Friday, December 16, 2016

Private Echidne Stuff: On Baking, Computers And Snow

1.  I made two pear frangipane tarts as a private challenge against the doom-and-gloom of the times, because:

--  there is nothing less necessary than a pear frangipane tart and that is exactly what we need if we are going to soldier on,

--  I have never made them before (love new things!), and the not knowing and uncertainty are good teachers in this time (they turned out well)

 --  they test sinfully luxuriant and perfect, tiny mouth orgasms, and that is what is denied from us, the Internal Enemies of the Reich (those who don't support Trump)

Each is intended to feed fifteen people.  I have almost finished one in less than two days, and with each mouthful I think of all those who would not want me to be happy, whose own joy is based on my humiliation and despair.  And then I want to share my tarts with them, to make them sunny and kind, too.

2.  A perfect storm of the usual kind of computer crap hit me.  I spent almost seven hours yesterday trying to fix the problems on my own, then another two hours with a "technician" who tried the solutions I had already found and managed to fix nothing but add two more problems before abruptly breaking off the connection.

Finally, at one in the morning, I got hold of a technician who was a goddess.  She was competent, smart and simply fixed all my problems slam-bam-thank-you-ma'am (and yes, I know that is about something else, but brevity can be what lifts one's heart up when it comes to computers).  Sadly, I bet she is paid chicken feed.

I was struck again by the way all the big computing sites hide from us, their customers.  Just try to find an actual address to write to about your bill, just try to find an actual answer to your problem without sacrificing the next ten years to the search.

Many sites instruct you to go to their discussion forum, an imaginary almost-empty room, with banana peels and empty beer bottles and dirt on the floor, chairs overturned, a few geeks deep in their computers, and nobody from the firm present.  The questions at those forums (fori?) are about whether dogs really have four legs, whether computers need to be turned on and so on.

The free sites, such as Blogger, are obviously the worst, because we users are not the customers of the site.  Nope, we are the content!  And the content cannot have a voice.  But even the paying sites try their utmost to not speak to any of their customers.  It's hilarious, given that old saw about customers always being right.

The concept of ownership has changed with Internet.  You can buy a service or a product and think that you own what you paid for, but in fact you do not, and "improvements" can be entered every few days to your email system or to your blogging system or to anything else, and you have no say in those changes, but must simply learn a totally different dashboard all over again.

3.  Snow.  It's coming down (tuisku, a snow storm with snow coming down sideways).  Finnish has many more words for different types of snow than English, either snow coming down, snow on the ground or snow on ice or water or mud.  That's because many more words are needed about life experiences which are frequent and which matter.  In the olden days one would wax the skis differently for "nuoska" and for "hangenkanto*," and although "loska" and "sohjo" are both words for "slush," sohjo has only snow and water in it while loska may also have mud.  Your feet are more likely to get wet with sohjo than loska, so knowing which it is outside determines which boots you will don.

This is not proof for any version of the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis, but surely more specific terms affect how we see events?

The site I link to mentions that despite this embarrassment of riches when it comes to naming snow, Finnish has no word that matches "to snow."  The equivalent is "it rains snow."


* The link doesn't get "hanki" the way I learned it.  Yes, the word can be a general word for snow, but it tends to be used for the kind of snow which has a hard top crust, possibly hard enough so that you can walk on it as if it was a ballroom floor.  Which is nice after months of wading through soft snow, though it's also associated with very cold weather.

Thursday, December 15, 2016

What To Read Today: Democrats Don't Have To Fight Like Used Soggy Tissues

This is a good take on something I have written about for years.

Imagine a political debate on American television:  The number of conservative participants almost always exceeds the number of Democratic participants, the number of extreme right-wing participants vastly exceeds the number of extreme left-wing participants, and that role is given to some neo-liberal politician.

In the debate itself, fire spouts out of the conservative mouths, while the progressive or liberal participants look at their feet and mumble something inaudible.

Or imagine a political quarrel where one side uses anything to win, including fraud, corruption, threats and utter disregard for democratic principles or rules, while the other side consults a book on etiquette and then decides to have a parallel fight with its own base.

Or imagine a president (Barack Obama) who wants to be bipartisan so very hard that he is willing to let the Republicans win, because the only "bipartisanship" Republicans acknowledge is their complete victory.  And yes, that president has been accused by the very same Republicans for not reaching a hand across the aisle to a sufficient degree, even though they themselves reach hands across the aisle only to throttle someone.

