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The Singularity's Approaching

Crap! First they teach themselves to beat you at Go! and then they take over the world.

The AI learned without supervision--it simply played against itself, and soon was able to anticipate its own moves and how they would affect a game's outcome.
AlphaGo Zero even devised its own unconventional strategies. The game go is typically played using "stones" colored either black or white on a board with a 19 by 19 grid. Each player places stones with the objective of surrounding an opponent's. "In training, AlphaGo Zero discovered, played and ultimately learned to prefer a series of new joseki [corner sequence] variants that were previously unknown," says DeepMind spokesperson Jon Fildes.


By min | October 22, 2017, 3:46 PM | Science | Link

Children Dying in Foster Care Isn't News

Why is the foster system for-profit???

Children in the for-profit foster care system are dying at alarming rates, but the deaths are not being investigated, a two-year investigation has found.

The investigation, conducted and released in rare bipartisan fashion by the Senate Finance Committee, looked closely at one of the largest private providers of foster care services, the MENTOR Network.

The companies and agencies charged with keeping foster children safe often failed to provide the most basic protections or take steps to prevent tragedies, the investigation found.

In the wake of the report, shares of the MENTOR Network's parent company, Civitas Solutions, traded sharply downward, but quickly rebounded amid a lack of press coverage.


As always, only life that involves controlling a woman's womb merits attention.

By min | October 22, 2017, 3:37 PM | Liberal Outrage | Link

More on the DNC purge

The Intercept focuses on Keith Ellison's predicament.

By fnord12 | October 20, 2017, 3:08 PM | Liberal Outrage | Link

Selective Feminism and the Myth of the Bernie Bro

Part one of a series by Katie Halper.

By fnord12 | October 19, 2017, 3:04 PM | Liberal Outrage | Link

DNC Purge


...the Democratic National Committee's first transgender member and a number of people of color -- who happen to represent the left wing of the party.. have just been ousted from their roles.

What that article doesn't mention is that disgraced former DNC head Donna Brazile has been added back , and so has the guy who runs the Georgia Restaurant Association and opposes the Fight For Fifteen (which is technically a party plank). Also lots of lobbyists and Clinton loyalists.

I remember when we were told that the Ellison vs. Perez battle was pointless since Perez was every bit as progressive as Ellison.

By fnord12 | October 19, 2017, 2:54 PM | Liberal Outrage | Link

Even a small UBI would help a lot

Peoples Policy Project:

In 2016, the Federal Reserve reported that nearly half of all Americans would not be able to cover a $400 emergency expense without either borrowing money or selling valuables.

...So, it seems, a modest UBI really would help cushion families' financial security.

A low UBI would also have significant ramifications for America's financial sector, for the better of many Americans. It is no secret that it is expensive to be poor in America. Financial institutions make a significant amount of money every year by taking advantage of people who are unable to make ends meet in the short term. A low UBI would substantially diminish many Americans' reliance on exploitative financial products, saving billions in fees and interest payments on top of the cash payments themselves.

Two products that would be directly addressed by a partial UBI are overdraft fees and payday loans.

Postal banking would also address some of these issues, but like the girl in the taco commercial says, "Why don't we have both?".

By fnord12 | October 19, 2017, 10:23 AM | Liberal Outrage | Link

The chocolate is a lie


"Mars and [other chocolate companies] made a conscious decision to invest in science to transform the image of their product from a treat to a health food," said New York University nutrition researcher Marion Nestle (no relation to the chocolate maker). "You can now sit there with your [chocolate bar] and say I'm getting my flavonoids."


But despite the industry effort to date, cocoa still has never been proven to carry any long-term health benefits. And when it's delivered with a big dose of fat and sugar, any potential health perks are very quickly outweighed by chocolate's potential harm to the waistline.

By fnord12 | October 18, 2017, 3:21 PM | Liberal Outrage & Science | Link

Oh we remember

A former consultant to Bill Clinton has an OpEd complaining about Bernie Sanders' influence on the Dem party platform, saying, "Memories in politics are short, but those policies are vastly different from the program of the party's traditional center-left coalition." No, we remember. That's not the problem.

