30 November 2019

Election Meddling or Profit Making?

We know that there was a lot of political posting on the various social media in 2016.

Some was domestic, some was from obscure new nations, most notably Macedonian teens, and various groups in Russia.

Well, an analysis has been published in The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), about the actual effect on votes, and the answer is very little if any:

Conclusion

Coordinated attempts to create political polarization in the United States by Russia and other foreign governments have become a focus of public concern in recent years. Yet, to our knowledge, no studies have systematically examined whether such campaigns have actually impacted the political attitudes or behaviors of Americans. Analyzing one of the largest known efforts to date using a combination of unique datasets, we found no substantial effects of interacting with Russian IRA accounts on the affective attitudes of Democrats and Republicans who use Twitter frequently toward each other, their opinions about substantive political issues, or their engagement with politics on Twitter in late 2017.
If the goal is profit, then one will preach to the converted, particularly on the right-wing, because that is where the money is.

Of course, teasing out politics and profit are always problematic.

Headline of the Day

Narwhal Tusk and Fire Extinguisher Used to Tackle London Bridge Attacker
The Guardian
A Narwhal tusk?

I have not words.

29 November 2019

Not the Source I Expect for Hard Investigative Journalism

The Hollywood Reporter has done a deep dive on the 2014 Sony Hack and finds convincing evidence that it was not the DPRK that hacked the studio:++
The massive cyberattack just before Thanksgiving 2014 crippled a studio, embarrassed executives and reshaped Hollywood. The FBI blamed a North Korea scheme to retaliate for the comedy 'The Interview,’ but many whose lives were upended have doubts. Says Seth Rogen: "The fact that [co-director Evan Goldberg and I] were never really specifically targeted always raised suspicions in my head."

On Jan. 23, 2015, a manager at Sony Pictures Entertainment shot off an email to a group of 12 in the studio's distribution department that offered intel about an upcoming film from rival Disney. "Midwest exhibitors went into McFARLAND USA expecting a boring track & field movie but came away pleasantly surprised," the manager noted about the sports drama that had been screened the day before. It was a mundane missive: a Hollywood executive sizing up the competition.

What is extraordinary about the email is what sources say it reveals about the 2014 Sony Pictures hack — and the official FBI narrative that pins it on North Korea. The email was drafted nearly nine weeks after the now infamous cyberattack ostensibly had been contained. It was passed along to a U.S. cyber researcher in February 2015 by a Ukrainian hacker as alleged proof that his Russian associate had breached Sony and could still do so at will. Despite FBI director James Comey's "very high confidence" that Kim Jong Un was to blame, the Ukrainian source was maintaining that hackers were still accessing Sony's system — and they weren't North Korean.

Exactly five years have passed since the Sony hack, a seismic event that announced itself just before the Thanksgiving holiday on Nov. 24, 2014, when a menacing skeleton simultaneously popped up on thousands of Sony computer screens with the message: "We've obtained all your internal data including your secrets."

That was followed by 22 days of massive data dumps that exposed embarrassing executive email exchanges (like one between then-co-chairman Amy Pascal and producer Scott Rudin in which he refers to Angelina Jolie as "a minimally talented spoiled brat"), trade secrets (including overtures from Marvel to bring Sony-owned Spider-Man into its universe) and five upcoming full-length films (such as Brad Pitt's Fury). The breach, which former National Intelligence director James Clapper dubbed "the most serious cyberattack ever made against U.S. interests," rocked the industry and forever altered how studios think about cybersecurity and the global impact of their content. In the aftermath, nearly all of Sony's top management was swept out.

Although the FBI's North Korea attribution was swift (it took just 25 days) and has never wavered, many of those impacted still harbor questions about what exactly happened when a previously unknown hacker group named Guardians of Peace decimated Sony's computer infrastructure and brought one of the six major studios to its knees. THR spoke to more than two dozen insiders and executives who worked at Sony at the time, including some who still do, and more than half say they harbor doubts about the FBI's official narrative, which maintains that the hack was a response from North Korea because leader Kim Jong Un objected to his depiction in Seth Rogen's comedy The Interview.

………

Although the disgruntled-staffer angle generated headlines back in 2014, less explored is the prospect of someone using the hack as a weapon to manipulate the Sony share price. A number of investors sold large chunks of stock in 2014 between the supposed late September breach and the day the world learned of the attack on Nov. 24. There was also one spike in short-selling activity in the weeks leading up to Nov. 24. It is unclear if the SEC ever looked into Sony shortings or sell-offs given that SEC investigations are confidential unless it files an action in court.
This is not a smoking gun that the FBI was wrong, but it certainly raises significant doubts.

Also, it would not be the first time that the FBI ssemed more concerned with closing the case than it did with catching the actual malefactor.

Ireland's Economy is Based on Tax Evasion

This probably applies to even a greater degree to Luxembourg.

This is why they, and 10 other nations, torpedoed a proposal to add transparency in transnational tax avoidance:
Twelve EU countries, including Ireland, have blocked a proposed new rule that would have forced multinational companies to reveal how much profit they make and how little tax they pay in each of the 28 member states.

The proposed directive was designed to shine a light on how some of the world’s biggest companies – such as Apple, Facebook and Google – avoid paying an estimated $500bn a year in taxes by shifting their profits from higher-tax countries such as the UK, France and Germany to zero-tax or low-tax jurisdictions including Ireland, Luxembourg and Malta.

Ireland is one of the biggest beneficiaries of the current rules. The country hosts corporate offices that collect revenue and profits generated by many multinational companies across the EU bloc. Ireland allows global technology companies to pay corporation tax at rate as low as 6.25%, compared with 19% in the UK.

Ireland’s decision to vote against the proposed directive – which would have forced companies to report their revenues and profits on a country-by-country basis – came as the Irish tax-and-spending watchdog warned that the country’s economy could collapse if there was a global clampdown on tax avoidance.

The Irish Fiscal Advisory Council (IFAC) warned on Thursday that the country’s economy has become so reliant on taxes paid by multinationals that half of all of corporate taxes paid in the nation come from just 10 global companies. The firms are not named, but they are believed to include US technology giants Apple, Facebook, Microsoft, Dell, Google and Oracle.

Other countries that have set themselves up as low-tax environments helping to shelter the profits of the world’s biggest companies were also among those that voted against. They include Luxembourg, Malta, Cyprus, Latvia, Slovenia, Estonia, Austria, Czech Republic, Hungary, and Croatia.

………

The vote came more than three years after the European commission promised to expose multinational corporations’ tax avoidance measures following the Panama Papers revelations. The proposal would have made country-by-country reporting mandatory for companies with an annual turnover of more than €750m.

Elena Gaita, a senior policy officer at anti-corruption charity Transparency International, said: “It’s an outrage that member states have once again put the interests of big business above those of citizens.

………


The IFAC said corporation tax receipts had risen to account for one in every five euros of tax collected by the Irish government. It warned that between €2bn-€6bn (£1.7bn-£5bn) of the €10bn total corporate tax take is what it calls “excess”. “In other words, beyond what would be expected based on the economy’s underlying performance and historical and international norms.”

The budgetary watchdog said the Irish government had become increasing reliant on corporate tax receipts, which rose to a record €10.4bn last year, more than double the amount collected in 2014. “The reliance on these volatile receipts leaves the government vulnerable to changes to the global tax environment, including the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development’s (OECD) base erosion and profit shifting initiative,” IFAC said.

The OECD is trying to force big-tech companies, such as Facebook, Amazon and Google, to pay more tax in countries where they actually sell their products and services.

