A primer on “the flu”

via: Jon Crosbie    February 2 at 7:02pm

Okay, I made the mistake of reading the comments section in a post, and now I feel compelled by duty to my profession to type this out. Please, share the hell out of this, because people need to know this stuff.

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Here’s how the Flu Vaccine works. Actually, to understand how the flu vaccine works, you need to understand how your immune system works. Your immune system fights disease by remembering *every* single disease you’ve ever seen in your life. Seriously – every one of them. Your body makes antibodies in response that “tag” things to be destroyed by white blood cells.
If it helps, think of antibodies as the blue ink that explodes if somebody tries to steal something. Now we all know who the thief is.

Your body can crank out antibodies at a moments notice to any disease you’ve ever come into contact with – tag the offending bacteria or virus and your white blood cells come in and the offender dies a horrible death.

Vaccines work by “training” your body’s immune system. Now, there are *two* types of vaccines…inactivated, and live/attenuated. Inactivated vaccines are essentially the protein coat of whatever you’re trying to vaccinate against. “Live/Attenuated” vaccines are viruses or bacteria that have been weakened.

If it helps, think of your body’s immune system as an army. Giving an inactivated vaccine is like holding up the uniform of an enemy soldier in front of your body’s immune system and saying “See this? Everybody? You go seek and destroy everybody wearing this.”

Giving a live/attenuated vaccine is like finding an enemy soldier, beating the crap out of him and putting *that* in front of your body’s immune system and saying “See this guy right here? You go beat the hell out of anything and anybody who looks like him.” Now, if somebody’s immune system is compromised, the beat up bad guy can still cause a lot of damage which is why people who are immune-compromised can’t get live/attenuated vaccines.

The Flu Vaccine is *inactivated*. It’s dead. It is nothing more than the protein coat of influenza with all of the DNA removed. It is an empty shell of a uniform.
Continue reading A primer on “the flu”

Excerpt from the Saboteurs Handbook

(11) General Interference with Organizations and Production

{prepared by the Office of Strategic Services, Jan. 11th, 1944}

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(1)  Insist on doing everything through “channels.” Never permit short-cuts to be taken in order to expedite decisions.

(2) Make “speeches.” Talk as frequently as possible and at great length. Illustrate your “points” by long anecdotes and accounts of personal experiences. Never hesitate to make a few appropriate “patriotic” comments.

(3) When possible, refer all matters to committees, for “further study and consideration.” Attempt to make the committees as large as possible — never less than five.

(4) Bring up irrelevant issues as frequently as possible.

(5) Haggle over precise wordings of communications, minutes, resolutions.

(6) Advocate “caution.” Be “reasonable” and urge your fellow-conferees to be “reasonable” and avoid haste which might result in embarrassments or difficulties later on.

(7) Be worried about the propriety of any decision — raise the question of whether such action as is contemplated lies within the jurisdiction of the group or whether it might conflict with the policy of some higher echelon.

(8) “Misunderstand” orders. Ask endless questions or engage in long correspondence about such orders. Quibble over them when you can.

(9) Do everything possible to delay the delivery of orders. Even though parts of an order may be ready beforehand, don’t deliver it until it is completely ready.

(10) Order high-quality materials which are hard to get. If you don’t get them argue about it. Warn that inferior materials will mean inferior work.

(11) In making work assignments, always sign out the unimportant jobs first. See that the important jobs are assigned to inefficient workers of poor machines.

(12) Insist on perfect work in relatively unimportant products; send back for refinishing those which have the least flaw. Approve other defective parts whose flaws are not visible to the naked eye.

(13) Make mistakes in routing so that parts and materials will be sent to the wrong place in the plant.

(14) When training new workers, give incomplete or misleading instructions.

(15) To lower morale and with it, production, be pleasant to inefficient workers; give them undeserved promotions. Discriminate against efficient workers; complain unjustly about their work.

Continue reading Excerpt from the Saboteurs Handbook

Taking from the 99%….and giving it to the 0.01% – while hollowing out the value of Government

Trump budget highlights disconnect between populist rhetoric and plutocrat reality

Trump’s spending proposal backtracks on his ‘balance the budget’ campaign cry

BY JAMES HOHMANN with Breanne Deppisch and Joanie Greve – WaPo 202 – Feb 13, 2018

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THE BIG IDEA: President Trump campaigned like a populist, but the budget he proposed Monday underscores the degree to which he’s governing as a plutocrat.

Many of his proposals are dead on arrival in Congress, but the blueprint nonetheless speaks volumes about the president’s values – and contradicts many promises he made as a candidate.

“This is a messaging document,” Trump budget director Mick Mulvaney told reporters at the White House.

Here are eight messages that the White House sends with its wish list:

1. Touching third rails he said he wouldn’t:

As a candidate, Trump repeatedly said he would never cut Medicare, Medicaid or Social Security.

Now he proposes cutting Medicare by $554 billion and Medicaid by around $250 billion over the next decade.

His plan includes new per-person limits on the amount of health care each Medicaid enrollee can use and a dramatic shift toward block grants, which would allow states to tighten eligibility requirements and institute work requirements that would kick some off public assistance.

