Tuesday, February 21, 2017
What are they? Over time, I've grown to believe that the root cause of all these maladies lies in a simple word: loneliness.
America. Trump. Problems! Crisis! Dislocation, poverty, bad stuff, personal stuff. Loneliness. French stuff. De Tocqueville. No De Tocqueville quote though. Civil society stuff. Boy Scouts! Baseball! Lodges! Lodges? Lodges! Bowling Alone. Putnam. NSF study. Distrust. Anger. Anger! Lonely white working class people. On drugs! No, not on drugs. African-Americans. Church! Substance abuse. Depression. African-Americans. Lonely people support Trump. Mormons don't support Trump. Mormons aren't lonely. Grievance. Anger. Fear. Fear of other! Church. Russia. Common sense. Shouting. Republicans. No one listens.
Far from spreading truth and love, the network excels at disseminating lies and hate, because those are the things we nasty, fallen human beings like to click on. If Zuckerberg seriously intends to turn Facebook into the vanguard of liberal world government, then he is on a fast track to joining George Soros at the top of Steve Bannon’s Most Hated list.
This is by Niall Ferguson. I'm not sure it's any good. You'd have to do some detailed study to show that the, uh, world, I guess he's saying, is an "unstable network." I don't see any evidence of detailed study.
I own some of his books; this makes me wonder if they're worth reading. Still, I suppose he got his $5-10K for writing this.
Over the last two decades, the now-deceased Hugo Chavez and his handpicked successor, President Nicolas Maduro, have wreaked havoc in Venezuela. Socialist economic policies and government corruption have destroyed a once-thriving economy sitting on the world’s largest oil reserves.
On Sunday, The New York Times reported that two associates of President Donald Trump, including Trump’s personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, presented a sealed envelope to then-National Security Adviser Michael Flynn containing a secret peace plan to resolve the three-year conflict in Ukraine. The plan, according to the report, would have Russian forces pull out of eastern Ukraine, and have Ukraine conduct a referendum on whether Crimea would be leased to Russia for 50 or 100 years. It also outlined a way to lift sanctions on Russia.
The reported plan raised hackles in Kiev, and not just because it would, in one form or another, recognize Crimea as part of Russia. “It’s nonsense,” Ukrainian parliament (Rada) member and former investigative journalist Mustafa Nayyem told me on Monday. “I don’t think anyone here in Ukraine would accept such a plan. It’s the banal bargaining over territory, and the time for that has passed.”
Heat waves are not unusual in Australia. A subtropical belt of high pressure that flows over the continent regularly delivers pulses of hot, dry air to the surface in the summer. Yet even by Australian standards, the intense heat wave of February 2017 has been remarkable.
The Department of Homeland Security on Tuesday began rolling out President Trump's plans for a wider crackdown on people coming into the United States illegally.
The moves, outlined in a pair of memos signed by DHS Secretary John Kelly, include an end to the policy of releasing people caught at the borders pending deportation hearings, hiring thousands more federal agents, sending more judges and officers to deal with asylum claims, enlisting more help from local police and speeding up removal proceedings for a larger number of people who are in the country illegally.
"Last Friday, his column was about sitting next to a larger person on an airplane," the board wrote. "In the column, he called the person 'fat' and went on to describe a lack of sympathy for the man's weight issue.
Two-thirds of Americans are over-weight, very over-weight, or very, very over-weight. Which reminds me, You’re so fat, if you got your shoes shined, you’d have to take their word for it.
Shyness, that single emotion that encompasses so many different things—embarrassment, timidity, a fear of rejection, a reluctance to be inconvenient—is, despite its extreme commonality, also extremely mysterious. Is it a mere feeling? A personality-defining condition? A form of anxiety? While shyness is for some a constant companion, its flushes and flashes managed in the rough manner of a chronic disease, it can also alight, without the courtesy of a warning, on even the most social, and socially graceful, of people. It can manifest as the mute smile that appears, unbidden, when you’re alone with a stranger in an elevator. Or as, right before the curtain goes up, the leaden stomach and the clammy hands and the desperate desire to escape to someplace—any place—that is not the stage. Or it can come when the bite of chicken didn’t go down quite right, and your throat is closing, and the world is spinning, and everyone is watching, and all you want to do is get away from it all.
