Like sand through the hourglass…

August 24th, 2016

According to King Arthur Flour, today is National Waffle Day.

According to Knifecenter.com, today is National Knife Day.

Obit watch: August 23, 2016.

August 23rd, 2016

Steven Hill. A/V Club.

My “Law and Order: Original Recipe” fan window is very narrow. I never took to Sam Waterston’s Jack McCoy. For me, the idea lineup was Logan and Briscoe (and Cragen)/Stone and Kincaid. But I did like Hill’s Adam Schiff: he served as a much needed counterweight to, shall we say, the enthusiasms of the other folks in the DA’s office.

I’m pretty sure most folks remember him for that. But let us not forget his other semi-famous role, especially since that gives me an excuse to use this clip:

Even decades later, Mr. Hill declined to discuss his reasons for leaving the series, other than to say that the first season had been a bad experience. Other sources, including Patrick J. White, author of a book on the series, “The Complete Mission: Impossible Dossier,” said Mr. Hill was dismissed and learned the news only when he read a Daily Variety announcement that Mr. Graves was being hired.

Obit watch: August 21, 2016.

August 21st, 2016

Convicted Ponzi scammer and boy-band impresario Lou Pearlman.

(Remember O-Town? I do, but only because I had a friend who was into “Making the Band” at the time.)

Jack Riley has also passed away. He was in a whole bunch of stuff, including some of the lesser Mel Brooks movies, but he was best known and regarded (at least to me) as Elliot Carlin on “The Bob Newhart Show”.

I can’t really find a clip I like, but this one comes close:

More from the police beat.

August 18th, 2016

Lawrence put up a post yesterday on Austin’s murder rate, which is “up nearly 80 percent from the same time last year”.

So what is the cause of Austin’s rising murder rate? Possibly just random statistical variation. Possibly the result of understaffing the police department.

I’m not totally convinced on the “understaffing the police department” argument. It kind of seems to me that the police basically come along and clean up after the murder’s already been done. Even with more cops on the street, what are the odds that one of those cops is going to run across the guy with the knife raised in time to stop him from stabbing a woman to death?

The flip side of this is the “broken windows” theory of policing: by concentrating on reducing disorder in neighborhoods, serious crime can be reduced. When disorder increases:

…many residents will think that crime, especially violent crime, is on the rise, and they will modify their behavior accordingly. They will use the streets less often, and when on the streets will stay apart from their fellows, moving with averted eyes, silent lips, and hurried steps. “Don’t get involved.” For some residents, this growing atomization will matter little, because the neighborhood is not their “home” but “the place where they live.” Their interests are elsewhere; they are cosmopolitans. But it will matter greatly to other people, whose lives derive meaning and satisfaction from local attachments rather than worldly involvement; for them, the neighborhood will cease to exist except for a few reliable friends whom they arrange to meet.

(Hattip to the Center for Evidence-Based Crime Policy for the link.)

This probably isn’t news to most of you, but I bring it up here because of a second item, from yesterday’s Statesman:

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As seen at the fun show this past weekend…

August 18th, 2016

I don’t know why, but I got a big kick out of this particular gun.

Not that I’m going to buy one (I need another .22 rifle like I need another hole in my head) but I think it would be very useful.

If I was Finnish.

And if I was hunting Germans Russians.

During the winter.

With a Ruger 10/22.

Obit watch: August 18, 2016.

August 18th, 2016

Arthur Hiller, noted director. (“Love Story”, “Silver Streak”, “The In-Laws”, “The Americanization of Emily”, “National Lampoon’s Pucked”.) A/V Club.

For the record: John McLaughlin. Should have noted this yesterday, but the day got past me.

John F. Timoney, a blunt Irish-born cop who could outrun crooks and quote Yeats and who, as a ranking police official in New York, Philadelphia and Miami, plotted innovative strategies that reversed years of skyrocketing crime, died on Tuesday in Miami. He was 68.

Citizen Kane.

August 16th, 2016

Kathleen G. Kane, the Pennsylvania attorney general whose aggressive investigation of her predecessor unleashed a chain of scandal that ended with her conviction this week on felony and conspiracy charges, said Tuesday that she is resigning.

You’re going down in flames, you tax-fattened hyena! (#33 in a series)

August 16th, 2016

Didn’t pick up on this until this morning. Sorry. But it did probably need some time to perk.

Kathleen Kane, the nutty paranoid anti-gun attorney general of the state of Pennsylvania:

Guilty! Guilty! Guilty! Guilty! Guilty! Guilty! Guilty! Guilty! Guilty!

A jury found Ms. Kane, 50, guilty of nine criminal charges, including perjury and criminal conspiracy, convicting her of leaking grand jury information, and then lying about it, in an effort to discredit a political rival.

More from philly.com:

Under the state constitution, Kane must resign from office by the day of her sentencing. While Kane faces a maximum sentence of 28 years, state sentencing guidelines call for a far less severe sentence for someone like her with no criminal record.

