Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Against pill testing

Those of a libertarian bent tend to support the idea of pill testing at places where youth gather to do things like listen to doof doof  music so tedious that they must take mind altering illicit drugs in order to enjoy it for more than 10 minutes.  

Yet, as I have seen argued before, this is a position motivated more by ideology than evidence that pill testing is effective.  [I'd link to my previous post about it, if only Google wasn't so pathetic in its erratic indexing of this blog.]

The latest article explaining this was at the SMH today.   Basically, the testing is far from being very accurate, and even if does identify a substance that is safe at small doses, it can't tell what the dose is.

Sounds pretty convincing to me, even if I have an ideological position against recreational drugs generally.

Silly trivia

On the one hand, when we went through an election campaign in which Trumpkin wingnuttery was full of things like slowed down video of Clinton allegedly having seizures, and a minder who was supposed to be walking around with an injector in hand, ready to sedate her at a moment's notice, I'm inclined to cut the anti Trump side a bit of slack when it comes to their now obsessing over silly things like Melania Trump's facial expression at one point of the inauguration.

But really, to be overanalysing her, and young Barron Trump, is really below the media, including Slate, isn't it?

If he didn't hold the fate of the planet in his hands, I would agree that maybe he is worth the comedy

Monday, January 23, 2017

The double slit with a twist: an important quantum experiment?

Just browsing through arXiv, as you do when there is not much on TV, and found a paper from last week by a group of Chinese researchers which sounds very significant.  Here's the abstract:
Are quantum states real? How to think about this the most important, most fundamental and most profound question in quantum mechanics still has not been satisfactorily resolved, although its realistic interpretation seems to have been rejected by various delayed-choice experiments. The heart of the matter comes down to what can describe physical reality if wavefunctions cannot. Here, to address this long-standing issue, we present a quantum twisted double-slit experiment, in which orbital angular momentum degree-of-freedom is employed to 'mark' the double slits (mimicked by spatial light modulators). Besides providing a which-slit observation interface, by exploiting the variable arrival time ascribed to the subluminal feature of twisted photons, the behavior of a photon during its time in flight is revealed for the first time. We found that the arrival time of photons does not accord with the states obtained in measurements, but agree well with the theoretical predictions calculated from their wavefunctions during the propagation. Our results demonstrate that wavefunctions describes a realistic manner of quantum entities' existence and evolution rather than only a mathematical abstraction for only providing a probability list of measurement outcomes. This finding makes an important update in understanding the role of wavefunctions in the evolution of quantum entities, inspires a new insight on nonlocality and wave-particle duality, and reminds us there is a neglected powerful resource for quantum science needing revisit.
As is common in such papers, the introduction and (this time) even the conclusion are fairly comprehensible, and you don't have to follow the maths in between.  Here's their surprising conclusion:

The cartoon they refer to is this:

I'm guessing that there might be a dispute over their interpretation of their experiment, but we'll see.  I'd be a bit surprised if this doesn't make it into science journalism soon...

Inadequate Google blog searching, revisited

Why does this happen???

This morning I noted how I couldn't find a post I was sure I had made here using Google Advanced search (wherein I searched the word "tempura" in my blog site - both www.opiniondominion.blogspot.com  and www.opiniondominion.blogspot.com.au.  I also dropped the "www", in case that made a difference.  I tried other words I thought likely in the post too, such as "batter").

Nothing came up.  Nothing came up when I tried it last night, too.

Nothing came up trying Bing.

I had to resort to doing a word search in a backup copy of the entire blog (opening the .xml backup file in Notepad.)

And here it is:   the post from 2015 - a fairly lengthy post which uses "tempura" many times, even in the title, not to mention "batter".

Having found the post on the backup, I even tested Google Advanced Search by cutting and pasting the short sentence  "The history of tempura as a Japanese mainstay is interesting" and told it just to search the blog address - and still nothing.

Why does this happen??

I still see in a site counter I sometimes check, for example, that someone has visited the blog because they searched "lucky snakes", and I had a post of that title many years ago.   I can also Google (not even Advanced Google) for "ox tail opinion dominion" or similarly for "paella" and I can get the posts I made where I have recorded recipes.

So why is Google so erratically unreliable about search within a Blogger blog?   Even using Advanced Search???

I've been complaining about this for years - and I am puzzled as to why it happens.

Very witty

Following on from the lying (and pro-Life Catholic - the prime example of the disgraceful low standards of conservative Catholics in supporting Trump) Kellyanne Conway's  comments yesterday,  this has appeared on twitter:

Cleaning up the vomit story

I did enjoy this lengthy explanation of the rise of the belief that Ancient Romans would use a "vomitorium" while feasting.

Pet rat problem

Eight people who worked at several rat-breeding facilities in Illinois and Wisconsin have been infected with a virus not commonly found in the United States, federal health officials said Friday. This is the first known outbreak of Seoul virus associated with pet rats in the United States, although there have been several outbreaks in wild rats, according to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Seoul virus is a member of the Hantavirus family of rodent-borne viruses and is carried by wild Norway rats worldwide. Most rats infected with the virus do not appear sick.

People typically become infected when they are exposed to body fluids (blood, saliva, urine) from infected rats or are bitten by them. People can't get the virus from other people or from other types of pets, the CDC said in a news release.

Symptoms of Seoul virus infection in people include fever, severe headache, back and abdominal pain, chills, blurred vision, eye redness and rash. In rare cases, infection can lead to kidney disease. Most people infected with the virus recover, according to the CDC.
Link:  8 people infected in rare U.S. outbreak of rat virus

Update:  in defence of rats, don't forget how many people are seriously affected by cat scratch disease in the US each year:
...although it was extremely rare, each year about 12,000 people are diagnosed with cat-scratch disease, and of these, 500 require hospitalization. These incidences were highest in the U.S. southern states and in households with children aged 5 to 9. 

The lost post

I'm curious - do any of my vast number of regular readers (ha) remember a post here in the last 18 months or so in which I talked about cooking tempura for the first time?   I feel certain I posted about it - including the simple recipe I ended up following despite the many variations on the net.

Yet I can't successfully find any reference to tempura here via Google Advanced Search, blog search, or even Bing.

I tried tempura again last night, and it was not as successful - I blame not being able to find my own post about it.

Not right in the head - in three parts

1.  Dimitrious Gargasoulas, the guy who went on the shocking killing rampage on Friday in his car in Melbourne.   The Daily Mail has a run down on his recent Facebook entries, all of which indicate he had been ranting and obviously mentally unwell for sometime.  Friends are quoted saying he was seriously drug addled by ice; the police knew him from a violent past.  The Facebook entries indicate some religious element to his derangement, but none of the entries indicate it was Islamic.    If anything, they in fact indicate he thought he was following an esoteric Kurdish, pre-Islamic religion.

