30 November 2021

A Return to Normal

There has been a mass shooting at Oxford High School in Michigan.

At least 3 dead.

The fact that this represents a return to normalcy is depressing as F%$#.

NLRB Calls For Amazon Vote Do-Over

Because of pervasive misconduct by Amazon, the union election at its Bessemer warehouse will have to be reheld

It appears that this flows from Amazon's take no prisoners and follow no laws backfired on them:

A regional office of the National Labor Relations Board on Monday ordered a new union election at an Amazon warehouse in Alabama, upholding a union challenge to a vote that the company won decisively.

The decision was widely expected after a hearing officer recommended in August that the results be thrown out and that a new election take place.


The union filed a formal objection to the election shortly after the results were announced in April, arguing that Amazon had undermined the conditions for a fair election by pressing the Postal Service to install a collection box at the warehouse, among other complaints. The union said the box, which was not authorized by the labor board, created the impression that Amazon was monitoring which workers voted.

In her decision Monday, the labor board’s regional director for the Atlanta region agreed, writing that Amazon “gave a strong impression that it controlled the process” by arranging the installation of the box. “This dangerous and improper message to employees destroys trust in the board’s processes and in the credibility of the election results,” the director, Lisa Y. Henderson, concluded.

Ms. Henderson also found that Amazon had improperly “polled” employees — that is, it attempted to determine how they would vote — by notifying workers at mandatory meetings that they could take “vote no” items such as pins that were laid out in full view of human resources officials.


Amazon has said that the box was intended to make it easier for employees to vote and that it did not have access to the ballots that workers deposited in it.

Amazon is constitutionally incapable of not cheating, and this time, it cost them.

Bad Day at the Office

Not Good

Following some sort of propulsion issue, a British F-35B crashed on takeoff from the carrier Queen Elizabeth:

Video footage has emerged of a British F-35B fighter jet falling off the front of aircraft carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth after a botched takeoff.

The leaked clip, seemingly from a CCTV camera on the carrier's bridge, shows the Lockheed Martin-made stealth aircraft slowly trundling down the deck before tipping over the ski-jump ramp on her bows.

As the £100m RAF jet nosed over, the pilot ejected – only for his parachute to snag on the carrier's bows as he descended back towards the ship.

Had he gone underneath the 65,000-tonne Queen Elizabeth or been caught in one of her two 33-tonne, 6.7m-diameter propellers [PDF], he may not have survived.

The cause is still under investigation, but given the reports of a red plastic cover being found in the water, and the fact that the exercises it was participating in continued without pause, it's pretty likely that they identified as something like FOD, either a cover left over an inlet, or one sucked off the deck, that caused this.

In any case, there's about 88 million quid down the drain.


A Correction

In an earlier post about my family's celebration of Hanukkah, I noted that Old Bay spice, "Is the unofficial elixir and talisman of all things Maryland."

This is incorrect.  Old Bay spice is the, "Is the unofficial elixir and sacrament of all things Maryland."

My apologies for any confusion.

29 November 2021

Hit the Road, Jack

Jack Dorsey that is, who just resigned as CEO of Twitter, and that he will be leaving the board when his term expires next year.

He announced his resignation over Twitter (of course), and gave all indications that this is an amicable parting, though there were no indications ahead of time, so it seems a bit abrupt:

Jack Dorsey is stepping down as chief executive officer of Twitter Inc., handing over control of the microblogging site he founded and helped build into a global communications platform that, despite being widely used, has struggled to keep up with its social media peers.

Chief Technology Officer Parag Agrawal, who joined Twitter in 2011, was promoted to CEO. Dorsey will stay on the board of the San Francisco-based company until his term expires in 2022, Twitter said in a statement Monday. Agrawal, 37, is also joining the board, and director Bret Taylor was named independent chairman.

“The company is ready to move on from its founders,” Dorsey said in the statement. “My trust in Parag as Twitter’s CEO is deep. His work over the past 10 years has been transformational. I’m deeply grateful for his skill, heart and soul. It’s his time to lead.”

The 45-year-old Dorsey is also the head of payments company Square Inc., and has been focusing more of his attention on cryptocurrencies, particularly Bitcoin, in recent years. After co-founding Twitter in 2006, he stepped down as CEO in 2008, then returned to the job in 2015. He will continue running Square, according to a company spokesperson.

Dorsey’s departure marks the end of a complicated and eventful six-year run at the helm, which featured an attempted sale of the company, a business turnaround that saw Twitter reach profitability, and an effort by activist investors to boot Dorsey from his job. When Dorsey returned as CEO, many analysts and investors predicted that he would eventually leave Square and run Twitter full-time. But Dorsey instead stuck to a hands-off management style to run both companies for years.

My guess is that he wants to move to Monterey, California, and be known as, "Monterey Jack," but that is just my cheesy dad humor.

I am curious as to why it was announced with no notice though.

Sharper than a Serpent's Tooth

Not a surprise

It appears that right wing nut job Michael Flynn has been dissing QAnon in private, referring to that set of conspiracies as, "Total nonsense."

It really is remarkable just how transparent a grift the extreme right-wing is, and how much the stars of that movement hold their followers in contempt:

Former Trump national security adviser Michael Flynn has embraced his position as a hero to QAnon conspiracy theorists. He took the QAnon oath, sold QAnon T-shirts, and even auctioned off a QAnon quilt. He appeared at a QAnon convention and signed books with a QAnon slogan. Some QAnon followers even believe that Flynn is “Q,” the mysterious figure behind QAnon.

But a recording released late Saturday night by a one-time Flynn ally suggests that the retired three-star general privately believes QAnon to be “total nonsense.”

On Saturday night, pro-Trump lawyer and QAnon booster Lin Wood released a recording of what purports to be a phone call between Wood and Flynn on Telegram. The audio’s publication comes amid a right-wing civil war pitting Wood against one-time allies like Flynn and other figures involved in the 2020 attempt to overturn the election.

In the call, Wood complains to Flynn that his QAnon supporters had attacked Wood online. But Flynn attempts to disown QAnon, claiming it’s a “disinformation campaign” created by the CIA.

“I think it’s a disinformation campaign,” Flynn said on the call. “I think it’s a disinformation campaign that the CIA created. That’s what I believe. Now, I don’t know that for a fact, but that’s what I think it is. I think it’s a disinformation campaign.”

Later in the recording, Flynn called QAnon “total nonsense.”

In less than 24 hours, he has gone from a QAnon hero to being accused of worshiping Satan in some quarters. 

I am amused.

Quote of the Day

 "OK, so nanobots, wirelessly charged by various radio waves – and 5G, the bastards. And who's behind it?"

"Big Data."

"Yes, you said that, but they're the manufacturers of the equipment. Who's actually behind it all?"

"International Bad Actors."


—The BOFH in The Register taking the piss of an anti-vaxx tinfoil hat type.

I need to remember that line the next time that someone blames unidentified, "Bad Actors," in their conspiracy theories.


John Oliver on Union Busting:

28 November 2021

Happy Hanukkah Everyone

We lit candles, and I gave my kids their gifts, an Old Bay wool pom cap for Nat, and an Old Bay bow tie for Charlie. 

They were absolutely thrilled.

If you don't understand why my kids were positively thrilled to receive these gifts, you don't understand Maryland.

Old Bay a spice mix developed for seafood, but it is really good on everything. (I've had Old Bay ice cream, and it was not bad)

It is the unofficial elixir and talisman of all things Maryland.

The recipe is fairly simple: salt, celery seeds, paprika, black pepper, cayenne, mustard, garlic powder, onion powder, and magic.


Matthew McConaughey has announced that he will not be running for Governor of Texas, which means that the hot mess that is Robert Francis "Beto" O'Rourke will be running and losing as a Democrat.

