Month: March 2015

Worst ……… Recipe ……… Ever!!!!

Placenta Chocolate Truffles.

No, this is not The Onion, nor is it the Duffel Blog, nor The Daily Mash, nor The Daily Currant.

It is also not Fox News:

LONDON, UK — Yes, some people blend their placentas after birth and drink them in smoothies. Yes, some dehydrate the organ that connects a fetus to a mother’s uterus, grind it up into powder and consume it in everything from pills to cookies.

This is a thing. It is enough of a thing that it has its own word, placentophagy, which is the act of eating the placenta after birth.

Whether this should be a legal thing — or, more specifically, whether specialists should be allowed to prepare placenta-based foods for others, for a fee — is currently the subject of passionate debate here in the United Kingdom.

Last week, health officials in Swindon, England, served a woman named Kathryn Beale with a notice that her business preparing capsules of dried placenta for newly delivered mothers posed “serious risk to human health.”

Beale challenged the notice in court, and won the right to continue business while local health officials prepare a formal inspection.

The case comes months after the European Food Safety Authority ruled placenta-based products a “novel food,” meaning that vendors have to produce extensive and expensive documentation to sell them legally in the European Union.

Countries can individually exempt foods from the ruling. Placenta advocates have asked Britain to do this.

The businesses of Beale and dozens of other placenta specialists around the UK are in limbo while the country’s Food Standards Agency figures out where in the regulatory framework placenta products belong.


Babies emerge from their mothers’ bodies in a dramatic moment of tears and emotion. Placentas follow a few minutes later in a gloopy, unheralded mess.

In the old days, it was called “afterbirth”>

For a long time, placentas were just part of the bloody detritus of birth, with the vast majority sentenced to hospital incinerators. But in the late 1960s and early 1970s, around the time of rising interest in the United States in midwife-led, medication-free childbirth, a group of US midwives began advocating the consumption of placenta as a defense against postpartum depression, iron deficiency and a host of other concerns for mothers.

People do a lot with placentas these days. The internet abounds with Pinterest-ready, do-it-yourself recipes for placenta prints, placenta tonics, placenta balms and placenta chocolate truffles.

(emphasis mine)


Even in the context of British cuisine, this is f%$#ing extreme.

Really Bad Day at the Office

Line width is altitude, circles represent speed

Little pieces indicate high speed impact

Germanwings Flight 9525 flying from Barcelona to Düsseldorf has crashed in the Alps, there appear to be no survivors. The flight profile is kind of weird:

A passenger jet carrying 150 people crashed in the French Alps on Tuesday. Officials expect no survivors.

Germanwings Flight 9525 left Barcelona at 10:01 a.m. CET for Dusseldorf and went down about 430 miles south-southeast of Paris. The plane, a 24-year-old Airbus A320, was operated by the Lufthansa-owned budget carrier.

Images from the crash site show small pieces of the plane scattered throughout the mountainside, suggesting a violent impact — and significantly decreasing the likelihood of any survivors.

“Appalling images in this mountain landscape,” said Christopher Castaner, deputy mayor of Alpes-de-Haute-Provence, near where the plane crashed. “There is nothing left but debris and bodies.”

Germanwings officials initially said Flight 9295 sent a distress signal about an hour after takeoff before crashing into a mountainous zone at an altitude of about 6,550 feet.

The descent from 38,000 feet lasted nearly eight minutes.

However, France’s aviation authority reported that the plane never sent a signal, and officials lost radio contact with the flight. The plane went down in mid-flight — an uncommon occurrence as the majority of plane crashes happen during takeoff or landing.

(emphasis mine)

This is weird.

The flight profile appears to be consistent with a loss of pressure incident, where the pilots try to get down to safe altitude, and if this situation led to a loss of situational awareness as well, it could end with a CFIT (Controlled Flight Into Terrain).

But they should have gotten a call out, or at least change the transponder code to the emergency setting, but they did neither.

Another possibility is some sort of air data sensor problem, but I would expect something like an Air France 447 scenario, with a stall or some other departure under those circumstances.

Also, it appears that while the flight did divert from its assigned altitude, it did not deviate from its planned course.

That’s just plain weird:

  • The aircraft appeared under control throughout the flight.
  • There was no distress call.
  • They did not divert to a nearby airport.
  • The aircraft had been checked out by maintenance on the previous day. (First link)

This is, to quote Alice, “Curiouser and curiouser.”

Absent some conspiracy theories that sound like they came from the short-lived X-Files spinoff The Lone Gunman, I am at a loss.

Here’s hoping that the flight data recorder will provide a clue.

Moar War!!!!

Remember how Barack Obama was going to pull out Afghanistan?

Not so Much:

The Obama administration is nearing a decision to keep more troops in Afghanistan next year than it had intended, effectively upending its drawdown plans in response to roiling violence in the country and another false start in the effort to open peace talks between the Taliban and the Afghan government.

As recently as last month, American officials had hoped that a renewed push to bring the Taliban to the negotiating table would yield the beginnings of a peace process and allow the United States to stick with its plan to drop the number of troops in Afghanistan from just under 10,000 to about 5,600 by the end of the year.

