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You first. The thought of eating insects bugs me

eating-bugs

Yes, I know. The world needs more food.  Two billion people already eat bugs. So why shouldn’t we fussy eaters in the West join in? “Waiter, another order of spider leg fries, please, and a grasshopper burger too.” The UN thinks this is a fine idea so maybe we should too? Yum. Will Whole Foods soon be selling free-range, organically-raised, locally-grown bugs?

Supposedly raising insects for food is more sustainable because it uses less water and resources. However, has this been done on a mass scale yet, and not just in, say, selling insects at local markets in Southeast Asia?

The Dutch supermarket chain Jumbo has decided to add bugs onto its shelves from January 2015 onwards, in an attempt to gradually incorporate it into the Western diet. Their “Buggy burgers” and “Buggy Balls” (article in Dutch) will consist of only 6-10% bug parts, and may thus be the solution to our problem; gradually start introducing small amounts of bug produce into our diets to get over the yuck barrier. After all, disgust, like culture, is passed down from generation to generation, and it is never too late to start making a change. We did it with sushi, so why can’t we do it with bugs?

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Rand Paul voted against NSA reform bill to block renewal of Patriot Act

Rand_Paul

The headlines are seriously misleading. Yes, Sen. Paul voted against the NSA reform bill. He did so to prevent the extension of the Patriot Act expiration date. Paul has been a steady and vocal champion of civil liberties and is the only senator who pointblank said NSA officials lied under oath while testifying to the Senate. No other senator had the balls to state that obvious truth. I think some of his other views are crackpot. However, he is the best friend civil liberties have in the Senate.

From his website

Sen. Paul blocks the renewal of Patriot Act

Earlier this evening, Sen. Rand Paul voted against further consideration of the USA Freedom Act as it currently extends key provisions of the Patriot Act until 2017. Sen. Paul led the charge against the Patriot Act extension and offered the following statement:

“In the aftermath of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, Americans were eager to catch and punish the terrorists who attacked us. I, like most Americans, demanded justice. But one common misconception is that the Patriot Act applies only to foreigners—when in reality, the Patriot Act was instituted precisely to widen the surveillance laws to include U.S. citizens,” Sen. Paul said, “As Benjamin Franklin put it, ‘those who trade their liberty for security may wind up with neither.’ Today’s vote to oppose further consideration of the Patriot Act extension proves that we are one step closer to restoring civil liberties in America.”

Rand Paul quotes from his filibuster to block nomination of John Brennan to the CIA.

On his colleagues in the Senate: “If there were an ounce of courage in this body I would be joined by other senators… saying they will not tolerate this.”

On White House “kill list”: “The people on the list might be me.”

On Obama: “He was elected by a majority, but the majority doesn’t get to decide who we execute.”

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Democrats focus on urban voters, ignore suburbs to their peril

suburbs

Damn it, those foolish voters are moving out of urban areas to the suburbs. This is so not what Democratic elites want. Voters need to stay in the cities and be attentive to issues their betters, the supposed elites deem worthy. Alas for Democrats, they’ve blown it once again. Voters just aren’t being obedient. Democrats rely on urban dwellers for votes. Increasingly, that voting bloc is no longer reliable.

As will become even more obvious in the lame duck years, the political obsessions of the Obama Democrats largely mirror those of the cities: climate change, gay marriage, feminism, amnesty for the undocumented, and racial redress. These may sometimes be worthy causes, but they don’t address basic issues that effect suburbanites, such as stagnant middle class wages, poor roads, high housing prices, or underperforming schools. None of these concerns elicit much passion among the party’s true believers.

The Obama Administration is pushing hard to encourage people to move back to cities, ditch their cars, and live in densely populated urban areas. However, population trends show most growth is happening in the suburbs, not the cities. I’m guessing most of the Administration officials pushing such plans themselves live in pricey suburbs outside of D.C.

