Thursday, November 14, 2019

UK article warns that "insect apocalypse" could wipe out all life on Earth


The Guardian is reporting that “Insect apocalypse” could threaten all life on Earth, as more species disappear.
   

This would seem to be related to climate change, and it reminds one of colony collapse disorder.

But it also has a lot to do with overuse of pesticides, and would seem to require farmers to aggressively do remedial pollination.

When I had my (inherited) house, I allowed wild grape to grow in the garden, and did nothing to change the fauna that grew naturally.  There were plenty of bees and even ground bees.

Wednesday, November 13, 2019

Superbug infections and death can follow antibiotics for dental infections; Mayo Clinic talks about gut bacteria transplants


Elizabeth Cohen and Nadia Kounang report on the rapid increase of danger to older people prescribed antibiotics, which wipe out good bacteria in the gut as competion, to pave the way for superbugs.


There’s a story of kindergarten teacher in Brooklyn who died of Clostridiodies difficile in the intestines, after becoming ill two days after being prescribed clindamycin for a root canal.

Dentists are right that dental and periodontal problems can open the way to situations where someone gets a superbug. In late 2004, I had a sudden infection in the lower jaw, which caused a swelling on the end of the jawbone.  It went away with clindamycin. But if led to the need for implants, and a granuloma was discovered in the area. Back in the early 1980s I had severe strep throat twice, and the second one was harder to knock out (erythromycin worked). None of these infections recurred later, probably because of my immunity once exposed and cured. But they could come back if I were to ever need chemotherapy for a future cancer.
  
Mayo Clinic talks about microbial transplants.

Tuesday, November 12, 2019

SCOTUS hears DACA case, but the legal options are very narrow


Vox has a good explanation by Ian Millhiser of the oral arguments today before the Supreme Court concerning DACA, here

The legal question is very narrow, whether the Trump administration gave an adequate explanation of the action it was taking, reversing Obama’s policy.


The practical question is why Congress has been unable to put a reasonable policy solution into law.
   
Activists (especially Dreamers themselves) were sitting outside the Supreme Court this morning in the cold front.  The human cost sounds unthinkable, as young adults and teens who were raised here and have no knowledge of their home country culture and language are forced to return.

It is rather shocking that Congress (at least in the Senate) can’t address this, without tying it to other things (but Trump was tying it to the Wall last winter, as I remember).
  
You can imagine a push for citizen intervention, a sort of supportive sponsorship, comparable to what could be proposed for refugees and asylum seekers, but that would also require Congress.
  
Some observers take a more activist interpretation than Vox and call this a test for Judge Roberts (NY Times).  

There is outdoor video for reporters from C-Span

Transcript of oral arguments is here.

First Baptist Church picture at demonstration. 

Update: 

The Supreme Court has allowed a lawsuit against Remington to proceed (in Connecticut state court) by Sandy Hook families, where the manufacturer is accused of marketing a military style weapon to civilians, not necessarily included in a federal downstream liability law.  This sets a precedent for speech cases (CDA230) maybe. (story on NPR by Bill Chappell). 

Saturday, November 09, 2019

PGE bankruptcy and power blackouts will stir up activists


The Wall Street Journal has a major story this weekend by Peg Brickley and Gretchen Morgenson, “Fire victims confront PG&E Bankruptcy”


The subtitle is “Chapter 11 rules essentially put a lid on compensation to California wildfire payouts.”

The story is disturbing.  My parents had heavy investment in utility stocks, especially a few decades ago, as they were very stable and wound up being a major reason that the family was prepared, for example, for mother’s long decline.

I haven’t noticed any overall portfolio fund damage from this, but some mutual funds might be affected.  I do have some Dominion Power.

Shareholders as individuals are not responsible for this (other than through the loss of value of their holdings).  I wonder if activists will try to change all this. You could see much more social pressure in social media with campaigns to support the victims.  
   
You might see push for state takeover of this and some other utilities. 
  
There is a good question to ask, whether PS&G should have anticipated the growth of this fire risk due to climate change over the years.  I can recall a big LA fire in, as I recall, 1978.

By the late 1980s, the media was first starting to pay more attention to western wildfires. 
    
This article in Forbes explains, by the way, why global warming, by warming the arctic, forces cold snaps south and generates the wind events like those in California. The average temperature difference between different latitudes shrinks.

Friday, November 08, 2019

State of Texas seems intransigent on Rodney Reed innocence project case


The Innocence Project has an alarming report of the probable innocence (especially considering the circumstances of the DNA tests) of Rodney Reed, who is scheduled to die by lethal injection in Texas late this month. 

   
Reason has a detailed article by Billy Binion, here

Several facts stand out.  One is that the sexual encounter seems to have been consensual. Another was that a black man was convicted of the crime against a white woman by an all-white jury. Another is that the Supreme Court has ruled that there is no constitutional right to DNA evidence.
  
