Saturday, December 22, 2018

December links

Many developments in the Russia investigation. Confirmation of Trump's involvement in paying off women before the election, but no shockers. More too, but I'm not sure what's new. There was a reminder of what a scummy lawyer Michael Cohen was-- and he was Trump's lawyer. Trump lies so much that fact-checkers need a new rating, something like 'habitual conman cheater creep.'
Russian bots tried to smear Mueller--of course this happened. We could use a daily index on what disinformation the Russian bots are pushing. And, finally, is this an unrelated corruption scandal, or just typical of Russian (criminal) elite?

Working class protests in France. France, like the US, has a rural/urban divide. The rural people feel overlooked and dismissed by the traditional elites. This time the protest centers on hikes in gas prices, which hit those in rural parts more. It seems so familiar to me that I have remind myself that I don't know about the issues in this other country.

What's wrong with the GOP? Power is more important to them than the principle of democracy. Just another article about this. Similarly, they champion the idea of fake news, and not because they want accuracy in reporting. Maybe there's hope because some are acknowledging reality on the 'small government' fable and noticing what people actually want.

Don't trust InfoWars... or anyone who's been on InfoWars. Roger Stone, a slimy Trump adviser, loses a defamation suit.

Economic predictions. A round-up I might want to review in a few months.

Trump vacillates on the shutdown. Trump doesn't know what he wants or why. So he threatens a shutdown, backs away, and then demands the money to start the wall anyway. All in the space of a few days. I was expecting the reversal on Trump's part, but I didn't think the GOP in the House could put together and pass a bill to his specifications. They did, and now the Senate is in the hot seat. The Senate is still working on a compromise, a deadline has passed, so the US government is officially shutdown. Why wasn't this settled back in September, or during the summer? Because the GOP has no frigging idea how to negotiate and they wait until the last minute.

Image: cnet.com

Friday, December 21, 2018

Research into global warming and climate change

This isn't the first climate crisis I've researched. When I was in college, the threat to ozone was a hot topic. When the ozone hole was discovered, there was a consensus that the cause was a class of industrial chemical -- hydrocarbons containing chlorine and fluorine. I studied the scientific papers, and was surprised at how definitive the information was. The science was very clear and solid, so much so that an undergraduate could grasp it.

Luckily there wasn't a strong level of denial and stupidity about the findings. Many countries banded together to verify the science, and act responsibly by figuring out how to greatly decrease the use of the questionable chemicals. It was a case of rational response.

Greater complexity with CO2

In contrast, the questions about global warming have prompted huge levels of disagreement. People who barely know any science are passionate about it, sometimes for and sometimes against. Unlike the earlier climate crisis, the data doesn't seem so clearcut.

There have been fluctuations in climate throughout the history of the planet. The evidence of my lifetime is that my region is warming, and many other regions report the same trend. What is the cause? The growth of cities, change in the atmosphere, pollution - all of those seemed plausible, but that doesn't make them the actual cause.

It wasn't until earlier this year that I made a more determined study of the information. By this time I knew of other possible factors, including complex changes in weather patterns (so complex that I never grasped the mechanics of it). There is fairly solid evidence for a warmer period in the medieval period from about 900 - 1300 AD. It's also known (with good scientific data) that the sun can produce greater or lesser amounts of radiation, and that will affect temperatures on Earth. The amount of solar has been running lower than average, which is lucky for us. Had it been average levels, it probably would have added to the warming trend.

Three important FACTS

The warming trends I've seen in my life show on graphs of worldwide average temps:

Image: nasa.gov

There are questions as to how this data is gathered and massaged. I can't answer anything about that except to say that I'm not wrong about the trends I've seen, so I don't believe the earlier springs are a figment of my imagination or the result of shenanigans by scientists.

A second important data point in the increase in CO2 in the atmosphere. This is definitely true, since it would be easy to disprove if it wasn't. No atmospheric sampling has contradicted this finding, so let's accept it as undisputed.

Image: yale.edu

The mechanism of warming is complicated. CO2, water vapor, methane, and other gases are known to trap in heat. We experience this with water vapor (a humid place doesn't cool down at night as readily as a dry locale). Is it also true, as claimed, for CO2 and methane? I think it wouldn't be hard to verify this using standard techniques like mass spectometry. I'm not a chemist, but this isn't difficult stuff to understand. Different chemical bond absorb and reradiate different wavelengths of light, blah, blah, blah. It's basic, and it's solid.

So, there are three solid points in the argument about global warming.
  1. the demonstrated increase in global temps
  2. the demonstrated increase in CO2
  3. the likely mechanism of CO2 and methane with their known radiation profiles
How to ignore the FACTS

Climate change deniers tend to use these tricks:
  1. They ignore that world wide temps are rising. This is a data-based fact.
  2. They ignore that CO2 concentration in the atmosphere is rising. This is also a fact.
  3. They pretend that climate/CO2 models must be very accurate or all of climate change is nonsense.
However, climate change isn't nonsense because of the facts stated in #1 and #2.
Climate deniers are con men ignoring definite scientific data. However, #1 and #2 don't go away because they are liars.

They refuse to consider how harmful even higher levels of CO2 might be, or the bad effects of higher temperatures. Many won't even touch the biggest risk, which is a surge in CO2 when the permafrost melts. They won't face the very real risks. They won't face that it's not going to be possible to turn off the CO2 like you turn off a faucet. As a scientist, I can't pretend that these risks aren't real. Scientists are used to facing facts, whether we like them or not.

And really, are people unhappy with cleaner energy? Why would we be? I don't get why carbon-free energy wouldn't be a goal and something we do as much as feasible. It makes for a better quality of life.

This is the kind of gobbledegock from climate deniers:
And we're about half way to CO2 doubling since pre-industrial times now and what do we have? -- about .9C of warming, suggesting 1.8C for 2X Co2. But the science also states that CO2 constituters 9-26% of the GH-Effect, so it's only 9-26% of 1.8C in this case. The experts are full of beans. They are hoist on their own claims.
Risks, models, and uncertainty

One issue is now very clear to me based on my research. The carbon cycles on the Earth's surface, its oceans and its atmosphere are extremely complex. They are not thoroughly understood and quantified. We don't know how much CO2 a given body of water will absord, or a given forest. We don't know how much CO2 will be released from boggy lands in the northern latitudes as they warm up. These movements of CO2 are very large, and perhaps seem to dwarf the man-made CO2 pollution.