Ireland’s corporate tax rate is 12.5% but it charges only 6.25% for profits linked to a company’s patent or intellectual property.
Ireland's tax base is based on tax evasion and money laundering. So is much of its economy.

Celtic Tiger, my ass.

No, This is Not the Onion

So there I am, looking at the headlines, and I come across Boris Johnson Replaced by Ice Sculpture after Dodging Election Debate on Climate Crisis.

It's not a parody:
Boris Johnson was criticized by party leaders and represented by a dripping ice sculpture after refusing to appear in a televised election debate focusing on climate change, sparking a row between the UK broadcaster and the Prime Minister's Conservative Party.

The Conservatives complained to the UK's broadcasting watchdog Ofcom ahead of the Channel 4 event, which saw Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, Liberal Democrat Jo Swinson and the heads of the UK's other main parties quizzed on their plans to tackle the climate crisis ahead of next month's poll.

The party said its offer of having minister Michael Gove stand in for Johnson was rejected by Channel 4, complaining the decision "effectively seeks to deprive the Conservative Party of any representation and attendance at the Channel 4 News debate."

The network said the event was only for party leaders, and opposition leaders have lambasted Johnson for dodging scrutiny by refusing to appear.

………


Before the debate started, the program's editor had earlier said Johnson "sent his two wing men" -- Gove and Johnson's father, Stanley -- to attempt to "argue their way into" a program intended only for leaders. Stanley Johnson was there to conduct interviews in the so-called spin room after the debate, he later clarified.

Johnson and fellow no-show Nigel Farage, the leader of the Brexit Party, were ultimately replaced at the debate with ice sculptures bearing their parties' logos, which Channel 4 said was intended to "represent the emergency on planet earth."

Johnson's refusal to appear in the debate gave further fuel to charges that he is avoiding media appearances during the campaign. Several opposition figures have also criticized him for refusing to confirm he would take part in an interview with BBC presenter Andrew Neil, which all of the other major leaders have done.
They should have put a blond wig on top of the ice sculpture.

Honestly, if I were to replace BoJo with anything, it would be a Goatse* sculpture.

*If you do not know what Goatse is, Do Not Google It ……… EVER.

28 November 2019

Sub-Hed of the Day

Former Massachusetts governor Deval Patrick’s resume reads like a dystopian novel about the nihilism and brutality of contemporary capitalism. He should leave public life forever.
Jacobin
The headline is, "Deval Patrick Is Everything That’s Wrong With the Democratic Party."

Patrick's resume is a litany of the most toxic practices of capitalism., and it should exclude him from serious consideration in the Democratic Party Presidential primaries.

Headline of the Day

Wall Street Shocked Argentine President-Elect Who Ran Against It Not Eager To Do What It Wants
Dealbreaker
Here is hoping that they go seriously medieval on Wall Street's ass.

Capitalism at Its Finest

In an effort to improve their (in retrospect non-existent) chance to land Amazon's HQ2, Indiana regulators downplayed the online retailer's responsibility for the death of one of their employees:
When an Amazon worker was killed by a forklift in a Plainfield warehouse in 2017, the state of Indiana’s investigator found the company was at fault. The state cited Amazon for four major safety violations and fined it $28,000.

But an investigation by Reveal from The Center for Investigative Reporting has found that, as Gov. Eric Holcomb sought to lure Amazon’s HQ2 to Indiana, state labor officials quietly absolved Amazon of responsibility. After Amazon appealed, they deleted every fine that had been levied and accepted the company’s argument — that the Amazon worker was to blame.

The investigator on the case, John Stallone, had arrived at the warehouse a day after 59-year-old Phillip Lee Terry was crushed to death. He was so troubled by the pushback he was getting from higher-ups that he secretly recorded his boss, Indiana OSHA Director Julie Alexander, as she counseled the company on how to lessen the fine.

“It’s like being at a card table and having a dealer teach you how to count cards,” Stallone said.

………

It began in September 2017, when Amazon announced a search for a second headquarters, saying it would invest more than $5 billion and bring as many as 50,000 jobs to whichever city won the sweepstakes.

………

Indiana OSHA issued four serious safety citations, for a total fine of $28,000. Stallone sought more, but he was getting pushback. On Nov. 20, 2017, Stallone joined his boss, Julie Alexander, the Indiana OSHA director, as she called Amazon officials. He secretly recorded the conversation, which is legal in Indiana, and shared the recording with Reveal.

During the call, Alexander told the Amazon officials what she’d need from them in order to shift the blame from the company to “employee misconduct,” according to the recording.

And she walked them through how to negotiate down the fines. “We sometimes like to consider grouping citations to lower the penalty amounts,” she said.

She suggested Amazon could partner with her agency as a “leader in safety” to kick off a program promoting best practices in the logistics industry.

After hanging up with Amazon, Alexander said: “They’re wanting to probably take this offer and go back and look and say, ‘Hey, we’re partnering with Indiana. We’re going to be the leader.’ ”

She told Stallone, “I hope you don’t take it personally if we have to manipulate your citations.”

………

Some days after the conference call with Amazon officials, Stallone said Indiana Labor Commissioner Rick Ruble pulled him into his office. The governor was there, too, standing by the commissioner’s desk, according to Stallone.

He recalled that Holcomb told him how much it would mean to Indiana if the state won the Amazon headquarters deal. Then, Stallone said, the commissioner told him to back off on the Amazon case — or resign.

………

The same day Stallone sent his whistleblower email, Amazon’s corporate offices in Seattle gave a $1,000 campaign contribution to Indiana’s governor. It was years before Holcomb would next face reelection, and Amazon hasn’t donated to him before or since.

A year after Terry’s death, Indiana officials quietly signed an agreement with Amazon to delete all the safety citations and fines. The agreement said Amazon had met the requirements of an “unpreventable employee misconduct defense.” The official record now essentially blames Terry for his own death.
Note that that Amazon did not have to ask anyone to do anything for them.

This is just the nature of "business friendly" politicians and their administrations.

It doesn't matter if the politician is a Republican or Democrat, though Holcomb is a Republican, these folks will literally sacrifice the blood of their citizens on the alter of profit.

Happy Thanksgiving

As God as my witness, I thought turkeys could fly:



H/t Eschaton.

Linkage


This is literally every newspaper movie ever made:

27 November 2019

There is Stupid, Desperate, Stupid and Desperate, an Then There Is ………

There is so clueless and desperate that you feel compelled to consult with Mark Penn, the man who (mis)managed Hillary Clinton's 2008 Presidential campaign. (He did not know that the Democrats do not have winner take all primaries)

Penn is now advising Donald Trump on impeachment:
As President Trump’s White House battles impeachment, he turned to a familiar face last week: Mark Penn, one of President Bill Clinton’s top strategists.

Penn visited the Oval Office for more than an hour last Monday, three people familiar with the meeting said, and provided polling data and impeachment advice for the president. Penn reassured Trump that he would not be removed from office, according to people familiar with the meeting, and encouraged him to travel the country as Clinton did when he was fighting impeachment over 20 years ago, officials said.

………

In a brief interview, Penn said repeatedly that he was not working for Trump. “It’s the second time I have ever met with the president. I’m not counseling him. I’m not advising him.” Penn said he discussed with Trump only publicly available data but declined to be specific on his advice. “I don’t get into presidential meetings.”
That is a distinction without a difference.

Penn is a hack and an incompetent, so while I am angry about his disloyalty to the Democratic Party, it's better that this mook* is advising Trump as opposed to someone who has a modicum of competence.

*Not to be confused with 2016 Clinton campaign chair Robby Mook, who is also, ironically, a mook.

