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

Friday, February 28, 2020

Linkee-poo Friday

"The Smithsonian Institution has released a massive trove of images and 3D models from their collections into the public domain, allowing the public to use the images however they see fit." Well shit. (Grokked from John)

"A gargantuan explosion tore through the heart of a distant galaxy cluster, releasing about five times more energy than the previous record holder, a new study reports." It's a clinker.

"When it was stolen, the driver of the hearse was delivering another body to the church and left the vehicle running, according to NBC Los Angeles." Never leave the hearse running.

"The battle over vaccinations ramped up in Connecticut this week as state lawmakers narrowly advanced a bill—with last-minute amendments—aimed at banning religious vaccine exemptions for children."

Before we get into Corona Corona Corona all the time, "As the coronavirus spreads around the globe, there are steps you can take to protect yourself and your family." Wash your hands. Also, "But what does preparedness look like in practice? The short answer: Don't panic — but do prepare."

"The key thing about the coronavirus -- and what Americans need to know and do about it -- is apparently that Trump was right about it from the start, even though some people ridiculed him. And away we go!" A breakdown of the president's speech on Wednesday.

"For Trump, however, the main priority — in fact, the only significant one — is to make sure this viral outbreak doesn't harm his chances of getting re-elected in November. If that means lying to his loyal supporters, even in a way that puts their own lives in danger, he won't hesitate to do that." An opinion piece, but it does (IMHO) show the problem with Trump's strategy and his loyal followers not caring if he lies. It's all fun and games until it's your throat they rough up intubating you.

"President Donald Trump is hoping for a 'miracle' that will make the coronavirus disappear but tanking stock markets and signs the disease is stalking America are delivering their verdict on his scattershot management of the crisis… 'It's going to disappear. One day it's like a miracle, it will disappear,' Trump said at the White House Thursday as the virus marched across Asia and Europe after US officials said the US should brace for severe disruption to everyday life." Yeah, sure, Bob. Our government response is off to a great start, blaming "socialism" and a little open warfare on who exactly is in charge.

So how's our great response going so far? "A whistleblower at the Department of Health and Human Services is seeking federal protection after complaining that more than a dozen workers who received the first Americans evacuated from Wuhan, China, lacked proper training or protective gear for coronavirus infection control." There was also a report about healthcare workers in California who treated the patient that apparently had no connection to foreign travel being quarantined. Numbers were "dozens but less than 100" (IIRC). Cool, cool.

"The US Navy has ordered all ships that have visited countries in the Pacific region to effectively self-quarantine and remain at sea for 14 days in order to monitor sailors for any symptoms of coronavirus." Totally in control. Everything is fine.

"Altogether, China has 78,824 confirmed cases and the death toll was at 2,788." An updated list of what's happening worldwide, including the prediction that it will be worldwide.

"The coronavirus outbreak has reached a 'decisive point' and has 'pandemic potential', World Health Organization head Dr Tedros Ghebreyesus says… His comments come as countries around the world battle to prevent the virus spreading further."

Meanwhile, on Bullshit Mountain, "Vice President Mike Pence told Fox News' Sean Hannity in an exclusive interview Thursday that 'the risk of the spread of coronavirus in the United States of America remains low' and credited what he called 'decisive action' by President Trump earlier this year." I'm sure you can believe the guy who "signed legislation that cut Indiana's budget for public health programs, despite Indiana's high smoking rate, high obesity rate, and high infant mortality rate. The state spent just $12.40 per resident on public health in Pence's last year as governor — less than almost any other state." Especially as he takes direction and orders from the guy who thinks windmills cause cancer. Oh, and just in case you forgot, at the end of that article they want you to know Biden is a dirty, rotten scoundrel, in case the coronavirus news pushed that out of your head.

So, okay, one the Dow Jones is not the economy, but let's see how that's working for all those "economically concerned voters" out there. "Global stock markets plunged further Friday on spreading fears over the impact of the new coronavirus, with some indexes set to close out their worst week since the depths of the financial crisis in 2008." As of this writing, the Dow broke through 25,000 and has begun a climb back up (however this mirrors activity of the last week where the Dow would hit a psychological floor, slightly recover, and then drop below that floor before closing).

"Coronavirus panic sent world share markets crashing again on Friday, compounding their worst week since the 2008 global financial crisis and bringing the wipeout in value terms to $5 trillion." I'm sure that won't cause any issue.

"In 2015, the boss of a card payments company in Seattle introduced a $70,000 minimum salary for all of his 120 staff - and personally took a pay cut of $1m. Five years later he's still on the minimum salary, and says the gamble has paid off… The headcount has doubled and the value of payments that the company processes has gone from $3.8bn a year to $10.2bn." Funny how that works. (Grokked from John)

Hey, ho, way to go Ohio… "The Ohio Senate approved a resolution on Wednesday calling on members of the U.S. Congress to make daylight saving time permanent… Republican State Sens. Kristina Roegner and Bob Peterson introduced Senate Concurrent Resolution 8 urging Congress to pass the 'Sunshine Protection Act of 2019.'" Sunshine Protection Act… While I do agree that DST has become less of a money saver and more of a "we need to be seen doing something", the real solution is to end DST, stay on standard time, and enact social changes to move the timing of society. Instead, this is the opposite direction.

"US students lag other countries in math. The reason likely lies in how schools teach it." Nope, the reason is how we as a society value math. There are things that can be changed in education (like the part about getting early education teachers comfortable with math), but mostly it's because we tell kids they don't need to know math to get ahead.

Let's check in with Syria… "At least 33 Turkish soldiers have died in a Syrian government attack in opposition-held north-western Syria, in a major escalation of the conflict." Oh, still going pear-shaped.

"The Navy said the People's Republic of China naval destroyer lased the American P-8A Poseidon aircraft in an act the U.S. deemed unsafe and a violation of international codes and agreements. The statement from U.S. Pacific Fleet said the laser was detected by sensors on the aircraft, but was not visible to the naked eye." Pew pew. More than likely a targeting laser.

"The Department of Justice today announced the creation of a section dedicated to investigating and litigating revocation of naturalization. The Denaturalization Section will join the existing sections within the Civil Division’s Office of Immigration Litigation—the District Court Section and the Appellate Section. This move underscores the Department’s commitment to bring justice to terrorists, war criminals, sex offenders, and other fraudsters who illegally obtained naturalization." I would say, "so it begins", but frankly we've been here for a while. This is just one more step down the totalitarian road. (Grokked from Laura J Mixon)

"With supporters calling it more than 100 years in the making, the House of Representatives overwhelmingly approved legislation on Wednesday that makes lynching a federal hate crime for the first time in U.S. history." That didn't take long at all. On twitter I mused this passed 410 to 4 because Republicans know what happened to Mussolini.

Thursday, February 27, 2020

Linkee-poo, and there's a green like the peace in your heart, sometimes

The alligators must have slept in this morning

"I would argue that there is nothing more sustaining to long-term creative work than time and space – these things cost money – and the fact that some people have access to it for reasons that are often outside of their control continues to create an ecosystem in which the tenor of the voices that we hear from most often remains similar. It is no wonder, I say often to students, that so much of the canon is about rich white people. Who else, after all, has the time and space to finish a book. Who else, after all, as the book is coming out, has the time and space and money to promote and publicize that book?" Yes, we all know exceptions to this hard truth (Gods, let me be a hack like Stephen King, Stephanie Meyer, or Dan Brown. Amen). But I hate to break it to you all, there is money to be made writing. The majority of that money has nothing to do with fiction or books (yes, yes, the fiction thing is iffy in much "non-fiction" writing, I've seen Christmas in Connecticut, and it still works that way, except for the happy ending). In genre writing, the numbers on writer compensation have not moved in decades (there has been some movement in the past 5-10 years, so hurrah for that, but it means you get to buy the good peanut butter). And erotica isn't the cash cow it used to be (thanks, Amazon), although Romance still seems to be chugging along (but you'll need to crank out several books per year). Here's a handy guide (completely apocryphal, but it helps, this is also true for musicians and video game athletes), for every 1 who gets paid more than pizza money, there's thousands who try (and tens of thousands who say they want to). For every 1 who gets paid that can take a good vacation with that money, there are hundreds who get paid pizza money. For every 1 who can quit the day job there tens of vacation pay writers. For every "successful" writer there are more than a handful of those who can quit the day job. But then in this modern American economy, most people are working one or more side-hustles (like writing). (Grokked from Laura J Mixon)

"This is the new reality with hospice. Death has returned home, where most of us say we want to die. But there seems to be a cost that’s difficult to quantify for those left behind." (Grokked from Xeni Jardin)

"About 4 in 10 American adults are obese, and nearly 1 in 10 is severely so, government researchers said Thursday." When they say "obese" most people picture "My 600lb Life", not what would be considered "hefty."

