Link Roundup, 7/17/2017

From New Republic: We are living in the Coen Brothers’ darkest comedy.

From The New York Times: The challenge of identifying robots online.

From The Las Vegas Sun: Senator Dean Heller’s office was burglarized over the weekend.

From Buzzfeed: Congressman and climate change-denier Lamar Smith is on a quiet trip to the Arctic.

From Quartz: A majority of Silicon Valley tech workers are foreign born.


Since the post mentioned the Coen Brothers, here’s one their greatest music scenes, from Oh Brother Where Art Thou.


  1. You really have to admire the brilliance of McConnell.
    Sign the death warrants for hundreds of thousands of Americans, but the executions don’t start for 2 or 4 years.

    That gives repubs about 18 months to craft the new health care bill.
    Then, there are 2 outcomes:

    1. If they have lose the House or Senate (both I think are increasingly unlikely, especially with the new information about the voting machines), they can drop a grenade in the laps of the Democrats. If the Dem’s don’t vote in the new health care plan, the repubs will say “hey, it is the Democrat’s fault that you have no health care bill at all”. And if the Dem’s do vote for it, the repubs can say “hey, don’t blame us, the Democrats voted for it too”.

    2. The repubs keep the House and Senate, and they institute whatever they want, but with the flexibility and voting power to tweak it as they see fit over the 2 years until the next round of elections.

    But whatever is created by these ideologues will be punted further down the path as there will have to be a couple year phase in period, just like the proposed ACA bill.

    1. The effort to repeal Obamacare with a two year delay to enable drafting a replacement has apparently collapsed with three R’s publicly stating they are opposed. Now the D’s and the more moderate R’s are talking about a bipartisan effort through regular order to fix Obamacare. That will fail as well, regardless of the common sense of that approach.

      The Freedom Caucus in the House will not accept that approach. That in itself would prevent Ryan from allowing that approach to proceed. He can not afford to proceed on that path, because doing so would indicate that he was prepared to abandon the Hastert Rule on a major piece of legislation. For that the Freedom Caucus would have his head. Ryan is determined to keep the Speakership so he can continue to push his Ayn Randian program. Besides there is too much money for the wealthy in the form of tax cuts involved to allow that approach to proceed beyond the talking stages.

      Sadly, I expect that the efforts to sabotage Obamacare will intensify. Trump will likely start withholding the cost sharing subsidies with the intent of blaming the subsequent implosion of the health insurance marketplace on the D’s. Sadly he believes the American people will accept his line of bull that he is not responsible. The people who are informed already know that is bull and the people who are not informed will blame the R’s because they are in power and there has been 6 months of never ending coverage regarding the effort to repeal O’care. Whether that is enough to save the R’s skin, who knows? However, a lot of people will suffer and some will die, because of the R’s intransigence.

      Another factor regarding the Freedom Caucus, is that they are so powerful because of gerrymandering. There are likely 5-10 or perhaps more of the members who are in very safe seats due to gerrymandering. If those seats were not so gerrymandered, those Congress People would probably be less likely to be so extreme, Not having that margin would reduce the Freedom Caucus’ power to the point where they would not have the leverage of the Hastert Rule. A Speaker who was a true leader could then emerge and ignore the Hastert Rule. This is an example of the negative effects of gerrymandering despite the fact that progressives tend to be concentrated in the urban areas and conservatives in the rural areas.

      1. A few points in response to your post, Tmerritt.
        1) I am not noted as being an optimist regarding health care resolution; however, I think the resistance at the grass roots level has been instructive to enough in the GOP ranks to offer a glimmer of hope for some bi-partisan changes. (There are many ideas out there, but his article is a good summary:

        2) While I have great respect for the power wielded by the GOP Freedom Caucus by virtue of their dogmatic, concentrated and unyielding unity for issues they support, I do believe that they are becoming tiresome to the “rest of the GOP caucus”. (Possibly Chris will weigh in on that topic.) Thus, the Hastert Rule might not be as much of a threat to Speaker Ryan and his Republican co-horts as the possibility that they may lose their seats in mid-terms to a very disenchanted electorate.

        3) Republicans really don’t care about replacing the ACA. This is really all about one thing: tax reform and tax cuts. Health care reform is purely a means to an end – grab the trillion $$ from cuts to health care (via Medicaid and other safety net programs) to fund their real priority noted above. The problem they’re running into is that the masses are a tad unhappy with “how” they are proposing to resolve the health care issue. Should they choose to repeal with a delayed replacement (does anyone here not wonder why they would be able to accomplish this feat in two years when they couldn’t in seven years?), the chaos in markets both in health services and the stock market would rip this country apart.

        I have been tracking this issue for years. I don’t profess to understand it fully but I do follow closely those are are experts. America needs to have a conversation about priorities – fiscal, health, safety nets, education, military, infrastructure. For all the business prowess touted by conservatives, we could sure use a dose of good management about now.

