Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Let's all say goodbye to the Philae comet lander, which we'll never hear from again

The Verge recommends Let's all say goodbye to the Philae comet lander, which we'll never hear from again "There’s still some time left before Europe’s Rosetta mission comes to an end in September, but it’s already time to say goodbye to the mission’s Philae lander — the first spacecraft ever to touch down on a comet. Tomorrow at 5AM ET, the European Space Agency will switch off the Electrical Support System Processor Unit (ESS) on the Rosetta spacecraft, which is currently orbiting around the comet that Philae landed on. The ESS is the system Rosetta uses to communicate with Philae, but researchers need to power it down to prepare for the end of the mission. Once it’s off, there will be no way for the two spacecraft to talk to each other."

Monday, July 25, 2016

The Gel That's Revolutionizing Pain Treatment - The Atlantic

The Atlantic reports on The Gel That's Revolutionizing Pain Treatment

Researchers have created a gel that can attach to inflammation sites and slowly deliver drugs to combat a wide variety of ailments—ulcerative colitis, arthritis and mucositis, to name a few. Inflammation is part of the body’s immune response, bringing extra blood to an injured area, but in cases of chronic inflammation, the heat, pain, and swelling become a problem. Developed at the Laboratory for Accelerated Medical Innovation at the Brigham and Women’s Hospital, the hydrogel—a solid material with high water content—can carry a combination of drugs, and matches its drug release to the level of inflammation around it.

When the gel is injected into the joint of an arthritis patient, for example, it will only release its anti-inflammatory payload when the patient is experiencing a flare, a spike in pain and swelling. When it encounters healthy tissue, it stays intact and does not release its payload."

A Republican Intellectual Explains Why the Republican Party is Going to Die

Vox writes A Republican intellectual explains why the Republican Party is going to die

Avik Roy is a Republican’s Republican. A health care wonk and editor at Forbes, he has worked for three Republican presidential hopefuls — Mitt Romney, Rick Perry, and Marco Rubio. Much of his adult life has been dedicated to advancing the Republican Party and conservative ideals."

Roy isn’t happy about this: He believes it means the Democrats will dominate national American politics for some time. But he also believes the Republican Party has lost its right to govern, because it is driven by white nationalism rather than a true commitment to equality for all Americans. “Until the conservative movement can stand up and live by that principle, it will not have the moral authority to lead the country,” he told me.

His history of conservatism was a Greek tragedy. It begins with a fatal error in 1964, survived on the willful self-delusion of people like Roy himself, and ended with Donald Trump.

“The fact is, today, the Republican coalition has inherited the people who opposed the Civil Rights Act of 1964 — the Southern Democrats who are now Republicans,” Roy says. “Conservatives and Republicans have not come to terms with that problem.”

Yet Republican intellectuals have long denied this, fabricating a revisionist history in which Republicans were and always have been the party of civil rights. In 2012, National Review ran a lengthy cover story arguing that the standard history recounted by Roy was “popular but indefensible.”

This revisionism, according to Roy, points to a much bigger conservative delusion: They cannot admit that their party’s voters are motivated far more by white identity politics than by conservative ideals.

“Conservative intellectuals, and conservative politicians, have been in kind of a bubble,” Roy says. “We’ve had this view that the voters were with us on conservatism — philosophical, economic conservatism. In reality, the gravitational center of the Republican Party is white nationalism.”

A week ago I linked to this FiveThirtyEight article, The End Of A Republican Party. I didn't pull quote this, but it's what's stuck with me most from the article:

[Redstate.com contributor Ben] Howe’s theory for the racial animus of Trump supporters boils down to simple attrition: “Everybody who was reasonable seems to have gone home in 2012,” he said. Romney’s loss in 2012 discouraged many of the once-energized fiscal conservative activists.

“This isn’t the most artful way to say it, but it’s like, where do you go when the only people who seem to agree with you on taxes hate black people?” Howe laughed ruefully. “I think what you do is you say, ‘Well, I may lose but I can’t align myself with them.’”

But instead, Howe said, he made moral compromises he regrets.

“There are some things that I don’t have core values about, that I can be negotiable on, compromise on. But then there are other things that I can’t budge on,” he said. “I think I thought I had to budge on some things: ‘Yeah, this guy talking to me right now just said he agrees with my taxes and also we need to get that Kenyan out of office.’ Why did I stand there and say, ‘Yeah’? You know? I shouldn’t have done that. I should’ve said, ‘Wait, what? No, that’s stupid. You’re stupid. Don’t be stupid.’”

My thought is that when faced with this conundrum you should perhaps question your tax position, maybe there's something racist about it? I'm glad that some conservative intellectuals are seeing the Republican for what it is, but honestly where have they been? They've been on Fox News, have they never watched it? Did they never listen to or read any criticism of the Republican party? Did they never hear of the birther movement or see its at least tacit support by Fox News (let alone any conservative talk radio)? They must have seen President Bush repeat that Islam is not our enemy, who did they think he was talking to?

I've long said that I'm willing to debate conservative positions on things, but the Republican party platforms and policies were crazy (climate change is not a hoax, inflation is in fact low, Obamacare has not destroyed America and is lowering the deficit, maybe more guns isn't the solution, BlackLivesMatter doesn't mean BlueLivesDon't, their budgets don't add up, people don't choose to be gay and therefore deserve equal rights, tort reform alone won't fix healthcare access, etc.) I've also said that the Republican intellectuals, like Reihan Salam, David Brooks, Ross Douthat, and George Will don't actually describe what the Republican Party represents. Nice to see that some of them are realizing this, but forgive me if I still reserve some judgement on their future pronouncements, their track record still isn't great.

