What a field day for the heat
A thousand people in the street
Singing songs and carrying signs
Mostly saying, "hooray for our side"

Thursday, December 14, 2017

Linkee-poo if you won't have a drink then you're a prude, but they'll call you a drunk as soon as you down the first one

Right now there's a lot of consternation over the annual holiday party. Well, that party has been on the wane since the late 80s (no, really, it has, this is a part of the long running tradition of me hearing, "Oh, you should have been here then…"). And if you're worried about "the drinking" bringing about behaviors that might see your company in a lawsuit, you have a much more serious problem than cancelling the shindig. Maybe hire adults, expect them to behave like adults, teach respect and create an egalitarian workspace and you won't have those issues, even if there is drinking and a party.

"During an interview on 'The View' Meghan McCain asked Biden about how he dealt with his son Beau Biden being diagnosed with glioblastoma, the same aggressive form of brain cancer that her father, the Republican Arizona lawmaker, announced he had in July." Fuck cancer.

"By measuring the size of the recent Greenland shark found, researchers suggest the animal could have been born as early as 1505, making it even older than Shakespeare. Greenland sharks — also known as the gurry sharks, or grey sharks, are large sharks of the family Somniosidae — grow at a rate of one centimeter a year, enabling scientists to determine their age by measuring their size."

"Three Florida men seen in a viral video laughing and smiling as a shark gets dragged behind a high-speed boat have been charged with animal cruelty." WTF is wrong with these people? (That's a rhetorical question)

"After combing through a decade’s worth of Pennsylvania birth records, researchers have found that pregnant women living within two-thirds of a mile of a hydraulic fracturing well were 25% more likely to give birth to a worryingly small infant than were women who lived at least 10 miles outside that zone during pregnancy." The effects get more prevalent and severe the closer to the well.

"A former Rutgers University student and two other men pleaded guilty to computer crimes related to the creation, sale and use of the Mirai botnet, a network of infected electronics equipment used to knock major websites offline in massive 2016 cyber attacks, according to court documents."

"The Walt Disney Company and Twenty-First Century Fox, Inc. (21st Century Fox) today announced that they have entered into a definitive agreement for Disney to acquire 21st Century Fox…" Do not fuck with The Mouse. :: Or :: One does not simply walk into Disney World, there is a Great Eye… "The Walt Disney Co. has struck a deal valued at $52.4 billion to acquire much of the Hollywood holdings of 21st Century Fox, the global television and entertainment conglomerate controlled by Rupert Murdoch and his family. The deal occurs against a backdrop of swift changes to the industry's finances and uncertainty about succession plans at both companies." If federal regulators capitulate and allow it to go through.

Brexit just keeps getting harder.

"The president and CEO of the trade group that lobbies for the ISPs that are trying to end net neutrality would like everyone to just chill. In an op-ed published at Recode, former FCC chairman and NCTA head Michael Powell argues that things will be just fine 'no matter what happens to net neutrality.'" Oh fuck no.

"While 90% of the weapons and ammunition studied originated in China, Russia, Eastern Europe, the report also said some of the weapons that were eventually diverted to ISIS was originally provided by the US and Saudi Arabia to Syrian opposition forces over the course of the conflict… The report concluded that 'international weapons supplies to factions in the Syrian conflict have significantly augmented the quantity and quality of weapons available to ISIS forces -- in numbers far beyond those that would have been available to the group through battlefield capture alone.'"

A short history of the rise of the AR-15.

There's conflicting reports on just how Omarosa Manigault left the White House (and if she's still on staff). "'But when I have my story to tell as the only African-American woman in this White House, as a senior staff and assistant to the president, I have seen things that have made me uncomfortable, that have upset me, that have affected me deeply and emotionally, that has affected my community and my people and when I can tell my story, it is a profound story that I know the world will want to hear,' Manigault added." One, I hope she gets a ghost writer. Two, just how binding are those non-disclosure agreements? Three, given the stories of her having been "escorted" off the campus, I'm wondering how that "will stay on until Jan. 20" thing will go.

The stories we tell ourselves. "'We have stopped prayer in our schools,' Moore said in his statement. 'We have killed over 60 million of our unborn children. We have redefined marriage and destroyed the basis of family, which is the building block of our country. Our borders are not secure. Our economy is faltering under an enormous national debt. We have a huge drug problem. We have even begun to recognize the right of a man to claim to be a woman, and vice versa. We have allowed Judges and justices to rule over our Constitution, and we have become slaves to their tyranny. Immorality sweeps over our land.'" They're marching, marching to shibboleth.

"David Greene talks with Birmingham City Councilwoman Sheila Tyson about a well-organized get-out-the-vote effort that's credited with motivating black voters in Alabama." It's well past time the Democratic Party comes to grips with reality and starts generating a new outlook and communications plan. Maybe not wait until the last minute to start speaking to the new base (black women), expecting ad hoc get out the vote actions, and not knowing how to deal with everybody. My advice is start developing the narrative that by championing the rights of POC and LGBTQ you are championing the rights of everyone. Because if the government or corporations can discriminate or hold back any one of these "minorities", they can do it to anyone. We are the party of the fair playing field, and sometimes that means giving more of a boost to those who have been historically disadvantaged to help them get on the field in the first place. (You're also going to have to start letting people know that taxes are going to go up, that's going to be a long fight, but the GOP Tax Bill is a good place to start because most people's taxes are going to go up in the next 5 years because of it.) All of this is the "hard conversation" that there are few "sound bite" moments. Start the polling and focus groups now to get the message right the first time.

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Linkee-poo knows if you've been bad or good

"If it's clear outside on Wednesday night (Dec. 13) and Thursday morning (Dec. 14) before dawn, be sure to go outdoors. One of the year's top meteor showers, the Geminids, will peak, with rates as high as one or two meteors per minute at around 10 p.m. local time. However, the show will start around 7 p.m. local time, according to the magazine Sky & Telescope."

"Cryptomania has propelled two lesser-known cryptocurrencies to record highs Tuesday, forcing one exchange to halt trading." And "Bitcoin price surges as futures trading begins, despite bubble warnings – as it happened." As my friend John commented recently, "Imagine how many tulips you can buy with a single Bitcoin!" (In case you're scratching your head, here's a wiki, yes my friends crack jokes requiring knowledge of 17th century markets and the difference between the Julian and Gregorian calendars, sometimes I need to google to get the references)

"Getting a deal during the holidays is a great American tradition. So when a sales clerk cheerfully asks, 'Would you like to save 20 percent on your purchases today by opening a card with us?' it fits right in… But the reality sounds a lot less cheery: 'Would you be interested in a low-limit card that could damage your credit standing?'" Because the way they calculate your FICO is fucked. On purpose and with intent.

The sinking of the El Faro. I wonder who lobbied to keep inspections and adherence to safety protocols light?

"'The closer you get to Jupiter, the weirder it gets,' said Heidi Becker, Juno's radiation monitoring investigation lead at JPL."

"A senior executive at the Russian nuclear processing plant suspected of being behind a spike of radioactivity over Europe this fall admitted Wednesday that the isotope recorded does emerge as part of the plant’s production cycle but said its levels are negligible." The cat is on the roof and won't come down.

"An international team of scientists have announced the discovery of a previously unknown species of prehistoric penguin… The researchers estimate that it probably weighed about 220 pounds and was around 5 feet 10 inches tall." Well it was the age of giant birds (note birds are now considered dependents from dinosaurs).

"This latest report shows that the nation's health overall is getting worse." Greatest healthcare system in the world my Aunt Fanny.

