Four more years

The Democratic party responded to hears of Russian election meddling by hacking their own election:

Democratic party officials in Iowa worked furiously Tuesday to deliver the delayed results of their first-in-the-nation caucus, as frustrated presidential candidates claimed momentum and plowed ahead in their quest for the White House.

Technology problems and reporting “inconsistencies” kept Iowa Democratic Party officials from releasing results from Monday’s caucus, the much-hyped kickoff to the 2020 primary. It was an embarrassing twist after months of promoting the contest as a chance for Democrats to find some clarity in a jumbled field with no clear front-runner.

Instead, caucus day ended with no winner, no official results and many fresh questions about whether Iowa can retain its coveted “first” status.

Now I know why @Iowahawk moved to Texas.

Democrats faced the possibility that whatever numbers they ultimately released would be questioned. And beyond 2020, critics began wondering aloud whether the Iowa caucuses, a complicated set of political meetings staged in a state that is whiter and older than the Democratic Party, are a tradition whose time had passed.

The party has tried to accommodate critics, this year by promising to report three different data points about voters’ preferences, presumably improving transparency. But the new system created new headaches.

State party spokeswoman Mandy McClure said it had “found inconsistencies in the reporting of three sets of results,” forcing officials to try to verify results with “underlying data” and the paper trail.

Some of the trouble stemmed from issues with a new mobile app developed to report results to the party. Caucus organizers reported problems downloading the app and other glitches.

Des Moines County Democratic Chair Tom Courtney said the new app created “a mess.” As a result, Courtney said precinct leaders were phoning in results to the state party headquarters, which was too busy to answer their calls in some cases.

Organizers were still looking for missing results several hours after voting concluded.

If the Republican Party is the Terminator, the Democratic Party is C3P0. How on earth do you screw it up this badly, at such an important time? They should be united in the fight to take down a uniquely harmful President, but now they’re fighting among themselves. As usual.

Trump can’t win in 2020. But Democrats can lose in 2020, and they almost certainly will.

The Democratic candidate who does come out of this mess looking the best is probably Mike Bloomberg. I certainly didn’t agree with all of his policies as mayor of New York, but at least he was competent at it. And his decision to avoid wasting time in Iowa (and New Hampshire) now looks like a stroke of genius.

Pornhub Hubbub

One one hand, I’m sympathetic to people whose disabilities aren’t being accommodated by the companies they’re dealing with.

On the other hand…I’m pretty sure the dialogue isn’t important, my friend.

A deaf man is suing porn websites for discriminating against him.

On Jan. 16, Yaroslav Suris filed a complaint in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York against Pornhub, a Canadian pornographic video-sharing website, as well as parent company MindGeek and sister websites RedTube and YouPorn, reported Global News.

Suris, who is deaf, alleged that the absence of a closed-captioning feature in most of the website’s videos amounted to discrimination against deaf and hard-of-hearing people under the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Suris explained that the lack of captions prevented him from appreciating the videos because he could not fully understand the storyline or the dialogue. “He couldn’t follow the plot of a police interrogation or a disciplinary moment involving a babysitter, according to the court documents obtained by TMZ,” said Global News.

The Community Volunteer Tax Program

I often deal with clients who haven’t prepared their tax returns because they don’t know what to do, or they can’t afford an accountant or tax preparation service. It’s a massive pain, especially when they have to file statements of income with the court. So I was intrigued by this CBC News report:

The federal government is on an urgent search for more volunteers to help with a program that completes free tax returns for people with modest incomes, after it was forced to turn some families away in Nova Scotia last year.

The Canada Revenue Agency is willing to train people who want to complete simple tax returns, even if they’re only available to help for one day out of the entire tax season.

[…]

The Community Volunteer Income Tax Program helps people with modest incomes, which is defined by different income levels and depends on the size of the family. A family of four earning $50,000 or less would qualify, as long as they have a simple tax return.

CRA places volunteers in community centres, churches and libraries across the country. 

Last year, 33,000 Nova Scotians took advantage of the service.

I just signed up. You can do so at this link.

Don't take any moment for granted

On Saturday, Kobe Bryant congratulated LeBron James for passing him on the NBA’s all-time scoring list. On Sunday he was gone, alongside his 13 year-old daughter and seven others.

Kobe was 41 years old. Four years younger than me.

When I heard the shocking news, I remembered the Daily Stoic article I’d received by email last week:

I took my younger son to his Jr. NBA program on Saturday, and while I was fiddling with my phone camera to take a picture of him taking a shot, I didn’t even see if he’d scored. There’s a lesson there.