Are Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin Really BFFs?

I read a bunch of articles on the DNC email leaks and whether Russia is behind it (probably). There are also allegations as Kevin Drum wonders Are Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin Really BFFs? "The evidence the Putin would like to install Donald Trump in the White House is pretty strong. The evidence that Trump would pursue Russia-friendly policies in return is much more circumstantial, but still pretty substantial. Manchurian candidate jokes aside, this is something that deserves a lot more coverage than whatever Trump happened to tweet last night."

I hope journalists are investigating and we get to the bottom of this. I tweeted to @HowardLikedThis this Josh Marshall article from yesterday, Trump & Putin. Yes, It's Really a Thing

Friday, July 22, 2016

Not Politics: Some Random Tech Stuff

Researchers find over 100 spying Tor nodes that attempt to compromise darknet sites

These nodes -- ordinary nodes, not exit nodes -- sorted through all the traffic that passed through them, looking for anything bound for a hidden service, which allowed them to discover hidden services that had not been advertised. These nodes then attacked the hidden services by making connections to them and trying common exploits against the server-software running on them, seeking to compromise and take them over.

The researchers used "honeypot" .onion servers to find the spying computers: these honeypots were .onion sites that the researchers set up in their own lab and then connected to repeatedly over the Tor network, thus seeding many Tor nodes with the information of the honions' existence. They didn't advertise the honions' existence in any other way and there was nothing of interest at these sites, and so when the sites logged new connections, the researchers could infer that they were being contacted by a system that had spied on one of their Tor network circuits.

MIT’s anonymous online communications protocol Riffle could beat Tor at its own game

In addition to wrapping messages in multiple layers of encryption (the eponymous technique of Tor, “The Onion Router”), Riffle adds two extra measures meant to baffle would-be attackers.

First, servers switch up the order in which received messages are passed on to the next node, preventing anyone scrutinizing incoming and outgoing traffic from tracking packets using metadata.

Then comes a two-part measure to prevent a malicious server from simply replacing real messages with dummies and tracking a single target one. Messages are sent from the user to all servers, not just one — and outgoing messages must be signed with an independently verifiable mathematical proof that they are the ones the server received. This way, any server tampering with messages will be spotted at once.

LittleSis is a free database of who-knows-who at the heights of business and government. "A unique resource for investigating cronyism, conflicts of interest, and systemic corruption."

Ars describes Learning to code as a 30-year-old kid with Apple’s Swift Playgrounds

Pretty interesting story of how Feedly tracked down a performance problem: What Goes Down Better Come Up a.k.a. Adventures in Hbase Diagnostics

Here's another where Stack Overflow fixed an outage because of a malformed post an regular expressions: Outage Postmortem - July 20, 2016

Bye Bye GOP?

Digby says Bye Bye GOP. I'm not sure I agree on all of this, but it's a pleasant read.

The last two decades have been disastrous for the conservative movement and not just because it 'ran its course' or 'matured.' The three pillars of conservatism, traditional values, free market economics and a strong national defense all failed and failed in rather spectacular fashion.

Social conservatism has been reduced from what was once a dominant political and cultural force to a rear guard action fighting to roll back abortion rights in the states and tilting at windmills to ban birth control.  The gay rights movement has successfully left them reeling, so much so that even Donald Trump gave an awkward shout out to the LGBTQ community in his speech last night promising to protect them from Muslim terrorists. The culture warriors are still toiling away, particularly on their new 'religious liberty' legal line of attack but the fact that the large evangelical base is ardent in their support for a New York libertine with children from three different wives has exposed their heretofore unseen flexible virtue. They will no longer be able to credibly attack the Democrats for their allegedly loose morals.

The failure of the conservative national security philosophy was laid bare by the Bush administration's Iraq war debacle. The vast majority of the people in that hall in Cleveland undoubtedly cheered George Bush's disastrous policies at the time assuming that all wars would be glorious antiseptic (for America) successes like the first Gulf War. Their Vietnam propaganda had led them to misunderstand the practical restraints that exist around US military power and they believed that the war machine in the hands of a Republican could only bring victory. They learned otherwise and today they are supporting a man whose national security policy is completely incoherent but who promises to make the world 'respect' us again.

Finally the financial crisis exposed the risk inherent in free-market economics and the idea that all you have to do is keep interest rates low, cut taxes and let the brilliant masters of the universe do their magic. It turned out that without some restraints these financial geniuses could not help but turn into degenerate gamblers and the low tax dogma resulted in dangerous income inequality. The instability of the middle class and the stalling out of traditional social and economic mobility created the environment for a flim flam artist like Trump to exploit the resultant insecurity.

All that's left of the 'three-legged stool' of conservatism is the seat --- racism, nativism and xenophobia. That's what Trump is running on. And it's also failing. As you can see by the words of Ana Navarro or Ted Cruz, John Kasich or Jeb Bush or the whole staff of National Review, the party is splitting over that issue as well. The conservative movement as we've known it is disintegrating."

I think nationally conservatism is losing, but not at the state level, conservatism is alive and strong there. And regardless of what happens, Republicans will still "attack the Democrats for their allegedly loose morals". While many are no longer interested in fighting far off wars, I don't think they understand the financial crisis well enough to blame on the free market, instead they blame Barney Frank and Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.

WonkBlog says However divided you think our politics are, this chart shows that it’s actually way worse.

This new analysis has some important similarities and differences with other measures of polarization. The most well-known partisanship metric is based on lawmakers' votes, not on their speech. That measure also shows partisanship rising sharply in the modern era.

