As a former holder of TSLA stock (pre-Musk’s purchase of Twitter), I’m sort of enjoying TSLA’s loss of half its value in 6 months. It still seems overpriced, to me, and should really be more akin to what GM or FORD trade at, especially since Elon Musk has been revealed as a bad CEO.
Corporate news from all over
Real ID Deadline for Domestic Fliers is Extended Yet Again
Who will have the courage to end this Bush-era overreaction to the 9/11 attack?
Debra Kamin, NYT reports:
After years of delays, security-enhanced driver’s licenses and other updated identification requirements were set to be mandatory next spring. Now the government is giving you another two years.
The 2005 Real ID Act, which mandates that U.S. travelers must carry more than a standard driver’s license to board a domestic flight, was set to go into effect on May 3, 2023. But on Monday, after some 15 years of delays, the Department of Homeland Security pushed the deadline for enforcement by an additional 24 months. Travelers now have until May 7, 2025, to update their documents.
The Real ID Act is a post-Sept. 11 law that requires U.S. travelers flying within the United States to show Transportation Security Administration agents either a security-enhanced driver’s license or another T.S.A.-approved form of identification like a passport. When the act eventually goes into effect, a state driver’s license that does not contain a Real ID seal will no longer be accepted at airport security checkpoints across the country.
(click here to continue reading Real ID Deadline for Domestic Fliers is Extended. Again. at The New York Times.)
One China Policy Is Polite Fiction
One China Policy is polite fiction, at best. A nation of millions simply does not vanish because their antagonistic neighbor wants them to.
The island democracy governs itself, but China claims it as its territory. Rumors of Pelosi’s visit launched a geopolitical firestorm amid escalating tensions between the U.S. and China.
The Taiwanese government has operated separately from the mainland since nationalists fled there after losing the civil war to communists in 1949. Thirty years later, the U.S. switched diplomatic recognition from Taipei to Beijing, adopting what’s known as the “One China” policy, in which Washington acknowledges Beijing’s position that Taiwan is a part of China. However, the U.S. has never supported China’s claim of sovereignty over Taiwan and maintains a substantial, though unofficial, relationship with the island.
Pelosi penned an opinion piece published by the Washington Post upon her arrival citing the Taiwan Relations Act as establishing a commitment to Taiwan’s democracy and defense, adding, “We must stand by Taiwan, which is an island of resilience.” She said Taiwan is under threat by the government in Beijing economically, in cyberspace, and potentially by military force.
By law, the U.S. is obligated to provide Taiwan with weapons and services. But the U.S. policy of “strategic ambiguity” keeps open the question of whether it would intervene in the case of a military invasion by China. The Biden administration has been accused of mixed messaging on this, after Biden said on multiple occassions that the U.S. would come to Taiwan’s defense; a sentiment the White House walked back.
The Chinese government remains adamantly opposed to any official exchanges between Taiwan’s government and other foreign governments, and views official American contact with Taiwan as an indication of support for its independence.
(click here to continue reading House Speaker Nancy Pelosi lands in Taiwan : NPR.)
The issue, besides military posturing, is economics. American businesses rely heavily upon both China and Taiwan, any additional escalation will be devastating to economies of the world.
From the People’s Republic of China perspective, One China policy is akin to Putin’s One Russia policy, namely that everywhere Russia once held territory, it should take it back, by force if necessary. The PRC hated Hong Kong when it has democracy so took action to crush independent Hong Kong, and hates that Taiwan is thriving capitalist democracy right across the Taiwan Strait. There is real danger that the PRC has plans to invade Taiwan, or otherwise attack it, and they should be stopped.
From Speaker Pelosi’s OpEd:
Today, America must remember that vow. We must stand by Taiwan, which is an island of resilience. Taiwan is a leader in governance: currently, in addressing the covid-19 pandemic and championing environmental conservation and climate action. It is a leader in peace, security and economic dynamism: with an entrepreneurial spirit, culture of innovation and technological prowess that are envies of the world.
Yet, disturbingly, this vibrant, robust democracy — named one of the freest in the world by Freedom House and proudly led by a woman, President Tsai Ing-wen — is under threat.
In recent years, Beijing has dramatically intensified tensions with Taiwan. The People’s Republic of China (PRC) has ramped up patrols of bombers, fighter jets and surveillance aircraft near and even over Taiwan’s air defense zone, leading the U.S. Defense Department to conclude that China’s army is “likely preparing for a contingency to unify Taiwan with the PRC by force.”
