31 July 2023

His Uncle Died Fighting Nazis

The uncle in question is Joseph Patrick Kennedy, Jr.  And he died when the aircraft that he was flying as part of Operation Aphrodite blew up as the fuses for the explosives it was carrying were being armed.

The Nephew, of is Robert Fitzgerald Kennedy, Jr., who is, as Mike the Mad Biologist observes, who now plays at Nazi peekaboo:

I’m stealing Amanda Marcotte’s phrase ‘Nazi Peekaboo‘ because it describes what Democratic primary candidate and anti-vaccinationist crank RFK Jr. did last Friday. His account tweeted a complaint about not receiving Secret Service protection, and phrased it like so (boldface mine):
Typical turnaround time for pro forma protection requests from presidential candidates is 14-days. After 88-days of no response and after several follow-ups by our campaign, the Biden Administration just denied our request. Secretary Mayorkas: “I have determined that Secret Service protection for Robert F Kennedy Jr is not warranted at this time.”

Our campaign’s request included a 67-page report from the world’s leading protection firm, detailing unique and well established security and safety risks aside from commonplace death threats.

(emphasis the aforementioned angry biologist)

14/88 has its own Wiki page.

14 refers the following phrase, "We must secure the existence of our people and a future for white children," and 88 stands for the 8th letter of the alphabet repeated twice, HH, which stands Heil Hitler.

"Nazi Peekaboo," is one way to refer to this, but the more general term is, "Dog Whistling." 

When George W. Bush referred to compassionate conservatism, he was dog whistling to the religious right, saying that he wanted to everyone out of the social safety net, and when he listed Dredd Scott as the worst Supreme Court decision he was actually talking about how he wanted to overturn Roe v. Wade.

When Ronald Reagan started his 1980 Presidential campaign in Philadelphia, Mississippi, where civil rights activists were murdered by the Klan and the police, and called for greater states rights, he was endorsing segregation.

To some degree this occurs in most politics, but the use of these code words is particularly prevalent among the right wing, racist Talibaptists, and opportunist hypocrite fellow travelers.

Quote of the Day

Actually, no, I couldn’t even come up with a halfhearted contrarian take. It’s trash.

—Darrell Etherington on TechCrunch, discussing Elon Musk's rebranding of Twitter to Ecch.

How the hell does someone so profoundly, and deeply, stupid end up the richest man in the world?

Irene WD Hecht, October 17, 1932 — July 31, 2023

My step mother since 1980.

Historian, Dean, College President, Mom.

She will be missed.


They lied to you about the existence of barter economies.

30 July 2023

Yeah, Pretty Much

Attached is a very good summary of the federal report on the extensive, and arguably habitual civil rights violations of the Minneapolis Police Department

It seems to me that this shows the Minneapolis is little more than a criminal gang that operates under the explicit protection of the law.

I'd be shocked, but literally EVERY deep dive on EVERY police department reveals the same, whether it's New York, Chicago, Portland, or Minneapolis.

An Overdue Library Book Is Returned to a Library 119 Years Later

You know, this sort of thing leads to irate librarians:

Have you ever returned a library book late? Perhaps by a day or two or maybe even a week? How about 119 years? …No? Well, a particular volume from the New Bedford Free Public Library in Massachusetts actually took that long to make its way back to the library’s shelves. A copy of An Elementary Treatise on Electricity by British scientist James Clerk Maxwell that was checked out in 1904 was finally returned in 2023.

The book was first spotted by Stewart Plein, curator of rare books at West Virginia University Libraries. The librarian was sorting through a recent donation of books when she spotted the copy of Maxwell's treatise. It was in great condition for a book that old, but there was one problem: it appeared to have once been part of a library collection and it didn’t have any sort of stamp indicating it was officially withdrawn. So, it appeared to be a lost and very long overdue book.

Plein got in touch with Jodi Goodman, the special collections librarian in New Bedford. While the library staff had seen overdue books returned 10 or 15 years later, this was something new. “This came back in extremely good condition,” New Bedford Public Library Director Olivia Melo says. “Someone obviously kept this on a nice bookshelf because it was in such good shape and probably got passed down in the family.”


Since the New Bedford library has a 5¢-per-day late fee, a book overdue by 119 years would mean a late fee of $2,100; however, the library’s late fee limit maxes out at $2. If anything, its true value lies in the history it has witnessed since being borrowed.

Daym!  After 119 years, they were remarkably gracious.

29 July 2023

So, About Spain

So, a week ago, the Francoist PP party massively under performed expectations, and the right wing fascist VOX party lost seats in Spain's parliamentary elections.

Considering the history of Spain, going back at least to when the Kings of Castille.

The People's Party was hoping for an outright majority, and massive losses from the Socialist Party (PSOE), and it got neither, though it did pick up a rather impressive 47 seats.

What is particularly notable is that Vox went from 52 seats to 33 seats.

Considering the political winds in Europe right now, I am surprised that they under performed, particularly in Spain, which had the longest ruling fascist regime:

Just a week ago, Spain’s Popular Party (PP) dreamed of 168 seats and a landslide victory that would allow it to govern the country alone, without the need for the far-right Vox. But a much greater resistance from the left than expected, with a Socialist Party (PSOE) that against all odds has amply surpassed its 2019 results, has left PP leader Alberto Núñez Feijóo with such a narrow victory that not only will he not be able to govern alone — he will not even be able to achieve a sufficient majority with Vox.

The result in terms of votes is even more surprising than the one reflected in the seats: the PP wins the election by less than 300,000 votes. It is a victory, but a small one, very similar to that of José María Aznar in 1996, which leaves a very bad taste in the mouth of the PP leadership, which at no time doubted that they would obtain an absolute majority with Vox.


“The involutionist
[I believe that a better translation would be, "Reactionary."] bloc has failed. There are more Spaniards who want Spain to move forward and it will continue to be so,” shouted a euphoric Sánchez as the PSOE’s grassroots followers shouted “No pasarán” (They shall not pass, a cry used by Republicans during the Spanish Civil War) at the door of its headquarters. “They have made the sum of the right fail,” admitted Santiago Abascal, leader of Vox.

 The formation of a government will be complex.

Quote of the Day

I can have my midlife crisis whenever I want!


Sharon*and I were watching Iron Chef (Battle Lamb) on TV, and yet ANOTHER advertisement for one of those build your home shows, and they are talking about the next episode, where they will be building Barbie's™ Dream House™ in real life.

My wife complained, "Not another one," referring to the ad, and asked me if I wanted a real-life Barbie's™ Dream House™.

I replied, "No, but I might want her convertible as my midlife crisis car." (Not really, it's the Jaguar E-Type convertible, with a manual transmission.)

She said, "You're too old for a mid-life crisis." (Ouch)

So I replied with, "I can have my midlife crisis whenever I want!"

I needed to share this.

*Love of my life, light of the cosmos, she who must be obeyed, my wife.
Of course a manual transmission. It's a mid-life crisis car. What kind of tool would get their midlife crisis car as an automatic?

28 July 2023

It's Bank Failure Friday!!!

And we have both a commercial bank failure and a credit union failure, Heartland Tri-State Bank, of Elkhart, KS, and Yonkers Postal Employees Credit Union, of Yonkers, NY.

