Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Trump makes his Supreme Court announcement like an Apprentice season conclusion


President Donald J. Trump conducted an episode of The Apprentice, inviting his top two candidate to Washington, and then announcing Justice Neil Gorsuch to fill Scalia's seat in the US Supreme Court.

He made a show of heterosexuality, kissing his wife before the announcement.  He is young at 49.
Gorsuch said that a judge who likes every decision he reaches is likely a bad judge.



Gay activist quickly began to denounce the choice, mentioning the Hobby Lobby decision on whether employers could be forced to cover contraceptives.  But most of his decisions, stripped of identity politics and interventionism, seem to have a somewhat libertarian flair.  He is thought to be similar to Scalia.  One observer on CNN said he had been critical of Obergefell as court interventionism.
 
Lambda Legal has a page on him labeling him as “dangerous”,  as if he were a clone of Milo Yiannopoulos, which is a bit ironic.  I have a feeling Trump would have hired Milo as an “apprentice”.
 
Nope, Troy McClain (from Season 1 of Apprentice) wasn’t there, as there is no “Team” to take one for.

Thursday, January 26, 2017

ABC News Anchor David Muir Interviews Donald Trump


Wednesday night, ABC News aired a special report, “ABC News Anchor David Muir Interviews Donald Trump”, with video and transcript link here.

Trump said that he may not do his job as well if he has to act too “presidential” like Abraham Lincoln.

Trump later talked about the upcoming refugee halt, which will last several months and ban visitors from seven countries, including Syria, indefinitely. He said it will take about a month for the entire new policy to become clear.  It’s unclear, for example, how asylum seekers are affected.

He said he will set up safe zones in Syria or other places in the Middle East and protect with troops if necessary.

He defended his claims about voter fraud.  Apparently states don’t clean up their rolls when people move (discussion on Twitter today with reporters at Vox).

Trump did seemed civil with a member of the liberal establishment media and showed some of the Oval Office attractions.

One crowd size, “I won’t allow you, or other people like you, to demean the crowd” of people who have been left behind and forgotten.

They also talked about the American Carnage in Chicago.



Trump said he has been told that torture (“Extreme Rendition”) sometimes works.  He said, “they chop off heads and send the pictures all over the world.”

He did talk about getting the nuclear codes right after the oath of office.

"The world is a mess. The world is as angry as it gets."

He said we should have confiscated oil to stop ISIS from funding itself.

Trump said he told the GOP that the easiest thing to do is let Obamacare implode.  But he says he wants to do the right thing and replace it with something simpler more quicly.

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

"Trump's Road to the White House" on PBS Frontline


PBS Frontline presented “Trump’s Road to the Whitehouse” Tuesday night at 10 PM. The official site is here.

The documentary covered the stunning and deceptive change in voter reaction to Trump’s aggressive, authoritarian style of manipulating voters, even after the “Billy Bush” report from the set of “Days of our Lives” in October 2016.  The Comey letter Oct. 27 is made to look like a game changer.
 


The documentary showed Trump’s uncanny ability to outmaneuver critics by making unusual and hard-to-meet accusations against enemies.

The documentary did not cover exactly when people realized Clinton was likely to lose, but by 10 PM I knew she was in real trouble as I sat in a bar.

As time goes by, some of Trump’s behavior and obsession with image and crowd counts is disturbing.
 
  His appointments are behaving better than expected in confirmation hearings, and his policies are starting to sound more reasonable than anticipated.

He may actually be able to replace Obamacare with something simpler and more effective.  If he really knows the insurance business better than conventional politicians, he could be right.  The effects on immigration, despite the expected executive order soon, may be less than feared for law-abiding residents.  Some infrastructure ideas really will create good jobs.  But what will happen to the environment with issues like the pipeline and coal mining?  Renewable energy is really a better job creator than keeping fossil fuels, but the same people (out of work now) don’t get the jobs.

Friday, January 20, 2017

"Mr. Trump Goes to Washington" on ABC 20-20


ABC 20-20 aired “The Trumps Go to Washington” Thursday night.



Donald Trump’s children commented on Trump’s use of Twitter, which goes against his unusual, Luddite distrust of technology. Eric thought he would pull back somewhat.  Melania thinks we need to do something strong about cyberbullying.

Here is ABC’s prediction on what Trump will focus on during the first 100 days.   It’s pretty general.  I like the infrastructure part, and it needs to include power grid security.

Sunday, January 15, 2017

"Full Measure" with Sharyl Attkisson deals with "Threat Matrix" and possible cyber attacks on banking system, power grids


WJLA’s “Full Measure” with Sharyl Attkisson Sunday morning dealt with the “threat matrix”. 
  
CIA director Brennan warned that a cyberattack on Wall Street and banks is possible, wiping out 401(k)’s.  Like Ted Koppel, he warns of a cyberattack on the power grids (he didn’t mention EMP or “One Second After”). He even thinks a cyberattack on the Pentagon or NSA is possible, which I have always taken as a baseline of security to be followed (like my saying electric utilities need military-grade security).


Brennan thinks we are safer than we were in 2002, but less safe than in 2009. Radical Islam spreads in poor and underdeveloped areas of the world, especially Africa.

There was also a stark warning about North Korea, which could conceivably reach the US West Coast, or at least Alaska, with a nuclear warhead on an ICBM by 2019. It is not clear that NORAD is prepared for it.  There is also a question on whether the US nuclear force should always be on high alert (Fareed Zakaria).
  
Atkinson also looked at coal miners’ jobs, focusing on Pennsylvania.  Natural gas has replaced coal because it is cheaper and especially cleaner with respect to CO2.  But there is a new clean coal power plant near Pittsburgh.
   
For every miner that gets laid off, four other people are affected. 

Saturday, January 14, 2017

"My Reality: A Hidden America": Diane Sawyer explores low-wage work on ABC 20-20


Friday night January 13, 2017 ABC 20-20 aired a report by Diane Sawyer, “My Reality: A Hidden America”, about the lives of working people with low wages.  The best link is here.

 The tone of the broadcast reminds me of Barbara Ehrenreich’s 2001 book “Nickel and Dimed” where she went undercover and took low-wage jobs.

What we call the middle class has shrunk.  Because of the way market forces work in a system of extreme capitalism, housing prices have risen much more quickly than the ability of average people to pay for housing has risen.

So the report shows many people working multiple jobs and doing extreme commutes to make ends meet.  In the Silicon Valley, one worker commutes four hours each way, partly by bicycle, to get to a job in Palo Alto.  The film showed a firemam and EMT technician with three jobs and alternate nights away from home, and little time at home.

The film also covered fast food workers, and explained how franchise owners often set the rules.



In the Silicon Valley, major companies have recently become more attentive to the behavior of contractors who hire workers to provide basic services, especially drivers for employees, so benefits and wages of some service workers on the campuses if these big tech companies have improved.

A lot of people see low wage jobs as a way of “paying your dues”, a test for deserving a better station in life.

Friday, January 13, 2017

ABC Nightline issues scathing update on Backpage, which shut down its adult section after appearing before Senate


ABC Nightline last night late aired a scathing report on Backpage.com, which reportedly pulled its adult ads section after facing a Senate committee.  The video for the report is here.  It will move on and play a second video (total 25 minutes).

Sunny Hostin  from “The View” explained how Section 230 (of the 1996 Telecommunications Act, of Communications Decency Act, is supposed to work).  It protects a site from what users (“other people”) post on it.  But the reporter did ask, “shouldn’t a site owner know what’s on it’s site?”

 Well, if you’re a company with tens of thousands of users, which is the scale you need for profits, that isn’t possible.  That’s why we have Section 230.

But it appears that Backpage may have altered some ads;  it if knew what was there, then it can’t credibly claim immunity.  Or maybe it can, according to this site.

I presume that the Bloomberg article on Backpage’s conduct is factual enough to link to it, here.

The case is important because it can tempt Congress, especially in a new Trump administration with a president personally hostile to computers (“no computer is safe”) to eliminate Section 230 entirely, as merely protecting “gratuitous” speech that doesn’t carry its own weight but allows some users to pose grave asymmetric risks to others.  In other words, all must sacrifice some freedom because of the behavior of the few, like giving an entire class detention in school for the behavior of two or three students – it happens.

But, then, how would the Supreme Court rule on the inevitable legal challenges.  Congress could try to narrow any tightening of 230 to ad content rather than articles, but it could be hard to draw a clean line.  Is an author’s page selling books an ad, especially if it takes credit cards directly?



ABC hasn’t put its latest video up yet.  The report above is a few months old.  The Backpage issue has been going on for quite some time, with courts using Section 230 to let it off the hook, but that could change now.

It would be instructive to compare Backpage’s use of Section 230 to that of Airbnb.
 
It would also be important to know how effective is law enforcement in protecting individual girls (underage) with case-by-case arrests and prosecutions of customers (like in NBC’s “To Catch a Predator” a few years ago).

Section 230 does not shield hosts for child pornography, but they are liable only if they know about it or see it themselves first;  they don’t pro-actively screen for it (although Google now screens for digital watermarks of known images).

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

CNN blitzes us with hearings, forums, farewall speeches while social media users declare "Politics Free Zones"


While Facebook friends declare “politics free zones” (and make me wonder if I shouldn’t continue to post stories about (T)Rump, CNN is blitzing us with politics.

Monday night, Chris Cuomo conducted a town hall for Bernie Sanders (65 minutes).  Sanders still wants to pay for free college education with higher taxes on Wall Street speculation.

Tuesday morning, Jeff Sessions, 70, put on his Sunday best, and tacitly admitted that times have changed since he was a young man in Alabama.  He even admitted that LGBT people are sometimes victims of hate crimes.  He said he would follow the law and the Supreme Court, but not his own opinions.  He had no quarrel now with gay marriage, but he thinks that Roe v. Wade is constitutionally wrong.



People showed up protesting the KKK.

Tuesday night, Obama gave his final speech in Chicago, and user Air Force One for the last time.  He said that freedom is not “self-executing”.  He challenged people to get out of their mindset where they will read only what they want to hear.  He argued for truth and science, almost as if Jack Andraka or Taylor Wilson had written this part of the speech.

Wednesday morning, Rex Tillerson of Exxon (and a former head of the Boy Scouts of America, before it gave up its antigay policies) testifies, again with moderate responses.  Protestors have interrupted a couple time.

At 11:00 AM (T)Rump will have his press conference.



Update: Jan 14

CNN also aired "The Legacy of Michelle Obama" on Jan. 13.

Sunday, January 08, 2017

CBS 60 Minutes: "The Hostage Policy" examines the issue of paying ransom to terrorists


Tonight Lesley Stahl did a somber report on CBS 60 Minutes, about the question “Should the U.S. Government pay ransom money?” http://www.cbsnews.com/news/60-minutes-hostage-policy-lesley-stahl/    The episode was also titled “The Hostage Policy”.

Stahl interviewed the parents Art and Shirley Sotloff, of murdered journalist Stephen Sotloff.  Stahl also interviewed Lisa Monaco from the Obama administration, and she defended Obama’s policy.
Peter Bergen says that European countries which do pay ransom don’t have proportionally more kidnappings.  (The UK does not.)  Federal law also makes it illegal for a family to pay ransom or for individuals to contribute to ransom funds, but the DOJ says it will not prosecute such cases.



Stahl suggested that the government could pay ransom but in secret and denial.

I would not involve myself in ransom payment attempts (there are phishing attacks on the Internet trying to do this), and do not expect it to ever be done for me.

Wednesday, January 04, 2017

PBS: "Beyond Borders: Undocumented Mexican Americans"


Tonight, PBS WHUT Howard University Television in Washington DC aired “Undocumented Mexican Americans” as part of its “Beyond Bordersseries. There was a film by this name about Doctors Beyond Borders in Africa in 2003.

The episode traced some undocumented people chased back to Mexico, including one woman who had been here 35 years and was stopped on a traffic ticket in San Diego. The families would be separated if the kids stayed.


The film presented the sharp increase in the number of deportations under Obama. It also presented Obama’s history trying to pass a Dream Act before implementing his own Deferred Action on Childhood Arrivals (DACA) in 2012.

But illegal immigration into the US has gone down since 2008 because of the US recession as well as a drop in birthrates in Mexico, even if violence-driven immigration from deep in Central America, like El Salvador, may increase.
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Monday, January 02, 2017

"Rock the Park": Jack and Colton take chances with the grizzlies, and hypothermia in Denali National Park, Alaska


The last two episodes of “Rock the Park” on Saturday mornings, with Jack Steward and Colton Smith, have sent the explorers to Denali National Park, around Mt. McKinley, in Alaska.

Even in July, with the 20 hour days, some nights are cold out in the open.  The men put food out several hundred feet away from their tents on poles to keep grizzly bears from visiting them.  Of course, that means that bears will learn to expect food from man’s visits and depend less on their own fishing and hunting skills.



In another episode, the men skinny dipped into cold streams and had to whitewater, keeping changes of clothes around to avoid hypothermia even in summer.

They also explored a moulon (ice cave) at great risk.

In 1980, I flew in a private seaplane tour that climbed up the face of McKinkley to about 9000 feet, and then retreated to a party at a “cabin in the woods” on a lake before returning to Anchorage.
 
Wikipedia attribution link for Ruth Glacier photo by Brian Schaller, CCSA 3.0.
Second picture is actually Tioga Pass in California (mine, May, 2012).

But, then, there is fantasy:
Gore-Tex has an adverisement article showing the "boys" from Rock the Park in Alaska here