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The New York Times Has 20 Years of Trump’s Tax Returns

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Russ Buettner, Susanne Craig, and Mike McIntire, reporting for The New York Times:

Donald J. Trump paid $750 in federal income taxes the year he won the presidency. In his first year in the White House, he paid another $750.

He had paid no income taxes at all in 10 of the previous 15 years — largely because he reported losing much more money than he made.

We got him this time for sure.

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kemayo
32 days ago
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St Louis, MO
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The ultimate software taboo

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I have written before about the hidden dangers of unstructured or “flat” organizations. A microcosm of the structure wars is the debate over whether Open Source software projects should adopt explicit codes of conduct. These codes, if not an introduction of true structure, are at least the imposition of a “social API” of sorts.

One objection I’ve seen raised to codes of conduct is that we shouldn’t discriminate against people who write good code but who happen to be assholes. After all, as the argument goes, not everyone is blessed with social graces. And if we exclude those people, we will miss out on their essential technical contributions.

With regard to this argument, a study out of Harvard on “toxic employees” seems apropos:

A worker in the top 1% of work productivity could return $5,303 in cost savings, while avoiding a toxic hire could net an estimated $12,489.

Studies also show that an overall negative culture has tremendously damaging impact on health, productivity, and engagement:

…a large and growing body of research on positive organizational psychology demonstrates that not only is a cut-throat environment harmful to productivity over time, but that a positive environment will lead to dramatic benefits for employers, employees, and the bottom line.

Although there’s an assumption that stress and pressure push employees to perform more, better, and faster, what cutthroat organizations fail to recognize is the hidden costs incurred.

Emma Seppälä and Kim Cameron in Harvard Business Review

These studies are from the realm of business, but it doesn’t seem like too much of a stretch to suggest that the effects extend to volunteer associations as well.

And then there’s this. A new study has found that in a medical setting, rudeness might literally kill:

…a rude comment from a third-party doctor decreased performance among doctors and nurses by more than 50 percent […] “We found that rudeness damages your ability to think, manage information, and make decisions,” said Amir Erez, an author on the study and a Huber Hurst professor of management at the University of Florida. “You can be highly motivated to work, but if rudeness damages your cognitive system then you can’t function appropriately in a complex situation. And that hurts patients.”

This is consistent with what I learned from reading Thinking, Fast and Slow: the human mind draws from a single well of energy. This energy can be sapped in many ways, and processing negativity is one of those ways. Having an asshole in the room doesn’t just raise the bar to entry. It ensures that everyone who has made it into the room won’t be working at their full potential.

Whenever I hear that it is simply impractical to exclude contributions based on social, political, or ethical objections, I think about September 27, 1983. That’s the day Richard Stallman decided that the sociopolitical structures behind the software of his day were morally untenable, and launched a project to replace every single line of code he and others made use of with Free Software.

Discarding millions of lines of existing code. Excluding all of the brilliant programmers who were working within the confines of Free-Software-unfriendly organizations. Clearly, this project was doomed from the start.

And yet here we are, decades later, and this article was almost certainly delivered to you with the help of Free Software. Free Software powers millions of servers, phones, and devices. The GNU replacements for the classic UNIX utility stack, re-written from scratch to satisfy ethical constraints, are widely regarded as being superior to the ones that they replaced. Amazingly, counter-intuitively, rejecting existing work and existing contributors did not render the Free Software movement dead on arrival.

More recently Stallman himself has resisted codes of conduct, and has conducted himself in a way that contributes to exactly the sort of unsafe environment that codes of conduct seek to avoid. Should he be given a free pass because of all his contributions?

I argue no, he shouldn’t. If there are three things that Stallman showed the world, they are: 1) software has political and ethical implications; 2) a software movement built on ethics can survive and even thrive; and 3) eschewing people’s contributions on ethical grounds is no obstacle to progress.

I am starting to think that the greatest taboo in software development isn’t writing GOTOs, editing code in production, or even using tabs instead of spaces. No, the most dangerous, terrifying, unspeakable idea in programming is this: the suggestion that we—and all of the code we’ve written—might be replaceable.