That's 4 failures for banks and 5 for credit unions so far this year. (4½ bank failures if you count the"Voluntary" liquidation of Silver Lake Bank in March)

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

So, here is the graph pr0n with trendline (FDIC only):

Getting Your Metallurgical/Historical Geek On

Notice the pattern
We have an interesting article on Damascus steel from 1998. (Also called Wootz, Bulat, Pulad, Fuladh, and Bintai)

The hypereutectoid (high carbon) steel is known for its strength, toughness, and a water like surface finish.  (Most of the stuff that you see today called "Damascus" is pattern welded, a completely different type of steel.)

While it is named for Damascus, the steel, a crucible steel, was actually made in South Asia, specifically India and Sri Lanka.

The secret of making this steel was lost in the 1800s, and we now have an explanation as to why.

The short version is that this was less of a secret than it was an loss of access to very specific materials.

The steel was created from ore that contained minute traces of elements like (primarily) vanadium, manganese, and tungsten, which facilitated the formation of carbide spheres in the steel.

Then with precise control of heat while forging these spheres become stretched, creating the patterns. (OK, that part is a bit of a secret)

With the suppression of steel production in by British colonial authorities, they wanted the Indians to buy British steel, not make their and the possible exhaustion of the original mines.


The arms and armor section of most large museums display examples of Damascus steel weapons. These steels are of two different types, pattern-welded Damascus and wootz Damascus, both of which were apparently first produced prior to around 500.1,2 These steels have in common an attractive surface pattern composed of swirling patterns of light-etched regions on a nearly black background. The pattern-welded steels were produced by forge welding alternating sheets of high- and low-carbon steels. This composite was then folded and forge-welded together, and the fold/forge cycle was repeated until a large number of layers was obtained.

This article is concerned with the second type of Damascus steel, sometimes called oriental Damascus. The most common examples of these steels are swords and daggers, although examples of body armor are also known. The name Damascus apparently originated with these steels. The steel itself was produced not in Damascus, but in India and became known in English literature in the early 19th century3 as wootz steel, as it is referred to here. Detailed pictures of many such wootz Damascus swords are presented in Figiel's book,4 and the metallurgy of these blades is discussed in Smith's book.5

Unfortunately, the technique of producing wootz Damascus steel blades is a lost art. The date of the last blades produced with the highest-quality damascene patterns is uncertain, but is probably around 1750; it is unlikely that blades displaying low-quality damascene patterns were produced later than the early 19th century. Debate has persisted in the metallurgy community over the past 200 years as to how these blades were made and why the surface pattern appeared.6-8 Research efforts over the years have claimed the discovery of methods to reproduce wootz Damascus steel blades,9-12 but all of these methods suffer from the same problem—modern bladesmiths have been unable to use the methods to reproduce the blades. The successful reproduction of wootz Damascus blades requires that blades be produced that match the chemical composition, possess the characteristic damascene surface pattern, and possess the same internal microstructure that causes the surface pattern.


Wootz steel was produced as roughly 2.3 kg ingots, commonly referred to as cakes, that are solidified in a closed crucible. It was a relatively high-purity iron steel with 1.5% carbon. The cakes were shipped to Damascus, Syria, where bladesmiths learned to forge them into the swords that displayed a beautiful surface pattern. The hypereutectoid carbon level of these steels plays a key role in producing the characteristic surface pattern, because the pattern results from alignment of the Fe3C particles that form in such steels on cooling. When western Europeans first encountered these patterned weapons, they adopted the name Damascus steel. Wootz Damascus blades possessing the highest-quality damascene patterns were produced in the 16th-17th century.4

Both the internal microstructure and the chemical composition of these steels were well established early in this century.11,13 The internal microstructure of a wootz Damascus blade possessing a high-quality damascene surface pattern is a unique metallurgical microstructure.8 It consists of bands of small (generally around 6 mm diameter) particles of Fe3C (cementite) clustered along the band centerline. The bands have a characteristic spacing in the 30-70 mm range and are contained in a steel matrix. The structure of the steel matrix varies depending on how the smith heat-treated the blade, but it is generally found to be pearlite. The bands lie parallel to the forging plane of the blades. By manipulating the angle of the blade surface relative to the plane of the bands, the smith can produce a variety of convoluted patterns of intersection of the bands with the blade surface. With polishing and etching, the Fe3C particles cause the bands to appear white and the steel matrix nearly black; thus, the surface pattern is created.

Reproducing Wootz Damascus Blades

In recent work, a technique to produce blades that match the best museum-quality wootz Damascus blades in both surface appearance and internal microstructure has been developed. Figure 1 presents a blade recently made by one of the authors, A.H. Pendray, showing the characteristic damascene surface pattern. It has been specially prepared to include the famous Mohammed's ladder pattern that appears on many of the higher-quality museum swords and blades. The circular pattern between the ladders is often termed the rose pattern, and it is also sometimes found on high-quality museum blades.4 A longitudinal section from an adjoining piece of this blade is also shown, which illustrates the aligned bands of clustered cementite particles typical of the better quality museum blades.

A detailed picture description of the production process for this blade has recently been published.14 In addition, the technique has been fully described in the literature,15-17 and it has been shown that blades possessing high-quality damascene patterns can be repeatedly produced utilizing the technique. The technique is, in essence, a simple reproduction of the general method described by the earlier researchers. A small steel ingot of the correct composition (Fe + 1.5C) is produced in a closed crucible and is then forged to a blade shape. However, some key factors are now specified. These include the time/temperature record of the ingot preparation, the temperature of the forging operations, and the type and composition level of impurity elements in the Fe + 1.5C steel. It appears that the most important factor is the type of impurity elements in the steel ingot. Recent work17-18 has shown that bands of clustered Fe3C particles can be produced in the blades by the addition of very small amounts (0.03% or less) of one or more carbide-forming elements, such as V, Mo, Cr, Mn, and Nb. The elements vanadium and molybdenum appear to be the most effective elements in causing the band formation to occur. An obvious question raised by these results is, are these elements also present at low levels in the 16-18th century wootz Damascus blades?

This is a seriously fun read. 

Well, it is a fun read for me, and I apologize for nothing.

27 July 2023

Updated Trump Indictment

This is Florida, not DC, and it covers his attempts to delete surveillance videos at his Palm Beach club as well as further charges related to handling of classified documents.

Not going to celebrate until he's actually sharing a jail cell with some Jeffrey Epstein's buddies:

The Justice Department is accusing former President Trump of attempting to delete surveillance footage at his Mar-a-Lago property in a new superseding indictment filed in the classified records case Thursday.

The DOJ says Trump acted with a new co-conspirator to try to delete the footage and also charged him with an additional Espionage Act charge.

The superseding indictment brings the total number of counts facing the former president to 40 and adds a charge based on the military documents Trump boasted of having in a meeting — warning he couldn’t share them since he failed to declassify them.

It accuses Trump of acting with Carlos de Oliveira, the property manager of the hotel, and Trump’s other co-defendant Walt Nauta with trying to delete the footage.
I still don't expect a jail term here.

The Beatings Will Continue

So, initial unemployment claims fell to 221,000, the lowest level since February, and the less volatile 4-week moving average fell fell by 3,750 to 233,750. Continuing claims fell by 59,000 to 1.69 million.

This follows the Open Market Committee of the Federal Reserve raised rates to the highest level in 22 years, 5½%.

The Fed is not looking at inflation to make its interest rate decisions, it's looking at employment, not inflation, and it won't stop until we have significant unemployment, because ordinary workers remain uppity.

Also, the fact that US GDP rose at a 2.4% annual rate in the 2nd quarter further indicates that more rate hikes on the way.

We are f%$#ed.

