Month: June 2018

Interesting Point

Ian Welsh makes a very good point, that free trade does not create efficiency.

In fact, when we look at what happens with international outsourcing, it increases transportation costs, it requires more people, and emits more greenhouse gasses:

For the past few weeks I’ve been reading a raft of literature by lawyers, economists and bureaucrats involved with the World Trade Organization (WTO) and other free traders. It’s been a fascinating journey into an alternate world, one in which frictionless trade and money flows; and unified regulations and laws are considered to be a good thing.

The reasoning behind this virtually unquestioned acceptance is as follows: if there are no barriers to trade, whether financial or regulatory, goods and services will be created (or done) wherever they cost the least. If they are done in the lowest-cost place, they are being done in the most efficient way, and that means more is created and consumers also pay less.

It is thus a good thing, virtually always, to reduce barriers to trade and services. If it can be done for cheaper somewhere it should be. Some people may lose, but overall more (or the same) is created for less, and this is good.

This is basically an article of faith in everything I’ve been reading from people who make their living around the WTO.

But you may have caught the error in the thinking. It assumes the lowest cost is equivalent to the most efficient.

But it isn’t. When manufacturing moved from the US to China, it cost less to do in China, yes, but it produced more carbon (climate change); it took more people to produce the same amount of goods, and it generally used more materials, as well.

In other words, in every way except the monetary cost it was less efficient.

Free trade is about labor market arbitrage, not any real efficiencies.

There is Creepy, Creepier, and Mark Zuckerberg

Facebook just applied for a patent to use secret television signals to turn on your phone’s microphone:

You may have seen the ads that Facebook has been running on TV in a full-court press to apologize for abusing users privacy. They’re embarrassing. And, it turns out, they may be a sign of things to come. Based on a recently published patent application, Facebook could one day use ads on television to further violate your privacy once you’ve forgotten about all those other times.

First spotted by Metro, the patent is titled “broadcast content view analysis based on ambient audio recording.” (PDF) It describes a system in which an “ambient audio fingerprint or signature” that’s inaudible to the human ear could be embedded in broadcast content like a TV ad. When a hypothetical user is watching this ad, the audio fingerprint could trigger their smartphone or another device to turn on its microphone, begin recording audio and transmit data about it to Facebook.


Everything in the patent is written in legalese and is a bit vague about what happens to the audio data. One example scenario imagines that various ambient audio would be eliminated and the content playing on the broadcast would be identified. Data would be collected about the user’s proximity to the audio. Then, the identifying information, time, and identity of the Facebook user would be sent to the social media company for further processing.

In addition to all the data users voluntarily give up, and the incidental data it collects through techniques like browser fingerprinting, Facebook would use this audio information to figure out which ads are most effective. For example, if a user walked away from the TV or changed the channel as soon as the ad began to play, it might consider the ad ineffective or on a subject the user doesn’t find interesting. If the user stays where they are and the audio is loud and clear, Facebook could compare that seeming effective ad with your other data to make better suggestions for its advertising clients.

Facebook’s level of evil is beginning to resemble that of a Bond villain.

Not a Surprise

What a surprise.

America’s international butt-boy, the UK, was hip deep in the US torture program:

British intelligence agencies were involved in the torture and kidnap of terrorism suspects after 9/11, according to two reports by the parliamentary intelligence and security committee.

The reports published on Thursday amount to one of the most damning indictments of UK intelligence, revealing links to torture and rendition were much more widespread than previously reported.

While there was no evidence of officers directly carrying out physical mistreatment of detainees, the reports say the overseas agency MI6 and the domestic service MI5 were involved in hundreds of torture cases and scores of rendition cases.

The committee says the agencies were aware “at an early point” of the mistreatment of detainees by the US and others. There were two cases in which UK personnel were “party to mistreatment administered by others”. One has been investigated by the Metropolitan police but the other is still to be fully investigated. 


The report dealing with the treatment of detainees details a litany of cases of concern, saying: “We have found 13 incidents where UK personnel witnessed at first hand a detainee being mistreated by others, 25 where UK personnel were told by detainees that they had been mistreated by others and 128 incidents recorded where agency officers were told by foreign liaison services about instances of mistreatment. In some cases, these were correctly investigated but this was not consistent.”
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It said in 232 cases UK personnel continued to supply questions or intelligence to other services despite knowledge or suspicion of mistreatment, as well as “198 cases where UK personnel received intelligence from liaison services which had been obtained from detainees who knew they had been mistreated – or with no indication as to how the detainee had been treated but where we consider they should have suspected mistreatment”.

