30 November 2015

If Only the Ruling Included a Kick to the 'Nads

The 7th Circuit Court of Appeals just issued a permanent injunction against the Cook County Sheriff enjoining them from contacting credit card companies to threaten them into dropping n adult web site:
Nov 30 A federal appeals court on Monday ordered an injunction blocking the Cook County, Illinois, sheriff from pursuing any effort to stop credit card companies from handling transactions for Backpage.com, a classified ad website that the sheriff said promotes sex trafficking.

The 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago said Sheriff Thomas Dart, whose jurisdiction includes Chicago, violated Backpage's First Amendment free speech rights by demanding that companies such as MasterCard Inc and Visa Inc ban the use of their cards to buy ads on the website.

Writing for a three-judge panel, Circuit Judge Richard Posner said Dart's "official bullying" and "campaign of suffocation" amounted to censorship, preventing even transactions for ads touting "indisputably legal" activities from being processed.

"As a citizen or father, or in any other private capacity, Sheriff Dart can denounce Backpage to his heart's content. He is in good company; many people are disturbed or revolted by the kind of sex ads found on Backpage's website," Posner wrote.

But as sheriff of a county with more than 5.2 million people, Dart cannot make "dire threats," including of possible prosecution, in a campaign "to crush Backpage's adult section - crush Backpage, period, it seems," the judge added.

………

The injunction bars Dart from coercing or threatening sanctions against card companies, processors and financial companies that do business with Backpage.com, while the company pursues its lawsuit to stop his campaign.

In August, U.S. District Judge John Tharp had rejected Backpage.com's bid for a preliminary injunction.

Posner said that was a mistake because Backpage.com would probably succeed on the merits, and suffered "irreparable injury" from its loss of First Amendment freedoms.

Dart's office did not immediately respond to a request for comment. His office has said it has made more than 800 arrests since 2009 connected to Backpage.com ads.
800 arrests from lurking on an internet web site looking for sex workers.

How about policing those gun shops in Cook County, just over the border from Chicago who are selling to any sort of skeevy straw buyers with two nickels to rub together instead of pursuing some masseuses giving tug jobs?

I hope that Backpage.com takes him to the cleaners in a civil suit.

I also would like to see the Department of Justice go after Sheriff Dart for criminal conspiracy to deprive Backpage.com of its civil rights, but I don't expect to see that happen.

It should happen, but it won't.

Quote of the Day

So that’s what happened with iOS; I’d been wondering.
Lambert Strether on Naked Capitalism in response to reports on Rolling Stone that Silicon Valley creative types are "microdosing" psychedelic drugs.

29 November 2015

Russian Shootdown Update

First, it appears that Erdogan's Son Bilal owned the oil trucks that were bombed by Russia on the day before the shootdown. Funny how that works:
The prime source of money feeding ISIS these days is sale of Iraqi oil from the Mosul region oilfields where they maintain a stronghold. The son of Erdoğan it seems is the man who makes the export sales of ISIS-controlled oil possible.

Bilal Erdoğan owns several maritime companies. He has allegedly signed contracts with European operating companies to carry Iraqi stolen oil to different Asian countries. The Turkish government buys Iraqi plundered oil which is being produced from the Iraqi seized oil wells. Bilal Erdoğan’s maritime companies own special wharfs in Beirut and Ceyhan ports that are transporting ISIS’ smuggled crude oil in Japan-bound oil tankers.

Gürsel Tekin vice-president of the Turkish Republican Peoples’ Party, CHP, declared in a recent Turkish media interview, “President Erdoğan claims that according to international transportation conventions there is no legal infraction concerning Bilal’s illicit activities and his son is doing an ordinary business with the registered Japanese companies, but in fact Bilal Erdoğan is up to his neck in complicity with terrorism, but as long as his father holds office he will be immune from any judicial prosecution.” Tekin adds that Bilal’s maritime company doing the oil trades for ISIS, BMZ Ltd, is “a family business and president Erdoğan’s close relatives hold shares in BMZ and they misused public funds and took illicit loans from Turkish banks.
BTW, it now appears that between the Russians deploying a guided missile cruiser and S-400 long range SAMs, has created a no-fly zone in Syria, for the Turks:
The Turkish army has suspended flights over Syria as part of an ongoing joint military campaign with the United States against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) after it shot down a Russian jetfighter, sparking an unprecedented crisis between Ankara and Moscow.

The decision was taken following the eruption of the crisis with Russia in which a Turkish F-16 downed a Russian warplane early Nov. 24 after it allegedly violated Turkish airspace, according to diplomatic sources.

Sources, speaking on condition of anonymity, stressed that the suspension of the Turkish jetfighters’ participation in the U.S.-led military operations against ISIL was in fact a mutual decision taken with Russia, which also halted its aerial campaigns near the Turkish border. Both parties will continue to be as careful as possible in a bid to avoid a repetition of such incidents until they re-establish dialogue channels to reduce the tension.

Turkish and Russian military officials held initial talks on the incident on Nov. 25 as the office of the Chief of General Staff invited defense and military attachés from the Russian Embassy to military headquarters to inform them about how the incident took place. However, there is still a need for high-level political meetings to let the two parties reconcile and reduce the tension.
I would take the bit about Russia standing down, because we have numerous report of continued airstrikes by Russia against targets across Syria.

The important part of Turkey standing down in Syria is probably that the Kurds, who are now supported by both the Russians and the US are likely to have far greater freedom of operation, as they will not have to worry about Turkey bombing them.

Rather unsurprisingly, we now have a timeline, with the Russian jet in Turkish airspace for less than 18 seconds according to Turkish claims (how you warn an aircraft 10 times in 18 seconds is an activity I will leave as an exercise to the reader), which implies that this was not a timely response to a Russian provocation, but a predetermined and preplanned shootdown, which indicates that the (absurd) Turkish assertions that they did not know the plane was Russian are lies.

Meanwhile, the Russians have implemented a series of sanctions against Turkey.

Most significantly, it appears that this will involve the shutting down the tourist trade to Turkey, which is something like a quarter of Turkey's tourism business, though it will also likely involve agricultural products and textiles.

Russia is not doing anything involving natural gas exports at this time.

I think that sanctions involving natural gas are highly unlikely:  Turkey actually pays for its gas, and were they to do so, it would spur alternate pipelines to Turkey, and perhaps to through Turkey to Europe.

It's a mess, but in the short term, it appears, in the short term at least, that Turkey is coming out the worse on this, because they will be less able to prosecute their policies in Syria.

Canadian Awesome

I just have to say that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has the most awesome socks in Canada.

Cui Bono?

As Bear who Swims observes, it turns out that the latest "bipartisan" efforts to reform criminal justice have been hijacked by a Koch brothers attempt to make it next to impossible to prosecute white colar crimes:
For more than a year, a rare coalition of liberal groups and libertarian-minded conservatives has joined the Obama administration in pushing for the most significant liberalization of America’s criminal justice laws since the beginning of the drug war. That effort has had perhaps no ally more important than Koch Industries, the conglomerate owned by a pair of brothers who are well-known conservative billionaires. Now, as Congress works to turn those goals into legislation, that joint effort is facing its most significant test — over a House bill that Koch Industries says would make the criminal justice system fairer, but that the Justice Department says would make it significantly harder to prosecute corporate polluters, producers of tainted food and other white-collar criminals. The tension among the unlikely allies emerged over the last week as the House Judiciary Committee, with bipartisan support, approved a package of bills intended to simplify the criminal code and reduce unnecessarily severe sentences.