Preach It

Over at the Stanford Social Innovation Review, they make a cogent argument for limiting excessive salaries in the non-profit sector:
An average family participating in the federal Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program costs taxpayers $400 a month. We pay $126 a month to the typical beneficiary of food stamps—the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).

By contrast, Susan Desmond-Hellmann, the CEO of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, costs us $44,200 a month. [This is the amount subsided by the tax deduction, not her salary, which is 2½ times that] This figure may catch some readers by surprise, because they probably don’t think of themselves as paying the salaries of people who work at nonprofit organizations. But we do pay her that amount, and it is a problem.

The salary of the Gates Foundation’s CEO costs taxpayers money because we gave Bill Gates a large tax break that subsidizes his contribution to his eponymous foundation or any other philanthropy. If Gates was in the 40 percent tax bracket (a safe bet before the 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act pushed by President Donald Trump), then the government effectively picked up the tab for 40 cents of every dollar that Gates decided to contribute to his foundation.

There is a tendency to treat tax deductions, for charitable contributions or other purposes, as being qualitatively different from direct government spending. This may be a convenient way of thinking for the people who most benefit from these deductions, who tend to be richer on average. But it is nonsense.

………

We should have this fact in mind when we consider the purpose of the charitable-contribution tax deduction. In effect, we are saying that certain categories of activities are serving a general public purpose. If individuals choose to support these activities, through religious organizations, educational institutions, or philanthropic organizations such as the Gates Foundation, we will subsidize their contributions by allowing them to pay less in taxes.

This is a reasonable policy for the federal government. It provides subsidies for organizations that address a wide variety of social ends in diverse ways. These subsidies can help promote new and innovative practices that may ultimately be adopted more broadly.

However, the government does put conditions on the sorts of organizations that are eligible for tax-exempt status. For example, they must not be for-profit organizations. The government does not, at least explicitly, allow deductions for money paid to profit-making corporations. Nonprofits also must serve the general public purpose. I cannot have a charity to pay the person who mows my lawn. Nonprofits cannot advance a partisan political agenda.

This is important background for thinking about the money that taxpayers effectively pay to support the salary of the Gates Foundation’s CEO. Most people view the rise in income inequality as one of the major problems in the US economy. Desmond-Hellmann’s $1.33 million annual salary is way above the cutoff for the top 1 percent of US wage earners. In fact, it is far above the cutoff for the top 0.1 percent of wage earners.

While many factors have led to the rise in inequality, part of the story is the excessive pay of CEOs and other top executives. This is more an issue in the corporate sector, where the average pay of CEOs now approaches $20 million a year. Nonetheless, when pay for top executives in the nonprofit sector crosses the million-dollar mark, even at philanthropies such as the Rockefeller Foundation that worry about inequality, this is also part of the problem.

………

In this case, we should keep our eye on the ball. The federal government is providing enormous subsidies to the bloated pay of top executives at nonprofits. This is simply not a good use of federal dollars, and it is hardly in keeping with the idea that nonprofits should be serving a public purpose. We can try to develop government policies to reverse market outcomes that generate inequality, but we should first end government policies that promote inequality.
I would note that some of the most highly remunerated employees at non-profits are coaches for NCAA Division I teams, which frequently are in the 8 figure range.

These high levels of compensation make a joke out of charities. 

First, they make a mockery of the whole concept of charity, and second, as behavioral economist Dan Ariely showed in his studies, very high levels of remuneration actually decrease performance.

26 November 2019

My Apologies for Missing a Pun

Yesterday, I posted an article titled, "They've Got Tapes. They've Always Got Tapes".

I should have titled it something like, "Rudy Impaled by Vlad Tapes,"*, since it involved an attempt to extort action by Ukrainian President  Volodymyr Zelensky.

*Oh for F%$#'s sake, it's a play on the name of the Romanian Prince Vlad ČšepeČ™, AKA Vlad the Impaler, AKA Vlad Drakul, the source of the Dracula story. Do I have to explain EVERYTHING?

A Good Idea

The Democratic Party of the State of California has come out in favor of requiring that charter schools have publicly elected boards.

This is an unalloyed good:
  • It makes it more difficult for bad actors, and there are lots of them in the school privatization ecosystem, to loot their schools.
  • It adds a level of accountability to administrators.
  • Since the boards are publicly elected, it means that he proceedings, AND THE FINANCES of Charters must be made available under California's tough Freedom of Information act.
Needless to say the Wall Street looters making money off of this will scream bloody murder:
Taking aim at the majority of charter schools in the state, the California Democratic Party has included language in its platform declaring that these schools should be overseen by publicly elected boards, in contrast to the self-appointed boards that run most of them.

The new language, adopted at the state party’s annual convention in Long Beach over the weekend, was promoted by the 120,000-member California Federation of Teachers and strengthens an already strongly worded section of the California Democratic Party’s platform on charter schools.

It is especially significant because it comes from a state with by far the largest number of charter schools in the nation, enrolling just over 10 percent of all the state’s public school students. It also underscored the ongoing divisions within the party over charter schools, which have become about one of the most contentious issues on the nation’s education reform agenda.

………

He said that according to the California education code, charter schools are public schools and therefore “should reflect the communities where we work and serve.” “One of the best ways to reflect the community and be accountable to the community is to be elected by the community,” he said.

………

The new language also calls for charter schools to adopt “fair labor practices” and respect labor “neutrality.” That means that if charter school teachers and staff want to join a union, school administrators should stay “neutral” and refrain from either supporting or opposing the unionizing effort.
This may be an even bigger deal.  At the core of many school privatization efforts is an attempt to destroy, or at least emasculate, teachers' unions.
As a result of a bill signed by Gov. Jerry Brown a year ago, California has already banned for-profit charter schools,
I missed this.  It's a good start.
The California Charter Schools Association, which represents most charter schools in the state and supported the for-profit ban, pushed back against the tougher language in the Democratic Party platform.
Mandy Rice-Davies Applies (MRDA), "Well, they would say that, wouldn't they?"
………

But coming just weeks after the California Legislature approved major legislation endorsed by Gov. Gavin Newsom revising the state’s 25-year-old charter school law, it’s unlikely that there’s much appetite in Sacramento for making further major changes, at least in the near term.
There is no reason that charters cannot be subject to the same accountability and same disclosure requirements, as public schools. 

Absent this, they turn into a morass of corruption and self dealing.

H/T Diane Ravitch.

There Are Worse Things than Dressing Up as a Klans Man for Halloween

Things like opposing the repeal of Virginia's "right-to-work" laws, wich nominal Democrat Ralph Northam just did:
Gov. Ralph Northam made clear to his revenue advisory council on Monday that he does not support repeal of Virginia’s right-to-work law that forbids compulsory union membership.

With Democrats preparing to take complete control of the General Assembly for the first time in more than 25 years, Northam sought to reassure Virginia business leaders that the state won’t take a sharp leftward turn on an issue that has long been a political fire alarm in a pro-business state.

“I can’t foresee Virginia taking actions [that would include] repeal of the right-to-work law,” he told the Governor’s Advisory Council on Revenue Estimates.

Virginia’s right-to-work law says participation in a union may not be a condition for employment in the state. In 2016, Virginia voters rejected a proposal to put provisions of the law in the state constitution.

………

Destiny LeVere, communications director of the Virginia AFL-CIO, said the organization reacted with “deep disappointment” to the governor’s remarks.

“Being named 1st for business and 51st overall for workers isn’t something Virginia should be proud of,” she said in a statement.

“This General Assembly session, workers will be joining together to ensure that there will be a robust, pro-labor agenda that values Virginia’s workers, putting us at the forefront. Number one on this agenda is repealing right-to-work.”
Northam is a f%$#ing coward and he is f%$#ing stupid.