It would be nice if Jack Straw ends up in the dock over this.

It would be nicer if Tony Blair did.

Time for Thoughts and Prayers, Again, and Again, and Again, and Again

A lone gunman blasted his way into the Capital Gazette newsroom in Annapolis with a shotgun Thursday, killing five people dead and injuring two others, authorities said.

Journalists dove under their desks and pleaded for help on social media. One reporter described the scene a “war zone.” A photographer said he jumped over a dead colleague and fled for his life.

The victims were identified as Rob Hiaasen, 59, a former feature writer for The Baltimore Sun who joined the Capital Gazette in 2010 as assistant editor and columnist; Wendi Winters, 65, a community correspondent who headed special publications; Gerald Fischman, 61, the editorial page editor; John McNamara, 56, a staff writer who covered high school, college and professional sports for decades; and Rebecca Smith, 34, a sales assistant hired in November.

Police took a suspect into custody soon after the shootings. He was identified as Jarrod W. Ramos, a 38-year-old Laurel man with a longstanding grudge against the paper.

“This was a targeted attack on the Capital Gazette,” said Anne Arundel County Deputy Police Chief William Krampf. “This person was prepared today to come in. He was prepared to shoot people.”

Ramos has been in a dispute with the paper since 2011, so this is not related to the incitements of inverted traffic cone Donald Trump, Elvis impersonator wannabee Milo Yiannopoulos, or the rest of their ilk.

It was just an asshole with a gun.

Maybe the problem is the guns.

He’s a Bloody Scooby Doo Villain:

I am referring, of course, to Andrew Cuomo, whose response to Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s victory in the primary is, “And I would’ve gotten away with it if it weren’t for those meddling kids.”

OK, he didn’t ACTUALLY say that, but tell me that this does not sound very similar:

In his own remarks to reporters, Mr. Cuomo said Ms. Ocasio-Cortez “ran a very good campaign” that connected with people in her district, particularly “the fear and the anger that is in the minority community.”

Of course, this really isn’t true, Ocasio-Cortez actually performed better in the non-Hispanic precincts, but Cuomo wants to minimize her legitimacy, and to his mind, that involves making her victory the result of minority votes, which, come to think of it, is pretty f%$#ing racist.

There Needs to be Mass Firings and Mass Prosecutions at ICE

It has been revealed that the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency has been hacking its own risk assessment software so that it can detain everyone it catches.

This organization is fatally flawed, and while its function is essential, the culture is beyond fixing.

Fire all of them and pull their security clearances, and prosecute those who have abused their power:

One of the more fascinating and horrible details in Reuters’ thoroughly fascinating and horrible long-form report on Trump’s cruel border policies is this nugget: ICE hacked the risk-assessment tool it used to decide whom to imprison so that it recommended that everyone should be detained.


Prior to ICE’s changes to its risk assessment software that result in mandatory detention for all apprehended immigrants, the only immigrants that would automatically be detained were those with serious criminal histories. According to the most recent data released by ICE cited in the Reuters report, the most serious crime committed by nearly half of arrested immigrants during the first 100 days of the Trump administration were traffic violations, which didn’t include drunk driving.

I’m beginning to think that ICE sees sadism as an essential requirement for new hires.

About F%$#ing Time

The Knesset has passed a new law which closes Israel’s doors to husbands who make their wives an agunah, refusing to give her a bill of divorce. The Conference of European Rabbis was behind the initiative, which has now been passed into law, barring recalcitrant husbands from seeking refuge in Israel.

If a beis din in The Diaspora has labels a man a recalcitrant husband, not only will be barred from entering the country, but he will be detained by authorities at the airport as a deterrence towards compelling him to release his wife from an unwanted marriage.

There is a peculiarity in Jewish law that a divorce has to be executed by the man, by giving a get, and if there is a civil divorce, the man is free to remarry and his children would not be a mamzer, which creates major complications for the child, while the wife’s children would be.*

As such, in many divorces, the man, either as a tactic, or just because they are an asshole, will refuse to give a get.

This problem is considered serious enough that Maimonides issued a ruling that it was acceptable to beat the husband to convince him to give the wife a get, so the move by the Israeli parliament is the least that they could have done.

