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

Monday, September 30, 2019

Linkee-poo comes off the weekend

Oh, hi guys. How's things in St. Petersburg? Getting cold yet? I hear the autumns are beautiful there, or at least Pushkin said so. Has Bab'e leto happened?

"NASA’s planet-hunting Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS) watched a black hole tear apart a star from start to finish, a cataclysmic phenomenon called a tidal disruption event."

"Montana's governor declared a 'winter storm emergency' tonight after the state was slammed by more than 3 feet of heavy, wet snow. Governor Steve Bullock declared the emergency as storm watches and warnings were posted across the region." Waits for the evergreen, "so much for global warming" chatter from the lunatic-right.

"Eating a handful of almonds, walnuts, peanuts or any type of nut on a regular basis may help prevent excessive weight gain and even lower the risk of obesity, new research suggests." But not by much.

"'As of about 10 am this morning we have had 10 people die of overdoses in about 26 hours,' Franklin County Coroner Dr. Anahi Ortiz said on Facebook Sunday." How those saying the opioid crisis is burning out are wrong. Also how devastating the introduction of fentanyl (and cofentanyl) has been.

An Elisa Hu video on reversing aging. It's the new perpetual motion machine. My question is, how long would I have to work in this brave new world before getting Social Security. Cause I have to tell you after working these 40 years (36 years of eligibility), I'm tired.

"Alfrida is of the Toraja people of southern Sulawesi in Indonesia, for whom the line between life and death is not black and white. Though her heart stopped beating in 2012, as far as her family is concerned, she is only to macula, which translates loosely as 'sick.' They still visit her regularly, talk to her and bring her three meals a day, which they leave on the floor." Puts all those expensive genes-reveals, weddings, proms and quinceañeras in perspective.

"And so, beneath a big Texas sky full of stars, he offered hope in the form of a large spaceship. Mere hours after a team of SpaceX engineers, technicians, and contractors completed assembly of a prototype of the Starship vehicle, Musk revealed it to the world. He did so in an open-air shipyard by the Rio Grande River, where he intends to build dozens if not hundreds of Starship spacecraft." Just a white, long-haired cat and a volcano lair away from being a Bond super-villain.

"A number of workers at Kickstarter are currently trying to organize a union, an effort the company has actively opposed from the start. The CEO made it clear that the company doesn’t want a union and would not voluntarily recognize one. Several weeks ago, during the middle of the organizing campaign, Kickstarter suddenly fired two of the lead organizers. Sources inside Kickstarter confirmed to the press that the firings were not, as the company insisted, merely performance-related." That's immensely sad. I've supported a number of kickstarters, and I thought the concept was great. Good thing there are now alternative platforms available. I feel sorry for the people who have based their business model on kickstarter and will now need to alter those plans. (Grokked from Neil Gaiman)

"In 2019, the average price of health insurance rose above $20,000 for families that obtain their coverage through work… Americans are already paying enough to fund a European-style welfare state." We're paying more, and getting less. Best healthcare system in the world. (Grokked from Chuck Wendig, I think)

"On the UAW picket line Friday morning at General Motors' Hamtramck Assembly Plant, Karlton Byas, 63, of Detroit, a veteran safety trainer at the factory, admitted the lack of paychecks is starting to hurt him and other strikers." Then there's the analysis of who is losing how much and who might win. Nobody wins in a strike. But it's a necessary pain for workers rights.

"Facebook's (FB) answer to those criticisms is the Libra Association, a group the company says is an independent, Switzerland-based organization that will govern the digital currency… The group has 28 'founding member' organizations but plans to grow to 100… But many of those founding members have close personal, professional and financial ties to Facebook and one another, calling Facebook's characterization of the Association into question." This is my shocked face. (Grokked from Brandie Tarvin)

Operation Glowing Symphony. The cyber strike against ISIS.

"Jihadists have attacked a military base where US soldiers train commandos in Somalia, causing casualties, reports say." It's also a launching point for drones and they train other African countries' troops there.

"The bodyguard of Saudi Arabia's King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al-Saud has been shot dead by a friend in the coastal city of Jeddah following an argument, police said according to state media."

"A military official formerly in charge of all White House communications for the U.S. Army at Mar-a-Lago was sentenced to three years of probation on Friday after he made false statements to a federal agent during a child pornography investigation." Besides being a felony (both the lying and the posting of child pornography) that's also a major security breach. This could have opened him up to blackmail, or let's use another word, this is kompromat. (Grokked from Kathryn Cramer, I think)

"'Mnuchin’s empty promise shows just how much the 2017 tax cuts for the rich were a scam on the American people,; said AFT executive director Frank Clemente. “Mnuchin’s prediction was off by $1 trillion.'" Correction, it was off by $2 trillion. Basically nothing the conservatives told the public would happen after the tax cuts (reduce deficit by $1T, increase GDP growth above 3%, create more jobs) happened, however most of what the liberals said would happen (increased income inequality, gave away money to the rich, explode the deficit, do nothing for GDP growth) did happen. Just like the Bush tax cuts. Just like the Reagan tax cuts. It's almost as if cutting taxes for people who already have more than enough money is a scam to fleece the middle-class and screw over the poor. (Grokked from Chip Dawes, I think)

"Instead of defending Trump from inside the White House, all signs suggest that Trump's reelection campaign will take an outsize role in pushing back on his impeachment aggressively — and with millions of dollars behind it." Well that certainly makes fundraising for the president's defense easier. Although while denying they have a "war room" inside the White House, that's only because they don't know how to organize working subcommittees and delegating work, but they do have people whose job it is to focus on this.

"More than half of Americans — and an overwhelming number of Democrats — say they approve of the fact that Congress has opened an impeachment inquiry into President Trump. But as the inquiry begins, there is no national consensus on how to assess the president's actions." Some weekend polling data for your consumption.

"Republican Rep. Adam Kinzinger (Ill.) on Sunday criticized President Trump for quoting a pastor saying impeachment could trigger a 'Civil War-like fracture' in the country." Well it's good to know that there is a "too far" line for conservatives.

"Ukraine’s former top law enforcement official says he repeatedly rebuffed demands by President Trump’s personal lawyer to investigate Joe Biden and his son, insisting he had seen no evidence of wrongdoing that he could pursue." It's already been looked into and no crime was found. (Grokked from Kathryn Cramer)

"Retired ambassador Ronald Neumann was shocked when reading the notes from Trump's call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy. In it, Zelenskiy says Trump was the first one to tell him that Marie Yovanovitch was a bad ambassador. Trump responded by saying, quote, 'she's going to go through some things.' Neumann says that threatening tone was deeply troubling."

"One day after he was named in the whistleblower's report, Kurt Volker, the U.S. special envoy to Ukraine, has resigned. Politico's Nahal Toosi joins NPR's Audie Cornish to discuss Volker."

"The chain of events is not real, but for Lutsenko and for Giuliani, it was not important. For them, it was necessary to make this conspiracy theory possible." So basically, they were trying to generate "controversy" when the matter had been settled years ago.

"Lev Parnas, a businessman who says he splits his time between Florida and New York, was one of Giuliani's fixers. Parnas says he is a U.S. citizen but was born in Odessa, Ukraine, back when it was part of the Soviet Union." Now that's an interesting back story regarding his $325,000 donation to America First Action (and pro-Trump PAC).

"Republicans on Capitol Hill are, for the most part, defending President Trump and criticizing Democrats for opening an impeachment inquiry. Conservative media outlets have been cheering them on, saying Trump did not do anything wrong in his call with the Ukrainian president. NPR media correspondent David Folkenflik has been following this story."

The CrowdStrike angle… "It's a common misconception that there is some sort of missing server from the DNC hack, but it's not true. The hack involved 140 cloud-based servers, and they were all decommissioned in 2016. There was no single server that was, you know, stolen in the dead of night and smuggled to the Ukraine or something. This was based on a fundamental misunderstanding of both the technology involved and the firm involved. And trying to make sense of it is almost impossible because it's not really a logical idea."

"We are at a very, very dangerous moment in history." Jim Wright with where we stand. While history may judge us, we are the ones who must live through it. What shall we write of ourselves.

Friday, September 27, 2019

Linkee-poo there's a man with a gun over there telling me I got to beware

Just a note to some of our non-North American readers, glad to see you all showing up more regular. I was beginning to think we had lost that special thing.

"Kaiser Health News is suing the U.S. Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services to release dozens of audits that the agency says reveal hundreds of millions of dollars in overcharges by Medicare Advantage health plans." Insert dramatic music here.

