30 December, 2020

The Rise and Fall of Getting Things Done - How personal productivity transformed work—and failed to.


Not long afterward, Mann posted a self-reflective essay on 43 Folders, in which he revealed a growing dissatisfaction with the world of personal productivity. Productivity pr0n, he suggested, was becoming a bewildering, complexifying end in itself—list-making as a “cargo cult,” system-tweaking as an addiction. “On more than a few days, I wondered what, precisely, I was trying to accomplish,” he wrote. Part of the problem was the recursive quality of his work. Refining his productivity system so that he could blog more efficiently about productivity made him feel as if he were being “tossed around by a menacing Rube Goldberg device” of his own design; at times, he said, “I thought I might be losing my mind.” He also wondered whether, on a substantive level, the approach that he’d been following was really capable of addressing his frustrations. It seemed to him that it was possible to implement many G.T.D.-inflected life hacks without feeling “more competent, stable, and alive.” He cleaned house, deleting posts. A new “About” page explained that 43 Folders was no longer a productivity blog but a “website about finding the time and attention to do your best creative work.”

29 December, 2020

The Plague Year - The mistakes and the struggles behind America’s coronavirus tragedy


Tens of millions of Americans emulated the President’s bravado, and the unchecked virus prolonged unemployment, upended efforts to reopen the economy, and caused many more fatalities. “I’m not buying a fucking mask,” Richard Rose, a thirty-seven-year-old Army veteran from Ohio, posted on Facebook. “I’ve made it this far by not buying into that damn hype.” He tested positive on July 1st and died three days later. There are many similar stories.

It’s dispiriting to think that, had such a simple precaution been broadly implemented from the start, America could have avoided so much suffering, death, impoverishment, and grief. The starkest example occurred in Kansas, when the governor issued an executive order to wear masks in public but allowed counties to opt out. It was as if Kansas were performing a clinical trial on itself. Within two months, infections in mask-wearing counties had fallen by six per cent; elsewhere, infections rose a hundred per cent.


Surprisingly, the marches did not appear to be significant drivers of transmission. “We tested thousands of people,” Michael Osterholm, the director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy, at the University of Minnesota, said. “We saw no appreciable impact.” One study found lower rates of infection among marchers than in their surrounding communities. Epidemiologists concluded that mask wearing and being outdoors protected the protesters. Moreover, demonstrators were on the move. Osterholm said that people in stationary crowds are more likely to become infected. In other words, joining a protest march is inherently less dangerous than attending a political rally.

Midnight In Chernobyl: Excerpt


Advancement in many political, economic, and scientific careers was granted only to those who repressed their personal opinions, avoided conflict, and displayed unquestioning obedience to those above them. By the midseventies, this blind conformism had smothered individual decision-making at all levels of the state and Party machine, infecting not just the bureaucracy but technical and economic disciplines, too. Lies and deception were endemic to the system, trafficked in both directions along the chain of management: those lower down passed up reports to their superiors packed with falsified statistics and inflated estimates, of unmet goals triumphantly reached, unfulfilled quotas heroically exceeded. To protect his own position, at every stage, each manager relayed the lies upward or compounded them.

Seated at the top of a teetering pyramid of falsehood, poring over reams of figures that had little basis in reality, were the economic mandarins of the State General Planning Committee—Gosplan—in Moscow. The brain of the “command economy,” Gosplan managed the centralized distribution of resources throughout the USSR, from toothbrushes to tractors, reinforced concrete to platform boots. Yet the economists in Moscow had no reliable index of what was going on in the vast empire they notionally maintained; the false accounting was so endemic that at one point the KGB resorted to turning the cameras of its spy satellites onto Soviet Uzbekistan in an attempt to gather accurate information about the state’s own cotton harvest.

Shortages and apparently inexplicable gluts of goods and materials were part of the grim routine of daily life, and shopping became a game of chance played with a string avoska, or “what-if” bag, carried in the hope of stumbling upon a store recently stocked with anything useful—whether sugar, toilet paper, or canned ratatouille from Czechoslovakia. Eventually the supply problems of the centrally planned economy became so chronic that crops rotted in the fields, and Soviet fishermen watched catches putrefy in their nets, yet the shelves of the Union’s grocery stores remained bare.


27 December, 2020

Confessions of a Xinjiang Camp Teacher


“It was a huge camp,” she recalled. “There were about 10,000 women with shaved heads, of whom only about 60 were over 60. Most of them were young, pretty, well brought up.”

It was a camp for those who had studied abroad in Korea, Australia, Turkey, Egypt, Europe, or the United States. All highly educated and speaking several languages, they were detained on arrival in Xinjiang after returning to visit their families. Qelbinur suddenly feared for her own daughter, who was studying overseas. “I had decided to kill myself if China forced her to return,” she said.

