Tuesday, January 31, 2017

#MakeAmericaSmartAgain First Look at Findings of NASA Twins Study | NASA

This is what's great about scientific discovery. NASA took advantage of having a pair of twins in the program so they could learn more about how space affects humans.

And certainly, this is just the beginning. There is the possibility that we could learn more about the overall human body and how it responds - and how we can make things better for humans.


Refugee screening.

I think most people simply don't understand the process, the work, and yes the vetting of individuals seeking to come to the US.

Let me sum up. I think many just assume that it works like this: You're living in a country that becomes unstable. You pack up your belongings and fly to the US, perhaps we even fly you here on a magic carpet. You get to immigration and they usher you in and give you a place to live, money, food stamps, and whatever you need! It's magical.

Except that from most countries, you need a visa to come to the US. Good luck with that in many cases. Visas are granted in blocks and quotas and vary from place to place. And the state department monitors developments around the world and updates its policies regularly.

Say you manage to get a flight and come here with no visa, and head to customs. Question one is about your intention, and based on your passport, you likely would be sent to a detention camp. And welcome to legal limbo.

And realistically, how many foreign nationals can afford to get out and make their way to the US, or could even find passage.

No. For the vast majority, they enter the refugee program. The state department assembled this guide to help you understand how complex it is.

And from some regions, there can be even more vetting. It's harder than this. And we're talking months - or even years - before you can get here.

So shutting down 7 countries to allow for more vetting - or whatever nonsense is spewed - is just a load of crap.

Could the process be improved? Sure it could. Is it perfect? No. But it allows for a fair process.


women's march sign



Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Monday, January 23, 2017

#MakeAmericaSmartAgain NASAs forgotten rocket girls

I haven't had a chance to catch Hidden Figures (Disneys movie about women, particularly women of color) who helped the space program. But I look forward to it. 

I understand it's relatively accurate, but if you want to learn more about these amazing women, here's a good starting point. 

They did so much for the space race and ultimately got so little credit. Not that it's about credit. They did it - as most people at nasa do - for a greater purpose. 

Yes. This.

I saw this on the huffington post and I think this sums it up.

Look you can say what you want about "respect" and moving on and whatever. But the problem is that el donaldo doesn't have a position, and seeks to incite everyone, and openly embraces white supremacy and bigotry.

Those of us who care should be activists.

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

illegitimate, Not my president. Not OUR president

There are a lot of words that people apply to the Donald.  Some are true.  Some have a ring of truth.  Some are just amusing, but may not be accurate.  So you can say "crazy" or "misogynistic" or "racist" or "pompous" and they may or may not stick.  But I'm going to go with what John Lewis said, and this one can't be argued: illegitimate.

The problem here is quite simple: there was some kind of election hack by a foreign power.  And through partisanship, stupidity, or negligence, some of our countries finest leadership have decided that it just doesn't matter.  Shame on all of them.  This should be the top of the list, number one thing EVERYONE should be talking about.  A foreign power set out to disrupt the election.  It doesn't matter which candidate won.  The election is tainted, and there was no winner.

Let me 'splain.  At this point, we, the people, don't know what happened.  We have heard that there was an attempt to influence and know that Russia was behind the DNC hack, was providing disinformation, and may (or may not) have played a larger role in shaping the outcome.

I want to look at this two ways: the first is supposing that Russia altered the outcome in some physical way.  That tampering occurred and the results were changed.  We have no evidence whatsoever that this may have happened.  But, there were a couple of interesting findings right after the election that several counties in Michigan and Wisconsin experienced anomalies: the counties had the exact same win total for the Donald.  But everyone declined to investigate further, and in the near-term we can't know for sure what this means.

Jill Stein attempted to force a recount in those states and a few others, and the outcome of that was not surprising: based on convoluted legal rules about recounts, states rights, and limited evidence to support the claim, the recount efforts failed.  So again, we can't know.  But there was one county that did report an over vote, and it was corrected.  And several election workers anecdotally said that they weren't seeing the results quite as they were reported. This suggests that more investigation is required.

But to be clear, the fact that these recounts failed based on a legal challenge is not the same thing as saying they uncovered nothing.

Also, I should point out that after the 2012 election, the hacker group  "Anonymous" reported there was an attempt by someone to alter the outcome of the election, which they thwarted.  Who's to say that this wasn't another effort to do the same thing?  We just don't know.

And finally, the polling numbers. Look, I realize polling is an indicator and can be inaccurate at times. But this was wildly inaccurate, to the point where it makes you question the methods. But yet, the methods were sound in other races, and other topics - just not at the presidential level.  At this point, we can't know if there was any problem there, but we can wonder a bit what happened.

On the one hand we kept hearing about "hidden Trump supporters" which seems like utter nonsense - they were all pretty vocal in their support.  And on the other, what if the hidden voters weren't voters at all, but hackers who altered the results?

For me, the math didn't work.  I live in Florida and was looking at the results as they were coming in.  Around 35% of the vote was in when Comey made his bid to influence the election (more on that in a moment).  That would be about half of the ultimate voter turnout.  I did the math at that point, realizing the election results might change.  To that point, Clinton had a sizable lead. I looked at the results by county, realizing that there are 7 counties in Florida that are very large and swing elections, and 60 that are much smaller, but high voter turnout can have some play.  I did some calculations, and determined that if the smaller counties turned out heavily in favor of Trump, and the larger ones went from 20% for Trump to 40% for Trump, he could win - but by a slim margin.  He won by a fairly large margin.  That just wasn't logical.  It makes no sense.  So perhaps there was some tampering?  It surely makes me scratch my head.

Now to the other side of the scale.  Lets assume there was no tampering, only an attempt to influence.  Misinformation, hacking of servers to gain an advantage, and general negligence on the part of some other elected officials.  And all of this directed by a foreign government to influence the outcome.  Yes, we still vote.  And what the actually did didn't directly change the outcome.

But the hint of influence of someone outside of the country interfering with our free and fair elections is not acceptable.  Ever.  Surely McCarthy is rolling over in his grave: we allowed Russian interference in our politics.  He sought to root out the commie influence at its core. We're more or less saying "meh"...

And if the net effect isn't bad enough, we have stupid people saying things like "well, we live in glass houses, so we shouldn't throw stones....we do it to other countries, so it happening to us is whatever."  That is someone supposedly representing US.  Ignorance is dangerous.

And then there's the Comey factor.  One week prior to the election, he makes a public spectacle of saying "there's nothing to see here."  Whether he was acting on his own, or if he was a pawn (or more) in a bigger game of misinformation remains to be seen.  But given we have heard - from the CIA no less - that the Russian intent was to disrupt and influence the election one could rightly question Comey's motivation.  He did disrupt and did influence in some way.  Even if he cast enough doubt to sway the outcome back in Trumps favor just because he felt like it (with nothing else as a motivation), it still was an influence, and free and fair went out the window.

So, I submit to you that the Donald did not win this election.  And he will never be my president.

I am a big believer in democracy.  When W won in 2000 by the slimmest of margins in Florida I didn't like the outcome - but it was free and fair and the voters spoke.  Shame on those who didn't vote, or whose ballots were not counted because they couldn't punch a hole.  But there was no interference and no tampering.  I respected the office of the presidency and may have loathed most days that W served, but he was our president and history tells us that while he wasn't the best, he actually tried.  And cared about the citizenry he was elected to represent.

One thing I found interesting in that case was that congress wasn't quite as partisan at that point - well not to the point of treason anyway - and the legality of the election wound up at the Supreme Court.  Ultimately, they decided the election. (and as a side note: several newspapers went back and reviewed the ballots with the rules set forth for what counts by judges, and Gore probably would have won by a slim margin, so really this could have gone either way).  In our current election, I was surprised to see the Supreme Court not get involved.

