Later On

A blog written for those whose interests more or less match mine.

Archive for December 19th, 2019

Airplanes and Accounting Games: The Coming Boeing Collapse?

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Matt Stoller writes at Big:

One of the weirder aspects of the Boeing scandals is that the corporation has had significant operational difficulties for 20 years, and yet the stock has done quite well. Even before the 737 Max, the company was bleeding cost overruns. As Maureen Tkacik wrote in the New Republic, the 787 Dreamliner, was budgeted to cost $7 billion for development, but ultimately cost between $30-50 billion (which was both development and manufacturing). That’s a lot of money! Where are the losses?

One hint comes in this headline of a Wall Street Journal story from 2016, before the 737 Max scandals started: “Boeing’s Unique Accounting Method Helps Improve Profit Picture.” Unique is doing a LOT of rhetorical work in this headline. Here’s the nut paragraph:

Boeing is one of the few companies that uses a technique called program accounting. Rather than booking the huge costs of building the advanced 787 or other aircraft as it pays the bills, Boeing—with the blessing of its auditors and regulators and in line with accounting rules—defers those costs, spreading them out over the number of planes it expects to sell years into the future. That allows the company to include anticipated future profits in its current earnings. The idea is to give investors a read on the health of the company’s long-term investments.

In other words, Boeing’s accounting is not about presenting an accurate presentation of losses and profits, but about hiding risk. Obama’s Securities and Exchange Commission in 2016 was apparently investigating, but in keeping with tradition, they didn’t do anything to enforce rules against the powerful, and in all likelihood Trump has continued this bipartisan approach.

Boeing has significant development costs associated with the 737 Max, which is inherently the case for all large complex aircraft systems. The problem is that accounting for these costs have been pushed into the future based on anticipated sales, which is risky but manageable IF you can build safe aircraft airliners want to buy. But unfortunately for Boeing and anyone who wants a good aerospace industry, that was a big if. And now that the risk has turned into catastrophe, the accounting probably doesn’t make sense. There are large losses to write off, or hide somewhere. (UPDATE: Here’s Boeing’s correspondence with the SEC re: the 737 Max).

And this is where Boeing’s leadership comes in. In July, I wrote one of the first pieces analyzing the destructive corporate structure of Boeing, looking back at the merger with McDonnell Douglas and the financialization of a once great aerospace company. One very serious problem with Boeing is that its leadership has not shown itself capable of making safe aircraft. What it is good at doing is harvesting cash through short-term activities and political influence, which you would expect considering that our public policy framework encourages such activity. Just look at the Board of Directors, these are business and political leaders who excel at monopolization and financial manipulation. (I don’t say this to judge – hate the game, not the player. But it is what it is. I put the administration they served under in parentheses, so you’ll know it’s a bipartisan board.) . . .

Continue reading. There’s much more.

Written by LeisureGuy

19 December 2019 at 7:39 pm

What is an impeachable offense for the President?

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A very good answer on Quora from Lee Thé:

The best equivalent to the impeachment process isn’t conviction for a crime in the court system, but rather to firing someone from a job.

You can’t appeal a Senate conviction of impeachment to any court, which proves that impeachment is a process outside the criminal justice system AND outside the civil justice system as well.

Also people don’t understand what the Constitution means by the phrase “high crimes and misdemeanors,” The “high” part refers to the status of the government official being considered for impeachment, not the “height” of the crime. It means that any wrongdoing or even simple incompetence demonstrated by someone in a position of public trust and power is to be judged by a higher standard than if someone not in a position of public trust and power did the same thing.

The Constitution’s wording says to me that impeachment is like firing an executive for cause. Many people argue that the House can impeach someone for any reason at all or even no reason, but the Constitution gives some examples of impeachable offenses—including bribery and treason and the aforementioned “high crimes and misdemeanors,” which reinforces the commonsense notion that you’d better have a good reason.

Above all the requirement of having a 2/3 vote in the Senate to do the deed means it has to be serious. If the Framers wanted impeachment to be for any reason they would have only required a simple majority.

The Republicans impeached Bill Clinton for lying under oath, they intone sanctimoniously, not for the cause of the lying, which was his embarrassment over a consensual sexual relationship with a subordinate, which had nothing to do with his duties as President.