This is interesting:

“There is to be absolutely no retaliation of any kind against any witness in this case, either by your own devices, from your own mouth or your hand, or directing anybody to do anything,” the judge said. She threatened Ms. Kane, who is currently free on bail, with immediate incarceration if she failed to comply.

My first thought was that this kind of warning is unprecedented; but on second thought, I’m sure federal judges have issued this kind of warning in the past to convicted defendants. For example, members of the Crips or Bloods. Or drug gangs. Or organized crime groups. But has a federal judge ever felt compelled to issue that kind of warning to a politician? And has a politician ever done as much to merit a warning like that?

Someone once said…

August 15th, 2016

“It is morally wrong to allow a sucker to keep their money.”

From Bloomberg News by way of the News@Ycombinator Twitter: the SEC has halted trading in shares of Neuromama Ltd.

Neuromana? Surely you haven’t heard of them: they have a current valuation of $35 billion, and haven’t submitted financials since 2013.

Shares of the company, based in a beach community just south of Tijuana, Mexico, have quadrupled this year to $56.25, giving it a paper value exceeding Tesla Motors Inc., Yum! Brands Inc. and Delta Air Lines Inc.

$56.25 a share? What do they do? With a name like Neuromana, you’d think maybe brain science or something like that: perhaps a promising cure for Alzheimer’s?

Neuromama’s website says the company operates in a broad range of businesses: a search engine, licensing “heavy ion fusion technology patents,” and Cirque-du-Soleil-style performances in Tijuana, to name just a few.

Cirque du Soleil sold 90% of the company to a group of equity firms last year for $1.5 billion. So a company that stages Cirque du Soleil knockoffs in Tijuana (“the happiest place on Earth!”) is worth $35 billion? But wait: they’ve also got a search engine! And “heavy ion fusion technology patents” whatever the hell those are (if they’re even valid patents).

“We’re in an industry that has high valuations,” Zubkis said in a telephone interview Monday, citing the company’s social network and oceanfront property.

Did he just say “social network” and “oceanfront property” with a straight face?

“Zubkis” is Steven Zubkis, who has his own “colorful” history. But for that, you’ll need to give Bloomberg their click: make sure to turn on your ad blocker first.

Memo from the police beat.

August 12th, 2016

There are a couple of ongoing stories in the news, two of them locally. Both of those two had significant developments today (in other words, “Let’s break this news on Friday afternoon and see if it gets lost over the weekend.”)

First story: You may recall the controversy back in April where our city manager, Marc Ott, accused the police chief of insubordination and fined him five days of pay?

Looks like we know who won that battle.

Austin City Manager Marc Ott, the most powerful man at City Hall, is leaving his post for a prestigious job running a Washington, D.C., association.

Last month, the council gave him a $22,000 raise, bumping his pay and benefits to $361,000 annually. His predecessor at the management association made $478,000 in 2013, the group’s tax returns show.

At least, we know who won for the moment. It will be interesting to see how the replacement process plays out, and how much deference (if any) the incoming city manager will be expected to show to the APD and the chief.

Also worth pointing out is what may have been Ott’s final “F— you” to the APD. There was a recent report (the “Matrix Report”) that called for increasing the number of police officers.

Additionally, the report also calls for the department to create positions for 66 officers and eight corporals beyond what has already been authorized, and to add an average 17 new officer positions over the next four years. Finally, the report calls for adding four officers to the Motorcycle Unit.

So that’s 78 sworn officers over and above the current authorized staffing level, which APD is still about 100 officers short of. What did the City Manager and his team ask for in the current budget?

Currently, the city has taken a phased approach to increasing staffing at APD in FY 2017. Included in the City Manager’s proposed FY 2017 budget are 12 new sworn positions and 21 new civilian positions to transition existing sworn employees back to patrol activities.

Twelve. To quote our great and good friend RoadRich: “‘But first let me deny you most of the required staff to protect the city… and then I shall leave you to your fates. Suckahs.'”

(Another problem which I would like to get into, but the margins of this post are too small to contain: there’s also talk of converting the district representative positions, which are currently sworn officers, into civilian positions.)

Next:

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DEFCON 24 updates: August 11, 2016.

August 11th, 2016

“SITCH – Inexpensive, Coordinated GSM Anomaly Detection” doesn’t just have slides up. Or a whitepaper.

It has an entire freaking website. Which does include, yes, slides and whitepaper. (Thanks to SecBarbie on Twitter for this.)

Slides for the Tamas Szakaly “Help, I’ve got ANTs!!!” talk are here. And his GitHub repo is here.

Good stuff is going up on the Black Hat 2016 briefings site, too. I haven’t had a chance to go through all of the abstracts yet, but my current favorite is: “Does Dropping USB Drives In Parking Lots And Other Places Really Work?”. Slides here, code here, blog post here, no spoilers here.

DEFCON 24 updates: August 8, 2016.

August 8th, 2016