Monday, March 27, 2017

God Bless Senator Whitehouse

During the Gorsuch hearings, we learned who this man really is. On the bright side: apparently popular soap operas of long standing high ratings suffered a loss in viewership as a result of folks actually tuning in to c-span! Way to be citizens!  Small d democrats be prepared to get "gored by Grouch" in future.

 And then there's Senator Coons' inspiring moment of truth, a commendable attempt to get this femmie valley girl ersatz judge to splain hisself.  Honestly, Senatoor Coons was impressive, and they say we have no Dems with cajones and smarts.Wait for Coons' moment where he harkens back to Gorsuch's view of "the sanctity of human life"... gotcha.  As a citizen I bitterly resent this judge's smug, condescending attitude. All the smarminess of your everyday pedophile.


Tuesday, March 14, 2017

21st Century Little Red Riding Hood No Fairy Tale

Talk about a contrast twixt the haves and have nots. In a battle for survival, I'm with her. From The Guardian...

Four-year-old trekked miles in subzero Siberia to help sick grandmother

Saglana Salchak
A four-year-old girl who walked miles through the freezing Siberian wilderness to get help for her sick grandmother has been hailed as a hero in Russia’s Tuva republic, while a criminal case has been opened against her mother.

Saglana Salchak had been living with her grandparents at their remote farm deep in the taiga forest near the Mongolian border, more than 12 miles from the nearest village and five miles from their closest neighbour. 

Last month the child awoke to find that her 60-year-old grandmother was not moving. After talking with her blind grandfather, she decided to walk to the next homestead for help, according to local news. 

Taking only a box of matches in case she had to light a fire, the four-year-old set out into the early-morning darkness, where temperatures hit -34C (-29F). It took her several hours to walk the five miles along a river bank through snowdrifts. Fortunately, she did not get stuck in the snow, often chest high, or encounter any of the wolves that had at times attacked her grandparents’ livestock.
“Tuva has simply filled up with wolves,” Semyon Rubtsov, head of the regional search and rescue group, told the Komsomolskaya Pravda newspaper. “They eat the livestock – the herders moan about them. She could have easily stumbled on a pack in the darkness.”

After five gruelling miles Saglana nearly missed her neighbours’ house amid the undergrowth, and would have passed it if one of them had not spotted her. They called in medical personnel from the village, who, after checking on the girl, made the trek back to her grandparents’ place. There they discovered that the grandmother had died of a heart attack.

Saglana told Komsomolskaya Pravda she was not scared making the trip through the forest alone. “I just walked, walked and got there,” she said. She admitted, however, that she had been cold and had “really wanted to eat”.

Although she caught a cold, Saglana quickly recovered at the local hospital and is now living at a social centre, where she just celebrated her fifth birthday. Local media have declared her a hero. “You can’t [easily] impress residents of the remote Tere-Kholsky district with extreme stories about taiga life. Nonetheless, the incident several days ago amazed even the old-timers in Kungurtug, the district centre,” Tuva Online also wrote about Saglana’s feat.

Saglana’s mother and stepfather look after their own herd of horses in another part of the region. The social policy ministry offered the youngster a free trip to a sanatorium with her mother, Eleonora, when she returns from herding in May. 

But on Sunday, the Tuva investigative committee opened a criminal case against Eleonora Salchak for leaving a minor in danger. “She knew that the elderly [grandparents] lacked the ability to take measures to guarantee the child’s safety,” it said in a press release. If charged, the mother could face up to a year in prison. The committee said it was also investigating the actions of social policy officials in the girl’s district.

Sayana Mongush, an activist and journalist in the regional capital of Kyzyl, told the Guardian that it was shocking Salchak’s grandparents didn’t have any phone or internet connection, especially since defence minister and Tuva native Sergei Shoigu previously promoted archeological digs at an ancient fortress located in their district.

“Even in Soviet times, herders in Tuva had [material] privileges and radio communications,” she said. “But now in the 21st century a four-year-old child has to go by foot only because there’s no connectivity. This is nonsense, and the crime is not by the girl’s mother, but by the authorities.”
A sparsely populated republic of rugged forests, mountains and plains, Tuva is renowned for its traditional throat-singing and for ancient shamanistic religious practices, which coexist alongside Buddhism.

Monday, March 13, 2017

The Price of Denial

From recent Guardian:

TVs spying on us is just the tip of the iceberg. Is Congress ready to act? | Michael E Capuano

watching TV
As the FBI director, James Comey, recently said: “There is no such thing as absolute privacy.” The newly leaked CIA files raised a few eyebrows for many reasons, including when we all learned that America’s CIA and Britain’s MI5 worked together to hack personal television sets in order to watch and listen to people in their own homes. It is important to understand that these so-called “weeping angel” programs are nothing new and not limited to governmental spy agencies – private corporations do it, too.

The same sort of intrusion has happened through your car, cellphone, cable television box, toll paying device, refrigerator, your child’s doll, and even your license plate. 
Just last month, the Federal Trade Commission fined the makers of Vizio televisions $2.2m for collecting viewing data on 11 million consumers without telling them. If you owned a Vizio TV, it could hear you even when turned off – and it could see you, too. Information was gathered and shared with retailers to refine sales techniques and better target consumers. But they are not the only ones.

Samsung has admitted that it was conducting similar spying with its televisions and recently a company selling “smart” teddy bears was exposed for collecting 2m voice recordings of children and parents. Even toys are now troves of information.

Your car collects data on your speed, whether you are using headlights, turn signals, brakes and seatbelts. Every day, public and private entities collect an unlimited amount of information about the way you spend your time – where you drove your car, what time of day you traveled, where you parked and more. If you carry your cellphone around with you, its mapping program is recording every step you take. Some refrigerators record the food you eat – so think about more than just your waistline before grabbing that late-night snack. 

None of this is a joke or an exaggeration – companies have been investing in technology capable of watching consumers in order to super-target ads and profit by selling the data collected to other retailers. In many cases, you do not know about it and have no control over it.
One international cable company filed for a US patent for a home cable box that would allow the company to watch you, listen to you, and take your temperature with infrared methods. The patent application stated that the company would be able to distinguish “ambient action … of eating, exercising, laughing, reading, sleeping, talking, humming, cleaning” and more.

The application further noted that the cable company would be able to distinguish between the acts of “cuddling, fighting, participating in a game or sporting event, and talking”. That information would then be used to deliver targeted ads to your living room. 

If data collected from the cable box indicated that someone was cleaning the kitchen, ads for products to make floors and appliances shine might show up. If data collected revealed that a couple was fighting, an advertisement associated with relationship counseling might be selected for them. 

Much of what was in the patent certainly seemed unbelievable, especially language explaining that “the device may utilize one or more terms associated with cuddling (eg, the terms romance, love, cuddle, snuggle, etc) to search for and/or select a commercial associated with cuddling (eg, a commercial for a romantic getaway vacation, a commercial for a contraceptive, a commercial for flowers, a commercial including a trailer for an upcoming romantic comedy movie, etc).” 
You may think I am indulging in hyperbole with that description, but it is taken word for word from the patent application. There is no need for exaggeration; the new reality is shocking enough. We are now learning that none of this is unbelievable any more.

All this happens without you knowing about it – without you having control over it – whether your device is on or off – without the government or company having any limits on the use of the information, the sale of the information, or how long they can keep it. You have no right to stop them, no right to control the information, and apparently no right to even know it is happening.

There is a great debate over the release of the CIA information, including whether it was legal. Regardless of the outcome of that debate, maybe one silver lining will be that America and the world wakes up about the total invasion we have allowed of every aspect of our privacy by both the government and private companies. I have filed bills over the years to protect a little of what is left of our privacy but so far, few have paid attention. Maybe, finally, we can have an open debate about how much of our lives we own and how much belongs to others.

I know I do not want my car recording every move I make, my child’s doll recording conversations, or my TV watching my wife and me cuddle.

[End of Guardian article]

[My bolds and italics. I'm just wondering if it isn't time to just sign out permanently. Moscow rules, and all that. What would Smiley say? Is it finally time to invest in tinfoil? Honestly, the old sixties adage still holds; It's always worst than we think it is. Yet we never seem to learn.]

Thursday, March 9, 2017

Sometimes It Takes a Kennedy

You tell 'em, Joe. Listen and watch here
"Last night, Speaker Ryan called the GOP repeal bill 'an act of mercy.' With due respect to the Speaker, he and I must have read different scripture. The one I read taught that we are judged not by how we treat the powerful but how we care for the least among us. There is no mercy in a system that makes health care a luxury. This bill is no act of mercy. It is an act of malice."

