31 October 2019

How Dare They Criticize Their Betters

It turns out that the Silicon Valley social media companies were actively enabling the slave trade in the Persian Gulf principalities:
Drive around the streets of Kuwait and you won't see these women. They are behind closed doors, deprived of their basic rights, unable to leave and at risk of being sold to the highest bidder.

But pick up a smartphone and you can scroll through thousands of their pictures, categorised by race, and available to buy for a few thousand dollars.

An undercover investigation by BBC News Arabic has found that domestic workers are being illegally bought and sold online in a booming black market.

Some of the trade has been carried out on Facebook-owned Instagram, where posts have been promoted via algorithm-boosted hashtags, and sales negotiated via private messages.

Other listings have been promoted in apps approved and provided by Google Play and Apple's App Store, as well as the e-commerce platforms' own websites.

"What they are doing is promoting an online slave market," said Urmila Bhoola, the UN special rapporteur on contemporary forms of slavery.

"If Google, Apple, Facebook or any other companies are hosting apps like these, they have to be held accountable."
The social media companies still insist that they are engaged in a moral endeavor.

They are not. They are snollygosters engaging in humbug in order to enrich themselves.

It's On

The House of Representatives just voted along almost completely partisan lines to formally initiate public impeachment proceedings.

I'm concerned that the impeachment investigation is too narrowly focused, after all, he is mobbed up, obstructed justice, evaded taxes, etc.

If you are going to have public hearings, you don't want to limit yourself.

One other note: 2 Democrats, Collin Peterson (D-MN) and Jeff Van Drew (D-NJ), voted against the investigation.

I understand that they are from districts that Trump won, but NONE of the people who would be upset about the investigation would EVER vote Democrat.

What's more, while I can see having a difference of opinion on the actual impeachment vote, the case for an investigation is the proverbial "slam dunk".

Their careers need to be ended.

30 October 2019

Got My New Cell Phone………

So as soon as I get a SIM card, I will be moving from my antediluvian back up phone.

The phone is a bit bigger than my last phone, but a LOT heavier.

It's a f%$#ing tank with a rubber coating and what I am guessing is a heavy aluminum frame and a massive (4800 mWh) removable battery.

It weighs about ¾ pound, but it still fits in a shirt pocket, so I am OK with that.

1⁄4 Century

On November 30, 1994, I married Sharon Rachel May, now Sharon Rachel Saroff.

It's our 25th wedding anniversary.

Unfortunately for the single women of the world, I am still unavailable.

Fortunately for me, Sharon* has not (yet anyway) murdered me.

Lord knows that she has ample (no jury in the world would convict her) justification.

Here's to women with exquisitely poor taste in men.  It's how Saroffs find mates, I guess.

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


Brian Blessed chewing the scenery about Brian Blessed chewing the scenery:

29 October 2019

Gee, You Think?

After setting fire to much of the state, and now shutting down power to much of the state, in pursuit of profit numbers to justify excessive executive bonuses, Bernie Sanders is suggesting that it's time to start to seriously consider a move to publicly owned utilities:
As two million Californians go without power in the midst of for-profit utility giant PG&E's intentional and unprecedented blackout—which the company says is necessary to prevent more wildfires—Sen. Bernie Sanders said Sunday that "it is time to begin thinking about public ownership of major utilities" to prevent such catastrophic corporate mismanagement in the future.
Preach it, brother!

Utilities are by their nature monopolies, you cannot have transmission wires from a dozen competitors competing for pole space, and it is clear that they (particularly the execrable PG&E) have the extraction of monopoly rents to maximize executive bonuses as their core, and perhaps only, value.

That's why they have consistently refused to engage in proper maintenance of their transmission facilities.

I Want This Phone Charger

An artist and programmer has come up with a charger that generates a flood of false information to thwart the attempts of the various internet giants to track you:
Martin Nadal, an artist and coder based in Linz, Austria, has created FANGo, a "defense weapon against surveillance capitalism" that is disguised as a mobile phone charger.

On his page introducing the device, Nadal explains that the inside of the charger hides a micro controller that takes control of an Android smartphone by accessing the operating system’s Debug Mode. The device then makes queries and interacts with pages on Google, Amazon, YouTube, and other sites "in order to deceive data brokers in their data capture process." It works similar to a fake Apple lightning cable, now mass-produced, that hijacks your device once connected.

Tools to frustrate tracking attempts by advertisers or data brokers are not new—AdNauseam is a plugin that clicks on all ads, while TrackmeNot does random searches on different search engines. Such projects, however, exclusively focus on desktops and web browsers. "Today we interact with the internet from the mobile mostly,” Nadal told Motherboard in an email. “We also use applications, where there is no possibility of using these plugins that hinder the monitoring making the user helpless."

The device’s name is an acronym for Facebook, Amazon, Netflix, and Google, who represent some of the most profitable companies in the world. Nadal, however, sees them as the engines of surveillance capitalism, a theorization of contemporary capitalism by Susanna Zuboff, a Harvard Business School professor emeritus.


Nadal is working on adding new features that might take such poisoning even further, using techniques such as geolocation spoofing. "[W]hile my phone is quietly charging at home, the data brokers think that I am walking or dining in another part of the city or world," he said.

I love it.

Mixed Emotions

While making it official will remove a (clearly unconstitutional and corrupt) justification for Federalist Society hacks to rule against Congressional subpoenas, it also appears that this is an artifact of the permanent Democratic permanent protective crouch, because they have responded to Republicans saying mean things about them.

F%$# the Republicans with Cheney's dick:
House Democrats unveiled new procedures for the impeachment inquiry of President Trump on Tuesday, responding to Republican demands for due process by setting out rules for future public hearings delving into whether Trump should be removed from office.

The resolution backed by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) hands the lead role to the House Intelligence Committee and its chairman, Rep. Adam B. Schiff (D-Calif.), who would have broad latitude to organize extended questioning of potential public witnesses. Two other committees that have so far participated in the closed-door investigation into Trump’s dealings with Ukraine — Foreign Affairs and Oversight and Reform — would not be permitted to directly participate in the open proceedings under the legislation.

It also sets out for the first time the ability of House Republicans to make their own requests for testimony and documents, though those requests will be subject to a vote of the Democratic-majority committee — a practice that matches the minority powers in the 1998 impeachment of President Bill Clinton.
I expect Republicans will continue to make Democrats jump through hoops, because, after all, this is what they do.

In less ambiguous news, a new witness has emerged, whose testimony strongly implies that the so-called transcript of Trump's call to the Ukraine was altered to cover up evidence of attempted extortion:
Lt. Col. Alexander S. Vindman, the top Ukraine expert on the National Security Council, told House impeachment investigators on Tuesday that the White House transcript of a July call between President Trump and Ukraine’s president omitted crucial words and phrases, and that his attempts to include them failed, according to three people familiar with the testimony.

The omissions, Colonel Vindman said, included Mr. Trump’s assertion that there were recordings of former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. discussing Ukraine corruption, and an explicit mention by Ukraine’s president, Volodymyr Zelensky, of Burisma Holdings, the energy company whose board employed Mr. Biden’s son Hunter.

Colonel Vindman, who appeared on Capitol Hill wearing his dark blue Army dress uniform and military medals, told House impeachment investigators that he tried to change the reconstructed transcript made by the White House staff to reflect the omissions. But while some of his edits appeared to have been successful, he said, those two corrections were not made.

