Month: October 2015

Quote of the Day

Credit where credit is due, this is well executed CAS

It just goes to show there’s only one man named Ash you should listen to, and he’s too busy chainsawing evil dead to talk nonsense like this.

The War Nerd On why Ash Carters on the Russian intervention in Syria are 6 pounds of sh%$ in a 5 pound bag. (Paid Subscription usually required, but you can access it for the next 24 hours)

The always entertaining War Nerd makes some very good points on the complete incoherence of the US/Nato campaign in Syria:

I stole that headline from an Ernest movie, Scared Stupid. Always loved that title. “Scared Straight”? I’ve never seen fear make anybody smarter. When people get scared, they get stupid.

And at the moment, the Anglo media is all scared about the Russian air strikes in Syria. So they’ve started a counter-bombardment of their own, dumping tons of stupid on us helpless civilians.

It’s not even a consistent brand of stupid. It’s all over the map: the Russian air strikes are bad because they’re helping Islamic State, or because they’re brutal, or because they’ve failed.

That last claim, that the Russian campaign has already failed, is the most ridiculous of all. Take this headline from the Daily Telegraph: “Russia Reducing Air Strikes against Syrian Rebels as Intervention Fails.”

“Fails,” huh? Already? After—well, lemme take my shoes off so I can count up the days since Russia started bombing Syria. Comes to 17 days, by my finger-and-toe reckoning. Who knew that an air bombardment campaign could be called a failure after slightly more than two weeks? Somebody should tell the USAF about this rule, because if memory serves, they’ve run a few bombing campaigns that went on a little longer than 17 days before getting their reckoning.

Buried deep in that story is the Russian command’s actual statement:

“The intensity of our military aviation operations decreased slightly in the last 24 hours….a result of active offensive operations by the Syrian armed forces, the front line/front-line [sic] with the terrorists is changing.”

That’s a plausible account. The first rule of close air support is, “Don’t bomb your own people.”  And that’s a tricky job when Russian-speaking pilots and air controllers are working with what’s left of the Syrian Arab Army, a disorganized lot at the best of times. So the Russian claim may be the simple truth. Or not; who knows? All you can say for sure is that claiming a dip in sorties on Day 17 means the air campaign has failed is laughable BS.

US Secretary of Defense Ash Carter joined the chorus, predicting “the Russian campaign in Syria is doomed to fail.” Doomed, yet!

And why, Mr. Carter, are those Russkies so doomed? Carter explained,

“Fighting ISIL without pursuing a parallel political transition only risks escalating civil war in Syria… There is a logical contradiction in the Russian position and now its actions in Syria.”

It just goes to show there’s only one man named Ash you should listen to, and he’s too busy chainsawing evil dead to talk nonsense like this. Actually, Russia’s campaign is much more simple and logical than the USAF’s messed-up mission in Syria. Russia is using its air force to try to blast out a viable territory for an Alawite/Shia state along the Syrian coastal hills. Assad’s people are longtime Russian clients and allies, and the Russian air force is helping them maintain their key turf against a much more numerous enemy. It may fail, but at least that’s a reasonable plan.


Maybe our Secretary of Defense knows something I don’t know—I mean beyond the best place for prime rib in Georgetown—but it seems to me that the Russian air campaign makes very straightforward military sense.

If there’s an air force whose mission in Syria really does have “a logical contradiction at its core,” it’s a little group called the USAF. Not that it’s the USAF’s fault; they do their jobs very well. But what job, exactly, what mission, were they given?

If you were to sum it up, it’d go something like this: “Hit Sunni targets east of the coastal hills, but ignore everything to the west; help the Kurds in the north, but grudgingly, as little as possible, for fear you’ll offend Turkey; and while you’re attacking Assad’s enemies, keep reassuring the Israelis that you’re just as anti-Assad as you are anti-Islamic State.”

Sound stupid? It is. It’s a ridiculous compromise adopted to please the Israelis and Saudis, based on the dumb-ass notion that Sunni fighters in eastern Syria are evil sectarian bastards, but the Sunni fighters facing off against the SAA in the west are “moderates.”

It’s true that Islamic State is uncommonly vile, but let’s not lie; the only faction in Syria that even tries to rise above sectarian hatred are the young Kurdish commies of YPG/J. Every other group is sectarian, and militias that start out sectarian only get meaner as they go, by the iron logic of primitive war, where massacre is the norm. And this sectarian taint isn’t new. Syria’s Sunni were chanting “Christians to Beirut, Alawites to the graveyard” long before the fighting started. For once, Robert Fisk got it right, in an article called “Syria’s Moderates Have Disappeared, and There Are No Good Guys”:

“The Russian air force in Syria has flown straight into the West’s fantasy air space. The Russians, we are now informed, are bombing the “moderates” in Syria – “moderates” whom even the Americans admitted two months ago, no longer existed.”

The crazy US policy of ignoring Sunni militias in the west made for some fat, soft targets. No wonder the Russian air force jumped at the chance to intervene. They must’ve spent months drooling over drone and satellite photos from the west, between Homs and Aleppo—targets totally untouched by the USAF.


Then the Russians decided it was time to show, Gulf War style, that they had some fancy shock-and-awe munitions of their own. These belated colonial wars are, among other things, great sales videos for arms exporters like the US and Russia.

To see a typical Russian sales video, check out this clip of a Russian attack on a defensive line, mixing bombers, CAS, and rocket launchers scattering cluster bombs. Watch it and see if it looks like a “failure.” Because me, I personally would not want to be anywhere within five km of the target zone.


Notice how the guy filming it keeps saying, “Allahu Akbar”? That seemed odd to me. It’s a Salafist battle cry as a rule. You never hear Alawites from the SAA shouting it in their battle videos. So I asked around, and apparently it marks the narrator as Sunni, a pretty slick, cinematic way of implying that the Russian/Iranian/Hezbollah/Alawite side has some Sunni allies.

