Appreciation

At some point in my early, entrepreneurial life, I asked my parents, "How come there is a Mother's Day and a Father's Day, but not a Daughter's Day?" Lacking any sort answer that would have been acceptable to my determined self, my parents thereafter named April 20th as "Daughter's Appreciation Day", set to be celebrated each year on the day of my adoption. When I was younger, this Comfort family holiday was entirely self-serving, as it meant I received extra dessert, a new handmade sweatshirt from my mom (complete with puffy pain and iron-in decals!) and a few extra dollars for my piggy bank. As I've grown older, however, I've come to realize that Daughter's Appreciation Day is less about giving to me than it is for me giving back, as it provides me with the opportunity to reflect on how grateful I am for every day that I have with my parents. Despite how hard the Hallmark industry may try, holidays aren't a commercialized venture in our family, and while we have no need for a "special day" to show thankfulness and love, I'm pretty sure that it doesn't hurt to have one anyways. 😊  So today: Here's to my mom and dad, the two most wonderful, inspiring, loving and selfless individuals I know. I'm eternally proud to call myself your daughter.  

For Your Enjoyment #40, Race To The White House 2016 Ed (Part 3)

See Part 1 and Part 2

It would seem that — like a lot of Republicans — they’re just not that into you, dude.

- Even Ted Cruz's own family can't deal with him (image above)

Along the way, I learned a lot. I created over 100 jobs. And in the end I helped build something useful for thousands of companies around the world. But when I hear Bernie speak, I feel like I’m the problem with America. I’m one of those millionaires he mentions who should pay more taxes. I’m the bad guy. I’m the white male who is only successful because everything was handed to me. I don’t deserve the money I made. All the things I sacrificed don’t matter. The additional stress I was under doesn’t matter. The risks I took don’t matter. According to Bernie, the world needs fewer people like me, and more people like the smart Yale student who majors in something useless, travels the world, and then graduates with $100,000 in debt that people like me should pay off via higher taxes.

"Dear Bernie Sanders, Sorry I'm The Problem With America"

As the Trump campaign has accrued power, its treatment of the media has grown even more worrisome....If you want a picture of a future Trump presidency, imagine a reporter shouting questions into an empty void.

What it's like to be a reporter on the Trump Trail. Spoiler alert: it sounds horrible. (h/t DM)

According to a new Deseret News/KSL poll, if Donald Trump becomes the GOP nominee, the voters of Utah would opt for a Democratic candidate for the first time in over 50 years. Poll respondents said they would support either Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders over Trump, though Clinton was only two points ahead of Trump in the poll, falling within the margin of error. As many as 16 percent of respondents said they would skip the election altogether if Trump was the nominee. 

Utah: A Blue State?

An episode of the beloved American sitcom that aired almost exactly 16 years ago—on March 19, 2000—features Donald Trump as president of the United States, presiding over a broken economy. In the episode, Bart Simpson gets a glimpse of his future only to find that he’s pretty much a loser, while his sister Lisa has become the president of the US. She calls a meeting in the Oval Office to assess the damage done by her predecessor, Trump; an advisor holds up an plummeting line chart and explains, “We’re broke!” Jokes aside, the creators say the subplot should serve as a wake-up call for viewers. “It was a warning to America,” one of the writers, Dan Greaney, told the Hollywood Reporter. The idea of a Trump presidency, he added, came about when the writers needed to invent a world in which “everything went as bad as it possibly could,” and Lisa would be faced with insurmountable problems in her own presidency.

The Simpsons: our modern day Magic 8 Ball

With two good [Democratic] candidates, it can be difficult to make a choice, but while I appreciate the passionate ideas of Sen. Bernie Sanders, and agree with many, my vote and voice are going toward the accomplishments of Secretary Hillary Clinton. I believe Clinton has the experience and knowledge to deliver on her promises. And her mission has always been to care for the American people... No candidate is perfect. I have disagreed with Clinton's positions from time to time but, like any good leader, she listens, processes information and adjusts based on knowledge. We have a tendency in our political discourse to claim that this type of change is "flip-flopping" or "waffling," but this is simply not a fair assessment of Clinton's record. We need a president with a core set of values, but we cannot afford to have an entrenched individual who refuses to see both sides of an argument. Now, more than ever, we need a diplomat in the White House.