"President Donald Trump on Wednesday placed Vice President Mike Pence in charge of the US government response to the novel coronavirus, amid growing criticism of the White House's handling of the outbreak." You might remember Pence's fantastic response to healthcare issues in Indiana, where under his watch there was a large HIV outbreak in rural areas because he refused to launch needle exchanges for 4 years. Or his support for conversion therapy (for gay teens). Or his unwillingness to be alone in a room with a woman who isn't his wife. Yeah, that guy is in charge of our response. We're all gonna die. "'We expect we will see community spread in this country,' said Dr. Nancy Messonnier, director of the CDC's National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases. 'It's not so much a question of if this will happen anymore, but rather more a question of exactly when this will happen and how many people in this country will have severe illness.'"

And what do we have here? "Mr. Trump said the risk to Americans remained very low, but his bid to ease nerves — and shore up jittery stock markets in an election year — came as officials confirmed the first case of suspected 'community transmission' of the COVID-19 disease in the country: a patient in California with no recent travel history to coronavirus hotspots or known contact with infected people." Less than a few hours after the president's address.

"Dow futures dropped 200 points, or 0.7%, in the early hours of Thursday after US health authorities said they've discovered a case of novel coronavirus in the country without knowing its origin… Other major US indexes also declined in premarket trading. S&P 500… and Nasdaq… futures each fell 0.8%." As of this writing the Dow Jones is down 500+ points and there appears to be another hard bottom at 26,000. Note that yesterday there was a similar hard bottom at 27,000. We're now in "Correction Territory" (which means a 10% drop from the high).

"Still, some U.S. health care workers on the front line, including Maureen Dugan, worry they are not properly prepared… Dugan is a veteran nurse at the University of California, San Francisco Medical Center, where two coronavirus patients were earlier transferred this month. UCSF is one of the premiere hospitals in the country, but Dugan says her frustrations are mounting, because she says her employer offered little notice or training to those caring for the infected patients." We've received emails that state in confusing language, "we're making plans." Not that they're stocking up on N95, or going to train special teams. But it's hard to do that when you barely have enough nurses and staff to make daily rounds.

And, just as a general comment, SARS-CoV2, which causes COVID-19 (the disease) is a serious concern, but it's not this "ZOMG" hysteria level of concern. I'll also state there are a lot of unknowns here concerning the virus and its transmission vectors. And, frankly, we really don't fully trust the data coming out of China. What we do know (or think we know) is about 20-30% of people who contract SARS-CoV2 have a serious illness which about half of that will require a hospital stay. There's a 2% mortality rate from COVID-19. Currently in the US for the annual flu that mortality rate is 0.13%. And the flu kills a lot of people every year. The major concern in healthcare is that we're unable to stop the spread of SARS-CoV2 and that it will become a "common" disease (like chickenpox, mumps, measles, and the annual flu). What stopped the spread of the Spanish Influenza? Well, basically nothing did, everyone who would die from catching the disease was dead, herd immunity held the line, and the virus eventually found no one new to infect and/or mutated enough that it was no longer a threat to humans (both of those things are natural processes and not directed action). SARS-CoV2 appears to have broken out from containment which means it'll be much harder to quash and the likelihood that it will burn through the population is growing daily. SO now the question becomes do we have enough healthcare infrastructure to withstand a pandemic (the answer is "no", although the politicians and top healthcare people will hedge their language to not incite panic). There is some evidence that the 20-30% figure (and the 2% mortality rate) are high estimates because we don't have an effective, quick test for the virus and that there are many people infected who only display minor symptoms (this is why taking people's temperatures is an important step here, although this is also a reminder that 98.6° is an average and there is some new evidence that number has been changing). If humans were rational actors and our economy had certain protections (like universal quality healthcare and mandated paid sick days) this wouldn't be as much of a concern. But we're not, and we don't have those. Expect to hear campaigns about "check your temperature" and "if you're sick stay home." These won't work to any large degree (raise your hand if you've gone to work sick), but the government will have to be seen to be doing something.

So, am I worried? Yes. If reports can be believed, more than likely I will be exposed to the virus at some point. My main concern is to not spread it to those closest to me (note, I don't have to be sick to spread the virus). But I have been exposed to Influenza B and A this year and I haven't contracted the disease (thank you flu shot and aseptic technique) or given it to anybody that I know of. I've been exposed to TB, MRSA, C-diff and a host of other contagious diseases and so far have avoided contracting or spreading those. Again, there are a ton of unknowns here. If an effective vaccine is created it'll be years before it's both proven and widely available (and note our government officials aren't promising it'll be "cheap").

I am more concerned about how the fear of COVID-19 will be used in politics and social context. You don't need a large government, and conservatives will cut and cut, until something bad comes along. And then you realize that you've cut too much and there ain't shit you can do in the short term because you first have to rebuilt the organizations and appoint actual competent leaders to the positions that you've (until now) decimated, ignored, used temporary appointees, and given several people the jobs of ten people.

Wednesday in America… "A worker at the sprawling Molson Coors complex in Milwaukee opened fire Wednesday afternoon, killing five employees before taking his own life, the company's chief executive officer and police said."

The AI arms race. "This caused the algorithm to classify the review as 'positive,' instead of 'negative.' The demonstration highlights an uncomfortable truth about AI—that it can be both remarkably clever and surprisingly dumb…" (including the fact that they changed 3 words, not two in their example). Again, what we have is not AI, we've simply waited so long for it, and people's careers are staked to its development, that we've drawn the line behind where we are and declared we crossed the finish line. In 2001, Dave had to suit up and distract HAL to defeat it. In I, Mudd, they just had to feed Norman/the computer nonsense. With current AI you just need to split your infinitives or put tape on road signs.

"In Japan, these high-tech toilets are everywhere: hotels, restaurants, bus stations, rest stops and around 80% of homes. It's glorious. Then, I come back to the United States, and our toilets are stuck in the age of dirty coal mines and the horse and buggy. They basically have one feature: flush. No heated seats. No nice smells and sounds. No sanitizing blasts of liquid. It's like cleaning your dishes without water. It's gross. And it got me thinking: Why can't we have high-tech toilets too?" And then the reporter completely misses that the reason we can't is during WWII American GIs in Europe experienced bidets while overseas. But the majority of those experiences were in brothels, so when they came back to the US they equated bidet with lasciviousness and so eschewed bringing them into their own homes. Thank you latent and misunderstood Victorian social custom. And that, youngins, is why we can't have nice things.

How's that "religious freedom" in India coming along? "Abdul Samar was praying at a mosque in the northeast of India's capital on Tuesday evening when protesters stormed in brandishing weapons, attacking worshipers and setting the building ablaze… 'They brought batons and stones inside the mosque and the people outside had guns as well. We had to stop praying and run away,' Samar, whose eye was severely injured in the attack, said."

"Efforts by the Trump administration to increase deportations to Laos have galvanized the Hmong community in the U.S., and some leaders are speaking out in ways they haven't before." Oh, FFS! "The Hmong, a Southeast Asian ethnic group, fought as U.S. allies in the Vietnam War. After the war, tens of thousands of them were forced to flee Laos and a crackdown from its Communist government. They came to the U.S. as refugees beginning in the 1970s." And those are the people we want to deport. Sure, the administration will again try to say "it's only the criminals" but how long did that last with the Latinos and Hispanics (narrator voice, it never was about "the criminals")?

"Attorney General William Barr delivered a highly ideological speech to religion broadcasters on Wednesday — characterizing progressivism as 'totalitarian democracy.'" Our AG is a dominionist, rather actively or by sympathy. What he says here (no transcript yet) is dangerous totalitarianism and straight out of the Goebbels playbook. And I'm not saying that with hyperbole. He is ticking off points from the actual, fucking, playbook. And it's not by accident.