So…failure? No. Any advance will probably be slow; the lines don’t change much in Syria, because the level of combat power across the board is very low. These are forces who’d rather bombard each other than engage. Only Hezbollah has real combat power, and they’re spending it thriftily.

But there are already signs the Russian air strikes are allowing some advances.

That doesn’t mean the Russian campaign will succeed; like Gandalf used to say, “All courses may run ill.” But at least they have a sane, comprehensible, achievable goal, unlike the US in Syria.

Now for the next accusation, that the Russian strikes are brutal.

Well, yeah, they are. That’s the general idea. I don’t mean to be flippant here, but air strikes only look neat when you stay up there and watch from the pilot’s angle. On the ground, even the supposedly “surgical” strikes are nightmarish. Which, again, is the whole idea. And if we’re going to be honest about it, we can stop pretending there are any neat, clean surgical strikes. A new report just came out showing that nine out of ten people hit by those targeted drone assassinations are civilians who happen to be in the vicinity.

As a rule, you can tell when the media approve of air strikes by the angle. If it’s all nice clean pilot’s-view of distant explosions, it’s a good strike. If they show you funerals, weeping relatives, blasted apartments, it’s a bad strike. So you can tell, just from the headline—“This Is What the Russian Air Strikes in Syria Look Like from the Ground”—that it’s a bad strike. For example, ground-angle stories on Israeli airstrikes only started hitting the US media in the past few years. Now they’re fairly common but for most of my lifetime you just didn’t see those weeping Palestinians. When the strike is done by our own airforce, you still don’t see them unless you go to foreign or marginal leftist sites. But boy do they start popping up when it’s the Russians playing their air-to-ground video games.

The Russians are bombing more or less the way all the other foreign air forces in Syria are bombing. They’re having a more powerful effect because they’re hitting targets that haven’t been hit by first-world CAS til now. That’s the only difference.


Truth is, Russia and Islamic State have different projects going in Syria, projects that don’t even overlap much. Syria is more full of bad projects than the ninth-grade Metal Shop class where they set my jacket on fire with a soldering iron (while I was wearing it). That place was full of projects thought up by adolescent psychopaths, all designed to kill or maim, and mostly ineffective.

Which, come to think of it, is not a bad description of Syria at the moment. For a smallish country, Syria has more theaters of war going than a multiplex doing a Private Ryan marathon. The Kurds of YPG/PKK have their own project going in the north, along the Turkish border. The Alawites are trying to survive and carve a rump state for themselves in the coastal hills. The Christians have executed a simple plan: “get the Hell out of here while we can.” Hezbollah’s project could be summed up as, “Ugh, I guess we gotta help these weak-ass Alawites after all, damn it.” Israel’s project is “Attack Hezbollah nonstop, but never touch the Sunni militias because they’re not a real threat.” Jabhat-an-Nusra, Ahrar-as-Sham, and the other Sunni militias are competing for ownership of the inland Sunni state they hope will come out of this chaos.

But Islamic State? Their project isn’t really about Syria at all. IS is an Iraqi outfit. Yeah, they have all these noisy foreign volunteers, the whole C-minus demographic of Birmingham, Dusseldorf, and Marseille, but that’s not their real power. IS inherited Saddam’s officer class, and their goal is to regain Baghdad. Syria is a side bet, one of the vacuums they’re so good at occupying. Eastern Syria—a flat dry place with few people except along the Euphrates—was mostly abandoned by both the Alawites and the other Sunni militias, who focused on trying to win the more valuable real estate to the West. That’s when Islamic State moved in from its Iraqi base and started a Syrian franchise.

So the war Russia has joined isn’t even really the same war that Islamic State is fighting. IS wants to embiggen its Iraq-based “caliphate”; Russia wants to drive the other Sunni militias off that key highway, M5, so the Alawites can start a mini-state along the coast.

Meanwhile, the “moderate” Sunni militias are getting hit hard for the first time. As that happens, IS will push from the east, and the SAA/Hezbollah/Revolutionary Guards from the west. At some point, Russia’s air power may meet IS head-on. But a lot of other dumb, bloodthirsty rival projects will have to get ground away in this multi-faction, multi-loon war before that happens.

I think that the Brecher is actually being a bit too sympathetic of the goals and strategy of the US here.

Basically, Obama, once again is trying to please everyone, so you have him trying to appease:

  • The delusional interventionists on the right (Richard Pearle) and the left (Samantha Power)
  • The US officer corps (particularly the wild blue yonder set) seeing this as another opportunity to further their careers
  • The House of Saud’s desire to prosecute their thousand plus year old great game against the Shia.
  • Islamist Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s delusional desire to extend Sunni hegemony over that part of the world while killing as many Kurds as possible.

And while he is doing all of that, Obama is cowering in fear that he will be accused of “losing” Syria in the same way that Truman was accused of “losing” China by Nixon.

Notwithstanding his running, and winning, on opposing “Stupid Wars” in the 2008 Presidential campaign, this war is even stupider than the invasion of Iraq.

Bush and his evil minions were completely delusional and willfully ignorant, but at least they had a goal, while Obama and his evil minions are intervening simply because they think that they can.

H/t to Naked Capitalism for unlocking this for a few days.

Entitled Idiots Who Should Not Have Your Money

Nobody likes to be questioned.

But lately, some of Silicon Valley’s big tech investors seem to be particularly upset that journalists are questioning some of the valley’s hottest startups.

There’s a fundamental difference in point of view here. The funders see first-hand how hard it is to build something and sympathize with the struggle. The journalists are supposed to be as objective and careful as possible and report what they find — even if some people don’t like it.

The latest example is Theranos, whose science was called into question by The Wall Street Journal on Thursday. Theranos founder Elizabeth Holmes was quick to defend her company, as you’d expect from a CEO.

