Wednesday, November 8, 2017

November links

I lost a bunch of links, and had a bunch more before the two bombshells of the DNC paying for the Steele dossier and being totally under Clinton's control hit.

Since I'm hoping not to lose the links again, here they are.

The Steele dossier summarized. A great summary of the dossier, with each piece discussed separately. Must read to get a good background on it.

Changes at the Fed. This was a preview of what could happen due to end of the Federal Reserve chair's term. Trump could keep Yellen, could choose a current board member similar to her, or could choose a conservative with non-standard ideas. Luckily, Trump chose Powell, the current board member. By the way, Yellen stays on the Fed board.

Australian chaos. An Australian court threw a huge monkey wrench into government with a ruling about citizenship. They ruled that if you could be a dual citizen, you were, and therefore were ineligible to hold government office. Many officeholders with foreign-born parents were caught in the ruling. Bizarre and disruptive.

Who got indicted? A good backgrounder on Carter Page and George Papadopoulos, two advisers to the Trump campaign who had ties to Russia. Papadopoulos pled guilty to charges brought by Mueller in his Russia investigation. Other charges include the former campaign chairman Paul Manafort, who is accused of laundering $75 million.

Fun with the indictments. This is such a great read in terms of humor. It feels like a classic joke--something that could be from the 'Who's on first' era. But I think it's original.

Socialism is defunct in Russia. All kinds of interesting factoids in the article and the discussion thread.

Peace dividend in Iraq? An article telling about greatly improved Shi'ite and Sunni relations in Iraq. I hope it's not just a puff piece.

Image: farmersalmanac.com

Sunday, November 5, 2017

Antifa Apocalypse bust

I guess no one but fevered corners of the media want a repeat of Charlottesville. A couple weeks ago, White Lives Matter rallies in Tennessee were pretty much a bust, thank God. This week, a pop-up anti-fascist organization called Refuse Fascism was trying to stage rallies in 20 cities. Note that it wasn't even antifa.

They took out a large ad in the New York Times announcing the plan. That's interesting because 1) they had the money, and 2) they decided to announce just a few days before the rallies. I wonder whether this is a real group or not. I wonder who financed it.

Parts of the conservative media lost their shit. (Yes, the term applies so I'm using it.) Most of all was InfoWars. They were going to have live coverage of the rallies, hoping to show all the carnage. Or maybe hoping for a (relative) advertising bonanza.

Because carnage didn't materialize, they went to Plan B. Hype what was available. Oh My God, they're calling for the ouster of Trump and Pence. And also, laugh at the puny Austin, Texas rally where the anti-Trumpists were outnumbered by real Texans. So hype and then declare victory when the rallies don't live up to the hype.

Back in reality, the protests were minor. In Austin, anti-Trump protesters were outnumbered. In New York City, the anti-Trump forces were about 300. The pro-Trump counterprotesters were about five.

Despite the concerns, revolution didn't break out anywhere. Somehow I'm not surprised.

InfoWars: wrong again.
Image: infowars.com

Extras. Two articles about the smallish white supremacists rallies in Tennessee. A British site joined the hype-and-dismiss crowd. The Washington Post had a round-up of some of the hysteria. Fox News is coy, asked questions rather than doing any searching. It also gave a platform to the spokesman for the group but didn't question his credibility at all.

Saturday, November 4, 2017

Bombshells at the DNC

I don't subscribe to the belief that Clinton rigged the Democratic primary. Unless you stuff ballot boxes, bribe party reps at state conventions, or manage to disqualify your opponent or his supporters, it's hard to rig a democratic selection process. (I suppose if you own all the media, that might work too, but that doesn't pertain either.)

I'm not changing my mind due to the revelations from Donna Brazile. She's a party hack who's had various roles, including interim party chair after Debbie Wasserman-Schultz was forced to resign in disgrace.

Brazile writes in overly dramatic prose about discovering the unsavory arrangement for sharing campaign and party money. Clinton gave money to the debt-ridden party in exchange for a high degree of control of the levers. This allowed her to tilt the debate schedule to her advantage, but I don't see any other major advantage that she had. I don't see evidence that this changed the eventual outcome of the primary.

It does show yet again Hillary's penchant for rigid control regardless of ethics, protocol, rules, transparency, or good judgment. Her basic drive is not for truth or honesty or the greater good, but for the maintenance of her own power as she conceives it. Again I'm relieved that she's not in the White House,.further tarnishing herself and other Dems by association.

I wish I had any hope for the Democrats to improve. Donna Brazile doesn't inspire confidence. I hated Wasserman-Schultz. I have no idea if there are any Dems I respect aside from Joe Biden, Howard Dean (maybe), and Deval Patrick. That's a pretty small number of people for a national party. But that's where I'm at with this excuse for a political party.

