Pic of the Day – Calistoga in the rain


Click to enlargeOm Malik

❝ I ended up in Calistoga to celebrate a friend’s birthday. I forgot my backpack at home and as a result am reduced to just one device – my phone. It is interesting to be forced to use a different, wider lens when you are used to a 50 mm lens.

❝ Made with the iPhone7Plus at the Calistoga Ranch, California. Edited with RNI Films app.

Om is living proof that journalists and geeks can both end up doing a damned good job at being human beings. Thoughtful, caring, constructive.

This is from a series of photos noted above – taken with his iPhone as an expedient. But, don’t be surprised by his skill and obvious talent. He’s done notable work with the iPhone as an exercise before.

Click this link through to the photos page of his blog. Click any of the images you like and you will move into the series that snap represents.

Highest Value Export Good by State


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Thanks, Barry Ritholtz

It’s pretty funny how these can be skewed. New Mexico has computer processors because of one Intel foundry in Rio Rancho. The tax break deal they got allows for a payment back to local government if a certain percentage of employees are imported from out-of-state. A codicil necessary because local government and Intel both realized our education system is so weak that any high tech business would have to rely on supplemented staffing.

Middle of the road, traditional – and solid – defense of a Free Press

No comment. I’m not interested in changing this part of our Constitution – even if the TeaPublicans, neo-cons, Trumpkins and other proto-fascists appear to be headed in that direction. Truth-telling is still a good defense.

It’s a good time to be an immigration lawyer in Canada


Click to enlargeAnthony Maw

Gastown District, Vancouver

❝ The quaint cobblestone streets of the historic Gastown district of Vancouver belie its status as a fast-growing technology hub.

Drawing on links with nearby Seattle, and San Francisco further south, a tech boom in Canada’s third-largest city has pulled in tens of thousands of skilled workers and start-up entrepreneurs in recent years, sparking a fierce fight for the limited supply of office space.

Now the commercial centre of Canada’s most westerly province of British Columbia is braced for a fresh influx of talent — this one driven by the shifting immigration policies of the Trump administration in Washington.

❝ A month after Donald Trump entered the White House, the US tech sector is still trying to figure out how to adapt to the sweeping immigration reform promised by the new president…

The sector now fears that Mr Trump could push ahead with further legislation, including tearing up the H1B visa programme they rely upon to hire skilled foreign workers.

This has led many in Silicon Valley and beyond to consider their options, including looking further afield to more liberal Canada…

❝ Many of the world’s largest tech groups already operate in Vancouver, which regularly tops lists of the world’s most liveable cities and has the mildest climate in Canada.

Amazon is looking to add to its 700 staff in Vancouver, while Microsoft opened an office in the city last year for 750 employees. Cisco Systems, Samsung and SAP also operate there…

The tech industry and a booming construction sector have made Vancouver the fastest growing area of Canada’s economy, with GDP growth averaging 3.5 per cent in the past five years. “Resource economies historically were important, but tech now has more jobs than forestry, oil and gas, and mining combined,” says Mr Robertson.

Too bad 3rd World states like New Mexico can’t figure this out. The cost of doing business here would be a boon – if only we had an education system to match. It’s not just that we can’t supply much to incoming tech sector startups and established firms. Who wants to move somewhere where the public school system offers nothing more than a mediocre education to their children?

What Is The US Trade Deficit? Donald Trump Will Make It Look Bigly

The administration of President Donald Trump has planned to widen the appearance of America’s trade deficit, measured as total exports minus total imports, by changing the method used to calculate it.

The new calculation would count items known as “re-exports” — products first imported into the U.S. and then transferred, unchanged, to neighboring countries — as imports, but not exports. That would effectively exaggerate the deficit total, the Wall Street Journal reported Sunday…

Economists expressed worries that the new method would steer trade data away from a preferred level of “symmetry” in the way exports and imports are accounted for, as former Bureau of Labor Statistics Director Steve Landefeld put it in an interview with the paper.

Trump has previously declared himself a lover of debt and “the king of debt,” and suggested that the U.S. should take advantage of rising bond yield rates — which come hand-in-hand with falling bond prices — to “buy back government debt at a discount,” or simply “print the money” needed to cover the deficit.

All the fiddling that Republicans accuse Democrats of doing.

Total government debt, a cumulative measure of yearly deficit amounts — which includes government securities held by the citizens, companies, local and state governments and the Federal Reserve, along with money owed to foreign governments and beneficiaries of federal programs, such as Social Security — has been on track to reach $20 trillion.

The IBTimes repeats the Republican canard that Social Security [usually adding in Medicare] is part of their debt worries. Only if Congress steals the money from funds contributed by American individuals in the form of FICA payments. They are, in fact, insurance programs. Differing essentially from private insurance in their efficiency. They require less than a quarter of the administrative cost our corporate insurers claim is necessary.

