Thursday, June 22, 2017

Fairness and Freedom

Some words from one of my favorite Presidents, Harry S.:
In this society, we are conservative about the values and principles which we cherish; but we are forward-looking in protecting those values and principles and in extending their benefits. We have rejected the discredited theory that the fortunes of the Nation should be in the hands of a privileged few. We have abandoned the "trickledown" concept of national prosperity. Instead, we believe that our economic system should rest on a democratic foundation and that wealth should be created for the benefit of all.
...
The American people have decided that poverty is just as wasteful and just as unnecessary as preventable disease. We have pledged our common resources to help one another in the hazards and struggles of individual life. We believe that no unfair prejudice or artificial distinction should bar any citizen of the United States of America from an education, or from good health, or from a job that he is capable of performing.

The attainment of this kind of society demands the best efforts of every citizen in every walk of life, and it imposes increasing responsibilities on the Government.

The Government must work with industry, labor, and the farmers in keeping our economy running at full speed. The Government must see that every American has a chance to obtain his fair share of our increasing abundance. These responsibilities go hand in hand.

We cannot maintain prosperity unless we have a fair distribution of opportunity and a widespread consumption of the products of our factories and farms.

Our Government has undertaken to meet these responsibilities.
 ...
The strength of our Nation must continue to be used in the interest of all our people rather than a privileged few. It must continue to be used unselfishly in the struggle for world peace and the betterment of mankind the world over.

This is the task before us.

It is not an easy one. It has many complications, and there will be strong opposition from selfish interests.

I hope for cooperation from farmers, from labor, and from business. Every segment of our population and every individual has a right to expect from our Government a fair deal.
 end-of-quote

In addition to fairness, we can add the principle of freedom. Someone who can't afford to see a doctor when they are sick is not free. Someone who works hard but can't get a living wage is not free. Someone who can't get a good standard education is not free. Someone who can''t purchase goods and services because of their religion or sexual orientation is not free. Someone who can't have a job for which they are qualified for those same reasons is not free. Someone who has to fear for their life in a routine traffic stop because of the color of their skin is not free.


Democrats can put out a better message than they have recently.

Regards,
Kendall Miller

Effective Gun Control Via Liability Insurance

We don't really need gun control as much as laws that require gun owners and gun bearors
to demonstrate that they have financial coverage for the damages that can occur from the operation of said devices...like we do with other dangerous devices like automobiles and aircraft.


You can have all the guns you want and carry them where you want as long as the public is protected in your insurance policy.

This Is Our Battlefield


Jamelle Bouie writes:

Republicans can mobilize supporters without being forced to talk about or account for their actual actions. Identity, for many voters, matters more than their pocketbooks. Republicans simply need to signal their disdain—even hatred—for their opponents, political or otherwise. Why worry about the consequences of your policies when you can preclude defeat by changing the ground rules of elections, spending vast sums, and stoking cultural resentment?

Mark Zuckerberg and Facebook's Mission


Mark Zuckerberg explains why he just changed Facebook's mission.

The company has a new mission statement: "To give people the power to build community and bring the world closer together."

Trucks and Solar Power-produced Hydrogen


Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Learning from Ossoff

Here is Tom Sullivan's take on the Ossoff results.


The key takeaway for me is this:

Few county organizations have built up the institutional memory and skills for running effective get-out-the-vote programs year to year, mid-term to presidential to municipal. Activists age out of high-intensity campaign work and take what they've learned (if anything) with them. Many smaller counties rely on national coordinated campaigns to parachute in every four years (if they do) to tell them what to do when the ambitious twenty-something staffers don't know themselves.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Another 2016 Election Analysis

Some prevailing myths are exploded.

The party isn't really divided by economics issues. Sanders supporters are not as progressive as Clinton on many of them.

The richest members of both parties have more economically conservative and socially liberal views than the poorest members. That gives them disproportionate influence over their agendas and priorities. But rich and poor Democrats have much more in common than either group does with Republicans.

Libertarians (socially liberal, economically conservative) are small in number despite all the noise they make and traction they get with the media.

Economics was irrelevant to the election. Clinton lost voters who had supported Obama around social-identity questions, revolving around patriotism and identity.

