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Average numbers for the latest posts (max. 50 posts, posted within the last 4 weeks)

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1
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Top posts in the last 50 posts

Most comments: 42

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2017-06-13 19:41:24 (42 comments; 4 reshares; 17 +1s; )Open 

The Cabinet Meeting prostration was terrifying—or, just maybe, a glimmer of hope?

I don't want to force on you the eleven minutes of this video that you'll never get back, but having watched it through (some parts, several times) just focusing on the body language, I think you'll get where I'm coming from if you just shuffle through and watch a few bits at random.

Look: we need to start thinking endgame here, because the evidence of Trump's utter corruption—and corruption, here, I mean in teleological, not legalistic, terms—is mounting at an ever-accelerating pace. The background noise that's underlaid this presidency will either reach a crescendo when special counsel Robert Mueller makes his first public report (and/or begins to hand down indictments), or will be cataclysmically interrupted when Trump fires Mueller—as he is today rumored to beserious... more »

Most reshares: 22

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2017-06-12 19:34:20 (2 comments; 22 reshares; 21 +1s; )Open 

Don't be fooled that Obamacare repeal won't affect you, just because you're covered by employer-based insurance. It will, and it's going to hurt.

I know most of us on the left were horrified by the cruelty of the House's AHCA bill towards poor and older people and those on the individual market with preexisting conditions.

But I imagine there's a large group of folks who are apolitical or more conservative and, because their healthcare is covered by their or their spouse's or parent's employer, don't realize what the bill would do to limit their insurance. These changes are quite significant, and need to get more—excuse the pun—coverage.

At this moment, we don't know what the Senate bill will look like. But from what we're hearing from Senate leadership it seems that, if it's passed, it will probably be pushedthr... more »

Most plusones: 44

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2017-04-13 23:12:49 (30 comments; 21 reshares; 44 +1s; )Open 

United Airlines made me abandon my mobility device at the gate. Before my honeymoon.

I've been waiting to post this until I heard a response from United. But with the recent uproar over their handling of passengers, I figured it was time.

Latest 50 posts

2017-07-20 18:09:39 (1 comments; 0 reshares; 6 +1s; )Open 

Has Google Assistant stopped suggesting travel to your appointments, too?

I'm on Android Beta O and on the beta of the Google app, so this may be limited to people on both those betas, but when I swipe left of my home screen into the "agenda view", I no longer get travel-time suggestions to my next appointment in Calendar.

There's a little inbox button that's supposed to show you that now rather than it appearing on the main screen. And the first time I tapped it when I had an upcoming meeting, it had a card with a little map to the appointment—but not with the travel time, but rather with a query: "do you care about travel times to this place?" (or something like that).

I answered yes and named the place (in this case, my physical therapist's office), and tapped Done—and the card went away, without being replaced by adir... more »

Has Google Assistant stopped suggesting travel to your appointments, too?

I'm on Android Beta O and on the beta of the Google app, so this may be limited to people on both those betas, but when I swipe left of my home screen into the "agenda view", I no longer get travel-time suggestions to my next appointment in Calendar.

There's a little inbox button that's supposed to show you that now rather than it appearing on the main screen. And the first time I tapped it when I had an upcoming meeting, it had a card with a little map to the appointment—but not with the travel time, but rather with a query: "do you care about travel times to this place?" (or something like that).

I answered yes and named the place (in this case, my physical therapist's office), and tapped Done—and the card went away, without being replaced by a directions card.

Since that happened, it's been doing this with other appointments at different locations, too—instead of showing me my "leave by X:XX to arrive on time" card that I'd found so valuable for the past couple years, I only see the "care about this place?" card, to which saying Yes seems to have no effect.

Right now at this very moment, I'm running late for an appointment. (One that had been cancelled and I haven't deleted off my calendar yet, but it works for illustration.) Before, I'd have a red card suggesting the fastest way for me to still get there and telling me how late I'll be. Now—nothing.

It seems like travel time home and to work are all it coughs up now. Anyone else seeing this? It makes me very sad and leery of un-explicitly-configurable learning assistants, because if it can go from being something I could depend on to warn me when I needed to leave early due to bad traffic to not even telling me about it when I look, that's a real problem. :-(___

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2017-07-20 16:29:24 (6 comments; 0 reshares; 1 +1s; )Open 

Uh, what?

Dunno if this is just for me (or people in NYC), if you what to check for yourself it's at http://amzn.to/2ueVIem...

I know Manhattan supermarkets are forced to carry much smaller selections than suburban ones because of the expensive space, but does your supermarket typically carry these? (A Super-WalMart or Super-Target, yeah, I get. But like, just a big grocery store?)

Strangely, it's my only option to get this particular tool from Amazon....

Could it be that they deliver them straight from the Vise Grip factory? (Given that Irwin famously ceased "made in the U.S.A." production in 2008, I guess it would a pretty good deal in that case, if it's air-freighted from China....)


Uh, what?

Dunno if this is just for me (or people in NYC), if you what to check for yourself it's at http://amzn.to/2ueVIem...

I know Manhattan supermarkets are forced to carry much smaller selections than suburban ones because of the expensive space, but does your supermarket typically carry these? (A Super-WalMart or Super-Target, yeah, I get. But like, just a big grocery store?)

Strangely, it's my only option to get this particular tool from Amazon....

Could it be that they deliver them straight from the Vise Grip factory? (Given that Irwin famously ceased "made in the U.S.A." production in 2008, I guess it would a pretty good deal in that case, if it's air-freighted from China....)
___

2017-07-19 18:01:36 (9 comments; 0 reshares; 0 +1s; )Open 

AV receivers: Bluetooth headphones?

In 2011 I bought a then-new Denon AVR-2112CL AV receiver, and it's been great. I've used it to connect my TV and speakers to two TiVo's, a Chromecast, and two game consoles, with one port remaining for a temporary connection to a computer, tablet, or camera. It worked great, including for demanding content like 3-D Blu-Ray playback, and had good bidirectional behavior so that starting content on the Chromecast would cause an automatic switch from the current source. (Even more important in my book, it almost never switched sources when I didn't want it to, for instance when the PlayStation 4 would wake up briefly just to update software in the background.)

Well, we're getting to the point where I need to start thinking about upgrading; my plasma TV is suffering burn-in of the logos of the channels I watch most frequently,... more »

AV receivers: Bluetooth headphones?

In 2011 I bought a then-new Denon AVR-2112CL AV receiver, and it's been great. I've used it to connect my TV and speakers to two TiVo's, a Chromecast, and two game consoles, with one port remaining for a temporary connection to a computer, tablet, or camera. It worked great, including for demanding content like 3-D Blu-Ray playback, and had good bidirectional behavior so that starting content on the Chromecast would cause an automatic switch from the current source. (Even more important in my book, it almost never switched sources when I didn't want it to, for instance when the PlayStation 4 would wake up briefly just to update software in the background.)

Well, we're getting to the point where I need to start thinking about upgrading; my plasma TV is suffering burn-in of the logos of the channels I watch most frequently, and I'm starting to see Ultra HD and 4K content more frequently. At this point, I'm holding out for a 50–56" OLED display that supports active 3D (LG's 2016 lineup did, but it was ridiculously expensive, and their 2017 lineup has dropped 3D). I have a bit of an investment in 3D content, and with OLED active-shutter 3D screens, you can use the glasses to let two people share the set watching two different sources, which for us would be quite nice.¹

Since LG's 2017 line doesn't fit the bill, and the other OLED options are either inferior quality or insanely expensive, I don't think I'll actually be in the market for at least a few more months once some other displays come out. But I'm thinking ahead, and will obviously need a new AV receiver to replace the old one. The two questions that have come up for me that haven't been covered in most roundup comparisons are:

1. How many HDMI inputs? Right now I'm using every one on the Denon, and even so, one of them has to be to an external HDMI switch box.
2. Bluetooth audio input seems like a feature common to all midrange AV receivers now, but most inexplicably lack Bluetooth headphone output. When one of us needs to be quiet like when the other has a work call, we currently either use a long headphone cable (annoying and uncomfortable) or the PS4 with a media application (since you can connect headphones to the DualShock controller).

It appears the Denon box at the same range point as my current one is very nice in many ways (including 6 HDMI ports), but does not support Bluetooth audio out. (This could be fixed with a firmware update, as it has a Bluetooth transmitter capable of streaming A2DP, but so far I haven't heard any sign of this coming down the pike.) In fact, none of Denon's lineup has the feature.

Glancing at the other major competitors, it looks like for some (i.e., Yamaha) it's a feature found in any receiver with Bluetooth, but these are the same makes who keep to 4 HDMI inputs or even fewer until you go way up to the high range of their lineups.

Since Bluetooth is just a binary checkbox in all the comparison charts I've found—which would lead one to think the Denon and Yamaha at the same price point both had the same Bluetooth capabilities, when they do not—I'm left with downloading the manuals for every likely AV receiver out there.

But I'm hoping maybe someone reading this might have done this legwork already. Or perhaps, you don't care about lots of HDMI ports or Bluetooth headphones, but you happen to have a receiver that fits the bill anyway you might recommend?


¹ AFAIK, no AV receiver can do this trick of muxing two sources into alternating 3D frames of the TV output, so I'd have to strand an extra HDMI cable to the TV and swap them out at the source, but that's okay, as it's probably not something we're going to do all that often, let alone switch around sources frequently. But having the option is nice in a small apartment.___

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2017-07-18 01:43:18 (37 comments; 2 reshares; 10 +1s; )Open 

The only way to win is to get past the tribalism. And to do that, our tribe needs to be less annoying.

Josh Barro of Business Insider is an interesting tribalist outlander — an atheist former Republican of Jewish ancestry married to a (male) DNC operative, he started out as an intern to Grover Norquist, but began expressing his serious misgivings with conservative economic policies after the 2008 crisis showed they had little basis in reality (awkward; his father is Ricardian economist Robert Barro). After that, his conservatism and especially his Republicanism fell apart; he supported Obama over Romney, and finally formally switched parties after Donald Trump was nominated.

He's now the "center" host of KCRW's "Left, Right and Center" (one of the few political podcasts I listen to every week and would recommend to anyone with an interest inp... more »

The only way to win is to get past the tribalism. And to do that, our tribe needs to be less annoying.

Josh Barro of Business Insider is an interesting tribalist outlander — an atheist former Republican of Jewish ancestry married to a (male) DNC operative, he started out as an intern to Grover Norquist, but began expressing his serious misgivings with conservative economic policies after the 2008 crisis showed they had little basis in reality (awkward; his father is Ricardian economist Robert Barro). After that, his conservatism and especially his Republicanism fell apart; he supported Obama over Romney, and finally formally switched parties after Donald Trump was nominated.

He's now the "center" host of KCRW's "Left, Right and Center" (one of the few political podcasts I listen to every week and would recommend to anyone with an interest in politics), an opinion editor at Business Insider, and a frequent contributor to MSNBC.

I make that biographical note because I want you to read what he writes here, and, just as importantly, I don't want you to read what he doesn't write. He isn't dog-whistling—a still-trying-to-be-conservative-Republican like David Brooks or George Will writing the same words would mean something quite different. He's writing very precisely. And I think he's right.

(At this point, I'd suggest you read and come back.)

I've often described myself as a "liberal-democracy liberal-market civil libertarian", understanding the inherent contradictions there. But Josh here hits one that I've been aware of for a long time but haven't quite been able to articulate—a pity, because if I had been able to as Josh does here, I would've much sooner had some understanding of why the Trumpistas seem to make so little rational sense, without having to throw up my hands and consign a third of my compatriots over to the "basket of deplorables".

Josh gets it right here. The basket of deplorables is, unquestionably, part of Trump's base, and an animating principle in Trump's rhetoric is white nationalism. And the idea of accepting that rhetoric, of consorting with the deplorable, is repellant. As it should be. But we don't have to let that stop us from appealing to the (large, probably majority) subset of that tribe who are not deplorable, but merely feel tribal affiliation with those who are.

We don't have to speak the name of the Washington football team. We should continue to protest it. But, as an issue, it is nothing in comparison to getting our country back.

We have issues that are dear to our tribe that some of their tribe may no longer have ears to hear us talk about. Shouting louder and more incessantly will do us no good, not when we're so fully out of power anyway. We must stand firm but not push, so that we can take power again—and then resume our push behind that ever-bending historical arc towards justice.

Black lives matter. That is something we can't compromise on, and something we can't afford to wait on—black lives are being snuffed out every single day. But if, when we talk to the other side, simply adding, "black lives matter, too" or turning to ask "why do black lives seem to matter less?" breaks through the deafness and gives us even a moment we're listened to again, we should consider it as a tactic towards victory, not assume it's a concession towards admitting defeat.

The planet is being poisoned and being heated. That, too, we can't wait on. But the ways we agree would be most efficient to tackling the problem are foreclosed to us, for now. We can protest and again shout into deaf ears, prolonging the time our foes remain in power—or we can look for other ways to fight climate change, locally and globally, until we can once again take control nationally.

I've felt slowly-mounting despair since January. Since November. Since last July. Since March 2016. Since July 2015. All because of one man. The edifice of artifice that man has erected around himself is now crumbling, more quickly every day. We can do nothing about it but stand back and watch—useless—or, worse than useless, we can shout at the edifice and the man within trying to accelerate its collapse.

Or — we can position ourselves to take action at the very moment of collapse. To be ready to appeal to the segment of their tribe who can be peeled away when the collapse happens; who, like us, know the system is rigged against them, and were simply misguided by their righteous anger into throwing their lot in with a group they felt they had much in common with, but in fact had very little in common cause with.

We can do this. And a big first step is learning to be a little less annoying.___

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2017-07-17 21:34:05 (27 comments; 2 reshares; 12 +1s; )Open 

My favorite 13th Doctor reaction

This is just lovely.

From past experience, you, my readers, are
a) not nitwits, and
b) are more likely than not to be at least casual Doctor Who fans.

So, if you didn't like yesterday's announcement, I'm going to assume that it has nothing to do with Jodie Whittaker's gender (really, and not the crocodile tears I've seen on Twitter from sexists trying to pretend they aren't) and reflects actual concern about the actor.

Google+ has been around long enough now that we gossiped Who through almost the entirety of Matt Smith's tenure, and were debating the Peter Capaldi announcement three years ago. (My personal opinions about the post-reboot Doctors have been "they just kept getting better", although Smith and Capaldi are very close to tied for tops in my mind; the upcoming... more »

My favorite 13th Doctor reaction

This is just lovely.

From past experience, you, my readers, are
a) not nitwits, and
b) are more likely than not to be at least casual Doctor Who fans.

So, if you didn't like yesterday's announcement, I'm going to assume that it has nothing to do with Jodie Whittaker's gender (really, and not the crocodile tears I've seen on Twitter from sexists trying to pretend they aren't) and reflects actual concern about the actor.

Google+ has been around long enough now that we gossiped Who through almost the entirety of Matt Smith's tenure, and were debating the Peter Capaldi announcement three years ago. (My personal opinions about the post-reboot Doctors have been "they just kept getting better", although Smith and Capaldi are very close to tied for tops in my mind; the upcoming Christmas special may decide me one way or the other.)

So one thing that's been a constant online is that each announcement of a new Doctor causes tearing of hair and rending of garments. David Tennant didn't have the gravitas to replace Christopher Eccleston, Matt Smith was too young, Peter Capaldi was too old. But then you see them in the role, and it changes. (Or, for a select few, it doesn't; a Doctor Who blog I used to follow just ended unceremoniously with a post speculating about Smith's successor the morning of Capaldi's announcement, and has never been updated again. I don't have to guess what that author thought about Capaldi.)

Anyway, if you are unhappy or at least disquieted by the Whittaker announcement, I'm going to bet your experience of her is:

• Whatever you could YouTube up after you saw the "Introducing Jodie Whittaker" title card and asked "who's that?"
• Broadchurch or one of her earlier comic roles and nothing else.

If that's the case, I get that, I do; she was wonderful in Broadchurch, but she played a part that was very un-Doctorly, and her character Beth Latimer could be quite unsympathetic at times (and the times she was sympathetic, maybe a bit maudlin). But Jodie Whittaker is an actor, she's not Beth Latimer; if Beth Latimer is nothing like the Doctor, so what?