We're going to see a repeat of O'Rourke's performance in the Presidential primaries, a lot of early buzz, a lot of campaign funds raised and spent, and no results.

Unfortunately, this will suck all the air of important down-ballot races:

The actor and author Matthew McConaughey announced on Sunday that he would not run for governor of Texas for now, after months of weighing whether he would seek the office.

In a video posted on Twitter and Instagram, Mr. McConaughey, 52, said running for governor is a “humbling and inspiring path to ponder.”

“It is also a path that I’m choosing not to take at this moment,” he said.

Mr. McConaughey’s announcement came about two weeks before the candidate filing deadline for the Texas primary, and about two weeks after Beto O’Rourke, a former El Paso congressman and 2020 Democratic presidential candidate, announced his run for the office against Gov. Greg Abbott, a Republican.

It's a tough election, facing an election across the state that favors Republicans, the Cook PVI has Texas at  R+5, and O'Rourke's only victory was in a solidly Democratic district.

Yet again, the Dems are going with a great white hope with feet of clay.

I Am Not Sure If This Is Heaven or Hell

It appears that a freak snowstorm left 61 stranded in a UK pub, which sounds pretty good, but they were there to watch a concert by Noasis, and Oasis cover band, so maybe not quite so good:

Up on a hill in Yorkshire, England, a crowd filled a pub on Friday to listen to an Oasis tribute band. Inside the pub, the Tan Hill Inn, the beers were cold, the fires were warming and the musicians were electric.

But outside, the winds were howling and the snow was swirling. The pub-goers knew the forecast was dire, but not so much that piles of snow as high as three feet would block the pub’s exits, said Nicola Townsend, the inn’s general manager.

After the tribute band, Noasis, finished its set, the local authorities said it was not safe to drive home, Ms. Townsend said on Sunday night.

So the patrons, the band members and seven inn employees stayed the night.

And then another.

And on Sunday night, they were preparing to stay another.


The group stuck in the pub may have started on Friday as strangers, but they will leave as friends, Ms. Townsend said, adding, “We’ve even talked about having a reunion next year.”

Yeah, but maybe you should ditch the Oasis cover band.

27 November 2021

It Just Keeps Getting Better, Omicron Edition

That bottom graph is scary

A new variant of Covid-19 has been found in South Africa, B.1.1.529, aka Omicron, and its emergence in South Africa is nothing short of terrifying, with it reaching 75% of all cases there in only 2 weeks.

It's already been detected in Europe, and is almost certainly in already in the United States, and there is no reliable data as to how effective vaccines are against it, but it has many more mutations than the Delta variant:

The first inkling of a new, potentially fearsome threat arrived a few days ago. The latest variant of the coronavirus was on the move, the Biden administration was told. And, before long, evidence emerged that the variant — which would be dubbed omicron — carried worrisome mutations.


On Saturday, covid-19 cases caused by the omicron variant were confirmed or suspected in a widening circle of nations, including Britain and Germany. The pharmaceutical companies whose vaccines had appeared to chart a path out of the pandemic expedited development of new formulations targeting the omicron variant.


But early data from South Africa, where officials say omicron fueled a recent outbreak at breathtaking speed, suggests the new variant is already spreading more quickly than delta. In the populous Gauteng province around Johannesburg, the share of swabs that tested positive for the coronavirus spiked from 3.6 percent Wednesday to 9.1 percent Friday. The country is bracing for the possibility of its public health systems becoming overwhelmed.

Understand that South Africa is one of the few nations on the continent with sufficient clinical and lab infrastructure to reliably detect the variant, so it is very likely that it's already running rampant elsewhere. 

It has been made worse by the insistence of western nations on the primacy of patents, largely developed through public money, over the public good.

We are in for an exceedingly bumpy ride.

Vaccine Update

My arm still hurts, but I can type with my left hand now, which since I touch type, is a good thing.

This is literally the worst reaction that I have had with a vaccine ever, and while unpleasant, I will be getting the booster in 2-6 months, because it is FAR less unpleasant than shingles.  I know this from personal experience.

If you qualify for this vaccine, get it, but I would strongly suggest that you get it on a Friday afternoon before a weekend where you have no plans, because for both me and my little brother Daniel, there was at least 24 hours of discomfort.

No Blogging Tonight

I'm typing this one handed, because my left side is throbbing from my elbow to my ear.

It is a result of the Shingles Vaccine, so get your head out of the gutter.

25 November 2021

Happy Thanksgiving

Remember the Great Turkey Drop massacre:

Deep Thought

Why does turkey always taste better when you take a piece of it from the pan than it does when it's on the plate?

One cannot prove this, but it is, in the same way that Mount Everest is and Alma Cogan isn't.

Tweet of the Day, Thanksgiving Edition

Daym! That is cold.

Funny as f%$#, but cold.

24 November 2021

Guilty, Guilty, Guilty!

The murders of Ahmaud Arbery have been convicted.

It has been clear from the start that these guys decided to hunt and kill a black man as a sort of twisted racist safari.

Still, I am pleasantly surprised that they were convicted.

The important thing to remember is that the cops saw the video of their murder and did nothing, and the DA saw the video and did nothing.  It was only when the clip went viral that the authorities felt compelled to do something.

If this had not been recorded, and there had not been a public outrage, Ahmaud Arbery would have just been another dead black man whom the authorities would have blamed for his own death:

Three white men were found guilty of murder and other charges on Wednesday for the pursuit and fatal shooting of Ahmaud Arbery, a 25-year-old Black man, in a case that, together with the killing of George Floyd, helped inspire the racial justice protests of last year.

The three defendants — Travis McMichael, 35; his father, Gregory McMichael, 65; and their neighbor William Bryan, 52 — face sentences of up to life in prison. The men have also been indicted on separate federal charges, including hate crimes and attempted kidnapping, and are expected to stand trial in February on those charges.

The verdict suggested that the jury agreed with prosecutors’ arguments that Mr. Arbery posed no imminent threat to the men and that the men had no reason to believe he had committed a crime, giving them no legal right to chase him through their suburban neighborhood. “You can’t start it and claim self-defense,” the lead prosecutor argued in her closing statements. “And they started this.”


From the beginning, Mr. Arbery’s family and friends raised questions about local officials’ handling of the case. The three men who were later charged walked free for several weeks after the shooting, and were arrested only after video of the fatal encounter was released, a national outcry swelled and the case was taken over by the Georgia Bureau of Investigation.


Like many other recent episodes involving the killing of Black people, the confrontation was captured on video. Unlike many of the others, the video was made not by a bystander but by one of the defendants, Mr. Bryan.

Jackie Johnson, the local prosecutor who initially handled the case, lost her bid for re-election in 2020 and was indicted this year by a Georgia grand jury, accused of “showing favor and affection” to Gregory McMichael, a former investigator in her office, and for directing police officers not to arrest Travis McMichael. The case was ultimately tried by the district attorney’s office in Cobb County, which is roughly 300 miles away from Brunswick in metropolitan Atlanta.
The lesson to be drawn from this case is that with sufficient public scrutiny, justice can be served even in a place as corrupt and racist as Glynn County, Georgia, but ONLY if the public is aware and actively forcing the authorities to do the right thing.


Microsoft is bringing back Clippy in Windows 11.

This is an abomination:

We're nearly two months out from the public release of Windows 11, and Microsoft is still slowly updating bits and pieces of the operating system that weren't quite ready in early October. Microsoft announced redesigned emoji back in July, and the next Windows update (version 22000.348, if you're tracking this sort of thing) adds those emoji to Windows 11.