This country, which I've loved and respected, we may be on the skids to being a low-class country like Argentina. I hope it doesn't happen. I hope I see a turn-around before I die. I'm not hopeful though.

Image: thronesvideo.xyz

Saturday, October 21, 2017

October roundup of links

GOP releases a tax plan outline summary thumbnail. In keeping with GOP inability to deal with reality including policy making, the tax plan is 5 pages stretched onto 9 pages. It doubles the standard deduction! Cheers! And quietly takes away exemptions. It's the usual cake for the wealthy with a bit of frosting for the middle class. A good list of misleading sales pitches.

Admitted fake news author dies.  He wasn't trying to be a con artist, but rather a satirist. But, according to him: "[Trump's] followers don't fact-check anything — they'll post everything, believe anything. His campaign manager posted my story about a protester getting paid $3,500 as fact. Like, I made that up. I posted a fake ad on Craigslist."

Fake news generators on Facebook outed by Facebook. At some point, most reality-based GOPers will have to stop pretending that there wasn't Russian interference in the US election. Facebook announced more than 3000 fake ads were purchased by accounts that appear to be Russian.

The new world order that didn't happen. Interesting thought. The world was supposed to gradually accept American values by acclamation amid peace and prosperity. Ooops, it didn't happen. The inevitable wasn't inevitable.

Amazing short summary of Islamic terrorism. Maybe it's too simple, but it holds together in my opinion.

The media misreports probability. The problem includes how media reports weather predictions and the 2016 election predictions. The fact of uncertainty isn't clearly conveyed.

Critique of  The Bell Curve. The 1994 book contained the thesis that blacks were genetically cognitively inferior to other groups. The book caused an uproar. Cognitive scientist formed a committee and wrote this critique of what was wrong with the book and its handling of evidence. I've had to refer to this critique several times.

Image: fivethirtyeight.com


Friday, September 15, 2017

Links (2 of 2)

I lost 1-2 of the links I planned to show. Drat. But I also found others.

Final love letter to a spacecraft. The Cassini exploratory probe finished its life and mission, which was to send us data about Saturn and its moons. The craft was remotely instructed to crash into Saturn to be sure that it wouldn't contaminate the moons where native life might be possible.

Americans and their white president. A tour-de-force essay by Ta-nehisi Coates. He writes that whites of all kinds, not just working class, gave support to a candidate who reflected bigotry. The essay shows one way to view race relations, but I don't agree with it's the whole story. It's still significant that a black president was elected twice, and with more support than Trump got. Coates does present some chilling facts, however, such as a white felon running in the presidential primary against Obama, and getting a surprising number of votes. The Obama presidency has been difficult for many blacks because they've had to endure heightened disrespect.

More about North Korea. North Koreans have been completely immersed in the propaganda that their only purpose is to serve. That complicates both war and diplomacy. A high-ranking ex-officer suggests a naval blockade to change the dynamic. The comment section is a must-read.

Did voter fraud change this Senate election? That's a good question raised here. There are known weaknesses in New Hampshire election law. The numbers of people using out-of-state IDs were high enough in this very close election. This is plausible, but not enough evidence to say it happened.

US spending. Where the federal spending goes. I'm always looking for this info, so here's a link to a handy graph.

Driverless car crash. This summary and analysis points to the technology not being able to handle complex situations. The driver, however, was lulled into depending on the system. That would happen so easily.

Susan Rice, target of conservative smears. A lot of ugly accusations swirled around her as conservatives tried to win the news cycle when lots of Russia news was coming out. Now she's been cleared, but that information is mostly buried. Blowhard conservatives won't even remember that they defamed her. Amnesia is rampant there.

Migration issues confront Canada. Perhaps for the first time, Canada is dealing with mass migration that is poorly controlled. Will it be too much for this generous, empathetic nation?

Image: bloomberg.com

Monday, September 11, 2017

For and against the Southern Poverty Law Center

What I remember of the Southern Poverty Law Center is that they had a large and scrupulously maintained database of US hate organizations and individuals, so they were always a good resource for reporters, and even for police and the FBI. Their database also made them invaluable to civil actions against hate groups, several of which were sued into bankruptcy.

I hadn't thought much about the SPLC until a conservative commenter with an anything-goes attitude toward argumentation claimed that the SPLC is itself a hate group. The basis for her dubious claim is that the shooter at the Family Research Council in DC used information from SPLC to target an anti-gay group.

I saw several other claims that SPLC is horrible, and decided to look into it. It appeared that most of the claims against SPLC were due its labeling of anti-gay groups as hate groups. The anti-gay groups and their conservative supporters bristled under the label, believing they were unfairly classed in with the KKK and neo-Nazis. Does this smack of claiming their kind of hate is 'a good kind of hate?'