Her working with new Who showrunner Chris Chibnall for over three years won't hurt; the several-episode post-regeneration growing pains writers have always had with capturing the new Doctor's voice may be lessened this time around.

To get a better idea of her acting chops and what she'd likely bring to the role of the Doctor, I'd really, really urge you to watch Attack the Block. It's a fantastically fun movie in any case, but today it's also a chance to see Jodie Whittaker and John Boyega before either got their iconic franchise roles—they were the two standouts of the film, and with good reason.

The nitwits have dismissed her out of hand because of her lack of a penis—though I'm not sure it's explicitly canon that male Time Lords even have a penis. The Doctor's an alien, remember?

The rest of us may be tempted to grade her on a curve just to counterbalance that disgusting nonsense, but I really don't think it will be necessary. She shows every sign of being a great Doctor—Capaldi and Smith are terribly tough acts to follow for anyone, but she's capable of showing us that maybe the reboot will keep giving us better and better Doctors every time.___

2017-07-16 19:54:02 (4 comments; 0 reshares; 4 +1s; )Open 

French semantics question...

I know I have several native French speakers who comment on my threads regularly, so I wanted your opinion on something: what is the difference between

1. Bien sûr, d'accord.

and

2. D'accord, bien sûr.

I just noticed that the valence seems to be precisely opposite to that of the difference between English's "Okay, sure" and "Sure, okay", but I need a native speaker to tell me if that's actually the case.

(Unless you're a bilingual French native speaker, you may not see the connotative difference between the two English expressions, so I won't prejudice you by saying what the difference is until I hear your responses....)

French semantics question...

I know I have several native French speakers who comment on my threads regularly, so I wanted your opinion on something: what is the difference between

1. Bien sûr, d'accord.

and

2. D'accord, bien sûr.

I just noticed that the valence seems to be precisely opposite to that of the difference between English's "Okay, sure" and "Sure, okay", but I need a native speaker to tell me if that's actually the case.

(Unless you're a bilingual French native speaker, you may not see the connotative difference between the two English expressions, so I won't prejudice you by saying what the difference is until I hear your responses....)___

2017-07-13 22:00:18 (16 comments; 0 reshares; 13 +1s; )Open 

How well do Trumpistas turn on a dime?

I would be absolutely fascinated to see a poll that asked the standard question that's been tracked for awhile, "do you believe that the Trump campaign had contacts with Russians interefering in the 2016 election" and compared it with the question, "do you believe President Trump in his admitting his campaign had contacts with Russia during the 2016 campaign?"

The reason I'd love to see this is because this, more than anything else, has been the telltale of the reality distortion bubble that's most differentiated Trump supporters from both Democrats and independents (and even, to a somewhat lesser degree, Republicans who don't count themselves as Trump "supporters"). Those supporting Trump have consistently and absolutely—in the 85–90%+ range—denied any Russia involvement up till now.... more »

How well do Trumpistas turn on a dime?

I would be absolutely fascinated to see a poll that asked the standard question that's been tracked for awhile, "do you believe that the Trump campaign had contacts with Russians interefering in the 2016 election" and compared it with the question, "do you believe President Trump in his admitting his campaign had contacts with Russia during the 2016 campaign?"

The reason I'd love to see this is because this, more than anything else, has been the telltale of the reality distortion bubble that's most differentiated Trump supporters from both Democrats and independents (and even, to a somewhat lesser degree, Republicans who don't count themselves as Trump "supporters"). Those supporting Trump have consistently and absolutely—in the 85–90%+ range—denied any Russia involvement up till now.

This whiplash has been so swift that I'm betting it hasn't totally percolated out yet (remember, they "don't care about the Russia thing"), and so you'd see the effect in the difference between the two questions. How does the cognitive dissonance play out?

What would be even more fascinating is to have another group asked both questions in randomized order. I strongly suspect that you'd have a nearly identical 85–90% (or more) saying they believed Trump regardless of what order they got the questions, but for those who got the "Do you believe Trump" question first, they'll have flipped to join the rest of us on Team Reality for the other question, while a hefty proportion (maybe even approaching that old 85%) of those who got the "Do you think" question first would deny it until being told their thought leader (cough) has changed his own mind on the question.___

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2017-07-12 01:35:38 (1 comments; 2 reshares; 14 +1s; )Open 

Capt. Janeway—nobody likes assimilation, but don't we need a positive agenda, to coöperate with the Borg on issues where we can agree?

Capt. Janeway—nobody likes assimilation, but don't we need a positive agenda, to coöperate with the Borg on issues where we can agree?___

2017-07-11 19:27:56 (13 comments; 4 reshares; 38 +1s; )Open 

"It's fake news, whether it's real or not."

Just heard from a salon owner in small-town Michigan:

"This Russia thing is fake news from the liberal left and I just don't think anybody outside Washington and New York cares. We need to move on and let him have a chance to do the things we voted for. We didn't vote for this."

[Reporter] "But Donald Trump, Jr.'s story has changed four times since Friday, each time contradicting the next revelation to come out--"

"But see, that's just my point. It's all gotcha liberal media. If they got it all out there to start then the son wouldn't have had to say all those lies, he could've responded to the final story to start with."

[Reporter] "And you don't think that reflects badly on the president or his son?"
... more »

"It's fake news, whether it's real or not."

Just heard from a salon owner in small-town Michigan:

"This Russia thing is fake news from the liberal left and I just don't think anybody outside Washington and New York cares. We need to move on and let him have a chance to do the things we voted for. We didn't vote for this."

[Reporter] "But Donald Trump, Jr.'s story has changed four times since Friday, each time contradicting the next revelation to come out--"

"But see, that's just my point. It's all gotcha liberal media. If they got it all out there to start then the son wouldn't have had to say all those lies, he could've responded to the final story to start with."

[Reporter] "And you don't think that reflects badly on the president or his son?"

"No, not the president, and not really the son either, because it's all... this Russia thing is all just made up to start with."

[Reporter] "But the emails Donald Trump Jr. sent out today confirm that it is real news. It isn't fake news."

"As far as I'm concerned, if it comes from CNN or MSNBC or The New York Times, it's fake news, whether it's real or not. And here in real America, we're sick of it, and that's why we hate you guys so much."

We're doomed.___

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2017-07-07 19:14:58 (10 comments; 0 reshares; 4 +1s; )Open 

Unix history question...

I'm finding this surprisingly difficult to search up, so not technically #lazyweb:

Did Thompson and Ritchie develop Unix in Murray Hill, New Jersey, as I've always assumed? Or were they at another Bell Labs installation?

I just heard someone say something about all the major modern operating systems being "invented in California", and I think that may be almost entirely wrong. Linux was first released when Torvalds still lived in Finland; Windows was from Washington state; although OS X (and later iOS) was based on NeXTSTEP, developed in California, which was in turn adapted from BSD [Berkeley Software Distribution] Unix developed in—duh—Berkeley, BSD was ultimately based on the original Unix code out of Bell Labs. So unless it was a California Bell Labs outpost, the claim is entirely wrong.

Unix history question...

I'm finding this surprisingly difficult to search up, so not technically #lazyweb:

Did Thompson and Ritchie develop Unix in Murray Hill, New Jersey, as I've always assumed? Or were they at another Bell Labs installation?

I just heard someone say something about all the major modern operating systems being "invented in California", and I think that may be almost entirely wrong. Linux was first released when Torvalds still lived in Finland; Windows was from Washington state; although OS X (and later iOS) was based on NeXTSTEP, developed in California, which was in turn adapted from BSD [Berkeley Software Distribution] Unix developed in—duh—Berkeley, BSD was ultimately based on the original Unix code out of Bell Labs. So unless it was a California Bell Labs outpost, the claim is entirely wrong.___

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2017-07-05 04:43:00 (3 comments; 0 reshares; 6 +1s; )Open 

A look back at a simpler time, when HBO's boondoggle Game of Thrones was something to giggle about...

I'm not criticizing Ginia Bellafante much — her review was pretty par for the course, and—I think for anyone without experience with the books—trying to review the series based on just the first three episodes made available to critics was a fool's game. (Bellafante is now on the City Desk at The New York Times, for what that's worth, so she doesn't have any more recent reviews published to check her track record on.)

Hey, I know I was still confused about the relationship between Mormonts and Targaryens until mid-season 2, and I'm primed for this sort of thing.

Still this makes for a funny read (in hindsight) as you get ready for the upcoming premiere.



A look back at a simpler time, when HBO's boondoggle Game of Thrones was something to giggle about...

I'm not criticizing Ginia Bellafante much — her review was pretty par for the course, and—I think for anyone without experience with the books—trying to review the series based on just the first three episodes made available to critics was a fool's game. (Bellafante is now on the City Desk at The New York Times, for what that's worth, so she doesn't have any more recent reviews published to check her track record on.)

Hey, I know I was still confused about the relationship between Mormonts and Targaryens until mid-season 2, and I'm primed for this sort of thing.

Still this makes for a funny read (in hindsight) as you get ready for the upcoming premiere.

___

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2017-07-03 16:21:02 (6 comments; 0 reshares; 7 +1s; )Open 

My #1 single biggest long-standing complaint about Inbox: no categorization indicator in search.

I generally like Inbox much more than standard Gmail and have been using it more or less constantly as my primary interface since it became available. I basically go into the standard Gmail interface for just two things:

1. Searching chats (which Inbox, for some reason, can't do consistently)
2. Setting up explicit filters (Inbox can do this only clunkily) and things to autoforward (Inbox can't do that at all)

That said, there's one other thing Gmail does that Inbox doesn't that I don't actually go to Gmail to fix because it's such an in-the-moment thing, but it's been such a background annoyance for so long: when you search for something, you get a list of messages or conversations that match the search—but you get no indicationw... more »

My #1 single biggest long-standing complaint about Inbox: no categorization indicator in search.

I generally like Inbox much more than standard Gmail and have been using it more or less constantly as my primary interface since it became available. I basically go into the standard Gmail interface for just two things:

1. Searching chats (which Inbox, for some reason, can't do consistently)
2. Setting up explicit filters (Inbox can do this only clunkily) and things to autoforward (Inbox can't do that at all)

That said, there's one other thing Gmail does that Inbox doesn't that I don't actually go to Gmail to fix because it's such an in-the-moment thing, but it's been such a background annoyance for so long: when you search for something, you get a list of messages or conversations that match the search—but you get no indication whatsoever of how that message had been filed by Inbox.

See this example. I just realized that I never saw a phone notification for this support ticket response I was expecting and hence missed it. So I'd like to know how it got filed and what I need to fiddle with to get it filed to a "high-priority" label that gets notifications. Well, I can search for it—but this gets me no closer to answering my question. Look at the screenshot. There's no indication in the message, and no label gets highlighted (I blurred some of them, but believe me, none are highlighted, that's just not something Inbox does).

I now know the date of the message, so at least I could click on each lower-priority label one by one and scroll to this date, but really.

The answer here is to open old-fashioned Gmail, which will tell me what labels the message has, then either set up a manual filter for it (still in Gmail), or go back to Inbox and re-file. It's an irritant.

(Yes, technically I don't need to know why it wasn't notifying me in the past; just re-filing it to a higher-priority bucket and clicking "do this from now on" would be sufficient. But when I do these searches, I'm not just looking for the message in question, I want to know any other messages I might have been missing for the same reason. With Gmail, you search, and then you can click on the message's label itself to get to all the messages in that label.)___

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2017-06-27 18:40:48 (5 comments; 0 reshares; 5 +1s; )Open 

Why no UTC in Android's clock?

Anyone who works in production IT either trains themselves to convert between local time and UTC in their heads or types `date -u` frequently (or both, if they frequently work in different time zones). This definitely includes any programmer working with time zones in any way.¹

So why doesn't the Android Clock app allow selection of UTC as a timezone? (The first image shows the selections under "G", where "GMT" might be found, the second "U"—no "UTC", either.) This is in contrast to the iPad Clock app, which in the third image you can see allows adding UTC like any other time zone.

London isn't appropriate, as you can see in the iPad screenshot, because Britain observes summer time putting them an hour ahead of UTC.

(If you happen to know that Reykjavik is on UTC becauseIc... more »

Why no UTC in Android's clock?

Anyone who works in production IT either trains themselves to convert between local time and UTC in their heads or types `date -u` frequently (or both, if they frequently work in different time zones). This definitely includes any programmer working with time zones in any way.¹

So why doesn't the Android Clock app allow selection of UTC as a timezone? (The first image shows the selections under "G", where "GMT" might be found, the second "U"—no "UTC", either.) This is in contrast to the iPad Clock app, which in the third image you can see allows adding UTC like any other time zone.

London isn't appropriate, as you can see in the iPad screenshot, because Britain observes summer time putting them an hour ahead of UTC.

(If you happen to know that Reykjavik is on UTC because Iceland hasn't observed a summer time adjustment since 1968, you can workaround by using Reykjavik as a UTC proxy, but that's a kludge.)

C'mon, guys; Apple's done it, shouldn't Android?


¹ In case you're unaware, programmers (or at least, experienced ones) usually store representations of absolute times on human scale in one of two formats: either seconds relative to the beginning of 1970 ("Unix time" or "epoch time"), or in UTC (Coordinated Universal Time, whose acronym was a compromise between the English CUT and the French TUC), which has the advantages of being the canonical timezone from which other zones are offset, and of not adding or removing hours on a seasonal basis ("daylight saving time").

Since the Unix time is now a number around 1.5 billion, even though it's a very simple and useful representation for computers, it's unwieldy for humans to work with, especially if they need to understand the represented time in relationship to their own calendar and clock, so UTC is frequently used as a display format even for times stored in Unix time. ___

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2017-06-27 17:56:44 (0 comments; 0 reshares; 14 +1s; )Open 

This delightful Wonder Woman scene was totally ad-libbed?!?

Note: mild spoilers for Wonder Woman follow.

I was surprised that one of the most pitch-perfect scenes in the movie was entirely improvised. It's the one on the boat leaving Themyscira, in which Steve Trevor (Chris Pine) and Diana (Gal Gadot) confuse one another over the meaning of a man "sleeping with" a woman, culminating with this gem from Gadot: "[for] procreation, men may be essential, but for pleasure, not neccessary."

Surprised, but, from seeing interviews with both actors, I can see how it worked so well: Gal Gadot has spoken openly about same-sex relationships in the army, intimating she may have had a female lover when she served. And—despite being an actor frequently cast as the literal incarnation of the male gaze—Chris Pine, at least in interviews, is oneof ... more »

This delightful Wonder Woman scene was totally ad-libbed?!?

Note: mild spoilers for Wonder Woman follow.

I was surprised that one of the most pitch-perfect scenes in the movie was entirely improvised. It's the one on the boat leaving Themyscira, in which Steve Trevor (Chris Pine) and Diana (Gal Gadot) confuse one another over the meaning of a man "sleeping with" a woman, culminating with this gem from Gadot: "[for] procreation, men may be essential, but for pleasure, not neccessary."

Surprised, but, from seeing interviews with both actors, I can see how it worked so well: Gal Gadot has spoken openly about same-sex relationships in the army, intimating she may have had a female lover when she served. And—despite being an actor frequently cast as the literal incarnation of the male gaze—Chris Pine, at least in interviews, is one of the most blushing actors in Hollywood. (Certainly more so than anyone would expect from a guy raised in Hollywood, the son of a TV actor and a psychotherapist.)

So, I can see how that scene would have worked given the actors' personalities and backgrounds. That a scene so delightful—in a genre not known for allowing any improvisation at all—was created so spontaneously is the surprise. It was a highlight of a movie that already ranks as among my top two or three favorite superhero movies of all time.___

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2017-06-27 17:35:02 (0 comments; 0 reshares; 15 +1s; )Open 

In GIF search, I win.

When the recent Twitter UX revamp adding GIF search launched, people were posting under the hashtag #FirstGifComesUpForYourName, and I got this one of Sen. Kamala Harris.

I suspect I know why I got this particular GIF—other "Harris" names I tried don't tend to pull this up. My best guess is that the link is through Trey Gowdy, the Republican congressman best known for his hearings, so "Trey = hearings, Trey Harris = Harris at a hearing" is the through-line.

