Month: October 2016

Muck Fonsanto

The New York Times has looked into the potential benefits of transgenic crops, and found no evidence that these benefits exist:

The controversy over genetically modified crops has long focused on largely unsubstantiated fears that they are unsafe to eat.

But an extensive examination by The New York Times indicates that the debate has missed a more basic problem — genetic modification in the United States and Canada has not accelerated increases in crop yields or led to an overall reduction in the use of chemical pesticides.

The promise of genetic modification was twofold: By making crops immune to the effects of weedkillers and inherently resistant to many pests, they would grow so robustly that they would become indispensable to feeding the world’s growing population, while also requiring fewer applications of sprayed pesticides.

Twenty years ago, Europe largely rejected genetic modification at the same time the United States and Canada were embracing it. Comparing results on the two continents, using independent data as well as academic and industry research, shows how the technology has fallen short of the promise.

An analysis by The Times using United Nations data showed that the United States and Canada have gained no discernible advantage in yields — food per acre — when measured against Western Europe, a region with comparably modernized agricultural producers like France and Germany. Also, a recent National Academy of Sciences report found that “there was little evidence” that the introduction of genetically modified crops in the United States had led to yield gains beyond those seen in conventional crops. Continue reading the main story

At the same time, herbicide use has increased in the United States, even as major crops like corn, soybeans and cotton have been converted to modified varieties. And the United States has fallen behind Europe’s biggest producer, France, in reducing the overall use of pesticides, which includes both herbicides and insecticides.

Here’s a suggestion, how about invalidating patents on plant species and granting farmers the unconditional right to replant their seeds. 
This was the state of affairs for about 15,000 years of human history, and we did just fine.

While We are on the Subject of “New Economy” Bigotry

Facebook has been allowing advertisers to exclude targets by race and ethnicity, and they allow people to do so for ads for real estate and employment, which is illegal as hell:

The ad we purchased was targeted to Facebook members who were house hunting and excluded anyone with an “affinity” for African-American, Asian-American or Hispanic people. (Here’s the ad itself.)

When we showed Facebook’s racial exclusion options to a prominent civil rights lawyer John Relman, he gasped and said, “This is horrifying. This is massively illegal. This is about as blatant a violation of the federal Fair Housing Act as one can find.”

The Fair Housing Act of 1968 makes it illegal “to make, print, or publish, or cause to be made, printed, or published any notice, statement, or advertisement, with respect to the sale or rental of a dwelling that indicates any preference, limitation, or discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, handicap, familial status, or national origin.” Violators can face tens of thousands of dollars in fines.

The Civil Rights Act of 1964 also prohibits the “printing or publication of notices or advertisements indicating prohibited preference, limitation, specification or discrimination” in employment recruitment.

acebook’s business model is based on allowing advertisers to target specific groups — or, apparently to exclude specific groups — using huge reams of personal data the company has collected about its users. Facebook’s microtargeting is particularly helpful for advertisers looking to reach niche audiences, such as swing-state voters concerned about climate change. ProPublica recently offered a tool allowing users to see how Facebook is categorizing them. We found nearly 50,000 unique categories in which Facebook places its users.


Satterfield said it’s important for advertisers to have the ability to both include and exclude groups as they test how their marketing performs. For instance, he said, an advertiser “might run one campaign in English that excludes the Hispanic affinity group to see how well the campaign performs against running that ad campaign in Spanish. This is a common practice in the industry.”

He said Facebook began offering the “Ethnic Affinity” categories within the past two years as part of a “multicultural advertising” effort.

Satterfield added that the “Ethnic Affinity” is not the same as race — which Facebook does not ask its members about. Facebook assigns members an “Ethnic Affinity” based on pages and posts they have liked or engaged with on Facebook.

When we asked why “Ethnic Affinity” was included in the “Demographics” category of its ad-targeting tool if it’s not a representation of demographics, Facebook responded that it plans to move “Ethnic Affinity” to another section.

Facebook declined to answer questions about why our housing-categories ad excluding minority groups was approved 15 minutes after we placed the order. By comparison, consider the advertising controls that the New York Times has put in place to prevent discriminatory housing ads. After the newspaper was successfully sued under the Fair Housing Act in 1989, it agreed to review ads for potentially discriminatory content before accepting them for publication

It’s OK, because ……… internet.