However, don't forget that CO2 in the atmosphere is clearly rising. If there are other huge point sources of CO2 creation on Earth, we would have found them by now and we could work on plugging them. But there aren't. The man-made pollution seems to be the source. To ignore this would be like ignoring a flat tire as the source of that strange noise when you're driving. Some may choose to ignore a clear source, but I don't because I don't ignore evidence that's right in front of me.

Because of the complexity of CO2 cycles on Earth and the interactions related to temperature, I don't trust that the various models of warming are accurate. However, their level of accuracy is not the biggest concern here. It's really only an excuse to ignore what is important, which is the risk of major changes in climate that can have devastating effects on almost all life on the Earth. The amount of possible damage shouldn't be ignored. It is unwise to do so. It definitely behooves real conservatives to be careful, and consider these risks. Real conservatives...

Extras. More on the medieval warming period with a bias against current concerns about warming. Models aren't accurate, but I've noted why that isn't the most important consideration. Trump buries and denies the report from US scientists... because facts don't matter.

Monday, December 17, 2018

Voter fraud in California?

While there was clear and definite absentee ballot fraud in North Carolina, Republicans were doing this accusation thing about California. In California, voting by mail is so common that 43% of votes are tendered that way. So 43% of the vote isn't counted on election night, but counted afterward.

Republicans were hinting that elections were stolen even though they knew how and when ballots would be counted. Well, no surprise there. The Republicans are inveterate liars when it comes to elections. They spread so many falsehoods that anyone else would be embarrassed.

California has allowed some questionable practices, though. It might be extremely easy to illegally register to vote in California, or was a few years ago. I went the website, gave an out-of-state address, and the process didn't grind to a halt. I might have become a California voter except that I bailed before committing a fraudulent act. If there was any checking, it wasn't evident.

Now California is allowing people without a close connection to pick up absentee ballots from voters at their homes, and turn in or mail in those ballots.This is called 'ballot harvesting.' I don't know what safeguards they have to prevent fraud. Do the ballots even have to be sealed before being picked up? It's not clear.

Considering how frequently California is accused of high levels of non-citizens registered, one would think that California would be conducting transparent checks of its voter rolls, and announcing the findings. But that's not what they've done. Instead, there is very little about verification that their systems work. In the absence of data, Democrats tend to shrug, and GOPers continue to go apeshit. Instead of assumptions, let's have some actual hard information, ok?

Image: sandiegouniontribune.com

Extras. Conservative media reporting on California absentee ballots regularly neglected to mention that ballots must be postmarked by election day to be valid. Other media outlets seemed to have no trouble mentioning this. I wonder why the discrepancy? Alas, my examples have disappeared.

Friday, December 14, 2018

Finally there is a real voter fraud scandal

Conservatives have been lying about voter fraud for nearly two decades. Or let me clarify. They have vehemently been making unsubstantiated claims repeatedly. Their goal seems to be to cast unwarranted doubt on any Democratic victories, and has nothing to do with telling the truth about election processes. So calling them liars is completely deserved.

Finally there is a big, undeniable voting fraud scandal. It has nothing to do with false impersonation or non-citizens voting. Instead, it involves the area that is most rife with fraud, which is absentee ballot voting. Why haven't the GOPers focused on this before? Because they're liars and were hoping to institute measures that nominally hurt Dem voters.

In this scandal, consultants for a GOP candidate running for a house seat hired a known local operative to round up absentee ballots. He paid relatives, neighbors, and friends to help with the work, which involved knocking on doors, getting people to sign the ballots, walking away with unsealed ballots, and filling them in later. Maybe I need to add 'allegedly.' However, there are numerous affadavits about the activities, including how the operative would get a $40K bonus if his candidate won. It looks very likely that a new election will be called. This is rare, but the level of fraud is substantial and the candidate thoroughly tainted. It would be travesty to certify the election, and it appears that will not happen, so a repeat election will be necessary.

This happened in North Carolina, but it could easily have happened elsewhere. The fraudsters are on the GOP side, but it could have been otherwise. However, make no mistake, the GOP chased other non-frauds and ignored this sort.

Will GOPers change their talking points about voter fraud? One would hope, but that wouldn't be typical of the GOP. They cling to their lies.

Image: ajc.com

Tuesday, November 6, 2018

October links: even more to catch up with

Writings by Jamal Khashoggi. Collusion and repression in Saudi Arabia, and the Muslim Brotherhood. Khashoggi was murdered and dismembered in a Saudi consulate in Turkey. A fast survey of power balance in the Middle East.

New bombing and terrorism. "Bet it's a Democrat." says a clueless commenter on Breitbart. Some people are either too stupid or too partisan to realize that there are extremists among them. The bomber talked a lot of shit, but complied with the work requirements of his boss, a lesbian. Here are some of the lies that the shooter in a synagogue believed.

Old terrorism. Again, there is some twerp claiming that the driver at Charlottesville isn't a murderer. How many times does this have to be refuted? Some people can't deal with the facts, and have to make up lies that allow them to excuse the actions. The videos taken of the car speeding. The lies about self-defense. White supremacists charged with violence at the rally.

Not a deficit hawk. The GOP doesn't care about deficits, and have increased it greatly in the past year.

How to lower healthcare costs. Focus on the providers. Limit payments to them. What doesn't work: making patients pay a higher share. Sorry, libertarians, but your theory is a bust.

Foreign policy inertia is good. Trump hasn't been able to wreck the foreign policy throughout the world, even though he is president and he's a foreign policy idiot. My comments on the thread: if you're going to scream about how bad the US is, step up and name someone who think would do a better job.

Humorous failed plot to smear Mueller. Try to bribe women to accuse him. Gosh, it fell apart. Who would have guessed. Incidentally, one of the crooks was behind the Seth Rich lies too.