The new emoji remove the bold, black outlines from the Windows 10-era designs and change the colors and shapes of a few to make them match up better with Apple's, Google's, and Samsung's glyphs—compare the new design for Spiral Shell to the old one, for an example. There are also a few cute Microsoft-specific touches, like a Clippy design for the paperclip emoji, though Ninja Cat appears to have been removed entirely.

(emphasis mine

The horror.

It's Jobless Thursday on Wednesday!

It's a day early because of the Thanksgiving holiday, and initial unemployment claims have hit a 52 year low of 199,000.

This is really quite remarkable, though at least part of this is likely a statistical artifact of the seasonal adjustments incorporated into this metric:

Weekly jobless claims fell sharply to the lowest level in 52 years, reflecting the labor market’s tightening as the economy recovers from the effects of the pandemic.

Worker filings for initial unemployment benefits, a proxy for layoffs, dropped 71,000 to 199,000 last week, the lowest level since November 1969, the Labor Department reported Wednesday.

Claims have slipped steadily since ticking up in late September, as the wave of Delta variant infections crested. The decline, along with near-record levels of job openings, signals strengthening demand for labor, said Rubeela Farooqi, chief U.S. economist at High Frequency Economics.

Last week’s drop was calculated after adjusting for seasonal fluctuations. On an unadjusted basis, initial claims rose to 258,600, up more than 18,000 from the previous week. “Even if the data overstated improvement, the overall message is the same,” said Ms. Farooqi. “Workers are in short supply and demand remains strong. As a result, layoffs are falling.”

The four-week moving average for initial claims, which smooths out weekly volatility, dropped to 252,250 last week, a decline of 21,000 from the previous week, seasonally adjusted, and the lowest level since the week ending March 14, 2020 when the Covid-19 crisis began hitting the economy.

Weekly claims averaged 218,000 in 2019 amid a robust labor market, and then rose to a record 6.1 million in the week ended April 4, 2020 as the rapid rise in Covid-19 infections drove widespread closures of swaths of the economy.

The latest data added new details to the broader picture of a robust labor market. Employers added 531,000 jobs in October—the biggest monthly gain in three months—as the unemployment rate dropped to 4.6% from 4.8% a month earlier, the Labor Department reported. However, the U.S. economy still has four fewer million jobs compared with February 2020.

 (emphasis mine)

The number of Americans receiving unemployment benefits overall is shrinking after programs created to respond to the pandemic’s effect on the labor market ended in all states in September. Continuing claims—a proxy for those receiving payments—made to pandemic programs and all others dropped to 2.4 million in the week ended Nov. 6, down from 3.2 million the week prior and a sharp decrease from about 12 million in late August, before the pandemic aid expired nationwide. That data isn’t seasonally adjusted and is reported on a several-week delay.

Good news, and probably driven, at least in part, by retailers looking to staff up for the start of the holiday season.


23 November 2021

Yet More Schadenfreude!

The right-wing nationalists who set up the "Unite the Right" rally in Charlottesville were just found liable to the tune of $25 million for a conspiracy that led to the injuries of the counter-protesters, though they deadlocked on the federal beefs.

I'm not sure if this verdict will run into to liability limits in Virginia law though:

Jurors on Tuesday found the main organizers of the deadly far-right rally in Charlottesville, Va., in 2017 liable under state law for injuries to counterprotesters, awarding more than $25 million in damages. But the jury deadlocked on two federal conspiracy charges.

Still, the verdict was a clear rebuke of the defendants  — a mix of white nationalists, neo-Nazis and Confederate sympathizers. They were found under Virginia law to have engaged in a conspiracy that led to injuries during the rally. The “Unite the Right” march began as a demonstration over the removal of a Confederate statue and led to the death of the counterprotester Heather Heyer, 32, when she was struck by a car driven by one of the defendants.


The most prominent defendants included Richard Spencer, once seen as the leader of the alt-right in the United States; Jason Kessler, who organized the event; and Christopher Cantwell, a vocal neo-Nazi podcaster who is already serving 41 months in federal prison in a separate threats and extortion case. 


Lawyers for the far-right organizers said they would seek to reduce those amounts, and there was little chance that their clients could pay in any event. “The defendants in this case are destitute, none of them have any money,”  said Joshua Smith, who represented Matthew Heimbach, Matthew Parrott and the Traditionalist Worker Party, modeled on the Germany’s Nazi Party.

Gee, they are destitute?  We could always take the gold and silver out of their teeth.  There is a precedent.


The federal charges related to whether the rally organizers had engaged in a race-based violent conspiracy, which is illegal under an 1871 federal law known as the Ku Klux Klan Act that was designed to prevent vigilantes from denying newly freed slaves their civil rights.  


The plaintiffs drew a line from Mr. Fields [The guy who ran over the protesters] through all the organizations that participated, linking him first to Vanguard America, the group that he marched with in Charlottesville, and then to the other organizations and their leaders. Lawyers for the far-right protesters argued that it was  just online chatter that did not amount to strong ties between them, much less a conspiracy.  None of the other defendants knew Mr. Fields beforehand, they said, and he was not involved in organizing the event.

These guys knew that violence would be the result, even if they did not know who specifically would do it.

There was a deliberate effort to engage in stochastic terrorism.

Tweet of the Day

Sign, sign
Everywhere a sign
Blockin' out the scenery
Breakin' my mind
Do this, don't do that
Can't you read the sign?

It's a Big Night for Schadenfreude

Remember CyberNinjas?  They were the ones who conducted that travesty of a vote audit in Arizona.

Well, it appears that his attempt to falsify the results of the Presidential election has resulted in his being the precipice of bankruptcy.

Once again, I am amused:

Everyone thought the Cyber Ninjas were in it for the money.

The Republican-controlled Arizona Senate picked the Florida-based company to run the sham recount of votes in Maricopa County earlier this year, despite their having zero experience running election audits.

The company’s efforts were so amateurish that even the Republican-led Maricopa Board of Supervisors labeled them a bunch of “grifters and con artists.”

But it turns out that even though a variety of conspiracy-loving groups raised almost $6 million to fund the audit, that money hasn’t made its way to the Cyber Ninjas.

This week the company’s CEO Doug Logan said that rather than making him rich, the sham Maricopa County recount left him $2 million in debt.

My guess is that somehow or other, all that money that was donated to support the audit went to the Trump Org.

Don't worry though, I'm sure if you send a bill to Donald Trump, he'll pay up promptly. (I kid)

The Biggest Super Spreader Event Since Trump's Tulsa Rally

Notorious antivaxx whack job and somehow still board certified doctor Bruce Boros, along with 6 other fellow travelers caught Covid-19 while at a seminar extolling the virtues of Ivermectin at an equestrian center.*

There is a God, and he has a most remarkably dark sense of humor:

To hear the fringe doctors who gathered at an equine facility for the Florida COVID Summit earlier this month, ivermectin is as effective against the virus in humans as it is against worms in horses.

“I have been on ivermectin for 16 months, my wife and I,” Dr. Bruce Boros declared at the end of the meeting at the World Equestrian Center in Ocala. “I have never felt healthier in my life.”

Two days later, the 71-year-old cardiologist fell ill with COVID-19, according to the organizer of the one-day gathering and two other people with direct knowledge.

The organizer, Dr. John Littell, further reported to The Daily Beast that six others among the 800 to 900 participants had also tested positive or developed COVID symptoms “within days of the conference.”

“People are considering if it was a superspreader event,” Littell said.

Once again, the schadenfreude that I am feeling probably means that I am not a good person, but I really don't care.


*As Anna Russell would say, "I'm not making this up, you know."

22 November 2021

Republican Family Values

The Republican's, "Great White Hope," for the 2022 Senate race in Pennsylvania, Sean Parnell, has ended his campaign after a judge ruled that he had abused his wife, and so will not share custody with his ex-wife.

