Later On

A blog written for those whose interests more or less match mine.

Archive for November 4th, 2016

Amazing story: Korean politics is (in some ways) weirder than ours

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Tammy Kim reports in the New Yorker:

The humble tablet computer has emerged as the key witness in a bizarre corruption scandal engulfing Seoul. For weeks, journalists have been prying into a mysterious friendship between President Park Geun-hye and Choi Soon-sil, the daughter of a dead cult leader whose family has long been close to Park’s. The story first seemed like a routine case of nepotism—Choi appears to have filched some seventy million dollars from Hyundai, Samsung, and other corporations through her connections with Park. But things soon grew stranger and more insidious. A tablet once owned by Choi was found to contain nearly fifty draft speeches and classified documents from the President’s cabinet meetings, many of them heavily edited. It was later revealed that Choi had played a role in choosing Park’s ministers, as well as her clothes. At a press conference last week, Park admitted to having sought Choi’s advice and counsel, and bowed deeply in apology. In the days since, as protesters have marched in Seoul and other cities, the President has fired her chief of staff and several top aides—all reputedly close to Choi—and appointed a new Prime Minister. Choi is now in police custody, facing criminal charges, and Park’s impeachment or resignation seems inevitable.

That the President may be ousted because of a tablet is a nice bit of irony; she and her supporters have long used technology to intimidate their political adversaries. The orphaned daughter of Park Chung-hee, a South Korean general who took the Presidency in a 1961 military coup and was later assassinated, Park Geun-hye became the country’s first woman head of state through a coördinated cyber-attack on public opinion. During her 2012 Presidential campaign, the National Intelligence Service and the Ministry of Defense, supportive of the incumbent Saenuri Party, covertly posted some twenty-two million tweets and thousands of online messages accusing Park’s opponents of, among other things, being North Korean sympathizers. While in office, she has invoked national-security concerns to censor the Internet, eliminate an opposition political party, arrest dozens of activists, and seize the offices and Web sites of leftist labor unions. Her preferred legal tools are anti-Communist holdovers from the Korean War; scholars of the region call her strategy “politics by public security.”

Just before the damning tablet was found, I discussed the brewing scandal with Taeyoon Choi, an artist and computer programmer who splits his time between New York and Seoul. We’d met to talk about a separate instance of technological intrigue, involving a separate Korea. Earlier in the fall, an American security researcher named Matt Bryant had made a fascinating, if fairly minor, discovery. As part of a larger project, Bryant had set up an automated system to collect data on the Internet’s top-level domains—the large swaths of the Web that fall under familiar suffixes like .com and .gov. Every few hours, Bryant’s tool would query servers around the world and post what it found to GitHub, a popular code repository for software developers. For months, he received no replies from North Korea, but then, on September 19th—seemingly as the result of a slipup—one of the country’s servers responded. What it sent was an apparently complete index of the .kp domain, an address book for the North Korean Internet. There were a total of twenty-eight Web sites. . .

Continue reading.

If it’s really a cult, I think the phrase is “the currently dead cult leader.”

Written by Leisureguy

4 November 2016 at 4:50 pm

Posted in Daily life

What the Roberts Court did: “Freed From Federal Oversight, Southern States Slash Number of Polling Places”

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Derek Willis reports in ProPublica:

Voters in states formerly covered by Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act will have at least 868 fewer polling locations at which to cast ballots on Nov. 8, according to a new study by the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, a civil rights group that supports protections for minority voters.

The report found a “widespread effort to close polling places” in some of the states previously covered under Section 5, which was invalidated by a 2013 Supreme Court decision in Shelby County v. Holder. The decision allowed states to change voting laws without approval by the federal government.

The report looked at the number of polling places for the 2016 general election in states including Alabama, Arizona, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina and Texas, compared to general elections in either 2012 or 2014.

Almost every county in Arizona reduced the number of polling places. Pima County, the state’s second-largest, reported 62 fewer locations than the 280 it had four year ago. Cochise County, which had 50 polling places for its 12,466 voters in 2012, will have 18 on Nov. 8. In Arizona’s presidential primary, Maricopa County, the state’s largest, had one polling place for every 21,000 voters.

The number of polling places can have a significant impact on voting. Long lines and wait times are one possible result.

The study was not comprehensive. It included about half of the counties or cities formerly covered by Section 5. Georgia and Virginia weren’t included because of a lack of information about polling place locations this year. In some of the other states, such data was unavailable for many counties.

In trying to address the reasons why polling places were closed, the report cites . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

4 November 2016 at 3:35 pm

Clay Pigeons: How Lobbyists Secretly Woo Top Election Officials (with money as the buckshot)

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Robert Faturechi and Eric Lipton report in ProPublica:

Big-money corporate lobbying has reached into one of the most obscure corners of state government: the offices of secretaries of state, the people charged with running elections impartially.

The targeting of secretaries of state with campaign donations, corporate-funded weekend outings and secret meetings with industry lobbyists reflects an intense focus on often overlooked ballot questions, which the secretaries frequently help write.

The ballot initiatives are meant to give voters a direct voice on policy issues such as the minimum wage and the environment. But corporate and other special interests are doing their best to build close ties with the secretaries because a difference of even a few words on a ballot measure can have an enormous impact on the outcome.

The influence campaign has intensified, with more citizen-driven ballot initiatives to be decided on Election Day this year than at any time in the past decade.

Secretaries of state from Washington, Ohio, Colorado and Nevada — all Republicans — participated in closed-door meetings in May with representatives from Reynolds American, the nation’s second-largest tobacco company; the National Restaurant Association; and the National Rifle Association, while ballot initiative signatures in those states were still being collected, documents obtained through open records requests show.

At a weekend retreat last month at a hunting lodge in Kansas, Republican secretaries of state mingled with donors, including a representative from Koch Industries, as they shot pheasant and clay pigeons. The owners of Koch Industries — Charles G. and David H. Koch — have funded groups involved in several ballot initiative fights this year, including over a solar energy measure in Florida.

“The Koch brothers out with the Republican secretaries of state — that’s a news story I don’t need,” Allen Richardson, a Koch lobbyist, joked, unaware that a reporter was in attendance.

Groups aligned with Democrats have also targeted secretaries of state, mobilizing during the 2014 campaign to try to elect more officials sympathetic to their causes.

“With so many important issues being decided through ballot initiatives (increases in the minimum wage, gay marriage, environmental protections, etc.), increasing our involvement in electing secretaries of state who will stand with working families is vital,” said a strategy memo co-written by Steve Rosenthal, a veteran political strategist for labor unions.

The May meetings between industry officials and the Republican Secretaries of State Committee, a fundraising group, were set up to give the industry players a chance to weigh in on ballot initiatives that the secretaries were overseeing, emails show.

Continue reading.

The system in not only broken, it’s very badly broken and the incentives are all in the wrong direction. And that’s the direction we’re going. Look at the promises that GOP officials are making explicitly: that they will impeach as soon as she’s sworn in (on grounds TBD, apparently); that they will investigate her for years (regardless of the impact on the nation); that they will not fill any Justice vacancies so long as she is President (thus, potentially for 8 years—and they may block Circuit Court appointments as well— why not? “We’ve gone this far.”

I really think this will end very badly indeed.

Do read the rest of the article at the link. There’s quite a bit more, and it’s worth reading.

UPDATE: The bad signs continue. The FBI are not exactly the Palace Guard (that would be the Secret Service), but they are in that ballpark. Read this: “Rudy Giuliani is now openly boasting that the Trump campaign got advance notice of James Comey’s letter.”

Written by Leisureguy

4 November 2016 at 3:31 pm

The last Trump time capsule: definitely worth reading

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James Fallows writes in the Atlantic:

Five and a half months ago, as Donald Trump effectively clinched the Republican nomination, I thought it would be worth keeping track day-by-day of what the American public knew about Trump while it was deciding whether he would become its next president. Thus the Trump Time Capsule series, which began with installments #1 through #3 on May 23, and comes to an end with #152 today.

The main idea was to chronicle what was different about Trump: Norm-changing, unprecedented statements or positions or revelations that would have stopped any previous candidates but that did not impede him.

As I look back over these unfolding stories, I see at least 40 or 50 that would have had that campaign-ending potential in any previous year. The mocking of first John McCain and then the Captain Khan family? The “Mexican judge”? The “grab ‘em by the pussy” Access Hollywood tape and subsequent complaints? The de-facto admission that he’s paid no taxes, and the trail of fraud and buncombe left by his businesses and “charities”? The refusal to provide tax information at all? The disprovable-even-as-he-said-them series of lies? The ever-more evident intrusions on his behalf by a foreign government? “She should be in jail”? “It’s all rigged folks, I tell you”? I alone?

To put these into perspective, just think back to the comparatively pipsqueak “scandals” of a more innocent time: Whether Sarah Palin really read newspapers. Whether Barack Obama called some people “bitter.” Whether Mitt Romney thought 47 percent of the public might be freeloading. Whether Rick Perry had to leave the race because he forgot one of his talking points in a brain-freeze on stage. Whether Dan Quayle could spell “potatoe.” Whether Al Gore exaggerated his role as a founder of the internet. Whether the young George Bush had had a DUI. The chagrin these episodes caused to their victims is almost touching. The candidates’ embarrassment indicated that they believe there was a standard in public life they needed to live up to.