I read what SPLC had to say about one of these anti-gay groups. The SPLC says that it doesn't label groups as hate groups simply for having labeling homosexuality as wrong or sinful. It had the criteria that the group spread lies, false reports or false research, advocate violence, etc. I noted that SPLC doesn't list the Catholic Church as a hate group, so a group can have religious objections to gays without getting the hated 'hate' label. Fair enough. I decided to contribute for the first time in my life. I felt good about it--that I was making up for lost time and supporting a good organization.

That was starting maybe a year ago, and I contributed 4-5 months ago. Now I'm seeing many more attacks on SPLC. Some of the latest:
  • SPLC doesn't spend much on legal actions, but has a pile of money in offshore accounts.
  • The latest BIG slam is that it mislabels groups and then corporate America cuts off the groups' lifeblood of donations. The Ruth Institute has been cut off in that way, and it has raised a huge amount of attention. (Great PR opportunity!!!!!) I've read 1, 2, 3 articles about the Ruth Institute, the first several weeks ago (no link now) so I was already with familiar with SPLC's rationale for listing it as a hate group. The leader of the Ruth Institute has a long history with anti-gay groups such as the National Organization for Marriage.
My theory is that SPLC is getting notice because of the Charlottesville incidents. Its database provides a lot of information about the white nationalists groups involved, and that makes it look like a strong, helpful, civil-minded organization. Now, if you're a conservative with a chip on your shoulder, you don't like SPLC getting any credit, so you want to attack their credibility. So trot out the old complaints and any current complaints you can find. Call them a far-left group or whatever. The weak-minded will repeat it. For me, I've looked into their explanation for the criteria for listing a hate group, and it's solid. If you support a conservative group labeled as such, maybe you should ask them to cut out the lies and hate, and clear the air on what they actually support. That's my recommendation. Belly-aching that someone is calling you names that you don't deserve doesn't cut it.

A mild message from the progenitor of the Ruth Institute
Image: usnews.com

Extras. SPLC has good reporting on many of the rallies where greater or lesser amounts of violence has broken out. That's helpful too. However, if they are indeed sitting on a pile of money, I may not contribute again. I'll give to other organizations, and give verbal support and clicks to SPLC.

SPLC reports: The rift between the militias and alt-right groups. Many militias want to be open to blacks, particularly military veterans. They share some views with alt-right groups, but not white supremacy. That's why militias will often provide neutral security and stand between alt-right groups and counterprotesters. They support free speech rights, but think a lot of the slogans are rubbish and therefore won't be into the shouting wars and other skirmishes. This is what I've gleaned from reading. Possibly it's wrong.

The killer of two on a Portland train claimed he was protecting free speech. I hope this is wrong and fails as a defense strategy. The killer was outnumbered by three men defending Muslims. Will he claim he feared for his life?

More reporting from in and around Portland. Campus allegations and counter-allegations, protests and counter-protests.

Links (1 of 2)

My tabs overfloweth.

Decoding anonymous sources. A good guide from Lawfare. How to interpret what reporters write, indicating how many sources they have and where they are. A good news organization follows these unwritten rules. Bad organizations pretend they follow the rules, but actually make up sources, use known unreliable sources, misleadingly edit and quote, and don't fire reporters and editors who don't follow good standards.

Now, one of those sources. Seymour Hersh is implicated in the Seth Rich-to-Wikileaks story. He claims it's just a rumor. I should dedicate a post to the Seth Rich story, but I'm too lazy. Briefly, Rich was a low-level staffer at the DNC or Hillary campaign and was killed in his DC neighborhood. Cue the conspiracy theories. Fox News got ahead of itself and coerced a contributor to say stuff he didn't actually believe, prompting him to sue. Seymour Hersh is involved because he is supposedly the source of some of that info. There's a tape of Hersh talking about the case. Strangely the tape begins and ends abruptly. I have suspicions that Hersh contradicts or says it's mostly his speculation. I haven't trusted edited tapes since Shirley Sherrod as smeared. Nonetheless, Hersh isn't saying what he knows. He ought to clear it up since the concern about a conspiracy is important here.

Sheriffs as the supreme law. Here is another right-wing idea to counter big, bad government. The concept is that the sheriff, being locally elected and accountable, is the supreme authority in a county, and doesn't have to enforce national laws. Remember Bull Connor and this doesn't seem so good. Joe Arpaio is supposedly an advocate for this idea. Luckily, he lost his last bid for reelection.

Another worrisome tactic to watch. Using Freedom-of-Information requests to undermine and sue small local school districts. Tactic supported by Steve Bannon. The goal is mirky, but maybe it's hidden in the settlements.

Russian election interference (another example). Something to watch. Fake accounts on Facebook bought ad time from Facebook. The purchase was automated, so even Facebook didn't know it was happening. Parking this timeline of Russia interference denial here. Hoping I can find it again.

Image: bostonglobe.com