Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Space Force!

Monday, August 13, 2018

Is Trump's Voter Fraud Vice-Chair Stealing an Election?

Last year Donald Trump created a commission to look into voter fraud, but it was disbanded without doing anything. The commission had asked the states to give the federal government sensitive voter information, and all the states had refused to hand over the data because it violated privacy laws.

That included Kansas, where the vice-chair of the commission, Chris Kobach, is secretary of state, where his duties include overseeing elections.

The commission worked for months trying to prove that there was some sort of systemic vote rigging, but they could find only a minuscule number of cases of intentional fraud, and most of those were Trump voters pulling one scam or another.

Kobach is now running for governor of Kansas, and is locked a primary battle that has yet to be decided. The two candidates are separated by a few hundred votes.

Immediately after the primary suspicious things were happening with the vote totals. County totals tallied locally didn't match county totals entered by Kobach's employees, giving Kobach hundreds of extra votes.

Kobach recused himself on Friday, but his deputy, Eric Rucker, a political appointee, is running the show.

Rucker is making decisions that favor Kobach: he's telling poll workers to throw out provisional ballots cast by unaffiliated voters, after those voters were instructed to cast provisional ballots by poll workers.

He's also trying to throw out mailed-in ballots that were received the day after the election because they don't have postmarks. “The thing that really ticks us off is that for all intents and purposes, it’s the Postal Service that’s disenfranchised that voter. And shame on them.”

No, this hack is trying to disenfranchise voters and throw the election to Kobach. None of Kobach's partisan hires should be making decisions in this election. They have inherent conflicts of interest, and they should recuse themselves.

This episode illustrates the real kind of voter fraud that occurs in this country: legislators who make confusing laws and place onerous restriction on voters, poll workers who may or may not intentionally give voters bad advice casting their votes, and government officials who preferentially discard absentee and provisional ballots based on whether they will swing the election their way.

Friday, August 10, 2018

The Con Job of the Century

If you thought the con job of the century was Donald Trump getting elected, you'd be wrong.

No, getting thousands of people to drive for Uber is the con of the century. Because driving for Uber is just driving a cab. And that's one of the worst jobs you can get.

Think about it. The wages are terrible, the hours are terrible, the customers are terrible (drunken, puking morons). In many cities the number of cabs is regulated by controlling the number of medallions issued, making it possible to eke out a living by keeping the number of cabs down to what the local population can support.

But any clown with a car can drive for Uber, which means the number of competitors is determined only by the gullibility of people who mistakenly think they can get rich driving a cab. Uber drivers are "independent contractors" who supply their own cars, pay for the gas, the maintenance, their cell phone bills. If they sit idle for two hours, waiting for fares that never call, they don't make a dime.

The only difference between driving a cab and driving for Uber is that some overvalued high-tech company in Washington takes a big cut out of every fare, instead of staying in the local economy.

What's the running joke in every movie where someone gets into a cab? An immigrant driver who can barely speak English.

And that's because driving a cab is a terrible job. Immigrants get all the terrible jobs in America: the vast majority of dishwashers, hotel maids, meat packers, roofers and cabbies are immigrants, because Americans just won't do them.

I came to this realization while watching an ad for Uber, in which the company's new CEO, Dara Khosrowshahi, apologizes for Uber's past dickishness, promising the company's "culture" has changed. Uber's former CEO, Travis Kalanik, was kicked out a year ago for pushing his employees to wantonly violate laws and regulations in cities across the country, screw over the company's drivers as wage slaves, and blithely ignoring pervasive sexual harassment.

Driving a cab, or an Uber, doesn't have to be terrible. All these jobs should pay enough to live on, and to save up for a down payment on a house, and to help put your kids through college. But Uber pays its employees peanuts, because they've conned people into thinking that driving a cab is somehow a lucrative gig.

New York is cracking down on Uber, capping the number of drivers in the city and setting a minimum pay rate per trip. That may barely squeak Uber drivers out of the hole, but Uber will never give their drivers a decent wage: the company thinks of its employees as just another bot that can be replaced by another bot.

And that next bot will be a self-driving car. Anyone who bought a car thinking that driving for Uber was a long-term investment was taken by the con man of the century, Travis Kalanick.

