And they come with no warning,
nature loves her little surprises.
Continual crisis!

Friday, August 30, 2019

Linkee-poo, solidarity forever

It's a long holiday weekend in the US. If you're enjoying time off, hug a union worker. And give the people who do have to work a break.

"All of Florida is under a state of emergency and authorities are urging residents to stockpile a week's worth of food and supplies as Hurricane Dorian gathers strength and aims to slam the state as soon as Monday as a Category 4 storm." Rhut rho. Waits for the evangelicals to either pray it away or blame on on teh gayz.

"When shopping for processed meats, many health-conscious consumers look for products with words like "no nitrates added" or "uncured" on the packaging. But we may have been misled, experts say… A new report finds that deli meats with those labels actually contain similar levels of nitrates as meats that don't carry these labels." Sometimes the rules lie (because they were written to do it that way).

"In January 2016, 'Goats & Soda' reported on lead levels in the soil of neighborhoods near an abandoned smelter in Kabwe, Zambia — and in the blood of the children. For nearly 100 years, smoke from the smelter, which closed in 1994, had been releasing heavy metals, including lead, in the form of dust. Children have grown up playing in that dust, inhaling it — and being poisoned by it. How are the people of Kabwe faring two and a half years later?" Spoiler alert, nothing has changed.

"Dismaying immigrants and advocates, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services has sent out letters saying the agency will no longer consider most deferrals of deportation for people with serious medical conditions, documents show… The agency is now saying those decisions will be made by another agency: U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement." Performative cruelty. (Grokked from Kathryn Cramer)

"The widow of a veteran who died under suspicious circumstances at a West Virginia Veteran Affairs Hospital last year told NPR an autopsy report found the 81-year-old died of an unnecessary insulin injection. It is the second confirmed homicide in a string of deaths at the facility that are being investigated." And they didn't report either (or now, "any") as sentinel events?

"Krevat’s bills were just a drop in the American medical-debt ocean. About 43 million Americans have unpaid medical debt dinging their credit, and half of all overdue debt on Americans’ credit reports is from medical expenses, according to a Consumer Financial Protection Bureau study from 2014. The debt typically comes from out-of-network doctors who people thought were in-network, hospital stays, or ambulance rides. About one in six Americans received a surprise out-of-network medical bill in 2017 after being treated in a hospital, even though they had insurance, according to Kaiser Health News."

"From a planning perspective, Wolfgang Balzer is the perfect health care consumer… Balzer, an engineer, knew for several years he had a hernia that would need to be repaired, but it wasn't an emergency, so he waited until the time was right." Also, quotes in the medical field mean nothing. There is no legal obligation to honor them. This is why "price transparency" won't work. The "free market" doesn't work for medical care.

"Two cameras that malfunctioned outside the jail cell where financier Jeffrey Epstein died as he awaited trial on sex-trafficking charges have been sent to an FBI crime lab for examination, a law enforcement source told Reuters." It just means they want to make sure and have all the data points. (Grokked from Xopher Halftongue)

"Satellite imagery shared exclusively with NPR shows that an Iranian rocket appears to have exploded on the launch pad Thursday."

"Police in Hong Kong arrested three well-known pro-democracy activists over the course of just 24 hours; the latest move to quash anti-government protests heading into their 13th consecutive week. The move came on the eve of a highly-anticipated but now officially banned pro-democracy march on Saturday. Two of the activists were later released on bail."

How go the Trade Wars? "China’s best option in the trade war is to wait it out, experts say, as it’s huge domestic economy is increasingly being driven by the power of its consumers — not trade." Thank you Captain Obvious.

"This should come as something of a relief to the Chinese, who were flummoxed by Trump’s initial claims. 'Regarding the phone call in the weekend, I am not aware of that,' Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang told reporters… And it may indicate why the president was so hesitant to offer any detail on said calls… Could it be that Trump was genuinely confused about communications coming from China? Sure. Could it also be that he’s desperate for a win after virtually an entire presidency of failures? Seems likely!" A lot of Wall Street trading is now controlled by computers who scan the internet for clues about which way to lean. Apparently they're also scrubbing the president's twitter feed for trading clues. And since this AI is not actually AI at all, we get wild gyrations of the market all based on the president's tweets. Which traders know this happens, so even though they know the president can't be trusted, because they might miss out on a few million on instant trading, they'll continue this practice.

"U.S. consumer spending increased solidly in July as households bought a range of goods and services, which could further allay financial market fears of a recession, but the pace of growth in consumption is unlikely to be sustained amid tepid income gains." It's called "back to school" and "pent up demand."

"A lot of American companies that make or buy products in China are starting to rethink that, as a new round of tariffs takes effect this weekend. But Robert D'Loren doesn't have to worry. As CEO of the Xcel Brands clothing company, he began moving production out of China some time ago." Good for him. He's still exploiting cheap foreign labor.

How goes Brexit? "The PM has warned MPs they are damaging his chances of getting a deal with the EU by trying to block a no-deal Brexit." What?

"Stillwater City Council passed a resolution Monday to symbolically put permitless carry to a vote of the people. The law is set to take effect November 1 and would allow those 21 and older to carry a firearm… But during the council meeting, members were threatened by an angry person who called the Stillwater Dispatch Center." Our well-regulated militia, everybody. (Grokked from Laura J Mixon)

"Braxton Ryback, 25, and Johnny Young, 22, were recently arrested by Las Vegas police after threatening to shoot up the XS Nightclub at Wynn Las Vegas." (Grokked from Xopher Halftongue)

"U.S. Attorney Justin Herdman's comments on recent Ohio cases involving political violence." Stands and salutes. (Grokked from Tobias Buckell)

"Madeleine Westerhout was forced to resign as executive assistant to the President on Thursday after Trump learned she had shared information with reporters at a recent off-the-record meeting, during which she didn't say her comments were off the record, according to sources familiar with her departure. A reporter divulged details about the dinner to White House staff, the people said."

"Former Vice President Joe Biden on Thursday defended the 'central point' of a war story he told on the campaign trail last week as 'absolutely accurate' after a report exposed a slew of incorrect details." If only the media were half as tenacious and concerned about the president's lies.

Evergreen story. "US spies say Trump's G7 performance suggests he's either a 'Russian asset' or a 'useful idiot' for Putin." Why couldn't it be both?

Thursday, August 29, 2019

Linkee-poo, there is unrest in the forest, there is trouble with the trees

"Hurricane Dorian was getting stronger as it set its sights on the U.S. mainland early Thursday, churning over open waters. 'Strengthening is forecast during the next few days, and Dorian is expected to become a major hurricane on Friday,' the National Hurricane Center said." Hit the Virgin Island (US and UK) and grazed Puerto Rico, and now Florida is just smack dab in the middle of the projected path.

"Ed Sheeran announced to his audience Tuesday at Chantry Park in Ipswich, England, that he would be taking a break from music after two years of touring." Legal troubles are catching up with him.

The world is weirder than you think. "Stanford researchers report Aug. 26 in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences that microscopic droplets of water spontaneously produce hydrogen peroxide." Water, or H2O, was considered a "stable" molecule. I guess not so much. Of course a "strong electrical field" was used, so there's that as well. (Grokked from Dan)

"Astronomers have discovered an unlikely exoplanet with the strangest orbit they've ever witnessed more than 100 light-years away, according to a new study."

Here come old flat top, he come grooving up slowly… "The next-generation James Webb telescope has had a rough time coming into existence, but NASA was able to celebrate a big step forward this week when engineers joined the two halves of the observatory."

"How well can a vehicle fly in the Mars atmosphere? NASA just got a step closer to finding out, announcing Wednesday that its Mars Helicopter has been attached to the Mars Rover it intends to send to the Red Planet next year. The 2020 Mars Rover should arrive on the planet in February 2021, and if all goes to plan, the helicopter will then become the first aircraft to fly on a planet other than Earth."

"A SpaceX Dragon capsule that set down in the Pacific Ocean on Tuesday after having been docked at the International Space Station since late July became the first such vehicle to do three of those trips."

"But while the robots appear to be autonomous, the San Francisco Chronicle reports they’re actually operated by remote workers in Colombia who make $2 an hour." When AI is someone over a internet link. (Grokked from Laura J Mixon)

"There’s a 'reasonable chance' that the US will soon lose its status as a country that has eliminated measles. That’s according to Dr. Nancy Messonnier, director of the National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention." Then tonight we're gonna party like it's 1699. (Grokked from John)

"When vaping became mainstream a little over a decade ago, it was initially marketed as a healthier alternative to smoking cigarettes, or a way to help wean yourself off nicotine gradually. But in reality, it’s a lot more complicated than that."

