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

Friday, January 31, 2020

Linkee-poo and all those late night promises I guess they don't mean a thing

Apparently this weekend, instead of Groundhog Day there's something about a Superb Owl. Don't know much about it.

"The World Health Organization declared coronavirus a public health emergency of international concern at a news conference Thursday in Geneva… The first case of human-to-human coronavirus transmission in the U.S. has been confirmed, in a patient in Illinois, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced Thursday." Now is it time to panic? (Grokked from Chuck Wendig)

"There's another virus that has infected 15 million Americans across the country and killed more than 8,200 people this season alone. It's not a new pandemic -- it's influenza." Get the goddamn shot if you can.

"Hundreds of hospitals across the U.S., including a number with sterling reputations for cutting-edge care, will be paid less by Medicare after the federal government pronounced that they had higher rates of infections and patient injuries than others." That's the game we play. Note that it's not "doesn't meet this standard of care", it's just the lowest 25%. Every year. Law of averages. It's about breaking the system.

"On Thursday, Seema Verma, the administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, announced a new pathway for states to receive a capped amount of federal dollars for part of the program. The new demonstration program, called Healthy Adult Opportunity, would not be mandatory for states and would not affect all Medicaid beneficiaries, only adults under age 65 who are not disabled." Welcome to healthcare rationing, brought to you by the GOP. They know Medicare/Medicaid are some of the most beloved parts of the government. They want to change that so they can dismantle the social safety net.

And in Ohio education… "Talks on a deal to stop a huge increase in the number of Ohio public school buildings where students would qualify for private school vouchers are dragging on. And the House Speaker is proposing a major overhaul of the voucher system." A few years ago lawmakers swapped an "or" for an "and" and this year 70% of school districts will now be on the hook for paying vouchers for students to attend private schools. And that may break many schools (because that money comes out of the district budgets). So far people are yelling about this like it's a bug when it was always the plan of the pro-voucher organizations.

"Republican leaders in the Senate have approved a deal that would stop a dramatic increase in the number of public school buildings where students will be eligible for private school vouchers starting this weekend." Yeah, that didn't go very far. But it makes our conservative government look like it "cares."

"The House has voted on a plan to move the start of Ohio's private school voucher application process ahead to April 1, just hours before the EdChoice program is supposed to start accepting applications on Saturday. It now has to go to the Senate this morning, and a statement suggests the vote there may run into problems." Yeah, probably nothing will happen.

Also, "Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine isn’t weighing in on the deliberations in the House and Senate over school vouchers. But he is talking about the need to do more to help failing school districts early on." Here comes state control over schools. Not that I'm opposed to that, but it seems funny that it's coming from the conservatives who have been all about "local control."

And while we're talking about Ohio, "Protesters protest bill strengthening penalties for damages sustained during protests." This is a continuation of conservatives in Ohio to make protesting a crime. You don't see many protests on Ohio college campuses because of this.

"The lightbulb aisle can be a confusing place because over the past five years, a revolution has taken place in the lighting industry. The old energy-hogging incandescent lightbulb that dominated lighting for more than a century is going away. Now more efficient LED, or light-emitting diode, bulbs are taking over." The Life Kit podcast with some helpful tips. For about 8 years I was intimately involved with producing the catalogs for GE Lighting, so I know a lot of this (don't get me started talking about light bulbs), but this may be helpful for you. And while I normally scoff at the "internet of things" and why do I need a lightbulb with wifi (and color changing lightbulbs, you can probably hear my eyeballs rolling right now), but the function of shifting the kelvin and lumens of light throughout the day is a fantastic idea. Unfortunately that function is still fairly expensive (so, yeah, I won't be getting it soon). Also, it would be good to be able to manually override that function (say, for a reading light). Plus most people use spot lighting, that is they manually turn on and off individual lights and don't light their entire house with general lighting (unless you have a McMansion with recessed fixtures).

Remember Brexit? "More than 3 1/2 years after the landmark Brexit referendum, the United Kingdom will finally leave the European Union at 11 p.m. GMT on Friday." But now we enter the "transition" period. For another year.

How goes the Trade Wars? "U.S. farm bankruptcy rates jumped 20% in 2019 - to an eight-year high - as financial woes in the U.S. agricultural economy continued in spite of massive federal bail-out funding, according to federal court data." Yep. (Grokked from Jim Wright)

"Federal officials called it 'the longest illicit cross-border tunnel ever discovered along the Southwest border.'" A tunnel! Who would have thought.

"America's latest 'national nightmare' will not end when Republicans vote to acquit President Donald Trump of high crimes and misdemeanors, possibly as early as Friday."

"Over two weeks, Chief Justice John Roberts has served as a careful steward of Senate procedures and ensured that the impeachment trial did not descend into nastiness or an outing of the whistleblower whose information months ago triggered this prosecution of President Donald Trump."

Thursday, January 30, 2020

Linkee-poo tell me how it is that you can sleep in the night without thinking you lost everything that was good in your life to the toss of the dice

"NASA's Parker Solar Probe took one step closer to the sun Wednesday (Jan. 29) when it executed its fourth flyby of our star." You spin me right around, baby, right around.

"The image you see above is the highest resolution image of the Sun's surface that's ever been taken, according to the NSF. And given how amazing it looks, we're willing to take the organization at its word." Looks like… corn.

"Because experts don't yet know exactly how the virus is transmitted, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is recommending that health care workers treat it like an airborne pathogen — germs that can travel in particles or droplets in the air. That means health care workers interacting with a coronavirus patient should wear a heavy-duty mask called an N95 respirator. These respirators are designed to fit tightly around the nose and mouth, and, when worn correctly, block out at least 95% of small airborne particles, according to the CDC." So, can an N95 stop you from inhaling a virus? :: Looks around, whispers :: no. That doesn't mean that wearing a mask is a bad idea, especially if you are sick or around people who are sick. It lowers your chances of becoming infected. Also, N95s are hellahard to use properly, and even then I find them difficult to breath with. But wash your hands with soap and water, avoid touching your face, get rid of those Purell packs you have.

"The first increase in life expectancy since 2014 is largely due to a 4% decline in drug overdose deaths — the first such drop in 28 years."

"AT&T lost another 1.16 million subscribers from DirecTV and its other TV services in the final three months of 2019… On the plus side for AT&T, its revenue per TV customer rose." They just write themselves, folks. (Grokked from John)

"The world’s biggest tech companies fuelled a record surge in the amount of renewable energy sold directly to global corporations last year, according to new figures… The amount of clean energy from renewable energy developers bought by companies has tripled in the past two years, driven by a growing corporate appetite for sustainable energy." So your google searches are adding substantially less to your carbon footprint.

"Facebook this week launched an Off-Facebook Activity portal to give users a different and more detailed perspective on the data it hoovers up from other firms. Off-Facebook Activity is exactly what it sounds like: interactions you have with other entities, such as an app on your phone or a retailer you shop at, that Facebook receives data about. Facebook attaches that data to the rest of the information it has about you and uses it for marketing purposes." (Grokked from John)

"As communities around the world marked the 75th anniversary of the liberation of the Auschwitz-Birkenau extermination camp, a South Dakota lawmaker compared doctors who treat transgender minors to Nazis, before backtracking his remarks." Hey Rep Fred Deutsch, it's not really an apology until you go back on the air with Tony Perkins and apologize there. Also note, he didn't really apologize, he just said he wished he hadn't said it out loud. "HB 1057, which is scheduled for a vote Wednesday afternoon, is one of at least three bills in South Dakota that LGBTQ advocates say targets transgender youth, like Senate Bill 88 which would require school workers to report transgender youths who come out to them, and Senate Bill 93 which would prevent the state from intervening if a parent refuses to consent to treatment for their trans kid." Who are the teachers supposed to "report" this to?

"Fifty US military personnel have now been diagnosed with concussions and traumatic brain injuries following the Iranian missile attack on US forces in Iraq earlier this month, according to a statement Tuesday from the Pentagon."

"The U.S. economy grew 2.3% last year, the Commerce Department said Thursday. That's a slowdown from the previous year, when the economy grew 2.9%. And it's well short of the 3% growth target set by the White House… In the fourth quarter, the economy grew at an annual rate of 2.1%, matching the pace of the previous three months. The Congressional Budget Office is projecting GDP growth of 2.2% this year." But how is the Dow doing? I'm sure it's all the Feds fault.

