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

Friday, October 20, 2017

Linkee-poo slides into the weekend

NPR was burning it up the past two days. Did you all have a meeting or something?

"Construction crews are erecting eight looming prototypes of President Trump's border wall in a remote section of the San Diego borderlands. Four are solid concrete; four are made of steel and concrete; one is topped with spikes." Theater in the middle of nowhere. "The administration has asked Congress for $1.6 billion for 74 miles of new border wall…" The total length of our border with Mexico is 1,989 miles.

"Some analysts now see signs that Mount Mantap, the 7,200-foot-high peak under which North Korea detonates its nuclear bombs, is suffering from 'tired mountain syndrome.'" There's only so many times you can break a rock.

"This winter is going to be a warm one for the majority of the United States, according to forecasters at NOAA's Climate Prediction Center." I remember when El Nino was a once every decade event.

We don't need any regulations. "For five days in December of that year, London was blanketed by a yellow toxic vapor that smothered its inhabitants. By the time this poisonous air mass moved on and death records were correctly tallied, some 12,000 people would be recognized as fatalities of what was called The Great Smog of 1952."

Also, "Increasing pollution worldwide is proving deadlier than war, natural disasters or smoking, according to a new report published in the Lancet medical journal. Based largely on 2015 data from the Global Burden of Disease, the report estimates that at least 9 million premature deaths were caused during the year by diseases from toxic exposure." We're number 8, btw.

"A federal appeals court has temporarily blocked a judge's ruling that would have allowed a detained teenager who is in the U.S. illegally to have an abortion, in the latest twist in a legal battle between the ACLU and the Trump administration." Delay, delay, delay.

Note to Texas, "Spain was preparing to impose direct rule over semi-autonomous Catalonia after the region's leader Carles Puigdemont declined to categorically renounce an independence referendum, the prime minister's office announced Thursday."

"Bank of America Merrill Lynch downgraded Chipotle and cut its earnings targets for 2018 and 2019, saying the struggling restaurant chain will have trouble cutting back labor costs any further than it already has." Apparently they're too good to their employees. This is what's known as "economic extortion." (Grokked from Steven Gould)

"Quebec has approved a law that would require citizens of the Canadian province to uncover their faces while giving or receiving any public service — a rule critics say is aimed at Muslim women who wear the niqab or burqa." I'm not sure Quebec knows what "Religious Neutrality" actually means. Just a continuation of men arguing over what women should or should not wear.

"By the end of November 1965, U.S. officials were well aware that mass murders were underway. At this point, roughly two months into an Indonesian military campaign that would ultimately kill at least half a million people, U.S. Embassy staff privately expressed no shock in reporting that thousands had already been summarily executed." Whatever you do, don't tell the American public. So what's going on in the Philippines and the relative American silence isn't a new story.

"'While we appreciate the work of your staff, the lack of a timely waiver approval will prevent thousands of Oklahomans from realizing the benefits of significantly lower insurance premiums in 2018,' Oklahoma Health Secretary Terry Cline wrote in a Sept. 29 letter to former Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin explaining why the state was withdrawing the application." The current administration dragging its feet on helping people get lower premiums? Shocked, shocked I am… Yes, Virginia, the Trump Administration (and conservatives in general) are hell-bent on screwing over the poor.

"Now NPR has taken a closer look at the charitable-giving claims made by a Trump property, the Trump National Golf Club, Los Angeles. We have found that the golf club's charitable giving has followed the same pattern — falling far short of what the organization claimed." It's almost as if it were a pattern of behavior that flows from the top of the organization.

"The Senate took a significant step toward rewriting the tax code on Thursday night with the passage of a budget blueprint that would protect a $1.5 trillion tax cut from a Democratic filibuster." So they'll use their reconciliation token on the tax cut. Good to know they have no intention of making this fair. However, it also means they can't use that trick for repealing Obamacare until Fiscal Year 2019. But it also slashes Medicaid/Medicare spending (which, IIRC, isn't a part of the discretionary spending), defunds Planned Parenthood (helloooo lawsuit), and open the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (and other places) to oil and gas exploration.

And Trump pledges to have the biggest tax cuts ever. So, welcome to the fleecing of America. The sad part is that all the people who will be hurt by this will still vote Republican because they'll hope that these will hurt minorities even more.

Dear Chief of Staff Gen. Kelly, with all due respect, sir, bite me. This story is not about the fallen and their families. This is a story about the president's lack of empathy and self awareness. It's about his lack of compassion for anyone other than himself. As you are well aware, there is a way combat soldiers talk to each other that would not be understood by their spouses (unless they're also combat soldiers). There's a way those who served talk with each other that those outside wouldn't understand (even working in a hospital, there are ways we health workers who work directly with the patients can talk with each other that we would never let someone outside hear us because they wouldn't understand). You don't talk the same way to someone who served like you do to a spouse, a parent, or someone who has never worn the uniform. The president is your charge, sir. This was an entirely self-inflicted wound by his partially non-sequitur answer to a question on why he hadn't tweeted or spoken about the deaths in Niger. He brought this attention on himself. The congress woman is a friend of the family and was on speaker phone in the car with the president's call, it's not like she surreptitiously picked up an extension line after sneaking into the house. Please take your sanctimonious self-importance and shove it. Do your fucking job, general. Get your charge under control and educate him. That literally is your fucking job. His troubles are starting to reflect on you.

Thursday, October 19, 2017

Linkee-poo can dim the lights and sing you songs full of sad things

Sorry all my Russian friends, getting hammered at work so I'm a little late. I know it screws up your workday.

"'Intact lunar lava tubes offer a pristine environment to conduct scientific examination of the Moon’s composition and potentially serve as secure shelters for humans and instruments,' an abstract to a study published in Geophysical Research Letters." I think one of my early short stories used this as a plot point. Also, and here's a thought, robotic miners creating habitats under the surface of both the Moon and Mars using the surface materials as building supplies.

Does it hurt when you die? "…(S)cientists say people are aware they’re dead because their consciousness continues to work after the body has stopped showing signs of life." Apparently there's a way to find out. It's not really all that surprising given you can survive a few minutes without breathing/circulation before your cells stop working. So far as I've seen, though, the experiment on out of body experiences hasn't produced a positive yet.

"Researchers found yeast with high levels of the sugar known as glucose overstimulated the same proteins often found mutated inside human tumors, making cells grow faster. The finding, published in Nature Communications on Friday, aims to shed light on how cancer develops." Now there's a big difference between yeast and multi-cellular animals, and it depends on "high levels" (note, feed any organism high levels of one type of food and you'll get cancer). Also, your body uses glucose (especially your neurons). However if they were to find a link between processed sugars and cancer growth that could explain the rise of cancers in our society. And while it might not be a cause of cancer by itself, it could be what fuels cancers' growth outstripping your body's immune system ability to clear them out.

BTW, there's rumors that the new budget slashes the NIH research budget. The NIH is where a lot of those new, nifty, novel cancer treatments (like stimulating your immune system to fight your cancer) come from.

"The total number of flying insects in protected areas in Germany has dropped by over 75 percent in the past 27 years. Scientists noted the major decline of bees, butterflies, moths and other winged creatures across 63 key areas and said it could not be explained by changes to habitat or weather, instead speculating that widespread pesticide use may be to blame." Nothing to worry about, just our food supply.

If you want to know what is wrong with business and government in the USA, all you need to do is follow the Amazon's second headquarters search. Note to municipalities, bigger deals are almost never worth it. Even the smaller deals (which I had to oversee) aren't worth it (but they have a better chance of breaking even, if you negotiate the deal correctly). "Corporate subsidies, by one conservative estimate, top $70 billion a year. That's what cities and states give away in foregone taxes and other concessions to companies — sometimes for the prospect of new jobs and sometimes just to keep existing ones." The little guy, you and me, we foot that bill in higher taxes.

"The good news is the mess doesn't necessarily mean you missed. The bad news is that medicine you wiped off your face is wasted by design — and it's well-known to the drug companies that make the drops." That dribble down your face is costing you money and the pharmaceutical industry has had a solution for decades.

