31 January 2020

Bye Felicia

John Delaney, whose presidential run was demolished when Elizabeth Warren noted in the debates that he was, "Running for president of the United States just to talk about what we really can’t do and shouldn’t fight for," has ended his Presidential campaign.

Good riddance to a man whose only political traction was that he was lending tens of millions of dollars to his own campaign.

Oh Snap!

The sale of the .org registry has been put on hold because the California Attorney General has initiated an investigation of the transaction:
The California State Attorney General's Office (CA-OAG) sent a letter last week to DNS overlord ICANN asking for confidential information about the planned sale of the .org registry and a delay of the transaction.

ICANN, which disclosed the letter on Thursday, responded by notifying the Public Internet Registry (PIR), which intends to sell the .org registry to a private equity firm called Ethos Capital, that it has been asked to provide private data about the deal.

The DNS overseer, which bestowed .org oversight on PIR through a legal agreement, wants PIR to greenlight the CA-OAG's disclosure demand and to wait longer before completing the sale. ICANN notes in its letter to PIR that the CA-OAG's missive amounts to a subpoena, the implication being that the CA-OAG could file a lawsuit if compliance isn't voluntary.


The CA-OAG is asking for all email correspondence between the parties involved in the deal, among other sensitive information, and for additional time to review the arrangement. It wants to understand the effect the sale would have on the non-profit community.

ICANN in turn has asked PIR [PDF] to agree an extension of ICANN's review process from February 17, 2020 to April 20, 2020.

The Register asked PIR whether it intends to accept ICANN's request for a delay. A PIR spokesperson responded by acknowledging ICANN's letter but failed to say whether the organization is okay with the delay.
Here is hoping that this will lead to criminal  indictments.


The Republicans have voted down the calling of witnesses at the impeachment.

What these folks may not realize is that they have literally written their obituaries.

By this I do not mean that their political careers have ended, but rather than, when they die, this vote will be in the first paragraph of their obituaries:
The Senate brought President Trump to the brink of acquittal on Friday of charges that he abused his power and obstructed Congress, as Republicans voted to block consideration of new witnesses and documents in his impeachment trial and shut down a final push by Democrats to bolster their case for the president’s removal.

In a nearly party-line vote after a bitter debate, Democrats failed to win support from the four Republicans they needed. With Mr. Trump’s acquittal virtually certain, the president’s allies rallied to his defense, though some conceded he was guilty of the central allegations against him.

The Democrats’ push for more witnesses and documents failed 49 to 51, with only two Republicans, Mitt Romney of Utah and Susan Collins of Maine, joining Democrats in favor. A vote on the verdict is planned for Wednesday.
On the bright side, the timing will be awfully inconvenient for Trump:
Senators recessed the trial for the weekend and will return Monday for closing arguments, with a vote on the verdict on Wednesday.

The timetable will rob Mr. Trump of the opportunity to use his State of the Union address scheduled for Tuesday night to boast about his acquittal, a prospect he has relished for several weeks. Instead, he will become the second president to deliver the speech during his own impeachment trial.
Here is hoping that Trump completely loses his sh%$ at the speech.

30 January 2020

Your Mouth to God's Ear

California Governor Gavin Newsom has once again sent signals that he is seriously considering using his authority to end Pacific Gas & Electric as a going concern in the state of California if the embattled utility does not get its sh%$ together.

Because the California Public Utilities Commission has the authority to reject any payout from the state wildfire insurance fund, which would likely force PG&E into liquidation.

When that infrastructure is sold off, the buyers would be assured of EXTREMELY diligent oversight, so the market value will be relatively low, at which point takeover of those assets by state and local government becomes pretty viable.

Please, Governor, pull the trigger.

PGE has been a cancer on corporate governance for over 100 years.
Exactly one year after PG&E Corp. filed for bankruptcy, Gov. Gavin Newsom said PG&E “no longer exists” and doubled down on a state takeover if the utility doesn’t shape up by June 30.

“There’s going to be a new company or the state of California will take it over,” Newsom said at an event with the Public Policy Institute of California in Sacramento about the future of the state’s energy Wednesday.

“Because if PG&E can’t do it, we’ll do it for them. Period, full stop. We’re sick of excuses and delays,” he said.


“Bankruptcy turned out to be an extraordinary opportunity for the state,” Newsom said Wednesday. “I never would have imagined that a year ago today. I thought it was a huge burden, one I didn’t anticipate spending as much time and energy on.”

What it gave state regulators is the chance to transform the 115-year-old company into a 21st-century utility, he said.


But if the governor doesn’t like PG&E’s new plan, he made clear on Wednesday what the next step was.

“If they can’t do it, we have no choice but to do it for them, because the economic and human cost, not just the environmental degradation, is so great that we will be in peril if we just sit back and let the markets do it for us,” he said.
Seriously, if there is a company that merits the corporate death penalty, it is PG&E.

Have the states and localities reorganize the assets as either a government utility or a cooperative.

Karma, Neh?

An examination of Obama's record shows that (at best) conclude that the administration was profoundly indifferent to the needs of traditional union members.

Biden has stapled his candidacy to his time as Obama's VP, so he is dealing with the backlash from Barack Obama's labor policies:
On the campaign trail, former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. has highlighted the first two years of the Obama administration as a time when he helped enact sweeping legislation to widen access to health care and revive the economy, accomplishments most Democrats revere.

But to many union officials, those years were a disappointment — a time when the administration failed to pass a labor rights bill that was their top priority and imposed a tax that would affect many union members’ health plans. And they partly blame Mr. Biden.

“They were in the driver’s seat for the first two years, and what did they get done from a labor perspective?” said Chris Laursen, the president of a United Automobile Workers local in Ottumwa, Iowa, with nearly 600 members. “Joe Biden is complete status quo.”


The reservations of union members could be a bigger problem for Mr. Biden than they were for Hillary Clinton during her 2016 Democratic race against Mr. Sanders. Some large unions, including the American Federation of Teachers, endorsed Mrs. Clinton, though many members later supported Mr. Sanders.


And the skepticism toward Mr. Biden among union voters may be even more pronounced in the less white, less male parts of the labor force.

Nicole McCormick, a West Virginia music teacher who helped organize a statewide walkout that made national headlines in 2018, said she worried that Mr. Biden wasn’t “willing to push for the things that we as Americans look at as radical, but the rest of the world looks at and is like, ‘We did that 50 years ago.’” She cited expanded access to unions, universal health care and paid parental leave as examples.


In voicing their concerns about Mr. Biden, union officials frequently cite dismay over the Obama years. They acknowledge a number of accomplishments, including the economic stimulus, the rescue of Chrysler and General Motors, and elements of the Affordable Care Act, as well as a variety of pro-labor appointments and regulations. But they express reservations about the administration’s focus on deficit reduction, its ties to Wall Street, and especially its efforts to lower barriers to foreign competition. 
If you look at Obama and Clinton Democrats, their support for unions has always been of the , "Yes, but," variety, where the qualifiers apply to the (unfortunately true) history of racism and sexism in unions, and the need to, "Train people for the jobs of the future."

So little effort is spent on card check, or repealing anti-union "right to work" laws, or the widespread use of contractors, etc.

Rinse, lather, repeat.

Normally, I'd Advise Against Breaking the Bull Durham Rule, but in This Case………

Out Standing!
For those of you who have not seen the baseball movie, see it.

There is a mement were we are shown how it is never acceptable to call the umpire, "C^%$-sucker."

