18 February 2017

No Blogging Tonight

The kids were in a production of Shakespeare's The Tempest, and I was taping it.


17 February 2017

Can We Please Impeach Him?

No, I am not talking about the Donald, rather I am talking about the mass of conflicts and poor jurisprudence that is Clarence Thomas:
Justice Clarence Thomas’s wife is organizing in support of President Donald Trump’s agenda. And it might make her husband’s life a little complicated.

In an email sent to a conservative listserv on Feb. 13 and obtained by The Daily Beast, Ginni Thomas asked an interesting question: How could she organize activists to push for Trump’s policies?

“What is the best way to, with minimal costs, set up a daily text capacity for a ground up-grassroots army for pro-Trump daily action items to push back against the left’s resistance efforts who are trying to make America ungovernable?” she wrote.

“I see the left has Daily Action @YourDailyAction and their Facebook likes are up to 61K,” she continued.

She then linked to a Washington Post story about the group.

“But there are some grassroots activists, who seem beyond the Republican party or the conservative movement, who wish to join the fray on social media for Trump and link shields and build momentum,” she wrote. “I met with a house load of them yesterday and we want a daily textable tool to start… Suggestions?”

………

Heidi Li Feldman, a professor at Georgetown Law School and expert on legal ethics, told The Daily Beast that the email could be grounds for lawyers challenging Trump’s travel ban to ask Justice Thomas to recuse himself from the case—a move that could doom the executive order.

“You can imagine circumstances easily where such conduct on the part of the spouse of a Supreme Court justice would lead to a non-frivolous disqualification motion,” she said.


This is not the first time that Clarence and Ginni Thomas have ignored the most basic rules of judicial ethics. (That case involved him refusing to recuse himself from a case involving a man who Ginni's advocacy group, set up a Clarence Thomas museum, gifted him a $19K bible, allowed him free access to a business jet, etc.)

16 February 2017

Interesting Speculation


87 miles as the crow flies
Here is an interesting bit of speculation on why a Russian spy ship is hanging out in international waters off of Long Island Sound:
I love maps. They often reveal things quickly and simply in a way text cannot. Like this map I’ve pulled together showing two points recently in the news.

To the right, Groton, Connecticut, where the U.S. has a naval facility

To the left, Glen Cove, New York — the location of a waterfront compound, Killenworth Mansion, owned for decades by Russia. The site was used for electronic spying according to the Reagan administration. A second compound, Norwich House, located five miles away in Upper Brookville, was vacated in December after former president Obama issued new sanctions on Russia in response to alleged interference in U.S. 2016 presidential election.

Multiple news reports yesterday noted a Russian spy ship “loitering” approximately 30 miles south of Groton, near Long Island’s shoreline, in international waters.

But none of them mentioned the ship was approximately 60-80 miles from the site of the Russian government compounds.

………

It’s almost if the Russians left something behind on Long Island and were looking for it.

Or listening for it.
As Mr. Spock would say, "Fascinating."

Linkage


God Bless the Onion

15 February 2017

It Appears that Google is No Longer the Job Mecca it Once Was

It used to be that people would crawl over broken glass to get a job at Google.

Now, employees at Google's Waymo division bailed as soon as they got f%$#-you money:
Google has spent a lot of money on its self-driving car project, now spun off into a new entity called Waymo. Much of that money has gone to engineers and other staff, according to a new report from Bloomberg. In order to keep self-driving staffers happy — and, presumably, from leaving the company for other firms doing similar work — Google backed the proverbial Brinks truck up to the self-driving department and unloaded.

Bloomberg says that early staffers “had an unusual compensation system” that multiplied staffers' salaries and bonuses based on the performance of the self-driving project. The payments accumulated as milestones were reached, even though Waymo remains years away from generating revenue. One staffer eventually “had a multiplier of 16 applied to bonuses and equity amassed over four years.” The huge amounts of compensation worked — for a while. But eventually, it gave many staffers such financial security that they were willing to leave the cuddly confines of Google.

Two staffers that Bloomberg spoke to called it “F-you money,” and the accumulated cash allowed them to depart Google for other firms, including Chris Urmson who co-founded a startup with ex-Tesla employee Sterling Anderson, and others who founded a self-driving truck company called Otto which was purchased by Uber last year, and another who founded Argo AI which received a $1 billion investment from Ford last week.
These were people who were eager to leave, and as soon as they were secure, they left.

This does not say positive things about the workplace.

Yet Another Reason that I Hate Apple

As an engineer, I find their elevation of form over function, which goes all the way back to not having a cooling fan on the original Mac, but their recent jihad against the right of people to have their equipment repaired just reinforces this:
Apple representatives plan to tell Nebraska lawmakers that repairing your phone is dangerous.

Apple is planning to fight proposed electronics "Right to Repair" legislation being considered by the Nebraska state legislature, according to a source within the legislature who is familiar with the bill's path through the statehouse.

The legislation would require Apple and other electronics manufacturers to sell repair parts to consumers and independent repair shops, and would require manufacturers to make diagnostic and service manuals available to the public.

