22 May 2017

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

Because stinging you to death is in its nature.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

In News That Should Surprise No One

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

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

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

Heh.

Finally!

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

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

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

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

………

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

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

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

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

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

What the F%$#

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

OK, This Is the Weirdest Political Development of the Week

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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



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

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

Stupidest Meme of the Year

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

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

Linkage


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

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

21 May 2017

Not Enough Bullets

The headline says it all:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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


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


………


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

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

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

20 May 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This Episode of Doctor Who Is Epic

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

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

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

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

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

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

………

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

Someone is making an investment in political dynasty futures.

You Are F%$#ing Kidding Me!

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

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

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

19 May 2017

Reality is Weird

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

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

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

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

It's Scott Borg.

Linkage






The Muppets perform Bohemian Rhapsody:


18 May 2017

Headline of the Day

Lawyers Who Said Trump Has No Ties to Russia Named Russian Law Firm of 2016
The Guardian
Heh.

17 May 2017

World Class Trolling, Vlad


Love him or hate him, you have to appreciate the Russian President's mastery of the art of the troll:
Russian President Vladimir Putin said Wednesday he would be willing to provide the U.S. Congress a record of President Trump’s meeting with top Russian envoys, bringing scoffs on Capitol Hill that the Kremlin could help shed light on the disclosures of reportedly highly classified intelligence.

The provocative offer for the Kremlin to share evidence with U.S. oversight committees about the Oval Office meeting came with the caveat that the request for the transcript would have to come from the Trump administration.

Presenting a transcript is the Kremlin’s latest gambit in denying that Trump shared classified secrets last week with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and Russia’s ambassador to the United States during an Oval Office meeting.

But the tactic may have more to do with attempts to sow further chaos in Washington than assuage suspicions about the talks.
I have come across my share of trolls, but the elegance of this troll is truly a thing of beauty.

Silicon Valley Bro Culture in a Nutshell

Apple's New $5 Billion Apple Park Campus Has a 100,000-Square-Foot Gym and No Daycare

Considering that this building was designed with input from the late Steve Jobs, this is not particularly surprising.

Job's relationship to parenting was (at best) problematic, so this development is rather unsurprising.

Pass the Popcorn

Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein just appointed Robert Mueller as special counsel to investigate alleged coordination between Russia and the 2016 Trump Campaign.

There is basically no difference difference between a special counsel and special prosecutor. The former term came into use largely through the notoriety of the latter term during Watergate.

Both are appointed by, and can be removed by, the Attorney General or his designee, who also gives the special counsel/prosecutor his remit.

An independent counsel (IC) is a completely different kettle of fish: They are appointed by a 3 judge panel, cannot be removed by the Attorney General, and their remit is pretty much unlimited.

The law that enabled the appointment of an IC expired in 1999, following the excesses of Kenneth Starr in his pursuit of Bill Clinton's penis.  (Starr went on to become President of Baylor, where he covered up a rape culture among its athletes.)

This should be interesting.

Seriously? ……… Joe F%$#ing Lieberman? ……… Seriously?

Guess who is on the short list for being the next FBI director?

I cannot for the life of me see why Donald Trump would be interested in appointing Lieberman to anything.  Joe is such a self-serving, smarmy,  and sociopathic narcissist ……… Wait ……… Now I get it:
President Trump, hoping to nominate a new F.B.I. director before leaving on a long foreign trip on Friday, interviewed four potential candidates on Wednesday, including Joseph I. Lieberman, the former senator from Connecticut.

………

Several administration officials, speaking on the condition of anonymity to discuss internal White House deliberations, described a rushed and fluid process in which the president and Attorney General Jeff Sessions had swung nearly hour by hour on which candidate they preferred.

Mr. Lieberman’s name surfaced publicly for the first time on Wednesday after Sean Spicer, the White House press secretary, added him to the list of candidates Mr. Trump and Mr. Sessions were scheduled to interview before the president departs for a nine-day trip to the Middle East and Europe. Mr. Spicer said the other three candidates were the acting F.B.I. director, Andrew G. McCabe; former Gov. Frank Keating of Oklahoma, a Republican; and Richard A. McFeely, a former top official at the F.B.I.
Dear lord, make it stop.

16 May 2017

Did Not Expect This

It looks like Senate Republicans could not muster the votes to repeal an Obama administration rule on methane emissions:
Some Republican lawmakers balked at fully embracing the Trump administration’s climate skepticism Wednesday, as the Senate failed to kill an Obama-era plan for containing methane emissions that had deep support among environmental activists and many landowners in the West.

Three Republican senators joined Democrats in blocking the effort to kill the methane restrictions that the GOP congressional leadership had been confident it could scuttle. The push to scrap the methane rules faltered amid an uprising of protest in Western states, where tens of thousands of residents near drilling operations risk exposure to the toxic compounds that leak in tandem with the methane.