- Unlike the majority of Utahans, SLC Mayor Jackie Biskupski supports Hillary

Ted Cruz really isn’t the guy to make the case that Obama is not acting presidential, given that his own response to the Brussels attack has been hysteria, demagoguery, and a foul sop to anti-Muslim sentiment. Militarily, Cruz wants to respond to ISIS by, and this is an oft-stated position of his, “carpet bombing them into oblivion.” If you’re talking about the actual Islamic State, meaning the (shrinking) amount of territory the group controls in the Middle East, then what Cruz is advocating here is nothing short of a war crime. You can’t “carpet bomb” ISIS because they’re enmeshed within civilian populations across cities in Iraq and Syria... [F]inally, Cruz seized on the attacks to roll out an insane new policy proposal – he wants to “empower law enforcement to patrol and secure Muslim neighborhoods before they become radicalized.” As my colleague Elias Isquith writes, Cruz is talking an abhorrent abuse of government power that takes existing anti-Muslim sentiment in the country and enshrining it as official policy. He’s proposed denying American citizens their civil liberties and using the heavy hand of the state to treat them as potential criminals for no other reason than their faith. And this guy is going to give a lecture on how to act presidential? He sees a terrorist attack unfold overseas and his immediate instinct is to bomb things, violate religious freedom, and curtail civil liberties at home. Cruz is giving in to every worst instinct, and he’s letting terrorists shape his policy agenda as he clamors to demonstrate some version of toughness and “leadership.”

- Ted Cruz needs to calm down.

"One of the great strengths of the United States and part of the reason we have not seen more attacks on the United States: We have an extraordinary successful, patriotic, integrates Muslim-American community....any approach that would single them out or target them for discrimination is not only wrong and un-America, but it would also be counter-productive... As far as the notion of having surveillance of neighborhoods where Muslims are present, I just left a country that engages in that kind of neighborhood surveillance. Which, by the way, the father of Senator Cruz escaped for America, the land of the free."

- Obama wonderfully shoots down Ted Cruz's horrifying plan to "secure" Muslim neighborhoods

I've been watching the debates and town halls for the past two months, and Sanders' righteousness knocks me out. My heart is with him. He has brought the Occupy Wall Street demonstrations to the ballot box. But it is not enough to be a candidate of anger. Anger is not a plan; it is not a reason to wield power; it is not a reason for hope. It's easy to blame billionaires for everything, but quite another to know what to do about it. Every time Sanders is challenged on how he plans to get his agenda through Congress and past the special interests, he responds that the "political revolution" that sweeps him into office will somehow be the magical instrument of the monumental changes he describes... In 2016, what does the "youth vote" want? As always, I think it has to do with idealism, integrity and authenticity, a candidate who will tell it like it is. It is intoxicating to be a part of great hopes and dreams — in 2016 it's called "feeling the Bern." You get a sense of "authenticity" when you hear Sanders talking truth to power, but there is another kind of authenticity, which may not feel as good but is vitally important, when Clinton speaks honestly about what change really requires, about incremental progress, about building on what Obama has achieved in the arenas of health care, clean energy, the economy, the expansion of civil rights. There is an inauthenticity in appeals to anger rather than to reason, for simplified solutions rather than ones that stand a chance of working. This is true about Donald Trump, and lamentably also true about Sanders... On the question of experience, the ability to enact progressive change, and the issue of who can win the general election and the presidency, the clear and urgent choice is Hillary Clinton.

