Everything else is… something…

There’s a wonderful quote attributed to George Orwell:

Journalism is printing what someone else does not want published; everything else is public relations.

And of course, like all wonderful quotes, it’s a misquotation of something someone else said. The Quote Investigator blog dug into it; they have some citations back to 1894 but the earliest one that really resembles the above is an anonymous sentiment appearing on a placard in 1918:

Whatever a patron desires to get published is advertising; whatever he wants to keep out of the paper is news.

Then it goes through a bunch of changes attributed (without references) to William Randolph Hearst, Lord Northcliffe, Malcolm Muggeridge, Lord Rothermere, George Orwell (but not until 1999), and Katherine Graham. It does tend to get more polished with each rewording.

Well, whoever said it, it’s true. And that’s why as of today I subscribe to the New York Times and the LA Times. #resist



Airport welcome

Airport welcome

Syracuse Hancock International Airport: There are flights to and from Toronto, not sure what other international destinations. I do know it’s possible to fly from Cyprus to Syracuse via Toronto. Not a big point of entry, but it is one.

Tonight a little after 6:30 there was a traffic jam on the way in.2017-01-29-18-37-19That was about a kilometer from the parking lot entrance, a distance that took me about 40 minutes to cover.

The reason for all the traffic, of course, and for my being there, was that something was going on.2017-01-29-19-15-23The resistance, over a thousand strong. Not that as far as I know anyone’s been detained at Hancock but, well, airports seem to be the place this weekend.

I got there about five minutes before the end of the invited speakers, although a few other people went up to the mic to talk between chants. Didn’t see any morris dancers this time but did see the person who sat next to me yesterday at SyraUke.2017-01-29-19-23-17Syracuse is a sanctuary city, at least as long as the current mayor is in office, and has a substantial refugee population. Near me in the crowd was a cluster of girls who I suspect were refugees or daughters of refugees themselves. They were loud, they were energized, they were happy. They were seeing America at its best.screen-shot-2017-01-29-at-10-16-41-pm

Then it was time to go home. Took me another 40 minutes to get out of the parking lot. Syracuse, you make me proud.


An open letter to my 17 year old son

An open letter to my 17 year old son

Dear son,

So what did you think of news of the Women’s March on Washington and the sister events worldwide? I was inspired by them.

Let me tell you some of my political history. I remember back in 9th grade I was a Nixon supporter, maybe for no better reason than that he was the first Richard elected President, but during high school I started becoming better aware of what was going on and by 1973 I was wearing an “Impeach Nixon” button. I was delighted when first Agnew and then Nixon resigned, and while I liked and respected Ford a lot more than them, I was euphoric when Carter, with the help of my first ever Presidential vote, won the 1976 election.

By 1980 I’d become disenchanted with Carter’s performance as President and infuriated with his reinstatement of draft registration so I voted for an independent, John Anderson. Of course Reagan won. During those years, especially while I was living in Maryland near DC, I took part in a number of demonstrations for causes I believed in. But after the disastrous 1984 election in which Mondale won only one state (plus DC) my political activity waned. I voted but that was about it. I alternated between discouragement and complacency as we went from Reagan and Bush to Carter to Bush to Obama, and as the Congress went back and forth between Democratic and Republican control.

I never greatly altered my political beliefs: Equal rights, opportunities, and justice for all, regardless of sex, race, gender identity, or beliefs; support and respect for the underprivileged and working class; justice and kindness ahead of profits; military force only to defend our values in the most dire of emergencies; environmental responsibility; science based approach to policy; health care for all.

In the past couple decades I watched as the Republican party went from a fairly principled, right-leaning party to unprincipled, right-wing extremists, to a party willing to do anything, say anything, and accept anything if it withholds power from the Democrats, willing to hand a blank check to the most lying, corrupt, ignorant, narcissistic, racist, power hungry Presidental nominee of all time and a supporting cast of billionaires, Nazis, and white supremacists. On November 8 my discouragement and complacency were replaced by disgust, anger, and fear. I felt physically sick the next day. The danger to America has never been worse.

Then this past Saturday I was one of 2000 people who turned out in Syracuse. My sister was at the protest in Portsmouth, NH; one of her daughters was at the Women’s March in DC; her other daughter was out in Amsterdam; and 3 or 4 million people around the world were standing up for progressive values and against Trumpism. Meanwhile Trump and his spokespeople were accompanying calls to invade Iraq to take its oil with easily refuted lies about the attendance and weather at the inauguration, and then relabeling their lies as “alternative facts”.

I was inspired by the size and power of the demonstrations on Saturday. I’m convinced we need to sustain this kind of activity in the face of the Trump threat, and I intend to act.

