Welcome to the Dark Side

Scientists report that they might have discovered a fifth basic force of nature:

Researchers at UC Irvine say they’ve found evidence for a fifth force — one carried by a particle that they’re calling “boson X.”...Tait said that their discovery might be a doorway to eventually creating a model that more accurately describes the universe....“This could actually be the dark force,” Tait said.

Boson X? Please. This is obviously the long-sought midichloriton. Get it together, scientists.

POSTSCRIPT: Why yes, I am having a little trouble finding things to blog about this morning. Why do you ask?

Paul Manafort has resigned as chairman of Donald Trump's presidential campaign. Is this because of his shady Ukraine dealings? Because Trump brought on Steve Bannon and Kellyanne Conway to run the campaign? Because he didn't want to be associated with an epic loss in November? Because he wanted to spend more time with his family?

There's no telling. But here's the good news: He's now free to sign up with CNN as an election analyst! I can't wait.

Donald Trump Has a Few Regrets

Donald Trump said today that there were a few things he regretted saying in the heat of the campaign. However, he didn't say what he regretted, and everyone immediately suggested that reporters should ask him for specifics. The list below is just off the top of my head, but here are a few things he might admit that he regrets:

  1. Saying I opposed the Iraq War, even though it was a lie.
  2. Implying that I opposed withdrawing from Iraq, even though it was a lie.
  3. Attacking a Muslim family that lost their son in Iraq.
  4. Suggesting that we should register all Muslims in the US.
  5. Saying that Ted Cruz's father was involved in the JFK assassination.
  6. Calling Hillary Clinton the "founder" of ISIS.
  7. Saying that I might break our NATO guarantee by not defending the Baltics.
  8. Trying to renege on a $1 million donation to a vets charity until the Washington Post embarrassed me into it.
  9. Saying the real unemployment rate was 44 percent, which I knew was a lie.
  10. Saying that my companies offered child care to their employees, which was another lie.
  11. Confirming a story that I sent my personal jet to ferry soldiers stuck at Camp Lejeune, yet another lie.
  12. Continually claiming that neighbors of the San Bernardino shooters saw bombs in their apartment, also a lie.
  13. Claiming that I saw a video of Iran unloading pallets of cash.
  14. Claiming that I saw thousands of Muslims celebrating on 9/11, even though I didn't.
  15. Tweeting that 81 percent of white homicide victims are killed by blacks.
  16. Saying that the Obama administration was deliberately sending Syrian refugees to red states, which was a lie.
  17. Saying that Carly Fiorina is ugly.
  18. Repeatedly claiming that America has the highest tax rate in the world, a huge lie.
  19. Telling Anderson Cooper that I still don't really know if Barack Obama was born in the US.
  20. Claiming that more than 300,000 veterans have died waiting for VA care.
  21. Saying that vaccines cause autism, which is a disturbing and genuinely damaging lie.
  22. Denying that I suggested Japan should get nuclear weapons, even though I said exactly that to Chris Wallace of Fox News.
  23. Calling Hillary Clinton a liar when she said—accurately—that I had suggested Japan should get nuclear weapons.
  24. Claiming that judge Gonzalo Curiel was biased against me because of his Hispanic heritage.
  25. Promising that I would tell all Trump properties to allow guns on their premises.
  26. Slyly implying that maybe President Obama is actually sympathetic to ISIS.
  27. Not releasing my income tax returns even though I promised to, and then lying about this being due to an IRS audit.
  28. Saying that John McCain was no kind of war hero because he got captured.
  29. Mocking a disabled reporter in front of a huge crowd.
  30. Claiming in a debate that I never called Marco Rubio "Mark Zuckerberg’s personal senator" even though that's exactly what I called him.
  31. Being a cheapskate who never donates any money to charity.
  32. Saying that I support torturing enemy combatants.
  33. Suggesting that maybe somebody ought to assassinate Hillary Clinton.

I'm sure there are plenty of big insults and lies not on this list. I don't have the memory of a 20-year-old anymore. But this should be enough to get everyone started.