Andrew Jenks has made films about innocence projects, documented earlier on these blogs.

Thursday, November 07, 2019

Making gasoline from carbon dioxide in the air; no more need for fossil fuels???


“TheWeek” reports that technology exists to make gasoline from “thin air”.  Lana Bandoim has the detailed story.

  
The idea is to extract carbon dioxide from the air with solar power, do electrolysis of water to free hydrogen atoms, and use patented chemical processes to make a synthetic hydrocarbon fuel. Then cost right now is too expensive ($9 a gallon) but engineering and widespread use could bring the cost down to under $4 a gallon.  You would do some carbon capture (although returning it to air when driving) and not need to mine fossil fuels. I can imagine where the politics for this could go. 

Wednesday, November 06, 2019

Milo is "back" and seems interested now in exposing and leaking the hidden extremes from the alt-right


Milo Yiannopoulos seems to be recovering himself with a slightly gentler YouTube channel and has leaked some file-tongued video of Richard Spencer from 2017 after Heather Heyer died. 
  
Apparently some people really believe they have a right to dominion over others by racial or ethnic birthright. They think it’s in the Bible. They thought that in Germany around 1933. 


Milo’s tempered article on a free speech blog seems surprising so shortly after he lost his own “dangerous” Internet domain (LGBT blog, Oct. 15, 2019). 
   
Milo’s video refutes the idea that Spencer can make his ideas sound “respectable” by toning things down.


Tuesday, November 05, 2019

Major home invasion incident in Florida does seem to provide an example of the NRA's position on possessing military-grade weapons


NBC has published a major story of a pregnant woman’s (8 months) shooting an armed intruder with an AR-15 to save her family from a home invasion, somewhere in the Tampa area, FL.


The intruders were armed with pistols and beating her husband, and other children were present.
Both got away but one was found deceased.

The major question would be, would a non-military-style smaller weapon have been sufficient for her to defend her family?

NBC, normally viewed as one of the most left-leaning networks, seems willing to present a story that would buttress the arguments of those who want to protect the Second Amendment and even allow larger weapons as a “fundamental right” in some circumstances because some people (as in more rural areas) may actually need them to protect themselves.

The story seems to remind us that any gun control policy will have to weigh who we ask to take more personal risks, for the good of others.  Of course, this presumes that it is nearly impossible to keep guns away from true criminals or terrorists.

This seems like a variation of Nicholas Taleb’s “skin in the game” argument.
  
So this time I embedded a video with the NRA’s view of this;  not necessarily mine at all.

Sunday, November 03, 2019

Anti-science and feelings culture started with the sociopathic baby boomers: Vox interviews author Gibbey


I guess this could have been a book preview, because it doesn’t look like I’ve discussed it.
    
On Vox, Sean Illing interviews Bruce Gibney, author of the 2017 book “A Generation of Sociopaths: How the Baby Boomers Betrayed America” (Hachette, 2017, 460 pages).

One of the most startling comments occurs toward the end, where Gibney dings the new cult of individualism, and solidarity with other citizens.  But the bookers, starting with births in 1946 (age 73 now) inherited a rich country they did not create.


I was born in July 1943, but I certainly shared pretty much the same experience.

Gibney senses it started going wrong with Reagan, with baby boomers not willing to tax themselves to keep deficits within reason.

Now, he says, the fix climate change and deal with accumulated debt, people will be sacrificed and die.

He also maintains that the baby boomers ignore science and are wrapped up in their own feelings, something they accuse millennial “snowflakes” of. 

The obligation to future generations on climate change is an abstraction many people will not process.  It’s often a religious idea which can be radicalized.
    
 David Hogg made one of his bluntest tweets about the burden the young people face today on Oct 31, link

Thursday, October 31, 2019

SCOTUS is asked to consider a "herd immunity" type argument as relavent to the Second Amendment in March for our Lives brief


Joshua Feinzig and Joshua Zoffer, Yale University law students (or professors?), have offered an analysis in the Atlantic “A constitutional case for gun control: History and textual analysis aren’t the only factors that matter. Our lives do, too”, link

All of this follows from a new case before SCOTUS, the New York State Rifle and Pistol Association v the City of New York, regarding the prohibition of moving some personally owned firearms to new locations controlled by the owner. 

The law students discuss an amicus brief by March for our Lives
  

  
The argument maintains that the Second Amendment would consider that a collective herd self-defense would include reasonable regulation, background checks, prohibition of military assault weapons, and maybe training and licensure of gun owners.  The concept is similar to herd immunity in public health. 
  
I think it is also possible to tie the idea of training and licensure to the original “militia” language – that one would be able to protect others. 
     
