Month: September 2019

No. Just No.

This is an abomination

Dear lord, this is real.

Whoever came up with the idea of making a horror film based on the 1960s children’s show The Banana Splits is not a good person.

I don’t know for certain what drove this idea, but I would suggest that all involved in pitching and green-lighting this film probably need extended time in drug and alcohol rehab.

What ……… were ……… they ……… thinking?

The Polls Do Not Matter Here

This does not matter.

The politics of the matter is that whenever the Democrats act like cowards, (Spoiler, most of them are cowards) it neutralizes their generally popular policy initiatives, because people do not believe that cowards will keep their promises.

Also, it is clear that Trump has committed impeachable offenses, obstruction of justice, abuse of office to harass opponents, attempted bribery, etc.

In a conference call with House Democrats this weekend, Speaker Nancy Pelosi made her case for impeachment by pointing to some recent polls.

“I will only close by saying, the polls have changed drastically about this,” Pelosi said, as she laid out her plans for moving forward with impeachment, according to an aide on the call. While there are only a few new polls on the subject, and their findings certainly have the potential to fluctuate, early surveys back up Pelosi’s point.

Since House Democrats launched a formal impeachment inquiry last Tuesday, support for impeachment has grown, according to polls from Politico/Morning Consult, HuffPost/YouGov, NPR/PBS Newshour/Marist, CBS News/YouGov, and Quinnipiac.

These shifts suggest that public sentiment could continue to change as the inquiry proceeds. Such increases in support could bode well for Democratic leaders, who have been reluctant to pursue impeachment out of concerns that negative public sentiment may hurt the party’s chances of keeping the House majority.

The narrow investigation currently being mooted is not a good idea:  You need to show the deep and pervasive corruption that permeates the Trump administration at all levels.

The alternative is to pass bills that never get a hearing in the Senate.

The 737 MAX Debacle is Driven by Profits Trumping Safety

It turns out that the predecessor system for MCAS, which was used on Boeing’s military tankers, was both less aggressive, and easier for the pilots to override.

So, why did Boeing create the clusterf%$# that crashed two planes?

The obvious answer is that Boeing has sold the MAX on not requiring pilot recertification, which is not an issue in the military market.

This was a deliberate choice by the suits:

Boeing Co. engineers working on a flight-control system for the 737 MAX omitted key safeguards that had been included in an earlier version of the same system used on a military tanker jet, people familiar with the matter said.

Accident investigators have implicated the system, known as MCAS, in two deadly crashes of the jetliner that killed a total of 346 people.

The engineers who created MCAS more than a decade ago for the military refueling plane designed the system to rely on inputs from multiple sensors and with limited power to move the tanker’s nose—which one person familiar with the design described as deliberate checks against the system acting erroneously or causing a pilot to lose control.

“It was a choice,” this person said. “You don’t want the solution to be worse than the initial problem.”

The MAX’s version of MCAS, however, relied on input from just one of the plane’s two sensors that measure the angle of the plane’s nose. The system also proved tougher for pilots to override. Investigators have implicated the system in the fatal nosedives of a Lion Air jet in October 2018 and of an Ethiopian Airlines MAX in March. Indonesia is expected to fault that MCAS design, in addition to U.S. oversight lapses and pilot missteps, in its final report on the Lion Air crash into the Java Sea, The Wall Street Journal has reported.

Now, Boeing’s expected fix for the 737 MAX will make its MCAS more like the one used in the tanker, according to people familiar with the matter.


Boeing developed the MCAS for the military tanker around the early 2000s, another person familiar with the project said. The tanker was a military derivative of Boeing’s wide-body 767 commercial jet and included pods on its wings used for air-to-air refueling of fighters and other war planes. Those wing pods added lift and caused the tanker’s nose to pitch up in some flight conditions, risking the plane’s ability to meet Federal Aviation Administration safety requirements, people familiar with the matter said. So engineers devised MCAS software, which automatically pushes down the tanker’s nose if necessary, to comply with FAA standards, these people said.