The Vaxxed Question

A highly controversial, heavily criticized and allegedly harmful and offensive movie is being shown in the Halifax area. But enough about Doolittle. Let’s talk about Vaxxed II: The People’s Truth:

Halifax says it will not cancel the upcoming screening of an anti-vaccination film at a municipal facility later this month.

A spokesperson for the Halifax Regional Municipality (HRM) said the Banquet Room in the LeBrun Recreation Centre on Jan. 31 was originally booked by an individual for $345.

“After the booking, it came to the municipality’s attention that the individual was representing an organization,” Maggie-Jane Spray said in an email.

The film, Vaxxed II: The People’s Truth, promotes the unfounded claim that vaccines cause autism or other developmental problems, which they refer to as “vaccine injuries.”

[…]

Multiple studies, including one that involved nearly every child born in Denmark over an 11-year period, have shown that there is no link between autism and vaccination.

The original study that sparked the debunked claim was published in the journal the Lancet in 1998 by Andrew Wakefield and linked the measles, mumps and rubella vaccine to autism.

The publication of the study led to a widespread increase in the number of parents choosing not to vaccinate their children for fear of its link to autism.

But Wakefield’s findings have since been widely rejected and the Lancet formally retracted the study in 2010, due to serious flaws and an undisclosed conflict of interest.

I don’t think the city should cancel the screening. In a free society, public spaces like libraries shouldn’t be open only to those with views acceptable to the government. That’s an open door for all kinds of abuse by the state.

These guys should be free to speak their piece about vaccines, and I in turn should be free to tell them their uneducated potatoes who apparently believe a child is better dead than autistic. Which, as the parent of a child on the autism spectrum, is something I take personally.

There is absolutely no evidence that vaccines cause autism, and Andrew Wakefield, the “doctor” who first made this conspiracy theory socially acceptable is a sociopathic con artist. And guess who’s in this movie, alongside nepotism poster child RFK Junior?

The judge was angry that day, my friends, like an old man trying to send back soup in a deli

When I heard that an Alberta judge had invoked George Costanza in one of his decisions, I assumed it had something to do with his (completely accurate) assertion that it’s not a lie if you believe it. But no:

A justice has allowed an Edmonton man’s appeal based on an unusual precedent set not by law but by Seinfeld’s own George Costanza.

In “The Kiss Hello,” Episode 17 of Season 6, Costanza cancels a physiotherapy appointment within 24 hours. Later, he finds out he has been charged a $75 fee, and would face a second fee if he were to cancel the next day’s appointment.

But when he shows up at the office the next day, a receptionist informs him the physiotherapist has “personal affairs she had to attend to,” and that the office left a voicemail message.

“I’m sorry, I require 24 hours for a cancellation,” he says.

“Now, as I see it, you owe me $75. Will that be cash or cheque?”

[…]

On Thursday, a Court of Queen’s Bench of Alberta justice found parallels between Costanza’s predicament and that of a local man.

The man’s appeal and request for a new trial date came after a months-long “bungling” of dates and times by both Court and the appellant.

Mr. Chiles, you’ve done it again.

Houston Asterisks

I don’t care much about baseball, so I don’t really have a dog in this fight. But Rick Morrissey of the ChicagoSun-Times asks a good question: if the Houston Astros will be allowed to keep their tainted 2017 World Series title, what’s the argument for un-personing Pete Rose?

For the longest time, I had zero tolerance for the lying, gambling, hair-dyeing Rose. Major League Baseball had given him a lifetime ban for wagering on big-league games as a player and as a manager, making him ineligible for Cooperstown induction. With a laptop in one hand and a Hall ballot in the other, I railed against him. He had damaged the game, and there was no place for him wherever honors were being handed out.

But then Monday happened. Major League Baseball punished the Astros for their enthusiastic cheating on the way to the 2017 World Series title. It suspended manager AJ Hinch and general manager Jeff Luhnow for the 2020 season for their part in a sign-stealing scandal, fined the franchise $5 million and took away its next two first- and second-round draft picks. Soon after the announcement, the Astros fired both men.

That might seem like a harsh punishment, but it doesn’t address the result of all that cheating: the World Series title. Winning one is the ultimate team accomplishment in baseball. There’s no way to dilute the fact that Houston conned its way to a championship. An MLB investigation showed that the Astros used the sign-stealing system during the 2017 regular season and into the postseason.

