Saturday, December 16, 2017
CDC given a "banned words" list.
Basically, science shall not be part of the discussion:
The Trump administration has reportedly banned the Centers for Disease Control from using the phrases "evidence-based" and "science-based" on official documents.
Because it's so much easier to take over thinking if science isn't allowed to be called on for counterarguments. While The Hill out that element in their lede, the original source (Washington Post) headlined different banned words: "fetus, transgender, diversity." BU banning "fetus" you force language into some stage of "baby;" similarly, you can't talk about the concept of "transgender," because the Trump admnistration wants to wish it away. As well as dicersity: a lack of diversity is no longer a problem because the concept and the goal are hurtling down the memory hole.
While the government is telling you the tax bill is great for you, your tax dollars are now going for inferior research; the abililty to convey solid results is hampered. The CDC is going to need some serious wordsmithing. But it can be done: the scientific evidence is clear and indicates, etc.
Link | Comments | 9:29 AM
Tuesday, November 28, 2017
Making "Giving" states give more.
There are many reasons to hate the tax bills under consideration. They genuinely are, please excuse the tired phrase, wolves in sheep's clothing. If you're not well off, short term tax decreases get replaced by long term tax increases. Teachers who reached into their own wallets for class supplies won't be able to soften the blow with a tax deduction. Important social benefits are struck throughout. But the "good" news is that corporations will get stable tax cuts, in the unsupported hypothesis that they will bring more of their income home to the U.S. (Uh, here's a clue: if it still costs less to offshore it, it will still cost less. Maximizing share holder wealth means it stays offshore. Got it?)
I do not mean to focus on this next point; I only raise it because I don't think I've read it yet, and because I studiously avoid writing about what I think you've already read, let's talk about the "giving states" and "taker states." I do this gingerly, because I'm not interested in finding another reason for division. A "giving state" is a state that sends in more in Federal taxes than it receives in Federal budget benefits. The flip side is that a "taker state" is one which receives more in Federal budget expenditures than it pays into the budget through the IRS.
I am not against the concept of giving states and taker states. It's part of national unity and understanding that we are all in this together. But you might have heard that there is an interest in getting rid of Federal tax deductions for state income taxes. Some of the states which are hit hardest are "Blue" giving states (like New York, New Jersey, Connecticut). I haven't read enough of the rationale behind this move; I do know that if the tax bill is less than revenue neutral, it needs more than a simple majority in the Senate to pass. And the intense effort to cut taxes on the wealthy and corporations puts a lot of pressure on the revenue neutral concept. So maybe states with high income taxes, who have the temerity to take decent care of its citizens aren't really being targeted. Maybe it has NOTHING to do with who they vote for in Presidential elections.
But it does make "giving states" give more, and accentuate the phenomenon.
Link | Comments | 7:32 PM
Monday, November 20, 2017
Well I was pretty wrong about the GOP reaction to Roy Moore.
In our last chapter I was pretty disgusted about what I saw as the GOP's likely reactions to accusations that AL Senate candidate was a sexual predator, targeting teenage girls while he was in his 30's. National GOP figures have gone beyond the "if it's true" hesitation and have abandoned ship. (Except for the President.) In his home state, however, it seems like they are holding their noses just as many Republicans did when they voted for Trump a year ago.
And since then of course we have Al Franken. Not just with one pre-Senate occasion (gross, immature, pathetic, and wrong) where there's photographic evidence, but also an a woman who says he groped her at a Minnesota State Fair during his tenure in the Senate. I haven't heard anyone trying to defend him, and I haven't heard anyone seeking harbor in a Senate Ethics investigation. Franken may have blunted the impact on Frday with his acceptance of responsibility and guilt; but his failure to remember puttng his hands on the butt of a woman during a photo may, possibly may, suggest he has no memory of other occasions. Denial can twist your memory. I think he's toast, and before he gets toasted I think he should resign.
Meanwhile, the Groper In Chief took advantage of the occasion to point fingers at Franken. This is one of the stupidest things on the planet, given all we know about his history: whether it be the Billy Bush tape, walking in on Miss Universe contestants as they dress, unannounced... The President is in no position to point fingers at Franken. No place. And Press Secretary Sanders's interest in gliding past his history with a glib reference to photographic evidence and Franken's apology, in an effort to suggest that the Billy Bush tape doesn't exist or Trump's refusal to acknowledge his faults somehow makes Trump better... that's pathetic and sad.
Link | Comments | 6:55 PM
Friday, November 10, 2017
How low will you go for party loyalty?
Spy Magazine was one of the greatest publications on the planet. Ever. Bigger and more important than the Rosetta Stone. They did so many hilarious things, such as suckering PR firms into pitching for business from a (fictional) fast food restauarant called "Bunny Burgers." Seriously. Well, they weren't serious but they seriously did it. But one of the funniest things they did was send celebrities checks for very tiny amounts, slowly increasing the value, to see what each person's threshold was for bothering to cash the check.
Our current President's threshold, for instance, was $0.13.
