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Trey Harris
Yet Another Geek
Yet Another Geek

Trey Harris's posts

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United Airlines made me abandon my mobility device at the gate. Before my honeymoon.

I've been waiting to post this until I heard a response from United. But with the recent uproar over their handling of passengers, I figured it was time.

And so, here we are.

Anthony Scaramucci's New Yorker interview just forced Rachel Maddow to note that, for the first time in her ten years on the job, she's totally unqualified to speak to something in the news that literally every other nighttime host, on every channel, is qualified to report on.

She says she's started getting used to unprecedented things from this administration, but I think this is one she definitely didn't even have on her radar....

I think she actually is qualified, though; I believe she and Susan have at least one male dog, who I'm sure she's observed doing the same thing Mooch accused Bannon of.

(Incidentally, a friend tells me that Stephen Colbert asked CBS Standards and Practices if the word "autofellatio" is acceptable after 11:30. Since they've made him pixellate frogs, mushrooms and a geoduck in the past, I'm just guessing the answer will be "no".)

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Google Assistant's feed says I'm a fan of just one athlete...

...and, on reflection, I think I agree.
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As I wrote to someone who criticized this on the original thread for being "logically fallacious", and complained how it "bothered him" about a post he'd otherwise agree with:
"How's this for logic: the post was humor; specifically, satire. Satire can be an effective political tool. It's long been observed that humor, subjected to rhetorical rigor, stops being funny. Satire, stripped of humor, is no longer satire, so can cease being an effective political tool. Therefore, this post can only be effective when not subjected to rhetorical rigor. That means you can hold your fire, and still be unbothered.

"You're welcome. 😘"

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In a followup to his article I shared last week about the dangers of liberals being "annoying" to independents whose votes we could otherwise attain, Josh Barro takes on this morning's tweet.

Some of the disagreements in comments to that post may be more concretely answered in this article. We aren't "annoying" whenever we stand up for our issues, even the most progressive cultural issues such as transgender rights. We're annoying when we let our cultural biases bleed into non-policy areas.

This is squarely in policy, and most people are going to agree with Joe Biden:
"Every patriotic American who is qualified to serve in our military should be able to serve. Full stop."

Not annoying at all. If anything, Trump's the annoyance here, by intervening in a DoD process (apparently without Pentagon awareness, and while Sec. Mattis was on vacation) that "the generals" (whom most independents have faith in¹) had already decided the other way.

(Many social conservatives will have already concluded that the generals supported integrating transgender service members simply because it was Obama's desire as commander-in-chief. They'd be right—had Obama ordered it directly. But he didn't, he ordered a cross-branch review, and the joint chiefs reported that integration could happen without adverse effect on readiness and with negligible medical expenses. But social conservatives can be "low-information", too.)

¹ Though let me be clear, there are real problems at the flag level that can be discussed in a way that isn't anti-patriotic or anti-military, your average independent "low-information voter" isn't going to be aware of any of that.

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Sixty-nine years ago today, President Harry S Truman desegregated the military. Today, Trump spat on that anniversary for justice.

Update below.

As 69 years later, in a tweet saying he won't allow transgender people to serve in our military, Trump showed, once again... for chrissake, I can't think of a "showed once again..." follow-on that isn't appropriate. Maybe "that he objectifies women" doesn't work.

But it's once again unpresidential and ahistoric. Capricious. Cruel. Arbitrary. Done without warning. Done without the input of the experts, and in direct opposition to the experts' advice. Done without warning to, or the input or advice of, the government agency with relevant oversight that will have to carry out this imperial decree.

Once again, his policy move is in direct opposition to repeated campaign statements. To his messaging during the campaign. To what fricking Javanka were supposed to "moderate".

Once again, his tweet is immoderate, hateful, ignorant, ungrammatical, in factual error.

And once fucking again, he's throwing something out there that he probably doesn't even believe in, because he knows it will get liberals like us angry and talking about something other than Russia or healthcare. Damn the consequences, damn the unadvisedness, damn the cruelty; if it's a shiny object that gets us looking the other way, it's a success for him.

Fuck him.

We can walk and chew gum at the same time? LGBT people are used to walking, chewing gum, and snapping our fingers at the same time. In high heels.

Yes, we are furious, and are going to continue to be furious, but we're not going to let you use us as your little distraction, either, President Trump.