In a key difference from the subsequent version of the system used on the MAX, the system on the tanker moves the plane’s horizontal stabilizer—the control surface perpendicular to the airplane’s tail—once per activation and not repeatedly, the person familiar with the tanker project said.

The tanker engineers also gave the system only limited power to nudge the plane’s nose down to ensure that pilots would be able to recover if it accidentally pushed the plane into a dive, said the person familiar with the tanker’s MCAS design. That meant MCAS had little authority over the stabilizer, which made it much easier for pilots to counteract.

The question raised is, “Why the disastrous changes in the system?”

This was keeping retraining to a minimum, and it killed people.

Data Point of the Day

Just 90 Companies Caused Two-Thirds of Man-Made Global Warming Emissions

The Guardian

Much of the dialogue about anthropogenic climate change is cast as a personal morality play.

While recycling and like is certainly a good thing to do on a personal level, we need to understand that there are very small number of bad actors who need to be confronted in order to actually fix things.

Most of these companies are fossil fuel companies, but cement companies also figure prominently.

They all need to be broken for us to make progress.

Groundhog Day

It looks like the State Department is rebooting its investigation into Hillary Clinton’s emails, because ……… I guess Trump wants to try to run this ploy in 2020.

This is f%$#ed up and sh%$:

The Trump administration is investigating the email records of dozens of current and former senior State Department officials who sent messages to then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s private email, reviving a politically toxic matter that overshadowed the 2016 election, current and former officials said.

As many as 130 officials have been contacted in recent weeks by State Department investigators — a list that includes senior officials who reported directly to Clinton as well as others in lower-level jobs whose emails were at some point relayed to her inbox, said current and former State Department officials. Those targeted were notified that emails they sent years ago have been retroactively classified and now constitute potential security violations, according to letters reviewed by The Washington Post.

In virtually all of the cases, potentially sensitive information, now recategorized as “classified,” was sent to Clinton’s unsecure inbox.

State Department investigators began contacting the former officials about 18 months ago, after President Trump’s election, and then seemed to drop the effort before picking it up in August, officials said.

Senior State Department officials said that they are following standard protocol in an investigation that began during the latter days of the Obama administration and is nearing completion.

“This has nothing to do with who is in the White House,” said a senior State Department official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly about an ongoing probe. “This is about the time it took to go through millions of emails, which is about 3½ years.”

Yeah, sure.  “Retroactively classified.”

I get that the Trump Administration is relentlessly corrupt and self serving, but beyond the urge to,burn it all down,” there seems no reason whatsoever to do this.

It Seems That the House of Saud Thinks That It Was the Houthis

Seriously, the only reason for the House of Saud to agree to a cease fire in Yemen is that they are worried about further attacks on their critical infrastructure coming from the Houthis:

Saudi Arabia is moving to enact a partial cease-fire in Yemen, say people familiar with the plans, as Riyadh and the Houthi militants the kingdom is fighting try to end a four-year war that has become a front line in the regional clash with Iran.

Saudi Arabia’s decision follows the Houthis’ surprise declaration of a unilateral cease-fire in Yemen last week, just days after they claimed responsibility for the Sept. 14 drone and cruise-missile strike on Saudi Arabia’s oil industry.

If the mutual cease-fire in these areas takes hold, the Saudis would look to broaden the truce to other parts of Yemen, the people familiar with the plans said. Enforcing the cease-fire will require Saudi Arabia to reach out to its Yemeni allies on the ground to ensure that they adhere to Riyadh’s dictates.

The new cease-fire faces steep odds, as similar arrangements have crumbled before. But the Houthis’ unexpected unilateral move for a cease-fire last week raised hopes in Riyadh and Washington that the Yemeni fighters might be willing to distance themselves from Tehran.

After the Sept. 14 attack on the Saudi oil facilities, Houthi leaders initially said they were responsible. Saudi, U.S. and European officials dismissed the claims as an attempt to obscure Iran’s role in the strike. Yemeni fighters, these officials say, have neither the weapons nor the skills to carry out such a sophisticated strike.

Which is why the Saudis are folding lime overdone pasta to the Houthis, because they, “Have neither the weapons nor the skills to carry out such a sophisticated strike.”

Sounds convincing to me.

So Not a Surprise

In an acknowledgement of reality, a federal court has ruled that the FCC ignored reality in order to relax media ownership rules:

The FCC’s multi-year effort to kill media consolidation rules at the behest of giants like Sinclair Broadcasting has been rejected by the courts, who ruled the agency failed to seriously consider the negative impact unchecked media monopolies have on the public at large.

In a 2-1 new ruling, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit forced the FCC to go back to the drawing board in its quest to make life easier for media giants, arguing the agency “did not adequately consider the effect its sweeping rule changes will have on ownership of broadcast media by women and racial minorities.”


The court today agreed, stating that FCC analysis justifying its decision was “so insubstantial that it would receive a failing grade in any introductory statistics class.”

I’m shocked that Ajit Pai shirk his moral and statute obligations in this manner……….NOT.

Uber Abides

It turns out that Uber has a unit to police driver behavior and qualifications, and they are forbidden from reporting crimes to the authorities:

Inside the 23-story Bank of America Tower in downtown Phoenix, a team of nearly 80 specialized workers grapples with some of the worst incidents that happen in Uber rides. Armed with little more than a phone headset and GPS ride data, these agents in the Special Investigations Unit have to figure out what went wrong.

But when they make a determination, the SIU investigators are coached by Uber to act in the company’s interest first, ahead of passenger safety, according to interviews with more than 20 current and former investigators. Uber has a three-strikes system, investigators said, but executives have made exceptions to keep drivers on the road. For instance, a New York-area driver allegedly made three separate sexual advances on riders, said an investigator assigned to the case. After an executive overruled the investigator, the driver was allowed to continue working until a fourth incident, when a rider claimed he raped her.

The agents are forbidden by Uber from routing allegations to police or from advising victims to seek legal counsel or make their own police reports, even when they get confessions of felonies, said Lilli Flores, a former investigator in Phoenix — a guideline corroborated in interviews with investigators, alleged victims and plaintiffs’ attorneys.

This is still going on, so it’s not just a Travis Kalanick thing.

In fact, it’s not just Uber, It’s Lyft too, because evading responsibility is at the core of the “Gig Economy” business model.

About the 737 MAX………

The Office of Special Counsel (OSC) has issued a report saying that FAA inspectors for the 737 MAX were not qualified:

A whistleblower has claimed America’s Federal Aviation Administration misled investigators checking whether FAA personnel were fully qualified to sign off Boeing 737 Max training standards.

A letter published by the US Office of the Special Counsel (OSC) claims that the FAA had contradicted itself in statements it made about air safety inspectors’ (ASIs’) qualifications and their competence to sign off crucial Boeing 737 Max training standards and materials.

Potentially, a whistleblower told the OSC – essentially a federal watchdog – 11 out of 17 ASIs working for the FAA’s Seattle-based Air Evaluation Group either did not have the right classroom training or the required on-the-job training to perform their duties correctly.

The allegations will pour fuel on the fire burning under Boeing’s 737 Max and its controversial MCAS software system, which was sneakily included in the new airliner in such a way that it could take control from the pilots in a way which wasn’t obvious to them to avoid a stall.

I think that recertification of the 737 MAX is going to be a lot more difficult than Boeing envisions, because neither the EU nor China are going to take the FAA’s word on this.

I Have Changed My Mind on the Remake of The Princess Bride

I would absolutely watch a princess bride remake IF and only if it was a muppets remake and Andre the Giant was played by Sweetums.

— Ed. Condon (@canonlawyered) September 21, 2019


I would not object to a Muppet remake of The Princess Bride.

If it were properly done, and yes that would include Sweetums, it could be an interesting and entertaining take on a classic.

Whistleblower Details Emerge

We now know that the person who filed the report about Trump’s shakedown of the Ukrainian President was CIA agent who was assigned to the White House.

Given that Christine Blasey Ford had to go into hiding with her family because of death threats, I am not particularly sanguine with the New York Times revealing so much information about them.