However it happened, though, I win.


In GIF search, I win.

When the recent Twitter UX revamp adding GIF search launched, people were posting under the hashtag #FirstGifComesUpForYourName, and I got this one of Sen. Kamala Harris.

I suspect I know why I got this particular GIF—other "Harris" names I tried don't tend to pull this up. My best guess is that the link is through Trey Gowdy, the Republican congressman best known for his hearings, so "Trey = hearings, Trey Harris = Harris at a hearing" is the through-line.

However it happened, though, I win.
___

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2017-06-27 17:27:21 (1 comments; 0 reshares; 8 +1s; )Open 

This is from the collection "Trey's favorite travel photos", so I guess it has to be one of my favorites? (It is pretty darn good.)

On the main continent of Antarctica are countless glaciers that spill into the valley. There was absolutely no one around, and there is a strange loneliness standing near something so daunting and timeless. I would walk along the edge for miles, occasionally stepping over boulders or through ice to touch its surface.

Dry Valleys, Antarctica___This is from the collection "Trey's favorite travel photos", so I guess it has to be one of my favorites? (It is pretty darn good.)

2017-06-16 19:30:00 (5 comments; 0 reshares; 5 +1s; )Open 

I keep feeling like Louise Mensch would be brilliant if she just put a two-week hold on all her posts and then let an intern re-write them without her input (replacing her shadowy sources with reasonable ones) just before publishing. She's so often been a crackpot largely just because she's way too far ahead of the facts.

She's like a Cassandra, if Cassandra were British and prone to conspiracy theories.

(Yeah, she's pushed some stuff that hasn't even vaguely panned out—yet. But when you go into the archives it's surprising how frequently she's ended up being right, though you have to give her the leeway of a somewhat prophetic reading.)

I keep feeling like Louise Mensch would be brilliant if she just put a two-week hold on all her posts and then let an intern re-write them without her input (replacing her shadowy sources with reasonable ones) just before publishing. She's so often been a crackpot largely just because she's way too far ahead of the facts.

She's like a Cassandra, if Cassandra were British and prone to conspiracy theories.

(Yeah, she's pushed some stuff that hasn't even vaguely panned out—yet. But when you go into the archives it's surprising how frequently she's ended up being right, though you have to give her the leeway of a somewhat prophetic reading.)___

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2017-06-14 19:41:39 (0 comments; 0 reshares; 2 +1s; )Open 

What do you think of my Pujie Black preset "Dark and Handsome - B&W ambient"?

(This is a version of my "Dark and Handsome" preset, which has a full color ambient mode. Find that original version at: https://plus.google.com/+TreyHarris/posts/WNNXhSTXjib)

http://pujieblack.com/share/?scv2=y7758LCcjdLxk8jc6cvbyumNy5LzjpzB_ZPLyPmJ1MT4jZzd8o6fx-aNwMT-28_I_ozPwamc1dK9nMPB55yS0vGc1Lum3c-1vva_qqTUmJyv_Lyop4rbjQ

Download Pujie Black : https://goo.gl/JOfgMO

#AndroidWear #WatchFace #PujieBlack

What do you think of my Pujie Black preset "Dark and Handsome - B&W ambient"?

(This is a version of my "Dark and Handsome" preset, which has a full color ambient mode. Find that original version at: https://plus.google.com/+TreyHarris/posts/WNNXhSTXjib)

http://pujieblack.com/share/?scv2=y7758LCcjdLxk8jc6cvbyumNy5LzjpzB_ZPLyPmJ1MT4jZzd8o6fx-aNwMT-28_I_ozPwamc1dK9nMPB55yS0vGc1Lum3c-1vva_qqTUmJyv_Lyop4rbjQ

Download Pujie Black : https://goo.gl/JOfgMO

#AndroidWear #WatchFace #PujieBlack___

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2017-06-14 19:30:33 (0 comments; 0 reshares; 4 +1s; )Open 

Since Android Wear 2.0 came out I've been enjoying the Pujie Black watchface creation app. Here's my first attempt at a face that I've actually continued to use—it's not too flashy but not stodgy either, and provides quick access to weather and my Google calendar.

I didn't create a black-and-white ambient mode (shown in the right-hand picture, the lower-light version without second-hand animation displayed when you're not actively using the watch)—even though eliminating colors in the ambient display can increase battery life rather dramatically—because my Huawei Watch still makes it about 48 hours on a charge, so that's enough for me. (Update: I did go ahead and create a B&W ambient version; it's at the https://plus.google.com/+TreyHarris/posts/Rd1hPgTNmz2 URL.)

Pujie Black and Watchmaker are the two most popularwatch... more »

What do you think of my Pujie Black preset Dark and Handsome!

http://pujieblack.com/share/?scv2=WSww6yIORMljAQHHe1kS0XsfAolhHFXabwEC02sbHd9qH1XGYBxW3HQfCd9sSQbTbB4G2jsOHMkvDgradQ5byWMOHaA0TwGcDUBhkxJzQYoLb0S_PBgSlg

Download Pujie Black : https://goo.gl/JOfgMO

#AndroidWear #WatchFace #PujieBlack___Since Android Wear 2.0 came out I've been enjoying the Pujie Black watchface creation app. Here's my first attempt at a face that I've actually continued to use—it's not too flashy but not stodgy either, and provides quick access to weather and my Google calendar.

I didn't create a black-and-white ambient mode (shown in the right-hand picture, the lower-light version without second-hand animation displayed when you're not actively using the watch)—even though eliminating colors in the ambient display can increase battery life rather dramatically—because my Huawei Watch still makes it about 48 hours on a charge, so that's enough for me. (Update: I did go ahead and create a B&W ambient version; it's at the https://plus.google.com/+TreyHarris/posts/Rd1hPgTNmz2 URL.)

Pujie Black and Watchmaker are the two most popular watchface-customization apps, and they both have their own strengths. Watchmaker was the one I initially was drawn to because it's Lua-scriptable, but Pujie Black has better aesthetic control without having to resort to Photoshop and has a built-in on-phone vector graphics drawing tool, so I think it's the better choice if you don't want to do something crazy and just want to design a nice-looking watch face.

And as you can see, with Wear 2.0, Pujie Black supports "complications", which are third-party plugins from the Play Store that can display things like weather, phone and/or watch battery life, etc.

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2017-06-14 19:20:48 (0 comments; 1 reshares; 12 +1s; )Open 

What do you think of my Pujie Black preset, "Dark and Handsome"?

(I have also posted a version with a black-and-white ambient mode at: https://plus.google.com/+TreyHarris/posts/Rd1hPgTNmz2)

http://pujieblack.com/share/?scv2=WSww6yIORMljAQHHe1kS0XsfAolhHFXabwEC02sbHd9qH1XGYBxW3HQfCd9sSQbTbB4G2jsOHMkvDgradQ5byWMOHaA0TwGcDUBhkxJzQYoLb0S_PBgSlg

Download Pujie Black : https://goo.gl/JOfgMO

#AndroidWear #WatchFace #PujieBlack

What do you think of my Pujie Black preset, "Dark and Handsome"?

(I have also posted a version with a black-and-white ambient mode at: https://plus.google.com/+TreyHarris/posts/Rd1hPgTNmz2)

http://pujieblack.com/share/?scv2=WSww6yIORMljAQHHe1kS0XsfAolhHFXabwEC02sbHd9qH1XGYBxW3HQfCd9sSQbTbB4G2jsOHMkvDgradQ5byWMOHaA0TwGcDUBhkxJzQYoLb0S_PBgSlg

Download Pujie Black : https://goo.gl/JOfgMO

#AndroidWear #WatchFace #PujieBlack___

2017-06-14 18:11:59 (9 comments; 0 reshares; 7 +1s; )Open 

Feature request: Dynamic hour numbers for 24-hour time?

I would very much like an option for hour numbers to support a 24-hour analog clock in a way only a smartwatch could: by changing the displayed numbers over the course of the day from the AM to the PM hours.

I've never seen a watch face do this (though it seems like an obvious "only on a smartwatch" thing, so it may not be an original idea, I probably just haven't come across such a face).

Here's the easiest way it could work:
1. From 00:01–12:00 (12:01 am–12 noon), the quarter hours, for example, would read "12 • 3 • 6 • 9" as they do now.
2. From 12:01–00:00 (12:01 pm–12 midnight), they would read "00 • 15 • 18 • 21".

The one-minute skew at the head of each interval is so that the current time will always be correctwhen the hour and m... more »

Feature request: Dynamic hour numbers for 24-hour time?

I would very much like an option for hour numbers to support a 24-hour analog clock in a way only a smartwatch could: by changing the displayed numbers over the course of the day from the AM to the PM hours.

I've never seen a watch face do this (though it seems like an obvious "only on a smartwatch" thing, so it may not be an original idea, I probably just haven't come across such a face).

Here's the easiest way it could work:
1. From 00:01–12:00 (12:01 am–12 noon), the quarter hours, for example, would read "12 • 3 • 6 • 9" as they do now.
2. From 12:01–00:00 (12:01 pm–12 midnight), they would read "00 • 15 • 18 • 21".

The one-minute skew at the head of each interval is so that the current time will always be correct when the hour and minute hands point straight up; at all other times, the numbers will show the upcoming hour once the hour hand again reaches that position. (Alternately, one could use a 1-hour skew if one wished so that the time would be correct for the entire 00:00–00:59 and 12:00–12:59 hours, but then handling of the 5-second hour numbers would become more complex; the numbers would have to change at least hourly rather than twice a day more frequently.¹)

There's obviously a more complex solution that avoids a choice of an arbitrary skew: changing the numbers "continuously", based on their radial distance from the hour hand so that the numbers behind show the prior hours and the numbers ahead show the upcoming number (such that, for instance, at 15:00, the numbers would read "12 • 15 • 18 • 21", but at 21:01 they'd read "00 • 3 • 18 • 21"), with the tie-breaker being for a number 180° from the hour hand being its upcoming hour.

I can imagine some might want the past/future offset from the hour hand to be configurable, so that while some would want the numbers at 10:00 to read "12 • 15 • 6 • 9", others might want "12 • 15 • 18 • 9".

But I'm not sure the additional complexity of "continuous" number-updating is necessary or even desirable, let alone such configurability. The simpler twice-a-day number update would be unique enough to be a pretty killer feature, I think.

Now, to really make faces taking advantage of this look nice, I think the phone app would need to have an option to advance the simulated display's time so you could correctly position the numbers so they'd be in an aesthetically pleasing spot, whether one-digit or two-digit. (I assume the numbers are already center-aligned in their position, but if not, that would have to change too.) But such an app feature isn't strictly necessary; you can always fiddle with positioning over the course of a day or force-switch time zones if you must.

Does this make sense? Or would some Photoshop mockups help?

Thanks for the great system you've developed!

(Update: I should have mentioned that the twice-a-day system I mentioned is not strictly an "only on a smartwatch" thing; some naval vessels and military installations have reversible clock faces that are changed by a mechanism or by a person on-duty at midnight and noon. That's where I got the idea.)


¹ Update: I didn't think it through when I said here it would have to change hourly; it actually would require just 4 different numbering schemes per day:
1. A "00 • 3 • 6 • 9" from midnight until 01:00,
2. A "12 • 3 • 6 • 9" from 01:00 until noon,
3. A "12 • 15 • 18 • 21" from noon until 13:00, and
4. A "00 • 15 • 18 • 21" from 13:00 until midnight.___

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2017-06-14 17:12:39 (0 comments; 0 reshares; 6 +1s; )Open 

A fantastic build from Adam Savage and Laura Kampf (plus, a rant on the physics of the TARDIS)

This is a video about building a ridiculously perfect tape dispenser that probably will never save more time than it cost to make it, but will undoubtedly save enough aggravation within days. (A good reminder to us automation-engineering types: time and money are not our only amortizations.)

When I was a kid, I wanted a TARDIS. (Follow me, I'm going somewhere here.) Not because I wanted to travel space and time—well, I did, sure, who wouldn't?—but that was definitely a secondary feature to me. No, I wanted a TARDIS because its interior was infinite in size and configurability.¹

I reasoned that, if I had a such a space, that I could have workshops for every conceivable need. Really. That was my deepest fantasy, the one I never mentioned to anyone² —to havemachine... more »

A fantastic build from Adam Savage and Laura Kampf (plus, a rant on the physics of the TARDIS)

This is a video about building a ridiculously perfect tape dispenser that probably will never save more time than it cost to make it, but will undoubtedly save enough aggravation within days. (A good reminder to us automation-engineering types: time and money are not our only amortizations.)

When I was a kid, I wanted a TARDIS. (Follow me, I'm going somewhere here.) Not because I wanted to travel space and time—well, I did, sure, who wouldn't?—but that was definitely a secondary feature to me. No, I wanted a TARDIS because its interior was infinite in size and configurability.¹

I reasoned that, if I had a such a space, that I could have workshops for every conceivable need. Really. That was my deepest fantasy, the one I never mentioned to anyone² —to have machine shops for wood, for metal, for glass and plastic, for electronics.

And this video is exactly what I yearned for as a kid, making things to make things to help me make things. As it turns out, you don't need infinite space to do that if you know what you need.

I live in a one-bedroom Midtown Manhattan apartment, already stuffed to the gills.³ So, even knowing what's possible, it's still just a fantasy; it's just gone from uncountably infinitely impossible, to merely countably infinitely impossible.


¹ I know, that wasn't canon until "The Doctor's Wife" in the new Who, but it was an easy assumption to make, even in the Tom Baker years.
...And, while I'm on the subject, I'll just point out that Doctor Who isn't a show you can ever apply logic or science to, but my personal ability to suspend disbelief was finally snapped when the Fifth Doctor jettisoned 25% of the TARDIS's interior structure to provide "extra thrust". (And the interior-jettisoning trick's been used in the new series, too, so jettisoning part of an infinite interior is now firmly established canon.) That's a perpetual motion machine, folks. Please.
Not that the perpetual motion machine part gets me; any inside-larger-than-the-outside structure can be used to make one. An infinite interior isn't needed, nor is jettisoning any part of it. But, if you do have an infinite interior structure, and you can jettison bits of it, then you have infinite reaction mass in a finite inertial mass. And here's where my suspension of disbelief passed the breaking point: if you had that, why would you ever use any other type of propulsion? I mean, really.
I may have been... eight? nine? when I first saw Castrovalva, but even then, my grasp of physics was good enough to make this simply a bridge too far.

² I mean, really— shop was my fantasy? I wasn't in any, you know, desperate need to get beaten up any more often than I already was. So yeah, I kept it to myself.

³ I'm not complaining about that; my husband's never lived more than ten blocks from where we live now and his family's here and moving to a place where a large house would be realistic—or even just a larger apartment out in commuter land—isn't an option for a variety of reasons. But that doesn't mean I can't be wistful now and then....
___

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2017-06-13 19:41:24 (42 comments; 4 reshares; 17 +1s; )Open 

The Cabinet Meeting prostration was terrifying—or, just maybe, a glimmer of hope?

I don't want to force on you the eleven minutes of this video that you'll never get back, but having watched it through (some parts, several times) just focusing on the body language, I think you'll get where I'm coming from if you just shuffle through and watch a few bits at random.

Look: we need to start thinking endgame here, because the evidence of Trump's utter corruption—and corruption, here, I mean in teleological, not legalistic, terms—is mounting at an ever-accelerating pace. The background noise that's underlaid this presidency will either reach a crescendo when special counsel Robert Mueller makes his first public report (and/or begins to hand down indictments), or will be cataclysmically interrupted when Trump fires Mueller—as he is today rumored to beserious... more »

The Cabinet Meeting prostration was terrifying—or, just maybe, a glimmer of hope?

I don't want to force on you the eleven minutes of this video that you'll never get back, but having watched it through (some parts, several times) just focusing on the body language, I think you'll get where I'm coming from if you just shuffle through and watch a few bits at random.

