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Mark Mercer
Fuzzy Wanderer, Corporatism Critic, Former Corporate Tool. Uruguay Immigrant rather than US Expat.
Fuzzy Wanderer, Corporatism Critic, Former Corporate Tool. Uruguay Immigrant rather than US Expat.

Mark's posts

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Another reason not to book with Expedia (or Expedia-owned Travelocity & Orbitz) <=> Clinton cronyism. Chelsea gets another position with no valid experience qualifying her for it.

Just as she got given a fake-journalist position by Comcast's NBC (it might have still been Military-Industrial Complex GE's NBC at the time.) A high-level finance job. And more gifts of Corporatocracy power positions to ensure access to expected continued political power of the Clinton Dynasty.

Chelsea being gifted this perk and money by the company that has a near-monopoly* on travel bookings, is the clearest sign yet that the Clintons are pushing to buy Chelsea a high political office. Or that those who already invested millions in getting "access" and were thwarted by Hillary Clinton's utter incompetence as a candidate, twice, are demanding a "New Clinton" to provide their payback.

Seriously. What has Chelsea Clinton actually accomplished that makes her qualified for this, or any of her other positions? There are many young women in their thirties with far better real-world business, global affairs, and/or military experience than her, that don't waltz in at the top. And I don't only mean Ivanka Trump nor Army Guard Major / Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard. But yes, both of them (#YesEvenIvanka) are more qualified. (Obligatory #Tulsi2020 here.)

This is purely buying access to Senator Chelsea Clinton. Once she, like her mother before her, decides which state to carpetbag into as "home" where she can safely run and win without doing the legit lower-offices hard work of politics and governance to earn that upper-chamber seat. Can't be New York since Schumer is never going away and Gillibrand is a friend of Hillary who took over her seat. Unless Gillibrand decides to run for President in 2020 and also chooses to not run for Senate reelection in 2018.

Though there are rumors of "House District Shopping", I doubt "Crown Princess" Chelsea would deign to run for anything as lowly as "the lower house", the House of Representatives. Like her mother, she thinks simply being immediate family to an actually good politician, Bill Clinton, qualifies her to start near the top.

So expect Chelsea to go "Senate State Shopping" soon. And please try to stop that, if you are a voter in that "lucky state". The one unquestionably good outcome of the terrible 2016 election process is that it broke both the Bush Dynasty and the Clinton Dynasty. The latter before it fully formed. Please keep it broken. US politics should not have dynasties and noble families. We got rid of that back in 1776.

* (Expedia bought / was allowed by Obama-era Democrat antitrust so-called "regulators" to buy, almost all the companies you think compete with Expedia - many more than I mentioned. Priceline was allowed to buy all the rest, in a classic anti-consumer oligarchic duopoly move.)

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You still can't buy pot here, years after "legalized sales." <=> One of ex-President Mujica's badly-thought-out ideas. One of many.

Good man. Important ethical voice. Grand story of survival, and of redemption from believing in and committing violence for change, to peaceful yet non-traditional political action.

But increasingly seen as a poor leader of a real-world government, as a detached and often incompetent manager, while scandals and losses abounded during his term. While he flourished in the limelight of the "World's poorest president' hype machine. Basically running for a Nobel Peace Prize rather than properly running the country.

Scandals and mismanagement losses that we the people of Uruguay (I am a permanent legal resident and via our high VAT and government-owned utilities, a taxpayer) are now paying for in many ways.

Although on a "track to citizenship", I won't be a voting citizen in time for the 2019 elections, because Uruguay's constitution requires naturalized citizens to have held citizenship for three years before being able to exercise the special rights and obligations thereof: voting and jury service primarily.

But were I such, I would not vote for now-Senator Mujica to have a new term as President. I would vote for him for a re-election as a Senator. Sen. Mujica has recently announced that if his health allows, he plans to tun in 2019. I hope he reconsiders that, and at most runs to retain his leadership in the Senate.

I fear that if he runs for president again, the Frente Amplio party-of-parties will lose the presidency entirely to the once far-right, now Clinton-style center-right neoliberal, "Blancos", the Partido Nacional. Whereas if a center-left, competent-leader, and non-elderly voice of a more mainstream FA party gets the FA presidential nomination, the FA may continue Uruguayan progress.

Meanwhile, Mujica's signature marijuana law is a debacle on so many levels. As this good analysis article from Canada's leading new and commentary journals accurately reports. Looked good in the global press, though.

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I already mentioned this, but buried in a reply to another member, in a long comment thread. Posting here to surface it for others. Deal on a "CD" in the "indexed" currency here, the UI. Triple the normal interest for time deposits, on this already inflation-indexed "currency".

BROU, the bank we all love to hate but have to deal with at least when dealing with other people and businesses here, has a "triple-interest" offer, this month only, on Plazo Fijo deposits (the UY term for what US folks call a "CD - Certificate of Deposit") - those denominated in the psuedo-currency called Unidad Indexada (U.I.) The UI is basically a "Cost of Living" or "Consumer Price Index" tracking psuedo-currency. Where Uruguay is somewhat of a "managed economy" with a lot of "democratic socialism" ("somewhat"??), the amount the UI goes up is published a few months in advance, rather than more logically being a "Hey, how much did prices go up?" observation.

Nonetheless, unlike the Uruguayan Peso, or the unofficial second currency, the US Dollar ("unofficial"??), the UI is the only consumer-available "bank deposit currency" that track the real increase in cost of living here, más-o-menos. And it is closely related to, though not identical to, the Unidad Reajustable used to price various government services and forms, and the Unidad Reajustable de Alquileres (the Rental Cost adjustable unit, the URA). The URA in turn is what the government uses to determine the URA Coefficient, which is the published amount by which landlords are allowed to raise your rent during each year of a multi-year contract. (Maximum contracts/leases here being 2 years with a 3rd year option, with increase by the URA coefficient each year's anniversary.)

The UI isn't the URA. But it's the closest thing you can do a guaranteed bank deposit in. Which if you're a renter (like me) or if you are saving for something that you know may well vary with the inflation rate, may make sense for keeping up with Uruguay prices with an in-Uruguay indexed "currency".

Basically, X amount in UI, at the peso cost today, should be worth about the same buying power in pesos (which will be a bigger number) a year from now. Plus normally a small amount of interest on UI time deposits. BROU, however, has this "triple the interest" short-term deal on the UI "CD".

But only if you open it online. Which means that you have to already have a BROU account (at least a basic caja de ahorros - no-interest savings), and a BROU online profile that is of a higher level than the sometimes-default "Consultas". I won't go into all the "fun" I had upgrading my profile a few months ago to one that now can do online payments, transfers to other banks, and in theory open new accounts. But it involved a lot of password-re-typing, weirdly-buried menu structures where options aren't where you think they would be, and a trip to a BROU ATM/Autoservismo in order to confirm, in "person" to the machine, the changes I requested online.

However, if you have all that, or can get it going, you might be interested.

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Better not be one of the "unbanked" if you want wholesome food. <=> The war on cash, which is also a war on the lower classes and a "wall" to keep away "undesirable to gentrified folk" customers, continues. Now at Sweetgreens.

Pay with your iPhone. Or with your credit/debit card. Otherwise, no sweet greens for you! Don't have one, don't have steady income, maybe no fixed home? Maybe we're not your kind of place.

Or, you can go to the corner store for a sweet "prepaid debit card" that only costs $4.95 to buy and $4.95/month and $4.95 every time you add funds to it. If you can find one that cheap; many prepaid cards marketed aggressively to that unbanked and to ethnic communities cost more. But you'll have to buy a new one each time, if you don't have a home address and a government ID, because prepaid card banks won't issue a permanent refillable card without that.

Go buy one and come back. Maybe we'll serve you. You want to eat our wholesome food, right?

I'm not even in the "Oh noes, War On Cash" alarmist brigade in general, but something about this hipster elitist smug millennial asshat move really offends me. Even though I'd be allowed to eat there; I have cards. Assuming Sweetgreens allows us "olds".

And yes, they brag about their millennial DNA so they deserve the millennial slam:

"Maybe it’s a millennial thing, maybe it’s an entrepreneurial thing — either way, it’s in our DNA."

