Friday, November 30, 2018

The Nation: citizens need to be more personal and aggressive with their activism (go door-to-door again?)

At a debate on immigration at George Washington University Thursday Nov. 29 between The Nation and The American Conservative, both pubs handed out “free” copies of their latest issues.
I wanted to point out an article by D.D. Guttenplan in the Nation, “9 Lessons from the 2018 Midterms. Progressives made significant gains, but now they need to organize bigger, better and smarter.” 

 (In the EU I couldn’t quote this entire byline, if that link tax were to go into effect!) 

There is a lot of attention to “Swing Left”, but what struck me in the article was the attention given to recruiting volunteers, and also being able to pay workers – and the attention that the writer wants people with more money to pay to local elections.

He wants people to be OK with phonebanks (robocalls?) and door knocking (fear of home invasions?)  But that’s how it used to be before the Internet, especially with issues like gay rights back in the 1980s (esp. when AIDS was getting started – I remember it too well). 
Now we have an elitist component that sees such tactics as beneath us.
I’ll cover the debate on Wordpress, but there was a lot about “the rich and the poor”, right next to one another, especially in the Tenderloin in San Francisco.

Wednesday, November 28, 2018

New anti-cancer drug with few side effects may wipe out some major cancers

ABC News reports on a new anti-cancer chemotherapy drug that has few side effects and that is amazingly effective against cancers with one particular kind of DNA mutation (called NTRK). The story is here

Case histories include a boy cured of thyroid cancer (would it have helped Roger Ebert? – and I had a classmate die of this when I was growing up in the 50s) and a girl who was able to avoid a limb amputation.

Some of the tumors are sarcomas or are unusual.  But there may be some more common cancers that would be amendable.
The FDA link is here
Second picture:  My own referral for a future colonoscopy.

Saturday, November 24, 2018

Fourth National Climate Assessment sneaked in to the media on Black Friday

On Black Friday, an agency in the Trump administration issues another dire report on climate change, following up on the Oct 8 report from the Intergovernmental Panel.
This is the Fourth National Climate Assessment, an update of a Nov. 2017 report, here

The report predicts enormous financial losses and deaths by 2100.  The report is specific as to regions of the country.

The general threats to infrastructure come from enormous events, like wildfires in the West that happen year round now and that move farther way from woodland-suburb interface, stronger hurricanes, out of season tornadoes in areas less used to them, and more extreme temperature events, which, for now, can include unusual out-of-season (especially in spring and fall) cold snaps from “polar vortices”.

Trump, to protect his "base", claims that the report is based on the most extreme projections. 
Some scientists want to place sunblocks (aerosols of sufates) into the stratosphere (CNN).  

A Facebook friend of mine has a detailed counter proposal (talks about the California drought and wildfires) here

Friday, November 23, 2018

Thanksgiving always leads to more moralizing about "mandatory" voluntarism (and maybe national service)

A rather challenging piece in the Washington Post by  Lisa M. O’Neill, “Americans are wildly generous at the holidays; and then it stops”.  

Well, I meet her first suggestion.  I do my giving in an automated fashion, through a bank, once a month, throughout the year.  That has an advantage of making the donation stream steady, so it’s not about waiting until the next catastrophe.

I don’t respond usually to sudden catastrophes, but I did volunteer in a Red Cross phone bank after Katrina in 2005 (it didn’t accomplish a lot because of the bureaucracy). The Paradise fire in California is rather staggering, and approaching the scale of a small nuclear explosion.  I do know someone near the affected area;  if I find out that it affected his work, I will do something.  But at some point, we have to think about, what if there really is a regional catastrophe of some kind (an EMP caused by North Korea)? With an unstable president, anything is possible.

Oh, yes, we can talk about policy – not just climate change – but why people keep overbuilding in interface areas – coastal or near forests, without proper construction and (in the case of fires) clearing of nearby land?

I did inherit a “trust” house, which was sold in 2017.  But had it been in a coastal area, I would have created my own evacuation plan and hotel arrangement, and ability to move computers and valuables to another location.  I would have had to have some sort of rebuilding arrangement already discussed with insurance companies in advance.  (Read the New York Times piece by Mary Williams Walsh on this matter, Nov. 20.) 

That works for hurricanes, but not for sudden events like large tornadoes or wildfires.

