19 March 2018

Taking, "Move Fast and Break Things," Too Far

Well, it looks like the, "Laws for are for losers," crowd in Silicon Valley have taken their reckless disregard for our safety and that of the world into space:
On 12 January, a Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV) rocket blasted off from India’s eastern coast. While its primary cargo was a large Indian mapping satellite, dozens of secondary CubeSats from other countries traveled along with it. Seattle-based Planetary Resources supplied a spacecraft that will test prospecting tools for future asteroid miners, Canadian company Telesat launched a broadband communications satellite, and a British Earth-observation mission called Carbonite will capture high-definition video of the planet’s surface.

Also on board were four small satellites that probably should not have been there. SpaceBee-1, 2, 3, and 4 were briefly described by the Indian space agency ISRO as “two-way satellite communications and data relay” devices from the United States. No operator was specified, and only ISRO publicly noted that they successfully reached orbit the same day.

IEEE Spectrum can reveal that the SpaceBees are almost certainly the first spacecraft from a Silicon Valley startup called Swarm Technologies, currently still in stealth mode. Swarm was founded in 2016 by one engineer who developed a spacecraft concept for Google and another who sold his previous company to Apple. The SpaceBees were built as technology demonstrators for a new space-based Internet of Things communications network.

Swarm believes its network could enable satellite communications for orders of magnitude less cost than existing options. It envisages the worldwide tracking of ships and cars, new agricultural technologies, and low cost connectivity for humanitarian efforts anywhere in the world. The four SpaceBees would be the first practical demonstration of Swarm’s prototype hardware and cutting-edge algorithms, swapping data with ground stations for up to eight years.

The only problem is, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) had dismissed Swarm’s application for its experimental satellites a month earlier, on safety grounds. The FCC is responsible for regulating commercial satellites, including minimizing the chance of accidents in space. It feared that the four SpaceBees now orbiting the Earth would pose an unacceptable collision risk for other spacecraft.

If confirmed, this would be the first ever unauthorized launch of commercial satellites.
(emphasis mine)

This is nuts, and it happens because tech in general, and Silicon Valley in particular, have become criminogenic cultures.

To stop this, we need to start aggressively jailing people who do sh%$ like this.

What's more, we need to aggressively target the VCs who fund this sort of behavior.

Willful blindness doesn't cut it.

Of Course it was Uber

Why am I not surprised that the first self driving care that ran down a pedestrian was an Uber:
Arizona officials saw opportunity when Uber and other companies began testing driverless cars a few years ago. Promising to keep oversight light, they invited the companies to test their robotic vehicles on the state’s roads.

Then on Sunday night, an autonomous car operated by Uber — and with an emergency backup driver behind the wheel — struck and killed a woman on a street in Tempe, Ariz. It was believed to be the first pedestrian death associated with self-driving technology. The company quickly suspended testing in Tempe as well as in Pittsburgh, San Francisco and Toronto.

The accident was a reminder that self-driving technology is still in the experimental stage, and governments are still trying to figure out how to regulate it.

Uber, Waymo and a long list of tech companies and automakers have begun to expand testing of their self-driving vehicles in cities around the country. The companies say the cars will be safer than regular cars simply because they take easily distracted humans out of the driving equation. But the technology is still only about a decade old, and just now starting to experience the unpredictable situations that drivers can face.
There will no doubt be an investigation, and unless I miss my guess, they will find that Uber cut some corners, and that this contributed to the accident.  It's a core part of their corporate DNA.

I Gotta Figure that Kennedy Called Bullsh%$ on this Appeal

The other 4 conservatives on the court are political hacks, so the US Supreme Court's refusal to review the Pennsylvania Supreme Court's redistricting decision was driven by Kennedy ensuring that they would lose, and they did not want to fight a losing battle.
The Supreme Court on Monday turned down a request from Republican legislative leaders in Pennsylvania to block a redrawn congressional map that creates more parity between the political parties in the state.

The practical impact is the 2018 elections are likely to be held under a map much more favorable to Democrats, who scored an apparent victory last week in a special election in a strongly Republican congressional district. The 2011 map that has been used this decade has resulted in Republicans consistently winning 13 of the state’s 18 congressional seats.

