Month: July 2019

Kamala, Yuo Been Memed

In response to Kamala Harris’s absurd proposal for college loan forgiveness, which provided for (only) $20,000.00 in loan forgiveness and required:

  • That you be a Pell grant recipient.
  • Start a business in a disadvantaged community.
  • Run it for 3 years.

There might be 3 people in the United States who would actually qualify for this grant.

It might be 6 if you count the well-off parents who are pulling the guardian scam to snag undeserved financial aid for their kids.

In response, someone has written the Oddly Specific Kamala Harris Policy Generator, where you press a button, and get a randomly generated policy, like the following:

Yesterday, I announced that, as president, I’ll establish a basic income program for Atheists who open a spy agency that operates for 12 weeks in Comet Ping-Pong.
Yesterday, I announced that, as president, I’ll establish a high speed rail program for African-Americans who open a fire dept. that operates for 8 days in communities of color.

Yesterday, I announced that, as president, I’ll establish a military expansion program for firefighters who open a bungee jump that operates for 19 weeks in the Google App Store.
Yesterday, I announced that, as president, I’ll establish a tort reform program for Tea Party voters who open a buffet that operates for 10 days in their local tourist trap.

I am amused.

Everyone at the Pentagon Needs to Read Superiority, by Arthur C. Clark

The newest carrier in the US Navy, and the lead ship in the class, the USS Gerald Ford, has experiences many problems related to new technologies implemented on the ship.

First, it was the electromagnetic catapults, which are still missing performance and reliability goals, then it was the advanced arrester gear, and now it appears that the munitions elevators cannot deliver ordinance to the flight deck, meaning that the Ford is not even close to combat ready:

Only two of 11 elevators needed to lift munitions to the deck of the U.S. Navy’s new $13 billion aircraft carrier have been fully installed, according to a Navy veteran who serves on a key House committee.

“I don’t see an end in sight right now” to getting all the elevators working on the USS Gerald R. Ford, the costliest warship ever, Democratic Representative Elaine Luria of Virginia said in an interview. The ship was supposed to be delivered with the Advanced Weapons Elevators, which are moved by magnets rather than cables, working in May 2017.

It’s another setback for contractor Huntington Ingalls Industries Inc. — and for the Navy, which had said in December it planned to complete installation and testing of all 11 elevators before the Ford completed its post-delivery shakedown phase this month, with at least half certified for operation.

Instead, the shakedown phase has been extended to October and the vessel won’t have all the elevators fully installed — much less functioning — by then, according to Luria, a 20-year Navy surface warfare officer whose served on two aircraft carriers and as shore maintenance coordinator for a third.

“Essentially, the ship can’t deploy,” Luria said. “It can’t carry ammunition.” She said the Navy and Huntington Ingalls are trying to solve new problems with doors and hatches lining elevators shafts that don’t meet specifications.

Navy Secretary Richard Spencer said in January that he told President Donald Trump to fire him if the service couldn’t fix the weapons elevators by July. Instead, Trump praised the Ford as “phenomenal” on July 22.

The Ford’s Advanced Weapons Elevators are designed for the carrier’s crew to move as much as 24,000 pounds of ordnance at 150 feet-per-minute, up from the 10,500 pounds at 100 feet-per-minute on the older Nimitz-class carrier. That would increase by more than 30% the number of combat sorties that could launch from the carrier over 24 hours, according to the Navy.

The elevators aren’t the only issue plaguing the ship, which has had problems with two other core systems — the electromagnetic system to launch planes and the arresting gear to catch them when they land.

What can I say, but, “But I cannot be held responsible for my future actions if I am compelled any longer to share my cell with Professor Norden, late Chief of the Research Staff of my armed forces.”*

The Pentagon is going to innovate itself into oblivion.

*Seriously, just read the story, you can find it online.

Clearly, Reagan Would Have Supported Trump

In a conversation with Richard Nixon in 1971, Ronald Reagan, then governor of California, described African UN representatives from as, “Those monkeys from those African countries, damn them.

I always knew that the Gipper was an enthusiastic supporter of racist and racism, launching the 1980 Presidential campaign with a speech about states rights in Philadelphia, Mississippi, where civil rights activists Chaney, Goodman, and Schwerner were assassinated.

His entire career was about dog whistling to racists.