Look: we need to start thinking endgame here, because the evidence of Trump's utter corruption—and corruption, here, I mean in teleological, not legalistic, terms—is mounting at an ever-accelerating pace. The background noise that's underlaid this presidency will either reach a crescendo when special counsel Robert Mueller makes his first public report (and/or begins to hand down indictments), or will be cataclysmically interrupted when Trump fires Mueller—as he is today rumored to be seriously considering. (From "tapes", to inducing cronies to lie for him, to the Saturday Night Massacre, one might surmise that Trump thinks "Nixonian" is aspirational.)

The question becomes: whether it's a smoking gun, a crisis like an indictment, or just the constant rat-a-tat whiffs of scandal reaching a breaking point, at some juncture this stops becoming investigatory and action will have to be taken. You will know we have reached this juncture by the following sign: it is the point when not taking action will, undeniably, be seen as action in itself.

But what can that action be? There are only four possibilities for Donald Trump in our politics:

1. We conclude that, somehow, this was all a massive misunderstanding, Trump retains office, and the investigations stop. You might guess that I find this rather unlikely. More likely, investigations and new scandals plague Trump through 2018—and on to 2020 if Democrats do not capture both houses of Congress—and nothing gets done in Washington, on Trump or on anything else.

2. Trump resigns. This may seem unlikely for a man who not only seems incapable of shame, but has, throughout his career, used utter shamelessness as the sharpest tool in his toolbox. But I think it's possible—particularly if the Mueller investigation becomes a large time sink for Trump personally—that at some point he'll decide being president just isn't as fun as it he imagined it would be; and—having stuffed the Trump Organization's coffers with Secret Service, lobbyist, and foreign diplomatic cash—he'll retire to a life where he can tweet in peace.

3. Trump is impeached by the House and convicted by the Senate. To me, this seems simultaneously inevitable and unthinkable. Inevitable, because just thirty Republicans—plus all the Democrats—make a majority in the House at this writing. Surely if the revelations are bad enough, one out of eight House Republicans will put country before party, right?
The problem is that, under normal House rules, regardless of overall support, articles of impeachment can only be passed if both Speaker Paul Ryan and a majority of the House Republicans allow it. That means the threshold number of House Republicans is not just 30—it's 120, half plus one of the Republican Conference. And that one-hundred twenty must include Ryan. Appropriating a Chris Hayes quote on Marco Rubio: "If your life depends on Paul Ryan having a spine, you're already dead." (The original quote works for the Senate trial.)
There are theoretical ways to get articles of impeachment passed without following normal order: the "privileged motion", the "discharge petition"—but these have extremely difficult hurdles to surmount, and very little prevents an obstinate Paul Ryan from turning any such attempt by a minority-Republican coalition majority into an epic game of Calvinball, with Ryan changing the rules as it suits him to ensure he can't lose.
Even assuming somehow Ryan grows a spine and House Republicans turn against Trump en masse, or that a Democrat-led coalition somehow manages to impeach the president against Ryan's wishes, the Senate trial is an even higher hurdle to jump, and its rules can't be finagled—they're set forth in the Constitution.
For Trump to be removed from office by the Senate, two-thirds must vote guilty on at least one article of impeachment. That means 67 senators, and if we assume the support of all 48 senators in the Democratic Caucus¹, a guilty verdict still requires an additional 19 Republicans. Consider: there are only eight to twelve "moderate Republicans", depending on how you define the term. And even the Republican senators who are supposedly most critical of Donald Trump, such as Sens. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina or John McCain of Arizona, give him cover as often as they criticize—and their harshest criticism thus far appears to be "[his] actions are very concerning"!
Being the most complex outcome, I've spent several paragraphs explaining it, but to summate, I repeat what I started with: impeachment seems as practically impossible as it seems inevitable.

4. And finally, the reason I'm fixated on this video: the fourth section of the Twenty-Fifth Amendment is exercised for the first time in history, when the Vice President and a majority of the Cabinet transmits a letter to Congress declaring Trump unable to continue in office, and Mike Pence becomes Acting President.
Let me note here that the process is as arcane as that for impeachment, as even if the Cabinet transmits such a letter, the president can then object with another letter (to which Pence and the Cabinet must counter with its own letter of objection), and then Congress must make a determination by a two-thirds vote of both houses. (Crucially, Pence remains Acting President while this debate occurs.)
This is where my own (perhaps unwarranted) conjecture comes into play: I believe that, were Pence and the Cabinet to defect against Trump, this would provide sufficient political ground cover the Republican representatives and senators need for a two-thirds vote to be easily found.
I admit, I very well may be wrong in this conjecture. But I've seen many signs, from the Republican primary campaign till today, that the Republican congressional support for Trump is broad but brittle; it could crack given the right circumstances, and once it cracks, the number of defections could quite suddenly be controlling. I think just such a crack-up is especially likely if the vice president and cabinet were to initiate it—particularly since the result of a vote to remove Trump from office would be a conservative Republican Acting President in Mike Pence.

So those are the four outcomes. I don't know how to handicap them other than to say this:
a) Prolonged stasis seems quite possible.
b) The likelihood of Trump's resignation seems impossible to estimate.
c) Impeachment through regular order is exceedingly unlikely until we see action from Bob Mueller.

And d), Cabinet removal via Amendment XXV §4? Well, that's the thing. The sycophancy on display in this video was... well, "bat-shit crazy" is the description that comes most immediately to mind. But the word crazy is more operative here than usual.

If these bizarre displays of fealty were genuine, then I think you can safely forget the 25th Amendment solution. But were they? They were so strange, so reminiscent of the public laudations of tinpot dictators, and so awkward that I think it's obvious they weren't genuine. Certainly, they were not "genuine" in the sense of being spontaneous and heartfelt. They were obviously previously coordinated, scripted statements.

But were they "genuine" in accurately reflecting the cabinet executives' personal loyalty and admiration for Donald Trump? That's something we don't know, not for sure.

Many have noted this scene's resemblance to the opening of King Lear or to a Stalinist or North Korean party conference. I'm not an expert in body language or tone of voice, but to me, many of these professions of admiration seemed crazed —like the sort of hysterical plaudits one might offer to a mad king.

That's my glimmer of hope—a slim one, to be sure, but it's there: that this Cabinet is comprised of individuals largely convinced the president is mad. I can totally imagine a majority of them signing on to a letter stating as much.

If my read is correct here, and so is my conjecture about the likely Congressional response to a 25th Amendment transmission, then everything rests on Mike Pence. If he, too, believes he works for a mad king, then he could call the Cabinet together and invoke Section 4.

The only question left: could any new revelation make that happen? Does Mike Pence have a backbone and a conscience?


¹ Including Sens. Angus King of Maine and Bernie Sanders of Vermont, the two independents who caucus with the Democrats.
___

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2017-06-12 19:34:20 (2 comments; 22 reshares; 21 +1s; )Open 

Don't be fooled that Obamacare repeal won't affect you, just because you're covered by employer-based insurance. It will, and it's going to hurt.

I know most of us on the left were horrified by the cruelty of the House's AHCA bill towards poor and older people and those on the individual market with preexisting conditions.

But I imagine there's a large group of folks who are apolitical or more conservative and, because their healthcare is covered by their or their spouse's or parent's employer, don't realize what the bill would do to limit their insurance. These changes are quite significant, and need to get more—excuse the pun—coverage.

At this moment, we don't know what the Senate bill will look like. But from what we're hearing from Senate leadership it seems that, if it's passed, it will probably be pushedthr... more »

Don't be fooled that Obamacare repeal won't affect you, just because you're covered by employer-based insurance. It will, and it's going to hurt.

I know most of us on the left were horrified by the cruelty of the House's AHCA bill towards poor and older people and those on the individual market with preexisting conditions.

But I imagine there's a large group of folks who are apolitical or more conservative and, because their healthcare is covered by their or their spouse's or parent's employer, don't realize what the bill would do to limit their insurance. These changes are quite significant, and need to get more—excuse the pun—coverage.

At this moment, we don't know what the Senate bill will look like. But from what we're hearing from Senate leadership it seems that, if it's passed, it will probably be pushed through the Senate and passed so quickly after submission that even full-time healthcare policy analysts won't be able to do a thorough review. (You can forget a CBO score of the final bill.) Senate leaders are already promising no committee hearings or amendments; they clearly intend to get 50 Republican promises of aye votes plus Mike Pence, and only then unveil the bill, after switching to nay has become near impossible.

This should scare all of us about what's actually in the bill, if they're that afraid of Democrats—and the public and even some Republicans—seeing it, but for now we have to assume it follows the basic contours of the House bill. (Leaks thus far suggest the major differences have to do with Medicaid funding and preexisting conditions. That doesn't necessarily mean there isn't strengthened protection for employer-based plans compared to the House version—since employer-based plans haven't gotten much discussion at any point in this process—but I find it highly unlikely.)

Let's make this concrete: the House bill would allow states to request waivers for Obamacare's key provisions. It would also allow employer plans to refuse to cover a new employee's preexisting condition for a period of one year unless they've been "continuously covered" by other plans (group- or individual-market) since the condition first developed. (If there's any truth to talk about the Senate bill's strengthening protections on preexisting conditions, it's here, but I wouldn't lay money on it either way.)

But here are some of the other things that waivers can do to employer-based plans:
• Eliminate coverage for classes of therapy by striking "essential health benefit" (EHB) categories insurers are required to cover (and cover with the same level of benefits) including mental illness, substance abuse treatment, prescription drugs, and physical and occupational therapy
• Allow maximum covered annual and lifetime appointments/treatments for these categories to return (they were quite common before Obamacare)
• Eliminate annual and lifetime out-of-pocket maximums
• Allow annual and lifetime benefit maximums to return

Note that these come in two pairs, each with one bit that reduces guaranteed coverage, and another bit that increases insurers' freedom to limit a patient's coverage over time.

To be specific: the first two mean that once again we'll return to the days when many employer plans had no or very limited prescription drug, substance abuse, or mental illness benefits, or allowed only 5 physical therapy visits per year. The second two mean that for people with chronic or catastrophic conditions, once more there will be no limit to their possible exposure. Bankruptcies for medical care and failure to get lifesaving non-acute treatment because of inability to pay will once again become a common occurrence — even for people with employer-based plans.

You may know I have an expensive chronic condition, and I'm covered by a good employer-based BCBS PPO plan. This year, I hit my annual out-of-pocket maximum (about $6K) in March. Since my in-network care is covered at 70%, that means my care cost at least 20K (or an average of about $7K a month)—not even counting my deductible. Many pre-Obamacare employer plans had annual limits of $100,000. Working that forward, if AHCA passes, even if my coinsurance and deductible stayed the same, I could expect to spend another $30,000 on my care over the course of the year, which would take me almost right up to $100,000 total benefits; if I passed it—as a single acute injury or surgery would certainly cause me to do—I'd then be on the hook for everything.

(In reality, maybe I wouldn't hit the $100,000—but only because some of my covered care such as physical therapy would no longer be covered or strictly curtailed.)

And the common $1 million lifetime maximum benefit would mean that after ten years of this, I'd be out of luck—no more health coverage for me.

I suspect a lot of you know people in the same boat.

And do not think that, because you live in New York or California, you're covered by state laws and your state won't be effected by waivers. The way the AHCA is written, if an insurer or employer has offices in multiple states, and any of those states grant waivers, the insurance can use those waivers for all their employees, even those in states without waivers or other more stringent laws.

(Massachusetts residents may be safe, only because even if Obamacare is repealed, Romneycare still offers a backstop. But it's been suggested that this particular loophole of the House version of the AHCA was an oversight and might be "fixed" in the Senate version.)

This is really bad, folks, and it isn't just about the individual market, the elderly, and the poor. It's about any of us who might have a preexisting condition someday—in other words, all of us.___

2017-06-11 15:24:34 (19 comments; 0 reshares; 2 +1s; )Open 

A quick math puzzle

Solved by +Colm Buckley in the comments, so if you want to give it a try, scroll up or otherwise obscure the comments before continuing.

What quantity changes its order of magnitude depending on how many significant digits you have— flipping back and forth between the two orders of magnitude as you add significant digits?

(It's actually not a single number, but an infinite set of them that are related by having the same relationship to the two orders of magnitude involved. But any one of them will do. And lest I send you on the wrong track with the latter part of that sentence, it doesn't flip OoMs for every digit added; I'm just saying at n significant digits it has OoM A, at m > n significant digits it has OoM B, and at p > m significant digits it has OoM A once again.)

(I'll give you two hints: 1) the number isb... more »

A quick math puzzle

Solved by +Colm Buckley in the comments, so if you want to give it a try, scroll up or otherwise obscure the comments before continuing.

What quantity changes its order of magnitude depending on how many significant digits you have— flipping back and forth between the two orders of magnitude as you add significant digits?

(It's actually not a single number, but an infinite set of them that are related by having the same relationship to the two orders of magnitude involved. But any one of them will do. And lest I send you on the wrong track with the latter part of that sentence, it doesn't flip OoMs for every digit added; I'm just saying at n significant digits it has OoM A, at m > n significant digits it has OoM B, and at p > m significant digits it has OoM A once again.)

(I'll give you two hints: 1) the number is base 10, so it's not some funny radix thing; and 2) finding the answer depends on using both the concepts of order of magnitude and of rounding in the rigorous rather than the "common" way.) ___

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2017-06-06 17:49:28 (5 comments; 0 reshares; 5 +1s; )Open 

Changing font of indicators?

I think I saw it at some point, but I can't find where to change the font of indicators (the "55 °F" and "6 Jun" below). I see where to change the colors, but not the font. Help? Thanks!

Changing font of indicators?

I think I saw it at some point, but I can't find where to change the font of indicators (the "55 °F" and "6 Jun" below). I see where to change the colors, but not the font. Help? Thanks!___

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2017-06-05 14:33:20 (2 comments; 0 reshares; 6 +1s; )Open 

But why did I get caught on the zip line?

Following up from +Nick Johnson's question in a comment to my post yesterday (https://plus.google.com/+TreyHarris/posts/QgBgKkyXt4K):

Full disclosure: I'm not a zip line expert, but this is what I recall. If you are a zip line expert, please do correct me if I go astray here.

The way a zip line works is there's a so-called "redirection point", which is the line's natural catenary inflection point—the place where, under tension, the person on the zip line hits the lowest point and highest speed before slowing as they travel upwards towards the landing. A zip line must be slack (or rather, under only low tension) for this reason—otherwise you'd continue to gain speed due to the acceleration of gravity for the entire travel time and come in dangerously to the landing.<... more »

But why did I get caught on the zip line?

Following up from +Nick Johnson's question in a comment to my post yesterday (https://plus.google.com/+TreyHarris/posts/QgBgKkyXt4K):

Full disclosure: I'm not a zip line expert, but this is what I recall. If you are a zip line expert, please do correct me if I go astray here.

The way a zip line works is there's a so-called "redirection point", which is the line's natural catenary inflection point—the place where, under tension, the person on the zip line hits the lowest point and highest speed before slowing as they travel upwards towards the landing. A zip line must be slack (or rather, under only low tension) for this reason—otherwise you'd continue to gain speed due to the acceleration of gravity for the entire travel time and come in dangerously to the landing.

(If you've ever been on a zip line for the first run of the day, an operator will go ahead of the group on each segment leading across the arrester rope. Unlike the steel-cable line, the arrester rope isn't left up overnight a) because it's expensive—more so than the steel cable line itself—and lasts longer if protected from the elements, and b) is supposed to be checked and tested at the end of each day to ensure it's still safe. Since the rope isn't yet up, they can't use the harness, so they will usually just ride the rope using a carabiner and heavy work gloves to arrest their progress with friction. It may look like upper-body strength is what's important here, but it's actually grip—they have to arrest themselves successfully so they make it up from the redirection point to the landing, without stopping short or flying into the landing at an unsafe speed. This lack of trolley or arrester technically makes their traversal not one of a "zip line" but a "flying fox"—familiar to any player of parkour-style video games like Uncharted.)

There are various methods for braking a zip line passenger—including springs, nets, and mats (called "impact braking"), bungees, and more, but these types of braking are generally considered scary for neophytes—the deceleration is high and the jerk¹ is quite sudden, and if a net or mat is used, the braking requires some practice and can be dangerous if the zip liner performs it incorrectly. So those are mostly used for the longer, higher, faster zip lines made for experienced users.