Image: washingtonpost.com

Sunday, November 4, 2018

October links: too many

GOPers learn to negotiate. The GOPers in Congress learned and managed to fund the government. No shutdown. Trump was out of the loop.

Lying scummy politics. A scummy, lying trick in a campaign ad. Chris Collins, indicted for insider trading, gives a completely false translation of his opponent's words.

A lying scientist. Cornell

Trump outrageous again. I think it's part of his plan. In love with NK dictator.

Revision of a critique on conservatism. Maybe it is a lot of paranoia. This is a very good read--maybe the most important in several months.

Dangers in US-China relations. Link.

Coerced sex is legal. If done by police.

Russia investigation update. A Trump operative considered using phony accounts. Buried in this article: sentencing for Manafort and Flynn. Does that mean the investigation is almost over? I'm guessing yes. You don't sentence your informants until they have fulfilled their side of the bargain.

Famous for 15 minutes. A mom screws up against #metoo. Funny.

California voter registration. Always curious about this black hole.

Climate change links.

Anti-democracy. Georgia puts voter applications on hold.

Antifa and Nazis are still fighting, but I lost the link.

Image: aip.org

Friday, October 5, 2018

Charges against Judge Kavanaugh

If one person comes out with a story about Brett Kavanaugh with a lot of gaps in the details and no witnesses, it's not too credible. When the count gets up to four people, it becomes more credible. Now there are over 8 people on the record with their names and what they witnessed. It includes drunkeness, aggressive behavior, and sexual aggression toward women. And that doesn't count numerous people who wouldn't release their names.

I find the charges against Kavanaugh plausible, but that doesn't mean much. It means he might well have been there and he might physically have been able to do the actions he's accused of. I don't believe arguments like 'it's not within his character' or 'she's so honest there's no way she's lying.' Those arguments aren't convincing to me unless I peronally know the extreme credibility of the character witness. Why? Because 'it's not within his character' has been said about too many serial killer, serial molesters, etc.

So the charges are plausible. It's also plausible that Ford is lying or mistaken. That's why the investigation is important. It's not going to be easy. Many people are not going to want to talk about their wild times in high school or college. If they're conservatives, as many of Kavanaugh's supporters are, they may not want to reveal his dirty past for political or tribal reasons. If they were friends, they may want to remain silent and loyal. That makes it hard for Kavanaugh to clear his name. The suspicions will linger. There's no way around that. It's an injustice built into suspicion, and it's impossible to remove it from people's brains.

If Christine Blasey Ford is lying, she figured out quite a cunning lie to tell. It's one that fits the pattern of Kavanaugh's partying. She's obscured details like where and when to make it harder to disprove. But she's done it in ways that are somewhat believable. I do have a couple problems with her story, which is her not remembering how she got to the house and how she left. Particularly not knowing how she left, I'm left wondering if she went back into the party. I wonder if she's leaving out details that which might undercut her story of how traumatized she was. It's also possible that she dissociated, and lacks the memory for that reason. Or there could be other reasons her memory is poor. I'm not an expert on memory, and I'm not sure anyone is expert enough to sort this out. Of course, a strong reason to conclude Ford hasn't fabricated the story is that she told her therapist and husband years ago, with therapy notes to confirm that. It's hard to fabricate a lie in advance.

This is one of those times when an infallible truth serum would be so helpful. I wish I could ask them both, and get the real story, not the one sorted and selected for the audience in the American public. But that's not possible, and we humans are such cunning animals. We aren't to be trusted. So what to do? We're left trying to make judgments in our imperfect ways. That's life.

Image: dailykos.com

Extras. This will be very long because I did a lot of research and want to save the info I found.

Transcript of Ford's and Kavanaugh's testimony. Julie Swetnick's sworn complaint. And another from another client of Avenatti. Decoding Kavanaugh's yearbook entry. Lots of references to sex and especially drinking. A letter from Kavanaugh to his friends about Beach Week, with lots of details and insider info. About Mark Judge's books.

Tucker Carlson and very sloppy argumentation. Weaknesses of Ford's story, and ignoring its strengths and supporting info. Biased assessment. As counterpoint, defending youthful mistakes--of privileged white guys, but not others.

Run down on two of the allegations. Rather complete at the time, so good detail. Private school culture at that time and place. Some sources fully identified. Also this article, which talks about gang rapes which weren't called gang rapes. A first-hand account by the author, so a named eye-witness. However, the parties are from the mid 1980s, so a few years after Kavanaugh graduated.

More people remembering Kavanaugh very drunk.  And more, with a follow-up. Others asked not to be named. A police report of Kavanaugh involved in a bar fight while at Yale, discrediting one of his character witnesses. Witnesses about Kavanaugh: Liz Swisher, Christine Keating, Lynne Brookes, James Roche, Charles Ludington, Elizabeth Rasor, Daniel Livan, Sean Hagan, Kerry Berchem, Kenneth Appold. Other named participants who should be thoroughly interviewed (which didn't happen) Mark Judge, Leland Keyser and Patrick Smythe. Also Renate Dolphin because she might have some very interesting stories to share.

A very critical analysis of Kavanaugh's testimony with numerous lies and evasions pointed out. Plus a companion piece on why Kavanaugh would be a harsh, rotten justice.

Inspired by Ford, a woman reveals her rape at a frat party many years ago. Is it fair for him to have to face consequences so many years later? Is it required that the survivor just let it go?

The very rigid rules for reading the FBI report, which forbids 'characterizing' the information. Looks like the FBI investigation is brief, limited, and a whitewash.

Update 11/5/18. A Republican consultant remembers being anger and aggressive at a conference meeting with Ken Starr. She's very disappointed with GOPers sweeping it under the rug.

Monday, October 1, 2018

Right-wing media lie, again

The Washington Times was sued about a Seth Rich story it published, and has had to settle the case with a full retraction. That's how much work it takes to get most right-wing media outlets to correct their lies--a court case. And this might have been lucky too, because the Times made the mistake of making claims about Seth Rich's brother, who was the plaintiff.

