Later On

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

Archive for November 18th, 2016

Trump’s CIA Director Pick Thinks Using Encryption ‘May Itself Be A Red Flag’

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Jesus.

Written by Leisureguy

18 November 2016 at 5:47 pm

Donald Trump Hopes to Abolish Intelligence Chief Position, Reverse CIA Reforms

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One CIA reform that Trump will clearly reverse: He plans to bring back and intensify the formal program of torturing prisoners that the CIA carried out before, only using worse forms of torture. (This is a war crime and against US law (the Convention Against Torture treaty, signed and ratified), but I don’t think details like that are even perceptible to The Donald.)

Matthew Cole reports in The Intercept:

Donald Trump’s national security team is discussing plans to dismantle the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, the organization that was created in response to the 9/11 attacks, according to an adviser to the president-elect and a former senior intelligence official. The news comes as the current director of national intelligence, James Clapper, announced his resignation Thursday.

The Trump national security team has been meeting in recent days, planning the removal of the cabinet-level position and assessing how to fold parts of the organization into the 16 federal intelligence agencies it oversees, according to both people with knowledge of the plans. If the restructuring is accomplished, it would undo legislation passed by Congress in 2004, dismantle the biggest American intelligence bureaucracy created since the end of World War II, and roll back a key recommendation of the 9/11 Commission.

The national security team believes the effort will be “long and messy” but is confident it will be successful, according to the former senior U.S. intelligence official who is consulting with those involved in the transition.

Both sources asked for anonymity because they are not authorized to speak publicly about confidential plans.

The former senior intelligence official, who supports the proposal, said the DNI was never a solution to the 9/11 attacks. “It was always a naive idea that American intelligence can be ‘fixed.’ You’ll never get it all correct,” the former official said. “You can never have 100 percent intelligence, never stop every terror plot or penetrate every terrorist cell. There will always be gaps.”

The Office of the Director of National Intelligence declined to comment, but a source close to Clapper said the director was not aware of the Trump transition team’s plans.

The Trump team sees removing the office as an opportunity to reorganize other parts of the intelligence community, something that some career officials have long sought. The transition team, for example, is also contemplating reversing the recent restructuring of the CIA that took place under its current director, John O. Brennan. “Assuming the DNI gets taken apart, they want to undo Brennan’s reorganization of the agency,” the former senior official said.

Last year, Brennan restructured the CIA by removing the wall between analysts and spies, putting them together in mission centers, rather than geographic divisions, as had been the organization since the agency was created. The new structure was largely modeled after the Counterterrorism Center, which had become the agency’s dominant section after 9/11. Critics from inside the agency complained that it weakened the core skill of the agency — human espionage — and removed expertise. Brennan said the move allowed the agency to better reflect the changing landscape of global threats, including cyberspace.

The Trump transition team announced Friday morning that Mike Pompeo, a Republican representative from Kansas, will be nominated to head the CIA. It’s unclear whether Pompeo, a former Army officer, would support reversing Brennan’s reforms, or whether it was a condition of accepting the nomination. . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

18 November 2016 at 5:38 pm

Excellent Danish police-procedural TV Series on Netflix: “Department Q”

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I think the first in the series—the one I’m now watching—is “Department Q: The Keeper of Lost Causes.”

Written by Leisureguy

18 November 2016 at 5:31 pm

Posted in Daily life

Paul Krugman confronts the reality instead of taking refuge in futile hopes

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Paul Krugman writes in his blog at the NY Times:

A lot of people in politics and the media are scrambling to normalize what just happened to us, saying that it will all be OK and we can work with Trump. No, it won’t, and no, we can’t. The next occupant of the White House will be a pathological liar with a loose grip on reality; he is already surrounding himself with racists, anti-Semites, and conspiracy theorists; his administration will be the most corrupt in America history.

How did this happen? There were multiple causes, but you just can’t ignore the reality that key institutions and their leaders utterly failed. Every news organization that decided, for the sake of ratings, to ignore policy and barely cover Trump scandals while obsessing over Clinton emails, every reporter who, for whatever reason — often sheer pettiness — played up Wikileaks nonsense and talked about how various Clinton stuff “raised questions” and “cast shadows” is complicit in this disaster. And then there’s the FBI: it’s quite reasonable to argue that James Comey, whether it was careerism, cowardice, or something worse, tipped the scales and may have doomed the world.

No, I’m not giving up hope. Maybe, just maybe, the sheer awfulness of what’s happening will sink in. Maybe the backlash will be big enough to constrain Trump from destroying democracy in the next few months, and/or sweep his gang from power in the next few years. But if that’s going to happen, enough people will have to be true patriots, which means taking a stand.

And anyone who doesn’t — who plays along and plays it safe — is betraying America, and mankind.

.

Written by Leisureguy

18 November 2016 at 4:21 pm

NY Times headline: “Choices Reflect Unapologetic Terror Stance” — The terrorists have won

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The tail is now wagging the dog (and, BTW, Wag the Dog (1997) (script by David Mamet) is really an excellent movie—Dustin Hoffman based his producer persona on Robert Evans—and it’s worth watching in the current political context (again). Robert Eberts’s review:

So, why did we invade Grenada? A terrorist bomb killed all those Marines in Beirut, the White House was taking flak, and suddenly our Marines were landing on a Caribbean island few people had heard of, everybody was tying yellow ribbons ’round old oak trees, and Clint Eastwood was making the movie. The Grenadan invasion, I have read, produced more decorations than combatants. By the time it was over, Ronald Reagan’s presidency had proven the republic could still flex its muscle–we could take out a Caribbean Marxist regime at will, Cuba notwithstanding.

Barry Levinson’s “Wag the Dog” cites Grenada as an example of how easy it is to whip up patriotic frenzy, and how dubious the motives sometimes are. The movie is a satire that contains just enough realistic ballast to be teasingly plausible; like “Dr. Strangelove,” it makes you laugh, and then it makes you wonder. Just today, I read a Strangelovian article revealing that some of Russian’s nuclear missiles, still aimed at the United States, have gone unattended because their guards were denied bonus rations of 4 pounds of sausage a month. It is getting harder and harder for satire to stay ahead of reality.

In the movie, a U.S. president is accused of luring an underage “Firefly Girl” into an anteroom of the Oval Office, and there presenting her with opportunities no Firefly Girl should anticipate from her commander in chief. A presidential election is weeks away, the opposition candidate starts using “Thank Heaven for Little Girls” in his TV ads, and White House aide Winifred Ames (Anne Heche) leads a spin doctor named Conrad Brean (Robert De Niro) into bunkers far beneath the White House for an emergency session.

