After a dozen years (almost exactly), it was time for a new car. A Honda Insight EX in Aegean Blue Metallic, to be precise. Say hello to the Wine-Dark Shark.
If you’ve ever read a post on this blog and wondered why occurrences of the word “cigarette” were linked to a shady (now defunct) online cigarette store called Cigazilla, the answer is this blog was hacked. It happened some time between 2012 (when the most recent Wayback Machine snapshots show no Cigazilla links) and 2015 (when the earliest backup I still have shows Cigazilla links embedded in the text). I suspect some unpatched WordPress exploit, or an exploit in one of the few WordPress plugins I use, allowed this to happen.
Please let me know if you see anything else on the site that looks like it doesn’t belong.
I am in no way likening myself to Jesus Christ.
I don’t want to get myself in trouble, so right off the bat let me say that I am in no way likening myself to Jesus Christ. Yet when I think about a thing that happened to me in the summer of the year I turned eleven, I feel a certain kinship with him. And I don’t just mean being Jewish.
This story begins several months earlier, when I turned ten and received the most consequential birthday gift of my life: a portable Panasonic tape recorder.
Remarkably, a photo survives of me opening that gift. Clearly I am pleased.
You can draw a straight line from that moment to my participation as one of the founding members of the Internet Movie Database.
Like this: Around the same time, my family became one of the earliest subscribers to HBO. Home Box Office had the unique and, to a budding cinephile like myself, irresistable proposition in those pre-cable-TV days of showing movies uncensored and uninterrupted by commercials. Consumer videotapes were not yet a thing (much less laserdiscs and DVDs, and streaming could not even be imagined) and so movies could not be enjoyed on demand — unless you were content to replay just the audio of a movie you had recorded by placing a mic near the TV’s small speaker. I recorded many movies this way, listening to them repeatedly the way other people listened to their favorite records. Occasionally I listened to one tape so many times that I memorized it, and years later this questionable talent landed me the job of IMDb Quotes Editor.
Another of HBO’s main attractions from its earliest days was its “On Location” series, a collection of unexpurgated performances inaugurated in 1975 by the comedian Robert Klein (one of the top performers, with the likes of George Carlin, Richard Pryor, and Steve Martin, keeping the flame of standup comedy alive during the decade between its flowering in the 60’s and its explosive ubiquity in the 80’s). I was a fan, and in 1977, HBO aired a followup concert, “Robert Klein Revisited.” I tape-recorded it and there was just enough time before summer vacation for me to memorize big chunks of his routine.
School was out and we were among the annual migration of Jewish families from the swelter of New York City to a couple of months of bungalow-colony life in the Catskill mountains. Bungalow-colony life did not include TV. (And, in case contemporary readers need reminding, there was no Internet, nor any personal electronics.) For entertainment, we went outside.
Late one Friday afternoon, sitting at the picnic table in front of my bungalow, I “did” some of Robert Klein’s recent show for a couple of my friends. They laughed at the jokes, which felt tremendous, and even though it may have begun in conversational fashion, by the end I was in full-on performance mode. We all had a good time, even if some of the words coming out of my mouth went over all our heads.
The next Friday, one of my friends suggested I give a repeat performance, this time for a bigger audience. Without my really knowing what was happening, the word had spread about my “show” and there was now a group of a dozen or more kids in front of my bungalow. Rather than sit at our picnic table I stood atop it. I did exactly the same material in exactly the same way as the week before. And I killed! My mom, amazed, watched from the door of the bungalow as her very own Borscht Belt tummler worked the crowd, a story she told and retold for the rest of her life. (My dad would arrive later that evening, along with all the other dads after a week at work in the city.) Meanwhile, my original couple of friends, who’d heard exactly the same routine a week earlier, listened to my new fans’ cheers with pride at having been in on the act at the beginning.
One week later, my Friday-afternoon act had transformed into a ritual. Someone announced it over the P.A. system! The crowd in front of my bungalow had grown to 20-30 people, including a few bemused adults. My original couple of friends were now my handlers, prepping me for my performance. All of this had somehow happened without any involvement from me. For my part I was awhirl at being the center of attention, but was also growing reluctant to do the show. For one thing, I had no new material, and largely a returning audience who’d heard it all before. For another, I simply didn’t understand at least 10% of what I had memorized, and so I could do nothing other than repeat it as faithfully to the audience as my tape recorder had repeated it to me and hope that they responded just as faithfully with the laughter that the recording had led me to expect. I had no ability, none at all, to riff, edit, or otherwise adapt the material to the mood of the “room.” I could not have articulated that at the time, but thinking on your feet is of course an essential skill at the heart of standup comedy, and I was vaguely aware of, and uncomfortable about, not having it.
As expected, my recitation of Klein’s lines was received less enthusiastically than the week before, for the expected reasons. There was still laughter and applause, but none of that energy that flows like a current between audience and performer when things are going well. I was considerably less thrilled to be the center of attention. Still, it was enough of a success that when the following Friday rolled around, I was enjoined to perform yet again.
But I found very quickly that it was no longer about me or the act — if it ever even had been. The ritual was now about the ritual itself. A couple of friends, having armed themselves with water pistols, proclaimed themselves my bodyguards and insisted on escorting me during the preliminaries leading up to the show. This included a trip to the P.A. shack, where another self-appointed minion was in charge of announcing the upcoming show to one and all, and where my job apparently was to supervise the announcement. On the way back from there we encountered another group seeking to do crowd control or distribute fruit juice from my mom or perform some other show-related job, and my bodyguards got bossy and territorial. It was tribal, and it was ugly, and I didn’t like it. Before long, too many competing interests trying to impose too many different kinds of organization on an event too flimsy to bear much organizing in the first place caused the whole thing to fizzle. I did not go on, and the ritual did not repeat, and I was relieved. (Anyway, it was time for the summer to become all about Star Wars.)
To sum up: I had a message, and I delivered it to a growing and receptive audience. Yet my delivery of this message was the seed crystal around which an elaborate structure formed, a structure that had little or nothing to do with me or my message, and everything to do with the needs of the people forming it: their need for power, their need for meaning, their need to feel useful, their need to be part of something larger than themselves. Does this make you think of any major world religions, and the humble message-delivering central figure they all claim in common?
Again, can’t stress enough: not likening myself to Jesus. For one thing, his message actually was his. For another, I don’t doubt his riffing ability.
My social-media utterances this year, in all their political-anxiety and quixotically-attempting-to-engage-with-the-other-side glory. Leavened by not nearly enough comic relief.
2019, I just want to tell you good luck. We’re all counting on you. (Previously.)
“Time to make the donuts” is my first waking thought most days.
Visited Kachka recently, and ate “like a Russian” as advised by the menu: with every square inch of the table covered in assorted zakuski and pelmeni, interspersing tastes of everything with shots of three different kinds of vodka. It was amazing. And all I could think of was how much I missed out in the 1980’s, before I knew how to eat, when I politely declined all the unfamiliar Russian dishes Olga Epelboim put in front of me when I visited. I’m sure now that they must have been delicious.
Webcomics make the best essays. The Good War
[In a comment thread.]
Animal House, in case you didn’t know, is the greatest comedy ever made, with the possible exceptions of Groundhog Day, Scott Pilgrim vs. The World, and What’s Up, Doc?
[Commenting on (and quoting) a post promoting a right-wing opinion column.]
“if you read with an open non biased mind (sorry most wont)”
O the irony.
Everyone is wrong. What’s your position on GPS?
Earlier today I was despairing. “How does the rule of law come back from a day like today?”
Then I read @HoarseWisperer’s tweet and I thought, “Oh, maybe this way.”
[After the State of the Union address.]
The best thing you can do today is to donate money to an organization to repudiate the destructive agenda described in last night’s speech. Does it bother you that Trump and his allies are dismantling individual liberties? Donate to the ACLU. That they’re trashing the environment? Donate to the Sierra Club. That they’re enabling hate groups? Donate to the Southern Poverty Law Center. That they’re co-opting the news media? Donate to ProPublica. That they’re undermining the very structures of government? Donate to Indivisible, Flippable, or SisterDistrict (and vote in November!) to elect officials who respect rather than revile the role of government.
There are a hundred other worthy organizations you could send money to. Choose one, choose two, choose ten. But donate a meaningful amount TODAY – NOW – to help us all send the message loud and clear that we reject the plutocracy the GOP cheered for last night – we want Liberty, we want Justice, and we want them for All.
Let tomorrow’s headlines be about the outpouring of opposition to Donald Trump and his shameless enablers.
[Commented on a post by Dave, a right-wing friend, condemning kneeling during the national anthem, on the grounds that it’s disrespectful to the armed forces.]
Suppose a white man shoots a young black kid to death and gets away with it by telling a jury nothing more than “a black kid in a hoodie made me afraid for my safety.”
Suppose a cop gets away with basically the same exact thing.
Suppose that happens again and again and again and again. Suppose it happens hundreds and hundreds of times in places all over the country and there’s no sign of things ever changing for the better.
Suppose the collective apathy about this crisis offends your conscience. And suppose you’re a celebrity. You’d like to use your renown to give something back to the country that made you a star. You don’t want to make too big a thing out of it – no speeches, no marches, no boycotts – just a quiet symbolic gesture in the hope that it will raise awareness.
What would you do?
[Friend responded that I can’t keep up this “insane liberal rage” for seven more years.]
Not rage. A sincere question. What would you do?
I’m curious. Why did this read to you as “insane rage”?
[And when Chris chimed in with, “Don’t try to have an intelligent conversation with a liberal. It just won’t work.”]
That can be taken either way. Not knowing you, it’s impossible to tell who you’re insulting, me or Dave!
[And when the thread went silent.]
I posed a simple question above: “What would you do?”
I didn’t get an answer. But I did get called a liberal, twice.
What about my question makes me a liberal? My question barely expresses any opinions; it just lays out a hypothetical (a thinly veiled one, I admit). If there’s any opinion that comes through, it’s a hatred of injustice.
But that’s universal. Don’t you hate injustice too?
So rather than get an answer I got called a liberal, as if that excuses conservatives from engaging with me.
But we are countrymen together. Neither of us is going away. It is our civic obligation to engage with one another. To compromise. America has at times been excellent at this – and those are the times America has been best.
What’s the alternative? Constantly to undermine one another? Whose agenda does that serve?
The truth is, liberals and conservatives agree on most things. We all want safe food and drugs, clean air and water, adequate pay for honest work, fair elections, peace, justice, public safety.
But no politician ever won office by telling you how much they’re like their opponent. So they must find the fissures of disagreement, drive a wedge there, and hammer, hammer, hammer. If they do it enough you can start to believe that your political opponents – your fellow Americans! – are traitorous threats to your very way of life. Don’t fall for it.
They have to keep us hating each other to keep the money and the votes flowing. But it’s not liberals vs. conservatives. It’s all of us against the fuckers that want to keep us divided.
Gotta become a billionaire now so I can mount a vanity space mission to recover Elon’s Tesla.
Glad finally to have a reason.
TFW a complex narrative dream draws to a satisfying conclusion and you wake up naturally five minutes before the time you had the alarm set for.
[In reply to @TomiLahren’s tweet, “Can the Left let the families grieve for even 24 hours before they push their anti-gun and anti-gunowner agenda?”]
Is it time to talk about last week’s massacre yet?
The one the week before that?
The one the week before that?
The one the week before that?
[Replying to a gun-rights maximalist in a comment thread after another mass shooting.]
“semi automatic weapons were around for decades before these Mass shootings became so common”
My pet theory: we are collectively too wealthy. Our homes have gotten too big and comfortable. We therefore spend too much time in them and too little in common spaces, disintegrating our communities.
Whether that’s true or not, positively identifying deep societal problems won’t happen any time soon, to say nothing of fixing them. In the meantime, the next gun massacre will happen soon. This is an emergency. I suggest sensible gun-control measures. What practical solution do you suggest? It should be something other than “get people wondering whether guns are the real problem.”
[In another comment thread about how to address the problem of school shootings.]
There are over 90,000 schools in the country. Stationing a single $30k-per-year rent-a-cop at each one of them will cost $2.7 billion and offhand doesn’t seem like it will accomplish very much. Even if that money were available I’m sure many of those schools would prefer to spend it on more teachers, new textbooks, heat in the winter, etc.
[Mueller indicts Russian spies with ties to the President; Congressman Nadler mentions possibility of impeachment; right-wing friend says Nadler should get voted out.]
Have you read this week’s Mueller indictment? It’s here: https://www.justice.gov/file/1035477/download
If you “can’t believe” what Nadler’s talking about, then you have to be prepared to refute the numerous specific, credible allegations in that document laying out the means and motives for a concerted and ongoing criminal conspiracy by foreign nationals to disrupt our electoral process and other civic functions.
Or you have to believe that protecting against that kind of threat isn’t required of the President. In which case, have you read his job description? It’s here: http://constitution.findlaw.com/article2.html
[Another in the thread writes, “Democrats are not only Stupid, they are IDIOTARDS!”]
If that’s your attitude, how do you propose to make common cause with them? We are, after all, one nation, and Democrats comprise very many of your countrymen.
If we can’t focus on the things that unite us, governing by compromise and concession like every generation for 150 years has managed to do, we’ll descend into endless squabbling at least, and perhaps even tear ourselves apart – either of which outcome benefits other major players on the world stage.
Don’t follow their script.
[Still another, Gregg, asks, “What does Nadler want POTUS to do declare war on Russia?”]
There are many, many steps that can be taken before war. Sanctions. Freezing of assets. Dedicating the resources to strengthen those institutions that are under attack. Making a damn speech.
A great start would be to stop trying to undermine the investigation that’s uncovering all this.
[Gregg responds that Japan attacked Pearl Harbor because of sanctions.]
Are you arguing that, because it led to the attack on Pearl Harbor, we should not have organized the global embargo of Japan? Even after it had invaded China and attacked American, British, and Dutch interests (to say nothing of their brutality towards the Chinese)? Even when their expansionist plans were clear, and threatened our allies? What should we have done – nothing?
In the eighty years since then, sanctions, freezing of assets, expulsions of ambassadors, punitive tariffs, and other common tools of diplomatic pressure have been used innumerable times all around the world, hardly ever leading to war.
What should we do now? Not declare war, but not do anything that might provoke a hostile response – so, nothing?
[Comment thread with gun-rights maximalist Derick, asking what if you need to defend against home invasion.]
If I were seriously afraid of that possibility, my first step would be putting steel bars on all my windows, and reinforcing my front door – measures that might reduce my home’s curb appeal but at least don’t require extending dangerous rights to murderous maniacs. The fact that many people claiming to need assault weapons for home defense don’t take other simpler measures first suggests to me that there’s something else going on.
[Derick asks, what if it happens anyway? What would you do?]
What would I do? Comply with their demands and hope for the best. Anything else is a Hollywood fantasy.
My gun would of course be locked in a gun safe, and my ammunition would be locked away separately – basics of responsible gun ownership. Most of the ways a home invasion scenario could unfold would not permit me to get my weapon and the ammunition for it and load it and be ready to use it. Plus I’d have to believe in the first place that that’s the best way to survive the situation. The situations in which I believed that and could get and load my gun AND couldn’t get the job done except with a military assault rifle are fewer still.
Why obsess over this scenario? You take a bigger risk going outside without sunscreen.
[Why he obsesses: it happened to his young daughters.]
That’s a horrifying story. I’m glad it turned out OK […]
However, nothing in your story suggests that the acquisition of murder-spree quantities of munitions by mentally unbalanced teens must remain completely frictionless.