"Researchers warn that large parts of biomedical science could be invalid due to a cascading history of flawed data in a systemic failure going back decades. A new investigation reveals more than 30,000 published scientific studies could be compromised by their use of misidentified cell lines… the problem is as serious as it is simple: researchers studying lung cancer publish a new paper, only it turns out the tissue they were actually using in the lab were liver cells. Or what they thought were human cells were mice cells…" You've got your peanut butter in my chocolate.

"The FBI has recovered a three-month-old baby and a five-year-old in Denver during a nationwide child sex trafficking investigation… Some 84 minors were recovered and 120 traffickers were arrested as part of the sting."

"George Soros, the billionaire hedge fund manager and a major Democratic donor, has given $18 billion to his Open Society Foundations, one of the largest transfers of wealth ever made by a private donor to a single foundation." That sound you hear is the conservative conspiracy theory machine get into a higher gear.

"President Trump, in a personal phone call to a grieving military father, offered him $25,000 and said he would direct his staff to establish an online fundraiser for the family, but neither happened, the father said." Just no fucking clue. All these self-inflicted wounds just don't seem to be getting through.

"President Trump suggested Wednesday that former FBI director James B. Comey had intended to spare Democrat Hillary Clinton from prosecution 'long before investigation was complete' into her government email practices." I know people who wait until the night before a paper is due to write it find this strange and potentially damaging. Those who have their shit together aren't surprised.

"President Donald Trump engaged in a public feud Wednesday with a Democratic congresswoman over her claim that he told the widow of a US serviceman killed in an ambush in Niger that 'he knew what he signed up for, but I guess it still hurt.'" Trump says he has proof he didn't, but the widow confirms the story. Okay, I believe that's a call, time to show your cards, Mr. President.

"The unresolved battles -- over a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border, immigration, health-care subsidies, Planned Parenthood and storm relief -- are hanging over talks on must-pass spending legislation to keep the government open after Dec. 8. The spending measure is at risk of becoming so weighted with controversial items that it collapses." When brinksmanship becomes standard operating procedure. Just a note that CHIP, the Children’s Health Insurance Program, expired in September, and now it's looking like there won't be a fix until December. That's a delay that can be counted in lives lost, future income lost, and general pain and suffering.

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Linkee-poo would sit alone and watch your light, my only friend through teenage nights, and everything I had to know I heard it on my radio

"It was on this day in 1954 that the first transistor radio appeared on the market." It was the iPod of it's time (and paved the way for the iPod). There's still something special, to me at least, to listening to the radio in the dark as you start to go to sleep. The hiss of FM static, the warble and whistle of AM, the joy of tuning in a far away station and listening to something new and different. It still astounds me when I get a station from Michigan or Canada because of atmospheric conditions.

"In 1940, on the eve of the United States' entrance into World War II, then-President Franklin D. Roosevelt's Immigration and Naturalization Service wanted to promote tolerance toward immigrants." History may not repeat, but it often rhymes. However Roosevelt instructed INS to create a radio program called I'm An American which highlighted the contributions of (mostly caucasian) immigrants and gave their viewpoint. "At the time, the U.S. was seen as 'America, the melting pot' — and the only country that could defeat fascism." Strength from diversity.

Jim Wright on the existence of Judeo-Christian values. Whenever I've heard people claim "Judeo-Christian Values" (typically in the context of "being under threat") you could substitute WASP and get the same effect.

"Russian trolls were ordered to watch Neflix's House of Cards show to understand Americans and U.S. politics." No wonder they're assholes. Our lives would have been much better had it been West Wing. No really, all my Russian friends, I recommend the West Wing. You'll like it.

A NY Jets fan, wearing a team labeled "I stand for the National Anthem" spreads out a flag to sit on while watching a screen and the stadium. Well, I guess if he was a real Patriot he would have been in Boston. Get it?

Story Bone - A Twitter Fantasy

I had the drop on him. Leveled my gun for a center-mass shot. He raised his hands, keeping in his kneeling position. The 9mm felt cool and firm, like taking an old love to bed.

I grinned. "You had to wear the red shirt today, eh McGee?" I said.

He smiled back, stood straight and lowered his hands. "Well actually, wearing a gold shir…"

I couldn't hear his statistic over the barking of the gun.

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Linkee-poo what are we fighting for, don't ask me I don't give a damn

Good job, all you Americans. We're back to #1. (okay, well, really the Russian numbers fell a little yesterday)

Shop on Amazon? Notice how prices change, sometimes daily? Well, here's a site that tracks the history of those price changes. I haven't done extensive testing, but it looks pretty good so far. (Grokked from Dan)

"Telescopes all over the world and in space were busy on Aug. 17, when scientists made the first-ever observations of both light and gravitational waves from a single cosmic event. Here are some of the stunning images of the event, including some from the Hubble Space Telescope, as well as artists' illustrations that give insight into the complex workings of this energetic collision." That neutron star collision all the cool kids are talking about. "For the first time, scientists have caught two neutron stars in the act of colliding, revealing that these strange smashups are the source of heavy elements such as gold and platinum." But there's not much that can compare to the poetry of two dead stars colliding at a third the speed of light creating 200 Earth masses of gold and about 500 Earth masses of platinum (along with more radioactive materials). And all this happened over 100 million years ago.

"In the event of a dirty bomb or a nuclear meltdown, emergency responders can safely tolerate radiation levels equivalent to thousands of chest X-rays, the Environmental Protection Agency said in new guidelines that ease off on established safety levels… 'It’s really a huge amount of radiation they are saying is safe,' said Daniel Hirsch, the retired director of the University of California, Santa Cruz’s program on environmental and nuclear policy. 'The position taken could readily unravel all radiation protection rules.'" Fuck. Me. Okay, repeat after me kiddies, there is no safe level of radiation. And thousands of chest x-rays… yeah, that's what you get from an extreme CT scan (chest-abdomen-pelvis, with and without contrast with a 5 minute delay). If a doctor says you need it to diagnose a condition, understand that the increased risk from the radiation is balanced by the need of the medical information. I don't work often at the hospital (compared to last year), but at least every week I've challenged a doctor's order for x-rays. After the Chernobyl accident, the Russian military used soldiers to toss fuel rods and radioactive graphite control rods back into the core. They were only allowed to be outside on the roof for less than 5 minutes each and were protected with rubber suits. Rubber does nothing against high-energy radiation (you may help block surface dose from less than 50kvp rays, but that's about it). Many of them died from their exposure. The level of 5 REM (actually, that should be 5 RAD, which is your absorbed dose) per year is what I'm allowed as a radiation worker. More than that and I'm retired (there's a second calculation that you can have greater, but that's based on age, and if you've over 5 REM a year something is seriously wrong where you work). That level, 5 RAD, means that our rate of cancer isn't statistically different than the general population (who receive an average of 300 mRAD, or 0.3 RAD a year). But that's sadistic statistics. Every dose is ticket on the cancer lottery. This is more than dangerous, this is lunacy. (Grokked from Matt Staggs)

"'We don’t know what to expect, and we don’t know what kind of crowd numbers to expect,” (Alachua County Sheriff Sadie) Darnell told the Times/Herald. “We all want this to be a non-event. We all want it to go very peacefully. But there is the potential for violence and for widespread property damage.'" So Gov. Rick Scott has declared an emergency because Richard Spencer is speaking at the university. Just as a side note, Spencer has also threatened to sue Ohio State for not allowing him to speak. As the kids say on the twitter, "This asshole."

"In 1940, on the eve of the United States' entrance into World War II, then-President Franklin D. Roosevelt's Immigration and Naturalization Service wanted to promote tolerance toward immigrants." History may not repeat, but it often rhymes. However Roosevelt instructed INS to create a radio program called I'm An American which highlighted the contributions of (mostly caucasian) immigrants and gave their viewpoint. "At the time, the U.S. was seen as 'America, the melting pot' — and the only country that could defeat fascism." Strength from diversity.

"Now, (Jesus Campos) that many want to honor and who can help bring clarity about the timeline of the shooting has vanished from the public eye, less than two weeks since the Oct. 1 massacre, which left 58 people dead and more than 500 others injured."

So, how's that apocalypse coming along? ISIS is hold up at the stadium in Raqqa. Now's when things get a little more dicey from the twin horns of ISIS going back to a movement (instead of holding territory) and the common enemy of the liberation forces and Assad no longer have their (main) common enemy (there's still the Haqqani Network, al Qaeda and a few other lesser players).