Impacting the middle class, Trump also calls for cutting the subsidies that allow more than four in five people with marketplace health plans to afford their insurance premiums under the Affordable Care Act.

2. Scaling back support for the forgotten man:

Many displaced blue-collar workers in the Rust Belt took the president at his word when he promised to bring back their manufacturing jobs. But Trump’s budget calls for cutting funding for National Dislocated Worker Grants – which provides support to those who lose their jobs because of factory closures or natural disasters — from $219.5 million in 2017 to $51 million in 2019.

Also at the Labor Department, the president wants to slash support for the Adult Employment and Training Activities initiative, which serves high school dropouts and veterans, from $810 million last year to $490 million in 2019.

3. Giving up on a balanced budget:

Trump repeatedly promised that he would balance the budget “very quickly.” It turns out that a guy who has often described himself as the “king of debt” didn’t feel that passionately about deficits. Last year, he laid out a plan to balance the budget in 10 years. This year he didn’t even try. Trump now accepts annual deficits that will run over $1 trillion as the new normal.

Going further, the president also promised on the campaign trail that he’d get rid of the national debt altogether by the end of his second term. But his White House now projects that the national debt, which is already over $20 trillion, will grow more than $2 trillion over the next two years and by at least $7 trillion over the next decade. The administration repeatedly denied this in December as officials pushed to cut taxes by $1.5 trillion.

“After Ronald Reagan’s tax cuts in the 1980s, deficits exploded in the same range as Trump’s now, when calculated as a percentage of the economy, or gross domestic product. But Reagan’s famous ‘riverboat’ gamble came when the total national debt was a fraction of what it is today. Trump is pushing the envelope when debt is already near 80 percent of GDP, leaving far less room to maneuver if the economy turns downward,” David Rogers writes in Politico. “Economists and politicians alike don’t know what happens next. There’s all the edginess of breaking new ground. But also, as with Faulkner’s famous line, there is a sense that the past ‘is not even past.’ … Nothing now seems obvious, except red ink.”
Continue reading Taking from the 99%….and giving it to the 0.01% – while hollowing out the value of Government

Manufactured reality

He Predicted The 2016 Fake News Crisis. Now He’s Worried About An Information Apocalypse.


BuzzFeed News – Charlie Warzel · Feb 11, 2018

In mid-2016, Aviv Ovadya realized there was something fundamentally wrong with the internet — so wrong that he abandoned his work and sounded an alarm. A few weeks before the 2016 election, he presented his concerns to technologists in San Francisco’s Bay Area and warned of an impending crisis of misinformation in a presentation he titled “Infocalypse.”

The web and the information ecosystem that had developed around it was wildly unhealthy, Ovadya argued. The incentives that governed its biggest platforms were calibrated to reward information that was often misleading and polarizing or both. Platforms like Facebook, Twitter, and Google prioritized clicks, shares, ads, and money over quality of information, and Ovadya couldn’t shake the feeling that it was all building toward something bad — a kind of critical threshold of addictive and toxic misinformation. The presentation was largely ignored by employees from the Big Tech platforms — including a few from Facebook who would later go on to drive the company’s NewsFeed integrity effort.

“At the time, it felt like we were in a car careening out of control and it wasn’t just that everyone was saying, ‘we’ll be fine’ — it’s that they didn’t even see the car,” he said.

 Ovadya saw early what many — including lawmakers, journalists, and Big Tech CEOs — wouldn’t grasp until months later: Our platformed and algorithmically optimized world is vulnerable — to propaganda, to misinformation, to dark targeted advertising from foreign governments — so much so that it threatens to undermine a cornerstone of human discourse: the credibility of fact.

But that’s just the beginning.

Continue reading Manufactured reality

Polarization may become our undoing

American democracy is doomed

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Some day — not tomorrow, not next year, but probably sometime before runaway climate change forces us to seek a new life in outer-space colonies — there is going to be a collapse of the legal and political order and its replacement by something else. If we’re lucky, it won’t be violent. If we’re very lucky, it will lead us to tackle the underlying problems and result in a better, more robust, political system. If we’re less lucky, well, then, something worse will happen. Very few people agree with me about this, of course. When I say it, people generally think that I’m kidding. America is the richest, most successful country on earth. The basic structure of its government has survived contested elections and Great Depressions and civil rights movements and world wars and terrorist attacks and global pandemics.

People figure that whatever political problems it might have will prove transient — just as happened before. But voiced in another register, my outlandish thesis is actually the conventional wisdom in the United States. Back when George W. Bush was president and I was working at a liberal magazine, there was a very serious discussion in an editorial meeting about the fact that the United States was now exhibiting 11 of the 13 telltale signs of a fascist dictatorship. The idea that Bush was shredding the Constitution and trampling on congressional prerogatives was commonplace. When Obama took office, the partisan valence of the complaints shifted, but their basic tenor didn’t. Conservative pundits — not the craziest, zaniest ones on talk radio, but the most serious and well-regarded — compare Obama’s immigration moves to the actions of a Latin-American military dictator.

In the center, of course, it’s an article of faith that when right and left talk like this they’re simply both wrong. These are nothing but the overheated squeals of partisans and ideologues.

