Monthly Archives: July 2017

Generals Love Him. Top Democrats Despise Him. Can He Be President Anyway?

Michael Kruse, writting on Politico:

On the morning of November 9, five hours after Hillary Clinton conceded, Seth Moulton’s closest political adviser called him with a suggestion.

“You should run for president in 2020,” Scott Ferson told the 38-year-old, second-term congressman from the North Shore of Massachusetts—one of the least liberal areas of the famously liberal state.

“That’s ridiculous,” Moulton said.

Ridiculous? “Donald Trump was just elected president,” Ferson said.

“Fair point,” Moulton said.

Moulton has three degrees from Harvard, and he did four difficult, decorated tours as a Marine in Iraq. But he’s still a neophyte in the House of Representatives, and in politics. This is the first office of any kind he’s ever held. In the wake, though, of last fall’s terrain-altering election, Ferson detected an opening. “This,” he told me, “is a moment in time where he is the exact right person to run for president.”

This conversation—reported here for the first time—is precisely the type of talk that’s currently causing disgusted eye-rolling among significantly more tenured Democrats in Massachusetts and Washington. They dismiss Moulton, albeit never for attribution, as gratingly ambitious, a grandstanding backbencher who has advocated for the ouster of House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi to make way for new, younger standard-bearers—like himself. They see Moulton’s message of country over party as not so much admirable as annoying. “It’s the supercilious, sanctimonious Oh, golly gee,” one longtime political observer of his district said of Moulton’s assertions of selflessness. Some of the opinions on Capitol Hill are even more scathing. “I don’t think I’ve seen a more opportunistic, duplicitous person serving in the House,” said a senior Democratic aide, blasting Moulton as somebody who talks bigger than he plays and who pillories Pelosi while almost always voting the same way. “He doesn’t do anything around here,” the aide said. Other members who are more supportive are reluctant to say so publicly—cautious about being seen as “giving him a bear hug,” as one Hill staffer put it, “while he’s knifing the leader.”

Nowhere in this article does it say what policies Moulton supports, or what he’s accomplished in the Senate. Doesn’t that even matter anymore?

Andy Rubin, who invented the Android OS, wants to conquer the smart home

Rubin dreams of making all your gadgets and appliances talk to each other to automate your life:

David Pierce, writing at Wired:

Until May 2017, Rubin was tight-lipped about his new project. It showed up on employees’ LinkedIn pages as “Andy Rubin’s stealth hardware startup,” and the company filed for trademarks and patents under the name Henry’s Products LLC, after an employee’s dog. The actual name of Rubin’s new company is Essential. Its goal is both strikingly simple and absurdly preposterous: to finally bring the smart home vision to life and to build the next great American electronics company in the process. The team is working on a smartphone to compete with the iPhone and a living-room gadget that can control your entire home. Both hook into Ambient OS, Essential’s operating system powered by artificial intelligence. Ambient OS is there to scan your data, learn your routines at home and on the go, and predict your needs, then get your dozens of bechipped gadgets cranking together to control your environment in a way that feels natural, normal, and human.

Rubin relishes big challenges, but this will be his biggest yet. And if he can pull it off, he will be one giant leap closer to finishing what he’s actually been working on all this time: bringing the whole world online, so he can find out what happens next.

The problem with Rubin’s vision as described here — and every other smart home vision I’ve seen — is that it doesn’t solve problems real people have:


Imagine automating your morning routine for maximum efficiency and ease: At 6:15, your alarm goes off, the lights turn on, NPR starts purring, the bacon begins to sizzle, and your motorized closet whirs and presents you with today’s perfect outfit based on your schedule and the weather forecast.

My morning routine is fine. It does not require automation.

George Will: Trump is something the nation did not know it needed

The Washington Post:

“To see what is in front of one’s nose,” George Orwell wrote, “needs a constant struggle.” An unnoticed reason for cheerfulness is that in one, if only one, particular, Trump is something the nation did not know it needed: a feeble president whose manner can cure the nation’s excessive fixation with the presidency.