"This started as a simple outsourcing exercise in which 'physician groups' were contracted to provide services to hospitals, but then, giant hedge funds and private equity groups started buying up these groups and jacking up prices by 86%-91% in just a few years (prices are still rising). The private equity looters focused on emergency care because, apart from prisons, it is the ultimate captive market…" And as someone who works in healthcare, I can tell you these groups denigrate, over work, and cheat those doctors as much as they can just to soak out a few more dollars at the end of the day. And I've seen one doctor I loved working with (you can read that as, "they are a very good doctor") forced out to replaced by some, whom if they were working when I would need emergency services, I'd tell the ambulance to keep on driving. (Grokked from Kameron Hurley)

"Joker director Todd Phillips has questioned why the violent John Wick movies are 'held to a different standard' than his own." Clueless director is clueless. To be fair, in Hollywood they try to boil things down to basic elements that can be repeated. In Todd Phillips head, this is just "a violent character" in the movie. And violence sells. The action may be exactly the same, and cinematographers and editors study how to recreate items (this is why you'll see some things repeated ad nauseam, such as "two characters fighting as they fall" which was big a few years ago). Ambrose Bierce once said, "There are four kinds of Homicide: felonious, excusable, justifiable, and praiseworthy." Mr. Phillips doesn't realize he picked from the wrong half of that statement.

Sure we're a post-racial society. "Three sixth-grade boys are accused of pinning down a fellow classmate -- a 12-year-old girl -- on the playground and cutting her dreadlocks because they are 'nappy' and 'ugly.'" Since the school has a "zero-tolerance" policy, I'm assuming these boys, who have bullied this girl before, and after an investigation if they're are found to have done this, will be expelled no matter who their parents are or how much they can pay. Yeah, I'm not holding my breath either. (Grokked from Kathryn Cramer)

"You don't know where people are coming from. You don't know their stories. And you shouldn't need to. Everyone deserves respect and space. So don't tell me what I'm eating is bad for me. You didn't see all the times I wasn't eating enough." Seanan McGuire tweet-storm on how our childhood's have shaped out bodies as well as our minds. We were on those free (and later "reduced cost") lunches. We ate leftovers. Burger King was a luxury. Not everyone becomes bulimic, but most of us have unhealthy relationships with food. Pop is my crutch (and I miss it as much as a drug-addict can). When I have it I feel like I used to. But I've gotten "well" enough that I reduce my intake as much as possible and I no longer get headaches when I don't have it. For some gods forsaken reason I still like mac 'n cheese (the box stuff, save that fancy-ass real melted cheese-bake for someone else) and tuna casserole, but I can't stomach raman noodles anymore. And not eating everything (on my plate, offered for free, shared office food, whatever) is still a trouble for me. Last night at the hospital we were offered free burgers and hotdogs (at 9:30 pm) and it took real willpower to not get both, and the chips, and the cookie, and the diet pop (fortunately I hate diet pop and feel unpleasantly drunk when I have it). So yeah, if you ever want to know why I focus on stories like this, where the conservatives want to roll back these nutrition programs (SNAP, free-lunches in schools, etc), it's because I don't want to fuck up another generation.

"The Alaska Permanent Fund Dividend (PFD), the yearly distribution of unconditional cash to all Alaska residents, is providing researchers with a one-of-a-kind source of information on the effect of a universal basic income (UBI) on socioeconomic well-being. The latest study shows that a $1,000 PFD reduces the probability of an Alaskan child being obese by the age of three by as much as 4.5 percentage points. That translates to about a 22 percent reduction in obesity."

"With deer season just around the corner, the Centers for Disease Control are warning hunters about tuberculosis… Officials with the CDC issued the warning after learning that a man likely contracted tuberculosis after dressing a deer." When the deer bite back.

"That’s because a large subsection of the commentariat driving the abuse of Greta (Thunberg) is part of an established network of radical free-marketeer lobby groups — a network that has firm ties to the fossil fuel industry and funders of climate science denial." They're afraid of a child. Seriously, grown (white) men are so threatened by what she is saying that they are coordinating attacks on her. Well, I guess at least one side is taking her seriously. SO in case you ever wanted to know how the adults actually responded in The Emperor's New Clothes here's your example. (Grokked from Ellen Datlow)

"Vimeo is collecting and storing thousands of people's facial biometrics without their permission or knowledge, a recently filed lawsuit alleges." Because they could do it, and there's money to be made. Just wait until someone realizes that they could scrape through Instagram, Facebook, Twitter and other sources to build a facial recognition database they could sell, without even launching a media service of their own. It would be illegal, and highly immoral, but I think we all know that's not an impediment to some (coughFtMeadecough). You know, sorta like how Google and Apple can tell you who is in your photographs to help you tag people easier. Guess how they do that. (Grokked from John)

"A North Carolina detective was fired after he was accused of sending inappropriate messages to an alleged victim of sexual assault whose case he had investigated, officials said Wednesday."

Oh no, it was just a joke, all the photos of people with the okay sign. See, conservative were baiting liberals. "On Thursday, the Anti-Defamation League, a Jewish civil rights organization, added 36 symbols to its 'Hate on Display' database including the index finger-to-thumb sign that in some corners of the Internet has become associated with white supremacy and the far right." I guess not everybody got the memo about it being a joke.

"President Trump has ordered that the number of refugees allowed to resettle in the U.S. in the coming year be cut nearly in half to 18,000… The limit represents the lowest number of refugees seeking protection from violence or political persecution allowed into the country since the modern refugee program was established in 1980." Our country is so great, we can't share it with anybody else.

"Even among the president’s closest allies, Giuliani is now the subject of scorn. When I reached him by phone this morning, following House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff’s release of the full whistle-blower complaint at the center of the Ukraine scandal, he was, put simply, very angry… 'It is impossible that the whistle-blower is a hero and I’m not. And I will be the hero! These morons—when this is over, I will be the hero,' Giuliani told me." It's not the first time he's been reportedly on the outs. But this is what happens when you lose control of the spin. The abusive personalities emerge in the public, and the rats start tossing each other overboard. (Grokked from Robert J Bennett)

"House Democrats have warned President Trump to stop his 'reprehensible witness intimidation' aimed at the whistleblower whose complaint document has triggered the escalating Ukraine scandal."

"The whistleblower complaint released Thursday charges that White House officials attempted to limit access to potentially damaging details about President Trump's call with Ukraine's president by using a classified system reserved for highly sensitive information… If this allegation is true, former National Security Council officials say, it would represent a highly unusual misuse of procedures that were created to keep America's most important intelligence secrets safe." Allow me to translate; "highly unusual" in spy talk is "what the fuck?"

"It might be too early to invoke the specter of the Watergate scandal that cost President Richard Nixon his job 45 years ago. But President Donald Trump's pressure on Ukraine to investigate 2020 presidential challenger Joe Biden is increasingly drawing comparisons to one of America's darkest chapters." Only in the most broadest of terms and actions when viewed from a few miles high. Dear Media, I understand that Watergate is a fascinating story of journalism, but stop trying to relive those glory days. We need you here in the present to focus on what is happening. Also, Nixon was four-times as smart and six-times as savvy as Trump. Guiliani is not Dean.

Just an observation, you may remember news reports about many big-time donors to the GOP threatening to withhold support if the GOP didn't push a certain agenda (Obamacare repeal, Justice Kavanaugh, etc). So this kind of transactional extortion (and that's what the call was about) is normal operating procedure in their world view. This is why many in the GOP choose the willful ignorance to say there was nothing wrong here. They know it was wrong. That's why the transcripts were routed to the code-word secure server. Democrats aren't in the clear here, there are reports that Wall Street donors have issued a similar threat to pull their money from 2020. The democrats should publicize that, and tell them to get bent.

"Jeffries is a Democrat and an avid hip-hop devotee, while Collins is a Republican who favors country music. Jeffries hails from a largely urban New York district, and much further south, Collins represents a largely rural pocket in northeast Georgia… Yet, somehow this duo found common ground to pass a major policy initiative this past year." I'm old enough to remember when this wasn't unusual.

Remember when people were saying, "Of course the NRA was able to compartmentalize the Russian money and they would never…" "Drawing on contemporaneous emails and private interviews, an 18-month probe by the Senate Finance Committee's Democratic staff found that the NRA underwrote political access for Russian nationals Maria Butina and Alexander Torshin more than previously known — even though the two had declared their ties to the Kremlin." At the very least they should lose their tax-exempt status. Now here I should state most people who helped the former Soviet Union (now diminished into Russia) didn't do it for ideological causes, they did it for the money. Usually very low sums.

"Former Rep. Darrell Issa, a once powerful chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee who retired last year, says he wants to return to Washington… And he is seeking to unseat a fellow Republican to do so." So, conservatives, which crook do you want representing you?