Natural gas without CO2 release

A special combustion method would allow us to burn natural gas without emitting CO2. It does this isolating the CO2 during the combustion process thereby easily capturing it for non-atmospheric disposal.

Amendment 25, section 4


When looked at over decades, it becomes clear that the President suffers from some sort of mental decline. Democrats may want to keep him around to hamstring the Republican agenda. Republicans could be the authors of his demise just to protect themselves.

Renewable fuel from atmospheric CO2

A demonsration plant in Finland produces fuel from the CO2 in the air using solar power.

Sustainable Plastics


Biodegradable plastics can be made at room temperatures and lo pressure from sugars and CO2.

Distributed, Renewable Ammonia production


The standard method of ammonia synthesis is conducted at 200 atmospheres of pressure and high reaction temperatures of nearly 500°C. This requires large, centralized production facilities. A new method can produce ammonia on demand in distributed locations. 



Friday, May 19, 2017

Be Careful What You Believe...

For example, researchers found students who were least proficient often overestimated their own abilities.  
“The skills they lacked were the same skills required to recognize their incompetence,” Fry said. “The incompetent are often blessed with an inappropriate confidence buoyed by something that feels to them like knowledge.”
It's called the Dunning-Kruger effect.

Knitting Wounds Without Scars

A glue made from mussel secretions and a synthesized skin protein helps wounds in rats to heal seamlessly. The skin in the wound area fully regenerated with blood vessels and hair follicles.

Producing Fertilizer From Air

The ability to manufacture fertilizers which supply fixed nitrogen to crops brought about the green revolution during my father's generation. Productivity attained previously unheard of levels. Producing those fertilizers is energy intensive and is responsible for 2% of the greenhouse gases going into today's atmosphere. This new method efficiently creates the raw material for fertilizer out of thin air. It's so efficient that it's conceivable that fertilizers may someday be produced on-site at any field on the planet without an electrical grid connection.

Wednesday, April 05, 2017

New Polymer for High-Temperature Ceramics

This is cool stuff. There are no exotic ingredients. It has the consistency and viscosity of water making it easy to pour into molds. It has a long shelf life as a liquid. It can be mass-produced. It can be sprayed on. It can be used as the fluid in a 3-D printer. It can withstand 10 times more heat than that in a rocket nozzle. It can be tuned from a insulator to a semiconductor. It is lightweight. It can be fabricated to absorb light from infrared to ultraviolet frequencies. Just awesome.

Friday, March 24, 2017

Inside the Hunt for Russia’s Most Notorious Hacker


From WIRED, an riveting article detailing the sleuthing of a Russian bank robber who turned his skills into tools of the Russian state to spy on all kinds of entities in the West. Eventually, this sophisticated network was taken down. But the perpetrator remains at large in Russia, protected by his government friends.

Only 3% of Trump voters regret their vote

A new poll shows only 3% of Trump voters are experiencing voter's remorse so far. This may change over time, but it makes clear that progressive candidates need to assiduously mine other sources for future wins.

Update: However, there are some who do.

Convert CO2 into carbon-neutral fuel source

This new molecule uses solar power to convert CO2 into carbon-monoxide. Carbon-monoxide can be converted into combustible fuel. When the fuel burns the same amount of CO2 is released as what went in to begin with. This makes the process carbon-neutral. So basically, you are using solar energy to power your car by burning ethanol.

Evading Heisenberg

The physics geek inside me applauds. You can’t evade Heisenberg but you can put the uncertainty in a place that doesn’t matter. In this case, ignore the spin angle vector that didn’t matter so you can measure the one that does with greater precision.

Friday, December 16, 2016

Why China Can't Lure Tech Talent

A Bloomberg article points out why China finds it difficult to attract tech talent.
The biggest problem is government control of the internet. For a software developer, the inconvenience goes well beyond not being able to access YouTube during coffee breaks. It means that key software libraries and tools are often inaccessible. In 2013, China blocked Github, a globally important open-source depository and collaboration tool, thereby forcing developers to seek workarounds. Using a virtual private network to "tunnel" through the blockades is one popular option. But VPNs slow uploads, downloads and collaboration. That slowness, in turn, can pose security risks: In 2015, hundreds of developers opted to use infected iOS software tools rather than spend days downloading legit versions from Apple Inc. 
And it isn't just developers who suffer. Among the restricted sites in China is Google Scholar, a tool that indexes online peer-reviewed studies, conference proceedings, books and other research material into an easily accessible format. It's become a crucial database for academics around the world, and Chinese researchers -- even those with VPNs -- struggle to use it. The situation grew so dire this summer that several state-run news outlets published complaints from Chinese scientists, with one practically begging the nationalist Global Times newspaper: "We hope the government can relax supervision for academic purposes."