2. The people who comment at Catallaxy.   If a random attack first appears that it might be Islamic terrorism, there is no persuading them, ever, that it wasn't.   Their compelling evidence - the one tourist witness who was on video saying that Gargasoulas was yelling "allah akhbar" from his car.   Oddly, it seems no other witness has come forward to confirm it, nor is there any phone video around to back it up.  Gargasoulas was yelling and ranting, and his actions did resemble some recent overseas Islamic terrorism: doesn't it seem to reasonable people at least possible - maybe even likely - that the tourist mistakenly thought he heard the phrase?  The only other evidence - a friend quoted by the Daily Mail saying that Gargasoulas had recently "converted to Islam."   Yet, the Facebook rants don't support that, at all. There has been no one saying he has ever stepped foot into a mosque.

But the high functioning fools of Catallaxy - for that is what most of them are - latched onto "it's Islamic terrorism" and won't let go.   Even the weirdo Fisk - who I have not been able to make sense of for years - is seeming to play some sort of anti-immigration game with this.

In any event, even if it were later proved that he had yelled what the tourist thought he did -  if every religion is supposed to be responsible for the killings of its clearly mentally ill so-called converts, I'd like to know how many Christian or Catholic "terrorists" there have been over the years.  

3.  David Leyonhjelm:  I've said before he seems to me to be kind of depressed since the last election, probably because all of the Senate balance of power attention has switched to One Nation and Xenophon.  But he is a deeply foolish man - one who doesn't have normal sensibilities and constantly seems to seek controversy for the sake of attention - to do what he did on Friday

When China sounds more reasonable than America

A short post (well, they are all short) at Axios noted that Steven Bannon thought it a good idea to compare Trump's speech to that of China's president Xi Jinping at Davos.

Who knows why he thought that, when Xi sounds like the one being modern, reasonable, and moral:

Here's Trump today:

For many decades, we've enriched foreign industry at the expense of American industry; subsidized the armies of other countries while allowing for the very sad depletion of our military; we've defended other nation's borders while refusing to defend our own; and spent trillions of dollars overseas while America's infrastructure has fallen into disrepair and decay. We've made other countries rich while the wealth, strength, and confidence of our country has disappeared over the horizon. One by one, the factories shuttered and left our shores, with not even a thought about the millions upon millions of American workers left behind. The wealth of our middle class has been ripped from their homes and then redistributed across the entire world.

And here's Xi on Tuesday:

We should commit ourselves to growing an open global economy to share opportunities and interests through opening-up and achieve win-win outcomes. One should not just retreat to the harbor when encountering a storm, for this will never get us to the other shore of the ocean. We must redouble efforts to develop global connectivity to enable all countries to achieve inter-connected growth and share prosperity. We must remain committed to developing global free trade and investment, promote trade and investment liberalization and facilitation through opening-up and say no to protectionism.
And by the way: isn't it very odd that Republicans (or at least, Trump Republicans) should be concerned about infrastructure, when it's their combination of lower taxes and "must balance the budget" that set up the country for decreasing spend on infrastructure in the first place?  (OK, I am assuming that's the story here - I don't have the links at hand to prove it. Oh alright, I'll Google it for this piece last year in The Atlantic:
To get a sense of Ryan’s pre-election view of the infrastructure question, however, consider his response when The Atlantic’s Ronald Brownstein asked, during the Washington Ideas Forum in late September, whether he would help Trump pass “a $550 billion, or more, infrastructure program.” Ryan laughed loudly and slapped his hand on the arm rest of his chair. “That’s not in the ‘Better Way’ agenda,” the speaker replied, referring the six-point plan he and other House GOP lawmakers unveiled earlier this year as their campaign platform. “Just so you know, we just passed the biggest highway bill since the 1990s.”

After years of delays and stopgap bills, Congress did approve a six-year, $305 billion highway bill last December, but the Obama administration and advocates for infrastructure investment considered the legislation woefully short of the amount needed to bring the nation’s roads and bridges into good repair. Before the 2009 stimulus, infrastructure had enjoyed mostly bipartisan support on Capitol Hill. But while there remain a solid number of Republican lawmakers who want to increase spending on transportation and other upkeep, the hurdle in recent years has been finding a way to pay for it. Congress has not raised the gas tax in more than two decades, and ideas to finance infrastructure in other ways have not gone far.

Sunday, January 22, 2017

New media outlet worth watching

I see that new American on line news outlet Axios has started.  (It only came to my attention via noticing Jonathan Swan on twitter said he was starting there.)

The background to this start up is here.  I like the description: 
What Axios is trying to do is occupy the space that VandeHei feels The New York Times and The Economist could have commanded if they weren’t tethered to their old print roots. He has joked with potential investors that Axios is best described as what you get if the “Economist mated with Twitter,” and “smartly narrated all the good stuff its own reporters missed,” according to someone familiar with the conversation.
The article notes that the plan is ultimately to make money from subscriptions, but it's all free at the moment.

Worth following, I think...

The bad reviews are in

For the inauguration, of course.   Some of the columns are pretty good:

*  George Wills' review in the Washington Post had perhaps the most succinct title:

And I thought it was pretty witty in its withering assessment:
 Living down to expectations, he had delivered the most dreadful inaugural address in history.

Kellyanne Conway, Trump’s White House counselor, had promised that the speech would be “elegant.” This is not the adjective that came to mind as he described “American carnage.” That was a phrase the likes of which has never hitherto been spoken at an inauguration.

Oblivious to the moment and the setting, the always remarkable Trump proved that something dystopian can be strangely exhilarating: In what should have been a civic liturgy serving national unity and confidence, he vindicated his severest critics by serving up reheated campaign rhetoric about “rusted out factories scattered like tombstones across the landscape” and an education system producing students “deprived of all knowledge.” Yes, all.