Thursday, September 26, 2019

Linkee-poo with the lights out, it's less dangerous, here we are now, entertain us

The whistleblower complaint as stored on the government servers. This is not normal. And while many have commented on various piece of the complaint, I just would like to point you to a line in the Classified Appendix (which has not been redacted), "According to White House officials I spoke with, this was "not the first time" under this Administration that a Presidential transcript was placed into this codeword-level system solely for the purpose of protecting politically sensitive – rather than national security sensitive – information." There are other conversations possibly with multiple foreign leaders that could place the president in political jeopardy and they've tried to cover them up by placing the transcripts on an offline server meant for national security interests. (Grokked from Kameron Hurley)

"However, in recent years, the scientific community has become understandably excited and skeptical about claims that a particular concept – the Alcubierre Warp Drive – might actually be feasible." You know, except for the energy needed to cause that ripple in space-time. To get a feel for that, we have just recently been able to "see" exceeding minute fluctuations in space-time caused by black holes and neutron stars colliding. IIRC, an initial investigation showed you would need to harvest the energy from 10 simultaneous super-nova.

You might remember me having mentioned what happens when a buffer reaches it's limits. "The world’s oceans have long helped to stave off climate change by absorbing heat and carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. But that is changing, with devastating consequences for humanity in the coming decades, leading researchers warn in a high-level report commissioned by the United Nations." We're boned.

"Three Mile Island nuclear power plant in Pennsylvania stopped producing electricity at noon on Friday, part of Exelon Corp.'s plan to close and decommission the plant over the next 60 years… The closure comes 40 years after the partial meltdown of the plant's reactor No. 2… Tens of thousands evacuated amid uncertainty about the accident. Some radiation was released, but officials said it was within acceptable levels. Yet many who live in the area are convinced that their health problems in later years were related to the accident." Repeat after me, there is no safe level of exposure. There is only a level of exposure that is not expected to raise a population's chances of getting cancer to level where it is noticeably out of the norm.

Meanwhile, across the river in Ohio… "The intense fight over a petition drive seeking to overturn Ohio's nuclear bailout law is escalating with a counter petition now circulating around the state. The pro-nuclear bailout group is calling it a grassroots effort which doubles down on their anti-foreign investors’ message." First Energy (Solutions) is very committed to this fight.

"Beyond Meat's stock soars after McDonald's to test Beyond Meat-made plant-based burger." Wow, I didn't know they could scale so quickly.

"The researchers report finding nonhuman milk residue inside a type of ancient spouted clay bowl that sometimes featured animal feet and heads. The earliest examples of this kind of vessel — which the researchers are calling prehistoric baby bottles — date back more than 7,000 years." Bottle feeding goes that far back?

"Stacy Jupiter realized how dangerous flooding was becoming in her adopted home of Fiji in 2009 when she flew back after a vacation and landed on an island in crisis." She was just named a MacArthur fellow.

"'Plácido Domingo has agreed to withdraw from all future performances at the Met, with immediate effect. We are grateful to him for recognizing that he needed to step down.'"

"A California man faces arson and attempted murder charges after allegedly lighting a homeless man's cardboard encampment on fire while the man was sleeping in it."

"A New Zealand university is investigating after the body of a student was found in one of its residences this week, nearly two months after he died in his room."

"Federal prosecutors are charging 11 doctors with unlawfully distributing opioids and other substances, in the second large operation to target 'pill mill' operators and health care fraud this year. Two other people also face charges in the sting."

"Barring an eleventh-hour agreement, the U.S. Postal Service (USPS) will leave the Universal Postal Union (UPU) on October 17, ending 144 years of U.S. involvement in the international body that governs the exchange of mail and postal parcels between countries, and perhaps fundamentally changing the landscape of global air shipping." Get ready to pay more… for everything shipped anywhere. (Grokked from Laura J Mixon)

How goes Brexit? "Just one day after the British Supreme Court dealt the country's prime minister a devastating blow, ruling that Boris Johnson's suspension of Parliament was 'unlawful, void and of no effect and should be quashed,' the U.K. lawmaking body is back in session." Time to walk all the the accoutrements back to the House of Commons.

"The House of Commons — one of the most venerated democratic institutions in the world — descended into an atmosphere of vitriol and disbelief, as enemies and allies alike condemned language used by Prime Minister Boris Johnson as he continues in his quest to take the United Kingdom out of the European Union by Oct. 31."

How go the Trade Wars? "An American investigator traveled there last year, trying to find out if the factory really produced the pencils, as a U.S. importer claimed, or was simply repackaging pencils from China, as a competitor suspected. Chinese pencils have long been subject to a stiff anti-dumping tariff, which would have more than doubled the importer's cost."

"The agreement calls for lower Japanese tariffs on U.S. farm exports such as beef and pork. It also locks in tariff-free digital commerce. But it does not address the president's threat to level punishing tariffs on imported cars from Japan. A top trade negotiator says Trump has no plans to act on that threat for now." When you need to notch a win, sometimes you take half-a-deal and claim victory.

"Israel's president on Wednesday tapped Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to attempt to form a new government. The move could give Netanyahu up to six weeks to haggle for political allies." Uh, yeah. He didn't get the most votes.

"Saudi Arabia’s crown prince said he bears responsibility for the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi last year by Saudi operatives 'because it happened under my watch,' according to a PBS documentary to be broadcast next week." Well, I was in the room, but I couldn't hear what people were saying.

"Facebook this week finally put into writing what users—especially politically powerful users—have known for years: its community 'standards' do not, in fact, apply across the whole community. Speech from politicians is officially exempt from the platform's fact checking and decency standards, the company has clarified, with a few exceptions." Some are more equal than others. (Grokked from John)

"A Senate staffer told Washington Free Beacon reporter Stephen Gutowski that 'gun legislation is dead, at least for the time being, because of the impeachment inquiry' that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced Tuesday." Yeah, except it never really had a chance to begin with. This is just a "look what you made me do" excuse. They'll blame this for the do nothing Senate, but "In fact, the House has passed 395 pieces of legislation since January. McConnell has blocked nearly all of them and compared himself to the 'Grim Reaper' as he vowed to block future legislation."

How did we come to this? "The two Democratic leaders… had been united in their bid to suppress the growing impeachment push within the caucus. Now, Pelosi informed Hoyer, she was going to change her position and formally back an impeachment inquiry into Trump… Hoyer responded that he’d come to the same conclusion over the weekend…"

"President Trump told Ukraine's president that 'a lot of people want to find out' about former Vice President Joe Biden family's activities in Ukraine and asked him to be in touch with Trump attorney, Rudy Giuliani, and Attorney General Bill Barr." "I would like to ask a favor…" Wrap him up.

"Earlier this week, President Trump cited concerns about corruption as his rationale for blocking security assistance to Ukraine. But in a letter sent to four congressional committees in May of this year and obtained by NPR, Undersecretary of Defense for Policy John Rood informed lawmakers that he 'certified that the Government of Ukraine has taken substantial actions to make defense institutional reforms for the purposes of decreasing corruption [and] increasing accountability.'"

"Prominent GOP consultant Mike Murphy claimed on Wednesday that he was told by a Republican senator that the majority of Republican senators 'would vote to impeach' President Donald Trump if they could do so anonymously." And they love him in the emails. My guess is there are some, but not as many as is thought of here. Now if only they had the courage of their convictions and would come out publicly.

"The Trump administration's release of notes documenting President Donald Trump's conversation with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy has raised questions about Trump's relationship with Attorney General William Barr and whether he views Barr as someone whose job includes advocating for him on personal matters." That was, after all, Barr's calling card for the job.

"The nation's top spy told lawmakers on Thursday that he supports the whistleblower whose complaint sparked the Ukraine affair but said he struggled to deal with how to handle the case inside the Trump administration."

"Whistleblowing dates back to the nation's earliest days and, since then, it has been a risky and controversial exercise." Just a little lite exercise.

Wednesday, September 25, 2019

Linkee-poo here's hoping all the days ahead won't be as bitter as the ones behind you

"(Joanne) Harris said: 'I’ve seen a number of debut authors emerge and get very large initial advances - which is great for a debut author - but it doesn’t necessarily mean that the publisher will value that author beyond their debut. We’re getting a generation of twenty-somethings being praised and paraded around for their debut because it’s a debut and then we just don’t hear about them again. Their second novel - which if often a bit of a problematic one to do anyway - may not necessarily do as well, has not necessarily been pushed as much. Their career instead of moving upwards and building on its success ends up kind of dwindling. They get replaced by the next big debut.'" (Grokked from Terri Windling)

"A Japanese cargo ship successfully launched to the International Space Station Tuesday (Sept. 24), lifting off two weeks late due a launch pad fire during its first liftoff attempt."

"Sixteen-year-old Greta Thunberg from Sweden is the new face of the environmentalist movement… But while personalizing a movement, especially with the innocent face of a child, is usually PR gold, Greta’s ascendancy to the forefront of environmental activism could end up being a major negative to the movement – and the environment." Ah, the old industry standard retort, attacking the messenger, claiming she's being "manipulated" by "adults", and trying the, "but you'll regret it" tactic. Also note where they want the fight to be, "Greta, and the adults guiding her, are seeking to shift almost all the focus from personal responsibility to governments and big corporations to enact environmental reform." See, this "pollution" problem isn't the result of governments or big corporations, it's all on everybody and don't you feel ashamed for that? Fuck you, old man. "If the activists protesting right now could get the most serious climate change threats eliminated, but without politically defeating President Trump and Republicans and/or putting the big oil companies out of business in the process, would they still be interested in the cause?" Yes, you bloviating fucktard. And then the classic, "but they're not doing the hard work (so why should we)?" And that's why Greta crossed the ocean in a boat instead of just flying.