Trigger alert (well, it triggered me to almost throw things at the TV). "President Donald Trump falsely claimed on Monday that former President Barack Obama didn't call the families of fallen service members… 'If you look at President Obama and other presidents, most of them didn't make calls — a lot of them didn't make calls — I like to make calls when it's appropriate,' Trump said at a press conference in the Rose Garden when asked about why he had not addressed the recent deaths of American troops in Niger." When it's appropriate? Hey, why don't you sign a form letter with your own, personal, rubber stamp. Fucker. You, sir, are unfit for office and should be removed.

"Rep. Tom Marino (R-Pa.) is withdrawing his name from consideration as the nation's drug czar, President Trump announced Tuesday." Gee, he only helped indemnify Big Pharma and hobble the DEA from dealing with their egregious practices that fueled the opioid crisis. But don't worry, he gets to remain a congressman.

"President Donald Trump blamed Senate Republicans, not himself, for the stalled GOP agenda Monday ahead of a crucial White House lunch meeting with Majority Leader Mitch McConnell on getting make-or-break tax legislation back on track." Because it's never Donald's fault. It's everyone else that fails him. I mean, he wouldn't be such a successful businessman if he failed as much as he did. Right?

Wait, take a deep breath first. "By slashing corporate tax rates, the Trump administration said Monday, the average U.S. household will get an estimated $4,000 more a year." Hahahahahahahaha. Cause you know, we saw big raises and all those millions of jobs created by the Bush tax cuts. Didn't we? "Outside economists said the income growth projected by Hassett appears to assume that workers appear to bear more than 100 percent of the burden of U.S. corporate taxes — a mathematical impossibility."

Monday, October 16, 2017

Scenes from a Commute

From this morning. Oh, hi Autumn. What took you so long.

Linkee-poo, come and make me holy again

"It's a collection of short stories, with varied subjects: a World War II veteran on Christmas Eve in 1953, a California surfer kid who makes an unsettling discovery. There's time travel. In every story, Hanks sneaks in the machine he's so obsessed with — the typewriter."

Bank makes error, charges customer fees, admits error, doesn't refund fees. Why, it almost seems intentional. Like banks are making more money in fees than they are by making loans and investments.

"While maneuvering in Rhode Island's Newport Harbor, the tall ship SSV Oliver Hazard Perry lost power late Sunday, colliding with nearby boats before running aground." Well fuck. If I had less of a brain I'd make a parking break joke here (which is why I'm not running some high-power ad agency).

"A penguin colony in Antarctica has suffered a massive breeding failure, with only two chicks surviving the disaster." Considering the same colony suffered another mass death of chicks four years ago, this is not good.

"A drone crashed into a commercial airplane in Canada, the first time such an incident has occurred in the country, the government said Sunday." Okay, just going to mention the frozen chicken tests here and thinking that a drone probably isn't as tough as a chicken, but whatever.

Apparently public/private key encryption is hosed. "The flaw resides in the Infineon-developed RSA Library version v1.02.013, specifically within an algorithm it implements for RSA primes generation. The library allows people to generate keys with smartcards rather than with general-purpose computers, which are easier to infect with malware and hence aren't suitable for high-security uses. The library runs on hardware Infineon sells to a wide range of manufacturers using Infineon smartcard chips and TPMs. The manufacturers, in turn, sell the wares to other device makers or end users. The flaw affects only RSA encryption keys, and then only when they were generated on a smartcard or other embedded device that uses the Infineon library." So far, it looks like it's isolated to just that software and hardware, but I wouldn't be so sure (prime numbers are hard).

And also in security news, "An air of unease set into the security circles on Sunday as they prepared for the disclosure of high-severity vulnerabilities in the Wi-Fi Protected Access II protocol that make it possible for attackers to eavesdrop Wi-Fi traffic passing between computers and access points." Bye-bye open Wi-Fi. (Grokked from Dan)

In the opioid "crisis" the pharmaceutical companies are just innocently supplying the product and it's up to doctors and pharmacists to regulate… "The Ensuring Patient Access and Effective Drug Enforcement Act was the crowning achievement of a multifaceted campaign by the drug industry to weaken aggressive DEA enforcement efforts against drug distribution companies that were supplying corrupt doctors and pharmacists who peddled narcotics to the black market. The industry worked behind the scenes with lobbyists and key members of Congress, pouring more than a million dollars into their election campaigns." Yeah, not so much. Here's the corrupt influence of industry lobbyists who sometimes (okay, a lot of times) write the legislation themselves. This is what corporate control of civilian government looks like.

And speaking of corporate control of government, yes, the Koch brothers are still driving conservative politics.

Why are mercenaries a bad idea, and why was their a prohibition on hiring (and at one time being one) in the US? "Though Puerto Rican law prohibits ownership and bearing of most long-guns and especially semiautomatic weapons, the streets of the stricken US colony now throng with mercenaries in tactical gear bearing such arms, their faces masked. They wear no insignia or nametags and won't say who they work for, apart from vague statements in broken Spanish: 'We work with the government. It’s a humanitarian mission, we’re helping Puerto Rico.'" Dear un-identified mercenary, failure to wear insignia or identify yourselves is a violation of Geneva and UN conventions (and a violation of US Law). IANAL, but you might want to rethink that outlaw culture because the converse of the situation is you are outside the protection of the law.

About that whole, "Let the ATF regulate bump stocks" red-herring. "And while the NRA and some lawmakers are calling on the ATF to review the classification of bump stocks, former ATF officials and gun control advocates say that's a difficult hill to climb for several reasons… For one, the bureau's hands are tied by current law, said Kristen Rand, the legislative director of the Violence Policy Center, which advocates for gun control." Yes, the NRA knows this. It's their "enforce existing laws" stance (which isn't adequate) for deflecting any chance of actual gun control regulation. Also note that bump-stocks are not the only device for converting a semi-automatic to give rates of fire similar to an automatic.

"The death toll from two truck bombs in Somalia’s capital reached 300 on Monday, as the deadliest attack in the country’s decade-long war with Islamist extremists signaled that the insurgency is far from defeated, despite years of U.S. counterterrorism operations." The thing you didn't hear about over the weekend.

Meanwhile, in Iraq, "Hours after moving to reclaim control of the northern city of Kirkuk, Iraqi government forces said Monday that they had reached the outskirts of the city, seizing oil fields and other important sites from Kurdish forces that had held the territory since 2014."

Sunday, October 15, 2017

Linkee-poo on a Sunday

Come on, Americans. The Russians are hitting this blog harder than you. Are you going to take that sitting down? Was it over when the Germans bombed Pearl Harbor? (holds for a beat) No! Who's with me!

Stroke risks are increasing across all age groups.

Why I rant about single-payer and against energy drinks. "'After a two hour drive to the hospital, I learned that my husband, the father of my child, the person I am so deeply in love with, had had a brain hemorrhage. Why? The doctors concluded (after running his tox screen and ruling out drugs) that this horrible event was due to his recent excessive energy drink consumption (a habit he had built when he started working longer hours and commuting).'" Normal guy, no warning, life altering health event and now he'll need help for the rest of his life. Not to mention having a newborn in the household.

"Magic mushrooms might help depressed patients by helping them “reset” their brains, according to a new study that uses brain scans to look at the lasting effects of psychedelics… There has been a recent wave of research into the helpful effects of psychedelics for mental health. LSD microdoses make people feel sharper, while magic mushrooms have helped cancer patients cope with depression and anxiety. But most of these brain imagining studies focus on how the brain changes when you’re on the drug, while in a study published today in the journal Scientific Reports, researchers focused on the results before and after." Note the study only include two dosages, and were in very controlled environments. But I'll also note that "magic mushrooms" are linked closely with shamanism (in most prehistoric cultures).

Trump waggles his finger at Iran. Put that away, you don't know where it's been.