Colonel Vindman did not testify to a motive behind the White House editing process. But his testimony is likely to drive investigators to ask further questions about how officials handled the call, including changes to the transcript and the decision to put it into the White House’s most classified computer system — and whether those moves were meant to conceal the conversation’s most controversial aspects.
Drip  ……… drip  ……… drip  ……… drip  ………

28 October 2019

Looks like Foreign Money Laundering is Tapering Off

At least in the New York City apartment market, where prices are falling of a cliff:
It’s a tough time to be a seller in Manhattan’s most-expensive neighborhoods, where price declines for previously owned apartments are accelerating.

In Tribeca, resale prices fell 28% year-over-year, the most for any neighborhood, to a median of $2.25 million in the third quarter, according to property listings website StreetEasy. Values in both Greenwich Village and Chelsea dropped 15%. The Upper West Side and the area that includes Soho were each down 14%.

As listings pile up across the borough, owners are starting to sense that the surest way to a deal is to lower their expectations of a hefty profit.

“Things that are selling are selling for lower prices, and expensive things, overall, are not selling,” said Grant Long, senior economist at StreetEasy.
One of the reasons for this is that people who are looking to hide overseas ill-gotten gains are looking at London, rather than the Big Apple, because they believe that a post-Brexit UK will be desperate and so will look the other way over suspicious real estate transfers.

As an aside, it took about 50 years for us to forget the lessons of the Great Depression, but we are on the path to repeat the Great Recession of 2008 11 years later.

Tweet of the Day

Billionaire criminal tells Bernie Sanders to stop treating billionaires as criminals.

Who says that irony is dead?

H/t naked capitalism.

Another Domino Falls

First, the Pennsylvania state Supreme Court ruled that their state constitution make extreme Gerrymandering unlawful, and now the North Carolina Supreme Court makes a similar ruling based on the state constitution.

What is nice about this, is that even the right wing hacks on SCOTUS cannot find a reason to overrule this, because their purview does not cover state constitutions:
A North Carolina state court effectively threw out the state’s map of congressional districts on Monday, saying critics were poised to show “beyond a reasonable doubt” that it was an unconstitutional partisan gerrymander favoring Republicans.

The ruling, by a three-judge panel in Superior Court in Raleigh, technically imposes a temporary ban on using the map in primary elections next spring. But the judges signaled that they were unlikely to change their minds by inviting plaintiffs in the case to seek a summary judgment ending the case in their favor. And the judges said they were prepared to postpone primary elections should that prove necessary to further litigate the case or draw new House districts.

The plaintiffs, North Carolina residents, were sponsored by the National Redistricting Foundation, an arm of a Democratic group led by former Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. that is seeking to challenge Republican control of the next round of redistricting in 2021.

The House map drawn by Republican legislators in 2016 all but guaranteed the party’s control of 10 of the state’s 13 House districts, even though voters’ political preferences are split almost evenly between the two major parties. A separate challenge to the same map went to the United States Supreme Court, which ruled in June that it did not have the ability to regulate partisan gerrymandering, however egregious.

But the state panel said the map violated broader provisions in North Carolina’s Constitution guaranteeing freedom of speech and assembly and equal protection under the law, as well as a guarantee of free elections that does not appear in the federal Constitution.
The Supreme Court has been loathe to deal with partisan gerrymanders because 5 of the 9 are politically partisan and corrupt.

The state courts have not (yet) been perverted as much by the Federalist Society and its ilk.

Missing the Point

Over at The Nation, they are wringing their hands over how the recent collapse of coffee prices are devastating small farmers all over the world.

The problem is not the vicissitudes of coffee prices.

The problem is that, as a result of trade policies from the United States and the EU, farmers are forced to move away from growing staples to growing cash crops, which makes those farmers lives even more precarious, because they are subject to the whims of the market, and they cannot eat what they grow.

So they starve, or they are forced to sell their farms.

The problem is heavily subsidized US and EU agricultural products flood their markets, and force them to abandon the production of food crops.

Well, this Sucks

My old phone died today.

I had some notice, and a more up to date rugged and waterproof phone is on the way, but until it arrives, hopefully wednesday, I am using this:

At least, it allows me to make calls and get texts.

I had to spend about an hour on the phone with Sprint tech support to activate the phone, because it is too old to do hands free activation.

Sprint was fine, it just took a while to escalate to someone who knew that the heck was going on.

27 October 2019

Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi Killed Donald Trump Has WTF Moment

Seriously, I can understand his desire to announce the alleged killing of ISIS founder al-Baghdadi, but to the degree I could listen to his announcement, about 15 minutes, his affect was completely deranged:
The Islamic State leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, has been killed in a raid by US special forces on his Syrian safe house, Donald Trump has announced, ending a years-long hunt for one of the world’s most-wanted terrorists.

Trump said the “impeccable” two-hour operation was conducted on Saturday night in the province of Idlib, one of the few areas of the country still outside Syrian regime control, and that US officials had confirmed Baghdadi, 48, was among those killed.


The US president, facing impeachment proceedings and under bipartisan fire for withdrawing troops from the Syrian border, basked in the demise of the self-styled caliphate leader, whose final moments he described in vivid, indulgent detail.

“[Baghdadi] running into a dead-end tunnel, whimpering and crying and screaming all the way,” Trump said.

Cornered, Baghdadi detonated a suicide vest and killed himself and three of his children, Trump said. “He died like a dog, he died like a coward. The world is now a much safer place,” he said.
Seriously, it sounded even weirder when you heard it than when you read it.

Also, he was hiding in north east Syria, an area carved out for our al Qaeda allies(!) who were allegedly sworn enemies of IS, which indicates just how truly f%$#ed our priorities, tactics, and strategy is in Syria.

Cue Republicans claiming that the impeachment inquiry needs to end, because some bearded dude got whacked.

About F%$#ing Time

I do not know if this ruling will stand, but a judge in South Carolina has ruled that the states asset forfeiture programs are unconstitutional:
Asset forfeiture certainly seems unconstitutional. But we don't have a lot of case law actually saying that. Something that began in the United States as a way to punish wrongdoers located elsewhere in the world, but whose property (usually a ship and its contents) had sailed into US jurisdiction, is now used by American law enforcement to take cash, vehicles, and whatever else they can haul away from people they think smell like weed.


So, asset forfeiture continues pretty much unabated. Fortunately, there's been another ruling handed down that says pretty much everything about civil asset forfeiture is unconstitutional… in multiple ways. The downside is that, for now, it only affects part of one state.

A South Carolina circuit court judge in Horry County has ruled the state's civil asset forfeiture law unconstitutional, in violation of the U.S. Constitution's Fourth, Fifth and 14th amendments.

While the decision by 15th Circuit Court Judge Steven H. John doesn't set precedent beyond his courtroom, it could set the table for a state appellate court to determine whether South Carolina needs to enact reforms to its law.