"'Some might ask why a U.N. Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights would visit a country as rich as the United States. But despite great wealth in the U.S., there also exists great poverty and inequality.' That was part of a statement issued by Philip Alston, a New York University law and human rights professor, who is leading the mission." Yes Virginia, there is extreme poverty in the US. No, the safety net doesn't reach everyone. And living in rural (or ex-urban) America, I can tell you it's getting worse.

"The temperature in Utqiaġvik had been warming so fast this year, the data was automatically flagged as unreal and removed from the climate database. It was done by algorithms that were put in place to ensure that only the best data gets included in NOAA's reports. They're handy to keep the data sets clean, but this kind of quality-control algorithm is only good in "average" situations with no outliers. The current situation in Utqiaġvik, however, is anything but average." We're boned. (Grokked from Jim Wright)

"Human feet have also had a tendency to wash ashore in Washington state… 'At the beginning, it seemed more strange,' Joshua Constandinou told the Times, 'but now it happens so many times.'"

"A NEW Brexit report claims the United Kingdom will be economically worse-off "under most plausible scenarios" days after Theresa May strikes deal with the European Union." Note that the Daily Express is a conservative rag. And they're reporting that Brexit is going to be a loss for the UK. (Grokked from John Scalzi)

"A federal judge on Tuesday ordered tightened restrictions on former U.S. House Speaker Dennis Hastert, including barring him from possessing pornography, using sex chat lines or having any contact with minors except in the presence of an adult who is aware of his sexual abuse of boys decades ago." All routine, I'm assuming (no it's not). Maybe he and Roy Moore could hang out together?

"Dale Doughty, MDOT’s Director of Maintenance and Operation, says some workers might be attracted to higher wages at private companies." So now Maine has to hire contractors to plow their snow. Isn't that the free market way?

"Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley issued a rare rebuke Tuesday of two of President Donald Trump's most controversial judicial nominees, urging the White House to rethink the picks."

And yes, there are people this dumb in government (and not just in Alabama). And actually you don't have to swear on anything, just raise your right hand and repeat the oath. No religious text necessary. (Grokked from Jim Wright)

"The anti-corruption organization Transparency International says Americans are expressing greater concern this year about wrongdoing within the U.S. government, and especially within the White House." This is my shocked face. Also, this is not entirely accidental or a home grown perspective.

"Democrat Doug Jones has won the Alabama Senate special election, a victory that was a stunning upset in a deeply red state that voted overwhelmingly for President Trump. The president, who had backed Republican Roy Moore despite multiple accusations of sexual misconduct and assault, congratulated Jones on Twitter." Don't get cocky, Dems. The write-in vote was bigger than the margin of victory and if Doug Jones can't deliver concrete advantages for Alabamians in the next 2 years you'll lose the seat in 2020. Please learn the lessons of this campaign that 1) it is possible to win in "deep red states", but you've got to mobilize the base by giving them something to fight for. You need to fight for every last vote. You won't be as lucky to get a "disinterested in campaigns" pedophile in the next election.

"President Trump in an early morning tweet on Wednesday said he endorsed Sen. Luther Strange (R-Ala.) in the Alabama Senate Republican primary because Roy Moore would not be able to win the general election." Because the Snowflake in Chief can't accept defeat.

"Ohio could soon become the latest state to restrict abortions based on a Down syndrome diagnosis. A bill that would make it a felony for doctors to perform abortions after a Down syndrome diagnosis is moving through the state legislature and could be ready for Gov. John Kasich's signature as soon as this week." This is terrible legislation that is hugely cynical in a state where we've also cut special education and healthcare for kids not to mention long term adult care support. If the legislature was that worried about Down syndrome people we wouldn't have that problem.

"It's debatable whether Trump's tweet meets the dictionary definition of 'slut shaming,' but as of this writing Warren's tweet has gotten more retweets and favorites than Trump's original. The same can be said for Gillibrand's tweeted response where she referenced 'the millions of women who have gotten off the sidelines to speak out about the unfitness and shame you have brought to the Oval Office.'" I don't think it's debatable, it seemed pretty clear to me what he meant (and given his other statements, not out of character). I wonder if Press Secretary Sanders really believes the obvious lies she peddles or just how many showers she needs to take to feel clean again? If you want an example of co-dependent behavior or how women can work for men who degrade women, the Press Secretary is a prime case.

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Linkee-poo let it snow

We're going to need a bigger boat.

"While no one doubts that human hunting was the proximate cause of thylacine's demise, according to lead researcher Andrew Pask of the University of Melbourne, its fate may have been sealed tens of thousands of years before the last known animal died at the Hobart Zoo in 1936." Note that cheetahs have the same issue.

"There is no simple, universal answer to this question, but after nearly two decades of working with patients trying to lose weight, and with the help of two leaders in the field of nutrition and obesity medicine, I've put together this list of some of the most common behavioral and medical reasons you might not be losing weight, even though you think you are doing everything right. I've also tried to include suggestions to get you on the right track to sustained weight loss."

"Modern ticks are infamous for biting humans and other mammals. But ticks are very ancient, and scientists who study their evolution have long wondered what (or who) the little vampires ate before there were mammals to feed on. Feathered dinosaurs apparently were among the possible creatures on the menu."

"European governments aiming to stem an exodus of refugees from Libya have been knowingly complicit in the abuse of would-be migrants held in detention centers in the North African country, according to Amnesty International." This is my shocked face.

Why CHIP is important and Congress should be ashamed for not addressing it immediately.

For the "we don't need government interference in health care" crowd. "In the six weeks since the denial (for laser ablation surgery), Cara has had more than two dozen seizures affecting her everyday life. Her message to Aetna is blunt: 'Considering they're denying me getting surgery and stopping this thing that's wrong with my brain, I would probably just say, "Screw you."'" Insurance is already between the doctor and their patients. (Grokked from Matt Staggs)

"Two pills to wipe out hookworm could cost you four cents. Or $400… It just depends where you live… The four cents is in Tanzania. That'll cover the two pills it takes to knock out the intestinal parasite. But in the United States, where hookworm has reemerged, the price for two 200 mg tablets of albendazole can cost as much as $400." The company that makes it blames the "regulatory" differences, but my guess is the differences in health insurance rates.

"The Trump administration has scrapped an Obama-era proposal requiring airlines and ticket agencies to disclose baggage fees as soon as passengers start the process of buying a ticket." Because fuck you, that's why. (Grokked from Laura J Mixon)

"President Donald Trump signed his administration's first space policy directive yesterday (Dec. 11), which formally directs NASA to focus on returning humans to the moon." I have a request for whom we can send there first. Note that GW Bush also directed NASA to go to Mars. And then never funded the effort. Or, in other words, it's a sop.

"Around 200 stories flagged as false or misleading relating to the (Alabama Senate) race surfaced on Facebook by the weekend, according to a count by The Associated Press, one of several fact-checking organizations working with Facebook to deter the spread of false content on the platform." Same as it ever was.

"The Treasury Department report enables President Donald Trump to claim that the Senate tax overhaul would pay for itself, even though outside analyses show otherwise." It's a one page memo. One page. You can't refute it's findings because there are none.

"The EU’s 28 finance ministers had already expressed concern about the U.S. (tax overhaul) during a meeting last week, but now its five biggest economies have gone ahead with their own warning."

"White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders sparred heatedly with reporters Monday over errors made by media outlets in recent stories on President Trump." Things are getting a little testy.

Monday, December 11, 2017

Linkee-poo, of all trees that are in the wood the holly bears the crown

"Sheryl Connelly has a crazy job. She's in charge of looking into the future for Ford Motor Co. The automaker is trying to predict how people my age — from Generation Z — will use cars." Dear Millennials, sound familiar? For you Zers, the past 2 generations have been there. Sorry about the shit you're all about to get hit with. Also sorry that Babyboomers and The Greatest Generation could never find (or be bothered to find) an interesting name for us Xers and so you all get the Y and Z designations.

