If You Have Powerful Enemies, Watch Out For The “Head Shot”

I’m in the process of watching The Wire all the way through again, mostly because I’m doing a lot of air travel and I’m too lazy to read all the books I should be reading during that time. One of the more interesting aspects of the show is how often its creator, David Simon, used real people from the Baltimore streets instead of trained actors. The most commonly-cited example was Snoop, who actually killed someone on the streets prior to acting on the show, but there are at least six Baltimore cops, including two former commissioners, who are on the show in one role or another.

During the first season, a fellow named Ed Norris plays a wisecracking cop who keeps saying that someone needs to fix the department. It’s an inside joke; Norris was actually the police commissioner at the time. After his time on “The Wire”, Norris did six months in jail thanks to a prosecutorial technique known as the “headshot”.

I didn’t know what the headshot was until this morning. I kind of wish I still didn’t know. If you’re ever owned a home or a rental property, you’ll want to, as they say, read all about it.

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Turns Out That W Is Just Alright With Us Now

You knew it was just a matter of time, right? That good ol’ boy, George W. Bush, is now seen favorably by nearly two-thirds of the nation’s populace. According to the latest CNN poll, W has a 61% approval rating, as opposed to just a 33% disapproval rating. If you’re playing along at home, this is almost a complete flip from where he was on Barack Obama’s Inauguration Day, when he had just a 34% approval rating. Freaking democrats approve of W, 54-41.

Even more mind-boggling is the fact that W had the highest disapproval rating of any president in history during his final year in office. 71% of Americans disapproved of Bush’s job performance in May of 2008. So what gives?

In your humble author’s opinion, it has a lot more to do with the current president than W, himself. In order to understand a little more, let’s take a look at how we viewed another president of the recent past—William Jefferson Clinton.

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The Next American Civil War, Like The Last One, Is Blue Vs. Grey

Last week, one of our readers suggested that I read “I Can Tolerate Anything Except The Outgroup”, a long and detailed post by psychiatrist Scott Alexannder on his Slate Star Codex site. You’re encouraged to read the whole thing if you have time — it’s about 10,000 words — but if you don’t I’ll boil out the three critical parts for you in bite-sized portions. They are:

0. Tribal America
1. Never A Coward Where The Muezzin Calls
2. Just A Touch Of Grey

I will also do something that Mr. Alexander does not do, and that is: attempt to pinpoint the reason for our transition from communities to tribes.

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Five Thousand Keywords For Redneck

Tomorrow I’m going to write a longer post on the idea of “Red Tribe” and “Blue Tribe” as discussed in an article recommended by one of our commenters here. Before I do, however, I want to pre-discuss an idea that figures very large in the essay: the idea that very few of us have any regular and significant acquaintance with people who possess a genuinely different set of beliefs from ours. Never before has our society been quite so completely segmented — not by race, color, or religious creed, but by adherence to common fundamental assumptions. If you believe that “no human is illegal” and that there should be no barriers whatsoever to immigration, chances are that you don’t have regular interactions with people who want to Build! That! Wall! and so on. If you think that owning a personal firearm is an essential part of being an American citizen, then chances are that you don’t hang out on the weekends with people who donate to anti-gun causes.

The reasons for this are many, but I’d suggest that the primary and most substantial force behind this voluntary segregation is our move from physical communities to virtual ones. And before you tell me that your life isn’t like that at all, I’ll explain further.

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What I Learned From Watching The Gorilla Channel

If you’re a “citizen of the Internet”, or one of the “Twitterarti” — in other words, if your job is so short on actual work that you can spend your day on your phone or computer keeping up with the latest tempest-in-a-teapot — then you’ve no doubt heard about the “Gorilla Channel”. If you haven’t, here’s the story in a nutshell. The author Michael Wolff has written and released a book about President Trump, whom he calls “aberrant” although he sang a different tune when he was writing the book. Although I haven’t read the book (and probably won’t, I don’t care for detailed psuedo-insider portraits of things that happened just months ago) it is being widely reported as being thoroughly critical of Trump, often to a degree that worries pundits on both sides of the aisle.

Yesterday, a Twitter humorist who goes by the handle of @PixelatedBoat decided to publish a fake “excerpt” from the book. It’s far from the first time he has done something like this, as you’ll see. But this time was special — because his parody page, which claimed that Trump spent 17 hours a day kneeling in front of a television and talking to gorillas, was taken as absolute gospel by a variety of heavy-duty left-wingers, including a few writers at the New York Times.

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Things That Happened Before Trump Got Elected Are Definitely His Fault—Just Ask MSN

In a move that shocked precisely nobody, Macy’s is closing seven stores and laying off 5,000 workers across the country. In addition to being predictable because of the rise of e-commerce and the never-ending retail slump that likely ends with brick-and-mortar becoming a thing of the past, it’s predictable because Macy’s originally announced this plan in August of 2016. The only real news to come out of this was the naming of 7 of the 100 stores that are doomed under the original plan.