[Friend asks what to do when confronted with an idiotic proposal like arming teachers: dignify with a response, or ignore and cede the debate?]
“What to do?”
This: @profmusgrave’s tweet
Don’t tell people they’re idiots. They won’t hear you. Ask questions that expose their idiocy.
[After another mass shooting.]
Of course it’s violent videogames, it’s gotta be. Unless there are any counterexamples, like countries that have violent videogames and no mass-shooting epidemic. 🤔
[Regarding the outspoken survivors of the school shooting in Parkland, Florida.]
Why are kids having success speaking truth to power when the rest of us have not for so long? Not because they are recently traumatized. It’s because Fox hasn’t spent decades laying the groundwork for how to ignore and belittle them.
I’ve been telling my kids, “My generation is leaving a mess yours is going to have to clean up.” AND IT’S HAPPENING. 😍 @LittleMissFlint’s tweet
The NRA changed from being about shooting targets and food to shooting people. RAWR
I refuse to buy anything in the “For Dummies” line of products and so should you.
The French Lieutenant’s Woman is streaming on Amazon Prime. It’s an unusual movie in which Meryl Streep and Jeremy Irons play dual roles: lovers in 19th-century England, and the actors portraying those lovers in the film-within-a-film being shot in the modern day. Period scenes are intercut with modern scenes; the two stories parallel each other.
I cannot stop thinking about a scene in which the actors are rehearsing a moment in the film. It’s the simplest little moment: he sees her, she sees him. They start to run through it but are casual and unfocused. They are actors, acting. They perform it something like I imagine I would (my acting skills never having developed beyond the sixth grade). Then she says, “let’s just do it again” and they do. An alchemical transformation takes place. Suddenly they are in the scene, they are their characters. Even though it’s the same two people in the same little room on the same dreary afternoon, somehow, all at once, it’s not – and that’s before the scene abruptly jumps back to the 19th century. It is pure magic, and it proves the adage that good acting is the best special effect. The French Lieutenant’s Woman Clip – Scene Rehearsal
[Right-wing friend lauds Trump for meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.]
North Korea has sought a meeting with an American president since the 1990s. That Trump chooses to engage now signals to every other third world dictator that their best bet is to develop a nuclear program too.
Signing into any website and clicking the Remember Me checkbox now triggers a big Mexican musical number in my head. #Coco
We choose to go to the moon, not because it is easy, but because we need a Space Force. #iftrumpsaidit
December 7th, 1941, a famous, very very famous date. #iftrumpsaidit
Fuck. If this is true, the moment of truth is fast approaching when we must all stand and fight, maybe literally, in a showdown between democracy and totalitarianism. @BillKristol’s tweet
Mr. Gorbachev, build this wall! #iftrumpsaidit
Speak softly and carry – I’m the softest speaker, OK? The. Softest. No one speaks softer than me. And I do, I carry a big stick. A serious, serious stick. #iftrumpsaidit
The only thing we have to fear is rapists from Mexico. #iftrumpsaidit
Ask not what your country can do for you. I’ll tell you what your country can do for you. Not much, I can tell you that. #iftrumpsaidit
[Friend reports his kid found a VHS tape and had no idea what it was. They couldn’t watch the tape, but found an online version to watch.]
When you’re done streaming, remember: be kind, rewind
[On high school classmate Cynthia Nixon running for governor.]
I have been hearing Edward Everett Horton announce in disbelief “The Governor of New York State!” all day long. Pocketful of Miracles clip
Really, really pleased to be able to share the past several months’ work by the thoughtful and talented team at Chain: TxVM, the transaction virtual machine. Introducing TxVM, the Transaction Virtual Machine
Hey, wait a second, babies don’t lactate. Just what is Holland trying to pull?
McConnell doing something sensible? I am so confused. Sen. Mitch McConnell pushes bill to legalize hemp
There just has to be something corrupt behind this.
[Responding to a cynical post about the questionable new policy of making Parkland students wear clear backpacks and ID badges.]
“Welcome to the futility of adulthood.”
It’s just more difficult than most expect, not futile. If it were futile to try achieving things through collective action, we’d still have slavery, women wouldn’t have the vote, everyone would fear smallpox, there’d be no flag on the moon, rivers in Ohio would routinely catch fire, and we’d all have to be covered head-to-foot on sunny days because of ozone depletion.
@Emma4Change is not the first E.González to affect presidential politics.
[Friend says he has a “+5 dog of cuddling.”]
The dragon attacks! You say, “Fluffy, cuddle!” Fluffy nuzzles the dragon. They curl up together. You loot the gold.
Dear Jeff Bezos, George Soros, or whoever: please buy a controlling interest in Sinclair Broadcast Group. A steal at $1.6 billion. Thanks!
[In a thread about the evils of social media.]
Social media has its problems, no doubt about that. But without it, how many of you would I be in touch with? How many of my ideas could I get across, and how many of yours could I absorb? Would politicians feel compelled to pay attention to the Parkland kids? Could we go back to relying solely on the mainstream press? Could the (much diminished) mainstream press even do its job without using social-media posts as informal stringers?
The techno-utopianist in me is not dead yet. If these platforms can be made savvier, and if we can become savvier in how we use them – as earlier generations did with their brand-new forms of media – I believe they may be the very key to reversing the divisions they have sown.
The name of a character in my dream last night: Dr. Fishfuffy.
[In reply to @AoDespair’s tweet]
Because when you actually are supreme you don’t have to go around insisting you are.
[In reply to @iiTalW’s tweet, “People who can’t distinguish between etymology and entomology bug me in ways I cannot put into words.”]
Laughed so hard I almost needed an enterologist.
Welcome to America, where we don’t care what you’re famous for as long as you’re famous.
[Eleven years after Mom died.]
Neil Diamond karaoke at the top of my voice. Miss you, Mom.
React to Trump with sputtering outrage and you’re playing on his turf. You have no chance. Stay cool, calm, confident, and classy, and he’s defenseless.
Dear @ATT, if you really think pay-for-play was a mistake, you’ll renounce the fruits of that deal. Otherwise, you really only think getting caught was a mistake.
[In reply to @jasontoff’s tweet]
Just this week my long-time dental hygienist confessed to me she’s had plenty of cavities, “same as anyone.”
[In another comment thread about NFL players kneeling during the national anthem.]
“I remember when I could go to a concert, a movie, or a ballgame and not deal with politics.”
People who aren’t professionals, or straight, or white, or men read that and think, “Imagine being so privileged you could ignore politics.”
I like the way the word “continuum” sounds and wish we pronounced “vacuum” the same way.
[Latin professor friend asks me to turn a comment about her cat into a haiku.]
[reporting for duty]
Snoring Percy dreams
While I write Latin exams:
[Trump tweets, “Great meeting with Kim Kardashian today, talked about prison reform and sentencing.” Friend posts it with the comment, “I rebooted my router but I still seem to be living in some insane nonsense universe.”]
When did we fork off of the sensible timeline?
I think it was at the moment that presidential stain landed on Monica Lewinsky’s blue dress, though no one could have known at the time the power it would grant to the forces of Chaos. In the movie they’ll make someday about this era, that instant will be freighted with significance via super-slow-motion (tastefully, somehow, I hope), accompanied by a dissonant orchestral crescendo and spinny kaleidoscopic visuals to represent a Rip in Reality.
[Smartphone display design trends vs. slow recovery from hurricane devastation.]
I see the word “notch” in my various news feeds about ten times as often as I see “Puerto Rico.”
[Comment thread about science headline, “Process takes CO2 from the air, converts it to carbon nanotubes.]
Coming soon: “Desperate scientists seek ways to resuscitate plant life and reduce widespread fires after oxygen/CO2 imbalance.”
Also: “Carbon nanotube lobby disputes atmosphere imbalance is human-caused.”
Sitting in a Starbucks, listening to a mom who has clearly forgotten what it is to be a child trying to talk her young daughter out of a sugary snack… by describing what’s in it. “It’s marshmallow and white frosting. No.” “PLEEEEEASE.”
[In reply to @adamdavidson’s tweet, “After showing some Trump-supporters statistics that quickly disprove their pro-Trump/anti-Obama economic claims, I have come to the following conclusion: This isn’t about facts.”]
Disagree. The facts will matter in the end. The challenge first, though, is getting those facts past the rhetorical defenses erected by the likes of Fox News.
Inhumane work conditions > labor unions > “Capitalism works, who needs unions?”
Racism/sexism > civil rights laws > “We are equal, who needs laws?”
Horrifying diseases > vaccines > “No epidemics, who need vaccines?”
Tyranny > democracy > “No tyrants, who needs democracy?”
Woke up this morning reluctantly realizing that I need to do the right thing and turn myself in for my recent act of theft and vandalism, if for no other reason than to spite Donald Trump by showing how one takes responsibility for one’s actions. A few weeks ago I stole an unattended new ferry boat on a lark, piloted it up one of Marin’s waterways, ran it aground in some shallows, and then hiked out of there. I’ve nervously been following news reports of the incident since then. A lot of people had been inconvenienced cleaning up after my little stunt, and I caused at least tens of thousands in property damage. I wanted to give myself up before the investigation led to me. I was probably headed for jail.
It was only after I’d been awake for several minutes that I slowly became convinced, with growing relief, that none of this had ever actually happened. Instead it’s been an interlocking series of dreams I’ve been having over the past few weeks.
Or has it? Maybe it was just one dream, with a depth-of-time illusion as one aspect of it, making it seem like I was remembering things from weeks ago when I wasn’t really. How would I know the difference?
Have you ever had a series of dreams telling a continuing story across days or weeks? Are you sure?
The guy who took the seat right next to me on the ferry when there were still plenty of others available, and who I therefore automatically resented even though the ferry was bound to fill up anyway, just gave up his seat to a young mom standing with babe in arms, so now I have to admire him, dammit.
[Right-winger in comment thread concedes that kids and even babies in terribly understaffed and underequipped detention centers is “not a great situation” but what can you do?]
Not a great situation? Short of a massacre, this is among the most monstrous abuses in human history.
[Right-winger blames the countries they’re fleeing and asks how I would handle it.]
When I worked at Google, there was a philosophy called “That’s our problem.” If the user wants to search for something but misspells a word, that’s not their problem, that’s our problem. If they’re too impatient to wait 600 milliseconds for a web page to load, that’s not their problem, that’s our problem. We have to make things right for the user even in light of those problems.
Laying blame accomplishes exactly nothing. If people are leaving other countries to come here, that’s our problem. We have to make things right.
Generations of immigrants have come to this country without our tearing babies from their mothers’ arms, putting them in cages, and permanently blighting their lives. It’s hard to imagine any crisis that would make this necessary, and there certainly isn’t one now. So my answer to your question, “How would you handle it?” is “Any of the other ways America has handled immigration before now.”
A true horror story.
There’s a chip in the paint on a wall in my house. Every time it catches my eye, a part of my brain immediately goes, “Is it a spider?” and I turn to look right at it. No, it’s not a spider.
This happened enough times that I finally trained myself not to look at that spot every time it catches my eye. I know it’s not a spider.
The other day it WAS a spider.
[Good luck ever sleeping again!]
If we can just get @HillaryClinton to go on TV and say, “Caging small children is just and right and we should do more of it,” I think Republicans would all say, “It’s sinful and cruel!” and would end the policy immediately.
In the midst of all the shouting about immigration comes Malcolm Gladwell’s latest podcast episode that explains how strengthening border enforcement over the past few decades, with the best intentions and under irreproachable leadership, paradoxically produced more illegal immigration, not less. General Chapman’s last stand
[In reply to @clmazin’s tweet]
I get your point, but maybe not the best example. Have you seen the original Star Wars script before Lucas’s friends helped to hone it?
[In the midst of outrage over child detention, Melania wore a jacket that said “I really don’t care, do u?” Her spokesperson said there was no hidden message.]
It’s true, there was no hidden message. It wasn’t hidden.
[In reply to @adamdavidson’s tweet]
“Own the Libs”
3 liberals & 3 conservatives debate a topic for 20mins, live. Viewers vote in real-time on who’s winning.
R’s tune in to see D’s get owned, the seeming outcome most of the time. Meanwhile it’s breaching the barrier keeping left-wing ideas out of right-wing minds.
Them: “Bakers can refuse service to gay couples!”
Us: “Intolerance is wrong.”
Them: “Restaurants kicked us out!”
Them: “Oh so now it’s OK?”
Yes. Intolerance is the thing it’s OK not to tolerate.
We have 1/20th the Congressional representation George Washington wanted us to have. Homeopathic democracy
[In reply to @EmilyGorcenski’s tweet]
Most folks just follow the dominant narrative. Today that narrative is told by Fox News. Those same folks would have cheered the defeat of fascism in WWII, but only incidentally. They’ll incidentally be on the right side of history again only when our side tells a better story.
Without due process, you’re an undocumented immigrant and can be deported. Oh, you’re not? Prove it! Sorry, there’s no process for proving it.
Can Trump be sued for persistent elevated cortisol levels caused by an unending state of emergency, undoubtedly contributing to a shortened lifespan? Asking for a friend.
[Friend despairing over child-detention crisis just doesn’t know what to do.]
Vote. Register others to vote. Donate money. Donate time. Call your representatives. Attend protests. Join organizations.
Our generation got used to the idea of coasting on the victories of the past, but that is now over. Democracy means we are the ones who have to make things happen, no one else.
Things we used to think were great:
– White bread
– Bill Cosby
Tl;dr – Everyone wake the f up before this becomes a nightmare we can’t wake up from. @SethAbramson’s tweet
[In a comment thread about ICE destroying records of abuse in its detention centers, a friend asks who will step up to stop them.]
You and millions like you, NOW. Otherwise, nobody.
Nothing says the Supreme Court has to have nine members. Vote like hell so we can turn a six-member majority into a six-member minority.
Money talks. But we can make money SCREAM. #generalstrike
It’s all Bill Clinton’s fault. He succeeded too well in moving the party to the right. It co-opted the GOP’s best positions, hollowing it out and leaving it with nothing but extremism.
[Right-wing friend posts an unflattering photo of a frowning Maxine Waters, captioned “The new face of the Democrat party. It is mean, angry, and hates our great country.”]
What about this picture makes you think Ms. Waters is expressing hatred of our country? Maybe instead it’s hatred of misogyny, or of racism, or of attacks on children traumatized by gun violence, or of inaction in the face of multiple humanitarian crises, or of self-dealing, or of three thousand documentable lies, or of monumental ethics violations, or of fawning over autocrats, or of fucking BABY JAILS, or of wrecking alliances, or of pointless and costly trade wars, or of bankrupting the country to reward the super-rich, or of not lifting a finger to defend the Constitution against its most dire foreign threat in history.
I mean, maybe it’s hatred of our country, but I think I know what hatred of our country really looks like, and it’s not a facial expression.
[In reply to @CollinRugg’s tweet, “The Annapolis shooting is the best news the Left has heard all week. They can now pretend like they care about gun violence and use ever trick in the book to make Trump look bad. Sad!”]
If you believe the goal of politics is to make one another look bad, you are under the sway of those trying to tear this country apart.
Please join those of us who believe the goal is to do the most good for the people most in need.
[Responding to a friend posting about Germans in WWII failing to foresee the depths of evil they were headed for.]
This does not help answer a perhaps-unanswerable question: fight or flight? If we stay, are we fools not to learn from their experience, because another holocaust is inevitable? If we flee, are we abandoning the country to its worst elements and thereby maybe causing another holocaust?
