Gotta replace ’em all

There exists (thank you, Cameron Aubernon) a movement called Brand New Congress, and this is how it’s supposed to work:

Our plan is to recruit and run 400+ candidates as a single, unified, presidential-style campaign. This allows us to:

  • Actually turn out millions more to vote in their midterm elections, which usually have extremely low turnout. One big campaign for a Brand New Congress will attract enough media attention, volunteers and grassroots donations to overwhelm those no-name, sold-out, unpopular incumbents.
  • Focus the grassroots energy and funding into one, big goal. It is possible to defeat incumbents backed by a few wealthy individuals if we have millions of people working together, but only if those millions are concentrated.
  • Gain huge economies of scale in advertising, direct mail, and staffing.
  • Use one constantly-improving campaign infrastructure as we move from election to election.
  • Have candidates without a lot of wealth and with no campaign experience run a sophisticated campaign by simply plugging into our well-oiled campaign machine.

There is, of course, a formal organization, sort of:

Right now, a political action committee called Brand New Congress is accepting contributions to support travel costs and to pay stipends for a handful of organizers. Zack Exley, a former Bernie staffer, is the treasurer of the PAC and works on Brand New Congress as a volunteer. Once we have our candidates, formal decision making and fundraising will flow through them, with the PAC probably being dissolved. We are required to have a PAC to accept funds and spend money toward electing federal candidates.

Well, at least this will be interesting.

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The new eugenics

Same as the old eugenics, when you get right down to it:

I am aghast at this article on Mom Jones, that interviews a guy who lauds the selection of embryos to get your perfect baby…

[Professor Hank] Greely [of Stanford] believes embryo selection will become popular in the United States. “My guess is more than half of babies are likely to be conceived this way,” he predicts.

After all, it’s just selection: “You want to get the best car. Why don’t you want to get the best baby?”

Well, maybe because a because a baby is not a “thing” to be bought, but a person to be loved and cherished. By not seeing babies as persons, it is implied that you can return them if defective (which is what is done by discarding embryos, and has been done by parents who refuse to accept an imperfect baby or twins etc. gestated by a pay-for surrogate mother).

And, of course, I’m old enough to remember that when one grew up and married, that babies weren’t planned, but just came along and were accepted and welcomed. Kids were considered part of one’s vocation of being married, and even among the non “religious”, there was the idea that well, God had a plan for the kid even if he/she came at an inconvenient time.

And God forbid these … these creatures should appear at a time when it’s inconvenient:

I don’t think I could mentally handle such demands on my time and energy, on my very body itself. I don’t want to give up all that brainspace that was previously spent on friends, work, writing, and other stuff and instead spend it on feeding schedules, shopping lists, doctor visits, and all the many, many other forms of emotional labor mothers have to do… I don’t want to slow or damage my career. I don’t want to stop having sex, or be forced to have it in secrecy and silence.

Don’t worry, we’re not going to force you. Life is not The Handmaid’s Tale no matter what you read on Tumblr.

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The Russians love their ballots too

Should elections be run by the states, or by Washington? A case for the former:

My love of federalism blah blah blah says it should be done by the states, and until the last few years that was my position. However, the logjam on some election reforms I would like to see, as well as elections themselves becoming something of a partisan fight, have shifted me towards the middle. But this? This pushes me back towards the states. Indeed, it makes me a little more fond of the electoral college.

The idea of doing everything federally is that The Federal Government Can Do It Right. The thing is, though, that even if we grant the competence of the federal government as being more substantial than that of the state governments, it also creates a central port for hacking. All Putin or anyone else would need to do is get into one system. Meanwhile, under a state-run situation, they’d need to get into five or six at minimum. Even if it’s twice as difficult to get into the federal system, the odds are better with the state systems. This, to me, suggests that there should be more separation rather than less.

Further, fraud would be easier to detect if they could get through some but not all of the state systems. If they can get into Pennsylvania but not Ohio, the odd results would be more noticeable. If they can get into a central system, they can manipulate the results in such a way to make it difficult to tell, giving the appearance of a uniform swing.

