31 December 2014

It's New Year's Eve

And I am completely drunk.

Belgian ale and Jack Daniels.


It's Time To Arrest Ultra-Orthodox Jews Who Delay Flights Over Seating

Heredi Jews are delaying flights because they do not want to sit next to women.

To quote the federal law:
“[N]o person may assault, threaten, intimidate, or interfere with a crewmember in the performance of the crewmember’s duties aboard an aircraft being operated.”
This sentiment applies to both Ultra-Orthodox Jews as well as the Talibaptist Christians.

Just throw their asses in gaol.

Deep Thought

I was thinking that the current Doctor, Peter Capaldi, was the oldest doctor, was the oldest actor to play The Doctor, (Do we capitalize the "The"?) and then I realized that John Hurt, at age 73, as [T]the Doctor, albeit a Doctor who never had a bit on the series.

So, is Peter Capaldi the oldest actor to play [T]the Doctor, or is it John Hurt, who played [T}the Doctor who did (or didn't) destroy Gallifrey?

I'm curious here, but I figure that I am stirring up a sh%$ storm, but I am alcohol loading for the new year, so I do not care.

Global Warming is Clearly a Hoax

Looks like the Iditerod

Still l
ooks like the Iditerod

OK, not so much

It appears that they are holding the Iditerod in Arizona
It appears that the Iditarod sled dog race is missing a crucial element, snow:
The Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race is the most popular sporting event in Alaska, and has long been a test of human and animal endurance. Traveling a 1,000-mile path across Arctic tundra from Willow to Nome (with a ceremonial start in Anchorage), mushers and their teams of 16 specially-trained dogs must withstand some of the most extreme winter weather on Earth: blizzards and whiteout conditions, along with freezing temperatures, are commonplace.

The major challenge that mushers had to contend with this year — and that forced many of the more experienced racers out of the event — was not unusual cold and snow. In fact, it was the opposite — a near total lack of snow with ice covering across large stretches of the course. Mushing over snow cover across steep, rugged terrain is difficult enough, but the sleds were not designed for traversing gravel.
I actually saw the opening of the Iditerod in 1968, and the idea that there would be no snow was completely incomprehensible.

In fact, my enduring memory of that day is to walk into a f%$#ing igloo, and thinking how warm it was in there. (There was a sort of a fair at the beginning of the race.)

It was the first time that I was on a (pretty lame, actually) roller coaster.

The two things that I remember are the roller coaster and the start of the Iditerod.

H/t DC at the Stellar Parthenon BBS.

30 December 2014

As if Christie and Cuomo Could not Get any Slimier………

They both just vetoed reform of the Port Authority which had been passed unanimously by both legislatures.

It appears that they want to retain their patronage prerogatives:
In a joint press release on Saturday night, Governors Andrew Cuomo and Chris Christie unveiled their long-awaited plan for reforming the Port Authority, while at the same time vetoing a Port-reform bill passed unanimously by both the New York and New Jersey state legislatures.

In separate letters sent to the legislatures in their respective states, Cuomo and Christie said that the program recommended by their "Special Panel on the Future of the Port Authority" was superior to the one they passed.

"The governance structure and other accountability measures recommended by the Special Panel will do a better job of improving accountability," wrote Cuomo.

The governors also agreed to sign a separate bill that would make the bistate authority subject to the states' freedom of information laws.


The bills the governors vetoed would have subjected the Port to standards already imposed on other New York State authorities earlier this century.

More precisely, it would have required the Port Authority’s commissioners to certify in writing that their loyalty is to the authority (versus the governors who appointed them). It would have mandated that the authority write up policies for disposal and acquisition of authority property, establish a whistleblower program, require staff to report suspicions of fraud and corruption to the agency’s inspector general, require all commissioners to file annual financial disclosure statements, and more.
This stuff is governance 101, but they want to put their cronies in unaccountable positions of authority so that they can maintain patronage empires.

The Trade Deals Being Negotiated Just Got Worse

In addition to the TPP and the TTIP, we now have the Trade In Services Agreement (TiSA), which looks to vitiate national privacy, net neutrality, and consumer protections:
The US is attempting to secure immunity from investigation for online security breaches by major US companies under negotiations between Washington and Brussels, according to leaked documents seen by the Guardian.

Such a deal would prevent US companies that were operating inside the EU from being prosecuted by regulators or law officers for data breaches or claims of negligence in the host country, forcing European governments to pursue cases in the US courts.

Public service unions said the Trade in Services Agreement (Tisa) talks in Geneva revealed how the US planned to protect homegrown businesses from regulations that might hinder their expansion into sensitive areas such as government data handling and healthcare.

Rosa Pavanelli, general secretary of Public Services International (PSI), which represents 650 unions in 150 countries, said the leaked documents, obtained by the Associated Whistleblowing Press, confirmed her fears that “Tisa is being used to further the interests of some of the largest corporations on earth”.

She said: “It is now clear the US wants to use its trade agenda to remove restrictions to data being held or processed in other countries.”

The Association of Whistleblowing Press link is here, and an earlier Wikileaks leak is here.

Here is nickel tour of what it all means:
  • Corporations to move any possibility liability to the most weakly regulated venue (“No Party may prevent a service supplier of another Party from transferring, accessing, processing or storing information, including personal information, within or outside the Party's territory, where such activity is carried out in connection with the conduct of the service supplier's business.”)
  • It has a broad carve-out for  national security that is a censor's wet dream (“Nothing in [Articles X.1 - X.6] shall be construed to prevent any Party from taking any action which it considers necessary for the protection of its own essential security interests.”)
  • It would prohibit meaningful net neutrality regulation (“Each Party recognizes that consumers in its territory, subject to applicable laws, and regulations, should be able to: (a) access and use services and applications of their choice available on the Internet, subject to reasonable network management;”)
(emphasis mine)

The cynic in me understands why Obama came out in front of net neutrality regulation:  Once TiSA goes through, any FCC ruling is moot.

He gets to play at consumer protection while taking it all away with a fast track vote on the treaty.

Reviewing Stories Over the Past Year, This One Wins the Award for Best "A Good Start"

I did not notice this story when the Global Post published it in April, but when they republished the fact that Vietnam is executing corrupt bankers, I felt kind of jealous:
Editor's note: This story was first published on April 3, 2014. GlobalPost is featuring it again as one of our must-reads of 2014.

BANGKOK — For the most part, American bankers whose rash pursuit of profit brought on the 2008 global financial collapse didn’t get indicted. They got bonuses.
Odds are that scandal would have played out differently in Vietnam, another nation struggling with misbehaving bankers.

The authoritarian Southeast Asian state doesn’t just send unscrupulous financiers to jail. Sometimes, it sends them to death row.

Amid a sweeping cleanup of its financial sector, Vietnam has sentenced three bankers to death in the past six months.

One duo now on death row embezzled roughly $25 million from the state-owned Vietnam Agribank. Their co-conspirators caught decade-plus prison sentences.
 I do not approve of capital punishment, but this whole "Decades-plus prison sentence" thing?  That I wholeheartedly approve.

Dudes! Haven't You Heard of the Streisand Effect?!?!?!*

A 22-year old geek figured out a way to find some cheap airfares, and he set up a website, Skiplagged, which applies the algorithm.

What's more, his site is free to the public.

Well, Orbitz and United Airlines decided that they had to go medieval on his ass, and roll out the lawyers, and so his site is now getting mainstream coverage, fom places like Fortune Magazine:
United Airlines and Orbitz have teamed up to file suit against a 22-year-old entrepreneur whose airline ticketing startup, Skiplagged, operates according to a thrifty booking ploy known as ‘hidden city’ ticketing.

