31 March 2016

Some Sanity on Asset Forfeiture

The government may not freeze assets needed to pay criminal defense lawyers if the assets are not linked to a crime, the Supreme Court ruled Wednesday in a 5-to-3 decision that scrambled the usual alliances.

The case arose from the prosecution of Sila Luis, a Florida woman, on charges of Medicare fraud that, according to the government, involved $45 million in charges for unneeded or nonexistent services. Almost all of Ms. Luis’s profits from the fraud, prosecutors said, had been spent by the time charges were filed.

Prosecutors instead asked a judge to freeze $2 million of Ms. Luis’s funds that were not connected to the suspected fraud, saying the money would be used to pay fines and provide restitution should she be convicted. Ms. Luis said she needed the money to pay her lawyers.

The judge issued an order freezing her assets. That order, the Supreme Court ruled, violated her Sixth Amendment right to the assistance of counsel.

Justice Stephen G. Breyer, in a plurality opinion also signed by Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. and Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Sonia Sotomayor, said the case was simple.
One would think it would be simple.

Asset forfeiture is two things at its core:  A cudgel to extract guilty pleas, and theft without due process.

It is deeply corrupting, and needs to end.

Bad Bosses Strike Back!

In Oregon Maine, where they are proposing raising the minimum wage, along with eliminating the sub-minimum wage for tipped workers, the worst boss in the world wrote an editorial saying that her workers hated the idea of being paid fairly.

Her workers responded by resigning en masse and described their dysfunctional workplace, and their dysfunctional boss, in exquisite detail:
Oh hey, it’s a Maine story (about the minimum wage, no less) that doesn’t directly involve Gov. Paul LePage!

Five servers at a restaurant in Portland called Five Fifty-Five have quit in one hell of a mic drop, giving their notice in a Portland Press Herald op-ed. The inciting incident was when their boss, Michelle Corry, wrote an op-ed that claimed to speak for her employees about the citizen-initiated ballot referendum in the state to both increase the minimum wage to $12 and eliminate the tip credit (also known as the “sub-minimum wage”). It’s the latter point that had Corry in such a huff.


Opponents of eliminating the tip credit say that doing so would bring about a restaurant industry apocalypse and there would be much rending of garments and gnashing of teeth. Restaurant owners in states like California, Washington, Oregon, and Minnesota, which pay their servers a guaranteed living wage and, at last check, had not devolved into a Road Warrior-esque hellscape, say “Um, not so much?”

Right, back to Maine and Michelle Corry’s op-ed. So, Corry argued strongly for a counter-proposal to the ballot initiative that would raise the minimum wage to only $10 and keep the tip credit intact. Since at last blush 75 percent of the state is in favor of raising the minimum wage, anti-minimum wage douchebuckets (even LePage — dammit, he showed up in this post despite our best efforts) know they’re going to have to compromise at least a little bit here, and the counter-proposal is that compromise. But in arguing for it, Corry tried to speak for those it would directly affect:

Ask any tipped employee at a restaurant near you if they would prefer to make a set wage or hustle and create their own destiny. The employees at my restaurant would always choose their own initiative.
Putting words in her servers’ mouths turned out to be a less-than-ideal move on her part.

There have been many issues at the restaurant, from capricious schedule changes to questionable practices on wages and tips. This latest insult of our boss falsely claiming to speak publicly on our behalf on an issue we care deeply about is just the final straw. We are submitting our notice and will be leaving her employment.

Translation: whatever the incredibly white Maine equivalent is of “oh HELL naw.”
The kicker to all of this is that Michelle Corry is the vice chair of the Maine Restaurant Association.

It is highly unlikely that I am going to be in Portland, Maine in the near future, but if I do, I won't be going to Five Fifty-Five.

H/t Atrios.

How Utterly Proper

George Mason University, a welfare program for reactionary economists and lawyers, has, with significant funding from the Brothers Koch, Decided to rename the George Mason University Law School to ASSoL, the Antonin Scalia School of Law:
George Mason was a founding father. He was one of the men who was responsible for the Bill of Rights — he wouldn’t sign the constitution without it (or at all, ultimately). Now, the law school at the university that bears his name is changing its name to the Antonin Scalia School of Law at George Mason University.


Good lord. You are deemphasizing the name of a founding father to honor a man who fetishisized the beliefs held at the founding? A guy who didn’t go there, or have any connection to the school, who wouldn’t have hired a George Mason law student as a bathroom attendant, much less a Supreme Court clerk? That’s the guy you are renaming your law school after? Your Twitter hashtag is now #ASSLaw (Antonin Scalia School of Law). Who was in second place, Donald Trump?


We talk a lot about the law school application crunch, and how that crunch disproportionately dings middling law schools like George Mason. There is a flight to quality, there is a flight to “free,” and schools that are neither are having a heck of a time filling their seats.

But branding themselves as “Antonin Scalia,” who most people even lightly interested in law have heard of before, versus “George Mason,” who you should have learned about in AP History but probably didn’t because he’s not a Kardashian, might help them.

Even if Scalia Law generates some push in application and matriculation revenue, especially from right-of-center students, would it be enough to offset the negatives? Changing the school’s name in this way is sure to piss off some alumni.
Reports are that this was in response to, "$30 million in donations, $10 million of which came from the Charles Koch Foundation."

This may very well be beyond parody, even ignoring the irony of naming a law school after a justice is on a fast track to be considered among the caliber of Roger Taney, James Clark McReynolds, Clarence Thomas, Henry Billings Brown, etc.


30 March 2016

So Not a Surprise

It appears that the University of California was preferentially admitting out of state students because they wanted the higher out of state tuition:
The University of California has been admitting thousands of students from out of state with lower grades and test scores than state residents as a way to raise cash, a state audit released Tuesday reveals.

In the last three years, nearly 16,000 nonresident undergraduates — about 29 percent of those admitted — have won spots at the coveted public university with grade-point averages and scores below the median of admitted Californians, according to the 116-page audit. The report criticizes university practices it says undermine state residents’ access to UC in favor of nonresidents, who pay about three times the basic tuition and fees of in-state students: $38,108 versus $13,400.

The state’s Master Plan for Higher Education says UC should admit only nonresidents who are at least as qualified as the “upper half of residents who are eligible for admission,” according to the report from State Auditor Elaine Howle.

But in 2011, UC changed that threshold so that nonresidents only had to “compare favorably” with residents, the audit notes.
This is what you get when you chronically underfund public higher education.

I am Seriously Considering Changing My Name

A man has changed his last name to "Null" and as a result, has scored lots of free stuff:
A man who changed his surname to 'Null' claims he's bagged numerous freebies because the word isn't compatible with computer databases.

Raven Felix Null, 24, says he changed his name when he became an adult and claims it's resulted in seven free nights at seven different hotels and free-of-charge car rental.

It's all because the word 'Null' doesn't register with the computer's programming, so computer systems assume he's not a person.

The glitch means that when receptionists enter "Null" in the surname box the system automatically recognises the word as "an absence of data".

Which then results in the computer refusing to validate the request and Raven isn't billed for any of the items he's purchased.

The IT manager shared his knowledge on Reddit, where he goes by the username koalahumper, saying: "I have gotten a lot of free stuff because [a] code gives an error to the effect of "last name can't be left blank" and the person helping me will "just put my info in later" but they never do (or can't)."

If someone decides to challenge him about the issue, Raven threatens to sue the company for discrimination and the problem is often left until later in the day.


And Raven insists he didn't change his surname to "Null" to try and gain freebies, instead he chose it so he could disassociate himself from everything.

