Georgia’s Moron-in-Chief orders cities to halt mask mandate

Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp (R) on Thursday sued to stop Atlanta from enforcing some of its coronavirus-related rules, including its mandate to wear a face covering in public, even as the state experiences a sharp rise in coronavirus cases.

The lawsuit alleges that Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms (D) lacked the authority to implement a mask requirement and that she must obey Kemp’s executive orders, including one signed Wednesday that explicitly bans municipalities from enacting their own face-covering ordinances.

Kemp’s lawsuit also asks the court to bat down Bottoms’s July 10 order that the city return to Phase 1 of reopening, which requires that people return to sheltering at home and that restaurants close their dining rooms.

The Moron-in-Chief, Governor Kemp, has made it clear enough that even protective measures that he knows are worthwhile shouldn’t be forced upon prospective voters – oops!, he means “freedom-loving Georgians”.

A history of living conditions on Earth in 5 charts


A recent survey asked “All things considered, do you think the world is getting better or worse, or neither getting better nor worse?”. In Sweden 10% thought things are getting better, in the US they were only 6%, and in Germany only 4%. Very few people think that the world is getting better.

What is the evidence that we need to consider when answering this question? The question is about how the world has changed and so we must take a historical perspective. And the question is about the world as a whole and the answer must therefore consider everybody. The answer must consider the history of global living conditions – a history of everyone.

Cynic that I am – even as an optimist – I tend to have a low opinion of my fellow Americans’ commitment to lifetime learning, understanding the world around us. This study makes it clear I should extend that analysis to our species worldwide. 🙂

Actually, things are better than that. But, I can’t resist grumbling – especially on a cold, snowy weekend moving into the mud phase.

RTFA. It serves as the debut for OUR WORLD IN DATA website. Which looks really interesting and useful.

Thanks, Barry Ritholtz

Republican and other conservative bigots will cost cities millions in lost sports dollar$

Thirty states and hundreds of cities could be barred from hosting the biggest events in college sports after the NCAA announced this week that it won’t hold playoffs and championships in cities and states without civil-rights protections for gay and transgender people.

That could include moving the 2017 Men’s Basketball Final Four from Glendale, Arizona, and this year’s college softball championships from Oklahoma City. It also puts in limbo places such as Memphis and Nashville, Tennessee; Boise, Idaho; and Greensboro and Charlotte, North Carolina, which are scheduled to host men’s basketball playoff games in 2017 or 2018.

Following national controversy over a law in North Carolina that restricted protections for gay, lesbian and transgender people, the National Collegiate Athletic Association said Wednesday that it will require cities and towns that want to host collegiate championships and the organization’s administrative conferences to “to demonstrate how they will provide an environment that is safe, healthy, and free of discrimination, plus safeguards the dignity of everyone involved in the event.”

…The policy change applies to places that have already been awarded games and those that would bid for future playoffs, said NCAA spokeswoman Stacey Osburn, but the organization’s national office still needs to decide what standard sites must meet.

Only 18 states have broad laws that protect people based on sexual orientation or gender identity specifically in accommodation or sports venues, according to Human Rights Campaign Fund, a gay-rights group based in Washington.

“If people have the ability to turn you away from the hot dog stand because of how you look, that’s a big problem,” said Cathryn Oakley, senior legislative counsel for HRC and author of a city-level LGBT equality index. “It’s also about safety, because a transgender person coming to see their favorite team shouldn’t have to worry about where they go to the bathroom after they’ve had a few beers.”

❝ “The higher education community is a diverse mix of people from different racial, ethnic, religious and sexual orientation backgrounds,” Kirk Schulz, chairman of the NCAA board and incoming president of Washington State University, said in a statement. “It is important that we assure that community — including our student-athletes and fans — will always enjoy the experience of competing and watching at NCAA championships without concerns of discrimination.”