The PRC has also taken the fight into cyberspace, launching scores of attacks on Taiwan government agencies each day. At the same time, Beijing is squeezing Taiwan economically, pressuring global corporations to cut ties with the island, intimidating countries that cooperate with Taiwan, and clamping down on tourism from the PRC.
In the face of the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) accelerating aggression, our congressional delegation’s visit should be seen as an unequivocal statement that America stands with Taiwan, our democratic partner, as it defends itself and its freedom.
(click here to continue reading Opinion | Nancy Pelosi: Why I’m leading a congressional delegation to Taiwan – The Washington Post.)
The PRC cannot back down at the moment due to domestic politics, but let’s all hope1 that cooler heads prevail. Not many truly want a war in Asia. A more likely outcome will be military displays off the coast of Taiwan and bluster. And bluster. And bluster…
Taiwanese government officials confirm they have received notice that Pelosi will definitely arrive in Taipei tomorrow evening
US Navy sent the aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan/two assault ships USS Tripoli and USS America with F-35 fighters to the Taiwan area pic.twitter.com/l8O8KcawnK
— Herman van Noordwyk (@NoordwykHerman)
The Guardian U.K.
China has strongly objected to Pelosi’s visit, with a foreign ministry spokesperson warning on Tuesday afternoon that the US would be “held liable and pay the price for hurting China’s sovereignty and security interests”.
“Faced with reckless US disregard of China’s repeated and serious representations, any countermeasures taken by the Chinese side will be justified and necessary,” said Hua Chunying.
Earlier on Tuesday, Reuters reported several Chinese warships and planes had travelled near the median line – an unofficial border between China and Taiwan in the Taiwan strait. Citing unnamed sources, the report said the vessels had been in the area since Monday, while the latest flights occurred on Tuesday morning, prompting Taiwan’s air force to scramble its aircraft in response.
Taiwan’s defence ministry has earlier reportedly adjusted and strengthened its military’s combat readiness in response to the threat of China. According to the public broadcaster CNA, it had not formally changed the readiness level, which relates to two stages: the current regular staging, and wartime.
On Chinese social media on Tuesday there were multiple photos of dozens of tanks and other military vehicles on the streets in Xiamen, a Chinese city five kilometres across the water from the Taiwan island of Kinmen.
(click here to continue reading Taiwan and China step up military rhetoric as expected Pelosi visit looms | Taiwan | The Guardian.)Footnotes:
- yes, yes, hope is not a plan [↩]
The FCC is allegedly cracking down on auto warranty robocalls
I’ll believe it when my phone stops filling up with these relentless scam voice mails…
US telecom providers will now be required to block millions of illegal robocalls a day advertising extended vehicle warranties, the Federal Communications Commission said Thursday, taking aim at a group of individuals accused of sending more than 8 billion such messages since 2018.
Thursday’s order by the FCC requires voice providers to stop carrying calls the agency has linked to 13 individuals and six companies, mostly based in Texas and California but also in such far-flung places as Hungary.
The robocalls produced by the group typically begin with recorded lines such as, “We’ve been trying to reach you concerning your car’s extended warranty,” the FCC order said.
Such calls represented the single largest source of consumer complaints to the FCC in each of the past two years, adding up to thousands of complaints a year.
(click here to continue reading The FCC is cracking down on ‘auto warranty’ robocalls | CNN Business.)
And why is the auto warranty idiots the only scammers the FCC are blocking? I have 3 unsolicited junk voicemails already this morning1 and none of them are auto warranties.
At least using a recent iOS, unknown callers don’t ring my phone, but go straight to voicemail.2Footnotes:
Elon Musk Vs. Twitter
For a while, I’ve considered Elon Musk a putz, but didn’t think he was evil. Recently, I’ve changed my mind.
It seems he’s been hanging out too much with Peter Thiel, and now Musk is transitioning into one of those supervillains of the 21st C.E., like his good buddy Thiel.
Maybe I’m simply a partisan, and a too frequent visitor to Twitter.com, but I don’t think Musk wants to help Twitter at all, and instead wants to destroy it.
Again, the Peter Thiel/Gawker model.
