Month: August 2017

I Am Not Giving Points for Honesty Here

Unintentional Honesty

The Cobb County Police Department is moving to fire a police officer after he was caught on his dash cam saying that, “We only kill black people,” on his dash cam:

The Georgia police officer who was captured on camera telling a woman during a traffic stop that law enforcement personnel “only kill black people” says he’ll retire amid the backlash.

Lt. Greg Abbott announced his intent to leave the Cobb County Police Department on Thursday, after his superiors told him he would be fired, according to the Atlanta Journal Constitution.

It is unclear whether officials would accept Abbott’s resignation or follow through with their plan to terminate him. With nearly 30 years of government service, the distinction could have a profound affect on his retirement benefits. Spokespersons for the police department did not immediately respond to a message from The Washington Post.

Of course, this video is over a year old, and nothing was done until it went viral.

As the saying says, “Quis custodiet ipsos custodes”

H/t JR at the Stellar Parthenon BBS.

Headline of the Day

Trolling is not Opinion.

It is what I consider to be a very well reasoned critique of OP/ED pages in general, and the New York Times opinion page in particular:

Opinions. Every asshole has one, or something. Opinions are good! People who have no opinions are boring. But what about opinion sections of newspapers? Are they good? Should newspapers even have them?

First, let’s talk about me, the Leah of Leah Letter. I would like you to know more about me, and feel free to ask me personal questions at any time. One of my first jobs in journalism was in the Opinion section of the New York Times. I was mostly in charge of fixing paper jams in the printers and keeping track of Thomas Friedman’s schedule, among other things (fun fact about Thomas Friedman: whenever he sends an email, he makes the subject line “Thomas Friedman”).


Still, I thought the section did some good things during my time there, although I can’t really remember any of it so maybe it wasn’t that good. But I came to understand some things about opinion journalism. A good opinion section is not one that seeks to confirm its readers’ values, but challenge them. A good opinion section is provocative, thoughtful, and delightful. A good opinion section will turn down an op-ed submission from a head of state that doesn’t say anything. A good opinion section does not kowtow to blowhards.

You might say that the Times has a responsibility, in this fiery era, to present opinions that will cause Trump to resign or be impeached. But the Times is not a radical, or even particularly progressive, paper. It refused to acknowledge the AIDS crisis in in the ‘80s. It basically started the Iraq War. It could be argued that it helped give rise to Trump by hammering Hillary Clinton on everything it could possibly hammer her on. It didn’t even know what bubble tea was until a few weeks ago. Traditional newspapers are by nature conservative, not wanting to believe anything is happening until there is concrete, or official, proof, which marginalizes the oppressed who do not have means of providing such proof.

An opinion section is a crucial part of the sad business of a newspaper. Like it or not, a sh%$-ton of people look forward to reading David Brooks, the paragon of family values who married his decades-younger assistant no judgment just stating facts. The politics of idiotic centrists who pontificate on specious social trends closely mirror the politics of most of the paper’s employees: over 50, white, well-educated, and generally disdainful of the young. At the end of the day, though, the Times is a content mill, and there are deadlines, and traffic quotas, and column inches to fill. And so sometimes it publishes bullsh%$.

But there’s been a remarkable uptick in the bullsh%$ published since James Bennet, formerly of the Atlantic, became editorial page editor last year. James Bennet is the Spencer Pratt of opinion journalism. This guy loves to troll, and position his writers as martyrs for their bad opinions. He also seems kinda bad at the basics of his job (writing and making sure facts are correct).


But the controversial pieces the Opinion section runs under the auspices of fomenting some sort of “conversation” are done so disingenuously. The Times is not furthering useful conversation with these bad and wrong op-eds, it is spraying its readers in the eyes with tear gas and then asking them why they’re screaming. They’re not seeking to upend established, calcified viewpoints, but deliberately instigating anger and spreading disinformation in an insincere attempt to “show both sides.” This is particularly egregious when you consider that, post-Trump, the Times has widely marketed itself as a crusader for capital-T Truth and an essential component of a healthy democracy. But the Times’ version of the Truth is highly subjective, and when it lends credence to vile idiots like Erik Prince or Louise Mensch, it loses any semblance of legitimacy.