"Cities from New York to Shanghai could see regular flooding, as sea levels rise faster than previously thought… Glaciers and ice sheets from the Himalayas to Antarctica are rapidly melting… And the fisheries that feed millions of people are shrinking." We're boned.

"It’s time to run a Windows update on your Microsoft computer… The tech giant has issued two emergency warnings."

"Thomas Cook holidaymakers and crew are free to leave Cuba, according to the Civil Aviation Authority… Repatriation flights have been arranged with the aid of the British Ambassador to Cuba, it said." With some inside into the business of tourism and travel companies.

"Thomas Cook staff say they have been stranded overseas and fear they will not receive thousands of pounds in wages, following the collapse of the world's oldest tour operator."

"Corporate insiders — board members and C-suite executives — are selling stock in their own companies at the fastest rate since the peak of the dot-com bubble, according to a U.K. analysis firm called Smart Insider, first reported by the Financial Times." It's just a quick bit of news without much discussion, but yeah, what, me worry?

"The United States led more than 30 countries in condemning what it called China’s 'horrific campaign of repression' against Muslims in Xinjiang at an event on the sidelines of the U.N. General Assembly that was denounced by China." Great, now address the problem of xenophobia (which isn't really the case, but it's the way those who are against muslims view it) here in the US.

"Federal judges yesterday issued a stinging rebuke to the Federal Communications Commission, saying the agency's justification for eliminating media-ownership limits 'would receive a failing grade in any introductory statistics class.'" Ouch. (Grokked from John)

"The battle between the Trump administration and California escalated Tuesday as the Environmental Protection Agency threatened to withhold billions in federal highway aid because California has, in the EPA's words, 'the worst air quality in the United States.'" You know, after the same people made a move to remove California's ability to set stricter car emissions levels and are trying to rollback air quality regulations.

"Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said Tuesday 'we're going to find out what happened' about a whistleblower's complaint regarding President Donald Trump and said he expects the Senate Intelligence Committee will conduct a 'responsible, rather apolitical, at least bipartisan' probe of the matter… But the Kentucky Republican and his fellow GOP senators did not explicitly commit to pushing for the full complaint turned over to the committee." If it's going to be "bipartisan" is has to be complete, and not start off with partisan blinders installed.

How' the impeachment playing to the right? Let's go to Fox. "With Nancy Pelosi finally bowing to Democratic pressure and launching a formal impeachment inquiry, many in the media may be getting their wish… After all, many pundits, especially on the left, longed for the same outcome during the Russia investigation, only to be bitterly disappointed." Yes, yes, it's just like the Mueller report which only implicated the president in obstruction of justice (and wasn't charged because of William Barr's mental hurdle which is not held by all lawyers) and put people in jail. Add in a lot of "both sides" and "whataboutism" it pretty standard dreck from the Ministry of Bullshit, that it's all the "leftist" media's fault. "The impeachment push from House Democrats is likely to 'blow up in the faces of Democrats and the media like an exploding cigar,' Fox News legal analyst Gregg Jarrett predicted on 'Fox & Friends' Wednesday." Ah, there's the money shot. See, this is just really bad for Democrats. And the president has been working hard to release the transcript of the call and the whistleblower complain (which there's a distraction about how this isn't a whistleblower complaint because people can't blow the whistle on the president).

"Ralph Waldo Emerson once said, 'When you strike at a king, you must kill him.' That’s what House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) has to worry about as House Democrats move closer to initiating impeachment proceedings against President Donald Trump. What if Trump is acquitted?" People are playing this as "if he's not removed by the Senate it'll just make him stronger, like it did for Clinton." So let me call bs on this right now. As I said last night, the Democrats (because there won't be much support from the Republicans, at least not at first) have to frame this as, "you'd have to be stupid or complicit in crimes to exonerate this president." And "oh, the polls aren't there right now." Sure they aren't. Most people aren't paying attention (most people don't). An investigation and hearings (most of which should be public, those that aren't should release redacted transcripts within 48 hours) will make the case against the president. As that goes on, the poll needles should move. Also noted for the "Dems just want a redo on 2016 election" for which the main players must make the case strongly that this is about the president's actions since then. There's a whole bunch of other bs in the article.

What happens when bullies get caught in their own net? "'Shut up moron, shut up' the president’s legal representative (Giuliani) shouted over the left-wing pundit. 'You don’t know what you’re talking about idiot. You’re just lying…just keep your lying mouth shut.'" This was about a comment Chris Hahn made that the government asked Giuliani to go to the Ukraine and pressure them to investigate Biden… something Giuliani has basically admitted to. When they can't control the spin, they try to shut it down.

"The White House is set to release a transcript Wednesday of President Trump's scrutinized call this summer with the new Ukrainian president. But that likely won't quell the growing movement toward impeachment in Congress." Democrats need to make sure everybody understands that 1) we need the whistleblower complaint because that's what this is really about and 2) this incident is just one of many things the president has done which warrant impeachment (including the wonky emoluments clause).

"Freshman Rep. Lance Gooden (R-Texas) introduced a resolution aimed at removing House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler (N.Y.) from his role as the top Democrat on the panel responsible for handling impeachment proceedings." Just add his name to the list.

"Rep. Adam Schiff has assumed control of what appears to be the single most consequential scandal facing Donald Trump’s presidency — and, for the moment, is driving a narrative that could lead to Trump’s impeachment." And there's another diminishing angle, it's just a fight between two people.

Tuesday, September 24, 2019

Linkee-poo late edition

"After months of expressing caution on a push for impeachment, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi launched a formal impeachment inquiry into President Trump Tuesday." So now we can stop tiptoeing around the elephant in the room. And while the media will focus on the Ukraine call, the Democrats better not limit their actions to that.

Of course, Trump has said he will release the transcript of the call with the Ukrainian President to show it was entirely above board. He's described the conversation as "perfect." No one describes their own conversations that way. That's what people say when you're accomplished all the points you had preplanned in the way that was outlined in advance. "Perfect" is a debate rating. So, yes, I expect that any conversation there had enough plausible deniability to pass the spin-cycle. But then, competency has never been this administration's calling card.

And again I'll say that speculation about the Ukraine call is just that, speculation. There's no actual confirmation that the whistleblower complaint was about, or only about, the Ukraine call.

The Democrats now have hard work ahead of them. They need to construct their argument, the testimony, their conversations with the press and public, all in a way that would make absolving this president and overt act of abandoning the Constitution and any pretense at being a nation of laws. Voting for this president should be seen as a vote against democracy. And no, I don't think they'll do a good job of it. The desire to grandstand and the Democrats propensity to believe everyone knows everything they know and can see through the bullshit is well known.

John Scalzi has a quick and decent analysis of this (and the Brexit thing). The path to "victory" (for various definitions of victory) is narrow, and it will need to be played well. And as John states, the Democrats aren't really known for their finesse and deftness.

But for the moment, while we can't "enjoy" what we (as a nation) are going to go through these next eight months (and yes, it might take that long or longer), we can have some hope we are going in the right direction. For the moment.

And saddle up, cause this process is going be at least twice the effort it took to get to this point. And you can expect the GOP to make this as unpleasant (including strife between people, friends, family, coworkers) as possible. There may be some violence, there will be reprisals, and it will not be "fun."

But it will determine if our experiment with democracy has some more life to it, or if we are fated to tyranny and rule by despots.

Linkee-poo, clowns to the left of me, jokers to the right

Neil Gaiman answers some questions about writing.

"A 6.0-magnitude earthquake struck near Puerto Rico late Monday, scaring and rousing many from their sleep in the U.S. territory."

"Just four years after a major marine heat wave killed nearly half of (Hawaii) coastline's coral, federal researchers are predicting another round of hot water will cause some of the worst coral bleaching the region has ever experienced."

"Greta Thunberg has a message for world leaders at the United Nations this week: 'We'll be watching you.' Speaking at the Climate Action Summit in New York, Thunberg added, 'This is all wrong. I shouldn't be up here. I should be back in school, on the other side of the ocean.'"

"Posting a fatalistic statement the Swedish teen had made earlier Monday at the United Nations' special meeting on climate change, Trump tweeted: 'She seems like a very happy young girl looking forward to a bright and wonderful future. So nice to see!'" Well it's good to know the president wouldn't be a patronizing asshole about this.

"From mammoths to passenger pigeons, we have driven our favorite meals to extinction through overhunting and habitat destruction. And globally, our tendency to overharvest just a narrow range of crops has limited the variety of foods we eat."