But the vote-based measure shows the increase starting in about the 1970s, rather than the mid-1990s. And it also shows a high degree of polarization back in the late 1800s. This has led many political scientists to argue that our current divided politics aren't necessarily an anomaly, but rather a return to a historic norm after a period of relative partisan unity.

But the economists' analysis of political language tells a very different story, one in which the current state of partisan warfare is unprecedented. You can see how the two measures differ in the following chart from the economists' paper.

NewImage

It may boil down to a difference between action and speech. Politicians today may be voting along partisan lines similar to how lawmakers worked in the late 1800s. But today's political rhetoric — the ways lawmakers frame their arguments and try to portray the arguments of the opposing side — may be more radically divided than they've been at any point in the historic record.

Trump

Vox did a Fact check: Donald Trump’s speech at the Republican National Convention, not that it will sway anyone.

FactCheck.org did theirs too, FactChecking Trump’s Big Speech

Matt Yglesias points out Donald Trump’s law and order acceptance speech didn’t feature any actual crime policies.

Donald Trump devoted all of one sentence to his solution for what he cited as the biggest problem facing the nation in his acceptance speech for the Republican nomination:

I will work with, and appoint, the best prosecutors and law enforcement officials in the country to get the job done.

That’s it.

He’s been running for president for more than a year, and crime has never been part of his program. He and his campaign manager just ginned it up over the past couple of weeks as an opportunistic reaction to the shootings of police officers in Dallas and Baton Rouge. There’s nothing all that unusual about campaigns pivoting to new issues rapidly. But when a normal campaign decides it wants to talk about an issue, it has the team put together some policy ideas.

Usually there’s a PDF, a short-form summary, and then some bullet points that can be referenced in speeches or television ads or picked up by surrogates. But to do that, you need a candidate who’s willing to put in the work. He needs to build a campaign team. He needs to consult with experts. He needs to decide what he thinks. Trump can’t be bothered.

The reason Trump doesn’t have anything to say about any of this is that he’s too lazy to look into it and come up with anything. And that’s why even his one lame idea — hire the best people and work with them — can’t be counted on. The president really does have to do a lot of hiring of people and a lot of managing of the interagency and intergovernmental process, and, like a lot of presidential stuff, it can all get a little tedious.

And given his picks so far, of his staff and of his convention speakers, he hasn't demonstrated the ability to hire the best people. This follows Matt's piece from yesterday Donald Trump's New York Times interview reveals a dangerously lazy mind at work.

The problem with Trump is not just the specific things he says but the casual way in which he says them and the comical “logic” that ties them together. Most of all, it’s the repetition — the fact that it keeps happening without Trump showing any capacity for growth or any interest in doing the work that would make him better at answering questions. For better or worse, Trump is now the GOP nominee, and there are hundreds of professional Republican Party politicians and operatives around the country who would gladly help him become a sharper, better-informed candidate. It doesn’t happen because he can’t be bothered. It’s terrifying.

And today he says This week we saw that the Republican Party — not just Trump — is the problem.

But these establishment speeches were, on their own terms, fairly bonkers. Their slams on Clinton veered, repeatedly, into tinfoil hat territory. They were completely out of touch with the state of the economic recovery. They relied heavily on the idea that President Obama could defeat ISIS through rote incantation of magic words. And while they avoided most of Trump’s big crazy policy ideas, they did so mostly by avoiding speaking about any policy ideas at all.

The problem wasn’t Trump’s relatives or Scott Baio; it was largely the delegates themselves. Rank and file activists reared on a generation’s worth of Rush Limbaugh and Fox News sat through a pathetic conclave in which governors and senators stooped to talk-radio antics in a desperate quest for applause, only to be trounced by Laura Ingraham — a real deal talk radio host who, even more than Trump himself, perfectly captured the mood of a party that’s become completely indifferent to the work of governance.

Andrew Prokop says Donald Trump is a con artist, and his RNC speech is his biggest con yet.

Trump’s speech hinges on the idea that crime is surging to terrifying levels. But this simply isn’t borne out by the evidence. So to make his case, Trump uses a combination of cherry-picked and out-of-context statistics, incomplete data, and flat out erroneous information to invent a crisis.

Usually when I read [Donald Trump’s Convention Speech Rings Terrifying Historical Alarm Bells](https://theintercept.com/2016/07/21/donald-trumps-convention-speech-rings-terrifying-historical-alarm-bells/) it's referring to Germany in the 1930s, not Plato's *Republic* from 2,400 years ago.

Tyranny, says Socrates in The Republic, is actually “an outgrowth of democracy.” And would-be tyrants always in every instance claim to be shielding regular people from terrible danger: “This and no other is the root from which a tyrant springs; when he first appears above ground he is a protector.”

And today's Trump press conference was crazy. Trump Goes Nuts in Post-Convention Press Conference

Ivanka Trump introduces Donald, reads aloud from DNC platform.

Jessica Winter writes in Slate, Ivanka Trump introduces Donald, reads aloud from DNC platform.

Let’s pause for a moment. Ivanka Trump is talking about a man who once said, “I think that putting a wife to work is a very dangerous thing.” A man whose campaign has been sued for gender discrimination and that, according to an analysis by the Boston Globe, pays its female employees one-third less than its male employees. A man who once called pregnancy “an inconvenience for a business” and who threw a tantrum when a lawyer in a deposition needed to take a preplanned break to pump breast milk for her three-month-old baby, calling her “disgusting.” A man whose campaign manager, Paul Manafort, stated shortly before her speech that Trump can appeal to women because “their husbands can't afford to be paying for the family bills.” This is the man, according to Ivanka Trump, whom we can trust to end pregnancy discrimination, close the gender wage gap, and bring affordable, presumably subsidized childcare to American families, despite no evidence of any of these plans in his performance as an executive, in his campaigning thus far, or in the Republican Party platform.

Donald Trump doesn’t want to make America great. He wants to make it afraid.

Ezra Klein, preaching to the choir, Donald Trump doesn’t want to make America great. He wants to make it afraid.

And this is what made Trump’s speech so truly ugly. It is one thing to whip up fear of the Other when the Other is a threat. But it is fully another to try to scare the shit out of Americans because you’re afraid they won’t vote for you unless they’re terrified. It is demagogic to warn, on national television, of foreign criminals 'roaming' our streets simply because you’re behind in the polls. It’s telling that Trump fears only the threats that can be blamed on outsiders while ignoring the more lethal, more pervasive killers that afflict the citizenry.

Trump’s speech was a procession of horrors for which he did not even bother to propose real solutions. He has no actual fix to immigration, no theories on how to reduce crime. Here, his statement bordered on self-parody. 'I have a message for all of you: The crime and violence that today afflicts our nation will soon come to an end,' he said. 'Beginning on January 20, 2017, safety will be restored.'

But then, perhaps there’s truth to his absurd promises: When the crisis is invented, the solution is simpler. Once Trump no longer needs the nation to be afraid, he will stop scaring it. It is his nightmare, and only he can wake us from it."

Thursday, July 21, 2016

The Divinity of Donald Trump

Really liked this segment from last night. "Jordan Klepper speaks to Pastor Mark Burns, one of Donald Trump's religious supporters, to find out how the GOP presidential hopeful stacks up as a Christian." The best part is at the end.

Donald Trump’s NATO comments are the scariest thing he’s said

Vox: Donald Trump’s NATO comments are the scariest thing he’s said

The absolutely crucial point about NATO is that it functions on the basis of credible guarantee. The point of NATO is to deter war, by convincing hostile powers like Russia that the US would 100 percent defend its NATO allies. But since there’s no formal legal way to force the United States to defend its allies, this deterrence hinges on the idea that the American leadership is deeply committed to upholding its word and agreements in Europe.

This is why, historically, there has been an ironclad, bipartisan commitment to NATO allies. For NATO to work, everyone needs to understand that America’s commitment to its allies is not a partisan football, hinging on who happens to win an election in any given year. It is a fundamental, unchanging part of American grand strategy, one that is and always will be a core American commitment.

With a few stray words, Trump has done serious damage to perception. He has made it seem that US commitment to NATO is much weaker than it is, that it could be overturned with any one election.

He goes on:

But note that Trump also refused to say unequivocally that he wouldn’t abide by the NATO treaty. “I don’t want to tell you what I’d do because I don’t want Putin to know what I’d do,” he said.

But the entire point of NATO is that Putin needs to know what America will do. If he knows the US will defend the Baltics, then he will likely back off. If he knows the US won’t defend the Baltics, then we can have the break up of NATO — which would be quite bad, but wouldn’t immediately risk World War III.

The nightmare scenario, though, is that Putin’s confidence in NATO is undermined even though the United States, under either Trump or Clinton, remains committed to defending its treaty allies. That’s the scenario under which misperceptions potentially escalate into an actual war between the world’s two largest nuclear powers.

Matt Yglesias rips apart his comments, Donald Trump's New York Times interview reveals a dangerously lazy mind at work. Which completely fits with the idea that he's going to delegate *everything* to his VP.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Movie Review: Ghostbusters

I watched the original Ghostbusters a couple of years ago and really enjoyed it. It's funny, had an original story, memorable characters and lines. The original is 30 years old, so I guess it's time for a remake. There was controversy that it's an all-female cast but I didn't care about that. Once Starbuck was recast as a woman in the Battlestar Galactica reboot it should be clear that you have to wait and see what happens. While I'm not a huge fan of Melissa McCarthy she's clearly a comedy star of the moment. And Kristen Wiig, Kate McKinnon and Leslie Jones are all very funny on SNL (though I grew a bit tired of Wiig).

So how is the new Ghostbusters? Meh. And I think that's being a bit generous. While it has moments, I didn't find it that funny and it doesn't hold together as a story. It's not character driven, it's a collection of lines.

First off, there was talk of this being a soft remake or following on from the original film. This isn't that, it's a remake. This is not a world where Venkman, Ray,, Egon and Winston saved NYC from ghosts. That's fine. I'm going to compare it to the original because it's begging to be. It's called Ghostbusters, it uses three versions of the original theme, the premise is the same, and there are cameos by practically every member of the original cast and some of the same catch phrases are used.

There are two big flaws with this movie, characters and story. Let's start with characters.

The original has the dorky genius (Egon), the boyish genius (Ray) and the smart-alec lazy scammer (Venkman). Bill Murray drove the plot, getthing them thrown out of university, starting a business, trying to date Sigourney Weaver. He was also our entry point into the story since he didn't believe in ghosts at first either. You believe in the tech in this world because Egon is so smart he could probably make it all. And Ray is the go between, smart enough to have a conversation with Egon, and boyish enough to relate to Venkman and to have fun, which lets us have fun. Winston is just tacked on but the other supporting characters work. Dana is the everywoman who's then posessed, Rick Moranis is silly, Annie Potts is snarky and Walter Peck is the asshole villain though he also just wants to protect the city, just from our heroes.

