14 August 2018

And the Pentagon Coverup Metastasizes


This report must be truly horrific:
The Pentagon again delayed release of a report ranking the risk of sexual assault at more than 200 military installations, comparing the study to unleashing an untested weapon system, according to interviews and documents obtained by USA TODAY.

The release of the study, rescheduled for September, could spark concerns among troops and their families, particularly those stationed at bases where RAND Corp. research determined they face the highest risk of suffering sexual assault.

The report's rankings will be of particular interest to the tens of thousands of recruits who join the military each year and their families. It could raise questions about what choice, if any, they have in declining assignment to a post with a higher risk of assault and what liability the military has for a recruit assaulted at such a base.

The Pentagon received an updated draft of the study on July 24, four days after USA TODAY reported that Defense Department officials were reluctant to release it. RAND stood by its findings. The only changes being made to it now are to communicate its conclusions better, according to Jeffrey Hiday, a RAND spokesman.
The obvious question:  What are they hiding?

Limitless Corruption on Both Sides of the Aisle

New documents show that notwithstanding her claims to the contrary, Gina Haspel directly supervised waterboarding at a Thailand black site:
In late November 2002, C.I.A. interrogators at a secret prison in Thailand warned a Qaeda suspect that he had to “suffer the consequences of his deception.”

As interrogators splashed water on the chest of the man, Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri, he pleaded that he was trying to recall more information, according to a newly released C.I.A. cable. As he cried, the cable reports, the “water treatment was applied.”

The “water treatment” was bureaucratic jargon for waterboarding, and 11 newly released top-secret cables from the time that Gina Haspel, now the C.I.A. director, oversaw the base provide at times graphic detail on the techniques the agency used to brutally interrogate Qaeda captives. Agency leaders and officers were racing to uncover what they feared were large-scale plots against the United States in the chaotic months and years after the Sept. 11 attacks.

As the chief of the base, Ms. Haspel would have written or authorized the cables, according to Tom Blanton, the director of the National Security Archive, a research organization at George Washington University. The cables, obtained by the archive in a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit, were redacted to eliminate the names of interrogators and C.I.A. officers involved.

ProPublica previously reported on cables from the Thailand black site, which also offered details of the C.I.A.’s methods. Like those documents, the new cables describe the waterboarding of Mr. Nashiri as well as the use of other torture techniques.

………

But the interrogators appear to have ultimately concluded that Mr. Nashiri was not lying. Some of the cables back to headquarters, apparently written by Ms. Haspel, described him as “compliant and cooperative,” according to the 2014 report on the interrogation program by the Senate Intelligence Committee.

Officials at C.I.A. headquarters were displeased by such comments, directing the field officers to stop making such “sweeping statements” about Mr. Nashiri’s compliance. The superiors in Langley, Va., insisted that he knew more than he was saying.

Ms. Haspel arrived to oversee the Thailand black site in late October 2002. The site was shut weeks later, on Dec. 4, 2002.
Needless to say, it is now clear that the Senate Intelligence Committee chairman and ranking member, Richard Burr and Mark Warner, knew it and aided in the coverup, because they clearly had access to these documents, and either refused to look at them or actively suppressed them.

You Know Those Saudi Investors Itching to Invest in Tesla?

Well, neither do I.

More importantly, neither does the Tesla Board of directors:
An abrupt tweet last week by Elon Musk about the prospect of taking Tesla private was dashed off with little forethought, and had not been cleared ahead of time with the company’s board, two people familiar with the chain of events said Monday.

The account raised new questions about the cryptic Twitter post last week in which Mr. Musk, the mercurial co-founder and chief executive of the electric-car maker, said he had “funding secured” for a buyout of the $60 billion company.

The tweet was a highly unusual way of announcing a key strategy change at a public company. It prompted the Securities and Exchange Commission to contact Tesla to inquire about the accuracy of Mr. Musk’s tweets and the reason the disclosure had not been made in a regulatory filing, according to a person briefed on the inquiry, who was not authorized to speak publicly on behalf of the agency.

………

But three people familiar with the workings of the Saudi fund cast doubt on his account. They said the fund had taken none of the steps that such an ambitious transaction would entail, like preparing a term sheet or hiring a financial adviser to work on the deal.

And even if the fund were ready to move forward with such an agreement, it would invite review by the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States, the government body that reviews the national-security implications of such transactions.
I'm hoping that prosecution is on the table, because there are way too many people in Silicon Valley who are thinking that Elizabeth Holmes is some sort of black swan.