In a modern, civilized nation run by reasonable law – instead of the opportunist whims of cowards and conservatives, religious communities beholden to one or another sharia – these problems don’t exist.

This is nothing new. We went through the same crap breast-beating over women voting, ending official racist barriers. The bigots of America command a sizable legion of lockstep politicians willing to sell out constitution, country and progress to ensure their political power. Along with federal courts, we the people have often had to resort to the economic power of the boycott.

So it shall be, once again.

Former Seattle mayor urges divesting from fossil fuel

Sometimes the best measure of a movement’s momentum is the reaction of its critics. When, in early October, the Australian National University (ANU) announced that it would sell its shares in seven fossil-fuel and mining companies, it triggered a chorus of criticism from the country’s conservative politicians.

These nominal champions of the free market were quick to tell the university what it should do with its money. The Treasurer of Australia, Joe Hockey, disparaged the ANU’s decision as being “removed from reality.” Others chimed in, calling it “a disgrace,” “very strange,” and “narrow-minded and irresponsible.” Never mind that the sums involved were relatively small – making up less than 2% of the university’s estimated $1 billion portfolio.

As the drive to divest from fossil fuels picks up speed, such panicky responses are becoming increasingly common. The outrage of Australia’s conservatives reminds me of the reaction I received when I testified before the US Congress in 2013 that we should “keep our coal in the ground where it belongs.” David McKinley, a Republican congressman from West Virginia, in the heart of America’s coal country, replied that my words “sent a shiver up [his] spine,” then changed the subject to the crime rate in Seattle, where I was Mayor.

…The fossil-fuel industry clearly sees the divestment movement as the political threat that it is. When enough people say no to investing in fossil-fuel production, the next step has to be keeping coal, oil, and gas in the ground.

That is a necessary step if we are to head off the most dangerous consequences of climate change. To prevent world temperatures from rising above the 2º Celsius threshold that climate scientists believe represents a tipping point beyond which the worst effects could no longer be mitigated, we will need to leave approximately 80% of known fossil-fuel reserves untapped…

…reality implies another compelling case for divestment. To be sure, some will claim that the world will never change and that we will continue to depend on fossil fuels forever. But one has only to look to Seattle, where gay couples marry in City Hall and marijuana is sold in licensed retail outlets, to see the human capacity to reexamine deeply held assumptions. The prudent investor, and the wise business leader, will look where the economy is headed, not where it has been.

We need more courage like that shown by the ANU. Its leaders bucked the power of coal and oil interests, which wield enormous power in Australia. If they can do it to popular acclaim, others can, too.

Hear, hear!

Do ancient settlements and modern cities follow same rules of growth and development?

Visitors to the ancient city of Teotihuacan—with its pyramidal structures arranged in careful geometric patterns, its temples, and its massive central thoroughfare, dubbed Street of the Dead — in Mexico may have the sensation they’re gazing at the remains of a society profoundly different from their own.

But new research from anthropologists armed with a bevy of recently derived mathematical equations shows that in some fundamental ways, today’s cities and yesterday’s settlements may be more alike than different.

In a new study led by a University of Colorado Boulder researcher and published in the journal PLOS ONE, scientists show that the same equations used to describe patterns of development in modern urban areas appear to work equally well to describe cities settled thousands of years ago.

“This study suggests that there is a level at which every human society is actually very similar,” said lead author Scott Ortman, assistant professor of anthropology at CU-Boulder. “This awareness helps break down the barriers between the past and present and allows us to view contemporary cities as lying on a continuum of all human settlements in time and place.”

Over the last several years, Ortman’s colleagues at the Santa Fe Institute (SFI), including Professor Luis Bettencourt, a co-author of the study, have developed mathematical models that describe how modern cities change as their populations grow. For example, scientists know that as a population increases, its settlement area becomes denser, while infrastructure needs per capita decrease and economic production per capita rises.