Vladimir Putin is mentioned, as of course he should be, but truth be told, I’m more concerned about home-grown skulduggery, especially in an era where candidates are routinely expected to be untrustworthy.

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Worst jerseys ever?

If you thought those New Orleans Zephyrs uniforms portraying the nutria were hideous, you ain’t seen nothing yet:

Admittedly, Burlington [North Carolina] is a Rookie-level team, in the Appalachian League, but this is, if you ask me, sub-Rookie-level design.

(Via the Kansas City Star.)

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By the slab

An excerpt from Second Act:

Twilight stared. “The Princess said she thought she’d detected a measure of fear.”

“A measure?” Brush replied. “With all due respect to Her Royalness, it was perfectly obvious. I was shaking like a leaf, all the way down to the ground. Even I would have noticed something like that, and I normally have the intuition of a slab of drywall.”

“Drywall?” she repeated.

“Sort of prefabricated plaster. Makes for a good, inexpensive wall. Not at all good at psychoanalysis.”

Twilight beamed. “Now, you see? This is what you’re good at. Concepts that you know, but that are new to us. You should have a cutie mark to reflect that skill.”

“Come on. Drywall? Lowest of the low-tech. If you’re going to promote my technological brilliance, such as it is, you might as well stencil a hammer on me. Or an abacus. Something at the bottom of the list.” He laughed. “Won’t that look sweet? The most advanced practitioner of magic from sea to shining sea, walking with a big, goofy-looking oaf with a row of beads on his butt.”

Meanwhile, among the humans, drywall is not so highly regarded:

Drywall was invented in 1916. The United States Gypsum Corporation, a company that vertically integrated 30 different gypsum and plaster manufacturing companies 14 years prior, created it to protect homes from urban fires, and marketed it as the poor man’s answer to plaster walls. A 1921 USG ad billed drywall as a fireproof wall that went up with “no time [lost] in preparing materials, changing types of labor, or waiting for the building to dry.”

Though ideal for construction, gypsum is not known for its environmental friendliness. Workers in gypsum mines — either above-ground quarries or pasty-white caverns — inhale a lot of gypsum dust, which the Occupational Safety and Health Administration recommends must be limited to 15 milligrams per cubic meter during a typical workday. And areas with disused mines are prone to ground collapse when surface developments disturb the cavities below. (The upside? Gypsum mines bring jobs to communities in states that produce the most gypsum, like Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, Indiana, Nevada, and California.)

If only the stuff weren’t so damned adaptable.

(Via Fark.)

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That one face in the crowd

I never get tired of Carly Rae Jepsen: she’s reinvented herself so many ways without ever jeopardizing her girl-next-door persona. In 2014, she did a three-month run on Broadway as Cinderella:

Carly Rae Jepsen at the ball

And I’m not sure I can explain this shot from her Twitter feed, taken in Taipei:

Carly Rae Jepsen goes for a ride

Still, I always come back to the voice. This is an early sample: “Bucket” was the third single from Tug of War, her 2008 album, four years before “Call Me Maybe.” Before bangs, even:

Reportedly, it was a damned cold day on the beach when this was shot.

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We got your slaves right here

Another high point in the history of socialism:

International human rights activists are complaining that new laws have introduced forced labour in Venezuela.

“A new decree establishing that any employee in Venezuela can be effectively made to work in the country’s fields as a way to fight the current food crisis is unlawful and effectively amounts to forced labor,” Amnesty International said in a statement released on Thursday.

President Nicolás Maduro signed a decree at the end of last week that gives powers to the labor ministry to order “all workers from the public and private sector with enough physical capabilities and technical know-how” to join a government drive aimed at increasing food production.

They can be required to work in the agricultural sector for a 60-day period that can be extended for another 60 days “if the circumstances require it.”

I expect Bill O’Reilly to drop by and see that the enslaved are at least kept warm and well fed.