Sanitary conditions at this camp were vile, Qelbinur recalled. The air reeked from a single toilet bucket in each cell that was emptied once a day. One minute was allowed for face washing in the morning and showers rationed to once a month.“The atmosphere was pestilential,” she said. “Many were getting sick from the lack of hygiene.”

The Church Needs Prophets, But It Wants Lawyers


Take, for example, the response to the racial reckoning in the aftermath of the George Floyd killing. You might be spending more time listening to lawyers than prophets if you’re more familiar—seven months later—with the flaws of Critical Race Theory than with the details of wealth gaps, achievement gaps, or with the systematic violations of civil rights that are all too common in marginalized communities. 

It’s not easy to find (or listen to) the prophetic voice. I’ve had to learn from painful experience to listen to voices from outside the comfortable confines of my own spiritual cocoon. It’s a source of personal shame, for example, that I couldn’t clearly perceive the realities of contemporary American racism until it was directed at my own daughter, and I was shocked out of my spiritual complacency. 

American Christian culture is rife with congregants looking for lawyers, not prophets and not pastors. The church-shopping phenomenon puts us in churches that make us feel quite comfortable, and the sheer number of available congregations (especially in the South and parts of the Midwest) makes us quite mobile. From all too many members of the congregation comes the cry, “Tell us what we want to hear!”  

What's something Americans are privileged of, but they take it as granted?


The United States has, by far, the best ocean access of any other nation. There are thousands of miles of coastline on both the Atlantic and the Pacific. This gives the USA unmatched ability to trade in every direction at a much lower cost than pretty much every other country.

Former DHS Official: Trump Pouring 'Fuel On The Fire' Of Domestic Extremism


"They borrowed from ISIS's playbook and they learned how to radicalize people online," she says. In the post-Sept. 11 United States, domestic extremists also adopted an emphasis on smaller attacks that could be carried out quickly with limited planning. What Neumann saw was "the pivot to bring your own weapon to the fight, use whatever you have: a knife, a gun, a vehicle, vehicle ramming," she says. "We've seen a number of vehicle rammings this summer, in fact."

But unlike the urgent interagency response to ISIS, Neumann says there was no clear effort to combat violent extremists on the right.

"If you had a very clear voice at the top, from the president, from other senior leaders in the Republican Party, denouncing this and warning conservatives — warning Republicans — that these groups are trying to recruit you based on things that might sound like a typical conservative belief, but behind it is this insidious, ugly, evil thing, if we had more clear voices talking about it — it would somewhat inoculate people from that recruitment and that radicalization," she says. "But instead, we have the opposite effect. We have the president not only pretty much refusing to condemn, but throwing fuel on the fire, creating opportunities for more recruitment through his rhetoric."

Right-Wing Embrace Of Conspiracy Is 'Mass Radicalization,' Experts Warn


"There are no easy answers, even if they're carrying guns and wearing body armor," Dempsey said. "We've got to get past that and be wary of the idea of militarism that doesn't lead to a common conception of service, but leads to the kind of tribalism where we have to protect ourselves and our families by force against those we disagree with."

On the conference call, the analysts agreed that the leftist fringe also is hardening and promoting its own conspiracies. But they said there's simply no equivalency with the right in terms of the volume of disinformation and conspiracy, or in its connections to violent acts.

"There is a monetization of outrage on both sides," Neumann said, "but in particular the conservative infotainment sector makes money off of that outrage." 

26 December, 2020

Leaked Documents Show How China’s Army of Paid Internet Trolls Helped Censor the Coronavirus


 “China has a politically weaponized system of censorship; it is refined, organized, coordinated and supported by the state’s resources,” said Xiao Qiang, a research scientist at the School of Information at the University of California, Berkeley, and the founder of China Digital Times. “It’s not just for deleting something. They also have a powerful apparatus to construct a narrative and aim it at any target with huge scale.”

“This is a huge thing,” he added. “No other country has that.”

Whatever happened to Hotel Detectives?


Experience was the most important attribute of a hotel detective, since, for the most part, such men had three main functions to perform. The first was to protect the hotel's reputation and prevent it from unwittingly breaking any laws, which, especially in earlier periods, often involved preventing an establishment from acquiring a reputation as the sort of place that allowed unmarried couples to have sex on the premises - very often an offence at the time under laws relating to "unlawful cohabitation". A 1979 article in Texas Monthly notes that in earlier times a house officer would, as part of his routine, challenge male guests with the line "Is there a woman in your room?" Dev Collans, in I Was A House Detective (1954) describes enlisting bellboys to report on "couples who wouldn't open their suitcases while the bellboy was still in the room; married couples didn't hesitate to. A man in sleek clothes with a woman whose shoes were run down at the heels is another giveaway."

24 December, 2020

Priceless lessons from my sixth-grade English teacher


3. If a reader doesn’t understand what you are trying to say, that is your fault — not the reader’s.

Sometimes I complain about cranky emails I receive from people who misread something I wrote. Then I remember Mr. Greco’s dictum that the burden of clarity is always on the writer.