But cheer up, because the carnage will vanish if we “follow two simple rules: Buy American and hire American.” “Simple” is the right word.
*  For a much less amusing, but very worthy take down of Trump, I strongly recommend William Saletan's article at Slate:

Saletan starts by noting the ridiculous tweet by Trump, trying to look serious, pretending he is writing the inauguration speech:
He writes:
A normal president doesn’t do this. He doesn’t assert authorship of speeches and fake a picture of himself writing them. At what ought to be the apex of his popularity and grace, Trump is still groping for praise, even for a speech that was supposed to be about other people.
But the real reason the column is so good is because of the comparison Saletan makes with the inauguration speeches George W Bush gave after he won against Al Gore.  Given that I have some history of defending the character and actions of Bush, it pleases me to be reminded why I thought Bush was a decent man:
Bush continued this emphasis on humility in his inaugural address. He introduced America as a “slaveholding society,” a land of “flawed and fallible people united across the generations by grand and enduring ideals.” He warned of the persistence of “hidden prejudice.” He praised mosques for cultivating humanity. He said America’s role in the world was to “protect but not possess, to defend but not to conquer.” He rejected the notion that “our politics can afford to be petty.” He stressed the importance of “private character,” “civic duty,” and “unhonored acts of decency.”
Trump’s week has been nothing like that. On Twitter, he insulted NBC, CNN, “the Democrats,” and the director of the CIA. He branded Hillary Clinton a criminal. He called Rep. John Lewis, who was beaten for his courage in the civil rights movement, a liar who’s “all talk … no action.” (Trump also said Lewis should stick to fixing “crime infested inner-cities.”) Meanwhile, Trump retweeted a picture of himself as “golfer-in-chief” and quoted a supporter who said it’s not Trump's fault that America is divided.
Saletan ends with these withering (sorry to repeat the adjective, but there is hardly one better) paragraphs:
On Friday, a morally empty man gave a morally empty speech. There was no talk of humility, no acknowledgment of enduring prejudice, no plea for decency. Instead, Trump railed against foreigners and “a small group in our nation’s capital” that “has reaped the rewards of government.” In place of Bush’s praise for mosques, Trump spoke of Islam only as a source of terrorism. The man who ran on a platform of “take the oil” fumed that American wealth had been “redistributed all across the world.” He accused countries of “stealing our companies and destroying our jobs.”
This is why Trump is unworthy of your respect. It’s not because he didn’t win the popular vote. It’s not because of his party or his policies. It’s not because of Russia. It’s because of who he is. For all his faults, even those that turned out to be disastrous, Bush was a decent man. He believed in something greater than himself. Trump doesn’t.
 *  For a bit of snarky comedy, you can then read an account of the apparently poorly organised inaugural balls, also at Slate.  For exampe:
So what did I learn about Donald Trump’s inaugural balls after two hours’ worth of circling around outside of them? As I suspect will soon become a theme of Trump’s presidency, they overpromised and underdelivered. And they didn’t even really overpromise! Any ball that starts at 7 p.m. and features Tony Orlando cannot be said to have overpromised anything. I cannot confirm that the balls themselves were lame, but the lines were certainly long, and the people standing in them were cold and angry, though that also might just be their resting state.
*  Trump is today taking a pounding for his rambling, inappropriate comments to the CIA:
Trump then rambled—as if this were a campaign rally instead of a morale-boosting speech in front of the agency’s most sacred spot—about how smart he is (citing as proof the fact that a brilliant uncle taught at MIT) and about how he’s been on the cover of Time magazine more often than anybody. (In fact, the title is held by Richard Nixon, which says something about what gets a president on a lot Time magazine covers.)
He also said things that must have baffled many of the 300 CIA employees who gathered for the visit, came in on a day off to see their new boss. He repeated the line, which he’d uttered many times during the campaign, that we should have “taken the oil” in Iraq (a notion that is politically daft, economically unnecessary, and militarily all-but-impossible) and that maybe we’ll have the opportunity to do so now. He also said that he suspected most of the people in the room voted for him in the election—a comment that, whether true or not, is appallingly inappropriate to make to intelligence analysts, who pride themselves on their independence and fear political encroachment above all else.
He's off to a flying start, to his failure, then...

Saturday, January 21, 2017

Diagnosing America

I see that the erudite Peter Whiteford has re-tweeted about the Niskanen Centre, indicating that he agrees that it's a good site for "bleeding heart" libertarianism.  I have looked at something there before, some time ago, but can't remember what, and thought it looked OK.  I think it was on climate change, now that I think of it.   But it does call itself "libertarian", so I'm sure it's objectionable in one way or another.

Anyway, another specific link to it by Whiteford is to a lengthy piece by Will Wilkinson looking at the various explanations for social and political division in America at the moment.  I think it's not bad, but I have some reservations.  The best paragraphs are these:
It has become conventional wisdom in some circles that “the elites” and “the people” are divided by cultural and informational “bubbles” that offer incompatible perspectives on the facts of the world and the nature of a good society, and thus regard each other with mutual distrust and contempt. All this demographic complexity aside, the conventional wisdom that there is a widening cultural gap between “the people” and “the elites,” and that the rise of populist nationalism is due to backlash against “the establishment,” contains more than a grain of truth. But we need to get much clearer about what exactly that truth is. 
Because “the establishment” (including the Republican political establishment) is relatively cosmopolitan and liberal (in the broad sense), an outpouring of populist anti-establishment sentiment is going to assume a nationalistic, illiberal form more or less by default. The good news is that anti-elite anybody-but-Hillary-ism doesn’t really imply serious public appetite for anything like alt-right authoritarianism. The bad news is that the liberal-democratic capitalist welfare state and the so-called “neoliberal” global order is far and away the best humanity has ever done, and we’ve taken it for granted. We could very well trash it in a fit of pique, and wind up a middle-income kleptocracy boiling with civil strife and/or destabilize the global order in a way that ends in utter horror.

It is very important to keep this from happening!
Further down in the article, Wilkinson relies a lot on the Cato Freedom index (which actually ranks Australia very highly internationally - take that, whining Australian libertarian types); but to be honest, I don't know how reliable that index really is.   I tend not to trust anything from Cato.

Wilkinson also looks briefly at rising inequality in America, and he seems to have a somewhat more nuanced view than the average libertarian (who doesn't give a toss) in that he says that rising inequality per se is not a problem, as long as poverty is being lifted by deliberate policy action at the same time.  (I think that's where he differs from other libertarians, who may argue that the rising tide lifts all boats anyway.  Wilkinson seems realistic enough to not trust that unfettered capitalism works that way - government policy is needed too.)

That seems to be his position, as he links back to an 2009 piece he wrote which says:
There is little evidence that high levels of income inequality lead down a slippery slope to the destruction of democracy and rule by the rich. The unequal political voice of the poor can be addressed only through policies that actually work to fight poverty and improve education. Income inequality is a dangerous distraction from the real problems: poverty, lack of economic opportunity, and systemic injustice.
 What I don't see there is reference to social mobility:  that was supposed to be the deal with America, wasn't it? - they have a system with pathetic minimum wages, for example, but everyone knew that they were just the first stepping stone that people used to build up to a comfortable life income.   But as been noted recently, this isn't happening so much in the US any more.  In The Atlantic:

It’s not an exaggeration: It really is getting harder to move up in America. Those who make very little money in their first jobs will probably still be making very little decades later, and those who start off making middle-class wages have similarly limited paths. Only those who start out at the top are likely to continue making good money throughout their working lives.

