Arizona and in fact showed the opposite of what he claimed: Undocumented immigrants commit fewer crimes than citizens, as the vast majority of research on the topic has found.
I would like to note that I also linked to that same Cato Institute debunking of Lott’s racist fake research, which tells me the Times editorial board is reading my posts. Hi!!! You should all resign!!!
 Seriously.  Who does the New York Times think that they are?  The Wall Street Journal?

Cheer the IT Revolution

It turns out that the increasing use of electronic health records saves neither time nor money, but this hasn't stopped a rush by the government and the private healthcare industry from
I thought of working words like “debacle,” “scam,” or “bezzle” into the headline, but today is my day to be kind (and the entire topic really demands that I pull on my yellow waders and write another “Credentialism and Corruption” post, which I might do at a later time). However, the headlines give a sense of what a bombshell this study should be for the EHR industry. On the spectrum from reluctant admissions all the way through to The Bezzle:
  1. Electronic health records don’t cut administrative costs Harvard Gazette (February 20, 2018).
  2. Electronic Health Records Don’t Reduce Administrative Costs Harvard Business School (February 20, 2018).
  3. EHRs fall short in reducing administrative costs Health Data Management (February 21, 2018).
  4. Why health IT experts think Apple will succeed where Google failed with medical records Health IT and CIO Review
  5. An Introduction to Medicalchain: Blockchain for Electronic Health Records CryptoSlate. (This is from February 8, but I couldn’t resist.)
The complete study (an “Original Investigation”) is here at the Journal of the American Medical Association. Unfortunately, the study is paywalled, and the study material that JAMA exposes muffles the bombshell. From the abtract, the methodology:
IT is going to change the world making unachievable claims based on bad/non-existent evidence, and all we have to do throw money at them.

The Most Contemptible People in the World

That would be the National Collegiate Athletic Association, which is literally arguing that its "student athletes" are slaves:
In the United States, college athletes — particularly those who compete at some of the largest football and basketball programs — generate not millions but billions of dollars for universities, brands, and television networks. In 2015, the top programs made a combined $9.1 billion. The NCAA, for its part, just signed an $8.8 billion dollar deal with CBS to air March Madness, the college basketball championship tournament.

………

That very obvious dynamic undergirds a lawsuit filed by former NCAA athlete Lawrence “Poppy” Livers asserting that scholarship students who play sports are employees and deserve pay. The Livers case argues that student-athletes who get scholarships should at least be paid as work-study students for the time they put in.

What the NCAA did in response to the lawsuit is as vile as anything going on in sports right now. I had to see it for myself before I believed it. At the root of its legal argument, the NCAA is relying on one particular case for why NCAA athletes should not be paid. That case is Vanskike v. Peters.

Only there’s an important detail: Daniel Vanskike was a prisoner at Stateville Correctional Center in Joliet, Illinois, and Howard Peters was the Director of the state Department of Corrections. In 1992, Vanskike and his attorneys argued that as a prisoner he should be paid a federal minimum wage for his work. The court, in its decision, cited the 13th Amendment and rejected the claim.

The 13th Amendment is commonly hailed as the law that finally ended slavery in America. But the amendment has an important carve-out: it kept involuntary service legal for those who have been convicted of a crime. “Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction,” the amendment says. It’s that phrase — “except as a punishment for crime” — which allows American prisons to force their inmates to do whatever work they want or need them to do.

The use of the case stems from several other law cases alleging unpaid labor; two of them are previous lawsuits against the NCAA in which the case was cited as precedent, and the NCAA won.

………

In their response to the NCAA’s motion to dismiss, Livers’s lawyers are arguing that the precedent was mistaken for applying the 13th Amendment exception for unpaid prison labor in a case dealing with non-prisoners.

“Defense Counsel’s insistence that Vanskike be applied here is not only legally frivolous, but also deeply offensive to all Scholarship Athletes – and particularly to African-Americans,” Livers’s rebuttal to the NCAA’s motion says. “Comparing athletes to prisoners is contemptible.”
 The NCAA is showing an incorrigible nerve to use this case, Vanskike v. Peters, as one of its justifications for not paying student-athletes. The Vanskike case has been cited in the 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals 14 times before, but in each of those 14 cases there were prisoners arguing that they should be paid a fair wage for their work.

Yet the NCAA wants to rely on this case and to call on the 13th Amendment. The body that runs college sports wants to use a justification for the slave labor of convicted criminals to justify its outrageous greed.
I have an idea for a sporting event, it would involve senior NCAA officials fighting each other to the death.

We could call it the Hunger Games.

Tweet of the Day


Word!

Nope. Nope. Nope. Nope. Nope. Nope. Nope.

New York's 19th Congressional district is allegedly competitive, though it went for Trump in 2016, and John Faso defeated Zephyr Techout about 8 points, so my guess is that it is not as competitive as people would like to think.

Patrick Ryan is running for US Congress in the Democratic primary in ew York's 19th congressional district.

Patrick Ryan has also made a living spying on progressives for the state security apparatus for about a decade:
Patrick Ryan, a congressional candidate from New York, is leaning on his experience as a small business entrepreneur to establish his readiness for office, but he has curiously failed to mention the business he used to work in: domestic surveillance.

Seven years ago, Ryan, then working at a firm called Berico Technologies, compiled a plan to create a real-time surveillance operation of left-wing groups and labor unions, hoping business lobbyists would pay top dollar to monitor and disrupt the actions of activist groups across the country. At one point, the proposal included the idea to spy on the families of high-profile Democratic activists and plant fake documents with labor unions in a bid to discredit them.

The pitch, a joint venture with a now-defunct company called HBGary Federal and the Peter Thiel-backed company Palantir Technologies, however, crumbled in 2011 after it was exposed in a series of news reports.

Years later, Ryan pivoted to a startup called Dataminr, a data analytics company that provided social media monitoring solutions for law enforcement clients. Dataminr, which received financial support from the CIA’s venture capital arm, produced real-time updates about activists for law enforcement. For example, according to documents obtained by the American Civil Liberties Union of California and reported by The Intercept for the first time, Dataminr helped track social media posts relating to Black Lives Matter.

Ryan is one of several Democrats hoping to challenge freshman Rep. John Faso, R-N.Y., for a seat that is expected to be among the most competitive in the country. The Hudson Valley district contains both staunchly conservative and liberal pockets. Donald Trump won the district by a seven-point margin in 2016, but even when Barack Obama took the district by six points in 2012, Democrats failed to win the congressional seat. Republicans have held the 19th District since it was formed eight years ago. This year, as Democrats anticipate a wave of victories in response to Trump and the GOP’s wildly unpopular agenda, they hope that the 19th District, will finally turn blue.


………

In July 2015, Ryan joined Dataminr, a startup that has worked closely with clients to make sense out of vast amounts of social media data. The company, as The Intercept first reported in 2016, was funded through an investment from In-Q-Tel, the venture capital arm of the CIA. The company, formed in consultation with Twitter, maintains access to Twitter’s proprietary “firehose” of user data, giving it an edge in social media data analysis.