The decision [PDF] doesn't pull any punches. Judge John can't find anything he likes about the state's forfeiture programs. First up, it's the Eighth Amendment, which -- as incorporated by South Carolina's Constitution -- forbids excessive fines. Here, the judge draws the line the Supreme Court of the United States didn't: forfeitures without convictions makes any seizure excessive. [emphasis in the original]

This Court finds that South Carolina's forfeiture statutes violate both the federal and South Carolina constitutional protections against excessive fines by permitting the government to seize unlimited amounts of cash and other property without regard to the proportionality of the crime that may have been committed. Indeed, they allow the government to seize unlimited amounts of cash and other property when no crime has been committed, without a criminal conviction and without proof of a crime having been committed beyond a determination of probable cause.
[S]outh Carolina's forfeiture statutes would allow law enforcement to seize millions in assets from an individual when the maximum fine authorized by law is minimal or when no crime has been committed at all. This unfettered authorization to seize unlimited amounts of property from citizens without regard to the proportionality of the offense committed -- indeed, without evidence proving that the individual committed an offense -- compels this Court to find that the statutory scheme is unconstitutional and must be invalidated…

Judge John pitches a shutout. Asset forfeiture in almost any form is unconstitutional. Civil asset forfeiture in any form is unquestionably unconstitutional. Where the government chooses to take this from here will be interesting. Does it take the loss and limit the damage to this judge's courtroom, meaning it will have to hope any forfeiture proceedings it engages in are routed around this new damage? Or does it challenge the ruling and risk having this spread across the state? If the agencies affected are greedy enough, they might just act against their own interest. And that could be good news for South Carolinians.
It's been clear for decades that asset forfeiture amounts to little more than legalized theft, and the scale of this theft is literally larger than what actually occurs from our so called criminal element.

Argentina: 1 — IMF: 0

Argentine president Mauricio Macri has decisively lost his bid for reelection, showing that the the people of Argentina have gotten sick of the myth of expansionary austerity:
Argentina’s Peronists swept back into power on Sunday, ousting conservative president Mauricio Macri in an election result that shifts Latin America’s No. 3 economy firmly back toward the left after it was battered by economic crisis.

Peronist Alberto Fernandez had 47.79% of the vote, ahead of Macri’s 40.71%, with more than 90% of ballots counted, putting the center-left challenger over the 45% threshold to avoid a runoff and win the election outright.

Macri, speaking at his election party, conceded the race and congratulated Fernandez. He said he had invited Fernandez to the presidential palace on Monday to discuss an orderly transition, seen as essential for Argentina’s shaky economy and markets.
Here's hoping that this is the beginning of a trend.

The standard neoliberal prescriptions create little more than misery.

Live in Obedient Fear, Citizens

On very rare occasions, the front mouths for law enforcement -- police unions -- will surprise you with inadvertent truthiness. Such a rarity occurred recently. It was -- as almost every union outburst is -- provoked by the introduction of the tiniest sliver of accountability.

The Bronx District Attorney decided to release its list of cops even it can't trust. What the New York Post refers to as a "naughty list" bears some resemblance to the Brady lists compiled (but rarely released) by other city prosecutors. These lists contain cops who have been caught lying in reports or in court or have had evidence tossed (usually more than once) for Constitutional violations.

These lists are supposed to make their way to criminal defendants. This rarely happens either. No prosecutor wants their star witness impeached, even if the prosecutor knows what we know: cops lie. Some more than others.


Here's where it gets fun. The Sergeants Benevolent Association, one of New York's law enforcement unions, reacted very badly to the release of the naughty list. Bear in mind this list only includes officers who've "given questionable testimony" or "had evidence tossed for unconstitutional policing."

This is how the SBA responded, cloaked in stupidity it mistook for righteous anger.
The city’s police union responded to the release by slamming the Bronx DA’s prosecution record and attacking the “anti-cop activists” who requested the lists to smear “honest, hard-working police officers.”
So, if we're to take the SBA at its word, the release of "naughty" list "smeared" "honest, hard-working" officers who… lied in court or committed Constitutional violations. Any straight reading of this assertion results in the assumption the SBA considers lying and Constitutional violations to just be part of the honest, hard work officers perform. That's a bit disturbing.
One has to remember that these officers are still on the force, despite the fac that they have routingely violated their duty to follow the law, and that the rest of the force, or at least their duly designated representatives, is just fine with that.

The cops who lie and violate citizens rights are bad cops, but so are the cops who do not report them.

There needs to be a top to bottom cleanup of police forces across the county.

I Don't Care About the World Series, But ………

I am Amused
The fact that Donald Trump showed up to game 5 of the world series, and the crowd booed and started chanting, "Lock him up," is something that I find intensely amusing:
Donald Trump once claimed he was courted by several major league baseball clubs in his youth but turned them down because they couldn’t offer him enough money. On Sunday, baseball got its revenge.

The President attended Game 5 of the World Series between the Washington Nationals and Houston Astros at Nationals Park, a short journey from the White House. When Trump was shown on the video screens in the stadium he was loudly booed by fans. That, perhaps, was predictable: Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan, Richard Nixon and both Bushes were all booed while attending baseball games as President. What came shortly afterwards was a little more personal in a city that is heavily Democratic as cries of “Lock him up!” rang out, a reference to the chants about Hillary Clinton used at Trump’s rallies in the run-up to the 2016 presidential elections.
I wish that I could have seen his face when this happened.

Oh, wait, I can:

26 October 2019

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

The 2nd and 3rd commercial banks have failed this year, matching the number of credit union failures for the year, this compares with 0 for all of 2018, and 8 total for 2017.

I'm not sure if this is just a blip, or if this is a return to trend, and 2018 is an outlier,

And here they are, ordered, and numbered for the year so far:
  1. Louisa Community Bank, Inc., Lousia, KY
  2. Resolute Bank, Maumee, OH
Full FDIC list

Chump Change

As threatened, Federal Magistrate Judge Sallie Kim held the Education Depaartment in contempt and assigned a $100,000.00 fine for continuing to attempt to collect debts from students of Corinthian Colleges.

That amount is chump change to someone like Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos, even it had been assigned to her.

She needed to spend a few days in jail, because these actions were deliberately thwarting the judge's instructions:
A federal judge on Thursday held Education Secretary Betsy DeVos in contempt for violating an order to stop collecting loan payments from former Corinthian Colleges students.

Magistrate Judge Sallie Kim of the U.S. District Court in San Francisco slapped the Education Department with a $100,000 fine for violating a preliminary injunction. Money from the fine will be used to compensate the 16,000 people harmed by the federal agency’s actions. Some former students of the defunct for-profit college had their paychecks garnished. Others had their tax refunds seized by the federal government.

“There is no question that the defendants violated the preliminary injunction. There is also no question that defendants’ violations harmed individual borrowers,” Kim wrote in her ruling Thursday. “Defendants have not provided evidence that they were unable to comply with the preliminary injunction, and the evidence shows only minimal efforts to comply.”


In September, the federal agency revealed in a court filing that former Corinthian students “were incorrectly informed at one time or another … that they had payments due on their federal student loans” after Kim put a hold on collections in May 2018.


Attorneys for the borrowers proposed an array of sanctions, including fining DeVos $500 per day until the Education Department is fully compliant with the original court order.

Toby Merrill, director at the Project on Predatory Student Lending, a legal-aid group representing the students, said the “rare and powerful action to hold the Secretary of Education in contempt of court shows the extreme harm” of DeVos’s actions.
Fine, schmine, DeVos Should have spent some time in jail.

DeVos probably spends more on berthing costs for her yacht than the $500.00/day proposed by the borrowers.

25 October 2019

Pity the Poor Disrespected Rapist

Kelly Bachman desrves more than applause, she deserves her own network television program:
With her heart racing as she went onstage, Kelly Bachman knew she had to speak up.

“I’m a comic,” the 27-year-old said to open her routine, in a video later shared on social media. “It’s our job to name the elephant in the room. Does anybody know what that is?”

A few people nodded and muttered in affirmation. Most of the crowd, a hodgepodge of 20- and 30-something performers at a basement bar in Manhattan, was dead silent.

“It’s a Freddy Krueger in the room, if you will,” she said. “I didn’t know we had to bring our own mace and rape whistles.” At that point, a handful of people in the back of the room started booing her. One yelled, “Shut up!”But Bachman didn’t need to say more for the crowd to notice who she was talking about: Sitting in a green velvet booth was Harvey Weinstein, the Hollywood mogul accused of sexually abusing or harassing more than 80 women.


