Monday, April 01, 2024

The USA Needs to Stop Coddling Those Behaving Abhorrently and Undermining Our Democracy

I am continually shocked and amazed at how far below (what I thought were low expectations) the Republican Party has managed to sink in the last 8 years. And it continually gets worse and more shocking. The country faces an enormous risk if we don't vote out those that have not strongly opposed the actions of the current Republican leadership this year. We need to rebuke their horrible behavior and vote those in power out of office, and keep those out of power today out of power forever.

I cannot imagine voting for a Republican for a long time that doesn't document exactly how their behavior in the last 8 years stood in forceful opposition to the horrible actions by the leaders in the Republican Party all this time.  How did they respond when their party put the country in great danger?  Very few have taken any actions that show any concern for the future of our democracy.

Photo of the White House by John Hunter

The editor of the Plain Dealer expressed the reality of the important choice our nation faces this year.

Our Trump reporting upsets some readers, but there aren’t two sides to facts

The truth is that Donald Trump undermined faith in our elections in his false bid to retain the presidency. He sparked an insurrection intended to overthrow our government and keep himself in power. No president in our history has done worse.

This is not subjective. We all saw it. Plenty of leaders today try to convince the masses we did not see what we saw, but our eyes don’t deceive. (If leaders began a yearslong campaign today to convince us that the Baltimore bridge did not collapse Tuesday morning, would you ever believe them?) Trust your eyes. Trump on Jan. 6 launched the most serious threat to our system of government since the Civil War. You know that. You saw it.

The facts involving Trump are crystal clear, and as news people, we cannot pretend otherwise, as unpopular as that might be with a segment of our readers. There aren’t two sides to facts. People who say the earth is flat don’t get space on our platforms. If that offends them, so be it.

As for those who equate Trump and Joe Biden, that’s false equivalency. Biden has done nothing remotely close to the egregious, anti-American acts of Trump. We can debate the success and mindset of our current president, as we have about most presidents in our lifetimes, but Biden was never a threat to our democracy. Trump is. He is unique among all American presidents for his efforts to keep power at any cost. 

We badly need to return to the days when the USA had 2 very flawed political parties; but still parties that at least had standards that would not tolerate the majority of those leading the current Republican Party to have any significant power.  And by that I don't mean 10 or 20 leaders I mean hundreds of the leaders (the USA senators, presidential candidates, members of the USA House of Representatives, state party leaders, state legislators...). Our country is in grave danger. We can't pretend this is just more of the same bad faith behavior by politicians. The previous bad faith actions pale in comparison to what we have seen the last 8 years.

We need those who normally sit out elections to strongly rebuke the current Republicans and force the Republican party to stop allowing those with abhorrent beliefs and that have been destroying the safeguards our society has built and promoted to lead their party. It is shocking that so many USA voters support those politicians.  If we continue to allow them to become more and more extremist in their rhetoric and actions we are placing the future of the USA at great risk.

Please make your voice heard and vote this year. There has not been a more important election since I have been voting. It is extremely important that we stop the decent into chaos and destruction of the rule of law that is being promoted by the Republican Party now.

Friday, November 10, 2023

The Current Republican Party is a Huge Risk to the Future of the USA

 I am very concerned about the long term extremism that dominates the USA Republican Party.  Far too many people are complacent believing that the USA has done pretty well over the last 100 years so that will continue.  It need not continue. There are societal level critical risks today due to the behavior of voters over the last 20 years.

We have allowed our health care system to tax the economic well being of the country enormously. We pay twice as much as other rich countries for worse overall health outcomes. We also have huge waste stress and health care avoidance due to how poorly matched the system is to modern life. That tax can be paid and the economy can survive (as we have seen) but it is a large drag on the country and reduces the leeway to survive other mistakes.

The USA Capital (photo by John Hunter)

The Republic Party has been on a long term effort to destroy the rule of law in the USA. The continued tolerance of those that openly tried to overturn the results of the election they lost is a critical issue that anyone that cares about the rule of law should not tolerate. 

The behavior of the Trump administration at the Department of Justice and IRS were unacceptable. Trumps personal behavior while President should have resulted in his removal from office for anyone that cared about the rule of law or national security of the USA.  The Republic Party failed to put the rule of the law and the country above their personal fears about what Donald Trump would do to their careers. We need to elect people that care about the country first. We have not done so.  Unless we change we are taking a huge risk.

