Sunday, January 20, 2019

What really happened with the MAGA-Catholic white kids and Nathan Phillips? The mainstream media jumped the gun, leading to false outrage

Here’s the best statement I can find on what really happened Saturday with the “MAGA” Covington (KY) Catholic kids and the Native American (Nathan Phillips), from Nick Gillespie on Reason (who was at the LibertyCon conference).

It questioned some Facebook posts from friends angry at the smirky privileged white kids and got vitriole myself today.  Several mainstream broadcasters condemned the kids online or in broadcasts. Later today, CNN began to admit there is a lot more context to the story. 

Tim Pool has a detailed video (above).  But he got a lot of wrath today if you look (as if he belonged on Fox News).  He says he is a center-Left Democrat but non-identarian. This sounds more like a Niskanen Center (as opposed to Cato) libertarian.  Pool, for example, maintains you do need “better” regulation to big banks and payment and media companies to prevent inhibition of competition or hidden ponzi schemes. For coverage of Trump's video on the shutdown, see TV blog Saturday. 

The mirror of the entire incident (1:46) is here on YouTube. 

Update: Jan. 21 

CNN offers a detailed interview with Nathan Phillips. 

Friday, January 18, 2019

Does the Buzzfeed story on new evidence against Trump and Cohen affect the shutdown? Probably, and don't make any airline reservations for a while

OK:  Maybe this is spreading rumors, but here is the Buzzfeed story where Michael Cohen claims he was instructed to lie to Congress about his tower in Moscow. 

If actual evidence appears, then Trump apparently would be caught in the same position as Nixon with the tapes in 1974. The evidence would be texts or emails.

Then Trump cancels Pelosi’s use of military aircraft to fly to several overseas locations to visit troops.  When Pelosi et al make plans for commercial flights, the White House leaks it, causing grave security threats and Pelosi to cancel. 

The Washington Post is suggesting that it may take federal wildcat strikes, as by the TSA, to end this standoff – shut down all of air travel.  Some activists want to shut down the Internet or the financial system.  NBC's Chuck Todd has made similar suggestions. 

Don't make any airlines reservations until this is all settled (which could mean impeachment). 

But there are stories that it takes only four more GOP senators to override a veto. 
The Overton Window shifts.

Update: Jan 19

Mueller's office has disputed that there is any evidence of the Buzzfeed report (Washington Post);  other major and indie news sources follow with questions, especially Smerconish on Sat. AM. 

Thursday, January 17, 2019

College admissions consultant point out that David Hogg's narrative demonstrates how opportunity does come from being close to a tragedy

SuperTutorTV gives us a pep talk about David Hogg’s admission to Harvard with a 1270 SAT.

I checked Wikipedia, and Hogg’s score would actually place him at about the 87th percentile. That isn’t bad.  Maybe Jack Andraka (Stanford, now finishing a peer-reviewed Honor’s paper after summer in Sierra Leone as a Truman scholar) was at the 100th percentile.  But of course, Hogg demonstrated enormous people skills and street smarts (given all the ableism and “white privilege” notwithstanding) able to organizae a movement, and an expressed  interest in running for office as early in adulthood as possible and fixing our broken systems.

It’s interesting, in fact, that David’s book ("#NeverAgain") indicates a history of dyslexia (even requiring special education at one point) which cleared when he reached puberty (this is something that often happens, pediatricians know about this well).  He developed technical skill in photography and video editing (he has enough skill to work in Hollywood now as a film editor) on his own and made impressive videos well before Parkland. He also showed unusual compassion and willingness to intervene in situations, as with an incident involving bullying by a lifeguard of another kid on a California beach the summer before Parkland.

All of this obviously makes one an interesting candidate for admissions.
But SuperTutorTV is pointing out the irony of opportunities in life.  Often an unexpected incident, even hardship, which has to be overcome, and which provides some radical insight in how one can attack some fundamental problem in an original way, provides unusual opportunity.

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Rep. Steve King may really have intended to refer only to "western civilization" with his unfortunate pronoun

Rep. King, under severe censure in the House of Representatives, tweeted today that he intended only “Western Civilization” to be referred to later by his pronoun “that”, as if the dash in the sentence preceded it directed.  As a factual matter, we have to give him the “benefit of the doubt” on what that statement meant. English grammar is not as precise as romance languages on using endings to show where modifiers point.  This is a Language Focus problem (watch “Paul” on YouTube).

