31 August 2019

Republicans Have Finally Documented Election Fraud

In VERY unsurprising related news, the perp is a Republican.

This is not a surprise. Much like the Soviets, you know that Republicans are doing whatever they accuse the Democrats of doing:
The irony is pretty rich. For years, and with ever-increasing intensity, Republicans have claimed with virtually no evidence that our democracy is menaced by election fraud. It has been their all-purpose excuse for voter suppression tactics, their rationalization for election defeats, and a central element of a Big Conspiracy Theory alleging that Democrats want open borders so they can drown good white taxpaying citizens in a sea of illegal voting by immigrants and other minorities seeking to give themselves welfare benefits.

So now, from North Carolina, there’s finally a clearly documented case of election fraud that actually appears to have changed an election result. The cruel irony for Republicans is that operatives from their own party — particularly “consultant” Leslie McCrae Dowless — allegedly did the deed.

As Philip Bump notes, this is very much a blue-moon development:
The last time there was a federal election that needed to be rerun was more than 40 years ago, when a close race combined with a faulty voting machine in Louisiana to prompt the calling of a new election. Politico’s Steven Shepard has a good history of past do-overs, including that Louisiana race, a history that makes clear that this is probably the first federal election in which the results were tainted by fraudulent activity.

To be clear, the illegal activity in North Carolina’s Ninth District didn’t resemble the “voter fraud” scenarios Republicans have insisted on imagining in recent years:
[This] wasn’t an election tainted by people showing up to cast illegal ballots, the fraud allegation that has been leveled scores of times by President Trump alone. Instead, it focused on allegedly corrupt actions by a man working for a consulting firm hired by one of the candidates.
So tighter voter-ID laws or voter-roll purges or more closely scrutinized voter-registration drives, the most frequent GOP prescriptions for “election security,” wouldn’t have mattered at all. You could make an attenuated case that opportunities for early voting or voting-by-mail — in this case voting by absentee ballot — that Democrats have recent championed are the problem. But what happened in North Carolina is the functional equivalent of old-fashioned, 19th-century ballot-box stuffing. Unused absentee ballots were fraudulently filled out with signatures forged, and actually filled-out absentee ballots cast for the “wrong” candidate were discarded. As the Brennan Center wryly observes, this activity was much closer to voter suppression than to the voter fraud alleged to justify voter suppression. And as Bump notes, the silence from Republicans about it all has been deafening:
 [T]here has been almost no outcry from Republican elected officials. Trump hasn’t mentioned the situation in North Carolina. A review of congressional tweets shows no Republican officials who have linked the events in the 9th District to their party’s campaign against voter fraud — and plenty of Democrats who have noted that silence.
It should be noted that extremely aggressive use of absentee ballots has been a central part of Republican electoral strategy for decades.

Now we know why.

Headline of the Day

Mississippi Police Want to Arrest the Satanists Who Turn Dead People Gay
It was the grave of the mother of Fred Phelps, late of the Westboro Baptist Church.

One would think that the local police department would have better things to do with their time.

30 August 2019

Making a List and Checking it Twice

I am not referring to Santa Claus, I am referring to Jeff Bezos and Amazon who have created an enemies list.

How charming:
When Amazon scrubbed plans to build a second headquarters in New York City earlier this year, the reason appeared rooted in a debate about unions, tax subsidies and housing costs.

Then there was the burn book.

In a private dossier kept at the time, whose existence has gone previously unreported, Amazon executives cataloged in minute detail the insults they saw coming from New York politicians and labor leaders, according to a copy viewed by The Wall Street Journal.

By late January, Amazon executives had been pummeled at two public hearings. The burn book, which was kept in a Microsoft Word document called “NY Negative Statements,” had separate sections for a half-dozen politicians and officials who had gone from thorns in the company’s side to formidable opponents of a deal that now looked to be in jeopardy.

The document recorded how opponents mocked the helipad Amazon planned to build, pushed the Twitter hashtag #scamazon, and brought up the company’s work for the federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement, a sore spot among some Amazon employees. It was an eight-page, bullet-pointed, Calibri font testimony to Amazon’s sensitivities.


After this article was published online, an Amazon spokeswoman said the document was compiled as preparation for city council hearings.
No, it wasn't a prep for council meeting, it was the airing of grievances by and for a billionaire and a company that believe that they should be lauded as visionary prophets, and not the abusive and extortative sh%$-heels that they actually are.

Why Tax Incentives Suck

Because, in addition to having a payback time that is measured in millennia, if that, they are fundamentally corrupt and corrupting:
New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy on Friday vetoed legislation that would have extended the state’s controversial tax break law, and he recommended a sweeping overhaul of a program state investigators say benefited powerful insiders at the expense of taxpayers.

“For the past six years, New Jersey has operated under a severely flawed tax incentive program that wasted taxpayer money on handouts to connected companies instead of creating jobs and economic growth,” Murphy said in a prepared statement.


The veto follows weeks of talks between the governor’s office and legislative leaders, as well as months of public scrutiny, including a WNYC-ProPublica investigation that detailed how South Jersey political boss George E. Norcross III and his associates helped craft — and benefit from — the tax break program.

Of the $1.6 billion in incentives awarded to companies in his hometown, Camden, $1.1 billion flowed to businesses and nonprofits owned by or connected to Norcross, the news organizations found. Norcross has denied any wrongdoing and defended the incentives as a tool to revive the state’s impoverished cities.


Murphy called Friday for shrinking the tax break initiative by capping overall awards at $400 million and targeting tax credits for small businesses, while beefing up the state’s ability to monitor hiring and direct awards to underdeveloped areas. He would replace the two expired tax break programs with five smaller programs catering to high-growth industries, mixed-use projects, historic preservation and the redevelopment of contaminated land.
Politically connected insiders benefiting from government subsidies is not a bug, it's a feature.

Yet more of the neoliberal policies that privatize profits and socialize losses.

This Is a Point That I Have Been Making for a While

When discussing issues of patent, copyright,a d trademark, it is important to note that, "Intellectual Property Isn’t Property."

It never has been.

If I steal your car, you no longer have the use of that car.

If I excerpt your essay, you still have that essay.

You cannot take IP in the same way that one could a spoon:
Frank Luntz’s rebranding of the estate tax as the “death tax” was an impressive bit of marketing genius, but perhaps the greatest branding coup in modern American politics was the introduction of the term “intellectual property” into the policymaking lexicon. Intellectual property guarantees the owner exclusive rights to the use of an idea, but the uglier-sounding term “intellectual monopoly” is actually more accurate.

It may be too late to cast intellectual property out of our parlance in favor of intellectual monopoly, but it’s worth addressing the underlying philosophical claim to ideas as property. There is a strong consequentialist case for intellectual property in theory, but IP does not satisfy the Lockean definition of property and therefore shouldn’t grant the holder property rights under a natural-rights framework.


To examine where property rights come from, let’s turn to John Locke’s Second Treatise of Government. To avoid a lengthy discussion about the merits of Locke’s arguments, let’s take the existence of property rights as he discusses them as a given: If I own myself and I put a part of myself, through my labor, into an unclaimed physical object, I should have exclusive claim to it in the same way I should have exclusive claim to my body and labor.