Today, Elizabeth Warren gave a written question to Chief Justice John Roberts that had him literally questioning his own legitimacy:
During President Donald Trump’s Senate impeachment trial Thursday, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) submitted a question about the legitimacy of the Chief Justice—which the Chief Justice had to read.

Chief Justice John Roberts read the note card submitted by the presidential candidate: “At a time when large majorities of Americans have lost faith in government, does the fact that the Chief Justice is presiding over an impeachment trial in which Republican senators have thus far refused to allow witnesses or evidence contribute to the loss of legitimacy of the Chief Justice, the Supreme Court, and the Constitution?

Roberts pursed his lips as he waited for lead House impeachment manager Adam Schiff to respond.
(Emphasis mine)

What can I say to the distinguished gentlewoman from the great commonwealth of Massachusetts but, "Well played."

This is particularly effective because it touches on what is a conceit of Supreme Court justices in general, and John Roberts in particular: Attacks on their legitimacy.

29 January 2020

In the Annals of Snark, This Is One for the Ages

Seriously, the fact that, "John Bolton Likes Tweet Saying Trump Should ‘Fire the Moron Who Hired John Bolton’," is a remarkable bit of wit from someone best known for being bat-sh%$ insane war monger.

I am amused.

This is a Surprise

It is increasingly likely for corrupt and brutal police officers to face consequences, large as a result of groups like Black Lives Matter.

That being said, I am profoundly surprised that a Prince George's County police officer was charged with murder less than 24 hours after he shot a black man 7 times and killed him.

Admittedly, he did shoot the victim 7 times while he was in handcuffs, but I figured that the officer's claim that murder victim was on PCP would have gotten him at least a month before an investigation started:
The Maryland police officer who killed a handcuffed black man Monday night has been taken into custody and charged with second degree murder — less than 24 hours after the incident.


Stawinski identified the victim as 49-year-old William Green.

Police responded to reports of a driver who had rammed his vehicle into several other cars at around 8 p.m. Monday. They told reporters later that night that they suspected Green was high, and smelled PCP coming from his car. Stawinski no longer thinks that’s the case.

“We do not believe PCP was involved," Stawinski said.

An officer then cuffed Green with his arms behind his back and strapped him into the passenger seat of the police cruiser.

About 20 minutes later, Officer Michael Owen then got into the driver’s seat and shot him. According to ABC, Green had asked the officer if he could use the bathroom — then the officer shot him seven times. Officers at the scene attempted lifesaving measures on him before transporting him to a hospital, where he was pronounced dead.


It’s extremely unusual for police departments to announce criminal charges against one of their own so soon after an officer-involved killing. Charges, if they come at all, can take weeks, if not months, to be filed — and often come after intense community pressure.
Hopefully, this is the start of a trend.

Because They Are Tories, That's Why

As a part of the plans for Brexit, Boris Johnson and his Evil Minions are planning to slash the minimum wage for foreign workers in the UK, because the Conservative Party wouldn't be the Conservative Party if they weren't attempting to screw the ordinary working bloke:

The UK should slash the main salary threshold for workers coming to Britain with a job offer to £25,600 per year after the post-Brexit transition period, say the government’s immigration advisers.

The recommendation by the Migration Advisory Committee, published on Tuesday, would relax conditions for employers seeking to bring in workers from outside the European Economic Area, who currently face a salary threshold of £30,000 for most roles, but would make it far tougher for those recruiting from within the EEA — the EU plus Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein — after Brexit.


The report produced detailed recommendations on salary thresholds for different sectors, including higher levels for some well-paid occupations and lower ones for jobs in education and the National Health Service, which have high numbers of vacancies.
They have a high number of vacancies because the jobs are hard, and you want to pay them crap wages.

The solution is to pay them more, particularly for more junior employees.

Chris Hopson, chief executive of NHS Providers, the umbrella body for the service’s employers, welcomed the reduced salary threshold for NHS staff but said there were “mixed messages” in other areas. “We are disappointed that there are no proposals to ensure we can recruit the staff we need to ensure sustainable social care services,” he said.
Translation:  We need to keep wages low of the actual workers so that we can pay outrageous salaries to upper management as we proceed to privatize the NHS and f%$# both the workers and the patients.

Hospital, schmospital, there is looting to be done.

28 January 2020

Yes, She is a Distant Relative (Facepalm)

My second cousin once removed,* Dianne Feinstein, in an attempt to generate some bipartisan cred, made an incredibly inartful statement about having an open mind on impeachment to an LA Times reporter, which was interpreted as a statement that she was leaning against impeachment.

Feinstein and the Times seem to be on the same page about this, the paper has issued an update correcting the story, but I blame Feinstein for her eagerness to preen and play the bipartisanship game for this sh%$ storm to have blown up in the first place, and this likely makes it easier for someone like Joe Manchin to allow their cowardice to overrule their constitutional duties:
The fate of key votes in President Trump’s impeachment trial remained uncertain Tuesday as his defense lawyers concluded their arguments and Republicans led by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell struggled to muster the votes to bring the trial to a speedy close without calling witnesses.

But even as McConnell struggled to corral Republicans, Sen. Dianne Feinstein seemed to signal fissures in the unity of Senate Democrats. Feinstein suggested that while she had serious concerns about Trump’s character, she is still weighing her ultimate vote on whether to acquit him.


Feinstein’s comments came initially in remarks to reporters outside the Senate chamber in which she said she had leaned against impeachment at the outset.

“Nine months left to go [before the election], the people should judge. We are a republic, we are based on the will of the people — the people should judge,” she said.

She then added: “That was my view and it still is my view.”

Still, she indicated that arguments in the trial about Trump’s character and fitness for office had shifted her thinking. “What changed my opinion as this went on,” she said, is a realization that “impeachment isn’t about one offense. It’s really about the character and ability and physical and mental fitness of the individual to serve the people, not themselves.”

In a later written statement, in which she said she had initially been “misunderstood,” Feinstein said “it’s clear the president’s actions were wrong.”
There are 39½ million people in California, and something north of 20 million registered voters, and this boneheaded play to civility will not change a single vote.

It is worse than a crime, it is a mistake.

*Full disclosure, my great grandfather, Harry Goldman, and her grandfather, Sam Goldman were brothers, though we have never met, either in person or electronically.

Tweet of the Day

Tru dat.

If Bernie had no chance, the stories would be about his quirky supporters quixotic quest.

27 January 2020

Tweet of the Day

Hillary Clinton, even more than her minions, has completely eschewed any responsibility for her loss.

I am not the most self-aware individual, but even I see a serious need for some introspection here.

If This Is the Future, It's a Dystopia

People are finally noticing that Silicon Valley's vision of the future is a nightmare:
Vanessa Bain was less than a year into her gig as an Instacart shopper when the company announced it would no longer allow tipping on its app. Instacart instead began imposing a 10 percent “service fee” that replaced the previous default tip of 10 percent. The change had no impact on customers, who could be forgiven for assuming that the new fee would still go to the workers who shopped for their groceries and delivered them to their homes. “It was deceptive to customers,” Bain said. “They thought they were still tipping us, when instead it went to the company. It wasn’t being passed to us at all.”

When Bain, who lives in Palo Alto, California, became a shopper in 2016, she believed that gig work would provide her with both financial stability and schedule flexibility to take care of her young daughter. However, as independent contractors, Bain and her husband, a fellow shopper, don’t receive sick leave or holidays. And in practice, the “be your own boss” promise of the gig economy instantly vanishes the moment you take on a gig job: It is, instead, a system that relentlessly dictates your schedule. “We are controlled. We are treated like employees but without the perks,” Jennifer Cotten, a Los Angeles area–based shopper, told me. “We’re told what order to deliver in and when to go.”