That means we've taken a morning to let you know how incedibly stupid this move is going to be, and how sorry you're going to be that you fucked with us; but healthcare is still our priority today. And when the Senate debate is over, we're going to keep up the pressure on Russia. And we're going to fight you on this, too.

I was an LGBT activist when Clinton's disastrous DADT policy went into effect, and what you wrote is worse than DADT, this is back to the days of witch hunts and blackmail and less-than-honorable discharges and loss of veterans' and survivors' benefits for people who did nothing wrong or even against policy at the time they enlisted or were commissioned. It won't help readiness; it worsens it. It won't help effectiveness; it undermines it.

And "medical expense"? Really? At the most lavish projections, perhaps 100 people—in a military force of 2 million people—will seek gender reassignment procedures per year. Maintenance treatment is no more expensive than any number of conditions that are considered compatible with active duty-status—and just as compatible with active deployment in any capacity.

Your "policy" is laughable, Mr. President. Or it would be, if there weren't the real danger of it going into effect, in which case it will be tragic.

But no.

You will lose. You will lose on all of it.

Update, 13:52 EDT: I just wanted to point out, in case you aren't aware, that service members are legally prohibited from publicly questioning any statements of the commander-in-chief or engaging in political activity while on active duty. That means transgender people currently serving can't speak for themselves on this issue. Making it all the more incumbent that we civilians fight for them, while they fight for us.

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There's a ranked list further on in the article. See if you can think of what they are in order. I'll give you some help: "social network" is apparently defined in this survey as any service where the users provide the content, and people were asked to rank only ones they've used.

Given that, they're pretty much in exactly the order I'd expect (although I wouldn't be sure where Google+ fit because of variance). Although I think Wikipedia gets its ranking because the ratio of pure-readers to interactors is so huge compared to the other sites (except for YouTube); if you become an active Wikipedian (as I was for a few years in early days), that experience can get sour really quickly....

Okay, I think we've reached the cliffhanger. How long does the mid-season hiatus last, again?

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"...except in Cases of Impeachment:" How the Republic ends.

Article Two, Clause I of the Constitution:

"The President... shall have Power to grant Reprieves and Pardons for Offenses against the United States, except in Cases of Impeachment."

It's a sign of the extraordinariness of the times that the phrase "constitutional crisis" has been thrown around a bit carelessly lately. Let's be clear: violation of norms is not, in itself, a constitutional crisis. (It may be a "presidential crisis" or "national crisis", but it's not a constitutional crisis.) Neither is partisan gridlock, even to the point of absolutely nothing of consequence ever getting done. (This may be a "crisis of governance", or a "political crisis", but, again, it's not a constitutional crisis.) And in fact, the president attempting to do something extralegal or even patently illegal by the plain text of the constitution, by itself, is not a constitutional crisis.

No; a true constitutional crisis is when the constitution ceases operability because it contradicts itself or has no answer to the current state of affairs. When one cannot look to the Constitution to figure out what happens next, or when one can look to the Constitution and see that things described as checks and balances have already failed and have no backup plan—that is a constitutional crisis.

By no rational grounds can one argue we are already in the midst of a constitutional crisis or that one has already occurred. Let me be crystal clear, I am not excusing or making apologies for the administration. Even if the Trump campaign worked directly and constantly with the Kremlin to defeat Clinton and did so with Trump's own knowledge and blessing and pre-approval, that would not put us into a constitutional crisis—yet. Not by itself.

(If proof arose that vote tallies were changed in a way that could have flipped the election, that would be a constitutional crisis, because the Constitution has no provision for invalidating or redoing an illegitimate election. But except for a few similarly unlikely facts that might turn up, for the most part, there is no evidence that might arise about things that have already happened up till now that would provoke a constitutional crisis or tell us one was already happening.)

With that background out of the way, if a true constitutional crisis erupts in the next year (or sooner), it would come from one of two places:

1. Refusal of the custodians of constitutional power to exercise it against party interest.

If Trump fired Robert Mueller or gave blanket pardons to his family, his campaign, or himself, the Congress would be constitutionally required to respond.

They could respond by initiating the impeachment process, of course, and failing to do so in the face of blanket pardons would unquestionably be a constitutional crisis (and, in my opinion, is the most likely scenario), but it's not the only way such a crisis could erupt.

