Saturday, December 29, 2018

Trump's goal-line defense of his base on The Wall could lead to much more hardship-related shutdown this time

All indications suggest that Donald Trump is dug in on insisting on funding for the southern border wall. Vlogger Tim Pool says he will never give in. Others say he wants to keep the government closed to impede an impeachment investigation.

We’ll see on Jan. 3, if Congress can come to its senses.  But it would require Republicans to help override a veto, as it would take them to impeach Trump.  There has been some talk that Mike Pence wants to offer a $2.5 billion compromise.

Republicans would have to “fire” Trump, so to speak.

We’ve had long shutdowns (3 weeks) before, during the Clinton years.  We think they will blow over.

OK, the stock market has gotten over the shutdown, and the Syria pullout.  Give credit to the vlogger "Economic Invincibility", whose brain style (like "Donovan's Brain", 1953)  traders listen to (and so do some conservative politicians).

What is so dangerous is that Trump has no shame in forcing others to “sacrifice” to please his “aggrieved” base, “The People”.  It sounds Marxist, or else ethno-nationalist.

Contractors don’t get paid, and some furloughed workers may not this time (they were in the past) and those working without pay can have trouble with mortgages and rent.

And Trump sounds mean in announcing a federal pay freeze.

When I worked for a Census survey, we were threatened with a shutdown in March 2011.  It didn’t happen. But I would have quit.  I was not willing to allow my own life to become barter for somebody else’s partisan political objectives.
Should ordinary citizens support the affected workers with crowdfunding?  Is this my moral obligation?  I’ve said even that I ordinary don’t run other people’s fundraisers under my own name (and the reasons I’ve explored elsewhere).  Should I contribute myself?  Maybe privately?  I never would have taken the idea seriously before.  This time it could be different.  Next week is critical.  I have a trust that I benefit from – and though this blog is not the right place to get into that – there are some ways I am supposed to behave with respect to “special needs”. It seems personally insulting, however, to be expected to be the backup for somebody else’s failed systems.

Sunday, December 23, 2018

Baby Trump's impetuous use of "You're fired" this week (No, he can't fire the fed chairman)

Baby Trump threw one tantrum after another this week.  The latest came Sunday morning when he replaced resigning Secretary of Defense Patrick Shanahan as of Jan. 1,2019.  You can see the angry responses to Trump’s own feed here. 
I don’t know how “adult” Shanahan is with respect to the nuclear football, but his views may be closer to Mattis’s than the president expects.  But Shanahan will be involved in international meetings very quickly,   Mattis will probably work for a defense contractor and try to be influential. 

There is a lot of debate on both sides on Syria.  Not everyone agrees that the Kurds are at risk, or that the US had been accomplishing a lot there (other than intelligence gathering).  Rand Paul spoke about this on CNN Sunday morning.

Quite disturbing are claims that Trump is likely to fire Fed Chairman Jerome Powell.  This would rattle markets and undermine the idea of a fed independent of partisanship. But very recently Sunday, news sources ratified that Trump understand he does not have the authority to fire the fed chairman he had appointed.  Both Mick Mulvaney and Steve Mnunchin had committed this to news media by early Sunday, story by Mihir Zaveri in the New York Times. 

CNN reports that Mnunchin has called the nation's largest investment banks over the weekend to reassure them that Trump will not fire Powell. There is a copy of his letter on Twitter.  Treasury is one of the departments shut down. CNBC has a story on his letter noting that Treasury has essential employees on the job and that the system has normal liquidity. 
Here's a typical article on Yahoo! on the markets, with a comparison to 1987.  I remember Oct. 19 that year well.  A friend met me at SFO airport and told me that the market had crashed. 

Here’s Philip Rucker’s assessment of Trump’s crib in the Washington Post. 

The media, especially CNN, makes a lot of the partial shutdown. 

Update Dec 25

Catherine Rampbell on how Trump would handle a financial crisis. 

Saturday, December 22, 2018

Senate quietly votes for reinforcing power grid with older technology backups; can government shutdown affect cybersecurity?

