There is trouble in the forest
And the creatures all have fled
As the maples scream 'oppression!'
And the oaks, just shake their heads

Friday, October 18, 2019

Linkee-poo Friday

NPR's Life Kit podcast on running for office. "If you've ever typed 'How do I run for office?' into a search engine, this guide is for you. We'll tell you where to start and how to navigate everything from campaign fundraising to building a 'kitchen cabinet.'" While they walk through their tips, they don't reiterate the one I think is most relevant; have a goal, something you want to accomplish. Change, introduce, correct, reduce a power block's influence, hell even "maintain status quo" is a goal of elected office; but have that something. Because you're going to need it both during the campaign and while sitting in that seat if you get elected. It won't be the only thing you do, but it'll keep you going through the long meetings when you discuss the most boring subject over and over. Running for office is easier than you think it is, winning the office is difficult but doable, doing the work of the office is harder. And while they don't mention this, I recommend sitting in on the meetings for the office you want just to observe everything that's going on and to keep relevant to the topics of the concern.

"On Wednesday night, the Bangor City Council unanimously approved a request by King and his wife Tabitha to rezone their home as a non-profit, allowing it to house an archive of King’s work (offering restricted visits by appointment) and up to five writers at a time. The couple was not present at the meeting. In recent years, the family has spent most of their time on the road or in Florida or Oxford County, Maine, according to their lawyer, Warren Silver." OMG. (Grokked from Seanan McGuire)

"As a culture, we often fetishize the debut writer as some sort of self-arising wunderkind, someone that comes “out of nowhere” or had “splashed onto the scene” unannounced, seemingly without a pre-history or predecessors. This is compounded for writers of color, who seem, according to this narrative, to arrive at the literary table by “transcending” their cultural, economic or racial milieu into the hegemonic literati. I want to take a moment, in light of this, to put some shine on 10 books that made my debut, On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous, possible." (Grokked from Deborah Beale)

"But some trees did survive the test of heat and drought. Now, scientists are racing to collect them, and other species around the globe, in the hope that these 'climate survivors' have a natural advantage that will allow them to better cope with a warming world." Or, ya know, they were the lucky ones in a micro-climate that allowed them to survive.

"Almost precisely 35 years after the first American woman walked in space, NASA is setting another milestone Friday morning, with astronauts Christina Koch and Jessica Meir conducting the first all-female spacewalk."

There's this argument in GMO debates about how it's just the same as the couple of thousand years of selective breeding. One, no, no it's not the same. And two, who said that selective breeding was all that good anyway? "A few years ago, Dechow and some of his colleagues at Penn State made a discovery that shocked a lot of people. All the Holstein bulls that farmers were using could trace their lineage back to one of just two male ancestors." If you have never seen a modern holstein, they are weird animals that have been turned into monsters all in a quest to increase how many milk pounds they can produce. And in that drive, we've lost genetic diversity and come close to monoculture. This is a good thing to those whose view of farming is more akin to a factory (every cow is the same, a known quantity). But this is a bad thing in reality.

"Suicides and homicides are on the rise among children, teens and young adults in America, according to a new report that highlights what experts say is a disturbing trend among the young." I see this all the time in the ER.

"Upselling customers on high-tech breast cancer screenings is just one way the 3D mammography industry aggressively promotes its product." The marketing has sold the techs as "this is better for the patients", and that's why many will push the technology. As technologists, while some portion of our job review is based on productivity, and our department's budget is based on how much revenue we generate (although sometimes in a perverse way, that is sometimes we aren't given our due for our numbers), we as techs don't see a direct relationship between the billing and out compensation. We do what's best for our patients.

"Group Health Cooperative in Seattle, one of the United States' oldest and most respected nonprofit health insurance plans, is accused of bilking Medicare out of millions of dollars in a federal whistleblower case." And they aren't the only ones. Privatization of government functions is a Bad Thing™.

"A brutal attack on one of Hong Kong's most prominent pro-democracy leaders, who was reportedly beaten with hammers by a group of unknown assailants, is being widely condemned by the territory's government, opposition lawmakers and Amnesty International."

"For the first time in a decade, a Florida Senate committee scheduled a meeting Monday to discuss the impact of climate change on the peninsula state… What did senators learn?… 'We lost a decade,' said Sen. Tom Lee, the Thonotosassa Republican who chairs the Committee on Infrastructure and Security." No shit, dipwaddle. And whose fault is that (strong side-eye at now Senator Rick Scott and all of the fucking GOP)? I guess ignoring science, public sentiment, and fucking reality wasn't really a winning strategy against the goddamn sea, now was it. "King tides and sunny-day flooding are disrupting postal delivery in many communities, eroding utility boxes, requiring law enforcement to manage traffic corridors where flooding has closed roads, (Jennifer Jurado, chief resilience officer for Broward County) said." (Grokked from Robert J Bennett)

"Coca-Cola on Friday reported quarterly revenue that topped analysts’ expectations as more customers are drawn in by healthier options, like Zero Sugar soda and smaller size cans." SCALZI! (Said like "KHAN!")

"Striking General Motors workers will remain on the picket lines for at least another week, even as the United Auto Workers national council voted to recommend a tentative agreement with GM for ratification." The deal doesn't seem to have much they wanted. Note that sometimes union negotiators will take the offer of management to the membership for an up or down vote just to demonstrate to the management that they know where their workers stand and how committed to the strike they may be.

How go the Trade Wars? "China said Friday its economy grew by 6% in the third quarter from a year earlier. It’s believed to be China’s slowest GDP gain in at least 27½ years." Well, the slowest reported GDP rate.

"Heavily armed gunmen went on a shooting rampage through the city of Culiacán, the capital of Sinaloa state on Mexico's Pacific coast, battling security forces after authorities attempted to arrest a son of imprisoned drug lord Joaquín 'El Chapo' Guzmán."

"Vice President Mike Pence announced Thursday that the United States reached a cease-fire agreement with Turkey to suspend its military operation in Syria to allow Kurdish forces to retreat from a designated safe zone." So after saying he wouldn't, Ergodan meets with Pence when it's made clear Ergodan will get everything he wanted. "'Everybody agreed to things that three days ago they would have never agreed to — that includes the Kurds,' Trump said. 'This is a situation where everyone is happy.'" Except for the dead people, they're still dead. And I think the Kurdish refugees (and the SDF) might have a different take on this.

"As CNN reported earlier tonight, the deal appears to secure Turkey most of its military objectives, forcing America's one-time allies in the fight against ISIS— Kurdish forces—to cede a vast swath of territory, with one senior US official very familiar with operations in Syria telling CNN that the deal meant the US was 'validating what Turkey did and allowing them to annex a portion of Syria and displace the Kurdish population.'"

"CREW sued the DOJ after receiving no response to our June 7, 2019 Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request to the Department for the disclosure of Attorney General William Barr’s calendar entries reflecting appointments of any kind with John H. Durham, U.S. Attorney for the District of Connecticut." More dominos to fall in impeachment. (Grokked from Kathryn Cramer)

"'Get over it. There's going to be political influence in foreign policy,' (Mick Mulvaney) said, adding that 'elections have consequences.'" Yes, political influence, but that's not what happened here, the president was using his office for personal political favors to help him get re-elected. That's a whole 'nother thing. "But he did admit that Trump held up aid to Ukraine as part of a quid pro quo — something Trump himself has denied." And again, because it was for a personal political request, that makes that corruption. I'm sorry you don't understand that this is a corrupt action, but that ain't on me, that's on your own conscience (and demonstrates your warped view of reality). So, Micky, fuck you and the syphilitic horse you rode in on.

"Mulvaney reiterated the rationale later in the briefing: 'I was involved with the process by which the money was held up temporarily, OK? Three issues for that: the corruption in the country, whether or not other countries were participating in support of the Ukraine and whether or not they were cooperating in an ongoing investigation with our Department of Justice. That's completely legitimate.'" Mike Mulvaney had a very bad day yesterday.

Ricky also doesn't seem to be having a good day either. "Energy Secretary Rick Perry faces a subpoena deadline Friday to turn over documents relating to House Democrats' impeachment inquiry of President Donald Trump, a day after he offered his resignation."

You know, someone should look into how long you need to be in an appointed position before you get vetted for a retirement program. Because if it weren't for the rank stupidity and criminality of these appointees resigning or being forced out because of scandal, it would look like a fleecing job.

"The Department of Justice improperly redacted a court filing related to the Mueller investigation and must reveal the names of two individuals who figured prominently in the probe, a federal judge in Washington ruled on Thursday." Well, ya know, once you start striking things out with that marker it's a little fun.