"The federal government says the University of Vermont Medical Center in Burlington, Vt., violated federal law by forcing a nurse to participate in an abortion despite her objections. The hospital issued a statement saying that the allegation is 'not supported by the facts,' as Vermont Public Radio reported." Here we go.

"A former employee in Google’s legal department released new details and allegations Wednesday related to her relationship with her former boss and current Alphabet Chief Legal Officer David Drummond." As they used to say, never dip your pen in the company ink.

"The company has relied on ads and in-app purchases to earn revenue from CamScanner. However, according to researchers at Russian antivirus firm Kaspersky, recent versions of the app included a new advertising library that contained a Trojan designed to deliver malware to Android devices." When you take someone else's code, you take their problems with you.

"Men who kill their partners follow a 'homicide timeline' that could be tracked by police to help prevent deaths, new research suggests." But, the police and politicos will exclaim, it's so hard to understand. Yes, for a codependent based culture which hides violence against women it can seem all so perplexing when the real problem the confused are fighting against is the people shouting, "this is wrong!" (Grokked from Justine Larbalestier)

"The Department of Justice said today that a federal grand jury has indicted software engineer Paige Thompson on two counts related to the Capital One data breach that affected over 100 million customers. The charges in the indictment carry penalties of up to 25 years in prison. Thompson will be arraigned in U.S. District Court in Seattle on Sept. 5." Cryptojacking, that's a new way to Burn Chrome.

"'The issue of race is still the undercurrent about the discussion of Emmett Till,' according to Rep. Bennie Thompson, an African American Democrat who has represented the Mississippi Delta region in the U.S. House since 1993." Sometimes the past ain't even past.

How go the Trade Wars? "'We think China is neither aiming to quickly reach a trade deal, nor trying to hit back at the U.S. as hard as it can,' says Yi Xiong, China economist at Deutsche Bank." China is running out the clock on the Trump administration.

"Trump argues his escalating trade war will force China to the table for a deal. But his ever-rising tariffs — and his market-rattling tweets — are increasingly alarming the GOP." Uh oh, somebody started their Xmas shopping for the grandkids.

How goes Brexit? "Thousands of anti-Brexit protesters, some carrying signs that read "Stop the Coup," gathered Wednesday night in Parliament Square. There were smaller demonstrations in Manchester, Cambridge, Cardiff, Edinburgh and Durham, according to the Evening Standard." And Pro-Brexitiers are taunting the opposition to either do something or shut up.

"The Federal Election Commission (FEC) — intended to be a group of no more than three Democrats and no more than three Republicans overseeing the federal campaign finance system — has been operating with just a bare quorum of four for the past 18 months. With the resignation of Vice Chairman Matthew Petersen, at the end of the week, the commission will be virtually paralyzed." Looks at watch, ah, just in time. (Grokked from Laura J Mixon)

"A 19-year-old from Boston allegedly told police that he was plotting a school shooting at High Point University in North Carolina. Freshman Paul A. Steber is charged with two felony counts of having weapons on campus and communicating a threat of mass violence on educational property." But the one (of two) guns they show a photo of is a muzzle-loader. Um… we need to talk. (Grokked from Kathryn Cramer)

"But under the new policy, as of October 29, certain parents serving overseas in the U.S. armed forces and with other branches of the federal government will be required to formally apply for U.S. citizenship on their children's behalf before their kids turn 18." Gee, I wonder what those "certain" couples have in common? Oh sure, conservatives love those veterans. Unless they don't match up to their ideal of what a service man, or veteran, should be like.

"The rotation of fresh Chinese military troops to the Hong Kong garrison sparked widespread concern Thursday, demonstrating how on edge the city is ahead of a thirteenth consecutive weekend of anti-government protests." Totally normal, totally routine.

"The (Indian) government has repeatedly assured the world that life (in Kashmir) is getting back to normal and any unrest has been minor… But scraps of information trickling out of the region tell a different story."

"The deadline passed at midnight Wednesday for candidates to qualify for the next Democratic presidential debate and only 10 made it, narrowing the largest field in history to a more manageable size." To those candidates dropping out (and those who will be winnowed in the coming months), don't go anywhere. We still need you in this fight. But yes, it's the end of August. It's time to face up to the fact that if you're failing at the midterms, the possibility of you scoring an A on the comprehensive final is below single digits. But we need everyone pulling at the oars. Also, 10 people in a "debate" is still unwieldy. When it's 4 and below, that's when the real politicking begins.

"New York state’s top prosecutor Wednesday night issued a blistering rebuke of a 'deeply disturbing' video posted on the Rockland County Republican Party’s Facebook page that portrays proposed housing development for the Hasidic Jewish community as a 'threat.'" And while we can all focus on, "it was a mistake" versus "it was wrong" let me just say, this isn't the first time the Rockland County GOP has come under fire for anti-semitic posts on their Facebook page. (Grokked in a roundabout way from Mary Robinette Kowal)

"Former FBI Director James Comey violated official policy in the way he handled his memos describing his exchanges with President Trump, an investigation concluded — but Comey won't be charged." Naughty naughty. But note they don't dispute the content of the memos, just how they were handled.

Wednesday, August 28, 2019

Playlists sometimes hit a nerve

Apropos of nothing really.


"But the oaks can't help their feelings
If they like the way they're made
And they wonder why the maples
Can't be happy in their shade?"

Linkee-poo on a Wednesday

John Scalzi let's us know the Campbell Award is changing it's name to Astounding Award for Best New Writer. Well, that was quick.

"SpaceX’s Starhopper prototype has completed its second and final flight test, lifting off to an apogee of roughly 150m (500 ft) before nailing the bullseye on a landing pad adjacent to the launch mount." And that's it for Starhopper which we be retired to become a test bed.

"The Colonel went plant-based at one Atlanta restaurant on Tuesday, complete with its signature red trim wrapped in bright green, to test out its Beyond Meat fake Fried "Chicken" on real humans… And the real humans lined up literally around the block for the popcorn chicken and 'wings', until supply ran out less than five hours into the promotion." So much for the "It'll never work, Gulliver" crowd.

"And, now, the Arctic isn’t only losing its ice. It is being set ablaze." Peat bog fires are not something that is easily dealt with. They burn underground. And what looks like stable soil will collapse quickly and you'll be lucky if it still isn't on fire (because that easily becomes a flashover situation). Also, the tundra in the Arctic was the carbon sink for one of the last overly warm periods in Earth's history. And what happens when you burn a carbon sink? We're boned. (Grokked from Chuck Wendig)

"If you see a dead bird or seagull leave it alone, says Fairhaven Health Director Mary Freire-Kellogg." Eastern equine encephalitis makes a comeback.

"The College Board is dropping its plan to give SAT-takers a single score that captures a student's economic hardship. The change comes after blowback from university officials and parents of those taking the college admissions exam." I'm not entirely sure how I feel about this.

"The irony, of course, is that Bret Stephens regularly pens columns decrying the culture of 'safe spaces' on college campuses. He once wrote a column titled “Free Speech and the Necessity of Discomfort.” (Discomfort for thee, but not for me, it would seem…)" The bedbug comment all the cool kids are talking about. Bret Stephens, please meet the Barbra Streisand Effect. (Grokked from Random Michelle K)

How go the Trade Wars? "Nine jobs in one of South Carolina’s poorest counties this week became the latest casualty in a ongoing trade war with China, fueling concerns that stalled negotiations will hamper U.S. economic growth and job gains." Hey Lindsey Graham, go and tell those 9 people to suck it up for the president. Cause you know we all need to accept the pain of these trade wars. "The Martin plant has a strong likelihood that it will not exist in the next 18 months, if this process continues, after 40 years of working in the community and being one of the main industries in Allendale County." (Grokked from Anne Wheaton)

"The rate on the benchmark 30-year Treasury bond sank to a new all-time low on Wednesday while the U.S. yield curve inverted even further as fixed-income traders continue to bet on tepid inflation and slower growth in the United States." Whispers, "the yield curve has been inverted for more than a quarter now."

How goes Brexit? "British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has asked the Queen to suspend Parliament just days after it returns from summer recess next week, and only weeks before the Brexit deadline." Well, that's one way to end any tricky questions from the opposition.

"Within hours of Johnson's request, the queen agreed to prorogue, or suspend, Parliament for several weeks in September and October." Here we go.