Why doesn’t this logic work for ideas? Most obviously and importantly, because physical property is scarce and rivalrous. If I take a piece of wood from the wilderness and whittle it into a spoon, anyone who uses that specific spoon is depriving me of my ability to use it.

This is at the nub of the problem Locke is trying to solve. Because physical objects are scarce and rivalrous in use, rights to use and control are necessarily exclusive: If one person gets to use and control the spoon, nobody else does. Locke is wondering how such exclusive rights got going if (as Locke believed) the physical world was given to people in common by their creator. He solves the riddle by asserting the right of self-ownership. Since our bodies and minds start out under our exclusive control, mixing our labor with external objects can bring them out of the common pool and into the realm of private property.

Ideas, on the other hand, are non-rivalrous, meaning their use by one party doesn’t prevent another from using them. If I come up with a new design for a wooden spoon and someone else uses the same idea (whether they learned it from me or developed it independently), my ability to use that design isn’t impeded.

What is impeded is my ability to monetize my design while denying others the ability to do the same. And in cases where the cost of innovation is high but the cost of imitation low, that impediment could end up mattering a great deal for society. Encouraging innovation by helping creators to monetize their creations is at the heart of the consequentialist case for IP. These considerations are, however, outside the scope of a Lockean case for intellectual property.


Furthermore, while you have a right to the products of your mind just as you have a right to the products of your body, there’s an important distinction that must be made between an idea in your head and one that’s known to others. If I come up with an original idea for a widget, song, book, or joke, I could tweet it, tell it to a few close friends, or take it to the grave. This is a natural extension of someone’s right to their own mind.

But once an idea is out in the open, it’s analogous to someone selling or giving away physical property they appropriated from nature. As long as something is transferred voluntarily, the original owner can’t make a claim to this property once it changes hands (or in this case, minds). To maintain otherwise would violate the right to free exchange, a natural extension of the right to property.

Meanwhile, physical property could theoretically remain private forever, while even the staunchest supporters of IP rights believe ideas should enter the public domain at some point. Suppose Alice goes through the traditional process of Lockean appropriation to produce a spoon. That could be hers through the end of her life, but if she gives it to Bob it becomes his. He can then give it to Charlie, and so on. At no point in this chain does the spoon go back into the commons for someone else to appropriate. To believe that intellectual property is, in fact, property, one must also accept the possibility of this infinite chain of private ownership.
The solution to this conundrum is to understand that IP is public interest law, as it states in the Constitution, it exists, "To promote the progress of science and useful arts."

It is there to serve the public interest, by making the public pay for its benefits.

In other words, it's socialism.

29 August 2019

Your Brexit Dogs Breakfast Update

 Boris Johnson has moved to suspend Parliament in order to ensure that Brexit goes forward.

While suspending (proroguing) Parliament is usually a fairly routine thing, it tends to be used to clear the decks of legislative items that have piled up over a session, use of the procedure to explicitly prevent parliament from weighing in on a major issue, as Johnson is doing now, is not:
Boris Johnson has set up an extraordinary confrontation with MPs when they return to Westminster next week by announcing that he has asked the Queen to suspend parliament for five weeks from mid-September.

The prime minister claimed there would be “ample time” to debate Brexit, as he wrote to MPs on Wednesday, saying he had spoken to the Queen and asked her to suspend parliament from “the second sitting week in September”. The Queen approved the order later on Wednesday.

MPs will then not return to Westminster until 14 October, when he said there would be a new Queen’s speech, setting out what he called a “bold and ambitious domestic legislative agenda for the renewal of our country after Brexit”.
I do not know enough about UK politics to tell whether the spectacle of people completely losing their sh%$ over this action is a legitimate expression of outrage or political posturing.

My prediction remains the same though, a Brexit, no-deal or deal, will be much worse than the Brexit supporters predict, and much better than the Brexit supporters predict.

I do think that, unlike Theresa May, Johnson understands the nature of the negotiations though, as evidenced by his willingness to walk away.

More significantly, he's willing to put EU migration rules on the table, which would have the effect of severely curtailing remittances to EU nations from their nationals working in Britain, which would have a devastating effect on the economies of a number of EU members, most notably the Baltic states.

I think that any chance for a graceful transition has passed now, sit it will be a profoundly bumpy ride.

Don't Give to the DSCC

The DSCC is pulling out the stops to support a candidate, in the Primary, who compared environmentalists to Stalinists and literally drank a glass of fracking fluid.

All this in a state which is not comfortably blue.

Way to support progressive ideals:
Before the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee endorsed former Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper in a 2020 Senate race, it pressured consultants from at least five firms not to work with a leading progressive in the race, the candidate told The Intercept.

Andrew Romanoff, who is one of more than a dozen candidates vying for Republican Sen. Cory Gardner’s seat, told The Intercept that multiple consultants turned down jobs with his campaign citing pressure from the DSCC.

“They’ve made it clear to a number of the firms and individuals we tried to hire that they wouldn’t get any business in Washington or with the DSCC if they worked with me,” Romanoff said. “It’s been a well-orchestrated operation to blackball ragtag grassroots teams.”

At least five firms and 25 prospective staff turned down working with his campaign, said Romanoff, who has raised more than $1 million in individual contributions so far. “I spoke to the firms, my campaign manager spoke to the staff prospects,” he said. “Pretty much everyone who checked in with the DSCC got the same warning: Helping us would cost them.”

A consultant who spoke to The Intercept on the condition of anonymity said that their firm had been far along in talks to work for Romanoff when they got word that Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer and the DSCC weren’t happy. The firm was told by a top DSCC staffer that they “absolutely under no circumstances could work for Andrew Romanoff, so we withdrew our offer to be his consulting firm.”


Earlier this year, the DSCC’s companion organization in the House, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, made it official policy to cut off funding and vendors to Democrats who challenged incumbent Democrats. Putting the policy in writing ratcheted up what had been more of an informal understanding in prior cycles. But if the DSCC’s intervention in Colorado is any indication, the Democrats’ Senate campaign arm is taking the blacklist one step further, by discouraging consultants from working not only for challengers to incumbent Democrats, but also for progressives running against the establishment’s preferred candidate in a seat currently held by the GOP. In Romanoff’s case, the DSCC did so before it had been clear whether Washington’s choice, Hickenlooper, even planned to run.
(emphasis mine)

I understand that the party establishment feels that it must put its thumb on the scales to support uninspiring corporatist candidates to be victorious.

After all, this strategy worked so well to get ……… checks notes ……… Donald Trump ……… elected.

There is bright side for real Democrats who want to run for office, but cannot get high powered DC consultants to work for them though, it's that these consultants are about as useless as tits on a bull.

The Koch Suckers Lose One

Despite millions of dollars in Koch brothers money, a Phoenix referendum to kill light rail fails decisively:
Voters in Phoenix have soundly rejected a proposal that would have halted the expansion of the city’s light rail system — a proposition that had the backing of dark money linked to the notorious anti-transit Koch brothers.

In a 62-to-38 percent vote, residents turned aside Proposition 105, which would have redirected a previously passed tax away from light rail towards other transportation improvements. It would also have required “terminating all construction, development, extension, and expansion of” light rail.

The vote was 107,370 against Prop 105 to 64,666 in favor. A second ballot proposition that would have capped spending on city services until its pension debts are reduced was defeated by a two-to-one margin.

