Month: May 2019

History is Rhyming Again

German Jews have been warned by the commissioner on antisemitism not to wear yarmulkes in public:

Germany’s government commissioner on antisemitism has warned Jews about the potential dangers of wearing the traditional kippah cap in the face of rising anti-Jewish attacks.

“I cannot advise Jews to wear the kippah everywhere all the time in Germany,” Felix Klein said in an interview published Saturday by the Funke regional press group.

In issuing the warning, he said he had “alas, changed my mind (on the subject) compared to previously”.

Klein, whose post was created last year, cited “the lifting of inhibitions and the uncouthness which is on the rise in society” as factors behind a rising incidence of antisemitism.

“The internet and social media have largely contributed to this, but so have constant attacks against our culture of remembrance.”

And he suggested police, teachers and lawyers should be better trained to recognise what constitutes “clearly defined” unacceptable behaviour and “what is authorised and what is not”.

His comments came just weeks after Berlin’s top legal expert on antisemitism said the issue remains entrenched in German society.


Antisemitic crimes rose by 20% in Germany last year, according to interior ministry data which blamed nine out of ten cases on the extreme right.

Humanity, in all its splendor, huh?

Stupid Judge Tricks

I approve of the US Court of Appeals of the 4th circuit’s opinion revoking the permit of a pipeline that crosses the Appalachian Trail, but I’m less sanguine of their invoking Dr. Seuss:

A federal appeals court has thrown out a power company’s permit to build a natural gas pipeline across two national forests and the Appalachian Trail – and slammed the U.S. Forest Service for granting the approvals in the first place.

In a decision filed Thursday by the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond, Va., a three-judge panel declared the U.S. Forest Service “abdicated its responsibility to preserve national forest resources” when it issued permits for the Atlantic Coast Pipeline to build through parts of the George Washington and Monongahela National Forests and a right of way across the Appalachian Trail.

“This conclusion,” they wrote in a unanimous judgment, “is particularly informed by the Forest Service’s serious environmental concerns that were suddenly, and mysteriously, assuaged in time to meet a private pipeline company’s deadlines.”

The judges cited Dr. Seuss’ The Lorax: “We trust the United States Forest Service to ‘speak for the trees, for the trees have no tongues.'”

(emphasis mine)

Seriously, Dr. Seuss?

I know that the law is sometimes dry, but the judges are overcompensating here.

The Blithely Stated Terrifying Statement

It’s clear that Donald Trump, and his poodle Attorney General William Barr, are attempting a purge of of the the US state security apparatus in response to the Mueller report.

Needless to say, the ability of Donald Trump to use this to mold the FBI, CIA, NSA, etc. into his own image.

This is not to say that they status quo is a good thing.

In the lead paragraph of the article, there is a very chilling sentence, and it is the sheer banality of the statement that terrifies:

President Trump’s order allowing Attorney General William P. Barr to declassify any intelligence that led to the Russia investigation sets up a potential confrontation with the C.I.A. It effectively strips the agency of its most critical power: choosing which secrets it shares and which ones remain hidden.

(emphasis mine)

If there is any organization in the US government that should not have the absolute power to choose which secrets it shares, it is the CIA.

Considering the record of the CIA, with its long history of failures, support for authoritarian regimes, assaults on democracy, and spreading misery, if there is any agency which needs aggressive scrutiny from civilian government, they are it.


Chinese food on Christmas, the music video:

Bye Felicia Theresa

Theresa May became the leader of Britain after the country voted in a June 2016 referendum to leave the European Union. Brexit was her No. 1 job, and she failed to deliver it.

May announced Friday that she will resign as her party’s leader June 7 and make way for a new British prime minister later this summer.

Speaking in front of the official residence, 10 Downing Street, May said she had “done my best” but was unable to sway members of Parliament to back her compromise vision of Brexit. She told Britons that compromise was not a dirty word.

“I believe it was right to persevere even when the odds against success seemed high,” she said. “It is and will always remain a matter of deep regret for me that I have not been able to deliver Brexit.”

Near the end of her brief remarks, May noted that she was Britain’s second female prime minister and promised there would be more women in the highest office. Then her voice became shaky and tears almost came as she said she was departing with “no ill will, but with enormous and enduring gratitude to have had the opportunity to serve the country I love.”