But some VCs also seemed genuinely upset. Not at the substance of the allegations, but for not giving founders the benefit of the doubt when it comes to building something.


Startup founders have a really hard job. They are trying to do something new and drive society forward. The tech press doesn’t know all the facts so you should give them a break.

The first sentence is indisputably true — it’s hard (and lonesome) to found a tech startup.


The second sentence is where things get sticky.

A lot of tech founders are trying to do something new and drive society forward. But some of them are not.


The third sentence is where they completely miss the point.

Journalists don’t set out to write takedowns of companies. But when a journalist begins investigating a company and finds something is amiss, and the story is well vetted and fairly reported, the venture community should welcome that reporting.

I’m beginning to think that of all the problems facing the business culture of the United States , it is the Ayn Rand inspired corrosive narcissism which is worst of all.

If you look at Theranos, for example, the facts are fairly clear.

The company has misrepresented the scope of its technology, and there have been repeated reports that the at least some of the tests are significantly less accurate.

This technology may, or may not, be successful at a later date, but it is clear that its valuation, one which makes its CEO a billionaire is Silicon Valley “Unicorn” bullsh%$.

Canadian Election Update

Pretty much says it all

Election Results
Party Current Seats Election Results
Liberal 36 188 +152
Conservative 159 101 -58
New Democratic 95 38 -57
Bloc Québécois 2 10 +8
Green 2 1 -1
Strength in Democracy 2 0 -2

John Oliver lays waste to Harper

The Canadian election tonight has turfed out the Conservative Party after 10 years.

It really does amaze me that they reelected Stephen Harper 3 times.

He has always been very straightforward on the fact that he dislikes the idea of Canada as a modern western nation.

He vision of Canada appeared to be a white Christian Saudi Arabia. He makes Dick Cheney look like an environmentalist, and he was trying to starve the Canadian health system into oblivion.

I kind of figured that the game was up when Harper tried a Hail Mary by campaigning with: crack-smoking former Toronto Mayor Rob Ford.

Still, that did not stop John Oliver from risking the wrath of Canadian authorities by suggesting that Harper is Canada’s dick boyfriend. ($5,000 CDN & 6 months in jail, but the video is worth it)

The NDP has completely cratered, largely because after unprecedented electoral success in the last election, they were the official opposition (2nd place) for the first time ever, Jack Layton the party leader, up and got cancer, and was replaced by Tom Mulcair who tacked to the right, promising no deficits, which meant no austerity, and so ended up to the right of the historically more centrist Liberals.

One of the longstanding criticisms of the LDP is that they are seen as ineffective, and can be relied on to waffle* rather than have the courage of their convictions.

So they gave up their ideology this time around, and got clubbed like baby seals.

It will be interesting to see how much the young Trudeau, the new PM to be, will be able to undo the damage that Harper has done.

My guess is that many of the changes that Harper has made will be very hard to roll back.

H/t Obsidian Wings for the kitty pic.

*This is an obscure Canadian political and historical pun.
A somewhat less obscure pun involving Canada.

Tehran Deployes MARV Reentry Vehicls

Click to enlarge and view as slide show

Pershing and EMAD Comparison
    Pershing II MARVEMAD

    MARV flight profile Indian Agni 2        

Iran has a new ballistic missile, the EMAD, and it appears that it will deploy a maneuverable reentry vehicle (MARV), which could potentially result in much higher accuracy and the possible ability to evade defenses:

Iran has successfully test fired a new, domestically produced, medium range ballistic missile, named Emad (pillar, in Farsi). “This is Iran’s first medium range missile that can be guided and controlled until hitting the target,” Iran’s Defense Minister Hossein Dehghan was quoted as saying. According to analyst estimates the new missile could be ready for service next year.

The Islamic Republic of Iran already has surface-to-surface missiles with ranges of up to 2,000 kilometers that can hit Israel and US military bases in the region. The new missile seems to be a derivative of these liquid-propelled Ghadr and Shahab missiles. This Medium-Range Ballistic Missile (MRBM) is also powered by liquid-fuel and; according to unconfirmed sources, it has a range of up to 1,700 km., (1,060 miles) carrying a payload of 750 kg (1,650 pounds). Its accuracy is estimated at 500 meters (1,650 ft), compared of 2,000 meters (1.2 miles) accuracy achieved by the current Shahab 3 missile.

Given that this saw deployment with the US in the late 1970s, and is currently being deployed by India, this is not, as this article implies, some sort of exotic super technology.

Instead, it is a rather mature technology, and as such, is doubtless accounted for in the software of most ABM systems.

One thing that I did notice, at least compared to the Pershing II and Agni II is that the control surfaces are much smaller, which would imply that it would produce smaller deviations from a ballistic flight path.

I think that this implies that its primary function is to increase accuracy of the missile, and not to evade interceptors like THAAD and Arrow, as terminal guidance would necessarily involve less control authority.

Given the range, 1700 km, the top speed would be in the 3.5 km/s range, which means that temperature of the nose cone might be low enough to allow for a terminal radar to improve accuracy, much as the Pershing II did.  (Wiki lists the Pershing II CEP of 30m)

If the CEP could be kept to under 100m, this would greatly increase its utility when carrying a conventional warhead.

And this Guy Got a Nobel Peace Prize?

Every time we get a new bit of information about Obama’s drone policies, it just gets worse:

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you know that U.S. drone policy is insane.

But one story told by the main drone whistleblowing reporter – Jeremy Scahill – shows just how insane it really is.

Specifically, Scahill explained today that Americans target TALL people in Afghanistan and other countries … assuming that tall men must be Arabs or “foreign fighters.”

In one instance, the U.S. targeted for drone assassination a man who they thought was unusually tall. In reality, he was a normal-size man … who happened to be surrounded by children.