"Earth is 'humming.' You can't hear it, but it's ongoing. And now scientists have measured that persistent hum from the ocean floor, for the first time." I guess the Earth forgot the words.

"Maude Julien's childhood was so horrible, it's difficult to read about. Her father wanted to turn her into some kind of superhuman, able to withstand any torment without flinching. So he treated her in a subhuman way: He forced her to stay in a dark cellar at night, to meditate on death. He made her hold on to an electric fence, to strengthen her will. She had to wait on him hand and foot. And he kept her from most contact with the outside world for years." If this weren't the fodder for hundreds of Cold War pastiche stories I probably wouldn't point to it. Hint, this kind of training doesn't create superhumans or moldable psychopaths, it creates broken psychologies and people who have to work hard to just appear normal. It is abuse plain and simple.

"According to Bloomberg, tech giants are quietly shelling out up to $200 an hour for attractive women and men known as 'ambiance and atmosphere models,' or minglers, to chat up attendees." This is so 80's stereotypes it's unbearable. So when I was working for management consultants I used to do partner-level presentations. At one we had a dinner/event afterward where a partner introduced me to his date. After he waltzed on I made some comment to his executive assistant who replied, "Yes, the agency always sends him the nicest women." (Grokked from Katheryn Cramer, I think)

"A Reddit post over the weekend has drawn a flurry of interest after an iPhone 6s owner reported that a battery replacement significantly increased the device's performance running iOS 11. The ensuing discussion thread, also picked up by readers in the MacRumors forum, has led to speculation that Apple intentionally slows down older phones to retain a full day's charge if the battery has degraded over time."

"North Atlantic right whales are facing a severe threat of extinction after this year saw the death of 17 of the species, leaving their numbers dwindling at around 450 individuals in the wild… 2017 marked a year of high mortality and it also coincided with a year of poor reproduction, which left only about 100 breeding female North Atlantic right whales." Note the website has an autoplay video of the Japanese whaling fleet harvesting whales (I don't know why it's there since the video has nothing to do with the story except about being tangentially tied to overall whale populations).

Yes, the tax bills are Christmas trees, but only if you're a conservative. "A small provision in the House version of the bill would let big donors secretly give unlimited amounts to independent political groups — and write off the contributions as charitable gifts." It's a big triple win for the Kochs and their ilk, and a big fucking lose for democracy.

"That's because the tax bill is front-loaded; the goodies come first. The regressive, non-populist part of the bill, where taxes for the middle class actually go up — kicks in later, well after the next election cycle." Or, the first one is free. It's a shell game, one that people aren't prepared to see (when your major concern is how you're going to pay the bills next month, you don't worry about how much you have to pay 5 years down the road).

"The U.S. economy added 228,000 jobs in November, according to the monthly jobs report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The unemployment rate remained steady at 4.1 percent, unchanged from October… 'Employment growth has averaged 174,000 per month thus far this year, compared with an average monthly gain of 187,000 in 2016,'the agency's acting Commissioner William J. Wiatrowski said of the report." Well that's one way to torpedo the presidential tweeting.

"The delivery of federal food benefits for millions of low-income people is likely to change after the U.S. Department of Agriculture announced Tuesday it'll allow states more flexibility in how they dole out the money." Or how they won't dole out the money. Many people who receive snap are elderly, children, or the disabled. I don't know how they think job training an encouragement to get back "into lives of independence" is really going to help them.

"That's the conundrum facing the state's conservative, deeply religious electorate: Embrace Democrat Doug Jones despite his liberal stance on abortion and other social issues or vote for Moore anyway even if they believe there is some truth to the sexual assault allegations against him." No, it's not a hard choice. It's a damn easy choice. Choose someone with whom you disagree with on policy or choose someone who is morally and criminally reprehensible. It's only when you believe you have the right to tell others how to live that it becomes difficult. Most normal people in this situation would re-examine their beliefs, but not those who have been driven to a frenzy by unscrupulous actors who have been grooming them for decades to be their unwavering political base.

Friday, December 8, 2017

Linkee-poo the cake is a lie

Stay safe this weekend all my friends in NJ and the East Coast.

"From the age of nine or ten, I was passionately certain I would be a writer when I grew up… Now I’m forty-two, and my first book has just come out." Keep going. At my second World Fantasy I met a debut author who was giddy at the parties. She was 62. (Grokked from Ellen Kushner)

"He says this was the most severely injured patient they saw after the eclipse. All in all, 22 people came to their urgent care clinic with concerns about possible eclipse-related damage, and most of them complained of blurred vision. Of those, only three showed some degree of abnormality in the retina. Two of them had only mild changes, however, and their symptoms have gone away." Don't look directly at the sun, even during a partial eclipse. The only time that is safe is during totality. Even those hazy sunrises and sunsets can be problematic.

"When these (narwals) are frightened, their hearts slow, but at the same time they swim quickly to escape." Sometimes evolution fucks us over (my guess is this is to allow the whale more time between surfacing to breathe).

"The climate change simulations that best capture current planetary conditions are also the ones that predict the most dire levels of human-driven warming, according to a statistical study released in the journal Nature Wednesday." We're boned.

"Anheuser-Busch has placed an order for 40 Tesla Semi trucks, the American division of mega-brewer AB InBev announced Thursday." There's a drunk-driving joke here that I just can't tease out.

"Pope Francis has called for a translation of a phrase about temptation in the Lord's Prayer to be changed." Some people are going to be upset.

"The researcher working to eradicate disparities in health access and outcomes had become a symbol of one of the most troublesome health disparities facing black women in the U.S. today: disproportionately high rates of maternal mortality." DNA "weathering" and social conditioning and their affects on the health and mortality of populations "under stress."

"The F-35… has a new potential mission — shooting down intercontinental ballistic missiles… The only drawback is that the F-35 needs to get close to the missile as it's leaving the launchpad, which means firing missiles over enemy territory, something North Korea could see as an act of war." So let me call bullshit right here. This is the latest in the long line of the military claiming that a new weapons system can be the right solution for an emergent problem (for which the weapons system was never designed for and a mission it was never meant to accomplish). As for the part of the being close as the rocket is launched 1) means constant sorties into sovereign airspace and 2) launch intercept is the easiest of the 3 segments of a ballistic missile trajectory to make an intercept and 3) I don't think we have an air-to-air missile fast enough. So we read, "But before a ICBM accelerates to Mach 13, it takes off the launchpad and lurches up to speed and the entire missile, warhead, and all is together in a single target." Yeah, might as well bomb the fucker on the launch pad and we don't need an F-35 to do that mission. This is nothing more than a "please don't cancel our weapons system" press release, not a realistic scenario. But I am glad that now DPRK has a ballistic missile capability (no real word on if they have the re-entry vehicle design) people are admitting that our so-called missile defense is still a fiction (although we've spend a lot of money installing missile launchers, radars, and launch vehicles).

"The Republican plan has never been a secret: in the broadest sense, the party is guided by a vision of shrinking government revenues through reckless tax breaks, and then using the resulting deficits to demand sweeping cuts to social-insurance programs like Medicare and Social Security." For the people not paying attention, Medicare and Social Security are paid for by separate taxes and don't contribute to the deficit. IIRC (I haven't seen any current accounting) Social Security operated in a deficit for 2 years (when President Obama created a "tax break" by temporarily lowering contributions). I don't believe either program will require general funds to make up revenue for the next 18 years or so.

