20 April 2018

Another School Shooting

God Bless America.

Is this even news any more?

Thankfully only one minor injury.

Squirrel!!!!!!!!

It appears that in their quest to hide the fact that the incompetents who lost to a human inverted traffic cone still work there, the DCCC has filed suit against Russia and WikiLeaks for exposing their actual internal discussions to the public.

I can't imagine that a judge won't dismiss this before the ink is dry, because publishing information that your target does not want published is the very epitome of journalism.

That being said, if it DOES go to trial, WikiLeaks, and Russia, get to do discovery, which means putting people like Debbie Wasserman-Schultz, John Podesta, Donna Brazile, etc. under oath and asking them questions. This will not end well:
The Democratic National Committee filed a multimillion-dollar lawsuit Friday against the Russian government, the Trump campaign and the WikiLeaks organization alleging a far-reaching conspiracy to disrupt the 2016 campaign and tilt the election to Donald Trump.

The complaint, filed in federal district court in Manhattan, alleges that top Trump campaign officials conspired with the Russian government and its military spy agency to hurt Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton and help Trump by hacking the computer networks of the Democratic Party and disseminating stolen material found there.

“During the 2016 presidential campaign, Russia launched an all-out assault on our democracy, and it found a willing and active partner in Donald Trump’s campaign,” DNC Chairman Tom Perez said in a statement.

“This constituted an act of unprecedented treachery: the campaign of a nominee for President of the United States in league with a hostile foreign power to bolster its own chance to win the presidency,” he said.

The case asserts that the Russian hacking campaign — combined with Trump associates’ contacts with Russia and the campaign’s public cheerleading of the hacks — amounted to an illegal conspiracy to interfere in the election that caused serious damage to the Democratic Party.
Props to keeping the Congressional Democrats in the dark about this until the last minute.

Instead of hunting Russian spies, which I have been told is a difficult thing, how about searching for incompetents in the organization, and looters among your consultants and contractors.

It's an easier job, with a much larger payoff.

Yea, This Russiapohobia Sh%$ Is Getting out of Hand………

It appears that the latest Russian spies prevented from entering the United States include a prima ballerina with the Bolshoi Ballet:
Amid roiling relations between the US and Russia, two members of Moscow’s Bolshoi Ballet — including one of its prima ballerinas — have been refused visas to perform in New York City, Page Six has exclusively learned.

Organizers of a Lincoln Center gala where Olga Smirnova and Jacopo Tissi were due to dance on Monday believe the Department of Homeland Security’s decision may be motivated by the myriad tensions between the superpowers — and say that Smirnova is so revered in Moscow that her treatment could create a Russian backlash.

On Wednesday the department’s site read, “On April 10, 2018, we denied your… petition for a nonimmigrant worker.”

“I don’t understand it,” Linda K. Morse, chair of Youth America Grand Prix — which is hosting the gala — told Page Six. “One interpretation is that it’s political. That’s my knee-jerk reaction, but I can’t figure out why — other than that they’re Russian. But it doesn’t make any sense.”

The immigration service’s objection appears to be that the organizers applied for a visa usually granted to groups of entertainers, but since Smirnova and Tissi were planning to perform at the “Stars of Today Meets the Stars of Tomorrow” gala as individuals, rather than alongside the rest of the Bolshoi company, they’re not eligible for it.

But we’re told that YAGP has got the same visa for dancers — including Smirnova — in the past. Morse told us she “definitely” thinks the move could create political resentment in Russia. “Olga is considered the number one ballerina in the world right now,” said Morse, “and to refuse her visa is striking. It’s alarming.”
It's also very, very, very stupid.

Happy April 20

Yes, it is 4/20, and ……… Are you going to finish those fig newtons?

How about getting the never ending pasta bowl at Olive Garden, and then watching the Talking Heads concert film Stop Making Sense ……… That would be so epic —

……… What were we talking about again? 