Now we know that he was a bigot and a racist.

Rot in hell Ronnie, rot in hell.

CNN, and Jake Tapper, Suck

That’s my take on the debate.

Right wing framing, a phobia of substantive answers, and general wankertude.

Bernie was good, if you like him combative, and I do, but Elizabeth Warren had the quote or the evening, directed at the hapless John Delaney:

I Don’t Understand Why Anybody Goes to All the Trouble of Running for President of the United States Just to Talk about What We Really Can’t Do and Shouldn’t Fight For

She just won the internet.

Burying the Lede

I love reading Taibbi, but in his article on the craziness in the run-up to the Iowa caucuses, he buries the lede.

More than ⅔ down in the article is the money quote, “Sanders is the revolutionary. His election would mean a complete overhaul of the Democratic Party, forcing everyone who ever worked for a Clinton to look toward the private sector.

This primary season is about how the Democratic Party consultant class, the leeches, is fighting for its power at the expense of both the party and the country.

5G May be Undone by Physics

In 2017, members of the mobile telephony industry group 3GPP were bickering over whether to speed the development of 5G standards. One proposal, originally put forward by Vodafone and ultimately agreed to by the rest of the group, promised to deliver 5G networks sooner by developing more aspects of 5G technology simultaneously.

Adopting that proposal may have also meant pushing some decisions down the road. One such decision concerned how 5G networks should encode wireless signals. 3GPP’s Release 15, which laid the foundation for 5G, ultimately selected orthogonal frequency-division multiplexing (OFDM), a holdover from 4G, as the encoding option.

But Release 16, expected by year’s end, will include the findings of a study group assigned to explore alternatives. Wireless standards are frequently updated, and in the next 5G release, the industry could address concerns that OFDM may draw too much power in 5G devices and base stations. That’s a problem, because 5G is expected to require far more base stations to deliver service and connect billions of mobile and IoT devices.

“I don’t think the carriers really understood the impact on the mobile phone, and what it’s going to do to battery life,” says James Kimery, the director of marketing for RF and software-defined radio research at National Instruments Corp. “5G is going to come with a price, and that price is battery consumption.”

And Kimery notes that these concerns apply beyond 5G handsets. China Mobile has “been vocal about the power consumption of their base stations,” he says. A 5G base station is generally expected to consume roughly three times as much power as a 4G base station. And more 5G base stations are needed to cover the same area.

So how did 5G get into a potentially power-guzzling mess? OFDM plays a large part. Data is transmitted using OFDM by chopping the data into portions and sending the portions simultaneously and at different frequencies so that the portions are “orthogonal” (meaning they do not interfere with each other).

The trade-off is that OFDM has a high peak-to-average power ratio (PAPR). Generally speaking, the orthogonal portions of an OFDM signal deliver energy constructively—that is, the very quality that prevents the signals from canceling each other out also prevents each portion’s energy from canceling out the energy of other portions. That means any receiver needs to be able to take in a lot of energy at once, and any transmitter needs to be able to put out a lot of energy at once. Those high-energy instances cause OFDM’s high PAPR and make the method less energy efficient than other encoding schemes.

Short range, poor building penetration, and high battery consumption.

Heady brew.

It’s Called Eating Your Seed Corn

The Vampire Squid, calls it, “Returning cash to shareholders,” but what it really is looting by senior management.

Stock buybacks drive up the price of the stock, which takes executives stock options from worthless to a multi-million dollar payout.

It’s the looting, baby:

S&P 500 companies are returning cash to shareholders at an unsustainable rate, says Goldman Sachs analysts.

Goldman data show that in the 12 months ended on March 31, firms in the S&P 500 index, spent 103.8% of their free cash flow on stock buybacks and dividends, up from 101.9% in the fourth quarter of last year.

This latest spree is the first time that constituents of the index spent more cash than they earned on payouts since the period between September 2006 and March of 2008, when there was a seven-quarter stretch during which S&P 500 companies paid out more to shareholders than they earned in cash, on a trailing 12-month basis.

They are literally borrowing money to driver up their stock price without creating any actual value.

We need to understand that this is control fraud, not responsible stewardship of the enterprise.