Yet More Phony "Charity" From Donald Trump

We already know that Donald Trump is a cheapskate whose unwillingness to help others is truly off the charts. We also know that he's an epic blowhard who likes to pretend that he's a brilliant businessman and generous philanthropist. What happens when you put those two things together?

Answer: You host a show in which you flamboyantly claim to personally donate hundreds of thousands of dollars to charity, but when the cameras are off you donate nothing. That's what Trump did on Celebrity Apprentice, and his phony philanthropy became even more pronounced in 2012. But why?

After The Post’s close look at Trump’s promises­ on the show, a mystery remained: What happened in 2012 to make Trump so much more generous on the air?

In the tax records of the Trump Foundation — which Trump used to pay off most of those new promises — there is no record of a donation from Trump himself in 2012....But, in 2012, the Trump Foundation’s records show a large gift from NBC, the network that aired the show. That was more than enough to cover all the foundation’s gifts to “Celebrity Apprentice” contestants’ charities, both before 2012 and since.

....Did NBC give Trump’s foundation money, so that Trump could appear to be more generous on-camera? An NBC spokeswoman declined to comment.

Does Trump ever keep any of his promises? Magic 8-Ball says "Very doubtful."

Driverless Taxis Are Coming to Pittsburgh

Uber is planning to beta test driverless Volvo taxis in Pittsburgh. Atrios, as always, is skeptical because Uber is planning to keep human "safety drivers" in the cars for a while until all the bugs are worked out. But this seems to me like nothing more than the standard way progress works. Eventually the Volvos will log enough miles to be sure the cars are safe, and Uber will apply for a permit to operate them totally autonomously. Another few million miles and they'll be approved for permanent use. How else would you do it?

That aside, there are some interesting tidbits in the Bloomberg article:

On a recent weekday test drive, the safety drivers were still an essential part of the experience, as Uber’s autonomous car briefly turned un-autonomous, while crossing the Allegheny River. A chime sounded, a signal to the driver to take the wheel. A second ding a few seconds later indicated that the car was back under computer control. “Bridges are really hard,” Krikorian says. “And there are like 500 bridges in Pittsburgh.”

Wait. Why are bridges hard?

Bridges are hard in part because of the way that Uber’s system works. Over the past year and a half, the company has been creating extremely detailed maps that include not just roads and lane markings, but also buildings, potholes, parked cars, fire hydrants, traffic lights, trees, and anything else on Pittsburgh's streets. As the car moves, it collects data, and then using a large, liquid-cooled computer in the trunk, it compares what it sees with the preexisting maps to identify (and avoid) pedestrians, cyclists, stray dogs, and anything else. Bridges, unlike normal streets, offer few environmental cues—there are no buildings, for instance—making it hard for the car to figure out exactly where it is. Uber cars have Global Positioning System sensors, but those are only accurate within about 10 feet; Uber’s systems strive for accuracy down to the inch.

A large liquid-cooled computer in the trunk! That actually sounds like a bit of a problem for a taxi, but I guess they'll stay away from airports for the time being.

Trump Plays the Tough Guy Yet Again

Here is Donald Trump's latest pathetic bid for attention:

Hannity asked Trump what he would do about individuals like Seddique Mateen, the Afghanistan-born father of the man who killed dozens in an Orlando nightclub in June and has criticized the U.S. “What do we do when we find somebody that has extreme views?” Hannity asked in a town hall that was taped Tuesday but aired Wednesday so that it wouldn’t interfere with the live broadcast of Trump’s speech in Milwaukee. “Do we throw them the hell out?

“I'd throw him out,” Trump said of Mateen, who is a naturalized U.S. citizen. “If you look at him, I'd throw him out.”

Yeah yeah. Maybe Hillary Clinton will throw Trump out after she becomes president. He's been pretty critical of America, after all. Unfortunately, she'd have the same problem Trump would have if he tried to expel Mateen: nobody would take him.1

This is just the latest in Trump's transparent bids for attention. He's not going to throw anyone out. He knows he's not going to throw anyone out. Hannity knows it. The audience knows it. I know it. You know it.