It’s amazing that she became PM, and that she hung on as long as she did, since she made a complete dogs breakfast of everything that she has done.

I can only conclude that her deliberate cruelty (immigrants when she was Home Secretary, and toward poor people when she was PM)  reflects a core value of the Conservative Party, and her support flowed from that.

This is Supposed to Have a Chilling Effect

Julian Assangehas now been charged under the espionage act for publishing information that the government did not want published.

Publishing information that someone does not want published is journalism.  Anything else is stenography:

Julian Assange could face decades in a US prison after being charged with violating the Espionage Act by publishing classified information through WikiLeaks.

Prosecutors announced 17 additional charges against Assange for publishing hundreds of thousands of secret diplomatic cables and files on the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Assange, 47, was previously charged with working to hack a Pentagon computer system, in a secret indictment that was unveiled soon after his arrest at Ecuador’s embassy in London last month.

“Assange’s actions risked serious harm to United States national security to the benefit of our adversaries,” the justice department said in a statement. Officials said the publication of secret files by WikiLeaks was “one of the largest compromises of classified information in the history of the United States”.


WikiLeaks editor-in-chief, Kristinn Hrafnsson, labelled the new charges facing Assange as “the evil of lawlessness in its purest form”.

He added: “With the indictment, the ‘leader of the free world’ dismisses the First Amendment – hailed as a model of press freedom around the world – and launches a blatant extraterritorial assault outside its border, attacking basic principles of democracy in Europe and the rest of the world.”

I agree with this characterization.

The new charges against Assange raise profound questions about the freedom of the press under the first amendment of the US constitution. They may also complicate Washington’s attempts to extradite him from London.

Barry Pollack, a lawyer for Assange in the US, said in a statement: “These unprecedented charges demonstrate the gravity of the threat the criminal prosecution of Julian Assange poses to all journalists in their endeavor to inform the public about actions taken by the US government.”

The charges were roundly condemned by press freedom advocates. The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press said the charges posed a “dire threat” to journalists publishing classified information in the public interest. The Freedom of the Press Foundation described the prosecution as “terrifying”.

Terrorizing journalists is the goal here.

Ignoring the Obvious

I read an article suggesting that the time of the Blue Dog Democrats has passed because it was primarily a way to elect candidates by maximizing donations from business to allow them to win in marginal districts, and that, with the growth of internet based political donations, and the resulting explosion in small donor money, the tactic has become obsolete.

I think that this is wrong.

First, there are way too many Blue Dogs and Blue Dog types in safe districts, (Lipinski, for example) where the fund raising is not an issue, and second they really don’t do appreciably better than real Democrats.

Here is an important fact:  Political consultants are paid a proportion of media buys, so the more a candidate depends on fundraising, the more they make.

The focus on high budget campaigns, particularly in rural districts where media is relative cheap, is not about winning campaigns, it’s about political consultants generating large fees for themselves.

This is not about electoral success at all, it’s about self dealing among the professional political class.

The party establishment is dedicated to raising and spending as much as possible, EVEN WHEN IT ENGENDERS NO ELECTORAL BENEFIT, because there is a revolving door between DNC/DCCC/DSCC professional staffers and the political consultants, and the political consultants want their pay day.

This strategy is driven by the self-interest of the consultants, not the need to win elections.

Also, Proctological Exams and IRS Audits Far Exceed Cable in Customer Satisfaction

Not a surprise. I would have higher consumer satisfaction ratings that cable companies if I sold people radioactive asbestos kale salads:

There’s just something about terrible customer service, high prices, and sketchy quality product that consumers oddly don’t like. American consumers’ dislike of traditional cable TV providers was once again made clear this week in a study by the American Consumer Satisfaction Index, which, as its name implies, tracks US consumer approval of companies on a 100 point scale. As has long been the case, the full report shows most traditional cable TV, satellite, or IPTV providers languishing somewhere in the mid 60s — scores that are bested by a long line of industries and government agencies (including the IRS).

Not too surprisingly, the report shows that American consumers far prefer streaming video alternatives, which provide them with lower costs and greater package flexibility. According to the ACSI, streaming services scored significantly higher than traditional TV, phone, broadband, video on demand, and wireless providers:

People hate their cable companies, and they do so with good reason.

