Tuesday, April 30, 2019

The 2019 measles outbreak is the worst in the U.S. since 1994 and it's only April

I am closing the month with an update to Following the measles outbreak in the U.S. and Michigan.  As feared, the disease has continued to spread.  CBS News has the latest in More than 700 measles cases in U.S. as outbreaks spread.

CBS News chief medical correspondent Dr. Jon LaPook joined CBSN to discuss the latest on the growing measles problem in the U.S. and answer some common questions about the vaccine.
The North Jersey Record breaks down the numbers.
There have been 704 confirmed cases of measles in 22 states so far this year, the highest number in 25 years, the federal Centers for Disease Control said today. That includes 202 cases in Rockland County, New York, 423 in New York City and 14 in New Jersey. An outbreak in Washington State, where 72 people were sickened, is over.
That's the state of the outbreak so far.  For more background, watch Vox explain Why measles is back in the US.

Almost all US states allow parents to opt their children out of vaccinations.
Measles is back in the United States, and to understand why, you have to understand where. When anti-vaccination misinformation leads to a drop in the number of children immunized, a community can lose its “herd immunity.” This happens most often in small, tight-knit communities, in which measles can spread like wildfire. 75% of all recent measles cases have happened in those types of communities.

In order for everyone to be protected from measles, all people who can get vaccinated need to. But most states allow parents to opt out of vaccinating their children for any philosophical reason - and that’s allowing measles to make a comeback.
Those are the health costs of the outbreak.  CNBC has more in The economic and human toll of a measles outbreak.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, joins 'Squawk Box' to discuss the measles outbreak spreading throughout the United States and how certain industries are bracing for the uncertainty of the economic impact.
All three videos share the same message — get vaccinated if not already vaccinated and vaccinate your children!

That's it for April.  Stay tuned for the first entry of May, which will be a different take on a drum corps May  Day.

Monday, April 29, 2019

Drink to 'Avengers: Endgame' having the best opening weekend box office ever

Exactly a year ago, I told my readers to Drink to 'Avengers: Infinity War' having the best opening weekend box office of 2018 so far.  I am doing the same thing today in honor of "Avengers: Endgame" setting box office records.  As I promised in yesterday's National Superhero Day entry, I am embedding Beyond The Trailer's Avengers Endgame Box Office Opening Weekend - $350 MILLION.

Avengers Endgame Box Office today! Beyond The Trailer breakdown of biggest all-time opening weekend! $350 million, $1.2 billion global!
Avengers Endgame Box Office today! Beyond The Trailer host Grace Randolph's reaction and breakdown to the record breaking opening weekend box office for Avengers Endgame! How Kevin Feige, Marvel and Disney did it! Domestic, Foreign, including China and Global aka Worldwide!
First, the opening weekend box office exceeded my expectations, as I thought it would be between $250 and $300 million.  Second, Grace's reaction was as entertaining and informative as I thought it would be.

For the drink, I'm serving Cocktail Chemistry's Advanced Techniques - Avengers "Infinity Cocktail."

What would Thanos drink after a long day of battling Avengers and snapping fingers? I imagine a complex man like Thanos would go for a Pousse Café, a labor-intensive cocktail of layered liqueurs. To prepare for the Endgame, here I made a version that represents each of the six infinity stones to celebrate the launch of my new "perfectly balanced" t-shirt.
Drink up to superheroes and their villains!

Stay tuned for the last post of the month, which should post at 8:00 P.M. EDT tomorrow.

Sunday, April 28, 2019

MSU and USC play music from 'Guardians of the Galaxy' and 'The Avengers' for National Superhero Day

Happy National Superhero Day!  In honor of the national day and also "Avengers: Endgame" setting box office records, I am following through on my suggestion to myself from last year by embedding the official video of the Spartan Marching Band: Marvel Halftime | MSU vs Michigan : 10.17.2015.*

In the associated Dreamwidth entry where I embedded the above video and wrote that I might use this video this year, I also wrote that I might also embed U$C playing their Guardians of the Galaxy show.  Here it is.

The Trojan Marching Band salutes "Guardians of the Galaxy" and USC alumnus and President of Marvel Studios Kevin Feige at the rivalry game versus UCLA on Nov. 18, 2017 featuring: "Hooked on a Feeling" by Blue Swede "Brandy (You're a Fine Girl)" by Looking Glass "Mr. Blue Sky" by Electric Light Orchestra "Surrender" by Cheap Trick "I Want You Back" by The Jackson 5.
Coincidentally, both of these shows are by arch-rivals to my alma maters and both were played at games with my alma maters.  I guess rivalry inspires the best out of the rivals.

*I might embed Beyond The Trailer's movie math video in tomorrow's entry.  Grace's reaction should be entertaining and informative.  Stay tuned.

ETA: Speaking of staying tuned, I've embedded a video of the Marching Illini's superhero show that I might use here next year in my Dreamwidth entry that links to this one.

Saturday, April 27, 2019

6,000 stores have already announced they are closing in 2019, more than all of 2018, a tale of the Retail Apocalypse

Full-sized original here.

I found another video about the Retail Apocalypse when I looked for a video for Lampert and Mnuchin sued by Sears, a tale of the Retail Apocalypse, but it had nothing to do with Sears, "Fast Eddie Lamprey," or Treasury Secretary Mnuchin.  Instead, it was about the ongoing loss of stores and malls as a whole.  Watch CNBC's Retail concerns return as 6,000 stores announce they will close, more than all of last year.

Jan Kniffen, J Rogers Kniffen Worldwide, and CNBC's Lauren Hirsch discuss a new study from Coresight Research that has found nearly 6,000 stores have announced they were closing this year--that's higher than all of last year, and it's only April.
I stumbled across the Retail Apocalypse last year and it was a mild year for store closures?  Wow!  Maybe it was seeing Toys R Us close down and the near-loss of Kmart and Sears while realizing that Radio Shack was already gone that got my attention, but this year alone I've written about the closing down of Payless ShoeSource, Gymboree, and Charlotte Russe, all of which happened in February and March.  The year is yet young and many more stores and several chains could still go out of business.

Friday, April 26, 2019

James Corden, Global News, and Kamala Harris on CNN update gun control for the eighth year of Crazy Eddie's Motie News

Happy Arbor Day and Flashback Friday!  As I promised in yesterday's Student Sustainability Video Festival episode, today's retrospective is about the top posts about gun violence and gun control.  Since there were three most read entries in last year's top 40, I will update the topic with three videos.

I begin with the oldest, James Corden on Gun Control in America, which was broadcast less than a week after the school shooting in Parkland, Florida.

After 17 people were murdered in a mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida, James looks at measures other countries have taken to curb gun violence and wonders why Americans continue to refuse to make any changes.
Since two of the top posts are responses to this shooting, I thought it was only appropriate to include this video, which I missed the first time.

Just last week, Canada's Global News took another look at the international statistics and measures to control gun violence in Gun Control: Do firearm laws actually work?.

