06 October 2022

Stating the Obvious

It's true, it's going to be a very long time before we see meaningful self driving cars.

This is not a surprise.  Even ignoring the equipment issues, things like Lidar versus cameras, the model is fundamentally broken.

AI, or more accurately, "Machine Learning," involves throwing enormous quantities of data at a computer.

The problem is that this doesn't create a real model of driving, arguably one of the hardest things most human beings do, but instead a series of statistically derived if … then … else statements.

The thing is that there area actually very few hard and fast universal rules for driving, but rather it consists of more general concepts, which is something that machine learning simply does not do:

The first car woke Jennifer King at 2 a.m. with a loud, high‑pitched hum. “It sounded like a hovercraft,” she says, and that wasn’t the weird part. King lives on a dead-end street at the edge of the Presidio, a 1,500-acre park in San Francisco where through traffic isn’t a thing. Outside she saw a white Jaguar SUV backing out of her driveway. It had what looked like a giant fan on its roof—a laser sensor—and bore the logo of Google’s driverless car division, Waymo.

She was observing what looked like a glitch in the self-driving software: The car seemed to be using her property to execute a three-point turn. This would’ve been no biggie, she says, if it had happened once. But dozens of Google cars began doing the exact thing, many times, every single day.

King complained to Google that the cars were driving her nuts, but the K-turns kept coming. Sometimes a few of the SUVs would show up at the same time and form a little line, like an army of zombie driver’s-ed students. The whole thing went on for weeks until last October, when King called the local CBS affiliate and a news crew broadcast the scene. “It is kind of funny when you watch it,” the report began. “And the neighbors are certainly noticing.” Soon after, King’s driveway was hers again.

Waymo disputes that its tech failed and said in a statement that its vehicles had been “obeying the same road rules that any car is required to follow.” The company, like its peers in Silicon Valley and Detroit, has characterized incidents like this as isolated, potholes on the road to a steering-wheel-free future. Over the course of more than a decade, flashy demos from companies including Google, GM, Ford, Tesla, and Zoox have promised cars capable of piloting themselves through chaotic urban landscapes, on highways, and in extreme weather without any human input or oversight. The companies have suggested they’re on the verge of eliminating road fatalities, rush-hour traffic, and parking lots, and of upending the $2 trillion global automotive industry.

It all sounds great until you encounter an actual robo-taxi in the wild. Which is rare: Six years after companies started offering rides in what they’ve called autonomous cars and almost 20 years after the first self-driving demos, there are vanishingly few such vehicles on the road. And they tend to be confined to a handful of places in the Sun Belt, because they still can’t handle weather patterns trickier than Partly Cloudy. State-of-the-art robot cars also struggle with construction, animals, traffic cones, crossing guards, and what the industry calls “unprotected left turns,” which most of us would call “left turns.”

………

This, it seems, is the best the field can do after investors have bet something like $100 billion, according to a McKinsey & Co. report. While the industry’s biggest names continue to project optimism, the emerging consensus is that the world of robo-taxis isn’t just around the next unprotected left—that we might have to wait decades longer, or an eternity.

“It’s a scam,” says George Hotz, whose company Comma.ai Inc. makes a driver-assistance system similar to Tesla Inc.’s Autopilot. “These companies have squandered tens of billions of dollars.” In 2018 analysts put the market value of Waymo LLC, then a subsidiary of Alphabet Inc., at $175 billion. Its most recent funding round gave the company an estimated valuation of $30 billion, roughly the same as Cruise. Aurora Innovation Inc., a startup co-founded by Chris Urmson, Google’s former autonomous-vehicle chief, has lost more than 85% since last year and is now worth less than $3 billion. This September a leaked memo from Urmson summed up Aurora’s cash-flow struggles and suggested it might have to sell out to a larger company. Many of the industry’s most promising efforts have met the same fate in recent years, including Drive.ai, Voyage, Zoox, and Uber’s self-driving division. “Long term, I think we will have autonomous vehicles that you and I ca
n buy,” says Mike Ramsey, an analyst at market researcher Gartner Inc. “But we’re going to be old.”

Yeah, pretty much.  A lot of people have made a lot of money out of this by getting money from rubes

62*

One of the secrets of Baseball is that many of the official records are not actually the most, or the least, in the history of the sport.

So Nolan Ryan's record for Major League single season strikeouts of 383 in 1973 is not eclipsed by Matt Kilroy's 513 in 1886, because Ryan was 60'6" from the plate, and Kilroy was 50'0", and a walk in 1886 was 6 rather than the 4 balls that it is now.

The reason that I am discussing this is that New York Yankee (F%$# the F%$#ing Yankees) right fielder Aaron Judge hits home run number 62, beating Roger Maris' AL record of 61 set in 1961.

Since Maris set the single season record, beating Babe Ruth's 60 in 1927, a matter of some unjustified controversy, since Ruth achieved this in a 154 game season while Maris achieved this in a 162 game season.

Maris was in fact treated horribly for the rest of his career, and unjustly denied a spot in the Baseball Hall of Fame, and his record was generally denoted by an asterisk, because of the 8 additional games.

So Judge is unquestionably the record holder for the American League, but in the National League, Sammy Sosa (66), Mark McGuire (70), and Barry Bonds (73) all hit more, but they were using so many performance enhancing chemicals that they probably struck sparks running around the bases.

This does raise an interesting question, "What is a record?"

For me, the gargantuan ballplayer, he is 6 feet 7 inches (200.7 cm) tall and weighs 282 pounds (127.9 kg), is the holder of the single season home run record.

This is obviously not a definitive opinion.  I do not think that a definitive opinion on this is even possible.

You might want to listen to Kieth Olbermann's podcast for his opinion, he says all of this better than I can, and he knows way more about "America's Pastime" than I could ever hope to know.

In memoriam blogger Steve Gilliard, dedicated Mets fan.

Why Not Both?

In a leak from anonymous,  "Federal agents investigating President Biden’s son Hunter," there is sufficient evidence for him to be indicted for tax evasion and lying on a gun permit application.

I don't know if this is true, FBI agents frequently leak reports of half-finished investigations the press in an attempt to pressure prosecutors to file.

I think that the DoJ should indict Hunter Biden and Donald Trump on the same day.

What's more they should ask for them both to be held without bail.

I think that Hunter Biden would tolerate a few days in jail fairly, well, but that Donald Trump would dissolve like Edgar Allen Poe character Ernest Valdemar:

I was thoroughly unnerved, and for an instant remained undecided what to do. At first I made an endeavor to re-compose the patient; but, failing in this through total abeyance of the will, I retraced my steps and as earnestly struggled to awaken him. In this attempt I soon saw that I should be successful — or at least I soon fancied that my success would be complete — and I am sure that all in the room were prepared to see the patient awaken.

For what really occurred, however, it is quite impossible that any human being could have been prepared.

As I rapidly made the mesmeric passes, amid ejaculations of “dead! dead!” absolutely bursting from the tongue and not from the lips of the sufferer, his whole frame at once — within the space of a single minute, or even less, shrunk — crumbled — absolutely rotted away beneath my hands. Upon the bed, before that whole company, there lay a nearly liquid mass of loathsome — of detestable putrescence.
Not gonna happen, but I can dream.