This means that passengers purchase tickets for indirect flights with the intention to disembark at their layover destinations. Say you want to fly from New York to Chicago, for instance: it could be cheaper to take an indirect flight to Los Angeles and then get off at the Chicago layover.

While hidden city ticketing only works when travelers purchase one-way tickets without any checked baggage, notes CNN, this often represents the cheapest option.
 Yeah, CNN covered it too.

I was unaware of this technique, but I have now bookmarked the site, and I imagine that some of you will too.

Orbitz, United Airlines Sue 22-Year...

*Wherein an attempt to suppress information has the unintended effect of publicizing that information. (Link)

29 December 2014

This Isn't a Scandal, It's a Bullet Point on a Republican Political Resume

It turns out that the new House Majority Whip in the Congress spoke to David Duke's white supremacist group in 2002:
Representative Steve Scalise of Louisiana, the No. 3 Republican in the House, addressed a group of white supremacists and neo-Nazis in 2002, a Scalise spokeswoman confirmed Monday as his party prepared to take control of both chambers of Congress.

Mr. Scalise made his remarks to the European-American Unity and Rights Organization, which was founded two years earlier by David Duke, the former Ku Klux Klan leader and Louisiana politician. Mr. Scalise was a Louisiana state legislator at the time.

The Southern Poverty Law Center has described the organization — which uses EURO as an acronym — as a hate group, while noting that in recent years it has “accomplished little” and serves “primarily as a vehicle to publicize Duke’s writing and sell his books.”

Moira Bagley Smith, a Scalise spokeswoman, said the congressman “has never been affiliated with the abhorrent group in question.”

Why are you dissing your base?

Seriously, David Duke in 2002?  How could you not know who you were talking to.

Then again, the Republican party is far less inclusive than it was in 2002, when Trent Lott was bounced as Senate Majority leader for endorsing Strom Thrumond's 1948 segregationist bid for the White House.

Pass the Popcorn

The Greek Parliament failed to elect a new President, which means that snap elections need to be held, and it looks like the left leaning Syriza Party, which has been dismissive of the "stay in the Euro zone at all costs" of the mainstream parties looks likely to win:
Greece will hold early national elections on Jan. 25, stoking concerns over the future of the country's financial bailout, after lawmakers failed to elect a new president in a third and final round of voting Monday.

The conservative-led coalition government's candidate for the presidential post, 73-year-old former European commissioner Stavros Dimas, garnered 168 votes from parliament's 300 seats — short of the 180 votes needed to win.

According to the country's constitution, parliament must now be dissolved within 10 days. Prime Minister Antonis Samaras said national elections will be held "at the soonest possible date" — Sunday, Jan. 25.


Investors are worried that the main left-wing main opposition Syriza, which is consistently ahead in opinion polls, might try to renege on the terms of the bailout deal that is keeping the country afloat.

Syriza has pledged to roll back some of the reforms the country has implemented in order to qualify for billions of euros in rescue funds from other eurozone countries and the International Monetary Fund — although it has recently somewhat softened its rhetoric about unilaterally pulling out of the bailout deal.
Seeing as how the "bailout deal" has Greeks chopping down their forests to stay warm in the winter, massive unemployment, and hospitals without necessary equipment or drugs in order to repay German and French bankers, I understand why the Syriza party is a bit skeptical that this is in their best interests.

BTW, the IMF is already trying to influence the election:
The International Monetary Fund announced Monday that it would suspend the disbursement of financial aid to Greece until a new government takes power following next month’s elections.

In a communique, IMF spokesman Gerry Rice said that talks with Greek authorities over the international financial bailout would be resumed as soon as a new government is chosen after parliamentary polls are held in late January or early February.

The announcement came shortly after the sharply divided Greek parliament once again failed to elect a consensus candidate to occupy the largely ceremonial office of the presidency, making the legislative elections originally set for 2016 inevitable.
Tell me that this is not a flat out threat from the so-called "technocrats" at the IMF.

If Syriza were smart, they would promise an aggressive program of going after the big name tax evaders and soaking the rich.

Technically, it would fit the requirements of the bailout, and it could very allow for sanctions against the foreign banks who have facilitated the hiding of assets.

A few bounties to people who leak bank data, and some snatch and grabs of particularly egregious offenders among the Greek upper class by the national constabulary, and they would be well on their way to solvency.

I Have a Very Strange Son

I have been watching the Dr. Who marathon on BBC America, and this evening, I had an epiphany.

Since I was at home, I shared it with Charlie.

I would have shared it with Natalie at the same time, but seeing as how she is in Hawaii, she will have to read it on Facebook.

My epiphany was that the toys in the Pixar film Toy Story are weeping angels. (See picture the picture with the doctor, I am not the first to come up with this idea.)

Whenever someone looks at Sheriff Woody or Buzz Lightyear they are inanimate, but when unobserved, they move on their own.

They, and Mr. Potato Head, are weeping angels.

I mentioned it to Charlie, and he suffered a bit of a meltdown, and he strongly implied that I had ruined his childhood.

About a half hour later, I talked to him again, and he gave me a high-five.

He told me that after some reflection, he realized that my brief moment of insight actually improved his memories of the whole Toy Story series.


FWIW, he's getting into Dr. Who, though he is still first and foremost a Brony.

In particular, he likes the degree to which the show adheres to the Novikov self-consistency principle, and so does not  create paradoxes.

28 December 2014

Black Cops Fear the Cops Too………

You would think that if there was a group of minorities who would know how to behave toward the police, it would be black cops, but they fear encountering the police as well:
From the dingy donut shops of Manhattan to the cloistered police watering holes in Brooklyn, a number of black NYPD officers say they have experienced the same racial profiling that cost Eric Garner his life.


"It makes good headlines to say this is occurring, but I don’t think you can validate it until you look into the circumstances they were stopped in," said Bernard Parks, the former chief of the Los Angeles Police Department, who is African American.

"Now if you want to get into the essence of why certain groups are stopped more than others, then you only need to go to the crime reports and see which ethnic groups are listed more as suspects. That’s the crime data the officers are living with."

Blacks made up 73 percent of the shooting perpetrators in New York in 2011 and were 23 percent of the population.

A number of academics believe those statistics are potentially skewed because police over-focus on black communities, while ignoring crime in other areas. They also note that being stopped as a suspect does not automatically equate to criminality. Nearly 90 percent of blacks stopped by the NYPD, for example, are found not to be engaged in any crime.

The black officers interviewed said they had been racially profiled by white officers exclusively, and about one third said they made some form of complaint to a supervisor.

All but one said their supervisors either dismissed the complaints or retaliated against them by denying them overtime, choice assignments, or promotions. The remaining officers who made no complaints said they refrained from doing so either because they feared retribution or because they saw racial profiling as part of the system.

In declining to comment to Reuters, the NYPD did not respond to a specific request for data showing the racial breakdown of officers who made complaints and how such cases were handled.


“There’s no real outlet to report the abuse,” said Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams, a former NYPD captain who said he was stigmatized and retaliated against throughout his 22-year career for speaking out against racial profiling and police brutality.

Officers make complaints to the NYPD’s investigative arm, the Internal Affairs Bureau, only to later have their identities leaked, said Adams.

One of the better-known cases of alleged racial profiling of a black policeman concerns Harold Thomas, a decorated detective who retired this year after 30 years of service, including in New York's elite Joint Terrorism Task Force.

Shortly before 1 a.m. one night in August 2012, Thomas was leaving a birthday party at a trendy New York nightclub.

Wearing flashy jewelry, green sweatpants and a white t-shirt, Thomas walked toward his brand-new white Escalade when two white police officers approached him. What happened next is in dispute, but an altercation ensued, culminating in Thomas getting his head smashed against the hood of his car and then spun to the ground and put in handcuffs.

“If I was white, it wouldn’t have happened,” said Thomas, who has filed a lawsuit against the city over the incident. The New York City Corporation Counsel said it could not comment on pending litigation.