Brean, a Mr. Fixit who has masterminded a lot of shady scenarios, has a motto: “To change the story, change the lead.” To distract the press from the Firefly Girl scandal, he advises extending a presidential trip to Asia, while issuing official denials that the new B-3 bomber is being activated ahead of schedule. “But there is no B-3 bomber,” he’s told.

“Perfect! Deny it even exists!” Meanwhile, he cooks up a phony international crisis with Albania.

Why Albania? Nobody is sure where it is, nobody cares, and you can’t get any news out of it. Nobody can even think of any Albanians except–maybe the Belushi brothers? To produce the graphic look and feel of the war, Brean flies to Hollywood and enlists the services of a producer named Stanley Motss (Dustin Hoffman), who is hard to convince. He wants proof that Brean has a direct line to the White House. He gets it. As they watch a live briefing by a presidential spokesman, Brean dictates into a cell phone and the spokesman repeats, word for word, what he hears on his earpiece. (I was reminded of the line in “Broadcast News“: “Goes in here, comes out there.”) Motss assembles the pieces for a media blitz. As spokesmen warn of Albanian terrorists skulking south from Canada with “suitcase bombs,” Motss supervises the design of a logo for use on the news channels, hires Willie Nelson to write the song that will become the conflict’s “spontaneous” anthem, and fakes news footage of a hapless Albanian girl (Kirsten Dunst) fleeing from rapists with her kitten. (Dunst is an American actress, and the kitten, before it is created with special effects, is a bag of Tostados.) But what about a martyr? Motss cooks up “good old Shoe,” Sgt. William Schumann (Woody Harrelson), who is allegedly rescued from the hands of the Albanians to be flown back for a hero’s welcome. Shoe inspires a shtick, too: Kids start lobbing their old gym shoes over power lines, and throwing them onto the court during basketball games, as a spontaneous display of patriotism.

It’s creepy how this material is absurd and convincing at the same time. Levinson, working from a smart, talky script by David Mamet and Hilary Henkin, based on the book “American Hero” by Larry Beinhart, deconstructs the media blitz that accompanies any modern international crisis. Even when a conflict is real and necessary (the Gulf War, for example), the packaging of them is invariably shallow and unquestioning; like sportswriters, war correspondents abandon any pretense of objectivity and detachment, and cheerfully root for our side.

For Hoffman, this is the best performance in some time, inspired, it is said, by producer Robert Evans. (In power and influence, however, Motss seems more like Ray Stark.) Like a lot of Hollywood power brokers, Hoffman’s Motss combines intelligence with insecurity and insincerity, and frets because he won’t get “credit” for his secret manipulations.

De Niro’s Brean, on the other hand, is a creature born to live in shadow, and De Niro plays him with the poker-faced plausibility of real spin doctors, who tell lies as a professional specialty. Their conversations are crafted by Mamet as a verbal ballet between two men who love the jargon of their crafts.

“Why does a dog wag its tail?” Brean asks at one point. “Because the dog is smarter than the tail. If the tail was smarter, it would wag the dog.” In the Breanian universe, the tail is smarter, and we, dear readers, are invited to be the dogs.)

In the US today, the dog is firmly gripped (and controlled) by its tail.

Written by Leisureguy

18 November 2016 at 4:07 pm

The Story Behind Jared Kushner’s Curious Acceptance into Harvard

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Daniel Golden writes in ProPublica:

I would like to express my gratitude to Jared Kushner for reviving interest in my 2006 book, “The Price of Admission.” I have never met or spoken with him, and it’s rare in this life to find such a selfless benefactor. Of course, I doubt he became Donald Trump’s son-in-law and consigliere merely to boost my lagging sales, but still, I’m thankful.

My book exposed a grubby secret of American higher education: that the rich buy their under-achieving children’s way into elite universities with massive, tax-deductible donations. It reported that New Jersey real estate developer Charles Kushner had pledged $2.5 million to Harvard University in 1998, not long before his son Jared was admitted to the prestigious Ivy League school. At the time, Harvard accepted about one of every nine applicants. (Nowadays, it only takes one out of twenty.)

I also quoted administrators at Jared’s high school, who described him as a less than stellar student and expressed dismay at Harvard’s decision.

“There was no way anybody in the administrative office of the school thought he would on the merits get into Harvard,” a former official at The Frisch School in Paramus, New Jersey, told me. “His GPA did not warrant it, his SAT scores did not warrant it. We thought for sure, there was no way this was going to happen. Then, lo and behold, Jared was accepted. It was a little bit disappointing because there were at the time other kids we thought should really get in on the merits, and they did not.”

Risa Heller, a spokeswoman for Kushner Companies, said in an email Thursday that “the allegation” that Charles Kushner’s gift to Harvard was related to Jared’s admission “is and always has been false.” His parents, Charles and Seryl Kushner, “are enormously generous and have donated over 100 million dollars to universities, hospitals and other charitable causes. Jared Kushner was an excellent student in high school and graduated from Harvard with honors.” (About 90 percent of Jared’s 2003 class at Harvard also graduated with honors.)

My Kushner discoveries were an offshoot of my research for a chapter on Harvard donors. Somebody had slipped me a document I had long coveted: the membership list of Harvard’s Committee on University Resources. The university wooed more than 400 of its biggest givers and most promising prospects by putting them on this committee and inviting them to campus periodically to be wined, dined, and subjected to lectures by eminent professors.

My idea was to figure out how many children of these corporate titans, oil barons, money managers, lawyers, high-tech consultants and old-money heirs had gone to Harvard. A disproportionate tally might suggest that the university eased its standards for the offspring of wealthy backers.

I began working through the list, poring over “Who’s Who in America” and Harvard class reunion reports for family information. Charles and Seryl Kushner were both on the committee. I had never heard of them, but their joint presence struck me as a sign that Harvard’s fundraising machine held the couple in especially fond regard.

The clips showed that Charles Kushner’s empire encompassed 25,000 New Jersey apartments, along with extensive office, industrial and retail space and undeveloped land. Unlike most of his fellow committee members, though, Kushner was not a Harvard man. He had graduated from New York University. This eliminated the sentimental tug of the alma mater as a reason for him to give to Harvard, leaving another likely explanation: his children.

Sure enough, his sons Jared and Joshua had both enrolled there.

Charles Kushner differed from his peers on the committee in another way; he had a criminal record. . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

18 November 2016 at 2:43 pm

NFL doctors should not report to teams, Harvard study recommends

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The conflict of interest is obvious. If you don’t understand this, let me suggest this thought experiment. You are given a factory. You learn that the quality control inspectors are all paid by one of your competitors. Would you want to change that? (If so, you can understand why having the doctors, whose sworn mission is to protect the patient, paid by the NFL is a problem—fortunately, a problem easily solved.)

Rick Maese reports in the Washington Post:

A new report from Harvard University proposes drastic changes in the way health care is administered in the NFL, urging the nation’s most popular sports league to upend its system of medicine and untangle the loyalties of the doctors and trainers charged with treating players.