The indignities of the gig economy are well established at this point, as the laissez-faire labor practices of companies like Uber, Instacart, Door Dash, and Lyft draw more critical scrutiny. Bain, Cotton, and their fellow shoppers are among the millions of precariously employed workers who rely on part-time jobs or side gigs to scrape together a living, all without the safety net of employer-based insurance.

But what is less widely acknowledged is how the gig economy interacts with other trends in California and forces unleashed by Silicon Valley—rising housing costs, choked infrastructure—to make life hell for those who live at or near the epicenter of America’s technology industry. Together, they constitute a nightmare vision of what the world would look like if it were run by our digital overlords, as they sit atop a growing underclass that does their shopping and drives their cars—all while barely able to make ends meet.
It's not just Instacart, Door Dash, Uber and Lyft.  It's the dockless scooter companies making cities unwalkable, it's Amazon's conscious sales of dangerous fakes and abuse of its employees, Facebook's continuous lying about privacy, Twitter's sh%$ show, PayPal's abuse of its customers, etc.

Who knew that view of the future in William Gibson's stories would be so wildly optimistic as compared to the reality that we face?

Self-Important White Guys Are Not a Good Investment

In news that should surprise no one, hedge funds run by white guys under perform those of women and minorities by about 41%.

A reason is not given, but my guess is that members of the white guys club are more able to fail upwards, which is the very definition of white privilege:
Hedge funds not controlled by white men had returns almost double their peers the last three years, according to a Bloomberg analysis of hedge fund data.

Within Bloomberg’s database of 2,935 funds, the analysis found 35 managed by minorities or women and compared them with 908 peer funds. The database includes over 65% of the industry’s top 1,500 managers by assets under management.

Hedge funds either controlled or managed by a minority or female leader had a return of about 6.6% over the past three years, compared to about 3.9% for their peers, the analysis of Bloomberg’s hedge fund database found.

26 January 2020

America's Finest News Source

Liberals Say Sanders’s Acceptance Of Rogan Endorsement Sends Dangerous Message He Trying To Win Election
The Onion
Truly, The Onion abides.

They Are Completely Losing Their Sh%$

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo completely lost his sh%$ with NPR reporter Mary Louise Kelly.
I'm beginning to think that Trump's minions are coming to realize that they are going down with the ship:
In his brief interview Friday with NPR host Mary Louise Kelly, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo talked about a couple of pressing issues. On the State Department’s inexcusable failure to stand up for ousted U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch — victim of Rudolph W. Giuliani’s Ukraine pressure campaign — Pompeo told Kelly, “I’ve defended every single person on this team.”

On Iran, Pompeo said, “This is a regime that has been working to develop its nuclear program for years and years and years. And the nuclear deal guaranteed them a pathway to having a nuclear program.”

The most telling part of the interview, however, was nonverbal: “Immediately after the questions on Ukraine, the interview concluded. Pompeo stood, leaned in and silently glared at Kelly for several seconds before leaving the room," notes the NPR account of the interview.

The secretary of state, a man entrusted with spreading and maintaining the good will of the United States throughout the world, is now on record as menacing an NPR co-host of “All Things Considered.”

Then the proceedings moved to insults. An aide invited Kelly into Pompeo’s private living room at the State Department. "Inside the room, Pompeo shouted his displeasure at being questioned about Ukraine. He used repeated expletives, according to Kelly, and asked, ‘Do you think Americans care about Ukraine?’ He then said, ‘People will hear about this.’”

Kelly provided a more thorough account in a chat with colleague Ari Shapiro:

Moments later the same staffer who had stopped the interview reappeared, asked me to come with her, just me — no recorder, though she did not say we were off the record, nor would I have agreed. I was taken to the secretary’s private living room, where he was waiting and where he shouted at me for about the same amount of time as the interview itself had lasted. He was not happy to have been questioned about Ukraine. He asked ‘Do you think Americans care about Ukraine?’ He used the 'f' word in that sentence and many others. He asked if I could find Ukraine on a map. I said yes. He called out for his aides to bring out a map of the world with no writing, no countries marked. I pointed to Ukraine, he put the map away. He said, ‘People will hear about this.’
I'm beginning to think that Donald Trump's state of the Union is going to resemble Captain Queeg's meltdown in The Caine Mutiny.

The Republicans, of course, will ignore this, and pretend that everything is normal, just like they are pretending that Pompeo's meltdown is somehow the fault of a biased media.

Oh, Snap

It appears that in John Bolton's book, he explicitly states that Donald Trump withheld aid to the Ukraine to coerce an investigation of political rivals:
President Trump told his national security adviser in August that he wanted to continue freezing $391 million in security assistance to Ukraine until officials there helped with investigations into Democrats including the Bidens, according to an unpublished manuscript by the former adviser, John R. Bolton.

The president’s statement as described by Mr. Bolton could undercut a key element of his impeachment defense: that the holdup in aid was separate from Mr. Trump’s requests that Ukraine announce investigations into his perceived enemies, including former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. and his son Hunter Biden, who had worked for a Ukrainian energy firm while his father was in office.

Mr. Bolton’s explosive account of the matter at the center of Mr. Trump’s impeachment trial, the third in American history, was included in drafts of a manuscript he has circulated in recent weeks to close associates. He also sent a draft to the White House for a standard review process for some current and former administration officials who write books.


Over dozens of pages, Mr. Bolton described how the Ukraine affair unfolded over several months until he departed the White House in September. He described not only the president’s private disparagement of Ukraine but also new details about senior cabinet officials who have publicly tried to sidestep involvement.


The White House did not provide responses to questions about Mr. Bolton’s assertions, and representatives for Mr. Johnson, Mr. Pompeo and Mr. Mulvaney did not respond to emails and calls seeking comment on Sunday afternoon.

Mr. Bolton’s lawyer blamed the White House for the disclosure of the book’s contents. “It is clear, regrettably, from the New York Times article published today that the pre-publication review process has been corrupted and that information has been disclosed by persons other than those properly involved in reviewing the manuscript,” the lawyer, Charles J. Cooper, said Sunday night.

He said he provided a copy of the book to the White House on Dec. 30 — 12 days after Mr. Trump was impeached — to be reviewed for classified information, though, he said, Mr. Bolton believed it contained none.


Mr. Bolton would like to testify for several reasons, according to associates. He believes he has relevant information, and he has also expressed concern that if his account of the Ukraine affair emerges only after the trial, he will be accused of holding back to increase his book sales.


Mr. Bolton also described other key moments in the pressure campaign, including Mr. Pompeo’s private acknowledgment to him last spring that Mr. Giuliani’s claims about Ms. Yovanovitch had no basis and that Mr. Giuliani may have wanted her removed because she might have been targeting his clients who had dealings in Ukraine as she sought to fight corruption.
This has got to be a bit awkward for Trump, McConnell, and their Evil Minions.

25 January 2020

Same Sh%$ Different Name

One of the selling points of the F-35 Lightning II is its prognostics based maintenance system.

Unfortunately, this has turned into a completely non-functional sh%$ show.

In response, Lockheed and the Pentagon have given the system a new name, and started back at square one on the software.

To quote Albert Einstein, "The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, but expecting different results."
The US military is dumping its Autonomous Logistics Information System (ALIS) in favour of ODIN as it tries to break with the complex past of its ailing F-35 fighter jet maintenance IT suite.

