What if Kurzweil doesn't make it?
What if all the switches get stuck on destroy?
When the shuttle goes, we won't take it
When the final counter-measures are deployed
All we'll have is all this time

Thursday, January 31, 2019

Linkee-poo Thursdays in the icebox

"(Tor.com wants) to make reading our stories even easier by offering a brand new short fiction-only newsletter. Subscribers will get two months’ worth of short fiction delivered to their inboxes in multiple digital formats on a bimonthly basis…" The service launched yesterday (sorry). (Grokked from Elizabeth Bear)

"As existentialists, we of course reject the idea that behavior constitutes identity. Still, the emergence of these new swears, their consistency in combination with their popularity, suggests a certain type of person. Willy Staley, a story editor at The New York Times Magazine, calls them 'swear nerds.' What quality they share besides their interest in new swears is ineffable, but one encounters it again and again, in different but somehow uniform iterations." America tries out the new British Invasion. And as always, by the time it gets out of the hands of the cool kids it's somehow dated and retro. But that may just be an attempt to harsh my mellow. (Grokked from Chuck Wendig)

David Gilmore auctions off 120 of his guitars. Makes grabby hands.

"The world’s southernmost continent is jettisoning six times more ice now than it was four decades ago." We're boned.

"SpaceX is getting excruciatingly close to catching a part of its rocket that falls out of the sky after each launch. A new video, released by the company on Twitter, shows a recent drop test of the rocket’s nose cone, the bulbous shell that shields the vehicle’s satellite and then breaks away during flight. In the footage, the nose cone nearly lands on SpaceX’s recovery boat, but ultimately, it falls into the water."

"Two papers published today in Nature present an updated timeline for the occupation of Denisova cave by Neanderthals and Denisovans. The new research suggests the Denisovans—a sister species to the Neanderthals—made this cave their home for a longer period than Neanderthals, first venturing into the cave as far back as 287,000 years ago. Neanderthals arrived at the site around 140,000 years ago, possibly sharing the space with the Denisovans for thousands of years. It’s further evidence that Neanderthals and Denisovans interbred—and that this co-mingling happened at or near Denisova."

"A dinosaur relative about the size of an iguana, which lived at the bottom of the world 250 million years ago, is throwing paleontologists for a loop. Antarctanax shackletoni, named for explorer Ernest Shackleton, hints at unexpected biodiversity on the now-frozen continent of Antarctica."

Who needs regulations? "Air pollution is recognized as a public health threat in China, linked to heart disease, cancer, cognitive decline and even risky behavior. Now a study analyzing air quality data and social media posts on China’s version of Twitter suggests that poor air quality may also harm people’s sense of well-being."

"A new report estimates that nearly half of all U.S. adults have some form of heart or blood vessel disease, a medical milestone that's mostly due to recent guidelines that expanded how many people have high blood pressure."

"In just a few weeks’ time, extreme temperatures have smashed records around the world this year, with parts of the Midwestern U.S. seeing the mercury drop as low as minus 38 degrees Fahrenheit as Australia endures triple-digit high temperatures, reigniting concerns about a changing planet."

"Now, a stunning new void has been revealed amidst this massive vanishing act, and it's a big one: a gigantic cavity growing under West Antarctica that scientists say covers two-thirds the footprint of Manhattan and stands almost 300 metres (984 ft) tall." We're boned.

"Gov. Steve Sisolak of Nevada railed against the Department of Energy for what he described as 'unacceptable deception,' after the agency transported a half-ton of weapons-grade plutonium to Nevada, allegedly without the state's consent." Oopsie.

"For the rest of the country looking on, the question of what we would do if we missed two paychecks in a row was on many people’s minds. And for many, it was no mystery: They wouldn’t be able to afford it… Early in my career, when I suggested to working families that they put away this amount in an untouched emergency fund, most would look at me with shock. I quickly learned that the idea of moving from living paycheck to paycheck to having six months of earnings saved in the bank was so implausible, it was comical." From a personal standpoint, I don't have six-months of savings (yet, I'm working on it), but I'm no longer living paycheck to paycheck. But I'm working 50+ hours a week (more commonly 60+ hours) at two jobs plus two side-hustles (buy my t-shirts!), and I only started moving out of that paycheck to paycheck life when I was able to earn overtime (which accounted for almost 50% of my income some years). Many people can't do that physically, mentally, emotionally, and I'd be lying if I said it hasn't substantially decreased my quality of life. I can also feel I'm approaching a point were I won't be able to do that and I worry about what it's done to my long-term health. That's all beyond the rage and hopelessness I feel about not being able to write regularly (and the now 10-year pause on a writing career). "One piece of advice I always give to someone who is just starting an emergency fund is to ignore the advice of three to six months savings for now. Instead, just try to save $500. If the goal feels achievable, you’ll be much more motivated to get started." The article also offers other ideas. Here's some advice on how I save money. When you're looking at making a purchase outside the normal expenses (or even with what you consider normal), calculate how many hours you have to work to make that much money. Is lunch/dinner worth an hour of your time, or is 15-minutes more reasonable? Is that phone worth a weak and a half of your labor? I do a similar calculation with calories compared to cans of pop. And then you can start making other calculations along the lines of "okay, this costs 150% of the lowest cost option, but it'll serve my needs better/work better/last longer/make my life easier that it's worth it." Finally, from the article, "8) Support candidates who want to improve our safety net…" Yes, that. (Grokked from Laura J Mixon)

"Asian markets rise on welcome news from Fed and Chinese factories." I wonder how long it'll take before people realize that 1) the Chinese are notorious liars when it comes to factory output and their GDP and 2) not raising interest rates is actually a warning signal about the economy? As of this writing the Dow is down only a little.

The On the Media podcast with, "The Lincoln Memorial debacle showed how vulnerable the press are to a myriad of social and political forces. This week, we examine how the outrage unfolded and what role MAGA hat symbolism might have played. And, a graphic photo in the New York Times spurs criticism. Plus, a reality show that attempts to bridge the gap between indigenous people and white Canadians." I said yesterday that the UK would need to have a hard and truthful conversation about what happened with the Brexit Referendum, we in the Americas also need to have a similar conversation.

"The Department of Education has been inundated with approximately 100,000 public comments on its proposed new rules for how campuses handle cases of sexual assault. Secretary Betsy DeVos opened the public comment period two months ago, after unveiling her plan to replace Obama-era rules with regulations that, she says, would better protect the accused. The window for comments (closed) Wednesday at midnight."

The coming shit storm, a twitter thread. "You see, they don't need to target everyone. They only need to target the right people, with the right technique(s), at the right time to cause cascading failures which destroy you and everyone else within, or allied with, your nation… That is one coming storm. We need defenses." What's not stated in this is the cost to the attackers, which is about as much as starting a SPAM email. (Grokked from Chuck Wendig)

That historian that spoke up to Michael Dell by pointing out that, yes, a 70%+ marginal tax rate has worked during economic expansion, it worked in the US for several decades, also was on a panel about economic fairness and says that it's all bullshit unless we start talking about taxes. The panel was asked to comment about how we can talk about higher taxes when unemployment is so low, which they talked about the quality of those jobs (most are exploitive of the workers). On the conservative side, they kind of exclude the truth and make it appear as if his rhetorical question has no answer. (Link to expanded comments at the World Economic Forum grokked from Laura J Mixon)

"The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) does not have valid evidence that most of the revised behavioral indicators (28 of 36) used in its behavior detection activities can be used to identify individuals who may pose a threat to aviation security. GAO defined valid evidence as original research that meets generally accepted research standards and presents evidence that is applicable in supporting the specific behavioral indicators in TSA's revised list. Original research sources presenting valid evidence are important because the data and conclusions they present are derived from empirical research that can be replicated and evaluated. In GAO's review of all 178 sources TSA cited as support for its revised list, GAO found that 98 percent (175 of 178) of the sources do not provide valid evidence that is applicable to the specific behavioral indicators TSA cited them as supporting." A GAO report on security theater. (Grokked from Brandie Tarvin)

"The United States and Russia announced Thursday that they had failed to reconcile their differences over a Cold War-era nuclear pact, something some experts warn could spark a new arms race in Europe." Shitswizzle! (Did I do that correctly?)