Congress could (and hypothetically, should) respond to the firing of Mueller by passing a bill re-appointing Mueller in a special prosecutorial role that the president would not have the power to interfere with. Trump would undoubtedly veto such a bill. Once Trump fired Mueller, if Congress did not take up or pass such a bill or did not override a veto—any of these would represent a constitutional crisis, as Congress failed to serve its appointed role in the Constitution as a check on a despotic president as described by James Madison.

Even if the bill did not initially pass with a veto-proof majority, the framework (if not the plain text) of the Constitution would arguably require Congress to override the veto, unless the veto provoked even stronger action such as impeachment. Even those who voted no on the bill would have a duty to vote yes on override in order to maintain Congress's standing as a coequal branch. Otherwise, Congress will have ceded its own place in government and will choose to become a rubber-stamp.

The Supreme Court's role in such a crisis could come about in the case of a blanket presidential pardon. Such a pardon of Trump's family, campaign, or himself would surely be on matters related to the Russia investigation, either directly or indirectly, such as proof of bribery, corruption, violations of the Constitution's prohibition of emolument, and so on. These matters would all be potentially probative in a "Case of Impeachment".

The federal courts and, ultimately, the Supreme Court would have to rule on whether the pardons were valid or not. The Court has never before ruled a presidential pardon as invalid—this is why the power of pardon is frequently called one of the president's only "absolute" constitutional powers. So this would be their constitutional crisis, and were they to split 5–4 on party lines — especially in a nakedly partisan way such as in Bush v. Gore, when the Court felt it necessary to explicitly rule their own decision as being without legal precedent — they would fail their own test of whether they were still a custodian of their coequal branch. The independent judiciary will have died.

2. The president's exercise of extralegal power to impede and obstruct not just justice, but the framework of the Constitution itself.

This is harder to get one's head around in concrete terms, but is chilling if not terrifying in the abstract. Listening to Trump's own thinking—exposed, oddly enough, not through secret tapes or leaks, but on Twitter and in interviews with NBC and The New York Times — show the man is remarkably unaware of the expanse of and limits to the power of his office, but has an apparently unshakeable belief that the government should be, essentially, in his employ. And not just the executive branch, but the United States government in its entirety. "L'état, C'est moi" seems to be the beginning and end of his thinking on the subject.

I have no doubt that he believes the entire Russia investigation is unnecessary because there is nothing to investigate. My certainty about his belief has nothing whatsoever to do with what he and his campaign did or did not do, or what Trump did or did not know about. I think Trump could have personally come up with the idea, "I know, let's collude with the Russians!" long before he announced his candidacy, personally directed his son and son-in-law in their dealings with the Kremlin, and signed off on each and every move, and he would still believe "the entire Russia investigation is unnecessary, because there is nothing to investigate." Again, "l'état, C'est moi" — or, in the words of a more recent leader of a closer country, "well, when the president does it, that means it is not illegal".

So, let's start there with that stipulation of Trump's mindset. Suppose that something — earth-shattering new "smoking gun" evidence, indictments from Robert Mueller, a public confession by one of Trump's family members or senior campaigners — forced Congress to begin impeachment hearings. (And I use the word "forced" here carefully; see point #1 above.) This is something that I believe is literally unthinkable for Trump, for the reasons I just described. Is it hard to imagine that the only possible conclusion he could draw was that the entire United States Congress was in conspiracy against him? And, by being in conspiracy against him, they were implicitly in conspiracy against the United States?

What might he do in response? In the past 24 hours, many legal scholars have weighed in on the questions surrounding Trump's hypothetical pardons—essentially, publicly asking themselves the same questions The Washington Post reports Trump has asked his own lawyers—and while their conclusions have varied somewhat (especially on the question of whether self-pardon is constitutional), they have frequently finished on the cautionary note that the president can only pardon federal crimes. And were he to pardon himself—whether or not he were impeached—one would assume that the attorneys general of at least some portion of the fifty states would take it upon themselves to find a state crime they could charge him with after his term in office ended.

But in trying to imagine normal law and order proceeding to that point, I don't see how Trump, the man, fits into such a scenario. In the course of his life he has regularly failed to pay bills he owes. When challenged about this, he doesn't deny it, he doesn't try to weasel away with legalisms or accounting minutiae. He proudly proclaims that he didn't pay for it because the work was shoddy, and maintains that he was in the right. He has repeatedly sought debt relief—even bankruptcy protection—only to brag later about how he, essentially, conned the lenders for his own benefit. "I'm greedy—greedy, greedy, greedy!" is something he has literally said at his campaign podium many times.