The firm amassed law enforcement clients, including the FBI and Joint Regional Intelligence Center, a fusion center used by the government to alert multiple law enforcement departments in the Los Angeles region of potential threats. Documents, uncovered by the ACLU of California through a public records investigation of social media monitoring software, show that Dataminr monitored tweets mentioning Black Lives Matter on behalf of the JRIC. The emails show that Dataminr’s alerts vacuumed up tweets from now-Intercept columnist Shaun King, among other activists, in reports sent to law enforcement.

In another email obtained by the ACLU of California, Dataminr pitched the Los Angeles Police Department to use its tool to track protests, among other events of interest to law enforcement. Dataminr’s social media tracking tools are “highly valued by our clients at FBI CTD, NYPD, DoD and all ‘big five’ intel agencies,” the pitch continued.

In 2016, following a series of news reports on Dataminr’s relationship with law enforcement, Twitter announced Dataminr would no longer service fusion centers, and would restrict the use of its backend Twitter data for its law enforcement and intelligence agency clients.


Four years before he joined Dataminr, Ryan’s work with Berico Technologies was revealed in a hack of its partner firm, HBGary Federal. How his efforts to monitor activists on behalf of business interests were disclosed in an unusual story of spy versus spy.
 
In 2011, HBGary Federal boasted to the Financial Times that it was working on a plan to undermine WikiLeaks, which at the time was threatening to expose documents from Bank of America. In retaliation, a splinter group from the hacktivist collective LulzSec infiltrated network administrator from HBGary Federal, stealing thousands of emails from the firm and posting them onto the web.

The emails revealed that HBGary Federal had not only pitched a plan to Bank of America to track and discredit supporters of WikiLeaks, including The Intercept’s co-founder Glenn Greenwald, but had developed a larger business proposal to sell activist surveillance to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the largest pro-business lobbying organization in Washington, D.C.
Great.  Peter Thiel in drag.

No.  Just no.

Seriously no.

No.

21 February 2018

File Under, "Dystopian"

It appears that the car of the future have all the respect for your privacy that Mark Zuckerberg does, so expect hemorrhoid ads on your multi-function display:
Picture this: You’re driving home from work, contemplating what to make for dinner, and as you idle at a red light near your neighborhood pizzeria, an ad offering $5 off a pepperoni pie pops up on your dashboard screen.

Are you annoyed that your car’s trying to sell you something, or pleasantly persuaded? Telenav Inc., a company developing in-car advertising software, is betting you won’t mind much. Car companies—looking to earn some extra money—hope so, too.

Automakers have been installing wireless connections in vehicles and collecting data for decades. But the sheer volume of software and sensors in new vehicles, combined with artificial intelligence that can sift through data at ever-quickening speeds, means new services and revenue streams are quickly emerging. The big question for automakers now is whether they can profit off all the driver data they’re capable of collecting without alienating consumers or risking backlash from Washington.

“Carmakers recognize they’re fighting a war over customer data,” said Roger Lanctot, who works with automakers on data monetization as a consultant for Strategy Analytics. “Your driving behavior, location, has monetary value, not unlike your search activity.”
I just want an off switch for the car's connectivity features, because, in addition to eschewing the aforementioned advertisements, I don't want some script kiddie turning off my anti-lock brakes.

20 February 2018

Be Careful What You Wish for, You Might Get It

For years, the US has been demanding that European allies spend more on their military

Now that they are, they are also setting up European cooperation mechanisms, and so now the Pentagon is upset about baby steps toward European military autonomy:
For years, the US has been complaining that EU countries do not spend enough on their own military capabilities.

“Now we’re trying to do that, and it’s not right either,” Jean-Claude Juncker, the European Commission president, told delegates at the Munich Security Conference this weekend.

A high-level annual meeting of US and European politicians, generals and defence experts, the conference was this year dominated by calls from Germany and France for Europe to stand on its own two feet — and US qualms about what that might mean for the transatlantic alliance.

Indeed US misgivings about attempts to forge closer defence ties within the EU could become a significant irritant in relations with the US.
Why would Washington have a problem with this?

For the same reason that they expanded NATO to Russia's border, because they want to ensure that Europe remains a market for US military hardware, and this development implies that Europe is moving toward become a competitor in this whole "Merchants of Death" business:
Washington’s attention is focused on permanent structured co-operation, or Pesco, which is shaping up to be the EU’s most serious attempt yet at forging closer defence ties. Of its 28 member states, 25 have signed up to the scheme that involves 17 projects ranging from improving military mobility to developing a new infantry fighting vehicle.

………

Some Europeans suspect that US reservations are focused less on concerns about Nato than on fears for the US defence industry. “If the EU develops its own fighter aircraft, it won’t need any more Lockheed Martin F-35s,” said one senior MP from Germany’s governing CDU party. “If we really consolidate the European arms industry then it’s that industry that will get the contracts from the EU and that means more competition for US arms exporters.”
(emphasis mine)

Not a surprise, seeing as how the US has basically turned the State Department into the sales arm of the Military Industrial complex.

How it Should Be Done

If you want to run for office as a real liberal, watch Jeremy Corbyn and take copious notes:
Jeremy Corbyn pledged that a Labour government would make it harder for asset strippers to take over U.K. companies while vowing to make finance the “servants of industry not the masters of us all.”

While his full-throttle attacks on bankers have been become familiar to the City of London, his prescription for blocking hostile takeovers is specific and likely to rattle the world of business.

In a speech to the EEF manufacturers’ organisation, he will evoke the case of Melrose Industries Plc’s bid for GKN Plc as an example where action to fend off the turnaround specialist is justified. If elected, Corbyn would broaden the scope of the “public interest test” to allow the government to act.

“Take GKN, one of the world’s oldest and most prestigious engineering firms, which employs 6,000 workers across the U.K.,” Corbyn will say on Tuesday. “And yet GKN is currently facing a hostile, allegedly debt-fuelled takeover bid by Melrose, a company with a history of opportunistic asset-stripping.”

“It’s an all too familiar story, like when Kraft took over Cadburys,” Corbyn will tell an audience of manufacturers at their annual conference in London. “A valuable company could be sacrificed so that a few can make a quick buck.”
Understand that it is important to actually have credibility to make such a claim, which means that things like paid speaking gigs at Wall Street or fundraising appeals to that same boulevard tend to eliminate this as a valid tactic.

If you want to talk the talk, you have to walk the walk, as Corbyn has done for decades.

Linkage


To my mind, this is the quintessential country music song: (Warning: kind of NSFW)

19 February 2018

The New Pennsylvania Map is Out

Following the complete inability of the legislature and the governor to agree on come up with something that meets the requirements of the Pennsylvania constitution, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court has drawn the new Congressional map, and it appears to be a far fairer map:
The Pennsylvania Supreme Court on Monday imposed a new congressional district map that upends previous boundaries, renumbers districts across the state and gives a potential boost to Democrats in the 2018 House elections.

