Wednesday, August 16, 2017

But What About Her Emails

Almost exactly a year ago Hillary warned us about the “radical fringe” that Trump was enabling. It’s 30 mins long and I just listened it to again. It was a good speech. The speaker sounded sane and rational which was refreshing. Also prescient which was scary. I think it’s worth the time to hear it.

Here’s the transcript, annotated at the time by the Washington Post.

The New York Times said Hillary Clinton Denounces the ‘Alt-Right,’ and the Alt-Right Is Thrilled. They liked the publicity, much like Trump likes when anyone talks about him in the news, for good or bad. This week I heard someone blame the rise of the alt-right on this speech more than what Trump has done. That the Democrats always play “the racist card”.

Ed Kilgore called it a calculated risk. Republican advisor and pundit Pratik Chougule said it will backfire. Grace Wyler in Vice gave what I found to be the most balanced crtique, How Hillary Clinton’s Attack on the Alt-Right Went Wrong. Here are three excerpts:

What made Clinton’s speech so remarkable—and so effective—was that everything she said was simply true. In fact, her remarks were surprisingly lacking in hyperbole, both in terms of what she said and the even-keeled, almost grandmotherly way in which she said it. Almost none of the material was new—bloggers and pundits have been cataloguing the deranged controversies she mentioned or months. In aggregate, though, it was a cogent reminder that the Republican Party has nominated a lunatic as its presidential candidate. It was also further confirmation of just how depressing and gross the presidential race has become.

The jubilation of “racialists” and white identarians aside, Clinton’s focus on the alt-right also misses, or ignores, the broader economic and social anxieties—specifically, financial angst and resentments over globalization and immigration—that have, to varying extents, fueled Trump’s rise and that of similar political movements in other parts of the world. And while the question of whether Trump’s support is better explained by racial fears or economic ones has been the subject of heated debate this election cycle, a new report from the McKinsey Global Institute suggests that there’s a strong link.

Of course, there is still time for Clinton to start such a conversation. However, her speech Thursday suggests that the campaign remains focused on casting Trump as unhinged, and creating racist bogeymen that will drive Democrats to the polls in November. Considering that Clinton is more than 10 points ahead of Trump in the most recent national poll, that strategy may work. But calling Trump a racist won’t change the economic and political climate that allowed him and his friends on the alt-right to thrive. In fact, it might just make it worse.

At the time Trump said:

“It’s the oldest play in the Democratic playbook,” Trump said. “When Democratic policies fail, they are left with only this one tired argument: ‘You’re racist, you’re racist, you’re racist.’ … Hillary Clinton isn’t just attacking me. She is attacking all of the decent people of all backgrounds who support this incredible, once-in-a-lifetime movement.”

And Kellyanne Conway said:

Trump campaign manager Kellyanne Conway said Thursday’s speech “proved to the American public what we have known all along – Hillary Clinton has no hope, no vision and no ideas for the future of our country. Clinton lied about her emails, she lied about Colin Powell, and today she lied about Donald Trump. Donald Trump is talking about issues; Hillary Clinton is talking about Donald Trump. Today, as she took a break from her Hillary-in-Hiding Tour, she missed another opportunity to talk about education, infrastructure, terrorism, healthcare, the economy and energy. We’re living in her head rent-free, and that must terrify the political insiders who want to keep things exactly the way they are.”

So that worked. Hillary had a ton of detailed policy positions on her website and she told people to check them out. Hillary spoke about her positions often, but the press rarely covered those parts of her speeches. In the debates she told people to check out her policy details at her website, no one did. At the time Trump had virtually no plans, at one point he had a six pager on his immigration plan. It’s since been proven what many of us thought at the time, that he had no healthcare plan, no secret plan to defeat ISIS in 30 days, no plan to pay for his wall, no plan for the economy other than “it will be great”. Instead the news covered his latest outrageous statements and her emails and that’s all anyone thought about for the election. Plenty of people still think she would have been just as bad or couldn’t get over her emails. Look what that got us.

Lawrence Lessig says that money in politics isn’t the most important issue but it is the first issue because nothing can be fixed until we fix that one. I and others fear that the Republican party has lost the ability to be rational on policy. They deny climate change. They irrationally rail against healthcare reform with no plan of their own. Their economic plan is to give tax breaks to the rich while telling poor people it will trickle down to them while that’s been disproven and the result is the poor will lose their safety net which is Paul Ryan’s goal. Instead I think the first problem we need to fix is that we as a nation have lost the ability to rationally hold elections.

On Saturday John McCain posted to Facebook his comments about Charlottesville that I thought were quite good. The Facebook comments to his post disturbed me as much as anything I’ve seen on the Internet in a long time. There was typical Internet bile: The violence was a false flag operation paid for by George Soros or “The leftist are to blame for this period. This was a Bernie supporter who used his car to kill the far left.” But there were plenty that struck me as just misinformed: It was just people protesting the removal of a statue and they were attacked by antifa. They got a permit. “Why are the whites being called Nazis when they did the right things?”.

Their news told them this. And what I didn’t see too much of from pundits yesterday evening was the fact that Trump Cribbed His Charlottesville Press Conference Straight From Fox News. This is what conservative media is passing to their listeners. Vox talked to 13 Alabama conservatives on Charlottesville and the comments are astounding. It’s Obama’s fault. “I suspect that leftist groups bused in a bunch of thugs so the leftist media could beat this narrative about evil.” “ I think that news media, Hollywood, and Democratic politicians are the top three entities that can gain from something like that.” I don’t think is a common view but this was my favorite comment: “ I don’t think Gen. Lee would be disappointed in them moving the statue because I think he would want to preserve the union.”

What has me so disheartened is I don’t know how we come together unless people stop listening to it or it becomes rational, and I don’t know how either of those things happen. I know there are rational Republican officials that are hesitant to speak out against it because their media will turn on them. But I think they need to read Profiles in Courage and find strength in numbers. I hope there’s a good sized block of rational conservatives that will support them.

Update: How apropos, now I see this:

The Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society at Harvard University today released a comprehensive analysis of online media and social media coverage of the 2016 presidential campaign. The report, “Partisanship, Propaganda, and Disinformation: Online Media and the 2016 U.S. Presidential Election,” documents how highly partisan right-wing sources helped shape mainstream press coverage and seize the public’s attention in the 18-month period leading up to the election.

Time to get reading…

Update: Media Matters has a video showing Trump’s statements compared to those on Fox News

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Biohackers Encoded Malware in a Strand of DNA

Wired reports Biohackers Encoded Malware in a Strand of DNA “In new research they plan to present at the USENIX Security conference on Thursday, a group of researchers from the University of Washington has shown for the first time that it’s possible to encode malicious software into physical strands of DNA, so that when a gene sequencer analyzes it the resulting data becomes a program that corrupts gene-sequencing software and takes control of the underlying computer. While that attack is far from practical for any real spy or criminal, it’s one the researchers argue could become more likely over time, as DNA sequencing becomes more commonplace, powerful, and performed by third-party services on sensitive computer systems. And, perhaps more to the point for the cybersecurity community, it also represents an impressive, sci-fi feat of sheer hacker ingenuity.”

Friday, July 14, 2017

One of the Greatest Science Fiction Magazines Is Now Available For Free Online

The Verge reports One of the greatest science fiction magazines is now available for free online “If you like classic science fiction, one of the genre’s best magazines can now be found online for free. is now home to a collection of Galaxy Science Fiction, which published some of the genre’s best works, such as an early version of Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451 and Alfred Bester’s The Demolished Man.”

Here it is: Galaxy Magazine at

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Top 10 Movie Crimes of All Time

Another CineFix Top 10 list, this time, the Top 10 Movie Crimes of All Time. I think I’ve seen all but two movies mentioned in this. I love crime movies.

Ok, here’s every film mentioned. I’ve seen all but those emphasized and one of those I’m gonna watch tonight.

