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Cover image of Fiona Hill's book
Next read; link to the publisher's site. Listen to Terry Gross' Fresh Air interview, from Oct. 6.

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unraveling

29.Oct.2022 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Freebird Permalink to this item

Today's big question is what will become of Twitter under its new management, the blunt instrument of random behavior and occasional good ideas that is Elon Musk. Kicking off his tenure by firing the chief executive officer, chief financial officer, chief policy officer and general counsel will certainly shake things up, a prospect that unsettled at least one large customer, General Motors. HCR's daily notes GM "has temporarily stopped running ads on Twitter until its direction becomes clearer."

May 2015 bird with cricket

Maybe cutting staff by 75%, too? There was Musk's "do not be alarmed" message to advertisers, far more delicately crafted (and forthcoming) than most of his utterances. He says he's looking to provide "a common digital town square, where a wide range of beliefs can be debated in a healthy manner, without resorting to violence." He wants to help humanity, whom he loves. With humility! So, def not a "free-for-all hellscape," and full of delightful, entertaining and informative... advertising. "Something extraordinary." In the spectrum from "healthy" to "hellscape," I can't think of many tweets celebrating the former, so the opportunity is on?

"Fundamentally, Twitter aspires to be the most respected advertising platform in the world that strengthens your brand and grows your enterprise."

Not that "a helpful town square" and advertising are exactly congruent, but how's it going? For starters, an emboldened cast of anonymous trolls rampantly spewing racist slurs, Nazi memes, antisemitism, misogyny, anti-LGBTQ harassment and hate. They want to "test the limits" while Musk comes up with a new "moderation council" sometime soon.

“Cold Meme War, [Twitter] Defenses Down, Fire Away,” another poster said, attaching an image of a soldier with a rifle and a “Make America Great Again” hat.

KHC(?) signature

Kingdom Holding Company (KHC) and the private office of His Royal Highness Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal Bin Abdulaziz Al Saud (PO) tweeted to "Dear friend 'Chief Twit'" that they rolled over their 35 million shares (valued at USD 1.89 Billion) to the "New" Twitter, as they put it. The bilingual signature with the gushing oil well/palm tree is a nice touch. And "the long-term investment strategy for which [KHC] is known for."

"KHC & PO are jointly the second largest investor after Elon Musk," who paid $44 bil for a bird in a poke. Its market cap peaked at $62B first of March, 2021, after the Former Guy was booted. (Ye Olde Twitter did what the US Senate could not bring itself to do.) It's been a downhill roller coaster since, from the mid-20s back to $41B just now. And the EU would like a word:

"European regulators reminded Musk on Friday that they’d be closely scrutinizing any changes he made to the platform, 75 percent of whose users live outside the United States. A sweeping new law set to come into force in the European Union would force Twitter and other tech companies to fight misinformation and limit the spread of illegal content. E.U. officials said during a news conference Friday that they will be watching to make sure Twitter complies with these new regulations, known as the Digital Services Act.

“In Europe, the bird will fly by our rules,” Thierry Breton, an E.U. commissioner who has helped oversee tech policy, tweeted Friday, a reference to Twitter’s bird logo. Musk earlier had tweeted that the bird had been uncaged."

Our midterm elections are 10 days away.

"[Yesterday], the Department of Homeland Security, FBI, National Counterterrorism Center, and U.S. Capitol Police warned of violent extremism surrounding the upcoming midterm elections, including attacks on “candidates running for public office, elected officials, election workers, political rallies, political party representatives, racial and religious minorities, or perceived ideological opponents.”

The attempted assassination of the Speaker of the House is kind of at the top of that list.

25.Oct.2022 Permanent URL to this day's entry

I could be handy, mending a fuse Permalink to this item

Closing in on the new millennium, March, 1999, we bought a food dehydrator from Harvest House, for the signifacant outlay of $220.45 (nearly $400 in today's money). It has done yeoman work over the 2+ decades since, drying all sorts of leaves and fruit: apples, apricots, catnip, cherries, garlic chives, green oninons, orache, peppers, plums, pumpkin, raspberries, tomatoes, at least.