End game. "Just another outlandish comment from a lawmaker trying to draw attention to the plight of crisis-torn Venezuela? Perhaps not. For one thing, Guerra is a former central bank economist who remains in touch with old colleagues there. For another, a person with direct knowledge of the matter told Bloomberg News Tuesday that 20 tons of gold have been set aside in the central bank for loading. Worth some $840 million, the gold represents about 20 percent of its holdings of the metal in Venezuela, the person said. He provided no further information on plans for those bars." If true, except Maduro to escape within the week. (Grokked from Kathryn Cramer)

"President Donald Trump chastised his own intelligence officials Wednesday morning for being soft on Iran a day after they contradicted numerous administration claims of foreign policy success." I guess they didn't agree with Fox and Friends. Also, hey, what's that? Look over there! (Pay no attention to the Russians behind the curtain) Plus, you might have seen the warnings about foreign actors gearing up for the 2020 elections. Our intelligence community are our best chance at a defense.

"Frustrated Republicans say it’s time for the Senate to reclaim more power over foreign policy and are planning to move a measure Thursday that would be a stunning rebuke to a president of their own party." McConnell wags his finger at the president. I'm sure it's all about the unstableness of Trump, not a preview of what we saw in Wisconsin, Michigan and SC where a party facing the prospect of losing the executive branch moved to limit the powers of that branch (which they surrendered when the executive branch was controlled by their party). OR to use this as a bat against the Senate Democrats. I sure it's nothing about that.

Every time I think they can't get more ridiculous, the tell me to hold their beer. "White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said Wednesday that God 'wanted Donald Trump to become president.'" Um, one I'm gonna need to see that memo. Two, Putin may think he's God, and signs his checks that way, but he really isn't. (Grokked from Jim Wright)

"A pro-Russian Twitter account used information from a criminal case that Robert Mueller's team brought against a Russian social media company as part of a disinformation campaign, according to a new filing from the Justice Department… That publication of documents that had been shared with defense attorneys, but not made public in the ongoing case, was yet another disinformation campaign from Russia -- this time aimed at discrediting Mueller's investigation, federal prosecutors wrote in the filing Wednesday." Naughty naughty. (Grokked from Laura J Mixon)

Wednesday, January 30, 2019

Linkee-poo can you tell a green field from a cold, steel rail

"Officials warned of almost instant frostbite as temperatures in the region plunged below zero Wednesday. Some state offices are closed and postal workers won't deliver mail in 10 states. Thousands of flights have been canceled along with dozens of train services -- most of them in and out of Chicago." Dress in layers, protect all exposed skin, stay in if you don't need to go out, check on pets (bring them in), and try to run your car for at least 5 minutes (note, in Ohio it's illegal to run your vehicle while it's unattended). Also check on your neighbors and relatives. If need be, find your local warming shelter (and if there isn't one in your community, bug your elected officials).

"The day after President Trump posted a tweet suggesting extreme cold temperatures in the Midwest cast doubt on the existence of global warming, the climate service for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) tweeted a cartoon explaining warming oceans result in more extreme winter weather." The president is a moron.

"Despite some of the coldest wind chill readings we've experienced in about 25 years, a movie crew was filming outside in Cleveland early Wednesday morning." Because that's how we roll in Cleveland.

"The other good news is that forecasters are predicting a relative heat wave this weekend, with temperatures in Chicago expected to climb into the 40s — that's 40 degrees above zero."

"Most Internet-savvy folks are already aware of MasterClass, an online-seminar platform that allows mere mortals to learn from people at the very top of their fields. Chef Thomas Keller may teach you how to make a sauce; Werner Herzog may teach you the ins and outs of camera lenses. But as the company has grown, one name has cropped up again and again as the person would-be writers most wanted to learn from: Neil Gaiman." The class is $90 ($180 a year to access all classes). If I had the time and could begin writing fiction regularly I would probably spring for it, and I'm a notorious spend-thrift.

"Over several days of working and praying and eating with the monks, I realized that the ceaseless, obsessive American work ethic was one of those demons, certainly the one that haunted me, and most of the people I knew. We are a society almost totally under its power. We assess people’s value by their jobs and demean anyone who can’t work. We forego vacation time, anxious to prove that we’re indispensable. We drive ourselves to burnout. And we do all this even while artificial intelligence promises to take our jobs. The demon is chasing us over a cliff." The struggle to maintain a work-life balance. (Grokked from Patrick Nielsen Hayden)

"Launch a Saturn V Rocket Right From Your Browser… It's not the same as being an astronaut, but it's the closest you can get from your desk." Computers before GUI, hell, before command line control. A little nostalgia for you kids out there. (Grokked from Mary Robinette Kowal)

"This week, thousands of civil servants and contractors are back at work at NASA’s various centers throughout the country following a record 35-day government shutdown — but it will be a while before it’s work as usual again at the agency. These first few days back on the job will be consumed with practical matters, such as figuring out employee backpay and how to dive back into projects. The shutdown will undoubtedly result in delays for some of NASA’s long-term programs, too, but it’ll be a while before the space agency can fully assess the extent of the damage." The last longest shutdown took years to fully work through. This one will be the same.

"Stricter enforcement is needed to stop the teen vaping epidemic, the American Lung Association said Wednesday in a scathing report that cites the failure of states and the federal government to keep underage kids away from e-cigarettes." Hook 'em while their young.

"Researchers announced last month that thanks to a compulsory vaccine program, Australia is on track to eradicate cervical cancer. This is due to almost universal vaccination against human papillomavirus (HPV), a virus which isresponsible for 90 percent of cervical cancers. The vaccine itself is a medical breakthrough and has only been available for use since 2006. In just 12 short years, cervical cancer is becoming a rarity in Australia and will eventually be eliminated, saving thousands of Australians’ lives." But not here in the US where we have a combination of puritanical visions of sex and a strong anti-vaxxer movement. (Grokked from Cat Rambo)

How goes Brexit? "British Prime Minister Theresa May was locked into a collision course with the European Union on Wednesday after lawmakers demanded she renegotiate a Brexit divorce deal that the other members of the bloc said they would not reopen." So it's looking like a Hard Brexit after all. The solution is complete honesty and directness (which would lead to another referendum which hopefully would return in the Remain's favor), but that would be uncomfortable for everyone in the UK and isn't "British". The other two options appear to be 1) Hard Brexit which would have dire economic consequences, mostly for the UK (think of generational loss of economic growth akin to Japan's lost decades) or 2) Remain which would be politically explosive (imagine The Troubles, but domestic).

"More than a year after the FBI began its investigation, the agency has completed an analysis of the man behind the Oct. 1, 2017, mass shooting in Las Vegas, concluding there was "no single or clear motivating factor" driving Stephen Paddock's killing rampage and subsequent suicide." That's going to complicate the NRA playbook response.

Hey, remember FoxConn's Wisconsin plant? "Foxconn Technology Group is reconsidering plans to make advanced liquid crystal display panels at a $10 billion Wisconsin campus, and said it intends to hire mostly engineers and researchers rather than the manufacturing workforce the project originally promised." I think I posted about this earlier in the Fall where it was mostly rumor, but now it's an announcement. Wisconsin, you got sold out by your previous governor. I sure hope they wrote the tax abatement deals with clauses to roll back those discounts in case FoxConn changed the promised employment status. It appears there's some of that in there (FoxConn missed their 2018 deadline and goals, forfeiting $9.5M). And while most of the teeth gnashing will be over the taxes and promised employment, let us not forget about the people who had their houses taken through eminent domain to make way for the factory. (Grokked from Robert J Bennett)

"More than a week into a standoff with the opposition, Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro said on Wednesday that he is willing to negotiate."

"The Trump administration began implementing a new hard-line immigration policy by sending a single asylum-seeker from Central America back to Tijuana, Mexico, to await his assigned court date later this year in San Diego." Because all the other Trump policies surrounding immigration have been roaring successes. I believe this might violate international law and custom.