However, it was obvious to most Americans that lying under oath due to embarrassment about legal—albeit scuzzy—actions that didn’t impact his job performance wasn’t remotely good enough to warrant firing him.

Moreover, it was an example of a prosecutor’s trick: if the prosecutor wants to “get” someone but doesn’t have justification for doing so within the prosecutor’s real reasons, ask your target some questions under oath that have no relationship to what you have against your target, but which your target is embarrassed about, in hopes that he’ll lie about them. Which is what Clinton did.

Prosecutors shouldn’t be allowed to do this—particularly when the behavior being asked about isn’t even a crime. Just really embarrassing.

Corporate CEOs have been fired for having affairs with subordinates, I admit. So you could argue that this is reason to fire a CEO. On the other hand, firing a CEO—even of a Fortune 500 corporation—isn’t remotely as momentous as firing the American president.

So while we should hold the President to a higher standard—as we should any public official—that needs to be balanced against the immense disruption and dissension that would be caused by ejecting the President from his office. Even when his replacement is doctrinally acceptable to most Republicans who voted for Trump.

So I’d focus on a “higher standard” pertaining to actions within the scope of the job, not so much on his (or her) extracurricular activities—including lying about legal-but-shameful action under oath.

What, then, would rise to the level of justifying the tsuris that would be caused by firing the Prez?

Our starting point must be the Constitution’s language: “Treason, Bribery, or other high Crimes and Misdemeanors.” To which I’d add the emoluments clause: “And no Person holding any Office of Profit or Trust under them, shall, without the Consent of the Congress, accept of any present, Emolument, Office, or Title, of any kind whatever, from any King, Prince, or foreign State.”

Let’s break down each of these.

Treason:

“Treason against the United States, shall consist only in levying War against them, or in adhering to their Enemies, giving them Aid and Comfort. No Person shall be convicted of Treason unless on the Testimony of two Witnesses to the same overt Act, or on Confession in open Court.”

Imagine if the CEO of Boeing turned out to be secretly working for Airbus, sending them plans for new aircraft and details of sales in the works. That would surely be “adhering to their enemies.”

Or suppose the President’s personal businesses were heavily debt-financed by entities tied to a hostile foreign nation, and the President kept this indebtedness secret and skewed American foreign policy in various way detrimental to America but beneficial to that very same hostile foreign nation?

Bribery:

Bribery isn’t defined in the Constitution, but “the Founders had a broader conception of bribery than what’s in the criminal code. Their understanding was derived from English law, under which bribery was understood as an officeholder’s abuse of the power of an office to obtain a private benefit rather than for the public interest.

The Constitution Says ‘Bribery’ Is Impeachable. What Does That Mean?

Note that the Republican Party is not only lying about this, acting as if the federal bribery statute is what the Constitution means, but also lying about what the federal statute means.

“A quid pro quo need not be stated in express terms; corrupt actors are seldom so clumsy, and the law may not be evaded through winks and nods.”

The Constitution Says ‘Bribery’ Is Impeachable. What Does That Mean?

And since there was no federal bribery law until 1853, the Founders weren’t referring to it. Most GOP congressmen are lawyers, so they know this stuff, which means they’ are lying to deceive the public rather than simply mis- or un- informed. Which makes them corrupt actors, except for those who have objected to their party’s lying about this. And those are…anyone? Anyone at all?

Note also that the Founders’ use of “bribery” and “extortion” overlapped largely. You could call extortion “coercive bribery.” Nor did it matter whether the public official was making or taking the bribe. It was the aim of private benefit for the officeholder that was the point. Nor do Supreme Court rulings on the scope of the federal bribery statutes matter, because they don’t apply to impeachment. Remember, impeachment convictions can’t be appealed to the courts.

And “nothing worried the Founders more than the possibility that the president would be corrupted by a foreign power.” [ibid]

For example—speaking purely hypothetically—suppose the President’s main source of financing was an enemy country—and this president concealed the fact by refusing to release his tax returns, but then made decision after decision that benefited the enemy country and harmed his or own country.

That might not fit the federal statute about bribery, but it would fit the Constitutional use of the word in the context of impeachment.

