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2016-09-05      Recycling Scandals   

Very little of any new Clinton "revelation" is truly new. Anyone with a long enough memory can recall a predecessor to each supposed scandal. It is odd, then, that the infotainment industry has skipped over major news in favor of minor recycled "scandals" already shown to be non-issues. Serious ethics/corruption questions have been raised regarding Trump's campaign donations and the serendipitous dropping of fraud lawsuits by states whose attorneys general had received said campaign donations. Perhaps, as is claimed, nothing untoward happened. What seems a clear case of graft to us laypeople "does not," by the reckoning of some great legal minds, "give rise to corruption or the appearance of corruption."

Bribery legalization notwithstanding, the unwashed masses (i.e. we the people) are easily distracted by shiny new scandals. So why have all Trump's numerous scandals been quietly swept under the rug even as each investigation of Clinton proves just another baseless accusation and/or wild goose chase? Part of the answer may be that the media as a group have a vested interest in keeping the election as close as possible. Despite Trump's profound unsuitability for any high level position (let alone the highest position on Earth), members of the press seem willing to abrogate their duties as journalists in favor of their duties as lackeys to their industry.

I never thought the vocation entrusted with protecting democracy would actively subvert democracy to protect its business model.

I'm so naive.

2016-08-29      Reince Priebus   

My psychic powers sometimes allow me to enter the minds of others. The night of the closing of the RNC, I awoke drenched in sweat. It may have been a bit of food poisoning. It may have been mixing NyQuil with bum wine. It may even have been shooting up with an infusion of bloodworm venom and demon ichor (and daffodil petals, for some reason). Whatever the case, I was transported into the troubled soul of the current RNC PR BS Guy, Reince Priebus.

Over and over, I heard it. I still can't shake the image.

[caption id="attachment_1248" align="alignnone" width="1160"]source: AP Photos, via Politico source: AP Photos - via Politico[/caption]

Michael Steele calls me sometimes.

He doesn't say anything.

He just laughs.
The despair in that weasel-like voice will haunt me forever.

2016-07-31      Fairness (Both Sides)   

The main idea exploited by Fox News since its inception was to capitalize on the "liberal bias" of whose existence right wing radio personalities had been insisting since Reagan did away with the "Fairness Doctrine." Research has since revealed the existence of a strong liberal bias in journalism. What the research did not look into, however, was the most important aspect. Legitimate journalism was strongly biased against the claims of movement conservatives in the same way that science texts are strongly biased against the claims of witches.

The general pattern for the decision-making process is roughly this:

  1. Traditionally, liberals' claims are often biased in their favor.

  2. Traditionally, conservatives' claims are often biased in their favor.

  3. The public, in the interest of fairness, gives equal weight to both sides.

  4. The resulting ideas are often fairly accurate assessments.


Roger Ailes' strategy seems to be this:

  1. Allow the liberals to make somewhat biased claims. (i.e. 2+2=3)

  2. Answer with profoundly biased claims. (i.e. 2+2=39)

  3. Wait for the rubes to to accept the middle point between the two claims as fact.


Result: the rubes accept that 2+2 = 21

Mission accomplished.

or, perhaps, fait accompli.

2016-05-18      Twittering Away   

Owing largely to a dearth of time, my online activities have been limited mostly to Twitter. Today, a tweet I sent as an offhand comment to the proprietor at Balloon Juice appeared in a front page article. This one.

Each alert that someone had "liked" that tweet or "reweeted" it or responded to it in some other way was like a little reward.

When I think about it, though, I suppose that it resembles the bells and flashing lights so enjoyed by the folks at the slot machines in Las Vegas.

We are so very like trained rats.

2016-04-28      On the Backs of Giants   

In any society that has moved beyond the hunter-gatherer band level of organization, the greatest benefit of society is the sharing of information. To be sure, hunter-gatherers enjoyed the fruits of collected knowledge, but it could be argued that individuals gained more from the group security than from the group knowledge pool. Regardless, individuals in a preliterate society can only even gather what knowledge has been successfully passed along an unbroken line from progenitor to the current generation.

Now, however, a single contribution by a single individual may earn him or her (or, more likely, someone else) vast wealth beyond the kings and queens of old. Do the minor innovations merit tens or hundreds of billions of dollars? No. They do not. I have nothing against the individuals who so profit. Indeed, to shun the potential profits would be foolish. It would be foolish, that is, because the system has been so rigged. If we were to dissect the making of vast fortunes through history, we would see that many or even most were made on the cornering of a market. In some cases, the market was a literal market (such as the East Indian trade or the cotton trade in the time of the sailing ship). In other cases, the a patent or set of patents stifled any potential competitors.

