Month: November 2014

AT&T Rescinds Ransom Letter

Remember AT&T’s threat that it would curtail broadband rollout if network neutrality were implemented?

Well that threat is is  now inoperative:

AT&T now says it isn’t really going to halt a huge fiber investment because of net neutrality despite its CEO recently claiming the company would do just that.

Don’t celebrate yet—AT&T is making no promises to build anywhere.

AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson told investors on November 12 that “We can’t go out and invest that kind of money deploying fiber to 100 cities not knowing under what rules those investments will be governed.” Stephenson was referring to an April announcement in which AT&T said it would “expand its ultra-fast fiber network to up to 100 candidate cities and municipalities nationwide, including 21 new major metropolitan areas.”

Because of uncertainty about net neutrality rules, Stephenson said at the investor event this month that it would be better to “pause” instead of proceeding with the 100-city investment. Construction in all 100 cities was never guaranteed to begin with, as it was contingent on municipal cooperation with AT&T.

I’m not surprised that they’ve blinked.

Even the FCC wasn’t buying this as a credible threat.

Your Moment of Eric Arthur Blair

The Obama administration is claiming that US human rights law does not apply to the mercenary rebels that the US is training and arming in Syria:

Buried down in a report about Pentagon plans to train more mercenaries to fight against Syria we find this declaration of intend by the Obama administration to (again) break the law:

The military screening plan came together after the Obama administration determined that the training program for the Syrians would not be subject to what are known as the Leahy laws, which typically govern U.S. security assistance to foreign forces.

Under those laws, a small office at the State Department works with U.S. embassies overseas to ensure that recipients of State or Defense Department security assistance aren’t linked to major human rights abuses.

Because the Syrian rebels will not be part of a state-sponsored force, the laws will not apply, U.S. officials said.

Wait a second. The U.S. congress has set aside $500 million to train, equip and pay these fighters. The U.S. military will do the training. And the Obama administration claims that these are not “state-sponsored forces”? Is the U.S. no longer a nation state?

Besides that the Leahy law as codified for the Pentagon in Section 8057 of the 2014 Omnibus bill does not say anything about “state-sponsored forces”:

(1) None of the funds made available by this Act may be used for any training, equipment, or other assistance for the members of a unit of a foreign security force if the Secretary of Defense has credible information that the unit has committed a gross violation of human rights.

(2) The Secretary of Defense, in consultation with the Secretary of State, shall ensure that prior to a decision to provide any training, equipment, or other assistance to a unit of a foreign security force full consideration is given to any credible information available to the Department of State relating to human rights violations by such unit.

There is nothing about “state-sponsored” in the Pentagon relevant portion of the Leahy law. Will these trained be “foreign”? Yes. Will they be “security forces”? Arguably because they will likely bring more insecurity to Syria than security. But they will have weapons, will be organized in units and will fight. That seems to fit the expression “foreign security force”.


All the groups the CIA has trained and equipped to fight against Syria have committed major human rights violations. But the Leahy law does not apply to the CIA. Now as the Pentagon takes over the training of such groups the Leahy law becomes relevant. I dare anyone to find a group of Syrian insurgents fighting against the Syrian government that has not indiscriminately shelled civilians and not committed other major human rights abuses. There is none.

The Obama administration wants to avoid the applicability of the Leahy law because applying it would leave the Pentagon without any potential recruits to train as mercenaries against the Syrian government. It decided to break the law by using an interpretation that actually not covered by the laws wording. It has thus decided to break the law.

Barack Obama, who was a critic of the expansive view of the Unitary Executive advanced by the Bush administration, has become one of its biggest fans.

Worst Constitutional law professor ever.

I Approve

Today, members of the St. Louis Rams football franchise walked out onto the field with their hands up, using the gesture made famous by the Ferguson protesters:

Members of the NFL’s St. Louis Rams came onto their home field on Sunday posing with the ‘hands up, don’t shoot’ gesture associated with the shooting of teenager Michael Brown by police officer Darren Wilson in Ferguson, Missouri.