He explained: "it means nothing, meaning I am not connected to my "family" in any way any".
Me, I would change my name to, "Matthew'); DROP TABLE NSA;".

Quote of the Day

The luck has come due to the ability of the Conservative party to fill the void in our lives left until the new season of Game of Thrones starts by providing an ongoing referendum-induced saga involving regal intrigue (Queen Elizabeth II, rumoured Brexiter), ambition (Chancellor George Osbourne), betrayal (former welfare minister Iain Duncan Smith) bizarre-o religious weirdness (Stephen “Pray Away the Gay” Crabb, his replacement), tits (Home Secretary Theresa May) and bestiality (London Mayor Boris Johnson). They’ve given us everything but the dragons. That said, there’s still a few months to go yet so we don’t want to be premature.
"Clive" at Naked Capitalism
The post is titled, "Brexit: This is What We Call a Muppet Show," and it is quite amusing.

More Ratf%$#ing?

The Arizona Secretary of State has affirmed in testimony before the state elections committee that someone was screwing around the the voting in the Arizona primary:
Monday’s hearing on voter suppression and election fraud in Arizona’s Presidential Preference Election revealed a slew of failures, which took place at virtually every level of government, all of which contributed to the state’s May 22 election fiasco .


A poll worker testified that the system in her district attempted to force her to give Republican ballots to Democratic voters throughout the day. To her credit, she gave those voters paper ballots and recorded every person that was impacted by the supposed system failure.

Secretary of State Michele Reagan testified about what she claims were multiple unintended failures which occurred on the Secretary of State’s website.

Those ‘mishaps’ ranged from the system’s failure to identify registered voters when the information was entered in lower-case letters, to the system ‘accidentally’ showing 100 percent reporting, along with patently false election results, at least six hours before the last vote was cast.

One of the most important things to come out of the hearing, however, was Secretary of State Reagan’s acknowledgement that voter registration information was tampered with.

When asked if there was any truth to the widespread allegations that the party affiliation of voters was changed ahead of the election, Reagan immediately responded by saying “Yes.”

She then told the election committee,
“This is something that I know happened, and I know it happened to people in this room. It is not hearsay. It happened to someone in my own office.”
Watch this video clip from her testimony below.

On Monday, Anonymous released the preliminary results of their own investigation into Arizona election fraud.

So far the group has confirmed 151 voters whose party affiliation was altered ahead of the Arizona primary. Of those, Anonymous has verified that 12 republicans, 139 Democrats and one voter of unidentified party affiliation were impacted.

The group further confirms that of the 139 Democrats they have identified thus far, two were Hillary Clinton supporters, 113 were Bernie Sanders supporters and 24 were of unknown preference.
I'm getting myself fitted with a custom tinfoil hat.

H/t PP at the Stellar Parthenon BBS.

This is a Good Old Fashioned Rat F%$#ing

Some how or other, the Washington, DC Democratic Party managed to be a day late with filing Sanders' name to get him on the DC Democratic primary:
As a result of a registration error committed by the District of Columbia Democratic Party, Sen. Bernie Sanders won't appear on the Washington D.C. ballot.

The Vermont senator's name won't appear on the ballot because the party submitted the requisite paperwork one day too late, according to NBC's Washington affiliate, News4.

Both the Sanders' campaign and Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton's campaign paid the $2,500 fee to appear on the June 14 Democratic primary ballot on time but the district's Democratic Party failed to inform the Washington D.C. Board of Elections until March 17, one day after the deadline.
Yes, a "registration error".

I call yet another rat f%$#ing by the Democratic Party establishment.

29 March 2016

Labor Dodges a Bullet

The Supreme Court was poised to make it impossible for labor unions to collect fees from freeloaders, and then Antonin Scalia died, making it a 4-4 non-decision.

It proves, once again, that the best thing that Scalia has done for the world is leaving it:
The most important labor union controversy to reach the Supreme Court in years sputtered to an end on Tuesday, with a four-to-four split, no explanation, and nothing settled definitely. The one-sentence result in Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association will leave intact, but on an uncertain legal foundation, a system of “agency fees” for non-union teachers in California — with the legal doubts for public workers’ unions across the nation probably lingering until a ninth Justice joins the Court at some point in the future.

The practical effect was to leave undisturbed a ruling by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, which had simply found itself bound by a prior Supreme Court precedent upholding such fees against constitutional challenge. The Ninth Circuit had before it a case specifically filed as a test of that precedent, and only the Supreme Court could revisit that prior ruling, binding on all lower courts.

The Court had heard the Friedrichs case on January 11 and, from all appearances then, it seemed to be on its way toward a five-to-four decision to declare that it would be unconstitutional for unions representing government employees to charge fees to workers they represent but who are not among its members, even when the fees cover the costs of normal union bargaining over working conditions, not lobbying or outright political advocacy.

But the death of Justice Antonin Scalia last month left the Court to either find a way still to decide the case, or to end it with an even split. If it had actually tried since Scalia’s death to find a way around a split, that effort clearly came up short. The result set no precedent, and thus left the constitutional issue dangling.

Shortly after Justice Scalia died, the Center for Individual Rights, a conservative legal advocacy group involved in the Friedrichs case, announced that it would ask the Justices to schedule a rehearing on the case if it were to split four to four. The Center said at the time that it expected such a request would put the case off until the Court’s new Term, which is slated to begin on October 3. (UPDATE: Lawyers involved said Tuesday that a rehearing petition will, in fact, be filed.)

Under the Court’s rules, a rehearing request in the Friedrichs case would have to be filed within twenty-five days following Tuesday’s ruling. It would require the votes of five Justices to order such a reconsideration, and one of the five must have been one who had joined in the decision. It is unclear how that rule would work when the judgment had been reached by an evenly divided Court.
The right wing of the court has been attempting to destroy the American labor movement for decades, and for today at least, they have been thwarted.

What a Surprise. The FBI and the DoJ Lied

After attempting to invoke the All Writs Act, the FBI just unlocked the San Bernardino shooter’s phone all by themselves:
The Justice Department is abandoning its bid to force Apple to help it unlock the iPhone used by one of the shooters in the San Bernardino terrorist attack because investigators have found a way in without the tech giant’s assistance, prosecutors wrote in a court filing Monday.

In a three-sentence filing, prosecutors wrote that they had “now successfully accessed the data” stored on Syed Rizwan Farook’s iPhone and that they consequently no longer needed Apple’s court-ordered help getting in. The stunning move averts a courtroom showdown pitting Apple against the government — and privacy interests against security concerns — that many in the tech community had warned might set dangerous precedents.
I am going to put my tinfoil hat on here, and suggest that the FBI always knew that they could hack the phone.  It was probably only a call to Fort Meade away.

It took them just a few days once they realized that the court was not receptive to their demands and they were getting excoriated in the press.

 They were sandbagging the court and abusing legal process.

Yeah, He Endorsed Joe Lieberman Too.

Barack Obama just endorsed Debbie Wasserman Schultz, because while he killed Osama bin Laden, he really hates liberals:
While President Barack Obama won’t tell us who he will be supporting in the general election, one candidate he has fully endorsed is Democratic National Committee Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz.

Wasserman Schultz is currently running for her life in Florida against the first Democratic congressional opponent she has faced during her time in the House. Opponent Tim Canova is running on the idea that Wasserman Schultz is far too corrupt and indebted to Wall Street to effectively represent the people of her district. Canova has endorsed Senator Bernie Sanders and has been backed by some of the same groups that Sanders is.