The effort to end light rail in Phoenix was part of the legacy of the petroleum tycoon and conservative radical Charles Koch and his late brother David, who funded grassroots activist campaigns to kill transit projects in cities around the country.
It's a pity that David Koch didn't live a few more days to see his rejection by the people of Phoenix.

Well, that Was Exciting

This is Completely Nuts
I was driving down to Fells Point to pick up Nat from the Fells Point Corner Theater, where she is ASM for the play Perfect Arrangement tonight, and after we got on local streets, we were passed by at least a dozen police cars with lights flashing.

About a mile from the theater, I thought that I heard a large number, 20 or so, gunshots.

It appears that there was a shooting incident, with an officer wounded and the suspect killed:
A male suspect is dead after a Baltimore police officer was shot in the leg in the Southeast District on Wednesday around 11 p.m.

Police Commissioner Michael Harrison said the suspect was pronounced dead at the hospital after he was struck by gunfire by responding officers.

Harrison said the suspect is believed to be the man who tried to run over a police officer and fired at another early Tuesday morning while trying to stop an SUV that attempted to strike another officer. He said the vehicle Wednesday is the one that was used during the attacks on the officers Tuesday.

A woman was injured during Wednesday’s incident, but Harrison said it was unclear whether she was hurt by gunfire or the resulting shrapnel. She and the officer are in good condition, Harrison added.

The commissioner said officers encountered the suspect at Fayette and North Caroline streets and that officers began firing at the suspect. Harrison said he did not know whether the suspect fired at officers, but added he was believed to be armed.

Harrison said that after the exchange, the suspect got back into his car and drove down Caroline Street as officers chased him.
After picking up my thespian child, we went home, and there were dozens of cars and at least 20 officers at the site of the incident.


Mandy Rice Davies Applies*

In the annals of self-serving security bullsh%$, this is in the top 10:
After promising to offer tools to let users limit “cookies,” tiny files that help internet and advertising companies track users, Alphabet Inc.’s Google suggested it won’t go any further, saying in a blog post that blocking cookies entirely could be counterproductive for user privacy.

The post from late last week has drawn criticism in recent days from some privacy advocates who say Google’s Chrome internet browser should catch up to the stricter practices of rivals Firefox and Safari.

Ad tech companies and some digital publishers are wary of a major crackdown on cookies, saying it would hurt their businesses.

In its post, Google said blocking cookies will encourage the rise of other, more nefarious methods of tracking internet users.


“Many folks were expecting Google to do something. When major competitors have come out with a much praised user feature, you can imagine they would come out with something that competes with that,” said Jonathan Mayer, an assistant professor of computer science at Princeton University. “This notion that blocking cookies is bad for privacy is completely disingenuous.”

“I interpret the announcement as giving Google an opportunity to try to show forward momentum on privacy while at the same time not doing anything that would negatively impact its own business interests,” said Jason Kint, chief executive of Digital Content Next, a trade association for online publishers that has argued online tech platforms are harming competition and consumers. Google’s digital ad business uses data on users collected partially through cookies


The debate extends to the issue of who benefits financially from browser cookies. Google cited its own research showing that publishers lose an average of 52% of their advertising revenue when their readers block cookies.

The results differ substantially from an academic study published this spring, which found that publishers only receive about 4% more ad revenue for an ad impression that has a cookie enabled than for one that doesn’t.
So, Google is claiming that other sites aren't already using these "nefarious methods", (They are, I'm talking to you Verizon & AT&T), and that it will cost them money, so please turn off your cookie blocker.

Google, go Cheney yourself.

*Well, they would say that, wouldn't they?

28 August 2019

Freddy Mercury is a Busy Man

So, now Kirsten Gillibrand is dropping out of the race for the Democratic Presidential nomination.

Her campaign never took hold, partially because she decided to run almost exclusively as the #MeToo candidate in a race where there are a number of qualified women running, and partially because she was deeply loathed by a significant portion of the party base.

I'm not sure why she was so disliked, though her role in Franken leaving the Senate was a part of it, but she was, at least based on reporting and comments on the net, despised.

Snark of the Day

The Taliban Don't Have Video Games. so Why Are They so Violent, Us Wonders
Duffel Blog
Satire, of course, it's Duffel Blog, but in satire, veritas.

Tweet of the Day

And the award for "Best Use of the Distracted Boyfriend" meme goes to:

27 August 2019

Not a Serious Car Company

Buried in a what appears to be a rather run-of-the-mill article about a an independent Tesla service center that specializes in keeping Roadsters, Tesla's first car, running.

The bigger story is that Tesla has stopped supporting a car less than 7 years after they ended production on the model, so this guy has to fabricate circuit boards, body panels, etc.

While there appears to be no law requiring that an automobile manufacturer maintain parts beyond the term of the warranty, 7 years is seriously deficient.

Bret "Bedbug" Stephens

Unfair to Bedbugs
The latest Twitter sh%$-storm comes courtesy of Brett Stevens.

There was a news report of (not kidding here) of a bedbug infestation at the New York Times offices, and GWU professorr David Karpf made what he himself admits was a throw away tweet that this was a metaphor for Times columnist Brett Stevens.

Until this all blew up, it had 9 likes and no retweets.

Then Stevens sent him an email, which was cc:ed to the university Provost, subject line, "From Bret Stephens, New York Times", demanding that he show up and say it to his face.

This was clearly an attempt to use his position at the NYT to intimidate and threaten what he thought (incorrectly) was an non-tenured professor.

As a so-called journalist who has made the condemnation of safe spaces and hyper-sensitivity, (spoiler, it's really about him justifying bigotry and lying) the hypocrisy is stunning:
David Karpf is a professor of media and public affairs at George Washington University in D.C. On Monday night, he became a subject of great media interest himself after reading reports about the bedbug infestation at the New York Times and writing in a tweet that the bedbugs were perhaps a metaphor for the continuing presence, at the paper, of conservative columnist Bret Stephens. (Stephens has developed a reputation in certain circles for writing provocative but intellectually flimsy columns about climate change and the alleged threat of political intolerance on college campuses; Karpf, in addition to being an academic, is a former member of the Sierra Club board of directors.)

While the tweet might have seemed like an innocuous remark, Stephens apparently didn’t think so: He emailed Karpf—in a message with the subject line “From Bret Stephens, New York Times” on which George Washington provost Forrest Maltzman was CC’d—to accuse him of setting a “new standard” for online incivility and to challenge Karpf to “come to my home,” “meet my wife and kids,” and “call me a ‘bedbug’ to my face.” (Stephens wasn’t tagged in Karpf’s original post, so it wouldn’t have shown up in his Twitter notifications; he wrote in his email to Karpf that someone had “pointed out” the tweet to him.)

