22 May 2017

Why a Turtle Should Not Carry a Scorpion Across the Nile*

Because stinging you to death is in its nature.

Case in point, the City of Pittsburgh's extensive efforts to suck up to Uber:
When Uber picked this former Rust Belt town as the inaugural city for its driverless car experiment, Pittsburgh played the consummate host.

“You can either put up red tape or roll out the red carpet,” Bill Peduto, the mayor of Pittsburgh, said in September. “If you want to be a 21st-century laboratory for technology, you put out the carpet.”

Nine months later, Pittsburgh residents and officials say Uber has not lived up to its end of the bargain. Among Uber’s perceived transgressions: The company began charging for driverless rides that were initially pitched as free. It also withdrew support from Pittsburgh’s application for a $50 million federal grant to revamp transportation. And it has not created the jobs it proposed in a struggling neighborhood that houses its autonomous car testing track.

Blame is being pointed in many directions. While Mr. Peduto had trumpeted his relationship with Uber’s chief executive, Travis Kalanick, he didn’t get any commitments in writing about what the company would provide for Pittsburgh. That became an issue in Pittsburgh’s Democratic mayoral primary this month, with Mr. Peduto’s challengers criticizing his relationship with Uber and one calling the company a “stain” on the city. (Mr. Peduto won the primary.)

“This was an opportunity missed,” said Michael Lamb, Pittsburgh’s city controller, who has called on Uber to share the traffic data gathered by its autonomous vehicles.

The deteriorating relationship between Pittsburgh and Uber offers a cautionary tale, especially as other cities consider rolling out driverless car trials from Uber, Alphabet’s Waymo and others. Towns like Tempe, Ariz., have already emulated Pittsburgh and set themselves up as test areas for self-driving vehicles. Many municipalities see the experiments as an opportunity to remake their urban transportation systems and create a new tech economy.
There are two lessons here:  The first is that if you give public assets to a private business, there will be little if any long term goodwill generated in response, and thesecond lesson is that Uber in general, and Travis Kalanick in particular, are snakes, and they cannot be trusted.

*The folktale of the turtle and the scorpion. Just read it.

In News That Should Surprise No One

Former Trump NSC chair and current Islamophobic nut job Mike Flynn has taken the 5th and will refuse to testify before the Senate:
President Donald Trump’s former national security adviser Michael Flynn has formally invoked his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination in declining a subpoena to appear before a Senate committee.

Flynn’s attorneys cited the constitutional provision in a letter to the Senate Committee on Intelligence in which they declined to provide documents the congressional committee had requested pertaining to his communications with officials of the Russian government.

“Producing documents that fall within the subpoena’s broad scope would be a testimonial act, insofar as it would confirm or deny the existence of such documents,” the lawyers’ letter said, according to a copy obtained by the Associated Press.
Flynn is demanding immunity, despite the fact that in 2016 he publicly stated that a request of immunity was an admission of guilt.



The Supreme Court has finally ruled on the venue shopping by patent trolls:
The US Supreme Court ruled (PDF) today on how to interpret the patent venue laws, and the controversial business of "patent trolling" may never be the same.

In a unanimous decision, the justices held that the US Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit, which handles all patent appeals, has been using the wrong standard to decide where a patent lawsuit can be brought. Today's Supreme Court ruling in TC Heartland v. Kraft Foods enforces a more strict standard for where cases can be filed. It overturns a looser rule that the Federal Circuit has used since 1990.

The ruling may well signal the demise of the Eastern District of Texas as a favorite venue for patent lawsuits, especially those brought by "patent trolls," which have no business outside of licensing and litigating patents.

The TC Heartland case will affect the entire tech sector, but the parties here are battling over patents on "liquid water enhancers" used in flavored drink mixes. TC Heartland, an Indiana-based food company, got sued by Kraft Foods in Delaware, then sought to move the case back to its home turf. Neither the district court judge nor the Federal Circuit would allow such a transfer.