Appeals Court: 1 — Mike Pence: 0

In what is a remarkably uncontroversial upholding of legal precedent, the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago just ruled that Mike Pence's Indiana anti-abortion law is unconstitutional:
Indiana's ban on "selective abortions," which was signed into law in 2016 by then-Gov. Mike Pence (R), is unconstitutional, a federal appeals court ruled on Thursday.

The law banned women from having abortions based on the gender, race or disability of the fetus.

The law imposes an "undue burden" on a woman's right to get an abortion, said the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago.

“The Supreme Court has been clear: the State may inform a woman’s decision before viability, but it cannot prohibit it,” Judge William Bauer wrote.

Similar bills passed or proposed in other states have specifically tried to ban abortions based on a Down syndrome diagnosis.
Good.  Let's hope that there will be more defeats of the Talibaptists nationwide.

19 April 2018

Not Enough Bullets

We have good news, and bad news.

The good news is that researchers have determined that an anti-cancer drug, Imbruvica (ibrutinib), was just as effective, with fewer side effects, at lower doses.

It would also save money for patients, or it would have if the drug maker had not tripled the cost of the drug in response:
A group of cancer doctors focused on bringing down the cost of treatments by testing whether lower — and cheaper — doses are effective thought they had found a prime candidate in a blood cancer drug called Imbruvica that typically costs $148,000 a year.

The science behind Imbruvica suggested that it could work at lower doses, and early clinical evidence indicated that patients with chronic lymphocytic leukemia might do just as well on one or two pills a day after completing an initial round of treatment at three pills per day.

The researchers at the Value in Cancer Care Consortium, a nonprofit focused on cutting treatment costs for some of the most expensive drugs, set out to test whether the lower dose was just as effective — and could save patients money.

Then they learned of a new pricing strategy by Janssen and Pharmacyclics, the companies that sell Imbruvica through a partnership. Within the next three months, the companies will stop making the original 140-milligram capsule, a spokeswoman confirmed. They will instead offer tablets in four strengths — each of which has the same flat price of about $400, or triple the original cost of the pill.

………

Just as scientific momentum was building to test the effectiveness of lower doses, the new pricing scheme ensures dose reductions won't save patients money or erode companies' revenue from selling the drug. In fact, patients who had been doing well on a low dose of the drug would now pay more for their treatment. Those who stay on the dose equivalent to three pills a day won't see a change in price.

“That got us kind of p---ed off,” said Mark J. Ratain, an oncologist at the University of Chicago Medicine who wrote about the issue in the Cancer Letter, a publication read by oncologists. “We were just in the early stages of planning [a clinical trial] and getting it organized, and thinking about sample size and funding, and we caught wind of what the company was doing.”
Pharma execs are, "A bunch of mindless jerks who'll be the first against the wall when the revolution comes."

I'm just saying.

OK, I May Have Been Too Dismissive of AI

It appears that scientists have managed to create a machine that can assemble IKEA furniture in about 20 minutes.

Of course, it2 a few years to do the programming:
Singaporean scientists have asked the question: “Can robots assemble an IKEA chair?” and come back with enough of a “Yes” that The Register feels it time to call for robots to take this job away from humans. Pleeeease, robots. Take this job away from us!

The boffins behind this breakthrough, assistant professor Pham Quang Cuong and a team of students, all of Nanyang Technological University, were cognizant of previous attempts at unpacking flat-pack kit that had used bespoke kit. So they instead used off-the-shelf robots and open-source code like the Point cloud library and gave them the job of assembling a “STEFAN” chair.

………

The robots didn’t do all the work themselves - assistant professor Pham and his students laid out the parts for the bots to find. But once unleashed, the machines did the job in 20 minutes and 19 seconds with over half of that time spent on computing the required actions. Actual build time was nine minutes, a little less than the average human according to IKEA.

Success came only at the fourth attempt, a failure rate that would put IKEA out of business. Problems on early attempts included the bots breaking some parts.

………

The team's paper is here
(paid subscription required)
No IKEA?

I'm feeling much better about the rise of the machines.