It’s actually more complicated

F%$# F%$# F%$# F%$# F%$# F%$# F%$# (%$# Mine)

That’s the headline at Splinter News about the retirement of Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy:

Because absolutely nothing gold can stay, Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy announced today that he is retiring, handing President Donald Trump his second vacancy to fill on the nation’s highest court and giving him a perfect opportunity to drag the court even further to the right.

In a letter submitted to Trump, Kennedy said his retirement would be effective July 31.


While Kennedy was appointed to the court by Ronald Reagan, he’s been a deciding swing vote during his tenure, providing the key vote on issues like same sex marriage, campaign finance, and abortion.

His departure is also certain to decisively shift the ideological leanings of the court for decades to come—the consequences of which we’ve already started to see since Trump appointed Neil Gorsuch. In this session alone, the conservative court has dealt a crippling blow to public sector unions and upheld Trump’s Muslim ban.

Anthony Kennedy is a partisan political hack.

We learned this in 2000 in Bush v. Gore, and this was reinforced over the past few weeks with his concurrences in redistricting, the Muslim ban, and union rights.

Of course, the fact that Trump is likely to try to find someone who is even worse to replace him is not reassuring.

I expect to see the court overturn Roe v. Wade in the next 18 months or so, and Eisenstadt v. Baird not that long afterward.

After that, should expect to see abortion made illegal, as well as significant restrictions on contraception, in a number of states.

Margaret Atwater may prove to be rather more prophetic than she would like.

It’s Primary Night, and Holy F%$#ing Sh%$!!!!!!!!

Primary night in Maryland, New York, Utah, Colorado, and Oklahoma.

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (age 28) defeated incumbent Joseph Crowley by over 15 points in NY-14.

This is a big deal.  Crowly was the number 4 Democrat in the House, and considered a favorite to (eventually) succeed Pelosi as Speaker, and he spent hundreds of thousands of dollars trying to hold onto his seat.

Ocasio-Cortez, by contrast is a member of the Democratic Socialists of America and a Bernie supporter.

My only question is whether or not the machine in the district will try to push Republican Anthony Pappas, on the theory that if he wins, it makes it easier for a machine pol to take the district back, though given that the district went for Hillary by about 60 points, that would be a very tough

Good news in Maryland too, where former NAACP chairman Ben Jealous won the Democratic gubernatorial primary by more than 10% after a Sanders endorsement, though the general is by no means a sure thing as Republican incumbent Larry “Governor Ratf%$#” Hogan is rather paradoxically popular.

More locally, John “Johnny O” Olszewski, the unabashedly progressive candidate is leading Jim Brochin the race by about 250 votes, with the 3rd place candidate, back about 1,000 votes in the race for County Executive.

Considering that there are something like 80,000 provisional ballots statewide due to a DMV motor-voter f%$#-up, we could be waiting for a few weeks on this one.

I’m Kind of Dubious of This

Blah, blah, blah!

The German research lab Bauhaus Luftfahrt is proposing replacing the high pressure turbine and combustor with a piston engine.

It sounds like a step beyond the turbo-compound engines that were the final stage of piston engines before jets took over.

The reason that I am dubious is for the same reason that turbines beat out pistons for at that time: Maintenance costs.

Even a first generation turboprop would deliver 10 times the time on the wing, which outweighed the much higher fuel economy of a piston engine, at least at higher power levels.

Still, it is an interesting technology:

The Composite Cycle Engine (CCE) concept incorporates piston engines into the core of an aircraft turbo engine. The piston engines increase thermal efficiency by using non-stationary isochoric-isobaric combustion, which enables higher peak pressures and temperatures within the core engine. In the current design, the piston engine is connected with the high-pressure spool and powers the axial-radial high-pressure compressor. The low-pressure system is similar to a conventional geared turbofan (GTF) architecture. This way, the outstanding power-to-weight ratio of low-pressure turbines can be fully utilised and an ultra-high bypass ratio is realised. Assuming an entry into service in 2050, fuel burn improvements up to 50 per cent relative to year 2000 turbofan technology (11 per cent relative to year 2050 advanced GTF technology, respectively) can be reached. 

In fact, pistons have better fuel economy to this day, though the fuel is harder to find, and you really don’t find aviation piston engines at the higher power levels of turbines.

I could see this being applied in some areas, expendable drones and the like, and possibly private aircraft, where the additional range might be more significant than the engine time on the wing.

Partisan Hacks

The Supreme Court in a 5-4 decision ruled that Trumps Muslim ban was just fine.