Nebraska is one of eight states that are considering right to repair bills; last month, Nebraska, Minnesota, New York, Massachusetts, Kansas, and Wyoming introduced legislation. Last week, lawmakers in Illinois and Tennessee officially introduced similar bills.

According to the source, an Apple representative, staffer, or lobbyist will testify against the bill at a hearing in Lincoln on March 9. AT&T will also argue against the bill, the source said. The source told me that at least one of the companies plans to say that consumers who repair their own phones could cause lithium batteries to catch fire. Motherboard is protecting the identity of the source because they are not authorized to speak to the press.

………

The bills nationwide are being pushed by Repair.org, a trade organization made up of independent repair shops who say that their companies have been harmed by an attempt by manufacturers to gain a monopoly over the repair business. Even without readily available repair parts or service manuals, a healthy DIY repair hobby has thrived thanks to online crowdsourced instruction manuals on sites like iFixit and grey market parts that are available directly from factories in China or can be salvaged from recycled devices.
This is not a surprise for a company whose response to a stupid antenna design was to tell consumers that they were holding the phone wrong.

This sh%$ is evil.

It is Called Selling Out

A number of the more prominent civil rights organizations in the United States have been bought off by the Telcos, and are opposing net neutrality:
Leading civil rights groups who for many years have been heavily bankrolled by the telecom industry are signaling their support for Donald Trump’s promised rollback of the Obama administration’s net neutrality rules, which prevent internet service providers from prioritizing some content providers over others.

The Obama administration’s Federal Communications Commission established net neutrality by reclassifying high-speed internet as a regulated phone-like telecommunications service, as opposed to a mostly unregulated information service. The re-classification was cheered by advocates for a free and open internet.

But now Trump’s new FCC Chairman Ajit Pai, a former Verizon attorney, is pushing to repeal the net neutrality reform by rolling back that re-classification — and he’s getting help not only from a legion of telecom lobbyists, but from civil rights groups.

In a little-noticed joint letter released last week, the NAACP, Asian Americans Advancing Justice, OCA (formerly known as the Organization for Chinese Americans), the National Urban League, and other civil rights organizations sharply criticized the “jurisdictional and classification problems that plagued the last FCC” — a reference to the legal mechanism used by the Obama administration to accomplish net neutrality.

………

None of the civil rights groups that signed the joint letter responded to a request for comment.

It’s not the first time civil rights group have engaged in lobbying debates seemingly unrelated to their core missions, but in favor of their corporate donors. At a time when OCA received major funding from Southwest Airlines, the group filed a regulatory letter on behalf of the airline in support of Southwest’s bid to open flights at Houston airport. The NAACP, after receiving financial backing from Wal-Mart, helped the retail chain during its contentious bid to open stores in New York City.

………

The civil rights group opposed to net neutrality have employed several arguments against the proposal. In one filing made in 2010, the NAACP signed onto an argument from MMTC that net neutrality reforms were a waste of resources because the FCC should focus on “more pressing racial discrimination and exclusionary hiring and promotion practices of certain Silicon Valley high-tech companies.” In a separate filing in 2014, MMTC and the NAACP argued that reclassification would threaten the “fragile state of minority engagement in the digital ecosystem.”

While advocating against net neutrality, the organizations on the joint letter have raked in money from the telecom industry.
If any of these organizations make a fundraising pitch to you, you should find another recipient.

It appears that these groups have already gotten well remunerated for their services to corporate America.

14 February 2017

Well, This is a Mind F%$#

The New York Times has a story about how the Republicans have their hatchets out for the the CFPB, and the hed is, The Watchdog Protecting Consumers May Be Too Effective.

Seriously?

The article itself is relatively straight forward, it simply details how Republicans hate protecting consumers from being defrauded, and hence they want to kill the agency, but the headline, suggesting that there can be too much honesty in financial transactions, simply buggers the mind.

Headline of the Day

Republicans to predatory companies: Grab as much as you can
Catherine Rampell, in, of all places, The Washington Post.
She is writing about Republican efforts to make it easier for the banksters to rip off consumers.

We Have a Contender for Wisest Thing Written This Year

Badtux the Snarky Penguin observes, "Don’t confuse tolerance of people who are different with tolerance of evil.

Your mouth to God's ear you sterling representative of the Spheniscidae family:
So precious little snowflake Nazis whine that we liberals preach tolerance but don’t practice it because, well, we laugh when a Nazi gets punched. But here’s the thing: Nazis lost the right to be tolerated when they started piling bodies of innocent men, women, and children into mass graves.

Yes, liberals preach tolerance — tolerance of people who have never committed harm against others. Don’t confuse tolerance of difference with tolerance of monsters. Tolerance of evil is the exact same thing as condoning evil, and liberals ain’t into that shit.

Also don’t confuse tolerance with pacifism. ………
It's a short read, but a good one.

Read the rest, and then punch a Nazi as your Valentines day gift to your sweet Baboo.