Between him, and Hershel Walker, and Eric Greitens, (see here) it appears that partner abuse is now a requirement for office:

Republican Sean Parnell, who was endorsed by former president Donald Trump in a closely watched Pennsylvania Senate race, said Monday he will not continue with his campaign, hours after it was made public that a judge had granted his estranged wife primary custody of the couple’s three children.

The judge’s order last week, made public in court documents Monday, outlined in detail the allegations of domestic and other abuse Laurie Snell had made against her estranged husband, and concluded that “Parnell did commit some acts of abuse in the past.” Parnell has denied the allegations.

In his decision to award primary physical and sole legal custody of the children to Snell, Senior Judge James Arner deemed Snell “the more credible witness” who “can truthfully give regular status reports to Sean Parnell and, as may be needed, to the court.”

Snell will have the sole right to make major decisions on behalf of the children, Arner said. Parnell will have partial physical custody of the children on three weekends each month. Parnell and Snell separated in 2018, according to court documents.


Snell has accused Parnell of multiple forms of abuse before their separation, including choking her and hitting one of their children so hard he left a “full handprint” mark on the child’s back. She testified that Parnell has thrown chairs across the room toward her; pinned her down and screamed profanities at her; called her crazy in front of the children; and once dropped her off on Interstate 79 when she was six months pregnant and told her to get an abortion.

Parnell has denied her allegations as “complete fabrications.” In a court hearing earlier this month, he countered with claims under oath that she physically abused him, although he declined to offer specifics.

In his decision, Arner wrote that he found Parnell’s testimony “less credible,” citing his demeanor and dress in the courtroom and his tendency to focus on his attorneys and the news media while testifying, rather than looking at the judge.


Arner said he also considered testimony under oath from all three children, as well as mental and physical assessments of the children and the parents, which would remain confidential.

The level of entitlement required for people to run for major public office after doing thisngs like this is not limited to Republicans, ***Cough*** Rat-Faced Andy Cuomo ***Cough*** but it does appears to run rampant among Republican men.

While You Are at It, You Might as Well Conduct an Improper Census

Goldberg's Bagels, has recently started opening Motzei Shabbos.  (Saturday evening after sundown)

We were going to pick up Nat from a show, and decided to pick them up a bagel and lox and avocado, as well as a a nosh for the rest of us.

When we got there, we were literally the only people wearing masks.

It was f%$#ing Orthodox Covid super-spreader central there.

What is wrong with those people?  Were they even listening during Parshat Ki Tisa?*

This is a profoundly disturbing state of affairs.

*Exodus, chapter 30:
  1. The Lord spoke to Moses, saying:
  2. "When you take the sum of the children of Israel according to their numbers, let each one give to the Lord an atonement for his soul when they are counted; then there will be no plague among them when they are counted.
  3. This they shall give, everyone who goes through the counting: half a shekel according to the holy shekel. Twenty gerahs equal one shekel; half of [such] a shekel shall be an offering to the Lord.
  4. Everyone who goes through the counting, from the age of twenty and upward, shall give an offering to the Lord.
  5. The rich shall give no more, and the poor shall give no less than half a shekel, with which to give the offering to the Lord, to atone for your souls.
  6. You shall take the silver of the atonements from the children of Israel and use it for the work of the Tent of Meeting; it shall be a remembrance for the children of Israel before the Lord, to atone for your souls
Also Shmuel II - II Samuel - Chapter 24, but I am not going any further down the rabbit hole.

It Just Gets Worse

So now we have reports that Mark Zuckerberg, and his evil minion Joel Kaplan insisted that Facebook continued to use algorithms that discriminated against minorities.

This does not surprise me.  Zuckerberg is scum, and Kaplan is a Republican apparatchik who cut his teeth as a "Brooks Brothers Rioter" using the threat of violence to prevent the vote count:

Last year, researchers at Facebook showed executives an example of the kind of hate speech circulating on the social network: an actual post featuring an image of four female Democratic lawmakers known collectively as “The Squad.”

The poster, whose name was scrubbed out for privacy, referred to the women, two of whom are Muslim, as “swami rag heads.” A comment from another person used even more vulgar language, referring to the four women of color as “black c---s,” according to internal company documents exclusively obtained by The Washington Post.

The post represented the “worst of the worst” language on Facebook — the majority of it directed at minority groups, according to a two-year effort by a large team working across the company, the document said. The researchers urged executives to adopt an aggressive overhaul of its software system that would primarily remove only those hateful posts before any Facebook users could see them.

But Facebook’s leaders balked at the plan. According to two people familiar with the internal debate, top executives including Vice President for Global Public Policy Joel Kaplan feared the new system would tilt the scales by protecting some vulnerable groups over others. A policy executive prepared a document for Kaplan that raised the potential for backlash from “conservative partners,” according to the document. The people spoke to The Post on the condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive internal matters.

It's always Joel Kaplan who is protecting racists and right-wing terrorists, isn't it? 

The previously unreported debate is an example of how Facebook’s decisions in the name of being neutral and race-blind in fact come at the expense of minorities and particularly people of color. Far from protecting Black and other minority users, Facebook executives wound up instituting half-measures after the “worst of the worst” project that left minorities more likely to encounter derogatory and racist language on the site, the people said.

“Even though [Facebook executives] don’t have any animus toward people of color, their actions are on the side of racists,” said Tatenda Musapatike, a former Facebook manager working on political ads and CEO of the Voter Formation Project, a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization that uses digital communication to increase participation in local state and national elections. “You are saying that the health and safety of women of color on the platform is not as important as pleasing your rich White man friends.”


Civil rights groups have long claimed that Facebook’s algorithms and policies had a disproportionately negative impact on minorities, and particularly Black users. The “worst of the worst” documents show that those allegations were largely true in the case of which hate speech remained online.

But Facebook didn’t disclose its findings to civil rights leaders. Even the independent civil rights auditors Facebook hired in 2018 to conduct a major study of racial issues on its platform say they were not informed of the details of research that the company’s algorithms disproportionately harmed minorities. Laura Murphy, president of Laura Murphy and Associates, who led the civil rights audit process, said Facebook told her that “the company does not capture data as to the protected group(s) against whom the hate speech was directed.”


The 10 worst examples, according to the surveyed users, were almost all directed at minority groups, documents show. Five of the posts were directed at Black people, including statements about mental inferiority and disgust. Two were directed at the LGBTQ community. The remaining three were violent comments directed at women, Mexicans and White people.

These findings about the most objectionable content held up even among self-identified White conservatives that the market research team traveled to visit in Southern states. Facebook researchers sought out the views of White conservatives in particular because they wanted to overcome potential objections from the company’s leadership, which was known to appease right-leaning viewpoints, two people said.

Yet racist posts against minorities weren’t what Facebook’s own hate speech detection algorithms were most commonly finding. The software, which the company introduced in 2015, was supposed to detect and automatically delete hate speech before users saw it. Publicly, the company said in 2019 that its algorithms proactively caught more than 80 percent of hate speech.


“This information confirms what many of us already knew: that Facebook is an active and willing participant in the dissemination of hate speech and misinformation,” Omar said in a statement. “For years, we have raised concerns to Facebook about routine anti-Muslim, anti-Black, and anti-immigrant content on Facebook, much of it based on outright falsehoods. It is clear that they only care about profit, and will sacrifice our democracy to maximize it.”

For years, Black users said that those same automated systems also mistook posts about racism as hate speech — sending the user to “Facebook jail” by blocking their account — and made them disproportionate targets of hate speech that the company failed to control. But when civil rights leaders complained, those content moderation issues were routinely dismissed as merely “isolated incidents” or “anecdotal,” said Rashad Robinson, president of Color of Change, a civil rights group that regularly sought more forceful action by the company against hate speech and incitements to violence on Facebook, and has argued that Kaplan should be fired.