Anyone who thought this election wouldn't be a knock-down fight is footing themselves. "Representatives for Barack Obama sent a cease-and-desist letter to a Republican super PAC on Wednesday, demanding that they stop airing an ad that uses the former President's words to imply former Vice President Joe Biden supports 'plantation politics.'" This one is going to be a nasty one. I sure hope we're all ready for it.

"As part of an ongoing effort to increase Trump’s share of the black vote this fall, the president’s reelection campaign unveiled plans on Wednesday to open a series of 'community centers' in empty retail spaces across the U.S. where paid staffers and volunteers will spend the next several months courting black voters with literature, celebrity meet-and-greets and 'woke'-branded attire." Gives new meaning to "retail politics."

"Sanders has argued that whoever gets the most delegates — even if they fall short of the DNC’s threshold — should be crowned the nominee for president. But House and Senate Democrats, for the most part, insist that the party stick with the rules that were rewritten specifically to address complaints of bias against Sanders in 2016." Part of this "confusion" during the primaries and caucuses are exactly because of those rule changes made for Sanders after the 2016 election.

Wednesday, February 26, 2020

Linkee-poo Wednesday

Alligators, lotsa fucking alligators.

"Researchers have discovered the only known animal that does not need oxygen to survive, a common parasite that largely preys on salmon… The study, published Tuesday in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, found that the parasite Henneguya salminicola does not require aerobic respiration in order to survive — a revelation that may change how we understand life on Earth and beyond." Something new has been added. The parasite does not have mitochondria which explains why it doesn't need O2. Life finds a way.

"It's recreation time at a Los Angeles County jail known as the Twin Towers. Nearly a dozen disheveled young men stand docilely as they munch on sandwiches out of brown paper bags… They're half-naked except for sleeveless, thick, blanket-like restraints wrapped around them like medieval garments… All are chained and handcuffed to shiny metal tables bolted to the floor." How we are dealing with mental illness in this country is a crime. Unfortunately we're treating mental illness as a crime instead. When I was a young child we had institutions, which weren't always good places to send people with mental illness, and in the 80s we closed most of them up (thank you Ronald Reagan and ersatz austerity). But even some of the worst things that came out of those asylums were better than what is happening in our criminal justice system.

"Health authorities (in South Korea) are also focusing resources on the Shincheonji Church of Jesus, founded in 1984 by charismatic pastor Lee Man-hee, whose followers, estimated at up to 240,000 worldwide, believe he is the messiah. Its critics say it's a cult… Authorities are not sure how the disease was first transmitted to the group, but investigators have been looking into it. More than 9,000 Shincheonji members have been put under quarantine, and the government plans to test all of them for the virus." (Grokked from Dan)

"Right now, all sorts of products aren't reaching the U.S. because of the coronavirus outbreak that originated in Wuhan, China, officially called COVID-19. Reciprocally, many U.S. agricultural and forestry products aren't shipping back into China and other Pacific Rim countries. Global trade watchers say backed-up trade is building up on both sides of the Pacific Ocean."

"'Although there are still zero confirmed cases in San Francisco residents, the global picture is changing rapidly, and we need to step up preparedness,' Breed said in a statement Tuesday. 'We see the virus spreading in new parts of the world every day, and we are taking the necessary steps to protect San Franciscans from harm.'" So as I commented on Twitter yesterday, it looks like we're going to go full panic and prepper mode now.

Like this… "Stocks fell sharply for a second day in a row. The Dow dropped 879 points on Tuesday, after tumbling more than 1,000 points on Monday." As of this writing stocks are a little up today.

And then this, "President Donald Trump is reportedly furious that stocks are plunging, believing that health officials’ warnings have spooked investors, The Washington Post reported Tuesday night, citing two people familiar with the president’s thinking… The president has reportedly cautioned aides against forecasting the impact of the virus over fears that stocks could fall further, The Washington Post said." Don't tell them what's going on, because that'll hurt profits.

"'A document that the Trump administration sent to Congress, which we have seen, indicates that the administration is transferring $37 million to emergency funding for the coronavirus response from the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program, or LIHEAP, which funds heating for poor families,' they reported." Cruelty is the plan. "This program, a frequent target for cuts by the GOP, is essential to making sure low-income families’ homes are livable in parts of the country where winter temperatures are especially bad." (Grokked from Jim Wright)

"'It’s not so much a question of if this will happen anymore, but rather more a question of exactly when this will happen — and how many people in this country will have severe illness,' Dr. Nancy Messonnier of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said in a call with reporters."

Who needs regulations? "A deadly sickness is spreading through villages near a Chinese natural gas project in Ethiopia’s Somali region, according to locals and officials who spoke to the Guardian. Many of Khadar’s neighbours have suffered the same symptoms. Like him, some died."

"Authorities were responding to a structure fire at an oil refinery in Carson Tuesday evening… Massive flames could be seen burning the Marathon Petroleum Corporation refinery located at South Main Street and East Sepulveda Boulevard." KFB. And there go your gas prices.

"Short-term health insurance plans sold as a cheaper alternative to Affordable Care Act plans may cost patients more in the long run… A new study from the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, a Washington-based blood cancer research organization, finds that the plans 'offer less benefit coverage and insurance protection than ACA-compliant policies,' meaning patients have to pay more out of pocket to get care." There's a reason these are called "junk" plans. They cost less upfront and only make sense for people who don't use medical services, ever. They're meant to be a net that keeps you from splatting in case something goes wrong. But they don't even do that well. (Grokked from Chuck Wendig)

"What gets left out of the conversation is that 5G will likely be rolled out the same way as in technologies past — predominantly in wealthier areas. 5G will bring the next generation of wireless technology to cities across Texas, but advocates argue it will bring the fifth generation of digital inequality to low-income and rural areas." Right now, where I live, we barely have somewhat good 4G, and there are places during my commute where there is only 3G. And sometimes there isn't even that. While my community has cable modems, I can't get one at my house because the cable line the developer put in is too crappy and our providers (cable, phone, internet) has no intention of replacing the line or replacing their line extenders with signal repeaters (both of which would help). Trust me, I've developed plans, tried to lure suppliers into the area and have nearly pulled the plug and built my own neighborhood subnetwork. Last time I did, mine was the only wifi signal in the neighborhood (I can now see about 5 or 6 different routers from my home).

"The US supreme court has refused to open the door for foreign nationals to pursue civil rights cases in American courts, declining to revive a lawsuit by a slain Mexican teenager’s family against the US border agent who shot him from across the border in Texas." A total miscarriage of justice. And it's not just that the SCOTUS said, "If you shoot someone in Mexico from the US you can't be prosecuted." Actually they didn't say that. They said that, "If a duly deputized officer kills someone in the course of their job enforcing laws, you can't sue them." And that's a whole different ball of wax. A little bit more from an NPR report here.

"White supremacist mass murderer Dylann Roof staged a hunger strike this month while on federal death row, alleging in letters to The Associated Press that he’s been 'targeted by staff,' 'verbally harassed and abused without cause' and 'treated disproportionately harsh.'" While we do need prison reform, I don't have much sympathy for Dylann, who, you may remember, killed people because of their ancestry.

So, after the president praised India and PM Modi for their preservation of "religious freedoms", let's check in and see how's that going. "The death toll from the worst religious violence in Delhi in decades has risen to 21, as Muslims fled from their homes and several mosques in the capital smouldered after being attacked by Hindu mobs." Religious freedom is code, not what it states on the tin.

The moment it becomes real… "These trends have raised concern among top experts on authoritarianism, fascism, and democracy, but they've often said that the robust political system in the US, with its checks and balances and constitutional norms, has prevented Trump from becoming a full-blown authoritarian and doing whatever he wants… Since Trump was acquitted in the Senate earlier this month after being impeached in the House over his dealings with Ukraine, there's been a White House purge of impeachment witnesses, and Attorney General William Barr has intervened in the trial of a close associate of the president, Roger Stone. And the experts' tone has changed dramatically." No one is coming from the future to save us. (Grokked from Vincent O'Connor)

"President Trump criticized remarks by Justices Sonia Sotomayor and Ruth Bader Ginsburg as 'inappropriate' and said the Supreme Court justices should recuse themselves from cases involving the president." If this were an actual thing, the president would have to stop working because of his past comments. Although for writers Trump is an excellent study on how the villain never views themselves as villainous.