"Making genes from scratch used to be laborious and time consuming, but not anymore. That's why federal officials are now considering new measures to prevent this rapidly advancing technology from being misused to create dangerous viruses or bioweapons." O brave new world that has such people in it.

"It turns out the woman was suffering from an unpredictable condition called methemoglobinemia, which can be brought on by certain drugs or, in some cases, can be inherited. In this case, the culprit was benzocaine in a topical treatment she used to relieve her toothache. Benzocaine is commonly used as a local anesthetic in other over-the-counter products for things like minor cuts and poison ivy." (Grokked from John)

"For people who live with chronic pain, getting up, out and moving can seem daunting. Some fear that physical activity will make their pain worse. But in fact, researchers find the opposite is true: The right kind of exercise can help reduce pain."

"Since her death in March, Evee has served as a literal poster child for the anti-vaccination movement. Her face and chunky legs… are featured on anti-vaccination websites and billboards. The story of her death is told at protests, read aloud at statehouses, and offered up by her mother and other activists as proof of the horror vaccines can bring." Only that's not what happened, and the parents of children who die suddenly are being recruited into the anti-vax movement.

"Now, new computer models show that a habitable Venus was not only possible but likely."

"The EU's top court has ruled that Google does not have to apply the right to be forgotten globally… It means the firm only needs to remove links from its search results in Europe - and not elsewhere - after receiving an appropriate request." So, apparently after complaining about how hard it would be to remove all linking to erroneous information, it's easier to block those search results just in the EU… Uh, yeah, Bob.

"The tales of credit card gamesmanship can verge on the extreme. There's the guy who opened a credit card and immediately bought $3,000 worth of Amazon gift cards — just to qualify for the sign-up bonus. Another filled his garage with blenders to take advantage of a promotion offering extra points on appliances." An incidental and unplanned tale of two societies, the haves and the have-nots who try to play the same game. "However, one survey found that nearly 60% of reward cards holders don't pay off their balances each month. That statistic troubles personal finance experts, because credit card interest rates are at a 25-year high."

"The Labor Department is expanding the pool of workers eligible for overtime pay by about 1.3 million workers, an update to rules that is more than four decades in the making… But many critics say the rules finalized Tuesday should have been rewritten to benefit more workers who routinely work over 40 hours a week without additional pay." And it doesn't address people who work more than one job.

How goes Brexit? "The U.K. Supreme Court has ruled unanimously that the suspension of Parliament that was recently orchestrated by Prime Minister Boris Johnson was illegal. In light of the decision, the House of Commons will convene on Wednesday, Speaker John Bercow says."

"An Orlando elementary school resource officer who arrested two 6-year-olds in two separate incidents was fired Monday, said Orlando Police Chief Orlando Rolon."

"The remains of right-wing dictator General Francisco Franco can be exhumed, Spain's Supreme court ruled Tuesday, resolving an issue that has divided opinion for decades."

"'If migrant family units do not claim fear of return, they will be quickly returned to their country of origin, in close collaboration with Central American countries,' the statement (from DHS) read. 'If they do claim fear, they will generally be returned to Mexico under the Migrant Protection Protocols (MPP).'" Performative cruelty.

"At the U.N. General Assembly on Tuesday, President Trump told world leaders to reject 'globalism' and to look out for the interests of their own countries first." So, anyone want to discuss how "globalists" is anti-semitic? And also how if he's into this sovereign navel-gazing why is he so worked up about Iran.

"A 24-year-old soldier in Kansas who allegedly planned to fight with a violent far-right group in Ukraine was charged Monday with distributing bomb-making information over social media, according to the Justice Department."

"A new report from the Vietnam Veterans Association has uncovered an ongoing two-year effort by actors in several foreign countries, including Russia, to target U.S. veterans and servicemembers." Oh, our madcap friends in Russia. Funny how they also mention Italy (it's an inside joke). (Grokked from Jim Wright)

"President Donald Trump asked his acting chief of staff Mick Mulvaney to put a hold on millions in military aid to Ukraine roughly one week before a call with the Ukrainian president in which he pressured the country to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden's son, two senior administration officials said on Monday."

"(The president and his supporters) argue that Joe Biden wanted the prosecutor ousted to protect his son from being investigated. But there has been no evidence of wrongdoing, and Joe Biden was tasked as vice president with helping to weed out corruption in Ukraine."

"Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) knocked Democrats on Monday, accusing them of trying to 'politicize' a whistleblower complaint reportedly involving President Trump's phone calls with Ukraine's leader." Because this… wouldn't involve politics somehow? Look, Mitchel, I know this is just the "playbook", but seriously, you look fucking stupid trying this when what you mean to say is you're upset this is going to be hashed out in the open, instead of where you could keep it all under wraps.

Monday, September 23, 2019

Linkee-poo on a Monday

The alligators are back and making up for lost time.

"And the financial side of publishing can be opaque, unfair, and downright contradictory. Combined with the distinctly American habit of not wanting to sully talk of artistry with talk of money, this means that many people who want to make writing their full-time career have no idea how the money part of writing actually works. In this TED talk I will answer some of the most common questions I get as a literary agent about the money side of things. I will try not to make it too depressing." Gods help me, I still wanna… (Grokked from Cat Rambo)

"Two Muslim men said that their American Airlines flight was cancelled and they were harassed by law-enforcement because the flight's crew 'didn't feel comfortable' after they waved hello to each other, the Dallas Morning News reported on Thursday." Apparently it's suspicious if you meet someone you know, but aren't traveling "with" on an airplane. Also if you double-flush a toilet. (Grokked from Kathryn Cramer)

"But after what her grandmother says happened on Thursday, the bubbly 6-year-old has little room to focus on school. Meralyn Kirkland got a call from a school resource officer saying Kaia was arrested." Apparently she kicked another kid. But arrested? Seriously?

"Authorities say a Florida police officer has been suspended and is being investigated after arresting a 6-year-old and an 8-year-old for separate incidents at their schools."

"Iran's Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif says his country will not succumb to economic pressure by the Trump administration."

"The British-flagged oil tanker Stena Impero is 'free to leave,' Iranian officials said Monday, marking the end of a two-month standoff between Tehran and London over the detained vessel." I wonder what the UK offered, or if this is some attempt at perspective changing to the rest of the world?

"US Vice President Mike Pence traveled by motorcade on the historically car-free Mackinac Island in Michigan on Saturday. The incident was documented in a video taken and tweeted by the Detroit Free Press's Paul Egan." Well, first of all there are motorized vehicles on the island such as the ambulances and police cars. And it appears that the VP would have had to bring those cars with him. And while there is some argument to be made about "security", it's largely bullshit. Also, for someone to have "visited Mackinac often while growing up and into adulthood" he should have known better. But, again, this administration (and the GOP in general) don't believe the rules apply to them.

"President Donald Trump's phone call with a foreign leader that has become the focus of a complaint to the director of national intelligence's inspector general involved Ukraine, multiple sources familiar with the matter tell ABC News." (Grokked from Kathryn Cramer)

"On Sunday, Trump confirmed that he had discussed Democratic presidential frontrunner Joe Biden during a congratulatory phone call on July 25 with the new Ukrainian president, Volodymyr Zelensky."

"Donald Trump’s lawyers insist they don’t need to form an impeachment defense team… Yet here’s what they have: At least 30 White House and Justice Department attorneys who have worked on related issues. Several personal lawyers for the president dealing with the subject. A lurking presence at Capitol Hill impeachment-focused hearings. Aggressive legal briefs and countersuits foiling efforts to gather fuel for potential proceedings. Near-daily media appearances discussing the topic."

"U.S. President Donald Trump and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi shared a stage and showered each other with praise on Sunday at a 'Howdy, Modi!' rally attended by upward of 50,000 people, a rare mass showing for a foreign leader on American soil." One nationalist meets another.

Friday, September 20, 2019

Linkee-poo, you want a piece of my heart, you better start from start

Well there's floodin' down in Texas, all the telephone lines are down. "'Major, catastrophic flooding is occurring across much of southeast Texas,' the National Weather Service says, warning that Tropical Depression Imelda is producing extreme rainfall. With more intense rain in the forecast, the agency says, some areas could see rain totals of 25 to 35 inches through Friday."

And here in NE Ohio… "With harvest season in full swing for farmers, small and large agricultural equipment could be on the road and some machinery is wider than the lanes, which makes passing difficult." Lots of minivans out here function as Amish taxis, and they're as annoying as the farm equipment and the buggies.

Also will just mention this past week the change in the trees has been noticeable. Leaves have been falling since August, but the color of the ones left went very yellow (meaning Chlorophyll is breaking down and photosynthesis is nearing it's end for the season).

"Three studies published Wednesday in the journal Nature found that these deadly tumors (high-grade gliomas) integrate themselves into the brain's electrical network and then hijack signals from healthy nerve cells to fuel their own growth." Fuck cancer.

