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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.


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I'm from dirt-poor mining, farming and factory working Mercers. And British/Scottish working-class stock. <=> Not rich Trump-Big Data Mercers. Sick of being smeared as somehow aligned with or part of the ultra-wealthy Trump- and conservatives-supporting Robert and Rebekah Mercer.

And sick of the delusions of such that thing that it took some "big data" or "foreign interference" to bring about Brexit or Trump.

No, it took neoliberal elitist arrogance. It took ignoring or dismissing the "salt of the earth" people like those I came from only a generation or so back. That's all.

One more unthinking "liberal" internet commenter who writes something like "Oh, where else have I heard the name 'Mercer'?" as a way to undercut my political commentary is getting a virtual shoe thrown at them, and I wouldn't rule out a defamation action. Just because I don't buy the BS that Clinton lost because of "evil Big Data from the Mercers" or "Russians did it" does not mean I am part of your so-called "conspiracy".

Clinton lost, Brexit won, because your "hero" politicians ignored the solid working-class people like those from where my father grew up in the Appalachians. Where my grandfather grew up in the UK. The people from the places where your supposed "good" politicians didn't give a flying flaming fart about in their own smug and out-of-touch "big data" predictions.
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Deeply disturbing. <=> Yes, economic factors make it hard, but also the Millennial "I give up, fix it for me" subtext.

Didn't that generation grow up on endless DVD and VHS repeats of that "old movie" where a wizened old wizard said "Do. Or do not. There is no try."?

Hate to be some "old guy" here but though "adulthood" definitions have indeed changed, adulthood is not optional.

However it may not come with the full premium Spotify subscription, $100+ monthly mobile on the latest iPhone or Samsung, eating out or delivery all the time, or the job of your dreams in the city of your dreams. When cheaper alternatives, or, going without entirely, or starting out in affordable alternative locations or less than dream-job first (or even, for years for forever), or redefining what you really want and need, are possibilities. As are various forms of military and non-military public service, as are income-based repayment plans on student loans.

No, "adulthood" does not have to look like Boomers' or Gen-Xers adulthood. Though our definitions of adulthood may be a lot less stodgy than the Millennials stereotype us to be. (Boomer here, not rich, living in beach-town South America after about 3 or 4 different career swaps and secondary careers, and no family help after 1st 2 years of university, and yes we did have student loans back then too.)

But adulthood is not optional. Remember that song from when you were kids or teens or students? "You don't have to go home but you can't stay here."

Find a way to make it. And to help change the system to make it easier to make it. But don't just stay infantilized and swap tales over drinks about how maybe that's the way it will stay.
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Here's a US Independence Day story you didn't expect: <=> "Accidental Americans" demand their independence.

They're right to do so. In some ways, this is the flip-side of DACA/Dreamers and the so-called "anchor baby" situation: These are people who never lived in the US for more than a few years, or even days, but are anchored to the uniquely unfair US system of worldwide taxation. And to the uniquely-US and similarly unfair, "We have the power to order around the world", requirement that every bit of banking information of these essentially NON-US persons, *and that of their families* be reported to the US Treasury and Internal Revenue Service.

Along with this, they are fighting for the rights of US expats who totally, or primarily, live outside of the US (like me) and which from those same FATCA/FBAR onerous regulations, can find it difficult or almost impossible to have normal banking services in the countries in which we primarily live, Blowback from those same unfair rules even makes it very hard to open, or even to keep, bank, credit union, brokerage accounts back in the US even though we're US citizens and most of us US expats (including me) want to remain so.

The US needs to grant accidental Americans their independence. And grant US expats, at least those of us who are legally present in our new countries as legal immigrants, independence from the onerous FATCA/FBAR regulations. And grant our host countries independence from having to act as US IRS agents under threat of US military and financial sanctions.
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Welcome to the several newly approved members. (And lo siento, pero no, to those banned because all they do on their Google profiles is post spam to multiple unrelated groups.)

Please do join in and contribute, talk among yourselves, but specifically on-topic about the experiences and advice on living in Uruguay as an immigrant / expat / long term visitor / someone considering Uruguay.

Fútbol in context of the national spirit, especially during the World Cup, (Vamos Arriba Uruguay), is relevant, because, La Celeste. But this is not a general "Let's talk about football" group, nor a "let's just talk about Uruguay in general" group if it has no relationship to the immigrant / expat experience.

Thanks in advance.

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What do you think of Google's pans to build a smart city on the Toronto waterfront? <=> Canadians especially, but also anyone who, like me, loves urban life and is concerned about the future of cities?

I don't have enough hands to do the "on one hand" thing. Because on one hand, I like the idea of putting modern technological innovation and breakthrough thinking into the often-sclerotic and dysfunctional process of our world´s great cities. (Toronto being very much one of my favorite great metropolises, despite my personal long-term ties to New York City, and my recent-years location in 90% beach-town Uruguay/10% US Florida.)

And I very much like it when cities finally put long-abandoned, unused, former industrial space to use, like the rail spaces over New York's West Side (more on that later in this post and other linked articles), or London's Canary Wharf and Docklands areas, or this stretch of Toronto's waterfront that is not the bright shiny developed part.

On the other hand, I don't like turning over municipal control, what should be the lowest and thus most directly voter-controlled and voter-responsive parts of urban life, to a private-sector for-profit corporation. Not that there's anything wrong with having a private sector nor for-profit corporations. (Disclousure: Through Index Fund investments, I own some of Google, and if you have any kind of retirement plan, *so do you.*)

However, private-sector governance is not supposed to be How It Works, not in federal representative democratic constitutional monarchies like Canada, nor in federal representative democratic constitutional republics like USA. Nor, for that matter, in unitary representative democratic constitutional republics like Uruguay either, where this trend hasn't caught on - at least not as much, but see "Zona Franca" Free Trade Zones in the heart of Montevideo and several outside it, for incremental examples of the camel's nose in the tent.

However, on yet another hand, city governments and failure of vision of public, small-D democratic processes have left these types of former industrial zones as wastelands for, in some cases, literally several generations. Generations where housing and employment opportunities, those jobs both during construction and in the offices and shops and services after completion, are desperately needed. And in cities where there is huge shortage of housing. So if private-sector leadership can make things happen, that's a good thing, right?

Yet on yet another hand, is Google-affilaited company Sidewalk's grand scheme for Toronto's Quayside "smart city", just another case of an over-aggressive, strong-personalities-led company, trying to get some kind of sweetheart insider deal in order to build the modern equivalent of Television City AKA Trump Place AKA "They're ripping down the Trump signs" housing and parks project that reconnected the Upper West Side to the mid-West Side and created much more housing in what was just a void, in my old section of New York? And was that project, vastly delayed, multiple-times-renamed, and ultimately downsized but improved and made more human-scale, a good or a bad thing for Manhattan? Even if it (once) had the name Trump on it?

Read an excellent (long, but I expect my friends, followers, and readers to be able to actually READ and think about long complex thoughts) piece, also in Politico during their Cities focus month, on the long Trump Television City saga.

You could even apply this "Is commercially-planned, centrally-controlled master planning a good or bad thing?" question to suburban places designed as "smart communities" - Like the greater Charleston, SC area, Summerville outskirts "Nexton" ( - a huge 20-30 year plan of residential single-family, townhouse, and apartment communities, and offices and shops, owned by a Japanese company that uses a US master planner, Newhouse, to engage multiple otherwise competing homebuilder firms to build separate but often directly adjacent parts of the communities. But where everybody is on the gigabit smartfiber internet and some other shared services for the entire master-planned project.

(Usual disclosure on my opinion pieces and article analysis, though not required because I'm just some rando on the internet: I own a tiny bit, really tiny, of most of those homebuilders, who are not only or even primarily at Nexton, in a US exchange traded index specialty fund ITB that focuses on US homebuilders. I also recently visited Nexton, for whatever reasons. If I had the money to commit to buying a US place to live part of the time, I might well buy a townhome there. I like the community and services they are building, even if it is planned rather than organic development. If I had a lot more money than that, I'd love to live at least part-time back on the West Side again, and those "formerly Trump Place" places have lost a lot of market value.)

Then, as the main article notes, there is the granddaddy example of a failed attempt at a then-modern Smart City: EPCOT. Disney's EPCOT was not originally supposed to be some now-retro idea of a permanent World's Fair, it was supposed to be an actual city where people owned or rented homes, lived, brought up families, went to school, worked. The name stands for Experimental Prototype Community Of Tomorrow. That idea died when Walt died, but in many ways it was the prototype for all of this.

On yet ANOTHER hand, there is the example (also in the main article) of a Silicon Valley company, the tech incubator YCombinator, funding the very progressive basic income experiment currently going on in the city of Oakland, California. I have a friend, a very progressive, lesbian married person of color, currently running for Oakland City Council (BTW I encourage you to support her, Pam Harris, if you live in Oakland's 4th District and donate to her if you are a US citizen elsewhere.) I wonder what she and her colleagues feel about this progressive plan funded by a tech-elite, even though the tech-elite are not particularly progressive (more "techno-libertarian" and low-tax low-regulation.)

Status on these tech-entrepreneurial urban projects: "It's Complicated.)

My bottom line? I don't know yet. Let's learn, together ,about these things, become informed citizens of our respective communities and nations of citizenship, and talk about it both with our fellow voters and with those from other communities.
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Excellent, thoughtful rather than partisan-slogan analysis of a conservative court. Long. Read it.

TL;DR? "Ultimately, Democrats cannot rely on judges for social progress. A functioning liberal democracy requires a liberal populace that is prepared to vote for the policies it wants."

Yeah, that.

But do read it, if you read things longer than memes, slogans, and short oversimplifications. There's a lot more to Noah Feldman's column in the latest New York Review of Books. Including analysis of the likelihood vs unlikelihood of specific progressive policies being overturned vs left alone.

For example, same-sex marriage is very likely safe, at least in comparison to abortion rights. And environmental regulations may be at far more risk than abortion rights. Unlike abortion rights, federal environmental regulations overturned by SCOTUS mostly can't be mitigated by state law, while abortion is likely to revert back to state's rights, state's laws. Which is bad, but abortion would still be available in many states. Realize, or remember (most of my followers are too young to remember) that it was legal in at least one state, before Roe.