Dense, incomprehensible prose is not an indicator of intellect. It signals that a writer doesn’t sufficiently understand the subject matter or was too lazy to write something clearer.

22 December, 2020

It’s because of Emersyn: Jaccob and Kylie Slavin’s love for their child shifted their reality


Even casual interactions with friends often include moments where Emersyn’s otherness is apparent. Like that day in a coffee shop when one of Kylie’s acquaintances noted how cute Emersyn was and added: “I want one.” All Kylie could think was, no, adopting a Black child is not some trend, her daughter is not an accessory there to be dehumanized.

They are quick to fire back questions that challenge the faulty premises they once didn’t recognize. Why would you assume that? Why did you feel the need to ask that question? What did you mean by that? They can’t let the microaggressions go unchecked.

They don’t go around calling people racist, either. That’s not the point. They just want to make people aware of their implicit biases, their unintentionally offensive commentary and even bigoted perspectives. They want to have the conversations because people need to think about these things.

The Most American Religion


The hard parts of Mormonism—huffing up hills in a white shirt and tie, forgoing coffee, paying tithes—might complicate the sales pitch. But they can also inspire acts of courage. After Romney voted to remove Trump from office—standing alone among Republican senators—he told me his life in the Church had steeled him for this lonely political moment, in which neither the right nor the left is ever happy with him for long. “One of the advantages of growing up in my faith outside of Utah is that you are different in ways that are important to you,” he said. In high school, he was the only Mormon on campus; during his stint at Stanford, he would go to bars with his friends and drink soda. Small moments like those pile up over a lifetime, he told me, so that when a true test of conscience arrives, “you’re not in a position where you don’t know how to stand for something that’s hard.”

In Mormon circles, Romney’s impeachment vote was fodder for another round of “white horse” jokes. But the reality, of course, is that America will never be “saved” by a single person, or even a single group. What holds the country together is its conviction in certain ideals—community, democracy, mutual sacrifice—that it once possessed, and now urgently needs to reclaim. If Mormonism has anything to offer that effort, it will have to come from a confident Church, one that is unafraid of owning up to its mistakes and embracing what makes it distinct.

Inside the Whale: An Interview with an Anonymous Amazonian


A cybercriminal can also get paid by a competitor to expose data, or to change the configuration so the data is exposed publicly to make that company look bad. The Capital One breach in 2019 involved a former Amazon employee, actually. Capital One suffered a huge embarrassment in the press. But unfortunately, as with the Experian data breach in 2015, the Capital One incident showed that the markets are very forgiving of data breaches, because the people who are most victimized by them are poor people who have no idea how to control their data anyway, and didn't even know what it means to have their data breached. 

Companies don't like to have their whole ass be shown that way. It's a lot of egg to get on your face. But in the end, the market is learning that massive data exposures are not that bad of a problem unless Congress comes calling. 

17 December, 2020

Where Georgia’s Hand Recount Differed From the Initial Tally, by County


On Thursday, Georgia’s 159 counties finalized a hand recount, technically an audit, of the five million ballots cast in the election, reaffirming Joseph R. Biden Jr.’s victory but reducing his lead by more than 1,200 votes.

Georgia’s secretary of state, Brad Raffensperger, a Republican, had ordered the manual audit as part of a new state law to ensure the accuracy of voting machines by comparing paper ballot counts with machine tallies. This was not an official recount, though the Trump campaign can choose to request one after the state’s results are certified this week, as the vote margin between Mr. Biden and President Trump is below 0.5 percentage points.

In many counties, officials conducting the audit found zero or single-digit differences in their counts, and they will not change their original results for the state certification process. Yet at least four counties — Douglas, Fayette, Floyd and Walton — discovered missed ballots and will add these to their original counts. 

She Stalked Her Daughter’s Killers Across Mexico, One by One


SAN FERNANDO, Mexico — Miriam Rodríguez clutched a pistol in her purse as she ran past the morning crowds on the bridge to Texas. She stopped every few minutes to catch her breath and study the photo of her next target: the florist.

She had been hunting him for a year, stalking him online, interrogating the criminals he worked with, even befriending unwitting relatives for tips on his whereabouts. Now she finally had one — a widow called to tell her that he was peddling flowers on the border.

Ever since 2014, she had been tracking the people responsible for the kidnapping and murder of her 20-year-old daughter, Karen. Half of them were already in prison, not because the authorities had cracked the case, but because she had pursued them on her own, with a meticulous abandon.

She cut her hair, dyed it and disguised herself as a pollster, a health worker and an election official to get their names and addresses. She invented excuses to meet their families, unsuspecting grandmothers and cousins who gave her details, however small. She wrote everything down and stuffed it into her black computer bag, building her investigation and tracking them down, one by one. 



This was really part of much, much larger forces that are at work, and they may or may not be consciously malicious . . . This is the result of city policy, of other kinds of large-scale things that systematically cripple or dismember a community. Some neighborhoods are “fed.” Others are bled.

