This is Power
February 5, 2020
“They hate because they fear, and they fear because they feel that the deepest feelings of their lives are being assaulted and outraged. And they do not know why; they are powerless pawns in a blind play of social forces.” – Richard Wright
“What and how much had I lost by trying to do only what was expected of me instead of what I myself had wished to do?” – Ralph Ellison
IoWa-nt A New Caucus
- Monday night’s caucus debacle in Iowa wasn’t just embarrassing for Democrats generally, it was a stunning failure of information security by the same Iowa Democratic Party (IDP) officials who have said for four years they were “ramping up” technology capabilities, convening seemingly endless security task forces to ensure foreign powers did not disenfranchise voters, and collaborating with federal agencies like the Department of Homeland Security to make sure everyone was in the loop on voting security.
- For some reason the IDP had chosen a new caucusing application made by a partisan progressive start-up that turned out to have a coding issue in the reporting system. (Microsoft’s app worked fine in 2016 so why change?) As officials began counting the results coming in from more than 1,600 caucus locations around the state, they saw irregularities that required them to switch from the app to counting votes manually. So the IDP had an app they’d been warned was problematic, which they used it anyway, without properly testing their back-up plans, each stage of which proved to take longer than usual.
- Bottom line: in this case cybersecurity wasn’t the issue — it was information security — being resilient and able to recover quickly from any number of things, including hacking, a natural disaster knocking out a server farm, or a bad app. It was that proper back-up planning, testing and vetting procedures were either completely deficient or simply absent entirely — something not likely reassure voters that their votes are safe. (CNBC)
- Buttigieg, Sanders Lead In 1st Batch Of Iowa Caucus Results (NPR)
- What happened at the Iowa caucuses? A quick guide to the chaos (Guardian)
- ‘People were breaking down crying’: Iowa vote-counters tell of caucus debacle (Guardian)
- The Only Safe Election Is a Low-Tech Election (NYT, $) We don’t consider ourselves Luddites at Daily Pnut but we do think that humanity will soon realize that the pitfalls of high tech from privacy to reliability make it so that low tech has many inherent advantages.
- Opinion | Sorry, Republicans Rule the Internet (NYT, $)
Hush, little Baby Don’t Say A Word, Daddy’s Gonna Buy A New TV
- Birth rates have declined to the point in Greece that it’s estimated the country’s 10.7 million population could shrink by a third in the next 30 years unless the trend is reversed. At the current rate, 36 percent of the population will be over age 65 by 2050, severely impacting the workforce and further straining the social security system.
- To address its demographic problem, Athens’ center-right government, under the leadership of Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis, has taken a dramatic step expected to cost €180 million-a-year. The plan calls for the parents of every new baby born to receive a €2000 government baby bonus. The benefit is available to resident non-EU as well as EU citizens, a decision that has left some of the prime minister’s more conservative supporters skeptical.
- However the deputy minister of labor and social affairs, who has pushed for the bonus and other parental benefits, says it’s a question of national preservation. “Given that high productivity rates are associated with young populations and not actively ageing ones, it’s also an economic growth priority,” she argued. “The picture becomes even more gloomy when compared with the difficult state of our pensions system.” (Guardian)
Additional World News
- ‘Wind Of Madness’ Is Sweeping Earth, U.N. Secretary-General Says (NPR)
- ‘No Longer A Friend’: Ukrainians Are Losing Faith In The U.S. (NPR)
- Khashoggi fiancee: ‘Saudi Arabia can get away with whatever it wants’ (Guardian)
- EU urged to adopt meat tax to tackle climate emergency (Guardian)
- Daniel arap Moi, Autocratic and Durable Kenyan Leader, Dies at 95 (NYT, $)
- What’s It Like Working At A Chinese-Run ‘American Factory’? It’s ‘Complicated’ (NPR)
The States VS Trump: Who Passed the Gas?
- Globally, buildings generate nearly 40 percent of greenhouse gas emissions; in densely developed American cities that percentage can be much higher. Natural gas is touted as a cleaner alternative to coal-fired electricity, but as its use has surged, so have its carbon emissions.
- The Trump administration is uninterested in addressing climate change, so some states and local communities have adopted their own carbon goals, which necessarily include reducing emissions in the building sector.
- Last July Berkeley, California became the first city in America to ban natural gas hookups in new construction. That has spurred other communities in the state and elsewhere to enact ordinances encouraging all-electric construction.