I thought that Bush v Gore was the worst Supreme Court ruling of my life.  I was misinformed:

The Supreme Court upheld President Trump’s ban on travel from several predominantly Muslim countries, delivering to the president on Tuesday a political victory and an endorsement of his power to control immigration at a time of political upheaval about the treatment of migrants at the Mexican border.

In a 5-to-4 vote, the court’s conservatives said that the president’s power to secure the country’s borders, delegated by Congress over decades of immigration lawmaking, was not undermined by Mr. Trump’s history of incendiary statements about the dangers he said Muslims pose to the United States.

Writing for the majority, Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. said that Mr. Trump had ample statutory authority to make national security judgments in the realm of immigration. And the chief justice rejected a constitutional challenge to Mr. Trump’s third executive order on the matter, issued in September as a proclamation.

The court’s liberals denounced the decision. In a passionate and searing dissent from the bench, Justice Sonia Sotomayor said the decision was no better than Korematsu v. United States, the 1944 decision that endorsed the detention of Japanese-Americans during World War II.

She praised the court for officially overturning Korematsu in its decision on Tuesday. But by upholding the travel ban, Justice Sotomayor said, the court “merely replaces one gravely wrong decision with another.”

Seriously.  This isn’t a difference in ideology, this is lack of basic humanity.

This is a Whole New World of Evil

Maria and her 12-year-old daughter surrendered to Customs and Border Protection agents immediately after crossing the Rio Grande on a raft near McAllen, Texas, in the first week of June. It was the final step of their journey from Guatemala, where both of them had been subjected to years of physical abuse by Maria’s husband. They wanted asylum in the United States.

Because Maria had committed a misdemeanor offense by crossing the border, she and her daughter were sent to a processing center where a CBP officer allegedly gave Maria a stark choice. (Maria is a pseudonym to protect her identity.) If she gave up her asylum claim and returned to Guatemala, she and her daughter would remain together. If she applied for asylum, on the other hand, Maria would be thrown in jail for a year and her daughter would be put up for adoption. Maria would never see her daughter again.

Maria recounted this story last week to Edgar Saldivar, a senior staff attorney for the ACLU of Texas.

“She was very distraught,” Saldivar told The Daily Beast on Tuesday. “Her mind was a bit scattered, but after spending quite a bit of time talking with her, she regained her composure and talked to me.”

Her story of being threatened with the forced adoption of her daughter shocked Saldivar.

“We’ve heard of the history of CBP officers using lies and misinformation to pressure people into signing voluntary departures,” he said. “But in this specific context, where they’re threatening to take a child away and adopting them out to an American family, that was something I had not heard before.”

I am sure that this CBP agent was ordered to get people to leave voluntarily, and I’m sure that he was just following orders.

The term I use for this sort of person is, “Good German.”

Hanna Arendt would call this, “The Banality of Evil.”

I Feel Old

I was talking to my daughter after picking her up from school.

She was talking about making jokes abut death, and I suggested that she should make an event out of this.

She has organized concerts before, so I thought that this might be in her wheelhouse.

I suggested that she call it ………

Wait for it ………

Wait for it ………

Death Comedy Jam!!!

I got a blank look from her.

I told the joke to my son.

I got a blank look from him.

I feel old.

Pass the Popcorn

European leaders are frantically holding meetings to try to save Merkel’s political career, which threatens to implode over the immigration issue.

If I were in the meetings, I would toss her an anvil, but I’ve never been a fan.

Also, there is the whole “Symmetry” thing:  She has been instrumental in applying EU pressure to bring down a number of EU governments, particularly in Italy and Greece, and now she is attempting to rely on the same institutions to preserve her government and her career.

Her problems are largely an artifact of her own political decisions, and bailing her out should not be a priority for the EU.

This is the Definitive Take on L’Affaire Huckabee-Sanders

Amid all the conservative butt-hurt over Sarah Huckabee-Sanders being denied service at a restaurant, this is to my mind a proper take:

Do you think that being asked to leave a restaurant, or having your meal interrupted, or being called by the public is bad? My fascism-enabling friends, this is only the beginning.