Facebook Is a Doomsday Machine


The social web is doing exactly what it was built for. Facebook does not exist to seek truth and report it, or to improve civic health, or to hold the powerful to account, or to represent the interests of its users, though these phenomena may be occasional by-products of its existence. The company’s early mission was to “give people the power to share and make the world more open and connected.” Instead, it took the concept of “community” and sapped it of all moral meaning. The rise of QAnon, for example, is one of the social web’s logical conclusions. That’s because Facebook—along with Google and YouTube—is perfect for amplifying and spreading disinformation at lightning speed to global audiences. Facebook is an agent of government propaganda, targeted harassment, terrorist recruitment, emotional manipulation, and genocide—a world-historic weapon that lives not underground, but in a Disneyland-inspired campus in Menlo Park, California.

16 December, 2020

I Was the Homeland Security Adviser to Trump. We’re Being Hacked.


The remediation effort alone will be staggering. It will require the segregated replacement of entire enclaves of computers, network hardware and servers across vast federal and corporate networks. Somehow, the nation’s sensitive networks have to remain operational despite unknown levels of Russian access and control. A “do over” is mandatory and entire new networks need to be built — and isolated from compromised networks.

Cyber threat hunters that are stealthier than the Russians must be unleashed on these networks to look for the hidden, persistent access controls. These information security professionals actively search for, isolate and remove advanced, malicious code that evades automated safeguards. This will be difficult work as the Russians will be watching every move on the inside.

The National Defense Authorization Act, which each year provides the Defense Department and other agencies the authority to perform its work, is caught up in partisan wrangling. Among other important provisions, the act would authorize the Department of Homeland Security to perform network hunting in federal networks. If it wasn’t already, it is now a must-sign piece of legislation, and it will not be the last congressional action needed before this is resolved.

Network operators also must take immediate steps to more carefully inspect their internet traffic to detect and neutralize unexplained anomalies and obvious remote commands from hackers before the traffic enters or leaves their network.

'He ruined us': 10 years on, Tunisians curse man who sparked Arab spring


Myths about Tunisia – cradle of the protest movements, the lone success story, flag-bearer for Arab democracy – crumble the further one drives from the country’s Mediterranean coastline into the neglected hinterlands whose rage fuelled the ousting from power of Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali, the long-serving authoritarian president, in January 2011.

Ten years later, Tunisian is a democracy. It has withstood assassinations, terrorist attacks and the ideological gulfs of its leaders, at crucial moments pulling back from the precipice of returning to authoritarian rule, as happened in Egypt, and of civil war, as in Syria, Yemen and Libya.

Tunisians are freer to criticise their leaders than before, and their elections are honest. Yet people are miserable and disillusioned, joining jihadi groups in among the largest numbers per capita of any country in the world, and making up the majority of boat-borne migrants to Italy this year.

Democratic regression in comparative perspective: scope, methods, and causes


Between 1974 and 2005, a majority of states became democratic for the first time in history. However, a global democratic recession began in 2006 and has persisted – and deepened – over the past 14 years. Not only have average levels of freedom (or democratic quality) been declining globally and in most parts of the world, but the pace of democratic breakdown accelerated and the number of democratic transitions declined, particularly in the past five years. Democratic regression is particularly visible among the G-20 countries and other most populous and geopolitically weighty countries, 19 of which have declined in freedom during the democratic recession, with only two improving. The principal method of democratic regression has been incremental strangulation of democracy by elected (typically populist) executives who gradually eviscerate institutional checks, political opposition, independent media, and other forces of scrutiny and resistance in civil society. Weak and declining rule of law has predisposed regimes to democratic regression, enabling ambitious rulers to hollow out political competition. But international factors have also been crucial, generating common economic and social stresses while lifting the constraints and lowering the risks autocrats face as they inaugurate or accelerate the slide into authoritarianism.

14 December, 2020

The World Has Gone Mad and the System Is Broken


At the same time as money is essentially free for those who have money and creditworthiness, it is essentially unavailable to those who don’t have money and creditworthiness, which contributes to the rising wealth, opportunity, and political gaps. Also contributing to these gaps are the technological advances that investors and the entrepreneurs that I previously mentioned are excited by in the ways I described, and that also replace workers with machines. Because the “trickle-down” process of having money at the top trickle down to workers and others by improving their earnings and creditworthiness is not working, the system of making capitalism work well for most people is broken. 


My Brexit hell


What was Brexit like? America’s declaration of independence? A man leaving a golf club but demanding to still be allowed into the bar? Over the years, I went through a few analogies, but the one that persisted was of a married man who has for years enjoyed casually flirting with a work colleague. One evening he makes his traditional half-hearted pass, and instead of rolling her eyes, she replies: “Go on, then”. A month later, he’s living out of his car and negotiating through lawyers to see his children one weekend a month, and he can’t really tell you how it happened.