The debate over gun control often focuses on the United States, in part because the U.S. has more guns per capita than any country in the world. But what can other countries teach us about gun policy and whether gun laws actually work?
Finally, CNN broadcast a town hall this week with Democratic presidential candidate Senator Kamala Harris in which she said "I'll give Congress 100 days to pass gun laws."

Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA) pledged that, if elected president, she would take executive action to enact sweeping gun control measures if Congress fails to send comprehensive legislation to her desk in her first 100 days.
Harris's campaign promise serves as a good example of conservatives who said that Trump declaring a national emergency set a bad precedent.  I still agree even if I think Harris is right.

Follow over the jump for the top three entries about guns and gun control posted during March 21, 2018 to March 20, 2019 and how they earned their page views.

Thursday, April 25, 2019

ASAPScience on going vegetarian: Student Sustainability Video Festival 80 plus environmental impact for the eighth year of Crazy Eddie's Motie News

I told my readers to "Stay tuned" at the end of The Verge explains why most Americans support the EPA for Earth Day plus environmental policy for the eighth year of Crazy Eddie's Motie News as "I'm not done with top environmental posts from last year.  I expect to post one more installment in this retrospective series for an Earth Week Throwback Thursday."  That's one more environmental retrospective in the series.  I'll have more on other topics beginning tomorrow for a Flashback Friday.

Since the two most read environmental entries not directly about either climate or policy are about food and environmental impact and the more popular of the two is an episode of the Student Sustainability Video Festival series, I'm going to share another video from one of my students' presentations that shows and tells about the impact of food choices on the environment, ASAPScience asking What If The World Went Vegetarian?*

What if everyone became a vegetarian right now?
On the whole, everyone becoming vegetarian would reduce their environmental impact, although it would come with economic and social costs and would not be all good for the environment.  It also might be difficult for former meat eaters, as the companion video Becoming a Vegetarian for 21 Days shows.

We tried to become vegetarians ... FOR SCIENCE!
I'm not surprised that the hosts found going vegetarian hard work, although that's not what deters me.  I'm willing to make the effort for the planet.  Instead, it's the carb-heavy easy way to implement it, which would be bad for my diabetes.  Still, as long as I'm an ovolactarian, which they were, I'd be O.K.  I would get enough animal protein without actually being directly responsible for having an animal killed for my diet and I would still reduce my environmental footprint.

Follow over the jump for the two top entries and how they got their page views.

Wednesday, April 24, 2019

Lampert and Mnuchin sued by Sears, a tale of the Retail Apocalypse

When I wrote Sears and KMart avoid liquidation, a tale of the Retail Apocalypse last February, I knew that wouldn't be the end of the story.  Sure enough, Newsy reported last week Sears sues ex-CEO, Mnuchin for alleged thefts.

The lawsuit alleges "[Eddie] Lampert caused more than $2 billion of assets to be transferred to himself and Sears' other shareholders."
CNBC has more.
Sears on Thursday lodged a lawsuit against its former CEO Eddie Lampert and a string of its high-profile past board members, including his former Yale roommate Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, for allegedly stealing billions of dollars from the once-storied retailer.
Why am I not surprised that Mnuchin used to be Fast Eddie Lamprey's roommate?  Turns out they stayed close, as RawStory reported that Mnuchin sat on Sears Holdings board from 2005 until he became Treasury Secretary.  Fast Eddie even attended Mnuchin's confirmation hearing.

Back to CNBC
Sears’ unsecured creditors repeatedly argued that Lampert was the cause of, not the solution to, Sears’ downfall. They believe that Lampert, along with Sears’ biggest shareholders, unduly benefited from deals that occurred under Lampert’s watch, including its spinoff of Lands’ End in 2014, and the carve out of many of its best properties into Seritage Growth Properties, a real estate investment trust Lampert created a year later.
I'm not surprised at this, either.

So who else was named in the suit?
The suit names numerous defendants besides Lampert and Mnuchin, including two high-profile directors: Bruce Berkowitz, a hedge-fund manager who was a large investor in Sears, and Kunal Kamlani, president of ESL.
And how has Mnuchin responded?
Mnuchin, who resigned from the Sears board when he was nominated to head Treasury, wasn’t immediately available to comment.
If Mnuchin has no comment, I have one from the President, quoted by RawStory.
“Sears has been dying for many years,” Trump told reporters while departing for a tour of the damage wrecked by Hurricane Michael.

“It’s been obviously improperly run for many years and it’s a shame,” Trump added.
Improperly run by his Treasury Secretary and his college roommate — "only the best people."  Ha!

Tuesday, April 23, 2019

2017 Blue Stars 'Star Crossed' for a drum corps Shakespeare's birthday

Happy Shakespeare's Birthday, which National Day Calendar lists as National Talk Like Shakespeare Day.  For this year's celebration, I am following through with my first idea for last year's 'Westworld' characters quoting Shakespeare for National Talk Like Shakespeare Day: "I was originally going to celebrate it as 'Blue Stars 'Starcrossed' for a drum corps Shakespeare's birthday'...Next year."  Well, it's next year, so I'm going ahead with it.

"Star Crossed" is a retelling of the tragedy of "Romeo and Juliet" on a football field.  One can see and hear that in with the official video teaser from Drum Corps International.

La Crosse, WI | 10th Place | 87.938
“Romeo and Juliet, Op. 64” Written by Sergei Prokofiev Published by G. Schirmer Inc Used with permission. All rights reserved Tresóna License Number: 313102

“Young and Beautiful” Written by Rick Nowels, Elizabeth Grant Published by EMI April Music Inc obo EMI Music Pub Germany GMBH EMI April Music Inc obo R-Rated Music Used with permission. All rights reserved Tresóna License Number: 313102

“Nature Boy” Written by Eden Ahbez Published by Geraldine E. Janowiak obo Golden World Used with permission. All rights reserved Tresóna License Number: 313102

“Lady Marmalade” Written by Kenny Nolan, Robert Crewe Published by Jobete Music Co Inc Stone Diamond Music Corp Used with permission. All rights reserved Tresóna License Number: 313102
That's just a segment.  Vic Firth Marching has a complete run-through of the show.

Vic Firth takes you BEYOND the lot with the BLUE STARS as they perform their 2017 production "Star Crossed" during finals week in Indianapolis, IN! NINE HD cameras you WON'T see anywhere else!
It's moving even without the uniforms and costumes.

Of course, I'm conserving my resources.  Next year, I plan on featuring two corps that played Radiohead's "Exit Music (for a Film)," which debuted in the 1996 "Romeo + Juliet" (even though it was not listed in the soundtrack) and was re-used in "Westworld."  I like closing circles.

Monday, April 22, 2019

The Verge explains why most Americans support the EPA for Earth Day plus environmental policy for the eighth year of Crazy Eddie's Motie News

Happy Earth Day!  Today, I am pointing out that climate isn't the only environmental issue the U.S. and the planet is confronting.  Pollution of all kinds is another one, which the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) was created to combat.  The results have been generally successful, as The Verge describes in Why most Americans support the EPA.