Adventures in the Annals of Quackery

In the annals of quack medicine, there is patent medicine, there is quackery, and then there is treating someone with the saliva of a rabid dog:
“Hair of the dog” remedies may do the trick for some hangover sufferers. But health experts say that a Canadian homeopath took the idea too far—way, way too far.

Homeopath and naturopath Anke Zimmermann used diluted saliva from a rabid dog to “treat” a four-year-old boy, according to a blog post she published earlier this year. Zimmermann claims that the potentially infectious and deadly concoction successfully resolved the boy’s aggressive behavior, which she described as a “slightly rabid-dog state.”

The tale fits with the scientifically implausible principles of homeopathy. These roughly state that substances that produce similar symptoms of a particular ailment can cure said ailment (“like cures like”) and that diluting a substance increases its potency (“law of infinitesimals”).

Health experts say Zimmermann’s claims aren’t just farfetched, but, rather, they’re barking mad.

………

Zimmermann quickly sniffed out the source of the problem: when Jonah was younger, a dog bit him. That is, Jonah’s mother said that one time a dog accidentally “broke the skin slightly” on Jonah’s hand while it was reaching to get food Jonah was holding.

Zimmermann pounced on the tidbit, claiming:

A bite from an animal, with or without rabies vaccination, has the potential to imprint an altered state in the person who was bitten, in some ways similar to a rabies infection. This can include over-excitability, difficulties sleeping, aggression, and various fears, especially of dogs or wolves. This child presented a perfect picture of this type of rabies state. Most homeopaths would have easily recognized the remedy required in this case.
The “remedy” to this “state” was clearly the saliva of a rabid dog, Zimmermann concluded. Months later, the mother reported that Jonah’s issues had improved—although they had not resolved entirely.
You can read the whole article for innumerable dog puns, but this is truly horrifying, and Zimmerman needs to be locked up to protect the rest of society.

Not Just a Torturer; Torturer in Chief

Long before Donald Trump ever nominated Gina Haspel to run the CIA, a memoir from a former CIA top attorney contained a line with the power to do serious damage to her chances.

Haspel’s informal nomination ran into immediate jeopardy last month over her 2002 supervision of the agency’s first secret black-site prison, located in Thailand, where two early detainees, Abu Zubaydah and Abdul Rahim al-Nashiri, were tortured. (She directly ran the black site, though after Zubaydah’s most intense period of torture that year.)

But in his 2014 book, John Rizzo, a longtime senior CIA lawyer, indicated that Haspel was responsible for the incommunicado detention and torture not of two men, but of dozens, potentially. Former intelligence officials interviewed by The Daily Beast have portrayed Haspel’s experience similarly.

………

“Jose installed as his chief of staff an officer from the Counterterrorist Center who had previously run the interrogation program,” Rizzo wrote.

That’s a substantially broader declaration than the history already dogging Haspel, the agency’s deputy director, whom the White House formally nominated as its next CIA director late on Tuesday.

………

Rizzo, who was acting CIA general counsel during much of the time the torture program occurred, insisted that the passage was correct then—and is still right today.

“All I can say is that I stand by everything I wrote in my book about the tapes episode, and no one from the Agency has asked me to correct anything I wrote,” Rizzo told The Daily Beast. He did not answer follow-up questions.

………

This isn’t the first time that legacy has been a problem for Haspel. In 2013, she was unable to take her old boss Rodriguez’s position in 2013. At the time, a knowledgeable former CIA official recalled, there was confusion and surprise that someone with Haspel’s background in torture could have been a credible candidate for such a senior position.

“To the best of my understanding, she ran the interrogation program,” the official said.

“Her becoming director absolutely terrifies me,” continued the former CIA official. “Once I heard her name, I immediately thought, ‘Oh, God.’”

Back then, in a story first reported by The New York Times, Feinstein—then the Senate committee chair—made it clear to then-director John Brennan that she objected to Haspel leading the CIA’s clandestine service. Brennan chose another chief.
It should be noted that Brennan was a big fan of torture and the torturers, and Obama eventually made him head of the CIA.