Not only to anti-union laws like RTW hurt the average citizen, but they cost Democrats about 3½% of the vote.

Governor Northam, you are sh%$ting in your party in order to suck up to f%$#ing f%$#s like the f%$#ing Chamber of f%$#ing Commerce, which will oppose you and try to defeat you anyway.

25 November 2019

They've Got Tapes. They've Always Got Tapes

It looks like indicted Giuliani associate Lev Parnas has tapes of both Rudolph Giuliani's and Donald Trump's efforts to extract an investigation of Hunter Biden from Kiev, and he has turned them over to the House Intelligence Committee for the impeachment investigation:
The House Intelligence Committee is in possession of audio and video recordings and photographs provided to the committee by Lev Parnas, an associate of President Donald Trump’s personal attorney, Rudy Giuliani, who reportedly played a key role in assisting him in his efforts to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden and Ukraine, multiple sources familiar with the matter tell ABC News.

The material submitted to the committee includes audio, video and photos that include Giuliani and Trump. It was unclear what the content depicts and the committees only began accessing the material last week.

"We have subpoenaed Mr. Parnas and Mr. [Igor] Fruman for their records. We would like them to fully comply with those subpoenas," House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff told CNN Sunday, with a committee spokesperson adding they would not elaborate beyond the chairman's comments.

An attorney for Parnas, Joseph A. Bondy, also declined to comment, directing ABC News to a statement released earlier in the day Sunday reading in part, "Mr. Parnas has vociferously and publicly asserted his wish to comply with his previously issued subpoena and to provide the House Intelligence Committee with truthful and important information that is in furtherance of justice, not to obstruct it."

………

However, some of the material sought by congressional investigators is already in possession of federal investigators within the Southern District of New York and thus held up from being turned over, according to sources familiar with the matter.

………

Giuliani’s relationship with Parnas and Fruman is the subject of a criminal investigation in the Southern District of New York, according to sources. That case will have its next court date early next month.
I rather imagine whatever the SDNY has in their grubby mitts will not be getting to the impeachment inquiry in the near term, since Barr has made it clear that his first, and perhaps only, priority, is to obstruct the Congressional investigation.

Still, the mention of tapes does create a sense of nostalgia in this political child of the Watergate era.

Yes, $350 Screen Replacements are a Money Loser

So says Apple about its iPhone repairs, where it claims that it loses money on each repair that it makes.

So the unaffiliated repair shop down the street can fix it for $100.00, but apple can't at 3½ times the price.

I want their accountant.

Actually, I don't want their accountant, I want whatever their accountant is smoking:
It can be tough in the repair industry, and no one knows that better than struggling corporation Apple.

Cupertino has long been criticized for trying to control what its customers can do with their products, and especially so for charging what critics have said in an unjustifiable mark-up on repairing everything from iPhones to MacBooks.

But it’s just not true, the iGiant revealed this week to US Congress: in fact, despite charging between double and triple what other repair shops charge for fixing problems, Apple (2018 profit: $60bn) actually loses money on its repair business.

Asked by the House Judiciary subcommittee to “identify the total revenue that Apple derived from repair services,” the Cupertino idiot-tax operation revealed [PDF] that: “For each year since 2009, the costs of providing repair services has exceeded the revenue generated by repairs.”

That’s right, it may charge you $329 for a screen replacement that costs $100 everywhere else. Or $80 for a battery than costs $30 across the street. Or even $475 to replace a single key at an Apple store. But poor old Apple is making a loss every time.

Which is, of course, nonsense, though it’s interesting to explore how Apple can make the claim with a straight face. And the answer is creative accounting.

………

In short, Apple has, for years, carefully restricted the number of repair shops that can service its products in order to maintain artificially high prices – prices that it often sets for its authorized outlets. And it has gone to some lengths to discourage any repairs to its products outside of those authorized outlets or its own stores.

But people have grown fed up with the situation – hence the congressional review. That has resulted in a slow and carefully controlled expansion of independent repair shops approved by Apple. But even now someone at such an outlet has to go through an official Apple repair course before they’re allowed to touch its products. And Apple has put plenty of controls on both the course and any subsequent evaluation and approval of people that want to repair its products independently.

Apple defends this blatant market control in a dozen different ways in its responses, painting a picture of super-complex machinery that requires specialist and highly trained technicians. It’s nonsense but for some reason it’s effective, especially when people spend small fortunes on beloved electronics.

………

Even accounting for Apple’s BS however, how does it justify the claim that it is actually losing money on its repair business, despite charging multiples of what every other repair business does?

Easy: it counts its own ridiculous repair costs as what customers would have paid had they not taken out its over-price warranty. So if a customer pay $199 for AppleCare+ for their iPhone XS Max and brings it in to replace the screen, paying just $29 instead of the $329 out-of-warranty costs, Apple reckons it has just lost $101 – because that’s what the customer would have paid if they didn’t have a warranty.

Of course that completely ignores the fact that it costs Apple nowhere near $329 to replace the screen of a iPhone XS Max. We have no idea how much it does cost and Apple isn’t going to tell us either but that is how you get away with ripping people off while claiming poverty at the same time.
The cult of Apple is a manifestation of PT Barnum's observation about the natural rate of increase of suckers,

"Robotruck," Huh?


Concept


Execution


And the not-so bulletproof windows
So, Elon Musk has rolled out his "Cybertruck", and I am profoundly unimpressed.

Honestly, I don't think that Tesla was impressed either, as they set the deposit at only $100.00, as opposed to the $2500.00 deposit required for the Tesla Model Y, and $1,000 for the Model 3.

Its skin is made from 3mm (.118 in) thick 301 stainless steel skin which Musks refers to an an "Exoskeleton", which means either that it is a unit body (skin is not a part of the structure, also called semi-monocoque), or a monocoque (skin is a part of the structure).

According to Musk, this is literally bullet proof, being able to stop a 9mm round at 10 meters. (The numbers work out for this)

Most trucks, by comparison, are body on frame, where there is a structure , typically a ladder frame, upon which the body is mounted.

This is one reason for the gradual taper behind the passenger cab, it's needed for a stiff body.

Unit body is typically lighter than body on frame, and monocoque is lighter still than unit body, but significantly more difficult to manufacture, which is why it unit body is far more common in mass produced automobiles.

Also unit body makes implementing changes in the body of the car easier, since the skin merely needs to mate to the frame.

In aircraft, where weight is more significant, a full monocoque is typically used.

In any case, the skin is about 4 times thicker than that of a P-51 Mustang, which was aluminum which is about 2½ less dense than steel, so this is HEAVY.

Based on the pictures shown, and the thickness of the skin, the weight of the just skin is in the 4000 lb range.

When you add in windows, tires, motors, a 500 mile battery, tailgate, seats, electronics, lights, etc.  I do not see the weight of the vehicle being any less than 8,000 pounds, and it might very well exceed 10,000 pounds.

By comparison, a Ford F-150 is about 5,500 pounds.

As such, not only will the car be expensive to operate, more weight means higher power consumption, but the handling is likely problematic, particularly in off road mode, where getting stuck in the mud is a thing.

The angular appearance of the truck may be driven by the choice of material and thickness, as 300 series stainless work hardens a lot, and at 3mm thick, it could be difficult to put complex curves in it.

Also, I'm not sure how it would corner at that weight.   I'm thinking that it's in the, "Looks like a fish, moves like a fish, steers like a cow," category.

24 November 2019

The Best Correction this Side of the Guardian

The British newspaper The Guardian is known for many things, including its "Corrections and Clarifications" page.

It was one of the first such pages, and given the relatively high number of typographic errors, there is a joke that at some point The Guardian will misspell its masthead as The Grauniad,

Well, now GQ has one for the ages.

