Link Roundup, 6/13/2017

From Foreign Policy: The dangerous implications of Theresa May’s plan to use Northern Ireland’s Unionist Party to build a governing coalition.

From Motherboard: A look at the malware used in the attack on the Ukrainian power grid.

From The New Yorker: Remembering the murder you didn’t commit.

From Quartz: What if you build a palatial office and no one showed up to work?

From the BBC: Eating adventurously may be better for your health.


    1. If I was a staffer, I’d leave right now. When your boss tells you to preserve all your emails, phone records, memos, etc. in anticipation of subpoena requests, it’s time to leave. Even if you’re not a target of the investigation, you still need a lawyer during any deposition, etc. you might have to make, and most staffers can’t afford the type of high-priced lawyers you need to go up against the justice dept.

      My surprise is that there are still mid-level jobs in this administration that people consider “resume-builders”. While most jobs below the upper-levels are considered non-political, Trump is different. I believe anyone who accepts a job during the Trump admin (as opposed to lifers who didn’t quit, who are a little more justified) will be tainted. At best, it’ll be overlooked or good for a few “what were you thinking?”-type laughs. At worst, it’ll prevent you from ever working in the govt. again, democrat or republican. But being a net positive? I can’t see any way that happens.

  1. I have been reading about the ongoing horror in that London fire. Now at least 58 dead, with estimates going higher. All for a savings for of about 10,000 dollars on a 16 million dollar refit.

    That cladding is banned in the U.S. on buildings over 40 feet, and is considered “flammable” in Germany, on the same level as unprotected wood half an inch thick. Now, that cladding is used in France and the UAE, among other places, but I am betting that will be changed in short order in France.

    What drives me is this yet another example of criminalizing/ marginalizing the poor. Some person, or group of people, made a conscious decision to roll the dice on an low income housing development, to save 10 grand, because they could.

    Isn’t capitalism wonderful?

    1. EJ

      There’s a specific reason why they used that cladding: the neighbours pushed for it.

      That housing tower is in an area which has slowly become taken over by extremely wealthy people, often international citizens who wanted a “place in London” as they had one in other major cities. To these people and to the real estate developers who catered to them, the tower was an eyesore which lowered their property values. In order to maximise their investments, they lobbied local government hard for some aesthetic treatment of the tower which would make it look modern and chic. Fireproofing, or even functionality, simply wasn’t important compared to aesthetics; and as ever there was no money being spent lobbying in the opposite direction.

      The sad thing is that less than a year ago, a law was proposed in Parliament which would have required all rented properties to be fireproof. It was voted down on the grounds of being “over-regulation” and “burdensome to landlords.”

      From a European standpoint, this is disgusting. From the standpoint of someone who believes that capitalism is generally a force for good, this is difficult to reconcile.

      1. EJ – I think you reconcile it by seeing this as an example of poor municipal building codes. Given proper codes, the commercial interests would have had to work within them, and the disaster would have been averted. As we all know, rational regulations are not incompatible with capitalism. There is a natural tension between regulation and commercial interest. This is a good thing as they (mostly) tend to keep each other in check.

      2. As a Professional EE, I find the London fire very disconcerting. The building seems to have lacked basic engineered fire protection and life safety systems. These would include a robust fire detection and alarm system, sprinklers, multiple stairwells, ventilation systems designed for fires, fire resistant external cladding and provisions to prevent the chimney effect, etc.

        Fiftyohm’s comments regarding codes is very applicable. I would expect strong codes to be in place and enforced in a world class city such as London. In the U.S., codes are typically developed on a national basis by highly qualified professionals in the applicable fields, but they are enforced on a local basis. Nevertheless, the mere existence of the codes dictates that design and construction professionals follow those codes. Not doing so will expose them to potential discipline and liability. Furthermore insurance firms will not cover a facility that is not built to the minimum code standards. Actually, the insurance industry was the driving force behind development of many of the codes.

        There is always the tension between with the commercial interests. That is the reason that minimum standards are required and that an outside check is required. The insurance industry has served that function in the U.S. Something was obviously wrong in this instance particularly since there was a refrubishment not so long ago.

