September 4, 2020

Posted by orrinj at 2:24 PM


Posted by orrinj at 8:04 AM


What would make me vote Republican again (Scott Galupo, September 4, 2020, The Week)

1. Truth and reconciliation. My first criterion is not a matter of policy or ideology. It should be an easy one: Tell the truth. The whole truth. As Josh Marshall has written at Talking Points Memo, we're going to need a full audit of everything that has transpired under the cover of darkness (and many, many defied subpoenas) in Trump's executive branch: "We simply cannot move forward as a society or a political system without a thorough accounting of the totality of what happened during this unparalleled era of lawlessness, corruption, and misgovernance." The Ukraine boondoggle was no doubt the tip of a very large iceberg. We could never be certain whether Trump was representing his financial and political interests, or the country's, while interfacing with world leaders such as the presidents of Turkey and China. He never separated himself from the Trump Organization, and barely pretended to; in fact, he funneled public money to it throughout his presidency. As we speak, Trump is corrupting, in more or less plain view, several government agencies in his re-election effort. ("Warp speed" vaccine by early November, anyone?)

The Republican Party in Trump's wake needs to own this legacy of corruption. And it needs to apologize to the public for abetting it and covering it up. An administration that was, from beginning to end, one gigantic conflict of interest would never have been tolerated if led by a Democrat. This will require a package of ethics and legislative reforms. [...]

4. Immigration and race. At a cost to both humanity and long-term economic growth, the Trump administration has managed to significantly reduce the rate of legal immigration to the U.S. For Trump and his odious racist handmaid Stephen Miller, I imagine this is a proud and deeply felt accomplishment. Yet it is mind-bogglingly stupid and counterproductive -- not to mention, in the case of refugees, immoral. The next Republican standard-bearer must reverse this course. As for the matter of what to do with 12 million undocumented workers, the solution is the same as it was in 2005. It is the same as it was when Mitt Romney desperately tried to avoid admitting it in 2012. And it is the same as it was when Sen. Marco Rubio layered some new perfume on it 2013: bring them out from the shadows, send them to the end of the line, collect back taxes where applicable -- and move the heck on from this godforsaken entanglement with white nationalism and restrictionism.

Posted by orrinj at 8:00 AM


Tesla's Gigafactory (Alex Tabarrok,  September 2, 2020, Marginal Revolution)

Elon Musk has said that he thinks not of building cars but of building factories that make cars, the machine that makes the machine. [...]

Three points of note. The factory was up and running in 10 months. There are lots of robots, in a factory in China-that tells you a lot about Chinese wages and the productivity of robots today.

Your next car will be a Volt.

Posted by orrinj at 7:48 AM


Trump's rhetoric on protests seen as detrimental by majority of Americans: POLL (Kendall Karson, September 4, 2020, ABC News)

Over half of the country -- 55% -- in the new poll, which was conducted by Ipsos in partnership with ABC News using Ipsos' Knowledge Panel, said they think Trump is aggravating the situation, while just over one in 10 Americans, 13%, said they think he is making it better. Fewer than one-third, 29%, believe what Trump has said on the topic has had no effect on the protests over racial injustice.

Among his base, 30% of Republicans say the president is improving the situation, compared to 26% who say he's having an adverse impact. Only 18% of white, non-college educated Americans, another core constituency for the president, believe he is having a positive effect on the protests, while 41% view his comments on the demonstrations amid the debate over racial equality as having a negative influence.

The Right has never processed the reality that Hillary lost rather than Donald winning, so they took all the wrong messages from 2016.

Posted by orrinj at 7:26 AM


Privately built border wall will fail, engineering report says (JEREMY SCHWARTZ AND PERLA TREVIZO, 9/02/20, THE TEXAS TRIBUNE AND PROPUBLICA)

It's not a matter of if a privately built border fence along the shores of the Rio Grande will fail, it's a matter of when, according to a new engineering report on the troubled project.

The report is one of two new studies set to be filed in federal court this week that found numerous deficiencies in the 3-mile border fence, built this year by North Dakota-based Fisher Sand and Gravel. The reports confirm earlier reporting from ProPublica and The Texas Tribune, which found that segments of the structure were in danger of overturning due to extensive erosion if not fixed and properly maintained. Fisher dismissed the concerns as normal post-construction issues.

Donations that paid for part of the border fence are at the heart of an indictment against members of the We Build the Wall nonprofit, which raised more than $25 million to help President Donald Trump build a border wall.

Sic transit the Trumpbots white supremacist dream. 

Posted by orrinj at 7:21 AM


'Vile and disgusting' Trump hated by many military service members: Retired general (Brad Reed, 9/04/20, Raw Story)

Ret. Gen. Mark Hertling on Friday told CNN's Jim Sciutto that many military service members do not think much of President Donald Trump and his views on the military.