In the remake the characters are more like SNL skit characters. Abby is the character McCarthy always plays, brash and trying to be smart but actually really dumb. It's worked for her in many films, but I never liked this character. My favorite parts of Spy were when she was actually competent. Erin (Wiig) is supposed to be smart, she's about to get tenure and thinks Abby silly but she's constantly doing dumb things and acting silly; which is just wrong for a character who is setup to redeem herself. Holtzmann (McKinnon) is the Egon character, she's more in the background and invents all the crazy tech. She's always doing weird things in the back of a scene, kind of reminding of Bang Bang in The Brothers Bloom though she has more of a role. I found her very funny in this but was always reminded of her SNL characters. The glasses and funny looks worked well, the cut away to randomly eating a can of Pringles ("salty parabolas") didn't. Patty is the most believable character and like Winston joins the group halfway through. If you've ever seen Leslie Jones just picture how she would react to anything in Ghostbusters and you have this character. She's loud and angry and very funny ("Baby, if I knew what is was, I wouldn't have called it a 'weird sparking thing'.").

The other main character is the secretary Kevin played by Chris Hemsworth. He's funny but is so dumb that's he's just a caricature; he covers his eyes (though his lensless glasses) when he hears loud noises. He's clearly meant to be a gender reversed hot dumb secretary, but in the original Annie Potts was perhaps the most competent person in the company. Is it funny that Wiig can't see his incompetance because of his hotness? Perhaps, though it's less funny than social commentary. It also seems completely against her character. McCarthy can see his incompetance but doesn't acknowledge his hotness. Is that funny? It wasn't to me and it's not a social commentary so it just seemed silly.

The real problem with the characters is that they aren't used to drive the story. No one really has an arc. The closest thing to one is Erin wanting to get tenure or recognition, but that's dropped completely. The original had the Ghostbusters become famous and that's before they saved the whole city. This one oddly doesn't do that, even when they save an entire rock concert in which no one runs away from a giant ghost even when they realize it's not part of the act. The city government wants to shut them down to prevent panic, but no one is panicing or even recognizing them. And the city says they know of the ghosts and will deal with them when they clearly don't and can't.

The original had a bad government guy that felt the Ghostbusters were unsafe (they were) and was driven mad by Venkman's taunts; it was character driven. The mayor wasn't a fool. He just didn't believe in ghosts at first (which is a plot point because all the normal characters don't) and then is swayed by logic which also happened to be funny: "If I'm wrong, nothing happens! We go to jail - peacefully, quietly. We'll enjoy it! But if I'm right, and we can stop this thing... Lenny, you will have saved the lives of millions of registered voters." Dan Ackroid's boyishness (remember him loving the fire pole) pays off at the end with him being the cause of the giant marshmallow man. In this one we just get a giant dough boy for no real reason.

There are certainly bits I laughed at, and I think that everyone will laugh at something, but at least in my theater, there was nothing that everyone laughed at, in fact it there were only a few things that more than a few people laughed at together. They just threw together at a lot of individual lines and hoped enough sticks to find something for everyone. I'm not impressed by that. The only running joke is about McCarthy getting take out soup and while it works it's not related to the plot or the story.

I'm happy to see that Half in the Bag agrees with me, though they liked it way less than I did. I thought lines and some of the minor characters were funny, but not enough to sustain a two hour movie.

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Even the Opening Prayer Was Outrageous

Here's the benediction from day one of the RNC:

Hello Republicans! I'm paster Mark Burns from the great state of South Carolina. I'm gonna pray and I'm gonna give the benediction. You know why? Because we are electing a man in Donald Trump who believes in the name of Jesus Christ! And Republicans we got to be united because our enemy is not other Republicans but is Hillary Clinton and the Democratic Party! Let's pray together.

Father God, in the name of Jesus, Lord, we’re so thankful for the life of Donald Trump. We’re thankful that you are guiding him, you're are giving him the words to unite this party, this country, that we together can defeat the liberal Democratic Party, to keep us divided and not united, because we are the United States of America, and we are the conservative party under God.

To defeat every attack that comes against us protect the life of Donald Trump, give him the words, give him the peace, give him the power and the authority to be the next president of the United States of America. In Jesus' name, if you believe it shout Amen!

I know that this is religion and not logic, but I don't understand. Does he want to be united or divided? Does he want to unite the country or defeat Democrats? The only way this construct makes sense if Democrats aren't part of the country and I've got a problem with that.

RNC First Night

I thought last night was pretty disgusting. Daniel Dale had my favorite summation of the first day of the RNC (some links from The Five Best Mother Jones

And to be clear, those "former child star" and "actors" weren't just random people in the press, they were speakers at the convention, on stage, during prime time, picked by the campaign!

And of course they were just factually wrong on most things. Here's what every speaker at the Republican convention should have, but didn't, tell you

  • The border is more secure than it was eight years ago
  • Fewer unauthorized immigrants are crossing the border than in 2008
  • The Border Patrol's grown since 2008
  • There are fewer unauthorized immigrants in the US than there were eight years ago
  • Violent crime has declined each of the past eight years
  • Terrorism's gone up since 2008 — but it's down from 2014 levels

Factcheck.org said Republican speakers twist facts on immigration, crime, Benghazi and employment:

  • Two security contractors at the CIA annex in Benghazi on Sept. 11, 2012, repeated their claim that they were told to “stand down” and not help Americans under attack. But multiple official reports say such an order was never issued.
  • The sister of a slain Border Patrol agent said President Obama has left “border patrol agents thinly equipped,” and undermanned. In fact, both funding and staffing have increased under Obama.
  • A Senate candidate claimed “neighborhoods have become more violent” under President Obama. In fact, the violent crime rate has gone down 20 percent under Obama, as of the most recent FBI statistics for 2014.
  • Former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani and Rep. Michael McCaul both wrongly claimed that Hillary Clinton supports “open borders.” She supported a bill that would have created a path to citizenship for those in the country illegally, but it also would have increased border security.
  • Giuliani said that Clinton “advocated for the overthrow of Moammar Gadhafi in Libya” and should be “accountable” for the country’s chaos. But he failed to mention that Trump, at the time, also supported the ouster of Gadhafi.
  • Alabama Sen. Jeff Sessions claimed that wages “have fallen,” when they’re up under Obama. He blamed immigration for a low labor force participation rate, when it’s mainly the result of demographics, including the aging of baby boomers.