"Japanese authorities on Thursday issued arrest warrants for a former U.S. special forces soldier and two other men on suspicion of smuggling former Nissan Motor Co boss Carlos Ghosn out of Japan."

"White House senior adviser Jared Kushner said Washington wants Israel to wait until after its March 2 election before making any moves toward settlement annexation in the West Bank, following the announcement of a U.S. peace plan." Not that he's against illegal annexation, he just wants them to hold off until after Netanyahu is elected. Because that's what this "peace plan" is all about, Benny's next election.

"Lawmakers in the House are set to vote on Thursday to repeal the 2002 authorization for the use of military force in Iraq and to block funds from being used to wage war with Iran, in an effort to curtail President Donald Trump's military actions in light of heightened tensions with Iran."

"Last week, Ukrainians learned of a conversation between Secretary of State Michael R. Pompeo and an NPR reporter, in which the American diplomat reportedly used a profanity while asking dismissively whether the reporter thought Americans really cared about Ukraine… On Thursday, Pompeo is scheduled to arrive in Kyiv for a two-day visit that is part of a broader trip through four countries that were part of the former Soviet Union. He is the highest-level U.S. official to travel to Ukraine since the start of the impeachment proceedings." But won't hold meetings at the embassy… for which he is the boss.

"The White House has issued a formal threat to former national security adviser John Bolton to keep him from publishing his book, 'The Room Where It Happened: A White House Memoir' sources familiar with the matter tell CNN." It's not a threat, it sounds like bog standard review language.

"Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky expressed frustration with Republican leadership during the Senate impeachment trial Wednesday night after it was made clear Chief Justice John Roberts would not read his question that named the alleged Ukraine whistleblower, sources with knowledge of the situation said."

"Democrats need to persuade at least four senators to cross party lines in order to lock in enough votes to subpoena witnesses. And while a handful of moderate Republicans have indicated they are open to hearing from witnesses, the prospect of Democrats successfully enlisting enough conservatives to join their witness push looked increasingly dim. Democratic leaders have conceded that it now appears unlikely."

"But Sekulow’s comparison with Egypt is off the mark in several ways. While past administrations have delayed aid, the circumstances and the nuts-and-bolts process, including keeping Congress in the loop, bear no similarities to the Ukraine affair. In particular, with Ukraine, Congress had pushed to send the aid. With Egypt, they were pushing to have it held back." They can't even lie well.

Meanwhile, on Bullshit Mountain, "A string of newly resurfaced video clips of former national security adviser John Bolton spurred President Trump and his supporters Wednesday to highlight what they described as serious credibility questions -- raised by both Democrats and Republicans -- amid the Senate impeachment trial, as the president tweeted, 'GAME OVER!'" The absurdity just hits the roof. Okay, Mr. President (and Fox News), let's say you agree that Bolton was prone to conspiracy theories and was always looking to his next job, and I'm not saying he isn't, but you hired him as the NSC head, and as a commentator respectively. What does that say about your competence? And that Bolton stated he was willing to lie to protect national security, um, remember a couple paragraphs up above you you flaunt that Bolton in August said there was no quid pro quo or pressure on Ukraine? Also, isn't that a reason to get him under oath and penalty of perjury?

And on the north face of Bullshit Mountain, "Instead of pretending that the impeachment of President Trump is a normal event in the course of the nation’s affairs, let’s take this opportunity and make it into a teachable moment. Let’s not just find out what Trump thought, said and did in the Oval Office. Let’s find out the lengths the Washington Establishment was willing to go to stop Trump." My response, I call the bid. Sure, let's do that. Let's bring out just how much Trump has decimated government, how dysfunctional his administration is, the cronyism, the corruption in all corners. Let's do this.

Wednesday, January 29, 2020

Linkee-poo said you'd meet me, now it's a quarter to two

"A chartered plane carrying American consulate personnel and citizens from an area of China at the center of a coronavirus outbreak has been cleared to proceed to California after making a refueling stop at an airport in Anchorage, Alaska, Tuesday night." I'm sure it's totally safe.

"Students are wearing masks throughout the Miami University Oxford (Ohio) campus today after reports that officials are testing two possible cases of coronavirus." (Insert dramatic music here) Meanwhile, yesterday, on average more people died from the flu than have been diagnosed with the novel coronavirus in the US. But even among healthcare providers people how can are not getting the flu vaccine. And so far this is a relatively modest flu season.

"There is a possibility that two inactive satellites currently in low Earth orbit will collide on Wednesday above the US, according to space debris tracking service LeoLabs… 'It isn't as unlikely as it usually is,' McDowell said. 'We start getting worried when it's 1 in 10,000, so 1 in 1,000 is unusual and it might actually be a lot worse than that.'"

"The reason the scientists are so worried about Thwaites is because of that downward sloping submarine bed… It means the glacier gets thicker and thicker as you go inland… As the glacier retreats back, yet more ice is exposed." We are so boned.

"As extreme weather wreaks havoc around the globe we look at a natural disaster more than 200 hundred years ago that had far-reaching effects. This week, how the eruption of the Icelandic volcano Laki awed, terrified and disrupted millions around the world and changed the course of history." The Throughline podcast with how nature does not care for us and will actively try to kill us. Where do you run when there is nowhere to run to?

"Psychologists sometimes refer to such emotional connections as parasocial relationships —one-way relationships. In some ways, they are akin to the imaginary friends that many children have. As we grow up, we're told to set such relationships aside. Clinging to imaginary companions can suggest that you are lonely or maladjusted… But what if there is more to these relationships than we realize?" The Hidden Brain podcast on imagination.

"Nearly five years after a group of cancer patients were given a single dose of a psychedelic drug to ease depression and anxiety, new research finds that many of them are still feeling the positive effects."

How goes Brexit? "The UK will no longer be a member of the European Union (EU) after 23:00 GMT on 31 January 2020… For those not following every twist and turn, this is what you need to know."

"Nearly four years after then-presidential candidate Donald Trump said he would eliminate the federal debt in eight years, the deficit has since risen by more than 16 percent under his presidency… On Tuesday, attorney George Conway… pointed out that three years into Trump's first term as president, the national debt increased by $3 trillion, bringing it to over $23 trillion now. Conway cited figures from the National Debt Tweets in his tweet." Where's your Tea Party now?

"Cantley, 37, lived on the streets for 15 years. She was among thousands of Californians without a home, a problem that continues to grow. Last year, homelessness rose 16 percent to 151,000 people… Many blame mental illness and drug addiction for the soaring numbers, but experts say that is only part of the puzzle. The state’s severe housing shortage, which has forced rents to increase at twice the rate of the national average and put the median price of a single family home at $615,000, has also contributed to the crisis."

"Ivanka Trump has waded into a row over a CNN segment in which host Don Lemon laughed as two guests ridiculed supporters of her father… The president’s daughter said: 'The arrogance, mocking accents and smug ridicule of this nation’s ‘real elites’ is disgusting.'" Said the woman who grew up shitting in a literal gold toilet.

"When President Donald Trump signs his revised North American Free Trade Agreement agreement at the White House on Wednesday, congressional Democrats who played a central role in approving the pact won't be there." How petty can you get? Apparently pretty petty.

"Hardly a day goes by without the Trump administration finding a new way to slash the safety net… But its latest proposal — which would cut Social Security disability benefits by $2.6 billion over 10 years — is one of the cruelest. It would require millions of beneficiaries to re-prove their disability — and navigate a complex web of red tape and paperwork — every two years. Hundreds of thousands of people could lose benefits even though their condition has not changed." I've known people who have tried to get disability. It is not easy, or cheap, to "prove" to the Social Security Administration that you are deserving of disability payments. I know all our "Action News" channels are rife with "Disability person dancing the Watusi, video at 11!" But the majority of those are on "short term" or "long term" disability insurance claims, not federal disability payments. "Proving eligibility for benefits is an arduous process that can take months if not years, and numerous pages of medical evidence. America has among the strictest eligibility standards in the world. Over 60% of applications are denied, and tens of thousands of people die each year waiting for benefits." In our richest country in the world with the best healthcare system. Cruelty is the program. (Grokked from Laura J Mixon)

"NPR is asking the State Department to explain its decision to deny an NPR reporter press credentials to travel with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on an upcoming trip to Europe, NPR President and CEO John Lansing announced Tuesday."