Asserting that the long-standing current structure has inherent conflicts of interest, the 493-page report outlines a new system in which a team’s medical staff is devoted solely to players’ interests and no longer reports to team management or coaches.

“The intersection of club doctors’ dual obligations creates significant legal and ethical quandaries that can threaten player health,” the report states.

The two-year study bills itself as the first of its kind in “examining the complicated and often-paradoxical universe of stakeholders that may influence NFL player health.” The NFL strongly took issue with the methodology and conclusions drawn by the Harvard researchers.

On Nov. 1, Jeffrey Miller, the NFL’s executive vice president of health and safety, sent the researchers a 33-page response in which he rejected any suggestion that NFL doctors have conflicts of interest and called the proposed change “untenable and impractical.” He said researchers have called for “several unrealistic recommendations that would not improve player care.”

The report “cites no evidence that a conflict of interest actually exists,” Miller wrote. “. . . The Report identified no incident in which team physicians were alleged to have ignored the health status of players, failed to adhere to patient confidentiality consent procedures, or made recommendations to clubs that were contrary to the health of players.”

The report — called “Protecting and Promoting the Health of NFL Players: Legal and Ethical Analysis and Recommendations” — is authored by members of Harvard Law School’s Petrie-Flom Center for Health Law Policy, Biotechnology and Bioethics. It is part of a multiyear, multimillion-dollar project that includes several Harvard studies examining the well-being of NFL players. Though funded by the NFL Players Association, the research is independent, and Harvard officials stress that neither the union nor the league has any control over the studies.

An NFLPA spokesman declined to comment on the study’s conclusions, and the union also declined an offer by researchers to submit a written response, similar to the NFL’s.

In interviews, the Harvard researchers say they were surprised by the league’s response.

“I had expected we’d maybe be quibbling around the margins of how it would actually be implemented,” said Holly Fernandez Lynch, the executive director of the Petrie-Flom Center and one of the report’s authors. “I did not expect that we would have to have this conversation about whether there is, in fact, a conflict because it’s so obvious on its face.”

“Admitting you have a problem is the first step to get over,” added Harvard law professor Glenn Cohen, another of the report’s authors, “and while we think many of the people who serve as club medical staff are wonderful doctors and excellent people — this is not to besmirch them or their reputation — it is not going to produce a good system if you’re operating under an inherent structural conflict of interest and one that is corrosive to player trust. . .

Continue reading.

You have to wonder why the NFL management wants to be able to hire, pay, and fire the doctors, but then you realize it’s obvious: They want to be able to stop the doctor from in any way hurting profits, and that might require that the doctor not follow the course that’s best for the patient. They apparently believe that if the players get proper medical care and sound medical opinions, it would hurt profits. Think about that for a while, and you can see why the NFL is a morally corrupt and unethical organization.

Written by Leisureguy

18 November 2016 at 2:32 pm

David Remnick profiles Obama as this election unfolded

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David Remnick in the New Yorker:

The morning after Donald Trump was elected President of the United States, Barack Obama summoned staff members to the Oval Office. Some were fairly junior and had never been in the room before. They were sombre, hollowed out, some fighting tears, humiliated by the defeat, fearful of autocracy’s moving vans pulling up to the door. Although Obama and his people admit that the election results caught them completely by surprise—“We had no plan for this,” one told me—the President sought to be reassuring.

“This is not the apocalypse,” Obama said. History does not move in straight lines; sometimes it goes sideways, sometimes it goes backward. A couple of days later, when I asked the President about that consolation, he offered this: “I don’t believe in apocalyptic—until the apocalypse comes. I think nothing is the end of the world until the end of the world.”
Obama’s insistence on hope felt more willed than audacious. It spoke to the civic duty he felt to prevent despair not only among the young people in the West Wing but also among countless Americans across the country. At the White House, as elsewhere, dread and dejection were compounded by shock. Administration officials recalled the collective sense of confidence about the election that had persisted for many months, the sense of balloons and confetti waiting to be released. Last January, on the eve of his final State of the Union address, Obama submitted to a breezy walk-and-talk interview in the White House with the “Today” show. Wry and self-possessed, he told Matt Lauer that no matter what happened in the election he was sure that “the overwhelming majority” of Americans would never submit to Donald Trump’s appeals to their fears, that they would see through his “simplistic solutions and scapegoating.”
“So when you stand and deliver that State of the Union address,” Lauer said, “in no part of your mind and brain can you imagine Donald Trump standing up one day and delivering the State of the Union address?”
Obama chuckled. “Well,” he said, “I can imagine it in a ‘Saturday Night’ skit.”
Obama’s mockery of Trump began as early as the 2011 White House Correspondents’ Dinner, largely as the result of Trump’s support of the “birther” conspiracy theory, which claims that Obama was born in Africa and so impugns the legitimacy of his office. Into the final stretch of this year’s campaign, moments of serene assurance were plentiful. A few weeks before the election, Obama went on “Jimmy Kimmel Live!” and performed a routine in which he read one insulting tweet directed at him after another. Finally, he read one off his phone from the Republican candidate: “President Obama will go down as perhaps the worst president in the history of the United States! @realDonaldTrump.”
A short, cool pause, then Obama delivered the zinger: “Well, @realDonaldTrump, at least I will go down as a President.” And then, like a rapper dropping the mike, Obama held out his phone and let it fall to the floor.
For tens of millions of Americans, Trump was unthinkable as President. It came to be conceded that he had “tuned into something”: the frequencies of white rural life, the disaffection of people who felt overwhelmed by the forces of globalization, who felt unheard and condescended to by the coastal establishment. Yet Trump himself, by liberal consensus, was a huckster mogul of the social-media age, selling magic potions laced with poison. How could he possibly win?
Still, his triumph, or the idea of it, was not beyond prediction. The fissures and frustrations in the American electorate were nothing new, and some commentators were notably alert to them. Before and after the election, a passage from Richard Rorty’s 1998 book, “Achieving Our Country,” circulated on social media. Rorty, a left-leaning philosopher, who died in 2007, predicted that the neglected working class would not tolerate its marginalization for long. “Something will crack,” he wrote:

The nonsuburban electorate will decide that the system has failed and start looking around for a strongman to vote for—someone willing to assure them that, once he is elected, the smug bureaucrats, tricky lawyers, overpaid bond salesmen, and postmodernist professors will no longer be calling the shots. . . . One thing that is very likely to happen is that the gains made in the past forty years by black and brown Americans, and by homosexuals, will be wiped out. Jocular contempt for women will come back into fashion. . . . All the resentment which badly educated Americans feel about having their manners dictated to them by college graduates will find an outlet.