The gesture has become part of a movement designed to draw attention to the spate of shootings of young African-American men by police officers across the country.

As player introductions began at the Edward Jones Dome in St. Louis, five players — Stedman Bailey, Tavon Austin, Jared Cook, Chris Givens, and Kenny Britt — came out onto the field first, to the applause of the crowd, before being joined by their teammates.

Rather unsurprisingly, the police officer’s union is calling for disciplinary measures to be taken against these players:

Reacting to five members of the St. Louis Rams coming onto the field for Sunday’s game displaying the ‘hands up, don’t shoot’ gesture, a St. Louis police officers fraternal organization is demanding the team discipline the players, and that the team and league issue a formal apology, reports KSDK.

In a statement released Sunday evening, the St. Louis Police Officers Association condemned the display, calling it “tasteless, offensive and inflammatory.”

Prior to player introductions before Sunday’s game, five players — Stedman Bailey, Tavon Austin, Jared Cook, Chris Givens, and Kenny Britt — came out onto the field first with their hands in the air prior to being joined by their teammates.

Notwithstanding some puffery from the union about the 1st amendment, it’s clear that the St. Louis Police Officers Association has no concept of civil rights.

Or, to put it another way, “Why does the St. Louis Police Officers Association hate America?”

Not What I Would Expect from the Koch Suckers at the Cato Institute

Considering their background, that of an Ayn Rand inspired think tank, I would think that their attitude toward IP, copyright and patents, would be one of absolute support, but here is an article where describes our current regime as regressive rent seeking:


All three of these critical national problems derive from the same source. We often talk about the last third of a century as an era of deregulation and the expansions of markets. And in certain areas that is certainly true. But the most important market rigidities that have been eliminated have been those that protected those from the middle class on down. In fact, the great paradox of the last third of a century is that we have actually had an explosion of regulation in this “supposedly deregulatory” era — but regulation that has the effect of redistributing, sometimes dramatically, upward.

A few examples will suffice to make the point. Intellectual property protections, especially patents and copyright, have been expanded dramatically over this period, both in time (through patent and copyright extensions for existing IP) and across space (by using trade agreements to push American IP principles into foreign law). While there is an argument that this expansion has actually reduced innovation, there is no doubt that it has allowed existing firms to use the force of law (rather than the market) to enrich themselves by reaching further into the pockets of consumers.


The article is actually fairly tepid in its conclusions, but considering that this is coming from the Cato institute, it does indicatge that the push-back against the American model of over aggressive IP protections is becoming more broadly accepted across the ideological spectrum.

Not a Vote of Confidence in the JSF

The Israeli cabinet has rejected a proposal to purchase additional F-35s: (Paid subscription required)

An Israeli cabinet panel has rejected a decision by the defense minister to procure an additional 31 Lockheed Martin F-35A Joint Strike Fighters and has limited the procurement of Israel’s second batch of JSFs to only 13.

It is unprecedented for the ministerial committee on defense procurement to reverse an air force requirement already approved by the defense minister, the former government and the National Security Council. The Israeli air force (IAF), which currently has 19 F-35s on order under a $2.74 billion contract, will have to be satisfied with a total of 32 aircraft in the coming years, and will not be able to complete two full squadrons as planned.

Israel’s decision to cut back on the near-term buy is notable; surrounded by existential threats, the country has been one of the most aggressive buyers of the single-engine, stealthy jet. It was the first F-35 nonpartner nation to sign up for a foreign military sale; Japan and South Korea quickly followed.

In Tel Aviv, Defense Minister Moshe “Bogie” Ya’alon, who had already concluded the terms of a $4.4 billion contract for an additional 31 F-35s with the Pentagon, is now asking for the same terms for a smaller number of aircraft. The U.S. has agreed to grant Israel $2.4 billion in credit for the deal, as well as to conduct offset procurement totaling $5.3 billion, under the expectation that Israel will acquire a total of 50 F-35s. The JSF procurement is financed through the $3.1 billion annual military aid that the U.S. provides to Israel.