That’s the conclusion of a new paper by Michael D. Carr and Emily E. Wiemers, two economists at the University of Massachusetts in Boston. In the paper, Carr and Wiemers used earnings data to measure how fluidly people move up and down the income ladder over the course of their careers. “It is increasingly the case that no matter what your educational background is, where you start has become increasingly important for where you end,” Carr told me. “The general amount of movement around the distribution has decreased by a statistically significant amount.”
 And here's another article from The Atlantic in 2015:

America Is Even Less Socially Mobile Than Most Economists Thought

Maybe Wilkinson has written about social mobility before (and I admit, I haven't read his 2009 article.)  But unless he does, I'll be a bit skeptical about his thoughts on inequality.  

Finally, one graphic in the Wilkinson article is really good, I think.  It shows economic output according to regions.  Here it is:

Interesting how the highest economic output is clearly from such Democrat dominated regions.  The highlight of Republican low tax, low regulation policies seems to come down pretty much to only Texas.   The importance of Republican policy to regional (and national) economic health looks particularly weak, when you look at it that way...

Prisma shows its feelings about Trump

The effect is rather "David Icke", no? Feels true to his inner character, though...

Friday, January 20, 2017

The Chinese threat

...to the big mobile phone manufacturers, that is.

The Australian had a bit of a puff piece this week about the increasing success of a few Chinese mobile phone makers - Oppo, Huawei and ZTE.   I'm interested in Oppo, because I brought my daughter an Optus F1s at Christmas (for $249 - they cost $318 unlocked) and she is very happy with it.  I can barely pry it out of her hands, but from what I can see, it is good, especially at the price. 

Here's what the article said:
Having topped China’s smartphone market for the first time in mid-2016, Oppo rides high. The Shenzhen-headquartered phone maker launched here in late 2014, selling a paltry 3000 units. In 2015 it sold 30,000, and last year more than 150,000. It’s small when compared to Apple, but Oppo sees the momentum working for it. It says its Australian market share last year had climbed to 1.7 per cent, up from 0.3 per cent in 2015.
As long as you don't mind the Chinese government listening in on all of your calls (I'm joking), their phones are going to continue increasing market share, I think.

As for my allegiance to Samsung - I am still finding my TabS from a couple of years ago to be flawless, and it makes all other screens look pretty pathetic, even on their newer cheaper Tab A's that they sell as an entry tablet.  But in mobile phones, they really do seem to be bringing out too many models, if you ask me. 

More For the Record

Comes from here:
It really shows up Tillerson's "we don't really know what models we can rely on - they predict different things" line as being a pure lukewarmer avoidance tactic. (Even though he does say that Exxon had decided there was a serious risk.)

Neat graphic

I just saw this on twitter - don't know who created it; don't know if it's true.  But I'll take the risk on this one:

How many liberals are feeling today...

Climate change and tobacco, again

Remember back in September I posted about a famous statistician who went to his grave arguing against the (then recent) medical conclusion that smoking caused lung cancer?   No?  - well you should go read it.

I noted at the end how Fisher's story reflected very much what had happened with climate change:  
A science consensus emerges and is widely publicised - a mere handful of credible scientists (well, I assume Fisher might have had some supporters) spend the end of their careers arguing that everybody else is wrong; it's not proved; it could be something else no one else has conclusively ruled out, etc.   Then cranky contrarians die, and everybody else gets on with what was always correct.
Which leads me to a lengthy blog post that talks about the criteria the tobacco researchers used to conclude that smoking really was the cause, not just a co-relation, of lung cancer.

I don't recognize the name of the author - Seth Miller - but he tells a really convincing story here:

What climate skeptics taught me about global warming.   Do read.

Of course, as usual, I expect that the people who most need to read it will not.   

Thursday, January 19, 2017

About China

I've stumbled across a few different articles about China today:

a review of a book (by a Chinese author who stumbled across the story) recently translated into English  about one appalling (and little known) massacre during the Cultural Revolution: 
For several weeks in August and September 1967, more than nine thousand people were murdered in this region. The epicenter of the killings was Dao County (Daoxian), which the Xiao River bisects on its way north. About half the victims were killed in this district of four hundred thousand people, some clubbed to death and thrown into limestone pits, others tossed into cellars full of sweet potatoes where they suffocated. Many were tied together in bundles around a charge of quarry explosives. These victims were called “homemade airplanes” because their body parts flew over the fields. But most victims were simply bludgeoned to death with agricultural tools—hoes, carrying poles, and rakes—and then tossed into the waterways that flow into the Xiao.

In the county seat of Daozhou, observers on the shoreline counted one hundred corpses flowing past per hour. Children danced along the banks competing to find the most bodies. Some were bound together with wire strung through their collarbones, their swollen carcasses swirling in daisy chains downstream, their eyes and lips already eaten away by fish. Eventually the cadavers’ progress was halted by the Shuangpai dam where they clogged the hydropower generators. It took half a year to clear the turbines and two years before locals would eat fish again.

For decades, these murders have been a little-known event in China. When mentioned at all, they tended to be explained away as individual actions that spun out of control during the heat of the Cultural Revolution—the decade-long campaign launched by Mao Zedong in 1966 to destroy enemies and achieve a utopia. Dao County was portrayed as remote, backward, and poor. The presence of the non-Chinese Yao minority there was also sometimes mentioned as a racist way of explaining what happened: those minorities, some Han Chinese say, are only half civilized anyway, and who knows what they might do when the authorities aren’t looking?

All of these explanations are wrong. Dao County is a center of Chinese civilization, the birthplace of great philosophers and calligraphers. The killers were almost all Chinese who murdered other Chinese. And the killings were not random: instead they were acts of genocide aimed at eliminating a class of people declared to be subhuman. That class consisted of make-believe landlords, nonexistent spies, and invented insurrectionists. Far from being the work of frenzied peasants, the killings were organized by committees of Communist Party cadres in the region’s towns, who ordered the murders to be carried out in remote areas. To make sure revenge would be difficult, officials ordered the slaughter of entire families, including infants.
* An interview with the author of the book indicates he has had his eyes open about the nature of the Chinese communism:
To speak frankly, in the past I didn’t really understand the Communist Party and its peasant revolution. It was like a blockage in my thinking. But suddenly in a short period of time my thinking became clear.

What triggered this understanding?
I’d kept asking one question: Had any one of the 9,000 people killed in the region been planning a counterrevolutionary event or said something unlawful? In the end the answer was: No.

Not one?
Not one. There wasn’t one who was counter-revolutionary in thoughts or deeds. Not one said anything against the revolution. They found a lot of cases of “counterrevolutionaries” and they killed them all, but they were all fake. When I understood this, I was heartbroken. I began to realize that the Party had a history of violence. Already in 1928 it organized violent peasant revolts that killed masses of people. And land reform [shortly after the Party took power in 1949] was incredibly violent. It was one mass killing after another. All of a sudden it became clear. There was no justification for what happened. It was just terror. 
So I felt that situation really needed me. I had to write it. All those people [survivors, family members, and reform-minded government officials] who gave me information, I had pledged to them that I wasn’t taking this for personal gain, but for our children and grandchildren’s descendants—so that a massacre wouldn’t happen again.