As They Say in Japan, “クソ食って死ね Senator McConnell”

Roll Tape!
It looks like Senate Minority leader Mitch McConnell appears to have had an ischemic incident at a press conference

Unfortunately, he recovered relatively quickly.

Our increasingly geriatric leaders are increasingly problematic:

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) on Wednesday abruptly left a news conference after he froze midway through his opening remarks and appeared to be unable to resume speaking immediately.

McConnell began the GOP’s leadership weekly news conference by saying lawmakers were on a path to finishing a major defense budget bill this week.

“We’ve had good bipartisan cooperation and a string of —” McConnell said.

He then froze and remained silent for about 20 seconds, staring straight ahead, before other members of GOP leadership intervened. Sens. John Barrasso (R-Wyo.) and Joni Ernst (R-Iowa), standing at McConnell’s side, asked whether he was okay, but McConnell did not respond verbally.

“Do you want to say anything else to the press?” Barrasso asked McConnell, before suggesting that McConnell take a break.

“I’ll take him back,” Barrasso said to the other members of the leadership team, guiding McConnell away from the dais.

McConnell, 81, returned after several minutes, and after the news conference was over, was asked by reporters to address what had taken place.


An aide to McConnell who spoke on the condition of anonymity because they weren’t authorized to discuss the matter publicly said the minority leader felt “lightheaded.”

Yeah, sure. 

He felt light headed, no stroke at all.


The incident took place about four months after McConnell fell and suffered a concussion and a broken rib at a private dinner at a Washington hotel in early March. The Kentucky Republican was absent from the Senate for nearly six weeks as he recovered from his injuries. He returned to the Senate in April.

Jeff Tidrich wrote, "Every Democrat hopes Mitch McConnell is ok and recovers quickly".

I don't.

BTW, if the title is bad Japanese, feel free to correct me.  I used Google translate.

26 July 2023

Want Some Cheese with That Whine?

This image definitely is a keeper
As you may be aware, Elon Musk is under a consent decree with the Securities and Exchange Commission.

He has to clear any Tweets (Ecch's?) about Tesla's business with Tesla's corporate counsel.

So, Elon went to court to end the agreement, and was turned down, and the court of appeals refused his request as well, and then refused to hear the appeal en banc.

So now, the Apaarheid Era Emerald Mine Heir Pedo Guy™ plans to appeal to the Supreme Court, because he feels that he has the right to defraud Tesla's stock holders:

Elon Musk plans an appeal to the US Supreme Court after losing an attempt to terminate a settlement with the Securities and Exchange Commission that Musk claims violates his First Amendment rights. The 2018 settlement over Musk's false "funding secured" tweets required Tesla to impose controls on his social media posts.

"Alex Spiro, a lawyer for Musk, confirmed on Tuesday that Musk plans an appeal to the Supreme Court," according to Reuters.

In April 2022, Musk's attempt to get out of the settlement was rejected by a judge in US District Court for the Southern District of New York. Musk appealed to the US Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit, but the ruling against Musk was affirmed unanimously by a three-judge panel.

Musk then petitioned for an en banc rehearing in front of all the 2nd Circuit Court's judges, but his appeal was denied in a short order issued by the court yesterday. The "active members of the Court have considered the request for rehearing en banc. It is hereby ordered that the petition is denied," the ruling said. The 2nd Circuit appeals court has 13 active members.………

The SEC case began after Musk's August 2018 tweets stating, "Am considering taking Tesla private at $420. Funding secured," and, "Investor support is confirmed. Only reason why this is not certain is that it's contingent on a shareholder vote."

The SEC sued Musk and Tesla, saying the tweets were false and "led to significant market disruption." The settlement required Musk and Tesla to each pay $20 million in penalties and forced Musk to step down from his board chairman post. That money is to be distributed to harmed investors under a plan approved by the court last year.

Musk was also required to get Tesla's pre-approval for tweets or other social media posts "that contain, or reasonably could contain, information material to the Company or its shareholders."


The 2nd Circuit panel ruling that affirmed Liman's decision said, "We see no evidence to support Musk's contention that the SEC has used the consent decree to conduct bad-faith, harassing investigations of his protected speech. To the contrary, the record indicates that the SEC has opened just three inquiries into Musk's tweets since 2018."

The first of those three led to the 2018 settlement. The second and third investigations sought information regarding tweets in 2019 and 2021 that "plausibly violated the terms of the consent decree," the panel found.

"Nor does the public interest require modification of the consent decree," the appeals court panel wrote. "If anything, it cuts in the other direction, given the importance of the public's interest in the enforcement of federal securities laws" and because "[o]ur Court recognizes a 'strong federal policy favoring the approval and enforcement of consent decrees.'"

Addressing Musk's argument that the settlement is a "prior restraint" on his speech, the court noted that "Parties entering into consent decrees may voluntarily waive their First Amendment and other rights."

So, Musk's argument is that he's too much of an idiot to be held to his agreement?

OK then.  He might have a case.

F%$#ing Cancel Culture

A Texas A&M professor was just placed on administrative leave pending termination after saying bad things about the Lt. Governor.

Gee, fascism much?

Joy Alonzo, a respected opioid expert, was in a panic.

The Texas A&M University professor had just returned home from giving a routine lecture on the opioid crisis at the University of Texas Medical Branch in March when she learned a student had accused her of disparaging Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick during the talk.

In the few hours it took to drive from Galveston, the complaint had made its way to her supervisors, and Alonzo’s job was suddenly at risk.


Alonzo was right to be afraid. Not only were her supervisors involved, but so was Chancellor John Sharp, a former state comptroller who now holds the highest-ranking position in the Texas A&M University System, which includes 11 public universities and 153,000 students. And Sharp was communicating directly with the lieutenant governor’s office about the incident, promising swift action.

Less than two hours after the lecture ended, Patrick’s chief of staff had sent Sharp a link to Alonzo’s professional bio.

Shortly after, Sharp sent a text directly to the lieutenant governor: “Joy Alonzo has been placed on administrative leave pending investigation re firing her. shud [sic] be finished by end of week.”

The text message was signed “jsharp.”


Alonzo has spent more than two decades as a pharmacist in Japan, Missouri and elsewhere, and has taught college students in Texas for more than a decade. She now teaches at Texas A&M while working as an ambulatory care pharmacy director at a free health clinic in Bryan.

She has helped bring millions of federal research dollars to the university, and last year Texas A&M’s pharmacy school named her the early career researcher of the year.

One of Alonzo’s recent projects focuses on training people to use Narcan, a nasal spray that reverses opioid effects and can save lives in overdose cases. She’s also advised state leaders on other public policies that could improve the fight against opioid overdoses.


But instead of backing other recommended strategies to reduce overdose deaths, such as legalizing test strips that can detect the presence of fentanyl in other drugs, lawmakers focused on a more punitive approach, approving laws that increase criminal penalties for providing fentanyl that leads to an overdose death.

Public health experts like Alonzo have largely supported harm-reduction efforts rather than increasing punishments for drug users. As the crisis intensified, Alonzo often received urgent emails from Texas school districts and law enforcement agencies eager for training and naloxone kits. In the past, she estimated she had given away more than $4.5 million worth of naloxone through her training sessions.


When students at UTMB received the email hours after the lecture, several started texting each other, trying to figure out what Alonzo had said that was so offensive.

According to one student who asked to remain anonymous for fear of retaliation from the school, some students wondered if it was when Alonzo said that the lieutenant governor’s office was one of the reasons it’s hard for drug users to access certain care for opioid addiction or overdoses.