At the same time, when the center isn’t complaining about the excessively vociferous complaints of the out-party of the day, it tends to be in full-blown panic about the state of American politics. And yet despite the popularity of alarmist rhetoric, few people act like they’re actually alarmed. Accusations that Barack Obama or John Boehner or any other individual politician is failing as a leader are flung and then abandoned when the next issue arises. In practice, the feeling seems to be that salvation is just one election away. Hillary Clinton even told Kara Swisher that her agenda as a presidential candidate would be to end partisan gridlock.

It’s not going to work.

Continue reading Polarization may become our undoing

“Fake News” proponents overwhelmingly right wing

‘Fake news’ and the Trumpian threat to democracy

via Washington 202 by Ishaan Tharoor – Feb. 7th, 2018

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When President Trump addressed the World Economic Forum in Davos last month, his jabs at the “nasty,” “vicious,” “fake” media earned him audible groans and hisses — even from some non-American reporters in the room. It may have been a new experience for them, but journalists in the United States have become rather depressingly inured to Trump’s diatribes.

That wasn’t always the case.

“At the end of 2016, ‘fake news’ had a clear meaning. It referred to stories that were fabrications — the Clinton Foundation paying for Chelsea Clinton’s wedding or a child sex ring run out of a D.C. pizza shop,” noted The Washington Post’s Fact Checker. “The phrase was popularized after Google, Facebook and Twitter vowed to eliminate the phony content that some have speculated helped tilt the 2016 election in Donald Trump’s favor.”

But, starting early in his presidency, Trump seized upon the words “fake news” and shaped them into a cudgel he incessantly wields. He has routinely tweeted against the “fake news” media when it has the temerity to fact-check a multitude of erroneous claims he has made; doled out “fake news” awards to outlets whose coverage he thinks is helplessly biased against him; and looked on as a series of autocrats and strongmen abroad aped his rhetoric, invoking “fake news” to argue away documented reports of ethnic cleansing, torture and war crimes.

A new study, though, restores a bit of clarity to what “fake news” actually represents. Researchers at Oxford University’s Internet Institute spent 18 months identifying 91 sources of propaganda from across the political spectrum on social media, which spread what they deemed “junk news” that was deliberately misleading or masquerading as authentic reporting. They then did a deep analysis of three months of social media activity in the United States, studying 13,477 Twitter users and 47,719 public Facebook pages that consumed or shared this fake news between November 2017 and January 2018.

What they found was a profound imbalance.

“Analysis showed that the distribution of junk news content was unevenly spread across the ideological spectrum,” the institute said in a news release. “On Twitter, a network of Trump supporters shared the widest range of junk news sources and accounted for the highest volume of junk news sharing in the sample, closely followed by the conservative media group. On Facebook, extreme hard right pages shared more junk news than all the other audience groups put together.”
Continue reading “Fake News” proponents overwhelmingly right wing

“This I Believe” – by Lori Gallagher Witt

Note: A post in defense of rational liberalism

“1. I believe a country should take care of its weakest members. A country cannot call itself civilized when its children, disabled, sick, and elderly are neglected. Period.

2. I believe healthcare is a right, not a privilege. Somehow that’s interpreted as “I believe Obamacare is the end-all, be-all.” This is not the case. I’m fully aware that the ACA has problems, that a national healthcare system would require everyone to chip in, and that it’s impossible to create one that is devoid of flaws, but I have yet to hear an argument against it that makes “let people die because they can’t afford healthcare” a better alternative. I believe healthcare should be far cheaper than it is, and that everyone should have access to it. And no, I’m not opposed to paying higher taxes in the name of making that happen.

3. I believe education should be affordable and accessible to everyone. It doesn’t necessarily have to be free (though it works in other countries so I’m mystified as to why it can’t work in the US), but at the end of the day, there is no excuse for students graduating college saddled with five- or six-figure debt.

4. I don’t believe your money should be taken from you and given to people who don’t want to work. I have literally never encountered anyone who believes this. Ever. I just have a massive moral problem with a society where a handful of people can possess the majority of the wealth while there are people literally starving to death, freezing to death, or dying because they can’t afford to go to the doctor. Fair wages, lower housing costs, universal healthcare, affordable education, and the wealthy actually paying their share would go a long way toward alleviating this. Somehow believing that makes me a communist.

5. I don’t throw around “I’m willing to pay higher taxes” lightly. I’m retired and on a fixed income, but I still pay taxes. If I’m suggesting something that involves paying more, well, it’s because I’m fine with paying my share as long as it’s actually going to something besides lining corporate pockets or bombing other countries while Americans die without healthcare.
Continue reading “This I Believe” – by Lori Gallagher Witt

Just a typical day in paradise

The Daily 202: Public opinion is protecting Mueller’s investigation — for now

January 24 at 8:48 AM
What the special counsel’s team will want to ask Trump
With indications that special counsel Robert Mueller is seeking an interview with President Trump, here are some burning questions his team will want to ask.

With Breanne Deppisch and Joanie Greve.