  2. Speaking of coalitions, to stretch the May/Ireland link a bit, consider the impact of Trump’s decision to roll back the Cuban Agreement President Obama initiated. The Atlantic does it’s normal great analysis aided by the direct experience of one of the architects of the agreement, Ben Rhodes. Mr. Rhodes makes a compelling case for the validity of the Cuba Opening but sadly, none of this thoughtful writing matters to a man who chooses not to think but to react. America is losing so much and we have far more at risk than Ms. May because Trump is hell-bent on alienating every country he can – because – he can.

  3. Re: the DC shooting.

    It pains me to say this as a Bernie supporter, but I think we on the left need to look at whether our rhetoric and tactics need to be changed, lest we’re incubating a mirror of the right-wing “Patriot” movement. I personally don’t think so, but we shouldn’t reflexively dismiss that possibility without honestly assessing it. As much as I want to replicate the electoral successes of the Tea Party, I don’t want to replicate their craziness.

    Chris has always said Bernie is a manifestation of an alt-left just as crazy as the alt-right, only 10 years behind. I’ve always dismissed that as him not really understanding most Bernie supporters (which I still believe 🙂 ). But a radicalized left-wing nut shooting a Republican politician is little different than the radicalized right-wing nuts that we rightly decry. It behooves us to consider if we need to make changes when things like this happen.

    1. I believe we have to focus on underlying issues of anger management and anger cultivation. True, guns don’t shoot themselves without human help, but our country needs to come together on common sense gun laws that make it difficult for people like this man to obtain a gun license. Fundamentally, we need to learn how to be more accepting of our differences and how to live with one another. Gun violence for me is not a partisan political issue except our unwillingness to agree to changes that benefit all. That still leaves hateful rhetoric, bullying, spousal abuse, etc out there. As long as social and religious issues dominate our political arena, our personal lives will be likewise impacted.

      Who will go first?

    2. It seems that some Bernie supporters were more fervent than Hillary’s, based on their anger that he didn’t get the nomination. Although, if Bernie had won the nomination, I suppose we might have heard similar rants from Hillary supporters. Not from me, I would have been happy with a nomination of Bernie although I voted for Hillary in 08 primaries and in the 16 primaries.

      Since you are a Bernie supporter, you may be able to tell us whether there is an undercurrent of rage that will produce more of these shootings. And if there is, what can we do?

      I feel that it will not be common, at least not like the several times the white house was shot at during Obama’s terms. Could be wrong.

      Interestingly, the gun nuts have said that the 2nd amendment is for fighting against a tyrannical government. Maybe the changes that must be made is in the American Conservative Movement. Now that would be an interesting conversation. Maybe conservative gun nuts are the ones to blame for this idiocy.

      1. As a Bernie supporter, it seems to me that there’s an awful lot being made of one incident. The person in question had had domestic and neighbor trouble previously, and was basically alienated to the point of homelessness. The idea that this guy was somehow representative of Sanders supporters is ridiculous.

        When I see influential left-wingers (influential left-wingers being at this point a contradiction in terms) tweeting, as Senator Rand Paul did recently, that the Second Amendment is not about deer hunting, it’s about resisting government tyranny, I’ll start to worry about this.

    3. EJ

      It’s interesting to compare the European and American attitudes to this incident. Europeans seem to have largely fallen back on our preconceptions of Americans as a culture, blaming the fetishisation of the violent hero and the lack of a social safety net. Americans seem to have fallen back on partisanship, turning this into a matter of pro- and anti-Sanders depending on whose side you were on before.

      Is there any hope, do you think? Any way towards a better place?

      1. “Don’t see much racism? Wait till times get hard. You’ll see plenty.” You could substitute many social ills for racism in that remark. Domestic violence, substance abuse, xenophobia, attraction to authoritarianism, many others no doubt. Our economic system is really hard on the people it leaves behind. Which is why I think Bernie Sanders is right to focus on economics, even if he’s only partially right on the answers.

      2. My thoughts are similar to yours, Creigh. The unraveling of the social safety net combined with the disruptions caused by the ongoing technological revolution and globalization have been extremely hard on the people and the areas left behind – particularly the old industrial areas and the rural areas. The technological revolution would be difficult enough, but that combined with off-shoring of mass production requiring low skill sets has been a double whammy. These are I believe major factors in what is felt to be the slow recovery from the financial crisis in the old industrial and rural areas.