Ortman noticed that the variables used in these equations, such as cost of moving around, the size of the settled area, the population, and the benefits of people interacting, did not depend on any particular modern technology…

To test his idea, Ortman used data that had been collected in the 1960s about 1,500 settlements in central Mexico that spanned from 1,150 years B.C. through the Aztec period, which ended about 500 years ago…

“We started analyzing the data in the ways we were thinking about with modern cities, and it showed that the models worked,” Ortman said…

In the future, the equations may also guide archaeologists in getting an idea of what they’re likely to find within a given settlement based on its size, such as the miles of roads and pathways. The equations could also guide expectations about the number of different activities that took place in a settlement and the division of labor.

I have serious questions; but, no interest in pursuing the answers – right now. They come back to that division of labor and the basis of the economy. Are there no qualitative differences between a slave-based economy, a feudal economy, either the pre-industrial or industrial version of capitalism?

How many slaves were necessary to provide Aztec aristocracy with a satisfactory lifestyle? How many serfs tilling the soil of agrarian feudalism – and how were they housed, where were they housed? Will the current generation of plutocrats maintain their disdain for 21st Century workers and diminishing opportunities, a diminishing middle class?

Even the contrast between European and American concepts of where to enjoy luxurious living – with appropriate servants and service doesn’t seem to be mentioned. Yet, here in the United States once you’re away from the unique environs of Wall Street, the suburbs are the accepted direction of growth for most of the upper class. In Europe, that’s considered exile.

Maybe my questions are as much a reaction to reporting as analysis. There are few intellectual bodies I respect more than SFI.

Pic of the Day

In this photo taken from the International Space Station, the European Space Agency’s Automated Transfer Vehicle-3 (ATV-3) is seen on approach for docking. The unmanned cargo spacecraft docked to the space station at 6:31 p.m. EDT on March 28, 2012.

The ATV-3 delivered 220 pounds of oxygen, 628 pounds of water, 4.5 tons of propellant and nearly 2.5 tons of dry cargo. Among other items, the station crew received experiment hardware, spare parts, food and clothing.

The six-member Expedition 30 crew adjusted its sleep schedule to accommodate the ATV-3 docking. The crew stayed up late to monitor the approach and docking.

Those lights below are cities on Earth. How cool is that?

Who says roaming charges are limited to phones?

Will electric car charging networks have the type of roaming commonly found between cell phone providers? If Nokia Siemens Networks — a joint venture between the European networking giants — has anything to say about it, in Europe they will. This week at Mobile World Congress, an annual telecom conference in Barcelona, Spain, Nokia Siemens Networks and a German public utility group called Smartlab announced they are developing an authentication and authorization service to enable electric vehicle drivers to “roam” when charging up via various service providers.

Called, the service will essentially authenticate your data across charging infrastructure, using information like your EV charging contract ID, an RFID card number, a PIN number or a telephone number. The group notes that the service is built to be secure, and says in the future, electric charging service providers can use to make customer billing easier…

The group’s new e-roaming project highlights just how nascent the electric vehicle industry is. While there are some early standards in place for charging, the IT layer for the data involved with charging isn’t yet standardized…Nokia Siemens Network’s involvement also shows how the telecom sector is increasingly looking to work on using their networks for the “Internet of things,” including EVs and smart meters….

Katie takes the time to reinforce her belief that Open Source is needed to advance the tech. I’m not at all convinced of that. But, I hadn’t considered this solution to roaming with an electric car.

Seems to me just as simple to utilize one of several existing means of payment – from swiping your credit card to waving your cellphone as a magic wand. The payment needn’t be tethered to the vehicle; but, to whoever is paying for the parking.

I can conceive of a salesman out for dinner with a client falling over himself to pick up the tab for charging the client’s car.

After the San Bruno blast – locating all the old pipelines

Daylife/AP Photo used by permission

People who were rattled by the Sept. 9 San Bruno disaster and want to find out if there are potentially explosive pipelines under their neighborhoods have a tough task of sleuthing ahead of them. Most of the information is out there, if they hunt and push hard enough – but that information reveals only so much.