ALIS is the software suite that comes bundled with the F-35 fighter jet. A Lockheed Martin product, ALIS is intended to be a proactive maintenance suite: it tracks the health of each jet, tells supply systems when to order parts and tells maintainers what needs doing and when.

At least, that was the theory. Instead the all-encompassing suite has become so unwieldy and problem-ridden that the US armed forces are ditching it in favour of a new thing called ODIN, or Operational Data Integrated Network.


Far from meeting its originally envisioned role, ALIS was so bad that the US Government Accountability Office, an auditor similar to Britain's National Audit Office, reckoned one US Air Force unit wasted 45,000 working hours per year working around ALIS's shortcomings. In 2018, US Marine Corps station Beaufort was suffering spare part shortages of up to two years, thanks to ALIS making a hash of its spare part systems.
So, you have the same folks who made a complete dogs breakfast out of maintaining the F-35 are going to start from square one, with the same people, and make it all better.


This is Incredibly F%$#ed Up

Now that the majority of Iraq wants the US troops gone, the US State Security Apparatus wants to carve out a Sunni rump state so that they can continue basing troops there.

This is unbelievably f%$#ing stupid:
Backed into a corner and influence waning, the United States has in recent weeks been promoting a plan to create an autonomous Sunni region in western Iraq, officials from both countries told Middle East Eye.

The US efforts, the officials say, come in response to Shia Iraqi parties’ attempts to expel American troops from their country.

Iraq represents a strategic land bridge between Iran and its allies in Syria, Lebanon and Palestine.

Establishing a US-controlled Sunni buffer zone in western Iraq would deprive Iran of using land routes into Syria and prevent it from reaching the eastern shores of the Mediterranean.

For Washington, the idea of carving out a Sunni region dates back to a 2007 proposition by Joe Biden, who is now vying to be the Democratic Party’s presidential candidate.

It was hoped that the scheme could tighten US control over Iraq and provide protection for Sunnis during the 2006-08 sectarian civil conflict, in which tens of thousands of innocent Iraqis from both the Sunni and Shia communities were slaughtered.

But opposition to Iraq being divided along sectarian and ethnic lines, as well as Americans’ insistence on keeping the country united, has postponed attempts at its implementation.

Now efforts to expel US troops have breathed new life into the project, and the creation of a Sunni region is just one of the options being considered by Washington to counter Iranian pressure, a top Iraqi Shia official, speaking on condition of anonymity, told MEE.

Iraqi unity “is no longer a priority now for the US,” the Shia official said.

“If the Americans reach a dead-end in terms of the presence of their forces in Iraq, they will work to implement this project vigorously.”

A former US official familiar with the project confirmed that the Americans have worked on "taking this project out of the drawer and putting it on the table".

“The creation of a Sunni region has always been an option for the US. The Iranians cannot be allowed to reach the Mediterranean Sea or benefit from the land bridge connecting them to Hezbollah” in Lebanon, the former US official told MEE.

"The project is American, not Sunni. The presence of the American forces has been the guarantor for the Sunnis and the Kurds, so if the US has to leave Iraq, then establishing a Sunni region in western Iraq is its plan to curb Iran and its arms in the Middle East,” he added.

“We are talking about establishing a country, not an administrative region.”
Seriously, what passes for the conventional wisdom among the US defense and foreign policy establishment is remarkably stupid.

If He Does This, then F%$# the Senate Seat, He has to Go

In an attempt to create some legitimacy to what is almost certainly going to be a Senate acquittal, Trump and his Evil Minions are to get Joe Manchin to vote against impeachment.

If Joe Manchin flips, his career needs to be ended:
President Trump and White House officials are looking for at least one Senate Democrat to vote against removing the president from office at the end of his impeachment trial, and they see Joe Manchin III (W.Va.) as the most likely candidate.

Trump took particular pride that three House Democrats voted against his impeachment, White House officials said, and he would like to be able to get at least one Senate Democrat to vote for his acquittal so he can claim the decision was bipartisan.

Manchin has sided with Trump on tough votes before, such as the confirmation of Supreme Court Justice Brett M. Kavanaugh. But voting to acquit the president would be an even more politically charged decision, one that could help him maintain his reputation as a moderate back home but would probably make him a pariah within his own party.
For his Kavanaugh vote, he should ALREADY be a pariah.

For his string pulling for his pharma executive looter daughter, he should ALREADY be a pariah.

Still, if he flips on this, he needs to be gone.  Period, full stop.

24 January 2020

More of This Too

John Stumpf, the disgraced former CEO of Wells Fargo, has been banned from the banking industry for life.

I'd like to see jail time, but this is a more aggressive pursuit of criminal bankers than we have seen in a long time:
Banking regulators pursuing what they describe as “systemic” misconduct in sales practices at Wells Fargo have reached an agreement with former chief executive John Stumpf that bars him from the banking industry and fines him $17.5 million.

The regulators continue to pursue civil charges, fines and prohibitions against five other executives for an array of oversight failures and deceptive methods at the bank.

The misconduct affected millions of bank customers from 2002 to 2016, according to a statement by the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, which sought the charges. The regulators have found, among other things, millions of accounts opened for customers without their knowledge.

While the deceptive practices were carried out by salespeople, regulators said the executives caused the problems by pushing staff to meet unreasonable sales goals and turning a blind eye to the deception.
This is weak tea, but it is still a lot more than the team of Eric "Place" Holder and Timothy "Eddie Haskell" Geithner ever did.

Seriously, we need to stop the looting, and start prosecuting.

Not Only Choking the World, Making the World Glow in the Dark.

I am referring, of course, to the the oil and gas industry, which has taken to spreading highly radioactive well waste water on roads, and selling it as a deicer.

Seriously, energy companies exceed my imagination for rat-f%$#ery:

One day in 2017, Peter pulled up to an injection well in Cambridge, Ohio. A worker walked around his truck with a hand-held radiation detector, he says, and told him he was carrying one of the “hottest loads” he’d ever seen. It was the first time Peter had heard any mention of the brine being radioactive.

The Earth’s crust is in fact peppered with radioactive elements that concentrate deep underground in oil-and-gas-bearing layers. This radioactivity is often pulled to the surface when oil and gas is extracted — carried largely in the brine.………

Through a grassroots network of Ohio activists, Peter was able to transfer 11 samples of brine to the Center for Environmental Research and Education at Duquesne University, which had them tested in a lab at the University of Pittsburgh. The results were striking.

Radium, typically the most abundant radionuclide in brine, is often measured in picocuries per liter of substance and is so dangerous it’s subject to tight restrictions even at hazardous-waste sites. The most common isotopes are radium-226 and radium-228, and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission requires industrial discharges to remain below 60 for each. Four of Peter’s samples registered combined radium levels above 3,500, and one was more than 8,500.


Peter’s samples are just a drop in the bucket. Oil fields across the country — from the Bakken in North Dakota to the Permian in Texas — have been found to produce brine that is highly radioactive. “All oil-field workers,” says Fairlie, “are radiation workers.” But they don’t necessarily know it.


