Month: January 2016


After nearly a decade of parallel construction and lying to courts and defense attorneys, the first case regarding whether the use of a cell tower simulator (aka “Stingray”) needs a warrant for its application has made it to a federal appelate court:

A criminal case examining the Fourth Amendment implications of cell-site simulators, also known as stingrays, has finally reached the 7th Circuit for the first time. Now one step below the Supreme Court, this case also likely marks the first time that warrantless use of stingrays has reached any federal appellate court.

Stingrays determine a phone’s location by spoofing a cell tower. In some cases, they can intercept calls and text messages. Once deployed, the devices intercept data from a target phone along with information from other phones within the vicinity. At times, police have falsely claimed the use of a confidential informant while in fact deploying this particularly sweeping and intrusive surveillance tool.

The 7th Circuit will now consider a 2013 case known as United States v. Patrick. It involves a Milwaukee man wanted on a probation violation who was suddenly located and arrested by local police with help from the FBI. There is very strong evidence to suggest that he was apprehended through the warrantless use of a stingray.

Patrick’s attorney, Chris Donovan, filed his opening brief in the appeal earlier this month. The case is so notable that the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) also filed an amicus brief earlier this week. The organizations note that the Fourth Amendment of the United States Constitution requires that search warrants demonstrate probable cause of a crime. And, they note, Wisconsin passed a 2014 state law mandating warrants for stingray deployment.

It’s about f%$#ing time.

Law enforcement has been trying to conceal their warrantless use of this devices, because they are afraid that the courts will require warrants for this.

I hope that their concerns are justified.

It’s not that big deal to get a warrant, but lazy incompetent cops want short cuts.

Time to Get Your Geek ON

Click for Slide Show

The Smithsonian is conducting a full refurbishment of the original 11 foot long Star Ship Enterprise model from the original series.

They are going whole hog on this, using multi-spectral and chemical analysis to determine original colors, as well as observing colors that were preserved in between pieces of the assembly:

The final painting of the Enterprise model will begin in April, using newly discovered reference photos from our appeal to Trek fans in the fall. The team will also build new nacelle domes with LED lights to mimic the spinning effect seen on television. For reference, they will first build a 1:1 mock-up of the original mechanism, which utilized mirrors, motors, nails, and Christmas lights. Conservator Ariel O’Connor explains, “Although the original nacelle dome lights did not survive, we can replicate the original effect in a way that is safe to install on the model. The LED lights can be programmed to match the original VFX footage while eliminating the burnt-out bulbs, extreme heat, and motor problems that troubled the original lights. It is a wonderful solution to re-light the nacelles while ensuring the model’s safety and longevity.”

The Enterprise model has been carefully separated into its individual components—saucer section; secondary hull; port and starboard nacelles and pylons; deflector dish array; hangar bay doors; and the bridge. Each section is being meticulously studied to determine its construction and condition and will be documented with visible, ultraviolet, and infrared photography. We completed X-ray photography, with help from our colleagues at the Smithsonian Zoological Park, in spring 2015.

Needless to say, once they are done, I will seriously get down to the Air and Space museum to get my geek on.

H/t Ars Technica.

It Was Inevitable

It seems that whenever you have a conspiracy theory nutcase, they will eventually descend into antisemitism and/or Holocaust denial.

Case in point, Oscar winning director Oliver Stone:

Jewish control of the media is preventing an open discussion of the Holocaust, prominent Hollywood director Oliver Stone told the Sunday Times, adding that the U.S. Jewish lobby was controlling Washington’s foreign policy for years.

In the Sunday interview, Stone reportedly said U.S. public opinion was focused on the Holocaust as a result of the “Jewish domination of the media,” adding that an upcoming film of him aims to put Adolf Hitler and Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin “in context.”

“There’s a major lobby in the United States,” Stone said, adding that “they are hard workers. They stay on top of every comment, the most powerful lobby in Washington.”

The famed Hollywood director of such films as “Platoon” and “JFK,” also said that while “Hitler was a Frankenstein,” there was also a “Dr Frankenstein.”

“German industrialists, the Americans and the British. He had a lot of support,” Stone told the Sunday Times, adding that “Hitler did far more damage to the Russians than the Jewish people, 25 or 30 [million killed].”