It is unclear, however, if the U.S. will agree to provide Israel with the same terms for the smaller deal. “Minister Ya’alon will try to convince the Pentagon that this is a minor delay and that eventually Israel will procure the 50 aircraft,” a senior defense source told Aviation Week.


“For maintaining stealthiness, this aircraft has compromised maneuverability, shorter operational range and significantly less payload capability,” a senior Israeli official told Aviation Week. “We shouldn’t be buying so many of them when it is unclear whether the stealth is effective, or there is a countermeasure that would negate it. There are vast gaps in performance between the F-35 and fourth-generation fighters.”

This is a big deal.

Israel’s participation in the F-35 program provides much of the credibility for foreign sales:  They were the first non-JSF partner nation to ink orders for the aircraft, and they have provided a lot of credibility to the program.

And the Plane that the USAF has Hated Since Its Introduction is Deployed to Iraq

Even as they are trying to kill it, the A-10 Warthog deployed for combat service in Iraq:

The low- and slow-flying A-10 Warthog jet is back in the Middle East—seven years after the attack planes withdrew.

The prospect of A-10s joining the war against Islamic State was subject to rumors in September, when elements of the Indiana Air National Guard’s 122nd Fighter Wing—which flies the twin-engine A-10—deployed to Southwest Asia.

While it’s not clear whether the Indiana A-10s have carried out any strikes against Islamic State yet … they surely will soon. The Warthogs’ mission is to provide close-air support to Iraqi army and police and Kurdish Peshmerga troops fighting on the ground.

An Air Force spokesman confirmed to Air Force magazine that the A-10s “will only be supporting military requirements in the Gulf region, including but not limited to, Operation Inherent Resolve.”

Inherent Resolve is the Pentagon’s code name for air strikes and other U.S.-led efforts targeting Islamic State.

This is not a surprise.

The demands of the tactical situation on the ground require an aircraft like the A-10, but the Air Force has been indifferent to the tactical situation on the ground since before it was an independent service (Bill Mauldin notes this in his memoir The Brass Ring, which covers his experiences in WWII).

Considering the level of dysfunctionalality in the Pentagon, the fact that the US Air Force is probably the most dysfunctional service truly scary.

Demonstrating Why Matt Taibbi is the Only Credible Big Name Financial Reporter………

Case in point, perhaps the highest profile financial reporter in the United States, the New York Times‘ Andrew Ross Sorkin, who has gotten the vapors over Elizabeth Warren’s opposition to the revolving door between Washington and Wall Street:

Wall Street stenographer Andrew Ross Sorkin of the New York Times complains this morning that Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren is making it harder for Wall Street veterans to take on government jobs overseeing the financial industry, calling the former Harvard law professor and longtime industry critic “misinformed” in her opposition to investment banker Antonio Weiss’ nomination to a key Treasury Department post.

Weiss, President Barack Obama’s nominee to be under secretary of Treasury for domestic finance, is currently head of global investment banking at Lazard, which advised Burger King on its merger with Canadian coffee and doughnut chain Tim Hortons — a so-called inversion that will help Burger King avoid taxes. Warren cited Lazard’s work on inversions in explaining her opposition to Weiss’ nomination, but Sorkin contends that her concerns are “misplaced.” Sure, tax avoidance may have been “a consideration” in the BK-Tim Hortons deal, Sorkin concedes, but they weren’t the “primary factor.” At any rate, Weiss was “simply as one of several advisers” of the merger — hardly its mastermind.

Sorkin — who has criticized some inversions in the past — apparently finds no fault with the Obama administration seeking to enlist Weiss even as it pledges to crack down on corporate tax avoidance schemes.

While the inversion issue formed the crux of Sorkin’s substantive defense of Weiss, Warren has also pointed to the nominee’s financial industry background as a broad concern in itself.