A man of inherited fortune and a stint at the Wharton School was an unlikely champion of the rural South and the Rust Belt—this was no Huey Long—but Trump was shrewd enough to perform his fellow-feeling in blunt terms. “I love the poorly educated!” he told the crowd after winning the Nevada caucus. “We’re the smartest people, we’re the most loyal people!”

When I joined Obama on a campaign trip to North Carolina just four days before the election, Hillary Clinton was hanging on to a lead in nearly every poll. Surely, the professionals said, her “firewall” would hold and provide a comfortable victory. David Plouffe, who ran Obama’s 2008 campaign, said that Clinton was a “one hundred per cent” lock and advised nervous Democrats to stop “wetting the bed.” In battleground states, particularly where it was crucial to get out the African-American vote, Obama was giving one blistering campaign speech after another.
“I’m having fun,” he told me. But, thanks in part to James Comey, the F.B.I. director, and his letter to Congress announcing that he would investigate Clinton’s e-mails again, the race tightened considerably in its final week. When Obama wandered down the aisle of Air Force One, I asked him, “Do you feel confident about Tuesday?”
“Nope,” he said. . .

Continue reading.

Later:

. . . Air Force One landed at Fort Bragg and the motorcade headed to a gym packed with supporters at Fayetteville State University. In shirtsleeves and with crisp, practiced enthusiasm, Obama delivered his campaign stump speech. His appeal for Clinton was rooted in the preservation of his own legacy. “All the progress that we’ve made these last eight years,” he said, “goes out the window if we don’t win this election!” He revived some of his early tropes, cautioning the crowd not to be “bamboozled” by the G.O.P.—an echo from Malcolm X—and recited the litany of Trump’s acts of disrespect toward blacks, women, Muslims, the disabled, Gold Star parents.
I was standing to the side of the stage. Nearby, a stout older man appeared in the aisle, dressed in a worn, beribboned military uniform and holding a Trump sign. People spotted him quickly and the jeering began. Then came the chant “Hil-la-ry! Hil-la-ry!”
Obama picked up the curdled vibe and located its source. “Hold up!” he said. “Hold up!”
The crowd would not quiet down. He repeated the phrase—“Hold up!”—sixteen more times, and still nothing. It took a long, disturbing while before he could recapture the crowd’s attention and get people to lay off the old man. What followed was a lecture in political civility.
“I’m serious, listen up,” he said. “You’ve got an older gentleman who is supporting his candidate. . . . You don’t have to worry about him. This is what I mean about folks not being focussed. First of all, we live in a country that respects free speech. Second of all, it looks like maybe he might have served in our military, and we’ve got to respect that. Third of all, he was elderly, and we’ve got to respect our elders. . . . Now, I want you to pay attention. Because if we don’t, if we lose focus, we could have problems.”
That night in Hershey, Pennsylvania, Trump informed his supporters that in Fayetteville Obama had been abusive to the protester: “He spent so much time screaming at this protester and, frankly, it was a disgrace.” Either Trump was retailing an account he’d found online in the alt-right media or he was knowingly lying. In other words, Trump was Trump. . .

And Obama is exactly right: attacking our fellow citizens is a distraction. It’s a loss of focus.

Later still, and this is where we see the breakthrough of memes:

. . . What frustrated Obama and his staff was the knowledge that, in large measure, they were reaching their own people but no further. They spoke to the networks and the major cable outlets, the major papers and the mainstream Web sites, and, in an attempt to find people “where they are,” forums such as Bill Maher’s and Samantha Bee’s late-night cable shows, and Marc Maron’s podcast. But they would never reach the collective readerships of Breitbart News, the Drudge Report, WND, Newsmax, InfoWars, and lesser-knowns like Western Journalism—not to mention the closed loop of peer-to-peer right-wing rumor-mongering.
“Until recently, religious institutions, academia, and media set out the parameters of acceptable discourse, and it ranged from the unthinkable to the radical to the acceptable to policy,” Simas said. “The continuum has changed. Had Donald Trump said the things he said during the campaign eight years ago—about banning Muslims, about Mexicans, about the disabled, about women—his Republican opponents, faith leaders, academia would have denounced him and there would be no way around those voices. Now, through Facebook and Twitter, you can get around them. There is social permission for this kind of discourse. Plus, through the same social media, you can find people who agree with you, who validate these thoughts and opinions. This creates a whole new permission structure, a sense of social affirmation for what was once thought unthinkable. This is a foundational change.”
That day, as they travelled, Obama and Simas talked almost obsessively about an article in BuzzFeed that described how the Macedonian town of Veles had experienced a “digital gold rush” when a small group of young people there published more than a hundred pro-Trump Web sites, with hundreds of thousands of Facebook followers. The sites had names like TrumpVision365.com and WorldPoliticus.com, and most of the posts were wildly sensationalist, recycled from American alt-right sites. If you read such sites, you learned that Pope Francis had endorsed Trump and that Clinton had actually encouraged Trump to run, because he “can’t be bought.”
The new media ecosystem “means everything is true and nothing is true,” Obama told me later. “An explanation of climate change from a Nobel Prize-winning physicist looks exactly the same on your Facebook page as the denial of climate change by somebody on the Koch brothers’ payroll. And the capacity to disseminate misinformation, wild conspiracy theories, to paint the opposition in wildly negative light without any rebuttal—that has accelerated in ways that much more sharply polarize the electorate and make it very difficult to have a common conversation.” [Memes unbound, as it were, free to propagate based purely on their memetic survival value, not whether they correspond with reality at all: a pure meme environment. And meme evolution is rapid. – LG]
That marked a decisive change from previous political eras, he maintained. “Ideally, in a democracy, everybody would agree that climate change is the consequence of man-made behavior, because that’s what ninety-nine per cent of scientists tell us,” he said. “And then we would have a debate about how to fix it. That’s how, in the seventies, eighties, and nineties, you had Republicans supporting the Clean Air Act and you had a market-based fix for acid rain rather than a command-and-control approach. So you’d argue about means, but there was a baseline of facts that we could all work off of. And now we just don’t have that.” . . .

Written by Leisureguy

18 November 2016 at 2:09 pm

Reading list for a dissenter

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Emily Temple at Literary Hub writes:

In the few days since the devastating results of the 2016 presidential election, many people have written about the place of art in times of grief, fear, and disaster. Literature can offer solace, of course, but what if you’re not looking for solace? For some, the time for consolation and pain may now be over, and replaced with a desire to do something—about our own pain, and about the pain of others. So here, as a companion to our list of 25 nonfiction books for anger and action, are 25 works of fiction and poetry—out of many, of course—that may, in their various ways, inspire you to act up, speak out, and change the world. Otherwise, who will?

