22 February 2018

Your Mainstream Media

This week, the New York Times rightly called so-called firearms expert John Lott a fraud.

Last week, they published an OP/ED on gun control by John Lott:
Remember last week, when the New York Times ran an op-ed from the gun ‘researcher’ John Lott, who has been thoroughly and consistently debunked by basically everyone else who researches gun violence?

Apparently, the Times —yes, the people wot run the bad op-ed in the first place—does not remember! The paper issued an editorial today on criminal justice reform, which included this paragraph dunking on Lott:
Perhaps the most insidious part of the Trump administration’s approach to criminal justice lies in its efforts to link crime to its broader crackdown on immigration. In a speech last month, Mr. Sessions said undocumented immigrants are far more likely than American citizens to commit crimes, a claim he found in a paper by John Lott, the disreputable economist best known for misusing statistics to suit his own ideological ends. In this case, it appears Mr. Lott misread his own data, which came from Arizona and in fact showed the opposite of what he claimed: Undocumented immigrants commit fewer crimes than citizens, as the vast majority of research on the topic has found.
I would like to note that I also linked to that same Cato Institute debunking of Lott’s racist fake research, which tells me the Times editorial board is reading my posts. Hi!!! You should all resign!!!
 Seriously.  Who does the New York Times think that they are?  The Wall Street Journal?

Cheer the IT Revolution

It turns out that the increasing use of electronic health records saves neither time nor money, but this hasn't stopped a rush by the government and the private healthcare industry from
I thought of working words like “debacle,” “scam,” or “bezzle” into the headline, but today is my day to be kind (and the entire topic really demands that I pull on my yellow waders and write another “Credentialism and Corruption” post, which I might do at a later time). However, the headlines give a sense of what a bombshell this study should be for the EHR industry. On the spectrum from reluctant admissions all the way through to The Bezzle:
  1. Electronic health records don’t cut administrative costs Harvard Gazette (February 20, 2018).
  2. Electronic Health Records Don’t Reduce Administrative Costs Harvard Business School (February 20, 2018).
  3. EHRs fall short in reducing administrative costs Health Data Management (February 21, 2018).
  4. Why health IT experts think Apple will succeed where Google failed with medical records Health IT and CIO Review
  5. An Introduction to Medicalchain: Blockchain for Electronic Health Records CryptoSlate. (This is from February 8, but I couldn’t resist.)
The complete study (an “Original Investigation”) is here at the Journal of the American Medical Association. Unfortunately, the study is paywalled, and the study material that JAMA exposes muffles the bombshell. From the abtract, the methodology:
IT is going to change the world making unachievable claims based on bad/non-existent evidence, and all we have to do throw money at them.

The Most Contemptible People in the World

That would be the National Collegiate Athletic Association, which is literally arguing that its "student athletes" are slaves:
In the United States, college athletes — particularly those who compete at some of the largest football and basketball programs — generate not millions but billions of dollars for universities, brands, and television networks. In 2015, the top programs made a combined $9.1 billion. The NCAA, for its part, just signed an $8.8 billion dollar deal with CBS to air March Madness, the college basketball championship tournament.

………

That very obvious dynamic undergirds a lawsuit filed by former NCAA athlete Lawrence “Poppy” Livers asserting that scholarship students who play sports are employees and deserve pay. The Livers case argues that student-athletes who get scholarships should at least be paid as work-study students for the time they put in.

What the NCAA did in response to the lawsuit is as vile as anything going on in sports right now. I had to see it for myself before I believed it. At the root of its legal argument, the NCAA is relying on one particular case for why NCAA athletes should not be paid. That case is Vanskike v. Peters.

Only there’s an important detail: Daniel Vanskike was a prisoner at Stateville Correctional Center in Joliet, Illinois, and Howard Peters was the Director of the state Department of Corrections. In 1992, Vanskike and his attorneys argued that as a prisoner he should be paid a federal minimum wage for his work. The court, in its decision, cited the 13th Amendment and rejected the claim.