"Key Republican members of Congress want to restore the ObamaCare payments, known as cost-sharing reductions (CSRs), that President Trump is ending, fearing the impact his move will have on the individual insurance market and their constituents." Well at least not all conservatives are idiots. Many of them are realizing what I said back in February, the GOP and president Trump now own healthcare. It's success or failure is their own success or failure. Right now, if I were a Democrat in the House or Senate, I'd be voting "present." You broke it, you bought it. Conservatives always want liberals to bail them out. No, GOP, the Democrats don't have to meet you half way. That ship sailed after you tried to ram Trumpcare through the second time. The unfortunate thing is as lot of people are going to be injured and die while the GOP learns the hard lesson of what it means to govern. Again, if I were in office, that would be the only reason that I might not vote "present."

"The Social Security Administration announced today that more than 65 million recipients will get a 2% cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) in 2018, after receiving a measly 0.3% boost in 2017 and no increase for inflation in 2016. That means the average benefit for a retired worker will rise by $27 a month to $1,404 in 2018 while the average benefit per retired couple will grow $46 a month to $2,340. But many recipients will find most or all of that increase eaten up by a jump in the Medicare Part B premiums deducted from their monthly Social Security checks."

Trump waggles his finger at Iran. Put that away, you don't know where it's been.

Friday, October 13, 2017

Linkee-poo is gonna make a supersonic man outta you

Whispers, "The Russians are back."

"… (I)n the recent issue of Current Biology, this seemingly unimpressive roundworm seems to have developed a different way of copying its genes — one that leads to just enough mutations to give the worms room to adapt, but not enough to cause crippling defects." Also noted for the inherent biases that pervade the biological sciences.

"In an effort to reduce the 40 trillion kg of carbon dioxide humans produce each year, three companies have been working to build machines that can capture the gas directly from the air. One such machine in Iceland has begun operation." The downside is it only captures a little, and there's no word on scalability or costs. (Grokked from Dan)

"The Orbiting Carbon Observatory (OCO) tracked the behaviour of (CO2) in 2015/2016 - a period when the planet experienced a major El Niño event… This climate phenomenon boosts the amount of CO2 in the air."

"Supposedly solitary pumas actually hang out with their fellow big cats quite often, frequently coming together and hissing and snarling before settling down to share a delicious elk carcass." Sounds like Thanksgiving. If mountain lions can learn how to share, so can we.

"The maker of a little red pill intended to treat a rare condition is raking in hundreds of millions of dollars a year as it aggressively targets frail and elderly nursing home residents for whom the drug may be unnecessary or even unsafe, a CNN investigation has found… And much of the money is coming straight from the federal government."

"A doctor in northern Florida is under criminal investigation after he was seen on video shouting at a patient to 'get the hell out' of an urgent-care clinic, then apparently grabbing her daughter's cellphone, which was recording the incident." There's a "he said/she said" component here, but really no cause for that. If the patients are abusive, call the police (if you don't have internal security). Explain to the patients what is happening (why it may be taking so long to see them). Explain the time frames of tests and when the patients could expect an answer.

"'I'm generally not going to make a lot of the appointments that would normally be — because you don't need them,' Trump said in an interview with Forbes Magazine last week. 'I mean, you look at some of these agencies, how massive they are, and it's totally unnecessary. They have hundreds of thousands of people.'" Attempting to claim incompetent acts are actually a part of a design plan. Now, if it were for the head of The Redundant Department of Redundancy Department, that would be one thing. But we're also talking about strategic policy planners and ambassadors. Basically he things he can enforce his will on the agencies easier if he has direct control. And now you know why so much shit has been dropping through the cracks. "And while Trump says he is creating efficiency by leaving positions without nominees, Stier and others say it's not that simple. Those open jobs are being filled on an interim basis by career civil servants and foreign service officers." But see, Trump never really had to delegate in any meaningful way (he just off-loaded the jobs he didn't want to do).

"The only known Leonardo da Vinci painting in private hands is heading to auction."

"Hurricane Ophelia is the 10th consecutive hurricane to form in the Atlantic basin this year. According to University of Miami hurricane expert Brian McNoldy, the last time ten consecutive storms became a hurricane was 1893. While that is very interesting factoid, the 'elephant in the room' is that Ophelia is headed to Ireland." everything is fine. We're all fine here. How are you? (Grokked from Xeni Jardin)

"Alabama Senate candidate Roy Moore was privately guaranteed a yearly salary of $180,000 from a charity he started, the Washington Post reported Wednesday… Moore became president of the group, Foundation for Moral Law, in 2007…" How very moral of him.

Prison labor is a troublesome thing (although it could be made good, for the creation of job skills and a history of good employment). "The sheriff of a Louisiana parish is under fire for lamenting the scheduled release of prisoners in terms that critics said underscored the exploitation of inmates and, at times, evoked slavery." Yeah, that's why in most states we outlawed chain-gangs and the use of prison labor to reduce the county budget (it's a perverse incentive to keep "the good ones" as this sheriff states). (Grokked from Katheryn Cramer)

"During an interview with Fox News’ Sean Hannity on Wednesday, Trump criticized Colin Kaepernick, the player who protested police treatment of minorities in 2016 by kneeling during the national anthem… 'I watched Colin Kaepernick and I thought it was terrible. And then it got bigger and bigger and started mushrooming,' Trump told Hannity." But them white supremacists who shot at counter protesters, beat some, and killed one person, those are some fine people. Think this isn't about racism? "Trump later told Hannity that minorities 'want' and 'need' police protection more than others and lamented that police would be able to do stop crime in cities if 'if they were allowed to do their job.' Trump claimed that police are unable to do their jobs because 'they have to be politically correct.'" You know, their not-politically-correct job. The one where they kill people for no reason except their skin color. The political use of "law and order" in campaigns is a dog-whistle meaning "keep those blacks in their place."

"The president adds: 'We cannot keep FEMA, the Military & the First Responders, who have been amazing (under the most difficult circumstances) in P.R. forever!'" You know, after telling Texas and Florida he'd stand with them "always." Um, Mr. President, Puerto Rico is the US as well. There are reports that the majority of aid to PR will be as loans, whereas Florida and Texas get grants.

"In a brash move likely to roil insurance markets, President Donald Trump will 'immediately' halt payments to insurers under the Obama-era health care law he has been trying to unravel for months." He broke it, he bought it. Unlike his other healthcare initiative which won't affect the markets until 2019, this one will affect the markets this year.

"The key to understanding Trump's motivations here are entirely contained in the ACA's shorthand nickname: Obamacare. It's named after the man… who shepherded it into existence. And that's exactly why Trump wants to get rid of it." I wonder if he'll quote 2 Corinthians again?

"The Kremlin is warning that a U.S. move to slight the Iran nuclear deal would hurt global security." And look, President Trump now seems to be willing to re-certify (instead of saying Iran is out of compliance and punting it to the Congress).

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Linkee-poo how do spend our lives knowing no-one gives us a damn

Neil Gaiman. "My friend told me a story he hadn’t told anyone for years." So, uh, is Neil still wearing that mask I wonder? For such a short story, there's some many complexities to it once you start to think about it. And that's why I (and a few legions of people) love his stories. (Grokked from John)

"Today, the Boy Scouts of America Board of Directors unanimously approved to welcome girls into its iconic Cub Scout program and to deliver a Scouting program for older girls that will enable them to advance and earn the highest rank of Eagle Scout." Thanks, Scouts. While it's been a hard evolution (and it's not over yet), I think you'll find it's worth it. (Grokked from Dan)

"Sixty-five percent of respondents surveyed this year by LIMRA, an association of financial services and insurance companies, say that most people need disability insurance. But the figure shrank to 48 percent when people were asked whether they believe they personally need it. The proportion shriveled to 20 percent when people were asked whether they actually have disability insurance." The other "I don't really need it" insurance option besides healthcare. I've been fortunate to have short and long-term disability at my past few jobs. It doesn't pay a lot (and there's lots of rules), but it's been a nice perk. "According to the Social Security Administration, 1 in 4 people who are 20 years old now will be disabled before they reach age 67." And let me tell you, government disability is even more of a bear.