Yesterday Twitter Inc. sued Elon Musk in Delaware to hold him to his agreement to buy Twitter for $54.20 per share. Twitter’s lawyers are hoping for a quick trial in September, so that the deal can close on schedule in October. You can read Twitter’s complaint here. Here’s the gist of it:
Having mounted a public spectacle to put Twitter in play, and having proposed and then signed a seller-friendly merger agreement, Musk apparently believes that he — unlike every other party subject to Delaware contract law — is free to change his mind, trash the company, disrupt its operations, destroy stockholder value, and walk away. This repudiation follows a long list of material contractual breaches by Musk that have cast a pall over Twitter and its business. Twitter brings this action to enjoin Musk from further breaches, to compel Musk to fulfill his legal obligations, and to compel consummation of the merger upon satisfaction of the few outstanding conditions.
…The basic narrative beats will be familiar. Musk secretly bought a 9.1% stake in Twitter, violating securities laws in the process, then announced that stake and agitated to join Twitter’s board
…Musk announced that he wanted to buy Twitter because he thought there were too many spam bots. He sent in an unsolicited offer to buy Twitter, did no due diligence at all about spam bots, and asked Twitter for no representations about spam bots. He imagined that there were lots of spam bots, and he was eager to “defeat” them. And then the stock market went down, so now he is pretending that he was tricked into buying Twitter because they went around lying to him about how few spam bots there were. This pretext is bad
Late-1800s flour mill coming down in Fulton Market
A real shame, actually. Sterling Bay could have kept some of this structure at least.
Late-1800s flour mill coming down in Fulton Market – Chicago Tribune:
Sterling Bay is demolishing a former Archer Daniels Midland flour mill in the Fulton Market district, after preservationists unsuccessfully urged the Chicago developer to preserve the buildings.
Demolition of the more-than-century-old property at 1300 W. Carroll Ave. began Thursday. The work will last about three months as the developer eyes a mixed-use development of the site, Sterling Bay managing principal Keating Crown said.
The nonprofit Preservation Chicago has pushed Sterling Bay to keep at least portions of the structure, a patchwork of silos and brick buildings built over time. The mill opened in the late 1800s, and ADM closed it in 2019.
“It’s very disappointing that a first-rate developer in Chicago isn’t able to save an important Chicago building,” said Ward Miller, executive director of Preservation Chicago. “This is one of those buildings we felt was important to have saved because of its architectural pedigree, and because it’s one of the oldest mills and food production facilities in the Fulton-Randolph landmark district.”
So much of Chicago’s architectural history has been razed in the last ten years.
Alderman Burnett says No Devil’s Weed Store Next to West Loop Rehab Center
Following up on the ridiculous “Cannabis is the devil’s weed” story from last week, Chicago Sun-Times reports:
Ald. Walter Burnett (27th) pushed back Tuesday on a pot firm’s plan to open a recreational weed store next to the city’s largest drug treatment facility.
Burnett, a former alcoholic, said the location proposed by Wheaton-based NuMed is simply “too close” to The Haymarket Center at 932 W. Washington.
“Ideally, I would like to have a perimeter of three city blocks that surround Haymarket. But I think it’s going to be very challenging,” said Lustig.
Asked if the litany of bars in the area that serve alcohol are also a concern, Lustig said: “I’ve always had concerns, but you can’t smell alcohol” like you can smell marijuana smoke.
But Burnett said because of the availability of booze, the other proposed pot shop locations aren’t as much of a concern to him as NuMed. The Fulton Market Association, a nonprofit focused on economic development in the area, is collecting signatures for a petition against NuMed that it plans to send to city officials Friday morning.
“We support that [patients] shouldn’t be faced with a marijuana shop right in their face and perhaps be enticed into a relapse,” said the group’s executive director Roger Romanelli.
(click here to continue reading Ald. Burnett says no to pot company’s plan to set up shop next to West Loop rehab center – Chicago Sun-Times.)
This irks me for all sorts of reasons. For one, for addicts, including alcoholics, being near bars and restaurants that serve alcohol is fine apparently, but an upscale cannabis dispensary being 1/4 mile away is a temptation they cannot resist? Really? Really?
Secondly, smoking is not permitted in dispensaries. Smoking cannabis is also not legal on the streets, though of course people have been smoking on the weed in public for decades or longer, including right in the doorway of this drug treatment facility. I can attest to this personally.