"President Donald Trump praised Secretary of State Mike Pompeo for his confrontation with an NPR reporter, saying he 'did a good job with her.'" It's a video segment from CNN, but seriously, who are these people always clapping at the president's internal speeches? Is he that insecure they need to pull staff in to give him ovations? Also, one asshole praying another. And this is what autocrats do, they congratulate each other on how big a dick they can be to others.

"With Trump's legal team resting its defense of the president, the impeachment trial now moves to its next phase: asking written questions."

"Since the Senate impeachment trial began last week, Chief Justice John Roberts has been mainly out of the camera's line of sight. He has, clerk-like, enforced Senate procedures and kept the clock for the lawyers at the lectern. He has tried to maintain the chamber's decorum, as when he admonished the legal teams against nastiness, citing a 1905 Senate trial precedent against use of the word 'pettifogging.'" But now he's the one who will ask the questions (submitted in writing).

Meanwhile, on Bullshit Mountain, "Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, said Tuesday that many of the issues that Democrats seek to impeach President Trump on have been done 'tenfold worse' by their own party's lawmakers." Ah, both-siderism, you got here a little late. I expected you months ago. I also like how the crimes Trump is actually being called to account for is just a "red herring." Pay no attention to that hand in your pocket taking your money, the real crime are these atrocious drapes.

"Democrats are bracing for the possibility that if President Donald Trump loses the 2020 election, he and his aides will bungle a smooth handover of power – and maybe even try to outright sabotage the transition." It's my impression that the Trump administration could possibly work their hardest and best to create a smooth transition and it would still be a dumpster fire. The only saving grace is a lot of transition work is done by a non-partisan arm of the government that has career professionals. But the Trump administration could bungle the transition by just trying, they could severely sabotage the transition by actively trying to thwart the change.

Tweet of my heart: @anatosaurus The magical immigrant is both taking your job and not working. (Grokked from Laura J Mixon)

Tuesday, January 28, 2020

Linkee-poo Tuesday

Alligators as far as the eye can see.

"This is called an accretion burst event. It is incredibly rare: only three such events have been observed, out of all the billions of massive stars in the Milky Way… This is why astronomers are so excited about a recent observation of the phenomenon." Long article that had me screaming, "get to the point!" But it shows how real science is done.

"The Dungeness crab is vital to commercial fisheries in the Pacific Northwest, but lower pH levels in its habitat are dissolving parts of its shell and damaging its sensory organs, a new study found." We're boned.

"Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the World Health Organization’s director general, is traveling to Beijing, China, to meet with government and health officials on the Wuhan coronavirus outbreak."

"Last week, GM-subsidiary Cruise unveiled the Origin, its first self-driving car without a steering wheel or pedals. At the time, the company’s CEO Dan Ammann promised to reveal production details in the days to come. Well, today’s the day, with GM announcing plans to spend $2.2 billion to retrofit its Detroit-Hamtramck plant for the production of autonomous and electric vehicles." Another FU to NE Ohio.

"The Supreme Court in a 5-4 vote Monday cleared the way for the Trump administration to make it more difficult for low-income immigrants seeking to come to or trying to remain legally in the United States." So much for "Give us your poor…" Better strike that line off the Statue of Liberty.

"A gathering of thousands of armed protesters in Virginia last weekend prompted fears of mass violence. On this episode of On the Media, how some militia groups are spinning the lack of bloodshed as victory. Plus, fresh demands for accountability in Puerto Rico, and why the senate impeachment trial feels so predictable." Highly recommended, especially for Bob Garfield's intro about the Senate Trial, how it is boring by design and how the media is looking for any "tension" it can find. Also good inside into the 3% movement, and the trouble with Puerto Rico.

"A plane that crashed in Afghanistan’s central Ghazni province on Monday, reportedly killing everyone on board, has been confirmed as belonging to the U.S. Air Force." Funny how it took so long to verify that.

"Afghan forces and Taliban fighters clashed in a central region where a U.S. military aircraft crashed, officials said on Tuesday, as the government tried to reach the wreckage site in a Taliban stronghold."

"The President's legal team focused its presentation on attacking the House impeachment managers' case and going after former Vice President Joe Biden and his son Hunter Biden. Then, in the final presentation, Trump lawyer and Harvard Law professor emeritus Alan Dershowitz addressed the elephant in the Senate chamber." And he lied his ass off.

Meanwhile, on Bullshit Mountain… "All of which somehow reminds us of disgraced former National Security Adviser John Bolton. Republicans in Washington might seem shocked to discover that Bolton has turned and betrayed his former boss, Donald Trump, but they shouldn't be shocked. That's who John Bolton is. That's who John Bolton has always been. That's what John Bolton does. And not to brag, but we called it long ago." Yes, Tucker, you called it so long ago that Bolton was a long-time paid contributor to Fox News.

Tweet of my heart: @GeorgeTakei Let me get this straight. Trump let a hack surreptitiously record him for 90 minutes about Ukraine and other foreign "policy" matters, and he's worried about what the "Deep State" intelligence has on him? Putin is laughing his ass off for sure.

Monday, January 27, 2020

Linkee-poo Monday

Kobe Bryant, and so it goes.

And then there were five. "A fifth person in the US is confirmed to have been infected with the Wuhan coronavirus."

"With the number of confirmed cases in the country approaching three thousand, and at least 80 deaths, China has placed almost 60 million people on lockdown, with full or partial travel restrictions on 15 cities across Hubei, the central Chinese province of which Wuhan is the capital." A quarantine of 60 million people.

"Of the estimated 1.3 million people sent to Auschwitz, some 1.1 million died at the camp, including 960,000 Jews. It was the largest extermination camp run by Nazi Germany in occupied Poland during World War II. The Soviet Army liberated Auschwitz 75 years ago, on Jan. 27, 1945." We remember.

"The majority of Americans have health insurance that includes coverage for prescription drugs. But unfortunately that doesn't ensure that they can afford the specific drugs their doctors prescribe for them."

"SpaceX has asked the U.S. District Court of the Central District of California to hold a hearing on March 2 to consider the company’s eight-months-long protest against the U.S. Air Force."

"Three rockets struck the US Embassy compound in Baghdad on Sunday, leaving one person injured, a US official told CNN initial reports indicate… The official said the injury was minor and the individual had since returned to duty."

"A key interest rate is moving to levels last seen in the fall when markets were worried about the trade war, and that falling yield may be a warning signal."

"A few moments later, an aide asked Kelly to follow her into Pompeo's private living room at the State Department without a recorder. The aide did not say the ensuing exchange would be off the record." Sloppy, sloppy, sloppy. While this may play well with the president's base, but he's misjudged the general populace.

"Transcript: NPR's (Mary Louise Kelly's) Full Interview With Secretary Of State Mike Pompeo." So, other than "Obama bad, we're good" even though Iran was winding their atomic program down under the agreement Obama helped broker, and they've gone back to full production since the president pulled out of the agreement. While much of the brouhaha centers around Mary Loused Kelly's questioning Sec. Pompeo on his lack of support for Ambassador Yovanovitch, but things weren't going so well with the Iran questions either. Pompeo was embarrassed at his lack of preparation and his inability to steer the conversation. There are reports that Pompeo cornered Kelly in his private room and berated her, demanded she point out Ukraine on an unmarked map (she did), and then said "people will hear about this." They most certainly have, Mr. Secretary. It's time for you to write your memoirs. (Grokked from Laura J Mixon)

"One day after a contentious interview that was followed by an expletive-filled verbal lashing of NPR host Mary Louise Kelly, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is publicly accusing her of lying to him — 'twice.'" Petty, small people in positions of power. It's time for Mike Pompeo to write his memoirs.

"Donald Trump’s plan to address the Republican National Committee’s winter meeting at Trump National Doral next to the Miami airport has been in the works since mid-January, about the same time that the resort raised the nightly rate for its least expensive rooms from $254 to $539." Dear RNC, he's not just robbing us, he's robbing you. The president is ripping you off and pocketing that money. You're being had. (Grokked from Jim Wright)

"But Trump isn’t Nixon and the Republicans of today aren’t the Republicans of 1974." Jim Wright on the impeachment trial. It should have never come to this.

"A recording reviewed by ABC News appears to capture President Donald Trump telling associates he wanted the then-U.S. ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch fired while speaking at a small gathering that included Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman -- two former business associates of Trump’s personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani who have since been indicted in New York." Oh look, a smoking gun. (Grokked from Kathryn Cramer)

"President Trump told his national security adviser in August that he wanted to continue freezing $391 million in security assistance to Ukraine until officials there helped with investigations into Democrats including the Bidens, according to an unpublished manuscript by the former adviser, John R. Bolton." And another one. And now you know why the GOP lead Senate is going to fight calling witnesses tooth and nail.