Margaret Atwood, The Handmaid’s Tale

This is the book women will be whispering about to one another in Trump’s America—an all-too-real vision of our country under a totalitarian theocracy where women are stripped of their rights and kept around only as breeders or servants. But there is resistance. Offred remembers life before the revolution, and works, as the novel goes on, to shake her indoctrination and the oppressive eye of the state, and perhaps, to carve some agency for herself back into the world. Nolite te bastardes carborundorum.

Martín Espada, Vivas to Those Who Have Failed

In this volume, Espada embodies the voices of America—from immigrant workers to students to people of color killed by police to children killed by guns to his own father. “melt the bullets into bells. melt the bullets into bells,” he cries. A beautiful ode to America and all of her failures—and triumphs.

Ray Bradbury, Fahrenheit 451

In Bradbury’s classic, books are outlawed and burned whenever found—the logical extreme, no doubt, of the bizarre new American anti-intellectualism—not to mention a president who doesn’t read. But in the end, like the phoenix, even the destroyed city will be reborn. Also, this: “Don’t ask for guarantees. And don’t look to be saved in any one thing, person, machine, or library. Do your own bit of saving, and if you drown, at least die knowing you were heading for shore.” . . .

Continue reading.

Of course, one can just say, “I don’t dissent, I concur.” I imagine most will. It’s going to be a long four years. Jeff Sessions! Attorney General of the United States! (No worse than Ed Meese, I guess: Meese just had to resign. Possibly not so bad as John Mitchell. He went to prison. All Republicans, BTW. Perhaps coincidental. John Ashcroft was no shrinking violet himself, determined that the Federal government could abrogate a legitimately adopted and approved state law just because he, personally, did not agree with the law. State’s rights be damned! And I won’t even get into the can of works of Alberto Gonsález. They, too, are both Republicans.)

Written by Leisureguy

18 November 2016 at 1:34 pm

You’ve thought about Kurt Vonnegut’s Cat’s Cradle. Think again.

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Josh Jones posts at Open Culture:

Kurt Vonnegut’s 1963 novel Cat’s Cradle resembles its title, a web of overlapping and entangled stories, all of which have huge holes in the middle. And the book—as have many of his slim, surrealist pop masterpieces—was read by many critics as lightweight—whimsical and sentimental.  One reviewer in The New York Review of Books, for example, called Vonnegut a “compiler of easy to read truisms about society who allows everyone’s heart to be in the right place.”

Not so, argues University of Puerto Rico scholar Mark Wekander Voigt. For all its silliness—such as its Calypso-heavy “parody of a modern invented religion that will make everyone happy”—Cat’s Cradle, writes Voigt, “is essentially about the moral issues involved in a democratic government using the atom bomb.” Vonnegut’s novel suggests that “to be really ethical, to think about right and wrong, means that we must dispense with the authorities who tell us what is right and wrong.”

John, the hero of Cat’s Cradle, begins his absurdist hero’s quest by intending to write a “factual” accounting of what “important Americans had done on the day when the first atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima, Japan.” The references would not have been lost on Vonnegut’s contemporary readers, who would all have been familiar with John Hersey’s harrowing 1946 Hiroshima, the most popular book ever written about the dropping of the bomb, with six survivor’s stories told in a thrilling, engaging style and “all the entertainment of a well-written novel.”

Vonnegut, however, writes an alienating anti-novel, in part to demonstrate his point that “to discuss the ethical implications of dropping the bomb on Hiroshima, one should not look at the victims, but at those who were involved in developing such a bomb and their government.” Increasingly, however, it becomes harder and harder to look at anything directly. In the novel’s parody religion, Bokononism, all lies are potentially truths, all truths potentially lies. Language in the military-industrial-complex world of the bomb, Vonnegut suggests, had become as changeable and potentially deadly as the substance called “Ice-9,” a polymorph of water that can instantly turn rivers, lakes, and even whole oceans into ice.

Evoking the novel’s high-wire balancing act of goofy songs and rituals and metaphors for the global annihilation of the earth by nuclear weapons, the 2001 album above [in post at the link – LG[, Ice-9 Ballads, pairs Vonnegut with composer Dave Soldier and the Manhattan Chamber orchestra for an adaptation, of sorts, of Cat’s Cradle.. . .

Continue reading.

I would not be surprised to see an uptick in Vonnegut’s popularity over the next few years.

Written by Leisureguy

18 November 2016 at 1:21 pm

Democratic myths that cost them the election

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Kurt Eichenwald has a very interesting column in Newsweek that is well worth reading. Fom the column:

. . . The problem this election season has been that liberal Democrats—just like too many Republicans—have been consumed by provably false conspiracy theories. They have trafficked in them on Facebook and Twitter, they have read only websites that confirm what they want to believe, and they have, in the past few months, unknowingly gulped down Russian propaganda with delight. In other words, just like the conservatives they belittle, they have been inside a media bubble that blocked them from reality. So before proceeding, let’s address a few fantasies about this campaign:

1. The Myth of the All-Powerful Democratic National Committee

Easily the most ridiculous argument this year was that the DNC was some sort of monolith that orchestrated the nomination of Hillary Clinton against the will of “the people.” This was immensely popular with the Bernie-or-Busters, those who declared themselves unwilling to vote for Clinton under any circumstances because the Democratic primary had been rigged (and how many of these people laughed when Trump started moaning about election rigging?). The notion that the fix was in was stupid, as were the people who believed it.

Start with this: The DNC, just like the Republican National Committee, is an impotent organization with very little power. It is composed of the chair and vice chair of the Democratic parties of each state, along with over 200 members elected by Democrats. What it does is fundraise, organize the Democratic National Convention and put together the party platform. It handles some organizational activity but tries to hold down its expenditures during the primaries; it has no authority to coordinate spending with any candidate until the party’s nominee is selected. This was why then-President Richard Nixon reacted with incredulity when he heard that some of his people had ordered a break-in at the DNC offices at the Watergate; he couldn’t figure out what information anyone would want out of such a toothless organization.

The first big criticism this year was that the DNC had sponsored “only” six debates between Clinton and Bernie Sanders in some sort of conspiracy to impede the Vermont senator. This rage was built on ignorance: The DNC at first announced it would sponsor six debates in 2016, just as it had in 2008 and 2004. (In 2012, Barack Obama was running for re-election. Plus, while the DNC announced it would sponsor six debates in 2008, only five took place.) Debates cost money, and the more spent on debates, the less available for the nominee in the general election. Plus, there is a reasonable belief among political experts that allowing the nominees to tear each other down over and over undermines their chances in the general election, which is exactly what happened with the Republicans in 2012.

Still, in the face of rage by Sanders supporters, the number of DNC-sponsored debates went up to nine—more than have been held in almost 30 years. Plans for a 10th one, scheduled for May 24, were abandoned after it became mathematically impossible for Sanders to win the nomination.