Our Broken Higher Education System

In addition to bribing school officials for admission, parents are now setting up phony guardianships of their children to avoid having their assets considered by colleges:

Dozens of suburban Chicago families, perhaps many more, have been exploiting a legal loophole to win their children need-based college financial aid and scholarships they would not otherwise receive, court records and interviews show.

Coming months after the national “Varsity Blues” college admissions scandal, this tactic also appears to involve families attempting to gain an advantage in an increasingly competitive and expensive college admissions system.

Parents are giving up legal guardianship of their children during their junior or senior year in high school to someone else — a friend, aunt, cousin or grandparent. The guardianship status then allows the students to declare themselves financially independent of their families so they can qualify for federal, state and university aid, a ProPublica Illinois investigation found.

“It’s a scam,” said Andy Borst, director of undergraduate admissions at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. “Wealthy families are manipulating the financial aid process to be eligible for financial aid they would not be otherwise eligible for. They are taking away opportunities from families that really need it.”

 While ProPublica Illinois uncovered this practice in north suburban Lake County, where almost four dozen such guardianships were filed in the past 18 months, similar petitions have been filed in at least five other counties and the practice may be happening throughout the country. ProPublica Illinois is still investigating.

Borst said he first became suspicious when a high school counselor from an affluent Chicago suburb called him about a year ago to ask why a particular student had been invited to an orientation program for low-income students. Borst checked the student’s financial aid application and saw she had obtained a legal guardian, making her eligible to qualify for financial aid independently.

The University of Illinois has since identified 14 applicants who did the same: three who just completed their freshman year and 11 who plan to enroll this fall, Borst said.

You will notice that it is the well off, not poor people who are pulling this scam.

The rich are different from you and me, they are significantly less ethical than the rest of us.

That’s probably how they get rich in first place.

To not quote Honoré de Balzac, it appears that he never actually wrote this, “At the base of every great fortune there is a great crime.”

Adding to the List of They Who Must Not Be Named

When a gunman opened fire at the Gilroy Garlic Festival in Gilroy, California, on Sunday evening, killing at least three people, including a 6-year-old boy, and wounding 12 others, Dilbert creator Scott Adams apparently saw a juicy marketing opportunity for his blockchain app.

Adams is best known for creating Dilbert, a comic strip satirizing soulless corporate culture and the grueling punishment dished out on its eponymous engineer by idiot co-workers and clueless management. But he also moonlights. In addition to punditry on topics ranging from fifth-dimensional chess analyses proclaiming Donald Trump a genius Pavlovian manipulator to tortured theological treatises, to questioning the specifics of the Holocaust’s atrocities, Adams is the co-founder of app company WhenHub. WhenHub is similar to Cameo, the app that allows everyday people to pay celebrities to create customized videos, except instead of pre-recorded messages from movie stars and rappers, it offers live chats with a range of subject-matter experts.


Adams seems to have concluded the Gilroy Garlic Festival shooting was an ideal time to direct-market this app to witnesses—who, as he made quite clear on Twitter, he believed could cash in on their traumatic experience by selling interviews to news organizations via WhenHub.

According to the Los Angeles Times, the gunman opened fire sometime around 5:30 p.m. PT on Sunday when the festival was nearing its conclusion. Less than three hours later, at 8:21 p.m. PT, about 13 minutes after President Trump advised locals to exercise caution because reports indicated the shooter was still at large, Adams began pitching the survivors on signing up for, and charging for, interviews with media outlets via WhenHub.

“If you were a witness to the #GilroyGarlicFestivalshooting please sign on to Interface by WhenHub (free app) and you can set your price to take calls. Use keyword Gilroy,” Adams tweeted.

Roughly 23 minutes later, Adams had some advice for critics who correctly identified this as shameless opportunism aiming to capitalize off an atrocity: Grow up and stop it with the “fake outrage.”


Adams did not immediately respond to our request for comment, although he did respond to the controversy in a livestream Monday morning on Periscope, where he continued to stand by his promotion efforts and blamed the controversy on socialism.

#BoycottDilbert is trending on Twitter, with good reason.

He hasn’t had an original idea for his comic strip since before the end of the last century.

Don’t read his comics, don’t buy his merch, and if you want to complain to your local paper about this, that would be nice too.

Scott Adams should have been drowned at birth.