We are witnessing Republicans doing this to themselves, but instead of waiting for a satisfying check amount, they are all doing the limbo, working really hard to get under that continually lowering bar. I mean, some must have really held their nose about a year ago, voting for the candidate that trumpeted sexually assaulting women, mocked a disabled reporter, and complained that McCain was less deserving because he was captured. So they already went that low.
Some are showing spine over Roy Moore, the GOP nominee for the US Senate from Alabama. But many are not. As the NYT's David Leonhart has pointed out, many in the GOP are sheltering in a hypothetical "if true" he should go, knowing that additional evidence is unavailable and unlikely to add certainty, since Moore will likely continue to deny the charges of his interest in young teenagers.
So the limbo will continue. Will Republican voters vote for Moore? Will charges of pedophilia be insufficient to change the election outcome?
Link | Comments | 7:23 PM
Thursday, November 9, 2017
Ongoing sexual harassment and perversion.
I'd like to go back in time, and do polls three months before and a year after Clarence Thomas's confirmation; polls on attitudes about sexual harassment. I figure a year's distance would be far enough away that the respondents would be relaxed enough to not connect it directly to Clarence Thomas. I would be willing to give my rosewood tenor recorder to learn the percentage of people (men) who took the hearings as a caution or an eye opener, and what percentage felt emboldened, on the basis of skepticism over Anita Hill's testimony and him still becoming a justice of the Supreme Court.
It's been a rough month or so with respect to being reminded about the horrible behaviors of people who have power over others. And I fear too many became emboldened. I am glad they are getting publicly shamed. Let this give people pause: power does not protect you, and those who aren't so high on the mountain are similarly vulnerable.
Link | Comments | 7:12 PM
Sunday, November 5, 2017
"We Irish call it malarkey."
Not sure if you remember the 2012 Vice Presidential debate between Vice President Joe Biden and Vice President Wannabe Paul Ryan? (Transcript here, if you want a stroll down memory lane.)
You have probably heard about the slaughter earlier today at a church in Texas, when a gunman walked in and shot and shot and shot and shot. Forunately we have former Vice President Wannabe and current Speaker of the House Paul Ryan's reaction.
The people of Sutherland Springs could have used much more than our prayers, years ago. But too many politicians cry crocodile tears after incidents like this; they act sincere, posture, and then do nothing. Each successive event like this is a result of inaction.
How many innocent people need to die, Mr. Speaker, before you try to do something in this world, in addition to the prayers?
Link | Comments | 6:18 PM
Thursday, October 19, 2017
Is Governor Cuomo a charade?
So there are rhetorical questions... hypothetical questions... Is there an adjective for questions which invite an immediate "yes"? I don't mean "stupid," I mean an adjective of four or more syllables which make the obvious a bit more high stylish. Unlike, "No duh."
Because we have a history here in New York of Andrew Cuomo grandstanding: forging ahead with plans for the Tappan Zee Bridge without adequate funding; grand plans for area airports; driving across a new span of the Kosciuszko Bridge in FDR's 1932 Packard because, uh, reasons, of course; and pushing for the opening of the long-awaited "2nd Avenue Subway" to open this past January 1. (Not sure, but I think the significance of January 1 has something to do with Jesus's bris, as there is a hymn called "Were You There When They Circumcised My Lord.") We've not only learned since the opening that all the safety checks hadn't been finished. NOW we learn that the smoke detectors have been disabled since May.
I assume I don't need to remind you that since mid September, 16 years ago, people in this area have become more conscious of disaster planning. For some reason, adequate preparations on our subway have been ignored in the interest of 76 trombones or something. (Not in general but seemingly in the interest of launching a "not ready for prime time" transit corridor.)
If Cuomo has an eye on the Presidency, he needs to get the nomination. With my sense of his handling of infrastructure I've alluded to here, as well as his kid glove handling of corruption (discussed elsewhere here with respect to Zephyr Teachout's challenge to him), I don't think I'd vote for Mr. Ed over Cuomo, but he'd be very low on my list.
Link | Comments | 11:23 PM
Tuesday, October 17, 2017
Kicking out all the tent poles at the wedding isn't as beneficial as one might think.
So, Brexit. You remember Brexit, right? Breaking up is hard to do.
With less than 18 months to go before Britain is scheduled to leave the European Union, and with British businesses growing increasingly concerned about the future, this was the moment Prime Minister Theresa May hoped for a breakthrough in the paralyzed negotiations on the process known as Brexit.
Instead, she is fighting a tense battle to stop the talks from collapsing.
My understanding is that she was not the front and center person lighting dynamite sticks to try to bring down the European Union, but she agreed to put on the hard hat to at the very least accomplish Brexit. And it would be dumb to take that role and not foresee the implications of implementing Brexit. I myself think that the EU is a good thing, for all involved. There are compromises, not every segment of very nation benefits. But on the whole I think Brexit is, was, and will always be a bad idea.
Her goal is to keep the negotiations ongoing. Should they falter, and the UK soon find itself in a position less positive than Nigel promised, so be it. I wish them all luck.
Link | Comments | 8:03 PM
Tuesday, October 10, 2017
Yeah, well my daddy can beat up your daddy.
Oh please: Senator Corker's height; Secretary of State Tillerson's IQ.