So grateful to at last see someone brave enough to call out the false Christianity of the Republican Right Wing.  Does it take being a Kennedy to have that kind of courage?

And this piece from Daily Kos is so full of useful information it's worth forwarding to everyone you know.

I particularly like the pie chart that debunks all the selfish arguments regarding who gets subsidies and who doesn't. Guess who doesn't get any kind of government subsidy for their health insurance coverage? Here's a clue: it's not the millions of folks who believe they don't. Zero in and really study this chart. It's quite revealing, and it rather clearly reveals who and how many will suffer if Republicare has its way.

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

International Women Strike Day

It's International Women's Strike for Solidarity Day... .. but this mother is certainly at work, and  I'm wondering what she got paid for putting on this amazing show for the folks at the Memphis Zoo. Watching this leaves one feeling quite the voyeur somehow,  awed and embarrassed at the same time. Why was she not given a private room, with nice soft bed of grass or something? Oh... right... must have had the new  Republican version of ACA health insurance, not the primo plan Congress gets gratis, the one our taxes pay for, but Mitch McConnell's shiny new version of what he believes is good enough for the rest of us.

I like the way she keeps gently nudging, insisting her kid get up and walk.. rings a bell.

And then there's the week in review... pretty well sums it up. Chin up, everyone.

March 7, 2017
By Jacob Rosenberg    
U.S. president Donald Trump tweeted that former president Barack Obama was a "bad (or sick) guy" who tapped his phone during the election. House Oversight Committee chairman Jason Chaffetz said he had "not seen anything" that would support Trump's accusation, Republican congressman Trey Gowdy said he had no evidence of a wiretap, and FBI director James Comey called on the Justice Department to publicly reject Trump's claim, which the department did not do. Attorney General Jeff Sessions, the department's head, recused himself from any investigations of Russia's involvement in the 2016 presidential election after it was reported that he had twice met with Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak during the campaign, despite swearing under oath to the Senate Judiciary Committee that he "did not have communications with the Russians." Vice President Mike Pence, who during the election implied that Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton broke the law when she used a private email server as secretary of state, confirmed that he conducted official business as governor of Indiana using a private AOL email account, which had been hacked. Trump suggested that a series of recent bomb threats against Jewish community centers and acts of vandalism against Jewish cemeteries could have been an effort by his opponents to make his supporters "look bad," gave a speech before a joint session of Congress in which he condemned hate crimes, and rejected the notion that his senior staff should take an ethics-training course. "This is," Trump tweeted of his wiretap allegations, "Watergate."

Snap, Inc., the parent company of Snapchat, went public at $17 a share, making it the largest offering since Alibaba in 2014; Lyft reportedly sought $500 million from investors; and Travis Kalanick, the 40-year-old CEO of Uber, who is worth an estimated $6.3 billion, said he needed to "grow up" after a video surfaced of him telling a driver who complained that he had lost almost $100,000 working for the company that "some people don't like to take responsibility for their own shit." Millions of viewers spent what equates to more than a thousand years watching a live stream of a pregnant giraffe, which has not yet given birth, and the Belvedere Zoo in Tunisia announced it would close temporarily after visitors stoned a crocodile to death. A blizzard struck Hawaii, Chicago recorded its first January and February without snow in 146 years, and landslides and rainstorms contaminated the drinking water of at least 4 million people in Santiago, Chile. The World Health Organization reported that pollution kills 1.7 million children annually. In Canada's Nuvvuagittuq Greenstone Belt, scientists found fossils that may be as much as 3.77 billion years old, and in New Mexico a 99-year-old man beat a 92-year-old man in a 60-meter dash.

An intoxicated man in Austin, Texas, was arrested for allegedly "having sex with a fence" while a woman filmed him, three men at a bazaar in Pakistan were caught masturbating to the rhythm of a beating drum, and the body of a Japanese man was discovered on top of his six-ton porn-magazine collection, which he had fallen on after suffering a heart attack. A woman in Fort Pierce, Florida, found marijuana inside a couch set she bought online, the owner of a charity store in Wales discovered plans for a British nuclear sub in the briefcase of an anonymous donor, and veterinarians in Bangkok removed 915 coins from the stomach of a turtle named Piggy Bank. In the Chinese province of Jiangsu, villagers divorced en masse after discovering that they could claim more money from a government buyout of their homes if they were single.