December 2016 Archives

You may be as surprised as I was to learn that 7-Eleven is beating Amazon at the drone delivery game! (That is, delivering product by drone, not delivering drones.) Well, ok, it looks like most of the credit goes to their delivery supplier: Flirtey.

"We have now successfully completed the first month of routine commercial drone deliveries to customer homes in partnership with 7-Eleven," Flirtey chief executive Matthew Sweeny said in a release.

"This is a giant leap towards a future where everyone can experience the convenience of Flirtey's instant store-to-door drone delivery."

Flirtey said it made 77 drone deliveries to homes of select customers on weekends in November, filling orders placed using a special application.

Ordered items, including food and over-the-counter medicine, were packed into special containers and flow by drones that used GPS capabilities to find addresses, according to Flirtey.

Drones hovered in the air and lowered packages to the ground, on average getting items to customers within 10 minutes, the company reported.

You probably don't know who Lena Dunham is, which is why she's screeching for attention by glorifying abortion.

It's sad and pitiful that wealthy people like Dunham feel the need to aggrandize themselves at the expense of the weakest among us. Abortion kills a helpless, voiceless human being and causes severe, lasting damage to the mother and her family. Abortion should be mourned, not celebrated.

"I always thought that I myself didn't stigmatize abortion -- I'm an abortion rights activist, it's a huge part of who I am," Dunham said. But when a young girl asked her, as part of a project, to share the story of her abortion, Dunham "sort of jumped."

"I haven't had an abortion, I told her," the actress narrated. "I wanted to make it really clear to her that as much as I was going out and fighting for other women's options, I myself had never had an abortion. ... Even I felt it was important that people know that I was unblemished in this department."

Then Dunham said she was actually jealous of people who had had abortions. "So many people I love, my mother, my best friends, have had to have abortions for all kinds of reasons," she said. "I feel so proud of them for their bravery, for their self-knowledge, and it was a really important moment for me to realize that I had internalized some of what society was throwing at us."

"Now, I can say that I still haven't had an abortion, but I wish I had," Dunham concluded.

Emily Roden writes about her experience serving on a jury nine years ago with Secretary of State nominee and Exxon Mobile CEO Rex Tillerson. Few social settings are more private than jury rooms, and this account strikes me as authentic and valuable.

I didn't vote for Trump. This is not an endorsement of Mr. Tillerson for Secretary of State. I'm sure that the coming days and weeks will be filled with speculation and political discussion over this clearly controversial pick for Secretary of State. I certainly appreciate those concerns and the process that ensures significant scrutiny for this important position.

But during a news show tonight, I heard the term 'corrupt' applied to this man who I spent five days with back in 2007.

All I know is that this man holds one of the most powerful positions in the world and clearly has the means and ability to side step his jury responsibilities, served as a normal citizen without complaint or pretense. I know that a scared little girl who was finally convinced to come public with her account of abuse was inches away from a decision that would have sided with her abuser, yet this man put his negotiation skills to a very noble use and justice was served. All I know is that this man and his myriad of aides could have ignored an unsolicited email from a girl in her 20s suggesting that he donate to a local cause, but he took the time to respond and opened up his pocket book.

There's no such thing as the "popular vote" in American Presidential elections, and yet the term is used frequently to refer to the total aggregate accumulated by each candidate nationwide. Some people are calling for Electoral College electors to abandon Trump because Hillary "won the popular vote", but James Taranto points out the problem with the the argument.

The Electoral College is consistent with the U.S.'s constitutional character as a union of states. We suppose we can understand why one might prefer direct nationwide election by popular vote, but the way to achieve that would be through a constitutional amendment. Good luck with that: It's unlikely the requisite 38 states would agree to defer to California (where Mrs. Clinton's margin was more than four million, meaning that Trump "won the popular vote" in the other 49 states combined.)

If we're going to create arbitrary groupings of states to support our preferred candidate, why can't everyone play?

It likely that no one really knows what "the Russians" did or intended to do. (Note: "the Russians" are not a monolith... there are many contentious subgroups within the Russian government.) It seems certain that they -- and many others -- were working to disrupt the American election, but it seems impossible to determine how much these actions contributed to the eventual result, and to what degree any specific thing was intended.

Most of the American media are "reporting" that President Obama ordered an investigation of "Russian hacking of our election," and that the intelligence community "confirms" that it happened. Yet there is not yet any evidence that Russia hacked the election or was responsible for the DNC email hacks. None.

When self-interested people and their media allies proclaim something is true, and form a chorus that drowns out any other views, I always suspect a con. It is so easy for the Left, since it controls education and the media, to sell any tale it wishes, from global warming to Michelle Obama as a glamorous fashion icon. Most people will simply fall in line because it is too much trouble and risky to dispute what is regarded as a received truth by the power elite.

But the CIA's evidence and report are being kept secret, so we are expected to trust the word of anonymous sources.