Its a shame that in an effort to get their agenda - whatever it is - the Republican party sold itself out in many ways.  On the surface, it surely seems like an articulate african american man was too much for some to take.  And a white, self-interested inarticulate man is a better choice to lead "them"

But he doesn't represent everyone.  Only those that prop him up, financially or with adulation.  He lost the popular vote by a LARGE margin, and has told us again and again that he is only in it for himself.

We don't know his position on a single issue. We don't know where his actual interests lie. He tends to run behind the scenes with 140 character comments that seek to confuse and undermine established policy. According to many reports, he speaks to world leaders on unsecured lines about whatever is top of mind - and apparently that's often his own business interests.

And as far as the hacking, the position for a rational person to take would be "hey I won, and it's terrific, but I welcome the intelligence community to look into it further because someone hacking the election weakens our democracy" rather than being an autocrat and admonishing anyone who doesn't agree with his point of view.

One other thing I'd like to mention in all of this is the electoral college. Our founding fathers set out to make us a worthy democracy. They established the electoral college as a means to distribute the votes in the same way that congress allocates itself. Proportional votes based on population. The intent was not to make each state hoard the votes and give them all-or-nothing to a candidate based on some silly rules made up in the last century.

We can debate the constitutionality of whether "all or nothing" by state is valid.

The electorate were always to come from the population at large and be appointed by their party. But their role was to protect and defend the constitution. They could be "Hamilton electors" and vote differently if the constitution was to be damaged.

Federal law, ahem, trumps, the state laws. Various state laws hold criminal penalties for the electors who don't vote the way they are supposed to. But the laws are invalid because the constitution calls for them to protect the document. In this election they were reminded they could be jailed for not rubber stamping the result, and so most just voted as they were "required to" rather than challenging the status quo.

And, as you may be aware, they can't hold other office. But a population of the 529 people did hold other offices.
In summary, I would argue they constitution was not followed, further underscoring the illegitimacy of the win And it also leads me to this: the electoral college has been abused and needs to be abolished.  It serves no real purpose anymore.

But back to the main point: the Donald wasn't elected freely and fairly. He has no mandate. He has his wide-eyed opinions, his businesses, and what appears to be a lot of baggage.

I won't give in to his petulance. I'll stand strong with those who see it similarly to me. Since he craves attention, I say we don't give it to him. Snub him. Ignore him. Without sacrificing your right to stand up to him.

I don't wish for him to fail, because if he does, then we all do.  But I do hope we find a way to right things - I'm willing to have hope and give him a chance in general to prove me wrong about who he is and what he stands for. But I'll be watching.  Always watching.

 He's not my president. He's not our president. We need to hold onto that as we march through a different part of history - and hope our democracy holds up.

Godspeed, as they say.

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

In my opinion: Trump's ties to Russia (and why he's not our president)

There's an old proverb attributed to Confucious that says "may you live in interesting times/"  I would say surely, that we are.

The intelligence community has been unequivocal in their assertion that there was some attempt to influence the election. They detailed some in the report that was provided.  But there were still whispers that there was more that they had.

Yesterday, the 35 page document shed some light on some of the other stuff.  Now its fair to say that intelligence doesn't deal with hypotheses, or vague concepts.  When they produce a report of some kind - especially one that is delivered to a superior (like say the director, or the president), you don't put nonsense in it.

So while the independent facts are still being sorted out, it seems quite clear that there was more than just hacking some DNC emails that went on to help Trump win the election.  We don't know what those things are, specifically, but we do know that the Russians (and who "they" are is still a little unclear - oligarchs?  mafia types? government officials?  some wannabe hacker types who want to be famous?) have some type of information on the donald that they want to use to blackmail him.  And get what they want.

There is also evidence pointing to Putin wanting to be sure the donald won - whatever it took to do that. There is one specific passage that suggests that he wasn't satisfied with disinformation getting this done.