Notwithstanding some domestic accomplishments, such as his half assed healthcare reform, Obama’s true legacy will be his immoral and counterproductive drone war.

Obama’s embrace of the contemptible and disasterous historical legacy of the Dulles brothers is complete.

Scott Adams Called This Confusopolies

In response to improvements in information and comparison shopping made available to the consumer through the Internet, the airlines have conspired to make their fare systems Byzantinely complex.

This may be why airlines are waging a war on travel websites. The tools available on these sites make it too difficult to f%$# the customers like a drunk sorority girl:

Once upon a time, there were reasonably well-known ways to pay less for your airfare. Airlines had rules governing ticket prices, those rules were consistent across airlines, and almost everybody knew what the rules were. (If you booked further in advance, the tickets were cheaper. If you stayed a Saturday night, the ticket would be cheaper. That kind of thing.)

Those days, however, are long gone. Airline tickets are no longer priced according to simple rules: they’re dynamically priced according to insanely complex algorithms which, to the naked eye, make no sense at all. Cheap tickets still exist, of course—the problem is that there’s no reliable way of finding them. If you managed to luck into such a ticket a few weeks or months ago, good for you—but don’t for a minute expect that if you behaved exactly the same way today, then you would get a similar result.

A recent paper by Symeon Meichanetzoglou, Sotiris Ioannidis, and Nikolaos Laoutaris sums up the current status quo: “complexity asymmetry,” they conclude, “defeated the web.” The paper is based on a massive database of 1,449,349 flight tickets involving 63 destinations and 125 different airlines—and finds that even the most common-sense rules of airline ticket pricing are regularly violated.

For instance, let’s say you want to book a round-trip flight from Brussels to Stuttgart. The researchers studied six different airlines flying that route, with 619 different fares, and found that 24.5% of the time, it was cheaper to buy two one-way tickets (one from Brussels to Stuttgart, and one from Stuttgart to Brussels) than it was to buy a round-trip. And when they looked at airlines rather than routes, they found similar outliers: one Dutch airline was cheaper more than half the time when buying singles rather than round-trip tickets. (Especially, it seems, on the Frankfurt-Zurich route.)


A few years ago, Delta got in trouble for showing higher prices to its frequent fliers than to everybody else; it blamed a “computer glitch.” Ever since then, conspiracy theories have abounded, especially among people who search for flights, find relatively cheap ones, and then find that the fares have suddenly increased when they decide to buy. Is it a good idea to use some kind of private browsing mode when shopping for tickets, so that the airlines can’t identify you and jack their prices accordingly?

The answer, frankly, is that although it won’t hurt if you do that, you’re going to end up outsmarted whatever you do. The airlines and flight search engines have infinitely more information than you do, and that information asymmetry is always going to work to their advantage. If you find a cheap fare, good for you; if you don’t, it’s not your fault. The system is rigged against you. The battle of consumers against the airlines is over. And the airlines have won.

There are industries that hate their customers more than the airlines ***cough*** cable companies ***cough***, but this is a veritable rogues gallery of evil that they have joined.

This is a Feature, Not a Bug

It turns out that Lockheed-Martin and the Pentagon are adding insult to injury, and requiring that F-35 customers fund software upgrade laboratories, because these will be the only entities capable of maintaining the aircraft.

So in addition to everything else, the JSF will be a “forever” source of revenue for LM, while ensuring that foreign operators will never develop expertise necessary to be a competitor: (Paid subscription required):

Foreign air forces using the Lockheed Martin F-35 Joint Strike Fighter are being compelled to build and fund $150 million software laboratories, based in the U.S. and almost 50% staffed by U.S. personnel, that generate data crucial to the fighter’s ability to identify new radio-frequency threats.

This regime is more stringent and far-reaching than earlier U.S. fighter export deals. Those usually withheld key software — known as source code — from the customer, but in most cases allowed local users to manage their own “threat libraries,” data that allowed the electronic warfare (EW) system to identify radio-frequency threats, with in-country, locally staffed facilities.

For the U.K. in particular, the reliance on U.S.-located laboratories looks like a pullback from its earlier position. In 2006, concern over access to JSF technology reached the national leadership level, and prompted a declaration, by U.S. President George W. Bush and U.K. Prime Minister Tony Blair, that “both governments agree that the U.K. will have the ability to successfully operate, upgrade, employ, and maintain the JSF such that the U.K. retains operational sovereignty over the aircraft.”

That promise seemingly contrasts with the severe limits now being imposed on non-U.S. access to the system.


Another source close to the U.K. user community notes that Lockheed Martin has advertised the capability of the “fusion engine” — the software that combines inputs from different sensors and datalinks — to identify targets and implement rules of engagement automatically. But if the logic of the fusion engine itself is not understood at the U.K.’s operational level, he says, “You can imagine that this slaughters our legal stance on a clear, unambiguous and sovereign kill chain.”

The restrictions are also likely to be cumbersome. By contrast, “Swedish air force Gripens are often updated between sorties,” a Saab spokesman says. Signals intercepted and recorded by the fighter’s EW system on one sortie can be analyzed and the system updated in hours.

If this sounds like incompetence, it’s because you do not understand the goal of the program.

The goal is maintaining and extending US hegemony in the weapons market, so that they have money for overpaying retired generals as “consultants”.

Finally, Someone Goes There

Rather it is “The Donald” who maked the observation that that has this far eluded the rest of the Presidential candidates, that 9/11 happened under Bush’s watch:

Republican presidential frontrunner Donald Trump implied that George W. Bush bore some responsibility for the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks on the World Trade Center in a Friday interview with Bloomberg.

“He was President,” Trump said. “Blame him, or don’t blame him, but he was President. The World Trade Center came down during his reign.”

Trump asserted that unlike the George W. Bush, he would be “a leader” who could command the United States during national crises.