While firing Joel Kaplan is an unalloyed good, one needs to remember that the Cossacks work for the Czar. 

Mark Zuckerberg is a cancer on humanity.

21 November 2021

Reformers Win Teamsters Elections

With James Hoffa retiring, there was a contested election for the first time in years, and the reform slate won.

One hopes this presages union that better serves its members, but as Nietzsche said, "If you stare into the Abyss long enough the Abyss stares back at you," so we will see if this results in a more responsive and more activist union:

A new administration will soon take the helm of the 1.3 million-member Teamsters union. The Teamsters United slate swept to victory in this week's vote count, beating out their rivals 2 to 1.

It’s the first time in almost a quarter-century that a coalition backed by Teamsters for a Democratic Union has taken the driver’s seat in the international union.

The incoming president is Sean O’Brien, leader of New England Joint Council 10. He says his top priorities are to unite the rank and file to take on employers, organize Amazon and other competitors in the union’s core industries, and withdraw support from politicians who don’t deliver on union demands.


The challengers rode a wave of fury over concessions and weak contracts, especially at UPS, the union’s biggest bargaining unit, where TDU and other Teamsters United supporters had campaigned for a no vote on a contract that would create a lower-paid second tier of drivers. After a majority voted no, Hoffa forced the deal through anyway. TDU’s demand to repeal the “two-thirds rule” that let him do it became a campaign issue; reformers got it done at this year’s convention.

Meanwhile UPSers have lived out the consequences of the bad deal: two-tier wages and another five years of rampant forced overtime and harassment from supervisors. “It doesn’t matter where we went when we were campaigning—that’s what everybody was furious about,” said Eugene Braswell, a New York City Local 804 UPS driver and TDU steering committee member who has been to Baltimore, New Jersey, and Philadelphia campaigning for Teamsters United.

Here's hoping that the new leadership doesn't, "Go native."  If they do, this will be squandering a once in a generation opportunity.

The Problem is Capitalism

I'm shocked, shocked to find that Facebook and Google are funding global misinformation because it makes them a profit.

In related news, water is wet.

The fact that corporations are designed to be psychopathic institutions run by contemptible greed-heads has nothing to do with it: (Not)

In 2015, six of the 10 websites in Myanmar getting the most engagement on Facebook were from legitimate media, according to data from CrowdTangle, a Facebook-run tool. A year later, Facebook (which recently rebranded to Meta) offered global access to Instant Articles, a program publishers could use to monetize their content.

One year after that rollout, legitimate publishers accounted for only two of the top 10 publishers on Facebook in Myanmar. By 2018, they accounted for zero. All the engagement had instead gone to fake news and clickbait websites. In a country where Facebook is synonymous with the internet, the low-grade content overwhelmed other information sources.

It was during this rapid degradation of Myanmar’s digital environment that a militant group of Rohingya—a predominantly Muslim ethnic minority—attacked and killed a dozen members of the security forces, in August of 2017. As police and military began to crack down on the Rohingya and push out anti-Muslim propaganda, fake news articles capitalizing on the sentiment went viral. They claimed that Muslims were armed, that they were gathering in mobs 1,000 strong, that they were around the corner coming to kill you.


In 2018, a United Nations investigation determined that the violence against the Rohingya constituted a genocide and that Facebook had played a “determining role” in the atrocities. Months later, Facebook admitted it hadn’t done enough “to help prevent our platform from being used to foment division and incite offline violence.”

Over the last few weeks, the revelations from the Facebook Papers, a collection of internal documents provided to Congress and a consortium of news organizations by whistleblower Frances Haugen, have reaffirmed what civil society groups have been saying for years: Facebook’s algorithmic amplification of inflammatory content, combined with its failure to prioritize content moderation outside the US and Europe, has fueled the spread of hate speech and misinformation, dangerously destabilizing countries around the world.

But there’s a crucial piece missing from the story. Facebook isn’t just amplifying misinformation.

The company is also funding it.

An MIT Technology Review investigation, based on expert interviews, data analyses, and documents that were not included in the Facebook Papers, has found that Facebook and Google are paying millions of ad dollars to bankroll clickbait actors, fueling the deterioration of information ecosystems around the world.


Facebook launched its Instant Articles program in 2015 with a handful of US and European publishers. The company billed the program as a way to improve article load times and create a slicker user experience.

The company’s AI algorithms gave it an insatiable habit for lies and hate speech. Now the man who built them can't fix the problem.

That was the public sell. But the move also conveniently captured advertising dollars from Google. Before Instant Articles, articles posted on Facebook would redirect to a browser, where they’d open up on the publisher’s own website. The ad provider, usually Google, would then cash in on any ad views or clicks. With the new scheme, articles would open up directly within the Facebook app, and Facebook would own the ad space. If a participating publisher had also opted in to monetizing with Facebook’s advertising network, called Audience Network, Facebook could insert ads into the publisher’s stories and take a 30% cut of the revenue.


Clickbait actors cropped up in Myanmar overnight. With the right recipe for producing engaging and evocative content, they could generate thousands of US dollars a month in ad revenue, or 10 times the average monthly salary—paid to them directly by Facebook.


Google is also culpable. Its AdSense program fueled the Macedonia- and Kosovo-based farms that targeted American audiences in the lead-up to the 2016 presidential election. And it’s AdSense that is incentivizing new clickbait actors on YouTube to post outrageous content and viral misinformation.

Many clickbait farms today now monetize with both Instant Articles and AdSense, receiving payouts from both companies. And because Facebook’s and YouTube’s algorithms boost whatever is engaging to users, they’ve created an information ecosystem where content that goes viral on one platform will often be recycled on the other to maximize distribution and revenue.

“These actors wouldn’t exist if it wasn’t for the platforms,” Rio says.

This is why we need regulation, and why we need to reduce the power of corporations:  For profit corporations were created to shield management from personal responsibility for the consequences of their actions.

Supporting false information, or even genocide, in the pursuit of profit is a natural result of this dynamic, and there is plenty of precedent.  IBM's computer support made Hitler's final solution possible, for example.

Ha Ha!

A truly rightious bloke in Australia has download all of the NFTs on Ethereum and Solana, and uploaded the files to BitTorrent.

Needless to say, as one who considers NFTs to be a transparently obvious vehicle for fraud, I find this intensely amusing.

A 17.96 terabyte archive containing the screenshots of every single non-fungible token (NFT) minted on top of Ethereum and Solana has appeared on torrent site PirateBay.

Geoffrey Huntley, the software developer from South Australia behind the prank, says that he had to rent a bare-metal server to pull this off, adding that it was "worth it."

The final boss of "right-clickers" says that the gigantic collection of NFT screenshots is meant for others to study "this generation's tulip mania."

It is a rather elegant way to demonstrate the absurdity of the current NFT craze.

Well, That Was Quick

The first prototype of the Sukhoi "Checkmate" has begun production.

Considering that the project was only made public about 4 months ago, this is an extremely aggressive timeline, particularly for an export oriented private venture that does not have have a lead customer:

The first flying prototypes of the Sukhoi Checkmate single-engined fighter are now being built at United Aircraft Corp.’s manufacturing plant at Komsomolsk-on-Amur in Siberia, the company’s chief executive said at the Dubai Airshow.

“I would like to hint that the plant at Komsomolsk has started to build a few prototypes for the starting batch,” Yuri Slyusar told reporters after a flashy unveiling event late Nov. 14 inside the Checkmate Pavilion on the static display.

It should be interesting to see how this develops.

M guess is that they are intending to leverage as much as possible from its twin engine sibling Su-57 "Felon" to get this program up and running.