While if a conservative-dominant court bans an environmental regulations, and the underlying current agency regulatory framework, as unconstitutional, that's it. Game over for that type of regulation.

Until and unless Democrats and progressive-minded people of all parties and no party can manage to work together to win elections, win votes on bills in Congress with sufficient majorities to get through procedural checks and balances and the deliberate "friction" designed into our system of representative democracy in a constitutional federal republic. Which means winning the minds of voters.

Not depending on the Supreme Court to overturn laws or de facto write them. Even though that's sometimes necessary, that's #NotHowItWorks.

Let's consider focusing our political actions and arguments based on not only each specific policy risk as perceived personally, but also on what the largest risks are. And not only right now, with this president. With the precedent of depending on the courts rather than winning the minds of voters.
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One of Saturn's moons has the possibility of life. Let's go out there and take a look? As in, We of Earth together.
'“Enceladus’ subsurface ocean is a habitable place. The big question is if it is inhabited," Frank Postberg, a planetary scientist at the University of Heidelberg in Germany and the study’s lead author, told NBC News MACH in an email.'

Obviously we can't launch Humans there yet. Nobody can, yet, but we the Humans from Earth can and should get busy with the exploration and technology advancement we've mostly set aside for too long. Not entirely, or else we wouldn't have this news about Enceladus having habitable oceans. But we, the US in this context, can't even launch Humans into low-earth-orbit, though Russia and China can. Nobody is (quite yet) ready to launch Humans to Mars, though some private-sector entrepreneurs are closer than our governments.

We (again in this context, the US) are perhaps the most advanced in robotic planetary exploration but only in some ways, while Russia's Roscosmos is in a decades-long Mars robotic exploration program with Europe's ESA and some other agencies. We the US currently have the rovers (if they survived that recent dust storm) and a much better record of landing things on Mars, intact, rather than crashing them.

But Russia has done that where we've failed, on Venus, and they have as much or more experience with really big launch vehicles than we do. Meanwhile India and China have their own big launch vehicles coming up.

Why in the literal heavens name aren't we working together? Really working together, not just buying expensive taxi rides on Soyuz?

Makes more sense than splitting in to more factions and both US parties always finding a reason for more wars.

We (now meaning again We the People of the USA) should be cooperating and collaborating with the other major space powers, such as the only ones that can still launch Humans into space, Russia and China, and doing joint advance robotic missions, with a coordinated long-range goal. Rather than the US having laws forbidding any cooperation in space whatsoever with China (ever wonder why they aren't on the ISS?) and making more laws and sanctions against Russia.

I want us to "collude" with Russia and China (and India, Brazil, the EU, Canada, Japan, and any other spacefaring or significant space-tech-providing nations), not make it harder for us to do so.

Or we can keep having wars and rumors of wars instead.

By the way, space exploration creates all sorts of economic growth, scientific advancement that brings improvement here on Earth, job growth in fields both STEM and in "build and move around big heavy stuff" construction and supply chain for that too. Plus, brings the country and the world together.

I was a teenager when we landed on the Moon. I remember how that felt, and how, even in the middle of the Cold War, the Vietnam War and several other proxy wars, a literal cultural revolution going on in the USA, and around the world, the entire world did briefly come together in celebration of what Humans from Earth had just done.

We need to get back to that global and extra-global perspective. Especially because we are finding more and more evidence of possible life out there. Let's go explore those worlds. Together.
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California SF Bay Area cost of living is officially insane and obscene. Not reality-based. Nice as the area is, and despite some ill-thought policies with chaotic unintended consequences, it is nice, you are nuts if you choose to live there. If you have any other choice. Not all do.

This is unsustainable, both on wages/housing-price vicious cycle hyper-inflation, and on social class hyper-stratification. Which drives the area into even worse than the already bad overall-US hyperpartisan mindfreeze and demonization if anyone different, including different opinion alone. Then add class, race, ethnicity, gender, with all those identity factors hyper-subdivided, to that already about to blow up powderkeg.

This is not going to be pretty, nor safe, when this all bursts.

Families earning $117,000 now qualify as "low income" in California's Bay Area
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Everything wrong with Google*. In one simple article. <=> Google products and branding, not just Android.

Android Authority: Google’s endless app overlap: What’s going on?.

*Not getting into "What's wrong with Google / Alphabet holding company" in terms of privacy, excess power in our society, questionable subsidiaries, killer robot division, Google Buses in SF promoting hyper-gentrification by the isolated tech elite, their "too much 'SJW' vs "admirably socially" vs "still not diverse enough" culture wars minefield , or whatever the hell happened with that Google Zeppelin thing and blimp base they bought. Just their totally screwed-up product development / fragmentation / cancellation / confusion dysfunction.

"Posted from my Android via Google services" /s
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The European Union has now destroyed free speech. Not an exaggeration, if this bill passed by a committee of the European Parliament passes the entire body.

No parody, no memes, no remixing, no link to news stories without (paid?) permission. This is how an informed, creative, civil society dies.
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