On the inside, covering every tiny move in the story, it was mainly exhausting. I escaped Long Covid in 2020, but I may have Long Brexit. Just thinking about the endless days and nights covering this vote or those talks makes me feel ill, overwhelmed by a mix of exhaustion and anxiety.

Mainly, it was stupid. I don’t so much mean the vote to leave as everything that followed. Unutterably, unfathomably, unbelievably stupid.

12 December, 2020

10 Tips for Loving Someone in an Overrun ICU in the time of Covid


This advice is written with love for people facing a nightmare. This is not a condemnation of the doctors and nurses and aides who are doing their best in an impossible situation — this entire situation is a condemnation of policymakers who know exactly how to stop the spread and are not.

If you came here for this advice, it means you’re likely in the midst of a horrific experience, and I am so, so sorry. I’ve been there, and I’m rooting for you. A member of my immediate family contracted covid through community spread early this spring while hospitalized. There were a number of times where the hospital was overrun, they were intubated, and we were told to say goodbye.* This is what I wish I had known then.

10 December, 2020

Jeffrey Robert and Linda Kay Conn


 In lieu of flowers the family requests that you simply wear a mask when you are out in public and practice social distancing. It is not a difficult thing to do. It is not an infringement on your freedom or civil liberties. It is literally the least, smallest thing you can do to help reduce the risk that vulnerable members of our community will die unnecessarily and leave their loved ones heartbroken and devastated.

This is not normal


Experts in authoritarianism advise keeping a list of things changing, subtly, around you, so you’ll remember. Days after the 2016 presidential election, I started a list. Each week, I chronicle the ways Donald Trump has changed our country. This selection, adapted from more than 34,000 entries — or about 1 percent of the total — focuses on the norms he and his administration have broken. The List offers us a road map back to normalcy and democracy.

07 December, 2020

Former Alabama state senator dies of Covid at 78, warns in last words, 'We messed up' "We let our guards down. Please tell everybody to be careful. This is real, and if you get diagnosed, get help immediately," former Sen. Larry Dixon said.


A former Alabama state senator died of Covid-19 last week at age 78, officials said.

The former senator, Larry Dixon, a Republican who was also a former executive director of the Alabama Board of Medical Examiners, died Friday, the board said in a statement.

Dr. David Thrasher, a pulmonologist in Montgomery who was a close friend of Dixon's, said Dixon's wife, Gaynell Dixon, told him that her husband's last words to her were a prescient warning to the people of Alabama.

"We messed up. We let our guard down," Dixon said, according to Thrasher. "Please tell everybody to be careful. This is real, and if you get diagnosed, get help immediately."

Thrasher said Dixon was exposed to the virus at a social gathering "with a couple of guys" that was hosted outside about two weeks ago.

Thrasher said he was unsure how many people attended, but he said he knew of two other men who attended and had tested positive.

06 December, 2020

The Inside Story of Michigan’s Fake Voter Fraud Scandal


In conversations with more than two dozen Michigan insiders—elected officials, party elders, consultants, activists—it became apparent how the state’s conditions were ripe for this sort of slow-motion disaster. Michigan is home to Detroit, an overwhelmingly majority Black city, that has always been a favorite punching bag of white Republicans. The state had viral episodes of conflict and human error that were easily manipulated and deliberately misconstrued. It drew special attention from the highest levels of the party, and for the president, it had the potential to settle an important score with his adversary, Democratic Governor Gretchen Whitmer. Perhaps most important, Trump’s allies in Michigan proved to be more career-obsessed, and therefore more servile to his whims, than GOP officials in any other state he has cultivated during his presidency, willing to indulge his conspiratorial fantasies in ways other Republicans weren’t.

This, Republicans and Democrats here agreed, was the essential difference between Michigan and other states. However sloppy Trump’s team was in contesting the results in places like Georgia and Wisconsin, where the margins were fractional, there was at least some plausible justification of a legal challenge. The same could never be said for Michigan. Strangely liberated by his deficit of 154,000 votes, the president’s efforts here were aimed not at overturning the results, but rather at testing voters’ faith in the ballot box and Republicans’ loyalty to him.

05 December, 2020

The Party That Failed


So I should not have been surprised when it turned out that Xi was no reformer. Over the course of his tenure, the regime has degenerated further into a political oligarchy bent on holding on to power through brutality and ruthlessness. It has grown even more repressive and dictatorial. A personality cult now surrounds Xi, who has tightened the party’s grip on ideology and eliminated what little space there was for political speech and civil society. People who haven’t lived in mainland China for the past eight years can hardly understand how brutal the regime has become, how many quiet tragedies it has authored. After speaking out against the system, I learned it was no longer safe for me to live in China.