I Love it When a Despot Caves

After a year of protests, Indian PM Narendra Modi has retreated on his corporate friendly agricultural law reforms.

He actually apologized, which is both a first for him, and this is a most welcome development. 

He has been trying to offset his authoritarian, and quite frankly genocidal, inclinations by restructuring India's society in a way that is profitable for western, and particularly US multinational corporations, and it looks like he has run headlong into the limits of such a policy:

Narendra Modi has announced he will repeal three contentious farm laws that prompted a year of protests and unrest in India, in one of the most significant concessions made by his government.

In a huge victory for India’s farmers, who had fought hard for the repeal of what they called the “black laws”, the prime minister announced in an address on Friday morning that “we have taken the laws back”.

“We have decided to repeal all three farm laws. We will start the constitutional process to repeal all the three laws in the parliament session that starts at the end of this month,” said Modi, in a surprise announcement.

While Modi remained adamant in his speech that the laws were necessary reforms, he acknowledged that they were unfeasible given the fierce opposition from farmers. “I appeal to all the farmers who are part of the protest … to now return to your home, to your loved ones, to your farms, and family. Let’s make a fresh start and move forward,” he added.

Modi had passed the three farm laws in 2020 in an attempt to overhaul India’s archaic agriculture sector by rolling back farm subsidies and price regulation on crops. The agriculture sector still employs about 60% of India’s workforce, but is riddled with issues of poverty, debt and inefficiency.

However, they quickly became a major source of contention among India’s millions of farmers, who accused the government of passing the laws without consultation. They said the reforms put their livelihoods and farms at risk and gave private corporations control over the pricing of their crops, which could crush smallholder farmers.

After the government refused to repeal the laws last year, hundreds of thousands of farmers marched to Delhi’s borders, met on the way with barricades, teargas and water cannon, and set up protest camps along the main highways into the capital.


Previously the Modi government had said it would not bow down to pressure from the farmers over the farm laws. Modi, a strongman prime minister, has until now been unyielding to all mass protests and challenges to his government.

However, it is thought that Modi’s decision to rollback the laws and make a rare public apology is tied to upcoming crucial state elections in Uttar Pradesh and Punjab, where farmers make up a crucial proportion of the “vote bank” and farmers’ unions hold significant power and influence. The farm laws had caused a lot of anger in the north Indian states that are the heartland of Modi’s ruling Bharatiya Janata party (BJP).

Hopefully, this will lead to the loss of Modi and the BJP in the next general election, but given the general fecklessness of the opposition, I am not particularly optimistic.

20 November 2021

Good News Everyone!

Following weeks of ignoring judges for discovery, a default judgement has been entered against Alex Jones for defamation for Sandy Hook parents.

It couldn't happen to a more deserving psychopath:

The conspiracy theorist Alex Jones was found liable on Monday for damages in lawsuits brought by parents of children killed in the Sandy Hook elementary school shooting, over Jones’s claim the massacre was a hoax.

Twenty first-grade children, aged five and six, and six adults were killed in the shooting in Newtown, Connecticut, in 2012.

The 20-year-old gunman killed his mother before the shooting and killed himself as police arrived at the school.

The shooting was portrayed on Jones’s Infowars show as a hoax involving actors, aimed at increasing gun control. Jones has since acknowledged the shooting did occur.

Families of victims said they have been subjected to harassment and death threats from Jones’s followers because of the hoax conspiracy broadcast on Infowars. They sued Jones and his companies in courts in Connecticut and Texas, for defamation and infliction of emotional distress.

In Connecticut on Monday, Judge Barbara Bellis took the rare step of defaulting the Infowars host in the defamation lawsuits, for his and his companies’ “failure to produce critical material information that the plaintiffs needed to prove their claims”.


Lawyers for the parents claimed Jones and his companies, including Infowars and Free Speech Systems, violated court rules by failing to turn over documents, including internal records showing how and if Jones and Infowars profited from talking about the school shooting and other mass shootings.

“Their pattern of defying and ignoring court orders to produce responsive information is well established,” lawyers for the family wrote in a court brief in July.


A Texas judge recently issued similar rulings against Jones in three defamation lawsuits, finding Jones liable for damages after defaulting him and his companies for not turning over documents.

To quote Billy Ray Valentine, "The best way you hurt rich people is by turning them into poor people." 

Making Alex Jones a very poor person would be a very good thing.


Unfortunately, It's Still Hoover's FBI

Just to remind you, that it was only in the past few days that convictions of two of the people convicted of the assassination of Malcolm X were overturned when it was revealed that the FBI manufactured evidence to convict two innocent men, largely in an effort to conceal the role of their undercover agents and informants in that murder:

The exoneration of two men wrongfully convicted of the assassination of Malcolm X fueled questions on Thursday about the decisions made by the F.B.I. and its longtime director at the time, J. Edgar Hoover, during the investigation of the murder.

A motion to vacate the convictions, filed by the Manhattan district attorney’s office, said numerous F.B.I. reports were never disclosed to the defense, including some that discussed federal informants who were present in the ballroom where Malcolm X was killed.

The documents suggest the bureau, on Mr. Hoover’s orders, purposely kept information about its informants secret from the local authorities.

“We now have reports revealing that on orders from director J. Edgar Hoover himself, the F.B.I. ordered multiple witnesses not to tell police or prosecutors that they were in fact F.B.I. informants,” Mr. Vance said in court on Thursday.


Still, the inability of investigators to resolve questions about the roles the F.B.I. and New York police played added to demands for a broader investigation into Malcolm X’s assassination, as the co-founder of the Innocence Project, which participated in the review, called for on Thursday.

We also have reports that the NYPD "Red Squad" had infiltrated X's entourage, and was heavily involved in the coverup as well:

SCHECK: Well, that's a disturbing aspect of this entire matter. The essence of the reason that Cyrus Vance threw out the charges, vacated the conviction and dismissed the case is that in the files of the FBI and the New York City Police Department bosse squad (ph), sometimes known as the Red Squad, was information that there was an individual who fit the description of the man with the shotgun that was supposed to be Mr. Islam that looked nothing like Mr. Islam. And then very quickly thereafter, they learned that he could well be a lieutenant in the Newark mosque named William Bradley, who not only fit the description but the background of somebody that had expertise in the military.

So they knew this all. And they - what the bosse squad knew but not the FBI and not apparently the other NYPD individuals is that on the stage, giving Malcolm mouth-to-mouth resuscitation was an undercover named Gene Roberts. The point is none of this was known to the district attorney. And if it had been disclosed to the district attorney's office, it had been disclosed to the defense and the court and the American public, the history of the civil rights movement in this country would have been different.

Am I the only one, who thinks that this sort of sh%$ is WAY more common than we are led to believe?

19 November 2021

According to Elon, You Need to be "Thick Skinned"

Tesla has been targeted by a lawsuit alleging "nightmarish" sexual harassment on its shop floor at its Fremont, California plant.

It should be recalled that in response to credible allegations of racism on the same shop floor, Elon Musk's response was to send out a company wide email telling people to be "thick skinned".

As the old saying goes, a fish rots from the head:

Tesla Inc subjects female workers to "nightmarish" conditions of rampant sexual harassment at its main factory, and supervisors turn their backs when complaints are brought, according to a new lawsuit.

Jessica Barraza, 38, said she has endured "near daily" catcalls and inappropriate touching in her three years at the electric vehicle maker's factory in Fremont, California, where she works night shifts as a production associate.


Barraza said Tesla's human resources department has not addressed complaints she filed in September and October, and even disabled its hr@tesla.com email address for receiving complaints.


The automaker run by billionaire Elon Musk is not unfamiliar with claims of mistreatment at the Fremont factory.