Will is pompous and needs an editor who can teach him to write plain English. But he makes a good point. If we’re lucky, Trump’s incompetence will cut the imperial Presidency down to size.

I didn’t expect to see Peter Capaldi in this

We’ve been watching the original Prime Suspect, with Helen Mirren, which I have never seen and which Julie saw long enough ago that it’s new to her. We just wrapped up the third season, where DCI Tennison, played by Mirren, heads up a vice unit investigating the murder of a rent boy in the drag-queen, transsexual, and closeted gay demimonde of London.

At the beginning of episode one, I saw that Peter Capaldi is in this. Alrighty then, I say, and I start to watch for him.

He’d be in his early 30s, I think to myself. Based on his performance in Doctor Who, he’ll probably be one of the cops, I thought. Likely one of the cops in Tennison’s unit. He’ll be a hypermasculine, blustery, macho man who doesn’t believe a mere skag could ever be a decent copper, let alone a DCI, and who undermines her at every turn. He’ll be her designated male chauvinist nemesis.

OK, so I was wrong about that. Never been more wrong about anything in my life.

As for the story itself: I’d be curious whether any of my LGBTQ friends have seen it, and if so what they think of it? To me, it looked like the very picture of how trans people and gays were portrayed in police shows of the era: As pathetic victims or as predators. Nobody is ever shown as being just a person living out their lives. The men are ultra-effeminate.

At least that was true in the first part of the series. In the second, and final part, we see that one of the cops is himself gay. He’s neither a victim nor a predator, and he’s not a hero, either, really. He’s just a cop. He’s closeted at first, but comes out during the course of the episode.

Overall, I liked the series a lot, as I have the entire run of Prime Suspect, at least so far. Tennison is an interesting, complex character. There is one moving scene toward the end of the second episode where we see she is utterly alone in life. Police work is all she has. She is going through a personal emotional crisis, and she has no one to turn to for support, not friends, not family, not a lover or spouse. No one. Just Tennison, alone, in an austere office that she has never bothered to personalize.

New York property speculators have figured out how to evict everyone

Cory Doctorow writes about how money-launderers buy up New York apartments and bully legitimate tenants into leaving:

The tactics deployed to evict tenants – elderly retirees, families, disabled people, veterans – are shocking and ghastly, including trumped-up claims of mental illness used to secure involuntary commitals to mental institutions; threats to take away families children if they report the lack of heat and water (on the grounds that only an unfit parent would keep a child in a home without heat and water), hiring homeless people to live in the corridors of family buildings and defecate on tenants doormats, and on and on.

Coffee-making advice wanted, for a beginner

I drink tea at home and coffee when I’m out and about. I have been doing that for 20 years. Before that I was 100% a coffee drinker.

After a heavy round of business travel in the spring, I find a few times a month now I want a good cup of coffee first thing in the morning at home. I’m thinking about starting to make coffee at home, which I haven’t done regularly for 20 years. I had a drip coffee machine with a built in grinder – still have it somewhere – that I used with supermarket beans. I gather the home coffeemaking art has gotten much more advanced since then.

Fortunately, from what I gather, I don’t have to spend much money at all to get really good coffee at home, and it’s easy to make. (Although as with most things of this type I can, if I choose, go all-out and spend a lot of money and go to a lot of trouble.)

So, my coffeehound friends, what do you advise for a person, like me, who’s starting out making coffee at home? I don’t cook, and I’ll be half-asleep when I’m making coffee, of course, so keep that in mind.

We have local microroasters so I’m not concerned about finding a supply of good beans locally.

What equipment do I need? I gather from my reading that I want a burr, rather than a blade, grinder.

What should I brew the coffee in? I’ll want one cup at a time.

This 2013 article by Seth Colter Walls on Slate recommends pour-over, with around $100 in equipment: How to make amazing coffee at home, even if you’re cheap and lazy.

Walls recommends a conical burr grinder. The model he recommends is $91. Is there a cheaper one, maybe hand-ground, that is a better option?

How about an AeroPress? Do I want to go that route?

Any other advice? Remember, I don’t want to spend a lot on equipment, and I want making the coffee to be easy!