The 13th Amendment is commonly hailed as the law that finally ended slavery in America. But the amendment has an important carve-out: it kept involuntary service legal for those who have been convicted of a crime. “Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction,” the amendment says. It’s that phrase — “except as a punishment for crime” — which allows American prisons to force their inmates to do whatever work they want or need them to do.

The use of the case stems from several other law cases alleging unpaid labor; two of them are previous lawsuits against the NCAA in which the case was cited as precedent, and the NCAA won.

………

In their response to the NCAA’s motion to dismiss, Livers’s lawyers are arguing that the precedent was mistaken for applying the 13th Amendment exception for unpaid prison labor in a case dealing with non-prisoners.

“Defense Counsel’s insistence that Vanskike be applied here is not only legally frivolous, but also deeply offensive to all Scholarship Athletes – and particularly to African-Americans,” Livers’s rebuttal to the NCAA’s motion says. “Comparing athletes to prisoners is contemptible.”
 The NCAA is showing an incorrigible nerve to use this case, Vanskike v. Peters, as one of its justifications for not paying student-athletes. The Vanskike case has been cited in the 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals 14 times before, but in each of those 14 cases there were prisoners arguing that they should be paid a fair wage for their work.

Yet the NCAA wants to rely on this case and to call on the 13th Amendment. The body that runs college sports wants to use a justification for the slave labor of convicted criminals to justify its outrageous greed.
I have an idea for a sporting event, it would involve senior NCAA officials fighting each other to the death.

We could call it the Hunger Games.

Tweet of the Day


Word!

Nope. Nope. Nope. Nope. Nope. Nope. Nope.

New York's 19th Congressional district is allegedly competitive, though it went for Trump in 2016, and John Faso defeated Zephyr Techout about 8 points, so my guess is that it is not as competitive as people would like to think.

Patrick Ryan is running for US Congress in the Democratic primary in ew York's 19th congressional district.

Patrick Ryan has also made a living spying on progressives for the state security apparatus for about a decade:
Patrick Ryan, a congressional candidate from New York, is leaning on his experience as a small business entrepreneur to establish his readiness for office, but he has curiously failed to mention the business he used to work in: domestic surveillance.

Seven years ago, Ryan, then working at a firm called Berico Technologies, compiled a plan to create a real-time surveillance operation of left-wing groups and labor unions, hoping business lobbyists would pay top dollar to monitor and disrupt the actions of activist groups across the country. At one point, the proposal included the idea to spy on the families of high-profile Democratic activists and plant fake documents with labor unions in a bid to discredit them.

The pitch, a joint venture with a now-defunct company called HBGary Federal and the Peter Thiel-backed company Palantir Technologies, however, crumbled in 2011 after it was exposed in a series of news reports.

Years later, Ryan pivoted to a startup called Dataminr, a data analytics company that provided social media monitoring solutions for law enforcement clients. Dataminr, which received financial support from the CIA’s venture capital arm, produced real-time updates about activists for law enforcement. For example, according to documents obtained by the American Civil Liberties Union of California and reported by The Intercept for the first time, Dataminr helped track social media posts relating to Black Lives Matter.

Ryan is one of several Democrats hoping to challenge freshman Rep. John Faso, R-N.Y., for a seat that is expected to be among the most competitive in the country. The Hudson Valley district contains both staunchly conservative and liberal pockets. Donald Trump won the district by a seven-point margin in 2016, but even when Barack Obama took the district by six points in 2012, Democrats failed to win the congressional seat. Republicans have held the 19th District since it was formed eight years ago. This year, as Democrats anticipate a wave of victories in response to Trump and the GOP’s wildly unpopular agenda, they hope that the 19th District, will finally turn blue.


………

In July 2015, Ryan joined Dataminr, a startup that has worked closely with clients to make sense out of vast amounts of social media data. The company, as The Intercept first reported in 2016, was funded through an investment from In-Q-Tel, the venture capital arm of the CIA. The company, formed in consultation with Twitter, maintains access to Twitter’s proprietary “firehose” of user data, giving it an edge in social media data analysis.