So much for looking forward, and not back.
“If Ms. Haspel is confirmed, it will send a terrible message to the world broadly, and to the officers of the CIA more superficially,” a former U.S. intelligence official said. “The CIA, and its former officers, are pushing so hard for Ms. Haspel to be director because if she’s confirmed, it essentially exonerates her, the CIA and all of these former senior CIA officials from their involvement in or their defense of the torture program.”
And this final paragraph is why Congress should NEVER approve her as head of the CIA.

Even if the statute or limitations has expired, these are people who did profound and enduring damage to the United States, and they should never EVER hold any sort of clearance ever again, much less become the head of the agency.

Why I'm Generally Inclined to Support Russia in Confrontations with Other FSU Nations

Because the other former Soviet Republics, when not glorifying genocidal Nazi collaborates, are hosting marches honoring Nazi SS veterans.

Apart from that Mrs. Lincoln, how was the play?
Each year on March 16, a macabre event unfolds on the square around this capital city’s most famous monument.

Known as the Memorial for Latvian Legionnaires, it is the world’s only march by veterans of Nazi Germany’s elite SS unit.

A handful of them, including nonagenarians in wheelchairs, lead the procession through the Old City to the monument. Some wear the insignia from their old units — the 15th and 19th Waffen Grenadier Divisions — as they receive flowers from young women flanking the procession.


………

The marchers, some of them skinheads wearing fascist symbols, also spark passionate opposition from Latvians who recall how some of the fighters honored were complicit in the murder of Jews. Equally ardent advocates of the march argue that the Legionnaires were either patriots seeking independence from Russia, forcefully conscripted victims of the German Nazis or both.

But throughout the 20-year-old debate over perceived perpetrators, no one had bothered to use the site to remember the victims of the Nazis.
To be fair, there is an attempt by some people bring up the actual history:
Until 2016, that is, when a non-Jewish Holocaust education professional from Riga — whose great-uncle fought for the Germans — started grassroots commemorations at the monument for murdered Jews, reclaiming the site from the far right.

“In order to make something that belongs to the whole of Latvia, it has to be at Freedom Monument,” Lolita Tomsone, the organizer, told JTA.
But the push-back, both social and official has been intense:
In Lithuania, hundreds of nationalists march each year with swastikas and banners carrying portraits of collaborators who helped murder Jews. There, Zuroff’s 2016 book about the Holocaust led to the first debate of its kind about local complicity in the genocide. Zuroff, the Eastern Europe director for the Simon Wiesenthal Center, co-authored “Our People” with the popular author Ruta Vanagaite.

In recent weeks, though, a Lithuanian Cabinet minister submitted legislation that would outlaw the sale of material that “distorts historical facts” about his country – an echo of a similar and controversial bill recently passed in Poland. Vanagaite has left Lithuania amid a smear campaign against her: After she dared criticize a Lithuanian nationalist hero, her publishing house recalled and shredded all of her books.
If you live in a society where it is not only controversial, but unpopular, to say that Nazis are bad,  you need to fix your society, and your politics, and a lot of other stuff.

Bad Day at the Office

An F-22 had a forced landing at NAS Fallon in Nevada.

It appears that an engine flamed out on takeoff:
A U.S. Air Force F-22 Raptor from the 3rd Air Force Wing at Elmendorf Air Force has been involved in an incident at NAS Fallon in western Nevada. The aircraft has been shown in photos posted to social media laying on the runway with the landing gear retracted. The aircraft appears largely intact. No injuries have been reported. BTW, Tyler Rogoway at The War Zone has posted an interesting photo of the Raptor on its belly here.

There has not been an official announcement of the cause of the incident, and an incident like this will be subject to an official investigation that will ultimately determine the official cause.
"Hi, honey, how was work today?"

"Don't ask!"

18 April 2018

You Should Have Thought about That before You Sold Your Soul to the Devil, You Contemptible Tools


As Jon Stewart Said, Go F%$# Yourself
It appears that white Evangelical leaders are having major butt-hurt because the general public is realizing that they sold their souls to Donald Trump to feed their need to hate Muslims, Jews, Brown People, the LGBT, and Unitarians.