Welcome to the Future — It’s Cashless – Medium

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Delta is taking over the world. <=> Even if you don't fly Delta, you may be on an airline they significantly control. Aeromexico now 49% Delta-owned. And likely de facto Delta-controlled.

Delta management always gets boardroom seats, management input, significant influence, in these deals, even though they don't have official majority ownership nor voting control. They're still pretty much flying the plane, even if their pilots aren't.

Delta now owns, with this type of "influence":
49% of Aeromexico.

49% of Virgin Atlantic.
(Richard Branson never owned all of it; 49% was owned/funded by Singapore Airlines, which share Delta bought a few years ago.)

16% of the preferred voting shares of Brazil's GOL Airlines, one of the significant carriers here where I live in the Southern Cone.

I recently saw a friend's blog get a comment on what a good flight to Uruguay they had on Delta. Delta doesn't fly to Uruguay. But Delta' "strongly-influenced" GOL does. And they code-share but also cooperate beyond that. Likely she was on a Delta-sold Delta-marketed Delta-coded flight, which in Sao Paolo connected to an airplane operated by GOL.

This isn't counting all the regional subsidiaries Delta owns, from airlines it acquired, including its purchase several years ago of Northwest Airlines - both NW's mainline, which is now part of Delta proper, and the regional subsidiaries that NW owned.

Another friend recently had a Delta delay getting back from a vacation, a typical "waiting for a gate" delay that we frequent fliers know can and does happen on every single airline. It was humorous to see some less-frequent travelers write in response, 'This is why I won't fly Delta' - thinking this was something that is specific to them. In my experience, it happens to all airlines, but Delta is relatively good at avoiding it.

Of the US-based airlines, improving but still pathetically-run United (of the merged United Continental Holdings, a merger ironically legally allowed only as a result of Delta buying Northwest which voided NW's control of Continental as to mergers), has long been the worst of the "waiting for a gate." But we regulars know it can happen on anything. In the past year, I've been onboard in a "waiting for gate" situation in San Francisco on American, in Santiago, Chile on Latam (ex-LAN division), in Sao Paolo on Latam (ex-TAM division), in Miami on Copa, and more if I looked back further.

But the bigger point, beyond a gate-delay or baggage problem or snarky-attendant issue causing a general-public customer to say, "I'm never flying Airline X again!"? "Airline X" may well have significant ownership, and management, control and operational influence, on several other airlines that appear unrelated. Worldwide, but especially in-Americas (North and South) airline consolidation and cross-ownership has flown sky-high. You might not be able to avoid "flying airline X" again.

Just a quick list off the top of my head, from only the past few years:

Alaska Airlines now owns Virgin America. (Branson had only a minor stake; none of the "Virgin Airlines" are under the same ownership or control, nor even shared Frequent Flyer programs.)

Avianca of Colombia now owns Taca, which in turn owned Taca Peru and LACSA of Costa Rica. Now all "Avianca".

Copa of Panama, once primarily owned by Continental but now independent, bought a Colombian airline which is now also marketed and run as part of Copa.

LAN of Chile, which alone incorporated LAN, LAN Peru, LAN Ecuador, and LAN Argentina, bought the other significant Colombian airline that competed with Avianca, and re-branded it as LAN Colombia.

TAM of Brazil bought a Paraguayan airline and named it LAN Paraguay.

TAM merged with, as a "merger of equals" but really "sold out to", LAN of Chile.

LAN of Chile now rebranded all 7 of its airlines, and its corporate identity, as "Latam". (Both a partial concatenation of LAN and TAM, and a common abbreviation for Latin America.)

Avianca bought another Brazilian small airline that competed with TAM (Now Latam) and renamed it Avianca Brazil, slowly integrating it into "just plain Avianca" in terms of public marketing.

Your "United" flight to Latin America may well be all or in part on Copa, or Avianca. (Any part of those themselves merged airlines.)

Your "Delta" flight to Latin America may well be on Gol at least in part.

Your "American" flight to Latin America may well be in part on any part of Latam Airlines. All, or in part after the first connection.

And back in the US, your "Delta", "American", "United" flight might be on one of their tiny-planes, underpaid-pilots, "regional" / "commuter" carriers. Which they will happily sell as their big name, but as soon as there is any kind of problem, they will say, "That wasn't our airline".

I haven't even touched on the "Joint Venture / Antitrust immunity" transatlantic and transpacific deals many of those airlines have. But let's say you hate United so buy your ticket to somewhere in Europe via Air Canada or Lufthansa - with United nowhere on the ticket. Guess what - United gets part of the money for every Transatlantic flight from anywhere in North America sold by Lufthansa or Air Canada (and vice-versa). As much as if they sold the ticket themselves for their own plane (because they pay LH and AC in that case.) Don't like Delta so fly KLM or Air France (KLM is owned by Air France), or Alitalia? Same thing, Delta gets the money.

Airline deregulation in the US and other "neoliberal economics" nations, and state-owned airline privatization, has brought us lower fares in many cases. But it's also brought us an overall badly-operated system with far less choice in airlines than you think you have. 

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On the day that may changed by 1 hour for "daylight saving" time, perhaps we should examine a different scale: <=> Deep Time.

I've been fascinated by the concept of Deep Time for years. Fascinated, and like many who start to think about it, research the concept and issues, philosophical, sociological, and scientific - deeply concerned. As to how we message the future, how our acts today, and our byproducts whether they be nuclear waste or a bizarre mass of fossilized chicken bones, will be perceived.

How would you communicate to someone from 10,000 years ago? What language, what symbology, do you have in common? Now, think about how we tell someone 10,000 years from now, how and why to stay away from the buried dangers of Chernobyl, Fukashima, or of a controlled nuclear waste disposal location like the one built, but killed by Senator Reid, deep below Nevada.

Even our religions and myths don't go that far back. To assume they go that far forward, is presumptuous.

As part of my fascination, for a few years I was a member of The Long Now Society, based in San Francisco but in many ways virtual. With many lectures and writings on thinking longer than we Humans normally do. But they also initiated a real-world, grandiose marker-in-deep-time project, The Ten-Thousand-Year Clock.

Yes, a giant, mechanical, physical clock of intricate design and material that should last, and keep operating, for ten millennia. Assuming a continued "priesthood of clockkeepers", so to speak. Jeff Bezos, founder/CEO of Amazon, sole owner of The Washington Post, and Rocket Man with his Blue Origin spaceship and launcher company, is also involved in the Ten Thousand Year Clock Project, but the concept was instantiated by The Long Now Society.

The Long Now group even uses a five-digit year on all their writings, to make the point about how we, and the systems and works we create, must consider time far beyond our lifespans. Far beyond any nation's lifespan. The current year, in the Western calendar most of Earth uses, is not 2017. It is 02017. You'll see that usage all over their website:

As one of the many thousands of programmers who worked hard to prevent the so-called "Y2k bug", I do "get it" with what they are doing with that "millennia rollover" just as we dealt with the "century rollover". (Oh, and the reason "Y2k" didn't happen? Us. All us programmers. You're welcome! Want to worry again? Search for "Unix epoch" or "Unix time crisis". Y2.038k is coming!)

Another of my early looks into Deep Time, right around the Y2k cusp, was an insightful non-fiction book by well-known award-winning Science Fiction author and working research physicist, Dr. Gregory Benford.

The book, his first non-fiction work after years of SF, is simply called, "Deep Time" with a subtitle of "How Humanity Communicates Across Millennia". Sadly it appears to be out of print, and never made it into any ebook format from what I can see. (That's a bit of irony on "communicating into the future' across less than a decade, right there!) It is still listed on the author's website but with a non-working purchase link, as it is out of print.

Even more sad, for me at least, my trade paper copy of it, disappeared along the wayside somewhere in my journey from Massachusetts through Colorado, North Carolina, Washington, and Florida, on the way to Uruguay. If you can find a copy of it at a reasonable price, or if it's in your library, go for it.

Thoughtful people have been talking about Deep Time for longer than "our modern times", from earlier than when we first split the atom, or even took flight, or harnessed electricity. Though the term itself wasn't coined until the 1980s, a Scotsman, geologist James Hutton, described it back only one year after the US Constitution came into effect. The article gives more background on his thoughts.

This main-linked article, at +The Atlantic, came into view today as a recommended additional popular read, while I was reading some current-politics analysis at that publication. Apparently they do know my tastes. It's from only a trivial nano-moment in our past, last October. 