The firm amassed law enforcement clients, including the FBI and Joint Regional Intelligence Center, a fusion center used by the government to alert multiple law enforcement departments in the Los Angeles region of potential threats. Documents, uncovered by the ACLU of California through a public records investigation of social media monitoring software, show that Dataminr monitored tweets mentioning Black Lives Matter on behalf of the JRIC. The emails show that Dataminr’s alerts vacuumed up tweets from now-Intercept columnist Shaun King, among other activists, in reports sent to law enforcement.

In another email obtained by the ACLU of California, Dataminr pitched the Los Angeles Police Department to use its tool to track protests, among other events of interest to law enforcement. Dataminr’s social media tracking tools are “highly valued by our clients at FBI CTD, NYPD, DoD and all ‘big five’ intel agencies,” the pitch continued.

In 2016, following a series of news reports on Dataminr’s relationship with law enforcement, Twitter announced Dataminr would no longer service fusion centers, and would restrict the use of its backend Twitter data for its law enforcement and intelligence agency clients.


Four years before he joined Dataminr, Ryan’s work with Berico Technologies was revealed in a hack of its partner firm, HBGary Federal. How his efforts to monitor activists on behalf of business interests were disclosed in an unusual story of spy versus spy.
 
In 2011, HBGary Federal boasted to the Financial Times that it was working on a plan to undermine WikiLeaks, which at the time was threatening to expose documents from Bank of America. In retaliation, a splinter group from the hacktivist collective LulzSec infiltrated network administrator from HBGary Federal, stealing thousands of emails from the firm and posting them onto the web.

The emails revealed that HBGary Federal had not only pitched a plan to Bank of America to track and discredit supporters of WikiLeaks, including The Intercept’s co-founder Glenn Greenwald, but had developed a larger business proposal to sell activist surveillance to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the largest pro-business lobbying organization in Washington, D.C.
Great.  Peter Thiel in drag.

No.  Just no.

Seriously no.

No.

21 February 2018

File Under, "Dystopian"

It appears that the car of the future have all the respect for your privacy that Mark Zuckerberg does, so expect hemorrhoid ads on your multi-function display:
Picture this: You’re driving home from work, contemplating what to make for dinner, and as you idle at a red light near your neighborhood pizzeria, an ad offering $5 off a pepperoni pie pops up on your dashboard screen.

Are you annoyed that your car’s trying to sell you something, or pleasantly persuaded? Telenav Inc., a company developing in-car advertising software, is betting you won’t mind much. Car companies—looking to earn some extra money—hope so, too.

Automakers have been installing wireless connections in vehicles and collecting data for decades. But the sheer volume of software and sensors in new vehicles, combined with artificial intelligence that can sift through data at ever-quickening speeds, means new services and revenue streams are quickly emerging. The big question for automakers now is whether they can profit off all the driver data they’re capable of collecting without alienating consumers or risking backlash from Washington.

“Carmakers recognize they’re fighting a war over customer data,” said Roger Lanctot, who works with automakers on data monetization as a consultant for Strategy Analytics. “Your driving behavior, location, has monetary value, not unlike your search activity.”
I just want an off switch for the car's connectivity features, because, in addition to eschewing the aforementioned advertisements, I don't want some script kiddie turning off my anti-lock brakes.

20 February 2018

Be Careful What You Wish for, You Might Get It

For years, the US has been demanding that European allies spend more on their military

Now that they are, they are also setting up European cooperation mechanisms, and so now the Pentagon is upset about baby steps toward European military autonomy:
For years, the US has been complaining that EU countries do not spend enough on their own military capabilities.

“Now we’re trying to do that, and it’s not right either,” Jean-Claude Juncker, the European Commission president, told delegates at the Munich Security Conference this weekend.

A high-level annual meeting of US and European politicians, generals and defence experts, the conference was this year dominated by calls from Germany and France for Europe to stand on its own two feet — and US qualms about what that might mean for the transatlantic alliance.

Indeed US misgivings about attempts to forge closer defence ties within the EU could become a significant irritant in relations with the US.
Why would Washington have a problem with this?