Some purpose-built lines are made so that the gravity after the inflection sag itself (sometimes along with glove friction) serves as the only brake, but that's even less forgiving for tourist use. Tourists aren't prepared to stop themselves, and their weights can go from very small children to very large adults.

So most zip lines in professional mass-market courses like this one use a "capture block", which is a pulley block controlled by the operator on the destination side (the one who in the video says "my fault, I'll explain it to you when you get here"). The capture block operator uses friction (in the form of gloves or a friction brake) to control the passenger's speed.

An emergency feature built into capture blocks is that, at the redirection point, the operator must be supplying enough friction on the rope to prevent a loose gravity-controlled locking mechanism, the arrester, from falling onto the rope (which it can only do on the upward slope of the line). If the operator isn't supplying enough friction, the arrester engages, locking the trolley onto the rope—which was what stopped me, almost instantaneously, just as I passed the redirection point.

So that's one, and probably the likeliest, possibility. The other possibility is a result of the pulley in the capture block being larger than the diameter of the rope—necessary, otherwise the rope couldn't move at all. Ideally, the pulley is exactly large enough with respect to the diameter of the rope that, whatever happens, it can't get caught between one side of the pulley and the axle. But most pulleys aren't built to such precision (or the rope used may have a slightly different diameter than what the pulley is specified for), so they can get caught if the rope jumps.

And the rope jumping can happen—again, at the cable's redirection point. Since the cable and the rope have slightly different catenaries, at the point of the cable's inflection, the rope can briefly go slack, and the sudden loss of tension can cause a whipping force to move down the line. When it reaches the pulley, the rope jumps off and can then get caught on the axle, again stopping me almost instantly.

I don't know which actually happened because, as you can see in the video, I interrupted her explanation, which only got as far as "the rope—" by asking if they had seen me catch my glasses in mid-air (you can just make out my snatch if you go frame by frame). I was very proud of that, especially since I had forgotten to pack a spare pair of eyeglasses with me on that trip!


¹ "Jerk" is the first derivative of acceleration, second derivative of velocity, or third derivative of the position vector over time. Unlike velocity—which we can't directly experience, but only infer from external cues like visually noting our change in position or feeling air rushing past us—the higher derivatives of acceleration, jerk, and "jounce" (the fourth derivative of position over time), we can directly perceive with our senses. Jerk and jounce—as the most immediate predictors of our future travel—are the cues that cause an unconscious and reflexive emotional reaction. "Ludicrous mode" in a Tesla is thrilling or scary because of the jerk, not the acceleration.

Acceleration we perceive relatively slowly, over periods on the order of a second. Jerk, on the other hand, we perceive on the order of hundreds of milliseconds, and jounce (which—intuitively but unfortunately for the nomenclature—is often described as a feeling of "jerkiness"—a "snatch", "tug", "pull", or "reeling in" of the same acceleration feels different due to their progressively lower jounces, not their jerks) we perceive on the order of 10–20 ms — which is the rate of our fastest reflexes.

We subconsciously use the combined sensory inputs of jounce, jerk and acceleration to build a dead-reckoning model predicting our future position, and that's why activities like bungie jumping or zip lines can be fun—they hook directly into neural pathways we have little to no control over.___

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2017-06-04 19:25:12 (1 comments; 3 reshares; 12 +1s; )Open 

Cabinet confirmation redux, 25th Amendment edition

Just one of the earliest "this is not normal" moments of the Trump (pre-) presidency was his perfectly astounding lineup of Cabinet picks. They violated the norms of a presidential cabinet in nearly every conceivable way:

• They were nearly to a person unqualified for the job.

• They had less prior governmental experience than any cabinet in modern times.

• Many (perhaps most) of the nominees were actively hostile to the missions of the departments they were selected to head.

• Even fewer nominees had prior executive experience than usual—always an important consideration given that almost every cabinet secretary—if their department was considered a separate private company—would be a CEO of one of the top 100 employers in the country, and in the Fortune 500 if youconsidered th... more »

Cabinet confirmation redux, 25th Amendment edition

Just one of the earliest "this is not normal" moments of the Trump (pre-) presidency was his perfectly astounding lineup of Cabinet picks. They violated the norms of a presidential cabinet in nearly every conceivable way:

• They were nearly to a person unqualified for the job.

• They had less prior governmental experience than any cabinet in modern times.

• Many (perhaps most) of the nominees were actively hostile to the missions of the departments they were selected to head.

• Even fewer nominees had prior executive experience than usual—always an important consideration given that almost every cabinet secretary—if their department was considered a separate private company—would be a CEO of one of the top 100 employers in the country, and in the Fortune 500 if you considered their budgets. (Note that the largest employer in the world, the Department of Defense, is headed by former general James Mattis, who, as commander of CENTCOM, did have experience commanding a very large subset of the DoD, but he's the exception.)

• The Cabinet has been accused of being a vehicle for administration tokenism for decades, but Trump's crusade against "political correctness" resulted in his nomination of the most white (only one secretary is black, one Latino, and one Asian American) and male (only two are women¹) cabinets since the 1960's.

• Several nominees' only reason for consideration (not even "qualification", just any reason for selection) was their being major donors to Trump's election campaign.

• Trump's cabinet has at least twice the number of ultra-wealthy (billionaires and hundred-millionaires) of any prior cabinet.

• Leaks came out from the beginning showing that the vetting process relied, to a much heavier extent than in prior administrations, on seeking what might be called pseudo-ideological purity: not purity in the normal ideological sense, but purity in never having shown Donald Trump public question or disrespect.

• Following from the prior point, it appears that the president (-elect) considered personal loyalty to him a major factor in his decision-making.

• We have evidence that several appear to have lied in their pre-confirmation security or financial paperwork, and several more gave what most charitably could be called "problematically dissembling" testimony in the confirmation hearings.

• Almost every member of the Cabinet has had one or more ethics waivers, some "retroactive"².

• Most of the nominees were singularly unprepared and unqualified for their jobs, and had Senate hearings that in prior administrations would have been considered disastrous for nominee and president alike.

• Prior administrations extended an olive branch of bipartisanship by choosing at least one cabinet executive from the opposing party. None in this cabinet are Democrats.

Despite this breathtakingly strange crop of nominees, every single one who received a committee vote was confirmed (though a few initial nominees did pull out before that point for various reasons, mostly ethics-related).

But this, too, showed a way in which this cabinet is not "normal": the number of no votes (almost entirely from Democrats) were several times higher than for any previous administration's cabinet.

At the time, this was cause for tut-tutting from both Republicans and self-anointed "centrists", arguing that the new president needed to be "given a chance" with the people he wanted to work for him as his lieutenants.

In retrospect, though, I think this Senate GOP and beltway pundit-class "go along to get along" caucus may be taken by historians to have been a catastrophe for the Republic.

Here's why: the Constitution's Twenty-Fifth Amendment, best known for setting up a codified line of succession for the presidency and making it possible for the President to hand off power to the Vice President temporarily when, for instance, the President must undergo surgery. This provision has been used multiple times since the amendment's ratification in 1967.

But it's the amendment's as-yet-uninvoked fourth and final section that is crucial here. Section 4 states that the Vice President and a majority of the cabinet may transmit a letter to the House and Senate declaring the president unable to discharge his duties—not just for physical incapacity, but for any reason the cabinet may so decide. Once they transmit the letter, the Vice President becomes Acting President immediately.

There's then a process for the President to object and for the cabinet to appeal to the Congress (a period, during which the VP continues to serve as Acting President).

But it now seems that no matter how explosive the revelations yet to come, we'll never get there, and that's my point. The President's nomination of such a motley crew, and the Senate Republicans' decision to go along with it, means we have a Cabinet comprised almost entirely of people who wouldn't have had the slightest chance of securing their jobs under any "normal" president.

This in turn means that Section 4 is effectively useless, as—to a much greater degree than in prior administrations—the cabinet's members are personally loyal to Donald Trump.

Following a hypothetical exercise of Section 4, would an (Acting) President Mike Pence keep them in their posts? Possibly. but few would have been picked by Pence had he been president-elect, and they know it.

This year's Senate confirmation process should serve as a stark lesson to future Senators: giving the president wide berth to nominate whomever to the cabinet he sees fit, and only stepping in to deny consent when a particular nominee has particularly egregious and idiosyncratic disqualification, puts the continuation of our republic in dire danger.

These confirmations could, in retrospect, be seen as a violation of Senators' oaths to the Constitution.

Even though Section 4 has never before been exercised, it's an important check on power, a way for the executive branch to remove a president who's behaving erratically and whose mental state may be questionable.

Confirming a cabinet filled with members who, clearly, have a tie to the president himself stronger than any tie to their department or to the Constitution was an abrogation by the Senate of their duty to uphold the Constitution.

It's far too late now, but—assuming we ever have another new president-elect—future Senates must seriously take their advice and consent role to include an implicit requirement that they confirm a cabinet whose members' loyalty to the person who nominated them does not outweigh their loyalty to the country.


¹ Four, if you include the Small Business Administrator Linda McMahon and UN Ambassador Nikki Haley, two Cabinet-level posts that are not part of the 25th Amendment's Section 4 "principle officers" provision.

² Which, incidentally, is not a thing; as several political ethics experts, legal scholars and former prosecutors have noted this past week, a "retroactive ethics waiver" is either an oxymoron, or a pardon by another name.
___

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2017-06-04 18:00:23 (2 comments; 0 reshares; 11 +1s; )Open 

Five years ago, today

I got stuck on a zip-line in Skagway, Alaska. I love that my reaction was to apologize.

This is my (now-) husband's recording from the other side. I accidentally left my own camera at my hip recording the whole time; I really should edit together the two at some point because a) as vertiginous as the hip-take was, it's still amusing, and b) I'm curious whether it'll give YouTube's stabilization algorithm an aneurysm or merely dyspepsia. It might inference my butt as the level horizon, and that would make for some interesting results I think....

Five years ago, today

I got stuck on a zip-line in Skagway, Alaska. I love that my reaction was to apologize.

This is my (now-) husband's recording from the other side. I accidentally left my own camera at my hip recording the whole time; I really should edit together the two at some point because a) as vertiginous as the hip-take was, it's still amusing, and b) I'm curious whether it'll give YouTube's stabilization algorithm an aneurysm or merely dyspepsia. It might inference my butt as the level horizon, and that would make for some interesting results I think....___

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2017-05-31 14:31:08 (0 comments; 0 reshares; 8 +1s; )Open 

An xkcd that only an electoral geek can love?

Note: if I could have run a poll in this post and linked the comic, of course I would have. Alas...

As a voting system nerd, this xkcd is the sort of inside humor that is so funny—if you get it. When I founded LOPSA (www.lopsa.org) and helped write our bylaws, I got us to adopt my preferred multi-winner system for board elections, the single transferable vote (with Meek's secondary-preference algorithm; I probably would have gone with Warren's method if there were an available implementation at the time, but they're close enough).

To clue you in (at least until explainxkcd.com does the job more fully): Arrow's Impossibility Theorem states that when you have more than two candidates for an office (or, it's been generalized, more than n + 1 candidates for an election with n winners), therei... more »

An xkcd that only an electoral geek can love?

Note: if I could have run a poll in this post and linked the comic, of course I would have. Alas...

As a voting system nerd, this xkcd is the sort of inside humor that is so funny—if you get it. When I founded LOPSA (www.lopsa.org) and helped write our bylaws, I got us to adopt my preferred multi-winner system for board elections, the single transferable vote (with Meek's secondary-preference algorithm; I probably would have gone with Warren's method if there were an available implementation at the time, but they're close enough).

To clue you in (at least until explainxkcd.com does the job more fully): Arrow's Impossibility Theorem states that when you have more than two candidates for an office (or, it's been generalized, more than n + 1 candidates for an election with n winners), there is no possible voting system using a "once-to-the-ballot" system of selecting, ranking, or rating candidates, that is simultaneously and perfectly "fair" by three criteria we intuitively grasp to be necessary for fairness:

1. If every voter prefers candidate A to candidate B, then A will win, regardless of their opinions of B as compared to other candidates. In other words, if everyone likes Alice the best, but Alice's voters' second choices are almost always Ben, while Ben's voters' second choices are all over the map, systems that over-prioritize "consensus" may choose Ben as the winner because he's "more acceptable compared to other candidates" than Alice is—even though the voters unanimously prefer Alice over Ben. (This is the criterion that traditional "first past the post" systems of picking the top n vote-getters violate, a.k.a. the "spoiler effect".)

2. If two elections are run where every voter's preference between candidate A and B are unchanged, but they redistribute their preferences between the same set of third° parties, the results with respect to whether A, B, both, or neither win in the election should not change either.

3. There is no "dictator"; no single voter can decide for the group.

(Note that there's an escape hatch here; if an election can be invalidated by ordinary voting choices, for instance, if, in a single-winner race, a 50% vote is required or the election must be run again, then the dictator rule no longer applies and it's possible to design a fair system.)

The comic is funny because Arrow's theorem only applies when the voter must enter the voting booth, mark an anonymous ballot, and then drop the ballot into a box; if there's feedback or opportunity to change one's vote after having first cast it, then the theorem no longer applies as you aren't describing "voting" but rather "consensus-building" or "debate".


° "Third" technically meaning "third, fourth, fifth, or more". Just, beyond A and B.
___

2017-05-29 19:52:34 (8 comments; 1 reshares; 17 +1s; )Open 

Google Assistant has been stripped of some really nice features to promote Google Express?!?

I really liked the Google Assistant integration with Google Keep—you could add items to lists by voice, and there was full support for geofenced reminders and Android Wear. Keep integration also meant my husband and I could share lists and edit them live—so while one of us was at the store, the other could add a last-minute item without having to text, chat or call.

For various reasons—travel and injury and high levels of stress at work—for the past couple of months my husband and I haven't been using this feature. This week, I tried to use it again to prepare for post-op sustenance after my husband's upcoming operation—and discovered that Google appears to have lobotomized a great integrated feature, in favor of a (very) poor substitute in order to advertise GoogleExpress.<... more »

Google Assistant has been stripped of some really nice features to promote Google Express?!?

I really liked the Google Assistant integration with Google Keep—you could add items to lists by voice, and there was full support for geofenced reminders and Android Wear. Keep integration also meant my husband and I could share lists and edit them live—so while one of us was at the store, the other could add a last-minute item without having to text, chat or call.

For various reasons—travel and injury and high levels of stress at work—for the past couple of months my husband and I haven't been using this feature. This week, I tried to use it again to prepare for post-op sustenance after my husband's upcoming operation—and discovered that Google appears to have lobotomized a great integrated feature, in favor of a (very) poor substitute in order to advertise Google Express.

Now, multiple lists, real-time sharing, geofenced reminders, labels and color codes—all gone, replaced with what amounts to a wishlist in Google Express. You can share a list, but it isn't real-time. Attaching voice notes and pictures is gone. Back-and-forth with Docs (for instance, to use a recipe ingredient list in a Doc as the skeleton of a shopping list), gone. Android Wear integration, gone.

C'mon guys—you were supposed to have learned from history, like mandatory G+ and Hangouts feature switchovers, that you put the lie to the entire concept of "change aversion" when you replace a well-liked service with one whose only advantages are on Google's side. This is annoying enough when those advantages are for platform-enabling reasons, but at least in those cases users can take solace in knowing they've been moved to a new system that will expand in functionality as it matures, eventually becoming better than the thing they lost.

But when you force a switch to a less full-featured service for reasons that transparently seem to be pure marketing, that's just very un-Googly user hostility.

And to think more selfishly, when you do this, you undermine everyone inside the company who argues—often with good reason—that a certain level of complaint and even vitriol needs to be assumed and discounted because of every user's natural "change aversion". That argument only holds water when you usually make changes that, on balance, are better for the user. By releasing feature-hobbled stuff like this just to get eyeballs on another Google service and forcing users onto it, you empower those who put up roadblocks to real innovation with their sole justification being "change is bad, the users won't like it".

This is really disappointing.

(Yes, I know that Google Keep itself isn't gone, and if I'm willing to give up Google Assistant integration, I still have all the same non-Assistant-related features. But that's still effectively removing all the Assistant-related features in favor of a marketing campaign.)___

2017-05-27 15:35:39 (1 comments; 7 reshares; 30 +1s; )Open 

Last night's Jared Kushner revelations may clear up two outstanding questions.