And have you ever wondered why the ghastliest acts, the most disgusting comments and the sneakiest plots are perfectly fine, in the eyes of the media, but only when they come from the Republicans?  I hope that I'm correct when I spot a slight change in this, but for years all Democrats have been held to different and higher standards of behavior.  It's as if you had two children, one can kick, punch and yell at the other child who, in contrast, is expected to only whisper and never hit back.  Except that the well-behaved child has for some odd reason decided to act that way, even if it means that the other child has taken almost every toy and hidden or broken them all.

Indeed, I agree with the writers.  We need Democrats with spine, Democrats who know that politics today is not a polite tea party with cucumber sandwiches but a Republican heist of the country.

You might wonder if Democrats-with-spines would necessitate the creation of a parallel political Mafia organization.  But the assumption of only two options (be decent or be like Republican corrupt and crooked politicians) is false.  There are many other alternatives, but the ones I prefer include speaking up and  active resistance.

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

The "Pizzagate." Or Down The Rabbit Hole of Fake News.

1.  We have fallen through the rabbit hole, my sweet and erudite readers.  That makes Lewis Carroll a useful guide on our trip.  His poem about the walrus and the carpenter who took a nice walk on the beach and then invited lots of tiny oysters to keep them company is a useful guide to the world of the Pizzagate:

O Oysters, come and walk with us!'
      The Walrus did beseech.
A pleasant walk, a pleasant talk,
      Along the briny beach:
We cannot do with more than four,
      To give a hand to each.'

The eldest Oyster looked at him,
      But never a word he said:
The eldest Oyster winked his eye,
      And shook his heavy head —
Meaning to say he did not choose
      To leave the oyster-bed.

But four young Oysters hurried up,
      All eager for the treat:
Their coats were brushed, their faces washed,
      Their shoes were clean and neat —
And this was odd, because, you know,
      They hadn't any feet.

You can imagine what happened later.  It involved bread, butter and oysters:

It seems a shame,' the Walrus said,
      To play them such a trick,
After we've brought them out so far,
      And made them trot so quick!'
The Carpenter said nothing but
      The butter's spread too thick!'

I weep for you,' the Walrus said:
      I deeply sympathize.'
With sobs and tears he sorted out
      Those of the largest size,
Holding his pocket-handkerchief
      Before his streaming eyes.

O Oysters,' said the Carpenter,
      You've had a pleasant run!
Shall we be trotting home again?'
      But answer came there none —
And this was scarcely odd, because
      They'd eaten every one."

So.  In the tale I shall tell you you should see yourselves as the oysters (I hope as the old and experienced ones) and the Walrus and the Carpenter as the manufacturers of false news, of conspiracy theories and of made-up lies created and disseminated for political purposes, such as the tarring and feathering of one Hillary Clinton with the rumors that she traffics in pedophilia, even kills children.

2.  There.  And now the so-called Pizzagate:

The time has come,' the Walrus said,
      To talk of many things:
Of shoes — and ships — and sealing-wax —
      Of cabbages — and kings —
And why the sea is boiling hot —
      And whether pigs have wings.'
 And whether a vast pedophile ring is run from a family-style pizzeria in Washington, DC, by important Democratic politicians close to Hillary Clinton, including his campaign manager John Podesta.

Many different walruses and carpenters spread the online theory that one family-oriented pizzeria (with ping pong tables in the back room), the Comet Ping Pong, is  a center for a pedophilia ring of powerful Democratic politicians. But at least one site keeping the rumors going is a white supremacist one, and Trump's Best Friend Forever, Alex Jones, the fabricator of a vast number of conspiracy theories, has also played a decisive role in the story.

The basic facts are these:

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

And in Business News

The Exxon Mobil Company has acquired the United States of America in a merger.  The acquisition will be of global value as a lobbying and marketing tool.