Tanks, filters, pumps, pipes, hoses, and trucks that brine touches can all become contaminated, with the radium building up into hardened “scale,” concentrating to as high as 400,000 picocuries per gram. With fracking — which involves sending pressurized fluid deep underground to break up layers of shale — there is dirt and shattered rock, called drill cuttings, that can also be radioactive. But brine can be radioactive whether it comes from a fracked or conventional well; the levels vary depending on the geological formation, not drilling method. Colorado and Wyoming seem to have lower radioactive signatures, while the Marcellus shale, underlying Ohio, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, and New York, has tested the highest. Radium in its brine can average around 9,300 picocuries per liter, but has been recorded as high as 28,500. “If I had a beaker of that on my desk and accidentally dropped it on the floor, they would shut the place down,” says Yuri Gorby, a microbiologist who spent 15 years studying radioactivity with the Department of Energy. “And if I dumped it down the sink, I could go to jail.”


In an investigation involving hundreds of interviews with scientists, environmentalists, regulators, and workers, Rolling Stone found a sweeping arc of contamination — oil-and-gas waste spilled, spread, and dumped across America, posing under-studied risks to the environment, the public, and especially the industry’s own employees. There is little public awareness of this enormous waste stream, the disposal of which could present dangers at every step — from being transported along America’s highways in unmarked trucks; handled by workers who are often misinformed and underprotected; leaked into waterways; and stored in dumps that are not equipped to contain the toxicity. Brine has even been used in commercial products sold at hardware stores and is spread on local roads as a de-icer.


he levels of radium in Louisiana oil pipes had registered as much as 20,000 times the limits set by the EPA for topsoil at uranium-mill waste sites. Templet found that workers who were cleaning oil-field piping were being coated in radioactive dust and breathing it in. One man they tested had radioactivity all over his clothes, his car, his front steps, and even on his newborn baby. The industry was also spewing waste into coastal waterways, and radioactivity was shown to accumulate in oysters. Pipes still laden with radioactivity were donated by the industry and reused to build community playgrounds. Templet sent inspectors with Geiger counters across southern Louisiana. One witnessed a kid sitting on a fence made from piping so radioactive they were set to receive a full year’s radiation dose in an hour. “People thought getting these pipes for free from the oil industry was such a great deal,” says Templet, “but essentially the oil companies were just getting rid of their waste.”
Oh, yeah, the oil companies are literally disposing of radioactive waste on playgrounds.

This is a complete mind f%$#.
Radioactive oil-and-gas waste is purposely spread on roadways around the country. The industry pawns off brine — offering it for free — on rural townships that use the salty solution as a winter de-icer and, in the summertime, as a dust tamper on unpaved roads.


“There is nothing to remediate it with,” says Avner Vengosh, a Duke University geochemist. “The high radioactivity in the soil at some of these sites will stay forever.” Radium-226 has a half-life of 1,600 years. The level of uptake into agricultural crops grown in contaminated soil is unknown because it hasn’t been adequately studied.


But the new buzzword in the oil-and-gas industry is “beneficial use” — transforming oil-and-gas waste into commercial products, like pool salts and home de-icers. In June 2017, an official with the Ohio Department of Natural Resources entered a Lowe’s Home Center in Akron and purchased a turquoise jug of a liquid de-icer called AquaSalina, which is made with brine from conventional wells. Used for home patios, sidewalks, and driveways — “Safe for Environment & Pets,” the label touts — AquaSalina was found by a state lab to contain radium at levels as high as 2,491 picocuries per liter. Stolz, the Duquesne scientist, also had the product tested and found radium levels registered about 1,140 picocuries per liter.


Mansbery said that he tested for heavy metals and saw “no red flags.” Asked if he tested for radioactive elements, he stated, “We test as required by the state law and regulatory agencies.”
Mr. Mansbery needs to be in jail, so do a lot of other people who are a part of this atrocity.

Finally, a Conviction

He was convicted of racketeering.

I think that the  Billy Ray Valentine principle, "You know, it occurs to me that the best way you hurt rich people is by turning them into poor people," should apply.

He's been convicted, so there is a crime.

Now seize is assets, which are ineluctably intertwined with his fortune, so take it all.

Make him poor:
John Kapoor, the former billionaire and founder of fentanyl-spray manufacturer Insys Therapeutics was sentenced to five-and-a-half years in prison Thursday afternoon in a Boston courtroom for his role in a conspiracy to bribe doctors to prescribe his company’s potent fentanyl painkiller to patients who didn’t need it.


Last May after a weeks-long trial, a jury found Kapoor and four other executives guilty of a racketeering conspiracy. At the time, U.S. Attorney Andrew Lelling said that those convictions were “the first successful prosecution of top pharmaceutical executives for crimes related to the illicit marketing and prescribing of opioids.” The jury found that between 2012 and 2015 Kapoor and the other executives had conspired to bribe doctors and other medical practitioners to prescribe Insys’ pain drug unnecessarily and to also lie to health insurers to have the medication covered. But in November the federal judge on the case overturned part of the jury’s verdict.


The Chandler, Arizona-based Insys made and sold a powerful fentanyl spray called Subsys that was Food & Drug Administration-approved only for use by patients with cancer-related pain. At its peak in 2015, the firm’s annual Subsys sales hit $329 million. Last June Insys reached a $225 million settlement with the Department of Justice and admitted to having illegally marketed and paid kickbacks to medical practitioners in exchange for prescribing Subsys. Days later the company filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy.

In October 2016 Kapoor was profiled by Forbes. The story chronicled Kapoor’s habit of founding companies and letting them push ethical and legal boundaries. During an interview for the story, Kapoor told Forbes of his involvement with Insys: "My involvement is I am an investor." He said, "As an investor I'm on a board. As a board member and an investor you are involved, but you are not involved in day-to-day operations, and that's where the problems come in."
This is the language of "Disruption".  It's also the language of a drug pusher.

There is a reason why they the same words, because there is very little difference.

Our Friends In Riyadh ……… Again

One assumes that they would be repatriated to Saudi Arabia, dismembered with a bone saw, and burnt to ashes in an oven:
A suspected agent of the Saudi government attempted to kidnap a regime critic on American soil, according to the critic and multiple U.S. and foreign sources familiar with the episode. The young Saudi man says the FBI saved him from becoming the next Jamal Khashoggi.

Abdulrahman Almutairi is a 27-year-old comedian and former student at the University of San Diego with a big social-media presence. After Almutairi used social media to criticize the powerful Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman over the October 2018 murder and dismemberment of Washington Post contributor Khashoggi, an unidentified Saudi man accompanied Almutairi’s father on a flight to collect Almutairi against his will and bring him back to Saudi Arabia, according to The Daily Beast’s sources.

“The Saudi government realized I was a threat,” Almutairi told The Daily Beast, revealing for the first time an ordeal that might have culminated in a whole new crisis: the kidnapping and rendition of a Saudi dissenter on American soil. Only timely intervention from the FBI broke up the plot, two sources say.


Then someone he describes only as a source in Saudi Arabia told him that his life was in danger—and that living in California did not mean he was safe. It prompted Almutairi to call the police during the week of Oct. 25, 2018.

What happened next he would only learn from an FBI official he said he spoke with: Without Almutairi’s knowledge, his father flew to Los Angeles, and he wasn’t alone. Accompanying his father was someone Almutairi does not know.

But they never arrived in San Diego. The FBI was waiting for them at LAX. According to two additional sources familiar with the incident, the FBI intercepted both the senior Almutairi and the unidentified Saudi man and sent them back on a subsequent flight. The FBI declined to comment for this story.


In July, Middle East Eye’s Dania Akkad first reported that in November 2018, a timeline consistent with Almutairi’s story, the FBI met with at least four Saudi dissidents in the U.S. to warn them of threats to their lives emanating from the kingdom. The dissidents were not named, but one of them, Akkad reported, “runs a popular YouTube channel critical of the Saudi government.” 
There is no such thing as a citizen of Saudi Arabia, there are only subjects of the Saudi king.