In the wake of an explosive story in The Atlantic, in which multiple sources claimed Trump disparaged American soldiers killed during World War I as "suckers" and "losers," Sciutto asked Hertling what he's heard from other military service members about how the president sees the military.

"Well, there's a variety of views, Jim, as you well know," he said. "But the ones I've been talking to, and there have literally been hundreds, have said that this is vile and disgusting."

Posted by orrinj at 7:18 AM


Trump's Law And Order Message Isn't Resonating With Most Americans (Geoffrey Skelley, 9/04/20, 538)

Given the underlying support for these protests, a major challenge remains for the president: Many Americans doubt his ability to fix the problems and reduce tensions that have precipitated the demonstrations. According to a YouGov survey on Wednesday, 56 percent of adults said that the violence happening at protests would get worse if Trump were reelected this November. Fifteen percent thought the violence would stay at similar levels, while 18 percent thought it would improve (11 percent said they didn't know). Conversely, 43 percent thought protest violence would get better if Joe Biden won, and just 23 percent thought it would worsen. Somewhat similarly, 50 percent of likely voters told Quinnipiac University this week that they felt less safe with Trump as president, compared with 35 percent who said they felt safer. These voters were more split on Biden, however: 42 percent said they'd feel safer with Biden in the White House, and 40 percent said they'd feel less safe.

Furthermore, other polling continued to show that voters preferred Biden's prospective handling of race relations, public safety and unifying the country. In this week's Quinnipiac poll, 58 percent of likely voters said Biden would handle the issue of racial inequality better, compared with 36 percent who said Trump would fare better. A new CNN/SSRS poll found a similar breakdown -- 56 percent of registered voters said Biden, and 38 percent said Trump. According to Politico/Morning Consult's new survey, 51 percent said Biden would do a better job handling race relations versus 32 percent who said Trump; 47 percent said that Biden would better handle public safety versus 39 percent who said Trump would. Even on an issue that might fold in better with Trump's law-and-order messaging, 51 percent of registered voters told CNN/SSRS that Biden would do a better job dealing with the criminal justice system, compared with 44 percent who said Trump would. CNN/SSRS also found that 56 percent thought Biden stood a better chance of unifying the country and not dividing it, while just 36 percent thought Trump stood a better chance.

Posted by orrinj at 7:12 AM


Posted by orrinj at 7:04 AM


Exclusive: How a pro-Trump Black group became an off-the-books Turkish lobbying campaign: A Salon investigation reveals a strange tale of Black Trump surrogates who tried to leverage Turkish billions (ROGER SOLLENBERGER, SEPTEMBER 4, 2020 , Salon)

In 2018, officials with a controversial pro-Trump nonprofit called the Urban Revitalization Coalition (URC) -- which recently lost its tax-exempt charity status and made headlines earlier this year with suspicious cash giveaways to Black voters -- facilitated an off-the-books foreign influence campaign on behalf of powerful people in Turkey, according to social media posts and people familiar with the organization.

URC officials Darrell Scott and Kareem Lanier, both prominent Trump surrogates in the Black community, are said by multiple sources to have used the organization as a vehicle to "solicit donations," including from wealthy Turkish nationals. Some of these solicitations came by way of former MAGA-world star Rabia Kazan, whom they hired strictly for that purpose, according to Kazan and people familiar with the arrangement.

We all owe Joe an apology.

Posted by orrinj at 7:00 AM


Google's Quantum Computer Achieves Chemistry Milestone  (Neil Savage, September 4, 2020, Scientific American)

When researchers at Google announced last fall that they had achieved "quantum superiority"--a point at which a quantum computer can perform a task beyond the reach of regular computers--some  people wondered what the big deal was. The program, which checked the output of a random number generator, was of limited practical value and did not prove that the company's machine could do anything useful, critics said.

Now, however, Google's quantum computer has achieved something that could have real-world applications: successfully simulating a simple chemical reaction.

Posted by orrinj at 6:57 AM


Tom Seaver Was the Best Pitcher of His Generation--and Maybe Every Other Generation, Too: The Mets great died on Monday at the age of 75, but his historical record stands up against that of just about any pitcher who came before or after him (Michael Baumann  Sep 3, 2020, The Ringer)

In his 2001 New Historical Baseball Abstract, Bill James rated Seaver the sixth-best pitcher of all time, behind Warren Spahn and four pitchers whose careers were over by World War II. "There's actually a good argument that Tom Seaver should be regarded as the greatest pitcher of all time," wrote James. "Where Seaver rates ... depends to a large extent on how steep one believes the incline of history to be. Since no one can say with any confidence how much tougher the game has become, it is certainly reasonable to argue that the accomplishments of early pitchers should have been marked off by more than I have discounted them, and thus that Seaver's record, in context, is more impressive than [Walter Johnson's]."