The future of the EPA is uncertain. We look back at why the agency was created in the first place, and why we still need it today.
The video is two years old, but its points are still valid, even after Scott Pruitt has left as EPA Administrator.

Two of the most read entries of the eighth year of this blog were about the EPA, so follow over the jump for how they and another about the Trump Administration's environmental policies earned their page views.

Sunday, April 21, 2019

More Tipsy Bartender drinks for Easter 2019

Happy Easter!  Since I first started observing Easter on this blog in 2015, I've been alternating between my two default holiday themes, drinks from Tipsy Bartender on odd-numbered years and drum corps on even-numbered years.*  Since this is an odd-numbered year, it's Tipsy Bartender.

I am sharing all three new Easter drink recipes posted last year in order, beginning with the Creme Egg Shot.

This fun layered shot is perfect for Easter.
The next drink I'm serving is the Peep Shot.

Celebrate Easter with these peep fun infused shots!
The final recipe returns full circle, the Creme Egg Cocktail.

This sweet and creamy cocktail is perfect for easter celebrations!
As Skyy used to say in all his recipes, enjoy responsibly!

That's it for Easter.  Stay tuned for a celebration of Earth Day.

*The 2015 entry has become very popular on Pinterest, being saved 47 times, most of them this calendar year, and brought in 68 page views to the blog just this past week.  I will be writing about it when it comes to that particular installment of the retrospective series for last year.

Saturday, April 20, 2019

WXYZ, WOOD-TV, and MLive on the first 4/20 since recreational marijuana became legal in Michigan

Since 4/20/18, the proposal to legalize recreational marijuana in Michigan passed.  To mark the occasion, I am sharing three videos to show how that referendum is being implemented and how it is changing the environment for legalization elsewhere.

I begin with WOOD-TV reporting on how municipalities in Michigan are implementing the proposal by opting out of allowing commercial production and dispensaries in Voters getting a say about marijuana sales.

Voters in Michigan decriminalized recreational marijuana in November, but in the months that have followed, dozens of municipalities have opted out of a major part of the voter-approved proposition which allowed for the manufacture and sales of weed.
I will have to follow municipalities where opting out is put on the ballot and whether those votes succeed or fail.

Next, WXYZ reported yesterday Farmers to start growing hemp in Michigan.

That was about the federal government allowing cultivation of industrial hemp, which is not the same as marijuana for medicinal or recreational use, but it's a start.

For an even better example of how Michigan legalizing recreational marijuana is changing the conversation about legalization on the national level, watch MLive's U.S. Rep. Debbie Dingell speaks at Hash Bash 2019 in Ann Arbor.

U.S. Rep. Debbie Dingell became the first U.S. congressperson to speak at Hash Bash in Ann Arbor Saturday, April 6 2019.
If nothing else, she said the right things to get that crowd to cheer.  It is also another good sign that the federal government is on the path to decriminalizing marijuana.  I couldn't have imagined her saying any of this a year ago.

As I have written before on this date, "Here's...to marijuana legalization following in the tracks of marriage equality!"

Friday, April 19, 2019

Vox on coverage of the Green New Deal updates climate change for the eighth year of Crazy Eddie's Motie News

Happy Flashback Good Friday!  I finished yesterday's installment of Tales of the Retail Apocalypse by promising my readers that today's retrospective of the most read entries would "be about a perennial favorite topic of this blog, climate."  I'm not kidding about that last part; I have posted retrospectives featuring popular entries about climate and climate change every single year I have kept this blog.  I'm not surprised to continue the tradition.

This year, both of the most popular entries about climate change featured videos by Vox, so I am using the most recent video by Ezra Klein's online news organization about climate change to update the issue, Why you still don't understand the Green New Deal.

Political news coverage tends to focus on strategy over substance, and that’s making it less likely that the public will agree on big policy ideas when we need them the most.
The Green New Deal is an ambitious proposal that outlines how the U.S. might begin transitioning towards a green economy over the next ten years. It includes steps like upgrading our power grid and renovating our transportation infrastructure. But most people watching news coverage likely don’t know what’s in the Green New Deal. And that’s because political news coverage tends to focus on strategy over substance, fixating on a bill’s political ramifications rather than its ability to solve a problem. That approach to news coverage is known as “tactical framing,” and research shows it makes audiences at home more cynical and less informed about big policy debates. The result is a cycle of partisanship, where solutions to big problems like climate change are judged on their political popularity rather than their merit.
Because of the approach of the news media, my coverage of the Green New Deal suffers from an emphasis on the tactical framing at the expense of the substance of the idea as well.  That's something I will have to work on in future entries on the subject.

Follow over the jump for the most read entries about climate change during the blogging year that ended last month.

Thursday, April 18, 2019

Company Man on JCPenney's decline updates tales of the Retail Apocalypse for the eighth year of Crazy Eddie's Motie News

Happy Throwback Thursday!  For today's retrospective about the top posts of the previous posting year, I refer my readers to my closing for Vox explains tax reform for Tax Day plus taxes and economics for the eighth year of Crazy Eddie's Motie News:  "The next one will be about the Retail Apocalypse.  That should be a long one.  Stay tuned."

To lead off this entry, I have an update on the history and condition of JCPenney from Company Man in which he asks The Decline of JCPenney...What Happened?

JCPenney is one of the largest, most well-known retailers to ever exist. Yet today, the 117 year old company is on the verge of going out of business. This video attempts to express the severity of their situation while explaining how it happened.
I've been ragging on Sears' CEO so much for the past year that I didn't pay any attention to JCPenney's CEO and his role that that chain's decline.  He's gone, but it looks like the damage has been done.  I'll be sure to continue following the story of JCPenney, as I promised in January.

Follow over the jump for the top entries last year about the Retail Apocalypse.

Wednesday, April 17, 2019

PBS NewsHour on this year's smaller tax refunds

Since Tax Day is today in Maine and Massachusetts, I will finish my trilogy of tax-related entries today with PBS NewsHour examining The financial, political and psychological implications of tax reform

This is the first year that fully incorporates major updates to the tax code signed into law by President Trump in 2017. Amid the changes, some taxpayers are expressing confusion and alarm at how the new rules affect them. Lisa Desjardins talks to Jim Tankersley from The New York Times.
As both the graphic from the Los Angeles Times above and the video show, lots of people have been thrown off by their smaller refunds this year.  Other than the effect on the real estate market from capping the amount of state and local taxes one could deduct, I didn't even consider that among all the reasons I thought the 2017 tax bill was a bad idea.  It's turning out to be a reason why the tax bill is nowhere near as popular as the Republicans thought it would be.  Speaking of popular, the suggestion of tripling the refund would be a popular way to reduce taxes, but I'll be honest, it made me laugh.  Why?  I thought the idea a bit silly.

That's it for taxes for now.  Stay tuned for a retrospective featuring popular posts about the Retail Apocalypse.