Trump Gets His Inlaws into US with Chain Migration

“CHAIN MIGRATION cannot be allowed to be part of any legislation on Immigration!” the President tweeted.
Well, now his in-laws are American citizens because of chain migration.
President Trump has repeatedly and vehemently denounced what he calls “chain migration,” in which adult American citizens can obtain residency for their relatives.

On Thursday, his Slovenian in-laws, Viktor and Amalija Knavs, became United States citizens in a private ceremony in Manhattan by taking advantage of that same family-based immigration program.

Asked if the Knavses had obtained citizenship through “chain migration,” their lawyer, Michael Wildes, said, “I suppose.”

He said chain migration is a “dirtier” way of characterizing what he called “a bedrock of our immigration process when it comes to family reunification.”
Melania Trump had sponsored her parents for their green cards, Mr. Wildes said in describing the process by which the Knavses had become United States citizens. “Once they had the green card, they then applied for citizenship when they were eligible,” he said.

Even as his in-laws were going through the process, Mr. Trump was denouncing it. In November, he tweeted, “CHAIN MIGRATION must end now! Some people come in, and they bring their whole family with them, who can be truly evil. NOT ACCEPTABLE!”

And, of course, both Trump's mother and paternal grandfather came to the United States as a result of chain migration.

Now let's see what kind of dirt Trump would sling if the Knavses were the family of his political opponents. Dirt provided by Town and Country in a puff piece on Melania's family:
  • The Knavses speak Slovenian with their grandson, Barron. Why can't they speak English, like real Americans?
  • Viktor was a card-carrying member of the Yugoslav Communist Party. He had a collection of Mercedes sedans and a Maserati. That doesn't happen in a communist country unless you're well-connected insider.
  • Viktor got another woman pregnant, agreed to marry her, then demanded she get an abortion, then claimed he couldn't be the father, and then a court-ordered blood test showed he was. He fought court orders to pay child support all the way to the highest appellate court. Nice guy, huh?
  • Melania also got her sister into the United States with chain migration as well.
  • Next thing you know, Melania will try to bring her illegimate half-brother into the country. Where will it end?
  • Her parents are in their 70s, and will be a drain on the country's medical system after Trump is impeached.
I personally don't have a problem with Melania's parents immigrating to the United States. That's how this country was founded, and that's how 99% of all Americans' ancestors came here.

It's sheer hypocrisy for Donald Trump to slam the door on everyone else's family after he got his wife's in-laws into the country.

Wednesday, August 08, 2018

Republicans Are Already Committing Election Fraud

A House race in Virginia reveals the Republican strategy for beating the Democrats, which they got from the Russians in the 2016 election. Keep Democrats bickering with each, and put up phony independent candidates to split the Democratic vote, even if you have to break the law to do it:
A special prosecutor was appointed Tuesday to investigate claims that aides to Rep. Scott W. Taylor (R-Va.) illegally forged signatures to help an independent candidate get on the ballot, hoping to give their boss an edge over his Democratic challenger in the midterm elections.

Aides to Taylor, a freshman lawmaker from Virginia Beach, collected signatures for independent candidate Shaun Brown, who analysts say could siphon votes away from Taylor’s Democratic challenger, Elaine Luria.
With their email hacks and social media manipulation the Russians stoked divisions in the Democratic Party, in particular, inciting hatred against Hillary Clinton among Bernie Sanders supporters.

The Russians also backed Jill Stein's candidacy, splitting away Green-leaning Democrats. Here's a picture of Jill Stein with Vladimir Putin and Michael Flynn, Trump's discredited national security advisor.

Republicans have used the Greens to sabotage Democrats in the past; in particular, Al Gore lost in 2000 to Bush because of Ralph Nader and the Green Party (the GOP spent money to push Nader's candidacy in 2000 and 2004). The irony, of course, is that if Nader hadn't run, Gore would have won Florida, and Gore would have set us a climate policy that the Greens actually wanted.

Instead we had Bush and now Trump, in large part thanks in part to Green candidates Ralph Nader and Jill Stein.

It is often said that the perfect is the enemy of the good. Progressives can't expect everything to happen at once. Change at the national level is incremental, and unity is even more important ever since the Republicans stole a Supreme court seat in 2015.

We have to elect Democrats to ensure that the House and the Senate have Democratic majorities, even if those Democrats aren't all as progressive as we might want. Our representatives should represent the people of their districts, and if those districts are slightly right of center, their legislators should be Democrats who are slightly right of center.