Notice that these were only DNC-sponsored debates. There were also 13 forums, sponsored by other organizations. So that’s 22 debates and forums, of which 14 were only for two candidates, Clinton and Sanders. Compare that with 2008: there were 17 debates and forums with between six and eight candidates; only six with two candidates, less than half the number in 2016. This was a big deal why?

The next conspiracy theory embraced by Bernie-or-Busters was that the DNC-sponsored debates were all held on nights no one would watch. Two took place on a Saturday, two on Sunday, three on a Thursday, one on a Tuesday and one on a Wednesday. In 2008, the DNC scheduled two on a Monday (one was canceled), and one each on a Sunday, Wednesday, Tuesday and Thursday. Not including any of the 2016 forums, there were 72 million viewers for the DNC-sponsored debates, almost the same amount—75 million viewers—as there were for every debate in 2008, including those sponsored by other organizations. And those Saturday debates, which Sanders fans howled no one would watch, were the third- and fifth-most watched debates (one of them was 3 percent away from being the fourth-most watched).

In other words, the argument that the DNC rigged the debates is, by any rational analysis, garbage. For those who still believe it, hats made of tin foil are available on Amazon.

Next, the infamous hack of DNC emails that “proved” the organization had its thumb on the scale for Clinton. Perhaps nothing has been more frustrating for people in the politics business to address, because the conspiracy is based on ignorance.

Almost every email that set off the “rigged” accusations was from May 2016. (One was in late April; I’ll address that below.) Even in the most ridiculous of dream worlds, Sanders could not have possibly won the nomination after May 3—at that point, he needed 984 more pledged delegates, but there were only 933 available in the remaining contests. And political pros could tell by the delegate math that the race was over on April 19, since a victory would require him to win almost every single delegate after that, something no rational person could believe.

Sanders voters proclaimed that superdelegates, elected officials and party regulars who controlled thousands of votes, could flip their support and instead vote for the candidate with the fewest votes. In other words, they wanted the party to overthrow the will of the majority of voters. That Sanders fans were wishing for an establishment overthrow of the electorate more common in banana republics or dictatorships is obscene. (One side note: Sanders supporters also made a big deal out of the fact that many of the superdelegates had expressed support for Clinton early in the campaign. They did the same thing in 2008, then switched to Obama when he won the most pledged delegates. Same thing would have happened with Sanders if he had persuaded more people to vote for him.)

This is important because it shows Sanders supporters were tricked into believing a false narrative. Once only one candidate can win the nomination, of course the DNC gets to work on that person’s behalf. Of course emails from that time would reflect support for the person who would clearly be the nominee. And given that their jobs are to elect Democrats, of course DNC officials were annoyed that Sanders would not tell his followers he could not possibly be the nominee. Battling for the sake of battling gave his supporters a false belief that they could still win—something that added to their increasingly embittered feelings.

According to a Western European intelligence source, Russian hackers, using a series of go-betweens, transmitted the DNC emails to WikiLeaks with the intent of having them released on the verge of the Democratic Convention in hopes of sowing chaos. And that’s what happened—just a couple of days before Democrats gathered in Philadelphia, the emails came out, and suddenly the media was loaded with stories about trauma in the party. Crews of Russian propagandists—working through an array of Twitter accounts and websites, started spreading the story that the DNC had stolen the election from Sanders. (An analysis provided to Newsweekby independent internet and computer specialists using a series of algorithms show that this kind of propaganda, using the same words, went from Russian disinformation sources to comment sections on more than 200 sites catering to liberals, conservatives, white supremacists, nutritionists and an amazing assortment of other interest groups.) The fact that the dates of the most controversial emails—May 3, May 4, May 5, May 9, May 16, May 17, May 18, May 21—were after it was impossible for Sanders to win was almost never mentioned, and was certainly ignored by the propagandists trying to sell the “primaries were rigged” narrative. (Yes, one of them said something inappropriate about his religious beliefs. So a guy inside the DNC was a jerk; that didn’t change the outcome.) Two other emails—one from April 24 and May 1—were statements of fact. In the first, responding to Sanders saying he would push for a contested convention (even though he would not have the delegates to do so), a DNC official wrote, “So much for a traditional presumptive nominee.” Yeah, no kidding. The second stated that Sanders didn’t know what the DNC’s job actually was—which he didn’t, apparently because he had not ever been a Democrat before his run.

Bottom line: The “scandalous” DNC emails were hacked by people working with the Kremlin, then misrepresented online by Russian propagandists to gullible fools who never checked the dates of the documents. And the media, which in the flurry of breathless stories about the emails would occasionally mention that they were all dated after any rational person knew the nomination was Clinton’s, fed into the misinformation.

In the real world, here is what happened: Clinton got 16.9 million votes in the primaries, compared with 13.2 million for Sanders. The rules were never changed to stop him, even though Sanders supporters started calling for them to be changed as his losses piled up.

2. The Myth That Sanders Would Have Won Against Trump

It is impossible to say what would have happened under a fictional scenario, but Sanders supporters often dangle polls from early summer showing he would have performed better than Clinton against Trump. They ignored the fact that Sanders had not yet faced a real campaign against him. Clinton was in the delicate position of dealing with a large portion of voters who treated Sanders more like the Messiah than just another candidate. She was playing the long game—attacking Sanders strongly enough to win, but gently enough to avoid alienating his supporters. Given her overwhelming support from communities of color—for example, about 70 percent of African-American voters cast their ballot for her—Clinton had a firewall that would be difficult for Sanders to breach.

When Sanders promoted free college tuition—a primary part of his platform that attracted young people—that didn’t mean much for almost half of all Democrats, who don’t attend—or even plan to attend—plan to attend a secondary school. In fact, Sanders was basically telling the working poor and middle class who never planned to go beyond high school that college students—the people with even greater opportunities in life—were at the top of his priority list.

So what would have happened when Sanders hit a real opponent, someone who did not care about alienating the young college voters in his base? I have seen the opposition book assembled by Republicans for Sanders, and it was brutal. The Republicans would have torn him apart. And while Sanders supporters might delude themselves into believing that they could have defended him against all of this, there is a name for politicians who play defense all the time: losers.

Here are a few tastes of what was in store for Sanders, straight out of the Republican playbook: He thinks rape is A-OK. In 1972, when he was 31, Sanders wrote a fictitious essay in which he described a woman enjoying being raped by three men. Yes, there is an explanation for it—a long, complicated one, just like the one that would make clear why the Clinton emails story was nonsense. And we all know how well that worked out.