For her part, Bachman is taking one thing away.

“If Harvey Weinstein is calling me rude,” she quipped, “I’m putting that on my résumé.”
Get this woman a network show.

Rule #1 Of Zuckerberg Statements

Zuck lies.

Rule 2: See Rule 1.

Case in point, Zuckerberg's claim that Facebook was inspired by Iraq war protests, which was almost immediately contradicted by a Congressman from Harvard who was among its first users:
Like most college campuses in early 2003, Harvard University was atwitter over one issue in particular: the imminent Iraq invasion. The Bush administration’s push to overthrow Saddam Hussein was debated and picked over in dorm rooms, argued about in lecture halls, and scrutinized in term papers.

Mark Zuckerberg was paying attention. So was future lawmaker Ruben Gallego, watching the debate unfold as he activated to go to war. In contrast, Zuckerberg was nine months away from creating a website where students could vote on the attractiveness of women on campus. It was an idea that eventually led to Facebook.

On Thursday, Zuckerberg — under scrutiny for how misinformation is harnessed and is now protected by Facebook — bridged the debate over Iraq and the nexus of his company, even at one point suggesting the social network could have stopped the war entirely.

“I remember feeling that if more people had a voice to share their experiences, maybe things would have gone differently,” Zuckerberg said at Georgetown University. “Those early years shaped my belief that giving everyone a voice empowers the powerless and pushes society to be better over time.”

Gallego blasted Zuckerberg’s recollection as an attempt to redraw the company’s image as altruistic in the face of growing scrutiny, as it defends its decision to allow lies in political ads.

“He’s rewriting history so it gives him an excuse to regulate himself,” Rep. Gallego (D-Ariz.) told The Washington Post on Tuesday. “It’s false. It’s completely false.”

Some bits of Zuckerberg’s recollection were telling, said Gallego, who claims to be one of the first 2,000 users of Facebook, which in its earliest iterations was open only to Harvard students.
With the possible exception of Google, I don't think that there is a major tech firm that has been founded in the past 25 years that is not corrupt at its core, and Mark Zuckerberg makes them look like angels.

24 October 2019

Mistake Jet Update

Full rate production for the F-35 Lightning II has been delayed.

What can I say, this program has only been around for more than ¼ century, and that is just not enough time:
The F-35 Joint Strike Fighter full-rate production decision, which is slated for December, may be put off for up to 13 months because of delays with integrating the Joint Simulation Environment (JSE).

Pentagon chief weapons buyer Ellen Lord signed a program deviation report this week that documented the expected threshold breach in the milestone C full-rate production decision, she told reporters Oct. 18 during a Pentagon briefing.

“What this is a result of, and I follow this very carefully, is the fact that we are not making as quick progress with the Joint Simulation Environment integration of the F-35 into it,” Lord said. Integrating the JSE with the F-35 is “critical” for initial operational test and evaluation, she said. The JSE projects characteristics like weather, geography and range that allows test pilots to use the jet’s full capabilities against the full range of required threats and scenarios.
This simulator is not a pilot simulator.  It's an software development environment to validate that the software actually works.

It doesn't work.

Bankruptcy Should Have Consequences

The Mayor of San Jose is proposing that PG&E's bankruptcy should be resolved by turning it into a customer owned utility:
Frustrated by PG&E Corp.’s California blackouts and its existing options for exiting bankruptcy, the mayor of the state’s third-biggest city is proposing something radically different: turn the company into the nation’s largest customer-owned utility.

San Jose hopes to persuade other California cities and counties in coming weeks to line up behind the plan, which would strip PG&E of its status as an investor-owned company and turn it into a nonprofit electric-and-gas cooperative, Mayor Sam Liccardo said in an interview.

The buyout proposal by San Jose, the largest city served by PG&E with more than a million residents, amounts to a revolt by some of the utility’s roughly 16 million customers as PG&E struggles to keep the lights on and provide basic services while preventing its aging electric equipment from sparking wildfires.

Mr. Liccardo said the time has come for the people dependent on PG&E for essential services to propose a new direction. A cooperative, he said, would create a utility better able to meet customers’ needs because it would be owned by customers—and answerable to them.

“This is a crisis begging for a better solution than what PG&E customers see being considered today,” Mr. Liccardo said. He said recent power shut-offs initiated by the company were poorly handled, adding, “I’ve seen better organized riots.”


The buyout idea represents a dramatic twist in the debate over how PG&E can emerge from bankruptcy, compensate fire victims and address its many safety problems. It likely will face stiff opposition from PG&E, which in January filed for chapter 11 protection from an estimated $30 billion in wildfire-related liabilities. The company’s bondholders also will likely contest the idea after putting forward a rival reorganization plan that the bankruptcy court agreed to consider.

Instead of taking their proposal to the bankruptcy court weighing PG&E’s fate, proponents say public entities will likely take their case directly to the California Public Utilities Commission, which can veto a reorganization plan emerging from bankruptcy review if in its eyes it doesn’t serve the public interest.
PG&E has been so awful for so long, I really do not see an alternative to this.

As an aside, a bankruptcy might very well prevent them from opening their pocket book to bankroll a initiative petition campaign against any public ownership proposals.

A Feature, Not a Bug

It turns out that an algorithm used by health care providers to determine who is in need of enhanced care and monitoring discriminates against black black people.

Call me a conspiracy theorist, but I continue to think that algorithmic discrimination is actually one of the goals of this sort of AI tech, just like Airbmb listing, Facebook employment ads, etc:
A health care algorithm makes black patients substantially less likely than their white counterparts to receive important medical treatment. The major flaw affects millions of patients, and was just revealed in research published this week in the journal Science.

The study does not name the makers of the algorithm, but Ziad Obermeyer, an acting associate professor at the University of California, Berkeley, who worked on the study says “almost every large health care system” is using it, as well as institutions like insurers. Similar algorithms are produced by several different companies as well. “This is a systematic feature of the way pretty much everyone in the space approaches this problem,” he says.

The algorithm is used by health care providers to screen patients for “high-risk care management” intervention. Under this system, patients who have especially complex medical needs are automatically flagged by the algorithm. Once selected, they may receive additional care resources, like more attention from doctors. As the researchers note, the system is widely used around the United States, and for good reason. Extra benefits like dedicated nurses and more primary care appointments are costly for health care providers. The algorithm is used to predict which patients will benefit the most from extra assistance, allowing providers to focus their limited time and resources where they are most needed.

To make that prediction, the algorithm relies on data about how much it costs a care provider to treat a patient. In theory, this could act as a substitute for how sick a patient is. But by studying a dataset of patients, the authors of the Science study show that, because of unequal access to health care, black patients have much less spent on them for treatments than similarly sick white patients. The algorithm doesn’t account for this discrepancy, leading to a startlingly large racial bias against treatment for the black patients.

The effect was drastic. Currently, 17.7 percent of black patients receive the additional attention, the researchers found. If the disparity was remedied, that number would skyrocket to 46.5 percent of patients.
I really do believe that this is a deliberate business decision.  "It's not racism, it's just giving the cusomers what they want."

23 October 2019

Yeah, He Went There………

Donald Trump's lawyer William Consovoy just claimed that a sitting president cannot be investigated even if he were to shoot someone on 5th Avenue.