A federal jury in San Francisco on Oct. 4 ordered Tesla to pay Owen Diaz, a Black former elevator operator, $136.9 million because he faced racial harassment there.


Barraza is seeking compensatory and punitive damages for violations of the California Fair Employment and Housing Act.

She also said that like many "tech employers," Tesla requires many workers to sign arbitration agreements, keeping workplace disputes out of court, but that her agreement's "unconscionable" terms make it unenforceable.

This is what happens when you have a sociopath running a company.

So, the Murder Safari Guy is Acquitted

Following a weak prosecution, a biased judge,  Kyle Rittenhouse walked out of court a free man.

We are going to see a lot more murder safaris at protests.  This whole "Armed Vigilante" thing is going to get out of hand:

A jury acquitted Kyle Rittenhouse on all counts Friday, more than a year after the teenager fatally shot two people and wounded a third amid unrest over a police shooting in Kenosha, a case that set off searing national debates over guns, race, vigilantism and self-defense.

Jurors deliberated for nearly three and a half days before delivering their verdict in a courtroom just blocks from where Rittenhouse, then 17, opened fire on Aug. 25, 2020. He traveled to Kenosha, joining a mass of armed civilians that took to the city’s streets as it was shaken by turmoil after a White police officer shot Jacob Blake, a Black man.


Rittenhouse appeared in Kenosha’s streets with an AR-15-style rifle in August 2020 saying he wanted to help protect businesses amid the unrest. But during brief confrontations, Rittenhouse shot and killed 36-year-old Joseph Rosenbaum and 26-year-old Anthony Huber. He also shot and injured Gaige Grosskreutz, then 26. Rittenhouse, who pleaded not guilty, faced a potential life sentence if convicted.

I'm hoping that he's hit with civil suits that leave him in penury.

As it stands, I expect that he's going to be back in court after he shoots some other guy.

Still Cannot Make Aircraft

It's gotten to the point that Boeing is asking for help from other aerospace firms to help them fix manufacturing problems with their 787 Dreamliner.

It appears that their move of the line to South Carolina to spite the union is working out really well:

Boeing Co. has further slowed production of 787 Dreamliners as it addresses defects that are delaying deliveries of new jets and complicating airlines’ plans, people familiar with the matter said.

The plane maker is holding off completing the new wide-body jets at its North Charleston, S.C., factory as workers and engineers address problems related to areas surrounding passenger and cargo doors on aircraft already under construction, these people said.

The latest production slowdown began in recent days and could last a few weeks as Boeing seeks expertise from other aerospace manufacturers in addressing the door issue, some of these people said. In late October, Boeing disclosed it was producing about two Dreamliners a month, down from a planned monthly rate of five, to resolve production issues.

A string of production snafus has hampered Boeing’s ability to deliver new Dreamliners for much of the last year, fueling the manufacturer’s financial losses and making it difficult for airlines to build schedules for jets often used in international travel. The plane maker has faced increased scrutiny internally, by air-safety regulators and lawmakers after two of its 737 MAX jets crashed in 2018 and 2019, claiming 346 lives.


Boeing is increasingly likely to restart handing over new Dreamliners to its customers in February or March at the earliest, longer than previously anticipated, people familiar with the matter said.


The company has been seeking Federal Aviation Administration approval for its proposed pre-delivery inspections to ensure new aircraft meet federal rules and match Boeing’s regulator-approved designs. An FAA spokesman said the agency won’t sign off on inspections until its safety experts are satisfied.

“This is a case of us looking at every single aspect of design and manufacturing with the airplane, making sure that we’re complying, we’re conforming to the design and we will bring that airplane back as soon as that makes sense,” Ihssane Mounir, Boeing’s commercial sales chief, said Nov. 13 at an air show in Dubai.

This is what happens when you let the finance guys run things.

18 November 2021

Neat Tech

Scientist are looking at replacing Xenon propellant with Iodine for ion drive.

The advantage to Iodine is that it is a solid, and hence is far denser when stored, and does not required a pressure vessel to store.

Unlike the noble gas Xenon though, Iodine, a halogen, is rather corrosive, and so requires some attention to materials.

Basically, the Iodine is boiled off (at 184.3°C) and then ionized and accelerated to very high velocity to provide a highly efficient low thrust source:

Most people are probably familiar with iodine through its role as a disinfectant. But if you stayed awake through high school chemistry, then you may have seen a demonstration where powdered iodine was heated. Because its melting and boiling points are very close together at atmospheric pressures, iodine will readily form a purple gas when heated. At lower pressures, it'll go directly from solid to gas, a process called sublimation.

That, as it turns out, could make it the perfect fuel for a form of highly efficient spacecraft propulsion hardware called ion thrusters. While it has been considered a promising candidate for a while, a commercial company called ThrustMe is now reporting that it has demonstrated an iodine-powered ion thruster in space for the first time.


The current efficiency champion is the ion thruster, which has now been used on a number of spacecraft. It works by using electricity (typically generated by solar panels) to strip an electron off a neutral atom, creating an ion. An electrified grid then uses electromagnetic interactions to expel these from the spacecraft at high speed, creating thrust. The ions end up being expelled at speeds that can be an order of magnitude higher than a chemical propellant can produce.

Only a relatively small amount of material can be accelerated at once, so this can't generate anything close to the amount of thrust produced in a short period of time by a chemical rocket. But it uses far less material to produce the same amount of thrust and, given enough time, can easily produce an equivalent acceleration. Put differently, if you can be patient about your acceleration, an ion engine can do the equivalent amount in a form that uses less mass and less space. And those are two very important considerations in spacecraft.

Critical to making this work on a spacecraft's energy budget is a material that can be ionized without requiring much energy. Right now, the material of choice is xenon, a gas that's easy to ionize and resides several rows down the periodic table, meaning that each of its ions is relatively heavy. But xenon has its downsides. It's relatively rare (it's only one part per 10 million in our atmosphere) and must be stored in high-pressure containers, which cancel out some of the weight savings.

Iodine seems like an ideal alternative. It's right next to xenon on the periodic table and normally exists as a molecule composed of two iodine atoms, so it has the potential to produce more thrust per item expelled. It's even easier to ionize than xenon, taking 10 percent less energy to lose an electron. And, unlike xenon, it happily exists as a solid under relevant conditions, making storage far simpler. Just a bit of heating will convert it to the gas needed for the ion engine to work.

The big downside is that it's corrosive, which forced ThrustMe to use ceramics for most of the material that it would come into contact with.

By way of comparison, an ion drive can provide a little under a millinewton of thrust with an ISP (fuel efficiency) of about somewhere between 1,500 and 10,000 seconds.

By comparison, the Space Shuttle Main Engine (SSME) produces about 2.3 meganetwons of thrust and an ISP of 363 seconds.

It's a lot less thrust, but it can provide thrust for weeks and months, and in the vacuum of space over long distances, say much beyond the moon, it will significantly shorten travel time.

Snark of the Day

Kyrsten Sinema Doesn’t Want People Discussing Her Clothes – She Could Distract Them by Communicating
The Guardian

In case you are wondering, Sinema, more than any politician that I have ever seen, has studiously avoided any communications with her constituents.

There is something truly pathological about her.  I expect that at some point in the not too distant future, we will be reading a story about her that includes the word, "Bones," and the phrase, "In the crawl space".

One reason that so much attention is paid to the senator’s clothes is that people are desperate to understand what (if anything) she stands for, and clothes seem to be one of the main ways she expresses herself. Sinema seems to have forgotten that she is a public servant and that part of her job is communicating with the people she represents. She doesn’t hold public events for her Arizona constituents; she doesn’t communicate with the local progressive groups who got her elected or even her previous allies; she rarely gives interviews and, when she does speak to the press, says little of substance. The New York Times has described her as “one of the most elusive senators on Capitol Hill”; the Politico piece noted that “even after an extended interview, the first-term Democrat holds onto the air of mystery that’s become a signature part of her political brand”.