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Jonathan Gruber. Poster child for urban liberal arrogance and sleaze

Yes, he really did make a comic book about it

Yes, he really did make a comic book about it

Joe Bageant wrote eloquently about how urban liberal contempt of rural voters, Southerners, and Republicans has hurt Democrats hugely. Jonathan Gruber’s condescending comments about stupid voters is simply more proof of the, well, stupidity and mindless hubris of out-of-touch Beltway Democrats and their fellow travelers, who fancy themselves to be mightily clever but in reality lack understanding of the world outside their ivory towers.

Joe Bageant explains why Democrats lose elections they should win
Working class whites, especially in the South, used to vote solidly Democratic. They probably still would except the Democratic Party for years now has basically pissed in their faces, insulted their culture – then was shocked, just shocked when that once-reliable voting bloc turned Republican. Who could have ever imagined if you insult rural whites, allege their family trees don’t fork, that they might ditch you and find new friends. Clearly, this thought never even dented the skulls of urban liberals.

Gruber’s self-defeating urban liberal idiocy confirms conservative suspicions..

“Out-of-touch technocrats?” Check. But I think the real zinger is “stupid,” because Gruber’s words tap into something real about Democrats. If you go out onto Salon, or Kos, or Mother Jones, or any other Democratic tribalist site, you’ll see creative class types calling Republicans a million shades of stupid, all the time. And from “the left” (granted, for some definition of “left”) you’ll hear terms like “sheeple.” So you can see why Gruber’s casual contempt might not be seen as aberrational, but quintessentially Democrat.

It gets worse. The White House touted Gruber’s supposedly impartial findings and did not disclose they were paying him millions for those very same opinions.

[T]he indisputable fact is that Gruber was running around publicly and favorably commenting on the President’s health care plan — while the White House and its allies were centrally relying on him and characterizing him as an “objective” analyst — at exactly the same time that the administration, unbeknownst to virtually everyone, was paying Gruber many hundreds of thousands of dollars. The DNC alone sent out 71 emails touting Gruber’s analysis without even once mentioning the payments.

If a Republican president pulled sleazy crap like that, liberals would be howling in outrage. But I guess it’s ok so long as their team is doing it.

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Washington State health care exchange breaks after just a few hours

ADDITION

The apparent calamity that is the Washington State health care exchange would be comical were it not that people wanted to, y’know, sign up for insurance. The exchange broke down mere hours after opening, and apparently has problems with the most basic of functions, like simple math.

The website began open enrollment and was shut down after a just a few hours when the system detected that tax credit calculations were incorrect. State software engineers and managers are working to correct the problem that somehow fell under the radar when the system was being developed. How such a basic component could be missed by their QA is remarkable.

Exchange CEO Richard Onizuka stated that the credits were off by “just” a few dollars in some cases.

I’m a software developer. Yes, complex systems can be difficult to write. However, there are long-established procedures and methods for testing and it seems clear little or no testing was done here.

I’m not sure which is more alarming; that totals were off (which indicates bad data) or that their incompetent clown of a CEO said golly, the totals were only off by a few dollars.

System Administrators for the exchange hoped there would be no repeat of the original open enrollment fiasco when the system buckled down due to heavy load and rejected applicants having a hyphen in their surname.

Lordy, the system attempted basic validation of surnames and rejected names containing non-alphabetical characters (like hypens). This is amateur hour coding, and again, could not possibly have been tested.

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Will the people of Imperial Valley jump or get pushed?

Meadows_in_Imperial_Valley,_California

The heavily agricultural Imperial Valley in California borders Mexico. Virtually all its water comes from the Colorado River. Water wonk David Zetland explains how climate change (and changing political conditions) will depopulate the area. The Imperial Valley gets 20% of all water from the Colorado River. Las Vegas, despite a much larger population and economic base, gets a mere 2%. The inland Salton Sea in the Imperial Valley is in serious danger of drying. If that happens, decades of agricultural runoff recklessly dumped into it will create seriously nasty air pollution making living there unpleasant at best.