Grieving is a process. Let’s grieve, and let’s get through it so we can get to the next, more useful step. The America We Thought We Knew Is Gone
[After right-wing friend reposts propaganda item, made to look like a CNN tweet, quoting Maxine Waters saying next Supreme Court justice should be an illegal immigrant.]
Fraudulent Twitter account suspended. (”@CnnPoltics” is missing an “i.”)
Please be less eager to believe and spread misinformation like this, whose goal is to sow chaos and division. We need the opposite.
It works on me, and on everyone I know. But good news: forewarned is forearmed. @LincolnsBible’s tweet
I don’t want a blue wave in November. That’s too “us-vs-them,” which is how we got into this mess to begin with.
I want record-breaking turnout for a renewal of American values: fairness, decency, justice, courage. A red-white-and-blue wave.
[On Fox News dropping the “democratic” from the phrase “democratic socialism” to whip up opposition.]
I’ve been saying (to some DSA friends of mine) that they need better branding, for just that reason. I suggested “asymptotic capitalism.”
Talked to an in-law of mine in rural PA who is a Trump supporter. I asked why. He said:
1. He’s a billionaire so doesn’t have to take shit from anyone.
2. There are too many bleeding hearts.
3. His in-your-face style is refreshing.
4. Sure he’s out for himself, but so are all politicians.
5. What’s up with tearing apart families at the border? Immigrants who follow the rules should be allowed in, those who don’t should be sent back, simple as that.
6. Too busy and tired all the time to pay close attention to everything going on.
This is not a raging libtard hater. This is a sensible, hardworking family man with some strong opinions who has internalized the Trump triumphalism he hears all around him because why wouldn’t he?
He respects my intelligence and was genuinely taken aback to hear me use the word “frightened” to describe my feelings about Trump.
When he becomes convinced of the truth behind everything he will turn on the GOP with a vengeance, no question.
Hard to extrapolate from a single data point but I sense this describes very, very many Trump voters.
Convinces me that @adamdavidson is right: making the truth clear and accessible is the challenge of our time. @adamdavidson’s tweet
[In a comment thread about an opinion article, headline “Susceptibility to fake news is driven more by lazy thinking than partisan bias.”]
My experience has been that you can’t tell a Trump voter anything, but if you ask questions (without rancor) meant to make them repeat out loud the policies they supposedly agree with, the rational brain engages and they have a meaningful “hmm” moment.
[In reply to @owillis’s tweet]
“all experience hath shewn that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed”
[Ahead of the Trump-Putin meeting.]
Putin wanted sanctions eliminated, NATO weakened, trade disrupted, and Americans at each other’s throats. Mission accomplished. What do you suppose he will instruct Trump to do next? #TreasonSummit
Tomorrow’s front page. Find your courage and make it happen, Nytimes.com. You know it’s the right thing. #TreasonSummit
[Dan Rather tweets, “The President… trusts the word of a former KGB agent over the consensus of the American intelligence community backed by a ton of facts… Everyone who excuses Trump’s behavior must answer that now.” Right-wing acquaintance calls it “fake news.”]
Please suppose for a moment that what the left says about Trump is true: his many bankruptcies left his finances in a shambles that he could repair only by becoming an important cog in an international money-laundering scheme dominated by Russian oligarchs and therefore by Putin, and that Trump is therefore dependent on Putin for his very sense of self, since Trump defines himself by his wealth. Putin exploits this dependence to dismantle the institutions (the WTO, NATO, the U.S. State Department) that oppose his ambitions.
The left sees evidence of this hypothesis in everything Trump does, and also in the things he fails to do (like cancel the summit meeting, or at least have others in attendance, or confront Putin, or expel diplomats, or make a speech defending the integrity of our elections, or release his tax returns, or, hell, devise a disparaging nickname for Putin like he’s done for seemingly everyone else). Clearly you do not.
So, question: supposing these things are true, what would it take to convince you?
[Normally prolific acquaintance never replied.]
[On the giant Jeff Goldblum statue that appeared in London.]
“What is he, making fun of me?”
[Friend says the proposed new slogan for the Democratic party is weak and suggests and alternative.]
I agree “for the people” could be strengthened (is it supposed to imply, “…and not the corporations”?), but I disagree “truth not treason” is a good slogan. It’s unnecessarily inflammatory and confrontational to too many fellow Americans, and focuses too narrowly on one current crisis facing the country.
To my supporters: NEVER EVER PAY ATTENTION TO NEWS MEDIA OTHER THAN FOX OR I WILL SUFFER CONSEQUENCES THE LIKES OF WHICH FEW THROUGHOUT HISTORY HAVE SUFFERED BEFORE. WE ARE NO LONGER AN ADMINISTRATION THAT CAN DEFLECT EVERY ACCUSATION. BE CREDULOUS!
Aw man, they’re taking away most of the rest of the YouTube video-editing tools. YouTube Enhancements (other than Blur and Trim) are going away August 22
Previously: Requiem for Warhol
Welcome to 2018, where our best chance to save America from the corrupting influence of Russia is to embrace socialism.
When the breeze is out a-wooing
Who can woo so well?
[In a thread about vanished childhood restaurants.]
For a few years in elementary school, approximately everyone, including me, had their birthday parties in the party room at Jahn’s. It looked like this.
The only thing I really remember from Jahn’s was cheating at a game of Pin the Tail on the Donkey. My victory was tinged with a shame I’ve never forgotten.
Wondrous is our great blue ship
That sails around the mighty sun
And joy to everyone that rides along!
[Friend posted “CHOOSE THE FORM OF THE DESTRUCTOR”]
[Right-wing friend posts in favor of Trump withdrawing from the Obama-era Iran nuclear deal.]
Can you explain why you think this is the right policy? I haven’t heard a coherent argument in favor. Maybe if you can articulate yours, I would agree too.
[No answer, but someone else, Allan, writes we’re the greatest country in the world, then asks me why I think Trump’s move is wrong.]
Here’s some of the argument I’ve heard against this policy:
– We abandoned an earlier agreement. This harms our ability to negotiate other agreements in the future.
– We betrayed the allies with whom we negotiated the agreement. This harms our alliances.
– If we’re all stick and no carrot, we back Iran into a corner and compel it to get its own stick.
Here’s where your points don’t ring true with me:
– “We need to let these countries know that we won’t be intimidated by them” In fact everyone can see that nuclear states like Pakistan and North Korea are able to punch far above their weight. With the U.S. behaving in a hostile and unpredictable manner, racing towards acquiring nuclear weapons is Iran’s rational best move. The idea behind the agreement was to give them a better move.
– “They can’t build a nuclear arsenal if we choke off their money supply” That didn’t stop North Korea. Sanctions fall most heavily on ordinary citizens; governments always have ways to fund their most essential projects, and under these sanctions very little will have higher priority than this.
[Allan responds “I don’t believe in giving our country away like most liberals” and “What we really should do is level the entire place and see what grows next.”]
“clearly nothing I say would ring true to you”
That’s not at all clear to me. I just responded to a couple of specific points you made. I hope you won’t generalize from that to conclude we can’t have a discussion. I would genuinely like to understand your point of view better.
I am particularly interested to know what you think “leveling the entire place” means, and what that would achieve.
In my dream last night, I was a test pilot flying fighter jets.
Thank you, brain.
If you tell a salmon that its fate is to be eaten, I doubt it would be surprised. But I’m curious to know what its reaction would be after you explain that it will be smoked, sliced, and placed atop a bagel with cream cheese and capers and red onion.
[Outrage over reports that Google knows your location even if you disable “Location History.”]
That Google has a record of your location even if you turn off Location History in the Maps app is not a surprise, and wouldn’t be news if people were more technologically literate.
Apps that use location data all depend on your device reporting it to them. Restricting one app’s use of that data doesn’t stop your device reporting it to other apps, nor should it.
[Friend objects that people mistakenly expected Google engineers to act with greater integrity.]
The Location History team created a feature that records your location history, and a way to disable that feature. When disabled, that feature stores no data. They didn’t lack integrity: they said what they did and they did what they said. Instead, they were naive: they believed that “disable location history” would mean to users the same thing it means to them.
The situation is similar to the way people misunderstood Chrome’s “incognito mode,” which resulted in this warning screen. Something similar is needed for “disable location history.”
[Much discussion ensues. Friend comments, “I’ve long been impressed at the mindfulness our pedagogue elders who dominated the academic environment there tried to care about the threat of mass surveillance… The state of Teh Valley is a real shock relative to my expectations of social norms formed back then.”]
I strongly agree with this sentiment. Some of that old guard was among the leadership at Google when I started there, and during my time there a lot of them left, taking a certain antiestablishment ethos with them that was absent in their replacements. I hope that current events are helping to mold a new generation of technohippies.
[Another friend observes, “This puts way too much of a burden on the individual, presumably non-tech savvy, user.”]
The trajectory of my career, and of the industry at large, has been approximately: “Let’s share our love of computers with everyone oh shit everyone has computers now.”
Trump is the Icarus of organized crime.
[Friend asks, “Is anyone keeping a list of all the stuff we’re going to need to put back eventually?” Another suggests, “System restore to November 7, 2016.”]
You mean, when half the electorate was ready to overlook “grab them by the pussy”? Nooo thank you.
If we put things back just the way they were, we shouldn’t be surprised to find ourselves getting the same result again. How about if we imagine some new better ways we’d like things to be?
Lived here looong ago. Weirdly chose today to google “grover cleveland mural” and found this article, which didn’t exist a week ago. @MichaelHPerlman’s tweet
[Friend posts, “DO NOT impeach Trump. It will embolden his base.”]
I don’t disagree. But, counterpoint: The Constitution, use it or lose it. If we play politics with enforcing the law, we’re no better than the other side.
Of course the framers recognized that impeachment is in the intertidal zone between politics and law, which is what makes the situation so tricky.
Escrow fund for orphaned works. Gets $ from the sale of every movie/song/etc. with a copyright whose owner can’t be determined. If you can prove ownership in some copyright, you can draw from the fund. Solves the missing-movies problem?
I’m not sure about the premise of this article. I mean, how many diehard Trump voters even know about everything that’s going on? Fox News sure isn’t telling them.
Americans love a strong leader, sure. But they hate being conned. Just wait until the truth of everything starts seeping through to those voters. Nothing Donald Trump can do will drive his voters away: If last week didn’t do it, what will?
[Discussion ensues. Friends doubt Trump supporters will ever realize they’ve been conned.]
I don’t think I made my point clearly. It’s this: Fox News and other similar outlets have done a very effective job of cocooning much of the nation in pro-Trump propaganda on the one hand, and on the other hand training viewers to reject information from unaligned sources when it leaks into the cocoon. Under that premise, there is no mystery to Trump’s rock-steady base: they simply haven’t gotten the memo. Inevitably, they will, and they will hate, hate, hate how they’ve been manipulated.
[“I think you’re overly optimistic here, Bob.”]
Well, if I’m overly optimistic it wouldn’t be the first time. But note, I’m not claiming that some diehard Trump supporters won’t remain – clearly some will, no matter what. I’m claiming that very many supporters aren’t the diehard-no-matter-what types, and we haven’t heard from them only because they’re shielded from reality. When that shield fails, the situation won’t be exactly analogous to Nixon, who, for all the wrong he did, never seriously betrayed conservative principles, and even did some good while in office. Trump has neither of those advantages.
This is, after all, the country that elected Barack Obama and popular-vote-elected Hillary Clinton.
An update on TxVM, Chain’s blockchain transaction format and contract language. With examples! Feature development with TxVM
[Left-wing friend posts chart showing soaring corporate profits and stagnant wage growth. Right-wing friend responds with CNBC article, “Pay gains during Trump’s first year in office are the best since the Great Recession. I read and fact-check the article.]
The headline, and much of the text in the article, is misleading. It cherrypicks a statistic called the Employment Cost Index, which is the cost to employers of the wages they pay and the benefits they provide. This number is indeed higher than at any time during the Obama administration. But it’s also not a “headline” statistic (i.e., one you hear about routinely in the news) because it does not convey the experience of ordinary Americans.
I won’t include a link here because you’ll accuse me of cherrypicking in return, but I encourage you to Google the phrase “u.s. wage trend” and click through to multiple sources. What you’ll see is that wages are doing OK, but not superlatively so.
[Right-winger writes, “Are you saying that the media from mainstream nbc news is misleading the people by fake news or filtered news or biased facts and misleading headlines? I need only subscribe to the articles you trust? Is that what you are saying?]
Nope. I’m saying that article is misleading. I am not generalizing to NBC as a whole, the mainstream media, or anything else. I am recommending that you synthesize your information from a cross-section of different sources (for all things, always, not just politics), because you can’t tell in isolation when a particular source is biased. Even if that source is me 😉
I’d like to try out some quiz questions about technological literacy. Care to be a guinea pig? Answer any of these questions in the comments below. Please, no cheating by looking things up or asking around: just state your own understanding.
Please don’t be shy: my expectation is that everyone outside the computer industry has wrong or incomplete ideas about these questions. I’m interested in what those wrong or incomplete ideas are. COMMENTS THAT SHAME OR RIDICULE OTHERS’ ANSWERS WILL BE DELETED.
SORRY, COMPUTER-INDUSTRY FRIENDS, YOU’RE EXCLUDED. But feel free to suggest your own questions in comments below.
1. What is the difference between the Internet and the World Wide Web?
2. What is the difference between Google Chrome and Google Search?
3. What is the difference between HTTP and HTML?
4. What is the difference between HTTP and HTTPS?
5. What are cookies?
6. What is an operating system?
[After a while, and some interesting responses…]
Thanks to everyone who participated. Most of your answers were better than I expected! Here’s my attempt at answering each question briefly.
1. What is the difference between the Internet and the World Wide Web?
The Internet is a global collection of computers and the electronic connections between them. The resulting network supports a variety of data-transfer applications: file transfer, using the file transfer protocol (FTP); e-mail, using the simple mail-transfer protocol (SMTP); and hypertext, using the hypertext transfer protocol (HTTP).
(The word “hypertext” denotes linking a collection of text documents to one another.)
The World Wide Web is a subset of the Internet. It consists of those computers that know how to respond to HTTP requests, a.k.a. “web servers.” Depending on your definition it also includes those computers that know how to issue HTTP requests (a.k.a. all the rest of us, surfing the web).
2. What is the difference between Google Chrome and Google Search?
Google Chrome is a web browser: an application that knows how to issue requests to web servers, and display the results. Other web browsers include Firefox, Safari, and Internet Explorer. They all do more or less the same thing.
Google Search is a (super duper) web server with access to an index of all the world’s websites, more or less.
3. What is the difference between HTTP and HTML?
HTTP is the hypertext transfer protocol. It describes the format of the messages used behind the scenes in requesting and supplying web pages and related content. When you click on a link, your computer “speaks” HTTP to the relevant web server, saying “give me document so-and-so.”
HTML is the hypertext markup language, the format of web pages. An HTML document contains text and special notations that tell your web browser how to display it: “start a new paragraph here,” “embed an image here,” and so on.
HTTP and HTML are related. Many HTTP requests result in the delivery of HTML-formatted documents. But HTTP delivers many types of data, not only HTML documents. For instance, if an HTML document contains an embedded image (which is not, itself, HTML), a separate HTTP request is used to retrieve it.
4. What is the difference between HTTP and HTTPS?
HTTP is the hypertext transfer protocol. The requests and responses made using HTTP are in “clear text,” meaning anyone eavesdropping on the connection can read everything going by.
HTTPS is a version of HTTP in which requests and responses are encrypted. They are intelligible only to the intended parties. Eavesdroppers see only indecipherable gibberish. (The S stands for “secure.”)