Karpf described Stephens’ email in a tweet without specifically naming the columnist, then, about an hour later, uploaded a screenshot of it that included Stephens’ name. The posts together created a frenzy of disbelief and derision that led Stephens to delete his own Twitter account, then, during a Tuesday morning appearance on MSNBC, to deny that he’d been trying to get Karpf in trouble with the university (Karpf, in any case, is tenured) and to claim that the “bedbug” remark resembled the kind of dehumanizing language that “totalitarian regimes” use toward ethnic outgroups. On Tuesday morning, I spoke to Karpf about the experience of being a viral figure and the state of bedbug discourse in the digital age. Our conversation has been condensed and edited for clarity.
Slate interviewed Karpf, who added some necessary perspective:
The two things that stand out are that it’s entertaining, and distracting. It does keep occurring to me the reason why this is actually pretty fun for me is that I’m a white guy with tenure, which means that—if he had sent this to me before I had a tenured job, that would have been a powerful and terrifying message, and I’m 100 percent sure that that’s what he expected it to do. When he writes a message where it says, “From Bret Stephens, New York Times,” from his New York Times account, it means that he’s trying to indicate that he’s above me in the social hierarchy. But I’m a professor of strategic political communication, and I have tenure, and I really didn’t do anything wrong. That makes the entire thing bizarre and fun. If I was pre-tenure or I was a woman and had to deal with harassment on Twitter all the time, then I imagine this would be a lot less fun.


If he hadn’t CC’d the provost, then I would think, “Wow, he took this far more personally than he should have.” But also that would mean that an op-ed writer from the New York Times was reaching out to me and wanted to discuss civility in the digital age. And I would have tried to reply to it and said, “First of all, is this a bit? I’m surprised you found this and were upset by it. But second of all, here’s the thinking behind it. Here’s why I thought it was a decent joke. And also here’s why I think it’s entirely appropriate because, being a public intellectual as you are, people get to make silly jokes about you on the internet like I did.”

But the fact that he was CCing the provost, and I assume that he doesn’t know I have tenure when he writes that message, means that he’s not actually asking, “Where is the civility?” He’s certainly not inviting me to come to his house and have this little conversation. What he’s trying to impress upon me is that he’s more powerful than me and I should feel fearful and ashamed.
Conservatives are such delicate snowflakes.

Also, Brett Stevens should be fired for abusing his position as a Times columnist.

This is about as flagrant abuse of his position, and journalistic ethics as I've seen since ……… checks notes ……… The entire career of Judith Miller.

26 August 2019

Journalism Should Not Be All about Journalists

The fact that conservative activist are looking into journalists' history with an eye toward criticizing them is not the end of the world.

In fact, this sort of activity qualifies as journalism, but the mainstream press has never been sanguine about scrutiny being applied to them, just witness their meltdown over Bernie Sanders fairly anodyne condemnation of the pollution of media by finance and mergers:
Many journalists are very indignant that Trump allies are reportedly combing through social media to identify embarrassing things they may have posted long ago that can be used to discredit them. In this case, I’m afraid, the outrage seems to be missing the point.

What exactly is happening here? According to the New York Times, a “loose network of conservative operatives allied with the White House” has “compiled dossiers of potentially embarrassing social media posts and other public statements” by lots of people who work at major media outlets. They plan to release these tidbits at politically advantageous times in order to discredit the employees and the media outlets themselves. This is all portrayed in formal and quite ominous language. There is a name for this that political reporters are all familiar with: opposition research.

But there is another name for this that is also accurate: media reporting.
Considering the fact that stupid tweets by New York Times (and Washington Post, and Wall Street Journal, etc) journalists and columnists is something that crosses my twitter feed on a daily basis, the freakout over conservatives doing the same is silly.

Personally, I'm thinking that this is more an attempt to distract the press than it is to shame them:  Every time that some public figure criticizes the press, it seems that all other journalistic activity is subsumed in an orgy of defensiveness.

Headline of the Day

Dairy Queen Burgers Are Not Made of Human Flesh, a County Coroner Is Forced to Confirm
The Washington Post
At the risk or stating the obvious, you have to issue a denial on such an issue, and also have to include a statement from the local coroner, you have already lost the PR battle.

Well, This is a Bit Less Insane………

Both concepts are insane, that is the nature of nuclear weapons, but an "autonomous" launcher is a bit LESS insane than the second coming of Project Pluto: (aka "The Flying Crowbar")
How the mainstream media reported an August 8 accident at a top-secret missile test facility in northern Russia should serve as a cautionary tale regarding the dangers of rushed judgments via institutional bias.

In the days following the initial report of the accident, the media exploded with speculation over both the nature of the device being tested at the Nenoksa State Central Marine Test Site and the Russian government’s muted response. Typical of the hysteria was the analysis of Jeffrey Lewis, director of the East Asia Nonproliferation Program for the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies and editor of the blog “Arms Control Wonk.”

Lewis and his collaborators penned a breathless article for Foreign Policy that asked, “What Really Happened?” According to Lewis, the answer was clear: “The reference to radiation was striking—tests of missile engines don’t involve radiation. Well, with one exception: Last year, Russia announced it had tested a cruise missile powered by a nuclear reactor. It calls this missile the 9M730 Burevestnik. NATO calls it the SSC-X-9 Skyfall.”


They’re all wrong. Here’s the real story of what actually happened at Nenoksa.

Liquid-fuel ballistic missiles are tricky things. Most Russian liquid-fueled missiles make use of hypergolic fuels, consisting of a fuel (in most cases asymmetrical dimethylhydrazine, or heptyl) and an oxidizer (nitrogen tetroxide), which, when combined, spontaneously combust. For this to happen efficiently, the fuel and oxidizer need to be maintained at “room temperature,” generally accepted as around 70 degrees Fahrenheit. For missiles stored in launch silos, or in launch canisters aboard submarines, temperature control is regulated by systems powered by the host—either a generator, if in a silo, or the submarine’s own power supply, if in a canister.

Likewise, the various valves, switches, and other components critical to the successful operation of a liquid-fuel ballistic missile, including onboard electronics and guidance and control systems, must be maintained in an equilibrium, or steady state, until launch. The electrical power required to accomplish this is not considerable, but it must be constant. Loss of power will disrupt the equilibrium of the missile system, detrimentally impacting its transient response at time of launch and leading to failure.

Russia has long been pursuing so-called “autonomous” weapons that can be decoupled from conventional means of delivery—a missile silo or a submarine—and instead installed in canisters that protect them from the environment. They would then be deployed on the floor of the ocean, lying in wait until remotely activated. One of the major obstacles confronting the Russians is the need for system equilibrium, including the onboard communications equipment, prior to activation. The power supply for any system must be constant, reliable, and capable of operating for extended periods of time without the prospect of fuel replenishment.

The solution for this power supply problem is found in so-called “nuclear batteries,” or radioisotope thermoelectric generators (RTG). An RTG generates electricity using thermocouples that convert the heat released by the decay of radioactive material. RTGs have long been used in support of operations in space. The Russians have long used them to provide power to remote unmanned facilities in the arctic and in mountainous terrain. Cesium-137, a byproduct of the fission of U-235, is considered an ideal radioisotope for military application RTGs.

On August 8, a joint team from the Ministry of Defense and the All-Russian Research Institute of Experimental Physics, subordinated to the State Atomic Energy Corporation (ROSATOM), conducted a test of a liquid-fueled rocket engine, in which electric power from Cesium-137 “nuclear batteries” maintained its equilibrium state. The test was conducted at the Nenoksa State Central Marine Test Site (GTsMP), a secret Russian naval facility known as Military Unit 09703. It took place in the waters of the White Sea, off the coast of the Nenoksa facility, onboard a pair of pontoon platforms.