Tuesday, April 16, 2019

More candidates releasing tax returns than tax marches this year, it seems

For the past two years, I was able to find lots of news videos of Tax Marches on Tax Day.  This year, either the tax marches themselves or their coverage were way down.  When I looked on YouTube, the only news report I could find on tax protests was Tax Day protest in Binghamton, New York.

I know I promised to write about tax protests today in Vox explains tax reform for Tax Day plus taxes and economics for the eighth year of Crazy Eddie's Motie News, but tax marches and tax protests don't seem to be where the action is.

That is not to say that they didn't have an effect.  One of the focuses of previous Tax Marches was protesting President Trump not releasing his tax returns.  Those protests haven't budged Trump, but they are getting the candidates for the Democratic nomination to release their tax returns.  The most famous is Bernie Sanders.  Watch Bernie Sanders Releases 10 Years Of Tax Returns.

U.S. Democratic presidential contender Bernie Sanders released 10 years of tax returns on Monday, providing details of his growing status as a millionaire fueled by a sharp jump in income from book royalties since his losing 2016 White House run.
I think this is a positive step, but CNN took it as an opportunity for criticism.

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) released a decade of tax returns, providing new insight into how the senator became a millionaire during his two presidential runs.
Wow.  I wrote "I think they are right to consider CNN biased, but I think it's a personal bias against Trump, not an ideological bias against conservatives" in A comparison of two measures of media bias, the Booman Tribune version of A comparison of two measures of media bias shows readers and viewers respond to both ideology and quality.  I think CNN, or at least Erin Burnett, has a non-partisan but personal bias against Sanders, too.  Her guests showed that, too, as she had Sanders critics from both left and right, befitting Ad Fontes Media's rating of her show as "Neutral or Balanced Bias."

The other candidate who released tax returns this week was Kamala Harris, which Newsy reported in Harris releases 15 years of tax returns.

The 528 pages add up to more than any other 2020 candidate has released so far.
As the image from the New York Times that I used to illustrate this entry shows, the American voters may not be getting transparency on Trump's finances, but we are getting it from at least some of his rivals.  I'll leave it to Congress and the courts to get that from Trump.  He certainly won't do it on his own.

Monday, April 15, 2019

Vox explains tax reform for Tax Day plus taxes and economics for the eighth year of Crazy Eddie's Motie News

"Happy" Tax Day!  Instead of writing about Tax Marches today, which I might do tomorrow, I am following up on Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Vox explain how tax brackets work with more videos from Vox about taxes.

I begin with The 70% top tax rate, explained with potatoes.

Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez called for a 70 percent top tax rate on the super rich.
While it might seem like a radical idea, it's actually based on an economic theory that tries to make everyone as well-off as possible.

How can we make all citizens as well-off as possible? That's the simple question behind something call "optimal tax theory." It starts from this idea that, to a rich person, one dollar is worth almost nothing. Take away the dollar and he'll be just as well off as he was before. But that dollar is worth a lot to poor people. So, if the government wants to optimize the well-being of its citizens, it should tax that money from the rich and give it to the poor. But at a certain point, we can't keep taxing the rich more. To find out why, watch this video.
That's a good explanation of why 70%.  Personally, I'd settle for 50% as the top tax rate.

Next, A better way to tax the rich.

American wealth inequality is staggering. A wealth tax, which would hone in on the money people actually have, rather than just the money we earn and spend, could be a solution.
An astounding amount of American wealth lies with very few ultrarich people. But it isn’t taxed by the federal government. That's because most of the taxes we pay only happen when money changes hands — when we earn it or spend it.

This is what a recent proposal from Senator Elizabeth Warren tries to fix. Her plan is to tax fortunes greater than $50 million at 2 percent each year, and wealth greater than $1 billion at 3 percent. When you add it all up, those tiny slivers of massive fortunes would raise enough revenue to pay for huge programs for everyone else.
My opinion of a wealth tax is that it is a good idea that might be unconstitutional.  This is why I voted against term limits in Michigan in 1992.  I thought it was a good idea at the time (I have since changed my mind) but the provision for U.S. Representatives and Senators was blatantly unconstitutional.  I wouldn't vote for a ballot measure that would cause the state to spend money in a losing effort to defend it, which is what ended up happening.  Therefore, I'm not supporting a wealth tax without a constitutional amendment.  Better to lower threshold for the estate tax to reduce intergenerational transfer of wealth and its subsequent concentration.

Finally, Why Republicans failed to fit taxes onto a postcard.

For years, Republicans have proposed making the tax code so simple that Americans could file their taxes on a single postcard.
So when they got the chance to reform taxes in 2017, they made sure to design and implement a postcard-sized tax return.

In reality, the postcard isn’t what they say it is. While it’s half the size of the old form, the new form is more condensed than simplified. Important deductions and tax credits, still exist, but they’ve been moved onto other forms. In order to file taxes with the new form, you could end up attaching six or more extra pieces of paper.

Republicans didn’t really simplify the tax code, but they still tried to simplify the tax return form.
Add that to the reasons I think the 2017 tax bill was a bad idea.

This entry is part of a series of retrospectives on the most read entries of the eighth year of this blog, so follow over the jump for the stories behind the page views of the two most read posts about taxes and the economy from last year.

Sunday, April 14, 2019

Coffee Party USA announces the winners of the 2018 Golden Coffee Cups for movies

The volunteers of Coffee Party USA have voted on the nominees for the 2018 Coffee Party Entertainment Awards for movies, also known as the Golden Coffee Cups, so it's time to announce the winners.  "BlacKKKlansman" won Best Drama or Comedy about Politics or Government of 2017 AKA the Best Political Scripted Movie.  Chadwick Boseman won two awards, Best Portrayal of a Government Official in a Film and Best Performance by an Actor in a Political Film for his role as T'Challa, King of Wakanda, in "Black Panther."  "RBG" won two awards, first for Best Documentary about Politics or Government and the second for its subject, Ruth Bader Ginsberg, as Best Appearance of a Government Official in a Documentary.  Congratulations to all the winners for depicting what the volunteers of Coffee Party USA considered to be the best of politics and government in film during 2018!

Movies are not the only type of entertainment Coffee Party USA recognizes.  The volunteers will also be voting on the nominees and winners of the Golden Coffee Cup for television programs and their performers that demonstrate the best in politics and government.  Watch for an announcement of the nominees from the 2017-2018 television season next month followed by the nominees of the 2018-2019 season in the summer.

Coffee Party USA ia a 501c(4) nonprofit social welfare organization dedicated to empowering and connecting communities to reclaim our government for the people.  To support its efforts, which include educating the public on our website and on our Facebook page, registering people to vote with our partners TurboVote and National Voter Registration Day, and reminding them to vote through our Voter Buddy program, please consider donating.  A donation of $10.00 for ten years of Coffee Party USA is recommended.*  For those who wish to give at a higher level of support and be more involved in the organization, please consider becoming a member.  To do the valuable work of the Coffee Party, as well as vote for future Golden Coffee Cup nominees and winners, volunteer.  Not only will Coffee Party USA thank you for it, so will the country!