To quote a failed Presidential candidate, "They need to be brought to heel."

What Palmer Said*

In response to a lawsuit alleging misuse of copyrighted material in their Michael Jackson biopic, Disney is now claiming that it is. "Taking a stand against overzealous copyright holders.

This is like Nathan Myhrvold complaining about patent trolls:
The entertainment giant and its broadcast subsidiary ABC submit its response in court to a copyright lawsuit over 'The Last Days of Michael Jackson.'

Disney won't be shamed out of standing its ground in the face of "overzealous copyright holders" like the Michael Jackson Estate. On Monday, the entertainment giant and its broadcast subsidiary ABC filed an answer to the copyright lawsuit over the two-hour documentary The Last Days of Michael Jackson, which used excerpts from This Is It and other works including music videos for "Thriller" and "Black or White."

The lawsuit came in California federal court in May and pointed to just how seriously Disney takes its own intellectual property. The complaint gave examples: Disney threatened to sue childcare centers for having pictures of Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck on the wall; Disney once sued a couple on public assistance for $1 million when they appeared at children's parties dressed as an orange tiger and a blue donkey; Disney sent takedown notices to social media services upon users posting photographs of their new Star Wars toys; and so forth.

In fact, Disney's response to the Michael Jackson lawsuit comes just days after it suffered a setback in a lawsuit against a business that sends individuals in costumes to kids' birthday parties.

No matter and forget any sense of irony.

Answering claims over illicit use of Michael Jackson rights, Disney states, "This case is about the right of free speech under the First Amendment, the doctrine of fair use under the Copyright Act, and the ability of news organizations to use limited excerpts of copyrighted works — here, in most instances well less than 1% of the works — for the purpose of reporting on, commenting on, teaching about, and criticizing well-known public figures of interest in biographical documentaries without fear of liability from overzealous copyright holders."
Seriously, the level of hypocrisy here is so dense that there is a non-trivial risk of a black hole forming.




*In John Carpenter's movie The Thing, when Norris' head sprouted legs and began to walk away, Palmer (no first name) observed, "You gotta be f%$#ing kidding."

13 August 2018

The Important Question is, "What Will Happen to His Partner?"


Graphic Content
A Baltimore cop caught on video brutally beating a man has resigned from the force, and prosecutors are considering assault charges.
In the larger scheme of things though, the important development will be what happens to his partner, who largely stood idly by during the beating:
The Baltimore police officer caught on video punching a man repeatedly this past weekend has resigned and prosecutors are considering filing second-degree assault charges against him, interim Police Commissioner Gary Tuggle said.

The beating of Dashawn McGrier, 26, by the officer Saturday morning in East Baltimore was captured on cellphone video that circulated widely online. The police department suspended the officer with pay later Saturday.

Tuggle called the incident “disturbing” — singling out the officer’s “repeated head strikes” to the man. He said he could not comment further because the matter remains under active criminal investigation.

Baltimore State’s Attorney Marilyn J. Mosby’s office has declined to comment since the incident occurred.

The Police Department has not released the name of the officer, but McGrier’s attorney, Warren Brown, identified him as Arthur Williams, who he said has taunted and harassed McGrier for months.

“This was personal; it was not professional,” Brown said. “It was, ‘I’m the police and I have the power.’”

McGrier, who suffered a fractured jaw and ribs, swelling around his eye and ringing in his ears, was not charged in Saturday’s incident.

He was expected to be released from the hospital Monday, Brown said.
Look at the other cop:  He's basically watching this like it was a sporting even, when at the very least, he should be holding back his partner.  (He should really be arresting him)

The problems with bad cops will never be fixed until their cow-orkers are held accountable for enabling this sort of behavior, so his partner needs to be crucified over this as well.

If Only We Can Apply this to Twitter

Bethesda Softworks has come up with an inventive way of dealing with trolls in its most recent online game, Fallout 76.

Basically, they have literally painted bulls-eyes on the backs of abusive gamers:
When Bethesda mentioned that Fallout 76 was an online game, you could hear alarm bells ringing in fans' heads. How were they going to deal with the inevitable trolls who come in to ruin other players' fun? Now we know: it's making them a part of the game. In a presentation at QuakeCon, game lead Todd Howard revealed that people who kill unwilling victims will get bounties on their heads, with the money coming out of their total cap balance (that is, currency) and reflecting their character level. They'll also be impossible to miss -- you'll see a red star on the map.