The particularly astute among you will notice that August 2016 is several months before January 20th, 2017, which is when President Donald J. Trump took office. In fact, it’s even a few months before November 8th, 2016, when Donald Trump was elected. So why are MSN, USA Today, and others acting like this is news today?

Simple. There’s been too much good news in the financial sector since Trump was elected, and, specifically, far too much good news since he signed his tax bill into law. Time to incense the readers a bit. Predictably, it worked.

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Did Trump Kill Obamacare? Depends On Whom You Ask

The Individual Mandate. Man, what a complicated and twisted path it’s taken.

Obama, himself, was against it before he was for it. in 2015, Vox said that it was “absolutely necessary” to making sure that Obamacare could be implemented. By forcing healthy individuals into the marketplace, it would lower the premiums for everybody else by spreading the cumulative risk around. If healthy people opted not to buy insurance, then the plan wouldn’t work.

The Supreme Court ultimately ruled by the slimmest possible margin that the mandate was constitutional—not because the federal government can force people to buy a product, but because the federal government does have the right to compel individuals to pay tax—undermining candidate and President Obama’s promise that taxes on the middle class wouldn’t be raised under his administration.

So, despite every liberal in the world screaming at the top of his lungs that President Donald J. Trump is a “moron” and an “Orange Droolius,” Trump beat the Democrats at their own game with his tax plan, which he signed into law earlier this month. Rather than try to “repeal and replace,” an effort which has failed massively in the Senate, Trump decided to simply repeal the individual mandate tax. Say what you want about the guy, this was some brilliant shit.

But did it kill Obamacare?

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The False Promise Of Net Neutrality

I wasn’t there when the Internet was invented, and I wasn’t around for the first e-mail, but I do remember Eternal September.

In the fall of 1990, one of my professors at Miami University signed me and the rest of the students in my class up for access to the school’s VAX minicomputer. The idea was that we would use e-mail to send him our papers and to communicate with each other. To do this, I had to walk across the quad to the 24/7 computer lab in MacCracken Hall, where I used a gutted IBM PC/AT as a video terminal.

Our professor gave us explicit written instructions on which options in the VAX menu would let us get our work done. My classmates were befuddled. Most of them had never touched a computer before, unless you count an Atari 2600 or a NES as a computer. About four weeks into the semester, the VAX requirement was walked back. We could go back to using typewriters or writing by hand. Everybody went back. Everybody, that is, but me.

By the time I left for winter break I’d figured out quite a bit about the VAX, including how it connected to other systems of what started as the DARPAnet but with the addition of various educational and commercial enterprises had come to be known as the Internet. I stayed on the VAX for the rest of my time at Miami. I was there for Eternal September, the day that AOL users were given access to USENET discussion forums in September of 1993. (It was actually September 11, 1993, but history has retconned it to just “some time in September” for semi-obvious reasons.) By 1996 I was working in the business, as a network engineer for Litel. In May of 1997, I opened up my “BMX Basics” website. In late 1999 I founded a web-hosting cooperative. In 2000 I joined the Free Hardware Project at MIT, only to see it fall apart in the aftermath of the other September 11th. In the years that followed, I made the majority of my living selling, developing, and implementing a variety of systems and solutions that were based on the principles of Free Software as laid down by Richard Stallman, whom I met around the time the AI Lab became the Media Lab.

Why tell you all of this? Simply as deep background for what I’m going to tell you next: I believe in a free Internet, I believe in software freedom, I believe in data freedom. But I don’t believe in “Net Neutrality”, and I’ll explain why.

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On Their Knees For China

Fast Company isn’t the only media publication to decry Apple’s recent capitulation to China, but I think they have the best and most detailed take on the hows and whys. Just in case you have a normal life and don’t follow tech news, here’s the precis: For a few years now, Apple has sold deliberately crippled versions of its core products to Chinese customers. The China-spec stuff is unable to get around the “Great Firewall” that separates Chinese citizens from the Internet at large.

Some savvy customers have gotten around this restriction with vaguely-named apps that create VPN connections to out-of-China proxies, allowing them to see the outside world and encrypting the communication so the government can’t see their thoughtcrime. But those apps are no longer available through Apple’s App Store, because the company has yet again bowed to pressure from the Chinese government. Apple willingly does everything the Chinese government demands, including sending Tim Cook to literally dance on stage like a monkey for the amusement of high-ranking Party members.

That’s the same Tim Cook who has weaponized Apple’s products and bankroll for social justice here in the US. Cook and his PR flacks never tire of criticizing Donald Trump, the Republican Party, and Christians who don’t share his opinion of gay marriage. Yet China is decades behind the United States in everything from gay marriage (hell no!) to showing gay people on TV (not permitted in some cases) to the jailing, torture, and murder of political dissidents. So why is Cook absolutely fierce about Trump but feeble about Chinese abuses?

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