Under the court's redrawn map, districts more closely align with county lines and only 13 counties are split among two or three districts. By contrast, under the last map, enacted by the state legislature in 2011, more than twice as many counties were split among multiple districts.

In striking down that map last month as unconstitutional, the justices said the new districts should be as compact and contiguous as possible. Their new map, they wrote in an order, is “superior or comparable” to proposals submitted by the participants and interested groups during in the legal challenge that led to the historic ruling.

The reconfigured map prompted a sharp rebuke from top Republican legislators, who said honoring it would create a "constitutional crisis." Extending a political clash that has roiled the state for months, they said they might challenge the map — or the justices' authority to impose it — in federal court as early as Tuesday.
The US Supreme Court has already declined to review this, since the ruling is under the aegis of the Pennsylvania constitution, so I see it as somewhat unlikely that a Federal court overruling this.

The only way that I see an injunction is if the Supreme Court reverses itself and agrees to take the case directly.

They gave the legislature and governor an opportunity (albeit a short time) to come together on this, and they failed, so the court had to draw their own map.

18 February 2018

Ex-CIA Director Tells the Truth

On Fox News, (where else) Former CIA director James Woolsey admitted that the US routinely meddles in foreign elections, but "Only for very good cause," because, I guess it's OK when we do it.

You see laundering money to politicians in foreign countries is MUCH better than trolling on Facebook and Twitter:
Following a federal indictment of Russians accused of meddling in the U.S election, a former CIA director on Friday said the U.S. “probably” meddles in other countries’ elections, as well.

The Russian embassy flagged his comments.

When asked whether the U.S. interferes in other countries’ elections, James Woolsey said, “Well, only for a very good cause in the interests of democracy."

“Oh, probably, but it was for the good of the system in order to avoid communists taking over,” he told Laura Ingraham on her Fox News show on Friday night.

Woolsey served as CIA director under former President Clinton.
The New York Times has suddenly discovered this historical fact as well:
Bags of cash delivered to a Rome hotel for favored Italian candidates. Scandalous stories leaked to foreign newspapers to swing an election in Nicaragua. Millions of pamphlets, posters and stickers printed to defeat an incumbent in Serbia.

The long arm of Vladimir Putin? No, just a small sample of the United States’ history of intervention in foreign elections.

On Tuesday, American intelligence chiefs warned the Senate Intelligence Committee that Russia appears to be preparing to repeat in the 2018 midterm elections the same full-on chicanery it unleashed in 2016: hacking, leaking, social media manipulation and possibly more. Then on Friday, Robert Mueller, the special counsel, announced the indictments of 13 Russians and three companies, run by a businessman with close Kremlin ties, laying out in astonishing detail a three-year scheme to use social media to attack Hillary Clinton, boost Donald Trump and sow discord.

Most Americans are understandably shocked by what they view as an unprecedented attack on our political system. But intelligence veterans, and scholars who have studied covert operations, have a different, and quite revealing, view.

“If you ask an intelligence officer, did the Russians break the rules or do something bizarre, the answer is no, not at all,” said Steven L. Hall, who retired in 2015 after 30 years at the C.I.A., where he was the chief of Russian operations. The United States “absolutely” has carried out such election influence operations historically, he said, “and I hope we keep doing it.”
Hypocrisy much?

This Has Gotta Hurt

Republican Kevin Nicholson is running in the primary for a chance to run against Tammy Baldwin's for US Senate.

His parents have donated the maximum to the Baldwin campaign:
This is amusing. Apparently, Kevin Nicholson's parents are staunch Democrats, so much so they'd rather give their money to Tammy Baldwin than a Republican, even if he's their own son.
Sharper than a serpent's tooth, neh?

Tweet of the Day


Yeah, pretty much.

17 February 2018

Brazil Shows Us What We Need for Good Healthcare

It appears that all you need is a community minded hyper-violent drug lord:
Thomaz Vieira Gomes, also known as 2N, is considered one of the most dangerous criminals in Rio de Janeiro, but recently he actually did something decent, albeit still illegal, for once.

He and his gang kidnapped two male nurses and made them vaccinate the poor people of his favela against yellow fever.

For months, Brazil has been dealing with a yellow fever epidemic that has already left dozens dead. Despite the Health Ministry’s plans to vaccinate millions of people in the hopes of containing the outbreak, immunisation centres struggle to keep up with the high number of patients, and, as always, the poorest communities are usually ignored.

………

On January 27th, the young gang leader and a few of his cronies descended on a local state-run clinic in two black cars, took as many syringes and vaccine doses as they could find, and kidnapped two of the male nurses on duty that night.

They then drove to the Amarelinho bar in Salgueiro where the two nurses spent hours administering yellow fever vaccines to members of the local community.

………

After doing their job, the two victims were reportedly taken back to their workplace.

………

Even the country’s former Minister of Environment took to Twitter to comment on this bizarre story, saying that while 2N is still an “a-hole” his actions were a “public service”.
I'm not entirely sure WHAT the lesson to be learned here, but I am sure that there IS a lesson to be learned here.

16 February 2018

He Needs to Be Updating Obituaries for the next 6 Months

According to a now-deleted tweet, New York Times reporter Eric Lipton, the real tragedy of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting was that its victims were well spoken whites:

I really cannot read these comments in any other way.

I can think of no other term to describe this than, "White privilege."

Cowardly Pissant

Last year, Donald Trump signed an executive order repealing an Obama order limiting firearms access to people with psychological issues.

Now that someone has murdered 17 people at a high school, his administration is refusing to release a photo of his signing the order:
The White House has refused to release a photo of President Donald Trump signing a law making it easier for some people with mental illness to buy guns.

Despite repeated requests from CBS News, the White House press office has issued only a one-line response.

Mr Trump last year repealed an Obama-era rule allowing the names of certain people on mental health benefits to be entered into a criminal database.

The controversy follows a shooting by a suspect who had mental health issues.

………

CBS News says it requested a copy of the image - which White House photographers confirm exists - 12 separate times by phone or email.

White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders has only said in a note dated 19 April 2017: "We don't plan to release the picture at this time."

CBS News asked the White House again on Thursday to release the photo, but has not received a response.
He really is a chicken sh%$, isn't he.