It’s not for nothing that Comcast had to rebrand itself as Xfinity.

Dealing with cable company customer service is less pleasant than Dick Cheney scat porn.  (Not seen, not gonna see, not gonna Google it.)

Pass the Popcorn

The New York legislature just passed a bill authorizing Congressional access to Donald Trump’s state tax returns, and Governor Andrew “Rat Faced Andy” Cuomo is expected to sign it:

New York State lawmakers on Wednesday gave their final approval to a bill that would clear a path for Congress to obtain President Trump’s state tax returns, injecting another element into a tortuous battle over the president’s refusal to release his taxes.

The bill, which is expected to be signed by Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, a third-term Democrat and regular critic of Mr. Trump’s policies and behavior, will authorize state tax officials to release the president’s state returns to any one of three congressional committees.

The returns — filed in New York, the president’s home state and business headquarters — would likely contain much of the same information as the contested federal returns, though it remained unclear whether those congressional committees would use such new power in their investigations.

The Legislature’s actions put the state in a bit of uncharted legal territory; Mr. Trump has said that he is ready to take the fight over his federal tax returns to the Supreme Court, and it seems likely that he would seek to contest New York’s maneuver.

Republicans have called the effort in Albany a “bill of attainder” — an unconstitutional piece of legislation aimed at a single person or group — while also decrying the potential invasion of privacy, suggesting that federal officials would conduct improper “fishing expeditions.”


Once signed into law by Mr. Cuomo, the legislation would require the commissioner of the New York Department of Taxation and Finance to release returns to the chairmen of the House Ways and Means Committee, the Senate Finance Committee and the Joint Committee on Taxation for any “specified and legitimate legislative purpose.” Such a request would be have to be made it writing, and only after a request for federal returns has been made to the Treasury Department.

While the bill clearly targets Donald Trump’s particular circumstances, it does not appear to my non lawyer eyes to rise to the level of a bill of attainder.

The real question is whether any of the members of the Ways and Means Committee have the stones to actually make the request, as the other two committees would have such a request blocked by Republicans.

My guess is that Ways and Means Chairman Richard Neal (D-MA) won’t have the requisite intestinal fortitude to actually make a formal request, because Democrats.

The Value of Twitter

The Philadelphia Enquirer pulled its “audience team”, off of twitter and replaced them with an automated bot.

It turned out that there was no change in referral traffic:

The Philadelphia Inquirer’s audience team used to spend 80% of its time on Twitter for a 2-3% return in referral traffic.

“And I was like, well that’s ridiculous,” said Kim Fox, managing editor for audience and innovation.

Now, the Inquirer’s Twitter flagship accounts are automated, and the Inquirer gets … yes … about a 2-3% return in referral traffic. ………

This wan’t a heavy duty AI bot.  It’s basically an RSS feed.

I am not surprised.

It’s the nature of the medium.

Sometimes, The Ratf%$#s Lose

In this case, the rodent breeders in question are Qualcomm, who has been requiring companies to both buy their (protected by patent) chips, AND to pay licensing fees on those same patents.

I do not understand how patent exhaustion would not prevent this.

It appears that federal judge Lucy Koh has a similar view, and found Qualcomm is guilty of serious anti-trust violations, and issued an injunction preventing them from getting two bites at the Apple:*

Qualcomm abused its monopoly on critical chip patents for decades, a US federal judge in California said on Wednesday in a decision with radical implications for the cellphone market.

In a 233-page opinion [PDF] Judge Lucy Koh came down heavily on the chip designer, saying it had violated antitrust laws and “strangled competition” by insisting that companies license its patents at unreasonable prices before being allowed to purchase its chips. Qualcomm chips are an essential component in modern mobile phones.

Koh also issued a permanent injunction that orders Qualcomm to sell its chips to companies without requiring them to license its patents. She also ordered that the company be monitored by federal regulators for seven years.


Qualcomm has said it will appeal the decision and seek an immediate stay on the injunction. “We strongly disagree with the judge’s conclusions, her interpretation of the facts and her application of the law,” the company said in a statement. The impact of the decision on Qualcomm’s bottom line was reflected in an instant 12 per cent drop in its share price.