Tweet of my heart: @MuellerSheWrote Dear everyone: note my tweet does not say “BREAKING: magical fucking hero turns on Trump”. Sondland is a POS, and don’t read into things that aren’t there. I never called this person a hero, nor would I. (Grokked from Eric VanNewkirk)

Thursday, October 17, 2019

Linkee-poo Thursday

The alligators are finally biting… only four days late. Alligators are not known for their punctuality.

Elijah Cummings, and so it goes.

"Archaeologists have uncovered a 'huge cache' of more than 20 sealed coffins in the city of Luxor, according to Egypt's Ministry of Antiquities." Looks at world politics after they opened that black sarcophagus… maybe we leave these alone for now. (Grokked from Julie)

"About 300,000 students have no idea when they'll see their teachers again as members of the Chicago Teachers Union go on strike Thursday." Madness! Mayhem! Oh noes won't anyone think of the kiddies… Just in case you think CNN is a lefty outlet, this should let you know that they're mostly left-center, neo-liberal.

"An unseasonably strong Nor’easter brought high winds and rain to the New York-to-Boston corridor Wednesday, causing hundreds of thousands of households and businesses to lose power." A bomb cyclone… boom.

"A conspiracy theorist who claimed that the Sandy Hook massacre did not happen, has been ordered to pay $450,000 (£351,000) to the father of one of the victims."

How goes Brexit? "British Prime Minister Boris Johnson says he has reached an agreement with the European Union on a new Brexit deal that would allow the EU to continue collecting value-added tax from Northern Ireland and allow special treatment for certain goods going over the Irish border.… But its reception among Johnson's critics in the U.K. was less warm, likely foreshadowing the slim chances of the agreement making its way through Parliament." So the same as normal then.

"A key ally of the government, the Northern Irish Democratic Unionist Party (DUP), has already responded by saying that it cannot support the deal… The U.K. government, which does not have a majority in the British Parliament, needs the DUP’s votes to approve the deal."

"GM, UAW agree on tentative labor contract that could end a monthlong strike by 48,000 workers."

"A 93-year-old former guard at a Nazi concentration camp will go on trial in Germany on Thursday on the charge of being an accessory to thousands of murders." There is no statute of limitations for genocide.

"The Census Bureau is asking states to voluntarily share driver's license records as part of the Trump administration's efforts to produce detailed data about the U.S. citizenship status of every person living in the country."

"Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan put US President Donald Trump's letter 'in the bin', the BBC has been told." So there's some debate on if Trump gave Erdogan a "green light." It doesn't matter what the letter said (and the foreign leader trashing it says all that need be said about the content of the letter) Trump's decision to withdraw our support of the Kurds was a green light for Erdogan to invade.

"Congressional Democrats walked out of a bipartisan White House meeting with President Trump about his decision to pull U.S. troops out of Syria, a meeting in which Trump called House Speaker Nancy Pelosi 'a third-rate politician' according to Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer." And then Trump and Pelosi lobbed accusations of a meltdown at each other.

"Trump said during a news conference at the White House Wednesday afternoon that Graham 'would like to stay in the Middle East for the next thousand years.'" That, in light of our present presidential communication coarseness, is not a "slam", CNN. Please try to stay up to date. "But (Graham) stopped short of saying he wouldn't support Trump's reelection over his decision to pull US troops from northern Syria, adding that the foreign policy approaches of some Democrats running for president are 'no better.'"

"A fourth defendant who allegedly conspired with associates of President Trump's personal attorney, Rudy Giuliani, to illegally funnel foreign money into Republican campaigns, has turned himself in to authorities." Also more on how "congressman-1" is Pete Sessions. Who is trying to win a new seat in the legislature. Good luck with that.

"Details are emerging about Sondland's special assignments. Testimony this week in the impeachment inquiry revealed that acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney pushed out the diplomats who had been in charge of Ukraine policy and put three other people at the helm." And a little bit about Sondland's background.

"'The timing of my resignation was the result of two overriding concerns: the failure, in my view, of the State Department to offer support to Foreign Service employees caught up in the Impeachment Inquiry on Ukraine; and, second, by what appears to be the utilization of our ambassadors overseas to advance domestic political objectives,' McKinley said in prepared remarks." Michael McKinley was a senior advisor to Sec of State Mike Pompeo until last Friday, when he resigned.

"Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and his staff prepared his Republican caucus on Wednesday for the potential of becoming jurors in an impeachment trial of President Trump in the coming months." When you take a walk, sometimes it helps to plan out the route.

Wednesday, October 16, 2019

Linkee-poo Wednesday that feels like Thursday

"The report found corticosteroid shots in the hips and knees may accelerate the progression of osteoarthritis and potentially even hasten the need for joint replacement surgeries in the long run, said lead author Dr. Ali Guermazi, a professor of radiology at the Boston University School of Medicine." This is not new. Steroid shots can also accelerate osteoporosis (or osteopenia). It's part of our protocol for bone density scans to ask about steroid use (because it can skew results). But then everything has it's trade offs. Radiation, for example. We trade and increased chance of cancer for diagnostic information to help us diagnose problems (or in surgery, to help guide repairs). We trade kidney (and liver function) to take medications to help with other diseases. We trade risk of addiction for pain relief.

"The sixth grader was in Joseph Slifka's technology class when she suddenly needed emergency medical attention." There's no age limit for cardiac events, either at the top or bottom. Also, this is why AEDs are so damn important and worth the cost. And I'll note that most people we perform chest compressions on don't come back. But it can keep them alive to the point the body passes the trauma, or until more advanced procedures can be deployed. So it's still important to learn CPR and be prepared. Because there is no test to know which outcome you'll get (although I'll also note sometimes it is obvious that someone is not coming back, but as a healthcare worker we have legal obligations).

"We may have already discovered the essence of life on Mars 40 years ago, according to a former NASA scientist." Or maybe not.

"Today, NASA unveiled its designs for future spacesuits that astronauts will wear during trips to the lunar surface. The suits are still in development, but NASA claims they’ll be ready to keep astronauts alive in space by 2024 — the space agency’s deadline to return humans to the Moon."

"Ingredion isn't alone. 'Any publicly traded company, I think, is under increasing pressure from the investment community to articulate what we see as our upcoming climate risk," (Brian Nash, Ingredion's head of sustainability) says. That's partly because of prodding from an international organization called the Financial Stability Board, which set up a task force chaired by former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg to help companies voluntary disclose such risks." And insurance companies are adding in climate risks into the models.

"The Trump administration is proposing to exempt Alaska's Tongass National Forest from long-standing protections against logging and development, opening the door for potential timber harvesting on 165,000 acres of old-growth forest." The problem isn't the lack of wood in the market. Even with tariffs on Canadian lumber we have plenty of wood on the market. Add in the retaliatory Chinese tariffs on US lumber, we have more lumber on the market than it being used and it's depressing prices. But sure, let's go log one of the last old growth forests left. Burn it all down.

"The pay increase for restaurant workers in New York City to $15 represented the largest hike for a big group of low-wage workers since the 1960s, a new study found. (AND wait for it) During the years New York raised the minimum wage to $15 from $7.25, its restaurant industry outperformed the rest of the US in job growth and expansion, the study found." You're shocked, I can tell. But, because Business Insider is a business magazine, "While the city's restaurant growth is likely a result of the city's overall strong economy, the report's findings might suggest that paying workers more won't immediately lead to job loss or other negative business consequences as previously thought." (Grokked from John)

"But workers and employers are also navigating changing social norms around gender that can be confusing, and shifting workplace culture away from traditional gender identifiers can also be tricky." The gender questions come to corporate America.

AI in the workplace. "But Oracle’s Emily He says most workplace AI applications today are aiming a little lower than sentient world domination: 'simple things like what’s my vacation balance or what’s the 401(k) policy?'" As I've stated before, this isn't AI as we think it is, this is just white-collar automation. Frustrated by the lack of real AI, we drew the line behind us and declared we already had it. But what this really shows is just how ill informed management really is when workers would rather ask a computer to do an advanced search on digitized documents.

"'The right to throw a punch ends at the tip of someone’s nose.' It’s the idea that underlies American liberties — but does it still fit in 2019? This week, On the Media looks back at our country’s radical — and radically inconsistent — tradition of free speech. Plus, a prophetic philosopher predicts America 75 years after Trump." Which he made in the early 2000s.

What a strong CFPB is important. "Starting early last year, the nation's most powerful consumer protection agency sent examiners into companies that run student loan call centers to try to fix a troubled loan forgiveness program. But the Department of Education blocked the bureau from getting the information it needed, NPR has learned." The Trump administration blocked one part of the government from investigating another.

How goes Brexit? "A provisional deal now could mean yet another delay to Britain’s departure, currently due to take place on Oct. 31. It also raises the prospect that the EU need to hold another Brexit summit before the end of the month."

How goes the Trade Wars? "The goldfish tariff, like so many tariffs from the list, might seem negligible for someone buying a $10 common pet-store fish — the basic bright-orange kind one might get at a carnival." There are echoes here back to 1930's Smoot-Hawley Act.