Referring to the alleged influence of the powerful Jewish lobby on U.S. foreign policy, Stone said that Israel had distorted “United States foreign policy for years,” adding he felt U.S. policy toward Iran was “horrible.”

So not a surprise.

Quote of the Day

I owe almost my entire Wall Street career to the Clintons.

—Chris Arnade

Mr. Arnade continues, “I am not alone; most bankers owe their careers, and their wealth, to them. Over the last 25 years they – with the Clintons it is never just Bill or Hillary – implemented policies that placed Wall Street at the center of the Democratic economic agenda, turning it from a party against Wall Street to a party of Wall Street.”

He goes on to explain that the history of the Clintons is that they are creatures of big finance, and he uses the 1995 bailout of Mexico, which was really a bailout of big finance.

If you like Rubinomics, and believe that an excessively financialized economy is the future of America, by all means, vote for her in the primary.

Me, I’m hoping that my vote matters when Maryland votes on 26 April.

Hillary Clinton is Scared, and Debbie Wasserman-Schultz Loses

It appears that the DNC is reversing itself, and there will be more debates:

After days of jostling over whether to meet for more debates, and how many, aides to Hillary Clinton and Senator Bernie Sanders have reached an agreement, of sorts, they said Saturday: The two will meet next week in New Hampshire and will hold three more debates thereafter.

A Clinton aide, speaking on the condition of anonymity to discuss continuing negotiations, confirmed the tentative agreement for four additional debates, which was first reported by BuzzFeed.

The two campaigns have engaged in a measure of brinkmanship in recent days, with Mr. Sanders’s team one-upping Mrs. Clinton’s by saying it would agree to an additional debate in New Hampshire if her team agreed to more beyond that.

Michael Briggs, a Sanders spokesman, said the agreement was still being discussed. “I’m optimistic,” he said, but he added, “The details are still being worked out.”

The Democratic National Committee has yet to weigh in on whether it would sanction the added debates.

The New Hampshire debate next week was originally scheduled as an unsanctioned one, sponsored by MSNBC and the New Hampshire Union Leader newspaper. But a Democratic National Committee official said The Union Leader would not be a sponsor.

Still, it would mean a highly watched showdown between Mrs. Clinton and Mr. Sanders before the Feb. 9 primary in New Hampshire.

After working in 2015 to restrict the number of debates, Mrs. Clinton’s team has since expressed regret about that as Mr. Sanders surged in the polls, especially because she has generally delivered strong performances in the debates.

I don’t know who wins in this arrangement.

Clinton is clearly more comfortable debating, but the more that people see of Sanders, the more that they like him. (OK, this is a win for O’Malley, because he has nothing to lose in the debates, and everything to gain)

I can tell you who loses, however, Debbie Wasserman-Schultz, the incompetent and widely loathed head of the DNC, who had been steadfast in resisting debates after scheduling a pittance on weekends up against things like NFL playoff games.

This is an Inspired Protest

Britain has an official board, the British Board of Film Classification (BBFC), to review and censor movies.

It charges the film makers for the costs of censoring their movies, to the tune of  £101.50 plys £7.09 per minute of film.

British film maker and journalist Charlie Lyne had a kickstarter to make a protest film, and when he totaled up the costs, he submitted a 10+ hour of film of paint drying:

The British Board of Film Classification (BBFC) has determined that Charlie Lyne’s 10-hour Paint Drying contains “no material likely to offend or harm”, and has accordingly awarded it a “suitable for all” U certificate.

Nicely described by the BBFC as “a film showing paint drying on a wall”, Paint Drying is the result of a Kickstarter campaign aimed at highlighting the “prohibitively expensive” cost of presenting cinematic works for classification.

The BBFC charges a £101.50 submission fee and £7.09 per minute of film. However, it is obliged to sit through every single frame of material, so Lyne decided he’d make the censors work for their money.

He originally planned to raise £109 for a symbolic one-minute submission of paint drying, but ultimately attracted pledges of £5,936, financing an extended 607-minute submission to the BBFC.

It took 2 days for the BBFC to review the film.