I'm very shy in person; online, not so much. This article is pretty long-winded. Shyness is a form of anxiety. That much, I should think, well known. I could say more about it but I'm shy.
What’s the real story? The differences between the polls aren’t random, or at least they don’t appear to be based on the relatively limited amount of data we have so far. Instead, Trump’s approval ratings are systematically higher in polls of voters — either registered voters or likely voters — than they are in polls of all adults. And they’re systematically higher in polls conducted online or by automated script than they are in polls conducted by live-telephone interviewers. Here’s every approval rating poll that we can find for Trump so far this month:2By “this month,” I mean among polls that conducted at least some of their interviews in February. If a pollster has asked about Trump’s approval ratings multiple times, I’ve listed only the most recent survey. I do list YouGov and Pew Research twice, since they calculated Trump’s approval ratings both among all adults and among registered voters, a distinction that proves to be rather important.
In a nutshell, this is America’s free-speech problem. The law is largely solid. Government entities that censor or silence citizens on the basis of their political, cultural, or religious viewpoint almost always lose in court. With some exceptions, the First Amendment remains robust. Yet the culture of free speech is eroding away, rapidly.
“Democrats in Washington have been horrified by this president’s handling of things for a year and a half now,” Scarborough said. “The top Democrats in the United States Senate have all told me individually, ‘This guy has no idea what he’s doing.’”
Monday, February 20, 2017
The Church’s legislative body voted last night against a report that calls for continued opposition to same-sex marriage.
The House of Bishops report, released in January, reaffirmed the Church’s teaching that marriage is between a man and a woman, and advocated sticking to the status quo in terms of Church law on marriage.
To be endorsed, the report requires approval from all three houses of the Church’s legislature, called the Synod.
But last night, the House of Clergy shocked the entire Church by voting, by 100 votes to 93, to not approve the report.
Now some clergy have come forward saying they made a mistake when using their voting machines, and that they actually supported their colleagues’ report.
Before we buy the line that Trump represents a rejection of the meritocracy by the idiocracy, we should examine just how merit-based being at the top of the meritocracy in the USA actually is. My suspicion is, not very. I think I'm in the last or almost last generation that got anywhere based on merit. Apres moi, it's been based some on merit, and just as much on affirmative action, connections, and your political commitments, as judged by your extracurricular activities, and let's not forget your looks. Do that for several generations, and you're a long way from the playing fields of Eton.
In some parts of the economy, sure, it's still based on merit, such as Goldman Sachs. (2007 and all that is another subject.) I'm guessing, but I bet they don't care much there about anything except your analytical and math chops. But lots of places, especially academia and journalism, care very much about your world view.
Anywhere where the market does not ruthlessly judge the results of your actions, is a place where the damp rot of the holistic judgments of merit can flourish. That is, not what the market likes, but what you do. We're talking agency costs. That's why for example you get such a**holes playing wide receiver and defensive back (and elsewhere too I'm sure) in the NFL. It's not about how they behave off the field or what they think; it's about how well they catch or stop the catching of the ball. Only really extreme behavior disqualifies anybody. Thus my solution would be to open the curtains and the windows and let the fresh air and sunshine of market competition in, wherever possible. Like that's gonna happen.