They confused an IED with an IUD.

It's a fail, but it's an EPIC fail.

Headline of the Day

OK Boomer, Who’s Going to Buy Your 21 Million Homes?
Wall Street Journal
Makes a fairly straightforward observation:  That the declining standards of living for the post baby-boomer generations means that much of the baby-boomer generation wealth, which is tied up in homes, may have no buyers.

Boomers, meet petard.

Oh, Snap

If you want a snapshot of public opinion in Hong Kong about the recent pro-democracy protests, the district council elections indicate widespread support:
Pro-democracy candidates buoyed by months of street protests in Hong Kong won a stunning victory in local elections on Sunday, as record numbers voted in a vivid expression of the city’s aspirations and its anger with the Chinese government.

It was a pointed rebuke of Beijing and its allies in Hong Kong, and the turnout — seven in 10 eligible voters — suggested that the public continues to back the democracy movement, even as the protests grow increasingly violent. Young Hong Kongers, a major force behind the demonstrations of the past six months, played a leading role in the voting surge.

With three million voters casting ballots, pro-democracy candidates captured 389 of 452 elected seats, up from only 124 and far more than they have ever won. With one race undecided, the government’s allies held just 57 seats, a remarkable collapse from 300.

………

The elections were for district councils, one of the lowest elected offices in Hong Kong, and they are typically a subdued affair focused on community issues. The job mostly entails pushing for neighborhood needs like bus stops and traffic lights.

But this election took on outsize significance, and was viewed as a referendum on the unrest that has created the city’s worst political crisis in decades. In a semiautonomous part of China where greater democracy is one of the protesters’ biggest demands, it gave residents a rare chance to vote.

The gains at the ballot box are likely to embolden a democracy movement that has struggled with how to balance peaceful and violent protests to achieve its goals.
Unfortunately, I think that Beijing will take exactly the wrong lesson from this, and pressure local authorities to crack down further.

In the long run, I tend to think that Hong Kong's special status is doomed within the PRC.

23 November 2019

The Other Problem With Self-Driving Cars

There are a number of claims as to the benefits, and one, that it would make transportation more efficient, has been shown to be objectively false in a study.

The study was fairly straightforward, they have people cars with drivers, and studied how their vehicle use changed.

Many more trips and many more miles driven, meaning more congestion and more waste and pollution:
A few years ago, Mustapha Harb realized there was a problem in his field of research about how autonomous cars will change the way people travel. The solution to the problem he settled on was as simple as it was revealing.

………

One did not have to look far for studies and articles suggesting fleets of self-driving cars could, for example, reduce traffic. These techno-utopian articles claimed the same highways we use today could, with slight modifications, accommodate many more autonomous vehicles than they do human-driven cars. AVs could, using more precise control systems, follow one another at much closer distances. Similarly, lanes could be narrowed, accommodating perhaps six lanes where there are only five today.

These promises were, and remain, the foundation upon which AV utopianism has been built: a greener, safer, faster, and more pleasant transportation future just around the corner.

But, Harb found, these promises couldn’t be checked. After all, self-driving cars didn’t exist yet.

Harb, a Ph.D. candidate at the University of California Berkeley’s Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, was intimately familiar with the research already done on the subject in his field. Most of it consisted of surveying which, while far from perfect, was the best approach available.

“You would send people a survey,” Harb described, “like, hey, there’s a self-driving car in the future, how do you think your travel will change in the future?”

These studies, flawed as they were, found something very different from the rosy future AV companies wanted investors and the public to imagine. They found reason to believe AVs would drastically increase the number of vehicle miles traveled, commonly shortened to “VMT” in academic literature.

And the more vehicles miles traveled, all else being equal, the more traffic and emissions we can expect, canceling out many of the AV’s touted benefits.

………

While the survey results were potentially alarming, it was difficult for researchers like Harb to put too much stock into them. Some surveys predicted only a few percentage points increase in VMT in a self-driving car future. Others, upwards of 90 percent.

………

But his advisor, Professor Joan Walker, had an idea. What if they hired chauffeurs to drive random people around?

The chauffeur, Walker outlined, will do the driving for you. And, just like the most optimistic AV future of fully autonomous robot cars zooming around, you don’t even have to be in the car.

“All these things the self-driving car can do for you in the future,” Harb summarized, “a chauffeur can do for you today.”

The concept, once it reached published form, elicited praise and jealousy from other researchers. “It’s delightfully clever and brazenly simple,” gushed Don MacKenzie, head of their Sustainable Transportation Lab at the University of Washington. “I wish I had thought of it.”

………

For example, the chauffeur could bring the kids to soccer practice and back or drive a friend home and then return to the house. They could even pick up groceries and make a Target run to simulate a driverless car future where items could get bought online and loaded into your AV by a store employee before returning home.

Harb readily admits the study is not perfect, nor is it likely to prove the most accurate predictor of what our autonomous vehicle future looks like. But it is, by many estimates, the best first approximation we have.

And that approximation is, in key ways, a vision of things to come.

Harb thought they would see people sending their cars out more than if they were driving themselves, something like a 20 or 30 percent increase in VMT with the chauffeurs. Nothing to sneeze at, of course, but towards the middle of the wide range of the results the surveys had suggested.

He was wrong. The subjects increased how many miles their cars covered by a collective 83 percent when they had the chauffeur versus the week prior.

To put these findings in perspective, when researchers looked into the impact Uber and Lyft have had on urban congestion, they reported an increase in VMT in the single digits. San Francisco, which has seen some of the largest percentage increase of cars driving around in its downtown thanks to Uber and Lyft, had an increased VMT of 12.8 percent.

Knowing how much gridlock and traffic those rideshare cars have added to the city, imagine six and a half times as much car driving as that is almost impossible.

………

But none of the researchers Jalopnik spoke to believe those flaws detract from the overarching, real-world conclusion: AVs will change people’s behavior in profound ways. MacKenzie called it “probably the best data we have based on actual, measured behavior.”
There are places for self-driving cars, but the reality envisioned by folks like Elon Musk is a looks to be rather dystopian.

Google Is More Evil Than You Think

It turns out that Google has been deceiving us about the level of human intervention of their search results:
Google, and its parent company Alphabet, has its metaphorical fingers in a hundred different lucrative pies. To untold millions of users, though, "to Google" something has become a synonym for "search," the company's original business—a business that is now under investigation as more details about its inner workings come to light.

A coalition of attorneys general investigating Google's practices is expanding its probe to include the company's search business, CNBC reports while citing people familiar with the matter.

………


Google's decades-long dominance in the search market may not be quite as organic as the company has alluded, according to The Wall Street Journal, which published a lengthy report today delving into the way Google's black-box search process actually works.

Google's increasingly hands-on approach to search results, which has taken a sharp upturn since 2016, "marks a shift from its founding philosophy of 'organizing the world's information' to one that is far more active in deciding how that information should appear," the WSJ writes.

Some of that manipulation comes from very human hands, sources told the paper in more than 100 interviews. Employees and contractors have "evaluated" search results for effectiveness and quality, among other factors, and promoted certain results to the top of the virtual heap as a result.

One former contractor the WSJ spoke with described down-voting any search results that read like a "how-to manual" for queries relating to suicide until the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline came up as the top result. According to the contractor, Google soon after put out a message to the contracting firm that the Lifeline should be marked as the top result for all searches relating to suicide so that the company algorithms would adjust to consider it the top result.

Or in another instance, sources told the WSJ, employees made a conscious choice for how to handle anti-vax messaging:


………

The company has since maintained an internal blacklist of terms that are not allowed to appear in autocomplete, organic search, or Google News, the sources told the WSJ, even though company leadership has said publicly, including to Congress, that the company does not use blacklists or whitelists to influence its results.

