…by the look of it [DOT 6/7/21]

it don't look great...

…morning, all…hope you’re feeling like the weekend treated you well & you’re ready for what the week has in store…because I’m not sure I was?

As many as one-third of Wisconsin’s gray wolves probably died at the hands of humans in the months after the federal government announced it was ending legal protections, according to a study released on Monday.

‘Killing spree’: Wisconsin’s wolf population plunges after protections removed [Guardian]

Since mid-April, when U.S. President Joe Biden announced the end to Afghanistan’s “forever war,” the Taliban have made strides throughout the country. But their most significant gains have been in the northern half of the country, a traditional stronghold of the U.S.-allied warlords who helped defeat them in 2001.

The Taliban now control roughly a third of all 421 districts and district centers in Afghanistan.

The gains in northeastern Badakhshan province in recent days have mostly come to the insurgent movement without a fight, said Mohib-ul Rahman, a provincial council member. He blamed Taliban successes on the poor morale of troops who are mostly outnumbered and without resupplies.

“Unfortunately, the majority of the districts were left to Taliban without any fight,” said Rahman. In the last three days, 10 districts fell to Taliban, eight without a fight, he said.


The hacker gang behind an international crime spree that played out over the Fourth of July weekend says it has locked more than a million individual devices and is demanding $70 million in bitcoin to set them all free in one swoop.

The gang, the Russia-connected REvil, is best known for previously having hacked JBS, one of the world’s largest meat suppliers, briefly halting its operations across much of North America. But this attack’s potential scope is unprecedented, some cybersecurity experts said.

REvil began its spree Friday by compromising Kaseya, a software company that helps companies manage basic software updates. Because many of Kaseya’s customers are companies that manage internet services for other businesses, the number of victims grew quickly. Instead of locking an individual organization, as ransomware gangs usually do, REvil locked each victim computer as a standalone target and initially asked for $45,000 to unlock each one.


The attack was carried out through software that helps businesses manage their computer systems, made by Miami-based firm Kaseya. Kaseya sells its tool to many large managed service providers, who in turn help small and midsize businesses monitor and control their computer networks.

Kaseya admitted this weekend it had been a victim of a “sophisticated cyberattack.” In an interview with the Associated Press, Kaseya chief executive Fred Voccola estimated the number of affected companies to be in the low thousands, made up almost entirely of small businesses.


…&…naturally…they’d like that ransom in bitcoin

The facility on the shores of Seneca Lake is owned by private-equity firm Atlas Holdings and operated by Greenidge Generation LLC. They have increased the electrical power output at the gas-fired plant in the past year and a half and use much of that fossil-fuel energy not to keep the lights on in surrounding towns, but for the energy-intensive “mining” of Bitcoin.

Bitcoin is a cryptocurrency — a digital form of money with no actual bills or coins — but “mining” it, a way of earning it, requires massive, high-performance computers. The computers earn small rewards of Bitcoin by verifying transactions in the currency that are occurring on the internet around the globe. The math required to verify those transactions and earn bitcoins gets more complex all the time, and demands more and more computer power. At Greenidge, the computers operate 24/7, burning through an astounding amount of real energy, and producing real pollution, while collecting virtual currency.

One estimate from the University of Cambridge says global Bitcoin miners in a year use more energy than Chile. When this energy comes from fossil fuels, the process can add significantly to carbon emissions. The Greenidge plant houses at least 8,000 computers and is looking to install more, meaning it will have to burn even more natural gas to produce more energy.

Some locals say a Bitcoin mining operation is ruining one of the Finger Lakes. Here’s how. [NBC]

…despite the ubiquity of the things which wouldn’t work without chips it’s easy to forget how far from ubiquitous the things that make them possible are

But a massive machine sold by a Dutch company has emerged as a key lever for policymakers — and illustrates how any country’s hopes of building a completely self-sufficient supply chain in semiconductor technology are unrealistic.