A second student who also asked to remain anonymous for the same reason said Alonzo made a comment that the lieutenant governor’s office had opposed policies that could have prevented opioid-related deaths, and by doing so had allowed people to die.

A third student who also spoke on the condition of anonymity said Alonzo talked about how policies, like the state’s ban on fentanyl test strips, have a direct impact on the ability to prevent opioid overdoses and deaths. A push to legalize the test strips died earlier this year in the Patrick-led Senate despite support from top Republicans, including Abbott.

It should be noted here that because of the ……… peculiarities ……… of state government in Texas, the Lt. Governor is arguably a more powerful position than the Governor.

Among other things, he dictates the agenda and the budget drafting in the state senate.


On March 21, two weeks after she was placed on paid leave, Alonzo received an email saying her leave had been lifted.

The following day, pharmacy school Dean George Udeani said in a memo to Alonzo that during the lecture she “related an anecdote and an interaction with a state official.”

This is f%$#ing reign of terror sh%$.

Can we give Texas back to Mexico?

Today Sucks

It's the 9th of Av (Tisha B'Av) again.

This is a very bad day on the Jewish calendar:

To repeat myself, "It's kind of the Spinal Tap drummer of Jewish history."

Here is a sample of its greatest "hits":

  • The report of the spies from Canaan, resulting in the people of Israel spending 40 Years in the Desert.
  • The destruction of the 1st Temple.
  • The destruction of the 2nd Temple.
  • The Romans razed Betar, killing 100,000 Jews.
  • The Romans plowed the temple mount.
  • The start of the 1st Crusade. (You see it as a coming together of Christendom. I see it as a pogrom with years of murder and rape.)
  • The expulsion of Jews from England.
  • The expulsion of Jews from France.
  • The expulsion of Jews from Spain.
  • Germany entered the WW I. (Can be legitimately claimed to have directly led to the Shoah)
  • Formal approval of the "Final Solution" by the Nazis in 1941.
  • Deportations to Treblinka from the Warsaw Ghetto begin in 1942.

I am not a particularly superstitious bloke, but this is not a day to take a flight in a small plane.


25 July 2023


Breaking my 11-month-a-year profanity embargo, because ……… Fuck CIGNA.

I was one of their customers at one point, I am quite sincere when I say ……… Fuck CIGNA.

My regular reader(s) are probably that I have expressed dissatisfaction with the insurer in the past.

So I am amused that CIGNA is being sued for using software that allowed its examiners to deny thousands of claims per hour.

Here is hoping that they are hung out to dry:

Cigna, the healthcare and insurance giant, was hit with a lawsuit on Monday that alleges the company systematically rejects claims in a matter of seconds, thanks to an algorithmic system put in place to help automate the process—further raising questions about how technology could harm patients as more healthcare organizations look to embrace AI and other new tools.


The health insurer’s digital claims system, called PXDX, is an “improper scheme designed to systematically, wrongfully, and automatically deny its insureds medical payments owed to them under Cigna’s insurance policies,” the complaint alleges.


The suit follows a Propublica investigation in March that detailed Cigna’s software system for approving and denying claims in batches. The algorithm works by flagging discrepancies between a diagnosis and what Cigna considers “acceptable tests and procedures for those ailments,” according to the lawsuit.

Over two months last year, the company denied more than 300,000 claims, spending an average of 1.2 seconds on each claim, Propublica reported. While medical doctors signed off on the denials, the system didn’t require them to open patient medical records for the review. The complaint says that this violates a California competition law for unfair and fraudulent business acts. The suit also alleges the system violates the state’s insurance code for failing to adopt a “reasonable standard” for processing claims.

1.2 seconds in 1 hour, that is 3,000 denials per hour per agent.  

I was not engaging in hyperbole above.

Somehow, I do not think that any jury will think that 3000 denials an hour an honest business practice.

Let me finish by saying, ……… Fuck CIGNA.

Support Your Local Police

It appears that Connecticut state troopers wrote thousands of false traffic tickets in an attempt to cover racism in the real ones that they wrote.

It also appears that there has been little in the way of professional consequences for them falsifying official records and obstructing an investigation:

Governor Ned Lamont said an investigation was being launched after a damning new audit found there is a “high likelihood” hundreds of Connecticut State Police troopers collectively falsified tens of thousands traffic ticket records over much of the past decade.

The findings, presented at a public meeting Wednesday, allege systemic violations of state law and that the misreporting skewed racial profiling data making it appear troopers ticketed more white drivers and fewer minority motorists than they really did.

Auditors cautioned their monthslong review – triggered by a Hearst Connecticut Media Group investigation that exposed how four troopers purposefully created fake tickets for their own personal gain – did not attempt to determine if the widespread problems were intentional. They said a formal investigation would need to determine that.

"This report suggests a historical pattern and practice among some troopers and constables of submitting infraction records that were likely false or inaccurate," said the 78-page audit released Wednesday by researchers on behalf of the Connecticut Racial Profiling Prohibition Project, a state-funded group that analyzes police citations to determine racial profiling trends.

The report suggest a pattern of felonies.

The report found there was a “high likelihood” at least 25,966 tickets were falsified between 2014 and 2021. Another 32,587 records over those years showed significant inaccuracies and auditors believe many of those are likely to be false as well.
25,966 false documents submitted?  That's not a paperwork error, that is a criminal conspiracy to cover up their racism.


The findings showed significant numbers of false and inaccurate tickets were submitted by up to nearly one quarter of the 1,301 troopers who wrote tickets for the state’s largest law enforcement agency during those years.

And the other ¾ of the officers were accessories.  They had an obligation to report this, and they didn't.

Charge them all.

Seems that Someone Noticed

Yesterday, I noted that the elite private schools were aggressively favoring wealthy applicants.

It appears that the US Department of Education has noticed as well:

The U.S. Department of Education has opened an investigation into Harvard University’s use of donor and legacy admissions preferences, a month after the Supreme Court ruled the school’s use of race-conscious preferences unconstitutional.

The Education Department’s Office for Civil Rights confirmed on Tuesday that it launched the investigation this week in response to a separate complaint filed last month on behalf of three Massachusetts-based organizations serving communities of color. The complaint alleges that Harvard College violates Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 by giving preference to undergraduate applicants whose relatives are university alumni or donors.


The investigation follows the Supreme Court’s decision in June to end race-conscious policies in college admissions decisions. Shortly after the ruling, Lawyers for Civil Rights, the organization representing the three community groups, filed a complaint against Harvard, alleging that the college’s use of legacy and donor-based preferences disproportionately benefits white students. The complaint also said that these applicants are six to seven times more likely to receive admissions to Harvard compared with their counterparts who don’t have ties to donors or alumni.

“At the same time that Donor and Legacy Preferences disproportionately advantage white applicants, they systematically disadvantage students of color, including Black, Latinx, and Asian Americans,” the lawyers said in the complaint.

File this under, "F%$# around and find out," though the f%$#ers are the Supreme Court, and the Ivys and the rest of them are just collateral damage.

24 July 2023


It appears that Elon has renbranded Twitter as "Ecch":

If you don't get this reference, I have one thing to say to you, "Hey, you kids, get off of my lawn!"

Here is a Job Search Hack

When you send in a resume, just take the text from the job ad, paste it in your resume, make the font wicked small, and color it white.

People reviewing a resume will never see it, but the software driven screening programs fill flag you as being a good match: 

This 10-second résumé hack purports to help you land your next job.

Some social media influencers swear by it. They say it helps you get past the first screening when an artificial intelligence bot or digital filter might scan résumés and look for keywords.