Dean Baker responds in more detail.

By fnord12 | October 18, 2017, 12:18 PM | Liberal Outrage | Link

How paleoartists would depict modern animals

This is amazing.

By fnord12 | October 17, 2017, 1:55 PM | Science | Link

Dem senator says carbon tax may be closer than we realize

I'm torn about whether or not Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse sounds hopelessly naive, but i'm rooting for him.

By fnord12 | October 17, 2017, 8:18 AM | Liberal Outrage | Link

McConnell ditches Blue Slips

For reference, see this from four years ago when Obama's nominees were getting held up due to this "rule".


No longer will "blue slips" be allowed to deny a nominee a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing and vote on confirmation. In the past, senators have sometimes barred a nominee from their state by refusing to return their slip to the committee, thus preventing a hearing and confirmation.

"The majority"--that is, Republicans--will treat a blue slip "as simply notification of how you're going to vote, not as an opportunity to blackball," McConnell told me. The use of blue slips, he noted, is not a Senate rule and has "been honored in the breach over the years." Now it won't be honored at all.

The only people shocked by this are the Democrats, who are shocked by everything.

By fnord12 | October 11, 2017, 2:20 PM | Liberal Outrage | Link

One day i hope these conversations will be made public


At one point, Trump responded to a presentation on the U.S. military presence in South Korea by asking why South Koreans aren't more appreciative and welcoming of American defense aid. The comment prompted intervention from a senior military official in the room to explain the overall relationship and why such help is ultimately beneficial to U.S. national security interests.

By fnord12 | October 11, 2017, 10:37 AM | Liberal Outrage | Link

But in Canada you have to wait on a queue for MRIs

In the US we have the freedom to be denied them entirely.

By fnord12 | October 9, 2017, 12:13 PM | Liberal Outrage | Link

Campaigning works

If Bernie Sanders' campaign proved anything, it's that campaigning for issues can make those issues more popular - you can see that through the increased popularity of things like Single Payer as well as the explosion in membership of the DSA. So the Democrats' idea to run fake ads convincing Republican voters to vote for extreme candidates in their primaries is not just a dirty trick and hypocritical after all their "fake news" complaints, it's also counter-productive in the long term because they'll be spending money to promote extreme right wing ideas.

By fnord12 | October 9, 2017, 12:08 PM | Liberal Outrage | Link

Defense Industry analyst thinks Marvel fans are a mess

I thought this was an interesting outside (i.e. non comic person) perspective on the Marvel/Northrop Grumman fiasco.

Regarding what he says about "facing criticism from the right for what they believe is a liberal agenda", see Bigoted Santa Claus.

By fnord12 | October 9, 2017, 11:43 AM | Comics & Liberal Outrage | Link

Thinking about getting into cryptozoology

Hard to resist the appeal: "The skunk ape, also known as the swamp cabbage man, swamp ape, stink ape, Florida Bigfoot, Louisiana Bigfoot, myakka ape, swampsquatch..."

Since we've turned off comments on the blog, i'll do this one myself: Half of these were my college nicknames.

By fnord12 | October 7, 2017, 1:20 PM | My stupid life & Ummm... Other? | Link

Poisoning the bees

There's always been a little bit of a debate about whether or not vegans should eat honey. I don't eat it, but i acknowledge that the main reasons for being vegan don't necessarily apply to honey. But it turns out you should probably be avoiding it anyway. And that's all of course beyond the main point of the article, which is that we are killing the creatures that pollinate our crops.

By fnord12 | October 7, 2017, 11:29 AM | Liberal Outrage | Link

Holy crap, Joe Biden

It's bad enough he's been positioning himself as the anti-populist, but now:

"I've been around so long, I worked with James Eastland," said Biden, referring to a segregationist senator from Mississippi. "Even in the days when I got there, the Democratic Party still had seven or eight old-fashioned Democratic segregationists. You'd get up and you'd argue like the devil with them. Then you'd go down and have lunch or dinner together. The political system worked. We were divided on issues, but the political system worked."

Yeah, it worked alright, but it was nothing to look back on with wistful fondness.