"A bankruptcy judge has granted struggling retailer Toys R Us permission to pay millions of dollars in bonuses to executives after the company argued it was necessary to motivate its top brass during the critical holiday shopping season." At this point they should be focused on the 2018 Holiday season because except for emergencies, there's nothing they could adjust that would have any effect on this year's holiday sales. "CEO Dave Brandon… would be one of the beneficiaries of the bonus plan. His annual compensation — including other incentives and bonuses — already stands at $12.5 million, reports USA Today." So, as they cut workers, whittle their benefits to nothing, drive them to work harder and ignore their input, the C-suite believes the deserve bonuses for driving the company into the ground. Keep this in mind as people start talking about how the 1% are compensated for their "good" work and the value they bring to companies (and ties into the trickle down philosophy that is once again being used to sell us tax breaks for these fuckers). It's all privilege bullshit (okay, maybe 10% isn't). You know what would help this company, that that executive bonus pay and give it to the people in the stores and fulfillment centers, not the executives.

"Why a man declared innocent can't get out of prison." Our justice system and what the "law and order" crowd intrinsically support.

"Michael Slager, the white former police officer who was filmed killing an unarmed black man in North Charleston, S.C., has been sentenced to 20 years in prison. In sentencing Slager, who pleaded guilty earlier this year to a federal civil rights violation, the judge ruled Thursday that he committed second-degree murder and obstruction of justice." Sometimes there is some form of justice.

"An Australian couple who vowed two years ago to divorce if the country legalized same-sex marriage is now backtracking on their promise." This is my shocked face. What they meant to say was… I really don't fucking care what they "meant." Really bigots, just STFU already.

"The Department of Veterans Affairs is slashing funding for a key program that helps provide housing to homeless veterans, according to a new report… Politico reports the VA told advocates and state officials in a call last week that the $460 million program would essentially end." Who loves ya, baby.

"The House approved a bill on Wednesday that would ease legal restrictions for carrying concealed firearms across state lines – a move pushed by the National Rifle Association that comes just weeks after mass shootings in Las Vegas and Texas." You know, if having more guns is supposed to make us a safer society and drive down crime rates, it always amazes me that the same people will then talk about how crime is out of control and a threat to everyone. We have more guns. Shouldn't we be safer? Yeah, it's a non-sense argument.

"Yes, because questioning someone's health based upon anecdote is a really bad thing to do — except of course when you're Trump and the person you're talking about is Hillary Clinton." This is literally a "what's good for the goose is good for the gander" situation, or one of those "glass houses" moments.

Thursday, December 7, 2017

Story Bone

Were-Polar Bears versus Were-Lynx. 'Nough said.

Linkee-poo hunkers down for winter

"Cheese is typically considered more of an indulgence than a health food, but a new review of research suggests that it may not be as bad for you as once thought. In fact, people in the analysis who ate a little bit of cheese every day were less likely to develop heart disease or have a stroke, compared to those who rarely or never ate cheese." Note it's not a causation effect, just a related finding. Good thing this came out right before the holiday snacking/party tray season.

"Drugmaker Pfizer is launching its own cheaper generic version of Viagra rather than lose most sales when the impotence pill gets its first generic competition next week… Pfizer Inc. will begin selling the white pill at half the $65-a-pill retail price on Monday, when its patent-protected monopoly ends. Generic maker Teva Pharmaceuticals can start selling its version then, but isn't disclosing the price." Thirty-two dollars is still a stiff price to pay. "According to health information analytics firm Elsevier, over just the past decade, retail prices jumped from about $10 to $62 per pill for Viagra…" Been there, seen that.

"The researchers showed the short video to 100 hairdressers in the Los Angeles area and measured their knowledge of melanoma screening before and after. After watching, the number of hairdressers reporting they were 'very confident' in their ability to point out possible melanoma lesions increased more than two-fold and their measured knowledge of melanoma and its risks increased." I found my basal cell by feel, but then I've been cutting my own hair for almost a decade. Seriously, it may sound strange, but just like it's important to self-test for breast and testicular cancer it doesn't hurt to feel everywhere for dry or lumpy spots. Fuck cancer.

"Online scammers with an arsenal of cyberbots are stealing Christmas by buying up the most popular toys of the season and selling them for a hefty markup on third-party sites such as Amazon and eBay." One of the many reason ticket scalpers should never have been allowed to "go legit" is it endorsed the practice of arbitrage. There are some beneficial aspects to the model, but none that couldn't be solved by businesses pulling their heads out of their asses.

"General Electric plans to cut 12,000 jobs in its power division as the industrial conglomerate's new CEO institutes sweeping changes and the company grapples with a decline in business for coal and natural gas products." Donald Trump to GE Boardroom, paging Donald Trump to the GE Boardroom. Yeah, I don't expect it either.

Remember us. "Omari would not forget. When he was eventually set free (from Syrian detention) in 2013, he smuggled out the names of all 82 inmates. The lists were written on torn pieces of clothing and penned in blood, then sewn into the collar and cuffs of his shirt. It was his duty, he says, to make sure the names saw the light of day."

Counting the dead. "Researchers have strong evidence that bombs in Syria were targeting civilians, including women and children… In the past seven years, barrel bombs have killed civilians almost exclusively, scientists in Belgium report Wednesday. Civilians comprised 97 percent of the deaths from these bombs." Assad is a war criminal and must not be allowed to escape justice. And this will create a major diplomatic rift with Russia.

How homophobic is the GOP? "A Pennsylvania lawmaker is under fire after insinuating that a fellow state representative was gay for touching his arm during a committee meeting." I'm reminded of an episode of Will & Grace where Jack responds, "Oh you poor thing, that wasn't sex" after touching Will. (Grokked from Chuck Wendig)

"Several Democratic senators, including the chamber's second-ranking Democrat, called Wednesday for Sen. Al Franken, D-Minn., to step down in the midst of allegations that he inappropriately touched several women." I like Al Franken. I like how he's performed as a Senator (when the cameras are on). He needs to resign. This is not sarcasm or irony. If it had just been the Leann Tweeden story he might have gotten a pass (he apologized, she accepted). But it looks like she was just more of the same for him.

"Republicans in Congress are on the verge of fulfilling their long-time dream of eliminating the federal estate tax, and they could do it in a way that is even more generous to heirs than previous repeal efforts." So the US gets doubly-screwed.

"Donald Trump Jr. on Wednesday cited attorney-client privilege to avoid telling lawmakers about a conversation he had with his father, President Donald Trump, after news broke this summer that the younger Trump — and top campaign brass — had met with Russia-connected individuals in Trump Tower during the 2016 campaign." Points and laughs. Seriously. You guys are fucking idiots. I fell like I should grab that photo of Hillary and Obama cracking up with the tag line, "And then he claim client/lawyer privilege" (note, both Obama and Hillary are actual lawyers). (Grokked from Katheryn Cramer)

"A whistleblower claims that then-National Security Adviser Michael Flynn promised that sanctions on Russia would be “ripped up,” enabling a business project for which he’d worked to move forward, according to Representative Elijah Cummings, the ranking Democrat on the House Oversight Committee." Guess which country would have benefited most from this "business deal"? Come on, it's no fun unless you guess.

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Linkee-poo got to be your friend now, baby, and I would like to move in just a little bit closer

Something of interest, not that I have time to read it, but maybe you do. Hoodoo, Conjuration, Witchcraft, Rootwork - Beliefs Accepted by Many Negroes and White Persons These Being Orally Recorded Among Blacks and Whites by Harry Middleton Hyatt. The early volumes (there are five) originally were published in 1935, with the later books published in the 70s. Lot of cornpaw vernacular and mysticism and (I haven't gotten deep into it) I'm assuming racism and misogyny. (Grokked from Matt Staggs)

The Hidden Brain podcast on the Sorting Hat, or using personality tests in business. Any company that does this, even with the Myers-Briggs, is fooling themselves and attempting to replace actual management with meaningless metrics. They aren't doing much more than using a more "scientific" looking version of the on-line tests which tell you which My Little Pony you are. I've taken several of these, including a "pre-employment" test at the hospital. I've received several conflicting results back and I failed that pre-employment test (this was for a "tech assist" position, for a full "radiological technologist" position there was no test). The later came back stating that I would be terrible with patients. Really, that's where I excel given both the patient survey results, including an individual mention in a survey while I was still a student.