It's Jobless Thursday

Initial unemployment claims were basically flat, falling from 269,000 to 268,000.

Of course, we are still down millions of jobs:

U.S. jobless claims are gradually drifting down toward pre-pandemic levels as employers avoid layoffs and many workers quit or remain sidelined in a tight labor market.

Initial claims for jobless benefits edged down to seasonally adjusted 268,000 last week from a revised 269,000 a week earlier, the Labor Department said Thursday. Claims are at the lowest level since the pandemic hit the U.S. economy last spring.

Though worker filings for unemployment benefits remain above their 2019 weekly average of 218,000, the decline in claims has been much faster than after the 2007-2009 recession. Claims, a proxy for layoffs, took about 1.5 years to fall below 300,000 after the economy began to recover from the Covid-19 pandemic. By comparison, they took roughly five years to cross that threshold after the recession ended in mid-2009.

That's because this time around, money went to people rather than banks.

Continuing claims, which provide an approximation for the number of people receiving regular state benefits, fell to a pandemic low of 2.08 million in the week ended Nov. 6 from 2.21 million a week earlier.

Much of the fall in continuing claims is a result of the unwinding of enhanced and extended unemployment benefits in September.

So far, we are not seeing any contractionary effects from the end of these benefits.

17 November 2021

Deere Workers Vote to Approve Contract

I think that this is a win, though not a total win.

Given the proclivities of John Deere, I'm wondering how their management will try to rat-f%$# the deal though:

About 10,000 workers at the agriculture equipment maker Deere & Company will go back to work after the approval of a contract on Wednesday, bringing to an end a five-week strike that affected 14 facilities primarily in Iowa and Illinois.

The six-year contract was ratified, 61 percent to 39 percent, after workers voted down two earlier agreements between the United Automobile Workers and the company, which is known for its distinctive green-and-yellow John Deere products. The new contract raises wages and includes language that makes the company’s performance pay more generous.

“Our members’ courageous willingness to strike in order to attain a better standard of living and a more secure retirement resulted in a groundbreaking contract and sets a new standard for workers not only within the U.A.W. but throughout the country,” Chuck Browning, the director of the union’s agricultural equipment department, said in a statement.


Under the agreement, workers can earn 20 percent beyond their base pay when they hit productivity targets, rather than 15 percent, according to a union spokesman.

The other provisions of the contract are the same as those in a proposal that workers rejected in early November, including wage increases of 10 percent this year and 5 percent each in 2023 and 2025, along with lump-sum payments equal to 3 percent of wages in the remaining years of the contract.

That proposal also gave future employees a traditional pension — something that current workers have but that the union’s initial agreement with the company omitted for new hires — and established a post-retirement health care fund.

Here's hoping that this is just the first of many successful labor actions against management chuds.

Oh My F%$#ing FSM, It's Real

It appears that the Juneau, Alaska International Airport has a problem with hikers on its Emergency Vehicle Access Road (EVAR) trying to feed and touch the coyotes.

So they made one of the most epically memorable signs ever to remind people that wild animals are best left to their own devices.

In this case, those devices probably come from Acme Corporation:

Scott Rinkenberger installed a sign near the airport looking to both keep people safe and to make them laugh.

Now, the Juneau International Airport is getting calls every day asking about the sign.

“I’ve kind of created a little bit of a monster,” Rinkenberger, the airport superintendent, said in an interview Wednesday.

The sign warns people about coyotes in the area of the Emergency Vehicle Access Road (EVAR), which is also a popular hiking and nature viewing area. While the sign tells people not to get too close to coyotes and not to feed them, it also gives a few not-so-serious attributes of coyotes: carrying a box marked “ACME,” being in possession of a catapult or dropping an anvil from a hot air balloon, for example.

The state legislature should declare Mr. Rinkenberger, "Emperor of the United States and Protector of Mexico."

16 November 2021

Well, That Was Fast

In today's episode of, "Don't say the quiet part outside," after an uproar over two of its members suggested that they burn controversial books, and the ensuing uproar, the Spotsylvania school board has reversed itself on banning books

A school board in Virginia has reversed a recent decision to remove “sexually explicit” books from school libraries after the move stirred community outrage and drew harsh national criticism — especially over two board members’ apparent suggestion to burn the books.

The Spotsylvania County School Board voted 5 to 2 Tuesday to rescind its decision, a week after two parents complained about inappropriate content. At the Nov. 8 meeting, the board unanimously directed Schools Superintendent S. Scott Baker to reconsider whether every sexually explicit book in school libraries should be kept or permanently removed — forcing a team of about three dozen staffers, including all of the district’s librarians, to start poring through tens of thousands of titles.

Board members Kirk Twigg and Rabih Abuismail voted against rescinding the decision.

Twigg and Abuismail were the two who said that the books should be burned.

On Monday, dozens of students, parents and teachers turned out to show their displeasure with the board. Some hoisted signs reading “Give back the books!” and “Books not bonfires,” according to the Free Lance-Star.

Many Spotsylvanians spoke during a public comment period that stretched for more than four hours. A high-schooler told the board that censorship is “contagious and leads to much worse,” according to the Free Lance-Star. A county librarian added, “If you have a worldview that can be undone by a novel, let me suggest that the problem is not the novel,” the Free Lance-Star reported.

Close to midnight, after public comment wound down, board member Baron Braswell proposed that the previous vote to remove sexually explicit texts “be rescinded immediately,” Braswell said in an interview, “and that was basically it.”
It's good that the Talibaptists are such a toxic mix of arrogance and stupidity.

If they had just not talked about burning books, the story would have been buried on page 6, but they had to say what they honestly believed, because they were incapable of understanding that those beliefs are thoroughly repugnant.

A Welcome Development

The Federal Trade Commission has announced that aggressively take actions against deceptive subscription retention tactics used by many in media, such as "Click to subscribe, call to cancel."

This is long overdue.  If you can subscribe online, you should be able to UNsubscribe online, and the FTC should have been addressing this when America Online was blanketing the United States with "Free" CDs in the 1990s:

Discovering they had to get on the phone to cancel a subscription they signed up for online rankled several respondents in our survey looking at why people canceled their news subscriptions. The reaction to the call-to-cancel policy ranged from “an annoyance” and “ridiculous” to “shady” and “oppressive.”

Publishers tend to think of this as “retention.” A study of 526 news organizations in the United States found that only 41% make it easy for people to cancel subscriptions online, and more than half trained customer service reps in tactics to dissuade customers who call to unsubscribe.

The Federal Trade Commission, meanwhile, recently made it clear that it sees the practice as 1) one of several “dark patterns that trick or trap consumers into subscriptions” and 2) straight-up illegal. The FTC vowed to ramp up enforcement on companies that fail to provide an “easy and simple” cancellation process, including an option that’s “at least as easy” as the one to subscribe.


Scroll hrough those picking up on the FTC announcement and you’ll see a few repeat offenders — cancelling a Planet Fitness membership appears to be a Sisyphean task — and news organizations are among the ones catching the most flak.

This is one of the banes of modern life, and it's nice that the FTC is going after this.

Still, I think that we need to start frog-marching executives out of their offices in handcuffs as a proper deterrent.

I know what you are thinking, "Having cops arrest people for infractions whose only penalty is a fine is unconstitutional," but you are wrong.  In Atwater v. City of Lago Vista, decided in 2001, the Supreme Court ruled that cops can arrest anyone for any offense without a warrant, no matter how small.