Saturday, July 25, 2015

Instead of solutions to real problems, we get a new app called RunPee

Anyone with a clever idea can be a digital entrepreneur.   It doesn't take a lot of investment capital to create a new app -- just an idea and some ingenuity, and you suddenly have digital access to billions of potential buyers.

Here's the latest one of those ideas I read about in a newspaper blurb the other day.   It's the brain child of software designer Dan Florio, and it's called RunPee.

It's mission is simple.   People go to the moviesPeople sometimes need to pee during the movie, but they don't want to miss anything.  So, if you have this app, you enter the name of the movie you're seeing -- and the app will tell you when there will be a lull in the action, so you can make a quick trip to the restroom without missing much.  And, if you want, it will summarize for you what you do miss.

Now why didn't I think of that?    Probably wouldn't have done anything about it if I did.   Like I did nothing about the great idea I had 45 years ago when individual frozen dinners started filling the supermarket freezers.   My idea was to make low calorie dinners and market them to people who were trying to lose weight.    Wonder what Healthy Choice and Lean Cuisine eventually paid someone for that idea?

Then there are those who became instant billionaires while still in their 20s from some digital Great Idea -- like Google.  Last week, Google stock jumped so much that the net worth of two co-founders of Google increased by over -- $4 billion each  -- in one day.

Of course, the market giveth one day and taketh back another day.   But . . . It does boggle the mind. 

And it makes you wonder.   Just how much do we actually need an app to tell us when we can RunPee without missing part of a dumb movie, where the giant coke and monster tub of popcorn cost more than it takes to feed a family for months in many countries?   

Why not put some of that ingenuity to work solving world hunger, global warming, poverty, crime, war, and . . . . some real problems?


Friday, July 24, 2015

Republican senator tries to highjack veterans benefit bill with an attack on Planned Parenthood.

You may have heard about the anti-abortion gorilla group that sends out fake "prospective clients" to Planned Parenthood clinics and secretly tapes conversations, trying to entrap their staff into saying something that they then selectively edit to use as ammunition for political purposes in their war on abortion.

Still within reveberations of that latest attack on Planned Parenthood came this attempt by Sen. Thom Tillis (R-NC) to amend a bill introduced by Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA).  The bill would help female military veterans receive fertility treatments and family planning counseling.

Sen. Tillis claimed that he was concerned over priorities and that they should be taking care of the most pressing problems facing veterans.   Apparently he felt that advancing the fake charges against Planned Parenthood was one of those pressing problems.  His amendment would bar the VA from working with organizations that "take aborted babies' organs and sell them."

The subject of the latest stealth attack on Planned Parenthood was the false charge that PP "sells" organs from aborted fetuses (which they call babies).   They do make available to legitimate research organizations organs from aborted fetuses, where the mother has given consent for tissues to be used for research that is vital to finding new treatments for diseases like Parkinsonism.   They do not "sell" anything;   but it is perfectly legal to charge for certain expenses necessary for the process.    The secret tapes had been edited to look like the PP staff member was discussing "selling price" when discussing these expenses.

Sen. Murray is a no-nonsense person, and she would have none of it.   She immediately pulled her bill from committee consideration and had this to say: 
"I know some Republicans are trying to use this latest issue as just one more opportunity to roll back the clock and take away women’s health care options.  We can have that fight. We’ve had it many times before. But don’t pull veterans into the middle of it. Don’t take something that should be above politics -- our sacred duty to our veterans -- and pull it down into the muck of petty politics. It’s not fair to veterans and their families, who have been hoping and praying for the opportunity to have children."
Rather than let senate Republicans taint her veterans benefit bill with anti-abortion politics, Sen. Murray withdrew her bill to engage the fight another day.

Sen. Tillis is the man who rode the conservative wave taking over North Carolina politics.  He defeated the incumbent Democrat Sen. Kay Hagen in a close, hard-fought race.

Thanks, North Carolina.   Elections have consequences.   This was a bad choice you made.


Thaniks to Marina Fang of the Huffington Post for background.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Add to the collection of "wisdom through irony"

This comes from that master of cinematic irony, Woody Allen.
Mankind faces a crossroads.   One path leads to despair and utter hopelessness.   The other, to total extinction.
Let us pray we have the wisdom to choose correctly.
Big decisions are rarely between clearly defined good and evil, or between the ideal and the terrible.   Often it's between two bad things, and you have to try to pick the less bad one.


Alarming prediction of ocean level rise

Kate Sheppard, Environment and Energy editor  for Huffington Post, reports that:
"One of the nation's most recognizable names in climate science, Dr. James Hansen, released a new paper this week warning that even 2 degrees Celsius of global warming may be 'highly dangerous' for humanity.

"The paper, which will be published online in the European Geosciences Union journal Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics Discussion later this week, projects sea levels rising as much as 10 feet in the next 50 years."
Hansen and 16 co-authors warned that "current greenhouse-gas reduction goals are not strong enough. . . ."
"We conclude that continued high emissions will make multi-meter sea level rise practically unavoidable and likely to occur this century. . . .  Social disruption and economic consequences of such large sea level rise could be devastating."
Hansen is a former director of NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies and now a professor at Columbia University.   He is thought by some to be an alarmist -- but he is "also right," according to Eric Holthaus, a writer for Slate.

Others have been less convinced, according to Sheppared.   Kevin Ternberth of the National Center for Atmospheric Research called it "provocative and intriguing but rife with speculation and 'what if' scenarios."

My concern is that, if we ignore those who may be alarmists -- but who may also be right -- that it will be too late to save our planet and our civilization. . . .  and life, as we know it.


Wednesday, July 22, 2015

The only way to get rid of Trump is to ignore him. . . . . But we can't.

The satirical newspaper The Onion has taken aim and hit a bullseye in diagnosing the Trump Phenomenon.   And they've caught Us all red-handed.   The piece is written as though from Donald Trump himself.  Read on: 

Admit It: You People Want To See How Far This Goes, Don’t You? 

COMMENTARY, July 21, 2015

"The latest polls are out, and just as I predicted, I’m leading the Republican presidential race by a wide margin. You might be wondering how that could be. After all, it’s hardly been a month since I entered the field and I’ve already alienated America’s largest immigrant population, seen dozens of my high-profile business deals implode one after the other, and publicly insulted a national hero’s military service, all while not offering a single viable policy idea. But none of that matters at all, and my candidacy continues to surge forward, because none of you -- not a single one of you—can look away. Not even for a second. 

"Admit it: You people want to see just how far this goes, don’t you? 

"My campaign’s just barely begun and I’ve already got you begging for more. Sure, you can say you oppose me or that you don’t even take me seriously. But let me ask you: How many articles have you read about Ted Cruz lately? How many news segments have you watched on Bobby Jindal?. . . 

 "The thing is, I’ve got all of you eating out of my hand . . . .  And I’m going to keep riding this fascination, this little fixation you have with me as far as you’ll take me. You know I will. . . .  

"And don’t delude yourself into thinking it’s everyone else who wants to watch me do this and you’re somehow above it. You want to see it. You want more. You hearTrumpand your attention snaps to the TV screen right away.

"Don’t think it’s true? Fine. You know what you have to do to make me go away. Just quit paying attention. Stop reading this right now. . . . "

*   *   *
Still have your doubts?   The Huffington Post has compiled a list of 163 talking heads, politicians, public officials, etc. who have commented on Trump and his outrageous campaign.

And one more:    ShrinkRap is right there among all the rest -- unable not to write about The Donald's latest thing he said.   Five of my eight posts in the past week have been about him.   Several times, I've thought:   the only way to make him stop is to ignore him.   I just haven't been able to do that.    But I'll keep trying, and you'll know when I succeed:   there won't be any posts about Trump.


Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Des Moines Iowa newspaper: Donald Trump should "pull the plug on his bloviating side show."

Iowa's largest newspaper, the Des Moines Register, is calling on Donald Trump to drop out of the Republican primary following his questioning John McCain's heroism.

An editorial in the paper said that an apology from Trump would not be enough.
"In just five weeks, he has polluted the political waters to such an extent that serious candidates who actually have the credentials to serve as president can't get their message across to voters."
Well, of course, the paper had me from the moment it's headline includeded my favorite disparaging word for politicians:   "bloviating."  I first heard it from the late, great Molly Ivins.

What we are seeing is that the Republican establishment and its pundits have decided that Trump is so damaging to the party that he has to be stopped before it's too late.   It's what they orchestrated in 2012 when Newt Gingrich suddenly caught fire and won the South Carolina primary.   The attacks from Republicans and conservative media were swift and fatal, his poll numbers plunged, and it was the end of his campaign.

One big difference is that Trump doesn't need donors;   he can keep going as long as he wants to pay for it himself.   We'll see.    It's likely that he will be in the first debate, which comes up in about 2 weeks.  The inclusion criteria are based on the average of three national polls, and I would think that would include the one just released that puts Trump in first place with 24%.

It's hard to imagine Donald Trump sharing the stage with 9 other contenders and keeping quiet while they have their turn at the mic.  Look for the August 6th Fox News debate to be a side show of epic proportions.    Which means more viewers = ad revenue and ratings.


War mongering among GOP candidates --

Gov. Scott Walker (R-WI) is leading polls in Iowa, and is among the top three in most national polls.    He has been considered strong with conservatives and especially with those who like his tough guy defeat of public service labor unions and the budget cuts in general.   Some have been alarmed by his attacks on school budgets and his  poorly disguised attempted to gut what has made the University of Wisconsin among the best academically of all state universities.   Domestic policy and budget toughness are his trademarks.

But Walker has no experience in foreign affairs and had a number of early gaffes suggesting he had little understanding of the complexities of the diplomatic and foreign policy aspects of the job of president.

Now that the Iran nuclear deal is front and center in political discussions, Walker tried to jump out ahead in establishing his hawk credentials this past weekend in speaking to the Family Leadership Summit in Iowa.   He declared that the next president needs to be ready to take aggressive military action against Iran on inauguration day

He had already promised to "terminate" the nuclear deal on his first day in office, but now he's taking it a notch higher -- evoking the image of taking the oath of office at noon and then possibly ordering planes to attack Iran in the afternoon.

Walker's aides had accused Jeb Bush of being soft on Iran for suggesting it wouldn't be easy to "unwind" the agreement and that it's unrealistic to say you would do it on the first day.   "It sounds great, but maybe you ought to check in with your allies first . . . [and] have your team in place before you take an act like that," said Bush.    Walker's brash statement led Bush to issue a response, saying he "would begin immediately to responsibly get us out of this deal."

Woah, there, cowboys.    Bush had it right the first time.   This agreement isn't just between Iran and the U.S.    It also involves England, France, Germany, China, and Russia who have something to say about it.

The complexity of foreign affairs and diplomatic negotiations is beyond most of these Republican candidates -- and the nuance is even further beyond their political process.   Demagoguery and hawk racing will stir the macho base, but it's dangerous in the world we live in.

We don't need a president who is driven to prove he's the toughest of the lot.


PS:  Thanks to Igor Bobic on HuffPost for background info.

Monday, July 20, 2015

A third view of the Donald Trump phenomenon -- and, Donald, you're fired !

Nate Silver, the analytic guru of polling and political trends, gave us a third view of the Donald Trump Phenomenon in The New York Times online.    The central point is that Trump's shooting up in the polls is primarily an exaggerated example of "media driven surge."   And he explains why this is so, based on Trump's high name recognition and the fact that:
"He has been perfecting the art of attracting media attention for more than two decades, first in New York and then nationwide.   Today, he is a celebrity, the biggest and best-known personality in the race, someone who would attract an unusual amount of attention and interest even if he said nothing unusual or interesting.   Mr. Trump, of course, made unusual and provocative comments from the start."
This surge may have a shorter shelf life you might think.    Silver predicts that Trump's criticism of John McCain's heroism (he spent five years imprisoned and tortured by the North Vietnamese) will be the inflection point of a nose dive in his polls.

While his opponents and Republican party elites had been cautiously critical of Trump's attack on Mexican immigrants, his attack on a national hero like McCain has led to swift condemnation from those same Republicans.   Silver predicts that this "will probably mark the moment when Trump's candidacy went from boom to bust." 
"His support will erode as the tone of coverage shifts from publicizing his anti-establishment and anti-immigration views, which have some resonance in the party, to reflecting the chorus of Republican criticism of his most outrageous comments and the more liberal elements of his record. . . ."
Silver points to what will likely become the focus when journalists and other campaigns begin to examine Trump's record.   They will find that over the last decade he has actually contributed more money to Democrats (including Hillary Clinton) than to Republicans .   He has supported universal health care, favors pro-choice on abortion, and has advocated tax increases of $5 trillion.
"After today, Republican commentators and campaigns will have far fewer reservations about attacking Mr. Trump. . . .  He will probably try to stoke support and coverage with more attention-grabbing remarks, though my hunch is that his act will have lost its novelty . . . .   Voters will be looking for more from him than the bombastic campaign he has offered so far. They will be looking for a serious presidential candidate, and they won’t find one."
Nate Silver has a superb track record for being right about election predictions.   I think he will be right on this one too.


Sunday, July 19, 2015

A landmark ruling on sexual orientation and employment discrimination

Almost lost in the cascade of big news in the past few weeks (SCOTUS decisions on Obamacare and marriage eqality, the Charleston church shooting, the Confederate flag debate, the Greek financial crisis, the Iran nuclear deal . . . and more) was another, little-noticed, landmark decision by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

After decades of Congress refusing to pass ENDA (Employment Non-Discrimination Act), the EEOC has simply ruled that already existing civil rights laws bar discrimination based on sexual orientation.   True, it will only apply to federal jobs and companies with federal contracts -- but this is often the route to bringing about widespread change in the private sector.

The EEOC's reasoning is this:  Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 already protects workers from discrimination based on sex (male/female).  They reasoned that sexual orientation is inherently a ‘sex-based consideration'."  Therefore, any discrimination based on sexual orientation is included in the protection based on sex.

This may be tested in court, and only the federal courts can issue a definitive ruling that codifies this decision.  But, in the absence of congressional action, the courts have usually "gone where the principles of Title VII have directed."    Activists for ENDA are predicting that, given the current congress we have, SCOTUS will probably decide this before the  House Republicans will even allow a vote on a comprehensive LGBT non-discrimination bill.