People expect a lot from the Times, much like they expect Tina Fey to solve the nation’s problems with comedy and then get mad at her when she does jokes. Newspapers are emotional! I know. But it’s fairly insane how out-of-touch the Times’ Opinion section is. Frankly, I’m tired of being trolled.

(Emphasis and %$# mine)

Of course, it doesn’t just apply to newspaper opinion pages.  It also applies to art, entertainment, at least one recently deceased Supreme Court justice, and the leaders of the the oldest and the most recent nuclear powers.

Just stop trolling.


A hummingbird pool party

Why I Quote Rather Extensively

The Million Dollar Web Page Then

And now

Because I am aware of link rot, where much of the information on the information in the internet is peripatetic, notwithstanding the meme that the Internet is forever:

In 2005, one of the most intriguing advertising stunts of the internet age was hatched.

Alex Tew launched the The Million Dollar Homepage, where anyone could “own a piece of internet history” by purchasing pixels-plots (minimum of 10×10) on a massive digital canvas. At the price of just one dollar per pixel, everyone from individual internet users to well-known companies like Yahoo! raced to claim a space on the giant digital canvas.

Today, The Million Dollar Homepage lives on as a perfect record of that wacky time in internet history – or so it seems. However, the reality is that many of the hyperlinks on the canvas are now redirects that send incoming users to other sites, while over 20% of them are simply dead.

I feel that I need to quote extensively enough that the basic context is clear without clicking through.

I learned this lesson when the New York Times took over full management of the International Herald Tribune, and broke all the exiting links to the archives. (Also, Yahoo’s shutdown of Geocities, but Geocities really did suck.)

You may be able to find the page with a search, but link will never work.

That’s why I quote rather extensively.

Live in Obedient Fear, Citizen

With an explosion in accusations of abuse in the execution of their duties, the Department of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has come up with a novel solution, it wants to destroy all of its records, much like the British Colonial Dervices when they covered up their brutality as they exited former colonies in Operation Legacy:

Immigration and Customs Enforcement recently asked the National Archives and Record Administration (NARA), which instructs federal agencies on how to maintain records, to approve its timetable for retaining or destroying records related to its detention operations. This may seem like a run-of-the-mill government request for record-keeping efficiency. It isn’t. An entire paper trail for a system rife with human rights and constitutional abuses is at stake.

ICE has asked for permission to begin routinely destroying 11 kinds of records, including those related to sexual assaults, solitary confinement and even deaths of people in its custody. Other records subject to destruction include alternatives to detention programs; regular detention monitoring reports, logs about the people detained in ICE facilities and communications from the public reporting detention abuses. ICE proposed various timelines for the destruction of these records ranging from 20 years for sexual assault and death records to three years for reports about solitary confinement.

How convenient.

I’m Sorry Dave, I’m Afraid I Can’t Do That

What a surprise.

It turns that it is trivial to hack the most sophisticated Artificial Intelligence (AI) systems by simply training them poorly:

If you don’t know what your AI model is doing, how do you know it’s not evil?

Boffins from New York University have posed that question in a paper at arXiv, and come up with the disturbing conclusion that machine learning can be taught to include backdoors, by attacks on their learning data.

The problem of a “maliciously trained network” (which they dub a “BadNet”) is more than a theoretical issue, the researchers say in this paper: for example, they write, a facial recognition system could be trained to ignore some faces, to let a burglar into a building the owner thinks is protected.

The assumptions they make in the paper are straightforward enough: first, that not everybody has the computing firepower to run big neural network training models themselves, which is what creates an “as-a-service” market for machine learning (Google, Microsoft and Amazon all have such offerings in their clouds); and second, that from the outside, there’s no way to know a service isn’t a “BadNet”.

Note that current high end AI models are not so much programmed as trained, and it appears that this provides an unprecedented opportunity to develop malicious software.

I’m thinking that you might see an AI drone that gets the whole Manchurian Candidate treatment in the not too distant future.

I Have Had It with These Motherf%##Ing Sharks on This Motherf%$#Ing Freeway

It’s actually a Photoshop hoax, which is depressing, but it’s probably actually a good thing that soulless cold blooded predators are not swimming the streets of Houston.