The test had been in the making for approximately a year. What exactly was being tested and why remain a secret, but the evaluation went on for approximately an hour. It did not involve the actual firing of the engine, but rather the non-destructive testing of the RTG power supply to the engine.


When the actual testing finished, something went very wrong. According to a sailor from the nearby Severdvinsk naval base, the hypergolic fuels contained in the liquid engine (their presence suggests that temperature control was one of the functions being tested) somehow combined. This created an explosion that destroyed the liquid engine, sending an unknown amount of fuel and oxidizer into the water. At least one, and perhaps more, of the Cesium-137 RTGs burst open, contaminating equipment and personnel alike.


The Russian Meteorological Service (Roshydromet) operates what’s known as the Automatic Radiation Monitoring System (ASKRO) in the city of Severdvinsk. ASKRO detected two “surges” in radiation, one involving Gamma particles, the other Beta particles. This is a pattern consistent with the characteristics of Cesium-137, which releases Gamma rays as it decays, creating Barium-137m, which is a Beta generator. The initial detection was reported on the Roshydromet website, though it was subsequently taken offline.
This makes a lot more sense than a nuclear ramjet, if just because you could test it without the certainty of a radiological incident.

Also, this sort of weapon fits right into Russian, and Soviet, doctrine.

25 August 2019

Headline of the Day

Pay Andrew Yang $1,000 a Month to Get Out of the Presidential Race
Yang's vision of society is truly dystopian, and his solution of $1000.00 a month fixes nothing.

Tweet of the Day

I really have nothing add to this.

Sadism Works as an Explanation

Specifically, they derive pleasure from the misery of "the other" that they have deemed unworthy:
I understand why it’s hard for normal people to believe that white evangelical Christians are sadists. Normal people have never been, as I was a long time ago, on the inside of that shadowy religious world. But the sooner they understand this, the sooner normal people will see that white evangelical Christian support for Donald Trump isn’t rooted in hypocrisy, contradiction or merely straying from the straight and narrow. The reason they support a fascist president is simple: They’re sadists.

The word “sadist” is off-putting. I get that. But if you’re thinking of sex, you’re thinking in the wrong way. If you’re thinking of “pleasure,” as in sexual pleasure, you’re thinking the wrong way. The pleasure white evangelical Christians derive from the suffering of human beings deemed less human than they are is not about sex. It’s about the pain, humiliation or even violence out-groups deserve by dint of being out-groups. Gay men, for instance, deserve their punishment because they are gay. Punishment for being gay is “divine justice.” From such “justice” comes pleasure—which is sadism.

I didn’t come up with the term. Richard Rorty did. I’m only pushing it as far to the fore as I can, because I don’t think normal people understand what they are facing, and if they don’t understand, they will keep treating sadists as if they have a legitimate place in a liberal democracy. Cruelty is the point, as Adam Serwer powerfully and famously put it in The Atlantic. But normal people must understand the animating force behind that cruelty. Sadists are sadistic not because they are cruel. It’s much simpler than that. They are cruel because being cruel to people deserving cruelty feels good.
I'm still considering the arguments, but the thesis is consistent with the actual observed events, and appears to have a significant predictive properties, which puts it a step above string theory.

24 August 2019

Tweet of the Day

Means testing for basic safety net programs is morally and politically bankrupt.

Ban Antibiotic Use on Livestock

Meat without antibiotics is a bit more expensive, on the order of 5-10¢ a pound, (the Danes banned antibiotics, so we have good cost data( but that is a reasonable price to secure the public health:
A deadly outbreak of multi-drug resistant Salmonella that sickened 225 people across the US beginning in 2018 may have been spurred by a sharp rise in the use of certain antibiotics in cows a year earlier, infectious disease investigators reported this week.

From June 2018 to March of 2019, officials at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention identified an outbreak of Salmonella enterica serotype Newport. The strain was resistant to several antibiotics, most notably azithromycin—a recommended treatment for Salmonella enterica infections. Before the outbreak, azithromycin-resistance in this germ was exceedingly rare. In fact, it was only first seen in the US in 2016.

Yet in the 2018-2019 outbreak, it reached at least 225 people in 32 states. Of those sickened, at least 60 were hospitalized and two died. (Researchers didn’t have complete health data on everyone sickened in the outbreak.)


The investigators suggest that the surge in macrolide use could have encouraged the rise and spread of the azithromycin-resistant Newport strain.

“Because use of antibiotics in livestock can cause selection of resistant strains, the reported 41% rise in macrolide use in US cattle from 2016 to 2017 might have accelerated carriage of the outbreak strain among US cattle,” they wrote.


In recent years, around 70% of all medically important antibiotics in the US have been sold for use in animals. Public health advocates say agricultural use of antibiotics should be reduced significantly to preserve the effectiveness of the drugs.
It is completely insane to allow farmers to destroy our public health system for a few pennies.

The INF Treaty Was Already a Dead Letter

A week ago, the US test-launched a ground launched Tomahawk cruise missile.

In doing so, they validated Russian claims that the US installation of BMD systems in Europe were actually in violation of the INF treaty:
Arms Control Twitter has been abuzz since yesterday’s announcement that the United States had conducted a surprise launch of a Tomahawk missile on Sunday afternoon.

This wasn’t just your regular missile launch, however. It was a Tomahawk cruise missile launched from a ground-based Mark-41 Vertical Launch System (VLS), traveling to a distance of “more than 500 kilometers,” according to the Department of Defense.

In other words: a violation of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty––if the treaty still existed. It officially died on August 2nd, six months after both the United States and Russia announced suspensions of their respective treaty obligations. But the launch is an important walk-back of US security policy which for 32 years sought to curtail such weapons and instead, as we have written for the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, makes the United States needlessly complicit in the INF’s demise and frees Russia from both the responsibility and pressure to return to compliance.


Why is everyone so worked up about the launcher?

This is where things get really interesting. The Mk-41 VLS launcher that was used to launch the Tomahawk is the same type of launcher that would be used to launch SM-3 interceptors from Aegis Ashore ballistic missile defense stations in Romania and Poland, once the latter station is completed.

For years, Russia has said that the US deployment of these ground-based Mk-41 VLS launchers to Europe constitutes an INF violation, because they could theoretically be used to launch Tomahawks over 500 kilometers. Legally speaking, this doesn’t hold water––Article VII, paragraph 7 of the INF Treaty states that in order for a launcher to be considered in violation of the treaty, it must actually conduct a ground launch of a prohibited missile. Since this never happened while the INF Treaty was in force, the Mk-41 VLS launchers weren’t in violation.

What’s more, the United States has consistently stated that although Mk-41s can launch Tomahawks, the ones deployed in Romania and Poland cannot. In December 2017, the State Department announced that “The Aegis Ashore Missile Defense System does not have an offensive ground-launched ballistic or cruise missile capability. Specifically, the system lacks the software, fire control hardware, support equipment, and other infrastructure needed to launch offensive ballistic or cruise missiles such as the Tomahawk.”