It is reasonable for the Times to get this information, but I think that publishing in a story that is basically a time line of events was not necessary, and will likely face threats and intimidation as a result.

The White House learned that a C.I.A. officer had lodged allegations against President Trump’s dealings with Ukraine even as the officer’s whistle-blower complaint was moving through a process meant to protect him against reprisals, people familiar with the matter said on Thursday.

The officer first shared information about potential abuse of power and a White House cover-up with the C.I.A.’s top lawyer through an anonymous process, some of the people said. She shared the officer’s concerns with White House and Justice Department officials, following policy. Around the same time, he also separately filed the whistle-blower complaint.

The revelations provide new insight about how the officer’s allegations moved through the bureaucracy of government. The Trump administration’s handling of the explosive accusations is certain to be scrutinized in the coming days and weeks, particularly by lawmakers weighing the impeachment of the president.

Lawyers for the whistle-blower refused to confirm that he worked for the C.I.A. and said that publishing information about him was dangerous.

“Any decision to report any perceived identifying information of the whistle-blower is deeply concerning and reckless, as it can place the individual in harm’s way,” said Andrew Bakaj, his lead counsel. “The whistle-blower has a right to anonymity.”

I believe that the Times published this (and other) information in this article because they believed that subjecting whoever this is to harassment was somehow a way of showing their “fair and balanced” bonafides.

There was no need to do this, because, as is stated in the article, “Multiple people had raised concerns about Mr. Trump’s call,” which should serve as an indicator of reliability.

The rest of the article is largely a time line, but it is a useful timeline.

What’s In It for Andy?

New York Governor Andrew “Rat Faced Andy” Cuomo just signed a bill making it easier for voters to register for primary voting:

A bill meant to make it easier for voters to change party enrollment ahead of a primary election was approved Thursday by Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

The measure addresses a long-standing complaint of good-government organization and voter-rights’ groups that New York’s election laws make it difficult to access party primaries, which are closed to those enrolled in a party.

The law signed Thursday will end the Oct. 11 deadline and allow voters to register by Feb. 14 to make changes to party enrollment. New York’s presidential primary is scheduled for April 28.

“While the federal administration continues to look for new ways to disenfranchise voters across the country, in New York we are making monumental changes to break down more barriers to the ballot box and encourage more people to exercise this fundamental right,” Cuomo said.

Call me a cynic, but I am wondering what Cuomo’s angle might be.

He doesn’t do good unless there is something in it for him.

Still, the voters of New York will benefit from this.


Thomas Edison’s Venture Into Porno Films:

Bye Adam

In the next stage of the implosion of “tech” unicorn WeWork, the nut-job CEO of the office rental firm, Adam Neumann, has resigned as CEO:

WeWork’s wildman CEO and co-founder Adam Neumann has been pushed out as chief exec of his post-profit property management biz.

The board of directors today confirmed rampant speculation that Neumann, who started the global-spanning office subletting shop in 2010 with Miguel McKelvey, was about be kicked out of the top job.

The Softbank-backed WeWork will now be headed by co-CEOs Artie Minson, formerly co-president and chief financial officer, and Sebastian Gunningham, formerly the board’s vice-chairman.

Neumann, known for his party-animal lifestyle and dreams of becoming the immortal trillionaire president of the world, will stay on as non-executive chairman of the board. However, he will cede majority control by reducing the voting power of his shares from 10 votes per share to three.


“While our business has never been stronger, in recent weeks, the scrutiny directed toward me has become a significant distraction and I have decided that it is in the best interest of the company to step down as chief executive.”

We presume that when Neumann talks of the “significant distraction” he is referring to the recent reports around his handling of the finances at a business that over the first half of this year lost almost $700m, from revenues of $1.5bn, and warned prospective IPO investors that it may never be profitable. Funnily enough, in July, Neumann apparently cashed out for $700m.

Things only got worse from there, as the upstart’s estimated value took a nosedive and the IPO was postponed in order to give Neumann and his team time to figure things out. The biz, once touted as being worth $47bn, is now watching its value erode daily.