So whereas the Times claimed that it was 'well known in intelligence circles' that Rich and his brother leaked the DNC emails, it turns out that's completely wrong.

So, is that the only punishment? The settlement is sealed, so we don't know if money was involved. However, there is no report of the Washington Times firing anyone for the mistake. That makes it like the other lies from other right-wing outlets. No one gets fired for birther nonsense, or Shirley Sherrod, or any other fabrication. There's basically no downside in conservative media for lying because no one is held to account. Yet again.

Image: the must trusted foxnews.com

Update 4/22/19. I'm still seeing comments from people who believe the Seth Rich story. It's similar to those who still believe the Pizzagate story, except a bit more plausible. This article describes how Russians laid out the misinformation and set up the discoveries of that misinformation. Right-wingers are such useful idiots for the Russians.

Update 7/23/19. Even more about how the Russians planted fake news pointing to Seth Rich as the DNC leaker, and how conservatives lapped it up. Oddly, and casting some doubt on the thoroughness of the reporting, there is no mention of the Seymour Hersh tape and its role.

Update 8/17/19. This article points out that conservative media pushed the Seth Rich lie, and they deserve the blame. I can't argue with that.

Thursday, September 27, 2018

Ten years after the crisis

Bloomberg, my favorite opinion site, had a bunch of reflections on the 2008 financial crisis and what has happened since then. Some of it makes me worried. We might have avoided a worldwide depression then, but have we just delayed an inevitable reckoning. Or have we learned the intricate methods needed to deal with financial crises, so that we're probably safe?

Just to review, the Great Depression in the US in the 1930s was rather horrid. Unemployment at 25%, wages low, people hungry, in worn shoes and clothes, living off the kindness of family, scratching out a living. However, many more people lived on farms back then, so they could provide susbsistence living. Should a depression occur now, we'd have that many more people totally dependent on others, with no means to even feed themselves. (And we have a lot more weapons now too. Will crime be a horrendous problem if we have another depression?)

One author is optimistic that emerging economies won't have a crisis like we did in 2008. That was sparked by too much savings chasing risky investments in pursuit of return. Emerging markets are riskier and give higher returns, so they might seem vulnerable to fright-and-flight in a crisis. But that's less likely for two reasons: 1) Emerging markets are now a standard part of large portfolios, not just a high-risk high-return asset, and 2) local investment pools are larger and will grow even more as pensions become important in emerging countries.

Another article isn't optimistic. It's about a world swimming in debt, with little hope to pay it off. Somehow I'm overly worried about this. I figure everyone takes a haircut, tightens their belts, and lives, though less lavishly.

Image: en.actualitix.com

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

September links

Good news about elections. Elections were administered more fairly in 2016 compared to 2012. The metrics included wait times, which is a good check on whether there is enough equipment in a given area.

Superdelegates and Dems. The DNC has reformed how superdelegates will work. It's a technical change, but the last paragraph in the report may be the most telling. Worth a read, truly

Supreme Court nominee on immorality. Brett Kanavaugh, nominee for the Supreme Court, had a blistering view of Bill Clinton, his immoral behavior, and his lying. I have to wonder how Kanavuagh will rule on such issues when he's on the Supreme Court. I'll be watching.

Responsibility for preventing rape. A professor writes an analysis of some arguments about rape prevention. He tries to claim that he's following logic, but appears to stack the deck in his framing of the two sides of the issue. I give him a D on logic.

Who's responsible for Trump? Fascinating discussion on whether having Obama as president caused the election of Donald Trump. Obama says no, but the article comes down on the 'yes' side, but not in a way that is harsh on Obama. Instead, it is harsh on racial resentment present among white Americans.

How Americans process news. A nice slice of life--on a fairly busy newsday, ask Americans what's happening. Write down the answers. Find out some interesting facets about Americans.

Alex Jones update. Regular readers (if they exist) know I intensely dislike Alex Jones. Here he is being quite an annoying asshole. Love the title of the post.

Image: fortune.com

Trump administration in disarray - Not news

Trump got a double-whammy last week. A new book by Bob Woodward was leaked. It detailed many cases when Trump's advisers got fed up with his egotism and lack of focus on important national and international issues. Also, an adviser went to the New York Times with similar stories. The NYT allowed the person to write an anonymous editorial.

None of this is new. There have been leaks about Trump not understanding issues from the beginning of his presidency, when Pence (possibly) had to tell Trump that Mike Flynn was compromised and had to be fired. Trump seemed to think he could shut down the investigation into his campaign's connections to Russia, but found out he doesn't have the power to stop investigations.

So, really, it's not news that Trump is frequently at odds with his advisers. We don't need a recitation of the scores of episodes. Vox has a fascinating discussion about who leaked to Bob Woodward, based on clues from the book itself. His main sources are all former advisers with the exception of Linsday Graham, the senator.

It seemed likely that  Trump would blow a gasket over the twin strikes on his credibility. However, Trump actually handled it pretty well (except for his reaction in the first 24 hours). He took the stand that the NYT is steeped in fake news, and he's actually doing very well as president if you look at economics and policy initiatives like trade. He said that with seeming confidence, as though he was prepared with a strong defense that he found believable.

The motivation behind the anonymous NYT editorial is muddy. If you have to sneak around to stop Trump for doing stupid actions, why would you tell him and the entire country? Trump isn't strongly going after the leaker in his midst. No high profile lie detector tests. No one claiming to be the leaker, no one blowing the whistle on a fellow adviser. I think this leaker may not be identified. If so, he'll just be one of many leakers. Can't name them all, and definitely can't fire them all. Got to live with them.

Image: washingtontimes.com

Extras. Trump's advisers didn't know what White House counsel Don McGahn (a public employee, not a private lawyer) told Mueller in extensive interviews. Oh, more disarray. Surprised?