“I think I’m much more competent than all of them,” Trump said, referring to George W. Bush and President Barack Obama.

“Say what you want, the World Trade Center came down during his time,” Trump told Bloomberg.

Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush took to Twitter to criticize his GOP presidential rival for the remarks, writing that his brother “kept us safe.”

911, the Anthrax attacks, anti-abortion terrorists, Mohammed Reza Taheri-azar, DC Sniper, LAX attack on El Al, Jewish Federation of Seattle, Jewish Federation of Freemont, and that’s just limiting myself to attacks in the United States.

“Kept us safe,” my ass.

And Now We Learn that Her Insurance Company Demanded It

Remember the story of Jennifer Connell, the Aunt who sued her nephew for injuring her wrist when he hugged her?

Not so much:

The law firm of Jainchill and Beckert released a statement on behalf of Jennifer Connell:

From the start, this was a case was about one thing:  getting medical bills paid by homeowner’s insurance.  Our client was never looking for money from her nephew or his family. It was about the insurance industry and being forced to sue to get medical bills paid. She suffered a horrific injury. She had two surgeries and is potentially facing a third.  Prior to the trial, the insurance company offered her one dollar. Unfortunately, due to Connecticut law, the homeowner’s insurance company could not be identified as the defendant.


Connell, a 54-year-old human resources manager, said she loves her nephew, but told the court he should be held responsible for her injury. Connell claims Tarala, of Westport, was negligent and careless, and is suing him for $127,000.

“Our client was very reluctant to pursue this case, but in the end she had no choice but to sue the minor defendant directly to get her bills paid. She didn’t want to do this anymore than anyone else would. But her hand was forced by the insurance company. We are disappointed in the outcome, but we understand the verdict. Our client is being attacked on social media. Our client has been through enough,” said her attorneys in a statement.

F%$# the insurance companies.

Seriously, just f%$# them.

H/t Crooks and Liars.

Could Someone Please Hang this Guy from a Lamp Post?*

Don’t You Want to Slap That Smile From His Face

It turns out that Martin Shkreli, he of the rapacious drug price hike infamy donated a few thousand dollars to the Bernie Sanders campaign and demanded an audience.

Sanders donated the money to a medical clinic and told him to piss off:

It must be strange, if you’re the kind of person who generally believes he can wave his wallet in the direction of something he wants and make it — poof! — appear, when that magic trick doesn’t work. When a drunken demand for mac and cheese goes unheeded. Or when a pharmaceutical company CEO gets turned down by a politician. Sorry, Martin Shkreli!

Just last month, Shkreli earned the disgust of a good portion of the Internet — as well as Democratic hopefuls Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders — when it was revealed his company, Turing Pharmaceuticals, had raised the price of toxoplasmosis drug Daraprim from $13.50 a pill to $750 overnight. Sanders even wrote a letter to Shkreli, asking for an explanation. But though Shrkreli quickly vowed that “I think that it makes sense to lower the price in response to the anger that was felt by people,” no change has been forthcoming. He now says that “Until we figure out demand, we won’t lower the price. We have to find a safe price to lower it to.” Seems like something he’d want to get on, soon.

Shkreli has, however, meanwhile managed to find the time to troll journalists and retweet photos of cats rolling around in money. He also, according to the Boston Globe, “says he has donated to presidential candidate Bernie Sanders — who has been bashing Big Pharma on the campaign trail — to try to get a meeting so the two can talk it out.” It did not work out that way.

Shkreli claims he recently donated $2,700 — the maximum individual contribution — to Sanders’ campaign. He told the Boston Globe he had hoped for a private meeting with Sanders to explain the rationale of drug company pricing. But on Thursday, the Sanders campaign said they were giving the money to the Whitman-Walker health clinic in Washington, adding, “We are not keeping the money from this poster boy for drug company greed.”

And Shrkreli now says he’s “furious” over the snub. “I think it’s cheap to use one person’s action as a platform without kind of talking to that person,” he says. “He’ll take my money, but he won’t engage with me for five minutes to understand this issue better.” And he continues, “I’d ask him, what role does innovation play in health care? Is he willing to sort of accept that there is a tradeoff, that to take risks for innovation, companies have to invest lots of money and they need some kind of return for that, and what does he think that should look like?” I guess you can’t always get what you want. Meetings with senators, your toxoplasmosis drug returned to a reasonable cost, that sort of thing.

Seriously, Mr. Shrkreli, how about you make the world a better place, and just drop dead.

*From his testicles, not his neck.  Death by rope is too quick,
OK, in a perfect world, there would also be some pinata play as well.
And fire ants, definitely fire ants

My Wife Refuses to Appreciate My Beautiful Mind

I was talking to my Sharon* and noted that she would never guess the latest place where the consequences of fracking.

She declined to guess, and I told her that it was Oklahoma, where they are freaking out over a 300 fold increase in the number of earthquakes brought on by rejecting waste water into deep wells.

This generated a blank look from my wife, and I said that pumping the water deep under ground causes earthquakes.

I got another blank look, and I explained how the water, when injected deep underground, lubricates between faults, and that the lubrication translates into more motion, Kind of Like Sex.

I got a “what the f%$# are you talking about?” look from her, so I further explained that proper lubrication allows for more motion.

And then I got That look from her.

If you have ever been married, you know the look that I’m talking about, the one that has you worrying about her sharp knives ……… and then you start to worry about her dull knives.

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

Makes More Sense than a Mysterious Breakthrough in Mathematics

There have been a number of reports, some of which appear to have come from the NSA itself, that the secretive organization can decrypt what should be unbreakable codes.

It now appears that this is not some sort of mathematics breakthrough. Instead,a recent paper suggests the basic algorithm used for key exchange appear to be flawed.

They further suggest, and I agree, that the NSA is to some degree responsible for the ubiquity of this security flaw:

There have been rumors for years that the NSA can decrypt a significant fraction of encrypted Internet traffic. In 2012, James Bamford published an article quoting anonymous former NSA officials stating that the agency had achieved a “computing breakthrough” that gave them “the ability to crack current public encryption.” The Snowden documents also hint at some extraordinary capabilities: they show that NSA has built extensive infrastructure to intercept and decrypt VPN traffic and suggest that the agency can decrypt at least some HTTPS and SSH connections on demand.

However, the documents do not explain how these breakthroughs work, and speculation about possible backdoors or broken algorithms has been rampant in the technical community. Yesterday at ACM CCS, one of the leading security research venues, we and twelve coauthors presented a paper that we think solves this technical mystery.

The key is, somewhat ironically, Diffie-Hellman key exchange, an algorithm that we and many others have advocated as a defense against mass surveillance. Diffie-Hellman is a cornerstone of modern cryptography used for VPNs, HTTPS websites, email, and many other protocols. Our paper shows that, through a confluence of number theory and bad implementation choices, many real-world users of Diffie-Hellman are likely vulnerable to state-level attackers.

For the nerds in the audience, here’s what’s wrong: If a client and server are speaking Diffie-Hellman, they first need to agree on a large prime number with a particular form. There seemed to be no reason why everyone couldn’t just use the same prime, and, in fact, many applications tend to use standardized or hard-coded primes. But there was a very important detail that got lost in translation between the mathematicians and the practitioners: an adversary can perform a single enormous computation to “crack” a particular prime, then easily break any individual connection that uses that prime.


Based on the evidence we have, we can’t prove for certain that NSA is doing this. However, our proposed Diffie-Hellman break fits the known technical details about their large-scale decryption capabilities better than any competing explanation. For instance, the Snowden documents show that NSA’s VPN decryption infrastructure involves intercepting encrypted connections and passing certain data to supercomputers, which return the key. The design of the system goes to great lengths to collect particular data that would be necessary for an attack on Diffie-Hellman but not for alternative explanations, like a break in AES or other symmetric crypto. While the documents make it clear that NSA uses other attack techniques, like software and hardware “implants,” to break crypto on specific targets, these don’t explain the ability to passively eavesdrop on VPN traffic at a large scale.

Since weak use of Diffie-Hellman is widespread in standards and implementations, it will be many years before the problems go away, even given existing security recommendations and our new findings. In the meantime, other large governments potentially can implement similar attacks, if they haven’t already.

Our findings illuminate the tension between NSA’s two missions, gathering intelligence and defending U.S. computer security. If our hypothesis is correct, the agency has been vigorously exploiting weak Diffie-Hellman, while taking only small steps to help fix the problem. On the defensive side, NSA has recommended that implementors should transition to elliptic curve cryptography, which isn’t known to suffer from this loophole, but such recommendations tend to go unheeded absent explicit justifications or demonstrations. This problem is compounded because the security community is hesitant to take NSA recommendations at face value, following apparent efforts to backdoor cryptographic standards.

My money is on the NSA creating this problem, rather than it merely exploiting it.

Based on what I’ve read, it seems more consistent with the social norms of that organization.

Not a Surprise

Speaking of things that are now “Inoperative”, it appears that the it is no longer the policy of Her Majesty’s Secret Service to not spy on members of Parliament:

The Investigatory Powers Tribunal (IPT), the UK body that hears complaints about intelligence agencies, has ruled that the communications of MPs and peers are not protected by the Wilson Doctrine, which was thought to exempt them from surveillance by GCHQ and other intelligence agencies. Back in July, the UK government had already admitted that the Wilson Doctrine “cannot work sensibly” when mass surveillance is taking place, but today’s decision goes further by explicitly rejecting the idea of any formal immunity from spying.

As The Guardian explains: “The [Wilson] convention is named after former prime minister Harold Wilson, who pledged in 1966 that MPs’ and peers’ phones would not be tapped. In December 1997, the then prime minister Tony Blair said the doctrine extended to electronic communication, including emails.” In its judgment, the IPT wrote: “We are satisfied that the Wilson Doctrine is not enforceable in English law by the Claimants or other MPs or peers by way of legitimate expectation.” The IPT agreed it was “a political statement in a political context, encompassing the ambiguity that is sometimes to be found in political statements.”


One of the two Green party politicians who had brought the complaint to the IPT, MP Caroline Lucas, said after the ruling: “This judgement is a body blow for parliamentary democracy. My constituents have a right to know that their communications with me aren’t subject to blanket surveillance—yet this ruling suggests that they have no such protection. Parliamentarians must be a trusted source for whistleblowers and those wishing to challenge the actions of the Government.” She went on to call for new legislation providing protection to MPs, peers, Members of the Scottish Parliament, Welsh Assembly Members, and MEPs from extra-judicial spying.

Live in obedient fear, citizen.

Who Knew that Hillary was the Peace Candidate in 2008?

So, to paraphrase Ron Zeigler,* any statements that Barack Obama about ending Any war that the US is involved in are now inoperative:

Barack Obama was elected to end the grueling ground wars of his predecessor, but he will leave office entrenching a military era defined by an inability to achieve either victory or extrication.

Obama’s decision to scrap his long-deferred ambition to end the US military commitment to Afghanistan reflects a twilight period in US warfare: after more than a decade, military commanders are unable to defeat an insurgency or field an indigenous proxy force and political leaders are unwilling to accept the blame of losing a war or openly committing the US to indefinite combat.

The result is a fudge that favors a rump force based on dubious military necessity and a hope that, at some point, the local force – whether in Afghanistan, Iraq or elsewhere – will be able to shoulder the burden.