The CIA has concluded in a secret assessment that Russia intervened in the 2016 election to help Donald Trump win the presidency, rather than just to undermine confidence in the U.S. electoral system, according to officials briefed on the matter.

Intelligence agencies have identified individuals with connections to the Russian government who provided WikiLeaks with thousands of hacked emails from the Democratic National Committee and others, including Hillary Clinton's campaign chairman, according to U.S. officials. Those officials described the individuals as actors known to the intelligence community and part of a wider Russian operation to boost Trump and hurt Clinton's chances.

"It is the assessment of the intelligence community that Russia's goal here was to favor one candidate over the other, to help Trump get elected," said a senior U.S. official briefed on an intelligence presentation made to U.S. senators. "That's the consensus view."

And yet... farther down in the same barely-sourced article:

The CIA presentation to senators about Russia's intentions fell short of a formal U.S. assessment produced by all 17 intelligence agencies. A senior U.S. official said there were minor disagreements among intelligence officials about the agency's assessment, in part because some questions remain unanswered.

For example, intelligence agencies do not have specific intelligence showing officials in the Kremlin "directing" the identified individuals to pass the Democratic emails to WikiLeaks, a second senior U.S. official said. Those actors, according to the official, were "one step" removed from the Russian government, rather than government employees. ...

The White House and CIA officials declined to comment.

So... anonymous insiders leak a story to damage the incoming president. The tail end of the story makes clear that the entire matter was viewed in a partisan manner by every public official involved.

The Democratic leaders in the room unanimously agreed on the need to take the threat seriously. Republicans, however, were divided, with at least two GOP lawmakers reluctant to accede to the White House requests.

According to several officials, McConnell raised doubts about the underlying intelligence and made clear to the administration that he would consider any effort by the White House to challenge the Russians publicly an act of partisan politics.

Some of the Republicans in the briefing also seemed opposed to the idea of going public with such explosive allegations in the final stages of an election, a move that they argued would only rattle public confidence and play into Moscow's hands. ...

Some Clinton supporters saw the White House's reluctance to act without bipartisan support as further evidence of an excessive caution in facing adversaries.

Democrats unanimously wanted the government to assist Hillary (i.e., "take the treat seriously"), and Republicans pointed out that such actions would be "an act of partisan politics". You can parse the language however you like and agree with your preferred side, but there was clearly a divide across party lines.

It's worth pointing out that none of this "hacking" would have been possible if Hillary and her team had followed basic cyber-security protocols.

Jack Shafer writes that fear of the effects propaganda is excessive and elitist. If anyone was deceived by "fake news" this year, it would seem to have been the elites.

In this sense, the shrillness of the propaganda debate reveals a deep distrust of citizens by the elites. The Ignatiuses and Stengels of media and government don't worry about propaganda infecting them. Proud of their breeding and life experience, they seem confident they can decode fact from fiction. What they dread is propaganda's effect on the non-elites, whom they paternalistically imagine believe everything they read or view. But they don't. The idea that naïve and vulnerable audiences can be easily influenced by the injection of tiny but potent messages into their media feedbag was dismissed as bunk by social scientists as early as the 1930s and 1940s. According to what academics call the hypodermic needle theory (aka magic bullet theory, aka transmission-belt model), there is little evidence that the public was the defenseless prey of mini-doses of propagandists. Larger doses don't seem to be very effective, either.

Old-age might seem a long way off, but if you care about your children you should buy long-term care insurance now. Unless the insurers are going to go out of business, in which case you shouldn't. Fortunately for us younger folks, the aging Baby Boomers will probably be forced to solve this problem in some manner before we're old. Of course, the cost of that solution will probably be paid by... us younger folks.

Enter the idea of long-term care insurance. Buy a policy when you're still relatively young and healthy, pay the premiums every year, and if you do end up needing intensive support services, you can go to a nursing home secure in the knowledge that your spouse and your legacy are protected. Personal-finance columnists have been solemnly recommending long-term care insurance for years, though in my experience, this advice is often just as solemnly ignored.

That's because the policies are now quite pricey. When long-term care policies were introduced a few decades ago, they seemed like an attractive deal. As it turns out, that's because they were underpricing the insurance. Insurers expected a significant portion of people to drop the insurance every year (meaning that their previously paid premiums would be all profit). Instead, only about 1 percent did. They also underestimated costs.

And while typical health insurers don't have to worry much about interest rates, because they generally pay this year's health care costs out of this year's premiums, long-term care insurers need to park the money between taking the premium in and paying the benefits out. The ultra-low interest rates of the last decade have made those investments less profitable, hurting them still further. And state regulators have proved resistant to efforts to raise premiums to make the insurance more actuarially sound.

About this Archive

This page is an archive of entries from December 2016 listed from newest to oldest.

November 2016 is the previous archive.

January 2017 is the next archive.

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