  • 1931 M
  • 1941 The Maltese Falcon
  • 1944 Double Indemnity
  • 1946 The Postman Always Rings Twice White Heat
  • 1949 The Third Man
  • 1949 White Heat
  • 1950 Rashomon
  • 1950 The Asphalt Jungle
  • 1951 Strangers on a Train
  • 1954 Dial M for Murder
  • 1955 Rififi
  • 1956 The Killing
  • 1957 12 Angry Men
  • 1958 Vertigo
  • 1960 Breathless
  • 1960 Ocean’s 11
  • 1964 Topkapi
  • 1967 Bonnie and Clyde
  • 1967 Cool Hand Luke
  • 1967 Le Samourai
  • 1968 The Thomas Crown Affair
  • 1969 The Italian Job
  • 1970 Le Cercle Rouge
  • 1973 The Sting
  • 1974 Chinatown
  • 1974 Murder on the Orient Express
  • 1975 Dog Day Afternoon
  • 1976 Taxi Driver
  • 1981 Thief
  • 1983 Scarface
  • 1987 My Best Friends Birthday
  • 1987 Raising Arizona
  • 1988 Die Hard
  • 1990 Miller’s Crossing
  • 1991 Cape Fear
  • 1991 Point Break
  • 1991 Silence of the Lambs
  • 1992 Reservoir Dog
  • 1993 True Romance
  • 1994 Léon The Professional
  • 1994 Natural Born Killers
  • 1995 Heat
  • 1995 Se7en
  • 1995 The Usual Suspects
  • 1996 Fargo
  • 1996 From Dusk Til Dawn
  • 1998 Lock Stock and Two Smoking Barrels
  • 1998 Ronin
  • 1999 Boondock Saints
  • 1999 Office Space
  • 2000 Chopper
  • 2000 Memento
  • 2000 O Brother, Where Art Thou?
  • 2000 Sexy Beast
  • 2000 Snatch
  • 2001 Heist
  • 2001 Ichi the Killer
  • 2001 Ocean’s Eleven
  • 2001 The Score
  • 2002 25th Hour
  • 2002 Catch Me If You Can
  • 2003 Oldboy
  • 2004 Collateral
  • 2004 With Blood on My Hands: Pusher II
  • 2005 Brick
  • 2006 Inside Man
  • 2006 Lucky Number Sleven
  • 2006 The Departed
  • 2007 Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead
  • 2007 Mr. Brooks
  • 2007 No Country For Old Men
  • 2007 Zodiac
  • 2008 Bronson
  • 2008 Taken
  • 2008 The Brothers Bloom
  • 2009 A Prophet
  • 2010 I Saw the Devil
  • 2010 Inception
  • 2011 Drive
  • 2011 We Need to Talk About Kevin
  • 2013 Blue Ruin
  • 2013 The Wolf of Wall Street
  • 2014 Gone Girl
  • 2016 Hell or High Water

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

A Complete Guide to the Religions of Game of Thrones

As I've only watched the HBO series and haven't read the books, I found this Complete Guide to the Religions of Game of Thrones to be very informative.

We Have a New Delaware Sized Iceberg

Project MIDAS reports that that Delaware-sized Antartica iceberg they've been watching finally broke free, Larsen C calves trillion ton iceberg. > A one trillion tonne iceberg – one of the biggest ever recorded - has calved away from the Larsen C Ice Shelf in Antarctica. The calving occurred sometime between Monday 10th July and Wednesday 12th July 2017, when a 5,800 square km section of Larsen C finally broke away. The iceberg, which is likely to be named A68, weighs more than a trillion tonnes. Its volume is twice that of Lake Erie, one of the Great Lakes. > The iceberg weighs more than a trillion tonnes (1,000,000,000,000 metric tonnes), but it was already floating before it calved away so has no immediate impact on sea level. The calving of this iceberg leaves the Larsen C Ice Shelf reduced in area by more than 12%, and the landscape of the Antarctic Peninsula changed forever. > Although the remaining ice shelf will continue naturally to regrow, Swansea researchers have previously shown that the new configuration is potentially less stable than it was prior to the rift. There is a risk that Larsen C may eventually follow the example of its neighbour, Larsen B, which disintegrated in 2002 following a similar rift-induced calving event in 1995. > The Larsen C Ice Shelf, which has a thickness of between 200 and 600 metres, floats on the ocean at the edge of The Antarctic Peninsula, holding back the flow of glaciers that feed into it.

Tuesday, July 04, 2017

Kansas, Sam Brownback, and the Trickle-Down Implosion

Justin Miller wrote about Kansas, Sam Brownback, and the Trickle-Down Implosion. "The Kansas governor’s attempt to create supply-side nirvana in Middle America not only failed to grow the economy—it created a crippling crisis of government that led to a statewide rejection of his politics." Martin Longman says Democrats Need to Educate People About Kansas. > There’s a lot of value in what Brownback did to Kansas because it gives us a chance to compare what the Republicans say will happen for education, employment, economic growth, and budgeting health if they get to implement their policies and what will actually happen. > In short, things got so bad that the Republican-dominated legislature overrode Brownback’s veto and passed a budget that, among other things, rolled back his tax cuts and provided more funding for schools. > The Democrats should not ignore these results. They should study them and they should figure out a way to highlight them relentlessly so that as many people as possible internalize the lessons. > In the end, it was Republican lawmakers who had seen enough and voted to override their governor’s veto. But they had to learn the hard way, and Republicans from other states and in Congress show no signs that they’re going to alter their ideology as a result of seeing it fail so spectacularly when given a real chance to succeed.

The ‘i Before e, Except After c’ Rule Is a Giant Lie

Wonkblog explains The ‘i before e, except after c’ rule is a giant lie "'This addendum to the rule completely useless,’ Cunningham writes. ‘You still have roughly three to one odds that the ‘i’ goes first.’"

Sunday, July 02, 2017

Seat 14C: Online Time Travel Sci-Fi Anthology

Ars Technica writes Read some seriously strange time travel stories from sci-fi’s modern masters: > A flight from Tokyo to San Francisco jumps though time and lands 20 years in the future. That's the short version of a writing prompt taken up by 22 of today's most exciting science fiction writers, each of whom contributed stories about the flight's temporally dislocated passengers to an anthology called Seat 14C. Now you can read the book for free online, and I guarantee you'll be engrossed. > You'll find original stories by Hugh Howey, Nancy Kress, Chen Qiufan, Bruce Sterling, Charles Yu, Charlie Jane Anders, Margaret Atwood, Madeline Ashby, Gregory Benford, Daniel Wilson, Eileen Gunn, and more. Each author interpreted the prompt in his or her own way, resulting in a fascinating selection of very different kinds of stories. Twenty-two incredible artists illustrated the stories, and we have a selection of their work in the gallery above. Some of these tales are about weird new technologies, some are about social changes, and others are about the tragedy of being marooned in an unknown future. I haven't read the stories yet but I don't love the site design. I had some trouble with scrolling on the iPad though it seems to work fine on my mac.