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Quote of the week

Heather Havrilesky, wearing her Ask Polly hat, takes on some of our collective miseries:

[L]et’s reexamine this widely held sentiment that if you’re basically warm and fed and reasonably healthy, any problems you have are automatically trivial. Funny how the phrase first-world problems has a way of creating consensus among those who fancy themselves sophisticated and liberal, filling our minds as it does with images of self-proclaimed artist boys in man buns, nibbling on almond-crusted salmon and moaning about how to get their work noticed, or spoiled white ladies, sipping Champagne and whining about how their designer stilettos give them blisters.

The presumption here is that longing for more when you have a lot is somehow a crime. Daydreams are bad and embarrassing. Noticing that you’re not really that happy is weak. Observing your faulty thought patterns is suspect.

And $DEITY forbid that you should be thought weak:

Weakness is contemptible. This is the driving sentiment behind a big part of our culture, and it speaks to some sick core of “I’ll get mine” American values: The world is split into winners and losers. If you’re a winner, you deserve to win and you shouldn’t concern yourself with anything more than winning and winners. If you’re a loser, you’ll always lose, and why should anyone give you a second thought? Go be a loser somewhere else, or at least shut up about it.

But I’m a firm believer in longing and daydreams. I think when you’re melancholy about your life, it’s not just crucial to notice that, but it’s an enormous waste of a life not to notice it and address it. Are we really going to define the platonic ideal of existence in the first world as keeping your fucking mouth shut about what’s true and real and difficult for you, no matter what?

Stoicism can carry you only so far. And I think it’s leaving me out by the curb.

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Hominy and understanding

A wonderfully Hair-y sign:

This is the awning of the cage of asparagus

(Via Miss Cellania.)

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What’s that noise?

I think I might be slightly creeped out if I were told I would be working in this building:

I did have to check its papers, of course:

The Gate Tower Building (reportedly known locally as “The Beehive”) is a 16-floor office building located in Fukushima-ku, Osaka, Japan. Construction was completed in 1992. As the photo shows, the Umeda Exit of the Hanshin Expressway passes through the fifth, sixth, and seventh floors. Elevators reach the upper floors by moving along the sides of the building. Besides the elevators and stairways, there do not appear to be any office spaces on floors 5 through 7.

The highway never actually touches the building, thus they are two completely separate structures. A structure covers the highway which supposedly blocks out noises and vibrations from effecting the rest of the tower.

What you want to know, though, is why?

This unusual construction is the result of a compromise which was reached during the 1980s, when redevelopment of the area hit an impasse. A freeway was in the planning stages, but difficulties arose when negotiating with property rights’ holders. Finally in 1989, building codes were revised to include a “Multi-Level Road System” which allowed for this unusual structure to be built.

I can imagine something like this in Austin, Texas, where roads become congested within ten minutes of being built.

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Fans of these vans

Mercedes-Benz wants to sell you a Sprinter van. In fact, M-B is going to be supplementing their existing facility in North Charleston, South Carolina, where complete knock-down kits have been assembled for several years, with a brand-new full-scale assembly plant:

The reason Mercedes-Benz Vans decided to build a Sprinter manufacturing plant in North Charleston is simple: The U.S. market can’t seem to get enough of the tall, boxy commercial vehicles.

“Production follows the market,” Bobby Hitt, the state’s Commerce Secretary, said Wednesday as Mercedes-Benz Vans broke ground on a $500 million facility at Palmetto Commerce Park. “Companies want to produce where they sell.”

Mercedes-Benz Vans sold 28,600 Sprinters to U.S. customers in 2015 — its fifth consecutive year of record growth and an 11 percent increase over 2014 totals. Sales are up 16.5 percent so far this year. By the time the North Charleston plant starts producing vans at the end of this decade, the company expects to be selling at least 40,000 vehicles per year throughout North America.

That’s a lot of vans. Expect to see more Ford Transits and such to combat the Benzes.