"The International Olympic Committee has suspended the Russian Olympic Committee 'with immediate effect,' effectively banning the country from the upcoming Winter Olympics over Russia's system of state-supported cheating by its athletes who used performance-enhancing drugs." Ouch.

"The Trump administration has been eliminating some protections that allow more than 300,000 people to live and work in the U.S. under what is known as Temporary Protected Status. Many could face deportation when their status expires… An estimated 50,000 of them work in the construction industry, concentrated in areas like Texas, Florida and California that are recovering from hurricanes and wildfires and where labor shortages in construction are especially acute." That'll work out well.

"Unlike the cake artists' brief, one signed by chefs, bakers and restauranteurs takes a side. It supports the Colorado Civil Rights Commission and the gay couple, contending that it does not matter whether baking a cake is an art form because even artists who open their doors to the public are required to abide by laws that apply to businesses in general."

"The vaccine — called Dengvaxia — raises the risk of a deadly form of dengue for people who have never been exposed to the virus, Sanofi Pasteur wrote Wednesday in a statement. The company says it discovered the complication after analyzing data from a six-year study." Oopsie.

The difference between curries and Indian cooking in the UK. Not so different than with American versions of Chinese and Mexican dishes.

"The U.S. Consulate in Jerusalem has ordered its personnel and their families not to conduct personal travel to Jerusalem’s Old City or the West Bank due to fears of unrest over an expected U.S. announcement."

"President Trump's plan to recognize Jerusalem as Israel's capital and begin the process to relocate the U.S. Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem — has prompted warnings of violence and concern that the move will scuttle any chance at advancing peace efforts." Gee, ya think?

"Keeping the corporate AMT while also cutting the corporate tax rate, experts say, could create a situation where the revised corporate tax code undermines some of the new benefits the bill creates for businesses." Note that in the Senate bill the Corporate AMT is the same as the nominal corporate tax rate (20%). I guess all those last minute changes weren't fully vetted. Oopsie. What the fight is about is if corporations can bring their tax down to 0% (like many of them already have). So when you hear that line "the highest corporate taxes in the world" understand that nobody really pays that amount. Also this short-circuits the strategy of just having the House approve the Senate plan (in case the Senate's balance of power is adjusted by Alabama or other circumstances). Also note the US Chamber of Commerce reaction. Again, 20% is much lower than 35%, but corporations know they wouldn't pay either. The 20% ATM would be a tax increase for most businesses.

If true, the following is quite disturbing. "The Trump Administration is considering a set of proposals developed by Blackwater founder Erik Prince and a retired CIA officer — with assistance from Oliver North, a key figure in the Iran-Contra scandal — to provide CIA Director Mike Pompeo and the White House with a global, private spy network that would circumvent official U.S. intelligence agencies, according to several current and former U.S. intelligence officials and others familiar with the proposals. The sources say the plans have been pitched to the White House as a means of countering 'deep state' enemies in the intelligence community seeking to undermine Donald Trump’s presidency." This is how democracy dies. This is real "take up arms against the government" territory. Unfortunately this would probably be stuffed into the "black budget" of which Congress has little control or oversight or by private donations. This is the formation of a private army, a Praetorian Guard. This is why you never deal with mercenaries and why they were outlawed in the US for a very long time. (Grokked from Jim Wright)

"Vice President Mike Pence and former White House chief of staff Reince Priebus considered a coup to replace then candidate Donald Trump following the release of the 'Access Hollywood' tape just weeks before the 2016 presidential election, The Atlantic reported in a lengthy profile of Pence on Tuesday." That's going to make the Christmas Party a little awkward.

And that lengthy profile… "Pence has so far showed absolute deference to the president—and as a result he has become one of the most influential figures in the White House, with a broad portfolio of responsibilities and an unprecedented level of autonomy. But for all his aw-shucks modesty, Pence is a man who believes heaven and Earth have conspired to place him a heartbeat—or an impeachment vote—away from the presidency. At some crucial juncture in the not-too-distant future, that could make him a threat to Trump."

"Donald Trump Jr. asked a Russian lawyer at the June 2016 Trump Tower meeting whether she had evidence of illegal donations to the Clinton Foundation, the lawyer told the Senate Judiciary Committee in answers to written questions obtained exclusively by NBC News." Now the Russians are throwing people under the bus while attempting to cast shade on Bill Browder (who pushed the Magnitsky Act). You know, as "not a Russian government lawyer" and without any government connections she sure is pushing the Russian government line. "Previously, she told NBC News she had raised the issue of potential questionable contributions to Clinton's campaign by Americans accused in Russia of tax evasion." The story is changing, but if you look at it from the perspective of Veselnitskaya as a Russian agent with the Russians attempting to sow chaos in the US to destabilize the US government (and diminish it's role on the world stage), this narrative fits exactly into that story.

Scenes from a commute

Not from today, or even from the same day, but catching up on some of the photos I've taken.


Dramatic clouds are dramatic.

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Dueling Ad Placement

When bots go bad. Or, hey look, it's just like a woman's magazine cover ("20 Killer Cupcake Recipes" right next to "How to lose 20lbs instantly").

Cultural context

This was so close it took me a while to realize there wasn't an "s" in the name of the station. But for a while I was thinking, "WTF Walmart?!"

Linkee-poo was burned out from exhaustion, buried in the hail

DongWon Song on not quitting your day job. "But here’s the thing: Success isn’t an accident. Success doesn’t just happen to you. Success is a thing you aim for. Something you work for. But before all that it HAS to be something you dream of." And as the old saying goes, luck favors the prepared.

NPR's book concierge guide to 2017's great reads. Hey, I know a couple of those.

"NASA has nailed an engine test on a spacecraft 13 billion miles away." I'm so old I remember when the Voyager missions we still exploring the planets (as they zipped by).

"A weapon as legendary as the dagger of King Tutankhamun needs an epic backstory, and last year X-ray analysis showed that the iron in the ancient blade had come from meteorites. Now, a French study has found that the artifact was far from alone as all iron tools dating back to the Bronze Age have otherworldly origins."

"A uterus implanted into a woman from a living donor resulted in a successful birth in Dallas last month, the first such delivery in the United States."

"Fishermen are worried about an offshore wind farm proposed 30 miles out in the Atlantic from Montauk, N.Y., the largest fishing port in the state. They say those wind turbines — and many others that have been proposed — will impact the livelihood of fishermen in New York and New England." Because, you know, environmental damage and stuff. Also includes scallop fishermen who literally scraped the ocean floor free of all plants to haul in their catch.

I think I posted a link to a story about how YouTube is being flooded with "children's videos" which are violent and sexual in nature (and how many of them could have been autogenerated or just quickly put together as a way to maximize ad revenue). "YouTube, which has come under fire for posting videos aimed at children with violent and sexual themes, said it will dramatically increase the number of people overseeing content in 2018."

"A Kentucky lawyer who disappeared after his conviction in a massive social security fraud case is in a Honduran jail. Eric Conn escaped house arrest in Lexington six months ago before heading to New Mexico. He then reportedly traveled to Mexico and Guatemala, and spent the last three months in Honduras."

Fact checking Commissioner Pai's statement on Net Neutrality. It's what you'd expect.

"Federal authorities sought to take back guns from thousands of people the background check system should have blocked from buying weapons because they had criminal records, mental health issues or other problems that would disqualify them." I'm sure that's normal. Say, how many people bought firearms on Black Friday?