Monday, September 3, 2018

Reflections on economics

I read articles very carefully, always trying to learn new information or views I haven't encountered before. I also read comments that way. This comment is from an article on a financial crisis that is looming:
As to QEs, this is the only way for the Western economies to keep growing, nominally. You can call this idiotic, but they simply need much bigger monetary bases just to stay where they are. This needs to be reflected in prices. Since the last EM crisis of 1997-1998 Dollar devalued by about 4 times relative to the variety of asset classes - from oil to stocks to gold to real estate to China's hard currency reserves. Commodities, as an asset class, cannot sink for long. Supply and demand, of course, play a role, but as an asset class they have to reflect the value of the currency they underpin (primarily through oil). The oil price may be hurt longer term only if the monetary base contracts. Do you think this is going to happen? If yes, this will, of course, hurt everyone. Weak EMs will drop first. Americans may think they will get out relatively unscathed as they did in 1998, with capital flowing to "safe haven". I guess that is what they would like to see.
The difference between then and now is that China is now way bigger and is going to be the major beneficiary of any collapse in commodities along with EU and India. America has deteriorated into a resource economy and is now going to be hurt much more than in 1998, along with a number of its trading partners and allies such as Australia, Canada and Mexico.
As to Russia. It is indeed more a bystander now. Watching how others struggle, mostly.--Dmitry Vakin (commenter)
There are very specific predictions made here, and we can see if they are fulfilled or not.

I haven't been formally educated in economics, but I'm very numerate. I've been watching economic issues all my life, even longer than my interest in politics. As someone with an interest in numbers, it's impossible for me to ignore prices, wages, taxes, spending, etc. I swim in this daily. So I'm not ignorant of economics.

One thing I want to see is how an economically advanced country handles population stabilization and minor population loss. I'm watching Japan. It's not making me scared because Japan doesn't appear to be imploding. It looks quite stable to me. So I'm hoping to see economic ideas based on steady-state rather than growth.

In contrast to Japan, I also see countries like Haiti, the Philippines, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and Pakistan. Populations have exploded with dire consequences. There's a lesson, but too few learn it.

Japanese public housing
japanpropertycentral.com

Friday, August 17, 2018

August links

Alex Jones banned. The conspiracy theorist that Trump loves has been suspended on a bunch of major social media sites. A good article that focuses not on Alex Jones, but on the issues of moderation on social media. Twitter lagged behind, but it's not clear why. Lack of clarity was a theme.

Stalin's useful idiots updated. A great article by someone with a Russian name. Full of energy and unfamiliar angles. I think conservative talk radio types have been incredibly useful to the Russians, but the author points out it's not just them.

Success of solar and wind. Having excess energy due to solar and wind generation is happening more and more. Power companies may not be happy, but this is what I wanted as an environmentalist and someone who cares about the future.

China's misbehavior. China demanded and probably deserved some slack as it was developing, but it's quite a developed nation now. A former Obama administration official gives a blunt assessment that she didn't have the candor to give while Obama was in power. China also wants to make sure it has plenty of company as an authoritarian country. It's even helping Venezuela.

Reference link to save. Concerning where terrorists are most active. Great graphics with some interactive features.

Image: storymaps.esri/com

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Is it a hate group?

Conservatives like to claim that the Southern Poverty Law Center, the long-time watchdog on hate groups, is now a hate group itself. They want to make this claim because the SPLC has labeled some of their favorite organizations as hate groups, including the Family Research Council.

This time I looked into the Alliance Defending Freedom. It's been active in lawsuits, such as defending the Colorado baker who refused to make a wedding cake for a gay couple. From what I know, that baker isn't filled with hate, and defending him isn't what I'd call hateful either.

However, the SPLC has quite a solid complaint against the group for supporting laws that mandated sterilization of transgender people who wanted official name and gender changes. It also has a list of other positions against transgender and gay people, with the worst behavior over a decade ago, but several incidents in the past 5 years.

The Alliance (ADF) tries to look friendly and not hateful on its website, but some of the hate comes through. It lies about Planned Parenthood--but isn't that de rigeur for any conservative group? It claims it supports rights and freedom, but doesn't mention how not all rights get their respect. Some people's rights are obviously more important than the rights of those gays.

ADF lawyer moving up.
Image: thenation.com

Monday, August 13, 2018

Nazis one year later

This will be rough and quick. Last year the Nazis and white supremacists showed their mettle, and it was disgusting stuff. I predicted they'd be badly hurt, and they were. For the anniversy of Charlottesville, they had a horrible showing at a rally in Washington DC. Maybe only 40 people showed up, and they billed themselves as a 'free speech rally' where the emphasis was going to be on white civil rights.

The organizer, Jason Kessler, is still making one of the big mistakes of the movement by not denouncing the guy who ran over protesters last year, killing one of them. The ugliness of their response was a big part of why people shut down on them. They didn't even think random killing was ugly--they didn't even have that bit of decency. Perhaps as nasty as concentration camp guards. Not a good look for people hoping to gain popularity.

Here are some links:
  • A long video, much of it from within the 'free speech' group. 
  • Reporting from Vox.com. Short, pithy.
  • Reporting from Vox.com on bad behavior from antifa protesters. No surprise there.  Somewhat sympathetic in that they point out how it hurts the cause.
  • Fox news reporting on the same topic. The last video shows how Fox subtly slants their coverage in ways not noticeable in print. 

Kessler and his small cohort within a square of yellow vested police
Image: bloomberg.com

Update. This article from 10/7/18 is about a protest in Rhode Island. It's not a neutral source, but it contains lots of facts, including that Proud Boys were flown in from the west coast. Ah, to fly around the country in order to have street fights. What a life.

Update. This article from 5/22/19 contains screen shots of Proud Boys chats. They wanted to return to Rhode Island for more mischief, and increased street cred if they could provoke a fight, but it didn't materialize.

Monday, August 6, 2018

Late July links

Manafort's trial will bare Putin's methods. Excellent article that clarifies the issues and the importance of Manafort's trial. It will reveal how Putin buys influence. See it with Manafort and multiply by hundreds.

Russian trolls still active. Facebook uncovers some. Same sort of tricks. No, it's not a hoax perpetrated by the deep state. Details here--screen after screen after screen.

Russia timeline. I'm parking the link because I may want to look at this again. Seems fairly complete, but I didn't look all that closely.