By fnord12 | October 6, 2017, 7:01 PM | Liberal Outrage | Link

The FBI And The Case of the Stolen Piglets

This reads like the start of a disaster-horror movie where it turns out that the pigs had some sort of mutant disease or something, but it's really just the meat industry using the power of the federal government to suppress some bad PR.

By fnord12 | October 5, 2017, 6:20 PM | Liberal Outrage | Link

So close

If we could somehow get Trump surrounded by better people, it might have a profoundly positive effect (click through to the AP article too).

By fnord12 | October 5, 2017, 11:47 AM | Liberal Outrage | Link

The NYTimes are a changin' too

Stephanie Kelton again. Unfortunately the timing kind of sucks because it's in the context of Republican tax cuts. We could have used more of this when we were debating the size of the 2008 stimulus, or hell, even when/if we get to Trump's infrastructure bill. But hopefully it'll be the beginning of a change in the way we talk about deficits.

By fnord12 | October 5, 2017, 11:08 AM | Liberal Outrage | Link

"Coates's goal is to invalidate the possibility of class solidarity across racial boundaries"

Here is a long essay by Asad Haider addressing (in part) Ta-Nehisi Coates' recent (and also long) article. Coates has long had a weird blind spot where he's argued on the assumption that class-based struggle and race-based struggle are exclusive tracks (i.e. the antiquated and rightly disputed idea that racism is just a subset of classism), which has never been entirely true and it's been a fringe view among socialists for a long long time. Coates has seemed so obtuse on that point that i'd assume he was just against socialism, but that doesn't seem to be the case (he voted for Bernie Sanders saying it was "awesome" and "great" that an "avowed socialist" had a serious shot at the nomination). So i'm interested in where Coates is coming from. This article by Asad Haider is uncharitable to Coates but it's at least an attempt to address his points.

By fnord12 | October 4, 2017, 6:16 PM | Liberal Outrage | Link


I'm not saying Trump's spiteful attempts to sabotage Obamacare aren't reprehensible, but maybe the problem is that all this was needed to make the damn thing work in the first place:

In Michigan, some groups tasked with enrolling people in health care coverage, so-called navigators, saw budget reductions up to 90 percent. Inside the state, officials were left to scramble as this cycle's enrollment period fast approaches.

Some Michigan organizations have cut their entire staffs and dialed back substantially on community outreach efforts. Others have turned to college interns for help signing people up for insurance on ACA exchanges. In some cases, a number of counties will now simply not receive assistance from navigator programs, leaving it up to people to sift through often complex insurance-purchasing decisions, if they make that decision at all.

By fnord12 | September 29, 2017, 11:24 AM | Liberal Outrage | Link

The (LA) Times they are a changin'

Pretty interesting to see a Modern Monetary Theory proponent getting an Op Ed at a major newspaper.

You don't have to accept MMT in order to think we can expand government services - especially for things like Medicare For All - and i don't even think this article is using MMT per se. But Stephanie Kelton is probably the MMT advocate. And her appearance here is a good start to rebalancing the "government budget should be treated like a household budget" fallacy.

By fnord12 | September 29, 2017, 11:12 AM | Liberal Outrage | Link

Retweeting isn't normal

This is insane. It's so obviously insane that i should be confident that the judge will throw it away, but that relies on the judge being aware of how the internet works.

I know we have much bigger problems, but i wish we lived in a world where congress could get things done and were capable of updating laws for the internet era.

By fnord12 | September 28, 2017, 10:23 AM | Liberal Outrage | Link

New Vegan Brownie Test Batch

A friend got me the America's Test Kitchen Vegan for Everybody cookbook so i tested out the brownies recipe.

vegan brownies

I swirled half of the pan with peanut butter just for some variety. Although it's named "Fudgey Brownies", they came out more cakey than fudgey, imo. Still good though, using 3 different sources for the chocolate - cocoa powder, baking squares, and chocolate chips - and super rich. You might want to get some vanilla ice cream or a glass of cold "milk" to go with it.

I think i'll try to merge this recipe to the one i have been using to come up with a perfect fudgey brownie recipe.