"Retail sales fell 0.3% last month following a 0.6% gain in August, the Commerce Department reported Wednesday. It was the first decline since a 0.5% drop in February." In a later paragraph, the AP says the "spending decline in October…" This is either a simple typo, or Freudian/Timewarp slip-up.

"Hong Kong’s embattled leader Carrie Lam on Wednesday delivered her annual policy address by video, after being heckled by pro-democracy lawmakers on the floor of the city’s parliament."

"Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has said he will refuse to meet with Vice President Mike Pence, who is due to travel to Turkey to argue for a ceasefire in the ongoing Syria conflict." Which is normal diplomatic protocol (like meets like)… except that Pence is traveling as Trump's proxy, which makes this a little slap in the face. Plus he's vowing no cease fire. So what would happen if there's a break in the West and Turkey becomes "independent", or aligns with Russia instead of NATO? Or even if Turkey feels like the ugly step-child of NATO?

"Eager for changes at the Department of Veterans Affairs, President Donald Trump toyed early on with issuing an executive order to close parts of the VA health system without consulting Congress, according to an upcoming book by his former VA secretary." That would have gone over well.

"Documents recently obtained by CREW, in response to its Freedom of Information Act request for all records related to any investigation or inquiry by the FBI’s Office of Professional Responsibility (OPR) of former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe, provide new information about his termination last year. They also raise questions about whether the Department of Justice (DOJ) followed the FBI’s procedural rules, which require the agency to give senior officials 30 days advance notice prior to disciplinary actions such as dismissal, and about the limited time DOJ provided McCabe and his lawyers to dispute the proposed decision." (Grokked from Kathryn Cramer)

"For instance, Trump told the lender that he took in twice as much rent from one building as he reported to tax authorities during the same year, 2017. He also gave conflicting occupancy figures for one of his signature skyscrapers, located at 40 Wall Street." Well, the choice is financial fraud or tax fraud. Either one carries significant penalties. (Grokked from Elizabeth Bear)

"U.S. President Donald Trump has vetoed a joint resolution of Congress that sought to terminate his declaration of a national emergency on the southern border with Mexico, the White House said on Tuesday." And water remains wet.

Drain the swamp… "At the halfway mark of President Donald Trump’s first term, his administration has hired a lobbyist for every 14 political appointments made, welcoming a total of 281 lobbyists on board, a ProPublica and Columbia Journalism Investigations analysis shows." Right into the administration. (Grokked from Kathryn Cramer)

"Declaring the Democratic-led impeachment inquiry illegitimate, Vice President Mike Pence and President Donald Trump's personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani on Tuesday refused to hand over documents on Ukraine." And Rudy is saying he won't appear. So, new level of Constitutional Crisis with implicit contempt (legal term). Just as a reminder, yes the Congress has it's own police force and it has it's own jail.

"A grand jury has subpoenaed former Republican Rep. Pete Sessions on matters connected to President Donald Trump's personal attorney Rudy Giuliani, two Giuliani associates' dealings with Ukraine and efforts to remove the US ambassador to Ukraine, a source familiar with the matter told CNN." Sessions was the beneficiary of political donations funneled through Giuliani's friends (who are now in jail).

"A Florida man wanted in a campaign finance case involving associates of Rudy Giuliani is in federal custody after flying Wednesday to Kennedy Airport in New York City to turn himself in, federal authorities said."

"But new reporting about Giuliani’s own business dealings with shadowy Ukraine-linked figured shines a light on just how hypocritical his posturing has been… On Monday, both Reuters and the Washington Post reported that Giuliani received $500,000 from a company founded by a man at the center of a scheme to funnel foreign payments to Republican groups, including the pro-Trump super PAC 'America First Action,' in 2018… The company in question has the unfortunate name of Fraud Guarantee and was founded by Lev Parnas, a Ukrainian American associate of Giuliani’s who was arrested with Igor Fruman (another Giuliani associate) last week." This is fucking morality play territory. Seriously, if you included a company with that name in a novel your critique group, agent, and editor would spike it. It throws you out of suspension of disbelief and enters the realm of a Tom Swifty.

"The White House removed the core of its Ukraine policy team in the spring and replaced it with 'three amigos' considered more reliable for the plan to pressure Kyiv, a senior U.S. diplomat was described as telling House investigators on Tuesday." "More reliable" means they were willing to do the president's dirty work without asking questions.

Tuesday, October 15, 2019

Linkee-poo Tuesday

Alligators delayed.

Harold Bloom and Alexei Leonov. And so it goes.

"The prestigious journal Nature Astronomy has now published one of the earlier papers based on this frantic rush of observations. The new paper both confirms that Comet Borisov comes from outside our solar system and offers preliminary evidence suggesting that the object isn't very different from the comets that clutter our own solar system." And it now has a visible tail, which is composed of gases created from cyanide. So, totally normal (interstellar comet made of poison, intense side-eye). Well, most of our solar comets also give off those compounds.

"Typhoon Hagibis brought record-breaking rainfall, caused extensive flooding and power outages, forcing the government to approve a special budget for disaster response."

"Harley-Davidson has halted production and delivery of its first electric motorcycle, the LiveWire, after discovering what the Milwaukee-based manufacturer described as a non-standard condition." Rhut rho.

More about the organ donation/recovery system. "If Roland Henry had died in a different part of the country, his organs might have been recovered. And lives could have been saved… But the local organ collection agency said no."

"Two years later, what has his administration done to change the ACA, and who's been affected? Below are five of the biggest changes to the federal health law under President Trump."

Why does healthcare cost so much? "The hospital lobby is a juggernaut in New York, as it is in other states. Over the last year, hospital lobbyists have fought reforms for billing transparency in Ohio, minimum nurse staffing levels in Illinois, and cheaper payment rates in North Carolina. Last month, a leaked email from the Kentucky Hospital Association showed that it was urging members to donate to gubernatorial candidates to 'assure access.'" Gotta pay for all the suits. Also a little on how Medicare has been gamed to get votes in Congress.

The Hidden Brain podcast with "How American Masculinity creates lonely men." and it affects our health, mental and physical. With some discussion of how our partners became our defacto social managers, and just where and how these things happen. I'm blessed that I have friends, men friends, whom I've kept since college (and I thank Dan for that, he did a lot of the heavy lifting, thanks, man) and that I do have some close acquaintances. I am sad that while I've reconnected with my childhood friends (thanks to Facebook), I haven't had the time to meet with them. And there is discussion of the sociological reasons, but they miss the most important one. Welcome to the cultural fallout of the Cold War. Other cultures don't have this issue, even though they also have "male culture" (and toxic masculinity). As we entered the Cold War it was a conscious need of society to create warriors, which we confused with soldiers (they aren't the same). And we needed "tough men (and women)" to win against the encroaching forces of communism. So we valued and started promoting a toxic form of hyper-masculinity, because that was the template. A combination of Hemingway and the movie version of John Wayne. Tough men for a tough future. We changed our games to reward certain behaviors. And it worked very well, to the point we forgot how intentional the change was. Only it was killing us and didn't prepare us for this future we live in.

"After a while, he no longer got the head rush that made vaping satisfying in the beginning; but he still kept buying nicotine." Why it's almost like an addiction or something.

"So in a last-ditch effort to see whether they can save spotted owls, federal officials are resorting to killing hundreds of federally protected barred owls." Killing Peter to save Paul.

"The PNNL team found that the origin of whiskers in a lithium metal battery lies in a structure known as the "SEI" or solid-electrolyte interphase… the scientists pinpointed a culprit in the growth process: ethylene carbonate, an indispensable solvent added to electrolyte to enhance battery performance… It turns out that ethylene carbonate leaves the battery vulnerable to damage." Just like evil, lithium batteries contain the seeds of their own destruction.

"Not long ago, United demanded a black passenger remove his official Marvel 'Black Panther' hat because it made someone uncomfortable. This weekend, United refused to even challenge a white passenger wearing a 'Rope. Tree. Journalist' shirt, no matter who it made uncomfortable." Not much else to say there. (Grokked from Annalee Flower Horne)

"That massive number is the reduction in home values caused by the 2017 tax law that capped federal deductions for state and local real estate and income taxes at $10,000 a year and also eliminated some mortgage interest deductions. The impact varies widely across different areas. Counties with high home prices and high real estate taxes and where homeowners have big mortgages are suffering the biggest hit, as you’d expect, given the larger value of the lost tax deductions. But as we’ll see, homeowners all over the country are feeling the effects." The best grifts are when the mark willingly gives you the money all while not seeing how they're being taken. (Grokked from Elizabeth Bear)

Beer run. "Four inmates who repeatedly escaped from a federal prison in Texas so they could return with whiskey and cellphones were back in custody after they were finally caught in the act, authorities said."