And if I were to get NIMBY1 with it, I’d rather this treatment facility was the one that moved. The clients2 often huddle in groups on the sidewalk, blocking passersby, chain smoking Newport cigarettes, blowing smoke on pedestrians. Why is this drug treatment facility located in the middle of a bustling entertainment district anyway? Haymarket Center has been there for a long time, and originally, this was not the same neighborhood as it is now. But neighborhoods change, and the West Loop has drastically changed over the last decade. The West Loop of 1975 is not the same as the West Loop of 2020.
Final thought, smoking cannabis is not a gateway drug to being a heroin addict, at least not according to modern research. The State of Illinois recognized this by granting medical cannabis licenses to opioid users, remember? Addicts need help, and consideration from the rest of us, but perhaps having the city’s largest treatment facility on 900 W. Washington is the real issue that should be addressed rather than NuMed opening an upscale storefront on Randolph Street.
Nine New Weed Dispensaries At Special March Meeting
Block Club Chicago reports:
As many as nine new recreational cannabis dispensaries could clear a crucial regulatory hurdle during a special meeting of the Chicago Zoning Board of Appeals scheduled for March 6, potentially almost doubling the number of pot shops allowed to operate in the city, according to officials.
The board will consider “cannabis-specific” applications at the first of its kind special meeting. The formal agenda for the meeting has not yet been released.
The following cannabis companies have filed applications with the Zoning Board of Appeals to open new dispensaries, according to the Chicago Department of Planning and Development:
- Pharmacann, for planned dispensaries at 1001 W. North Ave. and 444 N. LaSalle St. A community meeting was held Feb. 6 to discuss the LaSalle Street proposal, and another is scheduled for Feb. 18 to discuss the North Avenue site plan.
- Natures Care Company, for a planned dispensary at 810 W. Randolph St. A community meeting was held to discuss the proposal on Feb. 6.
- Numed Chicago, for a planned dispensary at 935 W. Randolph St. A community meeting was held to discuss the proposal on Feb. 5.
- PDI Medical, for a planned dispensary at 60 W. Superior St. A community meeting was held to discuss the proposal on Feb. 5.
- Green House Group, for a planned dispensary at 612 N. Wells St. A community meeting was held to discuss the proposal on Feb. 7.
- MOCA Modern Cannabis, for a planned dispensary at 214-232 W. Ohio St. A community meeting was held to discuss the proposal on Jan. 29.
(click here to continue reading Nine New Weed Dispensaries Could Be Cleared To Open At Special March Meeting – Block Club Chicago.)
The sooner the better, it’s already going to be summer before these open.
Parenthetical confession: I haven’t been inside one of the newly legal dispensaries, yet. I’m not enough of a pot-head to stand in line for 2 hours, especially in the winter, and I’ve been to dispensaries in other states, so there isn’t a novelty itch that I need to scratch. I’ll wait until the flower shortage abates, and the weather improves.
Compromised encryption machines gave CIA window into major human rights abuses in South America
The Washington Post reports:
South American military dictatorships combined forces in the late 1970s on a continent-wide crackdown they called Operation Condor against perceived threats to their rule. It was part of a broader wave of violence in which nuns and priests were imprisoned, dissidents were tossed out of airplanes and thousands of victims were “disappeared.”
To coordinate this brutal campaign, Argentina, Chile and other countries established a secret communications network using encryption machines from a Swiss company called Crypto AG.
Crypto was secretly owned by the CIA as part of a decades-long operation with West German intelligence. The U.S. spy agency was, in effect, supplying rigged communications gear to some of South America’s most brutal regimes and, as a result, in unique position to know the extent of their atrocities.
Whether there were opportunities to act, and failures to do so, are among the difficult questions raised by the revelations about the CIA’s involvement in Crypto — dubbed Operation Rubicon by the agency. The program enabled U.S. spy agencies to monitor the communications of dozens of countries in Europe, Asia, Africa and Latin America over half a century.
(click here to continue reading Compromised encryption machines gave CIA window into major human rights abuses in South America – The Washington Post.)
Two brief thoughts: one, why didn’t the US government do more to reign in these abuses? Because they were being conducted by right-wing governments?
and two, no wonder China wants to emulate this program with the installation of Huawei networking gear, and also no wonder the US is opposed.
No NATO ally should succumb to the temptation of letting Chinese tech giant Huawei into their next-generation cellular networks, U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Monday at Allied headquarters, turning U.S. opposition to Huawei into a bipartisan effort.