On the other hand—again, just speaking hypothetically—if a President were to orchestrate a campaign against an allied country to provide something of value to the President but not the country in exchange for aid to that country, all with a wink and a nod, as in “Nice country you got there buddy—shame if something happened to it,” that would fit the narrowest definition of bribery in the federal statute as well as the constitutional sense of “abuse of power.”

That is, if you hold a gun to someone’s head and then say “Please sir, if it’s no trouble, would you please consider giving me all the money in your wallet? Entirely up to you of course,” that’s armed robbery. Telling the jury “Hey I never said it was a robbery” would get you nowhere. Unless there was a Republican on the jury I suppose.

High crimes & misdemeanors:

Funny how the Grand Originalism Party forgets what this term meant to the Founders whenever one of their own is on the chopping block. The term derives from English law, and includes the following as grounds for impeachment under this term: military mismanagement (going to war with the wrong country would certainly qualify), neglect of duty or sheer ineptitude (like spending half of each day watching Fox News Channel or golfing, on average, for example), giving the sovereign bad advice, especially about foreign affairs (like England’s Prime Minister mal-advising the queen), abuse of power (not necessarily falling under criminal statutes).

The Common Misconception About ‘High Crimes and Misdemeanors’

Meaning that the Founders believed the grounds for impeachment were pretty much what the Board of Directors of a Fortune 500 corporation would believe comprise grounds for firing the CEO.

Meaning that criminal behavior is far less a factor than just doing the job badly.

After all, administering the laws and policies of the most powerful nation on Earth is a big deal. Imagine how much damage could be done to our nation by a self-absorbed nitwit even if he doesn’t break any criminal statutes—much less if he both misadministers the country AND breaks criminal statutes right and left.

Oh wait. I don’t have to imagine.

Written by LeisureGuy

19 December 2019 at 5:37 pm

A Year Inside a Growing American Terrorist Movement

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In New York, Photo Portfolio By Mark Peterson, Introduction By Claudia Rankine, and Reporting by James D. Walsh:

When Dylann Storm Roof walked into the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina, he joined the Bible-study class before gunning down nine African-Americans as they prayed.

Roof still communicates with his admirers on the outside. In jail, he began exchanging letters with a man in Arkansas named Billy Roper. A former schoolteacher and the son and grandson of Klansmen, Roper leads the Shield Wall Network, a group of several dozen white nationalists who organize rallies and conferences — often collaborating with neighboring hate groups — with the goal of building a white ethno-state. “I have a lot of empathy for him. I’m 47, and he’s young enough to be my son,” Roper said of Roof when interviewed recently for this project. “These millennials and now, I guess, Gen-Zers that are coming up, they are not stupid about the demographic trends and what they portend for the future. That angst, that anxiety that plagues them, drives them to do rash things — whether it’s that rash or not — I can empathize with.” I would humbly suggest we believe that Roper is being sincere, and that he speaks for many.

Roper and Roof are only two of those affiliated with the 148 white-nationalist hate groups in this country. Though it is impossible to calculate their exact membership numbers (as individual groups either conceal or inflate them), their violence is indisputable. White supremacists were responsible for the deaths of at least 39 people in 2018 alone. And the activity has not slowed this year: not in January, as neo-Nazis plastered flyers outside newspaper offices and homes in Washington State and the Carolinas and an army veteran pleaded guilty to killing a black man in New York to “ignite a racial war”; in February, as Vermont synagogues and LGBT centers were vandalized and a self-described white-nationalist Coast Guard lieutenant was arrested for plotting a domestic terror attack; in March, as WELCOME TO GERMANY and GAS THE JEWS were spray-painted outside Oklahoma City Democratic Party and Chickasaw Nation offices and, on the Upper East Side, classmates handed their school’s only black ninth-grader a note reading “n—–s don’t have rights”; in April, as a shooting at a synagogue left one dead and three injured and FBI Director Christopher Wray called white supremacy a “persistent, pervasive” threat to the country; in May, as swastikas fell from the sky — on flyers dropped by drones outside an Ariana Grande concert — and were scrawled on public spaces in at least three states; in June, as far-right groups rallied in Portland, Oregon, for the first time that summer; in July, as a man promoted a white-power manifesto on Instagram before killing three and wounding 17 others at the Gilroy Garlic Festival in California; in August, as another angry young man — this one 1,000 miles away in El Paso, Texas — posted an anti-immigrant manifesto online then committed this year’s most deadly mass shooting, killing 22 and injuring 24 at a Walmart; in September, as the Department of Homeland Security added white-supremacist extremism to its list of priority threats, the same month a swastika appeared on its walls; in October, as swastikas also appeared on Cape Cod and invitations to a white-supremacist gathering were mailed to Maine residents; in November, as a white-supremacist group filmed a video outside Mississippi’s Emmett Till Memorial; nor this month, as students flashed possible white-power signs at an Army-Navy football game.