That status quo in the Imperial Valley is untenable. Change is coming. The continuing drought makes hogging 20% of Colorado River water politically impossible, current water law be damned. Vegas and Phoenix aren’t going thirsty while the Imperial Valley continues to get its full 20% allotment simply because it has ancient water rights. Ain’t gonna happen.

I gave a guest lecture to some students in Imperial Valley last week and mentioned to them that:

  • Imperial Valley was unpopulated 120 years ago. Climate change will depopulate the region again
  • Imperial Irrigation District uses 3 MAF/year; Nevada (Vegas) gets 1/10th as much water
  • IID uses 20 percent of the Colorado River (or 10 percent of California’s Ag water)
  • 160,000 people live in IV. Only 10 percent are in ag; the rest work in government or service
  • Las Vegas has 600,000 people and a MUCH larger economy

These facts should be considered when considering three futures for IV/IID:

  • Dept of Interior condemns IID and directs its water elsewhere, for human or environmental uses
  • IID/IV sells its water and people move, winding down operations over time
  • A drying Salton Sea results in hazardous air quality that forces people to move

The best future is obviously #2, but do the people of Imperial Valley know that? If not, will they get the first or third option?

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Miller’s Law. Something we all might want to follow

argument

Ever notice how contentious political discussions online probably wouldn’t be that way if the participants were discussing things in person? Heck, they might even like each other. Being online magnifies differences. Miller’s Law seems a good way to go. Assume that viewpoints contrary to yours make sense to that person. You don’t have to agree with them. However, to understand them you need to realize the viewpoints make sense to them and may be well-thought-out. Believing small government is better doesn’t make you a wingnut. Hoping for affordable healthcare for all does not make you a closet commie.

My 8th grade history teacher said something I never forgot. “When compromise breaks down, war breaks out.” Compromise starts with discussion. Right now, this country is so polarized that discussion is mostly impossible. And forget about compromise. This is not healthy.

Miller’s Law

“To understand what another person is saying, you must assume that it is true and try to imagine what it could be true of.”

The point is not to blindly accept what people say, but to do a better job of listening for understanding. “Imagining what it could be true of” is another way of saying to consider the consequences of the truth, but to also think about what must be true for the speaker’s “truth” to make sense.

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If Obamacare is overturned, Democrats share a major part of the blame

health-plan

By forcing federal funding as a quid pro quo, Democrats stupidly opened a giant hole for the coming Supreme Court challenge. Obamacare architect Jonathan Gruber explicitly says the Administration backed the quid pro quo as a way to punish balky states. He also says Obamacare passed due to a deliberate “lack of transparency” and “stupidity of the American voter.” Well fuck you very much sir, your dishonesty, sleaze and massive stupidity combined with arrogance may end up derailing Obamacare.

“The federalism conflicts contained in the individual mandate provision” are precisely what the Supreme Court challenge is based on, and it is a solid, well-thought-out challenge based on constitutional law.

Jonathan Turley:

[Gruber] repeatedly endorsed the theory at the heart of the recent decisions in Halbig and King by challengers to the ACA: to wit, that the federal funding provision was a quid pro quo device to reward states with their own exchanges and to punish those that force the creation of federal exchanges. That issue will now be decided by the United States Supreme Court.

Reason:

Gruber said explicitly that the tax credits to offset coverage costs were conditioned on state participation in the law’s exchanges—a contention that the administration denies, and is at the heart of a legal challenge on its way to the Supreme Court.

And here is the oh-so-smug Gruber boasting about how the Obama Administration was deceptive and sleazy about Obamacare.

“This bill was written in a tortured way to make sure CBO did not score the mandate as taxes. If CBO [Congressional Budget Office] scored the mandate as taxes, the bill dies. Okay, so it’s written to do that. In terms of risk rated subsidies, if you had a law which said that healthy people are going to pay in – you made explicit healthy people pay in and sick people get money, it would not have passed… Lack of transparency is a huge political advantage. And basically, call it the stupidity of the American voter or whatever, but basically that was really really critical for the thing to pass….Look, I wish Mark was right that we could make it all transparent, but I’d rather have this law than not.”

