Aliens!

I mean…probably. 🤷‍♂️

Although the tweet should say “Republicans”. Conservative is a viewpoint; Republican is a political party composed of various folks, some of whom certainly believe they were abducted by aliens.

Enter the Jared?

Epic fights Apple in court by playing Candy Crush

From The Verge:

On the stand is Lorin Hitt, professor of operations, information, and decisions at the University of Pennsylvania Wharton…

[…]

Hitt can’t guarantee all the games listed in the unintelligible spreadsheet are from the same developer across all platforms, it turns out. He says his team of researchers did the analysis, and he trusts his team.

[…]

According to Even, there are three apps that support buying something on the web, then using it in an app: PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds, Roblox and… Fortnite. (Fortnite, however, is now banned from iOS.) Does Hitt have any basis to dispute this?

Hitt says he trusts his team. I am feeling very bad for the team, which has largely been thrown under the bus by Hitt here.

The poor team.

It’s a funny term, too, given the “under the bus” or “UTB” has appeared in this trial already.

Starlink Review: Broadband Dreams Fall to Earth

From The Verge:

In our imaginations, we might dream of a satellite internet system that delivers lightning-fast broadband speeds from space, freeing us from the dreary earthbound experience of cable monopolies and wireless data caps. We might envision an ISP that smashes through the plodding local politics of digging fiber trenches by literally achieving escape velocity and delivering fast, reliable internet from the heavens above. A system that will work on moving trucks, RVs, and even boats. Space-based internet access that will change everything because there is nothing technology cannot achieve in our minds.

Starlink, a new satellite internet service from SpaceX, is a spectacular technical achievement that might one day do all of these things. But right now it is also very much a beta product that is unreliable, inconsistent, and foiled by even the merest suggestion of trees.

I’m very glad Starlink exists. I’m very sad “facility-based competition” is the American standard because it’s not really creating any competition. As stated in the Verge’s review:

It is a pretty damning indictment of broadband policy in the United States that a lot of people are so desperate for competitive options that they’re like “fuck telescopes.” But here we are.

Followed by:

As a whole, the American telecom policy industrial complex has utterly failed to put fiber in the ground and signals in the air at fair prices and with good customer support. So much so that a total science project of an internet access system — which involves huge tradeoffs for scientific research and doesn’t work if there are trees in the way — has captured the attention and imagination of millions.

Broadband on the ground is so wrapped up in the lumbering bullshit of monopolistic regulatory capture that it seems easier and more effective to literally launch rockets and try building a network in the sky. Starlink isn’t the happy end result of a commitment to “facility-based competition.” It is thousands of middle fingers pointing at us from the air. It is what happens when there is an utter lack of competition.

If SpaceX sticks with this, adds a lot more satellites, and continues sinking cash into it – someday it could provide a solid network connection to anyone, almost anywhere. I wish that day would come tomorrow, or next year, because part of my dreams of building a house in the North Carolina mountains seem to depend on the availability of internet service like this. Getting cables run in the ground could be a $10,000+ proposition. Starlink, even if it’s a bit of a mess, might be better than that.

A Look at Cooke, and Partisan Flame Wars

Questioning the source of that article, though, reveals gems such as this:

Right.

He doesn’t seem to mind when other states are accused of manipulating COVID data, either. I don’t see any deep investigative work here, Once Again: It’s Not Florida That’s Cooking the Books, It’s New York. Must be reserved for that special place in his heart for Florida.

And Mr. Cooke wouldn’t be a good partisan without getting off a few of these sort of cheap pot-shots:

One hundred days in, Biden’s radical presidency makes clear that his campaign was, in fact, a fraud.

If there’s one thing Biden is not – it is “radical”. Not by Merriam-Webster’s definition. Trump was a radical President, given his disdain for the Constitution, and his general lack of experience in politics. Things you could classify as “very different from the usual or traditional.” A second definition may better fit in the political context: “associated with political views, practices, and policies of extreme change.” Extreme change? Biden? I think it’s more likely Trump gets a second and third term, than Biden is able to enact any sort of extreme change.

So goes the partisan flame wars.

Rebekah Jones, the COVID Whistleblower Who Wasn’t

From Charles C.W. Cooke at National Review:

At the time she was hired, the state government knew from its background check that Jones had completed a pre-trial intervention program in Louisiana in 2018, thereby securing a “no conviction” record for “battery of a police officer,” and it knew that she had entered into a deferred-prosecution agreement with the State of Florida in 2017 after being charged with “criminal mischief.”

Brushes with the law in the past. Also:

Without telling a single person what she was doing, Jones created a new account within the GIS system and moved a tranche of data into it. This both broke the setup and sincerely confused the department’s IT staff. “Because the team was not informed,” [IT director at the FDOH, Craig] Curry wrote, it “began troubleshooting the issue as if it were a system issue”—which, of course, it was not. In the process, the FDOH asked Chris Duclos, a GIS manager and the only other person besides Jones who had “full administrative right [sic] in our system[,] to help.” This Duclos did, primarily “by modifying ownership of objects to return the process to the previous state”—that is, to roll back the system to how it had been when it was working. At 1:00 p.m. that day, aware that Duclos was reversing her power grab, Jones locked Duclos out of his account.

It goes on like this. The sourcing in this article isn’t clear, but National Review (despite having a strong conservative bent) hasn’t published blatant lies. They have a viewpoint. And these claims are awfully specific, so disproving them should happen quickly if they’re off base.

So yeah, the Rebekah Jones thing is almost certainly just one crazy person seeing what they wanted to see and seeking attention. When stuff like this happens it’s important to take a full, circumspect view and examine all relevant facts.

Michael Graetz’s two laws of tax

From Matt Levine on April 28:

I like to cite, around here, Michael Graetz’s two laws of tax: It is always better to make more money than less money, and it is always better to die later than sooner.

This seems correct. And I love the follow-on line of thinking:

But I am always excited to find exceptions. One important, but sometimes violated, corollary of the first law is that it should never be in your financial interest to give money away. If you have $100 and you give it to charity, you (1) are out $100 but (2) have a $100 tax deduction. If you have a lot of income and your tax rate is 40%, that deduction should save you $40. Net, you are out $60.

But you can do a bit better than that. Let’s say that you have stock in your company that you got for $0 (you were the founder, etc.) and that is now worth $100. If you sell it, you will get $100, all of which will be taxable as capital gains. Let’s say the capital gains rate is 20%; you’ll get $80. If instead you donate it to charity, you won’t have the $80, but you will get a $100 tax deduction that you can use against your ordinary income. If your tax rate (the marginal rate on your ordinary income) is 40%, that should save you $40. Eighty is more than 40 so this is not a good trade, but it’s closer.

So how do we turn this into a good trade? How do you give away something which, to you, is worth not that much but in the eyes of the government tax collector is worth a lot?

– You have zero-basis stock that is “really” worth $100, but that happens to be trading at $300 right now because the market doesn’t know the bad news that you know. If you sell it, you get $300, pay 20% tax, keep $240, and go to prison for insider trading. Or you can wait until the news is public, sell it for $100, pay 20% tax, keep $80 and avoid prison.

– But if you donate it while it’s still trading at $300, you get a $300 tax deduction, which is worth $120, which is more than $80. And you don’t go to prison because you never traded the stock while you had inside information.

This also works with incredibly low-basis altcoins. Buy a token at some ten-thousandths of a penny price, wait for it to appreciate to $0.50/token so that now your ten million tokens are worth a lot, give that away – and profit on the tax deduction! You have to have $5 million in other income which needs sheltering, of course, but this can (maybe) work.

As Matt Levine would say: not legal advice!