“White fonting” in recent years has garnered renewed interest across social media like TikTok with influencers suggesting that it will make a big difference for job hunters. It’s also ruffled the feathers of many recruiters who have publicly denounced it.

The concept is simple: Copy a list of relevant keywords or the job description itself, paste it in a résumé and change the font color to white. The hope is that AI bots or digital filters in applicant tracking systems read the white text and surface the résumé for human review. Because keywords are in white, the résumé will look normal to human reviewers.


“The question is what sits behind” choosing to white font, said Andreea Macoveschi, senior director of the recruitment process outsourcing practice for global consulting firm Korn Ferry. “Is it lack of integrity or being savvy with tech?”

It's understanding the dysfunctional system, and getting past the the often arbitrary and meaningless filters is a legitimate part of the game.

The software filters are not about finding the best people, it's about getting the numbers down before an actual human being reviews you as a candidate.

Gaming a system that designed to be arbitrary is neither unethical nor dishonest.

Here is a Surprise

The reason that so many people want to go to the Ivy League schools, or Stanford, or any of the other schools has less to do with the quality of education than it does with the fact that the alumni are basically, "Made Men," in something not particularly different from the Mafia, or at least the Mafie according to Martin Scorsese.

After graduation, you have access to a whole network of privilege to give you a leg up on the rest of your life.

As such, it is little wonder that admissions is so competitive, at least until admissions are not at all competitive.

You see, when controlling for all other variables, test scores, grades, etc. it turns out that coming from a rich family more than doubles the likelihood of admission.

Elite colleges have long been filled with the children of the richest families: At Ivy League schools, one in six students has parents in the top 1 percent.

A large new study, released Monday, shows that it has not been because these children had more impressive grades on average or took harder classes. They tended to have higher SAT scores and finely honed résumés, and applied at a higher rate — but they were overrepresented even after accounting for those things. For applicants with the same SAT or ACT score, children from families in the top 1 percent were 34 percent more likely to be admitted than the average applicant, and those from the top 0.1 percent were more than twice as likely to get in.

The study — by Opportunity Insights, a group of economists based at Harvard who study inequality — quantifies for the first time the extent to which being very rich is its own qualification in selective college admissions.


“What I conclude from this study is the Ivy League doesn’t have low-income students because it doesn’t want low-income students,” said Susan Dynarski, an economist at the Harvard Graduate School of Education, who has reviewed the data and was not involved in the study.

In effect, the study shows, these policies amounted to affirmative action for the children of the 1 percent, whose parents earn more than $611,000 a year. It comes as colleges are being forced to rethink their admissions processes after the Supreme Court ruling that race-based affirmative action is unconstitutional.

But rich people affirmative action is completely legal.  In fact, it is mandatory.

Anything to Keep Himself Out of Jail

In order to prevent his prosecution for rampant corruption, immediately after the last election Benjamin Netanyahu (יִמַּח שְׁמו) set about destroying the independence and the authority of Israel's Judiciary. (I bet that the hed made you think that I was going to write about Trump)

Following the most massive protests in the history of Israel in opposition to these moves, the Knesset has past the first step of so-called "Court Reform".

Every one of Israel's security services have publicly stated that this action is a clear and present danger to the security of Israel, but there is nothing that Netanyahu will do to keep himself out of jail. 

At home, it left one half of society wondering whether their country — under the control of Mr. Netanyahu’s alliance of religious conservatives and ultranationalists — would now slide slowly into a religious autocracy.

“These could be the last days of Israeli democracy,” said Yuval Noah Harari, an Israeli author and historian of humanity. “We might witness the rise of a Jewish supremacist dictatorship in Israel, which will not just be a terrible thing for Israeli citizens, but also a terrible thing for the Palestinians, for Jewish traditions, and potentially, for the entire Middle East.”


But to critics and supporters alike, questions remain about the stability and capacity of Israel’s armed forces, after a surge in protests from thousands of military reservists.

There is also the specter of social and economic turmoil, after major unrest broke out overnight in cities across the country, labor leaders warned of a general strike, a doctors’ union announced a daylong reduction in medical services, and high-tech businesses said they were considering moving to more stable economies, according to a new survey.

Abroad, the vote fostered greater ambiguity about the future of Israel’s alliance with the United States, after expressions of growing alarm from the Biden administration. It heightened the unease among American Jews about the trajectory of the Jewish state.

 Once again, I think that Netanyahu is a clear and present danger to the state of Israel.*


Then there is Mr. Netanyahu’s ongoing trial for corruption: Critics fear Mr. Netanyahu could attempt to scuttle it now that the Supreme Court is less able to oppose him, a claim he has long denied.

Well, he would say that, wouldn't he?

Beneath all this lurks the possibility of an imminent and existential crisis for Israeli governance. If the Supreme Court in the coming weeks uses the remaining tools at its disposal to block the implementation of the new law, it could force the various parts of the Israeli state to decide which arm of government to obey.

This is why a written constitution, one that is difficult and involved to amend is a better idea than relying on custom.

Bibi wants to stay out of jail in the worst way, and he is doing so in the worst way.

*Netanyahu is a clear and present danger to the State of Israel.

Please note that I am not calling him a רוֹדֵף (rodef), literally a pursuer, which would mean that we are required under Halacha (Jewish law) that a רוֹדֵף (rodef) be stopped by any means necessary, including lethal force.

It would be irresponsible for me to call him a רוֹדֵף (rodef). It would be irresponsible for anyone to ANYONE a רוֹדֵף (rodef).

It is an explicit call for the murder of another individual.

Do not call him a רוֹדֵף (rodef). It is wrong to call him a רוֹדֵף (rodef), even if Netanyahu tacitly endorsed such statements against Yitzhak Rabin before his assassination by a religious extremist.

Also calling him עֲמָלֵק (Amalek) is right out.

You know, Mandy Rice-Davies, the Profumo Affair? Seriously, learn your history.

23 July 2023

I Got Push Polled On Friday

My phone rings, and they ask me to respond to a poll about the primary race to replace retiring US Senator Ben Cardin.

It started with a listing of all three candidates, Prince George's County executive Angela Alsobrooks, Montgomery County councilman Will Jawando, and US Congressman David Trone.

After quickly dismissing Alsobrooks and Jawando, the poll went on to suggest that David Trone, because he was a successful businessman (strike 1) who has extensively self funded his campaign, (Foul tip) and who worked across the aisle (strike 2).

I ended up looking at Trone's Wiki page while on the line, and found that he was a member of the New Democrat Coalition, the caucus dedicated to protecting billionaires and Wall Street. (Strike 3)

I told the pollster that, and when she asked at the end if I was a liberal, a progressive, or a moderate, I replied, "Socialist."

As to my assessment of the candidates in order of decreasing preference:

  • Angela Alsobrooks: Best of a scurvy lot.  Seems decent enough, but she is the former I hate voting for former prosecutors, and she was former PG County states attorney.
  • Will Jawando: Former Obama administration member (Strike 1), who, "Served in the Obama White House as associate director of the Office of Public Engagement and for the Education Department as deputy director for strategic partnerships." (Strike 2)  Working for Obama's charter school crazy Department of Education is NOT a good thing.
  • David Trone:  A corporate sellout and a squish. 

Just in case you are wondering, I am not considering Jerome Segal, who seems closest to me politically, but he's a protest candidate.  He's the founder of the Socialist "Bread and Roses" party.

It's more important to keep Trone out than to vote for Segal.

Interesting Tech

It turns that animals, including to a lesser extent humans, don't use all of the sensors at the back of the eye.