I am so sick and tired of the entitled white boys in the tech industry.

This is a Feature Not a Bug of the Sharing Economy

Much as with AirbnB, it turns out that Uber and Lyft are rife with bigotry and racism:

That’s according to a new study that shows that riders with African-American-sounding names are more likely to wait longer to be accepted for a ride or have their trip canceled than people with white-sounding names. The results are contained in a working paper published by the National Bureau of Economic Research.

Researchers from MIT, Stanford University, and the University of Washington studied almost 1,500 rides on defined routes in both Seattle and Boston.

In the Seattle experiments, the researchers found that people with African-American-sounding names typically had to wait 29 seconds for an Uber acceptance and 23 seconds for a Lyft acceptance, compared to just 21 and 19 seconds respectively for riders with white-sounding names.

Results from the Boston experiments show more of a problem for Uber. Here, the researchers found that riders with African-American-sounding names had Uber rides cancelled 10.1 percent of the time, versus just 4.9 percent of the time for those with white-sounding names. Results for Lyft journeys actually showed a small skew in the opposite direction.


Similar approaches have been posited by academics for adoption by Airbnb, which itself struggles with the issue of discrimination, as Edelman has shown in the past. But these kinds of services have been built on the use of information sharing as a means of building trust and creating a more efficient service (not that it always works). Any move away from that model will be a big step for Airbnb, Uber, or Lyft.

Still, it is a step that needs to be taken. “At Uber and Lyft, as at Airbnb in my findings, platform design all but invites service providers to discriminate,” says Edelman. “Consumers should demand more of these platforms—and so should regulators.”

The has been ongoing enforcement actions with regard to rental housing and taxis for decades, and the so-called “sharing economy” is predicated on the half baked idea that  “because internet” we can do away with all those pesky regulations.

The world does not work that way, and has never worked that way.

Peter Thiel Has Officially Become Too Cartoonishly Evil to Be a Bond Villain

I don’t mean for his support of Donald Trump, or for his literal exploration of Vampirism to extend his own life, or for his gay baiting in college.

That’s evil, but I think that this is not excessive by the standards of Bond villains.

Give him a white Persian cat, and he would fit in just fine.

But he gave a speech at the National Press Club, he complained that, “If you’re a single-digit millionaire like Hulk Hogan, you have no effective access to our legal system.”

PayPal co-founder and tech billionaire Peter Thiel on Monday offered a jaw-dropping defense of his decision to bankroll wrestling icon Hulk Hogan’s invasion of privacy lawsuit against Gawker for publishing a sex tape featuring him.

“If you’re a single-digit millionaire like Hulk Hogan, you have no effective access to our legal system,” he said. “It costs too much. This was the modus operandi of Gawker in large part it was to go after people who had no chance of fighting back.”

The declaration came as Thiel was speaking at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C., to tout the presidential bid of GOP candidate Donald Trump.

Thiel spent at least $10 million supporting Hogan’s lawsuit against Gawker. Thiel had been engaged in a personal feud with the website for years. As a result of the lawsuit, Gawker was driven out of business.

Fordham Law School professor and criminal justice expert John Pfaff was quick to note that in 2007, many states’ entire budgets for indigent defense — money allotted to provide legal counsel to those who cannot afford it — is in the single-digit millions.

I hope that his fellow PayPal founder Elon Musk sends him into space, and leaves him there.

This Election Has Gone From Rod Serling to H.P. Lovecraft

I am not saying that this was a subterfuge that was promulgated by campaign to deflect the press, I am saying that this was a subterfuge that was promulgated on Trump to keep Jabba the Governor off the ticket:

Donald Trump’s former campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, reportedly bamboozled his boss into switching his vice presidential pick from embattled New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) to Indiana Gov. Mike Pence (R) by staging an airplane malfunction.

In July, The New York Times reported that Trump and Pence “impromptu dinner” after the GOP candidate’s plane was grounded by “mechanical problems.”

“And at some point during the evening, Mr. Trump asked Mr. Pence if he would say yes, were Mr. Trump to offer him the No. 2 slot,” according to the Times.

But a Sunday report in the New York Post revealed that Manafort took the dramatic step of lying to Trump about mechanical problems with the plane after his boss tentatively selected Christie for the V.P. slot.

“Trump had wanted Christie but Bridgegate would have been the biggest national story,” Trump source told the Post. “He’d lose the advantage of not being corrupt.”

(emphasis mine)

Seriously, Manafort f%$#ing gaslighted the candidate over his selection of a running mate.

We are truly on terra incognita here.

There are plenty of things **cough** dirty tricks **cough** that the campaign keeps from the candidate for plausibility deniability, but manipulating the candidate into selecting your choice of VP by stranding him with your choice like some sort of twisted 30s romantic comedy??

What the actual f%$#?


Darth By Darthwest

“DARTH BY DARTHWEST”-“VADOR AUX TROUSSES”. Short Film. from Fabrice Mathieu on Vimeo.

Uber Loses Another One

An employment tribunal in London has ruled that its drivers are employees, not independent contractors:

Uber drivers are not self-employed and should be paid the “national living wage”, a UK employment court has ruled in a landmark case which could affect tens of thousands of workers in the gig economy.

The ride-hailing app could now be open to claims from all of its 40,000 drivers in the UK, who are currently not entitled to holiday pay, pensions or other workers’ rights. Uber immediately said it would appeal against the ruling.
Uber ruling is a massive boost for a fairer jobs market
Read more

Employment experts said other firms with large self-employed workforces could now face scrutiny of their working practices and the UK’s biggest union, Unite, announced it was setting up a new unit to pursue cases of bogus self-employment.

Research by Citizens Advice has suggested that as many as 460,000 people could be falsely classified as self-employed, costing up to £314m a year in lost tax and employer national insurance contributions. Four courier firms are already facing legal action from cyclists who want similar recognition as staff employees and the rights that go with that status, while delivery firm Hermes is under investigation by HM Revenue & Customs.

The Uber ruling could force a rethink of the gig economy business model, where companies use apps and the internet to match customers with workers. The firms do not employ the workers, but take commission from their earnings, and many have become huge global enterprises. Uber now operates around the world, with the company valued at more than £50bn.


The judges were scathing about Uber’s arguments, however, accusing the firm of “resorting in its documentation to fictions, twisted language and even brand new terminology” and even quoting Hamlet to suggest that the group’s UK boss was protesting too much about its position.

Uber’s business model has been to create a business where all the risks and all the costs, are laid on their employees and their customers in defiance of the law, regulation, and decency.

It is a fundamentally immoral and abusive world view gleaned from the writings of the psychopath Ayn Rand.

Explicitly Admitting What Has Been the Republican Campaign Strategy since Ronald Reagan

The Trump Campaign has admitted that they are actively engaging in voter suppression efforts.

This is no surprise.  When Reagan launched his campaign in Philadelphia, Mississippi talking about states rights, the subtext was always that, “N*****s should not be allowed to vote.

Here is the money quote:

To compensate for this, Trump’s campaign has devised another strategy, which, not surprisingly, is negative. Instead of expanding the electorate, Bannon and his team are trying to shrink it. “We have three major voter suppression operations under way,” says a senior official. They’re aimed at three groups Clinton needs to win overwhelmingly: idealistic white liberals, young women, and African Americans. Trump’s invocation at the debate of Clinton’s WikiLeaks e-mails and support for the Trans-Pacific Partnership was designed to turn off Sanders supporters. The parade of women who say they were sexually assaulted by Bill Clinton and harassed or threatened by Hillary is meant to undermine her appeal to young women. And her 1996 suggestion that some African American males are “super predators” is the basis of a below-the-radar effort to discourage infrequent black voters from showing up at the polls—particularly in Florida.

(emphasis mine)

Well Trolled

The Clinton Campaign is now offering tin foil hats with a rump theme:

Hillary Clinton’s campaign is mocking Donald Trump with do-it-yourself tin foil hats.
Cinton’s campaign website features a promotional brochure for a “Trump Tin Foil Hat.” The brochure ridicules the Republican nominee for his “conspiracies” and shares instructions to help supporters create their own “Make America Great Again” foil hats.

“In fact if we elect Donald Trump, we could have a president dedicated to the truth: where is Elvis? Where did we film the moon landing?” the brochure reads.

Grab your tinfoil hat and buckle up—it doesn’t look like Donald Trump will stop peddling conspiracies any time soon.