Sorkin has been thoroughly captured by the financial industry, and he cannot be trusted to report on wrongdoing in the financial industry.

It could be argued that his role never was to reporting on wrongdoing, but instead his job is to document the official actions of the banking sector.

He reports on things like mergers, interviews CEOs, etc.

Of course, if that IS is real role, he is not a journalist. He is a stenographer.

Why the F%$# Do They Do This?

It’s now been twice that the FEC ruling allowing for anonymously funded election ads has been ruled illegal:

A U.S. judge again tossed out a Federal Election Commission rule that allowed nonprofit groups running “issue ads” to keep their donors secret, in a setback for groups such as the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and Crossroads GPS.

U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson in Washington said today that the rule is “arbitrary, capricious and contrary to law.” Jackson arrived at her decision a second time, after a Washington-based appeals court asked her to reconsider a 2012 order requiring disclosure of donor names.

At issue were FEC regulations adopted in 2007 that let organizations and nonprofit groups keep secret the names of donors who pay for issue ads during an election campaign. In her previous ruling, Jackson said the regulations clashed with requirements of the 2002 campaign-finance law known as McCain-Feingold, a finding she reiterated today.

Congress passed the disclosure rules “to ensure that members of the public would be aware of who was trying to influence their votes just before an election,” Jackson wrote. The FEC’s rule “thwarts that objective by creating an easily exploited loophole that allows the true sponsors of advertisements to hide behind dubious and misleading names,” she said.


The rules at issue today apply only to what are known as “electioneering communications,” or ads that run before an election and mention a federal candidate without urging a vote for or against the person. So-called independent expenditures, which advocate support for or opposition to a candidate, aren’t affected by the decision.


The Supreme Court specifically allowed for disclosure requirements in their Citizens United ruling, and we the law explicitly calls for disclosure, and we are still litigating this?

Would the federal courts please finish cock punching Karl Rove?

You Would Have Thought that They Would Have Learned After the Ottoman Empire and the Ferme Générale Debacles………

Or, if they don’t want to go back so far, the Chicago parking meter debacle, but history repeats itself, and Chris Christie’s privatization of the New Jersey lottery shows once again that privatizing the collection government revenues, does not produce additional revenue, it just produces waste and corruption:

The state Assembly budget committee chairman is calling for a review of the contract privatizing parts of the state lottery following a news report that the firm hired to manage the system fell short of revenue benchmarks.

Assemblyman Gary Schaer (D-Passaic), reacting to a Bloomberg report Monday that Northstar New Jersey missed its projections by $24 million in the first fiscal year of a 15-year contract, said the shortfall puts programs for seniors, veterans and people with disabilities at risk.

The premise of the lottery contract is increasing lottery revenues according to Northstar’s own projections, Schaer said.

“The administration brought in a company to work on the lottery system, and clearly the results are not what they should be,” he said.

Christie inked the deal with Northstar in July 2013, making New Jersey the third state to hire a private firm to help run its lottery in hopes of boosting lottery sales.

Four months into the arrangement, which began Oct. 1, 2013, Northstar secured a contract amendment reducing its revenue goals, according to Bloomberg. Northstar cited slowed sales from Superstorm Sandy in its request.

These deals never generate more revenue.

At best, what they do is generate a dollar today at the cost of many more dollars tomorrow.

In this case, considering that it is Jabba the Governor, it’s about payback for politically connected friends of Chris.

Hopefully, the media is over their man-crush on Christie, and and will begin to notice the morass of cronyism and self-dealing that is his tenure as Governor.

Your Statistical Graphic of the Day

Yesterdat, I mentione the relative rarity of Federal Grand Juries no-billing to provide context in the Ferguson ruling.

Today, I show you the infographic:


That data is from a report from the Bureau of Justice Statistics and covers October 1, 2009, to September 30, 2010. Over that time period, over 193,000 federal offenses were investigated, about 16 percent of which were declined for prosecution. That leaves just over 162,300 offenses that the government tried to prosecute. And the grand jury decided against doing so 11 times, finding no true bill or a lack of evidence to do so.