This will help you avoid troublemakers, but you'll have a strong incentive to take them down. Fallout 76 will include a revenge mechanic that doubles the usual payout if you take down the person who killed you. You also won't lose your core gear like weapons and armor, so you don't have to worry that someone will swipe your hard-earned laser weapon.
There has to be a way to extend this to Twitter.

That place is a cesspool.

The DNC Could F%$# Up a 2 Car Funeral

After less than 2 months, the DNC has reversed itself and decided that they will take energy company money after all.

The original motion was passed with an eye toward, "connecting with grass-roots voters and emphasize the party's stance on environmentalism," but apparrently it's big donors that matters:
The Democratic National Committee (DNC) overwhelmingly passed a resolution on Friday evening saying it welcomes donations from fossil fuel industry workers and “employers’ political action committees.”

Critics of the newly passed resolution are calling it a reversal of the DNC’s recently adopted ban on accepting donations from fossil fuel companies’ political organizations.

DNC Chairman Tom Perez sponsored Friday’s resolution that allows the committee to accept contributions from “workers, including those in energy and related industries, who organize and donate to Democratic candidates individually or through their unions’ or employers’ political action committees.”

Perez, who served as Labor Secretary in the Obama administration, said the new measure was a commitment to organized labor. The resolution also says that the party wants “to support fossil fuel workers in an evolving energy economy.”
Bullsh%$.

This is about the money, and the cut that consultants get from wasteful media buys.

Do not donate to the DNC, or the DCCC, or the DSCC.

Choose your candidates, and dial directly.

Meanwhile, In Connecticut

The state insurance department has just banned Donald Trump's proposed phony health insurance:
The Connecticut Insurance Department has determined state law prohibits the sale of skimpy “short term” plans that are being promoted by President Donald Trump as a cheaper alternative to Affordable Care Act coverage.

“Connecticut already has the necessary statutory consumer protections in place to prohibit ‘junk plans’ ” Insurance Commissioner Katharine Wade said in a statement released Thursday.

The department also said a review of the new Trump administration rules for short-term, limited duration plans require any of these policies sold in the state to cover the Affordable Care Act’s comprehensive “essential health benefits.”

Those essential benefits include hospitalization and outpatient care, as well as mental health, maternity, prescription drug coverage, pediatric care and rehabilitative services.

The ACA allowed people to purchase short-term plans, which usually lacked maternity, mental health, full drug benefit and other coverages, but limited their coverage period to three months. These policies were also not renewable.

But the Trump administration’s new rules, issued Aug. 1, allow for nearly a year’s coverage under a short-term plan. They also allow short -term plans to be renewed for up to three years.lans require any of these policies sold in the state to cover the Affordable Care Act’s comprehensive “essential health benefits.”

The Connecticut Insurance Department said state law prohibits exclusions for pre-existing conditions for any policy that has coverage of six months or longer.

………

Other states, including New Jersey and Massachusetts, also regulate short-term plans to make them follow nearly all the same insurance rules that the Affordable Care Act plans have. In some of those states, carriers have decided against offering any short-term plans at all.
I rather expect to see more of this in other blue states.

I am not sure of the end-game here, but this is a glorious f%$# you to President inverted traffic cone.

A Big Old F%$#-You to Anti-Abortion Zealots

California is looking at requiring state colleges to carry abortion pills in their health services:
California legislators are set to plunge into an election-year debate over abortion access, taking up a bill that would make the state the first in the nation to mandate public universities offer medication abortion as part of basic student health services.

The measure, which passed the state Senate in January, would expand abortion rights at a time when some other states are enacting new restrictions on the procedure. The bill on Wednesday came before a key Assembly committee, which decided to determine by the end of next week whether it will move to the floor. The Assembly would have to clear the measure by Aug. 31 for it to reach Gov. Jerry Brown's desk.
It's good policy, it's better and safer than pregnancy, and a lot less expensive.

As to the politics, f%$#ing with the anti-abortion Talibaptists is a good thing too.

About F%$#ing Time

A jury just issued a multi-million dollar verdict against Monsanto (Now Bayer) for cancer caused by its Roundup (glyphosate) herbicide:
Bayer shares plunged as much as 14 percent on Monday, losing about $14 billion in value, after newly acquired Monsanto was ordered to pay $289 million in damages in the first of possibly thousands of U.S. lawsuits over alleged links between a weedkiller and cancer.