Ronan Farrow Has Found His Journalistic Niche

Specifically, Farrow completely owns the "Powerful men behaving badly toward women," space:
In June, 2006, Donald Trump taped an episode of his reality-television show, “The Apprentice,” at the Playboy Mansion, in Los Angeles. Hugh Hefner, Playboy’s publisher, threw a pool party for the show’s contestants with dozens of current and former Playmates, including Karen McDougal, a slim brunette who had been named Playmate of the Year, eight years earlier. In 2001, the magazine’s readers voted her runner-up for “Playmate of the ’90s,” behind Pamela Anderson. At the time of the party, Trump had been married to the Slovenian model Melania Knauss for less than two years; their son, Barron, was a few months old. Trump seemed uninhibited by his new family obligations. McDougal later wrote that Trump “immediately took a liking to me, kept talking to me - telling me how beautiful I was, etc. It was so obvious that a Playmate Promotions exec said, ‘Wow, he was all over you - I think you could be his next wife.’ ”

Trump and McDougal began an affair, which McDougal later memorialized in an eight-page, handwritten document provided to The New Yorker by John Crawford, a friend of McDougal’s. When I showed McDougal the document, she expressed surprise that I had obtained it but confirmed that the handwriting was her own. 
I didn't care about this crap when Bill Clinton did it, and I don't care about it now.

The problem is not that Donald Trump f%$#ed Karen McDougal, it's that he f%$#ed the rest of us.

I Am So Going to Jail

Bob Muller has just indicted 13 Russians for trolling the election.

I gotta figure that my blog is going to pop up on his radar soon, and I look awful in orange. Damn:
The special counsel investigating Russia’s interference in the 2016 presidential election charged 13 Russian nationals and three Russian organizations on Friday with illegally trying to disrupt the American political process, including efforts designed to boost the presidential candidacy of Donald Trump and hurt that of his opponent, Hillary Clinton.

The indictment represents the first charges by the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, for meddling in the 2016 presidential election — the fundamental crime that he was assigned to investigate.

In a 37-page indictment filed in United States District Court, Mr. Mueller said that the 13 individuals have conspired since 2014 to violate laws that prohibit foreigners from spending money to influence federal elections in the United States.
Obviously, I am never a non-US citizen, but occasionally,* I am a troll, so there is a concern about legal jeopardy for me.

As I understand this, Mueller's interpretation of the law makes door to door canvassing, or volunteering in a campaign office by foreigners unlawful.

Of course, my standard caveat on such things, "I'm an engineer, not a lawyer, dammit!," applies.

*OK, maybe more than occasionally.
I love it when I get to go all Dr. Mccoy!

15 February 2018

Tekeli Li!!!!! Tekeli Li!!!!!

See the horror that is a Singing Furby Organ:

Finally

The good folks at the Nation looked at a work of fiction by Matt Taibbi, and promptly concluded that it was an admission of actual wrongdoing, and wrote it up.

It appears that they have been disabused of this notion:

About f%$#ing time.

Oh You Delicate Snowflake………

It appears that Peter Thiel is considering moving to California, because people in Silicon Valley do not recognize the depth of his Randian genius.

For someone who has made his money on regulatory arbitrage (PayPal) and government money (Palantir Technologies), he sure has a thin skin.

I guess Peter is just a, "Beautiful Cinnamon Roll Too Good For This World, Too Pure."

Thoughts and Prayers Motherf%$#er

17 dead, and as The Onion says, "Gorilla Sales Skyrocket After Latest Gorilla Attack."

The new normal.

Thoughts and prayers
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Thoughts and prayers
Thoughts and prayers
Thoughts and prayers
Thoughts and prayers

14 February 2018

Tweet of the Day



The truth hurts, doesn't it.

President Drones-a-lot in a very close 3 way competition for worst American recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize ever with Henry Kissinger and Jimmy Carter for a reason.

13 February 2018

And Locally………

The two officers from the Baltimore Gun Trace Task Force who did not plead out on the were convicted on corruption charges:
A federal jury convicted two Baltimore police detectives Monday for their roles in one of the biggest police corruption scandals in city history.

Detectives Daniel T. Hersl, 48, and Marcus R. Taylor, 31, were found guilty of racketeering, racketeering conspiracy and robbery. Prosecutors said they and their comrades on the Gun Trace Task Force had acted as “both cops and robbers,” using the power of their badges to steal large sums of money from residents under the guise of police work.

“Their business model was that the people that they were robbing had no recourse,” acting U.S. Attorney Stephen Schenning said after the verdict. “Who were they going to go to?”

Acting Police Commissioner Darryl De Sousa said the trial — in which several unindicted officers were also accused of wrongdoing — had uncovered “some of the most egregious and despicable acts ever perpetrated in law enforcement.”

Hersl and Taylor face up to 60 years in prison.
Of course, there were dozens, if not hundreds, of people in the department who had at least an inkling of what was going on, but the blue wall of silence held on for years.

Support your local police, huh?

Pass the Popcorn

It's taken a while, but Israeli police have finally recommended that Benjamin Netanyahu be indicted for corruption:
The Israeli police announced on Tuesday that there was sufficient evidence indicating Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu took bribes in two separate cases and acted "against public interests."

The two cases are the so-called Case 1000 – in which Netanyahu is suspected of accepting lavish gifts from wealthy benefactors in return for advancing their interests – and Case 2000, which alleges that Netanyahu tried to strike a deal that would have provided him with positive coverage in Israel's second largest newspaper, Yedioth Ahronoth, in exchange for hurting its free rival, Israel Hayom.

According to the police, in Case 1000, Netanyahu received champagne, cigars, jewelry and clothing, by demand and systematically, valued at over one million shekels (around $280,000). The gifts he received from the Israeli-American Hollywood producer Arnon Milchan increased significantly once Netanyahu was elected prime minister.
Seriously, after spending almost $3000.00 on "Ice Cream" in 2013, criminal profligacy should surprise no one.

As a supporter of Israel, I consider Netanyahu to be a bigger threat to the safety and security of the Jewish state than Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, so I pleased at this news.

Linkage


Quentin Tarantino’s Star Trek:

12 February 2018

I Have Never Been So Happy to Flush a Toilet

The water main has been fixed, and so we now have running water again.

Stopped Clock, NASA Edition

Donald Trump is proposing privatizing the international space station:
The Trump administration wants to turn the International Space Station into a kind of orbiting real estate venture run not by the government, but by private industry.

The White House plans to stop funding the station after 2024, ending direct federal support of the orbiting laboratory. But it does not intend to abandon the orbiting laboratory altogether and is working on a transition plan that could turn the station over to the private sector, according to an internal NASA document obtained by The Washington Post.
I actually agree with move.

In scientific terms, the ISS is complete pants.  It has consumed massive resources for next to no scientific value.

Of course, there really isn't a commercial justification for this either:  Anything that you want to set up tto take advantage of micro-gravity would be cheaper to do without people.

It's basically a white elephant.

The Further Adventures of Everyone's Favorite Slum Lord

I am referring, of course, to Jared Kushner, who is being sued for an exceptional level of slum lord sliminess.

They have been trying to move the suit to Federal court, where the jury would be less sympathetic.

Unfortunately for him, being in Federal court would require his company to reveal all the investors, and a judge has ruled that this information would not be kept under seal, so going to stay in Maryland state court:
Jared Kushner’s family real estate company has backtracked on its effort to have a lawsuit filed against it by tenants of its Baltimore-area apartment complexes moved to federal court, after a judge ruled that this transfer would require it to reveal the identities of its investment partners.