- Rolling Stone endorses Hillary for President

It’s hard to look at Ted Cruz’s face. He’s said to be a brilliant orator with a sharp legal mind. But his expression unsettles me. I understand that my reaction is visceral and automatic, but as a neurologist it is my business to notice things out of the ordinary and probe them... I didn't care about Senator Cruz one way or the other until I watched the first Republican debate. I noticed that his countenance doesn’t move the way I typically expect faces to move. Human faces can’t help but broadcast what we feel, what we may be thinking, and even what we may intend... I have rarely, if ever, seen a conventional smile from Senator Cruz. In a natural smile the corners of the mouth go up; these muscles we can control voluntarily as well. But muscles circling the eyes are strictly under involuntary control: they make the eyes narrow, forming crow’s feet at the outside corners. The eyes give away one’s game and help us tell forged from genuine smiles. No matter what the emotional coloring of Senator Cruz’s outward rhetoric is, his mouth typically tightens into the same straight line. If it deviates from this, then the corners of his mouth bend down, not upwards. The outside of his eyebrows bend down, too, when he emotes, something so atypical that it disturbs me. Downturned expressions usually signal disagreeableness or disgust. But I honestly don’t know because such an expression is rare in the context of public presentations meant to win people over. And then there is that open “O” of the Senator’s mouth that photos capture over and over. I don’t know what to make of it... For the record I am not a Democrat. I’m at a loss to verbalize what unsettles me so when I watch the freshman senator. But it leaves me cold.

- Another reason to be creeped out by Ted Cruz: his face

Socialism seems like a fine idea that means a more social equitable society for everyone—free health care and free education for starters. Socialism conjures the image of a place like Sweden and Denmark, which contrary to popular belief, are not socialist systems at all. Socialism is not roads, welfare, and free education. Socialism has always had a more ominous goal and shares close historical and ideological connections with more reviled terms: Marxism and communism. Karl Marx took socialism to what he viewed as its natural conclusion: The “abolition of private property.” The process of transforming “capitalist property”—that is, something legitimately purchased, inherited or otherwise earned—into “social property” for everyone is when socialism becomes sinister. How do we know? Because we’ve seen it happen time and again. It was Bolshevik leader Vladimir Lenin who expressed a sort of unifying theory, finally achieving Marx’s goals. “In striving for socialism,” Lenin said in 1917, “we are convinced it will develop into communism.” ... Indeed, there is very much a generation gap in today’s socialist resurgence. Nate Silver points out that while polling from May 2015 shows a plurality of voters under 30 supporting socialism, that figure drops to a mere 15 percent among those over 65. The reason for this is not difficult to see. It reflects a difference in personal experience. Millennials either missed the Cold War entirely or were young children in its final years, with little or no conception of the triumph of liberty achieved with the fall of the Berlin Wall and the collapse of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. They do not understand the menace that socialism —  combined with power — posed to the people it enslaved and to the free nations that it threatened. The violence and brutality of the communist regimes of the past are irrelevant, just lines in the history book somewhere between the Spanish-American War and 9/11. It’s more personal for older Americans. Perhaps some of their friends or neighbors — or they themselves — arrived in this country just ahead of Soviet tanks that were rolling into their homeland. Perhaps they remember the stories of citizens of these supposed utopian socialist prison states arrested, “disappeared,” tortured, or shot simply for trying to cross a border. Perhaps they remembered cowering under their school desks during drills in case of a nuclear attack, planned in communist Russia and launched from communist Cuba. This is the context young American voters should know as they prepare to cast their vote this year—many of them for the first time. We should all be mindful of the power of words and ideologies, and how discredited ideas can flourish again as memories of their failure fade. We cannot forget the lessons of history. All of us, but especially the youngest among us who will have to live in that world for the longest, should make this election about the future by rejecting the ugly, violent legacy of socialism’s past.

- Do we even know what "socialism" means anymore?