Not a word about "patent trolls" appears in today's 13-page opinion, but it's no secret that do-nothing patent holders were the issue at the heart of the contentious debate over patent venue. Plenty of companies had reason to complain about the Federal Circuit's rule, and they let their concerns be known. A brief (PDF) signed by 48 Internet companies and retailers asked the Supreme Court to uphold the "restrictive patent venue statute" that Congress had approved, and to "stop forum shopping." Trade groups representing bankers, realtors, and big software companies also supported TC Heartland.

The Texas attorney general, joined by 16 other states, filed a brief (PDF) as well, noting the incredible concentration of patent cases in the Eastern District of Texas. The AGs sided with TC Heartland, writing that they "have an interest in protecting their citizens from abusive claims of patent infringement, which businesses and residents confirm are a drag on economic growth."

Finally, the Electronic Frontier Foundation, Public Knowledge (PDF), and Engine Advocacy (PDF) chimed in, complaining that the venue rules had empowered "patent assertion entities" to the detriment of small innovators.
The Eastern District of Texas figures prominently because federal judges have the ability to set their own rules, and the judges in this district are basically the patent trolls bitches.

There are blocks of offices in east Texas that are empty but have tenants.  They are rented by venue shopping trolls.

Putting an end to this is a good first step in ending patent abuse.

What the F%$#

Someone just bombed an Ariana Grande Concert in Manchester:
An explosion that may have been a suicide bombing killed at least 19 people on Monday night and wounded 59 others at an Ariana Grande concert filled with adoring adolescent fans, in what the police were treating as a terrorist attack.

Panic and mayhem seized the crowd at the Manchester Arena as the blast reverberated through the building, just as the show was ending and pink balloons were dropping from the rafters in a signature flourish by Ms. Grande, a 23-year-old American pop star on an international tour.

Traumatized concertgoers, including children separated from parents, screamed and fled in what appeared to be the deadliest episode of terrorism in Britain since the 2005 London transit bombings.

Speaking to reporters early Tuesday, Manchester’s chief constable, Ian Hopkins, said the police learned of the explosion around 10:33 p.m. The wounded were taken to six hospitals, he added.

There was no immediate word from the authorities on the precise cause of the blast, but unconfirmed reports said a suicide bomber might have detonated a nail-filled explosive device.

Intelligence officials in the United States were briefed on the Manchester explosion late Monday and were told that it appeared to be a terrorist attack, according to a senior official who was not authorized to discuss the matter publicly and spoke on the condition of anonymity.

The scene in downtown Manchester immediately evoked the terrorist attacks in Paris in November 2015, which included a deadly assault inside the Bataclan concert hall, where the Eagles of Death Metal had been playing. But unlike the Bataclan show, the Manchester concert was filled with young teenagers.
Why the f%$# would anyone bomb an Ariana Grande concert? (Seriously, no irate music critic jokes right now.  It's too soon.)

OK, This Is the Weirdest Political Development of the Week

Note that I'm not saying that this is the weirdest political development in the UK, nor am I saying that it is the weirdest political development if you excluding Donald Trump.

I am saying that this is the weirdest political development in the world this week.

In the past week or so, Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, who has been seen as a dead man walking, has started to look like he's actually going to give the Tories a run for their money:
It would be a severe overstatement to suggest that things are currently going well for Labour. There’s been a recent upturn in the polls, true, but the party is still lagging a good nine points behind the Tories. It’s only because things were looking so bleak before that a comparatively smaller defeat can be interpreted as some kind of success. On a uniform swing, current polling suggests they’ll lose 12 seats while the Conservatives will gain 16. And even that’s optimistic, as evidence suggests that vote losses have been heavier in crucial marginal constituencies.