[…]

All of this paves the way, at least intellectually, for the recognition of Rose in the Hall of Fame. He and the Astros both committed cardinal sins in the eyes of baseball, but only one of them is a complete pariah.

The Hall will be forced to acknowledge in some way that the Astros’ 2017 World Series title, and possibly Boston’s 2018 title, was tainted by cheating. But a lifetime ban means Rose can’t get inducted into the Hall. The scales of justice seem to have some balance issues.

Divorce trial by combat

Honestly, compared to several family law matters in which I’ve been involved, this would be much less painful:

A Kansas man has asked an Iowa judge to let him engage in a sword fight with his ex-wife and her attorney in a trial by combat that will settle their ongoing legal dispute.

David Ostrom, 40, of Paola, Kansas, said in a 3 January court filing that his former wife, Bridgette Ostrom, 38, of Harlan, Iowa, and her attorney, Matthew Hudson, had “destroyed (him) legally”.

The judge had the power to let the parties “resolve our disputes on the field of battle, legally,” David Ostrom said, adding in his filing that trial by combat “has never been explicitly banned or restricted as a right in these United States”.

He also asked the judge for 12 weeks’ time so he could secure Japanese samurai swords.

Maple Leaf Rage

When I first saw a tweetstorm by Maple Leaf Foods CEO Michael McCain blaming Donald Trump for Iran’s shootdown of Ukranian Airlines Flight 572 – on his company’s official Twitter feed, no less – I was immediately reminded of the immortal words of Ann Coulter:

We should invade their countries, kill their leaders and convert them to Christianity.

The far-right commentator was mourning the loss of her friend Barbara Olson in the 9/11 attacks when she penned these provocative, fiery words. I have no doubt Coulter was sincerely stricken with grief and anger when she wrote this. But that sure doesn’t excuse it.

Michael McCain isn’t nearly as repellent a person as Coulter, and his angry tweets don’t come close to her borderline promotion of genocide. But in both cases, their heartfelt grief led to lash out at people who didn’t deserve it. And, yes, there are many good reasons to lash out against Trump, but this one isn’t on him.

After the Flight 752 disaster killed his colleague’s wife and 11-year-old son, Michael McCain, chief executive of Maple Leaf Foods Inc., took to Twitter on Sunday night to admonish the Trump administration for escalating tensions with Iran.

“I am very angry, and time isn’t making me less angry,” McCain wrote on Maple Leaf Foods’ official Twitter account. “A MLF colleague of mine lost his wife and family this week to a needless, irresponsible series of events in Iran.”

McCain is at the helm of a major Canadian meat processing empire, with 12,500 employees and production facilities in Canada and the U.S., including a planned $310-million plant-based protein plant in Indiana.

[…]

Without ever naming Donald Trump — referring to him instead “a narcissist in Washington” — McCain criticized the president’s abandonment of the Iran nuclear agreement and the recent U.S. killing of Iranian general Qasem Soleimani.

Iran retaliated with missile strikes on U.S. military positions in Iraq, then hours later, Iran fired on Ukrainian Airlines Flight 752, killing all 176 on board, the majority of them en route to Canada via Kiev. After initially denying any involvement, Iran admitted on Friday to shooting down the plane, calling it a “disastrous mistake” caused by human error. Iran said the air defences were fired in error while on alert after the missile strikes on U.S. targets in Iraq.

It would be one thing if McCain blamed Trump and Iran for the shootdown, like this past weekend’s Chronicle Herald cartoon. I still don’t think it would be accurate, but at least it would acknowledge that the people who actually shot down the plane must bear some responsibility or their actions.

But if you knew nothing else about the incident, you would read McCain’s tweets and assume the U.S. shot down the jet. Whether he meant to or not, McCain treats the Iranian government and military not as professionals but as wild animals who just can’t help themselves.

Which, ironically, isn’t that far off from the way people like Coulter view the people of Iran – many of whom are risking their lives to hold their own leaders accountable for this disaster.

It's Iran's fault. Period.

As we argue about who is really responsible for the downing of Ukranian International Airlines Flight 752, Tom Nichols – whose anti-Trump credentials are second to none – places the blame squarely on the country that actually shot down the plane.

Trump is a reckless, ignorant fool. He is not responsible for everything bad that happens in the world, and to say otherwise is to deny everyone else any responsibility for their own actions.

In other contexts, that would be considered racism.

As for Iranian cooperation and openness in finding out what happened, this is not a promising sign: