l33tminion: (Default)
The Russia Thing: Don Junior's "defense" amounted to "they tried to arrange a quid pro quo but I was too dense to have any idea that was what they were doing. It's amazing how quickly the talking points shifted from "obviously nothing like that would have happened" to "it's clearly no big deal that happened". Political bias is what it is, but it's still alarming to see conservatives do a complete 180 on questions like "does morality matter?" I suggest the usual exercise for Republicans of making a sincere effort to imagine how you would feel if Hillary Clinton (Barack Obama? Bill Clinton?) did anything even remotely like this.

The Healthcare Thing: Republicans have been running for seven years on the unpouplarity of Obamacare, and the idea of "repealing Obamacare" remains somewhat popular. But they have not bothered to perform the crucial step of coming up with a plan that's actually more popular than Obamcare. Or, for that matter, even a deeply unpopular plan that they could still somehow ram through with hours of debate, no bipartisan amendments, no hearings, and fifty votes plus Pence. It was amazing to see the Republicans thrash through every major type of repeal. There was the no-repeal repeal, the particular version of which made things worse for the poor and better for the old before making them much, much worse for the old as well. There was the repeal and delay, where Republicans could run on having "repealed Obamacare" but no one gets to see the change until after the midterms. There's the free-lunch repeal, where you repeal just the mandate and hope that the conventional rules of economics just don't apply any more (the CBO predicts they do). The only things that remain untried are the repeal just the name and anything that resembles Trump's promises of "insurance for everybody" that's "much less expensive and much better". This isn't over yet, the Republicans could find some other plan that gets the support of one more senator, or maybe it will actually involve some convoluted plan to lure a Democratic senator from a state with a Republican governor and appointed replacements to some other part of the administration. But maybe they should consider the normal legislative process?

The North Korea Thing: North Korea is a horrible nightmare state, and war with North Korea would be an immense humanitarian catastrophe. But there's plenty of opportunities for delay to make the situation much, much worse. This seems like it would be hard situation to handle for a diplomatic, competent President with a functioning administration including a fully-staffed State Department.

The Actual Literal Nazis: Trump's response to Charlottesville was slow, tepid, and equivocating, at the very least deeply compromised. It's no wonder many white nationalists view it as not-so-covert support. This pattern of right-wing street violence being aided by "both sides" equivocation and lukewarm prosecution is a familiar one.
l33tminion: (Default)
I was doing well on posting, then suddenly I was once again super-behind.

I don't even need to know where to begin with political news. The Comey stuff wasn't very unexpected: Trump leaned on Comey to shut down the Flynn investigation, then when Comey demurred, Trump fired him. But of course Trump's core supporters are going to come out thinking this is totally fine, it's Trump being Trump.

Rumors that Trump didn't know there was a US military base in Quatar before being persuaded by the Saudis to side with them in a diplomatic crisis based on a fake news report are pretty alarming, though. Ditto for him leaving out a line about article 5 (the mutual defense pact bit) during his speech at NATO. But perhaps that's another thing that would please his supporters.

Then the UK elections happened this weekend, in a total back-fire for the Conservatives where liberal gains in parliament might ironically result in an even more right-wing UK government, as the Conservatives now are beholden to a far-right coalition partner for a majority. Or just a completely destabilized government, who knows?

In other news, the greatest climber in the world climbed El Capitan in Yosemite without ropes. Insanity, but it's amazing that a human can even accomplish such a feat.

Work's been busy, I've been shifting my focus a bit in terms of which goals I'll aim to accomplish before the end of the quarter. That's going well.

I've been watching a bit of Steven Universe with Xave over lunch break (it's a fun show, though the longer plot arcs seem to be slow to build; I love the style of visual humor, the animation is brilliant).

It's Pride week, and the parade yesterday was big and colorful as always. The weather has been hot. It's not even summer yet.

Today I was mostly out and about with the kid doing errands.

There's nothing like a cool shower in the dark after a hot day.

My parents are off on a European holiday. Enjoying the photos. Happy anniversary!