The modern blacklist reportedly includes not only spam sites, which get de-indexed from search, but also the type of misinformation sites that are endemic to Facebook (or, for that matter, Google's own YouTube).
We already know that algorithms tend to reinforce, rather than mitigate, human bias and bigotry.

Now we know that there are discrete human fingers on the scales.

This is why we need real antitrust enforcement.

Oh, Snap!

It appears that Congressman Devin "Moo" Nunes just got caught soliciting foreign support for Trump's 2020 campaign.

Likely ethics investigation to follow:
The top Democrat on the House armed services committee said Saturday that Republican Rep. Devin Nunes is likely to face an ethics investigation over allegations he met with an ex-Ukrainian prosecutor at the center of the impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump.

“Quite likely, without question,” House Armed Services Committee chairman Rep. Adam Smith (D-Wash) said when asked by MSNBC’s Joy Reid whether Nunes (R-Calif.), the House Intelligence Committee’s top Republican and a longtime Trump ally, could be investigated.

CNN reported late Friday that an associate of Rudy Giuliani, the president's personal lawyer, has information on meetings Nunes allegedly had with former Ukrainian prosecutor general Victor Shokin.

The CNN report says that Lev Parnas, according to his attorney, put Nunes in touch with Shokin to help him gather damaging information on former Vice President Joe Biden and his son Hunter's dealings with Ukraine.
I do not expect any serious consequences for this, because it's OK if You are a Republican. (IOKIYAR)

22 November 2019

Today in Hack Journalism

The New York Times uncritically reports on a study that shows that a wealth tax would slow down the economy.

The study assumes that none of the money collected will be spent on other programs, so this tax, like ANY tax will have a contractionary effect.

It's only a few paragraphs down that they mention this.

It's called burying the lede:
Senator Elizabeth Warren’s proposed wealth tax would slow the United States economy, reducing growth by nearly 0.2 percentage points a year over the course of a decade, an outside analysis of the plan estimates.

The preliminary projection from the Penn Wharton Budget Model, which was unveiled on Thursday in Philadelphia, is the first attempt by an independent budget group to forecast the economic effects of the tax that has become a centerpiece of Ms. Warren’s campaign for the Democratic presidential nomination.

The assessment found that if the tax raised as much new federal revenue as Ms. Warren intends, and if the proceeds went toward reducing the federal debt, annual economic growth would slow from an average of 1.5 percent to an average of just over 1.3 percent over a decade.

The model did not assess growth effects from Ms. Warren’s spending plans, which critics said undercut its findings. Economists who favor Ms. Warren’s plan said the analysis did not accurately account for the economic boost from programs she would fund with the tax revenue, including universal child care, increased education funding and student loan forgiveness.

Instead, it assumed that the tax revenue would be used to reduce the national debt, a move that encourages growth in the Penn Wharton simulation. Had the Penn Wharton model factored in the money’s going into programs rather than paying down debt, it most likely would have produced an even larger drag on growth from the wealth tax.
So, their model calls upon the austerity fairy in order to make their numbers.

This analysis is complete bullsh%$, and the report is even more cow excrement.

Speaking of Rich People Who Should Be in Jail………


Note that this is Facebook's case, and so the best possible case.  The reality is probably rather stark.
In news that should surprise no one who, it turns out that Facebook is aggressively promoting fake accounts.

Given that their business is selling ads to all of its accounts, this means that Facebook is actually something akin to a Ponzi scheme:
At first glance, Amy Dowd’s Facebook account appears perfectly normal. There is a smiling profile picture of a young woman surrounded by autumnal leaves and the date that she began a new job at Southeast Missouri State University. But look more closely and things begin to seem strange. Unlike most 29 year olds, Amy has no friends, no interests and no photos. The only thing she has written is a gushing review of a US haulage company. “Fake account,” replied one user. They were right.

This Amy Dowd does not exist. Her account is a fake bought by the Financial Times as part of an investigation into the millions of bogus accounts littering the social media network in spite of efforts to better verify users.

The proliferation of phoney identities has reached a record high. That is a problem for a company that trumpets user growth — considered a barometer of health by investors — while receiving criticism for failing to prevent the spread of false information by third parties.

Facebook’s own estimates suggest duplicate accounts represent approximately 11 per cent of monthly active users while fake versions make up another 5 per cent. Others claim the total is higher. Yet Facebook continues to promote its user base as an incredible 2.45bn per month — close to one-third of the global population.
How about a meaningful investigation of fraud among Silicon Valley firms?

Showing these guys that they are not above the law would produce a noticeable benefit for society.

Deport them to China, Where They Can Have a Bullet Put in Their Skulls


In China, this merits the death penalty, and the Sacklers merit a ride on a Chinese Execution Van:
The mega-rich family behind the OxyContin-maker Purdue Pharma is back to selling its highly addictive pain-killer with underhanded tactics and deceptive advertising—this time in China, via its international company, Mundipharma. That’s all according to a searing new investigation by the Associated Press.

The Sackler family, which owns both Purdue and Mundipharma, is embroiled in litigation in the United States over its alleged role in sparking the country’s epidemic of opioid abuse and overdoses. Thousands of plaintiffs—many state and local governments—claim that Purdue and the Sacklers misled patients, doctors, and regulators on the addictiveness of their drugs, aggressively marketed them, and wooed doctors into over-prescribing them.

While Purdue has since declared bankruptcy and stopped promoting OxyContin in the US, the Sacklers seem to be employing the same practices in China.

Based on documents and interviews with multiple Mundipharma representatives in China, the AP investigation found that reps were at times posing as doctors, providing debunked information that its long-acting opioids are safe and less addictive, and even illegally copying private medical records of patients to inform sales tactics.
I should note that I am opposed to the death penalty, and I do not actually support their being sent to China and executed.

Instead, I favor the punishment extolled by Billy Ray Valentine, "The best way to hurt rich people is to turn them into poor people."

Mayor Sentient Mayonnaise Strikes Back

If you ever wondered why Pete Buttigieg is polling at 0% in the Quinnipiac poll of South Carolina, this quote should be rather informative.

In 2012, the Springfield, MA police department adopted counterinsurgency techniques, and Mayor Mayonnaise gave his full throated endorsement.

It turns out that since 2012, the Springfield PD has been a morass of corruption, racism, and violence.

But they are keeping people of color down, so Mayor Pete is good with them.

Tweet of the Day


This is a wonderful metaphor.

21 November 2019

Shooting Someone at Noon on 5th Avenue

Donald Trump was right about his supporters, because the Republican response to the impeachment hearings indicates that Donald Trump could literally shoot someone on camera, and the 'Phants would say, "No impeachable offense," or, "Everyone does it," or just, "F%$# you."

Impeachment is, of course an inherently political process, but this is insane.

Tweet of the Day


Considering McKinsey's profoundly unethical behavior in recent years, it really behooves Mayor Pete "Sentient Mayonnaise" Buttigieg to come clean about what exactly he was doing during his time at the consulting firm.

Being Evil

After employee protests over kowtowing to Chinese demands for censorship, sexual harassment, DoD and CBP contracts, AI bias, etc., Google has done the obvious "heel move", and clamped down on employee discussions and hired a notorious union busting firm:
Google has hired an anti-union consulting firm to advise management as it deals with widespread worker unrest, including accusations that it has retaliated against organizers of a global walkout and cracked down on dissent inside the company.

