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Open Thread 25 - 31 Dec

by Bjinse Tue Dec 26th, 2017 at 10:27:20 PM EST

Threading is the best thing in the world, except for cough drops


Is there a way in the ET youtube syntax to set the starting video playing time at say "t=68m46s"?

by das monde on Fri Dec 29th, 2017 at 05:41:56 AM EST
Is anyone still using Firefox?

I have been trying to find a plugin that allows to format copied text like easycopy used to. The best I came up with was:
this one

Adding a menu entry with the format:" a href=%U temp /a blockquote %T /blockquote"(in the <> brackets) does most of the things I want, but it is still too clever by half and I can only extract either the page title or the text snippet. Of course I would also like to preserve some of the html so I don't have to reformat.
Seems like another thing that facebook killed with the ever present share buttons.

by generic on Fri Dec 29th, 2017 at 01:18:43 PM EST
I use firefox. Why? Wht are the cool kids using? Surely not edge?

But I always like to select specific text, so I do it longhand anyway

keep to the Fen Causeway

by Helen (lareinagal at yahoo dot co dot uk) on Fri Dec 29th, 2017 at 03:50:18 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I think most use Chrome now.

But I always like to select specific text, so I do it longhand anyway

That is the point of the exercise. Using the method described above gives you this:

But I always like to select specific text, so I do it longhand anyway
by generic on Fri Dec 29th, 2017 at 05:18:36 PM EST
[ Parent ]
The Week - Ryan Cooper - The American empire is crumbling

America's power and global influence have plummeted like a stone during the Trump presidency. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson recently claimed otherwise in a New York Times op-ed, but he is obviously wrong.

The American empire is crumbling.

What President Trump is destroying is a product of the postwar years. In the years after the Second World War, America constructed what amounted to a globe-spanning empire, with the active assistance of Western Europe. The immediate justification was to build a military coalition capable of countering and containing the Soviet Union and the Eastern Bloc -- and an important secondary objective was setting up a solid economic system to ensure prosperity, manage trade, and avoid depression.

None of this is remotely surprising to us here, but the fact that it's a major essay in The Week is.

keep to the Fen Causeway

by Helen (lareinagal at yahoo dot co dot uk) on Fri Dec 29th, 2017 at 04:12:30 PM EST
It's not that people don't know what's wrong, this is as good a prescription of the problem and have a possible solution to it;-

But it's a lot easier to put a cheap slogan on a red hat made in china worn by a bad golfer who plays at being President on twitter

keep to the Fen Causeway

by Helen (lareinagal at yahoo dot co dot uk) on Fri Dec 29th, 2017 at 04:22:03 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Ryan Cooper is one of the writers good enough that I remember the name from the byline.
by generic on Fri Dec 29th, 2017 at 05:19:55 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Though on reflection I think he overstates his case. There are of course long running trends like the rise of China and the decline of the Bretton Woods institutions.
But I wouldn't put much value in the declarations of European leaders or the decay of the official diplomatic system. The really powerful and attractive part of the US empire was always that local elites could sell out and join the global ones. And that part seems to be going strong. China can't quite spring into the breach here, you don't want to carry all your loot into a country where oligarchs tend to be publicly shot from time to time. They also lack any ideology with mass appeal compared to the old times.
And what has Trump really done compared to the long running trend? The military and the three-letter-agencies have long been on the way to run their own foreign policies. Obama let that problem grow significantly worse (part of this is technology, a shot down drone doesn't matter, a captured pilot raises questions) but still sort of kept the lid on it. Trump doesn't have the attention span. Yet there is very little indication that those lower level networks will stop to function. Despite all the rhetoric from Germany no one there seems to be willing to to do anything about their spooks close and subservient ties to the Americans. And there also seems very little deviation from official American policy. We are still sanctioning Iran for some reason?
Finally: The privatization of foreign policy has also been long part of the fabric of empire. Outright handing them the office is only a small step further. Rather than a crumbling of the empire I see a feudalisation. And this could potentially continue a long time.
This has gotten a lot longer and ramblier than I planned but one final point:
There seems to be a significant collapse in support in Europe. But we also had that under W and that ended up doing nothing.
by generic on Fri Dec 29th, 2017 at 07:51:19 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Related comment: Alfred McCoy - Rise and Fall of the American Empire 1948 - 2030
by Bernard on Fri Dec 29th, 2017 at 08:44:28 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Vox Political - Mike Sivier - Adonis quits as `infrastructure tsar' over Theresa May's Brexit in the most damaging way possible