There's a hole at the bottom of the world. "Vice published a story about a massive hole in Antarctica and the gaping void is reportedly as large as the state of Maine or, if you're into more analogies, the size of Lake Superior…" Okay, two ways to go here; At the Mountains of Madness (or later Stross' "A Colder War") or Iron Sky. (Grokked from John)

"The Salt Lake City Police Department has fired the police detective who was video recorded aggressively handcuffing a hospital nurse who refused to allow him to draw blood from an unconscious patient in July." Note, fired police officers are rarely rehired by reputable departments (and for some security firms it's also a non-starter). I expect if they're covered by a police union that the union will fight their dismissal (although they really shouldn't).

"An old-school pharmacy hand-delivers drugs to Congress, a little-known perk for the powerful." The perks of Congress, with a little on the Office of Attending Physician. (Grokked from John)

"Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy on Wednesday gave the Catalan government eight days to drop an independence bid, failing which he would suspend Catalonia’s political autonomy and rule the region directly." There's a rule for that. Shorter story, "I'll give you (8) days to change your ways or Poof, I'll turn you into a goon."

"More than a week after a shooter took the lives of 58 people in Las Vegas, investigators are still without a motive. Experts say it's important to find one to give those affected closure and to prevent similar attacks in the future." It's also important so the NRA can say, "See, fix this thing (which has nothing to do with guns) and then we won't have these attacks." If it does directly affect gun access they'll say, "enforce the existing laws." But here's the thing, the motive won't make any sense anyway. It never does. He shot because he wanted to. He chose the music festival because there was a crowd. It's the flip side of the "better angels of our nature."

"Last Friday, a white dude tried to blow up a plane to 'fight a war' in America and no one cared"

"Brexit talks have made little progress, the European Union’s negotiator said Thursday, meaning he cannot yet recommend broadening the negotiations beyond the focus on the terms of Britain’s exit to include key issues such as future trade relations." Who could have foreseen that? Basically Britain wants to retain their leverage by using EU citizens in the UK and whom owes whom how much (for dues, existing payments, etc) as bargaining chips to get favorable trade terms. But the bigger issue is that there was no actual plan for Brexit. Even the proponents of Brexit were using the vote last year to give the big finger to politicians whom they feel weren't protecting them from dirty foreigners.

"Conservatives have also clamored for months for Republicans to take action, arguing Democrats were being allowed to use the Senate’s rulebook to obstruct Trump’s nominees." You know, just like the conservatives did for President Obama's judicial nominees.

"Advocates for a pregnant 17-year-old girl held in a Texas facility for immigrant children who have crossed the border alone are asking a federal judge to allow her to get an abortion, over the opposition of U.S. and state officials." Instead ICE sent the girl to a crisis pregnancy center (aka, Right-to-Life front organization). So I wonder when conservatives will realize that if she give birth to the child before being deported, that child is an American Citizen (IIRC, IANAL), which then would give her claims to stay in the US (although ICE has been deporting parents of dependent children and breaking up families since Trump came into office). Oh, and look, Ohio's AG also joined the fight to prevent the girl from having an abortion.

"Twitter reversed its decision to block Rep. Marsha Blackburn’s (R-TN) campaign video from being promoted on the social media outlet Tuesday, saying there is 'room to refine our policies' around this issue, according to Politico." Okay, Twitter, how about this refinement; all ads must be truthful and not contain verifiable misstatements or unproven claims. You know, like we used to have for the news media before Reagan signed a repeal of that law. There is a demonstrably false statement in the video, that Planned Parenthood profited from the sale of fetal tissue.

"Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt is vowing to speed the cleanup of toxic Superfund sites, part of a shift away from climate change and toward what he calls the 'basics' of clean air and water… But President Trump's budget would slash funding for the Superfund program by nearly a third. In his House testimony, Pruitt was asked how the agency could clean up sites faster with less money… 'It's more about decision-making, leadership and management than money,' he said." Magical thinking. The power of positive thought applied to government. So, uh, just where are they trucking all that contaminated "chat"? I'm sure it's an environmentally stable, lined, landfill which will never give us problems. Maybe.

"President Trump intends to sign an executive order this morning expanding association health plans. But 25 years ago, federal watchdogs concluded that such plans ripped off hundreds of thousands of Americans by refusing to pay their medical claims while violating state insurance laws and even criminal statutes." Yep. As with most conservatives' plans, they've been tried somewhere before to disastrous results (Kansas anyone?). But they've been very good for the people Republican's actually work for, the 1%.

"The U.S. military has been in Afghanistan for 16 years. Two months ago, Trump approved a plan to keep it there indefinitely. But after less than a month in Puerto Rico — with hundreds of thousands of American citizens living in preindustrial, often life-threatening conditions — it’s time… we started talking about bringing the troops home… The grotesque callousness of Trump’s tweets will be obvious to anyone who sees Puerto Ricans as human beings."

"This bit is harder to interpret, but it sounds like (the president) is comparing the US debt with the value of the shares on the US stock exchange… Market capitalisation is not the government's money - it is shareholders' money." Fucking moron, or he thinks we are.

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Linkee-poo is too tired for fancy titles

Made a couple of links yesterday about how Russia was influencing out politics and driving social media and all my Russian friends are back. Hi. I missed you all. Here's one just for you guys. "It was a case of spies watching spies watching spies: Israeli intelligence officers looked on in real time as Russian government hackers searched computers around the world for the code names of American intelligence programs."

Where did the name Blade Runner come from. (Grokked from Dan)

Jim Hines with a small request regarding name badges at conventions (and really anywhere they're necessary). Make the names easy to read at a distance. Don't use fancy fonts, don't make it a high-key solution (very little contrast), the point of the name badge is to identify the convention/event (relatively easy) and the next is for people to know each other. Lately I've taken to writing my name really large on badges that forget this basic function. No, 24pt is not to large to make names. Keep in mind, the background of these badges are busy, they're moving, lighting is not all that good (no, really it's not, and I'm not just talking about bacon, where few people wear their badges anyway), make it easy to see and read. Next we'll talk about designing your schedules so they're easy to navigate. (I say this with the full realization that conventions rely on volunteer work, and I haven't volunteered my services, yet, because that's all I need is another job)

Why do some people risk their own lives to help others? My what big amygdala you have, Grandma.

"According to New Scientist, Hideki Tanimura at the Institute of Space Astrophysics in Orsay, France, and Anna de Graaff, from the University of Edinburgh, U.K., have in two separate papers found the missing baryons in the hot filaments of gas that link galaxies together." Well, we found some of the missing matter of the Universe. Turns out that it's galactic dust bunnies.

"I have spoken to a couple of players in recent weeks, since this controversy started, who are skeptical of the NFL’s efforts. One said the NFL’s history of dehumanizing players and forcing them to do what owners want (the way Dallas owner Jerry Jones spoke about not allowing any protesting player to play for his team) reinforces the impression among players that if they don’t get in line, the league will try to steamroll them. That, clearly, is an impression the NFL will have to fight—that they’re just playing nice now to get the players to do what they want." The NFL (and IIRC most sport leagues) are a sanctioned monopoly. They have special rules (and get special breaks) from the government. So this might be interesting.

"Local 100 of the United Labor Unions filed a complaint against the Dallas Cowboys on Tuesday, alleging owner and general manager Jerry Jones has violated the National Labor Relations Act by threatening players if they choose not to stand for the national anthem."

"Pro Football Hall of Famer Mike Ditka said during a radio interview Monday that he doesn't believe there has been oppression in the United States in the 'last 100 years.'" Ignorant old white man is ignorant.

"A black man brutally beaten at a white nationalist rally in Charlottesville is now facing a felony charge related to the August attack… A local magistrate on Monday issued an arrest warrant for DeAndre Harris on an unlawful wounding charge after an accuser, whom police did not identify, claimed to have been injured by the 20-year-old during the brawl, authorities told local media." What privilege? That would be white privilege.

Oh look, it's a new trailer for Blade Runner 2049… oh wait, it's the California wildfires raging across Napa and Sonoma.

"David Jones warned failure to earmark funds for additional customs staff and infrastructure in November's Budget would leave the UK 'scrambling' to implement new border controls if there was no deal… If money was not set aside, he said it would be seen as a 'a sign of weakness' by EU leaders who would think the UK was not serious about leaving the EU without a deal." Can they make a deal, can they not? Who knows at this point. So I wonder how much they'll have to spend on a "no deal" outcome (i.e., no trade and travel agreements between the UK and EU) to ramp up border security and processing compared to how much the Brexit assholes lamented Britain was "just sending" to the EU to have no benefit?