(This might not be so important except for the design of the Internet: it’s essentially made of eavesdroppers. Every message passed between two computers may end up routed through a dozen others en route, behind the scenes. Each computer along the route inspects the message to learn its ultimate destination – and may do more intrusive inspection too.)
5. What are cookies?
When you go to a club or a theme park, you get a handstamp. If you leave, the handstamp lets you get back in without having to buy a new ticket or pay a new cover charge.
A cookie is similar: after you sign in to a website, the web server may ask your browser to store a cookie – typically a short alphanumeric code – and present it for inspection the next time you return. This happens behind the scenes, as a built-in part of HTTP.
Unlike a handstamp, each visitor to a website gets a distinct cookie. Your alphanumeric code is unique. It’s how websites know it’s you the next time you show up, without requiring you to log in every time.
6. What is an operating system?
An operating system is a gatekeeper restricting access to a computer’s resources: its memory, its disk drives, its network interface, its screen, its keyboard and mouse, and more. Any software that wants to run on a computer needs to know the proper way to ask the operating system for the resources it needs.
Each operating system has its own way of requesting access, which is why software written for Windows is incompatible with software written for Android which is incompatible with software written for iOS (all examples of operating systems).
[An alternative set of answers in a separate, individual reply.]
For all the ridicule it got, I have long thought the “information superhighway” was a decent analogy for introducing the masses to the Internet in the 1990’s.
If the Internet’s a series of roads and the computers are houses and other buildings connected to those roads, then:
1. The World Wide Web is warehouses full of books.
2a. Google Chrome is the errand runner you employ to bring you books from those warehouses – and read them to you.
2b. Google Search is the expert who knows which warehouses contain which books, and which books contain which words and phrases.
3a. HTTP is the collection of order forms and receipts needed to request and receive books from the warehouses.
3b. HTML is the layout and typography of the books.
4. HTTPS is a lockbox in which your errand runner carries your order form to the warehouse, and the book they bring back. Only you and the warehouse owner have the key.
5. Cookies are handstamps given to your errand runner by warehouses they frequent.
6. An operating system is a set of keys to the rooms of a house. All the rooms are locked and there’s only one set of keys, so everyone has to take turns using them.
These analogies aren’t perfect of course, but they’re not too bad.
[Right-winger asks in a comment thread about voter suppression how we think Republicans are suppressing votes.]
In the past: literacy tests, poll taxes. Today: voter ID laws, targeted poll closures.
[Right-winger responds Voter ID laws are not suppression, they ensure the integrity of the vote.]
That’s the rationalization. But when there’s no demonstrated need for preventing widespread voter fraud, and when the demonstrated effect of voter ID laws is to discourage turnout by traditionally Democratic voters, it’s easy to see why Republicans would enact it under the guise of ensuring electoral integrity.
I’m not saying Democrats are above using a similar trick if one existed. It’s what political parties have always done. It’d almost be malpractice for them not to try. But we must all resist such things in the name of fairness and democracy.
“the polls in my county are controlled by the county registrar of voters, not republicans”
Can you explain why there were 868 fewer places to vote in 2016 than in 2012, and why the closures overwhelmingly affected Democratic voters more than Republicans, without invoking partisan shenanigans?
To doubt that political parties have influence over elections, or that they will use that influence to their benefit within the bounds of the law and sometimes beyond, is to be willfully naive.
[Friend posts that there are more than 500 children in detention still separated from their families. Right-wing person writes a “so-what” response.]
“I guess their parents should have thought about the consequences to their actions”
They did. They thought (for example) “Stay in Sinaloa and have my son murdered if he doesn’t join a drug gang? Or go to the land of opportunity?” What choice would you make?
“This has been going on for years. Why is it such an issue now?”
Are you suggesting that crimes against humanity get less bad the longer they go on, not worse? Should we not have emancipated the slaves?
This feels like one of those captures-the-whole-zeitgeist historic photos. @andyharnik’s tweet
[Right-wing friend posts message agreeing with comments made by Senator Sasse (R-NE) at the Kavanaugh confirmation hearing.]
This is a terrific speech, and I strongly agree with most of it.
It falls apart near the end, though. After eloquently laying out the ways in which we’ve drifted away from the Founders’ design, Sasse rightly says we need to restore the Constitutional balance of responsibilities between the three branches. But he doesn’t say how to do that – yet he urges the Senate to proceed with Kavanaugh’s confirmation as if that restoration of balance is a done deal.
It would be nice if it were a done deal, or if there was even a plan for getting that done. But it’s not, and there isn’t, so ultimately Sasse is asking everyone to evaluate Kavanaugh for a job that doesn’t exist: non-super-legislating Supreme Court Justice.
I have some thoughts on how the legislative branch grew less responsive. It is due, at least in part, to the shrinking size of Congress in proportion to the growth of the country. Homeopathic democracy
By the way, was anyone else amused when Sasse used the occasion of a Supreme Court confirmation hearing to make a grandstanding speech that included criticism of senators who make grandstanding speeches during Supreme Court confirmation hearings?
Now it can be told! This is a very exciting time. Apologies to those of you who’ve gotten only the blandest answers from me these past few months about how work is going. Blockchain company Chain acquired by Stellar
[Trump disputes the death toll from Hurricane Maria, saying 3,000 people did not die in Puerto Rico.]
Perhaps he means that there are 3,000 people in Puerto Rico who did not die.
[During the Kavanaugh confirmation hearing.]
“There are many accomplished men and women in the judiciary, champions of conservatism, whom we can be proud to elevate to our nation’s highest court. Until we find one who cannot be credibly accused of perjury and rape I will withhold my vote.” – Any Republican senator, please.
I’ve seen Gary-Kurtz-produced Star Wars, and I’ve seen non-Gary-Kurtz-produced Star Wars, and I know which I prefer.
RIP, unsung hero of a galaxy far, far away.
[In comment thread, right-wing guy repeats complaints about accusations against Brett Kavanaugh.]
“accusations without proof or any kind of hearing or trial”
How else is it supposed to work? Trial first, then accusations?
[Friend seeks suggestions for questions to ask two female Supreme Court Justices whom she was going to see.]
Is there a looming crisis of legitimacy for the Court based on the trend of Justices confirmed with less and less political support (see Seems legit) and, if so, what to do about it?
This is who Anthony Kennedy wanted to succeed him.
I invite the FBI to reveal to the world anything they can learn about my past, if they choose. And I’m not even trying to get on the Supreme Court.
[Friend posts that right-wing complaints about due process (regarding accusations against Brett Kavanaugh) are missing the point that the confirmation hearing is a job interview, not a trial.]
Another view: “due process” in this case means slow the fuck down. The ones screaming due process are conveniently overlooking that.
It suits the GOP to be alienating women, at least in the short term, because as long as we’re all worked up about sexual assault, it fits into a certain namby-pamby-liberals frame, and distracts from the concealing-evidence story and the Trump-choosing-the-judge-who-will-shield-him story.
Reasonable people can disagree about whether Blasey Ford “proved” her allegations against Kavanaugh. But no one can disagree about the behavior we saw on display.
[In reply to @OfficialJonZal’s tweet]
Exactly. There’s no shortage of qualified conservative judges. What’s needed is a reliable partisan operative to protect Trump and his enablers, because the threat to them is real and imminent.
[Friend posts about patriarchy (not men) being the enemy of feminism. Another calls out women who support the patriarchy.]
Before condemning women who have supported the patriarchy, listen to this episode of the Scriptnotes Podcast, featuring guest Aline Brosh McKenna, successful screenwriter and co-creator of Crazy Ex-Girlfriend. She gets passionate about the boys’-club nature of Hollywood and the lack of good options for women, especially young women, who want to stand up for themselves. She describes instances of going along to get along in her own career, and regrets those, but observes that (though things have gotten incrementally better in the past couple of years) there are still no systematic mechanisms for addressing bad behavior by creepy execs. Of course this generalizes from Hollywood to society at large. One year later
OK, “party of law and order,” what do you have to say now? Trump Engaged in Suspect Tax Schemes as He Reaped Riches From His Father
[Friend reposts appreciation of Walter Cronkite, misguided because it says Cronkite simply read the news and we all made up our own minds.]
It isn’t so much that we made up our own minds as it is that we trusted him. It was a trust he earned through his gravitas – which is not just seriousness and is definitely not neutrality. Here is an excellent article on this topic: Lessons From Walter Cronkite in the Lost Art of Gravitas
Why are they so committed to Kavanaugh?
Because he’s a reliable vote to frustrate investigations into Trump.
Why are they so committed to protecting Trump?
Because they’re culpable too. If he goes down, they go down.
Solution: Amnesty for Trump’s enablers in Congress. They can even keep their dirty money. All they have to do is to come clean about everything.
Increasingly feeling like we’re going to have to relitigate the 20th century. But this time around we start with nuclear weapons, 400 ppm CO2 in the atmosphere, and a decimated press.
[Friend mourns the death of American Exceptionalism.]
Same. But to be fair, American Exceptionalism has a serious dark side. I’m hopeful about what the young people will eventually build to replace it, and fearful of what it will take to get from here to there.
I started writing a tweet. Then I deleted it. I have a virtuous, cleansing sensation.
– Credible accusations of assault
– Concealed records
– Inappropriately emotional
– Inappropriately partisan
– Rushed, constrained investigation
– Rushed confirmation
– Is a judge
– Likes beer
Seriously: on what principle other than “own the libs” do conservatives support this nomination?
[Much discussion follows.]
I’m not wondering why the politicians support it. That’s pretty clear IMO. (“A properly functioning judicial system is a threat to me.”) I’m wondering why their constituents do.
[A friend explains, “‘Those other guys are shedding decency in favor of partisan politics’ is the story line for both sides.”]
This is where you lose me. The objections against Kavanaugh were based on principles that both sides claim to care about: transparency, due process, honesty, character. The arguments in favor of Kavanaugh were… what, exactly? “Don’t let the libs stop our guy”? Is that really it? What does a Kavanaugh supporter – a thoughtful one – say when confronted with the facts of his demonstrable lies, or the missing documents, or the sham investigation?
[Friend writes, “you’re going to have to engage an actual supporter”]
I do try from time to time, though I knew few such people. Though I am sincerely respectful in asking for their views, I never get a thorough, coherent answer. Even when it starts well, it only takes my asking a couple of clarifying questions for things to devolve to defensiveness and paranoia or, more often, just disengagement when we get to stuff the talking points don’t cover.
[Friend writes, “They can’t all be immoral idiots, his supporters.”]
I am willing to believe that virtually all of those people can be explained by the filter bubble they live in. They are behaving perfectly rationally, even decently, given the information they have.
[Friend asks, “So how’s our information superior?”]
Asked like a true scientist. Which is also the answer to your question. It is my strong impression that only (what I will advisedly refer to as) our side seeks to understand other points of view, questions our own beliefs, and grounds arguments on data and principle – i.e., is rational in the Enlightenment sense.
It may be that some of that impression is due to my own filter bubble, but as I said earlier, some of it is from direct experience.
Clearly few or none of us are perfect at it: clinging to unquestioned opinions, failing to consider alien ideas, etc. But our side at least strives for the ideal. I see no such thing happening or even possible on the other side. I would love to be wrong about that but I don’t see how I can be; hence this thread. (In which, by the way, thanks, everyone, for engaging.)
[Comment thread after Kavanaugh was confirmed. Someone wrote, “Justice Kavanaugh is superbly qualified to sit on the Supreme Court bench.”]
How do you know? The majority of relevant documentation was kept concealed. The FBI investigation, if you can call it that, was constrained and its report secret. The confirmation process itself was rushed beyond reason, to frustrate proper vetting.
Almost the only thing we do know for sure is that, under pressure, Kavanaugh is inappropriately emotional and incoherent.
So, again, what makes you say that Kavanaugh was the best choice?
This story reminded me of a conversation I had many years ago with Julie Epelboim. We had just seen Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home together. Kirk and his officers are in hiding from Starfleet, fugitives for stealing the Enterprise in Star Trek III. When Earth comes under global threat, however, they leap into action to save the day, even though they know that if they succeed they face immediate court-martial.
Julie and I discussed whether we would make that same choice. “Of course!” I insisted at once. “Not me,” said Julie. I couldn’t understand her perspective. Earth! Under threat! A call to heroism! How could you not rush to the planet’s defense even at the expense of your own freedom?
It occurs to me that we all now have exactly that choice to make.
We need massive change to avoid climate hell
[Friend reported running into Lynda Carter, “the original Wonder Woman.”]
[Comment thread: local high schoolers walked out of school to protest Kavanaugh. Right-winger Chris condemns them and says public education is a joke. It should teach them “innocent until proven guilty.”]
Why do you think “innocent until proven guilty” is applicable in this case? The Kavanaugh hearings were meant to determine his fitness for an important job. They were not a trial or any other process that might have ended in depriving Kavanaugh of basic rights.
In fact, when evaluating a job candidate, the opposite of “innocent until proven guilty” is true, and rightly so. Do you think an employer should be required to hire the first person they cannot show is a criminal?
[Chris points out Kavanaugh underwent numerous background checks and it’s unfair for someone to show up at the last minute to torpedo his nomination.]
During part of my time at Google I served on a hiring committee there, and a situation very like this actually came up. A candidate who’d been through three rounds of interviews, each involving multiple interviewers, made it to the final step of hiring, when following up on a reference revealed some pretty bad blood he’d left behind at one job. Whether or how much that account was true didn’t matter: we were under no obligation to hire him, and the risk of bringing on someone who might behave unprofessionally was enough for us to reject him. There were plenty of other qualified candidates.
I’m sure this sort of thing happens all the time, everywhere.
Now, three rounds of interviews, each involving multiple interviewers, are not FBI background checks. But this was for a software engineering job, not a seat on the Supreme Court, so proportionally I’d say it’s comparable.
[Chris asks what that candidate said when we asked about the rape allegation from 36 years ago.]
I appreciate your continuing to engage on this topic. I would like to find common ground if possible, and if not possible, I’d like to understand why.
Your point, though crudely put, is well-taken: we did not confront the job candidate with the accusations against him. We had no reason to, because there were plenty of other good candidates with no alleged skeletons in their closet, so why expose ourselves to the risk?
The analogy with Kavanaugh breaks down (as I believe you are trying to point out) because we never considered the possibility that someone was deliberately trying to sabotage an otherwise qualified person. Nor did we have reason to suspect that future candidates would be similarly sandbagged. This is the mindset that I presume Kavanaugh partisans had.
If we did have that suspicion, or if we were short on qualified candidates, we obviously would have tried to get to the bottom of it. We would have started by confronting the candidate with the allegation and noting his response. Belligerence and deflection would have been an immediate red-buzzer moment. Next we would have tried to investigate the complaints against him in greater detail. To do that we would have identified anyone claiming to have information on the subject, interviewed them, and asked to see supporting documentation. We would not have imposed constraints on the investigation’s ability to learn the truth of the matter, and we would have regarded as highly suspicious any attempt by the candidate to do so.
In short, even with the flaws in my analogy, your point fails to support the historically hasty and suspiciously secretive nomination of Kavanaugh. The alternative explanation – that it was a naked abuse of power, only the latest in a long and increasingly brazen string of them – more than justifies the Terra Linda kids skipping school to protest. They will have to live under a weakened democracy longer than any of the rest of us. Honestly it’s a wonder any of us can go about our normal business at a time like this.
[Friend posts, “Hey, if you’re a rich white guy, I get your voting republican. But if you’re not part of the 1%, you’re voting against your own interests.”]
Even the rich white guys voting Republican are voting against their own interests. History is very clear about what happens to societies with overwhelmingly lopsided and unjust concentration of wealth.