First, this company is not a tech company, it’s a landlord, who managed to sell themselves as high tech because there is Kampuchea at the snack bar.

Secondly, the company is a morass of corrupt self-dealing.

It really is remarkable what qualifies as a hot stock in the United States.

You Have No Right to Know if the Government Wants to Murder You

This is literally straight out of Kafka’s novel The Trial, where the protagonist is sentenced to death by an unspecified court for an unspecified crime:

A U.S. judge Tuesday dismissed an American journalist’s lawsuit challenging his alleged placement on a “kill list” by U.S. authorities in Syria, after the Trump administration invoked the “state secrets” privilege to withhold sensitive national security information.

U.S. District Judge Rosemary M. Collyer of Washington, D.C., last year had opened the way for Bilal Abdul Kareem, a freelance journalist who grew up in New York, to seek answers in his civil case from the government and to try to clear his name after what he claims were five near-misses by U.S. airstrikes in Syria.

Collyer in June 2018 ruled that Abdul Kareem, who said he was mistaken for a militant because of his frequent contact with militants linked to al-Qaeda, was exercising his constitutional right to due process in court.

But after talks between Abdul Kareem’s lawyers and U.S. authorities broke down, the government tapped the rarely invoked state secrets authority, saying Abdul Kareem sought information revealing “the existence and operational details of alleged military and intelligence activities directed at combating the terrorist threat to the United States.”

In a 14-page opinion, Collyer said she was bound to agree, saying the government’s right to withhold information in such instances is “absolute.” 

First, the invocation of the state secrets privilege is not that uncommon, and second, the case that established this absolute privilege, United States v. Reynolds, the US government lied to the court about the secret nature of the the evidence.

This is yet another fact that makes the case for the Swedish concept of Offentlighetsprincipen (openness), which creates the default of public access for all government data.

Obvious to Anyone Who Worked in the Nuclear Industry

I spent about 6 months working for a company in the nuclear energy area, and I’ve always known that nuclear power is too expensive and too slow to be a viable solution to anything, including (particularly) anthropogenic climate change:

Nuclear power is losing ground to renewables in terms of both cost and capacity as its reactors are increasingly seen as less economical and slower to reverse carbon emissions, an industry report said.
FILE PHOTO: Cooling towers and high-tension electrical power lines are seen near the Golfech nuclear plant on the border of the Garonne River between Agen and Toulouse, France, August 29, 2019. REUTERS/Regis Duvignau/File Photo

In mid-2019, new wind and solar generators competed efficiently against even existing nuclear power plants in cost terms, and grew generating capacity faster than any other power type, the annual World Nuclear Industry Status Report (WNISR) showed.

“Stabilizing the climate is urgent, nuclear power is slow,” said Mycle Schneider, lead author of the report. “It meets no technical or operational need that low-carbon competitors cannot meet better, cheaper and faster.”


The extra time that nuclear plants take to build has major implications for climate goals, as existing fossil-fueled plants continue to emit CO2 while awaiting substitution.

It should be noted that if nuclear power were accurately costed, it would cost in excess of ten times as much of any other power source.

The cost of generating solar power ranges from $36 to $44 per megawatt hour (MWh), the WNISR said, while onshore wind power comes in at $29–$56 per MWh. Nuclear energy costs between $112 and $189.

Over the past decade, the WNISR estimates levelized costs – which compare the total lifetime cost of building and running a plant to lifetime output – for utility-scale solar have dropped by 88% and for wind by 69%.

For nuclear, they have increased by 23%, it said.

Note that these costs do not reflect the cost of disposal of radioactive waste, or the cost of the security and non-proliferation measures required for nuclear.

Unless you want a nuclear submarine, or a nuclear weapon, nuclear power is a very bad deal.

Speaking of Insufferable Prats Having a Bad Day

The British supreme court just ruled that Boris Johnson’s proroguing parliament for 5 weeks is illegal.