The killers were all young. You wrote that most were in their twenties. Were they brainwashed by the Maoist propaganda?
Yes. The young people kept talking about exploitation by the landlord class. But for all this talk, all the exploitation was by the same four landlords: Huang Shiren, Zhou Bapi, Liu Wencai, Nan Batian. [Four landlords whose alleged crimes were constantly repeated by Communist Party propaganda across the nation in movies, posters, and textbooks.] And it turned out that their crimes were all fake. But this is all they knew and they thought that anyone who owned any land in China was a horrible landlord who deserved to die. In fact, the people who owned land were mostly just the country’s middle class. Especially in Hunan, big landlords were very rare. But they were all classified as landlords. They were declared to be subhuman, and when the orders came down, people found it easy to kill them. They had been conditioned to think of them as not human.

But this is all half a century ago. Things have changed.
No. It is rooted in this soil. Around the time of the [1989] Tiananmen Square massacre I raved about this at a meeting and put it like this: I said that according to my research the Communists were triumphant not because the Nationalists [their opponents in the civil war] were backward; it was because the Communists were even more backward. Their brutality and backwardness allowed them to succeed. The Nationalists still had a few enlightened ideas so they lost.
*  Finally, a philosophy professor talks about Confucianism's rejection and its partial revival in China:
In China, Confucianism was devastated by the Cultural Revolution, which was very much anti-Confucian, even though now they try to restore some Confucian values. I don’t think xiao [filial piety] is included in socialist core values. But it is coming back in civil society in terms of parental relationships.

In your view then, it’s not a case of Orientalist thinking to attribute Chinese behavior to Confucianism?
If we look at the world in terms of value orientations, then not only China but also the rest of that region has been characterized as the Confucian world. Although in Japan, the idea of loyalty is much more pronounced than that of filial piety.

Precisely because China was obsessed with the idea of being overwhelmed by Japan aggressiveness, China wanted to become wealthy and powerful, and many believed that getting rid of Confucian tradition was a precondition for becoming powerful. The discourse was that Confucianism is incompatible with modern ideas of ethics or the dignity of individuals. And the revolutionary Red Guards attacked Confucianism time and time again, though it continued to be developed in Taiwan, Hong Kong, Macau, Japan, Korea. But this has all changed now, and we’re entering a new era where many of the positive Confucian values can be underscored. Right now, there’s this new view that China is going through a kind of Confucian revival. A revival is a double-edged sword that can very easily be politicized by the government as a method of political control, but it also has much broader implications as well.

Why do some people think Confucianism is incompatible with progress?
That is a tradition that started in 1919, with the New Cultural Movement, and what I call all these Enlightenment values of the West, even though there’s a lot of debate about the abusive use of some of these values. We have Christian, Muslim, Buddhist, and Confucian values, and the argument was that religious forms are not compatible. But I think that phase is already over, and people today have more sophisticated ideas about human development, that it’s not just a matter of having a higher GDP. So right now in China, very few insist that the Confucian tradition is incompatible with progress. As properly understood and properly practiced, Confucian values become even more congenial to human development. Some narrow and nationalistic ideas have also surfaced based on this. My view is that Confucianism must adapt itself to human values, and that the abusive use of power by neoliberal economies could be corrected by a much broader vision of human flourishing. Issues of proper governance, moral order, and the financial regulatory system are all a part of the story. The role of government, for example, the role of leadership, all these are relevant issues.

Population increase

Hey monty - I see you have a new baby.  Just like my family - a son and a daughter a couple of years apart. 

Congratulations - the second one is easier, too.

Re-calculation requested

With the figures for 2016 in, I am reminded - I don't think that Sinclair Davidson has done the "Phil Jones" test on global warming since 2013 on his climate change denial site Catallaxy.  

Not that the test was ever important - it was always a clear cherry pick latched onto by climate change denialists - but it would indicate a degree of honesty if the good Professor would update us on the exercise that he used for propaganda purposes for (I think) several years...

Or would it throw him out of the Catallaxy culture club to do so?  (Yes, it would.)  

Yes, wealth disparities are pretty big

I haven't paid too much attention to the Oxfam claims about wealth distribution (you know, that 8 men control the same wealth as the poorest 50% of the world), but Peter Whiteford has looked at the criticisms of the methodology and notes this:
Critics of these figures point to two main issues. Firstly, the Credit Suisse figures calculate wealth as assets minus debts, so the bottom 1 per cent of the world wealth distribution actually have a negative net worth.

But people with negative net worth can include students, with student debts but who are about to enter a high paying job and people who have just purchased a house and whose equity is less than the mortgage outstanding. Should these people be counted as impoverished?

Oxfam directly addresses this issue, pointing out that if you take out net debt then the wealth of the bottom 50 per cent rises from around US$400 billion to US$1.5 trillion. This means the wealth of the bottom half is roughly equal to the richest 56 individuals in the world.

While this figure is not as dramatic as focusing only on the richest eight people, it still shows enormous disparities in wealth.
Update:  The Onion makes this contribution to the story:

For the record

You know it's true...

Yeah, I need lessons...
Update:  Here's a second attempt:


Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Wig heists in history

An amusing read here about a theft problem of C18th England - those stupid wigs of the era were the target of thieves.

Worse than Nixon

Former Nixon White House Counsel John Dean says the coming Trump presidency has literally been giving him nightmares:
He would wake in the middle of the night, agitated and alarmed, struggling to calm his nerves. “I’m not somebody who remembers the details of dreams,” he told me in a recent phone call from his home in Los Angeles. “I just know that they were so bad that I’d force myself awake and out of bed just to get away from them.”
He thinks Trump will be much worse than Nixon:
Dean’s near-panicked take on the incoming president is shaped in large part by his years in the Nixon White House. In Trump, Dean says he has observed many of his former boss’s most dangerous traits—obsessive vengefulness, reflexive dishonesty, all-consuming ambition—but none of Nixon’s redeeming qualities.

“I used to have one-on-one conversations with [Nixon] where I’d see him checking his more authoritarian tendencies,” Dean recalled. “He’d say, ‘This is something I can’t say out loud...’ or, ‘That is something the president can’t do.’” To Dean, these moments suggested a functioning sense of shame in Nixon, something he was forced to wrestle with in his quest for power. Trump, by contrast, appears to Dean unmolested by any such struggle.
He also puts up a case to be pessimistic about  Trump being brought down by impeachment:
Those hoping Trump’s presidency will end in a Watergate-style meltdown point to the litany of scandals-in-waiting that will follow him into office—from his alleged ties to Russia, to the potential conflicts of interest lurking in his vast business network. Dean agrees that “he’s carrying loads of potential problems into the White House with him,” and goes even further in his assessment: “I don’t think Richard Nixon even comes close to the level of corruption we already know about Trump.”