Saturday, June 24, 2017

Trump Is What Happens When a Political Party Abandons Ideas

Reagan advisor Bruce Bartlett says "[Trump is what happens when a political party abandons ideas](, demonizes intellectuals, degrades politics and simply pursues power for the sake of power." > Trump has turned out to be far, far worse than I imagined. He has instituted policies so right wing they make Ronald Reagan, for whom I worked, look like a liberal Democrat. He has appointed staff people far to the right of the Republican mainstream in many positions, and they are instituting policies that are frighteningly extreme. Environmental Protection Administration Administrator Scott Pruitt proudly denies the existence of climate change, and is doing his best to implement every item Big Oil has had on its wish list since the agency was established by Richard Nixon. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos is actively hostile to the very concept of public education and is doing her best to abolish it. Every day, Attorney General Jeff Sessions institutes some new policy to take incarceration and law enforcement back to the Dark Ages. Trump’s proposed budget would eviscerate the social safety net for the sole purpose of giving huge tax cuts to the ultrawealthy. > And if those policies weren’t enough, conservatives—who, after all, believe in liberty and a system of checks and balances to restrain the government to its proper role—have plenty of reason to be upset by those actions Trump has taken that transcend our traditional right-left ideological divide. He’s voiced not only skepticism of NATO, but outright hostility to it. He’s pulled America back from its role as an international advocate for human rights. He’s attacked the notion of an independent judiciary. He personally intervened to request the FBI to ease up on its investigation of a former adviser of his, then fired FBI Director James Comey and freely admitted he did so to alleviate the pressure he felt from Comey’s investigation. For those conservatives who were tempted to embrace a “wait-and-see” approach to Trump, what they’ve seen, time and again, is almost unimaginable. He describes the history of the GOP after Goldwater as becoming more inclusive, intellectual and policy minded in the late 70s and under Reagan and Bush Sr. Then... > Republicans took control of Congress in 1994 after nationalizing the election into broad themes and catchphrases. Newt Gingrich, the marshal of these efforts, even released a list of words Republican candidates should use to glorify themselves (common sense, prosperity, empower) and hammer their opponents (liberal, pathetic, traitors); soon, every Republican in Congress spoke the same language, using words carefully run through focus groups by Republican pollster Frank Luntz. Budgets for House committees were cut, bleeding away policy experts, and GOP committee chairs were selected based on loyalty to the party and how much money they could raise. Gone were the days when members were incentivized to speak with nuance, or hone a policy expertise (especially as committee chairs could now serve for only six years). In power, Republicans decided they didn’t need any more research or analysis; they had their agenda, and just needed to get it enacted. Only a Democratic president stood in their way, and so 100 percent of Republicans’ efforts went into attempting to oust or weaken Bill Clinton and, when that failed, elect a Republican president who would do nothing but sign into law bills passed by the GOP Congress. > President George W. Bush didn’t realize he was supposed to just be a passive bill-signing machine; he kept insisting that Republicans enact his priorities, which, often, were not very conservative—No Child Left Behind Act, steel tariffs, a tax cut with few supply-side elements. His worst transgression, for me, was the budget-busting Medicare Part D legislation, which massively expanded the welfare state and the national debt, yet was enthusiastically supported by a great many House conservatives, including Congressman Paul Ryan, who had claimed to hold office for the purpose of abolishing entitlement programs. Republican hypocrisy on the issue caused me to become estranged from my party. > In the 14 years since then, I have watched from the sidelines as Republican policy analysis and research have virtually disappeared altogether, replaced with sound bites and talking points. The Heritage Foundation morphed into Heritage Action for America, ceasing to do any real research and losing all its best policy experts as it transformed from an august center whose focus was the study and development of public policy into one devoted mainly to amplifying political campaign slogans. Talk radio and Fox News, where no idea too complicated for a mind with a sixth-grade education is ever heard, became the tail wagging the conservative dog. Conservative magazines like National Review, which once boasted world-class intellectuals such as James Burnham and Russell Kirk among its columnists, jumped on the bandwagon, dumbing itself down to appeal to the common man, who is deemed to be the font of all wisdom. (For example, the magazine abandoned the ecumenical approach to immigration of Reagan, who granted amnesty to undocumentedimmigrants in 1986, to a rigid anti-immigrant policy largely indistinguishable from the one Trump ran on.) > One real-world result of the lobotomizing of conservative intellectualism is that when forced to produce a replacement for Obamacare—something Republican leaders had sworn they had in their pocket for eight years—there was nothing. Not just no legislation—no workable concept that adhered to the many promises Republicans had made, like coverage for pre-existing conditions and the assurance that nobody would lose their coverage. You’d think that House Speaker Ryan could have found a staff slot for one person to be working on an actual Obamacare replacement all these years, just in case. He sees a future path > Conservatives are starting to accept that Trump is not the leader they had hoped for and is more of a liability for their agenda than an asset. They are also starting to recognize that their intellectual infrastructure is badly damaged, in need of repair, and that the GOP and intellectual conservatism are not interchangeable. The Heritage Foundation recently fired its president, former Senator Jim DeMint, in part because he had allowed its research capabilities to deteriorate. The journal National Affairs aspires to be the serious, conservative policy-oriented journal that The Public Interest was. And some leaders, like Bill Kristol, have courageously stood up against the GOP’s pervasive Trumpism (“I look forward to the day when American conservatism regains its moral health and political sanity, and the David Horowitz center is back on the fringe, where I’m afraid it belongs,” Kristol recently told the Washington Post). > These are small steps, and promising—you have to start somewhere, after all—but what conservative intellectuals really need for a full-blown revival is a crushing Republican defeat—Goldwater plus Watergate rolled into one. A defeat so massive there can be no doubt about the message it sends that Trumpian populism and anti-intellectualism are no path to conservative policy success. In the meantime, there are hopeful signs that the long-dormant moderate wing of the GOP is coming alive again. In Kansas, Trumpian Governor Sam Brownback was recently rebuked when a Republican-controlled Legislature overrode his veto to raise taxes after the cuts previously enacted by Brownback proved disastrous to the state’s finances. And although their efforts have been modest thus far, moderate Republicans in Congress have helped soften Republican initiatives on health, the budget and gays.

Thursday, June 22, 2017

The tragedy of FireWire: Collaborative tech torpedoed by corporations

Ars Technica tells the story of the betamax of cables: The tragedy of FireWire: Collaborative tech torpedoed by corporations. Today Apple seems happy to keep it's lightening connectors to itself. I'm not sure about Thunderbolt 3. I confuse it with USB-C (which is just the connector and different from USB 3.1 which is the interface and more comparable). My 2012 iMac has 2 Thunderbolt 1 connectors and I've never used them because the USB 3.0 versions of hard drives have always been much cheaper.

Fantastic Words and Where Not To Find Them

I really enjoy Full Frontal with Samantha Bee. Last night she had a great segment on "Trump's bastardization of words and language". [youtube] On the less funny side, Trevor Noah last night had a heart felt segment on what the Philando Castil case means. Warning, this clip include the video of the shooting, you can skip to 1m30s to avoid it.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Trevor Noah on Being Stopped While Black

Salon pointed me at this Trevor Noah claims he’s been stopped by cops 8 to 10 times in 6 years. Here's 5.5 minute video of what I assume his talking to the audience between segments of the The Daily Show. It's fascinating. [youtube]

Scott Forstall breaks silence to talk about the iPhone’s creation

The Verge writes Scott Forstall breaks silence to talk about the iPhone’s creation. The video is embedded on that page and it's connected to Facebook and I can't easily embed it here, but I found it very interesting. It's two hours but Forstall's segment is just the second hour. Lots of good stories about Apple and Steve Jobs, well worth the hour to listen.

FBI Says Shooting At GOP Baseball Practice Seems To Have Been Spontaneous

So the FBI has released some information about James Hodgkinson, the man who fired at the GOP baseball practice. Here's NPR's story: Shooting At GOP Baseball Practice Seems To Have Been Spontaneous, FBI Says. Basically it looks like a guy that was going through hard times, living out of his car, talking about going back to his wife and not happy with politics. But there's no evidence that he planned anything or even knew about the baseball practice. It looks like a spontaneous decision. And if we look at gun violence in the US a lot of it works that way. Most gun deaths are suicides and most homicides are domestic violence. And if guns weren't available to the shooters there's good evidence that the violence wouldn't happen, it's not just that they'd find alternate weapons to use. The first research into gun deaths started to reveal that and gun rights activists got nervous and banned federal funding of additional research, but that's what we understand. Oh and Hodgkinson has some history of domestic violence, that's probably the strongest indicator of gun violence. Meanwhile the NY Times story on this FBI announcement has a completely indefensible headline: Gunman in Lawmaker Shooting Had Photographed Washington Landmarks, F.B.I. Says. If you lead with that, I think you're implying something. Maybe he was going to do something (like shoot) at those landmarks. Except, then you realize that if you've ever been to DC you "Photographed Washington Landmarks" too. If you read the first paragraph of their story you'll find: > The 66-year-old gunman who opened fire one week ago on members of Congress at a Northern Virginia ball field had photographed Washington landmarks including the Library of Congress, the Supreme Court and the Capitol, the F.B.I. said Wednesday, but the agency did not believe those sites were targets. So the FBI doesn't believe they were targets what's the newsworthiness of his photos? Did he also have cat photos? Certainly what's the reason to put them in the headline?

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

State of Climate Change

The Verge writes It’s so hot in Phoenix, planes are physically unable to fly. I have friends that live in Phoenix and they've told me previously that the airport shuts down at 120° As Natasha Geiling points out Extreme heat is one of the clearest and more defining characteristics of global warming. > But as Arizona-based meteorologist Eric Holthaus noted on Twitter, Arizona has seen a marked jump in the average number of days above 100 degrees Fahrenheit in recent years — in Tucson for instance, the number of extremely hot days has increased 55 percent in the last 30 years. > Extreme heat is one of the clearest and more defining characteristics of global warming, according to more than 20 different scientific studies that looked at the connection between climate change and extreme heat events. A new study conducted by researchers at the University of Hawaii found that nearly a third of the world’s population is currently exposed to dangerous heatwaves for 20 or more days per year because of global warming. And, the researchers warn, that number could climb even higher — to almost half of the world’s population by 2100 — if carbon emissions are not dramatically reduced. Meanwhile, Rick Perry says carbon dioxide is not a primary driver of climate change. A quick reading of that headline makes it sound worse than it is, but the GOP messaging on this topic is frightening muddled and dangerous. > In an interview with CNBC on Monday, US Energy Secretary Rick Perry said that carbon dioxide emissions from human activities aren't the primary driver of climate change. Instead, the former Texas governor responded that "most likely the primary control knob is the ocean waters and this environment that we live in." > It’s unclear how Perry envisions this “control knob” and how it works; a generous analysis of his answer would be that he misunderstood the question. Ocean waters absorb carbon dioxide and are changing, much like climate, because of it. And the oceans have short-term cycles that influence equally short-term temperature trends. But those cycles can't drive the ever-upward trend in temperature. > Oddly, Perry continued by affirming that climate change is happening and that we have to do something about it. The secretary told CNBC, “The fact is, this shouldn't be a debate about 'Is the climate changing? Is man having an effect on it?' Yeah, we are. The question should be just how much, and what are the policy changes that we need to make to effect that?" And shockingly, it seems Exxon, Shell, and BP support a Republican plan to do something about climate change. Again, a quick reading of this headline would make you think that Republicans want a carbon tax, but it's of course not true. > A group of major businesses, including Johnson & Johnson, General Motors, and fossil fuel giants ExxonMobil, BP, and Shell, announced Tuesday they have joined a Republican-led council that proposes to put a $40 tax on carbon emissions. > The companies, along with a list of high profile business people and two environmental groups, are part of the Climate Leadership Council, whose platform was written by former cabinet members James Baker and George Shultz. So it's a group that includes former Republican leaders who now have no effect on the party. > Representatives from the council met with the White House in February, but there have been no signs from the administration that a carbon tax is on the table. To the contrary, President Trump has moved significantly away from climate action. His EPA administrator, Scott Pruitt, has rolled back a number of rules intended to limit greenhouse gas emissions, and the president himself announced that the United States would leave the historic Paris climate agreement, a 2015 pact to limit warming to less than 2°C (3.6°F).