At issue is 41 billion cubic feet of a greenhouse gas leaking from many of the nearly 100,000 oil and gas wells on federally owned land. Methane is among the most potent accelerators of global warming, 25 times more harmful than carbon dioxide.

A House vote in March to eliminate an Obama-era Bureau of Land Management rule requiring energy firms to trap the escaping gas and convert it to electricity was followed by a swift public backlash. Several Republican senators wavered on the measure in recent weeks.
I don't think that this vote was about pissed off land owners in the west, as none of the Senators who flipped, Collins (R-ME), Graham (R-SC), and McCain (R-AZ) are from states where potential landowner objections to leaky gas wells are not a huge factor.

I think that more prosaic political considerations are taking place here:  McCain and Graham clearly detest Trump, and Collins needs to pretend to be liberal every now and then in order to secure her political popularity in Maine.

Still, it's a win for the good guys.

OK, This is a Big F%$#ing Deal

It appears that following his meeting with Donald Trump, James Comey wrote a memo describing the meeting, and in this memo he makes it clear that Donald Trump applied pressure to get him to drop the investigation on Russian coordination* with the Trump campaign.

Assuming that an actual copy of the memo is made available, and the recipients are willing to testify as to the timing of the memo, then this is more than sufficient justification to open up an investigation against Donald Trump for obstruction of justice:
President Trump asked the F.B.I. director, James B. Comey, to shut down the federal investigation into Mr. Trump’s former national security adviser, Michael T. Flynn, in an Oval Office meeting in February, according to a memo Mr. Comey wrote shortly after the meeting.

“I hope you can let this go,” the president told Mr. Comey, according to the memo.

The documentation of Mr. Trump’s request is the clearest evidence that the president has tried to directly influence the Justice Department and F.B.I. investigation into links between Mr. Trump’s associates and Russia. Late Tuesday, Representative Jason Chaffetz, the Republican chairman of the House Oversight Committee, demanded that the F.B.I. turn over all “memoranda, notes, summaries and recordings” of discussions between Mr. Trump and Mr. Comey.

Such documents, Mr. Chaffetz wrote, would “raise questions as to whether the president attempted to influence or impede” the F.B.I.


Mr. Comey wrote the memo detailing his conversation with the president immediately after the meeting, which took place the day after Mr. Flynn resigned, according to two people who read the memo. It was part of a paper trail Mr. Comey created documenting what he perceived as the president’s improper efforts to influence a continuing investigation. An F.B.I. agent’s contemporaneous notes are widely held up in court as credible evidence of conversations.

Mr. Comey shared the existence of the memo with senior F.B.I. officials and close associates. The New York Times has not viewed a copy of the memo, which is unclassified, but one of Mr. Comey’s associates read parts of it to a Times reporter.

………

In a statement, the White House denied the version of events in the memo.

“While the president has repeatedly expressed his view that General Flynn is a decent man who served and protected our country, the president has never asked Mr. Comey or anyone else to end any investigation, including any investigation involving General Flynn,” the statement said. “The president has the utmost respect for our law enforcement agencies, and all investigations. This is not a truthful or accurate portrayal of the conversation between the president and Mr. Comey.”

………

Mr. Comey created similar memos — including some that are classified — about every phone call and meeting he had with the president, the two people said. It is unclear whether Mr. Comey told the Justice Department about the conversation or his memos.
There is a part of me that is hoping that this meeting was actually taped.

There is another part of me who fearss that Mike Pence is way worse than the Donald.

That being said, Congressional Republicans value Donald Trump as the proverbial useful idiot, so I do not see any meaningful moves toward impeachment absent a complete electoral debacle in 2018.

*Note that Comey has been very meticulious about using the term, "coordination," and not, "collusion," the former is a violation of campaign finance laws, while the latter is just sleazy, and so only the former constitutes an underlying crime to which things like conspiracy or obstruction of justice charges can be laid.
But I am an engineer, not a campaign finance lawyer, dammit.
I love it when I get to go all Dr. McCoy!

15 May 2017

This is the One Case Where the "Tricky Dick Defense" Actually Works

Everyone is having conniptions because Donald Trump had a discussions with Russian officials describing credible reports that he had received regarding of ISIS plans to use a laptop bomb to take down a plane.

This may be stupid, but it's not illegal, because POTUS is the ultimate classification authority in the United States, which means that he can tell whoever he wants whatever secrets he wants, and it's legal, "Because the President is doing it."

This does not apply to the multitude of crimes that Richard Milhous Nixon actually committed, but it does apply here.

His decision to go into detail about this with the Russians is a matter of politics and policy, but there is no violation of the law here, though there would be if any other individual in the US did so without authorization.

The President can authorize any release of classified data that is not constrained by other laws (For example, if there were a release of medical data, he might be in violation of the HIPAA statute).*

That is the beginning and the end of the law here.