"A Northern California man has been arrested on suspicion of killing four people after he showed up at a police station with a body in his car."

"A US police officer who shot dead a black woman in her bedroom on Saturday has been held and charged with murder." But now he's out on bond.

How goes Brexit? "A Brexit divorce deal is still possible ahead of Thursday’s European Union summit but the British government needs to move ahead with more compromises to seal an agreement in the next few hours, the bloc said Tuesday." Anybody really expect that to happen? Anyone?

How go the Trade Wars? "The International Monetary Fund is further downgrading its outlook for the world economy, predicting that growth this year will be the weakest since the 2008 financial crisis primarily because of widening global conflicts."

"Stocks closed slightly lower on Monday as new worries around a U.S.-China trade agreement emerged." Upside down, you're turning me, you're giving love instinctively. Round and round, you're turning me…

"President Donald Trump said again on Friday that Americans need identification to buy groceries, which remains not true." Our stable genius president, everybody. (Grokked from Jim Wright)

"Days after appearing to acquiesce to a Turkish invasion of northern Syria aimed at routing Washington's Kurdish allies, the White House is officially reversing course, calling instead for a cease-fire, imposing economic sanctions and dispatching Vice President Pence to Ankara." That'll show 'em.

"Russia moved to fill the void left by the United States in northern Syria, deploying troops Tuesday to keep apart advancing Syrian government and Turkish forces. At the same time, tensions grew within NATO as Turkey defied growing condemnation from its Western allies of its invasion across the border." So let's see, ascendent Russia power and influence, bickering NATO. Why, it would almost appear to be a plan against the West. And who brought this situation about?

"President Donald Trump is making a brazen attempt to rewrite the reality of his dealings with Ukraine… He has said at least 18 times over the last 15 days that the whistleblower who lodged a highly accurate complaint about his phone call with Ukraine's President had been highly inaccurate. And over the weekend, he pushed three other fictions -- reversing the timing of two events and touting a supposed Nancy Pelosi quote there is no evidence the House speaker ever said." Our president just makes shit up so that he's the hero of the story.

"Rep. Matt Gaetz, a Florida Republican on the Judiciary Committee, said he was kicked out of this morning's deposition of Fiona Hill by House Intelligence Chair Adam Schiff. Gaetz is not on any of the three committees conducting the impeachment investigation — Intelligence, Foreign Affairs and Oversight." You might remember Gaetz, who literally ran to the White House to brief the president or his staff about the Mueller Investigation.

"National security adviser John Bolton was so alarmed by Rudy Giuliani’s back-channel activities in Ukraine that he described President Donald Trump’s personal lawyer as a “hand grenade who is going to blow everybody up,” according to a former White House aide."

"In a Saturday preview of his upcoming congressional testimony, a representative for US ambassador to the EU Gordon Sondland indicated the ambassador will tell Congress the answer to the question of whether there was quid pro quo is yes — but not the one you’re thinking of. Sondland will reportedly testify that in exchange for Ukraine’s vow to investigate corruption, the administration was promising a coveted White House audience, not the release of military aid. He’s also said, however, he did not connect administration calls for new corruption investigations and Joe Biden at the time." That's still an abuse of office, although it might be harder to quantify a "White House audience" in terms of money. And the story might change by the time he testifies.

"White evangelicals have been among President Trump's most solid supporters, but younger evangelicals are more skeptical of the president heading into the 2020 election." No transcript yet, but interesting. But don't worry, it's just your bog-standard teen rebellion.

Monday, October 14, 2019

Linkee-poo, hide your wives and daughters, hide your groceries too, great nations of Europe coming through

Just as a heads up, the alligators have been nice enough to phone ahead this week. So things might be sparse here until Friday. Sorry about that, but the jobs pay the bills.

"A 1,200-year-old standing stone discovered in the Highlands has carvings never before seen on a Pictish stone, archaeologists have said… The stone was found lying in the ground and covered by vegetation at an early Christian church site near Dingwall." In case you ever want to know what turns my dials to 11, this right here is one of them. (Grokked from Dr Caitlin Green)

"The Johnstown Police Department issued a warning on their Facebook page Thursday morning after authorities said they discovered 'Nerds Rope edibles containing 400mg of THC' while fulfilling a search warrant in Stoneycreek Township. The department also recently seized 60 pounds of marijuana from the area, reports CBS Pittsburgh." Nobody is going to give away their stash, people. Hell, hardly anyone gives away full-sized candy bars. Nobody is going to spring for edibles for the little kiddies.

"Nearly half of all children who develop Type 1 diabetes don't know they have the disease until they end up in a coma in the hospital… Researchers in Virginia have set out to see if a genetic test for Type 1 diabetes can eliminate many of those emergencies." The problem is the test is not very accurate (at this time), and there are many non-genetic risk factors for diabetes. But attempting to reduce hypo and hyperglycemic emergencies is a good thing.

"The case is one of dozens of death investigations across the country, including more than two dozen in Los Angeles and San Diego counties, that The Times found were complicated or upended when transplantable body parts were taken before a coroner’s autopsy was performed." The modern resurrectionists at work. (Grokked from Laura J Mixon)

"The new law will be implemented over time and will eventually mandate middle schools to start no earlier than 8 a.m. and high schools to begin no earlier than 8:30 a.m., according to the Los Angeles Times." And yes, there is medical research that supports this decision.

"Simone Biles is the greatest gymnast of our time – or any time in history. She proved that Sunday at the World Championships, where she raked in her 24th and 25th world medals, both gold." She's so good, they're trying to keep other gymnasts from matching her moves by discounting the difficulty of those moves far below what they should.

So there was a lot of press for Eliud Kipchoge who broke the 2 hour marathon barrier, but that course was so rigged in his favor they won't award him the record. But, "Kenya's Brigid Kosgei won the Chicago Marathon on Sunday with a time of 2 hours 14 minutes 4 seconds, breaking the previous world record by 81 seconds."

"On Monday in the nation's capital, there is no Columbus Day. The D.C. Council voted to replace it with Indigenous Peoples' Day in a temporary move that it hopes to make permanent. Several other places across the United States have also made the switch in a growing movement to end the celebration of the Italian explorer in favor of honoring Indigenous communities and their resiliency in the face of violence by European explorers like Christopher Columbus." Columbus was an asshole. And, as usual, there are the bog-standard history apologists attempting to rehabilitate Columbus because he's an icon of Italian-Americans.

How goes Brexit? "Boris Johnson's government has set out 'ambitious' policies on crime, health, the environment and Brexit in a Queen's Speech that opposition parties have dismissed as an 'election manifesto'… But with the PM having no majority, many of the bills may not become law."

"A white police officer fired through the window of a black woman's home early Saturday and killed her after responding to a call that a neighbor placed about an open front door, authorities in Fort Worth, Texas, say." One, it was an open structure call, why did he have his firearm drawn? There are reports that there was a gun in the house (but no indication she was holding the gun at the time), but so far the NRA hasn't come out to defend Atatiana Jefferson had the right to own the gun and protect her house (castle laws). Odd their strange silence on that issue.

"Construction has begun on President Trump's border wall between Arizona and Mexico, and conservationists are furious. The massive barrier will skirt one of the most beloved protected areas in the Southwest — Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument, recognized by the United Nations as an international biosphere reserve." And, again, it's not a new wall, it's replacing an existing barrier. And then… "The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service has warned that the wall, with its bright lights, human activity and impermeable barrier, could negatively impact 23 endangered and at-risk species, including the Sonoran pronghorn antelope. And the National Park Service says construction could destroy 22 archaeological sites. Yet, for this stretch of western desert, the government has waived 41 federal environmental laws to expedite construction."

"Chinese President Xi Jinping warned on Sunday that any attempt to divide China would be crushed, as four months of anti-government protests continue in Hong Kong and the United States ramps up criticism over Beijing's treatment of Muslim-minority groups… 'Anyone attempting to split China in any part of the country will end in crushed bodies and shattered bones,' he said during a visit to Nepal on Sunday, according to China's state broadcaster CGTN." Totally not a totalitarian statement at all.

"A retired four-star Marine general on Sunday bluntly criticized President Donald Trump over the ongoing Turkish military offensive in northern Syria, saying, 'There is blood on Trump's hands for abandoning our Kurdish allies.'" And it appears that Turkey is, because we couldn't get more medieval here, using irregular shock troops to spearhead their advance. And these irregulars are committing genocide and executing prisoners and civilians. And now as a remedy Trump is enacting "severe sanctions" against Turkey, a fellow NATO member. Because all of this pays into the hands of Putin.

"Trumbull County has cut 36 voting locations since 2015, including eight this year, in an effort to save money and provide 'more specialized assistance' to those casting ballots, an elections official said… The reductions have been in larger communities as it’s easier to move those voters to a closer location, Massullo said." Uh, yeah, Bob (severe side-eye).