The cold blooded soulless predators were in Austin, but the special session of the legislature ended about 2 weeks ago, so they are scattered all over the state now.

Rule #1 of Giving Disaster Aid Is Not to Give to the American Red Cross

Rule #2 is to refer to rule #1.

Pro Publica has some quick tips for donating after a disaster in response to the massive flooding in the Houston area from hurricane Harvey, and the lede paragraph mentions the American Red Cross mismanagement in Haiti.

The comments mention their mismanagement of the super storm Sandy.

On a more personal level, I was in the Good Friday earthquake in Anchorage in 1964 (No memories, I was less than 2), and my father has vivid recollections of the general uselessness of the Red Cross, he was involved on some of the (ultimately ignored) after incident analysis and recommendations.

He recalls that the Salvation Army did a much better job than the ARC.

Just don’t give to them.  It will end up going to new carpets in their Washington, DC offices.


Using the Sousaphone (Tuba) to Parody KKK Members

What an Evil Little Sh%$!

I am referring, of course, to a Silicon Valley type, who have honed the little sh%$ to a fine edge.

Specifically, I am referring to to Peter Thiel, who is literally a vampire who wants to use the blood of the young to extend his lifespan.

The latest bit of evil is his funding “patently unethical” human experimentation, specifically testing a live virus vaccine without any regulatory oversight on the island of St. Kitts:

Heavyweight tech investor and FDA-critic Peter Thiel is among conservative funders and American researchers backing an offshore herpes vaccine trial that blatantly flouts US safety regulations, according to a Monday report by Kaiser Health News.

The vaccine—a live but weakened herpes virus—was first tested in a 17-person trial on the Caribbean Island of St. Kitts without federal oversight or the standard human safety requirement of an institutional review board (IRB) approval. Biomedical researchers and experts have sharply rebuked the lack of safety oversight and slammed the poor quality of the data collected, which has been rejected from scientific publication. However, investors and those running the trial say it is a direct challenge to what they see as innovation-stifling regulations by the Food and Drug Administration.


Madden, Thiel, and other investors have invested $7 million into the vaccine’s development, according to Rational Vaccines, the company orchestrating the trial. Though Thiel could not be reached for comment, he has been openly critical of the FDA’s review process. At one point, he claimed that the agency’s processes were so overbearing that “you would not be able to invent the polio vaccine today.”

The lead researcher behind the vaccine, William Halford, formerly of Southern Illinois University, made similar claims. In a positive university press release, Halford was quoted as saying: “Many of the virus vaccines we currently put in our kids—chickenpox, mumps, measles, and rubella—were developed using live-attenuated viruses in the ’50s, ’60s and ’70s when the regulatory landscape was more relaxed… and they have worked remarkably well.”

He went on to suggest that the FDA has made “barriers too high” and that countries with less regulation were better for vaccine and drug development. “There are governments around the world that the WHO [World Health Organization] has approved for vaccine development,” he said. “We’re talking to those types of governments.”


Other researchers and experts strongly disagreed with Halford’s stance and handling of a live, attenuated virus vaccine, which can cause infections in the uninfected or severe side-effects in those already infected. “What they’re doing is patently unethical,” Jonathan Zenilman, chief of Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center’s Infectious Diseases Division, told KHN. “There’s a reason why researchers rely on these protections. People can die.”

Robert Califf, who served as FDA commissioner during the Obama era, agreed. “There’s a tradition of having oversight of human experimentation, and it exists for good reasons,” he said. “It may be legal to be doing it without oversight, but it’s wrong.”


A spokesperson for Southern Illinois University, one of the vaccine’s patent holders, said that the university has no legal responsibility to ensure proper safety protocols for the trial. However, after questions about the lack of IRB [Institutional Review Board] approval (a federal requirement), the spokesperson said that the university would “take this opportunity to review our internal processes to ensure we are following best practices.”

(emphasis mine)

In addition to the quality of the study being so poor that it was refused for publication, there are also reports of skin lesions from a study size of only 17 patients.

I would have thought that this would have merited a visit from the FDA, and possibly an FBI investigation for conspiracy, but it appears that the rules do not apply to rich people, which is an even bigger problem.