They Need to Add Frickin’ Laser Beams Attached to Their Heads

Thread: 1) During a military expo in Beijing, #China has unveiled Shark-styled underwater drones designed to carry out reconnaissance missions.

— IndoPacific_SCS_Info (@IndoPac_Info) July 28, 2019

China has created an underwater that looks like a shark.

I am sure that I am not the only one who’s initial response was to think of the movie,
Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery?

Because I cannot look at that shark drone, and not think that this something out of a parody of the James Bond films.

Of course, I always thought that they missed a joke with the Sea Bass:  At the time that Dr. Evil went into the deep freeze, there was no such thing as a Sea Bass, they were known as Patagonian Toothfish.

Just saying, “Patagonian Toothfish,” is funny.

They Have Forgotten How to Make Airliners

I am referring, of course, to Boeing, which is rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic with the 737 and 787:

Boeing is considering the drastic move of temporarily halting 737 MAX production and rejigging 777X assembly plans as uncertainty continues over its two newest commercial aircraft programs.

Executives at the beleaguered aerospace giant acknowledged July 24 that it will accelerate assembly of 777 freighters next year to offset the impact of a slowdown on the new 777X linked to its General Electric GE9X engines. Yet, despite facing what could be a yearlong delay to flight test and delivery, the widebody program issues barely register when laid next to those of the 737.


While many analysts embraced the news as a rare bit of clarity in a fluid situation, Boeing’s earnings call comments suggest that the MAX’s notional return-to-service timeline and related ramifications are tenuous estimates.


Boeing has been working on software and training changes designed to convince regulators that the MAX is ready to fly again. While neither the FAA nor Boeing discussed public return-to-service timelines in the weeks after the grounding, Boeing was set to present a finalized version of its changes to the FAA in April when several issues cropped up. Boeing did not provide a revised timeline estimate until its recent second-quarter charge revelation. During Boeing’s second-quarter call, Muilenburg reiterated that Boeing’s current assumptions include delivering the final package detailing the changes to the FAA “in the September time frame.”


While next year’s 737 production plans remain in flux, Boeing has already decided to make changes in its 777 assembly plan to ensure it maintains its current rate even as delays push back the 777X’s debut.

“We continue to expect 777 delivery rates to be approximately 3.5 aircraft per month in 2019,” Muilenburg says. “Given the pressure around [the] 777X first-delivery timeline, we are reassessing the 2020 skyline. In light of the strong demand for our freighter line, we intend to mitigate some of the impact by producing more 777 current-generation freighters in 2020.”

“2020 skyline?”  Someone just won a game of corporate bullsh%$ bingo.

Stop worrying about the business, and start worrying about the damn planes.

Great Job, Nancy

Nancy Pelosi has been putting faux Democrats with a history of recruiting other faux Democrats since she has led the party in the House of Representatives.

I thought that she had truly scraped the bottom of the barrel with Steve Israel, who she literally praised as reptilian, but she has truly screwed the pooch with Cheri Bustos:

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee is in full-blown turmoil.

Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee Chairwoman Cheri Bustos (D-Ill.) was set to make an unplanned trip to Washington from her district Monday amid an outcry from top black and Latino lawmakers over a lack of diversity in the campaign arm’s senior management ranks.


POLITICO reported last week that black and Hispanic lawmakers are furious with Bustos’ stewardship of the campaign arm. They say the upper echelon of the DCCC is bereft of diversity, and it is not doing enough to reach Latino voters and hire consultants of color. In addition, several of Bustos’ senior aides have left in the first six months of her tenure, including her chief of staff — a black woman — and her director of mail and polling director, both women.

I would note that the complaint here is that the consultants of color aren’t getting the patronage jobs that they deserve.

In response to the outcry, Bustos has agreed to participate in diversity and inclusion training for DCCC employees. An August training had previously been scheduled for just staff.

“Chairwoman Bustos is coming back because she understands how important it is for her to hear from staff directly and to reassure them that we have a strong commitment to diversity and inclusion at every level,” said DCCC spokesman Jared Smith.

This is exactly what she said in response to the outrage of her setting up a blacklist for primary challengers.

She promised to listen, but then did nothing.

Rinse, lather, repeat.