"'From the party of fiscal responsibility, a $12K wall so Republican State Senators don't have to share an office suite with Democrats,' tweeted Louisville, Kentucky-based New York Magazine politics writer Adam K. Raymond." Because liberal cooties or something. (Grokked from Chuck Wendig)

"When Kazeem Oyeneyin's friend accidentally set off his burglar alarm, the North Carolina man went downstairs, turned it off, and went back upstairs to sleep… Minutes later, Raleigh police showed up, handcuffed Oyeneyin and took him outside in his underwear while they started clearing his house." (Grokked from Mur Lafferty)

Conservatives are all about the free market, until they're not. "International trade legal experts broadly agree with Trump. If he wanted to force American companies to cut their China ties, he could make it hard for them to stay, and even harder to invest more."

"As Dorian neared Puerto Rico, President Donald Trump on Tuesday made the false claim that Congress had approved $92 billion for the island after the devastation caused by Hurricane Maria in 2017." Sometimes I think he picks fights he knows he'll lose because they're low stakes and give people some sense that he's malleable (that's not the right word, but I don't know what the right word for something you feel better about because you win some against them, but what you win are the inflatable balloon toys and not anything real). And then sometimes I think he's just that stupid.

And then, "As a major storm heads for Puerto Rico, the Department of Homeland Security and its Federal Emergency Management Agency said Tuesday they will move $271 million in funds to support President Trump's border enforcement efforts." Why? Because they know Congress will approve emergency spending for FEMA if it runs out of disaster funds.

"Gripped with anger, some Iowa ethanol leaders say President Donald Trump should no longer count on their support in next year’s election, given his administration's action to cut demand for the U.S. renewable fuel." And while, yes, Democrats should make hay of this (while the sun shines), I don't expect many of these farmers to actually change who they'll vote for. (Grokked from Laura J Mixon)

"President Donald Trump has been mocked after remarking that he has German in his blood while expressing excitement over a proposed future trip to Germany… Trump made the comments during a meeting with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, prompting the veteran leader to raise her eyebrows and seemingly laugh at the president's reference to his German ancestry."

The far-right gets even weirder as the grifters who feed on them (and feed them) become more anonymous. "Bronze Age Pervert is active on Twitter in a network of similar, pseudonymous accounts with names like Just Loki and 17thCenturyShytePost that revel in mythic, aristocratic pasts while trafficking in racism and anti-Semitism." As a fool myself, I recognize similar hallmarks in this person's MO (although in the article the actions are clumsy and born of the 4chan and 8chan mindset of cleverness). Just like QAnon, they are both easy to dismiss as whackaloon, but the trickster tactics can both draw and influence a large crowd. So they should never be underestimated.

"President Donald Trump reportedly told officials in his administration that he would pardon them if they had to break any laws to get hundreds of miles of his border wall built before the next presidential election, according to a report Tuesday night in The Washington Post… 'Don’t worry, I’ll pardon you,' the president has allegedly told aides worried about his instructions to seize private land through eminent domain, flout environmental rules or push through billion-dollar contracts." Remember when we had conversations about "what would happen in the president gave an order that was illegal?" and people where all, "that would never happen." Here we are. (Grokked from Jim Wright)

Didn't he say, "it's because I'm under audit?" "The White House counsel to President Richard Nixon said President Donald Trump looks 'extremely nervous' about the release of his tax returns after Deutsche Bank implied that it holds copies of the documents sought by Congress." Surely he's not being audited for every year since 2000.

Tuesday, August 27, 2019

Linkee-poo deals the cards as a mediation

Why do clients feel the necessity of dumping everything at noon?

I'm not pointing to this as proof or anything (so far all I've been able to find are whacked out sites with this), but "I don’t know who needs to hear this, but there’s a mountain-sized face on the surface of Antarctica." At the Mountains of Madness, the Ancient Ones lay sleeping. (Grokked from Laura J Mixon)

Ssshhh. "The Boeing-built X-37B space plane commissioned and operated by the U.S. Air Force has now broken its own record for time spent in space. Its latest mission has lasted 719 days as of today, which is one day longer than its last mission, which ended in 2017, as noted by Space.com."

"Shortly after 7pm ET (23:00 UTC) SpaceX began counting down to the 100-meter hop test for its Starhopper vehicle. And while there were some definitely rocket-like noises at T-0, the Raptor engine did not ignite." Performance anxiety, happens to all of us.

Remember when Elon Musk said he wanted to develop brain-machine interfaces and everybody went "wow, that's a great idea" and some of us said, "We've been doing that for almost a decade now, Elon"? Whelp. "In Episode 2 of Future You with Elise Hu, we explore mind-controlled robot suits and how they could end some disabilities as we know them or let able-bodied people gain super strength." This is a very rudimentary connection, we do have implantable controllers as well. But there's a problem with those. The body doesn't like the interface and forms "scabs" (slightly different than those that form from cuts on the skin or other solid organs) which decrease the signal transfer until they become unusable (typically after 1 to 2 years).

"Data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released in July show there were 2.1 million more uninsured people between 2016 and 2018. And a study from the Urban Institute this month, using Census Bureau data, found 700,000 more uninsured people just between 2016 and 2017… The increase is especially noteworthy given the strong economy, signaling the uninsured rate will rise even higher if the economy worsens and people start losing the coverage they get at their jobs." Ah those strong conservative policies are having their effect. (Grokked from Kathryn Cramer)

"Health officials said Friday that an Illinois patient who contracted a serious lung disease after vaping has died and that they consider it the first death in the United States linked to the smoking alternative that has become popular with teens and young adults." Well, I'm sure we can wait until there are a few thousand.

"A teen traveling through Southern California may have exposed hundreds of people to the measles when she visited several popular tourist destinations, health officials said Friday." Which wouldn't be a real concern if it weren't for the anti-vax movement.

Rolling along with the tumbling tumbleweeds. "A new species of gigantic tumbleweed once predicted to go extinct is not only here to stay—it's likely to expand its territory."

"KFC is set to serve meatless chicken for the first time — testing the new menu items on Tuesday at a single restaurant location in the Atlanta area."

"An international endangered species convention meeting in Geneva is close to exempting musical instruments from trade restrictions on rosewood." I'm of two thoughts, for existing instruments (and repairing them), this is a fabulous win. Unlike decorative materials people use these objects to make their living. However, allowing this exemption could potentially create a loophole where new instruments are made with rosewood and shipped to new customers.

"'The President had scheduled meetings and bilaterals with Germany and India, so a senior member of the Administration attended in his stead,' press secretary Stephanie Grisham said by way of explanation for Trump's absence…" at the G7 meeting on climate change. The problem, both Merkel and Modi attended the meeting on climate change.

"Brazil will reject the offer of $20 million in aid for the Amazon fires pledged at the G7 summit in France, according to news site G1 Globo." Because why wouldn't they.

"Indonesia has said the country would be relocating its capital city, in part because it's sinking into the Java Sea." Jakarta is sinking because of over exploitation of the aquifer it sits on, but other cities are sinking for other reasons. Add sea level rise because of climate change and it becomes a very big problem.

"Police are investigating after a man was found dead in Ashtabula County early Saturday morning, according to the Orwell Police Department." Wait, wut?

"The government started a stockpile of it. Now, helium is essential for space exploration, MRI machines and making our cell phones… But there is a helium shortage." The Planet Money podcast on the helium market.

"(Yesterday), the judge hearing the opioid case brought by Oklahoma against the pharmaceutical giant Johnson & Johnson awarded the state roughly $572 million… The fact that the state won any money is significant — it's the first ruling to hold a pharmaceutical company responsible for the opioid crisis… But the state had asked for much more: around $17 billion. The judge found the drugmaker liable for only about 1/30 of that." J&J stock went up after the award because investors are now thinking it won't really affect their dividends even as they face lawsuits in other states. You can see why in their financials. Net income (ie. "profit after expenses") was $15.3 billion last year.

Ah, the joys of the gig economy. "When our ancestors were peasants in the earliest days of agriculture, the daily schedule was: work in field all day, eat midday meal in field, continue working in field… Today, after centuries of human advancement, it goes something like: work in coffee shop all day, buy and each lunch there, continue toiling away on laptop until the sun sets."

"When immigration officials raided a series of food-processing plants in Mississippi on August 7 and arrested close to 700 suspected undocumented immigrants, it was clear that children were left behind without their parents. But, 'If both parents were arrested, one parent was sent home within 24 hours,' a spokesman from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement told ABC News… Clearly, that did not happen in at least one case. Two children, ages 12 and 14, were left alone for eight days after both their parents were swept up in the raids." Cruelty is the goal. (Grokked from Laura J Mixon)

"Under a new partnership, the Essex County Improvement Authority would funnel $120 million bond to the city of Newark for the sole purpose of replacing the old pipes that are tainting water as it flows from one of the city's main processing plants and into households." Now do Flint.