"Former Donald Trump campaign CEO and chief strategist Steve Bannon used a private jet apparently owned by a wealthy Chinese businessman to fly to events to promote Republican congressional candidates in 2018… The previously unreported flights could run afoul of a campaign finance law that bars foreign money from U.S. elections, according to campaign finance experts, though it depends on several factors that are not known. One of the unknowns is whether Bannon paid Guo Wengui — the Chinese businessman, who is a vocal critic of the Chinese regime, and with whom he has other reported financial ties — for the use of the jet." Oopsie. I'm sure a receipt will appear shortly. (Grokked from Xeni Jardin)

"On Saturday, what most pollsters, politicos, and Bernie Sanders campaign organizers had been saying for days, if not weeks, proved true: namely, that the Democratic Socialist candidate for president had been well-poised for victory in Nevada, the most diverse state in the race thus far. Since the AP was able to call the race early in the day, the punditry had all the time they needed to speak to the moment." On the Media podcast with the left-wing freakout over Sanders. And while, yes, there is a Trumpesque nature of Sanders speaking more to the base, but I'm not totally sure they're comparable. Yes, there are operatives driving their narrative on ideology to shape the party. And yes, the party should have seen this coming (coughAOCcough). But the Democratic party in their attempt to be "moderate" has pissed off a lot of the base, and, frankly, thrown a lot of opportunity in the waste bin. But unlike the right, the "left-wing" wasn't coaxed into the party as they were pandered to, they were always here, and the party loses when they ignore them. And I don't doubt that a Sander's presidency would be as much a shock to the governmental institutions as Trump's presidency has been (although hopefully in a more positive direction). But I doubt that even if Sanders gets the nomination and wins that he will force all the party to venerate him. But then I'll also point out that while Senator Obama was considered a rising star in the party, most of the punditry and establishment felt 2008 was too soon for his peak. GW Bush wasn't the run away nominee either and he pushed the GOP even farther to the right. And Bill Clinton came from out of no where and pushed the party towards neoliberalism.

From last week… "President Donald Trump arrives Monday in a country featuring the most Trump properties outside the U.S.… The White House hopes the visit will advance trade talks and bolster the president’s standing with Indian-Americans ahead of the 2020 election. But it’s also a trip that will create attention that could help Trump-branded properties amid a slumping real estate market and slowing economy in India." (Grokked in a roundabout way from Michele)

Tuesday, February 25, 2020

Linkee-poo Fat Tuesday, where's the paczkis

Hosni Mubarak, and so it goes.

Ah, another example of our fine state of paying for healthcare in the US. Man comes back from China, thinks he may have COVID-19, goes to hospital. Fortunately doesn't have COVID-19, just the regular flu, is billed for $3,270 (and maybe more if his "junk" insurance determines it was part of a "pre-existing" condition). Also note it was only that low because he refused a CT scan (note, CT scans can not determine what virus you have, it can only see if you have any reactions to that virus like pneumonia or pluracy and a standard chest X-ray is just as good 99% of the time). And now you know why, if SARS-CoV-2 breaks out in the US that our only saving grace is it has a mortality of around 2% (or so, if you believe the Chinese). (Grokked from Kelly Swails)

"A study by researchers at Brown University has found a quarter of posts about climate change on Twitter were written by bots… Researchers discovered tweets posted by bots created the impression there was a high level of climate change denial." Literally buying the "grass roots support." (Grokked from Annie Wheaton)

"The 24 largest quakes discussed in the paper only reached a magnitude 3 or 4, which on Earth, might be powerful enough to be felt as a rumble on the ground but usually aren’t strong enough to cause serious damage. But unlike on Earth, where quakes can happen closer to the surface, it appears that the marsquakes InSight detected tended to originate far deeper in the planet (30 to 50 kilometers). The deeper the quake, the less shaking is felt on the surface."

"This video uses data gathered from the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter spacecraft to recreate some of the stunning views of the Moon that the Apollo 13 astronauts saw on their perilous journey around the farside in 1970. These visualizations, in 4K resolution, depict many different views of the lunar surface, starting with earthset and sunrise and concluding with the time Apollo 13 reestablished radio contact with Mission Control."

"A nine-day heat wave scorched Antarctica's northern tip earlier this month. New NASA images reveal that nearly a quarter of an Antarctic island's snow cover melted in that time -- an increasingly common symptom of the climate crisis."

"For women who haven’t gone into labor by 42 weeks, just about every medical and birth professional recommends induction… But Judith, an artist and freethinker… had a different kind of birth plan — one that dismissed medical recommendations and relied on nature and intuition, that rejected a sterile hospital for a warm pool in her own home and that avoided doctors and midwives. Instead, Judith wanted to be with only her husband and her closest friend, a plan known as freebirth, or unassisted birth, by the tiny subculture of women who practice it." Which is fine, but it's not an excuse to go completely against medical advice. The major problem is the people she turned to for advice were not medical people. And those people, instead of seeing warning signs that this was a troubled pregnancy, instead continued to push their ideology. There's a lot of things you don't need doctors for. But there is a line where what you're doing on your own isn't effective. Because here's the thing, and I'll use another group as an example, many people who spout the anti-vaxxer line like to say, "What happened before we had all (these advanced medical practices)?" Well the answer is a lot of people died. Should you listen to your body? By all means yes (and take notes). In many cases for minor medical issues you will get better. But the flu, something a lot of people get and don't die from, still kills over 10,000 people in the US every year. So get actual medical advice, talk with your doctors and healthcare providers. If that doctor doesn't help, or you feel they aren't listening to you, find another one (which is easier to say than do). There are many ob-gyns who support home birth. Find one. And when they say, "This ain't right, get thee to a hospital" follow that advice. And here I will also say for many life threatening conditions, there are no warning signs until it is way too late (for instance many cancers you will not feel pain or experience side-effects until it is about to kill you). Even with regular checkups a lot is missed. But a lot more are missed when you don't have regular checkups.

"The White House is requesting $1.25 billion in emergency funding from Congress as part of a total commitment of $2.5 billion to fight the novel coronavirus, according to a congressional official." Hey, there's all this money being freed up for the wall, I bet we could transfer and use that. Also note that the media has no ability to report on this. The virus isn't COVID-19, the disease it causes is. The virus is named SARS-CoV-2.

"Italy reported a total of 229 novel coronavirus cases on Monday, leaping ahead of Japan (156 cases) on the list of worst-hit countries. Six people have died from the respiratory disease COVID-19 in Italy, and 27 more are in intensive care."

"Two years ago, Amazon introduced the idea of high-tech, cashierless shopping with a store that was a cross between a 7-Eleven and a Pret A Manger sandwich shop. Now, Amazon is bringing the same concept to a full-size supermarket."

"As politicians and regulators around the world start to consider the global impact of Amazon — and how to rein in Bezos’ power — FRONTLINE investigates how he executed a plan to build one of the most influential economic and cultural forces in the world."

From last year, but… "As with last year’s findings, the report features 156 countries ranked by how happy their citizens perceive themselves to be, according to their evaluations of their own lives. This year it also analyzes how life evaluations and emotions, both positive and negative, have evolved over the whole run of the happiness surveys since 2012." The 10 most happiest countries. You'll note, the US is not there. Also, they say Iceland is like Middle Earth, but dudes, seriously, New Zealand (#8) is like Middle Earth. Iceland (#4) is like Game of Thrones. Stop having boomers write your copy, Forbes. (Grokked from Joe Hill)

"Accusers of Harvey Weinstein have welcomed the guilty verdicts in the rape and sexual assault case against the former Hollywood mogul… Actress Rose McGowan told the BBC 'this is a great day', while others said the ruling brought hope to victims that their voices would be heard." Harvey was led out of court without his walker. Whispers… he never used it correctly anyway. Also, because I'm hearing it stated this way in the media, Weinstein was not convicted because of the #MeToo movement, he was convicted because he's a serial rapists and a serial sexual harasser. His accusers came forward as a part of the empowerment of the #MeToo movement (and IIRC Rose McGowan's honesty and bravery launched the movement when she publicly accused Weinstein). This is not to take away from #MeToo but to clarify the #MeToo didn't change the laws (although there is now a movement to extend the time victims can come forward) and that the only change is that for some of the rapists and abusers their positions of power are not going to completely shield them.