Eristic improvements: Fetching objects by name, better memory of numbers and letters, recognition of specific letters (maybe), matching shapes to outlines (including letters), some new words (including "apple" and "[ba]nana").
l33tminion: (Exile)
I wouldn't have expected that one of the news stories this week could be summarized as "don't worry, it's just the President falling asleep in the middle of his midnight Twitter rant".

The bit about Trump pulling out of the Paris Accord is almost as much of a non-story. It's the quintessential Trumpian political move: It reverses a decision made by Obama, it's something Trump can do unilaterally, and it won't have any immediate or concrete effect.

(It also provided Trump with a fascinating opportunity to use "Pittsburgh" as metonymy instead of synecdoche.)

This weekend, there were more murderous terror attacks in London, followed by calls from UK PM Theresa May to censor the internet and President Trump repeating calls for blanket bans on travel from some majority-Muslim countries excluding ones where he has rich friends.
l33tminion: (AMERICA!)
For anyone interested in US politics, it's certainly been an interesting few weeks. Trump's definitely not afraid to make enemies, no one tells him what to do, and he goes with his gut when deciding what information to reveal to his friends (and never mind that five seconds ago team Trump was extremely concerned about the "careless" handling of classified information).

I mean, this isn't getting into things like cancelling a visit to Masada after being told they couldn't land directly on the summit (though I joke that Trump's refusal of the cable car ride shows that he's just that unwilling to take public transportation, it was probably due to tight scheduling) or saying "we just got back from the Middle East" in a speech in Israel or a careless note in the guestbook at Yad Vashem or that damn orb photo. Or even doing 100% of the things that Trump criticized Brack Obama, Michelle Obama, and Hillary Clinton for doing re Saudi Arabia. Or the contentious handshakes or assertiveness in a diplomatic crowd. Surely those things are akin to brown suits, dijon mustard, improper salutes, etc. Republicans really do seem to have found someone who mirrors Obama-as-perceived-by-Republicans in a lot of ways.

But seriously, it's a bit troubling if Republican attitudes about political protest have gone so far that Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross bragging about the wonderful lack of protest in Saudi Arabia doesn't seem remarkable to them. Or if Republican attitudes on law enforcement have gone so far that Trump calling President Duterte of the Philippines to say "I just wanted to congratulate you because I am hearing of the unbelievable job on the drug problem" isn't alarming, given that Duterte is an admitted murderer whose own analogy for his approach to the drug problem is that he is to drug addicts as Hitler was to the Jews.

There seems to be a big gap in perception of Trump's first overseas trip overall. It strikes me as pretty normal. A lot of general diplomacy and ceremonial finishing touches on deals years in the works. But the Trump supporters' view seems to be that this is something history-making. Well, I should give some credit. Trump's Riyadh speech was bold in a lot of ways, and surely will draw comparison to Obama's 2009 Cairo speech. It does seem to be a significant turn in rhetoric in some ways, though I'm not going to attempt any detailed analysis right now. Trump's visit to the Western Wall also seems significant. While that didn't include an announcement that Trump is moving the US embassy to Jerusalem as some speculated it would (since Trump's suggested that before) it rhetorically does seem to be moving away from a bit of US diplomatic rhetoric about the status of Jerusalem (that the future of Jerusalem should be part of a negotiated settlement) that's not based on any reasonable person's expectation about the future status of Jerusalem (it's not in any meaningful sense negotiable).
l33tminion: (Hope)
In response to recent news of the transfer of control of LiveJournal operations to SUP Media and Terms of Service changes that clarify LiveJournal users are expected to comply with Russian censorship laws, I've migrated my journal to Dreamwidth. I plan to cross-post to LiveJournal for now. I've cancelled automatic payments for my LiveJournal pro account.

I've long been reluctant to leave LJ over one management decision or the other, and I'd still guess that these changes most likely won't have much effect on English-language LJ users. But I really don't want to lose access to my old posts, so better to be proactive about it. And I think my internet presence is already too split, so I may say farewell to LJ before too long. We'll see.
l33tminion: (AMERICA!)
I was going to get to a political post at some point prognosticating about the fate of the ACA, but then time passed and prognostication became just gnostication. But maybe not so much!

It didn't surprised me when the Republican proposal went with the "free lunch" version of the repeal (the prohibition on "preexisting condition" bans is popular, the mandate is unpopular, so just get rid of the latter, what can possibly go wrong?). The ACA was the Republican plan for restraining healthcare costs, it shouldn't be surprising that the new proposal was basically the same three pillars of require insurers to offer insurance, encourage people to buy insurance, and subsidize. (Though, for one thing, the alternative version of the "encouragement" pillar seemed obviously too weak. If you want to encourage healthy people to buy insurance, a policy that encourages people to buy insurance for the first two months after they've left coverage and then discourages them is not ideal.)

The bit that did surprise me was the complete failure of the bill. I'd assumed after all the hype that the vote would be whipped somehow.

There's a split in the Republican opposition to "Obamacare", between a faction that primarily wants to just repeal the "Obama" part and a faction that (though it has no fondness for Obama) primarily wants to repeal the "care" part. Siderea has a post with an excellent analysis of this, breaking down the Republicans among the "Repealists" (who would still be happy voting for a flat repeal of the ACA, followed by further cuts to Medicare and Medicaid), the "Replacists" (who accept that affordable healthcare should be made available somehow but think the Republicans can do that cheaper and better; Trump himself is in this camp, so unsurprisingly many Trump supporters are as well), and the "Parochialists" (who are primarily focused on the fact that their constituents won't vote for them again after their insurance becomes expensive or unavailable). The latter two factions were in fact willing to join in on voting in favor of a straight repeal, but only so long as that would be safely vetoed.

The bill did have some things that all of those factions could like: Big deficit-funded tax cuts that disproportionately benefit the rich (deficits don't matter, right?), cuts in consumer protections that would allow insurance companies to sell junk insurance (which could make it seem like a decrease in costs). But it was not enough.

So what next? Trump wants to wait in hopes of a better negotiating position. Ryan also seems eager to get on to other things. It's not clear whether either a flat repeal or any innovative (in the sense of not just being some version of Romney/Obama/*care) conservative healthcare policy reforms will make it to a vote in the near future.
l33tminion: (AMERICA!)
So it's been a week since inauguration, which seems to be how I'm counting the time these days, watching Gish Gallop: The President do his thing. The only silver lining to the scenario is that Trump's ego does seem to be a genuine Achilles heel. I mean, having his press secretary go out and tell easily-verifiable lies about the inauguration crowd size, instead of just shrugging it off (he didn't run on being popular in DC, he's not the first black President, and "the forgotten American" might not easily be able to buy a plane ticket and take off work on a Friday). Or claiming that there were 3-5M illegitimate votes in an election where fewer than 130M votes were cast, which he won based on margins of under 100k votes total, just a weird thing to do regarding a victory you feel secure about. (Also, hilariously, suggesting that part of this voter fraud was people registered to vote in two states, only to find that describes half of his administration and family.) To say nothing of Trump's nutty ABC interview.

Since the inauguration, Trump's been trying to crack down on federal agencies publishing the samizdat (he wants their social media presence to only publish stuff that's politically correct). The state department has been purged, the border patrol chief has resigned, the trend of Republicans cutting costs by first firing anyone who knows anything (which seems maybe not the most effective way to achieve cost-cutting goals in the long run) seemingly has been turned up to 11. Trump does seem to be running the government like a badly-managed business.

A (supposed) preliminary list of Trump administration infrastructure projects was released, which actually seemed pretty good from both a prioritization and PR standpoint. It's mostly straightforward stuff, much of it is already underway (opportunity to do a bit of facilitation and take all the credit), and much of it has a mix of government and private funding. But it's not sure how it jibes with other proclamations of the administration, like the attempt to cut all federal funding of sanctuary cites (e.g. the list includes Boston's Green Line Extension, which extends a light-rail line serving a sanctuary city from another sanctuary city through a third sanctuary city to another city that doesn't call itself a "sanctuary city" but by policy might as well be). The Trump White House subsequently disavowed the document saying that it's "not a White House policy document". My conjecture: It's just an internal report and who knows how it will relate to actual policy proposals. The infrastructure-project focus for now remains on a border wall that will cost a kajillion dollars while providing very little in the way of increased border security for the money (it's a boondoggle, but at least it's something in terms of job creation).