After the verdict in favor of a California school groundskeeper with terminal cancer, Monsanto faces more than 5,000 similar lawsuits across the United States over claims it did not warn of the cancer risks of glyphosate-based weedkillers, including its Roundup brand.

Monsanto, bought by Bayer this year for $63 billion, said that it would appeal against the jury’s verdict in California, which is the latest episode in a long-running debate over claims that exposure to Roundup can cause cancer.

The case by plaintiff Dewayne Johnson, filed in 2016, was fast-tracked for trial due to the severity of his non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, a cancer of the lymph system that he alleges was caused by Roundup and Ranger Pro, another Monsanto glyphosate herbicide.

“The jury’s verdict is at odds with the weight of scientific evidence, decades of real world experience and the conclusions of regulators around the world that all confirm glyphosate is safe and does not cause non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma,” Bayer said in a statement.
Ummm………the state of California declared glyphosate a likely carcinogen in 2015 in response to a report from the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), and the the, "Weight of scientific evidence," is an artifact of a decades long PR campaign, ghost writing OP/EDs, academic journal articles, and an large portions of an official report of the European food safety agency.

Monsanto is trying to sell its own PR efforts as a scientific consensus, and the jury did not buy it.

This Sounds Like CYA to Me

Elon Musk has been on a Jihad against short-sellers of Tesla forever.

The other day, he tweeted that Tesla would be going public at $420, about a 30% premium.

Now, with regulators wondering if this might be an illegal stock manipulation scheme, Musk is claiming that he has what is pretty much a done deal with the Saudi Arabian sovereign wealth fund.

The house of Saud may not be the sharpest tack in the drawer, but taking Tesla private at a 30% premium when their best case PE ratio in the next decade is something north of 100:1 is foolish even by the standards of inbred oil-wealth.

My guess is that there were some very preliminary talks, and Musk wants to use this as a cover for his attempt to hurt the short-sellers.

I hope that there is a full investigation:
Elon Musk, Tesla’s chief executive, said on Monday that he had held meetings with representatives of a Saudi sovereign wealth fund who expressed an eagerness to help him take the electric-car maker private.

Writing in a post on Tesla’s corporate blog, Mr. Musk offered his fullest explanation yet for what he said were the circumstances behind his Aug. 7 message on Twitter that he was “considering taking Tesla private at $420” and had “funding secured.” The post sent Wall Street scrambling for more information.

In the blog post, Mr. Musk said the Saudi fund had approached him several times about taking the company private as part of the country’s efforts to diversify its economy beyond oil.

Mr. Musk said that after several meetings that began in early 2017, he had left talks with the fund’s managing director on July 31 “with no question” that a deal could be closed and “that it was just a matter of getting the process moving.”
Yeah, sure, and if you believe that, I have a bridge in Riyadh you might be interested in buying. 

12 August 2018

Silicon Valley Rules: When the Going Gets Tough, Hire Lobbyists

In response to a state court ruling saying that workers for Uber, Lyft, Instacart, etc. are employees, the "gig" companies are lobbying for a law change.

They knew that their business plans, which included meticulous tracking of so-called "independent contractors" ran afoul of the law, ignored this, and now they want the law changed to validate their criminality.

F%$# that.

These guys, who see themselves as Randian supermen, may not get it, but their businesses are predicated on a subsidy from the rest of society.

Not having to pay unemployment, workmens comp, foisting liability on underpaid workers, etc. is more than a violation of the law:  It is a subsidy from the rest of us to line their pockets:
Leading gig economy companies including Uber and Lyft are quietly lobbying California’s top Democrats to override or undermine a court ruling that could make many of their contract workers into employees.

In April, the California Supreme Court issued a far-reaching ruling which could make it much harder for companies to claim their workforces of independent contractors are not full-fledged employees under the state’s wage laws. Over the months since, business leaders have been pleading their case to state officials including members of Governor Jerry Brown’s cabinet, Brown’s presumed successor Gavin Newsom, and members of the state legislature.

The business leaders are pushing to blunt the ruling’s impact, either through legislation or through executive action by the governor -- moves that would reverberate across the national debate over the rights and roles of workers in the modern gig economy, and what Democrats’ posture toward tech companies should be.
Let me translate the next of bullsh%$ bingo that is coming from the lobbyists:
An executive at one of the companies behind the push, speaking on condition of anonymity, said that because Brown and Newsom are both pro-tech and pro-worker, they are uniquely positioned to strike a compromise with the potential to be replicated. Forging a balance between the need for flexible, scalable work arrangements and workers’ rights shouldn’t just be left to the courts or calculated based on old models, the executive said.
We broke the law, but let us continue to do so, and we'll transfer some of our ill-gotten gains to your campaign coffers:  We need your subsidies to survive.