This does not mean that his discussion wasn't f%$#ing stupid, it appears that the intel came from another nation, and his behavior would make other nations more reticent about intelligence sharing, but it is not illegal.

This is a tempest in a teapot over what is what I would call masturbatory intelligence outrage:
President Trump revealed highly classified information to the Russian foreign minister and ambassador in a White House meeting last week, according to current and former U.S. officials, who said Trump’s disclosures jeopardized a critical source of intelligence on the Islamic State.

The information the president relayed had been provided by a U.S. partner through an intelligence-sharing arrangement considered so sensitive that details have been withheld from allies and tightly restricted even within the U.S. government, officials said.

The partner had not given the United States permission to share the material with Russia, and officials said Trump’s decision to do so endangers cooperation from an ally that has access to the inner workings of the Islamic State. After Trump’s meeting, senior White House officials took steps to contain the damage, placing calls to the CIA and the National Security Agency.

“This is code-word information,” said a U.S. official familiar with the matter, using terminology that refers to one of the highest classification levels used by American spy agencies. Trump “revealed more information to the Russian ambassador than we have shared with our own allies.”

………

Trump went on to discuss aspects of the threat that the United States learned only through the espionage capabilities of a key partner. He did not reveal the specific intelligence-gathering method, but he described how the Islamic State was pursuing elements of a specific plot and how much harm such an attack could cause under varying circumstances. Most alarmingly, officials said, Trump revealed the city in the Islamic State’s territory where the U.S. intelligence partner detected the threat.

The Post is withholding most plot details, including the name of the city, at the urging of officials who warned that revealing them would jeopardize important intelligence capabilities.

“Everyone knows this stream is very sensitive, and the idea of sharing it at this level of granularity with the Russians is troubling,” said a former senior U.S. counterterrorism official who also worked closely with members of the Trump national security team. He and others spoke on the condition of anonymity, citing the sensitivity of the subject.
That "Former senior U.S. counterterrorism official who also worked closely with members of the Trump national security team?"

That would be former SecDef Bob Gates, the unofficial mascot of what Ben Rhodes calls "The Blob", the interventionist foreign policy conventional wisdom, which is itching for some sort of war with Russia.

With all the damage that Trump and his Evil Minions are doing to our economy, our environment, and our civil rights, the hysteria of America's always wrong foreign policy establishment should not be a primary concern.

*I love it when I get to go all Dr. McCoy!
My guess is that the source is Israel, simply because it sounds like the sort of thing that the Mossad would catch, but this is a completely uninformed guess.

Linkage



A British Marine makes merciless fun of officers:

14 May 2017

1000 Words on the Internet of Things


Link

This is an Epic Resignation Letter

Paul Carr, who has been covering Silicon Valley misdeeds for many years, has resigned the beat, which he calls the "Silicon Valley Swamp."

He's not quitting writing, and he will remain at Pando, but he has found that his continuing exposure to the, "Endless perp walk of sociopaths, psychopaths and criminals with names like (Pando investor) Peter Thiel, Travis Kalanick, Emil Michael, Palmer Luckey, and Gurbaksh Chahal – not to mention their enablers and co-conspirators like Paul Graham and Sam Altman, Rachel Whetstone and Steve Hilton, Joe Lonsdale, Arianna Huffington, Shervin Pishevar, and a thousand more like them," was soul destroying.

Here is the most profound bit of his opus, and it IS an opus:
But no. The fact that spotting tech toxicity has become my “thing” is exactly the problem. Another lesson I learned a long time ago: When something toxic comes to define you, it's time to stop.
This should be on the wall of everyone's cubicle.

We……… Got ……… Lucky

Here is a very good account of how a techie more or less accidentally found the off switch for this weeks ransomware attack.

It's not really an accident, though the techie, one "MalwareTech", describes it as such.

Basically, he has a procedure, and a check list of sorts for evaluating this sort of thing.

Because he followed this procedure, he found that the software phoned home to an unregistered domain, and he registered that domain, and its existence functioned as a kill switch.

As I've said before, this is not an accident: this is a byproduct of proper procedures.

Much like a pilot's preflight checklist, success is a byproduct of a deliberate process, and not some random stroke of luck.

As Baseballer Branch Ricky pithily noted, "Luck is a residue of Design."

13 May 2017

Can You Spell RICO?

Federal prosecutors are investigating Uber for criminal conspiracy to evade regulators.

It seems to me that this would be a good opportunity to apply the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO) against them:
Pity the poor Uber lawyer who has to tell an already moody Travis Kalanick that homeboy’s got a new headache brewing…and this sh%$ is federal.
An inquiry by the United States Department of Justice into Uber’s use of a program to deceive some regulators has expanded.
The ride-hailing company has been under scrutiny from the Justice Department over a tool called Greyball, which The New York Times reported on in March. The Greyball tool allowed Uber to deploy what was essentially a fake version of its app to evade law enforcement agencies that were trying to clamp down on its service in cities including Portland, Ore., Boston and Las Vegas.
Oh man, it’s almost like Uber isn’t allowed to purposefully mislead local governments in its ongoing quest to do whatever the f%$# it wants whenever it wants. We know hedge funds with more self-control and less ego.

Greyball is the most concrete piece of evidence yet that Uber genuinely believes itself to exist somewhere beyond the silly laws of mere mortal companies. The Ayn Rand-themed car service that lives on your phone is such a complete and total Silicon Valley baby that it not only keeps trying to get away with sh%$ that no one else would, it keeps acting shocked and persecuted when it gets caught. Kalanick waged passive-aggressive cold wars with cities, states and nations, creating chaos in most of them and winning in even more, but many of his enemies have gone full stalking horse, waiting for their moment to exact revenge. Dumb hubristic sh%$ like “Greyball” is akin to handing them an invite that reads in embossed cursive “You may f%$# me back now.”
 (%$# mine)

RICO requires a conspiracy to further certain predicate offenses, which includes obstruction of justice, interfering with interstate commerce, and fraud.

The very existence of the Grayball software proves a conspiracy, and Ubers actions to evade regulation seem to involve the above three crimes, so perhaps we will see Uber and Kalanik in the dock in the not too distant future.

Honestly, it would do the world, and the tech community, a world of good if Kalanik ended up in jail for a few years.  It might other wannabee Galtian supermen.

This Business Will Get out of Control. It Will Get out of Control and We'll Be Lucky to Live through It.

A Tennessee woman hated that her congressman voted for the controversial Republican health-care bill in the House of Representatives, authorities said.

So Wendi L. Wright tried to run Rep. David Kustoff (R-Tenn.) off the road after he visited the University of Tennessee at Martin, they said.

The Weakley County Sheriff’s Department said Wright tailed the car carrying Kustoff. At some point, the congressman and his aide became afraid and worried that Wright wanted to force them off the road.

They then turned into a driveway and stopped. That’s where Wright got out, screamed at the congressman and struck the windows of his vehicle, even reaching inside the car, the sheriff’s department said.

Authorities said Wright then stood in front of the vehicle to try to keep Kustoff from leaving. At some point, someone called 911, but Wright left before authorities arrived.

The incident happened on May 8, four days after House Republicans narrowly passed a bill to overhaul the country’s health-care system.

Wright, 35, has been charged with felony reckless endangerment and was released after posting a $1,000 bond. Authorities say they found her after she posted details of the encounter with Kustoff on Facebook.
I think that characterizing this as an attempt to run the Congressman off the road is a bit much. It's more of a stalking and a rant.

Still, this is major league crazy sh%$, and it is a profoundly unproductive course of action.

Why Offensive Cyber Operations are a Bad Idea

Would you use a drone to launch a Hellfire at a terrorist if you knew that in so doing you would give that terrorist a drone loaded with Hellfire missiles and the capability to manufacture an infinite number of drones and Hellfires?

Well, this is what happens with cyber attacks: You are providing the weapon to your target.

Case in point, it appears that the largest ransomware attack in history was derived from an NSA hack:
Hackers exploiting malicious software stolen from the National Security Agency executed damaging cyberattacks on Friday that hit dozens of countries worldwide, forcing Britain’s public health system to send patients away, freezing computers at Russia’s Interior Ministry and wreaking havoc on tens of thousands of computers elsewhere.

The attacks amounted to an audacious global blackmail attempt spread by the internet and underscored the vulnerabilities of the digital age.

Transmitted via email, the malicious software locked British hospitals out of their computer systems and demanded ransom before users could be let back in — with a threat that data would be destroyed if the demands were not met.

By late Friday the attacks had spread to more than 74 countries, according to security firms tracking the spread. Kaspersky Lab, a Russian cybersecurity firm, said Russia was the worst-hit, followed by Ukraine, India and Taiwan. Reports of attacks also came from Latin America and Africa.

The attacks appeared to be the largest ransomware assault on record, but the scope of the damage was hard to measure. It was not clear if victims were paying the ransom, which began at about $300 to unlock individual computers, or even if those who did pay would regain access to their data.

Security experts described the attacks as the digital equivalent of a perfect storm. They began with a simple phishing email, similar to the one Russian hackers used in the attacks on the Democratic National Committee and other targets last year. They then quickly spread through victims’ systems using a hacking method that the N.S.A. is believed to have developed as part of its arsenal of cyberweapons. And finally they encrypted the computer systems of the victims, locking them out of critical data, including patient records in Britain.

The connection to the N.S.A. was particularly chilling. Starting last summer, a group calling itself the “Shadow Brokers” began to post software tools that came from the United States government’s stockpile of hacking weapons.

The attacks on Friday appeared to be the first time a cyberweapon developed by the N.S.A., funded by American taxpayers and stolen by an adversary had been unleashed by cybercriminals against patients, hospitals, businesses, governments and ordinary citizens.

Something similar occurred with remnants of the “Stuxnet” worm that the United States and Israel used against Iran’s nuclear program nearly seven years ago. Elements of those tools frequently appear in other, less ambitious attacks.
(emphasis mine)

This happens every time.

A state actor unleashes a cyber attack, and EVERYONE has the weapon within 6 months.

This is inseparable from offensive cyber operations, and it is something that is frequently ignored by folks like the NSA.

Q.E.D.

Well, This is a Bit of a Riddle









Photos and video: USAF
Specifically, the USAF is operating the X-37 unmanned reusable space plane, and it just completed 2 years in orbit, which is kind of a long time for a technology demonstrator:
Top-secret military spaceplanes certainly know how to make an entrance.

The U.S. military’s X-37B, an uncrewed spacecraft that looks like a miniature version of the retired space shuttles, returned to Earth over the weekend after spending nearly two years in low-Earth orbit. It sent shockwaves rippling through the air as it entered the atmosphere over Florida, producing a sonic boom loud enough to jolt people awake across the state. The Air Force, which operates the X-37B, tweeted about its return minutes later, and soon posted a flurry of images and videos of the spaceplane online. “Our team has been preparing for this event for several years, and I am extremely proud to see our hard work and dedication culminate in today’s safe and successful landing of the X-37B,” said Brigadier General Wayne Monteith, the commander of the Air Force’s Space Wing.

To which many observers said, wait, what?

The news that the military had a space shuttle quietly orbiting Earth for more than 700 days came as a surprise to some. Why didn’t we know about this thing, the reaction seemed to go. The reaction illustrated the distinct line between the country’s civilian and military activities in space, and how much the general public knows about each. People know plenty about the civilian side—the missions to other planets, the SpaceX launches, astronauts’ cool Instagram pictures from the space station. But secret military spaceplanes? You usually need a sonic boom to hear about that.
What the hell was was this doing up there so long?

It would be simpler and cheaper to do performance testing on propulsion in a small non-returnable package.

The only thing that I can think it would be doing would be deploying and retrieving some sort of payload, but there should be no need for that:  Any surveillance data would be transmitted digitally these days, and if you were testing something like orbital targeting, it would be simpler, and less easily observed, if you simply deorbited the payload at the end of the test.

The only thing that would explain the duration of the mission is some sort of biological payload, but that would be something that NASA, and not the Air Force, should be doing.

Curiouser and curiouser.

12 May 2017

It's Parody………

But I wish that this was reality:
Calling My Representative Wasn’t Enough, So I F%$#ed His Wife
Once again, reality is insufficient.

Even Stupider than the Trump Administration

The latest genius idea from establishment Democrats, including (of Course) Lawrence Summers, is that Donald Trump should appoint Merrick Garland as head of the FBI:
We live in a golden age of political stupidity, but I'm not being hyperbolic when I say this: The idea of pulling Judge Merrick Garland off the D.C. Circuit federal appeals court and into the FBI is one of the silliest ideas I've seen anyone in Washington fall for. It's like Wile E. Coyote putting down a nest made of dynamite and writing “NOT A TRAP” on a whiteboard next to it. It's also an incredibly telling chapter in the book that's been written since the Republican National Convention — the story of how Republicans who are uncomfortable with the Trump presidency gritting their teeth as they use it to lock in control of the courts.

On Thursday, as we reported at The Washington Post, Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) gave real oomph to an idea that had been bouncing around conservative media. Democrats had vetted and praised Garland when President Barack Obama nominated him for the Supreme Court — how, then, could they object to the idea of putting him in charge of the FBI?

The reasons to object were quickly explained by reporters and by liberal court analysts like Dahlia Lithwick. “Garland probably won’t want to give up his lifetime tenure as the chief judge of the second-most important court in the land,” Lithwick wrote, “and surely the most significant bulwark against Trump administration overreach, in exchange for a 12-minute gig on The Apprentice before he uses the wrong color highlighter and gets fired by a crazy person.” Among most court-watchers, the scheme was pretty obvious: Lee would give Republicans a chance to tweak a Garland-less court, changing a 7-to-4 liberal majority to a 6-to-5 majority. And in his tweet, Lee was explicit: If Garland went to the J. Edgar Hoover Building, Democrats wouldn't need a President Trump/Russia special prosecutor. 
Of course, Larry Summers loves this idea:

Seriously, is there any bit of stupidity that Larry Summers won't endorse?

Snark of the Day

Thomas Friedman Shows Yet Again the Economy Still Has Good Paying Jobs for People Without Skills
Dean Baker
I know, fish in a barrel, but it is amusing fish in a barrel.

11 May 2017

Wisdom of the Day

In a discussion of the nature of leaks and leakers, a point is made that is not often made:
The deeper threat that leakers such as Manning and Snowden pose is more subtle than a direct assault on U.S. national security: they undermine Washington’s ability to act hypocritically and get away with it.
This is the truth not only of whistle-blowers, but many of our secrets:  It is about protecting us from the consequences of our own hypocrisy.

I Like Frank

I mean of course the Pontiff.

In his latest acknowledgement of reality, he has recognizes that the Big Bang Theory is real and throws a shindig:
The Vatican has invited the world's leading scientists and cosmologists to try and understand the Big Bang.

Astrophysicists and other experts will attend the Vatican Observatory to discuss black holes, gravitational waves and space-time singularities as it honors the late Jesuit cosmologist considered one of the fathers of the idea that the universe began with a gigantic explosion.

The conference – which runs through the week – is part of an increasing admission by the church that scientific theories were real and not necessarily in contradiction with theological doctrine.

Pope Francis declared in 2014 for instance that God is not "a magician with a magic wand" and that evolution and Big Bang theory are real
Considering that the Vatican Observatory had a significant role in the genesis* of the Big Bang theory, this is very apropos.

*Pun not intended.

10 May 2017

Some Context for the Comey Firing


Click for full size graph pop up
The New York Times had a very interesting analysis of the effects of Comey's "October Surprise" on the elections. The takeaway is that if you look at when the poll was taken, rather than when it was released, there appears to be little if any effect:
On Friday, Oct. 28, James B. Comey, the F.B.I. director, sent a letter to Congress about new evidence in the investigation into Hillary Clinton’s emails. Politicians, analysts and journalists are still debating whether the letter cost Mrs. Clinton the presidency. It’s certainly possible. But I am not at all sure, in part because of the final Upshot/Siena College poll in Florida.

I had learned the results of our survey that morning. It showed Donald J. Trump ahead of Hillary Clinton in the state by four percentage points, 46 percent to 42 percent.

………

But it’s now clear that Mrs. Clinton was weaker heading into Oct. 28 than was understood at the time. Several other polls were conducted over the same period that showed Mr. Trump gaining quickly on Mrs. Clinton in the days ahead of the Comey letter. And the timing of these polls — particularly the gap between when they were taken and when they were released — has probably helped to exaggerate the effect of Mr. Comey’s letter on the presidential race.

………


But the Upshot/Siena poll of Florida is one of several surveys that challenge this interpretation. That poll was completed the night before the Comey letter, but it was not released until Sunday, two days later — a longer lag than usual, since Sunday is seen as a better day for news media coverage than Saturday.

Some analysts have used poll aggregators or forecasting models to measure the effect of the Comey letter, and they have implicitly treated this Upshot poll, and others conducted before the news but released after, as evidence of a Comey effect. But it can’t be; for example, none of the people we polled for our survey knew about the letter.


………

In retrospect, there is virtually no evidence to support the view that Mrs. Clinton really had a six-point lead by Oct. 28, even if it was a very reasonable interpretation of the polls that had been released to that point. She didn’t have a six-point lead in any of the 16 (sometimes low-quality) national surveys that went into the field on or after Oct. 23 and were completed before the Comey letter, including her steadily shrinking lead in the ABC/Washington Post tracker.

A new report from the American Association of Public Opinion Research on 2016 polling reached a similar conclusion.
Of course, I don't expect this to change the narrative being being promulgated by the Democratic Party establishment and the Clinton camp.

As Upton Sinclair once said, "It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends on his not understanding it."

The Difference Between Training and Credentialism

A recent study has shown that, "only 36% of Indian engineers can write compilable code."

This is an indication that the Indian education system has a problem.

Even ignoring the basic question of when one should educate, and when one should just train, it appears that Indian degrees are largely about acquiring credentials.

I have noticed this trend both in the US education and employment, but it's no surprise that this is more of an issue in India: Credentialism, or more accurately its caste system, is at its core a system of societally enforced credentials, has been in force for thousands of years:
Only 36% of software engineers in India can write compilable code based on measurements by an automated tool that is used across the world, the Indian skills assessment company Aspiring Minds says in a report.

The report is based on a sample of 36,800 from more than 500 colleges across India.

Aspiring Minds said it used the automated tool Automata which is a 60-minute test taken in a compiler integrated environment and rates candidates on programming ability, programming practices, run-time complexity and test case coverage.

It uses advanced artificial intelligence technology to automatically grade programming skills.

"We find that out of the two problems given per candidate, only 14% engineers are able to write compilable codes for both and only 22% write compilable code for exactly one problem," the study said.

It further found that of the test subjects only 14.67% were employable by an IT services company.

When it came to writing fully functional code using the best practices for efficiency and writing, only 2.21% of the engineers studied made the grade.
I have heard this complaint for years from my IT friends, and now we have a study.

More of This

Unlike some progressives, the Greens come to mind, it appears that Bernie Sanders Democrats are working to take over the California Democratic Party.

This is the sort of stuff that needs to be done, it is a grueling grind, but this is what the flying monkey wing of the Republican Party did after Goldwater's loss in 1964, and it took them nearly 20 years to take over.

Seriously, more of this:
For California’s “Berniecrats,” the fire’s not out yet.

Nearly a year after propelling Sen. Bernie Sanders to a close second finish against Hillary Clinton in California’s presidential primary, some of his most ardent supporters are still organizing – this time within the state Democratic Party itself.

At stake is the party chairmanship held by the departing John Burton, a liberal icon, a longtime lawmaker and former Senate leader who became chair in 2009.

Vying to replace Burton are L.A. County Democratic Party leader Eric Bauman, currently the state party’s vice chair and a major power in California labor politics. Facing him is activist Kimberly Ellis, the director of Emerge California, which seeks to have more women and people of color elected to public office.

Rather than fading into the sunset with their defeated standard-bearer, Sanders’ activists emerged from November both irked and emboldened.

They have joined forces with other some other progressives to support Ellis and take over the party’s leadership, promote a more left-leaning policy agenda and diminish the clout of corporations and business-friendly moderates.

………

They surprised insiders by dominating the obscure process — electing a third of the delegates for the state convention, scheduled for May 19-21 in Sacramento. They believe they have turned the once-sleepy race for a new party chair into a serious contest with Bauman, long viewed as the front-runner.

“We see our biggest opportunity as the party,” Edelstein said. “We want to make a concerted effort. If we can change California, we can change the rest of the country.”

………

[Former Santa Cruz Assemblyman Fred] Keeley said the continued organizing and activism by Sanders backers is rooted in their long-term agenda.

“The organization has continued on because it wasn’t a personality cult or anything close to it,” he said. “These folks by and large are relatively sophisticated players. They do understand that while this may be mind-numbing and uninteresting to most people, this is the thing you need to do to effect change.”

Once the dust settled from November, California’s Berniecrats focused on the weekend party meetings held in January to elect state party delegates from each Assembly district. They partnered with other progressives to build slates of candidates and then used Hustle – a texting application used extensively in the Sanders campaign – to turn supporters out.
(emphasis mine)

This is how you gain effective political power.  It's a lot duller than, for example, running Ralph Nader for president, but this sort of concerted efforts at the local level works  ……… If it can be sustained.

Win or lose, they are going to have to fight this battle for decades.

Well, This is Reassuring


Pucker factor: 11
At one of the myriad of radioactive waste dumps in Hanford, Washington, a tunnel has collapsed:
Hundreds of workers at the Department of Energy’s Hanford nuclear site in Washington state had to “take cover” Tuesday morning after the collapse of 20-foot-long portion of a tunnel used to store contaminated radioactive materials.

The Energy Department said it activated its emergency operations protocol after reports of a “cave-in” at the 200 East Area in Hanford, a sprawling complex about 200 miles from Seattle where the government has been working to clean up radioactive materials left over from the country’s nuclear weapons program.

The agency said in a statement that the 20-foot section is part of a tunnel that is hundreds of feet long and is “used to store contaminated materials.” The tunnel is one of two that run into the Plutonium Uranium Extraction Facility, also known as PUREX. The section that collapsed was “in an area where the two tunnels join together,” the department said.

The PUREX facility, once used to extract plutonium from spent nuclear fuel, has been idle for years but remains “highly contaminated,” the agency said.
………

An August 2015 report by Vanderbilt University’s civil and environmental engineering department said the PUREX facility and the two tunnels had “the potential for significant on-site consequences” and that “various pieces of dangerous debris and equipment containing or contaminated with dangerous/mixed waste” had been placed inside the tunnels.

………

Former Energy Department official Robert Alvarez said that remotely controlled rail cars once carried spent fuel from a reactor to the PUREX chemical processing facility, which then extracted dangerous plutonium. He said the plant lies near the middle of the sprawling 580-square mile Hanford site and was “a very high-hazard operation.”

Many contaminated pieces of equipment, including the rail cars, have simply been left in the tunnels, he said. The Vanderbilt report said that there were eight rail cars in the older tunnel and 28 in the newer one.

The cave-in was discovered during “routine surveillance,” according to the Energy Department. Photographs showed a gaping hole, plainly evident because the tunnels are largely above ground.

Workers near the PUREX facility were told to shelter in place, and access to the area was restricted, according to the Energy Department statement. Officials requested that the Federal Aviation Administration put a temporary flight restriction in place, according to the FAA.
We still have billions of dollars of nuclear waste to clean up from the Truman administration.

Nuclear power is a suckers game.

But of Course

Dakota Access Pipeline Has First Leak before Pipeline Is Fully Operational
The Guardian
No further comment required.

Linkage


John Oliver on the Republican "Health Care Plan":

09 May 2017

Make it Stop!!!

Hillary Clinton will be launching a political organization shortly.

Can you say 2020?

Once again I feel compelled to murder the genius of Dr. Seuss for political commentary.  (After the break)

In Other Elections………

In the UK, Labour and the UKIP got their clocks cleaned in local elections:
Theresa May’s Conservatives gained more than 550 council seats and swept to shock victories in mayoralty contests in the West Midlands and Tees Valley in results that placed her party on track to secure a thumping majority in the general election.
The prime minister insisted she was not taking “anything for granted” but the Tories enjoyed a stunning day that was matched by a dramatic decline for Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour party, which lost more than 300 seats.

The results forced Labour to hand over control of a series of English councils including Derbyshire, Nottinghamshire and Northumberland, while in Scotland the party lost its grip on Glasgow for the first time in 40 years. Paul Nuttall’s Ukip was crushed as every single councillor facing election suffered defeat.
The results were turned into a projected national vote share of 38% for the Tories, 27% for Labour and 18% for the Lib Dems, with Ukip plunging to just 5%. Although that prediction is narrower than the polls, it projects that May would win a solid majority in June’s general election.
UKIP's implosion is no surprise:  After the Brexit passed, they are like a dog that has finally caught the car it was chasing.  They have absolutely no idea what to do now, and so they lost all the seats which stood for election

Labour clearly has problems as well, most notably that they have adopted a policy of complete hostility to the Scottish National Party (SNP), which has served to alienate Scottish voters (see Glasgow results).

There is also the fact that half of Labour is fighting with the other half, creating the most dysfunctional party in Britain this side of the Trotskyites.

It's fairly clear that the Conservatives will do very well in the snap elections, and my hope is that whoever replaces Corbyn after will hew to similar policies.

Blairite politics is not sustainable.

Well, This Is a Fine F%$# You to Erdoğan

The US has decidedly to supply arms directly to Kurdish fighters in Syria:
President Trump has approved a plan to directly arm Kurdish forces fighting in Syria, the Pentagon said on Tuesday, inflaming already strained ties with Turkey and putting the U.S. military a step closer to seizing a remaining Islamic State stronghold.

Pentagon spokeswoman Dana W. White said the president made the decision Monday, describing the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), a diverse group dominated by Kurdish fighters, as “the only force on the ground that can successfully seize Raqqa in the near future.” For more than a year, the U.S. military has been advancing plans to capture Raqqa, the Syrian city that is the Islamic State’s de facto capital, as the final major step in its nearly three-year effort to defeat the militant group.

“We are keenly aware of the security concerns of our coalition partner Turkey,” White said in a statement. “We want to reassure the people and government of Turkey that the U.S. is committed to preventing additional security risks and protecting our NATO ally.”

………

Ankara sees the YPG as an extension of the banned Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK, which is considered a terrorist group by both Turkey and the United States.
Since Turkey is perhaps the 2nd worst external actor in Syria, after the House of Saud, so the fact that their agenda is going pear shaped is a good thing.

It's fairly clear that Erdoğan is using the conflict with ISIS to reinforce his authoritarian rule, and it appears highly likely that he is intent on creating some sort of Turkish zone of influence akin to the Ottoman empire.

That reality is disabusing Erdoğan of his delusions is a good thing.

Whiskey Tango Foxtrot?

Trump just fired James Comey as FBI director.

First let's be clear, this isn't the Saturday Night Massacre in 1973.

Comey is not Archibald Cox, he is was a rather clueless narcissist who ignored standard law enforcement procedures because he wanted to ingratiate himself to Republicans.

I have mixed emotions about this: It's like seeing your mother in law drive off a cliff in your brand new car.

I anticipate that whoever replaces Comey will be a complete political hack, but that's about as inevitable as gravity.

There won't be any meaningful political repercussions though, Republicans control both the House and the Senate.:
President Trump fired FBI Director James B. Comey on Tuesday, at the recommendation of senior Justice Department officials who said he had treated Hillary Clinton unfairly and in doing so damaged the credibility of the FBI and the Justice Department.

The startling development comes as Comey was leading a counterintelligence investigation to determine whether associates of Trump may have coordinated with Russia to interfere with the U.S. presidential election last year. It wasn’t immediately clear how Comey’s ouster will affect the Russia probe, but Democrats said they were concerned that his ouster could derail the investigation.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced that Comey’s deputy, Andrew McCabe, would be the acting director of the FBI. As a presidential candidate, Trump explicitly criticized Comey and McCabe for their roles in the Clinton probe while at other points praising Comey for his “guts.”

“The president has accepted the recommendation of the attorney general and the deputy attorney general regarding the dismissal of the director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation,” press secretary Sean Spicer told reporters in the White House briefing room. The firing is effective “immediately,” he said.