But those hopes have been dashed by signs that the Taliban remain deeply divided over whether to engage in talks, as they have been for years, and that the remaining Qaeda presence in the region is proving more resilient than officials had anticipated.


Keeping the number of troops closer to 10,000 would also allow the American-led coalition to maintain two large bases in Kandahar, the main city in southern Afghanistan, and in Jalalabad, the biggest city in the country’s east. The base in Jalalabad is a hub for the collection of intelligence on Qaeda operations; it was, for instance, the base from which American forces launched the raid in 2011 that killed Osama bin Laden in Pakistan.

Despite the formal end of the American-led combat mission in Afghanistan, coalition forces are still regularly launching airstrikes to support Afghan soldiers and police, and American Special Operations troops are still raiding remote villages and mountainside redoubts that shelter both Taliban fighters and operatives from Al Qaeda and other foreign extremist groups.

The continuity between the Bush and the Obama administration has become more and more striking over the years.

Same as it ever was!

It’s one thing to listen to your generals, who come from a culture that thinks that the problem with the whole Vietnam war wasn’t the 58,000 American dead, or the 1½-3½ million Vietnamese, but instead was that we lacked sufficient will to win, and it’s another to swallow this perverted world view as gospel.

The Pentagon in general, and the uniformed military in particular, is structured with the singular goal of prosecuting a war.  They spectacularly ill-equipped to determine whether and when we should go to war, and only misery and defeat can come from letting them take this roll.

It’s one of the reasons that civilian control of the military is enshrined in the constitution.

Clearly, We Need to Have a Full Congressional Investigation Over This………

It appears that the White House and its head florist have parted ways, and some reporter who really needs to get a life demands to know why:

When White House chief pastry chef Bill Yosses left the executive mansion last summer, the president publicly mourned the loss of “the crust master’s” mysteriously addictive pies. And when the first family’s personal chef and pal, Sam Kass, left in December, Michelle Obama heaped praise on Kass’s “extraordinary legacy of progress” in an official White House statement.

But the recent exit of head florist Laura Dowling, who’d been in the job since 2009, has been a much quieter affair. So hush hush, in fact, that most outside of 1600 Penn knew nothing about it. There’s still no official comment on why Dowling is no longer at the White House, but according to a source with close ties to current residence staffers, she was escorted from the building on Friday, Feb. 13.
The East Wing initially confirmed via a very brief e-mail that “Laura left her position earlier this year” but provided no further details. Later, the first lady’s office (not quoting the first lady specifically, mind you) sent this enhanced statement:

“As Chief Florist, Laura Dowling and her team treated guests of the White House to their beautiful floral arrangements. Ms. Dowling’s creations were always lively and colorful, reflecting not only the season but the unique and historic rooms which they graced. No two arrangements were ever the same and each one left guests with a lasting impression of the elegance and history of the People’s House. We are grateful for her contribution over the years and wish her well”


Hours after we put in a call to Dowling’s Alexandria floral design shop, Intérieurs et Fleurs, she issued a statement via the law firm Sidley Austin.

“After almost 6 years as Chief Floral Designer at the White House, I have resigned in order to pursue exciting new opportunities and explore my passion for floral artistry and design. Over the next few weeks and months, I’ll be launching a new platform for my work as an author, speaker, instructor and design consultant that builds on the creative ideas and partnerships I’ve formed during my tenure there. It’s been such an honor to work at the White House and I will always be grateful for this incredible opportunity.”

There is then a followup article, which seems to indicate that it was that Michelle Obama wanted to move the White House aesthetics in a new direction, with an equally breathless tone:


In this town, matters of taste — much like positions on marriage equality — can “evolve” over time. Just ask Dowling, who left because her “fussy style” was not in line with the first lady’s emerging modern and clean aesthetics, several sources said.

Laura’s work “is just different. I’m not sure if it was right for the White House,” said one top floral designer in the area who has done freelance florist work for splashy big events at 1600 Penn. This designer, like many we talked to, spoke on the condition of anonymity because “the floral community is very small, and nobody wants to put down anybody’s work.”

I understand that this needs to be covered, and I understand that the author, Helena Andrews, is, “The co-author of The Reliable Source,” the Washington Post‘s Society/Gossip column, but the breathless tone is a bit over the top.

Truth be told, I do not blame her.  I blame her editors.

The editors should have told her to walk back the tone a bit.

By the Way, the Germans Think that the US Supreme Allied Commander Europe and the Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs are Bat-Sh%$ Insane

I mean seriously nuts, as in Brigadier General Jack D. Ripper raving about how fluoridation is destroying our, “Purity of essence,” in Dr. Strangelove.

You remember that movie.  The world ends in the finale.

The headline in Der Speigel is, “Germany Concerned about Aggressive NATO Stance on Ukraine:

US President Obama supports Chancellor Merkel’s efforts at finding a diplomatic solution to the Ukraine crisis. But hawks in Washington seem determined to torpedo Berlin’s approach. And NATO’s top commander in Europe hasn’t been helping either.