Another alternative, since I do only want coffee a few times a month, is just hop in the car and go to local coffee shop, or the Starbucks drive-through.

Trump goes back to what he does best: Spreading fear, hatred, and dreams of blood

Trump’s Vision of Lawless Order

David A Graham at The Atlantic:

“America is once more a nation of laws,” President Trump said near the end of a speech Friday afternoon in Brentwood, New York. He meant it as a boast, but one could be forgiven for thinking it was a lament, given the rest of the speech.

Trump has portrayed himself, like Richard Nixon, as a president who can bring law and order, but on closer examination, his rhetoric is far more about order (understood in a particular way) than about law. In fact, the president often evinces an impatience with the tendency of the rule of law to get in the way of toughness and vengeance, and his dark, blood-stained speech Friday about the gang MS-13 was no different.

Long Island crime is at a 50-year-low

WhIle Trump claims Long Island neighborhoods are “blood stained killing fields,” in reality crime there is lower than it has been for a half-century, says Kevin Drum.

Trump may believe what he’s saying. Remember, even before he became President, he lived in a billionaire bubble, informed only by Fox News. He never got to see what the actual streets are like, because he only ever went out into them surrounded by bodyguards and staff. He’s never gone to the supermarket, or to a convenience store to buy bread. He and Melania have never piled into a couple of cars to go out to a diner for dinner with the kids and grandkids.

And Trump’s audience isn’t Long Islanders, who know what he’s saying is lies. They’re midwesterners who live in all-white communities, for whom New York is as alien and hostile as the surface of Mars.

Ian Welsh: Steve Bannon is a nasty nativist and the only person with sense in the Trump Administration

A common theme in Welsh’s writing is that even a bad presidential administration like the Trump White House will occasionally do good, and should be recognized and supported when it does. Here, Welsh recognizes Bannon for favoring a 45% top tax rate and pushing to regulate Google and Facebook:

Bannon, says Welsh, “is the only one [in the Trump White House] who wants ordinary Americans to do well.”

I’d amend that to say Bannon wants some ordinary Americans to do well. He believes true Americans are Christians and Jews of European descent. Certainly not Latinos. I’m not sure what he thinks of Europeanized Asians and African-Americans, but I’ll asssume he’s not a fan until presented with significant evidence otherwise.

Also, when American Christianists talk about Judeo-Christian values, as Bannon does, what they actually mean is Christian dominance with Jews kept around because we make good accountants.

Walt Mossberg tours viewers through his personal tech collection, spanning 30+ years

Nilay Patel, at The Verge:

[Walt has] assembled an impressive collection of notable gadgets over his two-decade run as a reviewer and columnist, and we asked him to talk us through some of the more notable items as he cleared out of his office.

This isn’t everything — there’s far too much for that. But there’s nothing quite like Walt talking about gadgets and what they mean, and we tried to pick a few that defined their moments in a way few products now seem to do.

Really nice article, with photos of the gadgets, one-paragraph text write-ups, and one-to-three-minute videos.

The collection includes the original Amazon Kindle (2007), the Radio Shack TRS-80 Model 100 — a personal favorite of mine, that I used extensively in the 80s — Motorola StarTac flip-phone, 1996; IBM ThinkPad, 1995; and the original iPhone, 2007.

Here’s Mossberg on the Model 100:

The Radio Shack TRS-80 Model 100 — or Trash 80, as it was affectionately called — was one of the first laptops. Or first tablets, if you squint. It ran on four AA batteries, and it was routinely given to journalists in the field because it had a built-in modem that could send files back to the office through an acoustic coupler for a landline phone handset. Mossberg used his TRS-80 all over the world as a reporter and editor for_ The Wall Street Journal_; as a deputy bureau chief he bought one for every reporter in the bureau. “I honestly think you could draw a line from this to the iPad,” he says.

Notice the dings and scratches on the gadgets in close-up — these were used in the field. I’ve never consistently used protective cases on my iPhones and iPads; I like them to collect dings and scratches and acquire a patina, like a leather jacket or boots.

Inside Walt Mossberg’s gadget museum – The Verge