Brexit is a populist and nationalist spasm worthy of Donald Trump. After the narrow referendum vote, a form of associate membership of the EU might have been attempted without rupturing Britain's key trading and political alliances. Instead, by allying with UKIP and the Tory hard right to wrench Britain out of the key economic and political institutions of modern Europe, you are pursuing a course fraught with danger. Even within Ireland, there are set to be barriers between people and trade.

If Brexit happens, taking us back into Europe will become the mission of our children's generation, who will marvel at your acts of destruction.

A responsible government would be leading the British people to stay in Europe while also tackling, with massive vigour, the social and economic problems within Britain which contributed to the Brexit vote. Unfortunately, your policy is the reverse. The Government is hurtling towards the EU's emergency exit with no credible plan for the future of British trade and European co-operation, all the while ignoring - beyond sound bites and inadequate programmes - the crises of housing, education, the NHS, and social and regional inequality which are undermining the fabric of our nation and feeding a populist surge.

Vox political provide a good commentary, but the full text of the letter is here

keep to the Fen Causeway

by Helen (lareinagal at yahoo dot co dot uk) on Sat Dec 30th, 2017 at 08:13:44 AM EST
The Bizarre 'Sausage War' That Inspired Hitler
On the night of December 10 [1939], a Soviet battalion staged a surprise attack on Finnish troops near the eastern village of Illomantsi. It should have been a slam-dunk for the Soviets, but by then they were starving. When the battalion came across the Finnish fighters' cooking tents, they smelled the irresistible scent of sausage stew -- fat-heavy rations designed to keep the Finns fighting in freezing conditions.

The food proved too much for the hungry Soviet troops, who paused in their attack to fill up on the Finnish sausage. By then, the Finns had gotten word of the attack. They used the pause to their advantage, surrounding the Russians and staging a surprise of their own.

It was a bloodbath. According to historian William Trotter, the attack was one of the few times bayonet fighting was recorded during the Winter War. "It was close, brutal, and without mercy," he writes. The ambush -- and the gruesome hand-to-hand combat that followed -- completely routed the Russian battalion. Only a few men survived.

by das monde on Sun Dec 31st, 2017 at 03:58:35 AM EST
... a good slide into the new year
thanks all for keeping this site moving
wishing all the very best

"Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one's courage." - Anaļs Nin
by Crazy Horse on Sun Dec 31st, 2017 at 03:47:19 PM EST
speaking of a good slide... the Missing Four Have Returned...

Dinner for Five

"Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one's courage." - Anaļs Nin

by Crazy Horse on Sun Dec 31st, 2017 at 04:36:13 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Ah, that's sweet

keep to the Fen Causeway
by Helen (lareinagal at yahoo dot co dot uk) on Sun Dec 31st, 2017 at 09:18:35 PM EST
[ Parent ]
A fascinating insight into modern organised crime

Guardian - Misha Glenny - I don't want to be moral. I want to show people the way the world works'

The reality of organised crime is more like a nightmare. A former BBC foreign correspondent, Glenny wrote the book 10 years ago, tracing the modern networks of international crime back to a lethal intersection of the lawless chaos of the post-Soviet bloc and the sudden mobility of finance after deregulation. In the intervening decade, I ask, has anything changed?