      2. Another point (#4) is that a consortium of fifteen states is suing the federal government regarding the decision by Congress and the Trump Administration to with hold payment to health insurers for losses incurred from more adverse populations served. Called “CSR” – these were promised (and ruled unconstitutional at the appellate level in response to a US House lawsuit) to participating health insurers as a way of bridging high risk loss exposure until the markets evened out under the ACA. The risk to states given the refusal (or silence thereof) by Congress to include the CSR payments or Potus commitment to appeal the suit to the US Supreme Court for resolution (as President Obama had initiated) has caused many insurers to leave states forcing an untenable position for state government to absorb the losses and serve the needs of their citizenry.

        As noted – health care is complicated. It is also necessary. That also makes it hard as our MOC are finding out.

      3. Thanks for your comments, Mary. You apparently are more optimistic at this point than I. While I can see the Senate coming together to develop a reasonable bipartisan plan to resolve the most glaring problems in Obamacare or even to enhance it, I have difficulty in accepting that the House would allow that to pass. As I wrote, I continue to feel that the Freedom Caucus continues to exert too much influence via the leverage the Hastert Rule gives them over Ryan. Hopefully, I am wrong regarding this and the public outcry has tamed some of the wilder instincts. I do know however that if the R’s allow the health insurance market to collapse, Satan will have to be paid. The thing is I do not think the hardliners in the Freedom Caucus realize this, since they are more concerned regarding primary challenges.

        Regarding your Point #3, you are correct. All the R’s care about is tax cuts and tax reform. The R’s are largely dependent on dark money from the people who will benefit the most from these changes. I suspect that much of that money originates from closely held corporations and inherited trusts, as the book, “Dark Money” pointed out.

        Regarding Point #4, I was not aware of the law suit regarding the CSR’s. I hope it was filed in an advantageous court, so it might get favorable rulings on the way to SCOTUS.

        Finally, I may be offline for several days. I will be having eye surgery to repair a hole that is developing in the macular membrane. I caught it early, so hopefully an air bubble will not be required, thus facilitating a rapid recovery. I did have a similar hole repaired in the other eye and that went well, so hopefully there will be the same result this time.

      4. Best outcome wishes for you, Tmerritt. Take care. All this hoorah will be waiting for you upon your return. I’ll check on the jurisdiction for the states case regarding Medicaid and report back if I can find it. I know NY was involved so there is a great deal of legal muscle there but don’t know if they were lead plaintiff or not.

  2. Regarding the expedition by MOC to the artic, I couldn’t help noting the reverse thinking by Rep Smith. When discussing economic challenges of curbing global warming, he is quoted as stating: “He believes you can’t do anything if it’s going to hurt the economy,” McNerney said, referring to Smith.

    The Pentagon, big businesses, coastal communities are figuring out that this problem is real. Maybe we need to move D.C. and all its minions down to Miami or New Orleans for a bit……….

  3. Regarding the challenge of identifying robots online — I think the key problem is with being “online” and not with “robots.”

    Putting everything online just opens us up to attack by robots. We can get our news, have political discussions, and get “customer reviews” by word-of-mouth or from personal experience offline from whom we can be pretty sure are REAL people and REAL sources, but NO, that’s just TOO difficult — we just want to swipe or press a button. Why in the world do we give such power to the online world, to what is nothing more than VIRTUAL reality, and to social media, to Facebook and Twitter, which are essentially entertainment sites? We are way too dependent on the online world, overly enthralled by it, and the REAL world has been reduced to second best. Something is terribly wrong here.

    As for voting . . . I am definitely opposed to online voting. It would wreak all kinds of havoc. Now THERE I could truly see voter fraud happening.

    1. Well, here’s the problem with that, Tutt: *Everything* is on line. There is not now, nor has there ever been, any real chance for the general public to have direct, face-to-face audience with reporters who witnessed that on which they report first hand.The major source for widespread news information has been for the last century or so, the “wire services”. I’ve never experienced any substantial difference between an on-line publication and its print edition.

      Now, I’d bet my bottom dollar that you, Tutt, are not a robot.whether we exchange ideas here, or at my pub, makes little difference, save for the beer. And the ability to fact check. And proper grammar to prevent misunderstandings. And the opportunity to carry on a detailed discussion on a complex topic for days on end, without back-tracking. And the realization that what ever one says can be read back verbatim.

      We all share personal experiences here. I know a fair bit about you. (And, I suppose you of me.) We are “virtually” friends who would have had little chance of ever knowing each other were it not for this blog and its predecessor. I see no downside to this. Frankly, I’m better much informed and more current on the world around me since John Galt and I started this blogging business many moons ago. I also write a hell of a lot better than I used to!