Yeah, Not Heartbroken over This One

One of the programs of Obamacare, thankfully a minor one, were so called “Voluntary” wellness programs where employers were allowed to coerce private medical information out of their employees.

A federal judge has now struck down these programs:

A federal court on Tuesday threw out a rule allowing employers to call their workplace wellness programs “voluntary” when employees stand to lose thousands of dollars for not participating — a win for groups that challenged what they argue are coercive programs that have not been shown to improve employees’ health.

The ruling, a summary judgment for the group that challenged the federal rule, orders the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission to come up with a “reasoned explanation” for deeming workplace wellness programs voluntary even if the programs impose steep penalties on workers who opt out, calling the absence of such an explanation when the EEOC issued its rule last year “a serious failing.”

The U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, in an opinion by Judge John Bates, allows the 2016 EEOC rules to stay in place for now, however. Immediately unwinding the penalties and incentives in workplace wellness programs, which are built into employer-based health insurance plans, would be too disruptive, he ruled, since those plans have been in effect for months.


Because the EEOC administers both ADA and GINA, it stepped in to define “voluntary” in the context of workplace wellness programs. The programs have become increasingly popular as employers seek ways to reduce their health care spending. In addition, the Affordable Care Act allows employers to offer even higher workplace-wellness incentives than had previously been permitted. Last year, the agency issued a rule saying that “use of a penalty or incentive of up to 30 percent of the cost of self-only coverage will not render ‘involuntary’ a wellness program that seeks the disclosure” of workers’ ADA- and GINA-protected medical or genetic information.”

(emphasis mine)

This program typifies the problem with so many of the social welfare initiatives put forward by “centrists”.

It provides no documentable benefits, and it is predicated on a complete contempt for the agency of ordinary people, and so is both demeaning and ineffective.

This is not a surprise, as one of their goals of centrists is to provide jobs to their real base, highly credentialed professionals, or, as Lamberth Strether noted on Naked Capitalism, “Great! ObamaCare incentivizes wellness programs, but as the article points out, they have no proven health benefit (and hence, like so much of ObamaCare’s complex machinery, are really a jobs guarantee for the Democrats’ base in the 10%.)”

F%$# this Sh%$

Donald Trump just pardoned to racist criminal Joe Arpaio:

U.S. President Donald Trump on Friday granted a pardon to controversial former Arizona lawman and political ally Joe Arpaio less than a month after he was convicted of criminal contempt in a case involving racial profiling.

“Throughout his time as sheriff, Arpaio continued his life’s work of protecting the public from the scourges of crime and illegal immigration,” said a White House statement announcing Arpaio’s pardon, the first of Trump’s administration.


Civil rights advocates slammed Trump’s decision as an endorsement of racist and unlawful immigration policies.

Gee, you think?

Democratic Senator Patrick Leahy said it was ”disheartening that he set the bar so very low for his first pardon… The ex-sheriff is a self-aggrandizing braggart who promoted racist law enforcement practices and cost taxpayers millions, and that is a reason they did not reelect him.

“After the racism and hate in Charlottesville, our country needs to come together and heal. But that healing will not come from a president who only exploits divisions and fears,” Leahy said in a statement.

The distinguished gentleman from Vermont is right, this mutual protection thing racist dirt-bags have is contemptible.

Remember the Guy Who Started Paying All His Employees a Minimum of $70K/year?

He’s doing very well, thank you very much:

Most feel-good stories come and go. Somebody does something wildly creative or uncommonly kind. Maybe both. We’re impressed, but seldom do we hear about long term consequences. (When there’s a follow-up, it’s often because the tale turns out to be phony or it has a bitter conclusion.)

Yet once in a while, stories just keep getting better and better. This is one of them.

Two summers ago I wrote here about Dan Price, a Seattle-based entrepreneur who set $70,000 as the minimum wage for each one of his employees. The post drew half a million views, the highest any of my fifty-plus posts has received. Most commentators applauded, but a few were critical. Several people called Price’s action “socialistic.” That reaction struck me as weird, as Price was acting privately as the majority owner of his small credit card processing company, Gravity Payments. There was no government involvement at all.

