23 June 2018

Tweet of the Day


Solidarity, Brothers and Sisters.

Support Your Fighting Men

The Trump administration feared it would be a “public relations nightmare”: a major federal study that concluded contaminated groundwater across the country, especially near military bases, was more toxic than the government realized. Political aides to President Donald Trump and Environmental Protection Agency head Scott Pruitt pressured the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry against releasing the results.

“The public, media, and Congressional reaction to these numbers is going to be huge,” an unidentified White House aide wrote, according to Politico. “The impact to EPA and [the Defense Department] is going to be extremely painful. We cannot seem to get ATSDR to realize the potential public relations nightmare this is going to be.” The study was not released.

That is, until Wednesday. Amid a media firestorm about the administration’s immigration policy, the ATSDR—a division of the Department of Health and Human Services—quietly published its 852-page review of perfluoroalkyls, or PFAS, which are “used in everything from carpets and frying pan coatings to military firefighting foams,” according to ProPublica. “All told, the report offers the most comprehensive gathering of information on the effects of these chemicals today, and suggests they’re far more dangerous than previously thought.”

These chemical compounds pose health risks to millions of Americans. They’re in roughly 1 percent of the nation’s public water supply, according to the EPA; in roughly 1,500 drinking water systems across the country, according to the Environmental Working Group. People who drink from these systems, even if their exposure to PFAS is low, now have a potentially increased risk of cancer; of disruptions in hormones and the immune system; and of complications with fetal development during pregnancy.

But military personnel and veterans are particularly at risk, because PFAS compounds are in firefighting foams, which have been used in training exercises at military bases across America since the 1970s. Those foams have leached into the groundwater at the military facilities, and often the drinking water supply. Nearly three million Americans get their drinking water from Department of Defense systems.

The DOD has reported widespread contamination at its bases and posts, as well as their surrounding areas. In a March report to the House Armed Services Committee, the department provided a list of 126 military facilities where nearby water supplies contained PFAS levels above the EPA’s standard, and 36 bases with drinking water contamination on site. “In all, 25 Army bases; 50 Air Force bases, 49 Navy or Marine Corps bases and two Defense Logistics Agency sites have tested at higher than acceptable levels for the compounds in either their drinking water or groundwater sources,” the Military Times reported.
This is amazingly f%$#ed up.

We Are Completely Screwed

In addition to increasing ice melt, it not turns out that anthropogenic climate change is resulting in major uprising of bedrock in Antarctica, which will further accelerate sea level rise.

Ice melts, the weight on the underlying ground is reduced, and the land springs up.

I rather imagine that will see something similar in Greenland

Rinse, lather, repeat:
The earth is rising in one part of Antarctica at one of the fastest rates ever recorded, as ice rapidly disappears and weight is lifted off the bedrock, a new international study has found.

The findings, reported in the journal Science, have surprising and positive implications for the survival of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet (WAIS), which scientists had previously thought could be doomed because of the effects of climate change.

The unexpectedly fast rate of the rising earth may markedly increase the stability of the ice sheet against catastrophic collapse due to ice loss, scientists say.

Moreover, the rapid rise of the earth in this area also affects gravity measurements, which implies that up to 10 percent more ice has disappeared in this part of Antarctica than previously assumed.

Researchers led by scientists at The Ohio State University used a series of six GPS stations (part of the POLENET-ANET array) attached to bedrock around the Amundsen Sea Embayment to measure its rise in response to thinning ice.

The "uplift rate" was measured at up to 41 millimeters (1.6 inches) a year, said Terry Wilson, one of the leaders of the study and a professor emeritus of earth sciences at Ohio State.

In contrast, places like Iceland and Alaska, which have what are considered rapid uplift rates, generally are measured rising 20 to 30 millimeters a year.

"The rate of uplift we found is unusual and very surprising. It's a game changer," Wilson said.

And it is only going to get faster. The researchers estimate that in 100 years, uplift rates at the GPS sites will be 2.5 to 3.5 times more rapid than currently observed.
We need to take action now, because otherwise, beach front property in Florida will be in Alabama.

22 June 2018

A Good Day at the Supreme Court

They ruled that cops do need a warrant to track you via your cell phone:
Over 40 years ago, the Supreme Court outlined what has come to be known as the “third-party doctrine” – the idea that the Fourth Amendment does not protect records or information that someone voluntarily shares with someone or something else. Today the Supreme Court ruled that, despite this doctrine, police will generally need to get a warrant to obtain cell-site location information, a record of the cell towers (or other sites) with which a cellphone connected. In an opinion by Chief Justice John Roberts, the five-justice majority pointed to “seismic shifts in digital technology,” which have allowed wireless carriers to collect “deeply revealing” information about cellphone owners that should be protected by the Constitution. Roberts characterized the ruling as a narrow one; indeed, the majority at least left open the prospect that police might not need a warrant to get information about where someone was on the day that a crime was committed. But the decision still drew sharp criticism from the dissenting justices, who complained that it is likely to imperil, in the words of Justice Samuel Alito, “many legitimate and valuable investigative practices on which law enforcement has rightfully come to rely.”
Justice Alito, just because law enforcement likes being sloppy and lazy does not justify continual and meticulous invasion of privacy.