This article was adapted from SIGAVDI #10, December 14, 2015.

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kemayo
32 days ago
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St Louis, MO
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In Excerpts From Bob Woodward’s New Book ‘Rage’, Trump Admits to Concealing True Threat of Coronavirus

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The basic story behind this book is so beautiful, so perfectly Trumpian:

Woodward writes his first Trump book in 2018 and never gets to speak to Trump. Book comes out and makes Trump look bad. Trump is furious that his staff didn’t hook him up with Woodward because he thinks if Woodward had interviewed him, he’d have charmed Woodward and looked better in the book. So, next book, Trump’s staff listens to the boss and Woodward gets 18 interviews with Trump. 18! Woodward, famously, records all of his interviews for all of his books. Trump, of course, said all sorts of damning stuff to Woodward because he’s an idiot.

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kemayo
50 days ago
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St Louis, MO
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Raw Thoughts on Bag Manufacturers

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I posted a version of this on Reddit the other day, commenting on someone asking about why people love GORUCK over other bag brands. So, here is a slightly expanded version of my very glib takes on bag manufacturers if I were asked to stereotype them all:

  • GORUCK: What civilians think a military bag should be like.
  • Mystery Ranch: What actual military bags are like, for the people in unlimited budget military areas.
  • 5.11 Tactical: What people who cannot afford GORUCK or Mystery Ranch buy.
  • Recycled Firefighter: What happens when you rip off other bag designs, but worse and sell them for not much cheaper.
  • Tom Bihn: A well made, well performing bag that looks like something you bought at Target.
  • Evergoods: What happens when you take the worst parts of GORUCK and Tom Bihn, and try to marry them together.
  • Aer: great looking bags for every white guy who works out before they go to a job carrying a MacBook Pro and Beats.
  • Filson: Heritage style, with heritage comfort.
  • Peak Design: marketing over function, SF Bros above all else.
  • Bellroy: What Peak Design wishes their bags were.
  • REI: The Toyota Camry of bags.
  • Osprey: The bag equivalent of buying a Lexus variant of a Camry.
  • Mission Workshop: I think this is issued to anyone who joins a tech company and moves to SF.
  • Boundary Supply: Peak Design + Black Multicam.
  • WANDRD: Why’s that guy skateboarding with a 50L backpack on, what is this brand…
  • Black Ember: when someone with a 3D printer thinks they can design better MOLLE.
  • Fjallraven: Hipster express.
  • Topo Designs: Hipster with 90s vibes.
  • Hill People Gear: Probably the best bags out there, but you better hope there is no mirror or camera in sight — you’ll regret how it makes you look.
  • Orbit Gear: What every American assumes Japan is like.
  • Generally Other Hiking Brands: They work, but hope you like bright colors and reflectors!
  • Generally Other Kickstarter Brands: You’ll probably find it directly from China for $20 if you look, or just search Reddit because they will have the link to it.

I can’t wait for the emails.

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kemayo
56 days ago
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St Louis, MO
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Defund the Police? We’ve Already Done It Successfully in America.

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The American system of law enforcement is so deeply embedded into our national psyche that if you find the idea of defunding or abolishing the police challenging, I don’t blame you. But imagine calling an ambulance because a loved one was having trouble breathing or was suffering a stroke and, instead of the expected trained paramedics, a man with a gun showed up. Not great, right? As Jamie Ford explains in this thread, that was not unusual in America until recently.

Until the 70s, ambulance services were generally run by local police and fire departments. There was no law requiring medical training beyond basic first-aid and in many cases the assignment of ambulance duty was used as a form of punishment.

As you can imagine, throwing people with medical emergencies into the back of a paddy wagon produced less than spectacular health outcomes. Now imagine how much worse it became when disgruntled white police officers were demoted to ambulance duty in black neighborhoods.