"'Shifty Adam Schiff is a CORRUPT POLITICIAN, and probably a very sick man,' Trump tweeted. 'He has not paid the price, yet, for what he has done to our Country!'" And then the White House spokesperson tried to walk it all back.

"Lead House impeachment manager Rep. Adam Schiff on Sunday called President Donald Trump 'wrathful and vindictive,' adding that he thought a morning tweet by the President was intended to intimidate him." It's what you do when you're a pretend mob-boss.

"Donald Trump’s legal team on Saturday argued that Donald Trump broke no laws and Democrats’ move to impeach him was simply an attempt to delegitimize Trump’s presidency." Uh, sure, Bob. Look, the president doesn't need any help in delegitimizing his tenure. He does it all by himself. Also, on the "overturning the election" canard, if the Senate somehow votes to remove the president we don't suddenly have President Clinton (2), we have President Pence. Which actually was an argument for not going forward with impeachment before this.

"The state of play: Republican sources tell Axios that party leaders and the White House will still try to resist witnesses because, as one top aide put it, 'there is a sense in the Senate that if one witness is allowed, the floodgates are open.'" Well, yes. But they mean that the Senate will have to call all the witnesses, not that the truth will come rushing out. (Grokked from Laura J Mixon)

"Laying out their impeachment defense, President Donald Trump’s lawyers perpetuated a baseless claim that Ukraine interfered in the 2016 election as they argued that Trump had good reason to withhold military aid to the country… It was one of several statements surrounding Week 1 of the impeachment trial where truth came up short."

Friday, January 24, 2020

Linkee-poo Friday

Jim Lehrer, and so it goes. "China has widened its travel restrictions in Hubei province - the centre of the coronavirus outbreak - as the death toll climbed to 26… The restrictions will affect at least 20 million people across 10 cities, including the capital, Wuhan, where the virus emerged." The N.K. Jemisin's profile in the New Yorker.

"And that is one of the many problems with American Dirt, according to several critics. There have been tweet threads and essays, all arguing that the book deploys harmful stereotypes. Even a hashtag — My Latino Novel — has popped up on Twitter, where people are writing their own parodies. But there is so much more to say about race and identity in publishing, about who gets to tell what stories and which of those voices are elevated in the mainstream culture."

"The Environmental Protection Agency is dramatically reducing federal pollution protections for rivers, streams and wetlands – a move welcomed by many farmers, builders and mining companies but opposed even by the agency's own science advisers." They are trying to kill us.

"What does Trump actually believe on climate change?" Not much.

"The ongoing destruction of life-supporting ecosystems such as coral reefs and rainforests means humans risk living in an 'empty world' with 'catastrophic' consequences for society, according to Mrema, who is responsible for spearheading a Paris-style agreement for nature that will be negotiated this year." While she then went on to explain how biodiversity is actually of to importance to how we live, it's that part that's getting the press. So let me say here, that won't happen. We can't live in an "empty world." We will all die before that ever happens as the ecosystems that support us collapse and take our food and water with them. And no, there is no technology that will replace the natural world.

"Antonio hadn’t broken the law, but his detention in Virginia felt like a punishment: Once, when he got in a fight with an American kid who taunted him, he says staffers restrained him by tying him to a chair for four hours, allegedly hitting him while he sat there. Over a year and a half at Shenandoah, Antonio (not his real name) says he was tied to the chair about five times. In court documents, he recounted that staffers who restrained him would sometimes put a bag over his head, meant to deter biting or spitting." Kids, tied to chairs with a bag over their head. Sometimes peeing themselves while in the chair. Cruelty is the objective here. (Grokked from Laura J Mixon)

Sure we live in a post-racial society. "A US man is suing a bank in Detroit after employees called the police when he tried to deposit cheques at their branch… Sauntore Thomas had attempted to put in money he had won after settling a racial discrimination lawsuit against his former employer… But the bank allegedly said they would have to verify the cheques. As Mr Thomas waited, the police arrived."

"A black teenager in Texas is claiming that he was suspended and told that he would not be able to walk in his high school graduation ceremony unless he cut his dreadlocks."

Meanwhile, on Bullshit Mountain, "Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) on Friday increased the pressure on New York City's sanctuary policies -- putting out a list of illegal immigrant fugitives who have been released into the city despite requests from ICE to hand them over for deportation… Acting ICE Director Matthew Albence presented the list to reporters at a press conference in New York where he spoke of the dangers of sanctuary cities -- in which jurisdictions ignore detainers issued by ICE for arrested illegal immigrants." NYC still cooperates and coordinates with ICE, though. ICE just can't get it's shit together in time.

"The founder of an Arizona pharmaceutical company was ordered Thursday to spend 5½ years in prison for orchestrating a bribery and kickback scheme prosecutors said helped fuel the opioid crisis." Well, that's one.

"Today, the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists released a statement that the group's Science and Security Board had moved the hands on the symbolic Doomsday Clock forward by 20 seconds to 100 seconds before midnight. Since the advent of the Doomsday Clock—even in the peak years of the Cold War—the clock's minute hand has never before been advanced past the 11:58 mark." (Grokked from John)

"The State Department has rejected a request from London to hand over a U.S. diplomat's wife who fled the U.K. last year after she was involved in a head-on car crash that killed a young British man."

"End Times broadcaster Rick Wiles warned on his 'TruNews' program last night that the rise of companies like Impossible Foods, which is developing plant-based alternatives to meat and dairy products, is part of a satanic plot to alter human DNA so that people can no longer worship God." And the Trump administration (wait for it) just renewed their press credentials to be in the briefing room (if they ever decide to have regular press briefings again). Although that's an interesting take that food can change our DNA, and that our soul is encoded into that DNA. (Grokked form Random Michelle K)

"World leaders commemorated the 75th anniversary of the liberation of the Auschwitz concentration camp by warning against a global rise in anti-Semitism." The wounds of WWII are still not healed, and there is more than enough culpability to go around.

"Vladimir Putin has been running Russia since 2000 when he was first elected as President. How did a former KGB officer make his way up to the top seat? Was it political prowess or luck? In this episode, Throughline dives into the life of Vladimir Putin and tries to understand how he became Russia's new 'tsar.'" This is actually on the Planet Money podcast, but same thing (it's a rebroadcast). On how red flag operations actually happen and work. Nice government you've got there, shame if something happened to it. Waves to my Russian friends.

The psychologists who helped develop (and participated) in the CIA torture at black site are being questioned at GitMo. "A man accused of helping finance the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks was subjected to "excessive" abuse at the hands of CIA interrogators who used him as a training tool for employees learning the agency's torture techniques."

"It’s hard to keep up with President Donald Trump’s scandals. One day he’s covering up taxpayer-funded travel expenses for his family. The next, he’s stealing money for his border wall. The next, he’s being implicated by an accomplice in the extortion of Ukraine. But one horror is right out in the open: Trump is a remorseless advocate of crimes against humanity. His latest threats against Iran, Iraq, and Syria are a reminder that he’s as ruthless as any foreign dictator. He’s just more constrained."? Ruthless wasn't the word you were looking for. Authoritarian was.

"This is FRESH AIR… As the impeachment trial gets underway in the U.S. Senate, we take a look at the Trump presidency through the eyes of two Pulitzer Prize-winning reporters from The Washington Post. Philip Rucker and Carol Leonnig's new book is an unsettling look at the first 2 1/2 years of the Trump administration."

The accountant. "While (Lev) Parnas has described his turnabout and prime-time TV interviews as patriotic truth-telling, he's also angling for leniency in a campaign finance case brought against him by federal prosecutors in New York." This is what happens when you consider people in your inner circle as disposable. Once they feel they're on the outside, they will tell your secrets. Also, while Parnas had times of no available cash, he suddenly seems to have found money to donate to the Trump election and buy his way into "the club". Funny that.

"House Judiciary Chairman Jerry Nadler on Thursday played a 1999 video of Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham arguing that 'high crimes' don't 'even need to be a crime,' a statement that runs counter to a central Republican talking point in President Donald Trump's impeachment trial." Look, that's kinda a low blow using someone's own words against them. But at least we've reach the "Sure we did it, but it's not a crime" stage of denial.