If you don't want to be called a hypocrite, it starts with not actually being a hypocrite:
About 50 top leaders of major evangelical institutions will attend an invitation-only gathering this week to discuss the future and the “soul” of evangelicalism at a time when many of them are concerned their faith group has become tainted by its association with divisive politics under President Trump. It runs Monday and Tuesday.

The diverse group, which includes nationally known pastors such as Tim Keller and A.R. Bernard, is expected to include leaders of major ministries, denominations, colleges and seminaries. The gathering will take place at Wheaton College, an evangelical college outside of Chicago, according to organizer Doug Birdsall, honorary chair of Lausanne, an international movement of evangelicals.

The gathering, which has been in the works for several months and was discussed at evangelist Billy Graham’s funeral last month, will take place before the expected meeting of a separate group of evangelicals who advise, defend and praise Trump. Those leaders, which include members of Trump’s informal advisory council, are considering convening at Trump International Hotel in Washington in June.

………

“When you Google evangelicals, you get Trump,” Birdsall said. “When people say what does it mean to be an evangelical, people don’t say evangelism or the gospel. There’s a grotesque caricature of what it means to be an evangelical.”
These folks, even if they did not explicitly support Trump, they have been willfully blind to the fact that their most prominent compatriots alibiing for a man with the moral ugliness of Dorian Gray.

This is not a PR issue.  This is an issue of your own moral failings.

You have laid down with dogs, and woken up with fleas.

Thoughts on Barbara Bush Upon Her Passing

Not a whole bunch, except to note that she got a rather weird compliment from Nixon in the White House tapes, that, "She knows how to hate."

I think that there is a pretty good chance that, had she been born 2 or 3 decades later, she would have been the first major party woman candidate for US President.

I've always felt that she was both the smartest and tough member of the Bush family.

On the other hand, I have seen the discussions on Twitter regarding her, and I've alternately felt that they were crass and callous, and felt guilty for not understanding the mockery, and felt that they were very funny, and felt guilty for not being offended that they were crass and callous.

Basically, it's all guilt.

That is so Jewish.

17 April 2018

I Guess that they Don't Need to Put a Contractor in Every Congressional District Now


Early in the process, the goal was to spread work around to as many Congressional districts as possible, but now that the proram is too big to fail, they are looking for people who can actually do the work competently for a reasonable price:
The Pentagon is embarking on a comprehensive effort to examine the entire F-35 supply chain from top to bottom for opportunities to compete components and repair work, a top Defense Department official says.

The move is aimed at incentivizing suppliers to reduce cost and increase efficiencies, as the F-35 enterprise faces severe parts shortages and a skyrocketing sustainment bill (AW&ST April 9-22, p. 40).

The department’s efforts to inject competition into the supply chain comes as the F-35 program faces challenges on the production line. The rate of mistakes by suppliers or skilled workers during the manufacturing process is too high, according to F-35 Program Executive Officer Mat Winter.

………

As the government and Lockheed work to get support costs under control, competition and alternative parts sourcing could be key, Robert McMahon, assistant secretary of defense for logistics and materiel readiness, said during Aviation Week’s MRO Americas conference in Orlando, Florida, April 11. The F-35 operations and sustainment bill has been pegged at more than $1 trillion over the life of the program.
The current structure was driven by politics, not competence or efficiency, and it is a remarkably wasteful way to create jobs.

To quote Ike, "Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies, in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed."

Least Surprising News of the Day

Elizabeth Pierce, who has been working for FCC Chairman Ajit Pai has been arrested for fraud.

Not a surprise, as deceit seems to be a central tenet of the Pai regime:
A broadband adviser selected by Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai to run a federal advisory committee was arrested last week on claims she tricked investors into pouring money into a multimillion-dollar investment fraud scheme, according to The Wall Street Journal.

