One Hundred Days of Incompetence, from Populist to Neo-Conservative

❝ President Donald Trump’s chaotic and ineffective first 100 days in office seem to have vindicated even his harshest critics. US policymaking has been rendered inscrutable and unpredictable to almost everyone – including, perhaps, to the president himself.

RTFA. Long, detailed, broadcast distribution of analysis by well-educated analysts, theoreticians, pedants. The kind of folks who wouldn’t waste a minute in Trump’s presence once they realized he has no interest in either aiding his fellow human beings or ever learning how to do so.

Published by Project Syndicate

Inside the firestorm


Click to enlargeNick Guy/University of Wyoming

❝ Aircraft N2UW has flown through all kinds of weather. The twin-propeller plane is sleek, petite, and so packed with scientific gear for studying the atmosphere that there’s barely room for two passengers to squeeze into its back seats. Monitors show radar reflections, gas concentrations and the sizes of cloud droplets. The plane has flown through tropical rainstorms in the Caribbean, through the gusting fronts of thunderheads over the Great Plains, and through turbulent down-slope winds that spawn dust storms in the lee of the Sierra Nevadas. But the four people on board Aug. 29, 2016, will never forget their flight over Idaho.

❝ The plane took off from Boise at 4 p.m. that day, veering toward the Salmon River Mountains, 40 miles northeast. There, the Pioneer Fire had devoured 29,000 acres and rolled 10 miles up Clear Creek Canyon in just a few hours. Its 100-foot flames leaned hungrily into the slope as they surged uphill in erratic bursts and ignited entire stands of trees at once.

But to David Kingsmill, in the plane’s front passenger seat, the flames on the ground two miles below were almost invisible — dwarfed by the dark thing that towered above. The fire’s plume of gray smoke billowed 35,000 feet into the sky, punching into the stratosphere with such force that a downy white pileus cloud coalesced on its underside like a bruise. The plume rotated slowly, seeming to pulse of its own volition, like a chthonic spirit rising over the ashes of the forest that no longer imprisoned it. “It looked,” says Kingsmill, “like a nuclear bomb.”

❝ Undaunted, Kingsmill and the pilot decided to do what no research aircraft had done: Fly directly through the plume.

Sometimes stunning, every bit as interesting as any wildfire may be. RTFA. Longish and nothing is extraneous.

Yes, fire season is already here in New Mexico.

Political Hacks Running Trump’s Anti-Immigrant Hotline Having A Hard Time With Prank Calls

On Wednesday morning, the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency unveiled an office called VOICE (Victims of Immigration Crime Engagement) dedicated to “the needs of crime victims and their families who have been impacted by crimes committed by removable criminal aliens.”

By Thursday, VOICE’s most prominent feature—a hotline through which people can call to learn, among other things, “additional criminal or immigration history may be available about an alien to victims or their families” — was swamped with prank calls reporting illegal aliens. As in alien aliens. And judging by the enraged email that ICE sent me when I asked for comment, the agency is supremely pissed off about it.

Adding to the frenzy was the fact that VOICE’s launch date of April 26 was also “Alien Day”—a reference to the moon featured in James Cameron’s 1986 classic, Aliens (LV-426. Get it?).

Marine veteran Alexander McCoy told Buzzfeed News that he was inspired to call VOICE’s hotline after seeing #AlienDay trending on Twitter.

“I told them I’d been abducted by a UFO,” he told the site. “There was a long pause. I heard them do a big sigh. And they closed out the conversation saying that they’d make a note of it and I should wait for the DHS to investigate my report.”…

…Hoax callers seem to have taken a toll. RTFA for the email reply to the Rafi Schwartz request for a comment for publication. Classic bureaucratese.

The response from ordinary citizens bored to tears with crap political lies about crap political policies – reminds me of nothing more than one response to Draft Board forms dutifully displayed in every post office in the GOUSA during the VietNam War. The forms were required to be filled out by every eligible male of draft age to register themselves for call-up to the US Military. Postpaid.

