Thursday, April 11, 2019

5 Things About Those Spygate Texts

Through Senator Ron Johnson's refreshing advocacy and some other surprising strokes of government transparency, the public has received ~8,000 texts between FBI employees Lisa Page and Peter Strzok to date.

Once you start digging into these texts and cross-referencing, you notice some interesting artifacts. No doubt due to the strange journey these documents have taken from the bowels of the J Edgar Hoover building to the public eye.

Here are five things I've noticed:

Wednesday, April 10, 2019

Nunes quietly racking up wins

Devin Nunes has come under constant and heavy political fire for over two years now. His detractors have employed bureaucratic maneuvers, massive infusions of cash into his district election plus nonstop media hit pieces continuing through today in an attempt to derail the congressman from Tulare. Yet, quietly, Nunes has been notching wins.

Look no further than the shady ethics complaint filed against him in April 2017. It apparently took eight months for the House Ethics Committee to consult with classification experts, but once they finally did, Nunes was fully vindicated. Or look to the bureaucratic tactics used to prevent the release of his memo in early 2018. The FBI demanded a review period before release of that document, citing national security concerns, then attempted to use that review period to delay or stifle the actual release. In both cases, Nunes won.

Sunday, March 24, 2019

Teflon Don Strikes Again

With the conclusion of the Mueller probe, Trump has now head-faked more dirty political attacks than I can count. From Obama's 2011 vitriol at the White House Correspondents Dinner to the 2016 GOP primaries to the unprecedented and unfounded accusations of treason no less, Trump has faced and absorbed political blow after political blow. Jeb!'s jaw must be on the floor by now.

It's not an exaggeration to say that the Mueller probe, specifically, represented an existential threat to his presidency. Many sober minded people believe that the regulations governing the role of a Special Counsel are too expansive and inevitably lead to overreach and unintended political consequences. We don't need to look very far back to see this illustrated in the Clinton Independent Counsel probe led by Ken Starr which started at Whitewater and ended at Monica Lewinski.

Wednesday, January 2, 2019

Transcript of John Batchelor interview with Michael Vlahos on Aug 24, 2018

The New American Civil War: Regicide and Trump "We don't want to go back we want to win"

JB: I'm John Batchelor. This is the John Batchelor Show. Good evening. Michael Vlahos, my colleague of Johns Hopkins, Michael and I continue our conversation about the new American civil war if it is, because the salient fact always and always since the Romans invented civil war 2000 years ago and more, is that you cannot tell you're in a civil war at that time.

It's afterwords such as the Congress declaring the American Civil War in 1907! There is always another way of explaining it to yourself as you're moving through the crisis. Michael, a very good evening to you. These last days, we've had what you'd have to say are strikingly salacious versions of regicide, challenging the president of the United States, our King, our elected King, on the basis of, at this point, campaign finance violations. However, the general sense is that those who have been investigating Donald Trump's presidency since before he was sworn in, since the fall of 2016 when when Barack Obama was president, those investigating have been looking for a tool to unseat him from power. Now the tool looks to be the midterm election of 2018 in which goes the regicidal theory the Congress, the House of Representatives, will be empowered with a majority in the hands of the Democrats to begin impeachment hearings and then...

Monday, December 31, 2018

The Breaking News Network and a continued look at the bots of the 2016 election

We have heard all about Russian bots and alt-right bots who "interfered" in the 2016 election. The Russian ones get much attention despite being an amateurish operation. We're just starting to find out about the bots secretly commissioned by American billionaire Reid Hoffman while he was accusing Roy Moore of the same. But even now, you rarely hear the accusation of "bot warfare" leveled against the left. Are they guiltless in this respect?

The short answer is no. The more complete answer is that truly everyone was running bots throughout the 2016 election, and all the way up until Twitter had a crackdown mid-2017, but also keep in mind that not all bots are nefarious. Reddit CEO Ellen Pao recently tweeted (in reference to internet traffic metrics): "everything is fake." That succinct answer generally applies to social media as well.

One researcher estimated in March 2017 that upwards of 15% of twitter accounts are bots. This estimate was somewhat validated when Twitter did a mass purge of bot-like accounts in July 2017. During that purge, the @Twitter account lost 7.7M followers, which was 12% of their previous 62M followers. And that purge definitely did not remove all bots from Twitter, as you will soon see. So this is an extremely widespread phenomenon and not limited to a single country or ideology, no matter how the media and certain members of Congress spin it.

Determining what is acceptable or not on our social media platforms is a whole separate and extremely thorny issue. But taking a level headed approach to the problem is critical. That's why I thought the story of the Breaking News Network is so relevant and fascinating. It lies at the intersection of bots-on-social-media, the contentious 2016 election and the recent upheaval of the news industry as a whole.