Yet, he’s profoundly pessimistic about the prospect of Trump facing any true accountability while in office. In the four decades since Nixon resigned, Dean says, the institutions that are meant to keep a president’s power in check—the press, Congress, even the courts—have been rendered increasingly weak and ineffectual by a sort of creeping partisan paralysis. (Imagine, if you dare, the Breitbart headlines that would follow Woodward and Bernstein’s first scoop if they were breaking their story today.)
He may have a point there.  The problem being that hoping for impeachment relies on the American Right not being nuts.   There's not much sign of that at the moment.

Logic in history

I've never been that interested in logic as a topic per se, and this article on the rise and fall of logic in history helps explain why. 

It's a good read, although my impression was that such a survey should include a reference to Wittgenstein towards the end...

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Opposite conclusions about renewables

There was a really good explanation on Radio National's breakfast show this morning about how the complicated effect of renewable energy on Australia's electricity costs is capable of being interpreted completely differently by the Right and the Left. 

Unfortunately, there is no transcript, you have to listen to the interview.  Well worth it, though.

For economics graphs lovers

I think I spotted this on Twitter - Piketty and others have launched a the World Wealth & Income Database which lets you look at, and fiddle with, lots of graphs, such as these:

The graphs for Australia, unfortunately, currently don't seem to allow for the same comparisons.

But those US graphs are pretty startling...

About cava

I've taken to trying the cheap-ish Spanish cava available at our run-of-the-mill liquor outlets, and I have to say, it compares very favourably to cheap Australian sparking wines, and might even be more enjoyable than your standard, cheaper genuine champagnes.

(And by the way, the sequence in Travel Man when they have a cava tasting session in Barcelona, is a very funny bit of television.  In fact, the whole episode is one of the funniest in the series.) 

Just wanted to pass that on...

A tricky issue

Well, this is a tricky issue to deal with.

Is watching porn in public properly viewed as harassment?  

I am sympathetic to the feminist view expressed here that it virtually is, yet at the same time, it seems to me that a nation that tolerated the page 3 topless model in its national daily press for so long only has itself to blame.  

But yes, lines have to (or should) be drawn somewhere, for the sake of civil society, and moving up to watching sex on public transport, within proximity of any other passenger, does deserve a special offence of its own, as a form of public nuisance, I reckon.   Perhaps the first step ought to be the right to require them to leave the public space, but if that fails, the back up of potential prosecution is warranted.  I think.  

CGI agreement

Further to my post about Rogue One - I see that Guardian readers by and large agree with me that the digital resurrection of Peter Cushing (and Carrie Fisher) was not entirely convincing.

Normalising STDs

Slate has an article about rising rates of sexually transmitted diseases in the US, particularly amongst gay and bisexual men, and looks at the question of whether the problem is that those groups have normalised catching STDs as "no big deal" (as well as the carefree attitude towards use of condoms that the Truvada HIV prophylactic drug encourages.)

At the end of the day (and a tad disappointingly for my conservative attitude against promiscuity), the gay writer ends up making the case that the national increase is driven more by a combination of budget cuts and closures of sexual health clinics and conservative attitudes towards restrictive sex education in the red states.

I feel I need more information to be entirely convinced...

How climate deniers are fooled

Good post at Real Climate about how climate change deniers are willingly fooled by charlatans. 

Unfortunately, it seems that once you reach a certain age, having been fooled for years becomes psychologically an impossible admission.  Hence, if you're talking fervent denialists above the age of (roughly) 65 or 70, it seems we're just going to have to wait til they die out rather than continue to try to convince them.    

Anyway, here's a key chart from the post that (maybe) I've posted before?:

As the Real Climate post says about it: 
If climate scientists were trying to exaggerate global warming they’d show you the unadjusted raw data!

Monday, January 16, 2017

Ancient waters

This factoid turned up somewhere I was browsing recently, although I see it first got publicity back in 2014.  Not sure, but I think I missed it then.  Here it is:

Which has the odd implication, I suppose, that truly ancient urine is created every day by everybody. It's the sort of science thought that might impress Donald Trump, perhaps?

Another movie review you don't need

Watched 2013's Now You See Me on free to air TV last Friday.   Some observations:

*  talk about your "high concept" movie with a simple pitch:  rogue magicians do bank heists live - while performing in front of an audience!  Cool!  
*  talk about your "high concept" movie that fails to convince:  all flashy, swirling camera movement;  but wildly improbable and complicated plotting with really terrible characters .  Does any character in this movie reach any level of likeability?  Barely.
*  Woody Harrelson in particular - an actor who has evolved from "likeable doofus" to "smartass with a face that's just begging to be smacked".   OK, so his character was meant to be annoying, I think.  But unfortunately, his face and manner just fits that role too well.
* how did it get a sequel??

Prepare ye the way of the ....

That's interesting.  (The astute reader might consider this redundant - I pretty rarely post items that are not of interest to me.) 

I didn't know that it's now believed that exposure to semen prepares a woman's body immunologically for pregnancy:
Seminal fluid contains small molecules that act as biological signals. Once deposited in the vagina and the cervix of a woman, these persuade the woman’s immune system to adopt a profile that tolerates (that is, recognises and accepts) sperm proteins known as “transplantation antigens”.

The tolerant profile matters if fertilisation takes place. Immune cells recognise the same transplantation antigens on the developing baby, and so support the process through which the embryo implants into the wall of the uterus and forms a healthy placenta and fetus.

So over time, repeated contact with the same male partner acts to stimulate and strengthen a tolerant immune response to his transplantation antigens. The immune system of a woman responds to her partner’s seminal fluid to progressively build the chances of creating a healthy pregnancy over at least several months of regular sex.
And here's some strong sounding evidence to back this up:
Preeclampsia is more common when there has been limited sexual contact with the father before pregnancy is conceived, and is associated with insufficient establishment of immune tolerance in the mother.

The length of time a couple have had a sexual relationship seems more important than the frequency of intercourse. In a study of first pregnancies in 2507 Australian women, around 5% developed preeclampsia. Affected women were more than twice as likely to have had a short sexual relationship (less than six months) compared to the women who had healthy pregnancies.

Women with less than three months sexual activity with the conceiving partner had a 13% chance of preeclampsia, more than double the average occurrence. Among the few women who conceived on the first sexual contact with the father, the chance of preeclampsia was 22%, three times higher than the average. Low birth weight babies were also more common in this group.
 Although its frequency seems not so important for preeclampsia, the article notes that sex around the time of using IVF does help:

Combined data from more than 2000 patients across seven studies showed the occurrence of a detectable pregnancy increased by 24% after vaginal contact with seminal fluid near the time of egg collection or embryo transfer. A study of Australian and Spanish couples showed intercourse in the days just before or just after embryo transfer boosted pregnancy rates by 50%.
I guess this suggests that couples who want children in the future may be better off in the long run to not rely on barrier methods only as a contraception.   Good news for men, at least...