— The Briefing (@TheBriefing2016) October 25, 2016

Whoever did this deserves a promotion.

End Stage Imperial Collapse

There has been a massive increase in organ donations in New England over the past few years.

Any guess as to why?

Wait for it ………

You got it: there has been a corresponding explosion in opioid related deaths which has resulted in young people being available for harvest:

This year, some hospitals in Massachusetts, like Lahey Hospital and Medical Center in Burlington, have dramatically increased the number of organ transplants they perform. The sources of these lifesaving gifts are the victims of the opioid epidemic. Although the increase in available organs represents hope for some and brings a small degree of comfort to the families of those lost to deaths from drug abuse, the wait continues for many more on the transplant list as well as families of addicts seeking services.


The liver represents just part of the dramatic increase in New England organ donations since 2010, according to the New England Organ Bank, the organization responsible for gathering the organs in the six New England states. The expansion is due to the growing number of organ donors who fell victims to the growing epidemic of opioid abuse. Since the beginning of the year, more than one in four organ transplants in the New England area originated from people suffering a drug overdose. Nationwide, organs from deceased drug users accounted for 12 percent of all donations this year. Traffic accidents used to be the fourth-largest source of organ donation, behind deaths from strokes, blunt injuries, and cardiovascular disease, but drug overdoses, now the fastest growing category of organ donor, eclipsed them in 2014.

Given that the increase in mortality and morbidity from these drugs seems directly tied to aggressive marketing and lobbying from the opiod lobby, this whole vicious cycle should have been shut down years ago, but no one has the guts to handle this.

What is Flat and Glows in the Dark?

The world during Hillary Clinton’s first term.

Here’s a an under-reported bit of war-mongering from one of Hillary’s speeches to the Vampire Squid:

US presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton has said the US could claim the Pacific Ocean as an “American Sea” if China claims all of the South China Sea, according to excerpts of her speech contained in hacked emails revealed by WikiLeaks.

In a speech the Democratic candidate gave to bankers from Goldman Sachs in October 2013, she said the Chinese “have a right to assert themselves” in the South China Sea but the US needed to “push back” to keep Beijing from getting a “chokehold over world trade”.


In the paid speech to Goldman Sachs, Clinton said she confronted Chinese officials about the South China Sea during her tenure as secretary.

“I said, by that argument, you know, the United States should claim all of the Pacific. We liberated it; we defended it. We have as much claim to all of the Pacific. And we could call it the American Sea, and it could go from the West Coast of California all the way to the Philippines.”

She said in the speech that she had told her Beijing counterparts the Chinese claims to the South China Sea were based on “pottery shards” from “some fishing vessel that ran aground in an atoll somewhere”, whereas the US claim to the Pacific would be based on “convoys of military strength” in the second world war and the claim Americans “discovered Japan”.

She described this line of reasoning as “one of the greatest arguments that I had”.

Clinton said that as the debate became “more technical”, the Chinese said they would claim Hawaii, and that she had countered by saying the US had proof of purchase.




We are so screwed.

Not Gonna Happen

There are reports that ren-a-cops who used attack dogs on Dakota access pipeline protestors might be prosecuted for this.

It ain’t gonna happen. If one of these guys took a baby from a protestor, roasted it on the flames of his breath, and ate it on while being filmed, the local constabulary would site the mother for preparing food without a license.

The DA has been charging journalists with incitement to riot. They will do nothing to rein in the excesses of public and private law enforcement.

Quote of the Day

Make benefits as universal as possible, and make rich people pay more in taxes. That’s how you means test things. The rest is needless complexity designed to suck the life out of people who have it hard already.

Duncan “Atrios” Black

He’s talking about how the Obama/Clinton wing of the party insists on people jumping through hoops to get social benefits.  **Cough** Obamacare **Cough**

The Headline Says It All

This Major City’s Drinking Water Was Fine. Then Came the Private Water Company

4 years after putting a private consultant, Veolia, in charge of managing the system, 81,000 homes have been warned that their drinking water may be lead contaminated due to a cost saving change in the chemical additives that Veolia implemented without consulting anyone.

Stealth privatization sucks just as badly as the open kind.