Congressional pimps for privatization usually follow this up with whines of the imminent collapse of both. Imminent meaning a decade or so. Then, whines about raising the percentage going into FICA appear – conveniently ignoring the fact that there is a cut-off point above which wealthier Americans cease to pay into the fund. Removing that cap gets rid off another 50 years or more of 2-party craptastic lies – while working folks receive the benefits we paid for.

University of Washington teaching a course on bullshit

❝ Two University of Washington professors are teaching a course to help students “think critically about the data and models that constitute evidence in the social and natural sciences,” according to the introduction to the course.

The 160-seat seminar, titled “Calling Bullshit in the Age of Big Data,” begins in late March and continues for roughly 10 weeks. Members of the general public can follow the course syllabus, including readings and recordings of lectures, at the course’s website.

❝ At the end of the course, students should be able to “provide your crystals-and-homeopathy aunt or casually racist uncle with an accessible and persuasive explanation of why a claim is bullshit,” according to the syllabus.

❝ The syllabus went viral after it was posted last month…the instructors’ email inboxes were overflowing, and some book offers were even made. The course reportedly filled all open seats within the first minute of online registration at UW.

❝ Jevin West told Recode that he and Bergstrom started to notice a trend in the last few years: More bullshit in the articles they were reviewing…One area of big problems: Big data…He said he noticed methods of statistics meant for smaller data sets being applied to “big” data sets with millions or billions of examples, where it’s easy to force a correlation that isn’t necessarily accurate.

He also observed situations where machine learning algorithms were “overfitting” data. Basically, you can have an algorithm that so specifically matches a particular data set, meaning it reflects even errors or noise, it fails when applied to another data set where you would otherwise expect it to work. You would normally want an algorithm that is sufficiently general to fit more than one data set.

In addition to big data and machine learning issues, the course addresses fake news.

Just in case you worried that our so-called president was left out.

Thanks, Helen

Feds join suit against UnitedHealth Group for overcharging Medicare million$

❝ The U.S. Justice Department has joined a whistleblower lawsuit against UnitedHealth Group Inc that claims the country’s largest health insurer and its units and affiliates overcharged Medicare hundreds of millions of dollars, a law firm representing the whistleblower said on Thursday…

❝ The lawsuit, filed in 2011 and unsealed on Thursday, alleges UnitedHealth Group overcharged Medicare by claiming the federal health insurance program’s members nationwide were sicker than they were, according to the law firm Constantine Cannon LLP.

The Justice Department has also joined in allegations against WellMed Medical Management Inc, a Texas-based healthcare company UnitedHealth bought in 2011…plus several more affiliates who say they can’t imagine why they’re accused of being co-conspirators.

❝ The lawsuit by whistleblower Benjamin Poehling, a former UnitedHealth executive, has been kept under seal in federal court in Los Angeles while the Justice Department investigated the claims for the past five years.

The wheels of justice in America grind exceedingly slow in those rare circumstances when they’re set upon corporate theft and fraud.

The 75th anniversary of Japanese internment in America sounds awfully familiar


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Gravestone in the cemetery at Manzanar internment camp

❝ History does not stand still. Sometimes, it repeats itself subtly and incrementally. Other times, the patterns are sudden yet plain for the world to see.

This Sunday, Feb 19, is the 75th anniversary of the Day of Remembrance, marking the authorization of Executive Order 9066 in 1942. The order—which set in motion a mass internment of Japanese Americans—was signed and justified in the name of national security. The order wreaked havoc in the Japanese American community, eventually leading to the incarceration of more than 120,000 citizens in our country.

In 1988, after years of determined advocacy by the Japanese American community, the Civil Liberties Act was signed into law by US president Ronald Reagan. It officially recognized this grave wrong that had been committed by our nation. The legislation, which provided redress and a formal apology to the victims of Japanese internment, received support from members of both political parties in Congress. Its enactment was truly a testament to the greatness of our country, and formally demonstrated that we had learned from our imperfect past…

❝ …As we witnessed 75 years ago, and then again just a few weeks ago, fear-based rhetoric can spiral into devastating injustice. On this Day of Remembrance, we are reminded of the need to treat this day not just as a memorial of the past, but a reminder to stay vigilant in the present.

RTFA for a brief recounting of what Doris Matsui’s family suffered through our government’s bigotry, our nation’s fear. Reflect upon the clown show occupying the White House from the decision of a minority of voters in our last election. Not even the soundness of FDR’s control over our government meant anything to the bigotry of 1942.

I’m confident the citizens of the United States have made strides forward against bigotry and cowardice. Our government? Not so much.