The name for a society that allows police to act that way is a police state.

21 June 2018

More Defense Contractor Butthurt

I think that there are any number of good reasons, most of them having to do with Erdo─čan increasingly erratic and autocratic rule, not to have Turkey deeply involved in the F-35 program.

That being said, the current defense contractor driven hysteria over Turkey buying the S-400 SAM system from Russia is not one of those reasons:
The most sophisticated fighter jet in the world, the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, will play a smaller role in the future of European security than originally conceived. On Monday, the Senate amended its version of the 2019 defense authorization act to block the sale of the fifth-generation fighter jet to Turkey. The reason: the NATO ally’s purchase of the Russian S-400, a radar and missile battery with a lethal range of 250 km. In routine operation, the sensor- and transmitter-packed jet exchanges electronic data with friendly anti-air systems and sensors, and if Turkey were to do this, data collected by the Russian-built weapon might find its way back to Moscow.

The House version of the bill also expresses concerns about the S-400 and Turkey and requires a report 60 days after the bill’s enactment to assess Turkey’s purchase of the system and possible consequences to U.S. aircraft.

Turkey inked the S-400 deal last year, over strenuous objections from the U.S. and other NATO-member governments concerned about an ally using Russian air defense systems. “A NATO-interoperable missile defense system remains the best option to defend Turkey from the full range of threats in the region,” Pentagon spokesperson Johnny Michael told CNBC last fall.

Turkey’s Prime Minister Binali Yildirim called Monday’s decision “lamentable.” It’s also very inconvenient for Turkey’s political elite, coming just days before Turkish elections.

The U.S. military has gotten up close and personal with the S-400 over Syria, where the Russian military has deployed to aid the Assad regime. Its deadly presence reshaped how the U.S.-led coalition flies air ops, Lt. Gen. Jeffrey Harrigan told reporters in September. “‘We are consistently monitoring them to see if something changes their intent because we have to manage that and respond quickly…We look at it every day. It’s an everyday discussion to make sure our force can manage that risk.”
The S-400 is arguably the best SAM system currently deployed, and as noted above, it scares the crap out of the US military.

Its detection range, which almost certainly exceeds 500 km, means that installations in Kaliningrad will be getting all the data that the Russians could ever want on the F-35.

It would cover all of Poland and the Baltics, going as far west as Berlin and Copenhagen, and that doesn't include coverage from installations in Belarus.

This is about defense contractors not getting their vigorish from a NATO ally, nothing more.

Closing the Barn Door after the Psychopath Has Left the Barn

So, after leveraging many direct and indirect subsidies, and his complete lack of ethics, Jeff Bezos now owns most of the world.

One of the biggest subsidies was the fact that Amazon did not have to collect state sales taxes, based on a a 1992 Supreme Court ruling.

The Supreme Court has now reversed this ruling, meaning that online vendors will have to collect state sales taxes:
Justice Anthony Kennedy had essentially invited a test case to overrule Quill Corp. v. North Dakota and its physical-nexus rule for the states being able to require out-of-state retailers to collect sales tax. So it was not a huge surprise that Kennedy had the opinion for the court today in South Dakota v. Wayfair.

Except, of course, that the oral argument in the case in April had left many observers wondering whether the court could get to a majority willing to overrule the 1992 Quill decision and its 1967 predecessor, National Bellas Hess Inc. v. Illinois Department of Revenue.

“In effect, Quill has come to serve as a judicially created tax shelter for businesses that decide to limit their physical presence and still sell their goods and services to a state’s consumers—something that has become easier and more prevalent as technology has advanced,” Kennedy wrote. “This Court should not prevent states from collecting lawful taxes through a physical presence rule that can be satisfied only if there is an employee or a building in the state.”

In an unusual voting lineup, the court did reach such a majority, and Kennedy announced that the physical-presence rule was unsound and incorrect, and that Quill and Bellas Hess were overruled.
It would have been nice if this had happened a decade ago, before various internet retailers became behemouths.

This is the Most Toxic Twitter Discussion Thread Ever


This is a fairly unsurprising bit of information, the older populations are cohorts are whiter, and the tail end of the baby-boom is over 50, so it's not a surprise.

But the comments thread is the most unbelievable racist sh%$-show I have ever seen on Twitter.

Also, you see a bunch of animated GIFs of people eating popcorn.

Click through if you dare.

20 June 2018

Canada to Become Major Importer of Fig Newtons

Because they have just legalized recreational marijuana use nationwide.