Follow over the jump for the nominees plus my commentary about the winners.

Saturday, April 13, 2019

Massive crater discovered under Greenland for Apophis Day 2019

Stay tuned for this year's celebration of Apophis Day, when I observe the perils of space.  Asteroids!
When I promised my readers that in yesterday's NASA on returning to the Moon for Yuri's Night 2019, I had no idea what I would find.  What a little searching for videos about asteroid impacts posted since Apophis Day 2018 yielded was quite the surprise.  Science Magazine presents an overview of the discovery along with its implications in Massive crater under Greenland's ice points to climate-altering impact in the time of humans.

The 31-kilometer-wide Hiawatha crater may have formed as recently as 12,800 years ago when a 1.5-kilometer asteroid struck Earth.
NASA Goddard has more of the story behind the find as well as more details about the techniques used in Massive Crater Discovered Under Greenland Ice.

In a remote area of northwest Greenland, an international team of scientists has made a stunning discovery, buried beneath a kilometer of ice. It’s a meteor impact crater, 300 meters deep and bigger than Paris or the Beltway around Washington, DC. It is one of the 25 largest known impact craters on Earth, and the first found under any of our planet’s ice sheets. The researchers first spotted the crater in July 2015, while they were inspecting a new map of the topography beneath Greenland's ice sheet that used ice-penetrating radar data primarily from Operation IceBridge, an ongoing NASA airborne mission to track changes in polar ice, and earlier NASA airborne missions in Greenland.
I think this is quite the discovery, but it did not come as a complete surprise.  I wrote about the possibility six years ago in Hot (not): a cold blast from the past.
Ice core data supports ancient space impact idea
By Simon Redfern Reporter, BBC News
August 1, 2013
New data from Greenland ice cores suggest North America may have suffered a large cosmic impact about 12,900 years ago.

A layer of platinum is seen in ice of the same age as a known abrupt climate transition, US scientists report.

The climate flip has previously been linked to the demise of the North American "Clovis" people.

The data seem to back the idea that an impact tipped the climate into a colder phase, a point of current debate.
The tip back to a colder climate is not the issue.  In fact, it's a key point of "An Inconvenient Truth," which I'm showing to my Environmental Science class this week.  Here's the relevant question from the worksheet.
What is the likely effect of the melting of the Greenland ice cap on ocean circulation and global climate?
In the movie, the idea is that the release of meltwater from a large glacial lake diluted the Gulf Stream, causing the water to become less dense and unable to sink to the bottom of the ocean off Greenland, jamming up the global thermohaline circulation and sending the planet back into an ice age for another thousand years.  An analogous melt of water from the Greenland icecap, which is beginning to happen, would do much the same thing, slowing ocean circulation and cooling Europe.  Both of those are indeed taking place.

The effect of the proposed meteor impact would be that the explosion itself caused the flood and then added the cooling effects of all the dust from the impact on top of it.  That doesn't mean that the slowing of the Gulf Stream and cooling of the area around the North Atlantic isn't going to happen; it already is.  Instead, it means that the magnitude of the cooling that results won't be as big as happened 12,900 years ago.  That might actually be a good thing.

Another thing the impact would do would be to lessen the culpability of humans in the extinction of large mammals in North America and Europe at the time.  Humans definitely contributed, but a meteor impact would definitely shift some of the responsibility off of our ancestors.  It would also make the case for the deadliness of asteroid impacts, as if that wasn't already in the news.
It looks like the crater responsible for the layer of platinum may have been found.  Also, I just finished showing "An Inconvenient Truth" to my students this week.  What an interesting coincidence!

That's it for Apophis Day.  Stay tuned for the winners of the 2018 Coffee Party Entertainment Awards for movies.

Friday, April 12, 2019

NASA on returning to the Moon for Yuri's Night 2019

Happy Yuri's Night, the day of the year when I celebrate the promise of space!  On that theme, I am updating NASA's plan to return to the Moon, which featured prominently in 2018 at NASA.  Without any further ado, I present NASA Administrator Bridenstine Speaks at 35th Space Symposium on the Moon to discuss NASA's five-year plan to return humans to the Moon.

NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine delivered a keynote address April 9 during the 35th Space Symposium in Colorado Springs, Colorado. During his speech, Bridenstine outlined NASA’s accelerated plans to send American astronauts to the Moon’s South Pole by 2024. The president’s direction from Space Policy Directive-1 galvanizes NASA’s return to the Moon and builds on progress on the Space Launch System rocket and Orion spacecraft, collaborations with U.S industry and international partners, and knowledge gained from current robotic assets at the Moon and Mars.
As I repeated last Moon Day, "As I wrote first in Trump pulls a Gingrich on space and again in Bill Nye and I get our wish from Trump on Mars, sort of, 'space policy is the one area where Trump might actually be good for the country.'  I hope I'm right."

Of course, the reason that it's Yuri's Night on April 12th is that this is the date when Yuri Gagarin became the first human in space (in fact, he was the first to orbit the Earth).  With that in mind, watch the Interview with Yuri's Night Los Angeles Organizers by KTLA 5, broadcast the same day that Bridenstone gave his presentation above.

My readers can watch a video of last year's celebration in Science fact and science fiction for Yuri's Night 2018 and the year before's at Celebrate Yuri's Night 2017 with 'Star Trek' actors and NASA.  Both of them look like they were great fun.

That's it for Yuri's Night.  Stay tuned for this year's celebration of Apophis Day, when I observe the perils of space.  Asteroids!

Thursday, April 11, 2019

Last Week Tonight with John Oliver on Brexit, which is now delayed until October 31, plus John Oliver for the eighth year of Crazy Eddie's Motie News

I concluded Trump Administration designating Iranian Revolutionary Guards a terrorist organization updates 'U.S. leaving Iran nuclear agreement pushes U.S. oil price above $70 plus driving update for May 2018: Pearl,' a top post of the eighth year of Crazy Eddie's Motie News by telling my readers to "stay tuned" as "The next entry in the series will feature a John Oliver video on Brexit to update all of the top posts from last year about John Oliver."  Without any further ado, I present Brexit III.

The UK could officially leave the European Union next month, which would be a huge change with hugely damaging consequences.
When the segment aired, Brexit was scheduled for March 29th.  Since then, it's been delayed twice, first for April 12th, which is tomorrow, then today it was postponed again until October 31st.  Euronews has the story in Live: EU leaders offer Theresa May a Brexit delay til Oct 31.

The Brexit delay, according to Reuters, would also be reviewed in June. According to diplomats, French President Emmanuel Macron opposed the efforts by the summit to give the British Prime Minister another year.
Well, that will make for a Happy Halloween, whether or not the date gets changed at the end of June.  Speaking of which, I haven't focused on Brexit here since I wrote Oil falls after Brexit vote, pushing prices even lower nearly three years ago.  It looks like I'll have to start paying attention again, if only to see if it will actually happen.