By min | September 25, 2017, 11:06 PM | Boooooks & Vegan Vittles | Link

Is there anything we can't fuck up?

The Great Nutrient Collapse:

When the researchers shined more light on the algae, the algae grew faster, and the [zooplankton] had lots and lots to eat--but at a certain point they started struggling to survive. This was a paradox. More food should lead to more growth. How could more algae be a problem?

...The biologists had an idea of what was going on: The increased light was making the algae grow faster, but they ended up containing fewer of the nutrients the zooplankton needed to thrive. By speeding up their growth, the researchers had essentially turned the algae into junk food.

...it's been understood for some time that many of our most important foods have been getting less nutritious. Measurements of fruits and vegetables show that their minerals, vitamin and protein content has measurably dropped over the past 50 to 70 years. Researchers have generally assumed the reason is fairly straightforward: We've been breeding and choosing crops for higher yields, rather than nutrition, and higher-yielding crops--whether broccoli, tomatoes, or wheat--tend to be less nutrient-packed.

In 2004, a landmark study of fruits and vegetables found that everything from protein to calcium, iron and vitamin C had declined significantly across most garden crops since 1950. The researchers concluded this could mostly be explained by the varieties we were choosing to grow.

Loladze and a handful of other scientists have come to suspect that's not the whole story and that the atmosphere itself may be changing the food we eat. Plants need carbon dioxide to live the same way humans need oxygen. And in the increasingly polarized debate about climate science, one thing that isn't up for debate is that the level of CO2 in the atmosphere is rising.

...as the zooplankton experiment showed, greater volume and better quality might not go hand-in-hand. In fact, they might be inversely linked. As best scientists can tell, this is what happens: Rising CO2 revs up photosynthesis, the process that helps plants transform sunlight to food. This makes plants grow, but it also leads them to pack in more carbohydrates like glucose at the expense of other nutrients that we depend on, like protein, iron and zinc.

By fnord12 | September 16, 2017, 1:17 PM | Liberal Outrage | Link

So much for Moon

I guess South Korea has the same problem as us, where no one can beat the military complex.

By fnord12 | September 16, 2017, 11:57 AM | Liberal Outrage | Link

That makes more sense

Just an update on this. Finally got the roll call. My terrible Senator Menendez did not vote to repeal the amendment. He just did not vote (because he is on trial for corruption).

min: *snort*

By fnord12 | September 15, 2017, 3:21 PM | Liberal Outrage | Link

C'mon Bernie you slacker

Is this productive in any way? Or is it just designed to infuriate me?

Holding constant rallies campaigning for her, in defense of ACA, on a unity tour, uniting Dems around Single Payer... clearly not enough.

By fnord12 | September 14, 2017, 5:04 PM | Liberal Outrage | Link

The Poseur Stamp

At least i got it before they put Tye Sheridan on the cover.

By fnord12 | September 14, 2017, 7:39 AM | Boooooks | Link


Matt Stoller has an interesting article on the history of credit rating agencies.

Two interesting tidbits, neither really the main point:

..in the 1960s, BankAmericard (now Visa), suffering from low adoption rates for its card, mailed millions of unsolicited credit cards to individuals. Not applications for credit cards, but the cards themselves. A crime wave ensued. Trucks full of cards were driven away by organized crime. People who received the cards didn't know how to use them. Many thought the cards were simply a way to get free stuff; they didn't realize they'd have to pay the bill later.


As they say in the industry, with a credit card you can buy a car; without a credit card you can't even rent one. (I have a pet theory that the rise of credit cards in earnest is one reason for the dramatic drop in street crime since the 1990s.)

By fnord12 | September 13, 2017, 7:31 PM | Liberal Outrage | Link

Who voted to keep AUMF?

Rand Paul managed to get an amendment to the floor on repealing the AUMFs that are justifying endless war. The amendment failed (no surprise), but Jonathan Cohn has the list of Democrats that voted against Paul's amendment. I'm a little surprised about who is on the list, including the Democratic Senators from New Hampshire and one from Hawaii. Also surprising is who is not on the list - my terrible Senator Menendez apparently voted for the amendment [see update], and so did Tim Kaine (!) and Dianne Feinstein (!!). Gives one (a small amount) of hope.