But maybe it will get a headline or two. If it doesn't, he'll suggest building a prison for all these America haters at the North Pole. Maybe that will get him some attention. If not, how about Mars? What do you think about that?

1That's aside from the fact that it would be totally illegal, of course.

Table of the Day: Ageism in Silicon Valley

Over at the Upshot, Quoctrung Bui writes about some research showing which jobs older applicants (55+) are most and least likely to get. It's no surprise that older workers are less likely to get physically demanding jobs, but that's not actually the category that toughest on older workers:

This is the Silicon Valley mentality at work. The hiring managers at these companies simply don't believe that anyone over 50 can possibly learn anything new. Nor will these oldsters work 100 hours a week (which is probably true). This is a message to the young bucks of the coding world: you'd better treat your career the same way football players do. You may be on top of the world right now, but in 20 years you'll be considered a dinosaur too. If you don't make enough money so you can retire at 50, you'll be screwed.

Says Who?

Today's ubiquitous new internet meme is "Says who?" It's based on this simultaneously hilarious and awkward 25-second clip of an interview with Donald Trump's famously dickish lawyer, Michael Cohen:

I dunno. Maybe this kind of stuff works during depositions of small-time contractors who are trying to get Trump to pay his bills. In the big leagues, not so much. Here's the inevitable response:

The next 12 weeks are going to be a barrel of laughs.

Last night I linked to a letter from Aetna to the Department of Justice explaining what they would do if their merger with Humana wasn't approved. The answer, basically, was that they'd pull out of a bunch of Obamacare exchanges. As insurance pro Richard Mayhew puts it:

TLDR: Nice exchanges there, be a pity if anything happened.

But Mayhew points out something else. Aetna claims that they're not really threatening the Obama administration. They're losing money! If the merger isn't approved, they really have no choice but to pull back from the exchanges. It's sad, but what are you gonna do?

And yet—in 2015 they made $13.6 million in the individual market in Pennsylvania. That's a very healthy 19 percent of premium revenue. But one of the states they're pulling back from is...Pennsylvania. Nice, profitable, Democratic-leaning Pennsylvania. It's very peculiar, isn't it?

First there was Corey Lewandowski—but Donald Trump got tired of him. Then there was Paul Manafort—ditto. Now Trump is on Svengali 3.0.

So who is Steve Bannon, the latest guy Trump has chosen to spice up his flailing campaign? Well, he's the executive chairman of Breitbart News, the go-to destination for conservatives who consider Drudge and Fox News a little too restrained and statesmanlike. Still, a friend emails to say he is "wicked smart, not an erratic and self-destructive bomb thrower." Maybe! But I have to say that I hear this a lot about conservative bomb-throwers, and I'm a little jaded about their supposed brilliance. So let's allow Twitter to introduce Bannon to a waiting world.

First off, the definitive profile of Bannon comes from Josh Green. "He’s been a naval officer, investment banker, minor Hollywood player, and political impresario," he says. "Today, backed by mysterious investors and a stream of Seinfeld royalties, he sits at the nexus of what Hillary Clinton once dubbed 'the vast right-wing conspiracy,' where he and his network have done more than anyone else to complicate her presidential ambitions—and they plan to do more."

Ben Shapiro is a conservative darling who used to work for Breitbart News. He quit a couple of months ago, and writes today that Bannon "turned Breitbart into Trump Pravda for his own personal gain." He "openly embraced the white supremacist alt-right" and is a "vindictive, nasty figure, infamous for verbally abusing supposed friends and threatening enemies."

Bannon has never run a political campaign:

He's a big fan of Sarah Palin:

There you have it. Wicked smart or just plain nuts? Maybe both!

UPDATE: This post originally ended with a link to an article about Hillary Clinton using pillows, which I mistakenly credited to Breitbart News. It's actually at Heatstreet. Sorry about that. Time for another cup of coffee, I guess.