Joseph Heller is Spinning in His Grave

Admiral Ted “Twig” Branch is the head of Naval Intelligence, but for the past 2 years, while at this position, his clearance has been suspended, and so he cannot read, review, or discuss classified material:

For more than two years, the Navy’s intelligence chief has been stuck with a major handicap: He’s not allowed to know any secrets.

Vice Adm. Ted “Twig” Branch has been barred from reading, seeing or hearing classified information since November 2013, when the Navy learned from the Justice Department that his name had surfaced in a giant corruption investigation involving a foreign defense contractor and scores of Navy personnel.

Worried that Branch was on the verge of being indicted, Navy leaders suspended his access to classified materials. They did the same to one of his deputies, Rear Adm. Bruce F. Loveless, the Navy’s director of intelligence operations.

More than 800 days later, neither Branch nor Loveless has been charged. But neither has been cleared, either. Their access to classified information remains blocked.

Although the Navy transferred Loveless to a slightly less sensitive post, it kept Branch in charge of its intelligence division. That has resulted in an awkward arrangement, akin to sending a warship into battle with its skipper stuck onshore.

Branch can’t meet with other senior U.S. intelligence leaders to discuss sensitive operations, or hear updates from his staff about secret missions or projects. It can be a chore just to set foot in colleagues’ offices; in keeping with regulations, they must conduct a sweep beforehand to make sure any classified documents are locked up.

What the f%$# is wrong with the military?

The guy is forbidden by to do his job, and as opposed to doing the sane thing, and transfer him to a new post where he can do his job, you cripple a crucial department.

The idea that anyone in the Pentagon would allow this to happen for more than 2½ years is an indication that the bureaucracy and the general officer corps have become a dysfunctional carrerist dystopia.

Smedley Butler was right.  It’s a racket.

Protect and Serve, My Ass

What a surprise. Chicago cops are actively sabotaging their dashcams:

Why are so many police dashcam videos silent?

Chicago Police Department officers stashed microphones in their squad car glove boxes. They pulled out batteries. Microphone antennas got busted or went missing. And sometimes, dashcam systems didn’t have any microphones at all, DNAinfo Chicago has learned.

Police officials last month blamed the absence of audio in 80 percent of dashcam videos on officer error and “intentional destruction.”

A DNAinfo Chicago review of more than 1,800 police maintenance logs sheds light on the no-sound syndrome plaguing Police Department videos — including its most notorious dashcam case.

Maintenance records of the squad car used by Jason Van Dyke, who shot and killed Laquan McDonald, and his partner, Joseph Walsh, show monthslong delays for two dashcam repairs, including a long wait to fix “intentional damage.”

On June 17, 2014, police technicians reported fixing a dashcam wiring issue in police vehicle No. 6412, the squad shared by Van Dyke and Walsh, about three months after it was reported broken, records show.

A day later, the same vehicle’s dashcam system was reported busted again. It took until Oct. 8, 2014, to complete repairs of what technicians deemed “intentional damage,” according to reports.

Just 12 days later, on Oct. 20, 2014, dashcam video recorded from squad car No. 6412 on the night Van Dyke shot and killed McDonald did not record audio. The video that went viral showing Van Dyke killing Laquan was taken from a different squad car, but it, too, had no audio.


Police officials quickly placed the blame on officers and shift supervisors responsible for making sure dashcam systems work properly before officers go on patrol.

In December, interim Police Supt. John Escalante warned the rank and file that they would be disciplined for failing to follow proper dashcam protocol. Weeks later, he followed through by hitting some officers and supervisors with formal reprimands and up-to-three-day suspensions.

“To boil this down, the Police Department will not tolerate officers maliciously destructing equipment,” police spokesman Anthony Guglielmi said.

Note that there are threats, but when the president of the local police union complains, he does not complain about actual punishments, just the threat of punishment.

This isn’t going to be fixed until someone from the outside excises the rot at the department’s core.

The Overton Window has Shifted

The editorial board of the New York Times has come out in favor of a financial transaction tax.

It does not get any more establishment than that:

A financial transaction tax — a per-trade charge on the buying and selling of stocks, bonds and derivatives — is an idea whose time has finally come. It has begun percolating in the Democratic presidential campaign, with all three candidates offering proposals.