Socialists in the Dems. What they want now and in the future. Their hopes for the future include an end to capitalism. Yep, they are communists and want to nationalize the oil companies. Maybe communists-lite. Like Venezuela.

Scary loners. A detailed look at online groups for men angry that they aren't getting laid. They blame women, blame society, blame other men, and fantasize about horrific actions. These men are called 'incels' for involuntary celibates. Portrait of a scare loner/mass shooter. The Las Vegas police released their report on their invetigation into the man who killed 58 people using his arsenal in a hotel room. This is good, readable summary. In his case, there weren't enough warning signs.

Yet another conspiracy group. Yawn. This one is called QAnon. I'm not going to waste my time on a summary, but again Dems are running pedophile rings.

How to assess Trump. Ignore him, ignore what he says. Look only at what gets done. I kind of agree with this. Trump is trying to capture attention, but it's pretty useless to look at what he says. So I agree. Ignore him. Stay educated about what he's saying, but put no stock in it. Ignore the distraction and home in on what actually happens. A good read, and solid advice... for now.

Journalist survives her tweets. A controversial hire by the New York Times won't be fired even though she lashed out at white people. Good. Context is important, and so is putting the matter into perspective.

Image: pinterest.com

Saturday, August 4, 2018

Still searching for neutrality

I've wanted to find unbiased news sources for a long time with no luck. On my primary goal, at least. However, my latest look yielded some interesting sites.

AP news may be the leasst biased source. I'll be checking it out regularly for a while.

Media Research Center has some reasonable reporting on the influence of George Soros, and how biased many news outlets are, including ProPublica. However, its associated news site cnsnews.com is terribly biased too. Way to show us how to combat bias. With more bias, I guess.

Numerous hits directed me to a site as bad as InfoWars. It's called YourNewsWire.com. Especially bad/funny/sickening is its science news.

AllSides.com - I'll be checking for whether it's a fair source.

FAIR says it's been challenging media bias since 1986 (the same year as my epiphany about media bias). I'll less hopeful about this. Articles are geared more to media issues.

Reuters is supposed to be less biased than Bloomberg. I'll be checking out their commentary section to see if that's true. It would be great to find incisive commentary that doesn't follow party lines, and preferably skewers party line.

Unfortunately, no breakthroughs. Sigh.


 Image: quora.com


Tuesday, July 31, 2018

Why am I looking at a FISA warrant?

I don't regular see FISA warrants. Very few people do. They are secret warrants for gathering intelligence on foreign sources. Foreign Intelligence Something Act. Surveillance maybe?

But I'm looking at a warrant because the FBI requested a warrant to spy on Carter Page, an adviser to the Trump campaign on foreign issues, especially Russia. Numerous conservatives have accused the FBI of corruptly spying on the Trump campaign, saying that the warrant was a fraud, and the spying was a conspiracy to blah blah blah.

So a bunch of congressmen demanded a copy of the warrant, which was supplied with large redactions. Not surprising for a secret warrant really. That's the idea of secrets--you don't show them around. I love the picture of one page of the warrant with its redactions.

Carter Page, among others, claims that the warrant is an outrage against his rights as an American. Such warrants are supposed to be granted only on the basis of probable cause, whatever that means. OK, I'll look up what it means. Oh dear, it's rather broad. However, Page going to Moscow, reportedly seeing Russian intelligence agents, fulminating against sanctions on Russia while working on the Trump campaign, maybe there's enough probable cause there.

According to a fancy lawyer writing for the Brennan Center:
"... we cannot imagine the FBI that we know after decades of combined experience would ignore the evidence that was presented to them and decline to seek a warrant for Carter Page when it did. In fact, if the FBI had failed to investigate such allegations, we (and the American people) would’ve been entitled to find them derelict in carrying out their duties."
I definitely don't have experience in how much foreign contact is fine and how much is worrying. I have to depend on others to make that call in an unbiased way. If it turns out that Carter Page wasn't peddling influence to the Russians, that's good. However, maybe he was just careful not to leave an electronic trail. So, really, I'll never know if he's innocent, only if he's guilty and the evidence comes out. That's asymetry for you.


 Image: washingtonpost.com

Thursday, July 26, 2018

A rapist

Brock Turner, a pretty white boy, former student at Stanford University and former swim champion, raped an unconscious woman he picked up at a boozy college party. He's trying to get one of his convictions overturned, and his lawyer is claiming he never intended to rape.

Let me explain something to you, Brock, and to anyone else who participates in the activities I'm going to describe.

  • When you drag or carry or herd an extremely drunk person to an out of the way place, you're probably planning a rape, and thus are a rapist. 
  • If you remove her bra, you're a rapist. 
  • If you pull down the top of her dress, you're a rapist. 
  • If you pull her skirt up high, all the way above the waist, you're a rapist. 
  • If you remove her panties, you're a rapist. 
  • If you touch her ass or genitals, you're a rapist. 
  • If you stick your fingers into her vagina, you're a rapist. 
  • If you hump her, you're a rapist. 
  • If you don't manage to get your cock out and into her, you're still a rapist. 
There's no way, Brock Turner, you aren't a rapist. You are a rapist. Making excuses just shows that you're an unrepentant rapist.

Men who don't want to be known as rapists, here's something you can do: Don't rape anyone. Don't even get close. There's not a fine line between raping someone and not raping them. It's a very wide line, and don't even start crossing it. That's how you avoid rape, and how you avoid being a rapist.

A worldwide problem
Image: voiceofmuslim.in


Extras. The victim's statement is a tower of strength. No exaggeration in it, but she totally takes the defendant apart in all his slimy nastiness and double-talk.

Update 8/9/18. His appeal was rejected. The court found there was sufficient evidence for conviction, counter to his appeal claim.

Wednesday, July 25, 2018

July links

Travel ban ruling. A careful look at the travel ban (from some Muslim majority nations) and the issues involved. The Supreme Court decision and the dissent are haunted by the decision in the 1940s to intern Japanese-Americans. None of the justices want to make a mistake like that again. But there are other interesting issues, like whether waivers are being granted to those with clearly legitimate needs to visit the US. Definitely eye-opening and different from the usual partisan screamfest.