The machine is made by ASML Holding, based in Veldhoven. Its system uses a different kind of light to define ultrasmall circuitry on chips, packing more performance into the small slices of silicon. The tool, which took decades to develop and was introduced for high-volume manufacturing in 2017, costs more than $150 million. Shipping it to customers requires 40 shipping containers, 20 trucks and three Boeing 747s.
ASML’s machine has effectively turned into a choke point in the supply chain for chips, which act as the brains of computers and other digital devices. The tool’s three-continent development and production — using expertise and parts from Japan, the United States and Germany — is also a reminder of just how global that supply chain is, providing a reality check for any country that wants to leap ahead in semiconductors by itself.

That includes not only China but the United States, where Congress is debating plans to spend more than $50 billion to reduce reliance on foreign chip manufacturers. Many branches of the federal government, particularly the Pentagon, have been worried about the U.S. dependence on Taiwan’s leading chip manufacturer and the island’s proximity to China.

A study this spring by Boston Consulting Group and the Semiconductor Industry Association estimated that creating a self-sufficient chip supply chain would take at least $1 trillion and sharply increase prices for chips and products made with them.

That goal is “completely unrealistic” for anybody, said Willy Shih, a management professor at Harvard Business School who studies supply chains. ASML’s technology “is a great example of why you have global trade.”

The situation underscores the crucial role played by ASML, a once obscure company whose market value now exceeds $285 billion. It is “the most important company you never heard of,” said C.J. Muse, an analyst at Evercore ISI.


…miracles of modern technology…ain’t they just the greatest?

We were initially anxious about the introduction of robots into our workforce because of the potential disappearance of manual labor jobs. Robots would take over factories, we were told, they’d drive our cars and trucks, and they would do all of the cleaning that janitorial and domestic workers are currently hired to do. But it turns out auto-pilots drive cars about as well as my cat when he’s drunk, and the way my friend’s Roomba always gets lost under the kitchen table, spinning uselessly, unable to find his way out, suggests we’ll still need people with brooms for a while now.

Instead, the robots are here not to replace this lower tier of underpaid and undervalued work. They are here to smugly sit in the middle, monitoring and surveilling us, hiring and firing us. Amazon has recently replaced its middle management and human resources workers with artificial intelligence to determine when a worker has outlived their usefulness and needs to be let go. There is no human to appeal to, no negotiating with a bot. This is the most boring possible Terminator sequel, where the robots aren’t here to murder or enslave you but rather to text you snidely that you won’t need to come into work tomorrow or, for that matter, ever again.

According to a report by Bloomberg, Flex drivers, who are Amazon contract workers and not granted the protections reserved for full-time employees, are being hired and fired via an app. A software program monitors each worker to determine whether they are working quickly enough, whether they are driving safely enough, and whether they are efficiently meeting their delivery quotas. That this program is rife with errors and punishes workers for things that are not their fault, from traffic problems to incorrect delivery directions, does not seem to concern Amazon. Workers have often complained about the unfair monitoring and lack of human oversight, but Amazon has maintained its system.
This system works for Amazon because the US maintains a large population of insecure and underpaid workers. (And by insecure, I don’t mean the same insecurity that drives our billionaires to compensate for a sadness deep down inside with extravagant wealth. I mean a lack of stability in finances and housing.) Bezos and others like him seem to think there is an endless supply of people available to be churned through their system and spat out when convenient. And, until recently, they were not wrong.
But thanks to the recent extension of unemployment benefits due to the pandemic, fewer workers are feeling the desperation that allows Amazon to treat its workers so cavalierly, as if they were disposable objects. Many employers who have overworked and underpaid workers are finding themselves without a staff to abuse, as people decide to prioritize their families or their health or just not being yelled at for $8 an hour over the “dignity of work”.

While politicians pout about the possibility of having to raise the minimum wage to $15, a level that would have sustained a decent life 10 years ago maybe, it’s likely these unemployment benefits will be allowed to expire and the safety net will be removed once again. Amazon isn’t going to change on its own unless forced to, and that means giving people the power – and the money – to say no to their own exploitation.

Welcome to dystopia: getting fired from your job as an Amazon worker by an app [Guardian]

…you might say it comes down to priorities

Schools, particularly at the kindergarten-to-12th-grade level, are responsible for helping turn students into well-informed and discerning citizens. At their best, our nation’s schools equip young minds to grapple with complexity and navigate our differences. At their worst, they resemble indoctrination factories.