How go the Trade Wars? "A bill would forbid the use of federal grants, which the Department of Transportation often makes to big-city transit authorities, to buy new subway trains or buses from the Chinese-owned manufacturer CRRC." Note, this will affect American jobs.

"When the White House decided to levy tariffs on goods from China, U.S. leaders were divided on whether a prolonged trade dispute was a wise course of action… Now, so is Beijing." So nobody knows what they're doing. Great.

"Agents in Long Beach intercepted three shipments containing nearly 53,000 sights, stocks and other gun parts that came illegally from China." Huhn. Okay.

"A Chinese-born Australian writer detained for months in China has been formally arrested on charges of espionage, officials in Canberra confirmed on Tuesday." It's not just us. You have to watch the entire board.

How goes Brexit? "'The job of everybody in Parliament' is to deliver Brexit, the PM has said at the end of the G7 summit in France." This next is said in the voice of Auric Goldfinger, "No, Mr. Johnson, I expect you to do your job."

"Jeremy Corbyn has met other opposition party leaders to discuss ways of averting a no-deal Brexit."

On the Media continue to explore the stories we Americans tell ourselves. "In a special hour this week, On the Media examines the history of US imperialism — and why the familiar US map hides the true story of our country. Brooke spends the hour with Northwestern University historian Daniel Immerwahr, author of How to Hide an Empire: A History of the Greater United States." Why does the rest of the world hate the US?

"Violence in Hong Kong’s anti-government protests is becoming more serious but the government is confident it can handle the crisis itself, the embattled leader of the former British colony said on Tuesday."

"U.S. officials deported Ajjawi, a 17-year-old Palestinian resident of Tyre, Lebanon, Friday night shortly after he arrived at Boston Logan International Airport. Before canceling Ajjawi’s visa, immigration officers subjected him to hours of questioning — at one point leaving to search his phone and computer — according to a written statement by Ajjawi." Because he follows people who are "critical" of the US.

"Iran on Monday announced that the 2.1 million barrels of crude aboard an Iranian oil tanker pursued by the U.S. has been sold to an unnamed buyer as the ship, at the center of a crisis roiling the region, continued its voyage in the Mediterranean Sea."

"A day after what looked like a possible diplomatic breakthrough with the U.S., Iranian President Hassan Rouhani backed off the idea of direct talks with President Trump, saying Washington must first lift sanctions against Tehran." Uh oh, looks like someone read the president's book on the art of a deal.

"In the latest indication that it may be readying an attempt to launch another space rocket, Iran has given its launch pad a fresh coat of paint."

"Wisconsin Republican Rep. Sean Duffy announced on Monday that he’s resigning from Congress on Sept. 23 because a baby he and his wife Rachel Campos-Duffy are expecting in October will have complications, including a heart condition." While I don't wish it on anyone, it's refreshing to see someone resigning to spend more time with their family actually needing to spend more time with their family.

"Thanks to the relentless investigative work of Senate Finance Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) and Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee Chairman Ron Johnson (R-Wis.), we are learning that the Hillary Clinton email case may not really be settled." Once more unto the breach, dear friends. This is a political hit piece and one of the reasons I don't like using "The Hill" as a source. "OMG the person responsible to prosecutions wanted to prosecute Clinton before they had a report, the report was revised to use language with isn't indicting, and there are pieces of classified information we don't have!" they shout breathlessly. All of this was known before. Memos are often written this way. It's the person's job to prosecute, of course they'd want to actually, you know, prosecute. And the classified information is most likely the actual information in the email. This is a big nothing burger except to get the crowds to shout, "Lock her up" and reignite the "but her emails" memes. Welcome to 2020, same as 2016. Given the political makeup of 2017, if this had any real relevancy it would have been acted on then.

"Democrats hoping to avoid clashes over impeachment when they left Washington this summer are being confronted with a difficult reality at sometimes hostile town hall events" Oh look, some people actually did read the report.

It might also be a good time to remind people that the Russian actors who helped the president win last time are not wedded to his re-election. They weren't wedded to his initial election. Those are not the end goals (although having him in power is better for their goals than having Clinton in office). The end goal is to destabilize the West to remove any opposition to a resurgent Russia. Their actions in the last election would have moved the needle no matter who won (and I suspect there was plenty of "plan B-Z" strategizing). They will tear down Trump if they feel it would meet the objective of chaos in American politics. They will attempt to divide us. While I haven't seen their fingerprints on the move to impeach, that may just be because I haven't looked in the right place yet or they're holding fire until after (or just closer to) November 2020. Waves to my Russian friends.

"The head of the National Security Agency, Army Gen. Paul Nakasone, has a catchphrase: 'persistent engagement.'" But don't tell anyone.

Monday, August 26, 2019

Linkee-poo for a Monday

David Koch, ding dong, motherfucker. Unfortunately we still have to live in the world he helped construct. And he created a whole machine to continue his political progroms. Sometimes I list deaths because they're people who affected me personally or are a part of my zeitgeist. Sometimes it's because they're prominent in their spheres of influence and existence. Sometimes, like now, it's because I'm joyous. That may make me a terrible human and I may be committing a sin against "judge not least ye be judged", but I'm okay with that. This dude reneged on his humanity payments a long time ago. When this was pointed out to him, he was given a chance of redemption that he consciously, and with fore-malice, walked away from. Was he entirely "evil"? No one really is (and he would make an excellent study for writers attempting to grasp the concept that villains are heroes in their own minds). Yes, he used his money on some good things. They were personal causes that could not but help other people. But as I stated in a prior tweet about someone else, he was attempting to buy his salvation. He used more money to leverage his soul away. In the Hall of Two Truths, Thoth may put his thumb on the scales, but I believe in this case it wouldn't be enough.

The D23 Rise of Skywalker teaser all the cool kids are talking about. I know people are wigging about a potential Dark-side Rey, but that's a head-fake. And I love me some Rey. I gotta say John Williams pulls out all the stops and goes overboard in almost an imitation of his style, but somehow makes it work. But for me, the best is Hamill's voice-over. How he changes from crotchety, disillusioned Old Luke to Palpatine :: chef's kiss ::. Gives me shivers in the same way the young Anakin's shadow did.

"Ultimately the issue is not the inclusion of Irish or Irish folklore in fantasy, the problem is treating Irish and Irish culture like it only exists as a reusable fantasy product." Totally. Which seems a little strange because Grandfather Tolkien based his elvish languages on various Germanic languages (okay, and one on the Welsh), but for American's Irish seems strange enough. It's like collateral damage from the Celtic awakening that gave us Riverdance. (Grokked from Patrick Nielsen Hayden)

"Taylor Swift says she plans to re-record her earlier songs." Content creators should be paying attention to this story (of which this is just the latest installment), no matter what you think about Taylor Swift. Always keep control of your IP (or in music's case, the masters). The actual recordings are a conglomeration of rights and a product of many people's intellectual, emotional, and physical work. But Taylor Swift (or the author) is the brand (no, really, don't argue with me on this, you'll lose) and the final work goes out in her name. She should control the masters, but that's why the music companies want you to sign over your rights to them. And many young artists make the mistake of not negotiating that.

"A team of German scientists has used a combination of cutting-edge physics techniques to virtually 'unfold' an ancient Egyptian papyrus, part of an extensive collection housed in the Berlin Egyptian Museum. Their analysis revealed that a seemingly blank patch on the papyrus actually contained characters written in what had become 'invisible ink' after centuries of exposure to light." The article is a little misleading mistaking the technique of axial image reconstruction for the type and amount of x-ray radiation being used. While "micro-computed tomography" can be used in oncology, the type of radiation being used here would never be used on a living subject. Okay, I shouldn't say "never", but the "micro" part means increased time and amount of radiation being used, the partial accelerator gives these x-rays higher energy states than what would be used. Or in other words, this is a hellahigh dose that would kill living tissue. And why they say this examination doesn't "harm" the papyrus (or the parchment it is also used on), that's a little bit of an overstatement. The damage this creates is not visible to the naked eye. But in any case this is still frickin' cool. (Grokked from John)

"An unpiloted Soyuz spacecraft carrying supplies and an experimental robot attempted to dock with the International Space Station early Saturday, but the spacecraft, unable to lock onto guidance signals, began slewing widely about its long axis, prompting Russian flight controllers to order an abort." Come on guys, you can do it (unless the humanoid robot on board has decided to go HAL9000)! (Grokked from Dan)

"NASA astronaut and Spokane native, Anne McClain is accused of stealing the identity of her estranged wife due to McClain accessing her bank account while in space." If things like this aren't incorporated into mystery literature, we aren't doing our jobs properly.

"A gigantic floating raft of volcanic rock that emerged from an underwater volcano eruption in the Pacific Ocean is slowly drifting towards the Australian coast, heartening hopes it could benefit the imperilled Great Barrier Reef." Yeah, sure.