The photojournalist Mark Peterson has documented this year, traveling the country to surface the extent of the activity and catalogue the most dangerous ideologies. His quotidian look at contemporary American Confederacy and white nationalism shows us our neighbors in other robes. The people portrayed are living among us in every region of the country, in our workplaces, in our government, on social media, and, for some, in our homes. Their culture is made up of both public rallies and private rituals. We see their homes and their streets and their schools, and that these are also our streets and our schools and our neighbors. “These pictures weren’t just taken in the South,” says Peterson, who covers the right wing and began documenting the rise of white nationalism after the 2016 election. “They were taken in New York, in New Jersey, in California, in Portland. The idea of quarantining it or ignoring it: That didn’t work in the past when they tried to do that, and it won’t now.”

The barrage of daily headlines makes it easy to see this year’s incidents as isolated, as white noise in the background of our relentless political moment. But as disturbing as they are, these images portray the American story. It is our inheritance, institutionalized since the Civil War by a government that only recently, and tentatively, began to address domestic terrorism for what it is. White nationalism, legitimized by our president’s support of “very fine people,” has flourished in part because of this refusal to look it squarely in its face and acknowledge it as homegrown. Without a full accounting of the reality, there can be no remedy. To look away is a form of collaboration. —Claudia Rankine

HATE ON THE RISE

After a white supremacist killed 51 people in two New Zealand mosques in March, President Trump was asked if he thought the threat of white nationalism was on the rise. “I don’t, really,” he responded. “I think it’s a small group of people that have very, very serious problems.”

Hate-crime statistics are notoriously difficult to calculate. Local and state law-enforcement agencies are not required to submit numbers to the FBI, laws defining hate crimes vary from state to state, and experts estimate that more than half of all hate crimes go unreported. According to the FBI, hate-crime violence hit a 16-year high in 2018 with the black, Jewish, Latino, and transgender communities being targeted more than ever and the nation’s largest cities seeing the most activity. The FBI’s 2019 numbers won’t be available until next November, but indications suggest they will continue to trend upward. The most deadly mass shooting of 2019 was committed by a xenophobic extremist in El Paso, Texas. “Lone wolf” killers have found their pack.

Continue reading. There’s much more. Photos at the link showing a meme that, unlike Christianity, is gaining ground in the US.

Written by LeisureGuy

19 December 2019 at 3:30 pm

Posted in Daily life, Evolution, Memes

Christianity meme fading in 21st century America

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The above chart is from a Wall Street Journal article. Meme evolution in action.

Written by LeisureGuy

19 December 2019 at 3:20 pm

Posted in Daily life, Evolution, Memes

Which Xmas ornament doesn’t belong?

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The ornament is the face of my grand-cat Wheezy, whose mom is The Eldest. The other cat, Harry, is too mature for such shenanigans.

Written by LeisureGuy

19 December 2019 at 3:17 pm

Posted in Cats, Daily life

Sandalwood and Savory Rose, and the wonderful Maggard V3A

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Both consumable products are no longer available — Geo. F. Trumper Sandalwood shaving soap has been reformulated and the production outsourced, and Saint Charles Shave has closed its doors. But they both live on for a while for some, and I enjoyed both this morning. Mr Pomp, the shaving brush, is also an orphan and had only a brief market life, and I feel lucky that I got one. The lather this morning was wonderful, though the sandalwood fragrance was more muted than the Art of Shaving sandalwood shaving soap (which, I hear, is made by Valobra).

Three comfortable passes with the Maggard V3A — still very much available, and I would say very much worth getting — left my face totally smooth, and Savory Rose is a very nice fragrance indeed.

For the originalists:

Written by LeisureGuy

19 December 2019 at 8:19 am

Posted in Shaving

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