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Steve Bannon and Trump: Star-crossed. [Aug. 19th, 2017|12:44 am]
[mood |contemplativecontemplative]

Okay, I really did not see Steve Bannon's firing coming. That's possibly because I didn't update my estimation of how Trump's relationship to him was likely to devolve following the start of the term. Basically, Bannon was instrumental behind the scenes in getting Trump elected, due partly to Breitbart, but mostly to his data mining company, Cambridge Analytica, that enabled precisely targeted ads to covertly deliver Russian fake news only to those who would eat it up. He was invaluable to Trump, and in return, he got to be the archetypal evil vizier, getting the king to do his bidding and even going behind the king's back to amass more power for himself.

Problem number one is that Trump is a classic bully, and even when you're one of his henchmen, you can't spend lots of time around a bully without occasionally falling afoul of him. No amount of appeasement or pandering will stop him from using any slight, real or imagined, as an excuse to abuse you. That is, unless they fear you, or fear losing your support.

This leads to problem number two: "What have you done for me lately?" Even while helping himself, Bannon was certainly proceeding with the right-wing agenda of both harming people and dismantling the government's ability to protect people. But Trump didn't see that as helping him, personally. Bannon seemed immune to repercussions from even severe infractions against Trump early in the term, but as the grudges built up and his value declined, his immunity waned.

Contrast this with Putin's continued influence over Trump: The two don't spend enough time together to piss each other off. Putin's monetary contributions to Trump are a resource that he won't risk giving up, and whose value does not disappear following a "successful" election. And most importantly, bullies *never* attack bigger bullies. Trump's sense of self-preservation will keep him sucking up to Putin for life.

Admittedly, this pattern recognition is achieved from the distance of one who does not have the mental energy to continue keeping closely abreast of these folks' interactions. And you should take my opinion with an extra grain of salt because, as I said, I didn't see it coming. One can explain anything after the fact.

[Edit: Strangely, the LJ post editor is broken such that I cannot adjust the security on this cross-post to "public" as I always have to manually do when cross-posting from a public DW post.]

This entry was originally posted at http://blimix.dreamwidth.org/144555.html. (comment count unavailable comments there.)
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On making habits, brushing, and JKD. [Jun. 25th, 2017|12:20 pm]
[mood |soresore]

Half a lifetime ago, I had poor dental hygiene. I also lacked insurance, and wouldn't go to the dentist unless I had dental pain. I would occasionally try to get into the habit of brushing and flossing nightly, which would last for a week or so, but each time, the first night I skipped (sometimes with good reason) would make it much easier to skip subsequent nights. Then I'd have to start from scratch the next time.

I inherited a small (but significant to a poor young adult) amount from a grandparent, and used it to get the dental work I needed. (By that time, I had a broken tooth which didn't hurt, but which I couldn't ignore.) This became a wake-up call, due to all the time, money (most of the inheritance), and discomfort this cost me. I knew that I could not afford to put myself in that position again.

I started getting regular dental exams, and filling cavities before they became bigger problems, paying out of pocket. (A visit every six months didn't cost that much.) More importantly, I was determined to brush and floss regularly. Armed with knowledge of previous failures, any time I was tempted to skip hygiene, I would think, "Yeah, and then I'll skip it tomorrow too, I'll get out of the habit, and in a few years, I'll need a ton of dental work again." Then I would grudgingly go brush my teeth.

After two years of this, I had a night when I was crushingly exhausted. I made a conscious decision to skip brushing and just collapse into bed: I gave myself permission to do it just this once. Thirty seconds later, without having made any other decisions, I found myself standing at the sink, brushing my teeth.

Now that's what I call a habit.

Now I have my Jeet Kune Do class, which I love. For the first several years, I was the one who showed up to every single class. In the past year, various commitments and responsibilities have eroded that. Then I was sick for most of February (it was like a nasty cold that lasted all month), still had no energy in March, and was badly out of shape after that. Once I could, I resumed hiking a lot, to rebuild my endurance so that I could deal with the workouts in class. Various circumstances continued costing me sleep and energy (not all of which are to be complained about; we recently had three days on Long Island for a wedding, for example), and the best days for hiking often coincided with class days, so I missed a lot of class. (But on the up side, I finished hiking every part of every marked trail at Grafton Lakes State Park, which has way more trails than I had realized! I found many (endangered) Karner blue butterflies there, too.)