While “no one wants to quote, ‘lose a war’ on their watch”, said retired army lieutenant general Dan Bolger, who once led the training of the Afghan army, the US is “kidding ourselves – the US-led counterinsurgency has already been lost, the Afghans’ counterinsurgency is on. We have to decide: do we contribute to it, and how?”

The latest version of Obama’s plans for Afghanistan is to retain the 9,800 troops presently in the country through most of 2016, with the aspiration to reduce this number to 5,500 by the time Obama leaves office. These will be based at Bagram, north of Kabul; Jalalabad in the east; and Kandahar in the south.

Reflecting the military’s wariness of abandoning Afghanistan, the revision follows a pattern established throughout Obama’s presidency: to tell the American public that the “tide of war is receding”, as his 2012 campaign mantra put it, while not actually stopping it.


Obama has now given up on ending US wars. Like Bush before him, he passes off to his successor the decision whether to disentangle or escalate, and his likely successors – except for longshot candidate Bernie Sanders – are more hawkish than he is.

He is maybe the closest thing to a peace president that the US has elected in a generation. But along with Obama’s geographically boundless campaign of quasi-assassination, twilight wars are his legacy.

I think that Spencer Ackerman is being too charitable here.

Based on his actions, as opposed to his words, it is entirely reasonable to conclude that he was never a “Peace President”, he just played on on TV.

Dishonesty is the explanation which best describes the actions.

*Let me Google that for you.


It turns out that Fox News’s favorite ex-CIA expert on Benghazi just got busted by the FBI for lying about being a CIA operative:

Wayne Simmons has been arrested after a federal grand jury indicted him on “charges of major fraud against the United States, wire fraud, and making false statements to the government,” including allegedly falsely claiming he worked for the CIA. Simmons was a frequent and favorite guest on Fox News, and was one of the conservative media’s purported experts on the 2012 Benghazi attacks. Simmons joined several prominent conservative activists and media figures in calling for the House to convene a Benghazi Select Committee.

He’s what the US Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia had to say:

Wayne Shelby Simmons, 62, of Annapolis, Maryland, a former occasional on-air commentator who appeared on a cable news network, was arrested today after being indicted by a federal grand jury on charges of major fraud against the United States, wire fraud, and making false statements to the government.

According to the indictment, Simmons falsely claimed he worked as an “Outside Paramilitary Special Operations Officer” for the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) from 1973 to 2000, and used that false claim in an attempt to obtain government security clearances and work as a defense contractor, including at one point successfully getting deployed overseas as an intelligence advisor to senior military personnel. According to the indictment, Simmons also falsely claimed on national security forms that his prior arrests and criminal convictions were directly related to his supposed intelligence work for the CIA, and that he had previously held a top secret security clearance. The indictment also alleges that Simmons defrauded an individual victim out of approximately $125,000 in connection with a bogus real estate investment.

Simmons will make his initial appearance at 2 p.m. today in front of Magistrate Judge John F. Anderson at the federal courthouse in Alexandria.

If convicted, Simmons faces a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison on the wire fraud counts, 10 years in prison on the major fraud against the U.S. counts, and 5 years in prison on the false statements count. The maximum statutory sentences are prescribed by Congress and are provided here for informational purposes, as the sentencing of the defendant will be determined by the court based on the advisory Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors.

So, do you think that Anyone at Fox News will make even the briefest mention of this?

I’m just hoping that Trevor Noah or Larry Wilmore get their teeth into this.

That would be epic.

What a Stupid F%$#ing Idea

If I had a time machine, I would go back in time to find the father of whoever came up with the idea of adding copy protections to JPEG images, and kick that man in the nuts so hard that he would be rendered sterile:

So much for hopes that the tech industry would back away from copyright protection any time soon. The Joint Photographic Experts Group recently launched a Privacy & Security initiative that potentially brings digital rights management (DRM) to regular JPEG images, not just the specialized JPEG 2000 format. The proposal could protect your privacy by encrypting metadata (such as where you took a photo), but it could also prevent you from copying or opening some pictures. Needless to say, that opens up a can of worms when it comes to fair use rights. If someone slapped DRM on a photo, you couldn’t use it for news, research or remixed art — many of the internet memes you know wouldn’t be possible.

This is so unbelievably stupid.

More Thoughts on the Last Night’s Debates

In terms of debate performance, I will have some observations:

  • I think that Martin O’Malley had the best debate performance, even my son who dislikes him felt that, but that Sanders “won” the debate, because he accomplished his positive objectives more completely.  Clinton played defense, which is not surprising for a front runner. I do not think that she “won”, but she clearly did not “lose”, which is even more important to her.
  • If CNN had to use the hapless Don Lemon, giving him the do nothing role of introducing questions from social media was the least bad way of using him.
  • Dana Bash was literally asking questions that were taken directly from the Chamber of Commerce.  As a journalist, you should at least rephrase the questions.
  • I was unimpressed with Cooper as moderator, but he wasn’t bad, which is actually a good place for a debate moderator to be.
  • His question about which enemy the participants were proudest of was a very good one. It seemed gimmicky, but it meant that the responses were relatively short, but that they were also illuminating.
  • O’Malley’s answer to this question, “The National Rifle Association,” was arguably the best answer of the evening. It was short, to the point, and created the impression that he was willing to stand up to an organization that is widely loathed by the vast bulk of the people who would have the slightest inclination to vote Democrat.
  • A close second for the best answer was when, in response to Chafee citing the 99-1 vote for the Patriot act, Bernie Sanders said, with no small amount of pride, that he was that one Senator.
  • Jim Webb’s answer to the “enemies” question was arguably the worst of the evening. I understand how he wanted to highlight that he was the only one on stage who did active duty, but his pride on killing a former opponent on the battlefield was just kind of squicky, particularly with the grin that followed.
  • A close second on bad answers was the two times (repealing Glass-Steagall & the Patriot Act) that Chafee tried to justify a vote because there was nearly unanimous support in the Senate.
  • Chafee’s debate performance did nothing to convince me that he has a coherent reason for running for the Presidency.
  • Webb was trying to troll his way to the presidency. This is not a winning strategy when the troll of trolls, Donald Trump is in the race.