Headline of the Day


We live in profoundly strange times.

It's Thursday

And initial unemployment claims  rose by 29,000 last week.

Initial jobless claims, a proxy for layoffs, increased to a seasonally adjusted 219,000 last week from a revised 190,000 the week before, the Labor Department said Thursday.

That was the highest level since late August but close to the 2019 average of 218,000.

Claims have hovered around that prepandemic average for most of this year.

The U.S. jobs market remains strong but has shown some recent signs of softening. Employers pulled back sharply on job openings in August, leaving openings at their lowest level in a year, the Labor Department said on Tuesday.

People with jobs classified as professional and business services also quit in far fewer numbers in August than they had in previous months, the figures showed.

Layoffs rose slightly. Employers added 315,000 jobs that month, compared with 526,000 jobs in July.

I think that the economy is slowing down, and that the Fed may have already over-tightened, but we'll have more information tomorrow.

Once again, ¯\_(ツ)_/¯.

05 October 2022

John Oliver

So, Trevor Noah will be leaving The Daily Show at some point in the not too distant future.

So the question is, "Who do you want to see take the role of host?"

I want John Oliver.

I actually prefer Noah to his predecessor, Jon Stewart, because while he was never as good of an interviewer, and the format, particularly post Covid has seemed contrived, he is not an aficionado of the, "View from nowhere," where Jon Stewart was.

Noah showed outrage about the outrageous, while under Stewart it was primarily undeservedly even-handed mockery.  (Both siderism)

Personally, I want to see John Oliver to replace Trevor Noah. (His most recent video at bottom)

He's a better interviewer than Noah, he clearly is better at conveying outrage than Noah, he's a good interviewer, and his gift in explaining complicated grifts to the average viewer are better than both Noah and Stewart combined.

If I were to make a prediction, I would say that Oliver is not interested.  He is doing one show a week, not 4, which means that he can be more thoughtful, and does not have to work as hard.

As to who is a likely replacement?

I would guess that it is The Daily Show current or former regular, and among that crowd, I would like Roy Wood Jr., but I would guess that Jordan Klepper, Wyatt Cenac, Amanda Ruffin (who I know nothing about, but has gotten buzz), or Samantha Bee.

I'll give 2:1 odds that I'm wrong though.  I inherited my dad's poor prognostication gene.

Your Feel Good Story of the Day

A judge in Georgia just invalidated a corporate give away to the electric car manufacturer Rivan, citing, among other things, that the local property tax waiver was not supported by the law, major portions of the agreement were unenforceably vague, no studies made regarding the costs to upgrade infrastructure or local services, and no analysis by bankers or economists.

So, the judge invalidated the tax breaks, which required judicial approval approval:

Last week, a very rare thing happened: A judge blocked a corporate subsidy deal, on the grounds that the officials who negotiated it didn’t do anything to ensure it would work out to the benefit of the state or local communities.

Rivian, the electric truck manufacturer, earlier this year announced a deal with the state of Georgia under which it will receive about $1.5 billion in public subsidies, the linchpin of which is about $700 million in property tax breaks. Incumbent Republican Gov. Brian Kemp has made the Rivian deal a key point in his re-election campaign this year. It was also one of those secret deals, where the beneficiary wasn’t known until it was too late, and part of the wider electric vehicle race to the bottom occurring in states across the country.

Everything was just chugging along, until, on Thursday, Morgan County Superior Court Judge Brenda Trammell rejected the part of the agreement that covered Rivian’s property tax breaks, agreeing with local opponents who said the state hadn’t done its due diligence to ensure the deal provided enough benefits to justify the cost. She also ruled that Georgia officials used a loophole to provide Rivian with its property tax breaks that isn’t actually legal. The property tax portion of the deal involves local communities floating some bonds in a complicated but common maneuver which requires judicial sign-off, giving Trammell the opportunity to stop everything in its tracks.

The 34-page ruling is a brilliant rebuke not just of this particular deal with Rivian, but of the corporate subsidy machine in general, and how it cranks out money for private concerns without guaranteeing public benefits. You can read the whole thing here.

………

Ultimately, Judge Trammell found that Georgia officials “failed to put forward sufficient evidence demonstrating that the Project would promote the general welfare within the territory of the Authority,” which is the baseline work necessary for a subsidy deal to receive judicial blessing. Georgia officials and Rivian say they are looking at the possibility of an appeal.

Of course, the case could swing back the other way and a higher court could ultimately move Rivian’s project forward. But even if it does, this ruling is valuable for blowing the lid off of how corporate subsidy agreements are negotiated: Without public input, without adequate examination of the promises corporations are making, with too much deference to corporate leaders, and without taking into account the downsides for local municipalities. Economic development officials admitted, under oath, that they’re not doing anything to ensure the public investment is protected, or that local workers or residents see an upside from the state’s subsidy wheeling and dealing.

It was very refreshing, for once, to get a clear look behind the curtain, and have a public official step up and say those shenanigans won’t be allowed on her watch. More like this, please.

This is a good thing.  There really should be federal legislation, and (dare I say it) action at the WTO to prevent these subsidies.

It won't happen though, big business owns both the Congress and the World Trade Organization.

My Cats Have Achieved Sartorial Awareness

One of the Shabbos, and Yom Tov, traditions in my house is to give my cats some schnaps for the holiday.  By schnaps I mean catnip.

I will break out the bag of catnip, and cats will jump into the cardboard boxes they use as a lair, and I will dose them.

Both cats love catnip, but Destructo, the gray and white long hair on the right, is the much bigger stoner.  Meatball/Mousetrap is the black cat on the left.

During the Yom Tovim I realizes something, that the cats, Destructo in particular, has associated my entering the house wearing a coat and tie with getting catnip.  When he sees me in the getup, he runs to his box for his schnaps.

I didn't' realize this until I came in after Kol Nidre, evening services for Yom Kippur, and as soon as he saw the suit, his box was filled with a long-hair 17 lb cat expecting his dope.

He didn't get it, and while the cats get fed on Yom Kippur, they don't get drugs on Yom Kippur.  It feels disrespectful to give intoxicants to cat on that day.

I did give them catnip after the end of Yom Kippur though.  I did not want to find cat turds in my stereo headphones.

04 October 2022

Yeah, Right

So does anyone believe it when Elon Musk says that he is going to do the Twitter deal at the original price?

I don't.

My guess is that his lawyers are terrified that he will engage in his customary fabulism at his sworn deposition, and will get thrown in the clink, and that this is a delaying tactic.

It could also be that Twitter is entitled to a deep dive on Elon's finances as a part of discovery, and his wealth numbers are probably about as reliable as Donald Trump's wealth numbers:

Elon Musk has offered to close his acquisition of Twitter Inc. on the terms he originally agreed to, a sudden and unexpected comedown for the billionaire entrepreneur that could end a monthslong battle he waged to get out of the $44 billion deal.

A lawyer for Mr. Musk communicated the proposal to Twitter’s lawyers Monday, according to a copy of a two-sentence letter that was filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission Tuesday afternoon.

Twitter confirmed receipt of the letter and said it intends to close the transaction at the original price of $54.20 a share.

He worked "420" into the bid, because he thinks that he is hip, or something.