We need to stop tolerating those risking the constitutional republic we have been for over 200 years.  That is by far the most urgent and critical issue.  I cannot see voting for any Republicans that haven't loudly spoken out against the dominant practices (undermining the rule of law, putting a party and person above the interests of the country, ignoring national security concerns...) of the current party leaders.  And beyond that having demonstrated their actions to halt such behavior and withhold all support for Republican Party leaders that have gone along and pursued policies that undermine the rule of law and national security of the USA.

Inside Mike Johnson’s Ties to a Far-Right Movement to Gut the Constitution

For the last 10 years, the “Convention of States” movement has sought to remake the Constitution and force a tea party vision of the framers’ intent upon America. This group wants to wholesale rewrite wide swaths of the U.S. Constitution in one fell swoop. In the process, they hope to do away with regulatory agencies like the FDA and the CDC, virtually eliminate the federal government’s ability to borrow money, and empower state legislatures to override federal law.

As far-fetched as this idea might sound, the movement is gaining traction — and now, it believes, it has a friend in the speaker of the House.

The long term efforts of the Republican Party to disenfranchise voters is another completely unacceptable behavior.  I am extremely worried about the risk of voters electing even more officials that will overthrow the rule of law in the USA. But it is unacceptable to d disenfranchise such voters. If the voters in the USA decide to vote for those that will take future steps to toss out the constitutional protections we have had in our political discourse the last 200 years then we must deal with the consequences of such a catastrophic result. The Democratic Party in some states does engage in extremely damaging gerrymandering but the level of the the Republican Party's actions in this area have been enormously more damaging to the country.  And the Republican Party's continued efforts to suppress voting by those they feel won't vote for them is completely unacceptable and unique to them (in any significant form).

It is easier to ignore the huge risks to our society and hope everything works out ok. That is a huge risk. Once it is obvious that you should have acted strongly 5 or 10 years ago it may well be too late to make a difference.  

Don't be complacent. Speak out against those that are placing the USA's future at risk. Take actions to make a difference in avoiding the USA further degrading the protections of the rule of law and a government that is most interested in the interests of the country rather than institutionalized corruption favoring those with political power.

There is always going to be some corruption (Lobbyists Keep Tax Off Billion Dollar Private Equities Deals and On For Our Grandchildren, 2007) but the trends we are seeing and risks under another Trump administration are potentially catastrophic.  Waiting until the risks are even more obvious that they are today may well mean you waited past the chance you had to save the future of the USA.

Related: Critical Thinking is Needed to Counter Propaganda (2018) - Preaching False Ideas to Men Known to be Idiots (2010) - The USA Should be Ashamed of Who We have Elected (2017) - Selling Out the Country - We are Electing the Wrong People to Control Our Government (2015) - The Continued Fall of the USA's Political Leaders that We Give Power To (2017) - Living Through Your Society Becoming a Police State (2013) - Society is being shaped for us while we are busy making other plans (2011) - Bikinis For Liberty (2010)

Sunday, February 28, 2021

When to Bench Basketball Players Due to Foul Trouble?

comments on: 2 foul auto-bench

I think the best reason to do it during the regular season is to teach players not to foul.

Otherwise I think a decision process should be used. Is this player foul prone, is there a difficult matchup making fouling more likely, are these officials calling questionable fouls, how badly do we need them out their now (are we falling behind by a large margin...). Also I would vary it (especially late in the season) depending on how likely we are to need to push every advantage. If we are likely in trouble take more risks, leave the player with fouls more exposed. If we should win even with them missing extra time, ok be more willing to pull them.

In general, I think coaches pull players much too often due to foul trouble. Unless the player is foul prone it seems they often pull the player with 2 fouls in the first half and they never even pick up a 3rd foul in the second half. That just makes it seem like a bad in game tactic. The one exception is for a season long strategy of teaching the players not to foul.

One way pulling a player earlier for 2 fouls in the first half or 3 or 4 in the second is to spread out the time of the reserve. If there are 12 minutes left in the first half and there is really 1 reserve that needs to take the time this player is out, pull them now, let the reserve get 4 minutes in and bring the player with 2 fouls back (maybe for 2 or 3 minutes). Especially if the reserve almost always plays in short 3 or 4 minute spurts don't create a situation where they need to play 12 straight minutes or something (protect, not just them getting tired but the other team figuring out how to exploit them).

Related: Frank Kaminsky, College Basketball Player of the Year - Lessons for Managers from Wisconsin and Duke Basketball - Why Do People Fail to Adopt Better Methods? (underhanded free throws) - Universities Again Abandon Fans/Mission to Increase Pay to Administrative Staff/Coaches

Tuesday, January 08, 2019

The Most Popular Social Media Sites

These are the most popular social media sites ranked by monthly active users (for the most recent date I could find data for). The data is from various sources and is the most recent reliable sources I could find (Alexa ranks as of January 2019). What constitutes a "social media" site isn't so easy to define so I use a bit of judgement on what sites of involved enough of a social element to be included.