At an ale house in Williamsburg, Brooklyn last week, a group of black police officers from across the city gathered for the beer and chicken wing special. They discussed how the officers involved in the Garner incident could have tried harder to talk down an upset Garner, or sprayed mace in his face, or forced him to the ground without using a chokehold. They all agreed his death was avoidable.

Said one officer from the 106th Precinct in Queens, “That could have been any one of us.”
This is arguably a more damning indictment of the inherent racism of the police as an institution than Michael Brown, or Eric Garner, or Amadou Diallo, or any one of hundreds of other black (and brown) men.

I would argue that the picture is even bigger than that.  I would argue that this is actually something that we as a society demand.

The police are not a source of this sickness in this society, they are a product of this sickness in our society.

More Weirdness in the Anthrax Mailings

It's been a while since I've written about the issues with the FBI's investigation of the Anthrax mailings, and now it appears that the GAO report on this matter has attracted the interest of The New York Times:
A congressional inquiry into the F.B.I.’s scientific work on the anthrax mailings of 2001 has identified major gaps in genetic evidence that purportedly links the germs to Bruce E. Ivins, the Army microbiologist blamed for attacks that killed five people, sickened 17 others and shook the nation.

The Government Accountability Office study, requested in 2010 and made public on Friday, echoes earlier criticism from the National Academy of Sciences. In 2011, its expert panel found that the bureau’s analysis of the genetic evidence “did not definitively demonstrate” a firm link between the mailed anthrax spores and a sample taken from Dr. Ivins’s laboratory at Fort Detrick in Maryland, and more generally was “not as conclusive” as the bureau had asserted.

The G.A.O. had better access to F.B.I. records and deepened the genetic critique, finding that the bureau’s investigation “lacked several important characteristics” that could have strengthened its case. “A key scientific gap,” the 77-page report said, was the bureau’s failure to investigate whether samples of anthrax spores could naturally mutate enough to obscure their putative links to Dr. Ivins.
I think that it is more than likely that Dr. Ivins was involved in the anthrax mailing.

I know that the FBI was flailing wildly, and was looking for anyone that they could finger as the perp, and Ivins was the 2nd person that the FBI aggressively harassed, the first being Steven Hatfill, and it appears that in both cases, the FBI was hoping for a suicide to end their search.

27 December 2014

Indian Boomer Enters Seal Trials

Speaking or Indian defense upgrades, the first Indian built SSBNs has entered sea trials:
In a major step in validation of indigenous defence technologies, the Indian built nuclear-powered ballistic missile submarine Arihant completed its harbour trials and entered the sea here on Monday.

Built under the highly secretive Advanced Technology Vessel project monitored directly by the Prime Minister’s Office, the nuclear-powered submarine emerged from the breakwaters of the Visakhapatnam Harbour under the watchful gaze of a low flying helicopter. The 112 metre, 6000 tonne partially submerged Arihant glided into the Bay of Bengal as part of its sea trials, sailing north along the coast before disappearing into the mist.
The Arihant class is kind of an odd hybrid: It only carries 4 Polaris class missiles or 12 shorter range missiles, and at 6000 tons it's on the smallish size for a missile boat.

It is also the first indigenously designed and built nuclear submarine for the Indians, so it represents a big step forward.

India Initiates STOBAR Tests with Light Combat Aircraft

India's defense upgrades continue apace.

They have started ski-jump tests with the Light Combat Aircraf (LCA):
The first prototype of the Navalaized Tejas Indigenous Combat Aircraft (LCA) developed for the Indian Navy has took off saturday (December 20, 2014) from the Ski-Jump facility of Shore Based Test Facility (SBTF) at INS Hansa in Goa. LCA (Navy) is designed with stronger landing gears to absorb forces exerted by the ski jump ramp during take-off, and cable arrested landing.
I'm dubious of the suitability of tailless (or canardless) design on an aircraft carrier, but this does represent a step forward for the Indian Navy.

1000 Words on Fox News

Background here.

H/t Neo at the Stellar Parthenon BBS.

Corporate Purchase of the Criminal Justice System: MPAA Edition

It appears that Google is involved in a pissing contest with the Mississippi Attorney General .

It appears that the latter is doing a cut and paste of MPAA legal filing.

Thankfully, the Sony hack has revealed these machinations:
Tensions between Google and Mississippi Attorney General Jim Hood exploded into public view this week, as Google filed court papers seeking to halt a broad subpoena Hood sent to the company.

The Hood subpoena, delivered in late October, didn't come out of nowhere. Hood's investigation got revved up after at least a year of intense lobbying by the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA). E-mails that hackers acquired from Sony Pictures executives and then dumped publicly now show the inner workings of how that lobbying advanced—and just how extensive it was. Attorneys at Sony were on a short list of top Hollywood lawyers frequently updated about the MPAA's "Attorney General Project," along with those at Disney, Warner Brothers, 21st Century Fox, NBC Universal, and Paramount.

The e-mails show a staggering level of access to, and influence over, elected officials. The MPAA's single-minded obsession: altering search results and other products (such as "autocompleted" search queries) from Google, a company the movie studios began referring to as "Goliath" in around February 2014. The studios' goal was to quickly get pirated content off the Web; unhappy about the state of Google's voluntary compliance with their demands and frustrated in their efforts at passing new federal law such as SOPA and PIPA, the MPAA has turned instead to state law enforcement.

The most controversial elements of SOPA/PIPA would have let content owners effectively shut down websites they said were infringing their copyrights or trademarks. This already happens—think of various peer-to-peer sites that no longer exist—but it usually involves drawn-out litigation. SOPA promised a faster-moving process that would have essentially made rights holders a website's judge, jury, and executioner.

To get the same results in a post-SOPA world, MPAA has hired some of the nation's most well-connected lawyers. The project is spearheaded by Thomas Perrelli, a Jenner & Block partner and former Obama Administration lawyer. Perrelli has given attorneys general (AGs) across the country their talking points, suggesting realistic "asks" prior to key meetings with Google. Frustrated with a lack of results, Perrelli and top MPAA lawyers then authorized an "expanded Goliath strategy" in which they would push the AGs to move beyond mere letter writing. Instead, they would seek full-bore investigations against Google.

If the AGs felt short on resources—well, Hollywood studios could help with that. Money from Sony and other Big Six studios was available to draft the actual subpoenas, to research legal theories to prosecute Google, to spread negative press about the search giant, and to reach out to other state AGs that might join with Hood.


One chain of e-mails among the MPAA and studio lawyers bears the subject line "STATE ATTORNEY GENERAL PROJECT" and focuses on how Google could be pressured into altering its search results, demoting or removing so-called "rogue sites" that host high levels of copyrighted context.

Most notes on the project came from Vans Stevenson, the MPAA's VP of state legislative affairs; higher-level updates were written by MPAA general counsel Steven Fabrizio or took the form of memos written by Perrelli. Most information about the AG project was shared with a group of more than 30 lawyers, including several from the MPAA and RIAA, as well as each of the six big studios, but some were kept to just general counsels and their immediate confidantes.

"[Attorney] General Hood told me by e-mail today that his conversation 'with Google’s General Counsel did not go well,' and therefore he followed up with the letter that was sent yesterday," Vans Stevenson informed the group in November 2013. "Hood also said he was organizing a meeting during the NAAG [National Association of Attorneys General] meeting next week in New Orleans with his outside counsel Mike Moore, former MS Attorney General. Also attending that meeting will be MPAA/RIAA outside counsel Tom Perrelli and others, 'so we can discuss the next move,' Hood wrote.... I will keep you advised of further developments."

The e-mail includes a letter from Hood to Google general counsel Kent Walker. It was published earlier this week by The New York Times, which reported that most of the letter was actually written by Perrelli's law firm.
(emphasis mine)

Google counter-sued, which has the AG Hood calling for a timeout:
It appears that Mississippi Attorney General Jim Hood is making a strategic retreat in the wake of publicity about his investigation of Google.

On Friday morning, Google sued Hood, saying that a 79-page subpoena he had sent to the company was "punitive," and violated Google's First and Fourth Amendment rights. The company also pointed to recent press reports that showed Hollywood studios had lobbied heavily for the investigation.

Later that day, Hood sent a statement to The New York Times saying that he's "calling a time out, so that cooler heads may prevail." Hood says he wants to negotiate a "peaceful resolution to the issues affecting consumers" that he and other state AGs have pointed out in a series of letters.
Rather unsurprisingly, after the Mississippi AG told the press that he had received no funding from the MPAA, and challenged them to look, the press looked, and to no one's surprise, they found MPAA money:
The saga of Mississippi Attorney General Jim Hood and his cozy ties to Hollywood continue to come out. He's been claiming that, sure, he met with Hollywood's top lawyer, Tom Perrelli, had him prep Hood for a meeting with Google, and even took a ~4,000 word angry letter that Perrelli wrote for him, signed it as his own and sent it to Google -- but he did all that without knowing that Perrelli worked for Hollywood's top lobbying arm, the MPAA. Uh huh.

And then in a press conference, he insisted that he was doing this out of his own interest in protecting the children -- but also admitted that his office didn't have any intellectual property experts and didn't have a million dollars to do an investigation (approximately the amount the MPAA's leaked emails show them discussing to fund this investigation) and that he needed to rely on such help from "victims" to make his case. It's fairly rare, though, that "victims" of a crime run the actual law enforcement investigation and fund it as well.

Still, in that last post, we also mentioned how Hood implied that anyone suggesting he was "paid off" might be defaming him, and apparently also stated that he wasn't getting any money from Hollywood, encouraging reporters to "check records."

Okay then. Let's... check the records. Here, for example, is the MPAA's Political Action Committee apparently giving $2,500 to an operation called "The Friends of Jim Hood."

And, you can also look at the public record of who donated to his campaign, which pretty clearly shows donations to his campaign from NBC Universal and 20th Century Fox.
And it goes on and on.

One big take away about all this is that the leaked emails reveal that the Hollywood studios long term goal is to break DNS:
Most anti-piracy tools take one of two paths: they either target the server that's sharing the files (pulling videos off YouTube or taking down sites like The Pirate Bay) or they make it harder to find (delisting offshore sites that share infringing content). But leaked documents reveal a frightening line of attack that's currently being considered by the MPAA: What if you simply erased any record that the site was there in the first place?

A bold challenge to the basic engineering of the internet

To do that, the MPAA's lawyers would target the Domain Name System (DNS) that directs traffic across the internet. The tactic was first proposed as part of the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) in 2011, but three years after the law failed in Congress, the MPAA has been looking for legal justification for the practice in existing law and working with ISPs like Comcast to examine how a system might work technically. If the system works, DNS-blocking could be the key to the MPAA's long-standing goal of blocking sites from delivering content to the US. At the same time, it represents a bold challenge to the basic engineering of the internet, threatening to break the very backbone of the web and drawing the industry into an increasingly nasty fight with Google.
One final note, it appears that various legislators and Attorneys General are trying to restrict the practice of AGs getting secret funding from industry to prosecute cases.

Notice however how the New York Times story completely avoids mention that the MPAA was literally writing an AG's legal documents:
In state legislatures and major professional associations, a bipartisan effort is emerging to change the way state attorneys general interact with lobbyists, campaign donors and other corporate representatives.

This month, during a closed-door meeting of the National Association of Attorneys General, officials voted to stop accepting corporate sponsorships. In Missouri, a bill has been introduced that would require the attorney general, as well as certain other state officials, to disclose within 48 hours any political contribution worth more than $500. And in Washington State, legislation is being drafted to bar attorneys general who leave office from lobbying their former colleagues for a year.

Perhaps most significant, a White House ethics lawyer in the administration of George W. Bush has asked the American Bar Association to change its national code of conduct to prohibit attorneys general from discussing continuing investigations or other official matters while participating in fund-raising events at resort destinations, as they often now do. Those measures could be adopted in individual states.

The actions follow a series of articles in The New York Times that examined how lawyers and lobbyists — from major corporations, energy companies and even plaintiffs’ law firms — have increasingly tried to influence state attorneys general.

These outside players have tried to shut down investigations, enlist the attorneys general as partners in litigation, or use their clout to try to block or strengthen regulations emerging from Washington, the investigation by The Times found.
While it may be a stretch to say that a lot of state Attorneys General are for sale, they certainly appear to be for rent.

Here is an Interesting Perspective on Russia Today

Admittedly, he has many reasons for animus towards Putin's predecessor, Boris Yeltsin, which would give him a more favorable view towards the current Russian President, but the fact that Mikhail Gorbachev credits Vladimir Putin with saving Russia as a Nation is a significant statement:
Russian President Vladimir Putin saved the country from falling apart, former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev said during the presentation of his new book 'After the Kremlin.' Gorbachev also commented on the situation in Ukraine and NATO expansion.

I think all of us – Russian citizens – must remember that [Putin] saved Russia from the beginning of a collapse. A lot of the regions did not recognize our constitution. There were over a hundred local constitutional variations from that of the Russian constitution,” RIA Novosti quoted Gorbachev as saying on Friday.


In terms of Russia’s worries over NATO’s expansion, Gorbachev agrees that the US is playing a key role in the process. “[NATO] began to establish bases around the world...I think the president [I believe that he is referring to Putin here, not Obama] is mostly right when drawing the attention to the special responsibility the US has,” Gorbachev said.

Meanwhile, when speaking about the domestic situation in the country, the former president of the USSR expressed confidence that Russia will get out of the crisis, adding that the only questions are “when and at what price.”

“Now we need to be very careful in politics – what policy is implemented, by who, and who stands to benefit?”
In total, I do think that Gorbachev is saying that he agrees with Putin's assessment that NATO in general, and the US in particular, still seem determined to wage some sort of war against Russia.

So Not Surprised

It appears that the USAF is cooking the books on A-10 use in Afghanistan to justify retiring the Warthog:
Over the past five months, Air Force leaders have pointed to one key fact while advocating for their controversial decision to retire the A-10 Warthog, an aircraft specifically designed to provide support to ground troops. The service’s top leaders say the vast majority of so-called “close air support” missions conducted in Afghanistan since 2006 have been flown by a variety of aircraft that are not A-10s. Specifically, the leaders say that the 80 percent of these missions conducted by aircraft other than the Warthog shows that a variety of aircraft can do the critical mission of reinforcing ground forces with firepower from the air.

However, a number of observers challenge the Air Force’s claim that 80 percent of close air support missions are really conducted by non-A-10 planes. These observers assert that the service has deliberately manipulated the data to support its case.

The plan to retire the A-10 has sparked a firestorm of criticism from members of Congress, A-10 pilots and airmen whose job is to embed with ground forces and call in air strikes.

In fact, Congress is well on the way to rejecting the Air Force’s plans. The House of Representatives passed legislation Thursday, rejecting sending the A-10s to the boneyard. The Senate is expected to do the same.

The Air Force says it can save $4.2 billion over the next five years by retiring the fleet of 350 A-10s. The savings would be plowed into other aircraft that can perform a variety of missions, including close air support.

And, in making the case to retire the A-10, the one number that comes up time and again at congressional hearings is this: 80 percent.


The PBS NewsHour asked the Air Force about the basis for the 80 percent figure. The NewsHour shared the Air Force answers with A-10 supporters and those who advocate retiring the aircraft. The complete exchange can be viewed in the document linked here.