But the argument emphasizes that it makes little sense in an individual rights sense to expect teachers to be able to protect themselves and students as if they were soldiers. 
     
Of course, some people will make another neighborbood herd argument, that a neighborhood is safer if some competent citizens are armed and are competent to use them and are personally somewhat autarkic. 


Wednesday, October 30, 2019

Hint that Trump could try to disrupt impeachment hearings with government shutdown?



For the moment, CBS News (among the mainstreamers) seems to have the best summary of what happens now in the Impeachment inquiry, link here.
  
It strikes me as interesting that the vote to open the impeachment happens one day after the World Series ends, giving the Nationals a chance to have one less distraction (after the ugly “Lock Him Up” at Nationals Park Sunday night before the Nats lost).  
   
  
It appears that the Federal Government is funded through Nov. 21, 2019.  But this morning CNN raised the possibility that Trump would try a government shutdown to disrupt the impeachment proceedings. Trump, last winter, was willing to displace his own workers and ask them to beg for personal charity and “gofundme” so “I can get what I want”. Narcissistic personality disorder, “in your face”.

I have not said a whole lot about this “quid pro quo” (“this for that”), or Ukrainian aid being tied to the foreign official’s willingness to help dox or ding a US political rival (Biden). I sounds like a “high crime or misdemeanor” but I am not conversant with the details of the legal arguments the way I was with, say, gays in the military or COPA with my own issues in the past.
    
 The Republican Party needs to make the calculation that, if legally justified, 17 or so Senators can go along with impeachment and government re-opening so that the GOP can start to recover itself and offer a "reasonable" candidate in 2020 (someone like Kasich).  Does the GOP really believe that Trump's base is that strong and that "MAGA" is an offensive buzzword for lost white supremacy? 
      
I remember the summer of 1974, and I changed jobs, leaving Univac and joining NBC in New York City (so I could move into the village) on Aug. 12, 1974, the Monday after Nixon’s resignation. I would work for the company again, regardless of politics.

Monday, October 28, 2019

Getty Fire in Los Angeles seems to threaten densely populated wealthy areas near the 405




The Los Angeles Times has an updated evacuation map showing much of Brentwood, immediately west of the 405, in the evacuation zone.  The article is by Hannah Fry et al. 
  

Arnold Schwazenegger, former governor himself, is attributing the year-round fire season to climate change, on Jimmy Kimmel.

He says firefighters don’t have the ability to fight fires at night.


I stayed in the hotel Angeleno on the 405 (south of 101) in May 2012, for four nights.  That area appears affected.


I think West Hollywood is about three miles away on Santa Monica Blvd.

Saturday, October 26, 2019

Washington State's complicated battle over "equality" v. "equity" (Initiative 1000 and Referendum 88)



John Carson reports in the weekend Wall Street Journal about a “Referendum 88” in Washington State aimed at either approving or reversing a state “Democratic”  Initiative 1000, which apparently implement some reparative racial and group preferences in hiring.  That is, it would re-implement affirmative action which had been reversed in 1998 (the good old days) by state law.

Ballotopedia explains this complicated mess here.  The messy Initiative had been explained inthe Seattle papers earlier.  The explanations of this whole thing in the media seem contradictory.


The WSJ article explains the difference between “equality” (neutrality) and “equity” based on membership in a group.

I must say that personally identity politics makes consideration of volunteering difficult.
  
Wikipedia attribution link for p.d. shot includes state capitol.  I remember a night spent in that city in 1978 when a lot was going in personally.

Tuesday, October 22, 2019

Dams and hydroelectric power, good for climate change, may endanger orcas (our most intelligent animals)


Here’s a moral dilemma.  Dams on the lower snake river do provide clean power that is appropriate for addressing climate change.

They also apparently are adding to a salmon shortage that may be causing orcas (among the most intelligent animals besides us) to starve.

  
Courtney Flatt has a story for northwest PBS here.
   
Wikipedia attribution: Public Domain, Link

Monday, October 21, 2019

Tim Wise on how white individuals should personally handle racial issues that come into their own lives


I thought I would share this Medium essay by Tim Wise, “White Folks as Collateral Damage: Exploring the irony of racial inequality.”  This is a not so hidden discussion in part of "reverse discrimination." 
   
He describes the young white woman’s abuse as circumstantial and based on incidental “racial isolation”.


The remedies he calls for are institutional.  Cities should plan for well-integrated affordable housing before they allow gentrification (like what is starting now bigtime in NE Washington DC) to “drive the poor people out” (to Prince Georges County, MD). 
   
The more personal aspects of the problem have to do with deciding one’s own actions. If one is better off, how much responsibility or initiative should one be expected to take to reach out to people who are in a different cognitive space and hard to communicate with?  This will often involve race in practice.