[…] initiatives have been marketed as “anti-critical race theory” laws. We, the authors of this essay, have wide ideological divergences on the explicit targets of this legislation. Some of us are deeply influenced by the academic discipline of critical race theory and its critique of racist structures and admire the 1619 Project. Some of us are skeptical of structural racist explanations and racial identity itself, and disagree with the mission and methodology of the 1619 Project. We span the ideological spectrum: a progressive, a moderate, a libertarian and a conservative.

It is because of these differences that we here join together, as we are united in one overarching concern: the danger posed by these laws to liberal education.
Indeed, the very act of learning history in a free and multiethnic society is inescapably fraught. Any accurate teaching of any country’s history could make some of its citizens feel uncomfortable (or even guilty) about the past. To deny this necessary consequence of education is, to quote W.E.B. Du Bois, to transform “history into propaganda.”

What’s more, these laws even make it difficult to teach U.S. history in a way that would reveal well-documented ways in which past policy decisions, like redlining, have contributed to present-day racial wealth gaps. An education of this sort would be negligent, creating ignorant citizens who are unable to understand, for instance, the case for reparations — or the case against them.
Other laws appear to potentially ban even expression as benign as support for affirmative action, but it’s far from clear. In fact, shortly after Texas passed its purported ban on critical race theory, the Texas Public Policy Foundation, a conservative think tank, published a list of words and concepts that help “identify critical race theory in the classroom.” The list included terms such as “social justice,” “colonialism” and “identity.” Applying these same standards to colleges or private institutions would be flatly unconstitutional.
These laws threaten the basic purpose of a historical education in a liberal democracy. But censorship is the wrong approach even to the concepts that are the intended targets of these laws.
Let’s not mince words about these laws. They are speech codes. They seek to change public education by banning the expression of ideas. Even if this censorship is legal in the narrow context of public primary and secondary education, it is antithetical to educating students in the culture of American free expression.


…speaking of mincing words…maybe it’s just me…but when a politician makes an appeal to “personal responsibility” it has a tendency to sound a lot like they don’t want anyone to suggest that the responsibility ought to lie with them…& when it’s boris johnson…well

“We must be honest with ourselves that if we can’t reopen our society in the next few weeks when we will be helped by the arrival of summer and by the school holidays, then we must ask ourselves when will we be able to return to normal?” Johnson said at a news conference.

“We will move away from legal restrictions and allow people to make their own informed decisions about how to manage the virus,” Johnson said.
Britain has suffered the seventh highest global death toll from Covid-19, and Johnson has been accused of being too slow to implement each of England’s three lockdowns.


…now…the UK likes to pride itself on punching above its weight in a lot of ways…but it’s worth noting that it doesn’t make it into the top 20 countries by population size so 7th for covid-related deaths is not exactly a great look in per-capita terms…slightly worse, in fact, than the US…so I imagine that’s going to be a process a few other countries might look on a bit like one of those canaries they used to send down coal mines…although in fairness the number of cases resulting in a need to provide hospital treatment (& in particular the ones leading to the patient’s death) are a great deal lower now than they were…but it’s hard for me to believe that decision is founded on that kind of thing so much as it is about “the economy”…always assuming it’s actually based on anything more coherent than chasing favorable headlines…but…well…surely that would be overly cynical on my part?

Boris Johnson believed the national test-and-trace system was “like whistling in the dark” and that the UK was on course to achieve the “double distinction of being the European country with the most fatalities and the biggest economic hit”, he reportedly told Dominic Cummings at the height of the pandemic’s first wave.
Publishing what he said were Johnson’s words, Cummings said the prime minister confided that he feared the proposed system to track down Covid cases and stop transmission was like “legions of imaginary Clouseaus [fictional French detectives] and no plan to hire them”.

Johnson reportedly complained of “apps that don’t yet work” and “above all no idea how to get new cases down to a manageable level or how long it will take … by which time [the] UK may have [the] secured double distinction of being the European country with the most fatalities and the biggest economic hit”. He concluded: “We GOTTA turn it round.”


…& sure…dominic cummings seems to have a strange way of putting this stuff out there absent much by way of acknowledgement that if it’s all the way he says then he bears an oversized section of responsibility himself for having been instrumental in so much of what went into making not only boris prime minister but the wholesale lack of competence to be found in recent tory governments

In another blogpost detailing the political machinations that led up to and followed Brexit, the former No 10 adviser revealed that Johnson had admitted immediately after the referendum in 2016 that he was “unfit” to lead the country.

