Month: March 2016

Not an Endorsement, but Good News

In an interview with the AP, Elizabeth Warren spoke of Bernie Sanders favorably, and said that he should continue his campaign:

U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren waded deeper into the presidential primary debate Thursday, sharpening her criticism of Donald Trump and cheering on Bernie Sanders.

The Massachusetts Democrat described the Republican presidential front-runner as a failed businessman who inherited a fortune from his father and then maintained it ‘‘by cheating people, by defrauding people, and by skipping out on paying his creditors through Chapter 11’’ bankruptcy protection.


On Thursday, when asked if Bernie Sanders should drop out of the race, Warren praised the Democratic senator from Vermont.

Sanders has echoed Warren’s criticism of Wall Street and rising student load debt more than any other candidate.

‘‘He’s out there. He fights from the heart. This is who Bernie is,’’ Warren said. ‘‘He has put the right issues on the table both for the Democratic Party and for the country in general so I’m still cheering Bernie on.’’

I don’t know who she favors, but it is clear that, at a minimum, she thinks that it is important for Bernie Sanders to push Hillary Clinton’s positions away from the mindless triangulation of Bill Clinton.

But He Got Us Out of Iraq!

Ground troops are back fighting in Iraq:

The Islamic State group is trying to retake control of the oil fields it lost two years ago in the semi-autonomous region of Iraqi Kurdistan by launching rockets at Kurdish and Iraqi soldiers. In an attempt to earn back the massive amount of cash it used to fund its international terrorism in 2014, the group has focused its resources on attacking Makhmur, a city just 75 miles miles from the oil-rich city of Kirkuk. So far, the group, also known as ISIS, has succeeded in outgunning the Iraqi forces in the city, but a new contingent of American Marines might change the outcome on the ground.

“Several weeks ago, thousands of Iraqi troops began occupying a tactical assembly area in Makhmur. This is part of the force generation associated with the liberation of Mosul,” Col. Steve Warren, spokesman for the fight against ISIS in Iraq and Syria, said in a press briefing this week. Mosul is the de facto ISIS headquarters in Iraq. “These Iraqi forces, along with their coalition advisers, require force protection,” Warren said. “So we constructed a small fire base to do just that.”

The U.S. Marines in Iraq are on the front line and have been tasked with protecting Iraqi units in Makhmur — a scenario President Barack Obama wanted to avoid as long as possible during his time in office.

In a statement before meeting with congressional leaders on Sept. 3, 2013, Obama talked about his plan to combat ISIS and said: “The key point that I want to emphasize to the American people: The military plan that has been developed by our Joint Chiefs — and that I believe is appropriate — is proportional. It is limited. It does not involve boots on the ground. This is not Iraq, and this is not Afghanistan.”

There are now more than 3,200 U.S. personnel in Iraq. Many have been tasked with training Iraqi soldiers, but others, such as the new contingent of Marines, are in active battles or are leading special operations to rescue hostages. Two American soldiers have died in Iraq since the U.S. deployed soldiers last year.

Hope and change my ass.

Adventures in Bureaucracy

In Santa Clara, California, the sheriff, sick and tired of delays and costs of upgrading her jail’s camera system, set up a system with about $750 of equipment purchased from Costco:

Told it would take two more years and up to $20 million to install more security cameras in Santa Clara County’s troubled jails, Sheriff Laurie Smith decided Wednesday to whip out her Costco card and buy a few herself.

The cost for 12 cameras to test: $761.24 — which Smith put on her personal American Express.

The sheriff’s shopping spree came as three of her correctional officers appeared in court Wednesday on charges of beating a mentally ill inmate to death in August — an incident that wasn’t captured by the jail’s existing cameras and exposed troubling surveillance gaps. Smith headed to the store after she learned that the county’s plan to buy cameras through official channels could drag on for two years. She denied it was a publicity stunt.

“It’s imperative we act swiftly,” Smith said Wednesday after returning from her trip to the Costco on Coleman Avenue. “There cannot be a delay because of bureaucracy. That’s unacceptable. Anything we can do to bring additional transparency, we want to do right away.”

A county work crew was set to install them by Thursday morning in maximum-security housing pod 4A, on the fourth floor of Main Jail South.