Specifically, questions about why Trump and/or White House staff were so worked up about things that seemed otherwise like fairly irrelevant detritus:

1. The "tapping" of Trump Tower. (Just to repeat for the record: there's absolutely no evidence of this, and we still don't know the source for Trump's tweet to that effect.) Observers rightly wondered why the hell Trump was so worked up about this, despite there being zero corroboration of it ever happening. And—even more bewildering—his White House went along for the ride, which simply seemed insane. Your boss can order you to do any number of things, but ordering you to publicly seem outraged about something you're actually not bothered about because you don't believe it happened doesn't really workunl... more »

Last night's Jared Kushner revelations may clear up two outstanding questions.

Specifically, questions about why Trump and/or White House staff were so worked up about things that seemed otherwise like fairly irrelevant detritus:

1. The "tapping" of Trump Tower. (Just to repeat for the record: there's absolutely no evidence of this, and we still don't know the source for Trump's tweet to that effect.) Observers rightly wondered why the hell Trump was so worked up about this, despite there being zero corroboration of it ever happening. And—even more bewildering—his White House went along for the ride, which simply seemed insane. Your boss can order you to do any number of things, but ordering you to publicly seem outraged about something you're actually not bothered about because you don't believe it happened doesn't really work unless you're an actor.

But: Jared and Michael Flynn secretly whisked Sergey Kislyak into Trump Tower via a garage entrance—at a time when there were cameras in the tower lobby 24/7 showing every personage coming to kiss the president-elect's ring. If this meeting weren't for the perfectly innocent purpose the Trump WH later claimed, but rather to establish a secret channel between the Trump camp and the Kremlin, then wouldn't a report, however flimsy, of counterintelligence surveillance be threatening? This would be probative of Trump's knowledge that the meeting happened (at least by the time of the tweet if not at the time of the meeting), and that its purposes were not the innocent ones claimed.

2. The Tass journalist in the Oval Office. The White House didn't seem terribly worked up about most of the many, many reasons the Lavrov meeting in the Oval caused concerns. But one they fairly obsessed with: the fact that the only photography we have from the meeting was taken by a Russian the White House says was described to them as "Lavrov's personal photographer", but later turned out to be a journalist for Tass, the Russian state news agency. By all reports, the communications and political offices were white-hot with rage over this, volunteering their sense of "betrayal" (at Russia!) to any reporter who would listen.

That there was a photographer who released the photos to news media at all could have irked them, especially when American journalists were barred from the same meeting. The optics are poor, especially given the jovial expressions on the part of Trump, Lavrov — and Kislyak.

—What? Did I forget to mention Kislyak was there? We wouldn't have known this, either, if it weren't for the Tass journalist, since the White House did not mention it; so, another reason for the White House to be annoyed. But, here's the doozy: Trump officially had never met Kislyak before the Oval Office meeting. If Trump gave any sign in the Tass journalist's presence that it was not their first meeting, and that got out, there's only one time that Kislyak could have met Trump since the start of the campaign without our knowledge: the day that Jared is alleged to have asked Kislyak for that secret channel to the Kremlin.

I'm wracking my brain; is there any other explanation for these two instances of "hair on fire" at the WH, except for "Trump is crazy and the White House in general just randomly explodes over overblown hysterias?"

And don't be so quick to reply, "but he is crazy and they do randomly explode". If you don't take the word "randomly" there as metaphorical but instead take it as literal—they got fired up over these two, and not any number of other seemingly more relevant and important snafus, just by random chance—it starts to seem less likely to me.

Proof positive? No. But the dots are connecting now like magnets; we're starting to get snaps! as a bunch suddenly connect at once.

These two cases have both really nagged at me since they came up— why get so worked up? Last night's bombshells about Jared, should they prove true, finally give us a filter through which these are explained — or, at the very least, are explainable — for the first time.___

2017-05-25 21:35:37 (0 comments; 0 reshares; 17 +1s; )Open 

Uh... broken glasses ain't peanuts for most of us.

Okay, I know I'm already enabling by even entertaining the argument, but I just wanted to note that all the Trumpista "Ben Jacobs was a whiner for calling the cops" Gianforte apologizers aren't even comically and hyperbolically spinning, they're just plain lying.

How do I know? Because if knuckle-dragger caricature-of-masculinity Republicans get worked up about anything, it's about threats to property. "Stand your ground"; opposition to eminent domain; the only possible principled, rather than pragmatic, argument against environmental regulations; strange-bedfellows concern about civil asset forfeiture; willingness to entertain all sorts of civil liberties violations in the name of fighting terrorism except for banking disclosure — the evidence is manifest.

With me so far?W... more »

Uh... broken glasses ain't peanuts for most of us.

Okay, I know I'm already enabling by even entertaining the argument, but I just wanted to note that all the Trumpista "Ben Jacobs was a whiner for calling the cops" Gianforte apologizers aren't even comically and hyperbolically spinning, they're just plain lying.

How do I know? Because if knuckle-dragger caricature-of-masculinity Republicans get worked up about anything, it's about threats to property. "Stand your ground"; opposition to eminent domain; the only possible principled, rather than pragmatic, argument against environmental regulations; strange-bedfellows concern about civil asset forfeiture; willingness to entertain all sorts of civil liberties violations in the name of fighting terrorism except for banking disclosure — the evidence is manifest.

With me so far? Well, for anybody of less-than-wealthy means who must wear prescription eyewear, replacing a broken pair of glasses is no small potatoes. Most insurance will cover a pair of lenses every year, but frames only every two or three years. But they'll waive the waiting period with a police report.

You can bet every single one of those "wah wah call the hall monitors because the bully hit you" Republicans would call the police the instant they saw their car scratched. Not because they're whiners—of course not, not those prime cuts of walking human beef! You know, just because filing the insurance claim requires a police report.

I'm not going to incite violence against anyone, but just as a thought experiment, I'd really like to see what happened if a protester walked up to one of the people who have made these comments today, and just snatched their glasses and stomped on them. No violence on their person required. Wanna take bets on whether they'd be "babies" and call the police?

Sorry... I want to be totally fair. The real men among them may think the right thing to do in that situation is to pin the assailant down, pull out their wallet, and retrieve whatever money is in it, and only if that isn't enough to pay for replacements, then call the police. To be totally fair. I'm sure if Ben Jacobs had done that to Gianforte, they'd be totally behind Jacobs because he wasn't a whiner who went to the police.___

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2017-05-17 01:28:19 (2 comments; 1 reshares; 16 +1s; )Open 

Maybe totally ignoring the biggest bombshell this year wasn't the greatest move by Fox?

I usually don't pay any attention to stories about cable news, but this one I relay because it is in equal parts amusing and (perhaps) encouraging:

Last night, amid the bombshell WaPo reporting of the Lavrov/Kislyak disclosure, CNN and MSNBC went wall-to-wall with limited commercial breaks. Fox News and Fox Business both were business as usual, reporting on "Dems, liberal media hysteria" and other irrelevancies, including (I'm not joking) a segment in which Tucker Carlson argued with a high school student about Venezuela.

Now we can report that this strategy of "nothing to see here" seems to have backfired: last night Fox had one of its lowest ratings in recent memory, with CNN and MSNBC each garnering a higher audience than either Fox network.... more »

Maybe totally ignoring the biggest bombshell this year wasn't the greatest move by Fox?

I usually don't pay any attention to stories about cable news, but this one I relay because it is in equal parts amusing and (perhaps) encouraging:

Last night, amid the bombshell WaPo reporting of the Lavrov/Kislyak disclosure, CNN and MSNBC went wall-to-wall with limited commercial breaks. Fox News and Fox Business both were business as usual, reporting on "Dems, liberal media hysteria" and other irrelevancies, including (I'm not joking) a segment in which Tucker Carlson argued with a high school student about Venezuela.

Now we can report that this strategy of "nothing to see here" seems to have backfired: last night Fox had one of its lowest ratings in recent memory, with CNN and MSNBC each garnering a higher audience than either Fox network.

So I notice with some amusement that tonight, CNN and MSNBC are pressing their advantage, both taking limited commercial breaks (in MSNBC's case, going over three hours without a commercial interruption). Fox seems to be a bit more on-topic tonight than last night, but that isn't a high bar; last night, you'd have thought they were being broadcast from an parallel universe. (Granted, Fox always seems that way—but even more so last night than usual.)___

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2017-05-16 19:00:28 (8 comments; 1 reshares; 17 +1s; )Open 

"Absolute" powers be damned: context is everything.

Of course the president does have "the absolute right" to declassify whatever material he sees fit. This is indisputable, and Republicans pushing this point are erecting a straw-man.

In considering the appropriateness of what Trump has done, one mustn't forget there's not only the act itself, but also the context within which the act took place. I have "the right" to give a police officer a $100 bill. Only the circumstances of my doing so change that act from obligatory, to allowable, to inadvisable, to patently illegal.

This contextuality is more immediately salient in the case of Comey's firing—the circumstances could transform that act, unquestionably within the President's legal authority, from a merely inadvisable one to a case of obstruction of justice.
more »

"Absolute" powers be damned: context is everything.

Of course the president does have "the absolute right" to declassify whatever material he sees fit. This is indisputable, and Republicans pushing this point are erecting a straw-man.

In considering the appropriateness of what Trump has done, one mustn't forget there's not only the act itself, but also the context within which the act took place. I have "the right" to give a police officer a $100 bill. Only the circumstances of my doing so change that act from obligatory, to allowable, to inadvisable, to patently illegal.

This contextuality is more immediately salient in the case of Comey's firing—the circumstances could transform that act, unquestionably within the President's legal authority, from a merely inadvisable one to a case of obstruction of justice.

Similarly, asking for personal loyalty from an official during dinner is the President's right (though if he felt that loyalty oath should be superior to Comey's oath of office, he'd be violating his own oath of office), but in context, it would change from "merely" being ignorant, inadvisable and disrespectful to becoming obstruction of justice, workplace harassment, illegal retaliation, and suborning perjury.

In the Lavrov/Kislyak meeting last week, the context matters as well, though it's more subtle and subject to a number of questions and implicatures:
1. Was Trump proffering this codeword material to the Russian Federation with premeditated intent, or did he blurt it out?
2. Was his intent one of "humanitarian sharing" as he claimed in this morning's tweet, or was it, as some anonymous witnesses have alleged, more of a self-aggrandizing boast?
3. Was the Russian state media Tass journalist—who was allowed into the Oval Office during the meeting when American journalists were barred—present when Trump exposed these secrets?
4. If #3 is so, was Trump aware? (If the answer is no, it would explain why the White House seemed inordinately angry last week about the supposed misrepresentation of this journalist as being Lavrov's personal photographer.)
5. Did Trump know that the source of this intelligence was Israeli in origin, and thus subject to an intelligence-sharing agreement that would not have authorized Trump to make such a disclosure? Or was it like Lincoln being Republican or health care policy being hard or Canada being our #2 trading partner—something Trump just heard divorced of context and that, when he realized he'd learned something, adopted it as something to brag about knowing as if it were some dazzling display of erudition?

The context makes a huge difference in exactly how awful this definitely-awful disclosure was.

The overarching issue here, though, is that there is no formal procedure for a response to the president routinely acting (quasi-)illegally. By way of illustration, let's forget "high crimes and misdemeanors" and consider the most banal of misdemeanors.

Suppose if, during one of those Christmastime shopping excursions where the Secret Service clears out some shops so the president can acquire gifts without rubbing shoulders with un-vetted members of the public, the president shoplifted, and was caught doing so—what then?

The Secret Service would not allow DC police to handcuff their protectee, the POTUS. No DC bench judge could order him to an arraignment. The president can pardon himself for any crime, even before charges have been preferred. —So would there be any point whatsoever in even going through the motions?

The only recourse our system provides for unlawfulness by the president is impeachment, which is a political, not judicial, process. It has the form of judicial proceedings, with the House acting as grand jury and prosecutor, the Senate as trial court and jury. But form is all that is; we mustn't forget, impeachment is a political process.

Short of impeachment, the legislative branch has very few tools in its arsenal, including censure and investigatory and oversight powers, to check presidential unlawfullness. Yet right now, we have a legislative branch of government whose leadership sees itself, not as a check on the executive, but as a backstop. (So far, it hasn't become the president's "rubber stamp", but give it time.)

We have a system where a reliance on norms, on a good-faith adherence to the notion of "government of laws, not of men", and on our officials putting loyalty to country before party is utterly fundamental—but this reliance went totally unnoticed until we suddenly couldn't rely on those "constants" anymore.

This is why there are only three political options left to stop this madness:
1. Get Trump—somehow!—to resign.
2. Get Republican federal officials—either in Congress or in the Cabinet (via the 25th Amendment)—to defect and take action to remove or suspend him from office.
3. Somehow keep it together until January 2019, and in November 2018, flip the House (and, if possible, the Senate) so that articles of impeachment can be referred.

I say—with no trace of hyperbole, and endless foreboding and regret—that if none of those three things happen, I now honestly worry that there will be no free and fair election for President of the United States in 2020.

Context matters.___

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2017-05-16 17:28:09 (1 comments; 0 reshares; 8 +1s; )Open 

All of this has happened before, and will happen again.

This is a depressing thread from Time's Ryan Teague Beckwith (and I suggest you go read it now and come back here; it's short). It certainly rings true thus far, even to before the election—at least as far back as the comments on Judge Curiel, and more likely to his anti-POW McCain blather.

What I think we have to take hope in is that there is an accumulative process of defection with each cycle: Trump loses some supporters with each iteration, and some of those are people whose opinions carry weight with like-minded individuals, and with the next iteration this happens again, carrying the people on the precipice last time, some of whom are themselves opinion-makers. Eventually, you reach a majority (of his party, of politically-active citizens, of the country) and—one hopes—something gives way.

Butthere... more »

All of this has happened before, and will happen again.

This is a depressing thread from Time's Ryan Teague Beckwith (and I suggest you go read it now and come back here; it's short). It certainly rings true thus far, even to before the election—at least as far back as the comments on Judge Curiel, and more likely to his anti-POW McCain blather.

What I think we have to take hope in is that there is an accumulative process of defection with each cycle: Trump loses some supporters with each iteration, and some of those are people whose opinions carry weight with like-minded individuals, and with the next iteration this happens again, carrying the people on the precipice last time, some of whom are themselves opinion-makers. Eventually, you reach a majority (of his party, of politically-active citizens, of the country) and—one hopes—something gives way.

But there are problems with this model. First, if this chipping away is how it's working, this is the slowest type of polynomial growth rate short of linear expansion. We know if this continues there will be an inflection, but for all we know that hypothetical inflection point is irrelevant to the real world, because it would happen only if Trump repeated this cycle for the next 100 years.

And that leads to the second problem: as far as I can tell, a belief in the most glacial rate of increase in dissent is entirely justified. I just did a quick survey of major unelected conservative figures, and I can't find any since the election who have entirely switched sides from supporting Trump to saying he must resign or be impeached. David Frum saying Trump must resign is news, sure, but he was never pro-Trump in the first place.

And we have cases like Jason Chaffetz to show that even explicit public statements of defection can be taken back before the next iteration happens—which means, the process may not be accumulative at all.

But here's what I think: this pattern will continue, seemingly indicating that nothing will ever change, until suddenly, with whiplash speed, it does. This, too, has been true, on longer timescales, of the downfall of every autocratic regime—it's the reason every long-lived autocratic regime has been broken (when it isn't deposed by another power in war) by something we call "revolution". On shorter time scales, we call it "seismic shock" or "paroxysm" or "dissolution" or "revolt" or "loss of confidence" or "the straw that broke the camel's back" depending on the time scale and the atmospherics.

Whether this perhaps-inevitable shock will come sooner or later, I don't know. A Democratic takeover of one or both houses of Congress would accelerate it if the natural inflection point now is beyond 2018.

The point for the resistance to remember is that we have to maintain—and whenever impossible, increase—the pressure. Letting the pressure release between spasms is how browbeaten dogs like Chaffetz meekly crawl back into the fold.___

2017-05-16 03:31:07 (5 comments; 5 reshares; 20 +1s; )Open 

And another moment to remember your Hannah Arendt.