Specifically, the rods or cones, or whatever insects in their eyes will only send a signal when there is a change in brightens, which is why dragonflies, who have a tiny brain, and even smaller eyes, do so well at catching mosquitos.

People are developing neuromorphic cameras to maximize performance with a smaller number of light sensors in a camera. (Paid subscription required)

The idea is to put a tiny amount of intelligence in each pixel which then only send data upon a change:

When a dragonfly hunts a mosquito, it does not chase the insect; the four-winged arthropod calculates where the bloodsucker is going and intercepts it. Dragonflies have a catch rate of more than 95%—one of the highest in the animal kingdom.

“It does that with a tiny brain, terrible visual system and a microwatt of power,” says Gregory Cohen, deputy director of the International Center for Neuromorphic Systems at Western Sydney University (WSU) in Australia. “That’s a problem we really struggled to deal with using full supercomputers, graphics processing units and all this stuff we have right now. So clearly the dragonfly is doing it the easy way.”

Dragonflies and other living organisms, including humans, are the inspiration for the U.S. Air Force Research Laboratory’s (AFRL) Falcon Neuro, a pair of experimental neuromorphic cameras that have been flying mounted on the outside of the International Space Station (ISS) since 2022. The laboratory calls the mission the first demonstration of neuromorphic cameras in space.

Whereas a conventional video camera continuously records video using all its pixels, a neuromorphic camera—also known as an event camera—records data only from pixels that sense a change in light. The method echoes how human eyes transmit more signals to the brain in response to changes but fewer for static scenery.


Falcon Neuro’s cameras are based on Inivation’s Davis 240C, customized by WSU and controlled by electronics developed by U.S. Air Force Academy cadets. From its perch on the ISS, the neuromorphic cameras’ primary mission has been recording lightning and sprites streaking across the planet’s atmosphere.

“If you happen to have a normal camera that takes frames, you have to be really lucky to catch [a photo of lightning],” Cohen says. “Our camera sensor can be really fast, [with] really low power and a really low data rate.”

The Falcon Neuro camera captures events that occur in fractions of a second, such as a lightning flash, across relatively long periods of time.

“Exactly how fast you can render the data depends on how much contrast there is between the target and the background,” says Matthew McHarg, principal investigator for Falcon Neuro and director of the Air Force Academy’s Space Physics and Atmospheric Research Center. “Lightning has a lot of contrast, allowing Neuro to render at 1,000 [frames per second].”

A comparable high-speed camera might capture only seconds of footage before running out of memory and could cost hundreds of thousands of dollars, Cohen says. “You get the benefit of a high-speed camera without all the costs,” he explains.

 This is a fascinating, and very low cost, application of parallelism to get results.

Tweet of the Day

There is a whole portrait of Dorian Gray thing going on with Tony Blair. His corruption is written all over his face.

It should be noted Peter Hitchens is a conservative prat, and he issued this bon mot to suggest that Keir Starmer is some sort of secret radical leftist, but it's still amusing.

‘Gollum’ Tony is no moderate

Last week the Blair creature emerged from wherever he dwells to sit alongside another leathery old Marxoid, the current Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer.

Amazingly, people still think of Blair, who has done so much to ruin a prosperous and happy country, as a ‘moderate’.

They make the same mistake about Sir Keir, a veteran ultra-radical. The resulting interaction was about as much fun as gallstones or reflux.

WITHERED: Tony Blair speaking at the Future for Britain conference last week. Right: Gollum in Lord Of The Rings

But what struck me was how Blair is starting to look like Gollum in The Lord Of The Rings, consumed and withered by his embrace of war in Iraq, and the great tidal wave of evil released by it.

By the way, his invasion of Iraq genuinely was unprovoked, which Russia’s invasion of Ukraine was not. Why is it never referred to as such?

I think that he is being unfair to Sméagol, who wasn't always evil.

22 July 2023

From the Department of About F%$#ing Time

The Federal Trade Commission is rescinding its previous statements supporting Pharmacy Benefit Managers. (PBM)

This has the effect of ending implied regulatory threats against state legislation trying to regulate these parasites.

Given that PBMs have proven to be rent seeking gate keepers accumulating vast quantities of money through opaque decision, the only question is, "What took them so long?"

The FTC on Thursday plans to walk back years of advocacy in support of the entities that manage prescription drug coverage—support that analysts say has helped fuel the growth and market integration the agency is now investigating.

The agenda for the Democratic-controlled Federal Trade Commission’s open meeting includes voting on a statement that would withdraw prior advocacy statements against state legislation aimed at boosting transparency, as well as studies related to pharmacy benefit managers that the FTC said “no longer reflect current market realities.”

The agency declined to provide specifics on the statement ahead of the meeting but said the vote is a direct response “to PBMs’ continued reliance on older FTC advocacy materials that opposed mandatory PBM transparency and disclosure requirements.”


“The fundamental effect of these comments” against state PBM bills “was basically to put the PBMs in a regulatory free zone, fundamentally like giving Tony Soprano a ‘Get Out of Jail Free’ card,” said David Balto, an antitrust attorney who served as assistant director of policy and evaluation at the FTC from 1997 to 2001.

“Now that it’s becoming crystal clear that federal regulation is essential, it is necessary to abandon past advocacy,” added Balto, who will be testifying at the FTC open meeting.

Independent pharmacies and pharmaceutical manufacturers blame PBMs for high prescription drug costs in the US because of the rebates and fees they collect. But PBMs argue that they work to deliver discounts to patients, and that manufacturer list prices and use of patents that limit competition are responsible for driving up prices.

Clearly this is not an either/or thing.

Evergreening, which is a misuse of IP protections, along with a staunch refusal to use Dole-Bayh march in rules both need to be addressed as well.

Just because there is more than one source for the problem is not a reason to try to address other sources individually.

Here is the official FTC statement.

Hello, SyFy? I Have a Treatment for You

It appears that sharks may be binging on cocaine dumped off the Florida coast.

So, how do I get an option to write the script?

Move over, Cocaine Bear. Here come cocaine sharks.

In what could be the plotline for the next cheesy marine-themed disaster movie, scientists think crazed and hungry sharks could be feasting on bales of hallucinatory drugs dumped off the Florida coast.

Yet while Cocaine Sharks – a highlight of Discovery’s upcoming Shark Week – does indeed examine if the ocean predators are chomping on floating pharmaceuticals cast overboard by passing traffickers, marine scientists who made the TV program say its purpose is beyond gratuitous entertainment.

Cocaine Sharks is expected to be among the biggest draws of Shark Week, the Discovery network’s popular annual showcase of the species from great whites, hammerheads and tiger sharks down to the smallest varieties.

In their research, conducted during six days at sea in the Florida Keys, the ecologically sensitive island chain off the state’s southern tip, Fanara and British marine biologist Tom Hird observed sharks exhibiting peculiar behaviors.


They also conducted experiments, including dropping dummy bales in the water, which many of the sharks took bites out of, and loading balls of bait with highly concentrated fish powder to simulate cocaine.

OK, that is going to look weird on a resume.

The effect, the researchers said, was akin to catnip on felines. “It’s the next best thing [and] set their brains aflame. It was crazy,” Hird says on the show.

I have cats, and I give them catnip every Saturday, I call it their Shabbos Schnaps.

I am not officially terrified.


“At the end of every research publication you read ‘more research must be done’, and that’s definitely the conclusion from this,” she said, noting previous in-depth studies of polluted inland waterways suggesting fish had become addicted to methamphetamine.