You’ll be turning 18 this year. You can vote. This year it’ll only be local elections but local politics is important too. In 2018 there will be Congressional elections and we’ll have an opportunity to change the trajectory of national politics then. Whether your political views are the same as mine or not, it’s important you make them known, by voting at the very least, and even better by communicating with your Congressional representatives, by working for better candidates, and by speaking out in your community. Take a stand for what you believe in. I am.

Bite the hand

So Trump is where he is today in part due to the failures and misdeeds of the mainstream media… and now he’s declared war on the media.

Poor MSM. Hammered by the left, who want them to change and expose Trump for the treasonous fraud he is, and on the other hand getting no incentive from Trump not to.

Let’s see what happens.



One of the organizers of Syracuse in Solidarity, a sister event to the Women’s March on Washington, said there were about 2000 of us there. If anything I think that’s perhaps an underestimate. But I’ll let you count ’em. (Add one, I was up on the parking garage roof at the time.)solidarity

I hadn’t even gotten to the federal building plaza before running into enough morris dancers for a side + music.

The event was pretty peaceful and civil, except for one person who had a sign that said “Donald Trump likes Nickelback”, which I thought was unnecessarily mean. To Nickelback.

My sister meanwhile was out in Portsmouth, NH; one of her daughters was in DC; the other was in Amsterdam. Together separately!

I’ve seen a lot of great pictures from events around the world, including this one from Melissa Benoist:screen-shot-2017-01-21-at-2-53-14-pm

As one of the speakers today said, we in Syracuse know the power of snowflakes when they act together.snowflakes

I liked today a lot better than yesterday.

And if you’re considering replacing the Hillary bumper sticker on your car, let me suggest this:hashtag_impeach_decal

Letter to Congress

Text of a message sent to both New York Senators and my Congressional representative:

I am writing to urge that the next Congress make as one of its top priorities a thorough and bipartisan investigation into allegations of irregularities in the American electoral process.

Donald Trump is making claims that millions of fraudulent votes were cast in the 2016 election.
Jill Stein is raising money to press for audits of the vote in three states, to determine whether voting tallies were tampered with.
Either these claims are true, in which case the American democratic process has been subverted; or they are not, in which case the claims themselves are undermining confidence in our voting system, and once again the American democratic process is being subverted. Whichever is the case, the consequences of inaction will be dire.
During the campaign, Trump threatened to reject the outcome of the election if he lost. Suppose he, or some other future sitting President, were to refuse to concede an electoral loss, citing unsubstantiated claims of fraud and tampering, and to turn over power to a democratically elected successor? This nightmare scenario is entirely possible and could occur only four short years from now, if our electoral process is not sound and known to be sound by then.
I recognize that voting is conducted and regulated by the various states, and that addressing irregularities is a matter for their legislatures. Nevertheless, the claims are being made at the national level, and the consequences are a national problem. I believe Congress must investigate them. Our democracy is imperiled if our voting process cannot be believed in.

Of importance

We are down to the last few weeks before Election Day, and for that I am thankful.

I thought presidential elections were unpleasant in the past, but this one is so far beyond unpleasant it strains vocabulary. The level of hatefulness, dishonesty, narcissism, megalomania, and contempt we have seen is unprecedented. And nearly all on the part of one party.

Every election seems to be more important than the previous one, in the sense of “it is important not to let their agenda happen”. But even 2008 and 2012 seem trivial matters compared to 2016.

I’m with her.

Even if I weren’t with her, I’d be against him. And you should be too. It is of the utmost importance that Trump must not win this election, and the only way to make that happen is to go out and vote for Clinton.

Hillary Rodham Clinton is smart, well-educated, experienced, and respected by leaders around the world. No, she isn’t perfect. She’s shown bad judgment at times, most notably in her choice to use a private email server. She voted to give Bush II authorization to invade Iraq, a disastrously bad decision. Her financial dealings and relationship with Clinton Foundation donors? Maybe not what they should have been.

All of which is nothing notable by comparison with her White House candidate predecessors, and is trifling by comparison with Trump’s deep and fundamental flaws.

George W. Bush “lost” 22 million emails on a private email server. 96.4% of GOP representatives and 98% of GOP senators voted for the Iraq resolution. Donald Trump’s abuses of the Trump Foundation are legion. None of these have ever been talked about by the GOP.

And none of these are as important as the real issues we need to deal with. Global warming. Income inequality. Education. Terrorism — in America, perpetrated predominantly by white male Christians. Racism. Sexism. LGBQT rights. And other issues, including probably some as important as these which I’m not calling to mind right now because no one talks about them. They talk about email servers.

As for Trump’s… I was going to say “failings”, but that’s not the word; failure is a process, of descent from something good to something bad, and there’s no evidence Trump has ever been a good person… As for Trump’s faults, his bad policies, his ignorance, his dreadful personal qualities, his utter unfitness to set foot in the White House let alone live there, I can do no better than the editors of Foreign Policy in their Clinton endorsement:

Trump has not only promoted the leadership of a tyrant and menace like Vladimir Putin, but he has welcomed Russian meddling in the current U.S. election. He has alternatively forgiven then defended Russia’s invasion of Crimea and employed advisors with close ties to the Russian president and his cronies. Trump has spoken so cavalierly about the use of nuclear weapons, including a repeated willingness to use them against terrorists, that it has become clear he understands little if anything about America’s nuclear policies — not to mention the moral, legal, and human consequences of such actions. He has embraced the use of torture and the violation of international law against it. He has suggested he would ignore America’s treaty obligations and would only conditionally support allies in need. He has repeatedly insulted Mexico and proposed policies that would inflame and damage one of America’s most vital trading relationships with that country.

Trump has played into the hands of terrorists with his fearmongering, with his sweeping and unwarranted vilification of Muslims, and by sensationalizing the threat they pose. He has promised to take punitive actions against America’s Pacific trading partners that would be devastating to the world economy and in violation of our legal obligations. He has dismissed the science of climate change and denied its looming and dangerous reality. He has promoted a delusional and narcissistic view of the world, one in which he seems to feel that the power of his personality in negotiations could redirect the course of other nations, remake or supplant treaties, and contain those tyrants he does not actually embrace.

And on, and on — I quoted only two paragraphs, but there’s much more where that came from.

Why is he even on the ballot? Trump has no experience in government; electing him to the presidency is like choosing a mediocre auto mechanic to do your open heart surgery.

Trump is a bully, a racist, a misogynist, a megalomaniac, a narcissist, a liar, a business incompetent, a serial sexual abuser. Having no moral center, he has incited violence against his opponents, and he has never repudiated his supporters who are Ku Klux Klan leaders, neo-Nazis, and white supremacists. Indeed, he has gleefully redistributed white supremacist propaganda, often with no regard for actual truth.

And then there are his fellow Republicans.

Some of them were shocked, shocked, by the Access Hollywood tape. Withdrew their endorsements, some of them. Called on him to quit, some of them. Condemned his words and continued to back him, a lot of them. Changed their minds and re-endorsed him a couple days later, in more than a few cases.

Was I shocked by the tape? Not really. In fact I never thought it would create more than a whisper of unease among the GOP; I was surprised there was as much outrage, real or feigned, as there was. Why?

Because there were mere whispers after Trump called Mexicans thieves and rapists.

Because there were mere whispers when Trump advocated deporting every Muslim in America.

Because there were mere whispers when Trump called female opponents pigs, or ugly, or suggested they were unfit for office because they menstruated.

Because time after time after time, Trump has opened his mouth to show what a waste of carbon he is, to lie, to insult, to threaten, to smear, to stereotype in the most offensive ways possible, and every time, from the GOP, there were mere whispers.

What I overlooked was that this time, Trump’s target was upper class white women. The treasured property of wealthy white fathers and husbands. He talked about laying hands on them — and that, they couldn’t abide.

Well, said they couldn’t; more honestly, they couldn’t abide it in a candidate who is tanking in the polls and threatens to take down-ballot Republicans with him. Had he been five points ahead of Clinton, I’m sure it would have been more mere whispers.

So let’s be clear. I thought Romney’s political views (the 2012 version, after a big rightward swerve) were awful. But he was fit to serve as President. Likewise McCain: Awful politics, but fit to serve. Or I thought he was until he put the appallingly unfit Palin on the ticket.

Trump is manifestly, massively unfit to be President. We cannot afford to have him appointing justices to the Supreme Court. We cannot afford to have him appoint an Attorney General, and then manipulate them for political purposes. We cannot afford to have him with his finger on the nuclear button. A McCain or Romney presidency would have been bad. A Trump presidency would be, very literally, catastrophic; very literally, potentially civilization-destroying.

If he were running against the reincarnation of Richard Nixon, I’d vote for Nixon. Fortunately he isn’t. He’s running against one of the most capable, courageous, qualified candidates we’ve ever had. I’m with her.

You should be too. Register. Vote. It’s never been more important.



My acquaintance Louis Nick recently put a link up on Google+ to http://freedominthe50states.org/, a site which ranks the fifty United States by a subjectively defined definition of “freedom”. Now, the first thing I wonder when I see a list like this is, what does it correlate with? Specifically, how does “freedom” correlate with income?