"It's got worse. We're not in that kind of wild, speculative period of financial capitalism of the 90s and the 00s, but the 1% continues to detach itself ever further from the rest of the world. If you look at things like the London property market, even with Brexit, this is still one of the favoured destinations for people from dictatorships or classic organised crime figures. That money is still going through London, and it's going through London property above all else, but also some of the financial mechanisms. And McMafia culture is visible at the very highest instances of state now, whether you're looking at the Kremlin or the White House."
But in the UK, he warns, this is beginning to change. "The people who understand corruption best are very poor people and very rich people. The stronger the middle class, the less powerful corruption is." Given that the past decade has witnessed the dramatic decline of the middle class, the implication is alarming. "Yes, it is. Look at the issue of austerity, and what's happening to the police forces. When I talk to police now, it's not just another public sector bleating about not enough money. They are really, really hurting, and they're struggling - and that will always make them vulnerable to corruption."

The implications of Brexit also worry Glenny. "Brexit has thrown everything up in the air - and this is an important point about organised crime. Legitimate business leaders say: `What we can't deal with is uncertainty.' But for the business of organised crime, the opposite is true. Uncertainty, chaos and disruption are a business opportunity."

keep to the Fen Causeway
by Helen (lareinagal at yahoo dot co dot uk) on Sun Dec 31st, 2017 at 10:13:19 PM EST
light work: New nadir for the sharing-crowd-source-democratized-creative economy.

Diversity is the key to economic and political evolution.
by Cat on Mon Jan 1st, 2018 at 04:25:20 PM EST
Guardian - Rafael Behr - I knew that many people don't vote. I should have asked why

The clue was in the question. "What about the nonvoters?" Since elections are settled by the people who show up, the impact of those who don't is likely to be small. There's a reason they're called nonvoters. It isn't easy to disentangle the motives of people whose only known common trait is reluctance to express a preference. Pollsters find them as hard to fathom as politicians do - and politicians have vested interests in interpreting silence as consent.

There is also a difference between refusing to vote because you care about politics but think the system cannot represent you, and not bothering because you are uninterested in the whole voting business. Alienation and apathy are not quite the same thing. But they are alike in expressing fatalism about politics - that it is all settled elsewhere, by other people. My biggest regret as a commentator is complicity with that fatalism. I knew that turnout had declined through the second half of the 20th century, and saw that it was a problem. But I did not interrogate its causes. I was insufficiently curious about nonvoters - until they defied the label and voted.

In the weeks running up to the EU referendum, MPs started reporting mini-surges of Brexit feeling on streets and estates they had written off as deserts of political disengagement. On the day itself, people arrived at polling booths, having never visited one before, unfamiliar with the process, asking officials: "How do I vote leave?"

This is a big question, and one that I'm sure is not confined to the UK. For votes to meaningful, votes have to feel like they matter. In the UK there are currently 650 odd constituencies, but at any election there will be 3 - 400 that are not remotely competitive. You could stick a red or blue rosette on a pink pussycat and it would find itself transported to parliament.

Which meand that the votes in those constituencies are largely pointless, a waste of time and effort on everybody's part. There are constituencies in the UK that have never changed their political affiliation and many that haven't in 50 years.

So, how represented are the opposition votes, what happens to 3rd parties. It's perfectly posssible, with first past the post, for somebody to be elected when the majority of electors voted against them.

All of which means that the 50 or so constituencies that migth swing are crucial. Each may be decided by a couple of dozen votes, few if any will have 1000.

So the result of an election, who governs Britain will be decided by about 25,000 people. And the entire election is about dangling carrots in front of that 25,000. Effectively, nobody else really matters. Certainly not the poor, who have long ago learned that elections are not about them and no result will change anything for them. Neither Thatcher nor Blair gave a shit whether they lived or died. So, voting became a nothing.

