So, how big was it?

He’s back!  He’s back!  The Donald is back!  After Friday’s human language-like speech, we got a taste of post-inauguration Trumpism with this beauty given to the kindly folks at the CIA–his first off-leasher after entering the White House.  I noticed that he humbly downgraded from 29 to 28 at the suggestion of a common member of the audience.  After that, though, he kind of lost me.

But it was huge!  The inauguration, I mean.  The largest ever in the history of humanity (with the documented exception of the one before it).  In fact, it was almost as large as the protest that followed.  At least we’re finally getting rid of our health insurance.  It really sucked having that hung around our necks.  Meanwhile, Cakegate is about to bring this administration to its knees.

So, let’s end with a new beginning–the world of alternative facts.  You can spin it to the right or spin it to the left, but, either way, the hope of even attempting to determine truth about the new administration through the established media seems to be stillborn.  Whose fault is that?  Believe what you’d like to believe.  What does it matter anymore?  Instead, let’s find something objective that we can all agree to.  Isn’t this puppy cute?



Women’s day out

Well, it’s a new day in America and the new president seems to have united not only much of the nation but also much of the world.  Yesterday’s affair seemed pleasant enough (with important reporting of the First Lady’s new dress), though it lacked the celebrity presence of today’s event, which also seems to have a global presence.  I haven’t been able to figure out a specific change that the protesters are calling for.  The primary solidarity seems to be around a dislike of Trump personally (and, by extension, people who are like him, in the view of the protesters).  In other words, I haven’t seen anyone calling for specific policy change.

I don’t say this to disparage the protest or the protesters.  It does seem to lack the punch of the anti-war protests of 2003, though.  It was pretty clear then what everybody wanted.  Still, people peacefully getting together to express their displeasure and frustration?  Isn’t that the heart of democracy?  I think the same kinds of feelings that got Trump elected are now being displayed against him.

Elections bring realignment in power, the shifting of allies and enemies, a movement of who is on the inside and who is on the outs.  It’s interesting to see the current realignment and imagine the ramifications.  For example, how will the Five Eyes nations react when the current administration continues to favor Russia and demonize the political establishment, media, and intelligence community of its own country?  It may be that they stop telling us all of their best secrets.

Donald Trump is a poo poo head

The above title was the original name and address of this blogsite.  Why?  Because I felt that there was enough intellectual detraction leveled at Donald Trump (to which he would respond with an insult similar to the above if the detractor had garnered sufficient exposure).  What seems to me to have been lacking all along is an opponent willing to grapple with him on his own pre-pubescent level and I thought to fill that gap.  However, it’s been a week and I’m sick of the joke so I changed the name of the blog.  I’ll leave today’s post as a legacy, though.

I just read Trump’s inauguration speech.  I didn’t find it listed in any American news sources, but I did find it reported right here in Canada!  I liked the speech!  I liked it a lot.  I dug the populist message.  (Who even cares if he does any of that stuff?  I don’t know how much of Obama’s promises he kept.  In fact, his inaugural speech sounds pretty similar (maybe they all do–I’ve only read two).)  To me, the bigger point was, where has this guy been?  He sounds like a pretty cool guy.  If he does any of that stuff, I’ll be impressed.

The thing that bothers me is this–Is it worse to find out that when a man-child insults his way to leadership of the most powerful nation on earth, he then succeeds, or is it worse to find out that he then fails?  If he succeeds, has he just set the precedent for all future elections–appeal to the basest instincts of humanity?  If he fails, what will be lost (and what will be left)?

Meanwhile, it seems that I’ll need to rewrite my comprehensive exams.  Hopefully the next round wins it.  I only get two tries.  Maybe I’ll catch it on a bounce.

Filling the swamp with Blackwater

Remember last time a kind of goofy guy moved into the white house and didn’t seem to have too much of an agenda–but then all these weird guys that you thought were dead or something came out of the shadows and started hanging around with him?  Remember how you thought those guys were just too far off the charts to be taken seriously by anyone–and then they made all the policies?  Well, it seems that when the weirdos are out of power, they wait around until they can get back into it again.