        I do know that the U.S. recovery from the crisis has been quite good based on historical precedent, but that still does not change the perception. Regarding the historical precedents, my limited reading of history indicates that it took roughly a decade for the U.S. economy to recover from the panic of 1893. Following the crash of 1929, it took a decade or more. Since WWII began in 1939, we’ll never know how long it would have taken without the big Keynesian stimulant of war production.

        This I believe has brought the latent racism and xenophobia present in America to the forefront and has been exploited by the far right conservatives to consolidate their political control during the last 15-20 years. It was behind the Gingrich revolution, the total scorched earth opposition during the Obama administration and now the further extension during the nascent Trump administration. Chris thoughts regarding the white safety net expresses this a little differently, but I think part of the same pattern. I am of course aware that there were other factors as well.

        Furthermore, looking back through American history, I see patterns where nativism becomes dominant in America particularly during the periods when the great American economic engine starts sputtering and there is significant economic dislocation. The worst periods seem to occur when several factors converge, such as at present when we are still recovering from an economic crisis, facing challenges from globalization, and are in a period of economic reinvention. The geo-political challenges from China and Russia are also factors.
        Of course the economic reinvention is driven by the other challenges. The same can be said for the geo-polictical challenges. Nevertheless, it makes for interesting times.

        Regarding Sanders, since the election I find myself becoming more attracted to his policies, though they may be lacking in some areas and sometimes not fully thought out. Even during the election season, I felt Sanders was on the right track but given the polarized nature of American politics, I thought Hillary might have a better chance of implementing overdue changes. I was probably wrong on that, but it was a hopeful thought.

  4. Mass shootings are nothing in this country. In a nanosecond or two, it will become a conspiracy of the national democratic party in conjunction with the deep state.

    Here’s a link to a report by a cyber security firm about the ease and economics of creating false news.

    The Gaurdian says, “The report from Trend Micro, a cybersecurity firm, said it also costs just $55,000 to discredit a journalist and $200,000 to instigate a street protest based on false news…”

    Apparently, as a species, we’re cheap.

  5. I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised…yet I am stunned at the bizarre double standards applied when it comes to providing testimony to congressional oversight committees. Jeff Sessions basically appeared to defend “his honor” yet failed to provide anything meaningful in his defense while implying Comey got some of the facts wrong. His lack of responsiveness was to protect future executive privilege that the President may or may not invoke in the future…the guy went on national TV with Lester Holt…who are we kidding here?

    The shooting is horrible and politicizing it almost as bad. I have no interest in mass shooting stories anymore. After Newtown we did nothing. Case closed. In spite of the public wanting reasonable protections we won’t get them. So, I have no more tears regarding our losses to gun violence. I don’t want to know. I don’t care who did it or why, where they grew up. I don’t want to know the deceased’s family story and those left behind. We have spoken as a country on this matter…”we don’t care”

      1. Instead of viewing this as an extension of gun violence, it will be promoted as a partisan political event. Kellyanne Conway is already politicizing it. I do not condone this in any way, but our nation is riddled with guns and there are crazy people who will act out with weapons. I am sorry it happened. Wrong on all counts.

      2. What is she saying? I can’t stand the ugly hag’s face so I cannot watch. Actually, I can’t stand looking at anyone in this admin. It’s got the largest collection of ugly people in one administration with the Orange Turd being #1.

        Yeah, yeah, superficial but I can’t help that I recoil in disgust every time of them comes on air.

      3. @Dinsdale, at this point it’s my opinion that anyone still supporting this obviously treasonous criminal is themselves a traitor to this country’s ideals. The longer this investigation goes on, the more convinced I am that we were sold out to Russia and that Trump is up to his eyeballs in money laundering and in league with the Russian mob. Of course, the Trumptards still scream about Hillary and Benghazi while ignoring this crap. Obama is still castigated for spending money on “lavish” vacations while Trump is poised to outspend him (and hardly ever works) if he hasn’t already, but that’s okay because he’s white and a fascist. I mean how dare that upstart negro spend taxpayer money on vacatons. 🙂

      4. I saw this comment in response to the Senate blocking the media on another blog and found it interesting.

        “The Scalise shooting will give cover to the scumbags. They will cite “security concerns” and ensconce themselves inside a bubble of security, never to be seen by their constituents again.