A Possible Tool To Stop The Corruption

A section of that law states that “no executive branch employee may use nonpublic information derived from [or acquired through] their position as an executive branch employee as a means for making a private profit.”
“The STOCK Act bars the President from: using nonpublic information for private profit,” the independent Office of Government Ethics, which handles executive branch ethics issues, wrote in a Monday letter to Sen. Tom Carper (D-Del.).
The measure was originally designed to apply only to members of Congress. But Republicans — annoyed that it covered the GOP-controlled House and Senate but not the Obama administration — made sure to extend it to the executive branch, including the president and vice president.
He wouldn't have immunity from this one and neither could he avoid running afoul of it.

What To Do With An Old Tire

Turn into diesel fuel. This process turns whole tires into saleable diesel, carbon, and steel. It is energy-efficient and emission-free. 

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

A Road Map from Jesse Jackson

Jamelle Bouie's article in Slate got me to thinking about how we build a stronger Democratic Party at this juncture in history. In recent campaigns, most politicians have built laundry lists of issues where each issue has an appeal to some subgroup of the voting population. But what they haven't done is make it clear how all those issues support one another and how all the subgroups need to support one another to get their particular issues addressed. The successful candidate must take seemingly disparate progressive agendas and knit them into a whole picture that include all of his or her constituents.It's like sewing a quilt in that each scrap of cloth is not really useful in itself. Yet when securely sewn together, all those scraps make up something extremely useful and even beautiful.
Candidates at each jurisdictional level should make a clear-eyed assessment of the needs and interests of their voters. Then they must make the case that in order for that variety of needs to be satisfied, all the various groups have things in common around which they can unite. Business is good when workers have the wages to buy things. Schools are good when the community takes the time and resources to support the children and the system that provides that education. People feel more secure when law enforcement has earned their respect. The institution of democracy is stronger for everyone when a few very wealthy people don't have the power to dominate campaigns and the crafting of legislation.

Twenty-fifth Amendment to the United States Constitution, Section 4

Section 4. Whenever the Vice President and a majority of either the principal officers of the executive departments or of such other body as Congress may by law provide, transmit to the President pro tempore of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives their written declaration that the President is unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office, the Vice President shall immediately assume the powers and duties of the office as Acting President.

Thereafter, when the President transmits to the President pro tempore of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives his written declaration that no inability exists, he shall resume the powers and duties of his office unless the Vice President and a majority of either the principal officers of the executive department or of such other body as Congress may by law provide, transmit within four days to the President pro tempore of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives their written declaration that the President is unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office. Thereupon Congress shall decide the issue, assembling within forty-eight hours for that purpose if not in session. If the Congress, within twenty-one days after receipt of the latter written declaration, or, if Congress is not in session, within twenty-one days after Congress is required to assemble, determines by two-thirds vote of both Houses that the President is unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office, the Vice President shall continue to discharge the same as Acting President; otherwise, the President shall resume the powers and duties of his office.

Monday, November 28, 2016

This is Pro-Life


I believe that to be part of the battle in favor of life from the moment of conception until a dignified, natural death This includes the care of the mother during pregnancy, the existence of laws protecting the mother postpartum, and the need to ensure that children receive enough food, as well as providing health care throughout the whole length of life, and taking good care of our grandparents, and not resorting to euthanasia. Nor should we perpetrate a kind of killing through insufficient food or a nonexistent or deficient education, which are ways of depriving a person of a full life. If there is a conception for us to respect, there is a life for us to care for. --Jorge Bergoglio (now Pope Francis)
I just want to add that if you are going to be "pro-life", don't just do part of it. Be pro-life all the way and you will have my respect.