It should be noted that there is no precedent for this position. Even the OLC opinion only forbids indictments, not investigations:
A federal appeals panel on Wednesday expressed skepticism that President Trump had a right to block state prosecutors in Manhattan from enforcing a subpoena that sought his personal and corporate tax returns for the last eight years.

The judges on a three-member panel in Manhattan peppered a lawyer for Mr. Trump with questions, expressing skepticism about the president’s argument that he was immune from criminal investigation. A lower court judge earlier this month rejected Mr. Trump’s claim, which has not previously been tested in the courts.

Carey R. Dunne, the Manhattan district attorney’s general counsel, cited the president’s famous claim that he could shoot someone on Fifth Avenue without losing political support.

Mr. Dunne asked what would happen in that extreme scenario? “Would we have to wait for an impeachment proceeding to be initiated?” he said.

Later, Judge Denny Chin posed the Fifth Avenue hypothetical to William S. Consovoy, a lawyer for Mr. Trump, and asked for his view.

“Local authorities couldn’t investigate? They couldn’t do anything about it?” Judge Chin asked, adding: “Nothing could be done? That’s your position?”

“That is correct. That is correct,” Mr. Consovoy said.
So, in the aforementioned hypothetical, they could not collect the gun, or look at the ballistics on the bullet, or collect surveillance video from the area according to Trump's lawyer.
Mr. Vance’s office in late August subpoenaed Mr. Trump’s accounting firm, Mazars USA, for his personal and corporate tax returns dating to 2011.

The district attorney had been investigating whether any New York State laws were broken when Mr. Trump and his company, the Trump Organization, reimbursed Michael D. Cohen, the president’s former lawyer and fixer, for payments he made to the pornographic film actress Stormy Daniels, who had said she had an affair with Mr. Trump.


Mr. Trump went into federal court last month, trying to block the district attorney’s subpoena. The president argued that the Constitution prevented a sitting president from being “investigated, indicted or otherwise subjected to criminal process.”
It should be noted that the OLC opinion is only binding on the US Department of Justice, not state prosecutors, and it;s argument had nothing to do with the constitution, they claimed that an indictment would be too disruptive to government.

Even if there were a separation of powers argument, that would not apply to state courts, and it would not apply to investigations.

Rather unsurprisingly, Robert Bork (יִמַּח שְׁמוֹ) was at the center of this 1973 memo, and it illustrates the utter moral and constitutional bankruptcy of the concept of the "Unitary Executive".

It should be noted that this opinion ignored a very clear precedent, the arrest of Ulysses S. Grant for speeding and driving recklessly in 1872, but Bork and his ilk were never one to allow precedent, or the law, or the actual text of the Constitution, inform their arguments.


Be still my beating heart:
Bernie Sanders, if he were elected president, would revive the criminal provisions of the Sherman Antitrust Act to prosecute CEOs who have illegally monopolized a market, he told The Intercept in an interview.

The Sherman Act is the Department of Justice’s main tool for enforcing antitrust laws, which are meant to prevent monopolies from dominating an industry, which harms workers, consumers, and other businesses. It has both civil and criminal provisions, though in recent years, prosecutors have relied only on its civil provisions, with the intent of breaking up monopolies and opening markets.

Asked if the criminal provisions, which could see a CEO locked up for 10 years if intent to engage in unfair restrictions on trade can be proven, Sanders said, “Damn right they should be.”


Major Sherman Act civil cases reshaped the American economy in the 20th century — particularly the breakup of AT&T in 1984, which paved the way for the rise of Silicon Valley. Civil prosecutions scare business leaders as a business matter, while criminal prosecutions, which have been sparse, frighten them personally.
Your mouth to God's ear.
“Roosevelt’s antitrust chief Thurman Arnold used to criminally indict business executives and fingerprint them like ordinary executives,” said Matt Stoller, whose new book “Goliath: Hundred Year War Between Monopoly Power and Democracy” chronicles these battles. (Arnold was an assistant attorney general who led the Justice Department’s antitrust division.) “As soon as he did this, amazingly, monopolistic practices in those industries would cease.”
Which is why the spectacle of business leaders being frog-marched out of their offices in handcuffs should become a routine sight.

Without personal consequences for CEOs and their ilk, they take their slap on the wrist, take their 8 figure bonuses, and do it all over again.

What the Actual F%$#?????

Note the cell phone and the sign prohibiting them
Taking a chapter from the "Storm Area 51" movement, Congressional Republicans just rushed the Sensitive Compartmented Information Facility (SCIF) where the House Intelligence Committee was interviewing Laura Cooper, the deputy assistant secretary of defense for Russia, Ukraine, and Eurasia about the Trump administration using military aid to extort opposition research from the Ukraine.

They were literally tweeting about it on their phones as they ran into the secure room.
On Wednesday, Republican lawmakers committed a major breach of security guidelines when they carried cell phones as they tried to force their way into a secure room where a closed-door impeachment hearing with a Defense Department official was taking place.

At least one House member, Rep. Matt Gaetz of Florida, got inside the Sensitive Compartmented Information Facility (SCIF) in the basement of the House of Representatives. Despite strict rules barring all electronics inside such closed-off areas, Gaetz openly tweeted: "BREAKING: I led over 30 of my colleagues into the SCIF where Adam Schiff is holding secret impeachment depositions. Still inside—more details to come."
It should be noted that not only were there Republicans in the hearing already, but about ¼ of the Representatives rushing the SCIF were already authorized to be at the hearing.

This was basically an attempt to recreate the Brooks Brothers riot of 2000, and intimidate the current, and future witnesses.
Lawyers said bringing phones into the secure area was a potential felony. Security officials, meanwhile, stressed how damaging the move could be to national security. The SCIF is designed to prevent electronic eavesdropping so members of Congress can receive sensitive information that is often classified. Often, the materials in the room reveal sensitive operations or show how intelligence officers collect information on adversaries. SCIFs are carefully controlled to prevent electronic signals or electronic devices from leaving the rooms. Chief among these restrictions is no unauthorized electronic devices.
Lock them up!!! Lock them up!!!
Wednesday's event occurred as members of the House Intelligence Committee were preparing to hear from Laura K. Cooper, the deputy assistant secretary of defense for Russia, Ukraine, and Eurasia. Chanting "let us in, let us in," the protesting lawmakers prevented the hearing from proceeding. House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff turned the protesters away and called on the sergeant-at-arms to break up the crowd.
Schiff should have asked for the Sergeant at Arms to put them with cuffs and leave them face down on the floor for 3 or so hours.

22 October 2019

Not Enough Bullets………

The con man who managed to extract billions of dollars from supposedly sophisticated venture capitalists, WeWork's Adam Neumann, after managing to loot hundreds of millions of dollars in his scam, will now be payed $1,700,000,000.00 to go away.

This guy should be in jail, not walking away with billions:
WeWork’s co-founder Adam Neumann is in line for a $1.7bn (£1.3bn) payout as investors seize control of the troubled office rentals empire he co-founded and thousands of employees wait to hear if they will lose their jobs.

Neumann, 40, used to describe WeWork as “largest physical social network in the world” and a company so important it would one day solve the problem of orphaned children.

Now his business – once the US’s most valuable private company – is in crisis. And the only winner appears to be Neumann, who is reportedly stepping back from the corporate crisis he created with a lucrative deal that will hand him $1bn from the sale of his shares plus a $185m “consultancy fee” and a $500m line of credit.

Under the terms of a rescue deal first reported by The Wall Street Journal, SoftBank, the Japanese investment firm that is WeWork’s largest shareholder, will now take control of the company.