The president's legal strategy? Shoot the messenger (and the message). "The lawmaker walking U.S. senators methodically through the case for removing President Donald Trump from office is also becoming Exhibit A in efforts by the president’s allies to defend him."

"Both the managers and the president's defense team have set up messaging operations to repeat their cases for and against impeachment. They know senators are required to listen in the chamber. But the public is also digesting the arguments and catching up on what they missed when they tune in to press coverage online and on air on their favorite media outlets." Our divided world view, our echo chambers, on display.

"Around dinnertime on Tuesday, just about four hours into the impeachment trial of President Trump, Sen. Jim Risch, R-Idaho, did not look enthralled by House Democrats' presentations. In fact, he looked the opposite. Eyes closed, he was slumped over and appeared to be snoozing." Our elected officials.

"With less than two weeks until Iowans line up to cast the first votes to pick a Democratic presidential nominee, party officials are reassuring voters that a new app used to report its caucus votes is secure. It’s not clear if they are correct." And instead of actually researching it, they just called a bunch of random people. And there is a paper backup, so mostly this is just an experiment.

Thursday, January 23, 2020

Linkee-poo, when her number-one son goes bad playing cards with the Devil's Hand

Still alligators as far as the eye can see.

"Wuhan, a Chinese city of eleven million people, has temporarily shut down its public transport as it tries to halt the outbreak of a new strain of virus… Those living in the city have been advised not to leave, in a week when millions of Chinese are travelling for the upcoming Lunar New Year holiday." Is it time to panic now?

"'Partway through its last set of activities, Curiosity lost its orientation,' wrote Curiosity team member Dawn Sumner, a planetary geologist at University of California, Davis, in a mission update this week." Yeah, I've been to parties like that.

The Throughline podcast accepting our new robot overlords. "Artificial intelligence, gene modification, and self-driving cars are causing fear and uncertainty about how technology is changing our lives. But humans have struggled to accept innovations throughout history. In this episode, we explore three innovations that transformed the world and show how people have adapted — and ask whether we can do the same today." On coffee, (gasoline driven) tractors, and the telephone and how these innovations changed our lives, our governments, our societies.

"Robot tanks: On patrol but not allowed to shoot." Skynet on a beta test.

"President Donald Trump will attend Friday's March for Life, an annual anti-abortion event in Washington, he announced on Twitter… Trump will be the first president to attend the march, according to Jeanne Mancini, president of March for Life. Trump was also the first president to speak at the march via video feed when he addressed participants in the 2018 march."

Also, the Throughline podcast on the rise of the banana. "The banana is a staple of the American diet and has been for generations. But how did this exotic tropical fruit become so commonplace? How one Brooklyn-born entrepreneur ruthlessly created the modern banana industry and the infamous banana republics." You wouldn't think bananas have a trouble, and you'd be wrong. Think "blood bananas" and all the ravages of colonialism. Yes, I've been working through my podcast backlog.

"Speaking at a press briefing at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, Mnuchin was asked whether the world’s largest economy needed to completely and immediately divest from fossil fuels… 'Is she the chief economist or who is she? I’m confused,' Mnuchin said, before adding this was 'a joke. That was funny.'" Conservative humor eludes me. Also, our treasury secretary is a little man with little man complex.

"As the impeachment trial gets into stride in Washington against Donald Trump, the president on Wednesday announced a plethora of new plans, policies and programs as he prepared to make his way back to the US from the World Economic Forum in Switzerland." Because it never was about "making the process better."

And what about those "fine people on both sides"? "From the bail hearings of three men arrested on gun charges, whom police claim were members of the white nationalist group The Base: the men planned on using the gun rally in Virginia to start a civil war by gunning down their fellow pro-gun demonstrators, and they discussed murdering police officers in order to obtain arms and tactical equipment." They believed themselves to be more "militant" than al Qaeda (which translates to English as "the Base"). Dudes, you wouldn't even survive the al Qaeda onboarding process.

"The Virginia state Senate voted Wednesday to advance a "red flag law" bill, one of many gun safety measures Democrats are looking to move through the state Legislature after taking control of both chambers."

"Trump boasts the US economy is the best it's ever been under his watch. Here are 9 charts showing how it compares to the Obama and Bush presidencies." The president lies the way fish swim.

"By the time Rep. Jerry Nadler, a New York Democrat and another House impeachment manager, began talking around 4 p.m. ET, that number had grown to about two dozen, as senators rolled back into the chamber from a break… While the Senate won't determine a verdict for over a week, it's clear that a number of senators are not only tired, but have already made up their minds, raising further the expectation that it will vote to acquit." Um, aren't they supposed to attend the entire time?

"Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., may have successfully corralled his Republican colleagues Tuesday to defeat 11 efforts by Senate Democrats to subpoena key Trump administration witnesses and documents (and modify other rules) in the Senate impeachment trial. But these tactics have likely put Republican senators facing competitive races in an impossible bind; two January polls show that, in both battleground states and swing counties, more voters support Trump’s removal than approve of him."

"White House lawyers distorted the facts on the impeachment process and other issues during the Jan. 21 Senate trial…" that's a funny way to spell "lie".

"Senate Republicans need to end this impeachment trial before President Donald Trump confesses to anything else… 'We're doing very well,' Trump said, summing up the performance of his legal team after watching the trial from Davos, Switzerland. 'But honestly, we have all the material. They don't have the material.'" Our stable genius president, everybody.

"Sen. Susan Collins sent a written note early Wednesday morning during President Donald Trump's impeachment trial minutes before Chief Justice John Roberts admonished both legal teams, a source with knowledge of the event tells CNN." Someone's tattling.

"Warren’s plan details how she would clean out what she called 'the corruption that has infected the government' by asking all political appointees to resign and by directing the Justice Department to appoint an independent task force to investigate corruption that took place during the Trump administration. She warned that President Trump was unlikely to make the transition to a Democratic administration smooth, saying 'his vindictive actions as president suggest that he is likely to do everything he can to undermine the next president.'" (Grokked from Laura J Mixon)

Wednesday, January 22, 2020

Linkee-poo Wedneseldays

Terry Jones, and so it goes.

"Scientists in the Philippines are defending their assessment of a volcano that has been spewing ash for more than a week after a local official demanded they change their 'opinion' of the danger it poses and urged people to defy authorities and return to their homes." The climate crisis in miniature.

"Some 2.2 billion years ago, an asteroid slammed into the Earth, leaving behind a massive, 43-mile-wide crater in what's now Western Australia, scientists announced Tuesday… It's the world's oldest known impact site, the new study said, one that also may have changed Earth's climate: It occurred at a time that coincided with Earth’s recovery from an ice age known as 'Snowball Earth,' where most of Earth’s surface was covered with ice sheets up to 3 miles thick, according to a statement from Imperial College in London." Yarrabubba, you'll probably hear about that soon.

"US President Donald Trump has decried climate 'prophets of doom' in a speech at the World Economic Forum in Davos, where sustainability is the main theme." Old man yells at clouds. This is why we can't have nice things, because of denial babies in suits.

"NASA has chosen nine finalists in the student naming contest for its next Mars rover, which currently goes by the bland Mars 2020… Public input is one criterion NASA will use to pick the final name, and the agency is therefore encouraging folks to vote for their favorite online at go.nasa.gov/name2020. But you'll have to act relatively fast; voting closes at midnight EST…on Jan. 28." What, no Rover McMarsface? You can vote here if you want to skip the article.

"One of the most commonly used drugs on the market may be deemed a carcinogen by California… Acetaminophen, an active ingredient in popular pain-relief medications like Tylenol, Excedrin and Midol, has been on the state’s list of drugs under review for years because of tenuous links to cancer." I'm old enough to remember the Tylenol poisoning scares, this is just the long term version of that.

"And although Influenza A did finally overtake Influenza B this week to account for most of the flu activity in the United States for the first time this season, incidence overall continues to decline. That could lead the majority of states returning to low levels in the next two to four weeks, according to Biocomplexity Institute researchers." Ah, yeah, Bob.

"Public health officials have confirmed the first U.S. case of a mysterious coronavirus that has sickened hundreds in China, the CDC says." Dramatic music plays here.