………

One of those bills — which has been supported by Koch Industries, libertarians and business groups — would make wholesale changes to certain federal criminal laws, requiring prosecutors to prove that suspects “knew, or had reason to believe, the conduct was unlawful,” and did not simply unknowingly violate the law.

Many laws already carry such a requirement — known as “mens rea” — but Congress left it out of many others, and libertarian groups say that has made it too easy to unknowingly violate obscure laws. Some environmentalists argue, however, that the real motive of Charles Koch, the philanthropist and the company chairman, in supporting the legislation is to block federal regulators from pursuing potential criminal actions against his family’s network of industrial and energy companies, a charge the company denies.

………


The proposed standard, Justice Department officials said, might have prevented guilty pleas in a variety of cases, such as the charges filed in 2013 against Jensen Farms of Colorado for failing to adequately clean cantaloupe, resulting in an outbreak of food-borne illness that was cited as a factor in at least 33 deaths. It also might have prevented the plea in the 2012 charges against the owner of a pharmacy who sold mislabeled, super-potent painkillers blamed in three deaths.

The same powers, officials said, have allowed the government to pursue charges against major corporations, like the 2011 conviction of Guidant, the giant medical device company, for failing to report safety problems with defibrillators, used to restart heartbeats.

………

Mark V. Holden, general counsel and senior vice president at Koch Industries, acknowledged in an interview this week that the company’s efforts to pursue revisions in federal criminal law were inspired in part by a criminal case filed 15 years ago against Koch Industries claiming that it covered up releases of hazardous air pollution at a Texas oil refinery. Those charges resulted in a guilty plea by the company and a $20 million penalty.

That case, Mr. Holden said, demonstrated that the Justice Department too often pursues criminal cases even when the accused had no criminal intent. The company itself discovered the problems and notified the authorities, he said, meaning the company did not knowingly violate the law.
Yeah, right.

Koch industries did nothing wrong.

If you believe that, I have some swampland in Florida for you.

I was wondering when the other shoe would drop.

I kind of figured that there would be a Republican turd in the punch bowl.

This is a Feature, not a Bug

What a surprise. Obama's Jihad on whistle-blowers, and openness has led to a situation where there is no accountability in government programs:
Justice Department watchdogs ran into an unexpected roadblock last year when they began examining the role of federal drug agents in the fatal shootings of unarmed civilians during raids in Honduras.

The Drug Enforcement Administration balked at turning over emails from senior officials tied to the raids, according to the department’s inspector general. It took nearly a year of wrangling before the D.E.A. was willing to turn over all its records in a case that the inspector general said raised “serious questions” about agents’ use of deadly force.

The continuing Honduran inquiry is one of at least 20 investigations across the government that have been slowed, stymied or sometimes closed because of a long-simmering dispute between the Obama administration and its own watchdogs over the shrinking access of inspectors general to confidential records, according to records and interviews.

The impasse has hampered investigations into an array of programs and abuse reports — from allegations of sexual assaults in the Peace Corps to the F.B.I.’s terrorism powers, officials said. And it has threatened to roll back more than three decades of policy giving the watchdogs unfettered access to “all records” in their investigations.

“The bottom line is that we’re no longer independent,” Michael E. Horowitz, the Justice Department inspector general, said in an interview.

The restrictions reflect a broader effort by the Obama administration to prevent unauthorized disclosures of sensitive information — at the expense, some watchdogs insist, of government oversight.

………

n a rare show of bipartisanship, the administration has drawn scorn from Democrats and Republicans. The Obama administration’s stance has “blocked what was once a free flow of information” to the watchdogs, Senator Patrick J. Leahy of Vermont, the ranking Democrat on the Judiciary Committee, said at a hearing.
They have it wrong.

Obama simply does not believe in accountability for his administration, because he believes that they, and he, are honorable men, so we have the war on all forms of public accountability.

This is counter to both common sense, and to the intentions of the founders when they created the Constitution, who understood that a balance of powers, for which regulatory authorities need knowledge of what is going, is crucial to that idea.

Why I say that Barack Obama is the Worst Constitutional Law Professor Ever.

28 November 2015

Our NATO "Ally"

Journalists in Turkey uncovered arms shipments from the Turkish Military to ISIS/ISIL/Daesh/Whatever.

Of course, the response of Ankara was to charge those journalists with espionage and treason:
A court in Istanbul has charged two journalists from the opposition Cumhuriyet newspaper with spying after they alleged Turkey’s secret services had sent arms to Islamist rebels in Syria.

Can Dundar, the editor-in-chief, and Erdem Gul, the paper’s Ankara bureau chief, are accused of spying and “divulging state secrets”, Turkish media reported. Both men were placed in pre-trial detention.

According to Cumhuriyet, Turkish security forces in January 2014 intercepted a convoy of trucks near the Syrian border and discovered boxes of what the daily described as weapons and ammunition to be sent to rebels fighting against Syrian president Bashar al-Assad.

It linked the seized trucks to the Turkish national intelligence organisation (MIT).

The revelations, published in May, caused a political storm in Turkey, and enraged president Recep Tayyip Erdogan who vowed Dundar would pay a “heavy price”.

He personally filed a criminal complaint against Dundar, 54, demanding he serve multiple life sentences.

Turkey has vehemently denied aiding Islamist rebels in Syria, such as the Islamic State group, although it wants to see Assad toppled.

“Don’t worry, this ruling is nothing but a badge of honour to us,” Dundar told reporters and civil society representatives at the court before he was taken into custody.
Understand, the very fact that they were charged with, "divulging state secrets" means constitutes an admission on the part of the Turks that they did sent arms to ISIS.

This is not a surprise.

Erdogan is looking to establish an Islamic state in Turkey, so it's no surprise that he is supporting the Islamic state in Syria.

It does put that shoot-down of the Russian in perspective, though.

27 November 2015

Germany Finally Does Something Useful for Greece

It appears that Germany had combed through the data that it has managed to obtain from various tax havens, and has turned over to Greece the names of over 10,000 tax cheats:
Germany has handed Athens the names of more than 10,000 of its citizens suspected of dodging taxes with holdings in Swiss banks.

The inventory, which details bank accounts worth €3.6bn – almost twice the last instalment of aid Athens secured from creditors earlier this week – was given to the Greek finance ministry in an effort to help the country raise tax revenues.
They could have done this at the beginning of the whole crisis, and done a lot more to help both the Greek people and the Euro Zone.

The Germans wanted their pound of flesh, though, so it's taken 3 years for them to turn over this data.

And of Course, the Media is Avoiding All Use of the Word Terrorist

In (where else) Colorado Springs, Colorado, Home of Focus on the Family and the epicenter of the Christofascist movement in the United States, a gunman opened fired at a Planned Parenthood clinic:
A gun battle erupted inside a Planned Parenthood center here on Friday when a man armed with an assault-style rifle opened fire and began shooting at officers as they rushed to the scene. The authorities reported that three people were killed, a police officer and two civilians, and nine were wounded before the suspect finally surrendered more than five hours after the first shots were fired.

A police official in Colorado Springs, who was not authorized to speak, identified the man in custody as Robert Lewis Dear, 59. No other information about him was available.

The police did not describe the gunman’s motives. For hours on Friday, officers traded gunfire with him inside the clinic before they were able to shout to the man and persuade him to give up, according to Lt. Catherine Buckley, a police spokeswoman.

………
And only time that the "T-word" is used in the story is in a direct quote from a representative of Planned Parenthood:
In a statement, Vicki Cowart, president of Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains, said the group had strong safety measures and worked closely with local law enforcement.

