Open Thread for Thursday, September 14, 2017

Y’all haven’t really been interested in my (admittedly quirky) posts so far today, so talk amongst yourselves about whatever. Here are some possible topics. (Oh, the video? It’s about Dreamers. Get it? Dream On?):

  1. Trump Now Says He Backs Deal to Protect ‘Dreamers’ — That’s his position on Tuesdays and Thursdays. On Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, however… Meanwhile, GOP’s Ryan dismisses potential DACA deal between Trump and Democrats. Oh, and Trump’s until-now loyal base is ticked
  2. U.S. Supreme Court justice wants others to think like lawyers — This was Samuel Alito, speaking at the dedication of the new USC Law School. This should make Juan’s day. But yeah, I think we’d be better off if more people did think like lawyers. Not everybody. But more people.
  3. After Oval Office meeting, Tim Scott says Trump ‘got it’ on Charlottesville — Yeah… OK… riiight. Poor Tim Scott. He’s trying so hard to hang onto this being-a-Republican thing in the age of Trump. It can’t be easy for him.
  4. Frank Vincent, Who Portrayed Dapper Mobsters, Dies — Best known for telling Tommy (Joe Pesci) to go get his shinebox…
  5. NASA’s Cassini spacecraft will soon crash into Saturn — its final screaming success — There’s no astronauts, but it’s a pretty good story, anyway. 15 hours left as I type this…


27 thoughts on “Open Thread for Thursday, September 14, 2017

  1. Brad Warthen Post author

    Oh, by the way. That story about Cassini reminded me of why, as cool as I think the idea is, I don’t know whether I’ll ever feel comfortable riding in a driverless car:

    Cassini has been extraordinarily successful — indisputably one of the most successful planetary missions ever. Its flight was smooth, its instruments worked, its software rarely acted up….

    Think about that…

    This was extraordinarily successful because its software “rarely” acted up.

    For a driverless car to be safe, the software AND I assume the Internet connection would have to work perfectly ALL the time, with no hiccups.

    How many devices do you have that do that? My iPad is awesome, and works wonderfully. But the screen freezes up, for two or three minutes, several times every day. It it were controlling my car, I’d be dead…

    1. Bryan Caskey

      “For a driverless car to be safe, the software AND I assume the Internet connection would have to work perfectly ALL the time, with no hiccups.

      How many devices do you have that do that? My iPad is awesome, and works wonderfully. But the screen freezes up, for two or three minutes, several times every day. It it were controlling my car, I’d be dead…”

      Apply the same technology to a firearm, and you have the same issue. It’s why the much touted “smart” guns are actually really stupid.

      1. Brad Warthen Post author

        Yeah, I get your point, but

        If you carry a gun all day every day, for your entire life, you MIGHT have a single instance in which, for a brief instant, your life depended on that gun working. Maybe. And even if you have to draw it, it might work — in terms of causing an assailant to run away — without actually firing.

        By contrast, the driverless car has to work flawlessly for every second that it operates, without any breaks. Or you’re dead.

        See the difference?

        1. bud

          Since car crashes kill 35k Americans every year (down from 50k in the 70s thanks to dedicated safety professionals) it seems a bit odd to be so squeamish about an approach that has enormous safety potential. This will be phased in with semi autonomous vehicles coming on line now. Time to embrace the future not languish in the past. If the libertarians had had their day traffic deaths would likely be in the 70k range by now.

      2. Richard

        Yet the commercial and military aviation industry is about 75% automated and nobody questions that. The only problem with driverless cars will be drivered cars.

    2. Norm Ivey

      Any driverless car software would have fail-safes built in. If it failed to function, the car would stop itself rapidly. All other driverless cars would respond to that event. Not all drivers would. I choose algorithms over a distracted driver any day.

    3. Scout

      This is why I do not like getting in anything automated – from fair rides to monorails to elevators, etc. I know it’s a bit extreme, and I do ride them when I must, but I’m pretty sure I won’t be getting in a driverless car if I can help it.

    4. Mark Stewart

      People are just like that themselves…

      BTW – I HATE the bot thing on mobile. Keeps me off your site…

      1. Brad Warthen Post author

        Mark, I don’t know what to do.

        On Aug. 23, I received a message from the company that hosts my site. It “explained:”

        Today we received a complaint regarding mysql performance on your server. Upon further investigation, we noticed that your applications appear to be making very heavy use of the mysql server.

        During the approximately 36 minutes we watched the server during a period of high load, your “bradwarthen_wp” database executed a total of 4998404 queries, and 95% of them took about 33 microseconds. This represents about 20.3% of all MySQL resources (measured in execution time).