Friday, June 16, 2017

Healthcare Now Fully Politicized

Vox asked 8 Senate Republicans to explain what their health bill is trying to do and the answers are all political. Basically they're trying to fulfill their promise to repeal and replace Obamacare but they don't have any agreement (or seemingly knowledge of) the specifics of the healthcare issues that Americans are facing and what policies might actually improve them. When I hear Trump talk on some policy it's obvious to me that he has no understanding of any details of the issue. The replies by these Senators sounds almost as ignorant. The party's goal is to pass *something*, it doesn't really matter what, they can't agree because individually their members want different things, there's little if any shared knowledge no the specifics of the problems or the possible solutions. They know premiums are high but don't understand why or what would lower them, and they know that some counties have lost all insurers though it's not clear they know just how many or what would bring insurers back. Sarah Cliff is a bit more blunt, I’ve covered Obamacare since day one. I’ve never seen lying and obstruction like this.. Now I know Democrats understand the issues more fully. They know that some young and healthy people have chosen to not buy insurance and that getting them into the pool will lower premiums on average. There are ways to do that, raise the tax fee for not having insurance (that is enforcing the individual mandate) would accomplish that. They know that insurers have found that people are sicker than expected and with the threat of repeal and Trumps cut back on signup advertising there are fewer enrollees so insurers are dropping out of the markets. Stopping the repeal talk, advertising, and enforcing the individual mandate would help stabilize the markets. A public option would ensure an insurer and provide competition to lower premiums. A reinsurance program would help insurers deal with more expensive enrollees. A big portion of the premium expense is prescription drugs which all Obamacare plans must include. There are legislative options to lower drug costs (allow Medicare and Medicaid to negotiate prices) and perhaps they could offer plans to young people that don't include drugs to lower their costs. Sadly, rather than being loud and clear and on their plans, Democrats are playing politics too. The Atlantic explains How Democrats Would Fix Obamacare. > Exactly how Democrats would change the bill they enacted seven years ago is less clear. Lawmakers have floated a range of options, from tackling the cost of prescription drugs, to setting up a reinsurance program to shore up Obamacare’s flagging exchanges, to reviving the idea of a “public option” that would compete with private carriers and drive down prices. > But party leaders have chosen not to endorse a specific set of reforms, in part because Republicans have shown little interest in considering their ideas and in part to avoid distracting from their more urgent imperative to save Obamacare from destruction. “We’re not in the majority right now, and our whole focus right now is to keep them from sending us back to a time when insurance companies could sell plans that provided nothing and people found themselves just in a terrible bind,” Senator Patty Murray of Washington state, a member of the Democratic leadership, said in an interview.

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Wibbly-wobbly magnetic fusion stuff: The return of the stellarator

Are Technica describes a new kind of fusion reactor that's coming online. Wibbly-wobbly magnetic fusion stuff: The return of the stellarator "The heliac, the stellarator, and the tokamak are all trying to achieve the same thing: confine a plasma tightly in a magnetic bottle, tightly enough to push protons in close to each other. They all use a more-or-less donut shape, but that more-or-less involves some really important differences. That difference makes the stellarator a pretty special science and engineering challenge." Here's one of the magnets built to hold the field's shape: W7x spule 1440x1920 500

Game of Thrones: 15 Things You Must Know For Season 7

Game of Thrones returns next month. CBR has a nice reminder article, Game of Thrones: 15 Things You Must Know For Season 7.

#c0ffee is the color

On the web colors are identified as 3 numbers usually written as 3 or 6 hexadecimal digits. Turns out, some words are 3 or 6 letters long and can be spelled with hex digits, particularly in 'leet' script. And someone made a page of them: #c0ffee is the color

Alexandria Shooting

Five people were shot this morning at a GOP Congressional baseball practice in Alexandria. Illinois' Belleville News-Democrat has a pretty good profile on the shooter, Belleville suspect killed in congressional shootout wanted to ‘terminate the Republican Party’. The NY Times has some more, Virginia Shooting Suspect Was Distraught Over Trump’s Election, Brother Says. I didn't know much about the GOP Whip Steve Scalise (R-LA). The NY Times has some background on him, Steve Scalise, Congressman Wounded in Shooting, Is Known as a Low-key Lover of Baseball. The shooter volunteered on Bernie Sanders' campaign. Bernie spoke on the Senate floor about finding out about this, Sanders sickened by 'despicable' shooting. > I have just been informed that the alleged shooter at the Republican baseball practice this morning is someone who apparently volunteered on my presidential campaign. I am sickened by this despicable act. Let me be as clear as I can be: Violence of any kind is unacceptable in our society and I condemn this action in the strongest possible terms. Real change can only come about through nonviolent action, and anything else runs counter to our most deeply held American values. Not to politicize this but one year ago Sen Rand Paul (R-KY) (who was at the shooting today) tweeted this: And last August after a similar comment by candidate Trump, Raw Story reminded us that Trump’s threat is nothing new — Republicans have called for ‘Second Amendment remedies’ for years. Maybe after yet another incident we can have a call for reasonableness. Meanwhile today there were also shootings in San Francisco and Brooklyn

Monday, June 12, 2017

Secrete Senate GOP Healthcare Plan

There was an episode of The West Wing where Josh was filling in for CJ and did such a horrible job that he said "the president had a secret plan to fight inflation".


Well, now the for-real Senate has a secret plan to reform healthcare in America. Senate GOP won't release draft health care bill.

Senate Republicans are on track to finish writing their draft health care bill this evening, but have no plans to publicly release the bill, according to two senior Senate GOP aides.

"We aren't stupid," said one of the aides. One issue is that Senate Republicans plan to keep talking about it after the draft is done: "We are still in discussions about what will be in the final product so it is premature to release any draft absent further member conversations and consensus."

So the plan is to give the CBO two weeks to score it, that will be about June 26, and then vote by July 4th, and I assume their recess starts June 30 (certainly by July 3rd but I assume they'll take the weekend off). So that's a business week, where they might release their plan to the public and debate it before voting on something that affects one sixth of the US economy. Great job Republicans.

Sunday, June 11, 2017

What to Watch: The Hidden Gems of Netflix, Amazon, and Filmstruck

People often ask me what movies or tv shows to watch and then say they only have Netflix streaming and I have no idea what they have available (usually nothing I think to recommend). Film School Rejects fixes that with the following lists: What to Watch: The Hidden Gems of Netflix, Amazon, and Filmstruck.

Any list that starts with In The Loop is a good list. If you haven't seen it, fix that. It's hilarious. Fruitvale Station, The Way Back, Seeking a Friend for the End of the World are all solid picks.

The Expanse is by far the best sci-fi show currently on TV. Their description of Eye in the Sky is dead on.

Thursday, June 08, 2017

An Iceberg Flipped Over, and Its Underside Is Breathtaking

Smithsonian Magazine reports An Iceberg Flipped Over, and Its Underside Is Breathtaking. "In the case of this jewel-like iceberg, the ice is probably very old. In glaciers, years of compression force out air pockets and gradually make the ice denser, according to the National Snow and Ice Data Center. "When glacier ice becomes extremely dense, the ice absorbs a small amount of red light, leaving a bluish tint in the reflected light, which is what we see.” In addition, minerals and organic matter may have seeped into the underwater part of the iceberg over time, creating its vivid green-blue color."

Alex cornell antarctica 3

Wednesday, June 07, 2017

The Best of Cassini—13 Years in Orbit Around Saturn - The Atlantic

The Atlantic shows The Best of Cassini—13 Years in Orbit Around Saturn

This September, NASA’s Cassini spacecraft will take its final measurements and images as it plunges into Saturn’s atmosphere at 77,000 miles per hour, burning up high above the cloud tops. Launched in 1997, Cassini traveled 2.2 billion miles in seven years to reach Saturn and enter orbit. Over the past 13 years, Cassini’s instruments have returned countless priceless scientific observations and hundreds of thousands of images of the Saturnian system—its atmosphere, its 60+ moons, its vast rings, and much more. Gathered here are 40 of the most amazing images sent to us from Cassini, as we prepare for this epic mission to come to an end in just a few months.