More by CNN, Day 1 of GOP convention speeches: CNN vets the claims

Matt Yglesias describes 4 winners and 4 losers from the first night of the RNC

  • Loser: The GOP’s future
  • Loser: Neoconservatives
  • Loser: Joni Ernst
  • Loser: Melania Trump
  • Winner: Donald Trump
  • Winner: The city of Cleveland
  • Winner: Rudy Giuliani - on how Trump will make America great again: "He will lead by leading."
  • Winner: The Benghazi acrostic meme

That Stephen Colbert returned with a segment The Word: Trumpiness. "Truthiness was from the gut, but Trumpiness clearly comes from much further down the gastrointestinal tract."

Monday, July 18, 2016

Edward R Murrow on McCarthy - March 9, 1954

David Mindich reminds us, For journalists covering Trump, a Murrow moment

After months of holding back, modern-day journalists are acting a lot like Murrow, pushing explicitly against Donald Trump, the presumptive Republican presidential nominee. To be sure, these modern-day Murrow moments carry less impact: Long gone are the days in which a vast majority of eyeballs were tuned to the big-three television news programs. But we nonetheless are witnessing a change from existing practice of steadfast detachment, and the context in which journalists are reacting is not unlike that of Murrow: The candidate’s comments fall outside acceptable societal norms, and critical journalists are not alone in speaking up.

I'm not sure I agree that journalists are speaking up. Nancy LeTourneau adds in the Washington Monthly, Why Journalists Should Be Concerned About the Trump/Pence Ticket:

Trump began his attempts to silence the media by throwing Jorge Ramos out of a news conference for asking a question he didn’t like. That eventually turned into a blacklist of media outlets that were banned from his events. The list eventually grew to include Univision, Buzzfeed, Politico, The Daily Beast, Huffington Post, The Des Moines Register and the Washington Post.

Perhaps even more disturbing is Trump’s proposal to loosen libel laws in order to make it easier for him to sue media outlets for reporting he doesn’t like. Callum Borchers explains how that could happen.

Finally, we add Mike Pence to the equation. As Governor of Indiana, he set up his own state-run news outlet to compete with the media.

This is a ramping up of what we saw from the last Republican administration – which brought us everything from Jeff Gannon as part of the White House Press Corp (how the hell did that happen?) to the “payola scandal” of taxpayer-funded commentators like Armstrong Williams, Maggie Gallagher and Michael McManus.

Regardless, Murrow's moment is worth remembering...

No one familiar with the history of this country can deny that congressional committees are useful. It is necessary to investigate before legislating, but the line between investigating and persecuting is a very fine one and the junior Senator from Wisconsin has stepped over it repeatedly. His primary achievement has been in confusing the public mind as between the internal and the external threats of communism. We must not confuse dissent with disloyalty. We must remember always that accusation is not proof and that conviction depends upon evidence and due process of law.

We will not walk in fear, one of another. We will not be driven by fear into an age of unreason, if we dig deep in our history and our doctrine, and remember that we are not descended from fearful men -- not from men who feared to write, to speak, to associate and to defend causes that were, for the moment, unpopular.

This is no time for men who oppose Senator McCarthy's methods to keep silent, or for those who approve. We can deny our heritage and our history, but we cannot escape responsibility for the result. There is no way for a citizen of a republic to abdicate his responsibilities. As a nation we have come into our full inheritance at a tender age. We proclaim ourselves, as indeed we are, the defenders of freedom, wherever it continues to exist in the world, but we cannot defend freedom abroad by deserting it at home.

The actions of the junior Senator from Wisconsin have caused alarm and dismay amongst our allies abroad, and given considerable comfort to our enemies. And whose fault is that? Not really his. He didn't create this situation of fear; he merely exploited it -- and rather successfully. Cassius was right. 'The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars, but in ourselves.'

Good night, and good luck.

GOP Retrospection

I guess the morning of the Republican National Convention is the day to publish articles describing how we got here.

Matthew Yglesias wrote in Vox (with drawings) How Donald Trump won

McKay Coppins wrote in BuzzFeed, Confessions of a Dishonest Slob: How The Haters Got Trump This Close To The White House.

Trump’s tirades against the “donor puppets” would become one of the most compelling elements of his primary campaign message — that of the blue-collar billionaire who couldn’t be bought. ... Nunberg later confessed to me that Trump’s principled stand against the corrupt donor class was little more than lucky spin. “The truth is, he would have raised money if he could have … Donald never had any intention of self-financing.”

Clare Malone wrote in FiveThirtyEight wrote The End Of A Republican Party. "Racial and cultural resentment have replaced the party’s small government ethos."

The shock of 2016, though, is just how self-evident the inflection point at which the Republican Party finds itself is; Trump is a one-man crisis for the GOP. The party has been growing more conservative and less tolerant of deviations from doctrine over the past decades, so what does it mean that a man who has freely eschewed conservative orthodoxy on policy is now the Republicans’ standard-bearer?