- As interest in the “electrify everything” movement picks up, real estate and construction industries are scrambling to keep up. Some developers and builders are forging ahead with their own goals for reducing carbon emissions, but others are balking at the fast rollout and say they want to retain the option of using gas. (NYT)
Ford VS Trump
In 2018 the Trump administration announced it intended to roll back aggressive fuel economy and global warming standards for cars put in place under the Obama administration. President Trump also intended to strip California of its ability to determine its own vehicle regulations for greenhouse gas emissions, a move that undoubtedly would invite a fierce and protracted legal battle. California sued, and kept its own standards, while other automakers were free to adopt lower standards. But California is the US auto industry’s biggest market, and all the Trump regulations did was throw the entire industry into chaos.
Ford Motor Company Chairman Bill Ford Jr. called Trump in the spring of 2019 to ask his help in defusing what Ford thought would be a lengthy legal battle. He urged the president to broker a compromise with California, an understandable attempt since Trump considers himself a world-class deal-maker. Unfortunately, according to one person briefed on the call, the president “basically [told Ford]: ‘You’re on your own.’”
So in August 2019 Ford, Volkswagen, Honda and BMW made their own deals with California, agreeing to oppose the auto emissions rollbacks and make cleaner cars than Trump wanted. The White House was blindsided by the pact, and immediately started pressuring other automakers against joining California.
In September Trump announced his administration was revoking a waiver to the Clean Air Act, dating to back 1968, that allows California to set higher emissions standards for cars than the federal government does. The stage was set for a protracted legal fight, with an auto industry that’s been thrown under the bus. (The Hill, WSJ, Verge, Vox)
Additional USA News
- State of the Fractured Union
- Trump’s Power Unleashed
- Rush Limbaugh awarded Medal of Freedom in surprise State of the Union move (CNN)
- “It’s Payback Time”: With Acquittal Certain, Trump Plots Revenge on Bolton, Impeachment Enemies (Vanity Fair)
- Book reveals Trump effort to persuade Justice Kennedy to step aside for Kavanaugh (Guardian)
- Trump’s War With the Media Is About to Get Even Worse (Vanity Fair)
- Trophy hunting event to auction ‘dream hunt’ with Donald Trump Jr (Guardian)
- This Southern Town Was Growing So Fast, It Passed a Ban on Growth (WSJ, $)
- New Memorial Honors Victims Of Gun Violence (NPR)
- Ex-Obama official exits Israeli spyware firm amid press freedom row (Guardian)
- Ex-C.I.A. Analyst Faces Trial in Biggest Leak of Agency’s History (NYT, $)
- Hawaii Is a Paradise, but Whose? (NYT, $)
- The Philadelphia Suburbs Where Many Don’t Drink the Water (WSJ, $) Additional song: Bruce Springsteen – Streets of Philadelphia (Official Music Video), the song Daily Pnut listened to while finishing up the newsletter.
Insulated In The Membrane, Insulated In The Brain!
- On Monday scientists reported in the journal Nature Neuroscience they’d discovered a clue to how autism spectrum disorder disrupts the brain’s information highways. The problem involves cells that help keep the traffic of signals moving smoothly through brain circuits.
- The research team found that in both mouse and human brains affected by autism, there’s an abnormality in cells that produce a substance called myelin. Myelin provides the “insulation” for brain circuits, allowing them to quickly and reliably carry electrical signals from one area to another.
- Having either too little or too much of the myelin coating can result in a wide range of neurological problems, such as multiple sclerosis, which occurs when the myelin around nerve fibers is damaged. Outcomes vary from person to person, and can affect not only the signals that control muscles, but also the ones involved in learning and thinking.
- The finding could help explain why autism spectrum disorders include such a wide range of social and behavioral features. One expert said: “Myelination could be a problem that ties all of these autism spectrum disorders together.” If so, it might be possible to prevent or even reverse the symptoms using drugs that affect myelination. (NPR)
- Why are pop songs getting sadder than they used to be? (Aeon)
- Disney+ already has 26.5M subscribers (Techcrunch)
- Instagram Brings In More Than a Quarter of Facebook Sales (Bloomberg)
- Can the World’s Strangest Mammal Survive? (NYT, $)
- The Gap Between the Haves and Have-Nots of Tech Widens (NYT, $)
“Power doesn’t have to show off. Power is confident, self-assuring, self-starting and self-stopping, self-warming and self-justifying. When you have it, you know it.” – Ralph Ellison
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