“Qualcomm’s licensing practices have strangled competition in the CDMA and premium LTE modem chip markets for years, and harmed rivals, OEMs and end consumers in the process,” Judge Koh wrote. “Qualcomm’s licensing practices are an unreasonable restraint of trade.”

Explaining her decision to grant a permanent injunction, she argued “it makes little sense for the court, having found that Qualcomm’s patent licenses are the product of anti-competitive conduct, to leave those licenses in place.” The Snapdragon system-on-chip designer was charging “unreasonably high royalty rates,” Koh said.


At the core of the case is that fact that Qualcomm possesses a number of “standard essential” patents on chips that are critical for mobile phones to function. It then used that position to force companies to license its patents – demanding many times a fair market rate – before being allowed to buy its chips.

Experts highlighted the fact that Qualcomm would also only license its patents at the device level, as opposed at the component or chip level – which forced companies to pay it more and gave it greater control of the market.

Here’s hoping that this holds up on appeal.

*Pun intended.

What the F%$# Do You Put on Your Resume

I was reading an article about how researchers, using shark vomit, have determined that baby tiger in the Gulf of Mexico sharks eat lots of song birds. (NOT seabirds)

Normally, I would file this under, “Huh, that’s interesting,” and I might post a link in my linkage posts.

But then a thought hit me, which is that a fairly large number of researchers are involved in this, including research assistants, graduate students, and maybe some undergrads as well.

Doubtless these folks will be going to other jobs, and other schools, where they will want to relate this experience to future employers or educators.

This raises a question for me, what is the best way to put, “Shark Vomit Analyst on a resume?”

Wages of Law Breaking

I am referring to Uber and Lyft, whose generally unlawful activiteis are billed as “innovative disruption”.

Well, experts at  San Francisco County Transportation Authority and the University of Kentucky, have studied their effect, and the it’s absolutely the opposite of what the hack taxicab companies have claimed:

Uber and Lyft accounted for two-thirds of a 62% rise in congestion in San Francisco over six years, according to a report published on the day of a coordinated protest by drivers.

The figures “are eye-popping,” said Joe Castiglione, deputy director for technology, data and analysis at the San Francisco County Transportation Authority. He co-authored the study with researchers from the University of Kentucky.

It shows that hours of vehicle delays increased by 62% throughout the city from 2010 to 2016, the period when ride-hailing services began proliferating on the streets. Traffic models that exclude Uber and Lyft cars show that hours of delay would have gone up 22% in their absence.

Extrapolating from those numbers, the study’s authors concluded that on-demand ride services — or transportation network companies, as they’re known in academic patois — are clogging roads and siphoning people from mass transit, going against the companies’ stated mission to wean people off of private cars. The authors laid out their findings in the scholarly journal Science Advances, providing fodder for policymakers seeking to regulate these companies.


A similar study that the Transportation Authority published last year looked more broadly at swelling traffic from 2010 to 2016, and found that transportation network companies comprised about half of it, with the other half stemming from job and population growth. Wednesday’s study narrowly measured the correlation between ride-hailing services and increased congestion.

Since I am inclined to state the obvious, this result was predicted over 80 years ago, which was one of the reasons why New York instituted taxi medallions 1937.

This is not disruptive innovation, it’s just a twist on a very old scam, and the founders have gotten very rich using other people’s money.

This is Pathological

One of the people on Trump’s short list for “Immigration Czar” is Kris Kobach.

The New York Times has gotten its hands on his demands in order to accept position, and, Even by the Standards of the Trump Administration, he has shown himself to be a psychopathic narcissist:

Access to a government jet 24 hours a day. An office in the West Wing, plus guaranteed weekends off for family time. And an assurance of being made secretary of homeland security by November.

Those were among a list of 10 conditions that Kris Kobach, the former Kansas secretary of state, has given to the White House if he is to become the administration’s “immigration czar,” a job President Trump has been looking to create to coordinate immigration policy across government agencies. The list was described by three people familiar with it.

The list was submitted by Mr. Kobach in recent weeks as he discussed his interest in the job. Other conditions included having a staff of seven reporting to him, “walk in” privileges to the Oval Office, a security detail if deemed necessary and the title of assistant to the president.