Then a year ago, I wrote an update to report how things were going for Price and his company. There had been bumps in the road, notably a dispute with his brother who also held some Gravity stock. Two experienced employees quit, because their raises weren’t as big as those for people lower on the scale. A few customers cut their ties, as well.


Another year has passed, so now it’s time to check in again. The news continues to be strongly positive on two different fronts. On the business side revenue continues to grow, as the company has rapidly expanded its customer base. The number of employees has climbed by 40 percent.

I’m sure that this will be studiously ignored by business school professors.

Time to Short Nazi Futures at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue

At the rate things are going, there aren’t going to be any Nazis in the white house before long.

The latest to go, faux PhD and Bigot Sebastian Gorka.

I’m not sure if this is because they’ve lost, or if they’ve just found the warehouse where the Ark of the Covenant is located:

Sebastian Gorka, an outspoken adviser to President Trump, has been forced out of his position at the White House, two administration officials said on Friday.

One of the officials said that the president’s chief of staff, John F. Kelly, had telegraphed his lack of interest in keeping Mr. Gorka over the last week in internal discussions.

Mr. Gorka, a deputy assistant to the president, had been on vacation for at least the last two weeks, with no clear assigned duties to hand to others, that official said.


Mr. Gorka, 46, has also been accused of having links to far-right groups in Europe.

Of the various racist losers who entered the White House in January, Sebastian Gorka was by far the most malignant.

It’s good to see him go.

Paging Paul T. Riddell!!!*

It appears that dog lovers of San Francisco have decided to to let their dogs’ colons express their distaste for the latest white supremacist theater:

When a group of far-right activists come to San Francisco to hold a rally this Saturday, they will be met by peace activists offering them flowers to wear in their hair.

Also, dog sh%$. Lots and lots of dog sh%$.

Hundreds of San Franciscans plan to prepare Crissy Field, the picturesque beach in the shadow of the Golden Gate Bridge where rightwing protest group Patriot Prayer will gather, with a generous carpeting of excrement.

“I just had this image of alt-right people stomping around in the poop,” Tuffy Tuffington said of the epiphany he had while walking Bob and Chuck, his two Patterdale terriers, and trying to think of the best way to respond to rightwing extremists in the wake of Charlottesville. “It seemed like a little bit of civil disobedience where we didn’t have to engage with them face to face.”

Just a word of note:  Don’t exclude all those folks who keep Vietnamese Potbellied Pigs.  Pig sh%$ is even worse.

*He is an author who related what might be the ultimate fecal sabotage tale.

An Inevitable Result of Teutonic Sado-Monetarism

It looks like support is growing in Italy for establishing a parallel currency as an alternative to the Euro:

There have been some amazing Italian inventions over the centuries. The newspaper. The pistol. The radio. The stock exchange. The motorway. And who could overlook those staples of modern life, jeans (originally from the French word for Genoa: genes) or the pizzeria.

Few other countries have contributed quite as much to creating the world we live in.

Right now, Italy could be on the brink of another major innovation. A parallel currency to run alongside the euro. It already had the backing of the former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, and the parties supporting it are steadily gaining ground in the polls.

Could it work? The mainstream economic establishment will no doubt heap scorn on the idea. And yet, in reality, a parallel currency could provide an elegant exit from the euro, maintaining some of the advantages of the single currency, while freeing the country from endless recession. If it ever gets off the ground, Italy could quickly become one of the most attractive economies in the world.

It is hard to find any words to describe Italy’s experiment with merging its currency with Germany, France and the rest of the eurozone other than “dismal failure.” Since it adopted the euro, Italy’s average annual growth rate has been zero, according to calculations by the Bruegel Institute. You read that correctly. Absolutely nothing, over almost two decades.

Italy’s unemployment rate is a crippling 11%, the highest of Europe’s three biggest economies, and youth unemployment is a scary 35%. The national debt has climbed to a giddy 133% of gross domestic product, not because the government is especially extravagant, but because that’s what happens in a zero-growth economy.

I’ve always said that the best way to fix the Euro is to kick the Boche out of the common currency, but a parallel currency as a way to create infrastructure for leaving the Euro is not an unreasonable tactic for dealing with the deep problems of the Euro as a currency.