It has lasted well longer than the retail shop that sold it to us. Boise's Harvest House, Inc. came into being in on January 2, 1998, and was dissolved 15 years, 1 month, and 20 days later, in 2013. Its old address on Fairview Avenue now seems to be the home of Mr. Formal in the front, Kokanee Tackle and Treasure Valley Graphics in the back, and Mountain West Beverage Services in the way back.

NESCO®'s story is pretty interesting: it started as the National Enameling and Stamping Company, and you can be the "Original Roaster Oven" coming out of Milwaukee, Wisconsin, involved enameling and stamping.

"This new versatile appliance replaced the wood-burning stoves that were common at the time, because of its ability to cook a meal quickly without heating up the house in the hot summer. Throughout the years, we became the brand of Roaster that everyone came to depend on for all the special moments in life."

They are now "so much more," and owned by The Metal Ware Corporation. Home base has moved north, to Two Rivers, Wisconsin, up by Manitowoc hey, where the East Twin River and the West Twin River join together to flow into Lake Michigan (just south of the Point Beach Ridges State Natural Area). Metal Ware Corp. has its own story and THAT'S interesting, too. Goes back just over a century now: They specialize "in deep draw and metal stamping, rotational molding, and injection molding," and one big M&A along the way.

"Started in 1920 as a copper and nickel-plated utensil company, Metal Ware quickly expanded to become the “world’s largest electric toy manufacturer,” including fully operational steam engines and ovens for children."

NESCO® uses this new-fangled World Wide Web, but not so much as to have manuals and parts lists and replacement fuses shown anywhere. They do have lots of recipes, and of course ROASTERS GALORE. And pressure cookers, slow cookers, slicers, grinders, blenders, steamers, and yes, Jerky Gun Kits. Did I mention dehydrators? They still have dehydrators from the American Harvest line NESCO® acquired just in time for Y2K, including the successor to our FD-1000, the FD-1010 Gardenmaster Pro, on offer for the low, low price of $144.99, which is to say almost 30% cheaper than our 1999 deal in constant dollars (Y2K was a thing, remember?), or 63% cheaper if you account for CPI inflation.

Image of said fuse

In the middle of this fall's harvest, our Air Preserve II stopped producing heat. Kind of an important element (ha ha) of the thing. A quick web search suggested the most probable cause was a blown fuse, and with a little YouTube hint about disassembly, I was able to verify that our fuse was indeed no longer a conductor. Carefully cleaning the surface, and with more web clues and a loupe, I could see it's a MICROTEMP KGGBGS G4A01 110°C fuse. E-Bay seems to be one of the main sources? People trying their hands at industrial retailing? Who knows, but it seemed too weird to me. Amazon has them... with kind of a long leadtime from 3rd parties.

I wrote to Nesco to inquire, and before I heard back, found Goodman's, "family owned for over 25 years," which has the equivalent thing, TH-TF110C, for 69 cents apiece. Might as well buy five? And the hurry-up shipping (these plums won't last forever) will round them up to four times the price, or let's just say $13 for the part I need (and 4 more that I don't, and may never).

Then I got a nice reply from a member of The Metal Ware Corporation's Customer Service Team to tell me "the unit you have has been discontinued and we do not sell internal components due to liability reasons. There is a powerhead [sic] that would fit the FD-1000." She sent the P/N, and their price of $75 + shipping.

"Liability reasons" is kind of lame, but maybe something from the "steam engines for children" era is still on their mind. Having disassembled it, I do know enough about the design to understand their caution. It was not designed for user (or anyone else's) service or repair. Blow a fuse, scrap the unit? Not the pinnacle of durable design. Still, it has been a good appliance, and it's worth my effort to repair.

Verified shipped

Amazon is selling their FD-1018A, same base, but with 8 trays instead of only 4, which you'd definitely want, and for less money: $135.99 (plus tax). "Usually ships within 2 to 5 weeks," ugh. The "powerhead," which is really a powerfoot (the base, with all the essential stuff in it: power switch, thermostat, fan motor and fan, fuse, heating element) would be fine too, and with any value on my time and attention, an excellent deal by itself. But for a 69 cent fuse...