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Apparently many people and businesses use Clef for 2FA security on WordPress. <=> Clef is shutting down, surprise!

Clef is suggesting either Authy or the premium version of WordFence, which has a two-factor authentication feature that can use SMS to cellphone or Google Authenticator. But you have only 3 months to decide upon, test, implement, and deploy your solution. Including training your users.

Nice. (not). This is similar "Oh crap no notice" to when Janrain's public OpenID implementation shut down a couple of years ago. Scramble time.

If you have a business that runs on WordPress, using 2FA is probably a good idea. Unlike some tech-heads, security folks and devs, I am not a rligious zealot about Two-Factor Authentication. There's plenty that can go wrong, or just annoy the heck out of your site users and collaborators, if done in a not-brilliant way. And with the decreasing battery life of modern smartphones, depending on a thing in your pocket to still work when you need the code, is not a sure thing. The old keychain fob dedicated tokens, with battery life longer than your job, were a lot more convenient.

I don't use Clef on any of my or my client's sites, so I don't have a mess to clean up here. But you might. I do use Wordfence on all WordPress-based sites, including where appropriate (like not for my once a few months I write something, personal blog), the paid Premium version. I'd probably suggest that, with the SMS text option, as the easiest/best way to deploy a replacement. SMS can also be received by long battery-life "dumb phones", like the soon-relaunching Nokia 3310. Or the ancient Nokia you know you have in a drawer somewhere.

Plus you should be running Wordfence on your WordPress sites anyway. Seriously. Even if your web host says "we take care of security". Unless you are hosting with someone who bans Wordfence and similar in-the-website security plugins for WordPress software. If you are, and it is one of the few, true, good "Managed WordPress" hosts rather than just some craphost who says "We specialize in WordPress", then you are probably OK. But even so, without something inside your actual WP installation, you aren't as protected as well as you could be.

Of the true Managed WP hosts, I know that Wordfence is permitted by DreamHost's dedicated DreamPress service, by Flywheel (if Wordfence's now-removed caching feature is disabled and Live Traffic turned off), by Imagely's Imagely WordPress Hosting for photographers, and by a couple of others. I know it is banned (stupidly IMHO) by most of the big-name WP managed hosts, on grounds that don't make sense. And where it now may also be the best 2FA solution with Clef gone, it's even stupider that they ban Wordfence.

(For those who don't know, WordPress the software, which is what I'm talking about, has nothing to do with using WordPress-dot-com for a free blog. Other than WordPress-dot-com is a commercial company started by the lead developer of the free WordPress software. WordPress-the-software is used by about 40% of the sites on the web, including giant news sites and ecommerce, as well as blogs running on people's own paid hosting plans at Whatever Host. It's a web platform these days, not "blogging software.")

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More proof Uber is utter scrum. If you didn't know it already. <=> Coded a fake app to fool government regulators. So that it could continue its "We scoff at your laws" corporate culture and illegal business strategy.

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Crap! <=> The center-right Corporatocracy candidate of the Clinton/Obama axis won. No reform now.

This makes a Trump (or Pence) second term more likely. Makes the likely 2018 Senate losses even more likely. Now probably below filibuster-threshold from this disheartening idiocy and corruption.

Spit in the face to Berniecrats and us independents who occasionally or often align with the Democratic Party and even register in it sometimes to vote in their closed primaries.

Blows a hole in the #DemEnter movement and reinvigorates the emotionally-satisfying but election-losing #DemExit movement. In the US system of non-parliamentary, separate presidential/legislative races, only taking control of an existing major party has any hope of success.

Just ask the Tea Party how they took over the House in 2010, 12, and still held crazy power in 14 and 16.

Just ask Trump. Taking over a party works. But the idiot corrupt Clinton / Biden / Obama / Wasserman Schulz wing of the party, which already created President Trump, just staged a counter-revolutionary purge against us. Thanks, Obama! (et al.)

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WaPo's Cillizza makes important points: <=> Focus on the story. The media is not the story. Source, double, triple-source. Get it right. Don't double down when you get it wrong; admit and correct.

Basics. I hope he, the Post, and the rest of the legacy media take this advice. We need them. But we need them better than they've been lately.
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