Many Marxist theorists have long attempted to rescue their theory from its real-world adherents by attributing its failures to idiosyncratic personal flaws of the leaders who took power (Lenin, Stalin, Mao … ). But the same patterns have replicated themselves in enough governments under enough leaders to make it perfectly obvious that the flaw rests in the theory itself. Marxist governments trample on individual rights because Marxist theory does not care about individual rights. Marxism is a theory of class justice. The only political rights it respects are those exercised by members of the oppressed class, with different left-wing ideological strands defining those classes in economic, racial, or gender terms, or sometimes all at once. Unlike liberalism, which sees rights as a positive-sum good that can expand or contract for society as a whole, Marxists (and other left-wing critics of liberalism) think of political rights as a zero-sum conflict. Either they are exercised on behalf of oppression or against it. Any Marxist government immediately sets about snuffing out the political rights of parties or ideas deemed reactionary (a category that also inevitably expands to describe any challenge to the powers that be). Repression is woven into Marxism’s ideological fabric... The popular, sitting liberal president has enacted the most important egalitarian social reforms in half a century, including higher taxes on the rich, lower taxes on the poor, and significant new income transfers to poor and working-class Americans through health-care reform and other measures. All of this has happened without the alliance with white supremacy that compromised the New Deal, or the disastrous war that accompanied the Great Society. The case for democratic, pluralistic, incremental, market-friendly governance rooted in empiricism — i.e., liberalism — has never been stronger than now. What an odd time to abandon a successful program for an ideology that has failed everywhere it has been tried.

- Liberalism: Yay; Marxism: Nay

In an interview with Slate, the historian of fascism Robert Paxton warns against describing Donald Trump as fascist because “it’s almost the most powerful epithet you can use.”  But in this case, the shoe fits.  And here is why. Like Mussolini, Trump rails against intruders (Mexicans) and enemies (Muslims), mocks those perceived as weak, encourages a violent reckoning with those his followers perceive as the enemy within (the roughing up of protesters at his rallies), flouts the rules of civil political discourse (the Megyn Kelly menstruation spat), and promises to restore the nation to its greatness not by a series of policies, but by the force of his own personality (“I will be great for” fill in the blank). To quote Paxton again, this time from his seminal “The Anatomy of Fascism”: “Fascist leaders made no secret of having no program.” This explains why Trump supporters are not bothered by his ideological malleability and policy contradictions: He was pro-choice before he was pro-life; donated to politicians while now he rails against that practice; married three times and now embraces evangelical Christianity; is the embodiment of capitalism and yet promises to crack down on free trade.  In the words of the Italian writer Umberto Eco, fascism was “a beehive of contradictions.” Like Mussolini, Trump is dismissive of democratic institutions.  He selfishly guards his image of a self-made outsider who will “dismantle the establishment” in the words of one of his supporters.  That this includes cracking down on a free press by toughening libel laws, engaging in the ethnic cleansing of 11 million people (“illegals”), stripping away citizenship of those seen as illegitimate members of the nation (children of the “illegals”), and committing war crimes in the protection of the nation (killing the families of suspected terrorists) only enhances his stature among his supporters.  The discrepancy between their love of America and these brutal and undemocratic methods does not bother them one iota.  To borrow from Paxton again: “Fascism was an affair of the gut more than of the brain.”  For Trump and his supporters, the struggle against “political correctness” in all its forms is more important than the fine print of the Constitution... [F]or a historical analogy to be useful to us, it has to advance our understanding of the present.  And the Trumpism-Fascism axis (pun intended) does this in three ways: it explains the origins of Trump the demagogue; it enables us to read the Trump rally as a phenomenon in its own right; and it allows those of us who are unequivocally opposed to hate, bigotry, and intolerance, to rally around an alternative, equally historical, program: anti-fascism.

- Trump and the modern fascist movement (h/t MH for this great article)

Speaking with a CNN reporter, Terry proudly pointed to his wife as an example of immigration done "correctly." "It's not fair to her to let the illegals stay here. She does everything right. She works, she pays taxes, she votes," he said. The couple said they both planned to vote for Trump.  

Paul Weber of Appleton, Iowa, describing himself as "kind of a redneck" at an October Trump rally in Waterloo, said he was tired of the so-called "new Americans" flooding the country. "The people that are coming in here from China, Indonesia and all of them countries, they're getting pregnant and coming here and having babies," Weber said, telling an Asian reporter that he meant no offense. "They get everything and the people that were born here can't get everything."

"Islam is traced patrilineally. I am a Muslim if my father is Muslim. In that sense, it is undeniable that Barack Obama was born a Muslim," Michael Rooney said at a Trump event in Worcester, Massachusetts, in November. Rooney, a respiratory therapist in his late 40s, likened Obama's Christian faith to Caitlyn Jenner's recent gender transition: "It is true that he now identifies as a Christian in the same sense that Bruce Jenner identifies as a woman." At another rally in Manassas, Virginia, on December 2, Robin Reif, 54, yelled into the crowd that the President was from Kenya. He told CNN afterward that Obama was "too much of a Muslim" and an "Islamist sympathizer." "In our Constitution, it says that the president has to be an American citizen," Reif said. "I'm still wondering where is he really from. What is this man's background?"

Rhett Benhoff, a middle-aged white man at a December Trump campaign event in Raleigh, North Carolina, said discrimination against whites is "absolutely" real. "I mean, it seems like we really go overboard to make sure all these other nationalities nowadays and colors have their fair shake of it, but no one's looking out for the white guy anymore," he said. At the Trump rally in Myrtle Beach, where signs that read "silent majority" dotted the crowd, Patricia Saunders told CNN that Trump is speaking directly to a segment of the population that feels left behind and marginalized. "White Americans founded this country," said Saunders, 64. "We are being pushed aside because of the President's administration and the media."

Brothers Ernie Martin and Lee Walter from Cresco, Iowa, were among a group of zealous Trump fans at the front of the line outside a Trump rally in Des Moines on December 11. They had waited more than seven hours to see the candidate in person. "Hey, hey. Ho, ho. All the Muslims have to go!" Walter, a 64-year-old retired factory worker, began to chant. "I don't want [Muslims] here," Ed Campbell said. "Who knows what they're going to bring into this country?" 

Bickie Mason, a contractor from Lyman, South Carolina, who attended Trump's Spartanburg rally in November, said he felt he didn't have a choice but to agree with Trump's idea of tracking Muslim-Americans through a national database. "I don't believe all Muslims are bad. But anybody can turn bad, and you've got to be able to locate them and know where they're at," said Mason, 64. 

"Islam is not a religion. It's a violent blood cult. OK?" said Hoyt Wood, a 68-year-old military veteran waiting to hear Trump speak aboard the U.S.S. Yorktown in Mount Pleasant, South Carolina. "All they know is violence, that's all they know." At the same rally, 55-year-old Susan Kemmelin said, "We can't look at a Muslim and tell if they're a terrorist or friendly."

Robert Engelkes, a 45-year-old corn and soybean farmer from Dike, Iowa, pointed out that there is historical precedent for targeting one group. "What did we do in World War II? We put all the Japanese in internment camps," said Engelkes, who was standing outside a Trump event in Des Moines. "We had to do something with them."

At a campaign rally in Rock Hill, South Carolina, this month, a Muslim woman wearing a hijab stood up in silent protest as Trump spoke about the hidden presence of ISIS among Syrian refugees. As Rose Hamid was escorted out of the building, one person shouted: "You have a bomb, you have a bomb." 

- "Why I'm Voting For Trump" - The only thing scarier than Donald Trump (besides maybe Ted Cruz) are these people

For Your Enjoyment #39

The cute little Atlantic puffin might not strike you as a vessel built for life on the open ocean. But nothing could be further from the truth.

- Puffin researchers are learning more about the little birds' winter migrations. (Image above. On a side note: How does one become a puffin researcher?) 

The Navy stopped training its service members to navigate by the stars about a decade ago, focusing instead on electronic navigational systems. But dears about the security of the Global Positioning System and a desire to return to the basics of naval training are pushing the fleet back toward this ancient method of finding a course across open water. 

- The USNA is bringing back navigation by stars!

Even so, finance isn’t the biggest source of U.S. billionaires...That remains inherited wealth (29%, down from 52% in 1996) and company founders (32%, little changed from 1996).

- Hey Billionaires: Did you actually work to earn that money or were you just born into it?

“You’re so pretty,” a woman at a concert told me. “My son is marrying a Vietnamese girl. Are you Vietnamese?” You’re so pretty, too! I wanted to say. My cousin is marrying a white guy from Tennessee. Are you from Tennessee? 

- Welcome to being Asian while not in Asia. 

Once complete in 2019, [the new Polar research vessel] will travel to the Arctic to carry out important research in polar environments using robotic, satellite and underwater monitoring technology, in order to help us understand the global impact of changing sea-levels. The ship will weigh 15,000 tonnes, have 20 science labs on board, and will carry nine double-decker buses worth of scientific equipment. [The Natural Environment Research Council] has asked the general public to submit names for the boat and then vote for their favourites. It seems though, that people are not taking the naming of a £200 million massive boat, meant for serious environmental research, all that seriously. 

- Boaty McBoatface? This is why we can't have nice things, Internets. (On a related note - its mascot can be Hooty McOwlface)

[Fred] Rogers believed in accepting others despite any differences, teaching by example, and making the world a better place — because the responsibility belongs to everybody. With the 2016 presidential campaign in full swing and Republican candidate Donald Trump slinging mud left and right, we could all use a little more of Rogers’ positivity — especially Trump himself. 

- Donald Trump: Listen to Mister Rodgers, please

Netflix has picked up Paramount Pictures’ domestic rights to The Little Prince, the new animated film based on the 1943 book by Antoine de Saint-Exupery. The studio had originally slated the movie to open in U.S. theaters on March 18, but then quietly pulled it off that date. It is now expected to premiere stateside on the streaming service later this year.

- Streaming or not, I'm not quite sure sure how I feel about this new Little Prince movie

DANA: You seem like a cool guy. / PATRICK: Yup, that’s me — cool guy. Don’t know what my internationally acclaimed indie-musician girlfriend sees in me, but there must be something, because we are very much in love and not breaking up anytime soon.

- "Tactful Ways People Have Told Me That They're in a Relationship"

A new grant has apparently made the [Golden Gate National Recreation Area makeover] possible, with spokesperson Alexandra Pickavet claiming that “for two and a half million dollars, it’s the largest grant in the country for the national parks for maintenance backlog.

- Crissy Field is getting a facelift

The animal kingdom is massive, but scientists know that they have only found a portion of its members. They are currently aware of about 2.3 million species—but that number increases by about 15,000 new additions per year, according to some estimates. Researchers from 12 institutions in the US collaborated for years to document and quantify all of these animals, and created a comprehensive diagram to illustrate each known species and its evolutionary relationship to one another. Their work was published last year in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

- The Circle of Life, diagrammed

"When we used the Ahwahnee Hotel in marketing, we always put a little 'R' by it," said Dan Jensen, who managed Yosemite properties for Delaware North. "The existence of the fact that these names are protected and trademarked is just not a surprise to anybody. It wasn't sneaky."

- Update on Yosemite naming news: Thanks to Delaware North, now you can stay at the Majestic Yosemite Hotel in not-Yosemite-National-Park

"All Dan, All Man"

You know that little nagging feeling of paranoia you sometimes have when someone hasn't texted or called you back as expected? Turns out it sucks when you're right to have been concerned. On Saturday June 6th of last year, I had been texting with my best buddy and he told me that he was planning to take a short ride around town on his new motor scooter. Later that afternoon, I was checking in to ask how his ride went and to tell him about my day, but he never replied. If you know anything about DM and me, you know that we text each other constantly, so not hearing back in a timely manner was actually somewhat of an anomaly. After telling myself, "Calm down, he's fine, stop being such a worrier," later that evening, I was contacted by a Highland Hospital ICU nurse. Turns out a car had blatantly blown through a red light at an intersection in downtown Oakland, plowing into another car as well as DM's scooter. By some miracle of God (and a great helmet), DM somehow managed to avoid any nerve damage, internal, head and/or spinal injuries, but twelve broken ribs, both broken collarbones and a cracked sternum later, didn't exactly walk away unscathed. I booked the first flight I could out to California, and approximately one week after moving to SLC, found myself back in Oakland once again. Fast forward nine months later, and DM and I were back at Kaiser last week, hopefully for the last time for a while, so he could have the metal plate on his right clavicle removed. After his surgery, our friend MS happily declared that DM is now, once again, "All Dan, All Man!" 😊  We owe so, so many thanks to the wonderful nurses, doctors, surgeons and staff at Highland and Kaiser, and to friends and family for their incredibly support in every way possible. I'm sure glad my best friend is still in my life.