If the Republicans retain their majorities, Trump will cement his lock on the Republican Party and turn this country into banana republic owned and operated by corporations and the wealthy.

Kids Sue Donald Trump

Last week, the Supreme Court of the United Sates ruled unanimously that the 21 youths suing the federal government over its inaction on climate change can move forward.The U.S. District Court’s trial start date of October 29, 2018. The case is Juliana v. United States. 

The federal government attempted to have the case thrown out because of lack of evidence (!) and they also tried to see the evidence that the plantiffs are going to present before the trial even started. SCOTUS rejected both claims.

This could be a very interesting case. The plaintiffs allege that the United States government's affirmative actions caused climate change, violated the youngest generation's constitutional rights to life, liberty, and property, and failed to protect essential public trust resources. The facts of climate change are going to be presented in court and entered into the public record. The evidence is overwhelming that it is man made and indeed threatening constitutional rights.

I realize there have been many liberals wringing their hands over the conservative tilt of the court. But this case shows that all of the SCOTUS justices, conservative or liberal, know the law better than any of the rest of us. If anything, dogmatic conservative who refuse to accept reality should be worried about SCOTUS. Their unicorn fart fantasy of turning this country into a conservative paradise ain't gonna happen with Brett Kavanaugh or anyone else on their list.

The law is not on their side.

Monday, August 06, 2018

Friday, August 03, 2018

The Pope Ups the Pro-Life Ante

There are people who pretend to be pro-life, and then there are the people who really are pro-life. Pope Francis is the real deal:
Pope Francis has declared the death penalty wrong in all cases, a definitive change in church teaching that is likely to challenge Catholic politicians, judges and officials who have argued that their church was not entirely opposed to capital punishment.
Before, church doctrine accepted the death penalty if it was “the only practicable way” to defend lives, an opening that some Catholics took as license to support capital punishment in many cases.
The Catholic Church has a long history and hasn't always been on the side of the righteous, but in the last sixty or seventy years the Church has become more consistent on the sanctity of life. It, of course, opposes abortion, but generally favors reasonable reasonable restrictions on handguns, opposes war in all its forms, and vigorously advocates for the poor, minorities, immigrants and victims of terrorism and government oppression.

I may not agree with the Catholic Church on everything, but it has overcome many of its hypocritical deficiencies and is generally a force for good.

This is definitely not the case with American evangelicals and Republicans. They claim to be pro-life, but they're constantly on the warpath, clamoring for more military spending, more guns on the street, applying the death penalty to more cases, torturing suspects in military internment camps, and constantly attacking minorities and immigrants.

Take the governor of Nebraska, Pete Ricketts. He's supposedly a Catholic, but when the state of Nebraska repealed the death penalty in 2015, the Roman Catholic governor used his family fortune to bankroll a referendum to reinstate it.

American evangelicals and Republicans are all phonies. They claim to be so morally superior to the rest of us, yet they voted in droves for known sexual predators like Donald Trump and Roy Moore.

These are the same people who keep clamoring for more "religious liberty" in the United States, but what they really want to do is insult, ostracize, beat up and eventually drive out all gays and Muslims.

These self-proclaimed moral majoritarians in the White House and Republican statehouses shred the ten commandments every day.

The only reason Republicans oppose abortion is so that they can sucker single-issue Catholics into voting for them. Because people like Donald Trump, Jeff Sessions, Roy Moore and all the other Republican toads embody everything that good Catholics despise.

Back in the day Republicans demanded that the Catholic Church excommunicate Democrats who supported a woman's right to choose (which is not the same as favoring abortion).

Perhaps the Catholic Church should excommunicate all the Republicans who endorse the death penalty, clamor for the torture of suspects, spread the cancer of handguns, and deny the basic human rights of immigrants and minorities.

Put Them In Gitmo

If you want to know just how fucking sick and dangerous Trump supporters are, look no further than this recent story about Alex Jones (a regular Trump adviser along with Sean Hannity) and the Sandy Hook families.

In the five years since Noah Pozner was killed at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., death threats and online harassment have forced his parents, Veronique De La Rosa and Leonard Pozner, to relocate seven times. They now live in a high-security community hundreds of miles from where their 6-year-old is buried.

Yep. That's right, folks. It's not merely enough that Mr. Pozner has to live with the death of his child. He also has to live under constant threat from Trumpsters who think that the Sandy Hook shooting was "fake news" and that the parents are crisis actors. These are the people that used to be outliers and now they are part of the mainstream Republican party. For further evidence of this, take a look at this photo taken at a recent Trump rally.