It was quiet in eastern Ukraine last Wednesday. Indeed, it was another quiet day in an extended stretch of relative calm. The battles between the Ukrainian army and the pro-Russian separatists had largely stopped and heavy weaponry was being withdrawn. The Minsk cease-fire wasn’t holding perfectly, but it was holding.

On that same day, General Philip Breedlove, the top NATO commander in Europe, stepped before the press in Washington. Putin, the 59-year-old said, had once again “upped the ante” in eastern Ukraine — with “well over a thousand combat vehicles, Russian combat forces, some of their most sophisticated air defense, battalions of artillery” having been sent to the Donbass. “What is clear,” Breedlove said, “is that right now, it is not getting better. It is getting worse every day.”

German leaders in Berlin were stunned. They didn’t understand what Breedlove was talking about. And it wasn’t the first time. Once again, the German government, supported by intelligence gathered by the Bundesnachrichtendienst (BND), Germany’s foreign intelligence agency, did not share the view of NATO’s Supreme Allied Commander Europe (SACEUR).

The pattern has become a familiar one. For months, Breedlove has been commenting on Russian activities in eastern Ukraine, speaking of troop advances on the border, the amassing of munitions and alleged columns of Russian tanks. Over and over again, Breedlove’s numbers have been significantly higher than those in the possession of America’s NATO allies in Europe. As such, he is playing directly into the hands of the hardliners in the US Congress and in NATO.

The German government is alarmed. Are the Americans trying to thwart European efforts at mediation led by Chancellor Angela Merkel? Sources in the Chancellery have referred to Breedlove’s comments as “dangerous propaganda.” Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier even found it necessary recently to bring up Breedlove’s comments with NATO General Secretary Jens Stoltenberg.

The ‘Super Hawk’

But Breedlove hasn’t been the only source of friction. Europeans have also begun to see others as hindrances in their search for a diplomatic solution to the Ukraine conflict. First and foremost among them is Victoria Nuland, head of European affairs at the US State Department. She and others would like to see Washington deliver arms to Ukraine and are supported by Congressional Republicans as well as many powerful Democrats.

Indeed, US President Barack Obama seems almost isolated. He has thrown his support behind Merkel’s diplomatic efforts for the time being, but he has also done little to quiet those who would seek to increase tensions with Russia and deliver weapons to Ukraine. Sources in Washington say that Breedlove’s bellicose comments are first cleared with the White House and the Pentagon. The general, they say, has the role of the “super hawk,” whose role is that of increasing the pressure on America’s more reserved trans-Atlantic partners.


But it is the tone of Breedlove’s announcements that makes Berlin uneasy. False claims and exaggerated accounts, warned a top German official during a recent meeting on Ukraine, have put NATO — and by extension, the entire West — in danger of losing its credibility.

A “Top German Official” just said that Breedlove is lying, and implied strongly that he is doing so to sabotage the negotiations.


At the beginning of the crisis, General Breedlove announced that the Russians had assembled 40,000 troops on the Ukrainian border and warned that an invasion could take place at any moment. The situation, he said, was “incredibly concerning.” But intelligence officials from NATO member states had already excluded the possibility of a Russian invasion. They believed that neither the composition nor the equipment of the troops was consistent with an imminent invasion.

The experts contradicted Breedlove’s view in almost every respect. There weren’t 40,000 soldiers on the border, they believed, rather there were much less than 30,000 and perhaps even fewer than 20,000. Furthermore, most of the military equipment had not been brought to the border for a possible invasion, but had already been there prior to the beginning of the conflict. Furthermore, there was no evidence of logistical preparation for an invasion, such as a field headquarters.

Breedlove, though, repeatedly made inexact, contradictory or even flat-out inaccurate statements. On Nov. 18, 2014, he told the German newspaper Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung that there were “regular Russian army units in eastern Ukraine.” One day later, he told the website of the German newsmagazine Stern that they weren’t fighting units, but “mostly trainers and advisors.”


Breedlove sees no reason to revise his approach. “I stand by all the public statements I have made during the Ukraine crisis,” he wrote to SPIEGEL in response to a request for a statement accompanied by a list of his controversial claims. He wrote that it was to be expected that assessments of NATO’s intelligence center, which receives information from all 33 alliance members in addition to partner states, doesn’t always match assessments made by individual nations. “It is normal that not everyone agrees with the assessments that I provide,” he wrote.

He says that NATO’s strategy is to “release clear, accurate and timely information regarding ongoing events.” He also wrote that: “As an alliance based on the fundamental values of freedom and democracy, our response to propaganda cannot be more propaganda. It can only be the truth.” (Read Breedlove’s full statement here.)

Seriously.  His response is nuts.

What’s more is shows that Obama is willing to let people under his own command to “freelance” and sabotage diplomatic efforts.


The government in Berlin is concerned that Breedlove’s statements could harm the West’s credibility. The West can’t counter Russian propaganda with its own propaganda, “rather it must use arguments that are worthy of a constitutional state.” Berlin sources also say that it has become conspicuous that Breedlove’s controversial statements are often made just as a step forward has been made in the difficult negotiations aimed at a political resolution. Berlin sources say that Germany should be able to depend on its allies to support its efforts at peace.

