Hair apparent

In reading an article about Marco Rubio’s announcement of his candidacy for the Republican nomination, I was struck by a comment that suggested that his receding hairline might be a problem for him. My initial reaction was: What the hell? Have we sunk to such superficial levels in our political discourse that the amount of hair a candidate has matters? Besides, he seemed to me to have a full head of hair anyway.
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They need to look in the mirror

The Obama administration announced today that it will take Cuba off its list of states that sponsor terrorism. This will take effect in 45 days unless Congress votes to deny it, in which case the White House will certainly veto it. Iran, Sudan, and Syria remain on the list.

There is something deeply hypocritical about the US maintaining lists of countries that sponsor terrorism when it engages in acts of violence and subversion all over the world. It is lucky for the US that other nations don’t have such lists (at least none that they disclose publicly) because it would likely be on most lists. That would be embarrassing.

Self-driving cars

I tend to be swayed back and forth by the promise of self-driving cars. On the one hand, I read about how good they are and have advanced so much that one might expect them to be available for commercial use within the next decade. Then I read that that they are only as good as the latest map updates and cannot cope with the kinds of temporary changes in road conditions that are common and then I feel pessimistic that they will be a reality soon.
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California ballot initiative to shoot gays

The state of California has a system whereby one can put proposed laws on the ballot for a statewide referendum, provided the petition garners a certain number of signatures that this year stands at 365,000. This year a lawyer Matt McLaughlin has petitioned to have on the ballot what he has called the Sodomite Suppression Act and filed it with the state’s attorney general along with the required $200 fee, the first step in getting permission to gather signatures.
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The invisibility of privilege

Once in a while, you get a revealing glimpse about the nature of privilege, especially the fact that those who are the biggest beneficiaries of it are also often the most oblivious. David Brooks, the kind of person who is seen as a serious thinker by The New York Times and NPR, has a column on the new recommendations requiring police to war bodycams that is very revealing of the mindset of the privileged.
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Raiding public pensions

I have written before about how public pensions are being looted by a combination of malpractice by elected officials and greed by investment banks and advisors. The way it works is like this. In order to for the pension funds to be solvent enough to pay out the promised benefits, the elected officials have to set aside a certain amount of money in highly rated securities that have lower returns. What some elected officials do is to divert some of that money to cover expenses since the tax-cutting mania has resulted in local governments not having enough money to meet their needs. Then when the pension funds run low, these elected officials turn to investment firms that promise high rates of return that they say will make up for the shortfall.
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Question for computer security experts

In his interview with John Oliver, Edward Snowden said something that many computer-savvy people are aware of and that is that modern computers can sweep through the entire set of possibilities of eight-character passwords in less than a second and that is how hackers break into systems. He suggested that rather than using complicated and hard to remember combinations of characters, we need to think in terms of long phrases that are easy for each user to remember but are unlikely to be found in any written form anywhere.
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