One thing that people who wield great power often fail to viscerally understand is what it feels like to have power wielded against you. This imbalance is the source of many of the most monstrous decisions that get made by powerful people and institutions. The people who start the wars do not have bombs dropped on their houses. The people who pass the laws that incarcerate others never have to face the full force of the prison system themselves. The people who design the economic system that inflicts poverty on millions are themselves rich. This sort of insulation from the real world consequences of political and economic decisions makes it very easy for powerful people to approve of things happening to the rest of us that they would never, ever tolerate themselves. No health insurance CEO would watch his child die due to their inability to afford quality health care. No chickenhawk Congressman will be commanding a tank battle in Iran. No opportunistic race-baiting politician will be shunned because of their skin color. Zealots condemn gay people—except for their own gay children. The weed-smoking of young immigrants should get them deported—but our own weed-smoking was a youthful indiscretion. Environmentalist celebrities fly on carbon-spouting private jets. Banks make ostentatious charity donations while raking in billions from investments in defense contractors and gun manufacturers and oil companies. This is human nature. It is very, very easy to do things that hurt others as long as those same things benefit, rather than hurt, you. Self-justification is a specialty of mankind.

I agree.  More of this.

The calls for civility are being made by people who want to share a cocktail with the movers and shakers in politics at one of Sally Quinn’s parties.

Supreme Court Rules 5-4: N*****s Shouldn’t Vote

This morning the Supreme Court ruled in favor of Texas in a dispute alleging that the state’s lawmakers had drawn redistricting maps to discriminate against some of the state’s black and Hispanic residents. By a vote of 5-4, the justices threw out almost all of a ruling by a three-judge federal district court that would have invalidated the maps, agreeing with the lower court only that one state legislative district was a racial gerrymander. Today’s ruling means that elections this year will likely go forward using the existing maps.

The decision came in the two cases known as Abbott v. Perez, which date back to 2011, when Texas’ Republican-controlled legislature began to redistrict after the 2010 census. The legislature’s federal congressional and state legislative maps never took effect, because a three-judge district court (which normally hears redistricting cases) barred the state from using the maps and created its own plans instead. But the U.S. Supreme Court threw out the court-created maps in 2012, telling the lower court to use the state legislature’s maps as a “starting point” for new maps. The district court did so, and in 2013 the state legislature adopted the maps for permanent use.

Then they kicked the North Carolina redistricting case to the curb:

The Supreme Court passed up an opportunity on Monday to take another look at whether the Constitution bars extreme partisan gerrymandering, returning a case from North Carolina to a trial court there for a further examination of whether the challengers had suffered the sort of direct injury that would give them standing to sue.

The move followed two decisions last week that sidestepped the main issues in partisan gerrymandering cases from Wisconsin and Maryland.

The new case was an appeal from a decision in January by a three-judge panel of a Federal District Court in North Carolina. The ruling found that Republican legislators there had violated the Constitution by drawing the districts to hurt the electoral chances of Democratic candidates.

The decision was the first from a federal court to strike down a congressional map as a partisan gerrymander.

 I’m with Sonya Sotomayor on this one:

It means that, after years of litigation and undeniable proof of intentional discrimination, minority voters in Texas—despite constituting a majority of the population within the State—will continue to be underrepresented in the political process. Those voters must return to the polls in 2018 and 2020 with the knowledge that their ability to exercise meaningfully their right to vote has been burdened by the manipulation of district lines specifically designed to target their communities and minimize their political will.

Let me translate Sotomayor into something more pithy:  The 5 justices who voted to ignore the racism in Texas are a bunch of corrupt ratf%$3s.


Captain Blackadder Really Did Fight in World War I (War Is Boring)  Capt. Robert John Blackadder of the Royal Garrison Artillery, Pvt. James Baldrick of the Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers, Capt. John Clive Darling of the 20th Hussars.  Most were KIA/
Trump’s Family Separation Scandal Has Revealed Every Species of Hypocrite (Rolling Stone) Taibbi unloads a well deserved can of whup-ass.
The Jurassic World Porn Parody That Asks: What If Dinosaurs Were Porn Stars? (Motherboard) Just kill me now.
Police Realizing That SESTA/FOSTA Made Their Jobs Harder; Sex Traffickers Realizing It’s Made Their Job Easier (Techdirt) It has led to an explosion in the activities of pimps.
Gallery Owner Arrested After Dropping Sculpture Of Giant Drug Spoon At Purdue Pharma (Hartford Courant) If you are in the area, you might want to check out his gallery.
Washington, D.C.: the Psychopath Capital of America (POLITICO) The results of thiw study should surprise no one.

Remember that dance off scene in Guardians of the Galaxy? Here is the blooper reel: