Friday, September 22, 2023

Who Is This 'He'?


Mr. Scrimshaw.

Writing on the Lotuslandian political scene:

...He’s strengthened the Cons at his own expense, Mainstreet has them in third, and there have been reports of 2 other private polls with the BC Conns above 20%. He’s had 3 answers on the “Million” march this week, and has managed to come to an answer on parental rights that has pleased nobody, and now the BC Cons have to be taken seriously, since they have two MLAs and official party status now...


Who is this 'He' that Mr. Scrimshaw speaks of?

Why, it's the Kevinator:

...(Kevin) Falcon has to do what he’s been avoiding for months and take a decision about the future of the party. Is it going to be a party for young professionals, social liberals, and the reasonably affluent, f*ck their right flank? Or are they going to become a party of their right flank, make them indistinguishable from the BC Cons, and smother Rustad? Because doing neither ends one way - with the BC Liberals relegated to history, just like the SoCreds before them...

But here's the thing that, perhaps, particularly given that he's an outsider, Mr. Scrimshaw may not know...

Mr. Falcon is not 'like' the SoCreds before them.

He is the SoCreds.

Always was and always will be.

From Frances Bula, writing in 2009 in Business in Vancouver:

...Kevin Falcon sounds slightly awestruck, almost gushing, when he talks about his most memorable encounter with one of the major political inspirations of his life, former premier Bill Bennett.

It was at the Hotel Vancouver during the height of the union-organized Solidarity protests against the premier’s restraint plans in the fall of 1983. On October 15, 60,000 protesters surrounded the hotel, where the Social Credit party was holding its annual convention, one of the largest political protests this province has ever seen. But inside the hotel’s convention rooms, amid the carpets and chandeliers, Socreds of all descriptions were networking as usual.

The 20-year-old Falcon, an insurance broker and Junior Chamber of Commerce vice-president active in the Young Socreds, walked past the premier as he was talking with Peter Brown and Murray Pezim, two major power brokers.

“I was standing there hoping that maybe when their discussion was finished, I might get a chance to introduce him to my friends. And the premier saw me, said, ‘Excuse me,’ to these very important people and came over and said, ‘Hello, Kevin, How are you? Good to see you.’"...

Imagine that!

Image at the top of the post?...This.


Wednesday, September 20, 2023

Ninety-Four Days.


Ninety-four days seems like a long time when the going gets a little tough.

Of course, it's absolutely nothing compared to the six months and twenty-four cycles of chemotherapy that C. went through not long ago.

Anyway, it's now Day 16 of my 94 day long term from hell and things are starting to settle down a little, especially given that the grants have gone in now. However, that will all change when course number three kicks in next week.


Yesterday, the weather turned toward fall and it was the first day I wore a jacket while riding to work. It was also the first time in months that I thought about what the winter will bring.

It's a weird thing.  When it's the middle of summer I have a very difficult time even conceiving of the middle of winter.

And apparently, the denizens of John Steinbeck's Salinas Valley had the same difficulty remembering what the coming seasons would bring.

How do I know that?

Because I'm reading 'East of Eden' for the first time since high school.

e., who, in addition to being a performer, is a reader like her big sister E., left Steinbeck's magnum opus on my desk down in the subterranean blues room recently after she was done with it.


When I arrived at e.'s apartment in Victoria awhile back with the rental van that we used to bring all her stuff back to central Lotusland (because she finished college last spring) my brother the former fireman was there to give us a hand.

As he was expertly packing things into the van such that the load shifted not once on the drive and ferry ride home, the former fireman noticed that one of the items he was packing away was a little cabinet I made when I was a kid.

"That looks like a 'Woodwork 9' project," he said.

It was, indeed.


I took woodwork in grade 9 in 1973.

Fifty years ago.

Which just proves that Dylan was only half right.

Because, while time may be a jet plane that moves too fast when it's feeling frisky, the 78 days remaining until my last class of the term seems like an eternity at the moment.


Jody Paterson has an interesting post up at her place about the death of both newspaper column writing and long form blogging...It's worth a read...While I don't disagree with Ms. Paterson,  I have a very different motivation for continuing on with the long(ish) form thing.


Sunday Set...Into The Darkness.


This is a lullaby set.

Lots of old stuff...

Image at the top of the post
is our cat Benny, all ready for a ferry trip to the island...We lost the little guy early this summer....I still miss him.


Carbon Offset Projects, What Are They Good For? Absolutely Nothing!

From Nina Lakhani writing in The Guardian:

The vast majority of the environmental projects most frequently used to offset greenhouse gas emissions appear to have fundamental failings suggesting they cannot be relied upon to cut planet-heating emissions...


...In a new investigation, the Guardian and researchers from Corporate Accountability, a non-profit, transnational corporate watchdog, analysed the top 50 emission offset projects, those that have sold the most carbon credits in the global market.

According to our criteria and classification system:

A total of 39 of the top 50 emission offset projects, or 78% of them, were categorised as likely junk or worthless due to one or more fundamental failing that undermines its promised emission cuts.

Eight others (16%) look problematic, with evidence suggesting they may have at least one fundamental failing and are potentially junk, according to the classification system applied.

The efficacy of the remaining three projects (6%) could not be determined definitively as there was insufficient public, independent information to adequately assess the quality of the credits and/or accuracy of their claimed climate benefits...

So what, you may be asking.


Fake solutions that kickstart pablumized PR spin designed to promulgate a business/government-backed push for continued fossil fuel extraction and combustion will cause even hotter summers, and more fires, and more extreme weather events, and more ocean warming, and more sea level rise, and more human displacement, and more and more and more species eradication.


Earworm in the headers?


Monday, September 18, 2023

An Inevitable Media Feedback Loop.


From a piece by what appear to be two actual humans named Frank Landymore and Jon Christian published in 'Futurism':

When the iconic entertainment site The A.V. Club started publishing AI-generated articles earlier this summer at the directive of its owner, G/O Media, the backlash was intense.

"The A.V. Club used to be a benchmark for pop culture writing on the net and now it's a private equity ghost town pumping out AI generated listicles," wrote film journalist Luke Dunne...


...Amid the fallout, G/O editorial director Merrill Brown sent out an internal memo instructing staff to ignore the criticism...

"Several of us are very familiar with this kind of chatter as it's part of an inevitable media industry feedback loop that comes with the advance of new technologies like the Internet in the nineties and more recently the widespread use of streaming media technology"...


What's it really all about Alfie?

Well, as you may have already guessed...

The inevitable feedback loop that feeds the online firehose filled to bursting with liquified garbage, is designed to...

Get rid of actual people:

...The reality, of course, is that G/O (Media) is almost certainly testing whether it can use this type of automated content to eliminate the jobs of its remaining human staffers.

It has a long history in that domain. And though G/O only began its AI experiment in July (of 2023), the slow exsanguination of its excellent publications, including The Onion and Deadspin, had already begun years before...


No new stuff...just an endless loop grinding the pablum ever finer...

Quelle surprise!

Interestingly, or, perhaps ironically... The online journal 'Futurism', where this 'expose' appeared, appears itself be part of a venture/hedgy-backed  pseudo content farm-type organization called 'Recurrent Media'...Again, in their defense, at least they seem to be using real, actual people writers (who sure do crank out the pieces though)...
Subheader ear worm?...This! 


Wednesday, September 13, 2023

One More Example Of The Creeping Americanization Of Our Body Politic.


There is this ridiculous thing that happens over and over and over again after needless, preventable tragedies occur in the States, which is that politicians of certain ideologic stripe inevitably offer up nothing but 'Hopes and Prayers' and exhort all concerned not to 'politicize' the issue.

The editorial cartoon shown above was published in the Washington Post a few years ago after the worst mass shooting in American history occurred in Las Vegas. It was a terrible tragedy that was driven by the ability of one person to legally acquire multiple high capacity semi-automatic AR-15-like weapons that he then used to kill, maim and injure huge numbers of people in a very short period of time for no good reason at all.

Of course, this is an extreme example of the 'Hopes and Prayers' crutch that is used by US politicos who don't want to actually do anything re: responsible gun control that would massively decrease the incidence of mass shootings that now occur pretty much daily in that country.

The same see/hear/speak no evil strategy in the face of, essentially, preventable evil has spread to other realms, including tragedies fuelled by our rapidly escalating climate crisis.

But what about much, much more easily preventable E. coli outbreaks in privatized daycares?

In, say, Canada?

Does that result in immediate calls from our politicians for increased regulation of the kind we used to have before self-regulatory policies allowed Listeria to bloom, willy nilly, in meat cutters?


Most certainly not, at least so far in Alberta as Andre Picard noted recently in the Globe (and no longer Empire) Mail:

The outbreak of E. coli that is unfolding in a small number of Calgary daycare centres is absolutely horrific. As of Sunday, there had been 190 cases reported, including 27 patients hospitalized, of whom 20 have “severe illness.”...


....Despite the magnitude of this problem, we have yet to hear a peep from Alberta’s chief medical officer of health, who is (checks notes) Dr. Mark Joffe. AHS seems to be content with releasing a daily count of the hospitalized, and basic information telling parents what to do if their children fall ill. Meanwhile, both Premier Danielle Smith and provincial Minister of Health Adriana LaGrange have been “sending thoughts and prayers” to parents. Argh...

Enough said?


Sunday, September 10, 2023

Struck Dumb At Oak And Twenty-Fifth.


I'm lucky in that my commuter trip from the near Eastern Townships to the Pointiest of Grey Points on the western edge of Central Lotusland takes place almost entirely on bike (and/or bike friendly) routes.

But there is one stretch where, particularly if I'm in a hurry, I use King Edward, which is reasonably OK given that most of it is that wide open stretch between Oak and Granville.


On Friday I got started a little late and headed out into the teeth of the rush that, when you factor in SUV's ferrying kids to westside schools, can be a real schmozzle.

And as I headed for the corner of Oak and 25th I couldn't help but notice the massive three stop light long lines of cars heading off in all directions all at once.

I was also struck dumb with the realization that we've just got to stop this.

Now, I further realize that only a small percentage of people will ever ride a bike, even if it is battery powered, regularly to and from work/school, etc., especially in the grey months.

But, honestly, why don't we have buses heading off in all directions all at once all the time?

And why aren't rides on all those buses subsidized to the hilt with actual, comprehensive carbon tax monies to make them as cheap as possible, if not free?

Image at the top of the post?
....From the City of Vancouver Archives (decided to make like NVG on this one)..King Ed and Oak looking west, sometime in the '80's...The actual pavement itself is pretty much the same, the buildings, not so much...
Heading into Day 6 of the term from heck fire...Got through the first week...The grant is almost done and professional school teaching now tapers off for me a little as the new course and my undergraduate teaching ramps up...


Tuesday, September 05, 2023

Our Ferry Summer.


Our summer of ferry rides ended yesterday at approximately 3:41 pm when we drove off the bottom deck of the Queen of New Westminster at the Tsawwassen terminal just behind the hordes of departing people with bikes and/or pets as well as a gaggle of folks pulling kayaks on tiny wheeled carts.

Why were we on the bottom deck of that old, but still serviceable, locally built boat despite the fact that we both had a reservation and were first in line?

Well, for the first time ever, we were told that the low slung Mazda 5 with the Thule box on top was overheight, despite the fact that we have always fit under the 7 foot bar at the bottom of the ramp since we first bought that car almost 10 years ago now.

C., who is normally the most agreeable of travellers, was miffed and said that if it hadn't been so busy and if she had been on her own, she would have forced the ticket booth lady to get out the measuring stick.

Why the fuss?

Because we don't like to leave the Whackadoodle II, pictured above, on her own down in the car for the entire trip.


I have to say that, despite all the troubles BC Ferries had this summer, we really had no complaints on the many trips we took.


But all that summer stuff is behind us now and, truth be told, I'm not quite sure how I got myself into this predicament but I've got a whole lot of teaching to do this term. Specifically, two full gradual school courses, one of which is brand new to me, as well as significant chunks of two undergraduate courses and an increased load in the professional school stuff I do.

On the bright side - it's only 92 days until the last class of the term.

But who's counting!

I'm not really complaining
about the teaching... I actually like it once things get rolling, and doing more of it is what old academics should be doing so that the young folks can focus on their research as much as possible while their still at the cutting edge of things...Speaking of the latter, I'm helping a young colleague with a grant at the moment for a really interesting applied science project where we're going to try and pluck single cells out of 3-D organoids so that they can be fully characterized 'omic'ally....The young guy's expertise is doing the cell plucking using an interesting technology called open microfluidics while our group is making the organoids...
Image at the top of the post is the W-II from early August...She had been staying with friends over on the Island while C was away and I went over to pick her up as a foot passenger on one of those boomerang 'get-off-the-ferry/pick-up-the-dog-and-get-right-back-on-the-ferry' trips...Thus, this is her up at the front on the upper car deck, where both people and pets are allowed, on one of the KrautRock ferries (back when both were operating) gazing out at the Salish Sea...Yesterday it was e. who took her up to hang out on  the upper deck...
Finally, make sure you head on over to Norm Farrell's place to read his latest titled, 'BC Hydro's Credibility Gap'...


Thursday, August 31, 2023

Seven Trillion.


From the notoriously commie, pinko, lefty, tree-hugging folks over at the International Monetary Fund:

Fossil-fuel subsidies surged to a record $7 trillion last year as governments supported consumers and businesses during the global spike in energy prices caused by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and the economic recovery from the pandemic.

As the world struggles to restrict global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius and parts of Asia, Europe and the United States swelter in extreme heat, subsidies for oil, coal and natural gas are costing the equivalent of 7.1 percent of global gross domestic product...

To put that seven trillion in perspective...

It is far, far more more than all of the governments in all of the world spent on education  last year.

Imagine that!

TipOTheToque to Greg Fingas and his fantastic links page which is a daily scan for me...
It's all BC Ferries all the time for us this week...We were on the Sunshiney/Smokey Coast on the weekend for a very nice family wedding. Then, yesterday, I rented a UHaul and came over to Victoria (littler e. is coming back to Central Lotusland!)...Will be returning later today before C. and I, and the Wackadoodle II, too, come right back again tomorrow for the last long weekend and Grandpop's birthday...Our Ferry Service has taken it on the chin this summer and, while I still have an issue with how and why those Fun, Fun On The Autobahn boats were procured, I have to say that it has been smooth sailing for us so far (fingers crossed)...


Wednesday, August 30, 2023

A Potemkin-Produced Interview's Real Numbers.


Following up on our previous post re: the good Mr. Elon Musk's true number of followers on his disintegrating social media village, the following is by Matt Binder writing at Mashable:

On Wednesday night (August 23rd), former Fox News host Tucker Carlson interviewed former president Donald Trump on X, the platform formerly known as Twitter. Now, Trump and his supporters are claiming that Carlson's video has received hundreds of millions of views on Elon Musk's social media site...


...Trump later claimed that, at 230 million views, the Carlson video was now: "The Biggest Video on Social Media, EVER, more than double the Super Bowl!"...


...Mashable can report that, as of the publication of this article on Thursday evening (August 24th), Carlson's Trump interview has received 14.8 million video views on X...


Where does the massive, totally made-up, fudge factor come in?

Mr. Binder explains:

...The views metric currently shown on X, displayed simply as "views," are tweet views.

This number shows how many impressions a tweet receives. An impression is counted when a user actively goes to the tweet page or when a tweet appears in a user's timeline after being retweeted by another user. Views are also counted whenever a tweet shows up on a user's timeline. As such, a single user can be counted multiple times in the view count.

On the other hand, video views, which are no longer publicly displayed on X, count the number of times a piece of media content is played on the platform —although there are a few addendums to this metric. A video view on X is counted if the media plays for two or more seconds. And, if a user attempts to scroll past a video, but more than 50 percent of the player is still visible on the screen for that time frame, a video view is still counted. Autoplays are counted as well.

To break down what this means for Tucker Carlson's Trump interview: The video itself was actually played only 14.8 million times, for at least two seconds of the more than 46-minute interview — or just over six percent of the total 236 million times someone saw the post on X...

Of course, for many of those actual 'real' viewers, two seconds with Mr. Trump and his most recent willing propagandist are more than enough.

Much more.


Image at the top of the post...Mr. Trump with a previous willing propagandist.
Subheader's true origin story?...This.


Tuesday, August 22, 2023

An Online Village Known As Potemkin-X?

Potemkin Village:

...Something that is made to seem very grand, elaborate, or prosperous for the purposes of impressing others, but which in reality has no real worth or substance. Taken from a story about Russian minister Grigory Potemkin (1739–1791),who allegedly erected false, painted façades to mimic a thriving, successful village along the Dnieper River in Crimea to impress the visiting Empress Catherine II...


In his recent in-depth profile of Elon Musk, published in the New Yorker, Ronan Farrow describes how the good Mr. Musk's position on the war in Ukraine evolved over time until, finally...

...In (his)later tweets, Musk portrayed as inevitable an outcome favoring Russia and attached maps highlighting eastern Ukrainian territories, some of which, he argued, “prefer Russia.” Musk also polled his Twitter followers about the plan. Millions responded, with about sixty per cent rejecting the proposal. (Volodymyr Zelensky, Ukraine’s President, tweeted his own poll, asking users whether they preferred the Elon Musk who supported Ukraine or the one who now seemed to back Russia. The former won, though Zelensky’s poll had a smaller turnout: Musk has more than twenty times as many followers.)...


Here's the thing.

Mashable recently commissioned an analysis of Mr. Musk's 'followers' on his X-Village Platform formerly known as Twitter:

...Of the 153,209,283 X accounts following Musk at the time the data was collected, around 42 percent of Musk's followers, or more than 65.3 million users, have zero followers on their own account. Just over 72 percent, or nearly 112 million, of these users following Musk have less than 10 followers on their account.

When it comes to content creation on the platform, more than 62.5 million Musk followers have zero tweets...


 ... More than 100 million Musk followers have less than 10 tweets posted to their account...


 ...Musk has recently claimed that X now has more than 540 million "monthly users." If accurate, that means more than 25 percent of accounts on the platform follow Musk. And if those numbers are inflated, it means that even a larger percentage of the entire platform follows Musk. With a huge swath of Musk's 153 million followers not using the platform or perhaps not real, it seems a good portion of X's overall user base may not be so active either.

Imagine that!


Monday, August 21, 2023

E-Bikes And Me.


My brother the retired fire guy and my sister-in-law the retired teacher each has one.

Mostly, they take them on trips so that they can park their camper van and use them to tour all over the place.

They love them.


C., my wife, has one.

Mostly she uses it to go to the market, and knitting, and various other sundry places in our part of Lotusland, travelling pretty much all the while on bike routes.

She loves it.


Me I do not have one.

And it is not because I would not enjoy riding such a thing pretty much everywhere.

It's just that once I get one I know that will pretty much be the end of real peddling for me.


For the foreseeable future (and/or until my knees finally give out) elderly ladies will continue to blast past me going up that damnable 16th avenue hill every morning.


Truth be told, most mornings I actually go up that damnable hill on 12th...It's almost straight up but the trade is that it is much shorter.


Friday, August 18, 2023

If A Sweaty And Rat-Like Wingnut's Biography Falls In The Forest...


   ...Will Anybody Read?

A biography of Tucker Carlson written by an acolyte was published recently.

It has not been selling well:

Like anyone promoting a book, the general plan is to create buzz, get people talking and, hopefully, get them buying. While people might be talking about Tucker, a new biography by Chadwick Moore about former Fox News host Tucker Carlson, the buzz apparently failed to translate to book sales...


 ...According to numbers provided by Publisher’s Weekly, Tucker, in its first week of release, sold just 3,227 hardcover copies...


Why might that be?

Well, there is the fact that the Murdoch family threw the good Mr. Carlson off their propaganda network a few months ago which just might have decreased the former bowtie guy's visibility with the MAGA-crowd he so desperately and cynically courts, full-time, these days.

And then, of course, there is the matter of how little that particular crowd actually reads.


There just might be something else at work here.

Mike, our favourite microbiologist, mad or otherwise, explains:

...When conservatives in good standing publish books, conservative institutions, such as think tanks, buy a ton of copies (and give them away) to juice sales numbers. Right now, I don’t think Carlson is in particularly good standing, and so no rich foundation, think tank, or billionaire is buying a bunch of his books.

 Essentially, Carlson('s biography) is competing in the market, and (it) is losing...


To re-cap.

No wingnut welfare, no sales.

Imagine that!

Why the pejorative in the header?...Well, 'sweaty and rat-like' is precisely how the good Mr. Carlson described Ukranian president Volodymyr Zelensky during his very first 'broadcast' on the Twittmachine after the Murdochs kicked him to the curb...


Thursday, August 17, 2023

The Green, Green Belts Of Mr. Ford's Cronies' Homes.


From the lede of David Moscrop's excellent TVO piece on the Ford government's corrupt greenbelt giveaway:

If there was ever a doubt that corruption is a constitutive element of Doug Ford’s Progressive Conservative government, Auditor General Bonnie Lysyk’s report into its dodgy Greenbelt dealings ought to put that uncertainty to rest. Indeed, the government is something more than corrupt. There’s corruption. There’s utter corruption. And then there’s funnelling more than $8 billion to your developer buddies and party donors through land swaps in the bright light of day and expecting to get away with it...

And how did the good premier of Ontario respond to the revelations in the AG's report?


..(I)n a Wednesday (August 9th) press conference, Ford continued to spin the plan as part of its affordability, housing, and growth plan even while he admitted the process was flawed, for which he took “full responsibility.”...

Which means what, exactly?


Want to listen rather than read?

The CBC's daily 'Front Burner' podcast, which I find to be both solid and eclectic overall, has a good episode on this topic.

In this specific episode host Jayme Poisson talks to Fatima Syed who writes for the Narwhal (and whose work on this 'story' was singled out as exemplary by the Ontario AG in her presser on the report).



I realize that there has been a big blast of hot media air on all things 'The Band' in the wake of the recent passing of Robbie Robertson.

But most of that hot air was so superficial that it just bounced of the surface of the thing.


If you want depth, have a listen to Andrew Hickey's fantastic podcast on the history of the group, including how they all came to be working for pretty much peanuts for Ronnie Hawkins, how legendary Canadian A&R impresario Mary Martin brought the then 'Hawks' to Albert Grossman's, and ultimately, Dylan's attention, and how the musical genre that would become 'Americana' was birthed in the basement of that big pink house in Woodstock New York,

Another fantastic anecdote from Hickey's podcast...The Band purposefully worked to make their harmonies as loose as possible so that, unlike, say,  the Beach Boys and the Beatles, their individual voices would stand out rather than blend in.

Imagine that!

Episode 167: “The Weight” by The Band


Monday, August 14, 2023

Sunday Set...August 13, 2023


I will soon be sixty-four years old.

And in the last two weeks I went to two rock shows.

And, truth be told, I'm pretty darned proud that it was not to see other creaking olds crank out their long, gone golden oldie radio hits.


It was littler e. who invited me to the first show to see three hip young kids called 'boygenius', who are hot enough at the moment that they got the Nardwuar treatment, shown above, when they came to town.

I was touched that she invited me, pretty close to the oldest guy of certain persuasion, to be there in the crowd, albeit at a safe, comfortable distance sitting out on the PNE Amphitheatre bleachers far from the truly madding crowd in front of the stage.

I cover one of the band's tunes, a favourite of mine from their pre-fame first EP times, Ketchum, ID, on this week's Sunday Set of lullaby(ish) tunes.

The second show I went to see was at the Orpheum with the whole family and two very different crowds, almost completely Venn diagram separated. One crowd was there to see the triumphant return to Vancouver by a stroke-recovered Lucinda Williams. The other crowd was there to see a gaggle of millennial Brooklyn-transplants, Big Thief.

Ms. Williams hit the stage to play brand new tunes of a rocking variety before she talked a little about the back story of 'Drunken Angel' that was based on Blaze Foley and the other outlaws of country from days of Austin Texas yore, including Townes Van Zandt,  As such, another tune covered in this week's lullaby set is Townes' classic 'Pancho and Lefty.'

There are a couple of other old ones thrown in amongst the set's lullabies, one tune from early '90's Uncle Neil that was released at a time that was really important for C. and me as well as a classic from Mr. Springsteen's most stripped down, non-commercial album that turned out to be prescient about all that was turn out to be bleak and scary about Ronald Reagan's America...

I don't have a Big Thief cover tune for you yet...
Mostly because Adrianne Lenker's emotionally evocative singing and occasionally explosive electrical guitar shredding both surprised and blew me away...I guess you might say that I'm smack, dab in the middle of that Orpheum Venn diagram...
I've got to say...both COVID and creeping old(er) age helped me to (almost) forget just how invigorating and inspiring going to live music can be...


Friday, August 11, 2023

Why Does This Keep Happening?


Cory Doctorow on how the 'bezzle' is a critical part of turning everything in our modern world to crap:

When it comes to the modern world of enshittified, terrible businesses, no addition to your vocabulary is more essential than "bezzle," JK Galbraith's term for "the magic interval when a confidence trickster knows he has the money he has appropriated but the victim does not yet understand that he has lost it"...

Now, Doctorow was speaking of how bad businesses flourish in that portion of the embezzlement period wherein the victims have no idea what hit them.

But here's the thing...

Given that the business of many that govern us is more and more often bad business bent on turning everything to crap while they take their profits during the bezzle, consider for a moment the following from Norm Farrell:

...While Canada’s Trump-inspired conservatives can be accused of a broad range of faults, right-wing politicians in this country seem particularly smitten by crony capitalism. Premiers Danielle Smith and Doug Ford, along with avaricious associates, seem to be prime examples. Before them, we had Christy Clark and Gordon Campbell in British Columbia.

This week, Ontario Auditor General found that a small group of well-connected developers with direct access to Ford government officials could see an $8 billion increase in the value of protected greenbelt land that Ford’s government opened for development...


Why does this keep happening?

Well, in the specific case of Mr. Ford's pre-mediated assistance of the greed-driven green belt dismantlers, and who is facilitating the bezzle that is helping to make it all possible without the average citizen knowing and/or even caring, Evan Scrimshaw knows what's up:

If you picked up a National Post today – a physical newspaper, not the website – do you know where you’d find the first news article about the Auditor General’s report into Doug Ford’s Greenbelt land swaps that are due to make his developer friends $8B in profit? Page 5 of the front section...


...Oh, and on Page 9? A op-ed from “Doug Ford”, aka his staff, defending his position that this is necessary for housing, despite his own task force saying it’s not...


...If this were one newspaper, I’d care less, but (Postmedia owns) almost every single daily in this country, and are trying to buy the Star now too. At a bunch of different stages of this the consolidation should have been stopped – when the Citizen and Gazette were sold to them, when the Sun papers were, when the Irving holdings out east were – but they weren’t. Now, we need to have the conversation we should have, but didn’t, have before.

Postmedia as a company is a failure – it keeps buying assets, stripping them to become essentially mini Post operations with a tiny bit of local news, and then finding out that nobody reads them in part because there’s no actual point to reading the Gazette if all anglo Montrealers are getting is Torontonians’ writing. In theory slashing costs at the local dailies and then pocketing the savings is a good idea, but the part they miss is that the slashed costs end up reducing readership, which means they just end up in a death spiral, propped up by Federal subsidies that clearly aren’t buying their editorial independence, as some claimed it would when they started...

Big picture moral of this and so many similar corp-gov bezzles wrapped within bezzles?

There is a long-con fusion happening here, there and everywhere between corporate and governing interests of a certain authoritarian kind that is not being actively challenged, or even acknowledged, by a neutered 'free' press.

Of course,  such a fusion has long been defined.

Unfortunately, we seem to have bamboozled into forgetting it.

That definition I mean.


Saturday, August 05, 2023

Death Panels...Ms. Palin Was Half Right & All Wrong.


This was then (i.e. 2009)...From the Wikiplex:

"Death panel" is a political term that originated during the 2009 debate about federal health care legislation to cover the uninsured in the United States. Sarah Palin, former governor of Alaska and 2008 Republican vice presidential candidate, coined the term when she charged that proposed legislation would create a "death panel" of bureaucrats who would carry out triage...

This is now (i.e. 2023)...From Gretchen Morgenson writing for NBC News:

...HCA Healthcare, the (American) nation’s largest (private, for profit) hospital chain, is highly profitable — last year it earned $5.6 billion — and its stock is a Wall Street darling...


...Now, new criticisms are arising related to HCA’s palliative and end-of-life care for patients, according to some physicians and nurses who have worked in its facilities. They say HCA officials press staff to persuade families of ailing patients to initiate such care...


... Although this can harm patients by withdrawing lifesaving treatments, the push can benefit HCA two ways, the doctors and nurses said, and an internal hospital document confirms. It reduces in-hospital mortality rates, a closely watched quality measure, and can free up a hospital bed more quickly for HCA, potentially generating more insurance reimbursements from a new patient...

So, there you have it.

Instead of the public program that Ms. Palin worked so hard to trash in the name of political expediency and a little fame, a private, for profit 'healthcare' entity is pushing people away from potentially life saving treatments to enhance the bottom line. 

Morgenson's piece details a specific instance where a patient's Mom was relentlessly pushed to take her Covid sick daughter off a ventilator. The Mom held steadfast over many days and weeks and the daughter ultimately survived and fully recovered.

And just who is it that populates these for profit death panels that make the decisions to push people out of hospitals into hospices in the name of making money?




Bean counters?

CEO's on super yachts?

Well, in at least some cases, it looks to be none of the above:

...At two HCA hospitals, the practice appears to be mechanized, with staff citing an algorithm used to identify patients who are most likely to die soon. This is also known as a vulnerability index, texts shared with NBC News show.

Patients ranking high on the vulnerability index become candidates for palliative care, the texts show. In one, a palliative care team member at an HCA hospital identified such a patient; “Algorithm = 97% risk of mortality today,” it said...

And, as you might expect, when asked about the algorithm an HCA spokesthingy 'declined' to comment.

Cory Doctorow has a theory as to why the bean counters, administrators, and super yacht captains are happy to let machines make the decisions:

...By using "AI" to decide when patients are beyond help, HCA can employ empiricism-washing, declaring the matter to be the factual – and unquestionable – conclusion of a mathematical process, not mere profit-seeking...

Or, put another way....

If millions of Dave's, doctors, and/or loved ones were to ask HAL to open the pod bay doors....errr...keep the patient in a hospital bed...

Why should the machine and/or Sarah Palin and her ilk even bother to listen?

Not to mention care.



Friday, August 04, 2023

HST Friday...History Is Hard To Know


"History is hard to know because of all the hired bullshit"

"The Course of American History Now Depends on Getting Inside Trump’s Head"

Just to be absolutely clear...

If you are looking for hired bullshite of the highest wingnuttian welfare-type order you need look no further than the National Review.


Phrase of the Day
...."pumped-storage hydroelectricity"...Norm Farrell explains.
Subheader?....Once, a long time ago, my then editor showed up in our driveway in a 1976 Dodge Aspen and forced me to take a trip to Las Vegas to watch minor league baseball for no good reason at all except maybe to stop briefly in Visalia along the way...While we did pass through Barstow there were no bats to be seen although we did hit fungoes in the sand...
Previous HST Fridays....Here.


Thursday, August 03, 2023

Newspaper Editorials, What Are They Good For?


Newspaper editorials.

What are they good for?

Absolutely everything (say it again)!

Especially when they are, in fact, good.

An excellent example is a recent editorial from the board of the Kansas City Star:

Republicans, our democracy depends on your willingness to read the Trump indictment

    Please read it.

We refer, of course, to the 45-page indictment that explains exactly what Donald J. Trump did to overthrow our democracy.

It explains, in great detail, how Trump knew from his own people that he had lost the election. And how, based on claims that even he knew to be “crazy,” he tried through various schemes to stay in power anyway.

It explains, in a simple and straightforward way, what Trump did that has never been attempted by any previous occupant of the Oval Office.

Especially if you are among the nearly 75% of Republicans who according to a recent New York Times/Siena poll do not believe that Trump committed a serious federal crime, don’t you owe your country that effort?

Even if you are among those who say yes, he committed serious crimes and you’ll happily vote for him anyway, you still owe it to your country to acquaint yourself with what crimes it is that you’re willing to overlook.

Virtually all of the facts set out in the document were revealed by not just other Republicans, but by Republicans appointed and employed by Donald Trump.

If you don’t trust us to characterize what it says, read it for yourself...

It really is a fine chunk of editorial writing.

But here's the thing...

Actually sitting down and reading something longer than the chyron at the bottom of the non-stop screamer-casts they are addicted to just might be a wee bit of an issue for the fine folks that the KC Star Ed. Board is trying to reach.

Which, I reckon, just might be the crux of the matter.


Wednesday, August 02, 2023

Danger Over The Danube.


From David Axe writing for Forbes on early this week:

A trio of civilian cargo ships—one each from Israel and Greece plus one with Turkish-Georgian registration—ran the Russian blockade in the Black Sea on Sunday and anchored at one of Ukraine’s grain ports on the Danube Delta.

Twenty-two days after Moscow canceled a deal with Kyiv—which had allowed Ukraine safely to export tens of millions of tons of grain—and then threatened to halt maritime traffic to Ukrainian ports, the world has called the Russians’ bluff...


...(No) Russian ship intervened as the three civilian ships made their way not to Odesa, but to Izmail. Kyiv has been redeveloping its Danube ports as a wartime alternative to Odesa...

But here's the thing...

Unlike Odesa, Izmail is very close to Romania (i.e. NATO-protected soil).

Thus, the following is not the least bit surprising:

...Overhead, no fewer than four NATO warplanes patrolled: a U.S. Navy P-8 patrol plane, a U.S. Army Challenger with a surface-scanning radar, a U.S. Air Force RQ-4 drone and an E-3 early-warning plane from NATO. None of the planes routinely carries weapons, but NATO fighters—including Italian Eurofighters and Romanian F-16s—were nearby in Romania...

And then, today came reports like the following, this one from Reuters:

Russia attacked Ukraine's main inland port across the Danube River from Romania on Wednesday, sending global food prices higher as it ramped up its use of force to prevent Ukraine from exporting grain.

The drone attacks destroyed buildings in the port of Izmail and halted ships as they prepared to arrive there to load with Ukrainian grain in defiance of a de-facto blockade Russia reimposed in mid-July...

Very scary times, indeed.


Monday, July 31, 2023

July In Hell.


From Jack Healy writing in the New York Times:

Patients with heat stroke and burns from the asphalt are swamping hospitals. Air-conditioners are breaking down at homeless shelters. The medical examiner’s office is deploying trailer-sized coolers to store bodies, for the first time since the early days of Covid.

For 31 straight days — from the last day of June through Sunday, the second-to-last day of July — Phoenix has hit at least 110 degrees, not merely breaking its 18-day record in 1974, but setting a significant new one. The city smashed through another record last week, racking up the most 115-degree days ever in a calendar year, part of a global heat wave that made July Earth’s hottest month on record.

This has been Phoenix’s July in hell — an entire month of merciless heat that has ground down people’s health and patience in the city of 1.6 million, while also straining a regionwide campaign to protect homeless people and older residents who are most vulnerable...

The thing is, this July is only the first circle, as it were.

And we're almost certain to keep on moving on through said hell circles for some time, if not forever.


1) Because all those COP conferences on climate change that the pro-media loves to trumpet are actually fossil fuel lobby fests...

2) Because, as Norm Farrell so aptly notes, the pro-media is not willing to expend any air, hot or otherwise, on the real dangers to human existence that are already upon us...

3) Because there are big money-backed forces working night and day to strangle any and all meaningful mitigation strategies in the name of spewing even more carbon into the air indefinitely...

Quite honestly, I'm not sure even Dante could have imagined the mess that we've gotten ourselves into. 

And I, for one, do not think we can wait for some poet named Virgil to magically arrive to get us out of it.



Friday, July 28, 2023

Make It, Fake It...Divert It!


Would you buy a used (and/or new high five figure) car from this man?

In March, Alexandre Ponsin set out on a family road trip from Colorado to California in his newly purchased Tesla, a used 2021 Model 3. He expected to get something close to the electric sport sedan’s advertised driving range: 353 miles on a fully charged battery.

He soon realized he was sometimes getting less than half that much range, particularly in cold weather – such severe underperformance that he was convinced the car had a serious defect...

...Ponsin contacted Tesla and booked a service appointment in California. He later received two text messages, telling him that “remote diagnostics” had determined his battery was fine, and then: “We would like to cancel your visit.”

What Ponsin didn’t know was that Tesla employees had been instructed to thwart any customers complaining about poor driving range from bringing their vehicles in for service. Last summer, the company quietly created a “Diversion Team” in Las Vegas to cancel as many range-related appointments as possible...

It turns out that there is nothing wrong with the cars as designed and built.

Instead, owners of the vehicles have unrealistic expectations of their range, presumably based on the car company's own distance 'till dead claims...

...In most cases, the complaining customers’ cars likely did not need repair, according to the people familiar with the matter. Rather, Tesla created the groundswell of complaints another way – by hyping the range of its futuristic electric vehicles, or EVs, raising consumer expectations beyond what the cars can deliver. Teslas often fail to achieve their advertised range estimates and the projections provided by the cars’ own equipment, according to Reuters interviews with three automotive experts who have tested or studied the company’s vehicles.

Neither Tesla nor Chief Executive Elon Musk responded to detailed questions from Reuters for this story...

As for the 'Diversion Team' itself?


...Inside the Nevada team’s office, some employees celebrated canceling service appointments by putting their phones on mute and striking a metal xylophone, triggering applause from coworkers who sometimes stood on desks. The team often closed hundreds of cases a week and staffers were tracked on their average number of diverted appointments per day.

Managers told the employees that they were saving Tesla about $1,000 for every canceled appointment, the people said. Another goal was to ease the pressure on service centers, some of which had long waits for appointments...

Apparently, this issue is not a bug but rather a feature intentionally built into the cars from the beginning:

...Tesla years ago began exaggerating its vehicles’ potential driving distance – by rigging their range-estimating software. The company decided about a decade ago, for marketing purposes, to write algorithms for its range meter that would show drivers “rosy” projections for the distance it could travel on a full battery, according to a person familiar with an early design of the software for its in-dash readouts.

Then, when the battery fell below 50% of its maximum charge, the algorithm would show drivers more realistic projections for their remaining driving range, this person said...


The story heavily quoted
above is an excellent chunk of investigative journalism by Steve Stecklow and Norihiko Shirouzu published by Reuters yesterday.... 
Cory Doctorow has more...Much more...


Tuesday, July 25, 2023

That's One Small Step For Man...

...And One Giant Swing For The Spitter King.

Alvin Dark, who Charles Finley fired twice, the second time in 1976 for saying that he (i.e. Finley) would go to hell if he didn't mend his ways, was a pretty good major league baseball manager.

And, while he was no Madame Marie when it came to fortune telling, Dark may have been right about Finley, particularly given that the hockey gods had already punished Charlie 'O severely when they moved heaven and earth to make darned sure that Guy Lafleur would never lace up a white skate for his California Golden Seals.

And boy was Dark, who managed major league teams on both sides of the San Francisco Bay, ever right about the swing of infamous spitball pitcher Gaylord Perry when he uttered the following at about the same time that JFK made his infamous 'by the end of the decade' speech while he was then managing Perry, Willie Mays and the no longer New York Giants in the early '60's: 

Imagine that!

The Riverton Rifle,
Reggie Leach, said that the only good thing about lacing up those white skates in Oakland for Charlie 'O was the free tickets the hockey playing chattel got to A's games at the outdoor Coliseum next door.
Fortune teller ear worm wiggling?...This!


Monday, July 24, 2023

Ethical...It's Not Just For Oil Anymore.


From a piece by Shera Avi-Yonah in the Washington Post:

A three-star Air Force general said the U.S. military’s approach to artificial intelligence is more ethical than adversaries’ because it is a “Judeo-Christian society”...


...Lt. Gen. Richard G. Moore Jr. made the comment at a Hudson Institute event Thursday while answering a question about how the Pentagon views autonomous warfare. The Department of Defense has been discussing AI ethics at its highest levels, said Moore, who is the Air Force’s deputy chief of staff for plans and programs...

Remind me.

While pretty much the entirety of General Moore's Judea-Christian Society have lost their minds smushing Barbie and Oppenheimer together as the world's hottest vacation spots burn while tourists, who keep arriving by jet, flee...

Who was it, again, who dropped the bomb(s) in 1945?

Tip O' The Toque to PZ Myers...who took things in a slightly different direction.