“We don’t yet know the full circumstances and motives behind this criminal action, and we don’t yet know if Planned Parenthood was in fact the target of this attack,” she said. “We share the concerns of many Americans that extremists are creating a poisonous environment that feeds domestic terrorism in this country. We will never back away from providing care in a safe, supportive environment that millions of people rely on and trust.”
This is an act of domestic terrorism, and should be treated as such and called such by the government, the press, and the public.

26 November 2015

And Then the Tryptophan Kicks In

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone.



Posted via mobile.

25 November 2015

The Stupid, It Burns!

In Canada, a Yoga class has been canceled because of accusations of cultural appropriation:
In studios across the nation, as many as 20 million Americans practice yoga every day. Few worry that their downward dogs or warrior poses disrespect other cultures.

But yoga comes from India, once a British colony. And now, at one Canadian university, a yoga class designed to include disabled students has been canceled after concerns the practice was taken from a culture that “experienced oppression, cultural genocide and diasporas due to colonialism and western supremacy,” according to the group that once sponsored it.

In a telephone interview with The Washington Post, Jennifer Scharf, who taught the class for up to 60 people at the University of Ottawa, said she was unhappy about the decision, but accepted it.

“This particular class was intro to beginners’ yoga because I’m very sensitive to this issue,” she said. “I would never want anyone to think I was making some sort of spiritual claim other than the pure joy of being human that belongs to everyone free of religion.”
Oh, you poor delicate flowers.

On a related note, I am starting a charity, the Association of Cranial Rectal Inversion Disease, (ACRID) for people with their heads chronically up their asses.


H/T Stephen Saroff      o o  The Bear who Swims      
                        (_)_____o      
                     ~~~~(______)~~~~~~~~~~
                         oo    oo

Tweet of the Day


This is a damn shame.

A national treasure has been destroyed in a matter of months.

The New York Times Uses the "L" Word

By the "L" word, I mean that the Times is calling Donald Trump a liar, and they are actually using that word:
America has just lived through another presidential campaign week dominated by Donald Trump’s racist lies. Here’s a partial list of false statements: The United States is about to take in 250,000 Syrian refugees; African-Americans are responsible for most white homicides; and during the 9/11 attacks, “thousands and thousands” of people in an unnamed “Arab” community in New Jersey “were cheering as that building was coming down.”

In the Republican field, Mr. Trump has distinguished himself as fastest to dive to the bottom. If it’s a lie too vile to utter aloud, count on Mr. Trump to say it, often. It wins him airtime, and retweets through the roof.
It's nice that they are calling a lie a lie, but there are a lot of other cases where the word, "lie"is completely justified.

It be a real public service if they were to call other liars out in no uncertain terms.

And this is Mild Compared to the Trans-Pacific Partnership

The WTO has just ruled that requiring the labeling of dolphin safe tuna is an unacceptable restraint of trade:
International trade deals like the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) need to be carefully examined piece by piece because they can take precedence over a country’s own laws.

Case in point: the World Trade Organization (WTO) on Friday ruled that dolphin-safe tuna labeling rules — required by U.S. law, in an effort to protect intelligent mammals from slaughter — violate the rights of Mexican fishers.

As a result, the U.S. will have to either alter the law or face sanctions from Mexico.

I wrote a few weeks ago about how the “investor-state dispute settlement system” baked into trade agreements can force countries to compensate corporations when regulations cut into their profits.

The long-running quarrel over tuna reveals another way that domestic laws can be overturned by trade agreements: when countries can file trade challenges on behalf of domestic industries.

“This should serve as a warning against expansive trade deals like the Trans-Pacific Partnership that would replicate rules that undermine safeguards for wildlife, clean air, and clean water,” said the Sierra Club’s Ilana Solomon in a statement.
This short of crap is a feature of trade deals, not a bug.

He's Back!

Remember Martin Shkreli?

The parasite who (ironically) bought the anti-parasite, and then raised the price by over 5,000%.

After the media sh%$ storm, he promised to lower the price.

He lied:
Turing Pharmaceuticals AG will not reverse its decision to raise the price of a decades-old drug, Daraprim, by more than 5,000 percent, backing out of previous statements that it would cut the cost by the end of the year.

In an announcement on Tuesday, the company said that the list price of Daraprim, which jumped from $13.50 a pill to $750 a pill earlier this year, will not change. Instead, the company will offer hospitals up to 50 percent discounts and will make other adjustments to help patients afford Daraprim, a drug used to treat a parasitic infection and often given to HIV patients.
Out of the goodness of their hearts though, they will be selling a smaller bottle to make it a bit easier for hospitals to stock the drug.

We need villagers, torches, and pitchforks.

Our Noble Allies in the Middle East

The United Arab Emirates is sending Colombian mercenaries to fight in Yemen.

One wonders if they were hired from the right wing death squads, or the naroterrorist FARC:
The United Arab Emirates has secretly dispatched hundreds of Colombian mercenaries to Yemen to fight in that country’s raging conflict, adding a volatile new element in a complex proxy war that has drawn in the United States and Iran.

It is the first combat deployment for a foreign army that the Emirates has quietly built in the desert over the past five years, according to several people currently or formerly involved with the project. The program was once managed by a private company connected to Erik Prince, the founder of Blackwater Worldwide, but the people involved in the effort said that his role ended several years ago and that it has since been run by the Emirati military.

The arrival in Yemen of 450 Latin American troops — among them are also Panamanian, Salvadoran and Chilean soldiers — adds to the chaotic stew of government armies, armed tribes, terrorist networks and Yemeni militias currently at war in the country. Earlier this year, a coalition of countries led by Saudi Arabia, including the United States, began a military campaign in Yemen against Houthi rebels who have pushed the Yemeni government out of the capital, Sana.

………

It is also a glimpse into the future of war. Wealthy Arab nations, particularly Saudi Arabia, Qatar and the Emirates, have in recent years embraced a more aggressive military strategy throughout the Middle East, trying to rein in the chaos unleashed by the Arab revolutions that began in late 2010. But these countries wade into the new conflicts — whether in Yemen, Syria or Libya — with militaries that are unused to sustained warfare and populations with generally little interest in military service.

“Mercenaries are an attractive option for rich countries who wish to wage war yet whose citizens may not want to fight,” said Sean McFate, a senior fellow at the Atlantic Council and author of “The Modern Mercenary.”

“The private military industry is global now,” said Mr. McFate, adding that the United States essentially “legitimized” the industry with its heavy reliance on contractors in Iraq and Afghanistan over more than a decade of war. “Latin American mercenaries are a sign of what’s to come,” he said.
Hiring mercenaries is not an indication that our "Allies" in the region are the good guys.

Neither is the indiscriminate bombing of civilians by the Saudis.

Our foreign policy is both morally bankrupt and incompetent.

This Smells Like a Coverup,

U.S. Military Suspends Members Over Kunduz Hospital Strike - The New York Times
The top American commander in Afghanistan, Gen. John F. Campbell, said Wednesday that several service members had been suspended from duty after an internal military investigation of the American airstrike on a Doctors Without Borders hospital in Kunduz last month.

Calling the airstrike a “tragic mistake,” General Campbell read a statement announcing the findings of the investigation, which he said concluded that “avoidable human error” was to blame, compounded by technical, mechanical and procedural failures. He said another contributing factor was that the Special Forces members in Kunduz had been fighting continuously for days and were fatigued.
The special forces were "Fatigued".

Sounds like, "The dog ate my homework."
General Campbell and his staff did not say how many people were being disciplined, or how. But a senior United States military official, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said that one of those punished was the Army Special Forces commander on the ground in Kunduz during the fighting. The official would not identify the commander by name, but said the officer, a captain, was relieved of his command in Afghanistan on Wednesday morning.
Translation: he is the the chosen patsie, because he is only a captain.