By fnord12 | September 13, 2017, 4:24 PM | Liberal Outrage | Link

How to pay for Medicare For All

Bernie provides options.

By fnord12 | September 13, 2017, 4:21 PM | Liberal Outrage | Link

Asians Just Aren't Expressive


"I work with a lot of different people, and Asians are a challenge to cast because most casting directors feel as though they're not very expressive," one other casting director told Yuen. "They're very shut down in their emotions ... If it's a look thing for business where they come in they're at a computer or if they're like a scientist or something like that, they'll do that; but if it's something were they really have to act and get some kind of performance out of, it's a challenge."

Yep. We Asians are just so inscrutable that it's amazing there are thriving film industries in Asian countries.

By min | September 12, 2017, 11:40 AM | Liberal Outrage & Movies & TeeVee | Link

Harris, Warren, Gillibrand, Booker... who's next?

We should encourage every Democrat to run for president. Then they will all have to sign on to Bernie's Single-Payer Bill.

By fnord12 | September 11, 2017, 1:46 PM | Liberal Outrage | Link

Double Down

Some more Naomi Klein on climate change for you.

AS ONE OF the most powerful storms ever recorded bore down on the continental United States, with much of Florida under evacuation order, President Donald Trump was focused on a matter of grave urgency.

He gathered his cabinet at Camp David and said there was no time to waste. With Hurricane Irma set to potentially devastate huge swaths of Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, and North Carolina, now was the time, he said, to rush through massive ... tax cuts.


Some have speculated that seeing the reality of climate change hit so close to home this summer -- Houston underwater, Los Angeles licked by flames, and now southern states getting battered by Irma -- might be some kind of wake-up call for climate change-denying Republicans.

But Trump's timing is even more revealing for what it shows about what's really driving climate change denial on the right. It's not a rejection of the science, but a rejection of the consequences of the science. Put simply, if the science is true, then the whole economic project that has dominated American power structures since Ronald Reagan was president is out the window, and the deniers know it.

Because if climate change is driving the kinds of catastrophes we are seeing right now -- and it is -- then it doesn't just mean Trump has to apologize and admit he was wrong when he called it a Chinese hoax. It means that he also needs to junk his whole tax plan, because we're going to need that tax money (and more) to pay for a rapid transition away from fossil fuels. And it also means he's going to have to junk his deregulatory plan, because if we are going to change how we power our lives, we're going to need all kinds of regulations to manage and enforce it. And, of course, this is not just about Trump -- it's about all the climate-denying Republican governors whose states are currently being pounded. All of them would have to junk an entire twisted worldview holding that the market is always right, regulation is always wrong, private is good and public is bad, and taxes that support public services are the worst of all.

And the Dems are not blameless either. I think they're even worse because they acknowledge climate change but refuse to get the hell out of our way so something can be done about it. They are driving 35mph in the fast lane.

And this isn't only about the right -- it's also about the center. What mainstream liberals have been saying about climate change for decades is that we simply need to tweak the existing system here and there and everything will be fine. You can have Goldman Sachs capitalism plus solar panels. But at this stage, the challenge we are up against is much deeper than that.

I think we're pretty much doomed. Mebbe dinosaurs will eventually come back and get a second chance. At least they were blameless in their extinction.

By min | September 11, 2017, 1:22 PM | Liberal Outrage | Link

These Guys Have Cracked the Code on Asian Women

So much not. SMH

By min | September 10, 2017, 6:56 PM | Liberal Outrage | Link

It'll Blow Over

Keep telling yourself that. Naomi Klein on our climate crisis and the wildfires engulfing the north of the continent.

For millions of people from California to Greenland, Oregon to Portugal, British Columbia to Montana, Siberia to South Africa, the summer of 2017 has been the summer of fire. And more than anything else, it's been the summer of ubiquitous, inescapable smoke.