If the Lorex high-definition 1080-pixel system is as effective as advertised at capturing details like the faces of guards and inmates, the sheriff plans to buy more to bridge the gap until the county installs a better system in 2018. She said she consulted with county building department officials before going shopping and expects to be reimbursed.

Just reimbursed?

They should crown her Queen of Santa Clara as well.

Bummer of a Birthmark, Rahm!

The Illinois Supreme Court just ruled that Rahm’s attempt to balance the city books by welshing on its pension obligations are unconstitutional:

Beleaguered Chicago taxpayers face short-term gain but long-term excruciating pain now that the Illinois Supreme Court has shot down down Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s plan to save two of four city employee pension funds.

“These modifications to pension benefits unquestionably diminish the value of the retirement annuities the members…were promised when they joined the pension system. Accordingly, based on the plain language of the Act, these annuity-reducing provisions contravene the pension protection clause’s absolute prohibition against diminishment of pension benefits and exceed the General Assembly’s authority,” the ruling states.

“A public employee’s membership in a pension system is an enforceable contractual relationship and the employee has a constitutionally-protected right to the benefits of that contractual relationship…Those constitutional protections attach at the time an individual begins employment and becomes a member of the public pension system. Thus, under its plain and unambiguous language, the clause prohibits the General Assembly from unilaterally reducing or eliminating the pension benefits.”

In the short run, Chicago will be off the hook to find $250 million in additional revenue over five years to honor its commitment to stabilize the Municipal Employees and Laborers Pension Funds.

But over time, Chicago taxpayers will be forced to bear a far heavier, backbreaking burden because employees and retirees won’t be meeting them halfway.

Here’s a though: How about rescinding the sweetheart deals and tax abatements with your friends, and make the rich folks pay their fair share of taxes.

And while you are at it, how about resigning in disgrace for covering up a murder for political gain?


The mercenary monger behind Blackwater, is being investigated for selling mercs to foreign governments and money laundering by the US Department of Justice:

Erik Prince, founder of the now-defunct mercenary firm Blackwater and current chairman of Frontier Services Group, is under investigation by the U.S. Department of Justice and other federal agencies for attempting to broker military services to foreign governments and possible money laundering, according to multiple sources with knowledge of the case.

What began as an investigation into Prince’s attempts to sell defense services in Libya and other countries in Africa has widened to a probe of allegations that Prince received assistance from Chinese intelligence to set up an account for his Libya operations through the Bank of China. The Justice Department, which declined to comment for this article, is also seeking to uncover the precise nature of Prince’s relationship with Chinese intelligence.

Prince, through his lawyer, Victoria Toensing, said he has not been informed of a federal investigation and had not offered any defense services in Libya. Toensing called the money-laundering allegations “total bullsh%$.” (%$ mine)

The Intercept interviewed more than a half dozen of Prince’s associates, including current and former business partners; four former U.S. intelligence officers; and other sources familiar with the Justice Department investigation. All of them requested anonymity to discuss these matters because there is an ongoing investigation. The Intercept also reviewed several secret proposals drafted by Prince and his closest advisers and partners offering paramilitary services to foreign entities.

For more than a year, U.S. intelligence has been monitoring Prince’s communications and movements, according to a former senior U.S. intelligence officer and a second former intelligence official briefed on the investigation. Multiple sources, including two people with business ties to Prince, told The Intercept that current government and intelligence personnel informed them of this surveillance. Those with business ties were cautioned to sever their dealings with Prince.

As an aside, Toensing, she of the unprofessional legal utterances, was a major player in the pursuit of Bill Clinton’s penis in the 1990s.

Prince is an evil dangerous man with delusions of creating a full mercenary army to rival nation states.

I really hope that he gets taken down hard.

H/t Charlie Pierce.

Why You Should Go to Sanders Rallies, and Not Go to Trump Rallies

Because if a topless protester shows up, Sanders lets her in, and Trump kicks her out:

Democratic presidential hopeful Bernie Sanders this week joked about a topless woman who showed up at one of his rallies recently to protest Republican rival Donald Trump

“Well, I was trying very hard to get every detail,” the Vermont senator joked during an interview with Phoenix-area radio station KTAR when asked if he could read the text on the woman’s chest.

“No, just kidding,” Sanders chuckled as the male radio hosts erupted into laughter.