"The more a neural pathway is used the stronger it becomes. Intrusive thoughts are the product; they're effectively messages triggered in the nervous system, usually by anxiety or trauma. The good news is, even though intrusive thoughts feel magnetic, because they are real physiological events, there are concrete things we can do to get 'unstuck.' Here are a few…" (Grokked from Anne Wheaton)

"The U.S. government will spend $3 million to find out if marijuana can relieve pain, but none of the money will be used to study the part of the plant that gets people high."

"In 2017, the abortion rate — which measures how common abortion is among women of childbearing age — dropped to 13.5 abortions per 1,000 women ages 15 to 44, down from 14.6 in 2014. That continues a downward trend since the peak in 1980 of 29.3." The birth rate is also down, suggesting lower pregnancy rates overall. The void stares back into you. "Because of his work, Winter has dozens of such images lodged in his brain, and there's no telling what might activate a memory. ISIS atrocities interrupt dinner parties, casual conversations, peaceful moments with his daughter. Winter searched for information about how to process the graphic pictures swirling in his head, but he found almost nothing about potential trauma in his field."

"Raman’s team has developed a potential solution: a simple thermoelectric device that generates power when it’s exposed to the cold night sky. It’s made possible by a phenomenon called radiative sky cooling."

So, how are the actual canaries in this coal mine doing? "Nearly 3 billion fewer birds exist in North America today than in 1970… While scientists have known for decades that certain kinds of birds have struggled as humans (and bird-gobbling cats) encroach on their habitats, a new comprehensive tally shows the staggering extent of the loss. Nearly 1 in 3 birds — or 29 percent — has vanished in the last half century, researchers report September 19 in Science." We're boned. Oh, and… "But the study offers some hope. Populations of waterfowl, like mallard ducks and Canadian geese, have grown 56 percent since 1970." Fan-fucking-tastic.

"Archaeologists excavated part of the old city center of Yaroslavl, Russia, between 2005 and 2010 as part of an effort to restore its cathedral. During the digs, they discovered nine medieval mass graves holding the remains of at least 300 people, dating from the sack of the city by Mongols."

"Amazon will be stepping up its efforts to reduce its climate impact, CEO Jeff Bezos announced on Thursday. The company will be ordering 100,000 electric delivery trucks from Michigan’s Rivian as part of this commitment, Bezos said. The commerce giant will seek to meet its goal of becoming carbon-neutral by 2040 — 10 years earlier than is outlined by the United Nations Paris Agreement." (Grokked from Robert J Bennett)

"But methane, another carbon-based compound, is emerging as a wild card in the climate-change equation. If CO2 has a warming effect akin to wrapping the planet in a sheet, the less-understood methane is more like a wool blanket." And methane levels are increasing, but we don't have a firm grasp on why and where it's all coming from (hint, as permafrost thaws, it releases methane trapped beneath). We're boned.

"The mission is known as the Multidisciplinary drifting Observatory for the Study of Arctic Climate, or MOSAiC. Its overarching goal is to collect a vast trove of data that can help improve how the Arctic is represented in climate models." Getting frozen in for science.

"Researchers are discovering something unnerving about artificial intelligence. It's easy to fool - so easy, in fact, there's a whole field of study known as adversarial AI that actually aims to make artificial intelligence a little smarter." That's because it's not actually AI, it's machine learning which we are now calling AI (because we've waited so long for AI). And just like humans, machines will take shortcuts.

"The 2,246 medically preserved fetal remains were discovered days after Klopfer died earlier this month at the age of 79. Illinois officials are now turning the investigation over to the Indiana attorney general. Though he may have violated some Illinois laws related to how these remains should have been handled, officials there don't believe there's any role for prosecutors in Illinois since Klopfer has died." I expect we'll be hearing about this for decades (and the Right-to-Life movement will most certainly attempt to exploit with all their might).

"A crew member who survived the deadly Conception diving boat fire off the coast of California is suing the vessel's owners, saying the staff had not been properly trained." Someone's in a lot of trouble.

"'The fact of the matter is that over the last few years, the market for modern sporting rifles has experienced significant excess manufacturing capacity,' Colt Defense LLC president and CEO Dennis Veilleux said in a statement on Thursday. 'Given this level of manufacturing capacity, we believe there is adequate supply for modern sporting rifles for the foreseeable future.'" Allow me to translate, "we made too many and didn't factor in Trump winning, also the legal liabilities are getting to great.

"The Education Department wrote in an Aug. 29 letter to the Duke-UNC Consortium for Middle East Studies that the program disproportionately portrays 'the positive aspects of Islam.' The agency requested they amend the program by Sept. 22 or lose a grant they've been receiving for almost a decade, The Associated Press reported." Well, we can't have that now, can we. So much for free speech on campus. (Grokked from Saladin Ahmed)

How go the Trade Wars? "China's economy is grinding to its slowest levels of growth in decades… The country's second-quarter growth of 6.2% was the slowest rate seen since it began reporting quarterly figures. The preliminary third-quarter estimate of 6% to 6.5% is the slowest ever forecast."

"As the world's largest crude oil importer, China's heavy dependence on other countries for energy has influenced much of its foreign policy. Beijing is trying to reduce that dependence, but the needs of its growing economy and a trade war with the United States have put it in an awkward position. It's buying more Saudi oil than it has done for years."

"A FedEx pilot was recently detained by Chinese authorities in Guangzhou, a city in southern mainland China. It's the latest in an escalating conflict between the shipping company and the Chinese government."

"Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu suffered a major political setback on Thursday when his chief rival, Benny Gantz, rejected his offer to form a unity coalition together." Looks like it's either another national election, or Netanyahu being forced out.

The Army has met its recruitment goals this year, and many people are wondering why. "Army leadership gathered Tuesday to announce that they surpassed their recruiting goal for 2019, signing up more than 68,000 active duty soldiers before the end of the fiscal year, but the long wars in the Middle East weren’t exactly part of the sales pitch… 'One of the national crises right now is student loans, so $31,000 is [about] the average,' (Maj. Gen. Frank Muth) said. 'You can get out [of the Army] after four years, 100 percent paid for state college anywhere in the United States.'" (Grokked from Kelly Link)

"On Wednesday, just hours after farmers, laborers and children finished their day’s work of plucking pine nuts in the heavily forested area and lit bonfires near their tents, a U.S. drone hit the site, killing 30 civilians and injuring 40 others, according to three Afghan provincial officials." And this is why we're losing Afghanistan.

"The House on Thursday easily passed a stopgap spending measure to avert a shutdown at month’s end. But the hard part is just beginning… Democratic and Republican leaders will spend the next two months attempting to forge a lasting deal to fund the government involving all of the same political landmines that thrust Washington into a 35-day shutdown — and more." Same as it ever was.

"President Trump denied on Thursday he said anything inappropriate to a foreign leader, as reportedly alleged by a government whistle-blower… In a series of tweets, Trump called the report fake news." So it is true.

"The chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., released on Thursday two letters the committee received regarding a whistleblower complaint that administration officials are withholding from Congress." Wow. It's coming to the breaking point where, after following the law and the procedures, the IG is now torn between job requirements. That's never a good place to put an employee and typically ends when the person in the hard place chooses honor, integrity, and the continued functioning of law over direct orders in a policy matter. That's when the Jenga tower of responsibilities falls and spreads damage far and wide. Essentially, you make whistleblowers of everybody. (Grokked from Kathryn Cramer)

Okay, now I'm wondering who hires the personal translators that whisper in the president's ear?

"(Former Sec. of State Rex) Tillerson said despite Israel’s closeness with the U.S., 'In dealing with Bibi, it’s always useful to carry a healthy amount of skepticism in your discussions with him,' recounting that Israel would share 'misinformation' to persuade the U.S. of something if necessary… 'They did that with the president on a couple of occasions, to persuade him that "We’re the good guys, they’re the bad guys." We later exposed it to the president so he understood, "You’ve been played,"' said Tillerson. 'It bothers me that an ally that’s that close and important to us would do that to us.'" I'm sure they aren't the only ones. (Grokked from Chuck Wendig)

"Overnight, Zhukov became the human face of a crackdown on political dissent that Amnesty International calls an 'unprecedented' attack on Russians' freedom of assembly and expression. At demonstrations ahead of Sept. 8 local elections, police beat dozens of protesters and detained hundreds." Waves to my Russian friends.

"Yet now comes another wrinkle to the story. Not only are red and blue America experiencing two different economies, but those economies are diverging fast. In fact, radical change is transforming the two parties’ economies in real time. Which is a key takeaway of a new data analysis—published today—that we developed with the Wall Street Journal’s Aaron Zitner and Dante Chinni." Huhn. There's some fast and lose correlations you could make of this, but most of them would be wrong. Brookings has a distinct liberal bent to their output, but the underlaying data is very interesting. (Grokked from Robert J Bennett)

"President Donald Trump is suing his long-time accounting firm Mazars USA and New York district attorney Cyrus Vance to attempt to stop his accounting records and tax returns from being sent to the local prosecutor, arguing he can't be prosecuted while in the White House." Just because he can't be prosecuted doesn't mean he can't be investigated. And it really isn't so much that he can't be prosecuted while sitting as president, it's just a policy that the DoJ won't pursue prosecution of a sitting president. However, nothing prevents investigations and prosecutions against Mazars USA, the accounting firm at the center of this.