"Nearly one month ago, Boeing completed the first orbital test flight of its Starliner spacecraft with a near-perfect landing at White Sands Space Harbor in New Mexico… The mission had to be cut short due to a well-publicized timing error that delayed the spacecraft's service module from performing an orbital insertion burn. This caused the thrusters on board the service module, which provides power to Starliner during most of its mission, to fire longer than expected. As a result, the spacecraft did not have enough fuel to complete a rendezvous with the International Space Station, a key component of the test flight in advance of crewed missions."

"But Twitterstorians have been preoccupied with more weighty matters in the Trump era, a time when the President and his followers are known for spreading dubious versions of American history… Many Twitterstorians have taken it upon themselves to correct the record." When the "well, actually…" argument has the weight of evidence behind it. (Grokked from S.A. Chakraborty)

"Have you been thinking about going back to college? Perhaps you're looking to change jobs, make more money or simply finish that degree you started… Maybe there's a program you've already checked out, or you're just starting to explore your options. Wherever you are on your journey, here are six tips to help you take that leap." As someone who has done it, I highly recommend having a very good reason for wanting to do it. Have specific goals. My goal was to have skills for a job that was resistant to economic sways, did not have rampant agism, paid sufficiently to not be a major setback, not be easily automated, and something that I could work at until I am able to retire (if I'm ever able to retire).

"Just across the state border in rural Northern California, Shasta County had earned a $1.6 million grant to help fund a similar low-barrier shelter. County supervisors considered its proposal last winter when they heard from Police Chief Michael Johnson from the city of Anderson… 'It is just another enabling mechanism for the homeless, the transients and the displaced people here,' Johnson told the board in February 2019. 'When you create something and enable people, you're going to attract more.'" So instead the chiefs and sheriffs want to build bigger jails. More jails isn't the solution. Providing services doesn't attract homeless.

"Two inmates at a maximum-security prison in Mississippi have died after suffering injuries from a "blunt force beating," officials said Tuesday, bringing the death toll across the state's prison system to at least seven since the beginning of the year." Mississippi jails have long been centers of corrupt practices that leave prisoners vulnerable to abuse and death. Under conservative government they were allowed to continue under the conservative philosophy that "jail should be bad to be a deterrent."

"The Amazon billionaire Jeff Bezos had his mobile phone “hacked” in 2018 after receiving a WhatsApp message that had apparently been sent from the personal account of the crown prince of Saudi Arabia, sources have told the Guardian… The encrypted message from the number used by Mohammed bin Salman is believed to have included a malicious file that infiltrated the phone of the world’s richest man, according to the results of a digital forensic analysis." You've been hacked. So, apparently SMB is that guy you shouldn't trust.

"Brazilian prosecutors have charged controversial American journalist Glenn Greenwald with cybercrimes after he published hacked text messages exposing corruption among public officials." Gee, an abusive authoritarian government might overstep its bounds? Shocked…

"After months of escalating protests, Lebanon has named a new prime minister and cabinet… Hassan Diab, a professor and former education minister, will take the top role, according to a statement read by an official at the Baabda presidential palace in Beirut on Tuesday. He was appointed with the backing of Hezbollah, its allies, and the Free Patriotic Movement, a Christian political party."

Ah, Florida man strikes again. "A worker with anti-government views fatally stabbed his Trump-supporting boss at a Florida Turnpike construction site and placed an American flag next to the body after they got into a political argument, deputies said Tuesday."

Staying with Florida for a moment… "The National Weather Service says falling iguanas are possible Tuesday night ahead of the season's coldest night."

"Jan. 22 marks the 47th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, the landmark court case that legalized abortion nationwide. People on both sides of the furious debate say this could be the year when everything changes… In March, the U.S. Supreme Court will hear its first abortion case since Justice Brett Kavanaugh replaced Anthony Kennedy, who had been the swing vote on abortion cases. A decision is expected by summer."

All when this is happening. "A new Gallup poll finds a record number of Americans are unhappy with the nation's abortion laws — a shift mostly caused by growing dissatisfaction among Democrats." A majority is of the opinion that the laws are too strict.

"The U.S. Supreme Court hears arguments Wednesday in a major case that could dramatically alter the line separating church and state… At issue is a Montana state constitutional amendment that bars direct and indirect taxpayer aid to religious institutions. Conservative religious groups and advocates of school choice are challenging the 'no-aid' provision." If church institutions want tax payer money, they should pay taxes (on all their activities and properties). Fair is fair, after all.

The Throughline podcast on how VAWA (Violence Against Women Act) was passed. Trigger alert for descriptions of domestic violence. "In the mid-1980's a woman who didn't consider herself a feminist was asked to solve perhaps the biggest problem women face. How she and a small group of people seized on that rare moment and fought back in the hopes that something could finally be done." Funny how the arguments against it haven't changed at all. If slavery is our original sin, domestic violence (and violence against women) is our sin of omission.

"President Trump says he'll widen a controversial travel ban that prohibits nearly all people from seven countries from traveling or immigrating to the U.S., calling it 'a very powerful ban' that's necessary to ensure national security." Remember when the travel ban was a "temporary" action "until we could figure out what was going on"?

"A district encompassing Greater Seattle is set to become the first in which every voter can cast a ballot using a smartphone — a historic moment for American democracy."

"Top liberals have reached a détente with the House Democratic campaign arm in a dispute over a policy that inhibits primary challengers to incumbents — a move intended to unify Democrats in this year’s battle to protect their majority and defeat President Donald Trump." The blacklist rule (which targets campaign managers and staff who work for progressive primary challengers) should be tossed out. It's a ridiculous constraint on the democratic process and is only meant to protect those already in power.

"Democratic Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez says her political party is not actually a 'left party,' describing it critically as 'center-conservative.'" This is not a controversial statement in reality, but only in some odd party purity concept. It's really relatively recently that parties have divided into these strict ideological camps. It's true the GOP has tended right and the Democrats have tended left, but both parties used to have a wide range of ideological groups. That started changing with Civil Rights, accelerated under Reagan's 11th Commandment and activation of the social conservatives, and in the early 2000's the parties further divided by tolerance for authoritarianism. President Obama would be considered a solid conservative in the 70s. So would many of the elected members of the Democratic Party.

"When Chief Justice John Roberts issued an extraordinary admonishment of Democrats and Republicans on the first day of President Donald Trump's impeachment trial, he not only reminded speakers to maintain decorum but used a seldom-uttered word -- pettifogging -- to make his point."

"After more than 12 hours of action Tuesday, the Senate adopted the ground rules for the coming weeks in President Trump's impeachment trial. It brought a reminder that even this highly scripted ordeal may include a few surprises after all."

Meanwhile, on Bullshit Mountain… "Democratic Rep. Adam Schiff stared down President Trump’s lawyers on the Senate floor Tuesday as they accused him of lying to the American people and denying Trump due process during the impeachment investigation… Trump lawyers Pat Cipollone and Jay Sekulow repeatedly ripped into Democrats, especially Schiff, on the first day of arguments in the Senate impeachment trial, as the House Intelligence Committee chairman -- who is serving as the top Democratic impeachment manager -- sat up straight in his chair and didn’t take his eyes off his accusers." This is a national news organization saying, "Did I trigger you, libtard?"

"Imagine that Democrats nominate Joe Biden, or Elizabeth Warren, or Mike Bloomberg, or anyone else in the field as their candidate for president. Now imagine that President Donald Trump, who once joked about shooting someone on Fifth Avenue, tweets out the following: 'Crazy (fill in candidate name here) would be terrible for America. Can someone help me out here? Don’t worry, my pardon power is absolute.'" Sure, it's an over-the-top scenario, but abuse of power is a crime. It is coercion, bribery, corruption, self-dealing, and a few other crimes of office. To say it's not a crime is to invite corruption at a level which is poisonous to democracy.

Tuesday, January 21, 2020

Linkee-poo Tuesday

Still dealing with the backlog from taking Friday off. Still alligators as far as the eye can see.

"More than 2 million Americans with heart conditions report that they have used marijuana, but many questions remain about the drug’s effects on the heart, according to a review published Monday in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology… What is known, however, is that the drug can interact with common heart medications, including statins and blood thinners, potentially putting patients at risk, the review said." Funny how all these "herbals" (and I hate using that term with marijuana) are all first deemed to be "inactive" and basically placebos, and then once they're in general use all of a sudden "ZOMG, drug interactions!" I'm not saying it's not a concern, I'm just noting the pattern of dismissal and then "it's a problem!" In this case, "marijuana has no legitimate medical use" and now it's "OMG, it's doing all these things 'enhancing' drug's effects" (or weed has this affect, but if you take other drugs you're now double dosing).