………

There are no guarantees that the unpredictable Mr. Musk will follow through with his proposal and close the transaction. The five-day trial, set to begin Oct. 17, could still go forward as planned. Mr. Musk was scheduled to be deposed later this week as part of the preparations for the trial.

Mr. Musk tweeted Tuesday that “Buying Twitter is an accelerant to creating X, the everything app.” He has previously indicated that the name X.com applies to a social-media company he might create if the Twitter deal didn’t happen. Buying Twitter, Mr. Musk said Tuesday, could expedite the endeavor by three to five years.

So this is all about his butt-hurt over PayPal going with the name PayPal instead of his favored name X.com?  That is really, really, stupid.

I would also note that Musk does complete the deal with Twitter, I expect his policies to lead the micro-blogging site to crash faster than Rupert Murdoch destroyed MySpace.

Elon Musk is living proof of Ben Franklin's old adage, "Better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak and to remove all doubt."

Look Out Below

US Job openings fell by 10% in August.

The Federal Reserve getting its slowdown, and it resembles an F-14 catching an arrester hook.

I have given up on Chairman Powell not causing a recession, I just hope that he takes his foot off of the break before unemployment hits double digits:

U.S. employers pulled back sharply on job openings, while layoffs rose in August, adding to signs the labor market and overall economy are cooling.

Employers’ total job openings fell 10% in August to a seasonally adjusted 10.1 million from 11.2 million the month before, the Labor Department said Tuesday. The 1.1-million drop in openings is the largest decline since the early months of the Covid-19 pandemic in 2020, leaving job openings at their lowest level in a year.

Openings dropped the most in healthcare, retail and other services industries. The decline in openings coincided with an August easing of job growth. Employers added 315,000 jobs that month, compared with 526,000 jobs in July. The figures reflect a labor market that is still strong overall, but lost some steam in August after recovering rapidly from the effects of the pandemic.

Of course, the Fed does not really care if they overdo it on interest rates, their model is Paul Volker who waged a war on labor and wages his entire time as Fed Chair.

The Thursday unemployment claim numbers and Friday unemployment rate numbers are going to be interesting.

Death of a Republican Bagman

Laurence Silberman who has made a career of covering up political crimes and manufacturing political crimes targeting Democrats, has died at the age of 86.

After 8½ decades, Judge Silberman has finally made the world a better place by leaving it.

Living in Bizarro World

The satire magazine which has dubbed itself, "America's Finest News Source," aka The Onion has filed an amicus brief with the Supreme Court defending the right to parody. This is a serious, albeit entertainingly written, legal document

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

The 6th circuit court, in a feat of astonishingly horrible jurisprudence, ruled that the police were justified in arresting a man for creating a parody facebook page for the Parma, Ohio police department.

In addition to the obvious, that the Parma PD retaliated because their feelings were hurt and should not be allowed to carry any weappms ever again, the court created out of thin air a requirement that all parody be prominently labeled as such, which is also a complete misunderstanding of the Bill of Rights.

A man who was arrested over a Facebook parody aimed at his local police department is trying to take his case to the Supreme Court. He has sought help from an unlikely source, which filed a friend-of-the-court brief on Monday.

“Americans can be put in jail for poking fun at the government?” the brief asked. “This was a surprise to America’s Finest News Source and an uncomfortable learning experience for its editorial team.”

The source is, of course, The Onion.

Or, as the satirical website described itself in the brief, “the single most powerful and influential organization in human history.”

The Parma, Ohio, area man in question, Anthony Novak, spent four days in jail over a Facebook page he created in 2016 that mocked his local police department. He was charged with using a computer to disrupt police functions, but a jury found him not guilty.

Mr. Novak says his civil rights were violated, and he is trying to sue the city for damages. A federal judge dismissed the lawsuit earlier this year, saying that the police had qualified immunity, and an appeals court upheld that decision. Now the high court is reviewing his request to take up the matter.

Even by the expansive definitions of "Qualified Immunity" promulgated by Supreme Court precedent, these officers, and this police force, should never have been granted such an exemption from responsibility for something that is so transparently unconstitutional and illegal.

………

“They [The Onion] heard the story, and they were like, ‘Oh my god, this is something that could really put all of our people in the crosshairs if we rub someone the wrong way with one of our stories,’” Mr. Jaicomo said.

………

“The Onion cannot stand idly by in the face of a ruling that threatens to disembowel a form of rhetoric that has existed for millennia, that is particularly potent in the realm of political debate, and that, purely incidentally, forms the basis of The Onion’s writers’ paychecks,” the brief said.

It pointed to The Onion’s history of blatantly ridiculous headlines: “Fall Canceled After 3 Billion Seasons.” “Children, Creepy Middle-Aged Weirdos Swept Up in Harry Potter Craze.” “Kitten Thinks of Nothing but Murder All Day.” A footnote reads “See Mar-a-Lago Assistant Manager Wondering if Anyone Coming to Collect Nuclear Briefcase from Lost and Found, The Onion, Mar. 27, 2017.”

The brief also said that the case posed a threat to The Onion’s business model.

“This was only the latest occasion on which the absurdity of actual events managed to eclipse what The Onion’s staff could make up,” it said. “Much more of this, and the front page of The Onion would be indistinguishable from The New York Times.”

I would be remiss in not noting here that frequently, The Onion is indistinguishable from The New York Times.

The full brief is after the break.

03 October 2022

If This Is True, I Am So Stoked

https://i.imgur.com/ScQ4rNv.jpg


This is Silphium!


Is this Silphium?
And by so stoked, I mean even more stoked than finding that Hugh Jackman will reprise Wolverine in the next Deadpool.

Some researchers believe that they have rediscovered Silphium in Turkey, the fabulously expensive spice and medicinal herb beloved by the ancient Romans.

I have cooked using a similar, though historically less prestigious spice, Asafoetida (also called Parthian Laser in Apicius, while Silphium is also called Laser) in recreations of historical recipes, so if this is true, I want to get my hands on the resin:

A “miracle” plant consumed by Ancient Greeks, Romans, and Egyptians, which was thought to have become extinct two thousand years ago, has now been rediscovered in Turkey by a professor, who thinks he’s found a botanical survivor.

The plant, which the Ancient Greeks called silphion (silphium), was a golden-flowered plant. It was once the most sought-after product in the Mediterranean even before the rise of Athens and the Roman Empire.

It is believed that the plant with yellow flowers attached to a thick stalk was crushed, roasted, sauteed, and boiled for medicinal purposes, food, and even contraception. [It should be noted that evidence of its use as a contraceptive is a bit sketchy, but it definitely was used as an aphrodisiac] During the reign of Julius Caesar, more than a thousand pounds of the plant were stockpiled alongside gold in Rome’s imperial treasures, and silphion saplings were valued at the same price as silver.


However, just seven centuries after the adored plant was first documented growing along the coast of Cyrenaica in what is now modern day Libya, silphion disappeared from the ancient Mediterranean world.

Roman chronicler Pliny the Elder in his Natural History claims that “just one stalk has been found” of the plant in the first century A.D., “and it has been given to Emperor Nero.” This was the last documented account of the silphion.

