Friday, September 23, 2016

Coming home to Progressive Land

Gabrielle Lurie, NY Times

Writing in the NY Times, Thomas Fuller describes what it was like coming back to San Francisco after 27 years abroad:

...During all my years in Asia I constantly grappled with the perniciousness of poverty. Yet somehow I was unprepared for the scale and severity of homelessness in San Francisco.

The juxtaposition of the silent whir of sleek Tesla electric vehicles, with the outbursts of the mentally ill on the sidewalks. Destitution clashing with high technology. Well-dressed tourists sharing the pavement with vaguely human forms inside cardboard boxes.

I’m confounded how to explain to my two children why a wealthy society allows its most vulnerable citizens to languish on the streets. My son, when he first encountered a homeless man, asked why no one “wanted to adopt him.”

It seems a terrible statement about my home country that my children will encounter homelessness and mental illness much more vividly in the wealthiest nation in the world than they did in Thailand, where we previously lived...

Rob's comment:
I had a similar experience in 1995 when I came back to the city from San Diego, where I had lived for several years. Before that I was living in Mendocino County, though I had lived and worked mostly in San Francisco from 1961 until the 1980s.

I was shocked at the sight of homeless people living on the streets and in Golden Gate Park. San Diego may have also had a homeless problem at the time, but if so it wasn't as visible as it was in San Francisco.

Just as shocking as homelessness itself was the passive attitude of the city's left, which, instead of pressing for City Hall to respond to what was clearly a public emergency, endorsed Food Not Bombs and the Biotic Baking Brigade, the pie-throwers.

One of my first posts on this blog was about that ongoing political negligence by the city's left. Instead of supporting Mayor Newsom's attempt to deal with homelessness, the left sniped at Newsom and accused him of waging war on the poor!

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Monday night: When Donald meets Hillary

Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump debating
A good way to prepare to watch Monday's debate: read When Donald Meets Hillary by James Fallows in The Atlantic. Along with a shrewd analysis of the two candidates, Fallows provides the historical context of presidential debates:

The most famous story about modern presidential campaigning now has a quaint old-world tone. It’s about the showdown between Richard Nixon and John F. Kennedy in the first debate of their 1960 campaign, which was also the very first nationally televised general-election debate in the United States. 

The story is that Kennedy looked great, which is true, and Nixon looked terrible, which is also true—and that this visual difference had an unexpected electoral effect. 

As Theodore H. White described it in his hugely influential book The Making of the President 1960, which has set the model for campaign coverage ever since, “sample surveys” after the debate found that people who had only heard Kennedy and Nixon talking over the radio thought that the debate had been a tie. But those who saw the two men on television were much more likely to think that Kennedy—handsome, tanned, non-sweaty, poised—had won. 

Historians who have followed up on this story haven’t found data to back up White’s sight-versus-sound discovery. But from a modern perspective, the only surprising thing about his findings is that they came as a surprise. 

Today’s electorate has decades of televised politics behind it, from which one assumption is that of course images, and their emotional power, usually matter more than words and whatever logic they might try to convey...

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The Dark Net

From The Other Internet, by William Langewiesche in Vanity Fair:

...The Dark Net exists within the deep web, which lies beneath the surface net, which is familiar to everyone. The surface net can be roughly defined as “anything you can find through Google” or that is otherwise publicly indexed for all to see. The deep web is deep because it cannot be accessed through ordinary search engines. Its size is uncertain, but it is believed to be larger than the surface net above it...

...The Dark Net occupies the basement. Its users employ anonymizing software and encryption to hide themselves as they move around. Such tools offer a measure of privacy. Whistle-blowers and political dissidents have good reason to resort to them. Criminals do, too. 

White fades quickly through gray and then to black in the Dark Net. Furtive sites there offer all manner of contraband for sale—narcotics, automatic weapons, contract killings, child pornography. 

The most famous of these sites was Silk Road—the brainchild of Ross Ulbricht, a libertarian entrepreneur who was arrested by the F.B.I. in San Francisco in 2013 and sentenced last year to life in prison without parole. 

New and even larger marketplaces have opened, including the current leader, AlphaBay, which is owned by a man who has been quoted as saying he resides in an “off-shore country where I am safe,” gives interviews to the press, and openly defies attempts by the authorities to shut him down. 

There are twists: illegal narcotics sold over the Dark Net tend to be purer, and therefore safer, than those sold on the street—this because of the importance to the sellers of online customer ratings. By comparison, it is hard to see the bright side of missile launchers or child pornography.

However noxious the illicit Web sites may be, they are merely the e-commerce versions of conventional black markets that exist in meatspace. The real action on the Dark Net is in the trade of information. Stolen credit cards and identities, industrial secrets, military secrets, and especially the fuel of the hacking trade: the zero days and back doors that give access to closed networks...


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