“No, actually I was trying to focus on a couple of other things,” Sanders continued, trying to stifle another laugh as he pivoted to discuss campaign issues of income inequality.

A woman who tried unsuccessfully to get into one of Trump’s rallies in Arizona over the weekend opted to show up at Sanders’s rally in Phoenix on Saturday instead.

The words “stop fascism” were revealed on her back and “hate speech is not free speech” were marked on her chest, as she stood on someone’s back, interrupting Sanders’s rally.

She was also wearing “Free the Nipple” pasties.

Photos (she is quite fetching) available at the links.

What Bill Moyers Said

There are two Democrats whose resignation from office right now would do their party and country a service.

Their disappearance might also help Hillary Clinton convince skeptical Democrats that her nomination, if it happens, is about the future, and not about resurrecting and ratifying the worst aspects of the first Clinton reign when she and her husband rarely met a donor to whom they wouldn’t try to auction a sleepover in the Lincoln Bedroom.

In fact, while we’re at it, and if Secretary Clinton really wants us to believe she’s no creature of the corporate and Wall Street money machine — despite more than $44 million in contributions from the financial industry since 2000 and her $675,000 in speaking fees from Goldman Sachs, not to mention several million more paid by other business interests for an hour or two of her time — she should pick up the gauntlet herself and publicly call for the departure of these two, although they are among her nearest and dearest. And we don’t mean Bill and Chelsea.

No, she should come right out and ask for the resignations of Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Democratic National Committee Chair — and Florida congresswoman — Debbie Wasserman Schultz. In one masterstroke, she could separate herself from two of the most prominent of all corporate Democratic elitists.

Each is a Clinton disciple and devotee, each has profited mightily from the association and each represents all that is wrong with a Democratic Party that in the pursuit of money from rich donors and powerful corporations has abandoned those it once so proudly represented — working men and women.


This is why Emanuel and Wasserman Schultz must go. To millions, they are enablers of the one percent, perpetuators of the Washington mentality that the rest of the country has grown to hate. What a message such servants of plutocracy send: Democrats — a bridge to the past.

Hillary is not going to do this, but it would be a savvy political move.

Also, putting Emanuel and Wasserman-Schultz in the political cross-hairs would be good for the party and their constituents.

This is Amazingly Wise

Ted Cruz had the single dumbest response to the bombings in Brussels.

He suggested that we engaged in increased police and armed militia patrols in Muslim eighborhoods.

Needless to say, anyone with half a brain realized that this was batsh%$ insane.

It’s would create a violent, oppressive, and abusive environment which would drive some people in Muslim neighborhoods to terrorism, and others away from society and law enforcement.

Over at Talking Points Memo, a reader made a brilliant connection.

Specifically, our “Anti-Gang Get Tough on Crime” policing has done exactly that with gangs in poor neighborhoods:

The root of his error is right there in his defense: “If you have a neighborhood where there’s a high level of gang activity, the way to prevent it is you increase the law enforcement presence there and you target the gang members to get them off the streets.”

This is not some radical right-wing Trump-esque sentiment. It is the status quo of law enforcement in this country, and has been for decades. (You may even personally remember California’s 1988 STEP act — an eerily prescient precursor to the USA-PATRIOT act’s acronym idiocy that stood for Street Terrorism Enforcement and Prevention Act. STEP made gang participation illegal and massively increased sentences for members—and even for people who just looked like members, by raising the prospect of a gang-related indictment, leading to harsher plea-bargain agreements).

Targeting gangs like this is pretty widely accepted, and the few who push back face toxic accusations of wanting to protect criminals. That’s how escalating anti-gang and anti-crime rhetoric (think “super-predators”) swept everyone in its path in the 1990s. All Cruz did here was swap out “Muslims” for “gangs”.

As you say, that proved a step too far, and now he’s trying to walk it back to “radical Muslims”. But what’s so fascinating to me, as a gang researcher, is the reason folks like the NYPD and O’Reilly (!!) — who surely approve of anti-gang laws — object to Cruz’s idea: they see that it will backfire, that persecuting non-radicalized Muslims will ultimate push them toward radicalization.