THE BIG IDEA: The people Robert Mueller’s team is talking to, and the questions they’re asking, suggest that the special counsel is keenly interested in whether President Trump sought to obstruct justice. Consider these six stories that broke in the past 24 hours:

1. Mueller is seeking to question Trump in the coming weeks about his decisions to oust national security adviser Michael Flynn and FBI Director James Comey. “Within the past two weeks, the special counsel’s office has indicated to the White House that the central subjects investigators wish to discuss with the president are the departures of Flynn and Comey and the events surrounding their firings,” Carol D. Leonnig, Sari Horwitz and Josh Dawsey report. “Mueller has also expressed interest in Trump’s efforts to remove [Jeff] Sessions as attorney general or pressure him into quitting, according to a person familiar with the probe. The person said the special counsel was seeking to determine whether there was a ‘pattern’ of behavior by the president.”

2. Trump asked the acting director of the FBI how he voted. Ellen Nakashima, Josh and Devlin Barrett scoop that, shortly after firing Comey last May, the president summoned the bureau’s acting director to the Oval Office: “The two men exchanged pleasantries, but before long, Trump, according to several current and former U.S. officials, asked Andrew McCabe a pointed question: Whom did he vote for in the 2016 election? McCabe said he didn’t vote … [Trump] also vented his anger at McCabe over the several hundred thousand dollars in donations that his wife, a Democrat, received for her failed 2015 Virginia state Senate bid from a political action committee controlled by a close friend of Hillary Clinton …

“McCabe, who has spent more than two decades at the bureau, found the conversation with Trump ‘disturbing,’ said one former U.S. official. Inside the FBI, officials familiar with the exchange expressed frustration that a civil servant — even a very senior agent in the No. 2 position — would be asked how he voted and criticized for his wife’s political leanings by the president. One person said the Trump-McCabe conversation is of interest to [Mueller].

Continue reading Just a typical day in paradise

The Atlantic Senior Editor talks about how to detect “fake news”

Word by Word. Line by Line

By Yvonne Rolzhausen, senior editor at The Atlantic

In a world where “fake news” thrives and basic editorial standards are often jettisoned as unnecessary expenses, fact-checkers can sometimes feel like an endangered species. But The Atlantic is dedicated to accuracy and truth—and therefore to rigorous fact-checking. Our pieces seek to be thought-provoking and interesting—but to be truly insightful, they must be right.

Checkers verify every fact published in our magazine, from specific details and quotes to larger generalities. We think about a piece on a variety of levels: Are the basic facts correct? Are the facts underlying various opinions correct? And, finally, do they all fit together into a comprehensive and solid argument? We go word by word, line by line. For an intensively-reported piece, I might have dozens of sources to contact and hundreds of questions for an author. The process can take anywhere from a few hours (for a very short article) to weeks or even months (for a complex, legally-fraught one).

Let me walk you through my process for checking this short section of “What ISIS Really Wants,” Graeme Wood’s March 2015 feature for The Atlantic, the story with the highest engagement time in the world on the internet that year. In the piece, Graeme explores the ideology of the Islamic State, arguing that the group is rooted in carefully-considered religious beliefs.

How do I go about fact-checking a piece like that? Here are the basic steps.
Continue reading The Atlantic Senior Editor talks about how to detect “fake news”

Economy = Good …. Everything Else = Poor

Poll finds public optimistic about the economy, critical of Trump, split on issues
January 21 at 12:01 AM

President Trump arrives to speak to March for Life participants on Friday. A new Washington Post-ABC News poll shows that Trump’s approval rating has remained at a historically low level, compared with past presidents. (Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post)

Americans have reached a split-screen assessment of the state of the country at the end of President Trump’s first year in office, expressing the most positive views about the economy in nearly two decades while giving Trump historically low approval, according to a new Washington Post-ABC News survey.

This stark contrast between perceptions of the economy and assessments of the president continue a pattern that has existed since Trump was sworn in a year ago, that of a president whose personal actions and behavior have stirred controversy and created a political distraction in the face of steady growth, low unemployment and record gains in the stock market.

How voters weigh those two views will have a decided impact on the upcoming midterm elections. Democrats, who see an opportunity to take back control of the House and have a possible although uphill path to control of the Senate, will seek to make the November elections about Trump. Republicans hope perceptions of the economy will influence enough voters to hold down their expected losses enough to protect that House majority.
Continue reading Economy = Good …. Everything Else = Poor

Women, and Men need to take it to the next level !!

‘Don’t say that to me, don’t do that to me. I hate it.’ I armed my daughters with these words to deal with harassment. Let’s no longer mollify powerful men
Illustration by Sébastien Thibault

 

In each of my daughter’s lives came the day in fifth grade when we had to sit on her bed and practice. I pretended to be the boy in class who was making her sick with dread. She had to look right at me and repeat the words until they felt possible, if not easy: “Don’t say that to me. Don’t do that to me. I hate it.” As much as I wanted to knock heads around, I knew the only real solution was to arm a daughter for self-defense. But why was it so hard to put teeth into that defense? Why does it come more naturally to smile through clenched teeth and say “Oh, stop,” in the mollifying tone so regularly, infuriatingly mistaken for flirtation?
Continue reading Women, and Men need to take it to the next level !!