Then there’s the fact that Sanders was on unemployment until his mid-30s, and that he stole electricity from a neighbor after failing to pay his bills, and that he co-sponsored a bill to ship Vermont’s nuclear waste to a poor Hispanic community in Texas, where it could be dumped. You can just see the words “environmental racist” on Republican billboards. And if you can’t, I already did. They were in the Republican opposition research book as a proposal on how to frame the nuclear waste issue.

Also on the list: Sanders violated campaign finance laws, criticized Clinton for supporting the 1994 crime bill that he voted for, and he voted against the Amber Alert system. His pitch for universal health care would have been used against him too, since it was tried in his home state of Vermont and collapsed due to excessive costs. Worst of all, the Republicans also had video of Sanders at a 1985 rally thrown by the leftist Sandinista government in Nicaragua where half a million people chanted, “Here, there, everywhere/the Yankee will die,’’ while President Daniel Ortega condemned “state terrorism” by America. Sanders said, on camera, supporting the Sandinistas was “patriotic.”

The Republicans had at least four other damning Sanders videos (I don’t know what they showed), and the opposition research folder was almost 2-feet thick. (The section calling him a communist with connections to Castro alone would have cost him Florida.) In other words, the belief that Sanders would have walked into the White House based on polls taken before anyone really attacked him is a delusion built on a scaffolding of political ignorance. . .

Read the whole thing.

Written by Leisureguy

18 November 2016 at 1:02 pm

Posted in Democrats, Election

19 excellent questions for discussing the election, with example discussions

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A really interesting column, and with Thanksgiving get-togethers on the horizon, an excellent set of questions. Michael Barbaro in the NY Times writes:

Here’s what we learned after the ugliest presidential campaign in modern times.

The voters you blame, whose ballots — for Clinton or Trump — so mystify and offend you, are not a distant, unfamiliar America. They are sitting across the dinner table, or the office cubicle, or the bed. They are your parents, your siblings, your friends.

Who wants to have that tough conversation, about why they voted as they did and about how it makes you feel? Just about nobody. So we avoid it. But like it or not, these people are in your life. The holidays are upon us. And deep down, you may actually want to have this talk. You may need to have this talk.

So we put together a guide for how to do it. We consulted with a professional: Liz Joyner, the executive director of The Village Square, an organization that facilitates these kinds of intimate, difficult conversations.

The ground rules:

Do it over a meal or drink. (Dine by Skype if the distance requires it.) Don’t jump right into politics — just catch up first.

Offer the benefit of the doubt. Assume the other person has generally good intentions. Almost everyone does.

Don’t let imperfect word choices tank the conversation.

Forget policy debates for now.

Just listen to the answers to your questions. Your turn is next.

Talk again soon. Promise.

The questions:

1. Describe your relationship to me.

2. Are we close?

3. Who did I vote for and why?

4. What was the most important issue for me?

5. Why do you feel differently about that issue?

6. How do you think our views came to be so different?

7. Has it been difficult to talk to me about this election? If so, why?

8. Do my views influence your politics at all?

9. What do you think most needs to change about this country?

10. Are you uncomfortable about any aspect of how America is changing?

11. Do you think I’m sexist or racist?

12. Do you feel ignored or misunderstood as a voter? If so, for how long?

13. What is something you find positive about my candidate?

14. Is there something you found yourself liking about my candidate?

15. What is something that you don’t like about the candidate you voted for?

16. Is there anything you are hopeful about in a Trump presidency?

17. Is there a goal Clinton talked about that you could get behind?

18. What do you think we agree on?

19. Do you still like me?

We brought together pairs of family and friends — one Trump voter, one Clinton voter per pair — and had them use this guide to facilitate conversation. You can listen to the first conversation below, and subscribe to The Run-Up on iTunes or Google Play Music to follow along as we release new episodes next week.

Written by Leisureguy

18 November 2016 at 12:41 pm

The nightmare of Jeff Sessions as attorney general

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Steve Hale, filling in for Radley Balko at The Watch in the Washington Post, reports:

If the 2016 presidential election felt to you like a torturous exercise in searching for lesser evils, the period we find ourselves in now — one where every day brings fresh speculation about unseemly potential appointments to President-elect Donald Trump’s Cabinet — has been a waking nightmare.

The thought of someone as apparently vindictive as New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) as a potential attorney general was replaced by the terrifying prospect of Rudy Giuliani being appointed to the post.

Now comes the news that Trump has settled on making Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) the nation’s top cop.

Not good.

Ryan J. Reilly at the Huffington Post wrote up Sessions’s greatest hits yesterday. They include allegedly calling a black attorney “boy” and agreeing with the description of a white attorney representing black clients as a “race traitor.” He was also accused of referring to organizations such as the American Civil Liberties Union and the NAACP as “un-American.” And alleged racism is not the only worrisome thing on Sessions’s résumé.

Those allegations of racism all surfaced in 1986, during confirmation hearings after Sessions was nominated by then-President Ronald Reagan to be a federal judge. Sessions denied many of the allegations or claimed they had been taken out of context, but the Senate Judiciary Committee would eventually reject his nomination, a first for the Reagan administration.

The civil rights organizations that Sessions allegedly demeaned have already been gearing up for the Trump administration. Reached earlier this week and asked about the Sessions speculation, Benard H. Simelton, head of the Alabama chapter of the NAACP, told The Watch that he expects Sessions would “move the country back, especially on civil rights and human rights.”

“It’s going to make our work here — all people who work for civil rights, it’ll make our work double,” Simelton said.

Of course, the Sessions appointment does not come in a vacuum. If confirmed, he will serve a president who spent more than a year waging a campaign that consistently included racist appeals and was rhetorically built on the desire for a return to the glorious days of some unspecified past American era, all the while making apparent his authoritarian impulses. He will serve a White House whose halls are haunted by former Breitbart boss and Trump campaign chairman Stephen K. Bannon — a man whose appointment has been cheered by white supremacists. And Sessions — a man who has, in the past, shown some bitternessover the fact that Abraham Lincoln “killed” one of his ancestors — will follow Eric Holder and Loretta E. Lynch, the first African American and first African American woman, respectively, to lead the Justice Department.

Which brings up another area of concern that Simelton touched on.

“From marriage equality to basic civil rights issues like police brutality, we don’t think those cases will be investigated fairly, don’t think they’ll get attention they deserve,” he said.

Recall the Justice Department’s 2015 investigation into the Ferguson police department and the blistering report that resulted from it, exposing the department as essentially a protection racket preying on the city’s African American residents. That report was crucial to gaining a true understanding of why a single, albeit devastating, incident such as the shooting of Michael Brown erupted the way it did. If one wants to know what it is like to live in some of America’s marginalized communities and experience the local police as an occupying force, as many Ferguson residents did, the document is indispensable. . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

18 November 2016 at 11:34 am

Fine Classic back in stock

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I really like my Fine Classic shaving brush, and I note they are back in stock now.