They are right. But this is precisely what is wrong with excessive anti-gang laws! They essentially make being a male adolescent of certain ethnicities a motive for arrest and likely incarceration. If the criminal justice system already sees you and treats you as a gang member, you might as well become one — at least you’ll get some protection, especially inside prison, where gangs rule the roost. And for parents, spouses, and children, targeting is more likely to inspire a sense of injustice than a desire to cooperate with law enforcement.


We’re finally beginning to acknowledge the counterproductive nature of mass incarceration policies. But walking back over-zealous targeting laws is still a hard sell, especially among law-and-order, conservative types. Yet it is obvious to them that the same policy applied to Muslims is idiocy.

This is truly profound.

The FBI Probably Never Needed Apple’s Help to Read That iPhone

The Department of Justice has asked for a recess in the court proceedings to force Apple to write a hacking tool for the iPhone:

The Justice Department said on Monday that it might no longer need Apple’s assistance in opening an iPhone used by a gunman in the San Bernardino, Calif., rampage last year.

The disclosure led a judge to postpone a court hearing over the issue and temporarily sidesteps what has become a bitter clash with the world’s most valuable company.

In a new court filing, the government said an outside party had demonstrated a way for the F.B.I. to possibly unlock the phone used by the gunman, Syed Rizwan Farook. The hearing in the contentious case — Apple has loudly opposed opening the iPhone, citing privacy concerns and igniting a heated debate — was originally set for Tuesday.

While the Justice Department must test this method, if it works “it should eliminate the need for the assistance from Apple,” it said in its filing. The Justice Department added that it would file a status report by April 5 on its progress.

This happened because they think that the case is going against them.

None of this would happened if the FBI hadn’t “mistakenly” reset the iCloud password for the phone, which would have allowed them to access the phoe.

My take is that the FBI attempted to sandbag the judge, and deliberately f%$#ed up the analysis of the phone to have a court case and create a precedent.

What a Surprise. The Terrorists in Paris Did Not Use Encryption

They used burner phones and made calls instead of texting and emailing:

New details of the Paris attacks carried out last November reveal that it was the consistent use of prepaid burner phones, not encryption, that helped keep the terrorists off the radar of the intelligence services.

As an article in The New York Times reports: “the three teams in Paris were comparatively disciplined. They used only new phones that they would then discard, including several activated minutes before the attacks, or phones seized from their victims.”

The article goes on to give more details of how some phones were used only very briefly in the hours leading up to the attacks. For example: “Security camera footage showed Bilal Hadfi, the youngest of the assailants, as he paced outside the stadium, talking on a cellphone. The phone was activated less than an hour before he detonated his vest.” The information come from a 55-page report compiled by the French antiterrorism police for France’s Interior Ministry.

Outside the Bataclan theatre venue, the investigators found a Samsung phone in a dustbin: “It had a Belgian SIM card that had been in use only since the day before the attack. The phone had called just one other number—belonging to an unidentified user in Belgium.”

As police pieced together the movements of the attackers, they found yet more burner phones: “Everywhere they went, the attackers left behind their throwaway phones, including in Bobigny, at a villa rented in the name of Ibrahim Abdeslam. When the brigade charged with sweeping the location arrived, it found two unused cellphones still inside their boxes.” At another location used by one of the terrorists, the police found dozens of unused burner phones “still in their wrappers.”

As The New York Times says, one of the most striking aspects of the phones is that not a single e-mail or online chat message from the attackers was found on them. That seems to be further evidence that they knew such communications were routinely monitored by intelligence agencies. But rather than trying to avoid discovery by using encryption—which would in itself have drawn attention to their accounts—they seem to have stopped using the Internet as a communication channel altogether, and turned to standard cellular network calls on burner phones.

As Ars has reported, along with other countries the UK government is pushing for ways to circumvent or weaken encryption because it claims strong crypto creates a “safe space” for terrorists. This new information that the Paris attackers did not routinely use encryption, if at all, but turned instead to the tried-and-tested technique of burner phones, undermines the argument that everyone’s communications must be weakened in order to tackle terrorism.


Until we have stronger evidence to the contrary, it seems likely that encryption played little or no part in the Paris terrorist attacks.

The various agencies of various state security apparatuses have been trying to sell the idea that the terrorists will kill us all if we don’t let them.

It does not make us safer.