Monday’s action was the second time that the court declined to get involved in the partisan battle that has roiled Pennsylvania politics. The commonwealth’s highest court earlier this year ruled that a map drawn by Republican leaders in 2011 “clearly, plainly and palpably” violated the free-and-equal-elections clause of the Pennsylvania Constitution.
The PA court decision was rooted entirely on the Pennsylvania state constitution.

In fact, it could be argued that the Pennsylvania opinion was carefully drafted to avoid any possibility of a federal issue , and as such a Supreme Court review would be highly unusual.

Of course, that didn't stop Kennedy in Bush v. Gore, but I think that the sh%$ that he got over that may have been a learning experience for him.

November in Pennsylvania should be rather interesting.

Oh, You Delicate Snowflakes....

It appears that comedian Jim Carrey has taken up political cartoons as a hobby, and his latest, which is clearly of Sarah Huckabee Sanders, has resulted in Talibaptist Republicans and Fox News completely losing their sh%$.

Seriously Republicans, if you can't stand up to Ace Ventura, Pet Dick, how can you stand up to ISIS?

I'm not a fan of Carrey's artistic stylings, but this butt hurt is really just pathetic.

More Cowbell!!!!

A vegan nut-job* activist in Switzerland has been denied citizenship in for a campaign against cowbells:
A longtime resident of Switzerland has been refused a passport because of her outspoken campaign against cowbells. Vegan animal rights activist Nancy Holten, who was born in the Netherlands but has lived in Switzerland since she was eight years old, has been labelled a "big mouth" by the resident committee in her village that has rejected her citizenship application twice.

Holten's argument? Wearing heavy metal bells around their necks is causing Switzerland's roaming cows physical pain and distress. Switzerland's argument? Cows look damn good in bells, especially when they're roaming around in the picturesque alps. Also, tourists are charmed by them.

In Switzerland, citizenship applications are partially assessed by a committee of residents who live in the same district as the applicant. It would appear that Holten is unpopular among some in her village of Gipf-Oberfrick, with a local representative of the Swiss People's Party Tanja Suter telling the Swiss media that she "annoys us and doesn't respect our traditions."

Cow bells aren't the only cause on Holten's mind. The self-described freelance journalist, author, model and drama student has staged multiple campaigns against other beloved national pastimes like hunting and piglet racing. According to Swiss news site The Local, the sounds of church bells irritate her too. Does this woman even eat Lindt balls?
You know, cow bells would not be my choice for a hill to die on, but whatever.

*The nut job has nothing to do with being a vegan, and everything to do with freaking out over f%$#ing cowbells.

A Good Point

The folks at (where else) Jacobin make a point that is shocking, illuminating, and true.

Specifically they note that private property could only has begun as theft backed up by the threat of violence, which in a very real way, makes all property stolen:
Perhaps the most interesting thing about libertarian thought is that it has no way of coherently justifying the initial acquisition of property. How does something that was once unowned become owned without nonconsensually destroying others’ liberty? It is impossible. This means that libertarian systems of thought literally cannot get off the ground. They are stuck at time zero of hypothetical history with no way forward.
Obviously, our current society could not function without property, but it does put the whole concept of eternal property that is so beloved of libertarians and the neoliberal order in some much needed perspective.


BTW, the sculpture, wasn't removed, it was just relocated further away from the sanctuary:

18 March 2018

Quote of the Day

The problem isn't simply that these people weren't prosecuted (though they should have been). It's that they weren't even shamed enough to think that maybe the public spotlight wasn't the best thing for them.
Duncan "Atrios" Black
Atrios is talking about the torturers, like Gina Haspel, who were emboldened by Obama's refusal to persecute even the worst of them.

Obama's decision to, "Look forward, not back," on torture did not put the chapter behind us, because, not only did it not put torture behind us, it Endorsed torture and torturers.

Barack Obama, and his AG at the time, Eric "Place" Holder are not stupid people, and they had to know that a failure to prosecute constituted and endorsement of torture.

