Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Russia -- and Wikileaks -- Won the Election

Maybe Wikileaks' hacked emails didn't throw the election to Donald Trump, but they had an effect, and they were published for his benefit.

So it appears in light of remarks made yesterday by the head of the National Security Agency.

The NSA's director, Michael S. Rogers, blamed Wikileaks for  "furthering a nation-state's goals" by publishing hacked emails before the presidential election. 

The emails came, you'll recall, from the Democratic National Committee and Hillary Clinton's campaign. 

"There shouldn't be doubt in anyone's mind," Rogers said:
"This was a conscious effort by a nation-state to attempt to achieve a specific effect."  
If that doesn't scare you, it should. It sounds like The Manchurian Candidate

Rogers was speaking at a Wall Street Journal conference on November 15, 2016, according to, which published an article on the interview the same day. See the article here.  

Monday, November 14, 2016

A wee break from the ascension of Mr. Evil:  The title sequence to The Durrells (PBS). I love it.

The Durrells - TV Titles from Alex Maclean FreeState on Vimeo.

Sunday, November 13, 2016

The Web Flies or Crawls, Depending on Where You Live

Here's inequality at its most basic: Nationwide, high-speed broadband service is available to almost twice as many wealthy neighborhoods as poor ones, according to The Center for Public Integrity, an investigative journalism web site. 

There's a practical reason. Broadband signals piggyback along telephone lines. The signal fades with every mile it travels, so the provider needs pricey equipment to boost it. They make that investment in wealthier neighborhoods, where more customers are presumably willing pay extra for faster service. 

It makes perfect business sense -- except that high-speed internet service is being reclassified as a utility, an FCC decision affirmed in June by a Washington, DC federal court. Utilities have a responsibility to provide service to everyone who needs it, no matter how shallow their pockets. 

There's more legal wrangling to come, but in effect, DSL providers are going to have to up their technology game in neighborhoods like Washington, PA, a town south of Pittsburgh. In pricey neighborhoods there, "the speeds goes up to 150 Mbps over fiber-optic cable," wrote authors Allan Holmes and Ben Wieder in October 2016. "[DSL service in] the surrounding areas reaches 15 Mbps." 

The FCC defines high-speed internet as 25 Mbps download and 3 Mbps upload. 

It's only one example. "The largest noncable internet providers [AT&T, Verizon] collectively offer faster speeds to about 40 percent of the population they serve nationwide in wealthy areas compared with just 22 percent of the population in poor areas," the article continues. It's about 27 percent in middle-income neighborhoods. 

Cable technology should be more egalitarian: The signal doesn't degrade much as over long distances. On the other hand, cable service isn't available everywhere either.

The New York Times, June 14, 2016: "Court Backs Rules Treating Internet as Utility, Not Luxury," by Cecilia Kang
The Center for Public, October 14, 2016: "DSL Providers Save Faster Internet for Wealthier Communities," by Allan Holmes and Ben Weider


Saturday, November 12, 2016

No Help from Wolf Blitzer

There’s a strong argument that there’s nothing more hilarious to a child than the notion of adults screwing up.  --Andy Borowitz 

See how Borowitz explained the bizarre result of this year's presidential election -- when he doesn't understand it himself -- here:

FididdlyDaily Rises from the Dead

One of my many opinions about The Donald was dead wrong: That he was unelectable for any political position.

Starting in mid-January, we citizens of the US of A are at risk for unpleasantries ranging from targeted retaliation for minor insults about POTUS right up to nuclear warfare. And those are just the ones we'll notice.

I'm not going to spend the next four years making potshots on Facebook. Our new dangers are only part of the reason. The other is that some of my very dearest people are right wing. 

I had to take one friend off my newsfeed a month ago because her pro-Trump posts -- utterly ignorant -- were nauseous. It's not her fault: She was raised that way, in Missouri, no less.

My posts won't be ignorant, but none of my people are going to have to read stuff they hate just to stay in touch. 

Nobody has to read FididdlyDaily, but news and comments will be here for anyone who wants to. 

Nope -- Nothin' Here from 2015

Nope -- Nothin' Here from 2014

Nope -- Nothin' Here from 2013

Apple People are Certifiably Cool

One of the side effects of job-hunting is that when you do get an interview, it makes you cra.

Take the interview I had a few weeks ago at Apple. Getting a job at Apple, I've heard, is harder than getting into Stanford. Righto. Sure.

Apple is a rare bird. It makes $6,000 per square foot in its retail stores. The stores are well lighted, and they shine in the dark like the sole moviehouse in a small town.  They don't have a lot of square footage, which is largely why, when you go inside, they're so crowded. Crowded, well-designed, noisy, and staffed with salespeople who are overwhelmingly twenty-something, confident, soft-spoken, low-key, unflappable, articulate, and cool.