In any case, my opinions, and five bucks, will get you a small latte.

More Truth from a Congressional Republican

Is someone putting Scopolamine in their drinking water?

Because we just had a 2nd Republican Congressman admit that the Benghazi investigation is entirely a political ploy:

A second House Republican has now conceded that the overarching purpose of the House Select Committee on Benghazi has been to attack former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

In September, House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) argued that one of House Republicans’ successes has been using the Benghazi Committee to drive down Clinton’s poll numbers. Though McCarthy tried to walk back his controversial comments, Rep. Richard Hanna (R-NY) argued on Wednesday that the Majority Leader had it right to begin with.

“Sometimes the biggest sin you can commit in D.C. is to tell the truth,” Hanna said in an interview on Keeler in the Morning, a radio show in upstate New York. The third-term congressman paused for a moment, perhaps recognizing the importance of what he was about to say, before going on to agree with McCarthy’s original statement.

“This may not be politically correct, but I think that there was a big part of this investigation that was designed to go after people and an individual, Hillary Clinton,” Hanna said.

He explained further why he believes the Benghazi Committee’s purpose has been in part to attack Clinton. “After what Kevin McCarthy said, it’s difficult to accept at least a part of it was not,” Hanna said. “I think that’s the way Washington works. But you’d like to expect more from a committee that’s spent millions of dollars and tons of time.”

Dr. Peter Venkman: This city is headed for a disaster of biblical proportions.
Mayor: What do you mean, “biblical”?
Dr Ray Stantz: What he means is Old Testament, Mr. Mayor, real wrath of God type stuff.
Dr. Peter Venkman: Exactly.
Dr Ray Stantz: Fire and brimstone coming down from the skies! Rivers and seas boiling!
Dr. Egon Spengler: Forty years of darkness! Earthquakes, volcanoes…
Winston Zeddemore: The dead rising from the grave!
Dr. Peter Venkman: Human sacrifice, dogs and cats living together… mass hysteria!

Weird that we are having a sudden outbreak of truth ……… from Republicans.

This is clearly a sign of the apocalypse.

If this continues, things should get very interesting.

A Good Start

For the first time ever, a gun shop has successfully been sued for selling guns recklessly:

A jury late Tuesday found Badger Guns and its owner liable in the wounding of two Milwaukee police officers in a first-of-its-kind verdict that was being watched nationwide.

Jurors found Badger Guns broke four laws when a clerk sold a gun that was used to shoot Officer Bryan Norberg and former Officer Graham Kunisch in the head in 2009.

After nine hours of deliberation, the jury announced a verdict that included nearly $6 million in compensatory and punitive damages to the two officers. There will be an appeal.

This high-profile case was only the second of its kind nationwide to make it to a jury since Congress passed a law a decade ago holding gun dealers and manufacturers immune from such lawsuits. In the first, a jury found in favor of a gun store in Alaska.

The officers’ attorney, Patrick Dunphy, said Norberg was “overwhelmed with emotion” by the verdict, while Kunisch, who suffered from brain damage in the shooting, was stoic — as he was for all of the trial. Norberg and Kunisch left the courthouse without commenting.

Dunphy said he knew the case would be tough because of the strong opinions around guns, but it was important to hold this business accountable for making a gun sale so riddled with red flags.

“I didn’t want to send a message, I wanted to represent my clients, these two police officers,” Dunphy said. “Will it change the way things are done around the country? Time will tell.”

Brett Heaton Juarez, the jury’s foreperson, said the jurors all agreed the business practices of Badger Guns were shoddy. He recounted testimony from the owners that they didn’t train workers, didn’t have policies and procedures they regularly followed, had not read federal regulations and didn’t even know everything that was required on federal gun-selling forms.


Badger Guns and Badger Outdoors were top sellers of crime guns recovered in Milwaukee for more than a decade. In 2005, Badger Outdoors was the top seller of crime guns in the nation with 537 such weapons recovered.

Such gun trace data has not been released recently because of a secrecy measure passed by Congress.

Badger Guns’ license was revoked by ATF in 2011 but the Jacob Collins transaction was not cited as a violation, so the jury did not hear that the store’s license was revoked.


Badger Guns and Badger Outdoors were top sellers of crime guns recovered in Milwaukee for more than a decade. In 2005, Badger Outdoors was the top seller of crime guns in the nation with 537 such weapons recovered.

Such gun trace data has not been released recently because of a secrecy measure passed by Congress.

Badger Guns’ license was revoked by ATF in 2011 but the Jacob Collins transaction was not cited as a violation, so the jury did not hear that the store’s license was revoked.

Michael Allan, Walter’s other son, now runs a gun store in the same location.

Much of the nearly three-week trial focused on the events on a Saturday in May 2009. Collins came to Badger Guns on that day to buy a gun for Julius Burton, who was too young to buy a handgun from a store.

Dunphy laid out what he called telltale signs of a straw buy: Burton was in the store and pointed to the gun he wanted; Collins initially marked that he was not the buyer of the gun on the form, but was allowed to change that — and also change his address; Collins and Burton left the store to get more cash to pay for the gun; Collins didn’t present an ID when he picked up the gun.

After the verdict, Dunphy said he thought the most telling testimony came from Badger Outdoors co-owner Beatovic, who said there were red flags in the sale of the gun to Collins.

Badger in its various incarnations and aliases has been one of the most irresponsible gun stores in the nation for decades.

It’s nice that they Finally have to pay for Some their misdeeds, but by the same token, it is revolting that it has taken so long.

In a just world, the whole Allen Family would have been bankrupted and/or in jail many years ago.