Mind you they don't see this as a subsidy, they see it as disruption, but they will have a very tough time competing, and a tougher time raising massive amounts of venture capital, if they have to treat their employees fairly:
The April ruling in the California case, Dynamex Operations West Inc. v. Superior Court of Los Angeles, established what’s sometimes called an “ABC” test for enforcement of the state’s wage laws. Among the key elements of the new standard, which is more stringent than most states’ or the federal government’s, is the determination that people are employees of a company unless they are conducting “work that is outside the usual course” of the company’s business. For businesses whose core capacity is delivering a service to customers via an army of workers classified as independent contractors, that could be a challenging test to pass.

The court ruling applied only to California, but companies worry that, along with upending their operations in the nation’s most populous state, it could be a harbinger of things to come elsewhere. The week after the Dynamex decision, U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders introduced a bill -- backed by a handful of fellow potential contenders for the Democratic Party’s 2020 presidential nomination -- that would make an equivalent ABC test the standard for federal labor laws, like who has the right to unionize.

………

Leading gig economy companies including Uber and Lyft are quietly lobbying California’s top Democrats to override or undermine a court ruling that could make many of their contract workers into employees.

In April, the California Supreme Court issued a far-reaching ruling which could make it much harder for companies to claim their workforces of independent contractors are not full-fledged employees under the state’s wage laws. Over the months since, business leaders have been pleading their case to state officials including members of Governor Jerry Brown’s cabinet, Brown’s presumed successor Gavin Newsom, and members of the state legislature.

The business leaders are pushing to blunt the ruling’s impact, either through legislation or through executive action by the governor -- moves that would reverberate across the national debate over the rights and roles of workers in the modern gig economy, and what Democrats’ posture toward tech companies should be.

“The magnitude of this issue requires urgent leadership,” nine companies wrote in a July 23 letter reviewed by Bloomberg, which warns of the ruling “stifling innovation and threatening the livelihoods of millions of working Californians” and says that without political intervention it will “decimate businesses.” The letter was sent on behalf of Uber Technologies Inc., Lyft Inc., Instacart Inc., DoorDash Inc., Postmates Inc., TaskRabbit Inc., Square Inc., Total System Services Inc. and Handy Technologies Inc. It was addressed to the governor’s secretary of labor and cabinet secretary.

A spokeswoman for the governor’s office declined to comment on whether Brown, whose final term ends in January, was mulling granting the companies’ pleas.

An executive at one of the companies behind the push, speaking on condition of anonymity, said that because Brown and Newsom are both pro-tech and pro-worker, they are uniquely positioned to strike a compromise with the potential to be replicated. Forging a balance between the need for flexible, scalable work arrangements and workers’ rights shouldn’t just be left to the courts or calculated based on old models, the executive said.

Spokespeople for Lyft, Handy, TaskRabbit, Square, Postmates and Instacart declined to comment on the companies’ lobbying efforts. DoorDash did not respond to inquiries. Spokespeople for TSYS and Uber referred requests for comment to the California Chamber of Commerce, which has been an outspoken opponent of the new requirements. “If you have a business model that doesn’t lend itself to the strict structure that an employer-employee relationship dictates,” said the Chamber’s president and CEO Allan Zaremberg, then the ruling “puts you in a situation that it’s almost impossible to continue your business model.”

Zaremberg declined to comment on the prospect of executive action from the governor’s office, but said the Chamber aims to get a legislative fix introduced and passed by the state’s assembly and senate before the legislative session closes at the end of the month. Without it, he said, workers and companies alike will be “hamstrung,” and whole sectors of California’s economy could be in jeopardy. “People depend very much now on an on-demand economy,” said Zaremberg. “In the worst-case scenario, it isn’t a viable business model anymore.”

The California Labor Federation pledged Sunday to resist the efforts to suspend or reverse the ruling. "With income inequality at an all-time high and millions of working families struggling to survive in this unfair economy, why would our state’s leaders intervene to protect big corporations from paying the wages owed to their workers?" said the group’s legislative director Caitlin Vega.