Follow over the jump for all of the top posts from the eighth year of this blog that featured John Oliver videos.

Wednesday, April 10, 2019

Trump Administration designating Iranian Revolutionary Guards a terrorist organization updates 'U.S. leaving Iran nuclear agreement pushes U.S. oil price above $70 plus driving update for May 2018: Pearl,' a top post of the eighth year of Crazy Eddie's Motie News

When I wrote "I need you to stick around to the next post in the series, which would most likely be about the intersection between foreign policy and the economy.  Trade policy, anyone?" to close The 2018-2019 flu season is experiencing a second wave, an update to 'Flu killed 80,000 Americans last year, including 183 children, the CDC reported, so get a a flu shot', I though I would be embedding a John Oliver video.  Instead, the intervening week provided me a story even more on topic for updating U.S. leaving Iran nuclear agreement pushes U.S. oil price above $70 plus driving update for May 2018: Pearl, the sixth most read entry of the eighth year of this blog.  Watch VOA News report Iran's Revolutionary Guard Joins Hezbollah, IS, al-Qaida On US Terror List.

The Trump administration announced Monday that it is designating Iran's Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) and its Quds Force as a foreign terrorist organization. U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Iran's military is joining the list of terrorist groups it has been sponsoring. Labeling the IRGC a terrorist organization will allow the United States to impose further sanctions on Iran and cripple the businesses that finance the military. VOA's Zlatica Hoke reports.
Treat this as an official news release from the U.S. Government, as VOA stands for Voice of America, a government funded news service intended for foreign consumption.

As someone who praised the Iran nuclear deal and thought (and still thinks) leaving it was a bad decision, I looked for a critical response and found it in CBS News' "Unprecedented" move to label Iran's Revolutionary Guard a terrorist group.

The Trump administration is ramping up its maximum pressure campaign against Tehran as it has moved to designate the elite Iranian military force as a terrorist group. CBS News State Department reporter Christina Ruffini joins CBSN with more.
This could increase the risk for U.S. troops in an already dangerous region, especially after Iran retaliated by labeling U.S. Central Command a terrorist organization.  It could also increase tensions enough to start a war, something I started worrying about on this blog back in 2011.  I don't think that will happen, but as I wrote eight years ago, stranger things have happened.

It turns out that this story has an angle about Trump's corruption and hypocrisy.  The Rachel Maddow Show on MSNBC revisted that in Iran Military Unit's New Terror Label Ignores Past Donald Trump Business.

Rachel Maddow revisits the past reporting by the New Yorker's Adam Davidson on Donald Trump's recent business relationship with Iran's Revolutionary Guard, and the irony of the Trump administration's new declaration that doing business with the Revolutionary Guard is "bankrolling terrorism."
"Orchid-shaped" — now that's a good euphemism.  At least the building didn't have rose-colored glass.  That would have been too much.

Follow over the jump for how this entry and another on the U.S. leaving the Iran Nuclear Agreement got their page views.

Tuesday, April 9, 2019

Colbert and Meyers take closer looks at Kirstjen Nielsen's resignation

As I've done before, it's time to follow a serious story with a comedic take on it.  This time, it's the resignation of Kirstjen Nielsen, which opened and closed yesterday's MSNBC's Jacob Soboroff earns a Cronkite Award for coverage of family separation at the border.  Take it away, The Late Show with Stephen Colbert as the writers present The Kirstjen Nielsen Farewell Card Collectjion.

Looking for the perfect way to say goodbye to Kirstjen Nielsen?
As someone wrote in the comments, "All of these cards are delightfully vicious."

Colbert himself devoted his monologue to the forced resignation and the immigration policies that led to it, beginning with Caging Kids Isn't Tough Enough For Trump.

Sorry, Kirstjen. Spearheading a policy that separates parents from their children just isn't cruel enough for the White House anymore.
Colbert made the same point I did yesterday, that whoever replaces Nielsen will likely be worse, although that didn't stop his studio audience from cheering at her resignation.  At least they booed Stephen Miller.

Colbert continued with Trump's anti-immigration policies in Trump's 'Our Country Is Full' Is The New 'Lock Her Up'.

Point: the law says those fleeing persecution from Central American countries can request asylum in the United States. Trump's counterpoint: 'Country is FULL!'
As someone who lives six miles away from an empty Detroit, I can tell Trump that the country is not full and Detroit could use more immigrants.

Colbert mentioned that accepting people applying for asylum, at least as long as the process to decide on their application, is the law.  Trump doesn't want to follow the law, which Seth Meyers expanded upon in Trump Lashes Out over Immigration and His Tax Returns: A Closer Look. where he took on Nielsen's resignation and more, putting it in the context of Trump's lawlessness.

Seth takes a closer look at President Trump reminding everyone he considers himself above the law.
As Wikipedia points out, "The President must 'take care that the laws be faithfully executed.'"  Trump is not doing that when it comes to immigration and the circumstances of Nielsen's resignation serve as one example, along with his defiance on his tax returns.

Monday, April 8, 2019

MSNBC's Jacob Soboroff earns a Cronkite Award for coverage of family separation at the border

The resignation of Kirstjen Nielsen yesterday helped me make up my mind about which winner of the Cronkite Awards to feature next.  Watch the University of Southern California Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism's compilation of clips featuring Jacob Soboroff of MSNBC covering the effects of the Trump Administration's family separation policy.

Jacob Soboroff (NBC News/MSNBC) was one of the first national reporters to break the story on conditions of children separated from their parents at the border under the Trump administration’s zero tolerance policy. Though cameras were not allowed into detention centers, Soboroff was able to explain the situation “with clarity and descriptive analysis that was as powerful as any visual,” the judges said. He kept the story on the nation’s agenda, he stayed with the story, and his coverage had impact: it helped push the Trump administration into a rare policy reversal.
Congratulations to Soboroff and keep up the good work documenting this cruel policy.  Unfortunately, this policy may not have been cruel enough for Trump's liking.  As the New York Times warns its readers, Kirstjen Nielsen Enforced Cruelty at the Border. Her Replacement Could Be Worse.
Ms. Nielsen’s departure is seen by some as part of a broader restructuring of her department. Just two days before meeting with the secretary, the president withdrew his nomination for the next head of the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency, saying that he wanted to go in a “tougher direction.” Presumably he plans to chart a similar course with Ms. Nielsen’s successor.

For now, Ms. Nielsen’s acting replacement will be Kevin McAleenan, the commissioner of Customs and Border Protection. This leaves Homeland Security without a top official at either of its critical immigration agencies. It comes as the swell of migrant families across the border pushes the system toward collapse.

Within this leadership vacuum, it seems likely that more influence will be exerted by Mr. Miller, who inspires and reinforces Mr. Trump’s harshest ideas on immigrants and immigration.