Tweet of the Day

H/t naked capitalism

Linkage


The Netherlands Welcomes Donald Trump:

13 February 2017

The Internet of Things Strikes Again

At an unnamed university, its network was taken down by its internet connected vending machines:
Today’s cautionary tale comes from Verizon’s sneak peek (pdf) of the 2017 Data Breach Digest scenario. It involves an unnamed university, seafood searches, and an IoT botnet; hackers used the university’s own vending machines and other IoT devices to attack the university’s network.

Since the university’s help desk had previously blown off student complaints about slow or inaccessible network connectivity, it was a mess by the time a senior member of the IT security team was notified. The incident is given from that team member’s perspective; he or she suspected something fishy after detecting a sudden big interest in seafood-related domains.

The “incident commander” noticed “the name servers, responsible for Domain Name Service (DNS) lookups, were producing high-volume alerts and showed an abnormal number of sub-domains related to seafood. As the servers struggled to keep up, legitimate lookups were being dropped—preventing access to the majority of the internet.” That explained the “slow network” issues, but not much else.

The university then contacted the Verizon RISK (Research, Investigations, Solutions and Knowledge) Team and handed over DNS and firewall logs. The RISK team discovered the university’s hijacked vending machines and 5,000 other IoT devices were making seafood-related DNS requests every 15 minutes.
Seafood, huh?

Needless to say, there is something fishy about the Internet of Things.*

It's a toxic mixture of marketing types and brogrammers, and until there there are real statutory requirements for people trying to make a buck off of things like internet enabled refrigeratures, stay away from this.

Right now, these are trivial to hack into, and, at best, this makes them a listening device in your own home.

*Sorry for the pun.
Not really sorry. Not one bit.

The Term Here is Mensch

Alexander Rapaport is an Orthodox Jew who runs a soup kitchens in and around Borough Park.

He expressed support for the plight of immigrants shut out by Trump's now enjoined immigrant ban, and what followed was an exodus of donors who turned out to be bigots:
Alexander Rapaport, a Brooklyn Hasid, says his experience being the victim of anti-Semitism forces him to call out hatred against others. So Rapaport, who runs a network of kosher soup kitchens, helped organize a communal show of support last week for a local Yemeni-owned bodega in reaction to President Donald Trump’s executive order temporarily banning immigration from seven Muslim-majority countries.

Not everyone was happy about the gesture.

“I received your solicitation letter in the mail along with this phone number,” read a text message he received Wednesday. “After seeing, though, that you protested President Trump’s executive order, and thus shamefully sided with those who are putting American lives in danger, I am no longer able to donate to your organization.”

………

Rapaport, who lives in the strongly Hasidic Borough Park neighborhood, said that other donors approached him in the street to complain about his stance on immigration following his show of support for the shop. Last week, after Yemeni-American bodega owners organized a strike to protest the president’s temporary travel ban, Rapaport showed his support by going to a local store with other community members and pasting Post-it notes with “messages of love and solidarity” on its storefront.

………

The 38-year-old father of seven has gotten complaints after he spoke up for immigrants previously and lost funders who were unhappy that the strictly kosher soup kitchen serves anyone who wants a meal, regardless of religious background.

In December 2015, Rapaport attended a protest at New York City Hall following a call by Trump, then a presidential candidate, for “a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States.”

While Rapaport has considered being less outspoken, he said hiding his views wouldn’t be honest.

“I don’t want to take anyone’s money under false pretense. Yes, I am personally very pro-immigrant, and if that makes me unqualified for your donation, please don’t give it to me,” he told JTA.
Rapaport has received support from many parts of the Orthodox community, but I have a message for those parts of the community who seem determined to allow their personal bigotries rule their actions:
The stranger who sojourns with you shall be as a native from among you, and you shall love him as yourself; for you were strangers in the land of Egypt. I am the Lord, your God.

:כְּאֶזְרָח מִכֶּם יִהְיֶה לָכֶם הַגֵּר | הַגָּר אִתְּכֶם וְאָהַבְתָּ לוֹ כָּמוֹךָ כִּי גֵרִים הֱיִיתֶם בְּאֶרֶץ מִצְרָיִם אֲנִי יְהוָֹה אֱלֹהֵיכֶם
Drops mic.

Advice from The ACLU



Needless to say, I am now folling the ACLU on Twitter.

Things that I Could Not Give Less of a F%$# About

Donald Trump's handshaking tecnique.

Really. I could not give a flying f%$# in a rolling doughnut about this.

That is all.

Newspaper Screw Up of the Day

It's not technically a typographical error, since it is the wrong picture, and not an error in typography, but it's a real doozy:
A newspaper in the Dominican Republic printed a photo of Hollywood star Alec Baldwin playing President Donald Trump in a story about the real-life US president.

The snafu appeared in the Friday editions of El Nacional, The Daily Dot reported.

The photo showing Baldwin as Trump was captioned in Spanish: 'Donald Trump, president of the United States'. 

El Nacional issued an apology on its website Saturday for the photo mistake.

It said in Spanish: 'On Friday El Nacional published a photo of actor Alec Baldwin, who imitates the President of the United States on a television program.