Cummings said Johnson had pulled him to one side in Vote Leave headquarters the morning that David Cameron resigned and the pair had discussed what should happen next.

“Obviously it’s ludicrous me being PM – but no more ludicrous than Dave or George, don’t you think?” Johnson is said to have told Cummings.

Defending why he had helped Johnson into Downing Street himself, Cummings said it was a means to “solve the constitutional crisis” caused by the Brexit stalemate – and had he chosen not to help the Conservatives, there might have been another referendum.
“The problems of Boris as PM can be partly mitigated by us,” Cummings explained, “given we understand Whitehall much better than him and understand effective political action much better than him and the Conservative party. Our team will handle rough seas much better than the others.”
He wrote of Johnson: “Precisely because he doesn’t know what he’s doing, we may be able to get him to agree things ‘the system’ will think are ‘extreme’ but we think are necessary – like reorienting the whole state machine away from Brussels towards science and technology …
Cummings painted a picture of Johnson as a complicated man, who is “happy to hide behind the mask of a clown, mostly unbothered by ridicule, while calculations remain largely hidden (including from parts of his own mind)” but also a blatant, natural and repeated liar.

The prime minister “rewrites reality in his mind afresh according to the moment’s desire” and “there is no real distinction possible with him” between truth and lies, Cummings said.
A text Cummings recounted from Johnson read: “I’m good at motivating people, I can tell the public a story and get them behind me, but I’m not good at organising, I’m not good at all the details and dealing with the machine.”

In return, Cummings said his demand was that all special advisers would report to him and that he would be granted permission to oversee a “fundamental re-engineering of Britain’s priorities, policies, how it works”.


…so…yeah…that all sounds like it’ll work out fine

As England prepares to ease coronavirus restrictions further, the messaging from ministers has changed. We have reached, it seems, a tipping point in the pandemic where rules will be replaced by personal decisions. The mantra now is about living with coronavirus, much as we do with seasonal flu.
But there are striking differences between coronavirus and flu that matter for public health. Coronavirus spreads faster than influenza and can cause far more serious illness. The symptoms of coronavirus can take longer to show, and people tend to be contagious for longer, making them more prone to passing it on.
Coronavirus spreads more easily than [flu]. For the Delta variant now surging around the world, R is estimated at about seven, so in the absence of vaccines and other interventions, a single case would infect on average seven others. As vaccination programmes push on and the virus continues to spread, immunity to coronavirus will drive R down, but how low is a moot point.

Coronavirus is more lethal than influenza, largely because vulnerability to the disease rockets in older people. Seasonal influenza killed an estimated 44,505 people in England during the three combined flu seasons from 2015-16 to 2018-19. That number died from Covid in England in the first nine weeks of 2021.


…all in all…”just live with it” doesn’t seem to quite acknowledge the singular nature of the threat that apparently should be integrated into what currently passes for “normal life”…so, with that in mind…how helpful do you suppose it might be to have the most-indicted/least-presidential ex-president get up on a stand & testify about that whole insurrection thing?

House Majority Whip James Clyburn says “if it comes to that” the select committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack will ask former President Donald Trump to testify, but would prefer not to call on a former president.

“They should go wherever the facts lead,” the South Carolina Democrat told CNN’s “State of the Union.” “I would not want to see a former president testify in such a situation as this, but if that’s what it takes in order to get to the bottom of this.”

…I’m sure that would work out great

On Saturday, Trump held a rally in Florida where he called for more information about the death of Ashli Babbitt who was fatally shot during the Capitol riot.

Separately, the former president gave his first public reaction to the recent criminal indictments against his company and its chief financial officer, Allen Weisselberg. Trump framed the charges as an ongoing political witch hunt that attacks “good people” for not paying taxes.