Wednesday, May 24, 2017


I know I haven't been as active here as in the past, there's just too much news to follow. But I'm not going to be doing even as well as I have been lately for the next couple of weeks. I'm going on vacation, see you in June. There should still be updates to @HowardLikedThis the latest two posts are shown on the right. Enjoy.

Friday, May 19, 2017

Oscar Winning Movies & Biggest Box Office Hits From Your Birthday Year

Thrillist lists Oscar Winning Movies & Biggest Box Office Hits From Your Birthday Year. I've seen almost all the movies mentioned and while I can quibble a little bit, this is a list of very good movies. It's often hard to decide between the most fun or best movie, whatever that may mean. This list gets past that pretty well by listing the biggest box office, the best picture winner and someone's idea of best movie for each year.

My birth year was 1966, not a great year for movies. The Bible was the biggest hit and ... we'll... meh. I love A Man for All Seasons which won 6 the Oscars. Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf is filled with virtuoso performance and two hours of yelling and won only 5 Oscars with 13 nominations. I'll add that I think the most fun movie of that year was The Russians Are Coming! The Russians Are Coming!

Saturday, May 13, 2017

history of the entire world, i guess

Entertaining 20 min video of the history of the world. It starts a little slow (with the beginning of space and time) but once it gets to society it's really fun tracking all the civilizations of the world. Saying I learned a lot is going a bit far, but I watched as he described a fair number of things I didn't know. I think this would be fun for kids except for the swearing.

Thursday, May 11, 2017

A new book ranks the top 100 solutions to climate change. The results are surprising.

Vox wrote A new book ranks the top 100 solutions to climate change. The results are surprising.

A few years ago, he set out to pull together the careful coverage of solutions that had so long been lacking. With the help of a little funding, he and a team of several dozen research fellows set out to ‘map, measure, and model’ the 100 most substantive solutions to climate change, using only peer-reviewed research. The result, released last month, is called Drawdown: The Most Comprehensive Plan Ever Proposed to Reverse Global Warming.

It is fascinating, a powerful reminder of how narrow a set of solutions dominates the public’s attention. Alternatives range from farmland irrigation to heat pumps to ride-sharing. The number one solution, in terms of potential impact? A combination of educating girls and family planning, which together could reduce 120 gigatons of CO2-equivalent by 2050 — more than on- and offshore wind power combined (99 GT).

They follow with an interesting interview.

See the list here.

Donald Trump: Inside the White House With the President

Time has a profile Donald Trump: Inside the White House With the President. IMHO he comes off as deranged.

To cope with this new reality, the President says he is trying a mindfulness trick: he has tried to tune out the bad news about himself. “I’ve been able to do something that I never thought I had the ability to do. I’ve been able not to watch or read things that aren’t pleasant,” he will say later in the night, listing off the networks he tries to tune out and the newspapers he struggles to skim. Of course, as his public outbursts indicate, he does not always succeed, but he says he no longer feels a need to know everything said about him. “In terms of your own self, it’s a very, very good thing,” he says. “The equilibrium is much better.”

I'm also saddened that Trump and I have something in common, a love of TiVo.

Trump says he used his own money to pay for the enormous crystal chandelier that now hangs from the ceiling. “I made a contribution to the White House,” he jokes. But the thing he wants to show is on the opposite wall, above the fireplace, a new 60-plus-inch flat-screen television that he has cued up with clips from the day’s Senate hearing on Russia. Since at least as far back as Richard Nixon, Presidents have kept televisions in this room, usually small ones, no larger than a bread box, tucked away on a sideboard shelf. That’s not the Trump way.

A clutch of aides follow him, including McMaster, Pence and press secretary Sean Spicer. The President raises a remote and flicks on the screen, sorting through old recordings of cable news shows, until he comes to what he is after: a clip from the Senate hearing earlier in the day, as broadcast on Fox News. The first clip he shows is of South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham speaking to former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper. Graham asks if Clapper stands by his statement that he knows of no evidence of collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia. Trump waits quietly, until Clapper admits that nothing has changed. Trump pantomimes a sort of victory.

“Yes. He was choking on that,” the President chortles. “Is there any record at all of collusion? He was the head of the whole thing. He said no. That’s a big statement.” Trump leaves unmentioned the fact that there is an ongoing FBI counter intelligence investigation into possible collusion, which has not yet reached any conclusions. Nor does he note that Clapper, out of government for nearly four months, could not possibly know everything the FBI has learned, and likely would have not known all even when he was in office. Trump also leaves unmentioned that he had a meeting that day with his new Deputy Attorney General about firing Comey, the director of that investigation.

But for now, Trump is focused on his TV. He watches the screen like a coach going over game tape, studying the opposition, plotting next week’s plays. “This is one of the great inventions of all time—TiVo,” he says as he fast-forwards through the hearing.

The next clip starts to play, this time showing Iowa Senator Chuck Grassley asking Clapper and former acting Attorney General Sally Yates if they ever requested that the names of Trump, his associates or members of Congress be identified by name, or unmasked, in a legal intelligence intercept. “Watch them start to choke like dogs,” Trump says, having fun. “Watch what happens. They are desperate for breath.”

Clapper, on the screen, pauses several beats to search his memory. “Ah, he’s choking. Ah, look,” the President says. After a delay, Clapper finally answers, admitting that he had requested an unmasking, which would have been a routine occurrence in his former job. The running Trump commentary continues. “See the people in the back, people are gasping,” he says, though it’s unclear who he is referring to on the screen. He also mentions the sound of photographers’ cameras clicking on the television.

Moments later, the President watches as both Clapper and Yates testify that they had reviewed intercepts containing the unmasked identities of Trump, his associates and members of Congress. This, to Trump, is yet another victory, the lead-lined proof of his still unproven claim that Obama surveilled him before he was sworn in. “So they surveilled me,” he says. “You guys don’t write that—wiretapped in quotes. They surveilled me.”

UPDATE: Matthew Yglesias has a good take on this interview (and the Economist's), The latest Trump interview once again reveals appalling ignorance and dishonesty

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Sci-Fi Book Humble Bundle: Super Nebula Author Showcase

FYI, the Humble Book Bundle: Super Nebula Author Showcase presented by SFWA has a nice collection of science fiction for dirt cheap (no DRM, multi-format).

Latest Craziness is Crazy

It's completely absurd what's happened in the last 24-48 hours:

Inception Interpretation

I don't know how I've never come across this theory about Inception before. Hal Phillips, back in 2010 postulated that "It’s all a dream.  Ariadne (Ellen Page) is leading an inception on Cobb (Leonardo DiCaprio).  The entire film is that inception, and we never see reality." He goes into good detail and I'll have to watch it again (I haven't seen it yet this year).

Rodney King Who?

Professor Ed wrote at Gin and Tacos All Right, All Right, All Right about how kids today don't know who Rodney King was.

"So he was OK?"

"He was beaten up pretty badly, but, ultimately he was. He died a few years ago from unrelated causes (note: in 2012)."

"It's kind of weird that everybody rioted over that. I mean, there's way worse videos." General murmurs of agreement.

This is a generation of kids so numb to seeing videos of police beating, tasering, shooting, and otherwise applying the power of the state to unarmed and almost inevitably black or Hispanic men that they legitimately could not understand why a video of cops beating up a black guy (who didn't even die for pete's sake!) was shocking enough to cause a widespread breakdown of public order. Now we get a new video every week – sometimes every few days – to the point that the name of the person on the receiving end is forgotten almost immediately.

Rare Clips from Hitchcock’s Unmade Found-Footage Project KALEIDOSCOPE

Witney Seibold writes in Blumhouse about a lost Hitchock project I didn't know about Rare Clips from Hitchcock’s Unmade Found-Footage Project KALEIDOSCOPE

KALEIDOSCOPE was, to put it in modern language, meant to be perhaps the very first ‘found footage’ or ‘mockumentary’ film. With photographer Arthur Schatz, Hitchcock staged some nudity-laced, crime-scene-like photos of the film’s potential victims — which, having seen them, may have indeed been too edgy for modern American audiences. Additionally, they shot some handheld motion picture scenes, wherein women were stalked.

It was even proposed that there was to be no sound in the film; the actors were to be unknowns, and the performers seen in the test footage are still unknowns to this day.

KALEIDOSCOPE was meant to be one of the darker, edgiest horror films ever made — it was, essentially, made to have the same sort of raw, fleshy terror as something like THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE, but with a classier and more experienced art director at the helm. It was meant to look like it was discovered after the fact, having been filmed by an unnamed voyeur who somehow had access to the dark sexual murders depicted."

There are short video clips embedded in the article.