Getting back to the O’Neill piece, I admit, I’m not sociable enough to make much of all her calls for voluntarism.  Her comment on indigenous peoples is certainly challenging. 

I'll note her mention of the Tenderloin area of San Francisco. At one time it had been the "gay area" which gradually migrated to the richer Castro. I walked through the Tenderloin on the way to an Electronic Frontier Foundation forum in mid September and indeed saw "the rich and the poor" within feet of one another,  and was even accosted by someone who thought I was an undercover ICE agent!! 

But we can think how we manage the expectations that people participate in volunteering.  How well it works depends on our overall expectations as a community or culture from individuals. Personally,  I’m not much for putting on other people’s uniforms. Individually, a lot of more “intellectual” people (like “Economic Invincibility” on YouTube) find it hard to make it work.  Often service gets merged into narrow activism and almost unwelcome compelled speech.
More to the point is maybe volunteer camps – where people live in camps in devastated areas for weeks and take turns providing service.  We like to see college students do it.  Churches sponsor it.

Wednesday, November 21, 2018

John Roberts sets the record about SCOTUS and the entire court system with Donald Trump

Chief Justice Roberts has spoken out against Trump’s complaints about the discretion of circuit courts of appeals, as with the asylum seeker issue. 

Trump had called the Ninth Circuit “Obama judges”.

The media is noting that Trump’s base seems to support even this behavior on Trump’s part as the “left behind” people have little reason to trust the standard institutions of our federalist and republican system.
Trump’s previously reported requests to possibly prosecute Hillary Clinton and James Comey fit this mode.

Tuesday, November 20, 2018

Pentagon does war game maneuver for massive cyber attack on power grid

Joseph Marka reports on Nextgov about a detailed war-game at Plum Island on Long Island on restoricing critical power grid components in the event of a cyber attack.  Here is the link with a very long detailed story
The maneuvers assume that various air gap jumpers must have been able to infect widely distant components, which are supposed to be isolated.
Pentagon planners appear to me more concerned about cyber, than flux EMP or various physical attacks.
 Plum Island is better known as an animal disease research center. 

Monday, November 19, 2018

Gruesome injuries, and football as a right of passage in the U.S.

The gruesome double-bone fracture of the lower leg of Redskin Quarterback Alex Smith at Fed-Ex Field Sunday reminds me, at least, of the whole machismo thing American culture has associated with playing football (not soccer), Washington Post story by Kareem Copland. 

The injury occurred apparently because the quarterback’s foot got caught in the artificial turf during a sack.  Redskin’s QA Joe Theismann had a similar incident in 1985, and it was graphic to look at.
Injuries of this severity are almost unpredictable in football.  But they can happen in baseball too, most of all with pitchers struck by line drives(Herb Score).

For all the recent data on the concussion risk leading to the moral status of football fanmanship (spectators allowed, not at Burning Man) the incident reminds me of the culture in the past when playing football was a gauntlet all young men ran to prove their competitive worth later.

Now that’s oppressive.
One other thing.  Pro sports teams have rapid ups and downs.  But could the Baltimore Orioles’s collapse have anything to do with the horrific events in the city from 2015 on?  Did the racism of the past explain why the old Washington Senators baseball team was so bad?

Friday, November 16, 2018

California electric utility may be liable for Camp Fire

The New York Times, in a front page story Thursday Nov. 15, reports (Ivan Penn and Peter Eavis) that California’s Pacific Gas and Electric utility could be liable for billions of losses in California wildfires, especially the Camp Fire that destroyed the town of Paradise, over 27000 people with many senior citizens.  

This would be so if a downed power line, still energized, started the fire.  Downed lines might have happened in high winds.  There would be questions if brush had not been cleared far enough from the lines.

But even a spark from a flat tire could start a fire. (I was in the Sacramento area in September, and there was a small fire near Apple Hill along Route 50. In fact, when I was in Texas, a rental care persistently gave me a false warning of low tire pressure which I disproved with a gauge.)
This is another danger for utilities, which have endured weapons attacks (in April 2013).  And (as on the International Issue blog Nov. 13) North Korea may have introduced the idea of a non-nuclear ground flux EMP weapon that a terrorist or saboteur could deploy.