Databases, maps and help lines are available through national and state agencies as well as Pacific Gas and Electric Co., the main supplier of natural gas in Northern California. But there are too many kinds of gas lines from too many companies, and too many security concerns, for any one person to get locations easily, experts and public officials say.

Everyone is asking where these pipelines are, and the answers aren’t easy to get,” said Mindy Spatt, spokeswoman for The Utility Reform Network, a consumer organization. “Customers can’t wait years or months for that information. We need a better system…”

According to the U.S. Department of Transportation, California has 122,217 miles of liquid and petroleum pipelines crisscrossing its towns, fields and mountains. To find out where these are, the central source of information is the U.S. Pipeline and Hazardous Material Safety Administration’s national map of major pipelines. The map gives a general idea of where the lines are, but it doesn’t show detail street by street…

In the Bay Area, the most recent high-profile accident involving gas pipelines was in 2004, when a backhoe operator punctured a high-pressure gasoline pipeline in Walnut Creek owned by Kinder Morgan. The explosion killed five construction workers.

We haven’t an accident of this size in a few years in New Mexico. We’ve only just avoided a couple, though, including a gas leak recently reported in the heart of Albuquerque associated with roadwork – that went unrepaired for a few weeks.

Robots that crawl through pipelines have been available – and rarely used – for several years. PG&E is deploying them 24/7 since the San Bruno explosion. But, more often they’re limited to scheduled maintenance trips based on budget as much as anything else. Or when they produce a profit – like drawing cable TV and broadband lines through existing pipelines.

None of which engenders a lot of confidence.

The world’s most dangerous cities?

Jerusalem is tied near the bottom of the livability list – with Beirut

Being on guard might come naturally to many city dwellers, but in some places urban life requires more than just vigilance.

CNN takes a look, in no particular order, at 10 cities in the world that have been deemed dangerous by a number of surveys.

We looked at Mercer’s latest global report on personal safety and Foreign Policy magazine’s most recent report on murder rates, as well as reports by Forbes and security watchdog Citizen’s Council for Public Security.

These surveys base their findings on factors such as internal stability and effectiveness of law enforcement, as well as official crime statistics and media reports.

Reputation deserved?

U.S. combat troops on track to leave Iraqi cities by month’s end

U.S. combat forces will vacate all Iraqi cities on schedule by the end of this month, the commander of U.S. forces in Iraq, General Ray Odierno, said, including the still violent insurgent holdout of Mosul.

U.S. combat troops are scheduled to leave Iraq’s towns and cities by June 30 and redeploy to bases outside, according to a security pact that took effect in January. Some U.S. and Iraqi officials had suggested this might have to be delayed in the case of Mosul, where al Qaeda and other insurgent groups still carry out frequent attacks…

“We will come out of the cities. We will provide some trainers and advisers, LNOs (liaison officers) … inside of Mosul … but that’ll be it,” he said in an interview. “We’ve made some good progress up there in the last several months. I feel much better about where we’re at in terms of security in Mosul … We’ll be able to turn it over,” he said…

He said that since 2006, Iraqi security forces had made huge leaps in the size of their forces, and better training and equipment, but U.S. forces would remain in Iraq in an advisory role until the end of 2011, the withdrawal date agreed with Baghdad in the bilateral security pact.

“I think it’s time for us to move out of the cities, I think it’s important that people understand we are going to abide by the agreement that we’ve signed,” he said…

“You’ll never know until you leave. As long as we’re here, we can’t say they’re standing on their own two feet,” he said.

It’s amazing. We seem to have acquired a generation of officers which contains a noticeable – albeit small – number of folks with brains and the ability to use them. Somewhere along the way between Ho Chi Minh City and Kabul.

If we continue to keep our homegrown ideologues out of the way maybe we’ll get to bring everyone home?