I started thinking much more along these lines when I heard only one third-- one third!-- of applicants to Harvard were judged on their "merit" alone. What the heck are the other 2/3 judged on? All kinds of things -- athletics, skin color, social yumminess, wealthiness of parents, and so on. This was salt rubbed into my wounds as I watched three of my kids apply to colleges. One thing I will say for the UC system -- it's still an educational system where you can mostly, but only mostly, rely on test scores and grades to get in. Private institutions of ostensibly comparable calibre are a cesspool of influence. It's what Oxford and Cambridge in the UK have guarded against by sticking strictly to your A-level results and interviews, which concentrate on substance. To ask who your parents are, how much money you have, what your politics are, or anything of the sort, would rightly be seen as grossly improper, yet it happens in the US, by thinly disguised means, all the time.
But if this is true of our big educational institutions, it must be true of our big companies and other institutions as well. If so, that's very, very bad. The rot, if you want to call it that, must be extensive. I think rot is a good word for it.
This could be fixed, but I doubt it will be. A national, really hard, really objective test would help, but instead the SAT and LSAT and I assume the rest of them are going all wobbly with essay questions and the like. (Essay questions could be graded fairly, but they're not. It's hard to cheat on multiple choice questions.) AP exams are going PC. It's the end of the world, I guess. China, you notice, has some sort of objective, extremely tough exam to determine whether you have to work in the rice paddies or go to college. I wouldn't make it so statist, but in principle, that's not such a bad idea.
This blog post was inspired by Glenn Reynold's column on the meritocracy. I just want to put a word in for the view that maybe we wouldn't be in such a fix if our merit-based systems were in fact more based on merit.
I’ve gone back to Tyler Cowen’s statement: “Occasionally the real force behind a political ideology is the subconsciously held desire that a certain group of people should not be allowed to rise in relative status.”
I was just thinking something like this.
A transgender teenager won a girls wrestling contest on Saturday despite attempts from other competitors' parents to stop him from taking part.
Mack Beggs, a 17-year-old from Euless, Texas, has been taking steroids as part of his transition from female to male since late 2015.
You figure it out.
POLITICO has learned that, following the stunning success of Russia’s quasi-secret incursion into Ukraine, McMaster is quietly overseeing a high-level government panel intended to figure out how the Army should adapt to this Russian wake-up call. Partly, it is a tacit admission of failure on the part of the Army — and the U.S. government more broadly.
Story Continued Below
McMaster’s known to the public primarily for two things. One, as noted by the Times, was the success of his counterinsurgency strategy in Tal Afar in Iraq at a moment when most of the rest of the military was flailing. McMaster’s insight at the time was that shows of might wouldn’t pacify the Iraqi population; respecting the local culture and establishing permanent bases in cities to reassure residents that Americans would be there around the clock to protect them were key.
Picture of TAS, LWJ, and sons Mark and Patrick, with his girlfriend Whitney, and various dogs, including Mitzi, our new Pit Bull
This is a partial family portrait of, from front to back, Chopi, me, Gandalf the Lion Hearted, LWJ, Mitzi the Wonderful dog unit, Mark, Patrick, his girlfriend Whitney, and Samwise, recently sort-of rescued from Shanghai, the People's (not Dogs') Republic of China. Chopi, my and secondarily our Labrador Retriever, is like most labs, intuitive, intelligent, rambunctious, and all dog. But the point of this post is to draw your attention to our new Pit Bull mix, whom LWJ is naming Mitzi, after her great aunt (no longer with us) who resembled a pit bull in life. She hailed from Austria, was a cook for the world champion Joe Lewis (and once saved his son from being suffocated by his nanny), and was shaped like a V, as Pit Bulls are. Mitzi the dog is a rescue and was taken in an emaciated state from the streets but is now a fit 4 months old. Mark, who's grinning like a crazy man, is very happy with the new puppy. The puppy is very happy with her new home, I think it is also obvious, if not from this picture, then from her having slept through the night, pooping outside, eating heartily, and playing with other dogs.
LWJ has been reading about Pit Bulls, their trials, how they are discriminated against, their sufferings at the hands of miscreants like Michael Vick, and decided she would do something about it. Hence, our new puppy.