Perhaps this is true, perhaps it isn’t. But absent some kind of US transparency measure that offers visibility into the Aegis Ashore systems, Russia is forced to rely solely on an American promise. And for Putin, that’s simply not going to cut it. That being said, it’s also possible that no amount of transparency would ever have satisfied Putin, as his primary concern over Aegis Ashore appears to be directed at the general deployment of missile defenses in Europe, rather than their offensive potential.
I actually did work involving these sorts of launchers on naval vessels, specifically on power supplies that could be controlled by software to allow for a wide variety of missile types.

The software could be contained on a memory stick, the hardware is basically a terminal (If that), and the logistical support for a GLCM, which is shipped and deployed as a "ready round", is minimal.

Once the "Aegis Ashore" launcher is installed, a breakout from the INF treaty could be (and in fact was) executed in a matter of days.

23 August 2019

Presidential Race Update

3 candidates for the Democratic Presidential nomination have dropped out, Jay Inslee, John Hickenlooper, and Seth Moulton.

While Inslee actually ran on a substantive issue, he focused on anthropogenic climate change, Hickenlooper and Moulton pretty much ran against the Democratic Party, with Hickenlooper likening opposition to fracking to Stalinism, and Moulton engaging in jeremiads against the Democratic Party.

Good riddance to the last two, though Inslee, did manage to make addressing climate change s significant issue in the primary, which is a good thing.

Tweet of the Day

Pantaleo broke the law and killed a man in the process, and now the cops are threatening a slowdown because of their butthurt over the most meager accountability for their actions.

F%$# them and the horse that they rode in on..

1/2 of World's Ayn Rand Worst Tribute Band Ever, the Koch Brothers, Dies

David Koch has died of complications of prostate cancer at age 79.

Their wealth came largely from their father selling technology to Josef Stalin, and he had been funding the right wing for years.

There is an argument that one should not speak ill of the dead, but David Koch was a public figure, and his fans will no doubt use this as an opportunity to shape his legacy, so I feel that speaking the truth is essential at this juncture in any public forum except for his funeral or wake.

In my case, I will start with a list of positive things about his positive contributions to the public discourse and public policy in his time in American politics:
That is all.

22 August 2019

What Do Brexit and the Black Death Have in Common?

Rising wages,* it appears.

This is precisely what the experts said would not happen:
No, really? Yes, really, via Reuters:
Major British employers gave average pay rises of 2.6% to staff in the three months to July, the highest pace of increase in more than 10 years, data from industry consultants XpertHR showed on Thursday.

Annual pay settlements in Britain began to rise roughly a year ago as the lowest unemployment rate since the mid-1970s put pressure on employers to retain staff, but deals had been stuck at around 2.5% in recent months.
And more:

In sharp contrast to the broader economic slowdown that has taken Britain to the brink of recession, the Office for National Statistics said annual average pay – excluding bonuses – rose by 3.9% in the three months to June, the highest rate since June 2008.

The ONS said about 115,000 more people found a job between April and June, when Theresa May extended the Brexit deadline until October, pushing up the number of people in work to a record of just over 32.8 million.
I'm not sure that the whole "Black Death" thing is particularly reassuring though.

H/t Naked Capitalism.

*For those of you who are not up on your labor history, after about half of Europe died of the plague, peasant wages jumped as a result of labor shortages.

The Pooch Has Been Thoroughly Screwed

I've always felt that Benyamin Netanyahu has been clear and present danger to the state of Israel, but I never imagined that he would do something so bone-headed that AIPAC would condemn his actions:
The American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) on Thursday broke with Israel's decision to bar Democratic Reps. Ilhan Omar (Minn.) and Rashida Tlaib (Mich.) from visiting the country, saying "every member of Congress should be able to visit."

"We disagree with Reps. Omar and Tlaib’s support for the anti-Israel and anti-peace BDS movement, along with Rep. Tlaib’s calls for a one-state solution. We also believe every member of Congress should be able to visit and experience our democratic ally Israel firsthand," AIPAC tweeted Thursday.
Well, that's what he gets for listening to Donald Trump.

Still Contemptible Bastards

They lied:
It’s been almost a month since DoorDash, the leading food delivery app in the US, finally caved to public pressure and announced it would stop pocketing its workers’ tips.

At the time, CEO Tony Xu announced in a series of tweets that DoorDash would institute a new model to ensure workers’ earnings would “increase by the exact amount a customer tips on every order.” Xu promised to provide “specific details in the coming days.” The next day, Xu sent out a note to DoorDash workers, broadly outlining changes and letting them know “what to expect in the days ahead.”

But 27 days later, current DoorDash workers tell Recode that the company’s pay and tipping policies have stayed the same. The company has not made any public statements about its worker pay and how it plans to institute the changes, nor has it offered a specific date when it will fulfill its promise.

A spokesperson declined to comment about the company’s plans to change its tipping policy.
They are not figuring out how to implement a fair tipping policy, they are trying to figure out how to best weasel out of their commitment.

The final word on DoorDash is this:  If they treat their employees like sh%$, how do you think that they will treat you as a customer?

21 August 2019

This is Market Manipulation, not a "Pillar of Stock Market"

It appears that the stock market is running out of steam because companies are reducing their stock buybacks.

As I have noted before, until SEC Rule 10b-18 was adopted in 1983, stock buybacks were considered illegal market manipulation.

It's why the stock markets is showing insane PE ratios.

Senior executives buy back stock, boosting their own stock options, instead of investing in improvements in the business:
Corporate capital expenditures have slowed this year, adding to worries that economic growth is fading. Many executives have said the lingering trade tensions with China are giving them pause. The latest data from S&P Dow Jones Indices indicate capital expenditures picked up in the second quarter, improving 5.2% from the first three months of the year but still 7.8% below the boom seen at the end of last year.

The willingness among companies to buy back their shares has been among the biggest driving forces of the decadelong bull market. Since 2013, U.S. companies have poured $4.2 trillion into stock buybacks, according to Bank of America Merrill Lynch. Investors, though, haven’t shown the same enthusiasm for stocks. Mutual funds and exchange-traded funds tracking U.S. equities have posted $84 billion in outflows over the same period, according to the bank’s analysis of EPFR Global data.

Corporate buybacks boomed after the U.S. tax overhaul in December 2017, with every quarter in 2018 marking a new high for share repurchases. The recent easing in activity has some analysts and investors questioning whether the shift marks a return to the norm, or if companies are pulling back the reins for other reasons. 
This is not market fundamentals, this is corruption.

Live in Obedient Fear, Citizen

Scottsdale, Arizona police officers shot a disabled man in the back, making him drop the child he was carrying, who fractgured their skull.

The city then lost a $10,000,000.00 court case, so the officers were promoted.

The full saying is, "A few bad apples SPOILS THE BARREL.

I do not think that these results will lead to good policing in the Phoenix suburb:
On Monday, NYPD Commissioner James O'Neill fired officer Daniel Pantaleo, five years after he choked Eric Garner to death. Garner's death — and the city's refusal to discipline the officer who killed him — ignited nationwide protests against police brutality and the lack of accountability for police officers who use lethal force. Pantaleo's termination was seen by many as long overdue.

But it is not unusual for police officers involved in high-profile use-of-force incidents to face no consequences.

In a 2008 case that made headlines at the time, Scottsdale police sergeants James Dorer and Rich Slavin shot a mentally ill man in the back, paralyzing him and causing him to drop his baby and fracture her skull, which sparked a lawsuit against the city by the man's parents.