        Y’know, they say that every time we bomb some city or hamlet in the Middle East, we create a terrorist by killing somebody’s loved one. I wonder if, when lack of access to healthcare causes the death of a loved one or two, just maybe a few homegrown terrorists will be created. Are we seeing the genesis of this phenomenon today?”

      5. “I wonder if, when lack of access to healthcare causes the death of a loved one or two, just maybe a few homegrown terrorists will be created.”

        I think we are lucky that we haven’t had more incidents like this, but that could change, because the GOP seems to have completely disconnected from the whole concept of cause and effect. The agenda that they have sold their souls to Trump for is going to hurt many people, and a few of them could follow in this nut’s footsteps. The avoidance of town halls and the Senate writing their healthcare bill in secrecy doesn’t douse any flames of civil unrest, but rather fans them.

      6. ” The longer this investigation goes on, the more convinced I am that we were sold out to Russia and that Trump is up to his eyeballs in money laundering and in league with the Russian mob.”

        I really wouldn’t keep your expectations so high. 45 can’t keep a secret. He’s incapable of it. If he was knowingly money laundering through ties with a Russian mob he would have already said something to the effect of, “I never did that, and even if I did, it’s good business. Billions of dollars of business, you wouldn’t even believe. Tax free too. But I didn’t do it. Obama did even worse, they laundered through Kenya. Fake news.”

        I would even posit the possibility that the Trump Organization does in fact do that, and he doesn’t even realize it’s money laundering or where it’s going to or that the people he’s doing it with are mafia or anything. “I was approached with a business proposition, beautiful buildings, I sold them, made a lot of money, you wouldn’t believe it folks but believe me, lots of money, I sold these big, beautiful condos, I did a great job they’re really beautiful condos, but I don’t know who, I don’t know them. I never met them, I don’t know them, never heard their names. Never met them. Beautiful condos however, unbelievable. Believe me. Fake news media turning my business deal, big money, millions of dollars people, believe me, fake story. Sad!”

        Many of these ‘Russian connections’ are damaging but many of them are normal course of being a billionaire in the modern economy. “This law firm represented a Russian firm one time!” Yeah, so has, probably, the law firm my lawyer works at at some point. I’m pretty sure Warren Buffet and George Soros have their fair share of handshakes with Putin’s oligarchs, and I don’t mean that as a slander on either of them but as an example of the middle and left.

        I’m pretty sure he ‘colluded’ with Russia insofar as at one point some Russian or another said, “Hey by the way we’re gonna take down Hillary with this thing,” and he said, “Spiffy sounds great great job real good beautiful I’m the best I’m the smartest I make the bestest deals.” In terms of his campaign actually doing a damn thing about it, there’ll be no proof because it wasn’t organized enough for that shit.

        What’s going to bring 45 down if he’s brought down is a technicality. Firing Comey being proven as obstruction of justice by Mueller, for example, at about a point where the political tide turns and the GOP base starts howling for Congressional heads. If that ever happens, which is doubtful, Cheetoh Mussolini’ll be out of the executive branch faster than a New York minute.

        But he’s not going down for anything as clean and clear cut as money laundering. And as long as FOX News keeps spackling the walls with the narrative of those darn ol’ Deep State Democrats, no move against 45 will mean anything other than a coup to Billy Hill and Cole the Miner.

      7. LOL Aaron, you sound just like him.

        I can totally believe him doing something illegal and not realizing it. He lives in a bubble with vacuous sycophants surrounding him and feeding his narcissism.

      8. Ignorance of the law is no defense. This man’s entire life has been lived taking advantage of other people and any situation that benefitted him personally. I have no pity for him and no respect for those who suggest he erred out of ignorance.

      9. EJ

        Question for Americans:
        If Trump is shown to have clearly broken the law, but nonetheless clearly retains the support of a majority of the Republican voter base, would Congress nonetheless attempt an impeachment?