Note that the following statements:

• "The news of this leak is fake",
• "The administration requested The Washington Post withhold details of the leak because of the harm that could result from their public disclosure",
• "The President can implicitly declassify anything he chooses, simply by uttering it to someone not cleared", and
• "Whoever leaked this must be found and punished"

are intrinsically contradictory in a number of ways. Yet these statements are all being used tonight by the administration. Does this reflect yet another of the regime's ineptitudes—crossing over into total incompetence—in its communications office? Perhaps.

But do not allow yourself to take even minor comfort from this. You need look no further than howBreitbart a... more »

And another moment to remember your Hannah Arendt.

Note that the following statements:

• "The news of this leak is fake",
• "The administration requested The Washington Post withhold details of the leak because of the harm that could result from their public disclosure",
• "The President can implicitly declassify anything he chooses, simply by uttering it to someone not cleared", and
• "Whoever leaked this must be found and punished"

are intrinsically contradictory in a number of ways. Yet these statements are all being used tonight by the administration. Does this reflect yet another of the regime's ineptitudes—crossing over into total incompetence—in its communications office? Perhaps.

But do not allow yourself to take even minor comfort from this. You need look no further than how Breitbart and Fox News are "covering" the story tonight to run headlong into examples of what Hannah Arendt wrote in The Origins of Totalitarianism:

One of the greatest advantages of the totalitarian elites of the twenties and thirties was to turn any statement of fact into a question of motive.

The contradictions are not funny, and they aren't even damning—except in the arena of rational argument, an arena in which the regime and its collaborators aren't even playing.

The latest polls show that most Trump supporters not only approve of the firing of former FBI Director Comey, but believe the reason for the firing was Comey's handling of the Clinton email investigation—even though Trump himself has since disavowed that rationale. And this cohort, combined with the 1/3 of independents and small fraction of Democrats who also approved of the firing, are enough to make a plurality in support of Comey's firing.

This is the "new" game, friends. "New" to us as Americans. But not really new, not at all. Remember your Hannah Arendt. Rational discourse is a field from which our opponents have decamped, and they've taken a frighteningly large segment of the American population with them. Arguing rationally with them is becoming more and more pointless as each day passes.___

2017-05-15 22:37:42 (2 comments; 1 reshares; 26 +1s; )Open 

The "tapes" tweet: the NaN of politics.

At this point, very little that comes out of Donald Trump or his lackeys' mouths can astound me. But at today's White House press briefing, Shawn Speicer° repeatedly refused to answer questions about the "tapes" [sic] by saying "the President has made his position clear"—via his single tweet Friday about the matter. (Perhaps along with his statement "I can't discuss it" when asked about it on Friday afternoon by Fox News' Judge Jeanine.)

Remarkably, this blanket "I refer you to the answer I gave some moments ago" applied not just to re-enunciations of questions asked at last Friday's briefing, but also to the questions:

• "Is his position clear?"
• "But, how has the President made his position clear? It isn't clear to me, so canyou ju... more »

The "tapes" tweet: the NaN of politics.

At this point, very little that comes out of Donald Trump or his lackeys' mouths can astound me. But at today's White House press briefing, Shawn Speicer° repeatedly refused to answer questions about the "tapes" [sic] by saying "the President has made his position clear"—via his single tweet Friday about the matter. (Perhaps along with his statement "I can't discuss it" when asked about it on Friday afternoon by Fox News' Judge Jeanine.)

Remarkably, this blanket "I refer you to the answer I gave some moments ago" applied not just to re-enunciations of questions asked at last Friday's briefing, but also to the questions:

• "Is his position clear?"
• "But, how has the President made his position clear? It isn't clear to me, so can you just explain where the clarity is?"
• "What did the quotation marks in the tweet mean?"
• and, surely my favorite: "what is the President's response to the official requests from Congress for access to any tapes, should they exist?"

So, let's recap: according to Spicey, Trump's single tweet,
James Comey better hope that there are no "tapes" of our conversations before he starts leaking to the press!
posted at 8:30 Friday morning, not only answers every question raised by the tweet (it literally speaks for itself, apparently!), it answers every question arising from fallout deriving from the tweet, too, including questions that couldn't have been contemplated by Trump on Friday morning because they were about events that hadn't yet transpired.

What the hell is this?

In arithmetical computer programming, if you perform an illegal or incalculable operation, like dividing zero by zero or treating an imaginary number as if it were real, in many programming systems the result then generated is a notional "not a number" value (usually transcribed as "NaN"), whose most salient feature is that it cannot be used with any other number in any future calculation without the answer of that calculation becoming NaN, too. 1 + NaN? NaN. 0 × NaN? NaN. NaN - NaN? NaN. In other words, NaN taints every calculation it touches.

So, again I ask: what the hell is this? Is Friday's tweet the NaN of politics, tainting everything it touches?


° That's his "alternative name", as far as I'm concerned, until he disavows the alternative facts.
___

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2017-05-15 17:15:09 (0 comments; 0 reshares; 26 +1s; )Open 

These are the moments when Google Assistant really feels like talking to "Majel", the Star Trek computer.

These are the moments when Google Assistant really feels like talking to "Majel", the Star Trek computer.___

2017-05-11 22:51:50 (4 comments; 0 reshares; 3 +1s; )Open 

Am I weird? #48: Edamame

In my continuing series of doing everyday things, stopping, and thinking, "do I do this weird?", I bring up the new exhibit: how I eat edamame.

Sure, I've seen other people do it, and I could squeeze the pod, letting the seeds fall into my hand and just munch on them. And I do that at restaurants or when I'm eating quickly.

But if I'm sitting reading or watching TV and eating them as a snack, here's how I do it: I unzip the pod and let the seeds rain out into a bowl and toss the pod. Then I squeeze the seed to release it from its seed coat. I pinch off the "axis" (the epicotyl, I believe) holding the two cotyledons (halves) of the seed together.

Now I have four parts for each seed: the skin-like coat which is edible but tough, the tiny axis, and two identical cotyledons. Sometimes I toss... more »

Am I weird? #48: Edamame

In my continuing series of doing everyday things, stopping, and thinking, "do I do this weird?", I bring up the new exhibit: how I eat edamame.

Sure, I've seen other people do it, and I could squeeze the pod, letting the seeds fall into my hand and just munch on them. And I do that at restaurants or when I'm eating quickly.

But if I'm sitting reading or watching TV and eating them as a snack, here's how I do it: I unzip the pod and let the seeds rain out into a bowl and toss the pod. Then I squeeze the seed to release it from its seed coat. I pinch off the "axis" (the epicotyl, I believe) holding the two cotyledons (halves) of the seed together.

Now I have four parts for each seed: the skin-like coat which is edible but tough, the tiny axis, and two identical cotyledons. Sometimes I toss the coats, sometimes I eat them; it depends on my mood. Then finally, I eat the crunchy axis, and then the tender cotyledon.

Sometimes I'll do this assembly-style so I "shuck" all my soybeans before I eat any, sometimes I'll eat as I go; often I eat the seed coats and/or the axes as I go and save all the cotyledons for the end.

This for me is something like how I eat a lobster, which I know maddens some people: I eat the claws first, then every single little bit of sweet meat hiding in the legs and spinnerets and body, and only then eat the tail. I like to save the most substantial bit for last. (I don't say "best", because in neither the case of the lobster's tail nor the soybean's cotyledon do I think it's necessarily best.)

So: what say you? I know this is weird, but how weird is this?___

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2017-05-11 15:26:20 (0 comments; 0 reshares; 2 +1s; )Open 

Fun City population game

You may want to try it before reading on or looking too-closely at the picture, you have to name the 50 largest cities by population before naming any city in 51-100:

https://www.sporcle.com/games/darinh/name-3-biggest-countries

Grrr, this uses 2010 census figures (as I suspected when it said San Jose was under a million, and confirmed when it put Seattle well below El Paso), and I would've been right if it was using current figures.

That said, New Orleans was stupid of me to choose, because I knew it was at its post-Katrina low point in 2010. So close....



Fun City population game

You may want to try it before reading on or looking too-closely at the picture, you have to name the 50 largest cities by population before naming any city in 51-100:

https://www.sporcle.com/games/darinh/name-3-biggest-countries

Grrr, this uses 2010 census figures (as I suspected when it said San Jose was under a million, and confirmed when it put Seattle well below El Paso), and I would've been right if it was using current figures.

That said, New Orleans was stupid of me to choose, because I knew it was at its post-Katrina low point in 2010. So close....

___

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2017-05-08 15:41:15 (5 comments; 1 reshares; 26 +1s; )Open 

(Mild spoiler) Why Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 2 has such a perfect opening sequence

This post has no spoilers for the plot, but knowing about it may dampen the effect of one of the most inventive sequences of any superhero movie ever. So if you're planning on seeing the film soon and like surprises, click away.

In the opening of Marvel's newest blockbuster, the Guardians of the Galaxy are seen to be preparing for battle. Or, maybe more correctly, they're standing around just waiting for some dreadful enemy to appear from space. Peter Quill (Chris Pratt) is seen looking at a tricorder-like device with concern, there's some banter between him and Gamora (Zoe Saldana) that, in James Gunn-trademark fashion, shatters the "Star-Lord" superhero illusion with a bit of male fragility, and Peter asks Rocket (voiced by Bradley Cooper), hip-deep in... more »

(Mild spoiler) Why Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 2 has such a perfect opening sequence

This post has no spoilers for the plot, but knowing about it may dampen the effect of one of the most inventive sequences of any superhero movie ever. So if you're planning on seeing the film soon and like surprises, click away.

In the opening of Marvel's newest blockbuster, the Guardians of the Galaxy are seen to be preparing for battle. Or, maybe more correctly, they're standing around just waiting for some dreadful enemy to appear from space. Peter Quill (Chris Pratt) is seen looking at a tricorder-like device with concern, there's some banter between him and Gamora (Zoe Saldana) that, in James Gunn-trademark fashion, shatters the "Star-Lord" superhero illusion with a bit of male fragility, and Peter asks Rocket (voiced by Bradley Cooper), hip-deep in electronics parts, what he's doing. Is he putting finishing touches on some super-weapon for their impending fight?

No, Rocket replies; he's noticed that Peter likes to have music while fighting on their spaceship, so he thought he'd set up what looks to be an 80's-era quadrophonic before battle commences so they'd have some fighting tunes. Peter and the rest of the (full-sized) Guardians tell Rocket this isn't the time, and he drops it, just as the monster arrives and the battle commences.

This is fairly standard pre-credits stuff for a superhero movie (though so much funnier than the usual, because this is a Guardians of the Galaxy movie, after all), but what happens as the battle is joined is unexpected and magical. Instead of following the monster, the guns, the fighting Guardians and the explosions, the camera goes eye-level with Baby Groot (voiced by Vin Diesel) — that is to say, about two inches from the floor—and follows him as he finishes setting up the music, and, with the opening title superimposed, we get — ELO's "Mr. Blue Sky".

The rest of the opening follows Baby Groot as he dances to the song, mostly oblivious to the fighting going on around him. We see snatches of it in the background as the other characters fly in and out of the frame, or occasionally check in on Baby Groot to see how he's doing, but mostly, this is just a dance sequence with awesome pyrotechnics in the background. And who, really, wouldn't want to dance to "Mr. Blue Sky" with these gorgeous visuals? (You know, assuming you weren't, like, terrified for your life.)

It's an exuberant, insane, and adorable sequence that wouldn't work in a "straight" superhero movie—not even the other recent Marvel staples where comedic actors have become key to a signature snark. But boy, does it ever work here, because Guardians 2, like its predecessor, is a comedy just pretending to be a serious superhero film. And it turns out you can do really awesome comedy with a blockbuster budget, too—too bad we don't get to see that often if at all.

Full disclosure: I may be overly fond of this scene because there's something about ELO in general and "Mr. Blue Sky" in particular that just gets me in a good mood. There was no question that it would be the first song I played in the Vive virtual reality rhythm game Audioshield — but I've since learned that it's so energetic that, even if I'm in finest fettle, it's going to be the last song of the session—even if it's the first.

There's a reason that, from Doctor Who to Volkswagen commercials to now Guardians, "Mr. Blue Sky" is the go-to choice for an upbeat, feel-good scene. And this one gets Guardians 2 off on a bang.___

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2017-04-19 20:27:19 (24 comments; 0 reshares; 16 +1s; )Open 

The Mighty finally manages to get a response from United.

A United spokesperson told The Mighty:

"We sincerely apologize for the inconvenience Mr. Harris experienced and are in the process of reaching out directly. FAA regulations differ depending on the type of lithium battery. Certain Segways that contain lithium ion batteries may not be permitted as carry-on items but may be checked at the ticket counter as a mobility device. We are contacting Mr. Harris to apologize for what occurred."

I'm not sure what their "process of reaching out directly" is, but I guess we'll see.

The Mighty finally manages to get a response from United.

A United spokesperson told The Mighty:

"We sincerely apologize for the inconvenience Mr. Harris experienced and are in the process of reaching out directly. FAA regulations differ depending on the type of lithium battery. Certain Segways that contain lithium ion batteries may not be permitted as carry-on items but may be checked at the ticket counter as a mobility device. We are contacting Mr. Harris to apologize for what occurred."

I'm not sure what their "process of reaching out directly" is, but I guess we'll see.___

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2017-04-17 03:24:16 (12 comments; 0 reshares; 23 +1s; )Open 

Getting exposure from George Takei and The Advocate is a mixed blessing.

George Takei linked to the story! Unfortunately, not my Medium post [https://medium.com/@treyharris/united-airlines-made-me-abandon-my-mobility-device-at-the-gate-before-my-honeymoon-8d74eee04038], but an article in The Advocate, the LGBT magazine.

I say "unfortunately" because if you read the comments, most are squabbling over whether my sexual orientation is relevant to the story or not. I guess most followers of Takei aren't familiar with The Advocate so they don't understand what it is—they aren't in travel news or aviation news or disability-rights news or business news, so they'd have no "angle" if they didn't lead with my husband and I being in a same-sex marriage—they'd have no reason to run the story at all.

But commenters arebew... more »

Getting exposure from George Takei and The Advocate is a mixed blessing.

George Takei linked to the story! Unfortunately, not my Medium post [https://medium.com/@treyharris/united-airlines-made-me-abandon-my-mobility-device-at-the-gate-before-my-honeymoon-8d74eee04038], but an article in The Advocate, the LGBT magazine.

I say "unfortunately" because if you read the comments, most are squabbling over whether my sexual orientation is relevant to the story or not. I guess most followers of Takei aren't familiar with The Advocate so they don't understand what it is—they aren't in travel news or aviation news or disability-rights news or business news, so they'd have no "angle" if they didn't lead with my husband and I being in a same-sex marriage—they'd have no reason to run the story at all.

But commenters are bewildered, irked, or downright offended that my orientation is mentioned in the lead. And that probably would be reasonable, if they thought The Advocate was a general-audience newsmagazine. But it's not, so it's a big tempest in a teapot that's totally tangential to the real issues here.

Oh, well—it's still publicity, and George Takei is someone I love. By total chance, he happened to sit down next to me on the subway last year and we rode several stops together chatting about transit and how he likes NYC compared to LA and then I tried to say something about how much his advocacy meant to me and I got all tangled up in how to say it and I think I ended up blithering towards the end. He was still a really delightful person to talk to one-on-one, though.___

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2017-04-16 22:07:49 (12 comments; 0 reshares; 4 +1s; )Open 

Why would Disqus mark this as spam?

I'm trying to figure out what heuristic would mark the following probably spam and am drawing a blank. Anyone have a clue? It was in an attempt to comment on: http://www.pinknews.co.uk/2017/04/15/this-gay-couples-honeymoon-was-ruined-after-united-forced-them-to-abandon-a-mobility-device/

——
I must be careful about what I write at this point as with the press this has received it is, apparently, possibly the subject of legal inquiry. I would firstly refer you to my Medium article in which I wrote about my experience — https://medium.com/@treyharris/united-airlines-made-me-abandon-my-mobility-device-at-the-gate-before-my-honeymoon-8d74eee04038 — and was referenced above—it answers all of your factual questions, I believe.