Federal and California state laws entitle employees to a suite of rights including minimum wage, overtime pay, protection from sexual harassment, payroll tax contributions from employers and the chance to win collective bargaining. Those perks don’t extend to independent contractors, a category for workers with greater autonomy to choose the terms of their work. The boundary between an employee and a contractor can be fuzzy, though, and is defined differently under different laws. The question of who gets employee protections has been hotly contested in a slew of government agency proceedings and lawsuits around the country, frequently targeting app-based sectors like ride-sharing as well as older industries such as trucking and health care.

The April ruling in the California case, Dynamex Operations West Inc. v. Superior Court of Los Angeles, established what’s sometimes called an “ABC” test for enforcement of the state’s wage laws. Among the key elements of the new standard, which is more stringent than most states’ or the federal government’s, is the determination that people are employees of a company unless they are conducting “work that is outside the usual course” of the company’s business. For businesses whose core capacity is delivering a service to customers via an army of workers classified as independent contractors, that could be a challenging test to pass.

The court ruling applied only to California, but companies worry that, along with upending their operations in the nation’s most populous state, it could be a harbinger of things to come elsewhere. The week after the Dynamex decision, U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders introduced a bill -- backed by a handful of fellow potential contenders for the Democratic Party’s 2020 presidential nomination -- that would make an equivalent ABC test the standard for federal labor laws, like who has the right to unionize.

Rather than treating that as an idle threat, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce has already been lobbying congressional offices about the bill, according to federal disclosures. In meetings with U.S. Senate staff, business leaders have been emphasizing the downsides of Dynamex’s ABC test, according to a person familiar with the conversations. Getting Democratically controlled California to pump the breaks on its new court-decreed standard could also have a significant impact on national-level discussions.

In their letter to Governor Brown, the businesses floated options to curtail the ruling’s influence. Those included issuing an executive order barring state agencies from implementing the ABC test, reviving a defunct state commission that could amend it and passing legislation that would suspend it. The companies cite an estimate by the pro-free-market research group R Street Institute that more than 300,000 California workers could be newly considered employees rather than independent contractors due to the ruling. Once the imminent damage from Dynamex is averted, the companies say in the letter, there could be “a robust legislative discussion about how we can collectively invest to protect worker voices and benefits” in the new economy, as well as a “balanced test” for who is an employee.

Besides the letter, the companies have also met with the governors’ office to plead their case, according to a person familiar with the matter, who asked not to be identified because the meetings were private. And they have discussed the issue with the Democrats who lead the state’s assembly and senate and with Lieutenant Governor Newsom. Spokespeople for Newsom, Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon and Senate President Pro Tempore Toni Atkins declined to comment.

Gig-economy startups aren’t the only companies concerned. The “I’m Independent” Coalition, a project of the California Chamber of Commerce devoted to opposing the ABC test, also counts the Internet Association as a backer. The association’s members include Google, Amazon and Facebook, all of which also hire contractors. “The internet industry is concerned about the implications of the Dynamex ruling and its potential to jeopardize internet-enabled, freelance work,” the association’s California government affairs director Kevin McKinley said in an emailed statement.

The Chamber’s coalition also includes the state associations representing restaurants, retailers, publishers, hospitals, shopping centers, child-care providers, farms, grape growers, manufacturers, trucking, taxis, ambulances and insurers. The coalition has gathered statements from workers about why they prefer to be classified as contractors, and is working to mobilize some for an Aug. 15 rally at the state capitol in Sacramento.

Company officials are also urging their own workers to join the cause. On Thursday, DoorDash sent an email to its “California Dashers” telling them that the Dynamex ruling threatens their “flexibility to choose when, where and how you want to work,” and providing a web tool to send their state legislators a message asking them “to help protect my freedom to choose the way I work.”

Attorney Shannon Liss-Riordan, who represents a worker suing DoorDash, responded by filing a motion Friday in federal court asking a judge to enjoin the company from "engaging in further coercive and misleading communications" that she alleged encourage workers covered by her putative class action lawsuit to "undermine their claims" in the case. DoorDash did not respond to inquiries.

Workers’ advocates have argued that responsible companies should welcome the clarity of the court’s April ruling. “It’s been a bit of a free-for-all, particularly in California, where a whole economy of companies has risen up in recent years saying that they can build their workforce off of workers that don’t have any employment protections,” said Liss-Riordan, who also represents workers currently suing other gig economy companies including Uber, Lyft and Postmates over alleged denials of employee rights (the companies have denied wrongdoing).