Hillary Clinton and Martin O’Malley have proposed a worthy but narrow tax on certain high-frequency trades, which generate windfall profits on small and fleeting differences in prices at the expense of ordinary investors and market stability. Bernie Sanders supports a hefty tax on a broader range of transactions to raise revenue from Wall Street, also a worthy goal, but his proposal would be likely to squeeze investors too hard. Republicans have not engaged the debate, except to say no to taxes no matter what.

A well-designed financial transaction tax — one that applies a tiny tax rate to an array of transactions and is split between buyers and sellers — would be a progressive way to raise substantial revenue without damaging the markets. A new study by researchers at the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center has found that a 0.1 percent tax rate could bring in $66 billion a year, with 40 percent coming from the top 1 percent of income earners and 75 percent from the top 20 percent. As the rate rises, however, traders would most likely curtail their activity. The tax could bring in $76 billion a year if it was set at 0.3 percent, but above that rate, trading would probably decrease and the total revenue raised would start to fall.

The burden of this tax would be concentrated at the top, because that’s where the ownership of financial assets is concentrated. However, individuals who buy and hold investments, including those who invest in index funds that trade infrequently, would be largely unaffected. Pension funds that devote a portion of their portfolios to speculative trading, often through hedge funds, would be hit, but some pension funds have already stopped using hedge funds because the returns do not justify the costs. A financial transaction tax that encouraged other pension funds to follow suit could actually benefit pension participants in the long run.

Such a tax would also bring the United States more in line with other countries. There are already financial transaction taxes in Britain, Switzerland and South Korea as well as in Hong Kong and other developed markets and emerging nations, generally at rates of 0.1 percent to 0.5 percent on stock transfers. In addition, 10 countries in the European Union, including Germany and France, have agreed to apply a common financial transaction tax starting in 2017, though relentless lobbying by investment banks and hedge funds threatens to delay and even derail the effort.

There are a number of arguments against this.

The strongest one is that it will collect less revenue than expected, because it would disincentivize speculation.

As if that were a bad thing.

Today in Blithering Idiocy

New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof is wondering where the compassionate conservatives have gone in the Republican Party:

Back in 2000, George W. Bush did something fascinating: On the campaign trail he preached “compassionate conservatism,” telling wealthy Republicans about the travails of Mexican-American immigrants and declaring to women in pearls that “the hardest job in America” is that of a single mother.

Those well-heeled audiences looked baffled, but applauded.

That instinct to show a little heart helped elect Bush but then largely disappeared from Republican playbooks and policy. Yet now, amid the Republican Party’s civil war, there are intriguing initiatives by the House speaker, Paul Ryan, and some other conservatives to revive an interest in the needy.

Has the columnist, aka Mr. “Sh%$ for Brains” actually read these proposals?

They are all the same:  “Make the alternative starvation, and the poor will pull themselves up by their bootstraps.

As fellow Times pundit Paul Krugman noted Eight Years Ago, “Compassionate Conservatism” was, “A dog-whistle to the religious right:

Oy. Why are political writers still unaware that Bush’s phrase “compassionate conservatism” wasn’t an acceptance of the Great Society, but rather a dog-whistle to the religious right? It comes from Marvin Olasky’s The Tragedy of American Compassion. From the Publisher’s Weekly review:

Compassion means tough love in which those who give must demand self-help from those who receive … Olasky adds a proviso that the giver too must be personally involved. He holds up the example of 19th-century charity workers, whose religious beliefs made them compassionate and willing to deal intimately with the poor … Olasky does not blame the system for poverty. He faults the poor, along with social workers back to Jane Addams and the founders of the settlement house movement.

Paul Ryan and the rest of them have no plan beyond making the poor even poorer.

My conclusion is that Nicholas Kristof is in a competition with Tom Friedman for dumb-assery.


Maine’s Governor, Paul LePage, aka the “Human Bowling Jacket”, is proposing a return to the guillotine:

Maine Gov. Paul LePage says his state is too easy on drug crimes, suggesting it should bring back the guillotine for serious offenders.

The Republican governor, known for his controversial statements, was speaking on local radio Tuesday about combating the drug epidemic in his state.