04 December, 2020

On Susan Collins and Maine


Mainer here. Yes, we have lots of idiots here but I wouldn’t credit them for Collins’ victory. Maine is a weird and wonderful place - if you want a gun you can just go to the store and buy a gun, and if you want weed you can buy weed just as easily as you can buy a gun. I hope that kind of primes you for thinking a little outside the box about the state and understanding the people a little better

A significant portion of the electorate in Maine is really proud to be fluid in their affiliations, to the point where party loyalty hasn’t really existed in recent memory, so it was always going to be an uphill battle to vote her out by telling voters to go blue no matter who, for starters. Another significant portion of the electorate are conservative minded folks who are genuinely ignorant to the world outside of their little bubble.

Next up you have her record. “She votes with Trump X% of the time” is one of the things the Democrat campaign tried to run against her with, but that’s a disingenuous argument because she voted with Obama a significant percentage as well. Above both of those points, a representative is supposed to vote in favor of her constituents interests regardless of who is president and their party affiliation - while she may have shifted to the dark side in the past four years, her career record tracks for the most part in line with the interests of Maine. Overall, she’s been good for Maine during her career.

Lastly, and I say this as someone who wanted so so so badly for Collins to lose, the Democrats here ran a really poor campaign against her. First, the corporate Dems squashed the actual exciting progressive candidate, Kidman, in favor of center-left Gideon (Sweet was another progressive candidate with some great ideals but she has some...let’s say highly questionable beliefs as well). Pitting a centrist candidate against another basically comes down to who is more well-liked in the state because at the end of the day they are more or less the same candidate, and that is what handed Collins the election. On top of that, the campaign they ran didn’t focus much on Gideon’s policy, it was all negative attacks on Collins - because her policy wasn’t really too far off from Collins. Also, as hicky as it sounds, the Dems not having a native Mainer as their candidate didn’t help much either.

I’m disappointed that Collins won as much as anyone else, and this election was the Dems’ to lose and they blew it just as they blow so many other elections by trying to force corporate non-progressives down our throats.

I hope this provided a little insight into what happened here. I’ll admit that I’m very disappointed in my fellow Mainers and the polarization I’ve seen take over so many of my coworkers and neighbors over the past four years. I really hope there is some kind of mass deprogramming effort to bring these people back to reality because the people of this state have become very scarily divided and uncharacteristically un-neighborly as of late. 

02 December, 2020

In video, Trump recycles unsubstantiated voter fraud claims


WASHINGTON (AP) — Increasingly detached from reality, President Donald Trump stood before a White House lectern and delivered a 46-minute diatribe against the election results that produced a win for Democrat Joe Biden, unspooling one misstatement after another to back his baseless claim that he really won.

Trump called his address, released Wednesday only on social media and delivered in front of no audience, perhaps “the most important speech” of his presidency. But it was largely a recycling of the same litany of misinformation and unsubstantiated allegations of voter fraud that he has been making for the past month.

26 November, 2020

Tossing a Bird That Does Not Fly Out of a Plane


YELLVILLE, Ark.It is October in the Ozarks. The grass has dried out and the trees have bronzed and browned. Deer lie glaze-eyed in the back of camouflaged pickup trucks. High-school football helmets crack every Friday night. And seven days a week, workers in processing plants are helping to kill, gut, pluck, and truss turkeys for Thanksgiving tables around the country.

Here in Yellville this cold and rainy weekend, there are turkeys everywhere—turkey shirts and turkey costumes and turkey paraphernalia. There is a raffle giving away birds for Thanksgiving dinner. There’s a brisk trade in turkey legs, too, pulled out of a barrel smoker. At the bandstand, a judge announces the winner of the “Miss Drumsticks” contest, who gleams and sparkles in her pageant finery. “It’s Miss Drumsticks because they’re judging who has the best thighs,” an older woman explained to me, matter-of-fact.

But—and this is unusual, and much to the dismay and consternation of many locals—there are no live turkeys. None in a cage towed behind a pickup. None thrown from the courthouse roof. None pitched off the bandstand and picked up by screaming teenagers. And none dropped out of an airplane. That is what the Yellville Turkey Trot festival is famous and infamous for, you see: living, breathing, squawking birds getting lobbed out of a low-flying aircraft.

Fevercrumb1649 on the US Army Corps of Engineers


Their standards for quality are infamous, and many masonry companies in particular won't do government work for USACE because their bricklaying standards are essentially "perfection". They have an internal QC system that they, along with NAVFAC, have been refining for many decades, and it makes the quality control systems in the private sector look like an Eritrean infrastructure project. I generally quite enjoy working on USACE jobs precisely because I know that I will never be asked to cut corners for cost reasons- quite the opposite, in fact.

Further, USACE projects have costs higher than the private sector for a few reasons- Davis-Bacon wage standards apply, guaranteeing solid pay for all laborers and tradespeople on the project, as well as mandating they be lawful citizens. The Buy American Act ensures that government dollars go in a circle, from taxpayers, over to USACE, then out to exclusively US firms to the greatest extent possible. Government construction contracts are effectively a perpetual stimulus package, paying a higher price tag to ensure the work is done by well-paid citizens, using materials from as American of a supply chain as humanly possible.