(emphasis mine)

It’s not just me.  The Germans, i.e. “German Sources”, are coming as close as they can to saying that General Breedlove is deliberately sabotaging the negotiations.

Later in the article, a German MP says, ON THE RECORD, “I would prefer that Breedlove’s comments on political questions be intelligent and reserved.” (emphasis mine)

Not, “Intelligent and reserved?”  It does not sound like General Breedlove has the confidence of our NATO Allies.


Although President Obama has decided for the time being to give European diplomacy a chance, hawks like Breedlove or Victoria Nuland are doing what they can to pave the way for weapons deliveries. “We can fight against the Europeans, fight against them rhetorically,” Nuland said during a private meeting of American officials on the sidelines of the Munich Security Conference at the beginning of February.

In reporting on the meeting later, the German tabloid Bild reported that Nuland referred to the chancellor’s early February trip to Moscow for talks with Putin as “Merkel’s Moscow stuff.” No wonder, then, that people in Berlin have the impression that important power brokers in Washington are working against the Europeans. Berlin officials have noticed that, following the visit of American politicians or military leaders in Kiev, Ukrainian officials are much more bellicose and optimistic about the Ukrainian military’s ability to win the conflict on the battlefield. “We then have to laboriously bring the Ukrainians back onto the course of negotiations,” said one Berlin official.


Nuland has also been open — at least internally — about her contempt for European weakness and is famous for having said “F%$# the EU” during the initial days of the Ukraine crisis in February of 2014. Her husband, the neo-conservative Robert Kagan, is, after all, the originator of the idea that Americans are from Mars and Europeans, unwilling as they are to realize that true security depends on military power, are from Venus.

When it comes to the goal of delivering weapons to Ukraine, Nuland and Breedlove work hand-in-hand. On the first day of the Munich Security Conference, the two gathered the US delegation behind closed doors to discuss their strategy for breaking Europe’s resistance to arming Ukraine.

And someone in that delegation was alarmed enough by this that they leaked this to the German press, suggesting that some of Breedlove’s or Nuland’s are appalled at their behavior.

In Berlin, top politicians have always considered a common position vis-a-vis Russia as a necessary prerequisite for success in peace efforts. For the time being, that common front is still holding, but the dispute is a fundamental one — and hinges on the question of whether diplomacy can be successful without the threat of military action. Additionally, the trans-Atlantic partners also have differing goals. Whereas the aim of the Franco-German initiative is to stabilize the situation in Ukraine, it is Russia that concerns hawks within the US administration. They want to drive back Moscow’s influence in the region and destabilize Putin’s power. For them, the dream outcome would be regime change in Moscow.

Yes, there are a lot of people in the US foreign policy and military establishments who are continuing to wage war on Russia.

These people are insane.  Russia has 2500-3000 active nuclear weapons.

No wonder you have Mikhail Gorbachev saying that the US war on Russia never ended.

The reason that the Russians see NATO as a belligerent power is because, largely under US prodding, it continues to be a belligerent power with regards to Russia.

Interesting Point

Patrick Durusau makes a very interesting point, which I will reduce to bullet points: (Read the whole thing)

  • The NSA wants to arm up for offensive cyber war.
  • This means that hacking tools are a weapon.
  • If they a weapon, then they are covered by the 2nd amendment.
  • That being the case, join the NRA, and lobby against the NSA taking away our weapons.

The NRA has been a long term and successful advocate for Second Amendment rights. And they have political connections that would take years to develop. When was the last time you heard of the NRA winning symbolic victories for someone after they had been victimized? Or do you hear of victories by the NRA before their membership is harmed by legislation? Such as anti-hacking legislation.

Since the NRA is an established defender of the Second Amendment, with a lot of political clout, let’s work on expanding the definition of “arms” in the Second Amendment to include computers, knowledge of how to break encryption and security systems, etc.

The first step is to join the NRA (like everybody they listen to paying members first).

The second step is educate other NRA members and the public posed by unchecked government cyberpower. Current NRA members may die with their guns in hand but government snoops know what weapons they have, ammunition, known associates, and all of that is without gun registration. A machine pistol is a real mis-match against digital government surveillance. As in the losing side.

The third step is to start training yourself as a hacker. Setup a small network at home so you can educate yourself, off of public networks, about the weaknesses of hardware and software. Create or join computer clubs dedicated to learning hacking arts.

This is f%$#ing brilliant.