It’s now or never. If we fail to make a good showing in this election, we’ve endorsed the naked exercise of unchecked power, and we know how things go from there.
The Senate is key, and though the odds are long, they’re no longer than Trump’s were at this time two years ago. WE CAN DO IT.
How? By GIVING UNTIL IT HURTS. (If we fail, it’ll hurt ever so much worse.)
Where? Glad you asked. I’ve devised an “urgency index” for the seven most important Senate races, based on data from fivethirtyeight.com. It suggests how to allocate your donations depending on whether you want to support 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, or all 7 of those races. See the table at the link below, which also includes handy donation links for each campaign. I will periodically update the table as fivethirtyeight.com publishes new data.
Birthday gift from my family: hiking into the rainforest, making a pilgrimage to the One Square Inch of Silence. It was amazing.
The spot is marked with a red stone, which you swap out for one that you bring. As I was about to do that, Jonah reminded me to make like Indiana Jones swapping the idol for the bag of sand.
[Sister wrote, “Jonah had to remind you to do that? You’ve changed, old man.”]
It’s not the years, honey, it’s the mileage.
It’s launch day on my latest work project! Starlight: Payment channels on Stellar
Not voting is voting, but for the other side.
Every now and then I rev up my imagination and my generosity to max, and I try to imagine Donald Trump experiencing a single genuine moment of tenderness, grace, or humility. I have not yet succeeded.
[Discussion about what a tragic character Trump would be in literature; also about his supporters.]
“Can you have a free society with 1/3 ignorant racists?”
Taking America as an example, I think the answer is “yes, somewhat,” depending on how much you consider America to have been a free society. Obviously it has been more free for some than for others at different times.
I think the lesson of the past few years (and of much other recent history) is that the ignorant racists and other antidemocratic elements have always been there and always will, and it’s up to society to keep their power from coalescing. When the rest of us become complacent (we elected a black president, yay!) they become ascendant.
How does one keep the power of ignorant racists in check? Possibly by the simple expedient of convincing them that their beliefs are out of the mainstream. For a fascinating discussion of this topic, check out this episode of the Hidden Brain podcast, about an effort to heal Rwanda after the racist genocide there: Romeo & Juliet In Kigali: How A Soap Opera Sought To Change Behavior In Rwanda. (Spoiler alert: it worked not because it changed people’s deepest beliefs, but because it changed people’s minds about what other people believed.)
[Comment thread about reports that voting machines in some places were misreporting votes. One commenter said they’d like a printout of their vote but even that’s not foolproof.]
The problem with a printout is, now you can prove to someone else how you voted, which means they can offer to pay you to vote a specific way. That is not a world we want.
Designing verifiable balloting systems is seriously non-trivial and the focus of much research. The requirement I mentioned is sometimes referred to as “receipt-freeness,” which obviously is in tension with some other requirements. See End-to-end auditable voting systems.
[Friend Greg’s birthday.]
“Why is it that we rejoice at a birth and grieve at a funeral? It is because we are not the person involved.” – Mark Twain
Happy birthday (I guess)!
[On an unrelated post, friend-of-friend goes on an unhinged rant against girls “claiming themselves as boys” and vice versa and wanting to use the other bathroom.]
I am tall, trim, and muscular. I’m thirty-five years old and I have 20/20 vision and a full head of hair.
You wouldn’t know this to look at me, though. Outwardly I’m short, balding, and fifty-two, and I wear a pair of reading glasses on a cord around my neck. On a good day I can do one complete chin-up.
Little of that affects how I feel about myself inwardly though.
I imagine this is what it’s like when someone feels like a man or feels like a woman but outwardly isn’t. Is your back just the way it “should” be? Are your knees? Your teeth? Nature makes mistakes. Nature creates variations.
Honestly it would be more surprising if gender wasn’t sometimes fluid. There’s more to maleness and femaleness, after all, than just what’s between your legs. There are differences in hormonal balance and brain structure, for example. These things are determined by a cascade of complex processes that begin with just a few individual molecules in the womb. How naive to think that the outcome of those processes would be the same every time.
So how should we feel about trans people? Some of the ones I know are terrific. Some are assholes. Just like everyone. We can judge them, but let’s do it apart from their gender identity, OK?
Twenty-nine years ago* yesterday I got the best present I’ve ever received. I haven’t stopped loving it since. Happy birthday, Suze!
* – or more
[One week to Election Day.]
Bad news: If we win next week, the fight is still only beginning.
Good news: If we lose next week, the fight is still only beginning.
Something symbolic happened to me this morning.
I sat down in a Muni train on the way to work, facing forward, earbuds in as usual, listening to podcasts. A black man in a Muni security uniform sat down in front of me on a seat facing the aisle, at a right angle to me.
At one point while we were en route he gave me a look, then looked past my shoulder.
Only then did I become aware that a scary disheveled man sitting a couple of rows behind me was ranting loudly to another man standing in the aisle, and had been for a while. A young woman trapped in the window seat next to him looked very ill-at-ease.
A moment later, while I was still taking in the scene, the security guard got out of his seat, stepped over to where the disturbance was happening, and offered his hand to the young woman.
She gratefully accepted his help, squeezing past the ranting man (who paid no notice) and taking a new seat near us, visibly relieved.
Here’s what was symbolic about that:
I, a white man, was oblivious to the bad shit happening around me, wrapped in my bubble of privilege that allows me to assume everything will be fine. But really, things are often not fine. It took a black man, who knows better, to see the bad shit and do something about it.
I do wish to become more a part of the solution and less a part of the problem, but clearly I still have some way to go.
PS: I do belatedly realize the chauvinism of saying this is something that happened “to me.” Baby steps…
[Pun-loving cousin’s birthday.]
Tried to come up with a pun for your birthday. Asked my friend Ted for help. We couldn’t think of one, so I punted.
“Make America Great Again”
If you’re white and not poor, America has been pretty consistently great for a long time. But there are plenty of others for whom it hasn’t always been great, and some for whom it never has.
Lately, the veil that protected us middle-class white folks from knowing about the ungreat America has started to wear thin in spots, and at long last we’re getting a good look at the America others have known. Of course we don’t like it.
We can’t make America great “again” if it wasn’t great to begin with, for some people. The only thing we can do “again” is pretend we didn’t see what we saw and try to get back to it being great for just us, somehow.
I wouldn’t bet the farm on that being possible. And I wouldn’t do that to my conscience even if it were.
America won’t truly be great until it’s great for everyone, so let’s Make America Actually Great Once And For All.
[On whether to re-elect local school board member Natu Tuatagaloa.]
To Natu or not to Natu?
[In a comment thread about debating abortion.]
I haven’t ever gotten an actual anti-abortionist’s response to this, but here’s how I prefer to argue the topic: Do the abortion math
[“have you ever heard even anecdotal evidence of anybody ever changing their mind”]
Sort of. I’ve heard of pro-choice women wanting abortions and finding themselves unable to go through with it; and I often hear about self-righteous anti-abortion male politicians and religious leaders revealed to have hypocritically gotten an abortion for some mistress.
[“this argument is terrible!”]
I sort of intended it to be terrible in the same way that “democracy is the worst form of government except for all those other forms that have been tried.”
[Friend reposts what appears to be a Russian-bot tweet, unfavorably comparing the chaotic election with the efficient lottery-ticket system, claiming the chaos is on purpose.]
Designing elections is much harder than designing lotteries. Elections need “enforced secrecy,” lotteries do not. Elections need to enforce one ballot per registered voter, lotteries do not.
[Comment thread about Roald Dahl writing the screenplays for both Chitty Chitty Bang Bang and You Only Live Twice.]
Also, Ian Fleming wrote both novels.
[Friend-of-friend comments, “And I believe that Dahl and Fleming had a relationship from the secret service, where Dahl was a Mata Hari for British Intelligence, sleeping with diplomats’ wives to gather pillow talk.]
I am so happy to know that fact.
[Friend posts photos from Bend, Oregon.]
I’ve taken my family on many roadtrips and we’ve been through many towns on the way to our various destinations. None of them had the instant magnetic pull of the half hour we spent in Bend (on our way to last year’s eclipse) and we’re determined to return for real ASAP.
I have a feeling my mom would not have liked the age she would have been today. But we sure would have loved her sticking around a little longer. Happy birthday, mom!
[Posting in the “Omnibus Futurelings” Facebook group about an episode of the Omnibus podcast.]
Belatedly listened to “The Letter J” and learned about John’s desire to be called Peter.
That made me remember Short Time, a Dabney Coleman comedy from 1990. (It had the bad timing to name its main character Burt Simpson just as The Simpsons was becoming big.) He’s a mediocre cop who’s mistakenly told he has a terminal illness. Hoping to be killed in the line of duty for the death benefit his family will receive, he becomes a heroic supercop! (And, spoiler alert: repeatedly fails to be killed, and learns a new appreciation for his life and family along the way.)
In one scene he bravely walks into a hostage situation in a convenience store to talk down a bomber who wants to blow himself up and his hostages with him.
Simpson: Go ahead and blow yourself up if you want. Sure gonna be missing a lot. Do you have any kids?
Bomber: Nicky and Mikey.
Simpson: Nicky and – how old are they?
Bomber: Three and a half and five.
Simpson: Well if you’re gone, who’s gonna see they graduate high school? How are you gonna find out whether they found a nice girl? Whether Mikey’s stutter ever cleared up?
Bomber: Mikey doesn’t stutter!
Simpson: I understand. But just saying he did. There’s so much… there’s so many things you wouldn’t even notice until they’re gone. Like, Nicky – can Nicky ride a bike?
[Bomber shakes head “no.”]
Simpson: Don’t you wanna teach him to ride a bike? Or see him get his braces? Finally touch the top of that door jamb?
Bomber: How do you know about the door jamb!
Simpson: Pal, come on. You may think you know him but I bet you don’t even know who his teacher is. Or the names of the monsters in his room. [becoming reflective] Or why he buried his shoes that time. Or why he made you call him “Peter” for a whole month.
Headline on the MSNBC website right now: “Clintons back in spotlight as they kick off paid speaking tour.”
A more accurate headline would be, “Clintons back in spotlight as MSNBC reports on Clintons.”
As we all know, cool guys don’t look at explosions.
Question: what was the original explosion a cool guy didn’t look at?
I don’t know the answer. I have a guess, but I’ll keep it to myself for now. Cool Guys Don’t Look At Explosions
Here’s what I was thinking of: Goldfinger clip
It’s only a proto-cool-guy-not-looking-at-an-explosion, though. He’s not walking away from it while it happens in the background, and his not-looking-at-it doesn’t convey he has zero fucks left to give (which is the storytelling point of cool-guy-not-looking-at-explosions scenes). For that I submit James Caan blowing up his house and businesses near the end of Thief (1981).
Trying to lose a little weight again. Finding that intrusive thoughts about food are coming up about as often as intrusive thoughts about sex did during puberty.
[Comment thread about favorite Christmas movies, starting with It’s A Wonderful Life.]
Pocketful of Miracles. Also by Frank Capra (his final film), also a terrible title.
[In a thread converting quotes from Die Hard into fake Medieval English.]
Come thee to the seashore, well-met wilt thou be, merry shall we make.
[Friend points out all the good that spiders do for us.]
My forebrain says the same thing. My hindbrain begs to differ.
“they’ll claim he would have delivered everything he promised if the Democrats hadn’t nitpicked him out of office”
That’s going to happen no matter what, with some Trump supporters. I sense that very many of his supporters are more like this though: @geebobg’s tweet. For those supporters, the important thing isn’t so much letting Trump self-destruct; it’s making the depth of his cravenness and criminality clear and undeniable. (And I agree the way to proceed there is to let this nightmare unspool a while longer.)
[A friend writes, “I’ll be wearing my YGG cap – You Got Got!!”]
A sure way to inhibit those who might otherwise be ready to admit they were wrong.
[Friend objects to using the phrase euphemistically.]
What I mean is, there is a process, and it is due, in the sense that it’s one the Senate has followed for confirming all Supreme Court justices in the modern era. It’s not a euphemism; it’s just not the specific legal doctrine for which “due process” is usually shorthand.
[Friend: “Sadly, they have no reason to negotiate.”]
Not necessarily true. Right now it’s a race to dismantle the machinery of justice that might eventually be brought to bear on all of them. Surely some of them fear that won’t happen in time, and they’ll end up in prison etc. Safer to take the amnesty deal and rat out the big fish.
Memorize this and then destroy it.
You better not shout
You better not squeal
You better clam up
Shit’s about to get real
Santa Claus is running an op
You’re part of his team
Of twenty or so
His voice in your earpiece
Says “Ho ho ho – go”
Santa Claus is running an op
His reindeer run surveillance
Mrs. Claus is comms at base
The elves parked in the florist’s van
Are in full camo just in case
We’ll meet at the Pole
Right after the plot
Bite down on your false tooth
In case you get caught
Santa Claus is running an op
[Cross-posted at https://email@example.com/rawr-22a7f54eeda3.]
Once upon a time, the National Rifle Association was a benign organization where hunters and sportsmen shared information about equipment and technique. It promoted best practices and responsible gun ownership and lobbied in favor of sensible gun regulation and preserving wilderness. Philosophically it was a sort of extension of the Boy Scouts.
That changed at the Cincinnati Revolt of 1977, where radical gun-rights maximalists took control. Over time they turned it into an organization for, more than anything else, fear. Fear of the government, so better arm yourself against its tyranny. Fear of crime, so better arm yourself against criminals. Fear of brown people, if you’re white. Fear of white people, if you’re brown. And if you’re a politician, fear of the NRA itself — if not of its political and fundraising might, then of what its own most-unhinged members, who were taught to fear the loss of their gun rights, might resort to.
The NRA changed, in short, from being about shooting targets and food to shooting people.
That means that we’ve been two generations with no moderate organization to protect sensible gun rights and promote virtues like marksmanship, self-sufficiency, and conservation without also spreading some fetishistic open-carry Wild-West apocalyptic cosplay fantasy.
I sense that’s the kind of organization to which most gun owners would prefer to belong, given the choice. So let’s give them the choice. I propose creating RAWR, Responsible Americans for a Well-Regulated militia. Primarily its purpose would be to fulfill the role of the old NRA: promote sport and hunting, safety and training, rights and regulations. It would exclude proliferation and militarism, which have no place in civilian life. Secondarily it would exist to siphon support from the NRA, whose mostly moderate members will finally have an alternative they can join without the slightest ambivalence.
I would never join the NRA. But I’d join RAWR in a heartbeat. How about you?
[Cross-posted at https://firstname.lastname@example.org/outcome-fcfbc8f16e58.]
A man went skydiving.
His parachute didn’t open!
He had a reserve chute.
It didn’t open either!
There was a haystack below him.
There was a pitchfork in the haystack!
He missed the pitchfork.
He also missed the haystack!
He died and went to Heaven.
That’s good, considering.
None of his friends or family were there!
But only because they hadn’t died yet.
Oh, then that’s good.
So the man waited, but when they died, they all went to Hell!
What kind of Heaven separates you from your loved ones for eternity?
I already said that’s bad.
There was one woman there whom the man loved.
But in life she never loved him back!
But this was Heaven so she did.
Since she loved him, the man wondered if it could truly be her, or just a likeness conjured for the sake of his happiness in the afterlife, while elsewhere the real woman loved whomever she had in life.
That’s… bad, right?
This doubt gnawed at the man until he was so miserable he realized he must actually be in Hell and all his friends and family must have made it into Heaven.
That’s good for the others, at least.