"Senators thawed a long-frozen dispute over election security this week with an agreement to provide more funding ahead of Election Day next year — but not as much as some Democrats and outside activists say is necessary." After weakening the bill significantly, Mitch McConnell agrees to a vote.

Thursday, September 19, 2019

Linkee-poo remembers every little thing as if it happened only yesterday

Life finds a way. "An experimental trial to reduce the number of mosquitoes in a Brazilian town by releasing genetically modified mosquitoes has not gone as planned. Traces of the mutated insects have been detected in the natural population of mosquitoes, which was never supposed to happen." Oopsie.

"The climate model of the Early Eocene—which took place between 48 to 54 million years ago—has provided researchers with the most detailed picture yet of how temperatures rose to 14 degrees Celsius above what they are today." We're boned.

"The Washington Monument will again welcome visitors up to its observation deck… But first, you have to go through security."

"Diabetes activists and legislators have started to focus attention on the surging price of insulin, leading to legislative pushes, lawsuits and congressional hearings. But insulin isn't the only thing people with Type 1 diabetes are struggling to get. Managing the condition requires other essential, often life-saving medical supplies. And patients frequently face hurdles in getting access to those supplies — hurdles put in place by insurance companies." This is why I'd laugh when conservatives talk about bureaucrats getting between you and your doctor. They're already there, but they're just for profit bureaucrats, not public servants. We often get calls about patients coming in on a weekend to get a CT or MRI scan and we have to explain pre-clearance for these tests. If you absolutely need it now, we suggest coming into the ER to get the order (which is way more expensive both to the insurer and the patient). But we don't have the staff to pre-clear scans on the weekend. If the patient is "self-pay" (ie. cash), they can definitely get the scan. If they're willing to take the chance that it might not be paid by the insurance, and they will be on the hook for the full cost, then they can also get the scan.

"Two days before his wedding this past April, Cameron Fischer had one heck of a bachelor party, hitting a few bars in the Old Town section of Fort Collins, Colo., with his friends into the wee hours. The next morning, the 30-year-old IT professional from nearby Loveland woke up with a killer hangover… He was in such bad shape that, with their wedding day fast approaching, Fischer's fiancée urged him to leave their rehearsal dinner in Denver and head to an emergency room to be rehydrated." If you're suffering symptoms like this (headache, vomiting, cramping) more than 8 hours after your last drink, that is not "just a hang-over." And while the bill is astronomical, especially compared to non-emergency services (and yes, stand-alone ERs are just money machines and should be heavily regulated), there are a number of errors in the article. One thing is consent, he says he never consented to a drug screen, but my guess is he did consent to having his blood drawn for "tests" (and the provider didn't specify what tests, or were intentionally vague, if we suspect drug use, yes, we will be vague). But there are many levels of consent, and the majority of them don't require full disclosure or obtaining a signature. Most likely he signed a general consent form which allowed the ER to run all the tests they needed to accurately diagnose and treat him. I am not a doctor, and I don't know all the particulars of this case, but I can tell you when people come in like this with significant symptoms more than a few hours after their last drink our first thoughts are ETOH detox, which is a serious condition (and can leave you with lifelong affects). So yes, it sucks for this patient, and stand-alone ERs are money sucking institutions, but this isn't as light as the report makes it seem.

"Speaker Nancy Pelosi… has won initial praise from key moderate factions in her drive to push the legislation through by Thanksgiving. But the ambitious plan, and its closed-door drafting process, has left progressives worried that the bill will fall well short of their expectations and that they remain cut out of the talks."

From last year, but significant in light of the recent attempts to rollback emissions standards. "Asbestos is now legally allowed back into U.S. manufacturing under a serious of loopholes by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). As Fast Company reported, on June 1, the EPA authorized a “SNUR” (Significant New Use Rule) that allowed the distribution of products containing asbestos on a case-by-case basis." (Grokked from Dan)

And… "President Trump on Wednesday said he expects the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to slap San Francisco with a violation notice in the coming days related to pollution associated with the city’s homeless population." The weaponization of the federal government.

"Three former Japanese utility executives responsible for the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant when it was smashed by a tsunami in 2011 were acquitted Thursday of negligence in connection with multiple reactor meltdowns at the station."

"Officials also left the door open for another rate cut this year if the economy weakens further, reinforcing the message by Fed Chairman Jerome Powell that policymakers will do whatever is necessary to prevent a recession… The Fed injected liquidity into the overnight lending market two days in a row after rates spiked." Oh shit. There's some talk about how this is slightly seasonal, but IIRC it was this time of year in 2007 when everything went kablooie.

"Intensifying trade conflicts have sent global growth momentum tumbling toward lows last seen during the financial crisis, and governments are not doing enough to prevent long-term damage, the OECD said in its latest outlook." Looks like that "the old rules don't apply anymore" bent of the news was a lie. Again.

"The lawsuit, filed Wednesday by 'Jane Doe,' seeks to hold the estate liable for Epstein's actions, including sexual battery and sexual assault. Attorneys Darren K. Indyke and Richard D. Kahn are identified in the lawsuit as executors of Epstein's estate. The lawsuit also names Sarah Kellen and Lesley Groff as two Epstein employees who allegedly facilitated Epstein's sexual abuse of Jane Doe in a three-year period from 2002 to 2005."

"With over 90 percent of the vote now counted, the centrist Blue and White party looks to have won the largest number of seats in Israel’s parliament, called the Knesset — 32 out of a total of 120. Netanyahu’s right-wing Likud came in a close second, with 31 seats." There's a lot of news outlets stating that the election solves nothing and doesn't show a clear path. That's only because of the US's focus on "left or right", what Israelis voted for was compromise.

"Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has called on his centrist rival Benny Gantz to form a unity government, after the country's second election in a year ended in deadlock." Whispers, uh, Benny, you didn't win.

"Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is apologizing for having worn brownface makeup at a 2001 costume party… 'I should have known better then, but I didn't and I did it and I'm deeply sorry,' he said to reporters in his campaign plane in Halifax, Nova Scotia." And that's how you should respond, US politicians.

"U.S. surveillance satellites detected Iran readying drones and missiles at launch sites in Iran before Saudi oil facilities were attacked on Saturday, according to two Defense Department officials… The imagery has not been publicly released." If true, this becomes a little more convincing. But also note, while there's a lot of space to cover, we have a lot of technology in place and are watching the coast lines. I think we'd have more evidence than "there was increased activity as some Iranian sites."

"On Sept. 14, a major Saudi oil processing plant was rocked by a series of explosions. The facility, and another oil field to the south, had been attacked from the air. Here's what we know — at this time — about the attacks based on physical evidence."

People are looking at your LinkedIn profile… They might be Chinese spies. Well that explains the recent activity (my LinkedIn page is the least visited of my social media presence).

"Emergency sirens wailed on Hawaii's Oahu and Maui islands Wednesday evening, warning of a tsunami, but the alert turned out to be a mistake, sparking anger from residents who recalled a similar false warning last year of an imminent ballistic missile attack." Guys, guys, I think you need to look at your C3 operations. Because stupid shit like this is how you get citizens ignoring actual warnings.

"A U.S. intelligence official alarmed by President Trump’s communications with a foreign leader filed an official whistleblower complaint last month with the inspector general for the intelligence community, the Washington Post reports. Trump’s interactions with the leader, whose identity has not been disclosed, included what the Post described as 'a promise' the official 'regarded as so troubling' that the official came forward. It’s not clear what form the interaction took place, though one intelligence official told the Post that it was a phone call." This story continues to get weirder. I'm not placing my bets yet, but wouldn't it be a hoot if the whistleblower was Bolton? I don't think it is, but my brain keeps coming back to that possibility.

"Los Angeles prosecutors say they have charged Democratic fundraiser and LGBTQ activist Ed Buck with running a drug house and other crimes after a man overdosed on methamphetamine at Buck's apartment last week. The man survived, but two other men have died from overdoses at Buck's apartment in the past two years." If the DNC hasn't already, it's way past time to cut ties to this man.