Update:
Goodman's delivered in two days, in time to process the last of the plums. Had to fetch some ring terminals (not very reusable after crimping), and with an outlay of $16 and change, we begin the next 20+ years of dehydrator service. There remains the unanswered question of "why did the fuse blow?" but apparently not a chronic problem.

19.Oct.2022 Permanent URL to this day's entry

In fact it's a... volatile liquid Permalink to this item

But the price of gas is on everybody's mind, it seems, especially as the Republicans are desparate to take everyone's mind off the effective two years of legislations the Democrats have put through, and the dismal right-turn from the Catholic wave running the Supreme Court after minority-elected presidents— especially that last one-termer—packed the court with Leonard Leo's dream team.

Paul Krugman's Twitter thread shows the one-year whoop-de-doo from GasBuddy data, not back to the halcyon days of 2021, but in the neighborhood it was in last February from before the Russian attack on Ukraine started. Will it moderate in time? Did Joe Biden collude with the Saudis at the last minute? Have we been beholden to dictatorial petrostates for 40+ years, after a century of colonial exploitation around the world? His observation:

"Control of Congress, and maybe the future of democracy, may well depend on the extent to which the uptick in gas prices that began in September is reversed by Election Day (prices now falling fast in some regions)."

There's also the "vote against the president's party in the midterms" trend which seems to trump policy and results year after year. At this point, it seems like stochastic devolution to a dark (and oily) future. Krugman has a large following of haters, including one who jumped in the comments before he was done with the thread, to say "it's going to be a sad day for you Paul," as if his predictions coming true (or not) are what his happiness depends upon?

And more thoughtful pushback (no, not wE’rE a rEPuBLiC nOt A dEMoCRacY this time) from @BushidoBlade61 (aka Paranoid of the Creature from Jekyll Island):

Big truck owoo

"We don't live in a democracy, we live in a crony capitalist kleptocracy that exists to enrich the ruling plutocracy, we exist to enrich the elites at our expense."

There is that. Meanwhile, HAVE YOU SEEN THE PRICE OF GAS LATELY? We've got a convenient pair of gas stations at the nearest major intersection, so yes, I have. It never returned to that sub-$4 national average, but it's not $5 a gallon, nor what I hear Californians are paying. Still, HAVE YOU SEEN THE SIZE OF PICKUP TRUCKS LATELY, which of course you have, because they're large enough to block out the sun.

Krugman goes on to explain that crude prices are set on world markets, not by US policy (ahem, unless it's US policy to collude with petrostate dictators), refinery outages can cause upticks, and third (which won't satisfy anyone, I'm guessing), "gas is actually relatively affordable by historical standards."

Krugman's infographic, avg wage hours/gallon

You can see that by the size of pickup trucks surrounding you. Or, the metric he likes: "the cost of 10 gallons divided by average hourly wage." That big drop in late 2014 (just in time for the midterms!) was "the fracking boom — which was, it turned out, a bubble, with massive losses underwritten by lenders who overestimated the returns," so that ain't coming back.

"So the whole 'under Trump gas was $2!' thing relies on voter ignorance," which remains an unfortunately strong bet.

13.Oct.2022 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Breaking news Permalink to this item

Something something, kaleidoscope and rabbit hole, the latest spam filter is sending all the NYT's BREAKING NEWS pieces into the bucket, which isn't entirely wrong, but I wonder, how did it know? The wheels of our justice have a lot of sand in the gears as they grind on. Alex Jones made some of that breaking news yesterday, after a jury assessed compensatory damages against him for his deeply hateful schtick to the tune of ONE BILLION DOLLARS in round numbers. (While he tried to snarl it off and fundraise off his rubes.) Who says everything is bigger in Texas? The judgment against him there was a mere $50 million, while Connecticut turns out to be the mouse that roars. Jones seems to think bankruptcy and the bottomless credulity of his viewers will keep him going, but we'll see. Eventually. Maybe.

The couple of $billion+ lawsuits from Dominion Voting Systems against Fox News Corporation, and Sidney Powell don't look quite so wild and crazy anymore, hmm? And then, the big Kahuna. (Taking today's outline from Heather Cox Richardson, not for the first time.)