“She plans to approve changes to the structure before she leaves town and wants to get staff input as we work to build a stronger DCCC and make sure our team, from senior leadership on down, reflects the full range of diversity that gives the Democratic Party its strength,” Smith added. “She looks forward to reaching out to her colleagues to get their input, address their concerns and update them on the progress we are making.”


The all-staff meeting was “very emotional all around,” according to a committee aide. Multiple employees of the campaign arm got visibly upset and at least one demanded to hear directly from Bustos about the ongoing issues. She was not present.

Of course she wasn’t there.  She does not give a sh%$ what the staff thinks.

Some employees expressed anger during the meeting that the campaign arm’s executive and deputy directors are not people of color. Others complained that only a small number of people of color are in positions reporting directly to Jaslow, contrary to Bustos’ past promises to increase diversity in the senior DCCC ranks.

In addition, DCCC employees worried about how the lingering tensions with Democratic lawmakers would affect the campaign arm’s ability to collect member dues.
One current staffer complained that this is the third issue during Bustos’ tenure that caught employees off guard. The other two were a controversial vendor blacklist and outcry over a planned fundraiser with a Democrat who opposes abortion rights.

She’s a conservative Democrat, she thinks that the only way that Democrats can win is to dog whistle to the Handmaiden’s Tale crowd and racists.

Unfortunately for Nancy Pelosi, Cheri Bustos is too crass, and perhaps too stupid pretend otherwise.

Democratic sources said an all-staff phone call with Bustos on Saturday didn’t go much better. The Illinois Democrat only “briefly” apologized for comments about her family’s racial background that had inflamed some lawmakers and DCCC employees. In response to complaints about the DCCC’s diversity, she has noted that her husband is of Mexican descent, that her children are half-Mexican and that her son is marrying an African-American woman.

Ah, the “Some of my best friends,” stratagem, which never really worked.


Bustos’ senior team did acknowledge anger among staffers that they did not know about the POLITICO article before it published. They promised to have a better internal communication strategy moving forward, according to multiple sources who participated in the call.

Shows that she does not have her staff’s back.


But multiple Democratic sources said they left Saturday’s call feeling like little is actually being done to address the diversity issues that have been simmering for months, or that Bustos understands the totality of the problem.

It’s not about  Bustos understanding anything, she just doesn’t care.

I don’t think that Pelosi cares either beyond the obvious optics.  Otherwise, she would not have appointed Bustos to such a sensitive position.

Bustos is heading the DCCC because Pelosi thinks that she has skills sucking up to rich ratf%$#s.

This has been the only criteria Pelosi has used for decades, and it’s finally biting her in the ass.


Well, Now We Know Why Barr Reactivated the Death Penalty

Needless to say, not only will the death penalty NOT be off the table, but I figure that the prosecution will be directed to try to fry him as quickly as possible.

For all the talk of Trump being a Russian stooge, he truly is the House of Saud’s rent boy, and if KSM is willing to rat out Riyadh, then the Donald Trump, and his stooge Bob Bill Barr will make sure that he never has that chance:

Alleged Sept. 11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed has opened the door to helping victims of the terrorist attacks in their lawsuit against Saudi Arabia if the U.S. government spares him the death penalty at a Guantanamo Bay military commission, according to court documents.

Mohammed’s offer was disclosed in a Friday filing in the victims’ federal lawsuit in New York, which accuses the Saudi government of helping coordinate the 2001 suicide attacks. Nearly 3,000 people were killed when terrorists crashed hijacked airliners into the World Trade Center, the Pentagon and, after passengers resisted, a Pennsylvania field. Riyadh has denied complicity in the attacks.

Separately, President Trump signed legislation Monday that pays for medical claims from victims of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, including first responders, for the rest of their lives.

In the lawsuit against Saudi Arabia, plaintiffs’ lawyers had requested depositions from three of the five Guantanamo detainees accused in the Sept. 11 conspiracy. In the Friday filing, a status letter to U.S. Magistrate Judge Sarah Netburn, the lawyers wrote that earlier Friday, Mohammed’s counsel told them their client wouldn’t consent to a deposition “at the present time.”

Mohammed’s lawyer said, however, that “the primary driver” of the decision was the “capital nature of the prosecution” and that “[i]n the absence of a potential death sentence much broader cooperation would be possible,” according to the filing.

His lawyers just signed his death warrant.