Here’s a scatterplot of median family income (data from Wikipedia, which cites “2010 United States Census and the 2006-2010 American Community Survey 5-Year Estimates”) versus “freedom index” (i.e. position on the above site’s list, so low numbers correspond to highest “freedom”).


If I were a libertarian, it seems to me I would expect to see a correlation between income and “freedom”. But in fact my hypothesis was that there would be an anticorrelation. The truth seems to be there’s little relationship at all. A fit to a straight line would have positive slope, I’d say, but would be a poor characterization of the data.

One way to spin it would be to observe that of the 10 “least free” states 8 are above the US median family income ($62,982); the latter group includes 2 of the 3 highest income states (Maryland and New Jersey) while the third highest (Connecticut) just barely misses being included. (On the other hand the remaining 2 are among the  3 lowest income states: Mississippi and West Virginia). Meanwhile of the 10 “most free” states 7 are below the median.

But an obvious rejoinder is that —I think — these are before-tax incomes. My guess is that after taxes, this plot would look even flatter.

No, I think if you want to advance a thesis that greater freedom generates greater economic well-being — or lesser — then these data do not do much to help your case. A libertarian can point to New Hampshire and Virginia as an illustration that “freedom” can coexist with wealth, but they (and Maryland, New Jersey, Mississippi, and West Virginia) are outliers here.



Steal this post

Copyright law, in the US and in much of the rest of the world, is broken. No, that’s not the word for it. I’m not sure there is a word for “mangled into obscene wrongness”.

Copyrights now are in effect, basically, for eternity. Fair use is nearly nonexistent, and its limits are defined arbitrarily and nonsensically. (Example: Parody is fair use, satire is not.) There are no penalties for wrongful takedowns.

The copyright system was originally meant to promote creativity; now it stifles it. It criminalizes innocent and harmless activity. It has been crafted to feed the insatiable maw of the largest content distributors — not to benefit the creators — and the irony is, by throwing creators under the bus, it endangers the food supply of those distributors. In the long run it’s bad for everyone, but corporate greed cares nothing for the long run.

Lots of people understand this, but the lobbying efforts of the MPAA and RIAA are such that very few in politics are willing to say it. Stunningly enough, the Republican Study Committee (the conservative caucus of House Republicans) said it on Friday. Some of their wording and some of their arguments I have some trouble with, and their proposed remedies might not be what I’d prefer, but it was a bold step in the right direction, toward a complete overhaul of the system.

And the next day the RSC retracted its report.

Apparently the MPAA and RIAA told them something.

Recall that one of the reasons the GOP got kicked so badly a couple weeks ago Tuesday was because they have nothing that much appeals to young voters, who overwhelmingly preferred Obama to Romney. Getting on the right side of copyright reform would have given the GOP a position attractive to young people. (And to a lot of older people too, of course.) They had a chance to make inroads in that demographic… and decided they’d rather have Hollywood’s money.

So now, of course, the issue is wide open for the Democrats to own, to cement their position among young voters. Will they take it? Of course not.

No, this will just disappear quietly, and the next time Disney finds itself in danger of having a copyright expire, the law will get further mangled into even more obscene wrongness. And then they’ll wonder why people don’t respect copyrights.

You can read the withdrawn RSC report here: http://www.techdirt.com/articles/20121116/16481921080/house-republicans-copyright-law-destroys-markets-its-time-real-reform.shtml.

Copying of this blog post is permitted and encouraged.

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That’s over

Well, pretty good election day. Way better than I expected, really. I was worriedly optimistic Obama would win, but I figured we wouldn’t know until the wee hours at best… and maybe much longer, a la Florida 2000. (Then I had paranoid moments about shenanigans in Ohio, but not too much of that.) I wasn’t even up past my usual bedtime when the media called it… though I did sleep through Romney’s concession.

And Todd Aken: Down! Richard Mourdock: Down! Scott Brown: Down! (Brown’s not so bad, of course; but having that Senate seat occupied by the GOP is just wrong.) And votes for marriage equality in Maine, Maryland, Minnesota, and, if the lead holds, Washington. Excellent.

Locally, our Tea Party congresswoman got sent packing by the Democratic former incumbent she defeated two years ago. We could use a Nate Silver locally: They kept telling us that race was ‘neck and neck’ and ‘too close to call’ in the days leading up to the election, and then he took it with a 4.7% margin; this despite 8% of the vote going to the Green Party candidate.

Too soon to say which party will control the state Senate. Right now it looks like a tie.

We still have a Republican House, and Michelle Bachmann got re-elected, so the news isn’t all good, but it’s better than I dared hope.