Of course, if you are like Umair Haque, you'll go down the path of equating western civilization to "predatory capitalism." 

It’s true that the other items in the sentence (like “white supremacy”) simply had no traction at all in public discourse until after Charlottesville in August 2017.  Now, every statement and every association gets parsed for possible connection to the idea that someday slavery and segregation could really come back.  All because of one incident from a relatively small number of extremists. But it also true that the intersectional Left has focused excessively on symbols (like the monuments) or group oppression rather than on actual policy.  

The New York Times, however, offers a long list of King’s past offensive statements.  One or more of them appear to refer to demographic winter and the idea that non-white populations seem to have more children.  That may be true sometimes (especially with immigration from the southern border) but not always.  Some Asian populations (Japan) have low birth rates, and China is recovering from its one-child policy.  It all depend on the specifics.

Other statements would offend many people, especially on the political Left, and may be homophobic too, but they don’t actually call for an ethno-state. 

We seem to have a very slippery slope and it is very easy for anyone to get smeared by apparent distant connections to the worst of the alt-right.   Look at what happened to Milo.

One question on the shutdown:  isn’t it possible to transfer the Coast Guard temporarily to the Navy so that sailors can be paid?
I still find it alarming that the President, and the leaders of House and Senate, for differing political purposes, will withhold pay of some workers and sailors and keep them working in involuntary servitude. There should be litigation to stop this.

Update: Later Wednesday

Various media outlets report a lawsuit by African-American employees against GM at the Toledo, Ohio plant as a result of harassment (even nooses) from a few employees that the company did not stop. The Union plays down the issue.  

Sunday, January 13, 2019

Partisanship denies Congress the scientific and I.T. talent it definitely needs

Bill Pascell, Jr. in The Washington Post asks “Why is Congress so dumb?” in a lengthy piece in the Outlook section Sunday. 

The short answer is that Congress has reduced staffs and become vulnerable to letting paid lobbyists do their thinking for them. 

But a better answer is that politics isn’t attracting people with brains.  It could be that David Hogg’s idea that “the young people will win” will change things.  Alexandria Octavia-Cortez has not yet impressed anyone with logical thinking about how to pay for everything (other than a radically more progressive income tax, which could make sense).  But I have a feeling that if Hogg got into Congress at 26 (in 2026) this would change.

We can ask why we if we really need to attract scientists into Congress.  Think about climate change, the power grids.  Congress definitely needs access to brains:  the Andraka brothers for pollution control and cancer research;  Taylor Wilson for border security (literally), especially WMD's;  and the math whiz kids (there are several) at UCLA's Art of Problem Solving for putting together health care reform that actuaries can make work. And talent like this is turned off by politics. 
 And I think Mark Zuckerberg, yes, would really like to fix Facebook.  But he didn't see what happened in 2016 coming. No one did.  Here's another one. 
 Should journalists be in office?  Anderson Cooper or Chris Cuomo could certainly bring brains to Congress or even the presidency. But so did Obama. 

Saturday, January 12, 2019

Debt ceiling returns March 2, could become serious if shutdown continues

Recently there has been mention of the possibility that a continued federal shutdown could lead to a default on debt and a failure to handle the debt ceiling issue.

According to “The Hill”, Congress had previously agreed to suspend the debt ceiling until March 2, 2019, when it goes back into effect. 

The Treasury could be in real danger of defaulting on some obligations by early summer 2019.

There have been several posts on this blog in the past (especially in the summer of 2011 and then in early 2013) about how paid prioritization could work, and whether Social Security payments would be affected (probably not), but it isn’t pretty reading. I did jump the gun on Trump's declaring a national emergency.
He waffled, and that may be a sign that some sort of compromise early next week is possible.  

Peggy Noonan argues in the WSJ Saturday, "End this stupid shutdown."

Julian Zelizer, a Princeton professor, argues that Mitch McConnell is the logjam.  The post was updated late Saturday and I'm not sure I follow it.