Trump supporters believe that their dear leader is fighting a war alongside a hero named "Q" against a deep state menace that includes the media. Check out how CNN's Jim Acosta was treated at the event.

These people are dangerous. They are domestic terrorists. They need to be Gitmo'd.


Thursday, August 02, 2018

Not All Cop Shootings Are Worthy of Protest

Marchers in Minneapolis are blocking trains to protest the death of Thurman Blevins, who was shot and killed by cops responding to a call about a man drinking and randomly firing a pistol. Video of the encounter shows (though not very clearly) that Blevins had a gun, which was found at the site, along with a bullet casing.

There have been countless cases where police have killed a black man for no good reason, and the African-American community has a right to be extremely angry about their treatment at the hands of law enforcement.

Philando Castile should not have been killed. Michael Brown should not have been killed. Trayvon Martin, though not shot by cop, should not have been killed. Walter Scott, Eric Courtney Harris and Akai Gurley should not have been killed, and in their cases the killer cops were actually convicted.

An awful lot of cops seem to be on a power trip, and start shooting at anyone who disobeys them or runs away, even if it's not clear they've done anything wrong. Many cops think that fleeing is a sign of guilt, when the reality is that being near anyone with a loaded handgun exponentially raises your odds of being killed -- especially black men near cops.

Sometimes the cops even shoot black men who are lying on the ground obeying their orders with their hands up. So it's easy to understand why black men run when the cops show up: they get shot no matter what they do, so they might as well take a chance on running.

But the Blevins case does not seem to be worthy of protest because of his erratic behavior:
According to the 911 caller, that man was "intoxicated," and "walking around shooting off his gun," which the caller labeled a "silver nine millimeter." The caller says the man shot his gun into the air and the ground, and hadn't hurt anyone, and that he was carrying a bottle of Amsterdam gin.
So, yes, it's a tragedy that Blevins was killed. But like most Shakespearean tragedies, it was of his own making.

What if the cops had just let him run away? He might have gone home and sobered up. Or he might have shot his girlfriend, or his mother, or robbed a liquor store and killed the clerk, or went to work and killed six people. You can see how cops feel that they just can't win, no matter what they do.

The reality is, cops don't only kill black men. Last month in Chaska, a Minneapolis suburb, cops responding to a 911 call killed a sixteen-year-old white boy who was acting erratically, threatening his mother with knives and a bat.

Justine Damond, a white woman reporting a rape last year, was killed by a Minneapolis cop who almost took his partner's head off when he fired at her through the squad car window.

And just few days ago in Aurora, Colorado, cops killed Richard Black, an elderly man who had just shot and killed a naked crazy man who'd broken into his house and attacked his grandson. The responding officers mistook the grandfather, who had a conceal carry permit, for the assailant because he was armed.

Which just proves that the NRA is dead wrong: guns do not make you safer. Blevins is dead because he had a gun. Black is dead because he had a gun. And most of the others are dead because cops thought they might have guns.

Cops are on a hair trigger all the time because so many guns flood the streets of America. Every time they approach someone sitting in a car, or in their house, or walking on the street, they face a real danger of being shot. But that still doesn't justify trigger-happy behavior.

African-Americans are killed by cops at twice the rate as whites. This is a horrible injustice. Cops who kill black men without justification should be fired and charged with murder. Cops should not be able to use the "I was afraid so I shot him" defense: they're trained professionals who are paid to make the right decision about deadly force, and should be held to a higher standard.

But protesters should choose their causes more carefully to avoid cheapening the effect: not every black man killed by the cops is a martyr.

Some are just dangerous, drunken idiots shooting up the neighborhood.

Wednesday, August 01, 2018

Oh yeah, those assholes...

Tuesday, July 31, 2018

Monday, July 30, 2018

Milk: Republicans Against Regulations, Except When They Aren't

Dairy farmers and cattle ranchers are not happy. There's been a steady rise in the number of vegans and vegetarians, and the search for alternatives to milk and meat is threatening their bottom lines.

One of the big battlefields is naming. For decades people who are allergic to dairy products have turned to things like soy milk. As veganism goes mainstream, people are looking for alternatives to animal products, and soy milk is increasingly popular.

But a lot of people are allergic to soy, or don't like how it tastes. And so the marketplace has responded with almond milk, coconut milk and even oat milk.