"(Crypto AG) made millions of dollars selling equipment to more than 120 countries well into the 21st century. Its clients included Iran, military juntas in Latin America, nuclear rivals India and Pakistan, and even the Vatican… But what none of its customers ever knew was that Crypto AG was secretly owned by the CIA in a highly classified partnership with West German intelligence. These spy agencies rigged the company’s devices so they could easily break the codes that countries used to send encrypted messages." Why backdoors are a Bad Idea™ and why your government wants them. (Grokked from Dan)

"A Chinese court has sentenced Hong Kong bookseller Gui Minhai to 10 years in jail for 'illegally providing intelligence overseas'… Mr Gui, who holds Swedish citizenship, has been in and out of Chinese detention since 2015, when he went missing during a holiday in Thailand." Books are important.

"That's because ever since the first modern combat helmet came out in 1915, these so-called 'brain buckets' have been designed to protect heads not from invisible shock waves, but from shrapnel, bullets and other blunt physical objects." We're always fighting the last war and not the current one. There's not much that can protect you from an over pressurization event (blast). And that's the point of it being a part of the current wars. And what is not pointed out in the article that the best protection for injury that a soldier has is to never be placed into a war situation in the first place. Everything else from the point diplomacy fails is a trade-off of bad outcomes.

"A car has been driven into a crowd at a carnival parade in the western German town of Volkmarsen." The use of the passive voice is annoying.

"Experts said that Trump’s first state visit to India signifies the growing strength of the relations between Washington and New Delhi, amid China’s rising clout in South Asia. As part of his two-day visit which began on Monday, Trump was in New Delhi and Ahmedabad, the largest city in Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s home state of Gujarat." If only he was actually that strategic. Also this story ignores the fact that historically India and China are at odds and not allies.

"Chad Wolf, now the acting head of D.H.S., used to advise colleagues to placate Miller by picking one item from his long list of demands, and vowing to execute it. 'It’s a war of attrition,' Wolf told them. 'Maybe he forgets the rest for a while, and you buy yourself some time.'" So besides being a neo-Nazi and white supremacist, Stephen Miller is a fucking asshole.

"In the rush to replace insecure, unreliable electronic voting machines after Russia’s interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential race, state and local officials have scrambled to acquire more trustworthy equipment for this year’s election, when U.S. intelligence agencies fear even worse problems." Only the technology isn't transparent, is more susceptible to undetected hacking, cost shitloads more, and take 3x as long to use as standard paper ballots. This is how fucked our election services are here in the US. Just use marked paper ballots. They can't be hacked (although the counting machines can be, but that's what will be found in an audit). They're cheaper. They're proven technology. There is a very-low learning curve to use. (Grokked from Chuck Wendig)

"President Donald Trump’s top aides faced an increasingly urgent threat Monday with potentially monumental implications: a global outbreak knocking down the U.S. economy and walloping markets in an election year, all against accusations about whether the Trump administration had mismanaged and underfunded a critical response with American lives on the line." It's not a knockout blow, but it does make the stool wobble.

How's that late-capitalism campaign going? "To bolster his support (in California), the Los Angeles Times reports, the (Bloomberg) campaign has hired 500 'deputy field organizers," paying them $2,500 each to promote Bloomberg on social media to their friends and family. A Bloomberg spokesperson said in a statement that the goal is to meet "voters everywhere on any platform that they consume their news… At one point, another organizer texted his friends, 'Sam Donaldson just nailed it: Mike Bloomberg is the president we need to unite our country!' using the exact wording suggested by the Bloomberg campaign. He promptly followed up with a text reading, 'Please disregard, vote Bernie or Warren.'" Can't buy me love, as the Beatles sang so long ago. (Grokked from Bo Bolander)

"Bernie Sanders’ nomination could drag down vulnerable House Democrats trying to hold onto their competitive districts, according to a new poll conducted for Mike Bloomberg's campaign that is circulating among members — providing fresh data for moderates warning about a wipeout if Sanders emerges to lead their ticket against President Donald Trump." Consider the source, Democrats. If this were true, AOC and Omar would be depressing turn out as well. But I will agree that the Trump campaign is most ready for Bernie. And now you know why Russia may be interfering to help him win the nomination (although just their presence pushing for Bernie causes a disruptive action, because, again, the operation has little downside to any of the outcomes for Putin).

Monday, February 24, 2020

Linkee-poo was born an original sinner

Katherine Johnson, and so it goes.

Edit for breaking news "Harvey Weinstein was convicted Monday of rape and sexual assault against two women and could be sent to prison for decades, sealing his dizzying fall from powerful Hollywood studio boss to archvillain of the #MeToo movement."

"Alexander Chee delivered this craft lecture, from “First Draft to Plot,” at the 2016 Tin House Summer Workshop. Chee is the author most recently of the essay collection How to Write an Autobiographical Novel." Haven't had a chance to listen to it yet, but it sounds interesting. (Grokked from DongWon Song)

"Chinese President Xi Jinping has warned the novel coronavirus is the worst public health crisis facing the country since its founding, as new outbreaks continued to expand in South Korea and Italy, raising fears of a global pandemic."

"South Korea reported 231 new cases of a coronavirus, taking total infections to 833, health authorities said on Monday, a day after raising its infectious disease alert to the highest level."

"Health experts sounded the alarm Friday over the worldwide threat of the coronavirus, with officials warning of its 'likely' community spread in the United States and the World Health Organization cautioning that 'the window of opportunity is narrowing' for containing the outbreak worldwide." Insert the theme to Jaws here.

"U.S. markets fell sharply Monday amid widening concern that the continuing spread of cases could lead to a global pandemic. The Dow Jones Industrial Average tumbled more than 900 points in the opening minutes of trading, before recovering some ground. All of the major market indexes were down more than 2.5%."

"Markets closed out last week on an anxious note. It's not difficult to see why: the coronavirus continues to spread, and there are signs that some of the world's top economies could slide into recession as the outbreak compounds pre-existing weaknesses."

"The doctors told them there were two nearly identical drug implants — each containing 50 mg of histrelin acetate — made by the same company, Endo Pharmaceuticals, an American drugmaker domiciled in Ireland. But one was considerably cheaper… Taksali wanted his daughter to get the less expensive option, but his insurer said it would cover only the more expensive option." There is a question asked here on how everybody can get the kind of response from their insurer like the Taksali's got and the obvious answer (to this and other questions) is get a reporter from a national news organization involved. Lots of information about inside baseball (like hospital markups, and exactly whom the Taksali's fight actually helped).

"The daredevil 'Mad' Mike Hughes was killed in a rocket launch gone wrong Saturday in Barstow, Calif., two witnesses to the accident confirmed. He was 64."

"Companies around the world are embracing what might seem like a radical idea: a four-day workweek." But not so much in the US.

"Haitian police officers exchanged gunfire for hours Sunday with soldiers of the newly reconstituted army outside the national palace, in a dangerous escalation of protests over police pay and working conditions."

"Historians and activists charge that the White House has failed to keep notes of the president's meetings with foreign leaders, including with Russian President Vladimir Putin, and that other papers, including records of alleged abuses of undocumented immigrants, could be destroyed."

"Johnny McEntee called in White House liaisons from cabinet agencies for an introductory meeting Thursday, in which he asked them to identify political appointees across the U.S. government who are believed to be anti-Trump, three sources familiar with the meeting tell Axios." The flogging will continue until moral improves. The problem with this, and the "Deep State" narrative is if Trump loses (or when his kind are tossed out), there will need to be a purging of the Trump Loyalists to right the ship of state, and the conservatives will bring out their "they do it too" narrative. (Grokked from Christopher Moore)

"Richard Grenell did not disclose payments for advocacy work on behalf of a Moldovan politician whom the U.S. later accused of corruption. His own office’s policy says that could leave him vulnerable to blackmail." Our new Director of National Intelligence, the top spy failed to register as a foreign asset, and the guy he worked for is now on the run. Our top spy wouldn't normally qualify for a security clearance. Yeah, that's about par for the course. (Grokked from Jim Wright)

"The US intelligence community has assessed that Russia is interfering in the 2020 election and has separately assessed that Russia views Trump as a leader they can work with. But the US does not have evidence that Russia's interference this cycle is aimed at reelecting Trump, the officials said." This reads more of backdating an excuse for Trump's ire at intelligence officials. Again, Russia is interested in weakening the West and destroying our confidence in our leadership and institutions (waves to our Russian friends and their Italian feed network).