So, it seems that Erik Prince, brother of Betsy DeVos (the nominee for secretary of education), is back in town.  He seems to be advising Mr. Trump on security matters.  (Trump already seems to have Blackwater connections.)  It will be interesting to see how the current unorthodox security detail that Trump has selected will evolve.  Will it become the typical secret service detail or a Praetorian Guard?  The possibility of the latter option has some folks concerned.  But, like so many fears related to the incoming administration, we’ll just have to wait and see.

Meanwhile, I have the oral presentation of my comprehensive exams in about an hour.  I’ll discuss Sustainability Indicators, Data Visualization, and Political Implementation.  I imagine it will be riveting.

The greatest show on earth

With a winter full of arctic blasts, it’s nice to know that things are heating up somewhere.  The New York Times tells us How 2016 Became Earth’s Hottest Year on Record.  In case you’re wondering, the trend looks a bit like this (from the article):


Hopefully, the new head of the Environmental Protection Agency won’t spoil the fun.  Although, maybe someone else will.  Then, there’s always that fringe group of 97% of all climate scientists who probably won’t go away quietly.

Also, the circus is leaving town and this time they’re not coming back.  Or, are they just changing venues?  Ok, so I’m not the only one to figure out that P.T. Barnum has come back to life and taken over the world.  Still, the timing is wonderful.  It somehow feels like some balance is kept in the universe–as if some clever magician has removed an object in front of us and replaced it with a duplicate.  We know it’s happened, but it was all so quick, we just can’t accept that we’ve been duped.

P.T. Barnum was an incredibly influential American.  In many ways, all disinformation industries, from intelligence to public relations to advertising to lobbying to campaigning to religion to the nightly news, borrow from the work of this marvelous humbug.  He is a testament to the power of persuasion and the deep-seated desire of the masses to be fooled, especially by someone who will sell simplicity, hope, and diversion for a few nickels.  The best part is, the huckster doesn’t even lose when he gets caught “exaggerating” a bit.  As Barnum biographer Irving Wallace noted, “The bogusness of (his hoaxes) did not matter. Barnum gradually came to be more admired than resented, for the people desperately needed what he had to offer.”

Anti-social media in the surveillance states

It’s been five days and still no personal insult from a current or incoming head of state.  I’m beginning to think this is folly.  I’ll give it a few more days.

Still, I’m not without hope.  What I need is a way to get attention.  Imagine my joy to find out that over 150 cities, counties, and law enforcement agencies in the United States have spent at least $10,000 on social media monitoring services.  I suppose there are agencies that spent less and fell below the radar.  You can look here to see how much your city spent, if it was over $10,000.  Boston recently put out a request for proposals and received offers from Dataminr, Uncharted (I think that’s the link) and Verint Technologies, but the city backed down when they found out how invasive the snooping would be.  Maybe I should just be posting all of this on Facebook (but not in Boston).

It starts with a dream

I remember reading Martin Luther King, Jr.’s “Letter from Birmingham Jail” long ago and thinking, I want to write like that someday.  I’ve been reading it to my kids at bedtime.  I won’t say it’s their favorite story.  I’m not even as impressed with the writing as I remember being long ago.  Still, I think it’s a seminal document in the history of the United States and rewards the reading.  Why don’t you take a few minutes and read it now?

I don’t like to get too sappy about this stuff.  There’s plenty of debate to be had about the American civil rights movement and the content of character of it’s leaders.  What I like to remember today, is that there was a guy who stood up for what he felt was right using the skills that he had.  He made sacrifices for what he believed in, and what he believed in seemed to be the product of selfless and thoughtful reflection.  I think what impresses me most about MLK, is that he didn’t confine his interests to advancing the cause of his race, but rather he actually fought to end poverty in general in America.  Perhaps someday someone will try that again–and live a little longer.

Meanwhile, did Donald Trump just announce America is getting universal health care?  Is he really going after Big Pharma’s price gouging?  What’s next–taking on the insurance companies?  One can always dream.