Wednesday, September 18, 2019

Linkee-poo, who's gonna tell you when it's too late, who's gonna tell you things aren't so great

"Too long we’ve lived under Disney’s spell of believing that Peter Pan is the brave, heroic, kind leader of Neverland. Country singer Kelsea Ballerini knew that Pan was just a fuccboi, and it seems like Hollywood agrees. A new movie starring icons Emma Thompson and Ellen Burstyn will follow generations of the Darling family as the women try to escape the clutches of the pirate-fighting man-child." That… could be an interesting cultural moment. Especially as we wait for all the man-children to cry about how their childhoods are being stolen when 1) proves this storyline's point and 2) they have to admit they watched sissy-Disney movies. (Grokked from Laura J Mixon)

"Deadline reports that NBC Universal has tapped Mr. Robot’s Sam Esmail to headline a reboot of the beloved sci-fi series Battlestar Galactica for its newly unveiled streaming service. Which is called Peacock." Everything old is new again.

"…(I)nstead of building the elevator from the Earth’s surface (which is impossible with today’s technology), it would be anchored on the moon and stretch some 200,000 miles toward Earth until hitting the geostationary orbit height (about 22,236 miles above sea level), at which objects move around Earth in lockstep with the planet’s own rotation." The problem is, that's the cheapest part of the journey. The hard part is getting into orbit from the surface of the Earth, especially to geosynchronous orbit. There's also a small quibble about use of Clarke's The Fountains of Paradise which was an elevator to orbit, not to the Moon. And then there's the problem of synching orbits with the Earth end of this elevator. (Grokked from Dan)

"Observational data collected over the years suggests the largest volcano on Jupiter’s moon Io—the most geologically active object in the Solar System—will erupt in mid-September, which is pretty much any moment now."

"One of the images shows the vehicle — apparently Starship Mk1, which is being assembled at SpaceX's South Texas facility, near the village of Boca Chica — in the background, standing behind a building that contains a variety of parts and other equipment."

The Hidden Brain podcast with… "Many people tend to push frightening realities out of mind, rather than face them head on. That's especially true when it comes to the terrifying event that no one can escape—death. Psychologist Sheldon Solomon says people may suppress conscious thoughts about their mortality, but unconscious ones still seep through." How our "death anxiety", or "terror management theory", drives our decisions that direct our (and others) life.

"Flu season in the Southern Hemisphere can be an indication of what's to come in the Northern Hemisphere, and the recent flu season in Australia, where winter has just ended, arrived early and with a vengeance. A particularly virulent flu strain, H3N2, dominated." As someone who works with an ER, yes, this year looks to be bad already. If you can, get the flu shot.

"Emotet, one of today's largest and most dangerous malware botnets, has returned to life after a period of inactivity that lasted nearly four months, since the end of May this year."

Conservatives are all about states' rights and letting the states be the laboratory of democracy and innovation. Unless the states disagree with their politics and then conservatives are all for "Federal Only" standards. "The Trump administration is expected this week to revoke an Obama-era waiver that allowed California to set its own standards for automobile emissions – a move that could derail a years-long push to produce more fuel efficient cars." This is also a local governance issue. For the most part, states can't roll back federal regulations and laws (although the legal marijuana campaign is challenging that), but they can enact more restrictive laws and standards. California has had this waiver since Nixon was in office (IIRC). But the EPA and the Trump administration is arguing that more advanced technology, reduced emissions, higher mileage cars are illegal and part of come "collusion" between manufacturers and California. They are actually arguing for less efficient, higher polluting, lower mileage cars as a national standard.

"The free speech rights of two Christian artists who make wedding invitations were violated by an anti-discrimination ordinance in Phoenix that makes it illegal to refuse service to same-sex couples for religious reasons, the Arizona Supreme Court ruled Monday." And again, I call bullshit. Because this is not "free speech", this is "commercial speech." They are refusing commerce on the basis that "same-sex couples make them feel icky." If you can't serve the public in general, don't offer your services for hire.

"Borrowing rates skyrocketed on Tuesday in a corner of the markets the public rarely notices but that is critical to the functioning of the global financial system… The spike in overnight borrowing rates forced the New York Federal Reserve to come to the rescue with a special operation aimed at easing stress in financial markets." Oh fuck.

"Salina Alexander, who works in the Kentucky plant’s paint shop, said the strike is about GM sharing some of its profits with union-represented employees who helped bail out the carmaker during its bankruptcy. 'We hung in there with them. They can give us something back.'" What I love is now Lordstown is a bargaining chip with the potential to produce batteries for GM's new electric truck. So they shuttered the factory to have something to bargain with.

"National grocery chain Whole Foods, which is owned by multibillion-dollar corporation Amazon, is cutting medical benefits for hundreds of part-time employees, Business Insider reported today. The decision, according to the company, is designed 'to better meet the needs of our business and create a more equitable and efficient scheduling model,' a Whole Foods spokesperson told BI." Um, what does offering health benefits have to do with making an efficient scheduling model? The answer is, "we're tired of these lazy employees who don't want to work all the hours of every day". So I'm gonna call bullshit on that argument and just say these cuts are designed "to better meet the needs of Jeff Bezos, who is extremely upset he doesn't have ALL the money, yet." The two previous quotes are not in the article. This one is, "The spokesperson made sure to include a reminder that Whole Foods employees can still enjoy a 20 percent discount on groceries, which, it turns out, will not save your life in the event of a medical emergency." (Grokked from Ferrett Steinmetz)

"What they found is fascinating. When their company advertised they were doing good, they saw the number of applicants increase by 25 percent. Using the different wages they offered as a yardstick, they calculate it would have taken them increasing the amount of pay they offered by about a third — from $11 to almost $15 an hour — to get an equivalent increase in the number of applicants. In other words, when a company says it's dedicated to helping disadvantaged children, they can pay much less and get much more." Shocking to find that people don't want to be just cogs in the corporate machinery, but want to have meaning and respect in their jobs.

"A Georgia homeowner shot and killed three teens as they approached his residence with their faces covered, authorities said." Wait, I thought criminals didn't target people with guns.

"Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's grip on power was hanging in the balance Wednesday after local TV channels projected him trailing his centrist rival Benny Gantz by just one seat, following a re-run general election."

Why is our politics so divisive? "When Air Force One touches down at Moffett Field in Mountain View, Calif., Tuesday morning, President Trump will be heading 'behind enemy lines,' as one supporter called the president's first trip to the San Francisco Bay Area since being elected." That "one supporter" is Harmeet Dhillon, Republican National Committeewoman from San Francisco. That's how conservatives feel about the rest of the country. That we're the enemy. And as an Indian Immigrant, she doesn't see how Trump's fight against "immigrants" will affect her (because it's not just about "illegal immigrants"). She believes her money, position, and support will shield her. I used to feel sorry for these self-deluded people, but they don't want to see reality. They intentionally don't want to see reality. So this is the bed they are making for themselves.

"A cheerleading team in North Carolina has been put on probation after posing with a banner endorsing President Donald Trump at a school sports match… The school, North Stanly High School, bars the display or distribution of political advertisements on campus." And for good reason, especially since cheerleaders and sports teams are semi-official representatives of the school. And displays like that can be seen as a political endorsement from the school. "'We took a picture of the Trump flag because he is our president and it had red, white and blue on it,' one of the students pictured told local news station Fox 46 Charlotte." Uh, kid, you might want to come up with a better excuse, or you should go to a better school. The French Flag is red, white, and blue, why didn't you pose with one of those?

"A New York Times story from over the weekend contains a third, previously undisclosed sexual misconduct allegation against Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh. The report was later updated to make it clear the new allegation is not as strongly corroborated as readers of the first version of the story may have been led to believe. Fox News is capitalizing on the revision to dismiss all the sexual misconduct allegations Kavanaugh faces — and doing so in a misleading way."

"Ultimately, we combined our notebooks with our common sense and came to believe an utterly human narrative: that Ford and Ramirez were mistreated by Kavanaugh when he was a teenager, and that Kavanaugh over the next 35 years became a better person." At least in comparison. The problem in the narrative of him being a better person is that it doesn't seem to have happened with an acknowledgement of the past behavior. Combine that with the fact of the duplicitous nature of abusive personalities it's quite possible Kavanaugh has not really become a better person, he just got better at hiding his bad actions from outside view. It is very possible for someone to be sexually (and physically) abusive of intimates, and yet appear kindhearted, open, and generous in front of the general public.

"It took more than five hours of confrontational exchanges, but Democrats on the House Judiciary Committee finally managed to regain the narrative in their questioning of Corey Lewandowski, Donald Trump’s former campaign manager who in 2017 was enlisted by the president to curb the investigation into Russian electoral interference by special counsel Robert S. Mueller III." What Barry Berke did (by all reports, as I worked very late last night) was by all rights what the congressmen should have done; been well prepared and ready for dissembling. (Grokked from Kathryn Cramer)

Tweet of my heart: @BillKristol One’s repugnance at the spectacle of Lewandowski shouldn’t blind us to its significance. It was the essence of Trumpism: Not merely contempt for the truth or disdain for the law, but a kind of visceral loathing for the institutions and norms of a constitutional liberal democracy. (Grokked from Kathryn Cramer)

Goddamnit Republicans stop making me agree with Bill Kristol.