(I understand and empathize with your separate and valid point that a source of journalismarguably ... more »

Why would Disqus mark this as spam?

I'm trying to figure out what heuristic would mark the following probably spam and am drawing a blank. Anyone have a clue? It was in an attempt to comment on: http://www.pinknews.co.uk/2017/04/15/this-gay-couples-honeymoon-was-ruined-after-united-forced-them-to-abandon-a-mobility-device/

——
I must be careful about what I write at this point as with the press this has received it is, apparently, possibly the subject of legal inquiry. I would firstly refer you to my Medium article in which I wrote about my experience — https://medium.com/@treyharris/united-airlines-made-me-abandon-my-mobility-device-at-the-gate-before-my-honeymoon-8d74eee04038 — and was referenced above—it answers all of your factual questions, I believe.

(I understand and empathize with your separate and valid point that a source of journalism arguably should not make the reader look elsewhere for additional detail; but all journalism must decide what to preserve and what to cut, otherwise it's just stenography.)

As for the airline's ostensibly "valid concerns" about the device, again, this is a level of detail to be found in my Medium article—United Airline's own policy and government regulations as found republished on United's own website are quite clear that this device should have been allowed.

The Segway is not a hoverboard—and assertion of the manufacturer's purported desire to "distance itself" from their bad reputation is irrelevant here—the only relevant question is, do the safety concerns presented by hoverboards present with the Segway? They do not.

Hoverboards have a justifiable fire-risk history. This is not because they have two wheels or because they self-balance—the characteristics they share with the Segway. The captain did not ask me to step off of it and pull it so as not to injure myself on the way to my seat; he refused boarding because it was an ostensible fire-risk.

But the Segway does not share the characteristics with hoverboards that made them fire risks. The dangerous hoverboards used cheap batches of poorly-tested batteries that were wired together passively to produce enough power. The Segway has batteries similar to a Tesla electric car: each tested individually, and power managed through a sophisticated computer to prevent overheating or spontaneous combustion. It has a UL certification for fire safety imprinted with a hologram seal on its underbody. (An electric wheelchair of 1990's design which would undeniably be required to be allowed onboard has MUCH more potentially-dangerous batteries than the Segway, both in risk of increasing injury in the event of an aircraft accident and in the risk of spontaneous combustion during normal flight.) No Segway miniPro (at least, none used and charged properly) has ever spontaneously combusted.

I fully understand your comment about people faced with something unfamiliar to them making conservative judgment in favor of what they may have believed was safety. But that is why we have rules for the treatment of disabilities—most people who must make decisions about their treatment will not have the expertise or experience to make the correct decision each and every time, so they are required to defer to laws and policies that have been made by people who have grappled with these issues.

We can't allow individuals with momentary discretion to make judgments about what individuals with disabilities are and are not allowed to do—to do so would make us live our lives in a constant state of chaos.
Imagine if a security agent could force a diabetic to dispose of his or her syringes because, in the agent's mind, they could be used as a weapon. That thought on the basis of security might be valid in the moment—but if it were an allowable use of discretion, no diabetic could ever travel. So we have policies in place that prevent such use of discretion that may make a certain amount of sense in the moment, but if allowed would present an unjustifiable suppression of the freedom of people with disabilities to travel.
___

2017-04-16 19:06:33 (3 comments; 0 reshares; 12 +1s; )Open 

Web UX Mistake #68: Hijacking navigation keys on pages with text boxes

I get it. You do your site coding on a MacBook or iPad and, for you, mousing or touching are the only ways you ever move your cursor.

But some of us—and I'm tempted to say most of us—use the arrow keys and other navigation keys at least some of the time when typing text.

I'm not saying not to have keyboard shortcuts on your site. It is annoying when you hijack a key that does something useful on a plain-Jane webpage and make that key do something else, but that's not this design mistake, that's Web UX mistake #107.

I'm saying that, once you have a text box, then you need to allow people typing in that text box to have full cursor movement via the keyboard commands they're used to. That means arrow keys, PgUp and PgDown, Home, End, and the control- and alt- andcom... more »

Web UX Mistake #68: Hijacking navigation keys on pages with text boxes

I get it. You do your site coding on a MacBook or iPad and, for you, mousing or touching are the only ways you ever move your cursor.

But some of us—and I'm tempted to say most of us—use the arrow keys and other navigation keys at least some of the time when typing text.

I'm not saying not to have keyboard shortcuts on your site. It is annoying when you hijack a key that does something useful on a plain-Jane webpage and make that key do something else, but that's not this design mistake, that's Web UX mistake #107.

I'm saying that, once you have a text box, then you need to allow people typing in that text box to have full cursor movement via the keyboard commands they're used to. That means arrow keys, PgUp and PgDown, Home, End, and the control- and alt- and command- modified-versions thereof. (And also every single control-key and escape-plus-key combination, because on some devices, text boxes have editor bindings that some of us use.)

So, when you have a news site with a comment box at the bottom, then focusing the comment box needs to remove all your hooks for those keys.

Do you have any idea how frustrating it is when someone types a comment for your site, then notices a typo in the prior word and—reasonably enough—presses the left-arrow key, only to be zipped up to the top of the page where they can't see the text box anymore? Or, worse, when they do touch or click to correct something, try to get back by pressing the right-arrow key, and you whisk them off to the next article on your site—destroying everything they've typed in the process?

Here, this is easy:

1. When you register ANY keyboard hooks, add them to a list.
2. When you detect focus has moved into a text box, immediately unregister all the hooks in the list, and add them to another list of pending hooks.
3. When you detect focus has left the text box, or the text box ceases to exist, re-register the hooks in the pending list and put them back in the first list.

Yeah, if I really love your site and for some reason also really want to comment there (for some reason, those two things don't often coincide...), I'll eventually wise up and type my comments into a notepad or Google Keep or something, then copypasta the kaboodle rather than deal with your annoying hooks.

But I have to really love your site to go to that trouble. If your bosses are wondering why your "user engagement" is so low—just maybe the problem isn't with the clickbaity-ness of the headlines or anything in the content itself; maybe it's in your code. Your code is making many (most?) people's first attempt to "engage" a painful one—losing a comment they've typed before being able to post it is an irritation that 99% of the time's going to make them a permanent non-engager in the future. And it's your code's fault.

Yes, you. I'm looking at you, right now, through the typey-tappy machine. I can do that because I learned to run sites back in the days when we had to know this shit. I'm giving you the evil eye. Now go fix it.___

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2017-04-16 04:33:28 (1 comments; 1 reshares; 33 +1s; )Open 

And now it's in Fortune...



And now it's in Fortune...

___

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2017-04-15 13:13:34 (6 comments; 0 reshares; 16 +1s; )Open 

I really wish Mashable's promos for this were about denying disability rights under established law rather than about making me cry, but otherwise...

The article isn't bad.

I really wish Mashable's promos for this were about denying disability rights under established law rather than about making me cry, but otherwise...

The article isn't bad.___

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2017-04-13 23:12:49 (30 comments; 21 reshares; 44 +1s; )Open 

United Airlines made me abandon my mobility device at the gate. Before my honeymoon.

I've been waiting to post this until I heard a response from United. But with the recent uproar over their handling of passengers, I figured it was time.

United Airlines made me abandon my mobility device at the gate. Before my honeymoon.

I've been waiting to post this until I heard a response from United. But with the recent uproar over their handling of passengers, I figured it was time.___

2017-04-07 19:55:08 (3 comments; 0 reshares; 8 +1s; )Open 

The airstrike was about as unilluminating as Trump's first military foray could be.

Trump's decision last night to launch 59 Tomahawk cruise missiles at the Syrian airbase that the sarin attack was allegedly mounted from was reportedly the least aggressive of three options presented to him by the Pentagon, with the second being missile strikes on multiple (perhaps a half-dozen) airbases and the third, most aggressive, option being a multi-sortie bombing and missile attack (probably something like the four-day "Desert Fox" attack President Clinton ordered in 1998 attempting to degrade Saddam Hussein's WMD production manufacturing and supply lines) with the goal of effectively destroying Assad's air force.

The domestic and world reaction shows that he did the bare minimum of what was required for the international community to conclude that the United... more »

The airstrike was about as unilluminating as Trump's first military foray could be.

Trump's decision last night to launch 59 Tomahawk cruise missiles at the Syrian airbase that the sarin attack was allegedly mounted from was reportedly the least aggressive of three options presented to him by the Pentagon, with the second being missile strikes on multiple (perhaps a half-dozen) airbases and the third, most aggressive, option being a multi-sortie bombing and missile attack (probably something like the four-day "Desert Fox" attack President Clinton ordered in 1998 attempting to degrade Saddam Hussein's WMD production manufacturing and supply lines) with the goal of effectively destroying Assad's air force.

The domestic and world reaction shows that he did the bare minimum of what was required for the international community to conclude that the United States didn't have an absentee landlord, or that the United States hadn't actually become a client state of Russia. That these worries weren't true was not a foregone conclusion, remember, so last night's attack wasn't nothing.

It was probably as close to nothing possible militarily while having the greatest PR impact possible, though. I already stated the goal of the most aggressive option presented by DoD: disable the Assad air force. The goal of the middle option would have been to significantly degrade that air force; it possibly would have made a difference in the frequency and magnitude of barrel bombing.

The goal of the option actually taken, though, seems almost purely PR. We reportedly let our Russian "allies against ISIS" know in time to move out their assets, which surely gave the Assad regime time to move most or all of their aircraft and ordnance out as well. (In case you're not familiar with the fraught multilateral situation we're in in Syria, we're tacit allies with Russia against ISIS and other terrorist activity in Syria, but we are nominally against the continued regime of Bashar al-Assad while Russia is its greatest ally and the Assad military and Russian military are in joint operations down to the unit level. Throw Iran in the mix (the main supporter of Hezbollah—a target of the US, Russia and Assad—but also anti-ISIS and pro-Assad) and you've got a mess of frenemy relations that makes the pre-WWI Balkans look simple.)

Russia's public diplomatic response, in turn, has been entirely predictable: angry in tone—right down to the Security Council emergency meeting with the Russian ambassador wagging his finger at Nikki Haley, but lame in impact. (Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov said, notably, that he didn't think the "situation was irreversibly" deleterious to US/Russia relations.)

The items of interest here:
• Again, he didn't do nothing. That will help quell the security community freakout that's been at full-tilt since Nov. 9.

• The thing he did was quite predictable (in predicting what any recent American president might have done) and moderate in scale. That will help calm the international community a bit—reportedly officials in world capitals have been asking one another how unpredictable Trump will actually be and have privately worried about a madman with the nuclear launch codes.

• Despite his predictability in action, in his remarks, both before and after the attack, Trump maintained his very ill-considered posture of unpredictability and continued to assert that unpredictability is good. In foreign relations, the security community is essentially in unanimous agreement that unpredictability is never good. (Perhaps Trump is confused because unpredictability can at times be useful as a tactic in war—career intelligence and security staff have said Trump does not seem to grasp the difference between strategy and tactics, nor in the difference between diplomacy and war.)

• Allies were not sought in this action. That is perhaps the most significant datum from last night, but it isn't that significant. An operation of this size is one the US is easily capable of handling (it involved just two Navy destroyers), so seeking ally support would have been more of a signaling move than a tactical one. Mounting an allied operation would have taken more time; at minimum, assuming just our closest allies already in the theater, another two or three days.

• Chinese President Xi Jinping being at Mar-a-Lago meeting with Trump when the attacks happened were significant and might explain the lack of allied support. Trump may have wanted to send China the message that his muscular talk about North Korea isn't just saber-rattling and that he's prepared to use force. If this was part of the calculus, it could explain the decision not to delay for the time necessary to mount a joint strike.

• Among prominent Republicans in Congress, at this writing only Sen. Rand Paul has come out against the strike (and only insofar as insisting that congressional approval should have sought before taking action). Democrats are mostly tracking the same line as Sen. Paul, though a few have come out against the attack itself as well. In other words, Congress's reaction was entirely predictable.

• The manner and timing of the warning on Russian "deconflicting" channels we use to prevent inadvertent US/Russia hostility in the Syrian theater will be interesting, should it leak, but the warning's merely happening is not significant. A strike without warning on a joint Assad/Russian airbase would have been perceived as an act of war against Russia and contrary to our agreement regarding operations in the Syrian theater.

If Trump had done this particular action without warning Russia, it would have been a sure sign of madness; to potentially start war with Russia over such a militarily insignificant strike would be utterly irrational. Had a President Hillary Clinton mounted this strike, she would have warned Russia as well.

The timing and manner, should we ever learn it through leaks, would be interesting just in that it would tell us if Trump was more deferential to Russia than necessary. It could also tell us if Trump wasn't as deferential as he could have been (and perhaps should have been by our agreement), but that seems implausible—there would be little benefit in that for Trump except domestically in attempting to prove his independence from Russia. If a White House source makes that claim in the next day or two and Breitbart runs with it (as a sort of redemption—the alt-right, at the moment, seems a bit shell-shocked and betrayed by last night's events), pay it no heed—it's impossible to know for sure and it would serve the administration's political goals.

The other two more aggressive options would have resulted in destruction of Russian assets and perhaps in heavy Russian casualties. That Trump didn't select one of those tells us precisely nothing we don't already know. But most military analysts I've read don't think the other two options would have been wise: the "medium" multi-airbase one would have angered the Russians without achieving much more than the same PR the strike we mounted did; the "all-out" one to destroy Assad's air force would have been likely to fail, certainly without allied support, and doing it without Russia's coöperation would have been nearly as mad as ordering the operation he did without warning them.

"Russia's coöperation" is not nearly as crazy an idea as it sounds at first blush, by the way. Russia is Assad's strongest ally because Russia needs its Mediterranean port in Syria and Assad controls Syria—for now. It's no secret that Putin has no love for Assad and might welcome the chance to turn on him in a way that maintained their military presence there. Ordinarily, this would take weeks or months of careful and meticulous diplomacy with Russia, and Rex Tillerson has shown us nothing if not that his State Department is neither careful nor meticulous.

Ordinarily. If Trump's current administration has lines into Russia and vice versa as the campaign did, this could be worked out more easily via quid-pro-quo concessions, but it would crush any pretense remaining that this administration doesn't have a special relationship with Russia. Trump can't afford to do that at this juncture.

So, the long and the short of it: politically, last night's attack will probably do what such action always does: shore up support from his base and in the House and Senate Republican conferences, increase his approval ratings marginally, divert the press from domestic issues for at least a couple news cycles, and give the White House more fodder for dissembling about current internecine conflicts such as why Steve Bannon was removed from the National Security Council's principals and what Jared Kushner's portfolio really is.

It was probably a null-op with regards to both the country's and his administration's relationship with Russia. There will continue to be angry words from Russia, but they will only be words. And let's not forget that even if Russia does like Trump as the American president—a conjecture that may not even be true—domestically, they need the United States as an adversary. Some weeks ago already, the Kremlin ordered Russian-language state media—but not English-language media such as RT and Sputnik—to cool it with the on-air adoration of Trump.

Militarily, in Syria, the operation probably obtained a tacit goal of preventing Assad's further use of sarin anytime soon, but will do little else, and Assad hadn't used been proven to have used sarin prior to this week since Russia supposedly disarmed the regime of its chemical weapons in 2014. Use of chlorine and mustard and the barrel-bombing will likely continue unabated.

The only place where I think last night's action may augur a change is in rhetoric about Syrian refugees. Don't get me wrong; I highly doubt the White House is going to do a 180° on the travel ban or on letting Syrian refugees enter the United States. Policy is likely going to remain unchanged for the foreseeable future. But I do suspect that Trump's apparent awakening this week to the issues afflicting the Syrian people may result in his policy statements becoming mushier when it comes to refugees in Europe and Asia. (It could even help restore our relations with Australia! Just kidding. Mostly.)

But, like his "policy statements" with regards to healthcare, we should know by now that mushy statements on Trump's part mean next to nothing about what actual policy will develop.

I don't want to call any military operation (and surely not one that killed innocent people) a "nothingburger". But politically and geopolitically, last night's action was about as close to one as there could be.___

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