President Obama does not often endorse candidates in House primaries, so his support for Wasserman Schultz is telling.
Interestingly enough, this came shortly after the Florida Democratic Party was shamed into providing voter lists to Mr. Canova:
Last week, the Florida Democratic Party — and Florida Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz — took some serious heat after it banned upstart congressional candidate Tim Canova from using the party's voter data files, which help candidates research and contact supporters. But the Florida Democratic Party reversed its decision yesterday, party spokesperson Max Steele has confirmed to New Times.

Improbably, this was the second voter-data scandal to ensnare Wasserman Schultz this election cycle. In December, Wasserman Schultz, acting as chair of the Democratic National Committee, temporarily banned Bernie Sanders from accessing the DNC's voter data files after his campaign staffer was caught hacking into Hillary Clinton's campaign data. (The information allows candidates to research and contact potential supporters in their area.) But the move backfired, and Wasserman Schultz has since been accused of intentionally trying to sink Sanders' chances at the presidency. Sanders sued, the move was overturned, and critics across the country have called for her ouster. She's had a bad few months.

In something of a twist, Canova, who once advised Sanders on Wall Street reform, then said he had also been denied access to that very same data. This was due to a Florida Democratic Party rule, instituted in 2010, which bans candidates running against incumbents from using the information. In an interview, Canova called the rule "undemocratic" and said the party was acting to protect Wasserman Schultz.

The party did not offer data access "to candidates challenging incumbent members of Florida’s Democratic congressional delegation," Steele told New Times earlier this month. "This policy has been applied uniformly across the board since 2010. We stand with our incumbent members of Congress, and we’re proud of the job they do representing the people of Florida. The Voter File is proprietary software created and owned by the Democratic National Committee that is maintained and operated by the Florida Democratic Party here in state."


After Canova put up a fight, the Florida Democratic Party reconsidered how Canova's case looked to the outside world, Steele says. The party made the choice today to give Canova, and only Canova, access to the file.

"Given the unique circumstances of having an incumbent member of Congress who is also the DNC chair who is being challenged by a Democrat (a situation that as you can imagine has never arisen), the FDP has decided to grant Mr. Canova access to the Voter File," Steele said via email. The file will cost $3,500 to access.

Steele reiterated that this will be a one-time policy change: "Given the dual nature of an incumbent who is also a national party chair, we’ve decided to grant Mr. Canova access to avoid any appearance of favoritism," he said. Other candidates who run against incumbents will be out of luck.
As an aside, they would not have done this, or at least not have done this so soon, unless there was a significant amount of loathing directed towards Wasserman Schultz in the state party.

Considering her refusal to support challenges to reactionary Cuban-American Republicans in competitive districts, I rather expect that there is no small amount of loathing among the locals there.

28 March 2016

This is a New Level of Low

The Clinton campaign is saying that they won't debate Sanders unless he stops criticizing her:
A top aide to Hillary Clinton's campaign on Monday dodged questions about setting up a debate with Bernie Sanders in New York, saying it depends on the senator's "tone."

"This is a man who said he'd never run a negative ad ever. He's now running them. They're planning to run more," Joel Benenson, Clinton's chief strategist, said on CNN. "Let's see the tone of the campaign he wants to run before we get to any other questions."

After winning a trio of states over the weekend, Sanders on Sunday called for a debate in New York ahead of that state's April 19 primary. The Vermont senator is looking to cut into Clinton's delegate lead and says he has the "momentum" heading into the latter half of the race.

The pair faced off in a Miami debate earlier this month, and a Sanders campaign letter on Sunday said the two campaigns had agreed to a California debate in May but had not agreed to terms on a debate in April, according to The New York Times.
How long before someone says, "If she can't debate Bernie Sanders, how can she stand up to Vladimir Putin?"

Never mind, I just did.

Erdoğan Is Now Owned by the House of Saud

It turns out that, following his indictment for money laundering, Bilal Erdoğan was smuggled out of Italy with aid from the Saudi Embassy, which included hiring the Mafia and using a Saudi diplomatic passport:
According to Rai News 24, Italian police spokesman Lt. Colonel Domenico Grimaldi accused the Saudi legation in Rome of facilitating the escape of Bilal Erdoğan who was detained for money laundering allegations. Bilal Erdoğan’s short detention in Rome and later escape are the latest in a series of scandals hitting President Erdoğan’s family.

“Mafia activities continue to plague our judicial system and the Polizia di Stato is blamed for this humiliating security lapse in Rome airport. We also found that a notorious mafia gang active in Calabria and Sicily was hired by members in the Saudi embassy and they managed to release Mr. Erdoğan from Regina Coeli Prison,” police spokesman Lt. Colonel Grimaldi told AFP.

They moved Bilal Erdoğan to Excelsior Hotel, added Lt. Colonel Grimaldi, and Erdoğan was caught on cameras leaving the Hotel, donned traditional Arab dress and adroitly disguised as a Saudi diplomat; Bilal passed the security check holding a fake Saudi diplomatic passport and we believe, he couldn’t have escaped without the connivance of a number of police officers in Leonardo da Vinci Airport.
Turkey is a US ally like Pakistan is a US ally, which is to say, "Not at all."

H/t Naked Capitalism.

Money Beats Talibaptists

Following widespread outrage, and multiple companies said that they would pull out of Georgia, Georgia Governor Nathan Deal has vetoed the "Hate the Gays" bill:
Under increasing pressure from major corporations that do business in Georgia, Gov. Nathan Deal announced Monday he will veto a bill that critics say would have curtailed the rights of Georgia's LGBT community.
House Bill 757 would have given faith-based organizations in Georgia the option to deny services and jobs to gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people. Supporters said the measure was meant to protect religious freedom, while opponents have described it as "anti-LGBT" and "appalling."

Speaking to reporters Monday morning, Deal, a Republican, said he didn't think the bill was necessary.
"I do not think we have to discriminate against anyone to protect the faith-based community in Georgia, of which I and my family have been a part of for all of our lives," he said.

He said he was not reacting to pressure from the faith-based community or responding to the business community, which warned Georgia could lose jobs if he signed the bill.

His decision, he said, was "about the character of our state and the character of our people. Georgia is a welcoming state. It is full of loving, kind and generous people. ... I intend to do my part to keep it that way. For that reason I will veto House Bill 757."
As Charlie Pierce says, "This is a dodge, of course. It's about bigotry in the private sector, as we all know, and the veto is due to push-back from more powerful entities in the private sector. Isn't capitalism grand? And here's the real irony of it all: Deal is term-limited out, so he has no real f%$#s to give to anyone."


I will leave you with Birdy Sanders. This is real:

27 March 2016

Worst ……… Fairy Tales ……… Ever

The National Rifle Association has decided to rewrite classic fairy tales, because they need more guns: (Not The Onion)
The National Rifle Association has taken some heat this week after attempting what it saw as a family-friendly approach to to gun rights: inserting guns into classic fairy tale stories.

As part of its new family-oriented website, NRA Family, the organization reimagined popular fairy tales by arming the main characters with guns. The stories, which the NRA posted on its site and in the site's newsletter, feature illustrations and stories by Amelia Hamilton, a conservative blogger and author.

The first, published on March 17, is called Hansel and Gretel (Have Guns), a new spin on the classic Brothers Grimm story. Instead of being nearly eaten by the witch, the brother and sister duo rescue another boy with guns loaded. They then to return to their village and tell their parents, who storm back guns-a-blazing to capture the witch.