And now we live in a day when intellectual property rights are expanding at an accelerating rate. And the profits for said properties rarely meets the originators. In most cases, the lion's share of these vast sums go to feed the unquenchable greed of the incestuous packs of leeches at the boards of major corporations. And we forget that even those innovations themselves, be they in science, technology, or art, owe a great debt to all the prior practitioners of any particular pursuit and often others outside it.

2016-03-24      :(   

Johan Cruyff and Garry Shandling died today, both in their 60s.

Too young.

Sad.

2016-03-21      PUMA Dupes for Purity   

A theme from the 2008 election has been effectively recycled.

In 2008, I voted for Hillary Clinton in the primary. That was not because I preferred her to any particular other candidate. The reason was, in the parlance of Mr. Charles Pierce at Esquire, "ratfking." Since she first appeared on the national stage, Clinton had been the subject of rodent-ravaging to such an extent that it would grow into a cottage industry. Thousands of trees were sacrificed at the hands of the right wing press in this service. Yet she had weathered the storm.

At the time, I imagined that a newcomer such as Barack Obama would be a big risk. A handful of insignificant statements or activities from the past could be rapidly converted into a closet full of skeletons by an increasingly mercenary media corps.

When the admittedly under qualified Senator won the nomination, many embittered Hillary supporters became a part of the informal "Party Unity My Ass" or PUMA movement. I was not prepared for what would happen next. Many of these heretofore ardent Hillary supporters came to loathe the Democratic Party. That's fair enough. I thought at the time that an unprepared Barack Obama had been lifted out of obscurity to present a fresh new face by a party leadership more interested in marketing than in policy. But that did not change the fact that his claimed positions were very close to many of the claimed positions of Hillary Clinton. Nevertheless, the importance of delivering a high decibel "F-- You" to the Democratic Party became paramount. Rather than aligning with an ideologically similar person or group, many disgruntled voters chose to actively oppose their own interests.

Now, with a closer than expected primary between Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton, the so-called "Bernie or Bust" movement recalls the PUMAs. In further irony, those whose support of Clinton was strong enough to bring outrage at Obama's usurpation now hate her with as much passion or more. They have gone all in in support of even the most clearly insane crackpot ideas proffered by an increasingly unhinged Republican candidate pool. And now we can expect their numbers to be swollen by supporters of a self-proclaimed socialist who would rather support an overt purveyor of fascist ideology. Because Clinton lacks the ideological purity of Sanders, some (supposed) Sanders supporters loudly proclaim that they will vote for Trump before voting for Clinton.

That'll show 'em.

In a way, however, this may show the brilliance of a seemingly unplanned stratagem. The right has striven to allow overt racism and misogyny in Congress to become so overwhelming that government will effectively cease to function under anyone but a white Christian male.

2016-02-20      Jeb! Campaign Achieves "Acceptance" Level(!)   

Jubal Early Bush (I assume that's what "J.E.B." stands for, and I'm far too lazy to look it up) has exceeded expectations of all observers. In realizing the inevitable, that is. The slightly less stupid of the impressively stupid Bush Clan wastrel generation has affirmed what those around him have been telling him for years: Bush Jr. not only burned the crops yet to be sewn in the Bush Family farm, but also salted the soil. And probably seeded it with various heavy metals. George P. Bush is destined for the blue blood equivalent* of shoe-shine boy.

Good riddance.

*a six-figure job defecating clearly unqualified political opinions onto a heavily subsidized money-losing online rag.

2016-02-16      Blackstone's Formulation and Scalia   

In his work "Commentaries on the Law of England," Sir William Blackstone proffered that the law should err in favor of the defendant, lest it wrongfully punish the innocent (1765):

All presumptive evidence of felony should be admitted cautiously; for the law holds it better that ten guilty persons escape, than that one innocent party suffer


In contrast, Reagan-nominated Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia claimed that the defendant's only right was to a fair trial, subsequent evidence of innocence notwithstanding (2009):

This Court has never held that
the Constitution forbids the execution of a convicted defendant
who has had a full and fair trial but is later able
to convince a habeas court that he is “actually” innocent.
Quite to the contrary, we have repeatedly left that question
unresolved, while expressing considerable doubt that
any claim based on alleged “actual innocence” is constitutionally
cognizable.


For people of Scalia's ilk, the satisfaction of having punished someone is its own reward. I take no joy from the death even of such demonstrably bad people as Scalia. But it is certainly better for the nation and better for the world, that one fewer medievalist jurist is around to poison modernity with opinions influenced by "The Malleus Maleficarum."

2016-01-08      Misión cumplida   

I just found out via Esquire that noted escapee "El Chapo" has been captured. Tweets from the Mexican President were included in the article:
chapo_tweets
The top one caught my eye. This is not the first time I have seen the phrase "Misión cumplida." But, in recent years, I have mostly seen or heard it in English, in reference to a single event:
mission_accomplished
We will see if they are equally accurate.

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