"Here's a look at some of the changes that individual filers could expect if either the House or Senate versions is included in the final bill."

"In 2015, Republicans changed the budget rules in Congress so that official scorekeepers would be required to analyze the potential economic impact of major legislation when determining how it would affect federal revenues… But on Thursday, hours before they were set to vote on the largest tax cut Congress has considered in years, Senate Republicans opened an assault on that scorekeeper, the Joint Committee on Taxation, and its analysis, which showed the Senate plan would not, as lawmakers contended, pay for itself but would add $1 trillion to the federal budget deficit." Republicans are all about the rules, until it concerns their little red ball. Note that the Joint Committee on Taxation uses the dynamic scoring all the rage in conservative circles (the CBO and the JCT used "static scoring" until 2015 when the GOP mandated the change by law).

Sen/ Grassley, realizing he shit all over most of America in public, tries to put a good spin on his words by throwing the farmers under the bus. "But according to the Register, the actual numbers do not support that narrative. Citing 2016 data from the IRS, the newspaper determined 5,219 tax returns were affected by the current estate tax. Only 682, or 13 percent, of the tax filers owned farm assets." Note that "owned farm assets" does not actually equate to "farmers." Also note that smart people don't pay the estate tax (having moved their assets to trusts, incorporating, or transferring to their heirs before they die). And finally note that if you give someone a gift of over $10,000, they also owe income tax on that gift. Explain the difference between that tax and the estate tax. It's a transfer of capital. That's actually where we make taxes. We have an estate tax to prevent the rise of an aristocracy by circumventing the inheritance of vast sums of wealth.

While I hate to promote a book by Corey Lewandowski but this Washington Post article shares enough tidbits to let you know the mindset of the president. As I said way back in early 2016, Trump is every asshole CEO and manager I've ever worked for.

"Manafort evidently failed to tell the government that he was ghost-writing a draft op-ed about his work in Ukraine as late as November 30. He was working on it with 'a longtime Russian colleague' who is 'assessed to have ties to Russian intelligence,' according to the special counsel's court filing." Lock him up (unfortunately they're just talking about keeping the GPS tracking on him). Thank Gru that America has the dumbest criminals ever. (Grokked from Matt Staggs)

"Here's the money quote Dowd gave to Axios: The 'president cannot obstruct justice because he is the chief law enforcement officer under [the Constitution's Article II] and has every right to express his view of any case.'" Ah, the right of Kings. It's good to be the king. Except we don't have kings and no one is above the law.

"U.S. Special Counsel Robert Mueller has asked Deutsche Bank (DBKGn.DE) for data on accounts held by President Donald Trump and his family, a person close to the matter said on Tuesday." I haven't looked yet, but I see a storm of tweets from the president because of this. (Goes and makes more popcorn)

Monday, December 4, 2017

Linkee-poo must have killed more people than Cecil B DeMille

"14 terabytes of 'highly confidential' data about 5,120 financial aid applications over seven years were exposed in a breach at Stanford's Graduate School of Business -- proving that the school 'misled thousands of applicants and donors about the way it distributes fellowship aid and financial assistance to its MBA students,' reports Poets&Quants." A business school lies about their admission and financial assistance policies? And they're found out because they don't understand basic computer security? Shocked, shocked I am… (Grokked from Dan)

Day one of the NASA Advent Calendar. "The Bubble Nebula, also known as NGC 7635, is an emission nebula located 8,000 light years away in the Cassiopeia constellation. The bubble is created by stellar wind pushing out from a massive hot central star, visible here just left of the center of the image, a purple star partly obscured by blue gas clouds. The nebula is seven light years across—about one-and-a-half times the distance from our sun to its nearest stellar neighbor, Alpha Centauri." Gods I love Hubble. Now here's a story bone. The edge of the nebula, if it was from Alpha Centauri, would have passed through our system (or most likely be deformed or deflected by our own solar wind). What would that look like from our end, what effect might we experience? Imagine for half the year (if it was on the elliptic) we would have a huge glowing cloud in the night sky. Just the religious implications would be enormous. (Grokked from John)

"After filming was complete, the 12-story set was too expensive to dismantle —and too valuable to leave for rival film studios to pilfer. In a move just as ambitious as his filmmaking, DeMille, who created a second version of the film in 1956, ordered the set buried at a location unknown to the public." Unearthing the recent past.

"… but scientists have come to the realization that a particular light source, one assumed to be binary star system in Andromeda, may actually be something far stranger. Like a pair of orbiting supermassive black holes a thousand times further away."

"'Through reducing our attention to the outside world, acetaminophen appears to nudge us into a more psychologically insulated state,'" says Todd Handy, a psychology professor at the University of British Columbia in Canada."

"CVS Health said on Sunday that it had agreed to buy Aetna for about $69 billion in a deal that would combine the drugstore giant with one of the biggest health insurers in the United States and has the potential to reshape the nation’s health care industry." That's the highest cost drug store buying an insurance company. To lower prices. Yeah. I don't buy it either.

"Minutes later, he worked the phones between bites of pizza in the cafeteria… The woman had burned bridges by walking out of (heroin) treatment. Williams pounded the table as he talked to a treatment center that didn’t want to see her again. 'This is me groveling,' he said. 'This is me begging. I need that bed ... What do I have to do?'" On fighting the epidemic in America. There aren't enough beds for addiction or psych cases.

"'I think not having the estate tax recognizes the people that are investing, as opposed to those that are just spending every darn penny they have, whether it's on booze or women or movies,' Grassley, a member of the Senate Finance Committee, told the Register on Saturday." Only rich assholes think this way. Dear Sen. Grassley, most people in America don't have an option to invest (other than a possible 401(k) program) because they don't have the money, access, or even know that it's a possibility. Most Americans live paycheck to paycheck, and many can't even afford that. Please feel free to fuck off and die.

"And the middle class is already struggling. The median household income is roughly $59,000 a year. But around the country, even six-figure salaries for some single-person households don't necessarily furnish financial security." No matter where you are on the income spectrum, it's never enough. Either it's making ends meet, keeping up what what you think is supposed to be your lifestyle, or just having more than the other person.

"In an NPR interview Thursday, Ryan offered a detailed defense of the tax bill. What follows are some of Ryan's statements, in bold — and some of the facts behind them." Yes, Virginia, GOP representatives are out of touch with regular people.

"'The president is capping his celebration of Native American Heritage Month by opening the door to new drilling and mining on land considered sacred by tribal nations,' said (The Center for Western Priorities) executive director, Jennifer Rokala. 'After his appalling remarks at the White House on Monday, President Trump’s assault on tribal interests continues at a staggering pace.'" Yeah, tell me about how both sides are the same. I never get tired of that one.

Word is that as a part of Flynn's deal is he agreed to testify that Trump ordered him to make contact with the Russians. That's a big difference between unwitting dupe and active collaborator.

To wit: "Legal experts said this could be used as evidence that the president was trying to obstruct justice when he allegedly asked James Comey to take it easy on Flynn and then, when he didn’t, fired him as FBI director… On Sunday, Trump’s personal lawyer claimed responsibility for writing the tweet — which he called sloppy." Uh yeah, Bob. Because, you know, lawyers often implicate their clients in the very crimes where they are defending them. So, obstruction of justice, who could have known? We'll ignore that if the president knew Flynn had lied to the FBI and then didn't turn him in, that conspiracy, abetting, and makes the president as responsible for Flynn's lies as Flynn is.

"The Kremlin says a conversation between President Donald Trump’s former national security adviser and the Russian ambassador to the United States did not influence Russian President Vladimir Putin’s response to sanctions imposed by Trump’s predecessor." So the call was meant to influence Putin?