Still, when you think about where they were a month ago it’s hard not to be somewhat impressed. This election was supposed to be May’s for the taking. Having insisted there would be no early election, she then changed her mind to boost her majority at a time when Labour seemed at its weakest. Since then, her poll lead has halved. In vote share terms, Labour is currently polling only a percentage point lower than its result in the 2005 election – which was enough to secure a significant majority. The reason the Tories are still so far ahead is because, post-EU referendum, they’ve swallowed up most of the Ukip vote by adopting the nationalist agenda.

The release of the parties’ respective manifestos was a pivotal moment. Even some of Corbyn’s harshest critics felt obliged to admit that, actually, the Labour one contains a lot of good stuff. Promises including free childcare for all two- to four-year-olds, a properly funded NHS, free hospital car parking, one million new homes, a cap on rent hikes, an increase in the carers’ allowance, an end to the 1 per cent public sector pay rise cap, an increase in carers’ allowance, the reintroduction of the education maintenance allowance and free higher education made sure there was plenty to appeal to a broad cross-section of society.

Plans to introduce a “fat-cat” tax on banks and a new 50p income tax band for earnings over £123,000 (but no tax rises for anyone earning under £80,000) allayed fears about how such measures will be funded. The whole document was costed in detail – an essential move for a party particularly vulnerable to accusations of economic incompetence.

In contrast, the Conservative manifesto has gone down like a lead balloon. Entirely uncosted (something the Tories find easier to get away with) and almost all punishment with few positive promises to sweeten the deal. Though the largest swing seems to have been amongst 25-49s, who are now 15 per cent more likely to say they’re planning to vote Labour than they were previously, the policy that has attracted most negative attention primarily affects the elderly. The so-called “dementia tax” is basically a levy on inheritance that only affects people unlucky enough to need social care. Critics on the left have pointed out that the policy may deter people for seeking the help they need because they worried about being to leave something for their children. There’s also a strong risk it will encourage suicide.

The backlash was so strong that May was forced into an embarrassing U-turn, but her attempted “clarification” left voters with more questions than it answered. It seems she’s still planning to go ahead with the “dementia cap” but will introduce a cap on the total amount that can be taken. Of course, this only helps the richest who’ve got more than can be taken. Comparatively less wealthy dementia sufferers will be hit just as hard.
Some translation here:  What the Britons call a "Manifesto", we in the States call a platform, and what they call, "Social care," is what we would call "Assisted living".

So, round the clock care for cancer monitoring is covered, but the same (probably less expensive) care for Alzheimers would not be covered.

This has been damaging to the Tories for a number of reasons:

  • Many of the proposals in the Tory manifesto show a sort of radicalism that runs counter to British political culture.
  • Theresa May is showing herself to be a bit of a social sadist.  (A true daughter of Thatcher)
  • May's "U-turn" is transparent weaseling, which makes her appear weak. 
I still think that Labour's chances of winning an election are somewhere near that of the Minnesota Vikings winning a Super Bowl, but they may significantly outperform expectations.

Stupidest Meme of the Year

It was funny the first half a dozen times, but this, "One orb to rule them all," crap needs to stop:
A startling photograph of Donald Trump, the Egyptian president and Saudi king placing their hands on a glowing orb at a summit in Riyadh has prompted comparisons between the US president and villains from comic books and film.
Trump vows to meet 'history's great test' by conquering extremism
Read more

Trump, King Salman bin Abdulaziz and Abdel Fatah al-Sisi were pictured standing with their hands on the miniature globe at the opening event for the new Global Centre for Combating Extremist Ideology on Sunday. The US president is in the Gulf kingdom on his first state tour.
By the power of Grayskull, this got old fast.


This could be good, or it could be awful, or it could be uneven and spotty.

Given that this is from the mind of Seth McFarlane, my money is on the final option, though I am going to try and catch the first episode, because it is directed by Jon Faveau .

21 May 2017

Not Enough Bullets

The headline says it all:

Hedge Fund-Backed Pharma Company That Fed Opioid Crisis Now Seeks to Profit from Treating It:

If you get caught selling cannabis at college, you can lose your scholarship and access to financial aid. But if your company is caught bribing doctors to sell the deadly opioid fentanyl, you can get a building named after you.