This week, I've had two days when my energy was balanced on the border of what I felt I needed to attend class. It could have gone either way. So the old pattern recognition kicked in: "I've missed way too much class lately. If I choose not to go when I can, it will endanger my good habit. So go." I went, had a great time, and knocked some rust off my skills. I think I'm going to be sore for two weeks from something I did to my pectoral muscle on Friday, but I'm still glad I went. JKD is important to me, and while I occasionally choose to miss it for other opportunities, responsibilities, or recovery, I never do so lightly.

This entry was originally posted at http://blimix.dreamwidth.org/144355.html. (comment count unavailable comments there.)
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Dropshipping [Jun. 23rd, 2017|02:45 pm]
[mood |thoughtfulthoughtful]

I don't order items from the Amazon warehouse (3rd party sellers are fine) because of humanitarian concerns over the treatment of their warehouse workers. If it costs more, that's fine: It only reflects the real costs of treating employees like human beings. So when I buy something on eBay and it get dropshipped from Amazon (meaning the seller doesn't have it, they just order it on Amazon as a "gift" for me), that annoys me. They just profited by wasting my effort to make the world a better place. This is a common practice that does not violate their agreements with eBay or Amazon (unless they ship with Amazon Prime), and it satisfies their orders, so there's no justification for negative feedback. I just want to be able to avoid Amazon dropshipping, and I'm not sure how (without giving up eBay entirely). I could look for low-volume shippers, but that's a very inexact heuristic.

This entry was originally posted at http://blimix.dreamwidth.org/143960.html. (comment count unavailable comments there.)
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New LJ user agreement [Apr. 5th, 2017|10:36 am]
[mood |contemplativecontemplative]

New LJ user agreement

Looking through the new LJ user agreement, I notice three potentially problematic things:

Sections 4.6 (user is responsible for the security of their password) and 4.7 (user is responsible for all actions performed with their authentication details). This is mainly problematic because LJ stopped supporting SSL, so anyone who has access to a user's traffic can see their password in plaintext, post gay baby seal porn on the account, and have the user held liable.

Sections 7.5 and 8.5 (joint liability for comments posted in blogs and communities, by the comment poster and the blog/community owner). On the one hand, blog/community owners have the ability, and some responsibility, to delete content that is illegal or violates the Terms of Service. But this can obviously be used to shut down blogs just by posting inappropriate comments on them and holding the owner liable before they even have a reasonable chance to react.

Section 9.1.2 (Administration gets to use and modify your posts for editorial purposes.) Is this, "we add some photos to the page featuring the LJ Idol winner, and add a comma for clarity," or "We can twist your words into Russian propaganda and attribute it to you"?

And, of course, the actual terms are written in Russian, so who knows what the hell you really agreed to.

I don't remember whether any of this is better or worse than the previous user agreement. None of it specifically enables any behavior that's worse than other things LJ already does (e.g., collaborating with the Russian government to "disappear" dissenters). Probably, none of it enables new behavior at all, except now they can say, "Hey, you gave us permission to do this in the user agreement!" If they want to delete your account, they'll do it regardless.

I think that section 12.1 does not mean they can put advertising on paid accounts. "Unless otherwise specifically set forth by a separate agreement between User and the Administration, the Administration may without further notice or refund, place advertising on the Service, including on any Blog/Community pages." The paid account constitutes a "separate agreement" which "otherwise specifically set forth" that it will be ad free. But hell, LJ has been reneging on promises to paid accounts since before it was Russian, so it's not like there are any guarantees.

Long story short, the migration is long overdue. I don't think it matters whether this latest step is more evil, or just a continuation of the same old evil. I'm only still cross-posting because the migration is not yet complete, but I sure as hell won't miss my LJ if/when they delete it.

(By the way, [personal profile] siderea is no longer cross-posting to LJ as of this development, so if you follow her, do it on DreamWidth.)

This entry was originally posted at http://blimix.dreamwidth.org/143792.html. (comment count unavailable comments there.)
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Thoughts and actions. [Feb. 7th, 2017|12:57 am]
[mood |determineddetermined]

I have two things to say first about how we react to fascists, and then proceed to productive, varyingly specific actions we can take. Feel free to skip to the action (so to speak).

Reacting to fascists.Collapse )

Action.Collapse )

That's about it for action advice, for the moment. If you're up for some education about current events, scroll down to the comments for a large link round-up.

This entry was originally posted at http://blimix.dreamwidth.org/143249.html. (comment count unavailable comments there.)
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Emergency preparedness. [Jan. 20th, 2017|04:25 pm]
[mood |productiveproductive]

If you've read my post about the Bag of Useful Stuff, you know that I like to be prepared: Not just for emergencies, but even for simple desires like taking home pretty rocks. That said, I have until recently been lax about preparation for major crises.

Nobody wants to think about this sort of stuff, but that's no excuse. If you're caught unprepared, you'll want to punch your past self in the face for not doing a little planning and shopping when you had the chance.

Being prepared for emergencies involves more than just knowing where your flashlights, batteries, and first aid kit are. It bears thinking about now, because the moment you realize that you desperately need some item, it will be days (or weeks) too late to go out and get it. (Dealing with this stuff was on my to-do list long before the election, by the way. Although I increased its priority in November due to additional threat models, you don't have to care about politics to recognize that preparedness is a good thing. Even the National Weather Services has long recommended having a bug out bag ready in case you need to evacuate quickly.) This is, by the way, an ongoing project of learning and equipping. Feel free to comment with suggestions or links.

I have been thinking about four categories of situations:

1. Staying home, unable to go out for supplies. (Threat models (most likely to least likely) include being snowed in; an oil crunch causing the cessation of food deliveries to grocery stores; riots and looting; hostile police or military occupation.)
2. Staying home, with no electricity or water. (Threat models include breakdown of the existing, outdated, and poorly maintained and regulated electric infrastructure (as has already happened), local weather-related outages (possibly from the same snowfall that creates situation 1), and sabotage (to which the electric grid is quite vulnerable; see the National Research Council's report).)
3. Leaving home to find shelter with others for a while. (Note that the converse of this, sheltering others who have had to leave their homes, is not covered here. Assuming that none of the other categories apply, clearing out a guest room and shopping to feed extra mouths (and even shopping for an air mattress) do not require advance preparation.)
4. Leaving home to survive in the wild for a while. (Threat models include, well, nothing terribly likely: Finding yourself in a war zone, or having no recourse to people you can trust to help you (for whatever reason; maybe they left first) when running from authorities or lynch mobs. I actually included this situation mostly to make a distinction from situation 3: A distinction which is needed but lacking on the web pages I have seen about bug out bags. Also, if you already live far from civilization, and your transportation fails, situation 3 becomes situation 4.)

Having said this much, I can leave it to you to think about these possibilities, do the research, and figure out how you'd like to prepare. The following sections detail some of my own thoughts and preparations. Your mileage may vary.

Situation 1: Stuck at home.Collapse )

Situation 2: Power outage.Collapse )

Situation 3: Leaving to stay with someone else.Collapse )

Situation 4: Roughing it.Collapse )

Thanks to botia for reptile care tips. Thanks to two very helpful and talkative sales reps at Field and Stream for camping tips.

I have some generally applicable thoughts on further preparations, which will constitute their own post.

This entry was originally posted at http://blimix.dreamwidth.org/142848.html. (comment count unavailable comments there.)
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Migration to DreamWidth [Jan. 1st, 2017|03:10 pm]
[mood |tiredtired]

Back in 2009, I participated in what some hoped would be a mass migration from Livejournal to DreamWidth. We had too few to achieve critical mass. Now that LJ's servers are moved to Moscow and politically inconvenient blogs are reportedly disappearing, oh and also LJ no longer allows HTTPS, it appears to finally be time for the migration.

I am user Blimix on both LJ and DW. The best way to passively keep in touch with me will be to friend me on DW (if you know me and have set up a DW account). I post infrequently, but have a mix of public and friends-locked posts.

About Facebook: Facebook is not a useful platform for keeping in touch unless you use certain tricks to force the feed to stay chronological rather than filtering out stories that don't immediately get "liked" or commented on by a test audience of a few readers. (The FB Purity extension can do this. You can also bookmark the URL for the chronological feel instead of the default FB reading page.) If you can't keep up with the unfiltered feed, "unfollow" all your Facebook-friends-but-not-really-friends (except those who regularly post things you like to read) and maybe some real friends who post nothing but memes, cats, and/or babies. (You can also configure FB Purity to use keywords to filter out posts you don't want to see.) However, even after doing all this so that you can reliably read your friends' posts, most of your friends aren't doing the same, so they're often missing your posts. (Also, the format of FB is terrible for any post more complicated than plaintext. It's not a blogging platform by any stretch of the imagination.)

When I feel up to it, I'll look at importing my pre-2009 LJ to DW. I haven't been posting anything so personal that I'd be afraid of the Russian government and/or hackers knowing it, so deleting my LJ probably isn't in the cards until the migration looks well underway.

This entry was originally posted at http://blimix.dreamwidth.org/44803.html. (comment count unavailable comments there.)
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On current politics... [Dec. 19th, 2016|09:20 pm]
[mood |determineddetermined]

I'm working to not give in to despair over Republicans sabotaging the recount. Of course they would never let a recount happen, and of course no tactic is beneath them. Hope was folly. Eyewitness account. Investigative journalism on the recount issues.