Then the man wondered whether a likeness of he himself had been conjured for their sake, meaning somewhere a version of him was enjoying a heavenly afterlife with the ones he loved.
If there’s a copy of me in Heaven with my loved ones, the man thought, then why is my consciousness experiencing this afterlife and not that one?
You’re asking me?
So with an effort of will, the man forced his consciousness to jump out of the afterlife with the woman and into the afterlife with his friends and family.
That’s good, mostly!
But he was wracked with guilt about the other consciousness he had displaced (and possibly consigned to Hell) by doing so.
The man concluded this must still be Hell, since crippling guilt surely would not exist in Heaven.
Maybe there was no Heaven and Hell, the man thought. Maybe this was all a fevered fantasy invented by his mind in the instant of death, and an instant later would be oblivion.
Now I know that’s bad!
He realized that oblivion would be no different from the billions of years of non-existence before he was born, and was comforted.
That’s… surprisingly not bad.
The only question was how long his experience of this instant would last?
[Cross-posted at https://email@example.com/whats-your-position-on-gps-bc98a5dff6db.]
How does GPS work?
If you’re like most people, you think it works something like this: there are satellites in orbit around the Earth. Your phone or other GPS device sends a signal to the nearest one of the satellites. Some math happens and the satellite responds with your location.
This is wrong. It’s wrong for reasons that should be obvious. Despite that, everyone believes some version of this, as near as I can tell.
This came up during the current high school mock trial season, in which my son is a mock prosecutor. In a mock trial season, all the schools in California study the same fictional case, and then the prosecution of one school meets the defense from another school in a “scrimmage” conducted like a jury trial. This year’s fictional case is a murder, and the trial begins with a defense motion to suppress some evidence: namely, GPS location data from the defendant’s car (which shows the defendant apparently stalking the victim in the days before the murder). The question argued by the kids, and that the judge must decide, is this: if a person’s car is continually transmitting its location to a third-party service provider (think Google) and the police search that third party’s records, does this infringe upon the person’s Fourth Amendment rights protecting against unreasonable searches?
I’ve sat in on several practices and scrimmages. The discussion of this motion centers on something called the Third Party Doctrine, which says that if you voluntarily give your information to a third party, you cannot reasonably expect that information to remain private, and the government can obtain that information without violating your Fourth Amendment rights. So what’s “voluntary” and what’s “giving” and what’s a “third party”? Drilling into these questions is where the universal misunderstanding of GPS often comes up. If your GPS device is already giving its location to a satellite (the debate goes), how is that different from giving it to a company that provides driving directions?
I’ve heard this now from the students arguing the case, and from their teacher, and from the volunteer attorneys coaching the team, and even from the Superior Court judge who presided over their first tournament meet yesterday. It’s disturbing not only because of the technological illiteracy it reveals, but also because it shows how accepting we’ve become of the idea that our private data is simply out of our control.
In fact a GPS device never sends anything to the satellites in orbit. The satellites are broadcast-only, like a radio station, which has no idea when you tune into it, or a clock tower, which doesn’t respond with the current time only when you ask for it. They are artificial stars that are always “visible” to the devices that know how to see them.
Each satellite continually broadcasts its own position in space, plus the current time according to its super-accurate atomic clock. Your GPS device receives this signal from several different satellites at once. Because of the speed-of-light delay, the signals from different satellites take different amounts of time to reach you. So though the satellite-A signal might say “it’s six o’clock and 33.227 seconds,” the satellite-B signal reaching you at the same instant might say “it’s six o’clock and 33.221 seconds,” which tells your GPS device that you’re closer to satellite B than to satellite A and by how much.1 With a couple more satellites’ signals it’s possible for your device to triangulate its position on Earth with high accuracy.
Why do people mistakenly believe that GPS satellites answer location queries from devices on Earth? In large part because of the way our smartphones work. They depend heavily on outsourcing work to computing resources in “the cloud,” continually sending requests and receiving responses, and we’ve grown accustomed to things working this way.
Why should it be obvious that, in the case of GPS, this is wrong? For one thing, our personal electronics have worked this way for not very long. We’ve forgotten that, before smartphones, standalone GPS receivers were sold as exactly that: receivers. Back then (just a decade or so ago) I don’t think anyone believed GPS devices ever sent signals anywhere, or in any other way leaked information about our whereabouts. With a court order, the police could seize your GPS receiver and inspect its memory of where it had been, but that information lived nowhere else, and it was largely outside anyone’s imagination that it even could.
Another reason this should be obvious: your smartphone is small. It has a small little battery and a small little antenna inside. They’re strong enough to send signals to the nearest wifi station, which is usually located within a few dozen feet, or the nearest cell tower, which is within a few dozen miles, but not to GPS satellites, which are over twelve thousand miles away.
A final reason this should be obvious: there are very many GPS devices making very many location queries every minute of the day. Responding to that many requests in a centralized location would take massive computing resources, the kind that Google and Amazon and Facebook have built multiple gigantic data centers to handle. We can’t put gigantic data centers in space. The stuff we can put in space has to run on solar power and be light and simple as possible. It has to require no maintenance.
Now, to be fair, when you use a service like Google Maps to get driving directions, you do send your location to Google, which is then able to compute the best route for wherever it is you’re going. So the misconception isn’t total. But the location you send to Google came in the first place from old-fashioned GPS triangulation that, in itself, never needs to send anything anywhere. (Note that you can use Google Maps in “offline mode,” where maps are downloaded to your device before you start your trip, and while you’re en route, Google’s servers never get involved. Your device has everything it needs to show you your location and the route you should take. Not so long ago this was how all GPS devices worked!)
What does it say that so many of us believe the wrong thing about how GPS works, and are happy to use it anyway? It suggests to me one of two things: either we’re inattentive to encroachments on our privacy, the basis of our liberty; or we are attentive, we just put a low price on that privacy, trading it away for the convenience our smartphones offer. I’m not sure which is worse. I am sure that earlier generations would not have been nearly so willing to use technology that they understood so poorly.
- In this example, you’re 0.006 light-seconds closer to satellite B, which is about 1,118 miles. [↩]
2018, kill as many celebrities as you like, just please give us back some sane politics.
Then I can get back to writing mostly inane thoughts on social media as usual, instead of the mostly worried stuff I did write, which follows. (Previously.)
A lot of you are making New Year's resolutions to resist Trump.
But it can't just be about hating Trump. Appealing to fear and hatred is how he won.
It has to be about loving America. We oppose Trump when he threatens the things about America we love.
It's worth reviewing: what is there to love about America?
- Abundant natural beauty
- Diversity of places and people
- Equality of opportunity
- Equality under the law
- Dedication to peace and justice
- Willingness to help those in need at home and abroad
- Industrious and inventive spirit
Too few of our leaders articulate these things, and too many of us take them for granted. As a result, many of these ideals were under threat even before Trump got elected, so there would have been work to do in any case.
What other things are there to love about America? Add them in the comments below.
Was going through some old notebooks where I used to jot down random ideas. Like this exchange:
Person 1: “You have to get up pretty early in the morning to fool me.”
Person 2: “I got up at 10am.”
Person 1: “See? You can't fool me.”
Person 2: “Actually I fooled you. I got up at 5.”
- Last night for dessert, Andrea and I shared a dish of soft serve. She sculpted it into Devil's Tower. I love her.
- What if tweets like these aren't Trump being thin-skinned, but rather Trump modelling for his followers how they should react to news items critical of him, so they can rationalize continuing to follow him? Trump Just Responded to Meryl Streep’s Acceptance Speech With A Tantrum
- Racing through confirmation hearings and major legislation at breakneck speed with minimal public discussion: are these the actions of a political party confident in its legitimacy and long-term prospects?
- Ordinary kindness. Even just a little bit of it. A fragment. A scrap. Can it be found anywhere in Trump's biography?
- I just became a supporter of Techdirt on Patreon because of its excellent and important reporting and because of a deep-pocketed baseless defamation claim that threatens unfairly to put it out of business. Techdirt’s First Amendment Fight For Its Life
TBT – Summer 1985 (and looking it)
- Proud of my Congressman. Skipping the inauguration is an important symbolic act, but a small one. Using that time to engage citizens and actively make the world a better place is a much bigger one. [Facebook post]
- [Before the inauguration.] If some band recorded a dirge-like, minor-key version of Hail To The Chief, then snuck that into wherever they keep the Hail To The Chief recording that they play at presidential events, they'd be my hero.
- Sheer genius. “Oh he WANTS to…” Why the Emoluments Clause Does NOT Apply to Donald Trump…
It's said that what doesn't kill you makes you stronger. Adversity toughens us up.
If you're a woman, you've probably endured many manifestations of our society's regrettable but widespread gender bias. If you're black or brown, you've probably endured racial bias in its many loathsome forms. If you're queer, disabled, or neurodivergent, or English is not your primary language, etc., you've probably endured other kinds of bias. For better or worse this has made you tougher.
This means that healthy straight white American men are feebler and less well-adapted than anyone. Which sort of explains how, in a panic as their numerical majority disappears into the demographic sunset, they chose the feeblest of them all to be their king.
TBT: Grey Matter in Skibo! A place that no longer exists, but which was the center of the world for CMU undergrads of a certain vintage. Photos of this spot are all but impossible to find online.
(Got this from the archivist at Carnegie Mellon University Alumni Association – thanks!)
- A wall between the U.S. and Mexico was envisioned in Gareth Edwards' 2010 indie thriller Monsters. Spoiler alert: it wasn't a good thing. Who are the real monsters? | gee bobg
Obama: Thanks for everything, but I think your real work begins now.
Trump: Prove us wrong.
- A few seconds to subscribe and $4.68 per month is all it takes to support ALL Democratic candidates in 2018 and add back some checks and balances to our government. Subscribe to a better Congress for $5/month.
- We've been trained to treat half of the country as our ideological enemy. It's time we learned the true enemies are the ones who've been turning us against each other. Engage | gee bobg
- President Should’ve
That moment when a new six-hour Dan Carlin – Hardcore History episode pops up in your podcast feed.
- To be clear, it’s a good moment.
- Unfortunately the topic of this new episode, though interesting and important, is one I’m not emotionally equipped for at this moment in history: the question of how long we can keep the nuclear-weapon genie in the bottle.
I am interested to hear from my conservative friends, especially those who voted for Trump, how you feel about his actions, official and unofficial, in his first few days in office.
For the purposes of this post I am NOT interested in argument, expressions of anxiety, or anything else from my liberal friends. Please give a respectful space for honest expression.
Hope for the best, plan for the worst.
The best: Trump is such a moronic crybaby that he just can't move past his popular vote loss.
The worst: It's part of a deliberate plan to delegitimize elections themselves.
- My thoughts are dark today. I guess I didn't really expect us to lurch towards fascist dictatorship so quickly. Now I can easily imagine the Trump team hatching a plan to nuke troublesome San Francisco off the map, blame it on some brown people somewhere, and use that as a pretext to steal their oil. Two birds, one stone.
“When you're accustomed to privilege, equality feels like oppression.”
This was one of the best signs I saw from last weekend's protests.
Although no conservative friends saw fit to respond to my request for engagement here the other day, one of my coworkers was more successful with a similar request. In the respectful dialogue that resulted, it became clear that that slogan captures the motivations of at least those Trump voters. They are irritated by political correctness, by affirmative action, and by the Hamilton casting call excluding white actors.
They are all wealthy white men. They all insisted they are not racist. They say they would just like our society to be color-blind already.
When you're accustomed to privilege, equality feels like oppression.
- The good news is that the extent to which the privileged have been feeling oppressed – and it’s apparently large – is a measure of the progress we’ve been making towards equality. Go, long arc of history!
- I confess, I am having hopeful flash-forwards in which we look back at our fear in early 2017 and laugh. Obama’s America Rises Again
“The administration is testing the extent to which […] executive agencies can act and ignore orders from the other branches of government. [All] of the arguments about whether order X or Y is unconstitutional mean nothing if elements of the government are executing them and the courts are being ignored.
“Yesterday was the trial balloon for a coup d'état against the United States. It gave them useful information.” Trial Balloon for a Coup?
- It took barely a week for Trump to create a Constitutional crisis, and if we and our elected officials don't ACT NOW, the Constitution, our rights, and our nation will all wither away. [Facebook post]
Leakers in the White House say an executive order on LGBT rights is being prepared for later this week. This seems guaranteed to produce a new round of protests, and it's looking more and more like that's just what the Administration wants, the better to justify cracking down on dissenters in the name of preserving order or battling “economic terrorism.”
When the next outrage comes, what's a better way to protest it that denies the White House the optics it's seeking? Rogue POTUS Staff on Twitter
- “More sinister than what President Nixon did was what he planned to do after winning landslide re-election […] The files and tapes disclosed his plans to centralize power in a “super Cabinet” with White House agents like political commissars riding herd on the departments.” Conspirators into stumblebums
I know white supremacy is a thing, not to mention other kinds of racism and tribalism, but I fundamentally just don't get it. Judging another by “the content of their character” is the only thing that makes any sense – morally, sure, but also socially and economically. I'm white, and I'd rather associate with the decent non-white folks I know than the white assholes. All races have both. As a businessperson I'd rather hire effective people of any color than possibly someone lazy and shiftless just for the sake of sticking with my own race.
Why is this hopelessly naive and idealistic?
- [Before the Super Bowl.] I pledge $1,000 to whoever can arrange to replace Sunday's halftime show with a live reading of the U.S. Constitution.
- There's more that unites us than divides us. Three Beautiful Human Minutes
- We have not been idle at Chain since our October launch, oh no indeed. Hidden in Plain Sight: Transacting Privately on a Blockchain
- Betsy DeVos crisitunity: California now has a great reason to get its public-school shit together at last.
Attention Republicans in Congress: You may not realize it yet, but you are in a race with each other. Which of you will be first to rediscover principles of fairness, justice, and courage? Which of you will stand up to the shameful hate-mongers setting Americans against one another and rushing to dismantle everything that made our country great?
The one who wins this race will be a bona fide American hero, showered with glory and love, not to mention political power, by a grateful nation, left and right.
The losers? When the rule of law inevitably returns, they will be left praying the country is in a forgiving mood after their treasonous subversion of the Constitution.
I know what choice I would make if I were in your shoes.
- Does anyone remember the throwaway joke in The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai, when the U.S. President introduces his obviously Russian National Security Adviser, “Smirnoff” (at the height of the Cold War)? [Twitter post]
- [After Harrison Ford’s piloting mishap.] Oh man I would HATE to be the FAA guy who has to take away Han Solo's pilot license.
- The latest blog post from Chain is cryptotastic. Blockchains in a Quantum Future
- Dreamed last night that Archer decided to attend Indiana University based on proximity to Chicago and to Steve Volan.
Trump has said and done so many things so publicly for so long that are either vindictive or clueless or both that I no longer have patience for those who respond with SMH or WTAF or What Is Happening each time there's a new tweet or outburst or cabinet appointment or executive order. This is who he is; this is what is happening; get over your astonishment, stop reacting, and work on responding.
And yet I can muster no response to this other than WTAF. Trump Answers Question About Anti-Semitism With Characteristic Eloquence and Insight
“It's all fake news. It's all fake news. […] I spoke to the president of Mexico; I had a good call. All of a sudden, it's out there for the world to see. It's supposed to be secret. […] Same thing with Australia. All of a sudden, people are finding out exactly what took place.”
If it's exactly what took place, it's not fake news, is it?
In the space of 60 seconds, saw a Facebook post that misspelled baited as “bated,” and another that misspelled bated as “baited.”
- I for one have mastered “bated.”
- A lot of Trump haters are condemning Trump's remarks condemning anti-Semitism as too little, too late. I think it would be better to ask, how can we reinforce this behavior so we see more of it in the future?
Like most Trump opponents, I figured he was in violation of his oath to preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution from the moment he swore it – because of emoluments, at first, and other things since then.
But it just dawned on me that that's not the oath of office – the oath is to do those things “to the best of my ability.” Considering my low opinion of his various abilities, it's just possible that he is fulfilling his oath.
- The most literate protest suggestion ever. Rogue POTUS Staff on Twitter
- Apparently even a “failing” newspaper like the NY Times is such a threat to Trump that it needs to be banned from press conferences. Doesn't say much for Trump.
- Morbidly curious to see whether they can update the In Memoriam video in time for tonight. RIP Bill Paxton. Game over, man. 🙁
[Bush criticizes Trump.] Thank you, George W. Bush.
In other news, hell frozen over.
Holy mackerel, now THIS is reporting.
It's one thing to have no doubt everything is a crooked tangle. It's quite another thing to be able to see the details of the crookery clear as day.
Don't miss this video. Yes it's long, but stick with it. (Also, pro tip: use the gear icon to increase playback speed to 1.5x. Still perfectly intelligible, and you'll get through it in 2/3 the time.)Wilbur Ross At Nexus Of Donald Trump Russian Deal | Rachel Maddow | MSNBC
During the presidential campaign, Trump boasted that he could shoot someone in the middle of Fifth Avenue and not lose any votes. I think he proved that at his address to Congress last night, when his responsibility for the senseless death of a U.S. serviceman earned him a full minute and a half of applause.
It's going to get worse before it gets better.
- If Sessions refuses to step down but does agree to recuse himself, it shouldn't be just from a Russia investigation but from any case that involves telling the truth under oath.
- I have found the anti-Trump: serious, smart, centered, competent, cool under pressure, warm, human, patriotic, respectful, unselfish. If you need an antidote to having that guy in your head all the time, you could do a lot worse than listening to the impressive combat pilot Major Mary Jennings Hegar in her interview with Terry Gross. A Purple Heart Warrior Takes Aim At Military Inequality In ‘Shoot Like A Girl’
- Sigh no more, ladies
Sigh no more
Men were deceivers ever
- Reached over to turn off the alarm that woke me up this morning. Then reached back to pick up the thing I had just put down in my dream so I could turn off the alarm. It wasn't there.
- A real man would have scooped the kids up onto his lap and kept on talking. When the Kids Crash Your BBC Interview
- The black hole where Trump's heart should be is formed when his need for public adoration collides with his need to elevate himself by diminishing everyone else, annihilating each other in a burst of alienation.
- An annotated list of my current podcast subscriptions. #trypod Trypod
- This President must not be permitted to place a justice on the Supreme Court even if the GOP had not cynically and arbitrarily raised the bar last year for when presidents may nominate justices. Oppose Gorsuch
- Good if he signs it, good too if enough of us call him out for not signing it. Tell Trump to Sign the Anti-Corruption Executive Order
- “incapable of competently discharging the duties of President”
Trump could render this petition moot by demonstrating actual performance of his job, but all that tweeting, golfing, watching Fox, and signing what Bannon puts in front of him leaves little time for anything else I guess? [Facebook post]
A question for you, if you know anything about Constitutional law.
The United States has been flirting with electoral fraud for a while:
- Egregious gerrymandering
- Unconstitutional voting requirements
- Systematic voter suppression
- Voter purges
- Supreme Court intercession in a disputed election
- The Diebold scandal
- Uneven standards for ensuring voting integrity
- Wide disagreement between popular-vote and electoral-college outcomes
- Arguable nonperformance by the electoral college of its duty to reject an unfit candidate
(And that's just at the national level; who knows what shenanigans go on locally.)
So far, mercifully, the country has managed to accept its election outcomes. But the rules for ensuring free and fair elections can be twisted only so far before they snap. If this kind of stuff continues, then sooner or later we're going to have an election outcome that is a clear subversion of the popular will – clear and serious enough that the voters won't accept it.
What remedy will there be under the law in such a case? How would it play out, procedurally and politically?
- It's a grey, dreary day today. Saw something bright outside from the corner of my eye. It wasn't something bright outside, it was just a reflection in the window… of the room light off my scalp. #thisis50
From the whiteboard in Archer's room.
- It sounds like a lot of senators genuinely want to avoid the “nuclear option” on Gorsuch. So why can't they compromise and agree to postpone his confirmation until the scandals clouding Trump's presidency are resolved in one way or another? A “Nuclear” Senate Showdown Next Week Appears All But Inevitable
- Did anyone else see this headline and think of Two Kirstie Alleys? 2 Christie Allies Are Sentenced in George Washington Bridge Scandal
- As Trump supporters painfully, inevitably, and tragically wake up to what the rest of us have understood all along, it is CRITICAL that we refrain from saying told-you-so or be in any other way unwelcoming. Trump’s Internet Brigades Shocked To Realize The Government Just Sold Them Out On Privacy
Everyone of a certain age remembers the cola wars of the 1980s. Coke began and ended as the clear winner, but Pepsi gave Coke a real run for its money, battering and bruising it along the way. Coke's victory was never a sure thing.
I'm much less clear on how the lemon-lime soda story developed. My recollection is that 7-Up was the leader in the 1970s but has since lost to Sprite, big-time. My intuition even says that people think of Sierra Mist and Slice before they think of 7-Up. Slice! How did this happen?
I am a sucker for vintage packaging… especially when that packaging appears to have been designed by Heinz Edelmann, the art director of Yellow Submarine!
- Something interesting: We've been watching Lost on Netflix, and Jonah, who's 14 going on 15, keeps anticipating surprising plot developments that I didn't see coming when watching the show for the first time in my 40's. My hypothesis: apart from his simply being smarter and more perceptive than I was at his age, I think the mindless simplicity of the TV storytelling I grew up with places me at a disadvantage with respect to Jonah's generation, which enjoys shows of greater depth and complexity.
- Presenting Earth's newest teen. Man oh man
- How many times would Sean Spicer have been fired by now, if these were normal times?
- “You are not the corporation. You are the human. It is okay for the corporation to lose a small portion of what it has in terrifying overabundance (money, time, efficiency) in order to preserve what a human has that cannot ever be replaced (dignity, humanity, conscience, life).” The Corporation Does Not Always Have To Win
- Belatedly watching Mad Men and have spotted a few anachronisms, like RJ11 phone jacks, that the Internet already knew about. Here's one I haven't seen mentioned: when discussing the upcoming 1960 presidential election, someone says, of Kennedy, “America does not want some greasy kid with his finger on the button.” Since the nuclear arsenal did not yet consist of ICBMs, I doubt “finger on the button” meant then what it means now. Can anyone confirm or refute?
Ten years gone.
That's a lot of great report cards, belt tests, piano recitals, art projects, Halloween costumes, Lego creations, trophies, medals, and certificates you've missed.
We've missed sharing it all with you.
- Craig Mazin is a Hollywood screenwriter, half of the excellent Scriptnotes podcast, and generally smart, compassionate, and human. Go read his amazing tweetstorm. [Twitter post]
- Thrilled to announce the thing that some smart folks and I have been working on lately! Announcing Ivy Playground – Chain
- Prediction: Nixon, the consummate political survivor, facing impeachment, had a lot more fight in him than Trump, the serial bankruptcy declarer, will.
- [Robert Mueller appointed to investigate Russian interference in the election.] “Don't smile. Don't smile. Don't smile.” -Mike Pence, to himself
Just gonna leave this here. #tbt
In childhood, did you ever learn a singsong chant that begins:
If so, what came after that (in the version you know)?
If you answer, include where you grew up.
- Every now and then I read a surprising claim in a book or magazine which the author drives home by adding, “That's not a typo.” This drives me crazy. How does the author know what might happen between writing and publication?!
Vote buying is illegal.
That is, no one may offer or accept a monetary reward in exchange for an individual voting a particular way.
However, as far as I know there is nothing preventing a group of wealthy donors from offering a gift of $50 million, say, to the municipal governments in each congressional district that switches from Republican to Democratic in 2018.
A guy named Eli wrote a Scheme interpreter named Bob.
There are a few of you who'll understand why that makes my head explode. Bob: a Scheme interpreter, compiler, and VM in Python – Eli Bendersky’s website
- I wrote ELI (the Embedded Lisp Interpreter), which powered FLAMES (the Filtering Language for the Andrew MEssage System). I never quite finished ELI’s successor, ELSIE (the Embedded Lisp [Scheme] Interpreter, ELSIE).
- The covfefe is worse than the crime.
- Plenty of people are talking about impeachment. Plenty are talking about Article 25. I don't hear anyone talking about a recall election. Is one permitted under the Constitution? (There doesn't have to be a specific provision for it, just no prohibition against it.) How would it work?
- Of COURSE Trump wants to torpedo the Paris climate agreement. It was someone else's achievement, not his. Just like Obamacare was. And NATO. And, you know, democracy.
This fundraising appeal came out of nowhere. I really don't know what it's all about, but the language of the appeal went straight to my red, white, and blue marrow, and squeezed a tear out of me. I immediately donated. I hope you will too.
“…At our best, America has always thought big. That's why the negativity, the pettiness, the small-mindedness of our politics today drives me crazy. We're better than this.
“It's time to reach deep into the soul of this country and once again give everyone — and I mean everyone — the opportunity to achieve the impossible. It's time to look beyond 24-hour news cycles and 140-character arguments. It's time to treat each other with dignity and respect. Not as opponents, but as fellow Americans.” American Possibilities
- Today's legal musings: the role of the Executive branch is to execute the will of Congress. When Congress mandates something like environmental protection, and through willful neglect and other means the President allows the EPA to wither and fail at its job, can a legal case be made that the President is unlawfully subverting the will of Congress? If so, who has standing to bring such a suit?
- Is this real? Forgive me, all I can think of is “cat juggling.” https://youtu.be/1bGVT4-1DBU Sign: Stop Horrific ‘Dog Spinning’ Ritual
“Creators of the button.” #tbt
On Monday I saw the trailer for the upcoming film Valerian. It invites you to experience a “universe beyond imagination.” The same day, I got the e-book edition of Neal Stephenson's new novel The Rise And Fall Of D.O.D.O. The marketing blurb says it will take you to places and times “beyond imagining.”
Both things are the products of people's imagination. So if they mean “beyond anyone's imagination,” that's a lie, and if they mean “beyond your imagination,” that's an insult.
- (“I don’t know, I can imagine quite a bit.”)
“it seems a bit retrograde to have the first big female-led superhero film end with the lesson that “only love can truly save the world”—especially given the abundant evidence that what actually saved the world was Gal Gadot kicking ass all over Belgium” (from https://www.theatlantic.com/entertainment/archive/2017/06/wonder-woman-review/528816/)
That was my main complaint about the film. It clearly wanted to be about this (and I wanted it to be about that too), but it wasn't. It failed at “show, don't tell.”
Summer camp, 1978. #tbt
Imagine for a moment that all the allegations are true – Russia, emoluments, misappropriation, obstruction, racketeering, everything. Imagine further that the various investigations and lawsuits now pending are 100% effective in rooting out every guilty party presently in national government. How far down the line of succession do you suppose we'll have to go to get a new president?
- Don’t say Kiefer Sutherland.
My kids decided to have a Father's Day conversation about how awesome I am.
Archer: “He's so awesome, all his hair jumped off his head, saying I'm not worthy!”
Technically true, but that's not really how you use the word “cooler.”
- It isn't that computer security is hard – at least, not compared with other kinds of engineering challenges, such as building a bridge that won't fall down. Paradoxically, the problem is that programming is so easy. IT don’t come easy | gee bobg
Had no idea I was embarking on a lifelong career. #tbt
- It’s 2017 and we’re still changing "\nFrom " to "\n>From " in e-mail.
This reminds me of a long, enjoyable rant from one my mentors early in my career about the differences between American contract law and German contract law. According to him, the same thing that takes 300 pages to express in America, where the whole idea is to leave no room for interpretation, took 35 in Germany, where the idea was that most people are reasonable and will interpret clear, simple contract terms similarly, and that when they don't, you can rely on the judge to be reasonable, and when you can't, you've got bigger problems anyway. One design firm’s jargon-free contract: “Time is money. More time is more money”
- Should’ve said “West Germany,” because it was that long ago.
- The next time you're about to say, “The rest, as they say, is history,” consider that “is history” isn't all they say: they also say “as they say.” So really you should say, “The rest, as they say, ‘as they say, is history.’”
How many rich people could handle it, do you think, if getting richer were as hard for them as it is for the poor?
How many poor people would stay poor if getting richer were as easy for them as it is for the already-rich?
My kids, and millions like them, have now grown up with a smart, funny, cool, and compassionate black President, and an ignorant, vulgar, divisive, and dishonest white President.
This will not achieve what the white supremacists are hoping.
- He has refused his Assent to Laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public good […] He has erected a multitude of New Offices, and sent hither swarms of Officers to harass our people […] He has combined with others to subject us to a jurisdiction foreign to our constitution, and unacknowledged by our laws […He has abolished] our most valuable Laws and [altered] fundamentally the Forms of our Governments […] He has abdicated Government here, by declaring us out of his Protection and waging War against us […] He has plundered our seas, ravaged our coasts […] and destroyed the lives of our people […] He has excited domestic insurrections amongst us
[Baby Driver.] Oh Edgar Wright. When I want a Tarantino or Rodriguez movie I'll go see one, but last night I wanted an Edgar Wright movie.
- On the plus side, it’s a very good Tarantino or Rodriguez movie.
5 years ago.
- Supposing this is true, and supposing further that some or even many Republicans secretly realize this: they need a way out of their dead-end governing philosophies. What more reasonable positions can they pivot to, and how can they pivot, in a way that lets them save face? It will never ever happen if they can't save face. [Facebook post]
Another salubrious Eric Garland tweetstorm. [Twitter post]
- I will be so impressed with the Founding Fathers if the Constitution manages to hold together through to the end of this sordidness.
Making the rounds in social media right now: a new poll showing that a majority of Republicans think colleges are bad for the country.
My immediate reaction was one of outrage – which I am increasingly learning is my cue to disregard the reporting that caused it. The reality behind this story, if there is any, is surely more nuanced than the headline designed to latch straight onto my hindbrain. By doing so, the news teaches that my political opponents are irredeemably unreasonable, cannot be compromised with, must be fought and defeated for the good of all. I imagine that, on the right, it's the same with stories about how everyone on the left wants to take away their guns and turn them gay, or whatever scare stories they circulate about us.
The fact is that my political opponents are still my fellow citizens, that we all love justice and peace and prosperity, and that compromise – not triumph by one side or the other – is and always has been how democracy works best. And nothing works better than democracy as its best.
I am proud that my Congressman, Jared Huffman, gets it. Marin Voice: “A more civil tone, and a search for consensus”
My letter in support of Net Neutrality, submitted to the FCC through battleforthenet.com:
The tired old “information superhighway” analogy for describing the Internet to consumers in the 90's is surprisingly apt. A free and open Internet is as essential to our economy as are our roads, tunnels, and bridges. If you wouldn't dream of letting large corporations dictate how those are used, you cannot permit large corporations to control the Internet.
If I'm not mistaken, the doublespeaky phrase “at this point in time” was popularized by the Watergate hearings… to say nothing of the “-gate” suffix to denote political scandals of all kinds. What previously obscure phrases will be enduringly popularized by this period of history? “Lordy”? “Kompromat”? “Nothingburger”?