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Environmental Good News

Amongst all the bad environmental news lately, here's a piece of good news. It seems that declining mercury emissions have resulted in a decline in the mercury concentration in tuna. Contrary to some opinions, it seems that environmental regulations actually work.

Wicked weeds may be agricultural angels

Getting it right in agriculture. This article talks about how having a few weeds mixed in with your otherwise monoculture field can help control pests.

12 Notes From A Political Autopsy

Here are some good notes for measuring our progress forward.
The short version is below. Read the article for a fuller explanation of each point.
  1. The people aren’t the problem.
  2. Even when you’ve been cheated, there can be room for improvement.
  3. Don’t pretend you didn’t lose.
  4. Accept responsibility.
  5. It’s not about settling scores. It’s about changing the game.
  6. Trade was decisive.
  7. Some people got it right.
  8. Bigotry and economic fear aren’t mutually exclusive.
  9. It’s hard to win the votes of people you dislike.
  10. The Democratic Party needs a “Democracy Spring.”
  11. The left isn’t the enemy. It’s the future.
  12. This is the call-up.

Saturday, November 26, 2016

Can we meet global energy demands with nuclear power?

An international team of scientists suggests that we must ramp up energy production by nuclear power if we are to succeed in warding off the worst effects of greenhouse gas emissions on climate change. The team suggests that beginning in 2020 we could achieve an annual electricity output of 20 terawatts without needing to develop carbon dioxide trapping and storage technology for the tens of billions of tons of emissions that would otherwise drive global warming to catastrophic levels.

Problems with the Press

The press was played by Donald. The question is, what are they going to do about it? Are they going to continue to normalize him? Or are they going to take the focus off ratings just a bit and point out the unprecedented threat he is to the way our democracy works?

Friday, November 25, 2016

Krugman: The Long Haul

Paul Krugman looks ahead:

The true awfulness of Trump will become apparent over time. Bad things will happen, and he will be clueless about how to respond; if you want a parallel, think about how Katrina revealed the hollowness of the Bush administration, and multiply by a hundred. And his promises to bring back the good old days will eventually be revealed as the lies they are.


But it probably won’t happen in a year. So the effort to reclaim American decency is going to have to have staying power; we need to build the case, organize, create the framework. And, of course, never forget who is right.

It’s going to be a long time in the wilderness, and it’s going to be awful. If I sound calm and philosophical, I’m not — like everyone who cares, I’m frazzled, sleepless, depressed. But we need to be stalwart.

LAPD and Deportation

The LAPD plans to continue its existing policy of not participating with ICE in any immigration enforcement. It isn't a political statement, it's just good policing. You can't fight crime when victims are too afraid to talk to the authorities. Sometimes you have to decide what has the higher priority, protecting a vulnerable population or making them more vulnerable to criminals because they themselves might be guilty of a misdemeanor.

Monday, November 14, 2016

Hypocrisy Lives Here

It's OK to expose the Secretary of States's email but don't don't try to find out how much Pence wasted on a lawsuit that didn't involve Indiana. It's the Pence double standard.

What Democrats should do about the Supreme Court.

Dahlia Lithwick is just pissed.

His 100 Days

For reference, here's a summary of what has been promised for the first 100 days.
  1. Term Limits
  2. Federal Hiring Freeze
  3. Two regulations removed for every regulation added
  4. Five-year waiting period for officials becoming lobbyists
  5. Lifetime ban for former White House officials lobbying for foreign governments
  6. Complete ban for foreign lobbyists raising money for American elections
  7. Renegotiate or withdraw from NAFTA
  8. Withdraw from TPP
  9. Label China as a currency manipulator
  10. Identify foreign trading abuses that affect American workers and eliminate them
  11. Open production of oil, natural gas, and "clean" coal.
  12. Lift roadblocks on pipelines
  13. Cancel support of UN climate change projects and us money on American infrastructure
  14. Cancel all "unconstitutional" executive actions
  15. Replace Scalia
  16. Cancel federal funding going to Sanctuary Cities
  17. Deport 2 million "criminal" undocumented immigrants
  18. Suspend immigration from "terror-prone" areas. Vetting so extreme that no one can pass through it
  19. Tax gift to the rich and corporations
  20. Magical revenue neutral infrastructure development
  21. Redirect public education funding to private schools
  22. Repeal ACA and loosen approval requirements for drugs
  23. Enact a deduction for child care and elder care
  24. Build the wall, put illegal immigrants in prison. Remove foreign workers from the labor force
  25. Poor money into law enforcement to stop a non-existent surge in crime
  26. Remove requester on defense spending. Magically protect infrastructure from hacking. Only people who like America can immigrate
  27. Ethics reform. Magically drain the swamp while leaving the stinkiest  denizen in the White House.