Trump could be called to testify before House Jan. 6 panel, Clyburn says [NBC]

…if you’ve watched the footage then sadly you’ll be aware that babbitt can not have been unaware that beyond the window she made a fateful decision to attempt to climb through was a gun drawn by someone charged with using it…something which hitherto the armed members of law enforcement had not done that day…so…it surely seems like calling for more information about that presupposes that his audience would prefer to remain ignorant of the information already available

Interviews with diehard Trump fans suggest that the riot denialism is working. Many refuse to condemn the insurrectionists who beat police officers, smashed windows and called for then Vice-President Mike Pence to be hanged. The swirl of conspiracy theories, combined with Trump’s deluded claims of a stole election, raise fears of a replay that could be even more violent.


[Gosar’s] unapologetic association with them is perhaps the most vivid example of the Republican Party’s growing acceptance of extremism, which has become apparent as more lawmakers espouse and amplify conspiracy theories and far-right ideologies that figure prominently in the belief systems of fringe groups.

“The politicians get the support of the far-right groups that are emerging and are becoming more visible — they get the support of those constituents,” said Kurt Braddock, a communication professor at American University who studies extremism. “What’s significant for the groups is that by associating themselves with these politicians — sitting members of Congress — they get a level of legitimacy that they wouldn’t have gotten otherwise.”


In another age, the events of this season would have been nearly certain to produce a major shift in American politics — or at least a meaningful, discernible one.
Not long ago, such a sequence of developments might have tested the partisan boundaries of American politics, startling voters into reconsidering their assumptions about the current president, his predecessor, the two major parties and what government can do for the American people.

These days, it is hard to imagine that such a political turning point is at hand.
Yet there is little confidence in either party that voters are about to swing behind Mr. Biden and his allies en masse, no matter how many events appear to align in his favor.
A Pew Research Center study of the 2020 election results released this past week showed exactly what scale of voter movement is possible in the political climate of the Trump era and its immediate aftermath.

Why America’s Politics Are Stubbornly Fixed, Despite Momentous Changes [NYT]

…although…in the interests of optimism…much like the events of jan 6th it’s worth noting that the majority of these assholes can actually be pretty readily dispatched

Masked white supremacists who marched outside Philadelphia City Hall over the Fourth of July weekend ran away when pedestrians confronted them, using smoke bombs to obscure their retreat, authorities said Monday.


…anyhow…apparently now is the time for just outright taking the piss

[…]in a provocative move on Friday, President Vladimir Putin signed new legislation requiring all non-Russian producers to mark their product as “sparkling wine” on the back of every bottle, including some of the world’s most famous and expensive bubbly.

Under the law, only locally-made Shampanskoye is worthy of the prestigious and previously exclusive name and French appellations are not recognised.


…so I don’t know what to tell you…if champagne isn’t champagne…then I guess it must be time for that ghostbusters thing



  1. About that Dutch semi-conductor machine:

    Shipping it to customers requires 40 shipping containers, 20 trucks and three Boeing 747s.

    Now I feel a little less concerned about the clutter slowly but surely accreting around me in The Secret Underground Lair, aka my home office.

  2. All this blather about normalcy, getting back to normal, makes no sense. Normal is a state of flux, what was normal to me at 20 is completely different than my 30 normal, 40 normal and so on. Change is good.
    Be like a shark, always moving forward

    • …I guess it isn’t always good…but change is certainly constant…& in a few cases I can think of it sounds as though “back to normal” is broadly equated with “as if there hadn’t been a global pandemic” which is the kind of magical thinking that made me pick that calvin image for the header

      …not that I particularly think I have the answers or anything…but the people who seem to be claiming to aren’t really persuading me if I’m honest…which is a shame in a lot of ways…but I think one of them is that if we hadn’t had the whole anti-vax/covid-denial shitshow to contend with there might have been a chance that we could have come out of this having made some significant strides towards getting our collective act together on a number of fronts?

      • Change is constant so make the best of it. I have a little print hanging in my hall where I can see it every day. It is a cowboy, shooting a message into a fence and the message is ‘Life ain’t in playin a good hand but in playin a poor hand well’.
        Anyway, there is no sense in saying if this and if that, the reality is it happened, it needs to be dealt with, it needs to be learned from, I have no patience with people trying to turn the clock back and using events as a cop out. We can’t seem to get our collective shit together, pandemic or not, but maybe, if we all got our shit together in our own little corners?