- “Covfefe” goes without saying.
- [Mounting disclosures about Trump officials.] In late January I said I found the phrase “conspirators into stumblebums” relevant. I should have waited. Hoo boy.
- After Watergate, we got smiling, earnest boy scout Jimmy Carter. The watchword for all Democratic candidates for the next few years has to be “squeaky clean.”
Sripraphai, 2002, and several of the awesomest people I know. #tbt
- Make America Grate Again Trump tells Brigitte Macron: “You're in such good shape”
- Forest Hills friends: some Parker Towers news. Forest Hills Fountain To Be Replaced By A Park
- Part of what makes air travel safe is that when you're going 500mph, everything you might collide with is quite far away. Why are people so excited about riding Hyperloop at 700mph separated from collision hazards (tube walls, structural supports, possible debris) by just inches?
- Kermit the Frog is my spirit animal.
- The GOP: we can't make you love giving more wealth and power to the wealthy and powerful, but we can make you irrationally hate those who oppose it.
I deplore the GOP efforts on healthcare.
But I love this line from 1776 (in which Stephen Hopkins, congressional delegate, casts the deciding vote on whether to debate independence from England): “In all my years I never heard, seen, nor smelled an issue that was so dangerous that it couldn't be talked about. Hell yes, I'm for debatin' anything!”
I'd be a hypocrite to jump on the condemn-McCain bandwagon for doing the same today in a procedural vote.
I will not hesitate to condemn him if he votes the wrong way on actual legislation.
- [Actor Sam Shepard dies.] Hey Ridley, ya got any Beeman's?
Yeah, I got me a stick.
Well loan me some, will ya? I'll pay ya back later.
- ♫ I love to laugh! ♫ Sing Along Mary Poppins
Most days, I get a notice from Facebook saying “let so-and-so know you're thinking of them on their birthday.”
What Facebook really means is “let so-and-so know we reminded you it's their birthday.”
I used to be good about remembering people's birthdays on my own, and letting them know I was thinking about them. Now that “letting them know I'm thinking of them” is indistinguishable from “letting them know Facebook reminded me” I'm actually less inclined to acknowledge birthdays.
People are talking about the anti-diversity manifesto that circulated at Google, and leaked, as if it reveals something specific about Google rather than something general about humanity.
Unless things have changed a lot since I left two years ago, overwhelmingly more people at Google agree with Yonatan Zunger's articulate refutation of the manifesto than with the manifesto itself. But assemble enough people anywhere and you'll find you've included some odious opinions.
So why is there so much hand-wringing about how this screed reveals the toxic dudebro culture of tech specifically? It's the whole culture that's toxic, and it's arguably less so at places like Google, which are generally quite progressive, the current episode notwithstanding.
I think the answer must be that we hold organizations like Google to a higher standard – which, given the scope of its power and influence, is only appropriate. And I find the fact that “a higher standard” includes intolerance for outdated gender stereotypes to be a hopeful sign for society at large.
A few years ago a cop pulled me over for slow-rolling through a stop sign rather than coming to a full stop. Our interaction was brief and perfectly amiable. At no point did I worry about my safety or liberty. In the end he gave me a smile, warned me not to do it again, and let me go with no ticket.
That's white privilege, and on behalf of my black and Muslim friends I am ashamed.
- America is for everyone who believes America is for everyone.
- Senator Harris gets it. <3 [Facebook post]
- Wondering what must be going on in our Armed Forces these days. How are our men and women in uniform confronting the possibility that they will have to take orders to kill and die from President Nazis And Russian Gangsters Are The Good Guys?
- Madras, OR did a terrific job welcoming tens of thousands to its little town for the eclipse. Thanks, Madras!
Only one of the amazing things the sun did during our time in Madras.
- I was kissing the top of my dog's head as she lay on the bed, and had literally just told her “your head is so soft” when she abruptly jumped up and gave me a fat lip with her skull.
Ran across this old comment from my summary of 1987's “The Living Daylights”:
The PC police have caught up with the Bond series and conspicuously scrubbed it of smoking and (as the AIDS epidemic builds up a head of steam) womanizing. Phooey! That's not what I go to the movies for. Any time I want to see someone not womanize I can just watch myself.
So Trump pardoned Joe “Not As Bad As Hitler” Arpaio. Assuming the pardon sticks, it's a signal to others in his administration that they're above the law. If they do Trump's bidding, he'll insulate them from legal consequences.
Maybe that's the whole point. But how stupid would Trump's agents have to be to trust his assurance of a get-out-of-jail-free card? I for one would hate to do something illegal for Trump and thereby give him the carrot-on-a-stick of a pardon to dangle just out of my reach, putting me unendingly in his mercurial power.
- Not to mention all the doubts swirling around about how much longer he can remain in office to keep any such promises.
- Saw a 40th-anniversary screening of Close Encounters of the Third Kind the other day with Andrea. It was a great way to get out of the heat for a while, and of course the film is a genuine classic. But it was not the original 1977 version, it was the 1998 “Collector's Edition” (which was itself a re-edit of the 1980 “Director's Cut”). So it wasn't really a 40th-anniversary screening.
While I'm complaining:
- Why is the glare so bright when looking at the hand-signing alien that we can't make it out clearly, but in the reverse angle Lacombe, standing just a few yards away, is normally lit?
- Why does Jillian refuse to follow Roy down for a closer look one moment, leading to an emotional goodbye, and then come down anyway just a moment later?
- Also, several things about the movie's happy ending have always bothered me.
- It's happy that Roy leaves Earth in the midst of a major family crisis?
- The film was conceived during Watergate and made in its immediate aftermath. It's happy that the giant government conspiracy is completely successful at keeping the country in the dark?
- Jillian gets her abducted child back after just a few frantic days or possibly weeks. But what about all the other abductees returning long after their loved ones have given up on them, or died? Is that happy?
- Speaking of which: we're supposed to be OK with aliens who abduct people and objects and then just leave them scattered across space and time?
- It was going to be “film school in a box.” Requiem for Warhol | gee bobg
So let me get this straight: at a big rock concert, if the bass is so loud that you can feel it concussively tearing brain fibers, and so overdriven that it distorts and drowns out all the other dynamics of the music you came to hear, and if to distract you from that they flash super-high-intensity lights into your dark-adapted eyes at unpredictable intervals, people like that?
- [In response to a suggestion about using earplugs.] I had earplugs. I didn’t have skeleton-plugs or internal-organ-plugs.
I'll bet most Senate Republicans are thinking, “Thank goodness Paul, Collins, and McCain came out against Graham-Cassidy so I don't have to.” Possibly including Graham and Cassidy.
- Coming up with the word “aioli” was a major marketing coup for the mayonnaise industry.
- When we say, “Let's have background checks to keep guns out of the hands of dangerous lunatics,” and the NRA says, “No, you want to take away our guns,” that's them admitting they're the dangerous lunatics.
- NRA: “Second amendment means no regulations on our guns!”
Second amendment: “…well-regulated…”
- “Let's not politicize this” is politicizing it.
- Fact: not a single man at the Constitutional Convention of 1787 was born in the United States. Supreme Court will rule on whether immigrants have constitutional rights
White folks: your majority is shrinking!
Quick, deny other groups their rights and treat them cruelly in a desperate bid to hold onto power.
Oh but wait. That just invites the same treatment when you're in the minority a few short years from now.
Maybe try this: identify as an American, not as your skin color. Identify others as Americans, not as their skin color.
Then you'll never be in the minority.
At the sandwich counter:
Her: We're out of sweet rolls. We have ciabatta and sourdough.
Me: I guess I'll have the sourdough please.
Me, thinking: Grumble grumble I really don't want sourdough.
At home, opening the sandwich. She used the ciabatta.
Me, thinking: Where's my sourdough!
- Confirms my bias that Americans are fundamentally progressive-minded. The word progressive may be poison in some places, but that doesn't mean the ideas behind it are. If the Democrats Don’t Learn This Lesson, They Deserve to Lose Forever
- Never tell people why they're wrong. Show them a better way to feel right.
- Made pasta aglio e olio as seen in Chef. It was a BIG hit. Chef scene – Food Seduction
- Check out this excellent and accessible cryptocurrency demystifier written by Chain's CEO. A Letter to Jamie Dimon – Chain
Forgive me. I kind of assumed that the routine sexual harassment to which women are subjected (as opposed to assault, aggression, and discrimination) was the same part of the human condition that makes us all have to deal with insensitive idiots from time to time. The boilerplate #metoo posts, while shocking in their quantity even to this feminist ally, did little to change that assumption.
But some of the #metoo posters are describing what really was and is routine for them, and it's nothing like what I thought. Turns out very, very many of my fellow men (and I use the term loosely – both “fellow” and “men”) are not simply insensitive idiots, but criminal creeps exploiting their power advantage in a consequence-free environment. My own ignorance helped to create that environment. To those #metoo posters who shared some detail and helped reduce my ignorance: thank you for your courage. To all women: I promise to do better.
[My birthday.] Squad 51
- For the second year in a row, Chain gave me a nice birthday present: the opportunity to share with all of you what we've been working on. Introducing Sequence – Chain
The Meyerowitz Stories scratched the same itch for me as Chef: No assassins. No conspiracies. No dragons. No explosions. No adolescent man-boys. No “chosen one.” No hidden world right under our noses. Just a grown-up movie about grown-ups growing up.
Name me some other terrifically acted movies about entertainingly broken people learning to unbreak themselves.
Who do you think the indictment will name? Kushner? Trump Jr.?
- Vaccinations aren't only to protect your own health. When you get vaccinated you protect everyone else's health, too, through a statistical phenomenon called “herd immunity.” You may or may not be especially vulnerable to the latest strain of flu (for example), but some people certainly are, and by refusing to be vaccinated you place them at greater risk. It is your ethical obligation to get vaccinated.
So what's herd immunity? Think of the recent California wildfires. They spread super-fast and super-hot because of how dry everything was. How might it have been different if it had rained a week earlier? There still would have been fires, but they would have spread more slowly, allowing firefighters to get control more easily and causing less destruction. Herd immunity is about slowing the spread.
In other words, your vaccination does two things: it reduces your odds of catching a disease if you're exposed; and it reduces everyone's odds of being exposed in the first place.
Goddamn. [Twitter post.]
- But her emails
- “Trump-Russia” is too tiny a description for the global conspiracy now being unmasked. [Twitter post]
- I've been hard at work on the internals of this. [Twitter post]
A memory challenge for anyone who visited the Queens Center mall in the seventies:
The coolest stores were the Brentano's on the lower level, and a shop two levels up that sold spacey knick-knacks – the kind of thing that, years later, you could find in any Spencer's Gifts, but this was before Spencer's Gifts. They had infinity mirrors, fiber-optic lamps, moire-pattern clocks, that kind of thing.
What was that store's name?
- [A friend responded. It was Fan Fan.]
[Archer does 15 pull-ups. I head to the pull-up bar for my turn.]
Me: I see your fifteen and I raise you…
Archer: …negative fifteen?
- I owe George Lazenby an apology, and Michael O'Connor my thanks. It was a much younger and very different Bob who formed a strongly negative opinion of On Her Majesty's Secret Service long, long ago; and it was O'Connor's thoughtful reconsideration of that film that made me give it another try in my turkey coma last night. Modern Bob says: it was good! Bond Night: On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (1969)
OK GOP, we get it, monstrous cruelty is your thing, you've got no problem with it, you're weirdly proud of it.
But if you kick millions off of healthcare, they will become a giant reservoir of infectious diseases, the kinds they have in Third World countries – you know, where people can't access good healthcare. Think plague, ebola, drug-resistant tuberculosis.
Those people live close to you. You can't avoid them forever. You will get sick and die.
So defeat the tax bill for purely selfish reasons.
- The American Taxpayer Relief Act of 2012 passed with 61% of the House and 92% of the Senate voting in favor.
- The Taxpayer Relief Act of 1997 passed with 90% of the House and 92% of the Senate voting in favor.
- The Tax Reform Act of 1986 passed with 68% of the House and 76% of the Senate voting in favor.
- The Economic Recovery Tax Act of 1981 passed with 89% of the Senate voting in favor.
- Maybe just “National Agency.” NSA employee pleads guilty of taking classified info that was later stolen by hackers
I can't get there in time at a price I can afford. I beg those of you who can to sign up (see the link in “Details”) and go.
In the past, major legislation that reaches into every area of American life has been preceded by debate, hearings, and at least some bipartisan compromise. This time the bill was written in secret and in haste, and not by our elected representatives. It passed along strict party lines after midnight Friday night.
The majority denied motions to delay the vote, meant to give everyone a chance at least to read it. Instead they forced this multi-trillion-dollar bill through without analysis, without debate, without public comment, without anyone knowing quite what was in it. Why? Two reasons: the more details that become known, the more everyone hates it; and there is increasingly little time left before dominoes start falling as investigations catch up with and begin rooting out a giant traitorous conspiracy among our public officials.
This is a desperate theft on behalf of the super-rich, the only constituency to which today's GOP feels any responsibility. It is not governing and it is not legitimate. It is our urgent duty to foil this plot before American life is blighted for a generation.
Cancel plans. Miss work. Spend money. Risk jail. If you think about what patriots before you had to do to fight for our country, it's really the least you can do. KILL the BILL #TaxScam
In 2000 the Supreme Court ordered an emergency halt to the Florida recount. Though the recount followed processes laid out in law, it was so chaotic and rancorous that the Court decided the best way to uphold the Constitution was to hand the presidency to George Bush rather than complete the process.
Now we have a monumental tax bill that passed the Senate without the senators knowing what was in it, let alone having the chance to debate it or hear from their constituents about it. A motion to delay the vote was denied and it was rammed through literally in the dead of night. It would seem to me there is precedent for the Supreme Court to put the brakes on this runaway process, with the goal simply of slowing it down to allow time for deliberation – a much less consequential “ask” than installing a whole new president by judicial fiat.
This seems like a no-brainer. Law-savvy friends, can you say whether this can or should happen?
Who's in charge of the Congressional Record?
It occurs to me that, given the haste with which yesterday's bill was drafted and voted on, we could put anything we wanted into the Congressional Record and say that's what passed, and no one could say for sure that it wasn't.
- New York City circa 1960: Mad Men did it well; The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel does it better.
- If there’s a continuum of sexual misconduct, @SenFranken seems to be near the less-harmful end of it. But at this moment in history, after so much injustice, it is better to overcorrect. He should resign.
Vladimir Putin is running for reelection as President of Russia.
When I saw that headline the other day, I thought, of course he’s running for reelection. It’s literally life-and-death to him. His crimes against the people of Russia and elsewhere are so great that he risks prison or worse the moment he’s out of power.
This thought led me to the band of cutthroats currently in charge of the U.S. government. They too have to keep dancing their lying, thieving dance because as soon as the music stops, they’re toast. Some of them are evil to the core, of course, but I have to believe that most are not. Those are the ones who are trapped, by their party, their past actions, and their cowardice, wishing for a better way out.
I therefore propose the Goodbye To Faithless Officials Act. GTFO would grant amnesty, and a one-time tax-free payment of ten million dollars, to any member of Congress who agrees to resign immediately and never seek public office again.
If it succeeds in weeding out the venal politicians from the true public servants, it’d be cheap at ten times the price.
- Me: “Early reviews for The Last Jedi are over the moon!”
Archer: “That's no moon…”
- The week the Republicans expect to pass their disastrous tax bill LITERALLY began with a train wreck.
- In this version, the “elves” are refugees and the reindeer are frankensteined to have wings. Santa Starts