"In a strongly worded order issued Sunday, Judge Amy Berman Jackson dismissed the Stone defense team's claims, arguing that the motion to have her recuse herself lacked 'any factual or legal support.'"

"This will be the first presidential election in decades in which the Republican National Committee will no longer be shackled by a federal consent decree that stopped many of the GOP’s 'ballot security' tactics, such as dispatching armed, off-duty police officers to minority voting precincts. A court lifted the order two years ago… Trump made reckless unsubstantiated accusations of voter fraud in the 2016 election. With the removal of the consent decree, his campaign and the party can engage in 'ballot security' efforts without court supervision." (Grokked from Jim Wright)

Friday, February 21, 2020

Linkee-poo, you and all your jewelry and my bleeding heart

"The Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America (SFWA) has announced the finalists for the 2019 Nebula Awards, including the Ray Bradbury Award for Outstanding Dramatic Presentation, the Andre Norton Award for Outstanding Young Adult Science Fiction or Fantasy Book, and the Nebula Award for Game Writing." Congrats to the nominees.

"LightSail 2 has been orbiting Earth for eight months now, and it has captured some stunning shots of our home planet during that time."

"The company’s owner, L Brands, said that the private-equity firm Sycamore Partners will buy 55% of Victoria’s Secret for about $525 million. The Columbus, Ohio, company will keep the remaining 45% stake. After the sale, L Brands will be left with its Bath & Body Works chain and Victoria’s Secret will become a private company." The confluence of MeToo, Epstein, changing tastes, and the business philosophy of 6 sigma (but mostly the later).

Forever Chapter 11. "Forever 21, the fast-fashion mall standby that filed for bankruptcy last year, will live on. Three companies announced Wednesday that they are jointly acquiring the retailer aimed at young shoppers and that they plan to continue to operate its U.S. and international stores."

A PBS Newshour story about the state of employment in our late-capitalism era. "Crist spent his career in a higher echelon of the printing industry than this. For almost 30 years, Crist was a manager at printing giant RR Donnelley." I have lived this, only I was 45 at the time. I only work 2 jobs, though. But I was 2 months from being fully vested in the retirement pensions. But I have been fortunate to continue to make similar money. But if you wonder what drives me, this is the fear. But for the grace of fortune, so I would walk that same path.

"The director of Wuhan Women’s Prison has been removed from her position, according to the Hubei Daily, where it’s believed 230 inmates have tested positive for Covid-19." Rhut rho.

"Airlines stand to lose $29.3bn (£23.7bn) of revenue this year due to the coronavirus outbreak, the global airline industry body has warned."

"A Mexican municipal worker who was shot at point-blank range by a U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officer in New York this month suffered excruciating pain, has limited vision in his left eye and cannot use his left arm, according to a federal lawsuit filed against the unnamed ICE agent."

"A federal judge in Arizona has ruled that conditions at U.S. border holding cells operated by the U.S. Customs and Border Protection agency violated the Constitution." The case started in 2015.

"Afghan forces, the U.S.-led coalition in Afghanistan and the Taliban militia will begin a seven-day 'reduction in violence' across the country beginning Saturday midnight local time (2:30 p.m. ET Friday) — a possible prelude to a broader peace deal following two decades of war, according to U.S. and Afghan officials." "Reduction in violence" is so ridiculously low it's almost (almost) impossible to miss.

"The Trump administration has revived the debate over 'end-to-end encryption' — systems so secure that the tech companies themselves aren't able to read the messages, even when police present them with a warrant." While those who fight for more controls over encryption and to install backdoors like to use the phrase, "if you've done nothing wrong, you have nothing to fear", the law itself is the exact opposite. Unless the government can prove a need, they don't get to see your data. At all. And shouldn't even know if it exists. And now this will get wrapped up in the discussions of removing Section 230 of the CDA, which holds "transmission companies" (like Facebook, twitter, Google, etc) not liable for content posted by users.

"The DIA, which is responsible for secure White House communications, said Social Security numbers and other personal data its network held, was likely compromised, reports Reuters, citing a letter sent to compromised individuals." The fuck? (Grokked from Xeni Jardin)

"'I thought a lot about if I had been in that position how would I have approached it, and I'll be honest: It's inconceivable to me that if I had firsthand knowledge of gross abuse of presidential power that I would withhold my testimony from a constitutional accountability process,' said (Susan) Rice, who served in the Obama administration, Wednesday while sitting next to Bolton at an event at Vanderbilt University in Nashville." Well, yeah, she both has and served under a president who has a conscience. (Grokked from Xeni Jardin)

"Trump loyalist and ally Roger Stone was sentenced Thursday to more than three years in federal prison, following an extraordinary move by Attorney General William Barr to back off his Justice Department’s original sentencing recommendation."

"Victoria Coates, a top official on the National Security Council, is being reassigned amid fallout over the identity of the author of the inside-the-White House tell-all book by 'Anonymous.'"

"The intelligence community's top election security official delivered a briefing to lawmakers last week warning them that the intelligence community believes Russia is already taking steps to interfere in the 2020 election with the goal of helping President Donald Trump win, three sources familiar with the matter tell CNN." And someone is not happy. "'This is not a big surprise, but it illustrates the tremendous challenge that the intelligence community has where they're teeing up facts that our President doesn't want to hear, and with a result that the messenger got shot in the form of Joe Maguire being asked to leave,' Clapper said." Also it's rumored Devin Nunes is the one that went running to Trump with the news. About the secure briefing. Violating that security.

"NPR's Rachel Martin talks to ex-acting Director of National Intelligence David Gompert about reports Trump was angered when he learned lawmakers were briefed on Russia's support of his reelection." No transcript yet.

Also, again, they never stopped interfering (waves to my Russian friends… and their friends in Italy, ciao, bella).

Thursday, February 20, 2020

Linkee-poo Thursdays

"But methane -- the main component in natural gas and an even more effective heat-trapping gas -- is a close second. Scientists say that atmospheric methane is now responsible for about 25 percent of the human-caused warming we see today… Now, a new study finds that methane emissions from fossil fuels are between 25% and 40% larger than past research had estimated, revealing that oil and gas production is contributing far more to warming the planet than previously thought." This is my shocked face.

"The quarantine has been heavily criticized for failing to prevent the spread of the COVID-19 among passengers and crew. Even as hundreds of people disembarked, Japanese officials announced 79 more confirmed cases aboard the ship. And in at least one case, a family was informed of a positive test result just hours before they were scheduled to disembark." Quarantine isn't done to stop the spread of infection in those who are quarantined. But even with that, it has been handled poorly, and not just on this ship.

"The company working on the lobster blood project, Lobster Unlimited of Orono, is investigating whether lobster blood can be used as a potential weapon against viruses and cancer. Representatives with the company said results are promising — the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office issued them a patent in late October related to their work."

"TeamHealth is one of the two dominant ER staffing firms in the nation, running nearly 1 in 10 emergency departments in the United States. And its strategy of taking patients to court ramped up after it was purchased by the private equity giant Blackstone, according to an investigation by the journalism project MLK50, in Memphis… Under pressure from journalists, TeamHealth ultimately pledged to stop suing patients and to offer generous discounts to uninsured patients." There are several attempts at rectifying the problem of "surprise" bills from health care professions, such as TeamHealth (when you thought you went to your local hospital). But no one is suggesting the real solution, single-payer. Or the second best solution, if your practice is within a larger facility, such as a hospital, you are bound to obey the insurance agreement of the larger facility. That is if you're an ER doctor (or anesthesiologist) and you work in General Hospital A, even if you work for TeamHealth (who is the outsourced company for General Hospital A), your billing for care given at General Hospital A must conform to the insurance agreements negotiated by General Hospital A.

"Several former patients have alleged that a late University of Michigan physician sexually abused them during exams, with one accuser saying Dr. Robert E. Anderson’s actions over several decades made him a 'sexual predator.'" That wasn't the name I was expecting.