Nope. Nothing suspicious here.

Move along.

Least Surprising Headline of this Week

The Tech Worker Shortage Doesn’t Really Exist


After the lede comes something that I have been saying for years:

“There’s no evidence of any way, shape, or form that there’s a shortage in the conventional sense,” says Hal Salzman, a professor of planning and public policy at Rutgers University. “They may not be able to find them at the price they want. But I’m not sure that qualifies as a shortage, any more than my not being able to find a half-priced TV.”

All about a labor shortage in tech is not about a real labor shortage, it’s about creating a captive low wage workforce.

F%$# that.


Ted “Tailgunner” Cruz is at again, suggesting that Barack Obama appoint Joe Lieberman as the next Secretary of Defense.

Cruz is just f%$#ing with Democrats now.

Personally, I would troll back, and leak that John McCain was under consideration, which would serve a number of purposes:

  • It would scare the hell out of John McCain, because he would have to defend his own decisions in the real world, as opposed to simply complaining about what the other guys are doing.
  • It would shut up that whiny bitch Lindsey Graham, because he does not take a dump without McCain’s approval.
  • It would set up a special election in Arizona, which would place limits on Republican Party f%$#ery. (Impeachment, government shutdown, etc.).
  • It would confound the Republican leadership.

Based on Obama’s decision to keep the war going in Afghanistan, it is very clear that the civilian leadership in his administration gets its marching orders from the military, rather than the other way around, so the SecDef really does not matter anyway.

An Update on Ferguson

First, when they say that a prosecutor can indict a ham sandwich, they ain’t kidding. For example, “According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, U.S. attorneys prosecuted 162,000 federal cases in 2010, the most recent year for which we have data. Grand juries declined to return an indictment in 11 of them.”

Even with pre-indictment plea bargains, a grand jury no-billing is a very rare thing.

I was wrong about the DA not releasing the evidence from the grand jury proceedings, and it makes it even clearer that the fix was in.

During his testimony, Darren Wilson was allowed to blythly state the clearly racist trope that “Michael Brown looked like a demon:

St. Louis Public Radio published the full transcript of Wilson’s testimony Monday. The St. Louis County Prosecutor’s office released evidence from the grand jury proceedings after it was announced that no charges would be filed against Wilson.


Wilson explained to jurors that in order to keep shielding his face from Brown’s punches, the only option available for him to defend himself was to pull out his gun. The officer struggled with Brown before he was able to fire the weapon, shattering glass from the police cruiser’s door panel.

After that first shot went off, Wilson testified that Brown stepped back and “looked up at me and had the most intense aggressive face. The only way I can describe it, it looks like a demon, that’s how angry he looked.”

It appears that this is a variant of the “Magic Negro” trope that I was previously unaware of.

Then there was the evidence from “Witness #40”, in the form of a journal entry, which exactly verified Officer Wilson’s testimony, and dropped the N-word repeatedly.

The prosecution allowed this into evidence without any vetting or challenge from Prosecutor Robert McCulloch.

Also note that the ER report on Officer Wilson noted was in no distress when examined by doctors, that Wilson and Brown were the same size, and the medical examiner took no pictures because his camera battery was dead.

One final note: the behavior of prosecutor McCulloch was sufficiently odd, that both CNN and the New York Times noted that he behaved more like defense counsel than he did a prosecutor.

Furthermore, at the press conference announcing the grand jury decision, he appeared to have deliberately gone out of his way to sabotage any potential effort by the Department of Justice or a civil action by by publicly labeling witnesses who claimed that the shootings were not justified to be liars.

When juxtaposed with the fact that he appeared to have deliberately delayed the public release of the grand jury decision until a time calculated to maximize the possibility of civil unrest.

It might have been as a distraction from his document dump.

It might have been a way to dog-whistle his willingness to appease the racist sentiments of white voters in the county.

It might have been a fit of pique over having to convene a grand jury when he clearly did not want to do so.