Republicans have been screaming about reducing regulations for years, and the Trump administration has been rolling back environmental regulations like crazy.

So how does FDA in the Trump administration respond to the thriving growth in plant-based dairy  alternatives? By hammering the burgeoning industry with regulations!
The Food and Drug Administration signaled plans to start enforcing a federal standard that defines “milk” as coming from the “milking of one or more healthy cows.” That would be a change for the agency, which has not aggressively gone after the proliferation of plant-based drinks labeled as “milk.”

FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb talked about the plans this week, noting there are hundreds of federal “standards of identity” spelling out how foods with various names need to be manufactured.
Now this is ridiculous. Soy milk has called that for at least thirty or forty years, and coconut milk has been called that for centuries.

The thing is, no one ever calls soy milk just plain "milk." It's always got the "soy" in front of it. So there's never any confusion.

But dairy farmers are guilty of hypocrisy: feta cheese is properly made of sheep's and/or goat's milk. Many people who are allergic to dairy products can eat feta.

In the United States producers usually make fake feta, using cow's milk, which means people with dairy allergies can't eat it. In Europe feta is a protected designation, and to be called feta, the cheese must be made the traditional way in Greece, essentially giving Greece a trademark on the word feta, the way the Champagne region in France has a lock on champagne. Thus, American cheeses can't be sold in Europe under names like feta, parmesan and gorgonzola.

American dairy farmers want to sell completely phony feta and parmesan in Europe, but are trying to prevent the sale of clearly labeled soy milk.

The Trump administration wants to use government regulation to pick winners and losers in the war between soy milk producers and dairy farmers. Typical Republican hypocrisy.

For meat producers there's an even bigger problem coming down the pike. Some vegans don't eat meat because of the cruel conditions under which animals are raised, and the huge environmental costs: cows produce enormous amounts of methane, contributing to global warming. Large corporate farms create toxic lagoons filled with cow and hog manure. Spills from these lagoons are responsible for killing millions of fish across the country every year.

Meat production is also horrendously inefficient; per gram of protein, animal protein uses 6-10 times as much water as plant-based protein. It also takes a long time to raise large animals like cattle and hogs. Animal husbandry for food production is not sustainable with larger and larger human populations.

So scientists are looking at alternatives, like "cultured meat." Meat is just animal muscle tissue, which can now be grown in a test tube. It's basically cloning muscle tissue.

This would use drastically fewer resources. It would eliminate the need for factory farms where animals are packed into tiny cages their entire lives, making it cruelty free. There would be no urine or feces produced, so there would be no toxic manure lagoon spills.  There would be no need for slaughterhouses, which are notoriously dangerous to work in and basically require immigrants to staff them, because Americans simply refuse to work in these awful, awful jobs. And it would be far more sanitary, since there would be no dirty animals or slaughterhouse workers touching the meat.

But meat producers are already trying to ban calling cultured muscle tissue products "meat," again using FDA regulations to thwart their competition.

Which is totally ludicrous: these products are genetically identical to meat. You can make a rational argument for disallowing the term soy milk -- I actually have no problem with the FDA making soy milk producers call it a "soy beverage." But cultured meat is meat, even more than lunch meat, or sausage or hamburger are meat.

Have you ever eaten a hot dog? Or a bologna sandwich? Or even a turkey sandwich? Most of these "meats" have utterly no resemblance to real meat.

Most days I have a turkey sandwich for lunch. However, this is a misnomer: the texture and flavor of "turkey breast" lunch meat is nothing like a real turkey breast. Based on its texture and appearance it seems that they render it into a slurry, add preservatives and water, compress it in a tubular mold, slice it and then package it in plastic.

In real turkey, like you have on Thanksgiving, you can tease apart the fibers in the meat and tell that it was actually a muscle at one point. But most every kind of prepackaged lunch meat is a solid, textureless blob of animal protein.

Just like cultured meat.

Hamburgers, hot dogs and sausage are even less like real meat than cultured meat, because they don't use all muscle tissue. They include all kinds of animal byproducts (muscle, gristle, organs, fat, lips, snouts, etc.), ground up together into a product that has no resemblance to the texture of real meat.

Republicans claim to be against regulation, but they aren't. In their view, the purpose of regulation is to stifle competition, not to protect consumers from unsafe products or predatory monopolies.

Typical Republican hypocrisy.