The Senate has reportedly passed a plan to “dumb down” the power grid, which means retrofitting it with more manually controlled methods to restore power in case of cyber attacks which, however, would require air-gap jumping to attack.  Aaron Boyd reports for Nextgov. The current government shutdown has no effect on this/ 

Fifthdomain reports that slightly more of DHS is still on the job with the partial government shutdown for probably all of Christmas week now, and that includes all the critical response to cyberthreats.

But US Cert might not be able to send out its typical warnings to Internet users and installations.
In the video above, Ted Koppel really didn’t cover how air-gapping works in his book, as I best recall.

Friday, December 21, 2018

Self-segregated neighborhoods lead to lower real estate values in African-American neighborhoods

Christina Sturdivant Sani has a rather telling article about comparisons of real estate values in neighborhoods with many “black” residents and those without.

The Washington DC the price spread is about 15%.  But it is more in other cities.

It is not clear that this affects well-run high-rise condo buildings.

Thursday, December 20, 2018

Many states prohibit employees and contractors from boycotting Israel

Glenn Greenwald writes in the Intercept about a Texas law that prohibits teachers (maybe all state employees and contractors) from participating in boycotts against Israel (or supporting the West Bank) while employed.  Apparently 26 states have these laws, and some are recent.

The case involved a child speech pathologist to work in the Austin TX school district. She was denied a contract when she refused to sign the oath.

The bill was intended to prohibit public funds to anyone who supports the boycott of Israel.
Of course, there will be a lawsuit regarding the First amendment – even  maybe compelled speech.
States have boycotted other states for anti-LGBT laws.

Wednesday, December 19, 2018

Could half of Oklahoma "disappear"?

Rebecca Nagle reports that half the land in Oklahoma could be return to native Americans.

Could this put normal private property at risk?  What does this say about other states?

Is this bad karma?

Does it affect “federalism”?
I’ve been to WinStar on I-35.

Monday, December 17, 2018

Amazon may become choosier about the profitability of what it lists

Whatever the controversy over Amazon’s moving to Arlington VA (Crystal City) and Long Island City, Queens, NYC, the Wall Street Journal has a possibly significant article (by Dan Gallagher) about Amazon’s looking at products it sells as “CRaP”, or “can’t make a profit”. 

So far that appears to apply only to foods, soft drinks, appliances, and maybe some furnishings. This concern seems to have to do with Amazon trying to become a hybrid Wal-Mart. Some items are relatively expensive to ship given their value. 

And it appears to apply only to stock items.

Still, you wonder if this could eventually matter for books (especially self-published) carried as POD, with the enormous volume of titles, many of which don’t sell for long.
Amazon has also offered Prime members some important new independent films (often science-fiction or detective mystery genre) for free, a smaller scale version of Netflix.

Sunday, December 16, 2018

Zakaria: the rural v urban divide is now driving political and social strife

Fareed Zakaria has a major op-ed in the Washington Post, which he explains on CNN’s Global Public Square today, “The New Dividing Line in Western Politics”.  We’ve seen this most recently with the violent protests in France.
Better Angels should look at this.  It is not just rich v. poor, or traditional partisanship; it is also the urban educated elite compared to the “street smarts” (or “farm smarts”) or rural people.
Jobs are disappearing from rural areas, not so much to immigration (the dog whistle) but to automation and even changes in workplace culture.  It isn’t that clear-cut, though, as you see from the gig economy in cities.  Zakaria talks about robots as affecting jobs. 
There is also a divide on the issue of “now” v. “future generations” on climate change, and on who makes the sacrifices.
It reminds me of the quandary over student deferments from the draft in the 1960s.
Zakaria points out that rural voters have been irrational at the ballot box.

Friday, December 14, 2018

Removal of individual mandate makes Obamacare unconstitutional (Texas judge ruling)

A Texas federal judge, Reed O’Connor, ruled today (Friday, December 14, 2018) that the Affordable Care Act is unconstitutional, once the individual mandate (removed by Congress) goes away.  The repeal of the individual mandate would take place in 2019.  Stephanie Armour reported in the Wall Street Journal.  Bloomberg also has a report, by Tom Korosec and Kartikhay Mehrotra, emphasizing the politics of the decision. The judge has not been kind in transgender cases. 

The Supreme Court had ruled that it was constitutional according to the federal government’s power to tax.  Without the mandate, there is no such defense.