        … which was gobbledygook to me.

        The message ended with a polite threat:

        Please also respond to this ticket and let us know that you are looking into the issue; if we do not hear from you within 48 hours or the heavy usage continues, we may have to disable your database access. We apologize for the inconvenience, but it is necessary in order to ensure the fair distribution of resources to all users on your shared server….

        Not understanding any of it, I asked them just to tell me what to do. For days, I struggled to implement the things they suggested, which involved downloading and activating plugins. One after another either wouldn’t load or wouldn’t activate.

        The problem, it seemed, was bots attacking my site, and the plugins were intended to ward them off.

        Finally, I got this one CAPTCHA plugin up and running. I still don’t know whether it solved the problem. They said they would let me know if it didn’t work, and I’ve heard nothing, so I GUESS it’s working.

        I’m not trying to inconvenience anyone. I’m just trying to keep the blog from being shut down…

        1. Brad Warthen Post author

          By the way, I made the settings on the plugin as limited as possible. I clicked on “Hide ReCaptcha in Comments Form for” “administrators,” “editors,” “authors,” “contributors” and “subscribers.”

          Maybe the thing to do is get people to subscribe. Of course, I don’t know how to tell you to do that. I’ve got a busy weekend coming up, but I’ll try to find time to research that…

        2. Mark Stewart

          Yeah, that means nothing to me either. Except I would think monopolizing >20% of their resources isn’t too swell of the blog…

  2. Bryan Caskey

    In addition to having Justice Alito in Columbia, Justice Sotomayor was in Clemson today. It’s probably been awhile since South Carolina had two SCOTUS Justices in the state on the same day.

    The USS Indianapolis also had a cool special on PBS last night if you’re into that sort of thing

  3. bud

    The Equivax story is huge. Another big failure by a financial entity. Their CEO will likely not suffer at all as is normally the case in our ever expanding plutocracy.

    (Now for the exhausting bot ordeal)

  4. Doug Ross

    The state of Connecticut is going through a budget crisis with a projected 3.5 billion dollar deficit. Democrats are proposing a tax increase of 1.8 billion dollars following increases of 1.2 and 1.5 billion in recent years. Democrats control the state house and the governor’s office. Now a few Democrats have signed onto a Republican budget bill that decreases spending instead of just raising taxes. What a concept! But the governor says he will veto that bill and keep fighting to raise taxes.

    Here’s the part I found interesting… Democrats love to create taxes by adding fees and use taxes onto a variety of products (with the intent of gouging the “rich”). That way once they’re implemented, they can be raised incrementally by saying “Oh, it’s only a penny.. or only 1%” . Here’s some of the items Democrats proposed raising taxes on:

    “The Democrats’ plan includes a new 49-cent monthly surcharge on cellphones, a $12 surcharge on homeowners’ insurance policies, a new vacation home tax, higher taxes for hospitals, a 25-cent charge per trip on ride-sharing services like Uber and a 45-cent-per-pack cigarette tax increase. ”

    It’s a neat trick – individually it all seems like pennies. Why aren’t they brave enough to just raise the sales tax and income tax? Because – politics.

    1. Claus2

      I feel for the cigarette smoker, who just pulled out his cell phone and scheduled an Uber car from his vacation home to the hospital because he slipped and fell inside his house while doing some plumbing work which flooded the entire first floor.

    2. Brad Warthen Post author

      “Because – politics.”

      Absolutely. And that’s the way it’s supposed to work. They act in accordance with the public will.

      The public doesn’t like increases in the income tax or (to some extent) the sales tax. The public doesn’t mind the fee increases. So naturally, being responsive to the public will, lawmakers turn to fees to come up with the money that’s needed to fund the government. If the fees were in any way onerous, they, too, would be unpopular.

      It would be great if the public had a more mature attitude about paying taxes — understanding that doing so is the price of civilization — but if you’re responsible for figuring out how to pay for the government, you can’t wait around for that.

      Of course, there’s another possibility here: that lawmakers honestly believe that they’ve reached saturation point on the level of general taxes, so turning to fees actually makes for wise policy. But I don’t expect to convince you of that, since you believe all politicians are petty, venal and stupid…

      1. Doug Ross

        Sorry, but the reason they use that technique is because it is easier to hide in a bill. It’s not like they come out and say “We’re going to raise this tax and this tax and this fee” and get feedback before they do it. That would be the proper way to handle it. Instead they load up bills with all sorts of stuff that the average citizen can’t keep track of. And once it’s implemented, it ain’t going away.

        It’s gutless politics.

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