A history of the politics of Supreme Court nominations. A clear, easy read. I prefer the times when competence was the issue. However, the Bork nomination and anger over it eroded that. This prompted me to look into Bork again, and I found this strong statement of opposition to Bork--that he had no problem with discrimination and segregation as a personal choice of a business owner. Nor did he have any sympathy for the accidentally pregnant. It was the right thing to defeat this nomination. (I've written about before about the history of the Supreme Court.)

Poor standards at Fox News again. This time, Fox reported, Trump tweeted and both were wrong. This isn't actually news, but someone should keep score of how bad news orgs are.

Inside look at land management issue. This is a rare topic, but important for the future. Good choices on land management are a boon. Bad choices are a blight. I've seen it first hand on the Outer Banks of North Carolina.

Why is congress such a circus? There's actually an answer to that question. Gods be praised, and count me surprised. The answer is--messaging is still very important in Congress, but policy isn't. The number of pragmatic policy staff have been greatly reduced, but not the 'communications' people.

The latest winner in Syria... Is Israel. Read about the power plays between Israel, the US, Syria, Russia, and Iran. Fascinating. Seems coherent and solid to me. Will I still think so in a few years?

Image: economist.com

Thursday, July 19, 2018

Crazy week in Russia-related matters

Trump, glowingly thinking he does great at summits, decided to have a summit with Putin. It was set for a Monday. The Friday beforehand, Mueller released indictments against 12 Russian military personnel for hacking the DNC and related crimes. The indictment document is an interesting read concerning who, what, where (including Indonesia) and how. A piece of icing in the indictment: a congressional candidate and a lobbyist are in big PR trouble because they requested dirt from those lovable Guccifer guys.

Then Trump went to Europe and had a one-on-one talk with Putin. Many people get very nervous about such a meeting--I don't. Trump doesn't live up to the promises he makes out loud in front of thousands of people, so he's not going to live up to any promises he makes behind closed doors. Also, I fully expect him to say foolish shit, and so does everyone else. Maybe he'll blab secrets, but our national security is aware of that so they won't brief him with anything that shouldn't be blabbed. And what he heard last week, he won't remember. Ok, clearly I'm not worried.

Prior to the summit, some GOPers were urging Trump to confront Putin about election interference, including Trey Gowdy and Ben Sasse. Yeah, likely Trump is going to stand up and do that. Trump is known mostly as a glad-hander at these summits with our frenemies. He wants to be liked, and he doesn't play tough. It was the same here. Praise for Putin.

A reporter asked him a gotcha question whether, in light of the indictments, he told Putin not to meddle. Trump meanders and essentially says that Putin denies it, and 'why would he do it?' I think 'nothingburger, Trump being a wuss again.' I was wrong.

Why is this something that finally causes a firestorm? Even Newt Gingrich came down on him--for one tweet. Some of the hosts on Fox News, especially Neil Cavuto, came down hard. More than the usual number of GOP congressmen did too, but does that really matter? It hasn't before.

I don't know why, but this time it was different. One day later (Tuesday), Trump is offering the explanation that he misspoke. It was pretty tepid, and not very convincing (though good enough for Gingrich, that louse). Here's an interesting analysis of how Trump apologizes or backpedals: "Insult, grudging apology, double down. Repeat." These were his exact words:
Let me be totally clear in saying that — and I’ve said this many times — I accept our intelligence community’s conclusion that Russia’s meddling in the 2016 election took place. [Pause] Could be other people also. A lot of people out there.
So Trump didn't really walk it back. Another attempt on Wednesday. This time, Trump finally seems more definite. Plus it's an interview with CBS, an MSM outfit instead of his softball friends at Fox News. No apology for his mistakes in the previous days, but a much stronger statement that Putin and the Russians were responsible. Currently, it's still Wednesday. Trump hasn't yet contradicted himself or softened what he said about Russian interference. Perhaps he has finally learned that he can't play that game of wink and nudge about Russian interference. Time will tell. Maybe if a month goes by and he's still on that page, it will be believable.

However, Trump is losing something--the narrative that Russian interference is a hoax by the deep state intelligence services. This isn't a small loss. So many conservative outlets have run with this fake story, as have plenty of lying congressmen. Now what?

It may be much harder for conservative media, Trump, and GOP congressmen to claim that the whole Russia accusation is a hoax and the Russia investigation is a witch hunt. I'll have to update this post in a month with info on what's happened. Real change? That would be amazing. [I'm a bit more sober today. It's hard to believe Trump will get the lesson through his thick skull. I expect more equivocation in the future, so no change.]


Image: mintpressnews.com

Extras. The plans of some congressmen to impeach Rosenstein will probably fizzle. Trump OK'ed the indictments prior to the summit. An explanation for why it's stupid to ask for the servers to be impounded. How White House staff got Trump to back pedal from Bloomberg and Vanity Fair. A bunch of theories about Trump's behavior toward Putin. Russia wants to move ahead on some of the agreements from the summit, but no US government officials know what those agreements are. Welcome to Trumpland! Get in line. We're still waiting for the beautiful healthcare plan.

Update maybe 7/24/18 (misplaced at first). Did Trump make deals with Putin? This is hilarious to me. I thought it would be great if the Russians had to deal with the shifting stories from Trump like we Americans have had to. Supposedly, it's been a problem. Per CNN, the Russian press has claimed there are deals, but not so fast. If they are only known to our idiot president, they don't actually count. Welcome to our world! And the cabinet and intelligence agencies have to try to figure out what Trump said. Good luck with that. It might be like analysis of a literary classic where the narrator can't be trusted--uncertain, full of speculation, and maybe fruitless. I predict no disasters because Trump isn't in control. He's basically a figurehead with no one pulling the strings.

Update 7/25/18. The Russians aren't getting anywhere, and have nothing hard to back up any claims. According to this article, they're settling for making the Americans uncomfortable by hinting. I'm surprised that's possible. Well, maybe for someone who takes Trump a bit seriously, which I don't.