Gandalf, the Bichon Frise in the middle of the picture, if called the Lion Hearted because he somehow fought off the attack of a large coyote when I was supposed to be looking after him. I don't know how he did it. I saw the coyote and it was large. I do know he made a tremendous racket. He required two surgeries. He seems a bit put out by the new puppy but is basically OK.
Reince Priebus: Top intelligence official says the NY Times story on Russian contacts is ‘complete garbage’ « Hot Air
“The New York Times, last week, put out an article with no direct sources that said that the Trump campaign had constant contacts with Russian spies, basically treasonous type accusations,” Priebus said. “I can assure you, and I’ve been approved to say this, that the top levels of the intelligence community have assured me that that story is not only inaccurate, but it’s grossly overstated and it’s wrong and there’s nothing to it,” he continued. “If I can say that to the American people then what does it say about the story,” he said.
It's shocking, just shocking that the NYT would publish a poorly sourced story that reflects so badly on a Republican president.
In a country controlled by the deep state, members of the armed forces and intelligence agencies can overthrow presidents they don’t like; that’s what happened in Egypt in 2013. They hold veto power over major decisions. They often run large parts of the economy, or at least enough government contracts to make their families rich. And they’re rarely held accountable for their actions. They act with impunity.
U.S. intelligence agencies, on the other hand, are restrained by law. Sometimes they overstep, but eventually they are reined in. The officials who leaked the details of Flynn’s conversations knew that Trump would order the FBI to track them down. They put themselves at risk.
Trump’s problem isn’t the deep state; it’s the broad state. He’s facing pushback not only from intelligence agencies, but from civilian bureaucracies, too.
So not the deep state, but the broad state. I'm not sure that makes me feel better.
I think it’s important not to dismiss the president’s reply simply as dumb. We ought to assume that it’s darkly brilliant — if not in intention than certainly in effect. The president is responding to a claim of fact not by denying the fact, but by denying the claim that facts are supposed to have on an argument.
He isn’t telling O’Reilly that he’s got his facts wrong. He’s saying that, as far as he is concerned, facts, as most people understand the term, don’t matter: That they are indistinguishable from, and interchangeable with, opinion; and that statements of fact needn’t have any purchase against a man who is either sufficiently powerful to ignore them or sufficiently shameless to deny them — or, in his case, both.
President Donald Trump's personal counsel Michel Cohen hand-delivered a "peace" plan for Russia and Ukraine to former national security adviser Michael Flynn before Flynn was asked to resign, the New York Times reported on Sunday.
In a 2012 Chicago Tribune profile, Salaam attributed his career decline to having “no discipline” and to his pervasive marijuana use and partying, but at least one family member said recently that Salaam suffered from the crippling, degenerative brain disease, chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), which currently can only be diagnosed post-mortem. Scientists have linked CTE to repetitive head trauma that is an inherent part of playing violent contact sports like football.
He would have made more of a point by shooting himself in the heart like Junior Seau did. Maybe Rashann thought that would hurt the game though.
Police investigator Peter Springare isn’t likely to be among those mocking President Trump for his remarks about refugees in Sweden.
Trump’s comments during a Florida campaign rally on Saturday – which some took as a misstatement about a supposed terror attack – dovetail with what Springare has been seeing during a typical week in Orebro, Sweden. Five rapes, three assaults, a pair of extortions, blackmail, an attempted murder, violence against police and a robbery made up Springare’s caseload for a five-day period earlier this month, according to a Feb. 3 Facebook post he wrote. The suspects were all from Muslim-majority countries – Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan, Somalia and Turkey – save for one Swedish man nabbed in a drug-related case.
Sunday, February 19, 2017
The startups argue that this constellation of data can better (as in faster, more cheaply, and more accurately) hone in on whether the applicant can replay the loan by analyzing how they live, the decisions they make, and how they interact with others. If it all checks out, the cash is transferred to users within minutes of applying for the loan.