As we all know by now, even demonstrable facts have no power against what he "believes" is "right"—which is whatever advances his own interests in the moment. He is literally and utterly shameless and incorrigible. He uses any and all powers he has to achieve his own ends, with apparently no care for what happens to anyone else besides his own family. So what might he do if Congress began the process of impeaching him?

He fired Jim Comey to try to "stop this"; he rails against Jeff Sessions for recusing himself—not because he thinks it was the right decision or the wrong decision, simply that it was a decision that was "not fair" to him. He has apparently inquired on the mechanics of firing Robert Mueller and of pardoning himself. Is it too great a stretch to imagine he would use any and all powers in his immediate grasp to stop an impeachment, and that he would justify any such actions as "right" by the only yardstick that has ever mattered to him—how it benefits him and his family?

He has already attempted—with greater or lesser success—to use supposedly independent agencies including the FBI, the Office of Management and Budget, and the Secret Service to advance his own political goals and even his own avarice. (ProPublica and The Washington Post, among others, have done extensive reporting on the ways he has used his office to directly enrich the Trump Organization, including making decisions on affairs of security and of state whose only demonstrable benefit has been to divert Secret Service and Pentagon funds into rental fees at Trump resorts and Trump golf courses and Trump hotels. The Secret Service had already spent over $35,000 on Trump property golf-cart rental fees alone in the first two full months of his presidency.)

Here's where I skid off the road—because what comes next is simply unforeseeable without knowing exactly how we got to that point. But what, I ask, is unimaginable? He's already installed long-serving and loyal members of his private security into key White House positions, and used them for delicate work such as delivering James Comey's firing letter (to his office, when he was 2,500 miles away in California) before anyone in the formal notification chain was told it was happening.

Is it unimaginable that he might try to "stop" an "unnecessary" and "distracting" impeachment? Is it unimaginable he might do so by sending his own goons—with letters of pardon in hand indemnifying them—to arrest the committee chairman and ranking member so the hearing couldn't begin? Then what? Would Speaker of the House Paul Ryan react with anything more than a strongly-worded statement of dismay? We may have plenty of evidence that Paul Ryan is spineless against Trump, but consider—what more could he do? (As Stalin said, "The Pope? How many divisions has he got?")

This is the constitutional crisis that keeps me up at night. Not that the Congress will fail to live up to its constitutional duties—though, as I wrote, I think it's very likely they will fail to rise to the occasion given the history of the past six months. No, the crisis I worry about is the one that happens if they unexpectedly do end up doing the right thing.

Trump doesn't have a great history of dealing fairly with people who cross him, even when their slights are entirely in Trump's own head. He uses every power at his disposal to make sure they fail and he succeeds. And now, the "power at his disposal" for his petty ends is greater than that of any other person in history. What will he do with it? What won't he do with it?

Has Google Assistant stopped suggesting travel to your appointments, too?

I'm on Android Beta O and on the beta of the Google app, so this may be limited to people on both those betas, but when I swipe left of my home screen into the "agenda view", I no longer get travel-time suggestions to my next appointment in Calendar.

There's a little inbox button that's supposed to show you that now rather than it appearing on the main screen. And the first time I tapped it when I had an upcoming meeting, it had a card with a little map to the appointment—but not with the travel time, but rather with a query: "do you care about travel times to this place?" (or something like that).

I answered yes and named the place (in this case, my physical therapist's office), and tapped Done—and the card went away, without being replaced by a directions card.

Since that happened, it's been doing this with other appointments at different locations, too—instead of showing me my "leave by X:XX to arrive on time" card that I'd found so valuable for the past couple years, I only see the "care about this place?" card, to which saying Yes seems to have no effect.

Right now at this very moment, I'm running late for an appointment. (One that had been cancelled and I haven't deleted off my calendar yet, but it works for illustration.) Before, I'd have a red card suggesting the fastest way for me to still get there and telling me how late I'll be. Now—nothing.

It seems like travel time home and to work are all it coughs up now. Anyone else seeing this? It makes me very sad and leery of un-explicitly-configurable learning assistants, because if it can go from being something I could depend on to warn me when I needed to leave early due to bad traffic to not even telling me about it when I look, that's a real problem. :-(
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