24 November, 2020

The Inside Story of Michigan’s Fake Voter Fraud Scandal


“A lot of our leaders in this country ought to be ashamed of themselves,” said Thomas, the nonpartisan elections guru who kept Michigan’s governing class guessing his political affiliation for the past several decades. “They have propagated this narrative of massive fraud, and it’s simply not true. They’ve leapt from some human error to massive fraud. It’s like a leap to Never Neverland. And people are believing them.”

He exhaled with a disgusted groan.

“The people of this country really need to wake up and start thinking for themselves and looking for facts—not conspiracy theories being peddled by people who are supposed to be responsible leaders, but facts,” Thomas said. “If they’re not going to be responsible leaders, people need to seek out the truth for themselves. If people don’t do that—if they no longer trust how we elect the president of the United States—we’re going to be in real trouble.”

20 November, 2020

Funkyouup82 on COVID


 I am a CCU nurse who worked the covid floor of our hospital on and off for three months. I contracted the virus two weeks ago and yesterday discovered I have a pulmonary embolism. I'm 14 days in, struggling to breathe and struggling to stay alive. This is all anecdotal, I'm a nobody on the internet but I beg you please wear your mask, please follow the guidelines. For what it is worth i began to feel fine but yesterday morning had some chest pain and spiked a fever. My HR was in the 140s and I my O2 in the high 80s by the time the ambulance got me I had dropped to 77%. I felt like I was suffocating and was powerless. I'm in my 30s, I work out and have no comorbidities. I'm responding to meds but I had a 40 year old patient die a few weeks ago so I've seen first hand what can happen and now I'm living and potentially dying in my own hellish reality. Again, you don't have to believe me I'm a nobody on the internets and this comment will be lost but I beg you please do what's right. If you don't wear your mask, don't follow the guidelines you are the reason me and 11 million in this country are sick and why a quarter of a million are dead. I don't want to die. I'm alone and I just want to see my wife and kids. Im suffocating and I'm scared and it could have been prevented.

19 November, 2020

What Really Brought Down the Boeing 737 Max?


The rush to lay blame was based in part on a poor understanding not just of the technicalities but also of Boeing’s commercial aviation culture. The Max’s creation took place in suburban Seattle among engineers and pilots of unquestionable if bland integrity, including supervising officials from the Federal Aviation Administration. Although Boeing’s designers were aware of timetables and competitive pressures, the mistakes they made were honest ones, or stupid ones, or maybe careless ones, but not a result of an intentional sacrifice of safety for gain. As always, there was a problem with like-mindedness and a reluctance by team players to stand out from the crowd. Even more pernicious was the F.A.A.’s longstanding delegation of regulatory authority to Boeing employees — a worry that is perennially available to chew on if you like and may indeed be related to the configuration of the troublesome system as it was installed. Nonetheless, in Seattle, at the level where such small choices are made, corruption, like cynicism, is rare.

That is not meant as a blanket defense of Boeing. On the corporate level, the company is the worst sort of player — a corrosive agent that spreads money around Washington, pushes exotic weapons on Congress, toys with nuclear annihilation, sells all sorts of lesser instruments of death to oppressive regimes around the world and dangerously distorts American society in the ways that President Dwight D. Eisenhower warned against in his prescient 1961 farewell address. But hardly any of that matters in the story of the 737 Max. What sent an expensive new Boeing into the ocean on that beautiful, bright morning in Indonesia? It is understandable to look for a simple answer. Laying the blame on a poorly implemented system, even a complex one, made the accident relatively easy to understand and also provided for a material solution: Simply fix the system. But the focus on a single shoddy component — as the news media and government regulators have rushed to do — has obscured the larger forces that ultimately made these accidents possible.

16 November, 2020

Why Obama Fears for Our Democracy


America as an experiment is genuinely important to the world not because of the accidents of history that made us the most powerful nation on Earth, but because America is the first real experiment in building a large, multiethnic, multicultural democracy. And we don’t know yet if that can hold. There haven’t been enough of them around for long enough to say for certain that it’s going to work.  


It’s interesting. You’re in high school and you see all the cliques and bullying and unfairness and superficiality, and you think, Once I’m grown up I won’t have to deal with that anymore. And then you get to the state legislature and you see all the nonsense and stupidity and pettiness. And then you get to Congress and then you get to the G20, and at each level you have this expectation that things are going to be more refined, more sophisticated, more thoughtful, rigorous, selfless, and it turns out it’s all still like high school. Human dynamics are surprisingly constant. They take different forms. It turns out that the same strengths people have—flaws and foibles that people have—run across cultures and are part of politics. This should be empowering for people. My ideal reader is some 25-year-old kid who is starting to be curious about the world and wants to do something that has some meaning. I want them to read this and say, “Okay, this is not all rocket science; this is something I could contribute to and make a difference in.”

15 November, 2020

‘No One Is Listening to Us’


 The entire state of Iowa is now out of staffed beds, Eli Perencevich, an infectious-disease doctor at the University of Iowa, told me. Worse is coming. Iowa is accumulating more than 3,600 confirmed cases every day; relative to its population, that’s more than twice the rate Arizona experienced during its summer peak, “when their system was near collapse,” Perencevich said. With only lax policies in place, those cases will continue to rise. Hospitalizations lag behind cases by about two weeks; by Thanksgiving, today’s soaring cases will be overwhelming hospitals that already cannot cope. “The wave hasn’t even crashed down on us yet,” Perencevich said. “It keeps rising and rising, and we’re all running on fear. The health-care system in Iowa is going to collapse, no question.”

In the imminent future, patients will start to die because there simply aren’t enough people to care for them. Doctors and nurses will burn out. The most precious resource the U.S. health-care system has in the struggle against COVID-19 isn’t some miracle drug. It’s the expertise of its health-care workers—and they are exhausted.

Sex-Abuse Claims Against Boy Scouts Now Surpass 81,000


 More than 81,000 people have come forward with sex-abuse claims against the Boy Scouts of America, describing a decades-long accumulation of assaults at the hands of scout leaders across the nation who had been trusted as role models.

The claims, which lawyers said far eclipsed the number of abuse accusations filed in Catholic Church cases, continued to mount ahead of a Monday deadline established in bankruptcy court in Delaware, where the Boy Scouts had sought refuge this year in a bid to survive.

Paul Mones, a lawyer who has been working on Boy Scouts cases for nearly two decades, said the prevalence of abuse detailed in the filings was breathtaking and might reflect only a fraction of victims.

“I knew there were a lot of cases,” Mr. Mones said. “I never contemplated it would be a number close to this.”

14 November, 2020

Before You Go


Fail. Make plenty of glorious mistakes. Learn from them and don’t harp on what could’ve been or might be. Failed attempts will make you more resilient, and resiliency is something you will need in abundance. You can only obtain resiliency from your experiences. So have them. Put yourself out there and experience all that life has to offer. Yes, you can certainly observe from the sidelines and learn from other people’s mistakes, as your Papa has often done, but you won’t necessarily get the same kind of deep-rooted resilience. True resilience is absent of callousness.

In addition to resilience, it is important to be elastic, disciplined, and discreet. Allow us to call it living in the REDD zone:

Resilience: when you get knocked down, get back up and keep moving forward

Elasticity: be flexible enough to bend but not break

Discipline: stay focused on the task at hand and steadfast in protecting your values and ethics

Discretion: make responsible choices, be trustworthy, don’t spread gossip, fake news, or conspiracy theories

12 November, 2020

Super-spreading wedding party demonstrates COVID-19 risk posed by holiday gatherings


If you want to know why public health officials are so nervous about how much worse the COVID-19 pandemic will get as the holiday season unfolds, consider what happened after a single, smallish wedding reception that took place this summer in rural Maine.

Only 55 people attended the Aug. 7 reception at the Big Moose Inn in Millinocket. But one of those guests arrived with a coronavirus infection. Over the next 38 days, the virus spread to 176 other people. Seven of them died.

None of the victims who lost their lives had attended the party.

3D Map of COVID Cases by Population, March through November


08 November, 2020

Clyburn on slogans


CLYBURN: Well, Jake, you may remember, months ago, I came out very publicly and very forcibly against sloganeering.

I happen to also be -- you know, John Lewis and I were co -- were founders of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee. John and I sat on the House floor and talked about that defund the police slogan, and both of us concluded that it had the possibilities of doing to the Black Lives Matter movement and current movements across the country what "Burn, baby, burn" did to us back in 1960.

We lost that movement over that slogan. And a lot of people don't realize it, but John Lewis walked across the Edmund Pettus Bridge in February 1965. A year later, we got the Voting Rights Act out of that, six months later. And it wasn't a year after that that John Lewis was ousted as chair of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee. And so we saw the same thing happening here.

So, I spoke about against the sloganeering. And I feel very strongly we can't pick up these things just because it makes a good headline. It sometimes destroys headway.

We need to work on what makes headway, rather than what makes headlines.

04 November, 2020

The belief that people who suffer will receive future virtuous rewards


A study published in the British journal of Social Psychology proposes that people expect suffering to result in a greater likelihood of attaining future rewards. This research was carried out by Dr. How Hwee Ong, Dr. Rob M. A. Nelissen and Dr. Ilja van Beest from the Department of Social Psychology at Tilburg University. 

There are two primary theories for why people believe that suffering in the present will lead to fortuitous rewards in the future. The first is known as the “just-world maintenance” explanation. This explanation states that individuals often believe that they’re living in a world where people get what they deserve. 

Thus, people who suffer unnecessarily will be compensated for the pain they’ve endured. In doing so, this will restore balance to a supposed just-world.

The alternative theory is known as the “virtuous suffering” explanation. This suggests that experiencing suffering can improve one’s moral character.