Neither Slavin nor Dorer were ever disciplined for their actions, Scottsdale police confirmed last week. Yet those actions led to a $10 million out-of-court settlement, which was previously reported by the Scottsdale Independent.

The settlement received no attention by other media outlets, and the Independent said the officers involved were no longer with the department. But as Phoenix New Times has learned, the multimillion-dollar payout in the case didn't set anyone's career back. Slavin rose through the ranks, and was promoted to assistant chief of Scottsdale police in 2018. Dorer retired from the force of his own accord, and is now the chief security officer for the Scottsdale Unified School District (SUSD), where he has worked since at least 2012.
That barrel is spoiled, and reeking of putrescence.

Can We Gofundme This?

The Youngstown Vindicator will be shutting down at the end of August, making the Ohio town the largest in the US without a newspaper:
It was in the late 1920s that the Ku Klux Klan regularly began gathering outside the home of William F Maag Jr in Youngstown. Maag owned the Vindicator newspaper, which unlike others in this once prosperous part of Ohio, had been willing to criticize the racist Klansmen.

Men on horseback, clad in white robes and hoods, would burn crosses and flaunt rifles and shotguns, in an attempt at intimidation. It didn’t work. The men of the Maag family would stand outside their home, themselves armed, refusing to be cowed, as the Vindicator continued to expose government officials who were part of the Klan.

That defiance set the tone for decades of investigative, combative reporting from the Vindicator. The daily newspaper relentlessly reported on the mafia, the government, big business and even its own advertisers.

But no more. Soon after celebrating 150 years since its first edition came news that was devastating to many in Youngstown and the wider Mahoning valley. The Vindicator was shutting down at the end of August. For good.

The Vindicator’s closure means Youngstown will soon be the largest city in the US without a major newspaper, and is the latest blow to an ailing American news industry. According to the University of North Carolina, more than 2,000 US newspapers have closed since 2004, and at least 1,300 communities have completely lost news coverage in the past 15 years. In July a Pew Research Center study reported that the number of journalists in the US declined 47% between 2008 and 2018.


The Vindicator became known for tackling the mafia and corrupt officials. The work of De Souza and other reporters in the late 1980s contributed to almost 70 elected officials, mafia members and businesspeople being convicted of criminal acts.

Despite the quality of the coverage, sales have declined over the past four decades. From selling 100,000 copies in the late 1970s – 160,000 on Sundays – the Vindicator is now down to 25,000 editions daily, and 32,000 on Sunday. The paper has lost money for 20 of the last 22 years, Brown said, with a family fund covering the losses. Brown hoped to ultimately sell the Vindicator, but no buyers were forthcoming. He explored a paywall, but the numbers didn’t work. Neither did making the Vindicator online-only.
Well, this sucks.

Not Feeling the Pain Here, Peter Parker is Free Now

As you may, or may not, be aware, Spider-Man's movie rights are owned by Sony, while much of the rest of the Marvel universe is owned by the Rodent Borg, aka Disney.

There has been some coordination between the two studios to sync the characters to fit into the Marvel universe, but now, some sort of corporate dispute will cleave the two apart.

Some people are losing their sh%$, but I think that this would be a good thing.

Spider-Man has always been one of the most solitary of super-heroes out of marvel, and unlike the normal run of Marvel spandex clad warriors, more of a working-class bloke from Queens.

The occasional cross over is one thing, but his playing Skywalker to Tony Stark's Yoda has never rung true to me.

I really do like Tom Holland's Spider-Man's interpretation of the role too:
Interviews with the filmmakers behind the Marvel Cinematic Universe almost always get around to what seems to be the studio’s core creative ethos: paint yourself into a corner, then find a creative way to get out of it. That mission statement inspired the snap in Avengers: Infinity War and the big secret-identity reveal that ends Spider-Man: Far From Home. And while creative inspiration probably wasn’t at the top of anyone’s mind during the business impasse that reportedly dissolved the partnership between Sony (which owns the current film rights to Spider-Man and his rogues’ gallery) and the Disney-owned Marvel Studios, that unexpected split could inadvertently inspire Sony to adopt exactly the sort of creative problem-solving that has fueled some of the MCU’s greatest moments.

First things first: No, this doesn’t mean we’re in for another Spider-Man reboot. According to current reports, Sony is planning to make more Spider-Man films starring Tom Holland, with conflicting reports saying that he’s currently contracted for either one or two more solo films. The only difference is that Marvel Studios president Kevin Feige won’t produce those films. The deal will also likely prevent Holland’s Spider-Man from appearing in future MCU movies, although that aspect seems to be slightly more in flux. (It’s also possible this whole deal could change, especially as both companies examine the public reaction to their confrontation. Entertainment Weekly reports that negotiations are still ongoing.)
I'm for letting the high-schooler from Queens stay a high-schooler  from Queens.

20 August 2019

Why Defined Contribution Plans Do Not Work

Because there is extreme information asymmetry in favor of the financial industry, there is an opportunity for fraud, and as I've noted before, (today) If fraud can occur, fraud will occur.

Case in point, Fidelity bribing MIT to allow the financial firm overcharge the school's employees for their retirement plan:
The Massachusetts Institute of Technology, one of the nation's most prestigious universities, stands accused of hurting workers in the company's retirement plan by engaging in an improper relationship with the financial firm Fidelity.

A lawsuit headed to trial in September alleges that MIT ignored the advice of its own consultants and allowed Fidelity to pack the university's retirement plan with high-fee investment funds that ended up costing employees tens of millions of dollars. In return, the lawsuit said, MIT leveraged millions of dollars in donations from Fidelity.

MIT and Fidelity say the allegations have no merit.

The same as any employer that offers workers a retirement plan, MIT is required by law to set up investment options that are in the best interest of its employees and retirees.


Twenty years ago, MIT hired Fidelity to help manage its 401(k) plan. But the lawsuit alleges that MIT then let Fidelity include dozens of Fidelity funds with high fees — and that some charged fees more than 100 times higher than other funds that MIT could have chosen. [Plaintiff's Attorney Jerry] Schlichter said MIT's own outside consultants recommended shifting to a plan with lower-cost investment options, but "that advice was ignored for years."

Meanwhile, Schlichter's lawsuit says, MIT benefited from the excessive fees that the workers' retirement plan paid Fidelity. Court documents allege: "In return, MIT leveraged Fidelity's revenue stream from the Plan to secure numerous donations (over $23 million since Fidelity became the recordkeeper)."

In 2015, when the university considered other options, an MIT dean emailed the head of an MIT committee overseeing the plan: "if we're not switching to Vanguard or TIAA Cref, I am going to expect something big and good coming to MIT," according to the court records.

Schlichter said that soon after that exchange, "Fidelity donated $5 million to MIT."
Seriously, we need to cap fees on tax deferred accounts.

While there may be a societal value to retirement savings accounts, there is no such value to reckless seeking alpha, nor is there a societal value to rip off retirees.

It will hit Wall Street in the pocket book, but f%$# Wall Street.

Quote of the Day

Central to this narrative is the presentation of the difference between Trump and Obama as akin to the difference between Hitler and Gandhi. A better analogy – especially when it comes to foreign policy – would be the difference between John Wayne Gacy, the serial killer who was known for dressing up as a clown at public events, and Ted Bundy, the tall, handsome serial killer who enticed his victims into his car with his charm and good looks.
Peter Bolton at Counter Punch
He's writing about how Joe Biden has stapled himself to Barack Obama's increasingly dubious legacy.