I hope none of you had been pinning any hopes on the electors doing the right thing today.

Note that I don't mean that hope, in general, is folly. We need hope to get through this. The time for hope in authorities may be past, but there are lots of good people working hard to fix things. Doing what we can to actively be part of the solution is the best treatment for hopelessness.

Regarding the encroaching fascism, this is exactly the information I have been looking for, regarding what to expect, and when: History may not repeat itself, but it sure does rhyme a lot.

I had already had sentiments concerning people playing the short, medium, or long game concerning fixing things (and saving ourselves), and allowing others to focus on whichever of these they saw fit. Siderea expands on that with an explicit call to not derail conversations about one of these with another.

Regarding safety pins: People have come up with some reasons to deter others from wearing them, but those reasons are, so far, utter crap. The most vulnerable people (e.g., muslims and trans folk) have been very heartened to see people wearing safety pins, easing the air of hostility that otherwise threatens from all sides, and reassuring them that we have their backs.

The Nazis have had a political victory due only to corruption; they are celebrating their cultural victory prematurely. The time to hide your safety pin is when the jackbooted thugs are literally coming for you, but not one second before.

In other news, last month, I attended a NoDAPL event in Albany. The people there were great, and I unexpectedly (but unsurprisingly) ran into some familiar faces. It turned out that my shirt was more popular than the flyers I was handing out (about the banks invested in DAPL). (I've since gotten it as a sweatshirt, to accommodate the colder weather.) I also brought lots of supplies for folks; someone took me up on the paper and marker, to make his own sign.

Speaking of DAPL: Why police from different states invaded a Standing Rock camp -- and other questions.

Useful links:

What you can do about racist assaults.

EFF's digital security tips for protesters.

Trump Presidency to be Large-Scale Replication Experiments in Destructive Obedience: Here is How to Resist (Thanks, Caitlin!)

elenbarathi has some great political link roundups.

"Last Week Tonight" on Trump. The ending was surprisingly cathartic.
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Black Lives Matter and "Why don't they just..." [Nov. 27th, 2016|11:33 am]
[Tags|, ]
[mood |blahblah]

This is adapted from a letter I wrote at the end of September. It was more trouble than I wanted to go to, but I think that privilege makes it primarily the job of white allies to try to get through to other white folks, so I wrote it anyway. I have delayed posting it until now, in case the recipient had any counter-arguments to make. (He didn't; he merely changed the subject to try to impugn BLM in even less credible ways.) There are certain lessons in the letter that can be applied to more recent protests, and I won't insult you by editing it to point them out.

Not that long, but cut for length anyway.Collapse )

Link: How To Be A White Ally

(I also wanted to link to, but cannot find, the webcomic (maybe XKCD?) in which someone explains that they double the development time estimate every time someone asks, "Why don't you just...?")

This entry was originally posted at http://blimix.dreamwidth.org/44243.html. (comment count unavailable comments there.)
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Let's fix this. Right. Now. [Nov. 23rd, 2016|11:00 pm]
[mood |determineddetermined]

I just gave way more than I've ever donated to anything before. Because *this* is how we prevent a holocaust. Raise money to pay for recounts in Wisconsin, Michigan, and Pennsylvania.

In case you weren't aware, these states suffered statistically impossible flips very late. Diebold Election Systems (later called Premier Election Solutions) and SmartTECH rigged the 2004 election in Ohio (after Diebold's CEO promised to "hand Ohio to Bush") and tried exactly the same thing in 2012, only to be foiled that time by a firewall installed by Anonymous hackers. (Source.) Election Systems & Software bought Premier and sold its assets to Dominion. All three of these flipped states used vote tally machines from Premier, Dominion, and/or ES&S.

Thanks to Lee for these links:

Wisconsin's voting equipment.

Florida's voting equipment.

Pennsylvania's voting equipment.

Edit: Trump currently leads by 74 electoral votes, meaning that Clinton needs to gain back 37 to tie. PA has 20; MI has 16; WI has 10. Flipping all three states back in the recounts would give the election to Clinton. Flipping only PA and MI would put it close enough that it would take only 2 conscientious electors (from any red states) to give the election back to Clinton, which is within the realm of possibility. (Electors are chosen before the primaries and are loyal to parties, not candidates. Trump is no friend to the RNC.)

Further edit: Siderea has further information about audits, which are different from recounts and are also necessary. Also, a petition.

This entry was originally posted at http://blimix.dreamwidth.org/43906.html. (comment count unavailable comments there.)
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