In some nations, the UK comes to mind, it is a distinction without a difference.

This is not the case for those living under the suzerainty of the House of Saud.

23 January 2020

Agriculture's Amazing High Tech Future

In yet another example of why Congress should pass right to repair legislation, farmers in the Midwest are engaging in bidding wars over 40 year old tractors because they are not locked out of fixings them by the manufacturers:
Kris Folland grows corn, wheat and soybeans and raises cattle on 2,000 acres near Halma in the northwest corner of Minnesota, so his operation is far from small. But when he last bought a new tractor, he opted for an old one — a 1979 John Deere 4440.

He retrofitted it with automatic steering guided by satellite, and he and his kids can use the tractor to feed cows, plant fields and run a grain auger. The best thing? The tractor cost $18,000, compared to upward of $150,000 for a new tractor. And Folland doesn’t need a computer to repair it.

“This is still a really good tractor,” said Folland, who owns two other tractors built before 1982.

“They cost a fraction of the price, and then the operating costs are much less because they’re so much easier to fix,” he said.

Tractors manufactured in the late 1970s and 1980s are some of the hottest items in farm auctions across the Midwest these days — and it’s not because they’re antiques.


The other big draw of the older tractors is their lack of complex technology. Farmers prefer to fix what they can on the spot, or take it to their mechanic and not have to spend tens of thousands of dollars.

“The newer machines, any time something breaks, you’ve got to have a computer to fix it,” Stock said.

There are some good things about the software in newer machines, said Peterson. The dealer will get a warning if something is about to break and can contact the farmer ahead of time to nip the problem in the bud. But if something does break, the farmer is powerless, stuck in the field waiting for a service truck from the dealership to come out to their farm and charge up to $150 per hour for labor.
I'm seriously beginning to think that every innovation introduced since the Reagan administration has just been a scam.

Tweet of the Day, OK Boomer Edition

Seriously, and I am a (late, 1962) Boomer, but there is something profoundly f$#@ed up about my generation.

22 January 2020

2020 Officially Sucks

Monty Python member Terry Jones has died at 77:

Anyone Know What That Was at the Impeachment?

When I was driving home, I was listening to the Senate trial, and at one point someone, I'm assuming in the gallery, shouted something, and John Roberts called for order.

Anyone know who said what, and why?

Of Course They Did

The Washington, DC Attorney General has sued the Trump inaugural committee for self-dealing when it overpaid for events at Trump properties.

This is perhaps the least surprising big of corruption revealed today:
D.C. Attorney General Karl A. Racine sued President Trump’s inaugural committee and business Wednesday, alleging that the committee violated its nonprofit status by spending more than $1 million to book a ballroom at Trump’s D.C. hotel that its staff knew was overpriced and that it barely used.

During the lead-up to Trump’s January 2017 inauguration, the committee booked the Trump International Hotel ballroom for $175,000 a day, plus more than $300,000 in food and beverage costs, over the objections of its own event planner.

The committee was formed to organize the events around the inauguration, but Racine alleges it instead “abandoned this purpose and violated District law when it wasted approximately $1 million of charitable funds in overpayment for the use of event space at the Trump hotel.”
This sort of self-dealing is not surprising.

This corruption is endemic among not-for-profits, and when that is juxtaposed with the Trump crime family, the corruption is inevitable.


This video of Pete Buggigieg begging the crowd to cheer is very Jeb Bush like:

Also, that laugh is awkward as f%$#.

I'm Expecting a Government Bailout

Between lost revenues, and penalties to airlines, I'm guessing that Boeing wishes that it hadn't blown billions on stock buybacks to boost executive stock options:
Boeing Co. on Tuesday pushed back its forecast for when regulators will clear the return of the 737 MAX to commercial service, saying it doesn’t expect approval until midyear at the earliest.

The plane maker said its new estimate for the Federal Aviation Administration’s signoff—which people briefed on the matter expect in June or July—takes into account the need for approving training for pilots and “experience to date with the certification process.”

The global MAX fleet has been grounded since last March following two fatal crashes, with Boeing repeatedly revising when it expected regulators to approve changes to the flight-control systems implicated in the accidents, as well as new training regimes. It previously forecast the FAA would lift its flight ban and approve training by January, with the expectation that it would still take some months before the MAX again carried passengers.

The delays have extended far longer than most airlines and industry analysts expected, and leave the global passenger-jet fleet short of almost 5% of planned capacity for a second peak summer season in a row, adding to the hefty compensation Boeing owes its customers.

The latest projection isn’t in response to the emergence of any new technical problems or fresh friction with regulators, according to people familiar with the matter.
Right now, Boeing is seeking another $10 billion in cash after having spent $43 billion over the last 7 years on stock buybacks:
The first thing to know about Boeing’s mad scramble to line up “$10 billion or more” in new funding via a loan from a consortium of banks, on top of the $9.5 billion credit-line it obtained in October last year – efforts to somehow get through its cash-flow nightmare caused by the 737 MAX fiasco – is that the company blew, wasted, and incinerated $43.4 billion to buy back its own shares since June 2013, having become a master of financial engineering instead of aircraft engineering.

If Boeing had focused on its business – such as designing a new plane instead of doctoring an ancient design to save money and time – and if it hadn’t blown $43 billion on share-buybacks but had invested this money in a new design, those two crashes wouldn’t have occurred, and it wouldn’t have to beg for cash now. The chart below shows the cumulative share-buybacks in billions of dollars since Q1 2009. In Q2 2019, it belatedly halted the share buybacks (share buyback data from YCharts):

As is always the case with share buybacks, the idea is to buy high in order to drive shares even higher. This is what you learn on the first day of Financial Engineering 101. So Boeing stopped buying back its shares in Q1 2009 when its shares had plunged into the $35-range, at which point they were a good deal, and then recommenced share-buybacks in Q2 2013 when its shares had already risen to the $100-range.

The second thing to know about Boeing’s mad scramble to borrow another $10 billion is that it already has a huge amount of debt and other liabilities, and that its total liabilities ($136 billion) exceed its total assets ($132 billion) by about $4 billion as of September 2019, meaning that it has negative net equity, that the share buybacks have destroyed its equity, which is what share buybacks do to the balance sheet.

It also means that every dime in “cash” and “cash equivalent” listed on the balance sheet is borrowed. And this is about to get a whole lot worse. In October 2019, Boeing had already obtained a new credit line of $9.5 billion, which about doubled the size of its existing credit line. Credit lines serve as liquidity backup.

And now Boeing is scrambling to pile “$10 billion or more” in new loans on top of it.
Wolf Richter's understated take on this, that, "Putting a priority on financial engineering over actual engineering can get very expensive," gets to the core of the problem.

21 January 2020

I've Listened to a Bit of the Impeachment Trial

To quote the Mel Brooks movie The Producers, "We find the defendant incredibly guilty."

Uber Continues to Evade Regulations

In yet another attempt to evade regulations requiring that it treat its employees as ……… well ……… employees, it is introducing a feature allowing divers to bid on rides.

Obviously, Uber thinks that this has two advantages:
  • It makes it easier for them to argue that the their employees are not employees.
  • It will structured to encourage a race to the bottom.
I don't think that this will work for 2 reasons:
Also, it's pretty clear that even though Travis Kalanick has left the company, the company has still not left Travic Kalanick:
Uber Technologies Inc. is testing a new feature that allows some drivers in California to set their fares, the latest in a series of moves to give them more autonomy in response to the state’s new gig-economy law.