Pick your poison and pick your activism target.

Even Paul Ryan disagrees with the coming administration. Likewise with Kevin McCarthy.

We will see how this goes. 

Sunday, November 13, 2016

Pop the Bubble

There are parts of the country that get forgotten. The people who live there 
don't see the country like the rest of us.
When you grow up in rural America, denying rights to people is an abstract concept. Denying marriage rights to gay people isn't that much different that denying boarding rights to Klingons.
We, as a culture, have to stop infantilizing and deifying rural and white working-class Americans. Their experience is not more of a real American experience than anyone else’s, but when we say that it is, we give people a pass from seeing and understanding more of their country. More Americans need to see more of the United States. They need to shake hands with a Muslim, or talk soccer with a middle aged lesbian, or attend a lecture by a female business executive.

We must start asking all Americans to be their better selves. We must all understand that America is a melting pot and that none of us has a more authentic American experience.

Friday, November 11, 2016

Liquid fuel from CO2 in the air

Given how bad our atmosphere is likely to get, there could be a great deal of use for this.

Young Aussie inventor builds a better Band-Aid dispenser

On a lighter note, why didn't anyone do this sooner? A 10-year-old figures out how to dispense Band-Aids with one hand. Hopefully, coming to a drug store and medical facilities near you.

Now What?

Krugman:
First of all, it’s always important to remember that elections determine who has the power, not who has the truth. The stunning upset doesn’t mean that the alt-right is correct to view nonwhites as inferior, that voodoo economics works, whatever. And you have to hold to the truth as best you see it, even if it suffers political defeat.
That said, does it make sense on a personal level to keep struggling after this kind of blow? Why not give up on trying to save the world, and just look out for yourself and those close to you? Quietism does have its appeal. Admission: I spent a lot of today listening to music, working out, reading a novel, basically taking a vacation in my head. You can’t help feeling tired and frustrated after this kind of setback.
But eventually one has to go back to standing for what you believe in. It’s going to be a much harder, longer road than I imagined, and maybe it ends in irreversible defeat, if nothing else from runaway climate change. But I couldn’t live with myself if I just gave up. And I hope others will feel the same.

Scott Walker's Law Crushing Unions Helped Trump

Daniel Marans looks at how the loss of unity in labor set the stage.
Workers who turn on their peers must realize they are next in line to get steamrolled...

Sadlowski, who now represents public-sector workers in northwest Illinois, warns workers who were looking for answers by voting for Trump that Trump will betray the workers who trusted him as well.

Just as the seeds for this debacle were sown at the state and local levels, the recovery must be done there as well. We need to be sure we fight the real enemies, not each other. 

Mourn. Then Organize.

Peter Dreier:

This is no time for liberals and progressives, Bernie supporters and Clinton followers, to point fingers. This is a time for cooperation and strategizing. Unions, Planned Parenthood, Sierra Club, the NAACP, community organizing groups, LGBT activists, and wealthy progressives have to collaborate. They need to raise the money, hundreds of millions of dollars, to send an army of paid organizers to key swing states and House districts now. We can’t just parachute organizers into swing states a few months before the next election. We need to build and expand the base by getting ordinary people organized around local and nation issues. We need to ramp up protest and civil disobedience to stop Trump’s initiatives. And we need to register voters so they’ll be “fired up and ready go” for the mid-term elections in two years and the presidential election in 2020.
We need to lay the foundation for Democrats to take back the Congress in 2018, and then elect Elizabeth Warren president in 2020.
Mourn our losses. Then organize.