For years, climate scientists have warned us that a warming world is an extreme world, in which humanity is buffeted by both brutalizing excesses and stifling absences of the core elements that have kept fragile life in equilibrium for millennia. At the end of the summer of 2017 -- with major cities submerged in water and others licked by flames -- we are currently living through Exhibit A of this extreme world, one in which natural extremes come head-to-head with social, racial, and economic ones.


Worse, in true shock doctrine form, some extractive industries are actively using the fiery state of emergency to get stuff done that was impossible during normal times. For instance, Taseko Mines has been fighting for years to build a highly contentious, open pit gold and copper mine in one of the parts of British Columbia hit hardest by the fires. Fierce opposition among the Tsilhqot'in First Nation has so far successfully fended off the toxic project, resulting in several key regulatory victories.

But this July, with several of the impacted Tsilhqot'in communities under evacuation order or holding their ground to fight the fires themselves, the outgoing British Columbia government -- notorious as a "wild west" of political payola -- did something extraordinary. In its last week in office after suffering a humiliating election defeat, the government handed Taseko a raft of permits to move ahead with exploration. "It defies compassion that while our people are fighting for our homes and lives, B.C. issues permits that will destroy more of our land beyond repair," said Russell Myers Ross, a Tsilhqot'in chief. A representative of the outgoing government responded: "I appreciate this may come at a difficult time for you given the wildfire situation affecting some of your communities."

By min | September 10, 2017, 3:47 PM | Liberal Outrage | Link

Turn Me Into Soup


U.C.L.A. is the only place in California that liquefies the dead. But after five years and hundreds of bodies processed, Dean Fisher, director of the university's Donated Body Program, hopes to change that. He has been working with state legislators on a bill allowing funeral homes to use this process, called alkaline hydrolysis.
Such machines break down tissue using lye (water mixed with a small quantity of potassium hydroxide or sodium hydroxide), which snaps the chemical bonds that hold together proteins, fats, DNA and other bodily building blocks. Multiple mechanisms can be used: The most expensive machines boil the lye at high pressure and 150 degrees Celsius, which can disintegrate a body in few hours. Cheaper models--unpressurized and operating below boiling point--might take a day (and are frowned on by some of those championing the pressurized approach, who are not convinced the budget-friendly models will always fully digest the remains). Some machines keep the body horizontal; others tip it into the lye. But with any of these approaches what comes out should be a brown soup of simple organic molecules that can be poured into a sewer system. The bones, however, do not dissolve. They can be pulverized and given to the family of the deceased. Companies marketing the technique trumpet its low greenhouse gas emissions compared with flame crematoriums that burn natural gas. Alkaline hydrolysis uses energy primarily to heat and cool the lye--and thus emits about 80 percent less carbon dioxide--according to an estimate by TNO, an independent research and development consulting organization in the Netherlands. "If you're concerned about gas emissions, the choice is pretty obvious," says California Assemblyman Todd Gloria. He wrote California's new bill after being approached by Qico, a company in San Diego prototyping alkaline hydrolysis technology.
But is the soapy soup it dumps into the sewer safe? Disease should not be a problem because the roiling lye sterilizes the organic material, says Joe Wilson, CEO of Bio-Response Solutions. The company, based in Danville, Ind., built many of the low-cost units now used in funeral homes, including Jeff Edwards's in Ohio. "It's hot as hell in there, and alkali is a powerful sterilant at temperature," Wilson says. Testing on animal carcasses, much of which has been peer-reviewed, seems to back his claims. "Even the hardiest pathogen, an anthrax spore, is easily killed," he says, adding that the process also breaks down toxic chemicals such as embalming fluid.

I would like it better if the crematoriums had to put the goo thru a preliminary wastewater treatment process first before dumping it down the drain. Despite the process to bring down the pH, it could still be a problem for the pipes over time and because of sheer volume, especially considering the age of our sewer systems. Plus, the wastewater treatment plants weren't designed to deal with large volumes of high pH influx on a regular basis. It could adversely affect the microbial population in the digestion tanks used to "clean" the wastewater.

But i'm all for cremation. That or becoming a tree.

By min | September 7, 2017, 1:45 PM | Science | Link

No need to stop here. There's plenty more SuperMegaMonkey where that came from.