The House speaker, Nancy Pelosi, said of Ms. Nielsen’s departure, “It is deeply alarming that the Trump administration official who put children in cages is reportedly resigning because she is not extreme enough for the White House’s liking.”
If you are someone who thinks that the cruelty of these policies are counterproductive, as I do, you need to be reminded of what Adam Serwer wrote in The Atlantic: The Cruelty Is the Point.  That's a chilling thought.

Previous entries about the Cronkite Awards.

Sunday, April 7, 2019

Coffee Party Entertainment Awards movie nominees for 2018

Yesterday, I told my readers to "stay tuned for this year's nominees for the Coffee Party Entertainment Awards for movies.  Politics and entertainment!"  The volunteers of Coffee Party USA and I have been voting on which movies and people to recognize for the past two weeks for The Coffee Party Entertainment Awards AKA The Golden Coffee Cups and last week we came up with nominees in five categories showcasing the best in movies from 2018 about politics and government.  Here they are!

I begin with the nominees for Best Drama or Comedy about Politics or Government of 2018 (Best Political Scripted Movie for short).

Black Panther
First Man
On the Basis of Sex
The Death of Stalin
The Hate U Give

To go along with the movies, the volunteers of Coffee Party USA also chose performers for two other categories.  The first is Best Portrayal of a Government Official in a Film during 2018.

Steve Buscemi as Nikita Krushchev in The Death of Stalin
Chadwick Boseman as King T'Challa in Black Panther
Christian Bale as Vice President Dick Cheney in Vice
Olivia Colman as Queen Anne in The Favourite
Sam Rockwell as President George W. Bush in Vice
Saoirse Ronan as Queen Mary Stuart in Mary Queen of Scots
Rachel Weisz as Lady Sarah Churchill, Duchess of Marlborough in The Favourite

The second is Best Actor in a Political Film during 2018 (all roles, not just politicians).

Steve Buscemi as Nikita Krushchev in The Death of Stalin
Chadwick Boseman as King T'Challa in Black Panther
Olivia Colman as Queen Anne in The Favourite
Felicity Jones as Ruth Bader Ginsberg in On the Basis of Sex
Michael B. Jordan as Killmonger in Black Panther
LaKeith Stanfield as Cassius Green in Sorry to Bother You
John David Washington as Ron Stallworth in BlacKKKlansman

There were ties for fourth or fifth place in all the above categories, so there were more than five nominees.  The same was not true of the documentary category, Best Documentary about Politics or Government of 2018 (Best Political Documentary for short), where there are only five nominees.

Dark Money
Fahrenheit 11/9
John McCain: For Whom the Bell Tolls
Mercury 13

Just as there is a category to recognize actors playing politicians and activists in scripted films, there is also one to recognize actual politicians and government officials in documentaries, Best Appearance of a Government Official in a Documentary during 2018.

Jim Acosta in Fahrenheit 11/9
Ruth Bader Ginsberg in RBG
John Glenn in Mercury 13
Barack Obama in Fahrenheit 11/9
Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez in Fahrenheit 11/9
Richard Ojeda in Fahrenheit 11/9

Yes, there was another tie, so there are more than six nominees.

In summary, the scripted film with the most nominations is Black Panther with four, followed by The Death of Stalin, The Favourite, and Vice with three each, then BlacKKKlansman and On the Basis of Sex with two.  Mary Queen of Scots, Sorry to Bother You, and The Hate U Give have nomination apiece.  The most nominated documentary is Fahrenheit 11/9 with five nominations, followed by RBG and Mercury 13 with two each.  Dark Money and John McCain: For Whom the Bell Tolls earned one nomination apiece.

The volunteers will vote on the nominees this week.  I plan on announcing the winners here on April 14.  Stay tuned.

Saturday, April 6, 2019

Following the measles outbreak in the U.S. and Michigan

Not only is the 2018-2019 flu season underway, but there are measles outbreaks in the United States going on right now, this after the disease was declared eliminated in 2000.  For an overview, watch How the anti-vax movement brought the measles back from near extinction from USA Today.

Measles, mumps and rubella: Why are we starting to see the return of these diseases in the U.S.? It begins with the anti-vax movement.

A measles outbreak in Rockland County, New York, has forced officials to declare a state of emergency in the sixth and largest outbreak across the United States this year, according to the CDC. The New York County has identified 157 measles cases since October, causing health officials to ban anyone under 18 and not vaccinated against measles from public places. The ban will last for 30 days or until the entire community is vaccinated.
Rockland County in New York may have the largest and best publicized outbreak in the country, but it isn't the only one.  Another one is taking place in the Michigan where I live and work.  In fact, the center of the outbreak is only a mile away from where I do most of my teaching.  WDIV reported on the outbreak last week in Tracking the measles outbreak.

There has been a outbreak of the measles virus in Oakland county, with 18 confirmed cases since March 13.
I shop at the Meijer shown in the video, which is on the way home from work, so this really hits close to home.

Since then, the outbreak has spread, as Fox 47 in Lansing reported earlier this week in Michigan measles outbreak growing.

After several new confirmed cases of measles in Michigan, State Health officials are closely watching the outbreak of the virus thought to be long gone in the United States.
I'm sure I was vaccinated as a kid in California more than 50 years ago, but I don't know if I got a booster.  I think I will call my mom to see if she remembers.

In the meantime, stay tuned for this year's nominees for the Coffee Party Entertainment Awards for movies.  Politics and entertainment!

Friday, April 5, 2019

The 2018-2019 flu season is experiencing a second wave, an update to 'Flu killed 80,000 Americans last year, including 183 children, the CDC reported, so get a a flu shot'

I told my readers at the end of Wonkette reacts to its Media Bias Chart placement, an update to 'A comparison of two measures of media bias shows readers and viewers respond to both ideology and quality' to "stay tuned" as "I plan on continuing this retrospective series tomorrow with an installment on last year's flu epidemic."  That's because Flu killed 80,000 Americans last year, including 183 children, the CDC reported, so get a a flu shot posted October 19, 2018 was the fifth most read entry of the eighth year of the blog, earning 7176 raw page views by March 20, 2019.  It was also the most read entry during October 2018 with 7061 default page views.  That deserves an update about the current flu season, which, while less severe than last year, is hanging on longer.

At first, it looked like flu season was winding down in February, as WXYZ reported in 28 children have died so far in 2018-2019 flu season, CDC reports.

The CDC has released a new estimate concerning flu-related deaths. The numbers range between 9,600 to almost 16,000 deaths for the 2018-2019 flu season. And so far, 28 children have died.
Despite the dire numbers of deaths, I found the statistics for effectiveness of the vaccine to be reassuring.  That written, the indications that the current flu season would be relatively mild turned out to be premature, as the Mayo Clinic reported a month later in Infectious Diseases A-Z: Flu season part two.

The replacement of H1N1 with H3N2, producing more severe symptoms, started showing up in news reports almost immediately.  For example, CBS Los Angeles uploaded Hard Hitting Flu Season Is Peaking the very next day.

