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.

19 June 2018

Interesting Insight into the Origins of Trump's Child Snatching Policy

Ian Welsh has come across how Barack Obama's truly horrific immigration policies led directly to Trump's even more contemptible child snatching:
So, you’ve all heard about this by now.

It is, obviously, a terrible crime. And yeah, evil.

It is an extension of Obama’s policy of holding families (without splitting them up, but still in terrible conditions). If you want to understand the link, read this Twitter thread.
It is rather telling that (read the whole tweet storm) it is clear from the exchange that putting families in detention was intended as a deterrent by the Obama administration, because they thought that no one but a few immigration lawyers would care.

Sounds familiar.

Trump's immigration policies are not an abberation, they are a natural progression from prior administrations.

Stupid, but Consider the Alternative

Donald Trump wants a US Space Force be established as a, "Separate but Equal," 6th branch of the military.

My first though was, "Racism much?"

My second thought was, "This is really stupid."

My third thought was, "Yes, but it's still probably going to do more, for less money, than the United States Air Force."

Personally, I'd like to fold the USAF back under the army and go to 4 (really 3½) services.

Happy Juneteenth Everyone

Seriously?  You don't know what that is?

Read the damn Wiki.

It should be a much bigger deal.


I do not understand why people are losing their sh%$ over this video:

18 June 2018

I Blame the Editors

It's Called Google
SE Cupp published an OP/ED in the New York Times because ……… I don't know why really ……… I think that it's either a rather bizarre form of performance art from the Times editors, or if it's because they have some sort of affirmative action program for stupid conservatives.

What is interesting about her OP/Ed (no link, for reasons which will become obvious) is that it it prominently features one, "Amy Maurer, a 43-year-old well-educated suburban mom in Kenosha, Wis.," who were aggressively targeted by the Clinton campaign.

One small thing though, Ms. Maurer is not just a well educated Soccer mom, she is the corresponding secretary for the executive committee of the Republican Party of Kenosha County.

Hilary Clinton's campaign may have had mind boggling levels of incompetence, but even they weren't wasting resources going after Republican Party cadres.

Gee, I wonder why Amy was spewing Republican talking points when she was talking to the Heritage Foundation's Salena Zito, who Cupp sites copiously in article.

The New York Times really needs to hire a fact checker for their editorial page.

H/t Atrios.

SCOTUS Punts on Gerrymanders

The Supreme Court has ruled in incredibly narrow terms not to make a ruling on partisan gerrymanders:
Last summer, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg called Gill v. Whitford, a partisan-gerrymandering challenge to the state legislative maps drawn by Wisconsin’s Republican-controlled legislature, one of the most important cases of the term. The court heard oral argument in the case in October; two months later, it agreed to take on Benisek v. Lamone, a partisan-gerrymandering challenge to a single federal congressional district drawn by Democratic officials in Maryland. With those two cases on their docket, there were high hopes that the justices would finally weigh in definitively on challenges to the practice of purposely drawing maps to favor one party at the expense of another – either by holding that courts should steer clear of such claims or by laying out standards for courts to use in evaluating them. But the justices did neither. Instead, they sent the Wisconsin case back to the lower court for a new look at whether the challengers in the case have the legal right to bring their challenge at all; they also declined, while saying nothing about the merits, to disturb a ruling by a federal court in Maryland that left the congressional map in place for the 2018 election.


But today’s ruling in the Wisconsin case focused on whether the challengers have a legal right to bring their lawsuit – known as “standing.” The justices unanimously agreed that the challengers had not adequately demonstrated that they do have standing, and the court (although not unanimously) sent the case back to the lower court to allow the challengers to make that showing.

In an opinion by Chief Justice John Roberts, the court explained that the Wisconsin challengers’ claims rest on the argument that their votes have been diluted because the Republican-controlled legislature has either “cracked” Democratic voters (dividing them up among different districts so they don’t form a majority in any) or “packed” them (concentrating them in a few districts in which they form an overwhelming majority). But the harm from vote dilution, the court reasoned, stems from how a particular district has been drawn, which in turn causes a voter’s vote “—having been packed or cracked—to carry less weight than it would carry in another, hypothetical district.” The remedy for that harm, the court continued, does not require the state to redraw the entire map, as the challengers have requested; instead, the state would only need to redraw enough of the districts to fix the cracking or packing in a specific district.
It's a meticulously narrow ruling which has the effect of supporting the status quo.

I tend to view this with a jaundiced eye.

Finally, a Google Update that I Approve Of

Back in January 2017, Google and Uber teamed up to put a cool feature in Google Maps: You could search for, book, and pay for an Uber all directly from Google Maps. You didn't even need the Uber app installed. Now, 18 months later, the feature is dead. Google posted a new support page (first spotted by Android Police) that flatly states, "You can no longer book Uber rides directly in Google Maps."

The feature would have you search for a location in Google Maps and ask for directions like normal, but instead of choosing walking, driving, biking, or mass transit directions, a tab for ride-sharing would allow you to book a ride directly. The ride-sharing tab still exists, but instead of booking an Uber, it just gives you an estimate and offers to kick you out to the Uber app.
My guess?  Other ride sharing apps were looking for a similar space, and Uber attempted to steal autonomous driving tech from Google, and Uber has simply become toxic on many levels.

Of the three, my guess is that the latter was the deciding factor.