"'Immediately upon learning of the allegations, the Special Counsel's Office removed Peter Strzok from the investigation,' Peter Carr, a spokesman for Mueller, said in a statement. 'Lisa Page completed her brief detail and had returned to the FBI weeks before our office was aware of the allegations.'" What's sad is this is so far from normal these days that it becomes a big story. This is normal. An investigator demonstrated gross bias and was removed from the investigation. That's how it's supposed to work. It also doesn't help that the president is grasping at straws.

"It was yet another week of outrageous and consequential stories piling on top of one another at a head-spinning pace. A failed attempt to discredit the Washington Post. A bombshell plea from a former Trump official. A secret button. Poison in the Hague. A computer glitch that could ruin Christmas. And the FCC's upcoming vote on "net neutrality," a bureaucratic thicket with potentially catastrophic consequences. All of this, plus radical transparency in journalism, bots bringing down public comment and the history of America's love of hoaxes." The show On The Media with some interesting perspectives from this weekend that they titled, "Flim-flam Nation."

Friday, December 1, 2017

Linkee-poo is gonna try for an uptown girl, she's been living in her white bread world as long as anyone with hot blood can

For the life of me, I really don't understand this consternation over Meghan Markle marrying a retired British Army Officer. One, he is what, 5th in line to the throne (3rd when his brother takes the crown, cause I don't think Charles will wear it, or at least not for long)? If they're happy everyone else can fuck right off, IMHO. And I know the US has its share of Anglophiles, but seriously, give it a rest. We fought a war. They don't matter to us.

Jim Neighbors has died. He had a wonderful singing voice and he was a brother in Delta Tau Delta (my fraternity) where he is listed as one of our most famous brothers.

Wither Barnes & Noble? "Barnes & Noble Inc., which posted a wider loss last quarter that sent its shares tumbling, is scaling back ambitions to become more than a bookseller."

"Combs and other researchers spent two years going around the city and trapping rats. After extracting and analyzing their DNA, he determined that the rats that live in uptown, north of 59th Street, are distinct from those living in downtown, south of 14th Street. The Midtown area is more sparsely populated — by rats, anyway — presenting a barrier to genetic mixing."

"A man is suing Pittsburgh's Kennywood amusement park after he says he contracted an eye-eating parasite at the popular Raging Rapids ride."

"All of the U.S. military’s special operations fighters sent off to warzones and raids now have an essential addition to their first-aid kits: freeze-dried blood plasma."

"The flu vaccine used this year in Australia — which has the same composition as the vaccine used in the U.S. — was only 10 percent effective, according to a preliminary estimate, at preventing the strain of the virus that predominantly circulated during the country's flu season, an international team of medical experts wrote in a perspective published today in The New England Journal of Medicine." Rhut rho.

"A new government report says the number of children in the U.S. foster care system has increased for the fourth year in a row, due largely to an uptick in substance abuse by parents." And that's not counting the number of children being raised by their grandparents, aunts and uncles. The social safety net needs expanding, but it won't happen under the GOP (at least how it's comprised and motivated today).

"… Emperor Akihito will abdicate on April 30, 2019, capping a three-decade reign on the Chrysanthemum Throne, the Imperial Household Council said Friday…"

"Drug prices are too high and we'd better do something about it. That's the nutshell conclusion of a 201-page report from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine." Along with some recommendations of what can been done to cut costs.

"In a legal case with profound implications for LGBT rights and religion’s place in public life, the opposing sides agree on this: It’s not about the cake." It's about living, it's about being recognized as a person. See, if I were in this case and someone said they refused to offer services to someone because of their "deeply held religious beliefs" I would question if they adhered to their "religious beliefs" in other areas. IIRC, some of these cake people are Baptists, who also hold a religious belief against alcohol consumption. Do they ask if there will be alcohol at the reception and refuse to make cakes for those? Is there a prohibition against divorce and do they ask if any of the participants have been divorced? Do you only offer your service to those of your same faith (note, I would specify denomination here)? If not their defense is prima facia bullshit (although IANAL so it would be tricker than that). And then there's the question of if this is art. Even within the art community there is some confusion here. Because of my training, the best they could claim here is "commercial art." And then the "commercial" side drives the decisions. Is it artistic? Okay, sure. But if you take commissions to create your art, that's a different category of art (insert libraries discussing the controversy here on both sides). Then we get into the discussion of what about the art specifically violates your religious views? Do you bake differently? What is it about the decoration that is religious in nature? Where exactly are you being asked to change your art to accommodate a gay customer? Is the baking and decorating of the cake a "religious" event or devotion? Are you required to sanctify the union to bake a cake?

"To streamline the wording, we decided to fact-check (Sen. Tim Scott's, R-S.C.) overall point that a typical family not currently paying income taxes would receive more money under the (Senate tax) overhaul. (His office did not object to that paraphrase.)" Nope.

"Senate Republicans ran into a speed bump Thursday evening in their quest to pass a tax overhaul by the weekend, over concerns that the bill could fall far short of GOP promises of economic growth." And that's when using the GOP preferred methodology of "dynamic scoring." This is my shocked face. After this Republicans should never be allowed to claim "fiscal responsibility." If they try it (like they will next year) we should all point and laugh.

"Law enforcement’s response to a violent white nationalist rally in Virginia last summer failed on multiple fronts, leading to 'deep distrust of government' in the Charlottesville community, an independent review released Friday found." Ya think?

"Trump suggested earlier this week that the media should award an annual Fake News Award for the worst coverage of his presidency but left Fox News out of the running since it is the only network the president and his supporters believe gives him fair coverage. But 40% of all voters think Fox News should be the winner of the first annual Fake News Trophy." This is my surprised face. Well, actually I am surprised… that it's so low. But the various political constituencies (Grokked from Dan)

"Rep. Joe Barton (Tex.), one of the longest-serving Republicans in the House, announced Thursday that he will not seek another term representing his suburban Dallas-Fort Worth district… The announcement came after news reports revealing that Barton had carried on extramarital relationships with multiple women before his 2015 divorce. A lewd photo he sent to one of those women circulated online last week, prompting Barton to apologize." I feel like we're watching one of those murder mysteries where everyone is secluded in a country estate and you keep watching to see who is going to get the axe next. (Grokked from Dan)

"The White House has developed a plan to force out Secretary of State Rex W. Tillerson, whose relationship with President Trump has been strained, and replace him with Mike Pompeo, the C.I.A. director, perhaps within the next several weeks, senior administration officials said on Thursday." It's one of those business jokes, how we can't expect to get things done because we're "re-engineering".

"The Trump administration is seriously considering recognizing Jerusalem as the capital of Israel in early December, even as President Donald Trump signs a waiver to keep the embassy in Tel Aviv for another six months, sources tell CNN." Whelp, so much for peace in the Middle East. I wonder if Tillerson has been trying to explain to the president why we keep our embassy in Tel Aviv and that's the major reason for the break.

"Former national security adviser Michael Flynn is to plead guilty Friday to making false statements to the FBI, becoming the fourth person charged in a wide-ranging investigation led by special counsel Robert Mueller and his team of prosecutors." Step by step, inch by inch… Still lots of shoes to drop.

"In Alabama, Republican candidate Roy Moore is an unabashed Christian nationalist, arguing that the United States was established as a Christian nation, to be governed by Christian principles." All thanks to Ronald Reagan who recognized the decline of conservatives and so made it a priority to bring social conservatives (who don't hold the same values as the former fiscal/governmental conservatives) into the voting population giving him the presidency and ushering in the era of "social issue politics" (abortion being the most obvious, the "War on Christmas" being one of the lesser known). This is the Reagan Compromise, and this is what has driven the Republican party to the far right (and consolidated their hold on those who hold authoritarian leanings) and swelled the ranks of "independents" who feel there is no party that represents their views (although they trend toward the right). It is also what has driven people from Christian churches as ministers and preachers expose views and support tactics that bother people who understand the Gospel.