If you thought flu season was winding down you better think again. A lot of people are coming down with the bug. A new strain of the flu is hitting people hard. As CBSLA's Jasmine Veil explains, it's peaking now.
At the end of the week, WISN in Wisconsin reported Flu season far from over.

With the flu season far from over, state health officials warn of a spring flu spike. There have been 36 influenza-related deaths in Wisconsin this season.
The wave continued this week with WCVB in Boston reporting Massachusetts health officials report 4th child flu death of season.

Last year, the state saw just one flu-related pediatric death.
The Delaware News Journal updated the flu statistics for Delaware and the country just yesterday in State: Influenza A still raging; 2018-2019 flu season now has 2nd highest number of cases.
The 2018-2019 flu season has tallied the second-highest number of influenza cases in state-recorded history — and likely isn't going to go away for weeks, state officials said Thursday.
As of March 23, the state has confirmed 5,854 confirmed cases of influenza, 943 hospitalizations and 20 deaths this season. The actual number of confirmed flu cases is much higher because only a small fraction of cases are officially tested in a lab.

Nationally, there have been about 508,000 flu hospitalizations and 46,800 deaths, CDC officials said.
Am I ever glad I got my vaccination this year.  As for the rest of you, stay healthy.  I need you to stick around to the next post in the series, which would most likely be about the intersection between foreign policy and the economy.  Trade policy, anyone?

Previous posts in this series
Previous retrospectives about risk and doom.

Thursday, April 4, 2019

Wonkette reacts to its Media Bias Chart placement, an update to 'A comparison of two measures of media bias shows readers and viewers respond to both ideology and quality'

I left off this series by telling my readers "I plan on resuming this series on April 4th with a retrospective about the most read entries covering media bias."  That's today, so it's time to fulfill my promise by updating A comparison of two measures of media bias shows readers and viewers respond to both ideology and quality, the third most read entry during the eighth year of the blog.

Of all the stories I could have used to follow up on this entry, which was the last one to enter the all-time top ten, the rating of Wonkette is by far the funniest.  Ad Fontes Media, which produces the Media Bias Chart, placed Wonkette on the chart in September 2018, one month after I posted the entry.  Wonkette was not pleased and had pointed things to say about its placement.
Here at Wonkette, we often make #jokes in our headlines and say things that are not literally true for humor purposes, and when we do that it's pretty fucking spelled out, honestly. For instance, when we wrote that Pat Robertson beat up Hurricane Florence with his Bible and now Hurricane Florence is dead, we do not expect Ms. Otero to literally believe the hurricane is gone because Robertson beat it up!
Shorter Wonkette: Ad Fontes Media has no sense of humor.  I've seen that before.

I'm not sure how Wonkette would react to being called a bunch of evil clowns.  They would probably agree about the clown part, but maybe not the evil, although it would depend on the writer.  I'm sure some of them would take it as a badge of honor.

Back to Wonkette's reaction.
Wonkette is not to the left of Jacobin. In fact, Jacobin would probably tell you that their own selves, verrrrry self-righteously. We are also not to the left of The Intercept.
I would agree we are 'nonsense damaging to discourse' but we're HYPERPARTISAN LEFT not EXTREME LEFT and we do NOT BELONG IN MISLEADING, we belong in EXTREME/UNFAIR INTERPRETATION OF THE NEWS.
In other words, "Yeah, we're biased, but not that biased!"  According to their own view of their site, it belongs on that chart next to Daily Kos, not where it is the the left of Jacobin (I agree, that's silly) and just above Patribotics (that's insulting).

Ad Fontes Media responded to Wonkette's reaction.
The main reasons for Wonkette’s low quality placement are that in our ranking methodology, highly unfair characterizations of political opponents, such as ad hominem attacks, name calling, and foul language result in low scores for quality and high scores for bias—even if it’s for humor.

I see they object to this. I am not calling them “fake news.” That term is not on the chart. Note that the category they are in for quality is “propaganda/ contains misleading info,” which is an “and/or” category. That is, the category is propaganda OR misleading. My ranking categorized them as “propaganda” because its articles get such high scores in the “unfairness instances” metric on the article grading rubric. Propaganda is defined in the Oxford English Dictionary as “information, especially of a biased or misleading nature, used to promote or publicize a particular political cause or point of view.” Many Wonkette headlines are also misleading—for example, though the headline says otherwise, the chart does not say it is “fake news,” and, it is ranked meaningfully higher than Louise Mensch’s blog, Patribotics. However, Wonkette’s articles can be categorized more often as “propaganda” than “misleading.”
That was Ad Fontes Media's justification of its placement of Wonkette.  What about Wonkette's defense that it's all a joke?
“It’s funny/it’s just a joke/it’s “clever snark”

This is true. Their writing is hilarious, especially as viewed through the lens of other liberal, internet savvy, politically astute readers who love a sick burn. However, things that are funny can also be unfair at the same time. So insults, ad hominem attacks, curse words, and name calling, WHILE VERY FUNNY, are still unfair means of persuasion. We categorize several rhetorical devices and statements as unfair in our rankings. A general guideline for what counts as “unfair” are 1) practices not in accordance with journalism ethics and writing style guides and 2) types of information that would not be admissible in court according to rules of evidence. I’ve written more on the “unfairness instances” metric in this previous post.

You may not be convinced that funny insults make a source low quality (just merely biased, you may concede), especially if you like and agree with them. If you like Wonkette and the names it calls Republicans and Trump, consider what you would think of the quality of a source on the right if it regularly called Hillary Clinton a bitch or a hag or worse. Also consider what moderate or slightly conservative readers would think of the quality of Wonkette’s stories in terms of how persuasive they are to them.
Ad Fontes Media then goes on from Wonkette to all kinds of political humor.
I admit it was my subjective decision to have that underlying premise, but I submit that this type of content only serves to reinforce one’s existing beliefs and alienate the other side, and is therefore, highly polarizing. There are certainly lots of sources that do this: for example, John Oliver, Bill Maher, and other evening comedy shows also use pretty cruel humor. There is an audience for it because it is cathartic. There is an important place in our discourse and democracy for humor—we need to have the freedom to be able to make fun of our leaders. But to the extent people rely on it for 1) news ( i.e., fact reporting) and 2) takes on the news (i.e., analysis/opinion), I think that kind of content  is highly polarizing, and thus, extremely damaging.

As support for the proposition that it is damaging, I point to the state of our country’s current discourse and the resulting election of our current president.

I’m not saying these sources have no merit. Humor has purpose. I watch these shows. I’ve read lots on Wonkette. But to the extent people rely on these for news, I argue they should not rely on them, and to the extent these sources try to fill the space where news is, they do damage.
That's a sobering thought.  It won't stop me from using John Oliver, Stephen Colbert, Seth Meyers, Trevor Noah, or Samantha Bee to comment on the news, but I will be more cautious about doing so when I could use a more serious news source.

Follow over the jump for how this entry gained its page views, along with a story about how entertainment media shapes our biases as well plus the first appearance of the Media Bias Chart on this blog.