………

Despite the plant having been perceived to be extinct for centuries and having completely disappeared from the history books, a researcher at Istanbul University, Mahmut Miski, suspects he has re-discovered the ancient plant. He believes the Ferula Drudeana that grows on Mount Hasan is the elusive ancient plant—nearly a thousand miles from where it once grew.

According to a report by National Geographic, the researcher found it has similarities with the silphion plant which line up with old botanical texts and images of the plant on Ancient Greek coins.

I make a hobby of redacting historical recipes, and this is like the holy grail of ancient spices.

Well, That was Quick

After less than 2 weeks, British PM Liz Truss and Chancellor Kwasi Kwarteng have capitulated to the torrent of opprobrium unleashed across the political spectrum, and the bond vigilantes, and will not be putting forward their tax cut for rich folks.

Truth be told, it was probably more the bond vigilantes, and the emergency rate hikes by the Bank of England, than it was criticism from fellow Tories:

The new British government said “we get it” as it abandoned plans to abolish the top rate of income tax, a key part of its centerpiece economic policy that spooked the markets and pushed the British pound to an all-time low against the U.S. dollar.

In a major U-turn, Prime Minister Liz Truss said Monday that the proposal to scrap the 45 percent rate for people earning more than 150,000 pounds ($168,000) had become a “distraction.”

Reacting to the news of the reversal, the pound rebounded Monday morning against the U.S. dollar, returning to where it was before the government’s tax-and-borrowing plan sent it plunging.

But the reversal is an enormous blow to the authority of the young Truss government, in office for less than a month.

It leaves the government hugely weakened and exposes the lack of support for Truss from her Conservative Party’s lawmakers in Parliament, said Mujtaba Rahman, an analyst with Eurasia Group. Her critics “now scent weakness,” he said in a briefing note.

When I suggested that Liz Truss was attempting to replace Boris Johnson with something even more bizarrely inexplicable, I was correct in my prediction.

That may be the first time I've nailed a prediction so well.

Linkage

Seems appropriate given the election in Brazil:


02 October 2022

And Its Headed to a Runoff

So, what we now know to be the first round of Presidential elections were held in Brazil, and Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva wins vote but not an outright majority, so this heads to a runoff.

While the exact percentages are not certain it appears that da Silva got 5% more of the vote than the clearly fascist Bolsonaro.

The runoff will be held on October 30, and while the 48%/43% split in this round indicates that da Silva is likely to win that, I would expect an explosion of election related violence from the right wing, and a possible coup attempt to influence the election, so the outcome is by no means certain:

Brazil’s acrimonious presidential race will go to a second round after the former president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva failed to secure the overall majority he needed to avoid a run-off with the far-right incumbent Jair Bolsonaro.

With more than 99.5% of votes counted the leftist veteran had secured 48.3% of the vote, not enough to avoid the 30 October show down with his right-wing rival. Bolsonaro, who significantly out-performed pollsters’s predictions and will be buoyed by the result, received 43.3%.

………

But the election result was a major blow to progresssive Brazilians who had been rooting for an emphatic victory over Bolsonaro, a former army captain who has repeatedly attacked the country’s democratic institutions and vandalized Brazil’s international reputation.

Bolsonaro is also accused of wreaking havoc on the environment and catastrophically mishandling a Covid epidemic that killed nearly 700,000 Brazilians, by undermining vaccination and containment efforts and peddling quack cures.

I am not sure if the military will attempt a coup to keep Bolsonaro in power, but there are elements of the military who will raise the possibility of a coup to keep Bolosonaro in power, particularly if the right wing violence escalates to military allied death squads over the next months, which is distinctly possible.

I am Surprised

The sailor accused of setting the fire that destroyed the Bonhomme Richard has been acquitted.

The convening authority (what the military calls the court) has been suggesting that the case is beyond thin for a while, but the Navy continued its prosecution, because otherwise they might have to prosecute officers up and down the chain of command for incompetence and dereliction of duty:

A military judge found Seaman Recruit Ryan Mays not guilty on Friday of setting fire to a $1.2 billion Navy ship.

Mays, 21, had stood trial on charges of aggravated arson and willfully hazarding a vessel for the four-day blaze that destroyed the USS Bonhomme Richard, an amphibious assault ship, in 2020.

The acquittal marks the end of a two-year ordeal for Mays, who spent 55 days in the brig after he was arrested.

“I can’t get everything I’ve lost back, but today is the start of my new life,” Mays told ProPublica in a statement. “I am grateful that the military judge saw me for who I am: an innocent man who wanted to serve his country. This fire was traumatic for me and a lot of other sailors. This court-martial is an added layer of trauma.”

On July 12, 2020, the Bonhomme Richard was moored at a San Diego Navy base and undergoing a major overhaul. That morning, an area of the ship known as the “lower V” caught fire, and the blaze quickly spread throughout the vessel. The warship was lost and had to be decommissioned.

A ProPublica investigation into Mays’ case found there was little to connect him to the fire. There was no physical evidence that Mays — or anyone — purposefully set the fire. The Navy had one witness who placed Mays at the scene shortly before the fire but whose story changed over time.

The criminal investigation into Mays also stood at odds with another Navy inquiry into the fire, which found that 34 people, including five admirals, either directly led to the loss of the ship or contributed to it. That investigation uncovered a litany of failures that put the ship at risk for a catastrophic fire, including poor training, insufficient oversight and dangerous storage of hazardous materials. Additionally, 87% of the ship’s fire stations were out of order.

The Navy continued to pursue Mays even after a military judge recommended this year that the case be dropped for lack of evidence after a probable cause hearing.

They had to continue to prosecute Mays, because otherwise, there would have to be consequences for the, "34 people, including five admirals," whose actions, "Either directly led to the loss of the ship or contributed to it."

If there is anything that can be learned from US navy investigations of accidents, the USS Iowa turret explosion, where they concocted a false gay relationship for one of the dead sailors in order to divert attention from systemic problems, comes to mind.

There are a lot of senior Naval personnel who should have had their careers ended over this, and it will never happen.

I Don’t Know If This Is Genius or Stupidity


Dress in a Can

As many you already know, Bella Hadid walked onto the cat-walk wearing nothing but underwear, and had a dress sprayed onto her.

If this is a serious fashion statement, then everyone involved with this is a blithering idiot. 

If instead, this is a statement mocking fashion, then everyone involved with has caught lightning in a bottle, because it is a bit of absurdist theater as Eugene Ionesco's play The Bald Soprano.

If I had to guess, I would think idiocy, but the statements by the "Designer" could be tongue in cheek:

Paris Fashion Week this year will go down in style history, and it’s all thanks to a truly daring look from none other than Bella Hadid. The supermodel totally stole the show on Sept. 30 when she walked onto Coperni’s Spring 2023 runway with nothing but underwear on... but then reached the end of the catwalk in a full gown. In one of the coolest and most unique displays at any fashion show, Parisian label Coperni pulled out all of the stops and gave Hadid an innovative dress no one would be able to forget. In the final moments of the runway show at Paris Fashion Week 2022, Bella Hadid took the stage and the magic happened, and this video captures all the wonder of Hadid’s spray-painted Coperni dress.