"The Caribbean islands are bracing for impact as Tropical Storm Dorian moves their way." Here we go.

The free market is great, until you have to pay the bills. "Wyoming, which is among the reddest of Republican states and a bastion of free enterprise, thinks it may have found a way to end crippling air ambulance bills that sometimes top $100,000 per flight… The state's unexpected solution: Undercut the free market, by using Medicaid to treat air ambulances like a public utility." Now do the rest of healthcare.

"Signalling (sic) the possibility of more interest-rate cuts, Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell said the central bank will 'act as appropriate' to sustain the economic expansion as the trade war with China takes a toll on global growth and the U.S. economy." So, same as yesterday, and last week, and the month before that…

"Israel said Sunday that it stopped the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) from launching 'killer drone' strikes from Syria, Reuters reported." They're having an election soon, aren't they?

How go the Trade Wars? "President Trump lauded his Chinese counterpart on Monday and said Beijing was actively reaching out to Washington to resume trade negotiations and 'make a deal' to end a spiralling trade war." Now it remains to be seen if they actually did call.

"State news agency Xinhua said in a commentary on Saturday: 'The United States is paying the price for launching a trade war, as China is forced to announce the levy of new additional tariffs on U.S. goods.'" This probably won't make full sense unless you lived through Vietnam, but it's looking like this is all about "saving face."

"China is willing to resolve its trade dispute with the United States through 'calm' negotiations and resolutely opposes the escalation of the conflict, Vice Premier Liu He, who has been leading the talks with Washington, said on Monday."

"Does President Trump have a political strategy for dealing with a downturn? It appears that he does. He’s trying to turn the economic issue into a social issue. How? By hyping the divide between his populist base and educated elites. He is warning his supporters about a conspiracy of elitist anti-Trump forces trying to bring him down by bad-mouthing the economy and undermining economic confidence." Great plan there, Sparky.

"President Donald Trump said Monday that he is 'possibly' looking at hosting the next G7 summit at his Trump National Doral Miami Golf Resort." It's called "self-dealing" and most reputable people, those with actual scruples, don't do it.

"Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg has just completed three weeks of radiation treatment at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York, the U.S. Supreme Court disclosed Friday."

"Concerns were subsequently laid out in a Dec. 18 memo, detailed below, titled 'Structure of the Republican Main Street Partnership, affiliated entities and potential concerns,' that was circulated among a small group of lawmakers, congressional aides and RMSP board members. The memo was sent to NPR by an anonymous source and was then authenticated by a former Denham aide… 'And then it all started to fall apart,' recalled one source with direct knowledge of events." Breaking the law, breaking the law.

"President Trump promised to respond Friday after China said it will slap tariffs on $75 billion of autos and other U.S. goods. And he 'ordered' U.S. companies to stop doing business with China." The president doesn't have that power.

What happened in Russia? "Russian state officials admitted Monday that radioactive gases with isotopes of barium, strontium and lanthanum were found in test samples following an explosion at a military test site but insisted there was no danger in the area." A second explosion? The cat won't come down off the roof.

"Americans place less value on the importance of patriotism, religion and having children than they did two decades ago, a shift driven largely by the changing views of younger Americans, according to a new poll." Oh those whacky Millennials.

Friday, August 23, 2019

Linkee-poo, after the dream is broken, there'll still be love in the world

"First discovery: the number of sales per year chart looks pleasantly similar to the number of submissions per year, which feels like a correlation– more submissions, more sales…" Marie Vibbert runs the numbers on her submissions.

The things they do with lasers these days. "Austrian and Chinese scientists have succeeded in teleporting three-dimensional quantum states for the first time. High-dimensional teleportation could play an important role in future quantum computers." And there were no Heisenberg Compensators involved.

"The lander was able to flip itself over and snap some incredible images of the rocks on Ryugu, both during its 6-minute descent and its 17 hours on the surface before its batteries died. Scientists have released these images, which could have exciting implications. Fascinatingly, the surface looks a whole lot like meteorites found on Earth called carbonaceous chondrites."

"ISRO tweeted out the moon view on Thursday. Chandrayaan-2 snapped the portrait from a height of 1,650 miles (2,650 kilometers) above the lunar surface Wednesday. The space agency annotated the image to show the locations of the large Apollo crater and the Mare Orientale basin."

"An antibiotic-resistant strain of salmonella is sickening people who eat contaminated beef and unpasteurized soft Mexican cheese, U.S. health officials warned Thursday… The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has pinpointed the source to contaminated beef from U.S. sources and soft Mexican cheese, which suggests that cattle in both countries are infected."

"So she welcomes an influential federal panel's new recommendations on BRCA gene mutations, which convey an unusually high risk of cancer. The panel says that Ashkenazi Jewish ancestry — meaning Jewish forebears from Eastern Europe — is enough to consider genetic testing for BRCA mutations, even without a known family history of cancer." The other side of the argument about DNA testing. Sometimes it is critical.

What can we do in the face of this much hatred, you may ask yourself? Be like Janiece… "Last Sunday, the Smart Man, Sister Stacey and me went to our first Parasol Patrol event."

The new Nigerian prince scam. Now with romance.

Why is forgiveness of student loan debt a real issue? "Here’s what the U.S. government says about the student loan you may have been tardy about paying back: 'If your loan is placed with a collection agency, you will be responsible for costs incurred to get payment. The holder of your loan can take other actions to collect as well.' Those 'other actions' involve withholding your tax refund or, in some cases, garnishing your wages. And, this week in Texas, they began to involve federal agents in combat gear bursting into debtors’ houses and arresting them." Jubilee, motherfuckers. (Grokked from Delilah S. Dawson)

"Maria, a deadly Category 4 hurricane, ravaged Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands and Dominica nearly two years ago, and recovery has been slow. It's not just Puerto Rico's infrastructure that was battered. Emotionally, many here are still fragile."

They say if you're not here illegally you have nothing to worry about. Oh really? "Ramon Torres had been a U.S. citizen for nearly ten years when he was detained for four days on an immigration hold – despite having a U.S. passport, a Louisiana driver’s license, and a Social Security card, and despite that fact that a court ordered his release." (Grokked from Joy Reid)

"Federal investigators have sought subpoenas for employees at the federal jail in New York City where Jeffrey Epstein killed himself, according to two sources familiar with the investigation." It's all fun and games until it's someone "important."

"Google has suspended 210 YouTube channels it says were being used as part of a 'coordinated' campaign to influence public opinion about the pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong… The move follows Twitter's suspension earlier this week of nearly 1,000 accounts for violating the company's 'platform manipulation policies' it said were tied to Chinese state actors trying to undermine the Hong Kong protests. Facebook said it was also taking down several pages and accounts for 'coordinated inauthentic behavior as part of a small network that originated in China and focused on Hong Kong.'" Look at China, trying to get all this free social media influence action when they should be paying for ads to do the same thing like Russia did, amIright?

"Conservative groups—which largely supported Mr. Trump’s tax cuts—have pushed Congress to cut future deficits by reducing benefits for federal health care and retirement programs, like Medicare and Social Security. 'Something must be done soon,' the conservative advocacy group FreedomWorks said in a news release on Wednesday, 'and that means taking a hard look at mandatory spending, the root cause of the United States' fiscal woes.'" Trump has apparently told people that gutting Medicare would be a "fun" second-term project. Again, for the back row, "mandatory" spending is paid for by payroll taxes (the Social Security and Medicare deductions on your paycheck and the extra money your employer sends for those specific programs). They do not add to the deficit. (Grokked from Laura J Mixon)

"The best way for President Trump to boost the economy would be to roll back tariffs, not push for a payroll tax cut, according to right-leaning analysts and conservative groups." Yeah, good luck with that. I would be temped to believe that these business owners are acting in the general public interest if it wasn't for the fact that this is "money for us, none for you" politics again.

"Fed Chairman Jerome Powell faces the tough challenge of presenting a unified voice on Fed policy from the most divided Fed in years, and that could create volatility if he doesn’t assure markets the Fed will continue to cut interest rates." Blackmail from the abuser's point of view.

"President Donald Trump who campaigned on promises to pay down the national debt in eight years. But almost three years in, he's moving in the wrong direction. Far from shrinking the debt, it has grown on his watch… The annual deficit -- the difference between what the government takes in and what it spends -- has exploded thanks to the 2017 tax cut that, despite Trump's promises, has not paid for itself." Oh look, the old rules of reality still do apply.

In a daily roundup post on CNN is this, "Patrick Byrne, the CEO of online discount retailer Overstock, resigned yesterday after publishing a news release this week titled, 'Comments on Deep State.' In it, Byrne claimed he helped the FBI carry out 'political espionage' and referred an undefined entity called the 'Men in Black.'" Your reminder that cocaine use can bring about paranoia.

Why exactly happened in Russia? "Following reports of an explosion that occurred at a military facility near Severodvinsk in Russia’s Arkhangelsk region on August 8, 2019, the two Russian radionuclide monitoring stations closest to the blast (Kirov and Dubna) reportedly went offline on August 10… Speaking to reporters on August 20, Russian Presidential Spokesman Dmitry Peskov said the Kremlin is not responsible for monitoring those stations." I'm sure it's just a coinkidink.

"The data point -- with 59% of those surveyed responding that Trump should not be impeached and compelled to leave office -- comes as Trump’s approval rating remains at 40% in the same poll." And with that, Speaker Pelosi won't push for impeachment. Because Democrats have become timid and afraid of fighting for their ideals. As I've said before, you need to set up the inquiry that by the time you take the vote you have overwhelming public support (and make the Senate look like fools if they fail to convict), or you mea culpa at the end. But then that also means saying (at least) that "you don't know if he should be impeached, but there's enough to convince me we need to take a serious investigation to see if the President violated laws that would require his removal." It's an easy enough statement with enough wiggle room to fly a dragon through, but it means admitting you don't know something, are not in control of the outcome, and you risk alienating a lot of people who expect what the media has taught them to expect.

"Radio-show host Joe Walsh is getting ready to run for president, challenging President Trump for the GOP nomination. While I’m sure Walsh and I would agree on a lot of the issues, particularly economic ones, I’m left underwhelmed." It would be slightly interesting if it was anything more than a ratings grab. But who knows, maybe Joe Walsh believes he's a more palatable asshole than Trump.

"Russia and the United States have blamed each other for abandoning a landmark arms control agreement on missiles, with Moscow warning of a new arms race and the Trump administration demanding details of a recent mysterious explosion that killed five Russian nuclear engineers." So now they're working the other side of the equation pushing the narrative, "you can't trust the US." It's a Punch and Judy Show where we all die in the end.

"Did Donald Trump Call Himself the ‘Second Coming of God,’ the ‘Chosen One’ or the ‘King of Israel’?" The Snopes article.

"An email sent from the Justice Department to all immigration court employees this week included a link to an article posted on a white nationalist website that “directly attacks sitting immigration judges with racial and ethnically tinged slurs,” according to a letter sent by an immigration judges union and obtained by BuzzFeed News." I would say this was gross incompetence (although they blame a contractor), if the DoJ (and the administration) weren't actively trying to get career workers to leave so those positions could be filled by ideologically selected employees. (Grokked from Kathryn Cramer)

Thursday, August 22, 2019

Linkee-poo, these five words in my head scream, "Are we having fun yet?"

"Amsterdam's Bibliotheca Philosophica Hermetica… houses more ths 25,000 occult texts, covering 'Hermetics, Rosicrucians, Theosophy, alchemy, mysticism, Gnosis and Western Esotericism, Sufism, Kabbalah, Anthroposophy, Catharism, Freemasonry, Manichaeism, Judaica, the Grail, Esotericism, and comparative religion'… The library has begun to scan and post its core collection to an online archive called The Hermetically Open Archive." I'll be in my bunk. (Grokked from Kelly Link)

John Scalzi on Jeannette Ng's Campbell acceptance speech. SF/F has a troubled past. If you doubt that just google World Fantasy's HP Lovecraft award statues. However there are a lot of people invested in the foundation histories and they will die on those hills. I, for one, and willing to let them die on those hills. Because the world changes. And if you don't change with it, your society will perish as well. The shore of progress is littered with the corpses of those who thought they could hold back the tides of change. And to move forward successfully you need to be realistic and honest about the past.

"Because the oceans cover three fifths of the globe, this correction implies that previous estimates of overall global warming have been too low. Moreover it was reported recently that in the one place where it was carefully measured, the underwater melting that is driving disintegration of ice sheets and glaciers is occurring far faster than predicted by theory—as much as two orders of magnitude faster—throwing current model projections of sea level rise further in doubt." We're boned.

"Environmental organizations and researchers say the wildfires blazing in the Brazilian rainforest were set by cattle ranchers and loggers who want to clear and utilize the land, emboldened by the country's pro-business president." Besides removing biodiversity and destroying the "lungs of the world", do you know what happens when you burn the world's largest carbon sink? If you said it releases all that CO2 back into the atmosphere, congrats.

"A crew of veteran U.S. astronauts and aviators are training in Houston for a manned mission to the International Space Station aboard Boeing’s new Starliner spacecraft, which could also be used to take tourists into space on future missions."

"A mass shooting may have been prevented when a co-worker reported that a disgruntled employee had threatened to shoot other workers and customers at a California hotel, police said Wednesday."

"In the 16 months since the law has been in effect, Vermont, with a population of about 627,000, has issued some 30 extreme risk protection orders, or ERPOs… One of them was served on 28-year-old Sean Laskevich, of Springfield, Vt." The story of one attempt to remove guns from a home. Also note how people are intentionally conflating and confusing several things here, including mass shootings and suicides. "Despite all that happened that night, Amanda Barbour says she's confident that Laskevich poses absolutely no threat. Taking his gun away, she says, is not right." Because it'll never happen to them, because they're the "right" people. Until it does happen to them, and then there was no way of foreseeing it.

"New Mexico's commissioner of public lands said she's on a mission for justice as details emerge about Jeffrey Epstein's alleged sex abuse at his ranch in the state. In an exclusive interview, she revealed her office is fully cooperating with investigators and has turned over 400 pages of Epstein's property records to investigators – documents that may contain names of his alleged co-conspirators." Hang on folks, the ride is about to get bumpy.

How go the Trade Wars? "U.S. Steel will reportedly lay off nearly 200 workers at a plant in Michigan… The company cited lower steel prices and reduced demand in idling the furnaces." Remember how this all started with steel and aluminum tariffs? (Grokked form Joy Reid)

"President Donald Trump on Tuesday described the prospect of the US falling into recession as 'irrelevant' and defended his decision to wage a trade war with China." Whistling past the graveyard. No, he doesn't care who gets hurt as long as it's not him.

"The U.S. economy had 501,000 fewer jobs in March 2019 than previously reported, government revisions show… The annual revision is much larger than is typically the case." Half a million is larger than those "Over $1M 401(k)" accounts by a factor of 4. JFC, that's "cooking the books" levels. (Grokked from Joy Reid)

"Over the past two decades, central bankers have used the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City’s annual symposium in Jackson Hole to plot out and signal changes in monetary policy… With global recession fears growing and bond yields tumbling, this week’s gathering is one of the most anticipated in years." Ah, it's time for Geekstock again.

"Today’s meritocrats still claim to get ahead through talent and effort, using means open to anyone. In practice, however, meritocracy now excludes everyone outside of a narrow elite… Hardworking outsiders no longer enjoy genuine opportunity." The lie of the "meritocracy." But then the article goes on to focus on the mental health care costs on those who are in the pipeline of the "meritocracy," because they're driven so much and so much is expected of them. Well, the author is of that class, so he's speaking from. And yes, it's true. But just imagine how much harder it is for those who don't have the benefit of the higher income class. Because all those stresses he talked about (basically "welcome to workaholism", "Hi, my name is Steve and I'm a…") are stresses we all feel at all levels. Welcome to the trap the 1% created for everybody.

"An audit of the federal system that fines mining companies for unsafe conditions found no evidence that more than $1 billion in mine safety penalties over 18 years deterred unsafe mining practices." Shocked, shocked I am the fining companies less than 1 days' profit and pre-announcing inspections would fail to really change anything.

How goes Brexit? "It would seem that both Mr Macron and Angela Merkel are determined not to shut the door entirely in Boris Johnson's face, and perhaps equally determined not to be blamed for no deal." But they're not giving him anything. They're basically saying, "the deal is our idea of how it should work, tell us yours and we'll see what we can do."

"The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office now says the federal deficit will hit $960 billion in fiscal 2019 and average $1.2 trillion in each of the next 10 years." Finally conservative my ass. But hey, I bet one more tax cut will do the job. And the president is talking about a payroll tax-cut, those are the taxes for Medicare and Social Security, which would lead to… a deficit in those programs which would give the GOP the excuse to eliminate those programs entirely.

"Hundreds of millions of dollars in federal student loan debt owed by tens of thousands of disabled military veterans will be erased under a directive President Donald Trump signed Wednesday." The process was already underway, he's just changing the rules and hoops vets had to jump through to get it.

"Australia has agreed to join a U.S.-led naval contingent protecting commercial shipping in the Persian Gulf and Gulf of Oman amid alleged attacks by Iran against vessels operating in the strategic waterways." That makes four, when we should have twelve or fifteen.

On the Media podcast on the democracy we think we live in, wherein the call out Fox News. "The pathways and origins of white nationalist thought were a matter of deadly importance in coverage of last weekend’s shootings. On this week’s On the Media, how mainstream punditry launders a tolerance for xenophobia. Also, the history of American presidents and media figures dismissing black and brown claims to power in a democracy. Plus, what calls for additional federal oversight in Puerto Rico mean for Puerto Ricans." On the Media is doing the hard good work.

"President Trump defended the idea of buying Greenland… in part by saying the idea first came from President Harry Truman… Is that so?… The short answer:… Yes — but it's complicated." It was a bad idea then, and it's still a bad idea. Yes there is some strategic value as both the global contest between the US and Russia heats up, but mostly for the exploitation of mineral wealth in the newly opened Arctic (because of global warming).

"Just hours after accusing Jewish people who vote for Democrats of 'disloyalty' (which drew widespread condemnation), President Trump quoted a controversial radio host who called him the 'King of Israel' and 'the second coming of God,' in the latest of a series of inflammatory comments about Jews." President Crazypants goes on a tear.

"Former Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper announced his Senate candidacy on Thursday, giving Democrats a widely known contender to take on a vulnerable GOP incumbent a week after Hickenlooper dropped out of the presidential race." Several of them should do the same.

"Democratic presidential candidate Jay Inslee announced Wednesday that he is withdrawing from the race… Inslee made climate change a top issue as a candidate" Jay, if you want to be able to tell your grandkids that you did everything you could, even if you drop out of the race doesn't mean you have to disappear. Keep fighting, keep fighting to change the politics, keep fighting to get the best people elected.

"President Donald Trump claimed to laughter on Wednesday that he sought to give himself a Medal of Honor, but decided not to after being counseled against the move by aides." While lots of news orgs are saying he doesn't qualify because he never served in the military (which is true), the ignore the very basic fact that it's full name is the Congressional Medal of Honor. Congress is the body that awards the medal, it's the president that presents the medal. He can't give it to himself, because he's not the one who nominates or approves of it. He's so fucking clueless about the basics of things he's an active participant in. (Grokked from Joy Reid)

Wednesday, August 21, 2019

Linkee-poo, come as you are, as you were, as I want you to be, as a friend, as a friend, as an known enemy

Spurious correlations. For the fun of it, and because it's getting close to a major election and this time there are many competitors in the disinformation field (sorry, my Russian friends). As they say, "figures don't lie, but liars sure can figure." (Grokked from Dan)

"The Trump administration unveiled final regulations that weaken the Endangered Species Act (ESA) on Monday, just three months after the United Nations warned of the “unprecedented” decline in biodiversity around the world." Because of course they did. (Grokked from somebody, sorry, lost the link)

This is what's called, "willful negligence." "Two of the government’s top scientists detected the first signs of the emerging opioid crisis back in 2006 and tried to warn health officials and the public of the coming catastrophe, according to a confidential document obtained by POLITICO… The effort didn’t lead to any real action, and the toll of death and addiction climbed. More than 133,000 people have died from prescription opioids since then — and hundreds of thousands more from street drugs including heroin and illicit fentanyl." And just as we've geared up to fight the opioid/heroin crisis, the taste of drug users is changing back to meth. Again, we need to fight a war against addiction, not against a specific drug. But fixing the systemic sociological and economic issues that lead a large portion of our population to use and become addicted to drugs is a huge struggle which would be exceptionally painful (mainly to the rich and privileged). So that won't happen. And we'll continue to fight the last battle and never make progress.

The Amazon is burning and it's like the world decided that vaping was safer than smoking. "Fires raging in Brazil's Amazon rainforest have hit a record high number this year, according to new data from the country's space research agency, as concerns grow over President Jair Bolsonaro's management of the environment." Management?

"When you’re looking at a search result with hundreds of options on Amazon, the 'Amazon’s Choice' label may give you a sense of relief." Don't you believe it. Yes, I've even found better pricing on the exact same products as the "choice." Amazon is not your friend. (Grokked from John)

"The number of investors with at least $1 million in their 401(k) accounts rose to 196,000 at the end of the second quarter, up from 180,000 the previous quarter and surpassing the previous record of 187,400 reached in the third quarter of 2018, according to Fidelity." Again, the recommendation is to have $2M at retirement, "The average 401(k) account balance was $106,000…". Average, which includes all those super savers. Also, as of 2016 there were 55 million 401(k) accounts, so 196K is 0.3% of all 401(k) plans. We're fucked when it comes to retirement.

So when Net Neutrality died they told us, "these companies would never mess with customers' connections?" Really? "Researchers from Northeastern University and University of Massachusetts Amherst conducted more than 650,000 tests in the U.S. and found that from early 2018 to early 2019, AT&T Inc. throttled Netflix Inc. 70% of the time and Google’s YouTube service 74% of the time. But AT&T didn’t slow down Amazon.com Inc.’s Prime Video at all." (Grokked from John)

"An Australian appeals court Wednesday upheld convictions against Cardinal George Pell, the most senior Catholic to be found guilty of sexually abusing children. The decision brought cheers from scores of abuse survivors and victims' advocates demonstrating outside court."

How go the Trade Wars? "The tariffs Trump has already imposed on China are estimated to cost the average American household $600 per year, according to a report by JPMorgan Chase. That will rise to $1,000 if Trump carries through on his plan to levy tariffs on another $300 billion of US imports from China, the bank added." Are we having fun yet? And then there's this, "Last week, as recession fears spiked, the Trump administration delayed tariffs on consumer goods such as smartphones, toys and video game consoles until December 15. Trump's advisers warned him these new tariffs could effectively 'ruin Christmas,' people familiar with the matter previously told CNN." Remember all those Xmas Specials about somebody stealing/cancelling Christmas? Looks like it was Trump after all.

How goes Brexit? "Johnson will aim to persuade Merkel, and French President Emmanuel Macron who he’s meeting on Thursday, to try to influence the wider EU to change a crucial part of the Brexit deal." Yeah, that'll work.

"Italy’s prime minister resigned on Tuesday, throwing a twist in far-right, anti-immigrant leader Matteo Salvini’s power play to get early elections." When Berlusconi looks moderate and reasonable by comparison, there's a problem.

The stories we tell ourselves. "What are the stories that America has told about itself? Historian Greg Grandin… talks about his book, The End of the Myth: From the Frontier to the Border Wall in the Mind of America, and the old idea about limitless growth that influenced American policy and psychology." The On The Media podcast on our great civilization, and how our zeitgeist about our founding and our mandate are based on intentional (racist) lies. It's a two part podcast (as most of On the Media's podcasts, they report several stories around a central theme). The first part is about India's development of their own creation myth, and then they dissect America's Frontier Theory/creation myth and how the stories we tell ourselves are convenient lies to protect the powerful, even when those stories change. Highly recommended listening.

"The U.S. government will not give flu vaccines to migrant families being held in detention centers near the U.S.-Mexico border. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) announced the decision Tuesday, weeks before the flu season begins." Calculated and intentional cruelty.

"According to an affidavit from a Miami FBI agent filed in federal court, Lin was not shy about putting his violent threats in writing. Between May and August this year, Lin allegedly fired off a litany of hateful, pro-Trump, pro-Hitler, and violent Facebook messages directed toward Hispanics living in Miami. Those messages wound up in the hands of the FBI." Why, there's almost a connection here. Your choice if it's a connection between Hitler lovers and Trump supporters, or the mentally deranged and Trump supporters. I guess you could choose both. (Grokked from Xopher Halftongue)

"Israeli officials on Wednesday offered a muted response to remarks by U.S. President Donald Trump who said American Jews who vote for the Democratic Party were 'disloyal.'" Another step down into the abyss.

Collateral damage or targeted response? "Twitter announced on Monday it had removed 936 accounts it said belonged to a state-backed Chinese effort to sow discord and undermine protests in Hong Kong… That was news to Luka Ivezic, a 24-year-old student at Kings College London, whose account - @TechPoliticist - had been suspended, and appeared on the list of those said to be run by, and out of, China… Mr Ivezic, who was born in Croatia and says he has never been to China, recently completed his thesis. The subject? 'Disinformation, and how artificial intelligence can empower the tools that China and Russia have to misinform us.'"

Apparently, the president was serious about buying Greenland. Stupidest timeline ever.

"Less than two weeks before his scheduled trip to Denmark, President Donald Trump announced on Twitter that he has postponed his visit to Copenhagen after the Danish Prime Minister disputed his interest in buying Greenland as 'absurd.'" Somehow we have now alienated Denmark.

Speaking of Greenland… "Summer this year is hitting Greenland hard with record-shattering heat and extreme melt. By season’s end, about 440 billion tons of ice — maybe more — will have melted or calved off Greenland’s giant ice sheet, experts estimate. That’s enough to flood the entire state of Pennsylvania under water about a foot deep." The word you're looking for is "unprecedented." We're boned.

"A sudden cascade of events is challenging President Donald Trump's boasts of an unprecedented American winning streak that is a critical component of his reelection salesmanship." It's not a "sudden cascade." It's called "chickens coming home to roost."

Tuesday, August 20, 2019

Linkee-poo, will you walk away from a fool and his money?

The Hugo Award Winners.

"India's second lunar exploration mission has entered the Moon's orbit, nearly a month after blasting off, officials have said."

The Hidden Brain podcast on the affects of nature. "For more than 30 years, psychologist Ming Kuo has studied the effects of nature on humans. She came to this field of research not from an interest in greenery, but from a fascination with crowding and noise — the negative impacts of urban environments." While scientists are "always surprised" that humans respond in the same ways animals do, I'm always surprise that scientists continually forget that humans are animals.

"The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is investigating the sudden emergence of severe lung disease linked to vaping in 14 states." Look, even breathing the air causes lung damage (but your lungs are built to withstand most of it, our regular air pollution however can overwhelm your defenses). Adding particulates of any kind will do more damage (including breathing treatments, although the benefits of those outweigh the risks).

"A study published Monday suggests that fluoride consumed by pregnant women can decrease the IQ of their children. No single study provides definitive answers, but the latest research on this controversial topic will no doubt stir debate… In general, there was a small difference for any individual child."

"It's unusual — but not unique — for a London restaurant to turn away diners who have food allergies. But almost every type of restaurant there asks patrons about allergies. Restaurants in the United Kingdom are generally far more vigilant, in this regard, than restaurants in the United States." See, if they actually did something about it that would be fantastic. Unfortunately it's usually a prelude to denying service.

"A French couple is facing years of jail time after stealing almost 90 pounds of sand from Sardinia, the Italian island known for its picturesque beaches. The alleged thieves told police they were taking the sand home because they wanted to keep it as a 'souvenir,' Italian media reported Monday." Like you do.

"Five years after Eric Garner’s death, his killer, police officer Daniel Pantaleo, has been fired. The Daily Beast was first to report the news, citing a senior law-enforcement official." (Grokked from Xeni Jardin)

"The man charged in the El Paso Walmart mass shooting is on suicide watch, authorities say." Is "suicide watch" the new "the cat is on the roof" Kremlinology?

Coming to America (not the woman, but the legal jeopardy)… "A young rape survivor who'd been accused of inducing an abortion and previously sentenced to 30 years in prison was acquitted of all charges by an El Salvador judge Monday at the conclusion of a retrial."

Because hate doesn't have a country. "Mobs in India are lynching minorities. Many accuse the Hindu nationalist government of failing to forcefully condemn the violence. Activists have launched a hate crimes hotline in 100 Indian cities."

How got the Trade Wars? "President Trump and his team are downplaying warnings of slower economic growth, despite signals from the bond market that a recession could be looming. At the same time, the president is also calling on the Federal Reserve to cut interest rates again to help boost growth." To paraphrase the president and administration, "Everything is fine, no need to worry, but it's totally those others guys' fault for sinking it!"

"A handful of key economic indicators suggest that the United States could be approaching a recession or, at the very least, a period of slower economic growth. Now, it's worth noting that no one is really able to put an exact date on either of those worries. But the White House is downplaying fears of a slowdown as the 2020 election approaches."

"The decision permits Huawei to continue buying products from American companies to support its existing customers. It was made, in part, to minimize disruption in parts of rural America that rely on relatively inexpensive Huawei equipment to carry wireless service in remote areas, Commerce officials said." Waves "hi" from the rural parts of America were sometimes getting even a 3G connection is debatable.

"Home Depot on Tuesday reported sales that missed analysts’ expectations, and it lowered its sales outlook for the year amid fears that the trade war will slow consumer spending." Is that the Jaws' theme I'm hearing?

"A group of 181 CEOs have issued a statement proclaiming the need to help deal with income inequality and working conditions." Someone's been reading history and getting a little worried. Also, for all those shareholders who have been the focus for decades and are now bemoaning any change… yeah, how does executive pay affect your ROI? Think it helps? Or do you see how those executives have been skimming off the top while returning mediocre (at best) returns?

"The yield curve inverted on August 14, which, if you’re like many people, sounds somewhere between impossible to understand and extremely boring. But it sent the financial press into a tizzy of panic that could grab anyone’s attention." Notes that this is not the first time in the past year this has happened. They're just coming closer together now. Also, while the yield curve alone is not a good enough indicator, many of the others are already out there. Including the administration trying to convince us all the "fundamentals are good" (they're not), and academics claiming that "the rules no longer apply" (they do).

How goes Brexit? "Britain would face gridlock at ports; shortages of medicine, fuel and food; and a hard border with Ireland if it left the European Union with no deal, according to a leaked government document." Operation Yellowhammer, subtitled "Bend over and think of England."

"A senior police chief has appealed for political progress in Northern Ireland after bombers tried to lure officers to their deaths… Police said dissident republicans were behind the explosion near Wattlebridge, close to the Irish border, on Monday." Guys, guys, guys, settle down. You've got until Halloween. And then there will be decades after that. You don't want to blow it all before your time. (Grokked from @Ardprest)

"What is Johnson's strategy to make Brexit finally happen?" He is a sociopath and he doesn't fucking care who dies?

"Police officers in California will be required to use lethal force only as a 'necessary' response to a threat — not merely as an 'objectively reasonable' one — under legislation that Gov. Gavin Newsom signed into law Monday. Under the tighter standard, deadly force is legal only in instances where there are no other options." As it should be.

"The Pentagon today announced it tested a conventional ground-based cruise missile that went more than 500 kilometers, which would have been banned under the now-defunct INF treaty." That was quick. (Grokked from Xeni Jardin)

"In Ohio, a racist 20-year-old man was arrested over the weekend for threatening to attack a Jewish community center, in a post on Instagram… Reardon participated in the 2017 Charlottesville Nazi rally, of which President Trump said 'there are very fine people' on the Nazi side of America." (Grokked from Xeni Jardin)

Skyfall. Just what the fuck did happen in Russia early in August? Also there are reports of radiation detectors both spiking, and then going dark. To my Russian friends, I know it's been a while, but understand the people you are working for will not protect you from their own machinations. In Chernobyl, they gave (former Soviet) soldiers rubber aprons and gloves and then had them throw radioactive rods from the roof back into the chamber. The rubber did nothing, the paper masks they were given did barely anything, and three months later they were all dead. The residents around the station had their thyroids removed (radioactive iodine is a by-product and leads to thyroid cancer). If it suits their needs and mission, they will walk you to the precipice with a smile and a handful of money, and joyously push you off the cliff. Stay safe, my Russian friends.

"Twenty-three Texas towns have been struck by a 'coordinated' ransomware attack, according to the state’s Department of Information Resources." It's all fun and games until it comes to your hometown. Or in conservative-land, when it happens in a deep red state.

"The US military is no longer the primary force in Asia, and missiles from China's rapidly improving military could overwhelm its bases in hours, according to a new report." Oh noes! What'll we ever do? Look, our forward positioned soldiers, sailors and airmen have no chance of repelling an attack from any of the militaries they face. This is why in places like South Korea you get hazard pay, because you are being positioned as cannon fodder. But then we have more troops staged close by for quick redeployment (in South Korea's case, in Japan and Australia). Most of those will be sacrificed to slow the advance enough to bring the full force of our military (which will take several days, at least). This is just the beginning call to increase Pentagon spending (note it is only slightly less than when we were fully prosecuting the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan). Yes, it's that budgeting and appropriations time of year again. And if you want to actually reduce the deficit, there's really only one place to go for that without crippling the government.

"Trump's responses Sunday on how hard -- if at all -- he will push Congress when it returns on passing some sort of further gun control laws are a drastic step back from what he was saying even earlier this month." Of course Trump wouldn't support any change. The NRA helped him get elected. He's already in panic mode. Even if he actually wanted to make some change (and that's a huge "if") he wouldn't risk losing the NRA's support. He also has no backbone. So there is that as well. Again, when he (and we) are faced with a choice, look for the one that causes the most chaos, the most disruption, to our society. Trump will always pick that choice.