Monday, December 12, 2016

The Russian Connection

First, suitable music (not safe for work viewing, contains depictions of sexual violence)

Second, the news about possible Russian influence in the 2016 US elections.  The Washington Post article which broke the news said this:

In a secure room in the Capitol used for briefings involving classified information, administration officials broadly laid out the evidence U.S. spy agencies had collected, showing Russia’s role in cyber-intrusions in at least two states and in hacking the emails of the Democratic organizations and individuals.
And they made a case for a united, bipartisan front in response to what one official described as “the threat posed by unprecedented meddling by a foreign power in our election process.”
The Democratic leaders in the room unanimously agreed on the need to take the threat seriously. Republicans, however, were divided, with at least two GOP lawmakers reluctant to accede to the White House requests.
According to several officials, McConnell raised doubts about the underlying intelligence and made clear to the administration that he would consider any effort by the White House to challenge the Russians publicly an act of partisan politics.
Some of the Republicans in the briefing also seemed opposed to the idea of going public with such explosive allegations in the final stages of an election, a move that they argued would only rattle public confidence and play into Moscow’s hands.
McConnell’s office did not respond to a request for comment. After the election, Trump chose McConnell’s wife, Elaine Chao, as his nominee for transportation secretary.

Emphasis is mine.   Compare the bolded sentences with what Comey, the FBI director, did only a few days before the elections.  Partisan politics is acceptable if it benefits Republicans, but unacceptable if it benefits Democrats.  That quote makes it utterly plain and clear to everyone, should some still be in doubt after decades of the same arguments.

But there is another difference between Comey's "revelation" about the Clinton emails which turned out a nothing-burger and the revelations about a foreign power meddling in the US election process.*   I leave that difference for you to ponder.

Third, the commercial interests of the Trump dynasty may influence Trump's foreign policies.  He is considering Rex Tillerson,  the head of Exxon Mobil for the Secretary of State.  Tillerson has close ties to Vladimir Putin, and, of course, extremely close ties to crony capitalism on the global level:

Tillerson, 64, was a driving force behind ExxonMobil's partnership with Russian oil giant Rosneft and drilling projects in the Arctic, Black Sea and Siberia. In 2014, Putin awarded the ExxonMobil CEO the Order of Friendship, one of the highest honors Russia grants to foreign citizens.

Finally, and as an aside, note this bit in the Washington Post article:

The Trump transition team dismissed the findings in a short statement issued Friday evening. “These are the same people that said Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction. The election ended a long time ago in one of the biggest Electoral College victories in history. It’s now time to move on and ‘Make America Great Again,’ ” the statement read.

Bolds are mine.  The bolded sentence didn't elicit any kind of clarification in that article, so it's worth noting that it is not true.


* The US has meddled in the elections of other countries, of course, but two wrongs do not make a right.  Besides, that meddling is an explicit Putin policy, aimed at destabilizing Western democracies and at weakening NATO,  part of larger campaign, much of it aimed at Western European countries.

It is also of some concern that the RNC emails might have been also hacked, though only the DNC emails were brought to sunlight.  This wouldn't mean that the RNC emails had nothing of public interest in them, or to those who might still hold them.  On the other hand, if only the DNC emails were hacked, the question is why only those.

My Pseudo-Psychological Take on Trump

Trump wants to be the silverback gorilla.  He wants to dominate, to be the top male gorilla whose butt all other male gorillas kiss and who has the whole harem of female gorillas. 

Everything else is commentary, even his narcissism, because that, too, is based on his need to dominate, to always be number one (or number zero, as it comes earlier!).

That is why he makes rude faces at China, and that is why he publicly yells at every comedy skit that makes fun of him.

And that is why he likes Putin.  Trump's idea of foreign policy is for every country to be run by their own silverback gorilla, as a dictator.  Then the dictators can nuke it out with each other.

Democracy doesn't enter those calculations, public debate doesn't enter those calculations, the US Constitution doesn't matter much.

The die-hard Trump base knows what Trump wants, and they want it, too.  They want a stern daddy gorilla to go and beat up all those other gorillas they don't like.  It is utterly immaterial what it might cost the Trump-supporters themselves in lost Social Security or Medicare or earnings.

When Trump told them that he was going to lock Hillary Clinton up, they cheered.  When he now tells them that locking her up was just a campaign joke, they cheer. 

Why the non-stop cheering?  Because Trump stays on top in both examples!  Whatever he says goes, and that is what the base loves.

If you accept my pseudo-psychological interpretation, you can also see why Trump treats minorities and women they way he does.  Minority men are not seen as members of his gorilla tribe.  They are a threat.  And women are resources over which silverback gorillas fight.  Their value is based on their fuckability.

The rabid base is mostly comfortable with that, because it's the only interpretation that makes sense to them within that dominance framework.