The Russian Affair is not just a few rogue agents

Russian Connections

(information and analysis by Richard @ Flexible Reality,  obtained from the transcript of testimony at the Senate Judiciary Committee hearing given by Glenn Simpson in August 2016 – )

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We have read and heard about Americans associated with the Trump Campaign who have strong ties to Russian oligarchs, FSB and KGB operatives, mafia figures, and intelligence personnel close to the Putin administration. I’m talking about: Paul Manafort, Carter Page, Larry Flynn, and others.

But this ignores the countless Russian nationals and affiliates with direct ties to Trump, his Administration, and his businesses. They include:

William Browder, Hermitage Capital Management, Edward Baumgartner, Demetri Baranovsky, Solntsevo Brotherhood, Salomon Brothers, Peter Star, Felix Sater, Semyon Mogilevich, Anatoli Samachornov, Rinat Akhmetshin, Natalia Veselnitskaya, Robert Arakelian, Denis Katsyv, Pyotr Katsyv, Paul Behrends, Irakle Kaveladre, Oleg Deripaska, Victor Yanukovych, Emin Agalarov, Aras Agalarov, Igor Sechin, Sergei Ivanov, Igor Divyekin, Yudkovich Mogilebich, Tevfik Arif, Pyotr Aven, Mikhail Fridman, German Khan, Sergei Millian, and Michael Cohen,

Most, if not all these individuals have proven ties to organized crime, Russian Intelligence services, Vladimir Putin, the Russian kleptocracy, anti-democratic political activities in the former Soviet Union, or questionable multi-million dollar business deals. While some may not belong primarily to the cabal involved in political interference with the 2016 General Election, all can accurately be viewed as hostile to US democratic interests.

Job skills retraining is not a panacea

The False Promises of Worker Retraining

Despite assurances from policymakers that retraining is the key to success, such programs have consistently failed to equip workers with the preparation they need to secure jobs.

via The Atlantic by JEFFREY SELINGO    JAN 8, 2018
When Travis Busch graduated from high school in Jefferson, Iowa, in 1999, he followed many of his classmates on the well-plotted and well-trod path to college. Busch took classes at Iowa Central Community College during the day and worked part-time at night on the floor of a local factory that made stock tanks for horse and cattle farms. But after a year and a half in college, he dropped out to work full time.
“I didn’t want to go to college in the first place,” he said. “I was already making money. I didn’t see why I needed it.”Fast-forward to January 2017. The factory where Busch worked was sold to a company that moved its operations to Kentucky and laid off the workers in Iowa. Before he lost his job, Busch met with local workforce officials who presented him three options: apply for an apprenticeship, go back to college, or try his luck on the job market with only a high-school diploma.“I had a long conversation with my wife and decided that I didn’t want just a job, but I wanted a career,” Busch said. “I wanted to go somewhere where I wouldn’t have that feeling they are going to lay me off. I wanted job security.”For Busch that job security would come from installing and repairing heating and air-conditioning systems. But on the day he went to sign up for the HVAC program at Des Moines Area Community College, the coordinator he was scheduled to meet with wasn’t there. Instead he bumped into the head of the tool and die program, Charlie Peffers, who took Busch on a tour of the college’s labs. “He showed me the machines and really sold the program,” Busch said.
What ultimately persuaded Busch to give the tool and die program a try were Peffers’s comments about the job outlook for his graduates, who make parts for a variety of industrial machines. Most second-year students in the program were already working part-time. Companies came to campus every other week to recruit students, offering full-time jobs that started around $40,000 a year. And some students graduated with multiple job offers.

Busch, who began classes in the tool and die program this fall, is the type of worker that politicians love to trot out when they talk about how job retraining is the answer to putting Americans back to work. But in many ways, Busch is one of the lucky ones. A relatively small chunk of the Americans who missed the conventional on-ramp to higher education and a career out of high school are now getting a second chance at a well-paying job through retraining.

Worker retraining is a classic chicken-or-egg dilemma. Employers don’t want to expand or relocate without the availability of an already-skilled workforce. Workers who have been laid off through corporate downsizing or because their jobs were shipped to a foreign country don’t want to dedicate the time and effort needed to go through retraining without the pledge of a sure-fire job with the same or a better paycheck.

So when you plug real people into the easy fixes designed by policy wonks, the situation suddenly becomes more complicated: Older workers who haven’t seen the inside of a classroom for decades are frightened by going back to school. Men don’t want to train for the jobs that are left in town, particularly in health care, because of the stigma of being employed in occupations traditionally filled by women—a phenomena that Lawrence Katz, a Harvard University labor economist, has frequently called an “identity mismatch,” rather than a skills mismatch. And in a country founded by people on the move, unemployed workers are unwilling to relocate to find work.
Continue reading Job skills retraining is not a panacea

Michael Wolff provides a prequel to “Fire and Fury”

How Donald Trump’s White House team handles his giant ego

Soon after the inauguration of Donald Trump on 20 January 2017, GQ columnist Michael Wolff was granted special access to the White House. Over seven months, in more than 200 interviews with the president and his staff, he sought to understand the motivations of the most peculiar presidency in history. Here, with an exclusive excerpt from the Micheal Wolff book on Trump, Fire And Fury: Inside The Trump White House, we look beyond the rhetoric, ego and dissimulation to expose the truth about the Commander in Tweets’ first breathless year

Eight days into office, President Trump speaks with the Australian prime minister over the phone, joined by national security advisor Michael Flynn (centre) and White House chief strategist Steve Bannon, both of whom he would later fire.