Thursday, May 04, 2017

Hardware Wars

Wow, I don't think I've seen this since 1978 in the Jr High School cafeteria:

Supply-Side, Trickle-Down Nonsense on the New York Times Op-Ed Page

Last week the NY Times published an op-ed by the tax cutting foursome, Steve Forbes, Larry Kudlow, Arthur B. Laffer and Stephen Moore, Why Are Republicans Making Tax Reform So Hard?

And then Jared Bernstein ripped it apart Supply-side, trickle-down nonsense on the NYT oped page.

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Here’s Why Juicero’s Press is So Expensive

I missed this whole uproar about a $700 Internet juicer. Ben Einstein explains, Here’s Why Juicero’s Press is So Expensive

Last week Bloomberg published an article exposing how easy it is to ‘hack’ Juicero’s produce packs by squeezing them with your hands, deeming the $699 (now $399) WiFi-connected juice press completely unnecessary. Nearly overnight, Juicero has become the posterchild for Silicon Valley excess.

Juicero raised nearly $120M from well-known investors before shipping a single unit. The team spent over two years building an incredibly complex product and the ecosystem to support it. Aside from the flagship juice press, Juicero built relationships with farmers, co-packing/food-processing facilities, complex custom packaging, beautifully designed mobile/web applications, and a subscription delivery service. But they did all this work without the basic proof that this business made sense to consumers."

It's a fun and pretty breakdown of the product. For any company there's a balance of speed, price and quality. This is what happens when you ignore the second one.

A Plea for Responsible and Contextualized Reporting on User Security

Zeynep Tufekci In Response to Guardian’s Irresponsible Reporting on WhatsApp: A Plea for Responsible and Contextualized Reporting on User Security. She basically rips them a new one. It's a nice article, with the details of the issue which act as a great example of the difficulties of making something secure against a variety of adversaries vs making it usable by a wide range of users.

Signal is well-designed. Many in the security community use and consistently recommend it. However, the very thing that makes Signal a recommendation for people at high risk—that it drops messages at any sign of hiccup—prevents a large number of ordinary people from adopting it. Our community has used Signal for a long time, and have been trying to convert people to it, but its inevitable delivery failures (some by design, to keep users safer, and some due to bandwidth or other issues) mean that we often cannot convince people to use it despite spending a lot of effort trying to convince them—even people who have a lot at stake. The reason people, including journalists and activists, use WhatsApp over Signal isn’t because people are flaky, but because in the real world, reliability, usability and a large user base are key to security.

WhatsApp effectively protects people against mass surveillance. Individually targeted attacks by powerful adversaries willing to put effort into compromising a single person are a different kind of threat. If that is the threat model in mind, then merely recommending Signal is irresponsible. Your reckless, uncontextualized piece posits a mythical Snowden-type character, with a powerful, massively resourced adversary, for whom WhatsApp would not be a good choice. From that it concludes that WhatsApp is unsafe for a billion people for whom it is, at the moment, among the best options for secure communication.

To further complicate things, switching to Signal may not be advisable in some settings, because it marks you as an activist. There are many threat models under which WhatsApp is the safest option, and there are reports of people around the world being jailed merely for having installed an encryption app. It’s fine to recommend Signal and to broaden its user base. It’s not fine to fearmonger and scare people away from WhatsApp (which runs the same protocol as Signal) because of a minor and defensible difference in the kind of warnings it gives and the blocking behavior of a few undelivered messages when someone changes phones or SIM cards.

Sunday, April 23, 2017

The French, Coming Apart

This article by Christopher Caldwell, The French, Coming Apart, is a fascinating look at the French political landscape, and its impossible to not draw parallels to here in the US.

In France, a real-estate expert has done something almost as improbable. Christophe Guilluy calls himself a geographer. But he has spent decades as a housing consultant in various rapidly changing neighborhoods north of Paris, studying gentrification, among other things. And he has crafted a convincing narrative tying together France’s various social problems—immigration tensions, inequality, deindustrialization, economic decline, ethnic conflict, and the rise of populist parties. Such an analysis had previously eluded the Parisian caste of philosophers, political scientists, literary journalists, government-funded researchers, and party ideologues.

Guilluy is none of these. Yet in a French political system that is as polarized as the American, both the outgoing Socialist president François Hollande and his Gaullist predecessor Nicolas Sarkozy sought his counsel. Marine Le Pen, whose National Front dismisses both major parties as part of a corrupt establishment, is equally enthusiastic about his work. Guilluy has published three books, as yet untranslated, since 2010, with the newest, Le crépuscule de la France d’en haut (roughly: “The Twilight of the French Elite”), arriving in bookstores last fall. The volumes focus closely on French circumstances, institutions, and laws, so they might not be translated anytime soon. But they give the best ground-level look available at the economic, residential, and democratic consequences of globalization in France. They also give an explanation for the rise of the National Front that goes beyond the usual imputation of stupidity or bigotry to its voters. Guilluy’s work thus tells us something important about British voters’ decision to withdraw from the European Union and the astonishing rise of Donald Trump—two phenomena that have drawn on similar grievances.

If anyone with more direct knowledge of French politics would comment on this, I'd love to hear it. I searched briefly and didn't find much to contradict this article.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

The Long, Lucrative Right-wing Grift Is Blowing Up in the World's Face

This Alex Parenne piece made it onto my queue, aka backlog a couple of weeks ago. Then I saw it on Chris Hayes last night. The Long, Lucrative Right-wing Grift Is Blowing Up in the World's Face. It makes a couple of points I really agree with (ah confirmation bias). The first is how right wing media broke the Republican party:

Rather rapidly, two things happened: First, Republicans realized they’d radicalized their base to a point where nothing they did in power could satisfy their most fervent constituents. Then—in a much more consequential development—a large portion of the Republican Congressional caucus became people who themselves consume garbage conservative media, and nothing else.

That, broadly, explains the dysfunction of the Obama era, post-Tea Party freakout. Congressional Republicans went from people who were able to turn their bullshit-hose on their constituents, in order to rile them up, to people who pointed it directly at themselves, mouths open.

Now, we have a president whose media diet defines his worldview, interests, and priorities. He is not one of the men, like most of those Tea Party members of Congress, whose existing worldview determined his media diet—who sealed himself off from disagreeable media sources. He is, in fact, something far more dangerous: a confused old man who believes what the TV tells him.

The second is how the two parties behave:

Here’s the real, non-ideological difference between Republicans and Democrats:

Democrats by and large are convinced that no one actually supports their agenda, and they devote a not insignificant amount of time and political capital to explaining to their own constituents why they cannot pursue goals that a majority of them support. (“I supported single payer since before you were born,” says Nancy Pelosi, who has the legislative and leadership record of someone who may support single payer but clearly doesn’t actually expect it to happen in our lifetimes.)

Conservatives, especially those who came up during the Obama era, have, more or less, the opposite problem: They’ve convinced themselves that their agenda is hugely popular and that everyone supports them.

There’s actually been some research on this: Politicians—both liberal ones and conservative ones—believe that the electorate is more conservative than it actually is. Conservative politicians believe the electorate is much more conservative than it actually is. Once you learn this, suddenly a lot of things about how elected officials act make more sense.

The most important major divide among Congressional Republicans isn’t between moderates and conservatives, or establishment and anti-establishment politicians, but between those who know that their agenda is hugely unpopular and that they have to force it through under cover of darkness, and the louder, dumber ones who believe their own bullshit. And for those loud, dumb members, egged on by a media apparatus that has trained its audience to demand the impossible and punish the sell-outs who can’t deliver, those more tactical members are cowards and RINOs.

Jonathan Chait wrote Republicans Are Going to Wish Hillary Clinton Won

Imagine what the political world would look like for Republicans had Hillary Clinton won the election. Clinton had dragged her dispirited base to the polls by promising a far more liberal domestic agenda than Barack Obama had delivered, but she would have had no means to enact it. As the first president in 28 years to take office without the benefit of a Congress in her own party’s hands, she’d have been staring at a dead-on-arrival legislative agenda, all the low-hanging executive orders having already been picked by her predecessor, and years of scandalmongering hearings already teed up. The morale of the Democratic base, which had barely tolerated the compromises of the Obama era and already fallen into mutual recriminations by 2016, would have disintegrated altogether. The 2018 midterms would be a Republican bloodbath, with a Senate map promising enormous gains to the Republican Party, which would go into the 2020 elections having learned the lessons of Trump’s defeat and staring at full control of government with, potentially, a filibuster-proof Senate majority.

Instead, Republicans under Trump are on the verge of catastrophe. Yes, they are about to gain a Supreme Court justice, no small thing, a host of federal judges, and a wide array of deregulation. Yet they are saddled with not only the most unpopular president at this point in time in the history of polling, but the potential for a partywide collapse, the contours of which they have not yet imagined. The failure of the Republican health-care initiative was a sobering moment, when their early, giddy visions of the possibilities of full party control of government gave way to an ugly reality of dysfunction, splayed against the not-so-distant backdrop of a roiled Democratic voting base. They have ratcheted back their expectations. But they have not ratcheted them far enough. By the time President Trump has left the scene, what now looks like a shambolic beginning, a stumbling out of the gate, will probably feel like the good old days.

Josh Barro walked through why Tax reform doomed like healthcare reform.

The Journal's well-reported story amounts to this: President Donald Trump would like to sign a tax reform bill, but he and his aides have no vision for what the tax reform bill should say.

"Broadly, Mr. Trump wants a simpler tax code and lower business tax rates to stimulate investment and spur manufacturing," according to the WSJ.

That all sounds nice. But substantially everyone in Washington claims to be in favor of a simpler tax code that imposes lower rates on a broader tax base. Republicans and Democrats say this all the time, and yet, tax reform does not get done.

This is because, in practice, "simpler" means eliminating tax preferences that benefit various constituencies. When the specifics of "simplicity" get laid out, tax reform plans start to draw a lot of opposition.

He then expands on these four points:

  • The White House does not like Paul Ryan's plan
  • The White House does not have its own plan
  • The White House does not know what its coalition is to enact tax reform
  • All the White House knows is it wants Trump to sign a tax reform law

It's easy to extrapolate these points to every other issue. Matthew Yglesias does it, Trump’s $1 trillion infrastructure plan is vaporware that’s never going to happen.

Donald Trump’s rambling, incoherent remarks on federal infrastructure spending during a wide-ranging interview with Glenn Thrush and Maggie Haberman of the New York Times have set headline writers abuzz with the desire to extract some kind of meaning and news value from his comments. “Trump says infrastructure plan could top $1 trillion,” wrote Marketwatch, while Reuters reports that “Trump says he may use his $1 trillion infrastructure plan as a political incentive.” The Times reporters who conducted the interview — both New Yorkers like Trump, and veterans of the city hall beat — wrote it up as a local story: “Trump Weighs Infrastructure Bill but Keeps New York Up in the Air.”

The truest line in any of this comes from Haberman and Thrush themselves, who observe that Trump’s “knowledge of complex policy issues can sometimes be lacking.”

And to the extent that that’s news, it’s the only actual news Trump made on infrastructure. His remarks make it clear that he doesn’t know anything about the substance of the issue or about the relevant congressional procedures. He doesn’t appear to be familiar with the related provisions of his own administration’s budget, and he isn’t putting in the time to lay the political groundwork for any legislation. The trillion-dollar infrastructure plan doesn’t exist except as a line of rhetoric.

Martin Longman comments on Chiat's post saying Washington Monthly | Trump is Failing for Same Reason That Boehner Failed.

In truth, however, almost no Washington Republicans voted for Trump in the primaries. The elite conservative intelligentsia never saw Trump as fit for office, nor did they see him as an ideologically acceptable conservative. They had reconciled themselves to a Clinton presidency and were gearing up to win the battle over the autopsy of Trump’s campaign. Most of them did not want Trump to win and we’re relieved that the polls indicated that he had no chance to win.

Chait is correct that rank-and-file Republican voters largely stayed with Trump, meaning that they “brought disaster upon their country.” This led Trump to make a fatal miscalculation. He thought he won with a partisan vote so he should be able to govern with an exclusively partisan coalition. That was incorrect because his victory was a victory over both parties, and the Washington Establishment didn’t accept him irrespective of which party they represented.

Trump needed a bipartisan coalition from the moment he saw the surprising Electoral College results, and he had a major repair job to do if he was going to find any space on the left after insulting every ethnic and minority group in the country, running an explicitly racist campaign, and being exposed as a sexual predator. That was the moment when he needed to begin an aggressive pivot in both his style and rhetoric and in his legislative proposals.

At least at the outset, he had some alternatives. He might have tried to gain support for a legislative agenda that, while distinct from his campaign promises, was consistent with it in spirit. There were coalitions of Democrats who might have helped him figure out an alternative to the Trans-Pacific Partnership or ways to renegotiate NAFTA. He could have had support for an infrastructure bill that looked a lot like what President Obama had called for for years. Repeal and replace could have been softened into something less vindictive and more constructive. He could have consulted the Democrats on appointments to key administrative and cabinet positions.

In the end, this would have probably broken the House of Representatives in ways I have been advocating that it break ever since John Boehner discovered that he had to rely on Democratic votes to pass appropriations bills, pay the government’s debts, and keep the government’s doors open. Just as with Boehner, Trump’s true House majority would always have to be bipartisan if it were to be a majority at all.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Why Hollywood’s writers are on the verge of a strike — and what it could mean for the industry

Vox explains Why Hollywood’s writers are on the verge of a strike — and what it could mean for the industry. Things are always more complex than they seem but I'm on the writers' side.

Fairytale Prisoner by Choice: The Photographic Eye of Melania Trump

Kate Imbach posted an analysis of Melania Trumps twitter photos. Fairytale Prisoner by Choice: The Photographic Eye of Melania Trump "Melania posted five photographs of Trump with their son. She took each photo from behind the two, sometimes literally from the backseat. Boys in front, girls in the back, the same arrangement we were all so appalled to see on inauguration day, is her norm. She lives in the background."

It's all random speculation and a dark read.

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

The Thor: Ragnarok Trailer Gives Us an Excuse to Do Physics

Wired has a cute article, The Thor: Ragnarok Trailer Gives Us an Excuse to Do Physics analyzing the physics of the Thor/Hulk punch in the new trailer. They embed some simulations using two things I'd hadn't heard of before. The embedding of code seems to happen via trinket and the code is using GlowScript IDE to do the physics animation.

A simple plan to end the Supreme Court confirmation wars for good

Ian Milhiser wrote in ThinkProgress, A simple plan to end the Supreme Court confirmation wars for good. I didn't know about The Missouri Plan

When a vacancy arises on the state’s supreme court, a seven person commission consisting of ‘three lawyers elected by the lawyers of The Missouri Bar . . . three citizens selected by the governor, and the chief justice’ submits three candidates to fill that vacancy to the state’s governor. The governor then has 60 days to choose among those three names. If the governor fails to meet this deadline, the commission selects one of the three.

Finally, after a year of service, the newly appointed judge must survive a retention election, where a majority of the electorate can cast them out of office — though this only happens rarely.

This method of judicial selection, as well as variants upon it, was adopted by many states since its inception in Missouri."

It’s not a perfect system. In Iowa, which uses variant on the Missouri system, three justices were removed from office after anti-LGBT groups campaigned against them due to their votes in support of marriage equality. In Arizona, which uses a Missouri-style commission but with significantly more gubernatorial appointees, a libertarian attorney with aggressive plans to roll back laws protecting workers recently joined the state supreme court. Judicial selection commissions neither eliminate politics entirely nor shield a state entirely from ideologues.

But they are a whole lot better than the world we live in now at the federal level, where no president is ever likely to appoint a justice again unless that justice shares the ideological preferences of a majority of the Senate.

Something is breaking American politics, but it's not social media

Ezra Klein writes about a new study Something is breaking American politics, but it's not social media:

Their approach is simple. Using data from the American National Election Survey, they compare the most web-savvy voters (the young, where 80 percent used social media in 2012) and the least web-savvy voters (the old, where fewer than 20 percent used social media in 2012) on nine different tests of political polarization. The measures cover everything from feelings about political parties to ideological consistency to straight-ticket voting, and the data shows how polarization changed among these groups between 1996 and 2012. The results? On fully eight of the nine measures, ‘polarization increases more for the old than the young.’ If Facebook is the problem, then how come the problem is worst among those who don’t use Facebook?

I asked Gentzkow what he thinks might be part of the fuller picture. “I have two main hypotheses,” he replied. “One is stuff that has nothing to do with media at all but is structural, like increasing income inequality. The second is non-digital media, and cable TV and talk radio in particular.” The latter piece makes particular sense if you think about the fact that older Americans make up the base of both the cable and talk radio audiences. More than a third of talk radio listeners are over age 65, and half of Fox News’s audience is over age 68. As bad as getting your news from Facebook can be, it’s often far better than relying on Fox News or Rush Limbaugh.

80 Years Ago SCOTUS decided NLRB v Jones & Laughlin Steel

ISCOTUS describes This Day in Supreme Court History—April 12, 1937.

In National Labor Relations Board v. Jones & Laughlin Steel Corporation, ten former workers of Jones & Laughlin Steel brought a suit against the company, asserting that they were illegally fired after they attempted to unionize and join the Steel Workers Organizing Committee. The recently created National Labor Relations Board ordered Jones & Laughlin Steel to rehire the employees and compensate them for any back pay owed them.