  1. Facebook (monthly active users 2.2 billion - Alexa Rank #3)
  2. YouTube (1.6 billion - Alexa #2)
  3. WeChat/Weixin (1.1 billion - #2,537)
  4. Instagram (900 million - #17)
  5. Tencent QQ (803 million - #6)
  6. QZone (548 million) - #209
  7. TikTok (500 million - #3,204)
  8. Sina Weibo (446 million - #18)
  9. Tumbler (350 million - #65)
  10. Reddit (340 million - #13)
  11. Twitter (335 million - #11)
  12. Baidu Tieba (300 million)
  13. Snapchat (291 million - #4,480)
  14. LinkedIn (270 million - #30)
  15. Pinterest (230 million - #77)
  16. VK (120 million - #14)
  17. Huya (100 million - #565)
  18. YY (95 million - #270)
  19. Taringa (75 million - #811)
  20. Renren (? - #1,824)
  21. Nextdoor (? - #1,310)

Alexa rank doesn't track smart phone app use (Alexa tracks website use, and far from perfectly but it does provide some insight into how much use popular sites get). Most of the social media sites have most use via apps but many also have useful web sites. Some have much more of a bias to smartphone apps (WeChat for example).

Related: What I Would Include in a Redesigned Twitter Profile - Don't Lock Your Content Inside a Proprietary System

Thursday, January 03, 2019

Most Popular posts on the Curious Cat Comments blog in 2018

The most popular posts on our blog (by page views in 2018):

  1. Security Theatre Thinking is Damaging the USA (2013)
  2. Blog Readers, for Reading RSS Feeds (2013)
  3. Critical Thinking is Needed to Counter Propaganda (2018)*
  4. The Worst Aspect of TPP That Gets Nearly No Attention (2016)*
  5. When You See the Problem as Capitalism Instead of Corruption You Seek to Solve the Wrong Problem (2015)*
  6. Utopia (Dreamland in the USA) is an Amazing TV Program (2015), available on Netflix
  7. Preaching False Ideas to Men Known to be Idiots (2010)*
  8. Liberty and Support or Control and Hate (2013)
  9. Challenging Conventional Thinking (2015)*
  10. Curious, Joyful, Happy Kids Grow Up: Unfortunately (2010)
  11. photo of 2 children
  12. Society is being shaped for us while we are busy making other plans (2011)
  13. Netflix is Well Managed - People are Overreacting (2011)
  14. They Will Know We are Christians By Our Love (2010)*
  15. Banks Continue to Push for Insane Special Favors (and Sadly Get Them) (2014)*
  16. Why Copyright Extension is a Very Bad Idea (2009)
  17. Bikinis For Liberty (2010)
  18. USA Encouraging Governments Worldwide to Spy and Hack Globally is Very Dangerous (2014)*
  19. Appeasing Rude Selfish People Just Makes them Behave Even More Selfishly (2015)*
  20. Filter Out Links to Lame Websites on Reddit (2017)*
  21. Businesses Misusing Required Private Information (2017)*
* new on the most popular list this year (for the 2016 list we only listed the top 10)

The publication year of our most read posts this year:

2018: 1 post
2017: 2
2016: 1
2015: 4
2014: 2
2013: 3

2011: 2
2010: 4
2009: 1

Related: Most Popular Post on the Curious Cat Comments Blog (2016) - Most Popular Post on the Curious Cat Comments Blog (2011) - Most Popular Posts on the Curious Cat Comments Blog (2015) - Most Popular Posts on the Curious Cat Comments Blog (2014)

Tuesday, January 01, 2019

Egregious Billing Practices by USA Health Care Organizations

Taking Surprise Medical Bills To Court Under the Theory of “Mutual Assent”

Consumers are increasingly vulnerable to... so-called balance bills, which represent the difference between what insurers pay and hospitals’ list prices. List prices can be several times higher than what they accept from Medicare or in-network insurers.

Congress is considering bipartisan legislation to limit balance billing. But some legal scholars say that patients should already be protected against some of the highest, surprise charges under long-standing conventions of contract law.

That’s because contract law rests on the centuries-old concept of “mutual assent,” in which both sides agree to a price before services are rendered, said Barak Richman, a law professor at Duke University.

Thus, many states require, and consumers expect, written estimates for a range of services before the work is done — whether by mechanics and plumbers or lawyers and financial planners.

But patients rarely know upfront how much their medical care will cost, and hospitals generally provide little or no information.