On 19 April last year, Bill O’Reilly, the Fox News anchor and the biggest star in cable news, was pushed out by the Murdoch family over charges of sexual harassment. This was a continuation of the purge at the network that had begun nine months before with the firing of its chief, Roger Ailes. Fox achieved its ultimate political influence with the election of Donald Trump, yet now the future of the network seemed held in a peculiar Murdoch family limbo, between ­conservative father and liberal sons.

A few hours after the O’Reilly announcement, Ailes, from his new oceanfront home in Palm Beach, Florida – precluded by his separation agreement with Fox from any efforts to compete with it for 18 months – sent an emissary into the West Wing with a question for Steve Bannon (at the time, still Trump’s chief strategist): O’Reilly and Fox News host Sean Hannity are in, what about you? Ailes, in secret, had been plotting his comeback with a new conservative network. Then in internal exile at the White House, Bannon – “the next Ailes” – was all ears.

As right-wing media had fiercely coalesced around Trump – readily excusing all the ways he might contradict the ­traditional conservative ethos – mainstream media had become as fiercely resistant. The country was divided as much by media as by politics. Media was the avatar of politics. A sidelined Ailes was eager to get back in the game. This was his natural playing field: 1) Trump’s election proved the power of a ­significantly smaller but more ­dedicated electoral base – just as, in cable television terms, a smaller, hardcore base was more valuable than a bigger, less committed one; 2) this meant an inverse dedication by an equally small circle of passionate enemies; 3) hence, there would be blood.

If Bannon was as finished as he appeared in the White House, this was his ­opportunity too. Indeed, the problem with Bannon’s $1.5 million a year internet-centric Breitbart News was that it couldn’t be monetised or scaled up in a big way, but with O’Reilly and Hannity on board, there could be television riches fuelled by, into the foreseeable future, a new Trump-inspired era of right-wing passion and hegemony.

Continue reading Michael Wolff provides a prequel to “Fire and Fury”

Basket of deplorables revisited

{from a conversation on Facebook}

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The noun version works just fine for me
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Lookups for ‘deplorable’ spike following comments at a New York fund-raiser
MERRIAM-WEBSTER.COM
Robert Bouillon I wonder if she included a chapter on this comment in her book, “What Happened”?

One would imagine it would be hard to convert a Trump supporter you once labelled as “deplorable”

From her address she said: “you can put half of Trump supporters into what I call the basket of deplorable” … – so that half of the target is not in the basket. Second defense: she said this at a fundraiser/meeting foSee More

Robert Bouillon I guess for me, it strikes a personal chord. Not because I supported Trump (I voted for Jill Stein). As I’ve gotten older, I’ve grown a kind of allergy to name-calling and derogatory labels. They really serve no purpose other than to boost one’s own ego by demeaning someone else. Yes, many of the racist and homophobic actions partaken are repugnant, and deplorable. Does that make the people who perform them deplorable? I would argue no, because I understand that we’re all a product of our environment, our genetics, and out upbringing. We’re all human. If there’s a group of people behaving deplorably, it is a cultural problem. It is a leadership problem. It’s a government problem. If a person is raised to hate blacks, is that their fault? How do you SOLVE the problem? Certainly not by calling someone a name.

So for me, the context in which she delivers this message doesn’t change that perception that it was immature and reflected an egotistical perspective on her part, and poor leadership. I can tell you from many a facebook debate that telling someone who is racist that they are “deplorable” does not push the conversation in a productive direction, and for good reason.

She lost points with me, and disenfranchised many others who were on the fence, and rightfully so. It’s amazing to me that blunders this big are so overlooked as she highlights ‘Russian Meddling’ as the main reason she lost.

Robert Bouillon We should universally condemn racism, homophobia, etc, but not the people. Otherwise, you lose all hope of changing anything.
Richard Pressl Back in my college days, I participated in several group training programs designed to address dysfunctional personality issues, and as I recall, one of the prime transmission lines was to make sure offenders came to understand and internalize the notion their aberrations were “not socially acceptable”. I combined this with Altemeyer’s studies on sociopaths and formed the operating principle that your “social welfare” orientation toward aberrant behavior is suitable for large portions of humanity, yet there is a large segment that gains strength for their aberration by what they perceive as the acquiescence of a targeted audience. Translated to current political phraseology it yields the labeling of progressives as “snowflakes” by the Alt-Right. As a huge fan of “Justice”, I am willing to give people the benefit of doubt on the nature vs nurture seesaw; but once a person steps into the anti-social world I slowly shed my allowances depending on how far the transgressions go. By choosing to actively support a candidate who publically supported a whole “basket full” of deplorable ideas, orientations, and actions – then, in my book they deserved to be called out for it – although ideally, not by Clinton herself….rather it should have been the community saying it.