Saturday, October 19, 2019

Children of deported parents are getting adopted by US foster families, in some states



The Associated Press, in an October 9, 2019 story by Garance Burke and Martha Mendoza, is reporting on cases where deported parents (to Central America) who are forced to leave children behind with foster parents are sometimes losing the children to adoption.
  
The process is said to be of questionable legality under federal law, but state courts are allowing foster parents to adopt in many cases.  
  
 The AP story involves a case in Michigan that had actually started in 2015 under Obama.

  
The Hill reported the story on Oct. 9, in a writeup by Chris Mills Rodrigo  This got an angry reaction on Twitter, some speakers who saw it as kidnapping or genocide.

Some faith-based social service organizations, like (Lutheran) LIRS, are encouraging families, regardless of direct connection to migrants in Central America or elsewhere (by relation), to become foster parents.  Generally USCIS wants to place children with US citizen or legal resident relatives when possible.
  
There has not been much direct discussion of how this might challenge the gay community (as with assisting trans migrants particularly). 

Friday, October 18, 2019

Wrongful convictions can result from dishonest cops


USA Today has a detailed story Friday October 18 about dishonest police and the risk of wrongful convictions, especially of minorities. Steve Reilly and Mark Nichols have the story here

The story starts out with a case in Houston where an officer with a record of padding charges testified falsely about a suspects sobriety test when pulled over.

The article goes on to discuss the Brady v. Maryland case, where the Supreme Court has held that prosecutors must tell defendants about cops with bad reputations, but there are no established standards.


The article could fit into filmmaker Andrew Jenks’s work on wrongful convictions.

It would be obvious that this problem would disproportionately affect minorities.
  
I was pulled over in a rental by an officer in suburban Houston in May 2018 for failure to signal when making a sudden decision to make a lane change to go into a fast food place, but not given a ticket.

Wednesday, October 16, 2019

Colleges use web data and questionable practices to find students who can pay tuition; does this fit into Snowden's idea that everyone needs to protect their privacy?


The Washington Post has a rather detailed front page article by Douglas MacMillan and Nick Anderson explaining how colleges and universities use browser cookie data from prospective student visits, along with apparently other social media investigation, to try to identify students who are likely to be able to pay tuition.

This article would seem to confirm concerns from Internet privacy advocates regarding the importance of user privacy when browsing and, as always, online reputation.

Admissions deans, the article notes, have “jobs” predicated on finding prospective students who can pay.

The article also discusses the role of consulting firm Russell Noel Levitz.  

   
A 2017 video from John Fish (from Ontario) explains how he got into Harvard. He also has another video where he urges applicants (to any college) to "just keep playing". 

Tuesday, October 15, 2019

Is "universal basic income" just left-wing uptopianism?



Tonight Ezra Klein of Vox, responding to a question about Universal Basic Income in the Debates, quoted a 2017 article by Dylan Matthews, “A basic income could end poverty forever”.  And there is the tagline, “But to become reality, it needs to get detailed and stop being oversold.”

Early in the piece he dispenses with Charles Murray’s desire to use a UBI do replace all social welfare benefits, including Social Security and Medicare, and even Medicaid.  He would let it replace some specific programs, like food stamps.


But then the article gets rather utopian, even trading off open borders against UBI and taking the idea that you could have unlimited immigration seriously.
  
He wants to emphasize “negative income taxes” (for low income people), “child benefits”, and dividends from carbon taxes.  The plan would surely penalize people who don’t have children or adopt them.

Monday, October 14, 2019

Shaker Heights, Ohio reporter offers detailed narrative on problems with academic performance when sorted by race


I spent parts of my boyhood summers in Kipton, Ohio (near Oberlin) with many trips to Cleveland (the baseball games in the old stadium on the Lake, and I remember the Herb Score injury) a rode (mother driving) with relatives through the western suburb of Shaker Heights with its stately homes often enough. So I was a little surprised at the long narrative by Shaker Heights resident Laura Meckler on the front page of the “Indigenous Peoples” Day edition of the Washington Post.  I suppose it also ran in the Cleveland Plain Dealer. 
  
The story describes a complicated history of trying to achieve racial balance in the schools, which went much further than what I saw being raised in Arlington VA (ten months a year – yes, the Washington Senators then as baseball).  There seems to have been a deliberate practice of reverse engineered redlining by realtors, which is unheard of in many cities.

Nevertheless, the academic performance of students in Shaker Heights is still heavily skewed against blacks.


The news story focuses on a controversy where a white English teacher criticized a black student for being late with a term paper on Charles Dickens. Yet, in the narrative, the only fact that seemed clear was that the particular student didn’t do all the work.

The writer describes her return to her childhood home and visits with their present day neighbors.  
  
 But there are no clear answers. I did make a comment.

I don’t necessarily agree completely with the Ted speaker but I included her POV video.