This is not normal, this is outrageous. This is not how grown-ups behave. Er, should behave, anyway, because since we know that one specific grown-up does behave this way, we don't want to get into that whole no true Scotsman thing.
Link | Comments | 7:16 PM
Thursday, October 5, 2017
I know meat, and I know bones.
And the NRA is throwing us a bone. The headline reads, "Las Vegas Shooting: N.R.A. Supports New Rules on ‘Bump Stock’ Devices."
Seriously? Is that the best they can do after the Las Vegas sniper attack? Supporting a ban on an accessory? I mean, I recognize that this strikes them as a big shift, but it's really not. They're not calling for limiting clip capacity or aiding gunpowder tracking. Heck, they're also not arguing for better medical/psychological care, which was supposed to be the bulwark against mass murders such as occurred at Sandy Hook.
I will bet you even money that the NRA merely made a calculated decision to throw the bump stock manufacturers under the bus and preserve the rifle manufacturers. Takers?
Link | Comments | 6:45 PM
Sunday, October 1, 2017
"The kind of leadership we need."
Yes, it happened before Trump dumped on San Juan's mayor yesterday morning. No, you cannot give the Speaker the benefit of the doubt on this. It was only a matter of time before Trump did something astonishingly embarrassing. Trump's actions remind me of the "Days since an accident" counting-signs in a workplace, only Trump's "days since something loathsome" counter never gets above five.
I'm so old I remember when Ryan was portrayed as a smart guy.
Link | Comments | 10:09 AM
Tuesday, September 5, 2017
The Tale of the Elephant that Painted itself into a Corner.
I believe there is no singular explanation for Clinton's defeat; I think there are a dozen contributors, and if you were to flip any of them she'd have won. Many of them are clear to the naked eye. One of them, in my view, is that the GOP had been subsisting on "anything but Obama" for years, and riling up anger as a result. Rarely were concrete alternatives described; even if they were and refuted, I suspect there was always a residue of "that doesn't mean that NO non-Obama alternative could work."
So in riling up the anti-Obama sentiment, there was the movement against Obamacare. "Repeal and Replace" was short enough for a bumper sticker but little else. When it came to replace, America was confronted with the stark realities and too many in the GOP Caucus recognized their plan was unacceptable.
I will have to look for polling on it, but I suspect that the anti-immigration rescinding of DACA is going to be received similarly. Even if people accepted Trump's tirade against Mexicans when he announced his campaign, America is awake enough to recognize the difference between murdering rapists and enterprising immigrants -- even when they're older adults, to say nothing of those who are younger and brought here by parents who hated this country so much they decided to subject themselves and their kids to it.
Stuff that sounds good for the primaries... And leads to victories in swing states by rallying disaffected voters. But a way forward in governing? No. Trump may be looking for something token to hand his base, but Trump and the Republicans are going to have to think hard about their priorities for the long term, and not alienate the nation with distasteful efforts like Muslim travel bans and rescinding DACA.
Link | Comments | 8:44 PM
Monday, August 21, 2017
What we lost when we lost Dick Gregory.
I know next to nothing about the comedian Dick Gregory, that is, as a comedian. I'm not sure, but I think he might be the guy who, when told in a restaurant in the South that they don't serve Negroes, said "That's fine, I wasn't planning on ordering one." Based on the obits, that could very well have been him, and I'm sure he had other jokes along those lines, set in the context of discrimination and through some ju-jitsu making you do a double-take.
But I have a different Dick Gregory impression, which I'll share here: it has to do with his encouraging us to think critically about what we hear and read. I know people have categorized him as a believer in conspiracy theories, and that might be valid. I have not found the time to investigate the validity of that, nor draw a conclusion. But I can share the following with you.
I heard him at the University of Florida, so this would be 1981 or before. I honestly do not remember a single joke, if he said any. But he was pretty clear about the concept that corporations and media were playing with what we should think. I remember two examples specifically.
One was over adhering to what some would consider moral rules. Here, at that time, he cited the first Superman movie. Superman's dad told him that with all his powers, he must not change history. Yet, Superman made the choice to fly around the Earth against its rotation (back in time) and save Lois Lane's life. Gregory's point was that Hollywood was telling us it was okay to go against what the rules. In my view (and your mileage may vary), we shouldn't be rigid and should act in every situation according to standards, but not rigidly. Would you kill a toddler Hitler, etc.
The other point I remember was his skepticism over the evolving story of how many people had died at Jonestown. He questioned the idea of the early death counts and how they ballooned. The argument, as I remembered and he spoke about, was that the early counts were based on what they could see, and did not consider what they couldn't see: that under 200 bodies they could see, there was another 800 they couldn't see. (I am using these numbers for illustration, forgive me.) Gregory asked us to think critically about what we'd been told. And here, again, I apologize for not remembering his specific numbers, but he asked us to take a pound of hot dogs, and to try to hide five hot dogs under three hot dogs. It just doesn't work, he pointed out.
I've seen stuff that says he was a conspiracy theory maven. And that could be true. But we need to be challenged to think critically. And Gregory did that.
Link | Comments | 11:12 PM
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