“This is a classic case of using numbers as propaganda for some bureaucratic position.”“This 80 percent number is a total fabrication,” said Pierre Sprey, one of the key designers of the A-10 in the 1960s and 1970s. Sprey has recently been lobbying Congress to save the aircraft. “This is a classic case of using numbers as propaganda for some bureaucratic position.”

Among the data the Air Force provided was a breakdown of the number close air support sorties flown between 2010 to 1014: 121,653. Also included was the number of sorties with at least one weapon released: 8,691.

Sprey notes that of the 121,653 close air support missions conducted, “93 percent of them never drop a weapon.” Sprey says the Air Force is “counting a whole lot of fluff.”

“The Air Force is counting these missions or these activities in a way that biases strongly against the A-10,” said Winslow Wheeler, a former congressional staffer with more than three decades of experience working for both Democrats and Republicans. Wheeler is now with the Project On Government Oversight, a non-profit watchdog organization.

The Air Force is “not counting sorties where actual munitions delivery actually occurs,” he said. And they are “not distinguishing” between bombing fixed points on the ground from 20,000 feet and supporting troops that are moving while under fire from an enemy in close proximity. Wheeler said it is in situations like this “that really count” and where the A-10 outperforms all other aircraft.


“Measures of kinetic activity alone don’t capture events where aircraft presence was sufficient to deter attackers — which can be the better outcome in COIN [counterinsurgency] operations,” Sholtis explained in an email. “Actions like shows of force or armed overwatch of ground forces are legitimate and effective forms of CAS.” Shows of force are when aircraft fly overhead, making their presence known and signaling to the enemy — sometimes by dropping flares — that they might get bombed.

But counting shows of force is stretching the definition of close air support, according to retired Chief Master Sergeant Russell Carpenter, a 30-year veteran and specialist in leading troops who call in air strikes. When you “look up the definition of close air support, shows of force doesn’t fit in there.” Carpenter said what the Air Force has “done is said there are a variety of ways we achieve air-to-ground effects. But guess what, call that something else. But it is not close air support.”

Another controversial aspect in the way the 80 percent number was generated is the time frame of when close air support missions are counted. According to Air Force data released to the NewsHour, the service counted missions flown between 2006 and October 2013.

The Air Force told the NewsHour “unfortunately we do not have information prior to 2006 available in our AFCENT Combined Air Operations Center database.” Other Air Force officers who asked that their names not be used in this article, because they were not authorized to speak publicly, also told the NewsHour that the Air Force has not maintained records from before 2006.

But critics are skeptical.

“The date 2006 was not picked by accident,” said Sprey, the A-10 aircraft designer.

From March 2002 to December 2006, the only fixed-wing aircraft that could operate from the austere and dilapidated runways in Afghanistan were A-10s, according to the Air Force. Sprey believes counting close air support missions beginning in 2006 is suspect because that time period marks the point when different types of aircraft were beginning to operate out of the newly improved runways in Afghanistan.

“Before 2006, they couldn’t even get fighters into Afghanistan, they couldn’t land anywhere,” Sprey said. “They were totally dependent on the A-10 before and they don’t want to admit that, so they don’t tell you about it before 2006.”
The USAF has wanted to kill the A-10 and replace it with a "Wild Blue Yonder" alternative  since it began to enter service in the 1970s.

Close air support has been a responsibility that the Air Force has consistently shirked since before its creation as an independent service.

26 December 2014

Idris Elba Should Be the Next Doctor

When I criticized Rush Limbaugh's racist screed about the possibility of Idris Elba being James Bond, I neglected to consider other possibilities.

I think that, once Peter Capaldi is done, Mr. Elba  should give it a shot.

It would be an epic win.

This is Foreseeable Blow-Back from Our Stupidity in the Banks of the Black Sea

Russia has just revised its military doctrin, and ……… wait for it nostalgia buffs ……… gone back to declaring NATO to be its primary threat:
Russian President Vladimir Putin on Friday signed into law a new defense doctrine that identifies NATO as the chief threat to Russian security and claims the right to use nuclear weapons to counter any aggression that "threatens the very existence" of Russia.

The revisions to the 2010 defense mission statement were few but appeared intended to put further pressure on the United States and the Western military alliance to cease courting Ukraine as an economic and strategic ally.

The North Atlantic Treaty Organization has moved forces closer to Russia's borders in response to the Kremlin's annexation of Ukraine's Crimea region in March and its dramatically increased challenges of the alliance's airspace and maritime borders. NATO officials report that the number of aerial and maritime intrusions by Russian fighter jets in the Baltic Sea area has more than tripled this year over last.

The new defense doctrine cites NATO troop deployments and induction of former Soviet-allied states as the top threat to Russian security. It also deems the developing Prompt Global Strike program of the United States as hostile. The precision weapons system is being designed to be able to strike anywhere in the world so swiftly that the target has too little time to respond.

The new doctrine also mentions NATO missile defense plans as destabilizing and for the first time identifies a priority for Russia to protect its natural resource and maritime interests in the Arctic Sea.
The Neocon's little adventure in the Ukraine is the gift that keeps giving.

The insane interventionist streak that oozed out of the American foreign policy establishment at the end of the Cold War is dangerous and insane, but it remains the consensus within the halls of government.

It's like our government is being run by a bunch of rabid wolverines.

Merry Christmas from the NSA

You know how people drop bad news on Friday evenings in Government?

Well, the NSA just dropped some sh%$ so heavy that they waited until Christmas Eve:
The National Security Agency on Christmas Eve day released twelve years of internal oversight reports documenting abusive and improper practices by agency employees. The heavily redacted reports to the President’s Intelligence Oversight Board found that NSA employees repeatedly engaged in unauthorized surveillance of communications by American citizens, failed to follow legal guidelines regarding the retention of private information, and shared data with unauthorized recipients.

While the NSA has come under public pressure for openness since high-profile revelations by whistleblower Edward Snowden, the release of the heavily redacted internal reports at 1:30PM on Christmas Eve demonstrates limits to the agency’s attempts to demonstrate transparency. Releasing bad news right before a holiday weekend, often called a “Christmas Eve surprise,” is a common tactic for trying to minimize press coverage.

The reports, released in response to a Freedom of Information Act request submitted by the American Civil Liberties Union, offer few revelations, but contain accounts of internal behavior embarrassing to the agency. In one instance an NSA employee “searched her spouse’s personal telephone directory without his knowledge to obtain names and telephone numbers for targeting”, a practice which previous reports have indicated was common enough to warrant the name “LOVEINT”.

Many of the reports appear to deal with instances of human error rather than malicious misuse of agency resources. Nonetheless, many of these errors are potentially serious, including entries suggesting that unminimized U.S. telephone numbers were mistakenly disseminated to unauthorized parties and that military personnel were given unauthorized access to raw traffic databases collected under the Foreign Intelligence Services Act.
Yeah, and the people who did this are still on the job:
For the most part, the reports don't appear to contain anything especially new, but I was struck by this particular violation:
………The OIG's Office of Investigation initiated an investigation of an allegation than an NSA analyst had conducted an unauthorized intelligence activity. In an interview conducted by the NSA/CSS Office of Security and Counterintelligence, the analyst reported that, during the past two or three years, she had searched her spouse's personal telephone directory without his knowledge to obtain names and telephone numbers for targeting....Although the investigation is ongoing, the analyst has been advised to cease her activities.
If the NSA gave even half a f%$# about this sort of abuse, this analyst would be fired, and her security clearance would be pulled.

Instead, she was "advised to cease her activities."

This is why super-secret organizations need real independent oversight, because their first priority is preserving their own prerogatives, using whatever means necessary.