You Can Get the Goldwater Girl to Register as a Democrat, But You Cannot Get the Goldwater out of the Girl

One of the things that Hillary Clinton thinks is a good thing is pushing down wages of already meagerly paid Chinese workers.

By extension, one could conclude that the same would apply to American factory workers:

The general media has been treating the WikiLeaks disclosures of the Clinton campaign documents, particularly the transcripts of her lucrative talks with Goldman Sachs as much ado about nothing. I have not found any article about the disclosures, however, that reported on the extraordinary statements she made in her talk with Goldman Sachs on June 4, 2013.

Hillary told the Vampire Squid that the “good news” was that China was removing workers’ (meager) legal protections so that their employers could “forc[e] down wages” in order to increase corporate profits. She used China’s (pathetically weak) legal protections for workers as her exemplar of China’s “structural economic problems.”

Thirdly, they seem to — and you all are the experts on this. They seem to be coming to grips with some of the structural economic problems that they are now facing. And look, they have them. There are limits to what enterprises can do, limits to forcing down wages to be competitive, all of which is coming to the forefront…

Clinton’s support for “forcing down wages” by removing China’s meager protections for workers reveals that her (leaked) admission that she is increasingly “far removed from the struggles of” the working and middle-class is a grave understatement. She is not simply “far removed” from their “struggles” – she continues when speaking secretly to Wall Street to attack workers’ interests.

I am so glad that I do not live in a swing state.

There is no moral conundrum forcing me to vote for her.

God Bless Maryland.

We Are Doomed

It now appears that the recent hack against DYN was the work of script kiddies.

Heaven help us if the pros decide to do something like this:

Business risk intelligence firm FlashPoint has put out a preliminary analysis of last week’s massive denial of service attack against Dyn DNS, and its conclusion is it was likely the work of amateur hackers — rather than, as some had posited, state-sponsored actors perhaps funded by the Russian government.

The DDoS attack against Dyn’s domain name system impacted access to a range of sites in parts of the U.S. last Friday, including PayPal, Twitter, Reddit, GitHub, Amazon, Netflix, Spotify and RuneScape.

Aside from suspicion falling on Russia, various entities have also claimed or implied responsibility for the attack, including a hacking group called the New World Hackers and — bizarrely — WikiLeaks, which put out a (perhaps joke) tweet suggesting some of its supporters might be involved.

FlashPoint dubs these claims “dubious” and “likely to be false”, and instead comes down on the side of the script kiddies theory.

Its reasoning is based on a few factors, including a detail it unearthed during its investigation of the attack: namely that the infrastructure used in the attack also targeted a well-known video game company.

“While there does not appear to have been any disruption of service, the targeting of a video game company is less indicative of hacktivists, state-actors, or social justice communities, and aligns more with the hackers that frequent online hacking forums,” writes FlashPoint’s Allison Nixon, John Costello and Zach Wikholm in their analysis.

This is going to get very ugly very fast.

I might suggest that making sure that equipment manufacturers can be held liable for these sort of bone-headed vulnerabilities.

Damn, Damn!

Wallonia caved, and in response to language that changes nothing about the deal, has authorized the Belgian government to sign off on the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) with Canada, including its irreversible privitization and ISDS provisions:

European Union leaders have expressed hope of signing a trade deal with Canada after Belgian politicians overcame differences that had been blocking the treaty.

The Belgian prime minister, Charles Michel, confirmed that leaders of five regional parliaments had reached an agreement with the federal government shortly after midday on Thursday. He tweeted:


The Belgian compromise – a four-page text that sits alongside the 1,600-page treaty – was approved by ambassadors from 28 EU member states on Thursday afternoon. Belgium’s regional parliaments are expected to endorse the text on Friday, paving the way for the deal to come into force on a temporary basis.

Expect to see higher drug prices, the end to the precautionary principle, the gutting of safety, employment, and environmental protections, and a growth in the most parasitic parts of the financial industry as a result.

Yes, Ask the Worst Administration on Privacy Ever to Help Us

The Mozilla Foundation is asking for the White House to coordinate efforts to prevent cyber attacks.

The Obama administration has been at the forefront of efforts to make computers less secure by requiring back doors in the software.

You don’t want Barack Obama Evil Minions anywhere near commercial cyber security policy.

Hen house, meet fox.