It's a wonderfully evocative turn of phrase.

H/t Naked Capitalism.

Consider the Source

Given the latest news of the aggressive self dealing that National Rifle Association Chief Executive and Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre has been engaging in, it's normally not newsworthy when someone calls him an, "Odious Little Grifter," but this time it's Fox News that is calling him that.
Stick a fork in his corrupt white flabby ass, he's done:
Fox News appears to have abandoned Wayne LaPierre, but not the NRA. Conservative weekend host Steve Hilton ripped LaPierre to shreds, calling him an "odious little grifter" before calling for his ouster.

“Wayne has a big, important job," Hilton said. "If you want to buy a big house, good luck to him. Except it was not him buying the house. It was you."

The plot, Hilton explained, was for NRA advertising contractor Ackerman McQueen to create a new corporate entity, which the NRA would then fund for over $6 million, guaranteeing them 99 percent ownership. The new corporation would then buy the property for the benefit of LaPierre. Clearly there are not enough regulations on the relationships between nonprofits and corporate entities.

Hilton also went over the other LaPierre grifts, like the request for nearly $14,000 to rent an apartment for a summer intern, spending hundreds of thousands on clothing, flights, and luxury hotel stays.

“A new report revealed that tens of thousands of dollars of NRA donor funds were used on flights and luxury hotel stays for hair and makeup artists for Wayne’s wife and they traveled with her for events because apparently those are the only two stylists in the whole country capable of doing the job,” Hilton said.

And it wasn't limited to travel in the United States, either, noting that thousands of dollars had been spent on overseas travel. “There are other countries and other hotels you can stay at if you want to protect the Second Amendment," Hilton sneered. "Try the Hyatt in Washington D.C. It’s a short walk to places like the United States Congress and Supreme Court where American gun rights are actually decided, not Budapest or even Lake Como."

He wrapped it up with a snappy conclusion: “For years Wayne has taken NRA members’ money to live the life of a king but he’s not a king. He’s the head of a nonprofit trusted by millions to use its funds to secure constitutional rights. He’s an odious little grifter and it’s time for him to go.”
Fox News has turned on him.

I am amused.

Whatever This Says about Our Society, It's Profoundly Depressing

The Committee on Publication Ethics (COPE) has accumulated an exhaustive database of academic citations, and found what appears to be a whole lot of self dealing and corruption:
The world’s most-cited researchers, according to newly released data, are a curiously eclectic bunch. Nobel laureates and eminent polymaths rub shoulders with less familiar names, such as Sundarapandian Vaidyanathan from Chennai in India. What leaps out about Vaidyanathan and hundreds of other researchers is that many of the citations to their work come from their own papers, or from those of their co-authors.

Vaidyanathan, a computer scientist at the Vel Tech R&D Institute of Technology, a privately run institute, is an extreme example: he has received 94% of his citations from himself or his co-authors up to 2017, according to a study in PLoS Biology this month1. He is not alone. The data set, which lists around 100,000 researchers, shows that at least 250 scientists have amassed more than 50% of their citations from themselves or their co-authors, while the median self-citation rate is 12.7%.

The study could help to flag potential extreme self-promoters, and possibly ‘citation farms’, in which clusters of scientists massively cite each other, say the researchers. “I think that self-citation farms are far more common than we believe,” says John Ioannidis, a physician at Stanford University in California who specializes in meta-science — the study of how science is done — and who led the work. “Those with greater than 25% self-citation are not necessarily engaging in unethical behaviour, but closer scrutiny may be needed,” he says.

The data are by far the largest collection of self-citation metrics ever published. And they arrive at a time when funding agencies, journals and others are focusing more on the potential problems caused by excessive self-citation. In July, the Committee on Publication Ethics (COPE), a publisher-advisory body in London, highlighted extreme self-citation as one of the main forms of citation manipulation. This issue fits into broader concerns about an over-reliance on citation metrics for making decisions about hiring, promotions and research funding.
This is not a surprise.

If fraud can occur, fraud will occur.

Patent Troll, Patent Troll, Patent Troll, Patent Troll, ‎Nathan Myhrvold‎

Good news everyone, calling someone a "Patent Troll" is a constitutionally protected opinion, and as such, patent trolls, like Nathan Myhrvold‎, (He's not a party to this case) cannot sue you for calling them a patent troll:
Free speech in the patent world saw a big win on Friday, when the New Hampshire Supreme Court held that calling someone a “patent troll” doesn’t constitute defamation. The court’s opinion [PDF] is good news for critics of abusive patent litigation, and anyone who values robust public debate around patent policy. The opinion represents a loss for Automated Transactions, LLC (ATL), a patent assertion entity that sued [PDF] more than a dozen people and trade groups claiming it was defamed.

EFF worked together with the ACLU of New Hampshire to file an amicus brief [PDF] in this case, explaining that the lower court judge got this case right when he ruled against ATL. That decision gave wide latitude for public debate about important policy issues—even when the debate veers into harsh language. We’re glad the New Hampshire Supreme Court agreed.

Last week’s ruling court notes that “patent troll” is a phrase used to describe “a class of patent owners who do not provide end products or services themselves, but who do demand royalties as a price for authorizing the work of others.” However, the justices note that “patent troll” has no clear settled definition. For instance, some observers of the patent world would exclude particular entities, like individual inventors or universities, from the moniker “patent troll.”

Because of this, when ATL’s many critics call it a “patent troll,” they are expressing their subjective opinions. Differences of opinion about many things—including patent lawsuits—cannot and should not be settled with a defamation lawsuit.
Personally, I would call ATL a bunch of pig felching patent trolling rat bastards, which I think is protected too.

19 August 2019

What's Worse than a Corrupt Cop?

When police showed up at Harry Schmidt's home on the outskirts of Pittsburgh, he thought they were there to help. He was still mourning the disappearance of the beloved forest green Ford F-150 pickup that he’d customized with a gun storage cabinet, and he hoped the cops had solved the crime.

Instead, the officers accused him of faking the theft. The Vietnam veteran was now facing up to seven years in prison.

Schmidt was stunned, but he was even more upset when he found out who had turned him in.

Erie Insurance, one of the nation’s largest auto insurers, had not only provided the cops with evidence against its own loyal customer — it had actively worked with them to try to convict him of insurance fraud.

Erie had even paid part of the salary of the lead detective who knocked on Schmidt’s door that day, as well as that of the prosecutor who went on to charge him with felony insurance fraud. And it would also secretly cover the costs of an expert witness to testify against Schmidt in court.

Schmidt, a grandfather living on disability benefits from his war-related injuries, had no history of theft or fraud. But he found himself the target of an extraordinary alliance between private insurers and public law enforcement agencies — one that transforms routine claims into criminal evidence, premium-paying customers into suspects, and the justice system into a hired gun for a multibillion-dollar industry. It’s an arrangement essentially unheard of in other businesses, and one rife with potential conflicts of interest, as well as grave consequences for law-abiding customers.
If the above is scary, just think about how insurance companies literally have power over whether you live or die when they deny your medical coverage.