Starting Tuesday morning, drivers who ferry passengers from airports in Santa Barbara, Palm Springs and Sacramento can charge up to five times the fare Uber sets on a ride, according to a person involved in developing the feature. Uber confirmed in an emailed statement that it is doing an “initial test” that “would give drivers more control over the rates they charge riders.”


The fare test and other recent changes are part of Uber’s effort to strengthen its case that its drivers operate with some degree of independence. Earlier this month, Uber capped its commissions on rides across California. Last month, it allowed drivers in the state to see where riders were going, letting them choose the trips they wanted to take. Previously, drivers agreed to trips without knowing the destination.

Uber’s latest changes will set up a bidding system that lets drivers increase fares in 10% increments, up to a maximum of five times Uber’s set price, the person involved in developing the feature said. That price includes base fare, time spent and distance covered by a driver. There is no limit on how often drivers can raise prices. Once a rider pings the Uber app at the locations in the pilot program, Uber will match the rider with the driver who has set the lowest price, the person said. Drivers who have set higher fares are gradually dispatched as more riders request rides.


Starting next week, Uber plans to let drivers also set fares lower than Uber’s price. In addition to choosing a higher multiple, drivers will be able to charge as little as one-tenth Uber’s set price, decreasing fares 10% at a time. They will also be allowed to opt out of surge pricing.

“Drivers want to make more money, but now they’re competing with another driver for that money, so it’s a lot more work and a lot more confusing,” said Harry Campbell, a former Uber and Lyft driver who runs the Rideshare Guy blog for drivers, which he says has about 80,000 subscribers. “What happens if drivers start setting fares lower and lower just so they can get rides?”
Given that the basic technology of Uber and Lyft is unencumbered by patents, I'm kind of surprised that someone has not set up a workers' cooperative to compete with both of the firms.

You can pay the drivers a lot more if you are not paying off a bunch a venture capitalist pukes.

Tweet of the Day

I should have included this with my last post:

What an Entitled Pissant

Seriously, no one will ever miss Hillary Clinton if she refuses to leave.
Bernie Sanders 3 joint appearances, dozens of campaign stops for her, and Hillary Clinton is still upset that she hired the worst possible people and ran the worst possible campaign:
For three years, Hillary Clinton has watched the Democratic Party search for a path forward in the Trump era.


And she’d largely refrained from weighing in — until Tuesday morning, when The Hollywood Reporter published an interview with Mrs. Clinton promoting a new documentary about her that will premiere on Saturday at the Sundance Film Festival. In the documentary, she rips into Mr. Sanders and declines to say if she would endorse him and campaign on his behalf if he were to win the Democratic nomination.

“Nobody likes him, nobody wants to work with him, he got nothing done. He was a career politician,” she said. “It’s all just baloney and I feel so bad that people got sucked into it.” Asked by The Reporter recently if that assessment still held, she replied, “Yes, it does.”


Some Democrats fear that Mrs. Clinton is adding fuel to the tensions within the party, whose leaders have spent years trying to overcome the lingering hostilities of the 2016 campaign, hoping to unify Democrats around the singular mission of defeating Mr. Trump.
That's her goal.  If she cannot have it, no one can.

Speaking to reporters on Tuesday in Washington, Mr. Sanders said: “Secretary Clinton is entitled to her point of view. My job today is to focus on the impeachment trial.”

When asked for his response to Mrs. Clinton’s assertion that no one liked him, he joked that “on a good day, my wife likes me, so let’s clear the air on that one.”

Mrs. Clinton tried to clarify her remarks on Tuesday evening. “I thought everyone wanted my authentic, unvarnished views!” she wrote on Twitter. “But to be serious, the number one priority for our country and world is retiring Trump, and, as I always have, I will do whatever I can to support our nominee.”
No one wants your, "Authentic, unvarnished views,"  They want you to GO THE F%$# AWAY.
Since Mr. Sanders endorsed Mrs. Clinton in July 2016, the acrimony between the two camps has lingered. Mrs. Clinton and her former aides maintain that his endorsement came too late and was too lukewarm to truly unify the party. Some supporters of Mr. Sanders still argue that the Democratic National Committee “rigged” the rules to help her secure the nomination.
Numerous campaign appearances, in fact more in September 2016 than Hillary did that month, and it was "lukewarm" .  If you want to find someone to blame for your loss to an inverted traffic cone, look in the f%$#ing mirror!

Unlike nearly all of the other two dozen Democratic candidates this primary cycle, Mr. Sanders did not call Mrs. Clinton before he entered the race.
Oh you poor dear.  The horror.

What a self-important ass.

The Internet of Sh%$

I am not sure why, but lamps figure very prominently in technological failures of smart consumer devices, and this time, it doesn't even involve an internet connected device:


I love the way that this scene is composed. It's like a Utagawa Hiroshige print:

20 January 2020

Gee, You Think?

I will note that stating the blatantly obvious is probably as good as a Washington Post will get so long as Fred Hiatt is running the show on that department, but when an Op/Ed is titled, "The Tacit Alliance of Militia Members and Border Patrol Agents Is Getting out of Control," you are pretty firmly into, "Well, Duh!" territory, particularly when you scrupulously ignore that the behavior of Customs and Border Patrol is the product of s deeply racist and abusive culture:
The leader of the militia group United Constitutional Patriots was arrested April 20 by the FBI on a federal weapons charge. As The Post reported, “The United Constitutional Patriots came to public attention this month after the emergence of videos that showed men stopping and detaining people crossing the border.” The videos included two that, CNN reported, appeared to feature a UCP member impersonating a Border Patrol agent. Another video showed armed men in military-style uniforms detaining dozens of migrants. “Customs and Border Protection agents arrive and collect migrants but do not ask the group with guns to disperse or take their weapons elsewhere,” The Post reported.

Vigilantism is always a threat to democracy, but the militia videos are especially troubling because of the appearance that civilians were masquerading as law enforcement officials — in at least one, according to The Post, members could be heard shouting “Policia, alto!” or “Police, stop!” — and because federal agents encountered the vigilantes without confronting them.
The null hypothesis is that CBP is actively partnering with civilian racist thugs because  ……… wait for it ……… CBP is run by and for racist thugs.

Maybe mentioning that the CBP is a corrupt and bigoted organization would help create a greater understanding the whole situation.

Our Friends in Riyadh

The FBI believes the Saudi Arabian government “almost certainly” helps its citizens flee the country after they are accused of serious crimes, “undermining the US judicial process,” according to a newly declassified document obtained by The Oregonian/OregonLive.

The surreptitious action is done, in part, to spare the wealthy Persian Gulf kingdom embarrassment, the FBI said. Intelligence officials believe the flights from justice will continue without intervention by the American authorities.

Saudi officials “are unlikely to alter this practice in the near term unless the US Government directly addresses this issue with (Saudi Arabia) and ties US cooperation on (Saudi) priorities to ceasing this activity," according to the FBI.

The details are contained in an intelligence bulletin dated Aug. 29. The FBI released the document Friday as part of a recent law pushed by U.S. Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., and signed by President Donald Trump last month that requires the FBI to publicly disclose what it knows about the Saudi government’s suspected role in helping its citizens avoid prosecution in the U.S.

The eight-page bulletin is heavily redacted and does not specify what the Saudi officials may have done, nor does it contain information about the size and scope of the practice.