The unseen World: by George Monbiot

The Unseen World

Posted: 28 Dec 2017 04:43 AM PST

To be aware of the wonders of the living planet is to take on an unbearable burden of grief

By George Monbiot, published in the Guardian 19th December 2017

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What you see is not what others see. We inhabit parallel worlds of perception, bounded by our interests and experience. What is obvious to some is invisible to others. I might find myself standing, transfixed, by the roadside, watching a sparrowhawk hunting among the bushes, astonished that other people could ignore it. But they might just as well be wondering how I could have failed to notice the new V6 Pentastar Sahara that just drove past.

As the psychologist Richard Wiseman points out, “At any one moment, your eyes and brain only have the processing power to look at a very small part of your surroundings. … your brain quickly identifies what it considers to be the most significant aspects of your surroundings, and focuses almost all of its attention on these elements.” Everything else remains unseen.

Our selective blindness is lethal to the living world. Joni Mitchell’s claim that “you don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone” is, sadly, untrue: our collective memory is wiped clean by ecological loss. One of the most important concepts defining our relationship to the living world is Shifting Baseline Syndrome, coined by the fisheries biologist Daniel Pauly. The people of every generation perceive the state of the ecosystems they encountered in their childhood as normal and natural. When wildlife is depleted, we might notice the loss, but we are unaware that the baseline by which we judge the decline is in fact a state of extreme depletion.

So we forget that the default state of almost all ecosystems – on land and at sea – is domination by a megafauna. We are unaware that there is something deeply weird about British waters: namely that they are not thronged with great whales, vast shoals of bluefin tuna, two-metre cod and halibut the size of doors, as they were until a few centuries ago. We are unaware that the absence of elephants, rhinos, lions, scimitar cats, hyaenas and hippos, that lived in this country during the last interglacial period (when the climate was almost identical to today’s), is also an artifact of human activity.
Continue reading The unseen World: by George Monbiot

Unregulated free markets are not optimal systems

Perhaps the most widely admired of all the economic theories taught in our universities is the notion that an unregulated competitive economy is optimal for everyone.

In this optimal economy, each person is said to be a free actor who makes decisions purely in his or her own self-interest. Economists on both the right and left commonly say that these fundamental ideas tie our values of freedom and individuality to the success of our economies.

The problem is that these ideas are flawed. Along with George A. Akerlof, university professor at Georgetown and a fellow Nobel laureate in economic science, I have used behavioral economics to plumb the soundness of these notions.

In our book, “Phishing for Phools: The Economics of Manipulation and Deception” (Princeton, 2015), we question the all-commanding relevance of the free-market theory to our actual lives and economies. While we confirm the importance of free markets, we have found that market regulation has been crucial, and believe that will continue to be true in the future.

Continue reading Unregulated free markets are not optimal systems

Looking backward in remorse

AFTER 69 YEARS OF SILENCE, LYNCHING VICTIM IS CLEARED

NASHVILLE, March 7, 1982— New but long-held secret information was disclosed today in one of the most disputed trials in American history, the murder conviction and subsequent mob lynching of Leo Frank almost 70 years ago. (ed: episode occurred in the period 1913-1915)

Mr. Frank, a 29-year-old Jewish factory superintendent, was convicted in Atlanta of killing one of his employees, Mary Phagan, 14, and dumping her in the basement of the pencil factory where they worked.

But in a sworn statement to the newspaper The Tennessean, an 83-year-old Virginian who, seven decades ago, was a frightened and reluctant teen-age witness in that trial, now says that he saw the real killer bear-hugging the long-haired girl at her waist and carrying her limp, unconscious body to a partly opened trap door leading to the basement on the day she was murdered.

”Leo Frank did not kill Mary Phagan,” Alonzo Mann insisted in confirmation of a widely believed theory of historians. Says Janitor Was Murderer

”She was murdered instead by Jim Conley,” he asserted, referring to a factory janitor who was the chief witness against Mr. Frank. Mr. Mann was 14 years old at the time of the murder and was working as Mr. Frank’s office boy for $8 a week. He said the janitor, startled by the boy, threatened to kill him if he ever mentioned what he had seen that day.

Young Alonzo Mann was called to testify at the trial, but was asked only a few perfunctory questions. On the advice of his mother, he volunteered no information and told no one in authority what he had seen that Saturday, April 26, 1913. He said he continued to heed that advice for several years, except for an occasional confidence to relatives and a rebuffed attempt to tell an Atlanta newspaper reporter 30 years ago.
Continue reading Looking backward in remorse

A friend looks at the new tax plan

via Jan Erb on Facebook
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How many of you would fall for the pool sharks? Billiards, not swimming. They would let you win small bets, then suggest higher stakes so they have a chance of winning back their money. Then they proceed to systematically clean you out.

This is exactly what the Republican tax bill does for over 75% of the population. I have done the research, run a few of the tax calculators comparing existing versus new tax plan. I do see a lower income tax bill. Several problems with this small savings on taxes.

First, is the debt. I know most of you will think that doesn’t matter but much of the annual deficit is paying interest on the debt. If we didn’t have any debt, then your taxes could be significantly lowered. Israel, to whom we give millions, has no net debt. My personal share of the debt, derived by finding the estimated deficit increase and dividing that by the total number of individual taxes filed for 2016, is more than twice what I will receive in savings the first year.