“What I think we ought to do is bring the guillotine back,” he told WVOM. “We could have public executions and have, you know, we could even have (guessing) which hole it falls in.”

He said that he was “all in” on fighting drug criminals and said a recent proposal to establish a minimum sentence of four years for drug traffickers was too lenient.

“I think the death penalty should be appropriate for people that kill Mainers,” LePage said.


Even as the hosts of the show tried to wrap the interview, LePage interrupted to show his resolve, suggesting the guillotine be used for public executions, joking that the idea was part of his French ancestry.

“I like French history,” he said.

It’s only the latest controversial comments from LePage. Earlier this month, he made waves talking about drug dealers in his state.

“These are guys with the name D-Money, Smoothie, Shifty,” he said. “They come from Connecticut and New York, they come up here, they sell their heroin, then they go back home. Incidentally, half the time they impregnate a young, white girl before they leave.”

Seriously, can the legislators of Maine please impeach his flabby white ass?

We already know that he has abused his official power to engage in a personal vendetta, and the investigation is ongoing, but it needs to move faster.

This guy is a clear and present danger to the state of Maine.

H/t Charlie Pierce.

Trump: 1 — Fox News: 0

I think that Donald Trump’s beef with Megyn Kelly is stupid, and his promised boycott of the next debate because she will be a moderator is more about tactics than any real sense of offense.

It’s a win-win for Donald.

He is clearly would be the one on stage with the most to lose, and by standing up to Fox, he reinforces the image that he wishes to cultivate: That he is beholden to no one, because he is dissing what is arguably the kingmaker of Republican Presidential politics:

Instead of attending the debate, “We’ll have an event here in Iowa, with potentially another network, to raise money for wounded warriors,” campaign manager Corey Lewandowski said. “And Fox will go from probably having 24 million viewers to about 2 million.”

The fracas escalated quickly on Tuesday, but was the culmination of months of tension between the GOP frontrunner and the Fox News host Megyn Kelly.


Trump’s apparent decision changes the dynamic for Thursday’s event, which is the last GOP debate before the all-important Iowa caucuses.

Without Trump, Ted Cruz will take center stage. Cruz also challenged Trump to go mano a mano.


The disagreement came to a head on Tuesday afternoon. Around 1 p.m. Trump polled his fans on Twitter, asking, “Should I do the GOP debate?”

The poll suggested a real reluctance to attend, perhaps because Trump, as the frontrunner, arguably has the most to lose on Thursday night. The respondents were evenly split, with about half saying he should skip it.

In an Instagram video that coincided with his poll, Trump said, “Megyn Kelly’s really biased against me. She knows that, I know that, everybody knows that. Do you really think she can be fair at a debate?”

The other winner here is Ms. Kelly, a phony journalist who can use this incident to better pretend that she is a real journalist.

My prediction* is that Trump wins Iowa and New Hampshire, and the then runs the table to become the Republican nominee.

I need to update my f%$#ing passport.

*With the obvious caveat that Saroff electoral predictions have frequently been very, very wrong.

Finally! Part Deux

Following the arrests of the Y’all Qaeda militants yesterday, the FBI has blockaded the remainder of the militants at the Malheur refuge:

Federal agents sealed off an Oregon wildlife refuge occupied by armed protesters Wednesday, hours after authorities arrested several members of that group and killed one of the most prominent occupiers.

The frenzy of activity at Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in Harney County marked a sudden escalation in the ongoing standoff that has simmered for more than three weeks, ever since a small group of men and women took control of a remote facility in southeastern Oregon.

Officials set up checkpoints and roadblocks around the refuge, saying that people who tried to travel inside would be arrested and calling for the armed people remaining there to leave. That message was echoed by the leader of the group later in the day. But law enforcement officials suggested Wednesday that the situation at the refuge would not continue indefinitely and placed blame for the fatal encounter a day earlier on those occupying the refuge.

“They had ample opportunity to leave the refuge peacefully,” FBI Special Agent in Charge Greg Bretzing said at a news conference late Wednesday morning. “And as the FBI and our partners have clearly demonstrated, actions are not without consequences.”

They really should have done this weeks ago.

LaVoy Finicum might be alive if they had not held off, and given those inbred morons ime to develop a sense of impunity.