Tweet of the Day (Possibly the Tweet of the Millenium)

This is pure brilliance.

16 March 2018

Tweet of the Day

This reminds me of this scene in Life of Brian.


The Lexington has been found:

15 March 2018

Quote of the Day

Kobach wants to be governor, which is not something Kansas deserves. Hell, it’s not what Hell deserves.
Charlie Pierce
Oh snap!

A Good Point on the Qualcomm/Broadcom Mess

It's has the kibosh put on this because CFIUS determined that it was a threat to US security.

This was not because the Singaporean firm Broadcom was a security risk by its actions or its location, but because it is aggressively leveraged to grow through acquisitions, while Qualcomm invests heavily in technology.

They explicitly said that the Private Equity/Hedge Fund type operations constitute a threat to American technological accomplishments, because it results in disinvestments.

The only conclusion that one can reach then is that the whole Private Equity/Hedge Fund business model is a threat to America:
By the normal standards of U.S. national security, the government’s ruling on Tuesday to delay and potentially derail the acquisition of high-tech company Qualcomm by the Singaporean company Broadcom was startlingly smart and gobsmackingly wonderful.

It was smart because it extended its definition of U.S. security interests to maintaining our advantage in the development of the most advanced forms of technology, in this case, the 5G communications systems that will be critical to both driverless cars and network security in coming decades. The government’s Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS for short) wrote that it feared that if Qualcomm, the nation’s leading developer of 5G technology, were purchased by Broadcom, its research would suffer and a Chinese high-tech company, Huawei, would likely surge past it to become the global leader in security technology.

In the past, CFIUS has blocked several Huawei attempts to purchase U.S. tech companies because they would have involved the transfer of security-related technology to a company that CFIUS has demonstrated has ties to the Chinese military. CFIUS—an interagency committee headed by the Treasury Department, but also consisting of more than a dozen departments and agencies, ranging from Defense to Commerce—is in the business of ruling on potential foreign purchases of U.S. companies that have national security implications. Tuesday’s ruling was groundbreaking in that the issue wasn’t whether Singapore’s Broadcom itself posed a security risk by favoring the Chinese—nothing in the CFIUS letter even hinted at that—but rather, that the purchase might simply reduce Qualcomm’s capacity to conduct high-end research, thereby enabling Huawei and the Chinese to develop advanced technology before we do, which could give them a military advantage.

But why would Qualcomm’s purchase by Broadcom diminish Qualcomm’s commitment to research? This is the gobsmacking part of the CFIUS letter.

Because, in the words of the letter, “Broadcom’s statements indicate that it is looking to take a ‘private-equity’-style direction if it acquires Qualcomm, which means reducing long-term investment, such as R&D, and focusing on short-term profitability.”

Let that sink in for a moment. The staffers of CFIUS—probably the most business- and security-savvy civil servants in the government, headed by those at Treasury—are saying that the private-equity control of companies, which is a dominant feature of current American capitalism, reduces investment and results in profit extraction. CFIUS does not go on to say that the purchase of U.S. companies not only by foreign companies but by U.S. private equity firms, too, also leads to reduced investments and the kind of profit extraction that has enriched the 1 percent at the expense of other Americans; that’s not CFIUS’s mission. But having baldly stated that private equity leads to profit extraction, that’s the inescapable conclusion that any reader of CFIUS’s letter must reach.

The CFIUS letter goes on to specify the way in which Broadcom follows the private equity model of purchasing companies by taking on debt, and paying off that debt by reducing expenditures and funneling revenue into profits. “Broadcom has lined up $106 billion of debt financing to support the Qualcomm acquisition,” CFIUS writes, “which would be the largest corporate acquisition loan on record. This debt load could increase pressure for short-term profitability, potentially to the detriment of longer-term investments. The volume of recent acquisitions by Broadcom has increased the company’s profits and market capitalization, but these acquisitions have been followed by reductions in R&D investment.”
This is not something I would expect from the Trump administration.

I can only conclude that the higher ups only read the recommendations, and not the explanation.

The way I would, and have, put this, is that, "There is nothing that cannot be ruined by an application of modern American Financial techniques."