Another story published Friday is a take on Little Red Riding Hood called—you guessed it—Little Red Riding Hood (Has a Gun). It follows a similar narrative, with both granny and Little Red packing heat and using their guns to scare the wolf so he can be tied up and carried away.
I guess that this makes sense in a twisted way.

Most of the classic fairy tales have their origins in pre-Christian tales of pagan gods, and the NRA worships at the altar of Smith & Wesson, so at least there is symmetry.

And in the World of Film

Andrew Wakefield's fraudulent anti-vaxxer documentary has been pulled from Robert DeNiro's Tribecca film festival:
A controversial film about the discredited link between autism and vaccinations has been pulled from Robert De Niro’s Tribeca film festival, after the actor consulted “the scientific community” and found

The father of an autistic child and co-founder of the festival, De Niro at first defended the decision to premiere Vaxxed: from Cover-Up to Catastrophe, despite outcry from doctors and researchers.

Repeated studies involving more than a million children have found there is no evidence to link childhood vaccines to autism. But a small movement of activists persists in the belief that vaccinations might somehow harm children.

On Saturday De Niro released a statement to explain the new decision. “My intent in screening this film was to provide an opportunity for conversation around an issue that is deeply personal to me and my family,” he said.

“But after reviewing it over the past few days with the Tribeca film festival team and others from the scientific community, we do not believe it contributes to or furthers the discussion I had hoped for.

“The Festival doesn’t seek to avoid or shy away from controversy. However, we have concerns with certain things in this film that we feel prevent us from presenting it in the Festival program. We have decided to remove it from our schedule.”

The controversial film was directed by Andrew Wakefield, a disgraced British former doctor who published a study in 1998 that claimed links between a vaccine for measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) and autism. The paper was quickly found to contain numerous flaws and was deemed by the British Medical Journal “an elaborate fraud”.
You know, 45 seconds on the internet would have revealed that Wakefield is a charlatan and a fraud who should be in jail.

There is a difference between controversial and con man.

Yep, Hawaii Too

With around 70%:
Senator Bernie Sanders routed Hillary Clinton in all three Democratic presidential contests on Saturday, infusing his underdog campaign with critical momentum and bolstering his argument that the race for the nomination is not a foregone conclusion.

Mr. Sanders found a welcome tableau in the largely white and liberal electorates of the Pacific Northwest, where just days after resoundingly beating Mrs. Clinton in Idaho he repeated the feat in the Washington caucuses, winning 73 percent of the vote. He did even better in Alaska, winning 82 percent of the vote, and in Hawaii, he had 71 percent with a few precincts still be counted, according to The Associated Press.
While the party establishment may not like this, it is a good thing.

The Republicans in general, and Trump in particular, have gotten a lot more ink, and now that Clinton's primary campaign seems less a coronation, the Democrats, and Democratic ideas, should start getting some coverage.

26 March 2016

Welcome to the Internet

Microsoft released an AI chatbot to Twitter. Hilarity ensues:
Microsoft has apologised for creating an artificially intelligent chatbot that quickly turned into a holocaust-denying racist.

But in doing so made it clear Tay's views were a result of nurture, not nature. Tay confirmed what we already knew: people on the internet can be cruel.

Tay, aimed at 18-24-year-olds on social media, was targeted by a "coordinated attack by a subset of people" after being launched earlier this week.

Within 24 hours Tay had been deactivated so the team could make "adjustments".

But on Friday, Microsoft's head of research said the company was "deeply sorry for the unintended offensive and hurtful tweets" and has taken Tay off Twitter for the foreseeable future.
What the hell were they thinking?

What part of 4Chan don't you get?

Good Night for Bernie

He crushed it in Alaska and Washington State, picking up over 80% in Alaska, and over 70% in Washington.

There are no numbers from Hawaii yet, it is not yet 6 pm there, and there has been very little polling, but it appears likely from reports on the ground that Sanders will win there as well.

Not an Endorsement, but Good News

In an interview with the AP, Elizabeth Warren spoke of Bernie Sanders favorably, and said that he should continue his campaign:
U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren waded deeper into the presidential primary debate Thursday, sharpening her criticism of Donald Trump and cheering on Bernie Sanders.

The Massachusetts Democrat described the Republican presidential front-runner as a failed businessman who inherited a fortune from his father and then maintained it ‘‘by cheating people, by defrauding people, and by skipping out on paying his creditors through Chapter 11’’ bankruptcy protection.


On Thursday, when asked if Bernie Sanders should drop out of the race, Warren praised the Democratic senator from Vermont.

Sanders has echoed Warren’s criticism of Wall Street and rising student load debt more than any other candidate.

‘‘He’s out there. He fights from the heart. This is who Bernie is,’’ Warren said. ‘‘He has put the right issues on the table both for the Democratic Party and for the country in general so I’m still cheering Bernie on.’’
I don't know who she favors, but it is clear that, at a minimum, she thinks that it is important for Bernie Sanders to push Hillary Clinton's positions away from the mindless triangulation of Bill Clinton.

25 March 2016

Quote of the Day

Man, to hell with this story. Even schadenfreude has some limits.
Charlie Pierce, responding to allegations that Ted Cruz engaged in marital infidelity
I agree.  I want no part of any discussion that juxtaposes Ted Cruz and sex.


Bernie Sanders is Officially Snow White, Which Makes Hillary Clinton ………

Not Photoshop
Sanders was giving a speech in Oregon, and a bird landed on his lectern and listened to his speech:

A bird landed on Bernie Sanders‘ lectern during a campaign rally today and everyone lost their freaking minds.

No, seriously, this actually happened:

But He Got Us Out of Iraq!

Ground troops are back fighting in Iraq:
The Islamic State group is trying to retake control of the oil fields it lost two years ago in the semi-autonomous region of Iraqi Kurdistan by launching rockets at Kurdish and Iraqi soldiers. In an attempt to earn back the massive amount of cash it used to fund its international terrorism in 2014, the group has focused its resources on attacking Makhmur, a city just 75 miles miles from the oil-rich city of Kirkuk. So far, the group, also known as ISIS, has succeeded in outgunning the Iraqi forces in the city, but a new contingent of American Marines might change the outcome on the ground.

“Several weeks ago, thousands of Iraqi troops began occupying a tactical assembly area in Makhmur. This is part of the force generation associated with the liberation of Mosul,” Col. Steve Warren, spokesman for the fight against ISIS in Iraq and Syria, said in a press briefing this week. Mosul is the de facto ISIS headquarters in Iraq. “These Iraqi forces, along with their coalition advisers, require force protection,” Warren said. “So we constructed a small fire base to do just that.”

The U.S. Marines in Iraq are on the front line and have been tasked with protecting Iraqi units in Makhmur — a scenario President Barack Obama wanted to avoid as long as possible during his time in office.

In a statement before meeting with congressional leaders on Sept. 3, 2013, Obama talked about his plan to combat ISIS and said: “The key point that I want to emphasize to the American people: The military plan that has been developed by our Joint Chiefs — and that I believe is appropriate — is proportional. It is limited. It does not involve boots on the ground. This is not Iraq, and this is not Afghanistan.”

There are now more than 3,200 U.S. personnel in Iraq. Many have been tasked with training Iraqi soldiers, but others, such as the new contingent of Marines, are in active battles or are leading special operations to rescue hostages. Two American soldiers have died in Iraq since the U.S. deployed soldiers last year.
Hope and change my ass.