While consumers are obligated to pay something, the question is how much? Hospitals generally bill out-of-network care at list prices, their highest charges.

Without an explicit price upfront, contract law would require medical providers to charge only “average or market prices,” Richman said.

In several recent cases, for example in New York and Colorado, courts have stepped in to mediate cases where a patient received a big balance bill from an out-of-network provider. They ordered hospitals to accept amounts far closer to what they agree to from in-network private insurers or Medicare.

I strongly believe congress should pass a law outlawing the existing practices. And it is good to know the most egregious, and increasingly common, practices of the USA hospitals are already illegal. If you state hasn't already taken hospitals using such practices to court and required refunding all ill gotten gains, contact your attorney general to make sure they do so. And contact you state legislators to make sure they act also. Several states have been much more concerned with protecting their citizens from being abused by large health care providers but most states have not.

The existing practices are unethical and it is unconscionable that our elected representatives have allowed such egregious practices to continue and even become more common.

Related: Democrats and Republicans Have Failed the USA on Health Care for Decades (2015) - USA Health Care System Remains Broken, Neglected (2011) - The USA Should be Ashamed of Who We have Elected - Decades of Failure by Those Responsible for USA Health Care System Needs to be Addressed (2012)

Friday, December 28, 2018

Privacy Invasion as a Business Plan

The rise of the internet has resulted in many companies building business plans on invading the privacy of their users and selling the data to those wishing to track those users. For many companies this model of behavior has always been obvious. I never created an account on Facebook because of how strongly focused they have always been on invading privacy and selling that data. The distain for Facebook finally became more than a side note in 2018 (though there has long been some push back against them). Though still most people continue to use Facebook even as the extent of their bad behavior has come to light.

Certainly other companies (Google etc.) also practice gathering and aggregating information about individuals in order to profit. I have used Google from the beginning though I have reduced such use in the last few years (still using them quite a bit). Duck Duck Go has long been my primary search engine though I do also use Google. I added Fastmail years ago, but still use some gmail accounts.

The integration of online tracking and offline tracking (via credit agencies, credit card companies etc.) has greatly increased over the last 5 years with Google planning a central role (along with, of course Facebook and many others).

One of the worst behaviors by internet companies is to collect phone numbers in order to facilitate selling and integration of private information while pretending it is somehow a security issue. Though security experts all say using phone numbers for security adds security risks instead of using much more secure methods such as a security key. Companies that use deceptive security methods to collect phone numbers in order to sell the private information of their users make it very hard to trust what else they are doing.

Twitter has long claimed a security reason to collect phone numbers [update in 2020 - Twitter faces $250 million fine from the US FCC for these practices abusing the private information of users]. Now they have locked one of my Twitter accounts (because I sent a string of 5 reply comments) and refused to allow me to regain access without adding a tracking phone number (I had no phone number before). For this reason I won't be using Twitter any longer.

This experience once again shows the risks of promoting connections via a system that can lock you out when they chose. It is much safer to use systems like (blog, where you own the domain, email... that are within your control). Of course nothing is 100%, email can blocked (people that try to run private email servers find they are challenged by systems setup to distrust such email). But investing time in building communities (say on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter...) is risky. At any time they can change the rules and harm what you have built.

I suggest avoiding investing in Facebook, Twitter, etc.. To some extent it may make sense to invest some time in such communities but I suggest focusing most effort on things that are not built on the model of invading users privacy and selling that data to others.

One of the many things Apple is doing well is positioning themselves to protect user's privacy. With so many other businesses built on invading that privacy it provides Apple both a real opportunity to help and also a marketing advantage. Other organizations and tools are also filling a need to protect people from spying and malware (some of which is getting hard to distinguish from business practices of large privacy invading companies) such as EFF's Privacy Badger, ublock origin and Ghostery.

It is extremely difficult for individuals to protect their private information. It is essentially impossible. When companies built to sell that private information and create business processes to ease their business practices they often create a situation where their actions have resulted in false information created that somehow becomes the individual user's responsibility to fix (so when those privacy selling companies allow a person's data to be mis-used it is then called "identity theft" though it is not, it is companies misusing information and then putting on the individual the burden of fixing the errors). Europe has much better privacy rights than the USA does. But much more and better efforts are needed from governments to protect citizens from having their lives thrown into turmoil by the abuse and misuse of their private information.

Related: Governments Shouldn't Prevent Citizens from Having Secure Software Solutions - Businesses Misusing Required Private Information - Living Through Your Society Becoming a Police State - I Can Spy on You, But You Can't Spy on Me - Freedom Increasingly at Risk