***

This cycle’s only “scandal” that fits the pre-existing scale is the Hillary Clinton email saga, which has been ludicrously exaggerated by adversary outlets (Breitbart / Fox) and by “mainstream” media (most cable TV, too often the NYT)to the point where many voters assume that it’s on a par with, say, Donald Trump’s reckless comments about nuclear weapons or treaties or rule-of-law, his deceptions about his finances, his long record with women, his numberless provable lies.

Hillary Clinton’s management of her email server was a mistake, which probably reflects something more general about her—just as other similar-scaled mistakes by other candidates in the past reflected more generally on them. But there is no sane argument that it has deserved even one tenth the press attention it has received this year. As Matt Yglesias points out in a new Vox item, TV coverage this cycle, in aggregate, spent more airtime on the email “scandal” than on all policy matters combined.

No one looking back on the America of 2016 will think that the real question its voters should have been grappling with was how Hillary Clinton handled her email. But TV has told us more about this issue than about racial tensions and racial justice, economic opportunity and economic stagnation, immigration, education, military spending and military commitments, relations with China or India or Russia or Mexico, or [name your six other top real-world concerns]. And oh, yes, the prospects of coping with the threat to civic and economic order posed by climate change.

As Bernie Sanders said a year ago, the “American people are sick and tired of hearing about your damn emails.” But hear about them, nonstop, is what the American people have done.

(There’s a parallel to press coverage in the 2000 campaign that I won’t take the time to spell out right now. Essentially, the minor annoyances of Al Gore’s persona were presented as equally important as the policy views the Bush-Cheney team would bring into office.)

***

So this chronicle ends as tens of millions of early votes have already been cast; with just one weekend separating us from official election day; and with all the information anyone could want about these two candidates. We know the choice we are making. . .

Continue reading.

Then he has a lengthy list, of which I will post only the first few. There are more at the link:

  • David Frum, in The Atlantic, with the conservative case for a Clinton vote. (“The lesson Trump has taught is not only that certain Republican dogmas have passed out of date, but that American democracy itself is much more vulnerable than anyone would have believed only 24 months ago.”)
  • Conor Friedersdorf, also a conservative, also in The Atlantic, on the perils of false-equivalent thinking. (“The Democratic nominee’s shortcomings should not blind voters to the catastrophe they’d invite by electing her cruel, undisciplined, erratic opponent.”)
  • Michael Gerson, like David Frum a one-time White House speechwriter for George W. Bush, in The Washington Post. (“The single most frightening, anti-democratic phrase of modern presidential history came in Trump’s convention speech: ‘I alone can fix it.’”)
  • A WaPo editorial on the choice that Republicans and conservatives are making, and how it should be remembered. (“When the republic was in danger, where did you stand? History will ask that question of Republican leaders who knew that Donald Trump was unfit to be commander in chief.”)
  • Frank Rich, in NY magazine, to similar effect. (“Charles Lindbergh was a national hero, then a fascist sympathizer. History will be just as brutal to more than a few current Republican leaders.”)
  • Paul Waldman in the WaPo about similar questions of values and institutions that will last beyond the election. (“There is something deeply troubling happening right now, and it goes beyond the ordinary trading of blows in a campaign season.”)
  • Brian Beutler, . . .

Written by Leisureguy

4 November 2016 at 3:18 pm

Posted in Election, GOP

Unsatisfying

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If you’re seeking dissatisfaction….

Written by Leisureguy

4 November 2016 at 9:10 am

Posted in Video

Mr Pomp, Meißner Tremonia Bay Rum, and the Rockwell 6S R3

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SOTD 2016-11-04

Mr Pomp made a very good lather from Meißner Tremonia’s Natural Bay Rum. One thing I like about Meißner Tremonia shaving soap and shaving paste, beyond the very nick jar and the high quality of the lather, is that their fragrances are strong and present. Not to discount the lather, which today was once again extremely good. I added water a few times as I loaded the brush and both lather and fragrance were wonderful.

Three passes with the Rockwell R3 plate and my face was perfectly smooth. However, I think next time I’ll try the R4 and see how I like that. Experimentation is good.

A splash of Ginger’s Garden Suede aftershave, and the day begins… with doing laundry.

Written by Leisureguy

4 November 2016 at 8:17 am

Posted in Shaving

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