      10. Republicans are not noted for their principled stands when it impacts one of their own. And, I have never felt the party had any “deep” loyalty to Trump once they achieved their main legislative goals. In addition, I don’t think anyone likes him and they do have Mike Pence in the wings. The cabinet Trump has appointed is a GOP dream team and they would still be in place.

        Short answer? I have so little trust in the Republican Party’s ability to make an honest decision that it’s hard for me to look through my own prism and make a prediction. I really believe Trump is more vulnerable to the money laundering angle which is why he has so carefully hidden his tax returns and why he has refused to put his assets in a blind trust and receives operating reports from his sons who are managing these properties.

        Long answer? I despise the man and have no respect for the party that is aiding and abetting him….who knows what else they will sacrifice as they have already given away their honor.

      11. “If Trump is shown to have clearly broken the law, but nonetheless clearly retains the support of a majority of the Republican voter base, would Congress nonetheless attempt an impeachment?”

        I don’t trust them anymore.

        The ‘anymore’ is significant because we live in a highly partisan society where a good portion of Americans (from the left) would make fun of me for ever trusting them at all. But though I grew up in largely left-of-center communities and most of my friends range from right-of-center to leftist, there was always SOME parts of the Republican platform I could see through the partisan lens that I felt respectful about. Because partisanship itself is so obnoxious, and because I know enough idiotic far leftists to know the left contains it’s own risks, and lastly because I seem to be the only motherfucker in my peer group that doesn’t consider ‘capitalism’ to be a pejorative, I always kept an open mind about the Republican party.


        From 2010 to now, all I’ve seen them do is double-down and trot in lockstep further and further right. I’ve watched that party essentially purge its moderates and discard any sense of propriety. FOX News was always a bastard about spin but now it’s no longer spin, it’s outright straight up 100% conspiracy theory — and there IS a difference, there’s a difference between “Well a 15% unemployment rate means 85% of everybody is employed 🙂 🙂 :)” and “The government’s unemployment rate is a lie to hide the fact that they’re stuffing our coal mines with Chinese yen.”

        And people, even on this site, keep smacking me for pointing out that even if the Democratic party isn’t perfect, they’re at least not full nutsoid. “Not horrible” isn’t good enough, is part of what’s underlining American politics right now.

        So in answer to your question, no. I don’t think the Republicans will do anything to impeach Trump ever, under any circumstances. It doesn’t even matter if they risk the ire of the majority of their base, it’s the plurality of wingnuts with guns that drives their primaries. I think there’s no saving the GOP anymore. The ‘right of center’ or ‘moderate’ Republicans (and conservatives, really) will need to break off and caucus with the technocratic pro-business Democrats to create some new party for anything reasonable to be done with any Republican moving forward; and our system isn’t structured to do that very well, not without a literally existential risk such as an economic depression or a civil or world war.

        Gloomy, I know, but I’ve watched some of my own friends go from “The greatness of the United States is that we can disagree with each other!” to “Liberals should be rounded up and sent to prison” in less than a decade.

      12. EJ

        Thank you for your insights, Mary and Aaron. I wasn’t expecting it to be that gloomy, but if that’s the world we live in then it’s better to be aware of it.

  6. Couple of interesting tidbits from tonight primary election in Virginia:

    – Republicans will take no solace in Ed Gillespie’s unexpectedly narrow victory. His opponent, Corey Stewart, was a clown who ran on preserving Confederate monuments and whom Gillespie should’ve put away easily. He won by less than 5,000 votes and by little more than one percent.

    – While Ralph Northam won on the Democratic side, Democratic turnout far eclipsed that of Republicans, by 177,161 votes to be precise.

    – Moving into the general, Gillespie faces the Trump dilemma. If he appeals to the white racial resentment that powered Stewart’s unexpectedly strong challenge, he’ll turn off moderate voters and almost assuredly lose the election. If he goes the other direction, the far right may just not turn out for him in strong enough numbers. There are no good options.

    In the past decade, Virginia has gone from being a solidly red state to a purple battleground, and now looks to be finishing its transition into solid blue. No Republican has won the governorship since Bob McDonnell in ’09 and no Republican has won a statewide Senate race since John Warner in ’02. Perhaps most significantly of all, Virginia was the only Southern state to buck the trend and vote for Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump.