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Making stuff up

I think there is a lot of fake news floating around, and I suspect conservatives channel a lot of it. Remember the scare about Jade Helm? How Seth Rich was murdered because of the DNC hack? Pizzagate? Ambassador Stevens sodomized before he was killed?

Here's one that I learned today. Peter Strzok grew up in Iran, and then moved to Saudi Arabia. From that snippet, plus a letter signed by Peter Strzok where he is identified as a Section Chief, a fake news generator spins the most marvelous stories.

Peter Strzok didn't work for the FBI but was a deep state guy who slid into whatever position was required, working both for the FBI and CIA. This is all based on Strzok's signature on an FBI letter.

According to another fake news article, Strzok was:
...the key Middle Eastern Intel operative for the Iranian airline Mahan Air’s purchase of United States government planes during the Obama administration from 2011 to 2013. -- Big League Politics
Did this actually happen? I looked into it, and found an article about Iran trying to skirt sanctions and buy planes. 

The fake news article goes on to accuse Strzok of fixing the email investigation and then conveniently getting in on the Mueller investigation. What is this based on? "An insider." Or maybe someone making shit up.

With a quick search, I find that the FBI does indeed have 'section chiefs.' So that conclusion that Strzok really worked for the CIA was nothing but a lie.

I don't know how many people in our country work at fabricating these stories. Or how many more repeat them on youtube, websites, or fake news sites like InfoWars? How many more people then read this trash and believe it? It's insidious, and it should be exposed whenever possible. With extreme prejudice to the purveyors.

Image: bigleaguepolitics.com

Monday, July 16, 2018

Grilling the FBI agent

Peter Strzok is the reviled FBI agent to wrote all sorts of nasty texts about Trump using his official FBI phone. The texts were sent to an FBI colleague with whom he was having an affair, an interesting bit of spice but oh-so-common among Congressman, presidents, and assorted Washington folk.

Supposedly Strzok may have been in deep with the deep state that concocted the Russian interference hoax as part of a planned coup. That's according to the far-right conspiracy theorists, who really seem to believe this. (Sources 1, 2, 3.) And Fox News got heavily involved, showing that it isn't much different from the far-right conspiracy theorists. Everyone is now Alex Jones school-shootings-are-staged crazy.

This past Thursday, members of the House grilled Peter Strzok. It was a circus, with too many insane moments for complete discussion here. I'll pull out a couple bits I found significant.

Trey Gowdy, a one-man Jekyll-and-Hyde combo who can't decide whether to go full honest or full partisan, decided to grill Strzok about this text complaining about what an idiot Trump is. For some reason, Gowdy wants to take these off-hand texts as completely serious. (Scroll down here for the testimony.) Absurdly, he questions Strzok on what he meant when Strzok wrote the Clinton should win 100 million to zero. He refused to accept the answer that it was hyperbole, despite that it obviously was hyperbole. How does that make sense? How is that constructive at all as questioning?

Gowdy seems to have a special hatred for Strzok. Does Gowdy not know how people talk about Trump, and how Strzok is fairly representative? On the other hand, Gowdy can be realistic, like supporting the Mueller investigation and pointing out that there is no rationale for impeaching Rosenstein. This is a head-scratcher, but that's how Gowdy has been for a long time.

Stranger still...

Much more puzzling was Louie Gohmert's questioning. Gohmert appeared to be reading notes about the Inspector General for the intelligence community (ICIG) sending an investigator to verbally tell Strzok that Clinton's server had been hacked, something strange (an anomaly) installed, and emails copied and sent to a foreign account. Strzok remembered meeting with the investigator, but nothing else. Gohmert in incensed. How could such a finding be ignored by the FBI? Well, that's a good question. No one other than Gohmert seems to have information about this accusation. I have to wonder, was there a written report? Who was it sent to? Why didn't Horowitz, the Inspector General for the DOJ, mention it? And wasn't Hillary's server stored in some facility and wiped? How would an investigator find 'an anomaly' on it if that's true?

Gohmert seems to be the only person telling this story, which is a bit bizarre. I have to wonder if Gohmert got punked with a fabricated story using a few actual details, like the name of the IC Inspector General. So far, no reporters have followed up. But it can't be hard to call up the IC Inspector General and ask him about the server. I hope I get to read about it. It would be delicious if my theory was confirmed. I'll have to eat dirt if I'm completely wrong and there is an inspector's report to that effect.

Strzok's look of defiance
Image: 4videogames.com


Sunday, July 15, 2018

Delusions of GOP snowflakes

Too bad snowflakes. There is a fucking cloud over Trump's election. Russians hacked the Dems, released the materials, and it probably helped Trump. Without it, Clinton might have squeaked by and become a horrible president, giving mealy-mouthed speeches andcon making us wish it was 2020 already.

Instead, we have this ignoramus who can't accept that his PR plan accidentally landed him in the White House instead of with a bigger reality TV show.

So if you snowflakes want to pretend that nothing went wrong in the 2016 election, go ahead and look like fools.

Lots went wrong with that election. This country showed that we are well down the road to being the movie Idiocracy-- a movie where Americans have become so stupid that they don't remember arithmetic or how to grow crops. But they do listen to the twerps on TV who tell them stuff, like the FBI planned a coup against Trump and Russian hacking is simply a hoax. Some idiots believe that shit, like a twerp name Will on the comment thread here.

So you want to pretend Trump is a real president? Hey, we won the election, but he's a joke. The guy has no interest in important issues, only in his own image. He claimed to have saved the world from nuclear threat without actually checking whether that's true--because that would take work.

Hey, Italians had a bozo embarrassment as president too. I guess it's our turn. But please, don't pretend he's not an egotistical blowhard and an embarrassment. He shouldn't be president, and most people know that. It's a sad commentary on our political system that someone 100 times better didn't come along and toss him off the stage. Same on the Democratic side. This country has many good people, but our politicians suck. And considering the power entrusted to politicians, they are dragging us down with them. I'm not at all certain that we Americans will reverse this decline. It may be irreparable. By the time I'm 80, if I live that long, I may not be able to respect my own country. That is so sad.


Image: mercurynews.com