In any case, I believe that a close investigation of the Saint Louis County Prosecutor’s office would reveal a pattern of ethically questionable actions, but it is clear that, with Eric Holder heading out the door and Barack Obama once again trying not to remind people that he is black, there will be no meaningful investigation of the prosecutor’s office.

Needless to say, I am appalled, though I am not surprised.

And Here is a Part of the Solution to Law Enforcement Impunity

Here is a fascinating concept.

Given that police misconduct costs taxpayers millions of dollars, and a small percentage of the police are responsible for the bulk of these costs, how about requiring police officers to carry their own liability insurance, just as doctors are:

In almost every city across the US, tax dollars are used to cover the damages and settlements from lawsuits filed against their police departments due to officer misconduct. Taxpayers in essence pay out massive amounts in damages for officers not doing their job properly. Additionally, the cost is compounded because taxpayers are forced to continue paying the salaries of these criminal cops.

City officials don’t have the guts to hold officers accountable for their actions. So a new approach is necessary to hold rogue officers responsible for their conduct.

Just like doctors have to carry malpractice insurance, police officers should be required to carry professional liability insurance as a condition of employment.


Similarly to how other professionals, such as doctors who are sued too many times become uninsurable, the demands of professional liability insurance will ensure risk reduction takes place. Meaning basically that if city officials won’t hold police accountable for their actions an insurance company on the hook for large police misconduct payouts certainly will.

Problem officers would find their rates up until eventually they would become uninsurable, a wonderful way to have problem officers forced out of policing entirely.

To avoid running into problems with union contracts, the strategy would allow cities to fund the base rate of the coverage, and officers funding any additional costs that would be associated with their claims history.

In most cities, and Minneapolis in particular, it has been found that a handful of officers are responsible for the majority of complaints and lawsuits regarding police brutality.

Here is a quick rundown of how it would work:

  • Out of Control Cops: Evil.
  • Insurance Companies: Evil.
  • Insurance companies vs. Out of Control Cops: Pass the Popcorn.

Any questions?

The Grand Jury No-Bills in Ferguson

Not surprised. The District Attorney did his level best to throw the case:

A St. Louis County grand jury has brought no criminal charges against Darren Wilson, a white police officer who fatally shot Michael Brown, an unarmed African-American teenager, more than three months ago in nearby Ferguson.

The decision by the grand jury of nine whites and three blacks was announced Monday night by the St. Louis County prosecutor, Robert P. McCulloch, at a news conference packed with reporters from around the world. The killing, on a residential street in Ferguson, set off weeks of civil unrest — and a national debate — fueled by protesters’ outrage over what they called a pattern of police brutality against young black men. Mr. McCulloch said that Officer Wilson faced charges ranging from first-degree murder to involuntary manslaughter.

The prosecutor threw all this into the grand jury’s lap without a recommendation, a highly unorthodox decision, and even with that, it appears that his presentation was deliberately weak.

If St. Louis County Prosecuting Attorney Robert McCulloch keeps his promise to release the proceedings to the public, and I don’t expect him to, as it will reveal what he did, or more accurately what he did not do.

Needless to day the message here is that black lives are downright cheap in Saint Louis County, and probably at a significant discount in the rest of the United States.

Of course there are also larger issues with policing in the United States, where, for example, Seattle Police were responsible for 20.6% of all homicides, and Utah, police kill more people than gangs, drug dealers, and child abuse.

The juxtaposition of a hyper-militarized constabulary with the prison industrial complex is truly disasterous.

Desperately Hydrating

Went to work today.

We are still working on that deadline.

For the first time in a really long time, I milled some simple parts.

Some people will handle this without batting am eyelash; no sweat.

Some people shut down in such a situation.

I kind of fall in the middle: I just go too work, but until I am comfortable, I sweat.

I sweat a lot.

So I was flop sweating while I was “Making Chips,” and I really needed some supplemental hydration.

I am just glad that it wasn’t August.

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