Speaking of that wall, Trump did manage to set off at least one diplomatic crisis during his first week in office. I'd expect that this will cause Trump to double-down on his goal of getting Mexico to pay (though he may have to take a flexible definition of what counts as paying to do it, and he may frame "they'll pay" less in terms of finance and more in terms of revenge). In any case, that might run at cross-purposes with the goal of creating manufacturing jobs, since Mexico is America's second-largest market for exports.

Finally, the administration announced plans to publish a weekly list of crimes committed by immigrants and blanket restriction on immigration from the countries in the Middle East Trump isn't personally doing business with. Plus there are rumblings of work on that Muslim registry.

(Even putting politics aside, it's been a tiring week. Ended with me getting super-sick with a bad cold or flu. Julie and the kid are also sick, and so are many of my friends and colleagues.)
l33tminion: (Smile)
We went to the New Year's party at The Buttery which resumed again this year. It was good to see old friends, and Eris had a great time exploring (it's a big house, with some nice big staircases). But per parental tradition, we're home early. I may yet be up to see midnight, though it would probably be wise to turn in even earlier.

I don't want to overstate the significance of 2016, but it certainly was a year that turned things upside-down in a lot of ways. Not all bad, of course. The year started with Erica's birth, and I was pleased to see many friends highlight new family members and deepened relationships in their New Year's reflections.

For those alarmed by the political side of 2016, it's worth noting that while uncertainty has been heightened in some ways, the long-term global trends of reduced disease, poverty, and violence have not been overturned (as Pinker points out, terrorism is the clickbait of violence). Still, I expect that 2017 will be even more dramatic than 2016, and that's saying a lot.

I wish you all the best of health and happiness in the new year.

Eristic improvements (just to get in one last milestone before the turn of the year): Standing unsupported (briefly)

MAGA

Nov. 9th, 2016 10:46 pm
l33tminion: (AMERICA!)
Congratulations to President-Elect Donald J Trump.

(2016 is quite a year, it seems.)

Trump didn't quite win a popular-vote plurality, but his strategy for winning a solid electoral college majority succeeded straightforwardly (flipping Wisconsin and Ohio and Pennsylvania and maybe Michigan, with much stronger support from the white rural and small-town working class than Romney) and Clinton's failed straightforwardly (the previous plus failing to hold Florida, failing to flip Georgia or North Carolina or probably Arizona, with weaker support among blacks and Hispanics than Obama).

Trump was conciliatory in his brief victory speech, with a focus on infrastructure spending and education, issues where there's certainly some common ground. I'm skeptical of claims that President Trump will be presidential in ways that candidate Trump was not, but to the extent that I took his failure to "pivot" in the general election as evidence against, I have to take his victory speech as evidence for. (Really weak evidence, it's easy to be magnanimous in victory. But still.)

Nate Silver had it right (well, the polls had it wrong, but he had a pretty clear idea about the particular way in which it could be wrong and he was right to not be over-confident). Michael Moore had it right (moreso, I think, than Scott Adams, who focuses on Trump's persuasion ability, though he's not entirely wrong about that). Sam Wang of the Princeton Election Consortium is stuck eating his words among other things.

The Party of Trump has had their victory and now will, having earned the privilege, (presumably) once again actually have to try to govern. I can only hope that good things come of it. Perhaps they'll even give some of Obama's ideas a go now that making him a one-two-term president is no longer their number-one priority.
l33tminion: (AMERICA!)
Election day is only days away.