For the same reason that they expanded NATO to Russia's border, because they want to ensure that Europe remains a market for US military hardware, and this development implies that Europe is moving toward become a competitor in this whole "Merchants of Death" business:
Washington’s attention is focused on permanent structured co-operation, or Pesco, which is shaping up to be the EU’s most serious attempt yet at forging closer defence ties. Of its 28 member states, 25 have signed up to the scheme that involves 17 projects ranging from improving military mobility to developing a new infantry fighting vehicle.

………

Some Europeans suspect that US reservations are focused less on concerns about Nato than on fears for the US defence industry. “If the EU develops its own fighter aircraft, it won’t need any more Lockheed Martin F-35s,” said one senior MP from Germany’s governing CDU party. “If we really consolidate the European arms industry then it’s that industry that will get the contracts from the EU and that means more competition for US arms exporters.”
(emphasis mine)

Not a surprise, seeing as how the US has basically turned the State Department into the sales arm of the Military Industrial complex.

How it Should Be Done

If you want to run for office as a real liberal, watch Jeremy Corbyn and take copious notes:
Jeremy Corbyn pledged that a Labour government would make it harder for asset strippers to take over U.K. companies while vowing to make finance the “servants of industry not the masters of us all.”

While his full-throttle attacks on bankers have been become familiar to the City of London, his prescription for blocking hostile takeovers is specific and likely to rattle the world of business.

In a speech to the EEF manufacturers’ organisation, he will evoke the case of Melrose Industries Plc’s bid for GKN Plc as an example where action to fend off the turnaround specialist is justified. If elected, Corbyn would broaden the scope of the “public interest test” to allow the government to act.

“Take GKN, one of the world’s oldest and most prestigious engineering firms, which employs 6,000 workers across the U.K.,” Corbyn will say on Tuesday. “And yet GKN is currently facing a hostile, allegedly debt-fuelled takeover bid by Melrose, a company with a history of opportunistic asset-stripping.”

“It’s an all too familiar story, like when Kraft took over Cadburys,” Corbyn will tell an audience of manufacturers at their annual conference in London. “A valuable company could be sacrificed so that a few can make a quick buck.”
Understand that it is important to actually have credibility to make such a claim, which means that things like paid speaking gigs at Wall Street or fundraising appeals to that same boulevard tend to eliminate this as a valid tactic.

If you want to talk the talk, you have to walk the walk, as Corbyn has done for decades.

Linkage


To my mind, this is the quintessential country music song: (Warning: kind of NSFW)

19 February 2018

The New Pennsylvania Map is Out

Following the complete inability of the legislature and the governor to agree on come up with something that meets the requirements of the Pennsylvania constitution, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court has drawn the new Congressional map, and it appears to be a far fairer map:
The Pennsylvania Supreme Court on Monday imposed a new congressional district map that upends previous boundaries, renumbers districts across the state and gives a potential boost to Democrats in the 2018 House elections.

Under the court's redrawn map, districts more closely align with county lines and only 13 counties are split among two or three districts. By contrast, under the last map, enacted by the state legislature in 2011, more than twice as many counties were split among multiple districts.

In striking down that map last month as unconstitutional, the justices said the new districts should be as compact and contiguous as possible. Their new map, they wrote in an order, is “superior or comparable” to proposals submitted by the participants and interested groups during in the legal challenge that led to the historic ruling.

The reconfigured map prompted a sharp rebuke from top Republican legislators, who said honoring it would create a "constitutional crisis." Extending a political clash that has roiled the state for months, they said they might challenge the map — or the justices' authority to impose it — in federal court as early as Tuesday.
The US Supreme Court has already declined to review this, since the ruling is under the aegis of the Pennsylvania constitution, so I see it as somewhat unlikely that a Federal court overruling this.

The only way that I see an injunction is if the Supreme Court reverses itself and agrees to take the case directly.

They gave the legislature and governor an opportunity (albeit a short time) to come together on this, and they failed, so the court had to draw their own map.