From Kevin Hazzard’s The First Responders:

Emergency care was mostly a transportation industry, focused on getting patients to hospitals, and it was dominated by two groups: funeral homes and police departments. Call the local authorities for help and you’d likely get morticians in a hearse or cops in a paddy wagon. If you received any treatment en route to the hospital — and most likely you did not — it wouldn’t be very good. At best, one of the people helping may have taken a first-aid course. At worst, you’d ride alone in the back, hoping, if you were conscious, that you’d survive.

Pittsburgh’s Freedom House Ambulance Service changed all that, ushering in a new era of much improved medical care for communities around the US.

Together the two men hashed out a plan: Hallen would raise the money, Safar would contribute his medical expertise, and together they would design advanced ambulances and teach paramedics to provide care on the scene of an accident or emergency. It would be a pioneering medical effort, and Hallen, who was white, suggested another first. The Falk Fund was committed to mitigating racism, and Hallen wanted to staff the service with young black men from the Hill. He hoped that empowering individuals long deemed unemployable would be a source of pride in the black community, a symbol of equality, and a signal that bigoted notions about the black people of Pittsburgh standing in their own way were nonsense.

To help with recruitment, Hallen and Safar partnered with an organization called Freedom House Enterprises, a nonprofit dedicated to establishing and supporting black-run businesses in the city. Freedom House handled staffing for the fledgling ambulance service and recruited the first class of paramedics, including Vietnam veterans and men with criminal records.

So this is a great instance in which armed and untrained police officers have been relieved of a particular responsibility and replaced with specially trained personnel, resulting in a greatly improved outcome for members of the community. If you want other examples, just think about how odd, unhelpful, and dangerous it would be for our communities if the police showed up — armed with a loaded weapon — to collect your garbage, to put out fires, to inspect restaurants, to fix potholes, or to deliver the mail. No, we have sanitation workers, firefighters, public health inspectors, municipal maintenance workers, and postal workers to do these jobs — and they’re all trained in the ins and outs of their particular disciplines.

With these examples in mind, instead of armed personnel handling a wide variety of situations for which they are often not trained, it becomes easier to imagine traffic patrols conducting transportation safety stops, social workers responding to domestic disputes, special crisis centers assisting rape victims, mental health counselors helping people behaving erratically in public, housing guides finding homeless folks a place to stay, student safety coaches helping struggling students navigate school, unarmed personnel responding to property crime, and drug addiction counselors helping drug users stay safe. These are all areas where American communities have applied policing by default, like a flimsy bandaid. It’s ineffective, expensive, and dangerous, and communities should think seriously about supporting and funding alternatives that will be more effective, cheaper, safer, and produce better outcomes for everyone.

Tags: cities   crime   Jamie Ford   medicine   policing
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kemayo
82 days ago
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St Louis, MO
popular
83 days ago
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2 public comments
WorldMaker
79 days ago
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I was wondering why this history of ambulances is even less well known than the mafia tactics that lead to not-for-profit civic volunteer fire departments, and then the mention in the article that the innovating ambulance group was a black-owned business answered that. Wow, this should be more predominant in history books.
Louisville, Kentucky
cjheinz
85 days ago
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Yay!

Time travel in Avengers: Endgame

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Time » I'm using this essay to share some random thoughts about the entire Marvel Cinematic Universe to date. If you prefer, you can skip straight to the time travel discussion. * Probably the thing I appreciate the most in Iron Man is the very naturalistic, almost improvisational dialogue between Robert Downey Jr. and Gwyneth Paltrow (and sometimes Jeff Bridges). It's fast and entertaining and you can see that a lot of the time Paltrow isn't actually able to keep up with him, which is of course exactly what you want in those character interactions. Sadly it's not something I ever expect to see again in the MCU, the franchise is far too tightly controlled for that. I enjoy the lengthy scenes where Stark is slowly assembling the second Iron Man suit through trial and painful error. It's fun to watch him succeed, but RDJ also has good comic timing and it's humanising for him to screw up painfully a few times, earning the end result. And yes, the suit is sweet. At the time, the special ...
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kemayo
84 days ago
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St Louis, MO
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