"Former Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz, whose contemplation of an independent presidential run in 2020 has infuriated Democrats, defended on Tuesday his criticism of a 'Medicare-for-all' proposal that he called "not American.'… 'It's not that it's not American,' Schultz said. 'It's unaffordable.'" Raise your hand if you know a way to afford it. Yeah, that's the other reason he's running. Note his stance that higher taxes on higher earners is "punishing success." For an "independent" he talks a lot like a center right conservative (although less racists). (Grokked from Robert J Bennet)

"(Roger Stone) said Tuesday, a day he pleaded not guilty to seven charges laid by special counsel Robert Mueller, that Trump's presidency is in mortal peril because the Russia investigation amounts to a 'speeding bullet heading for his head.'" Or in other words, "You better pardon me or I'll sink this damn ship." And is it just me, or do the protestors (for and against) present for his court dates appear just a bit too theatrical? I don't seem to remember this kind of circus during the other trials. And Stone's behavior in front of the crowd feels a little to "Caesarish" to me.

Tuesday, January 29, 2019

Linkee-poo, and did we tell you the name of the game, boy?

"Language is not an invention. As best we can tell it is an evolved feature of the human brain… Writing is an altogether different and artificial thing." Spoken and written languages are processed in different brain centers. The story is actually about the history of written language (at a very high level), but it has a neat graphic. (Grokked from Dan)

"The asteroid-orbiting OSIRIS-REx spacecraft has released some of its most detailed images yet of its target, the asteroid Bennu."

"'We believe that when flu season comes around, you should be able to get sick on your terms,' reads the Vaev website. 'We're not about chemicals or prescription drugs here at Væv. We believe using a tissue that carries a human sneeze is safer than needles or pills.'" Proving once more that people with money are dumb (for both buying this, and well as sponsoring this.

"Leaving Neverland is a new two-part documentary that follows two men, Wade Robson and James Safechuck (now in their thirties), who say they were sexually abused in the 1990s by Michael Jackson. The four-hour documentary debuted at the Sundance Film Festival on January 25. The film was met with statements from the Jackson Estate (who called it 'a tabloid character assassination') and Jackson’s family (who called Robson and Safechuck 'perjurers' and the film a 'public lynching')."

"'The Arctic is currently warming two to three times faster than the rest of the globe, so naturally, glaciers and ice caps are going to react faster,' Simon Pendleton, lead author and a doctoral researcher in CU Boulder's Institute of Arctic and Alpine Research (INSTAAR), said in a statement." We're boned.

"Two-thirds of the continental United States will be a frozen ice box Tuesday, as the so-called polar vortex of frigid arctic air spins across the U.S. Midwest, clips the Great Lakes, the Ohio Valley and pushes on into New England." Hey, you know what's happening at the pole as the coldest air that should be right over it at this time has decided to move over the North American continent? :: makes ta-da hand wave ::

"What happened when Oslo decided to make its downtown basically car-free?… It was a huge success: Parking spots are now bike lanes, transit is fast and easy, and the streets (and local businesses) are full of people." Although in the US the success of "walking streets" is a little more mixed, but then we also still consider them an anomaly (where as car filled streets are a fairly recent invention). Hell, even on Mackinac Island, which bans motorcars (they still have some, like the ambulance), I was admonished by a cop to stay on the sidewalk (I replied if she would keep traffic moving on the sidewalk I would happily stay there, but when everybody stops there's only one way around, she laughed and didn't give me a ticket). (Grokked from someone, sorry, lost the link)

"A Japanese hotel that became known as the 'world's first robot hotel' three years ago is powering off many of its robots. It turns out that guests prefer humans to handle their requests." The robot uprising will be postponed until v3.2 is ready.

"Pacific Gas and Electric has filed for bankruptcy protection after coming under pressure from billions of dollars in claims tied to deadly wildfires." PG&E responds to criticism by saying, hey, you know that better system we knew we should have been building out since the 70s? Yeah, since you're making us do it I guess we'll do it now.

How goes Brexit? "If May can't break the deadlock, Britain will leave the world's biggest trading bloc without a deal on March 29. In the event of a chaotic 'no-deal' Brexit, the Bank of England has warned the country's economy could shrink by as much as 8 percent in about a year." Ah, in the same place we were. Whispers, hey Britain, for that thorny issue of Northern Ireland, how about you make NI a free trade zone, and put the barriers in place at the ports back to Britain? It'll be a regulatory and tax pain-in-the-arse, but it'll be better than dividing the island once again.

"For one Ohio town, Trump's trade policies bring uncertainty and hope." Well, it's more like the largest county in Ohio, but you know what they mean. There's so much I could talk about here, inside baseball and all. But I'll just comment that some of these problems are self-inflicted wounds of business decisions made back in the 90s and 00s. The county is struggling still. Ashtabula city continues to bleed population. Villages like Orwell struggle to keep business (and to encourage them to expand and make upgrades during the good times). The owners of Welded Tubes could have doubled their output in the 00s, but doing so would have meant hiring a compliance officer to handle the increased regulations of businesses over 100 employees. The owners obstinately refused to do that even though we offered help.

"The U.S. is imposing sanctions on Venezuela's state-owned oil company in an attempt to dislodge President Nicolás Maduro in favor of his rival, Juan Guaidó." Mnuchin says this won't hurt US gas prices. Let me call bullshit right now. In 2017 Venezuela was the number 4 oil importer to the US making up about 7% of our oil consumption.

"Tech entrepreneurs have long prided themselves on disrupting traditional industries and creating new ones." Now that philosophy of "move fast, break things" is being questioned. I can't help but think this is the same mental gymnastics that allow people who move somewhere to suddenly be against other people moving in. Now that technology companies have replaced those industry giants they're realizing they are also ripe for disruption (obsolescence) and they aren't happy with being on the other end of the lollipop.

"The Justice Department unsealed criminal charges against China's most important telecommunications company on Monday, in a deepening of the ongoing geopolitical chill across the Pacific Ocean." The US calls shenanigans on Chinese company Huawei.

"Donald Trump has built his presidency on attacking undocumented immigrants. At the same time, his properties have relied on the labor of people who are not in the country legally. After newspapers began reporting on this contradiction, Trump properties started firing those workers. The Washington Post says just 10 days ago, the Trump National Golf Club in New York's Westchester County fired around a dozen people who'd worked there for years." This isn't just hypocrisy, the staff at Trump properties knew they were hiring undocumented workers and helped them obtain forged documents.

"There are problems with hiring and retention at Border Patrol and ICE that pre-exist the Trump administration. Especially for Border Patrol, it's really difficult for them to hold on to the agents that they have. They're incredibly low-paid. They're stationed often at these isolated places along the border. In terms of sort of morale or how people view it as an agency to work for within the federal government, it's one of the lowest-ranked." They're not sending their best people.

"Five Houston police officers were taken to the hospital following a shootout Monday evening as they tried to serve a search warrant on a house in the southeastern part of the city as part of a drug raid. Four of the officers were shot and one other was injured during the exchange that left two suspects dead, according to police." And then Texas Gov. Greg Abbott said, "'This evening’s horrific attack on police officers is a solemn reminder of the service and sacrifice our brave men and women in law enforcement make every day to keep us safe…'" Dear Gregory, I think you intentionally misunderstood this story and tried a very bad spin on it to use the injuries these officers suffered in the line of duty to advance you political agenda.

Why the shutdown, any government shutdown, is a bad idea. "Most investigations were put on hold when workers were dismissed. But 22 investigations never even began. That includes 15 aviation accidents resulting in 21 fatalities; three marine accidents; two railroad accidents causing two fatalities; and two highway accidents, which killed seven people."

"There is no evidence that '18 million illegal immigrants' received 'government checks' during the government shutdown this month, contrary to Facebook posts." In fact, there's no evidence the estimated 11 million people in this country without papers received any federal checks at all.

"The National Nuclear Security Administration says production of the weapon, known as the W76-2, has begun at its Pantex Plant in the Texas Panhandle. The fact that the weapon was under production was first shared in an e-mail to the Exchange Monitor, an industry trade magazine, and independently confirmed by NPR." There is no such thing as a limited or winnable nuclear exchange. Any nuclear detonation would escalate to a full exchange by all the nuclear powers. Which means the end of the world as we know it. The only chance for it to not lead there would be for one of the powers to accept destruction and put the world ahead of their national interests. Fat chance of that ever happening.

Jim Wright on the precision of Trump's lies. There's a writing rule about how being precise helps sell the lie. Government numbers, specifically the numbers the president cites, are hardly ever that specific.

Those precise numbers? "'We are not even into February and the cost of illegal immigration so far this year is $18,959,495,168. Cost Friday was $603,331,392. There are at least 25,772,342 illegal aliens, not the 11,000,000 that have been reported for years, in our Country. So ridiculous! DHS,' Trump tweeted Jan. 27." The president is full of shit.

Related: "Texas officials say that nearly 100,000 non-citizens may be on the state's voter rolls. Voting rights groups say the list is misleading and the motivations behind a roll purge are largely political." Lies, damn lies, and statistics.

"Justice Department special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation is 'close to being completed,' Acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker said on Monday." Yeah, I've heard that before.

Tweet of my heart: @petridishes When You Do What You Love You Will Never Be Permitted To Vacation A Day In Your Life (Grokked from Kelly Link)

Monday, January 28, 2019

Linkee-poo, did it need to be so high

"Former prisoners of Auschwitz gathered at the former Nazi concentration camp on the 74th anniversary of its liberation by Soviet forces."

"The coldest weather in years will put millions of people and animals throughout the midwestern United States at risk for hypothermia and frostbite to occur in minutes during the final days of January." The polar vortex is migrating again this year. Last time it moved out of position it was because of a weakened jet stream due to climate change.

"Over the past 30 years, Feldman Barrett has found evidence that anger isn't one emotion but rather a whole family of emotions. And learning to identify different members of the family is a powerful tool for regulating your anger, studies have shown." I sense a Lucy van Pelt moment coming on.

"This image, taken during the historic Jan. 1 flyby of what's informally known as Ultima Thule, is the clearest view yet of this remarkable, ancient object in the far reaches of the solar system – and the first small "KBO" ever explored by a spacecraft." Just a reminder that at this distance, New Horizons' communications to Earth are very low bandwidth.

Oh look, the old, "They ain't speakin' English and I think they may be makin' fun of me" argument comes back. "A Duke University professor who warned Chinese students against communicating in their native language and urged them to speak English instead has stepped down as the head of a master's program after her emails sparked outrage on campus and on social media." What is hilarious is this is in the medical department. You know, the profession where we use a lot of latinate words and speak in a specialized dialect that anyone not trained in it to have a hard time understanding what we're saying.

"The death toll from the collapse of a dam near the southeast Brazilian city of Belo Horizonte rose to 58 on Sunday as searchers laboring in deep mud uncovered more bodies. Several hundred people are still reported missing."

"On January 28, 1969, an oil well off the coast of Santa Barbara, Calif., experienced a blowout. The result was an oil spill that at the time ranked as the largest in U.S. history… The disaster, which made headlines across the nation, helped create the modern environmental movement. It also led to restrictions on offshore drilling — restrictions the Trump Administration is trying to loosen." Because of course they are. Who needs any regulation?

One of the problems we face in rural America. "The problem isn't just that the plant is in a rural town with a population of less than 2,000. It's that fewer than one in five adults in the entire surrounding Humphreys County have at least an associate degree, according to census data analyzed by the nonprofit advocacy organization Complete Tennessee." Companies moved into rural areas because of cheap land, cheap labor, cheap water, and lax regulatory regimes. But now that we've burned through one generation of skilled workers, they're realizing the next generations aren't as skilled. This is due to many reasons, including the culture of rural communities which don't prepare the next generation to do anything more than stay close to home and perceive the senior year in high school to being the pinnacle of what the kids will achieve in life. That may sound cynical, but I'm telling you the absolute truth here. I have neighbors who have quit their own jobs (usually the second income earners) to focus on giving their kids the best senior year they could.

One of the problems of building things in the US. "After creating months of delay, Apple ended up ordering the screws from China. Eventually, Apple found a supplier in Texas that could produce 28,000 custom screws, although they weren’t the exact screws needed nor in the right quantity, according to the NYT. And they were delivered over 22 trips, often in a Lexus driven by the maker’s owner." Back in the early 2000s I remember a friend talking about the difficulty of finding metal stamping workers. Most of the old people who knew how were retired, and industry hadn't really been interesting in educating the next generation, and the trade schools neither had the equipment or the skills to train new people. The best he could find were sheet metal workers (who worked in HVAC). They didn't have the skills he needed. Oh, forgot to mention, management had no idea how to run their own equipment properly either. And when you're talking about a 10-ton press (the kind of thing that sets off the siesmometers in the area) that's a dangerous thing to operate when you don't know what you're doing.

"Stock markets mostly fell Monday on caution over China-U.S. trade talks and over the ability of U.S. congressional negotiators to forge a government funding bill acceptable to President Donald Trump."

"A new government report says that the U.S. budget deficit is set to hit $897 billion this year and predicts that economic growth will slow as the effects of President Donald Trump’s tax cut on business investment begin to drop off… The CBO predicts in a report released Monday that the economy will grow by 2.3 percent this year, a slowdown from 3.1 percent last year." Anything that the negotiation between Congress and Trump for the wall or beefed up border security will go right on top of that.

"For Americans under the age of 40, the 21st century has resembled one long recession… Look at incomes, for starters. People between the ages of 25 and 34 were earning slightly less in 2017 than people in that same age group had been in 2000…" Yes, yes, things are terrible for Millennials, but there's one generation in the middle of that discussion who doesn't even get mentioned in the article. Why? Because Millennials are mostly Boomers' kids. So Boomers and Millennials get all the attention. In that first chart on incomes by age groups, you can follow along and see the echo of that generation. Hint, it's the big dip that hits the changing age categories as the years progress. (Grokked from Elizabeth Bear)

"The Trump administration’s $1.5 trillion cut tax package appeared to have no major impact on businesses’ capital investment or hiring plans, according to a survey released a year after the biggest overhaul of the U.S. tax code in more than 30 years." Okay, who had the "didn't do shit" bet in the office pool? And the republican response I predict will be, "We didn't cut taxes enough." Just like the last 3 tax cuts. (Grokked from Kathryn Cramer)

"The Anti-Defamation League’s annual report on extremist killings in the United States, released Wednesday, found that individuals linked to right-wing extremist movements committed every single extremist-related murder in the country in 2018." This is my shocked face. (Grokked from Xopher Halftongue)

"Wing was one of many journalists who were let go by BuzzFeed and HuffPost this week and were sent death threats from trolls organizing their efforts on the far-right message board 4chan. Many of those targeted by the harassment campaign did not cover the far-right, including Wing, whose beat focused on inequality and guns." Serious sick and deranged fucks. (Grokked from Xeni Jardin)

"President Donald Trump is prepared to shut down the government again or declare a national emergency if Congress won’t give him the border wall money he wants, the White House said Sunday." Of course he is. The only thing different about this Republican failure of governance is that there's no remorse, no concept of the damage done.

"It's as if President Donald Trump's humiliation over the government shutdown and his failed push to honor his core campaign promise never happened."

"On January 23, the Russian Defense Ministry’s official media outlet TV Zvezda reported that the Organization for Security and Cooperation and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) Special Monitoring Mission in Ukraine’s embattled Donbas region spotted Ukrainian armored vehicles in the area. Specifically, it mentioned three types of armored vehicles… It should be noted, that the armored vehicles in question belong to the Ukrainian Armed Forces and were on Ukrainian territory. More importantly, it appears none of the vehicles cited by TV Zvezda… violate the Minsk agreement." It's the propaganda dance, everybody bow to your partners.

"The Trump administration on Sunday lifted sanctions against the business empire of Oleg V. Deripaska, one of Russia’s most influential oligarchs." And today there's word they lifted sanctions against a few more oligarchs. Because of course they would.

That NYT story with timeline charts that all the cool kids are talking about. "Among these contacts are more than 100 in-person meetings, phone calls, text messages, emails and private messages on Twitter. Mr. Trump and his campaign repeatedly denied having such contacts with Russians during the 2016 election." For no collusion, there sure are a lot of fucking Russians hanging around.