Insys Therapeutics, a pharmaceutical company backed by the hedge funds Orbimed Advisors and Scopia Capital, has had its CEO and five other executives charged with conspiring to bribe doctors to prescribe the opioid fentanyl. Insys is now seeking to profit from treating the opioid epidemic that it helped to exacerbate by selling drugs to treat addiction and reverse overdoses.

In December 2016, six executives at Insys Therapeutics, including former CEO Michael Babich, were arrested and charged with paying off doctors to prescribe Subsys, an oral spray form of fentanyl, a powerful opioid that is many times more potent than morphine or heroin. The arrests came amid investigations by several states and the federal government as well as inquiries from Congress and a shareholder lawsuit.

Investigations began in 2014 after doctors who were paid tens of thousands of dollars in speaking fees by Insys were arrested for improperly prescribing Subsys. The New York Times reported that, though Subsys was only approved for breakthrough cancer pain, only around one percent of prescriptions for Subsys were made by oncologists. Half of the prescriptions for Subsys were written by pain specialists, with the rest coming from “general practice physicians, neurologists and even dentists and podiatrists.”
One of the things that most of the coverage of the opioid crisis (actually, the crisis has been around for a while, it just did not get ink until white folks started dying) is that it has been driven by aggressive and unethical marketing of pharmaceutical firms.

These folks need to spend the rest of their lives in jail.

Well, They Would Say That, Wouldn't They?*

Boeing is suggesting that the US Navy would be better served by evolving the existing F/A-18 rather than spending two decades to develop another hyper-expensive stealth fighter. (paid subscription required)

Boeing is making a statement in own interest. It sells the F-18.

Boeing also happens to be right in this case: Development programs that are egregiously expensive and span decades do not produce weapons that work properly.

Either they perform poorly, or they are too expensive to deploy in the numbers in which they would be needed:
Boeing has cautioned the U.S. Navy against getting locked into another 20-year aircraft development program as it reaches for the F/A-XX, the service’s next carrier warplane.

The company says continuing to evolve the F/A-18E/F Super Hornet through Block 3 beginning in fiscal 2019 and a potential Block 4 follow-on modernization program as a complement to the Lockheed Martin F-35C Lightning II is the most prudent path forward to satisfy an immediate need for greater numbers of strike fighters with advanced capabilities.

Boeing says low-radar-cross-section airframes are useful for the first day of war and flying into denied areas guarded by X-band radars. But the integrated air defense radars of potential adversaries such as Russia and China have moved into different bands of the electromagnetic spectrum, such as C-band and S-band. Buying into a next-generation stealth aircraft development program under F/A-XX might not be the best answer to meet current and future threats, Boeing believes.


“For the Navy, and I think for a lot of countries, don’t lock yourself into a 20-year development cycle and a platform you’re stuck with for X amount of years,” says Larry Burt, a former naval aviator and now Boeing’s director of global sales and marketing for global strike programs. “Don’t make a big revolutionary step. Keep evolving what you’ve got. You could keep evolving the mission systems, sensors and capability of the Super Hornet and maybe eventually put a new wrapper on it.”
With the 2nd most protracted and dysfunctional weapons development program in the world (India's is worse), they are right.

US defense procurement is a racket, with the contractors spreading sub-contractors to the districts of powerful Congressmen, and providing lucrative sinecures to the generals involved in their retirement.

*Yes, this is a reference to Mandy Rice-Davies.

20 May 2017

Remember How It Was Stated That Only the Syrians Could Launch a Chemical Attack?

Not So Much:
US intelligence believes ISIS is bringing together all of its experts on chemical weapons from Iraq and Syria into a new "chemical weapons cell," according to a US official.

The cell is comprised of chemical weapons specialists from Iraq and Syria who have not previously worked together, the official added. The new unit is being set up in an ISIS-controlled area in Syria within the Euphrates River Valley, between Mayadin, Syria and the town of al Qaim, just across the Iraqi border.

