Month: 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:


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.

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.

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.


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.

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.


This is literally every newspaper movie ever made:

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.

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 Țepeș, AKA Vlad the Impaler, AKA Vlad Drakul, the source of the Dracula story. Do I have to explain EVERYTHING?

A Good Idea

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.

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?



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.

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.

— Jake Maccoby (@jdmaccoby) November 22, 2019

It’s a fail, but it’s an EPIC fail.