They will never let him testify against Saudi Arabia.

Judges Have Had It with These Mother-F%$#Ing Copyright Trolls in Their Mother-F%$#Ing Courts!

The law, which was almost never applied to copyright plaintiffs, was that if the defendant made a reasonable offer in negotiations, and the final judgement was less than that, then the plaintiff was responsible for all court costs of the defendant.

This judge is sick of this lawyer using her court as an extension racket, and so has demanded that a $50,000.00 bond be posted for such an eventuality.

In the last couple of years, lawyer Richard Liebowitz has really made a name for himself in copyright trolling circles. He’s quite aggressive, and even got a huge profile written about him at Slate, in which it notes that, unlike many trolls who focus purely on shakedown settlement letters, Liebowitz runs straight to court to leverage the power of an expensive court case to push for insane settlements. “Sue first and negotiate later.” The Hollywood Reporter has done its own profile on Liebowitz as well.

It appears that many of his cases have ended up before federal judge Denise Cote, who clearly sees through his scam. Last year, we noted her scolding him for his practices, including not following court rules. Cote even referred to him as a “copyright troll” — something that offended him so much he requested that it be redacted. That request not only failed, but Cote reiterated:

“His litigation strategy in this district fits squarely within the definition of a copyright troll.”

Liebowitz is back before Judge Cote yet again in one of his many cases, and it’s not going well. As pointed out by the copyright troll fighters at Booth Sweet, Liebowitz is busy setting precedents that are bad for copyright plaintiffs. In this particular case, the issue has to do with Rule 68 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. Under Rule 68, when sued, a defendant may make a settlement offer that includes some specific terms. 

In this particular case, Liebowitz, representing photographer Gregory Mango, sued Democracy Now!. Democracy Now! looked up how much Mango was licensing his photos for (a maximum of $220) and made a Rule 68 offer to settle for 5 times that amount. Liebowitz quickly turned the offer down, as he was seeking much more. But here’s the fun part of Rule 68. It’s part (d):

 Paying Costs After an Unaccepted Offer. If the judgment that the offeree finally obtains is not more favorable than the unaccepted offer, the offeree must pay the costs incurred after the offer was made.

Translated: If Mango/Liebowitz’s final judgment is less favorable than the ~$1,000 Democracy Now! offered under Rule 68, then Mango is on the hook for all of Democracy Now’s legal fees incurred after that offer was made. That is likely to be many thousands of dollars. As Booth Sweet notes, many courts have said that Rule 68 doesn’t apply to copyright cases, but in Cote’s latest ruling she says it does, and tells Liebowitz to post a bond for $50,000.

In other words, even if Mango “wins” the case, but gets less than $1,000, he may be on the hook for tens of thousands of dollars in legal fees.


As we’ve seen with similar trollish operation, Mathew Higbee, it’s unclear whether these trolling operations are fully informing their clients that this kind of litigation could leave the clients on the hook for paying the other side’s legal fees. Both Liebowitz and Higbee promote their services on their respective pages as nearly risk free. Liebowitz’s says: “We work on a contingency fee basis, meaning we don’t get paid unless and until you get paid.” Higbee’s reads: “We are results oriented, so most of the cases we handle even have a money back guarantee or are done on contingency.”

That’s probably why so many photographers are willing to jump on board — as it seems like a “free” way to get extra cash while doing nothing. But not realizing that you may be opening yourself up to quite a bit of liability for filing bogus copyright lawsuits seems like a problem. Actually, it seems like a risk that a good lawyer would explain to his or her clients before signing them up. One wonders whether or not Liebowitz actually warns his clients of such a risk.

I am pretty sure that the lawyers don’t warn their clients about this, but I’m pretty sure that a lot of judges will require them to notify their clients in the future.

Headline of the Day

Better to Have a Few Rats Than to Be One

Baltimore Sun Editorial Board

This is in response to Trump’s latest tirade against Elijah Cummings, where he slams the Congressman and his district, basically relegates Baltimore to his list of “sh%$ holes”.

Needless to say, residents of the Charm City, and I consider myself one, though I live in the suburb of Owings Mills, are less than amused at the Donald’s latest tantrum.

On edit.

Nancy Pelosi, Baltimore native and daughter of former mayor Tommy D’Alesandro, is unamused by this as well.