The adviser, Elizabeth Pierce, is the former chief executive of Quintillion, an Alaska-based fiber optic cable provider operating out of Anchorage. In her capacity as CEO, Pierce allegedly raised more than $250 million from two New York-based investment companies using forged contracts with other companies guaranteeing hundreds of millions of dollars in future revenue. Pierce resigned from Quintillion in August of last year, and she stepped down from her role in Pai’s Broadband Deployment Advisory Committee (BDAC) the following month.

As it turned out, those sales agreements were worthless because the customers had not signed them,” US attorney Geoffrey Berman said in prepared remarks, as reported by the WSJ. “Instead, as alleged, Pierce had forged counter-party signatures on contract after contract. As a result of Pierce’s deception, the investment companies were left with a system that is worth far less than Pierce had led them to believe.” Pierce was trying to raise money to help build out a fiber optic system that would wire Alaska with high-speed internet and better help connect it to networks in other US states. Pierce was charged with wire fraud last Thursday and faces a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison.
Seeing as how sucking up to corrupt telco executives is Ajit Pai's mutant power, this should come as no suprise.

! Part Ayn Rand, 1 Part Fredo Corleone

Tesla Model 3 production isn't just behind schedule, Tesla Model 3 production has been shut down:
Tesla Inc. is temporarily suspending production of the Model 3 sedan for at least the second time in roughly two months, just after Elon Musk admitted to mistakes that hindered his most important car.

The company informed employees that the pause will last four to five days, Buzzfeed reported. A Tesla spokesman referred back to a statement provided last month, when Bloomberg News first reported that Model 3 production was idled from Feb. 20 to 24. The carmaker said then that it planned periods of downtime at both its vehicle and battery factories to improve automation and address bottlenecks.

The hiatus is another setback for the first model Musk has tried to mass-manufacture. In addition to trying to bring electric vehicles to the mainstream, the chief executive officer had sought to build a competitive advantage over established automakers by installing more robots to quickly produce vehicles. Last week, he acknowledged “excessive” automation at Tesla was a mistake.
It's more than the lure of automation that has done the damage.

It is the fact that they hold assembly workers in contempt, and this has driven the excessive automation.

Another artifact of this disdain is the fact that it has been concealing assembly line injuries from regulators as well:
Inside Tesla’s electric car factory, giant red robots – some named for X-Men characters – heave car parts in the air, while workers wearing black toil on aluminum car bodies. Forklifts and tuggers zip by on gray-painted floors, differentiated from pedestrian walkways by another shade of gray.

There’s one color, though, that some of Tesla’s former safety experts wanted to see more of: yellow – the traditional hue of caution used to mark hazards.

Concerned about bone-crunching collisions and the lack of clearly marked pedestrian lanes at the Fremont, California, plant, the general assembly line’s then-lead safety professional went to her boss, who she said told her, “Elon does not like the color yellow.”

………

What she and some of her colleagues found, they said, was a chaotic factory floor where style and speed trumped safety. Musk’s name often was invoked to justify shortcuts and shoot down concerns, they said.

Under fire for mounting injuries, Tesla recently touted a sharp drop in its injury rate for 2017, which it says came down to meet the auto industry average of about 6.2 injuries per 100 workers.

But things are not always as they seem at Tesla. An investigation by Reveal from The Center for Investigative Reporting found that Tesla has failed to report some of its serious injuries on legally mandated reports, making the company’s injury numbers look better than they actually are.

………

Instead, company officials labeled the injuries personal medical issues or minor incidents requiring only first aid, according to internal company records obtained by Reveal.

Undercounting injuries is one symptom of a more fundamental problem at Tesla: The company has put its manufacturing of electric cars above safety concerns, according to five former members of its environment, health and safety team who left the company last year. That, they said, has put workers unnecessarily in harm’s way.
Tesla may be the future of electric cars, but it it is, it means that the future of electric cars sounds a lot like Walmart.

Yes, It Has Been a Strange Year, and It's not Yet May

2018 isn't just drunk.

2018 is locked in a closet, wearing two wet suits, hogtied, with a dildo up its ass. (What I am referring to)

We are living in the Chinese curse of interesting times. (Yes, I know it apocryphal, but give me this one)