George Takei's Advice For How To Prevail

  1. We may not have prevailed, but we must not despair.
  2. This does not feel like the America you love and honor. We are in unchartered waters.
  3. In times like these we must reaffirm the values we cherish and have fought for: equality, justice, the care of our planet.
  4. We must stand up defiantly to any dark or divisive acts, and look out for the most vulnerable among us. It is more important than ever.
  5. Within our hearts we know the society we wish to live in. No one can take that vision from us. We are each of us keepers of that promise.
  6. This country has seen wars and grave injustices, slavery and even civil war in its past. Yet we found our way through. We will now, too.
  7. Hold your loved ones close. Tell them that it is in times of sadness and in the toughest of days where we often find our true mettle.

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Forget Canada. Stay and Fight for American Democracy.

Never in my lifetime has the United States seen a period of darkness like the one that lies ahead of us. But we have seen periods of darkness before — segregation, McCarthyism, the internment of the Japanese, the Civil War, slavery. The American story is fitful progress punctuated by frequent reversals, some of which appeared at the time like they would last forever. None of them did.
The Trump years will be a horror. When I set out to write my long story in the magazine about Trumpism and the future of the Republican Party, I originally intended to focus on the immediate possibilities that lay before the Republican Party if it could capture full control of Washington. As this scenario grew less likely, I gave it less emphasis, but it is there. The Republicans will pass massive regressive tax cuts; they will take access to medical care from the poor and sick; they will deregulate the financial industry and fossil-fuel emitters.

And that is just the beginning, the best-case scenario. Trump is an impulsive, egotistical bully, intolerant of criticism and dissent and drawn to the ruthless application of power. Many liberals have been warning that American democracy is far weaker than we believed, and this was before any of us imagined a monster like Trump commanding the Executive branch. Trump will shake the Republic to its foundations.
I do not believe that the people who elected Trump will be helped by his program in any way. Trump avoided policy specifics to a comical degree. His health-care plan is “something terrific” that will take care of everybody at no cost to anybody. His wall paid for by Mexico is not even a punch line — it is a symbol of his supporters’ fascistic willingness to subordinate all critical faculties and endorse an obvious absurdity. What he will do is sign a quick succession of donor-driven laws written by Paul Ryan whose authentic support is confined to a trivial proportion of the party outside its big-money wing. To whatever extent people voted for Trump for reasons other than racial and cultural resentment, Trump will do nothing for them. He is a buffoon surrounded by a party apparatus that is unable to govern, as the Republican elite demonstrated during the George W. Bush era, and that has grown worse. 

Sunday, October 30, 2016

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Selective Outrage

It should be noted that the voter fraud Republicans are so afraid of is not only vanishingly rare but is very difficult to do. They don't seem to care because the processes to prevent this rare fraud also make it more difficult for folks who tend to vote for Democrats to vote at all.

But the kind of voter fraud that is easy to do (with absentee and mail-in ballots) tends to occur with folks who tend to vote Republican. So once again we see that the true motivation about "voter fraud" is nothing more than an attempt to win an election that you can't win fair and square. They should be ashamed of themselves, but I guess that is asking too much. 

Democrats' Shot at Taking the House

An analyst has a key indicator.
Geoffrey Skelley, who closely tracks congressional races at the University of Virginia’s Center for Politics, suggests there’s a crude shorthand for evaluating the battle for the House: Look to see if Clinton can beat Trump by 6 points or more in the presidential race. If that happens, Skelley projects 50 seats would be in play.
And recent polls show that she may be doing better than that. 

Grow Your Own Liver

We may be getting quite close to being able to grow a functional new liver from skin cells

"Based on the success in my lab generating tissue-engineered intestine and other cell types, we hypothesized that by modifying the protocol used to generate intestine, we would be able to develop liver organoid units that could generate functional tissue-engineered liver when transplanted," said Tracy C. Grikscheit, MD, a pediatric surgeon and researcher at The Saban Research Institute of CHLA and co-principal investigator on the study. Grikscheit is also a tenured associate professor of Surgery at the Keck School of Medicine of USC.

Closing Off Coal Trains

Since coal cars have to be open to keep them from spontaneously igniting and since Wyoming coal has to pass along tracks adjacent to the Columbia River in the Columbia Gorge, a lawsuit against the BNSF railroad may make it impossible for coal trains to cross the state at all.

Monday, October 17, 2016