President: I thought Hillary Clinton was a good candidate for President in 2008 (though I slightly favored Obama), and I think she's an even better candidate in 2016. She's certainly the best candidate on the ballot, and that holds even if I don't restrict it to candidates with a chance of winning. And I really hope she wins this one. I've heard some people suggest that Trump as President would be different from Trump as candidate, but people also said he'd be different in the general election and, well, not so much. I really don't want Erica's first experience of American politics to involve news about the conditions in the camps for mass deportations, or the new Guantanamos. I don't want to have to explain to Erica why the sorts of things that Trump said in the course of this campaign are not normal things for the President to be saying. To say nothing of the things that might go wrong with the US military in the hands of someone who may well think things like "not using nuclear weapons" are just so much political correctness.

Representative (MA-7): Michael Capuano is running unopposed, and I'm a big fan. Notably, he does a really good job of communicating with his constituents, with a weekly newsletter that (among other things) details each of his major votes, including his position and reasoning.

MA Senate (Second Middlesex): Patricia Jehlen, running unopposed.

MA Representative (27th Middlesex): Probably voting for Denise Provost, the incumbent. Though I do like Aaron James' focus on electoral reform.

Middlesex County Sheriff: Peter Koutoujian, running unopposed.

MA Question 1: Would allow a slots parlor to be built in a very specific location. The ballot measure has been promoted by a developer who owns that specific location. Voting no, out of a weak opposition to more gambling and a strong opposition to ballot measures intended to enrich any one particular person.

MA Question 2: Would expand caps on charter schools and move some control from local governments to the state. I'm opposed, I agree with the reasoning of Boston's mayor as to why this is a bad move even for those that, like Walsh, favor charter school expansion.

MA Question 3: Would prohibit confining some animals in cages that prevent the animal from lying down, standing up, fully extending its limbs, or turning around freely in Massachusetts, and would prohibit meat and eggs from animals kept in such conditions from being sold in the state. I'm most conflicted about this one, but I think I'm ultimately opposed. It's definitely a measure where the downsides are highest for the least fortunate. And it's not exactly clear how the state could enforce restrictions on how animals are raised outside of the state.

MA Question 4: Would legalize and tax marijuana. I'm in favor, mainly because the current state of drug policy is so far from reasonable from a harm-minimization standpoint that anything in the direction of repeal seems favorable. Yes, there are a lot of details in this ballot measure. But Massachusetts doesn't afford any particular status to ballot measures relative to other legislation, so the legislature can still amend it if necessary.

Somerville Question 5: Would allow the city to raise property taxes to pay for the construction of a new high school. Overall, rebuilding instead of renovating does seem like a good idea given the age of the building involved and the cost projections for each option. If this measure failed, the city would probably rebuild the high school anyways (the school losing its accreditation would be a disaster, and evidently that's a risk if the building is not renovated or replaced), but that would come at the expense of other priorities. I'm in favor of this one because I think it's likely better for the city overall.
l33tminion: (Overwork)
Work has been busy, everything has been busy. I've been bogged down with chores. I've not been sleeping so well, though not for any particular reason.

I'm making a serious effort to adjust my diet this week. I've been less inclined to eat healthily this year, and the effect is starting to get a bit alarming.

And some of my the most fun bits of the last few weeks have been related to food. Last Friday night, went out for an amazing evening of dessert and drinks at Loyal Nine after a quiet dinner at home. Saturday night, I took Julie out for a steak dinner at Juliet, and it lived up to the best steakhouse dinners I've had. (Julie liked it too, and she has high standards for steak.) All the more reason to keep my day-to-day eating on the healthy side, I suppose. Plus that gives me more motivation to cook again.

Politics is weighing on me. Sunday I went to canvas in New Hampshire for the Clinton campaign. ~40 volunteers left that day for NH canvassing from Porter Square Books, and more than that many from the campaign office in Central Square. And that's just Cambridge. The Clinton campaign is tremendously organized.

I made it out to Olin Monday evening with a few of my colleagues to give a tech talk on interviewing at Google.

The kid is more reluctant than ever to go to sleep in the evenings. And keeping her toys out of the way has become yet another chore.