The firm, IRI Consultants, appears to work frequently for hospitals and other health care organizations. Its website advertises “union vulnerability assessments” and boasts about IRI’s success in helping a large national health care company persuade employees to avoid a union election despite the unions’ “dedicating millions of dollars to their organizing campaigns.”

Google’s work with IRI is the latest evidence of escalation in a feud between a group of activist workers at Google and management that has tested the limits of the company’s traditionally transparent, worker-friendly culture. Since Google was founded two decades ago, employees had been able to ask management tough questions at weekly meetings, and anyone who worked there could look through documents related to almost any company activity.

………

Last fall, Google employees around the world walked out to protest the company’s handling of sexual harassment complaints. And discussions on the company’s internal message boards have at times turned into contentious debates about politics or company policies that have become public embarrassments.

………

Google employees stumbled upon the company’s relationship with IRI in October, according to two employees familiar with the discovery, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the fear of retaliation. They unearthed internal calendar entries indicating that Google had hired IRI, according to screenshots shared with The New York Times.

………

At the time of the discovery, Google had recently installed a tool on employees’ web browsers that would flag internal calendar events requiring more than 10 meeting rooms or 100 participants.

Many employees believed that the so-called browser extension, which was first reported by Bloomberg, was a surveillance tool designed to crack down on organizing among workers. The company said at the time that it simply wanted to reduce internal spam and that the tool did not collect personally identifiable information.

………

Last month, Google management in Zurich caused an uproar when it tried to cancel an employee discussion about unionization and proposed its own discussion about labor laws and employee rights. In September, a small group of contractors that work for Google voted to unionize with the United Steelworkers.
The management, of course, thinks that they are something special and unique, and that the rank and file simply does not understand.

Would that they spoke in the language of their predecessors and simply said, "The peasants are revolting."

Thus is always the way with self-entitled assholes.

It's Called Obeying the Law, Everyone Else Does It

Once again, the "Disruptors" from Silicon Valley are whining about having to follow the law like ordinary people.

In this case, it's the food delivery services, who have decided that taxes are too hard to figure out.

Hire a f%$#ing accountant you f%$#ing f%$#s, and stop asking for a subsidy, which is what the real agenda is here.

And while your are at it, stop f%$#ing your employees who deliver the actual food:
Grubhub Inc. Chief Executive Matt Maloney says his food-delivery rivals need to charge more sales taxes on their delivery fees. They disagree.

Delivery fees administered by companies like Uber Technologies Inc.’s Uber Eats division, Postmates Inc., DoorDash Inc. and Grubhub are receiving increasing attention from local officials who have watched the industry grow quickly in the past several years. Food-delivery companies were projected to charge $10.4 billion in delivery fees in the U.S. by 2023, compared with $4.4 billion in 2017, according to analysts at Cowen & Co.

If such fees get taxed more uniformly, customers could shell out tens of millions of dollars more for the newly popular delivery services. Already customers can find themselves paying different amounts for the same order, depending on which service they use, and those delivery costs could rise further as the companies shift away from incentives and aim to improve profitability.

Meanwhile, some of the services could face tax liability for incorrect collections in the past.

………

An Uber spokeswoman said the company collects sales tax on delivery fees where required. A Postmates spokeswoman said the company is complying with all regulations and tax laws, and a DoorDash spokeswoman declined to comment.

Grubhub’s Mr. Maloney said he is confident that his company is collecting the appropriate sales taxes.

“The 34 states that have told us to tax our service and delivery fees need to audit everyone in our industry to make sure we’re following their tax laws,” he said in an interview. “I’m happy to be audited with the rest of them.”

………

A Wall Street Journal analysis of dozens of test food orders across the four states and Washington, D.C., showed that Grubhub’s three major rivals typically collect sales tax on the food subtotal, whereas Grubhub charges tax on food plus fees. In some cases, the same restaurants sold the same food at the same price on all four websites, but the totals varied widely based on the added fees. Only Grubhub collected sales tax on delivery and service fees in all of the instances.
This is an opening salvo in attempt to to make lobby lawmakers for a tax carve out.

Screw that.

F%$# Yeah!!!!

All those years of hypocrisy and dishonesty have finally caught up with Benjamin Netanyahu:
For the first time in Israel's history, a sitting prime minister is accused of bribery: Attorney General Avichai Mendelblit announced Thursday Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu would be charged with bribery, fraud and breach in three corruption cases, dubbed Cases 4000, 2000 and 1000.

The indictment comes after a four-day hearing with Netanyahu's defense team last month, followed by weeks of intensive discussion at the attorney general's offices.

Laying out the charges in a press conference, Mendelblit said he made the decision to indict the prime minister "with a heavy heart, but wholeheartedly," stressing it was not an issue of left-wing or right-wing politics and that enforcing the law is not a matter of choice.

The attorney general lamented that "while conducting a professional hearing process, we've witnessed repeated attempts to delegitimize the people who were involved" in the investigations. He defended his colleagues, saying "These people acted out of proper motives.”
This man has been a pox on the Middle East, and a clear and present danger to the state of Israel, subsuming both human decency and the well-being of Israeli society to his ambitions.

Now that he has been indicted, maybe a government can be formed without his sorry bigoted ass.

20 November 2019

Live (Drunk) Blogging the November Debates

11:19pm:
I am completely drunk.

11:14pm:
Closing statements:
Cory Booker is a very good speaker.

Tom Streyer: A big bag of nothing.

Tulsi Gabbard: Nice closing, but she got very little air time.

Andrew Yang: Silicon Snake Oil.

Amy Klobuchar: I don't know why, but I just hate her.

Kamala Harria: She REALLY needs a hook.

Pete Buttigieg: Content free hope and change.

Sanders: Talks up his history of opposing bigotry. He also touts his support from small donors.

Warren: Calls out corruption of government. I hope that it means realistic change.

Biden: Word salad with a reference to Barack Obama.

11:00pm:
Charlie has taken away my bottle. I am really REALLY drunk.

10:58 pm:
Gabbard calls out Mayor Mayonnaise's call for occupation of Mexico. Good. Drink.

10:50pm:
Tulsi Gabbard comes out for paper ballots counted manudlly, 2 snaps up. Drink.

10:56pm:
Mayor Mayonnaise is right to bring up Gerrymandering.

10:53pm:
Roe for Wade now comes up: the Elephant in the room.

Warren dodges the question about John Bel Edwards support for anti-abortion legislation, but Bernie comes out unequivocally in favor of abortion rights.

10:44pm:
Biden says that he is now in favor of legalization of marijuana, major policy change.

Still calling for health studies, but this is a major policy change.

Also, I am completely f%$#ed up. Charlie is now acting as my spotter.

10:40pm:
Corey Booker: "I've had a lifetime of experience with black voters, I've been one since I've one since I was 18."

Also he goes after Biden on his antediluvian pot policies. Take a drink.

10:36pm:
Mayor Mayonnaise: Let me talk about what's in my heart. Does not mention evicting poor people to make spaces available for wealthy developers. Take a drink.

10:30pm:
Yeah, I am seriously drunk now. Thank God for auto spell check.

White Supremacist violence is brought up.

I did not expect this, and it is a good question.

The proper answer is, "I will go after white supremacists like Obama and Holder went after Occupy Wall Street."

10:27pm:
Brian Williams talks up post debate analysis at MSNBC.

F%$# that. I'm switching to the Daily Show.

Also, the ads for The Report (CIA torture) and Queen and Slim (Black Lives Matter) seem a savvy market move.

10:26 pm:
Mayor Mayonnaise refers to Trump using 17th technology like moats filled with alligators and walls. Drink.

10:22 pm:
Sanders: "Saudi Arabia is not a reliable American ally."

Also Sanders: "Me must treat the Palestinians with the they deserve."

Good.

He also said, "Be clear." Drink per Taibbi rules.

Also, I am a bit shicker now.

10:16pm:
My rather unscientific sense is that Sanders is getting an absolute minimum of time in the debates.

10:14pm:
Yang asked what his call to Putin would be if he was elected.

Stupidest question of the evening.

10:12pm:
Bernie asked about Afghanistan, and makes point that the endless wars we are promulgating need to be ended, "But unlike Trump, I will not do it by a tweet at 3 in the morning." Nice slam, take drink.

10:09pm:
On the DPRK, Harris has a good line, "Donald Trump got punk'd." Take a drink.

She then goes on with a full throated defense of American empire, and Joe Biden follows down the same path, and adds a dash of brinksmanship. Take shot.


10:07pm:
Climate change, and Steyer, Biden, and Sanders are generally on the same page.

The Biden bit surprises me.

Sanders calls big oil criminals. Oh, snap. Take a shot.

10:01pm:
I'm back, and I've cracked a bottle of rum.

Took a shot to start. It's 151 black rum. I felt it in my ears.

Have a bottle of water for a chaser.

9:29pm:
Off to pick up Charlie.

9:26pm:
Kamala Harris basically goes down the "Tulsi Gabbard is a tool of the enemy" path.

Not surprised. Gabbard brought up Harris' awful record as a prosecutor in prior debates, which has killed her campaign.

9:19 pm:
Mayor Mayonnaise (Pete) is using Republican talking points on Medicaid for All.

9:16 pm:
Warren and Booker are getting into it over a wealth tax.

Warren had a good line, "I'm tired of freeloading billionaires."

Booker is clearly not into taxing rich people.

9:10pm:
Joe Biden is asked about how he will full his (IMNSHO delusional) vision of of bipartisan action given that the Republicans are going after his kid.


Mostly, he danced around  and brought back to impeachment.


9:01pm:
First question is about impeachment developments, and the Ambassador Sondland bombshell.

Basically an easy question in the context of debates.

Sanders observes that the Senate can walk and chew gum at the same time, and continue to do their day job while conducting an impeachment.

Pete Buttigieg really is sentient mayonnaise.

9:00pm:
At the introductions, and since I have to pick Charlie from the Metro, so I am currently not drinking.


I am not repeating the mistake that I made in September, when I went with 30 proof Buttershots, I am going with (cheap) rum, and using an actually shot glass, as opposed to a small glass, but I hope to get hammered before the debates are done.

Once again, I will be posting at the top, with each update having a time in HH:MM pm format.

Once again, my drinking will be guided, thought not controlled, by Matt Taibbi's most recent debate drinking game.

Going Long on Fig Newton Futures

The House Judiciary Committee has passed a bill removing marijuana from the Controlled Substances Act,

This is the first time that any committee in Congress has ever passed a bill descheduling cannabis out of committee:
For the first time ever, a congressional committee has approved a piece of legislation to end marijuana prohibition in the United States. The Marijuana Opportunity, Reinvestment, and Expungement Act, better known as The MORE Act, would remove marijuana from the Controlled Substances Act and impose a minor excise tax on the legal cannabis industry to pay for the expungement of criminal records, among other changes, passed with a bipartisan vote of 24 to 10.

“This is a truly historic moment in our nation’s political history. For the first time, a Congressional committee has approved far-reaching legislation to not just put an end to federal marijuana prohibition, but to address the countless harms our prohibitionist policies have wrought, notably on communities of color and other already marginalized groups,” stated NORML Executive Director Erik Altieri, “Opposition to our failed war on marijuana has reached a boiling point with over two-thirds of all Americans, including majorities of all political persuasions, now supporting legalization. Congress should respect the will of the people and promptly approve the MORE Act and close this dark chapter of failed public policy.”

“The passage of the MORE Act represents the first time that the Judiciary Committee has ever had a successful vote to end the cruel policy of marijuana criminalization,” said NORML Political Director Justin Strekal. “Not only does the bill reverse the failed prohibition of cannabis, but it provides pathways for opportunity and ownership in the emerging industry for those who have suffered most. In 2018 alone, over 663,000 Americans were arrested for marijuana-related crimes, a three-year high. Now that Chairman Nadler has moved the MORE Act through committee, it is time for the full House to vote and have every member of Congress show their constituents which side of history they stand on.”
I wonder if Joe Biden will be asked about his whole, "Marijuana is a gateway drug," delusion.

19 November 2019

The Computer is Your Friend

Someone was ranting about how HR evaluation software is less accurate than reading the entrails of a recently slaughtered gazelle. (See below, it's worth the read)

Someone gave me this strategy for getting a human being to look at your resume, and it is brilliant:

Full Twitter thread after the break:

Schadenfreude Alert!!!!

It appears The House of Saud's IPO for Aramco is going about as well as WeWork's:
Some of the world’s top investment bankers gathered at a Riyadh palace on Saturday to deliver their final recommendations on a project that had consumed the government of Saudi Arabia for the past few years: the initial public offering of Saudi Aramco.

The financiers were there to meet Yasir al-Rumayyan, the state oil company’s chairman and the head of the country’s sovereign wealth fund, along with cabinet ministers and the company’s leadership.

Their message would disappoint the hosts: international investors were unwilling to buy shares in Saudi Aramco anywhere near the $2tn valuation long sought by the kingdom’s powerful Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. No amount of sweeteners — from promises of higher dividends to bonus shares for local retail investors — had managed to change that reality.
It could not happen to evern

Tweet of the Day

It Appears that the Wall Street masters of the universe thinks that we are very gullible:


Remember Skybolt?





I am referring, of course, to the GAM-87 Skybolt air-launched ballistic missile, which was developed by the United States in the early 1960s as a was to penetrate increasingly capable Soviet air defense systems.

It was canceled when the Polaris SLBM was determined to better fit the needs.

We now have evidence that the People's Republic of China is developing a very similar system, though it will likely not be used as a strategic system.

It appears to be a derived from the mobile land base DF-21 of the It will be used to target aircraft carriers, and the air launched capabilities will force carrier groups even further from China, particularly since the platform China's upgraded Badger the H-6N, is designed with air to air refueling capabilities:
A centrefold graphic recently flourished intimate details of a Chinese bomber carrying a stark new weapon. State-controlled media has since gone into cover-up mode. But military analysts think Beijing may have been caught with its pants down.

The government produced Modern Ships magazine has splashed high-resolution computer-generated images of China’s most recent addition to its strategic bomber line-up – the H-6N – over the front and feature pages.

But that’s not what drew the eye of the world’s defence thinkers.

The graphics showed the new bomber carrying a huge ballistic missile slung under its fuselage. And that missile looks a lot like one of a family of ballistic weapons deployed by China’s People’s Liberation Army Rocket Force (PLARF) as aircraft carrier killers.
I do not think that this is an unintentional release of information.

After all, how can you deter a CVBG if they do not know about the threat.

The carrier aircraft is extensively modified as well:
Defence enthusiasts noted several strange things about the latest N variant of China’s Xian H-6 series of strategic bombers when it was unveiled to the public at the 70th National Day parade in October.

The state-controlled Xinhua news service simply said it was a “homemade strategic bomber capable of air refuelling and long-range strike”.

But when a flight of three of the bombers flew over Beijing, military experts saw it doesn’t have bomb-bay doors. Instead, it has what appears to be new heavyweight attachment points in a recess along the centre-line of its fuselage.

Also noted was its modified, extended nose-cone and an air-to-air refuelling nozzle.
Assuming that the system can be made to work reliably, and this would include a multitude of sensors and cuing systems, it would be a formidable areal denial system.