We are F%$#ed

The Gulf Stream

Warmest year ever, but northeast, and the ocean just off of Greenland coast hit the coldest ever

A recent study shows that the Gulf Stream flow has decreased more in the past 100 years than at any time in the past 1000+ years:

Possible changes in Atlantic meridional overturning circulation (AMOC) provide a key source of uncertainty regarding future climate change. Maps of temperature trends over the twentieth century show a conspicuous region of cooling in the northern Atlantic. Here we present multiple lines of evidence suggesting that this cooling may be due to a reduction in the AMOC over the twentieth century and particularly after 1970. Since 1990 the AMOC seems to have partly recovered. This time evolution is consistently suggested by an AMOC index based on sea surface temperatures, by the hemispheric temperature difference, by coral-based proxies and by oceanic measurements. We discuss a possible contribution of the melting of the Greenland Ice Sheet to the slowdown. Using a multi-proxy temperature reconstruction for the AMOC index suggests that the AMOC weakness after 1975 is an unprecedented event in the past millennium (p > 0.99). Further melting of Greenland in the coming decades could contribute to further weakening of the AMOC.

All I can see is the abstract, the article requires cash, but a number of locations have written about in a somewhat more accessible format:

Welcome to this week’s installment of “Don’t Mess with Geophysics.”

Last week, we learned about the possible destabilization of the Totten Glacier of East Antarctica, which could unleash over 11 feet of sea level rise in coming centuries.

And now this week brings news of another potential mega-scale perturbation. According to a new study just out in Nature Climate Change by Stefan Rahmstorf of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research and a group of co-authors, we’re now seeing a slowdown of the great ocean circulation that, among other planetary roles, helps to partly drive the Gulf Stream off the U.S. east coast. The consequences could be dire – including significant extra sea level rise for coastal cities like New York and Boston.

A vast, powerful, and warm current, the Gulf Stream transports more water than “all the world’s rivers combined,” according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. But it’s just one part of a larger regional ocean conveyor system – scientists technically call it the “Atlantic meridional overturning circulation” — which, in turn, is just one part of the larger global “thermohaline” circulation (“thermohaline” conjoins terms meaning “temperature” and “salty”).

For the whole system, a key driver occurs in the North Atlantic ocean. Here, the warm Gulf Stream flows northward into cooler waters and splits into what is called the North Atlantic Current. This stream flows still further toward northern latitudes — until it reaches points where colder, salty water sinks due to its greater density, and then travels back southward at depth.

This “overturning circulation” plays a major role in the climate because it brings warm water northward, thereby helping to warm Europe’s climate, and also sends cold water back towards the tropics. Here’s a helpful visualization, from Rahmstorf and the Potsdam Institute, of how it works: ……… (see top pic)


The system above has a key vulnerability. What keeps everything churning in the North Atlantic is the fact that cold salt water is more dense than warm water — so it sinks. However, if too much ice melts in the region — from, say Greenland — a freshening of the cold salt water could occur. If the water is less salty it will also be less dense, reducing its tendency to sink below the surface.


Rahmstorf points to a recent release by the National Climatic Data Center of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, finding that the winter of December 2014 through February 2015 was the warmest on record for the globe as a whole. However, there were several anomalies — not just a cold winter for the eastern U.S., but also record cold temperatures in the middle of the North Atlantic: ……… (see bottom pic)


However, there are many other effects, ranging from dramatic impacts on fisheries to, perhaps most troubling of all, the potential for extra sea level rise in the North Atlantic region.

That may sound surprising, but here’s how it works. We’re starting out from a situation in which sea level is “anomalously low” off the U.S. east coast due to the motion of the Gulf Stream. This is for at least two reasons. First, explains Rahmstorf’s co-author Michael Mann of Penn State University, there’s the matter of temperature contrast: Waters to the right or east of the Gulf Stream, in the direction of Europe, are warmer than those on its left or west. Warm water expands and takes up more area than denser cold water, so sea level is also higher to the right side of the current, and lower off our coast.

“So if you weaken the ‘Gulf Stream’ and weaken that temperature contrast…sea level off the U.S. east coast will actually rise!” explains Mann by e-mail.

This is going to get amazingly ugly.

I Bet Jon Stewart is Having 2nd Thoughts About Retiring Now

This really is

Ted “Tailgunner” Cruz, has become the first candidate to formally announce that he is running for President:

Senator Ted Cruz of Texas announced on Monday morning that he would run for president in 2016, becoming the first Republican candidate to declare himself officially in the race.

Linking the determination of his immigrant father with the resolve of the founding fathers and his own faith in “the promise of America,” Mr. Cruz spoke at length about his family and his faith as he laid out a case for his candidacy.

“God’s blessing has been on America from the very beginning of this nation, and I believe God isn’t done with America yet,” Mr. Cruz said before thousands of cheering students here at Liberty University. “I believe in you. I believe in the power of millions of courageous conservatives rising up to re-ignite the promise of America.”

“Today, I am announcing that I am running for president of the United States,” Mr. Cruz added. “It is a time for truth, it is a time for liberty, it is a time to reclaim the Constitution of the United States.”

First, there is the internet hilarity, with being registered by a liberal, and his website,, is using a Nigerian Prince SSL token on its donation page:

This morning, as Senator Ted Cruz launched his bid to become president of the United States, some people who visited his site thought he might also want to become a Nigerian prince. At least, that’s what his site’s certificate said.