The tenants’ class-action lawsuit was filed in the Circuit Court for Baltimore City in September, four months after a ProPublica article co-published with the New York Times Magazine described the highly aggressive tactics used by Kushner Companies to pursue tenants and former tenants over allegedly unpaid rent or broken leases. The lawsuit alleged that Kushner Companies, which owns 15 large apartment complexes in the Baltimore area, was improperly piling late fees and court fees onto tenants’ bills, often in excess of state limits, and using the threat of immediate eviction to force payment.

In early November, the various Kushner affiliates named in the lawsuit filed a request to have the case moved from the state court, where it would be heard by a Baltimore City jury, to the federal courts, where it would be heard by a jury drawn from a broader geographic swath of Maryland. To get approval for this request, Kushner Companies had to show that none of the investors it has brought in as partners on the complexes are based in Maryland.

The Kushner affiliates also filed a motion in federal court seeking to have the list of the investment partners shielded from public view, citing the high degree of media interest in Jared Kushner, who as Kushner Companies CEO presided over the purchase of the complexes before moving into the White House to serve as senior advisor to President Donald Trump, his father-in-law. “Given the tenor of the media’s reporting of this case, including politically-motivated innuendo no doubt intended to disparage the First Family, there is foreseeable risk of prejudice to the privacy rights and reputations of innocent private investors,” the Kushner lawyers wrote.
So, who do you think that his investors are?

For real estate in general, and the Kushners in particular, helping people launder money with real estate is a core operating principle.

My guess is that it would be mobsters, drug lords, with Saudis, Chinese, and Russian oligarchs thrown in as a garnish.

This is Because They are Afraid of Going to Jail

People are wondering why Perdue Pharmaceuticals, a company known of hard selling its signature drug OxyContin, is shutting down its marketing to doctors.

It's pretty simple: They see the lawsuits coming, and the see the real possibility of criminal prosecutions, and they are trying to unwind the whole mess, and then cover it up.

Of course, this is America, so the Sackler family is at no risk of anything beyond a slap on the wrist, because billionaire criminals are above the law here.

Thanks, Obama………

One of the central tenets of the PPACA (Obamacare) was that the malefactors of healthcare, insurance companies, big pharma, corrupt medical coding, etc. needed a seat at the table.



The logical extension of this is the admission by Dr. Jay Ken Iinuma, former medical director for Aetna for Southern California, that he rejected claims without ever looking at medical records:
California's insurance commissioner has launched an investigation into Aetna after learning a former medical director for the insurer admitted under oath he never looked at patients' records when deciding whether to approve or deny care.
California Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones expressed outrage after CNN showed him a transcript of the testimony and said his office is looking into how widespread the practice is within Aetna.

"If the health insurer is making decisions to deny coverage without a physician actually ever reviewing medical records, that's of significant concern to me as insurance commissioner in California -- and potentially a violation of law," he said.

………

The California probe centers on a deposition by Dr. Jay Ken Iinuma, who served as medical director for Aetna for Southern California from March 2012 to February 2015, according to the insurer.
During the deposition, the doctor said he was following Aetna's training, in which nurses reviewed records and made recommendations to him.

Jones said his expectation would be "that physicians would be reviewing treatment authorization requests," and that it's troubling that "during the entire course of time he was employed at Aetna, he never once looked at patients' medical records himself."
This is what happens when you fetishize the market, and decide that people need "Skin in the Game".

This is the natural consequence of keeping predators in our healthcare system.

I Am Unclear What This Story Is About

It appears that Unilever, maker of Dove soaps, Axe Body Spray, Hellman's Mayonnaise, Lipton Tea, Ben and Jerry's, Q-Tips, and (of course) Marmite has put internet advertisers on notice that it is not amused. (see also here and here)

They are unsatisfied with what they are getting from internet advertising, though their statement about this mentions both what their products are paired with online, as well as the fact that the metrics are unreliable.

Though they soft pedal the latter in their statement, I think that this is their real agenda. Otherwise, why mention it all?

That's my assessment, given that having an ad show up on Logan Paul's YouTube stream is fleeting and easily corrected, but getting sold silicon snake oil is the sort of thing that gets the acounting types upset:
Unilever has threatened to withdraw its advertising from online platforms such as Facebook and Google if they fail to eradicate content which “create division in society and promote anger and hate”.

Keith Weed, chief marketing officer of the sprawling multinational, whose brands include Dove, Magnum, Persil and Marmite, said that online platforms were sometimes “little better than a swamp”. He told major advertising, media and tech firms gathered at a conference in California: “As one of the largest advertisers in the world, we cannot have an environment where our consumers don’t trust what they see online.”

He added: “We cannot continue to prop up a digital supply chain – one that delivers over a quarter of our advertising to our consumers – which at times is little better than a swamp in terms of its transparency.

“It is in the digital media industry’s interest to listen and act on this. Before viewers stop viewing, advertisers stop advertising and publishers stop publishing.” According to the analysts Pivotal, together Google and Facebook account for nearly three-quarters of all digital advertising in the US. In the UK the two have more than 60% of digital advertising and 90% of all new digital spending.
(emphasis mine)

That thing about swamp and transparency?

That is not about "fake news" or "hate speech", it is about things like Chinese click farms that generate false click throughs and the like, which costs them money, and delivers no customers.

I'm wondering if this whole thing is a dog whistle to Google and Facebook, and that the whole, "Divisions in society," thing is a smoke screen.


As always, note that this post should in no way be construed as an inducement or a request for my reader(s) to click on any ad that they would not otherwise be inclined to investigate further. This would be a violation of the terms of service for Google™ Adsense™.

While the Extoll the Virtues of Tech in Education

The Nomenklatura of Silicon have decided that when their children are education, they want a human touch with an absolute minimum of computers:
The Waldorf School of the Peninsula is small, exclusive and packed with the children of Silicon Valley executives who love the role that technology plays in the pupils’ education there. That is, it plays no role whatsoever.

Instead children at the $25,000-a-year elementary school in Los Altos, California, are learning to explore the world through physical experiences and tasks that are designed to nurture their imagination, problem-solving ability and collaborative skills.

Pencils, paper, blackboards and craft materials abound while tablets, smartphones and other personal electronic devices are banned from the classrooms until they are teenagers studying at the middle and high school campus nearby. Even then technology is only introduced slowly and used sparingly.

Alumni and present pupils include the children of Alan Eagle, a director of communications at Google, who helped to write the New York Times bestseller How Google Works, as well as those of a chief technology officer at eBay and senior executives at Apple and Yahoo. Their outlook is in line with some of the most powerful figures in the industry. Last month Tim Cook, the chief executive of Apple, said he did not want his nephew, who is about 12, to use social media. Last year Sean Parker, the billionaire and an early Facebook investor, admitted that he and the other creators of the publishing site had deliberately made it as addictive as possible. “God only knows what it’s doing to our children’s brains,” he said.