"Donald Trump's 2020 re-election campaign has disavowed a parody video showing the US president massacring media outlets and political rivals… The video was on display at a conference organised by American Priority, a pro-Trump group." And then shown at their conference, which was held at Trump's National Doral Miami. And now nobody seems to know who did it or why it was shown at all. It's so strange when your supporters take your word and go off-script.

"'Sadly, this is not the first time that supporters of the President have promoted violence against the media in a video they apparently find entertaining -- but it is by far and away the worst. The images depicted are vile and horrific,' CNN said in a statement Sunday night." It's just so strange his supporters keep doing these things.

"The video, which can be found on YouTube, depicts Trump inside the 'Church of Fake News,' shooting, beating and stabbing congregants with the logos of Vox, Politico, CNN and other media outlets emblazoned over their faces. He also shoots MSNBC personality Rachel Maddow and U.S. Rep. Adam Schiff, the Democratic chairman of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence."

"Hunter Biden… said through his attorney that he was stepping down from the board of a Chinese company that has been the subject of criticism from Trump and his allies. He added that he would not work for a foreign-owned company if his father is elected president in 2020." Unlike the Trump children, or, if you believe conspiracy theories, Trump himself.

"First up on Monday, Trump's former top National Security Council Russia specialist Fiona Hill is expected to give a deposition to House committees -- and could shed some light on the behind-the-scenes maneuvering between Trump, administration officials and outsiders acting on his behalf in Ukraine, including Trump's personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani."

"Moscow is not blaming U.S. President Donald Trump for failing to improve U.S.-Russian relations, a pledge he had made during his election campaign, Russian President Vladimir Putin said in an interview with Arab broadcasters." But it's funny how much of Trump's actions have both directly and indirectly aided Russia and their ambitions.

Sunday, October 13, 2019

Linkee-poo Weekend

The news is coming fast and thick. Turkey shelled our troops in Syria, has executed Kurd prisoners, and assassinated civilians. Yet this doesn't seem to cross Trump's red lines where he will destroy Turkey's economy. Apparently the president is pimping out our military to Saudi Arabia for the cold hard cash. And things just general swirl down the toilet of history.

The Throughline podcast with "Today the foundations of philosophy (all sciences) are seen as a straight line from Western antiquity, built on thinkers such as Plato and Aristotle. But, between the 8th century and 14th century, the West was greatly overshadowed by the Islamic world and philosophy was in very different hands. This week, how one Medieval Islamic philosopher put his pen to paper and shaped the modern world." I remember dimly references to "The Commentator" in my history classes.

"But the EPA is not moving to require that all lead service lines be proactively replaced nationwide, as some environmental advocates had suggested. The new regulations propose that water systems must replace agency-owned portions of a lead service line only when a customer chooses to replace their own portion." So, basically, other than increased testing, there's not much here.

"A federal judge in New York has issued a temporary injunction against the Trump administration's 'public charge' rule, preventing the rule from taking effect on Oct. 15."

"A former Deutsche Bank executive who reviewed President Donald Trump's tax returns reportedly said it is 'not normal' that the institution no longer holds copies of those records." Destruction of evidence does not look good. (Grokked from Chuck Wendig)

"But the alliance was on shaky ground. In the months leading up to the call, Trump's personal attorney Rudy Giuliani pressed Ukrainian officials to launch investigations that stood to benefit the president politically. Trump was also withholding the White House meeting Zelenskiy coveted, in addition to military aid that was already approved by Congress." How we got here. (Grokked from Laura J Mixon)

"Trump's first visit to Soviet Moscow in 1987 looks, with hindsight, to be part of a pattern. The dossier by the former British intelligence officer Christopher Steele asserts that the Kremlin had been cultivating Trump for 'at least five years' before his stunning victory in the 2016 US presidential election. This would take us back to around 2011 or 2012." A little light history of Cold War cloak and dagger. (Grokked from Kathryn Cramer)

"There were dozens of ears listening to President Donald Trump’s 30-minute phone call with the leader of Ukraine that is at the center of a House impeachment inquiry , and as many eyes that saw what he said." An anatomy of how phone calls are handled in the White House. Including a line about how Trump,"Occasionally, while on the phone with foreign heads of state, Trump has handed the receiver to his daughter, Ivanka Trump, so she can talk with the leader, according to this individual." WTF?! (Grokked from Chuck Wendig)

Friday, October 11, 2019

Linkee-poo for Friday

"In an unusual move, the Swedish Academy doled out Nobel Prizes in literature to two authors on Thursday: Polish writer Olga Tokarczuk, who won the postponed 2018 award, and Austrian author Peter Handke, who won the prize for this year. The academy's permanent secretary, Mats Malm, announced the winners at a press briefing in Stockholm." As usual, there is some controversy.

"Using 10 years of data from NASA's Hubble Space Telescope, the team of astronomers concluded that there is more gas coming into our galaxy than leaving it. Rather than an equilibrium of gas entering and escaping, there is a significant imbalance, though the team behind this finding has not yet found the source for this gaseous disparity." It's the beans.

"A refrigerator-sized satellite soared into orbit aboard an air-launched Northrop Grumman Pegasus XL rocket Thursday night over the Atlantic Ocean, finally setting off on a $252 million mission to probe the dynamic boundary region where space and Earth’s atmosphere meet." And a description of a space shot from a rocket dropped from an airplane.

"NASA astronomers have used data from the Voyager probes to measure the bustle of particles rippling at the very edge of our Solar System, and discovered the pressure in the distant borderlands of our star is higher than they expected." Go go Voyagers.

Banning drive-thru windows. "But such legislation is also sometimes promoted as an opportunity to create healthier food environments and curb obesity. In a study analyzing drive-through bans in 27 Canadian cities, researchers noted, 'health promotion and chronic disease prevention are public health gains from the implementation of fast food drive-through service bylaws.'"

"Beyond that, though, 'the key difference I think of in terms of costs and risks are that the traditional company pension, the [defined benefit], place a lot of cost and risk on the employer and the 401(k) style defined contribution transfers the cost and risk to the employee,' Brooks said."

"There are allegations that the psychiatric unit staff at Monmouth Medical Center falsified medical records and gave patients Benadryl to make them fall asleep to create less work… The whistleblowing nurse is now suing, claiming she was punished for raising these issues. Plaintiff Patricia Moran had worked at the hospital for 31 years, and according to her attorney, was considered a model employee until she complained."

How go the Trade Wars? "A Chinese state newspaper said on Friday that a “partial” trade deal would benefit China and the United States, and Washington should take the offer on the table, reflecting Beijing’s aim of cooling the row before more U.S. tariffs kick in." Up again, down again. Man I'm getting sick of this roller-coaster. Hows abouts you?

"In the industrial city of Dongguan, China, the effects of the trade war on the Chinese economy are measured in idled machinery and empty bar stools." The trade war is just exacerbating the issues and accelerating the trend of moving to cheaper markets.

And what comes as a surprise to no one… "A shooting at a synagogue in the German city of Halle on Wednesday was a far-right terror attack, said Justice Minister Christine Lambrecht… Alleged perpetrator Stephan Balliet had four kilos (9lb) of explosives in his car, Ms Lambrecht said in a statement with attorney-general Peter Frank."

"An oil tanker belonging to the National Iranian Oil Company (NIOC) was hit and damaged by two missiles on Friday, Iranian state news IRNA reported." Proportional response?

"So the administration tried something different: It is restricting who can apply for the diversity visa, in a way that advocates say will make it much harder for low-income immigrants to apply." Because the goal of conservatives isn't to end immigration, but stop immigration of POC and those who aren't "Christian." To cover for and enact that change, they're limiting overall immigration and attempting to rewrite the rules (again) to favor WASPs.

"The growing divide between President Trump and many of his fellow Republicans over his decision to move U.S. troops in Syria out of the way of a Turkish incursion threatens his delicate alliance with the congressional GOP at a time when he needs their support more than ever, party strategists say." Don't worry, they'll get over their "concerns" when it comes time to vote. They always do.

"The debate over Facebook's decision to allow President Trump's reelection campaign to pay to run false ads on its platform encapsulates the awkward moral, social and civil questions that have dogged the company since 2016." Social media is not your friend.

"Two associates of Rudy Giuliani connected to efforts to dig up dirt in Ukraine on Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden have been arrested and indicted on criminal charges for allegedly funneling foreign money into US elections… The charges against the men suggest Giuliani's push on Ukraine and President Donald Trump's receptiveness to it had ties to an illegal effort to influence US politics and policy using foreign funds. The indictment involves two people central to the impeachment inquiry in the House." So besides the outright bribery/quid-pro-quo deals here, the is also the money laundering of a foreign national's money into the election fundraising. Guess which country that foreign national is from. Aw, it's no fun unless you guess.