Pelosi said the invasion of privacy that would result from having Huawei integrated into Europe’s 5G communication networks would be “like having the state police, the Chinese state police, right in your pocket.”
She insisted such technology was far too sensitive to turn to over to Chinese interests, even though they can deliver such technology cheaper, thanks to the fact that the company relied on Western know-how to build its systems.
“While some people say that its cheaper to do Huawei — well yeah — it’s a People’s Liberation Army initiative using reversed engineering from Western technology,” Pelosi, the senior Democratic lawmaker, told reporters in Brussels.
“So, of course it’s going to be cheaper to put on the market. And if it’s cheaper, then they get the market share and then they (China) bring in their autocracy of lack of privacy.”
(click here to continue reading US House speaker Pelosi warns allies against using Huawei – The Washington Post.)
Pot Store Near Addiction Center vs Alcohol Sale Near Addiction Center
Ally Marotti of the Chicago Tribune reports:
A marijuana company wants to open a dispensary in Chicago’s West Town neighborhood that would be near trendy restaurants and boutiques. It also would be on the same block as an addiction treatment center.
“This will trigger patients to relapse,” said Dan Lustig, a psychologist who is president and CEO of Haymarket Center.
NuMed wants to open its dispensary on the second floor of 935 W. Randolph St., above Floyd’s 99 Barbershop. Haymarket Center is at 932 W. Washington Blvd. If NuMed’s dispensary opens as planned, the entrance will be on North Sangamon Street, on the same block as entrances to Haymarket.
(click here to continue reading Pot store near addiction center ‘cannot possibly be a good idea’ – Chicago Tribune.)
I struggle to understand this logic. Is a cannabis store more likely to be a trouble to the neighborhood than an establishment that sells alcohol? Because also within a block of the Haymarket Center are several restaurants that serve wine, whiskey, beer and so forth. There is even a proposed Jerry Garcia themed jazz club to open in the former location of Wishbone, less than half a block away on the same street. People are not allowed to consume cannabis on location, but they can drink until the room spins. Is Dan Lustig also trying to turn this area of the West Loop into an alcohol free zone? If not, why not?
In my experience, alcohol is more of a trigger for addicts than cannabis. Granted I am not the CEO of a treatment center with a vested interest to get my name in the newspaper, but come on.
After rent hikes forced beloved West Loop restaurant Wishbone to relocate from its longtime home, the space could soon be turned into a lively jazz venue paying homage to Jerry Garcia, the late guitarist of the Grateful Dead.
Brooklyn Bowl owner Peter Shapiro has been in talks to bring a Jerry Garcia-themed jazz venue to the vacant restaurant space at 1001 W. Washington Blvd., according to multiple sources familiar with the project.
The West Loop venue will be themed around Garcia, who died in 1995 at age 53, and will be a seated, traditional jazz club, a source said. The venue will also feature an accompanying restaurant.
(click here to continue reading Jerry Garcia-Themed Jazz Venue Could Come To West Loop’s Old Wishbone Thanks To Brooklyn Bowl Owner – Block Club Chicago.)
Google Photos trialing subscription to get best pics printed
Speaking of algorithmic art selection, 9to5Google reports:
Google Photos is now trialing a “monthly photo prints” subscription program.
Google will send you 10 prints that will be “automatically selected from your last 30 days of photos.” This subscription program is a way to “get your best memories delivered straight to your home every month.” For $7.99 per month, subscribers get 4×6 pictures printed on matte, white cardstock that features a 1/8-inch border.
While an automatic process leverages Google Photos’ smarts, you’ll be able to pick one of three themes for your monthly prints. Google touts the first “people and pets” option as being the “most popular.” Additionally, you can edit the photos before they’re printed.
- Most people and pets: Relive your best moments of people and pets. Get prints featuring them and other great photos every month.
- Mostly landscapes: Revisit your most memorable places. Get prints of your outdoor shots, city scapes, scenery pics, and more sent to you every month.
- A little bit of everything: Mix it up! Get a mix of all your best moments! Photos of people, landscapes, and other photos delivered to you each month.
(click here to continue reading Google Photos trialing subscription to get best pics printed – 9to5Google.)
SmugMug/Flickr could emulate this, actually, and I’d probably consider it. I don’t use Google Photos, so unless there is an IFTTT recipe that automatically uploads Flickr images to Google Photos, this monthly scheme wouldn’t be viable for me.