Full report here. (PDF)

25 December 2014

Don't Jump to Conclusions on the Sony Hack

Bruce Schneier, perhaps the most prominent security pundit in the world, is dubious about the FBI's claim that the DPRK is behind the Sony Hack, while Kurt Stammberger, the senior VP Norse, a cybersecurity firm, insists that all evidence points to an internal hack:
Cybersecurity experts are questioning the FBI's claim that North Korea is responsible for the hack that crippled Sony Pictures. Kurt Stammberger, a senior vice president with cybersecurity firm Norse, told CBS News his company has data that doubts some of the FBI's findings.

"Sony was not just hacked, this is a company that was essentially nuked from the inside," said Stammberger.

While Norse is not involved in the Sony case, it has done its own investigation.

"We are very confident that this was not an attack master-minded by North Korea and that insiders were key to the implementation of one of the most devastating attacks in history," said Stammberger.

He says Norse data is pointing towards a woman who calls herself "Lena" and claims to be connected with the so-called "Guardians of Peace" hacking group. Norse believes it's identified this woman as someone who worked at Sony in Los Angeles for ten years until leaving the company this past May.
I'm inclined not to believe the official story from the FBI.

The sketchy accounts currently given by the FBI seem to indicate that they worked backward, starting with the guilt of North Korea, and then picking and choosing evidence on that basis.

Here is an Interesting Jurisdictional Conundrum

The Department of Justice has subpoenaed some Microsoft emails, and the Redmond Borg has objected because the emails in question are on a server in Ireland:
The Irish government today supported Microsoft in its ongoing fight against US prosecutors – who appear to want access to server hard drives anywhere in the world.

Microsoft has garnered serious backing from the technology industry in its case against American investigators. The Feds believe they have the right to access emails stored on Microsoft's servers in Ireland; Uncle Sam thinks it can lawfully tap up any US company for information, regardless of where that info is stored.

The Feds wants the messages to prosecute a drug case, and obtained a simple search warrant served against Microsoft in New York, rather than approaching the Irish government and its courts for help. If the US govt wins the case, which is being played out in the aforementioned state, it will effectively mean that Microsoft's cloud data stored around the world can be read at will by US g-men.

Now the Irish government has filed an amicus curiae brief [PDF] supporting Microsoft's position. If the US government wants information on servers overseas, it should go through existing treaties rather than just expecting to snatch the bytes with a US-issued search warrant.
This is not a big deal from a procedural standpoint: It really would not take much longer to make existing treaty mechanism, but it is from a business perspective, because, should the DoJ prevail, it will be yet another reason for foreign customers to flee American cloud providers.

The degree to which the US state security apparatus attempts to eschew treaty based in attempt to be bad-ass borders on the pathological.

24 December 2014

Quote of the Day

If we render our torturers superior to the political institutions of the government, and if we render the police superior to the civil power of elected officials, then we essentially have empowered independent standing armies to conduct our wars and enforce our laws, and self-government descends into bloody farce.
Charlie Pierce
He is taking about how our torturers and our police demand to operate with impunity.

So, The Interview is Going to be Released After All

And suddenly I have no urge at all to see the film:
A comedy film about North Korea that had its Christmas Day launch cancelled after a major cyber attack and threats against US cinema-goers is now to get a limited theatrical release, Sony says.

The Interview will be shown in some independent US cinemas on Thursday.

Sony Chairman Michael Lynton said he was "excited" that the comedy, about a plot to assassinate North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, would now be seen.

Two cinemas in Atlanta and Austin have already revealed screenings.
Any urge I had to see the movie has vanished, but I am now seriously considering Will Bunch tweeted tongue in cheek conspiracy theory:

Deep Thought

H/t Mugsy's Rap Sheet

Well, It's a Start

South Korea has indicted Uber CEO Travis Kalanick:
South Korea has indicted the chief executive officer and local subsidiary of Uber Technologies Inc for violating a law governing public transport, becoming the latest jurisdiction to challenge the U.S. taxi service provider.

The Seoul Central District Prosecutors’ Office issued the indictment against CEO Travis Kalanick and the firm’s Korean unit for violating a law prohibiting individuals or firms without appropriate licenses from providing or facilitating transportation services, an Uber spokeswoman said.

The prosecutors’ office declined to comment.

“Uber Technologies respects the Korean legal system and will provide its full cooperation,” the company said in a statement without detailing the charges brought against it.

Uber, through its apps, charges fees to play matchmaker for passengers and drivers – some registered as taxi drivers. But a lack of regulation for the relatively new business model has brought Uber to the attention of authorities worldwide.

Taiwan and the Chinese mainland city of Chongqing on Monday separately said they were investigating Uber over concerns it and its drivers were not appropriately licensed.
Seeing as how Uber's basic business model is lawlessness with a few legal walls to ensure that people like Kalanick will never face any liability for anything, the idea that he has been personally indicted is a good thing.

Here's hoping that he he actually has to stand trial there.

Hotel Telecommunications F%$#ery

Marriott specifically, who just got fined for jamming personal Wi-Fi hotspots, and is now attempting to get regulatory forbearance:
Microsoft and Google don’t agree on much, but they’ve presented a united front against the hotel industry, which is trying to convince government regulators to give them the option of blocking guests from using personal Wi-Fi hotspots.

The tech companies recently joined the wireless industry’s lobbying group and a handful of other parties in opposing the hotel industry’s petition, which seeks the Federal Communications Commission’s permission to block personal Wi-Fi networks on their properties.

This summer, the American Hospitality & Lodging Association and Marriott International asked the FCC to declare that a hotel operator can use equipment to manage its network even if it “may result in ‘interference with or cause interference’ to a [wireless device] being used by a guest on the operator’s property.”
 Now that many people have cell phones, and don't pay the usurious fees for phone calls, Marriott wants to jam personal Wi-Fi hotspots so that they can charge equally usurious fees for that:
The Marriott-owned Gaylord Opryland Hotel and Convention Center tech staff was using a monitoring system that de-authenticated guests’ personal Wi-Fi hot spots. Meanwhile, the hotel was charging exhibitors and attendees anywhere from $250 to $1,000 for Wi-Fi service, the FCC said.

In October, Marriott settled an FCC complaint about the practice for $600,000 but argued that it hadn’t broken the law and was using technology to protect guests from “rogue wireless hotspots that can cause degraded service, insidious cyber attacks and identity theft.”

A month later, the agency asked for comments on Marriott’s earlier request to find such Wi-Fi blocking legal.
 Like I said, Hotel Telecommunications F%$#ery.

I think that the deadline for comment has passed, but you can read the comments here.

The Tor Anonymity Network Just Got Hacked by Law Enforcement

Paul Carr at Pando has been writing a lot about potential security issues with TOR, both issues with the ties between the founders and the US state security apparatus, and possible technical issues.

One of the ones that he has mentioned is the compromise of their exit nodes or their directory authorities.

It now appears that a large cluster of exit nodes has been seized by the authorities:
Earlier this week, we reported on an apparent threat by an unnamed agency to disable the Tor anonymity network.

According to founder Roger Dingledine:
The Tor Project has learned that there may be an attempt to incapacitate our network in the next few days through the seizure of specialized servers in the network called directory authorities.
This is not the current problem though,  it appears that some of the exit nodes have been seized by the authorities:
Today, Thomas White who operates “a large exit node cluster for the Tor network and [a] collection of mirrors,” reports that his servers have apparently been compromised.
Tonight there has been some unusual activity taking place and I have now lost control of all servers under the ISP and my account has been suspended. Having reviewed the last available information of the sensors, the chassis of the servers was opened and an unknown USB device was plugged in only 30-60 seconds before the connection was broken. From experience I know this trend of activity is similar to the protocol of sophisticated law enforcement who carry out a search and seizure of running servers.
White warns “Do NOT use my mirrors/services until I have reviewed the situation,” adding:
At this moment in time I am under no gagging orders or influence from external parties/agencies. If no update is provided within 48 hours you may draw your own conclusions.
Needless to say if you rely on TOR for some sort of crucial secure communications, I would suggest that you find some other method, or go dark, over the short term.

I know a guy with a carrier pigeon.

It Goes Without Saying that Rush Limbaugh is a Blithering Idiot

As evidenced by his recent racist screed about how Idris Elba cannot play James Bond because the actor is black.

Emails revealed that a senior Sony executive was looking to tap Elba to replace Daniel Craig when the latter is done with the role.

Of course, Rush Limbaugh had a bigotrygasm over all of this.

This begs the question:  Why are sponsors supporting this inveterate racist?

To be clear, I would much rather have Elba playing George Smiley than James Bond:  I've always found Bond to be a bit one dimensional.

I will say something here:  If  Sony co-chairman Amy Pascal has mooted casting Elba take the role of Jack Ryan in a Tom Clancy movie, I would be upset: It's a profound waste of his not inconsiderable acting talent.

Then again, playing Jack Ryan in a Tom Clancy would be a waste of pretty much anyone's acting talent.

23 December 2014

This is Not Going to End Well………

The Ukrainian Parliament has voted to abandon their non-aligned status:
In a sign of Ukraine’s hardening attitude toward Russia, Ukrainian lawmakers on Tuesday voted to remove a legal barrier to joining the NATO defense alliance.

The move provoked an angry response from Russia, even though NATO shows few signs of accepting Ukraine as a member anytime soon. But this year’s bloody conflict in Ukraine’s east has altered the country’s feelings about the Western alliance. A plurality of Ukrainians now favor joining NATO, a stark change from recent years when just a small fraction did.

Ukraine’s decision comes as Russia struggles with a weakened ruble and growing concerns about economic instability.

The vote in Ukraine’s parliament had no immediate practical effect on the country’s relationship with NATO. But it ended Ukraine’s nonaligned status, which was adopted as a way of reassuring Russia that its neighbor would not join NATO. Russian President Vladimir Putin cited his fear of Ukraine’s joining NATO as a reason Russia annexed Crimea in March.
This is a very stupid step to take when the cease fire finally appears to be holding in the east of the Ukraine.

It is a deliberate provocation, and I believe that the US government was involved in this move.

We already know that Victoria Nuland, the Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs, was intimately involved in funding the revolt that overthrew Viktor Yanukovych, and the fact that senior positions in the current government, most notably the American born Natalie Jaresko at finance minister, indicates that there had to be at least tacit approval.

In fact, Jaresko, appears to still be in the US payroll, albeit through the back door.

There are a whole bunch of people in the State Department, Pentagon, and intelligence services who are still intent on imposing something like the Morgenthau Plan, which was intended  intended to reduce Germany to a pastoral following WWII on Russia.

Putin is very much aware of these attitudes, it's hard to miss when folks like Senators John McCain and Lindsey Graham have made no bones about supporting this strategy.

Paranoid Putin may be, but it is a justified paranoia, and the recent vote in the Ukraine will only serve to reinforce that attitude, and so escalate the conflict.

It looks like we are into a cycle of doomed imperial hubris on and around the Black Sea.

Another Statement of Obama's that is "Inoperative"*

Cliff Stone, who worked with the State Department finding places to send innocent Guantánamo detainees once they were cleared for released, has resigned in the slow pace of releases:
The State Department envoy who negotiates detainee transfers from the military prison at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, is resigning, dealing another blow to President Obama’s efforts to close a facility that top administration officials say is a blight on the country’s international standing.

The resignation of Cliff Sloan, a close confidant of Secretary of State John Kerry, comes as officials at the State Department and the White House have increasingly expressed frustration with the Defense Department’s slow pace of transferring approved prisoners.

In an interview on Monday, Mr. Sloan denied that he was leaving because he was frustrated by foot-dragging at the Pentagon. He said he had always intended to stay a maximum of 18 months, noting that he was right on schedule.
"Frustration with the Defense Department’s slow pace of transferring approved prisoners," my ass.

The military is not a democracy. Barack Obama is commander-in-chief.

If someone is dragging their feet, Obama can fire them.

What's more, I would argue that he has a moral obligation to fire them.

Guantánamo is more than a moral cancer on America. It is a source of outrage in the Arab world, and is one of the most power recruiting tools that Jihadis have.

*Yes, I am invoking the memory of former Nixon Press Secretary Ron Ziegler.

Reflexively whining at criticism doesn't breed respect

Reflexively whining at criticism doesn't breed respect
She is, of course, talking about the, "Over-the-top reactions of the police reps to these various examples of shooting unarmed African American men and the mentally ill."

Am I a Bad Person to Experience Unalloyed Glee at the Misfortune of Others?

That's Gotta Hurt!
Well, let me clarify:

I am talking about one entity specifically………

I'm talking about one entity who was caught trying to deceive regulators specifically………

I'm talking about one entity who was caught trying to deceive regulators and defraud the public specifically………

I'm talking about one entity who was caught trying to deceive regulators and defraud the public specifically whose business model is primarily rent seeking………

OK, spoiler alert, it's Monsanto, who just had a fraudulent patent revoked:
Patent EP1812575 held by Monsanto has been revoked by the European Patent Office (EPO) after the international coalition No Patents on Seeds! filed an opposition in May 2014.

A further opposition was filed by Nunhems / Bayer CropScience. In November 2014, Monsanto requested that the patent be revoked in its entirety and the EPO complied with this request.
The patent covered conventionally bred tomatoes with a natural resistance to a fungal disease called botrytis, which were claimed as an invention. The original tomatoes used for this patent were accessed via the international gene bank in Gatersleben, Germany, and it was already known that these plants had the desired resistance. Monsanto produced a cleverly worded patent in order to create the impression that genetic engineering had been used to produce the tomatoes and to make it look ‘inventive’.

“Revoking this patent is an important success. It was more or less based on a combination of fraud, abuse of patent law and biopiracy. The patent could have been used to monopolise important genetic resources. Now breeders, growers and consumers have a chance of benefiting from a greater diversity of tomatoes improved by further breeding”, says Christoph Then, a coordinator of No Patents on Seeds!. “The intended resistance is based on complex genetic conditions, which are not known in detail. So genetic engineering is clearly not an option in this case.”
It would be nice if patent law were changed to invalidate gene and species patents, but it's a start.

22 December 2014

Mazel Tov!!

The new editor of The New Republic has announced that he will try to expand its bullpen beyond its white Ivy League past:
The best way for any new editor of this magazine to respect the spirit of the institution is to first recognize its defining characteristic is a habit of reinvention. The task before us is to ask what The New Republic should be one hundred years after its founding. We set out with many advantages: first, an owner who has committed to investing in quality journalism and who has granted his editorial staff the creative freedom to find a new path. We have an impressive editorial team that has demonstrated exceptional mettle and we will be adding to their ranks. And we have the heritage of sustaining a continuous conversation about America's promise.

As we revive one proud legacy of The New Republicthe launching of new voices and expertsthose new voices and experts will be diverse in race, gender, and background. As we build our editorial staff, we will reach out to talented journalists who might have previously felt unwelcome at The New Republic. If this publication is to be influential, and not merely survive, it can no longer afford to represent the views of one privileged class, nor appeal solely to a small demographic of political elites.
You know, I think poaching Ta-Nehisi Coates from The Atlantic might be a good start.

He's a great writer, and has been aggressive critic of The New Republic's indifference, and occasional hostility, to the minority community, and it would do a lot to indicate that this is a clean break from the ignominious reign of the contemptible Marty Peretz.

I Finally Have Some Meaningful Thoughts About the Police Shootings in New York this Saturday

My first thought is that the NRA is a much bigger threat to the safety of police officers than peaceful protesters, civilian review boards, or criticism:
The last year when Ismaaiyl Brinsley—the man who killed two New York City cops on Saturday—should have been able to buy or carry a gun was 2008, when he was convicted of felony shoplifting, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. In 2011, he pleaded guilty to more felonies after he shot a woman's car with a stolen handgun. Over his life, he had 19 arrests in Ohio and Georgia.

As a felon, Brinsley was barred under federal law from buying a gun. Had he undergone a background check, he would have failed it and authorities could be notified. Yet the National Rifle Association argues that bad guys will get their hands on guns regardless of the law. The lobby points to violence in states with strong gun laws as evidence of gun control's ineffectiveness.

In fact, it's weak gun laws that enable felons, domestic abusers, and the mentally ill to arm themselves. Whereas licensed gun sellers must conduct background checks, unlicensed secondary market sellers face no such requirement in more laissez-faire states.
This is a direct result of the gun show loopholes and other similar exceptions foisted upon us by the ammosexual lobby.

The second thought is that the advocates for police in general, and the PBA in New York City in particular, are demanding that criticism and accountability for the police be non-existent:
I covered New York politics for 15 years, and I saw some awfully tense moments between the police and Democratic politicians. But there has never been anything remotely like the war the cops are waging right now against Mayor Bill de Blasio for the thought crime of saying something that was completely unremarkable and so obviously true that in other contexts we don’t even bat an eye when someone says it. And for that, the mayor has blood on his hands, as Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association head Pat Lynch said Saturday evening after the hideous assassinations of two NYPD officers?

Let’s rewind the tape here. On Dec. 3, in the wake of the Staten Island grand jury’s refusal to indict in the case of the police homicide of Eric Garner, de Blasio gave a press conference at a Staten Island church. He spoke of the need to heal and so on, the usual politician’s rhetoric, and then he uttered these words:
This is profoundly personal for me. I was at the White House the other day, and the president of the United States turned to me, and he met Dante a few months ago, and he said that Dante reminded him of what he looked like as a teenager. And he said, I know you see this crisis through a very personal lens. I said to him I did. Because Chirlane and I have had to talk to Dante for years, about the dangers he may face. A good young man, a law-abiding young man, who would never think to do anything wrong, and yet, because of a history that still hangs over us, the dangers he may face—we’ve had to literally train him, as families have all over this city for decades, in how to take special care in any encounter he has with the police officers who are there to protect him.
Dante de Blasio, as you surely know, is a mixed-race young man of 16 who looks black and sports a large, ’70s-style afro. Does anyone seriously think that his father should not have told him what he did? Come on. We all know the odds (actually, we don’t, more on which later). We hear every prominent black man in America who has a son and who decides to talk about this publicly—football players and actors and others—say exactly the same thing. We’ve heard it hundreds of times. Are these men lying? Are they paranoid weirdos? Of course they aren’t. They are fathers, describing to the rest of us what I thought was a widely acknowledged reality.
I understand that any management-labor dialogue is necessarily fraught, but this is literally a prescription for a police state, and Pat Lynch should be condemned.

What's more, this attitude is likely to make police officers less safe.

It's Been 6 Years, and Finally a Regulator Forces a CEO to Resign

Rather unsurprisingly, the regulator in question, is New York Superintendent of Financial Services Benjamin Lawsky, who has had nothing to do with the Obama administration.

He went after the astonishingly corrupt and incompetent mortgage servicer Ocwen, and uncovered self-dealing by the CEO that forced his resignation.

It would have been nice if William Erbey were breaking rocks somewhere, but it is a start:
Let’s say you run a company whose misdeeds are splashed across the front pages of the business section on an almost weekly basis. You might reasonably expect to be fired without delay. But then let’s also stipulate that you’re in the financial services industry. Recent history suggests you’ll be able to keep your job and your handsome bonus, and that even if law enforcement officials penalize the company for improprieties, somebody else—like your shareholders— will pay those fines, leaving you to continue your charmed life unscathed.

William Erbey, the billionaire chairman of the mortgage servicing giant Ocwen, probably thought that would be his fate as well, but he didn’t anticipate the determination of New York Superintendent of Financial Services Benjamin Lawsky. On Monday, Lawsky announced Erbey would step down chairman of Ocwen and four related businesses, as part of the settlement of an investigation into the company’s sad enduring legacy of ripping off homeowners.

It isn’t a prison sentence. But on the spectrum of accountability for financial industry executives, “forced to resign” beats “suffered no consequences while staying in power.”

Lawsky has been chasing Ocwen for several years. A mortgage servicer handles day-to-day operations on loans, from collecting monthly payments to making decisions after a default. Ocwen has grown almost ten-fold since 2009 by purchasing the rights to service distressed loans from the likes of JPMorgan Chase, Bank of America, and Ally Bank. Big banks have engaged in a fire sale of their mortgage servicing rights, because of increased compliance standards for servicing, and because of new bank capital rules that make servicing loans costly. As a non-bank, Ocwen has more wherewithal to handle mortgage servicing, and this has made it the 4th-largest servicer in America. ………


The federal Consumer Financial Protection Bureau found similar problems with Ocwen and reached an agreement on a $2.1 billion settlement. But most of the money went toward modifying loans that Ocwen serviced but didn’t own, allowing it to pay the fine with other people’s money.

More recently, Lawsky uncovered more Ocwen secrets. He discovered that four other public companies chaired by Ocwen chairman William Erbey have close business relationships with the mortgage servicer (Erbey is also the largest individual shareholder for all the companies). One subsidiary hosts nearly all of Ocwen’s online auctions; another handles all Ocwen post-foreclosure real estate transactions. So Ocwen profits by funneling default-related business to closely associated companies, providing an incentive to push borrowers into default.

Lawsky also found that Ocwen backdated letters to borrowers, making it impossible for them to challenge denials of their mortgage modifications within a specific time frame. He also investigated whether Ocwen stalled short sales, where homes get sold for less than the balance on the mortgage, in order to collect additional fees.
And here is the special sauce:
This time, Lawsky did not spare top executives. Erbey will resign both Ocwen and the four related companies by January 16, and subsequently hold “no directorial, management, oversight, consulting, or any other role at Ocwen or any related party.” Any other Ocwen employees also working for one of the other four companies will have to drop those responsibilities.

Under the agreement, Ocwen will add two new independent board positions, and an Operations Monitor will work directly with the board on oversight functions, and determine whether other senior management will have to be fired. Ocwen cannot acquire other mortgage servicing rights without the consent of the Operations Monitor.

Ocwen will also pay $150 million to New York homeowners harmed by the company. Instead of a “soft-dollar” promise of mortgage modifications that Ocwen can pass on to the owners of the loans they service, these are cash penalties—$100 million to the Department of Financial Services for housing counseling and community redevelopment programs, and $50 million to be split by Ocwen foreclosure victims, with $10,000 for each borrower on whom Ocwen completed foreclosure, and the rest handed out to those with active foreclosures in process. Ocwen will also have to re-evaluate borrowers in foreclosure after paying the penalty, “in light of their improved financial condition resulting from such payment.”

Ocwen cannot take a tax deduction on any of these payments, per the agreement. The company also agreed to provide all of its New York borrowers with their complete loan files upon request, along with assurances to detail reasons for any denials of mortgage relief. As the loan files represent evidence in private borrower misconduct litigation, it could expose Ocwen to further legal headaches.
Seriously, if there had been any appetite for even a cursory investigation of the banksters by Obama and His Evil Minions, we would have seen a lot more of this.

Then again, if we did that, Obama would not be able to get his 6 figure speaking gigs from Wall Street execs when he leaves offices.

One has to have priorities.