Eristic improvements: Standing (supported but unassisted). Pulling herself to a standing position (an ability that she's working really hard on improving). Walking is sooner than you think.
l33tminion: (Jon Stewart)
Last weekend: Just about perfect. I got in some relaxation, played To the Moon (a charming little indie-RPG, very light on gameplay mechanics), went to the latest Magic: the Gathering prerelease (and went 4-0!), and Julie took me out for a special dinner at Bergamot.

This week: Nothing eventful. Mostly just trying to stay out of the heat. It's been extremely hot, and as a result I've been extremely tired.

This weekend: Olin summer party in Somerville!

In the news:

The RNC happened in Cleveland, and I was glad to hear that went largely without incident. The Republicans are officially the Party of Trump now, it seems. Cruz showed up to emphasize that he wouldn't endorse Trump to his face (2020 guyz!), while many former presidents and current legislators were conspicuously absent. Most notably, Governor Kasich didn't show up to the RNC in his own state (though evidently he put in an appearance at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame down the street).

Was Kasich really offered the VP post and was that offer really worded the way anonymous Kasich adviser claims? I don't even know what to believe at this point.

Trump's actual VP choice was unexpectedly uninteresting, Pence is a sitting governor and seems to be a good public speaker. Clinton followed suit by picking Tim Kaine, not a surprising pick, but a reasonable one.

Most interesting bit of convention reporting: This essay on a convention party hosted by gay anti-feminist and professional troll Milo Yiannopoulos. Most interesting thing about the convention itself: Trump's acceptance speech, mainly in thinking about what a Trump presidency might actually be like. Best moment in general: Jon Stewart's guest appearance on Stephen Colbert's Late Show.

Next week: Wikileaks (and everyone else) will try to shake up the DNC.
l33tminion: (AMERICA!)
I am tired, busy, etc. I miss winter already.

It seems that the primary election season, more brutal than 2008, is finally (all but) over. (At least, I hope that e.g the weekend of July 18 isn't too interesting.) Sanders supporters, so full of predictions that Sanders would definitely win California but maybe not by enough, proved too full of wishful thinking even at that. Now we are in the extreme bitterness phase, with talk of stolen elections and pointed unimaginativeness about what obstacles their favored candidate might have faced in the general election had he prevailed. There's nothing more painful than a narrow loss. But I hope Sanders supporters will not forget that there are more elected positions than President. If they can still succeed in getting the sort of Congress that would pass the sort of policy they favor, what's Hillary Clinton going to do, veto it?

Meanwhile, on the other side of the aisle, there's lots of (albeit sometimes very reluctant) falling in line behind perspective nominee Donald Trump. There's still some rumbling about replacing Trump at convention. But with the "contested convention" option out of that way, this only leaves "blatant shenanigans". I see how that might be technically possible if Trump's delegate selection was so poor that there's a majority of Cruz delegates once you count Trump delegates that are secret Cruz supporters. If you have a majority of the delegates (most especially a majority of the rules committee), you can do whatever you want. But Trump's had a few uncontested primaries with nothing to focus on but delegate selection, so his collection of delegates can't be that bad at this point, can they? Plus that route would be even more suicidal for the GOP than the other available alternatives.

Not to say that the DNC is in any better shape. This election we'll find out whether it's worse for an American political party to have an outsider populist candidate win their presidential primary or almost win.

The recent massacre at a gay nightclub in Orlando seems to have pushed all sorts of politics into overdrive, with Trump really, really doubling down on his anti-Muslim rhetoric. (The immediate aftermath of some terrible crime is really not the best time for making good political decisions, but I see why people who feel they are politically thwarted feel that they need to capitalize on the moment. It should go without saying that people whose politics I agree with are right to put political pragmatism ahead of concerns about propriety or rash action, and people whose politics I disagree with are "politicizing tragedy" out of sheer bloody-minded opportunism.) Obama's cogent response to this of course did not get as much media attention as Trump's trumpery, but he's right to point out that mere repetition of the phrase "radical Islamic terror" 1) doesn't really help fight terrorists 2) plays into the ISIS narrative that this is a war against Islam in general and that they represent Islam in general 3) makes Muslims worry that it's prelude to a government crackdown on Muslims in general, especially when a major party's presidential candidate is overtly in support of just that.
l33tminion: (Slacker Revolt)
Needless to say, I should post about interesting things I find more frequently instead of fishing through my backlog for an entire year.