Conceptually, I like the idea of having prints sent to me, selected by not-me. The 21st C.E. is buried in gazillions of photos, but most only exist in the digital realm, and aren’t physical objects that can be studied by future generations, or by our Robot Overlords, or whatever.
For a few months, I tried to capture my favorite images from the previous month in a gallery, but it is a hard project to sustain. Life happens, and that would get put to the back burner up until the next month’s batch was due.
Maybe I should try in 2020 to make an analog version of the Google algorithmic art selection, and make small prints every month from the previous month?
U.S. Farm Bankruptcies Hit an Eight-Year High: Court Data
Meanwhile, The New York Times reports:
U.S. farm bankruptcy rates jumped 20% in 2019 – to an eight-year high – as financial woes in the U.S. agricultural economy continued in spite of massive federal bail-out funding, according to federal court data.
According to data released this week by the United States Courts, family farmers filed 595 Chapter 12 bankruptcies in 2019, up from 498 filings a year earlier. The data also shows that such filings – known as “family farmer” bankruptcies – have steadily increased every year for the past five years.
Farmers across the nation also have retired or sold their farms because of the financial strains, changing the face of Midwestern towns and concentrating the business in fewer hands.
(click here to continue reading U.S. Farm Bankruptcies Hit an Eight-Year High: Court Data – The New York Times.)
Because the Republican style of governance is so, so effective. If you are an owner of a corporate “factory” farm that is…
Remember trade wars are good, and easy to win.
Facebook agrees to pay $550 million to Illinois users
The Chicago Tribune reports:
Facebook will pay $550 million to Illinois users to settle allegations that its facial tagging feature violated their privacy rights.
The settlement — which could amount to a couple of hundred dollars for each user who is part of the class-action settlement — stems from a federal lawsuit filed in Illinois nearly five years ago that alleges the social media giant violated a state law protecting residents’ biometric information. Biometric information can include data from facial, fingerprint and iris scans.
Illinois has one of the strictest biometric privacy laws in the nation. The 2008 law mandates that companies collecting such information obtain prior consent from consumers, detail how they’ll use it and specify how long the information will be kept. The law also allows private citizens, rather than just governmental entities, to file lawsuits over the issue.
In 2018, a judge defined the class as Facebook users in Illinois from whom the Menlo Park, California-based company created a stored face template after June 7, 2011, the date Facebook said its tag suggestion feature was available in most countries.
The feature uses facial recognition software to match users’ new photos with other photos they’re tagged in. It groups similar photos together and suggests the names of friends in the photos.
The settlement is a win for privacy advocates who say that protecting biometric information is critical because, unlike a credit card number, it can’t be changed if it’s stolen.
“This pretty firmly establishes the fact that those harms are real and consumers deserve restitution when their rights have been violated,” said Abe Scarr, director of the Illinois Public Interest Research Group, a consumer advocacy organization.
(click here to continue reading Facebook agrees to pay $550 million to Illinois users – Chicago Tribune.)
I assume Facebook will find a way to weasel out of including everyone in Illinois from this class. I resided solely in Illinois during the time the class action covers, and was probably tagged in a photo, but am not sure. I also don’t have my proper residence listed (I’ve varied it a bit from Frostpocket, to Guam, to Upper Yurtistan, and elsewhere as the mood strikes), but Facebook of course knows where I’m logging into their servers from, down to the individual block group I imagine.
Trump’s Treasury secretary just admitted the tariff rationale is hogwash
Meanwhile, in non-impeachment news, Catherine Rampell, The Washington Post reports:
Perhaps distracted by the beauty and billionaires of Davos, Switzerland, this week Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin let slip an embarrassing admission: President Trump’s justification for his trade wars is hogwash.
For two years, the administration has offered increasingly ludicrous explanations for its tariffs. Sometimes tariffs are designed to shield pet U.S. industries from unfair competition. (Those industries are still shuttering plants despite the tariffs, but no matter.)
Sometimes, tariffs are instead intended to raise revenue from abroad. (That additional tax revenue is being paid by Americans, not foreigners, but whatever.)
Perhaps the most farcical rationale, however, has been that massive tariffs are necessary to safeguard America’s “national security.”
First, the Trump administration argued that it needed to impose worldwide tariffs on steel and aluminum on these bogus “national security” grounds. After all, Trump explained, “If you don’t have steel, you don’t have a country,” whatever that means.
Loyal allies, such as Canada and Britain, were understandably offended to learn that their metal products somehow threatened U.S. national security and would thus be tariffed.