Instead, they were allowed to come and go as they pleased  ……… At an occupation.

That was some seriously weak tea from law enforcement.

Business as Usual in the Charter School Industry

The man at the center of dozens of charter school deals in southern California has been arraigned for corruption and self-dealing:

By the time Steve Van Zant left the Mountain Empire Unified School District in 2013, he had overseen the authorization of more than a dozen charter schools to operate in other districts throughout San Diego County — with several going on to hire his education consulting firm.

All the while, Van Zant coached at least one other district on how to approve out-of-town charters, according to emails obtained by the San Diego Union-Tribune. As more districts approved far-flung charters, Van Zant’s EdHive consultant business took on some of the schools as clients.

The San Diego district attorney’s office arraigned Van Zant on Jan. 15 on a felony conflict-of-interest charge from an undisclosed incident in May 2010 while he was superintendent of Mountain Empire.

The district attorney’s office declined to disclose details of its investigation, and it is unclear whether the charge relates to his work with charter schools. According to the criminal complaint, Van Zant violated laws that prohibited him “from being financially interested in contracts made by him in his official capacity.”

The Union-Tribune has tracked a charter empire built by Van Zant by taking advantage of what some call a shortcoming in state law that gives districts a financial incentive to place charters in other school districts. By placing charters outside its boundaries, a district can raise new funds — up to 3 percent of a charter’s revenue — without any threat to enrollment or state attendance funds.

More than 80 out-of-district charters have been approved in San Diego County, the vast majority of which were authorized by small East County districts — several with help from Van Zant, who includes a list of charter clients on his LinkedIn professional network profile.


When Van Zant accepted the job in 2013 as superintendent of the Sausalito Marin City School District, he was positioned to devote even more time growing his consulting business. He would commute from his Mission Bay home for the three-day-a-week position in Northern California with a starting salary of $165,000 and still run EdHive, which recently opened an office in Symphony Towers in downtown San Diego.

The EdHive website says it can “find an authorizing district for your charter and cut a deal that provides the financial incentive for the district and still save your school money” among services such as negotiating leases and setting salaries.


Van Zant has been placed on indefinite paid leave in Sausalito. He was seen leaving EdHive’s Symphony Towers office Friday.

There are way too many stories like this.

I know that there is an opportunity for corruption in schools of any sort, as there is with any sort of public funds, but the degree to which charter schools are a petri dish for corruption strongly implies that this is a feature of the system, not a bug.

About F%$#ing Time

They finally arrested 6 Y’all Qaeda members, including the two of the Bundy brothers:

Ammon Bundy, the leader of an armed seizure of a federal wildlife refuge in Oregon, was arrested and one was person was killed Tuesday night during a traffic stop in rural Oregon, the F.B.I. and the Oregon State Police said.

Five other people, including Mr. Bundy’s brother Ryan Bundy, were arrested, the authorities said.

The Bundy brothers and four supporters were arrested during a traffic stop along Highway 235 around 4:25 p.m., officials said in a news release. Shots were fired during the arrests, and two people who were with the Bundys were struck. One of them died, and the other was arrested and taken to a hospital with injuries that were not considered life-threatening.


Each of the defendants faces a felony charge of conspiracy to impede federal officers from discharging their official duties through the use of force, intimidation or threats. They remained in custody late Tuesday.

Arrested on Tuesday were Brian Cavalier, 44, of Bunkerville, Nev.; Shawna Cox, 59, of Kanab, Utah; and Ryan Waylen Payne, 32, of Anaconda, Mont. Joseph Donald O’Shaughnessy, 45, of Cottonwood, Ariz. was arrested in a separate incident, the authorities said. Officials said they were waiting for the medical examiner’s office to identify the person who was killed.

It is unfortunate that one of the protesters was killed: I am sure that the next right wing domestic terrorist will use it as an excuse for the deaths he causes.

According to local reports, it was LaVoy Finicum who was shot and killed, and Ryan Bundy was lightly wounded.

ON the other hand, but the impartial enforcement of the law against right wing militia types is long overdue.

In addition to occupying a federal building, they looted an Indian archaeological site, and bulldozed a road across a nature preserve.

This should have happened weeks ago.