After a string of controversial decisions striking down New Deal legislation, the Supreme Court changed course. In a 5-4 decision, the Supreme Court upheld the bargaining provisions of the Wagner Act. Chief Justice Charles Evans Hughes delivered the opinion of the Court, arguing that the commerce power extended to regulations designed to prevent a potential strike at Jones & Laughlin, since a work stoppage would have an “immediate, direct, and paralyzing effect upon interstate commerce.” “Collective bargaining is often an essential condition of industrial peace,” Hughes asserted, and a “refusal to confer and negotiate has been one of the most prolific causes of strife.”

The decision was a landmark ruling on the meaning of the Commerce Clause. Its reasoning granted far more authority to Congress to regulate economic relations than the Court had previously allowed. It was also a major victory for industrial and factory workers across the country. The Wagner Act helped usher in a new era of labor relations, one in which union power, backed by the authority of the federal government, entered into negotiations with industry on far more equal footing than before.

Space Stuff

Universe explains SpaceX Just Re-Used a Rocket. Why This Changes Everything ""

Hubble Takes Advantage of Opposition To Snap Jupiter

On April, 7th, 2017, Jupiter will come into opposition with Earth. This means that Earth and Jupiter will be at points in their orbit where the Sun, Earth and Jupiter will all line up. Not only will this mean that Jupiter will be making its closest approach to Earth – reaching a distance of about 670 million km (416 million mi) – but the hemisphere that faces towards us will be fully illuminated by the Sun.

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Juno Sees Overlapping Colliding Clouds on Jupiter

The Juno mission has made some remarkable finds since it reached Jupiter in July of 2016. During the many orbits it has made around Jupiter’s poles – which occur every 53 days – some stunning imagery has resulted. Not only have these pictures revealed things about Jupiter’s atmosphere, they have also been an opportunity for the public to participate in the exploration of this giant planet.

New Up-Close Image of Jupiter's Stormy Clouds is Mind-Blowing

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The Verge on Astronauts Scott and Mark Kelly on NASA’s twin experiment and the future of space travel

Mark and Scott Kelly are the only twins that have ever traveled to space — and their experience will be invaluable if we want to get to Mars one day.

Between 2015 and 2016, Scott spent 340 days on the International Space Station, while his genetically identical twin Mark stayed on Earth to function as a control subject. Before, during, and after Scott’s trip, the brothers have been giving NASA numerous biological samples — blood, saliva, poop, you name it. By comparing Scott’s samples with Mark’s, NASA is trying to understand what long-term space travel does to our bodies.

Some preliminary findings have already come out. One study showed that Scott’s DNA changed while he was in space: his telomeres — the protective caps on the end of DNA strands — were unexpectedly longer than Mark’s. (Telomere length can affect aging and age-associated diseases.) Another study showed that there were major fluctuations in Scott’s gut bacteria while he lived in zero-g compared to his twin.

Monday, April 10, 2017

Astronomers just turned on a planet-size telescope to take a picture of a black hole

Vox has a nice piece with some good videos describing how Astronomers just turned on a planet-size telescope to take a picture of a black hole .

Because Sagittarius A is so small, and surrounded by so much occluding material, it’s going to take a huge telescope to see it. According to Nature, it would take a telescope 1,000 times more powerful than Hubble to get enough resolution to see it.

So how does the Event Horizon Telescope solve this problem? Conventional optical telescopes use bigger and bigger mirrors to see objects smaller and farther away in the universe. The Event Horizon Telescope is doing something similar: It’s creating a virtual telescope the size of the entire Earth.

The Event Horizon team is connecting radio telescopes at eight locations across the world — as far-flung as Hawaii and the South Pole — and instructing them all to look toward Sagittarius A for a few days. The network is the result of an international collaboration of 14 research institutions across the world.

2017 Pulitzer Prize Winners & Finalists

Here are the 2017 Pulitzer Prize Winners & Finalists.

I don't understand how Peggy Noonan won. I read some of the samples they provided and I'm as unimpressed as I am with here Sunday morning TV appearances. "I had such a conversation again Tuesday with a friend who repairs shoes in a shop on Lexington Avenue." Seriously? I just cannot find a rhythm to her phrasing though I will give her credit for this: "better than Marco the moist robot".

Saturday, April 08, 2017

Here’s the real Rust Belt jobs problem — and it’s not offshoring or automation

The Washington Post reports Here’s the real Rust Belt jobs problem — and it’s not offshoring or automation

Since the corporate mergers and restructurings in the 1980s, most cities depend not on one or two large factories but on many small subsidiary operations — light manufacturing, food processing, professional service firms, call centers, hotels and retail. These smaller subsidiaries mostly move between struggling cities and towns rather than leaving for other countries.

But they offer few ‘good’ unionized jobs. For instance, in the 1970s, the local meat packing plant hired thousands and paid $15 an hour. But the Tyson Foods or John Morrell plant that replaced it employs hundreds and may pay about $10.

Much of the blame for that falls on federal policy. Unions have been hobbled by a changing legal environment. A corporate merger wave unleashed by financial deregulation eliminated local owners who paid workers living wages and contributed generously to their towns. Tax code changes led to ballooning senior managers’ earnings at the expense of line-workers’ wages. Without changing the federal policies that led to these trends, bringing manufacturing back will not create good, safe jobs.

Friday, April 07, 2017

Some thoughts on Trumps attack on Syria

On the one hand, this seemed like a reasonable proportional response to the use of chemical weapons by Assad on his citizens. It also seems like Trump listened to his advisors and picked one of the most conservative responses he could, that's not what most of critics would have expected. On the other hand, it raises a lot more questions for me than it does answers.

First, while there is now evidence that sarin gas was used on civilians (some of the victims were children so they're certainly civilians), it's not clear who launched the attack. I believe that Assad did it, but I think some proof is required, particularly from an administration that has bullshitted us on virtually everything.

Second, it raises a long standing question. Even if Assad launched this attack, it's not clear that the US had any legal right to strike Syria in this way. My understanding is that under international law the only valid reasons are self-defense (which doesn't apply) or with Security Council permission (which wasn't asked for). This was a violation of chemical weapons treaties, but they don't authorize military force for violations. Under US law Trump also has no authority to strike Syrian forces. The 2001 AUMF against al-Qaeda has been used for years to cover strikes against ISIS and even that is on some shaky ground. When Obama's infamous red line was crossed, before striking he asked Congress for authority to do so, but Congress didn't have the votes to pass it. While strictly speaking a president needs Congressional approval for military action, as Rachel Maddow pointed out in her book Drift Congress has been ceding it's authority in this regard for a long time. More details here.

Then there's Trump's hypocrisy. Let me count the ways. In 2013 when Obama had this same decision Trump tweeted that he shouldn't strike in Syria and if he did, he'd need Congress' approval to do it. Well Trump blew through both of those. Trump said he was moved by the babies being killed, but they've been killing in Syria for years now, and does it matter if they're killed by chemical weapons or conventional ones? He's still banned refugees from this conflict from coming to the US.

Trump ran on a secret 30 day plan to eliminate ISIS, which was obviously bullshit, but also on otherwise being more isolationist. A week ago Rex Tillerson, Sean Spicer and Nikki Haley all said that removing Assad was no longer a priority. There's talk that this may have emboldened Assad, but it's hard to say. A big question for me was how impulsive was Trump's decision, that's the fear that many have of his administration. Did this somehow get to him and was this Trump treating military response the same way he tweet-rants at 6am?

Jeffrey Goldberg writes that this is the end of the Obama Doctrine. Obama told him he was proud of his 2013 decision, to avoid the conventional Washington wisdom that limited military response would have a good outcome in the middle east. He took a lot of heat for that and Lots of former Obama advisors are cheering Trump's action. But unlike Trump has shown so far, Obama made the decision deliberately, thinking a few moves into the future. Is this the start of another middle quagmire? How slippery is this slope and will the military-industrial complex lead Trump to push for regime change. Syria's allies are Russia and Iran, they're already angered, what will that lead to? At least Trump called Russia just before the strikes to warn them (and to prevent their forces from being hit). That was a responsible thing to do and something I'm sure some military advisor suggested to Trump. I wonder if Trump will re-evaluate the role of the State Department in world affairs instead of just military force.

So Trump gave a measured response, sending cruise missiles to the airport used to launch the strikes. He didn't hit chemical weapons storage sites there (for fear of spreading them). These missiles can't do a lot of damage to the runways and already Syria launched fighters from that airport, so it doesn't seem like much damage was done. A couple of days ago Hillary Clinton spoke about striking all their airports and destroying Assad's entire Air Force, which is only a couple of hundred aircraft. That seems way more extreme, but also more likely to affect Assad's ability to attack the rebels and more likely to save lives.

The real question is how does Trump react a few days from now when Syria hasn't changed in any significant way.

I don't know what the answers are. I do know that in my list of complaints about Trump, this isn't all that high on my list. So far.