Look, actual news about the Las Vegas shooting. "'What we have learned is Mr. Campos (a security guard at Mandalay Bay) was encountered by the suspect prior to [Paddock's] shooting to the outside world,' (Sheriff) Lombardo said. He told reporters Monday that Paddock shot Campos at 9:59 p.m. local time on Oct. 1, roughly six minutes before turning his gun on the crowd at the Route 91 Harvest music festival." No sign yet of a motive we can all shake our heads at and sadly admit we could do nothing to change the sequence of events.

"'I don't see any real impact here.'" On Trump's coming executive order creating association insurance pools. As someone who belongs to one of these (COSE in Cleveland), meh. It's not a great plan if you have to use it. And they're already available, except the "across state lines" thing. So, has anyone explained to these geniuses just how the health insurance market works by negotiating prices with hospital systems and groups of doctors? How that's mostly a local thing?

"President Donald Trump said he wanted what amounted to a nearly tenfold increase in the U.S. nuclear arsenal during a gathering this past summer of the nation’s highest ranking national security leaders, according to three officials who were in the room." Fucking moron. "Any increase in America’s nuclear arsenal would not only break with decades of U.S. nuclear doctrine but also violate international disarmament treaties signed by every president since Ronald Reagan. Nonproliferation experts warned that such a move could set off a global arms race." We, just the United States, already posses the nuclear capacity to destroy life on this planet several times over (well, the majority of life, everything we would need to survive anyway, and while the famous cockroaches may survive, after a few years they will starve as well).

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Linkee-poo where do we go from here

There's a dangerous idiot at the helm and we've run out of open sea.

The Church of the Subgenius is at it again. This time they're trying to crowdfunding an alien beacon (church orthodoxy claims the end days when the aliens return to Earth). Give us slack. (Grokked from Dan)

"All of these (videos and posts) were recorded, posted or written by Americans. Yet all ended up becoming grist for a network of Facebook pages linked to a shadowy Russian company that has carried out propaganda campaigns for the Kremlin, and which is now believed to be at the center of a far-reaching Russian program to influence the 2016 presidential election." How the Russians pushed the narrative using willing puppets who just don't care who feeds their anger. America in 2017. Basically Russia takes the worst of the US and provides an amplification and dissemination effect.

"The organizers behind the anti-Islam protesters, however, never showed. And now, over 16 months later, we know why… As CNN reported last week, the protest was put together by the “Heart of Texas” Facebook page – a page that was revealed last month as one of the fake accounts operated out of Russia. Unlike the November anti-Hillary Clinton, pro-secession rallies the page attempted to organize across Texas, the May protest not only brought armed protesters, but a raft of counter-protesters to face down those calling for 'white power!'" (Grokked from Matt Staggs)

"Many are surprised to learn that the NRA of past generations worked with the federal government to limit the traffic in guns — for example where ex-convicts or mental patients were involved." A short history of the NRA, from development of marksmen to the frothing barking dog/industry shill it is today.

Yes, Virginia, the government did ban lawn darts as "too dangerous."

"President Trump proposed an 'IQ tests' face-off with Secretary of State Rex Tillerson after the nation's top diplomat reportedly called the president a 'moron' and disparaged his grasp on foreign policy." Oh FFS. Although seeing several of the click-bait articles on "Trump's IQ will astonish you", yeah. Let's do this. Have all of the cabinet secretaries, the VP and the President take a standardized IQ test. Let's see whom makes Mensa and whom should have remedial help.

(Edit - Late Update) Mensa offers to host IQ test for Trump and Tillerson. (Grokked from George Takei)

"President Trump sent Congress, on Sunday, a list of sweeping immigration changes he says 'must be included as part of any legislation addressing the status of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) recipients.'" The Art of the Deal, "do it fucking my way."

"Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt told coal miners in Kentucky Monday he will move to repeal a rule limiting greenhouse gas emissions from existing power plants, assuring them, 'The war against coal is over.'" Coal is still going away, Scott. And basically you've just condemned a lot of people to death. But hey, I'm sure all that fossil fuel money will keep you warm, just like their emissions will keep the globe warm after your death.

Monday, October 9, 2017

Linkee-poo stumbles into Monday

The Rock Hall Inductees are up for a first vote. (Grokked from Dan)

John Scalzi on writing in the Age of Trump (with followup). I can't blame all of my lack of words is because of Trump and the shenanigans his cohort are up to, but it sure doesn't fucking help. With everything going on in life it would be sure damn hard to get words out. But on those rare occasions that I'm able to claw time away I end up squandering it all on… well let's just say that there has been more than one session of just looking at my twitter or Facebook feed page. Not scrolling, not searching out things, not reading a thread. Just eyes barely focused and words falling like scales from my eyes.

"As Wallace's cancer has progressed over the past seven years, she has become more critical of what she sees as excessive positivity in health care marketing. It's everywhere: TV ads, radio commercials, billboards. The advertisements feature happy, healed patients and tell stories of miraculous recoveries. The messages are optimistic, about people beating steep odds. Wallace says the ads spread false hope, and for a patient like her, they are a slap in the face." Fuck cancer.

What does rape culture look like? "A Michigan man accused of raping a 12-year-old girl has now been given joint custody of her child, according to the victim’s lawyer."

"An NSA contractor brought home highly classified documents that detailed how the U.S. penetrates foreign computer networks and defends against cyberattacks. The contractor used Kaspersky antivirus on his home computer, which hackers working for the Russian government exploited to steal the documents, the WSJ reported on Thursday (the link could be paywalled; alternative source), citing multiple people with knowledge of the matter." Ah, yep. When your weakest link is actually a foreign government sponsored back door.

"(Trump's) expected decision to decertify the (nuclear) agreement (with Iran) would allow him to save face and dent Barack Obama's legacy. And by handing its fate to lawmakers, he would also limit his political exposure to any decision to kill off a pact backed by US allies." Just like healthcare, just like DACA… beginning to see a trend here.

"The increasingly strained alliance between Turkey and the United States took a sharp downward turn Sunday when both governments abruptly announced they were canceling most visitor visas between the countries, sowing confusion among travelers and exposing a widening rift between the NATO partners." What happens when one authoritarian meets another.

"Harvey Weinstein has been fired from the Weinstein Company, according to the company's board." A little late, but welcome. "That's in addition to three of the nine, all-male members of the TWC board who have stepped down, according to The Hollywood Reporter, since The Times report…"

"Miwa Sado, a young journalist for Japan’s state-run broadcaster, spent the summer of 2013 frantically covering two local elections in Tokyo… Over the course of a month, she clocked 159 hours of overtime… Not quite a month later, just days after the second election, she died of congestive heart failure. She was 31." The Japanese even have a name for it.

"A drug company that makes a powerful fentanyl painkiller spray has engaged in conduct that is 'nothing short of evil,' New Jersey’s attorney general said Thursday after the state became the latest to sue." Off-label use, it's rampant, and it can be a danger.

What could a few $100,000s worth of ads buy Russia on Facebook? So say the detractors. "New data shows that Russian propaganda may have been shared billions of times on Facebook." Pseudo authenticity and troll farms, add gullibility and you've got a helluva propaganda machine. (Grokked form Dan)

"The Trump administration is rolling back the Obama-era requirement that employer-provided health insurance policies cover birth control methods at no cost to women." Because why wouldn't he. I wonder if all those companies who have a "religious/moral objection" also follow all of the Bible's instruction on how to treat employees and laborers. Yeah, my guess is somewhere between Nada and Bupkis.

"President Trump reportedly vented to Secretary of State Rex Tillerson about federal laws preventing American businesses from bribing foreign officials, The New Yorker reported Friday." Apparently he doesn't see the problem. (Grokked from Chang)

"Donald Trump’s escalating feud with Bob Corker, the Republican chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, captures in miniature why he’s been ineffective during his first nine months as president."