"As we spoke, I could hear a voice that resembled Giuliani’s shout 'asshole' in the background. 'Oh, sorry,' the woman told me. 'He was talking to the TV.'"

"Over the course of about a week in Ukraine, the message from two dozen government officials and anti-corruption investigators quickly became clear: The allegations against the Bidens are entirely lacking in evidence… But they persist, and not only because Trump and his personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, keep repeating them."

"President Trump pressured then-Secretary of State Rex Tillerson to help convince the Department of Justice (DOJ) to drop a criminal investigation against an Iranian-Turkish gold trader who was also a client of Trump's current personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, Bloomberg reports… Tillerson refused Trump's 2017 request, saying it would be illegal to interfere with an ongoing investigation. He repeated his stance to then-chief of staff John Kelly in a hallway conversation in the White House." Oh what wicked webs we weave…

Tweet of my heart: @samstein So the guys Rudy turned to to root out corruption were…. corrupt. (Grokked from Kathryn Cramer)

Thursday, October 10, 2019

Linkee-poo goes down to the river to pray

"There are now 359,000 people without power in the Bay Area after phase 2 of PG&E's power shutoffs were implemented overnight. Parts of the East Bay, Peninsula, South Bay and Santa Cruz lost energy in the latest outages."

"Scientists in Siberia have discovered an area of sea that is 'boiling' with methane, with bubbles that can be scooped from the water with buckets. Researchers on an expedition to the East Siberian Sea said the 'methane fountain' was unlike anything they had seen before, with concentrations of the gas in the region to be six to seven times higher than the global average." We're boned. (Grokked from John)

"Musk has repeatedly stressed that he founded SpaceX back in 2002 primarily to help humanity colonize Mars. It's vital that we become a multiplanet species, the billionaire entrepreneur has said, citing both a much-reduced probability of extinction and the thrill that meaningful space exploration will deliver to billions of people around the world." A deeper dive into Starship and SuperHeavy thought processes and history.

Eating healthy, real foods isn't important as they're not different from processed foods… so they tell us. "There's fresh evidence that eating a healthy diet, one that includes plenty of fruits and vegetables and limits highly processed foods, can help reduce symptoms of depression." But, you know, I'm sure organic foods and dietary supplements still don't do anything for you at all (hint: yes, yes they do). "However, most of these studies show an association and 'can't imply causation,' cautions Sarris. In other words, the studies don't prove that changes in diet directly cause the improvement or decline in mood." You might recall that argument from the recent "red meat is really good for you" news cycle. So here's the thing. Eat a lot of different foods and become conscious of how you feel (physically and mentally) afterward. Write it down. And then eat the things that make you feel better physically. Comfort foods, which are not necessarily the best for you, might give you a better mental state for a short time. But improving your physical well being will be the most beneficial in the long run. For instance, I do better drinking green tea than drinking black tea. I'm not entirely sure why, but I've noticed the difference. Recently I've also noticed a difference between the tea I brew at home and store bought tea (or systems like Keurig). However, improved diet can help, but it's not a replacement for mental healthcare.

"Women may be more likely to develop Alzheimer's disease, but men are typically diagnosed at earlier stages, when symptoms are mild. By tweaking memory tests a little, more women might be caught at an early stage of the disease, when they can benefit from treatment, a study suggests." Or, you know, we could change to a test that detects the disease instead of one that only tests for the symptoms. Unfortunately we don't have a way (yet) of testing for the actual disease in the early stages that is inexpensive. But then maybe we should adjust the test to a wider scope of areas instead of verbal cognition.

"The Hollywood Reporter reports tonight that Sesame Street… has begun working to help kids who have been affected by America’s opioid crisis, and substance abuse and addiction in general. The material—which, like the show’s efforts to address issues like the foster care system, homelessness, and being HIV positive, will air online, rather than in the show proper—is aimed at helping kids to understand what it means when their parents and caregivers are struggling with addiction." But only if you have HBO.

"Gov. Gavin Newsom signed several laws Wednesday aimed at increasing housing density by limiting cities’ ability to block new construction and making it easier to build so-called granny flats, part of a larger push to boost supply as California grapples with a severe housing shortage." Now do apartment housing.

Murder in the selfie-age. "A digital memory card found on a street in Alaska's largest city contained videos of a woman being strangled and pictures of her face down in the back of a truck, according to police and a charging document released Wednesday."

"Two people were killed (yesterday) following a shooting rampage near a synagogue in the eastern German town of Halle."

How go the Trade Wars? "U.S. stock index futures were slightly lower Thursday morning, as investors closely monitor the status of high-level trade talks between the world’s two largest economies." Dear Wall Street, you're being played.

"A small group of Activision Blizzard employees walked out of work Tuesday afternoon to protest the company’s actions against a gamer who expressed support for pro-democracy protesters in Hong Kong during an official livestream." I put this with the trade war material because it illustrates some of the problems with our business relationship with China. Because they're an "important part" of our economy and through their government can exert censorship on non-Chinese entities. JFC, when South Park becomes a champion of American Values you know the world is fucked up.

"President Trump has dismissed concerns that Turkey's incursion into northern Syria could enable hundreds of hardened ISIS fighters to go free as a problem for other countries. There are more than 10,000 ISIS detainees held in jails across northern Syria run by America's long-time Kurdish allies, the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF). The Kurds had warned that a Turkish offensive against them, which began on Wednesday, would force them to turn their attention from ISIS, to self defense." I believe this is the 8th time the US has betrayed the Kurdish people. And this one will come back to bite us in the ass. This is so incredibly bad for the area, the greater world politics, and the US. Our president is a mentally-deficient madman. With this withdraw we are doubly screwed. Turkey is a NATO member, and if the SDF attacks into Turkey we will be treaty-bound to help Turkey. ISIS/DASH is not defeated, and with 2000-5000 trained fighters who might now be freed, along with the insurgency groups still active, they could quickly re-establish ground control.

"Republicans savaged President Donald Trump Wednesday for allowing Turkey to attack US allies in Syria as the President offered varying reasons for giving Turkey the green light, including the fact that Kurds did not fight alongside the US in World War II." And the concerned senators and congresspeople line up to be seen shedding tears, this won't change their political loyalty or calculus. So, GOP, spare me your concern and tears.

"NPR examined Trump's tweets, both positive and negative, about every single current member of Congress starting from his inauguration day until last week. As of October 4, Trump has tweeted more than 700 times about sitting members of Congress." And you won't believe what they found! (Sorry, been reading too much on the internets these days.) Gee, the president is a misogynistic racists (or at least acts like one on twitter)? Who'da thunk it?

"Education Secretary Betsy DeVos has been threatened with the possibility of jail after a judge deemed she was violating a court order for continuing to collect student debts on a now-defunct school." Silly people, she's too rich to go to jail. Although I'd really like to see it. (Grokked from Dan)

"'I had said for months that...Barr was a principled institutionalist,' said Chuck Rosenberg, who previously served as the U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia as well as the Southern District of Texas, during a segment of MSNBC's Morning Joe. 'I was flat-out wrong,' he continued. 'I had it wrong. I have been deeply disappointed by what I've seen.'" So many rats leaving.

"Are we in a constitutional crisis yet?" Oh we passed that point early in 2017. Try to keep up. But yes, when one branch of the government refuses to recognize the power of a co-equal branch, it is a new crisis.

"As President Trump has lobbed unsubstantiated and false claims of international corruption at former vice president Joe Biden and his son, he’s often turned to one source for ammunition: conservative author Peter Schweizer. So when the New York Times ran an op-ed on Wednesday written by Schweizer about Biden and his son Hunter, the Democratic presidential candidate’s campaign cried foul." So the disgruntlement surrounding the NYT op-eds have now reached the presidential campaign level.

"Vice President Mike Pence has been struggling to explain how much he knew about President Donald Trump soliciting election interference from Ukraine, repeatedly dodging questions from reporters on the issue on Wednesday… 'What I can tell you is that all of our discussions internally, between the president and our team, and our contacts in my office with Ukraine, were entirely focused on the broader issues of the lack of European support and corruption.'" Pence is up to his neck in this and will most likely be facing his own impeachment inquiry soon.

What, me, worry? "In private, Trump is increasingly leaning on the Republican leader in the Senate. In a return to the President's panicked behavior during the height of the Mueller investigation, Trump is calling McConnell as often as three times a day, according to a person familiar with the conversations."

"One of Donald Trump’s most prominent Christian supporters will argue in a book due out before the 2020 general election that American evangelicals 'have a moral obligation to enthusiastically back' the president." The book's original title was "Render to God and Trump." Yes, Ralph Reed just called Trump Caesar, misquoted the Bible, and labeled himself a false profit in that all-in-one shot. For in these later days there will rise false prophets. (Grokked from Cherie Priest)

Every time I think I've finally gotten rid of the urge to write Post-Rapture Industries, one of these assholes comes along and reminds me that I should really write that damn book.