Saturday, January 26, 2019

Linkee-poo do you think they'll try to break my balls

"President Trump has endorsed a bipartisan deal that could end the 35-day partial government shutdown, making a way for a three-week stopgap funding measure to reopen shuttered agencies… The possible end to the month-long quagmire comes after both parties have remained resolute in their stances…" So we get to do it all again in 3 weeks.

Jim Hines' end of the year, writing income post. John Scalzi also does one this year (sans numbers). Which is okay, because John is an extreme outlier when it comes to writing revenue.

"Alligators in one North Carolina swamp have once again allowed themselves to freeze in place with their noses above the ice." Nature finds a way.

"New cars boast a wide range of high-tech safety features that promise to avoid accidents and make driving easier… But manufacturers have also invented a wide range of names for those features — creating confusion for shoppers and renters who just want to know what a car can do."

How go the Trade Wars? "A year after Mr. Trump announced the tariffs, washing machine prices were up, as many analysts had expected. But that has not been a boon to the makers of washers because fewer Americans are investing in new laundry equipment, exposing how protectionist trade policies can backfire on the very companies they are meant to safeguard." Trade wars are easy to win.

"Private military contractors who do secret missions for Russia flew into Venezuela in the past few days to beef up security for President Nicolas Maduro in the face of U.S.-backed opposition protests, according to two people close to them." Vlad, sunk cost fallacy, just sayin'. (Grokked from Kathryn Cramer)

"A society that starts building walls out of fear will one day end by building its own prison." Damnit, Jim, stop making sense. Except for a little statistical issue, another killer article from Jim Wright.

"Travelers experienced significant flight delays at New York's LaGuardia Airport and at New Jersey's Newark Liberty International Airport on Friday because of a shortage of air traffic control center workers amid the partial government shutdown. Philadelphia International Airport also saw slight staffing-related delays."

"The Trump administration is warning immigration agents working without pay that their security clearances could be in jeopardy if they fail to cut back on spending or make arrangements with creditors during the government shutdown." One of the things that can get your security clearance yanked is having too much debt or going into collections.

I hope the Russians love their children too. "At Davos on Thursday, the secretary general of NATO warned that the new missile from Russia not only breaks a treaty with the U.S. but also lowers the bar for the use of nuclear weapons." There is no such thing as a winnable or limited nuclear exchange.

Apparently Roger Stone is vowing to FIGHT! Yeah, they all do. Until they realized they're behind the 8-ball.

Friday, January 25, 2019

Linkee-poo, Mother should I trust the government

"Go for a walk in a Danish forest and you may spot a giant troll peeking out from behind a tree, or lounging luxuriously across the ground. These folkloric creatures are made by recycling artist, designer and activist Thomas Dambo, who sculpts the enormous beings from reclaimed wood." (Grokked from Sheila)

"NASA's Opportunity rover begins its 15th year on the surface of Mars today." Oppy, call home.

"Earth's oldest known rock may have been found, in the last place anyone would have thought to look for it: in samples of rock from the Moon, brought back home to Earth by Apollo 14 astronauts in 1971." Actually, IIRC, that was one of the reasons we went to the Moon. Besides sticking it to Russia.

"Health officials near Portland, Oregon, have declared a public health emergency over a measles outbreak that's affecting mostly young children."

I am not an investment advisor, you should talk with your own advisors. But I've long held the view that if you're in a 401(k) (or one of the equivalents), the best strategy for me was to pick the lowest cost, broadest index fund available. Why? "In 2006, Warren Buffett bet a million dollars that over ten years, his investment in the most brainless, boring fund would do better than the investment of some of the smartest hedge fund managers in the world… Today on the show, we look at how that bet turned out." This Planet Money first aired in 2016, the bet ended in 2017. Guess who won.

"New York state has enacted strong new legal protections for abortion rights. The new law, signed by Governor Andrew Cuomo on Tuesday, safeguards rights laid out in Roe v. Wade and other court rulings, including a provision permitting late-term abortions when a woman's health is endangered, The Associated Press reports. The state's previous law, which had been on the books for nearly 50 years, only permitted abortions after 24 weeks of pregnancy if a woman's life was at risk."

"The gunman who took over a Florida bank made the five women inside lie down on the lobby floor before shooting them in the back of their heads — a horrific attack that took just six minutes, police and court documents said Thursday."

"The most comprehensive study done to assess the link between climate change, war and migration has confirmed that the warming planet is fueling conflicts that lead to more refugees." The Pentagon has been warning about this since 2000 (when they published a paper on the defense aspects of global warming). And look at the world, more conflicts and more human migration. It's almost like this Climate Change thing isn't a hoax. I joke. The real problem is the world's rich think they can mitigate the problem by coming up with "(p)olicies to 'improve the adaptive capacity to deal with the effects of climate change in developing economies may have additional returns by reducing the likelihood of conflict and forced migration…'" Yeah, that ship has already sailed, made landfall, and the crew burnt the ship in the harbor. (Grokked from Chuck Wendig)

"James Jackson wanted to kill black people. Specifically, he wanted to kill black men. A lot of them… That's what the white supremacist admitted to in court on Wednesday after pleading guilty to killing Timothy Caughman in a gruesome act of violence he believed would spark a nationwide race war." I wonder where he was radicalized?

Proof that a broken clock occasionally tells the correct time? "President Trump instructed administration officials Wednesday to investigate how to prevent surprise medical bills, broadening his focus on drug prices to include other issues of price transparency in health care." But then there's this. "'The pricing is hurting patients, and we've stopped a lot of it, but we're going to stop all of it,' Trump said during a roundtable discussion when reporters were briefly allowed into the otherwise closed-door meeting." Dear Mr. President, you haven't stopped shit.

"Mark Zuckerberg defends Facebook's ad model: 'We don't sell people's data'." Sure, Mark. We believe you.

How goes Brexit? "The Queen has urged people to find 'common ground' and to respect 'different points of view'." Queen yells from the front seat, "Don't make me turn this country around because I will!"

The rich are just like you and I. "How much house do you get for $238 million? Try 24,000 square feet across four stories with 360-degree views through floor-to-ceiling windows, right across the street from New York's Central Park."

"Florida’s top elections official abruptly resigned Thursday after a newspaper obtained pictures of him in blackface dressed as a Hurricane Katrina victim at a 2005 party." (Grokked from Matt Staggs)

"When Trump FCC Chairman Ajit Pai cheated his way to a repeal of Net Neutrality, he justified allowing ISPs to decide to slow down the services you want to use by saying that doing so would encourage investment in network buildout, saving America from its sad status as one of the most expensive, slowest places to use the internet in the rich world… But after a full year of neutracide, Comcast has made a liar out of Ajit Pai, reducing infrastructure spending by 3% in 2018, according to the company's latest earnings report." Wut? A telecom lie? Whodathunkit. And just a note here, at this point the telecoms should be building out 5G, which is going to be expensive. (Grokked from Xeni Jardin)

"Religious conservatives have rarely faced much competition in the political realm from faith-based groups on the left… The provocations of President Trump may finally be changing that." I remember hearing the same things in 2003 and 2007.

"'This is your fault,' Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) told Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) at one point, according to two Republicans who attended the lunch and witnessed the exchange… 'Are you suggesting I’m enjoying this?' McConnell snapped back, according to the people who attended the lunch." No, but I think you actually are. Here's the thing, Mitch, Trump is going to throw you under the bus at some point. Why carry his water? Be the Majority Leader you wanted to be and do your damn job. (Grokked from Laura J Mixon)

"There's some key economic data that may not get released thanks to the partial government shutdown, which has now become the longest-running one in U.S. history… While the subject matter might sound wonky, these are numbers that have very real consequences for economists, investors and companies. They show us how the economy is doing and can affect the decisions that we make." Seems like every decade or so we need to relearn just how much our government does for us. It's like there's some program of ideology out there that continually masks government from the people and tries to drive a wedge in-between them.

"President Donald Trump on Thursday defended himself against complaints that his negotiations with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un have yielded few steps toward denuclearization, saying ahead of a potential second summit that he sees 'much potential' for progress." Uh, yeah, Bob.