Here we go: Trump Aide Was Seen on Security Footage Moving Boxes at Mar-a-Lago, before and after the Justice Department issues a subpoena for the classified documents that the former president stole. That's not as achy breaky as news the Washington Post dropped yesterday, though:

"A Trump employee has told federal agents about moving boxes of documents at Mar-a-Lago at the specific direction of the former president, according to people familiar with the investigation, who say the witness account — combined with security-camera footage — offers key evidence of Donald Trump’s behavior as investigators sought the return of classified material."

"Behavior" is a bit precious without "criminal" in front of it. Our deposed Muschigreifenführer is whinging about the "Document Hoax," but no joke, the Thief in Chief is pretty much dead to rights and needs to go to jail. In the worst way. He hasn't exhausted his taste for obstruction (and delay, delay, delay), but it does seem like he must be close to exhausting the pool of lawyers willing to pro bono for him by now, especially what with all his lawyers needing their own lawyers, sooner or later. The hapless Christina Bobb, for example, who certified that Trump turned everything in, after Evan Corcoran told her to. As HCR puts it, delicately, they now have "an incentive to work with the Department of Justice." And whatever happened to Rudy Giuliani, anyway?

Speaking of gumshoes dropping, the Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack on the United States Capitol is going to have its final public hearing today, 1:00pm EDT.

12.Oct.2022 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Off to college Permalink to this item

The NYT's America in Focus series transcribes moderated group discussions from folks with disparate viewpoints (I learned, after getting to the end of the one that caught my eye in print). It ran under the headline "12 College Students On the Education System" in the October 2 Sunday Opinion section, and "These 12 College Students Don’t Like the System They’re In," a frankly terrible headline that's likely to color one's reading. What the hell? The actual discussion as captured is more varied than the dumbed-down web banner.

The interactive web presentation is entertaining, and I wanted to see the "longer transcript" that the print edition said was online. In both versions, I though the last question elicited the most interesting answers, and had the most education value for the participants, if they would only listen to themselves.

"Imagine your 40-year-old self is giving you advice about being in college. What do you think your 40-year-old self would advise you?"

Maybe extend that to a class assignment, or an essay to share with one's advisor? All but one participant was 18 to 23 years, the other the ripe old age of 28, not quite as big a stretch to 40 from there. But for those in and around 20, it's a good exercise of a form of empathy, and an opportunity to provide yourself with good advice. One of several good observations:

"You’re never again going to get an opportunity like being on a college campus, so I think you should make the most of it."

11.Oct.2022 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Bad faith Permalink to this item

Every once in a while, the ConservativeHQ daily screed catches my eye enough to drill down a bit. Today's lead item is about "the conspiracy to hide the true dangers of the Covid-19 mRNA vaccines," which, IDK, you can put up against the estimates of how many hundreds of thousands of lives have been saved in this country, and millions around the world. But no, there's been "coordination between Big Government, Big Tech and Big Pharma to suppress any scientific inquiry" about, you know, everything. "To enforce a political narrative," and stuff.

2009 photo of Cole School

Then more conspiracy theories about early voting, Nancy Pelosi, Dems using police powers to attack parents, "How the Government Transforms Your Child," dissing California, and the inspiration for my post headline, "Can Public Schools be Saved?" You hardly need to take the jump to guess their answer. No! They must be abolished! That's been a program of quite a number of years, ever since Brown v. Board of Education, give or take. "For decades," as George Rasley starts.

One wonders how those Big Conspiracies can be sustained when schools are so "ineffective at teaching children the basic skills they need to be functional adult citizens." This edition's "our friend" (there's always an "our friend citation") is Ray Moore, chairman of the Christian Education Initiative, which, you don't have to keep reading to know that Christian schools are the answer, so we'd like to have taxpayer dollars go to support private schools. "Reform doesn't work," don't you know, so "state-sponsored public education must be abandoned" by right-thinking people. Which wouldn't be quite so terrible if the plan did not also include deliberate sabotage, each step of the way.