Labor advocates say there’s no reason for California to water down workers’ rights. “These companies continue to have choices about their business model,” union leaders from the state’s building trades, Teamsters union affiliates, and AFL-CIO chapter told Governor Brown and legislative leaders in a July letter reviewed by Bloomberg. “They can convert workers to employees and retain control over their work rules and their rates. Or they can contract with true independent contractors. The only thing they can’t do after Dynamex is have their cake and eat it too.”
I prefer to to call them moochers, but, "Have their cake and eat it too," works too.

Not What You Expect from The Financial Times

But they published an editorial saying that the expansion of the scope of trade deals has not worked:
How will the world trade regime handle a large, increasingly powerful country such as China that apparently plays globalisation by different rules? This is the question that keeps US and European policymakers awake at night. The fever runs highest in the US, where the Trump administration has blamed China for engaging in economic aggression and has declared trade war in response. The US president’s methods may be frowned upon, but the view that something has to be done about China’s trade and industrial practices is widespread among mainstream policy elites.

………

But US and European policymakers are asking the wrong question. The problem is not with China’s policies as much as it is with the world trading regime. The World Trade Organization — as well as every trade agreement since — has been predicated on the idea that economic practices in different nations would eventually converge. This has not happened, as China’s example amply indicates. More importantly, there is no good reason for national economic models to converge in the first place. World trade rules need to change, regardless of what China does, to accommodate economic diversity.

The trade agreements concluded in the early postwar period left plenty of space for countries to pursue their own paths. The various trade rounds under the old General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade system covered only explicit barriers to manufactured goods at the border, mainly import tariffs and quotas. Services and agriculture were excluded. Developing countries could do almost as they pleased. When an import surge in garments threatened economic dislocation in developed countries in the early 1970s, a special regime was established that enabled these countries to re-impose quantitative restrictions.

The WTO changed all that. Negotiated at a time of neoliberal triumphalism, it reached inside the border to constrain domestic policies in subsidies, health and safety and intellectual property. Any domestic regulation with an adverse impact on imports could now be treated as a trade restriction. Subsequent trade agreements went further, prioritising trade and foreign investment over domestic concerns.

Western policymakers tend to think of today’s global trade rules as neutral and impartial, treating all participants fairly. But trade agreements are political documents, reflecting the interests of dominant coalitions. Multinational corporations, international banks and Big Pharma play a particularly important role in shaping them. It is no surprise that long-term concerns about development, or indeed labour rights and the environment, are given short shrift.

There is little doubt that China violates the spirit, if not the letter, of WTO rules on intellectual property and subsidies. But when the US and Europe complain that China is infringing “global norms and rules”, they forget their own economic history. China’s policies are not so different from those that they too embraced while catching up with technological leaders of the time. For example, US patent rules were notably lax in the late 18th and 19th centuries, and the US textile industry would never have arisen without widespread “theft” of technological secrets from Britain. Similarly, many of Europe’s industries, such as aircraft, steel and cars, were nurtured by government support.

………

If the WTO has become dysfunctional, it is because our trade rules have over-reached. A fair world trade regime would recognise the value of diversity in economic models. It should seek a modus vivendi among these models, rather than tighter rules.
The author, Dani Rodrick, is an economist who has been dubious of the neoliberal consensus on trade for some, and as such, this is very much in line with what he has written before, but it is not something that I would have expected to appear on the pages of FT.

Patriotism in a Nutshell

Betsy Devos has a $140 million dollar yacht moored in the shores of Lake Erie, and it flies the flag of the Cayman Islands to dodge taxes.

It appears that patriotism only counts if you are poor, or if it does not cost the rich anything:
When someone untied a yacht owned by U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos’s family, Fox News portrayed the episode as an illustration of uncouth anti-Trump sentiment. The yacht’s foreign flag, though, was an illustration of how an allegedly “America First” administration is chock-full of moguls who have eagerly stashed their wealth offshore — as long as doing so means avoiding taxes, regulations, transparency requirements and domestic employment laws.

………

Now there’s Betsy DeVos, one of the heirs of Amway’s multi-level marketing empire. When her family’s 164-foot yacht was untied from a Huron, Ohio dock, it was flying a flag of the Cayman Islands, where VesselTracker says the yacht is registered. According to federal records, the yacht is owned by RDV International Marine, which is an affiliate of the company that controls the DeVos family’s fortune.