It turns out that Cruz’ campaign had registered to use CloudFlare as the content delivery network for its WordPress-based site, anticipating a flood of traffic from would be supporters. But because the Cruz campaign hadn’t yet uploaded a certificate to identify the site for secure visits, CloudFlare’s systems automatically assigned the site one of its own certificates, CloudFlare CEO Matthew Prince told Ars. “The Cruz campaign didn’t do anything wrong,” he said. “It was an automated process on CloudFlare’s part.” The certificate that the Cruz campaign’s site got assigned to was also assigned to

But it gets better:

The certificate, however, is probably the least of the Cruz campaign’s Internet problems. The domain is currently hosting a site that urges people to support President Obama and immigration reform. And while the site is intended to take donation information, it doesn’t use SSL by default—so donors’ credit card data could potentially be exposed.

And Donald Trump jumped on the Republican presidential clown car, forming an explaroatory committee for the 2016 campaign, and then “The Donald” went full birther on the Canadian born Cruz:*

Real estate tycoon Donald Trump cast doubt Monday on whether Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) can run for president, because Cruz was born in Canada.

“It’s a hurdle; somebody could certainly look at it very seriously,” Trump said during a phone interview Monday on My Fox New York.“He was born in Canada. If you know and when we all studied our history lessons, you are supposed to be born in this country, so I just don’t know how the courts will rule on this.”

Trump, who says he is exploring a bid for president in 2016, was part of the “birther” movement that questioned President Obama’s birth place, as well as the veracity of his birth certificate. He recently took credit for getting Obama to release his birth certificate while speaking at the Conservative Political Action Conference in February.

After flirting with a 2012 presidential bid, Trump has announced an exploratory committee for 2016 and says he will not renew his contract for his TV show, “The Apprentice” on NBC.

Anyone who writes topical comedy has to be rubbing his hands together in anticipation.

*The consensus amongst Constitutional scholars is that natural born US citizen is one who was a citizen at birth, even if they are born in a foreign nation, so Cruz qualifies.

Exactly the Wrong Idea

JCS Chairman Ray Odierno says that the problem with US defense procurement is that the Uniformed military has insufficient authority, and the civilians have too much authority:

The U.S. Army’s top officer said service chiefs rather than civilians should play a bigger role in deciding what kinds of weapons the military buys.

Army Chief of Staff Raymond Odierno this week called on lawmakers to consider the move while debating ways to reform the Defense Department’s acquisition process.

“There’s a message that gets sent throughout the acquisition force that they don’t work for the uniformed military, they work for the civilians,” he said on Wednesday during a hearing of the Senate Armed Services Committee. “That’s a dangerous message because I think our experience in support of the process is very important.”

He added, “We should play a bigger role in approving where we’re going, milestones, how the requirements meet with what’s being done by the acquisition. I think an oversight by the military would be more important and could add some potential positive energy towards building better acquisition programs.”

While the service’s top civilian, Army Secretary John McHugh, offered mild support for the idea, saying it “makes some sense,” it’s unclear whether lawmakers would back the proposal. The Army, arguably more than any other service, has a long and troubled history of procurement efforts gone awry.

A government report released in 2011 concluded that since 1996, the Army spent more than $1 billion annually on programs that were ultimately canceled — and that since 2004, the figure climbed to between $3.3 billion and $3.8 billion a year.

While the Army has since implemented a slew of the report’s recommendations, it continues to spend billions of dollars on systems that never enter production. In recent years, for example, the service canceled the Ground Combat Vehicle, or GCV, designed to replace a portion of the fleet of Bradley fighting vehicles, and the Armed Aerial Scout, meant to replace the OH-58 Kiowa helicopter.

The GCV, or more accurately, the FCS, a family of manned and unmanned vehicles, was arguably the most expensive clusterf%$# yet canceled by the military.

The biggest problem was the uniformed military.

A new military program manager would rotate in every 3 years or so, the priorities were changed, and the program suffered more delays and cost growth.

What’s more, as a matter of policy, the army, the lead service on the program, had (and perhaps has) a policy of not stating what they want.  They will only say when they don’t like something.

So we had interminable meetings about dominated about questions from senior army officers talking about how how disappointed they were that the the colors of models produced by various divisions of BAE and GD did not match up.  (I am not kidding here)

If anything, the evidence is that the uniformed military needs to be further removed from the procurement process.

More Evidence That Conservative Christianity Has Degenerated Into a Vehicle for Hate

This is beyond contemptible

Once Again I need to invoke Shelby Spong‘s question, “I have quoted the controversial theologian’s question, “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?”

In Tennessee, a Talibaptist cleric has equated equal rights to Satan:

A Tennessee pastor said this week that his church was “not trying to offend anyone” when it put up a sign linking “equal rights” to Satan.

Members of the community expressed outrage over the weekend after photos of marquee outside the Knoxville Baptist Tabernacle Church were circulated online. The sign read, “Remember, Satan was the first to demand equal rights.”

“Who was your target audience? Who were you speaking to when you put it up there?” Knoxville resident Rick Staples, asked, according to WBIR. “And when you say you’re asking for your equal rights, who’s asking for their equal rights and who are you comparing to Satan? That was very strong language.”

Andy Henry said that the church was trying to make a statement about gay rights.

“It’s clearly a sign that was meant to offend a particular community – the LGBT community. Because of (the church’s) lack of foresight, they ended up offending everybody who had ever fought for equality or civil rights in general,” Henry observed.

But Pastor Tony Greene insisted that everyone misunderstood the message.

“Our sign referencing Satan demanding his equal rights to ascend into the heavens and be God was simply ‘I’ and all about that individual,” Greene told WATE. “It was not a statement against any one group in particular, you know what about the rights of the unborn babies, the rights of children, the rights of everyone?”

He added: “My heart breaks in the dividedness of our country.”

No, Rev. Greene is not calling for unity, he is expressing a world view for which faith is indistinguishable from hate.

At its core, this is the same spirituality that we see from Osama bin Laden, al-Qaeda, ISIS, and the Taliban.

H/t Neo at the Stellar Parthenon BBS.

STEM Shortage, My Ass!

For years, various industries have claimed that there is a shortage of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) employees in asking for training subsidies and visas (H-1B and L-1).

People on the other side have observed that colleges and universities are pumping out more than enough graduates, and that the lobbying for subsidies for companies to hire STEM workers in order to drive the cost (wages) of technical employees down.

Well, it appears that notwithstanding the claims of a worker shortage STEM graduates cannot find jobs:

All credible research finds the same evidence about the STEM workforce: ample supply, stagnant wages and, by industry accounts, thousands of applicants for any advertised job. The real concern should be about the dim employment prospects for our best STEM graduates: The National Institutes of Health, for example, has developed a program to help new biomedical Ph.D.s find alternative careers in the face of “unattractive” job prospects in the field. Opportunities for engineers vary by the field and economic cycle – as oil exploration has increased, so has demand (and salaries) for petroleum engineers, resulting in a near tripling of petroleum engineering graduates. In contrast, average wages in the IT industry are the same as those that prevailed when Bill Clinton was president despite industry cries of a “shortage.” Overall, U.S. colleges produce twice the number of STEM graduates annually as find jobs in those fields.

In the face of these stark facts, we now see several studies that seem to be desperate Hail Mary passes, using rather unconventional means to find “shortages.” Some analysts do this by expanding the definition of STEM jobs – traditionally those involved in innovation, discovery and development – to include air conditioning technicians and even some retail jobs to make the case that this workforce is large and growing. Without any coherent meaning, such analyses now serve only rhetorical purposes to advance particular legislation.

Cries that “the STEM sky is falling” are just the latest in a cyclical pattern of shortage predictions over the past half-century, none of which were even remotely accurate. In a desert of evidence, the growth of STEM shortage claims is driven by heavy industry funding for lobbyists and think tanks. Their goal is government intervention in the market under the guise of solving national economic problems. The highly profitable IT industry, for example, is devoting millions to convince Congress and the White House to provide its employers with more low-cost, foreign guestworkers instead of trying to attract and retain employees from an ample domestic labor pool of native and immigrant citizens and permanent residents. Guestworkers currently make up two-thirds of all new IT hires, but employers are demanding further increases. If such lobbying efforts succeed, firms will have enough guestworkers for at least 100 percent of their new hiring and can continue to legally substitute these younger workers for current employees, holding down wages for both them and new hires.

The problem is not that there is a shortage of tech workers, it’s that employers want them on the cheap, so they can spend the money of obscene bonuses for upper management, stock buybacks, and lobbying Congress.

F%$# that.

Charter Schools and Common Core in a Nut Shell

I can do no more than quote America’s Finest News Source, “Department Of Education Study Finds Teaching These Little Sh%$s No Longer Worth It:

WASHINGTON—The U.S. Department of Education released a comprehensive, nationwide evaluation of American schools Monday indicating that attempts to teach absolutely anything to these little shits is just a huge waste of everybody’s time.

“We remain committed to providing every student in the country with access to a high-quality education,” said Education Secretary Arne Duncan, adding that good schools are a key component to the success of American democracy. “But to be honest, none of that matters. We’re not talking about promising young scholars here—we’re talking about a bunch of f%$#ing animals.”

“We’ve basically flushed $11,000 down the toilet for every single one of these little bastards,” Duncan continued. “Not to mention 18 years of my life.”

This is perhaps the most prescient article that The Onion has published since January, 2001, when it wrote, “Bush: ‘Our Long National Nightmare Of Peace And Prosperity Is Finally Over’.

Microflaccid, Go Cheney Yourself

Click Image for Larger Popup

In Windows 8, Microsoft implemented UEFI secure boot, which was nominally a system to prevent malicious software from loading a low level, but also has the effect of making it very difficult alternate operating systems.
With Win 8, Microsoft required that the hardware vendors include an option to disable the secure mode, though it was buried in the “BIOS”* setup screen.

It appears that Microsoft will no longer require a switch to disable the lockdown, which means that it could lock out many alternate operating systems:

Those of you with long memories will recall a barrage of complaints in the run up to Windows 8’s launch that concerned the ability to install other operating systems—whether they be older versions of Windows, or alternatives such as Linux or FreeBSD—on hardware that sported a “Designed for Windows 8” logo.