Not so terrifed about sharks on meth.  It makes your teeth fall out.

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

21 July 2023

This is Unexpected

It turns out that in early polling, a 3rd party candidate takes more votes from Trump than Biden in a potential race.

There are lot of people who don't want to vote for Trump, but will never, EVER, pull the lever for a Democrat.

These folks are, of course, the swing voters that the incompetent and corrupt Democratic Party establishment (There is no Democratic Party establishment) want candidates to aggressively pursue, because they generate lucrative commissions on the media buys.

Voters are more interested in another Joe Biden administration than any third-party option or Donald Trump in 2024, according to polling data from Monmouth University.

In another Biden vs. Trump election, a combined 47% of voters say they would definitely or probably vote for President Biden and 40% of voters would definitely or probably vote for ex-President Trump. But majorities would not vote for either Biden or Trump, the poll found.

The electorate is seemingly disheartened with these two choices, but they’re not exactly enticed by a third-party option, either.

Biden still had more support than Trump, even when a third-party “fusion ticket” with one Democrat and one Republican was added to the mix, Monmouth found.

With a fusion ticket as an option, 37% of respondents would definitely or probably vote for Biden whereas 28% would definitely or probably vote for Trump. Thirty percent of respondents would entertain voting for the fusion ticket.

So, Biden loses 10% to a 3rd party candidate, and Trump loses 12%.

Obviously preliminary, but it provides Biden with an opportunity to tell Joe Manchin, and No Labels, to kiss his ass.

He should indulge his "Dark Brandon" side, and do this.


Laila Medina, the Advocate General for the European Court of Justice has issued an opinion that harmonized technical standards should not be subject to copyright protections.

Given that observing these standards is required by EU law, it seems to me that allowing a company, even a non-profit, to act as a gatekeeper is a bad thing. (We have a similar situation in the United States, where standards such as the NFPA are hundreds, or thousands, of dollars for a set.

One of the most pernicious ideas that copyright maximalism has spread is that preventing people from freely accessing creative material is not just a good thing to do, but should be the natural state of affairs. This has made questioning whether copyright is really the best way to support artists and promote creativity hard. Against that background, there’s an interesting opinion from one of the top EU court’s special advisers, known as advocates general, suggesting a situation in which copyright definitely should not be applied. The Court of Justice of the European Union’s press release explains the background:
Public.Resource.Org Inc. and Right to Know CLG are two non-profit organisations whose focus is to make the law freely accessible to all citizens. The organisations had challenged before the [EU] General Court a Commission Decision refusing to grant them access to four harmonised technical standards (HTS) adopted by the European Committee for Standardisation (CEN) with respect to the safety of toys in particular. As their challenge was unsuccessful, they appealed the General Court judgment before the Court of Justice.

In today’s Opinion, Advocate General Laila Medina looks into the question whether the rule of law as well as the principle of transparency and the right of access to documents of EU institutions require that HTS are freely available without charge.
The conclusion reached by Advocate General Laila Medina is straightforward:
for the purposes of EU law in general and for the access to EU law in particular, and, given HTS indispensable role in the implementation of EU secondary legislation and their legal effects, they should, in principle, not benefit from copyright protection.
even if HTS could be protected by copyright, free access to the law has priority over copyright protection.
The basic idea is simple: people can’t be expected to follow a law (or technical standard) if they don’t have ready access to it. Copyright is a barrier to access, and therefore should not be allowed for harmonized technical standards (HTS), just as it is not permitted for EU laws. And even if for some reason HTS were subject to copyright, free access must be granted anyway, blunting its negative impact.
This is only an advisory opinion, but it is a good one.

School Is Not a Healthy Place

A another public health study shows that school lockdowns reduced suicides, suicide attempts, and mental health ER visits. (I mentioned another study in December.)

Of note, this study observes that, "The present results support previous work suggesting that during adolescence, females may be at greater risk for suicidality than males, while males are more likely to die by suicide."

The authors say that bullying is the likely cause, which explains why suicidality is so much common among women.  High school is a petri dish for sexual harassment.

I cannot speak to what is going through the mind of teenage girls, but I can say what went through the mind of this formerly teenage boy, no blood going to the brain, it was otherwise occupied.

School needs to do a better job of protecting students from each other.


The presence of seasonal patterns and the observed unexpected decrease in suicidality among children and adolescents after the spring 2020 COVID-19–related school closures highlight the potential association between suicidality and the school calendar. Prevention efforts can benefit by targeting periods of heightened risk.

Elections Have Consequences

The White House is looking to raise the royalty rates on fossil fuel extraction on government lands for the first time since the 1920s.

I'd prefer that they be banned, but this is a good start:.

The Biden administration on Thursday proposed a rule that would raise the royalties that fossil fuel companies pay to pull oil, gas and coal from public lands for the first time since 1920, while increasing more than tenfold the cost of the bonds that companies must pay before they start drilling.

The Interior Department estimated that the new rule, which would also raise various other rates and fees for drilling on public lands, would increase costs for fossil fuel companies by about $1.8 billion between now and 2031. After that, rates could increase again.

About half of that money would go to states, approximately a third would be used to fund water projects in the West, and the rest would be split between the Treasury Department and Interior.


Some of the changes were mandated by the 2022 Inflation Reduction Act, which directs the Interior Department to increase the royalty rates paid by companies that drill on public lands to 16.67 percent from 12.5 percent, and to increase the minimum bid at auctions for drilling leases to $10 per acre from $2 per acre, among other provisions. The 12.5 percent royalty rates have been in place since 1920.


But the Interior Department’s new rule would go even further than Congress required: It would dramatically raise the cost of the bonds that companies must guarantee to pay to the federal government before drilling on public lands, which has not increased since 1960. The department wants to use those funds to remediate damage left by abandoned uncapped oil and gas wells, so that the cost is borne by companies rather than taxpayers.

The Biden administration has been too friendly to resource extraction interests in general, and energy companies in particular, but this is a welcome change.

It also has the advantage of being a big f%$# you to corrupt faux Democrat Joe Manchin.

More Junk Criminal Science

The newly renamed Maryland Supreme Court has ruled that ruled that ballistics evidence is basically junk science.

They ruled that a so-called ballistics expert can rule a bullet of shell casing out, but not in, because they are wrong between 30% and 50% of the time. (Not much better than a coin flip)

In Maryland, firearms experts will no longer be allowed to testify that a specific gun fired a specific bullet, the state’s highest court ruled in an opinion published Tuesday.

Authored by Chief Justice Matthew J. Fader of the Supreme Court of Maryland, the opinion imposes limits in the courtroom on the practice known as firearm “tool mark” analysis. The forensic technique postulates that machines used to make guns leave tiny imperfections on their components, and that those components imprint unique marks on ammunition — composed of softer metal — when fired.

Until now, it was commonplace for firearms examiners — usually employed in police crime labs — to testify that a gun recovered by law enforcement fired bullets or used casings found at a crime scene, if they believed that to be true based on their observations under a microscope.

But four of seven justices on the state Supreme Court found that the scientific methodology is not reliable enough to allow examiners to testify that a particular gun fired a particular bullet. Examiners can, however, testify “that patterns and markings on bullets are consistent or inconsistent with those on bullets fired from a particular known firearm,” the opinion said.


With the opinion, Maryland becomes one of the nation’s first jurisdictions where an appellate court has recognized shortcomings in the forensic practice and imposed limits on its use in court.