Last year, at Trump’s request, the Commerce Department produced a report determining that imports of autos and automotive parts somehow also put America at grave risk, and that it thereby needs to do something to increase “American-owned” production. Precisely how your Subaru or Honda, or some foreign-made part buried somewhere in your Ford, compromises U.S. security is unclear; that Commerce Department report has never been released.
To be clear, the auto industry does not want these tariffs. Industry groups — comprising both U.S. and foreign companies — have called them “absurd” and “spurious,” particularly because these imports support millions of American jobs in auto manufacturing, parts and sales.
(click here to continue reading Trump’s Treasury secretary just admitted the tariff rationale is hogwash – The Washington Post.)
Bullshit from these professional bullshit artists. And yet corporate America still supports the political party that regularly screws them because, you know, tax cuts for millionaires is popular in most corporate boardrooms.
And Mnuchin’s “slip of the tongue”:
At a Davos panel Wednesday, Mnuchin finally acknowledged the obvious: that the administration’s official rationale for auto tariffs was made up, a legal fiction designed to let it bully or retaliate against opponents whenever Trump felt like it. In the context of a discussion about digital service taxes proposed by European countries, Mnuchin told the audience: “If people want to just arbitrarily put taxes on our digital companies, we will consider arbitrarily putting taxes on car companies.”
The IRS Decided to Get Tough Against Microsoft. Microsoft Got Tougher
Eight years ago, the IRS, tired of seeing the country’s largest corporations fearlessly stash billions in tax havens, decided to take a stand. The agency challenged what it saw as an epic case of tax dodging by one of the largest companies in the world, Microsoft. It was the biggest audit by dollar amount in the history of the agency.
Microsoft had shifted at least $39 billion in U.S. profits to Puerto Rico, where the company’s tax consultants, KPMG, had persuaded the territory’s government to give Microsoft a tax rate of nearly 0%. Microsoft had justified this transfer with a ludicrous-sounding deal: It had sold its most valuable possession — its intellectual property — to an 85-person factory it owned in a small Puerto Rican city.
…Meanwhile, the numbers Microsoft had used to craft its deal were laughable, the agency concluded. In one instance, Microsoft had told investors its revenues would grow 10% to 12% but told the IRS the figure was 4%. In another, the IRS found Microsoft had understated revenues by $15 billion.
Determined to seize every advantage against a giant foe, the small team at the helm of the audit decided to be aggressive. It used special powers that the agency had shied away from using in the past. It took unprecedented steps like hiring an elite law firm to join the government’s side.
To Microsoft and its corporate allies, the nature of the audit posed a dire threat. This was not the IRS they knew. This was an agency suddenly committed to fighting and winning. If the aggression went unchecked, it would only encourage the IRS to try these tactics on other corporations.
“Most people, the 99%, they’re afraid of the IRS,” said an attorney who works on large corporate audits. “The other 1%, they’re not afraid. They make the IRS afraid of them.”
Microsoft fought back with every tool it could muster. Business organizations, ranging from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce to tech trade groups, rallied, hiring attorneys to jump into the fray on Microsoft’s side in court and making their case to IRS leadership and lawmakers on Capitol Hill. Soon, members of Congress, both Republicans and Democrats, were decrying the IRS’ tactics and introducing legislation to stop the IRS from ever taking similar steps again.
The outcome of the audit remains to be seen — the Microsoft case grinds on — but the blowback was effective. Last year, the company’s allies succeeded in changing the law, removing or limiting tools the IRS team had used against the company. The IRS, meanwhile, has become notably less bold. Drained of resources by years of punishing budget cuts, the agency has largely retreated from challenging the largest corporations. The IRS declined to comment for this article.
Recent years have been a golden age for corporate tax avoidance, with massive companies awash in profits routinely paying tax rates in the single digits, or even nothing at all. But how corporations manage to do this and keep the IRS at bay is mostly shrouded in secrecy
(click here to continue reading The IRS Decided to Get Tough Against Microsoft. Microsoft Got Tougher. — ProPublica.)
Truly despicable, on many levels. Microsoft is not teetering on the edge of financial collapse, they can afford to pay their fair share of taxes. Shameful that both political parties enable this abuse, and respond by defunding/defanging the IRS from doing its job. Meanwhile, the US debt grows by leaps and bounds, and corporate profits too.