"The European Union unveiled proposals Wednesday to regulate artificial intelligence that call for strict rules and safeguards on risky applications of the rapidly developing technology." I wrote a story (unpublished) that starts with audits of AI systems.

"It was the obvious question after news broke that a 50-year-old charged with forcing college students into prostitution met some of them while living with his daughter in campus housing." Heck, sneaking someone in for an extra hour in our dorms was a heck of a feat when I was in school.

"State and local governments spend billions of dollars hiring contractors for goods and services, but most of those contracts go to white-owned businesses, not minority contractors — despite decades of affirmative action and other policies meant to make up for disparities." Again, this is my shocked face.

Hey, ho, way to go, Ohio. "A state law that bans carrying or using a firearm while intoxicated may be unconstitutional, according to a Clermont County man convicted for violating the statute… Frederick Weber, 50, of Felicity, is appealing the law's constitutionality to the Ohio Supreme Court next week. He says the law violates his Second Amendment rights." Oh fuck no. (Grokked from Jim Wright)

"Gov. Gavin Newsom vowed to marshal the full force of his administration to alleviate California’s worsening homelessness crisis, a humanitarian imperative for the state and political necessity for a governor whose ambitious progressive agenda could be eclipsed if he fails to take effective action."

About that Mexican national arrested for being a Russian agent. "A Mexican microbiologist accused of spying for Russia in Miami is considered a benefactor in his native state of Oaxaca state, the mayor of his hometown said Wednesday, and he holds positions with at least two prominent universities."

"If you earn six figures and haven’t been filing your taxes, the IRS may come knocking… The agency said Wednesday that it is stepping up its efforts to visit high-income taxpayers who failed in prior years to file their tax returns on time." Looks at watch, "must be time to trim the IRS budget again." Also note that low 6-figure income is now considered "middle-class."

"WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange plans to claim during an extradition hearing that the Trump administration offered him a pardon if he agreed to say Russia was not involved in leaking Democratic National Committee emails during the 2016 U.S. election campaign, a lawyer for Assange said Wednesday." Well, that could be interesting if it proves out. Waits to see what passport stamps Dana Rohrabacher has. Also, Assange is still an asshole.

"At least 10 people were killed by a gunman in western Germany late Wednesday at several locations, including two hookah lounges frequented by ethnic Kurdish customers. The suspected shooter, who was later found dead, left a letter and video claiming responsibility, according to multiple German news agencies."

The purge continues. "President Donald Trump has ousted the Pentagon’s top policy official who had certified last year that Ukraine had made enough anti-corruption progress to justify the Trump administration’s release of congressionally authorized aid to Kyiv in its conflict against Russian-backed separatists."

"'I’m a Trumpocrat,' said Blagojevich, flanked by his wife and two daughters. 'If I had the ability to vote, I would vote for him.'" Trump consolidates the convicted felon vote. "'Rod Blagojevich did not sell the Senate seat,' Trump tweeted." Which is true, he was arrested before he could finish the deal for selling the seat. Then he was impeached and removed by the Illinois legislature without filling the seat.

"A group of federal judges hastily postponed an emergency meeting that was scheduled to take place Wednesday to discuss concerns about President Donald Trump and the Justice Department's intervention in politically charged cases."

"The Washington publication The Hill issued a lengthy report on Wednesday finding fault with several articles by journalist John Solomon that it published last year and were used as discredited narratives by President Donald Trump and many of his supporters in their fight against impeachment… The Hill stopped short of retracting or apologizing for Solomon’s work." So, sure, they were had and helped the president's corrupt actions, but they don't accept culpability.

"President Donald Trump announced Wednesday that he has named Richard Grenell, a staunch loyalist, as acting spy chief… Grenell will retain his ambassadorship to Germany while he is acting DNI, according to a senior administration official." You may remember this alt-right/Nazi fucker from his appointment last year when he showed "questionable diplomatic skills by managing to offendi(ng) his new hosts within hours of taking on the role." There's also more about his questionable "diplomacy" here. He also has no intelligence experience, which is both apt and hilariously funny as well as deeply worrying. But hey, he's also a Fox News Contributor, so, you know, he ain't the sharpest crayon in the box (and yes, I meant it that way).

"It is true the Sanders was leading in the poll, conducted by the Wall Street Journal and NBC -- but only among Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents when asked who they supported for the Democratic nomination. He had 27% support compared to Mike Bloomberg, Joe Biden and Sen. Elizabeth Warren, each with 14% support. And in a hypothetical matchup, he was narrowly ahead of President Donald Trump… But two-thirds of all voters -- Democrats plus everyone else -- said they would be uncomfortable with a socialist President." Whispers, "he's not a socialist." He is not advocating for a command economy. He is not advocating to nationalize industries (such as healthcare, and it's quite possible that a Medicare For All will still need "private" health insurance as many countries single-payer programs are built around). He is not advocating changing laws of ownership and property. Dear mass media, you're falling for conservative talking points. Yes, Americans have been trained to not like socialism, but they do like a government that works for them and supports them. Bernie Sanders is a "democratic socialist" because he is deep into the left-wing of politics and his views are not the "standard" Democratic views. He is not "the socialist who came in from the cold."

"New polls exclude Elizabeth Warren as supporters claim the media has 'erased' her candidacy." It's not just the "new polls." If you want to know whom the media and the establishment are truly afraid of, look for the people they try to erase. Why are the media afraid of her, because she exposes their deep incompetence. To cover Elizabeth Warren they're going to have to do the homework.

Wednesday, February 19, 2020

Linkee-poo Wednesday

"One of the most important archaeological sites for our understanding of Neanderthals is still disgorging its secrets. A new skeleton has been found in Shanidar Cave in Iraqi Kurdistan, and it's helping reveal how the Neanderthals dealt with their dead."

"More than 1,300 people, almost all in China, have now died from COVID-19 — the newly minted name for the coronavirus disease first identified in Wuhan, China, that has infected more than 55,000 people… Yet according to the World Health Organization, the disease is relatively mild in about 80% of cases, based on preliminary data from China."

"The microbiome of our ancestors might have been more important for human evolution than previously thought, according to a new study published in Frontiers in Ecology and Evolution. An adaptive gut microbiome could have been critical for human dispersal, allowing our ancestors to survive in new geographic areas."

"Winters are warming faster than other seasons across much of the United States. While that may sound like a welcome change for those bundled in scarves and hats, it's causing a cascade of unpredictable impacts in communities across the country." Welcome to an expanded tick season. Last year in Ohio Lyme disease was a major problem. Also, lower crop yields from disease loss and available water when we don't need it, and not there when we need it. We're boned.

"SpaceX is planning to send up to four private citizens into space to take a trip around Earth sometime at the end of 2021 or in early 2022. The spaceflight company announced an agreement on Tuesday with Space Adventures, a space tourism business that has helped seven different private citizens take trips to (and from) the International Space Station aboard Russia’s Soyuz rocket and spacecraft." Starts counting my pennies. Can't wait to see what the wavier documents read like.

"'We have Ring cameras in our community,' says Police Chief Michael Deal in the voiceover. 'And we understand the value of those cameras in helping us solve crimes.'… But the Winter Park Police Department hasn’t made a single arrest facilitated by footage obtained from Ring cameras since it partnered with the company in April 2018, according to a department spokesman, Lt. Edwin Santos." We have met Big Brother and they are us.

"Ring, Amazon's video doorbell system, has introduced additional steps to the way users log in to their accounts… Users will need to enter a password and unique six-digit code when they first log in to view their security footage or access the Neighbors app… On Tuesday, Ring also said it would pause its data-sharing with third-party firms." The internet of things kinda sucks because there is no built in security.

"A Twitter user who describes himself as a police sergeant in Kingston, Ont., tweeted another photo with the same complaint the next day: 'Did anyone consult with police before designing and manufacturing the new Ontario licence plates? They're virtually unreadable at night.'" Oopsie.

"Two married off-duty police officers have been praised for thwarting an armed robbery during a date at a fast food restaurant in Louisville, Kentucky." Whispers, "they're married to each other."

Fátima. "Mexican police are searching for a woman who was seen on surveillance camera with a seven-year-old girl outside her school on the day she disappeared." Yet here in the US a gunman massacres a class at an elementary school, our president cries, and an entire political establishment shrugs its shoulders and says it can't do anything.

"Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has threatened to launch an operation in Syria's Idlib region by the end of the month if Damascus fails to withdraw behind Turkish military positions." It's the escalation dance.

"Let's start with the Trump administration's official estimate of the nationwide impact. The USDA says that as a result of tightening SNAP standards, 40,000 children will lose access to free and low-cost school meals. Hundreds of thousands more will lose free meals but still qualify to eat at a reduced cost. Sullivan says her two high schoolers likely fall into this group… 'That's $252,' she said, 'an annual expense my already overwhelmed budget cannot absorb.'… Advocates are worried about one more big problem: When those 3 million people lose access to SNAP, the children among them will also lose their automatic access to free school meals. Instead, they will have to apply." Cruelty is the program. And yes, making applying for these programs harder is cruel. It will drive people off the programs that help them.

"Nationwide, the homeless population is rising. In many communities, it can feel like an intractable problem. Yet cities like Spokane are starting to show some incremental progress with some prevention programs. Homeless prevention leaders like Garcia say it's important to highlight these — otherwise, the general public, bombarded by so many stories about how bad the crisis is, might start thinking there are no solutions." Funny how criminalizing being homeless and busing them to other cities didn't actually solve the problem, but giving people help navigating the system and providing a safety net actually helps people.

"The Lake County Board of Elections on Friday shot down a complaint the Ohio Republican Party filed the previous day with Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost, issuing a statement that said Democratic congressional candidate Hillary O’Connor Mueri did not cast an absentee ballot in Ohio’s 2008 Democratic presidential primary… The GOP does not seem willing to drop the complaint, despite the elections board’s findings. Ohio Republican Party Executive Director Rob Secaur, who filed Thursday’s complaint, issued this statement in response to the statement from Lake County: 'As my complaint states "No person shall vote or attempt to vote more than once at the same election by any means." We look forward to the results of the Attorney General’s investigation into this matter.'" Note the Plain Dealer had previously published the original complaint by the GOP without actually investigating the claim. The GOP playbook exposed in Ohio. They played the PD, and now they will make as much hay as they can with the false story they were able to get published. David Joyce is my congressman, and he's an ignorant asshole. It's time for him and his politics to go. (Grokked from Xeni Jardin)

"U.S. Attorney General William Barr is considering resigning over President Donald Trump’s tweets about Justice Department investigations, a source familiar with the situation told Reuters, while the department said he was not leaving." It's all a feint to get the president to stop tweeting in the open. Not that he's going to change how much of a toady he is.

"Former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich walked out of federal prison late Tuesday evening and flew back to Chicago after President Donald Trump commuted his sentence." And he's unrepentant because assholes like him never believe it's their own damn fault. He's just hoping you've forgotten what a dick Blagojevich is.

"The federal judge in the Roger Stone case said Tuesday she willl sentence the Republican operative for multiple crimes as scheduled Thursday — but will delay imposing the terms of punishment on the longtime friend of President Donald Trump pending resolution of his request for a new trial." And so begins the long appeal process.

"But Cabrera, a short and stocky Mexican citizen, was charged Tuesday with being an “unregistered foreign agent” for Russia. He is accused of spying on at least one U.S. informant in South Florida, though court filings provided only sketchy details of the allegations." Goddamn foreigners stealing our jobs.

Tuesday, February 18, 2020

Linkee-poo Tuesday

"China has reported a declining daily number of new cases, and a study by the country's own Center for Disease Control said that represented an apparent trend of a declining infection rate, but the global tally was more than 73,000 confirmed infections on Tuesday." Uh, sure, Bob.

Why does single-payer make sense? Per the Lancet, "Although health care expenditure per capita is higher in the USA than in any other country, more than 37 million Americans do not have health insurance, and 41 million more have inadequate access to care. Efforts are ongoing to repeal the Affordable Care Act which would exacerbate health-care inequities. By contrast, a universal system, such as that proposed in the Medicare for All Act, has the potential to transform the availability and efficiency of American health-care services. Taking into account both the costs of coverage expansion and the savings that would be achieved through the Medicare for All Act, we calculate that a single-payer, universal health-care system is likely to lead to a 13% savings in national health-care expenditure, equivalent to more than US$450 billion annually (based on the value of the US$ in 2017). The entire system could be funded with less financial outlay than is incurred by employers and households paying for health-care premiums combined with existing government allocations. This shift to single-payer health care would provide the greatest relief to lower-income households. Furthermore, we estimate that ensuring health-care access for all Americans would save more than 68 000 lives and 1·73 million life-years every year compared with the status quo." It would cost us less, cover more, save more lives, and reduce our burden as individual citizens to an untold degree. But it would cost us less while giving us more. (Grokked from Jim Wright)

"Some states call them assisted living facilities; others, residential or personal care homes. These state-licensed facilities promise peace of mind for families whose elders require long-term care. In Vermont and elsewhere, investigations into these homes have revealed lax oversight, injuries and deaths."

"Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos announced Monday he is committing $10 billion to fight climate change, which he calls 'the biggest threat to our planet.'" That sounds fantastic, until you realize that's all he's going to spend, and his liability is much larger than that. Also that it's less than 10% his net worth. Tax the rich people who profit off of killing the planet and use that money to make actual change in the world.

"Once this and other major mistakes are fixed, all of SAFE’s safety benefits vanish, according to a recent peer-reviewed analysis in Science. If SAFE is adopted into law, American traffic deaths could actually increase, carbon pollution would soar, and global warming would speed up… In other words, SAFE isn’t actually safe—and the Trump administration based its rollback on flawed math." So, you're saying it's the bog standard conservative ploy that will cost us more money and kill more people. Got it.

"The Boy Scouts of America has filed for bankruptcy, according to a court document filed in Delaware bankruptcy court early Tuesday… The bankruptcy filing comes at a time when the organization faces hundreds of sexual abuse lawsuits, thousands of alleged abuse victims and dwindling membership numbers. As a result of the filing, all civil litigation against the organization is suspended." Just so when you hear right-wingers talk about this is what happens when you allow "everybody" in (girls, trans, gays, etc). That's bullshit, mostly it's because states have changed the statute of limitations on sex crimes, lengthening them and that has increased the Boy Scout's liability by several times.

"Growing a beard, wearing a veil or accidentally visiting a foreign website were among the justifications for sending Uighurs to China’s notorious detention camps, according to a leaked database, casting doubt on Beijing’s claim to be conducting a re-education campaign to root out extremism." Note these are just justifications, the real reason is that they're muslims.

"The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is moving ahead with a plan to send Border Patrol 'SWAT' teams out to sanctuary cities in an effort to track down undocumented immigrants that benefit from policies barring local law enforcement from assisting the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency." End ICE. The agency is un reformable. Build something new and better from the ashes.

He has waged Cruel War… "But, when you read the whole Declaration of Independence and you look beyond those opening paragraphs and you read that very specific list of grievances, twenty-seven in total, well, then you can see pretty damned quick which part actually mattered to our Founders and which part was just flowery window-dressing." Jim Wright with another kick-ass post about the Constitution or Declaration or whatever the fuck these conservatives think are the founding documents. And that line I started with, that's the clause the South walked out over.

"President Donald Trump responded to President Barack Obama's tweet on Presidents Day by calling it a 'con job' and attacking his predecessor's record on the economy… 'Eleven years ago today, near the bottom of the worst recession in generations, I signed the Recovery Act, paving the way for more than a decade of economic growth and the longest streak of job creation in American history,' Obama had written on Twitter." Trump is a liar, a thief and a scoundrel.

"John Bolton celebrated Presidents’ Day by breaking his silence for the first time since Donald Trump’s impeachment trial – speaking of his frustrations and teasing the content of his forthcoming book… But when it came to his former boss, the president’s former national security adviser was scant on details, hinting that he is restricted in what he can say." Actually he said, "buy my book." And then there was this, "'I’m not asking for martyrdom,” he added. 'I knew, I think I knew, what I was getting into.'" This is the GOP in a nutshell, they know what a dumpster fire Trump is, be he's a useful dumpster fire and so they're willing to compromise everything to get a little more power. Fuck Bolton. He's an asshole.

"A national association of federal judges has called an emergency meeting Tuesday to address growing concerns about the intervention of Justice Department officials and President Donald Trump in politically sensitive cases, the group’s president said Monday."