Wednesday, October 9, 2019

Linkee-poo when the lights go down in the city

PG&E is enacting a blackout in Northern California to prevent wildfires. Which is a good idea corporately because of the huge amount of liability it takes during several days of dangerous weather conditions. But it's a terrible idea for those who are dependent on the flow of electricity for their lives (oxygen concentrators, home dialysis, CPAP, electric wheelchairs, those who require air conditioning and refrigeration, etc). So basically they're trading one liability for another. You know, instead of hardening the grid.

"Twenty new moons have been found to be orbiting Saturn — and scientists want the public's help in naming them, according to a Carnegie Institution for Science news release. The new discovery brings the total moons around the 'jewel of our solar system' to 82."

There's this joke in healthcare. When your friends and families ask you to diagnose something, it's always chlamydia. "U.S. infections from three sexually transmitted diseases have risen for the fifth consecutive year." The joke is eventually people stop asking.

"This week on Hidden Brain, we explore how the satisfactions of outrage affect our politics, our communities, and our minds." Outrage as entertainment and distraction.

"There’s (an Ohio) House bill that would demand schools post information about vaccine exemptions just as they put up immunization requirements. Acton said her agency's goal is to reduce or eliminate vaccine-preventable diseases, though there are exemptions in the immunization law for medical reasons or religious convictions." Because apparently we can't die fast enough for these fuckers. Also, at the end of the article there are these, "One (abortion bill) would require doctors performing medication abortions to tell patients of pills that can reverse them… Another bill would ban insurance coverage of abortion, but its sponsor Rep. John Becker (R-Cincinnati) said in an ectopic pregnancy, it would 'allow for removing that embryo from the fallopian tube and reinserting it in the uterus so that is defined as not an abortion under this bill.'" Those two things, the "abortion reversal pill" and the transplanting from an ectopic pregnancy don't exist in the real world.

"There were slightly fewer abortions performed in the Buckeye state in 2018 than the year before. Supporters and opponents of legal abortion disagree on the reason for the decline." Occam's razor applies here.

"Five young purebred bulls mysteriously showed up dead on the ranch this past summer, drained of blood and with body parts precisely removed." Aliens? Some government experiment? Someone perpetrating a huge hoax? Someone upset about the competition or a personal beef with the rancher?

"Three suspects have been identified in the murder of Joshua Brown, a key witness in the murder trial of former Dallas police officer Amber Guyger." Well thank the gods it was about a drug deal… instead of police revenge. And, really, who the hell drives 4 hours to buy weed (which then was "left" in the apartment)?

"The campaign around Ohio's nuclear bailout law is intensifying with more reports of people intimidating signature gatherers who want to put the law up for a vote on next year's ballot." And then there's this, "Pierce says the opposition, which wants to save the subsidies for FirstEnergy Solutions’ nuclear plants, is offering to pay circulators to drop out and sometimes offers money for the signatures they've collected, which is illegal."

"According to HOLA Ohio, a non-profit Latino outreach organization, ICE agents in plain clothes and unmarked cars descended on Perry Trailer Park in Perry and arrested a man named Vicente Hernandez as he left for work. At least two other parents were also taken into custody."

"Immigrants are increasingly the targets of money-making scams. However there are a growing number of grassroots efforts to provide them with the information and tools to avoid these scams." And this is why you don't want that community to be afraid to contact the police.

"The Ohio Public Employees Retirement System has voted to ask lawmakers for permission to freeze a cost of living adjustment in 2022 and 2023 and to delay that increase for all new retirees. Michael Pramik of OPERS says that will eliminate a record high unfunded liability of $24 billion. Pramik says that’s the result of several down years for its investments and an increase in retirees who are also living longer. And he says OPERS isn’t alone." No. What it is a result of is several decades of the Ohio legislature (and local governments) constantly underfunding/underpaying into the retirement system to help balance their budgets all while betting on "future growth" to help make up the deficit. Now comes the piper wanting to be paid.

How go the Trade Wars? "Stocks fell on Tuesday as investor optimism around the upcoming U.S.-China trade talks faded… The indexes trimmed losses slightly after Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell said the central bank will expand its balance sheet “soon.” He noted this measure will be used as a response to the recent funding issues the bond market faced in recent weeks."

How goes Brexit? "Trade and customs experts have given MPs sharply differing opinions on the government's Brexit plan for the Irish border… The plan would involve a new customs border, albeit one where checks and controls happen away from the border."

"A No 10 source has said a Brexit deal is 'essentially impossible' after a call between the PM and Angela Merkel… Boris Johnson and the German chancellor spoke earlier about the proposals he had put forward to the EU - but the source said she made clear a deal based on them was 'overwhelmingly unlikely'." Although the propertied Merkel quote might be disinformation.

Conservatives are all about the free market and allowing business owners to "follow their conscience", unless it's to decide to not sell guns. And then, well, that's just anti-American.

"Turkish forces began crossing the Syrian border on Wednesday, launching an operation in Kurdish-dominated areas of the country's north, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan announced."

"The Kurdish-led civilian administration in northeastern Syria issued a 'general mobilization' call along the Syrian border with Turkey on Wednesday as Ankara poised for an imminent invasion of the area in the latest major escalation in the war-ravaged country."

"One person was arrested, police said, but other suspects were believed to have fled the Paulus area in a vehicle… A witness told German n-tv news that a gunman in camouflage opened fire with an assault rifle on a Turkish kebab shop… Shots were also fired near a synagogue in Halle, according to German media, but details have not been confirmed."

"Donald Trump has raised record amounts of money as a presidential candidate. But he’s still left a slew of unpaid bills in his wake… In city after city, across the nation, Trump has failed to pay local officials who provide thousands of dollars’ worth of security assistance to the president’s campaign during his Make America Great Again rallies." Oh, you thought he was supposed to spend that in places other than those he owns? I don't think you've been paying attention. (Note, his campaign has promptly paid the rent bill at Trump Tower.) (Grokked form Laura J Mixon)

"The Republican-led Senate Intelligence Committee just released a report that states the obvious, but in these times is quite damning for President Donald Trump: Russia directed a disinformation campaign during the 2016 election to hurt Hillary Clinton and favor Trump." Captain Obvious finds his social drinking-club.

"'This is not about politics, this is about corruption,' Trump said last week. 'If you look and you read our Constitution and many other things, I have an obligation to look at corruption.'… But anti-corruption advocates say his administration's record of fighting corruption is weak and not in line with Trump's rhetoric." Okay Sparky, point out where the Constitution mentions corruption. I'll wait. And while you're looking, then why didn't you ask the Ukraine to crack down on corruption and then stop. Instead you specifically mentioned Joe and Hunter Biden and said that's who you want them to investigate. Still haven't found it? Don't worry. It isn't there. Also, why have you removed rules that were specifically anti-corruption actions?

"The White House told House Democrats it will not comply with demands for documents and testimony in Democrats' impeachment inquiry, setting up a legal showdown between the two branches of government."

"Meanwhile, in a less-noticed federal court hearing later in the day, the Department of Justice sought to block the release of the remaining redacted materials of the Mueller report and underlying evidence from Congress, arguing that if Watergate happened today, it would be able to prevent the release of grand jury evidence to Congress and the public." To quote the judge. "Wow."

Meanwhile, on Bullshit Mountain, "A newly unearthed document shows that Ukrainian officials had opened a new probe into the firm linked to Hunter Biden months before President Trump's phone call with that country's leader, Fox News contributor John Solomon reported late Tuesday." One, yeah, Imma gonna need to see some confirmation here. And two, this doesn't change anything about the president abusing his office and asking for a foreign government's help to create controversy around a political opponent. And three, it doesn't change shit about the whistleblowers' complaints. This is what's known as "throwing sand in the bull's eyes."

Tuesday, October 8, 2019

Linkee-poo would like to walk you through a field of wildflowers, and I'd like to check you for ticks

"The number of elephants that died after falling down a waterfall in Thailand has increased to 11… It is thought the animals may have been trying to save a baby elephant that slipped over the edge."

"The aches, the sneezing, the sore throat, the exhaustion — flu season is here and you want to be prepared." Get the goddamn shot.

"But a new smartphone app takes advantage of parents' fondness for snapping pictures of their children to look for signs that a child might be developing a serious eye disease."

"Researchers analyzing data from the Rover are extrapolating from the data that rocks enriched by mineral salts are evidence of briny ponds that went through periods of drying out and overflowing. Those deposits serve as a watermark made by climate fluctuations as Mars’ climate changed from a wet one to the current frigid ice desert it is today."

Apparently Index Funds (full disclosure, I endorse investing in indexed funds because of their low fees), having gained popularity, are everything that is wrong with the economy.