24 March 2016

Adventures in Bureaucracy

In Santa Clara, California, the sheriff, sick and tired of delays and costs of upgrading her jail's camera system, set up a system with about $750 of equipment purchased from Costco:
Told it would take two more years and up to $20 million to install more security cameras in Santa Clara County's troubled jails, Sheriff Laurie Smith decided Wednesday to whip out her Costco card and buy a few herself.

The cost for 12 cameras to test: $761.24 -- which Smith put on her personal American Express.

The sheriff's shopping spree came as three of her correctional officers appeared in court Wednesday on charges of beating a mentally ill inmate to death in August -- an incident that wasn't captured by the jail's existing cameras and exposed troubling surveillance gaps. Smith headed to the store after she learned that the county's plan to buy cameras through official channels could drag on for two years. She denied it was a publicity stunt.

"It's imperative we act swiftly," Smith said Wednesday after returning from her trip to the Costco on Coleman Avenue. "There cannot be a delay because of bureaucracy. That's unacceptable. Anything we can do to bring additional transparency, we want to do right away."

A county work crew was set to install them by Thursday morning in maximum-security housing pod 4A, on the fourth floor of Main Jail South.

If the Lorex high-definition 1080-pixel system is as effective as advertised at capturing details like the faces of guards and inmates, the sheriff plans to buy more to bridge the gap until the county installs a better system in 2018. She said she consulted with county building department officials before going shopping and expects to be reimbursed.
Just reimbursed?

They should crown her Queen of Santa Clara as well.

Bummer of a Birthmark, Rahm!

The Illinois Supreme Court just ruled that Rahm's attempt to balance the city books by welshing on its pension obligations are unconstitutional:
Beleaguered Chicago taxpayers face short-term gain but long-term excruciating pain now that the Illinois Supreme Court has shot down down Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s plan to save two of four city employee pension funds.

“These modifications to pension benefits unquestionably diminish the value of the retirement annuities the members…were promised when they joined the pension system. Accordingly, based on the plain language of the Act, these annuity-reducing provisions contravene the pension protection clause’s absolute prohibition against diminishment of pension benefits and exceed the General Assembly’s authority,” the ruling states.

“A public employee’s membership in a pension system is an enforceable contractual relationship and the employee has a constitutionally-protected right to the benefits of that contractual relationship…Those constitutional protections attach at the time an individual begins employment and becomes a member of the public pension system. Thus, under its plain and unambiguous language, the clause prohibits the General Assembly from unilaterally reducing or eliminating the pension benefits.”

In the short run, Chicago will be off the hook to find $250 million in additional revenue over five years to honor its commitment to stabilize the Municipal Employees and Laborers Pension Funds.

But over time, Chicago taxpayers will be forced to bear a far heavier, backbreaking burden because employees and retirees won’t be meeting them halfway.
Here's a though: How about rescinding the sweetheart deals and tax abatements with your friends, and make the rich folks pay their fair share of taxes.

And while you are at it, how about resigning in disgrace for covering up a murder for political gain?


The mercenary monger behind Blackwater, is being investigated for selling mercs to foreign governments and money laundering by the US Department of Justice:
Erik Prince, founder of the now-defunct mercenary firm Blackwater and current chairman of Frontier Services Group, is under investigation by the U.S. Department of Justice and other federal agencies for attempting to broker military services to foreign governments and possible money laundering, according to multiple sources with knowledge of the case.

What began as an investigation into Prince’s attempts to sell defense services in Libya and other countries in Africa has widened to a probe of allegations that Prince received assistance from Chinese intelligence to set up an account for his Libya operations through the Bank of China. The Justice Department, which declined to comment for this article, is also seeking to uncover the precise nature of Prince’s relationship with Chinese intelligence.

Prince, through his lawyer, Victoria Toensing, said he has not been informed of a federal investigation and had not offered any defense services in Libya. Toensing called the money-laundering allegations “total bullsh%$.” (%$ mine)

The Intercept interviewed more than a half dozen of Prince’s associates, including current and former business partners; four former U.S. intelligence officers; and other sources familiar with the Justice Department investigation. All of them requested anonymity to discuss these matters because there is an ongoing investigation. The Intercept also reviewed several secret proposals drafted by Prince and his closest advisers and partners offering paramilitary services to foreign entities.

For more than a year, U.S. intelligence has been monitoring Prince’s communications and movements, according to a former senior U.S. intelligence officer and a second former intelligence official briefed on the investigation. Multiple sources, including two people with business ties to Prince, told The Intercept that current government and intelligence personnel informed them of this surveillance. Those with business ties were cautioned to sever their dealings with Prince.
As an aside, Toensing, she of the unprofessional legal utterances, was a major player in the pursuit of Bill Clinton's penis in the 1990s.

Prince is an evil dangerous man with delusions of creating a full mercenary army to rival nation states.

I really hope that he gets taken down hard.

H/t Charlie Pierce.

23 March 2016

Why You Should Go to Sanders Rallies, and Not Go to Trump Rallies

Because if a topless protester shows up, Sanders lets her in, and Trump kicks her out:
Democratic presidential hopeful Bernie Sanders this week joked about a topless woman who showed up at one of his rallies recently to protest Republican rival Donald Trump

"Well, I was trying very hard to get every detail," the Vermont senator joked during an interview with Phoenix-area radio station KTAR when asked if he could read the text on the woman's chest.

"No, just kidding," Sanders chuckled as the male radio hosts erupted into laughter.

"No, actually I was trying to focus on a couple of other things," Sanders continued, trying to stifle another laugh as he pivoted to discuss campaign issues of income inequality.

A woman who tried unsuccessfully to get into one of Trump's rallies in Arizona over the weekend opted to show up at Sanders's rally in Phoenix on Saturday instead.

The words "stop fascism" were revealed on her back and "hate speech is not free speech" were marked on her chest, as she stood on someone's back, interrupting Sanders's rally.
She was also wearing "Free the Nipple" pasties.

Photos (she is quite fetching) available at the links.

What Bill Moyers Said

There are two Democrats whose resignation from office right now would do their party and country a service.

Their disappearance might also help Hillary Clinton convince skeptical Democrats that her nomination, if it happens, is about the future, and not about resurrecting and ratifying the worst aspects of the first Clinton reign when she and her husband rarely met a donor to whom they wouldn’t try to auction a sleepover in the Lincoln Bedroom.

In fact, while we’re at it, and if Secretary Clinton really wants us to believe she’s no creature of the corporate and Wall Street money machine — despite more than $44 million in contributions from the financial industry since 2000 and her $675,000 in speaking fees from Goldman Sachs, not to mention several million more paid by other business interests for an hour or two of her time — she should pick up the gauntlet herself and publicly call for the departure of these two, although they are among her nearest and dearest. And we don’t mean Bill and Chelsea.

No, she should come right out and ask for the resignations of Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Democratic National Committee Chair — and Florida congresswoman — Debbie Wasserman Schultz. In one masterstroke, she could separate herself from two of the most prominent of all corporate Democratic elitists.

Each is a Clinton disciple and devotee, each has profited mightily from the association and each represents all that is wrong with a Democratic Party that in the pursuit of money from rich donors and powerful corporations has abandoned those it once so proudly represented — working men and women.


This is why Emanuel and Wasserman Schultz must go. To millions, they are enablers of the one percent, perpetuators of the Washington mentality that the rest of the country has grown to hate. What a message such servants of plutocracy send: Democrats — a bridge to the past.
Hillary is not going to do this, but it would be a savvy political move.

Also, putting Emanuel and Wasserman-Schultz in the political cross-hairs would be good for the party and their constituents.