To get that logo, hardware manufacturers had to fulfil a range of requirements for the systems they built, and one of those requirements had people worried. Windows 8 required machines to support a feature called UEFI Secure Boot. Secure Boot protects against malware that interferes with the boot process in order to inject itself into the operating system at a low level. When Secure Boot is enabled, the core components used to boot the machine must have correct cryptographic signatures, and the UEFI firmware verifies this before it lets the machine start. If any files have been tampered with, breaking their signature, the system won’t boot.

This is a desirable security feature, but it has an issue for alternative operating systems: if, for example, you prefer to compile your own operating system, your boot files won’t include a signature that Secure Boot will recognize and authorize, and so you won’t be able to boot your PC.

However, Microsoft’s rules for the Designed for Windows 8 logo included a solution to the problem they would cause: Microsoft also mandated that every system must have a user-accessible switch to turn Secure Boot off, thereby ensuring that computers would be compatible with other operating systems. Microsoft’s rules also required that users be able to add their own signatures and cryptographic certificates to the firmware, so that they could still have the protection that Secure Boot provides, while still having the freedom to compile their own software.

This all seemed to work, and the concerns that Linux and other operating systems would be locked out proved unfounded.

This time, however, they’re not.

At its WinHEC hardware conference in Shenzhen, China, Microsoft talked about the hardware requirements for Windows 10. The precise final specs are not available yet, so all this is somewhat subject to change, but right now, Microsoft says that the switch to allow Secure Boot to be turned off is now optional. Hardware can be Designed for Windows 10 and can offer no way to opt out of the Secure Boot lock down.

If I am a mass market computer maker, there is no upside to allowing a user to disable UEFI secure boot unless you are specifically are targeting power users.

While this may not be a big deal, for anyone who, for example, wants to retask a old or used PC as a firewall, or a print server, etc., it is likely that the choice of operating systems will be severely constrained.

It’s good for the business of PC manufacturers, it means that used machines are less likely to be repurposed or resold, and it is good for Microsoft, because it means that installing many flavors of Linux on an old box becomes problematic.

For the rest of us, it sucks like a thousand Hoovers all going at once.

*Technically, UEFI is not BIOS, it replaces the exclusively 16 bit BIOS, but “BIOS Setup Screen” is a good shorthand for that screen you get when you hold down the F2 key while booting.

Damn! Out of Stock!


I’ve found the ultimate Passover Seder accessory, the 10 Plagues in all  their disturbing chocolate glory.

Clockwise from upper left:

  1. Blood
  2. Frogs
  3. Lice
  4. Wild Beasts
  5. Livestock Disease
  6. Boils (with a little white chocolate pustule for authenticity)
  7. Hail
  8. Locusts
  9. Darkness
  10. Death of the 1st born

All with a dark chocolate bar (it’s pareve) in the middle.

I just discovered it, and they are out of stock.


H/t DC at the Stellar Parthenon BBS.

Good Move by Syriza

With an increase in poverty, and hunger, and lack of basic medical care, the Greek Parliament has thumbed its nose at the Troika, and has passed a new anti-poverty law:

The Greek parliament has approved a package of social measures, despite warnings from the European Commission against “proceeding unilaterally”.

In parliament, the Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras defended what he called a “humanitarian crisis” law.

The law – the first to be introduced since Mr Tsipras’s party won elections in January – offers food stamps and free electricity to the very poorest.

The total amount of assistance is worth about €200m ($213m; £144m).

It is the kind of anti-austerity measure that Mr Tsipras had promised before his election victory in January.

In a 30-minute speech he defended the legislation, which he described as the first bill in five years to be drawn up in Athens, rather than ordered by EU technocrats.

Soured relations

He also criticised a leaked letter from an EU official, which had advised Greece to consult with its international creditors before proceeding with the legislation.

“If they’re doing it to frighten us, the answer is: we will not be frightened,” Mr Tsipras told parliament. “What else can one say to those who have the audacity to say that dealing with a humanitarian crisis is a ‘unilateral action’?”

The new law, and Mr Tsipras’s defiant speech, come ahead of an expected meeting with Angela Merkel and Francois Hollande on the sidelines of an EU summit in Brussels this week.

This is a good thing.

With over 40% of the Greek population below the poverty line, it’s clear that there is a humanitarian crisis in Greece, and what the Troika, and the rest of the EU, don’t get is that if they manage to crush Syriza, the alternative is not the usual suspects, Pasok and ND, who have mismanaged the countries for decades, but the Fascist right wing Golden Dawn party.

Golden Dawn coming to power would not bode well for the future, either in Greece, or across Europe.

Time to Panic!!!!!!!!

The finance world is freaking out because the latest Federal Reserve statement has dropped the word, “Patient,” from the text. (See here, here, and here)

It’s not a change in policy, it’s simply making a bit more likely that will make a statement that they might change policy some time in the future, or, as Fed Chair Janet Yellen said, “Just because we removed the word ‘patient’ doesn’t mean we’re going to be impatient.”

It’s kind of a tempest in a teapot.