      1. I totally agree. Virtual posting has its risks but the benefits clearly outweigh them. What I love about the “net” is the instant ability to find information. Clearly, one has to be careful about sources we utilize, but the value of being able to share so much on the net humbles me. Who knows, maybe one day we’ll find a pub in which we can gather and put faces with names. That’s the only downside for me as I would like to know each of you as people outside your posts.

        As for content – I read several newspapers (selectively per my choices) online as well as journals. I wouldn’t be able to afford this luxury at print rates nor would I have the opportunity to easily share special pieces of journalism with others as conveniently and quickly. I love that. I’m all in for the internet even as I recognize I must be careful not to short-change human contact by spending too much time on this crazy, wonderful media!

      2. 50 and Mime: How can misinformation on such a massive scale be okay? How can the fact that so many people turn to Facebook for their news be okay?

        I get the impression that misinformation is either not being taken seriously enough, or it’s dismissed as something we “just have to accept.”

      3. Speaking for myself – it’s not “ok” to use FB for ones news sources although if the source is linked, you simply need to read it. Fake news exists – so does fake information. All you have to do is listen to our MOC to know that.

        The best argument I can offer is to read widely, read accredited sources and vet journalists – all of which is possible via the internet. Then, one must think independently.

        The beauty of a blog like Political Orphans is that smart people participate and everyone is committed to high journalism and sourcing in their commentary and rebuttals. I find great value in this.

      4. Tutt – The real issue is the ratio of fake news to real news. The latter has always been out there, but the sum total of all news available to us all has expanded so vastly that we tend to pay more attention the glitches.

        Consider bias in the interpretation: Automobile deaths in this country are virtually equal in number per year as the year of my birth – ~35,000. Horrible, eh? Well yes, but- deaths per vehicle mile traveled have dropped nearly six-fold. Which view of the facts best represents the situation?

      5. And I think mime makes a good point about discretion. It is absolutely not OK to quote some crap on Facebook. With the power of all this information at our fingertips, comes the responsibility to separate the wheat from the chaff – lest you come off as a fool. The problem is, as I see it, many are prone to confirmation bias, and unconsciously discount real news for fake if it supports preconceived ideas.

        It’s a discipline we were never taught explicitly, and for the most part, our children were not either. We really need to work on that.

      6. I agree we have to be responsible about what we take in, and what we put out there, but I’m also not in favor of censorship, unless it can be proven beyond a doubt that the “free speech” came from a bot. And even with real news, bias will always exist

      7. “The problem is, as I see it, many are prone to confirmation bias, and unconsciously discount real news for fake if it supports preconceived ideas.”

        Sadly, this is quite true and these days it appears to be mainly the ones who voted for the Tangerine Tinted Buffoon, who are reading and watching WND, Breitbart and Fox only. They are immune from reality.

      8. Kay Ray, what’s ironic is that Mr. Trump probably won the election because so many of us were living in our own bubble, secure in the knowledge that there was just NO WAY he could ever win, and so many people did not even bother to vote.

        Also, the Washington Post article you cite doesn’t talk so much about truth, or real news, but more about what the majority thinks versus what President Trump’s supporters, who are in the minority, think. What’s even more ironic is that this supposed small slice of the pie, this tiny minority, came out in such large numbers to elect this man. So much for small groups living in bubbles.

      9. Tutt speaks of irony. For me the real irony is the Orange One’s base is heavily composed, (or should I say “composted”), by the evangelicals. In some ways, that’s true irony. But frankly, I think that gives them more credit than they deserve.

      10. I don’t discount anyone in elections especially when it comes down to the wire and I never pay much attention to polls either because they are all heavily biased. Conservative pollsters are going to ask conservatives and vice versa. I didn’t actually think he’d win though and I was wrong.

        As far as real news, I trust Wapo far more than Fox for real news. Fox is an absolute joke and everyone I know who watches it really does think Trump is just hunky dory and really out to help us average Americans and that whole Russian collusion thing is just a big “nothingburger” and it’s just fine for Americans to have secret meetings with Russian spies and mobsters. They are living in a bubble and, I think, quite as traitorous as Trumpco if they can continue to support him. They are still shrieking about Hillary and Benghazi.

        Fifty, I too, think it’s quite ironic that his base are evangelicals considering he’s a thrice married adulterer, tried to get his then mistress, Marla Maples, to seek an abortion, and married a possibly illegal alien “escort/model” (aka an expensive hooker) brought over by a “benefactor” (aka pimp) as his third wife and is cheating on her too. He doesn’t have a religious bone in his body yet “prays” with these hucksters. Is that irony or hypocrisy?

      11. Sorry, Kay Ray. I must have accidentally hit Send too soon. Anyway, even the Washington Post analysis you posted, with its huge, pretty orange and red pies, is based entirely around just one survey, a survey that happens to agree with its readers views. And even with that said, I definitely trust the WaPo way more than Fox News.