And now we have to wait and see what actually comes of this.  But there are other parts to this story.  Comey, who I had assumed was corrupt, then later thought maybe he was played, turns out to not want this info to get out there and is doing his best to keep it away from everyone.  Which smells like treason to me. 

And then there are various politicians who have been briefed on this and who have chosen to do nothing because, it would seem, they could also blackmail the donald to get their way. Which is also treasonous behavior.

There should not be a swearing in until this matter is resolved. If Paul Ryan needs to be the acting president until this matter is settled so be it. I don't much like Ryan, but at least .... something.  He's not beholden to the Russians?  That's all I got.

Which brings us back to the election.  I think its obvious that IF there was an actual hack into the election mechanism (the machines themselves, corrupting people counting them, manipulating results, etc) then its clear he wasn't elected in a free and fair election.

But lets assume for a moment that there was nothing of that sort.  That the donald took the election simply because of ignorance and disinformation being presented.  And specifically one traitorous act by Comey in trying to help sway the election "nothing to see here, but please don't vote for Clinton"...shouldn't that in and of itself be enough to invalidate the whole thing, and send him (Comery that is) to prison?

If his aim was specifically to disrupt the process - and he succeeded - then how can it stand?

The very sad reality here is that it didn't matter what you and I thought about the election.  Doesn't matter who we voted for.  Either the election itself was hacked and the outcome was made favorable to one candidate - or the influence of one man's stupid comment swayed it. And in either case, democracy lost.

Now as for the knuckleheads that are our elected officials who want to simply turn a blind eye to Russian interference, and let the influence run its course, aren't they acting in a way that is not in the best interests of the United States?  Aren't they subverting their job to protect us from our enemies to get something they want?

They should be accountable too. Treason be thy course as well.

In short, it is my belief that this was not a free and fair election.  If we let it stand, we are basically saying American exceptionalism is dead. Democracy is dead.  We will be a neutered nation. that will never be great again.

So join me in saying this should never stand.

Lincoln once said something along the lines of "all the armies of europe and asia combined could not take a drink from the mississippi.  If destruction be our lot, it must rise up from within." 

And surely that's where we are now.

Come on intelligence. Come on actual news agencies.  Get us the rest of the story.  Don't let us come to our end this way.

And because of the election being tainted and needing an asterisk, I am saying he is not our president.  Not now.  Not ever.

To be clear about all of this: I don't like the man, but this is NOT about that - this is about democracy, and the greater good. 

And one last comment: it sure is a good thing we avoided that email scandal Clinton had.  We dodged a bullet there.  Whew.

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

The ACA - congrats you were conned

The republican "leadership" is hell bent on doing away with the ACA (Obamacare), but this will be fraught with logistical problems, legal challenges, and other difficulties.

And according to a non partisan group, a repeal will ultimately cost 100s of billions of dollars because the tax structure changed.

Plus of course 10s of millions of Americans will be uninsured, or uninsurable. People will literally die because of this pettiness. And don't look to public hospitals for help, as people did pre-ACA. All of that money was funneled away into this program. There will be no additional funds for routine care, as people had 8 years ago. You either pony up and pay full retail, or go without. There is no in between. Surely some people will choose crushing (and predatory) debt to stay alive. But why should they have to?

So congrats to those of you who thought this was just talk. We're all screwed.

What most people miss

The Donald's insistence that the intelligence community is political motivated, or outright lying, serves a deeper purpose than most people realize.

Sure, on the surface it appears that he is trying to promote a point of view that some feel is less than savvy. The problem is that it is fairly savvy. In fact he is doing this to specifically undercut the nature of intelligence and spying in the US. This serves the purpose of having no real counter to Russia's well established spy network and intelligence community.

And it allows Putin to have no major adversary in the west. Perhaps some portions of Europe can still challenge him, but undoubtedly he'll work to undermine them as well.