Technology and Mathematics

The new way of passing the Turing test is to have humans pretend to be AI.

Who Was Ramanujan - Stephen Wolfram (of Mathematica and Wolfram Alpha fame) tells the story of one of an unlikely mathematician (and the subject of a recent biopic). Really interesting stuff.

Urbanism and Transit

How Japanese zoning laws avoid many of the problems of US zoning.

Navigating NYC with a guidebook from 1899.

How to save the MBTA $100M a year: Fix paratransit, subcontract bus maintenance, cut administration.

On state-level funding of urban mass-transit, and why this is about rural-urban political conflict.

An old post with an interesting idea for modifying urban development proposal contests.

"Nations aren't the proper unit of macroeconomic analysis; cities are."

The king of the frequent fliers.

Food and Medicine

Why almost all eggnog sold in the US violates FDA regulations, and why that's not technically illegal.

Why the cure for scurvy was widely known in Europe in the 1700s, but not known by polar explorers in the early 1900s.

An amusing post on pharma company sneakiness, with a great post title.

More Recent Politics

Why Sanders Trails Clinton Among Minority Voters: It has a lot to do with Obama.

Why didn't Bernie Sanders raise any money for the DNC? Short version: Clinton is there to do it for him.

What Would a Trump Victory Tell Us About the Republican Party? The article proposes several possibilities about what pundits and politicians may have gotten wrong in underestimating the chances of a Trump victory. Very interesting to look back at this January post a few months later.

The Smug Style in American Liberalism: Accurately characterized on Reddit as Vox Voxsplains Itself.
l33tminion: (Jon Stewart)
There are a few stories I've really wanted to comment on that I haven't gotten around to, so time for a post while I still have a moment to write.

Long post below )
l33tminion: (Rainbow)
Big news from the Supreme Court this week.

I guess a Scalia/Thomas/Alito dissent is as close to unanimous as you can get on any Supreme Court decision on legislation that's controversial along liberal/conservative lines.

Scalia is big on the Fourteenth Amendment working how those voting on it would have intended, but not so much for the Affordable Care Act.

Scalia's dissent in Obergefell, is pretty entertaining and completely histrionic. He he decries the decision as a "judicial Putsch" by a bunch of east- and west-coast lawyers, and all but exhorts the states to disregard the ruling. (Alito writes something similar, but more calmly. Roberts just wishes the Supreme Court was more conservative. Thomas doesn't think the Fourteenth Amendment protects a class of citizens from being excluded from receiving government benefits at all, only from being restrained or imprisoned.)
l33tminion: (Wings)
I'm in Shaker Heights for Thanksgiving (Julie, too). We've actually been in Cleveland since Sunday morning, but haven't gotten around to posting because... I don't know why. I feel like this vacation is getting away from me, though it's been really nice seeing the friends and family I've seen.

The train in was running super-late, so we didn't get home until 7AM on Sunday. The weather has been blustery and cold in turns, turning to snow.

My folks are doing well. I got some time to catch up with my siblings. My sister, Melissa, is freelancing and busy with tech week for a show. I got to see her and meet her boyfriend, Elliot, on Thanksgiving day. My brother, Solomon, started a new job at Crop Kitchen a few weeks ago, and our family had dinner at the restaurant on Wednesday (it's good!). Julie, Solomon, and I went to the Natural History Museum. We went out on the town with Markos and Co (including his new girlfriend, who's really interesting and nice and hangs out with a cool crowd). We caught up with Dan and Anne, who are preparing for incoming progeny in T minus some small number. I was also happy to hear from my Cousin Miriam, who called from the other side of the globe with some Thanksgiving well-wishes. Thanksgiving dinner was wonderful.

The national (and local, for Cleveland) news has me all out of sorts. I'll limit my commentary to this (which I've repeated a few times elsewhere): There's more to the systemic social issues surrounding race relations in America than implicit bias lowering barriers to violence in the moments before a tragedy. An 18-year-old getting in a fist-fight with a police officer or an unsupervised 12-year-old pointing a realistic-looking toy gun at strangers in a park in a neighbourhood with a high incidence of armed crime and gang violence, those are also things that happen in context.

I also want to share a few related links to things that have been impinging on my thoughts:My 10-year high school reunion is Saturday. It seems few of my high school friends will be there. I guess it will be interesting to see who else remembers me. I've changed a lot since high school, and I'm thankful for that, to say the least.
l33tminion: (Carpool)
MA ballot questions and my positions:

1 - Stop indexing gas tax to inflation - strong NO

If you want to cut the gas tax, vote to cut the gas tax. There's some sense in a gas tax that's a fixed surcharge instead of a percentage tax, maybe it doesn't make sense for the tax to go up when gas in particular is expensive. But at whatever level, fixed taxes need some way of keeping up with general inflation, and having to pass tax levies all the time is not as smooth a process for dealing with routine maintenance expenses as indexing to inflation.

2 - Extend bottle deposit to all bottled beverages - YES

I can't think of any sane policy reason for having a 5-cent recycling deposit for beer and soda but not for bottled water or juice or energy drinks. And there is a big difference in overall recycling rates for bottles with the deposit.

3 - Casino re-ban - weak YES

Some part of me is against yanking the rugs out from under business owners after allowing them to make these plans in the first place. On the other hand, I was opposed then, I'm opposed now, and shouldn't they have seen this coming?

4 - Minimum paid sick time for employees - strong YES

Paid sick time should be part of the minimum standard of decency for how employers treat employees. Sick employees create a classic externality, if a sick employee is incentivized to work anyways and a customer gets sick as a result, the customer bears that cost and likely won't know the cause. This is also a pro-family policy, it requires that sick leave can be used to care for a sick child, spouse, parent, or parent-in-law.

(Similar reasoning from LJ friends here and here.)

The other electoral stuff is less exciting. MA governor race is between Coakley (a lukewarm Democrat of "losing to Scott Brown" fame) and some Massachusetts Republican (with a far-right running mate). (I could vote third-party, I guess.) And the Republicans are likely to win a victory (though we'll see what they do with it) in the Senate.
l33tminion: (Colbert)
Two of my friends from high school, Matt and Dan, have started a political anti-debate podcast titled The Common Ground. It's a little rough around the edges (they still need to format their podcast feed correctly), but I think it's quite good. Check it out.
l33tminion: (Jon Stewart)
Here's a local news story I neglected to mention here earlier:

A local supermarket renowned for it's big crowds and cheap produce is in turmoil after the former CEO was ousted. The two main investors are cousins and their families, Arthur T. Demoulas (the former CEO) and Arthur S. Demoulas. After long-standing conflicts, the board ejected ATD and named James Gooch (a former president at RadioShack) and Felicia Thornton as co-CEOs. The Arthur S. side seems to be looking to increase shareholder dividends and possibly sell off the business to private equity. Other big supermarket chains in the area have significantly higher prices and worse employee compensation, so it doesn't take a genius to predict the planned new course for the company.

The result: Wildcat strikes and massive employee protests. Enough disruption to the warehouses to cause truckloads of spoilage and empty shelves in the stores (which was a bizarre sight to see there). Associates putting up protest signs in the store and picketing on their off-hours. Organizers fired, threats of mass firings. Counter-threats from pretty much every store manager of mass resignations. Sole demand of "return the old CEO". Many customers boycotting, others turning away due to the disruption in service. The whole massive supermarket chain wrecked in the space of a few weeks.

ATD has offered to buy out the other shareholders, but the board is considering other bids, and the ASD faction would have to accept the offer. I wouldn't be surprised to see him sell out to some big chain anyways. Sack the workers and sell the buildings to some other supermarket chain for a fraction of their previous value. Livelihoods wrecked and a successful business razed because owning half of a $3B enterprise wasn't enough to assuage ASD's greed.

More here, here, and here.
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