        • …if I’m honest I think if people would just stop making out that their claims in defiance of reality are true & the reality is fake we might have a shot at a lot of things

          …or, hell…just if people would stop believing that kind of shit

          …but most days I’m not exactly loving the odds on that?

          • Ah, the convenient truth conundrum. My dad announced one day that he did not believe in affirmative action, I told him he should because he was paying for my college and I’d never get a job [return on his money] without it. It took less than a second to change his mind. That anecdote is just to demonstrate that people’s minds can be changed. Make it personal. Make it convenient. Lol, being upbeat is exhausting.

            • Gotta admit, your conversation about truths & convenient truths in particular, reminded me immediately of the phrase, “I reject your reality, and substitute my own!”
              Then I hadda go look up where it came from (turns out, the movie Dungeonmaster!), because it fits anywhere from the Rumsfeld-Cheney era of Bush2, to the TrumpCo administration…
              Turns out, it was stolen fair & square by Adam Savage from Mythbusters, and THAT was why I remember it😉

              But it IS sad, yet laughable, that it seems to have become the overarching mantra of Trumpublican politics here in the US🙃

  3. And as to the final note: 

    I don’t think the French have been on Russian soil since Napoléon and the Grande Armée retreated from the gates of Moscow more than two centuries ago. The Champagne thing might push them over the edge.

    • Nitpicky, but French troops were part of the ill fated attempt by the Allies, including the US, to back counterrevolutionaries fighting Lenin at the end of WWI.
      That went about as well as Moscow 1812. The US lost over 400 troops, but we forgot due to WWI and the flu epidemic. Which we then also forgot.

  4. “The problems of Boris as PM can be partly mitigated by us,”
    Every time some big brain genius thinks that backing a screwed up extremists is the secretly smart move, it backfires.
    You don’t somehow create the conditions for a new glorious future to arise from the rubble. You just make more rubble.

    • …somehow people who are convinced that they’re so much smarter than everyone else often seem like they’re even dumber than they think everyone else is

      …be nice to build something out of all this rubble, though…seems like there ought to be enough of the stuff at this point?

  5. That wolf thing, gosh how shocking. I’m shocked. WHOMST among us could have seen that coming?????
    Anyway, real question. Wtf does a person actually do if they are the victim of a personal bitcoin/ransom thing? I noticed for the first time yesterday you can actually buy/sell/trade crypto in PayPal and I briefly considered plunking down $20 on one of them, but noped out because I’m still not sure I… believe in them? Understand them? And how do hackers expect to get paid in digital currency if they’ve locked all your digital accounts?

    • …not having been in that position I’m not entirely clear but having helped someone avoid paying for an earlier & less-than-sophisticated version of that scam it seemed like the instructions very much assumed you would still have access to another device from which to email them to arrange payment…at some point they presumably have to tell you which bitcoin wallet you need to transfer payment to…but quite how that works if you happen to have bitcoin on the machine that’s been encrypted I don’t know…it seems like they assume that you can go out & buy bitcoin & give it to them without whatever they’ve locked up being involved

      …then again in this case they seem to have started by asking for $45,000 per person & then dropped that price to $70million for the whole set of apparently a million machines…so I guess on the one hand they’re used to less than 100% of victims paying up…& on the other hand weren’t expecting this effort to be as successful as it seems to have been…honestly the whole thing is hard not to get into conspiracy theory territory about given that they supposedly aren’t state-sponsored but generally only vlad’s friends get to play with that many zeros currency-wise…either way the process is pretty confusing?

    • This probably doesn’t work for most people, but I don’t keep much of importance on my home computer – If it gets ransomwared (also, running Linux, so slightly less likely…), I’ll just drag out the boot/installation thumb drive, start up from that, reformat my hard drive and reinstall everything.  I’ve done that enough times just from making dumb alterations to essential files or borking an install/update (entirely my fault).  Worst part is re-ripping all my CDs…  And I might be irritated at loosing some of my saved games.
      For normal people, I think they suggest making backups of important stuff periodically 

  6. Good news,  I don’t need a new AC.  Good news, I also don’t need a new blower fan.  Bad news, I need a new furnace motherboard.  Good news, my furnace is under warranty.  Bad news, it is still going to cost me $600.

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