Cool above all. The first ten times I went to an Apple store I felt like a fugitive.

Which is why it tickled me absolutely silly to be invited to one of their group interviews. There, in a group of nine (smaller than the previous day's group of 15 or 20), I sat next to eight people who were pitch-perfect to the i-note. In one of the exercises, where we chatted with and then introduced a fellow applicant, I found out that I'd bought my first Apple the year he was born.

The twenty-something generation is very different from mine. They aren't run by the clock. Off work hours, they start something and finish it before they do the next thing, and if the first thing they start isn't done on time, then everything else runs late. My generation--well, okay, I--time things pretty precisely and have options for pausing and/or bailing a project if I start to run late. For twenty-somethings who aren't actually working, late is one hour. For me, late is 15 minutes. This isn't a complaint, it's a sociological observation.

I didn't get a job at Apple, but now I feel like a fugitive all over again.
This post was drafted in 2012.

Oh, those New York memories.

I was walking back from the gym tonight when a lady near me took out her phone and took a flash photo of her ear. She instantly entered my Hall of People to Whom Stuff Happens.

I am a charter member of this group. I can prove it. Just a few minutes before, a big round guy with big eyes and a wow voice pointed at me and said "DON'T! DON'T FALL!" This was just outside Trader Joe's. I looked behind me. There's some guy watching. Round guy points, forces eye contact, and repeats, "WHATEVER YOU DO, DON'T FALL!" Then he walks the two steps toward me, says, "If you fall, you won't have far to fall, but I'll catch you."

If I'd never visited Glide Memorial in the 70s, I might've freaked. I say "thanks." He kisses my cheek, then my hand, then gives me a hug. I say, "Okay," wave, and walk away. He goes into Trader Joe's. I had to got past a fruit cart before I felt safe wiping my cheek. Otherwise it might've triggered another truckload of Luv.

Anyhow my first thought after seeing the lady flash her face was to check for a full moon, and for one brief sec I thought I'd seen it, but upon backing up two or three steps realized it was just the illuminated sign on Beth Israel Hospital. In fact, it's a 16% crescent. So much for that theory.
This post was drafted in 2012. If you were resurrecting your blog, would you throw it out or post it four years later? Well, hey, I know what I'd do.

That Old Texas Miracle

It's a measure of just how far Texas is behind the times that its politicians have apparently never heard of the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1935.

In the past few months, we've discovered that people are sweating out their lives doing jobs that, while not precisely menial, are paid so that the wage earners, using their own phones and cars, do piecework that pays well if the employee works at a frantic pace.

Two examples: An automobile-glass repair shop called Safelite, which does a lot of work for Geico, hires repairmen who drive to customers' houses to repair minor cracks in windshield glass. These employees have to use their personal cell phones to confirm appointments with clients. The man who came to our door spoke with the sort of yes-sir formality that hasn't otherwise been heard since the 1950s. After the repair we were practically buried in requests for surveys from both Safelite and Geico. Employees live or die by survey results, apparently. That means that any sumbitch customer can take out his or her bad mood on the most vulnerable of employees at will. Is the customer always right? You betcha.

Then there is the job of "foreclosure services"--driving around to check whether people are actually living in the properties they own. The pay is less than $10 per property. The key to making money at this soul-sucking job is to use a GPS to get to as many properties as possible as fast as possible. Visits to these properties include talking to people who live in the house. A chat with a homeowner facing foreclosure is not exactly like working for the census. Does the company have liability insurance? Yes--insurance that protects the company. The employee is on his or her own.

Not one job poster seems hesitant to include "reliable car" among job requirements.

A longstanding violation of the Fair Labor Standards Act is forcing by-the-hour employees to work overtime for no pay. That means that if an employee is overtaxed by cleaning up, say, a fabric store while customers are still in the shop, she still has to finish up the work after the customer leaves. The clerk is responsible for cleaning up, customer or not. The clerk is also responsible for every two-bit cheat who perpetrates a fraud at the cash register. People do this for fun. The clerk pays. Oh, and the FLSA? If you're earning minimum wage, you aren't going to get a 15-minute paid break for every four hours of work, nor will you get paid for the volunteer work you do in taking care of customers.

It's also the practice of such employers to hire multitudes of part-time clerks who then are pitted against one another for hours. This week it's 18 hours, next week it's 13 and a half. Retail does not make for a good second job, either--the schedule varies from morning to night in any given week.

Texas politicians crow for credit for creating jobs. After all, a 13-hour-a-week job is still a job. A race-to-earn, endanger-your-life piecework job is still a job. A job that puts you at the mercy of every customer you meet is still a job.

The Texas Miracle isn't job creation. That people are desperate enough to work such horrible jobs is the miracle. It's a miracle for skinflint employers.

This post is from 2012.