Team of stable geniuses

Given the situation with COVID-19, I was reminded of a Politico article from earlier this winter describing a feud between Seema Verma and Alex Azar, both now members of the COVID-19 “task force” led by Pence:

Azar, Verma battle for Trump’s favor amid White House showdown

and

White House prepared short list to shake up HHS leadership

This might help to explain the Trump administration’s clusterf*ck of a response so far. Putting someone who doesn’t believe in evolution in charge of the task force likely didn’t help (though I’m sure everyone appreciates his prayers). And maybe the president’s inability to understand–well, anything that doesn’t fit on a post-it note–might be contributing to the confusion.

So true

While reading “The Bertrand Russell Collection: 8 Classic Works” last night, I accidentally read this sentence:

That some risk of error remains must be admitted, since human beings are fallible.

…as…

That some risk of error remains must be admitted, since human beings are infallible.

ST:STCS Site – Make It Not So

I received a copyright infringement notice letter from CBS today referring to my computer conversion of the old FASA Star Trek: Starship Tactical Combat Simulator game. Consequently, I’ve taken the site down and the game is no longer being distributed. I guess FASA’s alternate universe got swallowed by a corporate black hole. Here’s hoping that Star Trek: Beyond will return to the roots of the series (morality plays set in the future) and doesn’t end up as another generic sci-fi setting.

Sheila Bair

This article by Joe Nocera at the New York Times gives some interesting background information about the bank bailouts. The article is about Sheila Bair, the director of the FDIC at the time.

Excerpt:

As she thinks back on it, Bair views her disagreements with her fellow regulators as a kind of high-stakes philosophical debate about the role of bondholders. Her perspective is that bondholders should take losses when an institution fails. When the F.D.I.C. shuts down a failing bank, the unsecured bondholders always absorb some of the losses. That is the essence of market discipline: if shareholders and bondholders know they are on the hook, they are far more likely to keep a close watch on management’s risk-taking.

The Submerged State

This article at the Washington Monthly makes a compelling argument for ending various forms of spending in the tax code (a.k.a. “tax breaks”). This form of indirect spending tends to favor the wealthy and dwarfs direct programs that benefit the poor. Obviously we need to balance our budget, but the article provides some additional interesting reasons for ending tax expenditures. For example, how government intervention in this form is generally not recognized by the beneficiaries, which in turn distorts politics in such a way that individuals become disconnected from government while special interest groups (and their lobbyists) flourish. Definitely worth reading.

Where Your Taxes Go

In my opinion, many people have very distorted and inaccurate views about how taxes are spent. These distorted views adversely affect political decisions to the extent that those decisions are based on misconceptions rather than reality.

In order to combat these misconceptions, the Obama administration has created a website so one can determine how one’s taxes are allocated to programs. The website can be found here:

http://www.whitehouse.gov/taxreceipt

At the same time, people seem to believe that taxes are higher now than ever before. The reality is that tax rates are currently lower than they have been at any point since World War II. For some historical data, take a look at this page on Wikipedia:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Income_tax_in_the_United_States

Neverwinter Nights Now Available at GOG.com

The game Neverwinter Nights (for which I created the add-on module “The Vethboro Dragon“) is now available at GOG.com for a mere $10.

If you’re unfamiliar with GOG (which stands for “good old games”), they sell digital editions of older games — usually at $10 or less. The games are DRM-free, fully patched, and modified to run on modern computers if necessary. It’s a great place to find classics and games that can run on older, low-end hardware.

Star Trek: Starship Tactical Combat Simulator Computer Conversion Page Up

I’ve made a subdomain to host my computer conversion of the Star Trek: Starship Tactical Combat Simulator board game. You can find it here:

ststcs.slightlysilly.com

The Star Trek: Starship Tactical Combat Simulator Computer Conversion is a 2D turn-based strategy game for the Windows platform in which you take control one or more starships and proceed to attempt to destroy other starships before they destroy you. I programmed it using Visual Basic.