The Rogue and the detective

I finally caught up with Rogue One yesterday.

I think it's very competent, and very watchable, perhaps without being particularly memorable.   But I want to comment on a few things:

*  I felt there was still a clear bit of the "uncanny valley" going on with Peter Cushing's reanimated face.  Actors must be breathing a sigh of relief that the process of even attempting their replacement via computer  is still complex, expensive and not completely convincing if it lasts more than a very brief period.

*  the creation of very realistic looking alien landscapes in this and The Force Awakens, on the other hand, is so much noticeably better than it was in the 3 prequels, where everything looked fake in a Lord of the Rings way.

*  the rehabilitation of the Force as a spiritual thing, rather than Lucas's stupid suggestion that it was just biology, continues apace, and that is a good thing for the series.

*  the android K-2SO's design reminded me a lot of the robots in Miyazaki's Laputa, and (of course) I'm not the first person on the internet to notice that.

Then last night we watched the second episode of Sherlock's latest (and last?) series.

I thought it was terrific, especially after the pretty woeful first episode.  (My son even indicated he had sort of lost interest in the series after that one!)   Seems to me to some sort of redemption for Moffat's writing abilities, too, of which I had become very skeptical.

OK, there was one plot element that was kind of silly and contrived, but I see that many commenters at The Guardian said it was a clever update on the original Conan Doyle story, so perhaps the memory wiping drug was key to that, too.

But it was fantastically directed, well acted, full of funny surprises, and set up the show for many potentially big reveals in the last episode.   I hope that lives up to the high expectations everyone will now have.

Saturday, January 14, 2017

If you ask me...

...there is really surprisingly little media commentary given to the fact that Trump blond dupe Kellyanne Conway seems to constantly be trying to run lines with the press which are either subsequently contradicted by her boss, and/or shown to be wrong.  (OK, there has been some media commentary on Conway contradicting herself - but it goes much further than that.)

The only I thing I can put this down to is that the Trump transition is so shambolic, the press just can't spend time on every weird contradiction or event - there are just too many to cover.  And they all know Trump just denies inconsistencies and thinks that's all he has to do.

Spielberg considered (again)

There's a new book out on Steven Spielberg that's been getting favourable reviews, partly because it's by a Jewish feminist, so her background brings something a bit novel to the exercise.

For a bit of a non-review that nonetheless gives a decent run down of Spielberg's life, this New Yorker article is not bad.  The New York Times book review is, however, more a review.

Friday, January 13, 2017

Updates on Trump in Russia you may want to read

Three things:

* Did you wonder how Pravda reported on Trump's adventures in Russia?  As it happens, they did it running a dismissive, let's all laugh at how ridiculous Americans are, column headed "The Adventures of Donald Trump at Moscow's Ritz Hotel".   And here's the oddest section: 
Generally speaking, American policy makers have a serious obsession about natural bodily functions. Last year, for example, it was reported that an unidentified individual, presumably a Russian intelligence officer, defecated on the carpet in an apartment of an American diplomat. Of course, no evidence was presented whatsoever.
Furthermore, continuing the "I think they protest-eth too much" line, it concludes:
The story has once again clearly shown the mental abilities of Hillary Clinton's supporters. The Democratic Party experiences a deep-rooted crisis indeed. In general, the story about the adventures of Donald Trump in Moscow's Ritz Hotel has already been recognized as one huge epic fake news both in Russia and in the United States.
Gee.  They write exactly how Trump talks.  Spooky.

* No 2's:   I see via Twitter that someone has turned up audio of Trump on a Howard Stern show from 2001 in which the other guest (who, apparently, had a girlfriend who Trump had "stolen" from him - ugghhh) said this:
After Trump bragged that he “took” Benza’s girlfriend, this happened:
Trump: I assume A.J.’s clean. I hope he’s clean.
Benza: Meanwhile, he bangs Russian people…
Stern: Russian people?
Trump: Who are you talking about, Russian people, A.J.? I don’t know anything.
Benza: He used to call me when I was a columnist and say, “I was just in Russia, the girls have no morals, you gotta get out there.” [Trump’s] out of his mind.
Trump did not deny making the statement.
 The site has the audio of the interview up, and to be honest, it's not clear that Trump heard what Benza was saying about what he [Trump] had said about Russia "girls".

But it certainly helps reinforce the (unsurprising, of itself) likelihood that Trump has had slept with Russia women, if not prostitutes, on (more than likely) more than one occasion.

The question is - was it recorded by Russians and, even then, is the content enough for it to be bribe capable?

*  The use of sex tapes for political purposes in Russia was in the news only last year.  In a story that I certainly don't recall noticing at the time, Putin was accused by a political activist:
Natalia Pelevina, a Russian political activist at the heart of a shocking sex scandal, has no doubts about who is responsible for revealing her affair with a former Russian prime minister.
A secret video of her and Mikhail Kasyanov showing intimate bedroom sex scenes and frank private conversations was baldly exposed last Friday on national television.
Pelevina is convinced the Russian security services planted the recording devices to entrap the couple at the behest of the president.
"It had to be Putin. I have no doubt about that," Pelevina told CBC during an exclusive interview in Moscow this week.
She hadn't spoken publicly about the sex scandal since it broke last week. Kasyanov is chairman of PARNAS, a liberal opposition party in Russia. Pelevina is his political assistant and was, until this week, a member of the party executive.
Russian broadcaster NTV aired a 40-minute special program liberally laced with scenes from the secretly taped video of the two.
But as for Putin's direct dirty hands in the use of sex tapes,  we go back to 1999:
Out of nowhere, a shocking video appeared on a Russian TV news program late one evening in March 1999. A surveillance tape showed a naked, middle-aged man who resembled Russia's top prosecutor, Yuri Skuratov, cavorting with two unclothed young women. Neither was his wife.
The ensuing scandal included a press conference by the head of Russia's FSB security service at the time, Vladimir Putin, who made clear it was Skuratov in the video.
Skuratov soon lost his job, not to mention his dignity.
President Boris Yeltsin was apparently impressed with Putin's handling of this episode. Yeltsin wanted to get rid of Skuratov, who was believed to be looking into Kremlin corruption. Several months after the video surfaced, Yeltsin named Putin to be prime minister, and a few months after that, Putin took over as president.
It is therefore completely plausible that, if he knew it was potential useful, Putin would give the nod to taping  Trump if he was silly enough to be engaged in any form of sex (without his wife) in Moscow in  2013.

As I don't doubt he is silly enough, the main question is likely - did they?

A Great Moment in Science

As this interesting post from Discover explains, it was not until 1 January 1925 that it was really "official" that Hubble had confirmed that the Andromeda and other spiral "nebulae" were really galaxies a very long way away.

It's extraordinary to think we not quite 100 years into a proper understanding of the size and nature of the universe.   (And barely 150 years into Darwinian evolution.)

No wonder humanity is, in a sense, still adjusting to all this.   

To my sometime twitter troll

*  I didn't even know what Pseud's Corner was: had to Google it.

*  I generally eschew comment on MMA:  I assume I would be appalled if I looked into it in too much detail, so I don't bother.  Instead, I get my daily fill of "appalling" by checking Catallaxy.

Weird judgement on display, again

I might have guessed.  Despite being no pro-Trumper in the lead up to the election, Sinclair Davidson can't seem to stop himself getting a vicarious thrill whenever a politician (or at least one vaguely on the Right) behaves belligerently to the media or a political opponent.  Remember - he was one of the very, very few people in the land who  thought Bronwyn Bishop's aggro, hopelessly partisan time as Speaker was actually praiseworthy.

Psychoanalysis via blog posts may not be a reliable exercise, but I continually get the feeling that SD is frustrated that he personally doesn't get the chance to be as rude to people to their face as he would like to be.   Or a frustrated wannabe tough cop (or soldier) on a loose leash to clean up a bad part of town - that kind of thing.  

The title of his post on Trump and CNN is particularly confusing: CNN has been caught out.

"Caught out" doing what, exactly?   Correctly reporting that briefings about serious claims about Trump being compromised by the Russians - or his team co-operating with them for election intel - had been made?  

I think the theory that Trump didn't even realise the distinction between what CNN reported, and what Buzzfeed did, has plausibility.  

Tillerson & China

A reasonable sounding bit of commentary from The Interpreter about Tillerson sounding gung-ho about China in the South China Sea. 

Not sure of the value of this..

Nature has a story with the science fiction friendly title: 

Now, while I don't want to come across as a PETA softy, but the details of this experiment make me doubt somewhat whether its scientific benefits make the treatment of the mice worth it.  (I say that, though, very unaware of the treatment of lab mammals, generally.  There are probably far worse examples.)   

My feelings about animal experimentation are still influenced somewhat by the anti-vivisectionist sentiment and argument of CS Lewis.  You can read about that here. 

Friday Trump dump

Vox talks to 3 experts who outline the defence Buzzfeed would have to any defamation action by Trump.  Sounds pretty convincing to me that we aren't going to see Trump try.

*  I was reminded this week by Tim Blair's linking back to a post of mine in 2006 that I used to defend the Bush administration from Leftie panic merchants worrying that he was a Christian fundamentalist who thought the US was inevitably going to have to nuke the evil out of the world.   I still take that view:  George W never struck me as that kind of Christian, and, of course, nor did his neocon advisers.  (Does anyone dispute that they were motivated by misplaced, mistaken and self-interested idealism about the ease with which Western-friendly democracy would organically arise in the Middle East if you only knocked over a dictator or two?)

That said, it has slipped under the radar somewhat that Trump is installing as CIA head someone who really does hold the ideas that both secularists and sensible Christians fear.  From Slate:
In June 2015, Rep. Mike Pompeo, a Kansas congressman, headlined a “God and Country Rally” at Wichita’s Summit Church. “To worship our lord and celebrate our nation at the same place is not only our right, it is our duty,” he began. Pompeo’s speech was a mishmash of domestic culture war callouts and dark warnings about the danger of radical Islam. He cited an inflammatory prayer that a pastor named the Rev. Joe Wright once delivered before the Kansas State Legislature: “America had worshipped other Gods and called it multiculturalism. We’d endorsed perversion and called it an alternative lifestyle.” He lamented government efforts to “rip faith from our schools” and then segued immediately into a discussion of the jihadi threat: “This evil is all around us.” Pompeo concluded by describing politics as “a never-ending struggle … until the rapture.”

Donald Trump has appointed Pompeo to head the CIA; his confirmation hearings begin on Thursday. If a normal Republican president had nominated a figure like this to head the country’s major foreign intelligence agency, there likely would have been a lot of attention paid to his apocalyptic religiosity and Manichaean worldview. Amid the fire hose of lunacy that is the Trump transition, however, Pompeo’s extremism has been overlooked. It’s worth pausing to appreciate the fact that America’s CIA will shortly be run by a man who appears to view American foreign policy as a vehicle for holy war.

Fake news spread by the hit team of stupid and dishonest gay right wingers - Gateway Pundit and Drudge.    And no, Trumpkin dimwits, what they did is not the equivalent of Buzzfeed - which published a document noting its content was unverified and contained some mistakes and should be taken with a great deal of caution.  Remember, fake news is the deliberate dissemination of disinformation that asserts its truth, or knowingly doesn't care about its truth.  Like Drudge running the story of Bill Clinton's black son during this election campaign, and not mentioning that Drudge himself had years ago run the stories showing the medical evidence that this couldn't be true.

Now, I must post something other than Trump stuff....

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Not just one source

Gee.   Why shouldn't Democrats be upset that, while Trump was able to make maximum political use of the FBI looking at what Clinton did with her email server, six government agencies were secretly investigating Trump's team getting money from Russia? The BBC alleges now (thanks fellas, but it's a bit late):
Last April, the CIA director was shown intelligence that worried him. It was - allegedly - a tape recording of a conversation about money from the Kremlin going into the US presidential campaign.
It was passed to the US by an intelligence agency of one of the Baltic States. The CIA cannot act domestically against American citizens so a joint counter-intelligence taskforce was created.
The taskforce included six agencies or departments of government. Dealing with the domestic, US, side of the inquiry, were the FBI, the Department of the Treasury, and the Department of Justice. For the foreign and intelligence aspects of the investigation, there were another three agencies: the CIA, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence and the National Security Agency, responsible for electronic spying.
As for the Russians having the dirt on Trump's bedroom antics, again the same reporter tells us that it's believed by many to be true:
And the former MI6 agent is not the only source for the claim about Russian kompromat on the president-elect. Back in August, a retired spy told me he had been informed of its existence by "the head of an East European intelligence agency".

Later, I used an intermediary to pass some questions to active duty CIA officers dealing with the case file - they would not speak to me directly. I got a message back that there was "more than one tape", "audio and video", on "more than one date", in "more than one place" - in the Ritz-Carlton in Moscow and also in St Petersburg - and that the material was "of a sexual nature".
Seems to me that things have gone awry somewhere when you had even the liberal media blowing up the significance of every damn internal Democrat email, and the widely misunderstood and exaggerated significance of how Hillary used her email server, and yet there was no proper reporting of actually explosive matters until now.