They intend to use this to go after ordinary criminals and dissidents.

This is a Big F%$# You to Turkey

Russia may be reducing its military presence in Syria, but they have started shipping weapons to the Kurds.

That sound you hear is the sound of Turkish heads exploding:

Russia delivered the first of five planned shipments of anti-aircraft weapons to Kurdish troops in northern Iraq. According to Russian experts, Moscow officially revealed this fact for the first time with the intention to change its Middle East policy and emphasize the importance of the Kurds in the region.

In Iraq arrived first shipment of Russian weapons to Kurdish volunteer movement “Peshmerga”, who fight against the “Islamic state” terrorist organization in the region. Senior officials of the Russian Foreign Ministry handed over anti-aircraft weapons ZU-23-2 (23 mm caliber) to the forces of resistance.

„Shipment of weapons arrived on March 14. It is intended for Peshmerga in Iraqi Kurdistan. At the handover of weapons was held with the presense of Ambassador and Consul General of Russia in Iraq, and Deputy Chief of Staff of “Peshmerga”, RIA Novosti quoted Artjomova Grigorjan, attaché of the Russian general consulate in the Iraqi city of Erbil.

According to him, the parties discuss the further delivery of the weapons. “After the handover of weapons Russian ambassador said that this is not the last delivery. He stressed that Russia hopes “Peshmerga” and the Iraqi armed forces will use this weapon to win against “Islamic state”, said the Russian attaché.

Do not confuse the ZU-23-2 with the ZSU23-4 radar guided self-propelled antiaircraft system.

The ZU is optically guided towed system.

In a modern battlefield, its antiaircraft capabilities are limited, but it is relative mobile and capable in a surface to surface mode.

More importantly, it implies that the Russians might be willing to send more capable surface to air systems, such as the ZSU, or surplus SA-6 or SA-8 systems, which they could  use against Turkish air strikes.

Let the shrieks or outrage from Ankara begin.

Snark of the Day


See what happened there? Slick, wasn’t it? My man Chuck Todd asked Schmidt why the anti-Trump Republicans weren’t banding together to support the clear runner-up and Schmidt started babbling about small-d democratic processes wah-dee-doo-dah. The direct answer to the question…

So, why isn’t the cavalry rallying around Cruz?

“Because Tailgunner Ted Cruz is a messianic and friendless theocrat whose policies are a mix of the Book of Revelation and The Fountainhead, and anyone who looks at him thinks of the skeevy uncle whom they tell their kids to avoid at Thanksgiving, and anyone who listens to him who isn’t already lost in Jesus wouldn’t trust him to park their car.”

Charlie Pierce

Mr. Pierce owes me a screen wipe.

Worst Constitutional Law Professor Ever

Upon announcing Obama’s nomination of Merrick Garland for the Supreme court, they tweeted that he would ignore the Constitution of the United States of America:

“Merrick Garland would take no chances that someone who murdered innocent Americans might go free on a technicality.” —@POTUS #SCOTUSnominee

— The White House (@WhiteHouse) March 16, 2016

Those “Technicalities” are the bill of rights, and their comment reflects that Garland is positively dismissive about the due process rights of defendants.

I do understand political realities, but the idea that any President would try to trumpet the willingness of a nominee for Supreme Court justice to ignore the Constitution is truly awful.

H/t Cory Robin.

Don’t Tug on Superman’s Cape. Don’t Piss into the Wind

Don’t rely on internet polls to name something:

A state-of-the-art research vessel in search of a name is getting some help from the general public and their top choice is flying in the face of British nautical convention.

Britain’s National Environmental Research Council (NERC) launched an online voting contest, asking for inspirational names of historical figures, landmarks and movements to christen the £200-million ship ($375-million CAD). The internet responded, and the current frontrunner is none-other than RRS Boaty McBoatface.

The 15,000-ton, 128-yard-long Royal Research Ship is currently under construction on the coast of Merseyside and is gearing up to be launched for a research mission to Antarctica in 2019.

The much more appropriate RRS Henry Worsley, RRS David Attenborough and RRS Pillar of Autumn are the current runners-up, though Boaty McBoatface is outpacing its closest competitor 10-1 with over 22,500 votes.

The online poll has proven to be so successful that NERC reported the high traffic caused the website to temporarily crash Sunday.