'The picture was sent that day by the Associated Press (AP) with the name of the actor and information about the program, but it was placed as if it were the one of Trump, a situation that went unnoticed for all those who reviewed page 19.

'El Nacional apologizes to the readers and to all those who felt affected by the publication.
 They should have known.  The hands are WAY too big.


H/t AS the Stellar Parthenon BBS.

Eric Arthur Blair Rotational Momentum Exceeds Energy Released at Hiroshima

The CIA has just awarded Saudi Prince Mohammed bin Nayef bin Abdulaziz al-Saud the George Tenet Medal for his efforts in fighting terrorism:
The Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Nayef bin Abdulaziz al-Saud, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Interior, received a medal on Friday from the CIA for his distinct intelligence-related counter-terrorism work and his contributions to ensure international peace and security.

The medal, named after George Tenet, was handed to him by CIA Director Micheal Pompeo after the Crown Prince received him in Riyadh on Friday in the presence of Deputy Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman al-Saud, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Defense.

The Crown Prince said in a press statement after receiving the medal that he appreciated the CIA honor, stressing that his efforts were guided by the leaders of Saudi Arabia headed by King Salman bin Abdulaziz al-Saud, as well as the efforts of the Kingdom’s security forces.
I guess that someone at the CIA is glad for the self licking terror ice-cream cone that is the House of Saud.

They created ISIS, they sponsored bin Laden, and now one of their over-privileged Princes gets an award named for George "Slam Dunk" Tenet, arguably the worst* DCIA ever.

*There is a case to be made that Allen Dulles was far worse, particularly he shaped the organization that has been f%$#ing up the world since its founding.

Unintentionally Ironic Quote of the Day

The Fed's Ability to Negotiate International Regulations Helps Ensure U.S. Financial Stability and Competitiveness
I get that there are people out there who think that any oversight by  of the Fed, or any attempt to enforce statutory limits on the organization will be the end of the world.

We already tried your way.

It ……… Did ……… Not ……… Work

12 February 2017

Just Call Me Nostra Dumbass

In late 2003, I observed that the Mirriam Webster Dictionary was dropping the word "Snollygoster" from its dictionary, and that this must not stand: (PDF)
To Revive a Word

The word “snollygoster” has been dropped from the 11th edition of Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary.

Harry Truman was among the last public figures to use this word in public, and I mean to use the word, meaning “a shrewd, unprincipled person, especially a politician”, as often as I can.
So, over the past few years, I have engaged in a lonely effort to revive the word on this blog, and now the Merriam Webster Dictionary has brought the word back:
………

And as recently as Tuesday morning, Merriam-Webster staff noted they had re-added the word “snollygoster” to the dictionary. It means “a shrewd and unprincipled person, especially an unprincipled politician.”

It even found use during the contentious Brexit campaign.

I won't claim to be responsible for this, I think that the various machinations of Boris Johnson and Donald Trump have had more influence on this development, but I am feeling remarkably smug about this development.

11 February 2017

Tweet (and Photoshop) of the Day



It's amusing AND disturbing!

It's Bank Failure Friday! (On Saturday)

We just had the first credit union of the year, Melrose Credit Union of Briarwood, NY.




Full NCUA list.

10 February 2017

Headline of the Day

If the NCAA Comes Off Looking Better Than You, Something Is Horribly Wrong
Charlie Pierce on how the NCAA has seized the moral high ground* over the North Carolina bathroom bill.
*Yes, the fact that I can use the term "Moral High Ground" to describe any act by the NCAA, which makes peonage its policy, is a complete mind f%$#.

Trump Gets a Bull Durham Lesson

The lesson in the movie Bull Durham is Never Call the Umpire a C%$#sucker.

When Trump disparaged (I would argue threatened) Federal Judge James Robart after he issued an injunction against his attempted Muslim ban, it was clear that no one in the Judiciary would be happy with this.

The 9th Circuit of Appeals ruled against rescinding the injunction, and what is significant is that they did so in a per curiam opinion.  (Note that the crack reporters at the Times somehow missed this.)

A per curiam opinion is unanimous, but it is also unsigned, and except in extremely rare cases (Corrupt Supreme Court Justices covering their asses in Bush v. Gore), it means something very specific.

To quote Scotusblog, "Traditionally, the per curiam opinion was used to signal that a case was uncontroversial, obvious, and did not require a substantial opinion."

In other words, it's a way to say, "Your Kung Fu is weak, and you are stinking up the place."

I think that the appellate court would have ruled in much the same way, and probably unanimously, had Trump not called out Judge Robart, but I think that it did so as a per curiam ruling was a message to the Trump as to what constitutes appropriate behavior with regard to the judiciary.

The only question is whether Trump will learn from this.  (I'm guessing that he won't)

The standard disclaimer applies here, I am an engineer, not a lawyer, dammit.*

*I love it when I get to go all Dr. McCoy!

Deep Thought

09 February 2017

People We Should Not Listen To


He likes to claim that he was the genius behind the 2006 Democratic Party electoral success, but his record at the DCCC belies this:
Mayor Rahm Emanuel thinks he has some advice for the grassroots activists who are responding with such urgency to the rise of Donald Trump: “Take a chill pill.” They won’t listen to him, nor should they.

Emanuel may be uniquely unqualified to comprehend, much less comment on, the progressive upsurge seen in the huge Women’s March on Washington, airport blockades in response to Trump’s Muslim immigration ban, and crowds of hundreds corralling members of Congress across the country over the future of health care.

………

The truth of the 2006 election was that the top three recipients of DCCC cash – who together got nearly $10 million – all lost, and of 22 initial candidates backed by Emanuel’s committee, only nine won their elections. What swung the election to the Democrats was the deep unpopularity of President George W. Bush and the Iraq war, nourished by a new “netroots” insurgency within the Democratic Party. Emanuel’s pro-war candidates had trouble catching the wave – but now he claims the election victory as his own.
And his record as Mayor of Chicago sucks wet farts from dead pigeons as well.

Rahm, and Obama, did their level best over the past 8 years to diminish the perceived successes of the party base, as well as the efforts of Dean's 50 state strategy, which took resources and power from the inbred, pampered, and overpaid nomenklatura of the party in DC and devolved it to the state parties.

I so hope that he ends up frog marched out of the Mayor's mansion in handcuffs.

Tweet of the Day

Hot on my slight revision to my profanity policy:


It's just too good not to post.

I am not completely in favor of this Tweet, I think that the use of "Weasel" is more effective, and more pleasing to the reader, than "Gibbon," but I want this guy to run for US Congress.

A Clarification on My Posting Profanities to this Blog

As you are no doubt aware, there are certain profanities that I block out when I am posting to my blog, F%$#, Sh%$, C%$#, C%$#, C%$sucker, Motherf%$#er, etc.

I did use f%$# when quoting Joe Biden's famous/infamous comment on the passage of the ACA, but generally, I will obscure obscenities in quotes.

However, I have come across the issue that when embedding tweets, I cannot obscure the profanities when preserving the tweet.

Therefore, I shall be embedding those unexpurgated.

That is all.

08 February 2017

Sow the Wind, Reap the Whirlwind

It appears that after decades of organizing disruption at Democratic Congressmen's town halls, Republicans are worried that people are angry with them for attempting to destroy their health insurance:
House Republicans during a closed-door meeting Tuesday discussed how to protect themselves and their staffs from protesters storming town halls and offices in opposition to repealing Obamacare, sources in the room told Politico.

House GOP Conference Chairwoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers invited Rep. David Reichert, a former county sheriff, to present lawmakers with protective measures they should have in place. Among the suggestions: having a physical exit strategy at town halls, or a backdoor in congressional offices to slip out of, in case demonstrations turn violent; having local police monitor town halls; replacing any glass office-door entrances with heavy doors and deadbolts; and setting up intercoms to ensure those entering congressional offices are there for appointments, not to cause chaos.

“The message was: One, be careful for security purposes. Watch your back. And two, be receptive. Honor the First Amendment, engage, be friendly, be nice,” said Republican Study Committee Chairman Mark Walker (R-N.C.). “Because it is toxic out there right now. Even some of the guys who have been around here a lot longer than I have, have never seen it to this level.”

………

Democrats, meanwhile, dismissed Republicans’ security ramp-up as an attempt to shield themselves from criticism.

“I think what you’re seeing is Republicans trying to use security to try to hide themselves from their constituents because they have no plan for a replacement and very little support from Donald Trump,” said Rep. Ruben Gallego (D-Ariz.). “They’re going to use so-called security to keep people away.”
Bingo, Representative Gallego.

I love this quote, "Many of these lawmakers in safe districts have never dealt with such severe blowback."

To quote Finley Peter Dunne, "Politics ain't beanbag."

Seriously, Robby Mook?

I read the Guardian (Aka the Grauniad*) online, and I find it useful, though, as always with the British press, you need to understand that it comes with a very definite political position.  (Left of Tony Blair, but right of Jeremy Corbyn)

They also publish OP/EDs from any number of people, some of whom you would not expect to get space in the paper.

Today, they published someone who should NEVER have gotten space in the paper writing about the election, former Clinton campaign manager Robby Mook, who, in an orgy of self absolving twaddle,  Is given a platform to scream, "The Russians are Coming".

I get that Mr. Mook had to deal with the fact that he had a sh%$ candidate, but he ran an amazingly sh%$ty campaign.

Dude, your next job should involve asking people if they want fries with that.

That won't happen.  Failure is never punished in Washington, DC, regardless of party, but just admit that you screwed the pooch, and move on, preferably to a research outpost in Antarctica.

*According to the Wiki, The Guardian, formerly the Manchester Guardian in the UK. It's nicknamed the Grauniad because of its penchant for typographical errors, "The nickname The Grauniad for the paper originated with the satirical magazine Private Eye. It came about because of its reputation for frequent and sometimes unintentionally amusing typographical errors, hence the popular myth that the paper once misspelled its own name on the page one masthead as The Gaurdian, though many recall the more inventive The Grauniad."

Scary Tweet of the Day

Of course, who cares about a lightweight relatively cheap drone.

Then again, what if this was a self driving car, or even the car that you are driving now? While you are driving it?

Tesla has already done over the air (OTA) updates on their cars, and while you may trust them, (I don't) would you trust the creators of the Chevy Vega?

H/t Naked Capitalism

07 February 2017

No Blogging Tonight

Still dealing with a horrible cold.

I'm not even checking out the news.

I would appreciate it if no-one made any news over the next 24 hours.


06 February 2017

Quote of the Day

The point is to stop pretending that religion (and in the US we mean good Christian religion) necessarily steers people away from horrible moral and political beliefs, because all that does it give people a magical cloak to hide how horrible they are. Religion might be wonderful for individuals but it doesn't elevate the morals of one group over another. I think this should be somewhat obvious by now.
Duncan "Atrios" Black
The point that Black is trying to make is that the religious right is right first, and religious second, and that the suggestions by some that appealing to God/Jesus/Allah/Vishnu/The Flying Spaghetti Monster/Etc. is a lost cause.

The religious right's answer to "What would God/Jesus/Allah/Vishnu/The Flying Spaghetti Monster/Etc. do?" is that he/they/his noodley goodness would kick the crap out of those hippies who want to keep lazy black and brown children from starving.

This is how they worship, and it is what it is.

To suggest, as the liberal religious pundits suggest, that we can dictate how they worship is patronizing and wrong.

More particularly, I need to go back to the noted theologian The Right Reverend Shelby Spong, who asked, "Has religion in general and Christianity in particular degenerated to the level that it has become little more than a veil under which anger can be legitimatized?"

I would add bigotry and hatred to the retired Bishop's list.

I F%$#ing Hate Tom Brady

I did not watch the Super Bowl, I was in bed, dealing with a nasty cold, and I really did not care who won the game.

I don't have a problem with his looks, or his wealth, or his celebrity.

I hate him because he can make Sharon,* a Patriots fan since before the Drew Bledsoe era, scream loudly in ecstasy.

That is MY job, dammit!

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

Fake News


There is no "There" there
Something that is making the rounds in the right wing press and the wingnutosphere is the claim made by a former NOAA employee that the recent study on anthropogenic climate change was a political work of dubious science.

A closer examination reveals that the former employee question would not be in a position to observe fraud, and the nature of the study makes it next to impossible to fake the data, since the data was publicly available and peer reviewed:
On Sunday, the UK tabloid Mail on Sunday alleged a seemingly juicy (if unoriginal) climate science scandal. At its core, though, it’s not much more substantial than claiming the Apollo 11 astronauts failed to file some paperwork and pretending this casts doubt on the veracity of the Moon landing.

The story’s author, David Rose, has published a great many sensational articles over the years, falsely claiming to present evidence undermining the threat of climate change or the human cause behind it. But this latest article is noteworthy in that it appears to reveal the supposed “whistleblower” who has been cited by the US House Science Committee in its ongoing clash with climate scientists at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

The committee’s Twitter account, as well as the account of Committee Chair Lamar Smith (R-Texas), has gone hog-wild tweeting about the story. For example, the committee account tweeted, “@NOAA obstructed the committee's oversight at every turn. Now we know what they were hiding.”

………

The paper concluded that there was no evidence of a slowdown in global warming over the last decade or so, an idea that had been a focus of people who reject the seriousness of human-caused climate change.

………

Rep. Smith claimed that a whistleblower at NOAA had provided his office with information proving that the study had been inappropriately rushed for political reasons. The Mail on Sunday claims the same thing and presents NOAA scientist John Bates as a whistleblower.

………

In a blog post, Maynooth University research Peter Thorne—who worked on both the land and sea databases underlying the Karl paper but not the Karl paper itself—disputed many of Bates’ claims. First off, Thorne notes that Bates was not personally involved in the research at any stage. And while Bates claims that Karl made a series of choices to exaggerate the apparent warming trend, Thorne points out that this would be difficult for Karl to do since he didn’t contribute to the underlying databases. Karl’s paper simply ran those updated databases through the same algorithm NOAA was already using.

Ars talked with Thomas Peterson, a co-author on the Karl paper who has since retired. Peterson provided some useful context for understanding Bates’ allegations. The satellites that Bates worked with were expensive hardware that couldn't be fixed if anything went wrong after they were launched. The engineering of the software running those satellites sensibly involved testing and re-testing and re-testing again to ensure no surprises would pop up once it was too late.

………

There may also be something beyond simple “engineers vs. scientists” tension behind Bates’ decision to go public with his allegations. Two former NOAA staffers confirmed to Ars that Tom Karl essentially demoted John Bates in 2012, when Karl was Director of NOAA’s National Centers for Environmental Information. Bates had held the title of Supervisory Meteorologist and Chief of the Remote Sensing Applications Division, but Karl removed him from that position partly due to a failure to maintain professionalism with colleagues, assigning him to a position in which he would no longer supervise other staff. It was apparently no secret that the demotion did not sit well with Bates.

Office politics aside, the claims in the Mail on Sunday article that the Karl paper exaggerated the warming trend fall down when you examine any of the other surface temperature datasets. In a paper we recently covered, a team led by Berkeley researcher Zeke Hausfather compared the updated sea surface temperature dataset to shorter but simpler and independent sets of measurements made by satellites and automated floats. That analysis confirmed that the updated dataset is more accurate than its predecessor.

In a post for Carbon Brief, Hausfather noted that NOAA’s updated dataset doesn't cause it to show more warming than the datasets run by NASA, the Berkeley team, and the UK Met Office. Instead, the update caused NOAA to stop showing less warming than everyone else.
(Bold smallcap emphasis mine, all other emphasis original)

Needless to say, the folks who are terrified that Al Gore was right about this will not listen to reason, so expect a few weeks (months?) of flying monkey style stupidity about this.

I would also add that over the next few months, I would expect Bates to get a lucrative book deal from Regnrey or its ilk, along with some 5-figure speaking gigs, because that is how wingnut welfare works.

05 February 2017

I'm Brewing a Cold

So I am taking it easy for tne next few days.

Light posting for me.

It started hitting me last night, hence my lack of posting on Saturday.

03 February 2017

Do Not Read If You are Prone to Nightmares

This is some seriously bent sh%$.

If you click through, you have been warned.

H/t JR at the Stellar Parthenon BBS.

02 February 2017

H-1B: Why a new US visa bill is causing panic in India - BBC News


The world's smallest violin, playing just for you
Proposals from Trump and in the Congress to reform the thoroughly dysfunctional H-1B immigration program are making the outsourcing firms in India sh%$ themselves. It could not happen to a more deserving group of ratf%$#s:
A new bill introduced in the US House of Representatives proposes to limit the entry of highly-skilled workers into the country to stop companies "replacing" American workers.

Indian media organisations have described the move as a big setback to the IT industry and the Indian government has conveyed its concerns to the US administration.

………

Several bills and a draft executive order are attempting changes to - or curbs on - the H-1B programme.

The High-Skilled Integrity and Fairness Act of 2017, introduced last week in the House of Representatives by California lawmaker Zoe Lofgren, a Democrat, calls for replacing the lottery system with a preference for companies that can pay the highest salaries.

It suggests raising the effective minimum wage for an H-1B visa holder to over $130,000, more than double the current $60,000 level established in 1989. Exemptions, though allowed, are rare.

The bill says the visa programme "has allowed replacement of American workers by outsourcing companies with cheaper H-1B workers" and aims to end the "abuse" of the programme.

"My legislation refocuses the H-1B programme to its original intent - to seek out and find the best and brightest from around the world, and to supplement the US workforce with talented, highly paid, and highly skilled workers who help create jobs here in America, not replace them," Rep Lofgren said on her website.

………

The proposed new legislation mainly targets companies not based in the US that bring in foreign employees on the visa quota.

The doubling of the minimum wage applies to "visa dependent employers" or companies with more than 15% of US employees on H-1B visas.

It excludes American firms such as IBM, allowing them to bring in H-1B holders at the older minimum wage, because they would have less than 15% of US employees on H-1B visas.

This effectively targets Indian outsourcing firms and the National Association of Software and Services Companies (Nasscom) has described it as "discriminatory".
The "Visa Dependent Employers" are using regulatory arbitrage and salutary neglect to extract rents at the expense of US workers and their own employees.

They can go Cheney themselves.
With the new bill targeting "visa dependant employers", it is primarily Indian firms such as Tata Consultancy Services (TCS), Infosys and Wipro which will be affected.

On Tuesday, stocks of Indian software exporters plunged - TCS's shares fell 4.47%, Infosys's declined 2% and Wipro's 1.62%.
Good.  Their business model is a parasitic one.

This needs to end.

In Our Occasional Series of Stopped Clock Reports………

It looks like the Trump Administration is considering switching from U-3 to U-5 as its official unemployment rate.

This will serve to give a more accurate read on real unemployment in the US:
If President Donald Trump gets his way, the U.S. unemployment rate could jump to 5.7% from 4.7% overnight.

No, it’s not because the president plans to throw a bunch of people out of work. The White House reportedly might designate a different unemployment rate as the official one instead of the figure that’s been in use since World War Two. [Actually, this is not true:  The military was added to the labor force in the Reagan recession to keep the number below 10%] That’s according to a report in the Washington Examiner.

Switching to a different and higher unemployment rate would suggest the labor market is not as sound as it appears, ostensibly putting more pressure on Washington to take action to improve job creation. At least that’s the theory.

Such a change would not be hard technically. The Labor Department already calculates six unemployment rates, known by the designations U1 through U6.
We have been understating the unemployment rate for years, and it's one of the reason that European figures are higher.

If implemented, this would be a welcome change.


You Cannot Make this Sh%$ Up

While in high school, it appears that Neil Gorsuch founded a club called "Fascism Forever".

Seriously, what more do we need, a video of this nut job barbecuing a puppies on his Weber grill?

No. Just no.

That goes for cloture as well.

One Wingnut Wipe Dream Bites the Duat

You know the tale, a reactionary Congressman from the mountain west proposes selling off the national parks and national forests for a couple of magic beans, and then in the face of a freakout from hunters, sport fishermen, and outdoors enthusiasts, backs down.

It ain't just the green crowd that gets a benefit from public lands:
Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) withdrew legislation Thursday that would have transferred 3 million acres of land from federal to state ownership, citing objections from constituents who complained that the move would limit access to public hunting and fishing grounds.

The Disposal of Excess Federal Lands Act, which would have shifted federal holdings to state governments in Utah, Arizona, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon and Wyoming, prompted an outcry among hunters and anglers’ groups. Introduced three weeks after House Republicans enacted a rule change to make it easier to sell off federal land, the measure prompted two separate rallies in Santa Fe, N.M., and Helena, Mont., this week that drew hundreds of people opposed to the measure.

“I am sensitive to the perceptions this bill creates in the current environment,” Chaffetz wrote in his letter to House Natural Resources Committee Chairman Rob Bishop (R-Utah). “As a proud gun owner, hunter and public lands enthusiast, I want to be responsive to my constituents who enjoy these lands. I look forward to continuing to work with stakeholders in the broader public lands discussion in a collaborative manner.”
BTW, what that last statment means is that he'll try again during a lame duck after he announces his retirement.

They will be back to steal our land.

01 February 2017

You Have Got to be F%$#in' Kidding Me


Another Palmer Moment
Have you heard about the latest patent?

It's literally for discussing song lyrics:
Have you ever talked about the lyrics of a much-loved song with a friend? Perhaps the discussion took place online? It might surprise you to discover that you've gotten pretty darn close to infringing a US patent.

This month, EFF's Stupid Patent of the Month feature has singled out Patent No. 9,401,941, owned by CBS Interactive, which has claimed its monopoly to "processing user interactions with song lyrics." The patent's big reveal is a "computer-implemented system" for "processing interactions with song lyrics." Supposedly, this adds to existing technology by allowing a user to select particular parts of songs, view a menu, and then write an interpretation of a selected line.

Of course, even if such an idea were patent-worthy, there were already websites offering that feature before the patent's priority date of 2011. The most notable is perhaps Rap Genius, a website founded in 2009 that is now simply called Genius.

The patent examiner actually pointed out Rap Genius to the applicant, compelling CBS lawyers to narrow their claims. They added a clause saying that their technology would suggest comments to users based on what type of comments have been written in the past. That narrower definition is unlikely to be infringed by many lyrics sites, but even the narrower definition should not have resulted in a patent grant, argues EFF lawyer Daniel Nazer, who wrote the blog post.

………

Faced with the prospect of a never-ending search for an exact list of features proposed by the applicant, the examiner eventually gives up and grants the patent. That may be what happened here.

Even aside from older technology, the patent, which was filed in 2015, should have been rejected under the Supreme Court's Alice precedent, argues Nazer. It's a series of routine Web development decisions, and that's exactly the type of "generic" computer technology the 2014 Alice decision should have rendered unpatentable.
The Alice in question is Alice Corp. v. CLS Bank International, where the Supreme Court ruled that just because you add "With a computer" to an unpatentable idea does not make the idea a patentable one.

We seriously need to fix our patent review process.

Just Gotta Flip One More Senator

GOP Sens. Susan Collins (R-ME Maine) and Lisa Murkowski R-AK) have announced that they will vote against Betsy DeVos as Secretary of Education:
GOP Sens. Susan Collins (Maine) and Lisa Murkowski in back-to-back speeches on the Senate floor announced Wednesday that they would oppose Betsy DeVos's nomination to be Education secretary.

They are the first two Republicans to break with Trump on any of his Cabinet picks, and the votes could make it difficult for DeVos to win confirmation.

If all of the Senate's Democrats vote against DeVos, she would have 50 votes if the remaining Republicans backed her — with Vice President Mike Pence potentially breaking the tie. No Democrats have backed DeVos.

"I come to the floor to announce a very difficult decision that I have made, and that is to vote against the confirmation of Betsy DeVos to be our nation's next secretary of Education," Collins said from the Senate floor.

Collins specifically pointed to DeVos's "lack of familiarly" with the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, saying she was "troubled and surprised."
Murkowski, speaking after Collins, said she had too many concerns to back DeVos.

"I have serious concerns about a nominee to be secretary of Education ... who has been so immersed in the discussion of vouchers," Murkowski said.
It's clear that all that Betsy DeVos brings to the table are her not-inconsiderable Amway fortune, profligate campaign donations, and a desire to fund religious schools.

Beyond that, she knows as much about education as I do about Russian Poetry of the 1800s.*

*Originally, I was going to say high fashion, but I actually know more about that than DeVos does about education.
Specifically, I understand some of the underlying anthropological principles of fashion and cosmetics, while DeVos lacks even these basics, not understanding the differences between growth and proficiency in education.
Fashion and cosmetics mimic the biological cues for arousal. High heels make a woman look like she is ready to be mounted, the use of Belladona to dilate the pupils in the middle ages, blush mimics the flush of arousal, etc.