Oh, and son-of-Saint Ronald, Michael Reagan is on their side, too! He's a "prominent syndicated columnist and political commentator" these days, George says, with a column for NewsMax. (Fox News is getting too liberal.) CRT is so last year. Now the messaging is all about "depravity, grooming, obscenity and innocence theft." And not to put too fine a point on it, "we" (Rasley's pronouns are we/us) think the New Jersey state board is "demon-possessed."

Indigenous peoples' day, 2022 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Shibboleth Permalink to this item

Can't use the word without thinking of the West Wing episode by that name, which I'm shocked to see was twenty-two years ago already. How time flies on us. (We were about to think George W. Bush was the worst president of our lifetime. How little we knew back then.)

Today's episode is about who's saying "Happy Columbus Day" and who's saying "Happy Indigenous People's Day." Spoiler alert, it's a regular Red-Blue divide, perfectly sized for tweets, the ultimate devolution of antisocial media. Daniel Walters, "the senior investigative reporter at the Inlander, one of America's few surviving alt-weeklies," gave a slightly longer take that's so good, nothing to do but quote him:

"The historical verdict on Columbus is so clear it's basically not an interesting debate anymore. 1492 was a different time -- and Columbus was reviled as a moral monster during that different time.

"Being carted back to Spain in chains to stand trial for your corruption and crimes was the original "getting canceled." Guy gets lost, stumbles upon a great hidden fortune, and goes on a murderous spree of terror in his efforts to plunder that fortune for his own ends. The question isn't if he was a hero. The question is if he's actually a Coen brothers villain."

Or as History.com puts it, more dryly recounting a quarter of a million dead after being "discovered":

"In May 1498, Columbus sailed west across the Atlantic for the third time. He visited Trinidad and the South American mainland before returning to the ill-fated Hispaniola settlement, where the colonists had staged a bloody revolt against the Columbus brothers’ mismanagement and brutality. Conditions were so bad that Spanish authorities had to send a new governor to take over. Meanwhile, the native Taino population, forced to search for gold and to work on plantations, was decimated (within 60 years after Columbus landed, only a few hundred of what may have been 250,000 Taino were left on their island). Christopher Columbus was arrested and returned to Spain in chains."

After being "cleared of the most serious charges," plus ça change, he made one more go, all the way to Panama on his last voyage, where he "had to abandon two of his four ships after damage from storms and hostile natives," returning empty-handed to finally die. It seems the natives had reason enough to be even more hostile than they were.

7.Oct.2022 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Inside the rabbit hole Permalink to this item

Michelle Goldberg: Here’s Hoping Elon Musk Destroys Twitter. She makes some good points. One of them is that no player is immune from being entrained:

Rabbit, 2022

"Unpredictable rewards, as the behavioral psychologist B.F. Skinner found with his research on rats and pigeons, are particularly good at generating compulsive behavior....

"Twitter is much better at stoking tribalism than promoting progress. According to a 2021 study, content expressing “out-group animosity” — negative feelings toward disfavored groups — is a major driver of social-media engagement."

As I'm thinking yeah, but it's fun, sometimes, and interesting, and I've "met" lots of good people (and muted lots of not-so-goods), there's this big butt:

"Trump was almost certainly right when he said that without Twitter, he wouldn’t have become president."

So where will I go if and when Musk realizes his dream of remodeling it in his image? Back to blogging, and lose my potential audience of some hundreds of Twitter followers? Shouting at clouds, and stuff, at greater length? Dunno.

I doubt something better will come along. So far, it's been worse things coming along, and the biggest platforms largely getting worse. Some forms of social media—the most engaging ones, it seems—may be dead ends.

I do know this: Life is short, and what's left of yours (and mine) gets shorter every day. We should use it wisely.

That was then, this is now Permalink to this item

My daily dose of Heather Cox Richardson's Letters from an American includes her comparison of what rose to "scandal" in recent memory, compared to today:

"Just five years ago, Representative Tim Murphy (R-PA), who belonged to the Republican Pro-Life Caucus, resigned just hours after the story broke that he pressured a woman with whom he was having an affair to get an abortion."