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Ironically, it was a billionaire businessman who broke the mold in the 2016 presidential campaign and brought a new voice into Republican politics. Donald Trump took up the cause of the forgotten working class, promising to restore America's industrial prowess and bring back the jobs that a corrupt elite with a globalist outlook had negotiated away in reckless trade deals that sent Americans to the back of the bus and squandered the prosperity they had created over generations.
Everything I know about economics, which is less than a lot of people, but more than about 99 percent of the population, suggests to me that free trade is good. I suppose it's possible that our free trade deals such as NAFTA were "recklessly" negotiated. They and their implementing regulations are unbelievably, incredibly complicated and sometimes the facts are very different from the theory. I take it for granted that I might be wrong, but I doubt it. Thus I strongly suspect all this stuff about bringing back America's industrial prowess is, sadly perhaps, a crock.
Of course, this does not mean that the Davosousie are to be trusted either. They don't like the economic competition that comes from free trade, they want deep regulation of various kinds, and they want all sorts of ethnic and racial and "gender" set asides, which are turning to be a really bad idea. I don't know how this is going to work out.
Conservative spies, however, will take a darker view. To them, their liberal colleagues will have gotten away with political murder. They’ll be looking for revenge.
Welcome to the new America. It’s now their turn to burn democracy down. And they’ve got the tools and motivation to do it.
I don't like the sound of that.
Nothing that happened in Barack Obama's presidential administration was a scandal. Not the gun-walking, not the ambassador killed by terrorists, not the pay-to-play green-energy stuff, not the weaponization of the IRS, not the Bowe Bergdahl swap, not the inspector general's firing -- none of it. Obama wanted it that way, and that was enough to make it so.
Everything that happens in Donald Trump's administration will be a scandal. Every Tweet, every denial of the obvious, every course change, every refusal to change course, every leaked internal disagreement, every assertion that some word or action is not a scandal. Trump is breathing, and that is enough to make it so.
That how it seems.
Saturday, February 18, 2017
By any historical and constitutional standard, "the people" elected Donald Trump and endorsed his program of nation-state populist reform. Yet over the last few weeks America has been in the throes of an unprecedented revolt. Not of the people against the government—that happened last year—but of the government against the people. What this says about the state of American democracy, and what it portends for the future, is incredibly disturbing.
Mystery: What was Comey’s secret briefing yesterday to the Senate Intelligence Committee about? « Hot Air
I have no deep thoughts about this but it’s worth flagging, as reporters who cover the Senate regularly and were there after the briefing ended found it unusual and potentially significant for a number of reasons. For one thing, the briefing was long — close to three hours by one account. It was also secretive even by traditional standards: Although Comey was photographed leaving the meeting, committee members wouldn’t admit that he’d been there. And it seemed as though the briefing was urgent, with senators delaying their departure during a weekend recess to hear what Comey had to say.
My son's twitter contacts are sure it's going to lead to Trump's impeachment.
The New York Times reported yesterday that the White House budget office has prepared a list of programs that could be eliminated in Trump’s first budget proposal. Among those programs are the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, the National Endowment for the Arts and Humanities and AmeriCorps.
I think PBS and NPR would just go private as they should have long ago. AmeriCorp and NEA deserve an unheralded death.
This past November the New York Times reported that Facebook has been investing heavily on both political and technological fronts in an attempt to finally tap into China's more than 1.4 billion citizens. From a technology standpoint, it has allegedly “quietly developed software to suppress posts from appearing in people’s news feeds in specific geographic areas” in which a Chinese partner would have access to the realtime list of trending topics and stories and could block those posts from ever appearing to Chinese citizens (rather than deleting them after they have already been posted and spread). The Times emphasizes that while Mark Zuckerberg himself has allegedly personally “supported and defended” the program, it has not yet been deployed in any fashion and remains at this time only a technology prototype. Its existence and the fact that Facebook was focusing specific effort on tools that would allow governments to censor what their citizens could see was so concerning to several employees involved with the project that they left the company, according to the Times.
Forget about Trump. This stuff looks really bad.