Basically, they said that he lied to the Queen:

The supreme court has ruled that Boris Johnson’s advice to the Queen that parliament should be prorogued for five weeks at the height of the Brexit crisis was unlawful.

The unanimous judgment from 11 justices on the UK’s highest court followed an emergency three-day hearing last week that exposed fundamental legal differences over interpreting the country’s unwritten constitution.


Then, giving the court’s judgment on whether the decision to suspend parliament was legal, Hale said: “This court has … concluded that the prime minister’s advice to Her Majesty [ to suspend parliament] was unlawful, void and of no effect. This means that the order in council to which it led was also unlawful, void and of no effect should be quashed.


She [Hale] added: “The court is bound to conclude, therefore, that the decision to advise Her Majesty to prorogue parliament was unlawful because it had the effect of frustrating or preventing the ability of parliament to carry out its constitutional functions without reasonable justification.”

The judgment said: “This was not a normal prorogation in the run-up to a Queen’s speech. It prevented parliament from carrying out its constitutional role for five out of a possible eight weeks between the end of the summer recess and exit day on 31 October.


The court stopped short of declaring that the advice given by Johnson to the Queen was improper. It was a question. they said, they did not need to address since they had already found the effect of the prorogation was itself unlawful.

That denial at the end seems to me to be legalese for, “I see what you did there.”

I’m not sure how the politics will play out, but it seems likely that it’s better for people not named Boris Johnson than it is for people named Boris Johnson.

I Did Not Expect This

We have been informed by the whistleblower’s counsel that their client would like to speak to our committee and has requested guidance from the Acting DNI as to how to do so.

We‘re in touch with counsel and look forward to the whistleblower’s testimony as soon as this week.

— Adam Schiff (@RepAdamSchiff) September 24, 2019

Also, Yes

I figured that Nancy Pelosi would oppose impeachment if Trump were caught on tape shooting someone to death on 5th Avenue while anally raping a walrus.

To quote Humphrey Bogart, I was misinformed:

Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced on Tuesday that the House would initiate a formal impeachment inquiry against President Trump, charging him with betraying his oath of office and the nation’s security by seeking to enlist a foreign power to tarnish a rival for his own political gain.

Ms. Pelosi’s declaration, after months of reticence by Democrats who had feared the political consequences of impeaching a president many of them long ago concluded was unfit for office, was a stunning turn that set the stage for a history-making and exceedingly bitter confrontation between the Democrat-led House and a defiant president who has thumbed his nose at institutional norms.

“The actions taken to date by the president have seriously violated the Constitution,” Ms. Pelosi said in a brief speech invoking the nation’s founding principles. Mr. Trump, she added, “must be held accountable — no one is above the law.”

She said the president’s conduct revealed his “betrayal of his oath of office, betrayal of our national security and betrayal of the integrity of our elections.”

Ms. Pelosi’s decision to push forward with the most severe action that Congress can take against a sitting president could usher in a remarkable new chapter in American life, touching off a constitutional and political showdown with the potential to cleave an already divided nation, reshape Mr. Trump’s presidency and the country’s politics, and carry heavy risks both for him and for the Democrats who have decided to weigh his removal.

Cowardice in the service of the Blue Dog Caucus seems to be Pelosi’s thing, so I am not sure what led her to do the right thing.

The most charitable explanation is to quote Churchill*, and conclude that she would, “Do the right thing, once all other possibilities have been exhausted.”

This should have happened months ago.

Of note is that she is not creating a select committee to investigate Trump, which would add something like 6 weeks to the timeline:

And Ms. Pelosi said she had directed the chairmen of the six committees that have been investigating Mr. Trump to “proceed under that umbrella of impeachment inquiry.” In a closed-door meeting earlier in the day, she said the panels should put together their best cases on potentially impeachable offenses by the president and send them to the Judiciary Committee, according to two officials familiar with the conversation. That could potentially lay the groundwork for articles of impeachment based on the findings.

(emphasis mine)

I am not sanguine about Nadler running the hearings, but the fastest way to get this show on the road is through the Judiciary committee.

*This quote from Churchill is almost certainly false.