You might also consider investing in ice cream sammiches:
Canada is to become the second country in the world to fully legalise marijuana, after the senate approved legislation paving the way for recreational cannabis to be legally bought and sold within the next two or three months.

“We’ve just witnessed a very historic vote that ends 90 years of prohibition,” senator Tony Dean told reporters on Tuesday after the vote to pass the Cannabis Act.

“It ends 90 years of needless criminalisation, it ends a prohibition model that inhibited and discouraged public health and community health in favour of just-say-no approaches that simply failed young people miserably.”

The federal government has said it would give provinces and territories – which are responsible for deciding how recreational cannabis will be distributed and sold – eight to 12 weeks after the legislation is passed to get ready for sales, but the exact date that sales begin will be set by the federal government.
Oh, Canada!

So Not a Surprise

Language in a confidential severance agreement Tesla Inc. is using as part of the biggest job cut in its history is likely to deter dismissed employees from going public with worker safety concerns, according to employment-law experts.

A proposed severance agreement Tesla presented to one of the more than 3,000 workers dismissed last week required acknowledgment that the employee “had the opportunity to raise any safety concerns, safety complaints, or whistleblower activities against the company, and that if any safety concerns, safety complaints, or whistleblower activities were raised during your employment, they were addressed to your satisfaction.”

The document obtained and reviewed by Bloomberg News also barred the former worker from sharing “business-related” information; required that the ex-employee assist Tesla’s defense against claims; released any claims made against Tesla; and dictated that any disputes under the agreement will be handled in individual arbitration.

“I do think the agreement will chill valid employee complaints,” said Brishen Rogers, a law professor at Temple University. “A reasonable worker would just keep their mouth shut, rather than risk losing their severance pay.”

………

The document, which would provide the employee about two months of severance pay, includes a clause stating that it doesn’t “in any way limit or prohibit” the employee from cooperating with or filing a charge with a government agency. But the rest of the document makes it less likely that fired workers would actually speak up about issues like safety, or be taken seriously if they did, labor law experts say.

“The implication is, if you went to OSHA and you said, ‘Here’s something new I want to tell you about a safety concern at Tesla,’ and then OSHA asks the company to respond to that allegation, the company is going to say, ‘That employee told us that they raised everything,’” said Sharon Block, the executive director of Harvard University’s Labor and Worklife Program.

The language requiring workers to assist Tesla in legal disputes is also potentially problematic, said David Lopez, the incoming co-dean of Rutgers law school.
Elon Musk likes to represent himself as a messianic figure who will change the world.

I want no part of his vision.

Trump Caves


Returning to an Obama administration policy
Trump blinked, and issued an executive order changing the asylum policy to something marginally less heinous.

Ironically enough, it appears to be very similar to Obama's 2014 policy:
President Trump caved to enormous political pressure on Wednesday and signed an executive order meant to end the separation of families at the border by detaining parents and children together for an indefinite period.

“We’re going to have strong — very strong — borders, but we are going to keep the families together,” Mr. Trump said as he signed the order in the Oval Office. “I didn’t like the sight or the feeling of families being separated.”
But ending the practice of separating families still faces legal and practical obstacles. A federal judge could refuse to give the Trump administration the authority it wants to hold families in custody for more than 20 days, which is the current limit because of a 1997 court order.
………
The president’s four-page order says that officials will continue to criminally prosecute everyone who crosses the border illegally, but will seek to find or build facilities that can hold families — parents and children together — instead of separating them while their legal cases are considered by the courts.
………

Justice Department officials said the legal authority to end family separation relies on a request they will make in the coming days to Judge Dolly M. Gee of the Federal District Court in Los Angeles, the daughter of immigrants from China who was appointed by President Barack Obama. She oversees a 1997 consent decree, known as the Flores settlement, which prohibits immigration authorities from keeping children in detention, even if they are with their parents, for more than 20 days.

The 1997 case imposes legal constraints on the proper treatment of children in government custody, which stopped Mr. Obama after his administration began detaining families together during a similar flood of illegal immigration several years ago.

“It’s on Judge Gee,” said Gene Hamilton, the counselor to Attorney General Jeff Sessions. “Are we going to be able to detain alien families together or are we not?”
As for those of you who are wondering why I'm bringing up the contemptible policies of the Obama administration, it is because Trump's even more despicable policies did not spring fully grown out of his head:  They were a logical progression of Obama's eager embrace of his role as, "Deporter-in-Chief."

The past is prologue, here, and it is not by accident.

Fundamentally, the issue of illegal immigration is driven to a large demand for low cost labor, and if we were to aggressively target employers, and increase the perceived risk and perceived cost to potential employers, our immigration enforcement system would be both more humane and more effective.

Tweet of the Day



This is in response to a report that Trump and his Evil Minions are considering merging the departments of Education and Labor.

This is beautiful.