It appears that, much like many things on the internet, the meme started as a joke:

A man who suggested naming a new £200m ship Boaty McBoatface has apologised.

The suggestion has attracted more than 27,000 votes in an online poll of names for the Royal Research ship, causing the website to crash.

Former BBC presenter James Hand said he found the list of possible names “really funny” so decided to “throw one into the ring”.

He “apologised profusely” to the Natural Environment Research Council.

There is no guarantee the ship will be given the name that tops the poll, with the final decision to be made by the chief executive of the NERC.

Other names in the running are RRS Pingu, RRS Usain Boat and RRS David Attenborough.

A NERC spokesperson said staff were “very much enjoying hearing everyone’s ideas”.

Mr Hand said: “I read the story about naming the ship on the BBC website on Thursday and some of the entries were really funny – my favourite was Clifford The Big Red Boat.

“I thought I would throw one into the ring. By Friday night it was leading by a couple of thousand, and when the site crashed on Sunday it was leading by 8,000. It’s been utterly bizarre.”

Boaty McBoatface is 25,000 votes ahead of the second place suggestion, RRS Henry Worsley.

The boat is being built at the Cammell Laird shipyard in Birkenhead on Merseyside and when completed in 2019 it will study ice sheets, ocean currents and marine life as part of the Cambridge-based British Antarctic Survey.

“I’ve apologised profusely to the people behind the website,” the former Good Morning Jersey host said.

BTW, you can go to this link to vote.

I have already voted for Boaty McBoatface, because I am an asshole.

We Are Unbelievably Screwed

Have you heard the latest update on anthropogenic climate chane?

It turns out that the month of February was completely off the charts:

Earth got so hot last month that federal scientists struggled to find words, describing temperatures as “astronomical,” ”staggering” and “strange.” They warned that the climate may have moved into a new and hotter neighborhood.

This was not just another of the drumbeat of 10 straight broken monthly global heat records, triggered by a super El Nino and man-made global warming. February 2016 obliterated old marks by such a margin that it was the most above-normal month since meteorologists started keeping track in 1880, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

NOAA said Earth averaged 56.08 degrees Fahrenheit (13.38 degrees Celsius) in February, 2.18 degrees (1.21 degrees Celsius) above average, beating the old record for February set in 2015 by nearly six-tenths of a degree (one-third of a degree Celsius).

The old record was set just last December and the last three months have been the most above-normal months on record, said NOAA climate scientist Jessica Blunden. And it’s not just NOAA. NASA, which uses different statistical techniques, as well as a University of Alabama Huntsville team and the private Remote Sensing System team, which measure using satellites, also said February 2016 had the biggest departure from normal on record.

These were figures that had federal scientists grasping for superlatives.

“The departures are what we would consider astronomical,” Blunden said. “It’s on land. It’s in the oceans. It’s in the upper atmosphere. It’s in the lower atmosphere. The Arctic had record low sea ice.”

“Everything everywhere is a record this month, except Antarctica,” Blunden said. “It’s insane.”

In the Arctic, where sea ice reached a record low for February, land temperatures averaged 8 degrees above normal (4.5 degrees Celsius), Blunden said. That’s after January, when Arctic land temperatures were 10.4 degrees above normal (5.8 degrees Celsius).

It was also the warmest winter—December through February—on record, beating the previous year’s record by more than half a degree (0.29 degrees Celsius).These were figures that had federal scientists grasping for superlatives.

“The departures are what we would consider astronomical,” Blunden said. “It’s on land. It’s in the oceans. It’s in the upper atmosphere. It’s in the lower atmosphere. The Arctic had record low sea ice.”

“Everything everywhere is a record this month, except Antarctica,” Blunden said. “It’s insane.”

In the Arctic, where sea ice reached a record low for February, land temperatures averaged 8 degrees above normal (4.5 degrees Celsius), Blunden said. That’s after January, when Arctic land temperatures were 10.4 degrees above normal (5.8 degrees Celsius).

It was also the warmest winter—December through February—on record, beating the previous year’s record by more than half a degree (0.29 degrees Celsius

Clearly man made global warming is a hoax.

Every major model for climate change as proven to be too conservative.

The reality has been worse, and it is likely to get worse.