The Insightful Troll

Rants and ruminations.

Trump Failed 180,000+ Died

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Joe Berkowits in an article Fast Company:

Watching the endless parade of speakers across the past four nights, one would scarcely piece together the fact that 181,000 Americans and counting have died from COVID-19. One might not realize that this level of death was far from assured, that the U.S. mortality rate, as a proportion of the population, is among the 10 highest in the world. One certainly would not know that President Trump dismissed early calls for action as a political maneuver from the Democrats, regularly suggested the virus would just go away “like a miracle” as recently as this past month, left sweeping decisions up to the governors of each state, and sent contradictory messages such as “LIBERATE MICHIGAN” to a scared populace unsure whether the lockdown was working or not. (It was.)

The convention speakers painted a picture of the coronavirus as an all-but-conquered foe, for whose defeat we have Donald Trump to thank. This image corresponded perfectly with the victory fireworks Trump’s team blasted off in the wake of his convention-closing speech.

Flaunting Impunity

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David A. Graham in The Atlantic:

Incumbent presidents have two goals for their renomination convention: Show voters what they’ve achieved in their first four years, and tell them what they want to do with another four.

Donald Trump and his Republican Party have skipped the second part—the president has repeatedly whiffed on articulating a second-term agenda, and the Republican National Convention has decided not to bother with a platform. As for achievements, the administration has little to go on there, either. Most of Trump’s 2016 agenda remains incomplete, stalled, or never begun, while the economy is in a tailspin and nearly 180,000 Americans have died from COVID-19.

Yet Trump is using the RNC to show the nation what he has learned over the past four years: the power of impunity. Throughout the convention, Trump, his family, and his aides are using the backdrop of the federal government, in defiance of precedent, propriety, and likely federal law. The president is not so much showing the majesty of the federal government—this is not its finest hour—as reveling in the knowledge that no one can or will stop him. It is a flex for its own sake, and at heart, that is his message about what he will deliver in a second term, too.

The Cult of Trump

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One thing that is obvious is that the Republican party no longer supports any positions - only what Trump tell them to support. History will remember this years Republican convention as the moment when the Republican party ceased to be a political party, instead turning into a cult. The cult of Donal Trump.

Ezra Klein in an article for Vox sums it up best:

I have covered American politics for two decades and never have I seen a party more ferociously committed to supporting whatever it is their leader tells them to support.

The problem for Republicans is that the main thing Trump has told them to support is himself. There are no detailed policy proposals, much less a coherent ideology or set of governing principles. And so speech after speech followed the same template: How was America going to stop the coronavirus? By reelecting Donald Trump. How was it going to revive its economy? By reelecting Donald Trump. How was it going to ensure domestic harmony? By reelecting Donald Trump.

The contradiction at the heart of the convention, of course, is that Donald Trump is currently president. I’m dead serious. How would reelecting Trump resolve these crises that Trump has proven unable to resolve — and has, in many cases, worsened — in office? No one even took a shot at that Rubik’s cube. Instead, the speakers awkwardly talked around the fact of Trump’s incumbency. He was presented, strangely, as both incumbent and challenger; the man who had fixed America’s problems, but also the man needed to fix an America beset by more problems than ever.

Republicans Think Covid-19 Deaths 'Acceptable'

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Washington Post columnist Brian Klass documents deaths reported by various countries:

It is almost over in the six countries reported above. While in the US the Covid-19 virus is raging averaging 1000 deaths per day.

But what is even more shocking is that 57 percent of Repbulicans think that Covid-19 deaths are acceptable:

From a CBS News survey of over 2,000 registered voters:

Number of U.S. deaths from coronavirus has been been acceptable / unacceptable:

This leads me to conclude that either a majority of Republicans are sociopaths or they’re so ignorant they have no idea how much worse the U.S. has handled COVID-19 than other industrialized nations.

Less Drama More Mama

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With the Trump campaign falling apart, Keyllyanne Conway resigns. Not surprising, Kellyanne Conway is not dumb. The whole ‘will leave her position at the end of the month to focus on her family’ thing is a convenient out.

Kellyanne Conwway did something that most thought impossible. As campaign manager she brilliantly got Trump elected. If she stepped down afterwords, she could have had a brilliant future. But with all the lying, here career is pretty much over.

Then again this is politics…

Michelle Obama Makes the Case Against Trump

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Former first lady Michelle Obama tearing into Trump - using his own words against him.



So let me be as honest and clear as I possibly can. Donald Trump is the wrong president for our country. He has had more than enough time to prove that he can do the job, but he is clearly in over his head. He cannot meet this moment. He simply cannot be who we need him to be for us. It is what it is.

Now, I understand that my message won’t be heard by some people. We live in a nation that is deeply divided, and I am a black woman speaking at the Democratic convention. But enough of you know me by now. You know that I tell you exactly what I’m feeling. You know I hate politics. But you also know that I care about this nation. You know how much I care about all of our children.

So if you take one thing from my words tonight, it is this: if you think things cannot possibly get worse, trust me, they can, and they will if we don’t make a change in this election. If we have any hope of ending this chaos, we have got to vote for Joe Biden like our lives depend on it.

...

We’ve got to vote early, in person if we can. We’ve got to request our mail-in ballots right now, tonight, and send them back immediately and follow up to make sure they’re received. And then, make sure our friends and families do the same.

We have got to grab our comfortable shoes, put on our masks, pack a brown-bag dinner and maybe breakfast too, because we’ve got to be willing to stand in line all night if we have to.

Full transcript of the speech here.

Toyota to Upload Driver Data to Amazon

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Toyota has expanded its collaboration with Amazon Web Services by allowing auto-makers to upload performance data to the Amazon cloud.

Official blurb from Toyota about it’s Mobilty Platform says it will offer:

new contextual services such as car share, rideshare, full-service lease, and new corporate and consumer services such as proactive vehicle maintenance notifications and driving behavior-based insurance.

This is a shameless assault on consumer privacy. While the pitch will be to allow savings on insurance plan, I highly dought it. Most likely result of this is a restructuring of those plans to produce even more profit at the expense of driver rights.

And We're Scared of Democratic Socialism

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The Future Face of American Politics

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Manisha Sina in the New York Times opinion essay on what Biden’s pick for a VP means for the future of American politics:

Like most Democrats, I support Joe Biden because the country can ill afford the continuation of the “American carnage” that Mr. Trump ironically claimed he would end in his Inaugural Address. Mr. Biden’s big tent policy, his adoption of progressive policies championed by his opponents, and his promise to select a woman candidate for the vice presidency, sealed the deal for me. Mr. Biden had the luck to choose from an array of talented women. His decision to pick Kamala Harris as his running mate seems like a personal gift to me. Not only does she represent the very groups mocked and vilified by Mr. Trump: women, Black people and immigrants, but also, as a woman of Afro-Indian descent she might well be the future face of American politics.

The Tech Industry Needs Regulation

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About two years ago, Microsoft publicly asked a question for the first time: “Should there be a Hippocratic Oath for software developers creating AI systems the way there is for doctors?”


You can’t graduate from the Air Force Academy without taking an ethics course. In the military, there is a code of justice and there are people whose sole job is to make sure this code is followed, even though this doesn’t mean that the military makes no mistakes.


There are no common ethics codes to determine how lethal autonomous weapons and systems that are developed for the military should be used once they end up in the hands of civilians.


“In the top 10 Computer Science departments in the nation, there is only one that requires taking an ethics course to graduate. Ethics is a field that will have to get infused into Computer Science education. There should be a stand-alone course called Ethics for AI that every computer science major must take.”

Maybe we should start with holding FAANG responsible with regulations that have real teeth before we ask developers to push back against them.

Together, You Can Redeem the Soul of Our Nation

#JohnLewisRIP #100DaysToOffload #CivilRights

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In an essay by John Lewis - one of the “Big Six” leaders of groups who organized the 1963 March on Washington, and he fulfilled many key roles in the civil rights movement and its actions to end legalized racial segregation in the United States.

Like so many young people today, I was searching for a way out, or some might say a way in, and then I heard the voice of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. on an old radio. He was talking about the philosophy and discipline of nonviolence. He said we are all complicit when we tolerate injustice. He said it is not enough to say it will get better by and by. He said each of us has a moral obligation to stand up, speak up and speak out. When you see something that is not right, you must say something. You must do something. Democracy is not a state. It is an act, and each generation must do its part to help build what we called the Beloved Community, a nation and world society at peace with itself.

Ordinary people with extraordinary vision can redeem the soul of America by getting in what I call good trouble, necessary trouble. Voting and participating in the democratic process are key. The vote is the most powerful nonviolent change agent you have in a democratic society. You must use it because it is not guaranteed. You can lose it.

Two Ways of Managing the Pandemic

#infection #covid19 #pandemic

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Recent picture of tour boats at the Niagra waterfalls show a people-laden vessel operated by US company Maid of the Mist sailing past a sparsely populated boat run by Canada’s Hornblower Niagara Cruises. The Maid of the Mist is operating at 50% occupancy under New York State’s rules, while the Hornblower vessel is limited to Ontario’s rules to just six passengers.

The US has of this writing has 4.18 million cases as of and 148,000 deaths. Canada 113,000 caes with 8,800 deaths.

Amanda Barnes of Brampton, Ontario sums it up:

I’m glad I’m in Canada, You can see why the pandemic is raging in the United States and not in Canada when you look at the difference between the boats.

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez on Ted Yoho Remarks

#AOC #aocforpresident #AOCstrong #AOC2024

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This week Republican Representative Ted Yoho verbally accosted Democratic Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez at the Capital Building, calling her “disgusting”, “crazy”, and a “fucking bitch”. Ocasio-Cortez’s responding on the on the House floor:

This is not new, and that is the problem. Mr. Yoho was not alone. He was walking shoulder to shoulder with Representative Roger Williams, and that’s when we start to see that this issue is not about one incident. It is cultural. It is a culture of lack of impunity, of accepting of violence and violent language against women, and an entire structure of power that supports that. Because not only have I been spoken to disrespectfully, particularly by members of the Republican Party and elected officials in the Republican Party, not just here, but the President of the United States last year told me to go home to another country, with the implication that I don’t even belong in America. The governor of Florida, Governor DeSantis, before I even was sworn in, called me a “whatever that is”. Dehumanizing language is not new, and what we are seeing is that incidents like these are happening in a pattern. This is a pattern of an attitude towards women and dehumanization of others.

[...]

I do not need Representative Yoho to apologize to me. Clearly he does not want to. Clearly when given the opportunity he will not and I will not stay up late at night waiting for an apology from a man who has no remorse over calling women and using abusive language towards women, but what I do have issue with is using women, our wives and daughters, as shields and excuses for poor behavior. Mr. Yoho mentioned that he has a wife and two daughters. I am two years younger than Mr. Yoho’s youngest daughter. I am someone’s daughter too. My father, thankfully, is not alive to see how Mr. Yoho treated his daughter. My mother got to see Mr. Yoho’s disrespect on the floor of this House towards me on television and I am here because I have to show my parents that I am their daughter and that they did not raise me to accept abuse from men.

I can’t shake the feeling that were are witnessing a future will one day be the President of the United States in Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.

Software Is Replacing Models

#entertainment #modeling #technology #AI

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Marc Andreessen wrote an essay in August of 2011 stating that software is eating the world. While we think this is true, most people view it in the services or infrastructure world. The average person has grown accustom to technology replacing things such as payments, maps, conferencing and other convenience industries and tasks.

But what happens when software actually comes after talent/beauty/entertainment industry? These have long been thought as insulated from the digital onslaught because they are intrinsic human qualities. Surely an algorithm can’t replace an artist? Or a beautiful model?

If there is one thing that I have learned, and in many ways, have helped accelerate - is that nothing is left out of the reach of technology. Especially software. Sinead Bovell for Vogue:

Digital models and influencers are successfully breaking into the fashion industry from every angle. Some have even been signed to traditional modeling agencies. Take Miquela Sousa, a 19-year-old Brazilian American model, influencer, and now musician, who has amassed a loyal following of more than 2 million people on Instagram. She’s collaborated with Prada and Givenchy, has been featured in a Calvin Klein video with Bella Hadid, and she just released a song with singer-songwriter Teyana Taylor this past spring.

Impressive stuff, but there’s one thing that’s keeping real-life me at ease: Miquela, like Shudu, is a computer-generated image (CGI), not artificial intelligence (A.I.). That means that Miquela and Shudu can’t actually do anything on their own. They can’t think or learn or offer posing variations independently. But that won’t be the case for much longer.

[...]

But we human models have worked really hard to have our stories heard and our authentic experiences considered, and we’ve fought to change the perception that we are just a sample size or a prop for clothes. We’ve mobilized in groups, such as the Model Mafia network that I am a part of, to advocate for social issues and push back on exclusivity in the fashion industry. In some cases our activism has even cost us jobs. But now that we are finally starting to see changes in the industry, digital models can just land the jobs that we took risks for. Or worse, brands can just create CGIs that champion causes instead of actually having to invest in those causes themselves.

Trump Moves Clinton and Bush Portratits

#BunkerBoy #Trump #TrumpThreatensAmerica #TrumpTraitor

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Tump removed the portraits of Bill Clinton and George W. Bush from entrance to the executive mansion into the Old Family Dining Room.

John Gruber over at Daring Fireball:

The story of these portraits, in itself, is not important. But what’s behind this petty insignificant-in-the-grand-scheme-of-events story is the same fundamental truth that is the cause of so many deeply important problems happening right now: Donald Trump has the small mind and emotional maturity of a petulant child.

The Butcher of the Valley

#Facebook #socialmedia #tech

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Kara Swisher in an opinion piece for the NY Times:

This week, I finally settled on a simpler comparison: Think about Facebook as a seller of meat products.

Most of the meat is produced by others, and some of the cuts are delicious and uncontaminated. But tainted meat — say, Trump steaks — also gets out the door in ever increasing amounts and without regulatory oversight.

The argument from the head butcher is this: People should be free to eat rotten hamburger, even if it wreaks havoc on their gastrointestinal tract, and the seller of the meat should not be the one to tell them which meat is good and which is bad (even though the butcher can tell in most cases).

Basically, the message is that you should find the truth through vomiting and — so sorry — maybe even death.

Pharma Price Gouging

#Pharmaceutical #COVID19 #Remdesivir #TrumpFailsAmerica

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From Sharon Lerner over at The Intercept

The details of the contracts, which were released to the nonprofit advocacy group Knowledge Ecology International, come as another pharmaceutical company, Gilead Sciences, announced pricing for its Covid-19 therapy, remdesivir. That drug, which was developed with at least $79 million in federal funding, will cost private insurers $520 for a single vial, hundreds of times its production cost, which researchers at the University of Liverpool have estimated at 93 cents per dose.

In an open letter on pricing released Monday, Gilead chair and CEO Daniel O’Day said that “we approached this with the aim of helping as many patients as possible, as quickly as possible and in the most responsible way” and noted that in “normal circumstances,” the company would set the price according to the value a drug provides. Based on a study that shows that the hospital stays of patients who take remdesivir are four days shorter on average than those who didn’t take the drug, Gilead estimated that value to be $12,000.

But, given its low production cost, Gilead could profit from remdesivir even if it was priced at just $1 a day, according to an analysis by Public Citizen. Instead the drug, which was rolled out with the help of the Trump administration, will cost insurers between $3,120 for a five-day course of treatment and $5,720 for a 10-day course.