Many have assumed that adherence to a certain conservative purity was the engine of the GOP, and given the party’s demographic homogeneity, this made sense. But re-evaluating recent history in light of Trump, and looking a bit closer at this year’s numbers, something else seems to be the primary motivator of GOP voters, something closer to the neighborhood of cultural conservatism and racial and economic grievance rather than a passion for small government.

Taking a longer view, Norman Ornstein and Thomas Mann wrote in Vox The Republicans waged a 3-decade war on government. They got Trump.

We did not advance our argument about asymmetric polarization lightly. We had worked closely with members of both parties and are not unaware of the issues and divisions inside the Democratic Party. But we had seen the GOP go from a problem-solving center-right party to a problem-solving very conservative party — and then evolve into an obstructionist party intent on appeasing extreme forces inside and outside Congress.

The last two both end with sections that try to foresee what a post Trump GOP looks like and it's not pretty. "The prospect that the GOP leaders wouldn’t even be able to agree on why Trump — arguably the worst crisis the modern party has experienced — was even a crisis to begin with, seemed to say it all. “There is no happy ending to this story,” she said."

Trump’s Ghostwriter Speaks

Vox had a series of articles not two weeks ago, What you learn from reading 12 of Donald Trump's books. I enjoyed reading Zack Beauchamp's Donald Trump’s run for president is baffling — until you read The Art of the Deal.

Today, The New Yorker published an interview by Jane Mayer with Tony Schwartz, Donald Trump's Ghostwriter Tells All. "‘The Art of the Deal’ made America see Trump as a charmer with an unfailing knack for business. Tony Schwartz helped create that myth—and regrets it." If you're named on the cover is it still called ghostwriting?

"I put lipstick on a pig,” he said. “I feel a deep sense of remorse that I contributed to presenting Trump in a way that brought him wider attention and made him more appealing than he is.” He went on, “I genuinely believe that if Trump wins and gets the nuclear codes there is an excellent possibility it will lead to the end of civilization.” If he were writing “The Art of the Deal” today, Schwartz said, it would be a very different book with a very different title. Asked what he would call it, he answered, “The Sociopath.”

“Trump has been written about a thousand ways from Sunday, but this fundamental aspect of who he is doesn’t seem to be fully understood,” Schwartz told me. “It’s implicit in a lot of what people write, but it’s never explicit—or, at least, I haven’t seen it. And that is that it’s impossible to keep him focussed on any topic, other than his own self-aggrandizement, for more than a few minutes, and even then . . . ” Schwartz trailed off, shaking his head in amazement. He regards Trump’s inability to concentrate as alarming in a Presidential candidate. “If he had to be briefed on a crisis in the Situation Room, it’s impossible to imagine him paying attention over a long period of time,” he said.

Tara Goshen wrote about the interview for Vox. I'm disappointed she didn't mention the previous Vox Series, because Schwartz completely pulls the rug out from under Beauchamp's article. Schwartz came up with the title and even the idea for the book since before it was just going to be an autobiography. He also wrote all of it, not Trump. Here are some quotes:

  • “All he is is ‘stomp, stomp, stomp’—recognition from outside, bigger, more, a whole series of things that go nowhere in particular,” he observed, on October 21, 1986. But, as he noted in the journal a few days later, “the book will be far more successful if Trump is a sympathetic character—even weirdly sympathetic—than if he is just hateful or, worse yet, a one-dimensional blowhard.”
  • When Schwartz began writing “The Art of the Deal,” he realized that he needed to put an acceptable face on Trump’s loose relationship with the truth. So he concocted an artful euphemism. Writing in Trump’s voice, he explained to the reader, “I play to people’s fantasies. . . . People want to believe that something is the biggest and the greatest and the most spectacular. I call it truthful hyperbole. It’s an innocent form of exaggeration—and it’s a very effective form of promotion.”
  • Looking back at the text now, Schwartz says, “I created a character far more winning than Trump actually is.” The first line of the book is an example. “I don’t do it for the money,” Trump declares. “I’ve got enough, much more than I’ll ever need. I do it to do it. Deals are my art form. Other people paint beautifully on canvas or write wonderful poetry. I like making deals, preferably big deals. That’s how I get my kicks.” Schwartz now laughs at this depiction of Trump as a devoted artisan. “Of course he’s in it for the money,” he said. “One of the most deep and basic needs he has is to prove that ‘I’m richer than you.’ ” As for the idea that making deals is a form of poetry, Schwartz says, “He was incapable of saying something like that—it wouldn’t even be in his vocabulary.” He saw Trump as driven not by a pure love of dealmaking but by an insatiable hunger for “money, praise, and celebrity.”
  • Rhetorically, Schwartz’s aim in “The Art of the Deal” was to present Trump as the hero of every chapter, but, after looking into some of his supposedly brilliant deals, Schwartz concluded that there were cases in which there was no way to make Trump look good. So he sidestepped unflattering incidents and details. “I didn’t consider it my job to investigate,” he says.

Friday, July 15, 2016

Delving Deep Into The Clinton E-Mail Saga

Ars Technica writes Indifference and ignorance: Delving deep into the Clinton e-mail saga

In order to have an intelligent conversation about Clinton’s e-mails, here is a technical analysis of the evidence as it has been presented (think of it like a print version of Congressional hearings, minus screaming, finger-pointing, and grandstanding). A clearer picture has started emerging based on the testimony given by FBI Director James Comey and the Inspectors General of the State Department and the Intelligence Community (OIG), plus a portion of the 30,000-plus e-mails released thus far through FOIA requests by the State Department and other agencies. That picture, based on our assessment, is not a very pretty one."

