Link Roundup, 10/12/2017

From the Washington Post: A look at the wider problem of sexual harassment. How they wrote this entire piece without once using the word “Clinton” is a bit baffling.

From Quartz: Both wind and solar power are now cheaper than coal in India.

From Motherboard: How Silicon Valley biases are working their way into AI and other future tech.

From the Texas Tribune and ProPublica: How Houston developers managed to build entire neighborhoods in a reservoir without owners ever knowing.

From Wired: Difficulty defining the self-driving features of cars is causing dangerous problems.

30 Comments

    1. I tend to only glance over the “internal drama at the White House!” when it hits one of my feeds largely because I don’t want to give 45 the reality television show audience he craves, but every now and then you have to keep an eye on it because it does mean real things for the stewardship of the nation.

      First, according to Newsweek, a large bulk of White House aides are essentially bidding their time to have “White House Aide — 1 Yr” on their resume, and are otherwise looking for their exit strategy:

      http://www.newsweek.com/white-house-staff-get-away-669804

      Second, the media in general reports that Trump’s irritability has lead him to say “I hate everyone in the White House.” https://www.vanityfair.com/news/2017/10/donald-trump-is-unraveling-white-house-advisers

      Intended or no, big deal or no, where these people have their relationship with the President or no, seeing stuff like that in the news has got to be a real stomach lurcher. It means your job is at risk, it means your family or concerned friends might be calling you to ask what’s up, and it also means that all the work you’re putting in might not be very appreciated. Most staffers would probably just have to roll it off with, “Yeah he’s a dick but I hardly see the guy so I’m still doing my thing and fuck him.” I’ve seen people work their way stably through more toxic work environments, but the ones that come out okay are the ones that set their own boundaries and get out when they can.

      All this is to say I’m privately hoping for a mass exodus of staffers in January to March, as all these people who got hired on under, “Hey, I get to be a WHITE HOUSE STAFFER, this is cool no matter who is in charge!” walk out with job offers from people who still respect the dignity of the job description — and who desire literally any amount of inside information pertaining to what the hell goes on in there.

      1. “Sorry, I absolutely would not hire anyone who signed up for that train wreck. I would have too many concerns about their judgment and/or their ethics.”

        The situation is more subtle than that.

        White House experience is valuable due to the prestige of the institution itself; a staffer is not necessarily high level enough to be directly implicated in the tribulations of those above him or her; you still have to be good at the job to survive in the current environment; and inside knowledge of the operations that happened is a valuable resource in and of itself.

        As stupid as it is, there is still the credible argument from people at the start who expected that working under 45 wouldn’t be the same shitshow as his campaign — which you could say is poor judgment, but it’s not a personal poverty of judgment, it’s a general sociological one from people who insisted that this would all go back to being politics as usual once the legislation started getting written. Many people across the country still believe that, as exasperating as it is, but it’s definitely more sensible from the perspective of people hired in the early days who believed they could make a difference and had a unique opportunity.

        I would say questions of their ethics and judgment should be applied to people who stick around longer than February, ESPECIALLY if there is an actual exodus. Those who decide to stick around will have to have mighty compelling reasons for why they continue to enable this abuse.

        If there’s no exodus, then it just goes to show that the Hill keeps laying in the bed they made, and it’s not really gonna change much. This also means White House staffers will be hireable because their future bosses will be just as lacking in ethics and judgment as they are.

    2. I think Kelly, along with Mattis, McMaster and Tillerson, are there to keep some some order and to carefully monitor Trump and his access to the nukes, which is why Trump is so angry and raging. Like a toddler, he wants to play with his toys but isn’t being allowed to.

      1. EJ

        I have mixed feelings about this.

        On the one hand, my feelings about Trump and his followers are well-known.

        On the other hand, I am alarmed by the prospecy of a clique of former generals sidelining the democratically-elected president. Regardless of how much I dislike that president, I feel this is a bad precedent to set.

      2. I share your misgivings. Although I absolutely would want the generals to intervene if it meant stopped an unjustified use of nukes, that’s a crossing the Rubicon moment. The republic will never be the same. My hope is we hold on until we get some new people in office to handle it in the standard civilian controlled Constitutional manner. If the Dems take the House, impeachment could still be stymied in the Senate (and I don’t see enough GOP Senators putting country before party unless the spoiled toddler in chief causes something horrifyingly cataclysmic), but they can demand to see his tax returns. That’s the pledge the Dem candidates should take- mandatory disclosure of Presidential tax returns from now on. Would Boss Tweet resign rather than release them? I could see that happening.

  1. Hi Chris,

    Thank you for the links. As for being baffled by the lack of a mention about Clinton/Lewinsky, while being tawdry and exploitative it was at least somewhat consensual.

    I consider the situation with Clarence Thomas and Anita Hill as being far more significant and indicative of society’s willingness to ignore and/or punish women who dare to expose the uncomfortable truth about women in the workplace.

      1. Can you have harassment when it’s between 2 consenting adults? I think that bosses fooling around with subordinates is extremely unprofessional and unethical, but Lewinsky was the one who started things.

      2. Yes, there are age and power differences, but IIRC SHE pursued him. You can rightly fault him for accepting those advances, but she has responsibility for her choices. I don’t see her as a victim in this aspect; in the over the top cyberbullying that happened afterwards, yes. She paid a far higher price than he did for the indiscretion. I’ll admit that I had a very low opinion of her when the scandal broke (and I was quite furious with him), but she has accepted responsibility for her actions and speaking out against cyberbullying is a good thing. So I’ll grant her some forgiveness.

        Had he initiated the affair, then it would be the most tangled in terms of power.

    1. The smartest thing Clinton could have done when asked about Lewinsky is say “it is none of your damn business, because any alleged extra-marital affair I have had is something that is only to be discussed between my wife and me. Any alleged contact has zero impact on how I run the country, so way out of the purview of anyone but my wife.”.

      1. That is the response we have gotten from DJT. I expect more from our presidents. ONe can argue whether this was an impeachable offense in and of itself – it was not – lying was. But just because T is a complete and total A-hole doesn’t mean our expectations and standards of their moral character should not be high.

      2. Clinton was not the first nor will he be the last president to have mistresses and affairs. My father covered the White House during the Kennedy’s and it was well-known among the press about his proclivities. It wasn’t a secret that if he entered an elevator with a female aide, he’d be straightening his pants upon exiting. He was fast. 🙂 Frankly, as long as they do their job, I don’t care about their indiscretions. DC is full of young political groupies looking for powerful men.

        Trump is a complete embarrassment and is not doing his job.

  2. I have been mostly tolerant of our new president, but he has crossed the line with his threat to revoke NBC’s license. Whether he really has the power to do that, I don’t know, but the fact that he would even throw out that possibility is something I find unacceptable. We would be no better than countries in which this type of behavior from leaders is the norm.

    I am adamant about the right to freedom of expression, no matter how controversial, whether it’s for the KKK or neo-Nazis, even Facebook’s right to post stuff sponsored by Russia (It’s up to the audience to decide what they will believe.)

    Of course, our president also has the right to free speech, so maybe he was “just saying,” but as president his words have power, and his words send the message to other countries that it’s ok for their leaders to shut down newspapers and stations that oppose them.

    1. I don’t know how you could tolerate him period. The creature is a vile, greedy, mentally ill, orange sack of shit and it’s been known for years what a horrible family they are. He is also about to become the first sitting president to speak at an anti-LGBT summit hosted by a known hate group. I find this more disturbing than the NBC threat, which bad as it is, is empty.

      The chief pussy grabber is a misogynistic, racist, morally bankrupt piece of shit of a human being. I won’t be happy until he isn’t consuming valuable oxygen anymore and takes his fucked up family with him. Maybe spare Melania (feel sorry for her) and Barron.

      I think he is becoming more unstable and dangerous every day.

    2. “but as president his words have power, and his words send the message to other countries that it’s ok for their leaders to shut down newspapers and stations that oppose them.”

      I wouldn’t worry too much about this. Other leaders know Trump is a vile boor and they all laugh at him between being appalled at his loutish antics and rank stupidity. We are truly a laughingstock now despite what the conservatives bleated about Obama. He was well respected.

  3. I’ve been a Green Mountain Energy (wind and solar) customer for over 20 years now, so I will put my $ where my mouth/keyboard is. The drop in price of renewable energy is one of those glimmers of hope that helps me endure. Comrade Combover can pander all he wants to the in-deep-denial coal crowd, but he and they aren’t stopping this.

  4. Just a short comment on the neighborhoods in a reservoir post. It is sad that this happened to these people, but according to the link they have been warned for years.

    “Some local government officials, like Harris County Commissioner Steve Radack, say they’ve warned residents for years during town halls and other public events about the risks of living in or around the reservoirs.”

    Reminds me of the people who bought land near the airport, built a house and then complain about the noise. When asked why they bought the land and built a house, the answer is always because the land was cheap. Yes the land was cheap because it is near an airport…..dumbass.

    1. In light of the e-mails from the Corps of Engineers back from 6-7 years worrying about dam integrity that were recently released. I have to wonder if people had an accurate picture of the risks. If you think the dam is stronger than it really is, then it’s easy the underestimate that risk.

      I was very, very picky about flood plane designation back when I was house hunting. So far, so good, as Harvey dropped 36’-40’ of rain on my neighborhood over 3 days, and the house stayed dry. So I’ve got some good drainage, but damn straight I renewed the flood insurance. In fact I upped the coverage to the next level.

      1. I posted some time back that it is possible to add a rider through private homeowner’s insurance to cover scheduled contents against “any” loss, including flooding. This may be of interest to those who have expensive furniture and technology in their homes that would not be adequately covered if one’s home is flooded.

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