………

Ms [Beverly] Amico [Head of outreach at Waldorf Schools] sees no contradiction. “It’s a very attractive option for people in the tech world for their children,” she said. “All employers, tech world or not, are looking for graduates these days that can think independently, take initiative, are capable of collaborating, have curiosity and creativity.”

The approach contrasts starkly with the new classroom orthodoxy in most American schools where children are spending more and more time staring at screens in lessons. There too, however, a grassroots movement is beginning to build against the relentless march of technology, supported by research illuminating the harmful effects of smartphone use on young brains and new shareholder pressure on the IT giants that make them.
These folks know that at best, they are peddling digital crap, and at worst, they are peddling digital crack, and they want their children to have none of it.

Think about that the next time that you hear about your local school district, or charter school, going all "high tech".

Things that Make you go HMMM………


(IC=Intelligence Community)

"The fight against global terror is sacrosanct, but the ability of the rich to dodge taxes in offshore accounts is more sacrosanct," he said paraphrasing Animal Farm.

11 February 2018

I Am a Horrible Human Being

For the past 24 hours, we have had no water at our house, because an 8 inch water main broke, shutting off water to 20-30 houses in my neighborhood.

Seeing as how we all were beginning to stink, we went to the JCC (Jewish Community Centers) to take showers, as they have a gym, locker room, and showers.

We were discussing the showers, and Sharon* mentioned that there were stalls with curtains in the women's locker room.

I noted to Charlie that this was not the case in the men's locker room, where it was an open floor plan.  (It turns out that my recollections were wrong.  They have added stalls and curtains)

Charlie was upset, as he is not enamored of the concept of taking a shower in front of other people, so he went to get his swim trunks.

So I asked him, "What is your problem with having a Zyklon B layout in the showers?"

He turned to me, and said that this was the worst thing that he had heard me say in his entire life.

I am a truly awful person.

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

10 February 2018

So Not a Surprise

Donald Trump decided not to release the Democratic answer to the Nunes memo:
Donald Trump is blocking the release of the Democrats’ rebuttal to a Republican memo that accused the FBI of a politically biased investigation into the president’s ties to Russia.

Donald McGahn, the White House counsel, released a letter Friday night arguing that disclosure of the Democrats’ memo would “create especially significant concerns for the national security and law enforcement interests” and claiming that Trump was “inclined to declassify” the document, but could not at this time due to “classified and especially sensitive passages”.

Democrats on the House intelligence committee, which is investigating Russian meddling into the US election, authored the new memo, which they said provided context for a four-page memo authored by Republican Devin Nunes, a close ally of Donald Trump.

………

The Senate minority leader, Chuck Schumer, condemned the White House’s decision to block the Democratic memo on Friday, saying in a statement: “The President’s double standard when it comes to transparency is appalling. The rationale for releasing the Nunes memo, transparency, vanishes when it could show information that’s harmful to him. Millions of Americans are asking one simple question: what is he hiding?”
Yeah, pretty much, Chuck.

You know that Trump would never release the memo without redacting it into uselessness.

09 February 2018

I am Updating the Bad Hair Web Page

In the old days of the internet, I quickly realized that I could not create a particularly useful web page, so I deliberately created a useless one, dedicated to bad hair.

Because of an incident as he boarded Air Force One, I have updated my Bad Hair Web Page.

It's my first update since 2001, when I added Jim Trafficant.

This might be the lamest page on the web.

H/t Cthulhu at the Stellar Parthenon BBS.

Why am I Not Surprised?

One of the things that seems to be constant in the United States is that when there is a potential conflict between Nazis and counter-protesters, the police will favor the Nazis, see the case of protests in Sacramento, California:
California police investigating a violent white nationalist event worked with white supremacists in an effort to identify counter-protesters and sought the prosecution of activists with “anti-racist” beliefs, court documents show.

The records, which also showed officers expressing sympathy with white supremacists and trying to protect a neo-Nazi organizer’s identity, were included in a court briefing from three anti-fascist activists who were charged with felonies after protesting at a Sacramento rally. The defendants were urging a judge to dismiss their case and accused California police and prosecutors of a “cover-up and collusion with the fascists”.

Defense lawyers said the case at the state capital offers the latest example of US law enforcement appearing to align with neo-Nazi and white supremacist groups while targeting anti-fascist activists and Donald Trump protesters after violent clashes.

“It is shocking and really angering to see the level of collusion and the amount to which the police covered up for the Nazis,” said Yvette Felarca, a Berkeley teacher and anti-fascist organizer charged with assault and rioting after participating in the June 2016 Sacramento rally, where she said she was stabbed and bludgeoned in the head. “The people who were victimized by the Nazis were then victimized by the police and the district attorneys.”

………

Some California highway patrol (CHP) investigation records, however, raise questions about the police’s investigative tactics and communication with the TWP.

Felarca’s attorneys obtained numerous examples of CHP officers working directly with the TWP, often treating the white nationalist group as victims and the anti-fascists as suspects.

………

In one phone call with Doug McCormack, identified by police as the TWP affiliate who acquired the permit for the Sacramento rally, CHP investigator Donovan Ayres warned him that police might have to release his name in response to a public records requests. The officer said he would try to protect McCormack.

………

The officer’s write-up about an African American anti-fascist activist included a photo of him at the hospital after the rally and noted that he had been stabbed in the abdomen, chest and hand.

Ayres, however, treated the protester like a suspect in the investigation. The police investigator recommended the man be charged with 11 offenses, including disturbing the peace, conspiracy, assault, unlawful assembly and wearing a mask to evade police.

As evidence, Ayres provided Facebook photos of the man holding up his fist. The officer wrote that the man’s “Black Power salute” and his “support for anti-racist activism” demonstrated his “intent and motivation to violate the civil rights” of the neo-Nazi group. He was ultimately not charged.
(emphasis mine)

Seriously, This is not a case of a few bad apples. The whole damn orchard is rotten.

Good Point

The rise of cryptocurrencies, particularly Bitcoin, disproves the most efficient market hypothesis, which is the basis of neoliberal economics and hence the basis of deregulation:
The spectacular increase and recent plunge in the price of Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies have raised concerns that the bursting of the Bitcoin bubble will cause financial markets to crash. They probably won’t, but the Bitcoin bubble should finally destroy our faith in the efficiency of markets.

Since the 1970s, economic policy has been based on the idea that financial market prices reflect all the information relevant to the value of any asset. If this is true, market prices are the best estimates of the value of any investment and financial markets should be relied on to allocate capital investment.

This idea, referred to in the jargon of economics as the efficient market hypothesis (technically, the strong efficient market hypothesis), implicitly underlay the deregulation of financial markets that started in the 1970s. Although rarely stated now with as much confidence as it was during its heyday in the 1990s, the efficient market hypothesis remains a background assumption of much central-bank and economic policy.