Yet Gov. Mitt Romney, a Republican, had instituted such a mandate in Massachusetts when governor, as a matter of “personal responsibility”.
Congress has never done the math in figuring out how to do a system that works more like, say, Switzerland, private but well regulated to prevent abuse.
 The judge allowed Obamacare to stay in effect until appeals are done, so people need to use open enrollment right away, so it is said on CNN.  (The open period ended Dec. 15, but there are some extensions into January, Sarah Mervosh, New York Times.) 

Sunday, December 09, 2018

Social capital decreases as "elites" move deeper into their own separate worlds as if they were new universes

Fareed Zakaria, from CNN’s GPS, has a telling op-ed about the arrogance of today’s elite written after George H. W. Bush’s funeral. “I’m not calling to revive WASP culture. Just learn from it,” link .

He refers to an old code of contingently sacrificial chivalry where people in upper classes recognized their accidental privilege and would own up to it.  He gives as an example the “Women and children first” sequence of “Titanic”, as in James Horner’s 1997 movie.

That started breaking down over the issue of the Vietnam era draft, with the deferment fiasco.

I am reading Ben Sasse’s “Them: Why We Hate Each Other and How to Heal”, and David Brooks made reference to the loss of local social capital in a NYTimes piece Nov. 16, “It’s not the economy, stupid: How to conduct economic policy in an age of social collapse”. 
I don’t “hate” anyone in a different group as an “enemy” the way the tribalist fringe (on both and right) is behaving (and indeed some on Silicon value are trying to label and blackball some parts of the right as “enemies” for everyone)   But I am aloof socially to what is immediately around me, and find little point in getting involved in conventional voluntarism because it seems to lack much meaning, or continuity.  O enjoy the globalization, and have “almost” no interest in localism.  I am in danger of becoming called an “enemy of the people” if I don’t reach out when “asked to” once I have gone public, perhaps?  This is not quite the same thing as what Brooks and Sasse are talking about; it is even more subtle.

Saturday, December 08, 2018

Aussies develop a new cancer early-detection test; play professional sports and maybe risk losing a leg?

Jacob Passy in MarketWatch reports that researchers at the University of Queensland in Australia have developed a new cancer screening test based on certain specific DNA changes in cells.   The test is based on the way certain DNA fragments stick to (or are adsorbed by) heavy noble metals, especially gold.

It would be unlikely that any one test could detect all possible cancers (or that any one treatment could cure all of them).  Some reports, as this article, are skeptical.

The test works very differently from Jack Andraka’s, which uses nanotubes, but which still has a technique that might detect multiple kinds of carcinomas.

By the way, the strategy of detecting cancers with early detection in older people – seniors – might be mitigated by the social support systems for radical treatments.  There are good questions as to whether everyone needs general anesthesia for a colonoscopy often, or whether sigmoidoscopies still catch most problems and are much simpler – or whether swallowing a tiny camera could be a simpler test.  There are good questions as to what to do in a procedure if something is found.  As it stands now, I expect to do this in January.

There has been some media attention to the apparently compound double leg fracture of Washington Redskin’s quarterback Alex Smith, which may end his career.  The injury seems to have had something to do with the leg getting caught in the turf during a sack.  But the idea of an infection, whether introduced by the wound itself or later in the surgery, is particularly gruesome. 

Sunday, December 02, 2018

Activist attorney Bryan Stevenson says white America has no idea what really happens

Newsweek has published a long and challenging essay about the work activist attorney Bryan Stevenson, by writer Mary Kaye Schilling, “America Is Racist.  So What Do We Do Now?” The link is here.  The piece was suggested by Blendle Essentials.

Stevenson bases his ideas on the observation that most white Americans, especially older ones who grew up and prospered under some de facto segregation, have no concept of what non-white Americans experience. He gets into the history of lynching, and I wonder if Gode Davis had interviewed him in his unfinished documentary “American Lynching”.

I can remember a coworker in the mid 1990s who told me he was raising his son to expect discrimination. 

Some of the issues, in my own workplace experience have to do with different perceptions of personal success, in work and life.
I visited many of the areas in Alabama that Stevenson discusses in May 2014.