"So the reality is, as best we can tell, 'Merry Christmas' never left the White House." And don't let anyone tell you otherwise.

Thursday, November 30, 2017

Linkee-poo is late

"Minnesota Public Radio (MPR) is terminating its contracts with Garrison Keillor and his private media companies after recently learning of allegations of his inappropriate behavior with an individual who worked with him." I'm going to miss the Writers Almanac. I can't say I'm entirely surprised having read several of his books, shorter works, and having felt uncomfortable with some of the sketches near the end of his run on Prairie Home Companion.

More on those "origami" inspired soft robots. "The delicate art of paper folding is playing a crucial role in designing robotic artificial muscles that are startlingly strong. In fact, the researchers say they can lift objects 1,000 times their own weight." So when the robopocclypse comes you can take reassurance that the heavy hand of oppression will be softer than once thought. Also, oddly, this mimics how your muscles actually work (by hooking fibrous strands my making lots of connections, which amplifies the force from the molecular level to the macro level).

Speaking of the robopocclypse, "As many as 800 million workers worldwide may lose their jobs to robots and automation by 2030, equivalent to more than a fifth of today’s global labor force." This is from Bloomberg so of course they have the statement, "The good news for those displaced is that there will be jobs for them to transition into, although in many cases they’re going to have to learn new skills to do the work." How's that working out in coal country (and in the rust belt, and the garment industry…)?

"A glitch in American Airlines' pilot scheduling system means that thousands of flights during the holiday season currently do not have pilots assigned to fly them." Only because I'm not flying can I find this hilarious. Having been on the opposite side of HR systems that are fairly punishing to the employees, seeing it cut the other way brings a little joy to myself.

"New regulations on the international movements of rosewood have hit hard in parts of the music industry, which has long relied on rosewood as a 'tonewood' used in many kinds of instruments, including guitars, cellos and clarinets." And rosewood does make a difference in the sound of instruments. But you know what, there is a reason being a luthier is an art. There are varnishes and varnishing techniques that could help. It might be time to rethink some instrument structures. Because China is going to continue to pillage the world (rosewood is only the latest commodity to catch on in China where the over-importation has caused problems). Will those alterations exactly recreate the rosewood richness? Nope. But it could create a newer tonality that replaces it. Considering the organization that would need to adjust the import/export restrictions doesn't even meet until 2019, you've got to do something in the mean time. Also, rosewood isn't the first issue with supply the music industry has faced. About a decade ago it was ebony wood and brazilwood.

"A 19th century painting by Polish artist Robert Sliwinski that was stolen by the Nazis during World War II was returned to its home country and presented to the public on Wednesday." Justice is slow, but an ongoing process.

"After Mr. Jacobs left Uber, his lawyer sent the 37-page letter to Ms. Padilla as part of settlement negotiations in May. Ms. Padilla said the company had not shared this letter with the legal team handling the Waymo case because Uber hadn’t wanted to compromise an internal investigation into its claims… Judge Alsup said to Ms. Padilla that 'on the surface, it looks like you covered this up' and tried to keep the letter out of the hands of Waymo’s lawyers." Legal discovery is a serious process (having been involved in a few of these myself in previous employment). Withholding because of an "internal investigation" is a bs excuse.

"It was a triumphant moment for the students: For the first time, every graduate had applied and been accepted to college. The school is located in one of Washington, D.C.'s poorest neighborhoods and has struggled academically for years with a low graduation rate… But all the excitement and accomplishment couldn't shake one question from (history teacher Brian) Butcher's mind:… How did all these students graduate from high school?" I have lots of thinky thoughts here. Mostly the revolve around the exposure of "privilege" when it's applies to minority students balanced with grade inflation in general and the fact that being wealthy removes a lot of the hurdles these kids had to cross to get to the same place. Also how this screws the students more than anything else. Also note the pressure of teacher evaluations while we're discussing replacing tenure protections with a heavy reliance on those evaluations (and how the administration has total control of them without a balancing force of a teachers' union).

New migraine therapies that can help some people. Reports on the cost, however, may cause other headaches.

"Patients aren't true health care consumers because they typically can't shop by price and they often don't have control over the care they receive, Saini said. The medical evidence may support multiple paths for providing care, but patients are unable to tell what is or is not discretionary, he said. Time pressure adds urgency, which makes it difficult to discuss or research various options." Yep. Might be something that a single-payer system could solve. From the inside, almost every shift there is at least one order that we question the doctors for justification. There are other times where we call the doctor to explain that the patient just had a similar test, the doctor just didn't bother to look in the record before ordering the test. "Here are seven steps patients can take to protect themselves…" Basically it's a lot of work.

"Most glitters are in essence teeny tiny bits of shiny plastic, called microplastics. They are a well-known environmental hazard for the world's oceans, and they're currently a hot topic in the United Kingdom." Could this spell the end of the glitter bomb?

"Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai, responding to criticism from Silicon Valley of his proposed rollback of open-internet regulations, criticized Twitter Inc. and other companies, calling them a greater threat to web freedom than the broadband providers the rules were designed to restrict." Obviously our fight against the fake news spread by the president are getting them a little upset.

Apparently Slobodan Praljak wasn't fibbing. He's dead now. And here Steve will show his colder side… well, at least that saves us the money of incarcerating his ass until he died of other causes. But it denies some semblance of justice to the victims of his genocide. He joins a list of others who did similar things. In a way it makes you wonder if, while proclaiming their innocence, they understood what justice would mean and either made a decision to re-injure those they killed, or knew how horribly they treated others and fully expected to be treated the same.

"'I analyze this very differently than most,' (Marco) Rubio told the crowd. 'Many argue that you can’t cut taxes because it will drive up the deficit. But we have to do two things. We have to generate economic growth which generates revenue, while reducing spending. That will mean instituting structural changes to Social Security and Medicare for the future,' the senator said." Just a note here, Social Security and Medicare do not add to the deficit. In fact when there are surpluses, they buy government bonds which finance the debt. You pay separate taxes to support both of these programs, they have nothing to do with income taxes (although they are indexed to income, but just how much you pay, and on what earnings you stop paying). Also my retirement age is already 70. (Grokked from Seanan McGuire)

"Republicans lawmakers are considering a federal budget 'trigger' that would raise taxes if proposed tax cuts don't deliver the economic growth they have promised… But the proposal is generating a lot of pushback from critics, especially conservatives." You might think that since they're so confident the tax cuts will grow the economy this would be an easy sell. But they know it won't. All their after is huge tax cuts for the rich. If this actually were a tax cut for the middle class, those cuts would be permanent and the corporate taxes would expire. There's already reports about how with these tax cuts, they'll have to make changes to Social Security and Medicare/Medicaid (even those programs, the "mandatory spending" are supported by separate taxes). It's the fleecing of America.

"The Obama White House hosted the press for a 'holiday reception' each December. Under Trump, the event is billed as both a 'Holiday Reception' and a 'Christmas Reception.'" And while the article explains that the Obamas said "Merry Christmas" while in the White House, they also talk about how the Trump's have referred to the "holiday season." Bet you won't hear that last one touted as a part of the War on Christmas.

I'm not sure that things were just so chaotic in the Trump campaign that we had to ask Russia for help is an actual defense for treason. And let's say Kushner was just so busy he missed that the meeting in Trump tower was with Russians, I think it would have been pretty obvious as the meeting started what was going on and you'd both leave at that point and report the contact and not stay for the whole meeting.