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Too good for retail

“Give me spots on my apples, but leave me the birds and the bees.” — Joni Mitchell

Yeah, let’s dive in to the big basket of Defective Fruit:

Really, people need to get used to accepting slightly imperfect produce all of the time — so the producers can use fewer chemicals in its production! I’m not saying ABUSE the produce, but one thing I’ve learned is that the big shiny red “Delicious” apples are woody and tasteless, and the smaller, misshapen ones tend to be better … and at any farmer’s market you’re going to get less-perfect produce. And the idea of “Hey, we’re saving food from the landfill by selling it cheap to “po’ folks,” which is the spin some news stories have put on it, is more than a little offensive.

It doesn’t have to be that way, of course:

[M]y grad school, back when they actually had a functioning university farm (with cows and everything) would collect a lot of the food waste — the uneaten salad and the like — and boil it up and feed it to the cattle. And I remember learning in, I think it was Economic Geology? About a city somewhere — I want to say it was in Colorado — that gave its residents an extra waste bin and asked them to put expired produce and peelings and stuff in there, and the stuff was then boiled up and sold to a hog farmer, who fed it to his animals. And so the city made a bit of money — staving off price increases in garbage collection, food didn’t go to waste, and the farmer got a cheap and abundant source of pig food.

But that made sense, and marketing today is not allowed to make sense:

[T]o me, there seems to be something very “2016” about walking in the store, seeing a big bag of bruised-and-dented produce, and being told to buy it because it’s a good thing and this is what we merit as consumers, anyway … that the New Normal means we need to be satisfied with the increasingly less-good.)

The better-than-good, in the meantime, will find its way to the people willing to pay twice as much. It was, I suspect, always such.

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You can’t do this with delivery drones

The Friar drops in at one of the remaining Hastings stores:

A family was shopping, and one of the children, a girl of about eight or nine, had been given one of the books she would be getting with the family purchase. She dropped to the floor in a cross-legged second and dove in, immediately engrossed in whatever story she held while the others browsed.

Jeff Bezos will never be able to sell that, no matter what technology comes under his company’s command.

It will, however, be interesting to watch him try.

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Health dissurance

Whatever my issues with CFI Care (not its real initials) during this Era of Massive Medical Treatment, I can’t imagine them getting this bad:

On July 1st, my wife had surgery. It was not the end of the world, but they did have to knock her out and, well, it was surgery.

As the phrase goes, surgeons gotta surge.

Afterwards we stopped by the pharmacy to pick up medication and almost everything was denied. Not “pending decision” denied but “Nopenopenope” denied. It turned out the issue was that our health insurance had, at the end of June, changed something-or-another and so we had to fill out a completely different form and had a different account number.

Our problems only started there. As it happens, the surgery itself was no longer covered at the hospital where it was performed. We live in a tri-state area where a lot of our services are provided across state lines. New policy is nothing non-emergent can occur across state lines under any circumstances. We can’t go to the hospital that’s twenty minutes away, or the one that’s thirty minutes away. The nearest major hospital in the state is actually three hours away. This new policy of course took effect July 1st, the day of the surgery.

We quote Mr Devious, the insurance agent:

Devious: Here we are. It states quite clearly that no claim you make will be paid.

Vicar: Oh dear.

Devious: You see, you unfortunately plumped for our ‘Neverpay’ policy, which, you know, if you never claim is very worthwhile, but you had to claim, and, well, there it is.

Once again, Python anticipates life.

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Didn’t even check her shoes

Parents beware:

It gets worse. At midnight the résumé turns into a strip of Charmin.

(Via Daily Pundit.)

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Come, let’s Stroh

Stroh’s brewed beer in Detroit from 1850 to 1999, when the company was taken over by Pabst. Now, in a limited way anyway, Stroh’s is coming back home:

The Stroh Brewery Company will once again brew beer in Detroit with the return of Stroh’s Bohemian-style Pilsner on August 22…

Stroh’s Bohemian-style Pilsner is a classic that earned the highest awards at the World’s Fair in Chicago in 1893. The new [brew] is inspired by a Stroh’s recipe from the late 1800s.

Stroh’s Bohemian will be brewed at Brew Detroit in Detroit’s Corktown neighborhood.

This is consistent with Pabst policy: own the name, brew wherever you can.

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