Well, this Explains Bird and Lime

One of the incessant tropes of the draw-by-crayon libertarians is that doing harm to the public is simply bad business.

To quote the Bard of Baltimore, this ,”Is an answer that is clear, simple, and wrong.”

It tuens out that there are many ways in which a business can profit from doing harm, and streets strewn with haphazardly parked scooters is the least of it:

Arlie Russell Hochschild’s Strangers In Their Own Land profiles residents of deeply conservative parts of Louisiana, pondering why they are so opposed to government environmental regulations even as they suffer from environmental catastrophes that stricter regulations could have prevented. I don’t wish here to dive into the many reasons why that is. Instead, I’d like to look at one popular belief that pops up in the book that is very easy to believe but also very wrong. When Hochschild talks to people about the 2010 BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill, she discovers that they are all strongly opposed to Barack Obama’s temporary moratorium on deep sea drilling, even though they were also appalled by the spill. One of the interviewees says the following:

“It’s not in the company’s own interest to have a spill or an accident. They try hard… so if there’s a spill, it’s probably the best the company could do.”

 I think it’s easy to see why people believe this. There’s actually a persuasive-sounding logic to it. Many libertarian economists believe it entirely. The argument, expanded a bit, goes: The fact that corporations pursue their own financial self-interest means that regulation is not needed. A company that causes disasters is certainly not helping its own profits. BP didn’t want to spill all that oil in the Gulf, obviously. BP has every incentive to avoid oil spills, because they want to keep the oil! Accidents happen, no company is perfect, but ultimately profits and safety coincide. A corporate executive who bungles like this is not actually pursuing the self-interest of the company, and so when corporations produce environmental catastrophes it is not because they are pathologically self-interested, but rather because they were not pursuing their self-interest well enough. Greed is still good.


It’s true that accidents themselves are not in a company’s self-interest, in that no company gains anything from a horrible accident that destroys their equipment (and possibly their employees’ lives, though from a company’s perspective employees are fungible). But “the behavior that produces accidents” can absolutely be in a company’s self-interest, and accidents don’t always sufficiently damage a company’s self-interest to make it worthwhile to avoid them. Eating the cost of a few accidents here and there might end up being more profitable than extreme precaution.


A Friedmanite, i.e. sociopathic, company only has incentives not to hurt people to the extent that there are strong external institutions, in the form of government, media, consumer groups, and labor groups, that can create those incentives. If hurting people doesn’t cost money, then it isn’t in the interest of companies to avoid cheap, risky practices. The “expected return” on a dangerously risky move might be high enough that it is “economically rational” (not to be confused with being “actually rational”).

It’s also important to remember that just because a gamble doesn’t pay off, doesn’t mean it was the wrong move. Even if there are strong coercive external institutions that punish toxic cloud emission, and mean that if you emit the toxic cloud your company will be severely hurt, a company might still take the gamble on Method A, because the potential rewards are so high. If there’s a 99/100 chance that by pressing a given button you get a billion dollars, and a 1/100 chance that you’ll be instantly killed, “self interest” doesn’t necessarily dictate that you’ll stay away from the button. It depends on whether you’re feeling lucky. The 2008 financial crisis was like this. People made piles and piles of money of risky investments, until they didn’t. They weren’t necessarily “failing to pursue their own interest” just because they took risks. For many of them, it was probably a smart move that turned out well. Every company takes risks. What if playing dice with people’s lives actually turns out to be good for BP, on the whole? It might go wrong once or twice, but what if overall they make out pretty well from putting quantity of oil over safety, because the oil makes up for the accident costs? Then what?


BP certainly wants to convince the ordinary Louisianans that Hochschild talked to that the company is a partner and friend. Why would we want to hurt you? We’re all in this together! We’re bringing you jobs. We’re cleaning up the spill, and we certainly don’t want another. Don’t believe them. Milton Friedman was quite clear: All they want is money, and if they can convince people that “big government” is bad and regulation is unnecessary, then environmental destruction is costless. (The companies tearing down the Amazon rainforests, and displacing native populations, are behaving precisely as Friedman would have wanted.) Doing harm is only bad for business if we make it bad for business.

I am beginning to think that if corporations are legal people, then most of them need to be committed to a hospital for the criminally insane.