This what happens in these cases:  They lay everything at as low a level as is possible, and/or blame reservists or national guardsman.
Kunduz, a provincial capital in northern Afghanistan, had been seized by the Taliban in the days before the airstrike. General Campbell said the gunship’s crew believed it was firing on a different building identified as a Taliban base in the city. He said that the aircraft’s targeting systems failed to deliver accurate information and that email and other electronic systems aboard the aircraft, including a video feed that would normally have sent pictures to higher-level commanders in real time, also failed during the operation.
Seriously?
The general confirmed that Médecins Sans Frontières, the French name of Doctors Without Borders, had succeeded in reaching the Special Forces commander to inform him of the attack about 12 minutes into the airstrike, at 2:20 a.m. But he said the strike was not called off until 2:37 a.m. — after the aircrew had already stopped firing. But that timeline does not agree with accounts by the aid group and other witnesses, who said the strike went on for more than an hour.

The aid group, which has called for an independent, nonmilitary international inquiry into the airstrike, was sharply critical of General Campbell’s remarks. “The U.S. version of events presented today leaves M.S.F. with more questions than answers,” said Christopher Stokes, the organization’s general director. “The frightening catalog of errors outlined today illustrates gross negligence on the part of U.S. forces and violations of the rules of war.”
Gee, you think?

This stinks to the high heavens.

(on edit)

And the fact that they dumped this the day before thanksgiving is also highly suspect.

24 November 2015

Why did This Take a Year

A police officer in Chicago has finally been charged with murder after shooting a black teen 16 times, the bulk of the shots coming after he was already on the ground:
A white Chicago police officer has been charged with murder over the shooting death of a black teenager, just one day before a deadline by which a judge has ordered the city to release a squad-car video of the incident.

Veteran officer Jason Van Dyke was indicted on Tuesday on a first-degree murder charge after shooting 17-year-old Laquan McDonald 16 times. The officer was denied bail at a hearing in Chicago’s main criminal courthouse hours after the state’s attorney, Anita Alvarez, announced the charges against him. 


City officials and community leaders have been bracing for the release of the video, fearing an outbreak of unrest and demonstrations similar to what occurred in Ferguson, Baltimore and other cities after young African American men were killed by police. The judge ordered the dash-cam recording to be released by 25 November after city officials had argued for months that it could not be made public until the conclusion of several investigations.

At a press conference before the video’s official release, Alvarez said the officer’s actions “were not justified or the proper use of deadly force by an officer”.

………

Documents filed in court describe the video’s contents, in which the teen is said to be shown walking away from officers on a Chicago street. As McDonald turns away, Van Dyke takes one step towards the teen and begins to fire his gun, the description says.

For 14 to 15 seconds, according the documents prepared by the state’s attorney’s office, the officers unloads his entire gun into the teen, who spends 13 seconds laying face down on the pavement with his arms and legs jerking from the shots making contact with his body. Three clouds of smoke appear during the incident that indicate shots hitting the pavement, according to officials.

………

Van Dyke is the first on-duty officer to be charged with murder while working for the Chicago police department in nearly 35 years.

………

According to a freedom of information request by the Chicago Tribune, the veteran officer has had at least 15 complaints filed against him while working in high-crime neighborhoods, for accusations including using racial epithets and pointing a gun at an arrestee without justification.

In 2007, the officer was involved in a traffic stop in which he and his partner were found to have used excessive force on a man with no prior convictions, leading to a $350,000 award for damages in the case, the Tribune reported.
The murder occurred on October 20 of Last Year, and it was caught on camera, and it still took them a year to file charges, and the initial release from the authorities, portrayed Laquan McDonald as a cross between Rambo and the Incredible Hulk.

The charges and the release of the dashcam video (I am not embedding it) only happened because the protests did not end.

It is clear that everyone on the law enforcement side of this just wanted it to go away.

BTW, there are still some people who should be charged as an accessory to murder, specifically the cops who deleted surveillance video from a Burger King in a clear attempt to obstruct justice.

I'm not sure how to stop this, though I think that the idea that police should be require to self insure might be a good start.

When being a bad cop boosts their liability insurance rates, cops will get better.

Oh Crap………


Turkish Radar Track


Competing Russian Radar Track
The Turks just shot down a Russian SU-24 near the Turkish border:
NATO faced being thrust into a new Middle Eastern crisis on Tuesday after warplanes from member state Turkey shot down a Russian jet that Turkish officials said had violated their country’s airspace on the border with Syria.

The incident marked a serious escalation in the Syrian conflict that is likely to further strain relations between Russia and the NATO alliance.

Russian officials confirmed that a Russian Su-24 attack aircraft was shot down Tuesday morning but insisted it had not violated Turkey’s airspace.

Russia’s Defense Ministry said one of at least two pilots probably died during the incident, and a marine also was killed by apparent Syrian insurgent fire during a helicopter rescue operation to retrieve the downed airmen.

The downing brings renewed attention to a scenario feared for months by the Pentagon and its partners: a potential conflict arising from overlapping air missions over Syria — with Russia backing the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and a U.S.-led coalition conducting airstrikes against the Islamic State.

………

Russian President Vladimir Putin had strong words for Turkey, calling the incident a “stab in the back.”
By way of scale, that little bit of Turkey is in dispute is about 2 miles wide, while the Russians are maintaining that the Turkish aircraft entered Syrian airspace during the shoot-down.

This is a F%$#ing mess, and the US is between a rock and a hard place.

The Turks are clearly providing tacit support to Jihadis, including (in the past, at least) ISIS/ISIL/Daesh/Whatever, but they are also NATO allies, which means that the US is treaty bound to support them.

Particularly when juxtaposed with the fact that the elements of the US military and foreign policy establishment are still aggressively supporting the idea of the violent overthrow of the Syrian government, (which worked so f%$#ing well in Libya) this has all the makings of a fiasco.

An Interesting Perspective on Russia's Goals in Syria

I hadn't thought about it before, but there are thousands of Russian Jihadis in Syria, and should they win, whey will come back to the Caucuse:
I find nothing sinister or difficult to understand in Russia’s increased involvement in Syria. In June, extremists declared the Dagestan Governorate of the Islamic State in Russia’s southernmost republic. Think about this for a sec. Russian jets started flying missions three months later.
This is a legitimate security issue for Russia, as things like Chechnya and Beslan show.

It doesn't matter if  the fighters are fighting with ISIS, or al Nusra, or the Kurds, or the Turkomen.

If they win, they will be back in Gorzny and Moscow with their new friends.

For all the crap about "Fighting them there" that we have in the US, the Russians actually have a real problem with people bringing terrorism back.

Good

As his term comes to an end, Kentucky Governor Steve Beshear has restored voting rights non-violent felons:
Gov. Steve Beshear signed an executive order on Tuesday that will automatically restore the right to vote and hold public office for felons who have completed their sentences, excluding those who were convicted of violent or sex crimes, bribery or treason.

“The right to vote is one of the most intrinsically American privileges, and thousands of Kentuckians are living, working and paying taxes in the state but are denied this basic right,” said Beshear in a release, just before announcing his move at a press conference in Frankfort. “Once an individual has served his or her time and paid all restitution, society expects them to reintegrate into their communities and become law-abiding and productive citizens. A key part of that transition is the right to vote.”