He would need access to the jet, he said, for weekly visits to the border and travel back to Kansas on the weekends. The existence of the list has become known among officials in the Trump administration, some of whom were taken aback by what they regard as its presumptuousness.

(emphasis mine)

Seriously, there is something deeply and profoundly wrong with this guy.

If Speaker Pelosi Does Not Want to Use the House of Representatives, I Would Like to Borrow It for a Time

Yesterday, it was Justin Amash (R-MI), and today it was 3 members of the Demcratic leadership in the House calling for Trump’s impeachment:

House Democratic leaders sparred internally on Monday over whether to begin an impeachment inquiry against President Donald Trump, with Speaker Nancy Pelosi and her allies rejecting the call to move forward for now, according to multiple sources.

Reps. David Cicilline (D-R.I.), Jamie Raskin (D-Md.), and Joe Neguse (D-Colo.) — all members of the Democratic leadership — pushed to begin impeachment proceedings during a leadership meeting in Pelosi’s office, said the sources. Pelosi and Reps. Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.), Ben Ray Lujan (D-N.M.), Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.) and Cheri Bustos (D-Ill.) — some of her key allies — rejected their calls, saying Democrats’ message is being drowned out by the fight over possibly impeaching Trump.

The, “Democrats’ message,” what the hell is that?

According to Cheri Bustos, head of the DCCC, you have to aggressively support an anti-choice Dem in a safe district, (Lipinski) and a right wing darling of the Koch brothers. (Cuellar)

What is your message, besides, “This space for rent”?

She is the George McClellan of Congress.

She has done a creditable job organizing a Democratic Congress, but she seems determined not to do anything it.

The Gig Economy Strikes Back

A group of Uber and Lyft drivers serving Washington National Airport have taken to simultaneously turning off their apps to drive surge pricing to increase their fares:

Drivers for ride-hailing apps Lyft and Uber have organized for better pay through collective action – and not by unionizing.

Here’s how it works: a group of drivers who pick up passengers at Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport, outside the US capital, have been turning off their taxi apps simultaneously to influence the surge pricing algorithms used by the two companies.

A report published last week by local ABC affiliate WJLA-TV recounts how a group of 100-150 drivers all turned off their driver apps in sync – coordinated by an individual using an unidentified app – to create the false impression of a local driver shortage.

With the ride supply down as demand peaks, the taxi apps’ surge pricing algorithms kick in, offering higher rates to entice more drivers to come to the airport. Minutes later, once the price rises anywhere from $10 to $19 or so, the drivers sign back on and accept the fare at a level they find more reasonable.

This is why you should not do business with companies that treat their employees like crap.

Even ignoring the ethical issues, it is likely that those poorly treated employees will find a way to fight back, and you are likely to be the battlefield.

Support Your Local Police

Florida National Guardsmen were getting ready to engage in weapons qualification at a shooting range.

They followed the North Miami Beach Police sniper team and discovered that the cops had been using mugshots of black men for target practice, including a phtograph of one of the guardsmen’s brothers:

A South Florida family is outraged at North Miami Beach Police after mug shots of African American men were used as targets at a shooting range for police training.

It was an ordinary Saturday morning last month when Sgt. Valerie Deant arrived at the shooting range in Medley, or so she thought.

Deant, who plays clarinet with the Florida Army National Guard’s 13th Army Band, and her fellow soldiers were at the shooting range for their annual weapons qualifications training.

What the soldiers discovered when they entered the range made them angry: mug shots of African American men apparently used as targets by North Miami Beach Police snipers, who had used the range before the Guardsmen. Even more startling for Deant, one of the images was her brother. It was Woody Deant’s mug shot that taken 15 years ago, after he was arrested in connection to a drag race in 2000 that left two people dead. His mug shot was among the pictures of five minorities used as targets by North Miami Beach police, all of them riddled by bullets.

“I was like ‘why is my brother being used for target practice?’” Deant asked.

Your brother is being used for target practice because he is black, and because the North Miami Beach Police sniper team is a sociopathic and racist organization.

The degree to which racism and brutality are unthinkingly incorporated into law enforcement culture in the United States truly deplorable.