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Tor has no clue how 400 sites were taken down during Operation Onymous

ruh roh

Tor, is no longer safe and secure. Concerted efforts by multiple governments recently shut down over 400 Tor sites (most of which were selling drugs or laundering money. Tor offers no explanation as to how this happened because they don’t know. Thus, future compromising of Tor sites is now a certainty, assuming a government is seriously interested in its activities.

The joint effort was called Operation Onymous. “Onymous” means “giving or bearing an author’s name – opposed to ‘anonymous’.” Yuck, yuck.

Tor admits to being blindsided by the attacks.

Over the last few days, we received and read reports saying that several Tor relays were seized by government officials. We do not know why the systems were seized, nor do we know anything about the methods of investigation which were used. Specifically, there are reports that three systems of Torservers.net disappeared and there is another report by an independent relay operator. If anyone has more details, please get in contact with us. If your relay was seized, please also tell us its identity so that we can request that the directory authorities reject it from the network.

Governments are now quite sophisticated in their attacks on Tor.

By targeting a specific hidden service with a relatively low-powered network attack exploiting Tor’s Hidden Services Protocol, law enforcement agencies could have “destroyed” the Hidden Services Directory “lookup circuits” for those services and forced new connections to be made through Tor nodes controlled by law enforcement. Doing so would lead law enforcement to the guard node for a hidden service, allowing them to physically locate it and in turn (through monitoring the guard node) find the location of the hidden service itself.

Compromise the guard node and the hidden site is compromised. Tor admiits this is a major problem and a weak link in the system.

Another possible Tor attack vector could be the Guard Discovery attack. This attack doesn’t reveal the identity of the hidden service, but allows an attacker to discover the guard node of a specific hidden service. The guard node is the only node in the whole network that knows the actual IP address of the hidden service… We’ve been discussing various solutions to the guard discovery attack for the past many months but it’s not an easy problem to fix properly.

Use Tor if you want. But don’t assume you are anonymous.

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To Larry Lessig: Never get into a squirting contest with a skunk

Striped_skunk

Mayday PAC, started by Larry Lessig, unfortunately is misguided, naive, and doomed to fail. Politics cannot be cleaned up creating a “Super PAC to end all Super PACs.” Saying corruption in politics can be stopped by more PAC money in politics is akin to believing heroin addiction can be cured with more heroin.. Lessig is honorable and wants to end political corruption. However, his approach is deeply wrong-headed.

Lessig’s PAC raised $10 million, and made a great show of being grassroots. However most of the money came from a few deep-pocket Silicon Valley supporters. How is this different from any other PAC? Last Tuesday’s election was Mayday’s initial attempt and it got clobbered. Almost all its candidates lost. Instead of pondering whether their approach makes sense the PAC is instead storming ahead (assuming the big contributors keep ponying up money.)

When it comes to financing multiple high-profile political campaigns, $10 million is essentially chump change. More than a few donors on all sides of the political spectrum can bring in that much money without much trouble. So, $10 million is bringing a knife to a gun fight, when the gun fighters are seasoned professionals and you’re an amateur. You probably aren’t going to win.

Lessig’s post-mortem is surprisingly banal. It took $10 million to figure out the following?

First, reform is important, but partisan loyalty is more important when voters see control of a legislative chamber at stake.

Second, it is easier to win voters in safe seats than in partisan battle ground seats.

Third, transparency has its costs: MAYDAY.US committed to full transparency about its donors (over $200). {Disclosure of their names was used against them].

Fourth, reform requires a candidate: We were proud of the candidates we supported, but the strongest races were with candidates willing to openly and vigorously champion the issue we pressed.

Fifth, victory is not the only motivator: We entered the races we did to win, but we obviously recognized with at least some of the races we entered that victory wasn’t likely.

Sixth, and finally, bandwidth is limited: However difficult it was to persuade voters, it was just as difficult to get the media to understand the strategy of our campaign.

That’s because the strategy of the campaign doesn’t make sense.

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