………
Why would an American billionaire’s floating mansion moored at a northern Ohio dock be registered in an exotic Caribbean archipelago?

Co-published by Newsweek

When someone untied a yacht owned by U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos’s family, Fox News portrayed the episode as an illustration of uncouth anti-Trump sentiment. The yacht’s foreign flag, though, was an illustration of how an allegedly “America First” administration is chock-full of moguls who have eagerly stashed their wealth offshore — as long as doing so means avoiding taxes, regulations, transparency requirements and domestic employment laws.

We already know that Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao’s family shipping consortium routes its business through the Marshall Islands — a notoriously secretive tax haven. Federal records also detail how Trump’s Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, Securities and Exchange Commission Chairman Jay Clayton and Federal Reserve board appointee Randal Quarles held parts of their personal fortunes in investments based in the Cayman Islands, which are not necessarily required to adhere to America’s domestic financial regulations.

Now there’s Betsy DeVos, one of the heirs of Amway’s multi-level marketing empire. When her family’s 164-foot yacht was untied from a Huron, Ohio dock, it was flying a flag of the Cayman Islands, where VesselTracker says the yacht is registered. According to federal records, the yacht is owned by RDV International Marine, which is an affiliate of the company that controls the DeVos family’s fortune.

Betsy DeVos did not respond to Capital & Main’s questions about her family’s Cayman-registered yacht — and the larger question about foreign yachts was never deeply explored during the 2012 kerfuffle over the foreign flags on Mitt Romney’s boat. Interviews with maritime attorneys suggest it is a scheme that allows wealthy Americans to feign foreign status — and glean the lucrative benefits offered by offshore tax havens.

………

When buying a vessel or cruising in U.S. waters, American yacht owners like the DeVoses could face state sales or use taxes. However, registering a yacht in a locale like the Caymans — under what has come to be known as a “flag of convenience” — allows those American yacht owners to effectively characterize themselves as foreigners for tax purposes, thereby avoiding the obligation of paying the standard sales and use levies, while enjoying police and Coast Guard services during times their vessels are untied.

………

Offshore registration can also reduce labor costs.
So, she saves on taxes, cheats her crew, and it's all good, because she's rich with money that she has never lifted a finger to earn.

This sort of sh%$ is the best advertisement for Marxis-Leninists you can possibly imagine.

I Wasn't Really Planning on Landing It

A man stole an aircraft from SeaTac airport and flew aerobatics before crashing it.
All in all, it is a rather flamboyant suicide:
He had all the proper security credentials. He had been working his shift and was believed to still be in uniform. The baggage handler didn’t seem out of place at all — until he was taxiing down the runway and taking off in a stolen passenger plane.

Richard Russell sparked a combination of amazement and fear as he flew — alone — a 76-seat Horizon Air Q400 plane for more than an hour before it crashed on a wooded area on Ketron Island south of Seattle.

He did a barrel roll. A daring swoop. Officials said they didn’t believe he even had a pilot’s license.

………

Jimmy Thomson, deputy editor of Canadian investigative environmental news outlet the Narwhal, compiled portions of the air traffic recording. In one clip, the man says he wouldn't know how to land the plane. "I wasn't really planning on landing it," he says. 
F-15s were scrambled to intercept.

This is profoundly weird.

11 August 2018

This Is Weird without Context, and I Have None

Impeachment proceedings have begun against all the remaining judges on the West Virginia Supreme Court:
The West Virginia House Judiciary Committee approved 14 articles of impeachment against the four sitting justices of the West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals on Tuesday.

The eighth day of the committee’s meetings regarding possible impeachment produced the first material results when 14 articles of impeachment were introduced at 9:25 a.m.

By the time the committee adjourned at 6:15 p.m., its members had added two new articles to their draft and rejected two of the original proposed articles, advancing the possibility of impeachment for the majority of the elected officials in the Mountain State’s judicial branch of government.

“It’s a sad day, and it certainly isn’t a cause for celebration,” Judiciary Chairman John Shott, R-Mercer, said Tuesday as the articles were distributed to the 24 committee members present in the House chamber.

Those articles will now advance to the full House of Delegates for consideration. Speaker Pro Tempore John Overington, R-Berkeley, said Tuesday he called for the House to reconvene at 10 a.m. Monday.
I have no clue as to what this is about, but there has to be a subtext.

Linkage


Anonymous promises to bring hellfire and brimstone down on "Q".  It's funny, but I am not sure if that is intentional.