"A newly-discovered part of our immune system could be harnessed to treat all cancers, say scientists… The Cardiff University team discovered a method of killing prostate, breast, lung and other cancers in lab tests." Not the first time this has been promised. This is more a fishing expedition for funding and investment.

"Architects, builders, and sustainability advocates are all abuzz over a new building material they say could substantially reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in the building sector, slash the waste, pollution, and costs associated with construction, and create a more physically, psychologically, and aesthetically healthy built environment… The material is known as, uh, wood." Well, it's engineered lumber, not dimensional lumber. And this tech has been around for some time (I remember reading about it in the early 2010s). Or, to coin a phrase, fancy plywood. What they don't tell you in the article is about the heat and pressure treatment that happens with this lumber. Now the big revolution will be to actually make sustainable harvested forests (something we don't quite have yet).

"In cities around the country, if you want to understand the history of a neighborhood, you might want to do the same thing you'd do to measure human health: Check its temperature… That's what a group of researchers did, and they found that neighborhoods with higher temperatures were often the same ones subjected to discriminatory, race-based housing practices nearly a century ago." Yes, Virginia, racism does have environmental impacts as well.

"Loaded onto a SpaceX recovery ship, the Crew Dragon capsule that performed a successful in-flight abort test Sunday over Florida’s Space Coast pulled into Port Canaveral hours later after being retrieved from the Atlantic Ocean." One more hurdle for crewed flight crossed.

"Global stocks dropped on Tuesday as investors braced for coronavirus to spread as hundreds of millions of people travel across Asia to celebrate Chinese New Year this weekend." Just as a comparison, our Thanksgiving and Christmas sees about 75 million people on the road. Chinese New Year travel involves billions of people.

"A deadly virus emanating from China helped bring this year’s global risk rally to a halt on Tuesday, hammering Asian equities and helping drag both European stocks and U.S. futures lower."

"What's worrying the Davos crowd."

"Apple Inc dropped plans to let iPhone users fully encrypt backups of their devices in the company’s iCloud service after the FBI complained that the move would harm investigations, six sources familiar with the matter told Reuters."

"A California man 'intentionally rammed' his vehicle into a car carrying six teenage boys, killing three and injuring the others, before driving off, authorities said."

"Hundreds of migrants who waded across a river on Mexico's southern border have been stopped from entering the country on their way to the US… The security forces fired tear gas to force the migrants back and rounded up those who managed to make it across." Our policies as enforced by other governments.

"A lawsuit filed Wednesday by the top law enforcement officer in the U.S. Virgin Islands alleges that multimillionaire financier Jeffrey Epstein sexually trafficked hundreds of young women and girls on his private island, some as recently as 2018, aided by a web of shell companies to carry out and conceal his crimes." (Grokked from Xeni Jardin)

"Weeks before the first votes of the 2020 presidential election, Americans report a high level of concern about how secure that election will be and worry about the perils of disinformation, according to a new NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist Poll." By design. Funny how they don't breakdown the disinformation by party affiliation (in the article, I'm still looking at the raw data).

And a specific callout in that data by other news media, "More than half of Americans think that the president has personally encouraged foreign nations to interfere in the U.S. election system, according to a new poll."

"Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell plans to give House impeachment managers and President Donald Trump's legal team each 24 hours divided over two days for their opening arguments in the Senate's impeachment trial, a move that indicates Senate Republicans are pushing to finish the trial as quickly as possible -- ahead of the President's February 4 State of the Union address." Which were not exactly the rules of the Clinton Impeachment Trial.

"Starr is best known for leading an investigation into President Bill Clinton's affair with a White House intern during the 1990s… In 2016, almost two decades after Starr investigated the Clinton scandal, Starr was fired from his job as president of Baylor University, accused of ignoring sexual assault issues on campus." The company you keep.

Monday, January 20, 2020

Linkee-poo Mondays

Great weekend. Still working through the back log, so a little spotty on coverage.

"Health officials have identified the infection, which first appeared in Wuhan in December, as a strain of coronavirus. They say it has led to an outbreak of viral pneumonia, but much about it remains unknown… Although the outbreak is believed to have originated from a market, officials and scientists are yet to determine exactly how it has been spreading."

"Nation-state hackers breached the networks of two US municipalities last year, the FBI said in a security alert sent to private industry partners last week… The hacks took place after attackers used the CVE-2019-0604 vulnerability in Microsoft SharePoint servers to breach the two municipalities' networks."

"World stocks traded just below record highs on Monday, pausing ahead of this week’s central bank meetings, economic data and earnings, while oil prices rose to their highest in over a week after blockades began shutting down two Libyan oilfields." Time to skate faster.

"Saudi Arabia does not appear to have paid the $1 billion that President Donald Trump said it has paid to house a deployment of US troops to the kingdom, according to the Pentagon." Well Trump never said which bank they deposited the money, or whose name was on the account. (Grokked from Kathryn Cramer)

The company you keep. "Three members of an alleged neo-Nazi group have been arrested by the FBI, allegedly in the possession of several weapons and had discussed traveling to the pro-gun rally in Virginia next week." (Grokked in a roundabout way from Chuck Wendig)

"As gun rights activists, white nationalists and militia groups prepare to rally at the state Capitol on Monday to protest proposed gun control laws, residents are praying it won’t be a repeat of the violent 2017 rally in Charlottesville that ended in a woman's death."

"The city of Richmond, Va., is under a state of emergency Monday morning as thousands of gun ownership enthusiasts and armed militia members gather at the Virginia State Capitol for a large rally aimed at quashing new gun laws. Gov. Ralph Northam has temporarily banned firearms from Capitol grounds, and some of Richmond's streets are barricaded as officials try to ensure the demonstration takes place peacefully." Worst cosplay convention ever.

"A pre-debate news drop from CNN threatened the relative peace between Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren. On this week’s On the Media, why the feud is more distracting than illuminating. Plus, why paying close attention to political news is no substitute for civic participation. And, the origins of two oligarchic dynasties: the Trumps and the Kushners." Recommended, especially for the first segment on the Warren Sanders spat.

"The Government Accountability Office said the Trump administration broke the law when it withheld US security aid to Ukraine last year that had been appropriated by Congress, a decision that's at the heart of the House's impeachment case against President Donald Trump." Read that part again, "broke the law." Now, it's not the first time an administration inadvertently broke a law, but it was done at the express order of the president even after pushback about it being illegal. That's the "willful" part. (Grokked from Jim Wright)

This is excellent, especially the graphic design. "Senators are being given a flashcard with tips to help them avoid the press, labeled 'phrases to use when seeking assistance.'" (Grokked from Mur Lafferty)

"The President has been dissembling about so many different things at once that it can be difficult to keep track of what is true and what isn't. To help you fight Trump-induced dizziness as the trial gets underway, we've tallied his dishonesty on the subject of Ukraine and impeachment. Our original list from mid-November included 45 false claims he has made and a brief fact check of each one… We have since added 20 more for a total of 65."

Meanwhile, on Bullshit Mountain… "Senators Ted Cruz, R-Texas; Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska; and Susan Collins, R-Maine, are among a small group of Republicans who have yet to completely shut the door on new witnesses, wanting to hear arguments first. Democrats would need them and at least one more in order to be able to call witnesses, but Graham warned that if they get their wish, the GOP will look to call defense witnesses such as Hunter Biden." This is not the threat conservatives think it is (and only comes out of their conspiracy theory echo chamber). Democrats need to call this stupidity. Call all the witnesses. If the defense wants to waste their witness list on Hunter and Joe Biden, Adam Schiff, Nancy Pelosi and (what the believe is their Ace in the Hole) Hillary Clinton, by all means do so.

"President Donald Trump's legal team will go into his Senate trial on Tuesday arguing that he should never have been impeached because his conduct over Ukraine does not amount to a criminal offense."

Thursday, January 16, 2020

Linkee-poo is going where the water tastes like wine, we can jump in the water, stay drunk all the time

So, you may be wondering just where you can get your geek on, try FansCon.com. I haven't totally vetted it, but it looks like an okay resource to find gatherings of like minded peoples. (Grokked from Confusion SF, where I will be this weekend)

And with that, I'm going "to confer, converse, and otherwise hob-nob with my brother (sister, and other) wizards" this weekend, so I wouldn't expect a Friday or over the weekend post.