That location has sparked a good deal of interest on the part of US military intelligence. One US defense official told CNN that "thousands" of ISIS operatives and sympathizers may be in the area and that ISIS leader Abu Bakr al Baghdadi could also be in hiding somewhere nearby. The area is now considered the "de facto" capital of ISIS, with Raqqa under such military pressure from the coalition and local forces, the official said.

Coalition officials still stress that given its size and status, the capture of Raqqa is still considered to be an important military objective.

It is assessed that ISIS is consolidating its chemical weapons capabilities in order to boost its ability to defend its remaining strongholds.
How does this compare to earlier US claims that ISIS could not have any chemical stockpiles, and that Syria was the only player in the civil war who had the capability to deploy chemical weapons?

We need to stop doing the bidding of the various Persian Gulf potentiates.

All it does is create mayhem, disorder, and suffering.

This Episode of Doctor Who Is Epic

How can you not love an episode with the line, "Do not under any circumstances put the Pope in my bedroom!"

I'll Take Four Shares of the Clinton Dynasty, Please………

Marc Mezvinsky, better known has Chelsea Clinton's husband, has failed upward once again

After an undistinguished career at the Vampire Squid, and then founding a hedge fund that crashed and burned, he has now been hired by Social Capital as its vice chairman:
Social Capital, the Silicon Valley investment firm founded by Chamath Palihapitiya, has hired Marc Mezvinsky as its vice chairman. The hiring of the investment banker and hedge fund founder is part of a wider effort by Social Capital to morph itself well beyond its venture roots.

Currently, Social Capital has been making venture and seed investments, as well as some public ones, and also has a unit devoted to incubating startups. It has also been developing a software-based product-market fit platform called 8-ball, to do the quantitative part of due diligence for possible investments.

But, as part of a longer-term master plan, it has been exploring a wide range of other financial products to support its companies across their life cycle, said Palihapitiya in an interview with Mezvinsky earlier this week.


Mezvinsky will work out of a new office in New York, but will be in Silicon Valley regularly, where there are about 40 employees in Palo Alto. There are also plans to open a unit in London.
So, he's getting a job as "Vice Chairman" and he'll be working from home ……… or something, because of his non-existent business acumen?

Someone is making an investment in political dynasty futures.

You Are F%$#ing Kidding Me!

It appears that Donald Trump has canceled a planned trip to Masada because they won't let his helicopter on the site:
US President Donald Trump reportedly canceled a visit and speech at the historic Masada desert fortress after the Israel Air Force informed him he would not be allowed to land his helicopter at the UNESCO-listed archaeological site.

Trump subsequently removed Masada from his itinerary altogether, rather than taking the cable car to the top of the iconic mountain as had been suggested to him, Channel 2 reported.

He is set to deliver the major address of his Israel trip at Jerusalem’s Israel Museum instead.
He's a f%$#ing orange stained infant.

19 May 2017

Reality is Weird

Have you heard of the The U.S. Cyber Consequences Unit?

Here is their description of themselves:
The U.S. Cyber Consequences Unit (US-CCU) is an independent, non-profit (501c3) research institute. It provides assessments of the strategic and economic consequences of possible cyber-attacks and cyber-assisted physical attacks. It also investigates the likelihood of such attacks and examines the cost-effectiveness of possible counter-measures.

Although the US-CCU aims to provide credible estimates of the costs of ordinary hacker mischief and white collar crime, its primary concern is the sort of larger scale attacks that could be mounted by criminal organizations, terrorist groups, rogue corporations, and nation states.

The mission of the US-CCU is to provide America and its allies with the concepts and information necessary for making sound security decisions in a world where our physical well-being increasingly depends on cyber-security. The reports and briefings the US-CCU produces are supplied without charge to the government, to entire critical infrastructure industries, and to the public.
Do you know what the name of their director is?

It's Scott Borg.


The Muppets perform Bohemian Rhapsody: