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Member Since 03 February 2012 - 03:42 PM
Offline Last Active Nov 28 2020 04:57 PM
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Topics I've Started

The Republican Assault on American Democracy

25 November 2020 - 04:39 PM

We're probably well past the point that this thread should have been started. We have separate threads for things like Republican court packing, their assault on independent power, assault on reality, that they've "flat out lost their minds", and practically anything to do with Trump but we need to be following Moscow Mitch's multi-prong strategy of destroying democracy and clinging to power with a minority of the country's support.

Here's a good piece by Josh Marshall to kick things off called Offense on Democracy. It's in full due to the paywall.

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President Trump’s decision to allow the full, formal transition process to move forward signals the end of any real attempt to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election. It’s been clear for a while that this effort would fail; now you can be sure of it. The real impact of the blizzard of lies and frivolous lawsuits about voter fraud, however, will be as the premise and predicate for a new round of voter suppression laws Republican legislatures and GOP-appointed judges will try to put into effect starting next year.

We’ve seen this pattern before, as predictable as day follows night.

The other predictable part of this pattern is Democrats playing defense – mount the barricades to fight voter ID laws, voter roll purges, new limitations on early voting and more. Democrats have done a relatively good job of this. But it’s – obviously – a loser’s game. The only way to engage the next two years and going forward is to hit the ground running with a raft of new laws and proposals at the state and federal level to expand the reach of the franchise, make voting less onerous and provide greater certainly that votes will be counted. I don’t pretend that all these proposals will become laws. But that’s not the point. You can only limit your losses if you’re playing defense on the other side’s anti-democratic proposals.

I see a lot of Democrats breathing a sigh of relief that the Trump Team’s conspiracy theories aren’t getting traction in the courts and seem to be falling short even with many Republican election administrators. That’s great. But it’s not nearly enough. It’s a missed opportunity. What we have seen over the last month needs to become a rallying cry to secure voting rights, the sanctity of the franchise and the end of onerous barriers to voting. I don’t ever want to see another inspiring story of voters – usually African-American voters – set up with chairs and refreshments for literally hours waiting in line to vote.

Organized forces around the country, led by the President of the United States, tried to disenfranchise millions of voters. They worked to make it as difficult as possible for Democrats to cast ballots. They stymied the postal service. They sought and in some cases received court orders which disqualified ballots cast according to the stated rules of election officials in given states. What we have seen over the last six months and especially the last month is an example of just how vulnerable people’s votes are in the face of organized bad actors. The organized bad actors control an entire political party. That calls for a new raft of laws to protect those votes and those voters.

I don’t know just what those legislative proposals should be in every case. And that’s not the point of this post. But they need to be generated right now not only because we need to dramatically shift the tide on the right to vote in this country but because you cannot enter such a contest only debating the other side’s suppressive and illiberal proposals. And that’s what looks likely to happen.

Democrats are the party in this country fighting to make it easy to vote and making sure every vote is counted. They need to up the ante and make clear to the public that that is what is happening. This is a powerful message and it has the virtue of being true.

There’s another point I want to add to this, though it’s more speculative and I’m not sure the precise modalities. In a civic democracy willfully and knowingly spreading lies to overturn or undermine confidence in a free and fair election is the equivalent of yelling fire in a crowded theater. It amounts to a crime against the people and the republic. Generic lying has strong first amendment protections. But bringing those lies into court does not. There are ample grounds for seeking legal sanctions against the lawyers who have polluted the courts with these frivolous claims with the clear intent of undermining the republic itself. Whether or not such efforts succeed in securing punishments or disbarments they should be pursued and pursued aggressively. Otherwise there will be no disincentive for this kind of reckless behavior in the future. It’s as simple as that.

If nothing else, the reputation for such attacks on the republic should become toxic and unwelcome in respectable society and business – on the level of child molester and those who prey on the incapacity of the elderly to steal money. Does that sound excessive and hyperbolic? What is more basic to our well-being than the safety and security of our democracy and our freedom?

The simple functioning of democracy is a cornerstone issue of our time: making the right to vote real, making voting easy, making sure votes are always counted and making sure majorities govern. That is a powerful and necessary agenda. Time to act like it and go on offense.

Amazon Pharmacy Is Coming to a Web Browser Near You

24 November 2020 - 01:44 PM

Amazon bought PillPack to hop into the market across the country. They're expanding their offerings.

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Amazon and American health care look, at first glance, like a mismatch. Yet the 21st century’s most ruthlessly efficient retailer has been trying for several years now to gain a bigger foothold in the bloated, borderline nonsensical health system of the world’s richest nation.

Which is why whenever Amazon makes a new health care maneuver, like the company’s recent announcement that prescription drugs would be sold through its flagship website at a discount for Prime members, the same question inevitably gets asked: Is Amazon coming to disrupt health care?

The short answer is no. At least, not yet.

Amazon bought PillPack, an online pharmacy, two years ago with an eye toward making a move like this: integrating the pharmacy business into its monolithic online store. PillPack gave Amazon the licenses to operate a pharmacy in almost every state, and the vision was always that you would eventually be able to fill a prescription for your blood pressure drug at the same time you were shopping for ... everything else you buy on Amazon.

On its face, the recent news is an incremental step. Amazon Pharmacy is now just one more pharmacy to choose from, alongside Walgreens, CVS, and the like. Some people might get drugs more cheaply thanks to discounts being offered through Prime, but most will still use their health insurance plan and pay the same amount they would anywhere else. This is bad news for some specialty businesses, namely GoodRx, but the major pharmacy chains aren’t going anywhere anytime soon.