Maneka Sinha, an associate professor at the University of Maryland Francis King Carey School of Law who studies forensic sciences, said the justices “came to the conclusion that scientists, academics and others seriously studying the discipline already have: that conclusions claiming they can say a specific gun fired a specific item of ammunition are simply unreliable.”

As to the studies, when said studies are not run by the the Association of Firearm and Tool Mark Examiners (ATFE), the result are unreliable:


Leading off its criticism of assuming ballistics evidence is good evidence, the court cites a 2009 report by the National Research Council (NRC) of the National Academies of Science. That report said the standards created by the Association of Firearm and Tool Mark Examiners (ATFE) were faulty because so much of what was assumed to be scientifically sound was little more than examiners’ subjective interpretations of marks found on bullets.


The government cites studies showing minuscule error rates by ATFE examiners, with one study showing a near-zero rate of false positives. But the court says these were tests controlled by the ATFE where examiners knew they were being tested and every test set included a test bullet fired by the test gun.

In “black box” studies (only two appear to meet this description), ATFE examiners fared much worse. Test sets did not always contain a match. Examiners didn’t know they were being tested. In those tests, the error rate was exponentially higher: more than a third of the matches were declared “inconclusive.” In the other test, positive results (i.e., supposed matches) varied as much as 15% between sets of examiners. Negative results (non-matches) varied nearly as much: 13-14% between sets of examiners over two rounds of testing.

Is being right 74-80% of the time the evidentiary standard in the US criminal justice system? Obviously, it shouldn’t be. But it has been because examiners routinely overstated the confidence of their findings and the US court system basically never bothered to wonder if the experts might be wrong.

There was a similar case to this a few years ago about fingerprints.  There is no consensus on the numbers of points of similarity.

If there is a field of study where tests should be double blind in all instances, it is forensic science.

The incentives are for getting convictions, not getting it right.


20 July 2023

It's Thursday

And initial unemployment claims fell again, though continuing claims rose:

US applications for unemployment benefits fell last week to the lowest level in two months, suggesting resilient demand for workers amid a moderation in job gains.

Initial jobless claims fell by 9,000 to 228,000 in the week ended July 15, according to Labor Department data published Thursday. The median estimate in a Bloomberg survey of economists called for 240,000 new claims.

Continuing claims, which count those who have received unemployment benefits for more than one week, rose by 33,000 to 1.75 million in the week through July 8. That marked the largest increase in more than three months.

So you have the numbers, but it really does not share a whole bunch of light on the economic picture. 


Another Day, Another Clarence Thomas Bribe

It's ever reliable Leonard Leo this time, who dropped over a million dollars on a professionally run public relations campaign for the benefit of Clarence Thomas.

Even if  Clarence Thomas is just stupid and not corrupt, Leo is clearly offering considerations with the expectation that it will influence Thomas' decisions.

Jail Leo, and there is no issue of meddling in the business of the court, or jail Thomas, because he is a corrupt piece of crap, or jail them both, because this is incredibly corrupt:

The 25th anniversary of Clarence Thomas’s confirmation to the Supreme Court was approaching — a moment that would draw attention to his accomplishments on the bench but also to the misconduct claims that had nearly derailed his rise. Among the wave of retrospective accounts set to come out that year, 2016, was a star-studded HBO film dramatically recounting Anita Hill’s sexual harassment allegations.

That spring, a flurry of opinion articles defending Thomas and railing against the film appeared in news outlets, penned by a D.C. lawyer who had worked in the George H.W. Bush White House during the confirmation. Websites celebrating Thomas’s career — and attacking his onetime accuser — popped up. And on Twitter, a new account using the name “Justice Thomas Fan Account” began serving up flattering commentary.


It was not apparent at the time, but the rush of favorable content was part of a coordinated and sophisticated public relations campaign to defend and celebrate Thomas, according to a Washington Post examination of public and internal records and interviews with people familiar with the effort. The campaign would stretch on for years and include the creation and promotion of a laudatory film about Thomas, advertising to boost positive content about him during internet searches and publication of a book about his life. It was financed with at least $1.8 million from conservative nonprofit groups steered by the judicial activist Leonard Leo, the examination found.


The public relations campaign shows how he has continued to exert influence in support of right-leaning justices after helping them secure lifetime appointments. It adds to an emerging portrait of Leo as a behind-the-scenes benefactor, defending the justices from public criticism and exalting their jurisprudence while tending to personal matters including private travel and a spouse’s employment.

Leo steered tens of thousands of dollars in consulting payments to Thomas’s wife, Virginia “Ginni” Thomas, in 2012, The Post reported recently. He also arranged a fishing trip to Alaska for Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr. in 2008, a vacation that included a free ride on the private jet of a billionaire businessman who later had interests before the court, ProPublica reported. Those and other revelations about wealthy conservative donors gaining access to justices outside the public eye have brought scrutiny to the court in recent months.

Leonard Leo makes William Magear "Boss" Tweed look like an amateur.

How is this not illegal, and why isn't someone in the DoJ looking for something chargeable.

He Should Have Been Hung on a Flag Pole by His Tongue

The NFL has fined former Washington Football Franchise owner Dan Snyder $60 million for sexual harassment, the ensuing cover up, and defrauding other teams from the proper amount of revenue sharing.

Make no mistake about it, mostly he is being fined from the other owners.

Let me say something on behalf of all the people who were driven away from the team by the shear awfulness of the man, this is not nearly enough.

Let me also say that, "The Washington Commanders," is a stupid f%$#ing name, and should be changed.

Daniel Snyder was fined $60 million, by far the largest penalty ever levied against an N.F.L. team owner, after he was found to have sexually harassed a woman who was both a former cheerleader and a marketing employee for the Washington Commanders.

A league-sponsored investigation released Thursday found credible claims made by Tiffani Johnston, the former team employee, who said that Snyder put his hand on her thigh without her consent at a work dinner in 2005 or 2006, and that he later attempted to push her toward the back seat of his car after the event. According to the report, her account was supported by evidence and contemporaneous witnesses.

The findings were reported by Mary Jo White, a former federal prosecutor and chairwoman of the Securities and Exchange Commission, who spent 17 months looking into allegations of widespread sexual harassment against executives at the team, including Snyder, as well as claims of financial improprieties.

The N.F.L. released White’s report immediately after the 31 other clubs unanimously approved the sale of the Commanders to an investment group led by Josh Harris for $6.05 billion, a record for an American pro sports team.

“The conduct substantiated in Ms. White’s findings has no place in the N.F.L.,” Commissioner Roger Goodell said in a statement. “We strive for workplaces that are safe, respectful and professional. What Ms. Johnston experienced is inappropriate and contrary to the N.F.L.’s values.”

White’s report also substantiated claims made by a former Washington ticket executive, Jason Friedman, who said the team had intentionally shielded and withheld revenues that were intended to be shared among the league’s 32 teams. According to the report, about $11 million in shareable revenues were confirmed to have been improperly withheld.


“Dan Snyder has been forced to sell the team he said he would never sell, pay a massive fine to the N.F.L. and there now exists an extensive public record of his personal wrongdoing and the misconduct that occurred under his leadership,” Lisa Banks and Debra Katz, the lawyers representing more than 40 former Commanders employees who spoke out about workplace misconduct, including Johnston and Friedman, said in a statement. 

In a just world, he's be in the dock for fraud, perjury, and a myriad of other charges.

In an even more just world, he would be taken to the former site of RFK stadium, (I don't blame him for abandoning the District, it was the previous owner, Jack Kent Cooke, who did that) surrounded by disgruntled fans, and I would have the baseball bat concession.