James wrote that before Roger Clemens and Pedro Martínez--two of the half-dozen or so pitchers with a legitimate statistical claim to the title of best pitcher ever--were out of their primes, so suffice it to say the math has shifted a little in the past 20 years. But a more thorough examination of Seaver's statistical record compared to other pitchers of his era reveals his greatness.

Seaver was one of 10 Hall of Fame pitchers to debut between 1962 and 1969. In addition to a couple of edge cases, that list includes Jim Palmer, a three-time Cy Young winner like Seaver, Nolan Ryan, Steve Carlton, Phil Niekro, and Don Sutton--four of the other nine pitchers to win 300 games and strike out 3,000 batters.

There's a tendency in baseball to view contemporary Hall of Fame-caliber players as equals, even if the numbers show one to be clearly better than the other. Ted Williams and Joe DiMaggio, Barry Bonds and Griffey, A-Rod and Jeter, Mike Trout and Mookie Betts. A Hall of Famer is a Hall of Famer, but there's a difference between the best player of his era and the second-best. Sometimes a big difference.

That's a tough thing to imagine, let alone to prove, especially when the other guys at the same position in the same era are legendary figures like Carlton and Ryan. When those two retired, they were 1-2 all time in strikeouts. Ryan had thrown more no-hitters (seven) and appeared in more MLB seasons (27) than any other pitcher in history. Carlton had won more Cy Young awards (four) than any other pitcher ever. His 1972 campaign, in which he won 27 games for a woebegone Phillies team that won just 59 games total, had become the stuff of legend. Ryan had unparalleled velocity and durability, while Carlton had the legendary wipeout slider and was the best-conditioned pitcher in baseball.

But both were inconsistent, and Ryan in particular was prone to fits of wildness. Seaver was great enough, consistently enough, to be taken for granted.

Seaver made his major league debut in 1967 at the age of 22. That year, he made 34 starts, threw 251 innings, posted an ERA of 2.76, and was named NL Rookie of the Year. In each of the 13 seasons that followed, Seaver made at least 32 starts, threw at least 215 innings, and posted an ERA of 3.20 or less. His worst ERA+ in that 14-season span, 112, is equal to Ryan's career average. His second-worst single-season ERA+, 115, is equal to Carlton's career average.

Seaver won his first Cy Young in 1969, when the Mets won their first title, by going 25-7 with a 2.21 ERA and allowing fewer hits per inning than any other pitcher in the National League. He lost a razor-thin MVP race to Willie McCovey that year--both men received 11 first-place votes but McCovey had better downballot support. Seaver won another Cy Young the next time the Mets won the pennant, in 1973, and a third in 1975. His 61 career complete-game shutouts are most of any pitcher who debuted after World War II, and more than all MLB pitchers have put together in total in the past three years. If you want to ding Seaver for not being as big a strikeout pitcher as his two contemporaries, fine, but Seaver led the NL in strikeouts five times and in K/9 ratio six times. At the time of his retirement Seaver was third all time (behind Carlton and Ryan) in total strikeouts and fifth in K%.

Posted by orrinj at 6:23 AM


Google Introduces 6-Month Career Certificates, Threatening to Disrupt Higher Education with "the Equivalent of a Four-Year Degree" (Colin Marshall, September 3rd, 2020, Open C ulture)

Google's new Career Certificates in "the high-paying, high-growth career fields of Data Analytics, Project Management, and User Experience (UX) Design," which join their existing IT Support and IT Automation in Python Certificates. Hosted on the online education platform Coursera, these programs (which run about $300-$400) are developed in-house and taught by Google employees and require no previous experience. To help cover their cost Google will also fund 100,000 "need-based scholarships" and offer students "hundreds of apprenticeship opportunities" at the company "to provide real on-the-job training." None of this guarantees any given student a job at Google, of course, but as Walker emphasizes, "we will consider our new career certificates as the equivalent of a four-year degree."

Technology-and-education pundit Scott Galloway calls that bachelor's-degree equivalence the biggest story in his field of recent weeks. It's perhaps the beginning of a trend where tech companies disrupt higher education, creating affordable and scalable educational programs that will train the workforce for 21st century jobs. This could conceivably mean that universities lose their monopoly on the training and vetting of students, or at least find that they'll increasingly share that responsibility with big tech.

This past spring Galloway gave an interview to New York magazine predicting that "ultimately, universities are going to partner with companies to help them expand." He adds: "I think that partnership will look something like MIT and Google partnering. Microsoft and Berkeley. Big-tech companies are about to enter education and health care in a big way, not because they want to but because they have to."