Someone came up with the idea of wrapping a brick, a stone, an object of significant weight and dropping it into a mailbox with one of these prepaid forms taped to the outside of the package. Made for an interesting increase in the cost of managing the draft law back then…as that wee bit of civil disobedience became popular.

Why are measles coming back?

❝ We eliminated measles in the U.S. in 2000. Somebody should tell the measles. Because even though the virus has no permanent home stateside, it keeps getting in—more and more, it seems.

❝ If you were born in the U.S. after about 1968, you’ve lived your entire life with virtually no interaction with the measles. Consider yourself lucky. The virus causes fevers over 104°F, inflamed eyes, a cough, plus a rash that begins as tiny white spots and becomes an itchy red mass spreading outward from the head to cover your entire body. And that’s just your basic measles encounter. About 30 percent of measles patients get extra complications, including diarrhea, pneumonia, brain inflammation, and permanent blindness. In healthy areas, few people died of the disease—only about 0.3 percent—but in impoverished or malnourished populations that figure jumps up to around 30 percent.

❝ Before the measles vaccine, 3 to 4 million people got the disease every year and basically everyone had gotten it by age 15. That might sound like pretty good news. If everyone gets it as a kid, surely it’s like chicken pox—you get it, then you’re over it. In some ways, that’s right. But it also means that the potentially permanent complications (and the fatalities) disproportionately affect little kids.

❝ We’ve kind of forgotten what it’s like to live in a world where young children regularly get serious diseases. It’s difficult to notice an absence of deaths, so here’s some perspective: from 2000-2012, the measles vaccine saved about 13.8 million lives. If we continue the way we’re going, though, we might get a different perspective. From 1989-1991, measles saw a huge comeback because people weren’t getting vaccinated enough—and we may not be too far from that happening all over again.

We’re losing herd immunity and that’s sufficient to allow this childhood killer back. RTFA for sensible discussion. By now – if you’re a regular reader of this blog – I take it down to two questions: ignorance or stupidity.

In this instance, I’d say both. I grew up before vaccines were common in the US. Every spring the kids in our factory town sooner or later got round to figuring out who died over winter…and from what. I had measles and waltzed right through. My kid sister wasn’t so lucky. Ended up in hospital in an oxygen tent with pneumonia before she kicked it.

We also had to contend with scarlet fever, whooping cough, mumps, rheumatic fever and more. The summer was saved for polio.

116-year-old Mexican pensioner too old for bank software — not allowed welfare check for 3 months


Mexico News Daily

❝ Born at the turn of the past century, Maria Félix is old enough to remember the Mexican Revolution – but too old to get the bank card needed to collect her monthly 1,200 pesos ($63) welfare payment. Félix turns 117 in July, according to her birth certificate, which local authorities recognise as authentic. That would put her in the ranks of the world’s oldest living people.

❝ She went three months without state support for poor elderly Mexicans after she was turned away from a branch of Citibanamex in the city of Guadalajara for being too old, said Miguel Castro, development secretary for the state of Jalisco. Welfare beneficiaries now need individual bank accounts because of new transparency rules, Castro said.

“They told me the limit was 110 years,” Félix said with a smile in the plant-filled courtyard of her small house in Guadalajara.

❝ Félix, who sells candies from a stand outside her home, got by on her modest sales but was delighted when Castro became aware of her case, delivering a cheque and an apology to her in person. “Sooner or later, God provides,” said Felix, waving a hand. “Here I am.“

In an emailed statement, Citibanamex, a unit of Citigroup Inc, said Félix’s age exceeded the “calibration limits” of its system and it was working to get her the bank card as soon as possible. It said it was adjusting its systems to avoid a repeat of the situation.

And some banks run their IT department with the help of someone’s out-of-work nephew rather than a qualified professional. My Canadian password manager issued a qualitatively new version of their software, yesterday. One significant bug was discovered. It was patched, this morning, with an update identified as Version xxx001. Definitely fewer employees than Citibank’s Citibanamex.

Nope. Solutions to problems like this come down to considering customer service more important than disturbing the slumbers of some beancounter.