Update: Jan. 13

Dov Weinwyrb Grohsgal explains  in the Washington Post how Trump could use the pocket veto to let the government reopne without his signature on a bill without the Wall spending he wants. 

Thursday, January 10, 2019

Trump will invoked a state of emergency to build wall (that seems like 99% certain now). Maybe it does get people back to work. (Oops - the 1% happens)

With a spectacle approaching of massed missed paychecks tomorrow for federal workers, Sen Lindsey Graham (R-SC) is calling on for Trump to declare his national emergency and enumerate the powers he wants to use, to build his wall.

Then the government could be reopened.

Graham was despondent about the lack of progress today even among some senior Republicans on coming up with a compromise that Trump could sign.

There are many opinions about how court challenges would go.  It would appear legal for Trump to use surplus Corp of Engineer funds and contractors (it’s less clear that he can legally use military personnel).  However, these fund would be removed from possible use in disaster relief, like wildfires, earthquakes and hurricanes.  In fact, it seems to come from money already intended to help with Puerto Rico (Maria) and also the after effects of hurricanes like Harvey and Florence. 
The enumeration of specific powers could get dangerous if Trump went beyond the immediate issue of the border and got into other areas, like the Internet.  Some of my concern comes from the idea that “asymmetry” is itself a national security problem (following the logic of Taleb’s “skin in the game”).  But as long as Trump can stay away from this particular area (which I blab about a lot) I hope Democrats will leave the wall alone and let employees come back to work. True.
 Trump made this mess. He had promised to cooperate and then caved in to pseudo president Ann Coulter (Kyle Schmidlin on Medium).   

Update: Jan. 11

Trump said late Friday that he would not call an emergency right now. (The 1% probability happened.) He fears he would lose in court. And even with the Senate away for the weekend, Mitch McConnell hinted this after noon he would get talks going behind the scenes. 

The Wall Street Journal today, in an op-ed by Dan Crenshall, "The Silly Arguments Against a Border Wall", argues that the Democrats need to be more flexible on this. 

Wednesday, January 09, 2019

Trump throws a tantrum, acts like a mob boss from "The Town" in meeting with Dem's; "Give me what I want and I'll go away"

From the confrontation today. “Schumer: Why won’t you open the government and stop hurting people?  :Trump: Because then you won’t give me what I want.”

I’m reminded of the movie “The Town” (going out and hurting some people), and “Storm of the Century” (“Give me what I want and I’ll go away”.)

Is Trump the mob boss on this one?

It seems that Trump is in control right now, and the Democrats haven’t said why they have such an absolute objection to any more Wall, except for partisanship.

Note how Trump ends this video.  You have to hurt people to get things done, just like in the mob world.

This leads to grave moral traps for individuals, who may not get caught in this one, but maybe the next one.  How you deal with coercion is a moral issue.

Here’s a Coast Guard tip sheet, taken down, that is as shameful as the OPM’s.  Make everyone become a doomsday prepper or a prole.

Monday, January 07, 2019

Trump to address the nation apparently "only" on southern border crisis, after public appeals on Twitter for both sides to deal now

Today I answered two of Donald Trump’s tweets.  I challenged him along with Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer to strike a deal at $3 billion, stop holding workers hostage, and stop the partisanship. Here it is

Then when Trump tweeted that he will address the Nation Tuesday night at 9 PM, I replied.   

I am mystified by Democrat refusal to deal at all on the Wall issue, which could be needed in some locations.  

Note that Trump said he would address the nation on the humanitarian and national security crisis on the southern border.  Presumably his words, taken literally, mean he is concerned only about the southern border, and not other threats that are likely much more really dangerous to the US.  Trump’s announced intention to visit the southern border Thursday supports this notion.  Peter Bergen’s link to the history of real threats (from various other foreign sources, especially radical Islam and probably North Korea) is relevant.

But also cybersecurity, along with certain other technological threats (EMP) really could pose a national security emergency.   The asymmetric effect  (as in Nicholas Taleb’s “Skin in the Game”) of a lot of spontaneous Internet speech when read overseas is quite unpredictable and could conceivably justify Chinese-style clampdowns here. I talked about this Saturday on my “Books blog” review of an Atlantic article (q.v.).
Wall Street didn't act worried today, but it might not have digested the news or thought this deeply into the implications. 

Saturday, January 05, 2019

Trump's government shut-down sounds more dangerous than previous ones, because he is able to throw "the elites" under the bus, almost like a Bolshevik in 1917

The most disturbing part of President Donald Trump’s outdoor press conference Friday afternoon is his willingness to sacrifice the normally legitimate interests of others (right now some federal workers and especially contractors) to please his “aggrieved” base. The Washington Post has a sobering piece by Damian Paletta and Erica Werner. 

He made the hyperbolic threat that the shutdown could go “months” or “years”.  OK, here is Vox’s take on it (by Li Zhou)  While you’re at it, check Vox’s supplementary story about how to prevent future shutdowns.
And OPM last weekend had the temerity to suggest to federal workers to become “proles” and offer their barter manual labor to landlords, right out of Karl Marx.  I wrote about this on Wordpress.  That shows he is willing to force the “privileged” to experience subservience and sacrifice for his idea of a supposed public good. 

I do agree, as I wrote on the International Issue blog last night, that a Wall or translucent fence in some areas is necessary. Democrats on the far Left must stop screaming “That’s not what we stand for”.

And if you want to talk about sacrifice (remember how Perot talked about “shared sacrifice” in 1992), yes, when someone in the US (like the policeman in LA) is murdered by an illegal immigrant that person is a sacrifice, not just a victim. That would go for MS-13.  And, yes, a trojan horse threat at the border is possible.  It’s also true that in the aggregate, immigrants (even when illegal) have lower violent crime rates than native born Americans. But it still can be said that a crime committed by someone here illegally is a crime that could have been prevented.

Other Americans have to look for more disruption than expected.  TSA agents call in sick.  Amtrak seems OK for now, but may not be forever. 
So, let’s hope that Mike Pence reaches for his Christian faith and comes up with a way out of this.  Senate and House Republicans could support a veto (2/3 vote) but would only do so if Democrats give in somewhat on "The Wall". 

Should ordinary Americans be expected to use crowdfunding to support the affected workers?  I indirectly addressed this on my main blog Thursday.  If someone starts one, how do you know it is valid?
There is a way where my trust could become involved, by declaring a federal worker or contractor “special needs” through one of three beneficiary non-profits.  I can’t go into details here, but this can affect me if this goes on a long time.
 There are reports on CNN Saturday that federal employee unions will file suit this weekend to get paid, claiming FLSA violations. 
  Can Trump reasonably get the Wall built under national emergency provisions (even if local)?  If Trump could do this, could he shut down social media as a national security threat?  Maybe that sounds improbable because that's how he got elected, but don't count on it.   NBC News has a discussion of the emergency powers, with a link to an Atlantic article about implications for the Internet.  The New York Times has a counter op-ed by Bruce Ackerman, here.
 A lot is said about the influence of Ann Coulter, who, amazingly, suddenly supported extreme income and wealth taxes on the rich, as if she really wants an ethno-socialist state? 

Friday, January 04, 2019

California law limits pet shops to rescued animals

I do expect to get to the subject of the shutdown and Wall soon – it isn’t clear enough yet – but I’ll take a moment tonight to note California’s new law preventing pet stores from getting animals (usually dogs and cats) from puppy mills.

Pets can be bred and sold to individuals or families without going through stores.  But this would seem to limit the commercial volume pet business. 

But the state wants consumers to look at animal shelters first.

The law is viewed as an expansion of animal rights, or the recognition that higher mammals like carnivores have much more self-awareness than the law has given them credit for.

You have to have some smarts and problem solving ability, predictive of primates and humans, to hunt for a living. And it takes some smarts for an animal to build a relationship with a being of another species – us.   And we keep seeing stories on YouTube of larger wild cats, like bobcats, remembering humans that they have interacted with. 
What happens when we turn attention to whales and dolphins?

Tuesday, January 01, 2019

Bre Payton's death: yes, flu can still kill young people; unfortunate comments on Twitter follow

The sudden death of Federalist columnist Bre Payton should give us all cause for sober reflection.  Here is a memoir by colleague David Marcus. 

It is possible even today for someone young and healthy to die suddenly of infections disease. Apparently she had H1N1 influenza and somehow it led to encephalitis. We don’t know for sure whether she had taken the vaccine.

Young adults going to live in dorm arrangements should be wary of bacterial meningitis, especially Type B, for which there is a new vaccine.  That’s a germ that has been responsible for quadruple amputations.

People going overseas to volunteer need more shots than they get – including Ebola in more areas.
I did live through the AIDS epidemic in the 1980s.  During the earliest years, some people went from being strong and healthy do wasting and dying in less than a year.
Unfortunately there has been some mean rhetoric about Bre on Twitter because she wrote for a “conservative” paper.  Simply unbelievable. Crass tweets can come back years later to drive you out of a job.  I actually shared the backlash that showed up on my phone with a couple friends on the Metro last night coming back. 

Saturday, December 29, 2018

Trump's goal-line defense of his base on The Wall could lead to much more hardship-related shutdown this time

All indications suggest that Donald Trump is dug in on insisting on funding for the southern border wall. Vlogger Tim Pool says he will never give in. Others say he wants to keep the government closed to impede an impeachment investigation.

We’ll see on Jan. 3, if Congress can come to its senses.  But it would require Republicans to help override a veto, as it would take them to impeach Trump.  There has been some talk that Mike Pence wants to offer a $2.5 billion compromise.

Republicans would have to “fire” Trump, so to speak.

We’ve had long shutdowns (3 weeks) before, during the Clinton years.  We think they will blow over.

OK, the stock market has gotten over the shutdown, and the Syria pullout.  Give credit to the vlogger "Economic Invincibility", whose brain style (like "Donovan's Brain", 1953)  traders listen to (and so do some conservative politicians).

What is so dangerous is that Trump has no shame in forcing others to “sacrifice” to please his “aggrieved” base, “The People”.  It sounds Marxist, or else ethno-nationalist.

Contractors don’t get paid, and some furloughed workers may not this time (they were in the past) and those working without pay can have trouble with mortgages and rent.

And Trump sounds mean in announcing a federal pay freeze.

When I worked for a Census survey, we were threatened with a shutdown in March 2011.  It didn’t happen. But I would have quit.  I was not willing to allow my own life to become barter for somebody else’s partisan political objectives.
Should ordinary citizens support the affected workers with crowdfunding?  Is this my moral obligation?  I’ve said even that I ordinary don’t run other people’s fundraisers under my own name (and the reasons I’ve explored elsewhere).  Should I contribute myself?  Maybe privately?  I never would have taken the idea seriously before.  This time it could be different.  Next week is critical.  I have a trust that I benefit from – and though this blog is not the right place to get into that – there are some ways I am supposed to behave with respect to “special needs”. It seems personally insulting, however, to be expected to be the backup for somebody else’s failed systems.

Sunday, December 23, 2018

Baby Trump's impetuous use of "You're fired" this week (No, he can't fire the fed chairman)

Baby Trump threw one tantrum after another this week.  The latest came Sunday morning when he replaced resigning Secretary of Defense Patrick Shanahan as of Jan. 1,2019.  You can see the angry responses to Trump’s own feed here. 
I don’t know how “adult” Shanahan is with respect to the nuclear football, but his views may be closer to Mattis’s than the president expects.  But Shanahan will be involved in international meetings very quickly,   Mattis will probably work for a defense contractor and try to be influential. 

There is a lot of debate on both sides on Syria.  Not everyone agrees that the Kurds are at risk, or that the US had been accomplishing a lot there (other than intelligence gathering).  Rand Paul spoke about this on CNN Sunday morning.

Quite disturbing are claims that Trump is likely to fire Fed Chairman Jerome Powell.  This would rattle markets and undermine the idea of a fed independent of partisanship. But very recently Sunday, news sources ratified that Trump understand he does not have the authority to fire the fed chairman he had appointed.  Both Mick Mulvaney and Steve Mnunchin had committed this to news media by early Sunday, story by Mihir Zaveri in the New York Times. 

CNN reports that Mnunchin has called the nation's largest investment banks over the weekend to reassure them that Trump will not fire Powell. There is a copy of his letter on Twitter.  Treasury is one of the departments shut down. CNBC has a story on his letter noting that Treasury has essential employees on the job and that the system has normal liquidity. 
Here's a typical article on Yahoo! on the markets, with a comparison to 1987.  I remember Oct. 19 that year well.  A friend met me at SFO airport and told me that the market had crashed. 

Here’s Philip Rucker’s assessment of Trump’s crib in the Washington Post. 

The media, especially CNN, makes a lot of the partial shutdown. 

Update Dec 25

Catherine Rampbell on how Trump would handle a financial crisis. 

Saturday, December 22, 2018

Senate quietly votes for reinforcing power grid with older technology backups; can government shutdown affect cybersecurity?

The Senate has reportedly passed a plan to “dumb down” the power grid, which means retrofitting it with more manually controlled methods to restore power in case of cyber attacks which, however, would require air-gap jumping to attack.  Aaron Boyd reports for Nextgov. The current government shutdown has no effect on this/ 

Fifthdomain reports that slightly more of DHS is still on the job with the partial government shutdown for probably all of Christmas week now, and that includes all the critical response to cyberthreats.

But US Cert might not be able to send out its typical warnings to Internet users and installations.
In the video above, Ted Koppel really didn’t cover how air-gapping works in his book, as I best recall.

Friday, December 21, 2018

Self-segregated neighborhoods lead to lower real estate values in African-American neighborhoods

Christina Sturdivant Sani has a rather telling article about comparisons of real estate values in neighborhoods with many “black” residents and those without.

The Washington DC the price spread is about 15%.  But it is more in other cities.

It is not clear that this affects well-run high-rise condo buildings.

Thursday, December 20, 2018

Many states prohibit employees and contractors from boycotting Israel

Glenn Greenwald writes in the Intercept about a Texas law that prohibits teachers (maybe all state employees and contractors) from participating in boycotts against Israel (or supporting the West Bank) while employed.  Apparently 26 states have these laws, and some are recent.

The case involved a child speech pathologist to work in the Austin TX school district. She was denied a contract when she refused to sign the oath.

The bill was intended to prohibit public funds to anyone who supports the boycott of Israel.
Of course, there will be a lawsuit regarding the First amendment – even  maybe compelled speech.
States have boycotted other states for anti-LGBT laws.

Wednesday, December 19, 2018

Could half of Oklahoma "disappear"?

Rebecca Nagle reports that half the land in Oklahoma could be return to native Americans.

Could this put normal private property at risk?  What does this say about other states?

Is this bad karma?

Does it affect “federalism”?
I’ve been to WinStar on I-35.

Monday, December 17, 2018

Amazon may become choosier about the profitability of what it lists

Whatever the controversy over Amazon’s moving to Arlington VA (Crystal City) and Long Island City, Queens, NYC, the Wall Street Journal has a possibly significant article (by Dan Gallagher) about Amazon’s looking at products it sells as “CRaP”, or “can’t make a profit”. 

So far that appears to apply only to foods, soft drinks, appliances, and maybe some furnishings. This concern seems to have to do with Amazon trying to become a hybrid Wal-Mart. Some items are relatively expensive to ship given their value. 

And it appears to apply only to stock items.

Still, you wonder if this could eventually matter for books (especially self-published) carried as POD, with the enormous volume of titles, many of which don’t sell for long.
Amazon has also offered Prime members some important new independent films (often science-fiction or detective mystery genre) for free, a smaller scale version of Netflix.

Sunday, December 16, 2018

Zakaria: the rural v urban divide is now driving political and social strife

Fareed Zakaria has a major op-ed in the Washington Post, which he explains on CNN’s Global Public Square today, “The New Dividing Line in Western Politics”.  We’ve seen this most recently with the violent protests in France.
Better Angels should look at this.  It is not just rich v. poor, or traditional partisanship; it is also the urban educated elite compared to the “street smarts” (or “farm smarts”) or rural people.
Jobs are disappearing from rural areas, not so much to immigration (the dog whistle) but to automation and even changes in workplace culture.  It isn’t that clear-cut, though, as you see from the gig economy in cities.  Zakaria talks about robots as affecting jobs. 
There is also a divide on the issue of “now” v. “future generations” on climate change, and on who makes the sacrifices.
It reminds me of the quandary over student deferments from the draft in the 1960s.
Zakaria points out that rural voters have been irrational at the ballot box.