The hypothesis survived the absurdities of the dot-com bubble in the late 1990s and early 2000s, as well as the meltdown in derivative markets that led to the global financial crisis in 2007 and 2008. Although the hypothesis should have been refuted by those disasters, it lived on, if only in zombie form.

But at least each of those earlier bubbles began with a plausible premise. The rise of the internet has transformed our lives and given rise to some very profitable companies, such as Amazon and Google. Even though it was obvious that most 1990s dot-coms would fail, it was easy to make a case for any of them individually.

As for the derivative assets that gave us the global financial crisis, they were viewed favorably in light of a widely held theory, known as the “great moderation,” that suggested that major economic crises were a thing of the past, thanks to certain systemic changes in the way developed nations ran their economies. The theory was backed by leading economists and central bankers. Asset-backed derivatives were, ultimately, a bet on the great moderation.

The contrast with Bitcoin is stark. The Bitcoin bubble rests on no plausible premise. When Bitcoin was created about a decade ago, the underlying idea was that it would displace existing currencies for transactions of all kinds. But by the time the Bitcoin bubble took off last year, it was obvious that this would not happen. Only a handful of legitimate merchants ever accepted Bitcoin. And as the Bitcoin bubble drove up transactions charges and waiting times, even this handful walked away.

………

But even if the claim is true, the idea that Bitcoin is valuable simply because people value it and because it is scarce should shake any remaining faith in the efficient market hypothesis.

………

Whatever happens to Bitcoin, we must not lose sight of a more fundamental — and more worrisome — development: A financial product with a purely arbitrary value has been successfully introduced in the world’s most sophisticated financial markets.

Bitcoin probably won’t bring financial markets crashing down. But it shows that regulators need to cut those markets down to size.

We need to regulate, and we need to throw the banksters in jail.

Tweet of the Day


Yep. That's pretty much the Tory Brexit plan in a nut shell.

08 February 2018

The Bottom Line Is That These Are Evil Hateful Ratf%$#S

Because hurting the chronically ill and infirm sexually arouses them, the Trump administration is looking to add lifetime limits to Medicaid.

This is in addition their proposal to add a work requirement:
After allowing states to impose work requirements for Medicaid enrollees, the Trump administration is now pondering lifetime limits on adults’ access to coverage.

Capping health care benefits — like federal welfare benefits — would be a first for Medicaid, the joint state-and-federal health plan for low-income and disabled Americans.

If approved, the dramatic policy change would recast government-subsidized health coverage as temporary assistance by placing a limit on the number of months adults have access to Medicaid benefits.

The move would continue the Trump administration’s push to inject conservative policies into the Medicaid program through the use of federal waivers, which allow states more flexibility to create policies designed to promote personal and financial responsibility among enrollees.

However, advocates say capping Medicaid benefits would amount to a massive breach of the nation’s social safety net designed to protect children, the elderly and the impoverished.

In January, the Trump administration approved waiver requests from Kentucky and Indiana to terminate Medicaid coverage for able-bodied enrollees who do not meet new program work requirements. Ten other states have asked to do the same.
These folks really should have drowned at birth.

Syria war: Assad's government accuses US of massacre

The US just launched airstrikes against Syrian and allied forces:
The closer the U.S. gets to its original goal in Syria of defeating the Islamic State group, the murkier its end game. New layers of complexity are descending on a shifting battlefield, as demonstrated by a deadly barrage of American air and artillery strikes on a shadowy attacker.

The Pentagon insists it is keeping its focus on defeating IS, but Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said Thursday U.S.-backed fighters in eastern Syria faced a “perplexing” overnight assault by about 300 pro-Syrian government fighters whose nationalities, motives and makeup he could not identify. A number of U.S. military advisers were present alongside local allied forces, and the Americans led a punishing response that other officials said killed about 100 of the assailants.

Mattis asserted the episode was an aberration that should not be seen as an expansion of the U.S. war effort. But Trump administration critics disagreed. The Pentagon boss also dismissed any suggestion that Russia, the Syrian government’s most powerful military ally, had any control over the mysterious attacking force.

“I am gravely concerned that the Trump administration is purposefully stumbling into a broader conflict, without a vote of Congress or clear objectives,” said Sen. Tim Kaine, a Virginia Democrat, who has challenged the legal grounds on which American troops can operate in Syria for post-IS operations.

Mattis rejected Kaine’s suggestion the U.S. is being drawn into a broader war.

“It was self-defense,” he said. “We’re not getting engaged in the Syrian civil war.”
I'm going to call bullsh%$ on this.

Given that many elements in the US military, diplomatic, and state security apparatuses are determined to promulgate regime change in Syria, the juxtaposition of events that led to these airstrikes seems to me to be AWFULLY contrived.

There have simply been too many Gulf of Tonkin type events for me to believe that they have been unintentional.

Not a Surprise

When I worked on Future Combat Systems in the early 200s, one of the things it was supposed to do was to save fuel because it used hybrid propulsion.

Because it was carrying a large number of batteries, it was also supposed to be able to spend an significant amount of time running on battery power in "silent watch mode", where it would be hard to detect, because it would be operating without running its engine while its sensors took in information about its immediate vicinity and relayed it across the network.

It turned out that a "significant amount of time" ended up to be something less than an hour because of the power consumption of the sensors, computers, and communications systems.

It turns out something very similar is happening with self-driving cars:
For longtime residents of Pittsburgh, seeing self-driving cars built by Uber, Argo AI, and others roam their streets is nothing new. The city's history with robot cars goes back to the late 1980s, when students at Carnegie Mellon University caught the occasional glimpse of a strange vehicle lumbering across campus. The bright-blue Chevy panel van, chugging along at slower than a walking pace, may not have looked like much. But NavLab 1 was slowly—very slowly—pioneering the age of autonomous driving.

Why did the researchers at CMU's Robotics Institute use the van instead of, say, a Prius? First, this was a decade before Toyota started making the hybrid. Second, the NavLab (that's Navigational Laboratory) was one of the first autonomous vehicles to carry its computers with it. They needed space, and lots of it. For the four researchers monitoring computer workstations, with their bulky cathode ray monitors stretched across a workbench. For the on-board supercomputer, camera, giant laser scanner, and air-conditioner. And for the four-cylinder gasoline engine that did nothing but generate electricity to keep the kit running.

Thirty years on, the companies carrying that early research into reality have proven that cars can indeed drive themselves, and now they're swiveling to sort out the practical bits. Those include regulations, liability, security, business models, and turning prototypes into production vehicles, by miniaturizing the electronics and reducing that massive electricity draw.

Today's self-drivers don't need extra engines, but they still use terrific amounts of power to run their onboard sensors and do all the calculations needed to analyze the world and make driving decisions. And it's becoming a problem.