"Index funds now control half… the U.S. stock mutual fund market, giving the biggest funds enormous power to influence decisions and demand better returns at the companies in which they invest trillions of dollars." But Index Funds aren't "activist investors", and they were never meant to be. "Actively managed funds also routinely support management in proxy ballots." But because they can sell the stocks to show their displeasure, somehow this makes them "better." I'm calling bullshit. In truth, hardly any shareholder movements change anything in the management of corporations. At best they can bring "awareness" to the board. Now there is a point about "selling" a stock as being a "message." But it's a very weak message. And it's not like a board thinks, "oh, wait, GQ Public sold their 0.5% stake, what are we doing wrong?"

"Burry recently told Bloomberg that he sees another massive bubble happening. This time, he says, it's in index funds. Instead of relying on financial experts to actively pick winners and losers, index funds buy everything in a market, passively going up and down as the entire market goes up and down."

This is a class-war moment. As many people realize the advantage of Index Funds and move their 401(k) investing to these, the people really being hurt are the investment banks who control the other funds (see, Index Funds are often "poo pooed" in the industry, at least in public) who are watching their revenues from those fees diminish. So now they're launching a PR campaign targeted at the least informed customers (ie. people without a lot of money), the people who want to invest "for the betterment of the world", people who won't see what they're doing. There are many "activist institutional investors" who would like to get support (looks at CalPers, TIAA, and a few other state retirement programs), who have people on staff to do the research and believe they need to act in the best interests of their investors. I applaud them (and have supported their efforts). But here's the hard truth (if you've ever owned stocks), your proxy statement doesn't mean very much. Most people don't return them or show up at meetings (and most companies have rules those un-voted shares automatically count to the direction of the board). And yes, there is a hellofalotata things with corporations that really need to change (you could write a whole book, and people have, about executive compensation and the relationship between the C-level officers and the boards and how they're always supporting each others' raises while they gut their employees' pay and benefits). But this attack on Index Funds isn't about those things. It's about who makes the money from your 401(k) and how they're not making enough. Also, since Index Funds are seen as the "redheaded step-child" of Wall Street, most investment companies didn't create any, seeing their marketing of "we know know who is going to win, give us 2%" as the best strategy. Well, those active market funds typically (yes, there are some outliers) don't perform as well as a broad indexed fund over the long run.

So here I'm just going to make my pitch. At best in this market your fund may bring in 5% (all number APR) over the long run (like over a decade, scrutinize any pamphlet that makes it seem like they're doing better because there's usually some heinous statistical fuckery going on, read the footnotes). If your mutual fund is taking 1 or 2% (seems reasonable, right… wait for it), that means your return is actually 3 or 4%. Now, if you're fund is taking 0.03%, you're back to a 4.97% return. Ask anyone who has paid a mortgage what the difference 1 or 2 percentage points can mean. And here's the thing, there's no reason why actively managed funds need to charge 1 or 2%. Their research doesn't really cost that much. However their yearly bonuses do.

"This year, Walmart is training more than 1 million employees using virtual reality. And moving companies, airlines, food processing and financial firms are all using VR in different ways. In the virtual world, cashiers are taught to show greater empathy, mechanics learn to repair planes and retail workers experience how to deal with armed robbery." VR, it's the new thing. So at the hospital we do a variety of training all year long including some that while not VR are computer simulations, so let me give you a hint about these things. Sometimes it's more advantageous to figure out the "game" of the simulation than it is to actually learn or practice the skill.

"The proposed rule from the Labor Department would allow employers to require more widespread sharing of tips with 'back of the house' coworkers, such as cooks and dishwashers. The rule makes clear, however, that employers cannot pocket those tips or use them to reward managers and supervisors." I'm sure this totally won't be abused and allow restaurant owners to pay their kitchen staff less than the regular minimum wage. I have a great idea, let's just get rid of the lower minimum for tipped employees?

"As Muslim Kazakhs, Zhanibek's mother and sister are among the targets of a sprawling security operation by Chinese authorities. Human rights experts estimate that 1.5 million Uighur Muslims and members of other ethnic minority groups, including Chinese-born Kazakhs, have been detained in Xinjiang since 2016. Former detainees say that while in detention they were forced to memorize Chinese communist propaganda and learn Mandarin and were occasionally violently interrogated or beaten." And now they're moving them to prisons that the Chinese government states are prisons, no "re-education camps."

"(Joshua) Brown, 28, lived across the hall from Jean and testified about the night he was killed… A preliminary investigation shows Brown was shot in the back and thigh, a government official said on condition of anonymity." (Grokked from Laura J Mixon)

How go the Trade Wars? "Goldman Sachs said the cost of tariffs imposed by President Donald Trump last year against Chinese goods has fallen 'entirely' on American businesses and households, with a greater impact on consumer prices than previously expected." Captain Obvious gets a promotion. (Grokked from Elizabeth Bear)

"The IRS audits the working poor at about the same rate as the wealthiest 1%. Now, in response to questions from a U.S. senator, the IRS has acknowledged that’s true but professes it can’t change anything unless it is given more money." Also they're mandated by law during the GHW Bush years (IIRC).

Remember that story about the USDA allowing chicken processors to speed up their production lines? They aren't the only ones. "Workers are suing over a new U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) rule that allows pork processing plants to speed up production lines, something their union says could endanger employees." Note that animal processing plants have a high incidence of cutting/crushing injuries and repetitive stress injuries. Also they are mostly staffed by immigrants. (Grokked from Kathryn Cramer)

"Sen. Rob Portman, a Republican from Ohio, on Monday criticized President Donald Trump for requesting that Ukraine and China investigate former Vice President Joe Biden, a notable break from the majority of congressional Republicans, who have defended the President or remained silent." Oh look, concerned Senators are once again concerned. Sorry, Rob, I've seen this play before and I'm not buying the ticket again.

"'President Trump was definitely out-negotiated and only endorsed the troop withdraw to make it look like we are getting something—but we are not getting something," the National Security Council source told Newsweek. 'The U.S. national security has entered a state of increased danger for decades to come because the president has no spine and that's the bottom line.'" The art of the deal, giving them everything they want. (Grokked from Joy Reid)

"Kurdish allies of the U.S. say President Trump's decision to pull troops from the Syria-Turkey border is 'shocking' and deflating — and they warn that the U.S. is duplicating a mistake it made in Iraq, where it has ceded partial control to Iran." His great and unmatched wisdomness is a fucking fool. Or, you know, once again he's making life easy for the Russians.

"'OK, OK! No, no, no! Before you judge Trump, he is technically correct: There is nobody who matches his wisdom,' joked (Trevor) Noah, adding, 'No other person had the wisdom to stare directly into a solar eclipse.'"

"Even Ivanka Trump, the 'princess royal' of the West Wing, is being sucked into the vortex of scandal that has encompassed her father’s administration. In the past week, her husband, Jared Kushner, lost his security clearance, lost his P.R. guard dog, was revealed as a top intelligence target for foreign spies, and was reported to have met with banking executives in the White House shortly before his family’s company received nearly half a billion dollars in loans… While the First Couple braced for an Intercept story that Kushner’s father had failed to secure a loan from the Qatari government just weeks before Kushner backed a blockade of Qatar, CNN dropped another bombshell: United States counterintelligence officials are probing a Trump Organization real-estate deal in Canada in which Ivanka played a leading role." What they didn't realize is that the office wasn't a get out of jail free card, but instead is a spotlight. (Editor note: as pointed out by Dan this is from 2018, it's from 2018, we've been dealing with this for so long now.) (Grokked from Kathryn Cramer)

Having a difficult time keeping up? "The talk from the Trump team is becoming increasingly hard to follow. This week, On the Media takes a look at the conspiracy thinking that’s taken over the executive branch. Plus, leaders at Fox News search for a path forward amidst infighting and impeachment drama. And, a deep dive into Ukrainian politics and the Trump connection."

"Democrats are weighing steps they can take to conceal the whistleblower's identity in a potential interview."

And then there were two. "This (second) whistleblower has first-hand knowledge of allegations listed in a previous whistleblower’s complaint, the lawyer representing this person, Mark Zaid, told ABC News on Sunday." What happens when people realize the jig is up and someone has squealed? They'll squeal themselves to save their own necks. It could also be someone who "thought it was wrong, but wasn't sure and couldn't talk to anyone." OR it could be someone who thought they might either be caught up in the mole sweep, or thought they were about to lose their job as Trump cuts the NSC staff in half.

Polls are a Rorchak test at best (note the Hill's poll is a week old), conformational bias at their worst. Just like the presidential race, these polls aren't good for anything but a baseline at this point. We'll see where we are closer to Xmas.

"The Trump administration has blocked Gordon Sondland, President Trump's ambassador to the European Union, from testifying before Congress Tuesday." So much for cooperating.