"As the ongoing partial government shutdown continues, President Trump postponed his State of the Union address originally scheduled for Jan. 29." Fox News is so cute. Look how they spin the story to make believe the President drove the decision like it was his idea and how this is Totally Normal™ with the zinger that Trump is just like Reagan. Can't wait for the president to say, "I totally meant to do that."

"Michael Cohen's attorney Lanny Davis on Thursday called for a criminal investigation into Rudy Giuliani, a member of President Trump's legal team, for alleged witness tampering." Shit is getting real.

"Longtime Donald Trump associate Roger Stone was arrested in Florida early Friday as part of special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation, the day after a federal grand jury in Washington D.C. handed down a seven-count indictment against him." There's another shoe dropped. And most of the evidence against him? His own statements in public. Dumbest criminal conspiracy ever. Notice that Roger Stone has not been offered the chance to cooperate and was not asked to self-surrender. Mueller doesn't need him. Roger will try and make a deal (they all do) and my guess is Mueller will tell him to go to hell. But in nicer language. The longer question will be does Mueller actually need Roger's testimony and this action is mostly a negotiating tactic. So look for actions over the next 2 weeks. My marker is on the spot that Mueller is willing to burn Stone as an example (or because Stone is an asshole). (Grokked from Kathryn Cramer)

Thursday, January 24, 2019

Linkee-poo, you have to be trusted by the people you lie to

Oh noes. "Something will be missing on store shelves this Valentine's Day season -- Sweethearts candy." How will my sweetie know I luv here, or ask her to kiss me?

"Poor oral health is a risk factor for Alzheimer’s disease. What’s not clear is whether gum disease causes the disorder or is merely a result—many patients with dementia can’t take care of their teeth, for example. Now, a privately sponsored study has confirmed that the bacteria that cause gum disease are present in the brains of people with Alzheimer’s, not just in their mouths. The study also finds that in mice, the bacteria trigger brain changes typical of the disease." I have questions. But to reiterate, correlation is not causation (although the mice studies are interesting, I think we need to see it replicated first). But keeping your teeth cleaned is still a Good Idea™.

"Police in upstate New York have arrested three men and a 16-year-old youth on weapons and conspiracy charges. The four allegedly plotted a bomb attack against an Islamic community." Where were they radicalized, as the kids say.

"He called dispatch and told them bluntly what happened: 'I have shot five people,' Xaver said, according to Sebring police Chief Karl Hoglund."

"… Steven Wagner, principal deputy assistant secretary at the Health and Human Services Administration for Children and Families, signed a waiver giving special permission to a federally funded Protestant foster care agency in South Carolina to break federal and state law, using strict religious requirements to deny Jewish, Muslim, and Catholic parents from fostering children in its network." They can also block LGBTQ people, and basically anyone they want. Your tax dollars at work. This is a step backward, actually several steps backwards. (Grokked from Xopher Halftongue)

"Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaido declared himself interim president on Wednesday, winning over the backing of the Washington and many Latin American nations and prompting socialist Nicolas Maduro to break relations with the United States." Maduro, at last report, still controls the military and the courts. So while this is an ideological fight, it's one with potentially lethal consequences.

"As Britain grapples with whether to leave the European Union, some voters in an ancient English town have a message for the politicians in London: Do not betray Brexit."

"Critiques about the mainstream media’s handling over the viral video that showed Sandmann standing stock still and grinning in the face of 64-year-old Omaha tribal elder Nathan Phillips as he sings and plays a traditional drum have vacillated from condemnatory, initially, to apologetic, eventually. Outlets that criticized ugly behavior on the part of Sandmann and his Kentucky high school classmates hours after the video went wide backtracked when footage taken from other angles emerged, showing several perspectives of what happened." Actually, the extra video only brings into view a wider conflict, Sandmann is still an asshole. It's just now he's an asshole who doesn't recognize when someone is trying to rescue him (Phillips moved between the two groups to de-escalate the situation).

The rich are just like you and me. "Trump’s Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, a multimillionaire, actually said he doesn’t 'understand why' federal workers who are unpaid due to the shutdown have to go to homeless shelters to get food." Yes these people are that clueless as to how most people live. For Ross, credit is easy and debt is just as easily discharged. As Karen Tumulty tweets, "Are there no prisons? Are there no workhouses?" (Grokked from Kathryn Cramer)

"President Donald Trump's disapproval rating is at an all-time high amid a historically long partial government shutdown and concerns about the president's relationship with Russian President Vladimir Putin, according to a new POLITICO/Morning Consult poll."

"President Donald Trump's former lawyer Michael Cohen announced he is postponing his public congressional testimony that was scheduled for February 7, citing 'ongoing threats against his family' from the President and his attorney Rudy Giuliani." For someone who wasn't a big player and supposedly acted on his own, the President seems awfully concerned about what he might say.

Wednesday, January 23, 2019

Linkee-poo Wednesday

"That’s why, at least sometimes, it’s better to lean on your weaknesses as a writer. Your strengths will still be there when you need them, but often the only way to get better at writing is to develop the skills that you lack… Writing is one of the few areas where the better you get at it, the harder it becomes." Charlie Jane Anders on writing. "A person infected with measles attended a Portland Trail Blazers home game in Oregon last week amid an outbreak that has left at least 21 people ill this month in neighboring Washington state… Contagious people also went to Portland International Airport, as well as to hospitals, schools, stores, churches and restaurants across Washington's Clark County and the two-state region, county officials said." Fan-Fucking-tastic. (Grokked from Chuck Wendig) "As may be the case in Alzheimer's disease, it's looking more and more like MS strikes when infectious, genetic and immune factors gang up to eventually impair the function of neurons in the brain and spinal cord. Researchers are hoping to better understand this network of influences to develop more effective ways to treat MS, and perhaps prevent it in the first place." Asteroid hits the moon during the eclipse. "Observers of Monday’s lunar eclipse were blessed with the first known sighting of a meteorite impact during such an event."

"It’s been a bad week for ice. Last Tuesday, researchers announced that the Eastern Antarctic Ice Shelf—previously thought to be stable or even growing—is actually melting alarmingly fast. And yesterday (Jan. 21), a new study found that southwest Greenland—another area where ice was supposed to be safe—is dumping more meltwater into the ocean than any other region of the icy island." We're boned.

"Specifically, climate change could alter the proportion of male and female newborns, with more boys born in places where temperatures rise and fewer boys born in places with other environmental changes, such as drought or wildfire caused by global warming."

"The previous definition included critical components of the phenomenon that experts recognize as domestic abuse—a pattern of deliberate behavior… But in the Trump Justice Department, only harms that constitute a felony or misdemeanor crime may be called domestic violence. So, for example, a woman whose partner isolates her from her family and friends, monitors her every move, belittles and berates her, or denies her access to money to support herself and her children is not a victim of domestic violence… This makes no sense for an office charged with funding and implementing solutions to the problem of domestic violence rather than merely prosecuting individual abusers." Raise your hand if you know why. (Grokked from Laura J Mixon)

"The Los Angeles teachers' union ended its week-long strike Tuesday night, union leaders said, overwhelmingly supporting an agreement with the nation's second-largest school district."

"We also turned up significant racial disparities, just as Holder feared. In forecasting who would re-offend, the algorithm made mistakes with black and white defendants at roughly the same rate but in very different ways." Yes, Virginia, algorithms can be racist/biased. Especially when they are designed around structures that are inherently (maybe "historically" might be a better word) racist systems. Even when "race" isn't one of the inputs. In a racially segregated society (which America still is), all the data is corrupted by it. If your algorithm doesn't factor that in, and if the programmers aren't intentionally trying to correct for it, the output will still be racism. Computer programs (which is what we're talking about) can also be misogynistic, trans and homophobic and will reinforce societal structures more than they'll help break them down. Again, unless the programmers are specifically and consciously trying to correct for it. Computers themselves don't care, which is how these problems are just passed along. We used to have this saying when I was studying programming, "Garbage in, garbage out. But this garbage, having passed through an expensive system, is now held as sacrosanct and none dare challenge it." (Grokked from Xeni Jardin)

"The Twitter account that helped spread the initial video has been removed. The user -- @2020Fight -- claimed to be a teacher and advocate named Talia from California with a photo appearing to show Brazilian model and actress Natalia Cardoso." So we were aimed at each other, it appears. But the story continues to be more complicated.

"Covington Catholic High School 'will reopen when they say it is safe to do so,' the Diocese of Covington and the school said in a statement." But the extended video doesn't absolve the kids from the school of wrong doing, it just shows that another group nearby were also being a problem. "'In the video you can see the boys approaching and surrounding (Nathan Phillips) after he stops moving and that one boy steps up to face him, not the other way around,' the (American Indian Movement Chapters of Indiana and Kentucky) said. 'Their behavior at this point is still a problem, even if they did not create the initial situation. They are seen mocking, laughing at, and disrespecting Nathan Phillips.'" Or to quote others on different subject, the students, and Sandman weren't "angels."

"But there is one group for whom 'Let It Go' has proven particularly resonant: People with disabilities." When we create we place things in the world that we no longer have control and each observer will bring their own world to the work and process its meaning from their own perspective. That's the power of art.

"But an issue that was hardly mentioned during the Brexit referendum campaign in 2016 has proved trickier to solve than any other: how to handle the border between the Irish Republic, which is in the European Union, and Northern Ireland, which is part of the United Kingdom."

"China's economy may be slowing down, but the country is still set to eclipse the United States as the world's top retail market for the first time."

"Ever since Alaska joined the union as the 49th state in 1959, the most remote parts of the most northern state have gotten a head start on the national head count." That's because once the frost melts, those areas are hard to get to, and the mail system isn't the best. So while the ground is frozen (before April 1), the Census will count those people.

"'You know, if you didn't vote in lockstep and fall in line you were penalized.'" Funny, that's what conservatives usually say about liberals.

"'The number one question in the mind of leaders in Davos now is what on earth is Donald Trump up to?' said Tina Fordham, chief global political analyst at Citigroup Inc. and a WEF regular. 'We’ve very clearly moved in terms of investor sentiment from the Trump bump euphoria surrounding tax cuts and deregulation to fears of a Trump slump.'" Funny how those things tend to go together.

Why do the courts matter? "The Supreme Court has reinstated President Trump's ban on transgender service members in the military, granting a stay on two lower courts' injunctions that had blocked the president's policy. The court acted on a 5-4 margin, reflecting the conservative majority."

Buzzfeed gets tired of it, pulls the "fuckit" lever. "Trump’s Lawyer Said There Were 'No Plans' For Trump Tower Moscow. Here They Are." Now we wait for Guiliani to say he meant "blueprints." (Grokked from Xeni Jardin and others)

"President Donald Trump's advisers are reportedly urging him to bench his lawyer Rudy Giuliani and prevent him from making media appearances following his hapless performance of late."

Tuesday, January 22, 2019

Linkee-poo Alligators on Tuesday

"'However, that would make Sgr A* an exception compared to other radio emitting black holes. The alternative could be that the radio jet is pointing almost at us.'" Um, that seems like it would be a Bad Thing™ IIRC.

"Findings of a study published Thursday in Science offer an answer. A research team from Stanford University pinpointed the neurons in mouse brains that make pain hurt and were able to alter these neurons in a way that reduced the unpleasantness of pain without eliminating the sensation. The study lays the groundwork for future research into more targeted pain treatments." The mice were not impressed.

"Thousands of coal miners are dying from an advanced form of black lung disease, and federal regulators could have prevented it if they'd paid closer attention to their own data… That's the conclusion of a joint NPR/Frontline investigation that aired last month and continues tonight on PBS." The hard fact is that there is effectively no regulation when it is not enforced and the punishments are too light.

How go the wars? "(Afghani/Taliban) Insurgents blew their way into the base using a car bomb before opening fire. Some reports put the toll at over 100… It is one of the deadliest attacks on the secret service and follows a string of battlefield setbacks for the army."

How go the Trade Wars? "Shortly after he took office, President Trump withdrew the U.S. from negotiations for the Trans-Pacific Partnership. The TPP is moving forward, and the remaining members stand to gain economically." No transcript yet, but boy does Canada stand to reap the benefits of our withdrawal.

"On Monday, the International Monetary Fund cut its 2019 global growth estimate to 3.5% from 3.7%, citing trade tensions and rising interest rates. It also revised its estimate for 2020 to 3.6%, down from 3.7%. IMF Managing Director Christine Lagarde, who presented the forecasts at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, said the global economy was growing more slowly than expected amid rising risks."

"Temp agencies are seeing the resumes of federal employees pile up. But many of these applicants have been rebuffed as furloughed workers are seen as too temporary for even temp jobs." Doesn't that suck. (No transcript yet)

"Rachel Martin talks to David Mollett of the American Federation of Government Employees about how the government shutdown affects TSA workers at the Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport." Last Sunday 10% of TSA employees called in sick saying they didn't have the finances to come to work (gas, day care, etc). (No transcript yet)

The right really hates AOC. One of the top political news stories on Fox, "Freshman democratic lawmaker Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez on Monday appeared to agree with the idea that a world that allows for billionaires is not moral." A lot of it is because she's not behaving like other Democrats. She's not responding in the accepted ways. "David Greene talks to historian Rick Perlstein about Rep. Ocasio-Cortez's rising prominence in the Democratic Party. Her commitment to ideology over process puts her at odds with some Democrats." (No transcript yet). And yes, she does need to learn how things are done, but she shouldn't shut up. And she will change the conversation. She is transformative, and because of that she scares the shit out of a lot of people.

"President Trump has weighed in on the controversy surrounding a confrontation Friday at the base of the Lincoln Memorial involving three groups. The incident was caught on video that went viral. The story behind it has evolved several times since first coming to light, and accounts still differ." And the story is still evolving. This is the problem with "he said, she said" reporting. But what is fairly clear from all the angles on the story is the students' chaperones failed at their job. Also, given some of the context from people who have attended this school, it's clear they aren't as innocent as they would like you to believe.

Rudy Guiliani, "No tapes. Well, I have listened to tapes, but none of them concern this." Just give the man a shovel already. Why make him dig the hole with his bare hands. (Grokked from Chia Evers)

Monday, January 21, 2019

Linkee-poo Monday

Back. And the alligators have been busy.

So the war is over in Syria. "In an extraordinary statement, the Israeli military confirmed early Monday that it attacked Iranian military targets in Syria." I guess a few of the players didn't get that memo.

"President Donald Trump has lauded the federal employees furloughed or working without pay due to the partial government shutdown, describing those not getting paid as 'great patriots.'" He just doesn't want them to get paid for the work they're doing.

"Four humanitarian aid volunteers were convicted of misdemeanor charges on Friday after leaving food and water for migrants crossing a remote wildlife refuge on the United States-Mexico border in 2017."

"President Donald Trump's attorney Rudy Giuliani argued Sunday he did not know for sure if Trump spoke with Michael Cohen about his congressional testimony, but that it would not have been significant if Trump did." Yes, to the defense lawyer there is no crime. That's kinda definitional, isn't it?

"Vice President Mike Pence was harshly criticized on Sunday for quoting the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. in his most famous speech in defending President Donald Trump's efforts to persuade Congress to fund construction of a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border." Worst segue ever.

An interesting timeline of Trump and the people around him. Not saying they're all connected, but interesting. (Grokked from Xopher Halftongue)

Friday, January 18, 2019

Linkee-poo ConFriday

Not much as I try to get into the con swing. Conventions for me are either big hits where I get energized and psyched up, or they suck the life out of me and make me wonder just WTF I'm doing (although I've wondered if it's because being at a Con I get out of my routine and sometimes forget to take all my pills, I haven't wanted to test that theory, though). Confusion has done both for me, although it is 80% the first one. I'm not sure how I'm feeling about this one yet. But being at the con, I don't have much time to read the news and write. So expect mostly a quiet time until Monday (now watch the world blow up during Friday's news cycle and/or me posting like crazy).