A production car you can buy today, with just cameras and radar, generates something like 6 gigabytes of data every 30 seconds. It's even more for a self-driver, with additional sensors like lidar. All the data needs to be combined, sorted, and turned into a robot-friendly picture of the world, with instructions on how to move through it. That takes huge computing power, which means huge electricity demands. Prototypes use around 2,500 watts, enough to light 40 incandescent light bulbs.

“To put such a system into a combustion-engined car doesn’t make any sense, because the fuel consumption will go up tremendously,” says Wilko Stark, Mercedes-Benz's vice president of strategy. Switch over to electric cars, and that draw translates to reduced range, because power from the battery goes to the computers instead of the motors.
Don't be depressed.  Self driving cars are only 10 years away, and will be just 10 years away for the next few decades, just like fusion and the Iranian nuclear arsenal.

America's Finest News Source

I am, of course, Referring to The Onion:

FBI Warns Of ‘American Dream’ Scam

Noting that millions have already fallen victim to the long-running grift, the FBI warned Monday of the ‘American Dream’ scam. “Reports are coming in all across the country of Americans who were promised great prosperity and success in exchange for a lifetime of hard work, only to find themselves swindled and left with virtually nothing,” said agent Dean Winthrop, who explained that susceptible parties are made to believe that class mobility is possible simply through ability or achievement, despite the fact that innumerable social, economic, and racial barriers prevent the vast majority of U.S. citizens from attaining even marginal amounts of upward movement. ………
Brilliant.

07 February 2018

It Is Now Officially the Trump Economy

Down 666 points on Friday, and 1175 points on Monday.*

The benefits of the tax cuts are positively amazing:
The Dow Jones industrial average plunged 1,175 points Monday in an exceptionally volatile day for financial markets around the world, stirring concerns about the durability of the long-running stock gains.

In the biggest global sell-off since 2016, financial markets from Asia to Europe to the United States were rocked primarily by concerns about inflation.

The Dow was off a heart-stopping 1,600 points during afternoon trading, the largest intraday point decline in the blue-chip index’s history. But the 4.6 percent loss for the day was not even close to the biggest.

The downdraft raised fresh anxieties among Americans who have seen their retirement savings and household worth march steadily higher without any of the gyrations that are part of a normal market cycle.

It also threatened to deprive President Trump and the GOP of a favorite talking point at the nascent stages of the 2018 midterm campaign.

Although the declines were eye-catching, market observers have been anticipating a correction after a year of big gains in the Dow, the broader Standard & Poor’s 500-stock index and the tech-heavy Nasdaq.
You know, Trump was right. I'm sick of winning.

*Yes, I know that the stock market, and particularly the Dow, are separate from the real economy.

Meathead

Dead from the neck up
Well, now I understand how Rob Reiner produced and directed the fiasco that was North.

Rob Reiner seems to think that criticizing a man who lied to Congress about warrantless wiretaps (Clapper), and another who has spent most of his career sucking up to the House of Saud with a detour excusing torture?

The only word that I can think that describes his neo-McCarthyite bullsh%$ is Deplorable.

The final word on this tweet is:
I hated this tweet. Hated, hated, hated, hated, hated this tweet. Hated it.

Quote of the Day

You are picking up pennies and dimes in front of the steamroller, and you are eventually going to get steamrolled.

Wall Street will invent anything to provide a casino for people to speculate until it blows up.

Peter Boockvar, chief investment officer of Bleakley Financial Group
Yeah, pretty much.

Ht CZ at the Stellar Parthenon BBS.

The Resistance: Grift Edition

Scott Dworkin aggressively raised funds for his anti-Trump "resistance" group, the Democratic Coalition Against Trump, and then he kept most of the money for himself and his friends:
Omar Siddiqui couldn’t make it to an August fundraiser in Beverly Hills for the Democratic Coalition Against Trump. But he ponied up the $2,000 ticket price after the group’s senior adviser, Scott Dworkin, sent him a personal invitation.

Months later, Siddiqui, the Democratic challenger to Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA), was surprised to discover his money—or three of every four dollars of it—had gone to the coffers of consultants and lawyers the group leaned on to fight a libel suit, rather than pushing back against the president.

When told by The Daily Beast how the group had spent his money, Siddiqui was, charitably speaking, not pleased.

“Being an attorney,” he said, “I intend to investigate this further and look forward to receiving a full explanation about the use of donations.”

The Democratic Coalition, one of the many new progressive-minded organizations to bloom in the age of anti-Trump fervor, brought in nearly half a million dollars last year. Its donors include Siddiqui, a pair of Hollywood television producers, a former Real Housewife of Miami, and a member of the U.S. Broadcasting Board of Governors. The vast majority of its funds, however, have come from people whose names don’t make it into Federal Election Commission disclosures: the small, “unitemized” donors who give $200 or less.

It’s what the group has done with its money—not how much it has brought in—that has raised eyebrows among other operatives.

The Democratic Coalition paid more than half of the money it raised last year to its employees or their consulting firms, according to Federal Election Commission records. Dworkin’s Bulldog Finance Group was the chief beneficiary, drawing more than $130,000 from The Democratic Coalition.
This is what is wrong with the Democratic Party establishment in a nutshell.

The DNC requires candidates that it supports to spend a large proportion of their money on a consultant from their list, and Scott Dworkin is most assuredly on their list, at least until this story came out.

First, we need to end the grifting.

06 February 2018

Pass the Popcorn

So, now the House Intelligence Committee has approved the release of the Democratic rebuttal to the Nunes memo, so the ball is in Trump's court now.

So, Trump can approve the memo, and look like a complete tool, or he can try to suppress the memo, and look like a complete tool, or he can do nothing for a week, and look like a complete tool.

All in all, I am amused:
#ReleaseTheMemo is set to happen again.

Just days after releasing a memo sowing doubt about the integrity of those investigating ties between President Trump and Russia, the House intelligence committee agreed to declassify a Democratic rebuttal.

The original memo—penned by the staff of chairman Devin Nunes and released after fierce objections from both the Justice Department and the FBI—was immediately championed by Trump as a vindication.

But the top Democratic on the panel, Rep. Adam Schiff, claimed after prevailing in a unanimous committee vote on Monday that his document would reveal “many distortions and inaccuracies in the [Republican] memo.”

The vote came hours after Trump taunted Schiff on Twitter. And it was an abrupt reversal for the committee Republicans, all of whom voted against releasing the Democratic document last week—something their Democratic colleagues said was a political stunt to ensure the pro-Trump narrative laid out in the Nunes memo had days to circulate unrebutted. Schiff said Monday night that the Republicans’ transparency rhetoric placed them in an “unsupportable position” to reject the Democratic memo.

Much as with last week’s disclosure of Nunes’ memo, Trump now has five days to object to the release of the Democratic counter-memo. Should he, the full House can vote to override Trump and release it. Asked ahead of the Monday committee vote if the FBI had reservations about the release of the Democratic memo, the bureau declined comment.
This would be perfect, except that we are seeing bunches of alleged civil libertarians defending the surveillance activities of the FBI, CIA, and NSA.