But that doesn't mean they don't care.

keep to the Fen Causeway

by Helen (lareinagal at yahoo dot co dot uk) on Wed Jan 3rd, 2018 at 01:23:44 PM EST
Jay Leno:
If God had wanted us to vote, he would have given us candidates
by gk (gk (gk quattro due due sette @gmail.com)) on Wed Jan 3rd, 2018 at 02:31:16 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I get very grumpy when Brits start lecturing the EU on how undemocratic it is.
by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Wed Jan 3rd, 2018 at 02:35:26 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Hey, the Brits democratically decided to keep their undemocratic system. The EU didn't give  us a similar choice to make fools of ourselves.
by gk (gk (gk quattro due due sette @gmail.com)) on Wed Jan 3rd, 2018 at 02:43:31 PM EST
[ Parent ]
that's just projection

keep to the Fen Causeway
by Helen (lareinagal at yahoo dot co dot uk) on Wed Jan 3rd, 2018 at 04:12:16 PM EST
[ Parent ]
There is also a difference between refusing to vote because you care about politics but think the system cannot represent you, and not bothering because you are uninterested in the whole voting business. Alienation and apathy are not quite the same thing.

This is a constructive insight into divergent attitudes among people toward "civic duty," election of X. Alienation and apathy: Those aren't the words that I'd chose on account of the connotations that each evokes reinforces a kind of patronizing, definitely trite assumption, the political economy expressed by the set of political functions and products which comprise self-government --yanno, a "representative democracy" -- is irrational, here insinuating debilitating depression.

I'm inclined disagree and rather apply the theoretical model of rational actor allocating limited resources (to the best of their knowledge, in their own interest, in the interest of others, according to needs and abilities, &tc), as is the custom. Though rare is the wag who addresses capital accumulation as meaningless.

In the manner of choice theorists, I'd prefer baseline criteria that more accurately expresses the value, or meaning, of any one political function, eg. ballot, to an individual: interest -- disinterest -- indifferent. This range of attitudes denotes unnamed resources, means, and ends operating on individual decisions to vote or not vote for X, rather than a cumulative result of vote X. How meaningful is a value judgement of the franchise, if expectations are unknown?

Diversity is the key to economic and political evolution.

by Cat on Thu Jan 4th, 2018 at 08:13:16 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Six years ago I wrote the essay Are The Producers Re-making Bob Roberts? about the candidacy of Sarah Palin for President.

the Producers is a famous Mel Brooks film where two crooked Producers over-sell a show that they expect to shut after its first night, enabling them to walk away with the pledged millions.

But Bob Roberts is a mockumentary about a crook who runs for President expecting to lose but leveraging the opportunities to make as much money as possible. Sarah Palin seemed to fit the bill.

I now see that I was 5 years too early, because Trump would have been a perfect fit except that, like in the Producers, he made the mistake of becoming a hit.

NYMag - Michael Wolff - Donald Trump Didn't Want to Be President

Even though the numbers in a few key states had appeared to be changing to Trump's advantage, neither Conway nor Trump himself nor his son-in-law, Jared Kushner -- the effective head of the campaign -- ­wavered in their certainty: Their unexpected adventure would soon be over. Not only would Trump not be president, almost everyone in the campaign agreed, he should probably not be. Conveniently, the former conviction meant nobody had to deal with the latter issue.

As the campaign came to an end, Trump himself was sanguine. His ultimate goal, after all, had never been to win. "I can be the most famous man in the world," he had told his aide Sam Nunberg at the outset of the race. His longtime friend Roger Ailes, the former head of Fox News, liked to say that if you want a career in television, first run for president. Now Trump, encouraged by Ailes, was floating rumors about a Trump network. It was a great future. He would come out of this campaign, Trump assured Ailes, with a far more powerful brand and untold opportunities.

"This is bigger than I ever dreamed of," he told Ailes a week before the election. "I don't think about losing, because it isn't losing. We've totally won."

keep to the Fen Causeway
by Helen (lareinagal at yahoo dot co dot uk) on Wed Jan 3rd, 2018 at 07:24:54 PM EST

Snow anywhere in Florida (or Georgia) is rapidly turning into a disaster.

by Bernard on Wed Jan 3rd, 2018 at 07:34:54 PM EST

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