How I stumbled onto this

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Wrong side of 30

According to my meticulous examination of multiple Wikipedia pages, there are four stages of life for those who choose to follow the Vedic way of Hinduism, namely: student, householder, retired/forest dweller and renunciation/ascetic. You get the general idea of what each stage entails from their names. If you graphed it, it would look like a single peaked mountain measuring earthly attachment over time.

We're born naked, the number of possessions starts at zero. Over time we build up social, occupational and material attachments, receiving aid and mentoring from the older generation. A drag on parents and society for a time but with promise of a brighter future. Eventually the child becomes a man, the student becomes the householder, the net negative becomes a net positive, producing food and wealth that sustains a family and people in other stages of life. All the while living graciously and virtuously.

Sunday, September 24, 2017

"Burn the damn thing down"

"Everything is melting in nature. We think we see objects, but our eyes are slow and partial. Nature is blooming and withering in long puffy respirations, rising and falling in oceanic wave-motion. A mind that opened itself fully to nature without sentimental preconception would be glutted by nature’s coarse materialism, its relentless superfluity. An apple tree laden with fruit: how peaceful, how picturesque. But remove the rosy filter of humanism from our gaze and look again. See nature spuming and frothing, its mad spermatic bubbles endlessly spilling out and smashing in that inhuman round of waste, rot, and carnage. From the jammed glassy cells of sea roe to the feathery spores poured into the air from bursting green pods, nature is a festering hornet’s nest of aggression and overkill." -From Sexual Personae by Camille Paglia
The world we live in is constantly melting. Sometimes the change is fast and sometimes it's slow but it never stops. It seems helpful to say "the external world" is what's changing while the "internal world" stays constant but even that isn't true. Our physical bodies are constantly changing too - cells are dying and being replaced.

The way to survive change is to adapt, which sounds duplicative. Adaptation is just more change right? Sort of, but for the sake of this essay, change is out of your control while adaptation is in your control. The key part of adaptation is intentionality. A human or animal makes intentional changes in order to survive. The crazy part is that change and adaptation occurs simultaneously. Your skin cells are dying while you are intentionally putting on sunscreen to protect those exact cells, and it repeats and repeats. But all this complexity makes one's head spin. Let's limit the thought experiment to the "external" world changing and the "internal" world adapting.

Friday, September 1, 2017

Goodbye Darwin

We live in an age where central bankers are politicians and the bills we carry in our pockets are ideological battle grounds. Rather than retelling the grimy myths of our past, the artwork on our bills is supposed to lead us forward to a future of equanimity and peace. Andrew Jackson is apparently getting booted from the $20 bill soon, to be replaced by abolitionist Harriet Tubman. To be sure, Tubman is eminently worthy of recognition, but is Jackson not? Jackson was a first generation immigrant, orphaned at 14, from humble means who built himself into a president of the US consistently ranked in top 10 historically. That seems to set a solid example for a first generation Mexican immigrant growing up right now in Riverside or El Paso.

The Bank of England is no different than the US Federal Reserve when it comes to tinkering with their bills. Since the year 2000, a bust of Charles Darwin has been featured on the £10 note in the UK. In a few weeks, he will be replaced with author Jane Austen. It's unclear exactly why Darwin is getting removed but it certainly fits with the theme of heavy handed ideology pushing. Again, not that Jane Austen is unworthy. But Darwin is such a large historical figure that it seems wrong to rotate him out.

Monday, August 21, 2017

Black and white and gray

Telling someone that they are stuck in "black and white" thinking is a modern day insult. It conjures images of the 16th century papacy wrongly insisting that the earth is the center of the universe in the face of Galileo's insights. Or more recently, the insult is applied to Christian fundies for their strict and wrong interpretations of the bible. Duality thinking is seductive because it makes the world terrifyingly easy to understand. Light and darkness, good and evil, body and soul, water and fire, ones and zeros. It's beautiful in it's minimalistic perfection. Especially when you place your team on one side and everyone else on the other side. Heaven and hell, life and death, black and white, straight lines, perfection.

We sew duality into our stories to make them captivating. Look no further than the book series that produced the first (and only) billionaire author on the planet. Millennials love Harry Potter so much that they single handedly revived a previously lame Los Angeles theme park. And who can blame them for resonating with an epic tale of good versus evil? Add butterbeer to the mix and boom, literary hit of the century.

Friday, August 4, 2017

Irresistible Icarus

Philosophy is not a popular topic at brunches and nor should it be. Learning how to die is not a merry subject. A truly enlightening conversation is often an uncomfortable one and thus an impolite one. In fact, the best time to talk philosophy is after your audience has consumed a bongs-worth of weed. In that case, everyone is too stoned to remember how rude you were.

For the introspective few, philosophy and truth feel like an inescapable pursuer. The muse sticks with you like an earworm. It's a form of possession which drives its host deeper and deeper into the woods. In Christianity, this possession is called the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. Non-Christians don't agree on a word for it but are affected by it just the same.