John Bogle, and so it goes. "When Mr. Bogle, the Vanguard founder who popularized the low-cost index mutual fund and helped put billions more dollars in the pockets of millions of people, died on Wednesday at the age of 89, he inspired an outpouring of memories." Bogle is why when asked (I am not a financial analyst or a finance adviser, please consult one of them for your investment options) about 401(k) (or it's siblings) investments I will reply that you should pick the broadest index fund with the lowest fees in the group of funds you have available (and if they ever make a Dow Jones Industrials Index fund, I'll put my money there too). In the long run few funds do better than the market, and if you pay high fees (more than 1%) you're spending a hellalotta money to someone who isn't taking the same risks. Actually, those fees add up quickly and subtract a lot from your compound interest earnings. Unfortunately for my one job I don't have access to funds with lower than 1%, but the funds I am in are the broadest index fund and it has the lowest fee rate of them all (1.2% IIRC). At the night job it's a Vanguard fund with a 0.03% fee.

Mary Robinette Kowal is running to be president of SFWA. When I started writing seriously, joining SFWA was one of those goals that I looked forward to. Then there were a few years that saw that star dim a little and I wasn't so sure that SFWA was relevant and that membership would be nice, but wasn't really a goal. I am writing a little these days, not nearly as often or as much as I would like to (probably more about that later in the year), and while SFWA is no longer that milestone in my head, the organization has enjoyed such good leadership the past 8 years that joining would again be a matter of pride. And I think Mary would make the organization even better. (Grokked from John Scalzi)

Why are there "sanctuary cities"? Because ICE is often wrong. "But instead of releasing him, the Kent County jail turned him over to the custody of ICE. The county did that based on a request from ICE, which claimed Ramos-Gomez was in the country illegally." Time to end ICE.

"The report is the first official U.S. government acknowledgment that the Trump administration was using family separation as a measure to deter illegal immigration nearly a year before it became official DHS policy. NPR and other media were reporting the increase of family separations at the border in early 2018." And how did that "deterrent" work out for us? Not so well it appears.

"'Go back to Puerto Rico!' the Missouri congressman shouted, punctuating a stream of Republican whooping and hollering at the Democratic majority for initially rejecting their request to redo a vote on a continuing resolution to reopen shuttered agencies through Feb. 28." But it totally wasn't racist. (Grokked from Joshua Parker)

"Donald Trump directed Michael Cohen to lie to U.S. Congress about their plan to develop a Trump Tower Moscow, Buzzfeed News reports tonight citing two federal law enforcement officials involved in an investigation of the matter." Rhut rho. As my old pinned tweet used to say, "How many coincidences and unforced errors lead to a constitutional crisis. Asking for a worried country." (Grokked from Xeni Jardin)

Thursday, January 17, 2019

Linkee-poo early Thursday

So we're off to Detroit for Confusion. Last week I was thinking we might escape having this convention on the coldest weekend of the year. But now we're going right into the teeth of the biggest storm yet and the temps are predicted to be in the teens. Fantastic. Pray for us. I'm also moderating two panels for which I have done zero prep work (which I don't like going in unprepared) because of the alligators. This should be fun.

"New York Times reporter Maggie Haberman told CNN on Wednesday that Trump son-in-law Jared Kushner has already shoved aside acting chief of staff Mick Mulvaney and is essentially running the White House." Palace intrigue. I'll make more popcorn. (Grokked from Laura J Mixon)

"More than half of the workforce of the Internal Revenue Service, or about 46,000 employees, will be recalled to work for the tax filing season despite the partial government shutdown, according to a Treasury Department announcement… The recalled employees will not be paid during the shutdown, now in its fourth week, although all federal workers have been promised back pay when funding is approved." But but, how are they supposed to paint and do light construction work for their landlords or hold those garage sales if they have to be at the office? "'I'm worried whether these employees will have the money to put gas in their car to get to work,' (NTEU National President Tony Reardon) added." So basically the Trump administrations argument is "this work has to get done now or people will hate us", that's not "essential work." (Grokked from Xeni Jardin)

"A bipartisan attempt to condemn the Trump administration for relaxing Russia sanctions stalled in the Senate Wednesday after Republicans banded together to block the effort." Well, many of them are also compromised (Sen. Lyndsay Graham for instance). (Grokked from Katheryn Cramer)

"Rudy Giuliani said Wednesday that he never denied President Donald Trump's campaign colluded with the Russian government during the 2016 campaign, only that the President himself was not involved in collusion." Uh, yeah. So, the cat is up on the roof, we haven't been able to get it down, and it hasn't eaten for days. (Grokked from George Takei)

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Linkee-poo Wednesday

"Last year was the hottest for the planet's oceans since global records began in 1958, according to an international team of scientists who track the data. Their findings were published Wednesday in the scientific journal Advances in Atmospheric Sciences." We're boned.

"Big Pacific storms are set to dump up to seven feet (2.1 meters) of snow in California's Sierra Nevada mountains and several inches of rain elsewhere in the state, forcing evacuations in areas at risk to mudslides."

"An asteroid discovered decades ago may have become a comet in recent months, according to telescope observations that spotted a tail accompanying the space rock." Sorry I couldn't find a better article. This is what happens when you hire stupid people. Asteroids aren't comets and the tail isn't ejecta blown off by the solar wind. More than likely this is from a collision between (6478) Gault and another asteroid.

"How the Idea of Hell Has Shaped the Way We Think." (Grokked from Matt Staggs)

"These findings are important because they suggest that impaired functioning in the prefrontal cortex—whether from brain trauma, a psychological disorder, a drug or alcohol addiction, or simply a particular genetic profile—can make an individual susceptible to religious fundamentalism. And perhaps in other cases, extreme religious indoctrination harms the development or proper functioning of the prefrontal regions in a way that hinders cognitive flexibility and openness." It's a very small sampling, though. (Grokked from John)

See one, do one, teach one. How the medical industry runs from the inside. Radiology technologists work this way as well. Sometimes we don't even get to "see one" first before we have to do one. And yes, it is dehumanizing for all of us. And some of us fight back. (Grokked from Neil Gaiman)

"Sears Holdings Corp Chairman Eddie Lampert prevailed in a bankruptcy auction for the U.S. department store chain with an improved takeover bid of roughly $5.2 billion, allowing the 126-year-old retailer to keep its doors open, people familiar with the matter said Wednesday."

"An American businessman has been identified as one of at least 14 people killed in the terror attack on an upmarket hotel complex in Nairobi. Jason Spindler, the director of a business development firm who was based in the Kenyan capital, was killed in Tuesday's attack according to officials in Kenya. His family and friends have also spoken about his death."

How goes Brexit? "Opposition leader Jeremy Corbyn immediately triggered a vote which will allow lawmakers to say whether they have confidence in the prime minister's government. He said Parliament deserved a chance to give its verdict 'on the sheer incompetence' of those in power." Just as a reminder, the only reason this is Teresa May's problem is the leaders of the Leave Vote all fled from any appointments to power after they won the vote, because they know what a shitstorm this was going to be. Frankly, I don't think her ego is all that's keeping here there.

"A Florida city commissioner is under fire after calling Rep. Rashida Tlaib, who made history as one of the first Muslim members of Congress, a 'danger' who might 'blow up' the U.S. Capitol." But they're totally not-racist.

"Over the last few years China has made a series of ambitious military reforms and acquired new technology as it aims to improve its ability to fight regional conflicts over places like Taiwan, according to a new report from the US Defense Intelligence Agency." Modernism is highly overrated. The only real change in this situation is the Chinese feel the US is weakened.

"During the longest government shutdown in US history, President Donald Trump has been losing support among those who may be his strongest supporters -- white Americans who don't have college degrees." But not that much, and they're not going to vote for anyone else.

"On Thursday, President Trump flew down to McAllen, Texas to push his pro-wall, anti-immigrant narrative. This week, On the Media examines how the community tells a more welcoming story about the border — and a dogged presidential fact-checker joins us to pick apart the Oval Office address. Plus, how some progressives used Russian election interference tactics against a right-wing senate campaign. Also, is everything online fake?" Yes.

The subplot simmers. "Nastya Rybka, the Belarusian escort who claimed she had obtained information about Russian efforts to influence the 2016 U.S. presidential election while riding on the yacht of oligarch Oleg Deripaska, has been sentenced in Thailand to time served and will be deported home, a judge determined on Thursday."