But Amazon surely isn’t finished expanding its health care portfolio. The latest pharmacy play is a chance for the company to get a better idea of what it takes to run a pharmacy business — to handle the logistical and administrative challenges — before it takes another step. The rest of the sector has been put on notice.

“They’re buying information. They’re making an investment to gain some information to figure out whether it’s worth it to make a much bigger investment,” Craig Garthwaite, who studies health care economics at the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University, told me. “This might not work, but they would never figure out if they can be a major player without being a minor player first.”

Satellites Will Change the Night Sky

23 November 2020 - 03:02 PM

Spaces and other companies are launching thousands upon thousands of satellites to create global communications networks. It's sad to think that future generations will no longer be able to see the natural night sky without having lots of satellites moving across it. Like the author I remember be very excited to see an orbiting satellite and even Skylab back in the day. It sounds like they will soon be a constant when you look up.

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I walk outside my rural Saskatchewan house before dawn and look up, expecting to have my breath taken away by the sheer number of stars overhead. I’m a professional astronomer, but I still appreciate naked-eye stargazing as much as an eager child. This is the first place I’ve lived that’s dark enough to easily see the Milky Way, and I’m stunned and awed every time I look up.

This time though, I curse softly. There’s a bright satellite. And another following behind. And another. And another.

I used to be excited about seeing artificial satellites, but now I know what’s coming. We’re about to undergo a dramatic transition in our experience of satellites. No longer will you escape your city for a camping trip and see the stars unobstructed: you will have to look through a grid of crawling, bright satellites no matter how remote your location.

If mega-constellations of satellites become reality, the night sky will become a mundane highway of moving lights, obscuring the stars. Now, every time I see the bright reflection of a satellite tracking across the stars, I am reminded of what has already been approved by the United States Federal Communications Commission — the agency that regulates frequencies broadcast by satellites over the U.S., effectively putting itself in charge of regulating every space launch on the planet.

SpaceX has already received approval for 12,000 Starlink satellites and is seeking approval for 30,000 more. Other companies are not far behind.

The Starlink mega-constellation itself would increase the number of active satellites more than tenfold: there are around 3,000 active satellites in orbit; current Starlinks are brighter than 99 per cent of them because they are in lower orbits, closer to the surface of Earth, and more reflective than Starlink engineers predicted.

SpaceX is launching sets of 60 satellites every couple of weeks, and there will be a thousand Starlinks in orbit by Christmas 2020.

With the naked eye, stargazing from a dark-sky location allows you to see about 4,500 stars. From a typical suburban location, you can see about 400. Simulations show that from 52 degrees north (the latitude of both Saskatoon and London, U.K.) hundreds of Starlinks will be visible for a couple of hours after sunset and before sunrise (comparable to the number of visible stars) and dozens of these will be visible all night during the summer months.

Light pollution has long been a threat to stargazing, but at least that can be escaped by leaving urban centres.

But satellites will be a global star-obscuring phenomenon, particularly bad at the latitudes of northern U.S. states, Canada and much of Europe.


And like so many other private endeavors the thoughts for the future remain short-sighted. It's all go-go-go!

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Most satellites today are launched by private companies not governments, and most satellite debris remains abandoned in orbit, because there are no rules about clean-up. There are thousands of pieces of this space junk, ranging in size from bolts to bus-sized dead satellites.

With tens of thousands of new satellites approved for launch, and no laws about orbit crowding, right-of-way or space cleanup, the stage is set for the disastrous possibility of Kessler Syndrome, a runaway cascade of debris that could destroy most satellites in orbit and prevent launches for decades.

Republican Obstruction, Lies, and Convenient Position Changes

09 November 2020 - 04:50 PM

New thread since Moscow Mitch is already at it as he supports Trump gumming up the transition.

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Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) on Monday threw his support behind President Donald Trump’s undemocratic rejection of the election results that led to his defeat at the hands of President-elect Joe Biden.

Amid the President’s evidence-free claims about “illegal” votes and his slew of lawsuits aimed at bolstering those accusations, McConnell backed Trump’s weaponization of the courts during a speech on the Senate floor.

Trump has “has every right to look into allegations and to request recounts under the law,” McConnell argued.

“If any major irregularities occurred this time of a magnitude that would effect the outcome, then every single American should want them to be brought to light,” he said. “And if Democrats feel confident they have not occurred, they should have no reason to fear any extra scrutiny.”

The Senate leader’s final jab struck a note of irony given how Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) pressed him on a similar point when McConnell refused to allow witnesses or evidence of Trump’s Ukraine scandal to be presented at the impeachment trial earlier this year.

The Criminal & Civil Prosecutions of Donald Trump

02 November 2020 - 05:40 PM

I figure this should have its own thread since it may go on for a long, long, long time. Here's bad news for Trump.

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A land-use lawyer formerly employed by Donald Trump’s company has been ordered by a New York judge to hand over “hundreds” of documents to investigators looking into whether Trump manipulated land values to acquire loans or tax benefits, Bloomberg reports.

“The lawyer, Charles Martabano, went too far in asserting attorney-client privilege over documents relating to his past work for the Trump Organization, Justice Arthur Engoron ruled Oct. 30,” the report states. “The judge reviewed the documents before ordering Martabano to hand them over to New York Attorney General Letitia James.”

According to Engoron ruling, the “mere presence of an attorney on an email chain amongst an organization’s employees does not trigger the cloak of attorney-client privilege.”

“Moreover, a client waives the privilege if communications are made in the presence of a third party,” he continued.