She didn't bring up Al Franken, but I thought of his Senate career-ending "scandal," right about then, too. Now we've got the Republicans rallying around one of the most unfit candidates they've ever put forward for the US Senate, Herschel Walker. Dana Loesch (former NRA spokesperson, and Breitbart alumna, who sounds like a Steve Bannon clone) said the not-so-quiet part right out loud.

"Does this change anything? ... Not a damn thing. How many times have I said four very important words? These four words: Winning. Is. A. Virtue. What I'm about to say is in no means a contradiction or a compromise of a principle."

Because those four words encapsulate the only "principle" they have left.

"Please keep in mind that I am concerned about one thing and one thing only at this point. So I don't care if Herschel Walker paid to abort endangered baby eagles; I want control of the Senate."

Never mind baby eagles, she doesn't give a fig about paying "some skank for an abortion" of a human. HCR links to Will Bunch who digs deeper into our post-cliché, post-scandal Zeitgeist: Herschel Walker mess proves Christian right cares only about power, not abortion.

"No prominent Republican candidates or party leaders came out and condemned Walker — not for the shocking allegations of domestic violence leveled, ironically, on the fifth anniversary of the #MeToo movement, and not for his role in aiding abortion...

"To the contrary, donations poured into Walker’s campaign after the news broke — some $500,000 if the campaign can be believed. About 250 evangelicals rallied behind Walker at a prayer luncheon at a Baptist church in Atlanta, as the candidate raced into the studio to record an ad summoning every Christian platitude about forgiveness, insisting he is “saved by grace.”...

"The conservative movement is about one thing: preserving traditional hierarchies, especially around white privilege and patriarchy, by any means necessary"...

"[T]here is something both perverse and yet profoundly fitting about the candidacy of Walker, whose supposed assets — his popularity as a Heisman Trophy winner who brought a national title to the University of Georgia in 1982, and his long friendship with Trump — are swamped by his liabilities not just in his unseemly private life but his many lies about his schooling, work, ties to law enforcement, and his lack of any political coherence. It sounds bizarre, but Georgia Republicans may see those flaws as a feature, not a bug.

“When I see the walking stereotype of Black male mediocrity that is Herschel Walker, I am reminded that a significant swath of white folks need this to be who Black people are, who Black men are,” Rutgers women and gender studies professor Brittney Cooper, who is Black, wrote on Twitter. “Violent, idiotic, brute, immoral, deadbeats.”

"Georgia Republicans are hoping to impose Walker on the electorate not because they think he will do good things for their state, but a) just to show that they can and b) to vanquish Warnock, whose virtues as heir to the Atlanta pulpit of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. and an advocate for society’s less privileged is a true portrait of decency that they don’t want voters getting used to for the next six years."

4.Oct.2022 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Welcome to the Space Age (+65) Permalink to this item

Thanks to Michael Beschloss' eye on history, we note the 65th anniversary of the Soviet Union's launch of Sputnik, and the (red) dawn of the Space Age. Circling the planet at 18,000 mph, "visible with simple binoculars," Moscow said.

It was a fairly useless little beeping beach ball, but weighing in at 184 pounds, it was "8 Times Heavier Than One Planned by U.S.," and whizzing around every 98 minutes. The sequel was a Cold War mind-bomb: Sputnik 2, launched a month later, a whopping 1100 pounds, included a passenger! Laika, "a stray mongrel from the streets of Moscow" had an unpleasant training regimen, and a hell of a ride before dying within hours of launch.

For its part, the US launched Explorer 1 (a svelte 14kg, less than half of the first Sputnik), on January 31, 1958, and "beamed back the first-ever science from space, by discovering the Van Allen radiation belts [sic] around Earth." NASA was formed later than year, and barely over a decade later, landed two men on the moon. (Explorer I and its cosmic ray detector transmitted for less than 4 months, but kept orbiting all through the 1960s, and past the moon landing, burning up on the way down on March 31, 1970.)

The Soviets' Sputnik II flew through the radiation belt, months ahead of Explorer, but the signal from its detection was out of their receiving range. Stations in Australia and South America got the signal, but wouldn't give it up without getting the secret decoder ring, and thus we do not have the "Vernov radiation belt." There's a lesson there.

NASA image, 1958

raveling

Tom von Alten
ISSN 1534-0007