The payout to Neumann comes as WeWork weighs up sacking about 2,000 people. The redundancies are on hold while WeWork refinances but are expected soon and have triggered widespread bitterness among WeWork’s 15,000 employees. Many had expected to become millionaires when the company floated but now face losing their jobs. WeWork did not immediately return calls for comment.
As near as I can figure out, VC's see never going to be profitable unicorns going profit as a way to extract money from idiots further down the line, and they have run out of idiots.

Once bitten, twice shy, I guess.

The World's Smallest Violin Playing Just for You

The court ruling on the FCC's repeal of net neutrality was a mixed bag.

On one hand, it approved the appeal, but on the other hand it noted that because the FCC's repeal was predicated on reclassifying ISPs as an Information service, the FCC lacked the authority to preempt state regulation, which means that the net neutrality regulations passed in California and a dozen other states will go into effect,

So Ajit Pai has a major case of butt-hurt, and I am amused:
Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai may have belatedly concluded that federal regulation of broadband would be better for businesses than letting all 50 US states regulate Internet access.

Speaking at the WSJ Tech Live conference yesterday, Pai said that "a uniform, well-established set of regulations" is preferable to states regulating broadband individually. "[Pai] said allowing states and local governments to pass their own laws regulating Internet services, which inherently cross state lines, creates market uncertainty," according to CNET.


But Pai's FCC overstepped its authority when it issued that blanket order to preempt any and all current and future state regulation of net neutrality, a panel of judges at the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit ruled this month. The judges' reasoning was simple: Pai's FCC lost the power to stop all state laws when it abandoned its own regulatory authority.

"[I]n any area where the Commission lacks the authority to regulate, it equally lacks the power to preempt state law," the judges' ruling said.
The only thing that would make this better would be to see Pai frog marched out of the FCC offices in handcuffs.

It's Simchat Torah

This holiday celebrates getting to the ends of Torah, and starting back at the beginning.

There is a strong correlation between this celebration and significant alcohol induced beatitude.

Posted via mobile.

21 October 2019

Trudeau Wins in Canada, But Will Lead a Minority Government

Justin Trudeau's Liberal Party looks set to win 156 in Canada's house of commons, significantly better than the the 121 currently netted by the conservatives.

He'll need support from the progressive NDP (~25 seats, down from 39) and the Quebecois BQ (~30 seats up from 10) to form a coalition government.

One hopes that what are likely to be his new coalition partners can successfully push to move Canada away from the extraction economy.

Trudeau has been the tar sands industry and the TransCanada Corporation's bitch in his last term.

Today in Neat Tech

Reaction Engines’ precooler has successfully run at Mach 5 temperatures, validating for the first time the capability of the novel heat exchanger design to operate at hypersonic flight conditions for atmospheric and space access applications.

The breakthrough test is pivotal to Reaction’s goal of using the lightweight heat exchanger (HTX) to boost high-speed turbojets for supersonic and hypersonic vehicles as well as for developing the company’s Synergistic Air-Breathing Rocket Engine (Sabre), which is targeted at low-cost, repeatable access to space.

Forming the culmination of a DARPA contract awarded in 2017, the Mach 5 run took place in the second week of October at the company’s TF2 test facility at the Colorado Air and Space Port near Watkins. Established on an all-new site just 22 months ago, the high-speed test comes seven months after the heat exchanger demonstrated operation at supersonic conditions equal to Mach 3.3. Heated air for the tests is generated by a General Electric J79, which operated at military power for the supersonic runs and in maximum afterburner for the tests up to Mach 5.


The precooler is made up of 16,800 thin-walled tubes (equal to more than 27 mi. of tubing) through which helium is pumped to remove heat. In the Colorado tests, the heat is rejected into water that boils off to the atmosphere, but in a Sabre it would be cooled by a hydrogen heat exchanger. “In the Mach 5 test, the temperature was reduced from around 1,000C to roughly 100C in less than 1/20th of a second,” says Dissel.


For high-speed turbojet applications in the nearer term, the HTX significantly reduces compressor delivery temperature (T3). This maintains sea-level conditions in front of the compressor over a wider range of speeds, thus maximizing net thrust. For space access applications, the HTX will pass chilled air to a turbo-compressor and into a rocket thrust chamber, where it will be burned with subcooled liquid hydrogen fuel.
I find this technology really cool.

While right now, they are testing with liquid hydrogen fuel for launches to orbit, I'm think that liquid methane would likely be used for any potential hypersonic transport or air breathing weapon.


Netanyahu has failed to form a government, so Benny Gantz gets 28 days to attempt to form a coalition:
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Monday gave up his struggle to form a governing coalition after last month’s dead-heat national election, opening a possible path to power for his rival, former army chief of staff Benny Gantz.

Israeli President Reuven Rivlin immediately said he would give Gantz a chance to assemble a majority of lawmakers, making him the first person other than Netanyahu authorized to form a government in more than a decade. Gantz will have 28 days to do what Netanyahu could not: entice at least 61 members of the Israeli parliament, or Knesset, to support his bid.


“This is new: This broadens the political imagination to include the possibility that someone not named Netanyahu could be the prime minister of the state of Israel,” said Mordechai Kremnitzer, a senior fellow at the Israel Democracy Institute. “But I think Gantz will also find it extremely difficult to shape a coalition.”


Netanyahu warned in the video that Gantz could assume power with the support of Israeli Arab lawmakers, whose party emerged as the third-largest in the Knesset, and that those parliamentarians “encourage terror and oppose Israel’s existence.”


Negotiators for the two parties met in several sessions without progress. Gantz, after an initial meeting with the prime minister, spurned numerous invitations from Netanyahu to negotiate one-on-one. Gantz insisted that his rival was less interested in compromise than in ensuring he would serve first in any power-sharing rotation. Netanyahu, who could be indicted as early as November, was more keen on “immunity” than unity, Gantz said.
Netanyahu is a crook and a hate-monger.

Any coalition should not involve Netanyahu in any capacity.

He's an unspeakably bad person, and he has made Israel a far worse place.

20 October 2019

The 737 MAX Crisis is now Criminal

First, we have now learned that Boeing asked FAA suppress references to the MCAS from their training report and lied to the FAA, probably so that their marketers could claim that retraining was minimal:
Boeing’s MAX crisis deepened Friday with new controversy around an exchange of bantering texts between senior pilots that suggested Boeing knew as early as 2016 about the perils of a new flight-control system later implicated in two crashes in Indonesia and Ethiopia that killed 346 people.

The exchange of messages in 2016 between the two lead technical pilots on the Boeing 737 MAX program was released Friday after regulators blew up at the company for belatedly disclosing the matter. The messages reveal that the flight-control system, which two years later went haywire on the crashed flights, was behaving aggressively and strangely in the pilots’ simulator sessions.

In the exchange, one of the pilots states that given the behavior of the system, known as a Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System (MCAS), he had unknowingly lied to the FAA about its capabilities.

“It’s running rampant in the sim on me,” 737 Chief Technical Pilot Mark Forkner wrote to Patrik Gustavsson, who would succeed him as chief technical pilot. “I’m levelling off at like 4000 ft, 230 knots and the plane is trimming itself like craxy. I’m like, WHAT?” (Spelling errors in the original.)

“Granted, I suck at flying, but even this was egregious,” Forkner added.

The exchange shows that the aggressive behavior of MCAS was known to Boeing even ahead of flight testing, and that these top Boeing pilots were caught off guard by the system’s power.


The emails show how Forkner, though he had experienced this errant behavior of MCAS, later urged the FAA to keep information about the system out of pilot manuals and MAX training courses.