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

Why support of single-payer health insurance for the US is naive

Scott W. Atlas reminds us of the difficulties of implementing a single payer “Medicare for All” healthcare system that would actually work, in a Wall Street Journal (about the "false promise") op-ed Tuesday Nov. 13.

Britain’s NHS is plagued by long waits even for life-saving treatments.  So is Canada’s single payer.
Germany and Switzerland (even France) have partially private systems involving employers, but better regulated than in the U.S. 

In 1998, I was able to get novel surgery immediately in Minneapolis for an acetabular fracture in a convenience store fall on a wet floor, on an employer policy.  I returned to work quickly and full activity (even if on crutches for a while) very quickly.  I remember the Academy Awards fundraiser party where I put away the crutches for the first time.

In the City Journal video above, libertarian journalist John Stossel plays devil’s advocate.

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

A visit to Trump country: the economy in most of it is not doing well

I did a little citizen journalism this past weekend in the Pittsburgh area.  Some of it is documented on the “Bills Media Reviews” Wordpress blog – but I want to make a note that I drove through some towns in far western Pennsylvania and eastern Ohio that are not doing very well.

Oddly, there is a nuclear power plant (West Beaver) near the Ohio line in Midland-ShippingPort, PA.  There is a new performing arts center in Midland.  But the businesses in most of the towns around there look decayed, and it was hard to find much that was open (Monday, November 12, legal holiday, middle of the day).  East Liverpool, Ohio, I found a diner with delicious hot dogs downtown and pretty crowded, but not much else downtown seemed to be open.

Generally, I didn’t find many major franchise or brand businesses – like fast food, major gas stations and convenience stores, major pharmacies or department stores (CVS, Walmart), etc. 
I have another blog devoted to trademark law, so when I see an areas without the presence of major chain store brands – which people hate, I know – that’s a sign of economic depression and poor employment.  Likewise, the infrastructure, and roads, are not in good shape, even street signs are wrong.

This area is Trump country.  Everybody here hates the elites and voted for him.  In a few towns, Trump may have saved some jobs, and he may have helped some specialized businesses in Ohio (I have a relative who owns a process-controller software company and he says Trump has been good for him).  But generally, the working people with relatively less education in these areas are still doing very poorly in “Trump” country.  The economies of most of these rust belt towns are not good.
So what do people in these towns need?  Not college education.  Vocational training?  Ask “Economic Invincibility”. 

 I don't think people living here really sit around and get fake news from Russian bots on Facebook. But they may have been fooled into believing that protectionism could work for them.  Protectionism just doesn't work, ever. 

Saturday, November 10, 2018

The controversy over Whitaker's "appointment" as acting AG by Trump

The appointment of acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker is raising serious legal and practical concerns (after the sacking of Jeff Sessions). 

He is reported to have said he doesn’t consider Marbury v Madison (from high school American history) valid – judicial review.  He is said to deny separation of church and state.  We don’t know why Trump would appoint him except out of a superficial idea of “loyalty” (as earlier with James Comey), to hinder the Mueller investigation.
CNBC reports (Kevin Breuninger) on this with a detailed letter from Senator (Minority Leader) Chuck Schumer to President Trump, here

Furthermore the New York Times focuses on the constitutional issues, saying that Whitaker must go through the Senate confirmation process, in a story by Neal K. Katyal and George T. Conway III, here

Thursday, November 08, 2018

Protesters go over the line near a Fox host's home


Media sources report that protesters attempted a breaking and entering of Tucker Carlson’s (Fox News) home Wednesday night.

The Washington Post has a detailed story by Allyson Chiu, Perry Stein and Emma Brown.  The home is in NW Washington DC but media sources will not disclose more details.  Media sources report that Carlson and possibly other conservative journalists were doxxed.  Twitter and Facebook have removed their posts and Twitter has suspended at least one group (Smash Racism DC”).
Carlson’s wife called police while her husband was at work.  The acts committed could include vandalism or destruction of property and attempted breaking and entering (could have led to a home invasion).  If police have identified perpetrators, prosecution (for crimes committed inside the District of Columbia) by a United States attorney would be possible.  (Grand juries for these things meet in secret – I was robbed on the Metro once in 2013, really lost very little [but someone made $25000 of fake Metro cards on my credit card quickly before it was cancelled] – the perpetrator was not prosecuted for my robbery but jailed for another one.)

Tim Pool got into an argument on Twitter with Matthew Yglesias of Vox, who sympathized a bit with the protestors on wanting rich people to know what it feels like to be in danger (like of police profiling, maybe). 

I’ve never gotten the personal impression that Tucker Carlson is particularly extreme on the Right. 
However the level-headed Wikipedia reports some serious stuff about his past statements.
Listen to Pool’s analysis on the video.  This only gets worse. But he notes that protests near the homes of public officials have always happened. 
There are also reports of multiple protests tonight (John Bowden, The Hill) over fears that Mueller’s investigation of Trump will be impeded by the new interim AG, Whitaker, who denies that the Russians affected the 2016 elections. 

Wednesday, November 07, 2018

Trump's first reaction to midterm results: start a slow-motion Saturday Night Massacre; there could be more soon

Here is a pretty definitive score on the results of the midterms, from Vox, as of 11 PM EST Wednesday, Nov. 7, 2018.

Rick Scott beat Bill Nelson in FL, so David Hogg didn’t win on his home field!  (Hogg can be a Senator in 2031.)   Scott is probably pressured somewhat to moderation, however.

Trump’s firing of Jeff Sessions (who had started to mellow a little) and might end the Mueller probe (MSNBC)  Matt Whittaker acts as AG.  Republicans warn Trump not to stop the Mueller probe (Guardian).  Democrats will have subpoena power. 
A slow-motion Saturday night massacre?

Monday, November 05, 2018

The mid-term examination for all of us occurs Tuesday; Washington Post has major editorial on Internet governance

Okay, Tuesday November 6, 2018 is the big day. 

O, boy, I remember a math course in grad school where on the first day the professor say, “your grade is based on a mid-term and a final exam”.  So Tuesday is Donald Trump’s mid-term.

But this is about “The People”.  The legislature.  It sounds more likely that Democrats will take the house, because the early voting returns suggest that more young people are voting.  I do congratulate David Hogg, and his accomplishments in the voting arena may turn out to be more important than the gun control issue.  And, personally, I hope he attends Stanford next fall (Jack Andraka graduates next spring).

David cannot serve in the House until after the 2026 election, when he would be 26. That raises another issue.  If you want to do something about climate change, you need to elect young adults now, because they have the “skin in the game” to live through the consequences after my generation is gone.

I’m “all set”, as they say at Starbucks when they had you your food as your charge is approved.  (Even if the salesperson roots for the Boston Red Sox.)  I registered in Fairfax County a week after I moved in 2017 and got the card in the mail with the polling place, and it’s an 800 foot walk from my condo.

Because of the circumstances with my own projects I haven’t made time for any sustained voluntarism commitment.  So I have not registered voters or driven them to the polls. Actually, at 75, I don’t think I should use a car for any future volunteer activities.  I just vote, in every election, every primary.

We should remember the sacrifice in 1964 of Goodman, Chaney and Schwerner in Mississippi, when I was 21, during a troubling period of my own life.  

This would normally go on a different blog, but I want to note right now that “Gab” is back up and that the Washington Post has a major editorial this morning on whether Internet infrastructure companies (as opposed to social media hosts) feel a responsibility to monitor content and who can use their utilities.  I have an extended comment on the Post site. 

Saturday, November 03, 2018

Smerconish, David Brooks disagree on how America's polarization persists

Saturday morning, Michael Smerconish on CNN said that most Americans are in the middle politically – they want health care to cover pre-existing conditions, and family leave, want some sensible moderation on immigration (including DACA to be properly fixed by Congress), and to leave people alone personally (gay rights and transgender) and probably want some gun control and possibly limits on hate speech – but it’s the extremes, who make up 15% of the population, who keep getting all the media attention. Columbia Journalism Review talks about this (June 2018) in a piece by Peter Vernon, here

Yet, in a NYT column called “The Retrenchment Election”, David Brooks characterized all of us as remaining polarized, rural v. urban, here

I think a group called Better Angels would be included to agree with Smerconish (who is a “conservative” of the right ilk – do your (actuarial) math first before making policy proposals and see what you can afford).
The “Better Angels” video above was streamed at the University of Kansas in Lawrence, where I went to grad school (MA, Math) in the 1960s.