I basically knew this but it gave a bunch of nice details. If I were to characterize it, corporate (in this case government) IT department didn't keep up technologically with commercial systems and executives (in this case a Secretary) wanted the convenience of commercial systems and did so on their own accord (ignorant of the risks they were taking). Wrong? Yes. Criminal? No, or at least not seriously so. As Comey said, no reasonable prosecutor would charge this, of course we know sometimes prosecutors can be unreasonable, as in the case of Carmen Ortiz prosecuting Aaron Swartz and others.

There's an argument to made here that commercial systems should be made more secure and government IT departments should have more funding to be able to better integrate them into their systems easily.

New UK PM Theresa May Closed Climate Change Dept

The Independent reports Climate change department closed by Theresa May in 'plain stupid' and 'deeply worrying' move.

The decision to abolish the Department for Energy and Climate Change has been variously condemned as “plain stupid”, “deeply worrying” and “terrible” by politicians, campaigners and experts.

One of Theresa May’s first acts as Prime Minister was to move responsibility for climate change to a new Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy.

The news came after the appointment of Andrea Leadsom – who revealed her first question to officials when she became Energy Minister last year was “Is climate change real? – was appointed as the new Environment Secretary.

Well, evidently we're not the only country with a conservative party that denies science. The world is screwed.

Sadly it looks like Europe is also losing on net neutrality.

Thursday, July 14, 2016

It's been a year since the Iran deal was signed. So far, it’s worked.

Vox asked Jeffrey Lewis, director of the East Asia Nonproliferation Program at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey, It's been a year since the Iran deal was signed. So far, it’s worked

His verdict is pretty upbeat: ‘I'm going to be roundly attacked for saying it, but I think it's gone very well,’ he says.

Lewis explains that the nuclear deal is, to the disappointment of critics, mostly working out as written. Iran is basically complying with the core parts of the agreement — such as limiting the number of centrifuges it has and eliminating its stockpile of highly enriched uranium that could quickly be converted to weapons-grade material — that make it harder for the country to make a nuclear weapon.

But the deal has also failed to satisfy some of its strongest proponents.

These folks — including some in the Obama administration — hoped that a nuclear agreement might reorient Iran’s foreign policy in a more pro-American direction. This hasn’t happened: Iran still hates Israel, props up Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad, and supports Shia sectarianism in places like Iraq and Yemen."

But Lewis argues that anyone who was expecting that to happen was deluding themselves. The deal on the nuclear program was always just that: a deal on the nuclear program — not a deal on Syria or Israel. The problem with the Washington debate over the Iran deal, he says, is that it’s serving as a proxy for debates over US foreign policy — which distract from the core question of whether Iran is further away from a bomb than it was a year ago.

The 7 biggest problems facing science, according to 270 scientists

Vox writes The 7 biggest problems facing science, according to 270 scientists "Explore the biggest challenges facing science, and how we can fix them:

  1. Academia has a huge money problem
  2. Too many studies are poorly designed
  3. Replicating results is crucial — and rare
  4. Peer review is broken
  5. Too much science is locked behind paywalls
  6. Science is poorly communicated
  7. Life as a young academic is incredibly stressful

Conclusion:

  • Science is not doomed

I was too hard on Mike Pence, and I’m sorry - Vox

Matthew Yglesias writes I was too hard on Mike Pence, and I’m sorry. This is based on his early reporting 10 years ago on Bush's privatizing social security plan. "Today, more than a decade removed from the first time I met Pence, I can say that it’s actually quite common for members of Congress to have no idea what they’re talking about." He makes a very depressing point:

What I now understand is that all the factors that push individual members of Congress toward ignorance push would-be congressional leaders even further in this direction. To become a congressional leader means, first and foremost, that you need to be really good at raising money. That’s a difficult and time-consuming task, and one for which detailed policy knowledge isn’t especially helpful.

The ultimate result is legitimately bad. Congress is the most important policymaking institution in the American constitutional system. But individual members of Congress are not knowledgeable about policy and are not equipped to become knowledgeable, and becoming knowledgeable is not a good way to shift into a leadership position.

Pence may well have been dumber or more ignorant than your average member of Congress, but most fundamentally he was an integral part of a larger institutional framework that cultivates and promotes ignorance. That system, more than anything about Pence himself, is what’s really scary."

Life after the Olympics

Vox has some fascinating first person stories of Life after the Olympics "We talked to eight Olympians, all of whom struggled when they came home from the games. Some wrestled with health problems and financial woes. Some faced public anger or disdain for their politics. Some confronted anxiety, depression, and self-doubt. But these are not stories of defeat — they are ultimately about renewal and reinvention. Click on the links below to read these athletes' stories in full."

Cash-Strapped Towns Are Un-Paving Roads They Can’t Afford to Fix

Wired reports we're just giving up as a society, Cash-Strapped Towns Are Un-Paving Roads They Can’t Afford to Fix

In an era of dismal infrastructure spending, where the American Society of Civil Engineers gives the country’s roads a D grade, rural areas all over the country are embracing this kind of strategic retreat. Transportation agencies in at least 27 states have unpaved roads, according to a new report from the National Highway Cooperative Highway Research program. They’ve done the bulk of that work in the past five years.

Interest rates are near zero, which means the government could borrow money at almost no cost and repair our infrastructure (and by the way provide jobs) so we can rejoin the first world. But no, instead we're just giving up.

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Game of Thrones Beginner’s Guide: Uncensored (HBO)

Narrated hilariously by Samuel L. Jackson. It's got serious spoilers for the first 5 seasons and some for the 6th.