        I guess it depends on whether we’re reading or watching the “news” or “commentary” sections. News should at least be put out there with a straight face, and commentary is free to be somewhat sarcastic. I notice that with the mainstream media, even if it’s biased, at least tries to present the news in a neutral tone, and far Left and Right sites ooze with snark and sarcasm, and loudly, something I could never take seriously as a news source. It’s one thing to be critical, quite another to be totally obnoxious.

      12. Obj, not worried about it. Empty threat. If they tried to sue everyone calling her a hooker, they will be awfully busy as there is lots of discussion on it. I don’t read trash like the DM or WND. I actually do read several sources and blogs, many of them out of the country, as I find international news sources a lot more “free” if you will. For awhile, Al Jazeera was good.

        Let’s just say her origins are murky at best. I actually pity her having that fat, grotesque blob pawing at her and I think she’s a good mother. She deserves every penny she will get in the divorce. 🙂

        Tutt, I found a station called One America News that presents the news in a neutral tone. They report the facts without any sarcasm or mockery that Fox and MSNBC will employ. It’s very refreshing.

      13. I get most of my news from the BBC World Service Radio. I THINK they are mostly neutral, but I do detect a tone of bewilderment and and mock seriousness in their voices, like when they quote the President:

        Mr. Trump has said, Quote, The carnage is going to stop here and now, End Quote.

        Nobody does it like the British!

      14. LOL, the Brits are bewildered by Trump’s idiocy and how he could have gotten elected. He’s openly mocked on a lot of news stations in Europe. His performance at the G20 summit was an embarrassment (some of the expressions of the other attendees were classic) and he was clearly out of his element. I read that he is refusing to go to Britain unless May can “fix” his reception and make everyone make nice to him.

    2. EJ

      The internet has been marvellous for freeing humans from any sort of centrally-imposed propaganda. It’s incredibly difficult for countries like Libya to impose enough censorship to keep the outside world at bay. This was part of why the Libyan dictatorship fell.

      The problem, however, is that humans seem to dislike news media that threatens our worldview. In a large number of cases, we will actively prefer to be lied to as long as the lie is one that matches our existing prejudices. Pizzagate is a good example of this.

      The lies on the internet are not the lies of dictators: they’re lies we created for ourselves and begged others to tell us. Technology has set us as free as we wanted to be, which turned out to be not that free. That’s the tragedy of the modern age.

    3. Regarding voting, I would like to describe our system in WA state and in particular King County. WA state along with OR and a couple other states vote totally by mail. Approximately, two or three weeks before the election ballots are mailed. We have the luxury of filling them out slowly and carefully by marking a circle in black ink. We then sign the envelope and return the ballots to the elections office either through the mail or at a drop box. When the ballot is received the election workers check the signature. If there is a question the voter is contacted via email or via telephone. The voter indicates the preferred contact method on the envelope. The ballots are collected and then scanned via a high capacity scanner, not connected to the internet. All the counting and processing takes place in a high security room with public observers and representatives of the candidates or political parties observing.

      This system seems to work well. There is a paper ballot to enable recounts. Ballots that are damaged or not electronically readable are manually counted.

      At this time, I am slowly filling out my ballot for the local primary election on August 1. We will be selecting nominees for mayor, two city council positions, school board positions and Port of Seattle positions. The top two candidates advance to the general election. I only need to return the ballot so it is postmarked by midnight on election day. I personnally like this system and do not think there is much room for fraud. The major disadvantage is that we may not know the actual winner for several days following election day, but to me that is not a significant issue.

  4. I’m hopeful about Lamar Smith’s trip. I imagine after seeing the glaciers of Greenland melting with his own eyes, he might finally be persuaded that climate change is real.

    Of course it was never a matter of whether it’s real. The actual issue is whose ox will be gored in order to deal with it. Which is why it’s not a coincidence climate change deniers come from oil patch states.

    So I think the best strategy isn’t to try to persuade him it’s real. It will be to persuade him that his district will make more money fighting climate change than denying it. California now has more jobs in its solar industry than King Coal ever did in its mines. Texas is the largest producer of wind energy in the country, and could be a major factor in solar.

    We need to convince him that embracing climate science could revitalize the west Texas desert far better than the boom bust cycles of oil drilling, or that rising sea levels means that trillions of dollars of refinery infrastructure in the gulf coast will be lost, not to mention wrecking their largest city Houston, which already deals with massive flooding each year.

    If you tell an oil driller they need to give up their livelihood today so that someone else can live better tomorrow, you will lose that argument every time. We need to convince him that he needs to give up oil drilling today for a better future for himself *that starts today*. Thankfully, I think we’ve now reached that point in climate change and tech.

Leave a Reply