To add insult to injury, according to the estimates for the future, I will be paying more taxes under the new plan in ten years. Some costs will be more immediate. By removing the mandate in the ACA (Affordable Care Act), the Republicans have destroyed the savings of the ACA. Almost everyone will see an increase in insurance cost in 2019 when this mandate will no longer exist. Some of those choosing to not buy insurance may benefit but their average cost will go up since most health care providers charge significantly more for services when you do not have insurance.

Just check your EOB from your insurance company and see what the original charge was versus the amount that qualifies under your insurance. Emotional maturity requires the ability to plan for the future. Supporting the Republicans and their tax plan is short-sighted unless you are a part of the top 5% and very greedy, caring more about amassing wealth far beyond what one can reasonably spend within several generations than you are about the well being of America and the American economy.

Let’s be blunt. Trickle Down does not work and the tax incentives given to business are more likely to have them investing in technology that reduces the need for as many workers. It is unfortunate that most people will not do the research and instead buy into the Republican propaganda – they will not even read posts like this one because it is too long, preferring to read tweets and listen to sound bites.

Who are we as a country? Time to decide: Sally Yates

Stand up and speak out on America’s core founding values. We are not living in ordinary times, and it’s not enough to admire them from afar.

by Sally Q. Yates, Opinion contributor  – Published 3:15 a.m. ET Dec. 19, 2017 | Updated 1:25 p.m. ET Dec. 19, 2017

When Republican Sen. John Cornyn expressed disappointment in Sally Yates for opposing President Trump’s travel ban, the former acting attorney general reminded him of the promise she made during her 2015 confirmation hearing. USA TODAY

Over the course of our nation’s history, we have faced inflection points — times when we had to decide who we are as a country and what we stand for. Now is such a time. Beyond policy disagreements and partisan gamesmanship, there is something much more fundamental hanging in the balance. Will we remain faithful to our country’s core values?

Our founding documents set forth the values that make us who we are, or at least who we aspire to be. I say aspire to be because we haven’t always lived up to our founding ideals — even at the time of our founding. When the Declaration of Independence proclaimed that all men are created equal, hundreds of thousands of African Americans were being enslaved by their fellow Americans.

Not so long ago, all across the Jim Crow South, our country’s definition was defiled by lynchings, the systematic disenfranchisement of African-American voters, and the burning of freedom riders’ buses. And still today, we have yet to realize fully our nation’s promise of equal justice.

Despite our differences, we as Americans have long held a shared vision of what our country means and what values we expect our leaders to embrace. Today, our continued commitment to these unifying principles is needed more than ever.

What are the values that unite us? You don’t have to look much further than the Preamble to our Constitution, just 52 words, to find them:

 “We the people of the United States” (we are a democratic republic, not a dictatorship) “in order to form a more perfect union” (we are a work in progress dedicated to a noble pursuit) “establish justice” (we revere justice as the cornerstone of our democracy) “insure domestic tranquility” (we prize unity and peace, not divisiveness and discord), “provide for the common defense” (we should never give any foreign adversary reason to question our solidarity) “promote the general welfare” (we care about one another; compassion and decency matter) “and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity” (we have a responsibility to protect not just our own generation, but future ones as well).

Our forefathers packed a lot into that single sentence. Our Bill of Rights is similarly succinct in guaranteeing individual liberties — rights that we have come to take for granted but without vigilance can erode and slip away, such as freedom of speech (our right to protest and be heard); freedom of religion (the essential separation between how one worships and the power of the state); and freedom of the press (a democratic institution essential to informing the public and holding our leaders accountable).

Our shared values include another essential principle, and that’s the rule of law — the promise that the law applies equally to everyone, that no person is above it, and that all are entitled to its protection. This concept of equal protection recognizes that our country’s strength comes from honoring, not weaponizing, the diversity that springs from being a nation of Native Americans and immigrants of different races, religions and nationalities.

The rule of law depends not only on things that are written down, but also on important traditions and norms, such as apolitical law enforcement. That’s why Democratic and Republican administrations alike, at least since Watergate, have honored that the rule of law requires a strict separation between the Justice Department and the White House on criminal cases and investigations. This wall of separation is what ensures the public can have confidence that the criminal process is not being used as a sword to go after one’s political enemies or as a shield to protect those in power. It’s what separates us from an autocracy.

And there is something else that separates us from an autocracy, and that’s truth. There is such a thing as objective truth. We can debate policies and issues, and we should. But those debates must be based on common facts rather than raw appeals to emotion and fear through polarizing rhetoric and fabrications.

Not only is there such a thing as objective truth, failing to tell the truth matters. We can’t control whether our public servants lie to us. But we can control whether we hold them accountable for those lies or whether, in either a state of exhaustion or to protect our own political objectives, we look the other way and normalize an indifference to truth.

We are not living in ordinary times, and it is not enough for us to admire our nation’s core values from afar. Our country’s history is littered with individuals and factions who have tried to exploit our imperfections, but it is more powerfully marked by those whose vigilance toward a more perfect union has prevailed.

So stand up. Speak out. Our country needs all of us to raise our collective voices in support of our democratic ideals and institutions. That is what we stand for. That is who we are. And with a shared commitment to our founding principles, that is who we will remain.