Boeing has known about the messages for many months. It provided the exchange in February — the month before the second crash in Ethiopia — to the Department of Justice, which had opened a criminal investigation into the development of the 737 MAX, according to a person familiar with the matter, speaking on condition of anonymity about confidential legal proceedings.

However, Boeing only provided the messages on Thursday to the chief attorney for the Department of Transportation, the federal agency that includes the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).

That delay prompted FAA Administrator Steve Dickson to write a short, sharply worded letter to Muilenburg Friday, declaring, “I expect your explanation immediately regarding the content of this document and Boeing’s delay in disclosing the document to the safety regulator.”


“Are you OK with us removing all reference to MCAS from the FCOM (Flight Crew Operating Manual) and the training as we discussed, as it’s completely transparent to the flight crew and only operates WAY outside of the normal operating envelope,” Forkner wrote.

Having convinced the FAA of that, Forkner then traveled the world talking to foreign regulators also working to certify the MAX. On Nov. 3, 2016, he wrote an email to an FAA official, joking that he was “doing a bunch of traveling … jedi-mind tricking regulators into accepting the training that I got accepted by FAA.”

In a separate email to an FAA official in mid-January 2017 — two months after the text exchange when he had noted the “egregious” behavior of MCAS — Forkner suggests two changes to the “differences training” that pilots were to undergo in order to move from flying the prior 737 model to the MAX.

The first change was to delete a reference to MCAS.
Safety, schmafety, we have planes to sell.

If someone does not face criminal charges over this, something is profoundly wrong with our justice system.

A Good Start

California cities and counties will be allowed to establish public banks under a controversial bill signed into law Wednesday by Gov. Gavin Newsom, making California only the second U.S. state to allow such institutions.

Public banks are intended to use public funds to let local jurisdictions provide capital at interest rates below those charged by commercial banks. The loans could be used for businesses, affordable housing, infrastructure, and municipal projects, among other things.

Proponents say public banks can pursue those projects and support local communities’ needs while being free of the pressure to obtain higher profits and shareholder returns faced by commercial banks. Support for public banks also has grown since the financial crisis a decade ago and since Wells Fargo & Co. was embroiled in a slew of customer-abuse scandals in recent years.


The only other state with public banks is North Dakota. Critics of the institutions say a government-owned banking system would be expensive, risky and carry a threat of political influence.
The history of public banks in North Dakota makes it pretty clear that this is a good idea.

It saves the taxpayers money, and it just works.

About the only people who lose in such an arrangement are banking executives and Wall Street.

About F%$#ing Time

Senators Todd Young (R-IN) and Chris Murphy (D-CT) have proposed a near total ban on non-compete agreements:
A bipartisan pair of senators has introduced legislation to drastically limit the use of noncompete agreements across the US economy.

"Noncompete agreements stifle wage growth, career advancement, innovation, and business creation," argued Sen. Todd Young (R-Ind.) in a Thursday press release. He said that the legislation, co-sponsored with Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), would "empower our workers and entrepreneurs so they can freely apply their talents where their skills are in greatest demand."


These state reforms focused on reining in the worst abuses of noncompete agreements. Some prohibit the use of noncompete clauses with low-wage workers. Others require employers to give employees notice of the requirement at the time they make a job offer.

The Young and Murphy bill goes much further, completely banning noncompete agreements outside of a few narrow circumstances—like someone selling their own business.
This really needs to become law.

F%$#ing Jimmy John's Subs used to have non-competes, because  ……… I don't know, maybe secret sauce?

This sh%$ needs to end.

A Well Deserved Take-Down

Following Blizzard banning a gamer and taking his prize money after he made pro-Hong King protests, they have been flooded by GDPR requests by customers who find their kowtowing to China unacceptable.

Complying with these demands are both extremely expensive and opens them up to massive fines:
Being a global multinational sure is hard! Yesterday, World of Warcraft maker Blizzard faced global criticism after it disqualified a high-stakes tournament winner over his statement of solidarity with the Hong Kong protests -- Blizzard depends on mainland China for a massive share of its revenue and it can't afford to offend the Chinese state.

Today, outraged games on Reddit's /r/hearthstone forum are scheming a plan to flood Blizzard with punishing, expensive personal information requests under the EU's expansive General Data Privacy Regulation -- Blizzard depends on the EU for another massive share of its revenue and it can't afford the enormous fines it would face if it failed to comply with these requests, which take a lot of money and resource to fulfill.
I really hope that this protest goes forward.

Blizzard is hoping that this will blow over in a few months, but if people put in requests now, they need to comply in the next 30 days or face massive fines, and that ain't cheap.

Cue Nelson Muntz.

19 October 2019

Bye Bye Boris

Boris Johnson hoped to get his Brexit proposal approved today.

Things did not go as planned :
MPs have inflicted a humiliating defeat on Boris Johnson by passing a backbench amendment withholding their support from his Brexit deal.

Instead of backing Johnson’s agreement in a “meaningful vote”, MPs passed an amendment tabled by a cross-party group of MPs led by Oliver Letwin by 322 votes to 306 – a majority of 16.

The prime minister said he was not “daunted or dismayed” by the defeat, and would press ahead with tabling Brexit legislation next week. MPs are likely to take the opportunity to table a string of amendments, including on trying to force a second referendum.

The move by cross-party MPs was aimed at forcing Johnson to comply with the terms of the Benn act, which obliges him to write to the EU to request a Brexit delay, if he had not won approval for his deal by 11pm.
As to that letter to the EU requesting a delay?  Johnson is doing the absolute minimum as defined by law, resusing to sign the letter asking for an extension, and signing an accompanying letter asking for an extension not to be granted:
Boris Johnson has sent an unsigned letter to European council president Donald Tusk requesting a further Brexit delay beyond 31 October – accompanied by a signed one arguing against it.

The prime minister sent three letters: an unsigned photocopy of the request he was obliged to send under the Benn Act, an explanatory letter from the UK’s ambassador to the EU and a personal letter explaining why Downing Street did not want an extension.

In the signed message, he warned of the “corrosive impact” of a long delay, and that “a further extension would damage the interests of the UK and our EU partners, and the relationship between us”. He said Parliament had “missed the opportunity to inject momentum into the ratification process” yet remained confident Brexit legislation would be passed by 31 October.

The move sparked concerns the prime minister could face fresh court action. One former Tory cabinet minister said: “This is clearly against the spirit of the Benn Act and is not consistent with the assurances that were given by Downing Street to the Scottish courts about applying for an extension. It will also put government law officers in a very uncomfortable position.”


After the extension request was sent, Jeremy Corbyn accused Johnson of “petulant posturing and bluster” and said “his damaging deal was defeated today.”
"Petulant posturing and bluster," is pretty much the defining feature of BoJo.

I'm expecting a crash-out. 

Amazingly Corrupt, and a Wimp

I am referring, of course, to Donald Trump, who announced that the next G-7 summit would be at his Doral resort in Florida:
President Trump has awarded the 2020 Group of Seven summit of world leaders to his private company, scheduling the summit for June at his Trump National Doral Miami golf resort in Florida, the White House announced Thursday.

That decision is without precedent in modern American history: The president used his public office to direct a huge contract to himself.

Trump’s Doral resort — set among office parks near Miami International Airport — has been in sharp decline in recent years, according to the Trump Organization’s own records. Its net operating income fell 69 percent from 2015 to 2017; a Trump Organization representative testified last year that the reason was Trump’s damaged brand.