Kentucky was one of only four states  that did not automatically restore the voting rights of felons after the final discharge of their sentence — whose numbers in the state are estimated to be 181,000, with most of those convicted of nonviolent crimes. Though legislation amending Kentucky’s constitution to restore the voting rights of nonviolent felons (HB 70) has easily passed the state House in recent years, it was continually blocked in the state Senate — with Sen. Damon Thayer, R-Georgetown, vowing to continue blocking it because he was once jeered by a handful of voting rights activists in a committee meeting.

Beshear’s press release noted that while he consistently supported this legislative effort and wanted to see that process played out, he is signing this executive order with only two weeks left in his term, adding that he wanted to wait until the November election “so as to not politicize the issue during the campaign.”

According to the release, under the executive order “the Department of Corrections (DOC) will verify prior to issuing a restoration of civil rights that there are no pending criminal cases, charges or arrests, or outstanding court-ordered restitution. Individuals meeting those criteria will be granted automatic restoration and a certificate of Restoration of Civil Rights will be issued…. Individuals who have already left the correctional system may pick up a restoration of rights form at any Probation and Parole office, or by contacting the Department of Corrections at 502-782-2248 or online at corrections.ky.gov [3], and return it to the address listed. DOC will verify whether they meet the criteria set out in the executive order. Offenders who do will have their voting rights restored ‘without undue delay’ and receive a certificate of Restoration of Civil Rights in the mail.”
Cool.

Cuck Fomcast

It looks like the sh%$heels that is the most detested country in the world have found a new way to f%$# with net neutrality.

Basically, they are implementing data caps, and then exempting their own services from their caps:
By now, Comcast's strategy for fighting internet video competition is very clear. For one, the company is slowly but surely expanding usage caps into dozens of new markets. In these ever-expanding areas, Comcast imposes a 300 GB usage cap, then charges users $10 for every 50 GB of extra data they consume. Comcast's also now testing a new wrinkle wherein users have the option of paying another $30 to $35 if they want unlimited data. In short, the option to have the same unlimited connection they had yesterday will cost these users significantly more.

But recently, Comcast's other spoke in this strategy started to reveal itself. The company is slowly but surely expanding a creatively named streaming video service named Stream. Stream provides Comcast broadband-only users a $15 service that includes live TV, video on demand, and HBO, and it's Comcast's way of trying to keep would-be cord cutters in house. Here's the kicker though: Comcast's new streaming service doesn't count against Comcast user usage caps:
"We asked Comcast today if Stream TV usage will count against the 300GB data plans imposed in certain parts of Comcast's territory. "No, Stream is an IP cable service delivered over our managed network to the home," a Comcast spokesperson replied.

Comcast also pointed Ars to an (sic) FAQ that says, "Stream TV is a cable streaming service delivered over Comcast's cable system, not over the Internet. Therefore, Stream TV data usage will not be counted towards your Xfinity Internet monthly data usage."
In short, Comcast's trying to argue that this isn't a net neutrality violation because the service spends significantly more time traveling over Comcast's managed IP infrastructure instead of the public Internet. It's the same excuse Comcast gave back in 2012, when it was criticized for exempting its streaming service via the Xbox 360 from usage caps. The move resulted in some pointed criticism by Netflix CEO Reed Hastings, who declared that Comcast was "no longer following net neutrality principles" and the company "should apply caps equally, or not at all." The FCC, however, did nothing.
Seriously, what the actual f%$#?

Without monopoly rents, Comcast executives would be flipping burgers.

This is a Version of Cops and Robbers I was Previously Unaware Of

It turns out that it is more likely that cops will take your stuff than robbers:
Last year, all of America’s burglars extracted a total of just $3.9 billion worth of property from their cumulative marks. Pansies, the nation’s cops spit in the general direction of that paltry figure. That’s all you got?

That’s because over the same period, U.S. law enforcement officials netted $4.5 billion in goods from Americans through a process known as civil asset forfeiture, an astounding figure that economist Martin Armstrong noted on his blog last week in response to an Institute for Justice report.

Consider that for a moment: in 2014, cops took more property from Americans than burglars did.

The short rap on asset forfeiture goes like this: if you are suspected of a crime, especially a drug-related crime, police can confiscate your money or property if they believe it is related to your supposed criminal activity—often without convicting or even formally charging you. In most states, police departments are entitled to keep some or all of the seized property, giving them an obvious incentive to continue the practice. Civil forfeiture laws allow cops to take your house because your kid has a heroin problem, or take your truck just because it’s a cool-ass truck.
Am I the only one here who finds this completely whack?

Not This Sh%$ AGain!

Once again, after seeing the continued popularity of Donald Trump amongst the Republican party base, the punditry reach into their bag, and pull out Willard Mitt Rmoney. Give me a f%$#ing break:
Huge congratulations to Suffolk University and the Boston Globe for crafting a poll in New Hampshire that actually offers an interesting bit of news. The story of the Republican primary in the state has largely been the same for months, with Donald Trump holding a steady and robust lead. In the Real Clear Politics polling average, he's up 15 points. In Suffolk's new poll, he's up 10 -- but with a healthy-sized number of undecideds.



But then Suffolk and the Globe added something to the mix. If we added Mitt Romney to the list, they asked, would you switch to him? For 30 percent of respondents, the answer was "yes." Romney leads all other Republicans by a two-to-one margin. Trump loses a third of his support.

Seriously, can we give this a rest?

Rmoney is popular because He is Not Running., and as soon as he joined the race, he would be forced to fall into lockstep with the batsh%$ insane wing of the party base, and we would be back to where we started.

The depressing thing about this is that on the other side of the aisle, the favored candidate of the pundit class, Hillary Clinton is the weakest candidate against "The Donald."  (Yes, the polling shows that O'Malley even though a cipher to most voters polls slightly better against Trump.)

So, it's "insane" to  nominate Donald trump, but the only sane thing for the Democrats to do is nominate the candidate that he is most likely to beat.

Could the pundit class please go Cheney themselves?

23 November 2015

Speaking Truth to Bigoted Cowards

They mayor of Dallas, Mike Rawlings makes an obvious point, that there is more to worry about from white men with guns than there is from Syrian refugees:
The mayor of Dallas is pushing back against politicians who say Americans should be skeptical of Syrian refugees, saying he is “more fearful” of armed white men than people fleeing civil war in the Middle East.

Speaking to MSNBC on Saturday morning, Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings was asked to discuss the growing anxiety over Syrian refugees entering the United States, purportedly over concerns they could be potential agents for militant groups such as ISIS. Rawlings staunchly rejected the assertion that Syrians are somehow uniquely prone to violence, saying he is more concerned with the rise of white supremacy and the recent flurry of mass shootings committed by white men.

“I am more fearful of large gatherings of white men that come into schools, theaters and shoot people up, but we don’t isolate young white men on this issue,” Rawlings said.

He also said that vilifying refugees only helps ISIS, as doing so falls into their “trap.” He then pushed back on the notion that ISIS is somehow representative of Islam.
This is so true.

The Judge is Right, I Expect Obama's DoJ to Appeal

A magistrate has placed significant restrictions on the use of the "Stingray" cell phone tower spoofer:
A federal judge in Illinois has recently taken the unusual step of issuing three new stringent requirements for the government when it wants to deploy cell-site simulators. The move aims to protect the Fourth Amendment rights of innocent bystanders against unreasonable search and seizure.

Of course, for now, this order only applies to this one judge in the Northern District of Illinois.

These new stingray requirements come just about a month after the Department of Homeland Security imposed its own warrant requirement, following a similar move by the Department of Justice.


Not only can stingrays be used to determine location by spoofing a cell tower, but they can also be used to intercept calls and text messages. Once deployed, the devices intercept data from a target phone as well as information from other phones within the vicinity.

As part of an ongoing drug case, US Magistrate Judge Iain Johnston told prosecutors recently that they will now have to fulfill three distinct requirements before he will sign off on the use of the invasive surveillance devices, as a way to protect the privacy of those who happened to be near a surveillance target. The memorandum opinion came down earlier this month as part of a largely sealed ongoing drug investigation, the details of which the judge described as "unsurprising."

What is surprising is Judge Johnston’s order to compel government investigators to not only obtain a warrant (which he acknowledges they do in this case), but also to not use them when "an inordinate number of innocent third parties’ information will be collected," such as at a public sporting event.

This first requirement runs counter to the FBI’s previous claim that it can warrantlessly use stingrays in public places, where no reasonable expectation of privacy is granted.

Second, the judge requires that the government "immediately destroy" collateral data collection within 48 hours (and prove it to the court).

Finally, Judge Johnston also notes:
Third, law enforcement officers are prohibited from using any data acquired beyond that necessary to determine the cell phone information of the target. A cell-site simulator is simply too powerful of a device to be used and the information captured by it too vast to allow its use without specific authorization from a fully informed court. Minimizing procedures such as the destruction of private information the United States has no right to keep are necessary to protect the goals of the Fourth Amendment.
I'm thinking that if someone could come up with an app that could detect when it is likely that one of these devices is in use, they sell it for a significant chunk of change.

I think that you could do that with an algorithm involving ping times to a cell tower.

The Military Faked Intelligence Data? Say it Isn't So!

They always say that truth is the first casualty of war.

What they don't say is that senior officers in the Pentagon have a long history of lying to their superiors in civilian leadership. Maybe they should:
When Islamic State fighters overran a string of Iraqi cities last year, analysts at United States Central Command wrote classified assessments for military intelligence officials and policy makers that documented the humiliating retreat of the Iraqi Army. But before the assessments were final, former intelligence officials said, the analysts’ superiors made significant changes.

In the revised documents, the Iraqi Army had not retreated at all. The soldiers had simply “redeployed.”

Such changes are at the heart of an expanding internal Pentagon investigation of Centcom, as Central Command is known, where analysts say that supervisors revised conclusions to mask some of the American military’s failures in training Iraqi troops and beating back the Islamic State. The analysts say supervisors were particularly eager to paint a more optimistic picture of America’s role in the conflict than was warranted.

In recent weeks, the Pentagon inspector general seized a large trove of emails and documents from military servers as it examines the claims, and has added more investigators to the inquiry.

………

Staff members at the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence are also poring over years of Centcom intelligence reports and comparing them to assessments from the Central Intelligence Agency, the Defense Intelligence Agency and others. The committee is not just examining reports about Iraq, Syria and the Islamic State, but also about Afghanistan and other areas under Centcom’s purview. The insurrection inside Centcom is an important chapter in the story of how the United States responded to the growing threat from the Islamic State. This past summer, a group of Centcom analysts took concerns about their superiors to the inspector general, saying they had evidence that senior officials had changed intelligence assessments to overstate the progress of American airstrikes against the Islamic State, also known as ISIS.

………

Senior lawmakers have begun their own inquiries into the military’s intelligence apparatus. Representative Mac Thornberry, the Republican from Texas who is chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, said in an interview that his committee was examining intelligence assessments from Centcom and other military commands to see if there was a systemic problem of dissenting voices being muffled by senior military commanders.

………

That investigation was prompted by complaints this past summer from Centcom’s longtime Iraq experts, led by Gregory Hooker, the senior Iraq analyst. In some ways, the team’s criticisms mirror those of a decade ago, when Mr. Hooker wrote a research paper saying the Bush administration, over many analysts’ objections, advocated a small force in Iraq and spent little time planning for what would follow the invasion.

Lawmakers originally said that the Centcom investigation would be completed in weeks. But Pentagon investigators have found the work painstaking and it could span months. In addition to determining whether changes were made to intelligence reports — and if so, who ordered them — the investigators, like the staff members of the House intelligence committee, are studying reports from other intelligence agencies produced at the time to determine what was actually occurring in Iraq and Syria when the reports were written.
This sort of sh%$ needs to stop.

This is simply unacceptable. It is antithetical to the idea of civilian control of the military.

Anyone in the chain of command for these actions need to be sent stateside now.

Once the investigation is done, any responsible for this should be court martialed. Anyone who should have known and did not make a report to the inspector general should be fired.

This was a deliberate attempt to deceive the SecDef and the President. It cannot, and should not, be tolerated.

How the U.S. goes to war. Every. Single. Time

Political Cartoonist Tom Toles completely nails it:



I got nothing to add but the phrase, "Rinse, lather, repeat."

It's perfect.

22 November 2015

How About Throwing this District Attorney in Jail?

It appears that the single most prolific issuer of wiretap warrants in the United States, Riverside County, California, illegally wiretapped 52,000 people:
Prosecutors in the Los Angeles suburb responsible for a huge share of the nation’s wiretaps almost certainly violated federal law when they authorized widespread eavesdropping that police used to make more than 300 arrests and seize millions of dollars in cash and drugs throughout the USA.

The violations could undermine the legality of as many as 738 wiretaps approved in Riverside County, Calif., since the middle of 2013, an investigation by USA TODAY and The Desert Sun, based on interviews and court records, has found. Prosecutors reported that those taps, often conducted by federal drug investigators, intercepted phone calls and text messages by more than 52,000 people.

Federal law bars the government from seeking court approval for a wiretap unless a top prosecutor has personally authorized the request. Congress added that restriction in the 1960s, when the FBI had secretly monitored civil rights leaders, to ensure that such intrusive surveillance would not be conducted lightly.

In Riverside County — a Los Angeles suburb whose court and prosecutors approved almost one of every five U.S. wiretaps last year — the district attorney turned the job of reviewing the applications over to lower-level lawyers, interviews and court records show. That practice almost certainly violated the federal wiretapping law and could jeopardize prosecutors’ ability to use the surveillance in court.

“A district attorney is playing with gunpowder if he ignores the potential implications of letting somebody else handle the entire process. That’s potentially catastrophic,” said Clifford Fishman, a Catholic University of America law professor who studies wiretapping.

That also creates a legal problem for Riverside’s massive wiretapping operation, which had come under scrutiny from Justice Department lawyers. Last week, USA TODAY and The Desert Sun reported that the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration had secretly helped turn the county into the nation’s wiretap capital, even though federal prosecutors repeatedly warned that the surveillance orders violated a separate part of the wiretapping law and would not withstand a legal challenge.

Federal drug agents used information from Riverside wiretaps to make arrests as far away as Kentucky and Virginia, sometimes concealing the surveillance from judges and defense lawyers.
(emphasis mine)

Here's an idea: How about going after that DA criminally, so maybe next time, we won't having a sworn law enforcement official thumbing his nose at the law?

This is beyond negligent.

From the Department of, "It's About F%$#ing Time"

The AMA has reversed itself, and called for a ban on prescription drug advertisements:
Drug companies should stop advertising directly to consumers, a major U.S. doctors group said Tuesday, declaring that the ads often push patients to more expensive treatments and inflate demand for therapies.

In a vote Tuesday at the group’s annual meeting in Atlanta, the American Medical Association called for an end to television commercials and magazine spreads that are used to pitch prescription drugs. It’s a change from the AMA’s previous position, which said the ads were fine as long as they were educational and accurate. The U.S. is one of the few countries that allows direct-to-consumer drug ads.

The vote “reflects concerns among physicians about the negative impact of commercially driven promotions, and the role that marketing costs play in fueling escalating drug prices,” AMA Board Chair-elect Patrice A. Harris said in a statement announcing the vote result. “Direct-to-consumer advertising also inflates demand for new and more expensive drugs, even when these drugs may not be appropriate.”
I am not sure why the AMA has reversed itself, but it is long overdue.

However, given the expansive view of business free speech held by the Supreme Court, I am not sure precisely how one would enforce such a ban.

Diaperman Finally Loses

Years after being implicated in the DC Madame scandal, it appears that it has finally cost David Vitter an election:
Sen. David Vitter (R-La.) announced Saturday night that he will not run for reelection after losing Louisiana's gubernatorial runoff election.
Democratic state Rep. John Bel Edwards defeated Vitter, bringing an end to a rough campaign that saw Vitter fall short after entering as the heavy favorite.

The New Orleans Times-Picayune called the race for Edwards just after 10 p.m. Eastern time Saturday night, a little more than hour after polls closed.

………


Edwards and Vitter advanced to the runoff after finishing as the top two in the Oct. 24 open primary. In Louisiana’s “jungle primary” system, candidates of all parties run together, with the top two finishers having a runoff if neither one secures 50 percent of the vote.

The well-known Vitter, first elected to the Senate in 2004 after serving in the House of Representatives, was the prohibitive favorite during the early stages of the race. But after sustained attacks targeting his involvement in a 2007 prostitution scandal, he barely defeated two of his Republican challengers and finished in second behind the lesser-known Edwards by 14 points in the jungle primary.

Jay Dardenne, Louisiana’s Republican lieutenant governor, finished fourth in the jungle primary. He crossed party lines to endorse Edwards over Vitter in the runoff.


………

In a particularly ruthless ad, Edwards claimed Vitter had chosen “prostitutes over patriots” by skipping a vote to honor fallen soldiers in order to take a call from a prostitute.
I'm not sure why this scandal, which was reputed to involve diaper play on Vitter's part, has taken so long to for him to pay the price.

My guess is that this is the first time that one of his opponents actually decided to bring it up.

Important

Over at the New York Times, Kamel Daoud observes that Saudi Arabia is actually what ISIS intends to become.

This is particularly noteworthy because it appears in the New York Times:
Black Daesh, white Daesh. The former slits throats, kills, stones, cuts off hands, destroys humanity’s common heritage and despises archaeology, women and non-Muslims. The latter is better dressed and neater but does the same things. The Islamic State; Saudi Arabia. In its struggle against terrorism, the West wages war on one, but shakes hands with the other. This is a mechanism of denial, and denial has a price: preserving the famous strategic alliance with Saudi Arabia at the risk of forgetting that the kingdom also relies on an alliance with a religious clergy that produces, legitimizes, spreads, preaches and defends Wahhabism, the ultra-puritanical form of Islam that Daesh feeds on.

Wahhabism, a messianic radicalism that arose in the 18th century, hopes to restore a fantasized caliphate centered on a desert, a sacred book, and two holy sites, Mecca and Medina. Born in massacre and blood, it manifests itself in a surreal relationship with women, a prohibition against non-Muslims treading on sacred territory, and ferocious religious laws. That translates into an obsessive hatred of imagery and representation and therefore art, but also of the body, nakedness and freedom. Saudi Arabia is a Daesh that has made it.

The West’s denial regarding Saudi Arabia is striking: It salutes the theocracy as its ally but pretends not to notice that it is the world’s chief ideological sponsor of Islamist culture. The younger generations of radicals in the so-called Arab world were not born jihadists. They were suckled in the bosom of Fatwa Valley, a kind of Islamist Vatican with a vast industry that produces theologians, religious laws, books, and aggressive editorial policies and media campaigns.

One might counter: Isn’t Saudi Arabia itself a possible target of Daesh? Yes, but to focus on that would be to overlook the strength of the ties between the reigning family and the clergy that accounts for its stability — and also, increasingly, for its precariousness. The Saudi royals are caught in a perfect trap: Weakened by succession laws that encourage turnover, they cling to ancestral ties between king and preacher. The Saudi clergy produces Islamism, which both threatens the country and gives legitimacy to the regime.

………

Daesh has a mother: the invasion of Iraq. But it also has a father: Saudi Arabia and its religious-industrial complex. Until that point is understood, battles may be won, but the war will be lost. Jihadists will be killed, only to be reborn again in future generations and raised on the same books.
I think that there is a slow change in attitude towards our "allies" in Riyadh, though it does not yet seem to have penetrated the psyche of the western foreign policy establishment.

Hopefully, this means that the Overton window has shifted, and our policy of blindly following the initiatives of the House of Saud will become a bit less automatic.

21 November 2015

This is Not the Onion


She Turned Me Into a Newt!
Former Republican nominee for US Senator Deleware, Christine O'Donnel, who in 2010 was forced to kick of her campaign by declaring that she was not a witch, is now calling an FEC lawsuit over her campaign finance management a "Witch Hunt".

She needs to get this straight. Is she a witch, or isn't she?
Former U.S. Senate candidate Christine O'Donnell said Friday that a Federal Election Commission lawsuit accusing her of improper campaign expenditures is a "witch hunt" and a waste of taxpayer dollars.

O'Donnell, who famously declared during the 2010 Senate race that she was not a witch, made the comment in a teleconference with the federal judge hearing the case.

O'Donnell also said she is having trouble hiring a local attorney, claiming that at least three lawyers she has talked to have received phone calls warning of "political backlash" if they represent her. She declined to identify them or provide further details, noting that an Associated Press reporter was listening to the teleconference.
Yes, I know that my characterization is neither fair nor accurate, but seriously, this is just too good, and too weird, to pass up.

I am Such an Asshole

I am at a "Rubiks" cubing competition with my son, and this time, for the first time, Sharon* is with us.

She made the comment that she felt like she was in a room of people like Charlie.

I replied, "You mean virgins?"

When I informed Charlie of my bon mot, we was unamused.

(on edit) This was the River Hill Fall 2015 cubing competition, and the world record for solving a 3x3 cube was broken ……… twice, with the final record breaking the 5 second barrier.

*Love of my life, light of the cosmos, she who must be obeyed, my wife.

20 November 2015

This is So Depressing

Rep Steve Russel (R-OK) just delivered a stirring speech in support of tolerance and of aiding the refugees, which invoked American exceptionalism, and our shame from our treatment of refugees fleeing the Nazis.

Later, he cast a vote in favor of the so called "Safe Act", which would exclude Syrian refugees.

I am tempted to hit myself in the head with a hammer, because it will feel so good when I stop.

19 November 2015

There is No Evidence that Mass Surveillance Makes Us Safe

This is not an exaggeration/

Pro Publica examined almost a decade of mass surveillance, and could not any meaningful benefit derived from drinking from the data fire hose:
Current and former government officials have been pointing to the terror attacks in Paris as justification for mass surveillance programs. CIA Director John Brennan accused privacy advocates of “hand-wringing” that has made “our ability collectively internationally to find these terrorists much more challenging.” Former National Security Agency and CIA director Michael Hayden said, “In the wake of Paris, a big stack of metadata doesn’t seem to be the scariest thing in the room.”

Ultimately, it’s impossible to know just how successful sweeping surveillance has been, since much of the work is secret. But what has been disclosed so far suggests the programs have been of limited value. Here’s a roundup of what we know.

An internal review of the Bush administration’s warrantless program – called Stellarwind – found it resulted in few useful leads from 2001–2004, and none after that. New York Times reporter Charlie Savage obtained the findings through a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit and published them in his new book, Power Wars: Inside Obama’s Post–9/11 Presidency:
[The FBI general counsel] defined as useful those [leads] that made a substantive contribution to identifying a terrorist, or identifying a potential confidential informant. Just 1.2 percent of them fit that category. In 2006, she conducted a comprehensive study of all the leads generated from the content basket of Stellarwind between March 2004 and January 2006 and discovered that zero of those had been useful.
In an endnote, Savage then added:
The program was generating numerous tips to the FBI about suspicious phone numbers and e-mail addresses, and it was the job of the FBI field offices to pursue those leads and scrutinize the people behind them. (The tips were so frequent and such a waste of time that the field offices reported back, in frustration, “You’re sending us garbage.”)
This isn't security, it's security theater, and the victories it achieves are in battles between for budget money from Congress. 

More IP Idiocy

The Swiss charity the Anne Frank Fonds will be atempting to add her father as co-author to the book in an attempt to expand the copyright term, which has the effect of preventing public posting of the work which otherwise would have happened on 1 January:
When Otto Frank first published his daughter’s red-checked diary and notebooks, he wrote a prologue assuring readers that the book mostly contained her words, written while hiding from the Nazis in a secret annex of a factory in Amsterdam.

But now the Swiss foundation that holds the copyright to “The Diary of Anne Frank” is alerting publishers that her father is not only the editor but also legally the co-author of the celebrated book.

The move has a practical effect: It extends the copyright from Jan. 1, when it is set to expire in most of Europe, to the end of 2050. Copyrights in Europe generally end 70 years after an author’s death. Anne Frank died 70 years ago at Bergen-Belsen, a concentration camp, and Otto Frank died in 1980. Extending the copyright would block others from being able to publish the book without paying royalties or receiving permission.
This sort of sh%$ is getting out of hand.

IP protections have become more and excessive, and they have nothing to do with the intended purpose of IP protections, which is to encourage innovation and creativity.

The New York Times Calls Out Intelligence Officials for Exploiting the Paris Attacks to Further their Anti-Privacy Agenda

Seeing as how the Times is the very much the voice of the conventional wisdom, so when they have excoriated intelligence officials' opportunistic statements following the Paris attacks, it implies that there has been a shift in customary thinking:
It’s a wretched yet predictable ritual after each new terrorist attack: Certain politicians and government officials waste no time exploiting the tragedy for their own ends. The remarks on Monday by John Brennan, the director of the Central Intelligence Agency, took that to a new and disgraceful low.

Speaking less than three days after coordinated terrorist attacks in Paris killed 129 and injured hundreds more, Mr. Brennan complained about “a lot of hand-wringing over the government’s role in the effort to try to uncover these terrorists.”

What he calls “hand-wringing” was the sustained national outrage following the 2013 revelations by Edward Snowden, a former National Security Agency contractor, that the agency was using provisions of the Patriot Act to secretly collect information on millions of Americans’ phone records. In June, President Obama signed the USA Freedom Act, which ends bulk collection of domestic phone data by the government (but not the collection of other data, like emails and the content of Americans’ international phone calls) and requires the secretive Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court to make its most significant rulings available to the public.
These reforms are only a modest improvement on the Patriot Act, but the intelligence community saw them as a grave impediment to antiterror efforts. In his comments Monday, Mr. Brennan called the attacks in Paris a “wake-up call,” and claimed that recent “policy and legal” actions “make our ability collectively, internationally, to find these terrorists much more challenging.”

It is hard to believe anything Mr. Brennan says. Last year, he bluntly denied that the C.I.A. had illegally hacked into the computers of Senate staff members conducting an investigation into the agency’s detention and torture programs when, in fact, it did. In 2011, when he was President Obama’s top counterterrorism adviser, he claimed that American drone strikes had not killed any civilians, despite clear evidence that they had. And his boss, James Clapper Jr., the director of national intelligence, has admitted lying to the Senate on the N.S.A.’s bulk collection of data. Even putting this lack of credibility aside, it’s not clear what extra powers Mr. Brennan is seeking.

………

These reforms are only a modest improvement on the Patriot Act, but the intelligence community saw them as a grave impediment to antiterror efforts. In his comments Monday, Mr. Brennan called the attacks in Paris a “wake-up call,” and claimed that recent “policy and legal” actions “make our ability collectively, internationally, to find these terrorists much more challenging.”

It is hard to believe anything Mr. Brennan says. Last year, he bluntly denied that the C.I.A. had illegally hacked into the computers of Senate staff members conducting an investigation into the agency’s detention and torture programs when, in fact, it did. In 2011, when he was President Obama’s top counterterrorism adviser, he claimed that American drone strikes had not killed any civilians, despite clear evidence that they had. And his boss, James Clapper Jr., the director of national intelligence, has admitted lying to the Senate on the N.S.A.’s bulk collection of data. Even putting this lack of credibility aside, it’s not clear what extra powers Mr. Brennan is seeking.

………
In truth, intelligence authorities are still able to do most of what they did before — only now with a little more oversight by the courts and the public. There is no dispute that they and law enforcement agencies should have the necessary powers to detect and stop attacks before they happen. But that does not mean unquestioning acceptance of ineffective and very likely unconstitutional tactics that reduce civil liberties without making the public safer.
That was a major case of whup ass that was unloaded on the leaders of the US state security apparatus.

Basic Common Sense

Over at Washington's Blog, they make a very good point, "If We Want To Stop Terrorism, We Should Stop SUPPORTING Terrorists."

Just read it. It covers all the bases, including the many misdeeds of the House of Saud.

Traitors

And no, I am not talking about treason against the United States, which is, as I have noted before, very specifically defined in the Constitution, the only crime so defined.

Rather, I am suggesting that the House vote to exclude Syrian refugees is treason against the whole of humanity, which necessary has a less specific definition:
Responding to increased fears of terrorism in the United States following the Paris attacks, the House of Representatives passed a Republican-backed bill Thursday that would temporarily freeze Syrian and Iraqi refugees' entry into the United States and revamp the vetting process. The bill passed 289 to 137, with near-unanimous support from Republicans and 47 Democrats backing the measure.

………


The bill "would immediately shut down resettlement of refugees from the Syria and Iraq region," Rep. Adam Smith (D-Wash.) said Wednesday. "This rash reaction ignores the fact that all of the Paris attackers identified thus far are either French or Belgian, and that many terrorist threats are homegrown." A Syrian passport was discovered by the body of one of the Paris attackers, but French officials said soon afterward that it was a forgery.

The bill does not explicitly halt admission of Syrian refugees, a response that some Republican leaders, including House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), called for this week. But it does require additional vetting of refugees by the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security, without specifying the procedures. Implementing the bill "would cause a pause" in the admission of refugees, Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.), chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, told reporters.

It would also increase the FBI's role in the screening process and require the secretary of homeland security, the FBI director, and the director of national intelligence to personally certify to Congress that each individual refugee is "not a threat" to the United States.
I'm sure that someone out there is going to talk about the reality of politics, but most of these districts are safe enough that the only way that a caught on camera eating babies.

When I make quick look at the list, a few names stick out;
  • Patrick Murphy, who was a Republican bankster until he wanted to run for Congress, and is now the establishment's choice to run for Florida Senate.
  • Steve Israel, former Blue Dog who has been single minded in attempting to restore that caucus.
  • Marcy Kaptur, who defeated Dennis Kucinich in the primary after they were redistricted together.
  • Dan Lipinski, who inherited the seat from his father, and is the most reactionary Democrat in Congress.
There are a couple of Reps on this list who are not complete tools, like Louise Slaughter, but it doesn't matter.

This vote is that bad.

After the break is a list of the Dems who voted for this.