This is Amazingly Wise

Ted Cruz had the single dumbest response to the bombings in Brussels.

He suggested that we engaged in increased police and armed militia patrols in Muslim eighborhoods.

Needless to say, anyone with half a brain realized that this was batsh%$ insane.

It's would create a violent, oppressive, and abusive environment which would drive some people in Muslim neighborhoods to terrorism, and others away from society and law enforcement.

Over at Talking Points Memo, a reader made a brilliant connection.

Specifically, our "Anti-Gang Get Tough on Crime" policing has done exactly that with gangs in poor neighborhoods:
The root of his error is right there in his defense: "If you have a neighborhood where there's a high level of gang activity, the way to prevent it is you increase the law enforcement presence there and you target the gang members to get them off the streets."

This is not some radical right-wing Trump-esque sentiment. It is the status quo of law enforcement in this country, and has been for decades. (You may even personally remember California's 1988 STEP act -- an eerily prescient precursor to the USA-PATRIOT act's acronym idiocy that stood for Street Terrorism Enforcement and Prevention Act. STEP made gang participation illegal and massively increased sentences for members---and even for people who just looked like members, by raising the prospect of a gang-related indictment, leading to harsher plea-bargain agreements).

Targeting gangs like this is pretty widely accepted, and the few who push back face toxic accusations of wanting to protect criminals. That's how escalating anti-gang and anti-crime rhetoric (think "super-predators") swept everyone in its path in the 1990s. All Cruz did here was swap out "Muslims" for "gangs".

As you say, that proved a step too far, and now he's trying to walk it back to "radical Muslims". But what's so fascinating to me, as a gang researcher, is the reason folks like the NYPD and O'Reilly (!!) -- who surely approve of anti-gang laws -- object to Cruz's idea: they see that it will backfire, that persecuting non-radicalized Muslims will ultimate push them toward radicalization.

They are right. But this is precisely what is wrong with excessive anti-gang laws! They essentially make being a male adolescent of certain ethnicities a motive for arrest and likely incarceration. If the criminal justice system already sees you and treats you as a gang member, you might as well become one -- at least you'll get some protection, especially inside prison, where gangs rule the roost. And for parents, spouses, and children, targeting is more likely to inspire a sense of injustice than a desire to cooperate with law enforcement.


We're finally beginning to acknowledge the counterproductive nature of mass incarceration policies. But walking back over-zealous targeting laws is still a hard sell, especially among law-and-order, conservative types. Yet it is obvious to them that the same policy applied to Muslims is idiocy.
This is truly profound.

22 March 2016

The FBI Probably Never Needed Apple's Help to Read That iPhone

The Department of Justice has asked for a recess in the court proceedings to force Apple to write a hacking tool for the iPhone:
The Justice Department said on Monday that it might no longer need Apple’s assistance in opening an iPhone used by a gunman in the San Bernardino, Calif., rampage last year.

The disclosure led a judge to postpone a court hearing over the issue and temporarily sidesteps what has become a bitter clash with the world’s most valuable company.

In a new court filing, the government said an outside party had demonstrated a way for the F.B.I. to possibly unlock the phone used by the gunman, Syed Rizwan Farook. The hearing in the contentious case — Apple has loudly opposed opening the iPhone, citing privacy concerns and igniting a heated debate — was originally set for Tuesday.

While the Justice Department must test this method, if it works “it should eliminate the need for the assistance from Apple,” it said in its filing. The Justice Department added that it would file a status report by April 5 on its progress.
This happened because they think that the case is going against them.

None of this would happened if the FBI hadn't "mistakenly" reset the iCloud password for the phone, which would have allowed them to access the phoe.

My take is that the FBI attempted to sandbag the judge, and deliberately f%$#ed up the analysis of the phone to have a court case and create a precedent.

Apropos My Last Post………

There really isn't much that I can say about the terrorist attacks in Brussels, beyond the fact that we will see lots of panic and calls for abrogating our civil liberties.

What a Surprise. The Terrorists in Paris Did Not Use Encryption

They used burner phones and made calls instead of texting and emailing:
New details of the Paris attacks carried out last November reveal that it was the consistent use of prepaid burner phones, not encryption, that helped keep the terrorists off the radar of the intelligence services.

As an article in The New York Times reports: "the three teams in Paris were comparatively disciplined. They used only new phones that they would then discard, including several activated minutes before the attacks, or phones seized from their victims."

The article goes on to give more details of how some phones were used only very briefly in the hours leading up to the attacks. For example: "Security camera footage showed Bilal Hadfi, the youngest of the assailants, as he paced outside the stadium, talking on a cellphone. The phone was activated less than an hour before he detonated his vest." The information come from a 55-page report compiled by the French antiterrorism police for France’s Interior Ministry.

Outside the Bataclan theatre venue, the investigators found a Samsung phone in a dustbin: "It had a Belgian SIM card that had been in use only since the day before the attack. The phone had called just one other number—belonging to an unidentified user in Belgium."

As police pieced together the movements of the attackers, they found yet more burner phones: "Everywhere they went, the attackers left behind their throwaway phones, including in Bobigny, at a villa rented in the name of Ibrahim Abdeslam. When the brigade charged with sweeping the location arrived, it found two unused cellphones still inside their boxes." At another location used by one of the terrorists, the police found dozens of unused burner phones "still in their wrappers."

As The New York Times says, one of the most striking aspects of the phones is that not a single e-mail or online chat message from the attackers was found on them. That seems to be further evidence that they knew such communications were routinely monitored by intelligence agencies. But rather than trying to avoid discovery by using encryption—which would in itself have drawn attention to their accounts—they seem to have stopped using the Internet as a communication channel altogether, and turned to standard cellular network calls on burner phones.


As Ars has reported, along with other countries the UK government is pushing for ways to circumvent or weaken encryption because it claims strong crypto creates a "safe space" for terrorists. This new information that the Paris attackers did not routinely use encryption, if at all, but turned instead to the tried-and-tested technique of burner phones, undermines the argument that everyone's communications must be weakened in order to tackle terrorism.


Until we have stronger evidence to the contrary, it seems likely that encryption played little or no part in the Paris terrorist attacks.
The various agencies of various state security apparatuses have been trying to sell the idea that the terrorists will kill us all if we don't let them.

It does not make us safer.

They intend to use this to go after ordinary criminals and dissidents.


Rob Slane asks, "Is Putin Weaponising Stupidity?"

Putin isn't taking weaponizing stupidity, as Mr. Slane notes, "It could just be a case that we really are run by ignorant buffoons who never learn, and even if Mr Putin were inclined to develop a way of Weaponising Stupidity, he’d actually be wasting his time."

Still, it's a nice theory.

21 March 2016

This is a Big F%$# You to Turkey

Russia may be reducing its military presence in Syria, but they have started shipping weapons to the Kurds.

That sound you hear is the sound of Turkish heads exploding:
Russia delivered the first of five planned shipments of anti-aircraft weapons to Kurdish troops in northern Iraq. According to Russian experts, Moscow officially revealed this fact for the first time with the intention to change its Middle East policy and emphasize the importance of the Kurds in the region.

In Iraq arrived first shipment of Russian weapons to Kurdish volunteer movement “Peshmerga”, who fight against the “Islamic state” terrorist organization in the region. Senior officials of the Russian Foreign Ministry handed over anti-aircraft weapons ZU-23-2 (23 mm caliber) to the forces of resistance.

„Shipment of weapons arrived on March 14. It is intended for Peshmerga in Iraqi Kurdistan. At the handover of weapons was held with the presense of Ambassador and Consul General of Russia in Iraq, and Deputy Chief of Staff of “Peshmerga”, RIA Novosti quoted Artjomova Grigorjan, attaché of the Russian general consulate in the Iraqi city of Erbil.

According to him, the parties discuss the further delivery of the weapons. “After the handover of weapons Russian ambassador said that this is not the last delivery. He stressed that Russia hopes “Peshmerga” and the Iraqi armed forces will use this weapon to win against “Islamic state”, said the Russian attaché.
Do not confuse the ZU-23-2 with the ZSU23-4 radar guided self-propelled antiaircraft system.

The ZU is optically guided towed system.

In a modern battlefield, its antiaircraft capabilities are limited, but it is relative mobile and capable in a surface to surface mode.

More importantly, it implies that the Russians might be willing to send more capable surface to air systems, such as the ZSU, or surplus SA-6 or SA-8 systems, which they could  use against Turkish air strikes.

Let the shrieks or outrage from Ankara begin.

Snark of the Day


See what happened there? Slick, wasn't it? My man Chuck Todd asked Schmidt why the anti-Trump Republicans weren't banding together to support the clear runner-up and Schmidt started babbling about small-d democratic processes wah-dee-doo-dah. The direct answer to the question…

So, why isn't the cavalry rallying around Cruz?

"Because Tailgunner Ted Cruz is a messianic and friendless theocrat whose policies are a mix of the Book of Revelation and The Fountainhead, and anyone who looks at him thinks of the skeevy uncle whom they tell their kids to avoid at Thanksgiving, and anyone who listens to him who isn't already lost in Jesus wouldn't trust him to park their car."

Charlie Pierce
Mr. Pierce owes me a screen wipe.

Worst Constitutional Law Professor Ever

Upon announcing Obama's nomination of Merrick Garland for the Supreme court, they tweeted that he would ignore the Constitution of the United States of America:

Those "Technicalities" are the bill of rights, and their comment reflects that Garland is positively dismissive about the due process rights of defendants.

I do understand political realities, but the idea that any President would try to trumpet the willingness of a nominee for Supreme Court justice to ignore the Constitution is truly awful.

H/t Cory Robin.

Don't Tug on Superman's Cape. Don't Piss into the Wind

Don't rely on internet polls to name something:
A state-of-the-art research vessel in search of a name is getting some help from the general public and their top choice is flying in the face of British nautical convention.

Britain’s National Environmental Research Council (NERC) launched an online voting contest, asking for inspirational names of historical figures, landmarks and movements to christen the £200-million ship ($375-million CAD). The internet responded, and the current frontrunner is none-other than RRS Boaty McBoatface.

The 15,000-ton, 128-yard-long Royal Research Ship is currently under construction on the coast of Merseyside and is gearing up to be launched for a research mission to Antarctica in 2019.
The much more appropriate RRS Henry Worsley, RRS David Attenborough and RRS Pillar of Autumn are the current runners-up, though Boaty McBoatface is outpacing its closest competitor 10-1 with over 22,500 votes.

The online poll has proven to be so successful that NERC reported the high traffic caused the website to temporarily crash Sunday.
It appears that, much like many things on the internet, the meme started as a joke:
A man who suggested naming a new £200m ship Boaty McBoatface has apologised.

The suggestion has attracted more than 27,000 votes in an online poll of names for the Royal Research ship, causing the website to crash.

Former BBC presenter James Hand said he found the list of possible names "really funny" so decided to "throw one into the ring".

He "apologised profusely" to the Natural Environment Research Council.

There is no guarantee the ship will be given the name that tops the poll, with the final decision to be made by the chief executive of the NERC.

Other names in the running are RRS Pingu, RRS Usain Boat and RRS David Attenborough.

A NERC spokesperson said staff were "very much enjoying hearing everyone's ideas".

Mr Hand said: "I read the story about naming the ship on the BBC website on Thursday and some of the entries were really funny - my favourite was Clifford The Big Red Boat.

"I thought I would throw one into the ring. By Friday night it was leading by a couple of thousand, and when the site crashed on Sunday it was leading by 8,000. It's been utterly bizarre."

Boaty McBoatface is 25,000 votes ahead of the second place suggestion, RRS Henry Worsley.

The boat is being built at the Cammell Laird shipyard in Birkenhead on Merseyside and when completed in 2019 it will study ice sheets, ocean currents and marine life as part of the Cambridge-based British Antarctic Survey.

"I've apologised profusely to the people behind the website," the former Good Morning Jersey host said.
BTW, you can go to this link to vote.

I have already voted for Boaty McBoatface, because I am an asshole.

Have a Nice Warm Cup of Go F%$# Yourself

I am talking to Charles Camosy, of course, who is arguing that the problem with the Democratic Party is  that it is not friendly enough to people who want to criminalize abortion.

In 1964, the same sorts of people were saying that the Democratic Party needed to accommodate the sensibilities of segregationists.

F%$# that, and F%$# you, Mr. Carmosy.

You do not capitulate to tyranny or evil.

20 March 2016

We Are Unbelievably Screwed

Have you heard the latest update on anthropogenic climate chane?

It turns out that the month of February was completely off the charts:
Earth got so hot last month that federal scientists struggled to find words, describing temperatures as "astronomical," ''staggering" and "strange." They warned that the climate may have moved into a new and hotter neighborhood.

This was not just another of the drumbeat of 10 straight broken monthly global heat records, triggered by a super El Nino and man-made global warming. February 2016 obliterated old marks by such a margin that it was the most above-normal month since meteorologists started keeping track in 1880, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

NOAA said Earth averaged 56.08 degrees Fahrenheit (13.38 degrees Celsius) in February, 2.18 degrees (1.21 degrees Celsius) above average, beating the old record for February set in 2015 by nearly six-tenths of a degree (one-third of a degree Celsius).

The old record was set just last December and the last three months have been the most above-normal months on record, said NOAA climate scientist Jessica Blunden. And it's not just NOAA. NASA, which uses different statistical techniques, as well as a University of Alabama Huntsville team and the private Remote Sensing System team, which measure using satellites, also said February 2016 had the biggest departure from normal on record.

These were figures that had federal scientists grasping for superlatives.

"The departures are what we would consider astronomical," Blunden said. "It's on land. It's in the oceans. It's in the upper atmosphere. It's in the lower atmosphere. The Arctic had record low sea ice."

"Everything everywhere is a record this month, except Antarctica," Blunden said. "It's insane."

In the Arctic, where sea ice reached a record low for February, land temperatures averaged 8 degrees above normal (4.5 degrees Celsius), Blunden said. That's after January, when Arctic land temperatures were 10.4 degrees above normal (5.8 degrees Celsius).

It was also the warmest winter—December through February—on record, beating the previous year's record by more than half a degree (0.29 degrees Celsius).These were figures that had federal scientists grasping for superlatives.

"The departures are what we would consider astronomical," Blunden said. "It's on land. It's in the oceans. It's in the upper atmosphere. It's in the lower atmosphere. The Arctic had record low sea ice."

"Everything everywhere is a record this month, except Antarctica," Blunden said. "It's insane."

In the Arctic, where sea ice reached a record low for February, land temperatures averaged 8 degrees above normal (4.5 degrees Celsius), Blunden said. That's after January, when Arctic land temperatures were 10.4 degrees above normal (5.8 degrees Celsius).

It was also the warmest winter—December through February—on record, beating the previous year's record by more than half a degree (0.29 degrees Celsius
Clearly man made global warming is a hoax.

Every major model for climate change as proven to be too conservative.

The reality has been worse, and it is likely to get worse.

Newspaper Correction of the Week

H/t Jim Romenesko.

Why Law Enforcement Data Dragnets Are a Wicked Bad Idea, Part 95

In Denver, it has been revealed that police have been using law enforcement databases for personal purposes, including helping friends stalk their exes.

Rather unsurprisingly, no police officers have received any meaningful discipline for that behavior:
Denver police officers performed searches on state and federal criminal justice databases that were not work-related and instead were made to help officers' in the romance department and to assist friends, according to an independent department monitor. The report said that punishment, usually a written reprimand instead of being charged criminally, is not enough to deter future abuse of the National Crime information Center (NCIC) and the Colorado Crime Information Center (CCIC) databases.

"When used appropriately, they can be powerful tools to investigate crime," the report stated. "But the misuse of these databases for personal, non-law enforcement purposes may compromise public trust and result in harm to community members. We believe that the reprimands that are generally imposed on DPD (Denver Police Department) officers who misuse the databases do not reflect the seriousness of that violation, and may not sufficiently deter future misuse."

The report by Independent Monitor Nicholas Mitchell listed a host of wrongful searches, including an officer getting a phone number of a woman he met on assignment, and an officer running the license plate of a man for a friend who then stalked that person. None of the 25 Denver officers who abused the crime databases were charged with any access crime. The harshest penalty was a three-day suspension. Civilians who accessed the databases without authorization, however, most likely would be charged with hacking.

There's been reports across the country of officers wrongly accessing criminal justice records for their personal use, sometimes resulting in criminal punishment. And sometimes police officers abuse the database to troll their own. In 2012, for example, Minneapolis paid out $1 million to a former female police officer whose driver's license record was looked up more than 400 times by fellow officers.
I would bet dollars to navy beans that the suspensions were of the paid variety.

We saw the exactly the same thing with the NSA.

This is what happens when the authorities have access to your data.  They abuse that access for their personal benefit.

This is why the bulk collection of data by the state security apparatus is so toxic.

How Convenient?

The office in Flint Michigan that stores their water records has been burgled, and the police chief is calling it an inside job:
Mystery still surrounds an unsolved December break-in at an executive office inside City Hall where Flint water files were kept.

As of Friday, March 18, there were still no suspects in the case, and officials say it may never be known what -- other than a TV -- was taken.

But the city's new police chief Tim Johnson says it's too suspicious that there was a break-in where important documents were kept, just as investigations began heating up and decision makers were beginning to be held accountable.

"It was definitely an inside job. The power cord (to the TV) wasn't even taken. The average drug user knows that you'd need the power cord to be able to pawn it," Johnson said.


An employee returning to work at City Hall, 1101 S. Saginaw St., after the holiday break on Monday, Dec. 28, discovered a broken window and the break-in. No other offices were disturbed.

[Flint Mayor Karen] Weaver did not say exactly where the room was located in the suite, but did say a window was broken in an apparent effort to access to the area.

"They had to know what room to go into, I could just say that," she said.
This does sound a like a Nixonian rat-f%$#ing, doesn't it?

A Tory With a Conscience, and Other Myths

Iain Duncan Smith, the British Work and Pensions Secretary,  has resigned over cuts to disability payments to the UK's most vulnerable:
Iain Duncan Smith has resigned as work and pensions secretary, denouncing £4bn of planned cuts to disability benefits as "indefensible".

He complains of pressure to "salami slice" welfare, saying the latest cuts were a "compromise too far" in a Budget that benefits higher earning taxpayers.

David Cameron said he was "puzzled and disappointed" at the resignation.

Earlier, the government had indicated it would look again at some of the proposed disability benefits changes.

'Enormous regret'

BBC political editor Laura Kuenssberg said: "There had been bad blood off and on between Chancellor George Osborne and Iain Duncan Smith over some of the more controversial welfare reforms, but nobody expected this move only 48 hours since the Budget."

She added that she understood Mr Cameron had personally tried to persuade Mr Duncan Smith to stay on and called the resignation "a bombshell at a very sensitive time"
Mr Duncan Smith, who was the Conservative Party leader and Leader of the Opposition from 2001 to 2003, wrote in his resignation letter that the changes to disability benefits were "defensible in narrow terms, given the continuing deficit".

But he said they should have formed part of "a wider process" of finding the best way to focus resources on those most in need.

"I am unable to watch passively whilst certain policies are enacted in order to meet the fiscal self-imposed restraints that I believe are more and more perceived as distinctly political rather than in the national economic interest," Mr Duncan Smith said.

"Too often my team and I have been pressured in the immediate run up to a Budget or fiscal event to deliver yet more reductions to the working-age benefit bill.

"There has been too much emphasis on money-saving exercises and not enough awareness from the Treasury, in particular, that the government's vision of a new welfare-to-work system could not be repeatedly salami-sliced.

"It is therefore with enormous regret that I have decided to resign."


Over the weekend Iain Duncan Smith discovered the Chancellor planned to offer cuts in Capital Gains Tax and was very unhappy that those tax cuts were to be offered to the better off, while he had been forced to make more welfare cuts prematurely, in his view. When Number 10 and the Treasury then backtracked on the reforms to PIP today, he concluded that he could no longer remain in government.

Sources close to him are absolutely adamant that his decision was in no way related to his views on Europe.
Smith supports a Brexit from the EU, so there is some speculation that his exit was influenced by this difference.

Personally, I am inclined to think that there are crass political motivations, but I'm a cynic that way.

19 March 2016

I Called it on the North Korean H-Bomb

An alleged picture of their new warhead
11 Weeks ago, the DPRK claimed to have set off a hydrogen bomb.

Most of the experts said that this was not the case, as the seismic data did not show a significantly larger blast than its previous tests, and normally a first time full Thermonuclear (3-stage) device will be big.

At the time, I suggested that it was not a full 3 stage device, but that it was a boosted device, where there is not a whole bunch of fusion, perhaps 5% of the blast.

I suggested that this was important because what a boosted fission device does allow for is a miniaturized warhead, because the additional neutrons from the small amount of fusion allow for a smaller amount of fissile material.

And now North Korea has announced that it has a miniaturized warhead that it has integrated with one of its missiles:
North Korea claims it has the know how and capability to develop a nuclear warhead to equip ballistic missiles. This claim has been substantiated today, by the leader of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK), Kim Jong-Un, presenting a complex spherical object claimed to be the country’s miniaturized thermonuclear warhead.“The nuclear warheads have been standardised to be fit for ballistic missiles by miniaturising them,” Kim noted during a visit with nuclear technicians that was reported by the DPRK state media today.

It is possible that the new warhead is designed for the Korean KN08 intermediate range ballistic missile that has yet to be tested in flight. Once proven, the missile is expected to boast the range and payload capacity to deliver attacks on US targets in the Pacific and west coast. Kim also stressed that the miniaturised warheads were “thermo-nuclear” devices, echoing the North’s claim that the nuclear test it conducted in January was of a more powerful hydrogen bomb.


North Korea’s claim to have successfully tested an H-bomb in January was greeted with scepticism at the time as the estimated yield was seen as far too low for a full-fledged thermo-nuclear device.

However, weapons experts have suggested it may have been a “boosted” fission device, which makes more efficient use of nuclear material and can be made smaller without sacrificing yield.
I wasn't the only one out there suggesting this scenario, but I was in the minority, and it appears that I nailed it.