Now, the G-7 summit will draw hundreds of diplomats, journalists and security personnel to the resort during one of its slowest months of the year, when Miami is hot and the hotel is often less than 40 percent full. It will also provide a worldwide spotlight for the club.
Needless to say, pretty much everyone who heard this completely lost their sh%$, and as is his wont, Trump has reversed himself
President Trump on Saturday said he would no longer host next year's Group of Seven (G-7) summit at his Doral resort after intense backlash from Democrats, ethics watchdogs and some Republican lawmakers.

The reversal came two days after the White House announced that Trump National Doral near Miami would host the gathering of world leaders next June. The decision was widely panned by critics who viewed it as a brazen move for the president to enrich his family brand.
Seriously, just impeach the motherf%$#er.

F%$#ed Up Headline of the Day

At The Hill, they have a rather interesting headline, "Poll: Trump beats Warren, Biden in Iowa match-ups."

It's interesting for a number of reasons:
  • First, it's a 51%-49% poll for both Biden and Warren trailing trump, with a 3.2% margin of error, so it's a non story.
  • Second, and more importantly, is what we see in the 3rd paragraph:
    The reverse was the case for Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.). Fifty-one percent of voters said they would pick him over Trump, who garnered 49 percent support.
This is a hacktacularly bad piece of reporting, and once again, as always, it cuts against Bernie Sanders.

18 October 2019

And Yet Hickenlooper Literally Drank Fracking Fluid

The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment has released a long delayed study on the health impacts of fracking, and it's pretty much as bad as anti-fracking activists have claimed:
A long-delayed public health study commissioned by Colorado regulators found that oil and gas drilling poses health risks at distances greater than current minimum "setback" distances, a development that is poised to send shockwaves through a regulatory environment already in a state of transition and uncertainty.

"Exposure to chemicals used in oil and gas development, such as benzene, may cause short-term negative health impacts…during 'worst-case' conditions," the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment said in a press release. "The study found that there is a possibility of negative health impacts at distances from 300 feet out to 2,000 feet.


State toxicologist Kristy Richardson said in a press conference Thursday afternoon that the results of the study are consistent with the health impacts that have been reported by Colorado residents near oil and gas sites in recent years.
I wonder how former Colorado Governor, and current Senate candidate, John Hickenlooper will justify poisoning his own constituents.

This Explains a Lot

It turns out that members of the secret police are extraordinary in their mediocrity:


Autocrats depend on a capable secret police. Anecdotal evidence, however, often characterizes agents as surprisingly mediocre in skill and intellect. To explain this puzzle, this article focuses on the career incentives underachieving individuals face in the regular security apparatus. Low‐performing officials in hierarchical organizations have little chance of being promoted or filling lucrative positions. To salvage their careers, these officials are willing to undertake burdensome secret police work. Using data on all 4,287 officers who served in autocratic Argentina (1975–83), we study biographic differences between secret police agents and the entire recruitment pool. We find that low‐achieving officers were stuck within the regime hierarchy, threatened with discharge, and thus more likely to join the secret police for future benefits. The study demonstrates how state bureaucracies breed mundane career concerns that produce willing enforcers and cement violent regimes. This has implications for the understanding of autocratic consolidation and democratic breakdown.
I'm wondering how this can be more broadly applied to the US state security apparatus.

Thoroughly Deplorable

Hillary Clinton is now implying that Tulsi Gabbard is a Russian agent.

First, f%$# Hillary Clinton for forcing me to defend Tulsi Gabbard.

Second, f%$# Hillary Clinton for losing the Presidential election and lacking even the most minimal capacity for self-examin.

Third, f%$# Hillary Clinton.

You've done enough. Have you no sense of decency, Secretary Clinton, at long last? Have you left no sense of decency?

Seriously, how can we miss you if refuse to leave.

Google's Evil Reigns Supreme Over Good Business Sense

Case in point, Google's takeover of Nest.

It turns out that they are destroying the products because they just want to spy more intrusively on their users:
Google's "Nest" smart home division has seen major upheaval this year, and according to a report from Bloomberg, the changes aren't sitting well with residential builders that formerly integrated Nest projects into their construction projects.


In addition to the death of Nest the company, we're also seeing the death of the Nest ecosystem. The "Works with Nest" smart home program is being shut down in favor of Google Assistant compatibility, and that means devices that used to communicate with Nest now work differently or not at all. Nest's account system is also being shut down, and in the future, users will need a Google account.

Bloomberg's report says that residential builders, who "collectively purchase tens of thousands of Nest devices each year" have started avoiding Nest products due to Google's changes. The report quotes Mark Zikra, vice president of technology at CA Ventures, as saying, "We’ve stopped. In an apartment complex we’re talking about 200, 300 devices that would be installed in one swoop and then all of a sudden everyone moves in."


Any time a tech giant takes a walled-garden approach to a device, it makes it harder for customers outside that ecosystem to adopt that product. This is particularly a tough approach for smart home gadgets due to the breath of smart home devices out there. No company can build every smart home gadget that you might want to connect together, and Google's decision to wall off Nest (which was never that open to begin with) into the Google ecosystem was apparently the last straw for these residential developers. A more consumer-friendly approach would be to make your device as open and compatible as possible, by plugging into the open protocols like Zigbee and Z-wave and building app support for the big tech ecosystems like Apple HomeKit, Samsung's SmartThings, Google Assistant, and Amazon Alexa.
I knew that Google has eschewed its, "Don't be evil" motto, but I did not know that their new motto was, "We're evil and stupid."

17 October 2019


Elijah Cummings, who was my Congressman from 2001 through 2004, has just died.

U.S. Rep. Elijah Cummings — the son of sharecroppers who rose to become a House committee chairman and Baltimore icon — often spoke of the need to leave a legacy for “generations unborn,” but said he was unsure how his own contributions might be remembered.

“I’m here for a season and a reason," the veteran Democratic lawmaker said this summer in his Capitol Hill office, sitting below framed photographs of civil rights leaders Nelson Mandela and Coretta Scott King. "I don’t know why I’m here, I don’t know how long I’ll be here, but I’m here. And I’m going to make the best of it.”

Colleagues defined Cummings’ legacy as his devotion to Baltimore and civil rights, and his adherence to civility in a fractured political climate, even as he pursued an impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump from his role as chairman of the House Oversight and Reform Committee.

Cummings, 68, died about 2:45 a.m. Thursday due to complications from longstanding health problems. He was a patient of Gilchrist Hospice Care, a member of his staff said.
Seeing as how his committee, House Oversight and Reform, is one of 3 taking point on the impeachment investigation, his successor could make a big difference in what happens in the next few months.

On an interim basis, it will be Carolyn Maloney (NY), and given the nature of the House, she is the odds on favorite to replace him.

I have no clue as to what this means in terms of the impeachment though.

I Think That This Makes Nest Illegal in Maryland

That being the case, it means that Nest, and by extension Alexa and a host of other similar products, violate Maryland's 2 party consent statutes, as well as other similar laws in a number of other states:
Google's Nest smart devices are always listening — their microphones detect loud noises and cameras track sudden movements in a home, and can start automatically recording at any time.

Because of that, Nest owners should probably warn their house guests that they're on camera, according to Google devices chief Rick Osterloh.


Nest devices are fitted with an LED light that turns on whenever they're in recording mode. These recordings can't be overridden in the moment, but users can reconfigure their Nest settings to disable all recordings (or simply unplug the devices). A Google spokesperson was not immediately available to respond to Business Insider's request for comment.
What a surprise.  Yet another Silicon Valley product that is actually illegal.