But the document provides the first public acknowledgement by federal officials about the role Saudi operatives have likely played in the disappearance of numerous citizens who have gotten into legal trouble while in the U.S.


The revelation comes a year after an investigation by The Oregonian/OregonLive found multiple cases where Saudi students studying throughout the U.S. vanished while facing manslaughter, sex crimes and other felony charges, with the suspected assistance of their government. The cases occurred under several U.S. administrations.

The news organization revealed criminal cases involving at least seven Saudi nationals who disappeared from Oregon before they faced trial or completed their jail sentences on charges ranging from rape to manslaughter, including those who had surrendered their passports to authorities.
I'm generally not a fan of remand without bail, but it appears that if a subject of the House of Saud accused of a serious crime, they are by definition a flight risk.

Tweet of the Day

Particularly since today is the MLK holiday:

This is the best comment I've seen about the FBI's statement about Martin Luther King today ignoring the fact that J. Edgar Hoover had a literally murderous vendetta against him.

19 January 2020

A New Frontier in Editorial Incoherence

The New York Times editorial board REALLY wanted to endorse Amy Klobuchar, despite the fact that she has never been able to break 3%.

My theory is that they are impressed that she is a complete and utter turd to her staff, and they want a kiss-up/kick-down kind of person.

So, instead, they endorsed both Elizabeth Warren and Amy Klobuchar, to avoid mockery. (No link, they don't deserve my minuscule traffic)

If you find the OP/ED, it's just a Google away, you will note that their endorsement of Warren is an exercise in negging. ("Gifted Storyteller", etc.)

The editorial board of the Times is more than comfortable with the status quo, which does pretty well for people like them, so they want more of the same, just without Trump.

Had to Change My Wife's Tire

It was as uneventful as a tire change on a road with a minimal shoulder.

Unfortunately, my huffing and puffing for about a half an hour in 31° (F) weather has left me with a runny nose and a headache.  (I am currently hydrating)

18 January 2020

Snark of the Day

Crackpot conspiracy theories get easy traction on the internet, [but] they’re less likely to do well in federal court.
John Schindler, former NSA analyst, of the former NSC Chairman Michael Flynn's defense team's descent into tin foil hat territory.
It's not surprising that his defense as gone nuts.  They caught it from their client.

Clearly, We are Preparing to Invade Endor

This would explain why the newly constituted US Space Force will have a camouflage uniform.

The alternative, that they have discovered space jungles, is too absurd to consider.

Needless to say, Twitter is going insane over this:
The U.S. Space Force on Friday offered a first look at its utility uniforms with its service name tape, unleashing a torrent of mockery over the decision to use a camouflage pattern for a military branch associated with the dark endlessness of the universe.

“Space Force” soon began trending on Twitter — mostly not because of excitement about the uniform.

“Smart call on the Space Force camouflage,” one Twitter user wrote. “Never know when you’re gonna have to blend into a space jungle or hide behind a space bush.”

“I’m dressed better for Space Force than this and I’m wearing $10 leggings from Target,” said one woman, who shared a photo of leggings with images of cats floating in space.

Another person posted a picture of a camouflage pattern next to a completely black box. “Study these carefully until you can see the difference,” he wrote in response to the Space Force.
The reality, as it usually is, is actually a bit more prosaic.

Their new uniform is, except for the various badges, reuses the existing camouflage uniforms, because, if it ain't broke, don't fix it.

Why spend all that money on a new uniform?

Then again, why spend all that money on standing up the cockamamie idea of a Space Force in the first place?

Headline of the Day

Boris' Bonkers 'Bung a Bob for Big Ben Brexit Bongs' Bid Bombs
The Mirror, on Boris Johnson's failed crowdfunding of ringing Big Ben's bells. (The clock is being refurbished, so it would cost about £500,000.)
This is the best headline ever.

When Barr Demands that Apple Unlock Their Phones

He claims that this is the only way for law enforcement to get into locked phones.

He is lying.

What this is really about is their wanting to be able to hack phones remotely, which, of course, will be used without a warrant by the US state security apparatus to do things like fight terrorism and spy on girl friends:
President Donald Trump's bizarre friendship with his buddy Tim Cook is in trouble. With Apple once again refusing to allow the FBI to unlock a terrorist's iPhone (two of them, actually, this time around), the president sent out a tweet the other day that said, "We are helping Apple all of the time on TRADE and so many other issues, and yet they refuse to unlock phones used by killers, drug dealers, and other violent criminal elements. They will have to step up to the plate and help our great Country."


In the current situation, the two handsets that the FBI wants Apple to open belong to Mohammed Saeed Alshamrani. The latter allegedly killed three people last month at a Navy base in Pensacola, Florida during an act that is being called terrorism. Because the FBI asked Apple to unlock the phones, it appeared that companies like Cellebrite and Grayshift could not unlock any iPhones running on iOS 13. But Bloomberg reports that Cellebrite recently pushed out an update to its machines that will allow law enforcement agencies to extract and analyze information from several locked iPhone models.


And that brings us to this question, if the FBI can open both of Mohammed Saeed Alshamrani's iPhones without Apple, why is President Trump, Attorney General Barr, and the FBI putting pressure on Apple to unlock these phones? Perhaps it has to do with setting a precedent for the future when Apple comes up with a way to block the latest technology used by Cellebrite and Grayshift. However, the president should tread lightly here; he certainly doesn't want to lose the "friendship" he has with the man he once called Tim Apple.
Why are they putting pressure on apple?  Because Cellbrite and Grayshift's devices require physical possession of the device, and hence a warrant.

They, and by that I mean the US state security apparatus, want to be able to spy on citizens without having to go to court.

The British are Living the Chinese Curse

You know the curse, "May you live in interesting times."

It's actually not a Chinese curse, its origin is likely British.

Which is ironic for the British business who have been repeatedly reassured that Brexit will not make any difference in how they do business.

It has been clear from day 1 that the pro-Brexit crowd would not go for a Brexit-In-Name-Only, where the regulatory landscape would still conform almost completely to EU standards.

The Tories, and their pro-Brexit allies have always said that this was about sovereignty, and now the Chancellor has confirmed that there will be no formal synchronization of EU and UK regulations and standards.

Businesses, particularly the City of London, are freaking out:
Sajid Javid, the UK chancellor, has delivered a tough message to business leaders to end their campaign for Britain to stay in lock-step with Brussels rules after Brexit, telling them they have already had three years to prepare for a new trading relationship.

In an interview with the Financial Times, Mr Javid quashed any prospect of the Treasury lending its support to big manufacturing sectors — which include cars, aerospace, pharmaceuticals, and food and drink — that favour alignment with EU regulations.

“There will not be alignment, we will not be a ruletaker, we will not be in the single market and we will not be in the customs union — and we will do this by the end of the year,” Mr Javid said, urging companies to “adjust” to the new reality.

But with Brexit now less than a fortnight away, business leaders are eyeing the upcoming trade talks with Brussels with trepidation.

The EU wants the UK to stay in line with its regulations in return for a zero tariffs, zero quotas trade deal but Boris Johnson, prime minister, has repeatedly said he wants to break free from the bloc’s rules.


Philip Hammond, the previous chancellor, fought to maintain alignment with the EU but Mr Javid made it clear that the Treasury was now under new management. He suggested being comfortable with some companies suffering from Brexit.
The complaint here is that Boris Johnson  and his Evil Minions did exactly what he promised.

No sympathy from me.