Wearing nothing but nude undergarments, Hadid was circled by two artists that sprayed her body with Fabrican, a “unique spray-on fabric.” From afar, it just looked like Hadid was being sprayed with white paint, but as the artists layered each coat an elastic-like dress began to form on Hadid’s body right on the runway. The crowd audibly gushed over the spectacle and I don’t blame them! According to Coperni’s co-founder, Arnaud Vaillant, the design was a “celebration of women’s silhouettes from centuries past,” he told Vogue. Each layer of Fabrican brought the designer's vision to life. A true model, Hadid stood center-stage and elegantly moved her body ever so slightly for the artists to work their magic.

Clearly, the fashion press is a bunch of credulous idiots, but that goes without saying.

01 October 2022

Adding to my List

I am adding Rachel Dolezal to my list of They Who Must Not Be Named.

For those of you who do not recall, Ms. Dolezal achieved a significant measure of notoriety when it was discovered that she was a white woman passing as a black woman while heading the NAACP Spokane chapter.

I did not write about it when this happened 7 years ago, and I won't write about now that there are reports that her OnlyFans pictures were leaked to Twitter.

This whole affair seems to indicate very real problems in our culture of celebrity in our society, but I have neither the time nor the inclination to tease out the individual elements.

Still Being Evil

Despite is statements that it would no longer do so, Google is still running advertisements for the phony "Pregnancy Crisis Centers" in response to searches about abortion and birth control.

This is not just unethical, it is knowingly aiding fraud:

Google is still effectively directing women seeking abortions to anti-abortion centers that masquerade as legit abortion clinics.

This is despite the internet giant's wider efforts to convince us it's committed to protecting reproductive rights in post-Roe America.

According to a Tech Transparency Project (TTP) report published on Thursday, women using Google to find abortion providers continue to be shown, in the search results, ads for so-called pregnancy crisis centers, which offer no medical services for those seeking a termination and instead try to talk pregnant women out of a procedure.

For its investigation, TTP used a fresh, logged-out Google Chrome with no prior browsing history. Additionally, for location-specific searches, the researchers used a VPN to make it look like they were searching from that location used in the search.


Here's what happened next, according to the TTP researchers:
We quickly found more than a dozen questionable crisis pregnancy center ads. For example, when our test user searched for 'Where can I get an abortion in Illinois,' Google served an ad for a 'Free Abortion Pill.' But the ad was for Prestonwood Pregnancy Center, a crisis pregnancy center based in Texas.
Needless to say, Prestonwood doesn't provide medical abortions or free abortion pills. These and other crisis pregnancy center ads do, in very small type in the search results, note: "Does not provide abortions.

Google just wants the advertising money, and they behave accordingly.

This is an excellent argument for breaking them up.  When a company like Google has a monopoly, it means that they have no incentives to do right by their customers (the advertisers) or their users (us hoi polloi).

Finally Made it to Nat's Play

She wrote one of the short plays at the Rapid Lemon Productions Variations on Change short play festival, and acted in  4 other plays in the festival.

As I noted last week, last Saturday's show was canceled because of a gas leak, so we went tonight.

We went with my first cousin once removed Beth, who I have mentioned before relating the tale of how she did not recognize Paul Newman at a political function in the DC area in the 70s.

We all had a very nice time.

I recommend the festival.  Their last show is tomorrow.



30 September 2022

Still Cannot Make Planes

It appears that the FAA says is calling bullsh%$ on Boeing's incomplete paperwork for certain models of the 737 MAX.

It's only what, 3½ years since the crash of Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302?

Seriously, as the saying goes, "You had one job."

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) told Boeing it has not completed key work needed in order to certify the 737 MAX 7 by December, according to a letter from the FAA seen by Reuters.

Lirio Liu, the FAA's executive director of aviation safety, told Boeing in the Sept. 19 letter that the agency had concerns about the planemaker's submissions and sought discussion "about realistic timeframes for receiving the remaining documents."

The FAA told Boeing to turn in all remaining System Safety Assessments (SSAs) by mid-September "if the company intends to meet its project plan of completing certification work (and receiving FAA approval for this airplane) by December."

Liu said as of Sept. 15, "just under 10% of the SSAs have been accepted by the FAA and another 70% of these documents are in various stages of review and revision."

Boeing faces a December deadline to win approval from the FAA of the 737 MAX 7 and 10 variants, or it must meet new modern cockpit-alerting requirements that could significantly delay approvals.

Don't worry about Boeing though, they will get it done, they are already shelling out big bucks to lobby Congress for an extension.

I wish I could say that this is some sort of twisted joke, but it's true:

The Federal Aviation Administration sent a high-level letter to Boeing this month warning that the documents the manufacturer has provided for certification of the 737 MAX 7 model are wholly inadequate — making it unlikely that MAX 7 certification will be completed by a year-end deadline.

Political action has begun in Congress, however, to provide Boeing the time and leeway it needs to complete the safety assessment documentation.

A Republican senator on Thursday filed an amendment to a pending bill that would grant Boeing the extension it will need to get both the Renton-built MAX 7 and MAX 10 certified without any further design changes.

The MAX 7 is the smallest model in Boeing’s new 737 MAX family of jets. The FAA warned Boeing in March that the largest model, the MAX 10, is also unlikely to meet the deadline

 ………

If Boeing misses the deadline without a congressional extension it would have to redesign and upgrade the MAX’s crew alerting system.

Boeing has lobbied Congress, arguing that maintaining commonality between the MAX crew alerting systems and those on the prior 737 NG models would be safer than upgrading the MAX systems. 

………

Boeing CEO Dave Calhoun even said in July that rather than upgrade the systems, he might cancel the MAX 10 if an extension isn’t granted.

Now that threat would also have to include the MAX 7.

I may have misspoken. It may not be that Boeing cannot build planes, it may be that Boeing does not want to build planes.

Oh dear, it's too expensive to fix the problems, so they will just sh%$ can two models, because they need to spend money on stock buybacks in order to help senior management get rich off of their stock options.

Break out the cuffs, Ponch.

Quote of the Day

There is a tendency, especially when it comes to the über-rich and powerful, to assume and to fantasize about what we can’t see. We ascribe shadowy brilliance or malevolence, which may very well be unearned or misguided. What’s striking about the Musk messages, then, is the similarity between these men’s behavior behind closed doors and in public on Twitter. Perhaps the real revelation here is that the shallowness you see is the shallowness you get.
—Charlie Warzel at The Atlantic discussing the text messages between Elon Musks and the other titans of industry when he started looking at buying twitter.

(Emphasis mine)

There is no man behind the curtain.  There is no curtain.  There are just a bunch of entitled, privileged white boys (mostly on the last bit) who won the birth lottery.

They possess no special talents, nor any great intellect, just luck, public subsidies, and the willingness to break the law brazenly.

To quote Honoré de Balzac, (sort of, the history is complicated) "Behind every great fortune lies a great crime."

It's Bank Failure Friday!!!

We had the 2nd credit union failure of the year, the Liquidation of Paducah Teachers Federal Credit Union of Paducah Kentucky

Here is the Full NCUA list, and the direct link for this year.

Still no commercial bank failures since 2020.

29 September 2022

Tweet of the Day


This is an unsurprising consequence of a race to the bottom for workers. It shows up in the assembly line, or at the cashier's counter, or on the phone as subtle slacking and sabotage.

Once Again, We See That There Is Nothing That the Financial Industry Cannot Destroy

In this case, it is the private equity driven implosion of the enterprise software firm Citrix, where private equity companies loaded it up with debt for a buyout, and now that interest rates are up, the company is toast.

The PE firms generated enormous "Management Fees" for themselves, so they will be fine though.

Unless and until corporate bankruptcy laws are changed to inflict real pain on the Wall Street types, this will not change:

Fall is here, stagflation is in the air, and Bloomberg terminals are aflutter with news of a great “reckoning” for private equity, triggered by Federal Reserve rate hikes.

………

[Apollo private equity head David] Sambur referenced a signature example of what he called the “reckoning”: the embarrassing scramble of banks to find buyers for bonds associated with the $16.5 billion leveraged buyout (LBO) of the enterprise software firm Citrix Systems. Banks loaned “affiliates” of Vista Equity Partners and Elliott Management $15.5 billion to close the deal back in January, but interest rates have risen an unheard-of three percentage points since then, and even with generous assistance from Sambur’s employer, banks have been forced to raise the yield on Citrix bonds commensurately to convince anyone to buy them.

………

“It’s important to understand the vast amount of our fee revenue is agnostic to asset market’s valuations,” then-CEO Kewsong Lee told investors in the Carlyle Group’s publicly traded stock on its second-quarter call. “We’re not at a point where our ability to finance transactions is impacting our ability to get things done,” echoed KKR investor relations chief Craig Larson. Apollo’s chief financial officer emphatically declared that “market driven declines” had produced “only an approximate 1 percent drag on our management fees.” Blackstone made similar assurances.

When they say that, "T the vast amount of our fee revenue is agnostic to asset market’s valuations," they mean that they are looting the company, and they make out like raped apes in either case.

………

Citrix Systems is a 33-year-old developer of enterprise software that enables remote work. Its profits and stock price soared in 2020, then crumpled in 2021, when vulture investment firm Elliott Management began accumulating a 10 percent stake in the company, apparently using derivatives as opposed to regular shares to evade regulatory scrutiny and/or juice returns. Elliott had more than doubled its money by “activist” investing in Citrix during the Trump years, when it controlled a board seat on the company. It sold its stake early in the pandemic, only to be lured back in October 2021 amid a surge in private equity tech buyouts, driven by the underlying premise that converting software sales into a subscription business was a new fail-safe proposition.

………

Then in December, the news broke that Elliott’s private equity arm and Vista were proposing to merge Citrix, Tibco, Blue Prism, and Wrike, in a deal that would value Citrix at $13 billion, a roughly 30 percent premium to its stock price. The merged entity would eventually borrow $15.5 billion to consummate the deal, while raising an additional $2.5 billion in “preferred” equity shares from four private equity firms: Apollo, Blackstone, Carlyle, and Oaktree Capital Management. Elliott and Vista’s contribution to the transaction, meanwhile, seemed to be generally limited to the firms’ pre-existing shares in Citrix and Tibco.

The four software companies together had a combined EBITDA (earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation, and amortization) of roughly $1 billion in 2021, giving the deal a debt-to-EBITDA ratio of at least 15. The average 2021 vintage software LBO had a ratio around seven, which itself is very high. Some $741 million had to be earmarked to pay the fees associated with the brilliant underwriters who signed off on this transaction, plus another $375 million in dividends to the preferred equity holders. Even if Citrix could have borrowed all $15.5 billion at the going 2021 rate of 5.55 percent—and it doesn’t work that way—the first interest payment would have sent the company into default.

They knew that this was a basically pillaging the company

………

A couple of high-profile european money managers have made waves over the past few months for likening private equity to a “Ponzi scheme.” Private equity has always been a game of getting your money out of a company early and often enough that you can still turn a profit if the whole thing winds up in bankruptcy court. (The aforementioned David Sambur memorably referred to this as the “cake and eat it too” method during the collapse of the Caesars casino empire.)

………

In the old days, PE firms aimed to cash out of “investments” by taking portfolio companies public in an IPO. But in more recent years, the majority of private equity portfolio companies have been sold to other private equity firms. More recently, a new twist on the secondary buyout trend emerged when private equity firms began offloading portfolio companies to … themselves, via an incestuous innovation known as the “continuation fund” that swallowed $65 billion worth of private equity assets last year.

………

Both private credit and continuation funds enable private equity firms to keep insolvent portfolio companies out of bankruptcy court and the public spotlight for ever-longer periods, making it harder for workers and other victims to claw back profits. It’s worth noting that corporate bankruptcy filings have slowed to a trickle amid the evaporation of the bond market, even though well over a fifth of the top 3,000 publicly traded companies are officially “zombies,” according to a Bloomberg analysis.

………

In other words, while the Fed’s rate hikes, which may induce a global recession, punish the cheap-money bonanza that pushed private equity to great heights in recent years, nobody should assume that the industry has no recourse on the way down. They have ingeniously constructed a number of escape hatches, ones that need to be scrutinized and regulated.

They need to be prosecuted and frog marched out of their offices in handcuffs. 

It's the only thing that will stop them.

It's Thursday


GDP


Unemployment
And initial unemployment claims fell by 16,000 to 193,000while the final revision of the 2nd quarter GDP numbers is down at an 0.9% annual rate.

Needless to say, these are highly conflicting signals.

My guess would be that employers, particularly on the low end, were workers used to be largely disposable, are seeing their recruiting costs going through the roof, so they are a bit slower to pull the trigger on layoffs.

Then again, what do I know?

¯\_(ツ)_/¯

28 September 2022

Hell of a New Years Surprise


If you don't laugh, you cry

So the literal honest to God Italian Fascists won parliamentary elections in Italy, for the first time since Benito Mussolini.

It's a hell of a thing to learn on Rosh Hashanah. 

I will say, as I have for years, that the fact that there is no credible Euroskeptic left, the closest to this is Die Linke in Germany and they are neutral, has a lot to do with this,

The EU is dominated by Germany, and German sado-monetarism, and by unelected bureaucrats, the European Parliament cannot write or amend bills, and it was designed from the start, when Jean Monnet founded the European Coal and Steel Community, as an anti-Democratic institution.

Unless or until a Euroskeptic left emerges, or unless and until the EU develops governance with meaningful citizen input through representative democracy, this problem is going to get worse, and not better.

We are already seeing a replay of 1914 in Europe, and I really do not want to see a replay of 1939.

Quote of the Day

I disagree with the reviewer’s specific implication that more honest reporting about how dire RBG’s health was in 2019 and 2020 could have stopped Amy Coney Barrett from being confirmed — that die was cast when Ginsburg declined to resign before the 2014 midterms — but that’s still no excuse. The tendency of certain elite legal liberals to venerate the institution because of their relationships with the people involved and communicate this to the public has been a major part of the problem.

— Scott Lemieux at Lawyers, Guns & Money on how Nina Totenberg's personal relationships poison her journalism.

Let's be clear, this is not to suggest that Ms. Totenberg's reporting is uniquely corrupt or self-serving by the standard of legal reporters, or reporters in Washington, DC in general.

The implication here, one that I agree with, is that the entire DC journalistic and political ecosystems are toxically intertwined.

Live and Learn

I had always thought that Niccolo Machiavelli had said that exiles were never to be trusted in his seminal work on governance, The Prince.

I was wrong, it was from his book, Discourses on the First Decade of Titus Livius, Specifically in Chapter XXXI of Book II, "Of the Danger of trusting banished Men."

I've only started reading the book, but his outlook on ancient history is remarkably modern, or perhaps I should say that it is timeless:

The danger of trusting those who are in exile from their own country, being one to which the rulers of States are often exposed, may, I think, be fitly considered in these Discourses; and I notice it the more willingly, because I am able to illustrate it by a memorable instance which Titus Livius, though with another purpose, relates in his history. When Alexander the Great passed with his army into Asia, his brother-in-law and uncle, Alexander of Epirus, came with another army into Italy, being invited thither by the banished Lucanians, who gave him to believe that, with their aid, he might get possession of the whole of that country. But when, confiding in the promises of these exiles, and fed by the hopes they held out to him, he came into Italy, they put him to death, their fellow-citizens having offered to restore them to their country upon this condition. It behoves us, therefore, to remember how empty are the promises, and how doubtful the faith, of men in banishment from their native land. For as to their faith, it may be assumed that whenever they can effect their return by other means than yours, notwithstanding any covenants they may have made with you, they will throw you over, and take part with their countrymen. And as for the empty promises and delusive hopes which they set before you, so extreme is their desire to return home that they naturally believe many things which are untrue, and designedly misrepresent many others; so that between their beliefs and what they say they believe, they fill you with false impressions, on which if you build, your labour is in vain, and you are led to engage in enterprises from which nothing but ruin can result.

To this instance of Alexander I shall add only one other, that, namely, of Themistocles the Athenian, who, being proclaimed a traitor, fled into Asia to Darius, to whom he made such lavish promises if he would only attack Greece, that he induced him to undertake the enterprise. But afterwards, when he could not fulfil what he had promised, either from shame, or through fear of punishment, he poisoned himself. But, if such a mistake as this was made by a man like Themistocles, we may reckon that mistakes still greater will be made by those who, being of a feebler nature, suffer themselves to be more completely swayed by their feelings and wishes Wherefore, let a prince be careful how he embarks in any enterprise on the representations of an exile; for otherwise, he is likely either to be put to shame, or to incur the gravest calamities.

Because towns are sometimes, though seldom, taken by craft, through secret practices had with their inhabitants, I think it not out of place to discuss the matter in the following Chapter, wherein I shall likewise show in how many ways the Romans were wont to make such acquisitions. 
Credit to Project Gutenberg for the making translation available online.

Sharknado!!!1!!!!!


This message has been brought to you by anthropogenic climate change.

Reality beats satire every time.

Linkage

 

Lewis Black says what needs to be said about Candy Corn:

27 September 2022

Say What?

The New York judicial conduct commission has ruled to remove a judge from the bench for pulling a gun on a black defendant.

Normally, I would say, "Maybe the system is working,"  but the incident in question happened in 2015 or 2016, and it was only investigated after he bragged about it during a judges' convention.

How the hell does this not get investigated from the get-go?

A New York judge is in hot water this week after bragging about pulling a gun on a Black man who appeared in front of him in court.

On Thursday, the state’s judicial conduct commission ruled that judge Robert J. Putorti be removed from his position after pulling out a semi-automatic handgun on a Black defendant in the Whitehall Town Court in Washington County. After the incident, he bragged about it to his colleagues and friends for years.

According to Syracuse.com, the incident happened in late 2015 or early 2016 but wasn’t investigated until Putori boasted about his actions during a judge’s conference and then later to his supervising judge.

Putorti, who was the presiding judge over the case, agreed to a plea deal after the defendant admitted to attacking his wife and another man with a knife. Putorti also agreed to reduce the defendant’s fine to meet an amount the defendant could pay.

At a later court appearance, Putorti pulled out his legal handgun and pointed it at the defendant after he allegedly crossed a stop line in front of the judge’s bench.

The incident was largely forgotten about, but Putorti couldn’t leave it be. He later told his cousin, who was a college journalism student and bragged to his colleagues at a judge’s conference in 2018.

It appears that the inmates are running the asylum here.

No, It Wasn't the Russians


This is not a boat accident
It looks like someone just blew holes in the Nord Stream 1 and Nord Stream 2 pipelines near their terminus in Germany, which had the ability to supply the bulk of the natural gas needs for northern Europe with Russian gas.

Some people are suggesting that the Russians did this, but all they have to do is to shut off the tap at their end, and they derive no benefit from this.

Had the assault been on the Norwegian gas line, the people attempting to blame Russia might have a case, but it's clear that someone with significant resources decided that it was more important to f%$# with Russia than it was to keep Europe out of a depression.

I wonder who that could be?

Sabotage is the most likely cause of leaks in two Baltic Sea gas pipelines between Russia and Europe, European leaders have said, after seismologists reported explosions around the Nord Stream pipelines.

A seismograph on the Danish island of Bornholm, near where the leaks occurred, twice recorded spikes on Monday, the day on which the Nord Stream 1 and 2 gas pipelines underwent dramatic falls in pressure, the German geological research centre GFZ said.

A Danish military flight over the leaks brought back striking images from the ruptures, including one showing an area of bubbling gas a kilometre wide on the sea’s surface.

European commission president Ursula Von der Leyen said the leaks were due to “sabotage”, and threatened the “strongest possible response” to any deliberate disruption of European energy infrastructure.

“Any deliberate disruption of active European energy infrastructure is unacceptable and will lead to the strongest possible response,” she warned, and urged and investigation to get full clarity on the “events and why”.

Danish prime minister Mette Frederiksen described them as “deliberate acts”, adding: “We are not talking about an accident.”

………

The seismograph recorded near-silence until just after midnight GMT (2am local time), when there was a spike representing a tremor in the earth followed by a continuous hissing wave form. The pattern was repeated at 5pm GMT.

The first question, of course, is "Cui bono." 

The second question is who has the capability to do this?

Given that the pipelines are about 70m (230 feet) down where the incident occurred, below the 40m (130 feet) depth commonly seen as the limit for conventional SCUBA diving.

This implies that whoever did this was using specialized gear, and possibly a specialized breathing mixture like Nitrox (above atmospheric O₂ concentration), or Heliox (He-O₂ mix).

It's possible that a private actor could do this, but not particularly likely.

Or, it could be a remarkable coincidence.

Neat


Image of Impact Crater

Given the of the NASA DART probe's impact on the asteroid Dimorphos, we must remember the stalwart work by the prime contractor on this mission, Acme corp.

The mission was intended to demonstrate the ability to alter the trajectory of a celestial object that might otherwise strike the earth.  It is intended to serve as a demonstration and test bed for a system to deflect celestial objects that might threaten the earth:

A multimillion-dollar spacecraft collided head-on with an asteroid the size of a football stadium on Monday in an unprecedented test of Nasa’s capacity to defend Earth from a doomsday scenario.

Nasa’s craft successfully crashed into the asteroid Dimorphos 6.8m miles from Earth. The mission, known as Dart (Double Asteroid Redirection Test), marked humanity’s first attempt at moving another celestial body, with the goal of seeing if a large asteroid hurtling toward our planet could be successfully diverted.

The spacecraft collided with the asteroid at 15,000mph at 7.14pm EDT. Live-streamed video showed the asteroid’s rubble-strewn surface looming into focus before the spacecraft hit and cheers erupted in the mission control room. Teams of Nasa and Johns Hopkins University scientists hugged each other as Dart’s successful impact with Dimorphos was confirmed.

………

Samson Reony, the Johns Hopkins applied physics laboratory mission commentator, was equally exuberant about the “game changing” achievement. “This is when science, engineering and a great purpose, planetary defense, come together, and, you know, it makes a magical moment like this,” he said.

The test aims to determine if intentionally crashing a spacecraft into an asteroid is an effective way to change its trajectory. A relatively similar strategy involving a nuclear missile rather than an unmanned spacecraft failed during a key point in the plot of Morgan Freeman’s fictional 1998 planetary disaster film Deep Impact.

At a post-mission press conference, Dart scientists described the mission as a success but cautioned that it will be about two months before they know if the spacecraft succeeded in its ultimate objective of altering Dimorphos’s trajectory.

………

She said the craft had landed 17 meters from its target; close enough to represent a complete success. “It was basically a bullseye. I think, as far as we can tell, the first planetary defense test was a success, and we can clap to that.”

It is surreal seeing a NASA control room burst into applause at a crash.

I am So F%$#ing Stoked


A new Deadpool, including his Frenemy Hugh Jackson as Wolverine.

Sweet.

Support Your Local Police

After one deputy confessed to a double murder was found to have failed his psych exam, the Alameda, California sheriff's department reviewed its files, and they found that they had to put ⅒ of their deputies on leave for also failing their psych exams.

If you think that law enforcement gives a flying f%$# in a rolling doughnut about the quality of personnel on their force, and hence the quality of their law enforcement, you were misinformed:

We now know that all was perhaps not so well with the Alameda County Sheriff's deputy whom the sheriff's office had previously said had a spotless record, after he turned himself in for a double murder.

The shocking double-homicide occurred in a quiet subdivision in Dublin on September 7, and 24-year-old sheriff's deputy Devin Williams Jr. was quickly suspected of the crime and soon turned himself in to the agency he worked for. Within days we learned that it was an act of passion, and Williams was "blinded by love," his mother says, amid an affair he was having with an older, married woman.

The victims were 42-year-old Maria Tran, a psychiatric nurse, and 57-year-old Benison Tran, her husband. Mrs. Tran reportedly met Williams while she was at work — presumably when he was a patient — at John George Psychiatric Hospital in San Leandro. The Alameda County Sheriff's Office never confirmed whether Williams had any history of mental illness, and all we knew was that Williams was not hired by the Stockton Police Department for unknown reasons after the conclusion of a one-year probationary period in January 2021.

Now, as KTVU reports, we are learning that Williams received a "D. Not Suited" grade on his psychological evaluation for the deputy job. And the sheriff's office is saying that they had been operating under the belief that "D. Not Suited" evaluations did not preclude individuals from being hired, but they have now learned that is not the case. This has resulted in 47 deputies — about 10% of the force in Alameda County — being put on paid leave pending new evaluations.

………

The fact that 10% of the deputies on the force were given these unsatisfactory psych evaluations has caused an uproar, in particular among civil rights advocates with concerns about how these deputies may have handled their cases. Civil rights attorney Adante Pointer spoke to KTVU, wondering aloud how many cases might need to be reopened based on this revelation. And another attorney working on a consent decree at the Santa Rita Jail, Kara Janssen, found the news "deeply concerning."
"Deeply concerning."  Gee, you think!
………

The 47 officers now on leave are receiving full pay pending their second opinions, but some are questioning whether these second opinions can even be trusted.

Let me remove any doubt here:  The new evaluations cannot be trusted.

………

The department previously said that his [the double murderer cop] record was "immaculate" and that he had passed all of his necessary evaluations.

This is a pretty good indication of how serious this department is about the quality of its personnel:  Not at all.

 

26 September 2022

Tweet of the Day



Suddenly, it all becomes clear.

Clintonism, Neh?

In discussions about the almost certain election of a Fascist, and Fascism adjacent government in Italy, Hillary Clinton said, "The election of the first woman prime minister in a country always represents a break with the past, and that is certainly a good thing."

This is a snapshot of who and what she, and what Clintonism is more generally.

The policies don't matter, even if the management team is diverse.

A more nihilistic political philosophy is difficult to imagine: 

“The election of the first woman prime minister in a country always represents a break with the past, and that is certainly a good thing,” Hillary Clinton said to an Italian journalist at the Venice International Film Festival earlier this month. She was speaking of Giorgia Meloni, a member of the Chamber of Deputies, who could make history if the Brothers of Italy party does as well as expected in Sunday’s elections.

That would be one sort of break with the past. But Meloni would also represent continuity with Italy’s darkest episode: the interwar dictatorship of Benito Mussolini. As Clinton would surely concede, this is not such a good thing.
I'm not going to get into the roots of Meloni's likely victory here, but the sort of blithe acceptance of the election of a fascist because of their gender is remarkably depressing.

Whiskey Tango Foxtrot?

The degree to which cryptocurrency and related endeavors (NFTs, etc.) it is clear that this entire financial ecosystem is a profoundly criminogenic enterprise.

I have never been able to come up with the words to say this succinctly, but private equity maven Orlando Bravo did when he said that the, "Crypto industry is not as ethical as private equity."

Mr. Bravo is a founder and managing partner for the PE firm Thoma Bravo, and is big into crypto, and even he sees this as a morass of fraud:

Orlando Bravo, the billionaire co-founder of Thoma Bravo and a bitcoin enthusiast, has said he was disappointed to find that ethical standards in parts of the crypto industry are not as high as in private equity.

Bravo, whose buyout group invested about $150mn in Sam Bankman-Fried’s cryptocurrency exchange FTX last year and has stakes in four other businesses in the sector, said in an interview with the Financial Times that his firm is pausing investments in other crypto companies.

The private equity executive said he was happy with the deals Thoma Bravo had done so far but he had come across problems in the wider industry.

“I’ve gotten to know that world a little bit more, and some of the business practices don’t rise to the level of ethics that we’re all used to in private equity with your investors and your customers and your community, and that has been a bit disappointing,” he said. 

Bravo, who has said he personally owns bitcoin, criticised the crypto market for what he called a “disturbing” lack of transparency. But he stressed that he was still bullish about bitcoin and believed the industry was “just young” and ethical problems would “get fixed over time”.

………

Bravo, whose firm rushed into the booming market for special purpose acquisition companies, or Spacs, said the model should be made more like private equity. Spacs have been criticised for enriching the so-called “sponsors” who set up the cash shells, even if the target company loses value after going public.

The idea that the level of ethics in crypto would be unacceptable for a private equity firm is mind buggering.

PE is, after an industry that refuses to allow its contracts with public pensions to be made available to the public, and obscures its fees and actual returns.

The segment that deals with SPACs, as Mr. Bravo's does, is even dodgier than your run of the mill PE firm.

If crypto is too corrupt for this guy………