    If Democrats hold the Virginia governorship in the fall, they’ll assure the creation of fair maps after redistricting after ’20. Watch this space.

    1. Ryan – those are good observations. Thank you. I’ll go back to Nate Silver’s analysis of the pre mid-term elections that have been held thus far in which Dems have over-performed. We’re winning some not enough but the resistance on the ground is mainly valuable for educating and motivating new activists. Women are definitely leading the charge in the grassroots movement from what I am seeing in TX.

    1. I wouldn’t rely on people’s Google search histories to find out how they feel or believe. Some people search for things out of curiosity, sometimes out of morbid curiosity, to see what’s out there, just to see what OTHER people are saying about something.

      I would rely more on comments made on social media such as Facebook, Twitter, comments sections, and blogs such as this one.

      One’s Google search history should not be a burden on one’s conscience. I Google phrases I’ve never heard of in Urban Dictionary and am shocked to find out what they mean. Just because it’s in my search history doesn’t mean I believe in these things myself.

      The idea that to have a clear conscience one must have a squeaky clean search history is scary. We should be free to explore and learn.

      1. As EJ noted, there is the aspect of group behavior vs individual behavior. But also there is the aspect of what you do when you think no one is watching, and there are a lot of people who do act like that is the case when they Google. I have no expectations or illusions of complete anonymity or privacy online. It’s glaringly obvious to me when I’m reading something and in the margins there are adverts reflecting something I Googled recently. I’ve indulged my curiousity (sometimes morbid) on many, many things, but as I’ve stated, there are a few places I won’t go. I have no evil intent, but I never assume that a search history couldn’t be used against me.

        Places like Facebook do provide insights into behavior, and plenty of people have paid the consequences for posting stupid racist things, but I suspect it only outs the really dumb bigots.

      2. Tutti, I agree that there ought to be as much privacy as possible. I don’t have an issue with a search history being used against someone IF they are accused of a crime AND there is a proper warrant to search for such evidence.

        As for calling people out on bigoted social media posts, I take that on a case by case basis. If you are an elected official, and the people you are making ignorant remarks about happen to be some of your constituents, they would not be unreasonable in raising questions about whether you are doing your best to represent them.

        I’m also fine with the bigots being able to speak freely and therefore outing themselves, as it’s an easy way for me to know who I wish to avoid as much as possible.

    2. EJ

      As I understood the article, it’s less that you can understand an individual human being from their search history, and more that you can predict the actions of large groups of people through looking at the statistical increase or decrease in search terms. Even if individual searchers are anonymised, what matters is the prevalence of the term in the overall population.

      If this can be used to make useful, testable predictions then it’s extremely valuable; valuable enough, in fact, that I’d argue we have a moral duty to use it. Understanding humanity is too important a task for us not to use every peaceful tool at our disposal.

    3. Sadly, I can totally believe this article and I do believe Trump has again made it okay to be a racist in public. It was evident during his campaign that he was a racist and appealed to others who shared his views. Look at how many public racial meltdowns of white people screaming at blacks and hispanics in stores and other public places have been caught on camera since Trump was elected. I can only hope these people are shunned by their co-workers and neighbors.

      This country has a nasty pestilence at its core and Trump allowed the cockroaches out into the light again.

      1. I think social media doesn’t just bring out the hate that’s already there — it creates hate that was not there to begin with.

        That’s what happens from being cooped up with the same people in an online setting day in and day out, arguing about the same things — it foments division and polarization — in short, it makes people angry — like the guy who shot the Republicans at baseball practice.

      2. Tutt, you are right as usual.

        I plan on doing a lot of camping this summer – away from technology. My phone won’t be getting a signal at many of the campsites. I’m looking forward to catching up on some fun reading … I’ll admit on my Kindle but downloaded before I leave.

        Humor is another coping mechanism.

        Dolce and Gabbana decided to hold their own boycott after coming under fire when Melania Trump wore some of their clothes in Italy when she went to meet the Pope.

        Tutti (everyone), I wish there were more happy protests like this one. I wonder how many T-shirts they sold. 🙂

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