Written by Leisureguy

18 November 2016 at 11:26 am

Posted in Shaving

Reasons not to use Uber

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Richard Stallman blogs:

We should not accept the promotional term “sharing economy” for companies like Uber. That is spin. A more accurate term is “piecework subcontractor economy”.

Because I reject technology that mistreats me, I will never order or pay for an Uber car. I hope there will always be taxis I can use. But what about you?

Privacy

Users’ Freedom

Abuse of Drivers

Taxes

Comparison to Real Taxis

Discrimination

Misc


Privacy

  • Uber requires passengers to identify themselves, both to order a ride and to pay.
  • It also records where you get the ride and where you go with it.
  • Uber can track who has a one-night stand. In fact, it did so.
  • Uber doesn’t make things easy for people whose accounts have been stolen.
  • Uber plans to snoop on users’ locations and contacts all the time.Uber has the technical possibility to do this because its app is nonfree: it is controlled by Uber, not by the user. In addition, snooping depends on a nonfree operating system. With a free system, the user could tell the system to lie to the Uber app.
  • The US government can get those records, and any lawsuit (such as a divorce lawsuit) can subpoena them.
  • Uber gave the US government data on millions of customers.
  • Uber’s clever policy of not being directly responsible for anything that goes wrong extends to harassment by drivers, and its practice of identifying passengers enables drivers to find out who the passenger is. This makes some women scared to use Uber.This problem comes directly out of the practices listed above that mistreat all users of Uber.
  • Uber executives and staff have stalked passengers in various ways.If you take an ordinary taxi and pay cash, it will generate no records associated with you — except in New York City where the government might apply face recognition to identify your photo in real time.
  • To recover our privacy and make democracy safe, we need to redesign digital systems so that they do not collect information about people in general. First step, don’t help any new ones gain a foothold.

Users’ Freedom

  • Uber requires customers to run a nonfree program (an app). As always, a nonfree program tramples its users’ freedom.I’m not talking about the software that Uber runs in its servers; that does not directly affect customers. If some of that software is nonfree, it tramples Uber’s freedom, but not the customers’ freedom. The nonfree software and digital services that Uber requires its users to use attack their freedom in various ways.
  • The Uber app requires running other nonfree software (in the case of Android, Google Play).

Abuse of Drivers

Taxes

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

18 November 2016 at 9:34 am

The Stark Contrast Between GOP’s Self-Criticism in 2012 and Democrats’ Blame-Everyone-Else Posture Now

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Glenn Greenwald has an interesting piece in The Intercept:

IT IS NOT AN EXAGGERATION to say that the Democratic Party is in shambles as a political force. Not only did it just lose the White House to a wildly unpopular farce of a candidate despite a virtually unified establishment behind it, and not only is it the minority party in both the Senate and the House, but it is getting crushed at historical record rates on the state and local levels as well. Surveying this wreckage last week, party stalwart Matthew Yglesias of Vox minced no words: “the Obama years have created a Democratic Party that’s essentially a smoking pile of rubble.”

One would assume that the operatives and loyalists of such a weak, defeated and wrecked political party would be eager to engage in some introspection and self-critique, and to produce a frank accounting of what they did wrong so as to alter their plight. In the case of 2016 Democrats, one would be quite mistaken.

At least thus far, there is virtually no evidence of any such intention. Quite the contrary, Democrats have spent the last 10 days flailing around blaming everyone except for themselves, constructing a carousel of villains and scapegoats – from Julian Assange, Vladimir Putin, James Comey, the electoral college“fake news,” and Facebook, to Susan Sarandon, Jill Stein, millennials, Bernie Sanders, Clinton-critical journalists and, most of all, insubordinate voters themselves – to blame them for failing to fulfill the responsibility that the Democratic Party, and it alone, bears: to elect Democratic candidates.

This Accept-No-Responsibility, Blame-Everyone-Else posture stands in stark contrast to how the Republican National Committee reacted in 2012, after it lost the popular vote for the fifth time in six presidential elections. RNC Chairman Reince Priebus called Mitt Romney’s loss “a wake-up call,” and he was scathing about his party’s failures: “there’s no one reason we lost. Our message was weak; our ground game was insufficient; we weren’t inclusive; we were behind in both data and digital; our primary and debate process needed improvement . . . So, there’s no one solution: There’s a long list of them.”

The RNC’s willingness to admit its own failures led to a comprehensive 1oo-page report, issued only a few months after its 2012 defeat, that was unflinching in its self-critique. One of the report’s co-chairs, GOP strategist Sally Bradshaw, warned upon issuance of the “autopsy” that her party was “continually marginalizing itself and unless changes are made it will be increasingly difficult for Republicans to win another presidential election in the near future.” She added that “public perception of our party is at record lows. Young voters are increasingly rolling their eyes at what the party represents and many minorities think Republicans don’t like them or don’t want them in our country.”

The report itself also took aim at the GOP’s chosen candidate, containing sections that were “pointed in its critique of Mitt Romney, specifically pointing to his ‘self deportation’ comment as turning off Hispanic voters.” The report began by warning that at the federal level, the GOP “is increasingly marginalizing itself, and unless changes are made, it will be increasingly difficult for Republicans to win another presidential election in the near future.” Rather than maligning the voters who rejected his party, Preibus accepted responsibility for losing them: “To those who have left the party, let me say this, we want to earn your trust again, to those who have yet to trust us, we welcome you with open arms.”

One irony of 2016 is . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

18 November 2016 at 9:31 am

Posted in Democrats, Election, GOP

Meißner Tremonia Black Beer No. 1 and the iKon Short Comb

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SOTD 2016-11-18

The Wet Shaving Products Prince is a fine little brush and easily created a fine lather from Meißner Tremonia’s Black Beer No. 1: black beer fragrance augmented with rosemary and lemongrass. It was quite a good lather. The ingredients for this one (and you’ve noted that the ingredients vary among Meißner Tremonia’s soaps):

Stearic Acid, Cocos nucifera oil*, Beer, Potassium Hydroxide, Orbignya Oleifera oil, Sodium Hydroxide, Macadamia terifolia oil, Glycerin*, Rosmarinus officinalis leaf oil, Cymbopogon flesuosus oil, Red clay, Talc, Citric Acid, Simmondsia chinensis oil*, Maris sal, Citral**, Geraniol**, Limonene**, Linalool**, Citronellol**.

* Bio – Qualität
** from natural essential oils

The iKon Shavecraft Short Comb head is on an Above the Tie Kronos handle. It’s a fine little razor and produced a smooth finish in three passes with no problems.

A splash of Tallow + Steel Grog aftershave, and the weekend is dead ahead, already in sight.

Written by Leisureguy

18 November 2016 at 9:28 am

Posted in Shaving

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