"But a Buzzfeed News investigation has found that Breitbart didn’t just tolerate those white supremacist views that Bannon denounced on 60 Minutes; it actively allowed them to flourish." If there's a slightly less-shitty lining in all these shit-storm clouds it's the sure knowledge (based on historical precedent) that if they got what they really wanted, most of them would be the first against the wall. Their beloved monster would turn on them and devour them once it had power. (Grokked from the Slactivist)

"President Donald Trump talked on Twitter, but Facebook was the crucial tool that helped elect him, says the man who directed the digital aspects of the Trump campaign. Brad Parscale tells Lesley Stahl how he fine-tuned political ads posted on Facebook to directly reach voters with the exact messages they cared most about – infrastructure key among them -- and had handpicked Republican Facebook employees to guide him." They came over to the Trump offices multiple times per week. (Grokked from Jim Wright)

"Vice President Mike Pence's decision to walk out of a National Football League game on Sunday when some players knelt during the National Anthem was planned ahead of time, a senior Pence official said Sunday night." So much for the "not planned" narrative. Apparently we're going to have to go through the "epidemic of flag burning" culture wars again.

Friday, October 6, 2017

Linkee-poo, shine on Harvest Moon up in the sky

Sorry, yesterday kinda exploded.

Today's (yesterday's) poem at Writer's Alamanac, Some Advice for Clearing Brush by Jeff Coomer is excellent, and something I try to keep in mind (but often fail).

"When the Norths were removed from their home, they joined nearly nine thousand adult wards in the Las Vegas Valley. In the past twenty years, the city has promoted itself as a retirement paradise. Attracted by the state’s low taxes and a dry, sunny climate, elderly people leave their families behind to resettle in newly constructed senior communities." How the elderly lose their rights, their property, and their liberty. (Grokked from Michele)

"The deadliest mass shooting in recent U.S. history has renewed conversations about America's gun laws, after one man strafed a country music festival from a high-rise hotel in Las Vegas on Sunday. The attack prompted a musician who played at the festival to say he's changed his mind — and that the U.S. needs new gun control." It's all abstract until the lead is flying your way.

"When Stephen Craig Paddock - a white American - was identified as the gunman who rained bullets on multitudes at a Las Vegas concert, he was quickly characterized as a 'lone wolf.æ… Had he been of another race or ethnicity, would he have been branded a terrorist instead, or would aspersions have been cast on his minority group?"

"British Prime Minister Theresa May gave one of the most important speeches of her political career Wednesday morning. It could not have gone much worse." Okay, handing her a P-45/Pink Slip while on stage was a dick move, but the letters falling off their sign is just funny.

"'The rich will not be gaining at all with this plan,' Trump told reporters during a meeting with lawmakers in mid-September… But analysts at the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center who studied the proposal reached a very different conclusion. They predict that nearly three-quarters of the savings from the tax overhaul would go to the top 20 percent of earners — those making more than $149,000. More than half the savings would go to the top 1 percent — people who earn more than $732,800." Yeah, there's my shocked face again. Time to roll out the "well, they pay most of the taxes so it stands to reason they'll see most of the benefit" line. "So how do the tax plan's supporters claim that it's focused on the middle class? By highlighting speculative, indirect gains that are supposed to result from economic growth." Or basically concrete cuts for those at the top, the rest of us suckers have to pray this tax cut does increase economic growth, which no tax cut since the Kennedy Administration has had that effect.

"'I think one of the things we don't want to do is try to create laws that won't stop these types of things from happening,' Sanders said Monday. 'I think if you look to Chicago where you had over 4,000 victims of gun-related crimes last year they have the strictest gun laws in the country. That certainly hasn't helped there.'" Yeah, nice talking point you have there. Be ashamed if something happened to it. Like a little dose of the truth.

"The partisan split in America is the highest it's been in two decades, with Republicans and Democrats holding vastly disparate views on race, immigration and the role of government, according to a new study from the Pew Research Center." When I was kid, you had liberal Republicans and conservative Democrats. While there's still the later (but there are fewer), the most liberal a Republican is now is "moderate" (which places then in what used to the the Center Right position). We've self-segregated to a very large extent. And while it's not in this article it also divides down the degree of authoritarianism (with those who have authoritarian tendencies to move to the right, again this was not the case in the 70s and 80s). And there is also a shift in social conservatives to the political right.

"President Trump suggested Thursday that the Senate Intelligence Committee investigate media companies that he believes are reporting information that is 'just made up.'" Because that doesn't sound despotic in the least.

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Linkee-poo won't back down

"Yahoo on Tuesday said that all 3 billion of its accounts were hacked in a 2013 data theft, tripling its earlier estimate of the size of the largest breach in history, in a disclosure that attorneys said sharply increased the legal exposure of its new owner, Verizon Communications Inc." Oopsie.

In a poorly timed release, "The tomb belonging to Saint Nicholas – the original Santa Claus – may have just been discovered underneath an ancient church in Demre in southern Turkey, according to archaeologists." Put that on your Advent Calendar!

Black and green tea may aid weight loss by altering you intestinal micro biome.

"Democrats lashed out at the National Rifle Association after the worst mass shooting in American history on Monday, but instead of fighting back the gun rights group retreated to a familiar posture: silence… The NRA’s website, Twitter feed and Facebook page — all of which are typically updated frequently throughout the day —went dark on Monday, posting no new content, and the group did not respond to several calls and emails seeking comment." Because they know they can't win the argument when a massive shooting happens.

"Reporters from Splinter News used the (FOIA) to get logs of these calls (to the ICE's "Victims of Immigration Crime Engagement (VOICE)" 800 number)… What they found is a ghastly assortment of people secretly trying to get rid of their husbands' mistresses, their wives' children from earlier marriages, and their in-laws, as well as lots of petty grievances and score-settling. Then there was the charming gentleman who was trying to get his wife deported because she'd brought charges against her for beating her up." Who would have thought that could happen.

"We already knew that (Rep. Tim Murphy) had engaged in an extramarital affair, after it came out in his mistress's divorce records. But things got much worse for Murphy on Tuesday: The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette is reporting that text messages indicate he told his mistress to get an abortion when they had a pregnancy scare… That's especially problematic because Murphy is supposed to be an antiabortion congressman. He's got nearly a flawless voting record, as far as groups like the Family Research Council are concerned." He sounds nice. "If there's any consolation for Murphy, it's that he wouldn't be the only House Republican to be pro-choice for himself and pro-life for everyone else. Rep. Scott DesJarlais (R-Tenn.) remains in Congress four years after it was revealed that he had asked both his ex-wife and reportedly a mistress to obtain abortions." Wonderful people in that party. But this is just a reminder that abortion was always available (even if it was illegal) before Roe v Wade, if you were rich enough.

To wit, "Dr. Graham Chelius has delivered hundreds of babies. But when a woman comes into his family medicine practice in Waimea, Hawaii, seeking an abortion, he can only advise her to buy a plane ticket."

"Nikki Haley, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, was reprimanded for breaking a federal law that prohibits members of the executive branch from engaging in some forms of political activity."

Fortune magazine/website, "Warren Barks up the Wrong Tree" for criticizing Wells Fargo CEO. Well, besides being wrong on this (as CEO he is responsible for the actions of his company, that's why he got paid the big bucks), but "barks"? Dear Fortune, please feel free to fuck off and die you misogynist, retrograde, enabling piece of crap. Also, yes, he started the incentive program which included firings for failure to meet arbitrary goals. He created the atmosphere which allowed the behavior, he looked the other way when confronted with the data that showed what was going on. Tim Sloan is directly responsible, and as CEO is fully responsible. I know all you people with your MBAs have forgotten that, or would like to ignore it. But when you're in charge, you are responsible for the actions of the people who report to you.

"Looking at a set of industrialized countries from the 1970s until the years preceding the financial crisis, the economists found no meaningful correlation between cuts in top tax rates and economic growth. Big tax cutters like the United States did not grow faster than countries like Denmark, which kept taxes high. What did respond to lower taxes was inequality: The income share of the top 1 percent grew much more sharply among big tax cutters like the United States than in countries like France or Germany, where top tax rates changed little." Yeah, my face is going to stick like this (in my "shocked" face position) for a while. (Grokked from Xeni Jardin)

"The IRS will pay Equifax $7.25 million to verify taxpayer identities and help prevent fraud under a no-bid contract issued last week, even as lawmakers lash the embattled company about a massive security breach that exposed personal information of as many as 145.5 million Americans." I'm sure they'll do fine. (Grokked from Maureen Johnson)

"Two of President Trump's adult children, Donald Trump Jr. and White House adviser Ivanka Trump, were very close to being indicted in 2012 on accusations they misled prospective buyers about units in the Trump SoHo, a hotel and condo development that was hurting for buyers." There were only a few campaign contributions made. Insert standard joke about my shocked face.

Things just aren't the same here on Walton's Mountain. "Pence has since spoken to Tillerson about being respectful of the president in meetings and in public, urging that any disagreements be sorted out privately, a White House official said. The official said progress has since been made… Yet the disputes have not abated. This weekend, tensions spilled out into the open once again when the president seemed to publicly chide Tillerson on his handling of the crisis with North Korea."

"But Trump’s focus was on the 'unbelievable' and 'incredible' job that his administration has done so far. He repeatedly played down the destruction to the island, telling local officials they should feel 'very proud' they ­haven’t lost hundreds of lives like in 'a real catastrophe' like Hurricane Katrina along the Gulf Coast in 2005. But he also complained that the small territory’s disaster threw the nation’s budget 'a little out of whack.'… At one brief stop at a church, Trump told the gathering that they no longer needed flashlights, and he tossed rolls of paper towels into the crowd as if they were basketballs…" I guess the t-shirt cannon was still on the fritz. Also just a comment about "wiping away" PR's debt, most of that debt is held by the citizens of Puerto Rico (only something like 20% is held by institutional investors). So when they start talking about a "haircut", understand whose hair is going to be cut. And then he just kept digging that hole. "As he finished talking with one family, he told them: 'Have a good time.'"

Why do people commit mass murder? Well it could be because the media glorifies them (video report from BBC4 focused on a mass shooting in Germany in 2010). (Grokked from Shiela)

Scenes from a Commute

Well not so much a commute, but I found this on my daily lunchtime walk (new day job is by a regional park and I try to walk fast for 15 minutes). It wasn't there the day before. I'm pretty sure I know what caused this damage (the excavated hole goes almost to the back wall of the trunk). There isn't much that could do that in less than 24 hours. There's no big stream nearby and I didn't see any other trees damaged. Sent it in to the park district naturalists (along with location information). Once I hear back I'll update this post.


As always, click to embiggenfy.

Edit The say it's a Pileated Woodpecker. I've seen woodpecker damage before, and it does look a little like it. But that tree must have been really rotted for them to have excavated that much in such a short time.

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Linkee-poo, but let me get to the point, let's roll another joint and turn the radio loud, I'm too alone to be proud

And so it goes. There were so many great lines of his it was hard to choose. But ever since I heard "You Don't Know How It Feels", in my head that's just been the quintessential summation of his work. You can hear the Heartbreakers, the Wilburys, and his own work all wrapped up in there. Plus it has the feel of such ease that it hides the complexity beneath that smooth surface. Plus he starts the bridge guitar solo on the bottom two strings, nobody does that. "Think of me what you will, I gotta little space to fill…"

There's a few older links I just found hiding that I don't think I've included yet.

"A team of theoretical physicists from Oxford University in the UK has shown that life and reality cannot be merely simulations generated by a massive extraterrestrial computer. The finding -- an unexpectedly definite one -- arose from the discovery of a novel link between gravitational anomalies and computational complexity." Well, until we find a mathematical shortcut to would reduce the processing power of simulating a particular physical property of metals. This is also based on an assumption that the computer modeling our universe is very much like our existing computers. (Grokked from Dan)

There's a new giant rat in the world. Okay, well, new to us.

"The NBA is recommending teams address fans or show videos expressing themes of unity before their first home games, while reminding them of the rule that players must stand for the national anthem."

We don't need any stinkin' regulations. "For most people, buying a 'fragrance-free' or 'hypoallergenic' moisturizer that turns out to be neither, might be frustrating, but not harmful. But for people with sensitive skin or conditions like eczema or psoriasis it can be a big problem."

"Tom Price’s fondness for taxpayer-funded private jet trips drew the ire on Wednesday of President Trump, who said he was disappointed in his secretary of health and human services, and would personally examine any financial malfeasance." Trump is going to "personally" examine any… Do they even know how they sound when they say stupid shit like that? Also, for a supposed business man, he doesn't get how his travel influences the travel decisions of his subordinates. Corporate culture flows from the top down, buddy.

"The number of abortions in Ohio last year went down for the fourth year in a row. Both sides in the debate are pleased, but have differing opinions on why."

SCOTUS hears a case that may (hopefully) change our politics, Gill v. Whitford. "The plan was amazingly on target. In the next election in 2012, Republicans, carried only a minority of the state vote — 48.6 percent — but, as the GOP map designers had privately predicted, Republicans still won close to two-thirds of the state assembly seats, a 60-to-39 seat majority." Given how much some conservatives have been decrying "vote tampering" because "one illegal vote cancels out one legitimate vote and that's one too many," you'd think they would be for Gill winning (which would overturn extreme gerrymandering). After all, what is the result of the gerrymander but to water down the will of the majority. And there are some republicans who think REDMAP was a mistake. But the opposite argument is that this could "over politicize" the court. That train left the station with Bush v Gore (and actually a long time before that).

Meanwhile, on the other side of the island… "A car and knife attack on a police officer outside a football game and a high-speed chase of a moving van that left four people injured was the work of a Somali refugee who was likely working alone and was known to police for extremist ideology, Canadian authorities said Sunday." So then my cynical brain kicks in and thinks, too bad for the anti-immigrant lobby that the Vegas story overshadowed this one. But here's the interesting part, "The van eventually flipped near a downtown hotel and the suspect was arrested after a Taser was employed. No shots were fired by police or the suspect."

"Without any major legislative accomplishments to point to despite the advantage of a Republican-controlled Congress, Trump on Monday is giving a speech highlighting his own directives to agencies, which have been ordered to cut two regulations for every new one imposed. There’s plenty for him to talk about, including dozens of executive orders and other scaling-back on a range of issues, from immigration policy to campus sexual assault." The Trump Administration, making you less safe, less equal, and more likely to be victimized. By design.

Did President Trump leave Puerto Rico $33M of debt when his Coco Beach golf course when belly up. Snopes calls it a mixture.

"President Donald Trump says the federal government has done a good job in Puerto Rico responding to the devastation caused by Hurricane Maria, but says local officials need to 'give us more help.'… Trump says Tuesday that 'in Texas and in Florida we get an A-plus, and I’ll tell you what, I think we’ve done just as good in Puerto Rico.'" So, is the president actually saying that the leaders in PR just aren't giving the president enough good press? 'Cause I think that's what he's saying here.

"Compared to other recent presidents, news reports about President Trump have been more focused on his personality than his policy, and are more likely to carry negative assessments of his actions, according to a new study from the Pew Research Center's Journalism Project." That's because there is no policy. President Trump is, by his own admission, a "personality." He's constantly talking about his "ratings", and the worst sin a cabinet secretary can commit is causing bad press for the president. The Puerto Rico story is just an example. "While some may be tempted to read this as evidence of media bias, the leader of Pew's Journalism Project said that isn't a conclusion one can draw from the study." No, it could be that Trump is a lousy president and Obama was a great one.

"House Speaker Paul Ryan says there’s no plan for the House to act soon on a National Rifle Association-backed bill to ease regulations on gun silencers." Oh, well, thank God for that. Yes, this is a "we'll wait until things calm down and then pass it quickly" statement. But here in Ohio, there's a bunch of laws in the work to "expand gun rights" as they say. Including a law to allow anyone to conceal carry without a license or any training. Yeah. That'll help. But then there are also bump stocks already available.

For the Las Vegas shooting I'll point out that before "terrorism!" came into the mainstream of US consciousness we still had mass shootings. So, yeah, it's possible that this is one of those. That doesn't mean it wasn't meant to instill "terror" in people, but without a political motivation the actions don't fall into "terrorism" (remember, a terrorist is a failed revolutionary and is a political animal at heart). On the flip side of this, that also means that if a mass shooting (or other crime) is perpetrated by someone who is brown or black or has a "funny" name that doesn't automatically make it terrorism either.