"As officials investigate the incident, aviation experts said Wednesday that they are puzzled by the 'unusual decision' to dump fuel and that the maneuver, rare in populated areas, could have been avoided." Uh, yeah.

On the Media Podcast with "But to read or watch or listen to the conservative press in Australia is to get an altogether different story: that it's arson, not climate change, that's mainly responsible for the deaths of nearly 30 humans and an estimated one billion animals. Damien Cave is the New York Times bureau chief in Sydney, and he recently wrote about 'How Rupert Murdoch Is Influencing Australia's Bushfire Debate.' He spoke to Bob about the media landscape of denial and deflection, and why critics say it's making it harder to hold the government accountable." That's right, Murdock and his family aren't just fucking over the US with Fox News (and the UK), he's also shitting his own nest.

"Last year was the second hottest on record globally, according to the latest climate data collected by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and NASA… It's the latest confirmation that the Earth is steadily getting hotter — the planet has already warmed about 1.8 degrees Fahrenheit (or almost 1 degree Celsius) compared with in the mid-20th century — and that robust greenhouse gas emissions are causing global warming to continue unabated."

"As many as one million seabirds died at sea in less than 12 months in one of the largest mass die-offs in recorded history -- and researchers say warm ocean waters are to blame." We're boned.

"Infusing building materials with living microorganisms has already lent inanimate objects new powers. Self-healing concrete, for example, uses bacteria or fungi to fix its own cracks. Now researchers have developed a living substance that can transform from a gooey sand mixture into a solid brick—and then help build more copies of itself. Proponents say it could be used to make a building material that requires relatively few resources and absorbs greenhouse gases instead of releasing them."

"The second all-female spacewalk in history continued the work of the first, as the same two NASA astronauts upgraded batteries outside the International Space Station."

"For Microsoft, it was the realization that its project to create its own web rendering engine was an uphill climb that wasn’t worth the investment. Too many websites rendered oddly in Edge, often because they were coded specifically for Chrome or Safari’s Webkit instead of following more generic standards. The deep irony is that long ago, Microsoft’s Internet Explorer nearly broke the web because it demanded custom code from web developers." Oh browser wars, we did not miss you.

How goes the Trade Wars? "U.S. stock indexes closed higher Wednesday afternoon, though the major benchmarks ended the day well off session highs, after President Donald Trump signed the first phase of a trade pact with China, marking a truce in the dispute over import tariffs which has unsettled markets world-wide and slowed economic growth." Here we go again.

"The chief justice asked Martinez to suppose that in a weeks-long hiring process a younger hiring official says,'OK, boomer' once to an applicant. Is that enough to be age discrimination?… Martinez replied that one stray comment is not enough, if it was in fact just 'a stray comment.'" I'm not sure that people who have a job for life can adequately rule on a case about age discrimination.

"President Trump will use the power of his office to empower students who want to pray in their schools — and remind public schools they risk losing federal funds if they violate their students' rights to religious expression." I'm sure this will go well.

"A federal judge in Maryland has blocked the Trump administration's executive order allowing state and local governments to turn away refugees from resettling in their communities."

"The detainee's case is detailed in a previously confidential report on the Adelanto facility obtained by NPR. Despite the report's findings — and repeated, scathing criticism of the facility from the federal government's own internal watchdogs — ICE decided at the end of 2019 to renew and expand a contract to keep the Adelanto facility open." Cruelty is the program.

"In response to what he described as 'credible intelligence' of threats of violence at an upcoming gun rights rally in Richmond, Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam has declared a state of emergency and will temporarily ban individuals from carrying firearms on Capitol grounds… The governor said at a press conference Wednesday that authorities believe 'armed militia groups plan to storm the Capitol' during the January 20 rally." Totally normal. (Grokked from Wesley Chu)

"The State Department abruptly canceled a classified congressional briefing Wednesday that was supposed to focus on embassy security, a House aide said, infuriating Capitol Hill staffers seeking answers on alleged Iranian threats to U.S. missions overseas… The cancellation also coincides with documents suggesting that associates of President Donald Trump’s personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani put the former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine under surveillance." Kinda hard to give a briefing for which they have no actual data. (Grokked from Kathryn Cramer)

"The Trump administration is releasing its hold on billions of dollars of aid to Puerto Rico after a months-long delay. But it is still unclear exactly when those funds will reach the hurricane-ravaged island." Months late. Still no word on when the aid will actually be released.

"Russia's prime minister and its entire government resigned Wednesday as part of sweeping constitutional changes that could see President Vladimir Putin extend his hold on power… In his annual state of the nation speech, Putin said he favored changing the constitution to hand the State Duma, the lower house of parliament, the power to choose Russia's prime minister and other key positions." To our Russian friends, welcome to your new Tsar. (Grokked from Joy Reid)

"Former US Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch on Tuesday called for an investigation into the 'disturbing' notion that she was under surveillance from associates of the President's personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani." Just another day in the new America. (Grokked from Jim Wright)

"Lev Parnas, the Soviet-born businessman whose work in Ukraine with President Donald Trump's personal attorney Rudy Giuliani stands at the center of the impeachment inquiry, implicated the President Wednesday in an interview with CNN in which he said that their efforts were 'all about 2020' and not about working in the interest of the United States."

"The records provided by Parnas, who has been indicted in New York for alleged campaign finance violations, add to the evidence already released documenting Giuliani's efforts to get the new Ukrainian president, Volodymyr Zelenskiy, to publicly announce an investigation related to former Vice President Joe Biden and his son Hunter Biden, who had ties to a Ukrainian energy company."

"Sen. Rand Paul is waging a fierce campaign to prevent the Senate from hearing witnesses in Donald Trump’s impeachment trial, vowing to force tough votes on his fellow Republicans if they break with the president or back Democrats' demands for new evidence." That's blackmail, but I doubt they'll actually call him to account for that. And I think it's hilarious that conservatives want Hunter and Joe Biden to testify, like they think they'll pull off some kind of Perry Mason like stunt where they prove it was all their fault and somehow that justifies the president's abuse of office.

So, just spitballing here, what happens if the Senate actually has witnesses and they all line up their testimony to support Trump and perjure themselves?

"Like many congressional activities, the process begins with much pomp and circumstance and procedure and process. But little of substance will be achieved until the case for impeachment is presented next week."

Meanwhile, on Bullshit Mountain… "House Speaker Nancy Pelosi drew criticism Wednesday for handing out commemorative pens -- with her name on them -- after signing a resolution to transmit two articles of impeachment against President Trump to the Senate for trial." You mean, what they always do when they sign important documents? And of course the outrage is all from the professional right-wing outraged class.

"National reporters have descended on the county, trying to understand the massive shift, and people there offer a few possible explanations. Some point to white, working-class union voters who bought into Trump's economic promises. Others point to the moment the local theater showed a movie that smeared Hillary Clinton… Whatever the reason, local Democrats want to make sure they can win back some voters. But they're torn on how to do that."

"In a tense and dramatic exchange in the moments after the Democratic debate Tuesday night, Elizabeth Warren accused Bernie Sanders of calling her a liar on national television." And she did it at the podiums where there were mics. Warren is not stupid, and I think Bernie realized (at the end) just what might be happening.

"For the first time in the history of Iowa’s Democratic caucuses, the party will report the raw vote count for each candidate. And because of idiosyncrasies in the caucus process, the person with the most votes at the beginning won’t necessarily be the one with the biggest delegate haul at the end." Consternation, uproar, outrage… Iowa is one state, they aren't the determinate of who becomes president.

On how we got here. "FRONTLINE begins its 2020 election year coverage with a two-part, four-hour documentary series investigating America’s increasingly bitter, divided and toxic politics… From veteran FRONTLINE filmmaker Michael Kirk and his team, America’s Great Divide: From Obama to Trump draws on revelatory new interviews with key political and cultural figures, as well as an unparalleled archive of in-depth broadcast reporting across two presidential administrations, to offer crucial context for the current moment." Yes, it is Trump's (and the conservative movement's) fault. Republicanism (as in the GOP) has been poisoned because they allowed themselves to be and thought they could ride that tiger. It's time for conservatism to purge itself of the cancer they themselves instilled into their body politic, or to be thrown into the waste can of history.

"A 19-year-old man from Virginia appeared in court on Wednesday in connection with allegations that he made fake bomb and shooting threats to draw extreme law enforcement responses on unwitting people, as a member of a swatting ring linked to a neo-Nazi group." They always get too bold and make a mistake.